Friday, January 30, 2009

Hell's Kitchen, Flipper style

An impressive bit of seafood preparation- but would Chef Ramsey approve?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Unusual art

The Telegraph has a study of artwork made from unusual materials . Descriptions won't do them justice- you've got to take a look. My favorite is the portrait made by drawing in the dirt on the back window of a car. It reminds me of an inartistic but funny scrawl in the dirt on a truck posted on Waking Up in Dream City

A new policy

A curious, ironic thing about freedom: to keep it, one mustn't exercise it very often. One has the right, for example, to quit one's job and live on the street as a panhandler; but if everyone did that, civilization would collapse. Society depends on us voluntarily doing- or refraining from doing- things that cannot be legally required or forbidden. If we don't do it voluntarily, then oppressive laws must be passed that restrict for all the freedoms a few abused.

It doesn't take all that many abuses to require the restriction of freedoms. Going all the way back to D.B. Cooper , there have only been a few dozen skyjackings out of millions of airline flights- a statistically insignificant number... but because of those few, billions of dollars had to be spent, airplane buffs could no longer hang out at the airport just watching, (as I used to do as a child), and the travelers themselves have to run an irritating and humiliating gauntlet.

The same principle is true in the blogosphere. The freedom to comment is often abused, requiring the blogger to take measures that limit the freedoms of those who had behaved. I have tried to limit my restrictions to the word verification that guards against spambots, but it wasn't enough. I tried creating the "Oubliette" post to transfer offending comments to, but the hint wasn't taken, so I have decided to delete that post. I simply don't have the time- nor frankly, the inclination- to go to the effort anymore. Nor do I wish to go to the effort of moderation.

So my new policy is this: offending comments will in future simply be deleted. Reasons for deletion will include spamming, off-topic, excessive profanity and/or scatological references, and attacks on people who cannot appear to address them. I am sole judge of what will be acceptable- this is my blog.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Why we love children...

I rarely post things that have been emailed to me, but these anecdotes are rather cute.

Why we love children...

1) NUDITY I was driving with my three young children one warm summer evening when a woman in the convertible ahead of us stood up and waved. She was stark naked! As I was reeling from the shock, I heard my 5-year-old shout from the back seat, 'Mom, that lady isn't wearing a seat belt!'

2) OPINIONS On the first day of school, a first-grader handed his teacher a note from his mother. The note read, 'The opinions expressed by this child are not necessarily those of his parents.'

3) KETCHUP A woman was trying hard to get the ketchup out of the jar. During her struggle the phone rang so she asked her 4-year-old daughter to answer the phone. 'Mommy can't come to the phone to talk to you right now. She's hitting the bottle.'

4) MORE NUDITY A little boy got lost at the YMCA and found himself in the women's locker room. When he was spotted, the room burst into shrieks, with ladies grabbing towels and running for cover. The little boy watched in amazement and then asked, 'What's the matter, haven't you ever seen a little boy before?'

5) POLICE # 1 While taking a routine vandalism report at an elementary school, I was interrupted by a little girl about 6 years old. Looking up and down at my uniform, she asked, 'Are you a cop? 'Yes,' I answered and continued writing the report. 'My mother said if I ever needed help I should ask the police. Is that right?' 'Yes, that's right,' I told her. 'Well, then,' she said as she extended her foot toward me, 'would you please tie my shoe?'

6) POLICE # 2 It was the end of the day when I parked my police van in front of the station. As I gathered my equipment, my K-9 partner, Jake, was barking, and I saw a little boy staring in at me. 'Is that a dog you got back there?' he asked. 'It sure is,' I replied puzzled. The boy looked at me and then towards the back of the van. Finally he said, 'What'd he do?'

7) ELDERLY While working for an organization that delivers lunches to elderly shut-ins, I used to take my 4-year-old daughter on my afternoon rounds. She was unfailingly intrigued by the various appliances of old age, particularly the canes, walkers and wheelchairs. One day I found her staring at a pair of false teeth soaking in a glass. As I braced myself for the inevitable barrage of questions, she merely turned and whispered, 'The tooth fairy will never believe this!'

