Friday, September 30, 2011

So long, Tito. Thanks for the memories.

The Red Sox and manager Terry Francona have parted ways | News:

BOSTON -- Terry Francona's memorable run as manager of the Red Sox, during which he guided the club to its first two World Series championships since 1918, came to an end.

"We met with Terry Francona, Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington Friday morning to discuss the 2011 season, ways to improve the club in the future, and Tito's status," Red Sox owners John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino said in a joint statement. "During the meeting, Tito, Theo and Ben agreed that the Red Sox would benefit from an improved clubhouse culture and higher standards in several areas. Tito said that after eight years here he was frustrated by his difficulty making an impact with the players, that a different voice was needed, and that it was time for him to move on. After taking time to reflect on Tito's sentiments, we agreed that it was best for the Red Sox not to exercise the option years on his contract.
I heard the rumors earlier today and was dismissive of them. It was inconceivable to me the organization would let the manager who coached them to two World Series victories, and the greatest comeback of all time in the 2004 ALCS, walk away. But, there he goes.

Terry, you have the thanks of a grateful (Red Sox) nation. We're going to miss you. Whatever you decide to do next ... ESPN is always hiring, right? ... I'm sure I join a chorus of voices in wishing you all the best. 

KSR's 2312 -- first look at the cover and blurb.

A Few New Orbit Covers ~ Mad Hatter's Bookshelf & Book Review:

The first event takes place on Mercury, on the city of Terminator, itself a miracle of engineering on an unprecedented scale. It is an unexpected death, but one that might have been foreseen. For Swan Er Hong, it is an event that will change her life. Swan was once a woman who designed worlds. Now she will be led into a plot to destroy them.
Hmmm. Shades of Freya Grindavik and "Mercurial"? Color me extra intrigued. (Never mind the blurbspeak of the quote above from the publisher's site. I can't believe that stuff actually helps sell books, but they keep using it, so it must.)

KSR news via Gerry Canavan, as usual.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

DADT down, DOMA and its ilk to go ...

Apropos of Def Shepherd's post on the subject and a brief exchange spurred by the following tweet ...

My home state of NC is home to the most kind, generous folks. So why are our marriage laws proving the opposite? Sep 19 16:52:28 via Echofon

There is, I believe, a single right answer and a host of wrong answers to the question, “Should gays be allowed to marry?” The right answer is, “Yes.” The wrong answers are … well, anything else. I think it's important we talk about this (by "we" here, I mean straight folks) and not mince words about what it means to support "traditional marriage" by opposing the extension of those same associated rights and privileges to gays.

Not everything is binary. I admit to the existence of shades of gray in many areas of debate, room for reasonable people to disagree. Even here I see a gap -- as some "traditional marriage" defenders have pointed out (though it’s often amid a torrent of other ludicrous bullshit) -- where the argument for gay marriage as an issue of fairness allows for what I think we all would consider legitimately undesirable forms of marriage. Those undesirable ones being marriages by force or intimidation, such as adult to child and non-consensual (arranged AND involuntary) marriage; polygamous marriage (as practiced typically by religious fundamentalists of certain sects, most notably FLDS here in the U.S.) and the culture of male domination it propagates; and, I suppose silly, but possible, stuff like people marrying their pets, livestock, or other animals; vegetables; inanimate objects; software applications, imaginary constructs; and who knows what else. I would argue the solution to this line of attack is we needn't recognize the legitimacy of any marriage where one party has not given -- due to age, societal position, or being non-human -- their full and informed consent. We can walk through how each of the examples of “undesirable” marriage above fail to meet these criteria in the comments, if necessary. I want to focus on the issue of consenting, adult, two-party, single-sex marriage here.

