Category Archives: Religion


100-Word Rants by Dave

Dave (who shall remain lastnameless) is the father of a friend and co-worker of mine. He’s a tall, friendly guy with a resonating voice who, in minutes, can have everyone at a party on their knees laughing so hard they can’t breathe.

Imagine my joy at being told some time ago that he now has a blog.

Dave writes a lot of ad copy. As he puts it in his description on blogger,

Decades of writing prose to fit the oddly-shaped blotches of greeking with which designers decorate their pages have left me with the freakish ability to write to an exact word count. Hence, the one hundred word rant. A fast-talking radio guy could read one of these aloud in thirty seconds. If you can read without moving your lips, you can do it quicker.

While not quite as side-splitting as his more prolonged in-person rants and stories, the rants so far have at the very least been amusing. It’s worth checking out for a once-a-week compressed look at a wide range of subjects. Go subscribe now:

100 word rant

Flying Spaghetti Monster Update

Two things about FSM. (How appropriate, the day after Darwin Day, yes?)

Molly has alerted me to the hilarious FSM hate-mail page, which has its own RSS feed for your regular entertainment purposes.

Additionally, I found this Baltimore FSM sign on Flickr. It plays on two different Baltimore “sayings”. It’s not far away. I think I need to make a pilgrimage to be a true Pastafarian:
Blieve, Hon

Reflexively Looking for References and Trust

If you read a lot of scientific papers, or I guess academic papers really, and you care about where the information is coming from, you develop a habit.

I guess I, have developed a habit. I can’t speak for others but I think it’s fairly common.

That habit is to look for references whenever an assertion is made. There are three kinds of assertions in academic writing.

  1. Assertions with references: This is a case where the author has read something elsewhere. Ve wishes to pass that information along to the reader, perhaps to build an argument. A reference shows that the assertion comes from elsewhere, and most importantly, where to find it.
  2. Substantiated claims: In the field of science, this would be direct reference to included data (say, a table or graph), or an inference based on such data. No external reference is necessary. The reader may not trust the data, but the experiments should be repeatable by the reader to be considered valid.
  3. Unsubstantiated assertions: These generally fall into two categories: (1) Restatements of common knowledge, which one should know or can easily look up in a general reference or (2) Bullshit.

I call the last item (unsubstantiated claims that cannot easily be verified by a general reference) bullshit because without the back-up included in the other case, the reader has no grounds to believe what is written.

Try reading, say, a religious text with this frame of reference. It’s rather illuminating.

Saturnalia: The real reason for the season.

Skepticlawyer over at Catallaxy (where I sometimes blog) has a nice little summary of the pagan origins of Christmas, before it was co-opted as the pretend birthday of Jesus. Here’s just a snippet:

Romans decorated their doorposts with holly and kissed under the mistletoe. Shops and businesses closed and people greeted one another in the street with shouts of Io Saturnalia! On one day of the twelve, masters waited on their slaves at table while, in the legions, officers served the ranks. A rose was hung from the ceiling in banqueting rooms, and anything said or done sub rosa went no further than the front door. That banqueting could get out of hand is attested to by Seneca, who tells of slaves detailed especially to clean up the spew. The government – in both Rome and the provinces – often laid on free public feasts. In the poem by Statius running through this piece, we’re told how the emperor Domitian held one such feast in the colosseum, somehow combining (and the organisation can only be marvelled at) vast quantities of food with entertainment. The Romans, I should add, had no weekend, no useless and unproductive Saturdays and Sundays, so they looked forward to their sanguinary feriae with considerable relish. The festival of Saturnalia was a time, too, for family dinners, for parties, for amours, for socialising, for wishing others well.

Surely this is something that several of my readers already have extensive knowledge about, but while I’d heard of it, it’s mostly new to me. Also, the Roman city in SecondLife, whose name I can’t at the moment recall, was celebrating Saturnalia last time I was there.

Obligatory Wikipedia entry link. Note that Wikipedia claims the link between Christmas and Saturnalia is tenuous, at least as far as the date goes. The traditions seem pretty clearly related to me.