Ramen photobomb.

My buddy Greg came over to hang out and watch silly cartoons with me yesterday and then we went out to dinner at Matsuchan, the local authentic ramen restaurant. He was so impressed with his food that he tried to take a pic of it which I tried to photobomb.

RamenPhotobomb

 

Looking pretty good! That ramen isn’t bad looking either!

Random thoughts that momentarily caught my attention.

Memes like this one float around on the Internet quite a lot, but this one in particular caused me to pause and think for a moment. Always a dangerous thing to do.randomspacethoughts

My dad passed away one year ago yesterday.

I was going to write something about this yesterday, but I couldn’t think of anything to say. I’m still not sure what I’ll say about it today. It took me a couple of days before I managed to write an entry about his death when it happened last year. I miss him and I think about him pretty often, but that’s probably not a surprise to anyone.

Reflecting back on it now it occurs to me that I’m entering that stage of life where losing people close to me is going to happen more frequently. My father-in-law passed two years ago — it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long — all of my uncles on my mother’s side have been gone for years, my grandparents have been gone for over a decade, good friends of mine have left the world sooner than they should have, and now it’s been a year since my dad died. Some of those deaths were unexpected, but the last couple haven’t been.

I’m not sure how to feel about that. My reactions are mixed between the emotional and selfish side that wants to hold onto loved ones for as long as possible and the logical, rational side that says this is a part of life that shouldn’t come as a surprise. I guess the best that I can do is to appreciate the good times we had and that I continue to have with those still here. If your dad is still around today give him a hug for me. I bet he’ll appreciate it.

 

Today Disneyland is 60 years old.

On July 17th, 1955 the gates to Disneyland first opened to throngs of waiting people. The event was covered by ABC with an hour long special that amounted to a massive commercial for Disney’s new venture. That special is available in its entirety on YouTube:

This was 12 years before I was born and it’s fascinating to look back and see how it was covered at the time. Seeing Ronald Reagan show up not as a politician, but as an actor, is really weird.

The park cost Disney $17 million to build (about $151 million in today’s dollars). An amazing amount of money at the time, but the park quickly turned a profit and continues to do so today. Average yearly attendance these days is 14 million people spending around $3 billion while they’re there. Not bad for a 60 year old amusement park. It helps that the park has been expanded and attractions refreshed several times over the years giving folks a reason to come back. I’ve never been to Disneyland myself, but I have been to Walt Disney World in Florida which is only 4 years younger than I am.

Anyway, I thought the ABC special made for interesting viewing so I thought I’d share it here.

Just call me Shelly.

I maintain an account on Facebook mainly because so many of my friends and family have one and, for a lot of them, it’s the only contact I have with them anymore. I tend to share the same things on FB that I share to Google+ and Twitter. In fact, a lot of my updates to FB are just tweets that got imported over. A fair number of my extended family that I don’t see much in person these days tend to fall onto the Conservative end of the political spectrum. With me being a Liberal there is bound to be the occasional disagreement and a recent one ended with me unfriending the relative in question for the sake of familial harmony.

The topic of what caused the agreement isn’t what I want to talk about. Rather it’s a comment directed at me in an attempt to lighten the mood by the person I was interacting with. They said that I was “The Sheldon of the family.”

For the handful of you who have somehow managed to never have seen CBS’ show The Big Bang Theory, I should explain that there is a character on it by the name of Sheldon Lee Cooper, Ph.D., Sc.D., portrayed by actor Jim Parsons. Sheldon is a genius who lacks social skills and almost any ability to recognize humor or sarcasm. He is often obnoxious, demanding, and selfish. He lacks humility and empathy and is often extremely narcissistic. He is also extremely knowledgeable, particularly in the areas of science, history, geography, linguistics, math and so on. In short, it’s a backhanded compliment at best to be called your family’s Sheldon. It implies that for all the brains you might have you are barely tolerated by those supposedly closest to you.

