Posts Tagged ‘a’

On the Failure of Atheist Organizations and Choosing Life!

September 1, 2012

Y’know I kinda knew it all along that feminism was the third rails here.  You can even see it in the very first video I put up on this subject, that I knew this was going to end ugly (“tactically dumb” I think were the words I used).  I really didn’t have a ‘dog in this fight’ beyond the fact that having all these professional victims trying to pass off the most mild transgressions as systematic and pervasive misogyny in the secular community, really did make the group that took this seriously looks like a bunch of jokers, and then to have ‘leaders’ of the community take an accommodationist stance to such professional victim-hood really doesn’t inspire one with much faith that these are dynamic organization capable of prioritizing and focusing on important goals to achieve results.

Having said that, I don’t really feel too badly about how this all came out.  I certainly learned a lot on the journey about the nature of this community, and why so much (although notably not all) of it is operationally ineffective.

In the current case the problem seems to be quite simple, that a group, notable centered around Freethoughtblogs and Skepchick have mistaken (initially arguably accidentally, but later apparently willfully) the odd troll as ‘evidence’ that the community is ridden with misogynists etc.  Indeed now it seems that folks from these forums almost relish the trolling, as they can then use it to ‘score some online pity’.  This path of ‘embracing victim-hood’ is not healthy for them or the community and ends in this hypersentivity to criticism that really doesn’t do anyone any good (‘use the block and ban functions’ urges Rebecca Watson in 100% VFX terms, and we all know how well that worked out for him!).  For instance they see the word “bitch is a gendered insult that demeans ALL women” (a point which Rebecca Watson of Skepchick assures us is so uncontroversial that almost everyone ‘gets’ it), but will have no problem in using the words “don’t be a dick” in their guidelines for their new ‘Atheism Plus’ forum (whose rules prohibit degrading people using sexual slurs).

Yes, ‘Bitch is a gendered insult to all women’ but in the utterly consistent Utopian world of AtheismPlus, ‘dick’ (mentioned only one line earlier in the forum rules!) does not count as the hate speech of a gender slur.

When such casual and common use of language becomes a matter of heated debate, arguably you have already been rendered operationally impotent by your political correctness.  Take another example.  The founder of atheism plus is quite candid about being ‘banned’ from the internet by her boyfriend, while doubtless if I had similarly imposed such restrictions on my girlfriend I would have been labeled a misogynist intent on subjugating women (“WHY NOT JUST TELL HER TO GET BACK IN THE KITCHEN!” etc) and she a propagator of destructive submissive female stereotypes, a gender traitor and therefore a rape culture enabler etc etc.  This is the disproportionate destination you arrive at when you are so sensitive to criticism: seeing the most banal activities that you engage in everyday as fine and healthy but as evidence of horrible sexism endemic in society when anyone else does it.  It also seems to have enabled a formidable cognitive dissonance in these folks.  For example many of these people consider “you’re only a feminist because you are old fat and ugly” as some great evil that should get you pilloried, but have no problem in thinking that saying “you’re only a misogynist because your privilege as a member of the patriarchy means you don’t ‘get it’ ” is some great argument winner.  In both cases the statement may well be perfectly accurate, but even if they were, the arguments constitute little more than personal mudslinging, while the more virtuous path would have been to actually address the argument, not the person.  Yet the latter example here is typically considered by such folks to be an argument winner, but the former beyond the pale as an ad hominem.  The cognitive dissonance is formidable.

However, going back to the original problem though, personally I wouldn’t give such trolls the time of day.  Example in question, coughlan616 in a recent exchange (over a month ago at the time of writing) ended up suggesting that he had performed needless sexual exchanges with my mother.

Inject yourself into the free speech arena? Better be ready for the slings and arrows! However that does not mean those who have not injected themselves into that arena are ‘fair game’.  For those with an interest, this was the full exchange.

Did I go ballistic at this and get a load of ‘secular leaders’ to write letters of support saying that this sort of hate should not be tolerated?

Did I campaign for a code of conduct for the atheist community etc?

Did I demand that anyone who opposed my proposed changes be driven out as C.H.U.D.s, as rejecting my proposals clearly meant that they endorsed Coughlan’s views?

Did I sit there crying at how unsafe this made me feel until someone paid attention?

