Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A new ski resort!

New to me. Alpine Meadows has actually been around for 44 years.This is the view from the top of the Lake View lift. If you squint, you can see the slopes of another resort across Lake Tahoe - Diamond Peak (previously Ski Incline).

Friday, December 26, 2008

Church sign

This sign is in front of the church next to my gym. What a wonderful, loving god these people have. If you don't accept our loving god, YOU WILL BURN IN HELL FOR ETERNITY! Nice. They probably don't realize that their god would consign literally billions of people to hell. Do they realize how hateful that is, and what a completely evil god that would be? Do they care? Using fear tactics is always a good way to win over converts, too.

I'm currently reading godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists by Dan Barker. Bill got it for me for Christmas :-) It's extremely interesting so far, but one of the things that struck me was something his mother said. She and his father were born again Christians who raised him in one of the Charismatic churches where they spoke in tongues, and "healed" people. Because of his explanations about why he didn't believe in God anymore both of his parents eventually became atheists.

Within weeks Mom concluded that religion was "just a bunch of baloney," as she told [a] reporter. She felt a "tremendously great disappointment in God." She began to do some reading and thinking of her own, and eventually started calling herself an atheist. "I don't have to hate anymore," she said happily.(emphasis mine)*
Doesn't my new phone takes good pictures, though!
*Pg. 58

Saturday, December 20, 2008

On misanthropy II

In a previous post I talked about how much I like to be alone.

This may be one reason why I've never had very many friends. Wherever I've lived, I've only had at most 3 really good friends at one time - sometimes just one or two. My son and Bill's daughter live for friends - especially Bill's daughter. She seems to think that the reason for going off to college is to make new friends. Hopefully in her case, some non-Christian ones, although that seems doubtful. The easiest place to find friends is apparently church. Especially when you need friends to help reinforce the supernatural bullshit they're feeding you. I always thought the reason for going off to college was to learn enough to eventually be able to get a good job.

I just don't understand the need for lots of friends, because I just don't have a need for lots of friends. It's a foreign concept to me.

The number of friends prior to high school with whom I have kept in contact

High school
One. My ex-husband, David. And honestly, although I'm very fond of him, we probably would have drifted apart if it weren't for William.

College (B.S.)
None. Never made any friends.

Job during college
Two. Claire and Carol, the husband and wife for whom I worked, although I haven't seen them since my wedding. They actually went to both my weddings.

First job after college
One. Noel, although I haven't seen her since my wedding, either.

Graduate school (M.S.)
One. Kia. We keep in contact mainly via our blogs, although I have invited her to come skiing/boarding sometime...After January when the kids are all back in school and we have extra rooms would be good.

Graduate school (MBA)
None. Never made any.

State career
Several, but only two really good friends. M and M (I have three friends M. You might notice there isn't another name starting with M here. Some names have been changed to protect the innocent). UPDATE: I guess I should probably include Bill here. Oops.

Not quite random
Pete, because he has been David's significant other for 15 years and helped raise our son. And he's a really great guy.
I was just talking with Bill about the fact that I have a couple of friends that I worry about more than I worry about the kids.

Although some people might not agree, I am very much an introvert. I was one of those kids in school who was sometimes labeled "stuck up" because I was too shy to talk to many people. I've learned to be much more outgoing over the years, but I can still suddenly become awkward, even with friends. Some situations are stressful enough that I become physically ill later, although it took me years to connect the dots.

I find being in groups of people to be very stressful, sometimes even if I know some of the people. Bill and I went to a birthday party for the 1 year old child of a friend of ours (Ok, she's not on the list but we don't see her very often now that we don't work with her). There were lots of people there - mostly her relatives, and when we got home I said, "Whew. Well that was stressful, wasn't it?" Bill said,"No, not really. Why?" Hmm. Maybe it's just me. Booze helps.

Another time (eons ago) I had just gotten my first job after college, and David, William (then two) and I went to the holiday party. We were all leaning against the wall in a row, and as one of my new coworkers walked by, she exclaimed,"Look! A whole family of wallflowers!"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Am I a hardcore atheist?

