Friday, May 30, 2008

I Hate the Debate on Global Warming

“But, Marcus,” I can hear my friends say, “aren’t you, like, some sort of environmentalist? You like to talk about saving the planet and animals and crap, shouldn’t you welcome a debate about what might be a serious environmental issue?”

You might think so. I thought so. However, lately I’ve been involved in too many discussions online and reading too many editorials and stuff. People’s views and opinions have really made me realize that this issue must be dropped from public debate as soon as possible.

No, I don’t really believe that. But seriously people; this is getting ridiculous. I have come to a point were I honestly don’t care about the debate about global warming anymore.

I personally think that man-made global warming seems to be a fact. All the most credible research suggests that it is happening, that we are causing it and that it will most probably cause a global catastrophe. But I don’t care.

The reason that I don’t care anymore are all the (apparently millions and millions of people) who are somehow outraged at every mention of global warming, as well as the people who are outraged about entirely different things and blame it all on other people’s “belief” in global warming.

As soon as oil prices are mentioned there is usually someone saying that those damned environmentalists and their myth about man-made global warming are to blame for the current prices. Whenever someone talks about research into alternative fuels it seems like it’s necessary for someone to pop up and say something like “This research is wasted money; global warming is all a lie!” And when people say anything at all about conservation there always seem to be someone willing to claim that trying to conserve resources and the environment is just wasted effort, since global warming “has been proved to be a false”.

I have seen a remarkable number of arguments along the lines of “Those environmentalist freaks conspire to bring us back to the Stone Age with their myth about global warming.”

Yeah, that’s right. You’ve found out the brilliant evil plan. It’s a worldwide conspiracy between scientists from various fields who plan to set technology back by willingly deceiving you about something they call “global warming”. I especially love the part of the plan where they want to spend more money on research on new fuels and new modes of transportation. That’s a brilliant plan to set back technological progress.

Or wait, maybe not.

The thing is, it doesn’t really matter if global warming is happening or not. It doesn’t matter if it is man-made or not. Or, well, it does matter, but not in the way those people seem to think. Today, very many seem to think that if man-made global warming is just proven false, there is no reason to be more conservative in the usage of fossil fuels. My point is however that our use of fossil fuels must be phased out regardless of global warming. Global warming does nothing more than provide some additional encouragement for that.

Regardless of global warming, usage of fossil fuels still is a large threat to the environment. Combustion of fossil fuels provides us with plenty of pollutants, like sulfur dioxide and heavy metals. It gives us an ample supply of acid rain that affects both the natural environment and man-made structures. It releases many different toxins and even radioactive materials into the atmosphere and it’s just generally very unhealthy.

Oil refineries pollute air and water. Oil drilling out in the ocean gives us a decent amount of damage to sea living organisms and oil spills from tankers and the like have repeatedly proven that they can provide even more damage. Coal mining in its different incarnations has ruined both parts of the landscape and coal miners for centuries. And I could go on and on about the environmental impact of both the extraction, processing and usage of fossil fuels.

But hey, that’s just the environment; it’s just about the air we breathe, the water we drink, the land we live on and our fellow animals that co-inhabit the world with us. People have always thought there are way more important issues than protecting such insignificant little things like that.

But those who don’t really want to worry about ecology can often worry about economy. And while humans breathe (preferably clean) air, our current economy lives and breathes oil. We have nothing but slightly educated guesses as to when our supply of oil will run out.

What if we were to find some alternative energy sources before then? What if we would try to lower our consumption already, lengthening the time our supply lasts and giving us better chances of having time to create a society that will survive even after it runs out?

Ok, I know, I know, that is just crazy ideas. A throng of Internet forum-visitors have convinced me that only crazy leftist subversives with an evil agenda want people to stop driving the most energy inefficient SUVs imaginable. Only weird, hippie-environmentalists want people to take the bike or bus once in a while. And only wasteful, narrow minded people who don’t understand the economy wants us to put a bit of effort and money into researching alternatives to our quickly diminishing oil reserves.

Of course we only promote such ideas out of evil spite. Naturally it’s because we want people to suffer by making them use smaller, slightly slower cars or perhaps even get some exercise. We want to destroy the economy by going against the large car manufactures and oil companies. We’re just evil.

Or maybe we want such things because we care about what the world will look like in the near future, not only about our convenience, pleasure and our wallets today. It’s a toss-up; it could be either one.

Either way, whatever the evil agenda of the dirty environmentalists is, I am tired, royally so, of the rhetoric of these “global warming skeptics” who always manage to make it all about global warming. They just keep on saying that every environmental issue is moot just because global warming is (according to them) a myth. Whenever someone wants them to spend even a little bit of effort or money on something that can benefit the survival of our ecology they can immediately say “Oh, you’ve been suckered into that belief in global warming too?”

I’ve seen it happen many times. The heated debate on warming has put all other environmental concerns on the back-burners of the minds of the public and that has given ample opportunities to anyone who wants to defend excessive use of fossil fuels. Whenever someone complains about fuel consumption of a new vehicle or something, someone else can throw out a “Global warming is a lie!”-arguments, and the discussion stops immediately, since everyone are so very tired of discussing global warming.

So just lay it off. I know global warming may destroy our civilization, ruin our ecology and in the extension kill more or less all of us, but talking about it sure doesn’t seem to be helping.

When I was a kid we got to see lots of pictures of animals struggling for life covered in oil, instead of charts over temperatures and sea levels. I hope we can go back to those pictures of dying animals; they always seemed to work better than this tiresome global warming debate.

Click here to read the rest of "I Hate the Debate on Global Warming"

Thursday, May 29, 2008

What is the Deal with Superman's Muscles?

Did DC Comics miss out on making a much more interesting superhero?
In the interest of not being very serious, I ponder the physique of the man who is considered by many to be the greatest of superheroes.

There are a lot of things one can ponder regarding Superman. asks the important question “Why is Superman such a dick?” (excellent examples of superdickery here, here and here), and David Shultz wonders why Superman’s powers are growing so fast (maybe even faster than God’s are shrinking, even though Shultz’ diagram at the end doesn’t take God’s shrinking powers into account). I have a different question though.

I wasn’t really a fan of superhero comic books when I was a kid, but I did read some of them. I never really liked Superman though. He was just too strong, too fast, too good, too invulnerable; just too perfect. It felt boring.

Then I started thinking; every single time you see drawings of Superman, especially in his later incarnations, he is really bulging with muscles. He is ripped. He is the Man of Steel. He has muscles coming out the wazoo (probably). But the question is, why?

From what I know about the man of oh-so-little fashion sense, his strength comes from utilizing the energy from our yellow sun. When he is subjected to its life-giving rays he becomes super-fast, super-strong and super-able-to-disguise-himself-with-just-a-pair-of-glasses.

