Thursday, December 17, 2009

'tis the season to think of others...

On the heels of a post about charities I specifically avoid, I'll rehash some I think are worthwhile. Because I know you care.

Let's start out with a list of Skeptical and Atheist Charities, courtesy of TechSkeptic.

And now for those I care to support:

Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Purpose: to provide comprehensive reproductive and complementary health care services in settings which preserve and protect the essential privacy and rights of each individual; to advocate public policies which guarantee these rights and ensure access to such services; to provide educational programs which enhance understanding of individual and societal implications of human sexuality; to promote research and the advancement of technology in reproductive health care and encourage understanding of their inherent bioethical, behavioral, and social implications.

Donors Choose
An online charity that makes it easy for anyone to help students in need.
Here's how it works: public school teachers from every corner of America post classroom project requests on Requests range from pencils for a poetry writing unit, to violins for a school recital, to microscope slides for a biology class.
Then, you can browse project requests and give any amount to the one that inspires you. Once a project reaches its funding goal, we deliver the materials to the school.

The Humane Society of the United States
Purpose: The HSUS seeks a humane and sustainable world for all animals—a world that will also benefit people. We are America's mainstream force against cruelty, exploitation and neglect, as well as the most trusted voice extolling the human-animal bond.

Victory Junction Gang Camp
Purpose: to enrich the lives of children with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses by providing life-changing camping experiences that are exciting, fun, and empowering, in a safe and medically-sound environment.

Public Broadcasting Service
Purpose: is a non-profit public broadcasting television service with 354 member TV stations in the United States, with some member stations available in Canada.

Heifer International
Purpose: to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth; providing gifts of livestock and plants, as well as education in sustainable agriculture, to financially-disadvantaged families around the world

Guttmacher Institute
Purpose: to advance sexual and reproductive health through an interrelated program of social science research, policy analysis and public education, designed to generate new ideas, encourage enlightened public debate, promote sound policy and program development, and, ultimately, inform individual decision-making.

Human Rights Campaign
Purpose: America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality.

Secular Humanist Aid and Relief Efforts
Purpose: a secular alternative to faith-based relief efforts; a program of the Council for Secular Humanism; working with Americares (purpose: to provide immediate response to emergency medical needs and support long-term humanitarian assistance programs for all people around the world, irrespective of race, creed or political persuasion)

Secular Coalition for America
The national lobby representing the interests of atheists, humanists, agnostics, freethinkers and other nontheistic Americans.

Freedom From Religion Foundation
The FFRF works to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism, and to promote the constitutional principle of separation between church and state.

Center for Inquiry
The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.

James Randi Educational Foundation
Its aim is to promote critical thinking by reaching out to the public and media with reliable information about paranormal and supernatural ideas so widespread in our society today.

Plan USA
Our vision is of a world in which all children realize their full potential in societies that respect people's rights and dignity. If James "The Amaz!ng" Randi thinks this is a worthy cause, it must have something going for it.

The National Organization for Women
Purpose: NOW works to eliminate discrimination and harassment in the workplace, schools, the justice system, and all other sectors of society; secure abortion, birth control and reproductive rights for all women; end all forms of violence against women; eradicate racism, sexism and homophobia; and promote equality and justice in our society.

Kiva loans that save lives
Kiva's mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.
Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend to unique entrepreneurs around the globe.

To restate what I said last year:
Remember, these organizations need support, donations and volunteers year round and not just during the holidays, but if you can give anything, even a little, it helps a lot. Send an anonymous check or request not to receive solicitations if you are worried about getting on a mailing list, but do send something. Perhaps in lieu of dinner out some night you could buy dinner for a less well-off family. Perhaps in lieu of buying a new DVD you could help others. Perhaps in lieu of another new pair of sneakers, you could help supply warm shoes for a needy person. We all likely have more than we need, especially if we have the time to wile away on a blog, so we should take a few moments this season and see what we can share with others.

As always, check out the Charity Navigator to see how your chosen charities are rated.

Besides, 'tis the season for giving, after all, and 'do unto others' applies to secular folk, too.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

why I do not give to the United Way

...because charity is supposed to be private and personal
...because charity should never been mandatory or compelled or bribed
...because I would prefer to donate to the organizations directly rather than go through a giant umbrella organization -that way I'm sure that my money is going where I want it to
...because, while the United Way undoubtedly does a great deal of good, and while it certainly meets the Better Business Bureau's Standards for Charity Accountability, I have a hard time supporting a charitable organization whose President and CEO makes $973,535 a year

And if anyone's curious as to why I do not give to the Salvation Army and why I avoid establishments in front of which they are allowed to panhandle, look no further than their stance on homosexuality -not to mention the fact that they are, you know, ridiculously faith-based.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Whew! Marriage is safe, for now.

Since we all know how damaging it would be if consenting homosexual couples were allowed to get teh married, it's kind of a relief that the NYS Senate voted to NOT extend equal marriage rights to teh gays -by 38-24, no less, meaning that not only did ALL the Republicans vote against the bill (including my state senator, George D. Maziarz) but some Democrats, too. Oh wait, except that it's not. It's actually stupid and awful and shameful.

