Beware Cosmic Religious Propaganda

I went looking for Carl Sagan's Cosmos on various internet outlets recently.  I had the first episode in my sweaty little palms on loan from Netflix, and I was ready to give up and just get a cheap second hand copy of the program.  Having found good prices on eBay, I thought I'd compare pricing on Amazon.com.

Went to Amazon, typed in "Cosmos Carl Sagan" and midway down the page I found "Created Cosmos". Unbelievably, Amazon had allowed creation propaganda  to be linked to Carl Sagan's name and the most famous science series ever produced (if you click the search link in this paragraph, you will notice that this is no longer listed in the results. Thank You Amazon.com!) I felt obliged to review this travesty negatively;

I hate this for one very simple reason.  Not that I've seen it, it's religion masquerading as science and not worth my time to investigate.  Much like the billboards claiming to care about poor pregnant women, but are actually nothing more than groups set up specifically to scare women away from having an abortion (every street in Texas has one of these billboards) this video exists merely obfuscate the truth of science and prop up the dying embers of religion in a scientific age. 
No, the reason I hate this video, the presence of this video in my search results, is that I specifically went looking for "Cosmos Carl Sagan". I didn't want to get false results for Neil Degrasse Tyson's new show (not that I don't love it too) what I wanted was to see the purchasing options for Carl Sagan's PBS program.  Instead of finding a good offering for the real program, I'm offered this schlock in its place. 
I missed Cosmos when it was originally broadcast because the backwater of Kansas that I grew up in didn't have access to public television.  We had churches on nearly every street corner, but only one tiny library.  Cable was a new invention.  By weird coincidence the cable company took over the Kingdom Hall across the street from my home in that small town, which was a great relief to us since the Jehovah's Witnesses stopped at our house every time they went canvassing. While we couldn't afford to buy cable services, at least we were no longer disturbed by people who wanted to pass on their twisted message of god on a nearly daily basis. No computers, no internet.  Only country radio and two fuzzy TV channels we could pick up with an aerial.   
I'm reasonably certain that the idyllic setting I'm describing is something that the liars who created & marketed this program on Amazon including the keywords "Cosmos Carl Sagan" would greatly prefer over the current ability to find accurate information regarding the natural universe and what we really know about it.  That they would give up not only blu-rays and Amazon, the current technological marvels of cell phones, electric cars, wind turbines, etc; all of science, medicine and progress. Give it all up and go live in caves clad only in the skins of animals that they had to kill themselves, if only they could be assured that their bronze-age god was real. 
To them I say "go find your cave and give up your comfortable cotton clothing. Hand over your cell phones and your comfortable air conditioned houses. You do not deserve to benefit from the achievements of science, since you hold it in so little regard." Either that, or pull this offering from the marketplace and apologize to the memory of Carl Sagan for ever creating it in the first place, much less placing it on Amazon falsely linked to his name. 
I really want to know.  Why is this program included in my search results?  Why is the Creation museum allowed to key their products with the name "Carl Sagan"?  This is disturbing, like finding homeopathic cures, and cigarettes in my pharmacy. Oh wait, that happens too.

Revolution Already in Progress; Now Go Vote!

I have a confession to make; several of them actually, and not all of them will occur here.  I used to spend an inordinate amount of time hanging out on the forums of Dan Carlin's website (newly renovated) largely because I tended to agree with his political arguments and loved his history show. Since I first signed on those forums I've abandoned them several times because of various hostile posters, only to be drawn back again because of some inane argument presented in of his Common Sense podcasts.

The latest Common Sense (titled Kickstarting the Revolution) is a nice illustration of why I have stopped spending time arguing with devotees of Carlin's on his website, and why I contemplate abandoning his political podcast altogether.  Starting from the false attribution to Churchill which he repeats and is debunked on Churchill's website like so;
"If you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart.  If you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you have no brain." There is no record of anyone hearing Churchill say this. Paul Addison of Edinburgh University makes this comment: "Surely Churchill can't have used the words attributed to him. He'd been a Conservative at 15 and a Liberal at 35!  And would he have talked so disrespectfully of Clemmie, who is generally thought to have been a lifelong Liberal?"
Never mind that I personally can disassemble the assertion by simply observing that I have never been an ideologue, and it is not solely the realm of the young as he insists when he brings up that misquote (ideologues making up the bulk of liberalism in his argument) since there are any number of hidebound hoary old ideologues out there insisting that their ideology must be followed, and that make up the bulk of the Conservative wing of the Republican party. 

