Fear of Clowns

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."
- H. L. Mencken
gozz@gozz.com

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 30 

blossom

Yesterday, I rode an old bike. Today, I rode a new one.

swing swing
water water
blossom blossom

Trying to save a doomed cactus 

cactus cutting

I believe I was overly enthusiastic about watering my big cactus this spring (the cactus is two columns of San Pedro), although I also think I may have let it get too dry as most of the yellow, scaly blight is on the side which had been facing the southern sun window.

From what I've read over the last week through google searches, it's pretty simple to start a new cactus from an existing one: Cut a section or top free from blight, let it dry until the cut surface is "corky", then stand it up in cactus soil, keeping the soil only slightly moist and making sure it's not exposed to direct sun until you see new growth.

Some suggest to pare the edges of the cut surface; I imagine this is so the cutting stands up easier on the soil and new roots have an easier time growing primarily growing "out" instead of "down". I did this, as I know my cactus really likes growing it's roots "out".

Some say it takes a couple weeks to get corky, others a few days. I let it dry a few days as it was obviously already quite dry, perhaps because I had also cut off the top which had turned black and the texture of plastic.

Some say dipping the fresh cut surface in rooting powder may help, I did this because I happened to have some and how often does one such as I who just has a few houseplants get to use rooting powder? Others say to mix some powder into the soil, although nobody says any powder is necessary - usually unnecessary. One kind writer suggested placing a plastic bag over the pot to easily keep the soil slightly moist.

cactus cutting

I am hoping the rest of the cactus makes it; it was already scarred from something when I bought it late two winters ago and I figure my apartment has a lot going for it compared to the desert. Although I do suppose cacti generally prefer desert to apartment.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 29 

painted floor

Today, I woke up twice while it was raining an a third time about 11 pm when it wasn't.

bench bench
water water
lake lake

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 28 

portrait of the photographer in the pouring rain

Today is the third daily bike ride I've gone without sleeping - over 72 hours now. The first 36 hours was on purpose to flip my sleep so I generally am not awake when it's dark. The rest has been an accident.

swing swing
sky sky
blossom blossom

Monday, June 27, 2005

FLASH: Texas mistakenly engraves the rough draft of Yahweh's covenant with the Israelites on costly historic monument 

Exodus 20 has the stuff about thou shall not kill nor think your neighbor's wife is hot. Moses broke this first set of tablets Yahweh gave him - because he got mad. So Moses went up to the mountain to get a backup copy, and by that time, Yaweh had edited the first ten commandments so much so as to render the final copy on the second set of tables unrecognizable from his first draft. The final draft is recorded in Exodus 34,

And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest.

And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me in the top of the mount ... And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone.

And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD ...

Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite.

Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee:
  1. But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves:
    For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
    Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice;
    And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.
  2. Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.
  3. The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as I commanded thee, in the time of the month Abib: for in the month Abib thou camest out from Egypt.
  4. All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male.
  5. But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his neck. All the firstborn of thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall appear before me empty.
  6. Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest.
  7. And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year's end.
  8. Thrice in the year shall all your menchildren appear before the LORD God, the God of Israel.
    For I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders: neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the LORD thy God thrice in the year.
  9. Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left unto the morning.
  10. The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.

And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

Ouch, that last one about no beef stroganoff is going to be tough.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 27 

bug light

Today, the sky opened in a deluge. A real Noah-style onslaught - rain which creation scientists claim accumulated at a rate of over ten feet per hour.

swing swing
footbridge footbridge
lake lake

Ten Commandments wrap up 

Decisions for the two Supreme Court Ten Commandments cases were handed down this morning.

Previous posts I've made on the cases, and the Ten Commandments in general:

My thoughts on the Kentucky case: "Self-evident does not mean founded upon the ten commandments". How to constitutionally display the Ten Commandments in the Kentucky courthouses.

Thoughts on the Fist Amendment and Van Orden v Perry, the ridiculous Texas case in which the state argued that the Ten Commandments monument is constitutional, because the Ten Commandments are primarily secular in nature. Arguing that way means one would have to argue that the miniature Statue of Liberty on the same grounds primarily represents something other than liberty.

An interview I conducted on separation of church and state with James Madison, the author of the First Amendment. How to channel James Madison in a webboard discussion, including an example.

Musings concerning comments made by Jane Right-wing Christian to a Kentucky TV station.

Listing of Presidents since Washington, ranked by number of references made to a deity in State of the Union addresses.

Kurt Vonnegut asks why right-wingers never fight to display the Beatitudes in courthouses,

... Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God ...

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 26 

barrels

June 26, 2005.

minneapolis minneapolis
water water
blossom blossom

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 25 

barrels

June 25, 2005.

path path
bench bench
blossom blossom

Friday, June 24, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 24 

leaves

Today, it finally didn't get above 90 degrees.

tunnel tunnel
water water
sky sky
lake lake

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The other lane is usually faster 

half a honeydew

Here's something to think about next time you're stuck in traffic. At any given time there will be a certain number of cars in the "faster" lane and a certain number in the "slower" lane. You will be in one of those cars each time it occurs to you to wonder if the "other" lane is faster.

In the "faster" lane, drivers leave more space between them and the car in front of them, next time you observe that the other lane is faster, look at the space between the cars. On the other hand, drivers in a slower lane will leave much less space between their cars. The result is fewer cars in the faster lane and more cars in the slower lane,

the other lane tends to have fewer cars and goes faster

Leaving highways aside for the moment, imagine yourself being randomly placed in one of two groups of people: one group having eight members and the other group having four members. You are twice as likely to find yourself placed in the larger group: it has twice as many members.

Back to our highway, the "faster" and "slower" lanes are two groups of drivers, with the slower lane having more members because of the smaller space left between the cars. Therefore, on average, even if you are no more likely to wonder if the other lane is faster when you're stuck in traffic than when you're sailing through in the fast lane, you are more likely to find yourself in the slower lane when it occurs to you to wonder if the other lane is faster.

Click the illustration of the lanes above for an interactive demonstration which will randomly place you in a car on a highway with a fast and slow lane. Repeatedly click the "observe lanes" button to randomly place yourself in a car, which will turn blue. You will find after several observations that the other lane usually does go faster.

