Friday, September 28, 2012

Thinking Scientifically, Always

I work in the science field, so I know all too well that scientists and atheists are pefectly capable of cognitive dissonance and all kinds of backwards thinking that we often accuse others of doing. Although we are human, of course, we should know better given our training, so it makes me so angry when I see people in my field of work not applying their critical thinking skills to anything outside of the particular experiment they happen to be working on.

In this case I suppose I shouldn't have expected much more, since the person in question is also a die-hard Catholic (albeit one with an extensive historical knowledge and very much a "the whole thing is one big allegory and full of copying errors so it's all to be taken with a grain of salt" type Catholic). Still, she was perfectly able to crawl right under my skin when I happened to bring up how disgusted I am with what is going on in Greece.

In case you haven't heard, A 27 year-old man in Greece has been arrested and faces up to 2 years in prison for making fun of a Greek Orthodox monk, Geron Paisios. He created a Facebook page in which he called the monk Geron Pastitsios, a type of Greek lasagna, possibly using it as an extended parody linking the monk to Pastafarianism. To face 2 years in jail for something so asinine is ridiculous and something I expect of Iran or Saudi Arabia, not the country that invented democracy. My colleague doesn't agree, or rather, she doesn't believe it.

"Greece is a civil country", she says, "so he must have done something far worse than what you think. You're an idiot if you think that online newspapers are 100% reliable, so he must have said something horrible. Besides, you're not allowed to offend people, you can sue someone for saying terribly offensive things, maybe that person doesn't go to jail but there is a precedent in other civil countries. So, whatever, I'm sure he deserves it".

Oh deary me. A part from her horrible mangling of free speech and libel laws, the core of her argument is so rotten I almost fell out of my chair. What in the hell kind of scientist are you?!

You don't get to work your way backwards from a conclusion, I tried to explain. Of course you can't assume that newspapers have all of their facts straight, but that is entirely besides the point. We have a certain amount of evidence: I have read many articles about this, and they all say the same thing regarding his "crimes". With the evidence that we have, my conclusion is that no, Greece is not behaving like a "civilized country", not even close. That does not mean that this conclusion cannot change based on new evidence that can arise later, however I really don't care how mercilessly he poked fun at the guy, he could have inserted the guy's face into this NSFW cartoon and plastered it all over Facebook, unless he credibly threatened followers of the cult or some similar real crime was committed, my conclusion remains the same: Greece is not to be considered "civilized" so long as they have these totalitarian laws.

You know what the real problem is? Even putting it in the hypothetical: let's say that all he really did was call this guy a pasta name. Let's say for the sake of argument, it is 100% confirmed that that is all he did. Would you be willing to revise your conclusion then? Her answer was still no.

This is about not wanting to see what lies in front of you, not about not being able to or not knowing how. It's about her being religious, and she wouldn't want anyone calling Ratzinger Pope Spaghetti, so she just wont admit that one of the core and most important principles of a free country are being slowly but surely crushed underfoot. 

And ultimately, this is about not thinking what you do in life has any importance outside of the lab. If I was to think in this way regarding an experiment she'd be the first to kick my legs out from under me in utter disgust. 

I, on the other hand, was attracted to this line of work specifically because I value the importance of thinking scientifically, and I think it is the best, most fair, most objective and therefore most humble way to view life.

If you ever see me working backwards from a conclusion, slap me.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Boss Number 6

That's it, I need to make a new category for these awesome people. Nothing put a smile on my face this morning like Stanley Jerry Hoffman, a.k.a. Kwayzar, the 83-year-old rapper that is the new best thing on the internets.

Apparently he's also cool in his politics, according to TYT

I love it, I love him, and I love that he can still be loads of fun at the tender age of 83. I hope I reach his age, and if I do I hope I will be half as ballsy and laid back.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ugh, This Guy Again

Looks like Eugene Delgaudio just wont let up! Even after blocking him and unsubsribing to his loathsome website numerous times some of his emails keeps getting through. Not the daily tirade I was getting before, sure, but far too many nonetheless.

However, I'm kind of glad that this one made it through. It looks like we must have successfully Pharyngulated the last poll he set up, because it looks like he's simply decided to re-run it!

Dear Pro-family American,

The Radical Homosexuals and President Obama claim you now support homosexual "marriage", special job preferences for homosexuals, and promotion of the homosexual lifestyle in schools.

Is it true?  What do you say?

I've prepared the American Morality Survey, specially coded and registered for you.

You see, the Radical Homosexuals are storming through Washington demanding passage of their agenda.

And with the Democrats dominating the Senate and Barack Obama calling the shots in the White House, they say NOW is the time to push their perverse “life-style” on every man, woman and child in America.

And they insist YOU actually support them.

To make matters worse, more and more Republicans in Congress are comming out in favor of the Homosexual Agenda...

The Homosexual Lobby has already rammed through Thought Control and the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Now they are determined to pass nationalized homosexual "marriage" before Obama's first term is up.

If they convince just enough Republicans to throw their support behind the Homosexual Agenda... I can only begin to imagine how much more damage they will inflict on our country.

As the President of Public Advocate of the United States, I've devoted thirty years to battling the Homosexual Lobby in Washington.

