Bad Santas

If you had a crummy Christmas morning (I didn’t, so I’m just linking these as a public service), here are a few outlets.
Silly Humans finds an Evil Santa Generator — create your own nasty, scabrous, ugly Santa Claus, suitable for framing.

If you really want to know why Santa gave you such a crappy Christmas, read about the legend of El Caganer, and you will understand.

My Santa was a sweet, jolly fellow who got me a stack of books, a pound of smoked salmon, and the first season of Deadwood on DVD, so I’m going to enjoy a profane, cynical, bloody Western after I get the Christmas feast cooking slowly in the oven.

A Christmas blogswarm

You all know about the Koufax awards, the best weblog awards around because they’re non-commercial, non-weird, and sincerely try to reward the best of the progressive blogosphere (I don’t just say that because I won one). One of the unfortunate side effects of being non-commercial, though, is that they’re running on a shoestring, requiring a heavy investment in sweat and out-of-pocket expenses by Mary Beth and Eric Williams and Dwight Meredith every year, and they don’t get rich off of this—it costs them money. It’s time to help them out.

Chris Clarke has organized a blogswarm to benefit Wampum,the Koufax Awards, progressive politics, Indian issues, autism issues, and those selfless, hardworking people behind the yearly event. They’re asking so little: a few hundred bucks to replace some well-worn hard drives on their server. I think if lots of us just toss in a few dollars, we can match that and more. On the top left side of Wampum’s front page, you can find a Paypal link; if you don’t like Paypal, you can also donate via Amazon.

We can do this the good old progressive way: with lots of small donations from many people. Chip in a few bucks, nothing more, and help out.

Christmas morning

Ah, Christmas morning…with teenagers. Their natural sloth wars with their desire for the Christmas loot, and they compromise by getting up at 10:00 rather than noon—so it means that I get to sleep in and everything is calm.

Although I do confess to now and then missing the little guys pounding on the bedroom door at 5am and jumping up and down and squealing. Maybe if I started giving out better presents, like this:


I’m going to get a cup of coffee and put my feet up for a while — may you all have an equally placid, non-frantic Christmas morning.

A merry god-free christmas to you all!

Yes! This atheist family committed atrocities in preparation for the holiday. Here’s the gang undermining the true meaning of Christmas by decorating a tree while experiencing a complete absence of any sense of the sacred.


That’s Skatje in the coat and hat (it really isn’t that cold in here, unless it’s the chill from our icy hearts), Alaric adjusting the stand (or, perhaps, bowing to the darkness), and Connlann looking fairly normal, although of course his wicked soul does not appear in a photograph.

That’s not an angel on top; it’s a white Father Christmas figure that I think looks a bit like Gandalf, so it’s OK.

Now look at this: some of our friends sent over Cephalopodmas cookies! I’ve already eaten the one on top (it was Cthulhicious!), and I’ve been trying to prevent the kids from devouring the others. The rest have to be left by the fireplace as an offering to the Old Ones — they will be so thrilled when they get up in the morning and discover they’ve all disappeared, slurped up by the Great Tentacle.*


Many thanks to the Glasruds for indulging our quaint religious beliefs.

Tomorrow we’ll be doing other traditional godless activities: getting up early to open presents around the tree, cooking a feast for friends and families, consuming large quantities of turkey and cranberry sauce and lefse, and just generally having a good time.

Oh, and if you’re interested in some good Christmas music, try these ominous carols. Translating them into a minor key does wonders for them.

*Sacrilege! I just checked the platter, and somebody has consumed many of them. I wonder which one will be eaten last?

The Courtier’s Reply

There’s a common refrain in the criticisms of Dawkins’ The God Delusion(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) that I’ve taken to categorizing with my own private title—it’s so common, to the point of near-unanimous universality, that I’ve decided to share it with you all, along with a little backstory that will help you to understand the name.

I call it the Courtier’s Reply. It refers to the aftermath of a fable.

I have considered the impudent accusations of Mr Dawkins with exasperation at his lack of serious scholarship. He has apparently not read the detailed discourses of Count Roderigo of Seville on the exquisite and exotic leathers of the Emperor’s boots, nor does he give a moment’s consideration to Bellini’s masterwork, On the Luminescence of the Emperor’s Feathered Hat. We have entire schools dedicated to writing learned treatises on the beauty of the Emperor’s raiment, and every major newspaper runs a section dedicated to imperial fashion; Dawkins cavalierly dismisses them all. He even laughs at the highly popular and most persuasive arguments of his fellow countryman, Lord D. T. Mawkscribbler, who famously pointed out that the Emperor would not wear common cotton, nor uncomfortable polyester, but must, I say must, wear undergarments of the finest silk.

Dawkins arrogantly ignores all these deep philosophical ponderings to crudely accuse the Emperor of nudity.

Personally, I suspect that perhaps the Emperor might not be fully clothed — how else to explain the apparent sloth of the staff at the palace laundry — but, well, everyone else does seem to go on about his clothes, and this Dawkins fellow is such a rude upstart who lacks the wit of my elegant circumlocutions, that, while unable to deal with the substance of his accusations, I should at least chide him for his very bad form.

Until Dawkins has trained in the shops of Paris and Milan, until he has learned to tell the difference between a ruffled flounce and a puffy pantaloon, we should all pretend he has not spoken out against the Emperor’s taste. His training in biology may give him the ability to recognize dangling genitalia when he sees it, but it has not taught him the proper appreciation of Imaginary Fabrics.

I’m afraid that when I read H. Allen Orr’s criticism of The God Delusion in the NY Review of Books, all that popped into my head was a two-word rebuttal: Courtier’s Reply. You would be amazed at how many of the anti-Dawkins arguments can be filed away under that category.

That’s all you’ll get from me on Orr’s complaint—it’s another Courtier’s Reply. If you want a more detailed dissection, Jason Rosenhouse provides it.

About that last mysterious “Blank post”

You may be wondering what that strange “Blank post” was all about. The science blogging crew has been having a discussion about the “Most active” box you can find in the right sidebar, and RPM challenged me that I could put up an empty post titled “Blank post” and it would get 10-20 comments. I proved him wrong—it got over 30 comments in less than an hour and a half. That’s just wicked, people.


It also made the #1 most active post on scienceblogs. Man, my job just got a lot easier…who needs to write anything?

I think my case is made. Using traffic activity to determine what links you’ll put up is a perfect example of a positive feedback loop, and it’s also why ranking systems like Technorati that base your position in the hierarchy on how many links are made to you or how much traffic you get contribute to the perpetuation of that same hierarchy. It stabilizes rankings and can mean that the best are hindered from rising to the top, and cushions slackers so they can coast. Despite the fact that I’m benefiting from this, I don’t like it; here I am with my socialist leanings, wearing a top hat and monocle and reaping my ill-gotten harvest with no effort.

So I’ll throw it out to you. What information would be most useful to you in that box, that would also be easy to implement, and that would subvert the dominant paradigm by distributing links more liberally?

P.S. This blank post idea is interesting, but no, I hadn’t heard of it until it was brought up in the blank post thread.