Yeah. I’m older today. Meh.
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Thursday, September 12, 2013
It’s become a little bit of a tradition, I suppose, for me to evaluate where we are every September 11th. I thought about this earlier today and realized, I don’t have anything very profound to say this year, the 12th anniversary of the worst attack the United States has suffered in my lifetime. Not that anything I ever say is all that profound.
The day before, President Barack Hussein Obama addressed the nation on the current Syrian crisis. I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about this.
The Syrian crisis is complex (as any international conflict is) and I’ve only taken a cursory look into what’s happening. The only thing the government and the media have really focused on is the fact that the Syrian government appears to have used sarin gas in a suburban area killing something on the order of 1400 Syrian citizens. I don’t know all that much about sarin gas either, but it’s apparently quite nasty. Foaming at the mouth, bleeding from places you should never bleed from, altogether a quite horrible death.
The United Nations has outlawed the use of chemical weapons and for very good reason. Some have made the argument that dead is dead and we don’t get that worked up when thousands are hacked to death with machetes. We should, in fairness, but chemical weapons are especially nasty.
But strangely the U.N. seems reluctant to enforce this law when it comes to Syria. The reasons for this, too, are complex. Syria is a Russian ally, and Russia is boycotting any action to be taken as a result. It seems odd to me that Russia is single handedly powerful enough to prevent the U.N. from enforcing international law, but I don’t pretend to understand all of the complexities here.
Long story short, since this isn’t really a post about Syria, is that John Kerry seems to have accidently stumbled across a possible diplomatic solution, and Russia and Syria so far seem to be on board. I hope that pans out, but I find it slightly amusing that John Kerry, former Vietnam war protester, who in 2013 seems to be all for bombing the fuck out of Syria, accidentally found a possible peaceful solution. Again, this isn’t really about Syria, so I’ll leave it at that.
The reason I bring up Syria, and more importantly president Obama’s speech, is because as I was watching it, I was uncomfortably reminded of President Bush and his administration’s arguments for the invasion of Iraq. We all know how that turned out.
As I said, the Syrian conflict is complex. The Syrian government seems to be tyrannical and despotic, but from what little I’ve learned about the rebels, we really don’t want those assholes to replace this guy. I read a story just yesterday about how one of their leaders shut a boy in the face in front of his mother for supposedly blaspheming Mohammed. By the way, if any Syrian rebel leaders happen to be reading this FUCK MOHAMMED AND FUCK YOU YOU SICK FUCKERS. TAKE YOUR FUCKASS BLASPHEMY SENSITIVITIES AND STICK THEM SO FAR UP YOUR ASS IT COMES BACK OUT YOUR SHITTY EARS.
Sorry. That kind of shit pisses me off.
The point was, I hope history isn’t repeating itself. I hope we’ve learned something from the past 12 years. I feel for the Syrian people, but at some point we have stop going to war.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
The atheist/skeptic community is busy tearing itself apart again.
I walked away from the organized atheist/skeptic community a while ago over the Atheism+ thing. The reasons I did so were complex, as usual. It’s not that I disagreed with the ideals of Atheism+. I agree with them 100%. I think perhaps it was poorly named, but that’s another story. I think I may have already blogged about that too. What turned me off was the vitriol which came so easily from both sides of the argument. Those opposed to Atheism+ demonized those who supported it. Those who supported it seemed to become instantly intolerant of any dissenting opinion. I’m not talking about the hate mail that Jenny McCreight received, that was despicable and she has my sympathy for what she’s endured. But I saw exchanges where one person was mocked, ridiculed, called disgusting names, and ultimately banned by a popular Atheist speaker that I normally respect simply for asking a (reasonable) question. Had somebody told me about that incident second hand, I would not have probably believed it, but I read the exchange myself. Like any good skeptic.
Rather than take sides, I walked away.
That entire incident came on the heels of a scandal where another popular atheist blogger was propositioned in an elevator at a conference. A huge shit storm ensued as soon as Richard Dawkins chimed in. I’ve already made my stance on that incident clear in a previous post, but that reason for bringing it up again is thus: The court of public opinion tried, convicted and sentenced Dawkins within a day because he dissented. Do you see a pattern emerging yet? Let me give you one more example.
A few days ago, PZ Meyers posted a bombshell. So far I haven’t posted any links to back up anything I’m saying (I don’t have to, it’s a fucking blog, so chill the fuck out) but I’ll go ahead and look this one up.