No! I just ignored him.  If he wants to use his freedom of speech in the open arena to be a dick, that’s his affair. However there are of course some limits, and arguably coughlan crossed those in this case. Not by insulting me, as I’ve CHOSEN to inject myself into the public domain, and in such a free speech arena you have to suffer the slings and arrows of that arena.  This is not true however of my mother (see ‘YOUR MOTHERS A WHORE.. and other stuff‘.  She did not inject herself into the public arena, and is not therefore fair game.  Nor is impersonation, and various other elements such as slander and liable etc, but outside that, everything else, within a VERY broad remit is pretty much fair game.

This is in stark contrast to the way in which the ‘atheism plus’ people apparently think things should go, where one of them says that saying something that hurts someones feelings should be regarded in the same fashion as physical assault.

This is simply bullshit, and it is a damning indictment of everyone in that room that not one of them, not PZ Myers, Rebecca Watson or Jen McCreight actually stood up or questioned this proposition that would involve no less than the abolishment of the first amendment.

AtheismPlus, as defended by PZ Myers, Rebecca Watson, Jen McCreight and other is about as popular with their own base (freethinkers?) as venomfangxs arguments are with his audience!  A religious man would say ‘God is trying to tell you something there!’

Indeed the mere fact that even with their ‘home audience’ (secularists and rationalist?) they can only get a video rating comparable to that of venomfangx should be giving them a warning that a lot of people actually have issues with what they are saying.  I mean did they not think this through merely on personal-gain-logistical-grounds?  That if just one person finds their comments hurtful, then they will be prohibited from talking about it on freethoughtblogs and skepchick or get prosecuted for ‘assault’.

However, I’ve become increasingly of the opinion that these people are functionally incompetent, to the point where ‘being drummed out of such a community’ is not actually a punishment but a welcome and valuable gift.

My opinions of this were further backed up by checking out the google ‘web interest’ stats on this which show that I actually have a sizably bigger footprint that freethoughtblogs (both comfortably unique search terms).  Not bad seeing as I’m only one guy and pretty much only work on this half time!

So according to Google Insight, ‘Thunderf00t’ has about twice the web interest of Freethoughtblogs. I’m not a big player in the grand scheme of things.  -Freethoughtblogs CLEARLY make a disproportionate amount of noise for their size.

So yup, I figure I’m pretty much done with these hapless noise makers.

Done with those folks who think patronizing ad hominem/ ’emperors new clothes’ style arguments like “you just don’t ‘get it’ ” is some great cerebral, thoughtful and persuasive argument.

-I’m looking ahead and choosing life!! (que upbeat music)

I’m getting back to making videos that can appeal to everyone, not just some petty drama of just how incompetent certain fractions of the secular community are.

There are bigger fish to fry!

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Watching Sunset on the Moon, and things that go bump in the night!

August 20, 2011

Well it’s a start.  Sunset on the Moon!

This is the time lapse of sunset on the moon, taken at prime focus with a cpc11 with a focal reducer and a canon 60D.  The conditions were less than perfect.  This was about 9 hrs all in, and really quite an infuriating 9 hrs.

Firstly, since my ‘run in’ with the mountain lion, I’ve become VERY twitchy about things that go bump in the night, and would periodically scan the torch around, looking for ‘eyes’.  There was also an amusing part when a piece of paper blew out of the car.  The ‘sudden noise’ in the dark elicited an immediate reaction from me, which to the impartial observer must have appeared quite funny and disproportionate! (twirling around ready to attack the piece of paper…… hmmmm….  time to switch to decaf!)

Not all bad though, amazing what the heightened senses can find!


For some reason the telescope is lousy at tracking the moon.  I think this is to do with the fact that the Earth axis, and the normal of the orbit of the moon are out by about 6 degrees.  Practically what this means is the moon not only moves at a different rate to the stars (that is it goes around the sky in about 25 hours, not 24 like pretty much everything else).  But even with lunar rate, the tracking is poor.  I think the moon is also moving up/ down due to the difference in the normal of the Earth rotation and the moons orbit, and the mount is not smart enough to work this out.  The practical upshot of which is the moon will drift out of the field of view over a period of about an hour, so I had to set the alarm to go off every 20 minutes throughout the night in order to recenter the moon.

