Saturday Storytime: Faithful City

My friend Lynne Thomas has had a busy year. The second book she edited came out, the third went to the publisher, and she won a Hugo award for the first. On top of all that, she recently started editing Apex Magazine. Her first issue came out in November. This story, the first professional sale by Michael Pevzner, is in the current issue.

“It tried to convince us, too, when we arrived,” says the man, an understanding look in his brown eyes. “Me and Lia and Mark and little Taiho. But we aren’t fools. We figured out its plan. And you know how? Because the City is empty! Look at it, there’s nobody here.” He taps his temple with his finger, proud of himself. “If it’s all like it says, if it was really designed as the next step of evolution, then why the hell is it empty? Huh?” The man is pleased with himself. “No, buddy, you can’t fool me. It’s all lies. Lies and hogwash. I don’t know what happened to the previous city, what happened to the people who used to live here, but the previous city is gone. What you see here now—it’s a predator that set up a lair for itself here, and it uses the old mechanisms of the city to bring itself new prey.”

The orchestra becomes stronger. I see the woman’s face again—her perfect, gentle face—appearing out of the fog of exhaustion that films my eyes. She smiles at me. She whispers something to me, but I can’t understand what it is. I am drawn again into the dance of voices, I feel its softness enwrapping me; I want to fall into it—and sleep, sleep, sleep…

“I want to go to the Temple,” I say in a weak but stable voice.

“Didn’t you listen to me at all, or what!”’ shouts the man. “The Temple is a lie! The Temple is the monster’s maw, the City will devour you! Don’t you get it!”

The woman continues to smile at me.

“You can’t stop me,” I say.

“Oh, I can. I can and I will. I don’t care what you want and what you don’t want, but I’m not intending to feed the beast.” He rises from his stool and exits the room, and I hear him shutting the heavy door behind him and locking it.

Keep reading.

Saturday Storytime: Faithful City

When the Puppets Come Out to Play

Mr. Moustache

Ooh. Really?

Mr. Sock

Interesting, but I think you’re both wrong. You appear to be a pair of fun photographers. Franc Hoggle aka Felch Grogan aka Victor Ivanoff is something else altogether. And now, since he can’t handle being ignored for several weeks, everyone who knows him in any incarnation has the opportunity to know who he is in all (or just many?) of them.

When the Puppets Come Out to Play

Why I Will Not Be Adopted

If you haven’t already seen the whole to-do over Bill Donohue of The Catholic League suggesting that believers adopt atheists just in case their might be some undiscovered believers among us, check out Greta’s post on the topic. She’s got lots of juicy links and a righteous rant. She is also, like many, perfectly willing to be adopted.

Not me.

Continue reading “Why I Will Not Be Adopted”

Why I Will Not Be Adopted

Atheists Talk: Michael Shermer on “The Believing Brain”

Michael Shermer is the founder of the Skeptics Society and editor-in-chief of Skeptic magazine. He is the author of several books on the topics of belief and the history of science. His latest book is The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths.

In this work synthesizing thirty years of research, psychologist, historian of science, and the world’s best-known skeptic Michael Shermer upends the traditional thinking about how humans form beliefs about the world. Simply put, beliefs come first and explanations for beliefs follow. The brain, Shermer argues, is a belief engine. From sensory data flowing in through the senses, the brain naturally begins to look for and find patterns, and then infuses those patterns with meaning. Our brains connect the dots of our world into meaningful patterns that explain why things happen, and these patterns become beliefs. Once beliefs are formed the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, which accelerates the process of reinforcing them, and round and round the process goes in a positive-feedback loop of belief confirmation. Shermer outlines the numerous cognitive tools our brains engage to reinforce our beliefs as truths.

Interlaced with his theory of belief, Shermer provides countless real-world examples of how this process operates, from politics, economics, and religion to conspiracy theories, the supernatural, and the paranormal. Ultimately, he demonstrates why science is the best tool ever devised to determine whether or not a belief matches reality.

Join us on Sunday as we discuss why the processes that help our brains makes sense of the world also trip us up and make it easy to believe strange things.

Related Links

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to [email protected] during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Atheists Talk: Michael Shermer on “The Believing Brain”

This Year, Give Health

DrRubidium is a powerhouse. She’s finishing up her first semester of teaching, putting out weapons-grade snark at the JAYFK, and now she’s whipping up a vaccination campaign in the science blogosphere for the winter holidays.

