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Should I be honored or insulted? September 26, 2019

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Responses, UbiDubiKids.
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13 comments

I’ve written about this event in some assorted blog comments over the past few days, but I think it deserves a full post of its own, as documentation.

There is an apologist, Tom Gilson, who writes for The Stream, and apparently also has his own blog, which I won’t link to here.  About a year ago he wrote an article, supposedly rebutting Lawrence Krauss on the issue of divine hiddenness.

Now I have no interest in reading The Stream, and generally avoid apologists in general, unless they show up on an atheist site trying to convert people.  I was totally unaware of this article, until recently when Bob Seidensticker wrote a response to it at Cross Examined, here: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2019/09/another-attempt-to-explain-gods-hiddenness-or-nonexistence-fails-tom-gilson-the-stream.

So as I’m reading Bob’s post, I come across a quote that Gilson used to start off his article, supposedly from Lawrence Krauss:

[Suppose something happened] completely inconsistent with the operation of the universe as we know it, something impossible. . . . For instance, if the stars rearranged themselves to spell a different bible verse each night. Or if the tree in my front yard started growing KJV bibles instead of crabapples.

And my jaw just dropped.  I knew that quote wasn’t from Krauss, because I recognized it.  Because I WROTE IT!

That’s a direct quote from a post I wrote in 2016.  I did some quick checking, to be sure that Gilson wasn’t picking up an instance of Krauss quoting me.  I don’t know that Krauss ever has quoted me, or even knows who I am, but I like to be thorough.   Gilson doesn’t give a source for his quote, and the Krauss source he does link to in his article doesn’t include it.  I let Bob Seidensticker know about this, and he quickly posted an update to his article.  I also left a comment on the original Gilson article, which immediately went into moderation, and hasn’t shown up yet.  I don’t expect that it will ever be approved, since it would be an embarrassment to the author.

You can read Gilson’s article here: https://web.archive.org/web/20190924200235/https://stream.org/god-himself-obvious/

And here’s my original post, that he plagiarized from: https://boldquestions.wordpress.com/2016/08/14/answers-to-a-question-for-atheists/

Sheesh.

I love Perfume! I hate Perfume! June 10, 2018

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Rants.
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7 comments

Some long while ago, I wrote a column about my love-hate relationship with shoes.  I’ve realized that I also have a similar relationship with perfume, so I think I’ll have at a rant on this topic.

First, there’s what’s to love.  There is so much creativity that goes into creating the ingredients and elaborate smell profiles of perfume.  Spices and florals and all sorts of interesting stuff. There is a website that I’ve found called Fragrantica where you can look up which ingredients are in each perfume, look up exactly what each of those ingredients is and where it comes from, and read reviews. Fascinating.

Smell takes me back like nothing else can.  Sometimes I’ll smell something that I have not smelled in years, and I’ll immediately remember where I smelled it before.  Or, you can mention a smell, and I’ll immediately be able to recall just what it was like.  For instance, for me Williamsburg smells like boxwoods.  I can bring that smell to mind right now, so vividly that it amazes me.  So many other smells come back to me just as easily, things I haven’t been around for years, like a freshly run ditto, violin rosin, burning autumn leaves, Play-Doh, or volcano fumes.

I also find it interesting how different scents interact differently with people’s chemistry.  Something may smell good in the bottle, but not on a specific person.  Or it’s initially pretty bad, then after a few minutes blossoms into something nice.  Or on one person it’s great, and on another person the same scent just smells like bath powder.   That’s one of the reasons I’m unlikely to buy an expensive perfume, unless I’ve tested it several times.

But my perfume collection is mostly things I’ve gotten from other people.  My sister gave me some partial bottles of Obsession and Vanilia, and a huge bottle of Joan Rivers Now and Forever.  My Mom gave me some partial bottles of Beyond Paradise and Tatiana.  And I have samples that I’ve been given over the years of several others.  From somewhere I wound up with bottles of Enjoli and Cachet from the 70s.

