Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Looking for today's post?

You will find it over on Scatterplot. What can I say? I was inspired.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Just in case you were curious...

Amidst the excitement about the Presidential debates and Sarah Palin's ongoing meltdown with Katie Couric, some of us may have lost sight of the issues. Well, thankfully, I'm here to remind you.

Specifically, I'm here to remind you that both Barack Obama and John McCain have provided answers for Science Debate 2008- an internet effort to find out about how the candidates view science* and its role in the future of the United States.

I won't reproduce the whole thing but if you go here you can see a side-by-side comparison of the two candidates' science policies.

Have fun, and we'll chat tomorrow.**

* Barack Obama: "Science is the cornerstone of our prosperity and we must nurture the scientists and researchers of today if we hope to be competetive tomorrow."*** John McCain: "Grrrahhh! Fire BAD!"****

** Not necessarily about this, but we'll chat nonetheless.

*** Please note that all quotes are made-up though, really, entirely in character.

**** No, I'm not making fun of McCain for his war injuries. I'm making fun of him for being a damn fool idiot.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Nice job, you wanker.

Many of you may be aware that John McCain recently, dramatically, suspended his campaign and pulled out of his debate with Obama so he could rush to Washington and save us all from economic meltdown. Now, I'm not going to weigh in on whether the bailout is a good idea. It's not my arena of expertise and, let's face it, as a grad student I don't have a lot in the way of assets. Nonetheless, I think it's fair to ask, how did McCain's intervention go?

As it turns out, piss-poor:

But once the doors closed, the smooth-talking House Republican leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio, surprised many in the room by declaring that his caucus could not support the plan to allow the government to buy distressed mortgage assets from ailing financial companies.

Mr. Boehner pressed an alternative that involved a smaller role for the government, and Mr. McCain, whose support of the deal is critical if fellow Republicans are to sign on, declined to take a stand.

The talks broke up in angry recriminations, according to accounts provided by a participant and others who were briefed on the session, and were followed by dueling news conferences and interviews rife with partisan finger-pointing.

Friday morning, on CBS’s “The Early Show,” Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the lead Democratic negotiator, said the bailout had been derailed by internal Republican politics.

“I didn’t know I was going to be the referee for an internal G.O.P. ideological civil war,” Mr. Frank said, according to The A.P.Thursday, in the Roosevelt Room after the session, the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., literally bent down on one knee as he pleaded with Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, not to “blow it up” by withdrawing her party’s support for the package over what Ms. Pelosi derided as a Republican betrayal.

“I didn’t know you were Catholic,” Ms. Pelosi said, a wry reference to Mr. Paulson’s kneeling, according to someone who observed the exchange. She went on: “It’s not me blowing this up, it’s the Republicans.”

Mr. Paulson sighed. “I know. I know.”

Yeah. A whole bunch of grandstanding nonsense so McCain could chicken out of his obligation to the country and fly to Washington where he proceeded to do exactly the opposite of what he had claimed he was going to do. And the New York Times aren't the only ones who say so. If this is the kind of leadership we can expect from John McCain... well... I think we'd be better off with a goat.

And just so you don't think I'm unfair and only point out stupid things Republicans do... here's Joe Biden making an ass of himself:

Okay, so maybe both Vice-Presidential candidates are semi-retarded. At least Biden seems to mostly have problems with history, as opposed to current events. That's gotta count for something.

For the love of all that's good and pure, people, would you please just vote Obama?

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

What are you lookin at?

Oh, yeah? You want Drek, do ya? Well, I got yer Drek right here!

Ya like that? Well? Do yeh?

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Total Drek is experiencing technical difficulties.

Or, to be more specific, my parents have been in town and sucking up all of my free time. Normal blogging to resume (hopefully) tomorrow.

In the meantime, check out this vandalism of a banner hung by the University of Alberta Atheists and Agnostics:

Ian Bushfield, president of the group, refers to the vandalism as "hate-fuelled" implying that this was a hate crime. The Friendly Atheist, in turn, asks if showing love can be a hate crime. The argument, obviously, is that the Christians who defaced this banner* did so in an effort to save souls- from their perspective a loving thing. So does this fit the bill as a hate crime? Well, in the first place, I don't think I would call it such if only because I think it cheapens the term and, in the second place, hate crime legislation is fair to middlin stupid in my view anyway. At the same time, however, I think brushing it off as an act of "love" is probably a tad excessive. And you know what? I think a lot of Christians agree with me. Remember this little gem?

And.... how did people react?

It looked harmless enough, but the words on a billboard unnerved so many people that a popular restaurant nearby actually lost business. The billboard was on Colonial Drive near Old Cheney Highway.

