Would you believe I’ve never seen a megachurch before?

I mean, I knew they existed – for those who don’t, they’re mostly what they sound like, large churches in the Midwest and West serving congregations of thousands. They usually have other services like a daycare, an attached school, and a professional staff.

In contrast, even though I’m not religious now, I was raised as a member of a small parish – maybe a hundred people, and fewer that came regularly. It was run by a group of volunteers and the priest.

I point this out because I think it’s the reason for the split in opinion on public welfare programs. One common belief in Middle America is that the church should take on the burden of caring for the sick and the poor, like it’s been doing all along, and do it better than the bureaucratic government.

To me, that’s completely alien. Maybe if the entire group (remember, 100 people total) completely devoted themselves to service they could take care of the whole town, but out of the few regulars? There wouldn’t be nearly enough to go around. So, I’m more likely to support government-based programs, since they’re the ones with the resources and manpower to pull it off.

But if you had a whole megachurch full of people, you actually could do a lot without involving the government. In fact, in a sense they would be in competition, since they each interfere with the other’s economy of scale. If that’s the church that you grew up in and the kind of church you automatically think of, no wonder you’re against government welfare.



I was just reading this story, about a mother of a first-grader who fractured her finger. The nurse misdiagnosed it because she “wasn’t showing enough pain”. The girl ended up with nerve damage because of this.

Now, I take this kind of thing very seriously. Nurses are supposed to be as professional as doctors, and that goes double for nurses who treat children. Maybe triple for school nurses – it’s not like the kids can go anywhere else.

Since I was angry anyway, I started imagining what I would do if I were the mother. I had a whole speech planned out.

“This kid lost forty pounds with nothing but willpower! He walked off a second-degree, 9 square inch burn! So don’t you dare tell me anything about ‘not showing enough pain’!”*

I got myself more and more outraged over this, to the point where I actually wanted to get up and yell it at someone, except … none of this ever happened to me. It might not have even happened at all, since no one fact-checks these stories. I made the whole thing up.

But the weirdest thing was I was just as upset as if it had.

*The fact that I cast Mr. Suspicious as the kid in this scenario is probably meaningful. He’s the least likely person I know to make up injuries.

Pet experts recommend you keep bunnies in pairs. I think I get why – I was watching Bean and Buttons, and one of them is always the lookout. Then they trade places.

Well, they ARE prey animals. It must be something they just have to do, like people really need to talk to each other. And it must get exhausting being on guard all the time.

I’m in bed sick with some monster flu my sister imported when she came to visit.

She’s sitting out in the living room with my boyfriend.

They’re civil to each other, but it’s awkward, especially without me out there being the social connector.

Good lord this is embarrassing.

I was a 90s kid. I grew up on a steady diet of Eisner-era Disney movies, and one of those was 1996’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. I remember it in particular because it was the first time I’d ever seen a villain that thought he was right.


Making the world a better place since the Inquisition

Most children’s media has one of two kinds of villain. Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent is one kind. She’s completely given over to evil. That’s what she’s for, and that’s what she does. The only way to redeem her was to get a sword and run her through.

The other kind is the villain who is just plain selfish. He has goals, and he’s going to get them done, other people be damned. Most villains who work this way – Scar, Clayton, Facilier, Hades – end up destroying themselves with their own weapons.

It seems like the more common a villain type is in fiction, the less common it is in real life. Sure, there are real sadists, but they’re rare. And there are people who are absolutely ruthless, but in real life there has to be something they wouldn’t do. Instead, I think the most common kind of villain is someone who honestly thinks they’re good people, doing good in the world.

And then I vanish in a puff of logic, because that sounds just like me! I think I’m good people!

Therefore…what, exactly?

Well, for one thing, I’ve heard people try to get around this by saying, basically, “But they don’t really think that! They’re just lying to themselves and they know it!”

That’s not true. For one thing, it calls for a conspiracy – if the majority of evil people lied to themselves on purpose, one of them would have admitted to it by now. Confessions like that happen, sure, but not nearly often enough for me to accept it as business as usual.

So there’s no way of telling from the inside good-and-aware-of-it from evil-and-deluded. That means, if I want to be a good person, I had better pay really close attention to what evil feels like from the inside.

I’ve got a couple of them nailed down. Greed feels like finally getting what you deserve. Ignorance feels like the world is chaotic and senseless. Laziness feels like exhaustion.

Don’t actually take my advice, though, because what happens is you end up feeling worthless, lost, and exhausted and hating yourself for it.