Because he has super strength, many feel that it is natural that he should have gigantic muscles. But is that really so? If it is anything resembling human muscles, they could never do all the things that Superman does without tearing asunder. It would just be too much strain, no matter how massive they are. So it feels like he would be using some kind of mystical (solar-powered) energy to perform his feats, not his muscles.

Besides that, again if he functions in any way resembling humans, muscle mass is usually gained through exercise, but I’d say that Superman almost never works out. Nothing he does seems taxing to him!

Just imagine what a basic set of cardio exercises would have to be for Superman. The guy can fly from on side of the world to the other in moments, arriving without being out of breath or sweaty, with no visible signs of having done any physical activity at all. Not to mention that he once flew so fast around earth that time went backwards (for no apparent reason). That has to be really, really fast, and he still didn’t look like he had gotten even a basic workout from it.

And we shouldn’t even talk about things like weightlifting. The man can lift just about anything and only shows any strain from it when it’s needed for dramatic effect. He could never pump up any good muscles without finding some steady point to stand on and weight lift the entire freaking planet.

Now I realize that everything I’ve said is contingent on him working in a human-like fashion. Maybe they explain this at some point and say that his muscles are formed by the yellow rays from our sun, and that’s why they are so huge; saying that he doesn’t have to work out to have huge muscles.

But I say, so what? That might be a reasonable explanation (within the confines of the DC universe), but it isn’t much fun. At least not to me. I think that Superman would be an infinitely more interesting Superhero if he had all his powers, but was chubby and flabby from lack of proper exercise.

Click here to read the rest of "What is the Deal with Superman's Muscles?"

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I Have a Baby in my Refrigerator

But what is so freaking sacred about curtains? A post about clashes between stereotypical bachelors and stereotypical girly girls.

There is usually an explanation for everything. When bad things happen there is a cause for them. When good things happen there is usually some different cause. When “reality shows” get consistently high ratings there must be some reason for that too, even though figuring it out is quite beyond me.

There is also some reason why there is a picture of a baby taped to the back of my refrigerator. It might not be a good reason, or even a reasonable one, but there is a reason. If only I could remember it, I might give some sense to the title of this post. At the moment it escapes me though.

Somehow I feel that it can all be explained by telling you more about what I do and how I live; I feel that can explain a lot of the strange things in my life.

I am a university student. At least that’s what I claim to be when I’m not living the life of a lazy bum or working some strange job to make ends meet. As a student I have always had some natural ability to live in strange places, with strange people.

When I first moved to the city me and some friends rented a fairly big place; a cheap and poorly built five bedroom apartment in two stories. Through a few years we lived a varying number of inhabitants there. Most of the time we lived between three and five people there and all in all we were over a dozen different people during the course of the little “collective”, mostly males.

Now, an apartment inhabited by a number of young male nerds usually has some defining characteristics. There’s the piles of obsolete technology, the video games (in our case even an old-style arcade machine from the eighties), the bookshelves filled with booze and cheap fantasy-books, and so on.

All that is to be expected. Some didn’t expect the picture of a baby (a baby whom none of us knew, and I don’t remember if we ever knew who put there or why) inside the refrigerator though. Sometimes it was on a shelf, sometimes taped securely to the back and visitors who saw it always gave us very quizzical looks.

However, even if baby pictures in the refrigerator might be a strange notion, people still reacted a lot stronger to other, very unimportant things.

Take this whole thing with curtains for instance. To us they were always merely unimportant pieces of fabric obstructing the view out of our windows (or at least they would have, if there were any) but others seemed to take an almost reverent approach to the subject. We learned that quickly from a group of our female friends.

The first time they came to visit they noted the complete lack of curtains in the kitchen windows. They complained about this, claiming that we have to have curtains to make it look like there are some at least semi-normal people living there.

So, we thought “OK, fine, we can accept that. Curtains are a nice, if a bit novel touch. We’ll try that.” We had it fixed pretty quickly and thought that would be that.

We were however quite incorrect. At the next visit of some female friends, one girl immediately pointed at our pride and joy, the blue curtains now hanging stalwartly in the windows, and exclaimed “They’re hanging upside down.”

Now, to be fair, she was correct. We just hadn’t noticed before, but when she pointed it out it was hard to miss that design on the curtains made it clear that they should have the other side up. So, OK, our mistake, but it was a mistake that we quickly remedied.

But that’s when we thought it started to get silly. The next time that girl visited she noted that we had turned the curtains the right way and expressed her appreciation. But then she paused and looked at them for a while.

“Hey…” she said, hesitantly, obviously dreading the answer, “they still seem to be hanging in a very odd way.” She looked closer. “You didn’t just attach right to the wall with thumbtacks, have you?”

“Of course not!” we said. “We wouldn’t just put them up with thumbtacks, we’re not stupid.”

She looked relieved.

“There are screws at the ends too, to help hold up the weight of the curtains.” we explained, whereupon she looked substantially less relieved.

We were very satisfied with our answer, but she apparently wasn’t. She scolded us again for our lack of common sense and explained a strange notion she held. She claimed that curtains should be put up on some strange device called a “curtain rod”, which according to her would make the whole arrangement look better.

“Well, nuts to that,” we thought. There were curtains, they were hanging at the windows, and they were even hanging the right way up. We were not about to accept any more complaints in that department; we felt that we had done our jobs decorating.

And that was the way it was in many areas of interior decorating. We did things the way we thought they should look, others (usually females, for some reason) complained and there was a process of incremental “improvement” to make the place look more like they thought a “home” should look like.

By the time we moved out we all agreed that the place looked almost like it had had people living there, not just students.

Oh and the baby went with me to my new apartment. It still adorns the back wall of my fridge; now mostly out of tradition, as well as aesthetic reasons, of course.

Click here to read the rest of "I Have a Baby in my Refrigerator"

Monday, May 26, 2008

How to Convert Me to Your Religion

The Short Version

I want to give some tips to all the people who evidently want to convert me from being an atheist to their particular religion. Each one is expanded upon and explained below.

  • Stop handing out misogynistic or otherwise bigoted material as a way to recruit me
  • Say something intelligent about Homer Simpson's Wager
  • Do not bullshit me about Einstein
  • Do not use personal religious experiences as proof of your faith
  • Come up with some better propaganda regarding evolution
  • Don't use the old "Well, there has to be something"-routine
  • If you presume to know the mind of God, be prepared to answer some questions
  • Don't try to convert me to Scientology
  • If you talk about love, peace, understanding and the betterment of mankind, have something to back it up with
  • Say something positive instead of telling me that I have no morals or no reason to live
  • Explain why your particular god is more probable than other gods

The (way too) Long Version

I am an atheist. This is not some big, profound statement in my country, where a majority of the people are non-religious. It is not something I think about a lot, nor is it anything that seems to have any big impact on my life. However, a surprising amount of people seem intent on changing this state of affairs. They want to convert me to whatever particular religion and denomination that they themselves favor, for reasons that they hopefully at least understand themselves.