Backed by Hollywood celebrities, the media and millions of your tax dollars, the Homosexual Lobby have many Congressmen, both Democrat AND Republican, quivering with fear.

That's why pro-family Senators and Congressmen are counting on me to find out if you really support the Gay Bill of Special Rights and the Offense of Marriage Act as the radical homosexuals claim.

Well no worries jackass! I'll be happy to fill out your stupid survey, again, just to demonstrate how much you really are on the wrong side of history with this one. 

Why don't you go join your KKK and skinhead buddies down at the bigot bar, and please leave the rest of us alone.

Passage of the Homosexual Agenda will ignite a firestorm that will rip through families, communities and businesses:
*   Special job rights for homosexuals.  Businesses may have to adopt hiring quotas to protect themselves from lawsuits.  Every homosexual fired or not hired becomes a potential federal civil rights lawsuit.

Radical homosexuals will terrorize day care centers, hospitals, churches and private schools.  Traditional moral values will be shattered by federal law.
    *   Homosexual "marriage" and adoptions.  Wedding gown-clad men smooching before some left-wing clergyman or state official is just the beginning.

Across the nation, government officials are already punishing photogaphers, bakeries and wedding planners for refusing to support homosexual "weddings."

Soon ministers, rabbis and other clergy will be forced to preside over homosexual "weddings" or face penalties or even jail time.
    *   The Homosexual Classrooms Act pushing their agenda into our schools.  Your children or grandchildren will be taught homosexuality is moral, natural and good.  High school children will learn perverted sex acts as part of “safe sex” education.

With condoms already handed out in many schools, Radical Homosexuals will have little trouble adopting today's “if it feels good do it” sex-ed curriculum to their agenda.

Oh please, please, PLEASE be a Poe! This is just too funny. Beware the gay terrorists guys! Lewis Black warned us about them aaaages ago!

This next part puts MRA victim whining to shame

One stormy night, I drove to a mailshop hidden deep in a nearly deserted stand of warehouses.  I'd heard something was up and wanted to see for myself.

As I rounded the final turn, my eyes nearly popped.  Tractor-trailers pulled up to loading docks, cars and vans everywhere and long-haired, earring-pierced men scurrying around running forklifts, inserters and huge printing presses.

Trembling with worry, I went inside.  It was worse than I ever imagined.

Row after row of boxes bulging with pro-homosexual petitions lined the walls, stacked to the ceiling.

My mind reeled as I realized hundreds, maybe thousands, more boxes were already loaded on the tractor-trailers.  And still more petitions were flying off the press.

Suddenly a dark-haired man screeched, “Delgaudio, what are you doing here?” Dozens of men began moving toward me.  I'd been recognized.

As I retreated to my car, the man chortled, “This time, Delgaudio, we can't lose!”

Driving away, my eyes filled with tears as I realized he might be right.

Imaginary dark-haired man is right. You are going to lose this battle, because the world is going to progress, social justice will prevail, with or without you.

Ever thought of just letting go of the hate? You don't need the burden.  

In all seriousness, please take 30 seconds of your time to fill out the (extremely badly worded and biased) survey, and spread it to as many people as you can. The message needs to be loud and clear: enough is enough. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Clashing Cultures: Round Two

I've written before about one aspect in which the Italian culture is significantly at odds, almost the direct opposite of US culture, and today I realized that there is another aspect that I had not fully formulated in my mind, though I have been aware of it all my life. It still falls squarely into that good old Italian pessimism that I have written about before (although not very recently), but it is an interesting parallel manifestation of it. I am talking about the ways that both regard ambition.

Ambition is something that is greatly admired in the United States, and something that I noticed very much when I was applying for college. Apart from the obvious historical cultural background: pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and defeating all the odds, taking huge risks to become immensely successful even when you were working multiple dead-end jobs to get there, there is an incredible focus put on ambition in your career. I didn't want to go to the United States for college for financial reasons as well, beginning my working life with a huge debt on my shoulders seemed ridiculous to me if I could avoid it (and I didn't even know what kind of a nosedive the global economy was about to take as I entered the workforce either), but primarily I had personal reasons for not wanting to move there. The US is just so far away from the rest of the world, so isolating, so monocultural in so many ways that I much prefered the idea of staying in Europe. When I left Ireland also for personal reasons despite the fact that I was trading an excellent chance of getting a PhD for a very small one, the reaction of my American family was largely the same. I was perhaps not ridiculed, but very nearly, for putting personal reasons anywhere near my career on my list of priorities. The idea was that, unless I wanted to be a sucker, career had to become a very distant first on my list, who cares where I lived or if the weather was miserable or whatever else. You do what you have to do to succeed and become the best. Of course, Italy is the complete opposite.

While every Italian completely understood my reasons for leaving Dublin (and even expressed shock that I even stayed to finish my degree), they are the least ambitious and most pessimistic bunch I have ever known. All of them told my family "tell her not to come back to this shithole! She'll never get a PhD here! There's no point in even trying if she doesn't have Italian professors as friends, don't you know how it works here?!" The fact that I was offered a PhD in all three places I applied doesn't sway them one little bit: "Oh she got in? Wow, she must be some kind of super genius or really really lucky, because that never happens". Well no shit it never happens if you sit on your ass and don't even bother applying! I'm not saying that this is the golden land of opportunity, very far from it, but the mentality is irritating beyond measure. And for the record no, I'm not a super genius, far from it actually, but I showed enthusiasm for my work and that I really wanted to be here, and that made a huge difference.

