Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Another quick diversion

No time for a serious post, but I just had to show you this French commercial for orange juice. The phrase "natural pulp" will never be the same.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

High frequency carols

Merry Christmas, y'all- and God bless us, every one!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

One bit of Santa Claus trivia

they never mention on TV specials is the time he beat up a Unitarian, though it's one of my favorite Christmas stories. Hat tip to American Unitarian Reform

Monday, December 22, 2008

Just a quick but relevant digression

I've been too busy to write the meaningful post I wanted to (and still intend to) write on the humanist/atheist/theist debates going on at Liberal Faith Development , The Journey , other places you probably know about. But I did stumble across this video that I thought an important addition to the discussion, as it displays the best possible attitudes by Christian and atheist alike.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The inauguration invocation

We interrupt the regularly scheduled "UUdom is a microcosm of society part 2" post for a more timely story- the selection of Rev. Rick Warren for the Presidential inauguration invocation. LGBT community, welcome to politics 101: you got played.

The 1998 movie, Bulworth is about a politician whose political troubles and broken marriage causes a nervous breakdown. This breakdown causes him to start telling the truth. While speaking before an African American church, he is confronted with his failure to follow through on his promises to them, and is accused of lying. "Of course I lied!", he tells them, "What are you going to do- vote Republican?"

Democratic politicians have the freedom to betray their black constituents if they're in a tight situation, because they know that nothing they can do will make African Americans vote Republican. The same goes for any other locked-in constituency; once they can be relied on, they can be betrayed. And, of course, the same is true of Republicans. Fiscal conservatives have been calling Bush everything but a child of God for more than seven years; the response is the same- "What are you going to do, vote Democrat?"

President elect Obama is a cautious man, with an eye to the future. He knows that once he begins real work, the honeymoon will be over. Starting as soon as the next Congressional elections, he's going to need every vote he can get- which means he needs the religious vote, or at least as much of it as he can get. If that upsets the Gay and socially liberal vote, that's unfortunate, but... what are you going to do, vote Republican? Of course you won't. He knows that, and you know that, and all the faxes the Washington Office can send won't change the political reality. You can't even blame Obama for doing it- it's the political reality he has to work with.

Paradoxically, the more important a single issue is to you, the less likely it is that voting that way will change it. As long as the voting public is dominated by single issue or narrow range voters, this will be true. As long as politicians of all stripes know that the voting public will decide based on ninety second news stories and analysis by late night comedians, this will be true. Only when we forsake litmus tests and false party loyalties will change really happen.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

UUdom is a microcosm of society,

and few things illustrate that better than a series of blog discussions the last three weeks concerning "The War On Christmas" and the similar humanist/theist struggle within the UUA. There are two issues in play here; the first I will address is Christmas.

Contrary to the belief of many on both sides of the debate, Christmas was not made a Federal holiday to assert the ascendancy of Christianity in America. Had that been the intent, surely Easter, the most holy of Christian holidays, would have been chosen instead. Why did President Grant pick Christmas, a holiday that had been actively condemned by most Christian churches- even outlawed in many places- and only recently partially rehabilitated by an English novelist and an American poet?

Consider the condition the US was in in 1870. For several of the previous five years, the Civil War had been over only in terms of massed armies; the hatreds ran deep- Lincoln's assassination had been celebrated in many Confederate households. Lawlessness abounded; President Grant had to ask for Federal law enforcement to control the Ku Klux Klan and bring some semblance of order, and to protect the rights of the newly freed slaves. It took until 1870 to bring the last Confederate state back formally into the Union.

