The Idiots Guide to the Universe It's a big weird world, best to be snarky!

16Jul/14Off

The Idiocy of Argue-tainment

Photo on 7-16-14 at 6.32 PMI have been distancing myself from social media a lot more often recently. I have also found myself happier because of it. Why? The largest form of entertainment available via social media, on sites like Facebook and on news article comments, is arguing. Look at many articles on the Internet, it could be about puppies and there is some idiot conservative muppet who starts complaining about Obama, on the other side you have some idiot liberal muppet who starts complaining about guns. People really like to be right, I am no exception. But I have really tried to control my desire to argue, or point out when others are wrong. It is far more difficult than I thought it would be. Frankly, I have some friends that believe some pretty bizarre stuff. I also have friends that post at least on anti-Obama something EVERY - SINGLE - DAY. Now that's not to say I don't have liberal friends that don't post their own slanted drivel that is just as ridiculous and foolish, that certainly happens as well.

In general we as a society are becoming so simple minded. We only think in catchphrases, talking points, and memes. Trying to explore an issue to it's depth with someone and you are met with their political party platitudes and presumptions before you can even get started. At this point I am fairly convinced that if Barrack Obama cured cancer, the conservatives on the Internet would say that it is so he can take profits away from the hard working healthcare industry. If Speaker of the House, John Boehner, were to cure cancer , the liberals would accuse him of trying to subvert the Affordable Healthcare Act and protect the corporate profits of the healthcare industry. Why? Because they are on the other side, and for some reason, that little D, or R next to their name demonizes them in the eyes of many to the point of savage disavowel that they have any redeeming qualities. Once someone is from THEM, then surely you can't agree with anything they say. The argument begins. The thing that is always lost, is love for your fellow man. People always seem to forget that it is people that ultimately are effected. Maybe, just maybe if we stopped arguing long enough we could look at an issue and say "What happens to the people? Whose lives will be effected, and how? "

It's not just politics, it's religion, sports, science, literature, film, and much more. Look at the arguments over whether Twilight or Harry Potter is better, Star Trek or Star Wars, Conan or Kimmel, even kittens or puppies will be argued about. What have we accomplished through all of this? It has made us more divisive as a society, more inclined to react quickly than to think something through, more likely to be wrong, and far less likely to have a civil conversation.

The odds of you and I agreeing on every point in this life is pretty slim, if not impossible. I still get irritated when I see things. In many cases I might even type out and delete a response I get so frustrated or angered by it. I don't like this reaction, it's not healthy. It can be little things about religion or politics, or even big things where people are just flat out wrong. One of the biggest things that get my goat is strongly held beliefs in conspiracies, and things that are not based on fact. I just need to let it go. We all should let it go, but I can only control one person and that is me.

There is no reason that we, as a society, should carry on with this argue-tainment any longer. If we all just start to ignore it, it will go away. I don't know what will replace it. I would love to say meaningful discussion on a deep and philosophic level. But I am a realist, I know that that would just devolve into arguing again. But it would at least be interesting to see what happened. So next time, don't post the sarcastic comment. Don't share the disparaging meme. Don't share something that is clearly partisan and meant to belittle others. How often does someone really change their mind because of a Facebook post, a Facebook comment, a meme, or a comment on an Internet article. Quite simply, 99.9% of the time, it is narcissistic mental masturbation. The only person that gets anything out of it is you. Sure someone might argue back, and you may post another quip, but in the end, neither of you changed your mind and neither of you has come to any clearer revelation.

So later this week, I am going to purge my friends list on Facebook. If I unfriend you, it's not because I don't value you as a human being. It is for the simple reason that I find many of the things that you post frustrate me to the point of wanting to argue. It is a personality flaw with me where I want to argue. It doesn't mean that I no longer value your personal friendship. It just means that I don't need the added stress and blood pressure that comes with me wanting to argue the points with you. The best part of Facebook is the meaningful connections I have managed to maintain with many people, and I would surely not want to lose that. I have already unsubscribed from several community groups because I find myself thinking less of my local community because of them.

The other side of this is that I am trying to be cognitive of what I post as well. I have been making an effort to not post things that are disparaging about specific beliefs, or ideologies. I am trying not to troll for arguments. I try to speak more in generalities. The World Cup certainly helped since it gave me something fairly benign to discuss. But I definitely have some strong opinions about things, some of these are things that people base their lives on. So it isn't always easy.

If this little experiment of purging my friends list doesn't work, and I still feel myself frustrated or wanting to argue, I will just simply walk away from Facebook and social media all together. What would I do with all of that time? What are your thoughts? Comment below.

Filed under: life, Politics, Rant Comments Off
16May/14Off

The Idiocy of Tom Wheeler and What Net Neutrality Means to You

FCC Chairperson and Former Lobbyist Tom Wheeler

FCC Chairperson and Former Lobbyist Tom Wheeler

Tom Wheeler is the Chairman of the FCC. Prior to that he spent time as President of the National Cable Television Association, a lobby group for cable service providers such as Time-Warner and Comcast. This is important because he is one of the key people responsible for ensuring something called Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality is essentially ensuring that all data that traverses the Internet is given the same fair priority. The Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are the companies that provide your home and business Internet connections, such as AT&T, Verizon, Time-Warner, Comcast and many others. ISPs would very much like to change the way you receive your Internet service, and they want YOU to pay more for it. The method they want to use is called rate limiting or prioritization.

