Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Cats’ Category

PROOF OF GOD?

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Some people put a lot of stock in proving or disproving the existence of God. Atheists in particular seem gung ho on the topic. It’s a fascinating debate from a number of perspectives. I guess. I have no pigeon in this race or whatever that idiom is. I’m an ignostic Episcopalian. Ignostic means I have never heard a definition of the word ‘God’ that made sense, ‘God’ makes no more sense than ‘Fod.’ It’s a magic ritual word. I’m Episcopalian for personal reasons, I don’t actually see any evidence for supernatural agency in the Universe.

And I don’t care what other people believe in, as long as they don’t scare the horses. By that I mean I’m all for freedom of religion, I think people should be free to practice any faith they want. However, and it’s a big however, I don’t want laws or social policy based on any faith. I don’t care what someone else believes, but I don’t want their beliefs enshrined in public law. Blue Laws are a great example. Someone thinks their business should be closed on Sunday for religious reasons, no problem. Laws prohibiting any business being open on Sunday for religious reasons, no thanks. And that just a really innocuous example, there are much uglier ones.

That being said, here are my three favorite arguments for the existence of God. And by God, I mean some sort of conscious supernatural agency ‘behind the curtain’. Arguments supporting the idea there’s a ghost in the machine, the Universe being the machine. I don’t think there’s any original thinking here, this is just for fun and debate. Thinking aloud. And I suppose, upon reflection, only one of these is an argument God. Two of them are arguments for God … or advanced aliens. Or maybe proof we are  living in an artificial reality, Take your pick.

The first is that we have free will. Can I prove I have free will? No. It just appears to be the case. And it looks like everyone else does too. That means humans have agency. If we are more than just machines, it implies the Universe is more than just a machine. By some schools of thought, it means the Universe has agency. Yes, I know, this is just a variation on First Cause arguments, or a fancy way of saying the Universe exists, therefore God. It’s not a compelling argument, but it’s not wrong. And I can see why many people find such arguments compelling. In any event, this is the weakest of my arguments. Or the hardest one to put into words. Those often go together. (Good save Doug.)

Secondly, the evolution of language. I don’t know how Ken Hovind missed this one. Or maybe he didn’t, I don’t spend a lot of time in ‘Answers in Genesis.’ Language appears to have only evolved once in Earth’s history, but according to our current understanding of how evolution works, it should never have evolved. This is because of lying, it’s easy to lie using language, so organisms that ignored language should have been selected for. Well, that’s my simplistic take on the problem of deception. That aside, the fact that exactly one of the countless billions of species of animals has evolved into a language using animal. What are the odds?

My last argument is the clincher. Cats. They are simply too perfect. Perfect size, temperament, utility. I mean they live in our homes and protect us from rodents, humanity’s worst enemies. And bury their scat, I’ve had employees who had trouble with that one. And on top of that they are adorable cuddly little scrunch muffins. Like tribbles but actually useful. I mean, honestly, what are the odds something like that just happened to evolve? And scientists know it took three simultaneous mutations to make cats non aggressive towards humans. Just for starters. It’s exactly as if trees grew packs of cigarettes and beers.

I rest my case. Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Just look at that. Look at it! Credit: Copyright © 2017 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.)

Written by unitedcats

October 4, 2019 at 5:35 am

Posted in Cats, Religion

RANDOM RAMBLINGS PLUS AN INTERSTELLAR VISITOR

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GE DIGITAL CAMERA

This was an interesting week. Got kinda bad news from a few old friends. The good thing about growing old is you’re still alive. The bad thing is that the older one gets, the fewer of your friends and loved ones will be alive. Pretty safe to say that if you make it from 60 to 80, the large majority of your contemporary and older friends and acquaintances will be dead. A mixed blessing at best. You’ll get to eat more of your own birthday cake, but get fewer presents. Still, at this point it’s too late to die young and be a horrible warning, so I’m going to press on.

I also realized this week that my upper arm shattering in my fall last Christmas saved my life. It takes a lot of energy to shatter an upper arm bone, I mean the neighbors heard it snap. And I slammed into that wall with my shoulder, head, and neck, the arm bone breaking acted as a crumple zone. If it hadn’t broken the energy would have gone into my head and neck, where broken bones are a much more serious concern. Limbs are useful for something besides walking and pouring coffee, who knew?

