Cross-Country Connections: Mess

January 23, 2012

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in very different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Mess.

From Mom in Carbondale, Illinois:

My garage is even messier than it looks. I was planning on going out to Bellingham for a long weekend but now I’m wondering if I should just spend the money and bring Erin out here to help clean vist with me.

From Erin in Bellingham, Washington:

It snowed about 5 inches out here on the west coast on Monday. Since it snows about once a year, the city of Bellingham doesn’t have real snow plows but just 4 plow attachments to hook up to a regular pickup truck. Plus, we’re environmentally safe so they also don’t use any salt. I live on hill with a 20% grade, so that was fun. Thankfully, it warmed up to 40 degrees and rained all day and night Friday, so our mess is all washed away. That’s about enough winter for us out here!

From me in Minneapolis, Minnesota:

Slush: What happens when pristine, white, downy snow gets muddy and half-melted into yuck. Although for this time of year and this part of the country, this is not nearly as messy as it could be!

Creepy Purity Bear is Creepy

January 20, 2012

Wait – first read the YouTube description of this video:

This is a student made video saying that the best way to stay sexually pure is to wait until marriage. Having one partner is the God-approved way to enjoy sex.

God must have forgotten to tell that to Newt. Bah dah dum! Okay, heeeeeere’s Purity Bear:

Did anyone else pick up on the fact that Eve tempted Adam, and not the other way around? And that good, chaste Adam turned away the seductress Eve (gently, kindly, but with manly firmness and moral conviction that she’s lacking. Heh…”manly firmness”).

The video’s description contains a promotion for the Liberty Counsel’s Day of Purity. DOP’s website “offers those who strive for sexual purity an opportunity to stand together in opposition to a culture of moral decline.” The website urges young people to “be a part of the ‘counter-coulture’ – – be politically incorrect.” Do it! Or, wait…don’t do it! Or purity bear will come and judge you while sadly watching you have immoral, out-of-wedlock sex.

This (the video, purity bear and the DOP)  is hilarious, infuriating and sad. Yes, waiting to have sex (however you define that) until you are in a committed marriage (whatever that means to you and your partner) is a great way to to stay “sexually pure” (whatever that means). It’s also not very realistic. This video is an example of how religious indoctrination makes teens feel guilty about their normal, biological, sexual urges. And it’s an example of how religion seems to have trouble speaking frankly about sex to children and teens. I mean, who takes sex advice from a teddy bear? What do they know about sex? Well, unless they’re zoo-bound grizzly bears; they have promiscuous sex all year round to fend off the boredom. Hey! Nice role model you chose there, Liberty Counsel!

But, whatever. All I know is I want Purity Bear. He does look cuddly. Plus, I could put him on my bedside table so he can watch when I have sex. Poor bear could probably use some good ol’ voyeurism after this stint.

Seen over at Joe.My.God

How successful were the SOPA and PIPA Blackouts?

January 19, 2012

Welcome back to the internet, everyone! Did you miss it? I missed it, but there were a couple of amusing highlights:

1) @herpderpedia – User @qrush made this Twitter account, which acted as a repository for all of the tweets from people freaking out about Wikipedia going dark. The F*bomb was dropped quite a bit, many users mourned the “death” of Wikipedia with RIPs, and there were  frantic queries from students about how they were supposed to finish reports. If you suffer from an overflow of hope for the human race, this will bring you back down with a healthy shot of cynicism.

WTF, Wikipedia!? How am I supposed to graduate now? Thanks for nothing! Image source

2) #FactsWithoutWikipedia was a  hilarious timesuck. People created stories, lies, satire and other “facts” about life, the universe and everything. And of course, a quick Wikipedia search was unable to dispel any of these during the blackout.

3) After a full day of laughing at those afflicted with #herpderpedia, I went to put together my write-up for this weekend’s interview with Sean Faircloth on Atheists Talk radio, and I had a moment of panic when I clicked on the bookmark of his wikipedia page and was denied.

Image source

Okay, it was a very quick moment of panic, because there were very simple work-arounds for getting to Wikipedia yesterday (after all the point was to raise consciousness about SOPA and PIPA, not to deny people access to the site). But, I decided to get my information the “old-fashioned” by going to the electronic sources of the information that Wikipedia articles mine to get their information. You know, the number two and three results that come up when you Google a subject.