Data traverses the Internet in packets of data. Now if you view these packets as boxes, you can view the Internet backbone as the trucks that will carry these boxes. Right now every box gets the same priority and they are loaded on the trucks and delivered to you as quickly as possible. This is Net Neutrality, every packet is given the same priority, so whether you are streaming a movie, updating your Facebook status or commenting on my blog, your packets get delivered equally and fairly. Seems simple right? It is.

What Tom Wheeler is deciding on is the creation of "Internet Fast Lanes" where companies are forced to pay a higher rate to receive a higher priority. So returning to our analogy, your box gets delayed so that higher priority boxes get delivered faster. What this does is create an Internet of haves and have nots. If you pay for the fast lane, you get a higher priority. Everyone else fights over the scraps of bandwidth that are left over. Keep in mind that this does not change the actual physical properties of the backbone. The lines aren't going to be increased for these "Internet Fast Lanes." They are just going to take away existing lanes from everyone else so that those that pay get a higher priority. So the question is, who supports the creation of Internet Fast Lanes and who opposes them. Companies like AT&T, Verizon, Time-Warner and Comcast support the creation of these fast lanes while companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon oppose them. There is also a very large growing contingent of Internet users that oppose these 'Internet Fast Lanes' because of how unfair they are to the consumer.

Right now Tom Wheeler is trying to push through these Internet Fast Lanes as the FCC Chairman. Interesting since he used to lobby for the very companies that want this unfair practice in place. How would this effect you? Let's use Netflix as an example. If Netflix doesn't pay extra to use the Fast Lanes, your movie watching experience will suffer greatly. So of course they will pay. As a result your Netflix rate goes up. Want fast access to your free Facebook account, you have to pay for premium to cover the extra fees that Facebook pays to get on the Internet Fast Lane. Want to get in the Internet Fast Lane yourself as an end user. Oh sorry, that's not available to you. It is only available to big companies.

So now that you see the inherent unfairness of these "Internet Fast Lanes" and you need to do something about it. First you should tell FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler that you support keeping the Internet fair, you support 'Net Neutrality.' You can do this by emailing him at Tom.Wheeler@fcc.gov. The next thing you can do is tell your representative and Senators that you support Net Neutrality. You can reach your house representative at http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ and your senator can be found at http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

It's your Internet. Don't let it be taken over by corporations and corrupt politicians.

23Feb/14Off

Which Indiana Jones Character Are You!

indiana-jones-snakeReally? Does it really give your life any value at all to know which Indiana Jones character you are? You're just wasting time. Those quizzes at buzzfeed and other similar sites don't actually have any merit. You are NOT going to be Iron Man or the Hulk. You aren't really Darth Vader or Bart Simpson, or even a Hot Dog. Those things have about as much in common with you as cheese does with asphalt.

Just imagine for a minute all that time you have wasted on those stupid quizzes. Now imagine that time channeled into something that really matters to you. Like Writing a book, a story or a poem. Perhaps building a table or knitting a scarf. The point is, you would be well on your way. Instead you know that the Simpsons character you are most like is Moe, and frankly, that is useless information.

So PLEASE. Let's stop clicking on those quizzes, and if you must click on the quiz, at least spare us all the results. Please don't post it, because we all already knew that the Indiana Jones character you are most like is Short Round. You spend too much of your damn time on those stupid quizzes to be anyone cool like Indiana Jones. He doesn't bother with the quizzes, he gets shit done.

Filed under: Rant Comments Off
14Nov/13Off

The Idiocy I Hear About My Atheism

atheist-babiesI am an atheist. I haven't always been an atheist. It's easy to say. It hasn't always been easy. I have used other terms for it like agnostic, but in reality, I am an atheist. I always find it humorous when this surprises people, as if I just walked up and wiped a booger on their shirt. Does this mean that I know for a fact that there isn't some magic invisible presence outside of my perception? No, it doesn't. It is as simple as that. I DON'T KNOW. I don't know if the Sun will rise tomorrow, I don't know if my alarm clock will go off and wake me. I think both of these things will happen, but I simply don't know that they will. But here is where things change. I am fairly certain that the Sun will come up tomorrow, or more specifically the Earth will rotate in a manner that gives the Sun the appearance of rising into the sky. Why? Because it did yesterday, and the day before that ad naseum. There is repeatable proof that suggests to me that the Sun will come up and I believe that it will, not because of faith, but because of evidence that I have observed. I don't believe in a God for the exact same reason, I have seen nothing in the Universe that I live in that suggests that there is a God. If I were presented with a burning bush, or an angel sent to task me, my belief structure would change pretty quickly. But that is what being an Atheist is. It is being intellectually honest and saying, very simply, "I don't know." I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person. I know a lot about a lot of things, and I know a little about even more things. I am constantly changing what I know based upon my understanding of things. There is also an even greater amount of things that I know nothing about. But I don't accept that any belief in a deity can come out of I don't know. I just think that the difference between myself and a believer is a matter of faith.

Now we could stretch the definition of faith to include my sitting in a chair, you could erroneously state that I have faith that the chair will, not be invisible, will have sufficient structure that is capable of holing my ample girth, and will not sink into the floor or collapse dropping me embarrassingly to the floor the moment I transfer my significant weight to it. But that is stretching the meaning of the word faith. I can see that the chair has four legs, is of suitable construction to hold me, and that it physically exists. Faith is when you believe in something that there is no tangible proof of. Just as I won't sit in those cheap stackable plastic chairs because I know that there is a reasonable chance everyone will be laughing at the fat guy that broke the chair, I won't believe in something that I can't repeatedly establish the existence of. I don't honestly believe that you know there is a God, in fact I am fairly certain that you don't know 100%. But you have faith that there is a God. In the history of time there have been thousands of Gods that people have believed in. Think about why you don't believe in those other deities, that is exactly why I don't believe in yours.

