Monday, March 30, 2009

Yet more inconvenient truths

Some now say that variations in atmospheric dust levels affect the temperature of the Atlantic ocean far more than global warming. They are claiming that 70 per cent of the change in Atlantic temperature over recent decades has resulted from reduced dust, rather than climate change. What kind of Holocaust-denying, flat-Earth, anti-science right wingnuts are saying this?

"The new analysis comes from scientists in the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Wisconsin. They say that the Atlantic temperature trend has been warmer by approximately a quarter of a degree each decade since 1980: but that most of this is actually because more sunlight is reaching the sea due to reducing levels of dirt in the air above it.

"A lot of this upward trend in the long-term pattern can be explained just by dust storms and volcanoes," says Amato Evan of Wisconsin uni. "About 70 percent of it is just being forced by the combination of dust and volcanoes, and about a quarter of it is just from the dust storms themselves."... The researchers say that predicting what will happen to atmospheric dust levels in future is difficult, with volcanoes notoriously random and African dust storms poorly understood. Nonetheless, according to Amato, future ocean-warming models will need to make allowance for them somehow or their predictions will be well out of whack." (my emphasis)

The Register story here
The actual paper here (requires subscription)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Does Satan exist?

That was the subject of an interesting debate on Nightline, here in two parts.





I rather doubt that anyone reading this blog would say that Satan exists- but it is important to understand that a majority of our fellow Americans do, and to understand what that means to them.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Quantum God?

I have speculated that god may exist in the quantum world. Now, according to this BBC story,
physicists are wondering the same thing.

Calling out the gay-basher



This doesn't mean homophobia has ended, any more than the election of President Obama means that racism has ended- but it does mean we've turned the corner. Keep up the pressure!

Find out your brainsex

British neuropsychologist Dr Anne Moir is at the front line of the struggle to try and make the boys in Britain's schools enthusiastic about learning. Body sex does not necessarily match brain sex so Dr Moir has devised a test to determine the gender of the brain.

I scored a six, which is decidedly male, with some feminine traits- fair enough. But I wonder, is it just that I fit certain stereotypes, or are they stereotypes because they're true? I'd be curious to see if transsexuals score as being in the wrong body, or if the body controls enough of the stereotypes to make the test indecisive?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Biblical morality

One question Christians frequently ask Pagans is how, absent the Bible, can you develop a moral sense and moral code? Evidently their fears are justified; I scored a zero on this test of Biblical morality

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Are some Anti-Racism, Anti-Oppression programs really another form of racism?

I have long thought so, and a recent news story reminded me of a lively blog discussion that touched on this. The blog discussion (here and here)concerned the definition of cultural racism used by a public school system:
Cultural Racism:Those aspects of society that overtly and covertly attribute value and normality to white people and Whiteness, and devalue, stereotype, and label people of color as “other”, different, less than, or render them invisible. Examples of these norms include defining white skin tones as nude or flesh colored, having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard, and identifying only Whites as great writers or composers.


Cut to the news story that reminded me of these discussions: First Lady Michelle Obama Reflects on Talking 'Like a White Girl' . I was particularly struck by this exchange between Ms. Obama and a grade school student:"And when one student asked her, "How did you get to where you are now?" she credited, in part, her command of the language.
"I remember there were kids around my [Chicago] neighborhood who would say, 'Ooh, you talk funny. You talk like a white girl.' I heard that growing up my whole life. I was like, 'I don't even know what that means but I am still getting my A.'"


In other words, she got where she is by "...having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard,..." What if Barack and Michelle had grown up with more enlightened teachers who knew that defining one form of English as standard was racist, and encouraged them to keep it real with ebonics? What if Michelle had been told to conform to a more collective ideology with her peers, rather than adopting the white ambition for individual A's? What if they had been told that "a future time orientation"- things like punctuality and delayed gratification- were white concepts, and it was racist to expect it of them? While they are both so talented they'd have succeeded at something, there's no way in hell she'd have been a corporate executive, and he the President of the United States. How many minority children have been kept from being all that they can be anti-racism programs, using modern definitions of "racism", that result in the child being totally unprepared for real life after leaving the public schools? And isn't any program that results in real harm to minority children racist, regardless of intent?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Faust, Jabez Stone,

and Peter Tork rest easy- Californian judges have ruled that a contract written in blood is not legally enforceable.