Although the popular Straub's Seafood restaurant often advertises on it, it wasn't their billboard. The sign was taken down after Channel 9 started asking questions.

The billboard came down around 4:00 Friday afternoon and nearby business owners are relieved. Straub's Restaurant can replace the sign with the night's specials.

At first glance, the sign looked like a children's cartoon, but the message next to the fairy princess stirred emotions.

"When you condemn all religions and say they are a fairytale, that is wrong," said Rich Stormes, a nearby business owner.

I mean, hey, from a certain point of view** mentioning to people that they believe in nonsense is a sign of love. You love them so much, you try to help them see the error of their ways. What isn't loving about that?

What's good for the goose is good for the gander, folks.

* I should point out that the perpetrators remain unknown, so it may not be that Christians are to blame.

** I don't actually think it's ever a sign of love to go out of your way to tell others how they should live their lives. As such, I find evangelism of virtually all stripes distasteful. So, in short, I'm not advocating this position, but I am saying that if you as a religious person objected to the billboard, you should probably also object to the vandalism.***

*** As it also happens, the billboard company claims someone put the fairytale advertisement up illegally in the middle of the night, thus making both incidents vandalism. Amusingly, however, the anti-religionists put a helluva lot more time, money, and thought into their vandalism and did not deface the claims of their "rivals" in the process. I'm just sayin.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Presented with only brief commentary interruption.

My lovely wife recently brought this gem to my attention and I, of course, thought that it deserved yours as well:

Not a lot to say about it except that, really, this is how I feel when people tell me I should get on MySpace.

Thanks, but I'm not really into Pokemon.

Cross-posted over on Scatterplot.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Even I'm impressed.

Regular readers will likely remember last Friday when, relatively late in the evening, I posted on the apparent end of the Lenski saga. In short, Andrew Schlafly's most recent attempt to make an ass of himself in public had come to fruition and there was much rejoicing. As I also intimated, a considerable amount of spin-doctoring was taking place on Conservapedia, mostly aimed at smearing PNAS and, by extension, portraying Schlafly as some kind of martyr. As you might also guess, there has been a strong effort afoot to counter this attempt. While I just don't have the time to go into detail on it, some of the attempts to show Schlafly how much of a dumbass he is have been truly spectacular.*

So far I have resisted giving you a blow-by-blow of this process but Schlafly's most recent rhetorical gambit is just too funny not to comment on. As he has been getting pounded by reasonable people over his dog of a letter, young Andrew has obviously been getting frustrated. So frustrated, in fact, that he has invented a new disorder to explain why people disagree with him so much. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Evolution Syndrome:

Or, if you don't like the image:

Evolution syndrome is the tendency of some people to insist compulsively that their belief in evolution must somehow be true, and to spend nearly all of their time pushing that belief on others. It is reflected on the Internet by people who devote over 90% of their edits and postings to pushing their belief in evolution and insisting on censoring alternative views of the issue. They are particularly against teaching any alternative theories to children in school.

Evolution syndrome particularly afflicts people who have some educational background without having the intellectual depth of more accomplished peers.

Evolution syndrome can be seen on wikis, Usenet groups, faculty positions below full professorships, and some less selective doctoral programs.

There is a high incidence of atheism among this group and indeed, most atheists suffer from evolution syndrome.

Keeping an open mind and not obsessing about one's own views is the key to avoid suffering from evolution syndrome.

Oddly, as I read this article, I just hear a soothing announcer talking about Evolution Syndrome while a smiling couple rides mountain bikes or something, finishing up with:

"If you suffer from Evolution Syndrome, ask your doctor about LogicaNullus. It might be able to help. LogicaNullus- all you'll ever need."

And if that isn't funny enough, now that Schlafly has invented this fake disorder, he's invoking it to support his own claims:

I mean, folks, this is comedy gold! Any time someone disagrees, Schlafly has now set a precedent for craptacular debating tactics. Just take whatever position they're advocating, claim that advocating it strongly is a syndrome, and then observe that you can't get a fair hearing because everyone suffers from aforementioned syndrome. For example, I don't support Republican VP candidate and all-around clown Sarah Palin, but now instead of having a discussion about it Schlafly can just comment that I suffer from "Palin Opposition Syndrome" and therefore can't be trusted. Moreover, he might claim, so many otherwise-rational people suffer from this terrible disorder, that the electorate can't be trusted to vote in an election where she's on the ballot. How can you defeat such a brilliant tactic?

Eh. Mostly by laughing oneself silly. Seriously, folks, I can't make shit this funny up.

UPDATE- September 19, 2008: Yeesh. Looks like I'm a tad prescient:

Sure I called it "Palin Opposition Syndrome" and she calls it "Palin Derangement Syndrome" but, hey, I pretty much nailed it spot-on. Does anyone else find it disquieting/hilarious that conservatives are letting Andrew Schlafly call the rhetorical shots?