I have seen several assumptions made because I am an Atheist that crack me up. Here are a few of them.

Oh, you're an Atheist, You Must Worship the Devil

Ummm, no. I don't believe that there are Gods, devils, demons, angels, ghosts, fairies, unicorns or honest congress persons. It's really simple for me. I don't believe any of these things exist, all for the same reason.

Oh, you're an Atheist, You don't have any Morals, or You Must Not be A Good Person

Well, if that isn't a slap in the face to the mother and father that raised me. See, morality is quite simple. It is simply putting value on people. I value people, so it is important to me that I am honest to them, I don't take anything from them and that I treat them with respect. I find this to be FAR nobler than the concept of being moral because I am commanded to do so at the threat of punishment or displeasing a deity. That isn't morals; it is the compulsion of fear. I am a good person because I choose to be. In fact, many of the most mean spirited, hateful things I have seen have been based in a religious morality (anti-gay marriage, terrorism in the name of God, Crusades.) The fact is I choose to do right because I want to. I don't need right arbitrarily defined outside of me. If right is defined in religious text, rather that the value of another human being, I desperately want to be 'wrong' in valuing my fellow man.

Oh, You're and Atheist, You Hate Christians/Muslims/Jews

Nope. I don't have time to hate; it is a useless act that does me no good. I don't hate religious people, there are a lot of very religious people that I not only like, but I love them a lot. I don't like their religions; I consider religion a HUGE hindrance to the advancement of our society. But I also believe in personal freedoms. I think people have a right to believe what they want. But I do not believe that religion has any place in a decision made that affects the non-religious (i.e. politics.) That is where I draw the line. I firmly support the separation of church and state and I would eventually like to get to a place where we can intellectually come to the separation of church and planet. That is not hatred, or mean spirited, I just have this huge hope that we can all move on and be a people guided by reason and not fear.

Oh, You're an Atheist, You Must Not Be a Good Parent

This one is downright insulting. I am a great father to my three awesome kids, because I love them and put their well being before my own. I will admit it requires more creativity to raise a child without the use of religion as a basis of fear. It is easy to say "God loves you, but he doesn't like it when you lie. You don't want to displease God do you? It's a sin." That is using fear to get a result out of a child. Instead I have to teach my kids that it is wrong to lie because it shows a lack of respect for the person you are talking to. It always speaks ill of your character and makes it so that other people won't trust you. Sure it is a heavy concept for a child, but they got it, and I consider my kids to be excellent, if not exemplary, members of society. They have empathy, compassion, honesty and treat their fellow humans with decency because they value them as people, and they value their own character. There is no fear of displeasing a God or going to a magical place of fire and burning for eternity. There may be some fear of displeasing Mom or Dad and losing the iPhone, or the computer. But that is based on reality, if they mess up they will learn a lesson, but it is a tangible lesson which is based on the real world they can perceive. We are all born atheists, theists are taught.

Oh, You're an Atheist, You Must Be a Communist, or Anti-American

Nope. I love the country I live in. I love the fact that I am free to believe what I want, even if there are some people that try to legislate their beliefs. But I fear for the country I love. I fear that there are two dividing sides that both think they know better than I do how my life should be lived, both sides are wrong. But I do firmly believe that any government that has its basis in religion without the separation of church and state is destined to fail. There has never, in the history of the world, been a government based in religion that hasn't either murdered others for their beliefs or removed freedoms from their own people in order to uphold a religious doctrine. Even in the US, religious doctrine has been used to remove, or attempt to remove, individual rights numerous times.

Oh You're an Atheist, You Must Have Never Read the Bible.

I have, cover to cover. Twice. It is one of the biggest reasons I became an Atheist. I strongly suggest that you do the same, read the Bible cover to cover. Yes it is horrifically bad story telling and it is painful to get through, but it is the basis of YOUR belief. Shouldn't you be the one that has read ALL of it and not just a passage here or there.

Oh You're an Atheist, You Must Think Religious People are Stupid or Ignorant

No. I know some very intelligent people that are theists. It baffles me, but they have their own reason. I do however believe that it is not a coincidence that VAST majorities of people practice the same religion they were raised with. In other words, it is pretty rare that someone is born into a Muslim family and they become a Christian, or vice versa. I do however believe that most theists have more doubts than they ever let on. I think that very few of them can say that they know for a fact that there is a God without at least a hint of doubt in their mind, but it is a lot easier to go with the flow than it is to stand apart on the footing of your own reason.

Oh, You're an Atheist, You Must Think You Have All the Answers

I don't have all of the answers. I sincerely doubt I ever will. Our understanding of the Universe around us is constantly changing. New evidence brings about new scientific theories. There are things that we are constantly learning. It is an exciting time to be alive. But do I have an answer for everything, hell no. My daughter is at the age where she has started dating, this scares the shit out of me. If you knew me when I was young you will understand why. But I trust her intellect and her own self-efficacy will drive her towards making good decisions. But I don’t know the exact way I am supposed to handle this.

