Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Ha! Okay, what I just said there was totally ridiculous. Honestly, I don't really have a whole lot of people debating me on my blog, although it's been known to happen. While I suppose it is my prerogative to stop posting comments, I would never dream of doing it. After all, I stand by what I write, and I welcome disagreements. Shoot, I've even been known to ammend my opinion on things (like circumcision - I was pretty deadfast against it, but I developed a more nuanced opinion about it after getting into a debate about it), which I personally see as a good thing.
What prompted my little joke at the start of this entry was something that has come up lately, and frankly has always bothered me. I can't stand it when somebody brings something up and then tells you that they don't want to talk about it. I suppose that most people would find this to be only a minor annoyance, but to me it's aggravating as hell. In fact, I once had a family member bring up a subject a few years ago on which I had a strong opinion (and I also had, like, facts, to support it) and then proceed to tell me not to say anything about it. For me, that's maddening. I mean, if you don't want me to bring something up, I suppose that I can handle that (with some resistence) but if you don't want to hear what I have to say on a given issue, then don't start talking about the subject!
This came up a little bit more recently with a family member (in-law of an in-law) on Facebook, where he would post all sorts of ultra-right wing buffoonery and then I would respond to it. Then, he'd get all bent out of shape, citing his right to believe what he wants. The thing that I couldn't seem to drill in his head was that he was posting to a public forum, and in a public forum he does indeed have the right to express himself, but then I have the right to express myself right back at him. Ultimately, he tried to have some sort of a truce where neither one of us would be allowed to comment on one another's postings. To hell with that!
The thing is, I don't care if somebody wants to try and contradict what I have to say. The worst thing that will happen is that I'll change my mind, which could very well be a good thing! So, I told him that my only precondition was that we were to have no preconditions. He didn't go for it and proceeded to drop me from his friends list. Oh darn. In all honesty, I'm neither upset nor happy. I simply don't care.
Now, I hate to generalize here, but this is something that I tend to notice more and more from people who are supposed "conservatives". A friend of mine told me last night of a friend of hers who actually stated that she wanted to be able to just say her piece on a given topic and then not have it turn into a debate. In other words, "I can say whatever I want, but you don't get to say squat." I have certain in-laws (no, not my mother and father in-laws - they're not like that at all) who will do the same thing - bring up a subject but then end it when people say things that they don't like. Lastly, I can't help but recall the Rappin' Jesus guy at the Prop 8 protest, where his friends actively told him to not try and debate with me.
I suppose that there might be more liberally-minded people who are the same way and the only reason that I don't notice it from them is because I already tend to agree, so this issue never comes up. Hey, if there are any of you conservatives out there who do indeed like to debate, and you have an anecdote about a liberal who behaves this way, please post it in the comments section.
To me, it shows a weak mind, and an insecurity in one's point of view to not be able to handle other people commenting on what you have to say. Don't get me wrong. I realize that sometimes when an argument just keeps going on and on in circles, eventually somebody has to say, "You know what? Maybe we just need to drop this because it's not going anywhere." And I'll be the first to admit that I'm usually the last person to do that. This, however, is not what I'm talking about.
Remember, you have the freedom to speak bullshit, and I have the freedom to call it bullshit.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
How sad for them.
Let's forget about the notion that just because you can't understand how something can not be true, that doesn't make it true. I mean, "There must be something more!" is hardly an argument. After all, there HAS to be a good movie with the Fantastic Four - one of the greatest superhero concepts ever. But guess what? After watching about fifteen minutes of Rise of the Silver Surfer, I realized that there simply wasn't one.
Anyway, my point is this - why does there have to be something more? Ever see the Grand Canyon? 35 million years of erosion to create a sight like that. How about the Great Pyramids - a testament to the ingenuity of the human race. I was lucky enough to see both of them - and the memory of both will never leave me.
Okay, so what if you don't have any world-famous natural or man-made wonders near you?
Well, I'm about to go on a walk with my dog, Argos. I went out yesterday, and it looks like today is going to be as nice of a day as yesterday was. It's sunny, not too warm, and everything is green. My dog walks along my side, repeating a tradition that goes back thousands of years - perhaps a distant Gothic ancestor of mine had one of his ancestors as a cattle dog. And if you go back far enough - far, far, farrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr back, my ancestor is his ancestor. Yeah, that's the kind of stuff that goes through my mind when I'm walking him. Of course, I shouldn't forget to mention the wonders of modern technology, where a tiny device can bring the music of Metallica, John Coltrane or Beethoven along with me. (Yes, I actually have all of them on my MP3 player - I'm just so darned eclectic that I bet you're totally jealous.)
