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Greater Is The Art Of Ending

Back in 2000 my good friend Anathea threw a new term at me - "Blogging". I had no idea what she was talking about, but I looked it up on the internet and discovered a new way to build a web site and communicate. So, in January of 2001, "Unscrewing The Inscrutable" was born on the Pyra Labs-owned site "blogger".

I positioned myself as an atheist from the very beginning, using my same catchphrase:

Observations and inanities by a second-shift assistant supervisor in the Puppy-Grinding division of the Evil Atheist Conspiracy® (our motto: "Sure it's cruel, but think of the jobs!")

Back then there were only a few "atheist blogs". There was The Raving Atheist, Stupid Evil Bastard, World Wide Rant, and a few others. There were a lot of atheist web sites around, but blogging was just too new.

Over the years I changed UTI's blogging software a half-dozen times, my web host more than a half-dozen times, and I watched the atheist blogging world explode. I saw Pharyngula appear on the scene in 2002. I created the Carnival Of The Godless in 2005, and watched the Atheist Blogroll being born shortly thereafter. I watched as The Friendly Atheist sold his soul on eBay, and became a fixture in our "atheosphere". It's been a great decade!

When I found that I wasn't writing as much as I used to, I started bringing on co-bloggers to help out. Steven was an early co-blogger who went on to write for the DailyKos, as well as science articles for some major magazines. Alon Levy, Hank Fox, Jim, Paul, Rick all wrote for UTI at some point. Jim especially deserves praise for keeping UTI afloat for the last couple of years. I would have shut it down earlier if it weren't for him.

Now it's time to say goodbye to UTI after 9 years. I'll be shutting down the commenting and removing co-blogger access later this week. I'll keep the site online for a few months for archival purposes, then eventually point the domain name to my Facebook page.

I'd like to thank all my readers over the years for a great run, but like I told Jim today when we talked about this, it is mainly nostalgia and momentum that have kept UTI from shutting down before now. It's time to move on.

I'll still be around - on the blogs in the comments, on Facebook and Twitter, so it's not like I am bowing out completely. Keep in touch! Friend me!

It has been an honor folks.

"Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending." -R.A.H.

Like tears . . . in rain.

So, there's good news, and there's bad news.

Depending on your perspective, you can decide which is which.

On the one hand, I recently heard that it's likely that my SF novel will be published this year. I still have some minor work to do on it before everything is finalized, but the publisher and editor are both very excited about the book. For me, anyway, that's very good news. And with luck, it will be the entry into the publication of several books I am working on (at one stage or another).

On the other hand, the time has come to say goodnight here at UTI.

All things have a natural cycle, a story arc which makes sense. When I first found UTI seven or eight years ago, I was thrilled to discover like-minded rationalists and skeptics who saw the world with something of the same twist that I do. When the opportunity came to join the regular writers here, I was flattered and honored that Brent considered me. I have tried to maintain the same high level of writing and snarky observations on the human condition, sometimes successfully and sometimes less so.

But it is time to move on.

Well Abe says, "Where do you want this killin' done?"*

A BBC investigation into human sacrifice in Uganda has heard first-hand accounts which suggest ritual killings of children may be more common than authorities have acknowledged.

One witch-doctor led us to his secret shrine and said he had clients who regularly captured children and brought their blood and body parts to be consumed by spirits.

Meanwhile, a former witch-doctor who now campaigns to end child sacrifice confessed for the first time to having murdered about 70 people, including his own son.

Hey, he's just following the bible. Not his fault that he didn't read the whole passage.


*Apologies to Bob.

That'd be my luck.

As if the introduction of full-body scanners after some nut set his nuts on fire wasn't enough - now security officials have decided to play a game of "hide the Semtex" and wound up losing a lump of it in a passenger's baggage on an international flight. A lump big enough to down a jetliner. And then they didn't bother to tell anyone for three days.

No, I am not making this up:

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) -- A failed airport security test ended up with a Slovak man unwittingly carrying hidden explosives in his luggage on a flight to Dublin, Slovak officials admitted Wednesday -- a mistake that enraged Irish authorities and shocked aviation experts worldwide.

While the Slovaks blamed the incident on ''a silly and unprofessional mistake,'' Irish officials and security experts said it was foolish for the Slovaks to hide actual bomb parts in the luggage of innocent passengers under any circumstances.

The passenger himself was detained by Irish police for several hours before being let go without charge Tuesday.

It's a miracle!!



Christian arrogance? Nah, not at all!

I don't follow professional sports. I sure as hell don't follow golf. I could really not care less about Tiger Woods, who he sleeps with, or whether his wife beat him up when she found out who he sleeps with.

I don't follow FOX News, or any of the talking-head shows on TV. What idiotic thing one of them says usually goes right past me without me paying the slightest notice - I expect *everything* that they say to be idiotic.