In case you didn’t bother to read it, PZ was made aware of an accusation of rape against Dr. Michael Shermer of Skeptic magazine.
I’m going to have to choose my words carefully here, because the court of public opinion in the atheist community is fast and vicious.
First, let me say this: Rape is serious. Rape is never not-serious. *Every *Single *Accusation *Of *Rape *Should *Be *Taken *Seriously. Every one. I feel very strongly about that. Something like 1 in 3 women get raped, if I recall correctly. I know several victims personally, and some of their stories are the worst kind of horrific rapes you can possibly imagine. Stories that make you lose hope in humanity.
False accusations do happen. There is a difference between taking an accusation of rape seriously and just believing it blindly. Belief without evidence is called faith. That’s what the religious do. We’re skeptics. We need evidence.
The result of PZ’s little hand grenade is that the atheist community seems to largely have already convicted Dr. Shermer. To be honest, I’ve avoided this so far. Dr. Shermer is one of my favorite writers and speakers. I have an immense amount of respect for Dr. Shermer. On the other hand, I’m fully aware than whenever you set someone on a pedestal and make a hero out of them, they invariably disappoint you because they are, after all, merely humans just like you.
So let’s get this out of the way first. Did he do it? I don’t know. I truly don’t. To be honest, there’s only two people who do. One of them is Michael Shermer and the other one is anonymous. That’s because we don’t know all the facts here. In the American Judicial System (I can’t believe I’m about to defend that collection of clowns after what I’ve just been through, but…) you are (supposed to be) innocent until proven guilty. This is a good thing.
In the court of public opinion, the atheist community at large, and the most especially the Internet, You’re guilty. Period. One accusation and you’re done.
I just got done reading a post by a guy who managed to piss of Shermer via e-mail and proudly posted all the exchanges while mocking him. A slew of comments talked about what a scumbag Shermer is.
I think this is wrong. I want desperately for this accusation to be false. But it might not be. But I can’t go condemning Dr. Shermer until it is shown to at least likely be true. I don’t think that has been done yet.
This is what skepticism is all about, folks. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. That’s how we work. Let’s all calm down on the judgmentalness until the facts are in. Keep in mind that Dr. Shermer’s reputation has all ready taken a serious hit whether the accusation is true or not.
We’re better than this, people.
Saturday, April 27, 2013
A dark room. I sit in it alone.
A knock at the door. I get up to answer. It’s not my door.
I pick my book back up. A beep from my phone.
Sale at Sears.
I put the book down.
I can ease the pain for one night. But tomorrow will just be that much worse.
I could die all at once, but instead I die just a little and go to sleep.
After all, I have tomorrow to get through.
Friday, April 5, 2013
Roger Ebert died today. I haven’t talked about him much, but in recent years he’s become a real inspiration for me. I knew he was sick, but I didn’t expect that we would lose him so soon.
I forget the exact article I read that keyed me into the fact that Roger Ebert was so much more than just a movie critic, but I began reading his blog. My favorite posts was the ones where he was not writing about movies, but pondering on our polarized political climate, gun violence, and other issues. I think one of his most powerful posts was one of his last, this one: http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2013/03/a_shooting_in_harsh_park.html
He doesn’t posture, he doesn’t preach, he simply relates yet another senseless killing by gun related violence. The power of the post comes from the fact that it’s short, for the most part simply relates an incident most of us probably didn’t hear about, and most importantly the final paragraph. You can sense his frustration with humanity, almost defeat in his tone. There’s a world weariness that comes through. He sees this incident through a lens that most of us don’t. This is a story that should have made national news. It should have dominated headlines across the country for weeks. But it didn’t. It was lost in an onslaught of other, equally tragic, gun related murders that happen each and every day. We, as a society, as a people, as humans, should all be working together to find a solution, but we don’t. The only discussion that every happens is political posturing. One side shouts “guns don’t kill people, people kill people!” and the other side shouts “gun control now!” All any of us seem interested in is winning an argument, but in the meantime we continue to kill countless numbers of ourselves every single day.
Gun violence is a complex issue without a single simple solution, but we as a society seem incapable of having a serious honest discussion about it and implementing any kind of solutions at all. It kills one’s faith in humanity.
Gun control is almost certainly part of the solution. What the second amendment actually says aside, I don’t think it’s necessary to ban all weapons, but there is no reason that average citizens in a civilized society need assault weapons designed for combat. An AR-15 has one purpose and one purpose alone, to kill lots of people quickly. It is only being used properly when being used to kill lots of people quickly. Whatever else my be true of the Sandy Hook killer or the Colorado movie killer, they were using their weapons exactly as they were meant to be used. There is no justification for weapons of this sort to be made available to the general public.
