Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An Atheist Guide to Christmas (& Tips for Theists on Dealing With Us)

In case you didn't know, I'm not a religious man. Frankly, "not religious" doesn't do justice to my thoughts on spirituality, but we'll get to that one of these days. Since no one really cares about how atheists spend the holiday season here is an explanation of what is transpires.

I have "celebrated" Christmas since as long as I can remember. Like many American children it was more of an indoctrination opposed to real religious understanding. It was the same way with my parents (but they received more theological instruction than my sister and I). I was eventually explained to what Christmas is all about; the celebration of the birth of the Christian faith's messiah. Now I have a more thorough understanding of the Christmas season (while Jesus' birthday is not known specifically, likely sometime in late spring by celestial and other "landmark" descriptors, the December date was chosen to ease the conversion of pagans and other non-Christians by replacing the traditional winter solstice with Jesus' birthday).

Being left to determine my own theological views (special thanks to Mom & Dad) as opposed to being indoctrinated at a young age, I settled on skeptical non-belief (not that all children are forced into religious belief, but most today are taught religion and do not "find it" on their own). This very much affects my "celebration" during the holiday season (and I prefer the use of "holiday" as many faiths celebrate this time of year, and I have a break from work).

So, how does one who openly rejects the divinity of Jesus celebrate Christmas? In the simplest of terms, I don't celebrate Christmas. To associate with a phrase I hear often this time of year, there is no "Christ" in my Christmas. To say that I don't celebrate Christmas is true. But, that being said, I do support the sentiments of the season: peace, love, generosity to mankind. Many atheists take the same perspective. While I don't just wait around to be a good husband, son, & brother, I do take every opportunity to show my family & friends I care. And Christmas is a good time to do that. The year is ending, others are celebrating, it's good time to reflect with the people you care about on the previous year and what is to come.

So, a guide for Atheists:

1) Don't be a dick - there is no better way to reinforce the stereotype that atheists are evil, douche-bags than to shit on other people's beliefs/holidays. If they know you, they likely already know about your non-beliefs. 9 times out of 10, they are just trying to be nice. Deal with it. Note: asserting government facilities & public lands are NOT acceptable places for religious displays is fine, because they aren't, again state your case and don't be a dick.

2) Celebrate what you want - don't get forced into celebrating something you don't support. This is to keep you from getting into a uncomfortable situation. I had a work meeting that started as a "Christmas card signing for the troops" a few weeks back. Admittedly, I felt ambushed and confronted by this. "Everyone sign the cards and wish a Merry Christmas to our guys overseas." I had several problems with this; first, I felt like I was being forced to participate in something I didn't believe in (that being Christmas, also it was apparently "assumed" I was Christian); second, we were ignoring our non-christian service men and women (which frustrated me greatly). A co-worker was even arrogant enough to say, "But even the non-Christians celebrate Christmas." Incorrect. That was the first time my non-beliefs ever made me feel uncomfortable at work. The best course of action is to remove yourself; think of an excuse, or just get out. Sticking around will just complicate things. Respecting beliefs goes both ways, if someone doesn't respect yours, just leave.

3) Enjoy yourself - kick back and take it all in. This time of year is fun. If you go in with a good attitude of being kind and generous you may have fun. This year, I made the goal of trying to enjoy the season, and it worked. Sure, I still get worked up by the religiosity of it all, but let it slide. It's a time to spend with friends and family. Eat some food, give some gifts, immerse yourself and you'll find it's worth the time.

A guide for Theists (on dealing with us): Believe it or not, the odds are you have atheist friends. And this is OK. Atheists are still fairly closeted in many parts of the country; primarily for fear of, you guessed it, discrimination. I myself have a fear of being treated differently or shunned for my non-belief.

1) Don't do anything differently - this is your religious holiday. Don't change anything for atheists you know. If you are having a Christmas party, call it that. We really don't care, we will be there to enjoy the company of our friends (again, we still are social animals, invite us anyway).

2) Don't ask us to come to church with you - we are uninterested with this activity, and the time of year has no effect on our disinterest. Most atheist HAVE, in fact, been to church. Most of us many times. It didn't affect us then, and it won't now. No, your [preacher, minister, priest, what-have-you] is not special and their message is no different. We're very happy you like your local religious leader and love your belief system, we love our system too. Just let us be.

3) Don't ask if we are offended - we really don't get offended by seasonal buffoonery you engage in, some of it is funny though. I also enjoy seasonal shenanigans. The only times we get offended is when people make assumptions about out non-belief: "atheists are terrible, immoral people." No, being an atheist doesn't make a man bad just like being a Christian doesn't make a man good.

