Saturday, November 30, 2013

Black Friday

Yesterday, in the throes of Black Friday insanity, I visited every web site in the world and bought everything I saw.  Every single thing!

Nah, just kidding. But I did get all my Xmas gifts. How about you? Did you succumb to the mania? C'mon, spit it out. Tell us what you bought.

(I can't  specify the gifts I bought because my giftees read this blog. But as a rank stranger to me, you can spill your guts and no one will ever know.)

Evil Timmy Dolan plays victim

Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the Catholic henchman who led the US Conference of Catholic Bishops during the years that it pilloried gay people and fought gay marriage everywhere, says he's the victim. Uh-huh.
Timothy Cardinal Dolan says the Catholic Church has been out-maneuvered and unfairly portrayed as “anti-gay” in the battle over same-sex marriage.

In an interview recorded for Sunday’s “Meet the Press" on NBC, Dolan said he regrets the “stampede” to legalize gay marriage, but that the Catholic Church is “not going to give up” in opposing such unions.

“I think maybe we’ve been out-marketed, sometimes. We’ve been caricatured as being anti-gay,” he said.
"Unfairly portrayed as 'anti-gay'"? Caricatured? Timmy is the leader of the vicious Catholic anti-gay movement in the United States, a movement that apparently isn't dead yet despite the pope's insistence that it should be. It's clear that when the pope said "Who am I to judge?" (in reference to gays) he didn't mean "The anti-gay pogrom must continue at all costs!" The pope doesn't want an anti-gay czar to exist within his church. Yet that's pretty much Dolan's job description.

Caricature, my ass. Timmy, you practically cried each time gay marriage won the day in a new state. You are anti-gay bigotry personified. You are the knife that cuts gay throats. You are the pillager, come to devastate gay families. You are the anti-gay Satan.

Go ahead, play the victim card. But know that we see you for who and what you are. You are ugliness and hatred and injustice. You are anathema. And if there is a god, you will spend all eternity in Hell. (But don't worry; hell's just a fairy tale.)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Craig Cobb, yet again

Since my last post about "part-black white supremacist" Craig Cobb (two posts below this one), he's back in the news. The man just can't quiet down and act normal. Now he's refusing to eat in jail. Something is clearly wrong with Craig Cobb's racist brain.
Since [being arrested for trotting around his neighborhood with guns and threatening people], Cobb has refused to eat, claiming he is engaging in an exercise in spiritual enlightenment that will culminate in his death. When jail personnel became concerned about his health, Cobb was taken to a clinic in Beulah, ND. The clinicians referred him to the state hospital. 
As we learned from his style of speaking (see earlier post), Cobb sees himself as high above the mortal terrain occupied by the rest of us low-lifes. What a tool.

Pretty cool kid

Remember Sasha Fleischman, the agender teen whose skirt was set on fire by a sociopathic teen on a bus? Well, he's (ze's?) pretty cool. I don't usually watch video of anything but I was intrigued to hear his take on the incident.

See what you think. As far as I can see, he's an admirable human being. I mean, imagine how you'd feel if someone set you on fire just because of who you are. This kid survived the ordeal with good grace.

(The story never uses a pronoun. He seems guy-ish so I went with "he". Something tells me he wouldn't mind.)

Ah, the schadenfreude!

Y'all remember Craig Cobb, the white supremacist who found out on live TV that his DNA is 14% "sub-Saharan African", right? And then there was the news about him parading around his neighborhood with guns after his house was tagged (probably by his racist pals) with the message: "BACK IN BLACK". That was great fun.

But I didn't know that he has an odd way of speaking. I happened upon a news article about him today. First of all, it comes with a great headline: "'Part-black' white supremacist alleged target of racist graffiti". I love that and hope it sticks with him for the rest of his life: part-black white supremacist Craig Cobb. I mean, really. The irony screams.

Anyway, he was asked about the, you know, running-around-with-guns thing and this is what he said:
Cobb reportedly texted the local Bismark Tribune that he pulled off the stunt ”because of the many violences [sic] and harassments against we and the children.”
I love all of that. But "against we and the children" is my favorite part. He must picture himself as a valiant character in a faded, old book. The bible, maybe. Seriously, how does someone become this deluded?

Carry on, Craig. I look forward to your next adventure. You and your pals -- you know, guys like George Zimmerman -- just can't live in normal society. You'll burst back into the headlines any day now. Can't wait!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What are you thankful for?

I'll start this off. I'm thankful for Dawn Dishwashing Liquid, top hats, computers, my friends and family, an algorithm named Dog, and the fact that I'm finally writing again.

The great thing about Thanksgiving is that people are thankful in a generic way. They don't seem to thank gods or demons or whatnot, though there are surely pockets of such stupidity. For the most part, it's just a feeling of gratitude. And that's how it should be. The fact that we're here, that we exist at all, is the most amazing coincidence of all.

So, me bloggies, what are you thankful for on this fine Thanksgiving day?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Finally: a good list-making app

I've tried a bunch of list apps that I got from the App Store, and they all sucked. They seemed to be designed for nincompoops. But yesterday I explored the App Store one last time, hoping to find something useful. And lo and behold, I discovered List Master. It's exactly what I was looking for.