Speaking of coffee, I realized this week, that despite drinking three or four cups of coffee a day for decades … I don’t really like coffee. Bad coffee, good coffee, all equally unappealing. I was essentially drinking out of habit. How did I come to this realization? Six weeks ago I started counting calories, and one thing I did was cut back to one cup of coffee a day. (With sugar and cream a cup of coffee is north of fifty calories.) Tuesday, after receiving bad news, I decided to say “eff it” to the diet for one day. I went and got myself a turkey/bacon sub with fries, it was delicious. And then I thought, “I’ll make myself a pot of coffee!” Followed by “Wait, I don’t feel like having coffee, I’d rather have a diet soda or two.” Live and learn.

I also realized this week that while I like the little rural town I live in, there’s no doubt it’s a comfortable little bubble of white privilege. I have layers of laws, state agencies, and federal agencies protecting me in my essentially gated community. All pretty much invisible to me, all designed to keep “undesirables” in their place. Such has it been for all of America’s history. Granted privileged classes are a problem in many places around the world, but I think America’s history of slavery and Native American genocide reinforced the cultural tendency in some uniquely ugly ways.  I know the word ‘privilege’ really pushes some buttons with some people. Telling someone they are privileged is not a pejorative. Topic for future blog posts no doubt,

On the topic of pushing buttons, I noticed in my travels through conservative cyberspace that OAC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) really pushes some buttons. The mindless hostility expressed towards her is legion. Not even sure what’s she’s saying that’s causing all the ruckus, but I have to assume she is hitting below the waterline. When your rhetoric reduces your political opponents to sputtering mindless rage, you’re doing something right. Alas mindless outrage seems to be the style these days in American politics, and it’s certainly not limited to conservatives. I just wish people would get outraged about things that matter. And while I’m at it I wish I had a pony.

OK, I don’t really want a pony. If given one, I suppose I could sell or eat it. In late breaking news, our Solar System is getting another visitor! A few years ago an interstellar asteroid dubbed Oumuamua flew past the Sun. Sadly it was small and already heading for the exit when astronomers spotted it. So the science gleaned was just enough to leave a zillion questions. This time, it’s a comet, dubbed Borisov, and we spotted it on its inbound run! It’s gonna zip past the Sun just beyond Mars’ orbit, which is an incredibly close encounter astronomically speaking. And this puppy is big, 20 km wide or so. I will read up on everything I can find about it on the weekend, Monday’s blog topic!

Puppies, ponies, I think I need a cat. There’s a CLO (cat like object) that lives in my house, but it’s not the same. Have a safe weekend everyone.

PS: Oh yes, gonna start running some ads on wordpress. I need new shoes. They will be as small and unobtrusive as practical.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: A pony like animal I photographed in the desert. Badly.  Credit: Doug Stych Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved.)

Written by unitedcats

September 13, 2019 at 4:31 am

WORLD STUNNED AND AWED AS SCIENTISTS ANNOUNCE THE DISCOVERY OF A NEW SPECIES OF CAT!

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cat-fox

Woohoo! A new species of cat has been semi-officially announced. That’s worth taking a break from my vacation to write about. Not the sort of thing that happens every day, or every decade even. This would bring the grand total to 41 species of cat. Cats are few in species, but a very successful animal in other respects. The ultimate ambush predator. Found in more habitats than any other animal but man. Small tropical islands, deserts, high mountains, they and many more have their cats. And now, the Corsican Cat-Fox! And while it has been announced, it hasn’t yet been officially named as a species. The people studying it believe it is a newly discovered species endemic to the Mediterranean island of Corsica.

How was it discovered? What’s it like? How come no one noticed it before? What’s it called? Where can I get one. One question at a time, I know it’s exciting. No you can’t get one! Some people, sheesh. It’s actually been around awhile, the local shepherds call it “Ghjattu volpe.” I’m guessing that means Cat Fox, and that Corisan shepherds aren’t known for poetically naming things. Long story short, one was caught in a chicken coop a few years back, and a couple of French scientists have been observing, live trapping, and studying the DNA of them since then.

