That’s true, that’s true.

While I’m being a little tender, reading blogs over the last five years or so has revealed an interesting demographic slant. Science-fiction loving atheists write almost 100% of the blogs I enjoy.

As I’ve learned, that’s a large population of libertarians, but it still seems strange to me. I’m not religious, in that organized religion is too interested in doctrine without concern for actual faith. I’m not much of a joiner, either. Still, I’m not an atheist. I move closer to that position all the time, but I doubt I’ll ever move further than my present agnostic-bent.

The love for science-fiction¹ is entirely new to me. I enjoy sci-fi movies like many Americans. I’ve just never given much thought to those stories in written form. I don’t know why. Probably the socially-awkward, introverted nerd stereotype blocked me, which is strange because, with a little more showering than the stereotype, I am the stereotype. But I’ve figured out that I should question my perception and be open-minded about it. I might like it. I’ve bought one audiobook novel, and I’ll probably borrow a few paperbacks from the library to give it a shot. (I’m open to suggestions for novels.)

I don’t find either of these mysterious. The connection to libertarianism is not only prevalent, it’s obvious. Reason provides the objective link to how individuals should be treated. I will abandon faith whenever reason demands it. And I love technology. I’m just amazed at how effortlessly, and without thought of wanting to know more about those two areas, that I came to having them both central in what I want to learn.

¹ I don’t foresee any future interest in Fantasy. Harry Potter is about as far into the fantasy genre as I can get.

The topic is serious. The process is sport.

Kip was wrong. Until now, I was the last person in the blogosphere who hadn’t posted this comic from Xkcd:

This is quite true for me. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve told Danielle to hang on, I just need to finish a comment. But, while the accuracy of the comic is spot-on, the tone is missing completely. The reader must insert a contextual judgment. For that, I refer you to John Scalzi’s Whatever:

Krissy used to worry that I got too wrapped up in absolutley [sic] pointless Internet slugfests until the day she realized that the reason I did it was because I was having fun, not because I was massively emotionally invested. I might stay up to thump on someone online, but once I step away from the monitor, it’s done. Letting people you don’t even know get you all wound up is no way to go through life.

The slugfests I get involved in concern exactly what you think they concern. Still, Mr. Scalzi is correct. On my chosen subject, I know I’m right. I do not engage in an attempt to fix someone’s thinking. I seek to refine my thinking and debate skills against common irrationality and misunderstanding. It’s self-improvement, not fighting.

Another benefit from forced duty.

My pregnant sister-in-law’s water broke last night, so I’m going to miss the family gathering surrounding the birth of my niece today by approximately 12 hours. If she’s lucky, my niece can have the same opportunity should she dare to exercise her constitutional right to vote in 2026.

Have I mentioned that I’m in favor of professional jurors, individuals who would be competent and paid a market wage to voluntarily work?

“It’s kind of a random proximity thing.”

I’m not going to claim a large tale of woe. I’m fine, and I expect to stay that way. But having a chunk of my neck excised to remove my first basal cell carcinoma marks today as less than one of the highlights of my life. I say first because, with my fair skin, I don’t expect it to be my last. Joy. Wear sunscreen.

Rather than meditate on life in a way that seems irrationally melodramatic given the circumstances, I’ll take this opportunity to say how grateful I am for American health care. Whatever its faults may be, it worked for me in this instance. I say that even though I’m paying the entire expense out-of-pocket because I have a high-deductible insurance plan. (Sometimes, I actually walk my talk.) We need to be very careful how we encourage politicians to interfere. Turn them lose and they’ll bulldoze our system of care, not the system of political incentives that are the real problem.

With that, my wound is throbbing. I’m going to mindlessly play video games.

P.S. Link title reference here.

I can (almost) die now.

I’ve mentioned a time or twenty-five that I love Alias. I’ve carried this love so far as to see The Paris Letter in New York, even though the Broadway cast did not include Neil Patrick Harris, because it starred Ron Rifkin, aka Arvin Sloane. The play was actually interesting, but that wouldn’t have mattered. With a primary cast member from Alias, my ticket purchase is guaranteed.

So it was with Cyrano de Bergerac. It does not star a primary cast member of Alias. During its 10-week run, it stars THE primary cast member of Alias, Sydney Bristow Jennifer Garner.

