Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Beginning to loose weight.

So it has come to my attention that I am a tad overweight. I haven't been feeling great at all lately regarding my figure or my looks and I am in fact, the heaviest I have ever been.

As a result I have joined up at weight watchers with my mum. I am hoping that together we will be more successful. I intend to get down to at least 68kg. This has caused me to think a lot about how I approach 'changing' myself.

So many people say; you should be happy with who you are no matter what you perceive your flaws to be. Does that sentiment really encourage positive thinking about changing yourself? It might be a good band-aid option for short term happiness. It certainly helps for things we cannot change. Though from what I have experienced, it does encourage complacency as well as acceptance.

I think I can demonstrate my point by referring to my recent change in speech. For all of my life the attitude towards my speech impediment has been 'oh, it is a part of you. It makes you individual. You should be happy with who you are.'

I have been bullied, marginalized and depressed because of this 'individual' quirk for as long as I have been 'accepting its part of who I am' and after carrying it around for decades do you know how easily I was able to change it? With the help of a speech pathologist I was talking sensibly in less than a month. I can barely call it an achievement! It was such a short and easy process.

I have learned that change is good. Wanting to change something in yourself only leads to self improvement. Pick out the things you find hard to accept in yourself and rather than forcing more acceptance, take positive and sustainable steps to change. Why should I have to be big when I have the potential to be as thin and healthy as other girls? I am not happy with fat Tash. I am going to change her.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The story about every woman; as told by Man

The blog God and You  has recently become of idle interest to me. It follows a group which indulges their readers with soft-core agreement about Gods love. Mostly harmless, they never really seem to push the lines of controversy. Today however, Sean - author of the article I am about to criticise 'the story about every woman', has brought to my attention how seriously dangerous the ideas are that websites like these propagate.

In short, Sean's article is a thinly veiled act of misogyny designed to justify why it is that women should submit to Man for the good of their souls. He seems to confirm every negative attitude towards women that is perpetrated by the patriarchal religions who are so prevalent in our society today. What is just as unfortunate is his eagerness to prescribe men with similarly restrictive qualities.

Sean puts women up on a pedestal, gives them a self contained 'tower' that is the property of the devil and then asserts that women must not be self contained and that it is the job of Men to show them Gods love. Sean seems to say that without Man a woman is without God. Without either, she is without identity. How is it that so many religious women can allow this opinion?

He affirms that "The Devil will ALWAYS want the woman."  and predictably resolves this by bestowing Man with divine right. "The nature of God passed on to us is of His fierceness and competitiveness. We are dangerous men, ready for battle against the Evil One." Is it really the purpose of women to be led about by our noses as the battle between the Devil and God are waged? Of particular interest to me is how it appears to him men are not led away by the Devil in the same way as women are. Instead Man would side with the Devil in objectifying women.

He makes no reference to the 'Devils' work in objectifying men. Doesn't he believe that men can be sexually, emotionally, mentally victimised by society and authority in the same way as women? By prescribing men with these 'divine' qualities he is sending an equally dangerous message to his male readers. Letting them think that this fairytale world is precisely the way things are. Suppressing their options to think differently.

That to think the mould for masculinity is one size fits all is the same sort of awful belief that femininity comes only from passive submission to men and God.

I probably shouldn't have bothered thinking that this article would provide anything progressive. Its effect was to re-affirm that behind the soppy wishful thinking of Christianity is a repulsive fairy story where the hierarchy would shamelessly use men, women, sexuality and sexual roles as tools against each other. Encouraging compliance to the regime of 'God'.

Friday, January 6, 2012

How to Argue with an Atheist #2 : Anatomy of an Argument

In this next post I will present the definition and anatomy of a basic argument. This will cover premises and the conditions which make them true. Following from this will be an explanation of conclusions and how they bring the argument together.

What is an argument?

An argument in this case is a form of proof for a point of view. While the argument between theists and atheists might be heated and emotionally driven in some cases. The atheist (and many theists) believe that breaking things down to a logical analysis is one of the best ways to learn the truth of something. In philosophy there are many forms of arguments and different styles of setting out premises and conclusions. What follows is the most basic understanding of what an argument consists of.

Premises

Premises are the basis on which an argument is formed. A premise is a statement or an observation which should logically justify a conclusion.

In order to properly justify a conclusion and produce a sound argument the premises you state must be true. This is because of the following general rule;

if the premises are true then the conclusion MUST be true
So, what is 'true' for the sake of rational argument.

