Category Archives: Philosophy (Natural or otherwise)


This is not–as the text and palette might suggest–a photo of me on Mars.

Rather, I am in a science lab, standing in front of a poster summarizing Kerry Cupit‘s experience at the Mars Desert Research Station in February of 2008, having attended an insightful talk on the same subject that he today presented at SFU.

What’s more? I am listening to Viper Pilot‘s hoopy new release Spacelab Invaders while wearing a Space Invaders shirt, itself a product of Viper Pilot Industries, Inc.

(Basically, the jpg is so densely meta that it runs the risk of collapsing in on itself, menacing all life on Earth. [In turn, a reference to the very threat implied on the shirt {DIE, EARTHLING}.])



Filed under Music, Philosophy (Natural or otherwise)

It’s the timecodes that are important here

From: Xxx Xxxxxx
Date: 8 Apr 2008 17:55
Subject: [BCSkeptics Announce] Richard Dawkins Speaks at UBC

The BC Skeptics have a unique opportunity through Yyyyy Yyyyyyyy to acquire tickets to Richard Dawkins speaking at UBC on the Tuesday the 29th of April at 2PM at the Chan Centre.

I am sure I don’t need to tell you who Richard Dawkins is: Evolutionary biologist extraordinaire and, more recently, vocal atheist.

Here are the terms:

I do not know how many tickets can be made available. So I will ask for as many as we need, but they may have to be allotted on a first come, first
serve basis.

You must be seated by 1:45PM at the latest at UBC.

You must get back to me no later than this Friday (April 11) at 8AM.

Finally, you must be prepared to bear the cost: Zero dollars and zero
cents!!! In other venues, he asks $500 a head!

So please email me directly ASAP.


Xxx Xxxxxx

From: Chad Reiss
Date: 8 Apr 2008 17:57
Subject: Re: [BCSkeptics Announce] Richard Dawkins Speaks at UBC

I am absolutely in for this. Please let me if I can do anything to repay the favour.


(I might have been still quicker on the draw had I not forced myself to reread the message to confirm that I hadn’t misinterpreted the offer.)


Filed under Philosophy (Natural or otherwise)

D&D Homebrew

For an atheist1, I certainly end up playing a lot of clerics in D&D.

Well, truth be told, I’m not in a D&D campaign at the moment; we’re actually playing Castles & Crusades. It’s a relatively rules-light mashup of D&D 3.x and first and second edition AD&D. So far, it’s working for me, and I’m looking forward to riding this wave until well after the dust has settled on the launch of D&D 4.0 this summer.

You’ll find below a brief summary of Trond, a deity I created for my character.

Nicknames: The Foe’s Foe, Lord Lilac, Trond the Trusting (sarcastic)
Associations: Demons, Change, Cooperation, The Current Age
Alignment: Neutral
Symbol: An open chain, no two links the same
Colours: Purple, Grey
Flower: Lilac
Weapon: Flail

Nearly a century ago, Trond was a cleric in faithful service to Woroph-Nel. When the demon incursions began, Trond worked his way to front and centre in the protracted battle, eventually coming to serve as figurehead for the ecumenical resistance. Though some faiths criticized his willingness to cooperate with anyone willing (including evil clerics, wizards, and knightly orders), none could doubt the effectiveness of his methods.

Trond was struck down in battle against a massive and grotesque demon-spawn, but not before he had made an impact upon the people and their stories. As an exemplar of humanity, and given the unforeseen rise of the entities his church would come to call “The Foe,” Trond was elevated to godhood (not necessarily unanimously) by the reigning deities. His charge: continue the struggle he championed as a mortal.

Trond’s clergy and devotees as a whole are dynamic and vital. They have not wasted any time in spreading his cause in the short decades the church has been in existence. Much of their success is due to a mandatory period of roaming missionary work that is expected of all able-bodied followers. Even after this time on the road, Trondites are expected to make their homes in an area that will benefit from their faith.

Bonus feature: a portrait of my character, Caspian al-Spahan, done in the style of Rich Burlew’s Order of the Stick.


Caspian al-Spahan

1. And by atheist, I of course mean teapot agnostic.


Filed under Gaming (Video or otherwise), Philosophy (Natural or otherwise), Webcomics

The JESUS Sock

As I used the Flying Spaghetti Monster as a virtual holiday card last year, I guess I have to supply something new this year.

Lo, then, and behold–The JESUS Sock!

