Thursday, December 25, 2008

Optihumanist Holidays

I have put together a list of Optihumanist Holidays.

My family and I have successfully transitioned to celebrating HumanLight instead of Christmas. You can listen to a recent National Public Radio (NPR) audio report on this new holiday, HumanLight: December's Secular Holiday.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Appeal Reply Brief

I have uploaded a reply brief written by my attorney Dean Cook for our Moment of Silence case appeal. Oral arguments are tentatively scheduled for the first week of 2009 February.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Antitheism

I finished reading god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens. If you are looking for a book that enumerates the sins of supernatural-based religions, this is it. Keep a dictionary handy when you read it.

Along with Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris, Hitchens is considered one of the New Atheists. In watching the first DVD of The Atheism Tapes, however, I noted that one of the interviewees described himself as an antitheist. This struck me as more descriptive and I read now that Hitchens has used that term to describe himself in the past.


Saturday, September 06, 2008

Pledge Excusal Letter

At the beginning of each school year, we submit a letter to the teachers of our school children excusing our children from standing for the pledges to the U.S. and Texas flags. The letter cites the appropriate section of the Texas law that permits parents to do so. I have provided a template version of the letter at my State Pledge webpage for parents to download and reuse.

During the recitation of pledges in our public school classrooms, you will see some students choosing to remain seated while others stand. What does this mean to our one nation indivisible? It means religious laws divide us.


Sunday, August 31, 2008

Optihumanist Quiz

Find out if you are an Optihumanist by taking the Optihumanist Quiz.


Saturday, August 02, 2008

Roku Rocks

A year and a half ago, I raved about Vongo, the online service that for a flat fee of just $10 a month would let you download videos to watch on your laptop. Now I have discovered something better.

When you subscribe to the $9 a month plan from Netflix, not only do you get unlimited DVDs one-out-at-a-time snail-mailed to your home, you also get access to their "Instant Play" library to stream to your laptop or your Roku. Roku is a small box that connects to your home wireless Internet allowing you to watch the Netflix "Instant Play" videos on your television.

Roku is family-friendly. As a parent you login with your username and password to the Netflix website from your laptop and then select movies to add to the "Instant Queue". Without having to login, your children then use the Roku remote to scroll through the Instant Queue list on the television. Parents can add hundreds of videos to the Instant Queue for their children to choose from.

In addition to movies, cartoons, and toddler shows, my children have been enjoying the television series A-Team, Astroboy, Incredible Hulk, and Knight Rider. I have enjoyed Dilbert, Heroes, Tick, and The Life of Mammals.

You and your family members can flip between several videos and Roku remembers where you left off watching on each. Unfortunately Roku does not support captions so you have to use your wireless headphones with the volume turned up when the family is sleeping. The other issue is that you cannot power it off without unplugging it so it will dominate the auto-select on your composite audio/video selector switch until you do.

Since Roku uses a wireless connection to your Internet, it is easy enough to move and reconnect when you want to use it in another room but we are considering buying a second. For a one-time cost of $99 for each, the price is not bad, but you then need to upgrade to the two-out-at-a-time Netflix plan of $14 a month.

I highly recommend Roku, especially if you have kids. It has some quirks but it gives you thousands of videos to choose from to stream direct to your television for a small monthly flat fee.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Moment of Silence Appeal

On May 27th, our attorney Dean Cook filed our appeal on the Moment of Silence case. Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed an amicus brief supporting our appeal. I have uploaded the legal briefs and posted links to the AU and ACLU press releases on my Moment of Silence webpage.

I renewed my membership in the AU and the ACLU recently. If you support the separation of church and public school, I encourage you to do the same.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pledge Briefs

My attorney Dean Cook filed a brief requesting a motion for summary judgment regarding the new law adding "under God" to the Texas state pledge. I uploaded it to my State Pledge webpage along with a brief from the state attorney general in opposition and our follow-up response.

