Sunday, April 30, 2006

Bad omens - ill tidings

We stopped in the California desert on the way to Las Vegas this weekend to stretch our legs at a rest stop. I shot a few photos of the enormous ravens that follow the I-15 looking for carrion. Ravens are generally viewed as a sign of bad luck. I am glad that I am not a superstitious man because my gambling trip turned out to be a bust. I played poorly at the poker tables and for the first time in recent memory, came back a loser. I also played poorly in a poker tournament. I had the dubious distinction of finishing dead last amongst 55 participants. Dead last is otherwise known as the “first man out” and is not a title to wear proudly. My wife went on to finish third in the same tournament. She played well.

On our way home, we spent over two hours stuck on the uphill grade west of Primm. An SUV rolled near the summit. We saw the ME loading a body bag into the coroner’s wagon. It was right out of CSI, except that the ME’s were short, dumpy, and wholly unattractive. The roadside death put a chill on our trip. It is always unsettling to see the results of a traffic accident. It is like playing to lotto, only you lose big time if your number comes up.

The bad thing about the drive to Vegas, besides the constant tragic accidents, is its inconsistency. On a good day, the drive will take 4.5 hours. On a bad day, it can take 9 hours. You never really know, it is a crapshoot really. When somebody dies along the side of the road, it can make for a long day. We departed at 11:30 and arrived at 5:45. It was a long day. Like I said, it is a good thing I’m not superstitious. I can understand how some people can be.

*** I sure wish I could spell better ***

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Friday, April 28, 2006

Thou shalt not take the Lord's name in vain

Well, since I don't believe in "the Lord" I guess it might be ok to use his name in vain. All it's going to take is one more fill up at $10 more than I am used to paying. These prices suck. Yesterday EXXON announced record profits. I think we all know how EXXON did it

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Thou shall read the bible

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue has made my nutballs list. According to Sarah Childress of Newsweek, Georgia plans to teach the Good Book in schools . Governor Perdue signed a bill allowing the teaching of Bible classes in public high schools last week. Didn’t he learn from Kitzmiller? Religion does not belong in our public schools. Hiding ID and Christian philosophy inside a Bible Literacy Project textbook titled “The Bible and Its Influences” and then teaching it to our children is dishonest and an abuse of authority. Teach our children science. Prepare our children for college. Don’t dumb them down with religious views.

This smells like bible school at public school. Teach the bible in Sunday school. Keep religion out of the public school system. It makes sense. Our children need to learn about how to learn, not what to believe. Science teaches how to learn. Parents teach what to believe

A line from the article – “We simply have to teach ‘This is what happened – make your own judgments’,” sends the real message that Christian zealots intend for our children. Christians want an opportunity to teach our child about their religious beliefs so that our children can determine if they wants to become a Christian. Great – does they get to learn about Islam, Buddhism, and Wicca too? I ask, does this metaphysical indoctrination program really belong in our schools? Oh hell no.

I predict a crushing defeat three years and 10 million dollars into the future. And… a 10% drop in George’s SAT scores.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Carson Ugly #23 - The dragon car

A tip of the hat to my friend and coworker Mark. He spotted this monstrosity on Sepulveda in Carson a few days back. What can I say, this car is so Carson.

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Understanding the Angry Atheists

Rabbi Marc Gellman takes a stab at understanding me (an angry atheist) in his latest commentary at Newsweek. His lighthearted respect-me-and-I-will-respect-you opinion piece was a refreshing read. Atheists were not vilified or pilloried as normally happens when a pious person pontificates. No, instead atheists are encouraged to

...see things as Spinoza urged, sub specie aeternitatis—“under the perspective of eternity.”
In other words, atheists are encouraged to get religion. Rabbi Gellman, shame on you. Why am I an angry atheist? Because few days go by without somebody, usually a fundamentalist Christian, attempting to tell me that I am (i) evil, (ii) blind, or (iii) need Jesus. The effort is so insidious, so pervasive, so overwhelming intrusive that in the end, a simmering anger lies just below the surface of my jovial smile. Sometimes it erupts, but rarely in public. For my part, these eruptions take the form of sarcastic commentary. I enjoy poking fun at the insanity of modern fundamentalist Christianity. Humor is my therapy.

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Day of Silence

I heard a couple of complementary news stories about the Day of Silence effort going on in our schools. It seems that Gay and Lesbian students are bringing attention to the fact that their sexual orientation is a cause for bullying and violence. It is a shame really, nobody should have to put up with this kind of abuse. I appreciate the approach used to highlight this issue. I think it is well within the non-violent protest tradition of King and Ghandi. Of course, there is a dark side – Fundie Christians take the next day as a Day of Truth. There is no King or Ghandi in their hate filled homophobic approach to in your face abuse. These Christians are in fact the very epitome of the bully our Gay and Lesbian friends are protesting. What is an atheist to think? It seems obvious. The Christians should keep their hate filled rhetoric to themselves. Lifestyle issues are a matter of personal choice. Butt out.