This also goes for anyone who shows the slightest bit of ambition regarding their future plans. I've had people look at me with a raised eyebrow, saying "what, you think you're getting into academia? Pfft please, no one makes it that far (the fact that the very exisitence of professors contradicts this argument eludes them completely). Or, if they're talking about their own plans: "I don't want to sound ambitious or anything, you know, but I was thinking about...." I get immensely frustrated, what the fuck is wrong with being ambitious?! It's not like I'm saying that I KNOW I'm going to be immensely successful, but I'm not going to lie down and die for fear of failing. If I wind up being a waitress for the rest of my life at least I know I gave my dream a shot, even though it didn't pan out, and I wont have to die with that regret on my conscience. However, for some reason, in Italy ambition is in some ways related to not being modest, being arrogant, which is the main reaction you get if you express the slightest bit of ambition.

As usual, I think both approaches are flawed, as they represent both extreme sides. On the one hand I am a human being, not a robot. If I'm not happy in the place that I'm living, or my partner is not happy, my life will suffer in a way that earning a bit more is not going to make up for. Happiness comes in many froms, not just how high you climb up a career ladder or how much money you make. I could give a damn if others think that I could be doing more or earning more, I made my decision based on what was best for me, not best for my career. Some people don't distinguish the two and validate themselves entirely based on their career and that's OK too, but I'm not one of them and most people are not.

On the other hand you have an attitude that is very much akin to living in fear. Although its a resignation more than a fear that leads Italians to talk and behave in this way, the results are largely the same: their full potential is not being realized, and the best people for positions are either leaving the country or not bothering to try. The result? Only people who think they have a better shot, because of connections and not necessarily the most qualified, even bother showing up to the job interviews. While it does occasionally happen that interviews are set up as a formality to officially give the job to your pet, not bothering to show up for any because you automatically assume they're all the same only exacerbates the problem.

My conclusions are always the same in these little rants: borrow a little from each other and find a middle ground, there's no need to be so damned apocalyptic about everything all the time!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Repost: Sharia Law In The UK

I received this email from Maryam Namazie, a woman whom I greatly admire and instrumental in the Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar (which still hangs proudly on my wall). I want to repost it here, because I think it is something that more people, especially those of you that live in the UK, need to be aware of.

 Dear Friend,

We are writing to you today to ask for your urgent and immediate support.

As you may have seen in the papers recently, there is growing evidence that young children – some as young at 5 years old – are being “married” to older men in Sharia courts across Britain. This is increasingly being sanctioned by the Islamists who run Britain’s network of Sharia courts, and there is evidence that this practice is growing.

Recent Investigations

A recent undercover investigation by the Sunday Times found imams in Britain willing to “marry” young girls, provided this was carried out in secret. The imams had been approached by an undercover reporter posing as a father who said he wanted his 12 year old daughter married, to prevent her from being tempted in to a "western lifestyle".

Imam Mohammed Kassamali, of the Husaini Islamic Centre in Peterborough, sanctioned the marriage, but stressed the need for total secrecy. He stated: “I would love the girl to go to her husband’s houses (sic) as soon as possible, the younger the better. Under sharia (Islamic law) there is no problem. It is said she should see her first sign of puberty at the house of her husband. The problem is that we cannot explain such things (the marriage) if the girl went tomorrow (to the authorities).”

Abdul Haque, who officiates at weddings at the Shoreditch mosque, east London agreed to carry out the formalities of the wedding. However, he told the reporter that he should “tell people it is an engagement but it will be a marriage”. He added: “In Islam, once the girl reaches puberty the father has the right, the parents have the right, but under the laws of this country if the girl complains and says her marriage has been arranged and she wasn’t of marriageable age, then the person who performed the marriage will be jailed as well as the mother and father”.

Earlier this year, it was also reported that at least 30 girls, some as young as 9, were “married” in sharia courts in one London borough alone. Clearly, child “marriages” are an abomination; they are nothing short of religiously-sanctioned child rape and paedophilia.

Sharia proponents deceptively say that forced marriages are unacceptable under Sharia and that both bride and groom must choose to marry as if that is the issue at hand. Islamists have gotten away with years of misogyny against Muslim women under cover of “choice” and are now using similar language with regards children. Nonetheless, child welfare must take precedence irrespective of religious beliefs. This is something we must urgently remind the Government of. Sharia courts are a scandal and must be stopped.

Arbitration and Mediation (Equality) Bill

One important way to tackle this matter is to galvanise support for the Arbitration and Mediation (Equality) Bill introduced to the House of Lords last year by crossbench peer, Baroness Caroline Cox. The Bill is due for a second reading in October.

The Government has so far declined to support Cox’s Bill. They do not believe there is a parallel legal system in operation. They also insist that everyone has full right of access to the British courts. This is simply not the case. There are many with little or no English language skills, trapped by community pressure, who believe Sharia courts operate as real courts and who regard their decisions as legally binding. The idea that they can easily instruct a high street solicitor to help them access their full rights under UK law is far from reality.