I’d say it’s pictured above, but no, no public domain images are yet available. The above image  is a European Wildcat and it is very similar, and closely related, to the Corsican Cat-Fox. The Cat-Fox has shorter whiskers, and differs in some minor coloration details. It’s about three foot (1m) long, so a bit bigger than the familiar house fleabus. Great pictures can be found here, including possibly the most awkwardly held cat in history. Way to introduce a new species, scientists and PR mix poorly.

Is the Cat-Fox really a new species? Well, the jury is still out. It’s got DNA from both the European Wildcat and the African Wildcat. There may have been a Cretan Wildcat, but scientists are still debating that. Wildcats, for my American readers, are a type of cat found all over Europe, Asia, and Africa. Bigger than a housecat, huge furry club tail, your basic grey tabby markings. Very wild. The domestic cat was indeed descended from them some thousands of years ago. At this point, since they can crossbreed, a lot of housecat DNA is mixed into the Wildcat gene pool, so figuring out just what is what is tricky.

The Cat-Fox may have evolved from a Wildcat population stranded on the Corsica millions of years ago, or it may have been introduced by humans somehow in the past 10,000 years. IE it might be an unremarkable Wildcat-housecat hybrid. Whatever the ultimate verdict, I think it’s remarkable. Wildcats are gorgeous as well, at least to my cat aesthetics. Wikipedia has some nice images on their Wildcat page. And the cover pic on this page, what a stunning cat.

So hang in there fluffy guys, hopefully efforts will now be made to keep you safe. So far my vacation is going well this year without a summer. Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: European Wildcat. Credit: WPClipart, Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

June 21, 2019 at 4:53 am

Posted in Cats, Science

THROUGH THICK AND THIN

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game-of-thrones-starbucks-coffee-cup-mistake-fb6Photo from this website.

This one really is an extemporaneous post. It’s Thursday night, exhausted from a long day of physical therapy, treasure hunting, and politics. The therapy went well, I am slowly but surely recovering the use of my left arm. The treasure hunting, great exercise! Sunshine! Good company! Treasure, no. A 1982 quarter and a rusty 60s matchbox car. Oh well, it was a proof of concept treasure hunt, so in that sense it was a success. The politics. Sigh.

So, I went to a water quality meeting. It was depressing, but at least people are doing something. Or trying to. In a nutshell, Iowa’s environment is being destroyed by out of control factory farm growth. A wonderful example of how capitalism has failed, or been hijacked by moneyed interests, in the USA. In a nutshell, factory farms pass terrible environmental costs onto the public, destroy property values, destroy quality of life, and destroy jobs and family farms. All so a tiny handful of people, often foreigners, can profit. And that a tiny number of rich people can basically screw 3 million Iowans shows just what a farce our “democracy” has become.

Speaking of failed democracy, Alabama has passed the most restrictive “Strip Women of Their Rights” bill yet. It claims it’s about preventing abortion, but of course does nothing of the kind except make abortions dangerous and expensive. If these self styled “Christian” lawmakers wanted to prevent abortion they would pass bills calling for comprehensive sex education, birth control on demand, and Planned Parenthoods everywhere. They don’t, just Evangelical Christians trying to force their medieval beliefs on everyone. Fortunately the law is blatantly unconstitutional so unlikely to ever go into force. And for the record, no, having a heartbeat no more makes a fetus alive than it makes a person alive. One’s heart can be beating just fine while they are legally and actually dead. It’s a functioning brain that makes someone alive, not a heartbeat.

Trump continues to ratchet up tensions with Iran. Even our allies are confused. Hell, I’m confused. Not sure why Trump suddenly got his knickers in a twist about Iran. Nothing has changed I’m aware of. The Mueller Report and other political distractions are no more a danger to Trump than they ever were. Trump’s not going to be impeached, and even if he is, the GOP will be calling all the shots. IE a Trump impeachment is far more likely to benefit the GOP  than the Dems. If Trump somehow gets forced out, we get Pence with a wildly invigorated base willing to rally round him in 2020. The Dems already forming circular firing squad won’t stand a chance.

