Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Feature # 2

Tangent Two-fer Tuesday

Anytime the subject of blogging comes up between my dearest dear, Gretchen, and I, she’s always after to me to increase my output, which is the epitome of random. In my defense, I have school, and a whole host of google docs I am constantly contributing to. That said, I also waste inordinate amounts of time on Facebook, and read as if I’ll never get to again if I stop, so my defenses are pretty thin. I’m just undisciplined. I have a whole folder of unfinished blogs, because I only write while I have steam, then something shiny twinkles, and off I go, only to return to the blog I started many moons later.
Gretchen is, of course, brilliant, (or else I’d be nice to her only because she’s Jon’s wife), and is, of course, one (of two) of the readers who follow my blog, even though I write as if the whole world is reading (one day, muhahahaha!) A good idea is a good idea, no matter where it came from (cupping is NOT a good idea), and she had a good idea. She suggested that I start writing thematically, with inane, yet relevant witticisms alliterating the theme to the day of the week. Ok, why not? I do want to accumulate a body of work to refer to, perhaps publish one day, and the best way to do that is to write. Maybe these theme days will help me focus, finish, and fling my essays to the world.
I’ve got one already, Skeptical Sundays, since I’m aiming to establish a career in science, science journalism, and popularizing science. That will rotate between exposing cranks, snake oil, pseudoscience, and downright dishonest people (John Edwards, step to the front of the line), and offing argumentative tips and techniques, all aimed towards improving any reader’s critical thinking skills.
Tangent Two-Fer Tuesdays will offer two posts, but that’s about it. They may be related to each other, they may not. They may be long (good odds as I’m a babbler), or short, or lists, or something entirely new. Gretchen’s point is well made, that people like regularity and consistency, else why would TV series stay on for years at a time?
People also like regular features, so Tuesdays are a day to try out this or that. Tuesdays are to give me flexibility, and provide readers with variety. I’ll think about more as I get into the habit of posting on these days.
New Feature to the Features: Random Acts of Quotation
"That which doesn't kill fools, needs to be made stronger." Me, 2008

Tangent #1
Irregular Feature…
Bards and Brainsuckers: Books I’m Reading

1) Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Shelly. I’m too poor to acquire nice, leatherbound editions of classics, so I collect collections of mass market, or occasionally Trade paperbacks, of genres I’m interested in. I’m collecting and reading classic science fiction novels, and while Frankenstein isn’t technically quite science fiction, it’s sci-fi enough that I consider it the first sci-fi novel ever written, far predating Verne or Wells. I’ve had this edition for over a year now, and it has lived on the “Shelf of Shame.” This is a shelf dedicated to all the books I should have read. You know, many of the ones you were forced to read in high school and college. Whenever I hit the thrift store (the BEST place to shop for books, but support you local bookstore too!) I inevitably come out with something that has endured, no matter how inexplicable. Frankenstein was written in 1816, which is an era in English literature I just despise. It’s contemporary with Jane Austin, to give you an idea of the kind of language it uses.
On the good side: it’s fascinating how NOT like any of the movies it is. It’s also a hoot to read of the affected mannerisms of the period, wherein overindulgence in passionate emotions would make men swoon, and be consigned to convalescence for weeks on end. How pussy is that? On chapter 7 of 24.
2) Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell. Published in 2007, it’s a weighty 613 pages (nothing to me), but supposedly a layperson’s guide to economics, bereft of charts and jargon. Sounds good. I’m on the last page of the introduction, and I already approve of the plain, direct style. This should prove informative, without the associated dryness I’ve so far encountered with most texts on economics, but with more meat that pop-economics books (though this book is on it’s 3rd edition in just two years…impressive.)
3) Religion in American Politics: A Short History, by Frank Lambert. Uber-timely with a 2008 copyright, this book sates two of my obsessive lusts: history, and my conflicted views on religion. Just a few pages in, and already I’ve slated it as my go-to-bed-yet-stay-up-3-extra-hours book.

