Archive for October, 2012

The Milky Way: Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations

Astronomy and astrophysics are one of those things I always wished I had the chance to study were it not for the physics part. Somehow everything ended up being pi times the square root of 15 to the 10th power or something. So I admire from afar and leave the complex math and physics to those with an aptitude for such things.

But you don’t need to know MIT level math to find awe and fascination in our universe – which is vast, beautiful, fascinating and seemingly infinite. The scales and distances are so incredible that just citing the numbers won’t give most people a real idea of the immense scales involved.   To put things in perspective: the Earth is to our Galaxy what an atom is to our body.

It is humbling and helps put things in perspective to look at the world and our existence from that angle, especially in a world in which most people are obsessed with petty, in the grander scheme of things,  irrelevant notions of religion and national identity. We humans are so blinded by our own alleged self importance and the belief that we occupy a privileged position in the universe, that we cannot see anything else but ourselves.

Our most fundamental beliefs pertaining to the nature of existence are deeply rooted in folklore and myth, from which the myriad of world religions have emerged. The belief in some sort of a creator and decision maker pulling the strings has been so entrenched in our civilizations and cultures that stepping away from such a paradigm would in fact require a serious paradigm shift on a very fundamental level. But as long as beliefs in a fantastical and mythical power in the form of religion keep guiding us, we will never be able to step beyond the known and into the unknown that is our universe; our existence.

So what is this universe and where is it vis a vis us? The answer is: The Milky Way Galaxy where life as we know it exists on a small planet in a nine planetary solar system.

The Milky Way Galaxy is a barred spiral galaxy 100,000–120,000 light-years in diameter containing 100–400 billion stars. As a comparison, the neighboring Andromeda Galaxy contains an estimated one trillion stars.

The sun is about 26,000 light-years from the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, located on one of its spiral arms, close to the inner rim of the Galaxy’s Orion Arm, in the Local Fluff inside the Local Bubble, and in the Gould Belt, at a distance of 8.33 ± 0.35 kiloparsecs (27,200 ± 1,100 light years) from the Galactic Center. It takes our solar system roughly 200-250 million years to orbit once around the Milky Way. In this orbit, we (and the rest of the Solar System) are traveling at a velocity of about 155 miles/sec (250 km/sec).

The center of the Milky Way, the galactic center, is called Sagittarius A which is a supermassive black hole.

The Milky Way is estimated to be about 13.2 billion years old, nearly as old as the Universe. Surrounded by several smaller satellite galaxies, the Milky Way is part of the Local Group of galaxies, which forms a subcomponent of the Virgo Supercluster.

The arms of the Milky Way are named for the constellations that are seen in those directions. The major arms of the Milky Way galaxy are the

Perseus Arm

Sagittarius Arm

Centaurus Arm and

Orion-Cygnus Arm.

Our Solar System is located in the Orion-Cygnus Arm known as the Orion Spur.

(LOCAL GROUP:

The Local Group is the cluster of galaxies to which we belong. It is a group of about 30 galaxies that is about 5 million light-years across. The largest of the galaxies are Andromeda galaxy, Triangulum, and our Milky Way. The Local Group also includes Fornax, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, M32, M33, M101, and 9 dwarf spheroidal galaxies. The center of the Local Group is roughly between the Milky Way)

Astronomers believe that only about 10% of the mass of our galaxy comes from stars, gas and dust. They suspect that there must be more matter than we can see because of the way the galaxy rotates. If all of the stars in our galaxy were orbiting a massive object in the center, the way the planets orbit the Sun in the Solar System, then the stars closer to the edge of the galaxy should be orbiting more slowly than stars closer to the center, the same way the outer planets orbit more slowly than the inner ones. Instead, stars near the edge of our galaxy orbit at nearly the same speed as stars nearer the center.

To produce this kind of motion, the galaxy must contain much more mass than we can see. Astronomers theorize that this extra mass is dark matter. This matter is not visible, emits no electromagnetic radiation, and has so far eluded detection.

As a guide to the relative physical scale of the Milky Way, if it were reduced to 100 meters in diameter, the Solar System, including the hypothesized Oort cloud, would be no more than 1 millimeter (0.039 in) in width. The nearest star, Proxima Centauri, would be 4.2 mm (0.17 in) distance and the Andromeda Galaxy, M31. The galaxies in the Local Group are moving in concert with each other, independent of the “Hubble flow” expansion.