The JESUS Sock – a slideshow on Flickr

Atheists, too, stumble upon chance images in nature. We even know the name for such “icons not made by hand”– acheiropoieta–though this does not mean we treat them as anything more than meaningless curiosities.1

In this case, it’s nothing less than the Holy Face of Jesus of Nazareth. It appeared in dust patterns on my liner sock while assisting my partner in her search for evidence of previous glacial flooding, near Polson, MT (two hours north of Missoula).

There can be no doubt that this was an indication that He approved of Michelle’s work to constrain the most recent sequencing of flooding at this site to between 17,000 and 11,000 radiocarbon years before present, James Ussher be damned.

1. Well, I guess it is possible that we might try to make light of them.


Filed under Philosophy (Natural or otherwise)

Flying home in December?

Or flying anywhere, ever?  If so, I encourage you to check out Zerofootprint, where (among other actions to promote sustainability ) you can donate to a carbon offset program commensurate with the waste from your air travel.  Here are example details for a flight I just booked to SF: 

Your Zerofootprint Offsets purchase represents 0.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide

The Zerofootprint team would like to thank you for your carbon purchase. Thinking about your lifestyle in terms of its carbon footprint and doing something about it is an important step towards living a sustainable lifestyle and fighting climate change. The $4.80 you have contributed to offset your flight from VANCOUVER, CANADA to SAN FRANCISCO, USA will help sustain the important work of supporting Canada’s forests.

Our offsets are certified by ISO 14064-2 and fight not only climate change but deforestation, biodiversity loss, and watershed degradation as well.

Nov 12, 2007

I know that jet travel is still B-A-D, and I admit that this is just another self-imposed tax intended to placate those with a guilty conscience, but at least this is a start.  It’s an even easier decision to make once you experience not only how little is asked, but how simple the process is.


Filed under Philosophy (Natural or otherwise)

Just like the prodigal sorcerer, I return


I mean, “prodigal son!”


In any case, we’re kickin’ it Canuckside once again. As may well be apparent, photos have yet to be posted. Though the files are organized, we’ve yet to whittle the 2000+ pics down to something fit for your Someone-Else’s-Vacation attention span.

In the meantime, I’m going to again break my promise not to discuss politics. Late last year, I’d decided against mentioning Adam Curtis’ The Power of Nightmares, but when I stumbled upon a Google Video version just before I left for New Zealand, I changed my mind. Though perhaps a little conspiratorial for my tastes (there’s easier explanation available for some points), it’s still the best discussion of America’s “War on Terror” that I’ve seen to date. Part One is embedded below, with full screen links to all three parts below that.

The Power of Nightmares: Part One | Part Two | Part Three

Here‘s a Guardian article that preceded the doco airing in 2004, and while we’re linking that, you might also enjoy Facist America, in 10 easy steps.

Sorry that none of this is my content, but rest assured there will be comment responses and vacation photos up soon.


Filed under Philosophy (Natural or otherwise)


The arrival of spring also means the return of slagathors to our modest basement apartment. They come in through doors, windows, and cracks in nearly every room, and after living with them so long, I’ve adjusted to them. I’m no longer that creeped out when sliding a paper under them in order to them up and toss them outside. Sometime (sometimes), I’ll even use just my hand.

Deporting a rather large one a few days ago, I remembered an email that I wrote (as it turns out, almost exactly) five years ago. In the interests of demonstrating how very far I’ve come, I thought I might share it with you below. Apologies if the links no longer work. Separate apologies for the language; I guess I wrote with more cusses back then.


Yup. Trilobites.

I’m sure you you’ve seen fossils or at least illustrations of them before. Now, I used to think that nobody knew what trilobites were, but a few years ago I started to get a sense that EVERYbody was in the know. That’s not the point of this message, but it gives me a place to start.

At that time, maybe a decade ago, I was quite big on the shelly little guys, still coasting on a wave of obsession that peaked somewhere around age seven. From the time I was that wee first grader, until the point when I discovered that they perhaps had more public support than I had thought, I have to admit that assuming that I was one of few trilobite supporters did give me a certain sense of independent pride.

In a very real way, it was like rooting for an underdog. Trilobites became extinct during the late Permian period, before all but the most primitive dinosaurs had evolved. They weren’t particularly huge. Or ravenous. Or fast. They weren’t depicted as overly noble or sexy creatures. Most often, they were painted as irksome scuttlers, meandering across an equally primitive ocean floor. Some were herbivores, but the rest were scavengers or (even worse) detrivores. They were an insipid opening act, warming Gaia up for the big show that was to become everybody’s favourite pre-historic beasties, the thunder lizards.