SheldonCooperWrong

Not that it’s a completely unfair comparison. I tend to be passionate about many of the same topics that Sheldon Cooper is and, while I don’t have near the credentials or I.Q. of the fictional character, I’m pretty well read on the things I’m interested in. When I take the time to argue a point I do it by presenting supporting evidence for the opinions I hold. I can get so wrapped up in stating my case that I don’t give adequate thought to the emotional impact of my words. I can be blunt and curt without realizing it. I’m not afraid to call people out, family or otherwise, for their faulty logic or hypocrisy. I’m easily annoyed by willful ignorance. That said, I don’t begin to even pretend to be incapable of being wrong. I don’t think I have all the answers and I’m not above apologizing for my mistakes. I may not be perfect at social skills, but I’m no Sheldon Cooper when it comes to getting along in a group.

I’ve been thinking a lot about being compared to Sheldon since it happened a couple of days ago and I’m OK with it. It may or may not have been meant as an intentional slight at the time and whether it was or not isn’t important. The one aspect of Sheldon that is commonly overlooked is the fact that he’s often right about what he’s arguing about; much to the annoyance of the people he’s arguing with*. So I’ll take being compared to Sheldon as a tacit admission that I made my points well.

*Which shouldn’t be a surprise as the show employs an actual physicist — David Saltzberg — to make sure Sheldon’s dialogue is factually accurate.

We all need a little motivational pep talk now and then.

catmotivationalspeech

Marriage equality is the best thing to happen for… atheism?

I’ve been kicking around a couple of ideas for blog posts the past week or so because it’s been awhile since I last wrote one. In the past I would’ve blogged about the momentous Supreme Court decision making marriage equality the law of the land and how historic it is and all that, but that all seemed like an obvious thing to say so I didn’t do that.

However, while watching the various media reports on the reactions to the ruling — both joyous and apoplectic — it occurred to me that this wasn’t just a wonderful thing for the LGBT community, but for us atheists as well.

We already know that the younger generation is abandoning traditional religious beliefs in record numbers and this is driven in part by the bigotry and intolerance for homosexuals exhibited by many religious sects. In the most recent U.S. Religious Landscape Study by the Pew Research Center they reported:

One of the most important factors in the declining share of Christians and the growth of the “nones” is generational replacement. As the Millennial generation enters adulthood, its members display much lower levels of religious affiliation, including less connection with Christian churches, than older generations. Fully 36% of young Millennials (those between the ages of 18 and 24) are religiously unaffiliated, as are 34% of older Millennials (ages 25-33). And fewer than six-in-ten Millennials identify with any branch of Christianity, compared with seven-in-ten or more among older generations, including Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers. Just 16% of Millennials are Catholic, and only 11% identify with mainline Protestantism. Roughly one-in-five are evangelical Protestants.

36% of people between 18 and 24 are religiously unaffiliated. That’s huge and it spells big trouble for the religious powers that be. You can find all manner of articles on various religious websites arguing over why people in general, and young people in particular, are leaving the church and what to do to fix the problem, but studies show that it’s got a lot to do with perceived hostility to gays and lesbians. The Public Religion Research Institute released a report in early 2014 that said:

Majorities of Americans perceive three religious groups to be unfriendly to LGBT people: the Catholic Church (58%), the Mormon church (53%), and evangelical Christian churches (51%). Perceptions of non-evangelical Protestant churches, African-American churches and the Jewish religion are notably less negative.

Nearly 6-in-10 (58%) Americans agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental on gay and lesbian issues. Seven-in-ten (70%) Millennials believe that religious groups are alienating young adults by being too judgmental on gay and lesbian issues. Only among members of the Silent Generation do less than a majority (43%) believe religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues.

