26 Jan 2009

Catholic Church to Invade the Internet - Osservatore Romano review

The launch of the Vatican's YouTube channel on 23 January made news around the world. But this is just one visible step towards a Catholic evangelization of the whole internet. On May 24th the Catholic Church also holds its 43rd World Day of Social Communications with this year's theme being "New technologies, new relationships. Promoting a culture of respect, dialogue and friendship." A number of articles have recently appeared in the Osservatore Romano and I just wanted to outline some of the worrying themes that are being promoted by the Pope.

On 24 January the article "A digital world accessible to all" was at the very top of the Italian online edition. It covered a recurring theme: that the huge success of social networking sites was due to our fundamental desire to be connected with other people. Nothing particularly controversial about that. The Pope stresses, however, that Catholic virtues should not only be upheld by the faithful but actively promoted. We can see where this is going and the Pope does not disappoint. The last paragraph starts,"I would like to conclude this message by turning, in particular, to young Catholics, to urge them to bear witness to their faith in the digital world. My beloved, feel yourselves entrusted to introduce into this new communications and information environment the values on which our lives rest!" (italics in the original Italian). It goes on to draw parallels between the conversion of pagans by the Apostles and the conversion of this "digital continent" by young Catholic. The logic here being that the internet is a natural environment for the younger generation who, in a sense, already speak the jargon, know how to Buzz and Digg their way around. If there was any doubt that the YouTube channel was not just videos to the faithful but rather one small step towards mass global conversion then we have confirmation here from the Pope himself. The message is to go forth and spread the Gospel to all your internet friends for "You know their fears and their hopes, their enthusiasms and their delusions." So much for the preamble about respect and dialogue - this is a full-blown call to arms!

The next article is about the actual launch of Vatican YouTube. Little of interest here except that the venture has been planned for a year and a half to ensure the stability of the technology. The videos will be available in Italian, English, Spanish and German, with more to come. The third article, entitled "The Net and the Church. Destined to Meet" is mere puff elaborating the Pope's ideas about conquering a new continent. However, the language used, of the Church incarnating into the net reminds me of the film Lawnmower Man. The author does nothing to dispel that thought as he goes on to say that in reality the internet is in the image of the Church, comparing them both to a body that is alive and well when all its organs are communicating effectively. Wait for those phones to start ringing!

I suppose we shouldn't expect anything less; after all, the Catholic Church is on a mission from God to rule the whole world. We expect armies to behave like armies, even if most people are mere reservists. We've had American televangelists and their internet manifestations for some time now. But much of the world finds them risible and a mere financial or sexual scandal away from going off-air. We now, however, have a planned invasion by the Catholic borgs with "Be my friend!" as their first gambit before launching into their assimilation techniques. Prepare your children!

25 Jan 2009

Weekly Science and Religion News and Resources

Scientists want DNA tests on Galileo for "eye test". A strange feeling that this is motivated by the Catholic desire to clear themselves when some refused to look through Galileo's telescope arguing that it was the device producing the heretical observations.

Neurobiology of a hallucination From Neurophilosophy blog as well as

The delusional brain.

Coyne on the compatibility of science and religion From Pharyngula, and here is the original (and very long) article by Jerry Coyne, Seeing and Believing.

The Experimental Philosophy Wiki.

Psychedelic Research

The Experimental Philosophy Page of Joshua Knobe

Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness eprints server from Caltech.

More will be added as the week progresses. Anything interesting do let me know.

20 percent of American atheists are religious

This is a link to an article written back in August 2008 on Gene Expression blog. You can look at the numbers there but the thing that is strangest is that only 22% of people who classed themselves an Unaffiliated also said they did not believe in God. I still think this has a lot to do with the fact that many non-believers just don't like calling themselves atheists. There really has to be a better, positive word to the lack of belief (there you see! It is even defined negatively!) I will return to this some other time. If anybody has a really good suggestion please let me know.

24 Jan 2009

Pope 2.0 - Catholic Propaganda Hits YouTube

Yes, the Vatican's propaganda machine has opened up a YouTube channel. I couldn't even access that page earlier as, no doubt, the world's Catholics have flocked there to be told what to believe. I will actually write more on this as the Osservatore Romano has a few articles on communicating on the internet. For now, enjoy the shows.

