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Women in Secularism 4 April 20, 2016

Posted by ubi dubium in Events.
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I have not seen much buzz about this event yet, but I got an email about this and want to do my part to make sure word gets around.

CFI has announced that there will be a Women in Secularism 4 conference this fall, September 23-25, in Arlington, VA.  I had been concerned that Melody’s leaving the DC office might mean that this conference would end, so I’m very glad it’s continuing.

I’ve been to all the past versions of this conference, and they’ve all been thought-provoking, spawned important conversations, and let me hear other voices that I otherwise might not have known about.

Speakers for this conference include Julia Sweeney and Rebecca Goldstein.  I’ll plan to be there!

Liebster Award Nomination March 20, 2016

Posted by ubi dubium in Blog admin, Responses.
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I’d like to thank the Academy….

Wait, no, not that award.  I’d like to thank Aaron K. Collett for nominating my blog for a Liebster Award.  Very kind of you, and unexpected!  I don’t post very often, so didn’t expect any kind of award.

“The Liebster Award is online recognition given by bloggers to other new bloggers for enjoying or valuing their work. It is meant to highlight and credit favorite new up and coming blogs within our writing community.

The rules are:

  1. Share the blog that nominated you and thank them.
  2. Answer the blogger’s 11 questions.
  3. Give 11 random facts about you.
  4. Nominate 11 blogs for the award.
  5. Notify the bloggers of your nomination.
  6. Give 11 questions for them to answer.”

Here’s Aaron’s questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Why did you start your blog? 

For a long time I had read and commented on other blogs, but never thought I could really do my own.  But every so often I’d find myself writing a long comment in response to some apologist, and realized that I’d been writing the essentially same comment many different times in different threads.  Wouldn’t it be better to have a single place to write down all those things I was always saying?  Plus, I figured out that WordPress was free and really easy to use.

Name 3 of your favorite authors/poets, and why you like them.

Only three?  I’ve spent my life as a real bookworm, so there’s a ton of authors I like.  So I’ll just pick a few out of what should be a list of probably more than a hundred:

J.K. Rowling.  Meticulous craftsmanship for how she structures her work.  Nothing is there by accident.  Plus, I figured out Snape’s motivations long before book 7 came out.

Isaac Asimov.  I started  with the science fiction as a youngster, but it was his science essays that probably affected me more.

Donald Jack.  This Canadian author is obscure in the US, but years ago my parents picked up Three Cheers for Me at the library, and couldn’t stop laughing.  They handed it off to me, and I likewise spent a long time in fits of helpless giggling.  There’s a lot of books in the series, but the first one is the best.

Do you have any pets or significant animals in your life?

One cat and three parakeets at the moment.  The cat is a LOT of cat – his name is Regulus, and he is very large and very fluffy and very (as Potter fans will guess) black and mostly made of pounce.  People think of cats as quiet and graceful, but not this one.  He charges around the house and knocks over furniture like a puppy.  We’ve nicknamed him “Thunderpaws”.

Do you have any tattoos?

Ew, no.  Apologies to those who have tattoos, I understand that they are part of your self-expression and you love them, but my reaction to any kind of body modification is just to be squicked out.  (I didn’t even get my ears pierced until I was 21.)  Apart from the whole needles thing, getting a tattoo would be committing myself to the idea that who I am and what I like right now will always be who I am and what I like.  I reserve the right to change my mind about this stuff, and a tattoo is just too permanent.

I’m also older, and from a generation where tattoos were generally thought of as disreputable. Nice people didn’t get them.  I realize that this standard has changed, but I grew up with a “Tattoos?  NOPE!” mindset, and for me that has not changed.

What has been your greatest achievement so far?

My kids.  Two wonderful intelligent daughters.  I also think being married for thirty years is not too shabby.

What do you do daily to keep yourself as mentally healthy as possible?

I try to learn something new every day.  Science magazines, science blogs, anything interesting.  And I stay far away from all the trashy reality TV.

What city do you live in and how do you feel about it?

I live in the DC suburbs.  I grew up here, lived elsewhere for a while, and came back. It’s where I feel at home.  The traffic may suck, but it’s worth it for the high-caliber schools, the amazing wealth of arts in the area, and all the free museums downtown.

What is your favorite meal?


I’m not much on breakfast ( I don’t care for eggs or cereal or coffee) and my gallstones say that I can’t eat much at dinnertime, so lunch is where it’s at.  Teatime is also nice.

Or did you mean what do I like to eat?  I like Chinese food, I like Indian food, I like Taco Bell but can’t explain why.  But often, when I’m thinking about what I’d like to eat, my first thought is a hot deli sub and unlimited refills of diet soda.

