Month: March 2012

Wear the Clothes that Prove You’re a Free Thinker!

One of the more amusing things I saw at the Reason Rally last weekend were people wearing shirts proclaiming their atheism or were emblazoned rhetoric such as “we are made of stardust.”  Well, apparently these shirts came from the same manufacturer, who is preparing to launch a line of atheist clothing.  In and of itself there’s nothing wrong with that; I’m sure there are plenty of pro-religion clothing and accessories out there made by people who couldn’t care less about whatever faith they’re exploiting so there’s no reason somebody shouldn’t take advantage of those who lack faith.  It may very well be a vast, untapped market.  However, the people who wear those shirts?  They’re idiots.  Here’s their reasoning:  “I want to show the world what a free thinking I am by wearing clothes I hope other free thinkers wear to show that they’re free thinkers!”

The Pandora’s Box has been Sealed

“Pandora” by ‘blackeri

My subscription to Pandora One expired.  Normally it would automatically renew at the very reasonable fee of $36 annually, however I changed my credit card a couple of times last year and so the one they had on file was no longer valid.  I considered resubmitting my credit card information and renewing the subscription, but then gave the matter a little thought.

1. I didn’t find the improvement in music quality particularly noticable.
2. I honestly didn’t take advantage of the fact that I had access to Pandora–paid subscription or not.  I usually listened to podcasts
3. I do enjoy the service; it’s more of a “set it and forget it” affair than competitors such as Spotify or Last.fm which require more cultivation of music recommendations. I’m just not willing to put in the effort.  It’s especially good for sampling new artists I’m unfamiliar with. 

Then I remembered that Pandora is a publicly traded company.   Looking at their financial statements it turned out that subscriptions make up only 13% of their revenue with the majority coming from advertising.  In fact, since there’s no advertising with a paid customer they stand to make more off of “free” customers than subscribers.  So I would actually be helping them by not renewing the subscription (although they probably benefit most from somebody with a subscription who rarely uses it, sparing them the bandwidth.)

RACCOONS IN THE NEWS: Occupy Every Street

Queens, New York, has had a problem with raccoons encroaching on peoples’ property.  The city wants to try to get rid of the animals, which now seem to be ubiquitous, but admits they may not have the money to do so.

This is exactly as the raccoons had planned.  They strike when we are least able to retaliate.

 Additional Reading

Time to Get Reasonable!

It was cold, windy, and a little wet in Washington, DC yesterday.  Nevertheless, I spent a good few hours out on the National Mall attending the Reason Rally.

The crowd seemed relatively small.  Relative to what?  I’ve attended three rallies in DC since moving back into the area.  Two of them were in 2010: the Glenn Beck Rally to Restore Honor and its counterpoint, the Daily Show & Colbert Report Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.  The Beck one had large enough crowds to seriously disrupt the Vienna and Franconia/Springfield Metro stations, while the Daily Show/Colbert event basically shut down central Washington, DC.  This event?  It seemed to barely generate a hiccup.  There were likely more people who came out to the city for the first Saturday of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

And rallies themselves seem a silly concept to me, in hindsight.  I mean, the Daily Show/Colbert event was more about being a comedy show while this and the Beck event were proper rallies. But rallies, by definition, seem to be about preaching to the quire.  So standing out there in the cold, wet weather listening to people shout about “we’re atheists!” seemed a waste of time.  Yes, we know we’re atheists, that’s why we came.  Rallies exist to validate a group’s ideals by repeating them to the group.  The Beck people gathered to talk about how because they have faith (and religion was a strong component of that event) they’ll make the future better (and tacitly stating that their opponents lacked religion.)  Which made the reason rally the polar opposite; because the attendees didn’t have faith they were better positioned to make the future better.

Which I think was my major problem with this event.  It came out too anti-religion.  Personally, I would have been more interested in an event more pro-science or at least just pro-secularism.  There was a tent at the event which featured booths for organizations such as Recovering from Religion, Hispanic American Free Thinkers, and American Atheists.  All of these groups stressed how their defining quality was that they were not religious (if not anti-religious.)

It’s all about marketing. 

You don’t win friends and influence people by only being about being against something.  That only enforces an “us vs. them” mentality from those you’re trying to win over.  Is your goal to gain acceptance from the religious people or to destroy their religion?  Because treating religion like it’s something that requires something that can be characterized as a detox program–not unlike how some religious people seek to “cure” homosexuality–is a bad way to go about things.  It may seem naive, but as a group (and a rally, by definition, is about unifying a group and giving a single voice) the … atheists? … need to rise above that kind of behavior.  Maybe not for moral reasons but as a matter of presentation.  As was pointed out numerous times by the event’s speakers, atheists are not exactly in a strong position politically of socially.  This requires them to have to go about things in a less confrontational manner, a stand up fight simply can’t be won in this way.

Finding Bigfoot

I have some guilty pleasure shows.  Actually, considering the abundant crap on television these days, I think watching any program qualifies as a guilty pleasure.  Unless it’s Mad Men, which the media continues to assure me at every opportunity is the most mind blowing and brilliant drama in the history of ever.  It’s important because it’s boring.  It’s so important that you would only be short changing yourself if you dared to watch it in marathon sessions the way one might be inclined to do with lesser programming.

Although I Guess it has its Good Parts

But for some reason I got a kick recently out of watching Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot, which just wrapped up its second season. Imagine the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, but a little less aggressively obnoxious and significantly more idiotic.  I know you’re thinking “how could something be more idiotic than the adventures of Zak Bagans and his crew of dolts?”  But here’s the thing; the Ghost Adventures continually get something to justify their continued investigations.  Questionable as the evidence they amass may be, at least they have orbs on video or incomprehensible noises to interpret as electronic voice phenomena.

Contrary to the title of Finding Bigfoot, not only is bigfoot never found, but episodes pass with them not even getting evidence that can vaguely be interpreted as evidence of the creature’s existence.  While the investigators constantly claim “this area definitely has a bigfoot” or “this experiment will definitely attract a bigfoot” the best evidence they’ve ever gotten were mysterious noises in the woods, for which there were dozens of plausible explanations other than sasquatch, or evidence so circumstantial–such as the presence of food sources–as to be meaningless.  Even more amusing is the researchers’ constant insistence that they have intimate knowledge of bigfoot behavior including family structures, food choices, and communication patterns despite not having any solid proof that the creatures even exist (as denoted by the show’s title.)

The Ghost Adventures guys are merely annoying.  The Finding Bigfoot people are crazy.