The Government must be pressured into taking immediate action, including by supporting Cox’s Bill, and shutting down Sharia and religious courts. If child welfare takes precedence then the Government is duty-bound to take action.

Sign our new petition in support of Baroness Cox’s Bill; tell the Government that enough is enough! Please sign it now.

Help Us

Baroness Cox has said in the past that her Bill was inspired by One Law for All. To donate to our important work, please either send a cheque made payable to One Law for All to BM Box 2387, London WC1N 3XX, UK or pay via Paypal.

. We need regular support and also for supporters to commit to giving at least £5-10 a month via direct debit. You can find out more about how to join the 100 Club here

If you shop online, please do so via the Easy Fundraising’s website. It won’t cost you anything extra but can help raise much needed funds for One Law for All.
We look forward to your immediate intervention in this matter.

Best wishes,

Maryam Namazie and Anne Marie Waters


One Law for All

BM Box 2387

London WC1N 3XX, UK

Tel: +44 (0) 7719166731

I bolded that last part because this is an amazing discovery for me. You're saying that I get to feel good about shopping for embarassing numbers of books and DVDs on amazon without having to feel guilty AND not spending any more on them?! It costs nothing to sign up, they take no percentage of what you raise for the website, and you get to shop the way you normally do AND contribute to your cause of choice. Win-win-win, I just signed up four minutes ago. Amazon here I come!

I Need To Have Another Little Rant...

I have a realtively new friend here, we get along quite well, but sometimes she has the ability to irritate the living crap out of me. Interestingly though this is not due to a clash in personalities as it is in 99% of the cases. I am generally a very patient person who rarely fights with people and even people that are very different from me, once they are my friends, almost never get on my nerves even if we go on vacation together (I can't say it's also true the other way around, who knows, but you get the idea). This case is different, however, and I realized that the fundamental problem lies in the inability she has to see things from a different perspective than her own combined with a child-like naivete, something I have never encountered in a friend before, and occasionally she can drive me up the wall. Let me elaborate.

The initial irritation, though not the one that made me need to vent about it, starts with the fact that she needs a constant validation despite the fact that she was an only child in an extremely loving family and has always had all the validation and cuddles and kind words she's ever wanted. She will constantly ask me "so, how would you evaluate this friendship? Do you like spending time with me? Are you just saying that because I ask you? Now that we took this trip, do you think our friendship is better, or stayed the same? Why do you think that? What makes you think that we're closer now? Can I give you a cuddle? Why don't you ever spontaneously give me a cuddle? On a scale of one to ten, where would you rank this friendship?" Yes, we are both 24 and have known each other for nine months, no she is not a closeted lesbian with a crush on me she is in fact in a loving relationship with a man. I give her the answers she wants and I do find the questions slightly irritating especially since they are pretty much weekly, but I can let them pass.

But then something really got under my skin.

We were out one night and for some reason we started talking about our friends growing up. It came out that I was the bodyguard for a few of my friends. It came out that we had a teenage support system, as we all had different problems so we could support one another and because our parents would never understand, they'd freak out and pull us out of school and stick us in an institution with group therapy (as they threatened many times, ew) because they wouldn't understand that these things happen and pass with teenagedom. Two of my friends began their battle with anorexia at age 12. Suicidal thoughts and half-hearted attempts, severe depression, bulimia, overexercising, parents who occasionally became violent and/or abusive, not seeing a parent for eight years and then running into them on the street, possible pregnancy and heartbreak, getting dumped after losing your virginity and cheating, self harm and cutting, across the approximately ten of us we saw all of this between the ages of 12 and 17. It was spread out, the afflicted would call one of the others to know they had support, if need be they'd move in with that person for a little while until the bad part past. Our love for each other kept the bonds and pacts were formed (Every time you cut yourself, I'll throw up my meals for the day!) and we stopped our self harm out of love for our friend we didn't want to see harmed, and the episodes came and went on the tides of teenage hormones.

It's life as a teenager, but she had never lived it, hearing that, she was almost in tears. "I just want to go back in time and hug 13-year old you! Oh that's just terrible! Admit it, you were far too young to deal with all of that! Admit it! You were TOO YOUNG! Admit you would have much preferred to NOT have to have gone through all that!"

Undertone: "Admit you would have preferred to have had my childhood".

That was strike one. No, fuck you, I'm not going to admit that "I was too young". First of all, my life made me who I am today. Secondly, I always had a good and cushy life. I had food, I went to great schools, I had two parents that loved me even if they didn't live together, I got to go on vacation to the US, to India, to Spain. I was allowed to express myself and dress the way I wanted and make my own mistakes. You want me to feel sorry for myself?

To this she rolled her eyes, which to me was strike two. Undertone: "Yea, well, apart from all that, your childhood sucked".

You think I take this stuff for granted?! Do you have any idea how lucky we both are? Do you want to know what's really "too young" at age 13?