Vatican YouTube Channel

New Life Church Evangelist Swallows More Gay Accusations

Disgraced evangelical leader Ted Haggard's former church disclosed Friday that the gay sex scandal that caused his downfall extends to a young male church volunteer who reported having a sexual relationship with Haggard — a revelation that comes as Haggard tries to repair his public image.

Brady Boyd, who succeeded Haggard as senior pastor of the 10,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, told The Associated Press that the man came forward to church officials in late 2006 shortly after a Denver male prostitute claimed to have had a three-year cash-for-sex relationship with Haggard.

Oh, don't you just love these stories? Power, religion and sex - what more could one ask for? The article closes with a quote which coherently sums up the whole sordid mess.

"Technically, legally, they were both adults," Clohessy said. "Psychologically and emotionally, Haggard was dramatically more powerful. ... By definition, any sexual contact between a congregant and minister is inherently abusive and manipulative."

No doubt the congregation will forgive his sins for the alternative is to realise what a horrible mistake they have made.

23 Jan 2009

Which Other Books Should President Obama Swear On Next?

The news that President Obama's second swearing in didn't go quite as perfectly as planned has sent ripples of mirth around non-believers on the internet, as well as probably many non-Christians too. The blunder this time was that nobody could find a Bible, so Obama went ahead with swearing the Oath of Office without one. Nothing technically or legally wrong with that. Presidents Franklin Pierce and John Quincy Adams both swore on a book of law and in 1901 Theodore Roosevelt did not use a Bible, or any other book for that matter. So what's all the fuss about?

Well, a few comments I've read have suggested that, in order to reach out to as many Americans as possible, President Obama could do a daily swearing in with a different book of the day. And, the US being a democratic country, people should be allowed to vote on which books to choose - the greater the vote, the sooner it will be used.

So in the spirit of global harmony and reconciliation amongst faiths, let us join together and put forward the Best Swearing In Books in the World.

I will add to the poll as interesting and vaguely plausible suggestions are made.

Digg it here

Buzz it here

FDA Allows Stem Cell Therapy - Future Freedom or Control?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has cleared the way for the world's first study of human embryonic stem cell therapy, Geron Corp said on Friday.

The California biotechnology company plans to start a clinical trial to try to use the stem cells to regrow nerve tissue in patients with acute spinal cord injury.

"This marks the beginning of what is potentially a new chapter in medical therapeutics -- one that reaches beyond pills to a new level of healing: the restoration of organ and tissue function achieved by the injection of healthy replacement cells," Geron Chief Executive Thomas Okarma said in a statement.
Former President George W. Bush had been at odds with Congress, researchers and advocates for years over the issue and by executive order restricted federal funding of work involving human embryonic stem cells.

President Barack Obama, who succeeded Bush on Tuesday, had been widely expected to rescind that directive. Although the FDA says it does not make decisions based on politics [No, as we know, the FDA largely makes decision on the basis of how much money there is to be made for their managers], the company made the decision public just days after Obama was sworn into office.

reporting from Reuters

As always, the scientific path towards the control of every aspect of life is littered with apparently good intentions. The formula to introduce controversial technologies is always the same. First find something palatable to cure - I mean, who can object to curing spinal cord injuries? Then, once the technology is in place just watch it spread. The use of genetically modified foods is one obvious example. Do you remember when trials were conducted under canopy to stop the seeds from spreading?

The arguments about the use of embryos will, no doubt, keep raging but for those who do not see a problem in that still watch out for when the new technology becomes a means of control rather than freedom. Ask those farmers who are now slaves to seed companies because the genetic modification makes seeds sterile so cannot be replanted.

The real battle here is not between religion and science. Although that is also true it hides another more important battle for everyone - that between freedom and control.

President Obama Swears Second Oath But Without a Bible

As expected, Barack Obama did have to swear the Oath of Office a second time, this time in a more intimate setting with just a few of the press corp. However, some Americans may feel the new President has made yet another blunder by not swearing on the Bible. Amazingly, given the God-squad in America, not a bible was found anywhere near the swearing in. As the TimesOnline reported, one blogger snarled "Expect a third oath when bitter small town gun- and Bible-toting America finds out."

However, one commenter, Jeff from Sacramento quipped,"Why don't we make everyone happy and we can swear him in everyday and bring a stack of books each time." Now, does the second reading invalidate the first one, or should we take them as cumulative, or an average? Will half a Bible do?

