Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – why I really hate this idiotic “ice bucket” nonsense

*I* object to this stupid challenge because it’s as effective as prayer since so very few are donating money which actually helps! Ooooh, big freakin’ whoop that people are getting wet. They whine “but it gets attention to the issue.” What idiot under what rock doesn’t know about cancer or whatever? it’s the same as prayer, playing pretend that you are actually helping when you are doing NOTHING.

Send real money to real people doing real things to help the problem, to cure cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s, brain tumors, just do something REAL.  A dear friend of mine will probably die from or suffer losing his limbs from Type 1 diabetes.  He needs help, not stunts.

 

What the Boss Likes – Update, GenCon 2

Well, we’re home from GenCon. A very nice vacation and I’m exhausted.   Here are some more photos of what we saw and did out in Indianapolis. If anyone sees a photo that they would like a copy of, I do still have the original digital files. I’ll probably keep those around for a few weeks. The following are my cleaned up versions of what I took. (part one of this series can be found here)

More photos from the zoo

 

Continue reading

What the Boss Likes – Update 1, GenCon 2014

My husband and I don’t get much of a chance to go to the bigger science fiction/fantasy/comic/gaming cons here in the US.  We’ve been to DragonCon a couple of times and the same for GenCon, which is likely the largest gaming convention in the world.  Gaming, in this instance, means role-playing games, those ones that religious idiots claimed (and still claim) would lead to knowing “real” spells and worshipping Satan, card games, board games, and some computer/video games.

I don’t know any real spells and I’ve been playing for 30 years now.  Sigh.  Rush hour would be a whole lot different if I did know these “real” spells…..

We took a few days extra to explore Indianapolis.  The zoo here is very nice (alas no snow leopards) and I also got to see the “catacombs” under their old market building.

At the con, there are also people who do “cosplay” which means dress up as their favorite characters from books, anime, movies, games, etc.  The main day for that will be tomorrow. But here are a couple of photos of cosplayers now.

Back with more photos in a day or three.  Part 2 can be found here.

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Yet more evidence that it’s not about concern but control, and some ruminations on prayer

Here in PA, we have yet more evidence that those who claim to be “pro-life” are concerned with nothing more than control of anyone who disagrees with them. There was a bill that would require that employers offer their pregnant employees a seat or allowing them to have a beverage at their work station. We have 55 legislators who have supported a bill that would significantly restrict abortion access. You know how many of the same people voted for this aid for women? Three. Yep, so much for thinking of the women and children. It’s only “think of how much we can force them to obey something that we claim is true.” Lovely to see such a perfect example of hypocrisy.

god and modern medicineOn other matters, prayer as a subject has been on my mind because of the ebola outbreak in western Africa and its constituent countries. A missionary and a doctor got a rare experimental serum created by the scientific method and appear likely to survive the ravages of the disease. This serum was allowed to be used because of a US exception to the law that if something might help, the drug or treatment can be used without the usual safeguards. This also means that this serum may never be available if it doesn’t meet the usual standards of safety and effectiveness *OR* if it doesn’t meet the profitability for its producer. A lot of people will again be left with nothing or with prayer as their only options.

And we know that prayer is utterly ineffective for actual aiding the sick and dying. At best, it may make people believe that they feel better, but they still die with the same rates as anyone else. It also makes people feel like they did something when they did nothing but whistle in the wind. This is underlined in the latest couple of columns from Billy Graham and Rabbi Gellman of the God Squad.

In Billy’s column, the querent says that people get better or not depending on how they respond to treatment, prayer does nothing. Of course, Billy insists that prayer is important because people “almost always turn to prayer” if they or their loved ones have a “serious health crisis.” In case you don’t recognize this, it’s the claim that there are no atheists in foxholes so, surprise, there has to be a god! (there are plenty of atheists in foxholes) Billy then goes on to say that heck, even if there is no god, we should pray for them anyway, it can’t hurt can it? He also assumes that the querent isn’t sure if this god exists, and then goes into making the usual baseless claims that this god does, that its avatar Jesus exists and that we should believe no matter what,, making the usual Pascal’s wager argument. Yep, the bible says that JC says that he is the way and the truth and the life, but we may as well believe that Lord Krishna is the same thing, with the same amount of evidence.

