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Just a simple country boy

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WISE telescope brings us the ‘Wreath Nebula’

Image

Yes it looks like a wreath, but actually, it’s called Barnard 3 or IRAS Ring G159.6-18.5. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Wide Field Infrared Explorer staff explains:

The green ring (evergreen) is made of tiny particles of warm dust whose composition is very similar to smog found here on Earth. The red cloud (bow) in the middle is probably made of dust that is more metallic and cooler than the surrounding regions. The bright star in the middle of the red cloud, called HD 278942, is so luminous that it is likely what is causing most of the surrounding ring to glow. In fact its powerful stellar winds are what cleared out the surrounding warm dust and created the ring-shaped feature in the first place. The bright greenish-yellow region left of center (holly) is similar to the ring, though more dense. The bluish-white stars (silver bells) scattered throughout are stars located both in front of, and behind, the nebula.

Filed under: Science, , ,

No, Virginia … (it’s wrong to lie to children)

There is more to regret than the “Reindeer Food” falsehood.

Leading my sons George and Jack to believe in Santa Claus when their skepticism dawned and they asked, “Daddy, is there really a Santa Claus?” was wrong.

As Greta Christina suggests in her rewrite of Francis Church’s answer to eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, I owed them the truth at every step:

No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. Love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. But Santa Claus does not exist. He is a story made up by your parents. You should be extremely suspicious of anyone who tells you otherwise.

Telling them the truth would not have been cruel. It would have detracted nothing from my love for them and it would have given them a clearer view of the world they live in. As Greta Christina writes, their hearts would still have been glad :

No Santa Claus! That’s right. He doesn’t live, and he never did. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will still not exist — and no amount of fatuous, manipulative bloviating will make him real. And the heart of childhood is still made glad: by fancy, by poetry, by romance, by beauty and joy, by truth and knowledge, by love and generosity and devotion, and by the boundless magnificence of the universe.

Filed under: Religion

Reindeer feeding ritual revisited

George and Jack on a Christmas Day decades ago in Fayetteville, N.C.

I not only helped inflict the myth of Santa Claus on my sons George and Jack, I made feeding his eight tiny reindeer a Christmas Eve ritual.

My Aunt Betsy Frink Adams gave us spiced “Reindeer Food” one Christmas (Or was it a gift from my first cousin, Betsy Holden?). The boys and I put out a tidy pile of sweet oat hay, which had been stockpiled to keep our pet chickens warm, and sprinkled it with the special “Reindeer Food.”

After the boys were sound asleep, I’d gather up all but a few wisps of the hay and use a three-pronged cultivating rake to make reindeer hoof marks over the feeding spot and across part of the lawn, inevitably leaving behind traces of Aunt Betsy’s mix.

The next morning, the boys’ grandmother’s big Bouvier des Flandres would show persuasive interest in the reindeer tracks (because they were spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg from the “Reindeer Food”).

The existence of Santa’s tiny reindeer thus affirmed by the ecstatic dog, both boys would settle into another few days of blissfully believing in a Jolly Old Elf who brought them gifts.

It only worked for a year, or maybe two, my sons eventually told me. They were angry at the time. I think they had begun to understand that they had been made a show of for the watching adults.

Fun though it was, and entirely well-intended, it was still exploitative lying, like the commonplace and commercially convenient newspaper pretense that there is a Santa Claus. But worse. Because I was setting a parental example of socially convenient lying. for fun.

I was showing my love for them, but fun though it was, what I did was a mistake. There are equally satisfying theatrics that are honest and that do not encourage retreat to unrealistic fantasy worlds.

We might have had as much fun, and had it honestly, by defiantly studying the astronomy and implications of the Solstice. That tradition would not have ended with childhood’s credulity but would instead have fostered realistic discussions of why the 25th is Christmas Day.

Filed under: Religion, , , , , , ,

Religious wars

Robert S. Becker’s agnostic view:

Jesus’ birthday was strafed by a failed suicide bomber along with predictable fatalities in Afghanistan. Reading Sarah Vowell on our Puritan forefathers only confirmed our own beginnings, depicting how the first Europeans, as if freed from Old World decadence, embraced two menacing fantasies. The first asserted instant American exceptionalism and the second, even more troubling, that God’s inevitably on our side. Not much has changed, per Sarah Palin and Tea Partiers. Consider Arthur Schopenhauer’s grimmer judgment: “The fruits of Christianity were religious wars, butcheries, crusades, inquisitions, extermination of the natives of America and the introduction of African slaves in their place.”