* In the event that Schlafly reverts this argument, you should be able to find a persistent, if poorly formatted, copy here.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A chuckle or two for you.

I'm busy today with other matters but, since I can't be around to amuse you, I thought I'd point you elsewhere. I recently ran across a page with the rather accurate title "atheist cartoons" and, believe it or not, they're not generally negative.

Some of them I find pretty funny:

Others... not so much:

Regardless, however, it's a mighty nice change of pace from the usual.*


* As a side note, I have no issue with atheism being lampooned in comics. If nothing else, the net result is usually favorable.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Okay, so here's the thing...

This blog post contains two video clips. Both depict Sarah Palin. In one she is answering questions from an interviewer, in the other she is addressing the nation beside Hillary Clinton. One of these clips is actually Sarah Palin, the other is a spoof performed by the unparalleled Tina Fey.*

So here's, the thing: I know which Palin is real and which Palin is fake but... well... not because of anything she actually says. Seriously. I can easily picture the real Palin saying everything that the fake Palin says. And that scares the ever living hell out of me. Watch the clips and see if you don't agree:

Look, we can have an honest discussion about the qualifications of John McCain and Barack Obama. McCain has more experience, stemming from a longer career. Obama wants to do something different than what Bush has done for the past eight years which, you know, might be a good thing. The thing is, there is absolutely no argument in favor of Sarah Palin. If McCain wanted a Republican woman he had any number to choose from who would have been much more qualified. Instead, he chose someone who looks good and has stage presence but has effectively zero experience in high office and is completely unready to be President of the United States. I still cannot wrap my head around this as it shows a crass disregard for the United States. John McCain loves his country so much he would put an unqualified boob a heartbeat away from the presidency? No, folks, he just wants to be President so badly that he'll do anything. And while Hillary was not my candidate**** I have to give her credit, because she showed the kind of deference to the good of the party and the country that seems to have eluded John McCain.I mean, shit, if Palin can be President, why not this crazy fucker, whom we have discussed previously. I mean, hell, he believes in a crazy old testament god, he's young, and the only difference between him and a pit bull is lipstick. Why not put him on the ticket, John McCain?

I'm not saying no to Sarah Palin, I'm saying no to the idea that a total neophyte belongs in the White House. I'm not saying yes to Barack Obama, I'm saying "FUCK yes!"

* As a side note, I've met a truly absurd number of very well-educated men who all seem to have a bit of a celebrity crush** on Ms. Fey. I leave it to you to decide why this may be.

** Before you ask, my celebrity crushes are all well-known.***

*** As of March of 2006, anyway.

**** Her policies I was largely okay with, I just didn't think she'd be able to carry a national election.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Not the best time to be wrong.

Okay, so maybe I spoke too soon about the whole Large Hadron Collider thing...



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Friday, September 12, 2008

Can it be? The end of the Lenski Saga?!

As many of you probably recall, I am a longtime follower of the unique brand of whatthefuckery provided by Andrew Schlafly's collaborative blog Conservapedia. As such, I have long been watching the bizarre saga of Schalfly's absurd effort to do battle with top notch scientist Richard Lenski. Most recently, Schlafly drug this insanity out by sending a letter to the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences, otherwise known as PNAS. The letter alleged, among other things, that Lenski is an incompetent statistician and a fraud.

Well folks, PNAS has responded, and it's a beaut.

My first warning of the reply came from Conservapedia's mainpage, which doesn't mince words:

Or, in simple human terms:

PNAS refuses to address the 5 errors in the Lenski study identified by the Letter to PNAS, and hides behind anonymity in censoring the letter from the PNAS readership. See PNAS Response to Letter.

Needless to say, I was intrigued, and clicked the supplied link. What I found is, supposedly, the text of PNAS' response:

Or, in simple text:

The PNAS has refused to publish the Letter to PNAS. The PNAS has provided the following non-responsive explanation dated September 11, 2008.

Note how the PNAS hides behind anonymity to justify its failure to address the five errors identified in the Letter to PNAS:

"A member of the Editorial Board has evaluated the letter and concluded that PNAS cannot publish it for the following reasons:

From what I take to be the underlying issue from the numbered points, Mr. Schlafly's main concern has to do with the fact that one experiment failed to yield a statistically significant result, and this happened to be the experiment with the largest sample size. Every experiment has limited power to detect a difference of any given magnitude, and so in a series of experiments some may yield non-significant results even when the null hypothesis is false. The non-significant experiment may even be the one with the largest sample size. There is nothing exceptional in this--it is a matter of chance. Nevertheless, from a statistical point of view, it is proper to combine the results of independent experiments, as Blount et al. did correctly in their original paper. If the overall result is significant, as it is in this case, then the whole series of tests is regarded as significant. Mr. Schlafly seems to suggest that experiments differing in sample size cannot be combined in an overall analysis, and if this is what he is suggesting, he is wrong.

