Thoughts on ancestry.

Note: All quotations are from “German-American Folklore”, Mack E. Berrick.

I used to know somebody on Facebook who got upset when I claimed that Southerners weren’t especially persecuted. As an example I mentioned the fact that we were called “dumb Dutchies” growing up. They took that as one town in PA mocking another town’s dialect, but Southerners were especially persecuted because they had become a byword for stupidity. My point wasn’t that Southerners weren’t picked on, certainly they’re more widely known than the PA Dutch, but rather that other groups got picked on for many of the same things they claimed as uniquely Southern persecutions, e.g. not being able to handle/complaining about the weather, their slow way of speaking, and so on. I gave up because the discussion was pretty pointless, but even though they’ll likely never read this, I figured I’d document that, among other things. So let’s start with the stupidity.

“During the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713), the Palatinate was again overrun, and migration to Pennsylvania began in earnest. Fearing that these Germans would become a dominant force, the Pennsylvania Assembly passed laws requiring them to swear allegiance to the British Crown, increasing taxes on newcomers, and threatening disenfranchisement until they learned English.1 The attitude of the English toward the Germans is epitomized in a letter written by Benjamin Franklin in 1753, characterizing them as “the most stupid of their nation,” and expressing the fear that German would soon become the official language of the state.2 Ironically, there is an apochryphal legend that when the first national House of Representatives met in 1789 to decide, among other matters, the official language of the new nation, a tie vote between German and English was broken by the speaker, Friedrich Augustus M├╝hlenberg, a Pennsylvania German, who voted in favor of English.3″

So not only were we considered stupid, we were the original immigrant terror. Yay us! Speaking of Republicans, my mom once said that she hated to tell me, but my great grand father helped establish the Republican party in Schuylkill County. Let’s recall though that the Republicans were a very different beast back in the day, and probably closer to what the Democrats are today. So for example: “Some came as farmers, but substantial numbers remained in St. Louis, where their liberal political inclinations helped keep Missouri in the Union”.

I keep saying that when I moved from PA to WI, in a lot of ways I felt like I hadn’t really moved, you get polkas on the radio in both places, for instance. Apparently there’s a reason for that.

“Similarly in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania Germans who had lived for a time in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, or Illinois constituted a considerable number of settlers in the southern counties.15 However, the majority of German settlers were Forty-eighters-political refugees who had arrived with an intention of establishing German republics in the New World. In fact, when Wisconsin was admitted to the Union in
1848, there was an unsuccessful attempt to establish it as a solely German state.16 Between 1836 and 1850, about forty thousand immigrants, mostly from southern Germany, many of them Catholic, arrived in the state. One immigrant noted as early as 1852 that “German customs and usage reign in Milwaukee.”17 The long-lasting evidence of their influence, here as in St. Louis, was the founding of German breweries, making Milwaukee synonymous with beer production in the United States.18”

So let’s see, I’m liberal and generally opposed to war, good chunk of PA Dutch were and possibly still are pacifists, so check. I’ve said many times that if the Republicans changed, I’d have no problem being Republican. I’m not a Democrat because of the party, I’m a Democrat because they seem to most closely support my ideals. And the Republicans were probably closer back in the day. So check that one off too. Of course I like beer, I’m German. Mustard too, we may as well get that one out of the way. It’s sort of interesting, politically, to find so many potential similarities. I’m reminded of my grand father, who fought in WW II, but also once remarked of Native Americans “we should’ve left them the hell alone”. I couldn’t agree more.

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Stupid FB test, ignore.

Obey your overlord and ignore this damn it! If there’s an overlord, why do we never hear about the underlady?

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Let’s overstate things, as usual!

So I stole this link from a Cracked article.

As usual, the supposed interest to religion is overblown. But that’s typical, so who cares? What I want to demonstrate is WHY it’s overblown. First let’s look at it in terms of “theology”, by which of course he means Christian theology. He argues that this should be terribly interesting to those theologian chaps, because I mean, what happens, does half the soul go to heaven or what? The problem is that he’s making the mistake of assuming that religion identifies the soul with the personality and, like science, the personality with the brain. That’s wrong. But let’s assume he’s absolutely correct, one part of the soul believes and the other doesn’t, oh nos! What will happen to our poor theistatheist? Tune in next week for the shocking conclusion …

OK, pretend it’s next week, because here we go. NOTHING! Absolutely nothing whatsoever. Because in order for something to happen, spiritually speaking this is, it would mean that any doubt you have automatically bars you from whatever Jesus has got going on. And it doesn’t take much familiarity with religion or theology to know that just ain’t true. Because recall, this person had a whole brain at one point. And obviously they had to believe, otherwise the question of whether they go to heaven or not is pointless. So either you believe that the operation or whatever disconnected the two halves of the brain generated some magical new brain states, or they had this belief plus disbelief thing going on back then too. We generally call that doubt, and theologically, it’s not really much of a problem.

But it’s not just religion that makes this uninteresting. At first I was kind of excited, until I realized he wasn’t going to tell us shit. It’s just “here’s what we found out”. Aside from answering NONE of the interesting questions, like how did you train the right hemisphere to communicate? How did you isolate them, i.e. make sure that the correct hemisphere was reacting? Obviously only one would at a time since the communication between them was severed, but how do we know you’ve adequately distinguished them and the correct one is answering? But let’s assume they’ve got all that down. For the next bit, I’m going to state something very simple, and just accept it for the sake of argument. Religion is like art.