4) Finally, don't be weary of atheists - we wont bite, really. Save the belief system, we are just like you. We probably like you if we talk to you. The fact that you don't know that some of your friends are atheists should be proof enough of our benign nature. If you have questions about atheists, non-theists, or other secular-folk, just ask. Sure, we absolutely disagree on stuff, but it's OK.

Maybe this will clear things up for folks. The last thing anyone wants is more conflict around this time of year. I plan on enjoying the holiday season, and I hope everyone, regardless of their beliefs or lack-there-of, enjoys it too.

To all, Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

In Defense of Joe Paterno: A Penn Stater's Lament

Saying that it has been a rough few days for the folks in Happy Valley would be quite the understatement. The revelations coming from State College have been, well, what adjective does one choose for situation of this magnitude? Plenty come to mind, but, considering the reverberations of the events, none seem wholly suitable. I don't plan on this being the most pleasant of musings; though this hasn't been the most pleasant week, either.

I had never heard of Jerry Sandusky until 3 days ago. And all I know of him now is that he is a disgusting, unconscionable mass. It is required to judge a man by the whole of his being, and knowing there remains some good he has done in his life (his charity has helped children and he contributed to a great college football program) I still say he is a worm. For the misdeeds of this man far exceed the weight of his good; if a man does harm to one child in order to allow many to prosper, all the good that man did is worth naught. The depths of Sandusky's licentiousness seems to meet no end. What kind of person uses a charity for underprivileged youth as a bunny ranch? I am not one who believes in Hell, but if it exists, I'm sure there is a special circle for this monster.

Now, Penn State football in an institution. While I support the team and am part of the family, I was never a huge fan, nor did I buy into the deification of it's coach, one Joe Paterno. In fact, the first I heard of this man was from my late grandmother, "I never get a chance to watch Penn State, but I really like Joe Paterno. I hope he does well, he's such a nice man." Some people have tried to say that he isn't such a nice man after all. And to those I condemn. His good still has magnitudes more weight than his evil. It has been ridiculously easy to point your finger and say "for shame" this week; I know, because I participated myself. I like to think cool-heads prevail, but the temperature in this room was scorching. I hear a lot of, "well, if that were me..." you know what? Stop right there, and first off, fuck you. "If that were me" my ass. Doing the right thing isn't always easy, and I am not determined that Joe Paterno didn't do the right thing. When you're in your office, and you catch someone acting dishonestly (say steal, lie, etc.) what do you do? You tell your manager. If it's your manager, you tell his boss, if it's his boss, you call the ethics line. Every place you arrived in ever has a chain of command for these things. Before you say it, you're right. This isn't a sandwich from the fridge, it's a child's innocence. Those aren't even comparable. But there is a degree of trust in the institution which you're associated. You're told that the people above you will do the right thing if you trust them in these scenarios. This was the culture Joe Paterno was engrained in. Breaking this pattern wasn't in the books for Joe Paterno, he's spent the better part of his life following this chain. And that being said, you think Paterno chose the easy way out? He went to his bosses to tell them that a good friend of his was a pedophile. If that's not hard, tell me, please, what is? Paterno's failure was trusting the people he is supposed to go to for these matters would do their job. On this, he was wrong.

I also hear a lot of, "you have to call the authorities when that happens." You're right again, and maybe this is where guilt lies. But, lets find the others here who are guilty, shall we? The first documented events were in 1998. Sandusky had been "showering" with boys from the charity. The cops knew! They observed him say it. What happened? Nothing. In 2000 a janitor named James Calhoun is the first to witness Sandusky in sexual activity, and, like a good employee, tells his manager. Another janitor, Ronald Petrosky, sees Sandusky and the boy as well. Calhoun and Petrosky's boss, Jay Witherite, is informed by Calhoun. Witherite tells Calhoun to inform "someone" of authority, but the report never gets made. By the logic used to condemn Joe Paterno, I see 3 more guilty people. Now we come to 2002. A graduate assistant witnesses Sandusky having sex with a boy. The graduate assistant informs his father of what he saw, and then he tells Joe Paterno. Two more guilty parties just passing the word up the chain. Joe Paterno does what he is supposed to do, tells the university administration about the events he did not witness. After Tim Curley is told of what the graduate assistant told Joe Paterno, he calls a meeting with Gary Schultz. They question the graduate assistant; this is where the trail ends. They tell the assistant they'll take care of it and Sandusky is banned from the football building and campus. Police are not informed and the chain of communication stops. The graduate assistant is not spoken to again until reports from a boy, being helped by Sandusky's charity, about inappropriate touching on the part of Sandusky surface and a grand jury is compiled. So, all together, I count 6 guilty people for not going to the police (3 janitors, a graduate assistant and his father, and Joe Paterno,) and not counting the police who investigated in 1998. I also count 2 douche-bags at the top whom did not do their job and covered up a disgusting crime. So let's not play the "if that were me" game, because I see 7 others who had the chance and did nothing but what they were trained to do. How many before you call the police? 20 people, 50 people? It's not so easy. We'd like to think we take the best course of action, but, after all, we're only human. Human like Joe Paterno.