I purchased tickets the morning they went on sale for the first weekend, which happens to be this weekend. The show is in previews for the first two weeks, which meant there would potentially be “issues” with the show. That didn’t matter. Jennifer Garner. I’d pay to watch dress rehearsal, which turned out to be kinda what we saw. As Danielle recapped today:

… Kevin Kline basically carries the whole show, and is marvelous, but one man can’t carry an entire Anthony Burgess adaptation of the classic tale, y’know? At several points, when Kline wasn’t on stage or speaking, I felt like I was watching a high school theater club. After one scene change, the translucent curtain got caught and the entire production had to stop for ten minutes so some crew guys could come out and fix it. Quite hilarious and a first for me. We think we even caught Jennifer Garner starting to laugh. Even with all of its missteps and faults, the audience rose to their feet for curtain call, cheering Kline’s worthy performance.

Basically, the show is a disaster in its current form, despite the presence of Kevin Kline. The opening scenes desperately need a trim. The cast needs to act with each other rather than at each other. Someone needs to figure out how to operate the curtain. And so on.

But Jennifer Garner! And being a Broadway play, two more words come into play: stage door. I did not get an autograph like I recently managed from Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal while they performed in their return to Rent, but being up close was worth driving to New York to spend barely six hours in the city.

It’s August. Prep-work for the heartbreak must occur.

It’s that time of year again. Summer is winding down. The last whiffs of meat charring on barbecue grills are in the air. Temperatures are making a final push higher before their looming decline into autumn. School buses are getting waxed and refueled. The Phillies are making a push for the post-season.

For the better part of the last seven years, the Phillies have followed the same routine. Slump horribly in April. Play en fuego throughout May. Swoon rhymes with June for a reason. July brings an improbable hint of life. The last few sputters in the playoff engine burn out in the first days of August as the team pulls itself back into contention. Playoff optimism fever strikes the Phandom. And at some point, this always happens:

Despite every persistent, justified note of pessimism, the Phillies have a chance. The road to the playoffs is clear, lit up like Clark Griswold’s house at Christmas. Phans begin scanning travel websites to figure out the myriad of possibilities for traveling to the World Series League Championship Series Divisional playoffs. Optimism is the only rule of the day.

Yet, somewhere in the back of every phan’s mind, he or she knows. We’ve been here before. This time isn’t going to be different. The collection of tickets to playoff games that never happened litter the hidden memorabilia box in the closet, tucked into the original envelope because they’re too painful to look at every day. The hot streaks will come to a close somewhere in September. The details of the script aren’t set, although we can’t shake the feeling that our nation’s capital is now the swamp where Philadelphia’s October dreams go to die. How will it happen this year? That’s all we can think about.

And yet, this year is no different. We want to believe, so we let ourselves believe. We allow a brief glimpse of “what if this year is different?” slip through the cracks of our mental barricades. Maybe, we think, we’ll be able to look back on this team the way we look back at 1993. That team shouldn’t have succeeded the way it did. Even with the almost fulfillment of the goal that year, that was our team. “They” became “we”. We almost won it all. We could taste it. It was ours. We love those guys. We want these guys to mean as much to us as those guys. We wonder if it can happen again.

Like every other phan who’s checking scores from around the league every day to see how the Phightin’s are holding up for October, we know how this will end, except we allow ourselves to get suckered sucked in once again. We’re along for the ride, even when we expect it to crash horribly and, inevitably, far too short of the road’s end. We believe this year will be different.

Please let it be different this year.

I remember why I don’t drink or do drugs.

I have a few items to write about, but I just had some vegan jello. It’s good, except it has beet powder in it.

Beets + Tony = BADBADBAD

I’m very manic right now and probably going to pop. I feel like there are 10,000 pinballs on the inside edge of my skin trying to break free from their bonds. My head wants to be twice its normal size. And Danielle says my face is red. I can imagine.

Blogging will resume when I come down from this high, probably tomorrow. It’s a small wonder I was able to spell everything correctly, though you have no idea how many times I’ve used the backspace key in writing this short entry.

Are you allergic to or do you respond to anything this way?

Who told him how atheists think?