I really, really don't give a shit what particular flavor of religion any of these people follow - I figure most of them only choose one that they figure will help best with their careers, and flog that publicly in order to manipulate the rubes. That goes for sports figures who credit Jesus for that touchdown, news anchors who credit prayer with their cancer going into remission, all of it. It's just an act, unless they are actually even more stupid than I think.

But sometimes, one of these numbskulls will do or say something that even gets my attention. Here's a good one:


I've worked in retail enough to appreciate the anecdotes on "Not Always Right." This one has a delightful UTI twist:

Caller: “Hey…I need y’all to come out to [motel] and take me to the airport.”

Me: “I’m sorry, I don’t think I’ll be able to do that.”

Caller: “Oh, and bring forty-five dollars.”

Me: “I’m sorry sir, I cannot come pick you up.”

Caller: “What? I just came to your crummy town for a weekend and now I gotta get back home. Why the hell aren’t you helping me? I just need a ride and forty-five dollars!”

Me: “Sir, I’m afraid I can’t.”

Caller: “Ain’t y’all a church? Why don’t you get off your lazy a** and come get me?”

Me: “Sir, I am not accustomed to meeting strange men at motels.”

Caller: “Well, it’s obvious YOU ain’t a Christian!”

Happy 2010, one and all!


Have they never heard of body cavities?

Look, not to be too explicit about this, but the use of full body scanners won't make a damned bit of difference to someone who wants to smuggle a bomb or bomb components onto a plane (or anywhere else.) Because there are these things called body cavities, where people have actually been known to insert and hide stuff.

The Dutch have already announced that henceforth all passengers heading to the US will have to go through such scanners. Yesterday on All Things Considered I listened to professional fear-monger and former Bush Administration Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff claim that full body scanners are the solution, but that the evil ACLU had thwarted their use:

Time to invest in Kimberly-Clark,

the makers of Depends:

In the wake of the terrorism attempt Friday on a Northwest Airlines flight, federal officials on Saturday imposed new restrictions on travelers that could lengthen lines at airports and limit the ability of international passengers to move about an airplane.

The government was vague about the steps it was taking, saying that it wanted the security experience to be “unpredictable” and that passengers would not find the same measures at every airport — a prospect that may upset airlines and travelers alike.

But several airlines released detailed information about the restrictions, saying that passengers on international flights coming to the United States will apparently have to remain in their seats for the last hour of a flight without any personal items on their laps. It was not clear how often the rule would affect domestic flights.

That's from today's NYT's article. Here's what's on the TSA site:

We create the meaning. (reprise)

I thought I would repost this item from the end of 2006. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all - I hope yours have the meaning you create.

Jim D.


I had lunch the other day with an old friend and fellow atheist. It’s ironic that we really only get to see one another during the Christmas period, when he is in town to visit family.

In the course of the wide-ranging conversation (we share many opinions, and differ just enough on some others to keep things lively), he mentioned that he thought that what my wife and I were doing in caring for her mom was praiseworthy.

Merry F

"...and all you atheists, too!"

Yeah, pretty well sums it up.

Y'all enjoy, be safe if you have to travel.


"There," says he, "if that line don't fetch them, I don't know Arkansaw!"*

Gods, this is funny:

Q: Is the ButtCandle really a candle?
A: Yes, but not necessarily what you might picture as your dining room table variety of candle. In length and diameter, it's similiar to common candles. However, a hollow channel is cut from bottom to top which causes air to be drawn from the base to the top. In practice, this creates a vacuum at the base which, when inserted in the rectum, gently dislodges intestinal and rectal blockage.

That's from the ButtCandle FAQ.

Yup. ButtCandle. Which is just like it sounds. A candle that you stick in your butt, then light "with the 10" wooden match that is provided." You know, like those silly "Ear Candles" that you can find in woo-shops? Which is how I stumbled across it, over on Phil Plait's site.

Don't use it after having chili, though.


It's all winter fun until someone pulls a gun.

Well, maybe there is a use for Twitter, after all. Seems that in the middle of the big snowstorm smacking the East Coast, some folks in DC decided to organize a good ol' fashioned snowball fight. You know, show up, informal sides, throw snowballs at one another. Some 150 - 200 people joined in. And everyone was having just too much fun.

Until some idiot in a Hummer drives through the intersection where this party is going on, and his vehicle gets smacked by a few snowballs. Said idiot jumps out of said Hummer, and draws a gun.


Seriously, that's what happened. There were plenty of witnesses, plenty of pictures, plenty of video. Here's a good one, where you can clearly see the gun in his left hand:


Nice, eh?

And here's the *really* good part: the guy in question is a D.C. police detective, tentatively identified as Detective Baylor. But don't take my word for it, here he is himself:

Well, Jiminy Cricket, this is a great idea!

When you get in trouble and you don't know right from wrong,
give a little whistle!

