Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pope Benedict: Condom use acceptable in certain cases

Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times, is a book based on a series of interviews with Pope Benedict.  In it, Benedict appears to be changing his tune on condom use.  According to an AFP story:

In a series of interviews published in his native German, the 83-year-old Benedict is asked whether "the Catholic Church is not fundamentally against the use of condoms."

"It of course does not see it as a real and moral solution," the pope replies.

"In certain cases, where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection, it can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality," said the head of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics...
To illustrate his apparent shift in position, Benedict offered the example of a male prostitute using a condom.
"There may be justified individual cases, for example when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be ... a first bit of responsibility, to re-develop the understanding that not everything is permitted and that one may not do everything one wishes," Benedict was quoted as saying.

Let that sink in for a minute.  The pope is saying condom use may be acceptable if you are a male prostitute...  What exactly is this example supposed to illustrate? 

I would love to say that maybe this is a first step toward the Catholic Church becoming a bit more progressive, but I suspect something else completely.  It seems as though the pontiff is trying to seem more reasonable about condom use, while the only instances where it would be acceptable are obviously immoral to the church for other reasons (unless they're about to claim that male prostitutes are doing god's work).  He's trying to appear willing to compromise, while actually making no effective change to the church's stance at all. 

Until the pope, or some other senior church members, recants the ridiculous things said about condom use in Africa to reduce the spread of AIDS, it is impossible to thing anything but the status quo of the Catholic Church.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

International Day of What Now?!

This is just disturbing:
International Day of masturbation on the Qur'an
Description: 
What you DO: Do the Nasty on the Quran, send us a pic of the results.Blur our Nudity, if you can. If not, we will handle it and post it on a site off of facebook, to be viewed by all! Have Fun. Wank on the Quran, Male or Female! EVERYBODY MASTURBATE ON THE QURAN, EVERY DAY! 
Let me be clear about this:  I think the Qur'an is a ridiculous book filled with mostly nonsense, just as I do about the Bible, and every other holy book I've come across thus far.  And I don't particularly care what anyone does to a book they own, regardless of the supernatural significance someone else gives to said book.  And I don't particularly care if an action offends a religious group, particularly if you have a positive message (such as the message sent by Draw Muhammad Day earlier this year).

However, this is offensive, for the sole sake of offending.  There is no message here.  Part of the reason I like Draw Muhammad Day was because it was about creating, rather than destroying.  This is the exact opposite of that.  I think of it this way: if this was supposed to be a day of masturbating on any other book, a book not regarded as holy, for example, I would still be offended by this.  It's childish nonsense, completely uncreative and without any rational message.

So while I support everyone's right to do whatever they wish to a Qur'an, or any other book, it doesn't stop me from also finding these people to be complete morons.

(via Friendly Atheist)

I'm employed again!

Unfortunately, I didn't get the position at Google I interviewed for a couple of weeks ago.  But I was offered a position working on mental/behavioral health software, and I accepted it last week.  I'm looking forward to getting started (which should be Monday).  It feels good to be a contributing member of society once again!

As I said before, I felt like I was busier being unemployed than I was when I was working, so hopefully I can get my schedule back to a more predictable day-to-day routine.  That should also mean more regular posting again.  I know you've all missed me :-).  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

You can help it get better - Patton Oswalt

Recently, Dan Barker's video project called It Gets Better has received a lot of great press, as it should.  If you haven't heard of it yet, get out from under your rock and see The It Gets Better YouTube channel and video.  It's great to see so many people pro-actively reaching out to young gay people who are bullied.

Patton Oswalt, one of my personal favorite comedians, recently posted a response on his website called You Can Help It Get Better (here is the MySpace blog link, since I can't seem to find a permalink for Patton's website).  It serves to remind us that while it does get better for the kids who were bullied in school, those who do the bullying can make it better for them right now.  I wanted to put up an excerpt, but it's all so well-written and thoughtful that I couldn't bear cutting anything.  I'm putting the whole thing here:

I’ve been watching a lot of these “It Gets Better” videos online.   I’m glad they exist.   I’m glad people are making them.   I’d bet, if you could do some sort of poll, you’d find out that saying, “It gets better…” to a younger version of yourself is something that a majority of people would opt to do. The bullied and the bullies. 
I was both.   Bullied, and then a bully. 
So this is my version of an, “It Gets Better” video. Only I’m not addressing it to the bullied.   And I’m not addressing it to the bullies, either. I’m addressing it to the bully’s little friends.

