December 30, 2005

No Shotgun

Sorry - no shotgun today. I just didn’t surf much this week.

If you have some cool links to share, share them in the comments.

Posted by James at 12:05 PM | Comments (5)

December 28, 2005

Quahoq Treasures

A couple in Portsmouth bought a few dozen quahogs and, upon opening one of them, discovered that what they thought was a clam which had gone bad was a quahog that had been hard at work making money in the form of a rare purple pearl.

It happened earlier this month when Barbara Krensavage brought home about four dozen quahog clams from a Newport seafood restaurant. Her husband, Ted, was shucking them when he came across one he thought was diseased. Upon closer inspection, the couple found the pearl.

Now that’s a stuffed quahog.

Posted by James at 3:52 PM | Comments (2)

December 27, 2005

Time Off

Somehow, I swung 3 vacation days off from work between this week and next week (in addition to the two holidays). Although, that’s not vacation in the traditional sense since yesterday I basically worked 6 hours at home on the holiday (between 5PM and 1AM) crawling over logfiles and writing emails.

For those interested, the holidays have been quite good so far, despite the work pressure. Details later. Today we’re running off to IKEA. Toodles!

(Recent picture updates in the Christmas Photoset on my Flickr blog)

Posted by James at 9:13 AM

December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

A joyous and peaceful Christmas to all of my readers!

Likewise for a great Hanukkah!

(also, the staff at the Aces Full of Links gift shop wishes you a happy holiday season.)

Posted by James at 9:52 AM | Comments (3)

December 24, 2005

Student Hoax Is Lame

A student hoaxes his professors and a Standard Times reporter. They share it with the rest of us. Here’s what I think:

Hoaxes about Homeland Security are a Thing of Ugly.

Posted by James at 9:39 AM | Comments (1)

December 23, 2005

Happy HumanLight

Enjoy your HumanLight today.

My family will be celebrating later tonight with a family DVD and a board game, perhaps.

Posted by James at 9:09 AM

Infant Discovered In Barn

INFANT DISCOVERED IN BARN, CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES LAUNCH PROBE
Nazareth Carpenter Being Held On Charges Involving Underage Mother

Bethlehem, Judea - Authorities were today alerted by a concerned citizen who noticed a family living in a barn. Upon arrival, Family Protective Service personnel, accompanied by police, took into protective care an infant child named Jesus, who had been wrapped in strips of cloth and placed in a feeding trough by his 14-year old mother, Mary of Nazareth.

During the confrontation, a man identified as Joseph, also of Nazareth, attempted to stop the social workers. Joseph, aided by several local shepherds and some unidentified foreigners, tried to forestall efforts to take the child, but were restrained by the police.

Also being held for questioning are three foreigners who allege to be wise men from an eastern country. The INS and Homeland Security officials are seeking information about these who may be in the country illegally. A source with the INS states that they had no passports, but were in possession of gold and other possibly illegal substances. They resisted arrest saying that they had been warned by God to avoid officials in Jerusalem and to return quickly to their own country. The chemical substances in their possession will be tested.

The owner of the barn is also being held for questioning. The manager Bethlehem Inn faces possible revocation of his license for violating health and safety regulations by allowing people to stay in the stable. Civil authorities are also investigating the zoning violations involved in maintaining livestock in a commercially-zoned district.

The location of the minor child will not be released, and the prospect for a quick resolution to this case is doubtful. Asked about when Jesus would be returned to his mother, a Child Protective Service spokesperson said, “The father is middle-aged and the mother definitely underage. We are checking with officials in Nazareth to determine what their legal relationship is.

Joseph has admitted taking Mary from her home in Nazareth because of a census requirement. However, because she was obviously pregnant when they left, investigators are looking into other reasons for their departure. Joseph is being held without bond on charges of molestation, kidnapping, child endangerment, and statutory rape.

Mary was taken to the Bethlehem General Hospital where she is being examined by doctors. Charges may also be filed against her for endangerment. She will also undergo psychiatric evaluation because of her claim that she is a virgin and that the child is from God.

The director of the psychiatric wing said, “I don’t profess to have the right to tell people what to believe, but when their beliefs adversely affect the safety and well-being of others - in this case her child - we must consider her a danger to others. The unidentified drugs at the scene didn’t help her case, but I’m confidant that with the proper therapy regiment we can get her back on her feet.”

A spokesperson for the governor’s office said, “Who knows what was going through their heads? But regardless, their treatment of the child was inexcusable, and the involvement of these others frightening. There is much we don’t know about this case, but for the sake of the child and the public, you can be assured that we will pursue this matter to the end.”

[Note: I found this on EAForums, but I do not know the author. A quick search for the authorship was fruitless. If anyone can identify the author for me so I can attribute it properly, I would appreciate it.]

Posted by James at 8:40 AM | Comments (1)

Track Santa via Google

It’s all over the ‘net by now, but just in case you haven’t seen it:

You can track Santa with Google Earth.

I have to admit, when he’s in China I just see a lot of places I’m not really familiar with. China is huge!

You may have to install a recent version of Google Earth to get this to work. Mine was old.

Posted by James at 3:16 AM

Lame Holiday Shotgun

My websurfing Kung-Fu has been very weak lately. I am utterly inundated at work. I know this makes for a less than interesting blog, but you’ll just have to ride it out with me. Believe me, I’d rather be blogging! I’d love to tell you bits about the caroling party and such. Check out pictures from my Flickr photoblog. Until then, enjoy these links. If you have any particularly fun Friday links, feel free to share in the comments.

Posted by James at 3:11 AM | Comments (3)

December 20, 2005

Plan to Subvert Science: EXPOSED!

More details on that ID court decision is in the PDF of the opinion itself.

Moreover, in turning to Defendants’ lead expert, Professor Behe, his testimony at trial indicated that ID is only a scientific, as opposed to a religious, project for him; however, considerable evidence was introduced to refute this claim. Consider, to illustrate, that Professor Behe remarkably and unmistakably claims that the plausibility of the argument for ID depends upon the extent to which one believes in the existence of God. (P-718 at 705) (emphasis added). As no evidence in the record indicates that any other scientific proposition’s validity rests on belief in God, nor is the Court aware of any such scientific propositions, Professor Behe’s assertion constitutes substantial evidence that in his view, as is commensurate with other prominent ID leaders, ID is a religious and not a scientific proposition.