Wikipedia has a page up now with their estimates of the success of the blackout. From Wikipedia:

Was the blackout successful?

The English Wikipedia joined thousands of other web sites in protesting SOPA and PIPA by blacking out its content for 24 hours. The purpose of the blackout was twofold: to raise public awareness, and to encourage people to share their views with their elected representatives.

During the blackout:

The page also reiterates some of the basic information about the bills, what we can to do keep up-to-date on SOPA and PIPA as they progress through Congress, and next steps that we can take in working to defeat SOPA/PIPA.

Wikipedia wasn’t the only site that went dark in protest of SOPA/PIPA. How was you day affected by yesterday’s blackouts?

SOPA and PIPA Blackouts

January 17, 2012

Yeah, so…I guess there’s no Wikipedia tomorrow.

Image Source

I started hearing about the SOPA/PIPA Blackouts today on Twitter. I am an internet junkie – I love blogs and social media. I love instant access to news, maps, updates from friends and family. I am a content-generator and sharer – I blog at two websites and read about 40-60 new blog entries every day. Okay, some of those get more browsed than read, but you get the picture.

However, I am not all that internet savvy. I’m a biology major who went to college when computer science courses were for nerds who had a much better understanding of math than I did. To be fair, that’s probably still true. So, I don’t know how the internet works. I know how to navigate some of the more popular areas of the internet, and that’s about as deep as I get.

But it caught my attention when I learned that Wikipedia and WordPress – the website that hosts this Biodork blog – are “going dark” tomorrow, Wednesday January 18th, 2012, to protest these two bills moving through Congress. I decided that I needed to learn more about SOPA (Stop Internet Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) and to try to find out for myself if they are as offensive and dangerous as some groups and people are saying.

I found this blog post at ABC News. It seems like a easy, non-technical introduction to the SOPA/PIPA controversy. It briefly explains the SOPA and PIPA bills, the ideas behind them, the objections to the bills, and the protest movement that has arisen in response to the bills. It also has current updates on the state of SOPA and PIPA in the Senate and House.

Over at AmericanCensorship.org, there is a simple infographic that lists the implications of SOPA/PIPA becoming law.

Then I searched WordPress to find out why my particular blogging site is participating in the protests. I found this article entitled Help Stop SOPA/PIPA published last week (01/10/12). The post isn’t very good at explaining the details of SOPA and PIPA, instead leaving that job to a Vimeo video called “Protect IP / SOPA Act Breaks the Internet” on a site called fightforthefuture/PIPA.

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

The video says that PIPA will “give the right to censor the internet to the entertainment industry”.

It explains that “Private corporations want the ability to shut down unauthorized sites where people download movies, TV shows and music.” And that because most of these sites exist outside the US and US jurisdiction, corporations will focus their efforts on shutting down and blocking funding of the infringing sites  by going after US-based search engines, directories, blogs, forums, advertisers and payment services.

It highlights some problems with the bills – that it won’t stop downloading, but will encourage less secure work-arounds by hackers, that it would allow corporations to sue companies that they feel aren’t doing a thorough enough job to try to stop copyright violations on their websites, that other countries may follow in our footsteps, leading to “different internets in different countries” and giving unscrupulous governments powerful tools to hinder free expression, and it points out that corporations already have legislation in place to fight piracy.

The video ends with this:

Now the government and corporations could block any site, foreign or domestic, just for one infringing link. Sites like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook would have to censor their users or get shut down since they become liable for everything users post. And ordinary users could go to jail for five years for posting any copyrighted work – even just singing a pop song.

That’s a freaking scary idea, isn’t it?

In other circumstances I’d like to learn more, to speak with people who I think have a better grasp on the implications of SOPA and PIPA than I do. But tomorrow is a country-wide day of protest against these bills, and if they really are as big of a danger as they appear to be in my limited research, then I want to add my voice with other protestors.

So tomorrow I will take a chance of erring in support of those who say that SOPA and PIPA pose a threat to our security, our free speech, our ability to freely share content and exchange ideas with most of the world, and our access to some of our most cherished and important social and media-sharing websites. These freedoms are too precious to not stand up and ask for those in Congress to proceed with caution.

I am not going to “black out” my site. I want to leave this post up here and visible tomorrow. But I will add the ribbon, I will contact my Senators and Representatives with my concerns, and I will try to keep up with the SOPA and PIPA bills as they move through Congress. I will also limit my online activity tomorrow, including this blog.

