Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Life Cycle Of A Star


The number of gods humans all over the world have claimed or claim to be real or even argue over which is the "true god" are too numerous to list at fast speed on an 8 and a half minute YouTube. Then there are the different versions of the supposedly same god who people of even the same religions cannot even agree upon. If anyone in the future asks me if I believe in god, my answer is going to be "which one?" George Carlin is funny no matter how many times you've heard his stuff.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Four Suns of HD 98800

click on image to enlarge
Illustration Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (SSC)

Explanation: How would it look to have four suns in the sky? Planets of the HD 98800 system, if they exist, would experience such a view. HD 98800 is a multiple star system about 150 light years from Earth -- right in our section of the Milky Way Galaxy. For years it has been known that HD 98800 consists of two pairs of double stars, with one pair surrounded by a disk of dust. The star pairs are located about 50 AU from each other -- in comparison just outside the orbit of Pluto. Recent data from the Earth-trailing Spitzer Space Telescope in infrared light, however, indicate that the dust disk has gaps that appear consistent with being cleared by planets orbiting in the disk. If so, one planet appears to be orbiting at a distance similar to Mars of our own Solar System. Pictured above is an artist's drawing of how the HD 98800 system might appear to a nearby observer.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Suffer the little children . . . again and again

It might be 2007, but many people have not progressed in thought past the dark ages. Once again, a little child is victim of the adults they trust to protect them. In today's news I read this story about a grandfather who was performing an exorcism on his little 3-year-old granddaughter and had the help of the child's 19-year-old mother who was in the room, naked and bloody and chanting some religious-type ritual chant to drive out demons. Fortunately, a relative alerted the police who came and used a stun gun on the grandfather to get him to stop choking the little girl, however it turned out badly for the grandfather. Police had to use the stun gun again and the man died.

Attempted exorcism on a 3-year-old child :

PHOENIX - Officers responding to a report of an exorcism on a young girl found her grandfather choking her and used stun guns to subdue the man, who later died, authorities said Sunday.

The 3-year-old girl and her mother, who was also in the room during the struggle between 49-year-old Ronald Marquez and officers, were hospitalized, police said. Their condition was unavailable.

The relative who called police said an exorcism had also been attempted Thursday.

“The purpose was to release demons from this very young child,” said Sgt. Joel Tranter.

Officers arrived at the house Saturday and entered when they heard screaming coming from a bedroom, Tranter said.

A bed had been pushed up against the door; the officers pushed it open a few inches and saw Marquez choking his bloodied granddaughter, who was crying in pain and gasping, Tranter said.

Naked woman found chanting

A bloody, naked 19-year-old woman who police later determined to be Marquez’s daughter and the girl’s mother was in the room, chanting “something that was religious in nature,” Tranter said.

The officers forced open the door enough for one to enter, leading to a struggle in which an officer used a stun gun on Marquez, Tranter said.

After the initial stun had no visible effect, another officer squeezed into the room and stunned him. The girl was freed and passed through the door to the relative, Tranter said.

Mother may be charged

Marquez was placed in handcuffs after a struggle with officers and initially appeared normal, but then stopped breathing, Tranter said. He could not be revived and was pronounced dead at a hospital.

The cause of death was not immediately known, and autopsy results probably will not be available for several weeks, Tranter said.

Tranter declined to identify Marquez’s daughter and granddaughter but said they lived in the house with Marquez.

The mother was not arrested, but police will consider criminal charges, Tranter said.

There was no phone listing at Ronald Marquez’s address.

Religion makes some people do the most damnable things.

Fans will love The Simpson Movie

We have always been die-hard Simpson fans, and so we were ecstatic to hear they were making a full-length film. My husband and I went to see The Simpson Movie yesterday and it was hilarious. It was the first movie in a long while where the entire audience was laughing out loud. I was also surprised to see so many children in the audience, considering how the film makes fun of everything from religion, different ethnic stereotypes, environmentalists and the EPA, government and human beings in general. I won't tell anything about the film since it is just released and don't want to give it away and ruin your fun. But I will say the one thing that is standard that always prevails in Simpson cartoons, and is the same in this new film...through thick and thin, family sticks together no matter what and a close family endures no matter how strange they are, no matter how crazy or what mistakes they might make. No matter how quirky, sarcastic, crude or stupid they might be, they are basically good people at heart. The Simpson marriage endures, and family loyalty prevails.
"Spider pig, spider pig, does whatever a spider pig does" (I can't get that out of my head! D'oh!)