The Day of Silence has a PDF if you are interested in organizing in your school. (well.. maybe next year)

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Iranian War Watch

I worry about Iran. It seems likely we are heading to a confrontation, maybe even a war. With Iran telling the world they will retaliate if America attacks. The war of words keeps getting more intense. What is more troubling is that Iran does not threaten war. Iran threatens to retaliate with terrorism. They threaten a great many other things. Take for instance, wiping Israel off the map. I'm sure religion has nothing to do with it.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Brian - at the reception

I attended a family wedding this weekend were I took this moody photo of my cousin Brian. This is the only un-wedding reception wedding photo of the bunch. The rest look like they would be part of a wedding album. Not that I mind – it was a very special occasion. My brother-in-law finally tied the knot. It was a Catholic wedding, a long ritual I had not been exposed to in years. I had forgotten how symbolic every little aspect of the ceremony was designed to be. If I had not been a sponsor/candle lighter, I would have missed most of the symbolism. I don’t get it – Vegas is so much more my speed. Play some cards, have a few drinks, get married, it’s all good.

Congratulations Don and Vicky!

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Mike shoots Pong

I am trying to teach my 11 year old son two things currently, how Dawin developed his thinking on evolution, and the art of photography. I call it specialized extracurricular home schooling. I teach Darwin in response to his exposure to a nutball fundie friend who filled his head with unscientific crap-o-la. I teach photography because I love it and he appears to be interested in the subject. I gave him my camera at a recent party. His only instruction “be careful”. He produced this photo of his cousin Pong – I love it. He also shot two dozen other outstanding photo’s. I asked him what he was thinking while he was shooting, he said he was trying to take pictures that I would find interesting. He did a good job, there was not a single snapshot in the bunch.

This picture is his best. I gave him instruction in the zone system a few months ago. He used it in most of his photos. In this one, he lined up Pong’s left eye in the upper left zone junction. The effect is visible. The picture is interesting. He made his poppa proud.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Turner an Atheist, Fonda a hypocrite

Jane Fonda, a former Atheist, was on a PBS special with Barbara Walters recently. She recounted Ted Turner's reaction to her conversion to Christianity. Apparently Fonda felt the need to hide her interest in religion from her husband for fear that he would talk her out of it. I read the phrase “hide her interest” as code for lying. Fonda’s first Christian lesson appeared to be about dishonesty. How nice.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Carson Ugly # 23 - Little red door

This photo is yet another reason why Carson is an ugly city, unregulated construction. This door is so narrow that a normal man must turn sideways to squeeze through. Once inside… well let’s just say it take a brave man to use the facilities.

The shot is from a Chinese restaurant – I ate there once in 01. It was not a good idea.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Cuba, Iran & Islam

I came across this article Miami Herald. It seems that the Iranian mission to Cuba is doing it’s best to convert the good Atheists (actually closet Catholics) to Islam. I smell the hand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his desire for worldwide jihad. Iran is the driving force, according to articles author Rui Ferreire;
The mission created a writing contest about Iranian history, hopes to set up a ''reflection group'' on Islamic subjects and earlier this month hosted a reception to mark the anniversary of the birth of the prophet Mohammed.
Cuba’s Communist Party Department of Religious Activities has appointed an official to work as liaison with the new Muslim converts. It is not surprising, Castro has been a staunch supported of Islamic strongmen like Yasser Arafat and fundamentalist groups like Hamas. Now Castro can pay the price for cutting deals with the devil (so to speak) as his populace shifts toward religious extremism. It is only 300 converts so far, but fundamentalist Islam is like a virus. It will spread.

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The Dormitory Boys

I have been meaning to post this for a few days now. I followed a link from lifehacker to the Google top 100 videos where I found a link to the Back Dormatory Boys performing I Wanted it That Way. I laughed and laughed and laughed. Also known as "two Chinese Boys", they have a blog, a shrine, and even imitators. It’s all good. And, work safe too!

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Nutball Altert - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

I have been watching developments in Iran lately. President Ahmadinejad scares me at a fundamental level. Ahmadinejad is pursuing nuclear weapons. He promotes terrorism, supports Hezbollah, and does not even think Israelis are human. That Ahmadinejad is a lunatic is clear, but it is his religion that concerns me. Ahmadinejad is a Muslim. Islam pushes him to act in support of the worldwide jihad – at some point he could act decisively, by nuking our ally. The press trivializes the issue. Political correctness says that we must accept Islam as a peaceful religion – yet the evidence to refute these positions is easy to find. One Iranian clearly sees the danger. Amil Imani is an Iranian born, pro democracy activist who resides in the United States. In a pointed article published in the Persian Journal, Imani puts forth a strong argument for classifying Islam as a death cult and Ahmadineja as one of Islams most dangerious leaders. Perhaps Imani is right.

