Saturday, March 31, 2012

The size of the universe

There are over 200,000 galaxies in this picture alone, each containing billions of stars. This picture represents a very small portion of the sky. The size of the universe really is incomprehensible.

This view shows a section of the widest deep view of the sky ever taken using infrared light, 
with a total effective exposure time of 55 hours. This picture shows a region of the sky 
known as the COSMOS field in the constellation of Sextans (The Sextant). 
More than 200,000 galaxies have been identified in this picture.

Click here to see the full size version-- fair warning, it's a pretty big file (8.8 mb).

Jerry Prevo, shut up about Prop. 5 already.

 When I first moved to Anchorage, it wasn't very long before I heard the name "prevo" thrown around as one of the cultural and political bigwigs of Anchorage as the head pastor of Anchorage Baptist Temple. I've (regrettably) listened to him preach on the radio a few times and overall I found him to be just another milquetoast cookie cutter baptist minister, saying the same tired shit as the rest of them, nothing worthy of particular recognition or disdain. Recently, however, he's been in the news here in Anchorage concerning the upcoming vote on Proposition 5. Prop 5 is a proposed ballot measure that would prevent employers and landlords from discriminating against employees or renters based on their sexual orientation or transgender status. Prevo is vehemently anti- gay rights, and has made many statements to that effect in the past. Here is a small sampling of some of the incredibly stupid shit he has said in the past:
“Once you give special rights to homosexuals, then the next step is you legalize homosexual marriage and so forth.” NYT, 8/17/2009
 "If I have to make the decision whether I'm going to show love and compassion to the extent that young people think homosexuality is okay, I'm not going to do it. I'm tired of the devil getting our young people mixed-up in homosexuality."
"Maybe, worst of all, this ordinance would allow a man who teaches a second grade class or any grade to show up as a woman in the classroom and the School District could do nothing because of this ordinance."
"If passed, these 'special rights' for homosexuals will take away the rights of religious groups, churches, organizations, businesses, religious people, and individuals."
"[Anti-discrimination laws] would allow any man to dress like a woman and use any public women's restroom. Ladies, do you want that to happen? If not then you should contact the Anchorage Assembly and show up at the June 9 public hearing." -Anchorage Daily News, 1/17/2012
"If God doesn't judge America for its sin, he'll have to apologize to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, because we're guilty today of the same sin they were guilty of."
 And so forth. You get the point, this guy's got no love for gays. He even goes so far as to say that he's not going to show love and compassion to the extent that young people think homosexuality is ok (I'm sure Jesus would be on the side of showing less love and compassion to someone). But then again what do you expect from a guy who's been asshole buddies with hatemongers like Jerry Falwell for decades (Prevo is on the board of Liberty University, where he received his 2nd doctorate in ministry)?

Prevo believes that homosexuality is a choice made by the individual, and that this choice is immoral. He also believes that employers and landlords should be allowed to discriminate against employees or renters who they believe have made this choice. He believes that prohibiting them from being able to fire or refuse to rent to homosexuals so is equivalent to "special rights" for homosexuals, as evidenced in the NYT quote above. 

So here's a question for Dr. Prevo: since being a Christian is ALSO a choice, should employers and landlords be able to discriminate against Christians? Should I be able to fire my employees because they believe in God, or refuse to rent to someone who chooses to identify as Christian? Now I know what you're thinking, "but Justin, religion is a protected class in America and sexual orientation isn't, so your point is moot!" That's not the issue I'm addressing. I know religion is a protected class. The question is, why is choice of religion protected but not choice of who to love? If it shouldn't be protected because it's a choice, why should Prevo's choice to be a hatemongering asshole who hides behind the Bible be protected? 

Dr. Prevo, what exactly are these special rights you claim homosexuals will get? Is it the right not to be discriminated against for your choices? You have that right now. Or how about the right to practice what they believe without having to pay taxes for the privilege to do so? You also have that right. What about having your choice protected by the force of law? That's a right that you have as well. Jerry Prevo's choice to be a Christian is protected by all these rights, and furthermore, by promoting religious liberty over equality, the government will have in effect said that Prevo's choice to hate homosexuals is more worthy of protection than a gay person's choice to be gay (again, I'm using Prevo's logic here- everyone knows being gay is not something most gay people choose). I guess "special rights" are only special when they're given to gays-- when Jerry Prevo exercises them, they're not special. Maybe we should stop using the term gay rights and start calling them Prevo's Rights.