I think Letters published in PNAS should raise points that in themselves, or in conjunction with the authors' response, should be of wide interest to the readership of PNAS or should illuminate some obscure or subtle point. The issues raised by Mr. Schlafly are neither obscure nor subtle, but are part of everyday statistical analysis at a level too elementary to need rehearsal in the pages of PNAS.

Mr. Schlafly's final comment about release of data is uncalled for. My understanding is that the authors have made the relevant materials available on their web site. This seems to me to meet the requirement that "data collected with public funds belong in the public domain." If Mr. Schlafly believes that the disclosure is incomplete, that is an issue that needs to be argued with the original funding agency, not with the readers of PNAS."

This response can be discussed at Talk:PNAS Response to Letter [links original]

So, in essence, the reviewer makes five points. First, he concedes that one of Lenski's tests was non-significant but observes that even if the null hypothesis is false (i.e. your research hypothesis should be accepted) our statistics will sometimes fail to recognize it. This is known as "beta error" or "type two error" and is a well understood part of statistical analysis.

The second point is subsidiary to the first, wherein the reviewer observes that when multiple analyses are combined mathematically and the result is significant, then the entire series is generally regarded as significant. There is nothing inappropriate about this practice so long as it is done properly and, indeed, Schlafly failed to give any good reasons to believe otherwise.

Third, the reviewer comments that Schlafly is incorrect if he believes that samples of different sizes cannot be combined in a single analysis. Indeed, if this were true, techniques like the independent means t-test would be in trouble. Granted, what Lenski did is more complex, but the concept is sound.

Fourth, the reviewer basically indicates that for a letter to be publishable in PNAS it must have an interesting or meaningful point. Schlafly's letter does not and, indeed, the objections it raises show nothing more than Schlafly's lack of basic statistical expertise. Therefore, publishing Schlafly's letter would be akin to printing undergraduate statistics homework in Nature.

Finally, the reviewer indicates that the data are already available and that, if Schlafly disagrees, it is in any case not PNAS' job to address the situation.

In short, this is a brief but devastating rebuttal of the usual Schlafly insanity. Not that he, or any of his acolytes, show any signs of realizing it:

Again, in plain text:

In this day and age, scientists have their own agenda and have corrupted science. Just look at global warming or cloning or stem cells as proof. With that said, the only way to get the real truth is by suing in court. Unfortunately, scientists are bound to vast wealth and have the power to defend themselves vigorously. If ever a fund was set up to pay for a suit, I would contribute. It is a classic case whereby the truth be known, the truth will prevail. -- jp 22:14, 12 September 2008 (EDT)

Thanks, Jpatt. One additional beauty of the truth is that it remains the truth no how much some deny it. PNAS can deny its errors all it likes, but that doesn't change the fact they are errors.--Aschlafly 22:21, 12 September 2008 (EDT)

And because I'm a sucker for irony, I just had to get involved:

In regular language:

"...the only way to get the real truth is by suing in court." Which is why the Kitzmiller et al. vs. Dover Area School District et al. decision was so important. Science was able to vindicate itself against the claims of intelligent design creationism. As for PNAS: It's not like the reviewer is saying anything that commenters here hadn't told ASchlafly already. -Drek

Place your bets on how fast they ban me and revert my edit. If there's one thing Conservapedia can't stand, it's the bloody truth.

Good night, kiddies: my wife is growing impatient* and this particular endeavor is futile.



...and reverted... under two hours. I'm almost kind of proud.

* And if there's one thing you don't want,** it's for the woman you love to be cross with you.

** I leave it as an exercise for the reader to decide what the other things I do not want are.

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I don't think the McCain campaign even understands insulting.

Recently, Barack Obama likened John McCain's policies to putting lipstick on a pig:

In response to this, the McCain campaign claimed that it was aghast at Obama's "sexist" attack on Governor Palin and ran an attack ad that simply boggles the mind:

And, in his usual style, Barack Obama pinned McCain's ears back against his head:

Me? I think Obama was obviously talking about McCain's policies. I think McCain is going for personal attacks because... you know... he's got no other basis on which to challenge Obama. And the funny thing? If Obama's remark was meant in any way as a slight, then it was quite a gentle one.