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David Lynch Doesn’t Trust Mitt Romney

(When a genius talks, pay attention)


90 Days, 90 Reasons

There are many reasons to not vote for the dystopian duo Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. David Lynch, film maker extraordinaire, gives you reason 52 as part of the independent initiative  “90 Days, 90 Reasons” (an initiative unaffiliated with Barack Obama’s presidential campaign) where a wide range of cultural figures are asked to explain why they’re voting for Obama and not voting for Mitt Romney in 2012.

REASON 52I HAVE NOTICED SOMETHING IN MITT ROMNEY’S NAME.

DAVID LYNCH
David Lynch. Born Missoula, Montana. Eagle Scout.

Dear Americans, Republicans, and Democrats Alike,

I am going to vote for re-electing President Obama. I have noticed something in Mitt Romney’s name, which I think speaks to what he is about. If you just rearrange a few letters, Romney becomes R MONEY. I believe Mitt Romney wants to get his Mitts on R Money. He would like to get it and divide it up with his friends, the Big Money Bunch.

I believe he would like to get his Mitts on R Money, R Resources, R Freedoms, and R American Dream. I do not trust Mitt Romney to look after the best interests of 99% of Americans. I think electing Mitt Romney would be a catastrophe for our country—one which would be real difficult to straighten out later. Please do not let Mitt Romney get his Mitts on R Money or R United States of America.

—DAVID LYNCH
Los Angeles, California

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Car Elevators and Costco: Ann Romney Antoinette Is a Real Renaissance Woman

Ann Romney must have gotten briefed by her husband’s campaign managing team that Costco can be used for something else beside raiding and a hostile take over or some some shit, because in an attempt to appeal to the common man – or woman –  so everyone thinks she is one of us and not a plutocratic elitist bigot with $55,000 elevators for her cars and a $ 77,000 race horse she tax deducted, Ann Romney Antoinette condescended to our level  by revealing her Costco shopping list when visiting the “Rachael Ray Show” on Thursday.  There, she said she can spend a mere $137.50 when cooking for 30 people, totaling just $4.50 per person. Right, because multi-millionaires who own six mansions and car elevators need to worry about staying within the food budget.

I always start at Costco”, Antoinette said as she took Ray’s film crew on a Costco trip, picking up spinach, berries, frozen cream puffs and rotisserie chicken.  Romney gave some shopping tips, like buying the pre-cooked chicken last so as to not heat up the other food in the cart, the New York Daily News reported.

Isn’t that brilliant? The thought process that must have gone into this: buy the hot food item last so as to not melt the frozen foods. Amazing. Next stop, rocket science, Ann. She really is first wife material just based on that fact alone if you ask me.

Ann Romney is a real renaissance woman see.  She is not just an unemployed parasite sitting pretty with a team of chefs, housekeepers, nannies, groundskeepers and custodial staff on a quarter a billion of dollars of money her husband cheated people, and this nation, out of, she is just a regular Joe, or Josephine. I mean this woman even  knows how to maneuver the Costco aisles all on her own and without a staff.  In an interview, she explained: “I know how to shop Costco. You go in the door — I don’t want everyone to learn this trick — you take a sharp right and you go way down to the back of the store and just shop the outside of the aisles.” Isn’t that amazing? Her publicist team did do a good job briefing her on proper common man etiquette and protocol of how to enter a grocery store and navigate the aisles.

How truly earthen and common man-ish of Ann:  condescending to the level of the common man to show that the silver spoon that’s been shoved down her openings in all these years does not define her plutocratic self at all.

Nothing makes 99% of Americans feels more understood and cared for than a bunch of obscenely wealthy 1%ers slumming it for show. Who are they kidding. Not even Oprah cooks her own food. Assholes

This is almost as good as the lie she told during the RNC when she said that she and Mitt lived in a basement apartment in Boston eating their food on an ironing board they used as table. Poor things, it must have been so awkward when the maid interrupted their dinner to iron.

Anyway, sitting on quarter a billion with countless nannies, chefs and housekeepers, I bet this hands on menial work must be a whole new adventure for Ms. A.R. Antoinette, becasue, see folks, the fact that “little Annie who loves little Willard” is doing some food shopping and food cooking and all those other womanly things,  makes us common folk, and especially women, feel all warm and fuzzy and understood.

Moreover, such a calculated gesture which they were told was going to be politically expedient, also totally shows that her husband is qualified to be the leader of this nation. Becasue see if Ann Romney can cook food for the common man and actually cook it herself no less, instead of sending her houskeeping staff to Whole Foods and Gelson’s to do the shopping and cooking for her, it means that her husband would make the perfect POTUS.

In fact, nothing screams “qualified to hold the office of president” more than a man whose wife can navigate the aisles at Costco and the kitchen.