As uncomfortable as it may make some to admit (though it certainly does not make many uncomfortable at all), the question of marriage equality reduces to the question of whether heterosexuals are better people than homosexuals, and from that position of biological, moral, or spiritual superiority – whatever the grounds for the claim may be – they are justified in limiting the rights of their inferiors to protect society. You’ll hear heterosexuality referred to as “natural” and homosexuality as “unnatural” or “abherrant”. Or worse. You’ll find claims that homosexuals are bad partners, bad parents, more prone to crime, more likely to commit violence, a corrupting influence on society, etc. There is no evidence for any of the claims. There is ample evidence our LGBT brothers and sisters are exactly as prone to the scope and depth of human iniquity as everyone else. There is simply no valid reason to forbid gay couples from forming the sort of recognized relationship arrangements as straight couples. None. The appeals to tradition, to societal norms, to the Bible, to anything but the principle of equality under the law are all flawed and easily dismissed -- again, if somebody needs to walk through this tedious exercise, we can hash it out in the comments.

The only reason anyone clings to any of those defenses is some combination of ignorance, stupidity, cruelty, hypocrisy, arrogance, and ideological inflexibility. These are all moral failings. If you oppose gay marriage any more than you oppose “traditional marriage,” you are morally challenged. Wait ... I said wouldn’t mince words and the one I’m really after here isn't "challenged," it's “retarded.” Opposition to gay marriage is proof of moral retardation.

“Hold on,” you might say, “that’s a little harsh and unproductive.” Yeah. But, if the harshness wasn't warranted, I wouldn't be expressing it. Brian, the tweeter who lamented the laws enacted by the representatives of the people of North Carolina took me to task for slamming North Carolinians in a reply I made ...

MT @thebrianhuskey: NC is home 2 the most kind, generous folks. Y do R marriage laws prove the opposite? | If the ppl were, the law wldn't.Mon Sep 19 17:39:06 via UberSocial for BlackBerry

I wasn't intending to slam those North Carolinians who have been speaking out and protesting the recent actions of our General Assembly, my point was that those of us who believe in equality under the law and simple fairness should not be quiet about what the majority of our fellow citizens are trying to do by electing politicians who have made it quite clear that their agenda is to discriminate against gays (and anyone else who isn't a straight, white, Christian male, but that's another rant for another day). Elections, as they say, have consequences, and while the elected officials are the one carrying out the policies, the moral taint of those actions belongs no less to those who elected them. Republican voters may be kind to their friends and families, they may be charitable and do some good things, but there is not getting around the  fact that they directly empower hatred and bigotry by voting for Republicans. There are real world consequences to denying your fellow human beings equal access to health care, hospital visitation privileges, etc. Vote to deny gays equal protection under the law and you are not a "kind, generous" person. You just aren't. I'm sorry if that's hard to hear, but people need to hear it and understand that it's not just "the gays" that oppose intolerance and injustice. The rest of us are embarrassed by you.

This being a blog post, I suppose I should be linking to the numerous well-written, carefully argued posts, essays, articles, etc. that make the case more eloquently than I ever could. (I'm glad Eric did much of this in his post so I don't feel quite so slackerly not doing it myself. Check his for the links you think I should've provided here.) The thing is though, this is old news. These arguments have been had and, frankly, settled. I shouldn't need to link anything else because the message ought to have been received loud and clear by now. You can’t get your morals (any more than you can your history, your math, or your science) solely from an ancient religious text without coming out sounding incredibly stupid. Like this girl (and I hope against hope these are an act, a bit of performance art or something, and not an honest expression) …


 Or, more germanely, like sincere idiot Alan Keyes ...


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My first library loan using the #kindle! - Wake County Public Libraries

"Galileo's Dream" by Kim Stanley Robinson

"American Dreamers" looks back at the history of the Left in the U.S., finds today to be the nadir. Atheists partly to blame?!

American Dreamers — By Michael Kazin — Book Review -

The left generally failed, according to Kazin, when it emphasized atheism, collectivism and ideological purity. It has been more successful when taking the form of broad, heterogeneous movements struggling for individual rights. Witness the rise of gay marriage, arguably today’s most effective left-leaning social campaign. Viewed as a utopian dream, it promises to transform the institution of marriage. But viewed as a civil rights matter, it simply aims to include more people in an existing institution.

In the history of the 20th century left, atheists are getting lumped in with the Stalinists?! Ugh. Pariah status affirmed.

