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

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.

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

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

 

16May/110

The Death Defying Adventures of Business Travel

Flight delays happen. Whether it's an equipment failure, weather, an undersold plane, or a pilot that doesn't wake up on time. It is just simply a fact of business travel. I used to get upset about it, but I found that it did not do a whole lot of good, so now I just accept it and move on. But today was different. Today was dangerous.

I started my day at a far too early 4AM. Went through my normal routine, then finished packing my bag to head to my favorite of the Southern California airports, ONT (Ontario International Airport.) I checked in and headed to the gate for my 7:40AM American Airlines flight to DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.) Now it is important to point out that I am an American Airlines guy. If I can fly American I will, they have treated me well and I have some status with them which can make flying a lot more pleasant. I do fly other airlines and I have been delayed by just about every major and minor airline in the US. The difference with American is that they are good to me since I have status with them. But I digress.

At the gate, just as boarding time has slipped by about five minutes, I take note of the fact that the bags have not been loaded into the plane. Being a frequent traveler this sent up a red flag for me. The airlines are usually a pretty well oiled machine, the bag is checked, the bag is conveyed, the bag may be checked by TSA, the bag is put on a cart, the bag is put on a plane. The routine had stopped, the center did not hold. I took out my i-Phone and started looking at the flight status to see if a delay was listed, nothing was listed. See there was a method to my madness. The gate staff usually spend a bit of time preparing themselves for the onslaught of customers that are about to berate, abuse, yell at, and in some cases question the parentage of them before alerting the passengers to a delay. Not sure what exactly they are doing, but if it was me, it would be several very stiff drinks, probably of the whiskey variety.

A few minutes later it all went wrong. The gate agent announced that the flight was delayed because there was a computer problem on the plane, and that this particular problem dealt with the auto-pilot and landing systems. Now, I happen to be a big fan of my planes having an auto-pilot that, you know, works! I am an even bigger fan of my planes landing in an intended manner. It is usually the unintended landings that cause the biggest problems. So in my eyes, the delay is justified. The gate agent then informs us that they are waiting on a call from local area airports to see if they have a part or spare aircraft available. At this point I know it's going to be a very long day. It's now that the frequent traveler in me kicks into gear.

I get on the phone and call American Airlines to see about the next flight to DFW at 10:45, sold out. How about 3PM? Sold Out. For some reason a lot of people want to go to Dallas today. Okay I am stuck with the herd at this point. But I immediately begin my maneuvering to get ahead of the herd. I move towards the back of the herd and await the inevitable announcement. When it finally comes that the flight has been cancelled and we should all head back downstairs for rebooking, I am already ahead, or so I thought.

I get downstairs and there is already a line, a really long one. Apparently I wasn't as on top of things as I thought. But then I see my saving grace, the First Class/Status line and no one is in it. Awesome. The crowd in the line right next door begins to grumble that I am cutting the line. One of the desk agents comes over and asks if I am First Class, I show her my frequent flyer card and she says "I will help you right over here." A particularly surly woman in the line says "How do you rate?" I stopped, turned, looked her dead in the eye and said "pretty damn good." I then gave her a wink, turned and headed to be rebooked.

"I can put you on the same flight tomorrow." says the hopeful desk agent.

"That would work if I didn't have to be in Oklahoma City tomorrow morning." I replied.

"Ah yes I see, and you are also flying to Kansas City tomorrow."

"I am"

"And you are.... well you are on a different American flight every day this week until Friday."

"I am."

"Well then we need to get you to Oklahoma City."

"M'am, I couldn't agree more."

"Everything going out of Ontario is sold out, would you mind another airport or airline?"

"So long as you can get me there without me driving my car, my return flight comes back here."

Famous last words.

I was rebooked on a flight from LAX (Los Angeles International) to ORD (Chicago-O'Hare International) with a 3 hour lay over in ORD. I was to take a SuperShuttle ride from ONT to LAX. Little did I know, it would be one of the most terrifying rides of my life.

Don't get me wrong, I have taken SuperShuttle a lot of times and have not had many problems, and the problems I have had have been minor in nature, so this is not representative of SuperShuttle. None-the-less the story must be told.

I boarded SuperShuttle van 997 with 8 other hapless souls, all transfering to LAX, all for the same reason. I took a seat on the passenger side in the last row and strapped on my seat-belt. The van departed ONT and we made our way to I10 West. As we got onto I10 West I noticed that our driver is on his cell phone (yes it is held up to his ear), this is not only an incredibly stupid thing to do, it is illegal in California. I also notice that the driver seems to be having a bit of trouble keeping the van in the lanes he is attempting to drive in. He is bouncing from lane depature warning bumps on the passenger side, to the same bumps on the driver side. So we are treated to a swaying motion punctuated by the PBLPBLPBL sound every time he hits the edge of the lane. At this point I speak up from the back, seeing in addition to working planes that land, I am also a big fan of being in a vehicle that stays in it's lane. It's not the lane departures that scare me, it's the other vehicles in the other lanes that do that.

