Sunday, November 28, 2010

Facebook Follies: Nativity Myth

My Facebook feed is filled with howls of outrage about this billboard in New Jersey, put up by the group American Atheists.

The Billboard says, "You KNOW it's a Myth. This Season, Celebrate REASON!" [Blogger's note: Odd punctuation is not mine, it's on the billboard.]

"How dare those atheists!" my friends rant. "We never tell atheists that what they believe is wrong!" Uh, folks, yeah, you do. Every day. In so many ways, both explicit and subtle. Even your comments on Facebook letting atheists know that we're all going to burn in hell and that "it's atheists who believe in myths!!!!" is doing exactly that. Do you have no self-awareness at all? Oh, and I'm curious; what myths do atheists believe, and why don't you believe in those "myths"? You weren't very clear about that.

"Why do atheists insist on shoving their beliefs into our faces? Why can't they keep quiet and keep their offensive beliefs to themselves?! Christians would never express their faith publicly, especially at Christmas. (Please ignore the Nativity scenes in front of our Churches, in our front yards, in storefront windows. Also please ignore the Christian carols that have been playing and playing and playing on the radio since Halloween, and torment you in every mall and store you enter.) We're very sensitive to that fact that some people don't believe as we do, or don't believe at all." Right. So, you express your sensitivity and tolerance by protesting this billboard? This one. Single. Billboard. In New Jersey.

Can you explain what offensive atheist beliefs you're complaining about being shoved in your face? Atheism is non-belief. Your yelps that atheists have (wrong) beliefs and faith (in the wrong things) only make sense to you because you don't recognize the logical fallacy of equivocation when you use it. 

"Those atheists are ruining Christmas!" (Horrors! The atheists are on to us! They have history to back them up! They have geography to back them up! They have cosmology to back them up. They have archeology to back them up! They have evidence!!!!! What do we do now?! We're not allowed to torture or burn non-believers anymore! We can picket at the local atheist church! No? Drat! Those clever atheists don't spend their money on building churches! We'll fight back by putting up Nativity scenes in front of our churches and our homes. Oh, yeah, we'll howl and whine and do news stories on Fox on how awful the atheists are! That will show those awful atheists how abominable they and their billboard are! (We hope God is watching. He'll be so impressed!))

If a billboard in New Jersey can ruin Christmas, and what Christmas is supposed to truly mean to Christians, then that's a mighty powerful billboard--and a mighty weak myth you believe in. I'm rooting for the billboard.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Woo in my cookie

I opened my Chinese fortune cookie, and found the standard slip of paper with a "fortune" on one side and "lucky numbers" on the other.

I usually don't pay much attention to my "lucky numbers," but today I started to wonder:

How long are my lucky numbers lucky for exactly? Is there a "use by" date? A "best if used by" date? An expiration date? 

Are the numbers only "lucky" on the day the cookie was bought? Or the day the cookie is opened? Because I sometimes don't open and eat my fortune cookie on the same day I buy Chinese food, so I need to know!!!
Are my numbers lucky today only? Or do they carry over to the day I decide to do...something...with my lucky numbers?

And that "something" I choose to do with my numbers....are my lucky numbers lucky in any game I play using them? 

Can I use them for the Daily Lottery "Pick 3" or "Pick 4"?

I would assume not for the "Pick 3" because how would I know which three numbers out of the six different ones (0,1,2,3,4, and 5) in the six two-digit numbers are the right three to pick?

But I guess I could use two of the six two-digit numbers for the "Pick 4," but which ones?!

This is so complicated!

Since "Bonus Match 5" only uses numbers up to 39, only two of my numbers would be "lucky" if I played that game. But are the rest of the numbers not on the cookie's slip "unlucky"? And, if so, I guess I can't play "Bonus Match 5" either because I'd have to use unlucky numbers, and that probably wouldn't be lucky.

