Friday, February 27, 2009

Deer, oh deer

A couple of weeks ago, Bill and I watched the first episode of last season's Grey's Anatomy on DVD, which involved Izzy saving the life of a deer that had been hit by a car. The deer was played by a cheesy animatronic deer until it jumped up after Izzy zapped it with the paddles. Then it was played by a real one.

We recently started watching the first season of Crossing Jordan from 1991, and the episode we just watched involved the exact same animatronic deer. Seriously. The EXACT SAME ONE! There must be a limited supply of animatronic deer, because I don't even think that they are on the same networks. It was lying on the table in the morgue moaning and weakly lifting it's head, and I kept yelling, "Zap it with the paddles! It'll be fine! Zap it with the paddles!"

Unfortunately they generally don't have crash carts in morgues, so they had to wait for someone to sing Love Me Tender to the nearby dead Elvis impersonator, which apparently has the same effect.

CLARIFICATION: The Elvis impersonator was dead; he wasn't impersonating dead Elvis. That would just be gross.

UPDATE: Someone pointed out that there could be numerous identical animatronic deer, which could just give the appearance of there being only one. Maybe each network has one.

UPDATE 2: Bill pointed out that the Crossing Jordan episode was from 2001. I've never been very good with subtraction. Unless my son reads this, in which case, I am GREAT at subtraction and I use math in my job EVERY DAY

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ski report

When I went skiing the week before last, the top of the mountain was completely fogged in. The main high-speed 4 person lift to the top was closed, but they had the very old two-seater-no-safety-bar one running. I took this to the top, and almost regretted it. Visibility was less than 10 feet. Here is an actual picture I took with my phone:See the tree? Luckily, I knew the mountain well enough - I wouldn't go off any cliffs because the top portion is a bowl (with very few trees), so all I had to do was keep going down - and stay on the groomed bits. The problem is estimating speed when you can't see anything. I couldn't tell if I was skiing uphill, across, or down, and kept realizing I was skiing much faster than I thought. It was the weirdest feeling. If I looked down at my skis, I would start to get vertigo, so I kept my head up and my eye out for the very few other idiots skiers who had ventured up. I actually found it fun, in a strange way, so I did it two more times before moving on to more visible parts of the resort. It snowed on and off, and Lake Tahoe was almost indistinguishable from the menacing sky.
A lot of kids that age would be screaming
While I was riding a lift up last Friday, I watched a mother slowly working her way down some moguls with her 6 or 7 year old son, telling him exactly where to go and how to do it. I skied down, and just before I got to them, the little boy made it to the edge of the groomed area, at which point his skis flew out from under him, and he went sliding off down the fairly steep slope sprawled out on his back, slowly rotating clockwise. He slid about 20 or 30 feet and did one complete rotation before coming to a stop. His mother worriedly skied down, and as I skied by, he looked up at her and exclaimed,"That was FUUUUN!!! Can I learn how to do THAT?"

Monday, February 23, 2009

Darwin Day Week Month?

Yesterday Last week Two weeks ago Sunday, Bill and I went to the annual Darwin Day event put on by Atheists and Other Freethinkers, the Humanist Association of the Greater Sacramento Area, the Anthropology and Biology Departments of Sacramento State University (Bill's alma mater), and the Sacramento Organization for Rational Thinking, among others.
There were quite a few people who came to see the founding publisher of Skeptic Magazine, Director of the Skeptic Society, and popular author, Michael Shermer. For more information about him, push the bar below.
He was quite popularNo, I'm not fawning! Well, maybe a little...

And he was gracious enough to pose for a picture with Mynga Futrell, the Co-Chair of the Darwin Day event, as well as Co-Director of The Brights' Net.And for a picture with me
Brian Malow, Earth's Premier Science Comedian was the really hilarious opening act... ...which was actually taped and posted on YouTube. It's worth watching:

The Darwin Day program was extremely interesting, but you don't have to take my word for it. For a video of the entire Darwin Day event, go here.

