Thoughts from a (girl) Gamer

Tara Voelker's thoughts. A lot about video games, a little about life

Category Archives: News and Politics

FTC Guidelines – What it means here

Starting December 1, 2009, the new FTC endorsement guide states that bloggers must disclose payments. The FTC does a poor job od defining what a “Blog” is, and althoughtThoughts From a (Girl) Gamer would love to me more… we think we fall into that category. So, I guess we are going to follow the FTC rules.

This policy is valid from 1 January 2010

This blog is a  created by an individual (Tara Tefertiller) is not supported by a company or group of any sorts (other than the fans I mean). This blog does not accept any form of cash advertising, sponsorship, or paid topic insertions. However, we will  accept and keep free products, services, travel, event tickets, and other forms of compensation from companies and organizations (although this has yet to happen, lol).

The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog (especially since I doubt it will happen.)  There are no advertisements on this website.

The owner of this blog is not compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog owner. If we claim or appear to be experts on a certain topic or product or service area, we will only endorse products or services that we believe, based on our expertise, are worthy of such endorsement. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.

This blog does not contain any content which might present a conflict of interest.

Class 0 – No Connection, Unpaid, TGG’s Own Opinion

Tara and the rest of the TGG Staff have not received any compensation for writing this content and TGG has no material connection to the brand, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein.

All TGG posts are this type of post. We are always, ALWAYS, class zero. I can’t think of a reason we would be more than class zero. So, if there is nothing listed as to what type it is, it is class zero. Unless the posts states that it is another class(which it shouldn’t), it defaults to the class 0 category.

I’m going to go ahead and list what the other categories are, but remember – We are always class 0.

Class 1 – Based on Review Copy

TGG has a material connection because we received a review copy (Book, CD, Game, Software, ect), or an item of nominal value that TGG can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content.

Class 2 – Given a Sample

TGG  has a material connection because we received a sample for consideration in preparing to write this content. TGG was not expected to return this item or gift after my review period.

Class 3 – Paid Post

TGG has material connection becauseTGG reveived a cash payment, gift, or item of nominal calue from a company affiliated with a brand, topic and/or products that are mentioned herein

Class 4 – Employee / Shareholder / Business Relationship

TGG has a direct relationship with a brand, topic, or products that are mentioned herein. Details of this connection or relationship are outlined in the content.

Class 5 – Affiliate Marketing Link

TGG have a marketing connection to a brand, topic, or product herein. Through the use of affillate links contained herein, TGG may collect a fee from purchases made.

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Sexual Assaults hit Playstation Home

a news story by Tara

“Fear Over Online Sex Assaults – Gamer players traumatized” was the headline of this past Monday’s Daily Telegraph, a newspaper from Australia. The title draws a sharp reaction. Your eyes are drawn to the article. You’re almost afraid to read it. As a girl gamer, am I in danger of being sexually assaulted because I play games online? The title almost suggest so. In reality, I’m not.

My first thought was “What sort of horrible act must have happened to warrant such a strong title?” I found my answer on a Playstation Home thread entitled “Sexual Assault.” On December 22. 2009, a posted by forum member who goes by “Whoef” stated that his roommate was sexually assaulted while playing in the Playstation Home “Winter Wonderland Event.” He went on to describe the “assault” describing  how a male avatar began repeatedly doing the crouch emote behind his roommate’s avatar, causing it to look like that two avatars were engaged in a sexual act. When the women would move, the harasser would follow. It apparently went on for “some time” until her harasser was reported.
Whoef’s exact post stated:

“This morning I learned that my roommate was sexually assaulted near the Festive Tree while she was helping others with the puzzle. She would move and the harasser would follow. Each time trying to get behind her and use the crouch gesture. This apparently went on for some time. The harasser was warned multiple times and laughed at the thought that someone might report him for his actions, which was eventually done, and also, I’m proud to say, by other bystanders…..

Seriously, if complaints aren’t going to be immediately dealt with by the staff, regardless of the reason, then give some recourse to the victim that doesn’t include punishing the victim further and rewarding the harasser. That sitting gesture should be immediately removed. If sexual assault and other crimes against users, it seems predominantly against women, is allowed to continue, at the very least Home is going to turn into an all male application. Worse, Home is going to lose a lot of money. Starting right now with my roommate’s.