Because you are part of the system you're observing, rules of the system make it so.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 23 

speed

Today, I laid down in the air conditioned bedroom and didn't wake up until after dark.

minneapolis minneapolis
tunnel tunnel
water water

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 22 

chunky sky reflected on lake

Yesterday, I forgot my backpack by the bench I sit in to take the "swing" photo. Today, the guys I sat with yesterday were waiting there for me with my backpack.

water water
sky sky
blossom blossom

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 21 

stump of blown-over tree trunk

June 21, 2005. Chunky, thrilling sky today, the first day of Summer 2005.

path path
swing swing
lake lake

Monday, June 20, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 20 

guy doing push-ups

Heavy rain and lots of wind today.

swing swing
water water
sky sky

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Bush's war on science 

The White House edited scientific findings to be discussed an the upcoming G8 summet,

- Removed all reference to the fact that climate change is a 'serious threat to human health and to ecosystems';

- Deleted any suggestion that global warming has already started;

- Expunged any suggestion that human activity was to blame for climate change.

Among the sentences removed was the following: 'Unless urgent action is taken, there will be a growing risk of adverse effects on economic development, human health and the natural environment, and of irreversible long-term changes to our climate and oceans.'

Another section erased by the White House adds: 'Our world is warming. Climate change is a serious threat that has the potential to affect every part of the globe. And we know that ... mankind's activities are contributing to this warming. This is an issue we must address urgently.'

The fairy-tale continues ...

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 19 

plant anchor
path path
bench bench
sky sky

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 18 

garbage

Can anybody tell me what this magnificent tree is?

blossom blossom
bench bench
water water

Friday, June 17, 2005

Eugene Volokh doesn't understand science 

PZ Meyers takes Eugene Volokh to task for commenting on science without understanding something very simple about science which I explained in a few short paragraphs a couple days ago. Meyer's point boiled down to it's core is that the Theory of Evolution is silent on God,

[H]ow exactly do scientists come to the conclusion that "God had no part in this process"? What's their proof? That's the sort of thing that can't really be proved, it seems to me -- which makes it sound as if scientists, despite their protestations of requiring proof rather than faith, make assertions about God that they can't prove.

Complete drivel. Scientists don't talk about "proof", period. We leave that to the mathematicians. This is something I yell at my freshman biology majors, by the way. I know it's out of the purview of a scholar of constitutional law, but if he's going to make claims about science, shouldn't he know the bare basics of the discipline?

Change the word "proof" to "evidence", and it makes more sense. It's still wrong, but at least he isn't railing against a straw man anymore.

And on top of that, if the standard scientific theory is that "God had no part in this process," then the opponents of evolution are right -- the standard theory of evolution may not be taught in the schools. The Court has repeatedly said that the Establishment Clause bars both government endorsement and disapproval of religion. Teaching that God exists and teaching that God doesn't exist are both unconstitutional in government-run schools. Likewise, if teaching that God created humans is unconstitutional, so is teaching that God had no part in creating humans.

Then we can't teach anything that shows a material cause for any action, because that would show that God was unnecessary. There goes physics, chemistry, geology, biology.... Volokh is asking us to paralyze our critical thinking facilities lest we contradict religious zealots.

Here's a simple example of the nature of the evidence against any god's role in various processes. Take a coin and flip it a hundred times; you'll get somewhere around 50 heads, and somewhere around 50 tails. You won't see predictable patterns; you can do multiple trials; you can do statistics. All we see are the outcomes of some fairly consistent laws of probability.

... I would also add that for a theory to be of any use, details are important. "God did it" does not tell us anything about why we have kidneys instead of salt-secreting lachrymal glands, or what ADH, aldosterone, renin and angiotensin do. So why should anyone settle for such a useless, empty phrase? Why should it be an acceptable substitute for evolution, but not for physiology?

Repeating my formulation of what science does and does not do, science cannot and does not attempt to "prove" anything - a pen may fall up to the ceiling on the 1,000,001st drop. Despite this, science can provide us with understandings of repeated observations and provides us with a basis on which we ought not rationally doubt those understandings.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 17 

reeds

Two bell-clear days in a row.

lake lake
sky sky
water water

St. George and the dragon 

This week's surge of media attention to the Downing Street Memo has cast the question "Why did we invade Iraq?" in a new mold.

Matt Yglasias asks, But what were they thinking? Digby seems convinced there surely was some unspoken rationale for the invasion. Atrios muses, and I think he's correct, "Maybe (and quite likely) it was different combinations of these things to different people in the administration."

It was the president's decision, and he had a lot of people telling him a lot of different things ... that ended up not being true (more on that on down) ... but they sounded pretty good: The war would cost the U.S. $40-60 billion dollars, Iraqi oil would pay for all the rebuilding. It would be a cakewalk, the regeime would fall at the first whiff of gunpowder. The WMD case was a slam-dunk.

Contrary to those who think there was an unknown rationbale for going to Iraq, those pushing for it were quite vocal, they were just saying a different things. Even oil was spoken of in code, American interests in a stable Middle-East. Bush's contribution was that Saddam was evil and America has a God-given mission to spread freedom and democracy. This is the one thing that's been consistent throughout: Bush speaking like a shining knight on a white horse. It's usually some version of "Freedom is not America's gift to the world, but God's gift to the world." America just happens to be the main tool in God's freedom workshop.

All you have to do is take Bush at his word when he talks like the Almighty's Earthly Viceroy while keeping in mind that the policy types around him had been pushing for an invasion of Iraq for years and sang of a smorgasbord of justifications and a cornucopia of good effects. It's easy to understand why Bush gave the go to do the Holy Deed. It was his Mission from God.

Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them.

Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People, 9/20/2001

It's in the quote I chose from 2002 where we can see how the fallacious claims about Iraq didn't bother Bush - he plainly says he sees it as the United State's "role" to invade Iraq, the political debate wasn't applicable to his Mission,

We believe in freedom not only for ourselves, but we believe freedom is God-given. We believe freedom is a right that everybody should realize. And you need to tell your kids that this country liberated people from the clutches of one of the most barbaric regimes in history.

I've got a problem, obviously, with Mr. Saddam Hussein, and so do you ... I don't view this as a political discourse or a political debate, I view this as a debate about our future, the role of the United States and the world about security and freedom.

Remarks by the President at Van Hilleary for Governor Luncheon, 10/8/2002

Over time, free nations grow stronger and dictatorships grow weaker ... As changes come to the Middle Eastern region, those with power should ask themselves: Will they be remembered for resisting reform, or for leading it? ... The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution.

