Ode to Science Fairs

April 29, 2008

Today I helped judge a science fair for 4th-9th graders. It was about what you’d expect for those age groups–some presentations showed sciences of thoughtful, work-intensive research projects appropriate to the age, but likely coached along by the parents, especially in the realm of presentation. Other projects were pretty awful, ranging from the funny (spelling fertilizer “fertilize” throughout a project, dozens of times) to the odd and half-finished (completely lacking data and/or conclusions).

And then there was the one that won we judges’ “Most Inappropriate Science Fair Project of the Day Award.” On this project in the 4-6th grade section (presumably about some unique botanical or chemical research affair, I don’t remember which) were taped a number of photos–all related to the project. Except for one little comic, that happened to be taped to the backboard in triplicate. I can only imagine that an innocent 4th grader taped this up, not understanding its significance and needing to fill space, or a deviant parent played a trick on their aspiring naturalist. Either way, I laughed so hard that I came home and Googled the image. Adults only below the fold (no pun intended).
Read the rest of this entry »


Yes, Some People Enjoy This

April 8, 2008

carman witch

And not just for the humor.

Carman’s “A Witch’s Invitation”

Some of the lyrics:

One peaceful afternoon I picked up from my mailbox the strangest looking letter I’d ever seen, a chilling little envelope bordered with flying bats, and serpents whose eyes were tinted green. The letter was addressed to me so as I opened it I froze. What I read turned my complexion three shades of blue. It said, “My name is Issac Horowitz. I’m a male witch, a warlock and I feel I need to spend some time with you.”

You know, there are more homoerotic undertones here than in The Lord of the Rings. I’m sure it was unintentional though.

He had the house you’d expect, the old English cottage, a “Nightmare on Elm Street” special right to the core, the overgrown ivy, the gate that creaked when opened, somehow you’d expect Freddy to answer this door. The doorbell rang, a hollow gong, the knob twisted then opened, and Issac stood before me with a grin. His jet black hair and well trimmed beard flowed with his black silk clothes. My skin crawled as he said, “Please come on in.”

Actually, all the warlocks I know live in incredible well-kept single room flats in dense urban areas. Guess Carman met one of the rare suburban warlocks.

Then he led me to a high backed chair as he meticulously began to unfold his scenario with evil patience.

Bet that chair will bring a pretty penny on eBay.

I was given a giant leather bound book jammed with newspaper clipping, thus the reason for this witch’s invitation. With eagerness he pointed to each article with pride. He said, “I healed this woman through a Babylonian chant; See this man, I cured him while performing druid worship; I was paid to curse this man with AIDS by his aunt.”

Which really sounds familiar to the superstitions you run into in Africa about AIDS. Sigh…

And later. . .

I knew then how Moses felt, how when his rod turned to a serpent and the three Egyptian magicians did the same.

Man, I hate it when my rod turns to a serpent.

At the end:

Then Issac jumped up from his chair and screamed, “You must leave now!” I said, “I will, but one last obligation-Next time think twice before you rumble with a man of God!!! ”

That’s what Ted Haggard said.

h/t Lame-O Weblog


The Ultimate Headline?

April 8, 2008

How many times do you get to have a headline in a legitimate newspaper that inclues the words “Nazi,” “Grand Prix,” and “Orgy”?

At least once in a lifetime, evidently.

So it seems Mr. Mosley was secretly videotaped taking part in a sadomachistic orgy with five prostitutes (bet Elliot Spitzer feels like a wimp now!).

Family history has added to the notoriety: Mr. Mosley, 67, is the younger son of Britain’s 1930s fascist leader, Sir Oswald Mosley, and the society beauty Diana Mitford, whose secret wedding in Berlin in October 1936 was held at the home of the Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels and included Hitler as a guest of honor.

Actually, it may be that a lot of the blame for this is on the tabloid (which Mosley is now suing) that set this sting up and claimed it had a Nazi theme.

The Times of London reported Friday that Mr. Mosley would argue in his lawsuit that he spoke German during the sex-and-bondage session because two of the women involved were Germans, not to engage in Nazi role playing.

That might actually be a legitimate reason… It doesn’t sound like there was anything explicitly Nazi going on, but once the press picked up on the theme, the condemnations started rolling in, so I’d guess Mr. Mosley is on his way out of the spotlight very soon. The only way to know for sure would be to evaluate the actual video, and I don’t think either my sanity or Christian U’s rules would permit that.