So I say loudly from the back "Perhaps it would be a good idea to put down the phone and put both hands on the wheel."

"Sir, could you please get off the phone"

"Seriously, that's not a joke, hang up the phone."

"DUDE, GET OFF THE DAMN PHONE AND DRIVE THE F@#$ING VAN!!!!!"

"Yeah" and other mumblings of agreement came from my van mates.

At this point he puts the phone down, and proceeds to give me 'the eye' in the rear view mirror. This of course didn't help his driving skills.

He still managed to bounce back and forth from one side of the lane to the other. It is such a back and forth swaying motion that I note to myself that there is a really good chance someone on this van is going to throw-up from motion sickness. This goes on for miles. Then the swaying doesn't stop but the sound of the lane departure warnings go away. This is because the guy is literally driving in two lanes. He does this for over a half mile. He picks up his cell to answer a call and makes his way into one of the lanes, still swaying from one side of the lane to the other.

"PUT - DOWN - THE -PHONE!"

He does. Then just as we are making our way from the left lanes of the I10 to the I710 South the first near miss happens. I hear the horn blaring right next to me, my heads snaps to look out the window, there is a car a mere 6 inches from the passenger side of the van. It appears our driver never learned that one should insure the lane is empty before merging into it. We then continue our back and forth sway down the I710 South. The gentlemen seated directly in front of me says "Dude, if you keep making the van go back and forth like that I am going to throw-up."

The driver looks at him in the rear view mirror and says nothing. I calmly suggest that if he does have to throw up, he should do so in the driver's lap. This is met with general agreement by everyone in the van except the driver who give me the eye again. The van continues down I710 South towards I105 West

Then I make an observation that brings nervous chuckles from my van mates, "You know whats interesting about the 105, the lanes are not as wide on the 105." I hate being right.

As we made our way down I105 towards LAX, the van was not swaying within our lane, it was entering into the lanes next to it. That's what caused near miss number two when we swerved unexpectedly partially into the lane to our right. The driver occupying that space was most displeased and let the driver know how he felt about it by blaring his horn and showing the driver 'tallman." (Go through your chuildrens song repretoire until you get to Here is Thumbkin, you'll get it.)

The third and scariest close call came just moments later on I105 when a motorcyclist was cutting lanes between the carpool lane and the main line. Our swerve nearly ended his life, thankfully he was able to accelerate past and to safety.

Then we got to LAX. As we were headed to out terminal driving along the C-Shaped terminal drive at LAX, a "Parking Spot" van had the audacity to signal, and get over quickly in front of our SuperShuttle. Our driver honked at him. I lost it, I couldn't hold it in anymore. "SERIOUSLY? You are going to get indignant about THAT! AT LEAST HIS LANE CHANGE WAS INTENDED!"

We got to the airport, noone threw-up but the gentleman who mentioned feeling sick looked worse for wear.

The driver didn't even get out to unload our bags. He knew there were no tips coming.

So is my adventure over?

Not yet. I currently sit in the Admirals Club at ORD awaiting my connection to OKC. I am supposed to get there at midnight, central time. 18 hours after I woke up, and 17 hours after I departed my home.

All to go to Oklahoma City, maybe I am the crazy one... But then I am crazy enough to think that I deserve an upgrade to first class on the remainder of my flights this week.

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1Apr/110

The Idiocy of Indecision

To not make a decision, is to decide to fail.

 

Decisions. Some are easy, some are hard. But they have to be made.

 

Or do they?

 

Well According to some people I have met in my life, making a decision is not something they feel they have to do, ever. Every time I encounter these people it is always the same thing holding them back, fear. Sometimes it is fear of being the one responsible for making an incorrect decision. Sometimes it is fear of living with the decision.

The problem with indecision is that you are still making a decision whether you meant to or not. By choosing not to decide, you are choosing to let fate carry you and you are putting that critical decision into either the hands of someone else, or nature.

Imagine for a minute that you are in the middle of the Mississippi River, floating along in a southward direction. You have several choices:

  1. You can get out of the river, whether by swimming to the side or summoning help etc.
  2. You can choose to stay in the river and have the river carry you out into the ocean and certain death.
  3. You can decide to swim against the current ultimately wearing yourself out (turns out the Mississippi can flow for longer than you can swim.).
  4. You can chose to not make a decision

In this scenario, if you choose to not make a decision, you have inadvertently chosen certain death.

I see it in conference rooms, board rooms, sports, and personal lives. Fear of making a decision. Yet it seems that there are so many people that are happy to just float along and see what life brings them.

So next time you are faced with a decision, grab a hold of that decision, weigh your options, and make a damn decision.

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29Mar/110

Hello world!

It is 8:36PM Pacific on 3/29/2011. I am entering my first blog entry. All things considered this is rather uninteresting. I do intend to do something interesting with it. But that will be later, much later. I do have comments currently disabled, will enable them in the future.

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