General Archive

Friday, December 14, 2018

The Big Christmas Post, 2018

Christmas TreeChristmas is less than two weeks away, so it's about time to get up my now annual Big Christmas Post. I've written quite a few Christmas related entries over the years, and posted various comics and memes, so I've decided to gather up links to all the best stuff into one post. I know this is recycling, but it's still good stuff, especially if you've never read it before.

 

Jolly Posts

AOPA Christmas Card A Plane Christmas Greeting
This is a poem written by my late Uncle Bud. We both shared a love of aviation. This is his version of "The Night Before Christmas" (or "A Visit from St. Nicholas" for you pedants), with an aviation twist.
  
Koch Fractal Snowflakes An Early Christmas Present - Koch Snowflake Christmas Ornament 3D Printer STL Files
Last year, I played around with making snowflake ornaments for my 3D printer. But since I'm a nerd, they couldn't be any old snowflakes. These are fractal snowflakes.
  
White Wine in the Sun Merry Secular Christmas 2018 - Buy White Wine in the Sun, Support Autism Charity
I have a tradition of posting a video of this song every year around Christmas. This year was no exception. Go give it a listen, and donate to the autism charity, Aspect, while you're at it.

 

Curmudgeonly Posts

Santa in the Crosshairs War on Christmas
This was my first War on Christmas post. It covers a bit of the history of Christmas in the U.S. ("a nightmarish cross between Halloween and a particularly violent, rowdy Mardi Gras"), the Pagan origins of so many modern Christmas traditions, and in general why it's silly to get upset over an imagined War on Christmas.
  
Santa is no more Yes, Virginia, There Are Liars
I've never particularly liked lying to kids about Santa Claus, nor the whole mindset around Christmas time that kids should suppress their doubts and critical thinking skills. Playing pretend with kids is one thing, but lying is something else.
  
Scrooge When Happy Holidays Isn't Good Enough
This was an incident a few years ago that still stands out in my mind - a Salvation Army worker getting physically punched for wishing somebody a 'happy holidays' instead of a 'merry Christmas'. I included a meme that shows the appropriate response to any holiday greeting.
  
Take that, Santa Unintentionally Hilarious War on Christmas Video
Well, this could go into Jolly or Curmudgeonly depending on how you want to take it. This was a video I came across this year from a extreme right wing website - so extreme that I had to do a double take to verify it wasn't parody. Anyway, the video was so over the top that I couldn't help chuckling over it.

 

Should I Donate to _____ Charity?

Since so many people start thinking about donating to charity around the holidays, here are a couple entries on charities.

Salvation Army? The Salvation Army - To Give, or Not to Give?
As much as they try to portray a completely wholesome image, the Salvation Army isn't without their controversies. I'm not actually going to advocate that you do or don't donate to them (but if you don't, please donate to somebody else), but you should at least understand some of the activities they engage in that you may not agree with.
  
Charity Debunking an E-mail on Charities
This was written in reply to one of those email forwards, decrying all the supposed waste from certain charities, and suggesting you donate your charity money to other, more worthwhile charities. Well, suffice it to say, since it was an email forward, it wasn't particularly reliable. Granted, it's been a few years since I've looked into each of these charities, but it still gives you a sense of how legitimate various charities are, and provides links to a few watchdog groups.

 

Christmas Memes & Comics

You may have to click to embiggen to read this one.
Calamities of Nature Comic on Charlie Brown Christmas
Source: Calamities of Nature (via the WayBack Machine)

 

Santa Jesus Meme
Source: Master Marf (no idea if that's the original creator)

 


Source: Meme Generator

 

You'll never see one of those cutout plywood nativities the same way, again:
Source: Scoopnest

 

Christmas Tree Image Source: Free christmas Tree Backgrounds

Merry Secular Christmas 2018 - Buy White Wine in the Sun, Support Autism Charity

In a yearly tradition for this blog, it's time to post one of my favorite Christmas songs, White Wine in the Sun, by Tim Minchin. But more than that, this is a chance to support Aspect, an Australian charity supporting children and adults on the Autism spectrum. For the past several years, Minchin has donated all procedes from sales of the song around Christmas time to the charity (previously known as the National Autistic Society - more info). So, if you don't own a copy of the song, yet, now's a perfect time to buy it.