Best quote of the day comes from The News of the World, the lovely tabloid that broke the story. They described it as “a depraved Nazi sadomasochistic orgy.” Yes, that’s right, it wasn’t just a Nazi sadomasochistic orgy. It was a depraved one.


A Straight-Shooting Questionnaire

March 27, 2008

This questionnaire is for “self-avowed heterosexuals” only.

1. What do you think caused your heterosexuality?
I’m pretty sure I was born this way, but how would I know?

2. When and how did you first decide you were a heterosexual?
Well, I guess I’ve just always been attracted to girls.

3. Is it possible your heterosexuality is just a phase you may grow out of?

Possible, but how can you ever know at the time? I’m just living my experience as I know it now.

4. Could it be that your heterosexuality stems from a neurotic fear of others of the same sex?
Quite likely. Look at where I go to school!

5. If you’ve never slept with a person of the same sex, how can you be sure you wouldn’t prefer that?

Um.. body hair?

6. To whom have you disclosed your heterosexual tendencies? How did they react?
My friends and parents know, and they’re mostly understanding.

7. Why do heterosexuals feel compelled to seduce others into their lifestyle?

Why don’t you stop beating your wife?

8. Why do you insist on flaunting your heterosexuality? Can’t you just be what you are and keep it quiet?

I was thinking of starting an annual parade actually.

9. Would you want your children to be heterosexual, knowing the problems they’d face?

Probably not. The dilemmas of rejection from the gay community and ethical questions concerning having children are just too great a burden to bear.

10. A disproportionate majority of child molesters are heterosexual men. Do you consider it safe to expose children to heterosexual male teachers, pediatricians, priests, or scoutmasters?
Probably not. We really shouldn’t let children be around men at all given these stats. That’s why I advocate schools, hospitals, churches, and scout troops with all female leaders.

11. With all the societal support for marriage, the divorce rate is spiraling. Why are there so few stable relationships among heterosexuals?
It’s hard being an oppressed majority.

12. Why do heterosexuals place so much emphasis on sex?
Because we can make babies. Deal with it.

13. Considering the menace of overpopulation, how could the human race survive if everyone were heterosexual?
Birth control?

14. Could you trust a heterosexual therapist to be objective? Don’t you fear s/he might be inclined to influence you in the direction of her/his own leanings?
I just don’t trust therapists in general.

15. Heterosexuals are notorious for assigning themselves and one another rigid, stereotyped sex roles. Why must you cling to such unhealthy role-playing?
Patriarchy.

16. With the sexually segregated living conditions of military life, isn’t heterosexuality incompatible with military service?
Probably so. I prefer the Sacred Band model.

17. How can you enjoy an emotionally fulfilling experience with a person of the other sex when there are such vast differences between you? How can a man know what pleases a woman sexually or vice-versa?
It’s probably not possible. We’re all doomed to live lives of disconnected, ambivalent oblivion.

18. Shouldn’t you ask your far-out straight cohorts, like skinheads and born-agains, to keep quiet? Wouldn’t that improve your image?

I ask them all the time, but I can’t control how they live their lives. If they want to get married to just one woman, and try and raise children who are only straight, who am I to stop them?

19. Why are heterosexuals so promiscuous?
See #12.

And then there are some more…

h/t Ian.


The Language of Abortion

July 5, 2007

Fred Thompson

And again (with a little more detail)

Interesting how this will play out for the uber-conservatives I know who support him.

Here’s one with a (compassionate) quote from Barack Obama, made by a conservative Christian (enjoy the music from Jaws especially):

The amount of in-fighting between Christians on the issue of abortion can be truly vicious. This sort of clip reminds me again and again how Obama’s worldview is closer to my own than to the majority of self-proclaimed Christians I know.

Rudy Giuliani on public funding for abortion (you can bet this one will end up in campaign ads for pro-life Republicans if it hasn’t already!):

And finally, Hillary‘s response on reducing the number of abortions (with some odd sidetracking, like saying ‘the free market has failed’–wtf?, but overall good):


I’m an Addict

June 29, 2007

Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. So, here goes…

I’m addicted to books. When I’m feeling good, I read. When I’m feeling bad, I go book shopping. My town doesn’t have many good bookstores (the really good ones are like an hour away), but one of them has a fair number of used books. Those are my crack cocaine–powerful but cheap and accessible.

