Sunday Morning Reading Material: Third Sunday in December

Now is a great time to be human

It’s Sunday. Sundays are for slowly drinking that second cup of coffee while thinking about how awesome the winter can be. Or for hurriedly doing chores so that you can meet your friends in Dickensian London for a fun afternoon. Or for feeling greatful that you can be among friends and family while your religious calendar ticks over to “holy day”.

This week the US congress finally got around to letting gays serve openly in the military– thus making the military complaint with the 14th Amendment. Also this week: the legislature of Venezuela gave it’s president “emergency” powers, thus abdicating their responsibility in an apparent belief that their system is fundamentally broken. Seems like Star Wars Episode 3 isn’t popular down there. Also also: it looks like UN peace keepers in the Ivory Coast may soon come under fire from troops loyal to outgoing president Laurent Gbagbo.

Ayn Rand’s A Selfish Christmas is my favorite of John Scalzi 10 holiday specials that sucked.

This week holds the second-holiest day on the Christian Calendar, so naturally atheist groups have to celebrate. They’re doing that by taking out ads on billboards and buses. As obnoxious as this behavior is, I’m not sure it’s avoidable. Atheists aren’t treated well in American society, and simply knowing that they’re not alone can be a tremendous psychological boon. I’m not sure there’s a way to say “I reject theology” that doesn’t include a silent “including yours” at the end of it. That’s always going to be a little annoying.

Know why I love the Universalist Unitarians? They welcome everyone, of any faith or none and ask only that a congregant strive for self betterment. That’s good works!

Speaking of Faith, Electronic Arts has been trying out a whole new business model. This one involves such weird things as not abusing their customers, and delivering long-term value for money spent. As a result of this, EA’s reputation in the gaming community has soared, and they’ve stopped shedding members of their core audience.

Our tax dollars have been spent on finding new and ever more awesome weapons of war. I’m glad the US is capable of defending itself against every conceivable earthly threat, but couldn’t we put this money to other uses? On the other wrist, I admit to a sort of childish glee in the amount of destruction that can be leveled by these guns. Maybe we can use them to launch stuff into space?

George Orwell talks about the blitz. He talks about insanity as an every-day event, impossible to avoid. We should think about this sort of hell before we next start bombing another country.

Speaking of crazy: what’s up with this bathroom?

I’m honestly not sure how I feel about Senator Leno’s desire to add an LGBT curriculum to California schools. I’m eager to see nondiscrimination policies applied to education! I also remember having to figure out in my early 20s that school textbooks had lied to me about racism being a solved problem. I’d hate to see that replicated for the LGBT community.

Speaking of discrimination. Sometimes we discriminate thoughtlessly, rather than through conscious choice. For instance: sites that do poor implementations of RSS can cause disabled web-surfers a whole lot of problems.

We are very small, and the universe is very big. Right now, all of humanity is trapped inside this one sphere of oxygen and water. It wouldn’t take a very large rock, falling from space, to slam down and kill every last one of us. Let’s get some people on Mars.

The universe is vast and these pictures tell us how small we are

For years, we Americans have been told that the only way we can be lifted out of griding, medieval, poverty is if we let the super-rich get even super richer. Here are some graphs suggesting that this pernicious meme is what keeps us trapped in poverty. America is basically a very rich 3rd world nation.

The CEO class believes that Homo Economicus are the only people who know correct behavior. This might be the basic problem in America.

The suits of James Bond, in Doctor No. Was I the only one who didn’t know that pleats had reversed direction since the 1960s? I wonder how that happened?

How does our higher education system currently? What do we want our higher education system to look like? Why are those things different?

The PhD challenge is getting a specific phrase into a peer-reviewed academic journal. I have much respect for this year’s winner.

In 1996 Nora Ephrom talked to some graduating students at Wellesley College. She talked about the way things were when she was younger, and the way things were in 1996. Looking at the way things stand in 2010, I’d say we’ve made… not enough progress. But we’ve made some. Yes indeed we have.

Another report from Bangladesh. Seems Ms. Barrow is enjoying the curry.

Think of the thousand small annoyances that fill your life. People mowing their lawns at 8am on Sunday morning. Netflix instant watch not having the movie you want to watch. Or maybe you hate it when a commercial comes on TV and suddenly the volume jumps about 10 decibels. Obama signed a law this week fixing that last one.

As we all know by now, public roads are a precious and limited resource. Therefore to make efficient use of them, we should charge people who make inefficient use of them by driving. How is this even controversial? Why on Earth should I subsidize people who chose to drive? Anyway: The San Francisco board of Supervisors agrees with me.

When playing a game, you basically click buttons. But how you click buttons matters a great deal. At it’s base level, good game design makes you forget that you’re just clicking a button. Rob Zachny tells us how cover based shooters reinforce, rather than hide, that we’re pressing buttons.

It’s amazing to me that sometimes clicking a button makes virtual people die, and sometimes clicking a button makes virtual societies flourish. How do you grapple with the the history of China: as video game mechanics. Troy Goodfellow tells us about it.

Last week I talked about how we are not fundamentally different from the people who went along with the NAZIs. This week Mr. Coates talks about how he could have been either a slave or slave holder.


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