Short answer - yep. Friendly Atheist posted this list and asks how seriously you take your atheism. Things I've done are in bold.

1. Participated in the Blasphemy Challenge.
2. Met at least one of the “Four Horsemen” (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris) in person. Richard Dawkins - twice. And I have pictures to prove it
3. Created an atheist blog. Um. Yeah.
4. Used the Flying Spaghetti Monster in a religious debate with someone. Sort of. More just used the FSM in conversation.
5. Gotten offended when someone called you an agnostic.
6. Been unable to watch Growing Pains reruns because of Kirk Cameron. They still show Growing Pains reruns?
7. Own more Bibles than most Christians you know. Nope. Just one. I've tried to read it, but found it excruciatingly boring. No pun intended.
8. Have at least one Bible with your personal annotations regarding contradictions, disturbing parts, etc. I have trouble defacing any book. Even the Bible.
9. Have come out as an atheist to your family. Not really necessary as I wasn't raised in a religious household.
10. Attended a campus or off-campus atheist gathering. Atheists and Other Freethinkers. Nothing to do with a campus at all, though.
11. Are a member of an organized atheist/Humanist/etc. organization. The Brights, The Skeptics Society, the American Humanist Association.
12. Had a Humanist wedding ceremony. Two of them. I would have called them Secular, rather than Humanist, though.
13. Donated money to an atheist organization. Several.
14. Have a bookshelf dedicated solely to Richard Dawkins. No, but I have about 6 of his books.
15. Lost the friendship of someone you know because of your non-theism.
16. Tried to argue or have a discussion with someone who stopped you on the street came to my front door to proselytize. Jehovah's Witnesses, of course.
17. Had to hide your atheist beliefs on a first date because you didn’t want to scare him/her away.
18. Own a stockpile of atheist paraphernalia (bumper stickers, buttons, shirts, etc). And it keeps growing.
19. Attended a protest that involved religion.
20. Attended an atheist conference.
21. Subscribe to Pat Condell’s YouTube channel.
22. Started an atheist group in your area or school.
23. Successfully “de-converted” someone to atheism.
24. Have already made plans to donate your body to science after you die. After any usable parts are given away. Note to self - MAKE A WILL
25. Told someone you’re an atheist only because you wanted to see the person’s reaction.
26. Had to think twice before screaming “Oh God!” during sex. Or you said something else in its place. Unfortunately, "Oh Flying Spaghetti Monster!" or "Oh Invisible Pink Unicorn" just don't roll off the tongue very well.
27. Lost a job because of your atheism.
28. Formed a bond with someone specifically because of your mutual atheism (meeting this person at a local gathering or conference doesn’t count). Well, both Bill and I had a lot in common. Homosexual ex-spouses for one, but the both being atheists was a big part.
29. Have crossed “In God We Trust” off of — or put a pro-church-state-separation stamp on — dollar bills. No. Defacing US currency is a crime. I want to show people that atheists are good people, not feed their misconceptions.
30. Refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I recite all except the "Under God" part, and have done so since at least high school.
31. Said “Gesundheit!” (or nothing at all) after someone sneezed because you didn’t want to say “Bless you!”
32. Have ever chosen not to clasp your hands together out of fear someone might think you’re praying.
33. Have turned on Christian TV because you need something entertaining to watch.
34. Are a 2nd or 3rd (or more) generation atheist. 2nd. My father never really believed any religious bunk.
35. Have “atheism” listed on your Facebook or dating profile — and not a euphemistic variant. I have "atheist" on Myspace, but "Pastafarian" on Facebook.
36. Attended an atheist’s funeral (i.e. a non-religious service). I don't know if she was an atheist, but her funeral was certainly not religious.
37. Subscribe to an freethought magazine (e.g. Free Inquiry, Skeptic) Skeptic
38. Have been interviewed by a reporter because of your atheism.
39. Written a letter-to-the-editor about an issue related to your non-belief in God.
40. Gave a friend or acquaintance a New Atheist book as a gift.
41. Wear pro-atheist clothing in public.
42. Have invited Mormons/Jehovah’s Witnesses into your house specifically because you wanted to argue with them. Nope. Just talked to them outside the door. See #16
43. Have been physically threatened (or beaten up) because you didn’t believe in God.
44. Receive Google Alerts on “atheism” (or variants).
45. Received fewer Christmas presents than expected because people assumed you didn’t celebrate it.
46. Visited The Creation Museum or saw Ben Stein’s Expelled just so you could keep tabs on the “enemy.” No way. I wouldn't want to give either one my money.
47. Refuse to tell anyone what your “sign” is… because it doesn’t matter at all. I don't tell them because I can never remember it....because it doesn't matter at all.
48. Are on a mailing list for a Christian organization just so you can see what they’re up to…
49. Have kept your eyes open while you watched others around you pray.
50. Avoid even Unitarian churches because they’re too close to religion for you.