For now, Ahmadinejad is officially classified as a nutball.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Sticker graffiti - Long Beach

I spotted this example of sticker graffiti a few months ago in Long Beach off Lakewood blvd and the 405 freeway. I have been trying to find time to record it on film. I finally got the chance a few days ago. I would love to know what this represents.

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Friday, April 14, 2006

ya - I'm going to hell

This is my Good Friday pseudo-religious post. I’m linking to a satirical video called Baby Got Book, by Dan Smith. The video is hilarious – and banned throughout the mid-west and certain parts of Texas (like the parts with people in them).

Baby Got Book is work safe. Enjoy!

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This lovely woman is my former neighbor Daphne. I have known her since she was a young girl. She used to watch my oldest son. Now her son and my youngest son are playmates, weird. Daphne now works as a freelance travel writer. I’m going to have to track down some of her work.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Bless my ride

This is an eight-foot high mural of the Virgin Mary blessing low-rider cars in the city of Wilmington. It is absurd and yet another reason why I scratch my head in wonder when presented with the religious beliefs of others. In this case, asking the Virgin Mary to "pray for us" seems odd given that it is painted on the wall of a broken down second hand muffler shop. Is the owner asking the Virgin Mary to pray for all motorists, or just those who drive-low rider cars, or maybe just those who drive low-rider cars and speak Spanish? I thought the Virgin Mary spoke Arabic or some such language. Does she understand Spanish or even English for that matter? Where is Monty Python when you need them… Blessed are the cheesemakers…

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Nutball Alert: John Stolpe

John Stolpe, a police officer running in the April 11th election for the Mayor of Long Beach, was arrested for exposing himself near the Los Angeles Zoo. Why is John Stolpe a nutball? Well, for starters he could have simply withdrawn from the race, or he could have actually came out of the closet in some less creepy way. But no, he choose to let the world see him for what he really is - a nutball.

I predict a horrible defeat. Then again, I do not think he had much of a chance. Stolpe is not affiliated with any political party that I can find and he does not have a website - so he might be a crazy libertarian. Let me think, exposing oneself in a park, joining fringe political parties, and promoting odd positions on important issues, this tends to lead toward crushing defeat. I think this time he has only himself to blame.

I love the fact that he likened his experience to the Rodney King beat down. What a load of crap-o-la, playing the victim only works when one is actually a victim. Stolpe is a cop. I think there is a word for this…. Oh yes, hypocrisy.

I cannot wait for the round of excuses that will follow his defeat. I am sure we will hear his political opponents “set him up”, or that maybe the police lied (duh – he should know this). Of course, he might try to hide behind sex addiction or claim that he has found forgiveness in the church. It is always the after failure story that marks the true character of a man.

Why do I care? I met Stolpe once; it was not fun. He is kind of an ass-hat.

Stolpe can be reached at 562.988.8532 or by email at if you would like to send him well wishes.

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Artesia principle greases fence

I drive by Artesia High School everyday as part of my commute to and from work. As I have grown older, the school I once attended has become something I hardly notice. Even the children walking to and from school seem like part of the background noise. I am sure it is conditioning, I have seen Artesia so much that I do not see it any more; until last week that is… For two consecutive days, TV news crews were parked at the parameter of the high school's property. Artesia is known as perennially basketball powerhouse, even though Artesia’s program has been tinged with corruption in the past. After seeing the news crews, I figured it was about basketball. Of course, I was wrong.

Principal Sergio Garcia applied wheel-bearing grease to the tops of the fences surrounding the High School in a misguided effort to stop students from attending immigration reform demonstrations in Los Angeles. I hate to say it, but Garcia’s efforts seem well, uneducated. What was he thinking? The fences are ten feet high; students could have been seriously injured, or even killed by slipping on the grease. Safety is a vitally important issue. I work at one of the safest companies in the world. Work place safety is my company's most important value. Based on my training and experience, Garcia efforts can only be viewed as irresponsible. He should be fired.

