Thursday, February 28, 2013

Being on the wrong side of compassion

Facing the hurtful things that people do is often a depressing thing for me. What makes it worse is when those hurtful things are done by people that I hold in higher regard than the general public.

None of us are perfect, but I grow so tired of seeing people intentionally hurting other people. What's worse is that so many people that feel privileged seem willing to hurt other people simply for their own amusement. After they go out of their way to hurt someone, they post a video of it where everyone can ridicule the victim.

Here is a link to a video posted on Facebook. Not only did they try to humiliate the pedestrian, they then posted the video so that we could all laugh at their antics.

Normally I would just ignore things like this. What really got under my skin today was the fact that it was shared by a family member of mine that I have a great deal of respect for. Sadly, after realizing what they think about a video like this, I have lost some of that respect for them. Worse, it puts me in a bind. I can't confront them about this without risking tremendous strain in our family that is already pushed to the breaking point all too often.

Just remember: when you do something like this to someone, you are hurting more people than you might ever realize. You end up being on the wrong side of compassion, and by expecting our approval, you put others on the wrong side of compassion as well.

Being Both Victim and Bully

Paul Fidalgo reminds us in a post at Near Earth Object that there is more to bullying than the simple dichotomy of being either a bully or a victim. Sometimes people caught in the middle between bullies and people that are more socially vulnerable find themselves battling on two fronts.

I had never even thought about this [both bully and victim] as a category, but it makes a lot of sense as I think back to those ugly days. Imagine: In desperation to avoid being bullied, or to make up for it in the eyes of your peers or in your own sense of self, you yourself turn to bullying someone else. In other words, since you find yourself unable to punch up, you opt to punch down.

Neither had I, though when I look back I suspect I fit into that category more than I would like to admit. Bullying is a difficult problem to say the least. It is often presented as an either/or situation with everyone wanting to eliminate the problem. Studies like the one Paul Fidalgo points out at Time should serve to let us know that it isn't that simple of a problem or it might have been solved long ago.

Regardless of how difficult the problem is, the least we can do is recognize bullying when we see it both in ourselves and in others. Even those of us that were bullied aren't immune from making someone else's life miserable. If we can be honest with ourselves and others, that might go a long ways in minimizing the amount of bullying that people have to face.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

FaceBook, A Pickpocket's Best Friend

It's no secret that Facebook really wants all your information. What came as a complete surprise to me was that they were working just as aggressively to gain the same kind of knowledge over my banking accounts.

Facebook has some fun games to play if you are interested in wasting some time. To jump start your fun, you can spend a few dollars and get into the game faster. But if you ever spend money with Facebook, they will do everything in their power to make sure that they keep access to your financial information forever.

I spent a few dollars for my wife on one of these games. I didn't think it was a big deal. The purchase process went just like every other purchase process using PayPal. Using my wife's Facebook account I told Facebook what I wanted, I was transferred to PayPal, I had to enter my credentials including email address and password, and finally I was returned to Facebook with a message saying that my transaction went through.

Nothing funny happened during the transaction. There were no options or check boxes to opt in or opt out of anything. It was exactly like every other PayPal transaction I had ever seen, or so I though.

A couple of weeks later my wife wanted to spend a few more dollars on the game. No problem. I was prepared to walk her through the process, but there was no process to walk through. Facebook had kept the credentials and was able to take money directly out of my PayPal account with no passwords, credential checks, or any other form of security between the entire Facebook account and my bank accounts.

I was horrified! I wanted to know how this was allowed to happen. I checked with PayPal and sure enough, they honored the payment without so much as a whisper. I dug around in the transaction details and found there to be an open payment agreement between my wife's Facebook account and my PayPal account. Fortunately there was an opportunity to terminate the agreement. It was canceled on the spot.

I had my wife try to make another purchase from her Facebook account. Facebook tried to access my PayPal account again, but PayPal refused. After looking around in Facebook for exactly where the authorization to access my PayPal account was stored, I found their online help to be terribly out of date.

After the purchase failed, I tried again. This time I was brought to a screen asking me how I wanted to make the purchase. I selected PayPal again. While I was making the purchase I read all the fine print. There, buried in the print above the "agree and pay" button was the agreement for Facebook to retain open access to my PayPal account. There was no way to opt out. If I wanted to make the purchase, I had to allow Facebook access to my PayPal account.

I completed the purchase and dug around Facebook until I found where the information was kept. The only way to make sure that access to your accounts remains behind a password is to dig into Facebook's settings after the purchase and break the connection between your Facebook account and your bank account. It is a long, time consuming process that Facebook seems to change every time they redesign something on their site.

This is a horrible way to do business. Regardless of how many layers of security you have between random websites and your bank accounts, if you ever let Facebook through it will try to keep your accounts open to anything that access Facebook. And in this socially connected world, that makes your accounts potentially open to virtually the entire population of the Earth.

Security experts are constantly telling us about the number of people that fall victim to a confidence man cleaning out their bank account. With "features" like Facebook provides to assist you in your purchases, I am surprised that the number of victims is so small.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Changing the Voting Rules Won't Help Republicans

The Republican party has been hard at work trying to change the way that some states award their electoral votes during a presidential election. Most of these states have come to their senses and realized that trying to game the system to win elections wasn't the best idea. Michigan, it seems, didn't come to the same conclusion.

Michigan Live reports:
Republican Rep. Pete Lund's pending proposal would award one vote to the winner of each of the state's 14 congressional districts and two votes to the winner of the statewide popular vote. If that system had been in place last year, it appears Romney could have won 9 electoral votes to Obama's 7.
So Romney would have "won" Michigan despite the fact that President Obama defeated Mitt Romney by more than 9 percentage points in the state. I can't see any way to look at it other than to think that Rep. Pete Lund wants to make sure that the Republican candidate always gets the lion's share of the electoral college votes his state.

But Rep. Lund disagrees:
Lund, from Shelby Township, says the plan isn’t designed to help one political party over the other. He says it’s a move designed to be more representative of the people and actual vote totals.
It is easy to see that this is either a lie or Rep. Lund has a devastating problem with logic and reason. As noted earlier, the majority of the voting population in Michigan voted for President Obama. That was the reason he won the state's electoral college.

Despite Rep. Lund's shenanigans, I suspect that their plan won't help them in the long run. Even if they do manage to get a plan in place to skew the electoral vote, I suspect that the people will continue to migrate away from the Republican party. Sure, if the Republican party managed to tilt the playing field enough, they might win a few elections in the short term. The problem is that they aren't doing anything to represent the people they want to vote for them. If they would use compassion and integrity to represent their electorate, they wouldn't need to try to steal elections.