21 Jan 2009

Science and Religion News and Resources

Below are links to news and resources on science and religion that I've found this week. Not all will be new but this is a way of storing them for future reference and before processing into articles. Will be posted once a week with additions made as the week passes.

Large minority of atheists are religious. if you look at this then the third column of figures is meaningless as it stands and should be divided by 100 to make sense.

U.S. Religious Landscape Survey from the Pew Forum

FreeThoughtPedia is a central repository of philosophical, scientific, scriptural, and historical arguments and commentary on the Freethought movement. Our goal is to provide a resource for those who choose to attribute greater significance to what's rational and logical, as opposed to irrational, superstitious, mythological and unproven.

Congregation of the Clergy. A Roman Catholic site for, of course, the clergy but interesting in that the articles are written so that priests can use them in their daily ministry, rather than being convoluted theological essays. The largest part is in Italian but a significant potion translated into English and other languages.

The Evolution of Religion, by R. Elisabeth Cornwell, PhD and J. Anderson Thomson, MD.

The Pledge of Allegiance to the United States is an article I wrote on how the Knights of Columbus lobbied to insert the "under God" phrase into the Pledge in 1954.

Anything you feel I should take note of then please leave a comment.

18 Jan 2009

Outrage at Sexy Virgin Mary Models

The prominent Chilean fashion designer, Ricardo Oyarzun, has sparked outrage in his country by dressing up models to look like the Virgin Mary. On its own this wouldn't be so grave if it wasn't for the fact that they look quite sexy, in some cases with ample, near-naked breasts.

The Roman Catholic Church has obviously condemned the designer and attempts to block the show by conservatives were unsuccessful in court. The poor innocent Oyarzun said he had received telephone threats and had excrement smeared on his doorstep. "There is no pornography here, there's no sex, there are no virgins menstruating or feeling each other up," Oyarzun said in a rather tactless quote. "This is artistic expression."

Although I suspect Oyarzun must have known this was likely to offend, the fact that the courts have allowed the fashion show to go ahead is a small indication that Chile is becoming a tad more liberal. However, the culture of prudishness and guilt so cultivated through the doctrine of original sin permeates Catholicism. With no sexual naturalism in their teachings it is no surprise that so many choose a deviant path. Mocking the Virgin Mary becomes an iconic show of strength between social mores whose influence will fade away very quickly. Much harder to change is the idea that there is no original sin.

reported at Reuters

17 Jan 2009

Top 50 Atheism Quotes

This was posted a year ago on the Left of Zen blog. I know there are other atheism quotation sites but this one has an amusing list and a ton of comments, which are also largely amusing.

Any other good lists of quotes appreciated.

I'm fully aware that a list of quotes does not amount to a philosophy but it is good to see the range of people quoted as well as their literary skills.

Atheism and Europe have Christian Roots claims Vatican in Osservatore Romano

The Vatican newspaper, the Osservatore Romano, yesterday published an article claiming that in Europe atheism has solid Christian roots, thereby trying to make the even wilder claim that atheism is a branch of Catholicism. However, the title of the article, "In Europe even atheism has solid Christian roots" [pdf], is also misleading in that the strongest message is that Europe too is defined in Christian terms and should remain purely Christian. The article is written by Pierre Manent and is also published in today's Vita e Pensiero. As far as I can see it is only in Italian - the Osservatore does publish weekly digests in English but it is uncertain if this particular article will be translated. Text in quotations are my translations from the Italian.

The article opens with the first of many extraordinary claims; that Europe is the region of the world defined by the conversion towards truth. As a statement on its own this sounds noble and the basis of philosophy and science. The millenial abuse of language from the Vatican should immediately make one wary of what conversion and truth actually mean here. Also note that this gives further ammunition to those who believe that the European Union is not just a peaceful expansion of democracy, peace and prosperity but the building of a Christian, or rather Catholic, superstate.

The next swipe comes against all other religions, with the claim that this 'conversion to the truth' is not only the foundation of Christianity, but that it is only Christianity that seeks the truth. "All other religions are obedience to the Law or the seeking of enlightenment." This is one more example of how the Vatican really sees other religions, including other Christian churches. It really does need to be highlighted over and over again - just in case Catholics and especially non-Catholics should ever forget - that the Vatican sees itself as a spiritual empire and that it will not rest until every single human being is baptised a Catholic. Participation in any inter-faith dialogue is purely self-serving and politically expedient in furthering conversion to the faith.