8) DEATH While walking along the sidewalk in front of his church, our minister heard the intoning of a prayer that nearly made his collar wilt. Apparently, his 5-year-old son and his playmates had found a dead robin. Feeling that proper burial should be performed, they had secured a small box and cotton batting, then dug a hole and made ready for the disposal of the deceased. The minister's son was chosen to say the appropriate prayers and with sonorous dignity intoned his version of what he thought his father always said: 'Glory be unto the Faaather, and unto the Sonnn, and into the hole he goooes.' (I want this line used at my funeral!)

9) SCHOOL A little girl had just finished her first week of school. 'I'm just wasting my time,' she said to her mother. 'I can't read, I can't write, and they won't let me talk!'

10) BIBLE A little boy opened the big family Bible. He was fascinated as he fingered through the old pages. Suddenly, something fell out of the Bible. He picked up the object and looked at it. What he saw was an old leaf that had been pressed in between the pages. 'Mama, look what I found,' the boy called out. 'What have you got there, dear?' With astonishment in the young boy's voice, he answered, 'I think it's Adam's underwear!'

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Fellow witches, the jig is up

No longer can we get away with our crimes by transforming ourselves into goats to make a getaway. If you try it, they'll just arrest the goat! .

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Audacity Of Dope

I saw a number of blog posts and articles about the Obama products on sale at the inauguration, but nobody mentioned this one- heroin .

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama the Musical

""Obama on My Mind" will open at a small theater in the British capital in March, producers have announced." says
CNSNEWS.COM . This is actually not even the first Obama musical- one opened last November in Kenya.

If you put your right foot in, you'll step in it

Who knew the Hokey Pokey had "malevolent meaning" in the British isles? "Michael Matheson, a Nationalist member of the Scottish Parliament, also issued a warning about The Hokey Cokey (as it's called in England) in December: "It is important that the police and football clubs are aware of the sinister background to this song..." Read more in the article,
Canada’s Hokey Pokey cause of England dust up .

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The inauguration speech, translated

From the London Times inauguration coverage: President Obama's inauguration speech is translated into what it really means by Bronwen Maddox, chief foreign commentator, and assessed for technique and craft by Phillip Collins, former speechwriter to Tony Blair. See the analysis here . You've got to love British newspapers.

Senators Byrd, Kennedy stricken at inaugural lunch

As I was writing my previous post, I heard on the radio that both Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd were taken from the luncheon by medical personnel. See Kennedy Suffers Seizure at Inaugural Lunch . My prayers go to them both, and their families.

A response to a comment to "Barack Obama inauguration: isn't America just fantastic?"

This is in response to a comment Robin Edgar made to my previous post ; as is my wont, it ran too long for a comment.

Perhaps for you and I this was a "no brainer", Robin, but it was not for many UUs. Many- including a depressing number of ministers- said before the election that America was too racist to elect a black man. Some UUs said that there wouldn't even be elections, that Bush would declare martial law and cancel them. Some even said after the election that Bush would declare martial law before this day to prevent President Obama's inauguration. To paraphrase the President, they were clinging in their bitterness to an ugly vision of America.

I can understand- but not excuse- their bitterness. They have seen many ugly things in their lives, and so lost faith in their fellow man. Past injuries made them bitter and despairing. There is a reason it is said that despair is the ultimate sin, for when you lose hope, you stop striving. Despair is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Despair is the loss of faith in both God and fellow man. It saddened me during this election season to see UUs writing as if they believed mankind in general, and America in specific, was irredeemable.

But then they haven't seen anything near as horrible as the things Abraham Lincoln saw, and he never lost faith. "Tell the people the truth," he said, "And they'll do the right thing." That is why I reacted so strongly to some of the blogposts I saw as misanthropic during the election season- for all their proclamations of a humanist faith in mankind, they expected only the worst, and presumed only the worst motivations for every action or stand they disagreed with.

