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27 November 2011

Paraprosdokians

What a cool word!  Paraprosdokians!  So, what the hell is it? A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax.

Here is a small list that you may be familiar with.  Why not add your own:

1. Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.
2. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
3. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.
4. If I agreed with you we'd both be wrong.
5. We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.
6. War does not determine who is right - only who is left.
7. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
8. Evening news is where they begin with 'Good evening', and then proceed to tell you why it isn't.
9. A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.
10. How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?
11. Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
12. I thought I wanted a career, turns out I just wanted pay checks.
13. Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says "In an emergency, notify:" I put "Doctor".
14. I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
15. Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.
16. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
17. The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!
18. Hospitality: Making your guests feel like they're at home, even if you wish they were.
19. I discovered I scream the same way whether I'm about to be devoured by a great white shark or if a piece of seaweed touches my foot.
20. There's a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can't get away.
21. I always take life with a grain of salt, plus a slice of lemon, and a shot of tequila.
22. When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.
23. You're never too old to learn something stupid.
24. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

22 November 2011

There ARE some things worse than being ignorant

I am a huge supporter of education.  I have always said that ignorance is the equalizer of all unsuccessful and small minded morons out there.  And one good source of general education is the news.  That is, if it's actual news! It appears that Fox News viewers are less informed than people who don't watch any news, according to a new poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University.  The poll surveyed New Jersey residents about the uprisings in Egypt and the Middle East, and where they get their news sources. The study, which controlled for demographic factors like education and partisanship, has shown that being a Faux Noise viewer will actually make you more ignorant of the world around you...  Either that, or you are just gullible enough to swallow the outright lies of that fake news outlet.

Interestingly, speaking of fake news outlets, people who watch The Daily Show actually scored at the top of the survey in factual accuracy!  I am starting to think that perhaps Faux Noise is some sort of massive art project to see just how big a pile of bullshit people will swallow...

16 November 2011

The political season of wackiness

A while back the T.E.A. party started, and the rank and file were an amazingly representative slice of the US.  Many of the members of that party even proudly proclaimed that they did indeed represent Americans.  And perhaps they did.  However, it is now another election season, and let's look at the teabaggers now?  In 2008 there started to be some ugly groundswells in that movement that were basically ignored.  Now, I don't think you can ignore it.  Instead of being representative, they have turned into the actual caricature that some started to make of them.  Now they really are a bunch of redneck, theitard, racist, wackjobs...  (and yes, I realize theitard and wackjob is redundant!)  Not that this hasn't been mentioned before.

For a short but accurate take on “tea party” and religion, just see:

http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2011/08/the-tea-party-as-a-christianist-force.html

And for both the far-right and religious aspects, just see:

http://digitaljournal.com/article/289821

Sullivan quoting the NYT:
“Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek “deeply religious” elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.”

But there’s no lack of details – data, facts, in fact, but also explanations, even hypotheses – that further support the characterization as both “far right” and “mired in a radical religious agenda”, of which these links are just smatterings:

http://www.npr.org/2010/11/22/131512631/culture-war-brewing-within-tea-party

http://colorado.tenthamendmentcenter.com/2010/12/the-fourth-tea-party/


http://www.alternet.org/teaparty/149572/new_study:_tea_partiers_three_times_more_likely_to_say_violence_is_warranted._exhibit_a:_glenn_beck


http://www.theatlantic.com/daily-dish/archive/2011/01/the-tea-party-more-anti-gay-than-all-seniors/177062/


http://www.theatlantic.com/daily-dish/archive/2011/01/the-tea-party-on-prohibition-lovin-it/177056/


http://www.alternet.org/economy/150097/tea_partiers_have_a_very_mixed-up_notion_of_what_the_american_revolution_was_about


http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2011/0324/Planned-Parenthood-showdown-could-reveal-true-nature-of-tea-party


http://www.theatlantic.com/daily-dish/archive/2011/03/race-the-tea-party-and-conservatism/173650/


http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2011/04/ygl.html

09 November 2011

On (what would have been) Carl Sagan's 77th Birthday

Today Dr. Phil Plait reminded me that today is the day that Carl Sagan would have turned 77. I really don't think that I could say anything better than Dr. Plait said it, nor even the way that Dr. Sagan would have said it.  I think that Dr. Plait selected one of the best videos from the pile to choose from.  Generally I hate autotune, but I was tempted to go with the Symphony of Science series, but I will stay with regular convention.