I accept the fact that I may be wrong; a burning bush may speak to me on my next hike and change my whole perspective. But really, that isn't going to happen. I don't believe there were or have ever been miracles and that they just stopped happening when the camera was invented (and then started again when Photoshop was released.) I don't think there is a God that loves me so much that he made a special place of torture that I can go to when I die just in case I don't love him back. It's not logical to me, if it is to you that's fine. But I do have something that makes a lot more sense to me; it is a quote that is incorrectly attributed to Marcus Aurelius. I don't know the source of it, so I am claiming it has my own until the source is discovered:

Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. -Mark Parker

If this has offended you in any way, then you have completely missed the meaning of what I was trying to accomplish. This blog is read, for the most part, by my friends and family and I love all of you and wouldn't want to offend you. I was merely pointing out some of the idiocies I encounter in my day-to-day life as a vocal atheist and trying to point them out in a light hearted and thoughtful manner.

16Jul/13Off

The Idiocy of Getting Older

back pain at workI am not old. Not yet. But I can certainly see old coming up on the horizon. A few of the people I went to school with  have been posting pleasantries about their grandchildren. I have had colleagues and friends lose spouses to horrible things like cancer. My own parents are enjoying their retirement. The oldest of my three kids, my daughter, is entering her sophomore year of high school. She will be an adult in a few days over 3 years. In the next year she will be itching to get her drivers permit. My oldest son is getting collection of peach fuzz on his upper lip, and a boost of testosterone to go along with it. I wake up many mornings with a sore back. I get a sore back when I sit at my desk for too long. I am now much more likely to just set the cruise control and get there when I get there instead of jockeying for position in traffic. All of these little things add up to a realization that, give or take ten or so years, I'm about half-way done with my existence. It's a deeply sobering thought.

So as I contemplate these things, I sit back and I think... what would I tell my 18 year old self. What would I do differently. Well here they are in no specific order:

1. Don't be afraid to fail, or be broke. Sometimes a little risk is worth it. On a handful separate occasions throughout my life I have had job or opportunity offers that, at the time, came with great risk. They also had a slim potential for reward. But fear of that reward not happening kept me from taking those risks. A few of which would have had multi-million dollar payouts. It's okay to be a bit uncomfortable and take risks.

2. Build a nest egg early, and keep feeding it. The older you get, the harder this is to start. If you have a nest egg, taking those risks becomes much easier, because it can cushion your landing. It also offers a much larger degree of freedom in many situations. The better your nest egg is, the more freedom you have to make a decision. The lack of a nest egg can hinder those decisions. If you can't afford to pay your bills by missing one or two months of salary, that certainly changes the way you view an opportunity or decision.

3. Travel, a lot. It is an awesome world. The differences in cultures while sometimes stark, and even shocking, doesn't take away one simple truth. It is a world full of human beings. For the most part, these human beings are awesome, endearing, loving folk. Smile at them. Talk with them. Learn from them. One of the most profound things I have learned in my life came from a bicycle rickshaw driver in Singapore when I said "It is hot today." He said, and I am paraphrasing here as my aging memory permits, "The pedals go up and down, every day. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it is beautiful, like today. Every day I get meet new people, this makes my heart beat. Every night I go home to my wife, and that makes me smile." There also some beautiful sites to behold. From Yosemite Valley, to Bryce Canyon, to lovers embracing along the Seine. Each one of them will make your heart skip a beat, and that is one more tick you get later in life. That's one more moment you can draw from to put a smile on your face.

4. Hold Your Tongue. Those who have spent time with me, know that I have a sarcastic wit. Those who've been with me after a few pints know that the sarcastic wit can have a bit of teeth to it. Many of the big regrets that I have in my life, don't come from the missed opportunities, or things I didn't do. They come from hurtful things I have said to people. Even if today I can tell the story of those situations in a mirthful manner, making the subject light-hearted. The fact remains that I can, and have, said things that can cut deeply. Don't do that, while you may win the moment, all you really take with you is the lifetime of regret that comes from hurting another person.

5. Music and nature are the two things that center you, commune with them often. I have been a musician since I was a young child. I was taught to play the trumpet. That has extrapolated itself into bad piano and keyboard playing, guitar, bass guitar and the ability to pick up any instrument and, in a few moments, play that instrument. It may not be the way a virtuoso would play, but it would pass as music. Today, after a long work day, I can pick up a guitar, or get out a trumpet and play for 30 minutes or so and get lost in it. This is something that, I am happy to say, I have passed onto my kids. My daughter more than anyone. She now plays trumpet, clarinet (a woodwind her only downfall), guitar, ukelele, and piano. She's not an expert in any of them. But they each bring her a joy.

Nature is a completely different thing. While driving down the road in a beautiful place, and getting out to take a picture is an awesome experience. It is getting out there, putting on a backpack and getting away from the cell phone signals, and the traffic and all of the trappings of modern life and just being a raw human being in the face of nature. With only your breath and the sounds around you. That is a time that forces me to think. There is no escape from my thoughts in those moments. There is no way to distract yourself by "checking email."

6. Don't let fear of death dictate your relationships with people you love. This one is tough, and it isn't something you can go back and apologize for. In several instances in my life I have had family member get old, and die. In each and every case I can see a defined pattern where I saw that person far less often. I still haven't gotten my head completely wrapped around this one. It wasn't a conscious decision, it is something that just happened. As my own parents age, this is something that won't happen. For two reasons, first I am much closer to my parents than any of the other people. Second, I don't think either of my parents would allow that to happen.

7. Kids will change you for the better. Of all the life events I have been through, having kids was the one that changed my life the most. It is something that defines everything. There is a new inherent process inserted into your life. Every decision revolves around the impact on the kids. I spent my entire life traipsing around town on foot, skateboard, bicycle or eventually by car. There is still a minor fear that I feel when my teenaged kids are out on their own, in the gated community I live in. But on the flip side, you instantly gain an unconditional love that is like no other. You know at the first moment you hold your child, that you would give everything to protect that child.