Seriously. Shame, shame, shame on you, NYS. FSM-forbid consenting adults all be given the same rights and protections. And no, "civil unions" aren't the same. I'm not going to get into the whole marriage-is-a-religious-institution b.s. (because if anyone wants a good example of how it's totally not, well, haaaaaaaaave you met me?!), but if straight folk get it, then so should gay folk. If you make marriage a religious thing only, and everyone else gets secularly civil unioned, then fine. We'll get un-married and will get civil union'ed. That's cool. But if it's a matter of different terms based on the gender of the person you love or denying equality all together, then no, that's not okay.

Blah, blah, blah "sanctity of marriage" blah, blah, blah "fragile children being taught teh gay" blah, blah, blah "Adam & Eve"... Yeah, shut up. I'll see your marriage myths and I will bust the fuck out of them.

Interestingly, Senator Maziarz sent out a special health bulletin to his constituents regarding H1N1, which I received yesterday. That's great and fine and good, the information is valid and accurate as far as I can tell, and it's good to get the word out to his constituents about this. The irony (that's irony, right?) in it is that he showed clearly on Tuesday that he really only cares about the well-being of SOME of his constituents. Namely, the straightees. Harrumph.

Monday, November 30, 2009

It's not the snow, it's the assholes.

And so it has begun. Wednesday 11/25 marked the beginning of a month of you all hearing me bitch about the lights. If I throw my hat into the "War on Christmas" ring this year, it will be solely prompted by the blasted Christmas lights. What a bloody waste of time, money, energy and resources... But if you want to Griswold your house up for one month of the year, fine. Have at. It doesn't really affect anyone else. Except that, oh wait, it does! And it's not your lights and it's not your holidays or your Christianity or any of that. No, it's the assholes.
You like to drive around and look at lights? Great. But when you do, could you possibly try to remember that you are driving? On a street? You know, where other people might be driving?! Yeah, I'm just suggesting that you might want to keep an eye on the road instead of both eyes on the lights. That way, you don't have to slam on your breaks and hammer your horn and glare and flip the bird at people who are just trying to get home and might be expecting you to pay attention to your driving. Good? K, thx.

And today, Monday 11/30, we had our first spotting of snow flakes here at work -accompanied by the first grumblings and bitchings about said snow, even though it's practically December, people! And we live in upstate New York. It's supposed to be snowing! And to be fair, snow is pretty. See, it's not the snow that bothers me. It's supposed to snow during the winter. It's not the cold. I have cold weather gear. It's not the potential for storms and power outages -see, I know what to expect from a Rochester winter and I have a snow brush and shovel, we have a generator, we have emergency food and water. No, it's none of those things that bother me during the winter. Once again, it's the assholes.
You know you live in upstate New York, right? You know it's going to snow, right? It does it EVERY year. So can you explain to me why the first snowfall of the year makes you drive like you've never seen snow before? Come on, people, if you can't drive in the snow then get off the road! And is it really appropriate to stock up the day before a big storm is predicted? Wouldn't it maybe make more sense to already have your supplies on hand? And maybe could you quit bitching about the weather that is the same every damn year, and just try to appreciate the beauty of the turning of the year? Maybe just a little?

Also, you know, Christmas. The war on it and all that. I'm an atheist, but I don't get all pissy and offended when people choose to celebrate Christmas or when they wish me a 'merry Christmas.' What does bother me, unsurprisingly, is the assholes. The people who think it's their business what holiday anyone else celebrates (or doesn't), the people who flat-out say that everyone should be a Christian and misunderstand the entire origin of the holiday, the country and the Constitution... Guess what, folks? It's pagan! They're secular! So, shut up and celebrate in your own way, already, and I'll celebrate in mine.
Celebrate your holiday any way you want, with all the lights and presents* and hypocrisy* you want. Have at. Just don't be an asshole about it. Hmm?

In conclusion, dear readers, do me a favor this season and don't be an asshole. Otherwise, I'm gonna have to beat you.

*another topic for another post

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

excerpt of thanks

Excerpt from Robert Green Ingersoll's Thanksgiving Sermon of 1897.

Whom shall we thank? Standing here at the close of the 19th century -- amid the trophies of thought -- the triumphs of genius -- here under the flag of the Great Republic -- knowing something of the history of man -- here on this day that has been set apart
for thanksgiving, I most reverently thank the good men. the good women of the past, I thank the kind fathers, the loving mothers of the savage days. I thank the father who spoke the first gentle word, the mother who first smiled upon her babe. I thank the first true friend. I thank the savages who hunted and fished that they and their babes might live. I thank those who cultivated the ground and changed the forests into farms -- those who built rude homes and watched the faces of their happy children in the glow of fireside flames -- those who domesticated horses, cattle and sheep -- those who invented wheels and looms and taught us to spin and weave -- those who by cultivation changed wild grasses into wheat and corn, changed bitter things to fruit, and worthless weeds to flowers, that sowed within our souls the seeds of art. I thank the poets of the dawn -- the tellers of legends -- the makers of myths -- the singers of joy and grief, of hope and love. I thank the artists who chiseled forms in stone and wrought with light and shade the face of man. I thank the philosophers, the thinkers, who taught us how to use our minds in the great search for truth. I thank the astronomers who explored the heavens, told us the secrets of the stars, the glories of the constellations -- the geologists who found the story of the world in fossil forms, in memoranda kept in ancient rocks, in lines written by waves, by frost and fire -- the anatomists who sought in muscle, nerve and bone for all the mysteries of life -- the chemists who unraveled Nature's work that they might learn her art -- the physicians who have laid the hand of science on the brow of pain, the hand whose magic touch restores -- the surgeons who have defeated Nature's self and forced her to preserve the lives of those she labored to destroy.