And as we all know, semi billionaires totally send their wives to push carts at grocery stores, buying pre-packed $ 7.99 rotisserie chicken and frozen, processed foods at whole sale prices for the dinner table, or 137 people as the need may be next time they have a get together with the Koch Brothers and all those people owning football teams.

That $4.50 a person/head budget is totally realistic and am sure comes handy for such high society events.  In fact, the Romneys are just a regular American family who just happen to be part of the 1% with a diabolic plan to remain on top while feeding on the lifeline of everyone else.

Now if this revelation doesn’t convince the independent voters and especially women, I don’t know what will. I mean this is so convincing and as a woman the very issue I care about: how to stretch my food dollars while my man goes out there being a man and doing all the things men do.

Thank you Ann. You are the personification of class and humility indeed. How mighty white of you. And while I think you are nothing but a full of shit, overprivileged plutocrat and doormat of a woman who doesn’t know a thing about how to do anything around a house but buy it and decorate it and whose only exposure to Costco probably was when your husband took you on a tour in case he plans on doing one of those Bain hostile takeovers (also known as working hard and the American Dream),  I applaud you for having the balls to go to Rachael Ray and all over the country, telling lies and being a phony asshole who pretends that she does not have a deep contempt for the american people whom you condescendingly referred to as “you people” when asked about your husband’s refusal to release more than two lousy years of doctored tax returns.

It is so refreshing of you to not pretend that you seem to think of the American people as this nuisance; as this inevitable, annoying, pestering entity you and your fiber coif husband have to unfortunately go through to get to what you really want to do, namely fulfill Mitt’s “destiny” to be President.  Like when you and your husband told the Obamas to “start packing,” because in your words, “It’s Mitt’s time. It’s our turn now,” to live in the White House. As if the Obamas were troublesome tenants who’d overstayed their welcome in the home that rightly belongs to the Romneys.

Thank you Ann. Gee I cannot wait to not vote for your husband.

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Stupid Things People Do: Eric and Ruth Brown Accept Daughter’s Birth Defect as God’s Will

Self determination and autonomy have rarely, if ever, been touched upon really in terms of actual policy formulation aimed at granting and protecting and enforcing those rights until the second half of the twentieth century when notions of human rights were formulated after World War II.

Even the Founding Fathers of this nation did not believe in human autonomy for all, which is why women got to vote some 150 years after the foundation of this nation and thus after the Declaration of Independence. When that document reads “all men are created equal“,  it really does mean all males. The Founding Fathers, in all their wisdom notwithstanding, did not recognize that women were part of mankind.

One of our – as human kind – most fundamental rights – which is a human right and something inalienable, irrespective of culture and country of origin – is the freedom to be autonomous and make decisions based on that autonomy. This is a very fundamental and important right that often does not get the important attention it deserves. Way too many people are comfortable with having that autonomy diminished or taken away from them.

Most, if not all, conflicts throughout human history leading up to today, in not only this very country but all around the world really, have been about controlling others by taking away their autonomy to choose for themselves how to live their lives, what to believe in and subsequently what choices to make.

Eric and Ruth Brown were not those people. They had a choice and the freedom to exercise that autonomy to make a choice.

Deformity and Suffering as the Creator’s Will

The couple from Nashville, Tennessee, believe that the genetic disorder that created a cleft in their daughter Pearl Joy’s upper lip and caused her brain’s development to stall in the first weeks in the womb, to be god’s will.

Things didn’t go wrong,” an apparently delusional Eric Brown said. “God has designed Pearl the way he wanted, for his glory and our good”.

This delusion has sustained the Browns ever since ultrasound revealed that the couple’s third child has alobar holoprosencephaly, a rare genetic condition that’s almost always fatal. The Browns never considered abortion. They believe that Pearl is “fearfully and wonderfully made,” as Psalm 139 puts it, and god alone should decide when she lives and when she dies.

Pearl’s  brain never divided into two hemispheres during her development in the womb, which means she is basically a crawling vegetable. “We don’t care about those things. She is here, and her brain is telling her how to live“, says Eric Brown.

The Browns are holding on to dear life, literally, as they delude themselves into believing that as long as their girl is basically still warm she should live and that her life is wonderful and a blessing, even though she has seizures on a daily basis, has a weakened immune system and has been back to the hospital at least five times in the past three months. A simple cold could kill her but “that day hasn’t come yet“, her mother says.  The Browns not only insist she is god’s gift, they also think Pearl is actually fighting.

