Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Medical Update

If you read my other blog, you've probably already read my profanity-filled rant. If not, here's why life sucks. I've been diagnosed with Raynaud's disease, another vasospastic condition sometimes associated with Prinzmetal's syndrome. So, for those of you keeping score, that's vasospasm in my coronary arteries (Prinzmetal's), vasospasm in my extremities (Raynaud's), and cerebral vasospasm (migraine headaches). My cardiovascular system is really getting on my bad side.

Knowing, however, makes me feel a little bit better. When I know, I can act. It also makes me feel a little less crazy and explains why I've been getting pretty severe pain lately when I hold iced drinks. I hadn't thought of that until after my diagnosis when I was checking out the Raynaud's Association site.

Anyway, I'll be doing a lot of shopping this weekend for things to keep me warm and hold off the spasms in my extremities. This is, of course, the worst time of year to shop. If you know me, you know that Melinda and shopping should not be in the same sentence. So, you can imagine how horribly excited I am.

I'm just really glad that I'm such a total badass or I might actually let all this crap get me down.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Prinzmetal's Variant Angina

Just as a public service, here's a great article on PVA. Unfortunately, much of the material publicly available is out-of-date and thus inaccurate. If you experience chest pain at rest, especially in the night and morning hours, contact your doctor and ask to be checked for PVA. A warning: Since PVA is a rare condition affecting only 4 out of every 100,000 people, many doctors have no idea what PVA is, so you may need to fight the system as it were. Also, multiple examinations may be necessary for proper diagosis. Good luck.

Fighting to Live

My apologies if I don't post for a while or respond to your comments. I think I've hit the wall. Even now, it's a bit difficult to type with my hands shaking. It's one of those times when I have to fight death. How successful I'll be is anyone's guess. I'm grateful to the people in my support group, who are probably some of the few people in the world who can understand what it's like to live with Prinzmetals and how often those of us who suffer from it must face our own mortality. I'll be seeing the doctor Monday. Wish me luck.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Prodigy

Catana at Gifted and Grown has an interesting post on the new wunderkind Ainan Cawley.

I must admit the topic of giftedness and the treatment of those who fit the term always elicits both empathy and dread on my part. Empathy because I was one of those kids so labeled. Dread because acknowledging that always comes with the risk of sounding egotistical. That dread is, in and of itself, an interesting phenomenon, for it is not an irrational fear but a sort of post-prodigy stress disorder.

I was once the wunderkind, remarkable but unremarked. I was unfortunate enough to be born into a working class family that couldn't martial the resources necessary to give me a top-notch education. I had to rely instead on thrift store copies of Plato and college textbooks picked up at the latest garage sale in some neighborhood I could only dream of living in. Due in part to the semi-anonymity afforded me by my class, I was also fortunate enough not to end up in the media spotlight like Ainan. The attention I did receive, in the end, left me feeling like a freakish hybrid, part trained seal, part carnival sideshow exhibit.

That feeling hasn't quite left me even now. A friend once asked if it was weird for me to be an adult now and therefore no longer a prodigy. I didn't know what to say. Relieved is hardly an answer anyone would understand and not quite accurate at that. But how do I explain a childhood filled with nights when I fell to my knees, sobbing, begging what I hoped was a just and merciful G-d to make me normal? How do I manage a socially acceptable level of humility while explaining that the word that applies to adults like me is the dreaded "g" word? How can I even say the "g" word without cringing, waiting for the look that accuses me so eloquently of self-obsession?

Ironically, in a society consumed with self-marketing, selling a high IQ ranks alongside prostitution and dealing in illicit drugs in the respectability category. Maybe I should drag some potential "genius junkie" into a dark alley for a free peek at my WEIS III results (with promises of a future look at my Mensa invitation naturally). It sounds a bit bitter, I'm sure, but I've been pimped and there's no going back. So, I'll explain quantum physics or foreign policy for you if you'll give me a little to support my information habit.