Dramatic evidence of ID’s religious nature and aspirations is found in what is referred to as the “Wedge Document.” The Wedge Document, developed by the Discovery Institute’s Center for Renewal of Science and Culture (hereinafter “CRSC”), represents from an institutional standpoint, the IDM’s goals and objectives, much as writings from the Institute for Creation Research did for the earlier creation-science movement, as discussed in McLean. (11:26-28 (Forrest)); McLean, 529 F. Supp. at 1255. The Wedge Document states in its “Five Year Strategic Plan Summary” that the IDM’s goal is to replace science as currently practiced with “theistic and Christian science.” (P-140 at 6). As posited in the Wedge Document, the IDM’s “Governing Goals” are to “defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural, and political legacies” and “to replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.” Id. at 4. The CSRC expressly announces, in the Wedge Document, a program of Christian apologetics to promote ID. A careful review of the Wedge Document’s goals and language throughout the document reveals cultural and religious goals, as opposed to scientific ones. (11:26-48 (Forrest); P-140). ID aspires to change the ground rules of science to make room for religion, specifically, beliefs consonant with a particular version of Christianity.

The court basically uncovered a loony plot to subvert science education to support Christianity. Maybe loony enough to work somewhere.

“Wedge document?” Holy cow they’re really serious about this stuff. Is it time to stick a fork in ID? No wonder the Discovery Institute’s CRSC didn’t want this to go to trial. They didn’t want their double-super secret sacred plan to be exposed.

Right now, the ID movement looks a like a ridiculous Scooby-Doo villain.

“The guy behind ID was old Mr. Carswell the grounds keeper all along!”

“And the plan would have worked, too, if it wasn’t for those meddling kids and that mutt!”

Posted by James at 11:01 PM | Comments (2)

Intelligent Design: Rejected in Court

As Patti said when she sent along the link: Logic Prevails. Hand in hand, sanity has prevailed.

In short, a court found that the scientific justification for teaching “Intelligent Design” was lacking. They concluded that, in fact, ID is a repackaging of Creationism, which is not part of a science curriculum (and, in fact, is illegal to teach in a science context).

Dover Area School Board members violated the Constitution when they ordered that its biology curriculum must include the notion that life on Earth was produced by an unidentified intelligent cause, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III said.

Several members repeatedly lied to cover their motives even while professing religious beliefs, he said.

This verdict drives yet another stake into the heart of the ID vampire, following the ouster of the board members who forced the issue into the Pennsylvania school system.

(And, yes: what this means is that the court decided that “Intelligent Design” doesn’t even qualify as a scientific theory. Remember that the next time someone tells you evolution is a theory.)

Posted by James at 1:04 PM | Comments (4)

December 19, 2005

We are all suspects now

A senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung’s tome on Communism called “The Little Red Book.” […]

The student, who was completing a research paper on Communism for Professor Pontbriand’s class on fascism and totalitarianism, filled out a form for the request, leaving his name, address, phone number and Social Security number. He was later visited at his parents’ home in New Bedford by two agents of the Department of Homeland Security, the professors said. […]

“I tell my students to go to the direct source, and so he asked for the official Peking version of the book,” Professor Pontbriand said. “Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security is monitoring inter-library loans, because that’s what triggered the visit, as I understand it.”

Dr. Williams, another professor here, is reconsidering a course on terrorism because he is worried about exposing his students to scrutiny. If a book on Mao raises a red flag, what do they think about surfing al-Qaeda websites from campus?

If this student had said to somebody that he was worried he would receive a visit from homeland security for borrowing a historical book at the time he requested it, reasonable people would have called him paranoid. And back then they would have been correct, because we didn’t know the extent of the surveillance.

Today when you express this fear, you can no longer be considered paranoid by reasonable people.

There was a time that Ed and I were discussing the middle east and terrorism, and both of us borrowed books from the same library. I wonder, with some Lebanese blood in me, if I have landed on any lists as a result of my inter-library borrowing habits? Apparently I haven’t tripped the “visit from Homeland Security” trigger, however.

But I’m willing to bet that if you post here, you get your comment read by a low-level government employee!

Dear reviewer: I hope your lunch truck is better than the one we had when I was working on the navy base. Although their chicken salad was edible.

[Update: JimC. points out that this story’s authenticity is being debated on Boing Boing. The contention is that there are small details which may not be accurate — hardly a reason to dismiss a story, as I have never read a story about someone I know that didn’t have at least one small error in it. They also point out that the reporter is getting the story from the professors, who were not directly involved. Since the reporter has re-affirmed the accuracy of his reporting, then to believe the story is false you must assert that the reporter is lying, or the professors lied to him, or the student lied to the professors. I assume this story will unfold further. Stay tuned.]

[UPDATE: It was all a hoax. Thanks for making UMass Dartmouth world famous… for having an idiot liaras a student.]

Posted by James at 9:43 PM | Comments (3)

They Spy

I haven’t posted about this domestic spying business. I can’t believe how little we expect out of this current administration, how much we’re willing to give up when the government tells us it needs to protect us.

It’s ironic, that the president has always been very specific in making sure he never implied we need to sacrifice any of our excessive habits of consumption to help in the war effort. However, he demands we sacrifice our critical thinking skills. The emperor has no clothes, and he has decreed that all his subjects must, for safety’s sake, walk around without any clothing as well. Irony upon irony. This from the most secretive administration we’ve seen in recent memory.

And hypocrisy.

“I don’t give a goddamn,” Bush retorted. “I’m the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way.”

“Mr. President,” one aide in the meeting said. “There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.”

“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”

When it comes to judges and appearances before the media, he’s a “strict constitutionalist.” When it comes to respecting your rights as a citizen, he wipes his saddle-sore behind with the constitution.

