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, November 30, 2010


So the other day I was trawling Conservapedia and I happened to read their article on the September 11th attacks. Now, I should note right off the bat that this article is unusually good for Conservapedia, which is to say it's still howlingly terrible, but steers clear of lunatic ravings to a greater extent than most Conservapedia articles (for example, check out their article on Barack Obama). That having been said, however, this article provides a simply fantastic example of why Conservapedia is such an embarrassment to human life everywhere. And what I mean by that, is their sub-section on the Social Impacts of the attacks, which is as follows:

Or, to quote directly:

Following the attacks there was a strong surge of patriotism in virtually all facets of American society. The government, being aware that the most deadly attack ever on American soil could stir up animosity against the ethnic or religious group of the perpetrators, went out of its way along with the media to separate Islam from the actions taken by its more radical adherents, referring to it at multiple times as a "religion of love". While people of Middle Eastern decent and adherents of Islam were concerned at first, the overall effect of hostility towards these groups was barely noticeable. Although there were literally millions of Muslims in America out of a total population of 300 million who could have sought out reprisals, in an entire year less than 500 cases of aggression of verbal hostility were reported. Muslims responded to the magnanimous treatment they received from Americans by seeking to construct an insulting and offensive Ground Zero Mosque. [emphasis added]

Now, leaving aside the horrid grammar and spelling, and ignoring the questionable factual interpretations contained in the above, I just want to draw your attention to that last sentence. See? Americans were so magnanimous for not randomly attacking innocent civilians who had nothing in common with the perpetrators of an attack except, perhaps, some of their religious beliefs. And then those horrible Muslims- who based on the phrasing of the sentence apparently are not, and cannot be, Americans- well, they just turned around and kept being Muslim! I suppose in one sense American Muslims did receive better treatment than Japanese Americans during World War II in that they weren't rounded up and forced into internment camps.* But not confiscating an entire ethnic group's possessions and forcing them into armed prison camps hardly qualifies one for the label of "magnanimous".

Ah, Conservapedia. Just when I think I've plumbed the full depths of your hatefulness, you manage to surprise me. Well played.

* I feel compelled to point out that while Conservapedia has both a surprisingly large number of articles about Japan as well as articles about World War II and the homefronts in World War II, they are curiously silent about the internment of Japanese Americans.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Oh, hell. This is gonna suck.

I know as a sociologist I should be excited over the sudden windfall of archival data, but as an American who has had friends serving in the U.S. armed forces... yeah. This genuinely makes me want to cringe:

A cache of a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables, most of them from the past three years, provides an unprecedented look at back-room bargaining by embassies around the world, brutally candid views of foreign leaders and frank assessments of nuclear and terrorist threats.

Some of the cables, made available to The New York Times and several other news organizations, were written as recently as late February, revealing the Obama administration’s exchanges over crises and conflicts. The material was originally obtained by WikiLeaks, an organization devoted to revealing secret documents. WikiLeaks posted 220 cables, some redacted to protect diplomatic sources, in the first installment of the archive on its Web site on Sunday.

The disclosure of the cables is sending shudders through the diplomatic establishment, and could strain relations with some countries, influencing international affairs in ways that are impossible to predict.

It is, of course, worth noting that the U.S. is hardly unique in spying on hypothetical allies and not always saying what it thinks. But, then again, that's why we call it "diplomacy" rather than "just chilling out with our buddies". Goddamn I hope nobody gets killed over this.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What the hell?

Words, they escape me:

I mean, seriously? Cowboys and aliens? I know it's a graphic novel, but what works in comic book form does not always work quite so well on the big screen, even when you have Daniel "F-ing James Bond" Craig and Harrison "I shot first, not Greedo" Ford in the cast.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The private and the public

Recently I wrote a post that, among other things, castigated Conservapedia for suggesting that public education in the United States be abolished. In response a commenter by the name of Roman left a few thoughts that I think deserve a little attention. And so, today I will respond to Roman's remarks- with his comments in block quotes, and my responses... you know... not.

Let's begin!

now, it's quite obvious that all of conservapedia is really good at being fucktards and really dumb, but I think the case for privatizing education isn't that horrible.

First off, I really have to say that any discussion that begins with the bedrock understanding that Conservapedia is stoopid is guaranteed to be at least marginally productive!

Considering that demand in the market is much higher now for college education, and literacy and basic skills are pretty mandatory in the workforce, and given that with full privatization, the cost of private education should go down because of intra-college competition.

Okay... considering that those things are true... what? I need an end to that clause. Regardless, however, while I agree that market demand for a college education is higher and that basic literacy is necessary for most any job, and even that more private schools would possibly result in more cheap schools, I'm forced to wonder whether privatizing education would make it any cheaper. Specifically, it costs a certain amount to produce any given good and, unlike private ventures, public ventures do not attempt to make a profit. So, in order for private schools to be cheaper than public, the cost of providing an equally good education plus the profit margin would have to be lower than the cost of providing that education without the profit margin. So, in short, unless public schools have a really, really high overhead (maybe, but probably not worse than many corporations) or private schools are way more efficient (and I doubt that based on my own experience) a shift to an all-private system would most likely increase the average cost of schooling per student. But, yes, the cost for just private schools would likely go down.