I thank the discoverers of chloroform and ether, the two angels who give to their beloved sleep, and wrap the throbbing brain in the soft robes of dreams. I thank the great inventors -- those who gave us movable type and the press, by means of which great thoughts and all discovered facts are made immortal -- the inventors of engines, of the great ships, of the railways, the cables and telegraphs. I thank the great mechanics, the workers in iron and steel, in wood and stone. I thank the inventors and makers of the numberless things of use and luxury.

I thank the industrious men, the loving mothers, the useful women. They are the benefactors of our race.

The inventor of pins did a thousand times more good than all the popes and cardinals, the bishops and priests -- than all the clergymen and parsons, exhorters and theologians that ever lived.

The inventor of matches did more for the comfort and convenience of mankind than all the founders of religions and the makers of all creeds -- than all malicious monks and selfish saints.

I thank the honest men and women who have expressed their sincere thoughts, who have been true to themselves and have preserved the veracity of their souls.

I thank the thinkers of Greece and Rome. Zeno and Epicurus, Cicero and Lucretius. I thank Bruno, the bravest, and Spinoza, the subtlest of men.

I thank Voltaire, whose thought lighted a flame in the brain of man, unlocked the doors of superstition's cells and gave liberty to many millions of his fellow-men. Voltaire -- a name that sheds light. Voltaire -- a star that superstition's darkness cannot quench.

I thank the great poets -- the dramatists. I thank Homer and Aeschylus, and I thank Shakespeare above them all. I thank Burns for the heart-throbs he changed into songs. for his lyrics of flame. I thank Shelley for his Skylark, Keats for his Grecian Urn and Byron for his Prisoner of Chillon. I thank the great novelists. I thank the great sculptors. I thank the unknown man who molded and chiseled the Venus de Milo. I thank the great painters. I thank Rembrandt and Corot. I thank all who have adorned, enriched and ennobled life -- all who have created the great, the noble, the heroic and artistic ideals.

I thank the statesmen who have preserved the rights of man. I thank Paine whose genius sowed the seeds of independence in the hearts of '76. I thank Jefferson whose mighty words for liberty have made the circuit of the globe. I thank the founders, the defenders, the saviors of the Republic. I thank Ericsson, the greatest mechanic of his century, for the monitor. I thank Lincoln for the Proclamation. I thank Grant for his victories and the vast host that fought for the right, -- for the freedom of man. I thank them all -- the living and the dead.

I thank the great scientists -- those who have reached the foundation, the bed-rock -- who have built upon facts -- the great scientists, in whose presence theologians look silly and feel malicious.

The scientists never persecuted, never imprisoned their fellow-men. They forged no chains, built no dungeons, erected no scaffolds -- tore no flesh with red hot pincers -- dislocated no joints on racks, crushed no hones in iron boots -- extinguished no eyes -- tore out no tongues and lighted no fagots. They did not pretend to be inspired -- did not claim to be prophets or saints or to have been born again. They were only intelligent and honest men. They did not appeal to force or fear. They did not regard men as slaves to be ruled by torture, by lash and chain, nor as children to be cheated with illusions, rocked in the cradle of an idiot creed and soothed by a lullaby of lies.

They did not wound -- they healed. They did not kill -- they lengthened life. They did not enslave -- they broke the chains and made men free. They sowed the seeds of knowledge, and many millions have reaped, are reaping, and will reap the harvest: of joy.

I thank Humboldt and Helmholtz and Haeckel and Buchner. I thank Lamarck and Darwin -- Darwin who revolutionized the thought of the intellectual world. I thank Huxley and Spencer. I thank the scientists one and all.

I thank the heroes, the destroyers of prejudice and fear -- the dethroners of savage gods -- the extinguishers of hate's eternal fire -- the heroes, the breakers of chains -- the founders of free states -- the makers of just laws -- the heroes who fought and fell on countless fields -- the heroes whose dungeons became shrines -- the heroes whose blood made scaffolds sacred -- the heroes, the apostles of reason, the disciples of truth, the soldiers of freedom -- the heroes who held high the holy torch and filled the world with light.

With all my heart I thank them all.


Friday, November 20, 2009

more getting-my-nerd-on

Speaking of nerd-dom, I just celebrated my 30th birthday (no, not my "dirty thirty," as there was no mud wrestling or dust storm or anything, just a regular old birthday like any other birthday except this one had a nice round number -which I am doing my best to emulate with my dietary habits of late) and man, I got my nerd on.

My beloved indulged me with a trip to the planet-arium so we could watch Cosmic Disasters and snicker at all the sillies who buy into the 2012 b.s. (more on that from my corn crap blog post), and then to the Titanic exhibit and the Rochester Museum and Science Center. That was really interesting, and sad of course.