She hasn’t decided whether she will go back into Home. At this point she is rather disappointed with the whole thing and I don’t blame her at all. Me, I’d rather not completely say what I’d like to do. Lets just say it involves food and hungry dogs.”

I wasn’t sure what to think when I first read the post. A newspaper wrote an article about men being immature on the internet and claimed it was a sexual assault? You’ve got to be kidding me. If there was a news article every time that happened, newspapers would be the size of novels.

I was really wondering what other people in the forum thought about this subject, as there have been a lots of posts in response. I read about 12 pages worth of posts and the decided I knew what the community was thinking. The first thing that most people said was this was not assault and it’s not correct to label it as such. Secondly, most people thought that although it was unfortunate that this happened to Whoef’s roommate, and that actions like this should be stopped, but that it was being blown out of proportion. And further more, they all felt like there were more things the woman could have done to protect herself. Over all, I really agreed with most of what the people on the forums were saying in response to the initial posts. Let me break down these arguments and share my thoughts.

Firstly, this is not sexual assault. Sexual assault as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “illegal sexual contact that usually involves force upon a person without consent or is inflicted upon a person who is incapable of giving consent.”  There was no sexual contact here, no force, so by definition, this was not assault. Sexual harassment as defined by the EEOc states that sexual harassment includes discussing sexual activities, telling off-color jokes, unnecessary touching, using crude and offensive language, and using indecent gestures. By definition this is not assault, but maybe harassment. There is a big difference between the two, as any women who has actually been sexually assaulted can tell you. It should be made clear exactly what happened, and using the term assult to grab attention should not be done. I’m not saying that it was right for this women to be harassed, because it wasn’t. I’m saying that her roommate shouldn’t have labeled it an assault.

Secondly, most of the drama could have been avoided. There are several things the roommate could have done. Some of the suggestions made by forum users inclduded ignoring the avatar trying to bother her. Normally, people like that will stop bother you if you stop giving them attention. Or maybe if that wouldn’t work… she could have left the tree puzzle and went to another area of home. Or, if that didn’t work, she could have simply logged off.

Further more, Woelf says that she didn’t report this on her own. Other people reported it for her. Although I can’t say why she didn’t report it, I feel like if this was really as big of an issue as it has blown up to be, she could have reported it herself. Some may say maybe she didn’t know how, but I don’t think that is a good excuse. I’m not a Playstation Home user. I’ve been on it like once at a friend’s house. I can tell you it was really easy to find out how file a report. I literally googled “playstation home filing complaint” and the first thing to pop up was the Playsation Network complaint form. She was totally in the right to file a report if she wanted to. The Playstation Network terms of use under Section 3. Community Code and Conduct that “You may not abuse or harass others, including but not limited to stalking behavior.” Since he was clearing harassing her, she could have reported it, but didn’t.

Most people on the forums think that Woelf is over reacting, especially in his claim that the sitting gesture should be immediately removed. Woelf implies that these sort of complaints aren’t going to be immediately dealt with by the staff and that they should be. Yes, these things should be dealt with by Home moderators immediately, I’m not arguing with that. I’m just wondering how Woelf supposedly knew how quickly all of this was being handled since neither he or his roommate were the ones to report an incident.Further more, you aren’t insta-banded when you do something stupid on PSN. You get suspended twice and then the third time you are banned. You don’t know what’s going on on the other end. Maybe this guy’s 12 year old brother picked up the controller and started doing the harassing. Should the account be instantly banned for that? No. Is it always a kid being stupid? Of course not. Some times it is a creeper on the other end. That’s why if there is three complaints they are kicked.Further more, the idea of removing the sitting emote is ridiculous. People also come up and dance on avatars. Should the dancing animation be removed as well? What do you think will happen then? I have a feeling that people wanting to cause trouble will just have their avatar stand super close to other avatars while sending inappropriate messages. It sounds horrible, but people will wanting to cause trouble will keep finding ways to cause trouble.