~21. Not bad.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

On misanthropy

I've always enjoyed being by myself. I love just sitting alone and reading a book, messing about on the computer, or even taking a nap. I like going into the office really early, because there's nobody else around.

I've never minded going to restaurants alone. I just take a book. Once, while I was getting my degree in Indiana, my parents were in England, and my son was with his dad in California, I was alone for several weeks. I was working on my thesis, but I decided to take a break one night and go to Grindstone Charley's, a fairly nice restaurant. When I mentioned it later, my mother was shocked that I had gone to a restaurant alone. I, in turn, was shocked that she had never been to one by herself in her life.

I've also gone to movies alone several times. I went to a late-night showing of Jurassic Park when it was still in one of the huge domes of a Century Complex theater. I think they've since subdivided all those into smaller screens. There were three other people in a ~500 seat theater and they all sat down in the front. I had pretty much the entire theater to myself, so I sat back and put my feet up on the chair in front. When the velociraptor lunged for Laura Dern's feet as she was yanked up through the ceiling, I actually jerked my feet back. Embarrassed, I looked around but there was nobody to see....whew!

I used to ride horses a lot, and I loved going out with only the horse for company. My 3/4 Arab 1/4 quarter horse, Thalj Najmah and I would go out for hours just enjoying ourselves. I could talk to her, and I could justify it as not just talking to myself. She was always willing to do whatever I wanted, from suddenly taking off at a mad gallop to herding a neighbors wayward calf back through a hole in the fence (which probably looked odd with my English saddle and jodphurs, but hey)(did I mention I lived in Texas at the time?). I did have a few human friends, but if you ask me who my best friend was when I was a young teenager, I would have to say Najmah.

Now, most of the time I go skiing and ride my bicycle, I spend literally hours alone, and surprisingly to me, find it just as enjoyable as riding a horse. I always thought I had the horse for company, but maybe it's always been just me. Don't get me wrong; I like going with friends, too, but if I waited around for someone to go with, I'd never go.This is the only picture I could find of Najmah. I'm sure my mother has others. The white pony was our much loved Pony of the Americas, Paleface. And there's the Mirror dinghy that my father built one winter when we lived in upstate New York.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Well, we got our Christmas tree today. We brought it home on my car, and I just thought this was a funny juxtaposition: A Christmas tree on a car with a Darwinfish, Invisible Pink Unicorn, and this bumpersticker: Note that the COEXIST magnet has NASA images rather than the usual religious symbols. I just didn't want all those religious symbols on my car.
From the side:Enlarged side view:Gee. Those water spots really show up. You can tell I'm not very fastidious about my car. Or about much of anything, really (anybody who knows me is nodding right now).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour

I was commenting on a post over at Better Oot Than In, and I realized that I really am a Novelty Song Geek. My friends and relatives can all attest to this. Loudly. As in, "No! No singing! Not AGAIN! SHUT UP!"