It wouldn't make america a cesspool of ignorance by any means, and if the government wanted to support the poor, they could reallocate the funding from the schools towards scholarship programs (even if the college tuition goes up through privatization, this sort of support could get everyone into the schools they deserved).

Well, first off, I don't see why the public should be more interested in using tax monies to give a private corporation profits when it could accomplish the same objective more cheaply with public services. Secondly, I think you're talking about higher education while Conservapedia was talking about primary and secondary education as well. And finally, "they deserved"? What does that mean?

Honestly, with the way education in america is now, trying to pull the willingly ignorant up to a standard of intelligence rather than education those who want education with NCLB & stuff, I almost would support such a system.

And I have no idea what the hell that statement means, although I can see the logic in "education those who want education".

But seriously, I know there are some economists who read this blog: anyone care to offer some articulate remarks on the public vs. private education situation? Because, you know, we could use a few.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

The similarity- it's uncanny!

So recently, as is distressingly common, I found myself thinking about Paris Hilton.* For those of you who don't know, Paris Hilton is the great-granddaughter of Conrad Hilton, who founded the Hilton chain of hotels. Now, seeing as how I was thinking about Paris, I decided to check out her Wikipedia page and noticed the following:

Or, to quote more directly:

She is an example of the modern phenomenon of the 'celebutante', the celebrity who rises to fame not because of their talent or work but because of their wealth and controversial lifestyle.

In the case of Paris Hilton part of that "lifestyle" involved the a sex tape humorously named 1 Night in Paris that particularly helped her garner media attention. And somehow... I don't know... I just felt like this sounded familiar. As you might guess, this bothered me quite a lot until one day, when talking to my charming and very talented wife, it suddenly hit me: the "celebutante" thing seems familiar because it is. Specifically, there is another example of a celebutante that is eerily similar. I refer, of course, to Bristol Palin.

I don't mean any harm to Ms. Palin, but it just occurs to me that, like Paris, her current fame and position on Dancing with the Stars owes less to her innate talents or skills and more to her parentage and the lifestyle she engages in. I mean, why else would merely being a single mom qualify her to charge between $15,000 and $30,000 for speeches in favor of abstinence? And I mention this only because, when you get right down to it, the notion that Paris Hilton and Bristol Palin are, on some level, really similar just makes me giggle a bit. And, really, well-done, Bristol!

But now could we go back to paying attention to people who matter for reasons other than who their parents are or who they've had sex with? Please?

* I kid. I never really think about Paris Hilton except, perhaps, when fending off the saleswomen who are hawking her most recent perfume. Honestly, has anyone ever been more inclined to buy a scent because it has Paris Hilton's face on it?

As a side note: I'm picking on Bristol mainly just because the Tea Party folks have been consistently voting for her bad dancing and it's bugging my wife more than a little.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Wasn't this a Slider's episode?

Back in the day I occasionally watched the show Sliders, which portrayed four people journeying through alternate universes, and I seem to recall something very much like this:

Indeed, it seems that the Science Cheerleaders are hoping to radically alter our perception of both science and cheerleaders. Generally, I'm really excited about this process because, frankly, we need people to see how awesome science is, and making sure that more of those people are female can only be a good thing. Likewise, given my past support for Danica McKellar's efforts to promote math to girls, I'm inclined to view the Science Cheerleaders favorably.

All that said, however, I'm forced to wonder: will this help those young people interested in going into science who are not also cheerleaders, or great athletes, or actors? In other words, does this only make it cool to be a cheerleader and a scientist, but not just to be a scientist?

Because- and I gotta be honest here- there ain't nobody who wants me to start shaking my pom-poms for grant funding, you know?

And as a random side note: everyone witness the triumphant return of the "boobs" tag! It's been a long time, old friend!

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Don't go off half-cocked!

In lieu of an actual post today, please enjoy this recent and very interesting story on premature ejaculation. No, really:

It occurred to me recently, under conditions that I leave to your ample and likely sordid imagination (how dare you), that the very concept of “premature ejaculation” in human males is a strange one, at least from an evolutionary theoretical perspective. After all, the function of ejaculation isn’t really a mysterious biological occurrence…it’s an evolved mechanism designed by nature to launch semen, and therefore sperm cells, as far into the dark, labyrinthine abyss of the female reproductive tract as possible. And once one of these skyrocketed male gametes, in a vigorous race against millions of other single-tasked cells, finds and penetrates a fertile ovum, and—miracle of miracles—successful conception occurs, well then natural selection can congratulate itself on a job well done.

Seriously, check it out. I tell you, though- the lengths some guys will go to in order to excuse a poor performance!

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"I hear there's even a milking mini-game!"