If you've never heard the song, there's a description on Minchin's site from 2010 which reads, "This is a captivating song and a beautiful and intelligent exploration of why Christmas can still be meaningful even without religious beliefs. There's just the right amount of sentiment and some very gentle humour illustrating Tim's feelings about Christmas and the importance of family and home. It is a heart-warming song and may make you a little bright eyed."

So, with all that out of the way, here it is, White Wine in the Sun. And new for this year is a new(ish) recording of the song (new for this site, at least):

Also new for this year, I'm including the lyrics, if you want to read along (per Google, from an older recording):

I really like Christmas It's sentimental, I know, but I just really like it I am hardly religious I'd rather break bread with Dawkins than Desmond Tutu To be honest

And yes, I have all of the usual objections
To consumerism, the commercialisation of an ancient religion
To the westernisation of a dead Palestinian
Press-ganged into selling Playstations and beer
But I still really like it

I'm looking forward to Christmas
Though I'm not expecting a visit from Jesus

I'll be seeing my dad
My brother and sisters, my gran and my mum
They'll be drinking white wine in the sun

I don't go in for ancient wisdom
I don't believe just 'cause ideas are tenacious it means they're worthy
I get freaked out by churches
Some of the hymns that they sing have nice chords
But the lyrics are dodgy

And yes, I have all of the usual objections
To the mis-education of children who, in tax-exempt institutions
Are taught to externalise blame
And to feel ashamed and to judge things as plain right and wrong
But I quite like the songs

I'm not expecting big presents
The old combination of socks, jocks and chocolate's is just fine by me

'Cause I'll be seeing my dad
My brother and sisters, my gran and my mum
They'll be drinking white wine in the sun
I'll be seeing my dad
My brother and sisters, my gran and my mum
They'll be drinking white wine in the sun

And you, my baby girl
My jetlagged infant daughter
You'll be handed round the room
Like a puppy at a primary school
And you won't understand
But you will learn someday
That wherever you are and whatever you face
These are the people who'll make you feel safe in this world
My sweet blue-eyed girl

And if my baby girl
When you're twenty-one or thirty-one
And Christmas comes around
And you find yourself nine thousand miles from home
You'll know what ever comes
Your brothers and sisters and me and your mum
Will be waiting for you in the sun

When Christmas comes
Your brothers and sisters, your aunts and your uncles
Your grandparents, cousins and me and your mum
We'll be waiting for you in the sun
Drinking white wine in the sun
Darling, whenever you come
We'll be waiting for you in the sun
Drinking white wine in the sun
Waiting for you in the sun
Darling, when Christmas comes
We'll be waiting for you in the sun
Waiting

I really like Christmas
It's sentimental, I know

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Unintentionally Hilarious War on Christmas Video

Santa in the CrosshairsI was just curious if anyone was still going on about the 'War on Christmas', so I googled it, and came across an unintentionally hilarious video, from a site named, non-satirically, ChurchMilitant.com/. At first I thought something so over the top was surely a parody like Landover Baptist, but no, it has it's own Wikipedia page and everything. Anyway, I don't think I can embed the video here, so you'll have to go watch it on the site:

DECEMBER 6, 2018--WAR ON CHRISTMAS: The advance of atheism.

The 'surely this must be parody' stuff started off from the very beginning:

Hello and welcome to The Download, live from our Church Militant studios in Detroit, Michigan. I'm Christine Niles. And, happy Feast of Saint Nicholas, the manly saint who punched the priest Arias in the face, after Arias blasphemed our Lord and rejected His divinity.

