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Amused Muse

Inspiring dissent and debate and the love of dissonance

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Location: Surreality, Have Fun Will Travel, Past Midnight before a Workday

Master's Degree holder, telecommuting from the hot tub, proud Darwinian Dawkobot, and pirate librarian belly-dancer bohemian secret agent scribe on a mission to rescue bloggers from the wholesome clutches of the pious backstabbing girl fridays of the world.

Monday, January 29, 2007

I've Won an Award

And I'm honored. I really mean it. It means a real lot to me!

I scratched my head, I admit, at the name "Whore Church" but Kevin explains it as: "Next time someone seems offended about the term 'Whore Church' remind them of its origin–it’s how God refers to the apostate church. It is exactly what I mean by the term: There is a false church which is in reality the 'Whore of Babylon.'"

I have a knee-jerk reaction to that phrase because it seems to be applied especially to women who shimmy outside of the harem but I know Kevin hates abusive churches and that's not what it means here. (And I always felt admiration for Babylon, its hanging gardens, its number system, its myths which were taken by the ancient Hebrews, by the way.)

It’s certainly nice to win something. Especially when you’ve been cranking out fiction only to never be contacted again by editors who also decide to fold their fiction contest or the fiction section of their enterprise! (Man, those people who say “without evolution atheists have no creation myth” are so full of it, because I’ve had my own creation myth screwed with and rejected so many times that I’ve developed a hard scab!) ;-)

So I’ll just parade my award for a while if you don’t mind.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

What Sci Fi Writer Are You?

Head over to the Triumvirate (or scroll down) to see who I ended up to be. Yeah, okay, cut it out. You can stop laughing now. Sheesh.

At least I didn't end up as the author of Morphodite, eh? (I wanted Le Guin or Stanislaw Lem or Arthur C. Clarke or Ray Bradbury or Vonnegut--you know, someone I've read--or at least Larry Niven, author of The Mote in God's Eye, which I admit I have not yet read.)

Take the quiz, courtsey of Pharyngula, and tell me all about it. Yeah, we'll see who's laughing now!

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Chance and Faith

John and I just saw the film Children of Men. It's a harrowing look at the future when the Department of Homeland Security in Britain runs amok and wages an endless war to deport all immigrants, at the same time that all the world's women lose their ability to procreate. This is a film that's almost too much to take, but it's definitely worth seeing. It shows the utter stupidity of war and the story doesn't compromise. I remarked to John afterward that the plot is rather a reworking of the "flight into Egypt" myth to escape Herod's slaughter, and we discussed how reality doesn't unfold like a story and yet we understand reality in terms of story, seeing recurrent patterns in history and making them into tales that help us make sense of life.

Within this larger story is a smaller one, told by Jasper, the character played by Michael Caine, about the death of the young son of the protagonist, Theo. Life, says Jasper, is a juxtaposition of faith and chance. Faith brought a man and a woman, Theo and Julianne, both political activists, to a rally, for they believed that they could change the world; but by chance they met within the crowd of people. Faith made them have a child, but chance (avian flu) struck the child down. Throughout the film, the embittered Theo expresses cynicism about any "larger purpose" to all the suffering he sees around him, in contrast to the midwife Miriam who is always reciting Hindu chants and saying "everything happens for a reason"; and yet Theo is no nihilist, for he's the only one who sizes up events quickly and without illusion, and he rescues Miriam and the young Kee, a helpless girl with a huge secret. The faith of which Jasper speaks is not religious faith, but trust; the ability to look life in the face and yet believe in tomorrow ("Tomorrow" being also the name of a ship that will help them escape).

If you can stand it, also check out The King. Be warned: it's a rewarding and important film but its ending is about as awful as that of The Wicker Man (the original). My review of The King appeared in this issue of the Minnesota Atheist newsletter.


Thursday, January 25, 2007


I was just sent this link from August Berkshire of Minnesota Atheists, regarding the ongoing controversy of Minneapolis-St. Paul cab drivers refusing to transport customers who have alcohol because of their Muslim religion. It's made the national news several times.