Surprising Exactly Nobody, Prominent Online Poker Site Turns Out to be a Shady Operation

Full Tilt Poker Site Misused Players’ Money, U.S. Says -

That is the essence of a civil complaint that federal prosecutors filed on Tuesday. It asserts that players around the world entrusted Full Tilt with $390 million in gambling money, and that the company promised to keep those funds in secure accounts. In reality, prosecutors found, the money wasn’t there; instead, much of it had been transferred to the owners and management of Full Tilt, some of whom were themselves among the most prominent and popular poker players in the world.

“Full Tilt was not a legitimate poker company but a global Ponzi scheme,” said Preet S. Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, whose office filed the complaint on Tuesday.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Religion 101

Christian Mom Attacks Her Atheist Son! - YouTube:

"You wanna know there's no God? Then let me tell you, you're going to get
absolutely nothing, NOTHING, for Christmas because that's what Christmas is about!"

Well, here endeth the lesson. Go in peace.

Garfield's wound and Alexander Graham Bell's metal detector.

Candice Millard: "The Destiny of the Republic" | The Diane Rehm Show from WAMU and NPR

Image via The Diane Rehm Show

Born into poverty in the woods of Ohio, James Garfield rose through the strata of American society on the strength of his intellect and strong work ethic. A civil war hero, he was elected the twentieth president of the United States in 1880. Just a few months later, a deranged office-seeker shot Garfield at a Washington train station. With the assassination of Abraham Lincoln still fresh in their minds, the American people once again watched helplessly as their president lay dying. The extraordinary life of James Garfield, the doctors who failed to save him from death, and how a senseless tragedy unified the country.
Fascinating story about the treatment Garfield received after being shot.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

New favorite bookmark sharing service: Pinterest

cdogzilla (cdogzilla) on Pinterest

My wife and I are finding this is a great way to share recipes and ideas for things to do around the house that we find across the web.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Creation Museum and Taxidermy Hall of Fame of North Carolina is what it says it is.

Creation Museum and Taxidermy Hall of Fame of North Carolina

It's like Geocities circa 1999. I wouldn't even have looked if it weren't NC-based -- I'm all about the local flavor.

Via Pharyngula

"Human sacrifice. Dogs and cats living together ... mass hysteria!"

OMG dog eats tiger | Say OMG

Confirming what we already knew: dogs > cats.

Kim Stanley Robinson's Three Californias


Image via e-bay

As I drove through Camp Pendleton I was struck by how empty the land there remained, and then when I hit the border of Orange County, San Clemente suddenly surrounded me, and I saw that different histories do different things to the land. It occurred to me that if I set three science fiction novels in Orange County, I could show how the land was different as a result. Three obvious future history forms were the utopian, the dystopian, and the after-the-fall (I had just read Earth Abides, A Canticle For Leibowitz, etc.). Then it occurred to me that one character could live in all three futures, and have three completely different lives, visible to the reader but not to the character.
The Gold Coast remains one of my all-time favorite novels. The Mars Trilogy is probably the superior accomplishment as a whole, and The Years of Rice and Salt may, in truth, be his greatest novel to date; but, partly because I read all but The Wild Shore as the California books were coming out, and actually got to meet and chat, briefly, with Mr. Robinson at Ziesing's bookstore in Willimantic, CT, and later at ReaderCon in Lowell, MA, the early novels were deeply influential during (what I'll charitably call) my formative years.

Via Gerry Canavan

Fenway Park: The Centennial

Look what arrived in the mail today:

via my flickr
Big thanks to Bruce at BSMW for running the drawing and the good folks at St. Martin's Press for offering the prize!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Who are the "radicals" again? (NC religious extremists have fliers and propaganda films they would like to show you.)