Yes, I want to make shopping lists and to-do lists. But I also want to record my ideas for books and short stories. And most importantly, I want to have a list of the upcoming scenes I need to write for my novel. List Master does all these things well.

You can make your lists simple or intricate. If you're an anal-compulsive type who wants to list the cost of every item you plan to buy, what aisle it's on in the store, and you want the list to calculate a projected total for your purchases, you've got it. As for my own preferences, I don't need the complicated stuff. I just want to make simple, sensible lists that don't look like cartoons. (Seriously, you should see some of the list apps out there.)

In addition to the scene-listing capability, I like the fact that you can pump in every item you ever bought at a supermarket, and use this as a master shopping list. Then when you need to create a shopping list, you put a check next to the items you need, and List Master turns it into a shopping list that you can bring to the store. And best of all, if I make a list on my iPad, it synchs with my iPhone. It's perfect. (Have no fear; there's an Android version too.)

Very cool -- and only $8.99. That's the really great thing about apps: they don't cost a fortune. Anyway, I love this one. If you're a list maker, I think you'll love it too.

More pope stuff

In a new article about the pope, I found a few statements that were missing from yesterday's reports. For instance, the pope is not keen on the GOP version of fiscal reality:
The Pope also blasted "trickle-down economics," saying the theory "expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power."

“Meanwhile,” Francis said, “the excluded are still waiting.”
Yes, they are. And I was happy to see him say the following:
The Pope also hinted that he wants to see an end to the so-called "wafer wars," in which Catholic politicians who support abortion rights are denied Holy Communion. His comments could also be taken as another sign that he plans to reform church rules that prevent divorced Catholics from receiving the Eucharist.

"Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason," Francis said.

"The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak."
That is so great. I know lots of divorced-and-remarried Catholics who feel terrible about being "excommunicated" for their nonexistent "sins". It sounds like they're about to get a reprieve. This is excellent news.

Oh, and that ugly sound you hear is the sudden collapse of a million heads of vicious priests who enjoyed denying communion to those they wished to look down upon. I guess from now on, they can just go suck it. 

That's it. I'm done. You may return to cooking your turkey.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

TV duh

During a health segment on the local news they asked the following question:

Which of the following is healthier?
A. Apple pie
B. Pumpkin pie
C. Pecan pie
D. Other

Sometimes I just shake my head.

For that one line

The NYT has a treacly story about airport chaplains. It's not worth reading but I loved one line. You'll know it when you see it:
"We sometimes have to reach out to people who have no idea we exist," says the Rev. Chris Piasta, a Catholic priest at JFK's Our Lady of the Skies Chapel, home to a statue of Mary standing on a propeller. 
Admit it: you love knowing about propeller Mary.

Francis: pope of surprises

It seems that Pope Francis is a different kind of pope -- but maybe not different enough. Here are two outtakes from an AP story:
[Pope Francis] went even further Tuesday, saying some of the church's historical customs can even be cast aside if they no longer serve to communicate the faith. Citing St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, Francis stressed the need for moderation in norms "so as to not burden the lives of the faithful." 
Don't get too excited, though. The article says opposition to abortion is non-negotiable, and women will not be ordained as priests. Drat. On the other hand, he remains a refreshing character.
In the frank and often funny style that has come to define Francis' preaching, the Argentine Jesuit chastised priests for their complacency, giving them a lesson on preparing homilies that don't put the faithful to sleep. He reminded them that confession shouldn't be "torture," and told them to get out of their sacristies, get their shoes muddy, get involved in the lives of their faithful and not be defeatist "sourpusses." 
I can't help but like the guy. Nonetheless, this is sad news for women on two important fronts -- reproductive rights and inequality within the church. He needs to "evolve" on those points, both of which coincidentally concern women.

Hey, American nuns. Go wake Francis up on these issues. I know you can do it. Personally, I refuse to give up hope. The Roman Catholic church will remain a sexist, women-oppressing organization unless it notices that women are as worthy as men, and that it is women who should make reproductive decisions -- not men, governments or an anonymous church.

This seems obvious. So once again I find myself asking, "what makes priests so sexist?" I still have no clue, other than the custom of male privilege -- a sickening thing in itself. Nothing in the church's belief system, as far as I can see, actually requires the oppression of women. It's just habit and custom. They seem to have dreamed up the women-oppressing rules from whole cloth. Why? I really don't get it and I don't think Catholic women get it, either. Why, why, why?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Fit, manly men

The answer is finally in!
Watching sport can make you fitter, according to research Sunday that said viewing other people exercise increases heart rate and other physiological measures as if you were working out yourself.
So that's why all those men, sitting on couches as they watch a game while drinking beer and stuffing their faces, look so fit! I always wondered about that.

A strange possibility lurks out there

The sun is quiet. Too quiet.
The surface of the sun has been surprisingly calm of late—with fewer sunspots than anytime in in the last century—prompting curious scientists to wonder just what it might mean here on Earth.
The anomaly goes back even further than a century:
The number of spots counted since it kicked off in December 2008 is well below the average observed over the last 250 years. In fact, it's less than half.
And y'all remember what happened back then, right?
The last time that happened, during the so-called "Maunder Minimum" between 1650 and 1715, almost no sunspots were observed. During the same period, temperatures dropped sharply on Earth, sparking what is called the "Little Ice Age" in Europe and North America.