The Center of Centaurus A

click on image to enlarge

Credit: E.J. Schreier (AUI) et al., HST, NASA

Explanation: A fantastic jumble of young blue star clusters, gigantic glowing gas clouds, and imposing dark dust lanes surrounds the central region of the active galaxy Centaurus A. This mosaic of Hubble Space Telescope images taken in blue, green, and red light has been processed to present a natural color picture of this cosmic maelstrom. Infrared images from the Hubble have also shown that hidden at the center of this activity are what seem to be disks of matter spiraling into a black hole with a billion times the mass of the Sun! Centaurus A itself is apparently the result of a collision of two galaxies and the left over debris is steadily being consumed by the black hole. Astronomers believe that such black hole central engines generate the radio, X-ray, and gamma-ray energy radiated by Centaurus A and other active galaxies. But for an active galaxy Centaurus A is close, a mere 10 million light-years away, and is a relatively convenient laboratory for exploring these powerful sources of energy.

Friday, July 27, 2007

20/20 special on atheism

Many of us atheists pay a price for being open and honest about our atheism. I have been judged and even cut off from communication in some cases, simply because I refused to just shut up and pretend to be someone I am not. I was supposed to allow others "of faith" to say whatever they wanted to me or in my presence and to just bite my tongue and keep my own non-belief to myself. If I refused to participate in prayer, it was viewed as an attack against the believers, when in fact it wasn't that at all. It would be dishonest and disrespectful to myself and others to pretend and go along with something I did not believe in. However, Christians and most believers want non-believers to pretend for their sake, maybe because many of them are pretending themselves since they want so much for their fantasy to be true. They want to live forever. We are a threat to that fantasy because we dare to not believe it.

My heart goes out to the girl in this video report. Christians can be quite heartless, cruel and downright vindictive when they encounter those who do not share their personal beliefs.

More from American Atheist
Here is also a first hand report from the girl's father at Democratic Underground.com. Yes indeed, you do have to admire the courage of this man and his family.

Once again I say that I am very glad to live in the Chicagoland area where this isn't as big of an issue on a community level, however it can get to be an issue on a more personal level at times...and always with the fundamentalists who think they are more Christian and better than anyone else.
Hi everyone, I am back online. An experienced and knowledgeable Comcast guy came out today, in the rain and worked to get things up and running again. What an ordeal to get someone to just come out! We had to call and literally hound the hell out of them...but I am back and hope things keep going now with no more problems. I should have a new post up soon! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Comcrap woes

Anyone else out there have any problems with Comcast high-speed internet having turtle-speed slowness? What about highly incompetent and uncaring customer service? How about service technicians that don't show, don't call, don't care, and don't know anything? What we need is a little competition -- some other options. Any suggestions for a decent service where I can still use YouTube and download and upload at decent speed?

Our Comcast woes are not over, and apparently we aren't the only ones who are affected. It seems to be a problem with Comcrap over-selling and not being able to supply the increasing demands, but they keep on selling anyway and that is bogging everything down, down, down. Do they care? Hardly. The first service appointment was canceled without our knowledge and we only found out by my husband calling on Monday to complain that the cable television was now affected. They said it was an area problem and that they automatically cancel residential service appointments when there is a need for techs to be elsewhere for "maintenance". They rescheduled someone to come out yesterday between 8 and noon. I waited, and waited and then as noon approached I decided I better call and find out what's up. Well, the dude who had our work order was "tied up" with a big problem in a neighboring town and couldn't make it, so the woman on the phone said they were sending someone else! Who shows up but a kid of maybe 22 at most who said he is new at this tech stuff. Great. He changed EVERYTHING that could be changed. He changed cables inside and out, cable connectors, and he tested our machine to see that yes, it is a fast computer, and yes we have it all set up correctly. We had tested our modem at our son's place and it was fine, but he didn't believe us so hooked up one of Comcast's modems and still the same snail-slow sluggishness. He finally did a test at the box and found that we have a 40% packet loss....at the outside box two doors down from us. He decides he can do no more, has me sign a sheet that he was there and leaves us with everything the same as it was. Only the cable television was a bit worse last night (it as perfect today...but not the internet).