I'll grant that my taste in video games* is a bit unusual, running more to the spreadsheet-based strategy game than to the action shoot-em-up, but even I think this looks like the most boring f-ing thing ever. And the awesome techno music just doesn't help:

You mean... I can drive all five kinds of tractors? Holy shit! How awesome is that? And there are cows? I mean goddamn, what doesn't this game have?

If you're curious, you can see an English version of the trailer over on Steam but it lacks the techno soundtrack and, so, is unworthy. Now, I know people get really into these kinds of games. Take Farmville, for example- some people get so into that game that they'll shake their baby to death for interrupting them.** But that being said, is it really that exciting to... you know... drive a combine back and forth in rows, mowing down wheat? It's like mowing your lawn, but you have to pay someone else $30 for the privilege and, at the end, your lawn still looks like shit and you're pasty from lack of exposure to sunlight.

I just do not get it.

* You might say that I'm more of a Tycho than a Gabe.

** I really, really wish that were just hyperbole.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fahrenheit Four-Fifty-Yawn

If you've ever read the famous work by Ray Bradbury you may have found yourself wondering how such a wretched dystopian future could ever come to pass. Fortunately, Andrew Schlafly of Conservapedia has provided an answer for us:

Or, in plain language:

Nearly 250,000 people will soon be without a single bookstore, as the last one is closing in Laredo, Texas. Most books (other than the Bible) are liberal claptrap anyway, so this is probably good news. [emphasis original]

So, just to recap: we shouldn't care if the last bookstore in a given area closes, thereby denying* the residents access to... you know... books, because the aforementioned books may contain things that we disagree with. Actually, no, sorry, that doesn't quite capture it- we should be gleeful that the last bookstore closed because it will keep people from reading things we disagree with. Andrew Schlafly is literally celebrating ignorance. Now, there has since appeared a sort of limp claim on the talk page that Andy was just being "provocative," but I leave it to you to decide whether the claim is reliable:

Honestly, I think it appears to be more likely that "provocative" is here meant as a synonym for "embarrassingly stupid," but maybe that's just me?

It's just this kind of lazy, ignorant jackassery that demonstrates exactly why dystopias can, and do, happen. Dystopia doesn't require an evil conspiracy or even a power-mad would-be dictator. All it really requires is for someone to decide that they'd rather have ignorant agreement than educated dissent, and frankly agreement can't get much more ignorant than Conservapedia.

Some say the world will end in fire, others say in ice. Me, I say it will end in stupid.

This is the way the world will end.

* I should note that, thanks to the wonders of the Kindle among other things, I strongly doubt that the bookstore closing will actually cut off the supply. Besides, there are such things as libraries, you know?

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Monday, November 15, 2010


Have you ever wondered what might happen if someone confronted anti-choice protesters outside a clinic? Well, wonder no more.

To contextualize:

“He and his 16-weeks-pregnant wife went to a women’s clinic in Brookline, Mass. for an abortion after discovering that their baby had a congenital deformity with no chance for survival. On their way in, they were confronted by images of dismembered fetuses and two women yelling, “You’re killing your unborn baby!” Enraged, Gouveia decided to confront the protesters while his wife was in surgery, and he caught the whole interaction on his cellphone.”

One wonders how the protesters felt at having accusations hurled at them, given that usually they get to be the bullies.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Not as cool as it sounds

So recently I ran across a story that suggests that all life on earth may be the result of a prehistoric zombie plague. No, really, that's pretty much exactly what's being suggested:

Life on Earth could have grown from the broken remains of alien viruses that, although dead, still contained enough information to give rise to new life.

Scientists have speculated that life could have come to Earth from space — a notion called panspermia — since the 1870s, when Lord Kelvin suggested microbes could have ridden here on a comet or meteor. Others have suggested tiny organisms could cross the galaxy embedded in dust grains, which could be nudged from one planetary system to another by the slight pressure of stars’ radiation.

However, most astrobiologists think that same radiation spells a death sentence for delicate microbes.

“That essentially kills panspermia in the classical sense,” said astrobiologist Rocco Mancinelli of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California.

But maybe not, says astronomer Paul Wesson, a visiting researcher at the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in Canada. In an upcoming paper in Space Science Reviews, Wesson argues that even if the actual microbes are dead on arrival, the information they carry could allow life to rise from the charred remains, an idea he calls necropanspermia.

First off, definite props for the term "necropanspermia." There's nothing like suggesting that life on earth is the result of an interstellar undead plague to get the research dollars rolling in. Second, I do find this suggestion very interesting- I mean, when we're talking about very simple forms of life, like self-replicating molecules, even fragments of more advanced forms might serve as useful templates. In effect, life didn't arrive from space, but the basic mechanics of life did- the method without the content, if you will. If nothing else, this is an interesting variation on a theme.

