Tuesday, December 23, 2008


There, I got that off my chest (unlike the three pound of mucus that still sitting there). Colds on vacation are only slightly better than a combined root canal/colonoscopy. On the slightly plus side, we're visiting my mother for the holidays so I'm being well spoiled.

Happy Holidays to all!

Friday, December 5, 2008

What happened to Thou Shalt Not Steal?

The state of Washington did a really brave and good thing with the holiday decorations in the Capitol building. In addition to the "Holiday" tree and Nativity scene, a sign was put up promoting Atheism. Here's the story from a local station.

Sadly, somebody who was so threatened by a different viewpoint decided that it was ok to steal the sign and throw it into a ditch. Here's that part of the story from CNN.

Any body who knows me personally has had to endure my rantings on the evils of organized religion and against the fundamentalist christian groups specifically. I can go on for hours about this or that hypocrisy and yet, I try to keep an open mind and understand why these people might feel threatened. They live in a world that's filled will monsters, demons and angels. A world where the unknown is bad and to even question it is to invite punishment upon themselves. They also proclaim to live by a set of laws and that's what bothers me so much when incidents like this happen.

In the United States, there is an ongoing controversy regarding the display of the basic Laws of the christian faith known as the 10 commandments on or in a government building. The Founding Fathers of the United States decided that a separation of church and state was in the best interest of the Republic. They felt, in my opinion, that the rights of one persons religious beliefs can not be held to a higher or lower standard than any other person's belief. Two hundred years ago, these men, who were rational intellectuals who were also religious. They believed that our country would be best served by the rule of law and so, when it became time to set down into history their most heartfelt and important laws, they looked to history. They looked to the Code of Hammurabi and to the English Common Law and to the Magna Carta as well as the 10 Commandments among so many others.

At the heart of all those legal concepts is the idea that an individual's property is theirs and has certain protections under the law. No where is this concept written so well or so directly as the Commandment; Thou Shalt Not Steal. There it is, a simple direct statement with no doubt as to it's meaning. It's easy, don't steal!

So, back to the stolen sign in Olympia. I'm sure the person who stole it would describe themselves as a "God Fearing American" and do so with pride. I wonder how a person who takes such pride can rationalize not only breaking the law of their beloved country but also that most basic commandment that, if you believe in it, was handed down directly from the god that they claim to fear?

I'll take rationality any day thank you.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A change of direction

We, as a species spend a lot of time looking out but sometimes it's nice to look down. I've seen this a couple of times via emails and such but here's a nice Flash movie of the Earth from the High Perspective.

Conjuction Junction

"Did you see the lights last night?"
"Hey, I saw the strangest thing last night"

Questions like that greeted me this morning when I found my way to the pile of papers I call a desk. Being the closest thing in my office to an astronomer I tend to get a lot of questions about the sky and was looking forward to the one I knew were coming regarding the Moon/Venus/Jupiter conjunction. I was even (ok, almost) ready for the, "Those had to be UFOs cause you can't see a planet from the earth!" one. Yes, sadly, that is a quote from an associate who also doesn't understand how an eclipse works because, and again I quote, "The moon can't get between the sun and the earth because the sun and moon are both up in the sky and spin around the earth".

I answered all the questions and while doing so, it struck me that more people came to me asking things then ever before. People had actually stopped and looked up. People had actually done astronomy and began the scientific process by asking a simple question to themselves, "What is that?" What a wonderful thing happened to these folks and they don't even realize it.

I wonder how many of them will continue to take a moment out of their day and just look up? More, I hope, than did before.