And I figure that I would close it out with a couple of quotes from Dr. Sagan that I think really sum up so many things so beautifully on top of the Pale Blue Dot video.

In science it often happens that scientists say, "You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken," and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.
  • Keynote address at CSICOP conference (1987)
Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever it has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved?
  • Interview with Charlie Rose (1996)
I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking.  The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.
  • "In the Valley of the Shadow", Parade, 1996-03-10
In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, "This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed"? Instead they say, "No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way."
  • Pale Blue Dot, p. 50

03 November 2011

An Open Letter to the United States Congress

Direct copy paste with Todd W.'s permission:

Dear Members of Congress,

I recently learned that you passed, overwhelmingly, a resolution (PDF) reaffirming "In God We Trust" as the official motto of the United States. I am left to wonder, why?

Have you, unbeknown to the rest of the country, implemented legislation to help create jobs? Have you worked to improve health care? Cut down our debt? Eliminate waste?

How much time did you take away from important matters to not only vote on this, but to draft, read, refer to committee, approve and all the steps required to bring this to the full House?

Maybe I'm wrong to chastise you for wasting time on a resolution that has no power in law and accomplishes nothing to address the issues facing our nation. So let me bring up something else. When you were elected to office, you swore to uphold the Constitution. Part of that document, the supreme law of our land, is that Congress "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion". Although the resolution is not a law, it would seem to me, as well as some of your colleagues who opposed this resolution, that the spirit of the resolution violates the principles of the First Amendment.

Beyond this, the text of the resolution makes several errors of fact.

Whereas the sentiment, "In God We Trust", has been an integral part of United States society since its founding
This is not true. While many of the founders may have placed their trust in God, it was made quite clear in the writings of several of the founding fathers that this nation was a secular one. It should further be noted that it was not even the official motto of the United States until 1956.
Whereas in times of national challenge or tragedy, the people of the United States have turned to God as their source for sustenance, protection,wisdom, strength, and direction
Although this may be true of a majority of the people, it is not true as a blanket sentiment. There are many individuals who have turned to multiple gods or to no god at all, but rather have looked to one another for comfort and solidarity.
Whereas John Adams said, "Statesmen may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand."
While he may have said these words, the writers and backers of this resolution ignore what else President Adams wrote in the Treaty of Tripoli:
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion
Concurrent Resolution 13 raises up one religion (or a class of religions) above all others. You have taken steps to exclude by sentiment those who do not believe in God, those who believe in multiple gods and those who have no belief in any deity of any sort. The language of the resolution makes it explicit that the intent of the resolution invokes religion, rather than a secular cause. Furthermore, wedding government and religion in such a manner sets a dangerous precedent. It is both bad politics and bad religion, for while Christianity is currently the dominant religion in this nation (in terms of number of practitioners), it may not always be so. Using the secular government of our nation for en explicitly religious reason such as this opens the door to further waste of time and resources, as well as the establishment of resolutions and language associated with religious matters in the future, to the detriment of all citizens of this country.

Those who drafted this resolution have shown a disrespect for the Constitution they are sworn to uphold. Those who voted in favor of this resolution have shown a disrespect for the citizens they purport to represent. Only those who, through careful thought and the courage to stay true to their duty, voted against this resolution are deserving of our praise and approbation.

I place my trust in the people around me. I trust in scientists and doctors to advance our knowledge and improve our well being. I trust in my friends, family and acquaintances, that they will do their best to improve their lot and that of everyone around them. I trust, rightly or (as evidenced by this resolution and the constant bickering along party lines) wrongly, in lawmakers to properly and truly serve all of the people they represent, not only those who happen to be in the majority or who give the most dollars.

That is a trust that you have broken. You have broken faith with the people of these United States. For the actions of people decide the fate of our nation. It is "we the people" who move this country forward. We the people will raise the nation up or, through ideology and greed, bring it crashing down.

I implore you, as individuals, elected by the people, purporting to represent our interests, do what is right and rescind this resolution. And if not, then I call upon those whose minds are like mine, to replace everyone who voted in favor of this resolution with someone who places the good of the nation, rather than the good of religion, first.