Monday, August 28, 2006

On the road again . . .

Well, I am off on another trip -- this time to help our daughter move from New Haven to the Philadelphia area. I won't have computer access much during this time, and will check in when I can, but won't be doing any blogging while we are away. I really need to pry myself away from blogland and the computer and take a break.

The dog in this photo looks just like a little dog we had years ago. His name was Trooper. The only difference is that Trooper had some black spots on his back. Trooper could do many things, but we never taught him to drive a car like this crazy woman did in China recently! I just had to leave you with this story because it's so CrAzy! Human beings never cease to amuse me.

Woman crashes when teaching dog to drive

BEIJING - A woman in Hohhot, the capital of north China's Inner Mongolia region, crashed her car while giving her dog a driving lesson, the official Xinhua News Agency said Monday.

No injuries were reported although both vehicles were slightly damaged, it said.

The woman, identified only be her surname, Li, said her dog "was fond of crouching on the steering wheel and often watched her drive," according to Xinhua.

"She thought she would let the dog 'have a try' while she operated the accelerator and brake," the report said. "They did not make it far before crashing into an oncoming car."

Xinhua did not say what kind of dog or vehicles were involved but Li paid for repairs.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Atheist Prayer

Our brains, which art in our heads,
treasured be thy name.
Thy reasoning
Thy best you can do be done

on earth as it is.
Give us this day new

insight to help us resolve conflicts and
ease pain.
And lead us not

into supernatural explanations;
deliver us from denial of logic.
For thine is the kingdom of reason,
and even though thy powers are limited,
and you're not always glorious
you are the best evolutionary adaptation
we have for helping this earth now and
forever and ever.
So be it.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Blue Lagoon

Explanation: Click on this link to see the stars come and go as you slide your cursor over this engaging image of M8, aka the Lagoon Nebula. The nebula is itself a star-forming region, but the stars that appear and disappear here include background and foreground stars that by chance lie along the same line of sight. In this "for fun" comparison of two nearly identical digital images, the stellar point sources were removed from one image by computer processing to leave only the diffuse emission from the glowing gas clouds. In both pictures, red emission (H-alpha emission) from atomic hydrogen dominates the cosmic lagoon's visible light, but narrow band filters were used to record the image data and map the hydrogen emission to green hues, with emission from sulfur atoms in red and oxygen in blue. The lovely Lagoon Nebula spans about 30 light-years at an estimated distance of 5,000 light-years toward the constellation Sagittarius.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Paramount cuts ties with Tom Cruise's studio

Paramount ending its 14-year relationship with Tom Cruise's film production company because of the actor's offscreen behavior, the company's chairman said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Sumner Redstone, Viacom chairman, said the behavior of the star of the "Mission: Impossible" series and "Top Gun" was unacceptable to the company, according to the Wall Street Journal story e-mailed to reporters.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Dubya the Farting President

With Apologies to the Authors of Walter, the Farting Dog.
He loves to cuss, gets a jolly when a mountain biker wipes out trying to keep up with him, and now we're learning that the first frat boy loves flatulence jokes. A top insider let that slip when explaining why President Bush is paranoid around women, always worried about his behavior. But he's still a funny, earthy guy who, for example, can't get enough of fart jokes. He's also known to cut a few for laughs, especially when greeting new young aides, but forget about getting people to gas about that.
Bush Farts And Tells Jokes About Farts
Another link: Get your very own "Pull My Finger" Farting Bush Doll today!

Culinary Iconography - Holy Shrimp!

Ironically, while I was trying to post this the first time, a lightning bolt crashed out of the sky and we lost power. (We are having t-storms today.) My religious relatives would tell me that Jeebus was trying to tell me something because there are no coincidences in the world of superstition!

Man Sees Jesus In Dinner

A California man believes he has seen the face of Jesus Christ on a shrimp tail.

The man wrote that he wanted to share with viewers a smile and a sense of hope.He claimed that when he finished his first shrimp, he disregarded the tail, but then looked at it again and saw the face of Jesus.The writer said he believed it was a sign, as he's currently going through a nasty divorce.