Now, as I grew a little taller, I sensed more and more that there were others around me who dug trilobites, too. In all cases with other bits of knowledge, entertainment, or whatever morsel that I foolishly somehow considered my intimate and exclusive domain, this always managed to distress me a little bit. For me, it usually results in inversely proportional support to what the plebians are throwing their weight behind. Yet, somehow, trilobites seemed to stay dear to my heart. Sure, they were everyone else’s pre-Triassic bitch, but that didn’t mean that I couldn’t fancy them, too. And this, my friends, is unfortunately also not the point.

Enter old age. Or at least post-undergraduate ennui, coupled with a drive to keep learning something (no matter how pathetic), as well as a measure of free time. t’s a chance to research again the stuff that was so cool when I was younger. A new Age of Enlightenment looms. In breaks between X-E, Leisure Town, and a Hilarious House of Frightenstein Tribute, I discover bits of information that I hadn’t known when I was younger (or had perhaps forgotten in the time since), including stuff about about trilobites.

It turns out that they were way more diverse that I might have guessed (over 15 000 species). SWELL! some were capable of rolling themselves into a little ball to protect their relatively sensitive bellies, and are often fossilized in a pill-shaped state. NEAT! The soft tissues that made up the legs and most else of the dorsal portions of the animal are seldom preserved as well as ventral components, simply because the calcite that composed their exoskeleton as more resistant to initial decay before fossilization. COO. . .wha?

This required further study, but it wasn’t long before the Lovecraftian truths were revealed unto me.

I leave the bulk of the legwork up to you, in the hopes that you might heed my simple warning to just stay uninformed, if you’ve ever had a place in your heart for fossilized images of trilobites. In fact, yes–here, feel free to stop reading this message and do some colouring.

But if you are truly tempted to know what perhaps should not be known, and are ready to make a journey which you will never, ever be able to take back, let me ask you: HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A TRILOBITE THAT LOOKS LIKE THIS? (Be sure to scroll down to the reconstruction of the ventral limbs.)

That, kids, is fucking creepy. If not for the tick-like semblances of the image alone, then for the simple fact that some one you know has been forced to take one giant squeamish leap back from ignorant bliss. Perhaps my selective memory is playing tricks on me, but I do not remember seeing a single depiction of a trilobite, avec les jambes horribles. Was I just the only one who missed out here, or is there something seriously wrong with the artistic impressions in academic works intended for first-grade students?

I really should have known, and this is finally the point. You see, for the longest time, trilobites were the sole redeeming grace that I had found with the phylum arthropoda. Save them, every single last arthropod that I had had the misfortune to encounter (in real life or through various forms of media) has, without exception, revolted me.

I admit that I’ve grown to conquer a lot of my fears regarding them, mostly by doing silly things. Like touching their blasphemous exoskeletons. And even basic knowledge of biology imparts the notion that they’re utterly key to most every system on Earth. I’ve even come to recognize a beauty within this chitinous phylum over the past few years. But deep down, on a level I struggle to describe without bringing in those wacky concepts that I don’t even believe in, like auras and chi and the duodenum, arthropods still creeped me the fuck out!

And now, the solace that I took in my affection for at least 15 000 species of the phylum has been unceremoniously ripped from my heart. I feel not only a betrayer, but betrayed, as well. You may slander me as a politically incorrect bastard, perhaps even a phylumist in removing my support, but I can assure you that I will sleep all the better knowing that I remain true to my more base instincts.

Take a closer look at that image. They’ve got those feathery-gill-locomotion thingers, too. Ever seen them wave on a modern aquatic arthropod? I have: instant wiggins, kids.

So, there you have it, the motivation for this message: I want it to be known that I am simply writing off the entirety of arthropods. In toto. Save none. Pas d’exceptions. I feel horrible, but it’s what I have to do. Be happy that my initial shock has passed, and I didn’t follow through on my curse to give up on the sum of invertebrates all together!

Many dear things are crumbling around me, boys and girls, and I fear what damage another single piece of truth might reek upon my fragile soul. But don’t be too worried; as long as I may climb into bed each night, confident in the knowledge that the bony tail club of an ankylosaurus was not merely for show, and could rather be used as a most fearsome weapon, I’ll have the strength to face each dawn that comes to me.

Ventral limbs. Bah.

[Chad and Michelle are currently traveling New Zealand and Fiji. They will return in late May (unless they are consumed whole by giant isopods somewhere along the way). Until they return (or the search for their bodies is officially terminated), chadsblog will update weekly with pre-written content.]

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Filed under Philosophy (Natural or otherwise)