President Bush Discusses Freedom in Iraq and Middle East, 11/6/2003

America is a nation with a mission. We're called to fight terrorism around the world, and we're waging that fight. As freedom's home and freedom's defender, we are called to expand the realm of human liberty ... Yet I know that liberty is not America's gift to the world -- liberty and freedom are God's gift to every man and woman who lives in this world.

Remarks Via Satellite by the President to the National Association of Evangelicals Convention, 3/11/2004

Freedom is our birthright because the Creator wrote it into our common human nature. No government can ever take a gift from God away ... we pray for help in defending the gift of freedom from those who seek to destroy it .

President Commemorates National Day of Prayer at the White House, 5/5/2005

In my experience, nearly all the war supporters I've spoken to at the bottom supported the invasion because "Saddam was evil" or Saddam was [some vage or abstract] threat. They all have some coping mechanism that allows them to ignore the vast array of justifications they gave for war which have evaporated over the years. I don't believe believe Bush has to be all that different from the rest of garden variety war supporters. he's given lots of reasons, but at the end, it's just St. George slaying the dragon. A fairy-tale that never was.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The double slit experiment: who's watching who? 

For a few weeks, I've contemplated doing a series of posts on the topics of life, the Universe, and epistemology and why I think I only understand this stuff as far as I do. The Scientific faith post was a prologue of sorts, although at first not intended to be. I had also intended to make the first post Yes, the other lane usually does go faster, but that will have to wait until later as I felt like writing about the double-slit experiment tonight. I think most have heard of it, and maybe most understand it, but as understanding it is important in general as well as a necessary understanding to have before I try to explain a less-well known but stranger experiment, here it is.

Imagine yourself standing in the middle of an absolutely still wading pool. Start to jiggle one leg around just a bit. The troughs and crests of your waves would radiate outward like this,

Now imagine the pool has a wall running through the length of it. The wall has a small gap so the waves can flow through it, like this,

The waves you're creating would propagate out from the gap, the gap being the center of the waves on the other side of the gap, just like your jiggling leg is the center of the waves on the side you're on,

If you're lucky enough to be near a still pond with a tree or large branch partly submerged by the shore (or imaginative enough to pull up the scene in your mind now), you can splash around and observe that this is how waves travel through gaps and around corners. If there are two gaps in the wall, an interference pattern would appear between the two waves,

Where the two wave crests meet, they will combine to make a larger crest (the light areas on the other side of the wall). Where a crest from one wave meets a trough from the other, the one's crest will equal out the other's trough (creating the dark areas).

Now, instead of standing in a wading pool divided by a wall with a gap in it, imagine two rooms with a barely cracked door in between them. There is a light bulb in one room, and the other room is entirely dark other than the shaft of light shining through the crack.

A beam of light would be cast on the wall opposite the door, as this diagram illustrates with a view from above,

The edges of the beam are not completely sharp - the light gets diffused a bit as it goes through the crack of the doorway, making the edges of the beam on the wall fuzzy,

You can imagine the particles of light, (called photons) in the beam as being tiny bullets being fired from the location of the light bulb - some of the bullets would glance slightly off the door of the frame, changing their trajectory slightly. The same effect causes fuzzy edges of the beam, the photons act much like tiny bullets.

Now pretend the rooms are very, very tiny - the crack in the door the width of a strand of spider's silk. We can place a photographic plate on the far wall of the tiny room to record the fuzzy beam of light. The image produced look much like the beam we saw on the fall wall of the two rooms,

Now imagine two tiny slits between our very small rooms,

Would the photographic plate on the far wall record two diffused beams just like it would beyond an actual wall with beams going through two cracked doors? No. We see an this,

The diffusion pattern is gone - instead we see an interference pattern, as if light acts not like bullets being fired by a gun, but like waves radiating out from a foot in a wading pool,

To repeat, light acts like tiny bullets - particles - when we give it one slit to pass through, but acts like a wave on the top of water when we provide two slits for it to pass through. Is light made of particles or waves? Does the really depend on whether we cover or leave open a second slit in the same experimental set-up?

If we were the first to discover this bizarre phenomenon, we'd want to look deeper into it. What if we assume light is like tiny bullets and repeat the experiment in such a way that only one photon could be traveling through our experimental set-up at once. We could use a very dim light source, as dim as a candle a mile away from the tiny wall.

First, we perform our one-photon-at-a-time experiment with only one slit open. We wait for enough of the dim light - enough photons - to find it's way through the slit to our photographic plate. We expect to see a diffused shaft of light, and we do,



The pattern on our photographic plate,

Now we perform the experiment with both slits open so each photon from our very dim candle a mile away will go through one of the two. We wait for the photographic plate to accumulate enough hits from photons so we can see where they landed, expecting them to have accumulated over time to show up as fuzzy shafts on the photographic plate on the far wall. Since we're only allowing one photon at a time to go through, we expect to see two* bars of diffused light, just as if we repeated the last experiment without changing the photographic plate, but switching which of our two slits was open.

But behold! This is not what we see. The light is acts like a wave - even though we are sure only one photon of light went through one or the other - ore both, as is the case - of the slits at a time,



The pattern on our photographic plate,

The photons chose to act like waves when we gave them two slits to travel through, but decided to act like particles if we left open only one slit. Whether light is a particle like a bullet going through one slit or like a wave on water traveling through both slits depends on whether there is one or two slits open in our experiment!

Are we examining the light, or is the light examining us? Or both ...

It's important to understand the experiment - or more accurately understand the results of the double-slit experiment to be baffling. Email me (or better, leave a comment) if something is unclear - or if you're not baffled: a sign that I didn't explain it well enough. The next experiment will be a step beyond the double-slit experiment, and therefore be a bit more complex, but much, much stranger.

* in the actual experiment the two slits are so close together that we would expect to see the diffused shafts of light merge into one diffusion pattern. The point being that we would see a diffusion pattern, not an interference pattern. The illustrations are easier to understand if they're drawn as they are - the slits being far apart.

The $1 million UFO aqnd other sundries 

Skeptic James Randi has accepted Prophet Yahweh's application for the James Randi Educational Foundation $1 million challenge - Randi himself will be present for the test on January 25 or 26, 2006. Oh, and they confirmed that Prophet Yahweh's legal name is indeed Prophet Yahweh.