I think that I have been very supportive of new Somali immigrants and of Muslims in general because of the bullshit they face ever since September 11, but damn. I don't agree with this "no transport" policy and, yes, I do think somebody has to make a choice here. I don't want to deprive anyone of the livelihood, but do your job or find another one. Can't bring yourself to dispense the morning-after pill? Do something else. (Do these same people dispense Prozac?)

I once worked at a prominent savings-and-loan delivering the executive mail, often hair-raising right-wing solicitations ("Keep the gays from raping our children in the streets!") and coupons for Solid Gold, a strip joint, addressed to senior vice-presidents. I felt like throwing that crap right in the garbage but hey, it's none of my business, and I'm no little schoolmarm myself, and that's illegal besides. (A very prominent member of the Republican party who was among the executives there was clean as a whistle, though--I'll give him that. Lots of Vikings games, and that's about it. No dirt. Sorry.)

The irony here is that at the same time there's an item in City Pages about two local companies whose nitwit management is so controlling that it mandated scheduled employee breaks, thus disrupting the prayer-times for Muslims (and who knows what other horrors, probably Avon catalog riffling and microwave popcorn) which had worked just fine up to that point. Okay, everybody, get out your hankies for the poor corporations' "undue hardship" of letting people take an unauthorized break shorter than a smoke outside the door to the loading dock. My only quibble is, do you have to have a religious reason to sue or does just having a bladder (and some adult dignity) count? (I looked for a link but can't find one; I read the print version.)

But I'll never forget the executive who called me and asked (I am not making this up) if we had a place for lost mail in the mail center! Yeah, we have a big-ass pile of lost mail, genius. What do you make, $80,000 a year? Can I have your job?

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Monday, January 22, 2007

My So-Called Anniversary

Amused Muse is a year old and I'm sick. Bleeccchhhoo. I have a fever. Yuck.

However, I'm not contagious so thanks for stopping by. And say happy anniversary to Pat at RedStateRabble, too.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Two-Headed Fossil Found

It's so cute!

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Chiquita versus Kirk Cameron

And this is the final word on the "atheist's worst nightmare."

I’m Chiquita banana and I’ve come to say
Bananas were selected in a certain way.
That’s artificially selected, Kirk, you great big goof,
Chiquita no make the atheist worldview go poof.
You can peel them so easy
‘Cause we bred them so,
You can put them in a pie-aye
‘Cause we invented da dough.
Anyway you want to eat them,
It’s impossible to beat them,
But, bananas like granola, yogurt, and honey-o,
So you should never put bananas in your right-wing video!

(A big Carmen Miranda shimmy to RedStateRabble)

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Active Germ-Line Replicator

This is the continuation of my ongoing summation of Richard Dawkins' seminal work, The Extended Phenotype. I'm going to direct readers to the Triumvirate for the rest of my posts in this series.

What is a "gene"? Dawkins admits to using the term loosely. In this chapter he tries to nail down the term more precisely, in order to give a clearer, "gene's eye-view" of the replicator as the unit of selection. (Continue reading...)

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I Just Had to Share This...

...Overheard as we were walking out of class tonight: "And then my baby took my husband's shoes and threw them in the toilet."

I love this kid already.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

60 Years Ago Today

The body of Elizabeth Short, a.k.a. the Black Dahlia, was discovered.

ScaryFacts at AtBC reminded me, and Pamela from the Black Dahlia website invites people to post our thoughts on her bulletin board.

No one was ever prosecuted for this crime, though plenty have been named.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

In Case I Don't Reply Right Away...

it's because I'm working on those New Year's Resolutions this long weekend.

For example, I dragged my sorry ass out of bed at a decent hour this morning, actually ate breakfast for a change (and I'm not talking coffee and the Internet), and managed to show up at dance class for the first time in months. And I'm ahead in my homework. Let's see how long that lasts.