Going back to the idea of conversion to the truth, the atheist is thus on the same path, in search of the same truth. "Even he [the atheist] has converted when at the end of this search [...] he concludes that there is no God." Thus conversion is freely turning towards the seeking of objective truth. The atheist and the Christian are thus on the same path. The abuse of words now seeks to define 'conversion' as the setting off on the path of truth rather than the more obvious definition of conversion to Catholicism. For Catholics their religion is the truth, so the statement seems obvious but only to them.

This path involves a balance between liberty and truth. The author then laments that in our current society this balance has been broken in favour of liberty at all costs. No longer do we think of liberty in terms of the freedom to seek the truth, but rather the freedom to choose whatever we want just because we want it. There may be some truth to this. One sees very few adverts for wisdom and the stampedes towards the latest fads seem less than healthy. But let us see where Manent takes this line of thought.

The next target in the firing line is science. The current cultural paradigm of materialism, economic growth, product reviews, media hype and all the pressures to keep up with the times is a turning away from the true path. Manent sees this as a consequence of science, in that the scientific enterprise looks at phenomena without looking at the 'thing in itself'. "The knower does not have a relationship with the object of knowledge, and the viewer is not transformed by what he sees." The obsession to be entertained by external inputs is seen as a consequence of our desire to study phenomena.

The philosophical edifice of Christianity is exposed here, without the courtesy of explaining it to the reader, with its necessity to posit a 'thing in itself' behind every phenomena. This is not the place for a lengthy exposition on Platonic idealism or Hegelian metaphysics, but it is necessary to see that Christianity has to believe in the reality of metaphysical objects because its very doctrines depend on a metaphysical supernatural God. It strikes me that the belief and worship of a manufactured construct and obedience to the doctrines of the cult can be as much to blame for our culture's desire to be entertained by external objects and believe in the media as science.

The history of Catholic philosophy is one of struggle between articles of faith and Greek philosophy. The Church has been selective about which parts of pagan philosophy to absorb and transform and which to reject. In the discussion above it makes me think of Plato's Republic, where he talks about the importance and role of mathematics. Plato saw mathematics as having a dual role and possibly serving as a bridge between apparently disconnected human realms; the physical and the spiritual. At one extreme, mathematics is a useful and accurate tool in the service of science and technology (from the Greek techne). At the other pole the contemplation of its abstract nature can lead one to an inner esoteric world and to gnosis, or inner knowledge - enlightenment even (however bitter the word might taste in the mouth of Manent). Although what we call science has concentrated on the techne side of this continuum, it is thus possible to use the same techniques of experimentation and philosophy to look inwards. Indeed, such a body of knowledge and techniques exists in many branches of Eastern thought. The insult against Buddhism, noted above, is revealing in that the Vatican knows that at a philosophical and human level it is the antithesis of everything Catholicism stands for.

The final message of the article is a political one. That Europe is defined by Christian values and philosophy, by the freedom to take the path of (Christian) truth. That turning away from this path in the search of self-satisfaction and entertainment has also led to a political philosophy that departs from the true path. That the expansion of Europe is in danger of straying away from its Christian roots. This reference must surely be to the possible acceptance of Turkey, a secular state but predominantly Muslim, into the European Union. The Vatican message is clear. We are happy to expand Europe's spiritual domain by converting to Catholicism people in foreign lands but Europe's territorial domain must be clearly defined as Christian.

As this sermon is ultimately about the fate of Europe, why does the title even mention atheism? Perhaps, just as putting 'God' in the title of a book is sure to increase sales, so putting 'atheism' in the title of an article in a Catholic paper will increase readers.

The article is thus a thinly-veiled attack on many of the Vatican's enemies. The insult to all non-Catholics is the claim that Catholicism is the one and only truth. Therefore, anybody seeking the truth is actually on the Catholic path, whether they know it or not. Even atheists are on the same road but have lost the map. This is the very simple logic that Vatican propaganda uses over and over again. The apparently reasonable words are there as a foil to those who have not looked at Catholic doctrines in detail to see what precisely those words mean in the mouths of Catholics. As the Osservatore is the official Vatican paper it is mainly read by Catholics and they fully and completely understand the meanings behind words such as conversion and truth. The rest of us must not be misguided.