The big struggle I have been having with my blogging lately is truth decay. I find myself living in a world where facts and opinion have been increasingly conflated. A world where (just for example) a major political party and tens of millions of Americans reject global warming and evolution. And there’s so many others these days, flat earthers, anti-vaxxers, 9/11 truthers, birthers, etc. I don’t want to ridicule or put down such people, I don’t see how that helps. Plus I like having friends and readers. I suspect I have my blind spots too. I guess I am going to resolve this issue by being honest about the facts, and be open to debate if someone wants to challenge them. We had some great climate change and 9/11 truther debates on my old blog. Certainly open to suggestion.

Game of Thrones is almost over. And yes, a Starbucks cup was left in a scene. Meh, these sorts of errors are far more common than most people realize. We just don’t notice them because we aren’t looking for them. No worries. Season 8 is getting some shade though, a lot of fans find it too rushed and shallow. A petition has been launched. They’re kind of right. A huge amount of time was spent setting up a bunch of characters and their character development/story arcs … only to have them come to abrupt squishy ends. Me, meh, the good way outweighs the bad, so enjoying immensely. Looking forward to having it be done so can talk about it.

Tim Conway and Doris Day passed in the last week. I quipped to my housemate that “celebrities always die in threes, I wonder who is next?” I regret my flippancy as I see we lost another celebrity this morning. Grumpy Cat of Internet meme fame as died. RIP little cat, you brought smiles to a lot of faces for seven years.

Shares appreciated. Have a great weekend everyone.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.)

Written by unitedcats

May 17, 2019 at 6:30 am

Injured kittens, elections, and worse stuff

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On the way to work today the bus got mired in traffic. Then I saw emergency lights ahead, the police were routing traffic into one lane. Getting closer I saw why. There was an injured kitten in the road, a half grown little stripey guy. One of the cops was standing so as to keep him in the shade. For some reason the sight just about to broke my heart, I cried on and off all day. So much sadness in the world, this just put me over the edge I guess. I hope the little guy made it.

I’ll be glad when the election is over. It’s been one of the uglier elections in my memory, if not the ugliest. I still honestly don’t give a crap who wins, both candidates have aspects that are so so creepy it makes my flesh crawl. Both candidates are a tool of the bankers, militarists, and energy cartel. Obama’s social policy window dressing is a bit better, but living in a theocracy might actually make Americans snap out of their revery. More on point, I think if Superman got elected, we’d still be hosed. America is like a stately old oak tree … completely rotted out inside. It looks majestic, but one of these days there will be a stiff breeze and down it goes. It’s not going to be pretty.

Obama. Barrack “kill list” Obama. I find it more than disturbing that the POTUS maintains a kill list, a list that can and has included Americans. It’s disturbing in and of itself, but that no one is upset about it is just plain scary. Nixon had an enemy’s list, and was excoriated for it; Obama has a kill list, and no one cares? People went wild over non-existent “death panels,” but don’t care that Obama has set himself up as a death panel of one? I am not reassured.

Then we have the rapist’s right’s party. Think about this: We have a Senate candidate Mourdock claiming that a rape  pregnancy was a gift from God and couldn’t be aborted. He said he anguished over this question before coming to that conclusion. I’m a little unclear what he anguished over. He couldn’t have anguished over how he would feel if he were raped and impregnated, since that can’t happen to him. So he must have anguished over how he would feel if he raped and impregnated someone. And he concluded that whoever he, or any man, chooses to rape;  if the woman is impregnated, she must bear the child. The rapist gets to choose, the raped victim doesn’t. Right. Romney endorsed this guy. Ryan holds similar view. This is crazy, a perversion of Christianity, and an example of rape culture. Again, not reassured.

