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secularsouth
Supporting a sacrilegious sanctuary, scientific society, and solace for Southern secularists.
 
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Everything Zen
"Love is the delusion that one woman is different from another"
- H. L. Mencken 

Sometimes one must lose one's self to find your own worth.  Sometimes the inevitable passing away of all things brings sadness.  Other times it brings appreciation.  Sometimes getting through a moment requires looking to the future and remembering the past.Sometimes seizing the moment means letting go of the future and the past.  Sometimes a person who wrongs those who care seems to forget love.  Sometimes those who care wrong those who love by forgetting them. 

Shadowed hearts can be a cold dwelling, but in an empty heart one can see an opportunity.  The heart abhors a vacuum.  Solace found outside the ego is fleeting, arbitrary and uncertain.  Solace can only be found in the sanctuary of each particular moment, perceived appropriately.  If one can maintain such perception in consecutive moments, then a feeling may be found that can be called comfort. 

The acceptance of the impermanence of our world may not lead to despair, but rather may lead to intensity of character and drive to pursue the path of greater happiness and help dull the pain of broken futures with the anesthesia of inevitability.

I am karmic roadkill.  The vultures peck at the flesh of my self, greedily fighting over the carcass in warm air filled not with the smell of death, but definitely the absence of life.  Forcing an inner eye to look upon the victim, one can be changed.  Revulsion may be replaced with awe upon seeing not the uneaten dead, but a structure, skeletal and stark, gleaming white, and representing the base of being before hidden under layers of ragged flesh. The atoms of its structure vibrate and shift constantly despite the apparent lifelessness of the scene.  Each atom- forged in the heart of a star in earlier generations of stars when time was new and oneness was the norm- serving as a tiny reminder of the importance of one's own insignificance.
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Reflection
There are those moments of quiet reflection that descend upon us all. A leaden shroud forged in a moment of revelation as the burdens of our world sit upon our shoulders. A brief realization of the incomprehensible vastness of the wicked and the good, and a inkling of the truth of our own insignificance can combine into the dull phantom of melancholy that haunts us all from time to time. As we stare ponderously at the mundane all around us, during such moments it seems as if we are awake while others around us continue to plod through immune to your troubles so that you become a private atlas bearing your world upon your shoulders. You almost whisper or you almost shout to them, but your voice is stymied by your own compassion. They are blissful naive faces passing through a hazy reality. Why take that bliss from them. And you know that this moment cannot last. You know that you will return to the comforting familiarity of daily life and the gravity pulling you down will slide off as easily as silk from your shoulders. So we do not call for help. Would they even understand? Many have had such moments. But they, like we all do, let them fade away in silence as if refusing to acknowledge them will somehow make the cold truth less stark. We bear our burden alone, and hope that tomorrow we will have forgotten such a powerful truth. For who wants to be sober in a world drunk on life? And so on it goes, pain unshared, truth unrevealed, and all the while the fiddle plays...
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Meditations on Meaning without Mythology
I exist. I do not need a cosmic scheme. I am at peace with my own insignificance on a cosmic scale. Personally I seek happiness. Happiness is a vague term but any combination of definitions will mostly suffice. I enjoy peace and laughter. I enjoy friendship and love. And when I die, I die. I will have an impact on my immediate sphere of influence, but as we broaden that sphere, my influence regresses into infinitismal smallness. At the galactic level it is not even in the same reality. Eventually the sun will die. Prior to death it will most likely grow to a size which will engulf the Earth. No memory, no accomplishment, no life here will have evidence remaining of their existence. And the universe will have forgotten me, just as we do not remember the atoms in the cells of our skin which flake off daily. But the universe existed for 14 billion years prior to my existence. I don't think it is that strange to picture it without me once again.
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Oh Big Brother, Where art thou?

Websense at work. Our wonderful new filter at work is now fully installed. And let me tell you it is a view of a future that is scary. The Websense filter now used by the public school which employs me is a tool of absolute control that in the name of security and conformity serves only to restrict independent thinking and research. I felt it was overly protective when even Scienceblogs was considered a blocked website. Some brief research pulled up this article in the HeraldTribune.