Spitzer's Orion - Looks like an alien holding a star, to me. What do you think? ;- )

Credit: Thomas Megeath (Univ. Toledo) et al., JPL, Caltech, NASA

Explanation: Few cosmic vistas excite the imagination like the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. Also known as M42, the nebula is visible to the unaided eye, but this stunning infrared view from the Spitzer Space Telescope penetrates the turbulent cosmic gas and dust clouds to explore the region in unprecedented detail. At full resolution, the remarkable image data yields a census of new stars and potential solar systems. About 2,300 young stars surrounded by planet-forming disks were detected based on the infrared glow of their warm dust, along with about 200 stellar embryos, stars too young to have developed disks. This 0.8 by 1.4 degree false-color image is about 20 light-years wide at the distance of the Orion Nebula.

Culinary Iconography - Jesus on the half-shell

Thanks to Bob at GifS for pointing out this one:

Couple Sells Jesus Oyster Shell On eBay

A Florida couple says they have found an oyster shell that bears the image of Jesus.

Frank and Pauline Titone of Palm Coast, Fla., have put the shell up for sale on eBay. The bid had reached $98 on Wednesday morning.The couple found the shell while boating in the Tomoka River Basin.The odd-shaped shell caught Pauline Titone's attention because she said the image on the shell looked like Jesus.

Monday, August 21, 2006

A Smoke Angel or Flying Spaghetti Monster?

Explanation: What type of cloud is that? It is not a naturally occurring one. Looking perhaps a bit like a gigantic owl monster (or the Flying Spaghetti Monster?) , the cloud pictured above resulted from a series of flares released by an air force jet over the Atlantic Ocean in May. The jet that released the flares, a C-17 Globemaster III, is seen on the right. The flares release smoke and the resulting pattern is sometimes known as a smoke angel. The circular eyes of the above smoke angel are caused by air spiraling off the plane's wings and are known as wingtip vortices.

Uh, what kind of gods are these again?

People in western Nepal had been resorting to weird acts of solemnizing marriages between frogs, performing nude dances to appease the rain gods in the recent weeks. Women folks even ploughed the fields during the night in their birth suits in an attempt to shower blessings in the form of rain.

Finally, a little drizzle happens and delusional people believe they somehow have control over nature.

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Dozens of Nepali women stripped naked and plowed their fields in west Nepal, hoping to appease the gods and get some much needed rain, a newspaper report said Sunday.

About 50 women in two villages in Kapilvastu district, 120 miles west of Kathmandu, resorted to the desperate move at night Friday as days of prayers and Hindu ceremonies failed to bring rains for the parched paddy crop, it said.

"This is our last weapon, we used it, and there was light rainfall," Nepali daily Rajdhani quoted one of the women as saying.

Although there is no clear religious basis for the practice, some locals believe such a move could appease the rain gods.

Officials said there was insufficient rain during the June-September monsoon season this year and vast stretches of land along the southern plains, Nepal's bread basket, were parched.

George Carlin on Religion

George Carlin breaks down the Ten Commandments

This is great! Since YouTube was requested to remove the video, here is the script: GEORGE CARLIN ON THE 10 COMMANDMENTS from "Complaints and Grievances" (HBO special)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Water spouting tree mystery solved (The rational among us knew there was an logical reason for this)

Aug. 17 (UPI) -- San Antonio's water department may have solved the mystery of the water spouting tree in a resident's backyard but that hasn't stopped the curiosity seekers.

The so-called weeping tree stopped weeping when the water supply was turned off to the house. City officials say the tree had tapped into an active water line running to a sink in a shed in the resident's backyard. The city said the water also tested positive for chlorine residue, reports the San Antonio Express-News.

But the visitors' flow hasn't stopped. "I tell them all how it is, and they still want it," said the homeowner. "I figure if they are still that strong in their faith, knowing all that, then go on."

People stubbornly cling to their sky daddy beliefs in the face of logic and reason!