When my brother and I were kids, our parents gave us a "Loony Tunes"1 record. I think my mother picked it because it had My Boomerang Won't Come Back by the late, great Charlie Drake (his catchphrase was,"Hello, my darlings" which my father still occasionally says). Other great songs on that album included:
Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah - Alan Sherman,
The Witch Doctor - David Seville,
Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It's Flavour (On The Bedpost Overnight) - Lonnie Donnegan (actually, this one may have been the reason my mother bought the album for us)
Shaving Cream - Benny Bell
Charlie Brown - The Coasters
Transfusion - Nervous Norvus
Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport - Rolf Harris (Um..., maybe this one was the reason)
Dinner With Drac - John Zacherly
The Streak - Ray Stevens (I'm pretty sure this wasn't the reason)
the #1 novelty song of all time, They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa - Napoleon XIV
And Tip-toe Through The Tulips - Tiny Tim. I do a very good Tiny Tim imitation, if I do say so myself (soundwise only).
We pretty much wore that record out.

One of my friends M (I have three friends M) made the mistake of telling me her new boyfriend knew the song, Along Came Jones and asking if I knew it. "NO! I DIDN'T MEAN SING IT!" Too late. Of course I know it.

In the early '80s, I discovered Dr. Demento. Luckily, Weird Al Yankovic had discovered him several years earlier, or we wouldn't have such classics as Eat It, Fat, and I Lost On Jeopardy. Other songs included:
The Ballad of Irving - Frank Gallop,
Everybody Run, the Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun and Cause I'm a Blonde - Julie Brown,
Existential Blues - Tom "T-Bone" Stankus (I don't even HAVE a little dog Toto),
I still get The Cockroach That Ate Cincinnati by Rose and the Arrangement stuck in my head occasionally.

Barnes & Barnes came out with what would become the Aquatic Ecologist's theme song: Fish Heads. Or is that Wet Dream by Kip Addotta?

And who could forget Tom Lehrer with Poisoning Pigeons in the Park, and the Masochism Tango.

Ray Stevens and Weird Al certainly compete for the title of King of the Novelty Songs, but I proclaim Ray Stevens to be King. One, because his are unique, whereas Weird Al makes a living taking the mickey of current hits, and two because it's my blog and I can do whatever I want :-Pppppppppffffth.

Guitarzan, Would Jesus Wear a Rolex, Mississippi Squirrel Revival, Shriner's Convention, It's Me Again, Margaret and the completely un-PC Ahab the Arab.

Nowadays they just don't write songs like Purple People Eater, Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, and Rubber Duckie (Warning - mildly disturbing naked Ernie version).

Yes, I know all the words to Steve Martin's King Tut. Even the parts he missed in this video. Like He gave his life for tourism (wrong place), Golden Idols!, He's an Egyptian, They're selling you. Ok, my next post is going to be about how I'm obsessive enough to criticize Steve Martin singing his own song. I could do the same for several of the Ray Stevens ones, too...

Soon, 'tis the season for Elmo and Patsy's Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer. Can't wait!

1 Put out by the now defunct Grants store, and not affiliated with Warner Bros. Looney Toons

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Scenes from Dartmoor Zoological Park

My mother heard this interview on the Diane Rehm Show on the NPR station WFYI in Indianapolis.

It's a pretty amazing, heartbreaking, and uplifting story, if you take time to listen to it. In 2006, Benjamin Mee and his family decided to buy a dilapidated zoo on Dartmoor to rescue the animals, many of whom were going to be shot if nobody bought it within 10 days. After a lot of trouble both with banks and family members, he and his wife, his brother, and his mother finally owned an unlicensed zoo with about 200 animals on the edge of Dartmoor. Four days later, Sovereign, the jaguar escaped. Then Ben's wife's brain cancer recurred and she died leaving him with two young children to raise alone. They finally managed to open on July 7, 2007. If you listen closely, you'll find something unusual in an interview like this in the United States. There is no mention of God anywhere.

There was also a BBC2 documentary about it that several of my relatives had seen, so we decided to visit the Dartmoor Zoological Park while we were there.

Animals I wouldn't have expected to find on Dartmoor:I love capybaras. I hopped up and down and squealed,"Look! Capybaras! Capybaras!" As I've said before, it doesn't take much to excite me.