Yahweh now says two giant spaceships will appear for two days over Las Vegas. He's also kicked all "homosexuals and homosexual sympathizers" off his list and told us that it's OK for him to bash homosexuals because he once was one, but has since been convinced by the straight agenda and converted to heterosexuality,

a man anally penetrating another man through the channels that his bowels pass as if it's a woman's vagina ... This is self induced mental illness through Satanic possession.

What else can it be? If you think what I just said is not mental illness, then you need to see a psychiatrist!

People talk about being gay and hear about being gay, but most of them never really think about what fags do when having sex.

As for me, I know it is as sick as I have described for a fact! The way I know, is that I use to be a homosexual.

... you may wonder why I would admit this to several thousand people. The answer is so that many people, who allowed the devil to deceive them, sexually, like he did me, will be motivated to completely and totally abandon the horrible homosexual world, when they see how YAHWEH saved me from that sick and demented lifestyle.

End note: my psychic reading that Yahweh's first "financial donor" was actually a Nigerian Scam was correct. Today, Prophet told his email distribution list that it "ended up as an attack on my bank account."

riding with my shadow

Today, I went back out after I saw I didn't have a good picture of a blossom.

path path
minneapolis minneapolis
sky sky

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Scientific faith 

"Science offers the boldest metaphysics of the age: the faith that if we dream, press to discover, explain, and dream again, thereby plunging repeatedly into new terrain, the world will somehow become clearer and we will grasp the true strangeness of the universe. And the strangeness will all prove to be connected and make sense."

-Edward O. Wilson

This passage reminded me of what frustrates me most in debates over evolution with religious fundamentalists: not their faith in an understanding of life which answered questions of people who had just learned how to grow crops, but fundamentalists' refusal to understand science . If I had a dollar for each time a fundie has tried to taunt me with "I envy your devout faith in the religion of evolution," it would cause a perceptible decline in the revenue generated by Southern Baptist collection plates.

The faith in the scientific dream spoken of by Wilson is itself based on assumptions accurately called "faith". For examples,

There is no logical proof that can overcome any of these faithful assumptions; In this rigorous sense, science cannot "prove" anything - the pen may fall up to the ceiling on the 1,000,001st drop. Despite science's assumptions, it can provide us with understandings of repeated observations and a basis on which we ought not rationally doubt those understandings. Faith is the absence of doubt. Ta da.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 15 

nick
swing swing
lake lake
blossom blossom

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 14 

minneapolis

On and off storms today as well as yesterday - magnificent thunderheads and fantastic sunsets. Toaday, I took pictures of an "artifact" for a guy I've chatted with several times on my ride.

path path
water water
sky sky

Imagine that 

Found an mp3 of mysterious origin while cleaning my desktop , "Imagine This" (WaxAudio).

UPDATE: It's a mashup of a mashup of Imagine/Walk on the Wild Side (RX) ... er, maybe the other way around. Listen.

More of a similar nature.

Prophet Yahweh: performance artist, or ... 

This Prophet Yahweh fellow who seemed to have "summoned" anomalous objects in the sky for a Las Vegas ABC affiliate by praying for a sighting. He has a Yahoo! group to which he sends a whole lot of email, which I read so you don't have to. Notable narratives have included a story of a financial donor whose $750,000 donation ended up being bogus, but the voice that calls himself YAHWEH had told him to "watch out". In my opinion, the story fits the description of a Nigerian scam. Prophet Yahweh has also presented basic knowledge about the New Testament (for instance that the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses and that Matthew's author is anonymous) as earth-shattering proof that the Gospels are "forgeries".

Yesterday, Prophet Yahweh, born Ramon Watkins, revealed to his list further proof that the Gospels are forgeries: "encrypted" in the Gospels are hints that Jesus was a homosexual pedophile - to Prophet Yahweh, this indicates that the leaders of Christianity are "Satanic" - that if one understands "the Gospels suggest that the Jesus was a child molesting homosexual, then you'll know why his representatives, who are sworn to "follow" his "example" and walk in his "steps" are doing the exact same things today!"

The "encryption" is "spread ... out into different chapters [so] only the enlightened mind, with higher-level analytical abilities, would be able to ... see clearly the sexual perverted views attributed to our Messiah." Among the hints Prophet Yahweh sees "spread out",

I want to bring to your attention what appears to be an innocent statement made concerning the Christian Jesus in the Gospel of John chapter 13, verse 1. It states:

1. "...having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them until the end."

Now, compare this statement with verses 34-35 of the same chapter. It states:

34. "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another."

35. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."

... In Mark 14:51-52 it states:

51. And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him:

52. And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.

Now, what kind of love is it that would make a young man or boy not flee like everyone else when the Roman's came? It had to be more powerful than the love Jesus' disciples had for him. That's for sure!

Here's the kicker though, his series of emails on this topic ended with photographic proof,

I think we can conclude with certainty that Prophet Yahweh either has a few screws loose or is a fantastic performance artist.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Bringing them home 

Had he won, I had intended to give Kerry six months to show progress in Iraq before changing my tune to "bring 'em home now." That six months would have been up next month and there's certainly no sign of progress. Oil pipelines are being blown up as quickly as they can be repaired, more cities are becoming restive, even in relatively calm Basra the chief of police says he only trusts 25% of his force. As Iraqi security forces are phased in, it's not cutting our casualty rate, only adding to the total casualties. In other words, the war is escalating.

Yet at this mark I was willing to give Kerry, I keep thinking it's better to launch a war that ought not have been launched and stay as long as innocents are militarily threatened than invading and saying, "Goodbye, we sorta screwed up, sorry."

Some would argue that our presence there is inciting much of the violence, a point on which I certainly agree. However, if we left, Turkey would likely enter from the north and Iran from the east. Which I believe would be more of a negative than we have now; In fact, it would be a formula for a regional war we'd jump right back into.

A Pew survey has 46% of Americans wanting to bring troops home sooner than later. I believe a great deal of Americans really thought of the invasion as a video game or movie when you can reset the game or was guaranteed happy ending for America. Three quarters find American casualties in the invasion and war unacceptable. Seems Rambo didn't show up. He probably won't show up by putting another quarter in the machine.

