Saturday, May 29, 2010

ExMormon -- The Final Chapter!

Many of you are no doubt aware that almost all of the novel ExMormon has been posted online -- serialized from here. And now it's getting to be time to finally post the last chapter! There's just one catch:

Remember how I've said that each of the individual novellas can be read alone? Even the gratuitous love scene. The stories are connected, but you don't need to have read the earlier ones to understand the later ones.

Well, that changes with this chapter.

The Exmo Conference chapter is a lighthearted wrap-up where Elohim watches how the various apostates' lives have turned out. But that means that you have to have read the earlier sections to get it. Fortunately, you have nearly a month. (And, according to my statistics, it's not hard at all to read any one of the eight-and-a-half novellas in one sitting.)

But if you want to pick and choose, here are the choices:

Young Women's: Slumber parties, sibling rivalries, and praying for a testimony are all on the agenda for a good Mormon girl like April.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Happy 101 Sweet Friends!!

It's been too long since I've done a meme. Luckily, the Sweedish bee geek just tagged me for one: "Happy 101 Sweet Friends".

The rules seem to be that you list ten things that make you happy and then tag ten friends. The mathematician in me points out that that multiplies to 100, and wonders where the extra "1" came from. Maybe it's just the bonus happiness that's created by sharing happiness with friends. Anyway, here goes:

1. My adorable family! I feel compelled to add the qualifier that we're not perfect, but I feel like my husband and kids and I are good for each other.

2. Following up on #1 (as I've said before), I think the most wonderful thing about our modern society is that parents have the option to have few kids and expect to see them live to adulthood, rather than a situation where mothers expect to have a lot of kids (if they live long enough themselves) and have to watch most of them die (as most of human kind has had to deal with).

3. Trains. I just love trains.

4. Science!!! I'm not poetic enough to wax poetic about this one myself, but fortunately TMBG and the symphony of Science guys are on the job.

5. Problem-solving. This is related to #4, but not just an extension of it. I love to identify problems, analyze them, and try to come up with solutions. This is a big part of what makes humans so successful and adaptable (and I guess it's also what makes me an engineer IRL).

6. The Internet. I love the way it exposes people to ideas (and people) outside their familiar circle, and encourages them to think and write.

7. Outer Blogness and the rest of my Internet friends -- where would I be without you guys?

8. Travel. You can learn quite a lot about different people and places from books and the Internet, but there's nothing like completing the picture in person.

9. Swapping stories -- another item that makes us human.

10. Our wonderful world!

For the links, I'd like to bring in a selection among the newest blogs of Outer Blogness. (If you're a former Mormon and not yet a member of Outer Blogness and our community blog Main Street Plaza, please leave a comment.)

1. almost pretty
2. A Million Dead-End Streets
3. Don't Mind Me
4. Edith-Marie
5. Eliza R. Snitch
7. Strange Violin Music
8. The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes
9. The Loathsome Joy
10. We Were Going to Be Queens

Monday, May 24, 2010

The central tension of feminism

Many roles, traits, qualities, and tasks are commonly seen as "female"/"feminine" and are also perceived as bad -- or at least are seen as inferior to corresponding male/masculine roles, traits, qualities, and tasks.

For a given item on this list, it may be better to stop seeing the item as bad/inferior. For another, it may be better to stop seeing that item as particularly female or feminine.

Women who have (and like) a given item tend to think it's more "feminist" to break the first link. Stop saying this beautiful female thing is bad! Women who don't have (or don't like) a given item tend to think it's more "feminist" to break the second link. Stop saying this limiting/insulting thing is female!

Women, as a group, are so diverse that for practically any item that's (supposedly) bad/inferior and (supposedly) female/feminine, you find women on both sides of the above equation. And it's not always clear that one of the two sides is wrong, even if their positions naturally come into conflict. (Of course it's also possible that sometimes one of the two sides really is wrong.)

This is just something I always like to keep in the back of my mind when discussing and analyzing women's issues.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Exmormon's Real Launch!!!

The final version of Exmormon is finally available from Amazon!!!

Those of you who have been following this blog are probably asking: "Wasn't it already available?" Here's the difference:

The earlier Lulu edition was a bit of a pre-print test run (without illustrations or ISBN). Now you can get the real published version -- with all of the illustrations and a new professional cover design and layout! Also, I've finally set it up so that you can order a PDF e-copy -- with all of the illustrations in color!

Note that I'm planning to donate the proceeds to Solar Aid and/or to the local conservation partnership with the Masoala National Park in Madagascar. (More about my reasons for this coming soon.)

I'm also starting on a publicity campaign. Here's my first ad, which I'm placing in the program notes of the Secular Student Alliance 2010 Annual Conference. It sounds like it will be a fun conference (I think Greta Christina will be there, among other cool people). I can't attend myself, but if you go, please be sure to admire my beautiful ad. :D

Monday, May 17, 2010

Multi-lingual Puns!!!

Now -- as you know -- we're currently living in Switzerland, the land of many languages!

I pointed out to my kids the other day how funny it is that the German word for cold (kalt) sounds a lot like the Italian word for hot (caldo). So we invented a joke dialog in which a German and an Italian are debating about the weather on a hot day:

Italian: Fa caldo.
German: Nein! Es ist nicht kalt, es it heiss!

