Welcome! You've arrived at award-winning author Marcel Gagné's personal Website. I am the author of the "Moving to Linux" series of books, a regular columnist for several tech magazines, a public speaker, radio and television personality, and a well known voice in the Linux and open source universe. I created the famous (perhaps infamous) Cooking With Linux which ran for ten years in the Linux Journal. I'm also a published science fiction author and editor, a onetime Editor in Chief, a pilot, a former Top 40 disc jockey, and I fold a mean origami T-Rex.  This site is home to my insights, opinions, gripes, brags, tech stuff, and whatever else comes to mind when I have the time or the inclination to publish it. 

30
Jul

Jesus doesn't want you to go to church

Many of us live for the weekend. Time to kick back and slack off a little. You've worked hard all week and you deserve a break. But the day after Saturday is Sunday, and for many Christians, it means a mandatory trip to the local church to do a little praying and worshipping.

As an non-believer, Sunday is just another day off, like Saturday. But on Sunday, many Christians believe they should be going down to the house of God for a little shot of the Almighty. The only catch is that Jesus was totally against this idea. That's right. By going to church and praying with friends and family, you are disobeying the very man around whom the whole church is built.

Harken to the Word . . . Matthew 6:5-7
New King James Version (NKJV)

5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.[a] 7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

So you see, Jesus doesn't go for that whole getting together in Church and praising God thing. If you're going to pray, Jesus wants you to do it quietly, at home, in your own room. He also doesn't think you should recite prayers. God likes original content and that stuff in the Bible or the other holy books . . . He's heard it all before.

And so, when the next weekend rolls around, take a pass on the whole church thing. Not going is what Jesus would want you to do. 

30
Jul

50 Shades of Grayskull

Nothing is sacred. This video, which you will watch, even if you tell yourself you don't want to, proves it. Please enjoy, "50 Shades of Grayskull".

One of our local radio stations, CFCA-FM, aka Kool FM at 105.3, did a week's worth of takes on the "50 Shades" series with titles like:

  • 50 Shades of Eh!  (the Canadian version)
  • 50 Shades of Gay
  • 50 Shades of Hay

and a couple of others.

27
Jul

Household Beauty Do-It-Yourself Tips

Image from Wikipedia entry on staplerTwenty dollars was insane. And for what?

Everything he needed was right here in his own kitchen. Twenty dollars indeed.

There was only one cube in the ice tray, but that would be enough. There were pins in the third drawer with those other bits of miscellany.

The drawer was jammed.

Barry muttered a curse and yanked at the handle with a sharp pull, then screamed and let go. He danced about wildly, cradling the injured hand in the other and taking stock of his reservoir of obscenities. Finally, he stopped and assessed the damage. Some torn skin. A little blood trickling from the wound. It didn't look that bad. It felt a thousand times worse.

He turned to the sink and pushed the handle toward the middle. Not too cold and not too hot. Slowly, he edged his hand under the stream then pulled it back instantly cursing the demons that make it impossible to get hot water for a shower, but delivered scalding heat to a fresh wound. He pushed the lever all the way to the right. Damn if there was no cold water. He turned around and saw his ice cube slowly shrinking. He gathered his wits and went to work.

Freshly bandaged with a tea towel, he returned to his search. The drawer opened this time without effort. With a sigh, he imagined sweet tortures for the fiend that wanted to charge him twenty dollars. The bastard had probably put a curse on the drawer. A rattling search yielded no pins, only a few wood screws. He looked at them, touched one to his ear and shuddered. He headed downstairs.

The tool box held only a few rusty nails. He nearly gave up hope until he saw a couple of fairly shiny finishing nails. He wondered just how big the hole needed to be and examined the nails closely. The longest nail had the smallest diameter. He chose it and headed back up the stairs. His hand was starting to throb.

The bottle of vodka in his cupboard was down to a third of its former glory. He hated to see it go to like this, but a good disinfectant wouldn't hurt. He poured a glass, ventured a sip, and took inventory. He dropped the nail into the glass and gave the bottle of vodka careful scrutiny. There wasn't enough left for another drink. He brought the bottle to his lips and finished it.

Twenty dollars indeed!