To This Day Project - Shane Koyczan

It is difficult for me to find words to express myself after watching this video. It covers the experience that so many of us found ourselves in while we were growing up and going to school. Please, whether you were a victim of bullying or not, take a moment and watch this video. There are people out there that are suffering like this every day.

I, personally, didn't suffer as bad as Shane Koyczan. My experience in school was more along the lines of ostracisation. Every time I tried to interact with other people I was viciously put in my place. They let me know that I wasn't welcome, that I wasn't one of them, and I would never fit in with them. I ended up spending all my time alone waiting for my chance to get away from that place.

The volume of your suffering doesn't matter. Some people suffer more than others throughout school. What matters is that we try to stop all the suffering and bullying. We as a society owe it to ourselves and the future generations to see that no one is allowed to devalue other people, especially the most vulnerable of us all.

White House Petition Returned to Zero Count?

What the hell is going on over there at the White House petition site? Are they having some kind of technical failure? Recently a petition was posted to prohibit religious institutions from mandating any care decisions that rightfully belong between a patient and Doctor. I thought it was an excellent petition, and it was well on its way to reaching the required 100,000 signatures required for the White House to respond. Now, at the time of this writing, the signature count has been returned to just eight.
I never thought there was really anything that the government could do regarding the Catholic insistence of buying up all the hospitals, but I hoped it would gain some traction and maybe make the news. But with eight total signatures, no news organization is going to pay any attention to this at all.
I don't think there is any kind of ulterior motives behind the resetting of the petition count. Actually, I suspect that it was some type of computer error that lost the current signatories. Whatever the reason, I hope there is some IT people around to look into the problem and try to recover the lost signatures.
In the mean time we all need to go back to the petition and sign it. I assume that since the count has been zeroed, there will be no problem with signing it again.

Is A Pink Gun For Boys Or Girls?

Jason Thibeault of the Lousy Canuck blog recently wrote an entry about a petition on the White House website about requiring all guns be painted pink. It is easy to realize that putting forward the idea that pink is only a girls' color and guns are boys' things are damaging to both women and men. Not all women want to be associated with the color pink, and not all men want to deal with the toxic masculinity a firearms and trying to be seen as the ultimate in macho.

Jason Said:
There’s no denying that guns and gun culture are toxically macho. They are tied into masculinity to such an absurd degree that some of the most iconic figures in popular culture that men are expected to identify with are gun-toting maniacs: Tony Montana, for instance, or Rambo, or any of a thousand other power fantasy men with a “license to kill” and a womanizing bent. Hell, real-life examples abound, even intersecting with entertainment: Ted Nugent comes to mind immediately.
So I get the idea of doing something to “sour the milk”, so to speak, for the hyper-macho gun culture advocates. I really do think that changing gun culture would go a long way toward fixing a society that tries to blame VIDEO GAMES for rampant murder sprees, going so far as to blame games like Mass Effect for the massacre at Sandy Hook. But this is another example of “pinkification” — preying on the well-propagated societal construct that women like pink, and that men cannot, lest they be seen as unmanly. Homosexual, even.
 And he has a point. There is no way that this can be seen as anything other than the pinkification of something and leveraging existing stereotypes, I'm not sure that is a bad thing in this case. If there is a clash between these two stereotypes, one of them will loose. Perhaps, and hopefully, it will be the idea that everything pink is girly. Perhaps it would end the rational that to create something for girls, all you have to do is take something created for boys and color it pink instead.

Ultimately this could be a boon for reducing the tired old cliche that women are nothing more than a color. And if it goes the other way and guns aren't seen as the super macho be all and end all of masculinity, then that would work too.

I am a little hesitant to write about this since I realize that I am coming to the table at a disadvantage. Since I and my entire family are colorblind, the stereotypes about pink being for girls is completely wasted on us. Generally I have no idea what color something is, and I rarely care. My only real exposure to the pink is for girls trope is from seeing other people that have a problem dealing with it.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Line Between Life and Death

It's been six days since I held death in my arms. The memories, still vivid and hyper-real, replay every time my mind looses focus for even a second. Fear loiters around the edge of my consciousness waiting for any deviation from the norm to remind me that death is waiting and won't be denied.
Last Monday my wife choked. It wasn't one of those movie moments where there is a dramatic buildup and then a rescuer steps forward with the confidence of years of experience to save the day and win praise from a room full of diners; instead, we were eating lunch and in the blink of an eye she couldn't breathe.
Choking has always been a problem for my wife. It goes all the way back to when she was a girl. I'm not sure where the choking problem comes from; perhaps it is left over from childhood nerve damage, or maybe there is a genetic quirk that causes an abnormally restricted esophagus. The one thing I do know is that there isn't anything that the doctors have been able to do about it.
The moment she choked almost seemed to be a non-event. There was no outward sign that she was choking. There was no coughing or choking noise. One moment she was fine, the next she could neither draw any breath or let any out. Since she couldn't breathe, she also couldn't make any noise at all.
Her actions almost looked like someone that just ate something that was too hot for them. The only difference seemed to the the increasing void of silence. I realized what was happening a moment later and rushed to help.
I had to perform the Heimlich maneuver twice. The first time wasn't effective. The second time dislodged the food and allowed her to begin barely breathing again. There was a part of me that wanted to perform the Heimlich maneuver a third time to try to further dislodge the food, but I was taught that if the person can breathe even a little on their own, you let them try to clear the obstruction themselves so you don't do more harm than good.
The funny thing about the Heimlich maneuver is that it puts your mouth close to the ear of the person you are trying to help. I remember talking all the time I was performing the Heimlich maneuver on my wife. But I wasn't talking to some god or being that religious people keep insisting I will call on in moments of need, instead I was talking to my wife.
That's what makes me an atheist. It isn't that I think there is a god there and I just don't like him. I don't think there is a god there at all. I am as sure that there is no god there as I am sure that there is no hot cocoa shop with a tourists welcome manned by aliens waiting on us to reach Pluto.
Not once have I seen any indication that there might be a god out there. Every advance that has been made has been made by humans. Even the Heimlich maneuver was named for the person that, arguably, discovered the technique (Henry Heimlich, via Wikipedia). If I had chosen to sit across the table and pray to these nonexistent gods, I very much doubt I would have had any more success than the people that had to watch their loved ones die before the discovery of the Heimlich maneuver.
There is a line between life and death. We will all die someday. But as atheists, it is important that we do everything we can to make this life the best life possible for ourselves and others that share the world with us. There isn't a better place waiting on us as a reward for suffering or misfortune. This life, and the people in it, rely on other humans to make it worth living. Anything less and we are only cheating ourselves and others.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Republicans; A Chance For Redemption