I must say that these people often bother and annoy me. I have nothing against their religions, nor their desire to speak of them. Actually, I would probably defend with my life the right for people to believe in what they want and say what the want; freedom of religion and freedom of speech are of uttermost importance to me. Therefore I do not want to stop people from preaching to me, but they still annoy me.

There are two primary reasons for why they annoy me so much. One is how they seem to appear almost anywhere with great tenacity.

The other reason for me being so annoyed is that these people never change their tactics. They seem to be perpetually using the same arguments with the same boring rhetoric, again and again (and again, and again) and I just get bored. Never do they actually succeed in making me consider their position, simply because their sales tactics are so bad.

Since I am the helpful type I now post this list of some common faults that I've had to live through many times, as well as some possible improvements the would-be converters could do to their shtick. All for the betterment of mankind, or at least for a bit less boring conversion attempts.

Stop handing out misogynistic or otherwise bigoted material as a way to recruit me

Seriously, I really thought that this would be a no-brainer. As sales tactics go, bigotry must be one of the most outdated and least successful. With tactics like that you would immediately turn away the entire population of the group you are bigoted against, as well as anyone who just doesn't like bigotry. But despite all this, people still seem fond of using it. It is in fact what made me think of doing this post, because when people use such stupid methods they do seem to need some pointers.

For example, recently I was once again visited by a couple of Jehovah's Witnesses. The come to my door once in a while, smile and talk to me in a friendly manner about the end of the world. Once they are sufficiently satisfied that I have an idea about what "the last days" are all about and know about the return of Christ, they usually leave me with the latest copies of The Watchtower and Awake! and leave me to read them.

Nothing strange about that, I guess that's how they usually operate. What might be a bit unusual though is that I actually read these magazines pretty carefully. I guess most people who aren't interested in the religion merely politely accept them, then unceremoniously throws them away. I, however, find them quite amusing to read, though I guess that's not how the publishers would like me to take them.

This time I laughed at the blatant lies and contradictions in a relatively well-presented article about evolution, sighed and shook my head at a tremendously uninformed piece about computer games and was thoroughly disgusted at an article about men and women.

If I was a superhero sidekick I would probably have exclaimed something along the lines of "Holy male chauvinism, Batman!" and if they would have still been there I would have politely told them that they should seriously rethink their recruitment tactics. They are really not maximizing their potential clientele with their current methods.

The article in question pretended to be about protecting the rights of women, but in reality it was just defending husbands wanting to control their wives. It was full of beautiful sentiments like "as the head of the family the man has the responsibility to make the final decisions" and "the wife should follow his leadership and respect him."

Sure, the article also had parts telling men to respect their wives. I guess that's something. However, they are still saying that men should have a God-given authority over women and to me that is just evil. I do apologize for not "respecting their beliefs" there, but that's the only way I feel that I can put it. Going door to door giving out material telling women that they must be submissive to please God and telling men that God wants them to control their wives...

I don't believe that every relationship has to be one hundred percent equal in decision making and everything. This isn't about that. It's about every man, every woman and every gender-confused individual doing what is right for them, regardless if that fits the stereotype for their gender or not. If for instance one person in a relationship rather does housework while the other makes various important decisions, and if their partner is fine with that division of responsibilities, I see nothing wrong with that. But I get angry when people demand that one person must take on one of the roles based on gender. And getting me angry is not a good way to make me listen to you, so please try to stop that.

And while we're on the subject of bigoted material, what's up with Sweet Aryan Jesus? Why do so many of the Christian cults insist on handing out pictures of a blond and blue-eyed Jesus? They do know that he is supposed to have been born in the Middle East, right?

Not that I have anything against blond and blue-eyed people; I am one of those myself. Neither do I think it matters what he looked like. I would however feel that there would be more historical accuracy if Jesus was portrayed with the darker skin color, dark hair and eyes characteristic for the region. Not to mention that he would be plenty more attractive that way.

Say something intelligent about Homer Simpson's Wager

Many try to use some variation of Pascal's Wager as a way to coax me and others into their faith. For those who do not know about it; the French philosopher Blaise Pascal formulated his Wager in the 17th century and it uses decision theory to show that believing in God is a better "bet" than not believing.

Although not convincing me, his original writing was well thought through and parts of it pretty interesting. The people using the Wager today tend to use a highly simplified form however, in essence saying something like:

"If there is no God it doesn't matter if you believe or not. However, if God is real you will be punished forever if you don't believe and infinitely rewarded in heaven if you do believe. So obviously the only sane choice is to believe."

Many seem to see this as some profound statement of great wisdom, and an absolute proof that we should all believe in God. However, even a total dimwit like TV's popular Homer Simpson can poke giant holes in the argument.

In an old episode of the Simpsons, Homer is justifying not going to church with the statement "Suppose we've chosen the wrong god. Every time we're going to church we're just making him madder and madder!"

This line has been dubbed "Homer Simpson's Wager" and is something you must address if trying to use Pascal's Wager.

You see, what Homer has apparently realized, and many others haven't, is that there are many other religions out there apart from the one you grew up with. Various incarnations of Pascal's Wager might tell you that it would be advantageous to believe, but they tell you nothing about which God or Gods to believe in.

That is a major problem. As anyone who has studied some major religions knows, most gods worshipped throughout history are but highly jealous and vengeful. This changes the original premise; believing no longer have no potential bad effects, as believing in the wrong God would potentially give you a harsher punishment than not believing at all.

To me it rather feels like that if you do not believe, then any possible Gods out there would have to judge you for your actions instead of your beliefs. Hopefully, if your actions are just, you will be judged fairly, regardless of your faith in things that haven't been proven. And if there is a God out there who will punish me forever even if I am a good person, but will let me be by her side in heaven if I merely ‘believe', then that God isn't the kind of entity that I would like to spend eternity with anyway.

Do not bullshit me about Einstein

Lying for Jesus is still lying. Still, many Christians seem to be fond of claiming that Einstein was a Christian and posing questions such as "Do you think that you are smarter than Einstein?"

I am rather fond of reading atheist blogs and forums. I generally find that there is a lot of clever discourse and funny articles and discussions on places like that. There are also a surprising number of visiting religious zealots.

These zealots often seem utterly appalled by the mere existence of atheists (something that truly makes me wonder about their reasons for visiting such web pages) and they are fond of posting comments and discussions trying to convert people to their religion. The Einstein thing is very popular in discussions about science.

The same kind of people often come to such places to claim that Hitler was an atheist, that the American Founding Fathers were evangelical Christians, that Darwin recanted the whole theory of evolution on his deathbed, or that Stephen Hawking believes in God.

