Tuesday, August 31, 2004

A New Age of Unreason

Yep. We live in a theocratic oligarchy with strong despotic tendencies, I'd say. A president who believes that God told him to run, God told him to fight Al Qaeda, God told him to occupy Iraq. A government comprised primarily of the elite, people with no connection to or understanding of the people they allegedly represent. Talk of postponing elections. Silencing of the opposition, strangling the mass media. "We're turning the corner," Bush says. Yes, we are.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Geekiest protest sign ever

Pretty neat, eh?

In other RNC protest news, there is a 10-minute mass panty flash scheduled for Wednesday, with over 100 women flashing underwear with slogans such as "give Bush the finger," "cream Bush", "drill Bush, not oil", "Ballot Box," "My Cherry For Kerry," etc.

[via BoingBoing]

And here we are again

Same room. Clearly.

Check out the new pad

Here's the living room of the new apartment.

Sunday, August 29, 2004


OK, ladies and gents, I am settled in Austin, and ready to get on with the blogging. Unfortunately, work is intervening tonight. Let's just say I had a fantastic trip to Houston visiting plenty of wonderful people, and I will be back later!

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Sorry, loyal legions

Needless to say, I haven't been blogging much during our hiatus in Houston. Don't worry, I will be back and better than ever come August 27, when our Internet service will be activated in the new apartment. Until then, it might just be one of these "checking in" posts.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

The Ten Commandments

Can you believe that people are still going on about the Ten Commandments monument that was removed from an Alabama courthouse last year? In fact, it's going on tour! Somewhat sane supporters say that the Ten Commandments are the foundation of our laws, and are appropriate symbols of legal history. Insane supporters say that the United States is or should be an overtly Christian nation and the Ten Commandments should be in court rooms as a moral guide.

The opposition have always considered the case from the point of view of legality. Legally, they argue, the Ten Commandments are an endorsement of Christianity and unconstitutional. Imagine being a Muslim or (shudder) an atheist standing trial with a two-ton Judeo-Christian rulebook guiding the decisions of the judge and jurors. It simply isn't fair, and the opposition to the Ten Commandments is entirely justified.

However, the news rarely gets into whether, even if it were legal to have the Ten Commandments in a courthouse, they should be there in the first place. Proponents argue that they are the basis of modern laws. But are they?


Then God spoke all these words: I am Yahweh, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, Yahweh, your God, am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of Yahweh, your God, for Yahweh will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to Yahweh, your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore Yahweh blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that Yahweh, your God, is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Exodus 20:1-17]

In other words . . .

I. Don't worship anther god: not a law.

II. Don't make idols: not a law.

III. Don't say God's name in vain: not a law.

IV. Keep the Sabbath holy: not a law.

V. Honor your parents: not a law.

VI. Don't kill: a law!

VII. Don't commit adultery: not a law.

VII. Don't steal: a law!

IX. Don't lie: sometimes a law.

X. Don't covet: not a law.

So, at best, two and a half of the Ten Commandments are even related to our laws, and I don't think anyone could seriously propose that they are the origin of these ideas, since they are pretty much always illegal everywhere. Ironically, Yahweh approves of people both killing and stealing in many places in the Bible.

What's really funny is that there are two sets of ten commandments that Yahweh gives to Moses. The set listed above, and generally supported by the fanatics, is never called "The Ten Commandments" in the Bible. In Exodus 20, Yahweh tells them to Moses and then tells him a whole bunch of other laws. In Exodus 31, Yahweh puts the ten on two stone tablets. However, Moses gets mad and breaks them before ordering the Levite priests to slaughter 3,000 people. So, Moses makes two new tablets and Yahweh writes twn commandments on them in Exodus 34. This time, they are called the Ten Commandments by name, the ten that everyone should remember. And this time, they read like this.

I. Don't worship any other gods.

II. Do not make idols.

III. Celebrate the festival of unleavened bread.

IV. Sacrifice the firstborn of every cow and sheep.

V. Rest every seventh day.

VI. Celebrate the festival of weeks.

VII. All males must appear before Yahweh three times a year.

VIII. Don't offer sacrificial blood with leaven.

IX. Bring the best of the "firstfruits" to the house of Yahweh.

X. Don't boil a baby goat in its mother's milk.

Yeah. I don't see the fanatics clammoring to get those ten posted, the only ten actually called the Ten Commandments!

Monday, August 9, 2004

Prudes versus nudes

During the Cold War, East Germany didn't care if people wore clothing to their beaches. After all, the human body is nothing to be ashamed of. Then, the wall crumbled.

"'In the communist era, about 90 percent of the people here were nude. [. . .] Now, only about 30 percent are. It's not fair. We're being pushed off our own beach into a crummy little zone on the edge. Being nude is not a crime.' [. . .] Easterners, raised in the atheist communist state, say the influence of the Catholic and Protestant churches are responsible for the comparatively prudish western attitudes. [. . .] 'And now I've got this white stripe around my midriff as a result. [. . .] Fabric swim suits are so terribly uncomfortable. How can anyone want to wear them?'"
Why the big hang up about the naked body? I have to admit, I have been influenced by these same attitudes, and I would probably be uncomfortable at a nude beach, at least at first, but that doesn't mean that my logical brain thinks that perpetual shame about the body is healthy.