During the Republican primary in late 2011 and early 2012 I was throwing my support behind Jon Huntsman. Since I am not a Republican, I was urging all my friends and family members that were Republicans to look at what Mr. Huntsman's stances were and see if he wasn't the type of candidate they could support. It wasn't that he was a perfect candidate, but he was at least on a path that the Republican party should have taken long ago. And today, I find out that he is still working to correct the path that the disastrous path that the Republican party is on.
The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Mr. Huntsman supports marriage:

"I've been married for 29 years. My marriage has been the greatest joy of my life," he wrote. "There is nothing conservative about denying other Americans the ability to forge that same relationship with the person they love."

I supported Mr. Huntsman at the time specifically because he seemed to be a thinking man that was sincere in his desire to help the United States. He didn't seem to be a politician that was just in the race to see if he could advance his own career, and the longer that I keep my eyes on him, the more that I like him.
Not only is Mr. Huntsman trying to get the Republican party on the right track, he is hoping to get them to take the lead on issues that should never even have been debated in the first place.

"Today we have an opportunity to do more: conservatives should start to lead again and push their states to join the nine others that allow all their citizens to marry," Huntsman wrote.

I am a liberal and I doubt that conservative philosophy would ever be able to morph enough that I would feel comfortable in the Republican party. Despite this fact, I think it is important to have more than one party working toward their vision of what's right for the American people. If only one party has any real political power then there can be no competing visions of the future to make sure that the United States stays on the right path.
The Republicans would be smart to nominate someone like Mr. Huntsman to represent them instead of looking for people that are so far to the right that they make Ronald Reagan look like a flaming liberal.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

2016 Republican Presidential Contenders

It's never too soon to start paying attention to the elections that are just around the corner. There are already politicians jockeying for position at the top of the Republican ticket. There are actually many different prospects at this point since it is possible that anyone can catch the public's imagination. And it is the ability to catch the public's imagination that is, arguably, the most important thing for a politician at this point in the race.
One of the things necessary is to be able to convince the money men of the party that they are able to deliver the votes. It is only after they demonstrate that they can deliver the votes that they will be rewarded with the contributions that will help them run their campaigns.
So yes, it is essentially a popularity contest at this point.

The first person on my list is Marco Rubio (see his profile on Wikipedia). He was selected to give the Republicans' response to the State of the Union address by President Obama. While we may never know the exact reasons why he was chosen, he is being tested as the new face of the Republican party. Nate Silver at 538 (New York Times) has even written a piece about him judging some of his initial positions.
So how does he shape up? Pretty well at this point. He has descent name recognition for this stage of the game. He is also Hispanic with an immigration plan. Since the thinking of the Republican party after the last election was that they lost, at least partially, because of a lack of Latinos willing to vote for them; putting forward a Latino with a plan for fixing what is assumed to be the Latinos' biggest problem seems to be a reasonable strategy.
Marco Rubio will be one of the politicians I watch to see whether he can catch a wave of public support or whether he is more of a flash in the pan on the way to a different nominee.

It's Getting Shiny Here!

Oklahoma is beginning to look all bright and shiny. The needles on the pine trees have been collecting the freezing rain as it falls and glistening in the streetlights. The trees, at least, are beginning to take on the appearance of something otherworldly with their crystalline glow on one side and their shadowy blackness on the other.
This magical world will only exist for a few hours. Sand and salt are already being trucked around the area and when the sun comes out, the only remaining traces of this majesty will be the dirty mud puddles red clay slop that will stick to the shoes of everyone in the state.
I plan on enjoying the beauty while I can.

Are Republicans Really Aliens?

If you pay attention to any news at all, you can be forgiven in thinking that Republicans must be from a different planet. There can be no way that thinking, reasonable human beings can believe some of the things that Republicans purport to believe. They can't be the gun crazed, self centered, narcissistic, uncaring monsters of money that they seem to be. And sure enough, they aren't. When we look closer at what they actually believe, we find that we all deem most of the same things important.
Gallop recently updated their World Affairs survey, and the results should be surprising to anyone that believes that Democrats and Republicans think markedly different on the vast majority of issues.

Gallup measured Americans' support for nine major foreign policy objectives in this year's World Affairs survey, conducted Feb. 7-10. While at least seven in 10 Americans consider each objective at least somewhat important, the percentage rating each "very important" ranges from 31% to 88%.

A similar range of support for the nine goals is seen among Republicans, independents, and Democrats, although the two major party groups differ significantly in the rank order of the lower importance goals. The total rank order among independents comes close to that of Americans overall.

And there is the surprise. Republicans don't really think all that different from Independents or Democrats. The main difference is that the public face of their party is represented by people that can't get their heads out of their own asses. The people that claim to represent conservative ideals seek to create division where no division exists. We need to find a better way to pursue political consensus instead of putting the biggest blowhards on television to see which one can shout the loudest.
Remember the next time you see a news show host ranting about the evils of liberalism that the American people mostly agree with each other. What we need to do is quit watching the news shows that are more interested in creating division where none exists then reporting on reality.

Monday, February 18, 2013

What's The Difference Between President Obama And God?

