The Word Scientist Is Already Taken

September 30, 2007

We need a new word to denote one who believes that for which there is overwhelming evidence and gives credence to that for which there is some evidence and gives no credence to that for which there is no evidence. Scientist might be used as a word to mean a believer in science. However, just as sexist has already been used for another purpose, so can’t be used to indicate one who believes in sex, scientist has already been used to indicate one who actually practices science for a living, so cannot be used to indicate a believer in the tremendous value of scientific evidence.

Atheist is actually a bad word for this because, as Dawkins points out in God Delusion, this defines one by their non-belief. I am an atheist. I am also an athorist and an azeusist and an aodinist and an abaalist, etc. For this reason, I prefer to call myself an antitheist. This works for me because I actually do believe religion is an evil institution and am opposed to all forms of theism. So, for me, this works.

However, we still do not have a good name for one who does not oppose theism, but simply does not believe in it. Skeptic is one word that could accurately describe such a philosophy, but is also overloaded with other meaning both connotations and denotations.

So, the question is, what should we call someone that believes that extraordinary claims, such as an invisible man in the sky, must be backed up by evidence in order to be given credence (other than unelectable for office at any level anywhere in this U.S.)?

New York City Off The Tourist Track

September 30, 2007

I’m taking the liberty of assuming that there is a boatload of information about tourism in New York that will get you to all of the major sites. However, I live here. And, I have different tastes than many people. So, I’m going to provide some information for getting off the beaten track in New York City. Yes, that is possible.

From a New Yorker’s viewpoint, I find it amusing to go through Times Square or 5th Avenue in the 50s. I see the streets so crowded that I end up walking in the street rather than on the sidewalk, especially through Times Square, and imagine all the tourists going home and talking about how overcrowded New York is. Yes. It’s crowded here, but not that crowded. Those areas are crowded with tourists, not residents.

So, for some ways to get out of the crowd, click the more link to see the rest of this post.

Recent Updates

I plan to keep this topic as somewhat of a living document. As I think of things I’ll add them, so check back. Here are the updates since I published the post.

9/30/2007 9:54 AM EDT – Added public restrooms section and link to urban park ranger led walks.
9/30/2007 4:30 PM EDT – Added science lecture section.
10/1/2007 9:42 PM EDT – Added links to the restaurants already mentioned and started a list of different restaurants.

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Anti-consumerism For a Happier Life

September 29, 2007

This topic is intended to make life better and more enjoyable for anyone with any disposable income. I do not believe I can offer much assistance for someone truly living day to day. I also have no intention of providing investment advice. However, these simple tips may make life a little bit easier and are not typically considered by those of us that were brought up in our consumerist culture. I have had a bit more contact with people that were not born here and may be able to give a different outlook.

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LipoBlow ™

September 28, 2007

There are approximately 1.2 billion people in the world that are either chronically hungry or starving. There are also approximately 1.2 billion people in the world that are either overweight or obese. This odd coincidence led me to a bizarre conclusion.

(I do not remember the exact source of my numbers. It was probably Plan B 2.o or Collapse, but could have been some other source. If you have more accurate figures, please feel free to post them. It will not be likely to change the point of this post, however.)

So, here is my idea, in case you didn’t guess it from the title. We can liposuck the fat out of the overweight and obese people of the world and either LipoBlow ™ the fat subcutaneously into the bodies of the starving masses or mix it with grains into nice high calorie LardAss ™ cakes to be shipped to the hungry and starving people of the world.

This could dramatically improve the health of the world’s population by simultaneously reducing obesity and starvation. Of course, human fat would not provide many of the other nutrients required by the starving people. But, when one is starving, even empty calories are a good thing.

Is this just the sick humor of a misanthrope making a statement about the state of the world or a workable solution? Which would be more appealing or less appalling, LipoBlow ™ or LardAss ™ cakes?

(The inclusion of humor in both the tags and the categories for this post probably gives me away.)

Marriage is for Lovers

September 28, 2007

My wife and I have been married for 20 years. One man, one woman, works for us. Perhaps I just have a lot of vasopressin coursing through my veins. Whatever. In recent years, people have been trying to convince the masses in the U.S. that if we allow homosexual marriage, it will somehow weaken either my marriage or the institution of marriage. Bullshit!!

If anyone’s marriage is in such poor shape that seeing a happy lesbian or gay couple is going to weaken it, get a divorce now. Your marriage is already gone. And, one of you is probably a latent homosexual or bisexual. There’s nothing wrong with that. Get in touch with your own sexuality and move on.