Anyway, still trying to negotiate my own post-prodigy anxieties, I read stories like Ainan's and I want to cry. His parents obviously want to look out for his best interests, to ensure him the opportunity to fulfill his potential, but walking the streets of the prodigy district is no easy task. I wish him the best. As for this old "data whore," I'm going to bed.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Gender and Evolutionary Psychology

Slate's The XX Factor takes on evolutionary psychology. The discussions in response are quite interesting, especially the number of people who defend evolutionary psychology with irrational and ridiculous arguments. It all takes on a f*cking for chastity feel after a while.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Toxic Trailers

I'm sure you've heard by now that the FEMA trailers/mobile homes given to victims of Katrina who returned to the Gulf Coast, including some of my family members and friends, have toxic levels of formaldehyde gas. This has been known for some time as many people have become ill and complained. The government put off a proper investigation (allowing Katrina victims to live in highly toxic environments), have given these trailers/mobile homes to survivors of the California wildfires and have even offered to donate some to Native American tribes. I think of my sister, niece and nephew in one of these death traps and I really want to go down to the FEMA offices and give them more than just a piece of my mind.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Here We Go Again!

Pharyngula has a couple of links to a couple of so-called "manly men" trapped in the days before real manhood evolved in Western culture. It always amazes me that someone could think that forcibly dominating a dehumanized, demoralized human being who happens to have a vagina makes them superior. Perhaps it's the Native American in me, but I always thought that conquering one's self was far more manly (and far more womanly). Hell, conquering one's self is just plain more mature.

I'll say it again: When women are demeaned, men are lessened. (And vice versa) When we women are infantilized and objectified, you men are infantilized and animalized. Personally, I think more of men (most of them anyway) than to accept that they are nothing more than children or animals, without the intellectual or emotional maturity that comes with human adulthood.


Sort of off topic, but it reminds me of something quite funny. When the Jamestown colonists landed, the women stayed on the boat while the men prepared the fort. When Powhatan's scouts saw these strange pale humans building houses, they were amazed that they'd brought no men with them! In Native societies, for the most part, women built the houses, tilled the fields and, where necessary, dismantled and moved the village to the next location. Female warriors, sachems and chieftains were not the norm by any means, but they were quite common. In fact, amongst the 32 werowances (or minor chieftains) who ruled the 32 villages that made up Powhatan's domain, two were women (at the time the colonists landed).

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Evolutionary Psychology: The Non-Science?

Criticisms of evolutionary psychology and the tendency of those working in the field to speculate wildly in a sort of ultra-Darwinian fervor are rather commonplace. Stephen Jay Gould, for instance, issues strong and compelling challenges to ultra-Darwinism, of which evolutionary psychology is but one facet. So, I'll let greater scientific minds take on the field as a whole.

I'd like to focus on the ultra-Darwinists' (to borrow a term) fascination with presenting religion as a delusion or a defect in human mental programming. Too often this leads to ridiculous claims and studies that lead to conclusions that could never actually be derived from the data itself. For examples of this, I'll refer you to Professor Allen McNeil's blog, The Evolution List and a paper by one of his students relating to the detection of agency.

My "favorite" study from evolutionary psychology is I read about quite some time ago, which I have unfortunately not been able to find online. In this study, the researchers constructed a computer program where one group of dots on a computer screen seemed to follow a single dot across the screen. They asked study participants to describe what they were seeing. Most responded with something like, "That swarm of dots is chasing this other dot, attempting to capture it." The researchers interpreted this to mean that the participants had assigned agency to an inanimate object, the dots, and that this was empirical verification of an agency-detection mechanism that was set so high that it would produce false-positives. This and similar studies have often been cited as evidence that religion, especially the belief in deities, spirits, angels etc. is a product of a defect in this agency-detection mechanism.

Professor McNeil's student, Elena Broaddus, explains:

There is also evidence for the existence of an innate cognitive purpose-detector which would be the root cause of our teleological viewpoint. experiments show that infants as young as 9 months of age tend to interpret the movement of self-propelled dots on a computer screen as “intentional, goal-oriented movement (Csibra, et al., 1999),” and are also able to interpret other people’s body-movements as goal-oriented and purposeful (Behne, et al., 2005).

The bulk of research referring to purpose-detection, or “agency-detection” as it is
more frequently referred to in this literature, assumes its existence as a cognitive process and uses it to explain religious thought. Essentially the argument is that purpose-detection arose as a hair-trigger response to possibly threatening circumstances in the natural world, but because of its over-activity (it’s frequently referred to as the Hyper-active agent detection device, or HADD) led to detection of super-natural agents (Barrett 2000; Boyer 2001; Atran & Norenzayan 2004).