This is such an easy question that it hardly deserves an answer. Despite this picture floating around Facebook, most of the people didn't seem to know the correct answer. Sure, Facebook is an echo chamber, but surely some of them must have realized that President Obama is real.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Cartesian God

One thing I have been hearing a lot of lately is the religious concept that there is always something bigger than what we know, and that bigger thing is God (unless it is coming from a different religion, then it is whatever their god or gods are). On the surface of it, this almost sounds like a reasonable argument... almost. It is also a difficult argument to argue against since almost all of us have Cartesian coordinates drilled into our heads from a very early age.
Wait, what the hell are Cartesian coordinates, and what do they have to do with arguments about whether God is real or not? Simple. The argument about there being something bigger (or beyond, or outside, or grander) than the universe absolutely relies on the idea of Cartesian coordinates.
Cartesian coordinates, for those of us that aren't math nerds, is the idea that space is broken down into areas that are perfectly squares. You can superimpose a number system on these squares, and that number system, with each direction being at a right angle to the other directions, is a Cartesian coordinate system. Granted in mathematics there is more to it that this, but this is the basic idea that their argument of God relies on.
Their idea is that since everything we know of is finite, there has to be something further on out. That something is God, and if it isn't God it is at least where he resides. But it was this exact type of thinking that lead us to the idea that the Earth was flat.
When man first imposed Cartesian coordinates on the Earth, he decided that it couldn't go on forever. They then thought that there must be an abrupt fall if you take one too many steps. If Earth didn't go on forever, then there also had to be something under it as well. This thing below the Earth had to be the realm of the devil. Of course it became known as the underworld. And heaven, of course, was straight up. It all made perfect sense. It fit with our preconceived ideas of how things were constructed. Needless to say, they were wrong.
And the same misapplication of Cartesian coordinates is at the heart of the argument of a God that has to be grander than the universe. The universe doesn't seem to be laid out in perfectly square geometry. When we try to impose a Cartesian coordinate system on it, the lines turn, twist, and drag around from their starting place. Sometimes they wrap around on themselves and cut off areas from the rest of the grid. The universe, much like the Earth before it, is much stranger and more fantastic that we would have ever guessed.
The knowledge we are gaining of the universe is making arguments like 'there must be a god grander than the universe' as meaningless as insisting that there must be something more east than east.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Oklahoma Continues the War on Women

Oklahoma continues its war on women and their health by attempting to push a bill through the Oklahoma house. If the bill successfully becomes law, there will be no recourse for young women to receive an abortion without consulting their parents. No longer would they be able to speak with a judge and explain their situation like a rational human being, instead they will have to present their case to their parents and hope their parents aren't the dangerous kind of people that would take out their frustrations on their child.
There is hope. According to the Tulsa World Representative Doug Cox said:

"We keep passing stuff like this, they'll [abortions] be done in back alleys with coat hangers, people," said Cox, R-Grove, an emergency room physician.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Rep. Cox is an emergency room physician. It could be that he has seen the horrors that people face in the real world instead of the fictitious world often painted by politicians where everyone is supposed to stay in their place and no one ever truly suffers. Perhaps he has seen the consequences of trying to force your will on other people and the fact that there are rarely winners in those situations. Regardless of the reasons, it takes a brave man that stands up for reality in this state.
Rep. Cox's best effort hasn't been enough at this point to make any real difference. The conservatives that want to wage a war on women are winning. Still, that a Republican is willing to take a stand and speak the truth about the type of danger that conservatives are allowing women to face gives me hope that Oklahoma isn't beyond the point of saving. Hopefully more people will be willing to stand up against the theocrats and tell them that they are going too far.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dean Chambers: Statisticians' Worst Nightmare

I have to give the man credit. I thought that after his predictions were revealed to be the laughing stock of the last elections, we wouldn't hear from him again. Instead, Dean Chambers continues to make statisticians weep with frustration as he gives statistics and math in general a bad name. Only after finding this article on Dispatches from the Culture Wars did I realize that Mr. Chambers didn't disappear from shame like any decent person would after completely ruining so many peoples' understanding of mathematics.
Ed Brayton said:

Gosh, it seems like you tried to make this exact same argument last year and ended up with enough egg on your face to make an omelette the size of Toledo.

If anything, Mr. Brayton is letting Mr. Chambers off easy. Essentially he didn't like the way that the numbers were turning out for his choice of president. Instead of accepting the numbers, as near as I can tell he decided to arbitrarily pick polls that he thought reflected reality and claim that the others were skewed. He would take data from a poll that he liked and their internal numbers to modify a different poll. The results was that nothing he produced was even remotely accurate.
Mr. Chambers seemed to try to use mathematical slight of hand instead of real statistics to force reality into his liking. Fortunately for us reality doesn't work that way. So Mr. Chambers, go on unskewing your polls. Reality isn't going to care any more about your numbers now that it did last year.

Inhofe Resists Treating Soldiers' Families With Respect

One of the Republican senators from Oklahoma, Jim Inhofe, has a problem with treating the families of military personnel with respect and dignity; at least if that family isn't like his.

In a weak attempt to not violate the Defense of Marriage Act, the administration is using a play on words by saying ‘same sex domestic partners’ can have access to benefits instead of ‘spouses.’ We are on a slippery slope here,” Inhofe, the ranking GOP member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.

Indeed it is a slippery slope. First we treat one military family with dignity and respect for the service they are performing for our country, and the next thing you know we will be treating all of the families of military personnel with dignity and respect. There has to be something unamerican about all people being equal.

Why would the DoD extend benefits to same-sex partners and then deny cohabiting heterosexual couples the same benefits?

That is actually an easy one to answer. Since -- due to fear, shortsightedness, politics, or whatever -- the United States passed a federal law stating that same-sex couples marriages would not be recognized by the federal government, they are simply treating all people that maintain the highest possible relationship status the same. The highest relationship status for a heterosexual couple is marriage; for a same-sex couple, it varies by location but can never be recognized as marriage by the government.

The Department of Defense is essentially creating a new class of beneficiary that will increase costs and demand for limited resources that are currently available for military families, active and reserve forces, and retirees,” Inhofe added. “President Obama continues to expand the government’s financial obligations to support his liberal social agenda during a time when this Administration has imposed drastic budget cuts to our military readiness and national security.”

The Department of Defense is simply doing what the federal government has insisted that it do through legislation. The DoD is benefits for the families of solders. They didn't create the new class of beneficiaries, the government did. If you would like to see the new class of beneficiaries disappear, repeal the misnamed Defense of Marriage Act, recognize all married people as married, and treat every family with equality and respect.
Oh, but don't worry if you think your prejudicial thinking isn't still reflected by the federal government:

But the federal Defense of Marriage Act still blocks the agency from enacting more than 85 other benefits now provided to heterosexual military spouses and their children, NBC reports.
These include medical and dental care, housing allowances, and death benefits.

Your legacy of assholery will be assured throughout history.

Visualizing the Reality of Evolution

I am always amazed when people reject something that they don't want to believe. If your entire basis for believe in a god is that evolution couldn't have happened, then you should at least check to make sure that evolution hasn't been proven in the lab. And that is exactly what we find: evolution has been observed under experimental conditions in the lab. There can be no question. We can never go back to a world where it is intellectually honest to question whether evolution is real or not.
Richard E. Lenski at Michigan State University has been running an experiment to watch how bacteria evolve. He started with a single E. coli bacteria and used its descendants to start twelve different laboratory populations. He then watched these bacteria change over time.

