Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Quotes from my Mom...

In an earlier post I mentioned that I will be going to Afghanistan. As a result of this, my mother was kind enough to come live with us while I'm gone to help out with the kids. It's a win win situation for both of us, we get a live in baby sitter (who cooks really well too!), and my mother gets to live without many bills for a year. She has been living in Hawaii, but wanted to move to the main land again because of the cheaper living expenses. Now she can move to Texas without worrying about a job or home for a bit. And of course she gets to play with her grand kids.

I'm making this blog post, and I assume many more, as a way of keeping the peace. We tend to argue because she has some pretty eccentric beliefs, and I'm pretty grounded in reality (at least I like to think so :). Instead of arguing with her when she says kind of out there things, I'll just blog about it and not take it too seriously. So, here are some Mom quotes. They aren't going to be exactly word for word, but my summary of what she said. I won't exaggerate or distort what she says one bit, I don't have to.

After I called her gullible for believing in astrology, she said :
I don't believe in Astrology. I do however believe that the sun, the planets, and the stars have an effect on us daily. They also imprinted certain characteristics on us the day we were born.
How is that not astrology?

The next one had me rolling with laughter. It hurt my sides. Don't worry, I did it in private so as not to offend. To help explain how the quote happened, you have to know a little background info. My mom has lived in Arizona and/or Hawaii for the last 25 years. Neither state has daylight saving time. Everyone else changes (well, not everyone, but you know what I mean), and they just do their own thing. My mother was talking about how she hasn't gotten used to it being light so late here in TX. She said..

I wish they didn't have daylight saving here. You would think that since it's so hot that they wouldn't want the extra hour of sunlight.
Well, that's why they don't have daylight saving in HI and AZ. It's already so hot, if they added another hour it would be way to hot. A lot of people are mad that other hot states have daylight saving because it makes it hotter.

You know that daylight saving doesn't actually make the day longer right? It's just an arbitrary change that has no effect on the sun. The sun is "up" longer in the summer, and less in the winter, but not because of daylight savings time. All daylight savings time does is make the time "line up" with the rising sun. There is still as much sunlight in the day in AZ, as in TX (at the same lat of course) regardless of what time we say it is.

No, daylight saving time makes the day longer. Sunrise happens at the same time, but the sun sets later in the day. I can show you in my farmers almanac (which she uses for astrology, not farming) that the sun rises at roughly the same time, but stays up later.
Yes Mom, you're right. I didn't want to argue about it, and we can't have friendly debates. I could see why you would think what she thinks, regardless of how wrong it is.

Most of you should know this, but in case you don't, the earth is tilted at an angle to the sun. As the earth is spinning around it's axis, it is also going around the sun. One half of the year the northern part of the earth is tilted closer to the sun, while on the other half of the year the southern part is. The hemisphere that is tilted closer to the sun experiences summer, and the hemisphere farthest away from the sun experiences winter. The equator is basically season less, as it stays pointed toward the sun, just slightly higher or lower depending on the time of year. As you are pointed towards the sun, you have longer days, and away from the sun shorter days. The exaggeration of the length of days increases the farther you get away from the equator.

Our system of time is completely arbitrary. You can call 4 Oclock, 12 Oclock, or beer thirty, or 987 space-time units. It's irrelevant to the sun. If I call it one thing, and you call it another, the sun is still the same. Time is just a unit of measurement. Just as an inch is still as long whether it's called an inch, or it's called 2.54 centimeters, daylight is still the same regardless of what time you say it is. The day is longer in the summer, and daylight saving "springs forward". That just means that 7:00, is now 8:00, and the sun is "up" later, even though it rises at roughly the same time.

If I didn't explain it well or you want to know a lot more about it, check out wiki.

Monday, July 28, 2008

a bipedal primate mammal

What is it that makes us human? What characteristics define us? Are we human simply because of our DNA? Are we human no matter what? It is simple to contrast a human with an inanimate object, and even with other species. We are singular and unique on this planet. There isn't anything much like us. We walk on two feet, using our opposable thumbs and our amazing brains to literally change the face of earth. As of yet, we aren't just unique to our planet, or our solar system, but we are unique in the universe. There are likely other intelligent beings in the universe, even though they are undiscovered by us, but they most likely aren't quite like us. We are humans, but what does that mean? According to, the title of this post is all that human, the noun means.