Why does the president need to secretly spy on people? Josh Marshall gives plenty of detail on previous warrant applications to the (already secret) FISA Court. In 25 years there have been thousands of applications for warrants. Only four times have those warrants been rejected. How do you make a case that the government is impeded by the FISA Court when they have only rejected 4 proposals?

Speed is not an issue, BTW. If time is of the essence, the Attorney General can proceed with a wiretap as long as a FISA request is issued within 72 hours.

Your White House would like to spy on you, and it would like to be able to do so without the interference of even a secret court.

But you’re not a terrorist, are you? You don’t mind a little unaccountable domestic spying. Welcome to America. Leave your clothes at the door.

Posted by James at 5:03 PM | Comments (5)

December 16, 2005

Shotgun Post... with SPICY club sauce

  • Showtime, ABC Try Getting “Arrested” - Dec 14, 2005 - E! Online News (tv, comedy, news)
    • Could Arrested Devlopment be moving to Showtime? According to this story, and a similar one in TVGuide… maybe!
  • WhiteTrashXmas (Christmas, animation, flash, funny)
    • I think this is a Bob Rivers song. All I know is, I think somebody ought to put a leash on that dog. Not entirely safe for work, but funny.
  • Weeee.swf (application/x-shockwave-flash Object) (wtf, flash, animation, music, squirrel, funny)
    • Gonads and Strife? What is that hopping mad squirrel singing about? Not really safe for work.
  • Roger Moore’s eyebrows of fun! (flash, funny, humor, wtf)
    • My God. What are Roger Moore’s eyebrows doing? They are serenading you, that’s what.
  • Drag-And-Drop Snowman Builder (flash, fun, Christmas, games)
    • It's raining outside here (well, freezing rain anyhow). So this is about the only way I’m going to get to make a snowman for a little while.
  • Convert PDF to HTML - Free Online Conversion: Tips, Tutorials, Downloads, Hacks (tips, software, free, google, hacks, email)
    • Need to convert a PDF file to HTML, quick? Try this trick: send it to yourself at a GMail account and use Google's "see it now" feature. Also works for Word docs, and a few other formats.
  • nLite - Make your Windows install… lighter (free, tools, utilities, windows, xp, win2k)
    • Ever notice that when you install Windows, Windows installs a lot of junk you don't need? nLight is a free tool designed to help you remove unwanted components. Further, it will then help you burn a CD for a future reinstall that doesn't have those unwant
  • BTbot - BitTorrent Search Engine (bittorrent, search, entertainment)
    • Another BitTorrent searcher. Not that I use BitTorrent for anything other than legal means. Really.
  • Ding Fries Are Done!! (humor, food, music, animation, video)
    • Animation, song and lyrics for a holiday fast food carol. Been there, done that, but at McD’s.
  • The Internet Is For Porn (machinma) (video, animation, pr0n, humor, funny)
    • Some people took that crazy “The Internet Is For Porn” song and animated it with video game characters. Watch it! NSFW
  • ambivalent imbroglio: Hearsay Exception Movie! (law, animation, video)
    • Fellow has created a little movie to aid in the memory of the legal situation known as a “hearsay exception.” You may recognize the tune. Ingenious study strategy.
  • World Wide Wood: A Holiday Faux Pas (humor, blog, local, images, consumerism, holidays)
    • Dear Market Basket: “Happy Holidays” might have been a more appropriate-appearing approach.
  • Conan’s Walker Texas Ranger Clips (tv, humor)
    • Conan O’Brian’s show sometimes features odd clips from Walker Texas Ranger. It’s damn funny. A must see, if you need a dose of “WTF?”
  • Gmail File Space (firefox, extensions, free, google, utilities, tools)
    • Use your gmail account like an online hard drive… through Firefox! Works like acharm, but the files ahve to be smaller than 10MB each.
  • Radical Apathy Features: Dog Owners are Sadists (humor, images, animals, pets, dogs, funny, wtf)
    • If these dogs could talk, they’d never let you hear the end of it since you took their dignity away.
  • Adorable Picard (startrek, video, audio, humor)
    • Picard sings the alphabet for Mr. Crusher.
Posted by James at 9:31 AM | Comments (8)

December 15, 2005

Newport Storm


Newport Storm
Originally uploaded by Dr Momentum.
The Newport Storm '05 is the winter seasonal special beer from the local-ish Newport Storm brewery.

I've heard good things about it. A little pricey (in the range of S.A. Chocolate Bock, almost) but I'm hoping it's worth it. At 11.5% alcohol content, it's more like a barleywine than a regular beer.

To the left of the '05 is a bottle of Blizzard Porter. It's one of the best bottled porters I've had in a while and I highly recommend it to fans of that style. It has a bite, but not overpowering, and some winey notes to it. Not as crunchy as a stout, it is a wonderful winter brew. I think I might place it at or above my seasonal favorite "Old Fezziwig."

I'll have to get back to you on the flavor of '05 -- I haven't cracked one open yet.

For those wondering how we eventually found the '05, Mike made an appearance at my office today and we snuck off with Sara to grab a bite to eat. On the way back to the office, Derek called and alerted me to the fact that Douglas Liquors in Fairhaven had gotten a shipment of '05. Thanks, Derek! We mad a quick detour and stocked up.

When I got there, I had to ask for it because it wasn't shelved. The guy said to me "Are you Derek?" and I told him, "No, but I'm a friend of his."

"Yeah, he told us he was going to spread the word."

"News travels fast." I pointed out. Thanks, Douglas Liquors, for coming through on the beer. They have an excellent selection at that place, BTW.

Posted by James at 2:48 PM | Comments (6)

December 14, 2005

Glurge: The Eye of God

I received the following glurgy email. I include it here with my comments added in bracketed italics.

This photo is a very rare one, taken by NASA. This kind of event occurs once in 3000 years. [This is a nebula. It's like looking at a mountain range and saying that "this kind of event occurs once in 3000 years. Nebulas and mountain ranges are not really events.]

This photo has done miracles in many lives.

Make a wish .... you have looked at the eye of God. [Funny, looks more like a sphincter to me. Maybe it is the sphincter of God! And whenever someone spies God's anus, he grants them a wish. It's a known fact.]