I drove Ginger to work today

And as she works on the far North-east corner of the city, that involved a trip on I465. For those of you who don't know Indianapolis, that's the high speed Interstate loop around the city. Now, as anyone who lives in a major city with a three-digit loop knows, that can be quite an adventure at rush hour; either terrifying or exhilarating, depending upon your reaction to adrenaline. Over the years, I have developed a method of handling the traffic- I won't say it's the only way, but it at least has the virtue of being unique: I use signals. I have noticed commuters have three basic reactions to this:

Some will freeze behind the wheel in shock, like a deer caught in headlights. As they struggle for composure, their speed tends to bleed off a bit- if I time it right, it allows me to change lanes.

Others become confused- signals on the Interstate? Is he insane, or is this some new form of road rage? Either way, they want no part of it; they clear room around me until I look like a bit of penicillin mold on a Petrie dish.

A few- possibly resident aliens who learned to drive in Paris or Rome- have never seen a turn signal before, and rush up on you to see what's about to happen. Those are easily handled; just lightly touch the brake pedal enough to make the brake lights come on. Even a Roman taxi cab driver knows what those are, and respects them- at least when they're on the back of a pickup truck.

As I said, I have done this for a number of years now, and i think some other drivers may be copying my technique- I've seen other cars use signals twice now; once last October, and then again this morning. Who knows- maybe someone will put it on YouTube and it'll go viral! I hope they warn me first though, I'd like to wash the truck.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Police probe 'pagan' attacks on church


The congregation of a Grantown church has been alarmed by a year-long series of "pagan" attacks, according to a story in the Strathsprey & Badenoch Herald . The attacks have been in the form of messages, in red ink. Said Deacon Fishwick, "...He added: "The last one was a warning that we shouldn't bring in the authorities. It had a drawing of the all-seeing eye and said: 'We are always watching you'.
"It seems to be the work of a bit of a crackpot. They only ever pick out our church; none of the others have had this, but we don't know why.
"The notes are heathen quotations: things like 'Your days are numbered', 'Wrongs remain unrectified' and 'Judgement has been passed'."

The strangest thing about this story is that it comes from Scotland! Scotland? I mean, a psycho with an obsession about God's eye sending notes to a church for years about unrectified wrongs... that's just so Canadian!

Update
No, there's been no further news from Scotland that I'm aware of; this is an update about the post itself. I've received private comment about my oblique reference to Vancouver based church protester Kevin Annett - and now I'm told some other nutcase is claiming I was talking about him. It seems hard to credit- are there really people so starved for attention, with egos so vast that they claim any reference to a psycho must be aimed at them???

"In the midst of life...

...we are in death. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust." says the burial service in the Book of Common Prayer. While in the "midst of life", we seldom realize how closely death brushes past us at any given moment. One such moment occurred this week as an asteroid- seen only two days before- passed within 48,800 miles of Earth. If that doesn't sound very close to you, remember that a slow meteor is traveling some 30,000 miles per hour!

The article referenced casually mentions that this asteroid was about the same size as the one that exploded over Siberia in 1908, leveling more than 800 square miles of forest. If you're unfamiliar with the Tunguska Event, the explosion was about 1,000 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb. From the Wikipedia article: "The explosion registered on seismic stations across Eurasia. Although the Richter scale was not developed until 1935, in some places the shock wave would have been equivalent to an earthquake of 5.0 on the Richter scale. It also produced fluctuations in atmospheric pressure strong enough to be detected in Great Britain."

And for all our satellites and telescopes, we had less than 48 hours warning.

Just a thought to remember when you're getting all frazzled about projections of budgets ten years in the future, or worries about your personal future are driving you to despair... we are all living under the Sword of Damocles- you, me, the whole human race. No man knows when the stroke will fall. So do your duty for the day- including making plans for the future; that's today's duty- and then put it aside. Let it go, and enjoy the day... it's the only one you've got.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Monday, March 02, 2009

Does UU have a mission?

This question began as thoughts from the discussions about UU chaplains and Transient and Permanent's question, Do Unitarian-Universalist Ministers Have a Calling? , and finally crystallized while rereading notes from a writing class. What made the penny drop was a lesson about "the story question". If you haven't had that class, it goes like this: your book can be broken down to a simple question and a simple answer- just two simple sentences... if it can't, it's too complicated to handle in a readable book. It struck me that this lesson- very difficult for a beginning writer, believe me- carries into life as well.

The simple question for a faith- NOT the religious organization, but the faith itself- is "what is your mission?" Most faiths, it seems to me, can answer with an equally simple sentence. For Christianity, it would be "To save your soul from eternal damnation." For Buddhism, it would be "To awaken you to the causes of your suffering." For many NeoPagans, "To reunite you with the natural world you have separated yourself from." Others might say things like "To achieve balance with the universe", "To connect with God".

What is the mission of Unitarian Universalism?

To our friends on the East coast

Hope your day started better than this guy's...