Being forced into marriage and being a mother
Having already lost your virginity for the past 8 years
To be beaten every day
Having lost one or both your parents 
Seeing the death and destruction of war
Being forced to commit those acts as a child soldier
Having acid thrown in your face and told you are unclean and unworthy
Being tortured
Having to work as a prostitute
Being raped
Having your breasts ironed so that no man would want to rape you 
Having to raise your siblings and not eat to give them food
To be always hungry
To be always thirsty
To not have access to health care of any kind

And you think that I'm just going to ignore all of that, ignore the conditions in which the majority of children in the world live in, and cry about having to deal with a bit of depression and eating disorders? How selfish, how self-centered, how obtuse is that?  No, I don't cry about having lived a life that was not in a little pink bubble floating over the real world. I'm glad, because it means that at that age I knew how to talk someone off a ledge, I knew how to keep my head in a crisis and find the way out of it. If something bad happens to me I don't panic, I'm logical and pragmatic to a fault, and I don't think that there is anything remotely wrong with that. 

To that she thought, and then she realized hey, in all of those things you listed, were you affected by any of them? Well yea, obviously, we all were. 

"Which ones? What did you feel? What did you go through? Don't tell me it's none of my business, I'm offended by that! You have to tell me! It's not that I'm just curious, it's not that I want to pity you. It's about intimacy, it's part of friendship, and I want you to tell me everything. So when are you going to tell me your life story? When are you going to tell me your life story? When are you going to tell me your life story? You know I haven't forgotten, you still owe me your life story you know!"

That was strike three, and I fucking lost it.

Who the fuck do you think you are? What are we married that you come to me talking about intimacy? I don't have any demons to get off my chest, I am perfectly happy and content, so it's not for me that she wants this information (and she admitted as much), it's purely to satisfy her own curiosity. It's not that there's anything that I'm ashamed of, but these are things that come up in conversation. If you come to me and say "oh my I have a friend that is going through this or the other", I might say "well, as someone who has been through that, let me give you some advice". But I'm definitely not going to fucking sit down and say right, here's every hard time I've had since I was 10, nor to you have any right to demand that of me.

It's like I come up to you and ask you about whether or not you felt shame or exhilaration the first time you masturbated. It's nothing to be embarassed about and I would think it silly if you felt ashamed, but it's not information that I would expect you to just volunteer without it coming up in conversation, and I most certainly wouldn't demand that information as a fucking condition of our friendship! I'm not going to be offended unless you tell me every little detail about the first time you discovered your clit, and say that the friendship is actually going backwards a little bit because you don't feel like sitting down out of the blue and going into it!

I was profoundly irritated, and remained so for about a week. I'm still friends with her, although I am trying really hard to make her see outside her little bubble. She grew up in a very sheltered life and, giving where she grew up, it is already amazing that she is not a complete racist and catholic nutjob. There is hope for her yet so I will be patient with these epsiodes, even though they can occasionally make me irritated beyond belief. 

Given my last story about profound irritation, I guess my weakness is a bona fide lack of perspective, or not being able to think about something in any way other than a completely self-centered one, a lack of logic. 

What do you think? Am I exaggerating, or excessively cold? I can't even tell anymore.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Book Review: Against All Odds

Im back in my non-fiction mood, and I started the trend again with this book that got tacked on to my amazon list one day, though I am not quite sure why. It is the story of Paul Connolly, abandoned at two weeks old and growing up in one of the toughest institutions in London. It is an amazing story true to its title, as a man who saw twenty not knowing how to read or write managed to become incredibly successful and even publish a book about his own life.

One of the things that struck me is the similarities that I found in my own personality when reading his thoughts. Largely due to his upbringing he became a very violent person, but that underlying sense of social justice and violence had to be present in his character for him to have taken the path that he did, and it is one that I recognize in myself. As I have alluded to before I was the "bully-beater-upper" when I was in elementary school, I fought viciously to defend my friends in middle school who could not defend themselves, and I was always ready to raise my fists if and whenever I needed to. If I ever saw someone taking advantage of someone else or mericlessly bullying someone weaker than them I wont shed a single tear if that person gets a sound beating, and while objectively I know that the right answer to these situations is "violence is always wrong", I can't bring myself to emotionally agree with that statement. Luckily for me, I grew up in a family that loved me, I went to good schools, I always had enough to eat and any abuse I suffered was minimal, so my inner violence was never required to show itself very often. I still kickbox in my spare time as a form of exercise, but my inner need to feel self confident in my physical ability reside more in the fact that I'm a woman who lives alone and refuses to be afraid of her own shadow when walking home at night, rather than being tied to a sense of self-worth. The seed, however, is there, and if I had grown up under the circumstances that he did? Wow, I can't imagine the demons I would be wrestling with every single day.

I greatly admire the writer for not only achieving all that he did throughout his life, but also the way that he laid bare his deepest fears and the most unflattering parts of his past. I admire his character and his bravery, but most of all I think this book is important to read because it really gives you an understanding of all those boys and girls that society is so ready to give up on and throw away without ever giving them a proper chance in life. I think the author of the book It's Your Time You're Wasting needs to meet this man, they could give each other amazing perspective and be able to offer incredible insight into how to resolve these issues that are becoming ever more pressing in the UK.