There were lions: Solomon and his mother Josie

And tigers Vlad (Siberian tiger)

And bears Ben (European brown bear)Hailey (European brown bear) and Fudge (Syrian brown bear)

Oh, my!

I looked down into this enclosure and thought, "Humph. These aren't very exotic." Then I remembered I was in England:
Snowdrop and Attitude, the hand raised Asian otters were hungry and begging from anybody who walked by. They were absolutely adorable and sounded like very loud squeaky toys.
According to the book written by Benjamin Mee, Ronnie the tapir is apparently gay. And wouldn't stand still for me to take a good picture. In the book, Mr. Mee explains how common homosexuality is in the animal kingdom - eventually he wants to add gay animal exhibits. This is already being done at the Artis Zoo in Holland. The UK version of the book is here.

In the book, he notes that he was heavily influenced by one of my childhood heroes, Gerald Durrell. I spent many an exciting night reading My Family and Other Animals, Birds, Beasts and Relatives, and Catch Me a Colobus. I would have loved to have owned a zoo. Fortunately for the Dartmoor Zoological Park, Mr. Mee managed to reignite his childhood dream.

We had a very nice lunch overlooking the ostrich/llama/alpaca/fallow deer enclosure.

What struck me about this zoo was that most of the animals actually looked content, and some even seemed interested in us. Nobody was neurotically pacing, the enclosures were large, and most of the animals were out and about even though they could go in and hide if they chose. The grey wolves were a bit restive and kept snarling and attacking each other, but I think it was near feeding time.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Scenes from England

The Birthday Boy. The button says, "I Survived Damn Near Everything."

My Nanna. Next June will be their 70th wedding anniversary.

I got to know some of my relatives a little better:
Seems as though I've known them all my life, after all. The dogs are definitely part of the family.

The evil flat coated retriever of Torrington Commons.
aka Mack.

People who think English food is bad or boring have obviously never eaten in the right places. And many pubs still allow dogs, which is just cool.

In a recent post (caused by me), Barry over at Staring at Empty Pages indicated that a never-ending loop will start due to Newton's Third Law of Pub-Motion - “For every beer treat, there is an equal and opposite beer re-treat.” Definitely true. There wasn't a sober evening while my cousins were around. I actually got up and sang karaoke in a pub one night, which I'm sure embarrassed my brother. The same song I always sing if I'm drunk enough and there's a karaoke machine nearby. The Shoop Shoop Song. My cousin Sarah's daughter Lauren (does that make Lauren my second cousin?) found it on the list after I cery varefully staggered over and couldn't find it. So of course, I had to sing it.

Going back: I flew Virgin Atlantic and took this picture of the seat in front of me just before we got to Greenland

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I was tagged by The Darwin Report. Luckily it didn't hurt very much. Here are the rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random (or arbitrary) things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Six random things about me:

1. I just flew in from England, and boy are my arms....[shift forward in time 14 hours] actually my brain was too tired to think of 6 random things last night. Hopefully it's better this morning.

2. I have a concert tonight to which I'm driving the truck, although I'm a little out of practice with both the bassoon and driving on the right side.

This is one we do at a local retirement community on Veteran's Day every year, and makes me cry every time. For the first few years, they had WWII veterans in uniform carrying the flags (very slowly) down the aisle. Last year, I think they were replaced by Korean War veterans. I get all choked up when we play the Armed Forces Salute and veterans of each branch stand as we play their respective songs. Seeing the music through tears and playing with a lump in your throat isn't easy, I can tell you.

3. While in England, apart from attending my Grandad's 100th birthday party and getting to know some of my many relatives a little better, we went to the Dartmoor Zoological Park. I highly recommend going if you're in the neighbourhood. And even if you're not.

4. I didn't know until recently that Alcoholics Anonymous is a load of religious crap.

5. My son appears to be becoming a gay rights activist. He's really pissed off about how the passing of Proposition 8 could affect David and Pete (his Dad and Step-dad). I have more than one reason to be proud of him! Oh, all right. Lots, actually.