I have some interesting older bottles that I must have gotten from my Mom when I was young.  Mom said that perfume goes off when it gets older, but apparently that’s not always the case.  There’s a market on ebay for old bottles of perfume, that are either not made anymore, or have been reformulated and the new versions now smell very different.

I have a little bit of Chantilly from back when it was made by Houbigant, which apparently is quite a classic now:

And a big bottle of Midnight, by Tussy, that I can’t find a proper photo of online, that’s how old this bottle is.  For me, it smells like a classic musty-old-lady smell, the kind of smell your grandma would have worn, or maybe that teacher you didn’t like.  (I never wear this, but it’s interesting to have.)

And there are perfumes I remember vividly from years back that I don’t have now, like Love’s Baby Soft, which was a big thing when I was in high school.  Or the perfume samples from the Avon lady, that I thought smelled pretty much all the same, and uniformly awful.  I couldn’t imagine why people wanted to smell like that! Still can’t.  Ew.

There aren’t many bottles I have bought for myself.  I’m picky, and tend not to buy perfume very often.  I have a bottle of Cinnabar that I got back in high school, and still smells just the same.  This is probably the first perfume I got because I liked the smell, and not because someone had randomly given it to me.  It’s an oriental perfume, full of spices and incense, a lot like YSL’s better known Opium.

When I went to Hawaii more recently, I came home with several tiny bottles of pure florals: plumeria, pikake, and puakenikeni.  Each of those takes me right back to the islands.  And more recently, I realized that a bar of soap whose smell I had been liking was lemon verbena scented, so I got myself a small bottle of the oil, and it’s lovely.

But sometimes what I buy for myself are imposter perfumes.  Knock-offs of the expensive designer stuff that often smell just as good, and for a fraction of the price.  I have a copy of Obsession, one of Eternity, and just recently I’ve gotten a copy of the old perfume “Giorgio” that was such a big thing back in the 80s.  These copies don’t smell cheap, they just don’t have to cover the advertising budget of the big designers, so the price is pretty reasonable.

But now the hate part.  Number one on my “I hate perfume” list is people who wear too much of it.  You all know who I mean.  The person that you can smell coming.  You can tell they’ve been in a room, even if it was an hour ago, because they’ve left the air full of their smell. (There’s even a word for this effect: “sillage”.) If they brush up against you, you smell like their perfume for the rest of the day. One of them sits near you at a restaurant, and suddenly you can’t smell your food anymore, just the perfume bomb at the next table.  People!  Have mercy on us!  Stop dousing yourself in the stuff!  No more than one spray, ever!  If your perfume is really strong, spray one spritz into the air, count to five, and then walk through the mist cloud, and that’s probably enough.

And I sing in a really good chorus, where there is no acceptable amount of perfume. Imagine taking a big breath to hit a high note, and getting a lungful of Chanel instead!  Try that for two hours of rehearsal.  Now our members all know this, and are careful not to wear any scent when singing, but every once in awhile we have instrumentalists with us who didn’t get the memo.

Next on my hate list: perfume samples in fashion magazines.  Bleh.  I don’t subscribe to any of that sort of magazine, and those samples are part of the reason why.  If I did, I’d have to start by tearing out all of those pages first, and throwing them in the trash outside.  Those samples never smell like actual perfume, anyway, they just stink.  But perfume advertising is another thing I don’t like.  Since a commercial can’t show you what the product smells like, they do all of this flashy “image building” stuff, with no attempt to tell you what it smells like.  I’d rather see advertising that says “this smells like roses, orange blossoms and cinnamon,” that would be more useful.

Really, do you have any clue about what “Charlie” smells like from watching this?