Now it's off to the orchestra tonight (I got free tickets again), so not much time for blogging and commenting, but there's always tomorrow.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

I'm at the Library of Congress!

See? I have my very own card in the card catalog.
Become your own cataloger at Pharyngula.

UPDATED: Greg's made a card catalog!

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Mr. President, No One Believes You Anymore

Keith Olbermann has yet another special comment: The President Who Cried Wolf.

Finally, the Democrats are standing up. But significantly, Joe Scarborough also calls George W. Bush's speech last night "a political disaster." Joe Klein, interviewed on Scarborough Country tonight, was shaking his head in disbelief. As was Joe S. He's no liberal. That pretty much says it all.

Last night's speech by President Bush was not really about salvaging Iraq, but invading Iran. Sen. Chuck Hagel calls Bush's surge plan speech "dangerous... The worst foreign policy blunder since Vietnam." That it is. That it is, sir. Thank you.

However, Pat Buchanan replied, "I disagree with Chuck... Invading Iraq was the worst foreign policy blunder." It is well known that Mr. Buchanan has no stomach for foreign adventures, possibly even World War II, but I certainly agree with him here.

Now comes news that American troops have raided an Iranian consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil and detained five people. Am I not correct in understanding that a nation's consulate is that nation's soil? So, we are now on Iranian soil?

This is madness!

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Shimmies to the Evo-Creo Lovers

Well, I may as well out with it--I'm a sucker for romance.

(I'm also a sucker for tragedy, but let's leave that there for now.)

Shimmies to RedStateRabble--hey, won't RSR be coming up on another anniversary soon?

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Computational Enzyme Kinetics and Proteomics (truncated)

Jonathan Vos Post, in response to my and others' requests, has kindly posted one of his papers at the Sal Cordova thread at Good Math, Bad Math.

(Assuming I can handle this level of discussion, I'll have to read it later this week because--ta da!--school starts for me again, and I've been busy reading one of my texts for the first night of classes. Everything you never wanted to know about indexing, abstracting, the construction of thesauri, etc. Doesn't that sound like fun? You know what's really scary is, it does to me. I'm having a ball reading this stuff... Maybe I could be a professional indexer. Augh! Nerd alert! Run!)

(And shimmy while you run! I'd like a little sugar for a change. *wink*)

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Paul Kurtz on PBS This Weekend

The PBS program Religion and Ethics Newsweekly will be airing a special segment on atheism and unbelief in America on the weekend of January 5th through the 7th.

In addition, the show's cameras were on hand to capture the November 14 Grand Opening press conference of the Center for Inquiry's new Office of Public Policy in Washington, D.C. In a wide-ranging interview, Paul Kurtz took the opportunity to discuss the dangerous intermingling of religion with science and the ethics of leading a good moral life, without the need for religion.

Watch for the segment this weekend on your local PBS stations (broadcast times will vary in different cities). From the Web site (

According to national polls, 90 percent of Americans say they believe in God, and more than 50 percent hold a negative view of those who don’t share their belief in a "Supreme Being." But non-religious fervor is slowly gaining a foothold in the U.S. as some atheists find a way to successfully reach out to mainstream America about their views on the existence of God.

Betty Rollin explores how a small group of America’s non-believers, such as biologist Richard Dawkins, author of "The God Delusion," neuroscientist Sam Harris, author of "Letter to a Christian Nation," and actress/comedian Julia Sweeney, are challenging religious fundamentalism through best-selling works and sold-out performances. According to Harris, "The usefulness of religion -- the fact that it gives meaning, that it makes people feel good -- is not an argument for the truth of any religious doctrine."

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The Law of Conservation of Ignorance

SPECIAL UPDATE: I was so impressed with Jonathan Vos Post's comment on Good Math, Bad Math that I visited his site and came across this gem, a dialogue on how to travel at superluminal speed without warp drive. Right up my alley. A must-read! (Vos Post was a protege of and coauthor with Richard Feynman!)
Mark C. Chu-Carroll has an excellent introduction to Information Theory (which is not to be mistaken for Information Science, the subject that I am pursuing).