Rabbi Gellman’s column (beware site has annoying popups) has the querent, a Catholic, asking if the prayers that they say daily at mass do any good. They admit that the prayers make *them* feel good, because they imagine that they are doing something. The querent wants to know if this god gives the patient “peace and acceptance”.

The rabbi addresses this as the difference between why some people believe and some people don’t. Theists believe in things that have no evidence. Other theists don’t believe that other gods do anything. And non-theists don’t believe that something happens when there is no evidence of such a thing. The rabbi does admit that there has been no scientific evidence for prayer working. Good for him, for that is the truth. But the rabbi wants to keep pretending that something happens when there is nothing that shows it does. One may as well say that “hey, there is no evidence at all for aliens visiting earth. But heck, I want to believe in it anyway, no matter what reality says *and* I’ll keep telling nonsense to others so I feel better about myself.” Seems a bit delusional, no? Continue reading

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – surprise, the world is going to end….again

from atheistmemebase.com

from atheistmemebase.com

Since we have the usual claims of “the end times are a-comin’” thanks to the current uptick in world violence, I thought I’d devote a blog entry to the wonderful world of eschatology or as we know it here in the US, TrueChristians and their violent fantasies.

To start out, we have a recent Billy Graham column, a favorite of mine for its entertaining hypocrisy and cherry picking. Here the querent asks if we will ever see “true world peace”.

As expected, Billy/his handlers, are not too crazy about world peace. He grudgingly admits that there can be periods of peace, even in ancient Israel, where per the myth, there was a period of 40 years of peace under a king name Othniel, a king mentioned in Judges 3 where the Israelites are *still* screwing around ignoring their god that supposedly does these amazing miracles. This chapter also mentions how this god has to repeatedly test his subjects. I guess that omniscience doesn’t quite work, eh? And, it has the best Conan-esque scene in it where Ehud stabs a king to the point that the hilt sank into the body and the “fat closed over it”. Billy seems to have missed that there was a whole *80* years of peace after this guy. Perhaps he didn’t want to draw attention to such a sword and sorcery story right out of other Bronze Age mythologies?

Billy is sure that there will never and should never be any world peace, because that would invalidate his book of myths. Violence and hatred is *necessary* to this god and its supposed plan per the bible, where it takes war and the death of anyone who disagrees with this god to get a “peace”, or in Billy’s words “His perfect rule of peace and justice over the whole earth”.. And even after that war in Revelation 19, we have only an “eon” aka “a thousand years” of peace under the reign of the Son of God (Revelation 20). It’s a finite period. Why does it have to end, you may ask? Because this god has no choice(!) and must let his archenemy go to corrupt those people that it didn’t kill before, in order to kill more of them . Satan seems to be a little stupid, first being the mechanism of JC’s “victory” e.g. getting murdered, and then trying to attack this god again. Can’t it read the bible to know what’s going to happen? :)

Billy invokes the claim of his bible that there will be “wars and rumors of wars. Do not be alarmed. Such things must happen.” Mark 13. Matthew 24 says the same thing and both go on to say, something that Billy neglects to mention, that anyone who claims that they know that JC is returning should not be believed. We’ve heard the same claims for thousands of years, that any uptick in war and misery is “surely” the sign that JC is returning. And it’s failed every single time. So much for coming “quickly” and “soon”. Billy says pray for peace. Hmmm, how is that to work if war is to happen no matter what, that God *needs* this violence? Is he advocating going against his god’s will? Not that it matters in that prayer does nothing.