So, hubby calls Comcrap from work today around 8 a.m. and talks to this woman on the phone who tries to tell him to check our modem, etc...and he stopped her and said "WAIT...I have a pink sheet here that says it is NOT our problem, the problem is outside our house"...and the woman started to argue, and he would not let her. He demanded another service guy come out. So, she scheduled one for tonight between 4-7. At 6:30 he still was not here so we called back to find out and sure enough, we were not on the schedule because she said that they accidentally scheduled the call for someone else! WTF??

So, now we have an appointment for Friday between 4 - 6. Anyone want to take bets of when or if they are going to show up and if we will get this problem resolved within the next few days?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Internet connection issues

Just to let my readers know that our internet provider has been attempting to resolve area problems, while in the meantime my internet access had been crawling at slower than dial-up speed and the only time I could even get a connection was in the middle of the night, if I was lucky. I have been having other people check my email and blog comments and to leave messages for me. (Thanks everyone who is helping me out.)

We called the provider, after checking our equipment and finding that everything on our end was in working order, however, they still tried to insist the problem was ours and they scheduled a technician to come out on Wednesday. Then our cable television started flickering in and out, and so my husband, who happens to be off today, called them back again and said now the cable was going out also. They said there was maintenance in the area, but we shouldn't be having that big of a problem and would we like to schedule a maintenance guy to come out. My husband said a maintenance guy is scheduled to come out on Wednesday, and the guy on the phone (who he could hardly understand for his thick Indian accent) said that appointment was canceled because of maintenance needed in the area so they were canceling all service calls. Meaning, it's THEIR problem, though they still refuse to admit it. Now we have a service guy rescheduled to come out tomorrow...I will be calling early, early in the morning to make sure that appointment isn't canceled so I don't sit and wait all day for no one to show up.

You think that with paying almost $100 a month that we could get some decent service. Or at least an honest explanation. If you don't see me posting, we are still having problem.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Ilana Yahav sand fantasy

This woman's sand art is absolutely amazing:

See more about this artist and her work at www.sandfantasy.com

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Dueling Christians continued . . .

This post is a follow up to the recent fuss in the news about the Pope's declaration that other Christian denominations not being true churches. While the Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary says "this is not a theological game for children", he contradicts himself with a childish rebuttal, "any church defined by the claims of the papacy is no true church. " This little game of "who's the True Christian" has been going on for a long, long time, but it's amusing for us non-believers to watch them sparring and chiding each other about what is the proper way to worship something for which there is absolutely no evidence for the existence of.

Addition: Austin Cline at About.com gives a brief atheist perspective on the whole True Christian
In principle, every Christian church has a right to insist that only they are fully Christian, but from an atheistic perspective all are equally Christian. Atheists consistently have to deal with Christians telling us that this or that group aren't "really" Christian (because they are violent, because they accept gays, etc.). Cases like this, though, where the Vatican is officially denying the validity of all other claims to being equally Christian help reveal why we outsiders just can't accept such claims at face value.

By The Associated Press Thu Jul 19, 12:03 PM ET

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Instead of taking offense at a recent Vatican statement reasserting the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, evangelicals should seize the chance to respond with equal candor that "any church defined by the claims of the papacy is no true church," according to a prominent Southern Baptist leader.

The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote on his blog that he appreciated the document's clarity in voicing a key distinction between Catholics and Protestants over papal authority. He said those differences are often forgotten "in this era of confusion and theological laxity."

"We should together realize and admit that this is an issue worthy of division," Mohler wrote. "The Roman Catholic Church is willing to go so far as to assert that any church that denies the papacy is no true church. Evangelicals should be equally candid in asserting that any church defined by the claims of the papacy is no true church. This is not a theological game for children, it is the honest recognition of the importance of the question."

