Yesterday was foggy and warm(ish). When I left home at 7:45am it was actually drizzling lightly instead of snowing! The fog was very thick, especially in Chaska where I work. Sure it was gray, dreary and overcast, but it had its own beauty.
Bad UFOs: Skepticism, UFOs, and The Universe posted last week about a gentleman’s decision to make a leap of faith. A literal leap of faith. From this rock formation:
On December 21, 2012 Mr. Peter Gersten plans to hurl himself off of Bell Rock in Sedona, AZ. It is his belief that a cosmic portal will open at this time and in this place, and that he will be delivered into a new, unfathomable opportunity. He is fully willing to die if he is wrong about the portal.
Regardless of how we feel about Mr. Gersten’s beliefs, are we willing to let him die if he is wrong about the portal?
It is not a crime to commit suicide in the United States, but one can be committed involuntarily for psychological evaluation and treatment if one is deemed to be a danger to him or herself, i.e., makes his or her intention to commit or attempt to commit suicide known.
Our current understanding of the universe would suggest that Mr. Gersten has a very small chance of being correct about a cosmic portal opening when he takes his leap of faith. Given what we know of our world, we can assume that Mr. Gersten has a very high probability of killing himself. We might say it’s suicide.
So should we allow him to take this leap of faith, or should he be committed?
As a supporter of civil liberties I want to believe that Mr. Gersten should be allowed to do any dumbass thing that he likes as long as he doesn’t take anyone else with him or inconvenience others unduly. We allow people to do dumbass, life-threatening things all the time. If you want to risk death in a selfish endeavor, such as attempting to tightrope between two skyscrapers, raft down the rapids in March on the fresh thaw, climb Mount Everest, run across Death Valley, more power to ya. And we won’t just cheer you on, we’ll send TV crews and journalists to livecast your attempt because secretly we’re all hoping you’ll slip on the tightrope, fall into the chilly swirling water, get buried in an avalanche or collapse from heat stroke 20 feet from the finish line. Then of course we want you to muster superhuman strength and catch your balance, climb back in the raft, dig your way out of the snow, or regain consciousness and drag yourself across the finish line to where an ambulance is waiting to restore you. And then we’ll go out and buy your autobiography and our kids will talk about how they want to be just like you!
But I digress.
Assisted suicide is illegal in 48 of 50 states (Oregon and Washington, since you were curious). If we allow Mr. Gersten to attempt his leap of faith, are we his partners in (non?)crime?
And even if we say no, that this is not a crime, that indeed Mr. Gersten should be allowed to pursue his ambition…who the heck is paying for clean up if he’s wrong? I’m not being facetious; If the portal doesn’t open up, rescue workers are going to have to climb Bell Rock to clean up bits of Mr. Gersten wherever they may land, possibly endangering their own lives in the process. And Mr. Gersten, having left this world by very natural means having nothing at all to do with cosmic portals, is going to be leaving us the tab. Hmmm…should we allow him his leap of faith if he were to find volunteers and money to fund clean up in the event that he is wrong?
Or – as one of the commenters at Bad UFOs pointed out – should we just ask him to bring a damn parachute?
I would love to graduate from my point and shoot camera. I did move up when I bought my HTC Incredible smartphone. With 8mp, I have twice the resolution of my old 4.1mp Sony Cyber-Shot. But I want a camera that can take action shots (multiple frames per second – the fast click, click, click of fancy cameras), the ability to capture images in low-level lighting, and multiple lens options for wide angle shots and super-crazy zoom.
I haz no dinero for camera. *sniff* Suuuuure, I could swing it. But we’re trying really, really hard to get out of the debt. But when I am reminded of what a fancy camera can do it makes me want to look a little more closely at the no-interest for 12-months loan they were offering at the Ritz Camera I visited not too long ago.
And I was recently reminded of what a fancy camera can do.
Last Saturday I visited Como Park Zoo in St. Paul with Craig from the Minneapolis Skeptics for Darwin Day. He owns a Nikon D7000. It looks like this:
*drool* He was using a zoom lens and took bunches and bunches of photos. I was having fun snapping along. I have a pretty good eye for composition, but I think I’ve reached the limit of my current technology. Have a look – what do you think?
These small photos do not do Craig’s photos justice. I encourage you to click on his photos to see the incredible detail on his flickr stream.
Monkeys in the primate house. Challenges: Low, filtered light, fast-moving subjects, thick glass with reflections.
My photo – HTC Incredible, Auto settings, camera lens pressed to the glass to avoid reflection.
Snow Leopard enclosure. Challenges: Dark subject against snow, outdoor natural light – cloudy, fast-moving subject, fencing.
My photo, zoomed in as far as possible (unable to get close enough to fence to place camera between links):
Yeah, I’m jealous.
This weekend was GREAT for fun, geeky, silly links. Here are my top three favorites.
First, head over to Geekosystem’s 50 Things That Look Like Faces. While you’re there make sure to learn about pareidolia and why our brains want to see faces in random phenomena. Of all of the images, I liked the screaming pepper the most.
Second, take a trip over to Toxel.com to see these incredible LipAnimals.
Hubby: [in an accusing tone] Hey! Who used the last of the toilet paper and didn’t replace the roll?
There are only two of us in the house. We both know it was me.
Me: It was the dog.
Hubby: The dog?
Me: Yup. Saw him do it.
Hubby: Oh yeah?
Me: Yeah, he was all like I need some toilet paper. Rawr!
Hubby: Well, that’s pretty amazing that he’s using toilet paper.
And the morning goes on. I’ve noticed that most of our married people conversations are boring, weird and not really all that funny. Except to us. We think we’re hilarious.
