Monday, February 27, 2012

Liebster Blog Award

The word "liebster" is a German word for something one likes considerably...  essentially it means "favorite." Apparently, this is among someone's favorite blogs, because I received one.  The reader who happened to put me in that list goes by the handle of "KayEm"...  a literal sounding out of her initials "K.M."  As these particular blog awards are received and passed around among bloggers, she too, is of course, a blogger herself.  Her blog is titled "Never Mind Yaar", which is also the title of her debut novel.  As someone who has known life in India much longer than I have (I spent many more years of my life in Chicago than in India), she is very equipped to write at length about the cultural shifts and divides within India.  Also as a transplant into the land of the Kiwis, she writes quite a great deal about the NRI life.  Although written from a very personally specific point-of-view, it is fair to say that the ultimate message of her posts are applicable to almost anyone.  For instance, her post on the quality of schools may go at some length on the issue of co-ed vs not (I also went to an all-boys school in India), which isn't necessarily relevant to just anybody's experience, but you can't ignore the point she drives at about what the country really needs to do to improve its education...  issues that I've also brought up at my own schools...  problems that the U.S. has as well and get worse in the later years of school.

So with her recommendation, I can now wear this badge.
Among the rules of the Liebster Blog awards, though, is that in addition to mentioning the blogger who awarded it to you, you need to mention 5 other blogs you personally enjoy (who are in turn your own award recipients)...  It's a sort of chain letter award, I guess...  except no one claims that one of your loved ones will die if you fail to send this out.  Well, since there is no absurd superstition tied to it, I'll comply.  So here, in no particular order, are my 5 picks.

As an anti-theist and a vocal critic of religion, I don't think I could possibly ignore one of the loudest voices in the same vein -- namely Paul Zachary (PZ) Myers and his famous blog : Pharyngula.  When I put the link on my sidebar, he was still on Scienceblogs, but he has since moved to Freethoughtblogs.  Part of the reason his blog is so significant is because his vocal position makes him a major target recipient of a great deal of news and content, making his blog constantly active.  Some of it involves massive rants against creationists who radically pervert biology and science in general (he being a biologist), some of it being reports on interesting research, and some of it random humor and photos of squid.  Whereas I may post a few times a month, he makes nearly as many posts in a single day.  He may epitomize the "angry atheist" that so many creationists may whine about, but as angry as he gets, he never loses sight of all-important facts.

Another blog on my list is John Loftus' blog -- Debunking Christianity.  He specifically focuses a great deal more on philosophical and theological arguments.  Well, Loftus is a former fundamentalist Christian himself.  I like his blog for the same reason I liked Hitchens' God is not Great.  He plainly points out that the problems of religion are apparent even without having to go outside the confines of the assumptions of the belief system itself.  You can literally make the exact same assumptions that Christians do and still not find it reasonable in any sense.  It also makes for an approach that believers find hard to deal with;  These people simply cannot comprehend that we can make the exact same assumptions that they do and still come out with a different conclusion.  It's a beautiful thing.

In general, you can't go all that badly wrong with the blogs on Freethoughtblogs.com, but there are still those that stand out for me.  I already mentioned Pharyngula, but there is yet another that I greatly enjoy -- that being Mano Singham's blog.  Now I generally enjoy reading the words of fellow Desi atheists.  Mano is a bit more like me as having a very U.S.-local perspective.  Unlike most of my posts, Mano's are very short and get to the point in very tiny chunks.  That also makes everything he has to say very accessible and straightforward to follow.  And although I find myself in disagreement with PZ Myers and John Loftus on a handful of occasions, anything I've had gripes about in Mano's postings (so far) have been minor niggles and insignificant details.  I've so far found myself in full-bore agreement with his political musings, and that's one category of writing where his wit really bubbles to the top.

There are other things I read up on besides atheism, and one of them is politics.  One blog I strongly consider worth reading on this front can't really be attributed to a single author.  The content comes from organization of journalists and activists, but it is really considered a blog because there is a regular feed of opinion pieces and it stylistically reads like a blog.  This would be the Daily Kos blog.  I have to admit that the majority of the reason why I read this one has less to do with the agreement or disagreement with the writers, but simply because the news feed that comes forth is dominated by stuff that is of interest to me.  There's a bit of sensationalism that is to be expected from a political blog, but it's a bit more tempered than most.  It's a liberal blog in much the same way that the previously mentioned blogs are atheist blogs.  The much-deserved ridicule of American conservatives is its primary weapon.

Finally, there's a blog I enjoy reading simply because I'm a geek.  Yeah, it has its mix of hilarious debunkery like the atheism blogs out there, but the majority of it is simply talking about science.  That is Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy blog.  Astrophysics is always one of the more fascinating topics in science, partly because it has the "fringe" factor of being one of the fields on the bleeding edge of discovery...  or at least, that's how it appears to the general public.  As such, there's a cultural tinge of romanticism to the nerdiness of astronomy.  So although I enjoy reading on how he loves to debunk all the doomsday prophecies, there are just as many postings about pure scientific knowledge...  which I suppose makes it even more anti-theistic than me in effect.

Guess that leaves me with a lot of work yet to do.