If only there were more people that would listen.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book Review: The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

Here's another one of those books that I had heard so much about but never actually got around to reading. It has been such an integral book to so many people that I know that I instantly recognized many parts of it from previous conversations that I had had. Even more so, reading it was a further insight into some of my closest friends, as I immediately recognized their humor in these pages that I have no doubt in my mind helped shape theirs as they grew up. What if they had never read this book, how different would they be? And if I had read it at the intended age, as a pre-teen or teenager, would I have loved it as much as they had, and would I be more similar to them in my sense of humor? Such big vertiginous questions provoked by such a small book.

One of my favorite parts of the book was actually a logical argument about god that someone I had met in a pub was retelling me. As often happens with books you read in your formative years he didn't remember the details very well, and in fact managed to garble the argument immensely to insinuate that it came to precisely the opposite conclusion that it in fact came to. I countered it with an argument made by the great Discern4 over on youtube. So imagine my surprise when I came upon the argument in the book and it turns out that not only the argument was surprisingly similar to the one I had borrowed from Discern4, but it was actually originally an amusingly good argument against Intelligent Design, turning their most common argument of Irreducible Complexity against them:

Now it is such a bizzarely improbable coincidence that anything so mindboggingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.

The argument goes something like this: "I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."

"But," says Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. QED."

"Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

So twisty and clever, exactly my cup of tea.

One thing I will say, I will not let my kids (if I ever have any) reach adulthood without reading it, just like they will also read Harry Potter, Roald Dahl and Flatland. It a think-outside-the-box book through and through in the best kind of way, and I think that is a lesson well worth learning as soon as possible.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Boycotting: A Clarification

I am a little bit of a couch-potato activist myself, and I am known to participate in quite a few boycotts. I get criticized about this a lot, because I feel that there are many misconceptions that those who are even lazier than I am use to discredit those that participate in boycotts. I was reminded of some of these by one of TheYoungTurks's videos I saw yesterday:

So obviously the hosts are saying come on, it's silly to boycott someone's business because of their political views, or because they support the president. Not that people don't have the right to boycott whatever they like, obviously, but I agree that this particular reason for boycotting a place of business is stupid. Immediately, the right-wing voice of the youtube commenters riles up in protest. BIAS! YOU'RE BIASED! What about the Chick-Fil-A boycott hmmm? Didn't think it was so stupid to boycott a place of business when it was against Republicans!! 

Ugh, I've heard this either-think-all-boycotts-are-equally-valid-or-fuck-off argument before, and I feel that I need to clarify. These are the circumstances under which I personally will boycott a business, and while of course I cannot speak for everyone, I think that I have a logical basis for choosing to do so. 

1. When the business/owner(s) give money to causes I abhor

This, for me, is the most obvious reason to boycott a business. In the case of Chick-Fil-A, the company donated enormous amounts of money to organizations that spend that money trying to deny Americans equal rights under the law. That means that, if I was to spend money there, part of my money would be donated to a cause that I loathe. I don't want my money to go to any such organization.

Now I don't live in the United States, so I can only support the boycott from afar and not actively participate in it, but there are other products that I do not buy for the same reasons: you're not going to find l'Oreal shampoo in my bathroom, that's for sure.

2. When the companies themselves profit from disgusting practices

I will not help a company to profit off of pain and suffering, but this is the one that I get criticized the most for. This is the reason that I will not buy anything from Nestlè, but far too many people are willing to look past killing children in Africa when reaching for their KitKat bar. I'm sorry, there's no chocolate in the world that tastes good enough for me to say "hmm, give money to a company that is unrepentant in the suffering that it causes for a Lion bar? Yea, having a lion bar is way more important". Fuck that. It is also the reason I always buy Fair Trade chocolate: chocolate is a commodity, a vice, and one of the least ethically produced foods there is. If I can't afford to buy it Fair Trade, I don't have to buy it, I don't need it to survive.

This is where misconception number 2 comes in: people will say to me "yea, you think you're going to bring Nestlè down to its knees because you wont buy their cereal? Way to feel self-important! You can't change it, so why bother putting in the effort?" No, I don't think that I am going to change things. But I hate this idea that I have no choice in this consumer-based capilist society. I, as a consumer, can choose which companies I give my money to and which ones I don't. I, as a consumer, would not feel right about telling companies like Nestlè go ahead! You can eat a live wriggling African baby and I'll still give you my money! No, I wont, regardless of how much impact my decision has on the company.

And like it or not, in a very slow way, these decisions are making a difference. In the past 10 years I've seen fair trade items explode on the market. I've seen documentaries on the subject, awareness being spread and more and more companies jumping on the bandwagon.

Enter, if you please, misconception number 3: "Pfft, you think that Starbucks is taking part in this fair trade crap because the owners are nice and cuddly? Because they actually care about people? Please! It's so they can charge 10% more and boost their sales!" Well guess what, i don't care. I don't care if their reasons are greed and not social justice. The fact that they are doing the right thing is enough for me, regardless of what pushed them to do it. So long as they actually abide by the standards that qualify as fair trade, and that those standards are not drastically reduced in order to render them meaningless, I. don't. care. The fact that there are workers who get health care, enough to eat and can send their kids to school is enough reason for me to spend an extra 80 cents on chocolate. 

