Monthly Archives: February 2012

A Thoughtful Poem

Here’s a neat little poem by G.A. Codakiz over on the blog Awakening Sense:

We like to think we’re in charge of what we’re doing,
But more likely we’re just puppets things get done through.

For life enjoys living itself through us,
As we amass more and more of its cosmic dream.

What a mess to disentangle from,
When all our trying produces more unfinished business.

It could be there’s only one real step to be taken,
Namely, beginning to awaken from ego-mind’s daily dreams of doing.

Awakening sense: a first step.

Our Amazing Perception

I am currently watching a wonderful lecture series from The Teaching Company called “Understanding the Secrets of Human Perception”.  In lecture 18 “Illusions and Magic” Professor Vishton walks through a number of interesting perceptual illusions.

The first is the Café Wall Illusion:

All of the horizontal lines in this image are perfectly straight, but we infer a tilted edge because our brains decide that this is the best explanation for the distributions of brightness in the image.

The next perceptual oddity is motion-induced blindness.  Stare at the green dot in the center of the video and watch the green dots disappear:

The yellow dots are always displayed above the grid and are therefore projecting on your retina for the entire length of the video.  However, deep in your visual perception system the motion signals override the yellow dots.  Motion can often blind us to very large and salient things in the world around us, something which magicians often use to their advantage.

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Get Arrested

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past few months you’ve surely heard that an Arrested Development movie is coming out next year along with a series of shows on Netflix.  For those who have never seen Arrested Development, it is quite possibly the funniest TV show of all time.  Clever, original, witty, silly, charming and endlessly self-referencing.  I did not discover it until about four years ago when a friend at work recommended the show to me.  I could not believe that I missed it during its original series run, which says a lot about Fox’s horrible marketing of the show.  No matter, it’s on DVD and Netflix now so enjoy!

Some great moments from the show:

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NIV Bible: Controversial Pronouns or Content?

Here is an article I just read in USA Today:

Major provider won’t stop selling controversial bible – USATODAY.com.

Here is a quick excerpt:

Complaints that the New International Version of the Bible (NIV) is inaccurate and too gender-inclusive are not going to stop one of the world’s largest Christian resource producers from selling it.

That translation was criticized at the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Phoenix. Church representatives there approved a resolution asking Nashville-based LifeWay Christian Resources — owned by the denomination — to take it off its shelves.

Critics said the translation, which was updated in 2011, is filled with errors when it comes to language about gender, using “brothers and sisters” instead of “brothers” and “they” instead of “he” for a single pronoun. That kind of approach undermines the authority of the Bible, they said.

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Happy Darwin Day everyone!

Happy Birthday, Mr. Darwin!

Happy Darwin Day, everyone!

A global celebration of science and reason.

Today more than ever, when anti-science has become a veritable movement in America (think anti-evolution, global warming denial, anti-vaccination), it is important that we commemorate the lives of the people, like Charles Darwin, who changed the course of our history through the use of reason and my expanding our scientific understanding of the world around us.

In our own celebration of Darwin Day, and of science and reason, my daughter and I are taking a trip to our local science museum. If you’re interested in commemorating this man’s birthday, you can go to the International Darwin Day Foundation and see if there are any activities in your area, and I’ve included this video to help us all celebrate. It’s a TED talk by Dennis Dutton where he discusses a Darwinian theory of beauty. Not…

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Craig Ferguson: Recovering Alcoholic

Thomas, writer on the blog “the quiet voice”, recently posted some thoughts on alcohol and immorality.  It made me think of Craig Ferguson, host of the late night talk show “The Late Late Show” on CBS here in America.  I love comedians mostly for their courage and honesty and a few years ago Craig had a very honest moment with his audience about his problems with alcohol:

Some of my favorite quotes from the video:

I’ve been sober for 15 years, there is absolutely no way I have a drinking problem.  I don’t have a drinking problem!  I have a thinking problem.

I’m not advocating temperance.  I’m saying this is for me.  If I could drink I would drink, but I can’t.  You can say to me “drink responsibly”, and I’ll say “I’ll try”.  But I can’t.  Certain types of people can’t drink, I’m one of them.  You have to be responsible for your actions, sick or well.  You have to be responsible for your actions, you just have to be!  All of us are accountable.  It’s your responsibility to deal with the condition that you have in whatever way you can.

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Mike Rowe: “How Did I Get Here?”

An oldie but a goodie.  Here is a thought-provoking TED Talk by Mike Rowe.  Mike recounts the “Dirty Jobs” episode where he was reminded of the Aristotelian definition of a tragedy: anagnorisis  (the transition from ignorance to knowledge) and peripeteia (the moment where the tragic hero comes face to face with his true self).

Some paraphrases that stick in my head after seeing this video again:

“Follow your passion?  Or step back, look to see where everyone is going, and go the other way?”

“Innovation without imitation is a complete waste of time.”

“Clean and dirty aren’t opposites, they’re two sides of the same coin.  Just like innovation and imitation, like risk and responsibility, like anagnorisis and peripeteia.”

Evolution is only a theory. Just like gravity.

Why Evolution Is True

An Instagram from “bayanamills

h/t: Richard

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The Superficial Social Network

Obama Inherited Mess

I saw this cute little meme on Facebook the other day. Every time I see something like this I’m reminded that we need to avoid superficial political affiliations. When we see logic like this we can be sure that the confirmation bias is hard at work. People have a gut reaction to the political message and either sneer or press the “Like” button. Luckily there were some intelligent comments under the picture. A few people were having a meaningful conversation about the nuances of fiscal policy, the influence of the executive branch on the economy, and the real causes of the economic recession.

So, I encourage you to have thoughtful, meaningful interactions on online social networks like Facebook and Google+. It can be difficult to elevate the conversation in a format like this, but it can be done!

Bill Maher Unbaptizes Mitt Romney’s Father-in-law

Here is a great video clip from Bill Maher’s HBO Show “Real Time” where Bill performs an “unbaptism” for Mitt Romney’s dead father-in-law.  Romney’s father-in-law was a dyed in the wool atheist and scientist who was posthumously baptized into the Mormon church.  The Mormon’s believe that when an unbeliever dies they cannot participate in the kingdom of God.  However, the dead can be posthumously baptized which gives their immortal soul the choice to participate in this eternal “kingdom”.

From the Mormon perspective, this is a loving and important service for dead souls.  If you’re in the Mormon bubble it’s an act of love.  If you’re outside the bubble it’s crazy and just a little bit creepy.  Oh, and it’s also deeply disrespectful of the memory of the person who in no way endorsed the beliefs of your religion.  Luckily Bill Maher comes to the rescue to help out one of the victims: Read the rest of this entry

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