But don't worry, it wasn't all nerdness and smrts. We went to the final Roc City Roller Derby bout of the season (which is an entire other kind of geek-out) on Saturday and to see Zombieland (which is a whole other kind of kick ass!!) on Sunday.

I highly recommend doing all of these things, whether it's your birthday or not, although it does make for a great excuse.

funny pictures of dogs with captions
see more dog and puppy pictures

Did I ever tell you about the time...

Did I ever tell you about the time we visited Cleveland? No, not the character from Family Guy, the actual city in Ohio, the one named for General Moses Cleaveland (yes, we've been spelling it wrong all these years). No? I didn't tell you. Blast. I totally meant to. I musta got all caught up in my nannerversary and mah birfday and the news of the world and whatnot. My bad.

So, yeah, at the end of summer my beloved and I took a day trip down to Cleveland in his kickass new grumbly GXP. The point of the trip was to visit the A Christmas Story House and Museum (and gift shop!), and since the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in in Cleveland, too, we figured we'd stop there as well.

The story in "A Christmas Story" took place in Indiana, but Indiana had changed too much by 1983 when they made the movie, so the director (Bob Clark) sent out location scouts for the exterior shots and they decided that this house, in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland's west side, was the house that best fit.
Of course, the house was a duplex at the time, so those scenes looking into the front room where the leg lamp is proudly displayed? Yeah, that was someone's bedroom.

So anyway, we took a tour of the house and learned the history of the house and how the current owner (Brian Jones) bought it off of E-bay without even seeing it, how he had to gut the whole place and recreated the interior as best he could to match the movie scenes. And there's a gift shop so we could get some loot. Plus, there's a museum of memorabilia across the street with props and photos and elves and everything. Wait, elves? Yep. Elves. Patty Johnson (Lafontaine), who played the head elf (you know "come on, kid!") in the Santa Visit scene, was there signing autographs. Jim Morelavitz, who helped deliver The Major Award in the movie and basically babysat the child actors during the filming, was also there. An obscure but informative addition -especially since she told us we couldn't leave Cleveland without visiting the Great Lakes Science Center.

The what? Science, what? I won't lie, my brain got a nerd boner right then.

Turns out, right next to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is in fact the Great Lakes Science Center. We hit the Rock Hall first and my first and loudest reaction is WHAT A FREAKING WASTE OF SPACE!!! Don't get me wrong, it was cool. There's a lot of neat stuff there and the exhibits are cool (if cramped and crowded) and if you're in Cleveland or passing through anyway (and now that you know that the A Christmas Story house is there, too, why wouldn't you go?!), you should stop and see the Hall. Watch out, though, it's damn expensive. And I have to say, maybe if they hadn't built half the walls out of glass, their HVAC bills would be lower and they could charge less... So yeah. Cool stuff, but a bad use of space and a bad design over all.
There was a special Bruce Springsteen exhibit at the tippy top of the museum, which was way better than the Kiss exhibit we were somehow afraid might be there. FSM, I hate Kiss.

But then there was the Great Lakes Science Center (insert choir-of-angels-like-ahhhhhhhhhhh! here). Oh, the Great Lakes Science Center. Right on Lake Erie, it's a big ol' science museum with an Omnimax theatre. We saw Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk (GORGEOUS -get it?) and went through the museum. Specifically, they had an exhibit on Charles Darwin for the 200th anniversary of his birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of "On the Origin of Species." Perfect timing for our visit! And there was a renewable energy exhibit and all the regular awesomeness that is museum stuff.

Yeah, totally got my nerd on.

Plus, the cafeteria at the science center recycles pretty much everything and even uses compostable utensils. Granted, it has to be composted professionally because of the high-heat required to actually ensure that they do compost, but the idea is a nice start anyway.

Plus, dinner at the Texas Roadhouse in Erie, PA. Mmmmmm, bread.

And then the drive home. Interestingly, as soon as we crossed the border into New York State and began driving on toll roads, it was potholes galore. Ahhh, our tax dollars at work... Although, to be fair, driving from W 11th St to the science center kind of tried to kick the GXP's ass, too.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

There's corn crap on the radiator!! We're all going to die!!!

Well, we ARE all going to die. Eventually. Some people will die in 2012. Some people will even die on 12/21/12. But a global or galactic apocalypse or catastrophe or consciousness-changing? No. And I should know. I took a course called "Ancient Languages and the 2012 Prophecies."

But don't believe me. Read it for yourself:
* Information right from NASA.
* NY Times article: Doomsday? Yes. In 2012? No. "If you want to worry, most scientists say, you should think about global climate change, rogue asteroids or nuclear war." Bazinga.
* Fact vs. Fiction picked up at the Strasenburgh Planetarium on 11/14/2009.
* Chart for Believers vs. Skeptics.
* Skeptic's Guide to the Universe H1N1 special report.
* TVsquad review of a SyFy program about 2012 -as usual, more Fy than Sy, plus Richard Hoagland, who is a whole different bundle of crazy. Point: "If the Mayans were so adept at looking centuries into the future to predict the end of the world, why weren't they clairvoyant enough to foresee the end of their long-extinct civilization and prevent its collapse?"
* If you believe, experts say you're off base.
* What actual Mayans are saying about 2012.
* Heck, even Foreign Policy gets in on the act.
* And of course we can always rely on the ever-accurate Has the Large Hadron Collider Destroyed the World Yet?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I got shot! In both arms!!