Among Americans who left their childhood religion and are now religiously unaffiliated, about one-quarter say negative teachings about or treatment of gay and lesbian people was a somewhat important (14%) or very important (10%) factor in their decision to disaffiliate. Among Millennials who no longer identify with their childhood religion, nearly one-third say that negative teachings about, or treatment of, gay and lesbian people was either a somewhat important (17%) or very important (14%) factor in their disaffiliation from religion.

Religious hostility towards the gay community is not the only driving factor in people leaving their religion behind, but it is a significant one. Given that fact the reaction many on the Religious Right have had to the Supreme Court ruling can only encourage that trend to continue. A small sampling:

Bryan Fischer of the far right American Family Association took to Twitter after the decision to compare it to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks. I shit you not:

Then there’s Jan Markell of Olive Tree Ministries who was recently interviewed on AFA’s radio show Focal Point who said the decision had basically turned the U.S. into North Korea:

“Righteous Christians are truly beyond grieved,” she continued. “They can’t believe that this has happened, not just in the lifetime, but within a relatively short period of time, within a five to seven year period of time, it just seems like not just the world has been turned over to evil, but it seems like the greatest nation that certainly in the last many hundreds of years has been turned over to a reprobate mind.”

“We may be totally silenced,” Markell warned. “Who knows? American Family Radio, Olive Tree Ministries, maybe we’ll be shut down. It would not surprise me at all … They talk like this in North Korea, in China but now we’re talking like this in America and I can only consider that it’s probably judgment on us because too much of America has gone astray spiritually.”

Presidential Candidate (!) Rick Santorum has been having an absolute fit since the decision making all manner of hysterical predictions and promising the folks at NOM that he would work to reverse the decision if elected President:

Sen. Rick Santorum gave the keynote address to NOM’s Second Annual Marriage Gala in Washington, DC on July 2nd. Sen. Santorum ripped the US Supreme Court for their illegitimate ruling and pledged as president to work to reverse it, saying “this will not stand,” bringing the crowd of nearly 400 people to their feet.

[…] It was announced at the Gala that Sen. Santorum has become the first 2016 presidential candidate to sign NOM’s Presidential Marriage Pledge, promising to take specific actions as president to restore traditional marriage and protect supporters of marriage against attempts to marginalize and punish them.

Wing nut Janet Porter put out a video comparing the SCOTUS ruling to slavery:

Then there’s your average common everyday nutcase like Becky Wegner Rommel who absolutely lost her shit over the decision. You gotta watch this one. It’s full of awesome:

I could go on and on and on, but all you really need to do is pay a modicum of attention to the news and you’ll see plenty of examples. Personally, I’m really enjoying it and hoping the Right keeps freaking out for months to come because it only exposes their bigotry and hatefullness and makes their religion that less attractive.

Given that a majority of Americans support marriage equality these days, these folks are doing nothing to help their image on this issue. If anything they’ll push more people away from Christianity and that can only be a good thing. So keep it up! Let your true colors show! We really appreciate you putting your hate on full display.

And now a musical interlude: Pomplamoose performs “I’m The Shit.”

They’ve got a new album out — Besides — and so far I’m enjoying it immensely.

No reasonable discussion seems possible with the pro-gun folks.

gundiscussionAll the pro-gun folks flip the fuck out as soon as anyone mentions the possibility that perhaps it’s a little too easy to get ahold of one these days and they start screamin’ that THEY’RE COMING TO TAKE ALL OUR GUNS AWAY!

Fuck, they’ve been making that claim about Obama since before he was elected President and he’s been in office 6 years, 155 days, 20 hours, and 36 minutes (as of this post) and he has yet to propose even the smallest of gun legislation. That won’t stop the nuts from screamin’ he’s gonna do it any day now!

