idebunkforme

Debunking the web, one uneducated corner at a time.

“The Mayor of Summerville”

Spread across his oak desk were all the correspondence he had with the townspeople, over forty years of praise, comments and greetings. Elton Blumfield relaxed into his recliner and read the last letter he had received, a week before from the Thomas couple on East Street. Their eldest son had just gone overseas in the Air Force, stationed in Korea for the next year, and they included an image of their family before he had left.

Forty years, where had the time gone? The town had bustled in that time, almost outgrowing its boundaries on two occasions. Elton had to annex more land for the new homes and businesses to settle.

The tiny town of Summerville unfolded in all directions from his home, a beautiful Victorian overlooking most of Main and Market from the gradual hill it lay upon. It was the home he and his wife had purchased, one that still reminded him of her each day.

Forty years, he wiped a tear from his eye. His neighbors, the Davidsons, were still close. Pat retired from his job at the school twenty years ago, and they were talking of moving to the Bahamas as their grandchildren had gone off to college. They were always there during the holidays in case he could not make it to his son’s due to weather.

Mandy Tidwell, the single mother who had three kids grow up through the ranks of his school, her house only stood out for how small it was.

The town was quiet this morning, the solemness that lingered since Elton decided it was time to retire from his position. The many homes and buildings would be someone else’s responsibility, and the townspeople would talk to the new mayor instead. Besides the years he lived with his wife, the love of being the executive of Summerville was his life.

A knock at his door broke the silence and brought him out of his memories. Right on time, he noted as he opened the door and ushered the young couple inside.

“Great to see you,” his grandson said, shaking his hand, while his wife offered a wrapped box. He accepted both and brought the package to his desk to open.

“So, this is the home of Summerville?” she asked.

“Just as detailed as I had said?” Elton’s grandson, Nathaniel, hugged his wife to his side while overlooking the village. The manicured lawns never grew, and the streets never pocked with potholes. The “lost” sign pinned to one of the telephone poles from years ago when one of the villagers lost a dog had yellowed.

“This is beautiful,” Elton remarked, holding up the miniature house.

“This is your guys’ place?”

“Yeah, Dad told me that you used to purchase a home for families and schoolkids who were part of your classes.” They watched as he brought their porcelain two-story abode to the constructed land built upon tables.

“Do you have a preferred plot?” A plot, Nathaniel noted. His grandfather truly held that Summerville was a real town.

“None of the ones near yours are available.”

“I apologize about that. I do not like changing people’s homes here, and once they’re placed, they remain forever.”

“Then that lot,” he pointed, “down the street from Dad’s.”

Elton gently placed the house on the model grass, ensuring that its corners were at perfect right angles. Nathaniel withdrew a small item from his pocket and handed it to his grandfather.

“He told you much about this,” Elton said with a grin, and took the small mailbox to his desk. He added its address to the box using a jeweler’s scope to see his work.

The two watched him plant the post into the ground near their driveway. “I’m glad, as my last day of being mayor, to have you two as part of our town.”

“You do know it’s not real?” Nathaniel’s wife asked.

“Charlene, please don’t be rude.”

“It’s all right,” he said with a smile. “Summerville may not be a real town, but to me it’s a thriving village. I can’t get around as well, and this is how I stay in contact with all those people who meant the most in my life.”

“So how did this all begin?”

“My wife purchased that house,” he said, pointing to his own, “a week before I had a heart attack. I was driving, and I hit another vehicle. She passed from her injuries, and I was very lucky.”

He wiped a tear from his cheek. “Close friends came by and noticed the house after the funeral, and each purchased their own to help me remember my beloved wife. My son helped me build a model city to set them up, so that I would have enough room to keep them without feeling like it was a museum here.”

Nathaniel hugged his grandfather as the latter nearly broke down. “I’ve treated this as my village, and it’s kept her alive in everyone’s hearts. I will miss it.”

“We have a spare room,” Nathaniel smiled, “that we’ll keep this in. I’ll make sure that it’s always dusted and I’ll send you pictures of it.”

“Thank you.”

They embraced, while Charlene investigated the rest of the houses. Nathaniel and Elton both watched her, still holding each other. The younger Blumfield understood just how deep the love ran for the fictional town, and knew it had to remain with someone who would take care of it.

“I have one more surprise, before we help you to the retirement center,” he said, going to his wife’s side. “We rented the party center for a dinner tonight. All of Summerville who could make it will be there.”

“I don’t know what to say . . .”