So what about transgendered people, who will also be protected under the law? Surely Jerry Prevo is an expert on transgendered and intersexed individuals, since he did his doctoral dissertation on 5-alpha-reductase deficiency resulting in decreased production of dihydrotestosterone. Just kidding, he got a degree in magic from the unaccredited Hyles Anderson College and then another degree from Jerry Falwell's Liberty University and School of Hatemongering and Science Denial. But even I will admit that one doesn't have to be an expert on the causes of transgenderism in order to speak on it. So what has Prevo been saying about the plight of transgendered individuals? 

"Transgender is anything that's not gay, that's not lesbian, that's not bisexual, I mean it's any form of any perverted sexual behavior that you feel like you wanna do." - ABT sermon, 6/28/2009

BZZZZZZ! Wrong again, asshole. A person is transgendered if they identify with a gender that's different than their biological one. That's it. "Transgender" does not imply any specific form of sexual orientation; transgender people may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, or asexual. It has nothing to do with any sexual perversion, it has nothing to do with promiscuity, it has nothing to do with anything other than gender identification. Believe it or not Dr. Prevo, not everyone is born completely male or completely female. The fact is that some people, a very small percentage of the population, feel that they are a different gender than the one they were born as. Some men identify as women, and feel that they are women in every way except physically, and vice versa. And far from being sexual deviants or perverts, many transgendered individuals make important contributions to our society. Transgendered individuals include neurobiologists, politicians, educators, entertainers, physicians and professional athletes, lawyers, pilots, engineers, corporate executives, and countless other jobs. And besides being transgendered, what's the one thing all these people have in common? They've faced discrimination during their lives because they're transgendered.

It's not a black and white issue, as much as Dr. Prevo would like it to be dumbed down for his level of intelligence. Prop. 5 will extend protection for individuals who are transgendered, preventing them from having to worry about whether or not their physical and psychological condition will get them fired or evicted. But apparently not wanting to be kicked out of your house or fired from your job for being who you are is a special right, and Prevo is having none of that. 

The fact is that if passed on April 3, Proposition 5 will amend Title 5, Anchorage’s equal rights code, to provide the same legal protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender identity that are already provided based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, age, veteran status, and physical or mental disability. Ultimately Prevo is right about one thing: this issue comes down to choice. You can choose to support extending equal protection to all the members of our society, or you can choose to allow discrimination and hatred to be protected by law.
"When you realize how perverted, how diseased, how depraved it really is, well maybe then you'll say they don't deserve special rights." -ABT Sermon, 6/28/2009
You know you're on the right track when your views are shared by people like Fred Phelps and the Nazi Party of WWII.

Dr. Prevo has been etching his name on the wrong side of history for years now. If you see this horse's ass, tell him I said to shut the fuck up already. In fact, if you see Prevo and you support Prop. 5, you should do your best to show him what discrimination feels like. If he comes into your business, refuse to serve him. Tell him his ignorant hatemongering is not welcome in your establishment and you don't want his money. And tell him why. Bigotry doesn't stop being bigotry just because there's a Bible verse attached to it.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Holy shit look at all this art!

I don't think I've ever really considered myself an "artist." Nevertheless, I've dabbled in quite a few different artistic media over the years, with varying success. Most recently I've taken up sculpting and oil painting, but I've been creating random pieces of what some could possibly call art, be it doodles, drawings, carvings, paintings, whatever for a long time. I figured I would post a few examples of my work in the various different media I've experimented with. Here are some of the things I've done (you can click on any of the pictures to see a bigger version):

Oil painting

I ran out of white paint so I haven't finished the bushes in the bottom corner yet.

Note: This is a picture of my friend Socrates, not the ancient Greek.

Dad watching golf.

Random cartoon sketch practice

Clay Sculpture

Octopus vulgaris. (This guy is currently mounted on my dashboard)
"tortuga" - this will make a lot more sense if you watch Breaking Bad
One night I dreamt I had a brain tumor, and the next day I made this. 
I call it "Wasteland" after a TS Eliot poem I like.
"And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief, And the dry stone no sound of water. 
Only There is shadow under this red rock." -T.S. Eliot, "The Waste Land," 1922
(more pictures here)
Flying Spaghetti Monster!