I’ve had some really bad trips before. Sometimes I wake up the next morning and think “what the hell was I thinking? I’m never going to read that.” But mostly I keep going back because it feels so good. There’s a certain satisfaction in owning books of my own, sharing them with friends (don’t worry, we use bookmark-exchange programs for safety), and especially the ultimate rush–finishing a book one’s been meaning to snort for a long time.

I get a special kick from nonfiction. And today I got a little more money than I was expecting, and I bought four new books. Like any good addict, I justify my habit with excuses. I did get 4 books for $12.59 (including tax), all by authors I had heard of or on subjects I was interested in before I got the books. They are:

The Mating Mind, by Geoffrey Miller, subtitled “How sexual choice shapes the evolution of human nature.”

A Generous Orthodoxy, by Brian McLaren, some emergent-church theology, subtitled “Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN.” Yeah, so he’s not that concise, but I got to hear him speak last year and thought he’s rather more likable than the majority of ministers/ pastors/ preachers (though I count several of those as friends).

Through a Window, by Jane Goodall, subtitled “My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe.” I know she’s influential/ well-known, and now I’ll get to learn why.

And, Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong, author of the A History of God, which I much enjoyed.

So, I’m happy now, high as I am on my fix. I’m shaking a little, and don’t think I’ll be able to get much sleep until I’ve inhaled a little wordage, so I should go back to my alley and read. I promise I’ll stop. But not tonight.


Heteroflexuality

June 28, 2007

Over at Friendly Atheist, Hemant posted this billboard from a Christian group:

asian.jpg

Of course, it’s an “ex-gay ministry”‘s you-can-change-being-gay billboard that’s been Photoshopped to make a rather hilarious point. And the church wasn’t happy with the comparison. That sparked some discussion on Hemant’s blog. Here’s an example of one of the comments:

That’s just not right. What’s worse is, they try to perpetuate that idea that homosexuals can change.

Well, I agree that it’s not right. But I think the discussion of whether people who identify as homosexuals at one point of their lives do so out of pure genetic determinism or pure personal choice is tainted by social norms; the politically-correct views of the accepting left and the it’s-really-hard-to-find-a-hermeneutic-to-get-out-of-this-one views on the Christian right. So, I wrote a rather long comment, and I didn’t want it to just get buried, so I gave it a nice new home here on my friendly blog:

I think it’s important to consider the issue of choosing sexual orientation. It’s very politically incorrect to say these days that (any) people choose their sexual orientation, but let’s talk this through. Hear me out please (no pun intended). First, no one has found a single gene that causes homosexuality in a simple Mendelian way (although many, like Dean Hamer, have tried). Much research needs to be done, but the most you can say is that there is a genetic predisposition. Having a predisposition for something–let’s say liking cheetos–is not synonymous with being “born that way.” However, there can also be a tremendous influence on a developing fetus from its chemical environment during pregnancy, and this is one very likely way in which a predisposition for one sexual orientation develops.

That said, there are most certainly a number of people whose predominant sexual orientation from birth is homosexual, with no desire for the opposite gender. A much larger proportion of a population is predominantly heterosexual, with no desire for the same gender. There does exist a group in the middle though–many of whom choose to identify as bisexuals–whose orientation is more fluid. What exactly influences these people to identify as homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual? You can bet that their personal developmental psychology plays a role, as well as social norms. Many of these ‘flexible’ people may choose to identify with a group that is not discriminated against (heterosexuals) due to outside pressure. I would bet this is where many of the “conversion” stories come from. A biologically informed opinion would include the factoid that many traits are determined by a complex interaction of genes, developmental environment (pre- and post-natal), social norms, and personal choices.

So, it’s important to recognize that sexuality, for a significant portion of the population, is much more fluid than many people would care to admit. So a Christian ministry can certainly hope to ‘convert’ some people (which is all the more reason to resist such “ministries” that cause people emotional harm). Quoting another comment:

I’m pretty sure he missed the real meaning, it’s not really that Asians don’t choose to be Asian, it’s that there’s nothing wrong with being Asian in the first place.

And that’s exactly what the response should be. It is much easier to respond “I was born this way,” but it’s simply not true for everyone. It’s harder to argue that “because the Bible says so doesn’t make it wrong,” but that seems to really be at the root of all this. Thoughts?