There wasn't much of an ice cube left, but he rubbed it against the back of his earlobe, doing his best to hold it there with his bandaged hand. With the other, he started to push the nail in slowly. The pain was more than he could take before the nail even broke the skin, and after a few seconds, he gave up, disgusted with himself. He needed something that would pierce the ear quickly before he could feel any pain. He needed the tool. The bloody twenty dollars for a single shot tool! Twenty dollars for a glorified stapler!

Suddenly he looked up smiling.

His hand even felt better.

Somewhere in this house, there had to be a stapler.

The End


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19
Jul

Is God Love?

Someone recently suggested that I might, in fact, believe in God. (A closet theist?) The supporting evidence for this suggestion is that I often write about religion and even quote scripture to support my arguments. Another person suggested that since I profess a belief in love, that I must, ipso facto, believe in God. Allow me a few moments to address both of these suggestions. 

I don't believe in vampires and I have been known to post about them from time to time; I am a huge fan of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and thought "Angel" was pretty cool, though not as cool as Buffy by a long shot. That said, while I am interested in vampires (Twilight and True Blood both suck, for the record), I am utterly and completely fascinated by religion. And so you'll find me posting on religious topics more often than about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Also, my postings about religion don't tend to flatter religion or gods of any sort; quite the opposite. So, no, I do not believe in any god nor will I ever. 

The truth is that, and this is a topic for a future post, I can not imagine a scenario where I could be convinced (without the use of mind-altering drugs and other coersive methods) that any being you present to me is the one true, omnipotent, omnipresent, creator of the universe as depicted by insert-your-favorite-religion-or-holy-book-here. I have written before that I can easily imagine someone creating the our universe, but that's not the same thing as a god.

When this argument was in full swing, another person said, "Marcel hates religion," and to that charge, I must concede, but with an explanation. I don't hate religion, per se, though I believe firmly that it has no place in the world of today. What I really hate is what people do to each other in God's name. I hate how women are marginalized by religion. I hate the class structure or religion. I hate the absolutist lawgivers, priests, and assorted shamen that hand down their rules from the high heavens, seeking to enslave hearts and shackle minds. I hate the idea that people submit to worshipping the most vile being ever created by humans, and yes, I do mean God.

I could go on, but it's only fair that I answer this accusation. And so I attack religion as good people should always attack evil. And before you answer that statement, make sure you read and understand my  post titled "Attacking Your Religion: An Open Letter" as it lays it out reasonably well.

On to "love". Of course I believe in love. Whether love is something deeply human that defines us spiritually, or whether it's the firing of neurons and chemical triggers put in place by evolution to insure the survival of our progeny and our gene line, I don't care. Love is real and so I 'believe' in it in the same way that I can believe in any demonstrable fact. 

If you want to claim that Marcel believes in God because he believes in love, then you are going to seriously redefine the word 'God' and strip it of any bibles or assorted holy books, any churches, any religious ritual, and anything having to do with anything that you currently ascribe to god, with the possible exception of love. If you're referring to the Biblical God (or the Quranic or the Talmudic versions), you are talking about one of the most vile, vicious, capricious, vengeful, cruel, and pathetically childish creatures ever created by human imagination. 

Anything good you can attach to this being (at least through scripture) is pure chance brought about by the fact that if you have enough pages of text, you're bound to find support of any ideas. Good and bad. 

God is not love. Not by a long shot.

And so, yes, I believe in love. God, on the other hand, is pure Bogeyman and Freddie and Michael and every other horror movie monster you can conjure up. Fear is what keeps people at his feet. Fear of dying. Fear of eternal punishment. Fear of being cast out from your community. And just plain fear.

17
Jul

When News Isn't

I thought of calling this entry, "Website annoyance number 3147 . . . or thereabouts." as opposed to the title that actually made it.

I hate, hate, hate 'News' sites that don't put a date on their stories; the result is less than worthless. How in tarnation is anyone supposed to know if it's news or something from three years ago? Sure, you've got today's date at the top of your fracking Website, but I can figure that one out for myself (there's a little clock and calendar at the bottom of my screen and it's synchronized to an atomic clock) and it still doesn't tell me anything as to the age of your purported 'news'. 

It's particularly annoying when I start reading the story and it says, "Yesterday, we heard about the most incredibly momentous event in the history of our species, and possibly all intelligent life in the cosmos, when Dr. Fitzwalllabingbang found that ripples in the sub . . . " and so on. 