Perhaps this is why, although I was moved by the inauguration, (I'm moved by every inauguration; if you think about it, it's kind of like a secular Yule ritual) I was not moved to tears as Ms. Kitty was. I knew this day was coming; America has been ready to elect an African American for decades; it's almost beyond question that Colin Powell would have been elected had he chosen to run. The only reason it hasn't happened before is that the leadership of both parties didn't believe it strongly enough to back credible candidates. The people, I believe, were well ahead of their leaders in this.

This, to me, is the real change President Obama brings. The people already knew this was possible; now the establishment knows, too.

Barack Obama inauguration: isn't America just fantastic?

This is the title of an editorial in the English newspaper Telegraph . It's better than what I was writing for this moment.

Friday, January 16, 2009

More thoughts on Rev Rick Warren

Rev. Ricky Hoyt has a moving post about President elect Obama's choice of the controversial Rev Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration. He was moved by an article by Melissa Etheridge asking, “Am I really about peace?” He wants to be one of those who's willing to talk.

I'm all about talking, too. But I'm having a hard time trusting a man who asked his congregation to have the same commitment as Hitler's brown shirts.

If you really want to know how lucky the passengers of that US Airways jet that ditched in the Hudson were,

watch this short video about another water ditching. While the plane in this story is a Boeing, it is the same size and configuration as the US Airways Airbus.

And as to how dangerous a bird strike can be, here is video of a single bird strike- remember that the Airways flight hit a whole flock.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

This is not just a sports story

Indianapolis is mourning the loss of Coach Dungy, who formally announced his retirement at a tearful press conference yesterday. Those of you who don't follow football may not realize how big his impact has been, and will be on society as a whole.

It's not just that he was the first black head coach to win the Super bowl. It's not the legacy of public service he leaves, though that's considerable- from the Indianapolis Star : "Nonprofit groups across the city were struggling Monday to explain how they would fill the void left by a coach who lent his name, time, money -- and often his heart -- to so many causes. When he came to Indianapolis seven years ago, Dungy said faith would come before football, and he has been true to his word.
In the past year alone, Dungy has made public service announcements urging people to become adoptive parents or foster families, promoting job fairs for ex-felons and speaking out against gun violence.

He has raised money for causes including Riley Hospital for Children, Crossroads Bible College scholarships and the Emerging Eagles Program, which provides Christmas presents for the needy.

He paid for eight weeks of lunches at his Near-Northside church's summer day care. He helped a fundraiser for the Overseas Council, an international ministry that trains people in foreign countries to become church workers in their own lands."

Many other big men have lived their faith, and given much; this was not his greatest legacy. He taught a lesson that goes beyond sports, one that leaders from all walks of life need to learn: you don't have to be a bastard to win!

His way was not profanity laden temper tantrums, no flinging of equipment. No dirty play permitted, no skirting the rules. He coached and maintained discipline through strength and dignity; he expected the best effort, and his players responded. When they didn't, he made them understand that they hadn't let him down, (he didn't try the personality cult thing), they hadn't let the team down, they had let themselves down. He taught them that when they were the best they could be, then the team would be the best it could be... and his teams responded with the longest string of playoff appearances in history- two different teams in two different cities, it must be noted.

I suppose it's only fitting that the lesson of winning through decency and basic human dignity came through Indiana, given that we had previously given the world Bob Knight. Be that as it may, I hope the lesson is noted in the halls of power everywhere.

Read more about Coach Dungy in the Indianapolis Star- I especially recommend He won the right way and Farewell, Tony

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Desert Island Blog meme

Philocrites has posed a twist on the "what books would you want to be shipwrecked with" meme- assume your computer could only access ten blogs. OK... I'll first exempt aggregators as a cheat, like asking for omnibus collections as a single book in the original meme- so that let's UUpdates and Discover UU out. The following are not numbered or in any particular order:

The Wild Hunt the best generic Pagan blog. Period.