Great Blue Heron 

He or she let me get about 15 feet away before taking off.

great blue heron great blue heron head

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 13 

the Earth's moon, pictured from the Earth's surface

Today I got some really close pictures of a Great Blue Heron after a storm.

path path
sky sky
blossom blossom

Sunday, June 12, 2005

If he smoked pot, it would be suspicious 

Via Josh Marshalll: Owner of struggling defense contractor loses 43% on a $1.6 million real estate deal to a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. Defense contractor suddenly enters list of top 100 federal contractors. Congressman who profited from deal doesn't smoke pot though.

Three months 

footbridge footbridge footbridge
bench bench bench
minneapolis minneapolis minneapolis
swing swing swing
April 4, 2005 May 4, 2005 June 4, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 12 

in the brush by the shore

June 12, 2005. Today I sat with two Vietnam age guys who were also last week on the bench from which I take the "swing" photo. Spoke about purebred dogs.

tunnel tunnel
water water
lake lake

Gotta get our war on 

I missed this,

A former Bolton deputy says the U.S. undersecretary of state--who is President Bush's nominee for United Nations ambassador--believed Jose Bustani "had to go," particularly because the Brazilian arms-control specialist was trying to send chemical weapons inspectors to Baghdad. That might have helped defuse the crisis over alleged Iraqi weapons and undermined the main U.S. rationale for war.

Can't have any weapons inspectors mettling with important war plans, can we?

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Somebody's head needs to be arranged, made fast, set in order around reality 

Tod Lindberg writes of the Downing Street Memo in the Weekly Standard,

For smoking-gun enthusiasts, the key to the plot is that word "fixed," as in, the fix is in. As in, the intelligence and facts weren't what Bush needed, so he fixed them. The problem with this analysis, if you can call it that, is quite simple: If what is being described is chicanery and wrongdoing in the form of the Bush administration fabricating intelligence, how come nobody in the room with Blair when C drops this bombshell is sufficiently perturbed to do so much as ask a follow-up question? How come Blair's "sofa cabinet" just goes on earnestly discussing the military options?

In fact, exactly how is it that the official note-taker at this meeting [...] decided to record this momentous revelation with a colloquialism worthy of a James Cagney gangster movie? The answer is that he is doing no such thing. "Fix" here is clearly meant in its traditional sense, in the sort of English spoken by Oxbridge dons and MI6 directors--to make fast, to set in order, to arrange.

Let's think: the memo isn't scandalous if one understands British English. Why then was it scandalous in the UK? Hmm.

Beyond that, Lindburg suggests the language of the memo is to be understood, "the intelligence and facts were being arranged around the policy." Uh, that doesn't help Lindberg's point at all: Policy being "arranged" around facts, good. Facts being "arranged" policy, bad. Teh.

Let's ask Mr. Blair, a speaker of "the sort of English spoken by Oxbridge dons and MI6 directors" for his take on it,

Q Thank you, sir. On Iraq, the so-called Downing Street memo from July 2002 says intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy of removing Saddam through military action. Is this an accurate reflection of what happened? Could both of you respond?

PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Well, I can respond to that very easily. No, the facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all.

Ha ha ha. Right wingers.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 11 

tire swing

Yesterday, the lake was quite still, as it has been for many days. Today, it was choppy when I started but stilled during my ride.

sky sky
lake lake
blossom blossom

Friday, June 10, 2005

Lake Calhoun from above 

Here is an aerial photo of Lake Calhoun from google maps. The teardrop pointer indicates where I live.

Minneapolis Chain of Lakes

The bike path around Lake Calhoun is 3.19 miles; around Lake Harriet - the lake at the bottom - is 2.99 miles, around Lake of the Isles (on which Mary Tyler More fictionally lived) is 2.97 miles. These paths are part of the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway - a huge and rambling park all across Minneapolis with over 80 miles of walking and biking paths. It's one of the things that makes Minneapolis a great city to live in. Hight taxes be damned, we have a great quality of life.

I look forward to our light rail being expanded and hope for the eventual implementation of Sky Web Express. Those who hope for Minnesota taxpayers to build the fantastically wealthy owners of the Vikings or Twins an new stadium can screw themselves. Let the owners build them on their own dime if they want.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 10 

ducklings in a row

Yesterday, I saw baby ducks in a row. Today, I'm wondering if someone can tell me what caused the line in trhe clouds - a temperature or pressure front?

tunnel tunnel
water water
sky sky

Chris Matthews asked a hardball question about the response to the Downing Street Memo 

A hard follow up question which wasn't asked (transcript) regarding Bush and Blair's Tuesday response to the question to both on whether the Downing Street Memo is accurate. From both came, "[W]e worked hard to see if we could figure out how to do this peacefully." Of course followup questions were not allowed.

Well, here's the disconnect I keep seeing here.

The president said, we wanted to do this peacefully. We wanted to accomplish this peacefully. Well, what was the this? If Iraq didn't have weapons of mass destruction, if they weren't connected to 9/11, what was the this? And what is that this now? It seems like the this now is nation-building. Back then, it was fighting what the president said were the dangers of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism.

Crooks and liars has the video.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

This is partly why I don't have a TV 

FOXNews questions in an exclusive Bush interview,

Mr. President, we knew you had won the election and now we have heard that you had better grades than your opponent too in college.

Do you think you get a bum rap in the media on the economy?

So when you see these polls that show your popularity ebbing a bit, it doesn't frustrate you?

Do you think that the focus on Michael Jackson has hurt you?

The last question must have come from upper management

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 9 

large branch blown down my a storm

Yesterday was the darkest night I've taken my ride. Today, the sky was marmalade, magnificent.

path path
sky sky
lake lake

Abortion in general: the concept of personhood 

Jordan asks some good questions in comments, the answer to which may have been missed. So a new post. Here's Jordan,

You said that you do not believe life begins at conception.I have only one question for you-- then when does it begin? You must choose some random point if you don't believe that when egg and sperm collide, those cells are human life. Is it when children can survive outside the womb? Medical science is continually pushing that timeframe back, so you better keep up on your research so you can know when life begins. I would hate to make a mistake and have an abortion at 23 weeks and then find that a doctor across the country had saved a baby that young...

The operating definition of whether or not someone is "living" seems to be whether or not they are "wanted".