There is now a "Do Not Enter" spray-painted sign on the chain link fence around the driveway.

Water started leaking non-stop from the tree three months ago and for a while there were no logical explanations.

"I pray it's from God," said one visitor. "And nothing will be false here. How can water go up a tree?"

It is not clear what the city, or the homeowner, plans to do next.

Culinary Iconography - Chocolate Turd Virgin Mary

Thanks to Raindogzilla at GifS for this newest addition to my collection:

Workers Discover Chocolate Virgin Mary

Thursday, August 17, 2006 8:45 PM EDT
The Associated Press

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — As a chocolatier to the rich and famous, Martucci Angiano has posed with many celebrities — but on Thursday she held in her hand a figure that dazzles her more than any Hollywood star.

Workers at Angiano's gourmet chocolate company, Bodega Chocolates, discovered under a vat a 2-inch-tall column of chocolate drippings that they believe bears a striking resemblance to the Virgin Mary.

Since the discovery Monday, Angiano's employees have spent much of their time hovering over the tiny figure, praying and placing rose petals and candles around it.

"I was raised to believe in the Virgin Mary, but this still gives me the chills," Angiano said as she balanced the dark brown figure in her hand. "Everyone should see this." (and bring your money!)

Kitchen worker Cruz Jacinto was the first to spot the lump of melted chocolate when she began her shift Monday cleaning up drippings that had accumulated under a large vat of dark chocolate.

Chocolate drippings usually harden in thin, flat strips on wax paper, but Jacinto said she froze when she noticed the unusual shape of this cast-off: It looked just like the Virgin Mary on the prayer card she always carries in her right pocket.

"When I come in, the first thing I do is look at the clock, but this time I didn't look at the clock. My eyes went directly to the chocolate," said Jacinto, dressed in a hair net and apron as she paused from her work. "I thought, 'Am I the only one who can see this? I picked it up and I felt emotion just come over me. For me, it was a sign."

(Meaning she was LOOKING for something to validate her superstitious "cravings" for a supernatural crutch.)

The chocolate, on display for most of the week in the front of the company gift shop, now rests in a plastic case in a back room and is brought out only for curious visitors.

Good advertising gimmick since some of us know there is a sucker born every minute!

The stack of hardened confection has a wide base and tapers gently toward a rounded top, giving the appearance of a female figure with her head tilted slightly to the right. The dark brown melting chocolate hardened into subtle layers that resemble the folds of a gown and a flowing veil.

A tiny white circle, about the size of a pencil eraser, sits in the upper center of the creation, just above a slight ridge that runs across it. Cruz says the white speck is the head of the Baby Jesus as he is held in Mary's folded arms.

A "speck" becomes baby Jeebus in a desperate woman's mind.

For Jacinto, the discovery came just in time. The single mother has struggled with marital problems for months and says she was about to lose her faith.

"I have big problems right now, personally, and lately I've been saying that God doesn't exist," she said, pulling the dog-eared prayer card out of her pocket. "This has given me renewed faith."

She WANTS her sky daddy crutch desperately even though she KNOWS it is merely a delusion.

Angiano, who co-owns the 10-year-old company with her sister, has rubbed shoulders with plenty of stars in her job.

The gourmet boutique runs booths at all the big awards shows, including the Emmys, the Golden Globes, the Oscars, the Country Music Awards and the Latin Grammys. Pictures of Angiano with top celebrities — and her chocolates — line the office walls.

But this week's brush with the image of a 2,000-year-old idol has left even Angiano star-struck.

"That's our Oscar right there," she said.

And there is the sound of money in the till!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Man drinks potion for good luck: doesn't get any

Photo: A skinned frog is put into a blender to make a drink popular with working-class Peruvians who believe it can cure illnesses ranging from fatigue to sexual impotency, at a market in San Juan de Lurigancho, Lima, August 16, 2006. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

Stupid humans! They just keep on with their superstitious beliefs even after being warned they could die from them:

LIMA, Peru (Reuters) - Peru's government warned people to be wary of fake medicine men offering cure-all miracle herb potions on Tuesday, after a bogus brew killed a man hoping to shake off a spell of bad luck.