Therefore, according to this argument, religion itself is evidence for innate
purpose- detection ability. As Atran & Norenzayan (2004) write, “Supernatural agents are readily conjured up because natural selection has trip-wired cognitive schema for agency detection in the face of uncertainty.”

Most of these ideas are an extension of Guthrie’s theories of animism and anthropomorphism, which he also then uses as a causal explanation for religion. He
argues that in the environment of evolutionary adaptation it would have been beneficial for humans to be able to quickly and easily identify the presence of other people and animals with harmful intentions. Therefore, the evolution of an extremely sensitive detection system was favored which would have been triggered by anything with the slightest resemblance to a living thing because there would have been no evolutionary disadvantage associated with false-positives. His evidence for this theory includes the phenomena of people hearing voices in the wind and seeing faces in the clouds (Guthrie 1993, 2002).

To some of you, the patent ridiculousness of some of these interpretations are probably obvious, but I'll tackle them anyway. We'll start with the dots. Yes, the subjects described the display in anthropomorphic terms, but I would argue that the researchers could have interpreted this in ways that are far more reasonable than their ultimate conclusion, that the participants assigned agency to the dots.

First, we in modern society are accustomed to interpreting symbolic representations. The display of a group of dots "following" another one can be quite reasonably interpreted as a symbolic representation of swarm behavior and thus, described as such.

Secondly, anthropomorphism is commonly used as a short-hand method for describing objects and events. Usually, these descriptions are abstract and not intended literally. How many of you have describe mechanical problems with your car as your car having a "bad day" or being in a "bad mood"? Now, how many of you actually believe that your car LITERALLY has thoughts, feelings, intentions, moods, etc. in the way that a person does? Precisely.

Wouldn't you agree then that interpreting this study as evidence of an "agency detector" is highly suspect and a bit silly? Just because the participants described the display in terms of agency, this doesn't mean that they actually assigned agency to the dots on the screen.

The same goes for 9 month-old children (unable to speak about what they're seeing) supposedly interpreting "the movement of self-propelled dots on a computer screen as 'intentional, goal-oriented movement'". How does one possibly know what a 9 month-old's interpretations are? Especially since other studies have shown that infants respond differently to a gloved hand grasping for an object before and after they are shown that the gloved hand is part of a human being. In other words, they don't see the "inanimate" glove as having a goal but see the "human" hand as having one.

What is more, how do we make the leap from seeing faces in clouds, a practice based on seeing similarities between objects, to detecting agency where there is none? Again, most of us do NOT assign agency to inanimate objects based on their similarities to known agents. We don't assume that the rabbit-like cloud would like to eat carrots or that the "face" in a wood-grain pattern has a mind behind it.

Finally, it is far from evident that, even assuming an agency detection mechanism, false positives would pose no evolutionary disadvantage. If you're out hunting and a mere rustle in the grass sends you running, it is hardly likely that you'll be able to complete your goal of finding food. If you interpret both the rustling leaves and the actual lion as both being potential threats, the inability to distinguish between the real threat and the fake one could get you killed. And obviously, the constant stress of seeing potential dangers everywhere would be severely damaging to your health and your body's ability to respond appropriately in an emergency situation. Paranoia is hardly functional or adaptive.

So, what is the basis for these questionable interpretations? I'll refer you back to Ms. Broaddus:

The bulk of research referring to purpose-detection, or “agency-detection” as it is more frequently referred to in this literature, assumes its existence as a cognitive process and uses it to explain religious thought.

The data is being fit to the hypotheses rather than the hypotheses to the data. Those who view religion as a defect find support for their ideology in these ridiculous interpretations. They must ignore reason and a whole host of contradictory evidence to do so. They must, in the end, ignore the standards of science and embrace pseudoscientific claptrap.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Blogroll: The Lazy Post

I have a headache, so here are some random links:

Cognitive Daily has an interesting survey on house cleaning, who does it, and how much it annoys us. Fortunately, there's just me around here, so I'm spared the mess-related bickering.

Aardvarchaeology on using DNA to decode the diet of the ancients.

