Atheist Blogroll Photography Competition

I was going to post about this last weekend, but I figured it would be better waiting a while so this can serve as both an advertisement and a reminder.

Mojoey has initiated the 2009 Atheist Blogroll Photography Competition and you have from now until 15 September 2009 to get your entries in. In the words of the great man himself:

I am pleased to announce the 2009  Atheist Blogroll photography contest. This year’s contest is open to any member of the Atheist Blogroll, their family, friends or significant others. By request, I’ve also opened the contest up to members of the Atheist Nexus too. We have five categories this year.

  • Atheism/Religion
  • Travel and People
  • Self-Portrait
  • Altered Images
  • The Natural World

The deadline for submissions is September 15, 2009.  Send your photographs as a .jpg file to the Atheist Blogroll.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? As always there are rules (but these are not onerous):

  1. Contestants may send up to three photos per category.
  2. Each submission must be an original work and may not have won any other contests.
  3. When sending your photographs, you must adhere to the following restriction: Actual file size may not exceed 2,048 KB (2 MB) and must be in .jpg, .jpeg.
  4. Submissions by persons under that age of 18 require parental consent.
  5. No Pornography – I follow the, “I know porn when I see it rule.”

Some important points to note about your submissions:

These fields are required.

  1. Category
  2. Title
  3. Caption and camera information
  4. Where and when the photo was taken: Los Angeles, May 2008
  5. The name or pseudonym of the photographer.
  6. A link the the artists blog or Atheist Nexus page. If a friend of an Atheist Blogroll member, then a link the members blog is appropriate.

By sending a photo you are granting the right for the photo to be displayed at Deep Thoughts as part of the 2009 photography contest or as part of a Google collection linked to the 2009 photography collection. All other rights remain with the artist.

If you are interested and want to find out more – such as how to enter – then check out the original post on Deep Thoughts. This is a great, fun, competition which seems very easy to enter so get out your SLR/Compact/Phone/Whatever and take some pictures. When you’ve done that (and turned them into JPEG if needed) get them off to Mojoey and see if you can win.

Also, Mojoey is looking for people to help with the judging so, if that is more up your street give it a go – but make sure you let my pictures win 🙂

Summer camp

In case you missed this story, there’s an atheist summer camp for kids in the UK, based on an American model (Camp Quest) inevitably.

I admit the idea is mildly ridiculous – devising improving leisure activities for kids, like po-faced Victorian philanthropists.

However, this has got to be an infinitely better idea than the summer camps that try to teach religion along with the raft-building and tree-climbing. This camp aims to encourage critical thinking and offers a prize for doing it, in the form of a £10 note autographed by Richard Dawkins.

So, if you are parent who’s already dreaming of a few child-free summer days – or if you are a kid who wants to go camping and to disprove the existence of unicorns away from your parents – it might be well worth checking it out.

At last a use for the internet

Shakespeare’s Henry V was a “history play”. At the time the play was written, the events it showed were already over a hundred and fifty years in the past.

Now, anyone with access to the web can go one better than Shakespeare, whose detailed knowledge of the period must have been a bit limited (Well, OK, you can only better Shakespeare in certain specified ways. Nobody’s managed to get the monkeys to tap out the Complete Works yet. )

You can find out the names and jobs of the individual men in Henry V’s armies just by searching on The Soldier in Later Medieval England databases. Plus, you can learn any number of other details about medieval soldiers – such as the archers in the Earl of Arundel’s service.

There are now 250,000 medieval service records online, in a pilot project covering the period from 1369 to 1453.

You can have hours of history nerd fun with this, such as trying to guess which were the most common late medieval peasant surnames.

(Smiths are pretty rare, for instance, although maybe my search-criteron spelling was too specific. There are a mere half a dozen Taylors. Even FitzWilliams seem to greatly outnumber Smiths. There are many more chaps with the Archer surname, suggesting a possible failure of imagination by the clerks who kept these records.)

People with a less frivolous interest in local or family history can search on surnames or dates or leaders and extend their knowledge, rather than their enjoyment of trivia.