This month, the Vatican released a document restating the contention that the Roman Catholicism is the one, true path to salvation. Other Christian communities are either defective or not true churches, the document said, restating the views of a 2000 document.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Pope Benedict XVI headed before becoming pope, said it issued the new document because some contemporary theological interpretations of the Second Vatican Council's ecumenical intent had been "erroneous or ambiguous" and had prompted confusion and doubt.

Atheist bookshelves growing

I went to a Border's bookstore in a Northwest Indiana town with my mother a couple days ago near where she lives (she lives in Illinois near the Illinois/Indiana border). Indiana, for the most part is pretty well-populated with Southern Baptists and other evangelical Christians, so I was happily surprised to find a sign in the Border's store that said "ATHEISM" to label a section of books and freethought materials! While Border's has always offered a small selection of atheist books, this is the first time I have actually seen the collection labeled with a permanently affixed sign. AND a display set up which featured books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and others.

I've also been pleased by the progress being made in the town I live in. Our town's slogan (here in Chicago's far southwest suburbs) is "Home of Proud Americans" and was for many years a very conservative, right-wing community. Not an atheist or freethought book could be found amongst the stacks of the local library. There were a couple of old Bertrand Russell's "Why I am not a Christian" hidden in the bottom of the religious book section, and there were some books on Hinduism, Buddhism and other world religions, but none could be found concerning atheism, agnosticism, secular humanism, or freethought.

But, times are a-changing and when I was recently at our new two-story library that was built a couple years ago, I decided to look to see if they had become more open to including books on atheism. I did a quick search in their database fo
r Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and others, they were all in there, and some were on the shelves but many were checked out...meaning people are actually reading them. When I went to the shelves to find these authors, what I found was about a dozen shelves full of books about atheism, agnosticism, secular humanism and freethought. Oh happy day! Everything cometh to he who waits! Freedom of speech and acceptance of secularism have finally reached our growing village.

Russell's Teapot

click on cartoon to enlarge

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

This is cool!

Aurora from Space
click on image to enlarge Credit: Don Pettit, ISS Expedition 6, NASA
Explanation: From the ground, spectacular auroras seem to dance high above. But the International Space Station (ISS) orbits at nearly the same height as many auroras, sometimes passing over them, and sometimes right through them. Still, the auroral electron and proton streams pose no direct danger to the ISS. In 2003, ISS Science Officer Don Pettit captured the green aurora, pictured above in a digitally sharpened image. From orbit, Pettit reported that changing auroras appeared to crawl around like giant green amoebas. Over 300 kilometers below, the Manicouagan Impact Crater can be seen in northern Canada, planet Earth.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Another way to sucker money from the gullible: Growing demand for ritual of exorcism

Exorcism report by ABC'S 20/20, May '07

According to 20/20, exorcism is still practiced daily in almost all parts of the world. From research I have done, it is no longer exclusively practiced by the Catholic church, but the number of exorcists and exorcisms is growing amongst protestant churches, as well. If these reports are true, then we are headed on a rapid decline back toward another era of the dark ages.

Many in the Catholic church seriously believe in demon possession and the ritual of exorcism. (See this video by The Jesuits concerning exorcism.) However, I think a big part of why exorcism is becoming so popular,particularly with protestants, is that people are looking for drama in their dull, boring lives, and crooks and con men have found another way to bilk money from the stupid, superstitious, gullible, or those who are just plain looking for some attention. (Like "Self-styled Exorcist Bob Larson takes his dog and pony show on the road to bilk people out of money.")

Just a couple days ago, a story was reported about an Edgewater, Florida city councilwoman and her husband who are under investigation for performing an exorcism on their 18-year-old daughter after she got into a yelling match with her twin sister. Her father told police he was trying to anoint his daughter with olive oil to "cast the demons out of her.”

FULL STORY: Florida Politician Performs Exorcism On 'Possessed' Daughter

Investigators said the couple admitted they tried to exorcise the demons out of their daughter by pouring olive oil on her while they held her hands behind her back on June 27.

"I don’t think any person should have to endure what occurred that night," said Edgewater Police Detective Heather Brady.