Surely you will see the changes in your life within a day. [You will find yourself becoming more regular. However if you notice a change in the consistency of your stool, please consult your doctor.]

Whether you believe it or not, don't keep this mail with you. [For God's sake - keeping this mail with you ought to be the last thing you do. Only a complete fool would keep this mail with him. You're not a complete fool, are you?]

Pass this at least to 7 persons. [Especially if you know anybody constipated or anal retentive.]

This is a picture NASA took with the Hubbell telescope. [And god knows that not too many of the images that come out of the Hubble telescope are this impressive. But maybe you get different images when you're using the Hubbell.]

Called "The Eye of God." [Yeah. I'm pretty sure that NASA didn't name it that. You'd think they'd have mentioned it when it was the picture of the day on their website. But whatever. Still looks sphincterish.]

Too awesome to delete. [Just watch me.] It is worth sharing.[I'd say "misery loves company, but it is a nice picture. It's just the text that is inane.]

During the next 60 seconds, Stop whatever you are doing, and take this opportunity. [...Opportunity for what? Getting caught at work staring offinto space?]

(Literally it is only One minute!) [Thanks, because I thought for a second that you were talking about 15 minutes there.]

Just send this to people and see what happens. Do not break this, please. [I think it's already broken. What's this rose have to do with anything? A touch of class? That would make a good vanity plate.]

Posted by James at 12:04 PM | Comments (12)

You and James Read the News

Iranian Leader Calls Holocaust a Myth

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has described the Holocaust as “a myth” and suggested that Israel be moved to Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska.

Apparently, Alaska is no longer part of the US. But on the subject of the story, I think we established that this guy was a fruitcake when he called for Israel to be wiped off the map.

This is Iran. The country we didn’t invade.

Xbox 360 not a Hit in Japan

Microsoft Corp.’s new Xbox 360 video game console got a lukewarm welcome in Japan on its debut weekend with fans buying less than half the games available in stores, a market researcher said Tuesday. The cool reception could spell trouble for Microsoft as it tries to break into the world’s second-largest video game market and challenge the longtime dominance of Sony’s PlayStation.

Maybe they’d just rather buy local.

SMS fuels race riots

In case you’ve been missing it, there have been crazy race riots going on in the city of Sydney. Violence against lifeguards by a number of middle eastern looking men has led to mob attacks on Lebanese and other middle eastern appearing folk in the city. This story discusses the weird phenomenon of text messages connected to the riots.

Text messages were used to incite mob violence against people of Middle Eastern appearance at Sydney’s Cronulla beach on Sunday in retaliation for an earlier attack on surf lifesavers.

Further text messages and emails have been circulating in Sydney this week, calling for groups to gather at Cronulla and other beaches this weekend.

Queensland police said text messages calling for people to start “cracking skulls” had surfaced on the Gold Coast. Similar messages were reported yesterday in Victoria and Western Australia.

Authorities are questioning whether these really have anything to do with the riots. Are SMS mobs he wave of the future? Dial-a-mob.

Researcher tries to distance himself from cloning work

Some of stem-cell researcher Hwang Woo-suk’s high-profile human cloning work announced earlier this year may have been “fabricated,” a former top collaborator charged as he attempted to distance himself from the groundbreaking research.

Also, it turns out he plagiarized most of it from his clone.

Court pardons smitten bra burglar

A Chinese man who repeatedly broke into the home of a neighbor he secretly loved, at one point sneaking out with a bra and some photos, has been let off the hook by a Chinese court, Xinhua news agency said Tuesday.

The man confessed to breaking into the woman’s home five times, including once while she was sleeping, though he had fled as soon as she woke up, Xinhua said.

Police caught him red-handed in November walking out of the neighbor’s apartment with a key to her door, a bra, two photographs and her MP3 player, the report on Xinhua’s English Web site, www.chinaview.cn, said.

When asked about the Mp3 player, the man said: “Um, I really like her taste in music, too.”

Bush Bubble

U.S.President George W. Bush said on Monday that he does not live “in a bubble” and that he is well aware of what is going on outside the White House, rejecting critics’ claims that he is out of touch with public opinion.

Then he said he hoped everyone was going to have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Man goes wrong way on highway for 11 miles

A Frenchman drove up a motorway in the wrong direction for 11 miles, crashing into five other vehicles and killing one person and injuring three others including two children, police said.

We’ve got you beat, France. We’ve got a guy who’s been driving a whole country the wrong way for 5 years.

Posted by James at 10:02 AM | Comments (3)

December 12, 2005

When Does James Get Angry?

When he is so busy with work that he forgets that Arrested Development is on at 8:00, not 9:00.

*$#& work.

Posted by James at 9:24 PM | Comments (5)

Thing of Christmas

I am swamped with work, but if you’ve got a moment you can read Maggie’s treatment of the War on Christmas (much more succinct and humorous than mine) on Thing of Ugly.

It about the true spirit of the season!

Posted by James at 12:42 PM | Comments (1)

December 9, 2005

Kitschmas Shotgun

James saw the links.
These are the links he said he saw.
These are web pages that people say they are seeing now.
Are they proof that we are being visited by wackos from other places?
Or just what are they?
Aces Full of Links began an investigation of this high strangeness in a search for the truth.
What you are about to see is part of that 1 week search.

Posted by James at 10:04 AM

December 8, 2005

Calls to Cancel Mardi Gras

There have been calls by New Orleans residents to cancel Mardi Gras on the philosophy that the city should not be planning a party when there are still people who do not have electricity and are still suffering the effects of the hurricane damage.

City officials and tourism leaders have pledged to use an abbreviated carnival this winter as a springboard, a way to reintroduce New Orleans as a viable city. Their October announcement that Mardi Gras would go on despite Hurricane Katrina met with an enormous cheer.

But many community activists — particularly leaders of poor, black neighborhoods that were destroyed by the floodwaters and have sat virtually untouched since — have turned against the idea.

[…]”In New Orleans, everything is about race at the end of the day,” Cosey said.

