Summer Reading List!

2 06 2011

Disclaimer: Shout out to my friend Michelle who reminded me how badly I needed to do a blog post like this! :)

http://yichellemoungblom.tumblr.com/

This year, I’ve become extraordinarily interested in the realm of mathematics, physics, relativity, and quantum mechanics. In fact, at the beginning of the year, I had pretty much “decided” that I wanted to be a political science major, and I planned to run for public office when I grew up. However, after some exposure to new world views and philosophies, for some reason, I couldn’t imagine what a university would teach me in political science courses. (Based on recent political happenings, I’d say that they would teach me how to lie, cheat, steal, commingle with ladies of the night in sleazy motels and Argentina(?), and manipulate people as a whole for greedy multinational corporations. In case you can’t tell, I’ve become rather cynical about politics.)

One day, I was at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore in Mankato, Minnesota, and I strolled past the science section. I saw such books as Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and Leonard Susskind’s The Black Hole War. That day, I spent hundreds of dollars on nerdy books.

For some reason, I had came to the conclusion that what happens on the Earth is really pretty unimportant in the long-term, because, as Carl Sagan would put it, we’re basically just a “Pale Blue Dot” in the large picture of the universe. I’ve become convinced that a much more interesting field of study is mathematics and physics, especially relativity and quantum mechanics.

My bookshelf is now filled with such books, and my plan for this summer is to cram as much facts into my brain about astrophysics as I possibly can.

At any length, here’s my summer reading list (you may notice some fiction on there):

  • Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Greg Mortenson
  • The Waxman Report: How Congress Really Works by Henry Waxman
  • The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman
  • Bush at War by Bob Woodward
  • Death by Black Hole, and Other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
  • The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power by Jeff Sharlet
  • Quantum Man: Richard Feynmann’s  Life in Science by Lawrence M. Krauss
  • Neutrino by Frank Close
  • The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory by Brian Greene
  • The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos by Brian Greene
  • C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy by Jeff Sharlet
  • Quantum Theory by David Bohm
  • The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics by Leonard Susskind
  • Hiding in the Mirror: The Quest for Alternate Realities, from Plato to String Theory (by Way of Alice in Wonderland, Einstein, and the Twilight Zone) by Lawrence M. Krauss
  • The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality by Brian Greene
  • Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportaion, and Time Travel by Michio Kaku
  • Hyperspace: a Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the 10th Dimension by Michio Kaku
  • Parallel Worlds: a Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos by Michio Kaku
  • Cosmos by Carl Sagan
  • The Bible (again)
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (again)
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (again)

To be continued…

I know it’s a long list, but it’s good to be ambitious, right?





My Address to Paul Torkelson, Minnesota State Representative

22 05 2011

To all of those who do not belong to the great State of Minnesota–like I do–a brief summary of what is going on in the the great barren northern wasteland of Minnesota can be found here : http://www.startribune.com/politics/statelocal/122401039.html (I really urge you to read the whole article. This kind of bullshit is happening all over the country.)

I get emails from all sorts of grassroots, pro-choice, activist networks, and one of them (I can’t recall the specific one) sent me an email asking me to sign an (e?)petition that would urge my respective state representative to vote against this measure. Of course, I signed the petition. In response, I received this email from my local representative, Paul Torkelson:

“Hi Sanjeev,
Thank you for writing and sharing your views on the marriage amendment.  I understand and appreciate the energy and emotions surrounding the debate regarding the definition of marriage.  I have heard from many people on both sides of the issue and have decided to support the effort to place the question on the ballot.  This question has been on the ballot in more than thirty other states across the country and I believe it would be best to let the people decide the definition of marriage by voting on it. Thanks again for writing.  Whether we agree or have a difference of opinion it is always a good thing to hear from the people I represent here at the capitol.

Take care,
Paul”

Because Paul was so keen on hearing the people he represents, I sent him a response email for the first time:

“Hi, Paul.

The thing that I’m concerned about is that the equality of our citizens is effectively being voted on by the citizens of Minnesota. As far as I know, all Americans are guaranteed equal treatment under law by the U.S. Constitution, the law of the land. To me, I can’t really see a distinction between putting an initiative on the ballot for denying LGBTers the right to marry and putting an initiative on the ballot to prevent interracial marriage or preventing African-Americans or Latinos the right to vote; civil rights aren’t up to the public to decide. This issue isn’t a popular vote issue.