Detectives said it all started when the 18-year-old got into a yelling match with her twin sister.

Her father told police he was trying to anoint his daughter with olive oil to "cast the demons out of her.”

Neighbors were surprised by the allegations. "Everybody's got their own beliefs. That's definitely not mine. It's a little far fetched I would think," said neighbor Lou Marcoccio.

Detective Brady said police believe this wasn't the first time this happened. "This is bizarre, but this apparently was a normal occurrence."

This time police found the teen's clothes torn off in the struggle and she had bruises on her arm and knees.

At first she was taken into police custody for a psychological evaluation, but she was released almost immediately.

The teen is now staying at a safe house. "Investigation has revealed she attempted to get away. She didn’t want that to occur, and she received injuries during that, " said Detective Brady.

The State Attorney's Office said this is still an active investigation and has not said whether they'll pursue charges.

Copyright 2007 by WSBTV.com.
LINK: Why is it that atheists are never "possessed"? Or pagans, or Buddhists?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

NASA's Spitzer Finds Water Vapor on Hot, Alien Planet

This artist's impression shows a gas-giant
exoplanet transiting across the face of its star.
Image credit: ESA - C.Carreau
+ Full image and caption

This is interesting considering all the debate going on here lately at Stardust Musings about possible life on other planets. While a certain visitor states that it is absolutely unlikely for life to exist on other planets, these recent findings of water on a scorching-hot gas planet far beyond gives us just another bit of evidence that life is possible elsewhere in the universe. While life as we know it is improbable on HD 189733b because of the extreme heat, this new finding proves that the possibility exists that water could be found on other planets where conditions are suitable for life to emerge. It's fantastic how far humans are now able to see into space.

July 11, 2007 NASA Spitzer Mission News

The planet, called HD 189733b, swelters as it zips closely around its star every two days or so. Astronomers had predicted that planets of this class, termed "hot Jupiters," would contain water vapor in their atmospheres. Yet finding solid evidence for this has been slippery. These latest data are the most convincing yet that hot Jupiters are "wet."

"We're thrilled to have identified clear signs of water on a planet that is trillions of miles away," said Giovanna Tinetti, a European Space Agency fellow at the Institute d’Astrophysique de Paris in France." Tinetti is lead author of a paper on HD 189733b appearing today in Nature.

Although water is an essential ingredient to life as we know it, wet hot Jupiters are not likely to harbor any creatures. Previous measurements from Spitzer indicate that HD 189733b is a fiery 1,000 Kelvin (1,340 degrees Fahrenheit) on average. Ultimately, astronomers hope to use instruments like those on Spitzer to find water on rocky, habitable planets like Earth.

"Finding water on this planet implies that other planets in the universe, possibly even rocky ones, could also have water," said co-author Sean Carey of NASA's Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "I'm excited to tell my nephews and niece about the discovery."

The new findings are part of a brand new field of science investigating the climate on exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system. Such faraway planets cannot be seen directly; however, in the past few years, astronomers have begun to glean information about their atmospheres by observing a subset of hot Jupiters that transit, or pass in front of, their stars as seen from Earth.


Monty Python - Argument Clinic

Just like arguing with certain people in the comment threads . . . futile . . .
Some people just want an argument for the sake of argument.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Universe within 50000 Light Years - The Milky Way Galaxy

Interesting information from The Atlas of the Universe. This website provides fascinating facts, illustrations and images about what the universe and our galaxy actually looks like.
Click on images to enlarge
Number of stars within 50 000 light years = 200 billion
This map shows the full extent of the Milky Way galaxy - a spiral galaxy of at least two hundred billion stars. Our Sun is buried deep within the Orion Arm about 26 000 light years from the centre. Towards the centre of the Galaxy the stars are packed together much closer than they are where we live. Notice also the presence of small globular clusters of stars which lie well outside the plane of the Galaxy, and notice too the presence of a nearby dwarf galaxy - the Sagittarius dwarf - which is slowly being swallowed up by our own galaxy.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Simpsons: Protestant Vs. Catholic Heaven

Funny follow-up to my last post:

Pope says other Christians not true churches

It's the point we atheists make all the time!!! One sect of Christians think they have it right and all other Christians are not "real" Christians and we are supposed to listen to all of them when they can't even decide amongst themselves what it is to be a "true Christian". From the atheist perspective, it all looks kind of crazy ass watching them all fight over who's mythology is reality.