Still looking for a Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, holiday-yet-to-be-invented gift for a loved (or tolerated) one?  Skip the damn tsotchkes.  Go with measles vaccines.  Yes, measles vaccines.

It turns out that the Red Cross allows you to donate to a campaign that provides vaccinations overseas. Cost is a dollar a shot, delivered.

This is a charitable gift, but it’s also a practical one. Here in the U.S., we have reached the point where even people whose parents forgo vaccination–for good reasons and specious ones–rarely pay the price in illness. However, when there is a measles outbreak among the unvaccinated and those with wonky immune systems, the source is generally someone who has just stepped off a plane.

Giving the gift of vaccination doesn’t just protect children in countries hurt by our colonialist pasts, though it does do that. It also protects the most vulnerable among us here. That’s a gift worth giving or receiving.

Forget getting your best friend Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3!  Get 50 vaccinations instead.  In that holiday card to your boss, let them know they’ve vaccinated 25 kids.  Splurge on that flats screen TV with you tax return.  For now, vaccinate a village — A WHOLE VILLAGE!

Listen to the woman. Go save some lives.

This Year, Give Health

Why Should I Pay for Your Health Insurance?

This is fairly recent for a repost, but Igakusei asked in the comments on this morning’s post for advice on what to say to someone asking very similar questions. Since I’m having a bad health day myself and not up for serious blogging, and since most of you here won’t have seen this, I’ll go ahead. It’s also good to see Crommunist putting his expertise out there on health care.

A friend of mine from high school asked on Facebook a few days ago, “Why should I pay for your health insurance?” Because we have a certain amount of history together, I’m going to answer that question seriously instead of hiding or unfriending this person, which would be my normal inclination with anyone who has managed to reach our age without figuring this out.

So why should you pay for my health insurance? Lots of reasons.

Continue reading “Why Should I Pay for Your Health Insurance?”

Why Should I Pay for Your Health Insurance?

Middle Class Is Not a Virtue

If you haven’t already, you’ll soon be seeing this Jezebel piece: “Woman Who Attacked ObamaCare Apologizes After Breast Cancer Diagnosis.” Schadenfreude makes good copy, even if the title is a bit off.

“ObamaCare” should really read “Obama.” She just didn’t think he was doing enough for the middle class, so she got all disillusioned and bitter and…blah. She defaced her “Hope” bumper sticker. Her and Obama? They’re good now, though. She’s gonna get a new bumper sticker.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. You see, all the stuff about being disappointed in Obama for a little while–that all happens at the end of the letter. The first half is stuff like this:

Continue reading “Middle Class Is Not a Virtue”

Middle Class Is Not a Virtue

I Am a Bitter, Selfish Granddaughter

My post about the proselytization at my grandfather’s funeral has caught the attention of some people involved in funeral planning. I meant the post as a place for people to be able to vent with others who knew what they were talking about, but this is an excellent result. Any time someone wants to listen to a minority viewpoint and think about how people are affected in various situations, I’m (obviously) all for it.

At one topical blog, however, a commenter responded thusly:

Having read the full text, it seems to me the conflict of interest might be a combination of a poor communicator in the Lutheran pastor, and an bitter, selfish granddaughter venting her atheistic anger on a religious funeral chosen by her grandfather.

Continue reading “I Am a Bitter, Selfish Granddaughter”

I Am a Bitter, Selfish Granddaughter

How an Authoritarian Protects the Vulnerable

Sexual assault happens disproportionately to the most vulnerable among us, those without resources, those who aren’t trusted or heard, those who are despised, those whom the law stands against. Women are assaulted at higher rates than men. The poor and uneducated are more likely to be assaulted than the rich and educated, and the homeless…well. Ethnic minorities are more vulnerable than whites. The mentally ill are more likely to be assaulted than the generally sane.

Sexual minorities are more likely to be assaulted than the vanilla, heterosexual monogamous. The genderqueer are more vulnerable than gender-normative performers.

Those who break (enforced) laws are more likely to be assaulted than those who don’t, both inside and outside of incarceration. Illegal immigrants are more vulnerable than those who can go to authorities without fear of deportation.

Then there are children.

Continue reading “How an Authoritarian Protects the Vulnerable”

How an Authoritarian Protects the Vulnerable