The painful part, however, comes later when we meander agonizingly into the area of intelligent design:

The key lies in how much genetic information survives the trip, Wesson says. An organism’s genetic information is encoded in the sequence of nucleotides in their DNA. This information can be measured in bits in the same way as computer processes. Bacteria like E. coli, for example, carry about 6 million bits of information in their DNA.

Random chemical processes couldn’t produce enough information to run even a simple cell. Over 500 million years, random molecular shuffling would produce only 194 bits of information, Wesson says.

One possible way around this paradox is the idea that life on Earth was seeded by biological molecules that already had a large information content that survived the journey even though the molecules themselves were killed.

And, unfortunately, this is very much akin to the sort of absurd arguments that Wild Bill Dembski likes to advance- life is too improbable, therefore it can't have arisen naturally. Now, what I suspect is that Wesson is simply arguing by analogy that random chemical processes are unlikely to give rise to enough DNA to run an extant cell, but it sounds like he's saying that natural evolution is impossible. And not only is that incorrect, but it's going to give the quote miners hard-ons like you wouldn't believe. So, for the record, panspermia is neat, but intelligent design is stupid.

As for me, I just kinda want to cry, since one of my favorite things (i.e. zombies) has officially been stapled to one of my most detested (i.e. stupid theologically-motivated pseudoscience).

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

The physicists get all the cool toys

Okay, so this is powerful cool:

The Large Hadron Collider has successfully created a "mini-Big Bang" by smashing together lead ions instead of protons.

The scientists working at the enormous machine on Franco-Swiss border achieved the unique conditions on 7 November.

The experiment created temperatures a million times hotter than the centre of the Sun.


"This process took place in a safe, controlled environment, generating incredibly hot and dense sub-atomic fireballs with temperatures of over ten trillion degrees, a million times hotter than the centre of the Sun.

"At these temperatures even protons and neutrons, which make up the nuclei of atoms, melt resulting in a hot dense soup of quarks and gluons known as a quark-gluon plasma."

Quarks and gluons are sub-atomic particles - some of the building blocks of matter. In the state known as quark-gluon plasma, they are freed of their attraction to one another. This plasma is believed to have existed just after the Big Bang.

He explained that by studying the plasma, physicists hoped to learn more about the so-called strong force - the force that binds the nuclei of atoms together and that is responsible for 98% of their mass.

I have to admit, living in a time when we're actually testing so much about how the world works is hella exciting. I just can't wait to see what the LHC turns up.*

* Unless, you know, it turns up a monstrous black hole, but I'm not too worried given that any black hole it produced would evaporate in a fraction of a second.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Insert tab A into slot B...

Before we talk today, I think you'll find it instructive to view the following video, which gives clear, easy to follow instructions for converting atheists from their false religion. More specifically, the lady below is going to answer the following question, "How do I communicate with someone, who is an atheist, about the reality of God?"

There are several things that should be pointed out here. First, it's interesting that her argument explicitly hangs on manipulating the target- I mean, everyone says that they're a "seeker of truth" and "open-minded," right? As such, she's not really trying to advance a positive argument for god as she is trying to undermine the atheist's confidence in his or her own beliefs.

Second, it's important to note that "open-minded" is not the same thing as "indecisive". I've covered this before, but in short- to be open-minded is to be willing to evaluate all evidence fairly in reaching a decision, but it is not the same as being unwilling to reach a decision. If it were, then an open-minded person would never reach a conclusion about anything. Obama versus McCain? I dunno, I'm open-minded. Join a gym or run outside? Gosh, I can't decide, I'm too open-minded. Chocolate versus vanilla? Damn, I don't know, I just have such an open mind! So, basically, it's perfectly consistent to say, "Yes, I have an open mind," and yet still to assert, "But, I've made a decision about this and it will require a considerable amount of evidence to change my mind".

Third, her whole "isn't it possible that" logic works just as well either way. For example:

Drek: So you're a seeker of truth?

Crazy Lady: Yes.

Drek: And you have an open mind, don't you?

Crazy Lady: Oh, yes.

Drek: Okay. Well, on this paper, why don't you draw a regular polygon that represents all human knowledge.

Crazy Lady: ...?

Drek: *sigh* A circle will be fine.

Crazy Lady: *draws circle*

Drek: Now, why don't you color in the portion of the circle that you, personally, understand.

Crazy Lady: *Shades a speck.*

Drek: Now, you think that god is in the shaded area, right?

Crazy Lady: Oh, I know he is!

Drek: Right, right. But, is it possible that you just think he is, but that really, there's something outside the circle that's making it seem that way?

Crazy Lady: Oh, no, I've felt god!

Drek: Oh, really? But I thought you had an open mind?

Crazy Lady: I do!

Drek: But you're not even willing to consider the possibility that what you think feels like god might be something else? A speck of mustard, perhaps?

Crazy Lady: You're going to hell. You know that, right?

Drek: It's come up before.