Recently finished books:
The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins. My second read of this elegant, powerful volume by “Darwin’s Bulldog.” Unlike Sam Harris, who gets brutal in his critique of Christianity, Dawkins is merely blunt, as his point is well made: why does religion deserve and get special treatment when it comes to criticism? Good question, but the real power of this book comes in his simple explanations of scientific principles, especially evolution, graced with beautiful perspective that left me shivering with awe.
Pushing Ice, by Alastair Reynolds. A rising star in science fiction, and currently my favorite genre author, Reynolds skillfully paints a grand canvas of immensity and grandeur, both in space and time, but keeps the focus on the human characters and their relationships. Too few modern authors get that the play is about the people, not the sets.
Letter to a Christian Nation, by Sam Harris. It’s not that I don’t agree with many of Harris’ sentiments, but too often he delivers them with palpable venom. I think it’s both healthy, and essential to call the various Christian sects to task on their hypocrisy when their moral absolutism actually increases human suffering, but Harris ignores the fact that Christians are a spectrum, not an extreme. Point by point he’s often (but not always) on the mark in his criticism, but just as often fails to distinguish particular versions, denominations, and interpretations of Christianity. What could have sounded like a thoughtful dialogue, giving the various churches much-needed food for thought, ends up sounding like a rant, and unfairly lumping all Christians into a uniform mass, completely forgetting that while religious, they’re still people. As an atheist, I think Harris’ approach is completely unproductive.

Tangent #2
This is an exercise an old Lost Colony chum tagged me to complete, which I ignored for weeks on end. I finally started looking at what other people were writing about, and realized it’s a terrific exercise in self-reflection. Besides, I had nothing else to write about for #2, so thank Bill Gates for cut and paste.

Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.
(To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people, then click publish.)

1) I've an extremely addictive personality. I have yet to successfully quit smoking, have to tear myself away from games lest I turn into a dead husk in front of this computer, and must always keep one eye on my drinking, just for starters.

2) I've made the bargain with myself to remain on the constructive side of functional, despite the above. Having demons and monkeys at least means never having to sleep alone.

3) In regards to the above, at least I love animals. Ferrets are by far and away my favorite pets, with dogs and Benders running neck and neck for second.

4) I am an atheist. To paraphrase Dawkins, every believer is an atheist about all the other religions. I'm no different, I just include yours.

5) I love to write. I hate to write. I love to write. I hate to write. Gardenfuls of petal-less flowers about that one.

6) I do not use the word "friend" lightly, certainly not in the frivolous way Facebook uses it.

7) I love making lists.

8) I'm terrible at completing them.

9) I'm somewhat terrified that while I yearn for greatness, I'd likely be contented with comfortable mediocrity.

10) I am terrible with money. Please see #1.

11) I have moments of unequivocal intellectual brilliance. I have no idea how to do this consistantly.

12) I sometimes want to get paid for just being me. Please see # 9

13) I have hierarchies of love, devotion, obligation, and other emotional aspects associated with other people. Please see # 7

14) I am often ashamed that I appear to learn how to be a better person by being a complete shit to others. I console myself that at least I do learn.

15) Every year I suffer fools less and less. These people I am yearly less ashamed about being a total shit to. Please see above.

16) I could stay in school for the rest of my life, and no pile of shit would satisfy any pig more than I would be satisfied.

17) I often fail to perceive the difference between due pride and undue arrogance in myself. I rely heavily on my friends to tell me the difference.

18) In regards to the survival of our species, I'm the most optimistic person I've ever met.

19) I sometimes debate whether we deserve to, however.

20) I try very hard not to use the word believe anymore. There's not enough space on here to explain why.

21) I have experienced no suggestive, much less convincing, evidence of life after death, of any kind. Admitting this has made me acutely aware of the suffering of others. Please see #14 This can be correlated with # 4

22) I sometimes envy religious people their absolute convictions. It is far, far more difficult to actually think through tough moral and ethical problems on a case-by-case basis.

23) I do not think any of the world's problems are insolvable. There are, however, far too many people who are intractable, and therein lies the problem.

24) I don't think we are the only life in the Universe. Regardless, most people believe that we are. I am daily flummoxed that they don't act as if that were the case.

25) No one's better at being me than I am. I'm daily thankful I got the job.

1 comment:

Gretchen said...

I'm famous!....on your blog.
If this shout-out on here is, indeed, my "fifteen minutes (seconds) of fame", I'm going to be pissed.
That said, I laughed out loud at "cupping is not a good idea"