Because when I think about Sarah Palin and John McCain the expression that pops into my mind is "polishing a turd." Sure you add a useless layer of shiny lacquer but, at the end of the day, it's just the same old shit you had before.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

On the inadvisability of the numerical measurement of Gallus gallus prior to the completion of incubation.

Over on Scatterplot Jeremy posted on the rather depressing news that Sarah Palin has given McCain a bump in the polls. Now, I've heard this news already and have already seen a variety of Democrats and sanity-leaning centrists despairing at the inevitable defeat of Barack Obama before the lying windbag who is Sarah Palin. To this I can only respond: Fuck That Shit.

Do the American voters sometimes make bad decisions? Yes. Yes they do. Do they sometimes make good decisions? Hell yes. Is this election settled? Not by a longshot. The fact is that, at the end of the day, Sarah Palin and John McCain represent business as usual, and that has meant disaster, death, and economic collapse. So, you know, if you want the nation to continue imploding, vote Republican. I think it worth noting, after all, that while Bill Clinton liked to speak of his administration as building "a bridge to the twenty-first century," Sarah Palin has become best known for her bridge to nowhere.* And, of course, she was lying about that.

The Republicans are going to throw mud- they're going to throw it like crazy- but that's because it's all they've got. They will feign outrage over "lipstick on a pig" but nevertheless tell women that they cannot have an abortion even if raped by a family member. If we want to lose, we'll play the Republican game and talk about personalities. If we want to win we'll focus on the batshit crazy things the Republicans want to do (i.e. nothing) and how we're different.

And you know what? I think our changes are still pretty good:

So buckle the fuck down, people. In the last eight years maybe Democrats have gotten used to losing, but I came here to win.

* I should probably point out that I have no particular opinion on the bridge itself, but do rather disapprove of Palin's blatant lies on the subject.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Who gets to do this kinda thing?

This semester I find myself teaching a new course for the first time in a long while. That is to say, I've taught before but have stuck to the same class for a number of years. And, so long as we're on the subject, that course has traditionally been thought of as dull.* This semester I am teaching a new course and, while I'm ironing out snags involving excessively difficult readings and uneven lectures, it's going okay.

The best thing, though?

The best thing is that some of my students seem really interested and it gives me a chance to talk about some fun stuff. I mean, orgasmically fun material.

Today I managed to end up talking about the Kardashev scale. In a sociology class.

I. Love. My. Job.

* Seriously: not my fault.

Cross-posted over on Scatterplot.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Case for Cthulhu*

Hi. I'm Drek the Uninteresting and I was an atheist. I lived my life without really thinking about the Old Ones. I grew up, went to college, got married, and had an entire life planned out that just didn't involve horrors from beyond the beginning of time. And I thought I was happy.

A few years ago my wife began attending meetings of a dark cult. At first she said she was just going for the companionship- for the company of other cultists. But over time I began noticing changes in her behavior. She became less timid, more aggressive and outspoken. We used to have problems with the neighbors allowing their dog to crap in our backyard but, as she became more versed in animal and human sacrifice, the neighbors became afraid to even speak her name. I have to admit- I found these changes to be quite winsome. At the same time, however, I was upset- this was not what I had signed up for. I had a plan for my life and it did not involve the great Old Ones.

One day I accompanied my wife to one of her cult meetings. Now, I'm a sociologist so I brought along my trustee notebook, prepared to write down and criticize everything I heard. That midnight, amidst the smell of burning flesh and the moans of the dying, the high priest of Yog-Sothoth gave a sermon on the basics of worshipping the great Old Ones. He spoke about the common things that all cultists believe. I was amazed! This was not the worship of great slumbering evil from the outer darkness that I had heard about. So, I began a quest. I began to investigate the truth about Cthulhu. Who was he? What did he do? Is he just a tale? Or is he a slumbering elder god whose horrific maw will sing the song that ends the Earth? I decided to find out.

My first source of information, of course, was the Cthulhu Mythos, the definitive resource for scholars of Cthulhu. Remember, I'm a professional researcher, so I know how to find information about ancient evils. Besides just reading, I went to the best possible sources on the Elder Gods. Of course, most of our knowledge of Cthulhu comes from the Books of Lovecraft but could I simply take his word for it? I turned, instead, to an expert witness: August Derleth. As one of the foremost experts on Cthulhu, surely he would help me sort out fact from fiction.

What he told me was incredible. I learned that Cthulhu was just the tip of the Elder God iceberg:

...the Old or Ancient Ones, the Elder Gods, of cosmic good, and those of cosmic evil, bearing many names, and themselves of different groups, as if associated with the elements and yet transcending them: for there are the Water Beings, hidden in the depths; those of Air that are the primal lurkers beyond time; those of Earth, horrible animate survivors of distant eons.