“I love you will be enough, Grandpa.”

He nearly broke down again, and managed a smile through years of wrinkles and experience in the features of his face. “I love you both.”

Nathaniel helped his grandfather into his coat, and watched as Elton gathered the letters into a messenger bag. The three left, to meet with the people who had mattered so much to one person, who had meant the world to all of them.

# # #

Copyright 2005-2015, @idebunkforme

 

This is one of my short stories that I never got back to editing properly, nor really sent out to any publishers. A cleaning up of old backups led me to a trove of these types of stories on my hard drive. I don’t know what I want to do with these stories.

This is what a Twitter meltdown looks like

This is what a Twitter meltdown looks like. After the user @rrcatto, aka Rev Richard Catto, voiced his opinion about abortion, and how it was a “blessing” that women carry to term the pregnancies caused by rape, but pregnancies due to incest or which will have birth defects were okay to abort, he attracted quite a bit of attention from people calling him out on his bullshit. This is the aftermath.

rrcatto-meltdown

This question will trip you up

H/T to @CollinMaessen for this one!

There’s a question on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection ESTA application.

Have you ever been or are you now involved in espionage or sabotage; or in terrorist activities; or genocide; or between 1933 and 1945 were you involved, in any way, in persecutions associated with Nazi Germany or its allies?

…Do they think anyone will honestly answer “yes” to this when trying to get a visa to come to America?

The pronounciation of Chicxulub, for @kaimatai, from the lovely @XeupeT

The Twitter user @kaimatai asked how to pronounce Chicxulub, as in the name of the crater. The lovely @XeupeT recorded herself pronouncing it in her native tongue.

Take a listen:

Or, download directly: click here

The question which creationists refuse to answer

Why do creationists focus on a handful of people who say that evolution is wrong, while ignoring the thousands upon thousands of biologists who can explain how evolution is scientific, and the thousands of experiments demonstrating evolution, and the overwhelming evidence supporting evolution?

Possible solution for growing cities and underwhelming mass transit

Tonight, reflecting on the issues that plague my home city of Austin, Texas, I considered a possible solution that utilizes already existing technology. However, some of the technology is still under patent protection and owned by different organizations, so piecing this all together would not be feasible right now.

One of the issues that Austin faces is a lack of reliable, 24/7 mass transit. We have a bus system and a single passenger rail system that only connects the downtown area with northbound highway zones. Much of the city is underserved by the rail, and those which are served, during busy times like South by Southwest, have difficulty meeting demand. Buses are regularly sluggish and many are a burden on the roads and air.

Lobbying has kept non-taxi services such as Lyft out of the city as well, so ride shares are unavailable. Those taxis which already exist are notorious for either refusing fares due to short distances or only serving specific areas. Pedicabs and other non-automobile cabs are insanely expensive. Services like ZipCar and Car2Go are available, but they take up room and require one to try to locate where an available one is nearby.

My idea can rid a city of many of these issues, while hopefully minimizing new issues that arise.

What if there were a service consisting of small- and medium-sized vehicles, depending on the need of the person who requires a ride, that was available 24/7? These vehicles would be available by the request of an app, or at several designated businesses such as bars, gas stations and convenience stores, that are open long hours and spread out through the city. Once requested, the person hailing the vehicle would need to include a destination, and the app or remote station would state the total cost of the use of the ride. If the person accepts, he or she is billed and the vehicle heads to pick him or her up.

Herein are the proposals for saving room, traffic, time, etc. These vehicles would be autonomous, like Google’s street cars. When requested, they go to pick up the person without the need of a driver. If the person picked up wishes to drive, the price negotiated only becomes an estimate, and time and distance are factored into the final new cost for the ride. If the person wishes to sit back and enjoy the trip, even if the autonomous vehicle must change routes or takes longer, the cost never goes above the agreed-upon price. If it takes less time and/or less distance, the person requesting the ride gets the difference refunded.

if a person needs a vehicle to go shopping, for instance, the car will pick up the person at a spot and drop him or her off at the door of the place of business. It will then travel to its next destination. However, once the person shopping reaches the registers, another vehicle is dispatched to pick up the shopper at the door again and take him or her to the next destination, or back home.

If a person is too drunk to drive, he or she may request a bar hail. This would be done at the bar, by communicating with a terminal at the bar. An employee at the bar can approve of the bar hail if the person is not safe to drive, and a car is hailed to pick up the person and take him or her to his or her home, at a reduced rate. The person may not take the vehicle off autonomous drive nor make any other stops along the way.