I was once told when you put on a uniform (sports or military, it doesn't matter) it is your job to leave the honor of the institution on that uniform in better standing than it was before you put it on. Being a Penn State athlete, I know how heavy that weight can seem. But nothing has tarnished the reputation of Penn State more than what 3 people did since the 1990s. Jerry Sandusky used a charity to rape children, while Gary Schultz and Tim Curley turned a blind eye to something despicable. I don't think we'll ever understand why they all did what they did, but they have no recourse. I do not blame Joe Paterno, but not being blamed and being scot free of falut are two different things. While it is reasonable to say "that's not his job to get the cops involved," hind-sight is always 20/20. More should have been done. But don't let's loose sight of where the blame does reside. Also, let's not forget where the real crime here is. More and more boys are coming forward now, the lineage of Sandusky's serial assault seems to be without bounds. The tragedy here is the boys and families who have suffered the wrath of a fiend. And that cannot compare with anything you, or me, or even Joe Paterno feels right now. Learn from this tragedy.

They say all good things come to an end. Well, one of our good things came to an end Saturday, October 29th with a come-from-behind 409th win for Joe Paterno. And that is how I'll choose to remember him. Unfortunately, the path into the future looks rough. If all good things do come to an end, then well, all bad things have a beginning; and this bad thing is far from over.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The "Debunk" - Episode II, God vs. Science

This is a weird one. It was a chain email I got called, "God vs. Science". It really adds nothing to either argument. It seems to show the validity of using the same type of argument to support a different cause. I have various arguments with the logic of the whole thing, which I shall address henceforth...

Subject: FW: God vs. Science

My first is that I conjecture this never happened, or happened very differently. I could see it as a type of "feel good tale" for the faithful.

An atheist professor of philosophy speaks to his class on the problem science has with God, The Almighty. He asks one of his new students to stand and.....

Professor of philosophy? This story is already bogus. You don't debate science with a philosophy teacher. But I like how he's immediately called out as an atheist without any support.

Prof: So you believe in God?

Student: Absolutely, sir.

Prof : Is God good?

Student: Sure.

Prof: Is God all-powerful?

Student : Yes.

Prof: My brother died of cancer even though he prayed to God to heal him. Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill. But God didn't. How is this God good then? Hmm?

(Student is silent.)

The above exchange sets the tone for the whole email. Notice the evil atheist grilling the good Christian student about God.

Prof: You can't answer, can you? Let's start again, young fella. Is God good?

Student: Yes.

Prof: Is Satan good?

Student : No.

Prof: Where does Satan come from?

Student: From...God.. ..

Prof: That's right. Tell me son, is there evil in this world?

Student: Yes.

Prof: Evil is everywhere, isn't it? And God did make everything. Correct?

Student: Yes.

Prof: So who created evil?

(Student does not answer.)

Prof: Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world, don't they?

Student: Yes, sir.

Prof: So, who created them?

(Student has no answer.)

You are supposed to be clued into the assertion that a Christian god created all those things.This part of the exchange is a common philosophical denial of the existence of an all-loving, all knowing deity (but does not deny the existence of said deity). Which, as far as philosophy goes, is a valid argument and should be discussed as part of philosophy with theological scholars. But has nothing at all to do with science.

Prof: Science says you have 5 senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Tell me, son...Have you ever seen God?

Student: No, sir.

Prof: Tell us if you have ever heard your God?

Student: No, sir.

Prof: Have you ever felt your God, tasted your God, smelt your God? Have you ever had any sensory perception of God for that matter?

Student: No, sir. I'm afraid I haven't.

Prof: Yet you still believe in Him?

Student: Yes.

Prof: According to empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your GOD doesn't exist. What do you say to that, son?

Student: Nothing. I only have my faith.

Prof: Yes. Faith. And that is the problem science has.

This is a common thing that annoys the HELL out of me (and why I don't think this debate ever really took place). Religion is, by definition, supernatural; not of the natural world. Science is, by definition, the study of the natural world. And, finally, by definition, science cannot prove or disprove something that leave no trace on the natural world. No one who understands science would say that.

Student: Professor, is there such a thing as heat?

Prof: Yes.

Student: And is there such a thing as cold?

Prof: Yes.

Student: No sir. There isn't.