But there are so many other factors that factor in to the issue. Poverty, poor education, and economic inequality are all factors that are rectifiable, but we can’t have honest discussions about these issues either.
In short, I share his frustration when watching Americans posture and shout and sling old tired memes around rather than trying to find a way to make life better for anybody. I identified with the man. More than I even knew. Michael Shermer reposted this article written by Ebert then I had never read before:
I didn’t know he was an atheist. It honestly never occurred to me to wonder. He didn’t blog about religion much. He was simply Roger Ebert, human being, supporter of the philosophy of Kindness. I respected and identified with him without even knowing that he was religion-free just like me.
That’s how it ought to be for all of us.
I will miss Roger Ebert. I will miss his thought-provoking insights, his desire to see humanity rise above itself, his powerful intellect. And yes, dear sister, those times when we were kids and would all sit down and watch Siskel and Ebert review the new movies together.
Good-bye, Mr. Ebert. The world was made better for having had you in it.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
We all wear masks. Each of us. You’re not quite the same person you are when you’re hanging with your old college friends that you are when you’re sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner with your parents. We play roles.
Some of us are better at it than others. Some of us go further than others.
There’s a raging internal torment going on inside me. There might be one going on inside of you too. I don’t know. Why don’t I know? Because you hide it.
My masks are well defined. I’ve even given some of them names. I’ve taken this to an art form. As I arrive at work in the morning while my internal monologue is screaming at me about how pointless everything is, how empty and rancid my life has become, a friend texts me to ask how I’m doing. I look down at the screen and imagine replying
“I’m desolate. Hollow. Empty. Hopeless. I want nothing more than to die right the fuck now. How are you?”
I look over at Antonio and say “I think you had better take this.”
“I’m wonderful, darling. How is my favorite beautiful princess this morning?”
Cheesy. Over the top. Flirting so obvious that it can’t possibly be taken seriously. That is Antonio. He comes in handy for certain people. The reply comes back “You’re in a good mood this morning!” No, I’m not. But I want you to believe I am, and I succeed.
I studied acting when I was younger. I was good at it. I think I was good at it for a reason. In method acting, you create a character in your mind. A living, breathing, thinking person that lives in your mind. This character is part your invention, and part you. You put it on like a costume, and you become the role. You don’t just say the lines in a convincing manner, you literally become the character you’re portraying. Their thoughts become your thoughts. Like an add-on module to yourself.
I have several of these characters. They don’t have lines in a play to read. They’re characters that I’ve created over the years to get me through day by day. People who can pretend to be normal for me so that nobody sees the empty pathetic shell behind the curtain, only the great and powerful Oz.
Heath Ledger died from this, by the way. He was so disturbed by the character of the Joker he had created that he overdosed while trying to cope with it.
Sometimes the masks come instinctively. I don’t even notice myself putting them on. I can’t help it sometimes. It’s like I can’t interact with any other humans without finding a role to play. Like my entire life is one long bizarre stage play with a multitude of roles all played by me.
But there’s one problem: sometimes, when nobody else is around and I have no role to play, when it’s just me, I wonder if there’s a real me under there, if any of these characters I play are in any way comprised of my real personality. If I have a real personality…
The answer: I don’t know.
Friday, February 1, 2013
Ok, I wasn’t necessarily going to write another blog post today, but I went to go look at my stats since I haven’t really been caring for the blog for a while, and I noticed something weird, the page hits were really high.
Even stranger, a lot of the hits seemed to come from here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/01/11/how-bout-we-stop-this-trend-in-its-tracks/
Um… That’s PZ Myers’s blog…. WTF is he doing linking to me? To, of all things, this blog post: http://taocowboy.blogspot.com/2007/11/reflections-on-devconnections-part-i_10.html
Well, as it turns out, the blog post was about booth babes at tech trade shows and a policy at the most recent Skepticon that discouraged booth babes. So I checked it out. I kind of stopped reading PZ a while ago, There’s a very negative vibe over at his blog and he seems to attract a very hateful crowd. I don’t give people a pass for being asshats just because they’re atheists. If you want to have a rational discussion with me, I’m game. But f your response to dissenting opinions is to be an asshat, I have better things to do with my time. That’s why I don’t spend any time reading PZ anymore. He and his readers seem to thrive on the very vitriol we insist to theists that we don’t spew. I want no part of that, so I choose not to participate. Don’t get me wrong, PZ is brilliant and I enjoy reading his explanations of science, but the vitriol gets old. It’s the same reason I decided not to participate in Atheism+ but rather dropped out of the atheist community. I have another blog post on that topic in the works, but the short version is Jenny McCreight came to Kansas City and changed my mind about Atheism+, but there’s still a lot of vitriol in that community, so while I agree with the virtues they espouse, I choose not to participate.