And about Cthulhu himself:

...a thing which was little more than a protoplasmic mass, from the body of which a thousand tentacles of every length and thickness flailed forth, from the head of which, constantly altering shape from an amorphous bulge to a simulacrum of a man's head, a single malevolent eye appeared.

But there was more- much more. Dr. Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee of Miskatonic University spent years researching the Great Race of Yith, and discovered that the Yithians are an ancient race capable of traveling through both space and time. Indeed, they had once held dominion over the entire Earth. Is Dr. Peaslee's research, conducted through participant observation, to be doubted?

I also learned about William Dyer, a Professor of Geology from Miskatonic University, who discovered a vast complex in Antarctica. This complex, once the home of the great and terrible Elder Things was still home to the monstrous Shoggoths. Dyer wasn't the only man to see the Shoggoths, however- he was joined by a graduate student named Danforth who was so affected by the experience that he temporarily lost his sanity. And these aren't the only sources of information on the Shoggoth or Cthulhu- indeed, they appear to have had a substantial effect on world politics.

Throughout this period as I was investigating Cthulhu my wife was standing in the background, hoping that I would see the light. She and other cultists were brutally sacrificing all manner of innocents to the dark forces that walk in the forgotten places of man's domain. And, in her own way, she tried to help me. She would leave copies of the Necronomicon around the house, with passages like "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn," underlined. Or, in English, "In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming." Sometimes I even found copper bowls containing still-warm human blood on the coffee table. I know she was trying to help but she wasn't, and I told her that.

The longer I studied Cthulhu and the deeper I went the more the evidence kept piling up. So many books, so many stories, so much horror from beyond imagining. How could it all just be fictional? How could so many have spent so much time on Azathoth and Shub-Niggurath if they weren't real? And what of Innsmouth and its dark pact with the Deep Ones? Am I to believe that the disappearances and economic revival are just coincidence? And how about all of the people who have been touched by Cthulhu- could they all be wrong? Could a creature who inspired such devotion only be a myth?

Eventually I sat in my office and drew a line down the center of a page of notebook paper. On one side I put all of the evidence I had accumulated for Cthulhu. On the other, I put the evidence against him. And as I sat looking at my list I suddenly realized that it would take more faith to remain an atheist than it would to believe in Cthulhu. And in that moment, I guess I became a cultist too.

When I told my wife she was thrilled. She had been hoping that the Elder Gods would open my eyes to Cthulhu and now it had finally happened. We were finally united in the mad joy of serving undying evil from other dimensions.

And that's my story. Now, I'm not here to tell you what to believe, but I am here to ask you to take a real, hard look at the facts. But if you do, do it with two rules: be open minded about your search and about Cthulhu and follow the evidence wherever it might lead.

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!

* Okay, for those who don't know, I'm referring to Lee Stroebel's "The Case for Christ. My wife and I recently had the chance to see the movie version and it was, in a word, pathetic. I like to assume that if you wrote a book explaining why your god is the right god, you'd include the strongest, most convincing arguments in the movie version. If so, then his book is absolute trash because the movie is shit. The structure of it is pretty much exactly as I have outlined above and it boils down to an argument from credulity. There's also an unreasonable priviledging of eyewitness testimony as always accurate (*snort*) and an absurd claim that oral tradition is an automatically error-correcting approach to transmitting information- which makes me wonder why students of oral tradition talk so much about "variants," or competing versions of the same story. In any case, no, I am not now a worshipper of Cthulhu, I remain an atheist, but the quality of my argumentation above is matched by Strobel's. I hope Strobel is happy with his new faith but, really, feel quite certain that his wife's conversion and the implications thereof for his marriage and access to his children had more to do with his conversion than any kind of legitimate research.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Too busy to talk to you today.

Better luck tomorrow.



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Friday, September 05, 2008


Over on Orgtheory Brayden recently explained how cultural sociology is no longer a marginalized area of the discipline. Instead, cultural sociology is, we are told, seeing a great improvement in fortunes. Indeed, he titled his post "triumphant culture" and concluded by saying:

Cultural sociology seems to have hit its stride and may be well on the way to becoming the dominant paradigm of contemporary sociology.

Perhaps this is so, perhaps not, and my own views on cultural sociology are irrelevant at the moment.* And Brayden is someone I like to think of as a very good friend of mine and so I hope that he will not take this the wrong way. But I think that cultural sociologists the world over will probably wish he hadn't said that.

Because, honestly, saying that cultural sociology is well on its way to becoming the dominant paradigm in sociology reminds me of nothing so much as the b-list actor who asks "Is he finally dead?" about mid-way through a slasher film. And that, as we all know, is inevitably the villain's cue to rise up and embed an axe in one or another of the speaker's vital body parts.