Describing myself as an atheist doesn't say much in the way of my beliefs. It simply says that I don't believe in a god, not what I do believe in. I'm an atheist because I'm a freethinker, not because I'm ignorant of the gods. As a freethinker I've thought about many of the things I do believe in. I've also looked at a lot of beliefs that other atheists have that I don't share. I like to try on their ideals and see if they fit, and if not, why. Humanism is what has been on my mind lately. The basic gist of Humanism is kind of like the beginning part of the second paragraph of the declaration of independence, but slightly more politically correct. All humans have certain rights that should be guaranteed simply because they are human.

I agree one hundred percent that all humans deserve the chance to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Where I disagree, is the definition of human. I don't think that just having 23 pairs of the right chromosomes makes you human. There are people with down syndrome that definitely deserve the name human. On the other hand, there are people in this world with the right amount of chromosomes that don't deserve to be called humans. Basically, I think that everyone that is born has the potential to be a "human", but because of the person they become, they may lose that privilege. If someone chooses not to live by the very basic principles of the golden rule, then they forfeit their right to be treated by said rule. I don't mean minor infractions like praying or not, or some other trivial thing, but big things like physical abuse, murder, stealing, etc. If you don't want to act like a decent human being, then I don't think that you deserve the basic rights of a human being.

So essentially, I don't think I could exactly call myself a humanist. There are too many people in the world that I don't think deserve basic human rights.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I want to be a genetic engineer when I grow up...

Not that fluorescent fish aren't cool, but when are we going to really crack this genetic code? I know that we have sequenced a lot genomes, made clones, and of course made lots of creatures glow in the dark. I'm not talking about that. That's the equivalent of (if not worse) than my computer coding skills. I don't know how to write code. I know how to view html. I know how to look in the code and identify what bit of code does what, and then transplant that little bit of code into another bit of coding to usually get the results I want, but that's not actual coding. I'm not a computer programmer, and no one (yet) is a genetic engineer. Maybe there are genetic code manipulators, or genetic code transcribers, but there aren't any genetic engineers yet.

I'm talking about fully understanding the genetic code and using it to it's full advantage. I'm talking true intelligent design, not that baloney that the creationists claim. We are currently in the beggining stages of understanding genetics. Our genetic knowledge today is analogous to when we were building computers the size of rooms with less computing power than the pocket calculator of today. I'm not one prone to prophesy, but here is my prediction for the future; Our understanding of DNA is going to grow exponentialy. I envision buildings being not just organic and green, but actuall living creations. Our lights will be provided by living chemical reactions, our air purified and our water provided by our house photosynthesizing. Our fecal matter will be taken into the living house as fertilizer. Instead of buying a desk made from chopped up trees, you will grow a tree in the shape of a desk. Why build a guitar or violin? It would sound much better if it were grown as one single piece of tight grained wood. Instead of growing crops at a farm, and butchering animals for meat, your house will just grow fruits, vegetables, and juicy ribeyes.

Another serious improvement to life as we know it will be concerning our health. Have a gene that causes heart disease? Not in the future you won't. Genetic disorder? Nope, not in the future. Viruses, bacterial infections or allergies? Please, those were the first to go. Think I'm crazy? Sure, maybe now I'm crazy, but here in the future, crazy doesn't really happen all that often anymore. Wow, you were in a tragic accident and lost your legs? That's okay, we'll grow you a new pair. Don't even get me started on aging and death.

This kind of sounds utopic, but let's not get hasty. There are going to be some things that aren't going to be perfect. Genetic discrimination, genetic inequalities, and loss of genetic diversity. The way that marketing is, everyone would end up being identical if things played out wrong. Another important thing to consider is reproduction. We already can't feed everyone in the world, and we definitely can't sustain the current rate of growth. If life expectancy suddenly jumped to 300 years, we would have some serious overcrowding issues. There would have to be some kind of limitation in place to slow population growth. If it wasn't enforced, people wouldn't listen, if it was enforced, it would be considered an attack on our basic human rights, and people wouldn't listen. I suppose that if we are all genetically modified to be more intelligent, and less selfish than it wouldn't be that big of a deal. We are setting the stage for the possibility of real life distopias (my favorite type of book that I still want to blog about sometime) coming into existence.

Now, these aren't all original ideas, and even the ones that are original and creative from me, I'm sure someone has already had them. It seems that nothing in this world hasn't been thought at least once. I'm sure there is probably already a web page that talks about all of this in much better detail, and I'll get a link to it after I post this. That's cool though, that's whats great about the internet, anything you are interested in can be read about with just a little googling. So if anyone knows about a distopia book with genetic engineering, please let me know. Oh, and I don't mean Brave New World because cloning, birth control, and alcohol in the babies' test tubes isn't exactly cutting edge science (anymore), and I've already read it. :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Fantastical Story

I made this post awhile ago. I wanted to edit it, and apparently I left it half finished and never re-posted it. Oops! Well here is the video. I'll have to redo the rest of the post when I have more time.