14 Jan 2009

Bible Diets Are Unhealthy

Another religion-inspired fad gets punctured as a new book sheds light on what humans really ate back in Biblical times. Dr Nathan MacDonald, an Old Testament lecturer at St Andrews University and author of "What Did the Ancient Israelites Eat? Diet in Biblical Times" has combined biblical scholarship with recent archeological evidence to show that far from being a virtue the diet at the time was actually pretty unhealthy.

The book brings some balance to the recent popularity amongst American Christians for diets based around the Bible. The faithful, indeed, seem to swallow anything associated with their precious Bible and this is yet another example of how wrong they can be. The original germ of an idea was that as the Bible people ate very little fat that therefore their diet must be healthy for us too. As the American population balloons to extraordinary shapes and sized I think researchers should take a serious look at growth hormones in meat products and not just the four horsemen of wheat, fat, salt and sugar. However, Dr MacDonald has shown that a low-fat diet on its own is not necessarily healthy when it also excludes many essential foods such as fruit and vegetables.

Analysis of the stomach content from human remains of the Israelite period found evidence of iron-deficiency anaemia, a sign of eating a lot of unleavened bread but little meat or vegetables. They got their necessary calories but not a lot else, it seems. Not a great basis for a 21st century diet. Compared to the rest of human history we live in privileged times with resources unimaginable to our ancestors, and yet we see again and again that our minds do not seem to have developed beyond those of our earliest literate civilisations. The obsession with such a flawed document as the Bible is a barrier to any raising of human consciousness. The desperate need for guidance feeds these misguided fads and the Bible diets are just another small example of this.

However, Dr MacDonald is a theologian and I'm sure has no desire to completely trash the Bible. So he softens slightly the blow dealt to these false diets by adding that the Bible says many useful things about the attitude to food, such as the importance of sharing. In the Israelite world of apparently scarce resources a lack of sharing could result in famines or wars. Perhaps the current Israelis could do with following this particular recipe.

article from BBC News

Attitudes to Death and a Person's Beliefs

I am conscious of not having posted for a while and on my trawls around the net just came across these two articles about attitudes to death and religious beliefs.

Understanding Death Through Religion

Studies of Death and Religion

Both are introductory, and the writer seems to be a graduate student so published these on the net as essays she probably wrote for her course. The first of the two is particularly useful as right at the bottom of the page are some references to research and literature.

It is often assumed that one of the reasons for the emergence of religions and religious beliefs is that they aim to answer ultimate questions of existence, origins, life and death. After a casual read, this view may have to be looked at more carefully as the data so far seems to be conflicting. Although religious belief seems to lower the anxiety associated with thoughts of one's own demise, this also seems to depend on what kind of beliefs one holds. Those who hold apocalyptic visions of brimstone and fire or the threat of eternal damnation seem less comforted by such beliefs - not exactly surprising given the possibility of eternal hell.

I think a lot more research is needed, especially looking more closely at people's experiences and overall philosophy rather than tagging everyone with a religious (or non-religious) label. I suspect experiences may be more important than which denomination one belongs to. For example, people with near-death experiences or other altered states seem likely to be less fearful of death. I myself have had some close experiences with death and found it to be a state of calm equipoise without fear - a kind of base consciousness often described in Buddhist literature. Only when the rational mind kicked in did I start to wonder what was going on - still not fearful, just puzzled. Dare I say, I have no great fear of dying. If it ends up being a transition to something else, then that transition need not be unpleasant - if it is the final full-stop at the end of the book then we can close the covers without fear.

Scientists Accuse FDA of Acting Like Criminals Putting Public Health at Risk

This is a really serious issue and finally some scientists have the courage to speak out, perhaps hoping for some support from the new US President. The claim is that the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) forces scientists to falsify results so that drugs can be approved, hence making large fat profits for pharmaceuticals and biotechs. Remember, these people are supposed to [i]protect[/i] the public.

This is really nothing new; one of my best friends at university refused to go into medical research as he saw exactly what was going on - and that's 20 years ago!