As the sunspot numbers continue to stay low, it's possible the Earth's climate is being affected again.
Wouldn't it be amazing if global warming came just in time to save us from an impending ice age? That would be totally bizarre.

And no, this doesn't mean we can forget about cutting our carbon footprint, though the GOP will certainly read it that way. Mindless scum are so predictable.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Ignorant Git of the Day

I really have to hand it to this Christian moron. The man knows how to spew his Christian nonsense.

Via Raw Story, I learned that ignorant-git president J. Stacy Miller of the Myrtle Grove Christian School presented the following biblical message to students and parents. He said:
"...that all families with children at Myrtle Grove must sign the 'Biblical Morality Policy,' swearing not to participate in, support or affirm 'sexual immorality, homosexual activity, or bisexual activity; promoting such practices; or being unable to support the moral principles of the school.'”
“For this reason,” said Miller, “the school reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission of an applicant or to discontinue enrollment of a student if the atmosphere or conduct within a particular home or the activities of the student are counter to or are in opposition to the biblical lifestyle the school teaches.”
If the family even knows a gay person, the school will expel the child. So if Aunt Harriet, bless her sweet soul, is a lesbian, the kid is going to need a new school. Because of God's love, or something. Actually, it makes perfect biblical sense. After all, the bible is a collection of fairy tales festooned with rot, hatred and murder.

But the best part was how he opened his message to parents:
“Do you remember playing circle games like ‘Duck Duck Goose’ in elementary school?” Miller asked. “In order to form a circle, we would gather in close together, hold hands, and then back up away from the center” and form a circle. 

“If we move to [sic] far from the center, we can’t hold hands anymore,” the principal warned.
You don't want to be forced out of the circle for knowing any of those horrible gay people. Because outside the circle of Christian Love, you could easily bump into some real-world information -- and that could harm your faith.

Seriously...the Duck Duck Goose game? This git really knows how to get his rubes riled up. And so I award Christian bigot J. Stacy Miller my very first Ignorant Git of the Day award. Let us all join together in a secular wish: may he go to heaven soon.

It's not a game

I'm always surprised when media sources fail to be proactive. I'm not sure if this is news everywhere, but in NYC the media can't stop talking about the "knockout game". Game?
Police are investigating whether a rash of cowardly sucker punch assaults in Brooklyn is all part of a sick "knockout game."

The latest victim — a 78-year-old woman in Midwood — came forward on Tuesday and told police she was hit in the back of her head while walking along E. 5th St. and Ave. L earlier this month.

That woman, along with seven Orthodox Jews who were attacked in Crown Heights, could all be targets of a mean-spirited knockout game in which people are punched in the back of the head and onlookers post video of the assault to the Web. [Emphasis mine.]
I get it. Some kids call this the "knockout game". But that's no reason for the media to spread the terminology around. For Dog's sake, don't call it a game.

[Note: I have to give credit where it's due: the above-linked NY Daily News article at least managed to provide one mention of this being a "cowardly suckerpunch assault". But then they reverted to calling it a "game". Sigh.]

Call it a "knockout crime" or a "cowardly suckerpunch" or simply "sociopathic behavior" -- but don't call it a "game". The consequence of using this innocent term is that you're creating a playful meme; you're telling the public that this is a simple, childlike behavior. It diminishes the heinous nature of the crime.

In the US, the news media rarely feel responsibility for the news they present. I remember that it took about ten years for the media to stop saying that this or that organization "took credit" for a bombing or shooting. Credit is what's given for a laudable act. And then one bright day, the media got some sense slapped into it, and began to say that this or that organization "took responsibility" for the crime. Phew. Was that so hard?

Why can't the media wake up at the beginning of a terrible trend in terminology? Why can't they see right now that calling this cowardly suckerpunch crime a "knockout game" is a terrible idea? 

The media act like irresponsible children. And that's an accurate call. They led us into a false war, they don't provide accurate information about who's lying and who's telling the truth, and they spread damaging ideas on a daily basis -- without a qualm. I guess they like to play the irresponsibility game. That one's hurting us, too. Every day and in every way.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Phew, that was close

Last night, the Federation of Intelligent Galactic Entities tried to filibuster my hold on the Lid!

It was an extremely close call. But at the last second, Dog changed the rules!

Now, as long as Dog votes for a thing, it will happen! So I get to keep the Lid. Praise Dog!


In the past week, I've taken care to fast-forward through every TV mention of JFK's assassination. And I've scrolled quickly past the endless JFK stories on the internet.

I'm just not having it.

Fifty years of remembrance is long enough. I refuse to think about that day ever again. It's gone.

But y'all go enjoy another funeral dirge, if you want to. Takes all kinds.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

No shame

Remember those two girls who were charged for bullying another girl who jumped to her death, seemingly because of the abuse? Well, after getting off scot-free in court, Katelyn Roman made a bizarre statement on the Today Show.
One of the two girls cleared of driving a 12-year-old Florida girl to suicide says she doesn’t feel guilty about the teen’s death.
Katelyn Roman, 13, made the stunning admission on NBC’s “Today” show Thursday.