“Who will they be holding this party for? They shouldn’t be preparing for Mardi Gras,” he said. “They should be trying to get families back in neighborhoods. They should be trying to get New Orleans back on its feet.”

I heard this story on NPR last night, and I have to say that I agree with this sentiment:

Arthur Hardy — a New Orleans resident who has published the Mardi Gras Guide, a popular festival handbook, for three decades — said there were legitimate questions about the scope of the carnival and how the city would cater to visitors. But if Mardi Gras were canceled, he said, “it would be an announcement that New Orleans is not open for business.”

Obviously, the hospitality industry finds it very important to try to celebrate this year. It’s quite possible that I am missing the dynamic here, but I don’t see why a celebration that has the potential of pumping some money into the New Orleans economy shouldn’t be planned. Are these people also going to object to the celebration of Christmas, and birthdays, and such?

Mayor Nagin, for his part, stepped into doo doo when he suggested that the hotel industry give up some of their profits as a result of Mardi Gras. This has both failed to placate the people calling for a Mardi Gras boycott and has got the hotel and restaurant industries fuming.

So, what do you think? Should New Orleans be trying to keep the tourism coming in, or is it going to get in the way of helping people?

Posted by James at 2:03 PM | Comments (9)

New Front in the War on Christmas

This silly War on Christmas has been blogging paydirt for me. Or cause for blogorrhea, depending on how you look at it.

People, they make it tough to be a friendly atheist when they tell me there’s no way someone with no religious beliefs can issue a meaningful “Happy Holidays.” But, on to the rant, and then probably the end of this subject on my weblog. For today, anyhow.

No, this isn’t about the Preznit using “Happy Holidays” on his Xmas cards. Although it’s worth reading this story about that in the Independent Online for one of the best summaries of this controversy yet:

But the right-wing fringe has become expert at whipping up outrage over phony cultural controversies and scapegoating the “liberal elite” which supposedly runs the country. (Even though Republicans are in charge of almost everything.)

No, this is about a whole new front in this war that you’re probably not hearing quite as much outrage about.

This Christmas, no prayers will be said in several megachurches around the country. Even though the holiday falls this year on a Sunday, when churches normally host thousands for worship, pastors are canceling services, anticipating low attendance on what they call a family day.

Critics within the evangelical community, more accustomed to doing battle with department stores and public schools over keeping religion in Christmas, are stunned by the shutdown.

It is almost unheard of for a Christian church to cancel services on a Sunday, and opponents of the closures are accusing these congregations of bowing to secular culture.

Let me walk you through it. These very large churches have decided that because their congregations will most probably just be spending time with their families on Sunday, it’s not worth it for them to have services on that day. On Christmas day. Which falls on a Sunday.

Is it possible that these churches have canceled services for purely practical reasons? Maybe they’re out working in the community on that day.

Whatever. The reasons don’t matter. Sentiments don’t matter. What matters is whether or not there is an appearance that the shadowy secularists (the equivalent of terrorists in this War on Christmas) are gaining ground in the public arena this holiday season.

So, naturally they catch flack according to the logic of the rest of the War on Christmas claptrap.

The wrinkle here is that it’s not as entertaining to attack other Christian churches. You run the risk of looking like one of those anti-Christian terrorist secularist people who are oppressing the single most humongous religion in our country. So, a few evangelicals object, but you won’t see Bill O’Reilly on the attack. You won’t hear about it over and over again on Fox.

So finally we can analyze what it comes down to. And apparently an atheist is needed to to explain it.

Christmas isn’t at Target, no matter what Bill O’Reilly said last year when he first made hay over “Happy Holidays.” Christmas isn’t At Walmart, no matter who the American Family Association is planning to boycott next (as they famously did with Disney).

The loudest of those promulgating a “War on Christmas” are not protesting the secular celebration of Christmas. They are not decrying the excessive consumption. They’re not up in arms about huge holiday spending. “Ban over-the-top revelry” is not their rallying cry. If it were, they could easily lead by example. They would be boycott all Christmas gift-giving. They could boycott all non-Jesus-related trappings of the season in the American celebration that has grown up around Christmas. They could remove the fun and leave the religion.

But their declarations of war are clear. The “War on Christmas” is about the wording that businesses use in their advertising. The complaint is (at its heart) that businesses are not fulfilling their responsibility in conflating the (I am told) religious holy day Christmas with the commercial aspects of the holiday season.

What about people wishing you a “Happy Holidays?” That’s not about commercialism. It’s just a clear affront, right? Because if an atheist has nothing to celebrate around the solstice (in your view) then he should just keep his mouth shut because it ruins your Xmas. Or holiday season.

Here’s a list, for your enjoyment.