Fourth, why does the circle just contain all human knowledge? Why not all things that are known and ever can be known? Because it seems to me that the stronger case can be made by suggesting the staggering amount that we as humans have yet to understand, rather than playing up all the stuff we already do. But, hey, if I thought all wisdom came from one single book, I guess I might be afraid of the unknown too.

Fifth, it's interesting to me that using her admittedly half-assed logic she gets as far as "so you're really an agnostic, then" and is then unable to come up with any compelling way to get us from agnostic to theist. Sure, she has that whole, "shouldn't you find out why other people believe" thing, but that presupposes the atheist doesn't know already. Likewise, that's not an argument in favor of belief, it's an argument in favor of social science.

Last, and most critically, however, note how what should be a serious and heartfelt discussion with someone is reduced to a series of talking points. Because, really, when trying to discuss deeply important issues of personal philosophy, your strategy really should be something that reduces to "insert tab A into slot B".

People have occasionally claimed that as an atheist, I don't take arguments in favor of religion seriously. Me, I think I take them at least as seriously as the theists do.

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

You forgot Poland Texas!

Over at Conservapedia we are once more being treated to the sorts of "insights" that have made them not just famous, but infamous on the internets:

Or, in plain text:

Christian Conservatism - True and Once Again Triumphant

Conservative North Dakota still has the lowest rate of unemployment in the United States. The state unemployment rate is 3%.

Another positive aspect of North Dakota is that according to a CUNY 2000 religious survey, it appeared to have the lowest per capita number of atheists in the United States (people who answered "no religion" on a survey).

The Bible declares, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want" (Psalm 23:1). North Dakota, which contains plenty of Conservative Christians, certainly seems to be a shining example of this Bible verse. North Dakota has more churches per capita than any state in the United States. [emphasis original]

Now, on the one hand I have to give Conservapedia props because at least, in this instance, they're not directly stating that North Dakota is doing well specifically because it has few atheists.* On the other hand, they did then basically state that North Dakota is awesome additionally because it doesn't have atheists, which is not dissimilar from suggesting that a given neighborhood is awesome because it contains so few brown people. Progress, this is not.

So is it true that North Dakota is awesome? Sure! I mean, I don't know- I've never been to North Dakota- but I'll be damned if I'm going to go out of my way to denigrate an entire state just because Conservapedia suggested that they're awesome. People live in North Dakota, and a lot of them probably like it, so Conservapedia can just forget about my being indiscriminately offensive** to North Dakotans. No, instead, what I'll point out is that if Conservapedia's contention were correct, we'd also expect other states with a heavy conservative Christian presence- like Texas, for example- to be doing just as well. For that matter, we might expect countries that have tiny proportions of conservative Christians- you know, like Sweden for example- to be cess pits. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine if this is the case, but given Conservapedia's track record in the "being right" department, you can probably guess the outcome.

Still, what should we expect from a website that runs headlines like this:

Or, in human language:

After a public school funding bill failed for the second time in six months in Toledo, a public school teacher writes, "Change in funding must occur immediately if public education is to survive." One question: why should Americans want public education to survive? [emphasis original; yes, all of it]

To which I respond: because it's a public good you morons. Most Americans cannot afford private schools, and that's true both now and historically, but the public at large can. If you have a democracy, it's kinda dangerous to allow most of your population to be painfully ignorant, not to mention economically suicidal in a global economy. But, hey, who needs book learnin' when you got Jesus?

Yeah, as it turns out? Everybody.

* Actually, in a desire to be honest- a trait Conservapedia lacks- I should note that the survey they refer to totals up those with "no religion," who may or may not actually identify as atheist. So it would be more accurate to say that North Dakota has few religiously unaffiliated individuals.

** I mean, hell, I usually try to be very specific in whom I run the risk of offending.

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Monday, November 08, 2010


This freaking song has been playing in the back of my head all damned weekend thanks to the title of Friday's blog post. Since I know that the only way to excise a song from one's head is to pass it on... yeah... do me a solid.

Thank you.

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Friday, November 05, 2010

"Love me, love me, say that you love me"

One of the things that I find consistently interesting about Conservapedia is trying to unravel their train of thought. What I mean by this is that much of what they write is nonsensical, illogical, or both, but by attending carefully to what, and how, they argue it's possible to plumb the depths of their madness. Or, at least, that's what I tell myself- in reality, since I have no way to confirm my suppositions, it all boils down to a sort of peculiarly elaborate alternate reality game,* but that doesn't mean it can't be entertaining.

Bearing this in mind, one area I find particularly interesting to dissect are their views on women, men, and sexuality. It goes without saying that these views are twisted and difficult to follow, not least because of their prurient fascination with homosexuality.** What I find especially intriguing is the sheer amount of page space devoted to issues of attractiveness between the sexes, usually ending with the assertion that conservatives are better. For example, there's the long-running "debate" over whether or not Richard Dawkins lacks machismo. Granted, that article is labeled "satire," though that stretches the meaning of the term to a painful degree, but it nevertheless represents a direction I would not think to go in. Insulting someone for not being sufficiently manly went out of style before I hit college, you know? Still, if you want something treated as fact you might check out their page on Atheism and Marriageability, which asserts that atheists are less likely to marry. This is, presumably, because atheists are socially challenged men who are unattractive to women,*** thus giving rise to both their page Atheism appears to be significantly less appealing to women and their page 10 telltale signs you are on your way to becoming an atheist nerd. For those who are curious, the ten signs are as follows:

Or, in plain text:

1. When you are at your girlfriend's house, you cannot stop scowling at her mother's pictures of Jesus (Please see: The atheist and evolutionist helpline).