OK, so now what? One half’s all, “yay God!”, and the other half is “no way God, you totes don’t exist, whatevs”. Suppose we asked the two halves of the brain a question. We show it two paintings, (see I’m working in visual shit for you visual people here), and we say “which one do you believe is better”? Now I’m guessing here, but the right brain can’t talk because it doesn’t do language, and unless they’ve changed things, it doesn’t do logic and all that either. So the right brain looks at them and goes, “ewwwwh, that M. C. Escher thing is creepy, I totally like this Thomas Kinkade one”! The left brain, on the other hand, is all languagey and logical and stuff, so it goes “umm … I have no idea”. See, I’m not saying you can’t evince reasons as to why you like one painting over the other. I’m saying that liking one over the other is impossible, via pure logic. There’s some sort of emotional reaction in there to distinguish them. Otherwise, you don’t have any motivation to pick one over the other, they’re both the same basic thing, some paint on some medium.

So why did I say religion is like art? Because if religion could be proven logically, well, we wouldn’t have everybody believing, but we’d sure have a lot less argument about it. So I think belief in religion is like taste in art. You might have reasons prompting you to look at it in a new way, I mean obviously reason and emotions play off of each other. But there is no way to prove, logically, that one piece of art is better than another, or even that one thing is art and another isn’t. So I mean, looking at it, it doesn’t really strike me as all that bizarre, as such, that one half of the brain believes and the other doesn’t, just as it doesn’t strike me as all that bizarre that one half would appreciate poetry more than the other, let’s say. So when I said it was uninteresting above, I didn’t mean that literally. I just mean, the implication is, wow this is interesting because it’s just gonna play hell with what you THOUGHT you KNEW about the brain and people and … I’m sorry, it just doesn’t strike me as all that outre.

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Testing the new blog

OK, so this is the obligatory test post, to see if the new platform is accessible, seems decent enough so far. Posterous decided to shut down, rather, Twitter decided to kill Posterous, so now I’m here. WordPress has been around for quite a good while, so hopefully it should be pretty stable. The old Posterous content has been imported, and I’ll hopefully have some more older stuff in the next few days, since I don’t really use blogger much I might just import that stuff over and delete those blogs.

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Riligulous, Mormons, atonement, atheists, and science.

The post I keep promising on porn in ancient religions is in progress, but until then, I thought I’d tackle this, because I’ve been saying it for ages, but recently came across a great example of what I’m driving at.

So in a conversation, somebody mentioned that according to Religulous, if you’re a Mormon and you stop tithing, you risk the equivalent of shunning in the Amish community, i.e. none of your family would talk to you. Somebody else said that as pretty much an ex Mormon, that wasn’t their experience at all. So who’s right? Well, they’re both right, and at least Religulous talked to some people. But I keep telling atheists that, if you’re going to make pronouncements on “religion” or even Christianity or such, be the scientist you claim to be, and go look at actual religion. So to be clear, if you personally just don’t believe in God or religion or whatever, I’m probably not talking to you. But if you’ve written any books, or go on the internet and debate this stuff, or talk to people about it, then pay attention, because I AM talking to you.

So what’s the problem here? Well, the same problem with any research, and I’m going to illustrate with Christianity. Go ask most people how atonement works, i.e. how you get saved, and you’ll probably hear something about how we’re all sinners and Jesus died on the cross to save us. If you have somebody who knows a bit more, you’ll hear stuff about a blood debt, particularly if they’re Evangelical. This theory was developed by Anselm, and is sometimes called substitutionary atonement. The basic upshot is that since we’re all sinners and thus imperfect, Jesus, who’s perfect, had to be the sacrifice to redeem us, since we couldn’t do it ourselves, being imperfect. If you’ve read anything I’ve written ever, you should realize there’s a problem coming up.

Here’s the problem. While this is the understanding of probably the vast majority of Western Christians, it’s not the understanding of ALL, and then, there’s the Eastern Orthodox to deal with. They have a whole different idea of how atonement works, essentially, Jesus’ death occurred so that we could be transformed into more god-like beings, and early Christianity held much the same view, we atoned via moral transformation. See:

The point should be obvious, reacting to only one form of atonement, say, feeling that God is owed a blood debt is barbaric, doesn’t really apply to a good chunk of Christianity, even if it applies to ALL the Christianity you personally encounter. Maybe back in the day, you could be forgiven, although assuming what you know is the totality of a thing is pretty sloppy anyway. But now, with the internet, it would take you about five seconds to look up atonement and find out that not all Christians hold to the substitutionary sacrifice version. The problem gets a lot worse when you drag in other religions, because most people who talk about the subject just assume they work like whatever religion they have some sort of familiarity with. To return to Religulous, it should be pretty clear we’ve got bias going on. I’m not saying ONLY shunned ex Mormons were contacted purposely, but it’s pretty clear they needed a wider net, if they intended to deal with the subject accurately.

Of course, as I said at the beginning, Religulous is also entirely correct. Some Mormons DO get shunned by their family for failing to tithe, or for leaving the church. And I’d agree that substitutionary atonement is pretty barbaric. I am in no way trying to pretty up the issues with religion in general, or any religion in particular. I am simply demonstrating that we need to be careful, when making pronouncements about religion or a given religion, that we’ve done our research as carefully as possible.

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Dan moi with Tuner: final demonstration of single sound.

The mp3 should be pretty self-explanatory.

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Speaker phone overtones.

Well I said you could do it with a dial tone, but it wouldn’t be as interesting. Here you go.


In some areas of New Guinea, they do the same thing with a beetle. They hold the buzzing wings in front of their mouth. I think it’s a children’s thing, probably a precursor to the jew’s harp or mouth bow.

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