Atheist Scruples: Skinny dipping edition

August 29, 2014

The only post I’ll get around to doing today, so I’m making it a fun one.

At a small party, the guests are all removing their clothes for a skinny dip in the pool. Do you join them?

I’m not sure. How well do I know these people? Is my husband at the party? Am I surrounded by incredibly sexy looking people who work out and look really fit and perky? I think I’d feel really self conscious and pass on the nekkid swim party. But I wouldn’t interfere in the ambitions of others. Maybe I’d even look..

Oh, this just reminded me. I’ve been listening to the podcast for Stuff You Missed in History Class and just finished up with the two part story for Edna St. Vincent Millay. Her house called Steepletop had a pool and her writing cabin was situated near it. Apparently she had the cabin’s windows measured out in such a way that the pool would be visible, but if she didn’t want to join her naked friends and lovers at the pool, she could still see what they were doing even if she stayed inside and wrote.

I’m also reminded of this classic piece of musical history.

This singer has a sly dog look to him, but is better looking than Justin Bieber. And he might sing better, too. His hair is better…

At 2:22, this kid does not look enthusiastic about her body on display in this bikini, though. I don’t blame her. She’s really young and that bikini appears to be ill fitting and doesn’t look overly comfortable.

If you noticed Dick Clark’s growl at the beginning and then the age of the kid.. you’re not the only one. From the comments below it:

bradinca 1 year ago

Perhaps Dick Clark was expecting an older bikini clad girl – he was probably cringing that he missed rehearsal.

Via Wikipedia:

At a time when bikini bathing suits were still seen as too risqué to be mainstream, the song prompted a sudden take off in bikini sales and is credited as being one of the earliest contributors to the acceptance of the suit in society. The early 1960s saw a slew of surf movies and other film and television productions that rapidly built on the song’s momentum.

Good times.

Quoting Carl Sagan

August 28, 2014

“You can get into a habit of thought in which you enjoy making fun of all those other people who don’t see things as clearly as you do. We have to guard carefully against it.”
– Carl Sagan, 1987 CSICOP meeting


Yeah, it’s pretty easy to stand on one side and poke fun at the beliefs of others. Religion, climate change, whether Star Wars is better than Star Trek..

Pick your battle and there will be people on every side willing to make the other sides look like fools.

I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit I do that, sometimes…

The One Minion Search Party: “Does god hate women?”

August 28, 2014

A couple hits for this question this week. Not for the first time, I look toward Religious Tolerance for an evenhanded approach to answering this one. It offers many examples out of the old testament that illustrate the low status of women at the time. This doesn’t mean particularly that god (should he exist) hates women, but he didn’t really punish any of the men for treating the women like property and restricting their freedoms or killing them outright so it’s pretty obvious why hate could be assumed here.

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 requires that a virgin woman who has been raped must marry her attacker, no matter what her feelings are towards the rapist. “If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife….”

Numbers 5:11-31 describes a lengthy magical ritual that women were forced to perform if their husbands suspected them of having had an affair. A priest prepared a potion composed of holy water mixed with sweepings from the floor of the tabernacle. He proclaimed a curse over the potion and required the woman to drink it. If she were guilty, she would suffer greatly: her abdomen would swell and her thighs waste away. There is no similar magical test for husbands suspecting of having an affair with another woman.

On another page they offer more specific examples, some of which show women in a better light, but they’re few and far between.

The Jesus stories turn a lot of that around, showing him as rebelling against tradition in a lot of ways but as the Church gained popularity and influence, conflicting books and ideas really confused the matter.

To my thinking, the question shouldn’t be “Does god hate women?” but more along the lines of a two-parter:

“Why do certain men hate women?”
“Just how big a role has religion played in helping certain men hate women?”

Maybe hate’s the wrong word. It’s a pretty strong word, but clearly there’s a distinct lack of compassion in some men for the plights of women, and the rights of women.

It’s not all guys, it’s certainly not all religious guys, but there’s that subset of guys (and the inexplicable subset of women that support them). Those guys that, for whatever reason, continue to have political sway and want to restrict and limit women’s rights to abortion and birth control and are even willing to criminalize women who miscarry for any reason.

Rennie Gibbs in Mississippi (2011)

Gibbs became pregnant aged 15, but lost the baby in December 2006 in a stillbirth when she was 36 weeks into the pregnancy. When prosecutors discovered that she had a cocaine habit – though there is no evidence that drug abuse had anything to do with the baby’s death – they charged her with the “depraved-heart murder” of her child, which carries a mandatory life sentence.

Others are mentioned in the article.