(The lecture theatre becomes very quiet with this turn of events.)

Student : Sir, you can have lots of heat, even more heat, superheat, mega heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat. But we don't have anything called cold. We can hit 458 degrees below zero which is no heat, but we can't go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold . Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat . We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy . Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it (There is pin-drop silence in the lecture theatre.)

This is why you don't debate science with a philosophy teacher. Any science teacher, or anyone with a BS for that matter, knows that "cold" is as the student says it is. And of course heat is just energy, blah, blah, blah, I could go on. Also, the "shocked" nature of the lecture hall amuses me as well. For reference, -458 F is 0 K (absolute zero).

Student: What about darkness, Professor? Is there such a thing as darkness?

Prof: Yes. What is night if there isn't darkness? seriously???

Student : You're wrong again, sir. Darkness is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light....But if you have no light constantly, you have nothing and it's called darkness, isn't it? In reality, darkness isn't. If it were you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn't you?

This "darkness" definition is a little annoying (it doesn't really matter for this though). We define dark as something that does not interact with, or lacks emission/reflection of optical light. Optical light being the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum (400 - 700 nm) that we can detect with our eyes. But in fairness, when something is "radio dark" it doesn't emit any radio waves. So the definition works for the EM spectrum, but not really "the absence of something."

Prof: So what is the point you are making, young man?

Student: Sir, my point is your philosophical premise is flawed.

Prof: Flawed? Can you explain how?

Yes, please explain. The philosophical premise that God cannot be, at the same time, the creator of evil and all-loving, is actually valid. And the perceived "scientific" premise that God does not exist is just wrong. So, since he says the philosophical premise is flawed we'll concentrate on that.

Student: Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is life and then there is death, a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can't even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood, either one.To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life: just the absence of it.

Honestly, I get somewhat confused about the point of all of this about here. My philosophy is amateur (at best), but I'll take a whack at what seems to be going on. Duality in western philosophy is the internal conflict between 2 sides (good/evil, right/wrong). Life and death are not dualities, but states, I could even agree on a high level that death could be the absence of life for argument's sake. But it's not duality. Good vs. bad? Absolutely. So I guess what the student is hinting at, based on the previous assertions of light/dark and hot/cold, is that either good is the absence of evil or vice versa. To which I say, philosophically, is bullshit. Dark is the absence of light b/c you measure no light, cold is the absence of heat because you measure no heat (science argument); but is good the absence of evil or evil the absence of good? Time for a philosophical thought experiment:

You find a wallet on the ground. For argument's sake, we'll say there are 3 options from this point.

1) Return the wallet as found

2) Return the wallet, but after you took the cash out

3) Keep the whole wallet

One could say that 1 is complete good, 2 is partial good, and 3 is no good. Or depending on your stance, 1 is no evil, 2 is partial evil, and 3 is total evil. This disrupts the argument about hot/cold and light/dark. According to the student, from best I can tell, you don't measure dark or light, ergo you don't measure good or evil (depending on what scale you use). I argue that you can measure good vs. evil, and you can have both. These are not the same thing.

The student then goes on to tackle the "because you don't see it, it can't exist" argument, which doesn't really work because his example is easily testable. Sure a thought is some chemical/electrical interaction in the brain which I don't understand (I would say neurologist have a pretty good idea, but there is a lot we don't understand about the brain), but then the student says we have no complete understanding of electricity and magnetism. We absolutely have complete understanding of E&M. Just ask Maxwell. We don't always see it, but we can measure and predict it's effects with ridiculous precision.

Student: Now tell me, Professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?

I'll answer for him; no, he's a philosophy professor. And to drive the point home, even if he were a biology professor he would tell you that we did not evolve from a monkey, but that at some point in time we and modern day apes (not monkeys) had a common ancestor. Of course I only differentiate us from apes for the sake of understanding as we are still apes.

Prof: If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, yes, of course, I do.

Student: Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?

(The Professor shakes his head with a smile, beginning to realize where the argument is going.)

Student: Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you not a scientist but a preacher? (The class is in uproar.)

BUZZ - wrong, game over. Evolution has been observed. Numerous instances have been observed. And, better yet, we understand this process so well, that it makes predictions (which are correct). Plus, we can even observe previous evolution by looking at the stuff that died before us. This information is friggin' everywhere. I hear this argument a lot; that science is a religion also. No, not at all.

Student: Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the Professor's brain?

(The class breaks out into laughter.)

Hahahaha - let's say our teacher is brainless. Classic. Calling the elitist learned professor dumb because he's educated.

Student : Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor's brain, felt it, touched or smelt it? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain,sir. With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your lectures, sir? (The room is silent. The professor stares at the student, his face unfathomable.)