This post makes a good life preserver so that the novice does not drown while swimming in (and probably getting a stomach cramp from) the unutterably foolish arguments of Salvador Cordova. This has got to be a joke. If it isn't: Sal—let Momma make it very easy for you:

If I paint a picture of a rock, does that then prove that the original rock was designed?

If you bake a cake (because I’m not going to do it), does it mean that there was “cakiness” front-loaded into the flour?

If I mix yellow and blue pigment, does that mean that “greeniness” somehow pre-existed in these pigments (and in which? The yellow? Or the blue?)?

And if you say “yes” to these questions (that is, you attest to their "truthiness"), then I say that intelligent design has nothing going for it but a circular argument--in fact, it is nothing but a big circle itself with no center, a frame around a void, a useless non-methodology that contributes nada to our understanding of the world. (So "designs" of stones lead to stones, and to designs of stones, cakes to cakes, and to cake decorations, green to green, and to my green face/puke, etc.—so what? Where does that get us? Nowhere. It's incoherent.)

You think that there is a center, a portrait, bounded by your meaningless perimeter of words and disjointed thoughts, because you’re nostalgic for the ultimate coach, a Daddy (or a Mommy?) about which to write this incessant, mawkish soap opera called intelligent design.

It is this sentimental, effeminate hankering for the ultimate cosmic cake decorator—and not any scientific evidence or mathematical proof—that drives grown men to look down through a circle of stones around an abyss and see their own reflection, and call it God. It’s neo-Platonism gone wild!

It reminds me of the other grown men who are still penning "Star Trek" adventures, twenty years after the publishing industry finally announced, due to the volume of bad manuscripts they were receiving, it would not accept any more without a writer’s representation by an agent. It reminds me of the aging filmmaker wannabees I have encountered who are still making poor rip-offs of Excalibur and Clash of the Titans.

But I’m wasting my breath here, considering Sal thinks that rock cannot be a viscous putty (because it’s hard!) or that water cannot be trapped beneath rock (because it’s heavy!) or that the Tasmanian Wolf, which has a pouch, is really a canine (because it looks like a puppy dog!).

It’s jaw-droppingly embarrassing. I think I have a cramp.

(I'm flailing toward Good Math, Bad Math with the intention of shimmies, assuming I live.)

UPDATED: This awesome comment by James Taylor at Dispatches from the Culture Wars expresses my own thought about natural selection in computer programming. It also works for any human creative endeavor, including creative writing.

SECOND UPDATE: Portrait of Jesus obviously done by Picasso manifests itself in tree. (The surrealists were masters at adding randomness and thus information to their works by the way, although Picasso was not truly a member of the movement.)

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Zing! Part Two

Shalini replies to William Dembski, and how. Ouch! That's gotta hurt.

I just discovered Shalini's blog, Scientia Natura: Evolution And Rationality and I gotta say, why didn't I notice her before? Everyone go visit and say hello. Awesome blog!

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Informed citizens respond to pro-creationist letters in the Star Tribune.

A new blog, Evolving in Kansas, takes on the myth of America as a "Christian" nation (writting by a Catholic).

And please note that Female Triumvirate of Evolution Experts has joined the Evolution Web Ring!

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Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Dispensation!

Via Pharyngula: someone has achieved the perfect compromise between a young-earth paradigm and the 4.3 billion-year-old earth reality. Click here to see the new timeline! Let's teach it in the schools!

(Shimmies to PZ and to Adamant)

UPDATED: Meanwhile, back at the PEH ranch, JAD has just had all of his limbs hacked off and continues to insist it's just a flesh wound. (Guys! Arden and Alan! Maybe it's time to let the last "Love It So!" clang in the silence and be done. Do ya think?)

SECOND UPDATE: Creek Running North has a beautiful true timeline of the Grand Canyon.

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