But that's just where he starts to go off the rails.
I don't think a lot of you have perhaps considered that we are a month away from the 2016 election kickoff, and I know what you are thinking because I always think the same thing; already?!?  Yeah, the midterm elections are a month away.  If you've got some fancy-schmancy wise interesting outside the box idea for impacting the 2016 Presidential elections for all our good, you need to start it now.
No Dan, that isn't what I'm thinking. What I'm thinking is that you (and the vast majority of the electorate apparently) are once again mistaking authority for ability.  Attributing to the President more power than he actually has, and holding him accountable for actions beyond the powers of his office (on the one hand) and expecting the next President will be able to exercise powers he doesn't have in order to fix things which aren't under his control in the office of President (on the other) What this podcast represents, at the end of another long and winding hour and a half, is one more episode chalked up in support of the dictator theme; the false dream that electing the one right person will fix things, skipping over the very obvious fact that what is important right here and right now is that people go vote in the midterms.

The lackadaisical way that US Americans approach the obligation to participate in government both highlights the need for a requirement that people participate in their government; while at the same time reinforcing the observation that we get the government we deserve.

This reliance on the President, this common belief that this one person can fix the ills of an increasingly complex system inhabited by hundreds of millions of people who are all going about their merry way living their own lives, is the worst kind of naivete.  Couple that with the blind insistence that the calcifying remnants of the two party system are no different from each other, in the face of the popular takeover of the Republican party by the Religious Right in the form of the Tea Party, evidence that the revolution that you agitate for is already occurring, has been occurring since 2008...

...Well, it boggles the mind, the lack of understanding of the system itself that these views now represent.  I'm more than a little mortified.  The reference link for this podcast points toward Lawrence Lessig's site. I agitated for Dan to interview Prof. Lessig for ages on the show, and now that he's done that and promotes him, he links the Prof. to the completely dysfunctional idea that 2016 is somehow more important than the day to day operations of party machinery, or the impending disaster that will be handing the Senate over to the hidebound Republicans if only their Ebola-fearing voter base goes out and votes this month.

That isn't how the world really works. Yes, the individual can matter, does matter.  Yes, authority grants a certain amount of power, but that power is limited by design and by the reality of there only being so much one person can do.

The fallacy here, as I so often come up against, is the externalizing of purpose. The false idea that your purpose in life can be satisfied by some external agent, can be defined by someone else than yourself.  That voting actually does something aside from (as I've alluded to many times) seal the deal that you make when you set out to support a candidate or a position and then work to see the goal come to pass.

You have to decide what is important, you have to do the work to see it successful.  You cannot simply go vote and expect others to carry your goals forward with them while you deal with things you deem are more important.  They will do what they think is important.  Either you accept that their goals are at variance with yours, or you don't and are never (and will never be) satisfied with any outcome no matter how much better it may make your actual conditions in life.

...in that vein, the Democratic party and the Republican party are simply tools to be used, just like any other social structure.  They are no more and no less good or evil (or monolithic) than the individuals who work in those groups to advance the goals they set for themselves.

So go vote this month! But not just vote, go scope out your local party, see how the sausage is made in the hands of the people who currently hold power; and if you want wild ideas about how the internet can fix the problems of aging structures in or government, maybe you should take a look at this;



Pia Mancini and her colleagues want to upgrade democracy in Argentina and beyond. Through their open-source mobile platform they want to bring citizens inside the legislative process, and run candidates who will listen to what they say.

If we want to get away from the kind of world that Noam Chomsky outlined in Manufacturing Consentor the kind of world where the wealthy buy the votes of or representatives as described by Professor Lessig in Republic, Lost; How Money Corrupts Congress - and a Plan to Stop It then we should listen to people like Pia Mancini, or dedicate ourselves to one of the many groups who are working daily to modify the system so that is is more responsive to the voting population of the US.

The Wolf-pac - We must reverse Citizens United, Restore our Democracy, and Save the Republic. Join the Fight for Free and Fair Elections in America! That has had success in at least one state house.

Move to Amend - which has been trying to get legislation through congress; and not having much luck at it.

Lessig's own Rootstrikers.org - which is the third iteration of his groups attempts to form a movement behind the ideas he has put forward again and again.