When I commented that Michael Gerson is full of wrong ideas, I didn’t expect him to so quickly be the gift that keeps giving, this time with a ramble about questions unanswerable by atheists. I am not an atheist, so Mr. Gerson’s nonsense isn’t directed at people like me. Many of his assumptions are, because the questions answered by belief in Mr. Gerson’s god rely on irrationality. For example:

But there is a problem. Human nature, in other circumstances, is also clearly constructed for cruel exploitation, uncontrollable rage, icy selfishness and a range of other less desirable traits.

So the dilemma is this: How do we choose between good and bad instincts? Theism, for several millennia, has given one answer: We should cultivate the better angels of our nature because the God we love and respect requires it. While many of us fall tragically short, the ideal remains.

How do we choose? This is a trick question, right? How about we use our subjective reasoning to decide what we value most. I could be cruel to someone weaker than me. The opportunity presents itself and it’s in human nature to act on that. Why not act on it?

Mr. Gerson knows the answers, of course, although he only offers one option for the atheist (and non-religious).

Some argue that a careful determination of our long-term interests — a fear of bad consequences — will constrain our selfishness. But this is particularly absurd. Some people are very good at the self-centered exploitation of others. Many get away with it their whole lives. By exercising the will to power, they are maximizing one element of their human nature. In a purely material universe, what possible moral basis could exist to condemn them? Atheists can be good people; they just have no objective way to judge the conduct of those who are not.

It’s not particularly absurd to claim that a fear of bad consequences influences our behavior. If a person has a marginal appreciation for what we consider ethics and morals, however and from wherever they derive, the fear of bad consequences will matter. If that person values something, but is unconcerned with taking from another to acquire it, the threat of prison looms. (Except for politicians, of course.) So he makes a choice. Society responds accordingly, if he chooses what it prohibits.

But that’s not all there is, of course. Mr. Gerson seems compelled to believe that God put in many wonderful features in human nature, yet he implicitly dismisses any concept that atheists might value these features more than the opportunity to cruelly exploit, rage uncontrollably, and so on. If atheists understand that such negatives exist, even if they believe them to be a result of evolution, surely they are capable of understanding and acting on the positives. Such evaluations are subjective. Without God, the evaluation is not doomed to embrace Lord of the Flies.

All of this leads Mr. Gerson to conclude that atheists and theists alike agree that humans “have an innate desire for morality and purpose”. Right, because it’s human nature. This is complicated? But theists are somehow acting rationally because they believe that God is in control of this. Atheists?

In a world without God, however, this desire for love and purpose is a cruel joke of nature — imprinted by evolution, but destined for disappointment, just as we are destined for oblivion, on a planet that will be consumed by fire before the sun grows dim and cold.

Do atheists never find love? Purpose? Meaning? The evidence doesn’t hold up, of course, because there are more than enough atheists to disprove Mr. Gerson’s ridiculous assumption. But it’s pleasant to know that believing in a loving god who has us all “destined for oblivion, on a planet that will be consumed by fire” because we cave to the negative temptations of human nature he presumably gave us is the only reasonable and justifiable position.


Mr. Gerson makes this statement as parenthetical aside in his column, so I didn’t include it in my primary focus. Still, it’s worth mentioning because Mr. Gerson has made this error before.

… An irreverent trinity — Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins — has sold a lot of books accusing theism of fostering hatred, repressing sexuality and mutilating children (Hitchens doesn’t approve of male circumcision). Every miracle is a fraud. Every mystic is a madman. And this atheism is presented as a war of liberation against centuries of spiritual tyranny.

Forced genital cutting without medical indication is genital mutilation. Forget spiritual tyranny. It is physical tyranny. Mr. Gerson can advocate for the circumcision of male children as often as he likes, and dress it up with as many biblical references as he pleases to justify such mutilation. He will be wrong every time. The medical facts do not support him, but what he implicitly argues here, that circumcision is acceptable because people attach religious meaning to perpetuating it upon male infants, is irrelevant. We live in a civil society of guaranteed, inherent rights. The right to remain free of medically-unnecessary surgery without explicit consent is among those rights.

I will repeat myself as often as necessary. Any god who would demand such an abomination is not a god who deserves respect or allegiance.