ISS - Controversial NC election fliers linked to anti-public school religious activists:

Image via ISS

As of this writing, officials had yet to identify the source of fliers. But Facing South has found they may be linked to fundamentalist activists who believe Christians should completely abandon public schools.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Constructive Responsibility of Intellectuals

Boston Review — Archon Fung: The Constructive Responsibility of Intellectuals:

The distinctive constructive contribution of intellectuals is to help gather and analyze information about what works and what doesn’t and to offer ideas for activists—and for the broader public—to consider. Intellectuals such as John Stuart Mill, perhaps most clearly in his writing on the status of women but also on democracy, are part of this tradition. Scholar-activists such as Gary Bellow helped to invent legal-reform strategies that focus on building power in popular organizations rather than merely appealing to judges. Jane Mansbridge, in her analysis of the failure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, suggests more promising strategies for subsequent reform movements. Though he was not a public intellectual, John Rawls developed a conception of justice that has helped many others to understand not just how their own society is unjust, but what moves toward justice look like. Philippe van Parijs is the most forceful proponent of the “universal basic income,” a proposal that has won the support of international civil society organizations and even policymakers in some countries. Joel Rogers has developed interesting projects to reconfigure labor unions in the United States in ways that make them more inclusive and successful as participants in economic-development projects.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Gay teen encouraged to leave Connecticut Christian school ("Encouraged" = withdraw or be expelled)

Gay teen encouraged to leave Connecticut Christian school -

Image via follow up post.

"They say they accept all religions, they don't discriminate," she said. "They're holding their standards, but those are not even made clear." The website mentions nothing about sexual orientation, and there is no faith clause, she said.

"I think my big problem with the church and Christian schools is if you're going to accept folks outside the religion, how do they know what the standards are?" said Lodovico. "If you don't make those clear, then let's let kids know what they're getting into. Let parents know."
Legally, private schools can discriminate. It should come as no surprise a Christian one, even one open to other faiths (read: "If you're a sucker for any religion, we think we can convert you."), would discriminate in this way. It sounds like Miss Aviles is doing just fine and her leaving is the school's loss not hers.

What this story ought to remind us though is discrimination is alive and well, and (some, Christian) adults are perfectly content to use their power over young people to attempt to shame them, and tell them they are somehow wrong, broken, or immoral when, the situation is quite reverse. When someone who's done nothing wrong is bullied for no good reason, and that is what's happened here, it's the bully who is wrong, broken, and acting immorally.

Steal Tom's Idea

Steal This Idea: Presidents Saluting Like Nazis:

Image via Tom Pappalardo

Steal this blog idea: There should be a photo blog of presidents and presidential candidates innocently waving hello or motioning for their audiences to sit down ... You should probably use tumblr, because it’s perfect for lazy people stealing jpgs off of Google Image Search. You will probably get a book deal.

Court Rules Ed Forchion Can't Change His Name to ""

Technology & Marketing Law Blog: Marijuana Activist Can't Change His Name to "" -- In re Forchion

The court turns to the key issue of whether Forchion can change his name to a domain name. This turns on whether Forchion is guaranteed to be able to use the domain name indefinitely. The court notes that although domain name registrants "appear to possess all [of] the component rights" of property owners, on closer examination, "it becomes apparent that a domain name is not property." The court concludes that a domain name is merely the product of an agreement for services between the registrant and the registrar. The agreement--pursuant to which a registrant secures a domain name--is not guaranteed to continue indefinitely. The registrar places numerous limitations on the registrant's use of a domain name and if the registrant breaches the domain name registration agreement in any number of ways (e.g., fails to pay fees, allows the domain name registration to lapse, uses the domain name in violation of the law), the registrar can cease providing the registration services. The court sees this as problematic because if Forchion's name change is approved, his name would "permanently" become "," but if he loses the domain name a subsequent user could end up with the rights to In the court's eyes, the "dual use might create confusion, depending in part on what the new registrant did with"

"Doesn't look like you'll be needing this any longer," said the looter to the corpse.

As Hartford Woman Decomposed, People From Neighborhood Ransacked Her Home -

Adam Alco, looter.