I like Jill Stein, but nothing short of a miracle will get her in the White House. It might make a good science fiction story, or an unlikely Hollywood movie. I think they put Ron Paul back in cryogenic suspension, I don’t know where he went. Probably conveyed to media purgatory. There’s other stuff on ballots. I’m cynical about it all. The special interests have it locked up, even when they lose, they have the lawyers and the money to fix it. Legalized corruption on a scale never before seen in history. See, the USA is still number one! On the other hand, unlike so many people, I’m not going to freak out no matter who gets elected. Whoever gets elected has my support, at least initially. Whoever wins has an unholy mess to contend with, and the last thing America needs now is sore losers. My studied neutrality may only last to the acceptance speech, tomorrow is another day.

Lastly, so as not to be accused of excess negatively, can I envision an encouraging outcome on election day? Yes. Yes I can. I hope the winning candidate sees an injured kitten in the road, and his heart is softened and his mind is cleared, and he gives an acceptance speech that resonates with all Americans, and opens a dialog that begins to heal this fractured land. See, I can still dream.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. Not being used for profit, it’s just such a lovely image, I couldn’t resist. I got it from this site. It’s destruction from Hurricane Sandy. The image says a lot to me. Who is this woman? Where is she going?)

Written by unitedcats

November 5, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Breaking News: Radioactive Cat Discovered Near Chernobyl, Next Step in Feline Evolution?

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For the past several weeks rumours of an amazing biological discovery near the ruins of the Chernobyl reactor have been circulating in Russia and Ukraine. Today at a press conference scientists revealed that the the rumours were true. Russian and Ukrainian scientists studying the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster and its effects on local wildlife have discovered the world’s first known radioactive cat. Despite emitting dangerous levels of gamma radiation and X-Rays, the cat appears large and healthy, and does not seem adversely effected by his bizarre condition. A team of  expert Veterinarians from the international group Collies Without Borders examined him at great length and concluded he was a perfectly normal cat in almost every respect, if possibly a little overweight. This may be a normal situation for a radioactive cat though, as his appetite is described as “without end.”

Scientists studying the cat at the prestigious Жертва первоапрельской шутки Institute in Ukraine are as yet baffled as to the cause of his condition, but are limited in that scientists can only be exposed to him a  few minutes each day due to his lethal emission of radioactivity. Not only does he appear immune to his own radiation, scientists have observed that it actually aids him in hunting, as small birds and mammals that get too close to him are weakened by radiation poisoning, thus becoming easy prey for “Dr Sinclair” as researchers have named this remarkable moggie. The radiation also offers him complete protection against fleas, and at least partial protection against dogs as they too are stunned and weakened if they approach too close. And not only can he see in the dark, he glows in the dark.

Scientists are hoping they can breed Dr. Sinclair and create a whole breed of mutant moggies.  Already cat lovers from around the world have inquired about getting a “Dr Sinclair” of their own. One might think that having a pet whose litter box droppings are classified as middle level radioactive waste would be a deterrent, but it’s a little known fact that under  current international law all cat waste is already classified as middle level radioactive waste. Novelty value aside, when asked of what practical use a race of radioactive mutant cats would be, Ukrainian scientists helpfully pointed out that no one has ever found a practical use for regular cats and that hasn’t hurt their popularity one bit.

The press conference had to be ended early as reporters in the front row were getting nausea and experiencing hair loss, so further news about Dr. Sinclair will be released in future press conferences promised chief researcher Dr. Джеффри Д. Повысился.

(The above image is used with the permission of the copyright holder. Dr. Sinclair is a real cat.  He likes naps in the Sun, salmon truffles, and belly rubs. This entire post is under copyright protection: Credit and copyright © Doug Stych, all rights reserved. Have a great week everyone!)

Written by unitedcats

April 1, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Random Notes in the Margins

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A couple of topics that I was unable to squeeze a whole blog post out on, but nonetheless wanted to say something. And yes, in some cases below I am simplifying or not adding obvious codicils:

1.  Germany’s Chancellor Merkel claims that “multiculturalism has failed.” She didn’t exactly define her terms so no one knows what she really meant. Yes, millions of foreigners, mostly Turks, have settled in Germany. As far as anyone can tell though, all she was doing was pandering to some fringe anti-immigrant parties and no real changes in German policy are in the offing. There’s basically two points I want to make here.