I guess I could use my "lucky" numbers to play "Powerball" and "Mega Millions." And those games have the really big payouts, so no complaint there. Hmm. I wonder if I can use the same "lucky" numbers twice, once for each game. Winning both "Powerball" and "Mega Millions" would, indeed, be lucky.

But wait! How lucky is "lucky"? I hope "lucky" means that all six numbers will result in my winning the really big umpteen-million dollar prize in at least one, if not both, of the games. I wouldn't consider it very "lucky" if I was only "lucky" enough to match one of the numbers drawn and win only $2 or $3. 

I wonder if these "lucky" numbers are only "lucky" in Maryland. Would they also be lucky in other states' lotteries too? 

Hey! I also wonder if they're also lucky in those Canadian and Irish Lotteries that I keep getting email about, telling me that I won, even though, honestly, I don't even remember entering them. Which kind makes me think that I must be very, very lucky even without my Chinese (are there any other kind?) fortune cookies "lucky numbers."

And what about lotteries that aren't quite, um, government-approved? I remember when I was a kid, my older family members would play "the numbers." But I wouldn't even know how to contact someone who knew someone who knew someone who might be a bookie. It's easier just to go to the liquor store and buy a "Powerball" or "Mega Millions" ticket there. And when I win, I won't have to get stressed worrying if "Bernie" was actually going to deliver all the millions I'd won.

I just thought of another potential complication: What if the Chinese lady at the checkout throws an extra fortune cookie in my bag since I'm such a valued customer?! And I end up with two sets of "lucky numbers"? Do I need to choose which set of "lucky numbers" to play? And if so, which one is the lucky set of "lucky numbers"? Or, do I play both sets of numbers? Because it seems to me that that will result in one of the sets of "lucky numbers" being unlucky, since only one set can win. Unless...well, clearly the solution is to use one set for "Powerball" and the other set for "Mega Millions." Problem solved. Silly me!

And--now my mind is swirling at the thought--what if I bought a whole bag of Chinese fortune cookies the next time I'm at the grocery?! And the bag had, like, 50 cookies in it, and they all had different "lucky numbers" inside?!

But just as I started to think that if I bought Chinese food at least once a week and played my "lucky numbers" weekly, I would be really really really rich. And I would quit my job. And I would let being really really rich change me, at least the part of me that gets tired of not being really really rich.

But I digress...

Just as I started planning to eat Chinese more often, I realized I am not the only person who eats Chinese food and gets fortune cookies with "lucky numbers" in them!! Zounds! Sometimes there's an entire line of people waiting to get Chinese food when I go to pick up mine!!

So, how does that work exactly? All those people with all those fortune cookies with all those "lucky numbers" inside?

All this wondering and thinking is giving me a headache. Or maybe my headache's from the MSG. I keep forgetting to tell them "no MSG" when I order.

There's no instruction manual that came with my cookie to explain any of this. Typical. I'm thinking that I'll google "fortune cookie lucky number" and "instructions" to see if I can find any helpful information. Maybe there's a Fortune Cookie Lucky Numbers: The Missing Manual or, more likely (because there's one for just about every possible subject), Fortune Cookie Lucky Numbers for Dummies. I just hope that when I do find the answers to my questions, I don't find out that my "lucky" numbers' luck has expired, and all I have left are "numbers."

Monday, November 15, 2010

In the community: Woo vs woo?

How does a customer decide which woo to choose? 

Are astrology and tarot cards complementary woo or competing woo?

Is this the woo equivalent of an interfaith center in which different irrational practices may be practiced by people who, although they share a building and a belief in silly things, don't share the same belief in the same silly things?

Can you get two different predictions if you do both woos? If not, why even offer two woos? Wouldn't one woo be enough woo?

And, really, if the astrologer and/or card reader could truly predict the future, would they have set up shop in Dundalk, Maryland? Not dissing Dundalk, but seriously. Someone who can predict the future bases herself in the obscurity of Dundalk? Why? Could it be because enough gullible people willing to pay someone to tell them fairy tales about their future live in the Dundalk area?