  1. Christmas isn’t a season, it’s a day. There is no Christmas Season in the Bible. But if you slip and say “Christmas Season” it’s OK - I know you really mean “Holiday Season” and I am making the substitution for you in my head automatically. Heck, I often slip up and say “Christmas Season” myself.
  2. The “Holiday Season” refers to a time of the year where there are a lot of holidays, and it appears to start around Halloween. You might be upset about that, but after Halloween is when people begin preparing for Thanksgiving. I didn’t make the rules. Note, people don’t talk about Thanksgiving Season, because it’s already part of the Holiday Season. Thanksgiving is not part of a fictitious “Christmas Season.”
  3. The holiday season (for me) culminates and ends in New Years. Well, to us atheists it’s New Years. We commonly call it “The Circumcision” in this Christian nation, right? Be sure to wish everyone a Merry Circumcision before you leave work for your circumcision celebration. Get good and drunk, because circumcision is painful. Others may have religious celebrations that last past New Years. I don’t mind extending the holiday season for them. Why not? It’s been going on since after Halloween.
  4. There are atheists who celebrate at the end of the year. It’s really none of your business what they’re celebrating, unless you’ve been invited to celebrate with them. And this atheist doesn’t particularly care what you think of his celebrations. You may insist that there are no non-religious celebrations around the solstice. You may also insist that people can’t fly, that you can’t talk to someone in another country, that a machine can’t beat a person at chess. It’s up to you how you want to appear.
  5. When I wish you a “Merry Christmas” or a “Happy Holidays” or a “Happy Hanukkah” I mean them equally sincerely. If you’re insulted by a sincere wish of happiness, then one of us is an asshole.
  6. 23.45° - that’s the reason for the season. It’s the 23.45 degree tilt of the Earth’s axis. In fact, it’s the reason for all the seasons. Jesus is the reason there is a Christmas. If you’re talking about the Holiday Season, the reason that so many celebrations are clustered around the solstice is rooted in the solstice, and you’re back at 23.45 degrees. BTW - the Earth’s tilt is secular (i.e. Worldly rather than spiritual).
  7. I hope you have a merry Christmas. Really. If you’re religious, I hope it’s deeply spiritual for you. Just like I hope the same for everybody else celebrating their holy days. I don’t particularly care which one it is you celebrate.
  8. If shopping is the spirit of Christmas, then it makes some sense that WalMart should wish you a Merry Christmas.
  9. If you don’t like people focusing on the non-religious aspects of certain religious holy days, maybe you should protest the use of Christmas Trees, and other non-religions trappings. I’m not really trying to tell you what to do, but if you want to deny that there is a secular celebration at all, the real protest would be in eliminating the commercial and secular aspects. From the point of view of an American Christmas celebrator, this is a progressive idea because it moves away from the way we were brought up. From the point of view of a devout Christian, I imagine that this is would be an extremely conservative idea, because it is a return to the type of observance that people like the Massachusetts pilgrims had. But Bill O’Reilly knows that this would never fly with people celebrating the “Holiday Season,” so there is no use sticking to that principle (that Christmas is a solemn, reverent occasion). Or, at the very least, you’d want to replace all the non-Christian pagan stuff with Christian stuff. Some people do do this. But I don’t see them on TV, or publishing books, or stirring the pot about a “War on Christmas.” Because, I agree with you, except for the war part. I agree that the American Christmas celebration interferes with the religious Christmas. Maybe it’s not so great after all to mix religion and other things. Because maybe your fun holiday gets so popular that “peace on Earth, goodwill toward men” on the one hand and crass commercialization on the other overshadows Jesus. And instead of protesting that process, which is controlled by no one person and is not a war so much as it is an effect of the melting pot society, people like the American Family Association are left to declare a silly boycott about whether the word “Christmas” is out there in the advertising.

I think I’ve covered pretty much all the bases by now. Now I’m going to go have some egg nog as I watch for actual meaningful protests to roll in. But I won’t hold my breath, because it’s no fun to protest against other Christians, and unless you institute taliban-like rule, there’s not much you can do to force people to celebrate your holy day.

Posted by James at 11:17 AM | Comments (20)

December 7, 2005

Giving Tree

We rejoin James’ rant, already in progress.

I guess I have a few more of these “War on Christmas” posts in me. Because there is plenty more idiocy to go around. And I don’t want to be exclusionary.

However, you might see this post as my attempt at “fairness and balance” because it comes from a conservative place in my brain. And it is that, but it’s also that you have ignorant people on one side of an issue making demands, and this wakes up the pot stirrers and the radio buffoons and we have to hear about a full-out assault in the “War on Christmas.”

Here we go:

The kids and their parents decided on a “Giving Tree.” It would have mittens as decorations and the mittens would carry the age and sex of the person getting the present and what they would really like this holiday season.

But the efforts ran afoul of some sensibilities. A parent complained that the tree was a Christian symbol. The principal agreed to remove the tree, but continue the giving effort.

Listen, people. The tree is not a Christian symbol. It is rooted in much older solstice-time traditions, and was really popularized by Americans as part of their Christmas celebration. Like the Thanksgiving turkey, it is much more a product of American celebration than anything related to Christian worship. And its actual religious roots are not even Christian.

In this case, it wasn’t even a tree. And they didn’t call it a Christmas tree; they called it a Giving Tree for Xsake.

The school caved, and now they have a “Giving Counter.”

This accomplishes nothing except blandification. Even a militant anti-Christian or anti-Religionist gains nothing from removing a giving tree. Because it’s not a symbol of worship.

So, a few ignorant people add fuel to the people promoting this “War on Christmas” meme. They share some of the blame for annoying me.

Posted by James at 11:23 AM | Comments (3)

Intelligent Designers Communicate Their Argument With Fists

For a few weeks, I’ve been planning a post about Kansas.

After I read this story:

Creationism and intelligent design have found a home at The University of Kansas. But supporters of the two theories are none too happy that the home is in a course being offered next semester by the religion department, titled “Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies.”

(found via Verbatim)

After reading this, it occurred to me that I had, in the past, been a little hard on Kansas. Clearly, there are people in Kansas who are stuck fighting off the crazy injection of religion into science. If I’m going to say things like “Kansas Science” I ought to exempt the people who are fighting for good science to be taught. They’ve got it pretty hard. But I dragged my feet on the post. And it turned out that they have it even harder than I thought.

Thugs beat up the professor who had been planning to offer that class juxtaposing evolution and Intelligent Design.

University of Kansas religious studies professor Paul Mirecki said that the two men who beat him made references to the class that was to be offered for the first time this spring.

Originally called “Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies,” the course was canceled last week at Mirecki’s request.

The course was already canceled, possibly as a result of the reaction to Mirecki’s lack of respect for religion in email comments that were made public in local newspapers. This made for an environment that Mirecki claimed would not serve the educational process of serious students well.

But the cancellation of the course was not enough. Apparently, some thought that Mirecki needed to be taught a more painful lesson in what happens when you want to teach others about the lack of science in their mythology.

Perhaps these people are feeling desperation, fearing the imminent academic death of Intelligent Design? According to the newspaper of record:

Behind the headlines, however, intelligent design as a field of inquiry is failing to gain the traction its supporters had hoped for. It has gained little support among the academics who should have been its natural allies. And if the intelligent design proponents lose the case in Dover, there could be serious consequences for the movement’s credibility.