A lot of the misery in the world is from religion, witness the nonsense in the eastern Mediterranean where two religions are sure that their imaginary friend gave them some patch of land that they will kill for, and where two sects of one religion are sure that the other should be destroyed for not teaching the religion “right”. Eliminating religion would certainly never eliminate all of the pain of the world, but it would give us humans one less reason for hating each other, one reason that never existed in the first place. Humans need to get through their thick heads that all humans are the same and that we have to work together. No god will ride in at the last minute and save us from ourselves.

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Another wannabee theocrat here in PA – government is great if it teaches my religion

Why-force-schools-650x487Recently, there was a letter to the editor in the local paper on why we should allow creationism to be taught in schools. It was from a pastor, Glen Bayly, of the Mifflinburg Alliance Church, a bit north of me in central Pennsylvania. You can find a bit about Mr. Bayly on the ‘net, he’s even been to Ken Ham’s hilarious “museum” of creationism in Kentucky. You know, the one that depends on government tax laws to exist, no matter how much they dislike the government. Ken very much likes Glen, even mentioning in on his blog. He also hates gay people, because they are “Unnatural, immoral, destructive”. All claims without any evidence, as usual. We’ll see that Mr. Bayly often makes claims like this.

Now, Mr. Bayly has a radio show, “The Lion’s Den University Report” where he supposedly interviews Christians who are academics in universities. You can see where this is going.   Now, we can see who Mr. Bayly has interviewed by looking at his list on iTunes. Hmmm, Douglas Jones an engineer from George Washington University, Bob Guyette, a research physicist at Princeton, economics professors, business professors, etc. We do have a couple of medical doctorates, which is getting closer. But still not one person who has a degree in the actual sciences that Mr. Bayly says are wrong.

Well, let’s look at Bob Guyette at Princeton, the most recent interviewee from 2011. I googled Bob Guyette Princeton and Robert Guyette Princeton. Nothing found at all. Not one paper, nothing on Princeton’s website. Indeed, the only reference found for Dr. Guyette is Mr. Bayly’s interview. Dr. Douglas Jones was at GWU but was a associate dean of academic affairs, not engineering. He is a materials engineer, which isn’t terribly known for requiring biology courses.

Now, Mr. Bayly seems to believe in a 6 day creation, the very literal version that some Christians believe in and some Christians don’t.   He writes that we should have creationism taught in schools. His creationism, evidently. The version I am addressing was in the Harrisburg Patriot News, but an even more ridiculous version was in a neighboring paper, complete with even more outright lies like this one “It is illegal to even mention this fact [that people believe in religious stories about creationism] in the science classes of Pennsylvania.” Tsk, what a great way to show just how honest a Christian can be.  The Sensuous Curmudgeon already ripped this apart, but I thought I’d amuse myself with it too.

His letter starts with a quote from the Declaration of Independence, “All men are created equal.”.   This has no relevance to what comes next other than to perhaps establish a date and try to hide his nonsense beneath a shroud of patriotism. He then claims that Americans believed in the Christian god as the creator back in 1776 and correctly states that many Americans no longer believe in this, that his god created the universe.

001-evolution-debateHe continues to note that human origins are taught in public schools and universities along with evolutionary theory. Ah, here’s where the quote from the Declaration comes in, where Mr. Bayly tries to claim that evolutionary theory doesn’t allow for the concept of all men are created equal. He attempts, like so many creationists before him, to claim that evolutionary theory is only a constant violent struggle between extant creatures. Here he shows his ignorance of what evolutionary theory says, which is that a organism will pass on traits that have allowed it to survive in a certain environment, thus allowing its progeny to do well in that certain environment. Mr. Bayly depends on a false representation of evolutionary theory to make his argument, thus creating a strawman to attack.

He then tries again to claim that human life has no worth if one accepts evolutionary theory as how humans came to be. Unfortunately for him, that is another false claim, the usual attempt to claim that the only way to value human life is to believe in a supernatural force. In that many atheists value human life, stand against the death penalty, support charities (even religious based ones), Mr. Bayly’s claim is simply false. I care for people and believe that all are equal because I am empathic, I can see myself in their place. I do not need a god to tell me to hold others important.

