Screaming Into The Abyss

The Internet Countdown
By Ben Zvan
On January 30, 2015 at 12:32
Politics

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Thomas Dolby's "The Invisible Lighthouse"
By
On November 06, 2013 at 12:59
Politics

Thomas Dolby

I took some pictures of Thomas Dolby at The Cedar last night. Steph wrote a review.

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An excellent ad campaign. Check it out.

UN Women

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Atheists need to...
By Ben Zvan
On August 09, 2012 at 09:32
Politics

While getting ready for work this morning, I read this on twitter:

So I thought I'd try some autocompletes. The results were interesting.

atheists need to
atheists need to shut up
atheists need to shut
atheists need to die
atheists need to chill

christians need to
christians need to wake up
christians need to die
christians need to stand up
christians need to grow up

muslims need to die
muslims need to be exterminated
muslims need to chill
muslims need to grow up

jews need to
jews need to die
jews need to get over the holocaust
jews need to be perfected
jews need to be exterminated

Nobody seems to know anything about mormons:
mormons need to
mormons need to work to increase favor
things you need to know about mormons
everything you need to know about mormons
what you need to know about mormons

I guess buddhists and agnostics don't need anything:
buddhists need to
agnostics need to

And taoists might as well be atheists:
taoists need to
atheists need to shut up
atheists need to shut
atheists need to die
atheists need to chill

So what about "atheists are?"

atheists are
atheists are
atheists are retarded
atheists are smarter
atheists are so stupid

christians are
christians are crazy
christians are ignorant
christians are hypocrites
christians are delusional

muslims are
muslims are exempt from obamacare (wait...what?)
muslims are animals
muslims are coming
muslims are crazy

jews are
jews are a race
jews are not white
jews are not a race
jews are white

mormons are
mormons are crazy
mormons are not christians
mormons are christians
mormons are a cult

buddhists are
buddhists are atheists
buddhists are killing muslims
buddhists are vegetarians
buddhists are hypocrites

taoists are
taoists think caves are
are taoists atheists
what are taoists beliefs
are taoists vegetarians

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Curiosity Landing
By Ben Zvan
On August 06, 2012 at 09:11
Politics

So we made it to Mars again and geeks like me everywhere stayed up extra late to watch the live event. We were not dissappointed. To see the first photos come back seconds after langing, even though the dust cap was still on the camera was an amazing thing.

I stayed up. I was excited. I wasn't quite as excited as the people in the video, but I was excited.

Here's what really gets me though. When Curiosity touched down after the sky-crane manouver, I was struck by just how excited the people at JPL were about this. My first thought: "Holy crap! It's like the opening of a Microsoft store ... except they're all wearing the same color shirt."

It's been 50 years since we first put humans on the moon. In 50 years, airplanes went from a tentative unpowered glider in North Carolina to the supersonic Bell X-1; why haven't we done the same for space flight? I mean...should we be this excited by going to Mars? Shouldn't it be old hat by now?

Don't get me wrong. I'm excited. The science that's going to come out of this mission will enrich our lives for years to come and the new technology that went into creating the mission is probably just hitting our cellphones and clothing stores. I just think we're missing out on a lot of opportunty. Heck, we spent the entire budget of this mission in less than a month in Iraq...Just think what we could be doing with more balanced priorities.

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The Debunk Files
By Ben Zvan
On July 23, 2012 at 09:38
Politics

I just wanted a place to keep handy links to debunk common misconceptions.

 

Global Warming

Volcanoes produce more CO2 than humans

Turns out the USGS has an artice on that one here.

Gas studies at volcanoes worldwide have helped volcanologists tally up a global volcanic CO2 budget in the same way that nations around the globe have cooperated to determine how much CO2 is released by human activity through the burning of fossil fuels. Our studies show that globally, volcanoes on land and under the sea release a total of about 200 million tonnes of CO2 annually.