I've not said I "do not believe life begins at conception." This is not a pertinent question to bring into the abortion debate: one does not question that a transplanted kidney, a vial of human eggs and a separate vial of human sperm, nor Ulysses S. Grant's corpse in Grant's Tomb are all human life. The question that must be asked is "When ought we assign personhood to human life?" May answer is,

Until we can assuredly assign rights to a fetus through the scientific method, the time we ought to assign rights is the week at which the fetus has a reasonable chance at surviving outside a woman's womb with the best technology available.

In other words, the operating definition is not "whether or not they are 'wanted'", but "whether or when a fetus is a distinct individual". I can think of no better point at which a fetus becomes a distinct person with distinct rights than the point at which it's body has developed sufficiently for science to sustain it's own life without another human's body assisting its metabolism, respiration, immune system, etc.

Regardless of whether or not you think that life begins at conception, the point is that if those cells are given their natural environment and aren't disturbed, a human is born. Messing with the process at any point affects the end result.

In the context of the debate from which this stems, frozen embryos are certainly not produced in a "natural environment", so it's puzzling why a "natural environment" has entered in from the side claiming frozen embryos are people. The fact of man merging with machine is at the heart of the debate.

To head anticipated responses off at the pass, one can't reasonably use a biblical reference without claiming that life begins at ejaculation, Genesis 38,

Then Judah said to Onan, "Lie with your brother's wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to produce offspring for your brother." But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he lay with his brother's wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the LORD's sight; so he put him to death also.

God killed Onan for using the "pull-out" method (this is where we came up with the word "onanism"). Sperm was thought to be the seed of future generations, women were just a receptacle for the sperm to grow in. We're also speaking of a book that urges one to utterly destroy all life and property in cities that worship gods other than Yahweh (Deuteronomy 13 & 32, for instance).

So science and logic, please.

"Rescue" through third party IVF: Explicit question for those who are having a hard time answering it 

The comments in a post about third party IVF are getting out of hand; people claiming I'm using circular thinking without pointing to circularity, people disputing unnamed facts without explanation. Anonymous says,

beth said:
"He likes to get a rise out of people with his titles, but he always backs up his arguments with undisputable facts."

always? that means he's ALWAYS right? clearly many of eric's points in this article are anything but fact. he is sharing his opinion on a subject and using false perceptions to back them up.

Indeed, I like provocative but accurate language, and indeed, people who believe they are saving embryo's (people's) lives by attempting third party IVF with frozen embryos are in fact killing most of the "people" they are trying to "save".

Here are the facts I've presented in my argument,

  1. The best medical technology available today can only ensure the survival of, at best, one third of frozen embryos in third party IVF using frozen embryos (source).
  2. Frozen embryos, even with today's technology, can be successfully thawed if they were frozen a decade or more ago (source, source)
  3. Medical technology is rapidly advancing and it's not unreasonable to believe that in a few decades, third-party IVF will result in more successful pregnancies (source citing recent progress).
  4. If one believes frozen embryos should be "rescued", waiting for medical technology to improve will result in a higher "rescue" rate.

My question, explicitly stated is "Can anybody present a rational argument for today attempting third party IVF with frozen embryos if the objective is to bring as many of the embryos to a successful pregnancy?"

Thanks.

Score from an unlikely source 

James S. Robbins of right-wing National Review Online dredges up a July 2002 article in The Guardian (of all sources for a NRO columnist to cite as credible) confirming a portion of the Downing Street Memo (or, more accurately, a report that the Downing Street Memo confirm)s,

Whitehall sources confirmed that Tony Blair had decided Britain must back any US assault and had ordered defence planners to begin the preparations for a new war in the Gulf.

'President Bush has already made up his mind. This is going to happen. It is a given,' said one Whitehall source. 'What we are waiting for is to be told the details of how and when and where.'

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Ha ha 

Oliver Willis brings some humor to the inexplicable media flap over Howard Dean's obvious statement that the GOP is basically the party of white Christians.

Carol Towarnicky, another connoisseur of the obvious explains why the Downing Street Memo was not immediately big news in the US media,

[T]he Downing Street Memo has garnered not Nixon-era bipartisan outrage, but a collective shrug - not only from the now-flaccid press but from beaten-down progressives: Of course Bush lied - we knew that.

Interesting conversations about the ethics of "saving" frozen embryos through third-party IVF 

An interesting and ongoing conversation resulted from my post, Donielle Brinkman sends ten babies to their deaths so she can "experience pregnancy". In that post, I point out that most attempts at pregnancy from IVF of a frozen embryo are unsuccessful, which I believe poses quite an ethical dilemma for those such as Doni who believe frozen embryos are children. Doni found the post and she and several others have commented here and Doni's blog.

In another post, Doni explains,

The embryos likely do not have that much time. When we testified in Wisconsin in 2001, scientists on the other side of the debate testified that cryopreserved embryos begin to be compromised after the 3 year mark. As a point of fact, Tanner was frozen 3 years four months and he obviously survived but 10 others didn't. Did the cryopreservation time frame play into this? I don't know but based on what I heard scientists testify to - they cannot be indefinitely cryopreserved without compromise.

Chicago IVF states,

Animal research has documented that frozen embryos may be thawed and result in successful pregnancies several decades following cryopreservation. Human embryo cryopreservation is a newer process and long-term data is not available.

Speaking of human embryos, The Genetics & IVF Institute states,

Embryo freezing takes several hours while the thaw process takes about 30-45 minutes. Embryos have been successfully thawed after cryopreservation for as many as 13 years.

Regardless of the current prospects for older embryos are, the ethical dilemma still exists: if an embryo is a human life, does it make sense to try to "save" them by a process that will kill over half of them, or should a patient path be taken waiting for science to offer a higher chance of a successful pregnancy. Doni answers,

I have lost faith in this science. They are proving that they will not do what is in the best interest of the embryos. Let's not pretend that their attempts to increase their life span is really about their conscience in a life saving endeavor. There would be very little evidence that scientists growing embryos are doing this in reverence to the life of the embryo.