Now, I have an idea on why this all made it into the newspaper…. because it was an Australian newspaper… in Australia… where for some reason people think that video games are the devil. We’re talking about the country that banned the American version of 50 Cent: Bulletproof and the American version of L4D2. No other journalist in any other country would have seen this post in a forum and deemed it news. The negative effects of gaming is a big controversy in Australia and it’s as simple as that.

This whole thing may make you wonder, what can Sony do to combat these creepers dancing and humping avatars in their virtual world? Well, they can use what moderators it has and follow up on complaints and that’s about it. Home is free. You don’t pay Sony to use it, so it doesn’t make sense for them to invest more money in it. Maybe it’s a sort of you get what you pay for thing. And when your account is free, you aren’t going to be concerned about possibly having your user name banned because you aren’t losing any capital. And, if you account is banned, you can just make another for free… (Well, that’s until you do it enough times to let Sony know that you’re all the same person and ban your system from the Playstation network.) Playstation Home is a free service, and just like any other service, if you don’t like it- don’t use it.

This all boils down to the fact that none of this is real. There wasn’t a real man humping a real woman, and there was no real sexual contact. Does it suck for her? Yeah. She should be upset? Well, I guess if she wants to. In the end though, it’s not real. It’s like the people who crashed the WOW funeral. Did they hurt people’s feelings? Yeah. Were they probably laughing about it? Yeah. Did they actually crash a funeral? No. Was she actually sexually assaulted? No.

So I guess I can just wrap this up with my final thought. The online world is full of creepers. It’s their first home, and anyone, not just women, can be subject to inapprproate avatar humpings. It’s really part of life, but it’s not a news worthy deal. This should have been handled like any other incident- ignore, log off, or report- not compare to a real crime that devastates real people’s lives.

I know leave you with this Penny Arcade comic- made before this whole “news” story happened:

Play Halo for Haiti

by Tara

I’m sure that by now you have heard about the tragedy that has occurred in Haiti. Haiti, the poor Carribean nation, is used to minor earthquakes which are common in the area. But none of the 9 million people inhabiting the country were ready for the first major earthquake to strike the country in over 16 years, the strongest to ever rock the country. The size and proximity of the the
earthquake to the highly populated city of Port Au Prince has caused widespread causalities and severe structural damage. It’s estimated that over 50% of buildings have been destroyed in the town.

For me, this disaster strikes close to home. One of my family members has three adopted children Haiti. The first few days after the news broke were exceptionally hard for them. They had no idea if their friends and family from home were alive. And although we now know that their father has survived, there are still many friends and family that have not been able to reached. It is really is
heart wrenching to see these children so unsure and so afraid.

There are many ways to help the people of Haiti in their plight. You can text “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10 to American Red Cross which is added directly onto your phone bill. Several of my friends have the Facebook status states “UPS is shipping anything under 50lbs for free to Haiti. You can send food, clothes or shoes…and American Airlines is taking doctors and nurses to Haiti for free. Please call 212-697-9767. Spread the word…Red Cross needs Creole speaking volunteers for a 24hr phone bank. Call Mr. Wilfrid @ 305-776-6900 ASAP…Please Repost this Information.” But what if you don’t have money to send, but want to help? What if you can’t take time off work to travel, but want to help? Do you want to do more than repost a Facebook status? Well, Bungie is here to help you help Haiti.

Bungie has promised to make a donation of $100 dollars for every 1000 players who play either Halo 3 or ODST while wearing a special emblem, for a maximum of $77,000. That’s right, you can help the people of Haiti by playing video games tomorrow and Thursday. Here are the specifics as posted on Bungie’s To Be a Hero webpage:


1. Round up all of your friends and hop online with Halo 3 or ODST any time next from 00:01AM PST

Wednesday, 1/20, through 23:59PM PST Thursday 1/21.

2. Edit your appearance settings so your character is wearing the RED HEART emblem.

a. Press START
b. Select “SETTINGS” / “APPEARANCE”
c. Select “EMBLEM”
d. Select “Hearts” ICON, “Circle” BACKGROUND
e. Back out to the APPEARANCES menu and select “COLORS”
f. Set “EMBLEM PRIMARY” to RED (or MAROON / BRICK / ROSE depending on which game you’re

playing!)
g. Set “EMBLEM SECONDARY” to WHITE

3. Once your emblem is set, play! This can be a custom game or a matchmaking game, just make sure

it’s played online, on Xbox LIVE, or we can’t track it.

If you keep playing more games through midnight on Thursday, KEEP THE HEART EMBLEM ENABLED or you may not get counted.

Bungie is also selling special edition tee shirts at the Bunjie store, where 100% of the profits from the shirts are going to the Red Cross.

I will be playing playing Halo 3 tomorrow, and I recommend that you do the same. Please, join me and help Haiti. Help my adoptive family find their family. If you would like to play with me, feel free to find me on XBL and play. My gamer tag is Ladie Au Pair. I hope to see you online.

Video Games Invented by the Devil

by Kristianna

I was reading an article earlier today about comparing the positive and negative effects of video games. The author talked about how we always hear the negative in the media, but rarely do we see the positive effects. While I believe the author meant well, I should clarify here for him and all avid gamers alike. People are drawn to negativity, and the instant video games are linked to something terrible, it’s finger pointing bandwagon that every body seems to hitch their horse on.

I would like to point out the fact that it’s NOT rare that we see the positive in video games. For  years researchers and scientists have been pointing out it’s positive physical and cognitive effects. Gossip is contagious, and as long as people enjoy spreading propaganda, the negativity will always make the top headlines.

I do not debate the fact that  there have been tragic instances where video games have been involved. The Virginia Tech shootings (which is still up in the air), a 9 year old boy stabbed over a Tony Hawk game, etc. But I would like to bring to the attention to parents, friends, adults alike. Video games are like movies, when the subject matter of the game is too much for a person, I believe it’s the parents responsibility to step in. Know what your kids are playing, asses their sense of maturity. Just because a child is 17, it does not mean he or she is mature enough for the game and it’s contents, and vice versa.

For tragic situations, like the Virginia Tech shootings, the shooter was an adult. Now as far as I’m aware nothing was proved to link the two, but lets pretend there is a link. The video game set him off. If it wasn’t a video game then it would have been a TV show or a movie, if not for that then the radio, if not for that then a play. Someone who is mentally disturbed isn’t suddenly set off just by video games alone, and someone of this caliber should have been watched more closely by his parents and teachers. It’s a deflective strategy to blame video games when someone’s lacking responsibility leads to unfortunate circumstances. Sadly this is an ignorant but effective tactic.

Those in science and research have dedicated many years of providing hard factual evidence. The least we can do is acknowledge these facts when forming opinions on this controversial subject.

Many research studies have shown the positive effects video games have on fine motor skills. A study was conducted in 2004 on the effects of video games with surgeons. The results showed an improvement on reaction time and a lower probability of mistakes. Another recent study conducted by Paul Schrater, University of Minnesota’s Assistant Professor of Psychology and Science,  noted the improvement not on just the skills required to beat the game, but an improvement on many other skills as well. Schrater also noted, “violent video games actually work better to improve motor skills than nonviolent games, like Tetris.” He followed up by comparing the relationship of challenging games being more fun, thus making learning easier.

At  University of Sunderland, Chris Whitehead, a final year Psych major conducted a study on the skill of teamwork in violent games. Whitehead stated “Team objective-based games require a lot of communication between players to allow them to complete objective, and playing such games can improve these skills and potentially help develop leadership styles.”  He acknowledged a link between aggression and children in video games, especially with many violent games on the rise. Whitehead followed up by stating

“I am sure we will see a surge in controversy around the subject, but I would argue that the main cause of this link is due to parents ignoring ratings and allowing their children to play games not suitable for them. Games such as Halo, Call of Duty, and even Grand Theft Auto have the potential to become a powerful learning tool.”


One of the controversial realms to video games is it’s massive online multiplayer world. In this world you make friends not based on your weight, height, race, gender, or religion. You make friends based on your skill and personality. The more you practice, the better you become, and the better you become the more confident you are.  Researchers at McGill University did a study on the impact of gaming lowering stress levels. The more confident the players became in the game, the more they lowered the production of a stress-related hormone called cortisol (up to 17% lowered).

The University of Central Florida did a study of incorporating video games into schools. Three titles were used by the DimensionM series.  The study was done with 193 algebra and pre-algebra students and 10 math teachers. The results were astounding.

“Students in the experimental groups who played Tabula Digita video games over an 18-week period scored significantly higher (in some cases, twice as high) on district benchmark tests than students in the control group who did not play video games.”


This is just a few of the many studies on the positive effects of gaming that can be found. This information is readily available for those who wish to make informed decisions. For those concerned with children playing violent games, here’s a tip. Don’t let them. There are many non-violent games out there. If you don’t want your child playing adult themed games, then be the parent and don’t let them. Just like movies, there are many different types of video games meant for different purposes and age levels. Video games keep kids off of the street, promote teamwork and communication, improve confidence and the development of fine motor skills. If we took the time to properly utilize this technology, I think we would all find the results to be astoundingly beneficial.

Happy gaming fellow gamers.

Season’s Beatings Coverage

Hey guys,

As some of you may know, I’ve started pulling double duty. I’ve recently started writing for AbleGamers.com – and I’m super proud of it. I will be posting way more often on that site, mainly because I actually have people expectations for there and here I don’t care that I’m a slacker. My first post for AbleGamers was my coverage of Seaon’s Beatings – the largest fighting game tournament in the MidWest.

So – here ya go

The Main Article

Interview with Seth Killian and video of Tatsunoko vs CAPCOM

Interview with Justin Wong And Daigo Umehara

Pictures!

Alright,

Thanks guys. I’m working one some posts for here an hopefully I will have it at least one up later today.

Today’s Brilliant Quote

found by Tara while browsing the internet

“When ever anyone says to you “Gay marriage erodes the holy bonds of matrimony,” I want you to show them these pictures of Mr. & Mrs. Asshat’s MTV-sponsored nuptials. If that doesn’t change his/her mind, congratulations. You’re high and talking to the cat again.”

montag pratt marry 260409

Source

Proper Etiquette– You Dumb Fuck

By Kristianna

Let me start off by saying, pardon my dirty French both in the title and in this article. I really feel the need to express how important proper dinning etiquette goes when you’re in a public restaurant.

1. If you have children, keep them under control for a multitude of reasons. When you have little children running around a restaurant mixed with servers who are carrying trays 60+ lbs over their heads it becomes a very seriously dangerous situation. If, though, that isn’t enough convincing for you it’s just down right FUCKING RUDE when your children are disturbing other customers. Along those lines of rude, why has it become so common that if there are children at a table, there will be a fiesta of food, scraps, shredded paper, and dishes under the table. YOU ARE NOT FUCKING PIGS, YOU’RE PEOPLE NOW START ACTING LIKE IT. Is it genuinely that hard to control your children? If it is, maybe the money and time you spend going out and making everyone else’s life miserable you could apply to parenting classes, as it’s clearly needed.

fierce

2. When you’re staying in a servers section for more than a half hour after your food has a arrived. You either need to do one of two things. Get the fuck out or begin adding an additional 2 dollars for every half hour your remain. Why you ask? Because you stay for an additional hour thats four additional dollars to the tip. Had you left, that server could have made another 10-20 dollars. For those of you who are thinking “If I’m buying my food I should be able to stay as long as I want”. On a night where nobody is hanging around, yes, I would agree. But when there is a wait for other customers, you completely FUCK over the server who 100% depends on your tips. A servers paycheck at the end of two weeks is… drum roll… less than 30 dollars. So you would like to stay in a servers section for an extensive amount of time and not pay, sure, but I hope you leave with a guilty conscience that their bills wont be getting paid you ass hat.

3. Sometimes a dining experience can be ruined by food taking too long, a rude hostess, alcoholic drinks taking too long, etc. Please be aware that the server has absolutely NO control over this. A server does not control how fast a cook operates, a server has no control over how slow a bartender is, and a server has no control over anyone else’s attitude except for their own. If a server has been nice and honest about the whole situation there really is nothing else they can do but request if you would like to see a manager. They do not control if your meal can be comped from your bill. They do not control if you get a discount. This is all out of their hands, so instead of raising your voice at your server, request to see the manager and explain your frustrations with them. It will get you much further than being rude or mean.

4. Large Parties. I’m not sure where to begin with these, as they really are the most frustrating. It is inevitable that if there are more than 10 people a small detail will most likely get screwed up, nobody is perfect. Please be aware though that only 1 server is only capable of doing so much in a short amount of time. You just ran out of a drink and you want another? I’ll gladly get that for you in just a minute. It’s when large parties begin to get angry and frustrated because they aren’t getting everything right away. You have A LOT of people, it will take longer for your food to come out, be fucking patient. If you didn’t want to wait so long for your food, then next time split up your party like we recommended. When a server is working with a large party they are working 2-3x as hard as they would with 3 small tables to ensure everyone is happy and satisfied. With this being said, TIP YOUR FUCKING SERVER more than 10 or 20 fucking dollars. Larger parties take up a servers whole section and take longer amounts of time, not to mention take additional work. If you can afford an extravagant dinner, you can afford a reasonable earned tip.
tipping

Servers in a restaurant often look out for one another. They also handle your food and will always remember a real dick wad. Come into the restaurant again at your own risk, but just because your not sitting in that servers section does not mean you’re face isn’t remembered. I personally have never traumatized a customers food, but I know many people who have.

I work hard to go to school and pay my bills. At the end of my shift of being on my feet running around for 8+ hours I have blisters and blood all over my feet EVERY shift. I have burns all over my arm. I get cut at least twice. My shoulder has a welt from the trays and my knees are so swollen by the end of the night I can hardly bend them. Think about that the next time you go to a restaurant.

Tea Parties and Truth

by Tara

I have always wished I could point out truth to those who have needed to see it, but this guy did it for me.

Taxpayers in more than 300 locations in all 50 states will held rallies on tax day, called  “tea parties,”  to protest higher taxes and “out-of-control” government spending.  Unfortunately, people like to ignore facts when staging rallies… and this guy called them out on it.

This is the transcript from a tea party protest and the crowd’s reactions. You can also see the video of him speaking below, along with a link to his personal blog.

(Crowd applauds as he takes the microphone)
All right. Thank you very much.

I want to start also by honoring the service of our veterans, our current servicemembers, our Gold Star parents, thank you so much for what all you’ve done for this country. (Crowd cheers)

I also want to say, a little history lesson here, back in 2000, there was a budget surplus in the country. (Man in crowd: Yeah!) And during the next eight years, (Man in crowd: What happened?) it was destroyed by the profligate spending of the Bush administration. (Crowd reacts)

And so here we are today, here we are today in a situation … let me ask you this: Cheer if you make less than 250,000 dollars a year. Just cheer. (Crowd cheers) Your taxes are going to be cut under the current budget. Congratulations!

I was laid off in September because my employer had to make budget cuts. That was before the election, okay? So let’s remember, that if you’re going to argue about more taxes and less spending, to place the blame where the blame belongs, and that’s squarely in the hands of the Republican Congress until 2006 (Crowd starts to react) and the Bush administration. (Crowd boos)

Did this change the rally? Did everyone begin to rethink their protest or shift their focus? Did the people stop blaming Obama for what Bush cleary started? Probably not, but at least this guy and say he stood up for the truth.

/applaud.

Blog link: Yeah. I’m the guy who spoke at the Pensacola Tea Party

Is it okay to mock Christians?

by Tara

Today while browsing through the Escapist Magazine  Off Topic discussion forums, I ran into a topic named “is it okay to mock christians?” Intrigued by that title, I investigated. The first post was by a user named masakoz and stated the following:

“you make a jewsih joke your called a nazi. you make a black joke your a kk member. your make a buddist joke your heartless. you make fun of christians your patted on the back and gets a”thats a good one buddy i totaly agree” wait what. what my point here is it just me or is it ok to mock christians now a days really i mean alot of people do this and even have youtube channels devoted to this an hell even a person said right to my face it was ok to do it becouse they “deserve it”.ive seen alot of ppl develope a kind of nazi like behavior about christians and its starting to disturb me how long is it before something like a holocoust happens for the chirstians”

As I read through the responses, I saw a lot of different opinions. There was everything from “It’s okay to mock everything,” ” It isn’t okay to mock anything,” “Christians are the majority so of course they are going to be mocked,”  “You’re completely overreacting,” and “Christians probably deserve it.”

I have my own view on the subject, and so I decided to publish my link to the thread here.

“I have read through most of the posts and this thread and I have decided the following:
Anything or anyone is open to be criticized, and if the critique comes in the form of mockery, so be it.If someone walks into a restaurant and hates the food, they can say so. Maybe they want to have a light air about it… maybe they want to say “That food was so fatty I can feel my arteries clogging as I speak.” They have mocked the food and no one cares, because it isn’t malicious.

When Rod Blagojevich was indicted I’m sure there was someone thinking, “Boy, I hope he planned on using the money for selling that Senate seat to get a hair cut.” Blagojevich has been mocked, but no one is getting riled up because it was never meant to cause true harm.

As I said, everything is opening to criticism and religion isn’t and shouldn’t be an exception. If people poke fun at religion, it should be shrugged off and not thought of a second time.

I would also like to point out that there is a difference between mockery that is seen on say the Daily Show and the Colbert Report and hateful, malicious slander. The second, is not something that should be tolerated.”

Oh, Texas. Please lean to science.

by Tara

About every ten years the Texas Board of Education reviews the science standards that set what basic level of scientific knowledge every student is expected to learn at each grade level. This year happened to be one such year that the standards came up for review. This should have just been a boring board meeting, but this simple event has grabbed the attention of the press. Why would this be such a big deal? The big topic this year was whether teachers should be mandated to teach the strengths and weaknesses of each scientific theory or if they should be required to teach students to analyze and evaluate scientific explanations using empirical data.

Confused on why this should be such a big deal? Don’t worry. It’s not your fault. It’s actually much more complicated than it should be. Let me give you the back story.

Roughly twenty years ago, the Texas Board of Education passed a standard that stated teachers were required to give both strengths and weaknesses of any scientific theory. No one really paid attention to any of it until more recent years when teaching students evolution versus creationism, or even intelligent design, became a hot topic.

Many conservatives, namely Christian conservatives, latched onto this and began requesting that students be taught the evidence against evolution. That’s something that I’m fine with. I personally don’t think that there is much (if any) there, but I believe that students should be given any and all information they can be given so that they can make informed decisions. What I don’t support it are people twisting evolutionary evidence to imply that there was a divine being gently guiding where evolution was headed, which is something that was being done. There were some who would take the “weaknesses” of evolution and imply that if there was some sort of divine intervention, all of the pieces of the puzzle fit together a little more nicely.

Before I continue I would like to give some explain to the word “theory” in terms of science. When the word theory is used by the scientific community, they are describing something that is formed by empirical data and observed phenomena that can used as a general principle to explain why something is happening. To sum up, something based off of evidence that explains stuff. Our current understanding of gravity and physics comes from the theory general relativity. That’s right, gravity is a theory.

The conservatives mentioned earlier never pushed for this standard to be enforced on all theories. There have never been stickers on physics books stating “The physics in this book are based off the theory of general relativity, which has not been proven as fact and must be viewed with an open mind.” But this was never about all scientific theories, just one.

So, like I said, the Texas Board of Education voted. It was decided that the students would be given data, and then required to analyze it. This prevents the strengths and weaknesses for any theory from being guided one way or the other. It may seem like something small, but it’s a big win for everyone hoping to give our young people a good scientific foundation.

Sadly, one board member, Ken Mercer, stated that this whole thing was a “a battle over freedom of speech.” It really does sadden me that this couldn’t be over education.

Maybe some day that States will be like Great Britain, where every publicly funded school is required to teach that the fossil record is evidence for evolution….