Am I wrong? Am I missing something? Can you clarify any of the points that I mentioned above? I’d love your input in the comments below. I’ll read them and respond to them…on Thursday.

Sean Faircloth: Attack of the Theocrats

January 17, 2012

Atheists Talk radio show is interviewing politician and church-state separation activist Sean Faircloth this upcoming Sunday, January  22nd. Starting in 2009 Sean Faircloth was the Executive Director of the Secular Coalition of America, and in 2011 he became the Director of Strategy and Policy for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

I’m hosting Atheists Talk this weekend, so in preparation and interest I have started reading his newest book, Attack of the Theocrats, and watching videos of his speeches. I think I’m going to connect with his message that secular activists need to focus first on the real human harm that results from religious privilege, and not get lost in symbolic battles that  stoke theistic ire and strengthen resistance to secular activism.

From Attack of the Theocrats:

…the secular movement suffers from a noble flaw. Secular people tend to have an almost religious faith in statistics and dry arguments and abstractions as the proper method by which to carry the day. This has made it difficult to connect with the broader American public, particularly when many of our battles emphasize symbols – and not the numerous religious laws that harm real people.

Secular Americans remain a sleeping giant, a huge demographic that has thus far failed to flex its own muscle, much less galvanize the general population. We ignore people suffering under religious privilege while shaking our fist at a slapped-together manger with a plastic baby Jesus in the town square at Christmas time. While symbols are meaningful and these particular symbols on public grounds do violate Madison’s Constitution, Secular Americans must do better to reach all Americans. We must explain the human story – the human harm and the outright abuse of our tax dollars that result from religious privileging in law.

In the video below Mr. Faircloth outlines for the audience a few of the cases from Attack of the Theocrats, and lists his proposals for how secular activists can direct our efforts to focus on religious privilege that is enshrined in laws, and which are causing real human harm and waste of tax dollars.

Video first seen at RDF.

Cross-Country Connections: Sharp

January 16, 2012

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in very different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Sharp.

From Erin in Bellingham, Washington:

I risked life, limb and yarn for this one. Kill the yarn!

From me in Minneapolis, Minnesota:

Nooooo!!!

From Mom in Carbondale, Illinois:

Two Sharp Cookies – Erin and Brianne

Hubby on the Road: Coming Home

January 15, 2012

The Hubby made it home safely on Saturday! His road trip from Connecticut to Minneapolis was a little more snowy than the ride out.

I stopped at this rest stop in Ohio twice. The shot on your left is on the way out, the shot on the right is on the way back home.

Nightly sight at rest stops and diesel gas stations.

 

I Don’t Want To Vote On Marriage Law

January 15, 2012

I have a problem with the majority voting on the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of the minority. It doesn’t matter which groups we are discussing when we say the “majority” and “minority”; what we have are two sets of people – human beings – that are different in some way.

Legislation can be introduced to help define and clarify, to put in black and white, what we hold to be universal human rights, but even without these laws in place, they are called universal human rights because we know that these are so basic, so beyond reproach or question that laws are almost superfluous. Almost. The majority can become blind to the minority. This can lead to a belief that the differences that define the the minority are somehow a threat to that which defines the majority, or that the differences of the minority are undesirable because they’re not shared by most people. And so laws can act as a safeguard for the rights of the minority for cases in which their voices cannot be heard over the crowd.

I think it is horrific that we allow any human being to have their rights curtailed by the whimsy of popular opinion. That is one of the reasons I am angry about this November’s ballot initiative in Minnesota, which leaves it up to us, the voters, to amend the Minnesota Constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Other reasons that I’m angry about the proposal include the traditional objections to polluting our constitution with language that would bar citizens from their rights, because I support human happiness and this amendment would hurt gay human beings, and because I detest the political drama and fear-mongering that is caused by this American Idol-esque “let the people have a say” and “down with activist judges” posturing.

So why are we voting on whether Bob and Steve should be allowed to get married? Well, because bigoted, sex-obsessed, fearful, religious zealot nutjobs…oh, we’ll skip that for now. Let’s just go with this:

Some people (see past sentence) want to amend the constitution to “protect” heterosexual marriage from gay people, and they think the best way to do this is to amend the constitution. Per Article IX of the MN Constitution we, the voters, must approve any changes to the constitution. That’s why we’re voting on Bob and Steve’s rights this November.