“No, I do not feel I did anything wrong,” said Katelyn, speaking publicly for the first time.
That's probably because you're a psychopath, dear. Later in the article, we get a special bonus. Apparently, Katelyn thinks she "learned a lesson" from what happened.
“I learned it’s not OK to bully. When you have a chance, stand up to bullies,” she said.
Stand up to bullies?! Did she actually say that? Does this girl have any clue that she's the bully? Lessons learned, my ass. I think she should run for a Republican seat in the House of Representatives. They'd love her over there.

Confirmed: humans are mutts

We finally have confirmation for scientists' hypothesis that early humans interbred with other pre-human species. And it wasn't only one species -- humans were interbreeding with several species.
All humans whose ancestry originates outside Africa have about 2 percent Neanderthal genomes, and some Oceanic humans, such as Papua New Guineans and Australian Aboriginals, have about 4 percent of their DNA from interbreeding between their human ancestors and Denisovans, whose remains were found in a cave in Siberia’s Altai Mountains.
Wait, it gets even better:
But researchers said the new genomes also suggested that Denisovans interbred with another extinct population of ancient humans who lived in Asia more than 30,000 years ago, and scientists are left guessing who they might have been.
“We don’t have the faintest idea,” says Chris Stringer, a paleoanthropologist at the London Natural History Museum.
Humans = mutts. I say we celebrate this news by picking up a mixed-breed puppy at our local shelter. Aw, look at him. He's so cute!

The Craig Cobb Show

Like George Zimmerman, Craig Cobb just won't go away. You remember Cobb -- he's the white supremacist who learned that his DNA is 14% African. We all wondered how his racist buddies would react. Well, it's payback time:
According to local prosecutors, after other white supremacists in Leith learned that Cobb possessed “sub-Sarahan African” DNA, one of them — currently not identified by name by the police — spray-painted “BACK IN BLACK” on Cobb’s house.
It was this graffiti that led Cobb and a follower to “patrol” the streets of Leith over the weekend. The pair were arrested and charged with three counts of terrorizing.
This is what makes reading the news fun. The lives of wingnuts are like reality shows but they don't get paid for it -- which is where the real fun comes in. Just think of poor George Zimmerman driving around aimlessly, looking for someone new to point his gun at. Life is berry berry bad for these folks. And I repeat, they're not getting paid.

NFL not ready for gay players

There's an interesting story over at Bleacher Report. Apparently one NFL team was about to sign a gay free agent to a deal, after which the player would come out as gay. Didn't happen. The article is about why this is the case, and when and if the situation will ever change. There are some interesting statements along the way.
Estimates of how many gay players are in the NFL range widely, but some of them, from people intimately familiar with the league, are far higher than might be assumed by the outside public.
Players and team executives give totals ranging from several dozen to several hundred. (There are about 2,000 players in the league.) One former general manager said he believes the number of gay players is 30-40. [My bolding.]
I'm surprised by the number this former manager came up with. That would mean it's not unusual for a gay player to be a member of an NFL team. Who knows? Maybe it's true. I've certainly known my share of butch gay guys who could pass for straight in any environment.
The other possibility is a high-profile player in college is openly gay and has discussed this in media interviews for years. By the time he's picked high in the NFL draft, his sexuality has been so discussed and analyzed that no one cares. And that is the goal. Reach a day when no one will care.
We'll care. I promise. But it'll be a good "care". The fans I'm not so sure about but such a player would get worlds of support from the American public. But we may never find out because the teams (the owners, actually) are too bigoted frightened.
So after lots of talk of a gay NFL player coming out, the talk disappeared. Because NFL teams, in the end, got cold feet. It's that simple.
 Bigotry always is.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Skakel to walk free because

It's just great how rich white guys avoid jail, isn't it? I mean: USA! USA! Watta country!

The headline for this story is "Kennedy Cousin Poised for Freedom in 1975 Killing". Poised? Michael Skakel cannot be "poised" for the simple reason that he is a pig. Pigs and poised live on opposite sides of the planet. And did I mention he's a murderer?
Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel is expected to be released from prison this week while prosecutors appeal a ruling granting him a new trial in the 1975 slaying of neighbor Martha Moxley, the latest dramatic development in a case with an extraordinary history.  
Now, doesn't that just lift your American spirits? It reminds me of yesterday's White House press conference, where someone (I'm not sure who he was, perhaps the usual press secretary) speaking for the AG said the fine against JP Morgan would help to restore Americans' confidence. 

Uh, no. Convictions and long jail sentences for banksters would help to restore Americans' confidence. JP Morgan's fine was just like Skakel's freedom. In each case, money bought the defendants the right to harm people in an illegal manner -- and walk free.

Are you feeling confident yet? Good.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Headline a bit off

There's an AP story at the NYT with an inaccurate headline. It says "Pa. Pastor Who Performed Gay Wedding to Learn Fate".

No. See, Rev. Frank Schaefer already knows his fate. Although he was "convicted" at a church "trial", he will continue to be the decent, loving man that he's always been. That is his fate. As to what the nattering nabobs of his church will do now, who cares? Any punishment they assign will be a judgement on the church, not on him.