I would think that the people who frequently make arguments like that would have been informed of many resources showing that they are in fact mistaken; therefore it would seem that they either willfully shut their eyes to the truth or willfully deceive others. Now tell me, would you feel good about it if you manage to sucker people into belief through lies?

Truth be told though, it is probably not often it works anyway. I really do not care if some smart and/or honorable people are Christian, or if some evildoers are atheists. I am fully capable of looking at the world for myself and making my own decisions.

Do not use personal religious experiences as proof of your faith

This is very popular among certain people. They tell us that they have seen angels, so we must believe, or that they have spoken to God, so we must believe, or that they have had a near-death experience that opened their eyes so we simply must believe.

They also often use guilt in conjunction with this. If their claims are contested in some way they call people liars and saying that we don't "respect" them when if we don't believe that their experiences were the real deal.

There is a big problem with that though. People of every religion on the planet makes claims like that. Most religions don't mix very well, so some people must be lying or mistaken. We have no way of knowing who, if any, have had real experiences.

So, when you tell me "Oh, but don't you see, Christians having their prayers answered is absolute proof that you must join the second reformed advent church of latter day tea-sippers [or whatever strange denomination they're trying to convert me to] immediately!", I just can't accept that. If I were to accept it you would also accept that should become a Muslim, because a little Muslim girl had a personal encounter with the great prophet Mohammed himself, or that you should become a Hasidic Jew because a whole roomful of them felt the presence of the Holy One of Israel, and so on for every religion.

Come up with some better propaganda regarding evolution

I could talk about evolution until the cows get home. Then, when I've stopped being surprised by the sudden cow population here, I guess I could bore the cows with it instead. Suffice it to say though; I like the theory of evolution. It's both simple and very complex and it's a beautiful theory (yes, I'm a science nerd) that has a wide impact on many sciences, including my particular area of expertise, computer science. I like reading about it, I like discussing it, I like learning about it.

Lately evolution has for some reason become a hot topic among many groups. Many see it as the frontline of a perceived war between religion and science and some zealots from both sides think that the theory of evolution and religion are irreconcilable and this has created a lot of debate. Therefore religious people of different kinds often come to scientific websites that I like to visit and spew misinformation that is supposed to "debunk" evolution.

These people often rather adamantly claim that we are all going to hell for all eternity for "believing" what they often eloquently call "EVILution". They have conspiracy theories about how devil-worshippers have constructed a highly elaborate lie to make children turn away from God and onto science, which apparently is her worst enemy.

They usually believe that if they just can point out some flaws in the theory of evolution, people will drive people in droves away from the evil of science and towards God. This usually fails miserably, for many reasons.

First of all, people should understand that scientists and scientifically minded people do not mind if the theory of evolution is challenged. That's actually one of the fundamental staples of science; it's supposed to be critically examined, questioned and improved upon.

Questioning a small detail of the vast theory of evolution is not going to make it fall. But that is often the creationist approach. They take a small detail, saying something like "Hey, this thing looks like it might be wrong! Obviously the theory is flawed and thus completely worthless (and thus, creationism must be true, so God obviously made the world in six days and consequently listening to rock music is a sin)".

In real science details of theories get questioned all the time. Sometimes it is apparent that some changes must be made (and that can be a very exciting thing indeed) but most of the time solid theories like the theory of evolution can be shown to fit quite well with new discoveries and new data, and even when some change is made to a detail that doesn't mean that the theory as a whole was wrong.

Take an example. A long time ago most people would have said that the earth is flat. Later, most believed that it is spherical. Now we know that the earth is not really spherical, it bulges out a bit around the equator and is very close to an oblong spheroid. So, the "spherical earth theory" was wrong and it has been improved upon. Does that mean that it was worthless to think about the earth as a sphere? Does it mean that thinking it is a sphere is just as wrong as thinking about it as a disc? No. A sphere is very close to the truth, and it has been very helpful in various sciences to think of it as one; it's close enough to the truth for that.

It's the same thing with evolution and many other theories; they are not one hundred percent perfect, we do not have "perfect knowledge" about anything. But they do provide very helpful insights and the rigorous scientific method tells us when we are close to "the truth". The theory of evolution has mountains of evidence in favor of it and it is not going to be completely overturned, even if details might be challenged.

And even if you were able to topple the entire theory of evolution on its side and expose it as a big, giant (and purposeless) fraud, then you still wouldn't have proven Creationism or Intelligent Design. Intelligent Design isn't even a well-formed scientific theory and it can't be "proven right" simply by attacking evolution.

Then again, most people trying to convert people in scientific discussions about evolution seem to have very little knowledge about science at all. They often ask the same questions again and again, sounding just as stupid every time they ask "Why are there still monkeys?" or claim that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics.

Also, even if you prove that a creator is necessary, there is again the problem of proving that it is your favored deity. Just saying that "there must be a creator" won't lead me to the fold of your particular church or make me believe any silliness from your holy texts about how to behave.

Don't use the old "Well, there has to be something"-routine

Many ask the question "How can you not believe? Surely you agree that there has to be something."

I think that it has been quite conclusively proven that there doesn't have to be anything. Even though the natural world is beautifully logical and coherent, it sometimes defies what we would call common sense.

Common sense tells people a lot of strange things. People in ancient times knew that there had to be a Thunder God, because, well, there was thunder so obviously there must be a God to create it. And most people knew that the earth wasn't round because we don't fall off from the underside.

Today some people just know that there must be a divine creator, because, well, there's a whole, wonderful Creation all around us. But maybe, just maybe, those people are wrong too.

Maybe I am wrong. But I'm not sure either way, so "arguments" like that won't make me join your little club of believers.

And please stop telling me that complex things like the universe need a creator. If it is true that complex things need a created, then who created the creator? Don't just tell me that she always existed, or that she just spontaneously appeared, if you can't at the same time explain why the universe can't be granted the same ability.

If you presume to know the mind of God, be prepared to answer some questions

Many seem to think that they know exactly what God is thinking. At least that is what they tell me. They tell me that I have to convert and follow their leadership because God wants me to this, or God wants me to do that.

If questioned why they know exactly what God wants us to do, these people often inform me that she has answered their prayers and given them divine inspiration so that they know what to do.

Now, if that's true, there are many questions that I want to have answered. Primarily, why does God love you and hate starving children? Your God apparently answers your prayers, gives you personal tutelage in important matters and you claim that he blesses your life with his love and wisdom. Yet million of innocent children are starving to death in the poor areas of the world, even though there are certainly many of them who pray every day for God to help them out of their misery.

Until you can give me a good explanation for why God would act that way, I will not believe that you can speak God's will to me. If you have no answer for an important question like that, why should I believe that you are right about the little things?

Don't try to convert me to Scientology

I sincerely apologize to any Scientologists out there, but I really must say that if people want to convert me, believing in Scientology is a really bad start. I sincerely doubt that no matter how hard you try, you won't be able to convert me to a religion as unbelievable as that.