Now, for those of you who know me (and my murky history at Artesia) – I do not want to hear anything about how I once stole all of Artesia’s school bells and then greased all the classroom door handles. That was a long time ago, I was an irresponsible kid, and the statute of limitations has run out. The issue today is completely different. Garcia is unfit to manage the safety and education of the children in his care. His actions border on crazy, yet my wife does not agree that Garcia fits my blog’s “nutball” category. Apparently, there is more to the story. Therefore, I will not add him to the Nutball Hall of Fame at this time. However, I will be watching from now on. After all, I have a son destined for Artesia.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Study Skills Library - Academic Skills Center - Cal Poly

I found a great paper on Procrastination while reading Life Hacker yesterday. I meant to post it, but I never go around to it.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Matisyahu review

I am drawn to music. It is one of my passions. I share this passion with my sons and a few friends. We trade music, turn each other on to new bands, and discuss what we hear. In the end, we are all critics. I am not a good critic. If music sounds good to my untrained ear, I like it. I often don’t even learn the lyrics of a song until years after I starting listening to it. I do not care what other people think. I like what I like. Most often for my own reasons.

Take Matisyahu for example. I picked up both of his CDs a few weeks ago. Since then, I’ve listed to King without a crown 26 times – I love it. However, if you asked me what the lyrics are, or even worse, what they mean I would have to say, I don’t really know. Brad, a music-loving friend, takes it one-step further. Brad loves Matisyahu too, and he can tell you why. In his recent review of Matisyahu’s “Youth”, Brad analyzes the spiritual content and implied meaning of Matisyahu’s lyrics. Brad focuses on the lyrics from the album's title track. I think he comes to some insightful conclusions. The review is well worth a read.

My atheist’s friends and readers should be forewarned – Brad is better known as Pastor Brad. His review of Matisyahu’s work is from a healthy Christian perspective.

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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Dive bar - Snug Harbor

(Sorry readers, I must have deleted the lead in paragraph last night when I posted this) Let me preface what follows with this: I collect odd things, signs being one of them. I happened to be in the parking lot of the Del Amo Center waiting while my sons were fitted for tuxedos. The wait was considerable. I grew board, restless, and then started to look for something to photograph. I had been sitting in my truck for almost half an hour when boredom overcame common sense. What follows is typical for me, I collected a story as well as a few photographs.

I grew bored after a round or two of Tetris so I ventured outside with my camera. I happened to see the sign for Snug Harbor affixed to a dirty stretch of faux stone, and started shooting. I am normally oblivious to the happening of the world when taking pictures. I like to concentrate, it take a certain amount of focus to make a good photograph. The sign for the bar was so 1960s retro, I had to capture it for my odd signage collection. Normally, my activities would attract little attention, but apparently, Noon on a Sunday is prime time for this little dive bar. A few patrons noticed my activities. I was watched closely by two old men who were visibly staggering. I shot a few more pictures, and then went back to my truck. I waited….

Time passes slowly, I was waiting after all, and time seems to pass very slowly when one is waiting. I noticed one old rummy come out of the Snug Harbor and jot down my plate number on a slip of paper. He made a great show of it, he actually tried to be covert (very hard for a drunk). The bar patrons must of thought that I was some kind of not-so-subtle private investigator – After all, I was standing in the middle of the parking lot at Noon with a very large camera.

More time passes, I’ve been in the parking lot for an hour now. I am very bored. I notice a sheriff’s black and white pull up behind me, and then another off to my side. The rummy old barfly had called the cops! The police officer was nice enough – I told him what I was doing, he determined I was no threat. He asked what I had been shooting, when I told him it was old signs he looked at me funny, but was professional enough not let the obvious “what the hell for” past his mildly sarcastic smile. Yep – he thought I was nuts (I know the look). The funny thing is, I had had the exact same conversation with a young bar punk in the parking lot of the White Rooster Pub in Cypress just the day before. He thought I was nuts too, only he did not posses the sheriff’s self-control.

btw - the White Rooster Pub is behind Grandma's Chicken House. Grandma's is run down but boasts some damn good broasted chicken! The attached pub has a white trash skinhead kind of feel to it. I did not go in. I was happy enough with chicken and a few pictures.

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COTG #37 is up

I'm kind of new to the whole Carnival of the Godless scene, but I'm catching on quick. The Neural Gourmet is hosting COTG #37 this week. My favorite post is Parents Rights and Judicial Rape of Religious Freedom which discusses demonstrated legal bias against atheists in parental rights disputes. Atheists can lose their children because they are atheists. It seems so… wrong. Of course, that is the point, it can happen, especially now that the United States is becoming an increasingly religious and polarized country. The other articles are interesting, but none hit as hard as the injustice of losing a child. It is almost like there are people out there who think Atheism is bad. Andrew Sullivan feels the same way. Sullivan posted a related story on Tomas Jefforson's views on this same issue. It is an interesting read.

Welcome to my blogroll Neural Gourmet!

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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Pert's orchid

My Father-in-law is the best gardener I know. Each spring brings a different mixture of flowers, fruits, and vegetables. it is normally dazzeling. He always has a few orchids, they are the star of the show.

I have a few more shots at my flickr blog.

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