This video has an agenda, but I don't think that the points made are any less valid. The sources check out, and the agenda is actually pro-religion (albeit a different religion). There is a huge abundance of information on this topic available, I just personally liked this video. If this video peeks your interest and you want to know more then google "DNA and Mormon".

Monday, July 14, 2008

Edward Current and youtube.

If you haven't seen Ed's stuff on youtube, it's worth a few minutes to check it out. Here is one of my favorites.

That's called logic atheists, suck on it!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Scarlet A


I put an OUT campaign scarlet A on my blog a little while back, but neglected to explain why I did. The main reason I put it up isn't because I agree with the capaign's ideals (I do agree btw), but instead to help show sarcasm. Sarcasm is hard to show or translate in writing. I don't take religion very seriously, and like to jest. If you aren't a regular reader or you are unaware that I am indeed an atheist you may get confused when I'm being sarcastic, and not realize that I'm just being facetious. If you have to explain the joke, it's never as funny. So, that's the main reason why I have a Scarlet A on my blog. It's a reference point grounded in reality, easily visible, and generally recognizable.

Offensive vs insulting

I had a falling out with a friend recently, and it was mostly because he didn't understand the difference between the words offend and insult. For anyone that isn't aware of the subtle, but important difference, I quote Note that they don't always mean different things, but often do.

offend - 2 a: to cause difficulty, discomfort, or injury b: to cause dislike, anger, or vexation (offend needlessly)

offend need not imply an intentional hurting but it may indicate merely a violation of the victim's sense of what is proper or fitting

insult - : to treat with insolence, indignity, or contempt

insult suggests deliberately causing humiliation, hurt pride, or shame
Basically, the difference is the intent. Someone can be insulting and yet not offend anyone, and someone can be offended by someone who isn't insulting. Calling someone an asshole is being insulting, even if the person being called an asshole doesn't take it personal and get offended. On the other hand, if someone doesn't believe something just because someone else does (without any evidence for, and in spite of evidence against) it does not make the skeptic insulting even if the believer is offended. Does this example seem like it may have a real life parallel, maybe based on a true story?

If you ever find yourself being offended, you might consider taking a step back for a little bit of self reflection. Why are you being offended? What nerve did someone hit?

As far as being insulting goes, just because I find you insulting, doesn't mean that what you said has any clout. Instead, it could mean that you are just generally unpleasant to be around.

Next subtly different synonym comparison - pride vs arrogance
Coming soon!

"I used to be an Atheist."

I've heard it a lot, as I'm sure many other Atheists have, the phrase - "I used to be an Atheist." You hear it from older, "wiser" people usually when they are trying to convert you. You also hear it anytime there is a video, article, or speaker that claims they can scientifically prove the existence of god. It supposedly adds more weight to the strength of their claim, because they too used to "be an Atheist" just like you! If you have heard enough conversion stories then you know that it actually makes them less credible. It shows one of a few things. The most common possibility is that they are just lying, the second is they were atheist because it was the cool, defiant thing to do, or last that they were atheist because they were ignorant or unaware of religion, not because they recognized it for the quackery that it is. So if you haven't already noticed this phrase, look out for it, logical fallacies and general religious silliness are bound to follow. Anyone that is a true Atheist will more likely than not remain one forever. Of course part of being open minded is to be, well, open minded, so it is possible that an atheist would be converted if there really were a god. The only problem is that every time you hear someone say they used to be an Atheist they never have a good logical reason for the change of heart.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Circular farming!

Edward had a comment on the last post about another urban farming idea that is even better than the two that I had posted. I think all three of them have benefits, but the Omega Garden seems to be the best. If you had the Omega Garden on every floor of a tall building you would have a considerable amount of farming space. I'm curious to see which of these ideas, or a combination of them, will turn out to be the future of farming. Here is a short video on the Omega Garden. Thanks Edward.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Vertical farming!

It's not everyday that you hear an idea that could literally change the world. I vaguely heard about this a few years ago, but for what ever reason didn't look into it more. I saw it again on the Colbert Report a few weeks ago, and it renewed my interest. Here are two similar but different approaches to growing crops. Both of them are more efficient, healthier, and bound to help feed the masses. Now to educate the masses to stop reproducing like rabits! Science can only save us so much.

I think this one is the best idea, but may take awhile until it's actually in place.

This one is pretty cool too. Maybe the above one would be combined with this.