I'm one of those people who feels it's important to practice what one preaches, so to speak. I can't really make a convincing argument against plastic water bottles or mountain top removal or for line-drying clothes or for the five things you should buy organic if I'm not even following my own advice.

That said, it is with great pride and not a speck of humility that I announce I got my H1N1 (other wise known as the it's-made-from-people!) vaccine on Thursday. Since I have asthma and was under thirty at the time (that's right, ladies, it's my birthday and I am shaking that healthy butt), I met the high risk criteria and luckily my doctor's office had some that had not yet been spoken for.

While I was there, I also got my (unbeknownst to me...) long-overdue Tdap. So now I can chew on rusty nails and hold whooping cranes and can avoid that otherwise unpleasant coma-leading-to-death thing.

My report? As expected, my Tdap arm hurts like hell (I mean, it sure as shit wasn't a love injection...), but my H1N1 arm is actually quite fine. And so far, no autism. No psychogenic movement disorder. No Guillain-Barre syndrome.

As I've said before, "You don't have to believe me, but you should talk to your doctor about any concerns you have for your health and the health of your family. That's what your doctor is there for: to help you make wise medical decisions and, unlike homeopathy or other "natural" and "alternative" remedies, to ensure that the care you receive is well-tested and evidence-based."

I guess I'm just one of those crazy people who trusts her doctor above ignorant screaming celebrities and long-debunked sham "studies." And you should be, too.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

All swine flu, all the time.

I am not a doctor. You should not take medical advice from me. You should not believe what you read on the internet without checking into it further. You should not take medical advice from celebrities. You should look to experts for your information and advice, experts who have devoted their lives to medicine and science. If you have a medical concern, you should ask a doctor. If you are not comfortable with the way your doctor interacts with you, get another doctor. Do not delay treatment or ignore symptoms. Take care of yourself and of your family. Get regular checkups, get blood tests as they are recommended, and get your vaccines and boosters as necessary.

Yes, I said the dreaded word: vaccines. Vaccines are a safe, effective and important part of our health care system which have enabled us to live longer healthier lives without fear of polio, measles, mumps, smallpox and innumerable other deadly and disfiguring diseases.
I realize that there has been a lot of fear mongering lately about vaccines, a lot of lies and bullshit spread through the media regarding what vaccines do or do not cause, what they do or do not contain, whether they are or are not tested. I also realize that occasionally some people do have reactions to vaccines, and some people cannot get vaccinated because of their age, other illness or the state of their immune system. That is why it is so important for those of us who can get vaccinated to make sure we are: to ensure herd immunity.

You may have read my other blog entry in which I rant and rave (semi-eloquently, I hope) about the hysteria promoted by Andrew Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy. There are LOTS of links and information about vaccines in general, and some specific links regarding Gardasil and Swine Flu.
If you don't want to read that whole thing, here are a couple of links that sum up (albeit, extensively) what you need to know about vaccines:
Dr. Steven Novella: Vaccines and Autism, and The Truth About The Evils Of Vaccination

However, I think the Swine Flu is enough of a concern to merit its own blog entry from me. And that's what this is.

I get the flu vaccine every year now (since my mother went through chemo and her doctors recommended it for close family members) and when it is available I expect I will get the swine flu vaccine, too.

Please read the following links which debunk many of the hysterical anti-vax claims about the swine flu vaccine:
- Dr. Harriet Hall: The Anti-Vax Movement and Swine Flu
- Dr. Steven Novella: H1N1 Vaccine and GBS
- Dr. Phil Plait: More antivax distortion: the Swine flu version
- Joseph Albietz: An Influenza Primer
- NY Times article: Preparing for a Stressful Flu Season
- NY Times article: One Vaccine Shot Seen as Protective for Swine Flu
- NY Times article: Vaccine for Swine Flu Is Ahead of Expectations
- Dr. Harriet Hall: Swine Flu Vaccine Fearmongering
- General flu woo dissected by Dr. Mark A Crislip on his Quackcast podcast.
- Swine flu myths busted.
- More reasons to ignore the anti-vax myths about H1N1, by Joseph Albietz from Science-Based Medicine. Emphasis on the SCIENCE here.
- Here, Orack deconstructs a bunch of anti-flu-vaccine bullshit that Bill Maher has been spewing.
- This NY Times article is anecdotal and not data, but it is a good example of why the H1N1 is so dangerous, especially for pregnant women. Some of the religious attributions are a little annoying, but I'd rather people believe that God made vaccines possible and get them, than rely on prayer.
- Skeptoid podcast about vaccine ingredients.
- Special H1N1 report from the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, featuring Drs. Steven Novella, David Gorski, Mark Crislip and Joe Albietz.

Many of the myths and lies propagated by the current fear mongering (that it's not adequately tested, that it's made from people, etc.) are addressed in these links, and any concerns you might have may well be put to rest after reading them.

I'm not insisting that everyone get the vaccine, even if it is available, but I am recommending that you talk to your doctor about it, and about other vaccines, and decide with a medical professional as to the best course of action for you. Some people are at higher risk than others for different kinds of illness and would benefit more from vaccines. Some people have no need for certain vaccines, but most people would do well to get them all.