Grant wanted something to bring the country back together. It couldn't be a victory celebration; that would have made things worse. What was left that both sides could still have in common? Christmas was chosen as the least controversial; less "Northern" than Thanksgiving, less political than the 4th of July, and especially poignant as celebrating a man of peace. It was a public cry of "Can't we all just get along?" There's a short Discovery channel video about it here

That's the real "reason for the season"... the attempt to find something to reconcile a people divided. The real reason Christmas is a greater tradition in America than in many other countries is not because the US is a "Christian Nation", but because Christmas was used to bring us back together after one of the bloodiest wars in human history. Families that had been separated for years had a "reason" to reunite. The religious nature of the holiday was the excuse needed to swallow bitter pride, to forgive. Had the holiday been secular, it couldn't have overcome the hostility; had it been any more religious, it would have raised new divisions. It was just religious enough.

And so I say to Bill O'Reilly, and to the Freedom From Religion people alike: let's put the Peace back in Christmas.

Next: the UU divide.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Perhaps these should be included in the Holiday displays

Babbo Natale, Italy has its own Father Christmas. But it's La Befana, the ugly, broom-flying and present-wielding witch who keeps children on their toes in many parts of the country...

Few European Christmas traditions elicit as many diverse and divergent opinions as Black Pete of the Netherlands. Santa's former slave may have been whitewashed in recent years, but many still view him as a racist caricature from the country's colonial past...

In Austria, Santa keeps track of who's been naughty and nice -- and unleases a 7-foot-tall horned devil on the naughty. He's called the Krampus, and he's unlike any Christmas tradition you've ever seen...

Some of the world's most curious Christmas traditions can be found in Catalonia, where the idea of holiday cheer seems to involve some of life's more basic bodily functions...

Read about these, and many more at Europe's weird ways

Guess the most corrupt state in the union

No, it's not Illinois- it's North Dakota! See where your state rates!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

An interesting minority report

The United Nations conference on global warming currently underway in Poland is about to hear a minority report, dissenting from the conventional wisdom, the Al Gore view. I say it's an interesting minority report, because this "minority" outnumbers the "majority" - "The over 650 dissenting scientists are more than 12 times the number of UN scientists (52) who authored the media hyped IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers."! Some quotes from The US Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works :

“Since I am no longer affiliated with any organization nor receiving any funding, I can speak quite frankly….As a scientist I remain skeptical.” - Atmospheric Scientist Dr. Joanne Simpson, the first woman in the world to receive a PhD in meteorology and formerly of NASA who has authored more than 190 studies and has been called “among the most preeminent scientists of the last 100 years.”

Warming fears are the “worst scientific scandal in the history…When people come to know what the truth is, they will feel deceived by science and scientists.” - UN IPCC Japanese Scientist Dr. Kiminori Itoh, an award-winning PhD environmental physical chemist.

“It is a blatant lie put forth in the media that makes it seem there is only a fringe of scientists who don’t buy into anthropogenic global warming.” - U.S Government Atmospheric Scientist Stanley B. Goldenberg of the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA

“Many [scientists] are now searching for a way to back out quietly (from promoting warming fears), without having their professional careers ruined.” - Atmospheric physicist James A. Peden, formerly of the Space Research and Coordination Center in Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Taking up the mantle

Antioch College is closed, and no one knows at this point if it will ever reopen... but the spirit of Too PC For Sanity has not died! Carleton University in Ottawa has stepped up to the plate!

For 23 years Carleton has participated in Shinearama, a fundraising event for the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. This is a huge event, with 65 colleges participating, and significant amounts of money have been raised by it- Carleton alone, over the course of the years, has raised over a million. But no more- the Carleton University Student Union has dropped Shinearama from its roster of events. Why? I quote from the resolution whose passage killed it:

"Whereas Orientation week strives to be [as] inclusive as possible;

Whereas all orientees and volunteers should feel like their fundraising efforts will serve the their diverse communities;

And Whereas Cystic fibrosis has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men

Be it resolved that:

CUSA discontinue its support of this campaign

Be it Further Resolved that the CUSA representatives on the incoming Orientation Supervisory Board work to select a new broad reaching charity for orientation week."