This is another very interesting Michael Shermer video.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Goodbye Kitty

I haven't felt much like writing this week because we've had a dying cat in our bedroom, which can be very depressing. Kitty could be one of the meanest, nastiest cats you ever met, or one of the nicest. One second she would be sitting on you purring and rubbing her head against you, and the next, she would turn, bite, slash (often drawing blood), and run before you could react. But her extra-super-loud purr made up for a lot. I've never heard a cat with such a loud purr.She disliked most humans, but she absolutely hated all other cats. Bill and his kids have had several cats over the years, and she hated all of them. She had been an only cat for a while when I moved in with Bill, bringing Isis and Smokey. For about two years they were relegated to William's bedroom, the laundry room, and the kitchen - about 1/3 of the house. She wouldn't allow them past the kitchen. If they did, they risked sudden ambush. Isis (half again as big as Kitty, but not very bright) would wander out occasionally, and come flying back with Kitty in hot pursuit. Then she would hiss at Smokey. We don't think Isis's eyesight is very good, because she often couldn't tell Kitty from Smokey - with whom she had lived all her life. Smokey just stayed mostly in the bedroom; she was terrified of Kitty.Isis and Smokey couldn't even sit in a warm window without being tormented. Kitty was an indoor-outdoor cat, while the other cats are indoor only, and if they decided to sit in the sun next to a window, she would suddenly jump at the window and hit the screen with a crash. This petrified them (a squirrel used to frighten them in the same way at my old house - they really are a couple of wusses).

Kitty was actually Bill's son's cat. She slept with him and loved him in her own way, although he does have scars where she scratched him over the years. Then he got a new kitten - Alice.After Alice arrived, things started going downhill for Kitty. She was physically unable to defend her territory against three cats, one of whom was a boisterous kitten and not afraid of her. First Isis started venturing further out; usually to play with Alice. Then Smokey occasionally tiptoed out.

Kitty was getting old. To make matters worse, she also started losing her teeth. Once the other cats realized she was vulnerable, the tables were turned. She had to sneak around the house risking ambush. She couldn't move without being attacked, and started spending all her time outside. She was really miserable.

Her life changed again about a year and half ago when someone managed to snag her head with a claw, and she developed a really painful abscess and ended up with a cone on her head and drains in her ear and cheek. We had to keep her separated from the other cats so we kept her in our bedroom. Bill has never in his life allowed cats to sleep in his bedroom. He was adamant that cats don't belong there, whereas I've slept with my cats since I got my first one when I was about nine. For Kitty, he was willing to share.

She finally felt safe again, gained weight and thrived. She got to go outside whenever we were home, and sleep on us at night - often purring so loudly I had trouble sleeping. Sometimes she would get what Bill calls a wild hair, and dash around the room in the middle of the night, sometimes running over our heads. But most of the time, all she wanted was to be petted...and the occasional taste of human skin.

Then she started rapidly losing weight. Bill feeds the cats and last week he said that she hadn't eaten anything for three days. I took her to the vet, who found a mass in her abdomen that turned out to be enlarged lymph nodes. She had moderate to severe lymphoma. We started her on Prednisone, and crossed our fingers, but she kept going downhill. One night she lay on the end of the bed and didn't move all night, but we could hear her purring. Every time she stopped purring, Bill sat up and touched her to see if she was still alive, and she would start purring again.

Yesterday, Bill took her in to get a boost of sub-cutaneous fluids, and they discovered that her ears and gums were turning green, which meant that she was in acute liver failure, so it wasn't really hard to make the decision. She wasn't in pain yet, but she would be soon. He said the whole time he sat with her she never stopped purring.

I always felt a little sorry for her because she never rated an actual name, but at least we have a framed portrait of her, taken a few years ago by Bill's son, on our wall:

Kitty (Early 1994 - February 20, 2009)
Classic Kitty Expression

Friday, February 13, 2009

Darwin - the Musical

This is great! It combines two of my favorite things: evolution and music. Richard Milner reminds me of the original Dr. Doolittle, for some reason. Or maybe a cross between Rex Harrison and PZ Myers.

His English accent is...well...better than Dick Van Dyke, maybe? Maybe not.

Thanks to my father and his friend Larry for the New York Times video link!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Darwin Day!

I'm too tired to post a real post, and I have to go to band in a few minutes, so this may be updated tomorrow with actual photos of Michael Shermer from the Atheists and Other Freethinkers and Humanist Association of the Greater Sacramento Area Darwin Day celebration last Sunday.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Can someone please explain?

In my ~two years of reading "atheist" blogs, I've noticed something interesting. I seem to be one of the few atheists (blogging atheists, anyway) who has never been a theist. Most of the atheist bloggers seem to be originally Christians, although a very few, like Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta, and KafirGirl were other religions (Jain and Sunni Muslim, respectively). Keep in mind, I only read blogs written in English. These are people who had to go through often extremely emotionally painful realizations that god really is imaginary. Many of them have deconversion stories. UPDATE: Andrew from Artificial Habitat pointed out the de-conversion blog. It is amazing that people are able to escape this type of brainwashing. Critical thinking can really hurt sometimes and I am very grateful to my parents that I never had to go through that.