155-God-cannot-forgive-650x368Mr. Bayly then claims that the only way that anyone can hold humans equal is because of his “infinitely loving, intelligent Creator who made them in His image.”. Of course, any scholar of the bible knows that this is rather silly to claim if one claims that the bible is to be taken literally e.g. meaning exactly what it says. We have in the bible that humans are not equal. Women are considered property (Exodus 20: ) slaves are considered property (Exodus 20, and on and on). Believers of any other god are to be killed with no consideration, not even if they are your family (Exodus 22:20, Deut 13) . One should not welcome people who don’t believe as you, 2 John 1. This is not a god that considers “All men are created equal.” We have one bit in the bible that says that believers are to be considered equal amongst themselves, Galatians 3. That is as close as it gets to the American ideal of equality and freedom.

He then claims that it is reasonable to believe in a “superintellligent Creator” in the light of the facts of modern science.” Why, you may ask? Because “many still believe it is.” A lovely use of the logical fallacy of the appeal to popularity. The problem with this is that what happens if one loses the majority? If Islam becomes the biggest religion, does this mean that since “many” believe in it, then it is true and everyone should believe in it? Will Mr. Bayly give up his version of Christianity and spread his prayer rug towards Mecca? He also mentions another lovely canard about how the founders of “modern science” believed in his Christian god, so that means that we should too. Considering that these “founders”, e.g. Isaac Newton, Galileo, etc, also believed in rather silly things like alchemy, should we believe that we can turn lead into gold using mandrake root too? His claim of how “many notable modern day scientists do [believe] also” is of course lacking of any evidence of this. We can see that in his very own list of “academics” above.

Mr. Bayly claims that the evidence for evolution is compelling to “some”. Those some include Mr. Bayly since he has no problem in using things that depend on that theory and has no problem in accepting the same science that supports evolutionary theory when it makes him nice and comfy in his modern life.

In his final paragraph, Mr. Bayly again reiterates his strawman of how evolutionary theory is philosophically “tragic” and demands the following: “It’s time America has a spiritual revival of the Christian religion that made American great and for a Constitutional Amendment to be passed in Pennsylvania allowing the teaching of God as our Creator in the classrooms of our state.”

So, we do see that Mr. Bayly wants only his religion to be taught as the truth in public schools, and he wants a “Constitutional Amendment to do so. He wants to pretend that only Christians of his type made the US great; eh, who cares about all of those “other” people who worked and sacrificed for the ideal of the US. He wants only his version of his religion to be taught, that every other religion is to be taught as false, including other version of Christianity which says that the creation story is a metaphor and that evolution theory is fine, if perhaps started by the Christian god.   This is the typical conservative Christian here in the United States, wanting a theocracy for them and only them. This is the only time that they appreciate government, when they think they can use it to force others to worship as they do. In any other instance, they don’t trust public schools to do anything right.

I am glad that such wannabee theocrats do have the same rights of free speech that I do. It allows everyone to know that we always have to defend our rights against such nonsense. All humans should have equal rights. That’s the thought from a bunch of people who wrote the Declaration of Independence wrote, Christians of all different types and non-Christians, not some religion having dominance over everyone.

What The Boss Likes – Central PA wineries and a brewery

I finally got a Saturday off, so we went traveling for the day. Here in central PA, there are some wineries that we had never visited and a brewery that I read about for years but never visited. I don’t know if we were simply lucky or if all the wineries are good, but the two we visited were very good and well, we drank more than a few beers at the brewery.

shady signWe headed up Route 11/15 North and then took Route 104 to Shade Mountain Winery. You go through some very old little towns along the way, each around 10-15 miles apart thanks to using horses to get around when they were founded. The winery is on roads like those my husband and I grew up on, very winding and narrow if you aren’t used to country roads. My husband’s car, a newer model VW bug handled them quite well.