Alternative medicine is popular throughout the Andean nation, where newspapers are full of colorful ads from self-proclaimed "shamans" offering to improve anything from customers' luck to their ability to attract a mate.

The poisoning death of a man this week who hired a curer to improve his family's bad luck led the government to warn people away from clandestine or street-corner practices, warning the potions used could kill or cause long-term illness.

"Avoid consuming brews made with herbs of questionable origin or hallucinogenic plants prepared by so-called Shamans," the country's Health Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said that genuine Shamans from the country's north sometimes consumed natural hallucinogens such as the San Pedro cactus in their rituals, but did not administer them to patients.

Plan boosts solar system to 12 planets

This lineup shows the 12 proposed planets, with a wedge of the sun at far left. Ceres, Pluto, Charon and 2003 UB313 are barely visible. The planets are drawn to scale, but without correct relative distances.

Astronomers propose keeping Pluto in the club — and adding three more

The tally of planets in our solar system would jump instantly to a dozen under a highly controversial new definition proposed by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

Eventually there would be hundreds as more round objects are found beyond Neptune.

The proposal, which sources tell is gaining broad support, tries to plug a big gap in astronomy textbooks, which have never had a definition for the word "planet." It addresses discoveries of Pluto-sized worlds that have in recent years pitched astronomers into heated debates over terminology.

  • The asteroid Ceres, which is round, would be recast as a dwarf planet in the new scheme.
  • Pluto would remain a planet and its moon Charon would be reclassified as a planet. Both would be called "plutons," however, to distinguish them from the eight "classical" planets.
  • A far-out Pluto-sized object known as 2003 UB313 would also be called a pluton.

That would make Caltech researcher Mike Brown, who found 2003 UB313, formally the discoverer of the 12th planet. But he thinks it's a lousy idea.

"It's flattering to be considered discoverer of the 12th planet," Brown said in a telephone interview. He applauded the committee's efforts but said the overall proposal is "a complete mess." By his count, the definition means there are already 53 known planets in our solar system with countless more to be discovered.

Brown and other another expert said the proposal, to be put forth Wednesday at the IAU General Assembly meeting in Prague, is not logical. For example, Brown said, it does not make sense to consider Ceres and Charon planets and not call our Moon (which is bigger than both) a planet.

IAU members will vote on the proposal Thursday, Aug. 24. Its fate is far from clear.

Q&A on the Proposal / Gallery: The 12 "Planets" / Read the Draft Resolution

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A rare and spectacular nacreous cloud

(AFP/Australian Antarctic Division/File)
A rare and spectacular nacreous cloud appears high in the stratosphere some 20km above Australia's Mawson station in Antartica, July 2006. Australian scientists have said they were studying what rare iridescent clouds over Antarctica can reveal about global climate change.

Friday, August 11, 2006

On this date in 1833, Robert Green Ingersoll, who became the best known advocate of freethought in 19th-century United States, was born . . .

From ffrf:

The son of an impoverished itinerant pastor, he later recalled his formative church experiences: "The minister asked us if we knew that we all deserved to go to hell, and we all answered 'yes.' Then we were asked if we would be willing to go to hell if it was God's will, and every little liar shouted 'Yes!' " He became an attorney by apprenticeship, and a colonel in the Civil War, fighting in the Battle of Shiloh. In 1867, Ingersoll was appointed Illinois' first Attorney General. His political career was cut short by his refusal to halt his controversial lectures, but he achieved national political fame for his thrilling nomination speech for James G. Blaine for president at the national convention of the Republican Party in 1876. Ingersoll was good friends with three U.S. presidents. The distinguished attorney was known and admired by most of the leading progressives and thinkers of his day.