Of course, there's more. I'd be a fool if I didn't mention my wife, who reminds me that there must be something good about me if somebody as selfless and caring as her loves me. My cat's also good at keeping me company when I watch a movie like The Shawshank Redemption that reminds me that no matter how lousy life can get, there's always a way out of the misery. Of course, I'll try to overlook the fact that his saber-toothed ancestors no doubt used to eat my pre-historic hominid ancestors.
This life is pretty amazing, when you think about it. Perhaps there's something more after it, but I'm not going to be disappointed if there isn't.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Anyway, obviously the title of his book would upset some people. Nobody wants to be told that what they believe is a delusion. After all, the implication is that there's something wrong with you if you have a delusion. And people will insist that they KNOW that they're not delusional.
I always wonder about that. How do you know that you're not delusional? I mean, isn't the definition of a delusion something that isn't real but seems as though it is? I don't know why it's such a bad thing to at least consider that you might be suffering from delusions. I admit that I might be. I mean, I don't think that I am - but how would I know if I was?
So anyway, this fella tries to get Dawkins to respond to what, to him, proves the existence of God. Of course, the guy is talking about Da Jeebus, and not Vishnu, Odin, Zeus, or Huitzilopochtli. He insists that he's "walked with God" and "assures" Dawkins that it's been "no delusion". Here, check it out:
Dawkins gives a pretty good answer, I think. After all, if this is what we're to accept as our standard of proof, then we not only have to believe in every god that has ever existed (except Heimdall - c'mon, screw that guy and his horn) but we have to believe every account of alien abductions, ghost visitations, fairy encounters, etcetera. People talk about these things with the exact same conviction as this guy talks about Jesus. They KNOW that what they experienced was real. There is not a doubt in their mind that they're not hallucinating. (Personally, anybody who never doubts themselves scares me. Since when is absolute certainty a virtue?)
There were a couple of things that I found interesting about this. First of all, the guy said that Dawkins didn't address his point. Dawkins did in fact address it. The problem is, the guy didn't get it. His world view is so small, and he starts with the assumption that he's right. After all, he's not talking about all those fake gods - he's talking about the real one! I'm sure that some people would accuse Dawkins of doing the same thing, but his response is one of logic and reason. He's obviously been asked this question before, and his response is correct. Had the guy been born in another place and another time, he would have the same certainty about a completely different god. However, that's an idea that this guy can't even stop to consider. After all, so much of his world view rests on absolute certainty. To even consider what Dawkins said would potentially pull out the bottom of his house of cards.
The second thing that I found interesting is that if you search for it on YouTube, the person who posted it described the way Dawkins answered the question as being "cruel". Why is he being cruel? What is he supposed to say to the guy? "Oh yes, everybody is hallucinating but you." Of course, nobody wants to be told that they're hallucinating - but what if you ARE hallucinating? Should people not tell you so because it's rude?
Now, I don't think that people should go around on the street, walk up to theists and say, "Hey, you're hallucinating." That would be counter-productive. However, this guy came to a presentation that Dawkins was doing. The topic, no doubt, was known beforehand. The guy asked a question. It's a shame that he probably didn't like the answer, and many Christians watching won't like to watch it either.
That, to me, seems to be the ultimate difference between the theist and atheist. The theist uses personal feelings and experiences to determine reality. The atheist knows that what you feel doesn't matter - at least, it doesn't matter when it comes to determining what reality. As an atheist, I don't even necessarily scoff at the notion of somebody feeling God's presence. Perhaps that makes me a bit of a existentialist (assuming that I understand the concept - which I may very well may not be) but if somebody feels God's presence in their life, then that is a very real and valuable thing. No, it doesn't make God real - but the experience is real. That's why I wouldn't put somebody down for having an experience. It's just when they use that as a reason for me to believe - or as a logical argument as to why anybody should believe.
I suppose that it's hard to have an experience and just leave it at that. Personally, I think that I can do it. As I once wrote before, when I was a little kid in the hospital, my mom told me that Jesus was there for me, looking out over me. I truly felt his presence there with me. Now that I look back at it, I know that there wasn't really any god/spirit/zombie carpenter in there with me. And like Dawkins points out, had I been raised in India, I might have felt that Ganesha was there watching out for me. But it doesn't matter. The experience was real, and it made me feel better. Is that the only sort of a thing that can make one feel better? Of course not.
So, I was delusional - and what's wrong with that?