Ah, yes, manly saints punching people in the face. None of that turn the other cheek bullshit that some beatnik hippy went on about.

Then the talking head started using all the right-wing cliches you've come to expect about atheists and liberals:

The heretic Arias brought his own war against Christ by rejecting that he was God. That war on Christ continues to this day, brought by secularists who hate Christ and everything he stands for, and try to mask that hatred behind political correctness, or arguments for separation of church and state, a phrase that never actually appears in the Constitution, by the way.

Just for the record, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." while not literally using the phrase 'separation of church and state' certainly seems to be saying that government should keep its nose out of the whole business. And the phrase was coined by a U.S. president, by the way.

The segment then went on to praise Donald Trump for his support of Christmas in the face of political correctness, and showed a clip of Trump from a rally. Now I admit, I hardly ever voluntarily watch Trump, since he hardly ever has anything worthwhile (or coherent) to say. So I guess I'm just not accustomed to his mannerisms. But my goodness is he hilarious. He's like a parody. At one point while the crowd was cheering, he literally winked at someone in the crowd and then did that sleazy lounge host pointing people out move, before doing an unintentional (I hope) Elvis imitation, and then finally moving on to a brave stance in support of the single most popular holiday in the country:

Thank you. Thank you very much. And something I said so much during the last two years, but I'll say it again as we approach the end of the year- You know we're getting near that beautiful Christmas season, that people don't talk about anymore. They don't use the word Christmas cause it's not politically correct. You go to department stores and they'll say happy New Year. They'll say other things. And it'll be red, they'll have it painted, but they don't say- Well guess what, we're saying Merry Christmas again.

Wow, what an act of heroism. I mean, it's not like 81% of non-Christians in the U.S. celebrate Christmas, including a majority of Buddhists, Hindus, religiously unaffiliated, and even a third of Jews (Pew - Christmas also celebrated by many non-Christians).

And yeah, those department stores are loathe to admit what all this 'holiday' shopping is about:

Oh, wait, I did find a page on Wal-mart called Ready, Set, Holiday!, that did have a whole bunch of 'holiday' references and not so many 'Christmas' references, at least until you actually followed any of the links or looked at any of the products being sold.

It's hard to believe this is the world we live in today - a clown like Trump in the White House, and right wing kooks making websites that are barely distinguishable from SNL skits.

Oh well, I'll take the unintentional humor as an early Christmas present. Merry Christmas everyone.

---

For a bit of an entertaining read, check out the following TV Tropes page. It's not about this site, per se, but it definitely reveals the mindset:
TV Tropes - Church Militant

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Where Have I Been

Quora LogoIt's been a while since I've posted anything on here. For a while, there, my goal was a post per week, and I was doing pretty good at it. Then, I discovered Quora, a high-quality question-and-answer site. It's kind of like social media for nerds. Basically, people post questions, and then other people write answers. Users can upvote or downvote the various answers. There's a 'feed' where you can browse through and read answers. You can choose topics you're interested in, or particular users you want to follow. The feed algorithm also uses your past Quora browsing history to choose answers you might be interested in.

What makes Quora so much better than a site like Yahoo Answers is the quality of the users and the subsequent content they create. There's a NASA instructor and flight controller, Robert Frost, who's very prolific about answering technical questions about space travel or the workings of NASA. There are actual astronauts like Clayton Anderson. There are former fighter pilots like John Chesire to answer with a first person perspective on flying military and commercial jets. There are best-selling authors like Mercedes Lackey, Helena Schrader, and Orson Scott Card. There's the actual founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales. From time to time, they'll get well known experts in various fields to participate in answer sessions, such as Bart Ehrman and even Barack Obama. And then there are tons of intelligent and knowledgeable people, whose names you may not recognize, but who make great contributions.

