Blame yourself for success, god for failure

2136953861 1b91ecbba2 450x450 Blame yourself for success, god for failure

“Look, either we all screwed up, or god did it. I vote B.” (img by Scott Maxwell)

Chances are, you have some pretty horrible double-standard habits of thought. When something goes wrong at work, you instinctively blame someone on your team, but when your team does something great, you want to take all the credit. Don’t worry, it’s common.

But what happens when you don’t have a team, and there’s no one around to blame? Chances are, you still blame something outside yourself, or at least try to understand the failure or problem in the context of some sentient actor outside yourself. Everyone’s got a scapegoat: god, karma, the government, the system, some group of other people, the computer (and the invisible group that programmed it), women, men, etc. We blame shit that’s beyond our control, and probably beyond anyone else’s control, in order to shift responsibility for our failures.

Hell, I do this at work. Customer has trouble with our (admittedly byzantine) computer registration system and I can’t fix it? I blame “the designers” of the software and apologize profusely, half hoping that the customer doesn’t ask why we even use the software.

But don’t take my word for it, check out this excerpt from Mark Hutson’s book The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking:

[Researchers] presented subjects who believed in a higher power with one of four stories. In all four versions, a family is picnicking in a valley when the water level rises. In half the stories, lunch is ruined by the flood, and in the other half lunch is really ruined because everyone drowns. Also, in half the stories a dam worker is said to have caused the flood, and in half of them the cause of the flood is unknown. Subjects then rated how much the story’s outcome was part of God’s plan. God drew much more blame when people died and no one was clearly responsible than in the other three scenarios. The tragedy needed an explanation, and human intervention wasn’t an option. (more…)

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Hundreds of pet owls abandoned after Harry Potter craze fades


Hundreds of owls are being abandoned across the country after being bought as pets by Harry Potter fans.

Sanctuaries are full of the birds now the craze has faded after the release of the final Harry Potter film last year.

And it’s feared many more have been illegally released into the wild and will have starved to death or taken over territory inhabited by smaller wild owls.

There was a surge in demand for pet owls from fans who fell in love with Harry’s cute companion ­Hedwig. (more…)

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Watching a snake-handler die

Pastor Randy Wolford 450x340 Watching a snake handler die

Donald Dover, left, of North Carolina and Jamie Lloyd of Sidney, Ohio, right, support Pastor Randy "Mack" Wolford after he was bitten by a venomous snake. He later died. (img by Lauren Pond)

You may have heard that the somewhat-renown Pentecostal pastor Mack Wolford recently died, having succumbed to a rattlesnake bite. And while my first instinct is to chuckle, ’cause come on, this guy, for all his beliefs, is going to be remembered as a Darwin Awards candidate.

Not that he shouldn’t be remembered for that, but after reading this editorial by the photojournalist who sat by his side and documented his death, expands on what it means to die, slowly, for something you believe in, and what it means to watch it happen…

Mack’s family has accepted his death as something that he knew was coming and something that was ultimately God’s will. The pastor believed every word of the Bible and laid down his life for his conviction, they said. For them, his death is an affirmation of the Signs Following tradition: “His faith is what took him home,” said his sister Robin Vanover, 38.

Some of the people who attended last Sunday’s service have struggled with Mack’s death, as I have. “Sometimes, I feel like we’re all guilty of negligent homicide,” one man wrote to me in a Facebook message following Mack’s death. “I went down there a ‘believer.’ That faith has seriously been called into question. I was face-to-face with him and watched him die a gruesome death. . . . Is this really what God wants?”

That’s a good question.

I know many photojournalists have been in situations similar to mine. Pulitzer Prize winner Kevin Carter photographed an emaciated Sudanese child struggling to reach a food center during a famine — as a vulture waited nearby. He was roundly criticized for not helping the child, which, along with the disturbing memories of the events he had covered and other factors, may have contributed to his suicide. As photojournalists, we have a unique responsibility to record history and share stories in as unbiased and unobtrusive a way as possible. But when someone is hurt and suffering, we have to balance our instincts as professionals with basic human decency and care.

I can’t say I know what I would do in a similar situation. Read the whole thing here. Also die less by not handling snakes. Durr.

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Eclipse Photos Gone Wild

epic win photos eclipse photography win 450x675 Eclipse Photos Gone Wild

A little photobombing of the 2012 solar eclipse, thanks to this jet! (img by Epic Win)

And for awesome:

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Forge yourself a real, working Tesla cannon

Rusty forging at the Hazard Factory 450x600 Forge yourself a real, working Tesla cannon

Real-world mad science at the Hazard Factory (img by Rob/Hacker Friendly)

The Tesla Gun is a hand-held, battery powered lightning machine. It is a spark gap Tesla coil powered by an 18V drill battery. You pull the trigger, and lightning comes out the front.

I’ve given a few talks about how this project came to be, and it’s a bit of a long story. I could not possibly have built it without the help and expertise of Seattle’s many hackerspaces. Take a look at the basic components, and you’ll see what I mean.

Yeah, I see what he means. He means you need a damn fine, extraordinarily professional garmenter with laser-focused attention to detail when it comes to Faraday underpants.

Actually, I really do wonder how they managed to operate this thing safely. They don’t say. And that doesn’t stop them from shooting their lightning launcher. (more…)

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Pastafarianism in the military

FSM 450x442 Pastafarianism in the military

FSM moved an artist to create art. That prove that he’s real, right? (img by LOLtheists)


A little while ago, news broke about a Pastafarian winning the right to wearing a pasta strainer on his head for his official driver’s license photograph *edit: it seems that there was no legal battle*. Coincidentally, around the same time, I got a few emails from the contributors to a Wikipedia article on Religious Symbols in the US Military asking if I would contribute a photograph of my Atheist dog tags.

Shortly after I donated the photograph to Wikipedia, the photo was added to the Flying Spaghetti Monster entry as well. Awesome.

I actually have a few funny stories about FSM and the Army. *warning: quoting a Drill Sergeant is NSFW*

Why the Flying Spaghetti Monster was bigger than Jesus in boot camp. (more…)

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