Further recentering the frames, taken every 2 minutes in editing is also a pain in the ass.  Thankfully Sony Vegas now has a ‘motion stabilizer’ feature that takes a lot of the donkey work out of this.

This is the finished product!  Well actually, only part of it.  At prime focus the telescope can get the best part of the moon in the frame.  I just selected one crater, as it shows the shadows nicely.

Tracking on everything else is perfect, in that at the end of the evening I dialed up Jupiter, and it went straight to it.  Cute! Never seen Jupiter by the full light of day before!

Wedneday 27th July (It’s like sex!)

July 28, 2011

It was a disheveled piece of human flotsam that crawled out of the mountains that morning.  I had spent a night fighting a losing battle again sleep, and had, in terms of results, very little to show for it.  I know I thought to myself, look the night might have been one long concatenated mess, but at least I can haul my carcuss down to town and get a thousand calorie breakfast from mcdonalds, and Im sure you will start to get a grip once you have  a full stomach.  Regrettably, by the time I got down to town Mcdonalds had JUST finished breakfast.  The moment was a cross between ‘Falling Down’ and that moment in ‘Evil Dead, Army of Darkness’ in the alternative ending where he oversleeps.  Oh yeah it was one of those ‘the world conspires against me’ type moments.  After a long deep sigh, the eyes snap open with regained focus: time to go on the offense!  Online I soon discovered that the reason the Orion Deepspace Video camera wasn’t working up to expectation is it has an integration function in the menus!  I laughed, when all else fails: READ THE INSTRUCTIONS.  Spent a few hours rendering and uploading what I had.  Now the next problem, that damn screw!  I need a replacement for that damn screw.  Turns out Ridgecrest has a Home Depot, and I figured that was the logical place to try for a bizarre screw.  I was wrong- they had nothing!  Arse, thousands of bux worth of telescope crippled by a tiny screw.  Then it dawned on me, I could just drill and tap a hole myself for any screw I wanted.  Deep in my mind there was a spark, I had a drill and tap and a load of screws that would fit in the car, they were part of the stuff for the airplanes.

Picked up some supplies and headed back up into the mountains, same place at last night.  This time I was more seasoned on that grinding hill though and got up all the way without even a hint of overheating.

Up at the top of mountains, I sorted out firstly the backend of the telescope,

Then the webcam.

Come the test of first light, both performed admirably.  The sky wasn’t still enough for planets, but it was wonderfully clear.

The Deepsky video camera worked as expected! (~500 bux) 🙂

The stripped MS webcam worked admirably (~50 bux) 🙂

The video of the planets shot on by eyepiece projection onto the sensor of the D60 (~900 bux) was okay, but not as good as channeling it straight into a video camera.

The 60d I have to admit is a heinous machine for astro!  I got it primarily as I needed 2 DSLRS to do some of the projects I want to get done on this trip, to work with the 40D.  The 60D just idles circles around the 40D.  I think a lot of it is simply a better sensor.  More pixels, if they are not being used for resolution, mean faster light gathering, and lower noise.  The bottom line is the 60D goes up to iso ~6000, at least 2x what the 40D will do.  The 60D will also do video, which I thought might be useful, although thus far it hasn’t panned out, although this might just be teething troubles with the camera.  Just for an example, crank the ISO up to about 5000 and do a 1min exposure (unguided, bar the telescope tracking) on M51, and this is what you get:

M51, The Whirlpool Galaxy

M51, The Whirlpool Galaxy, 1min exposure, iso 5000, canon 60d

After that, all you need is an intervalometer and deepskystacker.  In many ways it’s such a cheat.  When I was young, I improvised all sorts of devices for the tracking, and there was none of this ‘cap a test frame to see if it’s centered’.  You took the pictures, and after minutes of painstaking guiding, you had to wait till at least the next day to see how well you did when you got the film processed.  Many a time I chuckle at night as to how what used to be hours of work, and a day or two to see the results from can now be effortlessly superseeded by a minute of scope time.

Later in the night, after visiting many a deep sky object, I turned the scope to Jupiter, then Mars, then the very late moon, all using the same magnification, just so I could give folks the scale of these things, all on the same magnfication.  The seeing was abysmal!  Mars was a swimming ball!  However all on the same magnification I got Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and the moon!