Omni Brain and the best way to distract a free throw shooter

Thus Spake Zuska on tools v. gadgets

Evolving Thoughts has what I like to call "the conspiracy theory of religion," which confuses the uses to which religion has been applied in some societies with the origin of religion and/or theism. Social/power structures may explain the development of some religions into hierarchies and/or the coopting of religion to serve the state, but ignores those religions and those societies in which hierarchy is weak to nonexistent. It also ignores the fact that (if the study of the most "primitive" living human groups is any indication) the belief in deities, spirits, etc. precedes the development of complex social structures. This theory also has a major characteristic of far too many theories in the field of evolutionary psychology, it derives from almost complete speculation with no or incomplete correlation with the data available. More on my "favorite" evolutionary psychology theories later.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

George W. Bush: Baby Killer

In this week's New Scientist, Robert Adler has a stirring essay on the growing rate of infant mortality in the South. Unfortunately, it's behind a subscription wall, but please read it if you can.


According to the CIA World Factbook, the United States has a higher rate of infant mortality than 41 of the 221 nations listed in their rankings. Which countries have lower mortality rates? Amongst the 41 are South Korea, Cuba, Slovenia, Malta, Macau and a variety of countries in Eastern Europe, Western Europe and Asia.

While nationwide infant mortality rates have gone down overall, we are still above 2001 levels and many states' rates have remained stagnant or risen. (An increase in infant deaths between 2001 and 2002 represented the first increase in infant mortality since 1958.) Of all the states, Mississippi has been hardest hit, although D.C. has a slightly higher rate.

Why are more children dying? There are a variety of possible reasons, including a greater preponderance of older mothers. However, these stats are predominantly a result of a decrease in access to healthcare for America's poor and working poor. Welfare reform on the national and state levels, a decrease in the availability of local health clinics, decreases in the number of healthcare providers who'll accept Medicaid, and a rise in the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured have all contributed.

Despite this growing healthcare crisis in our country, George W. Bush has vetoed Congress' attempt to renew and expand SCHIP, the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Attempts to override Bush's veto passed in the Senate but failed in the House. He is expected to veto a second and even third compromise versions of the bill, so Congressional Democrats are working hard to negotiate enough votes for a veto override. If Congress fails to pass a new temporary funding bill for the program and is unable to override Bush's veto, the program will run out of money and an additional 6 million children and an untold number of pregnant women will be without health insurance.

With the disappearance of SCHIP, infant mortality rates are guaranteed to rise in the coming years, especially in states like Mississippi. If the rate goes up by a single point, as many as 4,000 more infants will die every year (based on an average of 4 million births annually). That's 4,000 infants below the age of one. Add to this thousands of children below the age of five and thousands of pregnant women. IN AMERICA!

This is a national disgrace! We should all hang our heads in shame.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Boycott Sweden!

Despite the general hotness of their women, Sweden is now on my shitlist! Apparently, "freedom of religion" as a basic human right doesn't translate into Swedish these days. According to LifeSite:

The government of Sweden has announced it will be banning any religious activities in schools except for those directly related to religion classes. It is also directing that in religious education, religious ideas must not be taught as though they are objectively true. A columnist in the UK’s far-left Guardian newspaper has urged Britain to follow suit, implying that Britain’s Catholic and Jewish schools are a terror threat...

The rules will make it illegal even for faith-based schools to teach that religious doctrines are objectively true on the grounds that this would be “prosetylising”. Prayer, including religious services or assemblies, will remain legal, as long as no teacher in a classroom teaches that there is any reality behind it...

Included in the proposals was a pledge that the Swedish National Agency for Education will double the number of inspections for both private independent and state-run schools. Schools will also be required to report their funding sources. Schools that fail to adhere to the new standards could face fines or even government-enforced closures. 67 elementary schools and six high schools have a religious confessional orientation in Sweden. The new rules will require Parliamentary approval and are set to come into effect in 2009.

To make matters worse, this idea has picked up support in both Britain and the United States. (Be sure to read the comments. There are some voices of reason but they are few and far between.) This is just one source, a quick Google of the issue leads to far too many sites supporting the decision and "wishing" or suggesting that the policy should be taken up in the UK, US, worldwide etc.