And strongly scented products that don’t need strong scents, I don’t get those either.  I have a couple of stories about those.  Shortly after we got our cat, we tried a “fresh” brand of kitty litter.  The scent of it was not actually bad, but it was strong, and it lingered on his paws for a long time afterwards.  When I pick up my cat, I’d really prefer not to be reminded of his litter box visits, so we had to change brands.  Or, another time, I had someone hired to clean my kitchen, and she bragged about using only “natural” cleaners.  She cleaned our microwave with a lilac-scented cleaner, and the next time we used the microwave we were hit with a blast of the stuff.  It turns out that while lilac is a lovely scent, it’s really not compatible with reheated leftovers.  At all.  We had to scrub out the microwave again.  My kids still talk about that smell.

I asked UbiDubiKid#2 for her perfume recollections, and she told me about a particular smell that she would smell repeatedly in the halls of her high school,and even back to middle school.  She said it was probably not just one specific person, because it would show up all over the place. Last Christmas someone gave her a bottle of “gingerbread latte” lotion, and my daughters reaction was “That’s the same smell!”  It brought back a lot of her most unpleasant memories of her school years, and she won’t use the lotion.

So, when I do wear perfume, the amount I want to wear is just a trace, just enough that I can smell it, but not enough for anybody else to smell it, unless they are really near me.  Another gripe I have  is that most perfume comes in spray bottles, so you can’t get less than one squirt, and one squirt is often way too much for my use.  I mentioned the trick of spritzing into the air and then walking through the mist, but even that’s too much with some scents, and I’d also be getting it into my bedroom carpet and on my furniture when I do that.  So I’ve come up with what I think is a creative solution:

I dilute them.  A little grain alcohol in a dropper bottle, and then I add a squirt or two of the scent, and I get a much lighter version of the smell, in a form where I’m in control of how much I use.  You won’t know I’m wearing it unless you are standing right next to me, and then you might only get a subtle whiff of it.  Perfect.  Plus one bottle lasts me pretty much forever this way.

 

Anybody else have a story about a smell to share?

The End of the World Show March 21, 2018

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Rants, Responses.
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7 comments

Well, a few days after I got the ultra-impressive, extremely professionally produced Shen Yun booklet, I got another flyer for a religious event.  Full color, yes, but much thinner paper, and only four pages, so I’m going to post them all here for you.

Oh my.  The Shen Yun flyer had really professional graphics, careful layouts, and even if it was advertising a cult recruitment event, it was at least lovely to look at.  This one hurts my eyes.  Look at the cover, they’ve plopped a bunch of random images down, and then put yellow and white text on top of an image that already has a lot of yellow in it.  And I think there’s at least three different fonts.  Ow.

So let’s look at the content.  It’s inviting us to a series of lectures on “Revelation’s Ancient Discoveries”.  On the front it’s at least quite clear that this is a “Bible Prophecy Seminar” and it’s also clear that it’s free, so at least there’s that much up front.

So who is presenting this?

Join Mark Finley, a world traveler, an international speaker, for an incredible journey through Bible Prophecy.  You will be amazed that recent world events are a fulfillment of these ancient predictions.

Finley has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East to Jordan, Israel, Egypt and Turkey.  You will thrill at his clear state-of-the-art, fully-illustrated presentations that reveal the secrets of the ancient past and their meaning for our lives today!

I notice that Mark Finley is described as a “world traveler” but not as a scholar.  All you need to be a world traveler is a passport and sufficient money.  (I traveled all around southern England, but I don’t think that makes me qualified to lecture on the “Mysteries of Stonehenge”!)

So what organization is behind this?  I had my suspicions, but first I thought I’d start with the information on the flyer.  No religious denomination is listed anywhere on it.  Ah, but there’s a website listed!  revelationsdiscoveries(dot)com.  Surely there’s more information there?  No, just a single page with a link to reserve a seat, and no additional information at all.