6. After 33 years in this country, I got my U.S. Citizenship eight years ago because I was tired of not being able to vote. Finally it's going the way I voted...

Hmm. Six people I can tag? I had a hard enough time coming up with 6 arbitrary things about me...

1. Kia at A Blog About Everything, who is definitely still alive.
2. Mr Farty at Better Oot Than In
3. Barry at Staring at Empty Pages
4. Andrew at Artificial Habitat, even though he hasn't posted anything for months, and may, in fact, be dead.
5. David at Musings by the Hairslave. Welcome to the blogging world!
6. The King of Ferrets at Ferret's Cage

You're it!

Monday, November 3, 2008

How to make a mother proud

My son had to create a representation of something alive for his Theater Arts Stage Electrics class. Electrical plugs, switches, wires, and bulbs: $55The eye-stalks are switches.
Styrofoam ball, glue gun, glue, and googly-eyes: $35Mother's pride in surprisingly expensive electrical art project: PricelessEveryone's interpretation of the FSM is different. In some Pastafarian sects (possibly more closely related to the Rastafarian) he obviously has glowing meatballs.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I'm off to Devon!

I'm leaving for England on Wednesday. My grandfather is turning 100 and there's a big party. With their six children, 19(?) grandchildren, various spouses and great-grandchildren, its going to be a fairly big party. Since my grandparents are pretty much housebound, we're all going to squeeze into their tiny house. We know it can be done. We did it for Grandad's 99th birthday last year.

I put a question mark next to the number of grandchildren, because I can never remember how many cousins I actually have. I'm the eldest, my brother is the second eldest, and I can remember the names of the first 7 or 8 after that, but I'm a bit fuzzy on most of the ones around my son's age and younger. It didn't help that we moved to the U.S. before they were born, so the most I've ever met any of them is 3 or 4 times. I come from a huge family, but feel as though I come from a tiny one with just my parents and my brother.

My cousin's children? Might as well forget it. I'll never remember their names. Except Poppy. She came to our wedding, and then "long-distance-dated" my son's best friend for a while.

The two cousins I feel I know best are the two daughters of my mother's youngest brother, because they've actually come over and visited for a while. Nicky (15 years younger than I am) came to stay while I was doing my thesis, so I put her to work. She got to slog through cow fields and slosh around in streams for her vacation. Gwen (3 years younger than my son - 27 years younger than me) and my Aunt Jayne fared a little better on their recent visit.

My mother mentioned the name of one of my cousins and said she was Grandad's favourite, and I almost burst into tears. I never had the chance of being Grandad's favourite (although I probably was at one point because for almost three years I was the only one).

I actually feel much closer to my aunts and uncles, although I suppose I really don't know them any better. Most of them have come to visit over the years, and my mother's youngest sister is only nine years older than I am.

My parents live ~2000 miles away and my brother lives ~2700 miles away, and it seems as though the only time we all get together nowadays is 5371 miles away. I'll be back in a couple of weeks!

Beethoven's Symphony No. 9

Last night we went to Beethoven's 9th Symphony at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Sacramento. Pete conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of All Hallows, one of only two Catholic parishes in the United States that have a full symphony orchestra. The other is Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York.

The performance was superb. The orchestra and chorus played and sang flawlessly, as far as I could tell, and Pete got us upgraded to the Conductor's booth, so we had some of the best seats in the house. Could have used a little padding, but hey. The music was so beautiful and moving, I had tears streaming down my face at the end. It was an amazing experience. I am really grateful to Pete for inviting us.

The Cathedral was built in the 1880s/1890s and has undergone a recent renovation. It is very, very pretty inside and out, and the Diocese has every right to be proud. I probably would have been much more impressed if I hadn't visited cathedrals all through England and Scotland. Unfortunately, it sort of reminded me of Aesop's jackdaw. And I didn't see any cathedrals in England with a giant (a little bit tacky?) Jesus on a cross suspended from the ceiling, which according to Wikipedia weighs 2000 lbs. I wouldn't want to be sitting under it in an earthquake. One of my friends M (I have three friends M) went to the concert too, and reminded me that a few years ago we watched from a nearby high-rise as a very brave man put gold leaf on the cross on top of the cathedral spire.