Beware structuralism, Brayden. It does, indeed, know what you did last summer.

* I am peculiarly proud of that fact that, despite my long tenure in the socio-blogging world, I only rarely actually talk about sociology.

Cross-posted on Scatterplot.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

A brave new day.

I'm blogging over on Scatterplot today and, in one of my frequent bouts of poor judgment, have decided to introduce them to Conservapedia's unique brand of whatthefuckery.

Somehow, I doubt I will receive thanks for this.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The most frightening thing you'll see... say, for the next 24 hours or so.

I'm busy today and don't have time for an actual post so, in the spirit of yesterday's post, please enjoy this campaign message courtesy of Jesus' General.

I mean... gah!

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sarah Palin: The Drek Take

Over on Scatterplot Jeremy recently asked what I think about the fact that Sarah Palin is a creationist. Well, more accurately, he asked if I'm aware of that and I've decided to creatively interpret such as a request for my opinion.*

So what do I think about Palin? Well, in a brief word, I think she's utterly terrifying. An unqualified, irrational fool whose only electoral virtue is that she may be able to consolidate the evangelical vote behind McCain. Additionally, the pick simply cements my opinion of McCain as a man who is less interested in serving the country and more interested in becoming President before he dies. And unfortunately it's obvious he doesn't really care who he gets into bed with so long as it wins him the White House.

To discuss this in a longer format, however, let's consider the pros and cons of Sarah Palin:


(1) Sarah Palin supports creationism in the classroom:

The volatile issue of teaching creation science in public schools popped up in the Alaska governor's race this week when Republican Sarah Palin said she thinks creationism should be taught alongside evolution in the state's public classrooms.

Palin was answering a question from the moderator near the conclusion of Wednesday night's televised debate on KAKM Channel 7 when she said, "Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both."


In an interview Thursday, Palin said she meant only to say that discussion of alternative views should be allowed to arise in Alaska classrooms:

"I don't think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn't have to be part of the curriculum."

Ah, yes, 'teach the controversy.' Sadly, however, there is no scientific controversy over evolution. This is just a standard creationist canard.

(2) Sarah Palin opposes sex education other than "abstinence only." To quote from an Eagle Forum survey:

3. Will you support funding for abstinence-until-marriage education instead of for explicit sex-education programs, school-based clinics, and the distribution of contraceptives in schools?

Answer: Yes, the explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support.

Because, you know, "abstinence only" works so well we should really use it exclusively. Similarly, I hear Republicans are advocating a new "Say no to getting shot" program for U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Sounds like a winner.

(3) Sarah Palin is anti-choice** in virtually all cases, supporting abortion only when necessary for the health of the mother:

Smith [Spokesman for the Palin Gubernatorial campaign] said Palin is opposed to abortion, but believes an exception should be made if the health of the mother is in danger.

That's the only exception Palin would make, though, Smith said.

"She doesn't make exception for rape and incest, only for health of the mother," he said.

Yes, ladies, that's right: Palin is a candidate for Vice President of the United States who believes if you are raped- even by a male relative- and become pregnant as a result, you should be forced to carry that child to term. And in case you're wondering, yes, we've heard this shit before.

(4) Sarah Palin believes that global warming has nothing to do with human causes:

What is your take on global warming and how is it affecting our country?

Answer: A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made.

She's a creationist, she doesn't accept anthropogenic global warming... hell, at least she's consistently scientifically illiterate. Oh, wait, shit, that's a bad thing in this context.

(5) Sarah Palin opposes same-sex marriage and would deny benefits to same-sex couples:

Palin said she's not out to judge anyone and has good friends who are gay, but that she supported the 1998 constitutional amendment [banning gay marriage].

And, in the second article:

Gov. Sarah Palin said Wednesday that she will comply with an Alaska Supreme Court order issued Tuesday to offer health and retiree benefits to same-sex partners of state employees starting Jan. 1.

"We believe that we have no more judicial options to pursue. So we may disagree with kind of the foundation there, the rationale behind the ruling, but our responsibility is to proceed forward with the law and abide by the constitution," Palin said.

But ultimately, she said, she supports denying those benefits through a constitutional amendment, if that's what the public wants.

So, she's the "giant step backwards for homosexuals" candidate. Awesome.

(6) Sarah Palin supports drilling in ANWR:

"The standard should be no different for industry. Ironically, we're trying to convince the rest of the nation to open ANWR, but we can't even get our own Pt. Thomson, which is right on the edge of ANWR, developed! We are ready for that gas to be tapped so we can fill a natural gas pipeline. I promise to vigorously defend Alaska's rights, as resource owners, to develop and receive appropriate value for our resources."