And seriously, even if the claims of Scientology sounded even remotely plausible, I do not think I would ever believe in the claims of a religion that is founded by a man who has been quoted saying "You don't get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion." Especially not if the religion in question is famous for costing a lot of money. I kind of see some kind of connection there, and it isn't pointing towards credibility for the Church of Scientology.

If you are a scientologist and want to convert me to your religion, there is one very simple thing that you must do first: Convert to another religion yourself first, because you will never get me to be a Scientologist.

If you talk about love, peace, understanding and the betterment of mankind, have something to back it up with

Many who talk to me about religion will smile wide smiles and tell me about how utterly nice their religion is. They will tell me that their God teaches to love your neighbor, help the helpless and so on. And that's great. Enough of that and I might be willing to join you without actually believing.

However, when they are asked about what they actually do they tend to talk excitedly about their wonderful intensive bible study groups, their nice little prayer circles or something else that doesn't really make any difference. They just make me feel like they are all talk and no actual action.

They should realize that they are talking to a non-believer. I do not believe that prayer does diddly-squat. I do not think that reading the bible over and over again will make you a better person. I do not believe that a church picnic will help those in need. To me, it all just feels like wasted time.

I am happier spending my time actually doing something for other people or the environment. I'm not a terribly good person, but I do try. I try to be there for my friends and family when they need me, I try to help my fellow man when there's something I see can be done and I give money and time to organizations trying to save the environment we all need to survive. I could do more, of course, but I do not think wasting time praising to a deity too busy to even show us she exists is going to help me be a better person.

So, if you want to use the good Samaritan-argument and tell me to be a better person, I think you should actually come up with some good arguments why I actually would be a better person by joining your particular cult.

Say something positive instead of telling me that I have no morals or no reason to live

See, here's a great idea for any salesman. Just start out by deeply insulting your potential customers in the worst possible way, that will get them to listen to your message!

No, wait. It doesn't really work that way.

I mean, come on, this is another thing that I would think was obvious; insulting people won't bring you to your side. Every good businessman knows that it is a good business strategy to sweet talk your potential long-term customers a little. Sassiness and insults only works in trendy cafés.

Even so, I've been told such things many times. In discussions about atheism I and others constantly get to hear that the only real reason we are atheists is because we want to live a sinful life without morality. They say that we actually do believe in God, but that we deny our faith in her even to ourselves just to feel better about our sinful lifestyles.

At the same time they often claim that we live our lives in misery, that we are unhappy and grumpy because we don't have God's love in our hearts. They say that we live lives without meaning, drifting without a purpose.

Saying things like that can really turn people away from you, you know? I am usually a truly happy person. I feel that we have many good reasons live, with or without gods, and I enjoy my life. I am quite capable of enjoying life and being a good person even without a belief in any God. If you can't understand at least that much, I will doubt most everything you say.

So, if you want to succeed better, try saying something positive about your religion instead of starting off by saying negative things about me.

So, in conclusion, there are a few things you need to understand.

I still haven't seen any evidence that there is a god of any kind. If you can present evidence that there is a god, I won't automatically start worshipping your god. You need to present evidence for your particular little sect before you get my time or my money. In the meantime I'll just keep on trying to be a good person and a good friend. That feels good enough to me and I feel no need for any gods.

Most people who want to convert me follow the God of Abraham. It is true that followers of that particular God are in a majority in the world today. Many take that as a sign that it's the way to go, but to those I have two things I want to say.

First I must remind people that truth is not a democracy; for example, when a majority of people believed that the sun went around the earth that did not make them right.

Secondly, there are a several competing fan clubs and as far as I can see they are mutually exclusive. The question still remains, which one should I join?

Christians generally believe that Muslims will go to hell, and vice versa. Jews usually feel that Christians and Muslims have entirely the wrong idea, and after living through 2000 years of Christian love they can be understandably wary of other religions. Evangelical Christians feel that Catholics will go to hell for all eternity because of the business with saints and whatnot and certain Catholics seem somewhat fond of believing the same about people who do not accept the authority of the pope.

No matter what I choose, just among people who think that I should worship one particular God, others will think I'll go to hell because of it. I know I've made the point before in this post, but I feel the need to repeat myself because people never seem to take it to heart before trying to convert me.

So before any further attempts to convert me, please try to come up with some compelling evidence for why I should take your particular word for the existence of your particular God, over the word of the rest of the zealots out there.

That would be a good help in any further business between us, all would-be converters. Thank you.

Click here to read the rest of "How to Convert Me to Your Religion"

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Towel Day – May 25th

A tribute to the late Douglas Adams

Today, May 25th, is a very important day. Today is Towel Day.

If you want detailed information about the occurrence, I recommend this page, or the Wikipedia page. But, in essence, Towel Day is a tribute to Douglas Adams. Every year, a large number of fans celebrate Adam’s legacy, and mourn his passing, by carrying around a towel throughout the day. Because, as anyone who has read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy knows, a towel is the most important thing to have (see the Wikipedia page for more on that).

I won’t say anything more on the subject of Towel Day now, but instead commemorate Adams by giving you some of my favorite quotes from him. Not an easy task, as there are so many favorites. I could quote entire books, but I will try to pick out some specific quotes, for my enjoyment and yours, and to remind us that even though he is gone, his words live on. And I feel that we can be certain that he would have wanted the fans to keep on laughing.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Series


Many were increasingly of the opinion that they'd all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.
And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, one girl sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.”

“The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't.”

“There is a theory which states that if anybody ever discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.”

“In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.”

“What to do if you find yourself stuck with no hope of rescue: Consider yourself lucky that life has been good to you so far. Alternatively, if life hasn't been good to you so far, which given your present circumstances seems more likely, consider yourself lucky that it won't be troubling you much longer.”

“Flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”

“In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri.”

Last Chance to See

“Mark Carwardine's role, essentially, was to be the one who knew what he was talking about. My role, and one for which I was entirely qualified, was to be an extremely ignorant non-zoologist to whom everything that happened would come as a complete surprise.”

“I don’t like the idea of missionaries. In fact the whole business fills me with fear and alarm. I don’t believe in God, or at least not in the one we’ve invented for ourselves in England to fulfil our peculiarly English needs, and certainly not in the ones they’ve invented in America who supply their servants with toupees, television stations and, most importantly, toll-free telephone numbers. I wish that people who did believe in such things would keep them to themselves and not export them to the developing world.”

I am rarely happier than when spending an entire day programming my computer to perform automatically a task that it would otherwise take me a good ten seconds to do by hand.”

“I didn't notice I was being set upon by a pickpocket, which I am glad of, because I like to work only with professionals.”

“We are not an endangered species ourselves yet, but this is not for lack of trying.

“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.”

Dirk Gently series:

“It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on Earth has ever produced the phrase, 'as pretty as an airport.' Airports are ugly. Some are very ugly. Some attain a degree of ugliness that can only be the result of a special effort.”