Friday, August 6, 2004

The Pet Goat

I don't particularly love John Kerry, but this is a great quote:

"Had I been reading to children and had my top aide whisper in my ear that

America is under attack, I would have told those kids very nicely and politely

that the president of the United States has something that he needs to attend


If you've seen Fahrenheit 9/11, you know that Bush's reaction was quite different.

[via Oliver Willis]

Tricky times

Here's where it gets interesting. Tomorrow we move out, officially homeless for two weeks. At least one of those will be spent with my parents in Houston but after that, who knows?

Thursday, August 5, 2004

Radiohead Flash animation

This is one of the coolest Flash animated videos I have seen, set to an awesome acoustic version of Radiohead's "Creep." For some reason, I actually though of Fight Club while watching it, partly because of things "materializing" as in Jack's apartment early in the film, and partly because the animation seems to basically be about the mindless "stuff" that fills our lives.

[via BoingBoing]

Magic Elixxir

I'm getting some traffic from people searching Google for the Elixxir Program. I need to start mentioning all sorts of crack-pot diets. No, I need to try and second guess the market and figure out what the next big thing is going to be and then mention it before it becomes big so people will find me first! Seriously, though, why do people feel that they need some book or workshop or video to solve their problems? If you want to try and live longer through caloric restriction, just save your money: watch your diet and eat less. Now send me $100 for that advice.

Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Writing stuff

I've noticed a problem I encounter when I write: I constantly edit. Now, this isn't neccessarily a bad thing. It is good to catch mistakes and ultimately put the best words to the page. However, it is a problem for me because it means that after I've written 500 words or so, I spend the rest of whatever free time I'm using to write changing things around instead of plunging ahead to get to the end. I think if I could just finish first and edit second, things would go a lot quicker.

Speaking of writing, here's an Onion-style brief Rachel and I came up with today.

Local restaurant closes doors

COPPELL, TX. After sixteen years serving legions of loyal customers,

Perky Pete's Diner closed its doors for the last time today. "Well, it was

getting to be about 10:45, and we just figured we'd better lock up since the

last guest left." The long-time host of Perky Pete's, two servers,

and three cooks were told to "go on home," losing their jobs until the restauraunt

opens again for breakfast service at 7:00 tomorrow.

Writing this satire stuff isn't as easy as I thought.

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Ebon Musings

I just ran accross this site, and it is fantastic.

"I am an atheist.

And no, I don't kick puppies or steal candy from babies. I don't hate God, but I don't have any secret desire to worship him either. Nor do I worship Satan. I'm not angry or depressed; I'm quite happy as I am, actually. In fact, I'm a person just like you. You probably wouldn't recognize me if you passed me on the street.

But I am indeed an atheist. What this means, quite simply, is that I don't believe in any gods. Not Jesus, not Yahweh, not Allah, not Vishnu, not Odin, not Zeus, not Gaea, not Quetzalcoatl, not Marduk, not Ahura Mazda, nor any other of the thousands and thousands of deities humanity has invented throughout its history. I don't single out any of them - I treat them all the same, and lack belief in each one equally. As far as I'm concerned, they're all imaginary - mere products of the human imagination and nothing more.

In this respect, I'm probably not that different from you. After all, most theists reject all but one of the many gods humans have invented. I just reject one more god than most people do."

If anyone wants to learn more about why atheists don't believe in God, and really what being a nonbeliever is all about, I can't think of a more well-considered place to do it. I'm already an atheist and I could while away the entire afternoon between the atheism and evolution pages.

Monday, August 2, 2004


The latest version of the Roomba robot vacuum automatically returns to the charging station. Wouldn't it be nice if cellphones had little legs, and when their batteries started running low, they would crawl off of the dresser and over to their charger so you don't miss calls?

Sunday, August 1, 2004

Living longer

Anti-aging research is big business. Whether cosmetic modification to trick people into thinking you're young or "magic" cure-all pills to rejuvenate, people are stupid enough to believe anything that promises to restore their lost youth. Science, however, does not support the vast majority of these claims.

There is one line of research that has consistently produced results. In experiments, simply limiting the calories consumed by mice, monkeys, and other animals dramatically increased their lifespan. As long as they still got the required nutrients, of course. While obviously, this won't eliminate infectious disease, accident, or murder, it does slow the aging process and lessen the risk for things like heart attacks, strokes, and organ failure. There is every reason to believe that simply reducing the amount of calories one eats by 30% would have similar effects in humans, allowing the average person to reach 100 or even 120 years of age. Even better, if researchers could figure out how it does what it does, they could mimic it's effects by chemical or genetic means without requiring people to drastically change their lifetyle.

It goes without saying that this sort of thing will be exploited by those who want to make money from it. As one of my interests is transhumanism, somebody from immortalism.com contacted me after seeing my blog. The site is a promotional vehicle for the Elixxir Program, a type of caloric-restriction diet combined with religious mumbo-jumbo. The leader guy is a self-described "anti-aging guru" who actually goes by the name "Elixxir." Did they not realize that one of the central origins of transhumanism was humanism and the rejection of religion?

The Elixxir Program may actually work, since it does take caloric restriction into effect. But lose all of the bullshit, guys.