Besides the community of contributors, Quora has a few things going for it that I don't have on my personal blog. Perhaps the two biggest are the built-in reader base and the built-in infrastructure. Even at my blog's peak popularity a few years ago, I didn't have many regulars. I would write an entry, and hope that people found it to read it. On Quora, I know there's a somewhat guaranteed audience. There are the people following whatever question I'm answering, the people following me in particular, and then any larger group the answer might get forwarded on to if it turns out to be popular. My most popular Quora answer has been viewed by over 250,000 people, and my next most popular, which I actually like better, has been viewed by just under 50,000 people. And compared to the page views on my personal website stats, I think the Quora stats tend more towards real people as opposed to spammers and bots. Quora has the readership and infrastructure to ensure that what I write actually gets read.

Another advantage is that it's highly interactive. It's not just me posting my own views. It's seamless to read what other people are writing. On days when I'm bored and only feel like being passive, I can just go and read other people's answers on Quora. And those answers can be quite educational. And if I come across something I'm actually interested in responding to, I can tag it for later. In fact, that brings up another advantage - a ready made pool of material to write about. Plus, because somebody had to post the question to begin with, I know that there's at least some interest in the topic.

So, I haven't abandoned this blog or website entirely, but I only have so much time per day to write. And right now, my main focus has shifted to writing on Quora. I'll still post more blog-appropriate posts from time to time, and just maybe reincarnate my Friday Bible Blogging series. But for now, if you're interested in reading things I write, go check out my profile on Quora. If you really like it, sign up for the site and 'follow' me.

Jeff Lewis's Profile on Quora

 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Good Sources of Potassium

FoodSo I wrote an entry about two years ago about how I lost 40 lbs in 6 months. For the most part, I've managed to maintain my new weight, creeping up a few pounds every so often before focusing again to recover. I've also been kind of off again on again as far as exercise. A lot of that is due to breaking my foot and severely twisting my ankle last summer, along with a nagging case of tennis elbow that gets aggravated if I work out too intensely (which both sound better than attributing it to laziness).

Anyway, right now I'm in the midst of one of my 'recoveries' (for the record, I am currently lighter than my last weigh-in in that 2 year old entry - that entry was before I'd reach my target weight), and I'm also trying to get back in the routine of exercising, but I've been getting more leg cramps than normal. So, I figured I'd try to get a bit more potassium in my diet. And my first thought was, obviously, bananas. They seem to be everyone's go to food source for potassium. But, I decided to do a bit of research, first, and was surprised that there are actually quite a few foods that are better sources of potassium.

So, here's a list comparing the potassium levels in various foods, sorted by the most mg of potassium per calorie.

Food Serving Size, g Serving Size, oz Calories per Serving K per serving, mg K per cal, mg/cal
Zucchini 196 6.91 33 512 15.52
Asparagus 100 3.53 20 202 10.10
Broccoli 148 5.22 50 468 9.36
Brussels Sprouts 88 3.10 38 342 9.00
Green Bean 100 3.53 31 209 6.74
Potato 213 7.51 163 897 5.50
Strawberry 100 3.53 33 153 4.64
Black Bean 100 3.53 339 1500 4.42
Kidney Bean 100 3.53 333 1406 4.22
Banana 118 4.16 105 422 4.02
Pinto Bean 100 3.53 347 1393 4.01
Pineapple 100 3.53 50 109 2.18
Granny Smith Apple 100 3.53 58 120 2.07

Since I did this research for myself, those are all foods that I like and tend to eat fairly regularly - in other words, lots of savory vegetables, not so many sweet fruits*. I'm rather glad. I'd much rather eat a bit more asparagus, broccoli, or Brussels sprouts than have to eat a banana every day. And I'm really excited that potatoes have more potassium than bananas.

Anyway, I just thought this was interesting, and worth sharing with anyone else looking to get a bit more potassium in their diets.


*I actually do eat a Granny Smith apple almost every day, but obviously, they're a lot more tart than most fruits. I also like strawberries and pineapples from time to time, but again, they're more tart than typical fruits.

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