So off to Wikipedia, where there’s a page for Mark Finley, identifying him as a Seventh Day Adventist, and a televangelist.  Which is exactly what I was expecting to find, and that’s entirely thanks to the “Oh, No, Ross and Carrie” podcast (their motto is “We show up so you don’t have to”).  They recently did a hilarious multi-part series on the lectures called “Amazing Facts” and I’ve listened to all the podcast episodes.  When this flyer arrived, my first thought was “Is this Amazing Facts?” because it’s so similar.  It had the same sort of focus on “end times”, and having exactly the right understanding of Revelation, was also free, and also was very cagey about what the organization was behind it.  Amazing Facts started with one set of lectures, but once those were completed, of course there were additional lectures for anyone who wanted the whole story.  If you look at page 3 of this flyer, it lists six scheduled lectures, but then there is a section that says “Future programs include”, so that’s the same as well.  So if you have any curiosity about what might be in a these lectures, go listen to the podcast series, because Ross and Carrie have already endured the pain of this for you.

But, I will have to say, I don’t think this flyer is trying to trick me in the same way the Shen Yun one is.  Once, when I was a kid, I went to a lecture series on Ancient Egyptian history, which was one of my hobbies back then.  The first couple were really interesting, but then in the next one the speaker went off on a bunch of “end times prophecies” nonsense, and even though I was still Presbyterian at the time, I was massively disappointed.  How worthwhile is your religion if you have to trick people into listening to you preach?  I guess I had just run into my first instance of “lying for Jesus”.  Mark Finley isn’t trying to trick anyone into listening to him blather about the bible, at least.

Except – on the back, there’s a box labeled “Children’s Program Ages 4-9” with no further information about exactly what they will be telling the children.  No.  Just NO.  Parents, even if you are interested in this series for yourselves, please DON’T subject your kids to it!

THE NO. 1 SHOW in the world? March 21, 2018

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Rants, Responses.
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9 comments

I received an advertising flyer at my office a few days back.  This is nothing unusual, I get stuff like that all the time – restaurant menus, computer sale flyers, postcards from one particularly pushy dental office.  But this time I got something different – a large ten-page full-color glossy brochure on heavy paper, advertising one theater production:


 Holy cow.  Everything about this ad is over the top with “this is the most wonderful show you will ever see in your whole life ever”.  It’s full of lush photos in brilliant color of dancers in front of vivid Chinese backgrounds.  Like this:

Testimonial after testimonial after gushing review from random celebrities and officials.  They are trying really hard, and have certainly sunk a lot of money into this ad campaign.  So what’s up with this?  Who are these people really?

The answer was in the return address: Falun Dafa.  Otherwise known as Falun Gong, a group that originates in China, but the Chinese Government considers it a cult and has outlawed it.

So I went looking to see what regular people had actually said about this performance, to see if it was overtly a push for their religious cult or was actually a nice cultural event.  When I first googled “Shen Yun” all that came up were ads for it and gushing articles raving about how wonderful it was.  Likewise, a search on YouTube comes up with trailers and other videos that are either direct advertisements or full of glowing praise for them.  So, in addition to the slick glossy brochures, this group has obviously put a lot of effort into doctoring their internet presence, and removing anything negative from the first few pages of search results.

But then I tried looking specifically for Yelp reviews.  Oh, boy, was that ever a different perspective!  I found some reviews from people who liked it, but others were so disappointed that they had walked out of the show in the middle of it.  They wrote that it was pretty, but not nearly as impressive as the advertising had let on, that many of the dances were overt pushes for their cult beliefs, that the singing performances were religious propaganda songs with lyrics like “The heresy of evolution now eclipses the Divine word.”  It wasn’t a spectacular cultural event, it was mediocre evangelizing.

How, then are they funding all this?  The brochure I got was just addressed to “postal customer” so it’s a sure bet that they mailed out massive numbers of these ads.  And the effort required to make sure that every google search returns only positive things about the group for the first few pages can’t be cheap either.  Where’s the money coming from?  Here’s one answer:Even the nosebleed seats on a weeknight will set you back $80, and the good seats are $250!  (For comparison on seat prices, the New York City Ballet is at the Kennedy Center in this same hall this weekend, and the best seats can be had for $99.00.  I didn’t find any nearly comparable prices for seats in this hall until I looked at the prices for Hamilton.  And I’m pretty sure that the audience for Hamilton won’t be disappointed by bait-and-switch preaching.)

