Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Preface to Future Posts

My horizons have been expanding lately, and so I've started writing about things I've never really considered before. I'm sure that very few, if any, of my arguments are original... but they're new to me and clearly they haven't been said often enough, or to the right people, or something. Because if they had, I wouldn't have encountered the situations that made me think of them. If that makes any sense at all.
So if what I write in the next few posts seems old hat to you, please bear with me. A lot of this is new to me and I'm just figuring out what I think about it all. But you'll be seeing a lot of posts about things that need to change – because if you know me at all, you know I can't shut up when I think something is wrong.

Morals and Religiocentrism

My boyfriend Dylan is an atheist and a skeptic. Since those words define a big part of his life, when I try to describe him those are some of the first words I use. However, I've started to recognize a pattern in the responses of others when they hear those (to me) innocuous words; when I say “atheist”, they often hear “person without morals”. The first few times I heard a response indicating this concern (to one degree or another), I was pretty much just baffled and wanted to defend him... but after hearing it a few times I started to really think about it.
To me, it just seemed kind of jerky and religiocentric at first glance. But the implications are chilling. The fact that this association is so common says something – something bad – about our ability, as a culture, to take personal responsibility. Instead of being willing to make their own decisions, to really think through their actions and be ready to explain or defend them (or make amends) should the need arise, a great many people are content to simply do as they are told. Not only are they content to do so, but they consider it morally superior. While I can intellectually understand that this is based on the belief that God is morally superior to human beings, I think it is an incredibly slippery slope. If people are consciously seeking an outside source for moral correctness, one which they consider infallible (as God is supposed to be, by his very nature), then they are:
a) not practicing small decisions about morality – the results of which inform bigger, more important decisions, and
b) giving up all personal responsibility for their actions.
This means that those people are actively promoting a culture in which individuals are less able to make morally correct decisions, more able to place blame, and more willing to accept the dictates of an authority figure without first judging the merits of said dictates. A strong leader could very easily take that culture and bring ordinary people to do incredibly immoral things under the guise of being moral. They wouldn't know how to judge for themselves.
Is that not terrifying? Especially when you think of how that has played out historically.
I guess the best thing to hope for is that those people are only making logical errors instead of projecting their own flaws on others. If that is the case, then most of them should be able to think for themselves in any extraordinary event, and behave in a moral way... but history doesn't support that hope.
I suppose I have been guilty of believing that our society is more morally advanced than ever before, when the more likely explanation is that technological advances and a strong government have caused our moral decisions to be fewer and easier than they could be.
By the way, Dylan is also a blogger – one who actually writes regularly and takes his blogging responsibilities much more seriously than I do – and you can read his work at www.skeptimusprime.com

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Birthday "Cake" Tutorial

Recently I was asked to bring a birthday craft to my babysitting job, so we could celebrate the twin boys turning 8 (They also have an older sister). I usually pick up crafting supplies for babysitting at the Dollar Tree, because if I spend a lot on materials I end up basically working for free – and while I love the kids, a girl's gotta make a living.
I've always loved the idea of using a candlestick as a pedestal for a plate or a bowl, and when I hit that section at the Dollar Tree my eyes always pull together all the candle and vase things to see what would look pretty together. This time it occurred to me that a small, flat, round candle holder on top of the pedestal would make a cute cake stand and it hit me – crafty birthday cakes!

A candlestick ($1)
A small plate or flat candle holder ($1)
A set of 2 styrofoam circles ($1 – I found these with the floral supplies)
A few birthday candles ($1 or on hand)
Acrylic paint and paintbrushes (on hand)
Hot glue or E-6000 ($2 and up, or on hand. I used hot glue, but I think E-6000 is washable?)

Glue together the two styrofoam disks, and glue the top of the candlestick to the bottom of the plate. I just eyeballed it but you could measure and trace from the center if you want it to be perfect. I didn't take a picture of this part, but I think it's pretty self explanatory.

The styrofoam is already glued, and now we're adding our base coat of "frosting".
 Paint the cake however you like. I went with a base coat of blue paint and some simple pink dots, but the kids did swirly patterns, smiley faces, letters, even a monkey! If you want the “icing” to be 3-dimensional, you can hot glue the pattern and paint over it, or use puffy fabric paint. One of the boys added some sequins to his cake.

Painting the "cakes" and adding candles. Almost done!
 Decide where you want your candles and press them firmly into the styrofoam. We had no trouble, but if you used a lot of paint you might have to poke a hole first with something sharp to get the candles in, or poke them in while the paint is still wet.

The finished "cakes". They look good enough to eat!
Put the cakes on their stands and admire! Aren't they cute?