Taking the old song lyrics to heart, if inverting the intent a bit, police in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park have come up with a cunning plan to thwart crime:

Oak Park crime: Police pass out whistles to help residents fight back

Jump in burglaries and robberies prompts giveaway

Thousands of Oak Park residents are being equipped with a simple device to help fight crime in the village.

Police are passing out whistles that they are urging citizens to blow if they are victims of or witnesses to a crime.

Officers distributed hundreds of the shiny whistles at two stations along the CTA's Green Line in Oak Park on Friday and will be passing out more Wednesday along the Blue Line. Giveaways elsewhere are expected to take place in the weeks ahead.

"We think they are going to go quick," said Oak Park Police Cmdr. Keenan Williams.

The village conducted a similar program in the 1980s, and Police Chief Rick Tanksley earlier this year suggested bringing it back after statistics showed that burglaries and robberies were on the rise.

Confession Time: Cultural Alienation Edition.

Heard on the radio this morning: this is the 20th Anniversary of the debut of The Simpsons.

And I knew I needed to post another "Confession Time." (If you're new, the rules are simple: 'confess' to some ostensible sin on the given topic, and receive receive forgiveness from the community.) Because I have never seen a complete episode of the series. Nor the movie.

Yeah, I know, I'm some kind of heathen. Actually, I am several kinds of heathen. But in this case I have to confess that I just have never had the inclination to watch The Simpsons. And after the first bit, my sheer contrariness pushed me to avoid the show - when something becomes too popular or hyped, I have a natural inclination to go against the crowd.


Another victory in the War On Christmas!!!

Winter Display Featuring Einstein, Bill Gates Can Go Up at Ark. Capitol, Federal Judge Rules

A secular display celebrating the winter solstice and "freethinkers" such as Albert Einstein and Bill Gates can be placed at the Arkansas Capitol alongside a traditional Christian nativity scene, a federal judge said Monday.

The Arkansas Society of Freethinkers sued last week after Secretary of State Charlie Daniels rejected its proposal, saying it wasn't consistent with the Capitol's other decorations and displays. The group asked for a quick hearing before the winter solstice, which is Dec. 21.

U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright granted an injunction Monday allowing the display to go up.

Quick, someone tell Bill O'Reilly! Maybe we'll get his head to actually assplode!



Oh, good grief.


Ask Ashley

Spitzer's babe answers all your love-life questions!

Sure, she's made some mistakes. But now Ashley Dupre, the former escort who brought down Gov. Eliot Spitzer, is sharing what she's learned in her new sex, love and relationship column -- exclusively in the New York Post. Is your husband cheating? Is your daughter on a dangerous path? Our readers asked -- and Ashley fired back with her no-nonsense advice.

There are times when I do wish there was a God, and He would just repeat the Flood...


Via a comment here.

And for their next trick . . .

Man, you gotta love the audacity combined with the stupidity:

Tea partyers petition Dem lawmaker to move office to make protests easier

A Christian civil liberties organization on Thursday asked centrist Virginia Rep. Tom Perriello (D) to move his home district office to a location more favorable to protesters.

The Rutherford Institute, which was founded by conservative constitutional lawyer John W. Whitehead, penned a letter to the freshman Perriello citing the concerns of a local tea party group and the University of Virginia College Republicans that the location of his Charlottesville office interferes with their right to protest there.

"Unfortunately, it is your choice of office location that has hindered the ability of citizens to effectively communicate concerning issues of the utmost importance to you, Congress and the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia," wrote Whitehead.

Some lessons are more costly than others.

18 months ago, prompted in part by a couple of incidents in my neck of the woods, I wrote the following:

The police use of Tasers is just simply out of control in this country. Seriously. My dad was a cop, and a lot of my family's friends growing up were cops. They've got a tough job. I know that the use of Tasers have protected the lives of officers. But this is insane. It is no longer just the odd asshole who happens to make the Greatest Hits of Police Abuse on YouTube. It has now become commonplace for the police to grab their Taser anytime someone doesn't immediately do what they're told. Time to get rid of the things, nationwide.

Well, one of the incidents has now been settled:

City pays off man injured in Taser use

The man injured after falling 15 feet from a highway overpass when police shocked him with two Tasers has reached a cash settlement with the city of Columbia.

Well, gee, this is *such* a surprise.

This will likely come as news to you all, I'm sure:

Believers’ Inferences About God’s Beliefs are Egocentric

Religious people tend to use their own beliefs as a guide in thinking about what God believes, but are less constrained when reasoning about other people’s beliefs, according to new study published in the Nov. 30 early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Nicholas Epley, professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, led the research, which included a series of survey and neuroimaging studies to examine the extent to which people’s own beliefs guide their predictions about God’s beliefs. The findings of Epley and his co-authors at Australia’s Monash University and UChicago extend existing work in psychology showing that people are often egocentric when they infer other people’s beliefs.

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