Filed under: Religion

Rick Warren’s ‘magic number’

Religious Connections’ gently oblique approach to pastor Rick Warren’s tweeted attempt to create an evangelistic urban legend, demonstrates the falsehood of Warren’s every word. Without ever slapping the goateed Baptist across the face.

So polite, don’t you think?

First, Religious Connections refutes Warren’s fundamentally vacant claim that Christians were put to death for their faith and “No one, except Christians, said anything:”

Unless you count Amnesty International (not a Christian organization) and Human Rights Watch — and others.

Then he deals with the asserted 146,00 number. Like this:

The number 146,000 is almost as startling as Warren’s willingness to encourage, without just cause, self-isolating Christian self-pity. In the lengthy process of attempting to find a valid source for Warren’s claim, we learned that 146,000 is a number which turns up frequently. Almost as if it were a magic number: . . . .

If you’re a software geek, or pause to read the magic number Wikipedia reference, you know the author is suggesting that Warren’s number isn’t documented because it has no underlying reality. Moreover, by belaboring the point with a series of illustrations, Religious Connections suggests that Warren knew there was no underlying reality. So he deliberately chose a number that would have about it an aura of believability. The better to delude us with, you see.

All said without frontal assault, and at close leaving for Warren an opportunity to redeem himself. If Warren condescends to try.

146,000 dead Christians and who cares?

Filed under: Politics, , , ,

Tea Party Confederate flag-waving

Tea Party Confederate flags aren’t emblems of small government and freedom. Historically, they’re the opposite. From John Majewski’s book Modernizing a Slave Economy: The Economic Vision of the Confederate Nation:

Although southerners rebelled against growing centralization of the federal government, they had no qualms about establishing a strong national state of their own. Scholars have classified the Confederate central government as a form of “war socialism.” The Confederacy owned key industries, regulated prices and wages, and instituted the most far-reaching draft in North American history. The Confederacy employed some 70,000 civilians in a massive (if poorly coordinated) bureaucracy that included thousands of tax assessors, tax collectors, and conscription agents. The police power of the Confederate state was sometimes staggering. To ride a train, for example, every passenger needed a special government pass…Political scientist Richard Franklin Bensel writes that “a central state as well organized and powerful as the Confederacy did not emerge until the New Deal and subsequent mobilization for World War II.”

[H/T: Marginal Revolution

Tea Party Confederate flag

Tea Party Confederate flag

]

Filed under: Politics, , , ,

Exit laughing? O’Reilly pardons Huckabee

Don’t laugh, yet. Bill O’Reilly has had an epiphany and pardoned former Arkansas governor and fellow Fox commentator Mike Huckabee, absolving the Huckster of all blame regarding Maurice Clemmons.

Clemmons, who was granted clemency from what amounted to a life sentence by then Arkansas Gov. Huckabee in 2000, was fatally shot by Seattle police while being taken into custody Tuesday in connection with the Sunday slaying of four Lakewood, Washington, police officers.

Huckabee’s self-exculpatory remarks and O’Reilly’s stained-glass pardon recall to mind the era when Huckabee was granting commutations & such at a record-setting pace.

Angry, puzzled Arkansas prosecutors often wrote to ask why he took specific actions.

Huckabee’s responses, according a letter written to a prosecutor on Huckabee’s behalf, included laughing aloud.

O’Reilly’s defense of Huckabee didn’t leave me laughing:

As for Bill O’Reilly’s epiphany, compare the Huckabee interview with O’Reilly’s elaborately offended reaction to Paris Hilton’s early release [H/T: Gawker]:

Somehow O’Reilly finds time to explore what passes for the legal details of Hilton’s release,

Yet O’Reilly has since become so forgiving of foibles that he fails to review even in passing Huckabee’s commutations and pardons history, covered in a remarkable series by The [Arkansas] Leader, as governor in Arkansas.

If you have not suffered a similar epiphany, or a stroke, please visit Baptist Planet and follow the wealth of links to review that in detail.

IMHO, four police officers and a man who should not have been on the street at all are dead today, with a trail of devastation leading to that nightmare, because of Huckabee’s confusion about who should and who should not be granted clemency.

Filed under: Politics

technorati

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Last-minute, life-saving gifts for the hard-to-please geek

Black Madonna of CzestochowskaJesus and Mary: Black Madonna of Czestochowa

From Buster:

Tony Cartledge reminded me this Christmas Eve morning of a few lasting, last-minute, life-saving gifts for those in greatest need:

If you’re trying to think of something for me, please visit Heifer International’s website.

I’m sure you can find something there.

Take it from the old farm boy.

Breeding pairs are best, if you can afford them.

That kind of Christmas gift may be in part what He had in mind with the example of the loaves and fishes.

Read the entire post –>.

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