This is becoming utter horse shit. The difference between a god and a brain (reference my mini-rant above about the natural and supernatural) is that we can use science to show there is a brain in the professor's head. And, being something I assert that never happened, the professor has no response while an actual professor (even of philosophy) would be able to argue that he did indeed have a brain because he breathes, thinks, talks, and that we have seen brains in every other breathing, thinking, talking specimen so it's reasonable to say that he does.

Prof: I guess you'll have to take them on faith, son.

Well, you don't actually, but cue the defeated intellectual.

Student: That is it sir.... The link between man & God is FAITH . That is all that keeps things moving & alive.

Sure, faith is all humanity really has of a deity. And? I'm not sure where the assertion that that's what keeps things "moving and alive" comes from. I would say that I will be breathing tomorrow because I have faith in it, but because that's what my brain does. Of course, I don't have to have faith that that's something my brain does because we know it (measured observed), but do I have to have faith that my brain knows what its doing and that I don't have to do it? This is why I don't like philosophical arguments. There isn't really ever a winner.

My take-away from this is there is no science in this at all. So, a long winded way of getting to the point that calling this email "God vs. Science" is a complete misnomer.

I stand by my statement that this exchange never took place. It completely reeks of hardcore Christian feel-goodery. A trouncing right from the Book of Samuel; David (student) even decapitates Goliath (professor) with Goliath's own sword (existence argument), just like the story! Way too convenient.

So the only real "debunk" here is that there was no science. Only weak, easily disputed philosophical arguments (on both sides) for the benefit of the target audience.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The "Debunk" - Episode I, Cash for Clunkers

While cleaning out my inbox (from the last few years), I ran across several emails of the chain variety. Being a Texas resident, I tend to randomly get ideological emails with which I generally don't agree. The subject of this one was the CARS program (Cash for Clunkers program) from 2009. Lots of conservatives I know have legitimate beefs with liberals and President Obama, but they tend to expand their disapproval to all the facets of the democrats policies. Now, I'm a socially liberal, fiscally conservative individual, and I generally side with liberals in elections while agreeing with facets of conservative doctrine. I genuinely thought "cash for clunkers" was a good program for both the economy and the environment. I've pasted the body of the email below, so give it a read. Then I'll go through it again with comments....

"Subject: Democrats Cash for Clunkers Program

A vehicle at 15 mpg and 12,000 miles per year uses 800 gallons a year of gasoline.

A vehicle at 25 mpg and 12,000 miles per year uses 480 gallons a year.

So, the average clunker transaction will reduce US gasoline consumption by 320 gallons per year.

They claim 700,000 vehicles exchanged in the Cash for Clunkers program – so that's 224 million gallons / year.

That equates to a bit over 5 million barrels of oil.

5 million barrels of oil is about ¼ of one day's US consumption.

And, 5 million barrels of oil costs about $350 million dollars at $75/bbl.

So, we all contributed to spending $3 billion to save $350 million.

How good a deal was that ???"

Gotta love these "one sided uses of math to prove how stupid President Obama is," numbers don't lie, right? Wrong. They lie when you use the wrong numbers. I'll go through this again with some comments to the thought process....

A vehicle at 15 mpg and 12,000 miles per year uses 800 gallons a year of gasoline.

12 000 / 15 = 800 gallons, fine with me.

A vehicle at 25 mpg and 12,000 miles per year uses 480 gallons a year.

12 000 / 25 = 480, this is already looking pretty good.

So, the average clunker transaction will reduce US gasoline consumption by 320 gallons per year.

800 - 480 = 320, nice. And that's per program participant. So when gas costs $2.50/gal that's a savings of $800/year.

They claim 700,000 vehicles exchanged in the Cash for Clunkers program – so that's 224 million gallons / year.

And 320 x 700 000 = 224 000 000 gallons saved. Just FYI, that's a lot of gas.

That equates to a bit over 5 million barrels of oil.

There is a non-negligible math error here, 224 000 000 / 42 = 5 333 333.33 barrels of oil, as there are 42 US gallons per barrel. That equates to a difference of 6.249%, which while you're working in absolutes as this emailer does, turns out to be significant later.

5 million barrels of oil is about ¼ of one day's US consumption.

According to the US Energy Administration, the US uses 18 771 000 barrels/day. So that is 28.4% of our daily consumption saved per year. But for arguments sake, sure, I can agree that it's about 25% of our daily consumption. This is really a statistic showing exactly how much gas we use.

18 771 000 x 365 = 6 851 415 000 (That's almost 7 billion barrels/year, ~ 290 billion gallons)

So the 5 333 333 barrels we save each year is only 0.07% less than our annual usage. But this email is about money, so we'll stick to that.