I think there is a reasonable discussion to be had on gun law reform, but we can’t have that discussion because of the knee-jerk reaction from the other side. It’s always amusing when I see the pic of the carpet knife show up with the quote about how the 9-11 hijackers used it to kill 3,000 people but no one is calling for a ban on carpet knives.

carpetknifecontrol

It’s just a tool and a gun is a tool and it’s the people that use it wrong that are the problem. That ignores the fact that when used properly a carpet knife doesn’t result in someone’s death whereas a gun when used properly is intended to kill something. Also you don’t have the high rates of suicide and accidental deaths with carpet knives that you have with guns, but, hey, other than that they’re exactly the same!

It is right about one thing: Gun control laws are about control. You’d think that would be obvious from the fact that we call them “gun control laws”, but apparently this is a stunning revelation to the pro-gun crowd. Also there’s more at stake than crime committed with guns. There’s also suicides and accidental deaths both of which are way more common with a gun in the home than with a carpet knife. When was the last time you read about some kid finding his dad’s carpet knife and accidentally slicing a sibling to death with it? Kids accidentally shooting each other happens almost weekly. We don’t even bat an eye at it anymore. So long as it’s not my kids killing each other than who cares? Those were obviously all irresponsible gun owners so they deserve what happened!

Back in 1996 after a mass-shooting at Port Arthur, Tasmania — a popular Australian tourist spot — left 35 people dead and 18 people seriously wounded the folks down under finally had had enough. Deciding that a decade of gun massacres that left over 100 people dead was more than enough, they enacted strict gun control laws. They outright banned rapid-fire rifles and shotguns, put in place tighter licensing requirements and set a uniform national standard for gun registration. They didn’t ban all guns and responsible people can still get a license and own guns.

The result? The risk of death from gunshot fell by 50% and has remained as such since. Gun buyback programs helped reduce the amount of suicides by firearms by 80%. In the 19 years since there hasn’t been another mass shooting. You’ll note that this doesn’t mean all gun violence has been eliminated, but it has been reduced significantly. The most recent incident they’ve had with an armed gunman was the 2014 Sydney hostage crisis where an armed man took 18 people hostage at a Lindt chocolate cafe for 16 hours. Near the end a gunshot rang out and the police stormed the cafe. Two hostages were killed, one by the gunman and one from a police bullet that ricocheted, the gunman was also killed. Four other folks were injured. So, yes, some gun violence still happens, but the outcome of that situation was a far cry from the Port Arthur massacre nearly 20 years before.

Among the wealthy, industrialized countries of the world — Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom (England and Wales), United Kingdom (Northern Ireland) and United Kingdom (Scotland) — the U.S. has a gun homicide rate 15 times higher than any of them. Some of those countries have some pretty strict gun control laws, but in most of them it’s still possible to own a gun. Our gun control is the loosest in the world and it shows.

As long as we continue on this path we will continue to have events like the Aurora theater shooting and the Newtown school massacre and the AME church rampage. I thought for sure that after 20 kids got killed in their school it would finally get the pro-gun folks to feel a little empathy, but nope! Fuck those kids! I ain’t givin’ up my Bushmaster rifle just because somebody else’s brats got shot up cause FREEDOM! What about the carpet knives?? Why aren’t you banning those? And cars! You can kill someone with a car! I ONCE SAW A MAN CHOKED TO DEATH WITH A MAGAZINE! WHY ARE WE STILL ALLOWING THESE DANGEROUS WEAPONS TO BE SENT THROUGH THE U.S. POSTAL SYSTEM????

Reasonable discussion is right out and until then it’ll be more of the same. Maybe someday the number of dead will be high enough to shock some sense into people, but it looks like there will be an awful price to be paid the way things are going.

SEB Podcast Episode 9 Audio Edition is now online.

A pic of a microphone.

Blah blah blah…

For those of you who prefer to listen to a podcast (as opposed to watching it) your wait is finally over! I have converted the Back from the Dead podcast from Google Hangouts into an MP3 file. Complete with all the mistakes and glitches of the original! Don’t think of it as me being lazy. Think of it as it being a truly authentic experience!

You can download the file by clicking here or you can listen to it from this entry using the media player below.

Play