3. When the company actively discriminates against a group of people

This one is a little trickier, because I need real proof that the business in question is discriminating against people. The whole Gelato-Gate incident is a prime example, but if I was also presented with evidence of a business firing someone for being gay or refusing to hire Muslims I would react in the same way.

The reason I say it is tricky is because I draw the line at someone being a bigot themselves. I think that you're a crappy person if you're a bigot, and I might not be your friend, but I wont boycott you're business because you're ignorant. You are free to think whatever you want, but the moment that your thoughts and prejudices negatively impact innocent people? That's when I get mad, and decide that I cannot support you.

So this brings me to conclude when I wont boycott a business:

1. When the owner has a different opinion than my own about something
2. When the owner is religious
3. When the owner is privately ignorant
4. When the owner is of a different political ideology

Is that clear enough for the boycott-haters, do you think?

And are there any other circumstances under which you would, or would not, boycott a business?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ladies And Gents, Meet Bosses 4 and 5

Just like they said in the TYT video I saw on this subject this morning, I LOVE that it is football athletes that are being this vocal in support of gay marriage, that they are painstakingly breaking the stereotype that it's "unmacho" and "uncool" to support gay rights. Although linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo came out in support for gay marriage back in 2009, it is a more recent video that seems to have sparked a juicy controversy.

Oooh Emmett C. Burns Jr. did not like that. He was incenced that a football player from a team he actually likes could do something so offensive!!! He wrote the following letter to the owner of the Baltimore Ravens, the team this awesome athlete plays for:

"As a Delegate to the Maryland General Assembly and a Baltimore Ravens Football fan, I find it inconceivable that one of your players, Mr. Brendon Ayanbadejo, would publicy endorse Same-Sex marriage, specifically, as a Raven Football player. Many of my constituents and your football supporters are appalled and aghast that a member of the Ravens Football Team would step into this controversial divide and try to sway public opinion one way or the other. Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment and excitement. I think Mr. Ayanbadejo should concentrate on football and steer clear of dividing the fan base. 

        I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football Franchise Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employee and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions. I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbedejo is doing. 

      Please give me your immediate response "

Emphasis my own.

Dude, what the Hell do you think you're doing?! You're a Democrat, and a black man from Jackson Mississippi!!! Are you serious? Do you need someone to explain the definition of the word irony, or hypocrisy?!

Actually no need, cause while Ayanbedejo may have been the first NFL player to speak publicly about this issue, he's got one more on his side, Vikings punter Chris Kluwe fires back with this awesome open letter:

"1. As I suspect you have not read the Constitution, I would like to remind you that the very first, the VERY FIRST Amendment in this founding document deals with the freedom of speech, particularly the abridgment of said freedom. By using your position as an elected official (when referring to your constituents so as to implicitly threaten the Ravens organization) to state that the Ravens should “inhibit such expressions from your employees,” more specifically Brendon Ayanbadejo, not only are you clearly violating the First Amendment, you also come across as a narcissistic fromunda stain. What on earth would possess you to be so mind-boggingly stupid? It baffles me that a man such as yourself, a man who relies on that same First Amendment to pursue your own religious studies without fear of persecution from the state, could somehow justify stifling another person’s right to speech. To call that hypocritical would be to do a disservice to the word. Mindfucking obscenely hypocritical starts to approach it a little bit.

2. “Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment, and excitement.” Holy fucking shitballs. Did you seriously just say that, as someone who’s “deeply involved in government task forces on the legacy of slavery in Maryland”? Have you not heard of Kenny Washington? Jackie Robinson? As recently as 1962 the NFL still had segregation, which was only done away with by brave athletes and coaches daring to speak their mind and do the right thing, and you’re going to say that political views have “no place in a sport”? I can’t even begin to fathom the cognitive dissonance that must be coursing through your rapidly addled mind right now; the mental gymnastics your brain has to tortuously contort itself through to make such a preposterous statement are surely worthy of an Olympic gold medal (the Russian judge gives you a 10 for “beautiful oppressionism”).

3. This is more a personal quibble of mine, but why do you hate freedom? Why do you hate the fact that other people want a chance to live their lives and be happy, even though they may believe in something different than you, or act different than you? How does gay marriage, in any way shape or form, affect your life? If gay marriage becomes legal, are you worried that all of a sudden you’ll start thinking about penis? “Oh shit. Gay marriage just passed. Gotta get me some of that hot dong action!” Will all of your friends suddenly turn gay and refuse to come to your Sunday Ticket grill-outs? (Unlikely, since gay people enjoy watching football too.)

I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won’t come into your house and steal your children. They won’t magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster. They won’t even overthrow the government in an orgy of hedonistic debauchery because all of a sudden they have the same legal rights as the other 90 percent of our population—rights like Social Security benefits, child care tax credits, Family and Medical Leave to take care of loved ones, and COBRA healthcare for spouses and children. You know what having these rights will make gays? Full-fledged American citizens just like everyone else, with the freedom to pursue happiness and all that entails. Do the civil-rights struggles of the past 200 years mean absolutely nothing to you?

In closing, I would like to say that I hope this letter, in some small way, causes you to reflect upon the magnitude of the colossal foot in mouth clusterfuck you so brazenly unleashed on a man whose only crime was speaking out for something he believed in. Best of luck in the next election; I’m fairly certain you might need it.