HARTFORD— While the body of Debra Jurasus moldered in a recliner in her Goodrich Street home, some people from the neighborhood broke in, ransacked the house and stole a jar of coins, credit cards, a laptop computer, a camera and her car keys, police say. 
The burglars made several trips to the house, despite the odor, and used her green 1995 Ford Escort to haul away the loot, according to the arrest warrant for two of the suspects.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Piano Men (Never mind the match, third on the keyboard is bad luck.)

外國達人秀女評委直接看傻了 - YouTube:

Families sue Duke over bogus cancer research (Duke being Duke.)

Families sue Duke over bogus cancer research ::

via WRAl

DURHAM, N.C. — Two patients and the families of six others have filed suit against Duke University, the Duke University Health System and several affiliated physicians over clinical trials linked to a discredited researcher.

The group is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in the case, alleging that Duke tried to cover up questions about the research and performed unnecessary chemotherapy on people in hopes of patenting and spinning off a cancer-screening test.

Monday, September 5, 2011

16,000 guns ‘lost’ from manufacturing plants in last 2.5 years (Time for a milk carton campaign?)

16,000 guns ‘lost’ from manufacturing plants in last 2.5 years: report | The Raw Story:

A report released Thursday highlighted that more than 16,000 firearms have been reported "lost" from licensed gun manufacturing plants before sale since 2009, an average of 18 guns lost per day. Many of these guns don't have serial numbers affixed yet, making them nearly impossible to trace and thus desirable for criminals.
Serious question: how many "lost" guns are acceptable? At what point do you think it's time for civil or criminal penalties? One "lost" probably not worth getting upset about, could just be an oversight in the paperwork or something harmless. But what about two? Or ten? Surely it must be some number less than 16,000?!

Via Friendfeed's Jim 

Stormtrooper confirms this is not the droid he was looking for. (Dalekmobile at Burning Man is brilliant!)

Burning Man 2011: Dalek Art Car - YouTube:

Via Eoghann Irving

Wish I'd read this before submitting my one nitpick review of "Innumeracy".

The Blog : Whither Eagleman? : Sam Harris

Alone it stay <3>
Image via, clickthrough for original on flickr.

In fact, atheism (old and new) is entirely comfortable with the sentiment, famously expressed by the geneticist J.B.S. Haldane, that “the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.” Indeed, I now notice that Dawkins gave an entire TEDGlobal talk on this very theme. The strangeness of reality, or of specific theses about it, is not a problem—but patently bad ideas held for bad reasons (and often with murderous intensity) are. You will notice that the new atheists have not attacked the physicist David Deutsch for believing in the “many worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics. Nor have we criticized the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom for alleging that the entire universe could be running as a simulation on a supercomputer of the future. Nor has Ray Kurzweil and other proponents of an eschatological “singularity” fallen afoul of our rigid orthodoxies. These people have produced serious arguments in support of their peculiar beliefs that are not so easily dismissed. 
But there are no serious arguments to be summoned in defense of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam (despite the hopes of their apologists). How can I be sure? Well, for one, these faiths are embraced for the same reasons, and yet are mutually canceling. Worse still, each rests on the premise that its holy book contains the transcribed thoughts of an omniscient Deity. A glance at the books reveals this claim to be manifestly insane, as each is barren of scientific insights and bursting with logical, factual, and moral errors. You know this to be true—you say as much in your talk—and yet this knowledge constitutes nothing more, nor less, than atheism. 
There is nothing about atheism that is hostile to mystery, intellectual humility, or wonder. Religious faith is hostile to these things, being based on an abject fear of mystery, perfect (if unwitting) arrogance, and a frank perversion of wonder. In place of genuine ignorance, humility, and wonder—and even in place of real knowledge—religious people erect false idols and false certainties. As scientists, we must simply lament this perverse and pointless sublimation. You do lament it, in fact, but then you move on to say that “we know too little to commit to a position of strict atheism where we act as though we have it all figured out… but we know too much to commit to any particular religious story. So that puts me somewhere in the middle…” 
There is no middle, David, and your definition of “strict atheism” is a straw man. The middle you presume to occupy is, simply, atheism.
That's a lengthier pull quote than I'd normally grab, but I wanted to get all the thought (expressed much more elegantly here) I was trying to articulate in my recent mini-review of Innumeracy.