As I've stated ad nauseum, I'm a firm believer in the separation of church and state, both to protect the state from the church and to protect the church from the state. I'm also a firm believer in the first amendment (which admittedly doesn't apply in Sweden) for the very reason that it prohibits the government from both establishing religion and interfering with its practice. These principles are, in my humble opinion, central to the preservation of pluralistic free societies and vital to the protection of human rights.

To say that I'm sickened by this development would be an understatement.

I'm Kosher and That's Okay... So Mind Ya Bizness!

As I travel the highways and byways of both real and virtual life, I often encounter people who think it extraordinarily important to pontificate on kosher dietary laws. (From all the huffing and puffing, you'd think we Jews ate Matzo soaked in the blood of Christian children or something.) Having become extremely frustrated with this obsession amongst the goyim, I think I'd like to pontificate right back.

Before I start, however, let me be clear up front. I don't speak for all Jews, most Jews, the worldwide Jewish conspiracy or pretty much any Jews but the one sitting at the keyboard. This is just one Jewess' opinion on why, the next time you feel the need to comment on my avoidance of cheeseburgers, you should take a moment, reflect and mind your own damned business.

Yes, I follow millenia-old dietary rules. No, I don't think G-d is going to condemn me to Hell, pelt me with brimstone or sentence me to a lifetime of hellacious flatulence for eating pork or shellfish or the aforementioned cheeseburgers. I don't know any Jews who do. No, I don't do it out of a need to celebrate my ethnic heritage. (That would be why I eat corned beef and cabbage, not why I eat matzo and bagels.) You see, I chose to be a Jew and I figured why do it half-assed when I can be a bad-ass, kosher-eating, Hebrew-speaking, Torah-reading, Sabbath-observing Jewess with Irish eyes and Choctaw cheekbones. (That's right, achayot. All the sexy goodness of a shiksah without the guilt.)

So, what is it to you? Yeah, I know. All these non-kosher foods are so tasty, it's just "ridiculous" and downright "wrong" for me to avoid them like a rabbi avoids a woman on her period. You would never make such irrational decisions about your food or let some cultural/religious nonsense influence what you eat. In fact, your food choices are all about edibility, healthiness and taste, right? Nonsense.

Why then don't you eat: dogs, cats, guinea pigs, monkeys, chimpanzees, baby seals, whales, sharks, possums, squirrels, raccoons, horses, sea turtles, polar bears, rats, etc.? More likely than not, something on that list "turned your stomach" for reasons you may not be able to explain. You may even have moral reasons for not eating some or all of them. Yet, all of these animals are edible, as healthy or more so than pork, and rather tasty according to the cultures that consume them. (As are we or so I've heard.)

So what's the problem? You're human. All humans and their cultures have food preferences and taboos. In fact, there are laws in this country against eating some of the animals on the list. If you treated a dog or cat in the way that livestock are treated on factory farms, you'd be charged with cruelty to animals.

Anyway, next time you feel the need to get in high dudgeon over the millenia-old dietary laws followed by us wacky Jewish types, think about your own food issues and mind your own business for once. No one's forcing you to follow kosher rules. You're free to eat what you want and avoid what makes you queasy for whatever reason (rational or irrational) you deem appropriate. So are we. Get it?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Warning: Extremely Sad Story

A beautiful little girl born with eight limbs due to a "parasitic" twin will undergo life-saving surgery to remove the extra arms and legs.

UPDATE: Surgery was a success!

Coup in Pakistan/Democracy in Venezuela

So, Gen. Musharraf (I refuse to call him President.) has called a "state of emergency," suspended the constitution, and moved to crush dissent. Meanwhile, in America, Pres. Bush (I wish I didn't have to call him President.) has half-heartedly rattled his saber while simultaneously patting Musharraf on the back. Surprising? I wish.

Far too often, American leaders have preferred strongmen over democracy, despite the U.S.'s oft-repeated rhetoric about spreading freedom around the globe. From the Shah of Iran to Saddam Hussein to Augusto Pinochet to the House of Saud to Pedro Carmona to Pervez Musharraf, our nation has a habit of supporting brutal dictators, even going so far as to participate in the overthrow of democratically elected governments. Democracy is messy and unpredictable. Strongmen are easier to bribe and control. (Or so we've deluded ourselves into thinking.)