Truth is verifiable. Any statement that is said to be true must be consistent and testable. It must have conditions that would allow it to be proven false. It must be repeatedly observable and objective.

Conclusions

Conclusions are the final statement in an argument and should be designed to take into account the premises which you have set. A conclusion must be logically justified on the basis of your premises. The truth and validity of the conclusion is directly related to the quality of the premises.

The components I've presented have quite specific roles in an argument. Being aware of what makes a good argument contributes to the quality of the discussion you conduct. You will be able to form better arguments as well as show your opponents where their arguments are failing.

Further reading can begin here; a more in-depth run through of arguments. http://www.iep.utm.edu/argument/

Thursday, January 5, 2012

How to Argue with an Atheist #1 : Being Rational

This is the first of a series of blog posts I am planning that I hope will give the everyday theist the tools they need to understand the basis of atheist arguments. For fancies sake you could say that knowing the opposition is the first step to overcoming them. The definitions I anticipate responding to in the future will be underlined.

What I am proposing is a series not based on atheist premises themselves, but to present an elementary 'toolbox' that anyone who argues soundly would use. I will be focusing primarily on basic definitions and my intent is to share this information in an accessible way.

All of the definitions earmarked for future discussion are criteria for rational understanding. That is to say, most atheists (and theists) will generally agree that what I put forth here is pertinent in the formation of any sound argument. In this post I will be covering the following questions. What is it to be rational, why is it important to be rational and how can we achieve rationality?

What is it to be rational?

To be rational is to take into account what we observe about the world around us. Through the process of reasoning we can come to conclusions which reflect truth to the best of our capacity. The goal of rationality is to ensure that what we believe about the world can stand up to criticism. It is also important to rationality that our beliefs can change based on new observations, information and evidence.

It is important to someone who would consider themselves a rationalist that their 'truths' are sourced from reliable observation and information. While personal opinion is considered vital to a persons individuality, the rationalist expects that personal bias and subjectivity is taken into account but would not unreasonably influence information, public opinion or outcome. This idea can also extend to authority. A rationalist will often be sceptical.

For more understanding about what a rationalist is, please check out http://www.rationalist.com.au/about-rationalism/161-what-is-a-rationalist

Why is it important to be rational?

Being rational can be considered an important function in the success of society and culture. Decisions that are made from the best information available are generally rational and result in being the best decisions one could make under any particular related set of circumstances.

Rational thinking which is applied through systems like the scientific method have produced all of the technology and up to date information about the physical world which we have today. Without rational thinking we wouldn't solve problems, we wouldn't have TV and medical treatment would not exist.

Our rational processes also provide us direction for the future. The more questions we have answered the more seem to arise. Humanity is fluid in its experiences and keeping up with our constant change is a task available to all of us. We are always discovering challenges to overcome and interesting things to learn.

For further reading there is this very good short essay on the subject; http://www.philosophyetc.net/2005/09/why-be-rational.html

How can we achieve rationality?

As human beings it is standard and innate that we pick out patterns. That we would demand truth in our beliefs and that we are curious. Our education, both formal and through life experience is meant to improve these traits and tools for our own benefit.

Awareness of these human abilities is just as important as our possession of them. Our capacity to step back and observe from a hypothetical distance the things which we think and feel is vital to being successfully rational. That we can critically analyse the information we are given and the experiences we have is a true reflection of rationalist goals. Being truly rational allows us to set aside unreasonable beliefs based on conjecture and embrace real, material experiences and truth.

For a precise run through on how to know you are thinking rationally and to begin thinking more rationally check out this article. http://www.meersinc.com/learn-to-think-rationally/

I would really appreciate some comments below to let me know if I have left anything out or if anything needs clarifying. When it comes to casual debates, discussions and arguments. What do you generally think about the thought processes of the people you oppose?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hacker's Guide to Astronomical Photography

While no astronomical photo that I have been able to produce so far can compare with the views that Hubble is famous for I am pretty damn proud of my simple approach to using my telescope that has even the most reserved of my friends commenting on how good my space photos appear.

I call myself an amateur astronomer. I enjoy casual stargazing and in the last few months I have been very excited and encouraged by the photographs I have taken that give me a permanent record of my observations. I work on a very limited budget and take these photos using my smart phone. No sketching, no camera mount, no special software.

I am going to run through how to produce these very cheap photos without using any 'special equipment'. 

Here are some of my favorite images; 


My subject is based almost exclusively around the moon because its the easiest thing to observe through my very basic Tasco D=60mm F=700mm telescope. Only tonight have I been able to produce an identifiable photograph of Jupiter.