If you had a superpower what would it be?

Flying.  I think about the other possibilities, and I always come back to flying.

Who living or dead would you like to meet? (up to 3 people)

Hmmm…   Again, so many possibilities.  I’d have to be careful, because I’ve learned it’s dangerous to have heroes.  If you look too closely at anybody you admire, you often find something to spoil your impressions.  So I’m going to leave out a lot of people I really admire, and put in people I have questions for, or who would just be interesting to talk to:

Queen Ankhesenamun – to clear up all that uncertainty around the end of the 18th Dynasty.  Who was Smenkhare, what happened to all of her sisters, and did she really write those letters to the Hittites?

Shakespeare – to find out the plot of Love’s Labour’s Won.  I guess I should probably read Love’s Labour’s Lost before then.

And, I don’t know, maybe Voltaire?  I’d say Mozart, but I’m pretty sure he was an asshole in person.  No, I know! Ötzi!   We’ve found out so much about him physically, but don’t know his name or his history, or how he wound up frozen in a glacier.

11 Random Facts about me:

  1.  I’m a super-taster.  I can’t abide foods that are bitter or biting.  Coffee and radishes are right out.  Raw onions are really nasty. I don’t like walnuts or pecans, and guess what nuts people usually put in their baking?  I also have texture issues with things that are oily or cloying and stick in your mouth, and so don’t like sour cream or avocados.  I like ice cream, but had to acquire the taste for it.   No beer, no dry wine, bring on the stuff that tastes like Kool-Aid!
  2. I went on Jeopardy in the late 90’s.  I came in second, and had a lot of fun.  I was more proud of passing the qualifying test then of being on the show.
  3. I sing in the chorus for A Capitol Fourth most years.  I’ve gotten to see the back of a lot of famous performers, see how they are to work with, and sing backup for some of them.  I have a lot more respect for Barry Manilow now, and a lot less for Little Richard.
  4. I have a forked uvula.
  5. I can twiddle my thumbs in opposite directions.  It’s easy to twiddle them both forwards, or both backwards, but try doing one forward and one backwards.  Not so easy.
  6. I can wiggle my toes individually.  Not a natural ability, I practiced until I could do it.  No idea why.
  7. I can overtone sing.  Two notes at once.  I learned when we did a piece in my chorus that needed it, and we all tried to learn to do it.  I run out of breath really fast, though, so I can’t do it for long.
  8. I’ve been binge-watching on Netflix a lot recently.  Just finished off all of Breaking Bad.  My oldest wants me to watch Death Note next.
  9. I love learning to cook dishes from different ethnic cuisines.  My spice cabinet has just about everything you can imagine, and a lot you’ve probably never heard of.  Except asafoetida, I have to draw the line somewhere.
  10. Necklaces!  I love them and have a ton, and wear them almost every day.  Big sparkly stuff recently came into fashion, and that’s what I like, so I took advantage of this and bought a bunch while the stores have them.  Once they go out of style again, I won’t care, and will keep wearing them.
  11. I can knit.  And crochet.  And quilt.  And embroider.  And needlepoint. And cross-stitch.  And make clothes, including RenFaire gowns.  And I’ve tried to teach these skills to my children, with no success at all.

Now as to nominating other blogs – I will have to apologetically decline.  I love you guys, but If every blogger nominates eleven other bloggers, pretty soon we’ll all be doing nothing but responding to these awards with no time for anything else. This kind of thing only works as an honor if most people don’t pass it on, otherwise we’re dealing with an unstoppable chain letter.

Pineapples! Really? March 9, 2016

Posted by ubi dubium in Humor.
Tags: , , , ,

I promise I’ll get back to some serious posts soon.  But yesterday I walked into the supermarket near my office,  saw this on display right by the front door, and couldn’t resist grabbing a photo.  Those black splotches are holes in the pineapples stuffed with blackberries.


I’ve sent this to cakewrecks already, of course!  While it’s not exactly a cake, it’s fits right in with the kind of stuff they post.  We’ll have to see if they use it.

I’ve shown this photo to a few people, and some of them figured out right away what it was meant to be, and other people took awhile to see it.  So, guesses anybody?

Pastafarian Blasphemy February 17, 2016

Posted by ubi dubium in Rants.
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For a long time I’ve maintained that there isn’t really any way to blaspheme the FSM because He isn’t jealous and doesn’t really mind if you don’t believe in Him.  Except that there is only really one blasphemy, and that’s the dry sandy “parmesan cheese” that comes in a can.