8. Mysticism isn't real. There are no psychics, ghosts, spirits, or any other intangible conscious beings. Sure it can be comforting to think these things, but you are much better off going with your gut. What you know and understand about this universe, what makes sense to you, what you can logically accept by the power of your brain, that's what's real. Don't waste your time, thought or money on anything that doesn't stand to logic.

9. It's okay to be right. There will be several times in your life where it will be uncomfortable to be right. Stand your ground. People may not like it, they may even be offended. That's okay. Better to be honest to them, and above all to yourself than to compromise your intellect and integrity.

10. Some people don't like success, avoid them. There are people that look at the success of others and rather than being happy for them, they will instantly try to tear those people down. They will use words like selfish and greedy. Some of them will be successful themselves, and will prey upon others to maintain their success. Some will have never tasted success. In either case, all they want is to take from you both physically and emotionally.

11. Your wife is going to be incredible. The person that I have spent the last 16 years with is at the center of everything I enjoy about my life. When I succeed she is there to celebrate with me. When I fail she is there to encourage me to take the next step. She is an awesome mother that is loved by her children. Most of all, she is the best partner that you could have at your side at any time.

12. Stay in shape. One of life's hardest lessons has been this one. It is easy to stay in shape. It is extremely easy to get out of shape. It can often seem an insurmountable task to get back in shape. Better to handle it early before the task becomes daunting.

13. Treat the people you work with like volunteers. This one is fairly new for me, and I can't claim it as my own. A great friend, Eric Lundbohm, blogged about this recently and it is something I have spent some time thinking about. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I worked for him, and I considered it one of the best times of personal career growth that I experienced. I was able to significantly grow (50% year over year) a product line that was under my control. I was given creative freedom, and I was excited to do my job. There have been times in my career that felt like a job. During this time I felt like I was doing what I wanted to do, and someone was paying me to do it.

14. Reassess and revise. It is very easy to get comfortable, don't. Take some time to reassess where you are in life. If there is something about your life that you do not like, or that you feel could be better. Make a plan. Don't let things stagnate. The times in your life, or your career, that you dislike most will come because you didn't take time to assess and revise things in your life.

So, now I put it in your hands. What would you tell your 18 year-old self?

Filed under: life Comments Off
21May/13Off

The Idiocy I Hear About Teachers

As I write this President Obama is spewing his platitudes about the horrific disaster in Oklahoma City. Meanwhile the under story goes completely unnoticed. The under story is teachers. In many cases we hear about our brave first responders, law enforcement and fire fighters rushing in to help. My intention is not to take anything away from these brave souls whose fortitude greatly outweighs that of most of us. But my thoughts go to the true first responders at those elementary schools, teachers. This image to the left; in looking at it you see two parents escorting their kids away from the horrors that happened just a short time ago at their elementary school. The father clutching a daughter to his chest, the injured mother holding on to her daughter's hand as if she'd never let go. But look again, that is two teachers, holding on to the children as if they were their own. Moments later, once these children were safe, they would rush back in to help others, because they have other children that need saving.

In another scene, a car that has been dropped by the tornado is lifted. Under that car is a teacher. Under the teacher, students. This teacher was putting her body between this destructive force of nature, and her students. In Connecticut a teacher was found shot to death with her body draped over her students. In Columbine a teacher was shot to death as put himself in harms way to close and lock a door to protect dozens of students inside. In countless other horrifying situations we hear of teachers making the ultimate sacrifice in an attempt to protect their kids. That's right their kids. Ask any teacher about their students, and you will hear the words 'my kids' come out of their mouth countless times.

So why is it that these teachers would feel such a protective bond for these students. It's simple, they have no other way of looking at those students. The students aren't a product that they are building, they aren't groceries or sundries being stocked on shelves, or scanned for check out. They are each individual human beings with hopes, dreams, hurts and potential. Every single one of these kids develops special place in the heart of that teacher.

In a situation like this, it is the teachers that provide comfort to the students until a family member comes to retrieve them. It is the teacher's that will see to their basic needs, warmth, clothing, water and food until that last student is with their family. During this entire time, the teacher will wonder about the fate of their own son, daughter, spouse and any other family. While other families rush to reunite, the teacher remains, tending to his or her students until the last one is with his or her family. If the family never comes because tragedy has occurred, it is the teacher that takes those first tears into his or her chest. All the while, wondering about the fate of his or her own family.

On top of all of that, disaster aside, it is the teacher that spends 5%-20% of their own income on supplies for their own classroom. In many states, these costs are not tax deductible, or are not deductible until certain thresholds are met, at which point the deduction is only available for expenditures above and beyond that of the threshold.

So of course many of the parents meet this level of dedication with comments like, "Oh he's (or she's) just a teacher. Guess he couldn't hack it in 'real world.' Yes, you muppet, the teachers chose to put the kids before their own self absorbed chase of consumerism. How dare they not make the same choices you did. How dare they become better educated than you, and choose to put the kids first.

How about this one "teacher's are over paid." Really? Teacher's spend the entire day educating your kids, then they go home, grade their papers and prepare materials for the following day. On the weekend they plan the following week to make sure that there are engaging activities planned that will keep the interest of the students, because here's a hint: your child can't sit still in class because you sent him to school with a Rock Star energy drink and two doughnuts. In all seriousness, kids don't want to come to school and be lectured all day. They want to learn by doing. So a science teacher will go out and spend a couple hundred dollars of their own money to buy flowers so the students can dissect these flowers and see the various parts of the flower like the pollen and the stigma. But hey, I hope you enjoyed that backyard BBQ.