2. You own more pocket protectors than shirts.

3. You tell your girlfriend that she is merely a result of blind random natural forces and there is nothing particularly special about her. Of course, this lets her know that you are an insensitive liar and she starts crying (see: Atheism and deception).

4. You spend countless hours arguing with your girlfriend on the true definition of atheism and insist you are not diluting the definition of atheism given in most encyclopedias of philosophy.

5. You fly into an uncontrollable rage when your girlfriend brings up shockofgod's question.

6. After your last girlfriend dumped you, you reminded yourself that you still have a lot of atheist subscribers at your YouTube atheism channel and your Reddit atheist friend list is quite large. In addition, your mother no longer believes you are going to get married.

7. You try to convince every woman you meet to visit atheists' websites. You do this because you are mad at Conservapedia for pointing out that the web traffic tracking companies Alexa and Quantcast indicate that a majority of web visitors to prominent atheists' websites are males (Please see: Atheism appears to be significantly less appealing to women).

8. You think Richard Dawkins has machismo or try to debate Conservapedians on the true definition of the word machismo despite the definitions the Merriam Webster dictionary offers.

9. American atheists are significantly less likely to get married than the general population.[1] When you had problems finding a wife, you refused to consider the possibility that you could be the problem and instead blamed it on womankind.

10. Your girlfriend tells you that there needs to be better communication between you two so you buy her a Star Trek USB Communicator that will allow you two to "Stay connected Starfleet style" via Skype and IM programs.

So, basically, the implication is that if you got a bunch of atheists together, you'd have the Lambda-Lambda-Lambda house, which is a tad funny since we all know how that one came out. And, for those who are curious, my score is as follows:

(1) I'm married and my wife doesn't keep any pictures of Jesus around, nor did she before we were married. Not all women love the J-man, you know.

(2) I don't own any pocket protectors. Didn't those pretty much disappear with the market failure of fountain pens?

(3) To the contrary, I often tell my wife that she's incredibly special. That's the thing about low-probability events, they're special even if they're due to chance. As a side note, however, if something is due to a natural force, it isn't really random.

(4) I think I've maybe spent an hour discussing this with my wife, and even then we were talking about whether weak atheism can be meaningfully distinguished from agnosticism.

(5) For those who don't know, shockofgod is a loser on youtube who likes to ask "What is the proof and evidence that proves that atheism is correct?" or some paraphrased variation thereof. Speaking specifically to the checklist, my wife has never asked me this. More generally, responding to such a question requires a discussion of things like "proving a negative" that is likely to be too complicated for the average conservapeon to follow. If pressed, however, I would likely respond, "Pretty much every speck of scientific evidence from the last 200 years, plus large swaths of philosophy".

(6) I don't have a YouTube channel, and it would be more accurate that my mother doesn't believe I will get married again.

(7) I've never really tried to convince anyone to visit an atheist website, except perhaps viewers of the blog.

(8) Never really thought about it. Dawkins could be a flaming queen for all I care.

(9) I've actually known for some time that my atheism might interfere with my dating life. Clearly, however, it didn't interfere that much.

(10) Just... no.

So, to recap, as a computer-loving, video game playing, atheism proclaiming dude I score exactly zero out of ten. Warning sign fail. I might suggest to the Conservapeons that they should revise their list, but I've done that sort of thing before and it just never works. Regardless, if all of this "Atheists are unattractive" drivel doesn't drive the point home enough, you might check out their page titled Marry a Conservative, which argues that you're better off marrying a conservative- and includes helpful examples! I particularly enjoy number two, which implies that if a woman is infertile it's because she secretly is a dirty slut, but number four is pretty good, too, for inadvertently suggesting that the protagonist married a woman of whose existence he remained ignorant. Very "Sixth Sense"-ish, that.

In any case, I have been wondering why it is that the conservapeons are so desperate to assert their own virility and desirability and denigrate that of their "rivals".**** Are they really so desperate to be loved? And then I finally figured it out.