Fig. 1 - US Oil Consumption, US Energy Information Administration (

And, 5 million barrels of oil costs about $350 million dollars at $75/bbl.

5 000 000 x 75 = 375 000 000 (Error of 6.6%, and if you're keeping track, that's a compound error of more than 12% already). We've already established that its actually 5 333 333 barrels, and $75/barrel is a ridiculously conservative price for petrol. When I originally read this email it was about $79, and today its quoted at $91 on the stock market. So I'll do some easy math here:

Fig. 2 - From CNNMoney Stock Ticker on Dec. 28, 2010

5 333 333 x 75 = 399 999 975 (for simplicity, that's $400 million), or an error of 12.5% to their own math.

5 333 333 x 79 = 421 333 307, or an error of 17.8% (!) for the 2009 math. I won't do the 2010 ($90/barrel) calculation, since this was done for 2009, but that number will make itself apparent again later.

So, we all contributed to spending $3 billion to save $350 million.

This is where things get stupid and short-sighted. Using that logic, this does seem like a bum deal and exactly the conclusion the original author of the email wanted you to reach. "What? We spent $3 billion to save $350 million? Stupid Obama!" When in reality we are looking at a yearly savings of $420 million dollars. While that still seems like a drop in the bucket compared with $3 billion, the "long term" is not taken into account here. Saving $420 million dollars/year is a lot. That means we will make back that $3 billion in savings over the next 7.14 years, and every year after that the $420 million becomes flat savings.

How good a deal was that ???

A great deal. Considering that oil is already up to $90/barrel, and is speculated to continue to climb to as much as $5/gallon, saving $420 million/year is actually a conservative number. The initial $3 billion investment will only get returned sooner than expected with increased gas prices

5 333 333 x 75 = 375 000 000 (email authors conservative 2009 values)

5 333 333 x 90 = 480 000 000 (my 2010 values)

480 000 000 - 375 000 000 = 105 000 000 (increased savings in dollars from 2009 to 2010)

The math above shows that every year the savings increase by more than $100 million should oil prices keep increasing.

This is just one example of the little annoyances I get every now and again. Best I can tell, this conservative email has been properly thrashed. Go back to crying over a non-existent Kenyan birth certificate, jackass.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Let's Talk About Accents... Baby

From a young age, I have had a "knack" if you will for accents, impressions, or what-have-you. It actually all began in elementary school with a wicked Bill Clinton impersonation. Then, I started doing Apu and Snake from The Simpsons and now I'll try pretty much to do anything. My dad definetly fueled the fire as he did accents too and thought mine were funny. When I moved to the UK I was first exposed to the disparity in peoples impressions of a person based directly on their accent. It was here that I started to emulate the primary regional dialects of the British Isles; English, Irish, Scottish. The latter coming most naturally, but all convincing in their own right, I tend to fall into most readily. The best use of this skill came a few years later at college in the US. For, while UK girls couldn't care less about an American accent, US girls tend to get lubed up at the sound of an accent from, well, anywhere but the US. After several successes and failures (which I'll delve into more specifically as appropriate) I managed to devise rules for using said accents. And now, an Overly-Pretentious production, I give you...

Accents: The Simple Rules to Follow

1) This is probably the most important rule of all. Don't use your accent if you want (or expect) to see the girl again. This rule does not really pertain to any success/failure criteria, but protects the user of the accent from future smiting by a girl he likes. If you use an accent, and the story behind it, to pick a girl up, that is how she knows you. And I've learned the ladies have a particular dislike for dudes whose their first encounter with turned out to be nothing but bald-faced lies. If you're planning a one night thing for whatever reason, knock yourself out. You would also not believe how the odds play out with girls finding you again either. At a late-night party in college, in an attempt to get more girls to the event, my friend Geary told some girls he was talking with on the phone to "Talk to his sexy-accented Scottish friend." This was of course my cue to put the accent on and get the girls to the party. After speaking with several girls on the phone and hearing "OH MY GOD YOUR ACCENT IS SO HOT" more than once, a young lady got on the phone an after talking to me a few moments says, "Wait a minute, I know you. You're the accent guy!"I of course denied the claims but she had me pegged. We hooked up at a party months before and I had subsequently not called her. Needless to say, this was an immediate ABORT. I made up an excuse and handed the phone back. We got bit in the ass about that one.