“The reason I’m so concerned, Paul, is because this issue is very dear to me. A close relative of mine is a gay woman. I’m worried because she wants to get married in the future, but she couldn’t because if there was an amendment to the state constitution declaring her and her partner as second-class citizens to heterosexual citizens, like me. The only thing she could do to become married is to move to another state like Iowa or Massachusetts, and that would involve having to form many new relationships, getting a new job, and, effectively, starting all over.

“What kind of signal would be sent to the public if LBGTers weren’t allowed to marry? They wouldn’t have the same rights as straight couples, and many people would assume that their love isn’t as true or real as the love of straight couples, and I KNOW this isn’t true. I have firsthand knowledge of this, and it pains me everyday that much of the public, and in some cases the federal and state governments of this great country, are hostile to my close relative, and that the possibility remains that she will never get the right to marry. It’s a shame.

“I know you are very busy, Paul, but I would greatly appreciate a response.

Take care,

Sanjeev Mishra, MN”

Should we pass laws

1.) preventing interracial marriages?

2.) not allowing non-whites to vote?

3.) not allowing ethnic minorities to drive?

Because, again, I don’t see the difference between any of those three things and not allowing LGBTers to get married. It completely baffles me. If you don’t allow gays to get married, you are taking a right away from them because of something they can’t help. It’s just like the other three issues.

Whenever I debate people on gay marriage, I’ve made a commitment to make them admit one thing: they don’t like gay people. That’s the only reason these imbeciles would oppose gay marriage. It’s completely beyond me why any reasonable, even BARELY reasonable person, would have any reason to oppose gay marriage beyond a religious reason, and there are a lot of reasons why that’s a shitty argument to begin with.

I have yet to receive a response from Paul, and I fully expect to not get one. However, it would be nice if he listened to his constituent and represented me on Minnesota’s Capitol Hill.





James the Preacher

26 04 2011

So, this weekend, I attended the American Atheist Convention in Des Moines, Iowa. The speakers were great, and the overall experience was amazing. Outside, however,  protesters held up signs and marched back and forth in an effort to show all the atheists inside that God loves them. There was one caveat, though: if someone didn’t believe in this all-loving God, they would burn in a lake of fire for all of eternity. They held up signs like this:

Me with Friendly Protesters

I saw these guys. and I was like, "PICTURE!"

We offered them tidings of goodwill, hot meals, and COFFEE(!) that were only a couple steps and one door away, but they wouldn’t budge. Our grand scheme to deconvert all the believers and force our heathen-ness on them had failed once again. Additionally, it seemed that, at a couple points, the protesters became kind of perplexed that the supposedly “amoral” atheists had come out and offered the the protesters coffee and other amenities. Hopefully we were able to demonstrate to them that it is possible have morals without a belief in God.

Anyways, these guys were pretty friendly, but also pretty unknowledgeable. (At one point, an atheist with parents who experienced the Holocaust asked why an all-loving God would permit 6 million of his chosen people to die, to which there was a rambling non-response.)

There was actually a pretty funny incident that made local news, too: a Catholic walking by the hotel saw these protesters and told them that what they were doing was wrong and that they shouldn’t be proselytizing. A heated argument ensued, and (luckily!) a reporter with a camera walked by during the argument and filmed the entire incident! :D (I’m pretty sure the local segment was called, “Local Atheist Convention Spurs Debate Among Christians Over Interpretations of the Bible.”)

The first day went about without much incident, but the second day…that was a different story.

James the Preacher

James the fucking Preacher.

While I was outside debating some relatively calm protesters, this guy shows up, and, according to his t-shirt and signs, atheists, church gossips, drunkards, abortionists, thieves, sex addicts, druggies, liars, homosexuals, the effeminate, gamblers, and effeminate gamblers were ALL going to hell. Joy.

James arrived pretty boisterously and he made it QUITE clear what he thought about the atheist community. Along with his marginalizing, extreme, and vitriolic rhetoric, James brought his family: his two soft-spoken sons, his also soft-spoken daughter, and his wife who was wielding the same all-mighty weapon that I was armed with: a semi-automatic machine gun/hand grenade launcher a video camera.