“Dennis Hutch had stepped up into the top seat when its founder had died of a lethal overdose of brick wall, taken while under the influence of a Ferrari and a bottle of tequila.”

“Or maybe she decided that an evening with your old tutor would be blisteringly dull and opted for the more exhilarating course of washing her hair instead. Dear me, I know what I would have done. It's only lack of hair that forces me to pursue such a hectic social round these days.”

“The seat received him in a loose and distant kind of way, like an aunt who disapproves of the last fifteen years of your life and will therefore furnish you with a basic sherry, but refuses to catch your eye.”

“Dirk was unused to making such a minuscule impact on anybody. He checked to be sure that he did have his huge leather coat and his absurd red hat on and that he was properly and dramatically silhouetted by the light of the doorway. He felt momentarily deflated and said, "Er..." by way of self-introduction, but it didn't get the boy's attention. He didn't like this. The kid was deliberately and maliciously watching television at him.”

“It was a couple of days before Kate Schechter became aware of any of these things, or indeed of anything at all in the outside world.
She passed the time quietly in a world of her own in which she was surrounded as far as the eye could see with old cabin trunks full of past memories in which she rummaged with great curiosity, and sometimes bewilderment. Or, at least, about a tenth of the cabin trunks were full of vivid, and often painful or uncomfortable memories of her past life; the other nine-tenths were full of penguins, which surprised her. Insofar as she recognized at all that she was dreaming, she realized that she must be exploring her own subconscious mind. She had heard it said that humans are supposed only to use about a tenth of their brains, and that no one was very clear what the other nine-tenths were for, but she had certainly never heard it suggested that they were used for storing penguins.”


The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.”

I find the whole business of religion profoundly interesting. But it does mystify me that otherwise intelligent people take it seriously.”

If you've never visited or spent time in Santa Fe, New Mexico, then let me say this: you're a complete idiot. I was myself a complete idiot till about a year ago.”

“The idea that Bill Gates as appeared like a knight in shining armor to lead all customers out of a mire of technological chaos neatly ignores the fact that it was he who, by peddling second-rate technology, led them into it in the first place.”

“I wrote an ad for Apple Computer: 'Macintosh - We might not get everything right, but at least we knew the century was going to end.'”

Click here to read the rest of "Towel Day – May 25th"

Short Story - Drifters

Fiction with a bit of humor, romance, silliness, spirit possession and cats.

This picture originally inspired a totally different story about the female protagonist of this story. But as I was fleshing out her character in my mind she happened to meet a boy, and this is a piece of romance and character exposition that came from her baring herself to him.

“Well,” said Ella to her prospective beau, David, “the thing to know about me is that I am stark raving mad. That really explains a lot about me.”

David gave a short laugh at that. He had always enjoyed a girl with a sense of humor and he felt that it was a good joke, in his kind of bad taste. He also felt that there was no way that she might actually be crazy. Sure, they had known each other for less than a week, but they had spent several hours a day during that time in the same café, talking over overpriced hot beverages and getting to know each other, and he felt confident that he knew at least that much about her.

In fact, David felt that she might very well be his dream woman. She was brilliantly intelligent, very sweet and caring, and she had the most comforting smile he had ever seen. Of course, none of those qualities excluded the possibility of her being nutty as a fruit cake, and in fact he was well aware that she was a bit quirky by anyone's standard. But she seemed to be quirky in an endearing and strictly non-crazy way.

He smiled at her and took a sip of his coffee.

“Okay,” he said, "I'll bite. Tell me, why do you believe that you are mad? I'm warning you though; you'd better give me a good reason if I am to believe you. You have already more or less disproved any crazy qualities to yourself in my eyes. Crazy people would very rarely say that they are crazy; if they knew that they were having delusions they wouldn't be much of delusions, would they?"

“True enough,” she said, smiling a nervous smile, “but I still don't think I am entirely sane. You see, I talk to my cats.”

He looked at her. He sipped his coffee and made a show of thinking the statement over.

“You do, do you? Well," he said, having anticipated the traditional exchange of dialogue that would come at moments like this, "I'm guessing that I'm supposed to say that's not crazy at all; tell you that a lot of people talk to their pets. Then you're going to interject that the difference is that your cats actually respond, leaving me to figure out if you are acting crazy to be amusing, acting crazy to scare me away after finally having realized that you are too good for me, or if you actually believe that your cats speak to you.

“For my money I would guess that you are joking around. That would seem most like you, and besides, I would very much prefer it to the alternatives.”

He smiled again, a broad smile. Her smile was beautiful as ever, but it was starting to look more strained. This completely failed to deter the self-confident smile he wore secure in his belief that she was merely kidding around.

“Well, you are right and you are wrong,” she said slowly. “I mean, I was going to say that I have actual conversations with my cats. I am however not joking, nor do I want to get rid of you. It's merely a statement of fact. I talk to my cats and they answer.”

She said it in such a deadpan way that his smile actually weakened a bit. She seemed to believe what she was saying. Which was disturbing, and not disturbing in a good way as most of her little quirks seemed to be.

“It's not something that started recently,” she continued. “I've been talking to cats for most of my life. At first I was certain I was crazy; as a little girl I spent a lot of time trying to convince my mother that I was actually hearing our cat speak to me. Mom was certain that I was just trying to get out of school. It seems like she thought that I would find psychiatric sessions preferable to class.

“In reality, I was genuinely worried that I was losing my mind. Being that young and feeling that your elevator no longer goes all the way to the top floor was distressing to say the least. In time I managed to convince myself that I in fact wasn't crazy though, and I soon learned that it is better not to share my experiences with anyone. Now I keep quiet about it and most of the time I actually believe that my experiences are real. There are just a couple of things that makes me lapse back into disbelief in my own experiences at times.”

David was scratching the back of his neck, quietly assessing the situation. His smile had long since faltered and he didn't seem as sure of himself any longer.

“Oh?” he said, desperately trying to sound casually interested rather than deeply disturbed by the conversation. He failed miserably, of course, cleared his throat and tried again.

“Oh? So… What are these things that make you feel as if you might be wrong?”

She toyed with her tea mug, looking almost intolerably cute to David. He did not wish her inadvertent cute wiles to trick him into accepting anything he shouldn't accept.

“There are two things,” she said, holding up two fingers. “First of all, my cats have told me, in detail, how it is that they can speak to me. This might seem like a good thing if I am to believe that it is reality, but think about it. If I tell you 'Yes, my cats speak to me, but it's ok, they've told me how it works' it just makes me sound more crazy. Therefore I choose to take their explanations as evidence that I have in fact lost the majority of my proverbial marbles.

“Secondly, I take great comfort in being mad as a hatter. I much prefer it to the alternative.”