Life is difficult enough for everyone. If someone has found someone else with whom they wish to spend the rest of their life, someone who makes them truly happy, that is a beautiful thing and to be encouraged.

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Assignment, Should You Decide to Accept It

September 28, 2007

OK, here’s my challenge to everyone out there.

Name a major world problem that would be here even if there were only 6 million people in the world rather than 6 billion.

My claim is this, all of the real problems we have to deal with are caused by there being too damn many homo sapiens on the planet. Please note that inter-tribal skirmishes and warfare cannot be considered a global problem regardless of whether they are among chimps or humans.

Prove me wrong.

Diabetes Tight Control

September 27, 2007

I have had Type I Diabetes since 1988. I have been pumping Humalog since 1998. My hemaglobin A1C tends to be in the 5.5 – 5.9 range. I have had A1Cs as high as 6.3 and as low as 5.4, not counting my long honeymoon period.

The reasons to maintain tight control and to improve whatever level of control each of us has have to do with the Diabetic Control and Complications Test (DCCT) that was performed years ago. That long term test of varying levels of control proved the intuitively obvious. Better control reduces diabetic complications. It also quantified it. Those in the tight control group saw a 50% reduction in all diabetic complications except one. For retinopathy the reduction was 60%. Tha’s a 60% reduction in the chances of going blind. That’s huge. It also proved that it was not a simple tight control yes or no type question but that improvements in control at all levels reduced risks of complications. So, that’s some serious incentive for maintaining the tightest control we can, whatever that is for each of us.

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Kimberly Clark = Old Growth Toilet Paper

September 25, 2007

UPDATE: Kimberly Clark has now pledged to make their products only from paper that is either recycled or Forest Stewardship Council certified as sustainable. While this is not as good as the 100% recycled products from companies like Marcal and Green Forest, it is far better than they were. I will continue to purchase only paper from 100% recycled sources, and the more from post-consumer the better. However, Kimberly Clark products may now be purchased with a relatively clear conscience.

And, remember that cloth napkins and handkerchiefs are cheap, easy to wash, and far more environmentally conscious than any paper products. Please give them a try. Sponges, towels, and good old fashioned rags also work well for replacing paper towels.

Here is the new statement from Greenpeace.

Case closed! A look back at the Kleercut campaign.

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Dare to Cruise

September 25, 2007

I’m always on a kick to try to convince people to use cruise control whenever possible. Cruise control provides many benefits that I will list below. However, my main reason for being a cruise control advocate is that it really pisses me off when others on the road do not maintain a constant speed. They pass me then get over and slow down. I pass them back they do the same again. We go up a hill and everyone on the road slows down. We go down a hill and everyone races.

I don’t care how good a driver you are. I don’t care how much you think you watch your speedometer. There is no way you will ever maintain a more constant speed with your foot than a little cruise control bot can. It doesn’t get bored. It’s mind doesn’t wander. It doesn’t have to do the far more important job of watching the rest of the road to avoid hitting anything. That little cruisebot just sits there all damn day watching the speedometer and making corrections. Please let it do its job.

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Jesus Hates Me!

September 25, 2007

First, let me make a few things clear to avoid a bunch of misunderstandings.

  1. I am an atheist and antitheist. This means I do not believe in any deity, including Jesus, and so don’t really believe my own title.
  2. I do not hate Christianity more than any other type of theism. I am writing this post primarily in response to Higghawker who has repeatedly posted scripture on my site, presumably with the intent of converting me. It is my hope to redirect all such replies to this topic and leave non-religious topics free of mythological influence.
  3. I believe it is highly unlikely that Jesus ever existed as a human being.

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Peru Travel Log and Photos

September 24, 2007

Peru is a place of incredible biodiversity and very much worth the trip. Though most people go to Machu Picchu, and there is some good wildlife there, I would strongly recommend the lowlands, especially of the Amazon basin. When planning a trip to Peru, consider that there are 1,800 bird species there, as compared with 500 for all of North America. Also keep in mind that the country is incredibly rich in mammals and reptiles.

Our tally at the end of the trip was 230 bird species and 27 mammal species.

Our trip began at Tahuayo, a 2.5 hour boat trip from Iquitos. This lodge was a truly remote experience. All day trips began with a boat ride from the lodge. Trails were typically fairly primitive and muddy. Our guides were excellent at finding the wildlife. I would note though that at 5’7″, I am not used to thinking of myself as tall. That changed in the rain forest. With guides cutting trails with machetes being significantly shorter, there was always a branch to duck under … or walk into forehead first. Don’t grab for handholds on the trails either. Many of the plants have nasty thorns that leave little bits in your hands. And, do take the lodge up on their rubber boots. Standard hiking boots, even gore-tex ones, are just a tad low for that level of mud.