The public part of the winery is an old barn reclaimed to great effect. You can see the original beams in the ceiling, including some that haven’t even had the bark removed (something that my grandfather would have been horrified by). There is a nice gift shop area and a long L-shaped bar to sample at. You get seven samples at a sitting. These are currently free, unlike most wineries up in places like the Finger Lakes. There is also deck that allows you to look over the countryside, at the ridge and valley system in PA (yes, I have to insert a little geology.)

The winery does a wide range of wines, from quite dry for a Pennsylvanian wine to the usual very sweet ones that the state is known for. They do have some very odd wines too, including the mint wine that we found in a state store and which started this adventure. The mint wine is very good, built on a sweet and rich white wine. It is very refreshing on a hot day. They even have a blend of it and ice tea.

the deck at Shady Mountain

the deck at Shady Mountain

There are a selection of fruit wines and we tried the strawberry, cherry, elderberry, peach and pineapple. Of these, I liked the pineapple best, and it would make a fabulous white sangria, perhaps mixed with their Great White, a traminette. They also have a mead, which is more wine like than the mead we make, but still very good. They are *very* reasonably priced and we bought six bottles.

It was getting on to lunch, so we headed east to Selinsgrove, PA. I am a bit reluctant to tell you about the brewery we visited, since it is a very small place and I have the selfish want to keep it just for myself. But the beer is so good, I just can’t do that in good conscience.

Selin’s Grove Brewing is fantastic. It is a small restaurant and bar in the basement of a large stone building. There are a few tables outside but most are inside, in a room around the bar and in a small room off of it. The bar room is the bar that anyone who has played D&D has visited in their imagination, a large fireplace on one side (alas not working), a u-shaped bar in the center and 4 tables around it. There probably a dozen or so tables in the other room. They do not take reservations, so be prepared to wait. We didn’t have to, which was a lucky occurrence. They also don’t bottle their beers, so you are stuck with visiting or getting a growler. I do appreciate that they limit how many growlers one can get so they can serve the folks who drink in the bar.

Selin's Grove

Selin’s Grove

Their menu is limited, they obviously don’t have a fryolator, which is just as well in such a small space. Many of the menu items are vegetarian. I got a curried chicken salad in a pita (lovely soft pita!) and my husband got a “cowboy” sandwich, roast beef, pepper jack cheese, etc on a pita. Both were delicious.

The beers gotten with them started with a cream ale for my husband and the sour beer (a year in the barrel with wild yeasts) for me. The cream ale was the standard style with the smoothness from corn. We love Genny Cream Ale, so this was great. The sour beer was odd, but very good, bready with that hit of sourness. At $9 a goblet, it was quite a bit more expensive than the other beers but worth it if you like something unusual. After that, I got the two penny ale, a session ale with a good balance of malt and hops. My husband got the kriek, a riff on the Belgian cherry ale. It isn’t standard kriek, no wild yeasties but it is the very best kriek I have ever had; it tastes just like a cherry pie. We shared a second one of those as desert. It’s a bit strong, so beware.

A glass of the kriek

A glass of the kriek

After that, it being a gorgeous day and not wanting to go home, we headed further east to Spyglass Ridge Winery east of Sunbury. For a winery we never heard about, they do a lot, including having concert from bands we grew up with, like Kansas and REO Speedwagon.   When we arrived, we hadn’t realized they had a bridal shower scheduled. The owner was very gracious and gave us samples down in the basement, amongst the cases of wine. That was far niftier than being in just one more pretty tasting room.

We tried quite a few wines, from very sweet Cherry win to Spycat, a Catawba/Chambourcin blend, to a nice peppery Cabernet Franc, perfect for a steak. We got another six bottles.

After that we headed back home down Route 147, a beautiful ride with so many huge American Sycamore ( or London Plane) trees along it. All in all, a lovely day trip to discover there are a lot of good places to visit here in central PA.

Eat and drink well!