Our tax dollars hard at work uniting church and state ...

Why Is the Military Spending Millions on Christian Contractors Bent on Evangelizing US Soldiers? | Tea Party and the Right | AlterNet:

Image via The Josua Blog

Also paid for with taxpayer dollars are a plethora of events, programs, and schemes that violate not only the Constitution, but, in many cases, the regulations on federal government contractors, specifically the regulation prohibiting federal government contractors receiving over $10,000 in contracts a year from discriminating based on religion in their hiring practices.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Heroic 2nd Amendment-loving citizen uses his firearm to defend his family. (I'm kidding, of course, it's just another shithead with a gun menacing his family and neighbors.)

Sniper shoots Fremont man accused of threatening wife, deputies ::

Couldn't find a picture of the gunman, but you can see what a dangerous neighborhood he lives in.

A SWAT team sniper shot an armed Fremont man [James Gary Moskos] Friday night after he chased his wife, injured a neighbor and threatened authorities who sought to stop him, according to the Wayne County Sheriff's Office.
There are people who live in high crime areas that, sadly, I can at least understand why they are afraid and feel they need a weapon for self defense. Mostly though, unless you've got Crips on one side and Bloods on the other, you're probably just a coward if you think you need a gun. If it were possible to study data on injuries related to firearms, I think you'd find that simply having a gun in your home makes you and your loved ones less safe, regardless of how safe it makes you feel. It would be nice if statistics were actually available to confirm this. Ever wonder it's so hard to find facts, but so easy to find pro-gun propaganda? Yeah, me too.

I've been toying with the idea of devoting a week to gathering every news report I can find for a week, from across the country, that involved the discharge of a firearm over that seven day period to see how many instances I could find of a citizen successfully defending him- or herself with a legally owned and registered weapon versus how many instances of deliberate or accidental injury resulting from the firing of any weapon. Has any other blogger or journalist done this exercise already?

UNC Christian a capella group expels singer for his ‘gay views’

Sour note struck as NC Christian capella [sic] group expels singer for his ‘gay views’

"Hate the gay or leave this group. Even a daughter of Cain can be in, if she hates the gay enough."

The reason, according to Psalm 100 chief Blake Templeton was that Will Thomason was removed for his opinions about homosexuality, not for his sexual orientation — his views had clashed with the Bible.

Psalm 100, according to this report, is a student organisation that is recognised by the university and must follow the school’s non-discrimination policy.
Shorter Will Thomason: "But ... I'm not gay! Not that there's anything wrong with that."

I hope none of the other members eat shellfish, have a tattoo, or have never not killed every atheist they met, because they'll have to be booted out, too.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Amazon’s kindle tablet described by TC's MG Siegler

Amazon’s Kindle Tablet Is Very Real. I’ve Seen It, Played With It. | TechCrunch:
So why will people buy this device instead of a Nook Color? Well, beyond the deep Amazon services integration, there will be two other reasons, I believe. First, Amazon is going to promote the hell out of this thing on Second, the plan right now is to give buyers a free subscription to Amazon Prime.

The service, which Amazon currently sells for $79 a year, gives users access things like free unlimited two-day shipping, and no minimum purchases for free shipping. More importantly for this product, Prime users get access to Amazon’s Instant Video service.

"It's never interested me, art, at all," says man who draws in his sleep. And, is good at it.

Man Becomes Artist When He Sleeps - Slashdot:

During the day 37-year-old Lee Hadwin is a nurse with no particular love or talent for art, but when he sleeps it's a different story. Lee has been sleep-drawing since he was 4 and is now quite good. Some of his pieces have sold for six figures. Despite numerous tests, doctors can't explain how he's able to draw and paint while he's not conscious, or even what stage of sleep he's in while he works.
Some guys paint and draw, some sleepwalk. Me, I stop breathing and grind my teeth. Maybe I'm not drinking enough. (Alcohol seems to be a trigger for the drawing fellow's night work.)

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