"Nathan Robinson, 16, was pulling together the horoscopes for the student newspaper when he ran into an eye-opening problem: The school's Web filter blocked him from getting any information on astrology because it fell under the state's filter for cults and nonmainstream religions."
That's right. There is a filter called cults and nonmainstream religions. I guess the "mainstream" religions have so much more evidence for the validity of their claims. Bunk is bunk- regardless of popularity. How is this not discriminatory?

"We have access to sites on Christianity, Judaism and Islam, but not a lot of the smaller religions, or the various cults and things," said Robinson, who is a member of the Pine View Progressive Club. "We find that the filter picks on some of these nontraditional religions are arbitrary."
...
"Our goal is really simple," Robinson said. "We just want to see nontraditional religions removed as a category."
This is ridiculous. No one should be afraid of information. Children being exposed to different or non-traditional information should be viewed as an opportunity to learn, teach, and think critically. It should open up dialog between parents and children-teachers and students. It should not be something feared. I suppose it could possibly undo some carefully constructed brainwashing.

I read on Wikipedia that this software is also used by countries like Iran and China for their censorship protocols. *Skeptic's Qualification- Wikipedia does not necessarily indicate reliable.

I tried to do more research, but sites like the OpenNet Initiative which tracks and researches censorship on the internet were blocked. Websense Filter Category- Advocacy Groups.
 
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I miss Carl
Tags: science sagan
If you have not watched this, you should go right now.

Without Sagan, there would be no Southern Fried Skeptic. I found the end particularly moving.

Vision

 
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Two Blogs a Bushel
Tags: blog
You can check out my more general Southern Fried Skeptic blog.  I am working on splitting the topics on the two blogs with this one being more impulsive and the other more informative.  I will try to link to the other when I have something new.  The most recent post is called "Silenced by the Lambs" and refers to a post I read here on mindsay.
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The Efficacy of Profanity

Well, I'm finally back.

I wandered the wilderness and now, with guarded optimism, I appear to have resolved all issues conspiring to silence me. Conspiracy theorists, don't get your hopes up. I am just using a little literary license. The final obstacle that was preventing me from blogging was primarily problems with my self-built computer. These problems threatened to rip apart the fabric of rational reality and shook my world view to its core. But creativity often thrives in the fields of chaos, and so I have been inspired to propose a research project for any interested in participation or sponsorship. If the reader will bear with me, I will try to briefly explain.

For some unknown reason, my computer suddenly stopped sending a signal to my monitor. After checking several possibilities, I resigned to buy a new video card since that was the oldest component in my PC and therefore, I thought, the most likely culprit. The replacement card did not resolve the issue. Thus began a series of component replacement and testing exercises that reached a critical point which, upon passing, created a (not necessarily reasonable) state where the financial commitment to solving what appeared to be a simple problem was such that mentally I could not justify withholding whatever funding it took to solve the problem. (-I think there is an Iraq commentary somewhere in there-). Eventually I had replaced the motherboard, CPU, RAM, video card, and tried a new monitor. Anyone who is computer savvy will understand that in essence, I had a completely brand new machine. When I powered it up, just like before, lights turned on, fans whirled, speakers beeped, and NO SIGNAL WENT TO MY MONITOR. This had no rational explanation. None of the basic components related to sending such a signal were even the same. The power supply was working fine. Dejected, confused, and feeling a rising panic in the face of technical helplessness, I lost all reserve and began reciting a string of profanity and threats of computer destruction that I believe could be classified as a monologue in vulgarity of Shakespearean proportions. The following day I pressed the power button with the intent of violently shaking the damn thing until it either worked or fell apart. Imagine my surprise when my BIOS flashed up on the monitor with a "hi...been waiting for you"attitude. Once again, there was no logical reason for this result. I could not identify any variables affecting the outcome. I knew I had not prayed. But then I realized that I had used a great deal of profanity.

So I hit upon the idea of "the Fonz effect", a reference to the Happy Days character who coerced an uncooperative jukebox to play by striking it. If the Templeton Foundation can waste millions studying the efficacy of prayer, surely somebody would support a research project studying the efficacy of profanity, especially in regards to its application to technical or mechanical devices. The use of profanity is widespread in American culture. There is a great deal of anecdotal evidence suggestive of profanity's affect. Beyond my personal tale recounted above, I believe it is likely that many others have tales of personal experience where a string of profanities directed toward some inanimate technological or mechanical device (e.g. vehicle, lawnmower, cd-player, a PC) was followed by a seemingly miraculous correction of the malfunction.