I did love one tidbit from the linked article. Early news reports said that the wedding took place long ago. And just as the churchly statute of limitations was about to run out, an unnamed parishioner filed a complaint against him, resulting in the sham "trial". Uh, wait a minute. According to the article, the parishioner was simply being venomous. Surprise, surprise.
And still others left amid disputes over Schaefer's ministry, his administrative skills and his falling-out with the longtime choir director — the mother of the man who eventually filed a complaint against Schaefer over his son's wedding.  
This dear, sweet, Methodist family was just getting back at him. It's not about god's strange edicts, after all. It's payback.

Never forget: God is love.

The continuing adventures of multi-racial white supremacist, Craig Cobb

Y'all remember Craig Cobb, right? He's the white supremacist who found out his DNA is 14% sub-Saharan African -- on live TV, no less. The reason Cobb was deemed newsworthy (even before the test) is that he wants to turn a small North Dakota town into an "Aryan enclave". Well, he's in the news again.
Sixty-two-year-old Craig Cobb and 29-year-old Kynan Dutton are accused of terrorizing people in Leith (leeth) with guns over the weekend. They said they were patrolling the town because of violence and harassment directed at them. 

They have been ordered held without bond on seven felony terrorizing counts. They each could face a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of 35 years if convicted.
If he goes to prison, I wonder if the Aryan Brotherhood will shun him (and possibly harm him) because of his African roots. Talk about schadenfreude! Hoo boy. Fun.

Bruni takes down Liz Cheney

Frank Bruni muses about Liz Cheney heaving family out the window so she can win an election. Go read it.

You know how Liz just said she's against gay marriage, right? She said this despite having a gay sister who's married to a woman and has two kids who used to think Aunt Lizzie loved them.

Here's a sample from the column:
Is any political office worth that? Would victory redeem the public message that Liz just sent to her niece and nephew? I’m imagining her awkwardness the next time that she goes to hug or kiss them (and I’m assuming that she’s a hugger or kisser, which may be a leap). If there’s not a knot in her stomach, then there’s nothing at all in her heart. 
I vote for "nothing at all in her heart". Liz seems to take after daddy. She's empty inside.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Not real? Who cares?

The Vatican is putting on a show:
The Vatican's decision to publicly exhibit the purported relics of the Apostle Peter for the first time this weekend has spotlighted the intense scientific debate over whether the bones actually belong to the first bishop of Rome. 
There isn't a lot in the article about the controversy, but it seems there is no proof that these are Peter's bones. Not to worry:
A senior Vatican official, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, acknowledged the debate Monday but suggested it almost doesn't matter if scientists determine the bones aren't Peter's since Christians have venerated them for two millennia and will continue to. 
And that's all that matters. If you've been doing something for a long time, that is reason enough to continue doing it. Doesn't matter what it is; repetition makes it true.

In fact, it doesn't even matter whether god is real. After all, people have been worshiping Jeebus for 2000 years. So everyone should just keep doing it. Makes great sense, right?

I'm just grateful we have smart people like the folks in the Vatican to sort out these troublesome issues for us. Honestly, what would we do without them?

Some Vatican archaeologists disagreed [with the idea that these are Peter's bones], and debate continues today much as it has over the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin
Since the Shroud of Turin is a fake, I guess this means the bones aren't Peter's. Birds of a feather, and all that.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

What did they expect?

The Methodist church is piling bricks on the head of a Methodist minister who officiated at the marriage of his gay son. Mind you, the church initially ignored the situation and the marriage probably would have fallen down the memory hole but for an evil parishioner who, long after the fact, filed a complaint against him. And now a full three-day "trial" will be held to decide if the Rev. Frank Schaefer should be defrocked for being kind and open and caring.

Today we are seeing the death throes of opposition to gay marriage. Although the die is cast, we will continue to see skirmishes, recurrent ugliness, and wingnuts screaming for their lives. But the game is over; gay marriage won.

The article includes this little tidbit (that I hadn't heard before):
Schaefer could have avoided a trial if he had agreed to never again perform a same-gender wedding, but he declined because three of his four children are gay
Duh. And you're going to defrock him for being kind and caring to his children. I guess Methodists, like Catholics, are mostly immoral, hateful creatures. But hey, you never know what religious people will do. Maybe they'll skip the defrocking and declare him a saint. Let's hope so.

In any case, good for you, Rev. Schaefer. At least you know that you did the right thing. It's just that your, you know, church is immoral.

Bill and Hill

The ever-interesting Frank Bruni has a column about the Clintons in today's NY Times. My own feeling is "Dog, please save us from the Clintons". But that's me.

Here's a bit from the column. If you're a Hillary fan, or not, you might enjoy reading it.
“You can’t over-interpret it,” the strategist cautioned, saying that even a couple as conniving as the Clintons can’t and don’t “sit there at the chessboard every day.” 
And this:
A friend of mine who went to a public event of hers last week was blown away by how not blown away he was. Amid all of the Hillary hullabaloo, he’d forgotten that she’s no dynamo on the stump. Many Democrats overlook this, but not the ones whispering sweet encouragements in Elizabeth Warren’s ear. 
No dynamo: that's Hillary in a nutshell. I don't want this incredibly dull woman -- whose only accomplishment is a law against flag-burning -- to be president.

