Dog Surfing? Yeah, Really…Dog Surfing!

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:19 pm by Martin

Most dogs like the ocean. Most dog owners like the ocean. Have owner put dog on surfboard in ocean. What do you get? Dog surfing 🙂

Yesterday me and some friends went down to Imperial Beach, the most southern beach of San Diego county from where you can see Tijuana, to witness a quite funny dog surfing competition (see http://www.loewssurfdog.blogspot.com for details and some videos).

The crowd at Imperial Beach

There were 3 types of competitions, for small dogs on a surfboard, for large dogs on a surfboard, and finally for owners together with their dogs on a surfboard. For the dog-only competitions, the owners would position the dogs on the surfboard, hold the board until a wave came in and then let it go. The longer the dogs stayed on the board the better. Some dogs even made it all the way to the shore without falling or jumping off the board.

A dog being brought out for his next wave

It seems like most dogs really enjoyed it. When they fell off they would immediately turn around and swim back to their owner, seemingly saying “woohoo, let’s do it again!” 🙂 A few dogs, however, didn’t like it and swam towards the beach, probably thinking “I’m outta here”. Anyway, it was good fun to watch.
Dog and owner on a surfboard, the kid actually managed to stand up shortly after I shot this picture


Hiking the Majestic Half Dome

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:18 pm by Martin

Two weekends ago I hiked up the Half Dome, an impressive mountain in Yosemite National Park in California. We were incredibly lucky with the weather. It wasn’t cloudy, not too hot, not too cold. It was quite simply amazing.

The hike took us a total of 11 hours (to get up and down) and it was quite strenuous but well worth it. A heel injury I had incurred during a workout two weeks earlier flared up again when we were almost all the way up, which made it even more challenging for me. But not as challenging as for one of my friends who came along. He had his left arm in a cast because of a broken thumb.

The last part of the hike up the Half Dome is really, really steep (and I didn’t believe it just from the pictures on the web). There are two cables that assist in getting up the last few hundred feet (see picture above) and you really need them.

On the top of the Half Dome we even found a patch of snow left over from the winter. Considering that the temperatures were fairly high (around 70 degrees Fahrenheit) it’s surprising that it hasn’t melted yet.

Anyway, it was an awesome hike with an elevation gain of almost 5000 feet.


Religion in the US

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:46 pm by Martin

I used to call myself agnostic when it comes to religious and supernatural beliefs. I was fairly certain that God, or any god for that matter, does not exist, but I didn’t exclude the possibility and didn’t really think much about it. After some years I’ve come to think of myself as more of an atheist, but still held some untenable supernatural beliefs. I’ve recently read some books by the so-called new atheists, among others “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris’ “Letter to a Christian Nation”, that have made it absolutely clear to me that I’m definitely an atheist and non-believer, not just in religious faith but also in anything supernatural or metaphysical that has no substantial evidence to back it up. Just because we don’t know something yet, doesn’t mean that any kind of god or something supernatural is an adequate explanation for it (this is the typical “gap tactic” used often by the intelligent design community here in the US as a case against evolution).

If you’ve ever been in doubt about religion, read books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Michael Shermer and Skeptic Magazine to quickly relinqish your doubts and realize that it is due time for humanistic ethics, non-supernatural spirituality and reason to replace religious faith.

Surprisingly, here in the US, as opposed to a lot of European countries, atheism is not widespread (only about 12% of the population) and even has negative connotations in society. A Gallup poll from 1999 quoted in “The God Delusion” exemplifies this: Americans were asked whether they would vote for an otherwise well-qualified person who was a woman (95% would), Roman Catholic (94%), Jew (92%), black (92%), Mormon (79%), homosexual (79%), or atheist (49%).

Some other scary statistics about the US population from a Gallup poll (see http://www.pollingreport.com/religion.htm; I just chose the first time range, but other time ranges have a similar distribution):

  • 86% believe in God.
  • 81% believe in Heaven.
  • 75% believe in angels.
  • 70% believe in the devil.
  • 69% believe in hell.

Some other random numbers from the before-mentioned page and a Gallup poll mentioned in Harris’ “Letter to a Christian Nation”:

  • On average almost 33% believe that the Bible is the actual word of God!
  • Only 12% believe in the evolution of life on earth without divine intervention (probably the same 12% that are atheists in the US).
  • 31% believe that evolution has been guided by God.
  • 53% are practically creationists and believe the earth is not older than six thousand years. Incidentally, the Sumerians invented glue, saws, knives, axes, and many other things before that…on a non-existent earth, I presume?
  • 44% are convinced that Jesus will return to judge us within the next fifty years!

I find it incredible that such a large proportion of the American public cannot “believe” in widely accepted and well-established scientific facts, such as evolution. Instead, people prefer to delude themselves with creationism, intelligent design, and belief in the fairytales of the Bible (which is probably the most incoherent book ever written). This was also made evident by the recent propaganda movie trying to defend intelligent design with the goal of getting it into classrooms “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”. Fortunately, the movie’s claims have been relentlessly debunked by the Expelled Exposed website created by the National Center for Science Education.

Another thing that really scares me here in the US, though, is the widespread use of the word “God” in speeches by politicians. Listen to any George Bush speech and you will hear him utter the word “God” a few times, especially at the end of most speeches when he says “May God bless America”. Back home this is unthinkable and I don’t even remember any serious politician, let alone our chanselor or president, use the word “God”. Of course, it is a known fact that you could not be elected as US president if you were an atheist. This in itself is an atrocity, considering that the intellectual elite of the country consists mostly of atheists, and you’d kind of think some of them would be good candidates to lead the world’s largest super power.

Consider this thought experiment: In any politician’s speech, replace the word God with the word Zeus, so that “May God bless America” becomes “May Zeus bless America”. What would you think of a president or other high-ranking politician uttering these words? Would you be surprised, enraged, appalled, insulted? I sure would be. Just as we have no evidence whatsoever to believe in Zeus, we have no evidence to believe in the Judeo-Christian God of Abraham (or Allah, Shiva, Thor, Baal, Ra, Neptune, Poseidon, …). Yet through religious indoctrination of defenseless children by their parents, Yahweh has not yet gone the way of Zeus in our modern discourse and many of the world’s current religions enjoy undeserved respect. Honest criticism of religious faith is more often than not a taboo and frowned upon instead of being a moral and intellectual necessity, especially considering how many of our armed conflicts today are still based on religious belief in incoherent, so-called “holy” books written thousands of years ago.

With this in mind and considering that the United States were created as a secular nation, the recent statements of the Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, are a bit shocking to me, not only because they are historically incorrect.