This seems like a huge amount of CO2, but a visit to the U.S. Department of Energy's Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC) website (http://cdiac.ornl.gov/) helps anyone armed with a handheld calculator and a high school chemistry text put the volcanic CO2 tally into perspective. Because while 200 million tonnes of CO2 is large, the global fossil fuel CO2 emissions for 2003 tipped the scales at 26.8 billion tonnes. Thus, not only does volcanic CO2 not dwarf that of human activity, it actually comprises less than 1 percent of that value.

 

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Human Embrionic Stem Cells

Adult stem cell therapy exists, embrionic stem cell therapy does not

Turns out there's some promise in human embrionic stem cells. You can even start new lines without destroying the fetus (which was probably going to be destroyed anyway.) RPE therapy.

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Too Many Laws?
By Ben Zvan
On November 16, 2011 at 10:31
Politics

I don't gamble, but I do play poker. In fact, it turns out I'm pretty good at poker despite still having to sit and calculate the odds sometimes. One thing that playing poker has helped me learn is that people do stupid things to get ahead. Consequently, there are stupid rules to keep them from doing it.

For example, if a player puts in only one chip and that chip is worth more than the current bet, unless they announce that they are raising that chip is considered a call and they are owed change from the pot. This keeps the player from getting information from other players' reactions prior to deciding if they will call or raise.

Lewis Black has a similar rant on the topic:

They needed to do this because as the Jews were wandering around willy-nilly in the desert, one of them no doubt led a camel up to a rabbi and said, "I met her at an oasis and it's been wonderful. She looked at me in a way that I've always wanted to be looked at. We're in love and, well, Rabbi, we want to be married."

And the rabbi said, "Perhaps you didn't notice, but she's a fucking camel." Then he went back to the other rabbis and informed them, "Son of a bitch, we have to come up with another rule! Today a guy came back with a camel and yesterday one of them showed up with a snapping turtle. God knows what's going to happen tomorrow. We've got to get these people on track." Hence, the man-woman marriage rule in the Bible.

 

So when you complain that a law is stupid, realize that it's because someone did something stupid to cause it to become a law. When McDonalds started labeling their coffee as 'hot' because of a 'frivolous lawsuit,' realize that the person who brought that lawsuit suffered 3rd degree burns from 'hot' coffee. When you think that helmet laws infringe on your right to let your hair blow in the wind on your motorcycle, realize that it frees others from the trauma of killing you in the event of an accident.

Not that there isn't such a thing as a truly stupid law.

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Freedom Versus Safety
By Ben Zvan
On August 22, 2011 at 08:56
Politics

Safety FirstI'm afraid you might be in for a bit of a rambling rant.

On 19 August, 2011, 4 people died at a the Pukkelpop Music Festival in Hasselt Belgium, just 5 days after 4 people were killed by a collapsing stage at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis.

To me, this is a fine example of "build it cheap, get it done, and damn the consequences," a mentality that penetrates any money-making operation. It is also a fine opportunity to discus why we have safety regulations and why they should be enforced.

I would think that restaurants would welcome health inspectors, that factories would welcome safety inspectors, and that construction contractors would welcome building inspectors. I would think that these companies would understand that injuring or killing their customers or employees would not be the desired outcome of their business transactions.

Sadly, as @arclight said on Twitter last night "Every industrial safety regulation can be traced back to at least one headstone."

And from @CaerwynFarm: "You would be surprised how often I have to answer a request at work with "Cuz it is F'ing illegal!"

In the US, it took until 1971 for the government to set up the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Since then the rate of reported serious workplace injuries and illnesses has declined from 11 per 100 workers in 1972 to 3.6 per 100 workers in 2009. There are no accurate statistics from 1970, but it is estimated around 70 workers were killed on the job per 1,000,000 US residents. That number fell to approximately 14 per 1,000,000 in 2009.

If you're a Republican or Libertarian (and if you are why are you reading this?) you'll be about to say something like "I guess you want to live in a nanny state. I, quite frankly, am tired of the one I live in." Which...I guess...is your right...at least to say...but it also makes you a complete ass. How can you possibly feel that employers have the "freedom" to kill their workers or that builders have the "freedom" to kill their customers? The plain fact is that people who profit from cutting corners need nannies to stop them from hurting people for profit.