(On the other hand, Elizabeth Warren may be marvelous but she's got Harry Reid's voice problem. When she talks, the tone of her voice is so boring, it's difficult to listen to her words. Sigh.)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Utopia revisited

When I was a teenager in the 1960s, it was an accepted fact that humanity was on the road to Utopia, a scientifically perfected existence.

Sci-fi writers showed us what this might be like. Apparently, every person on Earth would be able to reach his or her potential. Opportunities and education would be available to all, tailored to match each person's talents. Money, of course, wouldn't matter at all. We could have all the goods we wanted; robots would make the stuff to our specifications. There would be no need for money in Utopia.

It sounded grand and likely. After all, humans are such an intelligent species. It's obvious we would work toward this goal and achieve it. The golden age of mankind was right around the corner.

But of course, over 50 years has passed and we're further from that egalitarian goal than when it was only a hippie dream. I don't think I have to embellish this statement with links. You know it's true. The world, as currently managed by humans, is an ugly cauldron of greed and suffering -- the latter caused by the former. So much for utopian dreams.

As I pondered this loss, something occurred to me. You know what couldn't exist in Utopia, even for five seconds? Filthy rich people. And that is why it's still only a dream.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The nonsense faced by transgender kids

This is ridiculous:
A South Texas transgender student says his school district is preventing a photo of him in a tuxedo from appearing in his high school's yearbook. 
Who cares what people wear?! This reminds me of the silliness hippies faced over long hair. What possible difference could it make how a person wears his hair? But those who buttress society's walls didn't like it. You couldn't get a job with long hair, and schools incessantly made long-haired kids get a haircut.

What a waste of time. Today, policemen have long hair and earrings and tattoos. So how valuable was that fight over long hair in the 60s? It was so meaningless that it's all but forgotten now.

This is the same story, different flavor. People get all excited when trans kids dress as the "opposite" sex. But that is their sex. Furthermore, people should be able to look however they want (and yes, that includes face veils). Luckily, the article states that the Southern Poverty Law Center is on the case. This kid's going to get to wear his tuxedo in his high school photo. At least, I hope so.

And soon the whole thing will fall down the memory hole. And in ten years, policemen will be able to dress as any sex they want -- changing gender on a daily basis, if that's their wish. End of story.

Update: Issue resolved. Thank you, SPLC

Scenes: the building blocks of a novel

Last year I bought a Nick Drake album called "Family Tree", which is described as an album of "home recordings". Essentially, it's Drake playing guitar and singing in his room, while taping the result. It's not high quality but it's Nick Drake. Since his death in the 70s, his popularity has grown and there's a real hunger to hear this man's voice and music.

As I listened to the songs, I was struck by a parallel: songs are to a singer, as a scene is to a fiction writer. Each is a discrete, distinct entity, part of a whole (the album, the book) yet capable of standing on its own. A scene, I thought, is a writer's song. This had never occurred to me before and it seemed profound.

Now, as I find myself outlining the initial scenes for my new novel, "The Worlds", I'm reminded of that perception. I can push it further: the initial scenes of a book are like the choice of songs to lead off an album. They set the tone, establish the style and (hopefully) wake the reader up. They say "stay tuned, more like this (or better) ahead".

I'm finally happy with the progression of initial scenes for the book. I haven't written them all yet; I've done some and have headers that represent the others. The logical order is established. Now I have to make music with this.

Jerry Coyne is a national treasure

On his blog today, Jerry Coyne ruminated about Francis Collins' insistence that religion and science just get along. I loved this bit:
"...I am 99.9% sure there is no God, just as I’m 99.9% sure that there’s no Loch Ness monster.  Is it a “strong a-Nessieist position” to say “I know there is no Nessie”? Is that hubris and arrogance, too? It is curious that for everything as unevidenced as God—except for God himself—people are willing to argue that it doesn’t exist.  God is the one exception, probably because belief in Nessie doesn’t come with an afterlife."
 How can you not love a guy like Jerry? He's my hero.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tiger Mom

I was reading an article at physorg today, when a related thought occurred to me. The article was about a new scientific method for figuring out the shared origins of seemingly diverse fairy tales. It sort of looks for the common ancestor of fairy tales, the way biologists look for ancestors of various species to discover a common progenitor.

Here's the paragraph that struck me:
The Wolf and the Kids, popular in Europe and the Middle East, is a story about a wolf who impersonates a nanny goat and devours her kids, whereas Little Red Riding Hood is about a wolf who devours a young girl after impersonating her grandmother. Variants of the story are common in Africa and Asia, for example, The Tiger Grandmother in Japan, China and Korea.
This means the woman who wrote Tiger Mom, a parenting manual, knew that Asian readers would see the book's title as a reference to "The Tiger Grandmother". This strikes me as very odd. Surely this would produce a negative reaction in the minds of Asian readers. "She eats her children?!" Strange.

Knish recipe

Recently, I railed on the blog about the lack of knishes in my area. As a NYC boy, I was raised on these things. Okay, maybe not raised, but I bought one now and then.

There's a shortage in NY (and elsewhere, I imagine) because of a problem at the Gabila factory. They can't make those wondrous square knishes at the moment, and all of NY is in an intense, painful state of withdrawal. We need our knishes!

Luckily, the Center for Kosher Culinary Arts came to the rescue and posted the recipe here. I'm gonna make some. And now you can, too. We're saved!

