It’s my blogiversary!

Today marks seven years since a scientifically inaccurate description of evolution in Canada’s self-styled National Newspaper inspired me to create a blog and point out their mistake: “Caricature of evolution in discussion of Homo floresiensis.” Science triumphs and blunders and scientific progress have kept me going ever since–kept me looking out for science news and kept me learning. I even attended the 2009 Science Blogging Conference in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. Science has become part of my education and more part of my life than I ever expected when I gave up my science career and went to work in IT.

P.S. Any blog posts dated earlier than 29 October 2004 were back-dated to document older events.

Why I don’t believe

Most believers are so because they were indoctrinated when young so it’s hard to re-examine their beliefs. Others have an emotional need for some certainty to believe in. I don’t need that, but it took decades for me to get rid of the childhood indoctrination. Just when I was deciding it was silly, out came stories of near-death experiences and seeing Hell or Heaven. But I recognized that the excuses for God were just rationalizations — taking credit when things by chance went well and making excuses when by chance they didn’t. Another was a scientific attitude wanting evidence: I realized that a lot of eye-witness testimony about flying saucers, ghosts, prophetic dreams, and aliens was just false or self-deluding. And then there was just realizing that there has never been any solid evidence for any supernatural event. One thing that helped was FINALLY hearing someone on the good old CBC state clearly that there is no independent proof of Jesus’ existence outside the bible. The emotional impetus was the harm that religions do, their hoarded riches, their political interference, their historic crimes such as witchcraft persecution and the Inquisition, and their present-day opposition to women’s rights and bodily freedom.

Religion isn’t the only cause that people will die for. They’ll spend their lives for a cause that they passionately believe in. A lot of the “atheists are awful” trope is because certain causes, such as Communism, attracted that kind of devotion and became de facto religions. (The State of the World Atlas, in their religion maps, actually listed the various types of communism as being the dominant religions in their countries.) But I digress.

Then learning about the Albigensian Heresy and the people wiped out by the church for daring to question its hierarchy, the conviction of being right that lets people do horrible things to each other, and finally the blatant hypocrisy of the Catholic church in protecting child-molesters and enabling them to continue in their crimes. Religion is also a force for inhumanity. A religion that denies and stymies people’s impulses to human kindness, because the other person has the wrong religion, the wrong sex, the wrong sexual orientation, or the wrong practices is evil.

It was the community and discussions online and online resources about atheism and religion that gave me the courage and conviction to move from wishy-washy accommodationist to outright atheist.

Finally, I’ve realized what an evil tool religion is for controlling and subjugating people. First there’s the Gypsy Curse Scam, that only the Church can remove the curse on you (if you pay up forever and let them run your life). Then there’s the horror that they extend their mind-control beyond death itself. It is often said that a free man can be killed, but not enslaved, and thus need not bow to tyranny. When people have had enough, even if enslaved in body, they will and can choose to die. But a person who believes that rebellion will lead to eternal torment after death is denied that final moment of self-respect. Religion really does poison everything.

Training effect

For just over a year now, I’ve been taking swimming lessons and practising under the direction of a coach.
I’m still enjoying the training effect, which hasn’t yet levelled off: the more I practice, the better I get. I’m not racing, but just improving my endurance and aerobic fitness. It’s odd: when I get into the pool next time, I swim better than when I got out the previous time

The chart shows distances swum on successive dates. Some of them are estimates. The times aren’t always the same; most of the sessions are 1 hour long, but some are longer and some are only half an hour. Some are in pools, either with lane swimming or maneuvering among swimmers, with or without a wetsuit, in smooth or rough water. Still, there’s a trend: on the average, I can swim farther and faster as time goes on.

How swimming improved in one year
How swimming improved in one year

I suppose to do this properly I should drop the obstructed swims, add a slowing factor to the wetsuit sessions, and use the per-hour rate for all dates. I don’t have a record of all the short lessons, but here’s an attempt:

Swimming improvement in one year, adjusted

Swimming improvement in one year, adjusted

The training effect was discovered by Dr. Cooper.

“None of this is speculation. The anatomic and biochemical characteristic of the training effect have been documented in the laboratory many times.”, Kenneth H. Cooper, M.D., M.P.H. President and Founder, The Cooper Aerobics Center.

Cell phones and water don’t mix


more funny cat pictures

I seem to be hard on machinery. I drop cameras, carry running laptop computers, and drop cell phones. Small shiny objects are too slippery for me. But most cell phones can stand being dropped a few times. What they can’t tolerate is water. I ruined one by walking in the surf in California. The salt water splashed on my shorts, the shorts got damp, and the cell phone in my pocket discharged its battery and got hot, hot, hot! It may have steamed a little. And that was the end of it. I was carrying it so exposed only so I could hear incoming calls over the ambient noise. Hint: if you have to have your phone handy in a damp environment, put it into a sealed plastic baggie. (Experience is what you get just after you needed it most.)

Now I’ve done it again: spilled water on my new cell phone. Actually, I shoved a bottle of water into my purse. I wanted a refillable bottle so I grabbed a new bike bottle. Being unfamiliar with the bottles, I took a red lid for a bottle decorated in red. The top screwed on but it wasn’t watertight. When I checked a minute later, I found my cell phone at the bottom of my purse, instead of the side pocket when I put it when I’m not so rushed – along with half a cup of water. I fished the phone out and dried it off. I opened it up and dried it off. I took the battery out and dried off the interior.I shook it. Bad sign: little drops of water came flying out. Water trickled out of the hinge. I left the battery out and let the phone dry for hours, but it was too late.

It receives messages but I can’t display them. None of the buttons work except the On/Off.

I’m off to get a new phone again.

Computer problems

laptop computerNow that I’m home with my 2500 new pictures, my laptop computer is having technical problems. All I get is the Blue Screen of Death. None of the starting modes work. I have to dig up some original disks and do something about it so I can get access to recent files and photos.

So I can’t start culling and uploading the pictorial essay of my trip. I’ll get to it when I can.

Humorous Pictures

More LOLcats

Back in Toronto!

West Chester PA to Toronto ON

I’m glad to report that we got a good start from West Chester, Pennsylvania, this morning. The skies were grey and there was some rain, frost, and signs of snow but never ice on the roads, which had been salted. With ten hours of steady driving got safely back to Toronto.

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Longwood Gardens conservatory, orangery, arboretum, etc.

Today my friend in West Chester took me to Longwood Gardens, which is a an estate with a large, stone greenhouses. It’s a former du Pont estate with a world-class conservatory. I’m sure something scientific is going on here, whether it’s the banana collection, the 3,000 species of orchids, the carnivorous plants, or something else.

Orchids at Longwood Gardens conservatory

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