When cars are awaiting a hail, they drive themselves to special lots throughout the city. Here they will have stations to recharge the electric cars, etc. Any service or general care, such as washing and detailing, can also be done at select stations. A minimal number of employees are required to staff these stations, mostly to refill the fuel of the vehicles, untether the vehicles when they need to leave, and inspect any vehicles for damage and such.

These vehicles can also be in constant contact with a traffic monitoring server that readjusts where these vehicles go, and better estimates cost of travel.

And, finally, since none of the vehicles ever needs to stay parked anywhere, or needs to be in easily-accessible sections of town to be utilized, parking is better available to those who use their own cars.

This idea needs some refining and some research on any and all patents that would be required for this to work. However, it seems like a better approach to relieving traffic, rides and parking issues that plague cities such as Austin, which has no great mass transit system in place, but is growing rapidly.

The most beautifully elegant argument based on science

To commemorate Charles Darwin’s 205th birthday, I present the most beautifully elegant argument ever made that is based on science. It is the final paragraph of his well-known book, On the Origin of Species.

It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

In this single paragraph, he summarizes his book and presents that every living organism on earth is not only related, but their populations are mutable, and one day every species will be no more while others arise and continue on.

What did Darwin mean by “survival of the fittest?”

Too often, I’ve seen people argue that “survival of the fittest” refers to the fittest organisms, and thus is perfectly in line with eugenics. However, this is not what Charles Darwin referred to in his book .

In Chapter IV of the book, entitled “Natural Selection; or the Survival of the Fittest,” Darwin clearly says that the phrase “survival of the fittest” is a rephrasing of natural selection. In fact, he argues it’s (emphasis my own):

Can it then be thought improbable, seeing that variations useful to man have undoubtedly occurred, that other variations useful in some way to each being in the great and complex battle of life, should occur in the course of many successive generations? If such do occur, can we doubt (remembering that many more individuals are born than can possibly survive) that individuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and procreating their kind? On the other hand, we may feel sure that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed. This preservation of favourable individual differences and variations, and the destruction of those which are injurious, I have called Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest. Variations neither useful nor injurious would not be affected by natural selection, and would be left either a fluctuating element, as perhaps we see in certain polymorphic species, or would ultimately become fixed, owing to the nature of the organism and the nature of the conditions.

Clearly, Darwin uses “survival of the fittest” to refer to the fittest traits, not organisms. And thus doesn’t argue for eugenics at all.

Edited to include more of Darwin’s passage for full context

The true argument in support of Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson

The uproar lately in the media has been on the suspension of TV show Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson, for equating homosexuality to bestiality and promiscuity, and calling it a sin. Many of the people rushing to support Mr. Robertson and cry infringement of free speech aren’t arguing for free speech at all. Given that the vocal majority of these people are also those who call for boycotts for people saying things they don’t agree with, or demand television programs adhere to their religion or politics, they aren’t purveyors of free speech at all.

The rallies of “next they’ll come for your free speech” isn’t a battle cry to speak up to protect the First Amendment of the US Constitution. It really is a deep-seeded fear that they will be called bigot as well.

See, most of the people in support of Phil Robertson’s words agree with his beliefs: that homosexuality is a sin, and leads to bestiality and promiscuity, even though this is not the case. They are even the kinds of people who will pick and choose the parts of the Bible they subscribe to, while ignoring similar parts that would also make their lifestyle, personality or ideology a sin.

What they’re arguing is that if Mr. Robertson’s beliefs get him labeled a bigot, what’s to stop people from calling others who agree with his words bigots? If they take the focus off the intolerance of homosexuals and say it’s an attack on free speech, or religion, then they can continue their bigoted beliefs without being held accountable for them.

And that’s what most of this is about.

Not free speech.

Intolerance and hatred.

Pascal’s Feint

This is something I’m labeling to better describe the all-too-common dishonest theist trick in online discussions.

Similar to where a person argues that believing in a god has only benefits and no downsides, whereas not believing has all the downsides and no benefits, Pascal’s Feint is when a theist argues that someday, everyone will have to go before his or her deity of choice and accept the consequences, and then they will know whether the theist was correct. This is usually the end of a discussion, where the theist runs, thinking he or she is victorious because, due to his or her beliefs, after death he or she will win.

Pascal’s Feint should be included as a logical fallacy of this specific version, and not be considered a forum trope like Godwin’s Law.

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