The wildlife was phenomenal and well worth it. This was where we saw the Amazon Pink River Dolphins, locally called botos. They are beautiful and not as hard to see as one might imagine. But, they do not stay up long. If you want photos of them, you will end up with a lot of photos of empty water. This would be OK with digital photography. We were using film. This was the best one we got.

Pink River Dolphin or Boto

While there we also saw many kingfishers of various species, three toed sloths, hoatzin, and this Pygmy Marmoset who posed for us for quite some time, long enough to set up the tripod and put extenders (1.5x & 2x) to get an effective 1200mm lens (mirror lockup required).

Pygmy Marmoset

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Antartica Travel Log and Photos

September 22, 2007

This was our second millennium trip from late December 2000 through January 2001. Since there was debate about the actual millennium year (my opinion, watching all the digits turn is what matters), this was considered to be a millennium trip.

Anyway, into the more important points. We took a trip through Cheeseman’s Ecology Safaris, a small Mom and Pop, literally, travel specialist in California. Actually, Doug and Gail’s son Ted was also on the trip. The Cheesemans are wonderful people. Our only complaint, if it can be called a complaint, was that they were a bit too nice and too trusting. There were times when we would have liked to see them reign in some of the guests a bit more sternly.

The truly excellent things about the Cheeseman’s trip were that it was 100% wildlife focused, that it was significantly longer than other comparable trips, and that it was less expensive than most, especially when the per day rate is considered. Remember, if you are planning a trip to Antarctica, much of the best wildlife on the trip is in the Falklands and South Georgia. If your finances and schedule can possibly allow, definitely get to these places.

Also, when planning a trip there, it is very important to look at your schedule of days at sea. We compared at the time we went and found that the Falklands, S. Georgia, S. Orkney, and the Antarctic Peninsula take about 11 days at sea. So, if your trip is 19 days, you only have 8 days of landings. Our trip was 25 days, giving us 14 days of landings. Each day that you add to a trip like this is a land day rather than a sea day. At sea, you will see birds flying around the ship and whales, though mostly distant. An ice-strengthened ship weighs a lot and cannot turn on a dime to watch whales.

This photo was taken near the end of the trip at the southernmost point we reached, about 66 degrees 11 minutes south latitude. We did not cross the Antarctic Circle. Though the scan is not as good as the print from film, I should say that of all the photos on our walls, this is the one we blew up to the largest size, 16×24.

Antarctic Peninsula

Click on the more link to see the rest of the images from the trip, or at least the small subset I scanned and uploaded.

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Environment a Backseat Driver?

September 20, 2007

Environmental considerations have the potential at this time to cause global civilizational collapse. There is even a real risk of human extinction caused by our lack of concern for the biosphere on which we depend. Despite this, it has not been a major topic in the debates of the presidential candidates thus far.

Instead, people are highly concerned with Iraq, health care, and education. While all of these are important, it seems obvious to me that they would pale in comparison to human extinction and even to global civilizational collapse. Our environmental problems can be solved or at least dramatically reduced if we take decisive action now.

The biosphere will not care about our excuses. The biosphere will not care about our economic issues. The biosphere will not care about our reasons for warfare. We must take action despite any other issues that may arise. None will seem even remotely important as we begin to feel the effects of having destroyed our resource base.

We are already past peak grain production. All three major world staple crops, rice, corn, and wheat, are being produced in lesser quantities year over year. We are already past peak ocean fisheries output despite continually improving fishing technology. We have been getting less fish from the ocean year over year since 1983. About a billion people depend on ocean fish for their primary source of protein.

Clearly this situation is not sustainable, especially in light of the fact that humanity has not yet reached peak human population. Remember, people are made of food. As our food production drops, so too will the human population. It may lag a bit. But, it will be reduced either by us relatively painlessly or for us by limited planetary resources. The latter will involve a great deal of human suffering and will probably, due to normal human behavior, be disastrous for many other species as well.

So, my question is, why is this issue taking a backseat when it should be the driver?

GDP — Worse Than Useless

September 20, 2007

GDP is not an indicator of anything. Take this admittedly imperfect, but IMHO quite relevant, analogy. Shares in XYZ corp are selling for $100. Last year, they did a billion dollars worth of transactions. Are you buying or selling?