Women in El Salvador (2013)

El Salvador is one of five countries with a total ban on abortion, along with Nicaragua, Chile, Honduras and Dominican Republic. Since 1998, the law has allowed no exceptions – even if a woman is raped, her life is at risk or the foetus is severely deformed.

More than 200 women were reported to the police between 2000 and 2011, of whom 129 were prosecuted and 49 convicted – 26 for murder (with sentences of 12 to 35 years) and 23 for abortion, according to research by Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion. Seven more have been convicted since 2012.

Purvi Patel in Indiana (August 26, 2014)

Women’s rights advocates see the decision by prosecutors of St Joseph County, Indiana, to apply feticide laws against Patel as part of the creeping criminalization of pregnancy in America. At least 38 of the 50 states have introduced fetal homicide laws intended to protect the unborn child and in a growing number of states – including Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina – those laws have been turned against mothers.

It’s revolting. There’s no other word for it.

I’ll end here. Thoughts?

Stories like this put me in mind of thoughtcrimes and Minority report

August 27, 2014

The Dorchester County Board of Education and the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office got very interested in the writings of a local Language Arts teacher.

Dr. K.S. Voltaer is better known by some in Dorchester County as Patrick McLaw, or even Patrick Beale. Not only was he a teacher at Mace’s Lane Middle School in Cambridge, but according to Dorchester Sheriff James Phillips, McLaw is also the author of two books: “The Insurrectionist” and its sequel, “Lillith’s Heir.”

Those books are what caught the attention of police and school board officials in Dorchester County. “The Insurrectionist” is about two school shootings set in the future, the largest in the country’s history.

Phillips said McLaw was taken in for an emergency medical evaluation. The sheriff would not disclose where McLaw is now, but he did say that he is not on the Eastern Shore. The same day that McLaw was taken in for an evaluation, police swept Mace’s Lane Middle School for bombs and guns, coming up empty.

People involved in the legal business often turn to writing novels. John Grisham comes to mind.

I look up the Doc and find a Facebook profile for his publisher, Northern Imperial Publishing and a post on their site:

Check out this impressive, anonymous, Google book review:

“With some of the most poignant writing one could encounter, Voltaer joins the ranks of Grisham, Baldacci, and Patterson in his first gripping thriller. This sophisticated plot will leave you on the edge of your seat, turning page by page, yearning for more. In an age where CSI, NCIS, and Criminal Minds have become the centers of our prime time entertainment, “The Insurrectionist” is a relevant story that will be quick to become a contemporary favorite. Voltaer writes with determination, purpose, and yet perfect eloquence, all the while driving at an overarching theme, a deeper point, unveiling the passions and emotions within us all.”

Considering that Voltaer’s work is the only stuff being promoted by this publisher and hasn’t updated since October 2013 when Lilith’s Heir was released, can I bet a cookie that it’s invented to be his own vanity press? Can I bet a cookie this “anonymous” good review came from his own head? The site has only 20 likes as of writing.

John Grisham has nearly 1.5 million likes on his Facebook page.

Maybe the teacher is a little bit left of sane, but maybe he’s just a guy who had ideas for a couple of books and wanted to publish them under a different name rather than use his given one. A lot of quality authors have used pen names, too, when they want to try something different. Nora Roberts and JD Robb are equally liked and are the same person. I don’t read either one, though. JK Rowling wrote A Casual Vacancy under a different name. I haven’t read that, either.

Where am I going with this? In circles, I guess. Did the school and police over-react here? Probably. They actually searched the school for bombs on the off chance that he’d consider making his fictionalized thrillers come true. Maybe he wants to. Or maybe he’s just a 23 year old guy who dreamed of being an author and had an idea for a story. Kudos to him for getting two books written, even if they’re only digital versions that few people know about and would pay for. Maybe he thought he’d strike it lucky like the authors of Wool and The Martian (I wrote about those here) and find online fame get offers of movie rights.

This kind of fame is hardly what he was expecting when he started…

Siberia cursed by ancient mummy? Of course not

August 27, 2014

According to a recent article provided by the Daily Mail, the mummified remains of a Siberian princess are to blame for earthquakes and flooding in the region. Supposedly, it’s some kind of curse. Why does the Mail focus first on this part? Because it’s the Mail.

An exhumed 2,500 year old mummified Siberian princess is set to be reburied because native groups in the Altai Mountains claim her posthumous anger is causing floods and earthquakes.

The tattooed corpse of the 25-year-old woman was preserved in permafrost until she was dug up more than two decades ago. It was this act, it is claimed, that has caused her anger.