Good catch, Carleton! Not one penny should be sent to an organization so racist, so oppressive, that they will spend it on white men! No, not even if it's to save them from a dreadful disease that will kill them in their 20s- if the demographics are wrong, we won't belong!

It's not true, of course- Cystic Fibrosis strikes both sexes and all colors. But then, as we have seen with debates on cultural misappropriation and "code words", facts are often not on the side of the PC. No matter- there is a higher truth here. As long as people believe there's an oppressive situation there, their feelings will be hurt- and that's what it's all about, right? Trying to correct or educate them would be condescending- a PC sin in its own right- so just go along with it. After a while, you won't even wince.



Monday, December 08, 2008

Treating CC's questions as a meme

CC has listed some questions that trouble her . Here's the quick version of my answers; I'd be happy to elaborate or debate if desired.

1. How do I justify loving art and goofing off and creature comforts in a world where so many are suffering and I could feed a kid in Africa for a year on what I spent on a painting on Saturday? There's an old story about a new-hire lumberjack, who impressed his boss with his tremendous production right from the start... but after a few days, his production started tapering off, so the boss asked him about it. "I don't understand," the kid said, "I'm working harder than ever, but just can't seem to get anywhere." The boss said, "Here's your problem- your ax is dull! Why haven't you sharpened it?" "I was falling behind- there wasn't time to sharpen it!" Your tools, your mind, and your spirit must all be sharp to be effective- if you let your spirit grow dull, you'll become part of the problem, rather than the solution. Joy is as vital as food to being human.

2. What’s the deal with my professor asking vague multiple choice questions but insisting that there’s one right answer when sometimes reasonable arguments could be made for up to three? Because to many people, only their solution is reasonable; to your professor, the other arguments, not being his, are by definition not reasonable.

3. What duties do I have to the rest of humanity? To my family in particular? Your first duties are to yourself and your family- it does humanity no good to be less than your best, because you can give the most when you have the most to give. It's like the instruction one gets in an airplane: if the oxygen masks fall, put your own on before trying to help anyone else!

4. Could you summarize the analytical framework that goes along with the federal taxation of a company’s loans to employees and shareholders, with specifics on what gets taxed when, and what gets capitalized when if the employee is working on a long-term capital project? I have only the vaguest idea of what you're talking about, so I'll generalize: corporate and company taxation is intellectually dishonest and counterproductive; the best answer would be to not tax them in the first place.

5. Is that old law school maxim “A’ students become judges and ‘B’ students work for ‘C’ students” thing really true? Because some of us are counting on it as our backup plan… I don't know about the law, but it's true in many other professions- and I can't suggest a better plan.

6. I am, at heart, quite an eccentric and moody person. But I have seen before how much being an eccentric and moody person that people don’t identify with and don’t understand gets in the way of having things I want and connecting with others. What’s the proper balance between living my life as I please and being someone that other people understand and root for? Just come up with interesting explanations for your eccentricities, whether they're true or not, and make it clear that they are not a reaction to the people around you. People love eccentrics, as long as they're amusingly weird and not confrontational. Many people have made entire careers as an eccentric.

7. So what’s the deal with corporate takeovers? In general and with specifics. Too open ended a question for me.

8. When I come across and idea or a philosophy I don’t get or don’t agree with, I have this little-kid-with-a-broken-alarm-clock need to take it apart, figure out how it works and see what the problem is. I do this by arguing or at least asking pointed questions. Some people think that’s fun and I can talk to those people for hours. But others tend to see me as stupid or a contrarian (or a racist, or a kneejerk liberal or an elitist or… or…) when I argue with ideas that they hold dear. Right now, my solution is to mostly move that nitpicky nature to the internet, but even there are there times when I should just shut it and let people think what they want without bugging them, and agree to disagree before I’ve gotten their argument down to the premises and pissed them off? I have this tendency and problem myself. I finally decided that people have the right to be wrong, and if they insist on exercising this right, I can't stop them. I judge when they've reached this point by the amount of venom used.