I’ve scanned the entire brochure to a .pdf file, so if you’d like, you can get a look at all of the hype in its full glory:

Shen Yun Flyer – click here

 

No true Santaist December 23, 2017

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Humor, Rants, Responses.
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6 comments

Over on ex-christian.net, there has recently been a commenter who seems very earnest, but less prepared than most to defend what he believes.  He assures us that he knows god personally, and that he knows because he is “filled with the holy spirit”.  But of course he is unable to demonstrate this in any way, and we’ve replied to him that we also had strong feelings back when we were religious, and that his personal feelings in no way establish the truth about his claims.   He’s been asserting that all of the ex-christians were never True Christians™ because, of course, anybody who left christianity could never have been a real christian.  He’s sure that nobody who has felt what he has felt would ever change their mind.

You can read his commentary here:

http://new.exchristian.net/2017/12/love-is-not-christian-it-is-human.html

So after trying to talk to the guy for awhile, an idea for a  cartoon about this guy popped into my head, and would not go away until I drew it.  I have very limited skills with computer graphics, so I just used powerpoint’s drawing tools to create this.  I’ll put it after the break, so there won’t be spoilers for any small children who are reading over your shoulder. (more…)

Whut??? December 15, 2017

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Humor.
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6 comments

Totally irrelevant post today.  We recently ordered Chinese food, and there were still some fortune cookies hanging around the kitchen, so I cracked one open last night.  Now we always have fun with these, with how random the fortunes are, and of course the “fortune cookie game“.  But today’s fortune hit a new level of weirdness:

Here we go. Low fat, whole wheat green tea.

I just looked at it in perplexity, then said “Whut?  Then thought about it for a moment, and said “Whut?” again.

My kids both asked “Mom, what does it say!?”  So I read it to them, and simultaneously they both said “Whut?”

I don’t even know where to start with this one.  I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.  I guess green tea is low fat, but I’m sure it doesn’t come in “whole wheat”.

I googled it, and a lot of people have apparently also gotten this fortune, and are as mystified about it as I am.  Does anybody have any insights into this?

Box of Apologetics June 8, 2017

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Rants, Responses.
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14 comments

Every Monday I listen to the previous Sunday’s broadcast of The Atheist Experience.  And generally the show is a lot of fun, lots of promotion of critical thinking and jousting with theists.  My favorite host is Tracie Harris, who just hits it out of the park, and it’s pretty satisfying when Matt Dillahunty hangs up on an annoying troll.  But lately I have been getting frustrated when some apologist calls in with their favorite clever twist on some tired old apologetic, and they proceed to argue in endless circles, because they just have to “get the atheist to admit that they are right”.  These calls tend to go on way too long and almost never accomplish anything.

I’ve realized that if I were hosting the show and one of these guys got going, that there is something specific I would want to say to them.  But since that’s unlikely ever to happen, I’ll just say it here instead:

“Hey Mr. Apologist!  Before you begin on whatever clever argument for god you are about to present, I need to ask you three background questions.  So, for the time being, instead of discussing it right away, we’re going to put your apologetic in a box.

This Box.

“We’re not going to unpack it just yet.  Not until I find out a few things about the person I am talking to.  First I need to ask you when you first started believing in god.”

(A typical theist will probably tell me that they have been a believer their whole lives, or from when they were very young.)

“OK.  And when did you first learn this argument you are about to present?”

(Let’s assume they tell us about the book they read in high school, or the class their church had recently, or some such.  It’s not likely that they learned a complicated argument in their earliest Sunday School classes.)

“All right.  And finally, suppose that your apologetics teacher (or Pope, or whoever is an authority for your sect) came to you and said ‘Dude, we found a flaw in this particular argument.  It doesn’t actually prove the thing it’s supposed to prove.  You have to stop using it.’  If that were to happen, would you still believe in god?  Would you have to reconsider anything about what you believe, or would you still believe exactly as you do now?”