Chris Kluwe

P.S. I’ve also been vocal as hell about the issue of gay marriage so you can take your “I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing” and shove it in your close-minded, totally lacking in empathy piehole and choke on it. Asshole."

Ooh how I love it! I really hope the guy writes back, though I doubt it. Most importantly I hope that he royally shot himself in the foot with his constituents over this matter, and I hope that anyone that voted for him, even if they agree with him on the gay marriage issue, kick his ass out of office for his abhorrent views on the First Amendment. 

Is that too much to hope for? He is (technically) in the Democratic Party after all....

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Journal Club: No Lorena Bobbit Jokes Allowed

We've had enough of the Lorena Bobbit jokes in the 90s amirite?! There's no need to bring that back up, even when faced with such temptation as this. 

Turns out that scientists in Switzerland, while creating a mouse line with a deletion in a region important for development, got an unexpected result in their female mice.

We analyzed full-night video recordings and witnessed females chasing males assiduously. In the course of such inverse pursuits, they often bit the genitals, very specifically, while the hind paws of the male were off the floor. Inverse pursuits involving such bites were directed at males exclusively, never at bystander females.

What the Hell are you doing ladies?! Bad mouse. Don't do that. 

The strange part is, they're not otherwise aggressive except during the time they're supposed to be mating. They don't do it to other females and the males don't seem to react aggressively back, even after getting his dick chewed. What's going on?!

Don't make an MRA-style mangina joke. It's just not worth it. you can do it, stay focused.

Hox genes are believed to have no function in neuroectoderm derived cells in forebrain. They encode transcription factors and are selectively repressed throughout the midbrain and forebrain of all vertebrates. Remarkably, we found ectopic expression of the Hoxd10 gene in diverse regions of the developing forebrain in Del1–9 (HoxDAfc) newborns. Later, in adult, expression was maintained only in a few cells in the basomedial amygdala, and a new domain of ectopic expression appeared in the hippocampus. 

Basically, a gene that is not supposed to be expressed in the developing or adult brains of these mice is expressed, which is the most likely cause for this very, very strange behaviour. Is it that the abnormal expression of the gene causes a malformation in the developing brain of some kind, or is the expression of the gene in adult females the direct cause of the behaviour? 

Speculation at this point, but gawd, science can be some crazy shit.

Source: Zakany, J. and Duboule, D. (2012). A Genetic Basis for Altered Sexual Behaviour in Mutant Female Mice. Current Biology

Says It All

I'm thinking of making "Says It All" a recurring theme here, especially if I'm going to be coming across any more of this awesomness

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Like Multi-Tasking, I Can Multi-Care

Over the weekend dprjones came out with a new video that quite honestly got on my nerves. While it was created to promote a cause that I 100% support and am contributing to, I found it entirely unneccessary in its presentation.

Well, I was going to show it here, but he seems to have taken it down as I cannot find it anywhere on his channel. Well, the title of the video was "Atheism +?? Atheism -?? I don't care!" I suppose I can't totally bash it now that there is no objective proof of its existence or way to objectively decide whether or not I'm exaggerated in my reaction or misinterpreted it, but I still want to bring this up because I had found it to be a perfect example of an argument that I encounter quite often. 

The basic sense that I got out of it was "I don't get this Atheism+ movement, but who cares about stupid semantics! I have more important things to worry about like suffering! Look at all the pictures of the poor sick African children!" Well pat yourself on the goddamned back dpr. It was a video promoting the MSF charity event, which as I said before I think is great and I am contributing to it, but it was also an unnecessary dig at a movement whose values, ironically, line up very well with the MSF charity event, not to mention that some of the participants of the event listed in his video are part of Atheism+.

Shitting on something that you haven't bothered to look into or research aside, this argument is one that really gets under my skin and one that I have been confronted with often. Suffering animals in sub-par shelters and puppy farms? Who cares! Don't you know there are people who suffer? Drunk college girls getting raped? Who cares! I'm much more interested in stopping child rape! Innocent people put to death by the death penalty? Who cares! I only care about really important things, like genocide! 

Well I can't speak for the rest of you, but I can speak for myself, and my question is this: why the fuck do you always insist that I have to pick one issue, just one thing, to care about or to think is important enough to speak out about? I don't know about you, but I retain the (rare?) ability to care about a variety different things, without having to artificially squash them onto one ultimate ladder of importance and picking only the one that occupies the top rung. 

This is what I care about: science education and real science as opposed to pseudoscience, equality for all people regardless of race, gender identidy, socioeconomic status or sexual orientation, feminism, gay marriage and other LGBTQ issues. Oh, all of those things are included under Atheism+? Well sign me the fuck up, it seems as though it's values are also mine.

I also care about democracy and freedom to choose your government, free speech, free elections, animal rights, human rights, war and persecution, bringing affordable health care, food and clean water and education to everyone regardless of what circumstances they happen to be born in, literacy, slavery, child abuse, oppression and freedom from as well as of religion. 

I understand that some of those things may not be "as" important as others, and if I really had to choose one there are some that I would more easily discard. But ultimately the question is, why should I have to?