Happy Blasphemy Day

There are no gods, unless you redefine the word to be so trivial as to be meaningless. Jesus, if he ever existed, was just a guy; he died two thousand years ago and isn’t coming back. His dad isn’t watching you, nor are his angels.
Mohammed was a merchant who managed to appropriate and adapt some extant texts to conquer a huge tract of land and get himself a pile of gold and booty.
The Dalai Lama doesn’t reincarnate. Nor does anyone else. Nor is there such a thing as karma: you’re just selectively interpreting random occurrences, using a brain that sucks at statistics.
The Redskins, the Cowboys, the Eagles, etc. are just guys paid a ton of money to play games.
Rachel Maddow is smart, but she’s not the last word on anything. Richard Dawkins is good at explaining science, but boy howdy has he said some stupid things.

Happy International Blasphemy Day, y’all.

Update: Fixed typo. Thanks, alert reader Fez!

TAM 8 Miscellanea

Some notes I jotted down during talks at TAM 8:

My wife and I have an agreement: if Brian Williams ever becomes single, she gets to leave me and marry him. And if Rachel Maddow ever… um, changes her mind… then I get to marry her.
— Hal Bidlack(?)

I’m a vegetarian zombie. I only eat rotten fruit.
— Joe Nickell

At the Q&As after talks, most people would introduce themselves by giving their name and employer. But one person prefaced his question with:

Hello. My name would waste valuable time, and where I work is embarrassing.

Paul Provenza on George W. Bush:

He’s like a low-rent antichrist: two sixes and a five.

He thinks history will vindicate him. Who does he think he is, The Velvet Underground?

He also mentioned getting into a fight with a network censor who allowed a sketch that made fun of God, but not one about Jesus, because:

You can make fun of God, because he doesn’t exist. But you can’t make fun of Jesus, because he’s God’s son.

I’d brought Richard Dawkins’s The Greatest Show on Earth to read on the plane.* Colour plates 18-19 show a map of the Earth’s tectonic plates, including one labeled “Philippine Plate”.

So of course, given my precedent of having people sign books they didn’t write, I had to get Phil Plait to sign it:

* I didn’t get to read much of it on the way over, though: I didn’t get an assigned seat in advance for the flight from Detroit to Las Vegas, so instead of getting an aisle seat like I’d wanted, I got stuffed next to two Chinese young men in the very last row, by the window, the complete opposite of where I wanted to be.

But during the hustle and bustle of people competing to see how much crap can be shoved into an overhead bin without making the fuselage bulge, a Chinese man asked me if I’d be willing to trade seats with him so that he could sit with his sons. He even apologized that his was an aisle seat instead of the window that I so obviously wanted. I thanked him, and we traded.

When I got to my new seat, there was someone already in it, chatting up the good-looking lady in the middle seat. He went back to his seat in the row behind. A few moments later, a young woman from the row behind came up and swapped places with the lady the guy had been chatting up.

So my new seat neighbor turned out to be a geologist on her way to TAM. I suppose if we weren’t headed for the same convention on skepticism and rational thinking, it would’ve been easy to invoke mystical forces of fate or destiny. But of course that would’ve been silly.

At any rate, she was a better conversationalist than Dawkins’s book, so I didn’t get as much reading done as I’d thought.