(I would expect that a typical True Believer™ would declare that their faith would continue to be steadfast in that case.)

“OK, so let me review what we’ve learned about the argument in this box.

  1. It’s not what initially persuaded you to believe, because you didn’t have it at that time.
  2. It’s not what’s keeping you in your faith, because you would still be a believer even if you lost what’s in the box. 

SO, what that tells me is that we don’t actually need to open this box at all!  The question for callers is “Tell us what you believe and why.”  And we have just established that the argument in this box is not really part of your “why“.  So we can throw out this box unopened.  It’s not relevant.

“Here’s the box we ought to open up:

“What we should be talking about are the real reasons that you believe.   What initially persuaded you to start believing?  What things are so central to your beliefs that you would have to rethink your entire belief system if they were discredited?   I don’t know what’s in this box for you.  Maybe it’s things like ‘trust in your teachers,’ ‘personal experience,’ ‘clerical authority,’ or ‘biblical infallibility.’  Maybe it’s something else.  We won’t know until we start unpacking it.” Those are the interesting and useful discussions to have, not these circular apologetic word games.

If I ever were in the position similar to the hosts on TAE, I think that I would have to label some real boxes to use as visual aids.  Because, unless a caller says that their argument was specifically why they started believing, or that their faith would collapse without it, there’s no way that I would want to waste my energy listening to their endless philosophical wanking.  I have better things to do, like watching paint dry.

Big Game Leftovers February 7, 2017

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Humor.
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2 comments

Continuing the quest to cheer myself up, I continue my tribute to that most wonderful of websites: CakeWrecks.

Today I walked to the local grocery to pick up a salad for lunch, and as usual I checked the marked down bakery shelf to see if there was anything not too stale for a reasonable price.  I’m so glad I did.  It was full of sad, lonely Superbowl Big Game cakes, that had not sold for what will be obvious reasons. I didn’t have my phone with me to snap photos, so I had to bring the two worst offenders home with me.  Not that they cost much, they were 75% off.

pair-of-cakes

These deserve their own closeups:

go-folcons

Sad color, a mysterious yellow icing blob on one side, and “Go Folcons”?  Or is that “Go Folcone”?

And then:

super-something

Well alrighty then.  This is a bit brighter, and might be spelled correctly.  Once again, there’s a mysterious yellow icing blob on one side.   At first I thought that rectangle might have been meant to be a sportsball field, but then I realized that it says “LI” on a white background smudged in red, with red, white and blue sprinkles, leaving it barely legible.  And the rest of the cake has star shaped sprinkles.  Because everything is better with sprinkles!

They may be sad, but we’re still going to eat them!

Dog ate his homework February 2, 2017

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Rants, Responses.
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6 comments

At a speech about Black History Month, Hair Twitler said this:

“I am very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things, Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice.”

So Frederick Douglass is still alive?  Wut?

And then I realized what this reminds me of.  This is the book report from the kid who goofed off and didn’t bother to read the book.  You know, this:

calvin-book-report

I’m not the first to have noticed this, though.  Back during the campaign there was a marvellous Twitter stream of Drumpf’s “hasn’t read the book book reports”:  https://twitter.com/antoniofrench/status/788928579086217216?lang=en

Of course, we already know that Il Douche can’t actually read.  So no surprise there.

What she said November 21, 2016

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Rants, Responses.
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8 comments

I haven’t really been able to post what I think about the election, because I’m still too full of rage and despair to put it together coherently.  But I just found this video on Friendly Atheist, and I think Tess Rafferty puts it very well:

So for my own mental health at the moment, I’m going to keep avoiding newspapers, and newscasts, and pretty much anything political, because I need to cope with the rest of my life at the moment, and if I think about what happened I just shut down and can’t do anything.    Eventually I may be able to dig in and fight.  But, as Tess said “… I may scream when I do and if I start I may not stop.”