You see, Andrew Schlafly has a brother, Roger, who occasionally edits on Conservapedia. More often than not, this is to tell Andy that he's a damned idiot- a passtime of which I approve- but on a recent occasion it was for another reason. You see, he was editing the article on marital rape. If you have a sudden sinking sensation then you know what's coming, because the article is an at best lukewarm description of the concept, that only sort of avoids transforming into a rape apologia. Or, in any case, it did before Roger's recent intervention to clarify the origins of marital rape, and in the process asserts something more than a little skeezy:

Or, to quote:

Where people believe that marital rape is a crime, but not as serious a crime as rape by a stranger, there is often a belief that because the spouses are well known to each other forced intimacy within a marriage is not as traumatic an event as other forms of rape. Marital rape is difficult to define. Many wives see it as just a communication problem. Rape by a stranger, a highly traumatizing event itself, is usually a one-time occurrence. Marital rape occurs between partners that could have known each other for years and could be repeated. The wife may feel a sense of betrayal, and see the relationship coming to an end. [emphasis added]

Now, in fairness, the article Roger cites does say that some women may wonder if the rape occurred due to a lapse in communications (i.e. "Did I not make it clear I did not want to have sex?"), but does not indicate, as Roger suggests, that rape within marriage is just chalked up to a simple misunderstanding. In fairness as well to Roger, his mother, Phyllis Schlafly, has previously asserted that a man cannot rape his wife, so Roger's apparent down-playing of marital rape is probably not accidental.

And how does this clarify everything else for me? Simple, really- it makes me understand that the conservapeons somehow think that love isn't earned, but rather can simply be demanded, and as it turns out, they think they have the right to demand it whenever they want.

So marry a conservative if you like, but if Roger's views are typical, I think you'd be happier not.

* I mean, hell, it isn't as though Conservapedia is dealing with reality as anyone else knows it anyway.

** Note that I'm not suggesting that there's anything wrong with homosexuality, but Conservapedia is and yet, simultaneously, seems to spend more time writing about it than damned near anything else. Whatever you might think of Queen Gertrude, perhaps the play really is the thing.

*** A claim I find amusing in light of the fact that my wife apparently likes me just fine, but I digress.

**** To be frank, the notion that the average conservapeon could rival me in most anything is a tad insulting, but whatever.

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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Doesn't get much weirder than that...

Have you ever thought about what you would do if you could build a human-like robot? Yeah, me too. Funny thing is, this has never been one of my answers:

Still, thanks to autotune a lot of pop star singing is fake so, hell, why not go the rest of the way to artificial pop stars?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

I just don't even begin to comprehend this.

Longtime readers of this blog know that, from time to time, I run across pretty weird shit on the internet.* Likewise, longtime readers know that I keep tabs on religious news online. What you may not realize is that, from time to time, these two interests collide in what can only be described as a hurricane of whatthefuckery. Ladies and gentlemen, this is one of those times. Please allow me to introduce you to: Ubuntu Christian Edition.**

Now, for those who don't know, Ubuntu is a version of Linux, and thus is an open-source operating system for computers. So, basically, what we're saying is that someone felt the need to create an operating system specifically for Christians. I have to admit, I can't quite imagine why that should be necessary- I mean, does Windows Seven have error messages like, "There has been a fatal error; much like the logical flaws in your slave religion"? Is there a version of OSX that continually asks whether you'd like to take a free personality test from the Dianetics Foundation? Is there some fringe group that wants to put the "Christ" back in "Control-X"?*** Have we reached the point as a culture where any damned thing can be labeled "Christian" and people will view it as better? I am, I admit, at something of a loss, so it's a good thing that the makers of this edition helpfully explained themselves:

Ubuntu Christian Edition is a free, open source operating system geared towards Christians. It is based on the popular Ubuntu Linux. Ubuntu is a complete Linux-based operating system, freely available with both community and professional support. The goal of Ubuntu Christian Edition is to bring the power and security of Ubuntu to Christians. The current Ubuntu Christian Edition release supports both 32 bit and 64 bit PCs. Ubuntu Christian Edition covers every standard desktop application from word processing and spreadsheet applications to web server software and programming tools.

Along with the standard Ubuntu applications, Ubuntu Christian Edition includes the best available Christian software. The latest release contains Xiphos, OpenSong, E-Sword installer, and much more.

Ubuntu Christian Edition also includes fully integrated web content parental controls powered by Dansguardian. A graphical tool to adjust the filter settings has also been developed specifically for Ubuntu Christian Edition. These features are truly what sets Ubuntu Christian Edition apart.

Ah, right, so, the main "features" of this edition have nothing to do with the OS and are, instead, simply about which pieces of software come pre-packaged. Specifically, which pieces of Bible study and web filter software come pre-installed. So, basically, if you want to run a computer, but are so afraid of contamination by the internets that you don't even want to have a vague clue of just what content you're blocking, this is the version of Linux for you. One might wonder why the Christian edition of Ubuntu doesn't come with built-in features for making charitable donations, but then I suppose that would be expecting rather a lot. Virtue is, after all, about avoiding sin rather than seeking to do, and be, good.