Friday, December 26, 2008
So, I wound up with $130 in gift cards for MoreBeer, the homebrew shop that I go to in Concord. I'm not planning on buying anything big, as I already forked over a pretty big investment earlier this month. I'm just going to use that money for my usual expenses there. (What beer will I make next? I'm debating between an American Wheat and an American Ale.)
My sister-in-law was my Secret Santa, and she's pretty good at scoping out the gifts for me. (I should point out that she bought me my first book on homebrewing, which led me into the hobby. My wife and I frequently joke that it's all her fault!) She got me $50 in gift cards and a couple of nice beer glasses. One's a tall mug for my 22 oz. beers; the other is a tall Hefeweizen glass:
She also got me a cool book by Michael Jackson (the recently departed beer expert, not the singer/dancer/child molester). Although I already have one of his books, this one covers a lot of different ground than the one that I already have.
What's cool, and stirs my feelings of patriotism, is that the country that he seems to be the most enthusiastic about is the U.S.A. Of course, there are writeups about the beers of Germany, Belgium, and England that makes you want to hop on a plane A.S.A.P., but the U.S. definitely gets its due. Of course, some mention has to be made that our most popular beers are pretty blah. Here's a quick excerpt:
"Today, neither European brewers nor most drinkers on either side of the Atlantic have yet grasped that tomorrow's most exciting styles of beers will be American in conception. At first glance, this seems unlikely. The great Czech brewing cities of Plzen and Budweis may wonder just how thinly their names can be stretched in the U.S. When will the "line extensions" reach breaking point? LightBeer; Dry Beer; Ice Beer; Clear Beer; Low-carb Beer. Each of these contrivances is an apology that says: 'Our beer is too heavy, too sweet, too dark...'"
I agree with this viewpoint. In my experience, I've gotten a lot of friends and family members to try some beers that are a little more adventurous than the standard Bud. Of course, there are some who will always prefer their beer to be as un-beerish as possible, but I've had more than a few reactions of pleasant surprise. I think that there are a lot of people out there who would really like craft beer if only they were exposed to it. As the guy who writes the beer column in my local paper likes to point out - think of you store's bread aisle. Do you even picture Wonder Bread being a major part of it anymore? Probably not. Generally speaking, Americans are demanding fuller flavors and more exciting tastes. Beer might be lagging behind, but it's definitely starting to get into the race.
Shoot, if Concord has a good brewpub that serves not just solid local brews, but a nice variety of Belgian imports, you know we've gotta be heading in the right direction.
So, go U.S.A! And thanks, Bre, for the book!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I've been out of town. A cruise to Cabo, to be more specific. This was actually my second cruise this year. Kirsti won one playing Bingo on the last one, so here we were again on another Carnival Cruise Line.
I definitely had a good time, but I feel quite satiated when it comes to the whole cruising experience. To me, the best part of this one was when we got off the boat and went to Cabo - just as the best part of the last one was when we went to Catalina Island and Ensenada. Probably my biggest complaint was that we didn't have a lot of time to spend there, as we only got to do one thing and then walk around a bit until it was time to get back on the ship. (A few people didn't make it back to the ship! From what I heard, it was a couple of boys - ages unknown - and their father had to go back out to Cabo while the cruise ship left without all of them! Sucks to be them!)
Of course, even if everything else was a complete disaster, I wouldn't have traded anything for the best experience I've had in a long time - the Dolphin Swim in Cabo. Yup, that's me up there, feeding a sardine to a dolphin. (The pose was the trainer's idea.) The whole experience lasts only about a half hour, and you're with about seven or eight other people. Still, in that time you get to touch the dolphin, feed him, have him take you for a ride, and "dance" with him. When we saw the brochure for this activity, there was simply no way that I wasn't going to do it. Unfortunately, Kirsti didn't bring her swimsuit, so she could only watch. (Don't feel too bad for her though; she's going on yet another cruise - eight days - and there are dolphin-related activities where she'll be going.)
So, that was awesome, and walking around Cabo was fun. I even went to Cabo Wabo for the sole reason that Sammy Hagar owns it. Luckily, they serve some damn good food there, as the burrito that I had was really something else. It had an awesome sauce on it and the chicken was so tender that I probably could have eaten it plain and unseasoned and still enjoyed it. We also stopped off at another restaurant where I probably had the best margarita of my life.
As for the boat itself, I feel like I got my fill of all that when I went on the first cruise. Honestly, I get a bit of cabin fever, and since I'm not into gambling or socializing with strangers, there isn't much for me to do other than the occasional trivia game and food buffet. I spent a lot of our cruise day reading, which isn't really so bad of a thing. It was relaxing, and all the distractions of home were far behind me. Of course, I should also point out that I got to spend some quality time with wifey, and that can never be bad.
