Monday, January 29, 2007

A rich fantasy life

This process of coming out as an atheist has been pretty interesting, and it is only with stuff like this that I realize both how inane the intelligent design idea is, and how impossible it would be to argue with someone (say, a fundamentalist) who has no intention of ever letting rational thought interfere with their beliefs. My mother asked me the other day how I can discount her personal experience of god, and I replied "I think you are someone with a rich fantasy life which includes some kind of higher being."

We got into a brief discussion of Richard Dawkins, as she was with me when I was buying "The God delusion" to surprise Spouse One on our recent vacation. (The surprise went well, Spouse One was delighted, btw.) My mother was trying to explain to me how, as an anglican, she was part of a christianity that was more skeptical and down-to-earth than most.

While I can see her point, compared to some of the cults/churches which she (and I) have attended, it seems incompatible to proclaim a sort-of open-minded skepticism, and yet to still claim that god spoke to her personally about her illness, and healed her. I think that will have to be the subject of another post, though.

So, for now, congratulations to all of you who have understood your imaginary friends for being just that, and gone on to more sophisticated understandings of the universe.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Panama: reading and adventure

So Spouse One and I just got back from a vacation in Panama. Most of it was spent at the beach, which was simply glorious. The water was cool, the breeze was refreshing, the grass-roofed huts were shady, and the weather was HOT (35-40ÂșC). So nice after the chill here.

We had brought a lot of books with us, and I confess to reading most of them, and enjoying the time spent just relaxing. In fact we relaxed so much that we were a day late for our car rental, and had to settle for having a Yaris for a few days - what a ridiculous vehicle! The 4x4 we had on the last day was much better, and was certainly needed on some of the roads. 'Paved' in Panamanian terms seems to mean that the so indicated road was ONCE paved. Potholes the size of the car, and filled with piles of rocks and bricks were the norm. In some spots all that was left was a few 2 foot sections of paved road, and the rest was just dirt and gravel. Also, on all of these roads there are the local minibuses which just plough along, beeping their horns, regardless of the terrain.

I got to take Spouse One SCUBA diving, which went very well, and we will likely be doing some certifying, (re-certifying in my case) on our next trip. Once again I am reminded of how lucky I am to have someone so compatible, that we can enjoy pretty much everything together.

We did a fair bit of driving in Panama, well Spouse One did the driving, I did the navigating. We went shopping, visited the local (yes, sterotypically Korean-run) corner grocery stores, and bombed around on some great back roads. In the 4x4 we went to see an extinct volcanic crater, hiked through the rain forest to a waterfall, swam in a positively chilly mountain stream, and visited the local hot springs/mud baths, where we coated ourselves in mud, and felt much refreshed.

We did a lot of shell hunting on the beach, and found some great stuff that I am looking forward to sharing with my mom - the world's most avid shell collector. I also found a worn dog tag buried in the sand (our hotel was right beside Noriega's beach house where the Americans landed in 1989, and the hotel was also on land, and used buildings which had at one point been part of an American military installation) so I am looking forward to finding out more about the previous owner of the tag.

It was odd being queer there, since it's a pretty thoroughly catholic country, and there are a lot of sex-based gender/behavioural expectations. Spouse One and I caused quite a bit of head turning. Although I have to say that people were also very very nice, and generally helpful.

Clothes were cheap, and also comparatively smaller, which made it clear how much American manufacturers favour vanity sizing. I would wear probably two or more sizes larger in Panama than I do here.

The most "excitement" of the trip was at the end, when the plane that was supposed to take us back clipped another plane on the tarmac after landing, so we ended up spending hours and hours at the airport, before the airline checked us into the local Sheraton for a meal, and a few hours sleep while they sent a replacement plane. I have to say that the Sheraton was delightful, very plush, and it was probably the best sleep I had on the whole trip.

Panamanian airport officials are not very helpful, and I managed to get us onto the pre-boarding list, so that we could get decent seats for the flight home, since their plan was simply to allow a free for all. "This plane is smaller, and has different seat numbers, so everyone will enter the plane in their groups and find seats" seemed a bit too optimistic. I can't stand being squished into strangers, so we managed to get two seats to themselves, and the return flight was pretty uneventful.

My Mom stayed here while we were away, since one of the cats got quite sick immediately before we left, and needed medication twice daily, and we were both a bit worried about how she would be here, since she's pretty dedicatedly religious, however, we locked most of our "stuff that she wouldn't want to find" away, and it seems to have gone well. She even, very sweetly made us some soup, and stocked the fridge and freezer a bit so we had food to eat, which was great after having the flight delayed, and not getting any sleep.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Lately I have been developing an apreciation for casual friendships, and aquaintanceships. I'm a bit clever, and I can be funny, but I tend to look for friendships to be more than just a fun time. I want people I can really relate to, in a number of ways, or who are similar to me. I think it's been a realization that I'm really lucky to already have that person. If I meet more people like that, or people who fill that space for me sometimes, or at certain times then I'll be doing well. It's OK to just have some people that one sees socially, and just gets along with. I also want to put some effort into looking for some people who i can have some kind of intellectual respect for. Sadly, that sort of thing also means that I have to get my lazy ass in gear, and overcome my fear of failure enough to be able to put myself out there as someone who is worth talking to about interesting things. Reading Richard Dawkins latest book has made me aware of how many things I am woefully aware of. His primary school education was more comprehensive than my universtiy degree. Incidentally, that's not a statement of bitterness, more of a recognition of having found some directions for my next batch of reading.

Atheism is the first thing in a long while that has inspired me. I want something to be excited about, to work towards, and to learn about. I am greatly inspired by Dawkins. He mentions in his book having Douglas Adams as his only convert to Atheism, but so long as he shares the credit with Adams, through whom I found him, then Dawkins can count me among his converts as well.