By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer

LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy - Pope Benedict XVI has reasserted the universal primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released Tuesday that says Orthodox churches were defective and that other Christian denominations were not true churches.


It restates key sections of a 2000 document the pope wrote when he was prefect of the congregation, "Dominus Iesus," which set off a firestorm of criticism among Protestant and other Christian denominations because it said they were not true churches but merely ecclesial communities and therefore did not have the "means of salvation."

In the new document and an accompanying commentary, which were released as the pope vacations here in Italy's Dolomite mountains, the Vatican repeated that position.


One 'Hell' of a name

I've never known anyone with Hell for a last name, but looked in my local phone book and there are a couple of columns of Hells listed! Kids are "cursed" with weird first names their parents give them like "Butterfly" or "Moon Unit" etc., but imagine being stuck going through childhood with a weird last name. My maiden name was Pressley. Though it is spelled with two s's, I was repeatedly asked by teachers, kids, and other people, "are you any relation to Elvis?" I would say no, and they would still keep it up. "Sing us a song, Elvis"! If I said "yes, Elvis is my uncle" they would respond with "Liar, you wouldn't be living where you do if you are related to someone like Elvis." But at least my name didn't cause me to be banned from places like this poor little fella. How superstitious and paranoid do some of these religious folks have to be to discriminate against a little five-year-old because of his family name? Though the school retracted its first stance of not allowing the boy enrollment because of his name, the parents who are Roman Catholic decided they did not want to enroll their boy in the school after all because the school officials only changed their mind when the media became involved.

link: Catholic school opens gates to Hell boy

Mon Jul 9, 10:19 PM ET

MELBOURNE, Australia - The Hell family has protested to a Catholic school in Australia after it objected to enrolling their son because of his name.

Officials said the boy had been offered a place at the St. Peter the Apostle school in the southern city of Melbourne after discussions among the principal, the parish priest and the family over his last name.

But Alex Hell, 45, said he would rather send 5-year-old Max elsewhere because the school balked at taking the boy because of his family name. Hell said he had Austrian heritage and that the name means "bright."

Hell, a Roman Catholic father of three, said he and his wife initially offered to enroll Max using his mother's maiden name, Wembridge, but later changed their minds.

"It just didn't sit right," Hell told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

He said the school withdrew its offer of enrollment for the boy, and only backed down when Hell took his story to the media.

The organization overseeing Catholic schools in Melbourne issued a statement to the media that acknowledged the dispute, but did not give details or address Hell's claim that the initial enrollment offer had been withdrawn.

In the statement, director of Catholic Education Stephen Elder said using the boy's mother's name was the parents' idea to "assist the child in the transition of schools."

"After discussions between the parish priest and principal, St. Peter the Apostle School has made an offer of enrollment to the student," Elder said. "The school is working with the family in the best interests of the child."

It did not mention Hell's claim that the school had initially refused to enroll his son using that name.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Doctors in role of terrorist not viewed as a surprise
Profession offers excellent cover in foreign local

How skeptical are you?

I found this over at BigHeathenMike's, and here are my results:

You Are Very Skeptical

Your personal motto is: "Prove it."

While some ideas, like life after death, may seem nice...

You aren't going to believe them simply because it feels good.

You let science and facts be your guide... Even if it means you don't share the beliefs of those around you.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Do you believe the UFO stories?

I'm skeptical when it comes to all the stories about alien abductions and flying saucers crashing in the desert in Roswell and other places on our planet. Similar to the lack of evidence for the existence of supernatural beings, no evidence has been presented for public examination and analysis that we have been visited by aliens from other worlds. All we have to go on are the "eye-witness" accounts of "believers" and concocted images and also legends and stories passed on orally from person to person. I do think that life on other planets is possible, after all...we are here, and if conditions are right someplace else in the vastness of the universe, life could have formed in more places that we will never know about. We've sent rovers to Mars. Explorers to other planets. OUR alien "probes". It is possible that other mortal beings are looking at us from some other far-off planet..."seeking out new life", boldly going where none of their beings have gone before. (I borrowed that from Star Trek...tee hee hee.)