Fighting for what is unclear. Is she fighting for a miracle? Is she  fighting for growing up being normal after all with this disease poofing out of existence much the same way this Earth poofed into existence according to the Bible?

Even skeptical neighbors, friends and acquaintance have bought into the delusion, applauding the Brown’s decision.

Kristina Guisler, a friend from the MOMS Club of East Nashville, met the Browns in 2009. When she first heard about Pearl’s condition, she said she wasn’t sure the Browns had made the right decision by continuing with the pregnancy. She wondered what kind of life Pearl would have.

But seeing the love that the Browns have for Pearl has changed her mind and strengthened her own faith.

It’s reaffirmed my faith in humanity and in the power of prayer,” she said.

The Browns aren’t the only ones suffering from serious delusions,  Nancy and David Guthrie of Nashville faced the ordeal twice: in 1998 and 2002 when their son and daughter both died in infancy from a fatal genetic condition called Zellweger syndrome. In Gabriel’s case, the Guthries learned he had Zellweger while he was still in the womb.

One of the things we learned is that great sorrow and great joy can coexist,” she said. “Because life in the image of God is so precious, there is great joy in having this one you love with you, even while there is great sorrow in knowing that this child might not grow old with you.”

I have read and seen religious people talk themselves into a whole lot of bullshit and delusions to make it through their lives, but this sure takes the height. What I find particularly disturbing is this:

“God has designed Pearl the way he wanted, for his glory and our good.”

So god, in all his wisdom and love, would afflict a child with disease, deformity and suffering? And being born with a horrible genetic disease that renders you nothing but an animated doll trapped in a painful and torturous existence at the verge of death is something god did for his glory? There is glory to be had from this? And said disease and deformity is for the good of the parents.

All the credit, but none of the blame, huh?  Hmmm maybe god is a Republican after all

But there is a broader canvas here. The above statement by the Browns is disturbing and akin to Indiana Tea Party Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s comments that pregnancies stemming from rape, however horrible, are “something that God intended to happen” – as if rape wasn’t a crime and heinous act but just something in god’s secret and elaborate plan for all of us lemmings and for “his glory and the victim’s good.”

Does that mean rape itself is part of god’s plan? And genocide? And mass killing and child rape? Most religious people would say “no” (or maybe yes), which creates all sorts of contradictions because what they are saying is that the act of rape is not god’s will but the resulting child is. In other words, god would never orchestrate a rape, but would definitely exploit a rape to impregnate a woman.

That is amazing.  Where do I sign up to worship this excellent decision-maker?

It is great that believing that there is a higher purpose to their suffering has allowed the Brown’s to not only justify their choice but also live with it this long.

Remember people believe in all sorts of stories and even lies for self preservation and to make it through the day and their lives. That is why we have religion in the first place. It is called cognitive dissonance, which is the term used in modern psychology to describe the state of “holding two or more conflicting ideasbeliefsvalues and emotional reactions simultaneously. In a state of dissonance, people may sometimes feel surprise, dread, guilt, anger, or embarrassment. The theory of cognitive dissonance in social psychology proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by altering existing cognitions, adding new ones to create a consistent belief system, or alternatively by reducing the importance of any one of the dissonant elements.”

The Brown’s are engaging in precisely that. They are people of faith who believe that the deity they believe in does all things for a reason. Such a notion is an especially opportune world view when good things happen.  When something horrible, such as the birth defect of their child happens, on the other hand, said believers are suddenly left in shock, asking themselves where the good is in having their own child be afflicted with such a condition. Suddenly, painful reality and the tenets of their faith are at odds. If god is all loving and all caring, how can he let this happen? That is where “filling in the gaps” comes in becasue the Browns are human beings who can only take so much pain before losing it.

How do they cope with it? They cope with it by attempts to reconcile the reality of their situation with what they have been taught god to be. Thus, they tell a lie to themselves. But they do not know it is a lie. It cannot be. If it was, that would bring down their entirely worldview and the reality they have created for themselves. Their self delusion in that regard is quite sincere. The Browns have to believe that this is all part of a grander scheme. This, in turn enables them to go through life without feeling hopeless and without loosing their faith and feeling let down by their grand and loving creator.

Delusion is a wonderful thing and nothing deludes more than religion.

The truth, of course, is that this baby will be confronted with a myriad of painful medical procedures that she will have to endure but not understand the need for. There are limits to the amount of painkiller an infant can be given.  The question really is whether the child is having a quality of life that satisfies the child’s nature, or whether being kept alive on IVs, feeding  tubes, oxygen and other meds is the truly loving and wonderful alternative.