Ultimately though, I think that cruising is definitely something that's more for people with extroverted personalities. I was able to muster up a little bit of small talk with the people who sat at our table, but I'm not the kind of person who wants to go around meeting a lot of people.
Oh, and I should probably embarass myself enough to say that I had a very "me" moment, as I doubt that any other person on Earth could relate to this - but everybody who knows me won't find it too surprising. One night in the dining room after desert had been served, a fella got on the microphone and said that it was "showtime." I remember the last cruise where all the waiters had to put on a little dance routine for everybody, and then they'd get people to come up and dance with them.
Personally, I absolutely hate this sort of a thing. I don't mind dancing, but dammit, if I'm going to do it, then it has to be my decision. (Believe it or not, I'm not a good dancer, but when I'm in the mood I don't let that stop me.) I managed to luck out, but you'd see them go up to people who'd say no at first, and then they'd take them by the hand and convince them to get up anyway. People have tried this tactic with me, and it doesn't work. I don't know what it is, but it starts to become a matter of pride with me. If I say no to something, then that's what I meant. I never mean, "No, but you just might convince me if you keep trying." Is that cutting off my nose to spite my face? Perhaps, but that's my gut-reaction.
So, I immediately started to get nervous when they announced this. I didn't even want to be in the position where I'd have to say no in the first place. (Anybody who's ever read my Eagle-Man stories - you know how he's always anticipating things that MIGHT happen and then starts to stress out about them? He does that because I do that.) And then, a familiar tune started up and the guy announced, "I'm sure that you all know how to do the Macarena, right?"
Oh, hell no. There is no way I'm doing the Macarena. I'll take a Shadrach-like stance and go into the fire before I do that moronic dance.
So, this sent me into "fight or flight" mode, and I quickly turned to Kirsti and said, "I've got to go. Right now. I gotta go." I then briskly walked out - somewhat rudely as I didn't say anything to the people at our table. What was I gonna say? "Sorry, but I hate the Macarena so much that I have to leave." Of course, that would be the truth, and now that I think about it...that's probably what I should have done.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
My dad and I are a lot alike. No, he didn't get me into comics. He also didn't infuse me with an appreciation for Shakespeare. Nope, he's not an atheist (although he is to blame for me becoming one - more on that later). And no, I didn't inherit my non-interest in sports from him. (He was never a big fan, but he did watch a bit more than I ever do. When I was a little kid, I was into football for about two years, and he was the one who got me into it. It just didn't stick though.)
The thing that I got most from him is that I don't take a whole lot of stuff very seriously. Pretty much every occasion is an opportunity for a joke or ridiculing something that we find to be ridiculous. You should have seen the two of us when we toured the Mormon Tabernacle when I was a teenager. We kept whispering to each other, "When are they going to tell us about how we can get our own planet?" My sense of humor isn't exactly the same. I tend to be more ironic and more of a fan of wordplay. However, the notion that every situation is an opportunity for a joke is one that I definitely get from him.
Something else that I get from him is a sense of responsibility. I'm trying to think of something specific, but I'm at a bit of a loss. For some reason though, I feel as though that if I shirk my responsibilities, I'd be letting him down. I think it's just because he always had high expectations of me. As a teacher, I often think back on what my parents did right in order to get me to do all of my work. I know that my dad wasn't any kind of a star student when he was a kid, and I really don't remember him ever really having a talk with me about how I needed to do well in school. It was always just understood that I was to do well. My mom certainly backed that up, but the driving force behind all this came from him. One thing that I do remember is when I pointed out how he didn't do well in school, he replied with, "I don't measure you with the same yardstick that I measure myself."
Another, character-defining thing that he's to thank (or blame) for is my somewhat bullheaded noncomformity. When he would tell me stories about the army, the moral always seemed to be, "Don't join the army." I know that he's enough like me that he no doubt couldn't stand wearing a uniform and doing the same thing that everybody else did. He could also never be the type to join any kind of an organized religion. A story that he likes to share is when he told a guy who was trying to get him to join the church that he owned a boat but wasn't in the yacht club - basically his point being was that he believed in God, but he didn't feel the need to join a group of other people who did.
I also remember my dad encouraging me to think for myself. I even remember him saying that he'd prefer it if I disagreed with everything he said so long as my thoughts were my own. Ultimately, I think that's why I headed down the path that I did. It's funny, because even though he still believes in God, we don't seem to argue much even when I'm being very critical of Christianity.
I guess he likes the fact that I'm not just regurgitating the stuff that he told me.