By MARK EVANS, Associated Press Writer

ROSWELL, N.M. - If you truly believe a UFO and its crew of bug-eyed aliens came crashing down here 60 years ago, rest assured: You're not alone. At least 35,000 people have descended on Roswell this weekend for the 2007 Amazing Roswell UFO Festival to commemorate a purported flying saucer crash on a nearby ranch in July 1947. Participants have filled hotel rooms and nearly doubled the southeastern New Mexico town's population for a few days.

Infrared Trifid

Credit: J. Rho (SSC/Caltech), JPL-Caltech, NASA

Explanation: The Trifid Nebula, aka Messier 20, is easy to find with a small telescope, a well known stop in the nebula rich constellation Sagittarius. But where visible light pictures show the nebula divided into three parts by dark, obscuring dust lanes, this penetrating infrared image reveals filaments of glowing dust clouds and newborn stars. The spectacular false-color view is courtesy of the Spitzer Space Telescope. Astronomers have used the Spitzer infrared image data to count newborn and embryonic stars which otherwise can lie hidden in the natal dust and gas clouds of this intriguing stellar nursery. As seen here, the Trifid is about 30 light-years across and lies only 5,500 light-years away.

Friday, July 06, 2007


I was surfing the net and came upon this amusing article. . .


1) Create a God. One with a catchy name is best. Should be simple and out of the ordinary, but not too far out that people can’t remember it.

2) Make it in charge of something people already focus on, but don’t have a target for that focus.

3) Make it something that people will be reminded of frequently.

4) Make it easy for them to “buy into” the worship of your New God.

5) Make it ambiguous. Let both sides of an argument claim it as their own. Why define it when you can let people fight it out themselves. People are funny. They’ll fight over anything. Even something you just made up. Enjoy the show and try not to think too much about the Karmic issues you are creating for yourself.

6) Establish some standards by which the God should be referred to, creating an intrinsic reverence right from the start. Make sure that the Full Title and Name are Always Capitalized. This is because that everybody knows that something that has Capital Letters Is Much More Important than something that isn’t.

7) Make cool symbols. They should be things that people already know and see everywhere. And they should be easy to draw and say.

Okay, we’ve now created our first God.

Now, let’s see how easy it is to turn it into a Religion!

You can’t have a cool religion with just a single character, so….

8) You need an opposing force. Not necessarily an arch-enemy, but an opposite perspective so that people can pick sides and fight over things.

9) You need to confuse everybody. This will make sure that nobody can be really certain WHAT they believe, because it is all so non-sensical to begin with. And when you don’t spell it out exactly (or even if you do) you know how those funny humans will all magically just get along, right!

And last but certainly not least:

10) The Big Reward. You know everything you always wished you had in this life? After you die, you’ll get it! We promise! Hot women. Cute Guys. Flying Cars. Washboard abs. Rivers of Chocolate that won’t add an ounce or an inch to your perfectly fit, weightless body. And lots of cute, adorable fluffy bunnies to frolic with in virgin green pastures.

In our case, we guarantee that you’ll get everything listed above. And then some!

But wait! There’s more! All the people you love in this life will be there. But not the people you don’t like. They all go to “The Other Place”. Don’t worry. They’ll get theirs. And you’ll spend eternity in Paradise. Really. We Promise.

Oh yeah, one last thing:

The always present but never written down (written down here because I can’t whisper it in your ear) Eleventh Rule:

11) Get The Word Out!

What good is creating your own religion if you can’t get people to worship your Gods and beg you for guidance because they don’t trust themselves to navigate their own way through life? They’ll be much better having an uninformed random someone else tell them what to do than looking at their own situation objectively and determining a logical path to take that is likely to help them improve their lot in life.

And don’t forget the money!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Looking forward to this one . . .