You don't have to believe me, but you should talk to your doctor about any concerns you have for your health and the health of your family. That's what your doctor is there for: to help you make wise medical decisions and, unlike homeopathy or other "natural" and "alternative" remedies, to ensure that the care you receive is well-tested and evidence-based.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

If you can't walk properly, perhaps you should re-think your clothing.

Unless you are in your very own yard or on a beach, it is never okay to wear flip flops. I don't care how trendy they are or if everyone is wearing them (if everyone jumped off a bridge ...oh wait, never mind) -and besides, I guarantee you, NOT everyone is wearing them- or if they are "just so comfortable" or any of the other myriad reasons people spew out for taking part in that footwear train wreck. IT IS NOT OKAY.
Not all shoes that flip and flop are flip flops, I realize this. The others are called "sandals" and they are real shoes. Flip flops are not real shoes. They are rubber and plastic, usually dirty, always annoying, and never appropriate in a public environment. Neither are Crocs.

Some articles of clothing have certain purposes and certain approved public places. Gym shorts and spandex are obviously okay at the gym. NOT AT A METAL SHOW OR IN AN OFFICE!! Crocs might be acceptable if you're a pool cleaner. Or a nurse. And you never want to run anywhere ever. Pajamas are good for home wear. NOT AT THE MALL OR AT THE OFFICE. Perhaps when you are in a crowd, like at a concert or the public market, you would do well to wear shoes that protect your feet -i.e. not flip flops. And when it's raining? Yeah, you shouldn't wear rubber shoes that have no traction. Unless you want me to laugh uproariously at you when you fall on your ass. And plaid shorts? Well, plaid shorts are just never okay. Unless you're in hell sitting next to the Bay City Rollers.

You may think me stuffy or uptight, and that's fine. I'll take your opinion and stick it in the back of my closet underneath the gardening tools, where flip flops belong. And if you think it's okay to wear flip flops to work or pajamas out in public or think you'll be taken seriously wearing plaid pants or gym shorts, well, I hope your inappropriate clothing gets caught in an escalator and a bloodbath ensues.

And yes, I am exactly the right amount of upset about this.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Nostradamus may have been right this time

Courtesy of Skepchick Rebecca Watson, a Nostradamus statement (Century 2, Quatrain 89) predicting an apparently impending disaster:
One day the two great leaders will become friends,
Their great power will be seen to increase:
The new land will be at the height of its power,
To the bloody one the numbers are reported.

The following letter is adapted from the above-linked blog post, and I urge you to read it as it perfectly expresses my sentiments:

My dear friends and relatives who watch Oprah,

I know how much you enjoy Oprah, and I also know how much you enjoy children not dying. That’s why I’m sending you a quick heads-up that Oprah is about to make a big mistake by giving a lot of money and publicity to a terrible person: Jenny McCarthy, a former Playboy model who is trying to convince people not to vaccinate their children because she mistakenly thinks vaccines are harmful. Her actions have directly led to injuries, deaths, and the spread of diseases like measles that were previously considered to be eradicated in the United States thanks to the vaccination program.

You may want to avoid McCarthy’s new ventures and maybe even let Oprah know how you feel about this.

Your friend Lauren

Monday, April 6, 2009

things of which I am enamored

- Nudibranchs
- clownfish
Humorous Pictures

- The Large Hadron Collider
- The leafy sea dragon
- The blind cave salamander, the Proteus anguinus
- What's better than a spider or a scorpion? A scorpion that is like a spider: Vinegaroons!
- Bats. Just in general, but specifically the adorable Myzopoda, the awesome-faced leaf-nosed bat and the horseshoe bat.
- Birds of Paradise, especially the Superb Bird of Paradise, the Western Parotia, Victoria's Riflebird (despite its unfortunate stoner name), and the one that does the moonwalk.
- SHARKS!! Particularly the Goblin Shark, because holy crap! Have you seen that thing?!
- the Fascinating Mexican Axolotl. Dude, he's smiling!
- the badass-looking Rhinoceros Beetle
- the Thorny Devil. 'Cause it's got "horny" and "devil" in its name. Oh, and it's awesome.
- ME.
- Lolcats, of course.
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

(more will be added to this list as more occur to me, of course)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Eat the View

It's better than "Eat the Rich," even if that did end with a belch and you can't go wrong ending with a belch. But still...

So there's been this grass roots campaign to encourage the Obama's to "eat the view," i.e. plant a vegetable garden on the White House lawn to provide food for the executive mansion with any overflow going to local food cupboards and soup kitchens, and according to news reports, they are doing just that! I think it's really cool. Michelle Obama puts a pretty big emphasis on healthy foods for her kids and guests, and the school her kids go to serves organic fare, so she already has her finger on the food button, but I'm still kind of surprised they actually went for it. Apparently, Laura Bush served mostly organic food while she was in the White House, but didn't make it public knowledge.
I think it's a really good example to set: the commander-in-chief using sustainable gardening techniques and weeding a vegetable garden for his family... It shows people that personal and community gardens are possible and realistic. I know there are questions and controversies about the benefits of organic vs. conventional, especially when it comes to run-off and the use of manure, but no one disputes that local is the way to go, and a White House garden is definitely local (for them)! So, hoorah!