Regardless of Doni's cynical opinion, the fact is that this area of science is rapidly advancing. The most recent data from the CDC shows the success rate for frozen donors nincreased from 23.5% to 27.3% between 2000 and 2001 - a greater difference in success rates than between 1996 and 2000.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 8 

bark

Today was the darkest night I've taken my ride. There were a few blown-down tree branches blocking the path.

path path
sky sky
blossom blossom

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 7 

pile of rusty fenceposts

Yesterday, it was comfortable. Today it was comfortably hot.

path path
water water
lake lake

Look out for falling polls 

New WaPo/ABC poll,

Nearly three quarters of Americans say the number of casualties in Iraq is unacceptable, while two-thirds say the U.S. military there is bogged down and nearly six in 10 say the war was not worth fighting -- in all three cases matching or exceeding the highest levels of pessimism yet recorded. More than four in ten now believe the U.S. presence in Iraq is becoming analogous to the experience in Vietnam.

... Overall, more than half-- 52 percent -- disapprove of how Bush is handling his job. A somewhat larger majority-56 percent-- disapproved of Republicans in Congress and an identical proportion disapproved of Democrats.

... The drop in Bush's war on terror approval ratings came disproportionately from political independents. In March, 63 percent of independents approved of Bush's job on terrorism. By April this had fallen to 54 percent. And in this weekend's survey, only 40 percent gave him good marks.

The poll suggests that views on the Iraq war's impact also remain highly partisan. Three in four Republicans said the Iraq invasion has boosted domestic security, while three in four Democrats said it has not. Political independents lean negative on the issue: about six in ten said the war has not made Americans safer.

Downing Street Memomo update: Ken ?Mehlman bombs on Meet the Press 

Keeping track of mentions in US media of of the Downing Street Memo which shows the WMD justification for invading Iraq was a ruse ...

Of note are Ariana Huffington and David Swanson's dissections of the slithering Tim Russert/Ken Mehlman interview. Swanson corrects Mehlman,

MR. MEHLMAN: ... The fact is that the intelligence of this country, the intelligence of Britain, the intelligence of the United Nations, the intelligence all over the world said that there were weapons of mass destruction present in Iraq.

[With regard to the United States and Britain, the whole point is to determine whether their "intelligence" was dishonest. The United Nations certainly never agreed with it; nor did "the world." The United Nations rejected the evidence presented by the United States, and worldwide opposition to the war was more powerful than ever before in history - much of it focused on the belief that the Bush Administration was lying.]

Huffington's treatment is wider-ranging,

When asked about the latest Pentagon report that, in fact, several copies of the Quran were mishandled, Mehlman responds by calling this "unacceptable," but tries to minimize the unacceptability by putting it in "context": "We also need to remember it in the context, in the context of an America that is liberating Muslims."

Well, it's all fine and dandy if we want to look at it that way, but the question is not how we look at it, it's how Muslims look at it. And, unlike Russert, they're not buying Mehlman's "context."

When asked about the Downing Street memo, which shows that Bush was determined to go to war almost a year before the invasion, and that the intelligence was accordingly "fixed," Mehlman falls back on an out-and-out fabrication: "Tim, that report has been discredited by everyone else who's looked at it since then."

Russert does manage a follow-up on this whopper: "I don't believe that the authenticity of this report has been discredited."

But Mehlman just flashes his E-ZPass again: "I believe that the findings of the report, the fact that the intelligence was somehow fixed, have been totally discredited by everyone who's looked at it."

And so he gets through. And, returning to form, Bulldog Russert just gives up.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Atrios on a roll 

Atrios dishonorably disharges Jonah Goldberg from the 101st Fighting Keyboarders, and points to the following. What a monday. Jesus' General is dishonorably discharged from Protest Warrior's Inland Empire Chapter, Laura Ingraham asserts "regular people" are exclusively white middle-class people, the Poor Man pens a humorous post speculating on the silence from the right-wing on the recent landslide for Hezbollah in Solthen Lebanon's free eletions (of which I wrote here), blatant lies about Hillary Clinton make their way to black and white and the American Prospect examines a larger vein of printed and spoken lies, systemic of the right wing's rhetoric.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 6 

dead fish

Yesterday, there were clouds in the sky. Today, none.

It hasn't been windy for many days.

minneapolis minneapolis
swing swing
sky sky

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Southern Lebanon votes in party defined as terrorist 

In free elections, Hezbollah sweeps the first round of Lebanese elections,

Four hours after polling stations closed, Hezbollah's deputy leader, Sheik Naim Kassem, and an ally, Nabih Berri of the Shiite Amal movement, said they had won all 23 seats in this region bordering Israel.

Kassem said that in one constituency, with more than half the votes counted, a Hezbollah official, Mohammed Raad, was leading with 69,207 votes against his closest rival, Elias Abu Rizk, with 7,000 votes. In another area, with more than a third of votes counted, Berri was leading with 35,560 while his closest opponent, Riad Asaad, had 5,304 votes, Kassem said.

Following is the tune right-wing blogs were singing in the recent past. Hindrocket at Powerline, April 23, 2005,

This is a remarkable development that must be attributed, at least in part, to the neocons' conviction that bringing liberty to the Middle East would pay dividends in ways that we can't predict. Congratulations to President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, and the many others who had the courage to gamble on freedom, against what the liberals said were overwhelming odds. And congratulations above all to the people of Lebanon who saw the opportunity to restore their independence, and took it.

Captains' Quarters, February 23, 2005,

I keep talking about the transformative power of democracy as the one strategy that will topple the tyrants of the Middle East and allow for true peace, rather than temporary stalemates. The neocons have it right; the only way to achieve victory over terrorists is to deprive them of state sponsorship from the kleptocracts and mullahcrats in Southwest Asia and North Africa. The only way to get that is to topple the tyrants and push for self-determination and freely elected governments, and it only takes one or two examples in the region before everyone there starts wondering when their turn will come.

Lebanon may soon stop wondering, and that will be a day of rejoicing.

Blogs for Bush, February 21, 2005,

The strategic goal in the war on terror is the spread of democracy in the Middle East, thus drying up the pool of terrorists who would strike at the United States. In attaining this goal we use political, economic, diplomatic, covert and military means as seems necessary. The understanding is that we won't have to do it all because once the ball gets rolling, the people of the Arab/Moslem world will take matters into their own hands.

Creationism: God's gift to the ignorant 

Richard Dawkins, who out of principle refuses to debate Creationists writes a succinct essay on the disingenuity of Intelligent Designers. Note that he burns down one ID fallacy and does away with 95% of IDer's "work".