By forcing research scientists to falsify results the FDA managers in the pay of pharmacos are also putting the whole of science into disrepute. Everyone is making money out of this; the pharmacos, the FDA, the research labs, doctors also are encourage to prescribe new medicines, yes even the hapless scientists who are doing the research. For the scientists it not just a matter of conscience but also of livelihood, as they will be out of a job pretty quickly. The people who suffer are the general public being used as guinea pigs and who become the only real research subjects.

This also applies to the FDA overseeing the licensing of chemicals, pesticides and food additives in general, most of which are never put on labels and are also highly dangerous to health.

The scam is really quite simple and makes the pharmacos a bundle of money. Put chemicals into food, make people sick, sell them medicines that don't work, they get more sick, sell them more medicines, and so on. Scandalous, silent and lethal.

I will write further on this, but this is the number one health issue in the USA and other countries. Dangerous drugs are coming onto the market that are often designed to make people more sick than they already are. Couple this with the trend towards defining more and more vague diseases and we are marching towards a zombie nation. This will happen!

Article at Natural News

13 Jan 2009

Indianapolis Newspaper Axes Daily Christian Prayer

A small victory for secularism came from an unlikely source as the Indianapolis Star decided to stop publishing its daily Christian prayer.

Dennis Ryerson, the IndyStar editor was suitably contrite and hailing from a Norwegian Lutheran family felt his Christian credentials untarnished. Although in his editorial announcement he does let slip a slight lack of brotherly feelings towards Methodists!

"I'd long wondered about the appropriateness of a secular institution such as a newspaper practicing prayer each day. I long have reflected on a conversation I had with more than three dozen priests, evangelical leaders, rabbis and ministers several years ago. They were unanimous -- our job is to report the news; our job isn't their job, which is to practice religion."

So sounds like the men in robes were fine with the idea. One slight problem were the bleating sheep. "We've received larger reactions to previous changes we've made but nothing so large over so few words: A one-sentence generic prayer often tailored to events of the day."

As a way to express their general anger whilst not losing them as readers a religious (Christian) Thou Shalt Blog was started.

I haven't read all the comments but there are a few funny ones, such as that the paper was not so much cutting printing costs but was worried God might charge a syndication fee. There is also one good point about why the paper doesn't also remove horoscopes, although they tend to be counted as entertainment.

So, a slightly strange scenario for the USA in having a curb on Christian propaganda... and even stranger being implemented by a man who was brought up in a deeply religious community, but one that dislikes shouting about it.

7 Jan 2009

New Year, New Blogs

A new year and a little conceptual change to this blog. For some reason the sheer names of this Asylum Joy blog and my Aakom blog seem to demand hat their aims be somewhat swapped. So Asylum Joy will henceforth concentrate on news, commentary and resources on the interface between science and religion. This will largely be from a naturalistic point of view. With all the isms that populate the fields of both believers and non-believers perhaps at the moment the only one I am comfortable with is naturalism. Perhaps this could be renamed Natural Born Infidel, but to continue to play with names could be a tad schizophrenic.

So Asylum Joy will be my own random trawl through the news and views on science and religion. My own preference is for the more conceptual and philosophical side of the exchange, but I am fully aware of the social and political consequences of religious faith indoctrinating a population. The ultimate test, in my opinion, is one of control versus freedom.

In contrast, Aakom will have a very specific view on the scientific investigation of religious experiences and altered states. It will also look at techniques and technologies that already exist that will facilitate the expansion of human experiences. As humans we share a (more or less) similar biology and it is therefore also most likely we share a common mental structure. Religious belief (fideism) creates a template that makes it difficult to break through to further, even deeper, levels of experience. The mutual linguistic incomprehension between fideists and infidels is but a manifestation of different states of mind. I think that only through shared experiences and philosophical honesty can we ever approach any real consensus on life, the universe and everything.

A third blog that I have recently started is Aggregated Infidels, which is an aggregator of blog and news feeds plus a list of websites of interest that do not have feeds. Aggregated Infidels was started for my own use but hope it will prove useful to others. I am aware of other such aggregators, but have seen some have not been updated in months and, anyway, even similar resources have their own style and layout.

Well, I hope this mental clean-up will not have to be done again in a hurry, but luckily all the blogs are relatively new so has not been too much work. Back-links has been enabled, so that any links to specific posts will be reciprocated. As always, all comments appreciated.