Tomorrow is Charles Darwin’s 202nd birthday. How are you celebrating?
I’m going to the ZOO!
I’m pulling together an event with the Minneapolis Skeptics to celebrate International Darwin Day. We’re going to visit the Como Park Zoo’s primate house, chat Darwin, share our favorite evolution books, movies, and news, take pictures with our primate cousins and/or whatever else people feel like doing. We’ll be meeting inside the main entrance at 1pm, and I invite you to join us. If you come out, look for me – I’ll be the woman holding the Happy Darwin Day sign!
If you’re not into the zoo, you could visit the Science Museum of Minnesota tomorrow between 1pm-4pm; they’re holding a Darwin Day event and showing a film called A Portrait of Charles Darwin.
And/or, go pick up a copy of Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth at Big Brain Comics in downtown Minneapolis on Saturday. Bonus: The cartoonists, Zander and Kevin Cannon, will be signing their graphic novel about evolution at 4pm.
And finally – you can help celebrate Darwin Day and the importance of scientific inquiry by signing a petition hosted by Rep Pete Stark and the American Humanist Associateion in support of H. Res 81, which would recognize every February 12th as Darwin Day.
From the AHA website:
In a statement, Representative Stark said, “Darwin’s birthday is a good time for us to reflect on the important role of science in our society. It is also a time to redouble our efforts to ensure that children are being taught scientific facts, not religious dogma, and to fight back against those who seek to undermine the science of climate change for political ends.”
Go HERE to learn more and to sign the petition.
Happy Darwin Day!
If I may borrow a meme: You all got pwned by a noob!
Yesterday’s CUP #10:
Everyone welcome Rick from Facebook to the Close Up Photo Contest. RICK correctly (and cockily) guessed “That’s an easy one. Its the cover on a flourescent light.”
Here’s a pulled back photo of the same light. There is a total of four bulbs inside. The dark line down the middle of the photo is the shadow between the two sets of two bulbs.
When viewed from further away, these lights look very similar to the lights in this office:
Rick submitted his answer on Facebook sometime between 9am-10am yesterday morning, which is about two hours AFTER I posted the image, which makes this the longest surviving CUP photo in the history of the contest!
Woot! Go me!
Ahem…and all of you and your excellent guesses.
Speaking of…BONUS POINTS:
Everyone who played gets +10 points because I loved stumping you all.
Steve from Facebook, and Vicki and Cate! from the blog comments all get +25 points for correctly guessing that the image was a fluorescent light fixture/cover. Steve and Cate get +5 points for being new players – welcome!
Carly gets +10 points for participation, +5 points for a highly entertaining but incorrect answer.
Hell, Carly gets another +5 points for inspiring me to make the homer donut image.
Michelle gets +10 points for participation, +5 points for detailing her thought process. Amusing, but wrong!
Jeremy gets +10 points for participation, +5 points for setting his alarm clock and getting up early to check out the contest. I’m still a little awed. Make it another +5 points for effort.
Ben gets +10 points for participating, +5 points for being cute with his clue-giving.
Jana, Erin B. and Noelle all get +10 points for participation without a correct answer.
That’s it for this round. The new rankings are up on the CUP Winners page. Thanks for playing!
You guys have been pretty slick in the past, but I’m fairly confident that I’ll have you stumped this time around.
Behold my masterpiece: Close-Up Photo #10!
Tell me what we’re looking at here.
As usual, all guesses submitted via the comments or by Facebook will be accepted. The first person to guess correctly wins 100 internet points. I will award or deduct points for additional guesses based on a completely arbitrary and whimsical set of rules known only to myself. The list of past winners can be found on the CUP Winners page.
I’ve decided to announce the release of the next CUP contest, rather than just spring it on everyone. I’ve been struggling with how to put the contest out in a manner that makes finding it – and having a chance to be the first to guess at it – fair. Inevitably my readers who are plugged into social media (Facebook, Twitter) ALWAYS have an advantage over those who just stop by the blog now and then, or even those who subscribe to the blog and stop over when a new post goes up.
So, here’s your warning:
Tomorrow Wednesday 2/9/11 at 7am CST (my time in Minneapolis), CUP Contest #10 will go live.
Thanks for playing! I hope you guys are having as much fun with the contest as I am.
The CUP contest started on 10/18/10 and currently has 26 unique players. You can learn more about the contest, the lame prize that will be awarded to the winner and up-to-date rankings on the CUP Winners page.
Those of you who drive in the winter know the frustration of dirty cars. The salt, sand and slush that splashes up on the car is bad enough, but it’s not the only indignity. There’s the constant spraying of windshield washer fluid, which cleans barely enough of the windshield to see through for about 30 seconds – unless you have ice on your wipers, and then it won’t even clean that well. And I dare you to try to walk through a Minnesota parking lot in the middle of January without smearing white-gray dusty dirt on your coat.
The temptation to take the car through a car wash is great. It becomes an obsession – the huge icicles that have built up in the wheel wells (WWIs aka boogers) and behind the tires grow longer each day. And like the crusty salt coating the undercarriage, the dirtiness of the car slowly eats away on you.
And then something crazy happens – the sun comes out and the temperature inches toward 10F. The sun! It’s noon, the sun is at its zenith, the temperature is relatively balmy and you think…maybe, just maybe I could go through the car wash today. The sun’s out, it’s less cold than usual…maybe the doors and windows won’t freeze shut afterwards. I could get the salt off of the car, and I’ll have the cleanest car in the state! Mwahahaha!
But this is why you don’t give in temptation: Two miles post-car wash:
The slush, man. The slush will getcha every time.
But for a brief moment, my car was shiney. It was brilliant. It was the cleanest car on the roads that day. For about 2 minutes.