Not only will there be vegetables, herbs and berries, but "a White House carpenter who is a beekeeper will tend two hives for honey." Very cool.

too fat to save your life

(Original post 2/03/09) There are physical requirements to qualify for a number of jobs, including police officers and firefighters, but judging from the specimens I see there are no continuing requirements, and possibly no requirements at all for emergency medical responders, automotive track personnel or security guards. I don't think it is discriminatory or in poor taste to require that the people tasked with saving or protecting our lives be able to get in and out of a vehicle with ease, be able to run a certain distance to respond to an accident, be able to walk up an entire flight of stairs without having to stop and mop your brow, be able to get your arms around your belly and operate a fire extinguisher...

UPDATE 3/20/09: Oh look, science backs me up, bitches!

Friday, March 13, 2009

dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb

I'm confused. Are they saying that Anna Nichole Smith was too stupid to be allowed to have prescription drugs without handholding? I guess the charges are technically valid (dispensing without a prescription, dispensing pills to a known addict...), but ultimately the responsibility for her death really lies on her shoulders, don't you think? SHE is the one who took the pills. Are we going to start suing the hardware store clerk who sells the rope or the water company for providing the water that enables someone to end their life? Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but at some point it becomes your own responsibility to monitor your drug intake, no matter how many legal or illegal pills you have at your disposal.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

who throws a shoe?

Well, Muntader al-Zaidi throws a shoe. Twice. At President Bush. And for a time, it seemed to be catching on. What has happened to Mr. al-Zaidi since has been the subject of some debate.

You shouldn't throw anything at anyone, and you certainly shouldn't throw things at visiting leaders from other countries. But should you be beaten and tortured for this? No. Should you be punished with a jail sentence? Possibly. You shouldn't throw things. But three years? It's less than the seven initially expected, but it still seems a bit much for expressing a sentiment that so, so many people felt and feel.

Now I may have disliked President Bush and opposed many if not most of his policies but, unlike some conservative commentators with whom I disagree vehemently, I did not wish that he would fail. That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Or, at least the stupidest thing I've heard this month. I might have liked to throw a shoe or two at him, or at least shake him until he came to his senses, but I am not nearly as oppressed and wounded and destroyed as so many Iraqis are, and I never had the opportunity to be that close to the president. Which is probably a good thing. However, I can sympathize with a man who is so desperate and so hopeless that he feels his only recourse is to display his dissent through shoe-throwing. I do not condone it, but neither do I condemn it. And somehow, three years in prison does not seem a punishment on par with the crime.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

better to remain silent and think your friends fools than to argue and remove all doubt

Things you should never discuss with your friends, because you may not actually want to hear their answers:

- vaccinations
- the JFK assassination/ conspiracy
- the Moon landing/ hoax
- global warming/ climate change
- abortion
- George W. Bush
- man's supposed descent from his monkey cousins

Friday, January 16, 2009

sins most grievous

Which sins are the worst sins? The deadliest? Murder? Genocide? Oh, no. According to the Vatican's The Apostolic Penitentiary, "abusing the confidentiality of the confessional by revealing the nature of the sin and the person who admitted to it" is a far worse sin than murder or genocide, forgivable only by the Pope himself. And, of course, defiling the Eucharist is considered a "sin of extreme gravity."

Let me translate this for you: a priest who hears a confession of continuing child abuse and does the right thing by reporting this crime to the authorities is a far worse sinner than a serial killer. A professor who defiles a "sacred" cracker (alongside symbols of other religions and unreligions) is a greater threat to humanity than those responsible for the genocides in Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia, Nazi Germany and so forth.

A person who uses common sense and reasoning is more of a religious criminal than a person responsible for hundreds or thousands of gruesome brutal deaths. And people wonder why I'm not religious!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I got demons! They're multiplyin', and I'm loo-oo-oosin' contro-ol.

Sins. Seven of them. The deadly kind. So deadly in fact that they even spawned a movie in which Brad Pitt got to whine a forever memorable "Awwww, what's in the box?"
Feared and shunned (though not in the Bible), a certain pathway to the various levels of Hell (as described by Dante Alighieri and not anywhere in Scripture), they most likely stem from the "eight evil thoughts" of the 4th century monk Evagrius Ponticus, as reworked by Pope Gregory I in 590 AD (and may have been inspired by a far earlier pagan list). Apparently exiled to a monastery for inappropriate relations with a lady of some import, Mr. Ponticus proposed to pontificate about that which he felt free to do, but which we must not. From his hypocritical ways (I see this theme throughout much of religious teaching, don't you?), we have received the Seven Deadly Sins (each with its corresponding demon, of course, and its corresponding virtue).

sin - demon - virtue
Lust - Asmodeus - Chastity
Gluttony - Beelzebub - Temperance
Greed - Mammon - Charity
Sloth - Belphegor - Diligence
Wrath - Satan/Amon - Patience
Envy - Leviathan - Kindness
Pride - Lucifer - Humility

I'm no Christian, so I don't buy into sin or demons or any of that gobbledygook, and I'm continually amazed that there are people who actually literally do. Sure, there are activities best avoided, and sure most things are better for you in moderation, do unto others as you want to be done (heh heh heh), but demons? Real actual demons making you do things? Please.