 

So yeah, I guess its like sex, in the dark, the first time is always a fumbled and inept experience.  However, having seen things in the broad light of day, and having had time to ponder on what went wrong and why, the second time can be more of the ‘tour de force!’ 🙂

Monday 18th (To California!)

July 21, 2011

Decided to head to California, picked up gas and a burger and got on the road.  A few hours later I was in Barstow CA.  The brakes have been worrying me for the best part of the last 1000 miles.  There has been an intermediate high pitched whine coming from them (front right), especially at speed as if a wire or something is rubbing against the brake hub.  Figured I’d get it checked out the next time I changed the oil.  Long experience has shown that if you are going to get work done on the wheels, the bigger the civilization the better.  Also turns out that one of my video cameras died.  Worse than that, one of the brand new ones died!  It turns on okay, and off okay, but the second you try to turn it on with the screen open -dead.  Turns out there was a canon ‘walk in express repair center’ in LA.  Figured that would be  a good place to kill two birds with one stone.  Spent most of the afternoon rendering, uploading and writing blog, plus catching up on the mass of emails etc that had accumulated in the 4 days I had been ‘unplugged’.   Then as dusk came on I headed out to the south towards San Bernadino, but turned off before hand for a quiet little place called Wrightwood.  I was v. happy to be heading for LA at this point the brakes are sounding progressively more creaky.  I’ve had a good feel around the back of the brakes but couldn’t find anything obvious, further they look to be carrying quite a lot of corrosion.

Tuesday 19th, saved by grace!

Go up before the sunlight hit the car in the little niche I was parked in.  Some great views heading back to the main road!

View from Wrightwood

View driving back from Wrightwood to the main road.  Those little domes look kinda volcanic to me.

Drive through LA was busy, but not too bad.  Got to the Canon ‘express repair’ at 8ish.  They very quickly diagnosed a ‘LCD’ fault.  250 bucks to replace.  When I asked if it was under warranty (it’s only about a month old, quasi professional 900 bucks canon S20 I think), they said yes, but I would need proof of purchase or similar.  The warranty was an absolute no-go.  I had ditched the paper work to the camera before I started on the roadtrip.  Proof of purchase I could do from emails etc, but they didn’t have wifi.  A little miffed I headed out to find a McDonalds for breakfast and wifi.   Took about 5 times as long as I expected to find the correct email.  I get far too many emails! Like trying to find a fart in a jacuzzi!  Eventually found it (bought in beginning of June, just before I came out!). On returning about an hour or so later there was a significant que, and I had to wait about another hour to get it seen to.  When they did, almost as if to rub salt in the wound, they scarcely looked at the email (sigh).  Then of course it was going to take 5-7 days to repair.  GAHHHHHHH.  I had no desire to hang around LA for the best part of a week.  I handed it in anyways, I mean lets be real, as it stands that month old camera is currently junk to me, and without it I am working off my spare camera.  Maybe best contingency plan I came up with was to get Canon to send the fixed camera to NCSE (IF they need a camera), and just to write it off as a donation from my subscribers to NCSE.

Okay, so order of buisness one in LA concluded.  Next, get the car seen to.  I like Sear for car stuff, most notably after TWICE I had Walmarts engine butchers botch an oil change.  Sear is nationwide, and generally Ive been happy with them.  Nonetheless the first Sears the GPS took me to was ‘out of buisness’.  The second seemed to be some great auto place.  Initally I just wanted an oil change and tire rotation, and while they were at it to see what was wrong with the brakes.  Turns out the brakes were in pretty bad shape.  Much worse than I expected.  Sears also kept coming up with these stories about how the wrong parts had arrived etc.  Looked legit too as it was the same guy working on my car.  In the end pretty much replaced the whole brake assembly at the cost of about 550 bux.  Yup it stings, but skimping on car auto if you’re going to drive your car into the middle of nowhere is what I would go so far to call a suicidal false economy (plus new brakes will make my mother happy! 🙂 ).

By the time they’d finished it was about 5ish, and I really didn’t have anywhere to go or any plan, and had no real desire to drive across LA at rush hour, so I found a cyber cafe and finished the TAM blog.  About 9ish I decided to head up to the Mnt Wilson observatory.  I know the road, it was out of the city and fairly quiet.  The drive across LA was a nightmare, even at this time.  When I got above LA, the view was great, but the sky was washed out with the glow from the city 😦