Ingersoll traveled the continent for 30 years, speaking to capacity audiences, once attracting 50,000 people to a lecture in Chicago--40,000 too many for the Exposition Center. His repertoire included 3 to 4-hour lectures on Shakespeare, Voltaire and Burns, but the largest crowds turned out to hear him denounce the bible and religion. Ingersoll's speaking fees ranged as high as $7,000, in an era of low wages and no income tax. He married Eva Parker Ingersoll, a rationalist whom he deemed a "Woman Without Superstition," in dedicating his first freethought book to her. He initially settled in Peoria, Illinois, then in Washington, D.C., where he successfully defended falsely accused men in the "Star Route" scandal, the most famous political trial of the 19th century. The family later relocated to New York. A devoted family man, he lived with his extended family, and the Ingersoll "at homes" were celebrated, both in Washington D.C., and in New York. Religious rumors against Ingersoll abounded. One had it that Ingersoll's son was a drunkard who more than once had to be carried away from the table. Ingersoll wrote: "It is not true that intoxicating beverages are served at my table. It is not true that my son ever was drunk. It is not true that he had to be carried away from the table. Besides, I have no son!" The 12-volume Dresden Edition of his lectures, poetry and interviews was collected after his death and has been reprinted many times. D. 1899.

“All religions are inconsistent with mental freedom. Shakespeare is my bible, Burns my hymn-book.”

“I do not borrow ideas. I have a factory of my own.”

“I do not believe in putting out the sun to keep weeds from growing.”

“With soap, baptism is a good thing.”

“[Of William Jennings Bryan] He talks, but he does not think.”
-- Robert G. Ingersoll.

For more information on Ingersoll, read American Infidel by Orvin Larson.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Daily Show - End Of The World

Jon Stewart ridicules the moronic "end of the world" bullcrap that keeps popping up in the news media.

An Erupting Solar Prominence from SOHO

Explanation: Our Sun is still very active. In the year 2000, our Sun went though Solar Maximum, the time in its 11-year cycle where the most sunspots and explosive activities occur. Sunspots, the Solar Cycle, and solar prominences are all caused by the Sun's changing magnetic field. Pictured above is a solar prominence that erupted in 2002 July, throwing electrons and ions out into the Solar System. The above image was taken in the ultraviolet light emitted by a specific type of ionized helium, a common element on the Sun. Particularly hot areas appear in white, while relatively cool areas appear in red. Our Sun should gradually quiet down until Solar Minimum occurs, and the Sun is most quiet. No one can precisely predict when Solar Minimum will occur, although some signs indicate that it has started already!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Mel crucifies himself

Sam Harris on Islam

We spend a lot of time bashing xian fundamentalists who are annoying with their drive-by proseltyzing, their creationist museums, Battle Cry youth cults, and Rapture end-of-the-world prophecies. However, these xian fundies seem very tame in comparison to Muslim fundies. Here is a great website that John W. Loftus from Debunking Christianity pointed out awhile ago called Apostates of Islam by ex-Muslims who have all left Islam behind. When reading through the discussion boards we can see how the arguments are so similar to what we have here with xian fundies…only the Muslim fundies are far more frightening with their belief in stoning, child and adult suicide bombers, hanging teen-aged girls for sexual promiscuity, wishing to bring about the end of times so they can go to as Harris describes as their “great bordello” in the sky, etc., etc. We can also find yet another perspective on Islam and what is happening in the Middle East from an ex-Muslim point of view. You will find mixed opinions there, as we have here.

I am torn about all this Middle East chaos because I hate war and it does seem that the use of military force by Israel is excessive, but on the other hand I am having a hard time sympathizing with any of these crazy Muslim factions who teach their children to strap bombs to themselves and blow themselves and innocent people to smithereens for Allah. The children we feel sorry for one minute may just blow themselves and 100 people away the next.

In Sam Harris’ book, “The End of Faith”, Harris has a chart that has me really thinking lately (and it’s influenced me to do some extensive research into the people in this region…both Jews and Muslims alike).