The Chaliceblog No explanation needed.

Peacebang Ditto.

Ms. Kitty's Saloon and Road Show If you don't read this one regularly, do yourself a favor and start. Heck, go read the archives.

Free and Responsible Search Doug's entries are so erratic that I'm not sure it qualifies as a "blog", in that it's not log or journal-like. But damn, is it good.

The Daily Kitten I'm not sure this one is exactly a blog, either, but it's posted every day, so there!

Waking Up in Dream City A new blog by an old blogger, and off to an excellent start. Not to mention being one of the most decent beings I know. Maybe living in Washington State has something to do with it- you could ask Ms. Kitty.

The Happy Feminist This one probably shouldn't be on the list, as it's apparently defunct. Damn it. the only feminist blog I actually enjoyed reading. But she just stopped posting suddenly... Happy, if you're out there, no explanations necessary- just come back!

Sexy Witch (Not work friendly) Hey- being Pagan isn't just about telling Christians where their holidays come from, you know.

I refuse to list a tenth, as that would mean completing the list and therefore leaving a bunch of friends out- if I never finished, I never slighted them, right?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A geek meme

This one isn't about building computers or program languages or other IT professional stuff; this is about how geeky the ordinary lives of ordinary people has become.

1. What was your first high-tech gadget?

For me it would be a Kodak 100 Instamatic camera. Anyone else remember those? So cool... the film came in a scroll-shaped cartridge, and it would automatically change the shutter time when the flash was used. It also taught me about the ephemeral nature if cutting edge, however; just months after I bought mine, they came out with the flash cube.

2. What was your first computer?

Commodore 64. I wish I still had it; in some ways, it was better than even my latest notebook.

3. How many computers have you owned? How many do you currently use?

Seven: Commodore 64, Commodore 128, NCR 286, Packard Bell Pentium, E machine, another E Machine, HP Notebook. I still use the second E Machine and the Notebook.

4. How many video gadgets have you owned? How many different formats? (VCR, Video Disc, Laser Disc, DVD, Tivo, etc.)

I've had three or four VCRs; the first one's remote control was just a start/stop button- on a wire. I currently have two VCR/DVD combos. I owned a Video Disc- the type that used a needle like a phonograph- for one afternoon. I got it at Radio Shack, took it home, and got the very first movie (MASH) jammed in it, so I took it back for a refund. I never did get a Laser Disc, and don't yet have a Tivo.

5. How many game machines have you owned?

Just one, an early Pong/Tank/etc. Since then all my games have been PC games. My first PC game was Hitchhiker's Guide for Commodore. It came complete with peril-sensitive glasses, microscopic spaceships, and pocket fluff- even though it was a text-based game. My all-time favorite is Rise of the Triad, which won't play on my notebook. :(

6. When did you first go online?

A. Not the WWW. Late 80's, with my 300 baud Commodore. Not much, though, as the only thing I knew you could do with it was log into the IUPUI library. When I got the NCR 286, though, with it's blazingly fast 2400 baud modem, I discovered the miraculous world of the BBS.

B. The Internet. Early 1996, but I didn't do much at first. Slow is an inadequate description of my Packard Bell Pentium; I would type in the URL, go to the kitchen and put the kettle on, go out on the porch for a cigarette, come back in and make tea, then head back to see if the first page had loaded yet- and frequently it hadn't. Loading up all the RAM the motherboard could handle helped a lot, though, once the price came down to where it was feasible.

7. How many cell phones have you owned?

Two- I deliberately held off as long as I could before getting one. My stubbornness was helped by the fact that I had a company phone for work use.

8. Have you ever owned a car with a carburetor?

I've owned nine cars; only the last two have been injected- but that covers 14 years.