Now the Council of Elders in Altai – representing native Siberians in the region – have passed a vote to rebury her remains, a decision apparently accepted by local governor Alexander Berdnikov.

And what happens when the body is returned to “rest” but earthquakes and floods still ravage the area? Will they claim it’s her lingering resentment or search the area for some other scapegoat?

The article goes on to describe where it was found and what else was buried along with it. Then,

Spokeswoman for the regional government Oksana Yeremeeva said: ‘The decision of Council of Elders is very respectable, but we cannot implement it immediately.’

Currently the mummy was seen as a museum possession and a new law would be needed to give the go-ahead to a reburial.

She said: ‘The mummy, though it can sound quite rude, is still a museum exhibit, that is we cannot just bury it, no-one has done such things before.’

The move is likely to require validation by the Russian Ministry of Culture in Moscow.

I don’t know if it comes down to journalistic “laziness” or harsh deadlines that leave writers with little time to dig deeper into topics. Or are they just being honest when it comes to giving people what they apparently want? I know the headline did much of the work to get me interested in clicking. Going with a flamboyantly stupid headline may gain them click points on their stat meters but how many people will stop at, “Ha, ha, silly people think curses are real” and how many will notice the actual story worth pursuing that gets ignored here?

The issue worth discussing is the one about the rights of locals to maintain connection to their history versus the stance of museums and researchers intent on better understanding that history. This kind of clash is not uncommon.

Ideally, both groups will be able to work together to figure out the best way to deal with the historic pieces. I did some “digging” for other news that would fit this theme. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights will officially open late September, 2014, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In an article from last August, the Winnipeg Sun had a rundown of artifacts that had been found while digging out the space for the museum. 400,000 artifacts of various types.

Local aboriginal elders were consulted about the oral history of the site and how to respect the land being excavated. On the advice of those elders, a medicine bag was buried with each of the 500 pilings constructed to support the structure.

“Bringing archaeology and oral history together will give us all a better understanding of Manitoba’s ancient past,” said Mireille Lamontagne, the museum’s manager of education programs. “The museum will undertake key oral histories related to the archaeology project that will be kept as part of the museum’s corporate family.”

The bulk of the items found a home with the Provincial Historic Resources Branch, according to the article.

update Aug 28/14: If you’ll be in the Winnipeg area Sept 19-21st Rightsfest is sounding pretty darn fun.

Many of the performances will have a human rights theme, including a collaboration between the Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble, an Israeli folk dance ensemble, and the Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble.

Other performers will include 100 Decibels, a deaf mime troupe, and Shannon Bear, a traditional First Nations dancer and human-rights activist.

Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves

August 27, 2014

Had an earworm when I woke up this morning.

From BBC, Suffolk County Council has arranged for seven short-stay camp areas.

Cliff Codona, chairman of the National Travellers Action Group, said: “We estimate that there some 1000 Gypsies and travellers in Suffolk, many of whom are good citizens living in houses, paying their taxes and sending their children to local schools.

“But those that want to travel struggle to find legal, legitimate and safe places to stop, which is why short-stay sites are needed.”

The sites in Suffolk would have about eight pitches each and travellers would have to pay rent.

It’s something, at least.

For extra entertainment, head over to the National Film Board of Canada’s website and watch Opre Roma: Gypsies in Canada.

Atheist Scruples: don’t drink and drive

August 26, 2014

I guess it’s a question in this game because not everyone thinks like I do.

One of your guests has drunk too much and become obnoxious. Finally, he is about to leave. Do you allow him to drive home in his condition?

Saskatchewan Government Insurance offers an Android App called SGI Safe Ride.

The SGI Safe Ride App puts all Saskatchewan taxis, DD services, transit routes, and even your own designated drivers in the palm of your hand. So, if you have been out for a few drinks you can always plan a safe ride home.
• Automatically determines your location, and lists one-touch calling for all local taxis and designated driver services.
• Provides available city transit information in your area.
• Allows you to easily assign designated drivers from your contacts list or add custom numbers.
This app is currently only designed for people living in Saskatchewan, Canada.

So, no use to my worldly readers, but locally worth knowing about.

This is assuming my annoying, obnoxious friend has not made an ass out of himself to a point where I’d want to go year before another visit and wouldn’t care if he killed himself crossing the road after what he said.

Then again, that’d be mighty cruel of me and, for all I know, liable in the death of him or those he may harm if I let him leave while inebriated.

So, aiming to avoid that possibility: crash on my couch, idiot. I’ll give you coffee in the morning and tell you all about the stupid ass things you did and said. You’re lucky we’re such good friends…


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