From the covered bridge near Milford, NH
Shot of the bridge, finished in Photoshop

At my parents' place, where I grew up

Kachemak Bay, Alaska

My friend Scott fishing in Sadie Cove, Alaska

Professor Larry T. Bates, Baylor Law School
My old boss, U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes, NH-02
President Obama

Well, that's a basic portfolio of some of my artistic endeavors over the last few years. Clearly I am not a professional and have no formal training in anything art-related, but for an amateur who dabbles in his free time, I think some of them aren't half bad. What do you think?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

More reality shows I'd like to see

It's no secret that reality tv is a gold mine for networks looking to draw in viewers without the hassle of having to pay writers and produce scripts. But it's also no secret that most reality tv sucks ass. If I have to hear about another season of Survivor or American Idol this fall, I am going to lose it. So rather than just bitch and moan about it, I decided I would try to help. If I can't make it go away, I can at least try to make it better, so here are some more of my suggestions for potential reality shows I would watch. (Part 1 is here.)

Lord of the Flies

With the unprecedented success of Battle Royale The Hunger Games in theaters, the idea of pitting children against each other for survival is inevitable in the world of reality tv. This show harnesses the primal spirit of the eponymous Pulizter Prize-winning novel by William Golding, Lord of the Flies. The premise: 30 boys and girls, ranging from 4th to 7th grade, are dropped on an island with only their school backpacks and their wits to keep them alive for 30 days. Contestants must form alliances and adopt rules in order to find food, shelter and survive in the harrowing emptiness of the ocean. Backs will be crossed, rules will be broken and fat kids may end up dead on a pile of rocks. Tune in this fall on TLC for this year's most exciting thrill since Parking Wars season 2!

Kourtney & Kim Take Juarez

Internationally famous celebutante and acclaimed pornographer Kim Kardashian is seemingly on top of the world these days. With the resounding success of her numerous reality series, including Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Kourney & Kim Take Miami and its even bigger followup Kourney & Kim Take New York, it's inevitable that Kim and her sister Kourtney will continue expanding their empire westward until they claim all the territory from the Adirondacks to Big Sur. And what better city than to capitalize on their growing power and media influence than the hotbed of all the money and power politics in the entire Southwest- Juarez, Mexico! In this series, you'll follow Kourtney & Kim Kardashian as they set up a distribution center for their D-A-S-H clothing stores in downtown Juarez, explore the vibrant nightlife south of the border, visit all the hottest clubs in town, and have violent and bloody turf wars with the Sinaloas and the Los Zetas drug cartels for control of the area! You didn't think Kourtney & Kim would take Juarez without a fight, did you? Little do the cartels know what they're in for! Prepare to be blown away as these Hollywood starlets see if they have what it takes to take Juarez.

America's Strongest Pawn Shop Owners
"Best I can do on this old thing is 5 bucks."
If American reality tv programming has taught us anything, it's that we love to see two things: random old junk belonging to other people, and huge dudes throwing random crap over fences and carrying it across lines. This series on TruTV combines the best of both worlds, when we follow America's Strongest Pawn Shop Owners. Watch them as they carefully seek out valuable items, negotiate them down to amazing bargains, and then lift the items up over their head and see who can hold them there the longest! No longer do you have to decide between watching Magnus VerMagnusson see how many antique barrels he can throw over a fence in 30 seconds or watching Rick on Pawn Stars tell some sap he'll give him $5 for his great grandfather's most prized civil war pistol. Now you can have both, with America's Strongest Pawn Shop Owners- this fall on TruTV.

Being Keanu

Join the fun on OWN Television this spring for an in-depth look at what it's like to be 1999's biggest action star, Keanu Reeves. Whether he's reading lines for an upcoming project, arguing with a staff member at the Go-Kart track, or eating a sandwich alone on a park bench while pondering the meaning of life, Keanu Reeves is living life in the fast lane! Follow along as you wander through the deepest hells of madness and discover exactly what it's like....Being Keanu. Thursdays this spring on OWN.

Kids Say the Most Racist Things
Bullshit you're not.

Anyone who's spent time around kids knows that their cute little minds don't quite have a "socially appropriate" filter developed yet, so they say some crazy things. And we all know that sometimes the things they say are unintentionally incredibly racist. This series brings veteran tv dad and host Bill Cosby together with some of the southeastern United States' most precocious kindergarteners for a bleep-filled romp through children's fucked-up views of society and Cosby's creeping dementia. Rated TV-MA. Fridays this fall on ABC Family!

Bear Grylls Survives Detroit
Auto industry collapsed? Better drink my own piss.