David couldn't help but to laugh again. He still wasn't sure if she was just taking a joke too far or if she genuinely believed what she told him, but that statement was amusing either way.

“You prefer it to the alternative? What, you prefer it to being sane?” he asked, somewhat incredulous.

“Yes,” she said in an asserting voice, “I really do. I mean, the world is obviously crazy, just look around us. Crazy wars, weird religions, reality shows, Fox News… It is all more than a little bewildering to me and it just feels better if I think that I'm deranged. Then I can imagine that if I wasn't off my rocker it would all make sense to me, or at least take some comfort in that even if the world is crazy I might be able to out-crazy at least large parts of it.”

A slight pause passed by, unnoticed by the universe at large, but very noticeable at that particular table, in that particular café. David looked at his coffee with such interest that he looked as if he was watching a movie playing in his cup.

Finally he raised his eyes and looked at her, flashing her an uncertain but disarming smile.

"Fair enough," he said, laughing softly again, "I guess you are right about that."

From there they shifted the conversation in totally other directions and had their usual good time until it was time for them to go their separate ways for the night. They agreed to meet back there the next day, as usual.

As they parted, David had almost no thoughts of the weird conversational interlude about talking cats. He was smiling as much as he always was after having been in her presence and looked strongly forward to the next day's meeting. A small voice in the back of his head tried to remind him of the exchange, but he was good at ignoring such voices and his walk had an actual skip to his step as he sauntered happily towards his home.


The next day, as he walked into the café as usual after work, he saw Ella already sitting there. Normally this would be the cause for further silly, content smiles to spread across his face, but this time the strange conversation from the day before came screaming back to him.

On her shoulder a cat sat perched, observing its surroundings with obvious disinterest.

It was a beautiful cat, a Persian Blue as far as David could tell, and it seemed quite comfortable in its position on his favorite girl's shoulder. In fact, they both seemed so relaxed with the situation that it all looked almost completely natural. David did however not feel relaxed; he felt that the foreboded too much strangeness.

As he walked towards her he tried to keep his smile steady, despite his bad feelings about it all. He couldn't help but notice that there was almost no one in the room who seemed to take much notice of the cat on her shoulder. Not even the personnel seemed to care, even though he felt convinced that pets weren't really allowed in there. As he sat down he had started to wonder if the world was indeed as crazy as Ella seemed to think that it was.

“Hi,” she said, giving him a happy smile, completely disarming his confusion and effectively dispersing the feelings of foreboding, “how are you today?”

“Oh, fine, fine, just dandy. I'm feeling good today; I'm just perfect actually, all is good… Although, I do apparantly seem to have a tendency to ramble a bit more than usual.”

She laughed a short sweet laugh.

“That's nice. Here, let me introduce you to one of my cats; Carl. Or lord Fluffypaws, as he prefers to be called nowadays. He is a bit silly.”

The cat looked up slowly and looked David straight in the eyes for a moment, then yawned slowly.

“Eh hehe… Good day, milord,” David said, and flashed Ella a bright smile, trying to reassure them both that he found nothing wrong in the situation.

“So,” he said inquiringly, “does he understand me? Or are you the cat-whisperer, the only one who can talk to them?”

“He can understand you alright,” she answered, giving lord Fluffypaws a pat on the head.

“In time he might even trust you enough to answer you.”

Her response sounded so honest and level-headed that he couldn't bear to assert his disbelief in that possibility. For the time being he decided to accept this as another endearing quirk in her personality and not let it bother him. A beautiful cat on her shoulder was after all better than many of the quirks his previous love interests had had.

“But,” she said, “actually it isn't the cat who would be answering you. I told you before that the cats have told me about how this whole thing works. Would you care to hear about it, even though it might further emphasize my marble deficiency?”

He thought about it. He felt insanely curious about the whole thing, but also a little bit scared about what he might find out about her mind. If this was a joke she was definitely taking it too far, and if it wasn't he didn't know what to think.

“Yes,” he said anyway, “please tell me the wondrous tales about your cat communications.”

He smiled and she smiled back, taking a long drink of her tea before starting to speak.

“Well,” she said, “the thing is that I can't talk to any cat. Cats are intelligent animals, but not intelligent enough to understand more than a few words at most and they lack the physical ability to form the sounds of human language. Sadly, they could never speak to us.

“No, the ones I've been speaking to are actually possessed, for lack of a better term.

“There are old souls out there. Drifters, they call themselves, because they drift almost randomly around the earth, unable to direct their movement much or affect anything physical. They have lived for centuries that way, maybe even millennia. Maybe forever; no one knows. When they drift around they are barely self-aware and they slowly forget their past.

“When they come across organic life forms however, they can share the mind of that form. They need a structured brain to give their thoughts form, to be able to think and act consciously.

“Cats' brains seem particularly well-suited to their needs. Carl tells me that it might be that cat personalities are so well in sync with the typical Drifter personality; they are lazy, self-involved, vain (which is so weird for an incorporeal being), pranksters and incredibly affectionate when it suits them. They are possibly all trying to hatch some evil plan to take over the world too, although that's mostly my own speculation.

“Either way, these spirits often possesses cats. Have you ever had the feeling that at times a cat understands every word you say, acting as if it responds to what you're telling it, but then in the next moment it acts as if it understands nothing? In such occurrences it is most likely a Drifter messing with you. They love pulling stunts like that, making us silly humans believe that cats are smarter than they are.

“They usually don't confirm their presence though. I don't know why they started talking to me. They answer very vaguely to that; they just say that I am special. I'm guessing that they were really just bored and decided to mess with my mind by making me try to figure out why I am so special. Again that's just my own speculation though.”

She smiled and shook her head.

“Really,” she continued, "sometimes I feel that all my experiences during all these years have been colored by the fact that they like to mess with my mind. Either that, or that I really am crazy. Maybe both.

“Anyway. What I was trying to say is that the cats are not talking to me. These spirits are, through some sort of telepathy. As I understand it they can, since they are not corporeal or bound to the bodies of the cats, reach out and touch a piece of their minds to mine and transfer their thoughts, as if speaking to me.”

She fell into a thoughtful silence, looking at him, seemingly pondering how he was taking the revelations so far.

“So…” David said slowly, “How come you're telling me this? I mean, you told me yesterday that you had learned to conceal this from people. I'm not trying to sound insensitive, or as if I agree with the crazy-assessment, but that does sound like it might be a good idea. I would think people in general would take this information rather badly…”

“Well, that's actually the reason why this particular kitty came with me today.” she said, giving another short laugh. “He likes you. He's actually the reason that we are talking at all.

“You don't know this, but I actually saw you the day before the day when we first spoke. Carl was out on a walk with me that day, and he told me that he had noticed that same special quality that the Drifters seem to like about my mind in yours. He told me that I should talk to you.

