Exits and Entrances is now available!

I’m pleased to announce that my first novel, Exits and Entrances is now available in paperback and e-book formats on Amazon.com! This is the culmination of years of writing, learning, and re-writing, and I’m delighted to have it out!

My publisher described the book as a metaphysical fantasy, and I think that’s a good fit for it. This novel is the first of a trilogy, with book two well underway. I invite you all to read it, and to tell your friends about it. [Read more…]

Fox news on climate

It should come as no surprise to any of my readers that Fox News has a uniformly terrible record when it comes to honest or accuracy on reporting about climate change or climate science. For me, at least, it’s a source of morbid interest – at what point will they stop lying about it? What will it take to get them to that point? How will they go about telling the truth if they do get there? I seriously doubt that if they do start telling the truth, they’ll acknowledge their mistakes or the role they played in making the problem worse. Either way, here’s a fun ad on that subject:

Pascal’s Wager and what non-Christians believe

Continuing the series “Conversations with Strangers, here’s a non-climate one, in response to a Huffington Post blog post on Pascal’s Wager. There are better responses to it out there, but I’m fairly happy with what I wrote:

Me:

Pascal’s wager is a case for dishonesty – you can’t choose to believe, but you can choose to lie and pretend that you believe.

So integrity is one thing that you lose if you accept this argument.

Beyond that, religion changes how you interact with the world. Do you pray over a decision, or do you reason through the pros and cons of it? How do you view people who don’t share your religion? How do you treat them?

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Danger and opportunity

There are a number of resources that are essential to modern society, without that fact being broadly known. My favorite is the blood of horseshoe crabs, which is currently irreplaceable as a detection mechanism for the presence of toxins on any medical equipment or medicines that will be entering the human body through the skin. If horseshoe crabs go extinct, modern medicine will take a big hit. Another such resource is helium. I didn’t know how useful it was until college, and my hunch is that a lot of folks remain ignorant about it throughout their lives.

While it has a large number of uses, arguably the most important use of helium is in its liquid form as a super-coolant, keeping the superconductors of MRIs and NMRs at the temperatures required for the work they do. While I put effort into doing as little lab work as possible during my college years (while doing what was necessary for my biology degree), the importance of the NMR in analyzing substances was clear, and it’s hard for me to imagine how much damage the loss of that technology would do. It wouldn’t cause the downfall of civilization, but it would remove a powerful tool in our efforts to diagnose illness, and to understand the universe we inhabit.

The image shows a cross-section diagram of an MRI scanner. At the center is a white circle - the space that the person being scanned lies. Next are a thin brown circle, a thin purple circle, and a thin blue circle, labeled

MRI diagram

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Frederick Douglass on the 4th of July

Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is a constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes that would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour forth a stream, a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and the crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.

Go here to hear James Earl Jones reading it. I recommend it.

Happy Independence Day! This needs your attention!

In the wake of the anti-LBGTQ shooting in Orlando, you probably heard about how the gay and bisexual men who wanted to donate blood to help the victims were prevented from doing so. More specifically, they are blocked from donating blood unless they have been abstinent for a full year. This feels a lot like the extremist Christian notion of “practicing homosexuals” and “ex-Gays”. You’re allowed to donate blood as long as you’re celibate, otherwise you’re unclean.

This kind of bigotry in medicine is not limited to the United States, unfortunately, and it’s not limited to prejudice against homosexual men, either. Canadian Blood Services has apparently not only decided to discriminate against trans women, they’ve also decided that they get to decide who “counts” as a woman. Shiv put in a lot of work to tell us about this policy, why it’s bullshit, and what can be done about it, so please head over to Against the Grain for that – this is important stuff.

Regarding the allegations against, and departure of Richard Carrier

The FTB community has been working on the rather slow process of solidifying our policies on conduct, ethics, and conflict resolution over the past few weeks. To a large degree, our views on those topics are discernible through the contents of the blogs here, but having clearly defined policies is a useful thing. The need for that has been underscored by the recent allegations against Dr. Richard Carrier, and our efforts to address those as the community that was hosting his blog.

The ethics committee currently consists of five FTB bloggers, whose recommendations and comments are then offered to the rest of the network for additional commentary and approval. Here’s the official statement: [Read more…]

Don’t do it, assholes.

Saying that the Orlando shooting is an attack on America feels like saying that an attack on tribal lands is an attack on America. This is a group of people that have been continually attacked by American policy and culture from day one, and those of us who are not part of the LGBTQ community do not have the right to claim their pain as our own. It has been less than a year since the right to marry was granted by the Supreme Court, for fuck’s sake, and in a majority of the country it’s legal to fire someone for their gender identity.

Empathy is great. It’s a huge part of who we are as a species, but pretending that someone else’s pain and grief are your own is not empathy. That’s going to a stranger’s funeral and shouting down the bereaved by saying you’re in more pain than them.

I may have more to say on this later in the week, but for the time being, I just wanted to tell my fellow people outside the LGBTQ community – when you do this, you’re basically saying that anybody who’s not heterosexual and cisgender belongs to you, and only you get to decide what to do with them. Fuck that. Don’t do that.

Sci-fi Saturday

Sun, Moon, and Stars
by Abe Drayton
Originally published in Abyss and Apex

“Sun, Moon, and Stars.”

Lena wiped rain off her face and skimmed her fingertips over the damp, faded graffiti. She glanced up at the ruddy clouds above the skyscrapers, and stepped quietly into the derelict building, shedding her poncho. Walking along the dripping support beams, she brushed past spiderwebs as their swarming creators retreated from so large an intruder. She reached her destination, and pulled a large duffel from an alcove, shaking off one stubborn spider, which hit the ground with a heavy thud, lay stunned for a moment, and scuttled off into deeper shadows, away from her light.

[Read more…]