Dear Guy Who Hangs Out With the Bully and Eggs Him On – 
Good move. Really. I know what you’re doing, and I know how it seems like the smart move for you. ‘Cause I did it, too. 
When I was in the fifth grade, I started gaining weight, and by the end of that school year, I was a fat kid.   I’d been skinny and oblivious up until then – free time meant running around outside, playing soccer, climbing trees.   Summer meant swimming. 
But then I got swept up in reading, and movies, and music and other sedentary activities. My mind felt like a blazing stock car engine most days, and I didn’t miss the running around so much.   If I could curl up with a good book, or a drawing pad, or an old monster movie on TV, all the better.   Pretzels and chips and Cokes had the carbs and sugar to feed my swelling, itching brain – especially when I was re-listening to Devo songs. 
By the time middle school started, I had the Victim Kit firmly sewed on.   Cystic acne, headgear and braces, man-tits and a stupid haircut. Sixth and seventh grade were no fucking fun for me. Summer camp was torture, swimming pools were humiliation ponds, sports were a whirling wall of razors I didn’t dare approach. 
By the time eighth grade rolled around, I’d adjusted my strategy.   Figure out who the biggest bullies and abusers were, use my nascent comedy skills to make ‘em laugh and hone their taunts, and become part of the asshole entourage. 
It was a survival strategy. I had a hand in tormenting an awkward girl named Robin in my eighth grade personal hygiene class.   Also a fat(ter), asthmatic kid with a stutter at YMCA camp whose name I can’t remember and countless, faceless others as I glided painlessly in the wake of a trio of bullies whose names I also can’t remember.   I only knew they weren’t bullying me, and were actually glad to see me in the morning, ‘cause here comes a guy who knows seven crueler ways to call someone an asshole or shithead (beyond just “asshole” and “shithead”). 
By junior year of high school the braces and headgear came off, I lost weight and my skin miraculously cleared up.   I got a girlfriend who taught me how to cut my hair. And I carried around (and still carry) a poison vein of self-loathing.   
In someone’s memory – in many people’s memories – I’m a snickering, sneering asswipe who hurt and insulted them while peering out from behind the muscular lats of a bigger, more frightening asswipe. There are times when I firmly believe I should have also ended up like a lot of the bullies – stupid, directionless, job-bound and destined for obscurity, anger and oblivion.   
It doesn’t fix a fucking thing, for me, to try my best to take the underdog’s side now. Or to embrace the awkward and outcast.   That dark slice of regret and disgust with a younger self will never be erased.
So I’m talking to a younger self here – the young Bully’s Little Buddy.   I’m trying to tell you that yes, I know how scary middle school and high school and the world must seem, with this clear demarcation (and it seems to get bolder and uglier every day) between abused and abuser. And I understand exactly why you’d want to be on the side of the powerful, cruel and, by default, secure.   It’s the reason why some poor people get angry about rich people having to pay more taxes. It’s why people join celebrities’ entourages.   It’s why two oppressed, disenfranchised groups fight with each other, instead of the powerful entity that’s oppressing and disenfranchising them. 
All of that is true.   But it doesn’t change the fact that you have power if you choose to take it.   You have power to go stand on the side of the bullied, to stand up to the bullies, to set an example.   You can take a deep breath and look at the popular crowd – are they popular because they’re good, smart people?   Or are they popular because people are afraid of being their targets?   If the second example is the truth, then you can reject them.   You can form your own circle, be your own person, and start thinking for yourself early.
I didn’t. And I won’t blame you if you don’t either.   It’s so fucking hard.   It does get better for the outcast and the bullied.   But you, in the bully’s entourage, can help make it better by taking away part of the bully’s power. 
You can take away you.   And if you take the dare, and do it, you’ll be shocked to see how deep it diminishes the weight and scope and space a bully takes up in the world. And when you see that, and experience it, it’ll be your first – and unarguable – taste of how much weight and scope and space you have. 
I’ll never know.   I never did it.   
Will you? 
Sincerely,
Patton Oswalt

Friday, October 22, 2010

Anniversary

One year ago today, some idiot decided it would be a good idea to start a blog on atheism, science and skepticism.

Since then I think I've learned a lot, both about the subject I blog about, and blogging itself.  One of the reasons I started blogging was to give me an excuse to practice writing regularly (something I hated doing in the past).  It's nice to have a place to write regularly, where I don't have to obsess over every word and phrase.  Looking over my previous posts, I feel like I've become much better at getting my thoughts across since I started one year ago (though I still have a lot I can improve).

It's been pretty slow on the blogging front for me lately.  I've been interviewing for jobs, and been keeping busy tutoring and doing a few other project to pay the bills for now.  It seems I'm busier being unemployed than I was as a graduate student.  Hopefully that changes soon, and I can get some more time to write here.  

Just want to say thanks to all of you who read my blog, especially those who comment and discuss these thoughts with me.  I look forward to continuing writing and learning with all of you.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Job Interview: Funny Questions

So I've been applying for a bunch of programming jobs during the past month, and have been on a few interviews so far.  I've got my big one coming up next week (At Google Manhattan!), so I've been preparing pretty hard for that.  Today, I went to take a logic assessment for another company on Long Island.  The test gave me a made-up programming language, and asked me questions about its syntax and semantics.  I won't go into too many details, since I don't want to give out specifics about the company's test, but one of the questions on string concatenation was something like this:

If GOD="HOLY" and GHOST="WATER", how can we get "HOLY WATER"?

And as I'm taking the test, all kinds of smart-ass remarks are pouring into my brain about where to get holy water.  Of course, I'm in a room with the HR rep and two other candidates, so I tried my best to keep the snickering to a minimum.  Luckily the test wasn't too hard, and I just got a call back for the final interview next week :-).

They don't suspect a thing... MWAH HA HA!