Personally, I’d need some more information. Forget about the obvious question of how many shares are outstanding, which is where this analogy has it’s imperfection, the government has no shares. This may be the only point of this analogy that really fails though.

Here’s some information you might ask about XYZ corp, all of which are pieces of information that you will never get from the GDP.

1) What percentage of the dollar value of the transactions were income?
2) What percentage of the dollar value of the transactions were expenses?
3) What assets does the company have?
4) What debt does the company have? (We know this figure at 8 trillion. However, it’s not in the GDP.)

So, the GDP is almost meaningless. All it is is a count of transactions. When Exxon spilled oil in Valdez, the $10 billion cleanup was ADDED to the GDP. That should have been counted as an expense and been SUBTRACTED. This type of thing makes the GDP among the worst indicators of the economy.

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This Guy is Either Onto Something Or On Something.

September 18, 2007

Not my favorite source by any stretch of the imagination, but, even Fox gets a good one once in a while.

I wonder what happens next, a summary judgment? An injunction? After failure to comply, perhaps a bench warrant?

Here’s the MSNBC version of the same story on the Dawkin’s site.

For a real surprise though, I actually like the Fox reporting better on this one. It actually reports the motive of Senator Chambers as being to block legislation against frivolous law suits. He claims everyone is entitled to sue anyone for anything. The courts are open. I actually agree with the point he’s trying to make. But, I think he has a side agenda. See, god does exist, we even sued him/her once.

Thanks to ‘republican’ for finding this.

Meat, Meet Meat

September 18, 2007

This is one of my favorite pieces of humor on the internet. I strongly recommend reading it before reading my commentary below about my circumstances when I first read it, which only made it funnier for me.

Meat, by Terry Bisson

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Electing the Unelectable

September 15, 2007

How can we as a people elect the unelectable candidates?

In this election, one thing is clear to me. The candidates with the best views on many issues and that are bought by the fewest corporations are getting little or no air time from the corporate media. This is severely negatively impacting their chances for election.

The candidate I happen to favor is Kucinich. Interestingly, even after he won the MSNBC debate handily according to the poll of the viewers, MSNBC simply decided not to report who won. This appears to me to be highly unprecedented.

Being corporations, it is as if these media giants have simply declared that they will not let us hear the names of the really good candidates enough to get it through the thick skulls of the American people, many of whom vote largely on name recognition.

So, how can we get the word out that candidates like Kucinich and Paul even exist so that people can make their informed decisions about such candidates? Personally, I don’t like Paul for his anti-choice stance and his affiliation with a party that has become wholly evil, despite its original well-meaning ideals.

However, it seems clear to me that if we want something better than a government of the corporation by the corporation and for the corporation, we must do something. And, we most likely must do it without diebold voting machines in place.

Does anyone have any ideas on how to make this happen?

The Crap That Gets Bipartisan Support These Days …

September 14, 2007

Has everyone heard about this bill?

If someone were to owe me money and be in bankruptcy proceedings, I would personally be very upset to hear that they were still giving money to charitable causes. At this point, I’d think they should be giving me the money. If I want to give it to the charity of my choosing, that is my business.

After all, I’m about to end up with 10 cents on the dollar and the bankrupt individual who owes me money is giving his/her money away. This is not a good thing.

Of course, just to add insult to injury, even though it seems to cover all types of charitable donations, it is couched in religious terms, violating separation of church and state. I was not aware that giving to religious organizations was in the bible or any other religious writing as a prerequisite for entry into heaven. If it is, then certainly this is a freedom of religion issue, and also probably time to look for a new religion.

This isn’t about leaving the bankrupt individual with enough to eat. This is about taking the money out of the creditor’s hands and giving it to a charity not of his/her own choosing.

Who’s standing up for the rights of the creditor to be able to pay his/her own bills with the money that is duly acknowledged to be owed to him/her?

Just say “Hi”

September 13, 2007

Since I have had cases where people typed to me on my about page and don’t like my pages to have discussions on them, I figured I’d set this up. Got something to say to me that is unrelated to any other topic? Please put it here. I’ll get back to you.

What is the Sustainable Human Population for this Planet?

September 13, 2007

First and foremost, I must state that this write-up is hatched out of my own little brain and is not intended to be truly scientific. It probably does not even qualify as a SWAG (scientific wild-assed guess).

That said, perhaps it will ring true through plain ordinary logic with a few facts mixed in. Please let me know where I have gone wrong on this. I have attempted to deliberately over-estimate the population to come up with what would be considered a less unpleasant number by all but the most misanthropic among us.

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