Or maybe even a group like Represent.us that is facing pushback on the local level in Tallahassee right now while trying to make inroads on the problem of corruption in or governments.

Governments.  Plural.  More than one.  Local, County, State & Federal; not just the President. So go vote, because that's all that is left to do right now with one short month left in this election cycle.  But don't allow yourself to sit back after voting and expect the problems to be solved, or (even worse) wait for a President to be elected who will fix the problems we face, that will do so in a way that you approve of (which is a pipe dream) go out and change the system by participating in it.  At least then you will have earned the right to bitch about how things turned out, rather than just pretending you have that right because you have a right to free speech.

World of Warcraft; New & Improved?

Some of the new and improved character models can be viewed on our website. 
WoD Beta Notes 
 I hate that phrase.  Despise it with every fiber of my being.  It is a learned response, because every single time that I've heard that phrase there is no noticeable improvement.  Case in point, the new character models for classic characters in World of Warcraft.

I'm in the beta group, so let me just illustrate the changes for you.  This is my Dwarf female Keslingra as she currently looks.  Notice the shape of the face.  The set and shape of the eyes.  The hair has highlights of gold. There is a youthful hopefulness in this face, possibly joyful amusement somewhere behind those eyes.

Can you see what I'm talking about? Have that mental image in your head, even if it's not all there on the screen?

This is the beta model of the exact same character ported over to Warlords of Draenor. Please note the shape of the face.  The set of the eyes. This woman has been washing a bearded bastard's clothes for 30 years, and she's about to visit his snoring ass in the middle of the night and bury his waraxe in his head, so that she can get her first good night of sleep in longer than she can remember.

She's seated in the exact same chair in the exact same city in the game. Granted, the POV has been lowered, we are now looking dead on at the face, rather than from slightly above; but still, what the hell?  They have added a face button to the barbershop interface, but what about skin color? What about being able to change eye color separate from the face? (important now that the graphic resolution is finer) what if none of the faces emote anything other than bone weary boredom, tired resignation, or at best, fiery hatred?

Someone please explain to me how this face is an improvement over the face she had before?  I will be unable to play any of the characters I've ported over and checked, because every single one of them has been altered in a fashion similar to this, where the designers have taken liberty to alter shapes as they see fit, without having an understanding of what we the players were looking for when we selected the faces we had previously.

I started a thread over on the beta forums on this subject (the lifespan of my threads on WoW forums is generally charted in days, not weeks, just FYI) I understand that it's too late to alter character models now.  We're stuck with the improvements that aren't improving anything at this point, I get that.  Can we please, please, please for the love of the light, get a free Appearance Change for our characters?  So that I can justify at least purchasing the expansion pack this time around?

I mean, if I wanted to play tired, dirty, ugly characters, I'd still be playing Skyrim.



Just wanted to add a plug for this thread on the forums as well;

Draenei are still screaming over face 7's honker and short tails, trolls don't understand why they all look so freaking angry, gnomes are frightened their eyeballs are going to pop out of their sockets, female humans and dwarves are violently applying regenerous cream from Olay to their faces to get rid of all these lines, the human men are trying to shave their beards off, the male night elves aren't sure how their upper body is supported with their crazy small waist and wet noodle-like run. Orc women are looking for mascara and stealing the Olay cream from the human and dwarves, and the blood elves are all standing back cackling at the rest of the races with the goblins, pandas, and male worgens while the female worgens mourn the sorrows with the female tauren.
Guys, when there's a ton of people saying 'THAT'S NOT MY CHARACTER!' or numbers and numbers of topics on the same tweaks you can make to the models, it's time to respond to us. We're getting frustrated and worried at this point that you haven't listened to one snippet of our data on the models, and wasn't that the big selling point for this xpac?
He had me rolling with just those two paragraphs. There is a serious problem with the models in Warlords of Draenor.  The author is also correct that this was Blizzard's big selling point, the model updates were going to be unbelieveable (as in good) and what I've found is that they are indeed unbelieveable.  As in unbelievably bad. Bad enough that I have a hard time telling the April Fool's joke female Draenei from the one that is in the beta.



In a weird way, this sort of makes up for the insult of changing my beloved characters, and explains it in a properly creepy-assed way;



I have found a face for Keslingra that I find acceptable, and I'm learning to deal with the rest of the changes. Really had hoped for something more than acceptable and closer to the improvement I was promised.