If such stories occur with the frequency I imagine, then surely we must begin to suspect there is at least as much data warranting a serious scientific study into the efficacy of profanity as there is to conduct scientific investigations of prayer. And one advantage profanity has over prayer is that you don't have to believe it will work. There is no faith component necessary. I certainly did not believe that my litany of PC abuse would produce such outstanding results. One less variable to consider when conducting our research.

So it's time to pony up my friends. This will require support in the form of both financing and expertise. Please provide me with as much anecdotal evidence as possible of your personal experiences with the efficacy of profanity. E-mail it to me, post it on the comments of this entry, post it on your own blog and send me a link which I would be happy to post here. Also, anyone with expertise (and most importantly- credentials) who would volunteer to help design or perhaps conduct such a study, please let me know. If you want to be financial sponsor, then we will communicate privately. This has the potential to be at least as important and have as strong an impact as recent research into correlations between global temperatures and pirate populations.

Spread the word. With your help, a much-overdue investigation into the efficacy of profanity can be a reality and help us to find a little more truth in our understanding of the world.

Thank You,

The SFS

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My exile into the wilderness is nearing its end.  After an incredulous series of misfortunes worth of any Lemony Snicket tale, including a computer malfunction that still baffles me and makes me wonder if my machine is running purely by force of will, I shall have high speed internet installed at my new residence as soon as my modem arrives (3-5 days they tell me). 

At which point, I hope to renew my blogging and hopefully share more of these thoughts that are threatening to split my head open without some outlet.
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From the depths of cyberspace...
Wow...when it rains.  Well, once again I have disappeared into the mists of cyberspace.  Thought I was gone?  So did the forces of darkness.  But the flame of enlightenment lives on.  Seriously, I have been hampered by a lack of adequate internet service in my small town and recently the fascist IT bureaucrats at my place of employment have been using new filtering software that blocks access to everything. (I mean it even blocked access to cnn sports, preventing me from getting statistics to use for my classes. I am a math/science teacher.)

I have managed to get this post out, in hopes that hope will stay alive.  My financial situation is improving in combination with a domestic relocation that should result in internet access from home which in turn should result in the blogging consistency I have hoped for.  I have the ideas...just got to find a way to get them out.

SFS
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Inspired by the annual question at the Edge, "what are you optimistic about for the future?", and a post on Stranger Fruit at Scienceblogs by someone who seems enraged by liberal/atheistic/scientific (they seem to be one group for him) bloggers very existence on the internets, I have decided to think optimistically for today. I want to apologize for not announcing my recent blogging break, but I did not intend to avoid blogging for such a long period. But this is a new year, and I want to start off early and hope to achieve some sort of consistency despite it being against my very nature.

It seems I recall a time called high school when many of the smartest kids were considered outcasts and despite differences in interests and opinions, often engaged socially with one another simply because their perspectives, ways of thinking and communicative tendencies often led to confusion and miscommunication when engaged with more typical patterns of thinking found in the general population. Whether due to inadequate vocabulary or an inability to conceptually grasp the discussions of the gifted, some of those lacking in such abilities would fear and despise the intellectual subset of high school students and through exclusion or occasionally use threat of violence to help supplement a hidden ego-weakness characterized by the ideas that "if I don't know what they are talking about then a) they may be better than me in some way and b) they may be talking about me."

Then came the internet and those smart people could gather together, discuss their issues, and they could not be threatened into keeping their discussions in carefully guarded privacy. It was the realization of the worst fear of many who either through choice or limitations do not participate in nor acknowledge the benefits of the academic or intellectual lifestyle. And you know, sometimes the smart kids were talking about them. So they try to counter with the one true weapon in the age of cyberspace- with words of their own. Unfortunately, they still don't know what those bright kids were talking about, so their arguments fall flat. Meanwhile, those kids- so often excluded, so often misunderstood, and so often demonized for their talents, have been sharpening their skills at debate and honing their linguistic talents to razor sharp precision.

You can almost hear them type: it's our time now.
 
The Illusion of Time

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