On college campuses, the movement’s theorists are academic pariahs, publicly denounced by their own colleagues. Design proponents have published few papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

ID supporters, of course, are already starting to downplay the importance of the Dover case. In fact, they feel that failure is such a high probability and carries with it high profile damage that they took surprising measures:

Advocates of intelligent design perceived the risk as so great that the [pro-ID] Discovery Institute said it had tried to dissuade the school board in Dover from going ahead and taking a stand in favor of intelligent design. The institute opposed the Dover board’s action, it said, because it “politicized” what should be a scientific issue.

Now, with a decision due in four or five weeks, design proponents like Mr. West of Discovery said the Dover trial was a “sideshow” - one that will have little bearing on the controversy.

Politics works when it is in your favor. But when you’re losing on the science and the courts wake up, you start to realize the free ride you’ve been getting by hiding in the dark of a demon-haunted world. And you try to claw your way back out of the light.

Posted by James at 8:05 AM | Comments (8)

December 6, 2005

Merry Christmas (in advance)

So, clearly, I’ve become both more annoyed and more amused at this war on Christmas business since the pot-stirrers turned up the rhetoric on it this year. (See previous post)

For the record, I’m not planning on letting any of this “War On Christmas” (cue the nightly news graphics and music) have any effect AT ALL on the way I celebrate. I’m still going to say things like “Have a merry Christmas.” and “happy holidays” and “holiday season” and “campus store.”

I refuse to be self-conscious about it. I may even use “Xmas” — and not to insult ignorant people who think it’s taking Christ out of Christmas, but just because I want to use it and there’s no good reason not to.

I don’t want to take the Christ out of your Christmas. I can’t imagine caring how you, or celebrate your Christmasses. And I’m not sure why any of you should care how I celebrate my Christmas.1 Or, really, how I greet you as long as it doesn’t devolve into “screw you.”

Is it a Holiday Tree? Is it a Christmas Tree? I don’t care what you call it, but to me it is a Christmas Tree. Since I was little. Regardless of faith. It’s an American tradition no matter what you call it. And whatever happened to people being happy that you could still sneak in your influence no matter what you called it? If people can agree on decorating a tree on the town commons, and they say that the town needs to call it a “holiday tree” if they’re going to keep the tradition, shouldn’t Christians snicker to themselves and say “no matter what you call it, it’s still a Christmas tree - silly secularists!” And they will continue to actually call it a Christmas tree. And so will everyone else.

This year had too many bad things happen in it to dwell on stuff like this.

Except maybe for a laugh.

1 Excepting those of you who have expressed the preference that I not get tipsy and sing “Stille Nacht” followed by “Haul Away Joe” on the steep and frozen roof of our office. Your concern for my health and wellbeing is appreciated, but I know you are extremely concerned about my almost nonexistent grasp of German and my tendency to gesticulate wildly when singing sea shanties.

Posted by James at 9:18 PM | Comments (7)

Why I Will Not Shop At The Campus Store


Campus Store Hearth
Originally uploaded by Dr Momentum.
The campus store is all decked out in finery, but notice the greeting they choose to place above the wreath:

CAMPUS STORE

No mention of Jesus. Clearly, the campus store does not wish me a "Merry Christmas." If they wished me a "Merry Christmas" the sign would say "Merry Christmas." Or mention Jesus.

If you use any greeting other than "Merry Christmas" after Thanksgiving, you are purposefully wishing someone a bad Christmas (or calling for the destruction of Christianity). Otherwise, you would just say "Merry Christmas." It's a very simple principle.

There is special dispensation for Jews. Jews can say "Happy Hanukkah" and not mean anything by it. They don't know any better because they were brought up to say "Happy Hanukkah" and not "Merry Christmas." But the UMassD campus store is not run by Jews -- I checked.

Since it does not say "Merry Christmas" I can only conclude the following things:

1) The campus store is run by liberal university heathens.

2) Everyone at the campus store is at war on Christmas, including the shoppers who knowlingly participate in this travesty.

3) Fake fire, fake tree, fake hearth... even though they don't mention Christmas by name, they are mocking it. And therefore, mocking all Christians. And therefore, Jesus.

In the shifty way of campus liberals, if you confronted these folks they might try to backpedal and actually wish you a "Happy Holidays." Fuel to the fire, I say! And I will not contenance such a personal affront.

I would fix them in my steely glare, curl my lips back and wish them a "Very Merry Christmas" through my teeth. And I would wait there and allow the religiousness of my statement to sink in through that thick secular skin. I would wait until I saw my barb hit its mark.

And then I would turn on my heel and march right out of there.


Posted by James at 5:33 PM | Comments (5)

December 5, 2005

Clear The Baffles

The 17th rule of blogging is that you have to post every once in a while or people think you have strangled yourself with the cordless mouse. So a good stream of consciousness post is warranted every once in a while when you’ve got stuff on your mind but little time to be coherent about it.

Stuff piles up. Most of it is stupid stuff, like me wanting to tell you that my spell-checker doesn’t like “cordless.” Wants to turn it into “cord less.” Silly machines.

So, I worked all weekend. That was fun. The less said about that, the better. However, I see the students running around like mad doing their end of semester work. Some are also diligently working on our project. You know who you are. When I got in one morning, one student, who shall remain nameless, wandered downstairs looking bleary-eyed. He’d been upstairs all night at the office. But it turns out the fellow spent at least a half hour actually sleeping. It’s that kind of slacker behavior that makes me fear for the youth of this country.

Speaking of Derek, he lent me the rude, crude, and quite funny movie “Run Ronnie Run!” It’s sort of a prequel to “Run Lola Run” but performed by ferrets and a marionette of the late (not) president Jefferson Davis.

Oh, you want a real review? Too bad. I want to know why I thought “Supermaitonation” was “Supermarionation.” I guess I was not focused on reading while watching “Thunderbirds.”

SNL was better than average this week. You can thank Dane Cook. He was on the Tonight Show this year and complemented Charlize Theron so generously that he had to apologize for “kissing her ass” and then she offered her behind and he did indeed commence to kiss said behind. Leno was upset he hadn’t thought to try that.

It’s Monday morning, and you’ll read just about anything if you’re still reading this. But I hear you yawning, so I’d better say something interesting, quick.