9. How long has it been since you've gotten your TV through the air and your internet through dial up?

Although I was an early cable user- back before HBO was 24 hour- I no longer have cable. With the internet, I no longer need it for news, and I just don't have the time to watch all the shows that might interest me... it's a defense against my tendency to become a complete potato. We went to high speed internet a few years ago.

10. Do any of your clocks still have hands? (This question was inspired by a DJ's comment, while playing a Chicago tune, that nobody under the age of 30 would ever give the time as 25 or 6 to 4.)

The only one in use is a mantle clock with hands. Wait- does the desktop gadget clock count? It has hands...

Friday, January 09, 2009

Was Leon Panetta a good pick for the CIA?

There are people of both parties who question President Obama's selection of Leon Panetta to head the CIA. It's a political choice, they say, chosen only because he's close to the President elect. He is a man of intellect and integrity, but has no experience and no training in intelligence work. No matter how good he could become eventually, he'll face a steep learning curve, and this is not a post for on-the-job training.

I agree. I believe he's a gamble that will significantly increase the odds that there will be a terrorist attack on US soil. But I also believe that he should be quickly confirmed, with no reservations.


Because he's the man President Obama wants. That's the compelling factor. Yes, the Senate has the right to advise and consent as they please- or don't please. But the criterion, in my opinion, should be this: if your beef with a nominee wouldn't be grounds to impeach him were he already in office, then it's not grounds to prevent him taking office.

That's the real test of democracy. Not elections- the "People's Democratic Republics" hold elections all the time. The test of a democracy is whether the election means anything. The president elect must be allowed the personnel he wants, the policies he wants, the chance to do the things he promised to do. He was elected in the cleanest, most decisive election in a generation, and election have consequences. He is now the decider.

We can survive bad appointments. We can survive bad Presidents (haven't we spent the last 16 years proving that?) What we cannot survive is subverting democracy, even if you believe you're right.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Bernard Madoff scandal

People are rightly outraged by Madoff's Ponzi scheme that has bilked people out of billions. But the reporting of it is not accurate; it is NOT the worst one

Monday, January 05, 2009

Yet another meme

This one is from The Chaliceblog, and yes it's a couple weeks late; I've been busy. Yeah, that's a lame excuse, especially since two answers are pretty much the same as hers

1. Aside from reading, my favorite pastimes are -having long conversations, and writing.

2. If I were not a desk driver, I would be -depressed, as there's only one non-desk related job I've ever wanted: Rock star. Given that my musical talents are- and let's be generous- limited, and my vocals make Dylan sound like Pavarotti, that wasn't going to happen.

3. I am irrationally worried about - finding out that I'm normal after all.

4. If I were the opposite sex - my situation in life might be a lot worse than it is. I made a number of really poor decisions in my youth, the consequences of which might have been made worse by being female. Besides- if I were a woman, it's less likely that Ginger would have married me.

5. The thing I miss most about childhood is -umm... err... No! Wait! I got one! No, nevermind. Seriously, I wasn't a particularly happy kid and I wouldn't have any of it back for anything. (CC's answer, stolen whole cloth)

6. I like to collect - pens, fountain and dip. I also have a collection of shot glasses, but I don't collect them because they are glasses- they are souvenirs of places I've been. (souvenirs I could afford)

7. Though I’ve never been there, I feel inexplicably homesick for - Luna City

8. I’ve never really liked to eat - raw oysters.

9. When I have nightmares, they’re usually about - getting lost, which is strange, because I rarely ever get lost.

10. Magazines subscribed to: Popular Science, Popular Mechanics (both much-appreciated gifts), Time Magazine, which I will let lapse- I only took out the subscription for the premium, a nifty desktop AM-FM clock/calendar/calculator/alarm.