“I'm not good at initiating contact though, and I felt that if I started accosting you with a cat perched on my shoulder you would directly deem me a crazy cat lady and not be all that susceptible to my awkward flirting. So I came back the next day, sans cat, hoping that you would be here.

“And now… Well… Now I've fallen head over heels in love with you, to be perfectly frank, and I felt that there was no way for me to go on pretending to be sane. If you want to break of all contact with me because of my feline conversations, I felt that I'd be better off knowing that now rather than later.

“So… Do you think that you can continue seeing me?”

She flashed him an uncertain smile that disarmed whatever little rational thought that David had left in him after the words "in love with" had knocked most of it clear out of him.

He still needed a few seconds to think it over, but in the end he smiled at her, smiled at the cat and continued the conversation as if nothing weirder than usual had been said. They sat immersed in idle conversation in hours as usual, though with the addition of a feline observer, who actually didn't seem to mind the situation at all.

This went well for Ella and David from there on. Their daily dates progressed into more and more closeness and they fell deeper and deeper in love. Rarely were Ella's kitty conversations mentioned more than in passing and David felt that he could fully accept them, even if he still didn't really believe that they were real.

That May they got married, in a beautiful springtime ceremony amongst the trees. They bought a small house and moved in together, David, Ella and her five cats. David had never been happier.

Two weeks after the wedding, Ella's cats started talking to him.

Despite having been told so many times that sooner or later they would start talking to him, he never really believed it, so it all came as quite a shock for him.

Even after they started talking to him he wasn't very sure that it was actually happening. He felt as if he might as well just be making himself believe that he heard them talking to him; he felt that maybe the intense love he felt for Ella made him share her psychosis rather than admitting that she is actually crazy.

He pondered this long and well after his first serious conversation with lord Fluffypaws. He couldn't decide if he actually believed that he had been talking with the cat for an hour that afternoon; somehow it felt more reassuring to imagine that it was all in his head.

After a lot of thought and introspection he came to the conclusion that it didn't matter either way.

Either he was now living with cats possessed by roaming spirits, or he was clinically insane. He quickly came to realize that either was preferable to living without Ella in his life. So from that day on he pledged to act as if he believed it all too; if it was all a dream he had no wish to wake up.

Click here to read the rest of "Short Story - Drifters"

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Totally Innocent Toys?

Who wants to eat the brains of Disney characters? Who wants to squeeze Batman's crotch?

A couple of weeks ago I visited my brother and spent some time with my three-year-old little niece. At one time she and I were sitting on the couch in the living room, talking about something inane and fun, while casually browsing a brochure from an ice-cream company.

My niece started to point out each and every thing that she wanted from the brochure, in a typical childlike manner. One thing she was especially interested in was the severed heads of Donald Duck and Pluto, with the tops of their skulls removed so that one can scoop out their brains and eat them. At least that's what it looked like to me.

When she pointed at the creepy heads I coughed and asked her if she didn't find them strange in some way. She didn't. She pointed out that when you had eaten the ice-cream out you can use them as mugs, and that that's really cool, but other than that she didn't see anything special. I, however, couldn't stop thinking of the scene in that Indiana Jones-movie where they eat chilled monkey-brain. An attractive prospect to me, maybe, but I would have thought that children would react badly to the appearance of those ice-cream containers.

This, however, wasn't the first time I saw a product aimed at children that looked less than innocent in the eyes of an adult. I've found several such things around the Internet, and will present some of my favorites here.

Below you'll see another, much worse example of Donald Duck. There are things that I feel are much more cringe-worthy than just eating his brain. For instance a ride where the children sit between his legs to ride him, with his beak and gaze firmly planted between the child's legs. That is creepy. (Found on this blog)

Disney characters aren't the only ones subjected to such things though. Even our great comic book superheroes get their fill. tells us about a rather nasty looking squirt gun, in the form of Buttma... ehm, sorry, I mean Batman. An easy mistake to make, considering how the damn thing looks.

Even under normal circumstances I would probably find a gun in the form of a person very tacky, but things are several orders of magnitude worse when you fire by squeezing something sticking out of his crotch and refill his ammo by pouring liquid into a hole in his ass. I mean, seriously; who thought that was a good design decision?

Something that might be creepier still is the Pikachu... creation... on the next picture. I have only seen the picture without context (for instance here), so I don't know exactly what it is. I'm guessing it's one of those inflatable bouncy castles, in the form of Pikachu. Alright, that would seem totally ok, if you didn't enter through a curiously vagina-looking hole between its legs. That Pikachu looks so damned excited about it doesn't really help either.

Of course, sometimes designers are really stupid without managing to turn things quite that creepy. For instance, something that caused quite a stir in some people, in more ways than one, was a Mattel-made Harry Potter Nimbus 2000 Flying Broomstick.

The broomstick naturally uses the magic of cheap electronics to produce sound effects when you use it, producing "swooping and wooshing" sounds to let you know that you're flying. And not only that, it also vibrates, presumably to give you some feeling of motion.

Now, when a flying broomstick is something you use by having it firmly between your legs, that vibrating function was something that raised a lot of eyebrows. This article tells us about a mother in Ohio who says that her 12-year old daughter played with it for hours, and that her 17 year-old sister enjoys the "special effects" too. Not that I personally have any problem with that, but seriously, the people at Mattel must have been really stupid not to foresee problems from parents by designing it that way.

Then there is Dora the Explorer, which I found here. I have no idea what kind of toy it is, but it's one of the most phallic objects I've seen in a long time, prompting questions about what exactly she is exploring, and if she shouldn't be called "Dora the Spelunker".

I know that there are more examples of toys like that. I know that I have seen more prime examples around, but I'll leave that to you to find if you want. I'm not entirely sure if I want to see any more creepy toys right now.
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I Really Do Hate Blogs – A Very Typical First Post

I have resisted making myself a blog for a very long time now. I dislike the word blog; it started out as such an over-hyped buzzword right from the start, and now we’ve all heard it one too many times, so the sound of it is slightly nauseating to me.

I might like the general idea of blogs, but the format is so sadly misused that dislike it anyway. And my blog is not going to be any better.

I don’t plan on any coherency. There will be no thread binding all my posts together, and no common theme in any way. I certainly don’t plan on having more than a single post that is directly connected to the actual name of the blog.

I will write whatever I like, because I like writing. Because I, like most people who like to write, need to write. Most of what I will post here will be reposts of stuff that I post on other places, at least for the time being. I am currently trying out different mediums for expressing myself. It was just time to try out “blogging” now, finally.

You will probably find a great deal of humor here, and quite a bit of political commentary. Hopefully also some fiction, from time to time.

Hopefully I will also post with some sense of regularity. Probably not though, because even though I love to write, I’m worthless at actually finishing anything. Most of my stuff ends up half-finished. So, please, if you like what you read here, do tell me to hurry up and finish some more stuff, because I’m terribly lazy without incentive like that.

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