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 5 

huge clover blossom
swing swing
lake lake
blossom blossom

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 4 

orange stump
footbridge footbridge
sky sky
lake lake

Italian sausage, onion, broccoli, carrots, apple, strawberries and a plumb 

meat, fruit and vegetables

The fairy tale is not trickling down 

On the heels of my post about the Iraqi fairy tale told by Bush/Cheney '04 comes a Washington Post article, Bush's Optimism On Iraq Debated,

The disconnect between Rose Garden optimism and Baghdad pessimism, according to government officials and independent analysts, stems not only from Bush's focus on tentative signs of long-term progress but also from the shrinking range of policy options available to him if he is wrong. Having set out on a course of trying to stand up a new constitutional, elected government with the security firepower to defend itself, Bush finds himself locked into a strategy that, even if it proves successful, foreshadows many more deadly months to come first, analysts said.

Military commanders in Iraq privately told a visiting congressional delegation last week that the United States is at least two years away from adequately training a viable Iraqi military but that it is no longer reasonable to consider augmenting U.S. troops already strained by the two-year operation, said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.). "The idea that the insurgents are on the run and we are about to turn the corner, I did not hear that from anybody," Biden said in an interview.

Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), who joined Biden for part of the trip, said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others are misleading Americans about the number of functional Iraqi troops and warned the president to pay more attention to shutting off Syrian and Iranian assistance to the insurgency. "We don't want to raise the expectations of the American people prematurely," he said.

... "It's dangerous when U.S. officials start to believe their own propaganda," said David L. Phillips, a former State Department consultant who worked on Iraq planning but quit in frustration in 2003 and has written a book called "Losing Iraq: Inside the Postwar Reconstruction Fiasco." "I have no doubt that they genuinely think that Iraq is a smashing success and a milestone in their forward freedom strategy. But if you ask Iraqis, they have a different opinion."

Friday, June 03, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 3 

zooming by a tree

People pay more attention to the clearness of the sky than the temperature when deciding to visit the lake or not.

tunnel tunnel
water water
blossom blossom

Yup, cornered by irrational optimism 

On March 29, I wrote Cornered? ...

PowerLine, Instapundit, and a smattering (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) of other blogs are hailing the "turning of a corner" in Iraq based in part on a Moonie Times report, Pentagon begins to see Iraq momentum shift.

From the Washington Times article,

An analysis by Reuters shows that U.S. combat deaths in March so far have averaged barely one per day, the lowest figure since February 2004.

Well, in itself that's great.

But to put it in perspective, although that February 2004 figure was the lowest monthly yet, two months later in April 2004, we had the most military fatalities in a single month: 135.

And now, two months after three consecutive months of post-election drops in the number of US casualties, in May, we had the most since the Iraqi elections. Iraqi forces fared worse.

Cheney claims he thinks the insurgency is in it's "last throws". Bush refers to Iraq as the US's "golden moment".

The Republican fairy tale continues ...

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 2 

surface of the lake

Yesterday, the sky was just as incomprehensibly enormous as it was today. Today, I saw my first sincere swimmers and rose blossom.

minneapolis minneapolis
sky sky
lake lake

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Ramon Watkins prays, objects appear in sky 

KNTV, a Las Vegas ABC affiliate took on a challenge from a guy who calls himself Prophet Yahweh (born Ramon Watkins) and claims he can summon UFOs through prayer - a talent he says he learned from the Old Testament. The station picked a day, time and location for a UFO summoning. He convinced the news crew by giving them not one, but two UFOs to film: "it's an orange sphere that appeared out of nowhere" ... "I can see it clear as day. In fact, it's bright."

Fantastic Planet thinks "it's a con of some kind," citing the fact that Prophet Yahweh tried to charge for access to videos on his website, but "this isn't to say that he's not involved in some sinister mind control plot involving the militarization of space." Rigorous Intuition also suggests Watkins is the victim of a mind control by the military. Posthuman Blues also finds "the proximity to Nellis AFB suggestive of a psy-ops operation of some sort." Pyramid Termite points to a photo of a black man holding two large balloons and declares Prophet Yahweh debunked.

I feel like I can safely rule out military mind control without giving an explanation.

Here are other videos of "Prophet Yahweh" summoning "UFO's" (WindowsMedia - download to disk before viewing - you may have to change the file extension to ".WMV").

In each, there is a cut in the video after he prays and before the object shows up. The videos are all more or less like the KNTV videos: spherical, metallic looking objects in the sky. It's hard to get a sense of how or if the objects moves, except in LV4, which appears to show some movement.

LA5 shows a red/pink sphere with a white middle.

I find LV2 the most interesting - it shows something the shape of a rotating trapezoid or several spheres bundled together and shifting around each other in a more or less regular pattern.

In LV6 a plane flies through the camera's field of vision, but one can't tell if the plane is closer or further away than the object.

When one freezes the frames on LA2, it appears that the object is actually two objects, although my unprofessional musing tells me this may be an artifact of the video camera that doesn't show up in the other videos.

The rest are interesting if you want to hear Prophet Yahweh talk about how the orbs are meant for the "true children of Israel" and how the Star of Bethlehem was one of these orbs.

The footage KNTV shot shows the object move across the fringe of a cloud, it seems somebody experienced in analyzing video could determine if it was in front of or behind the cloud - as well as the distance and size relative to the airplane that flies by in LV6.

That there is a cut in the video between the praying and "sighting" in each and every clip is suspicious, but that the news crew claimed to witnessed the event is hard to explain, unless they are in on on the hoax. I see the possible explanations as this:

The simplest explanation is, of course, a hoax of some kind - you don't have to explain metallic angels, government conspiracies or craft from another planet - or as many such explanations, all three at once.

For what it's worth, here is Prophet Yaweh's press release, claiming more summonings over the next 45 days, culminating in a spaceship that will be visible to all of Las Vegas for two days. An elaborate viral marketing campaign for War of the Worlds? The Prophet is definitely giving ample opportunity to try to debunk his claims.

I've listened to a two radio interviews with him, he comes off as a true believer, so I'm guessing the hoax is in part on him or that he has some talents that a news crew has never before captured on film. One thing's for sure: my friend the Apostropher was wrong.

I'm going to watch a few episodes of season one of the X-Files and try not to let it run away with my imagination.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on June 1 

fuzzy seeds sitting in the grass

Yesterday, the sky was breathtaking. Today, the light was even more amazing.

swing swing
water water
lake lake

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