The religious nutcases in this country are desperately trying to take us back into the dark ages. When school officials suspend a kid for witchcraft, and suspend a teacher because he's suspected of being a liberal and an atheist, and we have creationists constantly attacking real science, and trying to get (un)Intelligent Design taught in science classrooms along with evolution, it indicates a huge problem. So far this hasn't always worked, and common sense has prevailed. UPDATE #2: Florida is currently trying to legislate the teaching of (un)Intelligent Design. My mother even asked my why we shouldn't teach the controversy, as it's only fair. People don't seem to understand two things:

1) There is no controversy in the scientific world about whether life evolved. It did. The only scientific controversy is regarding the mechanisms of evolution. The "controversy" about whether or not evolution happened is entirely made up by the creationists.

2) Science isn't fair. Science is about the truth. Science has specific rules that are followed to find the truth. The supernatural has never been shown to exist in anything other than people's minds.

Belief in this nonsense is harmful, even if you say, "Well, I'm not one of those theists! I don't believe that." Enough of you do. Parents already poison the brains of too many of our young people. We cannot allow this bullshit to creep into our classrooms, too. It will be an uphill battle since it is estimated that 47% of Americans believe that the world is between 6000 and 10,000 years old. FORTY-SEVEN PERCENT! I can tell you from personal experience that people in other countries (Ok, England anyway) think that Americans are completely NUTS! (Demographic wikifactoid:United States - 5% atheists, England - 35% atheists.)

I've always been mildly surprised when a scientist turns out to be a theist, but this has happened numerous times. At least one of my college professors went to church every Sunday.* I find it even more surprising when it is a biologist, because they know that there is a much better explanation for life on earth than that some sort of supernatural being created it. As far as I can tell, most of them were indoctrinated early in their lives. I just want to ask them why? Why do you still believe against all the evidence. Or maybe I should say why do you believe in the supernatural when there is no evidence?

I had a scientist say to me once, "Well what about the extra energy? Where does that go when we die?" My reaction at the time, "Uh,.........." I couldn't understand the question, and it wasn't just because I was drunk. Huh? What extra energy? The same thing happens to us as happens to any other living thing on the planet. Do worms have extra energy, too? What about trees? Bacteria? Whales? Dogs? I really have ab-so-lutely no idea what this person was talking about.

Saying "you just feel that there's a god" doesn't answer anything, either. The human mind can imagine all kinds of things. I know someone who "felt the battle" when she went to Culloden and various American Civil War battlefields. This does not mean this person is actually feeling anything, it just means she has a well developed imagination. In fact, she has often exclaimed to me in frustration, "Well, you just don't have any imagination!" Because that's ALL it is. And no I don't. When I feel that there's someone watching me while I go to the bathroom, and feel that there are people who are in a different dimension who can see me, but I can't see them, I realize it is just my imagination and that I've obviously read far too many science fiction books. Ok, maybe I do have an imagination. Or it could be the guys who just installed the new ducting in our house left a camera in the vent. But that's just being paranoid, although it's far more likely than being watched from an alternate dimension or by some supernatural sky daddy who can read my thoughts.

Many people claim that the human body/world/universe is too complex to be explained naturally. Complexity does not need a god. The complexity of the universe can be, and is being, explained non-supernaturally. Just because we don't know all the answers now, doesn't mean we won't eventually, and filling the "gaps" with some sort of god is just silly. I touched on this in a previous post.

There will be no hope for this country to stay a superpower if we don't start doing a better job teaching the general public about reality rather than being respectful of ancient superstitious bullshit. Anyone, especially biologists, believing in iron and bronze-age myths is just not logical. I just want to ask why?

And when you realize why you don't believe in any other gods that man has ever invented, you'll understand why I don't believe in yours.**


*When this was pointed out to him, one of my atheist professors said, "Well, nobody's perfect."
**Paraphrase of a quote by author Stephen F. Roberts.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I'm a heather! Oh, wait. I misread that.

Daniel Florien over at Unreasonable Faith had a link to this quick quiz so I could test how my morals compare with those of the bible.

Your morality is 0% in line with that of the bible.

Damn you heathen! Your book learnin' has done warped your mind. You shall not be invited next time I sacrifice a goat.

Do You Have Biblical Morals?
Take More Quizzes

Is anyone surprised? (I really did read it as heather. My mind must be warped.)