Mother’s Day specials at Fry’s

Well, Happy Mother’s Day anyway.

I pretty much hate these shows. Ancient Aliens is probably the best one in the genre.

via cheezburger.com

this guy


I got sucked in because they interviewed Brian Greene, and I like Brian Greene. I have one of his books.

I mean, he can make relativity feel intuitive. He’s that good. So why did they need a theoretical physicist? So they could handwave away how alien abductees could be abducted without being gone long enough for anyone to notice them missing. It’s relativity, don’t you know.

Sigh. That’s kind of the pattern with these shows, you know? The facts are all fine, and what people see is probably what they saw – except nothing fits together in a way that makes sense.

Here’s another:

Forty-seven percent of Americans believe in UFOs…3.7 million people have experience with an unidentified flying object.

From the show. Here’s the thing. Even in the first episode, Dana Scully believed in UFOs.

Mulder didn’t believe in UFOs. He believed in aliens*.

I’m in that boat. All it takes to make a UFO is ignorance. Don’t know what it is? OK, it’s a UFO.

It will take much more than that to convince me you’ve found an alien.


*okay, I feel like I have to cite this. Fred Clark made this point better than me.

Me: Ugh, I have no idea where these afterimages are coming from.  It’s like I looked at something really bright and now I can’t see, but there aren’t any bright lights around.

J: Huh.


Me: I found the light.

J: What?

Me: The light. [Points] The one that gave me afterimages. [Looks up] Ow!

J: [Looks where I’m pointing] Ow!

T: What just happened?

J: The light’s too bright.

Me: That one. [Points] Ow! &$^%!

T: [Looks] Ow!

J: [Looks] Ah! &$^%! Why do you keep doing that!

Me: I don’t know! Just don’t look at it any more!

A: Look at what?

Me: Don’t look at that light! [Points]

A: Ow!

J: Ow!

T: Ow!

Me: *%&# I did it again! And I said don’t look! … No one listens to me.


I was having a discussion (okay, argument) with Mr. Suspicious last night over what to do with the welfare system.  I’m pretty liberal, I wanted to expand it; he’s solid conservative, and was more interested in concentrating the money we already spend in the hands of the people who needed it the most. I.E, not welfare frauds*.

So, are there any welfare frauds? Him: Yes, and they’re common. Me: Yes, but they’re rare.

I’m not going to argue that there are none at all. People are complicated, and do things that don’t make sense. I’m arguing that the number of people that do cheat are rare enough it doesn’t make sense to give them their own category.

Obvious Questions:

  1. How many people are definitely frauds?
  2. What do we do with someone if we’re not sure?
  3. How many make “rare” and “common”?

Bonus points!
Say he’s right. What do we do about it?

I mean, the big point is how we tell with any certainty that someone is a fraud. Courts do it all the time. I guess one way to tell would be to see how many people actually get convicted of welfare fraud, and trust that judges/juries know what they’re doing.

*Actually, he used the term “welfare queens”, but that implies that it’s only women doing it, and specifically by using children to get more money. In context, he meant anyone who takes welfare they don’t deserve, so I’m going to say “welfare frauds”.

Free to a good home! Someone who’s actually good at writing should write this book.

First, quick primer on Dyson spheres. Okay, so you have orbiting solar panels out in space, so you can collect solar energy and pipe it back down to use on Earth. Now mega-size that idea. The panels get bigger and bigger, until you’ve completely surrounded the sun with solar panels.

The upside of this is you get all of the sun’s energy, with none wasted lighting up, say, Mars. Hopefully the Earth is still somewhere inside the sphere, or you’ve just condemned the human race to eternal darkness. Oops.

Now back out a couple orders of magnitude. You’re an alien somewhere on Betelgeuse. What did that just look like from your perspective? A star just went out. It didn’t go nova, it just went out. That has to be scary, right?

And just to add a dash of paranoia fuel, there’s a type of matter called dark matter (different from antimatter) that must make up 4/5 of the universe, if our physics is right — except that it doesn’t absorb or emit radiation. Astronomers can only find it by looking where orbits are distorted by gravity.

Now go back to the alien looking at Earth’s shiny new Dyson sphere. You can’t see any light coming from the sun (because it’s all getting absorbed by the sphere), but its gravitational effects are still there. In fact, it would look just like our description of dark matter.

What if it’s already happened? What if it’s already happened to 4/5 of the universe?

Why yes, I am a crackpot, thank you for asking.