Added #atheist Back

A few weeks back, I removed “atheist” from most of my online descriptions. It remained on a few that I forgot, but was definitely off of my email signature. The reason was a disconnect I felt between myself and the Atheist movement.

The reason I feel disconnected is that I think of being an atheist like I think of the fact that I have blue eyes and brown hair. I’ve always been an atheist. The first time I used the word about myself I was nine years old. A sickly child when I first entered school, I missed a month of school in kindergarten and first grade each. Being home so much, I watched a lot of PBS educational TV and read a lot of books. One those books, was not the Bible. My parents never baptized and never introduced me to religion. I didn’t know the Ten Commandments existed until I was twelve years old. In fourth grade, a kid accidentally said “god darn it”, and immediately started apologizing. I thought he was kidding and laughed like it was a joke.

I’ve never felt discrimination from being an atheist, I didn’t have to come out as an atheist to my family, and I really don’t even know if people cared where I grew up. The modern atheist movement focuses on a lot of things that never applied to me, and almost feels like a parallel atheist movement to me. This is not disparaging what they do, I’m just saying how I feel.

So after thinking about it the last week, and coincidentally doing this on Easter (a holiday I didn’t know was religious in nature until maybe college). I added “atheist” back to all my descriptions, using a lower case ‘a’. I’m using the lower case letter on everything to denote I’m more about the ideas than any specific movement. I may never call myself “Atheist” but “atheist” will be just fine.

Canines, Cancer and Quacks

When Peedee was diagnosed with cancer, the first thing I did was educate myself as much as I could. There isn’t as much available information wise for cancer in dogs, but I was able to prepare myself a bit on what to expect. Initially, we were told that Peedee either had osteosarcoma or chondrosarcoma. Osteosarcoma is bone cancer, and is very difficult to treat. Chondrosarcoma is cancer of the cartilage, and has a better prognosis than bone cancer. Either one would have required removal of at least two ribs.

We went to the specialists, and they gave us a different diagnosis: a primary lung tumor in the periphery of the lung. Primary lung tumors are are pretty rare in dogs, making up less than 1% of all tumors. The prognosis was actually better than expected, and we had a chance for a cure depending on the actual tumor. No biopsy was taken since regardless of what kind of tumor it was, Peedee needed surgery, which he had last Wednesday.

He did not need his ribs removed, instead his sternum was cracked open, he was put on a ventilator, and then an entire lung lobe was removed. The surgery took about an hour and a half, and went really well. Peedee was not having any symptoms, and his health otherwise was really robust. In fact, Peedee has never been sick. I’m not exaggerating. All our other dogs have gone through a few days where they weren’t feeling good. Rennie, Mags, and Finnick were sick when we adopted them. Peedee, however, has never gotten anything. So, while this is totally unscientific, I felt that Peedee’s robust health gave us a great chance for a good prognosis, no matter what kind of cancer it was.

Yesterday we got the news that the tumor was not an aggressive form of cancer, that it grows really slowly. It did not exhibit the structures related to blood vessels that would cause metastasis. Her words included “the best kind of cancer to get” and “this is good news”. There are, of course, no guarantees in medical science when it comes to cancer. However, when the cancer doctor talks of getting past 18 months in an almost matter of fact way, you just are optimistic. Peedee’s cancer was not an immediate death sentence. We got it out, he will be monitored, and despite losing 20% of his lung, his quality of life will likely be quite good for quite a while.

Peedee was lucky in some respects. He happened to have the blood test that initially raised some alarms when his white blood cell count was high, but not outrageously high. We happen to live in a city that has great veterinary specialists. While I wish we hadn’t become familiar with all these specialists, it’s good to know they are there. Peedee was also lucky that we could afford it. Now, I will try be be as humble as I can here, but, the cost of surgery was not even a concern for us. He was going to have it, and we were going to pay for it. Kansas, where we had the surgery done, is a relatively low cost of living area, and the surgery starts at $3000.00. Not everyone can afford that. I do hope, that by paying for it, we’re helping to lower the cost in the long run for other people, but for now, that best treatment is not available to everyone.

Searching online, I found a lot of natural cures. Turmeric and chinese herbs seem to be popular cures for people to give their dogs and cats. Known woo peddler Mercola even has a dedicated page for natural canine cancer cures. It’s really disheartening to see people given this advice, given false hope that their dogs might be cured. What gets me really angry, though, are the alleged doctors giving this advice. It’s awful. I can’t imagine the pain we would have been in if Peedee had not been able to get surgery, if we couldn’t afford the treatment. Maybe I would be in such pain that I would forked over some money in a desperate attempt to save him. I don’t blame the people obviously, just these vultures taking advantage of heartbroken people. It’s awful.

Science is what saved Peedee, but unfortunately, science costs money. I don’t know what to do about it.

Eich, Hobby Lobby & Inconsistency

As just about everyone in my social network probably knows, Brendan Eich “voluntarily” resigned as CEO of the Mozilla Corporation, because of the controversy from a donation in favor of California’s Prop 8 back in 2008. I’ve been thinking it over a lot, because part of me feels a little hypocritical. I also see a lot of inconsistency within my social network and various blogs I follow. I’m not sure even by the end of of this post that I will find myself being very consistent.

Should Eich have remained CEO? Well, in the aftermath of the controversy and Eich’s seeming aloofness, the community he would have been a major figure in obviously turned against him. In that respect, Eich may have been unable to do his job. It’s, strangely, the same kind of reason Adria Richards was fired: her company determined that she was unable to be a developer liaison with all the controversy surrounding her at the time. But what about Eich’s ability otherwise before everything exploded?