(and so on, ad infinitum, for lots of laughs...)

Well just today, my little Leo (who just turned 7), used this same formula to invent his own joke! He noticed that the German word for fast (schnell) sounds an awful lot like the English word snail (something not fast at all!):

English: Look, that is a snail.
German: Nein! Das ist nicht schnell! Das ist langsam!

(and so on, ad infinitum, for lots of laughs... ;^) )

Thursday, May 13, 2010

An even worse reason why religion may be adaptive

The story of "Abraham's Sacrifice" is frequently cited as evidence for why the Bible should not be used as a moral guide. (Not to mention the slightly-less-popular story of Jephthah where the Lord required a father to actually go through with the sacrifice of his child.)

Today, however, I think it would be interesting to look at these stories in a little more context. Like last time, I'm using the word adaptive only to describe things that get one's genes successfully into the next generation -- I don't mean to imply any value judgment.

The thing is this: I understand that human sacrifice was more common in prehistoric societies than modern people realize -- and there was an adaptive reason for it.

Starvation/malnutrition was a major cause of death, if not the major cause of death. Often there would be lean seasons when there won't be enough food in your area for your entire clan/tribe to survive until the next season of plenty. And humans -- being capable of planning for the future -- can identify a dangerously lean season. Ultimately, your clan may have more/healthier survivors if some people make the ultimate sacrifice as soon as you see the crisis coming, rather than having everyone eat what they can until the day they starve to death.

Naturally, this is where religion comes in. Religion is famous for the grand moral re-direction (or cop-out). People can do unethical (even horrific) things -- and feel good about it -- by sincerely believing the simple formula: "it's not my will, it's God's." (See here for a recent example.)

In the case of human sacrifice -- even if it rationally benefits the tribe's survival -- it would be extremely difficult to put it into practice using objective reason alone. Thus, there is adaptive value in believing that the seasons and the plants are controlled by (unseen) intelligent beings that have thoughts and intentions. If you believe that it's the God of the seasons who demands a sacrifice in order to make the plants come into fruit again, then killing one's own child can go from being an unthinkable horror to being a pious duty, perhaps even an honor, that a parent would be willing to carry out.

Anyway, that's just a thought as to why religion may have been adaptive in the past, even if it's not always relevant or helpful in our modern society.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

I think German should be written in camelCase

I'm sure I'm not the first person to suggest this. ;^)

Everyone who's a programmer knows what camelCase is. That's when you use capitals in the names of variables or functions to make them more readable. For example: setLength() or startsWith().

You can probably see where I'm going with this in German.

Consider a simple number like 19,764. In German, it's neunzehntausendsiebenhundertvierundsechzig. Now, wouldn't it be more readable as neunZehnTausendSiebenHundertVierUndSechzig?

They already capitalize all of the nouns anyway, so why not go one step further? For example: "der Waschmaschinenschlauch" => "der WaschMaschinenSchlauch". Better, no?

It would also help with those crazy separable verbs. If you haven't studied German, you may not know that there's a whole class of verbs with prefixes that are sometimes attached, and sometimes find themselves on opposite ends of the sentence...

Take "zumachen" (for closing something like a window). You can say "Ich will das Fenster zumachen" or "Ich mache das Fenster zu." In my fantasy universe, it would be written "zuMachen".

Anyway, if any of you have access to the person who's in charge of German spelling/grammar rules, please be sure and suggest it. ;^)

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Blog Retrospective: Religion & Atheism!

Of course, Mormonism isn't the only religion out there! Sometimes I like to discuss all religions and none:

First of all, there's another religion that's a part of our family religious heritage: Catholicism. My husband is a cultural Catholic in about the same way that I'm a cultural Mormon. So, naturally, we took our kids to Lourdes and had lots of amusing adventures there!

Non-belief doesn't obligate you to give up your holiday traditions (unless you want to), as I've discussed on Easter and Christmas -- including a list of Merry secular carols!

As for Christianity in general, I have to admit I'm not too pleased with it. It seems to inspire some disastrously short-sighted politics, and I'm not convinced you can do much better when saddled with the morals of the Bible. And -- as far-fetched as Mormonism's story seems -- it annoys me to see Christians applying a double-standard of evidence when it comes to the Jesus story. (Their position on the death penalty is also a little counter-intuitive.) Ultimately, I think polytheism makes more logical sense than monotheism+omnipotence. (Spock and Harry Potter also make a good showing.)

Sometimes the believers indicate that they don't think very highly of faith/religion, either, when they try to discredit atheism by calling atheism a faith or a religion.

That said -- even if we disagree -- I think it's important to get along and make a real effort to understand one another. As I explained in a couple of parables about belief, just because we disagree doesn't mean I think you're stupid. And when it comes to personal relationships, it's generally not constructive to harass and harangue people about how wrong you think their beliefs are. Interfaith relationships can be a challenge, as I discussed in "He has his faults, such as being a perverted-democrat-atheist, but....

Even politically, I think that fighting for a shared secular space is more constructive than trying to stop religion (which led to my joke about being a sniveling milquetoast).

Of course, being an atheist isn't all fun and games. That whole death thing is a bit of a drawback. Plus, we're so despised that sometimes even the other out groups shun us. So it's not easy to be "out". Are you? ;^)