When the heck was yesterday?!

While looking through my newsfeeds, I saw a story teaser about the birth of the world's first GM babies, something that certainly sounds interesting. So I decided to follow the link. It was to the Mail Online, a UK newspaper. Here's a screenshot from the site.

It says the news was revealed last night, but there's no way to tell when last night was. And why is this story in the Sports section? 

To be fair, I'm using the Mail Online as an example, but they aren't the only guilty party by any stretch of the imagination. I see this all the time. They just happen to be the one I visited last, the one that broke the proverbial camel's back. The last strawn in a long line of straw bales stacked along the information superhighway.

Care to share any other annoying examples? Leave a comment.

13
Jul

The Jesus vs Ayn Rand Cage Match

I don't go for wrestling, mixed martial arts, or any of these so-called sports. However, I'd pay good money to see Ayn Rand and Jesus in a cage match.

In this corner, we have Jesus, with his opening salvo. 

Jesus says, "If you want to be complete, go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven." -- Matthew 19:21

That's gotta hurt! Go ahead, my conservative Christian friends. I dare you! I double-dare you. I triple-dog-dare you. House, car, property, television, major and minor appliances . . . what do you need that for? 

While you're busy selling all your possessions and giving the money to the poor, let me direct your attention to the speaker in the opposite corner, Ms. Ayn Rand. Let's give it up for Ayn Rand as she tries to pin Jesus to the mat.

"Capitalism and altruism are incompatible; they are philosophical opposites; they cannot co-exist in the same man or in the same society. Today, the conflict has reached its ultimate climax; the choice is clear-cut: either a new morality of rational self-interest, with its consequences of freedom, justice, progress and man’s happiness on earth—or the primordial morality of altruism, with its consequences of slavery, brute force, stagnant terror and sacrificial furnaces."

Ooooh! A real smackdown for Jesus! Not quite a knock-out, but it looks like we're in for an exciting match tonight. Pull up a chair, my friends, and enjoy the fight.

12
Jul

When Does Watching TV Become A Crime?

There's a fascinating legal case working its way through the courts, and it's all about watching television. I'll tell you about it in a few minutes, but first I want you to join me in a little thought experiment. Read each of the following scenarios, then decide at which point you are starting to break the law. At what point do you become a pirate? If at any point you decide that you've crossed a line, take a moment to ask yourself why you've crossed it. What did you do that was different, thereby making you a criminal?

Let's start with an easy one. You own a television which you purchased at your local electronics superstore. It's paid for and you owe no money. You turn on that television and sit down to watch a show. You have cable services delivered to your house via the local big name telecom, a company whose services you pay for, month to month. Are you breaking any laws? Are you a pirate?

The second example is the same as above except that you record your shows to watch later. You may even fast forward through the commercials. Are you violating any copyright laws or engaging in piracy?

What if you have an antenna (remember those) and you pluck the signals out of the air? Here again, you might record the shows to watch later.

What if you record those shows, not on tape, but on a hard drive?

What if you decide to watch the show you recorded, not on your television, but on your tablet while you exercise on your treadmill? Are you now a criminal?

Instead of outright buying your antenna, you rent it from someone. How about now?

You decide you don't like that unsightly antenna at the side of your house, so you pay a company that puts up the antenna for you. They live a couple of blocks away and run a cable to your house. You might occasionally watch the shows on television (live) and you may sometimes record those shows, possibly on your hard drive to watch on your tablet while you pedal away on your exercise bike. Have any laws been broken yet? Has somebody's copyright been violated? Are you complicit in the committing of any crime?

Now, the company that puts up the antenna for you is on the other side of town. Rather than running a cable, they let you access the signal from the over the air capture (still using an antenna) using your Internet connection. The unsightly cables are gone and you just use whatever device you want to watch your TV shows. Are you now involved in piracy? Are you yourself a criminal or aiding and abetting a criminal?

These are tough questions, and that's the reason the judge hearing the case of Aereo vs the big name networks doesn't see it as an open and shut case. ABC, NBC, and others went to court to shut down the service provided by Aereo, seeking at the very least, an injunction to block the company until the case was heard. U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan said "No", taking 52 pages to explain that "No".