But sometime around the 31,500th generation, something dramatic happened in just one of the populations - the bacteria suddenly acquired the ability to metabolise citrate, a second nutrient in their culture medium that E. coli normally cannot use.
Indeed, the inability to use citrate is one of the traits by which bacteriologists distinguish E. coli from other species. The citrate-using mutants increased in population size and diversity.
"It's the most profound change we have seen during the experiment. This was clearly something quite different for them, and it's outside what was normally considered the bounds of E. coli as a species, which makes it especially interesting," says Lenski.

This is a perfect example of evolution. A population changes over time through reproduction to live better in their environment. This is exactly what the E. coli bacteria did, and because it was observed in a lab, there are samples saved from every stage so that we can go back and rerun the experiment and see exactly what is happening.
Now I know that some creationists will claim that this is an example of micro-evolution. And while they believe in micro-evolution, they don't believe in macro-evolution. But the only difference in micro-evolution and macro-evolution is time. Macro-evolution is simply multiple different micro-evolution events stacked on top of each other.
It might be difficult to imagine the time frames involved in evolving something from a bacteria to a more complex (notice that I didn't say advanced) form of life.
Let's say that we put a marker in our back yard. For every year of time that passes, we are going to measure off a half inch. How long did it take for the E. coli bacteria to evolve to a different form of bacteria? About 20 years, or 10 inches by our scale. How long has life been here on Earth? Using our same scale it would be the entire distance around the Earth. Over that length of time, it is difficult to imagine that much more complex forms of life wouldn't evolve.

Google's Chrome Browser is Getting Better

Google's chrome browser is getting so much better than it ever has been in the past. Not only is it beautiful, but it is fast and makes most of your browsing needs easy. For me, the only downside is that it still doesn't provide as much fine-grained control for privacy and security as I would like.

I have been using the Google chrome browser on my android powered phone lately. It wasn't necessarily the best browser on my phone, but it was easy to use, boost the size of the text for old eyes to see, and worked seamlessly with the android operating system. What really made it stand out was when I also installed Google chrome on a computer.

When I logged on my computer with a Chrome browser, all the bookmarks that I was reading on my phone were available on my computer. I didn't have to do anything special, they were just there. It made it extremely convenient to move from the computer to my phone when I have to leave, and move back to the computer when I get back home.

When I installed Google chrome on a second computer (third device) all the settings for my privacy and security that I had set on the first computer were available instantly on the second computer. I didn't have to go through all the different settings to get things the way I wanted. Some of there were necessary to change (resolution, etc...) but others were there waiting for me.

The only downside that I see is that I am used to using different plugins on Firefox for keeping my browsing secure. Firefox extensions (namely No Script) not only allow site by site control as Google chrome does now, but settings for individual scripts provided for the site. Granted, in order to use these types of extensions, you have to have a relatively high knowledge of the underlying requests and scripts. Without it, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the Google chrome browser to anyone.


After using the Chrome browser for the day, I have decided to make it my default browser. I'm still keeping Firefox since there are some things that Firefox can do that other Chrome still doesn't do as well, but Chrome has been pleasing enough that, in addition its connectivity with my phone, I will think it is closer to my overall ideal browsing experience.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Atheist Goals and Ambitions

Many of the most well known atheists have given their reasons for wanting to change people's minds about religion. Some point out the damage that religion does, others demonstrate how seeing reality as it exists helps you in the long run. I agree with both of these views. I think that religion has caused some atrocities and given other people cover for their immoral actions. I also think that viewing reality, while not always pleasant, is very beneficial. But none of these reasons are my reasons for trying to demonstrate the truth about the atheist perspective. I want you to see the truth because I care about you.
My reasons might sound strange to people if their faith is extremely important to them. It might seem like I am actually trying to hurt them instead of help them. After all, it might appear like I am trying to take something from them and leave them impoverished for the loss. But that isn't the case. I want them to see reality for all its glory. I want them to see what their fear and blind faith is costing them. I want to show them that there is no reason to fear eternal torture in the pit of Hell, or be concerned about the judgment of a being that doesn't exist. Every moment of their lives spent worrying about these things is a moment that they don't get to enjoy the wonders of reality. And since, unfortunately, all our time is limited, every moment that we waste on worry and fear is a moment that neither we, nor anyone else, will benefit from.
But since I want to help people live better lives, why don't I spend more effort talking to all of the Christians? I live in the bible belt, so I am surrounded by Christians. If people could wear their beliefs in a visible way, I might be able to go days without seeing anyone that wasn't a Christian. The reason that I don't discuss my feelings with these Christians is because most of them already live as if they were atheists.
Given what most people seem to use the word Christianity to mean good person, I suspect most people will have a difficult time believing me when I say that they are already living like atheists, but it's true. They don't waste one day a week going to church in some misguided attempt to keep an angry god placated. Any money they give is given to people and organizations that they care about instead of paying for a building and hiring someone to mislead them. Their opinions are formed from thinking and interacting with other people instead of trying to reinterpret ancient folktales to imbue them with modern meaning or beseeching someone to interpret those tales for them. They have discarded so much of the ancient beliefs and superstitions that what remains could come from any moral philosophy regardless of its origin. In short, they are just good people doing their best to live and help other people do the same. And they do all this because they are good people, not because they are afraid of an entity that they have never interacted with outside of a storybook.
They walk like atheists, talk like atheists, act like atheists, and call themselves... Christians. But I've never cared about what they call themselves. They are already not loosing any part of their lives to ancient beliefs and superstitions. Their lives are already their own. And for those people whose lives aren't their own, I will still be here trying to help them see reality and salvage what is left of their life.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Facebook Heart Palpitations