I find it ironic that the ideology that feels employers should be allowed to maintain unsafe workplaces is the same ideology that feels workers should not be allowed to collectively bargain. Most of the people buying a company's two-bit products probably care less about the people who made them than the company does.

Your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose. Your right not to wear a motorcycle helmet ends at your family suing me for your death in a crash. Your right to build with cheap materials ends at my right not to die when your building falls on me.

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Dear Jon Stewart
By Ben Zvan
On August 16, 2011 at 09:07
Politics

An open letter to Jon Stewart and The Daily Show that they will probably never read AKA slacktivism extraordinaire.

Dear Jon Stewart,

I am a liberal and I love the way you mock hypocrisy even when that mocking is directed at the hypocrisy of other liberals. I am an atheist and I love the way you mock the hypocrisy of religion, even when that mocking is directed at the hypocrisy of others with no religion. I believe that it is a hallmark of liberals that we are able to see both sides of the debate and through that vision have come to side with the most correct side of the debate.

Recently, however, you mocked the American Atheists desire to be free from religious symbols at the September Eleventh Memorial in New York. This moves beyond the mocking of hypocrisy and into the mocking of what minorities already endure on a daily basis.

I agree that the American Atheists could have made their comments more sensitively and they could have avoided openly mocking religion in this context; that's really your job, not theirs. But I can't help but wonder why you are in favor of having a Christian symbol at a national memorial where Christians, Jews, atheists, Muslims and others were killed in a horrific, religiously-driven attack against the United States. In other contexts, you seem to be in favor of the First Amendment separation of church and state, why are you against it now?

 

The Daily Show - Culture War Update - The Dividening of America - American Atheists vs. Ground Zero Cross
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,The Daily Show on Facebook


Atheists endure daily threats of death, violence, rape and vandalism simply because they don't believe in a god. They face daily reminders that the majority of the United States sees them as outsiders. You ask that atheists to 'just think of it as a metal t-shaped thingy.' That is akin to asking blacks in the south faced with the KKK standing on their front lawn to 'just think of them as campers making s'mores with that t-shaped burney thing' or to ask Jews to think of neo-nazi skinheads as 'just clean-shaven history buffs.'

I am happy that this cross currently rests at St. Peter's Church and hope that it will not be moved and included in any state-sponsored memorial or museum. Those i-beams may have been just a t-shaped thingy at one point, but once it has been raised on a concrete plinth and blessed by Christian leaders it becomes a cross, and that cross could only serve to make non-religious visitors to the memorial feel unwelcome.

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You Say She Was Asking For It?
By Ben Zvan
On February 25, 2011 at 09:24
Politics

I woke up early today to get in a couple hours of exercise before starting my normal routine. One of the first things I saw was a link to this article about a convicted rapist who won't be doing any time because Judge Robert Dewar in Manitoba said his victim was 'asking for it' by dressing suggestively and kissing her assailant.

Of course, the first thing I thought of was the Not Ever campaign and their advertisement.

I wonder if Judge Dewar would tell a man wearing a Rolex who was robbed at knife-point that they were 'asking for it' by dressing smartly. Or if he would tell a mother who's child was kidnapped that she was 'asking for it' by having an adorable family. Or maybe he'd tell the family of a pedestrian who was killed by a drunk driver that he was 'asking for it' by being out walking after last call.

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Arts

New Pictures 8: Sarah Jones
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
04/18/2013—02/02/2014 - Free

31 Years: Gifts from Martin Weinstein
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
11/02/2013—08/31/2014 - Free

New Pictures 9: Rinko Kawauchi
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
02/20/2014—08/10/2014 - Free

Finland: Designed Environments
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
05/10/2014—08/17/2014 - Free

Music

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
at State Theatre
06/21/2014 \ Doors 8:00pm

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