But the most galling thing of all is the way the students and teachers are used as political pawns by our politicians. This usually ends up turning many conservatives against the teachers. Teacher's are turned into "educators" in political speeches since polling data suggests that when a politician says teacher, you will immediately think of your kids teachers, or teachers from your past. Politicians can't have you thinking about people, personalizing it makes it harder for them to do their political maneuvering. So instead they will say "Educators are taking up a large portion of the budget." But then they will flip the script on you. Politicians know that there are a few political hot buttons that work on the genreal public, kids, police, fire and roads. They will typically use the term teacher when they want to increase funding by saying things like "If we do not get this tax increase through, it is the teachers and children who will suffer."

What the politicians are doing is using teachers, and student education as a political pawn. The politicians know that you would never vote to fund a tax increase to subsidize business growth for the businesses that funded their campaign, so they lock that part of the budget in early, along with their own salaries. But then when the money is coming up short because they funded their own special interests, they turn to the public and say we need more, it's for the teachers, kids, fire, police, and the roads you drive to work. The teachers are then held as a political hostage, many of them getting the dreaded 'pink slip' telling them that they may be laid off for the following school year because the budget is coming up short. Imagine for a moment, going months, not knowing if you would have a job the next year. Now imagine doing it 5 years in a row. That is the life of a teacher.

So how about instead of saying degrading things about your kids teachers, you treat them with the respect they deserve. Tell your politicians to stop using our public servants as political pawns. Next time you get that big bonus, how about an email to the teacher asking what you can buy for the classroom. How about at the next back to school night, instead of cornering the teacher to discuss your child and how special you think he or she is, you just say 'Thank you.' You can schedule an after school meeting to discuss your little darling. How about as school winds down, you send in a thank you card. You don't have to send anything else (though I'm sure a gift certificate for school supplies would be welcome,) a thank you card would mean the world to most teachers.

So to all those teacher's that educated, and put up with my snark. To all those teacher's that have dealt with whatever idiosyncrasies I have passed on to my children, to the teachers in Oklahoma and to all the teachers counting down the days this Spring.... THANK YOU!

Filed under: life, Rant, work Comments Off
30Apr/13Off

The Potential Idiocy of Online Banking on May 7th, 2013

CUNA (Credit Union National Association), a national organization of credit unions, is warning of a potential DDoS attack against their web sites and other systems on May 7th, 2013. They are urging their members to conduct business either on another date, or in person at a local branch. The reasoning behind this warning is based on recent Internet chatter.

A DDoS, or Distributed Denial of Service, attack happens when several computers send traffic to targeted systems with the intent of overloading that system and rendering it unusable. In many cases, a DDoS attack can be used as a diversion while a more insidious attack, intended to break into, or commit fraud on another system occurs. In most cases, the systems which are performing the DDoS attack are members of a bot net. Systems that have been infecting with malware in the form of a virus or trojan. Most owners of these systems remain blissfully unaware of the fact that their system is infected, just sitting idly by waiting for instructions from a bot-herder, a system used to issue instructions to the infected bot net systems. Once the instruction is given, the infected system will carry out the instructions. The end user of this system may notice slowing of their system, but other than that there will be no other way for the average user to know that their system is participating in the attack.

So what can the average user do? As always make sure A/V is installed and up to date, but this is not a guarantee against infection since A/V works off of signatures for known malware. Ensure that all recommended updates on browsers and other installed software are installed. In most cases, updates contain fixes for known vulnerabilities that could be used to install malware on the system. Any unused systems, particularly older Windows systems that may have an older OS or browser should be powered off when not in use.

Credit Union members should also ensure that they heed this warning and plan to not do any online banking on May 7th.

Article from CU Times available here:  http://www.cutimes.com/2013/04/26/cuna-warns-of-may-7-website-attacks

11Apr/13Off

The Idiocy of Being ‘Preachy’

20130411-232747.jpg

I have had people mention my fervent defense of atheism and of a barring of religion from all things in the public sector. I even had one person say "You sure are preachy for an atheist." (Edit to add This is the cause for the title, I am the preachy Idiot.) It all comes down to my daughter, and something she said.

My move from Christianity to atheism was, in some ways, a slow one, and in many ways a fast one. I spent most of my youth calling myself a Christian, but even then I had my doubts. But I was happy to call myself a Christian since that what my friends were, that's what my family called themselves. I participated in Christian youth groups, I went to Christian concerts, though I also went to, what I then called secular concerts. I hung out with mostly Christian friends. I even converted several people, including my cousin who remains very Christian to this day, to Christianity. In a lot of ways I wanted to be as firm in my belief as so many other people around me seemed, so it made sense to get more people around me to believe. But I struggled daily with reconciling what I said I believed with what I really believed based on my understanding of the world around me, history, and the two sided nature of what religion did to me and other people. It just felt wrong.

The arrogance of saying "I know there is a God" felt wrong to me. I didn't know then, and I still don't know to this day. Sure, I have read the Bible, cover to cover, as well as in a daily devotional sense. To me, the best way to put doubt in me was to read the Bible. It didn't gel, the center did not hold. I went on to studying the history surrounding Christianity, more holes. When it came down to it, it just didn't make sense. Then I got on to reading Hitchens and other Atheist writers. Now things were starting to make sense. Basically, I didn't believe, I was trying to believe something and going through the motions, while the whole time I was full of doubt.