I've been back on Facebook for over a day now, and I already have many things to report. First of all is that it is easy to find all your friends. Nearly everyone you have ever known is there and has their own Facebook account. And thanks to Facebook's statistical analysis, if you can find one friend on Facebook, you can find them all.
Facebook ended its sign up process with a request for my email address and password. While they assured me that they would never keep my information, I didn't want to give it to them. Not only is my email account one of my most secure services, there are people whose contact information I have that I don't want to give to Facebook. Not only do I not want to find them, I don't want them to find me. But Facebook is very persistent. Every time I log into Facebook -- either on the Internet or through my phone -- they ask me again for access to my email account to find more connections for me. And the more friends I have, the more people they tell me have used this service.
I personally don't care if every human being in the United States has used this service with zero ill effect; I don't want to use it, and I don't want to be pestered every time I log into my account. What I really want is a way to tell them to quit bothering me with their idea of how I should use the service.
It's understandable why they want to get your list of contacts. Everything on Facebook is about friends. And heaven help you if you have more than one type of friend. There is a way to segregate them, but it is difficult and counter intuitive. Everyone is in your friends list, but you add some of them into other lists as well. Some of these lists limit what the person can see, while other lists let you see more of what the person posts. It can make for a confusing mess since you are never completely sure who you are posting information to when you post something.
Then there is the entire "like button" issue. The like button is one of the things that swept the Internet several years ago. There are like buttons on virtually every web page, and of course you can also like anything that appears on Facebook as well.
One of the first things that appeared on my Facebook wall was a picture of a naked man looking thoughtful and sitting outside. It was a gorgeous picture, and I couldn't help but hit the like button below it. Then I wondered whether my 82 year old aunt was just informed that I liked that picture. Did it appear on her Facebook wall? I tried to find out, but Facebook doesn't really tell you anything of any value when you are trying to understand their service. I ended up using Google to look up answers for Facebook. And sure enough, everything you like is public by default. It took me hours to find and change the setting, and I still don't know whether it appeared on my aunts Facebook page. I guess the only way I will know for sure is if she either unfriends me or comments that I have good taste in photography.
So that's my experience so far with Facebook. It is a privacy nightmare with no way of telling who has access to anything you do on the service. If you limit your postings to be completely safe, then the service is worthless. Sure people will be able to read them, but no one will want to. But the more open you try to be with your friends by treating them like, well, friends; the more danger you are in of giving your family heart palpitations.
There is no doubt in my mind that Google+ is superior to Facebook in every way. Their privacy settings are easy to use and leave virtually no room for error. Their service is quick and responsive. They make it easy to find what you want to know about your friends, and keep the information you don't want your family to know private. The only problem with Google+ is that it is like the dance that no one showed up to. All your friends are over at Facebook. Lord help us all.

Republican Lies About Immigration Reform

Congressman Raúl Labrador was on NPR yesterday morning. He is one of the point men for the Republicans on the issue of immigration reform. As strange as it might sound, I actually agreed with him when he started to explain his position.

REP. RAUL LABRADOR: The people that came here illegally, knowingly, I don't think they should have a path to citizenship. If you knowingly violated our law, you violated our sovereignty, I think we should normalize your status, but we should not give you a pathway to citizenship. Now, there's going to be...

At this point, he was interrupted by one of the hosts, Mr. Steve Inskeep, for a clarification.
I don't see as there is really any choice but to offer a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. There isn't really any such thing as a one-size-fits-all law. With this in mind, there needs to at least be the possibility of citizenship for the undocumented immigrants.
But I could debate the finer points of immigration laws with Congressman Labrador for hours, but that wouldn't get me to the root of his dishonesty on this subject.
Later in the program Congressman Labrador said that his wasn't political for the Republicans. They weren't going to get any political benefit out of it at all. I have highlighted a part of his statement that you should pay close attention to.

LABRADOR: You know, I don't think voting should even be part of the question. These are people that violated our laws. Why are we even talking about them having the ability to vote? This is not about politics. In fact, as Republicans, we need to understand that we're not going to get any benefit from fixing the immigration system. I think the Democrats, at this point, because you have the president who is in power, are going to get all the accolades. We just need to do it because it's the right thing to do.

He was then ask a question by Mr. Inskeep to clarify whether he really differed from the Democrats and President Obama or whether he was merely stating things differently. Again, I highlighted the part that you should pay attention to.

LABRADOR: I hope it's not significantly different, but it might be, because the question that I have for the president and for some Democrats is whether they want a political victory or a policy victory? If they want a political victory they're going to draw a fine red line and they're going to say, either pathway to citizenship or nothing else. They know that the Republicans in the House are not going to be able to vote for that, and then they're going to be able to beat us over the head in 2014 and say look, the Republicans don't like immigrants, which is not true. We want to face this problem in the House of Representatives. We have a large majority of the House of Representatives that wants to do something right now.

And right there is where he contradicts himself in two back to back statements. First he says that it can't be about politics because the Democrats are going to get all the benefit, then he says that the Republicans will take a beating if they don't get an immigration bill passed.
Congressman Labrador, you are trying to misrepresent your views to the people. This is absolutely about politics for the Republicans. Democrats have been supporting immigration reform for quite some time now. We have been standing behind the DREAM act, comprehensive immigration reform, and a fair solution to our immigration problem for quite some time while the Republicans were protesting for a bigger wall between the United States and Mexico. Republican governors have been trying to take the law into their own hands and pass immigration laws so strict even the American people can't adequately document their citizenship.
No, this is all about politics for the Republicans. This is about their loss in the 2012 elections and their hope to regain significance on the back of people that they have despised for decades.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Facebook Peepshow?

Okay, I'm going to try Facebook again. I have used Facebook in the past, but the experience left me entirely underwhelmed. The constant deluge of crap was a turnoff instead of something interesting. And on top of the effluent stream of nonsense, there was the problem of everyone from the government to advertisers interested in every little detail about your life. Facebook gave them the perfect vehicle to pry the lid off of anything you might have once considered private. Since there was little of value on Facebook at the time, it didn't seem like a worthwhile trade-off.
Lack of connections with other people has brought me back to the table with Facebook. I have a tendency to live the life of a hermit and most of my friends are scattered out over the United States and the rest of the world. Despite how much I like the privacy features of Google+, there just isn't anyone there. And what is a social network without people?
I am still skeptical about the benefits of Facebook, and the privacy features are questionable to say the least. I consider it highly likely that at some point in the future my sweet little aunt is going to end up receiving a post covering atheism, sex positive interactions, liberal ideology, or something else that is going to send her heart racing; and not in a good way. The controls aren't intuitive, and judging from Facebook's past, they could be changed at any time without notice.
Having a Facebook account still feels like walking out of the bathroom not knowing whether you have your dress tucked into the back of your panties of not. The only real difference is that you are at least walking out of the bathroom with friends.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Balloon Reaches Space with Hello Kitty Aboard (video)

Balloon reaches space with Hello Kitty aboard. If you love space, adventure, or are just in awe of some of the things people can accomplish, watch this video.