One is that sooner or later immigrants get assimilated. The idea that a nation will be “taken over” by immigrants simply is not supported by history, the opposite is what occurs. There’s even cases where the immigrants invaded and conquered the nation in question … and still got assimilated. The Normans in England and the Mongols in China being good examples. Yes, mass immigration, legal or illegal, does have problems. It is not an existential threat to a culture though, under most circumstances.

Secondly, how did all these million of Turks end up living in Germany? Well, after World War Two Germany had labour shortages, so people from the east, mostly Turks, were given permission to live and work in Germany for several years only. Great policy, Germany got labour, nice slow paced cultural exchanges took place, and the countries the workers came from got both money and westernized workers returning to develop their country. Why did this change? Bleeding heart liberals? Nope. German industry complained about having to train new workers every few years, so they got the government to let the workers stay.

This is one of the things that makes me mad to this day. Bracero programs, where foreign workers are allowed to come to an industrialized country to work for awhile are a great idea. The industrialized country gets the benefit of cheap labour, and the worker’s country gets bootstrapped upwards on the development scale. Alas because industry would rather blatantly exploit illegals or hire a permanent underclass, this option is almost never used. And the liberals get blamed for the downside.

2. The cat bin lady, Mary Bale. This was a huge deal some weeks ago. Some woman was walking along, petted a cat, and then tossed the cat in a residential rubbish bin. All recorded on security video, which the cat owners posted in order to identify her. And then the solid human waste matter intercepted the rotating turbine blades (thanks, Ralph Johnson.) She became a world wide Internet villain, her life was threatened, and she even had police protection for awhile. She ultimately was fined about $500 and forbidden from owning pets for five years.

Two points here. For one thing, the level of outrage generated by this is probably the greatest ratio of outrage to incident in history. I mean, yeah, it wasn’t a nice thing to do, but far far far worse happens every day. And for God’s sake, death threats? I love kittehs too, and if someone did this to my cat I’d be outraged too. However, it would be a “What the hell is wrong with you?” outrage, not an “I’m gonna kill you!” outrage. Let’s keep some perspective here folks. Secondly, and this is where a lot of people fail psychology 101, this was obviously an impulsive action on her part. All people are prone to acting out impulsively without really thinking it through, a lot of suicides are impulsive for God’s sake. This action of hers was more a sign that she was troubled and upset, not a sign that she’s some sort of evil person. Again, perspective here please.

3. The fire in Israel. Turns out Israel has done the same thing the USA has done, obsessed over defence to the point of starving much needed domestic programs in favour of the military. I mean, they have to ask for foreign help to fight a forest fire? Um, what’s wrong with this picture? In any event, this is a good article about the fire and Israel: “A Wildfire Is Burning All Illusions in Israel.”

4. And there’s been a frightening new development in Iran. Iran just announced that they have produced some Uranium ore of their own. Yes, the dastardly Iranians have discovered … mining! International figures actually expressed outrage at this, and some claimed it’s further “proof” of Iran’s evil intentions. No, it’s proof Iran wants to make their own fuel for their own reactors, since they aren’t going to be able to acquire it abroad. Once again, Iran is a signatory to the NPT and their nuclear facilities are carefully monitored by the international community. Which hasn’t stopped certain people from murdering Iranians in the streets, where’s the international outrage on this terrorist act?

Ah well, more and more I think I’m living in Wonderland. Or its evil twin. Did Lewis Carrol have an evil twin? Watching Inception twice this weekend before sleeping has also damaged my already struggling brain. (I highly recommend it.) I’ll try to carry on though. The TSA’s plan to create more crowds for terrorists to  attack should be covered, what’s up with that? Then there’s more wikileaks stuff, the jury is still out on whether this will be a good thing or a bad thing.

Have a great week everyone.

(The above image of the fire in Israel is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s central to illustrating the fire, it’s not being used for profit, and its use here in no conceivable way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Credit and copyright: Reuters/Nir Elias. I chose it because it’s a lovely dramatic image. And, well, to point out the transcendent absurdity that both Muslim and Jewish religious fanatics are blaming the forest fire on God! When Hamas and Israeli religious fanatics agree, can the end times be far behind?)

Written by unitedcats

December 6, 2010 at 1:11 pm