Between this and the recent emergence of religious search engines, I'm really starting to wonder if I even participate in the same internet with "Christians". But, then again, I've been doubting for a long time whether I lived in the same universe with them for some time, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

* Actually, I'm somewhat known in my grad program for being aware of virtually every type of weird sexual fetish to be found on the internet. Sort of like a walking dictionary of Rule 34. I should note that this knowledge stems from a previous, and shitty, job that I held wherein I shared an office with an absolute pervert who also ran the company firewall, but I digress.

** Their front page is preceded by ads- just click through.

*** Shit, people, it could happen.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Total Drek Mail Call: Volume Whatever

Recently, a helpful commenter named "Anonymous" noticed my post on the Jenny McCarthy Deathcount. If you don't remember this post, don't worry- it's over a year old and was never particularly important in the first place. If you're curious, it discusses the potential responsibility that individuals who use shitty science and arguments to oppose vaccines may have for deaths from vaccine-preventable disease. And, more particularly, I mention another website that has actually attempted to tabulate how many casualties Jenny McCarthy has inflicted via her poorly reasoned opposition to sound medical treatment. In any case, in response to this post, Anonymous offered these helpful thoughts:

You are an assclown of the highest calibur ...Giving Jenny McCarthy a deathcount .....your an idiot is it even remotely close to her fault if a parent decides to not get vaccines for their kids ....any death from that should be blamed on the parent ..NOT Jenny McCarthy ...Ill say it again ....YOU ARE A COMPLETE ASSCLOWN ....

Now, there are a lot of things you could say in response to something like this. For example, you could apologize to the ellipses and ask them to point out on the doll where the bad man touched them. Instead, however, I think I showed a certain degree of restraint when I offered this helpful reply:

Hey Anonymous:

I suppose if I'm an assclown, I'm pleased to at least achieve such a sterling level of performance at it. A few points:

-It's spelled "caliber".

-You wrote "Your", which is the possessive form of you, as in, "Your advice to vaccinate my child was helpful". What you wanted was "You're" which is a contraction of "You are", as in, "When you don't use grammar properly, you're undermining your own argument."

-I didn't create the Jenny McCarthy Deathcount page, although I suppose the argument could be made that Jenny gave herself a deathcount.

-If you want to know how it is "even remotely her fault" you should probably read my post again, this time stopping when necessary to look up the big words in a dictionary.

-"Ill" is what you'll be if you follow Jenny's advice. What you meant was, "I'll" which is a contraction of "I will", as in, "I'll stop mocking your comments now."


And aside from the fact that I was apparently lying with that last bit, since here I am continuing to mock them, I stand by my response.

Why am I sharing all this with you? Really, for one reason only: it pisses me off. I don't mean that my anonymous commenter made me angry because s/he said I was an assclown. I am an assclown, and one should be free to call a spade a spade. No, I'm irritated because my anonymous commenter had such poor rhetoric. You see, I enjoy people who disagree with me, but only because I like trying to understand their arguments and, really, I get off on clashing their views with mine and seeing who triumphs. It goes without saying that I'm confident that my own notions will, more often than not, come out on top, but that's true of pretty much everyone. The thing is, as a consequence I get very irritated when someone decides to tell me I'm wrong in an insulting manner, but declines to actually advance an argument as to why. It's equivalent to just yelling, "Nuh-UH!" at someone and it's a habit that most of us should have grown out of by the end of grade school. And yet, some people just haven't.

So, the rule goes something like this: if you want a considered response, make a reasoned argument. If, on the other hand, you want me to make fun of your grammar and spelling, well, just do what Anonymous did.

As a side note: This reminds me very much of the standard I use for student papers. Specifically, I usually indicate that I don't grade on grammar or spelling BUT both are tools for making oneself understood, and errors that impact my comprehension of the argument will be treated fairly harshly. Honestly, I think when put that way students are more receptive to the importance of grammar and spelling than if they are just told that there's a right way and a wrong way.

As an additional side note: Please don't take this post as suggesting that I believe I never make spelling or grammatical mistakes. I do make them, and some I make fairly regularly, but I think it's fair to say that my errors are small and infrequent enough that they don't entirely compromise my meaning.

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Monday, November 01, 2010

Apparently I have staying power.

This will not be an entertaining blog post. Rather, this will be a blog post in which I ask you, the reader(s), for advice. You see, I have a problem. As a blogger I have certain responsibilities- namely, following other bloggers. As I don't want to spend all damned day clicking around to various webpages I, like many others, have been using an aggregator. My aggregator of choice has for some time been Bloglines, a service that has few features, but was free and easily accessible from any computer. Only now, after many years of faithful* service, Bloglines is closing down.

Yes folks, that's right: my blog has actually outlasted Bloglines.

In any case, the problem is that Bloglines has closed down as of today, and I need a new aggregator.** And so, I turn to y'all to give me helpful tips. My needs are as follows:

-Easy to use
-Either web-based or compatible with OSX

Other than that, the field is wide open.

So, any thoughts?

* Actually, it was never really that faithful. It was always, to be honest, a bit crappy.

** This is also a veiled hint that I may not be watching my blog pals quite as closely as normal for a while. Sorry!

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