Bush's willingness to play with strongmen has been evident since he looked Vladimir Putin in the eye, decided he "liked the guy" and gave the Russian autocrat a "cute" Frat-boy nickname. Or maybe, it started when he hosted the Taliban in Texas. For sure, he's been willing to pour money into Musharraf's coffers despite the fact that he illegally seized control of Pakistan's government in 1999.

Will Musharraf's abandonment of any pretense of democracy change matters? Hardly. Bush has made it clear that he wants Musharraf and the military in charge of Pakistan. I doubt he'll change his mind simply because Musharraf has done what Bush has plans to do here in the event of a second major terrorist attack.

It is interesting, though, to compare Bush's response to Musharraf with his response to Hugo Chavez. Duly elected by his people multiple times, Chavez has the backing of most Venezuelans and much of Latin America. During his presidency, he has created one of the most democratic nations in the Americas and through democratic processes, given Venezuela a new constitution. Time will tell whether Venezuela will become even more democratic still or whether Hugo Chavez will become too enamored with power to cede it when his time comes. Recent events seem to indicate that the latter is more likely.

Bush's response to a duly elected president? Although the 2002 coup that ousted Chavez from power lasted only 48 hours, the Bush administration managed to acknowledge the government of Pedro Carmona in record time. (The U.S. was the only country to do so.) It is more than coincidental that Carmona and other coup leaders had been meeting with Bush in the weeks prior to their brief but violent takeover of Venezuela's elected government. In fact, the Bush administration was intimately involved in the plot. Since then, the Bush administration has regularly demonized Chavez, secretly funded opposition parties, pursued policies of "containment" and ordered increased CIA activity in the country.

So, the president who "plans" to spread freedom around the globe is patting a brutal, repressive dictator on the back while plotting the overthrow of a democratically elected president. How I wish that was a surprise.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Yes, I know I missed a day...

I just came across an interesting post on "The Atheist Jew" about a particularly anti-semitic remark by Richard Dawkins. Crawling my way through the blogosphere, I found quite a lively discussion going on about Dawkin's characeterization of the "Jewish lobby" and his anti-Zionism. (Just Google Dawkins and zionism for hours of interesting if often sickening reads.) I also found a surprising amount of anti-Semitism amongst a group that so loudly proclaims its "rationality."

We'll bypass the obvious ignorance and bigotry of anti-Semitism and instead delve into the anti-Zionism running amok as anti-Semitism's more publicly "acceptable" little brother. (Debunking the Jewish lobby myth would be far too easy.)

The thing I find so fun about some atheists' response to Zionism is that they condemn it, in part, because it's a theistic or "religious" movement in their minds. Odd thing is, Zionism began as a secular movement and still is for the most part, with Zionists predominantly focusing on Jews as an ethnic group. Devoutly religious Jews are predominantly OPPOSED to Zionism, as they believe that only the Messiah is supposed to rebuild Israel. Many Orthodox and Haredi Jews refuse to even acknowledge the existence of Israel. Some even attended Ahmedinejad's Holocaust denial conference, not because they don't accept the fact of the Holocaust but because they're opposed to the use of the Holocaust as justification for the creation of Israel as an independent nation in 1948.

In addition, many like Dawkins and Sam Harris cite the Israel-Palestine conflict as proof of the danger of religion and the inevitability of conflict wherever religion exists. The truth behind this so-called religious conflict is far more complex and puts a lie to the favored ideology of men like Dawkins.

Although allowing some unconscionably theocratic giveaways to the Orthodox in matters of family law, Israel was founded predominantly as a secular state for predominantly secular reasons. The Jews, as both religious minority and ethnic minority were oppressed, repeatedly exiled, ghettoised, massacred, etc. for 2,000 years, culminating in the Holocaust. Is it any wonder that some would see a Jewish state as the only hope? (Zionism, not so coincidentally, didn't become popular amongst most Jews until the pogroms and the Holocaust.) Interstingly enough, the Palestinian Liberation Organization was also originally a secular organization made up predominantly of Marxists with some Christians amongst the leadership. The religious elements came into the Israel-Palestine conflict only after the 1967 war, a generation after the founding of Israel and the beginning of the conflict. Even to this day, the "religious" elements both liberal and Orthodox have limited influence on Israel's policy-making apparatus and are often opposed to its policies.