2) When talking to a girl while using an accent, go with what you know. Nothing spells accent-related disaster faster than trying to make up a story on the fly. I was lucky enough to have been to Scotland several times and lived in the UK for many years. This made it easy for me to have a convincing back story (it was generally true). The easiest way to muddle through this quagmire is to fake only the accent. Stick with your actual life, but, you know, sounding sexy. This leads to the inevitable question, "Why do you have an accent?" This is easy, you go with either the:
A) I was born here, but moved afterwards then came back (if you already let it slip you're from the US), or...
B) I was born there, and came back after learning to talk
Both of these are reasonable because, generally, no one remembers what learning to talk was like anyway so you don't get questions about it. You are then able to continue on with your life-story without having to fabricate any further.

3) Like any good group of dudes, you'll have a wing-man, the point here is to collaborate with your boys. If you decide an accent is the way to go, make sure the guys around you know the score before the game begins. As fake accents aren't uncommon in the US scene, girls like to confirm before getting too heavily invested in the social situation. So make sure your guy friends know what accent your using, where you're "from," and the "origins" of your accent. Conflicting stories will also kill you plan. If you're heading out with a friend who will drop the charade because he's got a chance, you might want to forgo using an accent around him, or remind him that a guy with an accent will increase the odds of everyone in the group scoring. Even better, if you've got a good chick friend, make sure she knows the story as girls at the bar/party will be more likely to trust her.

Fig. 1 - This Should be Your Pregame

4) One of the stranger tips is to go it alone. This meaning be the only accent in the group, not troll for booty by yourself. It's just as sexually suicidal to go alone (just you without any other people) when picking up ladies. While I have done accent-man-dates, then tend to not work out as well. Though fun, for some reason having two dudes in one group with accents (either from common, or different countries) sets off an internal alarm for girls. They become immediately suspicious. From #2 and #3, I try to give tips to avoid or alleviate suspicion. It's natural that they are with all the impostors trying to gain entry to their knickers. But two accented dudes is just too much. But the suspicion aroused by two accents is incredibly difficult to over come. There are enough questions and dodges to remember for one person; now multiply that by two. And trying to keep other peoples stories straight is hard enough while trying to make sure yours jives as well. If you and a friend have good enough accents to both do it, go by the KISS principle.

5) Finally, it's always important to know your country. If you have to do some geographical, historical, or even societal/current events research about your accent's country, then do it. Any little thing (and little things are often best) you know about your "homeland" is points in your favor. Oh, and if you're doing an accent and you start chatting with a girl who is any of the following:
A) a native of the country which accent you're mimicking
B) lived/lives in the country which accent you're mimicking
C) studies that country
Any of those criteria should lead to an immediate abort. This girl probably knows more about your homeland than you do.

Fig. 2 - Believe it or Not, This is Actually a Problem for Some Folks

These tips by no means guarantee success. But if you follow them, it should increase your odds. So, remember know your homeland, be the only accent in your group, make sure the crew knows what is going on, have believable story, and never use the accent for a woman you want to see again.

Image credits:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Gayest Metal Bands

The first thing to note about this is that I may like some of the following bands, regardless of what screaming benders they are. There are several factors which make these bands gay. All of these factors will become exceedingly apparent during the course of the post. As a public service announcement; I have absolutely nothing against gay people, it was just the best adjective for describing some of these queers....

I know I'll get ran up the flagpole for this one. The first thing you'll be thinking is, "Gene Simmons?? There is no way that muthuh-fuckas gay!" And you'd be correct. I, in fact, like Gene. But Kiss is an absolute nostalgia band. Everyone loves thinking back to the '70s and how cool Kiss was and how much their parents hated that they were going to see them.

1 - Lois Just Told Peter "Kiss is Gay"

Did you know Kiss has 19 albums? Yes, 19. I am a metal head, and you know how many Kiss songs I can name? Two. Detroit Rock City, and Rock 'n Roll All Nite. So we've established that they weren't particularly memorable musically, now lets dissect the rest. The face paint was a total hook. It took a gimmicky jaunt like face paint to get them noticed. Other than that, the platform shoes aren't helping them any. They were definitely a testament to the disco era, but what metal musician wants to be associated with "Saturday Night Fever" or the "Bee-Gees?" No one, that's who. And I know Kiss has a lot of fans, both inside and, outside metal. I just don't feel it.
Conclusion: totally gay.

Judas Priest
This is the first of several bands on this list that I really, really like. Judas Priest is freaking metal. And for those of you I might be catching unawares, Rob Halford (singer for Judas Priest) is gay. Like, actual gay, the digs-other-dudes gay. But damn does he rock.

2 - As if the Leather Chaps Weren't Enough, Rob had to go Crotchless

Once you really listen to some Priest songs, you start to figure it out. Even the titles kind of give it away. If songs like "Turbo Lover," "Ram it Down," and "Hot for Love" didn't give it away, their penchant for chains and leather (of the dominatrix style) surely drives the point home.
Conclusion: totally awesome, totally gay.