I have been vindicated!  Look at this article: (more…)

Playing with backgrounds January 31, 2016

Posted by ubi dubium in Blog admin.
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The Bloggess put me onto a fun graphics program, Dreamscope.  It’s free, you just sign up.  You put in a photo of your choice, and then select a style, and it crunches it with some AI and in about 5 minutes it gives you a nifty transformation.  So I took one of the computer generated background images that UbiDubiKid #1 had created for me:



and ran it through a filter, for a Picasso style, I think, and got this: (more…)

The King who Rained Confirmation Bias January 9, 2016

Posted by ubi dubium in Brain Glitches.
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One website I love is called “You Are Not So Smart”, written by David McRaney, which looks into all the different ways that we delude ourselves. Great stuff. He’s migrated it into a podcast now, but the original articles are still on the website.

One of the most important topics he covers is confirmation bias.  After you read this, go read his article:


Here’s how he opens that article:

Have you ever had a conversation in which some old movie was mentioned, something like “The Golden Child” or maybe even something more obscure?

You laughed about it, quoted lines from it, wondered what happened to the actors you never saw again, and then you forgot about it. Until…

You are flipping channels one night and all of the sudden you see “The Golden Child” is playing. Weird. The next day you are reading a news story, and out of nowhere it mentions forgotten movies from the 1980s, and holy shit, three paragraphs about “The Golden Child.” You see a trailer that night at the theater for a new Eddie Murphy movie, and then you see a billboard on the street promoting Charlie Murphy doing stand-up in town, and then one of your friends sends you a link to a post at TMZ showing recent photos of the actress  from “The Golden Child.”…

He goes on to talk about how that first reference primes us to notice and remember those other references, which otherwise we would have ignored.  How what appears to us to be a significant pattern is really nothing of the sort.

I just have one problem with this article.  I’ve never seen “The Golden Child”!  I don’t really care for Eddie Murphy movies, never noticed this movie on TV or Netflix, so this example just doesn’t resonate with me.  But I’ve been having a very similar experience over the last few days that I want to talk about.

A week ago I was remembering back to the TV shows from my childhood, and how some child actors just showed up everywhere.  I was specifically remembering how Johnny Whitaker was in everything, so I went looking on YouTube for clips from the old version of Tom Sawyer that he did.  (And found them, and I had forgotten that a very young Jodie Foster played Becky Thatcher.)  But that reminded me of a version of The Littlest Angel that he had done in the late 60’s:

Littlest angel

I found the full version on YouTube.  I remembered liking it as a kid, but going back to watch it now, it was really bad.  Really, really stupid and bad.  Fred Gwynne could actually sing, though, who knew?  But overall it was cheesy, poorly written and just painful to watch.  (Priming accomplished.)

A few days later, I was bored, and so asked Wikipedia for a random article.  What came up?  The entry for the really old TV show Car 54 Where Are You?  That was pretty cool, because some years back I had caught some reruns of this show, and so I was familiar with it, and even remember how the theme song went.  Here’s the stars:

Car 54

Are you seeing the pattern here?

Now we’re up to lunch Thursday.  My spouse and I were at a little restaurant near my office, and it had background music on, the usual fairly current pop stuff, but nothing too distracting.  Then they played something that I couldn’t help but listen to.  It turns out to be Fall Out Boy’s song Uma Thurman.  I had to look that song up, because I couldn’t catch any of the words at the time.  What caught my ear about it was the old song that they had sampled.  (That was the only thing that caught my ear about the song.)

What had they sampled?  The very distinctive theme song to The Munsters!  So what pops into my head – this guy of course!

Herman Munster

I only noticed this “pattern” because my brain was already primed to notice it from the awful video I watched a week ago.  Otherwise I would probably never have noticed it.  Confirmation bias in action.

(The title of this post comes from one of the children’s books written and illustrated by Fred Gwynne, which I also remember from my childhood.)

King who rained

Spooky Bathroom Labyrinth Hell Dream January 7, 2016

Posted by ubi dubium in Humor, UbiDubiKids.
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Ever have a recurring dream?  I have an odd one – I dream that I need to use the toilet and can’t find one.

It might be that I’m wandering around a building, and there’s no bathrooms.  Or that all the bathrooms are locked or marked out of order.  Or I find the bathroom, and it’s huge, with many halls, all of them full of endless sinks and showers and lockers, but no toilets, and then finally a sign posted that the toilet is maybe downstairs in another wing of the building.

Endless sinks

If I finally do find the toilet, it’s strange and unusable.

Weird toilet 2

Weird toilet

Or it’s in a public space.