We've covered ANWR before so no need to do it again but, long story short, it won't do the country any damned good.

(7) Sarah Palin isn't sure she thinks Alaska should be part of the United States:

Officials of the Alaskan Independence Party say that Palin was once so independent, she was once a member of their party, which, since the 1970s, has been pushing for a legal vote for Alaskans to decide whether or not residents of the 49th state can secede from the United States.

And while McCain's motto -- as seen in a new TV ad -- is "Country First," the AIP's motto is the exact opposite -- "Alaska First -- Alaska Always."


But Lynette Clark, the chairman of the AIP, tells ABC News that Palin and her husband Todd were members in 1994, even attending the 1994 statewide convention in Wasilla. Clark was AIP secretary at the time.

"We are a state's rights party," says Clark, a self-employed goldminer. The AIP has "a plank that challenges the legality of the Alaskan statehood vote as illegal and in violation of United Nations charter and international law."

She says it's not accurate to describe the party as secessionist -- they just want a vote, she says, adding that the members of the AIP hold different opinions on what Alaska should be.

"My own separate opinion as an individual is that we should be an independent nation," Clark says. Others in the AIP "believe that being a commonwealth would be a good avenue to follow." Some advocate statehood -- but a fuller statehood than exists now.

Didn't we settle that whole secession thing back with the Civil War? Guess not. In any case, I'm excited that we might have a VP whose response to the secession of U.S. territory is a resounding, "Meh."


(1) She is, by all accounts, female.*** We haven't had a female Vice President before.

(2) Would prove that even pageant runner-ups can be Vice President. And, additionally, would really stick it to the French.

(3) Makes it apparent just how old John McCain really is:

"Thanks for the sock full of pennies, Grandpa."

So, in short, she's Dubya in a skirt. Drek most definitely does not approve.

That said, do I think she'll be easy to beat? Eh. I think it could be worse. She will mobilize the evangelicals but, that said, I think she should also mobilize the non-crazy wing of the American people. So tell your friends: If you want a President, vote for Obama-Biden.

But if you want teh crazy, vote for McCain-Palin.

* Note that I'm not interpreting it creatively enough to think my nonsensical ramblings on the subject are appropriate for Scatterplot itself.

** Yes, I know, cheap politically manipulative language, but no worse than "pro-life".

*** Give it up, I'm not going looking for a source verifying that she's female. Jesus.

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Monday, September 01, 2008

It's all so clear to me now.

For those who aren't familiar, there's this guy named "Jack Chick." Jack is a Christian. No, wait, that doesn't even begin to cover it. Jack is such an over-the-top, slavering mad Christian that I'm pretty sure he thinks that he's the stable boy for the four horsemen of the apocalypse. He is, in short, the kind of Christian who gives Christians a bad name.

Now, the next thing you have to know about Mr. Chick is that he really, really wants you to be a Christian too. He wants it so much that he draws, and sells, a whole series of comic books that are intended for use in witnessing to others. Those of you who have seen the movie Jesus Camp are already familiar with these- the one little girl gives a copy of one of Jack's comic books to the older woman in the bowling alley. These pamplets, referred to as "Chick Tracts" cover a very wide gamut and are, one and all, a bizarre mix of the hysterical and the just plain frightening. I've talked about them before and don't think I need to explain that assertion again here.

Having been prepared for all this, I'll let you know that while I used to read these tracts over on Chick's site out of a weird kind of curiosity* I have largely ceased. Yet, I relapsed recently and ran across a tract named "First Bite" which may just be the funniest/scariest thing I've ever seen. This tract is awesome for several reasons but foremost because it makes it clear that Jack Chick believes that vampires are real. Seriously. Most of the tract consists of the story of a coven of vampires who believe they have ushered the anti-christ into the world with the aid of satan. Oh, and there are vampire dogs and a three-eyed bear. Seriously. No idea why but, hey, there they are. See:

Now, this tract goes along as Jack Chick tracts usually do. Bad guy is witnessed to, changes his mind, accepts Jesus, blah, blah, blah. Standard stuff. But then we get to- quite possibly- the creepiest thing I've ever seen in a Chick tract:

See it there? The happy, chipper heroine of "First Bite" confidently asserting that "Blood has to be shed for sins to be forgiven"? Leaving aside that this is just a really frightening assertion to toss off so casually, I have to admit, Chick has finally allowed me to "see the light." Or, more specifically, understand why evangelical Christians, who are by-and-large rabidly pro-life, are also frequently rabidly pro-capital punishment. I mean, it's totally sensible! Blood has to be shed in order for sins to be forgiven so, hey, by executing prisoners we're doing them a favor, right?


* Think of it as the gateway into my current crippling Conservapedia addiction.

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