My method is pretty simple. I take my telescope, aim it at what I want to photograph and then I put the lens of my HTC Desire to the eyepiece, fiddle around until I get a view I am happy with and I snap away.

It is not at all an exact science. This method is simple but it requires a good sum of patience, a steady hand and haste. Here are a few points I have come across while trying to take these photos;

- The movement of the Earth; You need to move quickly between setting up the view you want to photograph and getting the camera into position. Getting the lens and eyepiece to sit together is not quite as easy as you would first think.

- Blur; Because of the sensitivity of the equipment. Even the smallest bump can cause the telescope to vibrate and may result in a less than awesome picture. Practice makes perfect. You might get a heap of dodgy photos, but if you keep with it and be patient you will come out with at least one, very impressive shot.

- Full Moon vs Half Moon; Half or partial moon is interesting to photograph particularly as different portions will be accentuated. I have found that photographing at full moon is easier and you get nicer views of some craters.

- Light; Because the light collected on the mirror is so focused it has been hard for me to create a photo of Jupiter which isn't flared. I don't know if that is quite the word to describe the effect but what I am trying to say is illustrated below.






This means that the bands which were showing up are obscured. With the amount of vibration that was also present I feel extensively lucky that I actually managed to capture at least three Jovian moons in the photo!

So I think thats it for my production methods. With better equipment your capacity to produce better photographs will grow. Things like filters, camera mounts and computer software all contribute to modern astronomical photography. There are some great books out there on the subject that are easy to understand and can get you out and seeing amazing sights as soon as dusk hits.

I have even experimented a bit with the video camera app on my phone. Once I work out how to use YouTube I might even post the results! - Happy Stargazing!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Ditch that Hovind Junk

So we all had a bit of a snigger at the troll attempt of the guys over at Dr Dino. The blog post New Years Resolutions; For Atheists here was re-blogged, mentioned, linked to through heaps of tweets and as a result got a large number of views. All for something that wasn't all that witty or interesting anyway.

So why do we even bother with that junk? Here six much more legitimate new years resolutions;

1. Subscribe to some interesting YouTube Channels
       Two of my favorites are;
                                  Potholer54  - A science writer who debunks some of the most awful science on youtube. His work is interesting, funny and accurate. He goes to great lengths to source everything! Right now he is compiling video's for the 2012 Golden Crocoduck Awards. An annual prize for the creation scientist who most spectacularly breaks the ninth commandment.

                                 The Atheist Experience - A brilliant talk back public access program comming to you from Texas. These guys engage on their show with theists and atheists alike. It has heaps of variety, which makes it very interesting to watch.

2. Be more healthy
        I am not saying that it should be a huge change. Being 'thin' shouldn't be you're goal. Increasing your fitness, sleeping better, feeling healthy is the way you want to go. Make small changes and stick with them. Choose healthier options and take up a fun and interesting sport. Find healthier ways to reward yourself.

3. Join or form an atheist/free thought organisation
       Take advantage of whats on offer, attend debates, talks, gatherings and make new friends. Nothing in your area? Put an add in a pertinent newspaper/website and see if there is any interest in forming a local group.

4. Be more involved in your local community
      This might not mean exclusively that you should 'jump on the community bandwagon' by attending to and thinking about all the good things that are happening in your area. Being involved in your community might mean trying to change something for the better. Is there too much alcohol related violence? Is there a drug problem? Homelessness? Are there adequate opportunities for young people? Is Government funding ending up in the right places?

5. Do some selfless good
      Volunteer, give to charity, give blood. Do some good deeds without the expectation of recognition or reward. You will be surprised at what you will learn, how happy you will feel and who will actually take the time to help you in return. Help break the silly misconception that people of non religion are less moral than those who submit to a higher power.


6. Debunk some crazy creationist theory
     Take your brain for a little walk. Research the real science behind something that a creationist has said or written. Post it in the comments section, make a video, post on a blog or even tweet it. Let these people know that it simply isn't OK to make stuff up because they feel God condones them in their quest to feed people misinformation.

New Years resolutions seem a tired pastime. They often come across as ultimately ineffective and a waste of thought power. Has anyone actually had a new years resolution come to bear fruit?

Days 6 and 7

So I skipped a day, had a nice rest. Tonight I indulged in some astronomy. I watch in silence as Jupiter sits suspended overhead. It is very peaceful. The photo of the little dot of light is actually Jupiter.
In bad atmospheric conditions, with heat disrupting the sensitivity of the equipment I was able to get two distinct bands, not that they show up on the photo!