No one would suggest that you are breaking any law by putting up an antenna and capturing the signals wafting through the ether, whether or not you record the shows and store them on your hard drive to watch later. No sane person anyhow.

What Aereo does is put up little TV antennas all over the place, capture the over the air signals, then stream the signals to customers over their Internet connection. Aereo is renting access to their antennas and, by extension, what those antennas pick up.

Where do you draw the line? Do you? And why?

Whatever your answer, and I'd love to hear it, this is going to be a fascinating case to follow.

The "American Family Association" (with a name like that, you know they don't like them homo sapien gays and lesbians) is trying to figure out how to boycott Google over it's "Legalize Love" campaign to promote gay rights. The biggest hurdle for them is . . . hint, it's not their intolerance . . . how to boycott a product so many of them depend on. Google search. Gmail. Calendars. Android phone. Android tablets.

Oh, the humanity.

10
Jul

Religion in Schools.

As a matter of fact, I absolutely do think that religion should be taught in school.

Seriously.

All schools should teach to teach a mandatory class (lasting at least a semester) on comparative religions and mythologies. Religion would have to taught first from a historical perspective, from origin myths of classic religions (Greek, Roman, Norse, etc) to the rise of the dominant faiths. 

Later in the course, students must gain a working understanding of what each major religion believes, and how those beliefs compare to the other major religions.

And yes, I did say mandatory, for all schools public or private.

07
Jul

When Sex With Your Daughters Is Okay: A Bible Story

Someone approached me a few days ago, attacking an entire demographic, homesexuals in this case, using the Bible as his justification. God says it's evil and therefore homesexuality, and everything that goes with it including (of course) gay marriage, is equally evil. It says so right there in the Bible and since the Bible is the perfect word of God, it is the way it must be. In that case, sex with your daughters must be okay as well. It is, after all, the means by which Jesus Christ eventually came to save us all. Yes, incest is, Biblically speaking, the engine of your salvation.

Before you get angry at me for posting a story with this title, let me assure you that it's perfectly okay.  After all, my story comes from the Bible, the perfect word of God. And if God has no problem with the idea of a father impregnating his daughters, then who are you and I to question this? So read on, and make sure you have your children gathered around you as we share this reading from the Holy Bible. Please turn to Genesis, chapter 19. Verses 30 to 36.

30 And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. 31 And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: 32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. 33 And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. 34 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. 35 And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. 36 Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father.

That's from the King James Version. If that's too out there, how about the New International Version?

30 Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. 31 One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children—as is the custom all over the earth. 32 Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.” 33 That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. 34 The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.” 35 So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. 36 So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father.

Let's pause for a moment to let that sink in.
 
A couple of thoughts . . . First, Lot was one of the good ones; remember that God saved him when he took out Sodom and Gomorrah. 
 
And second, we let kids read this stuff? People who let their kids read the Bible have obviously never read the Bible.
 
A drunken father has sex with his two daughters and (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), he doesn't remember a thing. I can see a few of you in the back saying, "yes, but they got him drunk." Excuse me! That makes it okay? If your logic holds up with the police and most judges in the country, rape victims are going to have an even tougher time than they do now. 
 
If you can somehow manage to convince yourself that Lot can't be blamed for this and that this doesn't in any way prove that the Bible condones behaviour like this, allow me to take you back a little earlier, when God was still hot on Lot. Harken to the Word in the book of Genesis, chapter 19, verses 1 through 8.

The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2 “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.” “No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.” 3 But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. 4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom —both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” 6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. 8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

And from this selfless act of prostituting his own daughters, the purported master of the universe decided that Lot was the one good man in the city. Maybe that's why the daughters were so ready to hump Dad in his old age. Nothing says 'good man' like throwing your daughters out of the house to be raped by a horny crowd of miscreants. We wouldn't want Lot's guests to be inconvenienced.  

There you have it. The Bible says rape and incests are okay with God.

Which takes us back to Jesus. The Bible states that the children that came from this relationship went on to father the Moabites and the Ammonites. King David, who would go on to unite the tribes of Israel and write a few Psalms, was a descendant of the Moabites. So, the entirety of Israel and the birthplace of Christianity, including Jesus Christ (purportedly a direct descendant of King David and therefore able to trace his ancestry to the Moabites), are the product of an incestuous relationship.

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