So, hey, how about this war on Christmas everyone is talking about, eh? You’ve got people ready to go out there and protest the war on Christmas. They’re going to write to congress to make sure that War Powers On Christmas act never gets passed. But, they will surely fail. Operation Enduring Secularism will sweep an unsuspecting country.

Before you know it, over 2000 pipers piping and drummers drumming will be casualties of the War on Christmas, but don’t expect any pullout. You don’t withdraw your maids-a-milking while they’ve got their hands on the udders of Christianity. They’re going to squeeze hard and milk this holiday for all it’s worth.

The secret secular agenda is this:

  1. Get everyone to sing “Jingle Bells” before they realize that it never mentions religion. As the realization dawns, watch the fun as they tell you they are affronted by your song, and have never been so insulted before. They will say “Merry Christmas” to you, but this time they mean it in a sliiiightly different way. In the true spirit of giving, you have given the gift of self-righteousness.
  2. We will seek ways to please people secularly. (please, read this hilarious review slamming Arrested Development. Even a negative review of the show is funny.)
  3. I dunno… stab people with candy canes?

Come on, people. Really.

I went to the supermarket today and was oddly compelled to pick up a cactus pear, or prickly pear, or whatever those infernal things are. I got a number of glochids stuck in my hands. Yow. They’re little barbed hairs and I’ve been picking them off with tweezers for hours. They’re almost too small to see, but you can feel them. Every time you rub your hand on something, your hand hurts.

To get back at the cactus pear, I plan to eat it. When I figure out how not to get bit again. What’s a cactus pear have to do with tuna?

It snowed today. Yes, it is December, after all.

I’m not going to let the snow, the work, or any of the odd BS surrounding Xmas this year get me down.

I used to think that Christmas spirit is something you felt around the holiday season. As if it would just creep up on you and you’d suddenly feel happy. Thinking back on that, I believe this is a recipe for depression. Any time you expect a feeling, you’ve got a huge chance for disappointment.

In any case, that’s not what this time of year is about. Winter is here, and people naturally feel like crap. The holiday season is an opportunity to try to think of ways you can make other people’s lives better. And your own as well because we’re all in this together. Companionship, sticking together, giving, singing, celebrating life, it’s all supposed to remind us that life is not just one long winter. Not on the inside, where it counts.

If you’re still with me, I hope you enjoyed this brain dump. And maybe you learned a little something. About yourself.

Posted by James at 2:43 AM | Comments (12)

December 2, 2005

Kaput's Public Service Award

Presented today in Boston. The decision to award this was made before his death, so he knew he was to receive it.

Click image for larger view.

Posted by James at 6:24 PM | Comments (1)

S-to-tha-Hotgunt

The guy in the… the $4,000 suit is uploading a shotgun post for a guy who doesn’t make that in three months? Come on!

  • MAKE’s Mostly Under $100 Gift Guide 2005! (shopping, diy, magazine, blog, toys, wishlist)
    • Great ideas for <$100 holiday gifts, if you’ve got engineering/gadget geeks in your circle of friends.
  • Flash Puzzle (animation, flash, game, fun, puzzle)
    • Easy jigsaw puzzle, but novel for the fact that the pieces are animated. Very similar to somehting from Banjo Kazooie.
  • Grand Illusions (illusion, magic, fun, photography, physics, science, tricks, weird)
    • Many interesting illusions, some of which even I in my weird travels have not seen before. This link is worth a visit for the Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid link alone - aka Dr Angry and Mr Smiles.
  • Life of Larry Part 2 (animation, video, tv, funny, humor)
    • More Life of Larry
  • Life of Larry Part 1 (funny, humor, video, tv, animation)
    • Seth MacFarlane's student film. The seeds of Family Guy are unmistakable.
  • Howstuffworks “How Swearing Works” (language, science, words)
    • Why do you swear? Where is swearing processed in your brain? You need to know.
  • U.N. Man (flash, funny, wft)
    • UN Man is funky. It's his birthday, and he just wants to help.
  • One Red Paperclip (blog, funny, lifehacks, wtf, stories)
    • Can you trade a red paperclip for a house? Well, maybe you could trade a red paperclip for successively bigger and bigger things, and eventually get a house. That's what this fellow is trying to do — trade up from red paperclip to house.
  • Oprah's Problem (humor, images, tv)
    • Looks like Oprah has some 'splaining to do.
  • Cyber Monday safe shopping tips | 43 Folders (shopping, online, consumerism)
    • Tips for a safe cyber-shopping season, collected on 43 Folders.
  • string spin - zefrank.com (fun, graphics, flash)
    • It's a spinning flash thing. You draw in the air and this thing spins your pencil line in 3D.
  • Readability.info: Readability scores in a flash! (writing, tools, english)
    • Have your web page or Word document judged for readability, lickity-split, using a variety of formulas.
  • MeetWithApproval.com, A great idea for meetings, parties, friends, reunions, weekends, corporate events (organization, work, web, tools)
    • Online meeting scheduler.
Posted by James at 9:56 AM | Comments (11)

December 1, 2005

On the Radio

Remember: I listen to the local talk radio so you don’t have to. No, really, I can’t help myself. It REALLY is a sort of rubbernecking experience.

In any case, it gives me something quick to blog when I am busy.

Today’s topic was the audit of the City of Fall River’s books. Apparently, there was a call for an independent audit last election cycle. Actually, it was a call to ask the state to do an independent audit, and the state said “no” because it didn’t see a reason to spend the money when there is a yearly audit already.

The amusing thing is that we have callers calling in and suggesting that they don’t think there is any monkey business going on with the current auditors, but they still want another organization to handle the audits in the future. One reason given: to introduce fresh ideas into the audit.

Now, I’m no expert in accounting. But, as I understand it, accounting is one of those areas where you do not want fresh ideas. You want the same old accurate accounting ideas.

The only possible reason to call in another group is if you do suspect that the current audit is either incompetent or corrupt. But nobody wants to say that because, as far as I know, there is no evidence of this.

And this is how you fill hours of radio time talking about basically nothing.

Posted by James at 11:54 AM | Comments (2)