Motely Crue
One phrase can sum-up the homosexualitute of Motely Crue: Glam Rock. It was the '80s, getting noticed was hard. So the solution? Lets make our band of men look like women. Glam rock is the skid-mark on the whitey-tighties of metal. Motely Crue did most metal right; had some kick-ass riffs, fast drums, and loved their sex and drugs. I do like more Motely Crue tunes than I'd care to admit to a large (small) group of readers, but that doesn't change how freakin' gay they looked on stage. It wasn't just the obscenely tight pants, knee-high boots, and spandex, it was (notice recurring theme) the make-up.
3 - These Guys Look Like Girls

This wasn't even in the same vein as Kiss, this was flat out use of Revlon and Rimmel London products. Call me crazy, but if you're a metal band and need to go to a Mary Kay party before you go on tour? Well, that dog just won't hunt, sir.
Conclusion: visually gay.

This is another one that I really enjoy. Ronnie James Dio (b. 1942 - d. 2010), aside from developing the iconic "Devil's Horns" gesture synonymous with metal worldwide (it was NOT Gene Simmons), rocked for decades with his project Dio as well as Black Sabbath.

4 - We Will Miss You, Your Majesty

Dio did have one thing that made them... you know. Dio had this fantastic lyricism. They sung of unicorns, angels and demons. It was just a little gay. Oh, and the one song to rule them all as far as gay? Rainbow in the Dark. Cut, print, gay.
Conclusion: lyrically gay

These guys suffer from the same token as Dio, their lyricism is a bit queer. Aside from that, every Dragonforce music video I have ever seen has this "dueling guitarists" motif that annoys the shit out of me. They'll have one of their (completely ridiculous) guitarist play some solo, then he'll drink some beer while the other one plays an equally technical solo, and back and forth.

5 - Beer and Solos

It's like watching a really fast paced game of Pong on an old CRT TV.
Conclusion: music video-ly gay.

Linkin Park
Now, I'm not sayin' these queers are queers, but if the streets were paved with pricks they'd be dragging their asses. There are few bands I dislike more than Linkin Park. How is it possible they still try to play-off this angsty, teenage persona? There is only one time and place wherein you, or anyone else on this rock, are allowed to cry about high school. You what that's called? High school. Everyone else seems to understand it. I mean, once someone gets out of high school, they stop complaining about the people who beat them up, or how your parents never understand you, or how I couldn't get any girls... uh, I mean, how they couldn't get any girls. It's a right of passage. Mature, evolve, change, understand it. I don't know anyone who listened to Linkin Park in high school and still likes their stuff today. Not letting go, especially of all that crap is epically gay. The band also has this retarded lyricism to their songs. It's all insufferable poetry and obvious metaphors that speak to the arrested intellectual development of these homos. "These lines don't make sense grammatically or lyrically? Fuck it, no one listens to the words anyway."
Conclusion: unwaveringly gay.

During their shows, this band uses a giant phallus to spray white matter on the crowd. That is all.
Conclusion: phallically gay.

Photo Credits:
1 - Family Guy/Seth MacFarlane
5 - Screen shot from "Through the Fire and the Flames" music video,

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Would You Like to See How This Works?

I guess it was inevitable. As most things, I will generally fervidly oppose doing something I would enjoy purely to maintain my dignity until I eventually cave and give in. This has happened on several occasions. Most topically is probably facebook; I got on to that, after resisting for a little while, and got really into it. Most recently would have to be Texas, I'm starting to accept the fact that I was born here (but that may be out of spite in order to aggravate the people who wish they were born here) and I am actually enjoying living here now.

Like most people who blog (not all), I am under the impression that what I have to say is important, insightful, intelligent, pertinent, controversial, indisputable, poignant, divine, astute, clever, soulful, sorrowful, sagacious, apathetic, sympathetic, exclusive, exceptional or any combination thereof. But unlike most people, my blog most unambiguously will be all of the former. By this time you should be aware of why this blog is titled the way it is. If not? Don't let the door bestow upon you a sense of humor on the way out.

Back to how this works; I'll give you a brief overview of the last 27 years and 8 seconds. Ready? Born in Texas, moved to several Middle Eastern countries, back to the US, middle school, loser, nerd, geek, straight As, baseball, Colorado, broken bones, Houston, high school, loser, nerd, drivers license, manual transmission, England, loser, nerd, rugby, college, loser, nerd, COOL, aerospace, rugby, band practice, beer, Texas, NASA, NEEEERRRD, graduate school, physics, fiancee, dogs, house, nerd. Then you click the button to follow my blog. Are you surprised I'm still a nerd? No? Then we'll end on, "then you click the button to follow my blog."