Street Toilet

Or a janitor’s closet, or some other unlikely spot.  Once I finally found one in an Addams-Family themed hotel smack in the middle of a creepy spare room full of extra furniture and spider-webs.

What prompted me to write about this is the dream I had a couple of nights ago.  I was looking for a bathroom before I drove home from someplace, so I went in a door marked “restrooms”.  Inside was a cafe, with the restrooms way off in the corner.  The men’s room was being renovated, but the ladies room fortunately wasn’t, but the bathroom was full of exercise equipment.  The only toilet was an oddly-configured exercise bicycle, with an impossibly small hole to pee in, and the bike pedals and handles began moving while you were using it.   AAAAAAGH!

There are people out there who try to interpret dreams as some kind of mystical visions, but I know exactly what this dream means.  I only have these dreams right before I get up in the morning.  This is just my need to visit the bathroom spilling over into my dream-filled head.  No woo-woo there.  Just my brain unsuccessfully trying to tell me to wake up and go pee.

Now here’s the odd thing.  I mentioned this recurring bathroom labyrinth dream to my oldest daughter, and her response was that she had been having these dreams too!  As in my dreams, there would be endless mazes of rooms lined with assorted bathroom fixtures. Bathrooms would often have working toilets but without stalls, or only partial stalls, or half doors,  but the room would be packed with people, so there was no privacy.   And sometimes the bathroom labyrinth would be in a building where she hadn’t been in years.  Eventually, my youngest daughter mentioned having one of these dreams too!

And we have another shared dream about parakeets.  We have three parakeets, a yellow one, a blue one, and a green one.  I had a dream about the red one.  Not only do we not have a red one, they don’t even come in red!  I told my kids about this dream, and my youngest reported a few nights later that she had also dreamed about the red parakeet.

I’ve also dreamed more than once about our second cat.  We only have one cat, he’s solid black, large, and very fluffy.  Our second cat in my dream looks the same, fluffy and solid black, except she has white feet.  Her name is Sophia. (If I ever run across a cat like this I’ll probably have to adopt her.)

Anybody else had the same (or similar) dream more than once?


Have you found Jesus? January 5, 2016

Posted by ubi dubium in Humor, Responses.
Tags: , , ,

Because these guys have lost him!

Have you found Jesus

I thought that once you had found Jesus, he was supposed to stay with you for always!  Apparently not so much.

Yes, it’s an asshole thing to do to steal stuff from a private display like this, but there’s just something about this that strikes me as funny.  And it’s not like this hasn’t happened before – this is the third time that this church has had their “Baby Jesus” vanish.  This time they had it tied down with fishing line, and somebody cut it.  Next year I suggest bolting it down. (Because nailing it down would probably be in bad taste.  :P)

I think this is likely just a youthful prank, some teenager collecting the things.  If it were a serious protest, you’d think there’d be damage to the rest of it, and there isn’t.  If I were inclined to mess with this kind of thing, which I’m not, but if I were, I think I’d leave something else in place of the baby, like a statue of Ganesh or the FSM.  Or I’d put a silly costume on the baby or something.  Just stealing it would be boring.

Here’s the source article: http://patch.com/virginia/arlington-va/who-stole-baby-jesus-manger-arlington-church

The most famous person… December 30, 2015

Posted by ubi dubium in Games, Humor.
Tags: , , ,

I was reading Danielwalldammit’s blog today, a tribute to Lemmy Kilmister, and this sentence jumped at me:

Lemmy is probably the most famous person ever to speak to me. It was after a concert. The man walked by and said; “covered in fucking blood, eh?”

That got me thinking.  A lot of people probably have a good story to tell about a famous person speaking to them and what they said.

Here’s my challenge:  Who’s the most famous person to speak to you? Can you remember what they said, or tell us something interesting about the encounter?  Let’s rule out times when you were part of an audience, those are too easy and generic and shouldn’t count.  Only times when some well-known person was speaking directly to you.

I’ll start, I have at least two.  (Maybe I’ll think of more later.)

Gary Sinise said to me, “Be careful, the stage is slippery!”

Alex Trebek asked me, “Do you think it will show on camera that I’m not wearing shoes?”

Let’s hear yours!

Which church was that again? November 24, 2015

Posted by ubi dubium in Humor, UbiDubiKids.
Tags: , , , , , ,

UbiDubikid#2 got a wonderful letter from her school yesterday.  I’ve redacted the personal details to avoid embarrassing anybody, but the typo in this is too good not to share:

Moron Letter

At least I assume it was a typo.  This just made my day!


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