I had a chance to read the briefs recently and I found them to be interesting as they contain the legal arguments pro and con. If you read the included excerpts from the legislative debate transcripts, you will note that some of our elected officials saw this law as unconstitutional from the beginning. State representatives of different faiths, a Quaker, a Jew, and a Baptist, took deliberate steps to ensure that the non-secular purpose of the bill was recorded in the legislative history. It is clear from their lines of questioning of the sponsor of the bill that they were cleverly laying the groundwork during the debates for a future separation of church and state lawsuit even though it was a certainty that the bill would garner enough votes to become law.

Speaking of clever heroes, I was pleased with what Mr. Cook wrote on our behalf in his briefs and I think he is persuasive. The next step in the case is that the judge may hear oral arguments or he might just make a judgment based on the written briefs.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Anti-Condom Message in School

Tonight my wife went to preview an educational video about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) to be presented to one of our children at the local middle school here in Carrollton, Texas. It turns out that it was not an educational film but rather an electronic slideshow talk assembled by a local lady. Apparently she has been presenting this material since 1991.

My wife told me that the images of diseased genitalia in the presentation were horrific. When asked, the presenter stated that she did have a couple of students pass out after seeing the images. Some of the parents at the preview talked about hearing of students vomiting after seeing images like these in school.

The presenter also stated that condoms are ineffective against preventing virus-based STDs. She suggested that the reason condom manufacturers print on the boxes that condoms are effective against such diseases is that it would be unprofitable to state otherwise. She stated that when boys ask her about whether wearing two condoms might prevent such diseases, she tells them to ask their parents.

She provides an analogy of two people shaking hands while wearing gloves. She states that the gloves might or might not prevent infection. To be safe, she suggests, you should keep your hands tucked behind your back.

I asked my wife to revoke permission for my child to see this presentation. I am concerned that the agenda of the presentation is primarily an abstinence-only approach to disease prevention. I fear that the misstatement by the presenter that condoms are ineffective in preventing virus-based STDs might result in unwanted pregnancies and potentially lethal infections. More reliable information about the effectiveness of condoms and the ineffectiveness of abstinence-only programs is available on Wikipedia.


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Family Photo

We had this photo of our family taken today. From oldest to youngest, we are David, Shannon, Ada, Ben, Tom, and Abe. Click on the image to see it full size.


Monday, March 31, 2008

Emigration is a Right

I updated my Optihumanist Principles as I wanted to communicate that emigration, i.e., to migrate out of one's nation, is a basic human right. Under the "Our lives are our own" section, I write "Emigration, reproduction, and life span are personal choices."

Nations such as China restrict emigration because productive citizens are obligated to serve the state which raised and trained them. China also restricts the right of reproduction to one child per couple because of the national burden of raising and training children. If the laws of your nation restrict your right to settle elsewhere, raise a large family, and even commit suicide, your life is not your own.

I had intended to add emigration to my Optihumanist Principles earlier but it had slipped my mind. I was reminded of it recently after finishing the 1936 novel We the Living by Ayn Rand.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Never Say Die

I came across a Portfolio.com article on the longevity industry, Never Say Die by Alexandra Wolfe. The article link was posted on the CryoNet mailing list. I have had the opportunity to see a number of the people interviewed in this article speak at venues such as the Alcor conference.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Intelligent Design

The NOVA program Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial was recommended to me by my attorney Dean Cook. I watched with interest as this is a documentary about a recent trial on evolution vs. creationism in government schools. It has parallels with our Moment of Silence and Pledge cases. The entire show is available to watch online.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Secular Purpose

On January 2nd, a judge ruled that the secular purpose of the moment of silence law is not a sham. We disagree and have asked our attorney Dean Cook to file an appeal.

I have uploaded the ruling to my Moment of Silence webpage along with links to recent news articles about the decision. I have also added a transcript of the oral arguments in which Mr. Cook summarized with this memorable quote:

[...] while the free exercise clause clearly prohibits the use of state action to deny the right of free exercise to anyone, it has never meant that a majority could use the machinery of the state to practice its beliefs.