Why would Dawkins and his ilk distort the well-known historic truths about Zionism, Israel and the so-called "Jewish lobby?" Blurring the lines between fact and fiction, between reason and bigotry suits the ideology of certain elements within the atheist community, specifically those antitheists and antireligionists who go far beyond the desire to live freely and openly and instead pursue fantasies of dominance and superiority. The former is an admirable goal held by most reasonable people, atheists and theists alike. The latter is a bigoted ideology and a form of extremism that should be anathema to reasonable people of all faiths and none.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Very Cool and a Bit of a Relief

I'd known for quite a while that there was a problem with the way I see color, but I pass all colorblindness tests. I show up as having normal color vision. But then there is the reverse colorblindess test, where you should only see the patterns if you ARE colorblind. I pass that too. So, somehow I'm both colorblind and not colorblind. I e-mailed the designer of the test and discovered that, while there is no known explanation for how this occurs, I'm not the only one it affects. Apparently, there may be something a bit different about either my eyes or my visual cortex. No one knows for sure. It's a bit of relief to know I'm not nuts.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Enlist

The above was the headline in my hometown newspaper one morning during the time that I was applying to West Point. (I never enlisted for obvious reasons.) See Dispatches from the Culture Wars to see how the DADT policy has harmed those who would fight, kill, and die in your name as well as the military's ability to defend us pre and post-9/11.

Klan v. Klan

Ed Brayton has an even funnier post on the Alabama chapter of the KKK's plan to protest the National KKK. Yes, you read that right.

The "Lesbian Mafia" Conspiracy

Okay, first no one told me about the roving pink-pistol-packing gangs of lesbians. Now, I have to hear second-hand info on the lesbian conspiracy to turn the U.S. into a Lesbo Amazon Nation? I'm so filing a complaint with the Lesbian Shadow Government.

Anyway, Ed Brayton, who shall henceforward be known as "friend of lesbians," has a great post about the so-called "Lesbian Studies Institute." (No, there are no lesbians in schoolgirl outfits!)

Apparently, lesbians rule the world when the Jews are on vacation. We Jewish Lesbians never get a day off. Sheesh! I'm exhausted. This running the world really takes away from my man-bashing time.

And somehow, the witches are involved in all this too! Micah, if you're reading this, I knew you were up to something with your witchy ways. We're going to have to work out territorial rights or something.

This really counts as a post

I'm trying to do the post a day thing, but I might have to cheat. Like today, I'm just going to post a question I have for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton... even if that's cheating or whatever. Anyway, Clinton has gone on record defending "traditional marriage" whenever gay marriage pops up. Soooooo...

Sen. Clinton, do you truly support "traditional marriage" as it has been defined throughout the majority of American and Western history?

If so, why should we, the people of the United States, elect chattel to the office of the presidency? After all, we wouldn't vote for Bill Clinton's car for president. Under "traditional marriage," a man's wife and his car have the same legal standing.

If not, why is "traditional marriage" all of a sudden so important ONLY when it comes to denying marriage rights to those you deem beneath you? (No, Sen. Clinton, I'm not one of those "house homos" deluded enough to think you care one whit about our rights.)

Finally, can you ask your husband how a man who wouldn't know the sanctity of marriage if it bit him in his sizeable ass could possibly grow testicles large enough to sign something called the "Defense of Marriage Act?"

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Spoiler Alert: Which Room Is Haunted?

This is one of those questionable interpretations that I was writing about yesterday. Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire uses these pictures "to study whether people have preconceived notions about the appearance of a haunted site." He interprets that people choose the left room because it "fits the stereotype". In other words, it's "creepier."

I'll admit I picked the left room, but not because it looks "creepier." I don't find anything particularly creepy about plumbing. I picked it because old pipes make strange noises that someone may interpet as disturbing or creepy. I'm familiar with old ghost tales and their "explanations." I'm also familiar with the sound of old pipes and their "ghostly" noises.

So, assuming that many people may be familiar with the strange noises made by old pipes, how does this "experiment" justify the interpretation? I don't think it does.