He's braved the darkest jungles of Africa, the icy tundras of the Arctic, the deadly rainforests of South America, and the hottest deserts of Australia and lived to tell about it. But this fall, survival expert Bear Grylls encounters a survival challenge like no other: post-recession Detroit. From the lack of available work opportunities to the collapsed housing market to the roving bands of night predators, Bear Grylls must survive in the toughest urban jungle of them all. As Moe Szyslak put it, "them people are livin' in Mad Max times," and it's going to take every survival skill he's got for Bear Grylls to make it out of Detroit in one piece. Saturdays this summer on The Travel Channel.

Taxicab Citizenship Challenge

Americans love to watch people in taxicabs. This summer, The Discovery Channel and the Department of Homeland Security join forces and combine the thrill of a quiz gameshow with the mundanity of riding in a taxi! Throw in a healthy dose of good old fashioned patriotism and you've got the all new Taxicab Citizenship Challenge! Like its predecessor series Cash Cab, contestants who flag down the special cab will have a chance to have their fare paid for AND win prize money if they answer the trivia questions on American history, customs, and culture correctly- but there's a twist! What the contestants don't know is that if they answer too many questions wrong, their citizenship will be revoked and they'll be driven to the nearest ICE processing center, where a transport bus will take them all the way to Guadalajara, Mexico to begin life anew as an expatriate outcast.Now contestants aren't just competing for prize money and a free ride, they're also fighting to stay in the country!  This summer, it's Taxicab Citizenship Challenge: Because there's no such thing as a free ride in America! Thursdays on Fox.

To Catch A Pageant Mom
"Why don't you have a seat over there?"

To Catch A Pageant Mom, this summer on NBC! Our camera crews go behind the scenes at one of the shadiest, most corrupt, most despicable crime rings in existence today: child beauty pageants. Using his cohorts at child protection group Perverted Justice, host Chris Hansen sets up an elaborate fake child beauty pageant to lure in unsuspecting parents under the guise of entering their child into a beauty pageant. When they arrive, they're greeted by Hansen, who then explains to them that a group of agents from Child Protective Services is standing by to take their children into custody. Sounds raw? that's because IT IS. But when it comes to improving society, Chris Hansen and the team at NBC go after the real child abusers: pageant parents. I mean seriously, have you seen Toddlers & Tiaras? it's like an Al Qaeda recruitment video financed by TLC.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

West Texas Wildlife

I've posted before about some of the wildlife goings-on out in West Texas. My dad has a small piece of land out there and has set up several infrared game cameras to capture the activity of local wildlife in order to better understand deer migration patterns, wildlife population density, environmental impacts of various things, and just to get some cool pictures. He's gotten all kinds of pictures of animals ranging from deer, hogs, coyotes, bobcats, mean-ass raccoons, sheep, and more. I've compiled some of the pictures into an album, which I've posted below. I hope you enjoy these pictures as much as I do.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Welcome to Anchorage, Alaska! (Redux)

Some of you might have noticed that I haven't been writing as much here as I was before. This is due in part to the fact that I had to take some time to study for the Alaska bar exam, a notorious beast that defeated more than 50% of the people who took it the last round, myself included. Sigh. But, now that Bar Exam 2: Electric Boogaloo is over and done with, I finally have time to write regularly again.

I realized that when I was first contemplating moving to Alaska, I was frustrated by the lack of information about living here. I found a few blogs, but most of them weren't exactly a good fit-- either they blogged about their personal lives and Alaska was just sort of incidental,, or they were real estate-based blogs designed to sell you on how great it is to live in Alaska, or they blogged about life in Alaska but they live in a more rural community where things aren't the same as they are in Anchorage. So I decided I would start blogging more about life in Anchorage, from the mundane (like restaurant and local business reviews) to the more interesting (like Anchorage's unique winter and wildlife situations), to anything else that sparks my interest enough to write about. I will refrain from blogging about the legal community, because that's just a bad idea waiting to unravel before my eyes, though it's tempting. I will say that on the whole I find the legal community in Anchorage to be competent, professional, and easy to work with, which is more than I can say for the legal community in other places I've worked. But I digress. The point is, I'm going to try to blog more about living in Anchorage from an outsider's perspective, with the hopes that people who are thinking about moving to Alaska will find it and hopefully it will help them make a more informed decision.

So, what do you want to hear about first?
This doofus has been hanging out in my back yard all weekend, ruining my trees. .