9. Is it actually moral for the government to use taxation to socially engineer as much as they do? To what degree should I accept the argument that what the government taxes, it controls? If I should accept, isn't progressive taxation with a deduction for the personal consumption costs of enough for food, shelter and preventative medical care and no other deductions at all the ideal? No, it is not moral to use taxation for social engineering- it's little different from using a gun when people don't have the money to buck the system. You should totally accept the argument that what the government taxes, it controls- indeed, control is sometimes the stated reason for the tax involved. (See social engineering) If the progressive tax you're speaking of is an income tax, then no, it isn't the ideal. Consumption taxes are superior in terms of fairness and economic growth.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A new breed of Truther

The term "Truther" was coined to describe those who don't believe the official explanation of the events of 9/11, and insist on their "truth". Since then, people have begun applying that sobriquet to any Moonbat who finds an anonymous Internet poster more credible than the experts who lay their careers and reputations on the line by accepting appointment to a commission or inquiry.

The latest sort of "Truther" is the one who still- a month after the election- believes that Trig is NOT Sarah Palin's child, and that THE TRUTH MUST BE TOLD. Here are just five examples, all from within the last week:

The Atlantic

Caffeinated Politics

Palin's Deceptions

Jack Bog's Blog

A follow up to Jack Bog's earlier post

Electrical Audio

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Personal slanguage

Every person and every family has personalized slang, words with meanings that might be easy to figure out- for example, when Ginj and I are about to do something incredibly decadent, we toast, "A Versailles"- or totally unrelated to what the world at large might have thought the word to mean. An example of that category is talking about a concept being "viral"- When I say it, I mean this:

Friday, December 05, 2008

Give the gift of death for Christmas

In these hard times, people are looking for practical gifts for Christmas, and gift certificates are a popular choice. Here in Indianapolis, there is a wider range of choices in gift certificates than average- "choice" being the operative word, as Planed Parenthood now offers gift certificates for all services, including abortion. (See IndyStar Gift certificate covering abortion stirs controversy ).

Yeah, yeah, I know 95% of what they do is unrelated to abortion. But for a large percentage of those for whom "Christmas" means more than Rudolf and candy canes, that other 5% is hardly compatible with the concept of a Christmas present. "Dan Gangler, communication director for the Indiana conference of the United Methodist Church, said he supports the certificates to help needs such as Glaspie's, but because they can be used for abortions, he called them "in poor taste."" Gee, ya think?

Others use stronger words. "The certificates' holiday launch suggests they're intended as an attack on those Christians who oppose abortion, (Right to Life of Indianapolis President Marc) Tuttle said.

"It's offensive that they would be highlighting Christmas to push their services," Tuttle said. "Christmas is a time when Christians are celebrating the birth of a savior to Mary, an unwed mother.""

Kate Shepherd, a Planned Parenthood of Indiana spokeswoman, disagrees. ""This program has nothing to do with abortion," Shepherd said of the gift certificates. "This is about basic reproductive health care."" I'm sure it is- even though they don't offer a certificate that doesn't include abortion. I don't believe the holiday launch of this program was intended as an attack on Christians... but I do think it was as clueless as the auto execs flying private jets to Washington for the bailout talks.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

If you're like me, you're probably sick of hearing about "The War On Christmas",

but you just might find this take on it interesting.

Some pilots fly by the seat of their pants...