The CEO job is different from the CTO job Eich previously had, but it’s not so radically different. An executive level position requires management skills and interaction with people. We have no reason or evidence that Eich was ever accused of discriminating against any GLBTQ employees or members of the Mozilla community. We have even less reason to think he would have discriminated against anyone as CEO, especially after pledging to uphold Mozilla’s values of openness and respect for everyone. From a purely execution point of view, Eich was qualified and able to the CEO.

Now here is where it gets dicey. Eich was pushed out for a six year old contribution against gay marriage. Was that offense great enough to deserve a protest and/or boycott of Mozilla products? And what would I have done if I was a user of Firefox products? Honestly, if I was still a Firefox user, I might have been tempted to switch to a new browser, quietly, and without a public spectacle. I support gay marriage (technically I support no marriage for anyone, but that’s not realistic) and have never voted for anyone who is against it. I don’t support companies that make a point of being against gay marriage (like Chick-fil-A if I wasn’t a vegan already). How could I support Mozilla if Eich remained CEO?

Well, the biggest difference between a Chick-fil-A and Mozilla is that Mozilla has stated values that are inclusive and supportive of equal rights for GLBTQ members. Chick-fil-A as a company has stated the exact opposite values and has donated millions of dollars against gay marriage. Eich would not be a dictator at Mozilla either. He has people to answer to, and I find it highly unlikely that he could have instituted any anti-gay policies with the support of the Mozilla board. CEO’s have bosses and can be fired. The threat of Eich was nil.

This leads me to the idea of corporations having values. I’ve seen people come down firmly on either the side of corporations having values (like openness with Mozilla) or the side of corporations are unable to have values. Of course, corporations have values. We tend to only notice, apparently, when corporations have values we don’t like. Does Planned Parenthood have values? Does the JREF? Don’t we want corporations to have values so that they support equal pay because they want to not because they’re forced to? Valuesaren’t only for companies who have the same values we do. Take Hobby Lobby.

They have from day one decided to run a Christian value based company. I have seen a lot of scorn from liberals about this. Well, atheist liberals I should say. Because they don’t accept Christian values, they don’t think corporations can have values. Because they like Mozilla’s openness and non-discrimination values, they think corporations can have values. See the inconsistency?

If Mozilla can have values, so can Hobby Lobby. End of story.

So happens to people like Eich? Are they now blacklisted despite a blemish-free career? How do we reconcile the quick pace of change on gay marriage acceptance? In 2008, candidates John Edwards and Barack Obama were both against gay marriage. The Democratic party only put gay marriage in the platform in 2012. Obama only came out for supporting gay marriage after letting Biden put out a trial balloon to gauge public acceptance. Even now, Obama says leave it up to the states, a position that would be untenable for abortion supporters about abortion. Interracial marriage? Can you imagine a Democratic candidate that would leave interracial marriage bans up to the states?

So here we are in 2014, in the middle of a rapid cultural shift. Gay marriage is winning, and I guess that means there are some losers. Should we kick the losers while they’re down? Should we start looking at every donor to Proposition 8 and ensure that no one with any power still has a job? Only thirty five thousand people to look at.

For me, I will continue to support pro-gay candidates, pro-gay companies when I can. For those people around me who don’t support gay rights, well, I probably can’t change their mind with a kick to the stomach. I do know I have changed people’s minds about what atheist and vegans are by not being judgemental, and simply explaining how I got to where I am. That’s about all I think I can do.

Thoughts? Am I a hypocrite or am I just struggling like so many others trying to figure this out?

My Fill

This post only has one purpose, and that is as a place to vent. I’m not venting at anyone, and if you think I’m talking about that one person, you’re probably wrong.

I’ve had my fill of small minded, hate filled people who think they deserver to be leaders. I’ve had my fill of people who don’t want to do the work to get on top. I’ve had my fill of people who relish in the misfortune of others. I’ve had my fill of people too lazy to verify anything they’re writing about. I’m tired of people so quick to want to fight that they rush to judgement. I’m tired of people who can’t deal with those a different opinion like mine. I’m done with those people.

The people I like are the ones that can tell me I’m wrong, tell me when I did something poorly, or how I could be better. And after they’re doing that, they’ll still laugh when it’s funny, and then cry when it’s sad. They’re they people who wished us luck last year when Kelly and I went through a devastating blow. Now that we’re going through it again, they’ll wish us luck and be helpful again.

The people I’ve had my fill of? I will be deleting them from my life. I will go as far as blocking websites via my router. I will run every filter known to humanity to block them my social media streams. I will delete them from my cache, my contacts, my web history. They’re gone. I don’t want to have anything to do with them.

Not only do I have more important things at home to worry about, I have more important things to do than pay even a scintilla of attention to those people. This isn’t about holding a grudge, I don’t do that. I will wish them ill, I will not hope harm comes to them. I will simply not think of them at all.

There are far too many smart, caring people I don’t spend enough time talking to, to worry about those other people.

Peedee and the other C-Word

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I really wish I could be back to embarrassing myself about Penn Jillette and Lindy West again. Unfortunately, this time the c-word I’m talking about is cancer. Peedee has it. He either has a chondrosarcoma or a osteosarcoma in his chest. He’ll be going to the oncologist on Wednesday to help formulate a game plan for treatment. We still don’t have a prognosis. I don’t know what else to say right now.

A Flock of Pelicans Visited Us Today

This morning a flock of white pelicans visited our pond today. I have never seen them before around here, though as I learned, they’re very common in Missouri during their migration.

and some video: