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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Prayer Rug

So about a week ago this church sent my apartment a picture in the mail of Jesus. Apparently it's called a Prayer Rug and it comes from some Christian church in Tulsa which is no more credible than your average televangelist.

The prayer rug is a folded up paper that looks like this:


With it comes an attached paper that asks for money in return for blessings:
(click to make larger)


Now I am not joking. I realize I stole these images from another website - but these are exactly what was enclosed in our packet. The idea is that Joe Idiot takes out the Jesus rug and places is down on the ground, kneeling on it and praying while staring into the eyes of Jesus. After a while, if you do this under the right lighting conditions your eyes will focus on the faint discoloration in the shape of an iris in Jesus's eyes and it appears that Christ has opened his eyes to you. It is as if somehow, some miracle has occurred to cause this photo to change and Christ is now listening to you. Naturally the next step here is to send them money, because obviously Christ, who owns our world, needs money if you want him to bless you.

Now what really happens is that if you stare at the dot for long enough it induces fatigue in your eyes and you don't notice the bright colors as well making the already drawn in faint "eyes" of Christ appear to you. In fact, if you scan this image into your computer and mess with the light values it becomes even more apparant.

Normal:

With dropped light values:


Joe Idiot then fills out this paper and sends it off to Tulsa with a check for X dollars and the scam artists (who may or may not truly believe in this prayer rug) get some money so they can in turn send more prayer rugs to more idiots and in all likelihood take an untaxed cut off for themselves since it is hard work spreading the word of God via mail. Assholes.

There are reasons why so many people dislike organized religion and this is one of them. The religion I somewhat follow, while being far from a scam and in general being a good organization which is responsible with its money, actually does something similar.

I won't go into too much detail as I realize that simply saying this will piss off a lot of people and I will admit that this is quite a stretch, but you are told that you must marry in the temple and do temple work to achieve the ultimate afterlife. To gain entrance to this temple you must, among other things, be a full tithing payer. This means that 10% of your net income must be donated to your church. Now while this money is not used to pay church leaders and is used for construction and maintainence of buildings as well as humanitarian causes, is requiring that you donate 10% of your income in order for the opportunity to be immortalized as a God a very christ-like teaching?

Yeah sure, the prayer rug is a scam where the LDS religion is an organization which helps many people, but the basis of the idea of, "give us money for something in return which you may or may not notice" is the same. I suppose to some people sending money off somewhere with the hope that you'll somehow receive money in return seems like a sound idea. I wear a blue shirt when the Aggies play and I know I'm wrong, but somewhere deep down I think it effects the outcome of the game.

I feel bad for the people who this St. Matthews Church preys upon and takes money from in return for prayer. If you believe in Christ and the power of prayer, why the hell do you need to pay someone to pray for you anyway? Why can't you just pray yourself? In my opinion (though when speaking opinions of a deity who knows what is right) it's more meaningful if it does come from you rather than someone you paid. However using the scam photo that appears like Jesus is staring into your soul really tricks a lot of dumb people, and yes, there are a lot of dumb people in the world. These people are evil and assuming a hell exists, I imagine they'll be sending a lot of packages out once they get there too.

However maybe I'm the dumb person and I am 100% wrong. Maybe had I sent money to the Jesus Rug people instead of laughing when my roommate's girlfriend accidentally tore the poster I would be a millionaire by now. Hell, maybe the Aggies would have beat Kansas State had I worn my hat that day.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

My bracket, 2011

(click for a larger version)


Well there it is. I have many various brackets up that are all slightly different that friends have invited me to create and one of just what I want to happen (this would be Utah State knocking off BYU, Notre Dame and Duke in that order to win the championship), but this is the one that I feel is my best shot at semi-accurately projecting the NCAA tournament this year.

I will go through my justifications for some of my picks.
First, my upsets:
• Missouri over Cincinnati : Cinci had a great start to the season and had a pretty poor in-conference record, losing a lot of close games. While Missouri may be in the exact same boat, they at least didn't end the season with a 40 point loss to Notre Dame.
• Richmond over Vandy : The Spiders ended their season on fire, basically the exact opposite of Vandy who lost 4 of their last 7. While those losses came against some pretty good teams two of them were at home and one was on a neutral court.
• VCU over Georgetown : First I kind of just dislike Georgetown, secondly VCU looked like they had something to prove tonight as they dominated an athletic USC team that everyone expected to beat them.
• Utah State over Kansas State : Would I really be an Aggie if I didn't pick this upset? However for the first time in three years I think Utah State will prove me right. They're bigger down low and have a defense right on par with the best of the Big 12. Utah State is so underrated this year, simply because of their conference, I think they'll surprise a lot of people. I expect Utah State to go on to beat Belmont (or Wisconsin) as well.
• Belmont over Wisconsin : Wisconsin is the most inconsistent team in the top 25 that isn't in the Big East. With 30 wins, Belmont is one of the most consistent teams in the country. Again I think Belmont is grossly underrated simply due to ignorance or the selection committee overlooking small teams.
• Gonzaga over St. Johns : With St. Johns missing a starter and Gonzaga being Gonzaga I don't see this as an upset. St. John's took down some of the best teams in the country this year, but they also lost to some pretty bad teams. I also expect Gonzaga to beat a strugging BYU team as BYU reminds me of St. Mary's, a team the Zags had no problem with.

Now I'll explain my final four picks:
• Ohio State : Really they're just the #1 overall seed in the tournament and a dominant team. I didn't put much thought into this and just kind of threw them in the final four automatically.
• Duke : They never disappoint me and Coach K is probably the best basketball coach in the world.
• Notre Dame : They have played more top teams and have beat more top teams than anyone in the country. Sure they've lost a few, but they've won the most and I think they'll be tough to beat. Plus, Kansas destroyed my bracket last year losing to UNI and I have a grudge now.
• Pitt : Basically the Southeast is kind of up for grabs. There is no clear favorite. Anyone from Utah State, BYU, Belmont, Florida, Gonzaga, Wisconsin or K-State could potentially win this division. For this reason I simply took the easy route and selected the 1 seed.

Why Ohio State will win it all:
They're the best team in the country, they have the easiest road to the final four with a fairly weak division, they have four players scoring in double digits and Sullinger is an unstoppable 290 lb freshman, that's awesome.

Well if I end up matching my point total last year of 90, I'll be happy. I'm not really anticipating that (especially as I have so many first round upsets picked), but we'll see. Good luck to the Aggies and hopefully they bust my bracket by taking the trophy home! :)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sex

First let me say that I talk a lot about sex, if it bothers you - please read it, I wrote it specifically for you!

Tonight, after a week in Layton, I came back to Logan. After watching Utah State beat Boise State for the WAC Championship I retired to my room where I read, chatted on facebook and ate a box of wheat thins. The whole night kind of put an exclamation point on a really dull week, but I did have a fun chat with a girl from high school about how lame our sex lives are. That was a much needed chat. I can't have that conversation with a guy, because it's just awkward, and most women in Utah refuse to discuss sex and don't have a sex life to talk about anyway, so it was nice.

I started our writing a blog about my spring break, but realized the most exciting thing that happened over the entire break was my married ex-girlfriend telling me how much she wished she had company but her husband was in Iran or something and how lonely it was having her house all to herself. Hint taken, you regret getting married and want some action attention ... pass. Certainly not blog-worthy. However the conversation I had with my high school friend got me thinking, why ... is it so difficult to have that conversation with anyone here? Hell, as a fairly attractive and outgoing 25 year old, why should I even have to have that conversation in the first place?

Why is that? Why is sex so wrong? It's actually quite an amazing and beautiful thing if you think about it, but people here think of it as dirty and carnal. It is a subject to be avoided. Honestly I feel uncomfortable bringing it up with a woman if we're one on one. I fear she'll judge me as a pervert, but I'm not, it's a pretty normal topic, but I can probably count on one hand the number of women I would feel comfortable having a sexual discussion with. To show just how much the subject is avoided here, let me share some fun examples of things I've been told, all by college aged people; I had a neighbor who thought that the reason her ceiling was shaking at 3am was because the people in the room above her were jumping on their bed, I was once informed by a girl that guys can't have orgasms (imagine my surprise when I learned this), I have had a girl ask me how to tell if she was turned on and one of my buddies once told me that 69 was a form of cuddling.

These are just not things that should be said by college aged people. It's not their faults though. I don't blame them at all for saying these uninformed things. It's the culture and how it instills into us that sex should never be talked about. It happens to me too, maybe not that extreme, but we all learn those things at some point. I just thought that typically it happens before college.

I remember a couple years ago I met this girl and she talked way too much about sex, I'd never met anyone like this before. At first I thought it was so weird, but refreshing. Then I kind of got used to it and found it interesting just how much she was intrigued by the subject. She wasn't embarrassed by it, she didn't find it to be an uncomfortable subject in any sense. Once I called her later at night she answered and I asked, "what're you up to?" and she responded with, "just masturbating, what about you?" as if it was a normal way to reply to the question. Now I will admit that even that is a little extreme for most, but it's just an example of how non-taboo sex can be to regular people. If I make a comment about masturbation to most of my friends here I'd get glared at and later they would discuss how inappropriate it was of me to talk about such a terrible sin. Hell, one time I saw a girl walk out of a PG13 movie because there was a scene where they discussed the topic of masturbation.

Now I'm not trying to say that abstinence isn't healthy, because it can be. Pretending sex doesn't exist, however, is not healthy. I think that the way a certain religion absolutely destroys peoples concepts of sex is all kinds of wrong. You can't even discuss sexuality around the majority of people here without someone being offended. Guess what, if you can't talk about it, then you're certainly never going to have fun doing it. Besides, experimentation is fun. How are you ever going to learn if you never discuss the subject? I know that for a while I went through a phase of dating really innocent women who had never done much, so I didn't really learn much, until I dated that woman I mentioned earlier. I feel like she completely opened my mind to what foreplay and sexuality could be and that before that I was a complete moron on the subject. Not even from just actions, as honestly our interaction with each other was fairly limited by distance, but conversations of just talking about what was good and what was bad really taught me a lot. It also taught me that it was okay to have that kind of a conversation as I really hadn't ever been able to before. Hopefully now I can comfortable enough with the subject to keep learning as there is always more to learn.

It's the same with any subject. Let's use the guitar for example. You can own a guitar and know that if you pluck the strings it makes noise. You can know that all you want, but it won't make you a guitar player. Once you take interest in learning the subject and are shown how to play a few chords and then try playing those chords yourself you start to get good. Then maybe someone new teaches you a few new chords, you get even better. Someone then teaches you how to fingerpick and your mind is blown away at this whole aspect that you never really knew existed that suddenly you can do. All it took was a little bit of learning and a little bit of experimenting and suddenly you can find your way around the guitar. Maybe you're still worlds away from being a professional guitarist, but you're certainly better than you were when you had a guitar sitting in the corner that you were ashamed to even talk about.

I just don't understand how something as natural as sexuality is so "wrong" and so looked down upon. Again, abstain from it until marriage if that's your thing - that's totally cool, but in general there are a lot of people that really need to grow up about the subject. If I see a nice car and comment on how it makes me hard or if you ask me my favorite way to kiss a girl and you get offended by my honest answer, you should probably consider going back to high school, or BYU.