I took to calling myself a deist for a while. If it was good enough for Thomas Jefferson, it was surely good enough for me. But even that was wrong, when it came down to it, I didn't actually believe a God existed. So I started calling myself agnostic, but even that was bullshit. Being agnostic doesn't answer the question of whether or not I believed in God. That is a yes or no question. You can be unsure about whether or not God exists. But when it really comes down to it, you either believe in God or you don't. This is the one place there is no wiggle room. In my case, I don't believe there is a God. Does he or she exist, I honestly do not know, but I don't think so. That is as honest as I can get. I wasn't able to word it that way until I'd heard Penn Jillette word it that way. That crystallized what I felt.

When it came to raising the kids, I have let them go their own way. I didn't want to steer them any direction. I have even been overly careful not to steer them in any direction. So long as they weren't running of to join some suicide, or sex cult, or worse Scientology. Belief in God was something they had to come to on their own. They certainly had their exposure. They have a Mother who while never truly Catholic went through the motions. After a childhood of having it funneled into her, she still does some little thing that shows she still has the mournfully depressing trappings of a Catholic childhood. They have had Christian friends, Muslim friends, Jewish friends and even some I am missing I'm sure. They had Christian family members and a wonderful young Christian woman as their nanny for a few years. They went to some church functions with that nanny, and my daughter went to church with a friend once.

My daughter being the oldest is facing a lot of this head on. She is in that uncomfortable, unsure part of her life where she is finding her way as a young adult, and still trying to be a kid. She is 14, and she is wickedly intelligent. Sometimes her incites into life are very well above her years. Somewhat frightening when you are her father. Overall, she isn't just a good kid, she is a fantastic kid. She genuinely cares about people. She started to speak openly with me about her beliefs. She doesn't call herself any athiest, but she doesn't believe there is a God. She mentioned her frustration about the fact that she has seen several people at her high school (a school she no longer goes to for other reasons) ridiculed, harassed, and even physically threatened and in some cases assaulted because they openly said they didn't believe in God. There were groups of kids that called themselves Christians that were doing this. She said that she couldn't believe the arrogance of their belief. This hit me like a ton of bricks.

Usually I am called the arrogant one, but my daughter's statement made me realize how absolutely wrong that is. "You're so sure of your beliefs, that you are willing to go to hell for it, that's arrogant!" Really, it's not. All I am saying is that I don't think there is a God, and I certainly don't believe there is a God. That's not arrogant, it's honest. "So you are so sure that science has it all figured out, that's arrogant!" Woah!! Slow down! I certainly don't believe that science has it all figured out. But when I apply the logic in my brain, and I look at the narrative that science provides for how we got here, and then I look at the many narratives that religion provides. I know which one makes sense, and I know which one has evidence I can not only read about, but I can go into nature, or a museum, or a classroom and touch the proof. I can physically hold the fossil of a creature that looks at the religious narrative, sticks out it's tongue, makes a raspberry sound, and says, "explain the carbon dating that predates your first human, and while you're at it explain how one of the sons of the first man and woman was banished to a populated place," but I digress. Science doesn't have all the answers, but at least it is open to trying to find them and more importantly, prove them. Science isn't shackled to seeing things from one perspective without question, because questioning is against the will of God. Science can approach things from multiple angles, and it is wrong more often that it is right. But it is honest if you approach it with the correct doubt. So no, I don't think it is arrogant to believe that science provides a better explanation for the world around me. I don't think it is arrogant to believe that all I need in this life is my beautiful wife, my wonderful kids, my loving family, my friends, a good soccer match, beautiful nature, good food, and an occasional shot of whiskey while I shoot the shit with my Dad to make my life enjoyable. It is not arrogant to think I want to be as nice as I can because the people I care about are worth it.

But my daughter had a point. It is arrogant to believe that there is a being that exists outside of time, space, human understanding and this being cares about me, cares about who I marry, who I sleep with and when, and how much money I am putting in the basket at church. That is far more arrogant than simply saying, I don't know if there is a God. This arrogance clearly has carried through in these students at my daughter's school to giving them a sense of entitlement to belittling others that don't believe as they do.

My daughter has thus been reluctant to publicly identify herself as an atheist. She's young, she may end up going through a Hare Krishna stage for all I know. But right now she is afraid to say in a class discussion, that she feels someone's argument is missing the point that not everyone is Christian, and laws and rules can't be made in a free society that are based on a religious philosophy. That is not freedom, it is Theocracy. Looking down through history, the darkest times in this world came about because of Theocracy. Millions of pieces of art, literature, scientific discovery, mathematical theory have been lost to the world forever because it didn't answer the "Do you believe in my God question right." It's a shame that my daughter doesn't feel comfortable expressing what is in her, and it pisses me off.

So yes, I am going to become even more fervent in my pushing of having personal freedom of AND from religion. By my life, and my love of it, I will not stand by and watch any religion be used to destroy personal freedoms, or as a basis for law in this country, even if the majority of people support it. Sometimes the majority is wrong, just ask those that supported slavery, or segregation. I am going to do it so that my kids, and my grand kids, and every American can feel comfortable stating that they don't believe in God without that being some kind of wild ass statement, or a reason for that person to be ridiculed. So I am sorry if this makes you uncomfortable, or offends you, but it's real, and it is happening. If you are religious I am going to say that I believe you are wrong, and the basis for most of your decision making is a fairy tail in my eyes. If you have to defriend me, or unfollow me on Twitter, or uncircle me that's okay, I understand, really I do. I can be a bit of an asshole in how I word things sometimes. Just don't do so quietly. That's cowardly. Send me a message, or a tweet or a post letting me know. I seriously want to know when I have offended someone enough that they feel they can no longer tolerate it. I want to judge what it was I did and consider if I could have worded it better.