Here are some memorable lines from the Preacher:

“[I am here] preaching the Gospel to wicked and un-Godly people who are stupid enough to reject God, and the reason why is because they love their sin, and they’re full of pride. John, Chapter 3.”

On the people at the convention: “They’re dykes, they’re lesbians, they’re Sodomites, they’re liars, they’re thieves, they’re fornicators. That’s what the Bible says.”

“[Calling them dykes and lesbians] is derogatory! God is derogatory!”

At one point, James holds up a sign that says “WOMEN SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO VOTE”. One of the atheist observers reacts pretty angrily, although it should be noted that she really only called the “Preacher” a “fucking son of a bitch,” and that it really pales in comparison to the violent and disturbing words of James.

After a while of taping James’ words, I got bored of what he said because he essentially recycled the same phrases over and over again. So, I went over to the rest of his family that he brought along and asked them some questions. They didn’t really say much, but they did tell me that they were all related and that they agreed with everything the preacher had to say. Later in the rant (not on video) the family started a chant with James.

It seems like all of this hate speech is a far cry from the thoughts of most Christians, and I recognize that this is true. In fact, a lot of my friends are Christians, if not devout Christians, and they would never say ANY of these hateful statements. BUT, it really should be noted that a lot of things that James said weren’t made up; a lot, if not most of the statements, actually had Biblical roots:

(King James Version): “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13)

(New International Version) “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” (Leviticus 20:13)

(New King James Version) “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.

(New King James Version) “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.

(New Living Translation): “The penalty for homosexual acts is death to both parties. They have committed a detestable act, and are guilty of a capital offense.”

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” (I Corinthians 11:3)

“For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” (I Corinthians 11:8-9)

“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Whoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death. He that sacrificeth unto any god, save to the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.“(Exodus 22:18-20)

“Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (I Timothy 2:11-14)

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:22-24)

“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” (I Corinthians 14:34-35)

So there it is. It seems that James essentially took a more literal interpretation of the Old Testament than most, and that’s pretty much what it boils down to: interpretation. And every person is going to have a DIFFERENT interpretation of the Bible because every person is DIFFERENT. In this case, the difference in James’ case is probably that he was indoctrinated with all of these beliefs as a child, and that he is probably more of a literal person. That explains all of the rhetoric.

However, none of this changes the fact that his hate speech is EXTREMELY violent and dangerous, and it is the same kind of rhetoric that spurs anti-gay and anti-feminist movements throughout the country, and in the worst cases, provokes violence against atheist and gay activists. Don’t get me wrong, James had every right in the world to go to that street corner and start screaming at every person in sight that every person inside the American Atheist Convention, that edification of amorality and and drunkenness(?), was going to hell. His rights to free speech are protected under the First Amendment of the United States Bill of Rights. But, it really should be the responsibility of everyone who believes in human dignity and human equality to combat this kind of stuff whenever they see it. It impacts lives, and in the greatest of cases, it can SAVE lives.

So yeah. That was my weekend. :)







26 04 2011

Hey, everybody. Well, I decided to start a blog because I was sick of drowning in my Facebook Newsfeed, if that makes any sense. Moreover, I kind of felt like my presence on the internet–as of late–was that of merely an observer; I wanted to be a CREATOR of content on the internet and contribute to the ever expanding sea of consciousness and knowledge.

I’m probably going to be posting a lot about the universe, humanity’s place in it, etc. I’ve been watching a lot of Science Channel and reading Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time (the illustrated edition because I’m too apish to read it like a normal, text-comprehending person) and I’m sure that both of these have spurred my interest. However, I’m sure that I’m going to post about a bunch of random other stuff, too. Sooo…..it’s going to be a journey.

Dark Matter Map of Universe

Dark Matter Map of Universe

And I’m excited.

:)





Hello world!

26 04 2011

Welcome to WordPress.com. After you read this, you should delete and write your own post, with a new title above. Or hit Add New on the left (of the admin dashboard) to start a fresh post.

Here are some suggestions for your first post.

  1. You can find new ideas for what to blog about by reading the Daily Post.
  2. Add PressThis to your browser. It creates a new blog post for you about any interesting  page you read on the web.
  3. Make some changes to this page, and then hit preview on the right. You can alway preview any post or edit you before you share it to the world.







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