Matt Groening (C), creator and executive producer of the Fox television network's animated television series 'The Simpsons', poses with characters from the series (L-R) Lisa, Maggie, Homer and Bart Simpson as he arrives for a block party on the Fox studio lot celebrating the series' 350th episode in Los Angeles, California, in this file photo from April 25, 2005. (Fred Prouser/Reuters)

Simpsons movie targets church, environmentalists

By Mike Collett-White 1 hour, 59 minutes ago

LONDON (Reuters) - The upcoming Simpsons movie takes a typically irreverent dig at religion and environmentalists, and features a nude scene involving 'toon teen Bart that had the audience at a preview show applauding.

A 10-minute clip from "The Simpsons Movie," the first time Homer, Marge, their family and friends have made it to the big screen, was shown in London late on Wednesday ahead of its release worldwide later in July.

The clip offered several clues as to the plot, suggesting that the environment and religion would be major themes.

Rock band Green Day is booed and pelted when it starts speaking about the environment to a Springfield crowd, while Homer's daughter Lisa is a green campaigner shunned by the town's inhabitants who simply don't care.

She may also find love, however, after she swoons upon meeting a fellow campaigner from Ireland who insists he is not the son of U2 frontman and celebrity campaigner Bono.

The Simpsons also turn up late at church, where Homer's father has a seizure and warns of trouble to come.

When asked to explain this behavior, Homer flicks through a Bible, and mutters: "This book doesn't have any answers."

Perhaps the biggest laugh was for Bart, who skateboards through town naked after being challenged to do so by Homer.

After a series of scenes where strategically-placed extras and props protect his modesty, the audience gets a full view of his private parts through a gap in a hedge.


Series creator Matt Groening, speaking to the audience after the clips were screened, said he expected complaints.

"In America there's someone willing to pretend to be offended by everything and so we annoy people and that's part of the appeal," he said. "It's to entertain people and also to annoy a certain segment of the audience as well."

Series writer Al Jean agreed that there were big themes in the film, particularly the environment, but that the movie's makers did not obviously take sides.

"They are big themes, especially the environmental theme, but we always like to approach it from both sides, so later in the film when Lisa's giving a lecture about the pollution, the label of the lecture is 'An Irritating Truth'."

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore inspired Oscar-winning climate change documentary "An Inconvenient Truth."

Groening said he had been thinking about making a movie based on the hit animated television series as early as 1992, but struggled to find the time.

Asked what the main message of the movie was, Jean replied: "It's that a man should listen to his wife."

Groening added: "And it's a romantic movie. Homer falls in love with a pig."

"The Simpsons Movie" enters a crowded animation movie marketplace, but Groening argued that it stood out from the majority of films in the genre.

"This really is a tribute to the art of hand-drawn animation which is basically disappearing," he said. "All the animated movies these days are computer-generated, and this is the old-fashioned, clumsy, hand-drawn ... way."

I hate when people tell me what I can and what I cannot say

Click on image to enlarge
This cartoon really hit a nerve because one of the things that bothers me the most in recent years is people telling me what I can and cannot say, or what I can or cannot write. It never works for me in reverse, however. These same people get pissed if I do it back to them. I have only done it in reverse, to make them see how it feels...but they didn't get the point and would not even try to understand why when I tried to explain it. Anyway, if they have a cartoon about it, this must happen to a lot of people and there must be a lot of control freaks in the world.

Night-Shining Clouds

Click on image to enlargeCredit: Cloud Imaging Team (LASP, Univ. Colorado), AIM project, NASA

Explanation: Alluring noctilucent or night-shining clouds lie near the edge of space, some 80 kilometers above Earth's surface. Of course, when viewed from space the clouds are more properly called polar mesospheric clouds (PMCs) -- seen here for the first time in image data from the Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) satellite. The clouds form over the poles in the corresponding summer season and are now being seen more frequently at lower latitudes. This paticular view from June 11 details the PMC structures forming over the north polar region in white and blue. (Black indicates no cloud data was available.) The AIM satellite should be able to track two complete cloud seasons over both poles to investigate possible connections between the high altitude night-shining clouds and global change in the lower atmosphere.

Link: Noctilucent Clouds Photo Gallery