Harris writes: Over 38,000 people recently participated in a global survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The results constitute the first publication of its Global Attitudes Project entitled “What the World thinks in 2002.” The survey included the following questions posed only to Muslims:

Some people think that suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets are justified in order to defend Islam from enemies. other people believe that, no matter what the reason, this kind of violence is never justified. Do you personally feel that this kind of violence is often justified to defend Islam, sometimes justified, rarely justified, or never justified?

Before we look at the results of this study, we should appreciate the significance of the juxtaposed phrases “suicide bombing” and “civilian targets.” We now live in a world in which Muslims have been scientifically polled (with margins of error ranging from 2 to 4 percent) as to whether they support (”often,” “sometimes,” “rarely,” or “never”) the deliberate murder and maiming of noncombatant men, women, and children in defense of Islam. Here are some of the results of the Pew study (not all percentages sum to 100).


Lebanon 83 Yes — 12 no — 12 DK/Refused
Ivory Coast 73 Yes — 27 No — 0 DK/Refused
Nigeria 66 Yes — 26 No — 8 DK/Refused
Jordan 65 Yes — 26 No — 8 DK/Refused
Bangladesh 58 Yes — 23 No — 19 DK/Refused
Mali 54 Yes — 35 No — 11 DK/Refused
Senegal 47 Yes — 50 No — 3 DK/Refused
Ghana 44 Yes — 43 No — 12 DK/Refused
Indonesia 43 Yes — 54 No — 3 DK/Refused
Uganda 40 Yes — 52 No — 8 DK/Refused
Pakistan 38 Yes — 38 No — 23 DK/Refused
Turkey 20 Yes — 64 No — 14 DK/Refused

These are hideous numbers. If all Muslims had responded as Turkey did (where a mere 4 percent think suicide bombings are “often” justified, 9 percent “sometimes,” and 7 percent “rarely”), we would still have a problem worth worrying about; we would, after all, be talking about more than 200 million avowed supporters of terrorism. But Turkey is an island of ambassadorial goodwill compared with the rest of the Muslim world.

Harris goes on to ask:

Let us imagine that peace one day comes to the Middle East. What will Muslims say of the suicide bombings that they so widely endorsed? Will they say, “We were driven mad by the Israeli occupation”? Will they say, “We were a generation of sociopaths”? How will they account for the celebrations that followed these “sacred explosions”? A young man, born into relative privilege, packs his clothing with explosives and ball bearings and unmakes himself along with a score of children in a discotheque, and his mother is promptly congratulated by hundreds of her neighbors. What will the Palestinians think about such behavior once peace has been established? If they are still devout Muslims here is what they must think: “Our boys are in paradise, and they have prepared the way for us to follow. Hell has been prepared for the infidels.” It seems to me to be an almost axiomatic truth of human nature that no peace, should it ever be established, will survive beliefs of this sort for very long.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Woman in doghouse over Jehovah's Witness sign

LONDON (Reuters) - A British woman has been ordered by police to take down a sign on her garden gate which read "Our dogs are fed on Jehovah's Witnesses."

Janet Grove, who owns a terrier puppy called Rabbit, insisted the sign was a gentle joke to discourage callers at her front door.

Her late husband put the sign up more than 30 years ago when members of the church called at their house on Christmas Day.

But police were forced to act after receiving a complaint.

"We were informed by a member of the public who found the sign to be distressing, offensive and inappropriate," a police spokesman said. "Officers attended the address and the sign was voluntarily taken down."

Many of us find being bothered by Jehovah’s witnesses and other religions proselytizers to be every bit as distressing, offensive and inappropriate when they come on our own personal property and knock on our doors and steal our time with their self-righteous nonsense. It’s also offensive to have to drive around and see huge lighted execution symbols on tops of churches and other places, and signs that say non-believers are going to burn in hell, and all of that hateful stuff. Phelp’s groups can carry their signs at funerals of soldiers while grieving families must try to ignore the signs, but even a humorous sign on one’s own property referring to some sort of religious sect is not allowed.

Lucky our village has a ban on door knocking of any kind now. It’s been so peaceful since they started that a few years ago.