There are bits of the database that I can’t work out what to do with, especially the column labelled membrane which has entries like “m4d”

According to the BBC

The website is the product of a research project by Professor Anne Curry of the University of Southampton and Dr Adrian Bell of the University of Reading.

Bravo, respect to them and everyone who worked on it.

By toutatis!

Enticing as this BBC story is – Pagan Police Get Solstice Leave, as so often, the content doesn’t live up to the hype.

Pagan police officers in some areas are being allowed to take as many as eight days leave a year for events such as the summer solstice and Halloween.
It comes after the Pagan Police Association was set up following discussions with Home Office officials.

Just in case you are a police officer reading this and you think can see hitherto-unsuspected benefits resulting from a quick faith change – of the kind that so many people undergo when their children reach school age – there aren’t actually any extra holiday opportunities for pagan police.

You would only get to swap your standard bank holidays for pagan bank holidays.

Which is a pity, because I was wondering if the “extra leave” principle might transfer to other jobs and other belief systems. Or at least, there’s a chance that non-believers could slip in under the pagan wire, given that a dictionary meaning of pagan is probably “non-christian”. I was wondering if even my employers could be persuaded to look sympathetically on my need to stay off work on Darwin days and Russell’s Birthday celebrations.

However, although you don’t get any more holidays, don’t despair yet, pagan police officers, just move to Hertfordshire. The BBC says that it has appointed two – note that, not just one, but two – pagan police chaplains. How unutterably cool is that?

Michael Jackson’s face in tree

Maybe not as edible as Jesus toast – but just as miraculous, hallelujah – the face of Michael Jackson appeared in somebody’s tree. There’s a photo on CNN. 🙂

Calling on the power of the Almighty Rorschach – may His name be praised – I can reveal that it’s REALLY a miraculous image of a cat/owl hybrid in the final stages of swallowing a skinny lizard.

CBS has a gallery of images of the saintly sightings discovered in fast food and household items. Each one is almost more convincing evidence of an all-powerful deity than the next – if that were possible.

Luckily, despite having been specifically singled out by their omnipotent god to receive these magical images, the people who get them often refuse to be selfish.

They choose to share them with the world. On E-bay.

************************
Added bit.

I just spotted a link to this great magical-item-generator on bengoldacre’s bookmarks

Fantastic HDR

(0718) ÜÇH?SAR (Cappadocia) Turkey

(0718) ÜÇH?SAR (Cappadocia) Turkey,
originally uploaded by Joanot.


Cappadocia is an amazing area of Turkey, with stunning tufa formations that people have carved homes into for thousands of years.

Adam Curtis Manchester show

This is a link to Adam Curtis’s page on the BBC website. This has some engaging clips from his new “interactive theatre” show in Manchester. This seems the longest.

Interactive theatre does sound as if it might be beyond boring. Bear with me.

Charlie Brooker wrote about it in today’s Guardian supplement.

About now a sizable percentage of you will be thinking “that sounds wanky”, and starting to back away. Don’t. Because it’s also … well, it’s also a funhouse. To be honest, no one really knows what it is. After a struggle, Curtis himself says it’s “a psycho-political theme experience in which you become a central character. It’s going to be frightening. A walk of enchantment and menace.”

Adam Curtis has made some brilliant TV documentaries. (Wikipedia entry) These clips deal with the same issues, although in a more abstract way. Dare I say “visceral?”

If you prefer a bit more clarity of argument, you might want to try and find Curtis’s more verbally coherent documentaries elsewhere, on Youtube, frinstance.

This is how the BBC described his 2005 Power of Nightmares about how the war on terror was used to generate fear and consolidate neo-con power.

Something good

Did you know that cloudspotting was a proper hobby, with a club you can join and everything?

Like trainspotting or twitching. But more random, more generally accessible and with fewer names for categories to learn.

I found this out from this morning’s BBC Breakfast Show. Sadly, half the UK must have found it out at the same time, because the server on the Cloud Appreciation Society has been intermittently incapable of serving up content all day, due to what it calls “incapacity problems”.

If you are either very lucky or patient enough to wait a few days, the site gallery has some stunning pictures.

The Wire on the BBC

How impressed am I? BBC2 is showing the Wire on Monday at 23:20.