But by the same token, that also means that I support your ability to believe what ever the hell you want. So long as your belief is not imposing on the personal freedoms of others, or being propagated or supported through law, or tax money, knock yourself out. Sometimes this will feel unfair, "so it's okay to kick the Christian message out of public schools, keep 'Intelligent Design' out but still teach evolution" Yes it is. Evolution is a theory based upon observable facts found in a nature and in the fossil record. Yes it is a theory because we can't go back in time and observe each stage of what we believe happened. But gravity is a theory too and my ass is staying in my chair. If this world were 'Intelligently Designed' by a loving God, bacon would have the nutritional and caloric properties of kale. So no I don't think it reasonable that a tax funded classroom full of kids from many beliefs should be force fed some drivel just because what happens to be the repeatable scientific evidence doesn't jive with what a lot of people believe. Not on my tax dollar. Prayer in schools, he'll yes, so long as no tax funds go to it and it is not done in an organized manner. If Sally Sue wants to give a verbal high five to Jesus, Mary and and anyone else before she takes a test, or starts her school day. I will defend her right to do so to the death. To have a special time set aside in a school run with tax money, thus making those that don't want to pray feel ostracized, hell no. Now if you want to open the discussion on taking the public out of schools, that's an entirely different topic, but a good one.

So my stance is believe what you want, even Scientology. But seriously, if you're a Scientologist please reconsider, that is some loony toons crazy shit right there.

3Jul/12Off

How to Win My Galaxy Tickets

Okay, you want to win my Galaxy tickets for 8/26/2012., LA Galaxy v. FC Dallas. Why would I give away something so awesome? It is my wife's birthday and I intend to spend the day with her. So I thought it would be fun to do something that would put the tickets into the hands of a Galaxy fan.

The tickets are in Section 141 Row G seats 22 and 23. This is right next to the tunnel. From this vantage point I am able to interact with Galaxy players and coaches, as well as heckle the other team letting them know that they "came a long, way just to lose."

I also thought this would be a good time to do some marketing, but I don't have anything to market other than myself. But I do have a few friends that do a podcast called "Corner of the Galaxy." It is also available on iTunes. I have decided to market myself and the Corner of the Galaxy podcast. I mean, you are at my blog after all aren't you.

So here are the instructions for winning my two LA Galaxy tickets:

 

  1. You must follow me (@parker_mark) on twitter.
  2. You must follow Corner of the Galaxy (@GalaxyPodcast) on twitter.
  3. You must send a single tweet with the following information to me:
  • to @parker_mark
  • Name of the Artist that sings the opening music in the Corner of the Galaxy podcast. (hint, if you don't know use Shazam)
  • The name of both hosts of Corner of the Galaxy (hint, they are given during the podcast)
  • The hash tag #JoshIsSoWhite because it cracks me up when that is mentioned on the Podcast

So as an example your tweet would look like the following replacing the ambiguity with the correct information:

@parker_mark Name of Band, host1, host2, #JoshIsSoWhite

You can enter once per day by sending a tweet. I am going to randomly pick one of the tweets by shooting a nerf dart at my screen from 20 feet (that way I can't see the names) while my son scrolls the list of tweets. The one it hits wins the tickets. Any questions can be sent to @parker_mark via twitter.

It is literally that easy. But you have to do all of it, if you miss one step you are disqualified and I will pick again. Spelling counts. If you have never listened to Corner of the Galaxy before, you are going to have to listen to at least one episode to answer the questions. You can thank me later. So come on Galaxy fans. Win my tickets, and let's get #JoshIsSoWhite trending on twitter for the month of July.

I will be running the contest throughout the month of July. I will randomly draw (see method above) a winner in early August and will let you know via twitter the exact date (I am planning a vacation for the first week of August so I can't commit to an exact draw date yet.)

I am doing this as something fun for Galaxy fans and to promote a friends podcast. So there isn't any legalese, but I will try my best to keep this fair.

Oh and #JoshIsSoWhite

 

13Oct/110

The Idiocy We Are Creating In Our Future

I have a simple challenge for you. It really is simple and you can do it as part of your weekly life. Are you in? Good, here it is; go to a grocery store during any reasonably busy time and fail to observe a mom with a young child in the cart, talking on her mobile phone. I am going to save you some time, you will not be successful.

Just a few short years ago, parents interacted with their children extensively. Even if it was simply a banal diatribe on the shopping trip, it was ineraction. "Okay Timmy, should mommy get the wheat crackers or the buttered crackers. Oh your right, I'll get both. Now let's go get some milk and diapers." Timmy didn't have an answer. Timmy didn't even understand what was being said, yet. But he was learning how to communicate.He was learning the meaning of the words, and he was learning how sentences are put together. He was even learning how intonation can be used to make a point.

Today Timmy hears things differently. "No! and what did she say? Really, well that was stupid."

When it comes down to it, children learn more than two-thirds of their language in the first 10 years of their life. Kids today are being robbed of the opportunity to interact with their parents because of the technology we just can't seem to put down.

So next time you are in the grocery store, put the phone away and have a conversation with your child. You will be doing your child and the rest of us a favor.

Filed under: life No Comments