Craig Cobb's moment

Craig Cobb is the white supremacist who just found out -- on live TV -- that he's 14% "Sub-Saharan African". DNA tests can be so pesky.

It couldn't have happened to a more appropriate person. He's the guy who's trying to take over a town so he can establish a white-power enclave. Just what America needs, right?

It must have been a tremendously crushing moment for him. I imagine he felt like Pluto did when we tossed it out of the solar system.

I'd love to know how he's going to handle this, going forward. Is the white power town still on? And how will his fellow bigots view him, now that the truth is out? Shadenfreude is a marvelous emotion. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Caffeine, and such

All Fox News viewers drink decaffeinated coffee -- every one of them. We know this to be true because if they had a cup of real coffee, they'd wake up and change the channel. I swear, these people are so odd. They're a combination of opposing things. Even as they are enraged by the latest nonsense spewed by Fox News, more than 50% of their brain mass remains in coma. A single cup of real coffee could cure many of these lost souls, but that will never happen. They fear coffee, like vampires fear sunshine.

Speaking of caffeine, you've all been watching Chris Hayes' show on MSNBC, right? It's on weeknights at 8 pm, right before Rachel. I swear, as I watch the show I find myself rejoicing. Finally someone is talking fast enough. Hallelujah! Not only that but his staccato delivery infects his guests, and soon they're all jabbering at lightning speed. How this thrills my heart.

Chris is terrific. Knows his stuff and doesn't let anything slip by. It's like blogs came to life and turned into a TV guy. And did I mention he talks fast?

A bit more on Kurtz

Today we're hearing more about Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, the new head of the US Conference on Catholic Bishops (CCB). It ain't good.
The newly elected leader of the nation's Roman Catholic bishops says he will draw on his years as a pastor while seeking to reconcile Pope Francis' message of a welcoming church with the conservative ideology of American bishops
Of course, "welcoming" and "conservative" don't belong in the same sentence. The CCB might as well be the Christian Taliban. You won't hear anything progressive from these guys. But at least AP stated in print that the American bishops' group has a "conservative ideology". 

The article quotes a pastor who says of Kurtz, "He's got a gift for reaching out." Immediately afterward, the article states:
But Kurtz has also used his time as Louisville Archbishop to take strong stands on the kind of hot-button cultural issues the new pope says have occupied too much of the church's focus. Since coming to Louisville, he has joined praying protesters in front of an abortion clinic, donated $1,000 of archdiocese money to a same-sex marriage repeal effort in Maine and joined other Catholic leaders in denouncing a federal requirement for employers to provide health insurance that covers artificial contraceptives. 
In other words, he's a dyed-in-the-wool Catholic wingnut. It seems clear that the bishops' group purposely elected a caveman to oppose the new pope's will. They will not succumb to liberal theology. That is what I see from the appointment of Kurtz (and DiNardo as VP).

Short translation -- the bishops won't go gently into that lavender night. In fact, they'll kick and scream. What's your take on all this?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Two wingnuts chosen to lead Catholic bishops group

So the evil US Conference of Catholic Bishops has a new leader. (I heard Timmy Dolan melted into a puddle at the news, and was wiped up with a ton of Bounty paper towels. Then they tossed him in the garbage. Good riddance.)
BALTIMORE — The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops on Tuesday elected Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., a prelate who has earned a reputation as a consensus-seeker, president of their conference on the first ballot. 
This is not good news -- but it could have been worse. They also said this:
In a closely watched decision, the bishops elected Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston as vice president from a slate of 10 candidates. In the runoff vote, they passed over Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, a razor-sharp writer who often weighs in on politics from a markedly conservative point of view
"Markedly conservative view" is putting it mildly. Chaput is one of the most anti-gay priests in the United States. He is truly evil, a creature with a dried, blackened lump for a heart. The reason this is important is that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops almost always elects the vice-president to replace the president, when his term is over. So Chaput could have been next in line. But it's not time to say "Phew!" The actual appointees are clearly damaged goods. I don't think gays or Pope Francis will be very happy with these choices. Here's a peek at DiNardo's anti-abortion activities:
Catholic Cardinal Daniel DiNardo joined a chorus of abortion opponents asking Gov. Rick Perry to call a second special session after a filibuster Tuesday night killed Senate Bill 5.
“I talked to our Texas Catholic Conference about a week ago and I was under the impression the votes were there,” DiNardo told the Houston Chronicle. “I was very disappointed when I woke up.”
That's because Wendy Davis' 11-hour filibuster smacked DiNardo in the chin. And he's all-in with the crazy Catholics who think that ObamaCare violates their precious ethics by forcing them to buy a condom for employees now and then. He sounds like a crazy person. Here's a quote:
“Never before in our US History has the Federal Government forced citizens to directly purchase what violates our beliefs. At issue here as our President of the Conference stated it this past Friday, is the survival of a cornerstone constitutionally protected freedom that ensures respect for conscience and religious liberty.”
Reuters described the election of Kurtz and DiNardo thusly: "U.S. Catholic bishops elected two centrist conservatives as new leaders on Tuesday". I guess that says it all. You already know that "conservative" means terrible things. But "centrist" isn't a good term either. It just means you're a nitwit who can't tell right from wrong, so you chew your cud in the middle and do nothing. Both these guys are Bozo's. Let's move on to the president. Here's a quote from Kurtz:
In remarks to reporters, Kurtz discussed the bishops' support of the "sanctity" of traditional marriage, the protection of the unborn and the importance of helping the poor and immigrants. He also connected moving people out of poverty with the strength of the family.
Sigh. Another Catholic wingnut. So much for hope. The Dark Age of Catholicism in America is set to continue and continue and...