Luckily, neither Bill nor I burst into flames, even when I stuck my finger in the holy water (David sort of dared me to do it).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Conversation snippet

Friend M: I'm not going to invoke your Flying Spaghetti Monkey or whatever....

Me: (interrupting) Monster, please! Flying Spaghetti Monkey would just be silly.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Projector not your average Joe the Plumber

$275 overhead projector from Staples:

$449 overhead projector from Staples:

Do teachers even still use these?

$3 Million "overhead projector" of the type McCain keeps going on about:

Is he that stupid? Does he think we are? Has he ever even been to a planetarium?

By the way, you can donate to the Adler Planetarium to help them buy this, because what McCain leaves out of his little tirades is that it was not funded.

Hat tip to Pharyngula, Bad Astronomy, Gizmodo, and one of the other blogs I read, but I can't find the post right now.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Freethought Day

Well, yesterday I got to meet Lori Lipman Brown AND Matthew LaClair! Actually, Bill and I went to a Freethought Day fundraiser the night before and listened to them both speak, but didn't really meet them.

Freethought Day is a Celebration of Reason, Freethought and Church-State Separation held in Old Sacramento in October. It commemorates the decision 300 years ago by Governor William Phipps of the Colony of Massachusetts that spectral evidence would no longer be admissible in court, bringing an end to the Salem Witch Trials. Freethought Day is jointly put on by Atheists and Other Freethinkers of Sacramento (AOF) and the Humanist Association of the Greater Sacramento Area (HAGSA). This year, Lori Lipman Brown emceed, and Matthew was the featured speaker.

Lori is the director and lobbyist for the Secular Coalition of America. This is the national lobby representing the interests of atheists, humanists, agnostics, freethinkers and other nontheistic Americans. I mentioned this group in a previous post. She was also on The Colbert Report recently.

As a 16 year old high school junior, Matthew secretly recorded his history teacher teaching creationism and telling kids that they would go to hell if they didn't accept Jesus Christ. He then warned the school about what the teacher was doing. The principal called him in to a meeting with the teacher (not allowing his parents in) where the teacher denied it. Matthew produced the CDs proving that he did and was lying (isn't there some sort of commandment against bearing false witness or something? Maybe that's not the same thing as out-and-out lying). The school STILL didn't do anything about it so Matthew eventually took the story to the media. When people started calling him a liar, Matthew also went public with the recording he had secretly made of the meeting with the principal and the teacher. Don't EVER mess with Matthew!

Matthew is an amazing young man, who is willing to stand up for his own and other people's rights. And he's an extremely good public speaker.

I don't know if the featured speaker is always put to work setting up. What teenage boy wouldn't jump at the chance to pound things with a sledge hammer, though?He also enthusiastically helped tear down.

It was a really windy day. This is Paul Geisert, co-founder and co-Director of The Brights, holding down the canopies while Matthew pounded the stakes in. We were a little concerned that he might be carried away. They are big canopies. Bill Potts, President of HAGSA is standing next to him. This is Mynga Futrell, the other co-founder/co-Director of The Brights. Can you tell it was chilly?It did warm up a little.Lori and Matt standing near my table. I have manned a table for Mynga several times now which displays the California approved resources that she and Paul developed for teachers teaching about religion.

I, of course, managed to get my picture taken with Lori. Since she was standing right there.Matthew speaking:
While Matthew was speaking, the crowd was actually standing room only.
Another speaker was Dr. Michael Newdow, a Sacramento lawyer and physician, who sued to have the words "under God" removed from public schools' recitals of the Pledge of Allegance. I completely agree with him. From a very young age, I have always just left it out, and nobody has ever noticed. He's got a really good singing voice, too.Some of the books at the Banned Books booth.We went out to eat (and drink) afterwards.It was a long day, but a lot of fun.