Oh yes, sayeth the honorable and sincere Reverend Bob Larson of the Spiritual Freedom Church (freedom from demons, I guess, since he professes to be an exorcist, not freedom to be spiritual as you might see fit). Apparently, it's not your fault if you do bad things, no, you've got actual real demons inside you and the best way to get them out is to hit you with a Bible and pray at you while you writhe around on the floor. You bark, you growl, you claw, you drool. You sleep four feet above your covers. Shit, man, I could do that. I watch TV.

The History Channel (and all its affiliates) has been pissing me off lately. Sure, they do history, but they seem to throw in a lot of unsubstantiated woo-woo. Deadly triangles, aliens, UFOs, monsters, prophets... Usually presented as fact with an opposing (skeptical, rational, scientific) viewpoint very rarely included. Earlier this month (probably to coincide with all the New Years Resolution bullshit) they had a special on the deadly sins, one a night for (you guessed it) a week. But really it was just a seven hour plug for Rev. Larson's church and his supposedly healing hands. Every sin can be exorcised, every demon battled and defeated. There are apparently no earthly reasons for addictions or obsessions or compulsions -nope, it's all demons and only Rev. Larson (for a nominal fee, I'm sure -and have you seen his TV show?) can save you from them.

Never mind that an actual exorcism has to be approved by the church ahead of time and it's very hard to get approval to perform one legitimately.

Check out paranormal investigator Joe Nickell do his best to layeth the smacketh down on the Reverend on CNN:

(If you want to know which one is the revered Reverend, pick at the one who looks like a whiny frightened putz)

Fuck sin. Try moderation. There is nothing wrong with any of the "deadly sins" unless you overindulge, which is true for pretty much everything on this planet. Give me a break. Calling something a sin is just a way to make people feel bad about themselves for being completely human.

Besides, sins change over time. Any time anyone tells you that a certain something stems from scripture or Christian tradition, ask them if they wear cotton. And then tell them to stick it. And then ask them how they feel about the Pope's "seven modern social sins": environmental pollution, genetic manipulation, obscene wealth, infliction of poverty, drug trafficking, morally debatable experiments, and violation of the fundamental rights of human nature. And then tell them to stick it again.

But if you still doubt me (really? you doubt me?), Bob Larson has provided this helpful Demon Test® so you can determine your risk potential for demon possession. For point of reference, I am "at low risk for demonic oppression/possession" and I indulge in the seven deadlies quite regularly. But should you ever find yourself to be at high risk for demons, by all means find yourself a psychologist and get some practical help. Or I will smite the crap out of you.

And I'll leave you with my favorite sin:

more animals

Though, to be fair, he says:

Funny Pictures
more animals

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

still a favorite

This just makes me smile every time: the answer to the question "Has the Large Hadron Collider Destroyed the World Yet?"

I know, I know, it's broken right now, but I still love the collider. I can't help it. It's the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator, it is a collaboration with over 10,000 scientists and engineers from over 100 countries as well as hundreds of universities and laboratories, it is ridiculously expensive, outrageously complicated and the source of endless debate and predictions of doom. What's not to love?

Besides, according to Brian Dunning, the LHC will yield unprecedented findings medicine, clean energy production, unified field theory, computing and astrophysics. Plus, it can so easily be misspelled as the Large Hardon Collider. That's just good clean fun.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Nine for ’09: Resolutions for Secular Citizens

As an American who is grateful for a Constitution that prohibits the incursion of religion into politics and government, I resolve to:

Speak out and speak up about my beliefs and values
Since when is “secular” a dirty word? Why is it okay to bash atheists? I will claim my beliefs and defend my values at work, in book clubs, at the dinner table and any chance I get.

Join a local group -- it always starts at the grassroots
MeetUp is a great place to find like-minded folks in your own zip code. Plus, most of the Secular Coalition’s member groups have local chapters.

Become a walking, talking billboard for my beliefs
I will shop for merchandise from the Secular Coalition or the OUT Campaign or First Freedom.

Help build the secular constituency in my own political party
I will become involved in my local Democratic, Republican, Greenor Libertarian party organization.

Do my homework and keep up with issues affecting me
I can start with these great blogs: The Friendly Atheist, Rant & Reason and The Wall of Separation. I will also check out FFRF's Church/State FAQ’s for a handy legal primer.

Become a super e-activist
When I get Secular Coalition Action Alerts I will forward them to friends, family and colleagues and ask them to sign up because this is how you build a movement. I can even upload a Secular Coalition logo and URL into the signature file for all my e-mails!

Become a citizen lobbyist
When an Action Alert asks me to contact my leaders in Washington, I will. When it asks me to come to Washington for lobby days, I will. When I can’t come to Washington, I will contact and meet with my Congressional representatives in my home district.

Write letters to the editor and call radio shows

It’s called the media because the press mediates, literally, between citizens and their representatives. I will make sure my views are part of the conversation – especially in my local news outlets.

Give my time or money to groups that share my secular values
I will contribute to the Secular Coalition or its member organizations and learn about other groups that advocate for me and my beliefs.

Thanks, Lori Lipman Brown and the Secular Coalition for America!!!