Some BSA Parents: Screw Equality, We're Elite

It is difficult waiting on the Boy Scouts to decide whether they are going to allow equality in their ranks. Even at the accelerate rate that equality has been pushing forward for gays and lesbians recently, it is still moving at a glacial pace with regard to a human lifespan. Too many people that are born into inequality are forced to live with it until they die. And yet patience is becoming one of the most common refrains sung by the people that want to stop equality from happening.

A coalition of Boy Scouts councils representing some 540,000 youth -- or 20 percent of the organization’s 2.6 million active Scouts -- asked the national organization on Monday to delay a decision on ending the controversial policy, saying it was concerned “about the pace at which such actions are being taken,” according to a statement posted on the website of the Utah-based Great Salt Lake Council.

So what, specifically, is the problem with the Boy Scouts allowing each individual troop to make their own determination with respect to whether to allow gays into their ranks? It can't be because the rate of change is actually too fast. Depending on how the individual troops made their decisions, it is possible that not a single gay person would be allowed in the Boy Scouts. Instead, they feel sure that there are troops out there that want to end the discrimination, but if they don't all discriminate equally, then the ones that continue to discriminate will look bad in the eyes of the public.

Oldham said he had spoken with some troop leaders, pastors and parents who have expressed concern about the way forward if gays are allowed, particularly those units that will try to maintain the ban locally as would be permitted under the proposal. For more than two-thirds of Scouting groups affiliated with religious bodies, faith plays a large role in the private youth organization.

Yes, that's right. Religion plays a role in their discrimination decisions. And it isn't the love your neighbor, do unto others, kind of religion; instead, it is the kind of religion that is poison to the concept of equality and pisses on their own concept of loving your fellow man. It is a place where even though religion is required, it has to be their kind of religion that pushes bigoted ideas. No lesser religious thoughts that would not judge your fellow humans would possible be allowed, even if they are Christian religions too.
And what happens if other religious people step forward with equality in their hearts? Well, it seems like the only solution to the people that practice religions that push prejudicial ideas would be to remove themselves from dangerous thoughts like all men are created equal.

Angela Russell, who has an 11-year-old in the Boy Scouts and a 9-year-old in the Cub Scouts, said that if the BSA allows gays, particularly as leaders, they would be “breaking their own highly held codes to be ‘morally straight’ and to commit to such principles via oaths and promises.”
If the ban is lifted, “I must remove my boys from this program. My heart truly aches to think of it,” Russell, of Auburn, Wash., wrote in a letter she emailed to NBC News. “However, to leave them in a program that goes against its own teachings would be worse.”

There is a reason that people like Mrs. Russell don't want change to come so slow that essentially nothing changes. They don't want to see the idea of a tiered society come to an end. They don't want all people treated equally. They don't want any competition to their religious teachings that hold some people as lesser. The writing is on the wall. They realize that they will never be able to completely stop equality. Their only hope now is to slow it down to a crawl and pray for a miracle.

What? Background Checks on Firearms Actually Work?

It was just yesterday that I wrote about Wayne LaPierre and his claim that universal background checks wouldn't help reduce the number of illegal firearms available. Today, NewsOK published an article online with a gun shop owner contradicting Mr. LaPierre's position:

Some people have their application rejected or may change their mind or whatever, but those numbers show you how many people are at least considering buying a gun,” said Darren Burger, co-owner of Choctaw gun store Locked and Loaded.

You can't have rejected applications and still claim that universal background checks wouldn't help at all. Obviously they wouldn't catch everyone, but reducing the number of guns in the hands of people that shouldn't have them can only help reduce the potential for gun violence.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Who Do You Trust With Firearms?

It sure isn't Wayne LaPierre. He told CBS News that:

Closing the federal loophole that allows Americans to buy guns in private transactions without having gone through a background check would be a slippery slope, National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre said today, suggesting that President Obama and his administration would insist on taking it a step further.

The type of person we need in the National Rifle Association is someone that is willing to look at all the laws concerning firearms and do what is right of the American public including gun owners. There is no reason to be against universal background checks. I will grant that they won't catch everyone that shouldn't be allowed to purchase a firearm, but they will prevent some of the people that shouldn't be allowed to purchase firearms from getting their hands on them. Ultimately laws like this will help decrease the number of people that will end up being killed by rogue weapons.
But what makes Mr. LaPierre's stance truly horrendous is the fact that it won't help legal firearm owners at all. People that buy firearms legally aren't afraid to go through background checks. Legislation like President Obama is proposing won't infringe on our rights even in the slightest. There is no downside to legal owners of firearms. Universal background checks should be an example of a law that everyone can support; both gun owners and non-gun owning citizens.
By standing in the way of every piece of legislation regardless of the potential benefit of the legislation, Mr. LaPierre is showing himself as nothing more than a danger to all of the people of the United States regardless of whether they own a firearm or not.

The FBI Rescues Captive

Fantastic news! It is being reported by NBC news that the five year old that was held by Jimmy Lee Dykes has been rescued. One of the things that is telling in the story is that there are still plenty of people willing to give the credit to their god. But it wasn't their god that had anything to do with the resolution of the crime, it was the trained, skilled, and brave members of the FBI that brought this standoff to a successful resolution with a minimum loss of life.
"This boy is a very special child. He's been through and endured a lot and by the grace of God, he's OK," Olson said. "That was the mission of every man and woman on this compound. Of every law enforcement officer, every first responder, and all of the community who prayed to bring him home safely."
That might have been the mission of every man, woman, and law enforcement officer on the compound and in the community, but it was the FBI that delivered; not a god. I will keep my praise for the men and women that create the laws that protect us from the predators of society, the men and women that enforce those laws so that we can all pursue a living with a minimal degree of fear, and the people that work for a better future for humanity instead of wasting their time praising an imaginary being for something he didn't help with.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Those That Prey and Those That Pray

In case you haven't been watching the news with an eye out for the most dangerous and deluded people out there, Alabama has been dealing with a live one. Police are saying that Jim Dykes shot a bus driver before taking a kindergartener hostage and holing up in an underground bunker. It is deplorable what people can do to each other. The question is, what do we do in the face of this kind of brutality? We can try to control gun violence, we can support the family and friends, we can rally support from the community and nation, we can comfort the people involved, we can try to construct ways that prevent this type of situation, or we can do something completely worthless like pray.
Fox News has decided to opt for the do nothing approach in their puff piece on the Alabama tragedy. They have come to the conclusion that shining a spotlight on the people that opt to pray instead of doing something worthwhile is the best course of action in this situation. Of all the things that could be done by every one of these people involved, they would rather sit around and parade their piety in front of the world instead of actually trying to accomplish anything.