...and some, by the soles of their feet. Watch 25 year old Jessica Cox, born without arms, fly solo to win her pilot's license.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Variations on a meme

Things I've done are in bold. Meme stolen from Earthbound Spirit and The Chaliceblog . First, Earthbound Spirit's list:
Started my own blog
Slept under the stars
Played in a band
Visited Hawaii
Watched a meteor shower
Given more than I can afford to charity
Been to Disneyland/world
Climbed a mountain
Held a praying mantis
Sung a solo
Bungee jumped (Never, and that's only half the story)
Visited Paris
Watched lightning at sea
Taught myself an art from scratch
Adopted a child
Had food poisoning
Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
Grown my own vegetables (half credit, as it wasn't vegetables)
Seen the Mona Lisa in France
Slept on an overnight train
Had a pillow fight
Taken a sick day when not ill
Built a snow fort
Held a lamb
Gone skinny dipping
Run a marathon
Ridden in a gondola in Venice (Had the opportunity, but Ye Gods, the cost!)
Seen a total eclipse
Watched a sunrise or sunset
Hit a home run
Been on a cruise
Seen Niagara Falls in person
Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
Seen an Amish community
Taught myself a new language
Had enough money to be truly satisfied (although it would be more accurate to say there were periods when money was meaningless)
Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
Gone rock climbing (not involving pitons and ropes, but steep enough to make my beloved blanche)
Seen Michelangelo's David
Sung karaoke
Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
Visited Africa
Walked on a beach by moonlight
Been transported in an ambulance
Had my portrait painted
Gone deep sea fishing
Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (Half way up; reservations were needed for the rest of the way)
Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
Kissed in the rain
Played in the mud
Gone to a drive-in theater
Been in a movie
Visited the Great Wall of China
Started a business
Taken a martial arts class
Visited Russia
Served at a soup kitchen
Sold Girl Scout Cookies
Gone whale watching
Gotten flowers for no reason
Donated blood, platelets or plasma
Gone sky diving
Visited a Nazi concentration camp
Bounced a check
Flown in a helicopter
Saved a favorite childhood toy
Visited the Lincoln Memorial
Eaten caviar
Pieced a quilt
Stood in Times Square
Toured the Everglades
Been fired from a job
Seen the Changing of the Guard in London
Broken a bone
Been on a speeding motorcycle
Seen the Grand Canyon in person
Published a book (If magazines count)
Visited the Vatican (Been to Rome, but at Easter- couldn't face the Vatican crowds)Bought a brand new car
Walked in Jerusalem
Had my picture in the newspaper
Read the entire Bible
Visited the White House
Killed and prepared an animal for eating
Had chickenpox
Saved someone's life
Sat on a jury (as an alternate)
Met someone famous
Joined a book club
Lost a loved one
Had a baby (It was delicious) (Sorry- a little Pagan humor)
Seen the Alamo in person
Swam in the Great Salt Lake
Been involved in a law suit
Owned a cell phone
Been stung by a bee
Ridden an elephant (I agree with CC-I've had the chance many times, but have you ever seen an elephant ride where the elephant didn't look depressed and miserable?)

CC's additions:
Read all three volumes of the Lord of the Rings
Visited the Taj Mahal
Performed in a dance recita
lBeen on horseback while the horse jumped over something
Won an athletic competition (If you count rifle competition- it IS an Olympic sport)Gotten a straight-A report card
Prayed to Zeus (Do Hecate and Calliope count?)
Watched news coverage, rapt, to see what was going to happen
Gotten lost in a building more than 500 years old
Kissed somebody milliseconds before bells started to ring

My additions:
Made love in a moving vehicle
Created something you know you'll never better
Held a pet while they died
Walked the Promenade Des Anglaises in Nice

Patric Murfin's additions:
Graduated from college
Been in Prison
Written the Great American Novel (Hopefully in progress)
Ridden the rails
Seen that Alaska
Been booed and/or heckled
Been elected to public office (OK, it was only to Precinct Committeeman- but I got more votes than Ronald Reagan in my precinct!)

Another interesting phrase

A while back I wrote about an interesting phrase I found in a Dutch/English tourist phrase book . In an unrelated Google search, I ran across another interesting Dutch phrase: Mijn hovercraft zit vol palingen. According to the web site Omniglot, this means "My hovercraft is full of eels".

If this phrase rings a bell, you might also be interested in this site which does scholarly research on the average airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.