So back to the blog post: PZ didn’t link to me (ah damn). But one of the commenters did. Round about comment #140 a commenter with the unlikely handle of nightshadequeen posted a link to my post from five years ago about my trip to DevConnections and my experience with booth babes. The link read “*sigh*” and then she posted a large excerpt from the post without comment (without my permission, I might add. That content is technically copyrighted, but never mind that).
The interesting thing about this is that as far as I can tell nobody responded to her (I assume it’s a “her”), but quite a few people followed the link. That much I can tell from my blog stats.
My first thought is “how long did you scour Google looking for that? Couldn’t come up with something original on your own to say?”
My second thought is that she completely and totally entirely missed the point. Had she been inside a barn with a shotgun she would have missed the inside and blown her own foot off. I’m not condoning booth babes. Had she actually bothered to read the post instead of just copy/pasting it into a comment to get a little attention from the Pharyngula crowd, she might have gotten the point. She strikes me as somebody looking for a misogynist to fight. I suggest she contact my ex wife if she wants to pick a fight with somebody setting the women’s movement back by decades. Or centuries. Millennia, more accurately.
The point to the post was to chronicle my experience and my thoughts at the convention. I didn’t hire the booth babes, and they’re not why I went. It was an experience. I expounded on the fact that these vendors that do that sort of thing do so purposefully, and it works. It’s a normal biological reaction for a male to be attracted to an attractive woman of the variety that you normally only see on TV and to go butt-ass stupid around them, and they played me beautifully like a violin. It doesn’t help that I was married to a psycho bitch at the time and that I’m a geek who doesn’t normally attract attractive women. Honestly I wasn’t offering any opinion for or against booth babes, but I would be just as happy at a convention without them. The vendors, however, would not. It was also FIVE FUCKING YEARS AGO. My views have changed so dramatically since that post it’s not even funny. I didn’t even consider myself an atheist at the time.
So the total net result here is that my stats shot way up and I think I picked up a few new readers. Not, methinks, what nightshadequeen was aiming for. I find this kind of funny. It’s nice to have a few new visitors but the regulars at Pharyngula aren't necessarily the kind of readership I was looking for. I’m not entirely sure I want to get noticed by those people. I like the open comment policy I’ve had so far and would had to have to get my own “ban hammer” as they like to go on about over there.
I’ve been mysteriously absent from my blog lately. Well, not so mysterious. Many of you know I fight depression. That’s pretty much the explanation in a nutshell. I’ve fought it for years. I was on medicine for it earlier that ironically made my mental state more unstable than I was without it. The rest of 2012 got kind of fucked up for me. I had my heart broken in a way I don’t think it ever has been, not even that girl from high school compares. I went in to kind of a downward spiral. I’m still at the bottom of that. I’d like to say I’m clawing my way back up, but I’m not. Not yet. I’ve driven nearly all of my real life friends away leaving me alone with my cats. Yep, I’m the crazy cat lady now.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time on Twitter, and I’ve found a few like minded people there. It’s strange getting support and encouragement from people I’ve never actually met when my real life friends all ran away. Welcome to the 21st century. Maybe this is better. When I was in high school there was no internet. We didn’t have cell phones. There was no mechanism for people having similar experiences to connect. Today there is. While I’m concerned that we seem to be spending less time actually connecting in person these days, I’m not so sure this is all bad. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. It is what it is.
I’m still having dreams about my ex girlfriend. It’s like I’m tapped in to some strange alternate reality where we never broke up and we’re happy together. Deliriously happy. I hate those dreams, because I wake up from them. They make real life seem like a nightmare. I wish I could stop having them. I have a few theories about why I’m still hung up on her, and why I fucked it up in the first place, but I’ll save those for another blog post. I intend to start writing here again some more. I apparently completely missed January.
Hello February. Fuck you, people who blew me off then expect me to write “Happy Birthday” on your Facebook page. You can suck it.