And can you say this is what the divine intended when the only thing keeping the child alive is medical technology, not god? The parents might enjoy the love and care they are giving, but what about the infant?

Ultimately, the Browns are doing this to make themselves feel better. They think they are doing this child a favor, but they aren’t, they are only doing themselves a favor and justify their decision by making appeals to the grand schemes of a higher power.

The only victim in this process is Pearl. Her family is holding on to delusions to prolong the life of a vegetable. For Pearl living or not living does not make a difference.  She doesn’t even know what and who and if she is. Her brain didn’t part into two hemispheres for cryin’ out loud.  She is nothing but an animated doll and for her there is no difference between living and dying, becasue there is no “her” there. She is just a breathing shell.

The idea that you have emergency oxygen standing by makes one wonder about whose will we are talking about, god’s or the ego’s.  Her family’s understandable efforts to cope with her condition by putting a pretty spin on it only trivializes her suffering. And theirs.

 Not Just Faith But Choice

The delusion of the Brown’s view on this aside, the bigger question here is that of choice. The beauty of freedom is that people, including the Browns, can choose to believe in any number of lies to make it through  the day and their lives. And their decision, whether I agree with it or not, is ok.

As long as the Browns do not say to someone else that this is why their child has been blessed with a deformity and death. they can believe in hob goblins as far as I – and reality – are concerned. Sure it is naive and ignorant to attribute any condition onto god, and I mean naive in the sense of immature, unknowing as it relates, but if that is what they need to make it through their lives, who am I, or anyone, to argue with that?

Only that the delusions of religious people are rarely confined to their own personal realm

And therein lies the fundamental problem with letting faith guide your decisions. Religious people place their emotions before their intelligence. The problem is that when people make important decisions based on a fantastical belief system rather than facing unpleasant realities that they’d rather pretend don’t exist, it can leave a lot of collateral damage that affects others. Just look at the recent assault on women’s reproductive rights callously championed by Republicans and conservatives based on their religious beliefs.

The Browns – for better or worse – had a choice with respect to keeping this child alive and caring for it. Ruth Brown could have gotten an abortion, but due to her personal beliefs she decided not to. She had a choice.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the kinds of policies Republicans push for and have partially succeeded in when  it comes to granting women autonomy and the freedom to choose what they believe to be the best decision for them. The Browns were lucky that they were able to make the decision to have their the child without threats and pressure to obtain an abortion.

At the same time, remember that simply becasue it worked for the Browns and was the best decision they could make based on their lives, it does not mean it is the only right and honorable answer. A couple choosing to get an abortion should be able to do so without facing obstacles and judgment and shame just as the Browns. In short, the Brown’s decision to keep the child is not more admirable than the decision of someone else in the same situation to abort it.

In the end, it is all about choice and giving people the freedom to make that choice. In this day and age, it’s a true luxury to have one’s autonomy respected and your choices be your own. I wish lawmakers everywhere would make note of this because nothing diminishes an individual more than stripping them off autonomy.

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Stephen Colbert Offers Donald Trump One Million Dollars and His Balls

Over the past few years, Donald Trump has moved from being a pretentious asshole to a stark, raving lunatic. The fuckery  and with it the path to complete and utter lunacy laced with a large portion of assholishness started with Trump’s incessant demands for Obama to publish his birth certificate to show to the world that he is, in fact, not some communist Kenyan on a secret mission from Mars to destroy the United States and it ended with Trump offering Obama $5 milion to a charity of his choice if Obama released all college and passport records to him by Halloween, October 31st. 

Dystopian Assholes in a Bunch

Last night, Stephen Colbert had a very special proposition of his own for Trump:

“Mr Trump, I will write you a check for $1 million dollars from Colbert Super PAC – you know I’ve got it – to the charity of your choice. Anything. Save The Children. Feed The Children. Put The Children on Child Apprentice, whatever! One million actual dollars, if you will let me dip my balls in your mouth – one million. But… this dipping, and I hope you’re listening very carefully Mr Trump. This dipping has to be to my and more importantly, my balls’ satisfaction. One caveat… one caveat. My balls must be in your mouth no later than 5pm October 31st.”

Crude as the response may be, Colbert is actually right on.  Trump’s proposition was pretty damn rude and the equivalent of asking Obama to engage in a humiliating act for no fucking good reason other than to mock the President and satisfy Trump’s hate and fear mongering, not to mention racism.  So what Colbert did – even though not very PG 13 – was to turn the mirror around. I mean Trump really might as well have said “Mr. President i will donate 5 million to your charity of choice if you suck my balls.”  Trump used euphemisms while Colbert spelled it out. Brilliant.

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