But why do the bigoted, sex-obsessed, oops some people want to amend the constitution? Why is the law in the Minnesota Statutes not enough? Judges refer to the Constitution to make decisions and rulings. Right now, judges in Minnesota can point to the constitution and say that nowhere in our Constitution does it explicitly ban the marriage of gay people. This amendment would put language in place that would explicitly ban the marriage of gay people. Several states have already used the lack of this language in their constitutions to overturn statutes that ban gay marriage, thus making gay marriage legal in those states. Some people in Minnesota are trying to prevent that from happening in this state.

This is marriage law that we’re discussing, not theology. Churches can be as restrictive as they want about marriage within the confines of their religion, but every resident of Minnesota should have the right to be treated as equal to every other resident of Minnesota under Minnesota law.

So no, I don’t want to vote on the proposed amendment that would make it very difficult for gay residents to marry in Minnesota. And I don’t want you to be able to either.

But if it is there when I step into the voting booth in Novemeber, I will be voting NO, the Minnesota Constitution SHALL NOT be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.

….

And in light all of that, this is a heartening development from Friday:

From The Colu.mn:

Legislators Propose Repeal of Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment

DFL legislators in the Minnesota House introduced a bill during the legislative recess on Friday to repeal a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage from the 2012 ballot. The bill faces high hurdles as the Republicans still control the House.

Here’s text of the bill:

H.F. No. 1885, as introduced – 87th Legislative Session (2011-2012) Posted on Jan 13, 2012

A bill for an act relating to marriage; repealing a proposed amendment to the Minnesota Constitution recognizing marriage as only a union between one man and one woman;repealing Laws 2011, chapter 88.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA:

Section 1. REPEALER.

Laws 2011, chapter 88, is repealed.

Sec. 2. EFFECTIVE DATE.
Section 1 is effective the day following final enactment.

The bill was submitted by Karen Clark of Minneapolis, Leon Lillie of North St. Paul, Kate Knuth of New Brighton, Rena Moran of St. Paul ; Marion Greene of Minneapolis, John Lesch of St. Paul, Mindy Greiling of Roseville, Carolyn Laine of Columbia Heights, Ryan Winkler of Golden Valley, Alice Hausman of St. Paul, Linda Slocum of Minneapolis, Joe Mullery of Minneapolis, Phyllis Kahn of Minneapolis, Dianne Loeffler of Minneapolis, Frank Hornstein of Minneapolis, Bill Hilty of Finlayson and Kathy Brynaert of Mankato

Props for the effort, but as the article points out, this is likely not going to get anywhere since the Republicans control the House, and the seated Republicans are fairly united in their support of the amendment:

Those in red boxes are Republican legislators. Source

 

Symphony of Science

January 14, 2012

I hadn’t visited Symphony of Science in a little while. The last video I watched was #8 The Big Beginning, and when I wasn’t looking John Boswell came out with four more productions:

  • Ode to the Brain (with Carl Sagan, Robert Winston, Vilayanur Ramachandran, Jill Bolte Taylor, Bill Nye, and Oliver Sacks)
  • Children of Africa (Carolyn Porco, Neil deGrasse Tyson, various presenters)
  • The Quantum World (Richard Feynman, Morgan Freeman, Stephen Hawking, Brian Cox, various presenters)
  • Onward to the Edge (Neil deGrasse Tyson,Carolyn Porco, various presenters

I like these videos because they highlight the wonder of the presenters’ words. They focus on the dreams that can be achieved with science, technology and innovation.

You can see the rest of the videos at the Symphony of Science website or the YouTube channel.

Happy Friday the 13th!

January 13, 2012

I have a new post up at Minnesota Skeptics about Friday the 13th! Here’s an excerpt:

The fear of Friday the 13th is called friggatriskaidekaphobia (Frigga being the name of the Norse goddess for whom “Friday” is named and triskaidekaphobia meaning fear of the number thirteen), or paraskevidekatriaphobia a concatenation of the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning “Friday”), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning “thirteen”) attached to phobía (φοβία, from phóbos, φόβος, meaning “fear”).

Try saying either of those 13 times in row.

To read the rest of my article, please go here to the Minnesota Skeptics blog.


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