Legislation Against Gun Violence Making Progress

Legislation is working its way through congress even as the public focus on gun violence is waning. Many of the recommendations in the legislation have broad public support and have the potential for tremendous advantage and minimal consequences. So what exactly has a chance at passing?

(...) The new legislation would limit magazine sizes, expand background checks to include all sales at gun shows and private transactions, do more to keep guns from the mentally ill, and cut down on sales in states with weaker gun laws to buyers in states with stricter laws. (...) and the legislation could be amended to add provisions such as a ban on certain assault weapons.

I am in firm agreement with all these measures. It seems like the least we could do as a nation to try to limit the violence and death made capable by such killing machines. But despite my personal feelings, before any legislation can make any difference, it has to pass the House, Senate, and be signed into law by the President of the United States. I don't think any legislation has a chance if it contains an assault weapons ban. It also seems like an assault weapons ban would be the least effective in actually making a difference in the volume of gun violence we face as a nation. Because of these reasons, I have no particular love for the assault weapons ban.
Now, the reason that I think the assault weapons ban should be in the legislation is because it gives some wiggle room when it comes to negotiations. The NRA is going to scream that their members are being abused regardless of what type of legislation is put forward. The assault weapons ban gives them something to focus on, something that can be negotiated away to achieve bipartisan support and still leave meaningful reform available for the American people. So by all means, let's get the assault weapons ban added to the bill. Let's push for everything that will help while still being prepared to loose the parts of the bill that will help the least.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Clearing the Cache

Personal education has been at the forefront of my agenda this past week. I have been wanting to get some concepts strait and try to make sure my positions are consistent.
It started off with the Kübler-Ross model, commonly referred to as the "five stages of grief". I was never able to keep the stages strait, or even remember what all of them were. I could get denial, anger, bargaining, and acceptance, but I never could remember what that fifth one was. It's funny that the fifth stage should be depression. Since depression always walks with me in life, I never actually think of it in any other context.
After getting the Kübler-Ross model correct, someone suggested that the problem I was searching for might be found in the concept of culture shock. After all, it has four distinct stages: honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment, and mastery; as well as several other hindrances to living in the new culture.
That was enough work for me regarding remembering different models of how we interact with the world and our culture. I didn't get far before someone brought up the concept of dualism in regard to the mind/body philosophy. I was pretty sure I knew what they were talking about, but I didn't want to take any chances at missing some of the finer points, so back to Wikipedia I went to make sure I wasn't missing anything. And it's a good thing I did. There are more layers stacked on top of each other in dualism than I would have ever imagined.
I had my grasp on dualism, culture shock, and the Kübler-Ross model. There didn't seem to be anything that philosophy, psychology, or religion could throw at me that I wasn't prepared for. What I didn't expect was that all the changes that I was talking about with other people might cause a moral panic. I gave up at this point and started reading about politics.
My ideas on politics seem to be pretty simple to me. I want as much freedom for myself and others as can be allowed. I want every type of freedom by default, and only put limits on that freedom when there is a specific and compelling reason to limit that freedom. But as I tried to form my ideas into more specific words, I ran up against the problem of exactly what freedom I was talking about. Was I talking about political freedom, or economic freedom. And regardless of what type of freedom I was thinking about, there was the principal-agent problem.
By this time I had a headache. My only choice was to take two aspirin and go to bed.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Pray to the Gods of Football

I am baffled when it comes to what a fairly sizable percentage of Americans believe. They see their god everywhere. He is personally doling out health, success, and presumably money to people all over the world. He is using his cosmic power over the entire universe not to help the starving, hungry, and suffering, but to assist in American sporting competitions.

With millions of Americans set to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday, a new survey finds more than a quarter of Americans believe that God "plays a role in determining which team wins" at sports events.
The survey by the Public Religion Research Institute also found that more than half of Americans believe “God rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success.”

While I'm personally not interested in the Super Bowl, I am interested in people that think that their God is rewarding people with good health and success. By implication, that means that he isn't rewarding some of us with good health and success for some reason. And that reason, according to too many religious people I have visited with, seems to be that we are bigger sinners than them and deserving of the disadvantages we receive. Not only is that unbiblical, it also goes against everything we know about reality. It is blaming the victims of difficult times while rewarding the people that were fortunate with respect to health and wealth.
And if rewarding the lucky and punishing the victims isn't bad enough, it seems like you can't even tell the difference until after the fact.

I'll tell anybody. One thing about God's will, you can never see God's will before it happens,” Lewis said after the game. “You can only see at the end of it. For his will to happen this way, I could never ask for anything else.”

The only good news is that we now know that the god of football is capricious and Nate Silver is his profit.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Educating Authorities

Aaron Tobey might have just come up with a workable solution for dealing with authorities. One of the main problems when dealing with authorities is that some of them are new to the job and haven't been sufficiently trained, while others have the compassion and demeanor of a third world tyrant. When it comes to doing their job, they can use their mental prowess, or lack there of, to shield them from recourse. Too often the only negative consequences they face is a public demonstration of their failed education, but in this political climate, the lack of an education can also be seen as a positive by a certain tricorn hat wearing segment of the population.
Aaron Tobey, suspecting that he would be put in a compromising position with little opportunity for direct input, wrote an abbreviated version of the Fourth Amendment on his chest. According to Wired:

A Virginia man who wrote an abbreviated version of the Fourth Amendment on his body and stripped to his shorts at an airport security screening area won a trial Friday in his lawsuit seeking $250,000 in damages for being detained on a disorderly conduct charge.

Perhaps it's time for all of us to turn our bodies into canvasses for our own protection. It isn't unheard of for patients facing an operation to leave a note on their healthy body parts to leave a note to the doctor telling them to operate elsewhere. It seems like the same thing can be applied to law enforcement. Simply write the laws on your body, and the offending officers might not have as much of an excuse for overstepping their bounds.

February 2013's Resolution

New Year's resolutions are pretty much worthless for me. I am horrible at setting goals that far in advance. I either make the goal too drastic and unobtainable, or else it is so easy to obtain that it is essentially meaningless. Instead of making resolutions a year at a time, I have decided to make them one month at a time and see if that makes any difference.
My resolution for February is to get caught up on all the sewing I have laying around the house waiting on me. That includes hemming dresses, altering work uniforms, and if money permits, sewing new skirts for late winter and spring.