How theists and atheists can share UU

This began as "UUdom is a microcosm of society part 2," but the fast pace of discussions sparked by the holidays- see The Humanist's Godless Campaign at Pfarrer Streccius; "When Did Expressing Doubt About God Become a "Negative" Attack Message?", "Part II -- When Did Expressing Doubt About God Become a "Negative" Attack Message?", "Supporting Atheists As Anti-Oppression Work", and "Humanist Parents Recreating Religious Community" at Liberal Faith Development , my own Give the gift of death for Christmas , Can you talk about God in your church? at The Journey, and where spirituality is not welcome at Discontinuous Permafrost- (and my delays in writing it) rendered the original obsolete. Instead, I'm taking up the obligation Steve Caldwell quite rightly laid on me when I popped off about it in comments to offer a solution to the rift; I'll lay it out in bullet points as Greta Christina did in her post "How Can Atheists Be Good Allies?"

1. Realize that this is not your church. I have witnessed a strong proprietary mindset by atheist/secular humanists within UU. I'm told that this is strongest in the Midwest, but it seems common throughout the UUA, and was expressed well by goodwolve in the comments to Can you talk about God in your church? : "You don't do it because of people like me - sorry. I just can't stand the infiltration. I know that sounds like a rough word, but I was raised Humanist and it feels so unauthentic to talk about god - it makes me feel like my experience isn't valued and that my church has been taken over by latent Catholics and Baptists." On the other hand, Fausto pointed out in comments in Liberal Faith Development that both Us were founded by Christians. (I'm told this is stronger in the East)

If UUism is to mean anything at all, it cannot belong to a single philosophy. Whatever either constituent "U" was originally, or what you might think "UU" was when they merged, UUism must belong to whoever will covenant to behave in a manner consistent with the Principles and Purposes, regardless of their beliefs. A member's beliefs must be treated with respect. Not agreed with- respected.

2. Don't fall for the fundamentalist binary paradigm. This is a problem for theists and atheists alike. Intellectually we know that there are hundreds of religions, and many shades of atheist- but all too often discussions seem to fall into "either you're a Bible-thumper or trying to outlaw God". "Believer" and "Christian" are not synonyms. Neither are "godless" and "communist". If someone disagrees with you, don't presume to know what he believes- ask him!

3. Remember who you're talking to. We are UUs; this implies certain mindsets. Atheists, don't talk about theocracies and millions killed in crusades. Theists, don't talk about Stalinist purges and outlawing God. UUs, regardless of belief (or the lack thereof) aren't going there. People who would go there would be happier in other churches or organizations. People go to UU churches to fellowship in safety and freedom; save the extremist rhetoric for the extremists.

4. Religion has nothing to do with intelligence. By the numbers this is more of an atheist failing as far as I can see, but now and then believers will also try to make claims linking intelligence to whether one believes or not. Fact is, there are both geniuses and morons on both sides of the discussion, and any trends you think you may see are always less than the difference between individuals. "Bell Curve" type comments (including use of the word "irrational") are as insulting and counterproductive in religious debates as they are in race relations.

5. Even if it's a joke, don't say anything that requires an "Except for you, of course; you're different," if a friend is listening. Three reasons- first, it doesn't make your friend feel better to know that while he may be accepted, his friends, family, and heroes are not. Second, you may not know where everyone within earshot stands, and your "joke" might come just when someone is trying to decide whether your congregation is right for him or not. Third, everyone knows that there's many a true word spoken in jest, and many may begin to wonder about you; some rhetoric is dangerous because it is exaggerated, over the top... and some, because it is exactly what you really meant.

6. Remember why people become UU in the first place. While there are those who were raised UU, they are in the minority; most come to UU as adults, and they came because they didn't feel welcome anywhere else. Some felt outcast because they were believers, but heretics within their previous churches, and some because they aren't believers at all, and for many of them, UU is the church of last resort. They simply have nowhere else to go. Driving such people out of your congregation because of their beliefs may be the only true UU sin.

P.S. All of the above applies to political positions, too.

P.P.S. Happy New Year, everyone! (Yes, I know it's two months late for some of you :) )