Enough said.

FSTDT Lives

I’ve been away for a while, so it was with shock, horror and sadness I realised that FSTDT had died, but it was joy when I realised it had been resurrected.

The posts can now be found at FSTDT.net, although it is still very rough and ready. As you can see, the look and feel has remained, but the new system means there are a lot less quotes getting through. IMHO this is both good and bad, in the past some pretty un-fundie quotes were being approved, but at least you were getting a lot of comedy. Now it seems like there is only going to be a quote or two each day. With the restrictions placed on moderation, there is also a good chance that only quotes from known-regular-fundies will make it though – everyone else is scared of approving non-fundie, non-funny stuff. Hopefully none of this will transpire and my pathetic attempts at prediction will remain pathetic.

A few other things I don’t like about the changes are – the lack of any ability to edit your own posts; the difficulty in getting back to the post index/archives after you have viewed a comment and the lack of apparent monthly threading. It is possible that Distind is going to address these points, so time will tell.

For now, however, it remains a fantastic source of idiocy and witty comments. It also remains pretty much the only source of online comedy images I have:

Skepticism

(hat tip: FSTDT Refugee Forum)

Reminder about modern liberty

The button that linked from here to ModernLiberty.Net somehow broke so we had to remove it. But, this is a reminder that there are Convention on Modern Liberty events all round the UK on Saturday 28th.

The London event is sold out but you can watch it on their site. That seems to be what will happen anyway in the regional events – but on a big screen – although these will also have discussion groups.

The perils of Ignorance

The Perils of Ignorance

The Perils of Ignorance

(hat tip: FSTDT, as always this is the ultimate source of both ignorance and witty responses to it)

Evolution of Christianity

(hat tip: FSTDT)

Occams Razor - The Evolution of Christianity

Occams Razor - The Evolution of Christianity

Although the pedants might whine, I found this pretty funny.

Twice hail, Obama

I don’t want to turn this blog into a big Obama gush-a-thon, so I’ve been keeping my mouth pretty well clamped on the new leader of the world. I know he’s going to do some shit things that make me rage. It goes with the territory.

All the same, the man has been behaving like a demi-god in his first couple of days. Banning torture for a start. Who would have thought a few years ago that this would be a ground-breaking act? But then, the zeitgeist shifted and suddenly opposition to torture became somehow weird. Obama has just turned the clock back to sanity. He’s made it so that “extraordinary rendition” can become no longer “ordinary.”

That in itself is enough for me to let him get away with a hell of a lot. But, he has even stepped up to the plate (strange American phrase that is becoming ubiquitous in UK discourse, although none of us know what it means, so I’m using it ironically) again in terms of stopping that mad ban on funding for agencies that counsel women who want abortions.

I am a bit pissed off that European media seem to be so determinedly racist though. The inauguration day reports here were pretty well written all in terms of what it means to have a “black” president. As if being “black” and wearing a suit were the crucial factors in leading the world.

Well, yes, it’s great, but (1) Obama is – like everybody on the planet – “mixed race” and (2) he was elected by Americans of every supposed “race” – totally spurious concept – not because of his visible attributes but because he is the best human being for the job. Total respect to the US population for seeing that. He is the most truly intelligent man to be elected president in my lifetime.

So: USA 1 Europe 0, so far.

Generation Kill on FX on Sunday

TV guide brought to you by Odin’s new official enforcer. (It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it.)

David Simon’s new war series Generation Kill starts in the UK on Sunday night. It’s another work of genius from the boy Simon, multi-layered, beautifully shot, meaningful on dozens of levels. Every interaction between characters explores machismo, racism, class, cultural misunderstanding, America’s international role, the nature of institutions, the nature of war, etc etc etc. (And I’m not even halfway through the list.) I’ll risk well-earned mockery for pseudery and say that it’s probably going to be the definitive 21st century war movie.

Which makes it embarrassing to say that – after watching the first episode, I don’t think I can watch any more. I’ll certainly need some recovery time before I try any more episodes. It’s so bleak and feels so genuine that it almost sucked out my will to live. I felt as if I had a mild case of post-traumatic stress syndrome after watching it.

Watch it if you can handle it.