First they came for the donuts

Rand Paul today, speaking about the most important issue in America. He sure knows how to pick his battles (and hair-pieces).
"They're coming after your doughnuts!" the Kentucky Republican said, referring to the Food and Drug Administration decision to ban trans fats.
How can this guy exist? I don't get it. There's someone out there who likes this guy? Then again, "they're coming for your donuts" may be the most effective message to reach the current crop of Americans.

How did we fall this low? It's still amazing, even after more than a decade of nonsense. People used to make sense, you know. They were even logical, at times. If you're young, you probably aren't aware of this. And that may be the saddest fact of all.

Sarah's blatherings

Via Ed Brayton, I learned that Sarah Palin has a new book out -- and it's about Christmas. Wow, huh? I'll bet reading the book is almost as good as hearing her say empty, senseless things in person.

In Ed's rundown, I was amused to note this quote from the book:
Perhaps Christmas causes so much anger because the very name of the holiday broadcasts the name above all names.
Heh, heh. Not in Xmas Carol, honey. The evil word "Christmas" doesn't appear once in the book. I think that's my favorite thing about the story. It's an Xmas story without Jeebus -- or even Christmas. Fun. Xmas Carol is probably the direct opposite of Sarah's book.

And that means I'm on the right track. Go read it, kids. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Maybe I was wrong. Horrors!

On tonight's broadcast news, they flashed a question or two from the Vatican survey I mentioned earlier. I was surprised because the questions weren't the sort the church would pose to rank-and-file believers. They were questions for priests.

The samples asked, for instance, what sorts of situations they saw that involved divorced parishioners. What were their needs, etc. It was all of that stripe. Clearly the questions weren't meant for the pews.

I'm not sure yet whether I read too quickly and jumped the gun, or the initial media reports missed the mark. I was under the impression that the Vatican wanted to know what Catholics thought of the church's focus on flash-point issues such as gay marriage, married priests, communion for divorced parishioners, etc.). This impression seems to be incorrect.

Which would mean...that fat old Timmy Dolan got it right and I got it wrong. See? Wonders still happen. Praise Dog!

Pope sends message to US bishops

Pope Francis seems to have noticed the hairy, protruding foreheads of US bishops.
The Vatican ambassador to the United States says American bishops should make Roman Catholics feel more at home in the church. 

Archbishop Carlo Vigano (VIH-gah-no) says Pope Francis wants bishops to act more fatherly and not follow any particular ideology. 
Sounds good, right? Like maybe the bishops could stop attacking gay people, for starters. But then the linked article reports Archbishop Timmy Dolan's comment, which seems to come from outer space and can be summarized as "Look, over there! A shiny thing!!!"
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan is ending his term as president of the bishops' conference. He urged church leaders to make religious freedom abroad their defining issue. He said religious freedom challenges in the U.S. pale in comparison to what Christians face overseas. 
Timmy doesn't like what the pope is saying. He doesn't like it at all. This should be fun to watch.

UPDATE: I based this post on an AP story, which means the tale was fleshed out by their reporters throughout the day. What was three short paragraphs when I first linked to it is now a full-scale article that includes this tidbit:
In a September interview, Francis said Catholic leaders should give greater emphasis to compassion, arguing the church's focus on abortion, marriage and contraception has been too narrow and alienating. For the last several years, the public sessions of the fall bishops' assembly have centered on those issues. This year's meeting gave the first glimpse of how that message was resonating among American leaders.
Yes, the bishops group has occupied itself with hatred these past few years -- not coincidentally while it was under the leadership of dear, sweet Archbishop Timmy Dolan, the voice of American Catholic hatred for gays.

The article closes on this blissful note:
Dolan is at the end of this three-year term as conference president. His successor will be elected Tuesday, the final day of the public part of the meeting.
Let's hope this means the wicked witch is dead, at least for a time.

U.S. bishops put the kibosh on pope's plan

Only in America. Y'all know about the pope's survey, right? He's directed every parish to ask questions about how parishioners view the church's teachings on those touchy issues -- like the automatic excommunication of Catholics who divorce, and the raising of children by gay couples. You know, the good stuff.

But in this Kansas City Star opinion piece by Mary Sanchez, I found an interesting note on the process:
But what happened next [i.e., after the pope's request[ is nearly as interesting. The Bishops of England and Wales posted the survey online. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wasn't quite so eager. The cover letter it sent to dioceses with the questionnaire implied that it was the bishops whose "observations" Rome should receive.
This is the exact opposite of what the pope requested. More from the article:
The letter from the Vatican instructed the bishops to distribute the document to the dioceses "and ask them to share it immediately as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received regarding the themes and responses to the questionnaire."

That certainly sounds like the Vatican is seeking replies from the faithful, not the gatekeepers.

Read more here:
So let's recap. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops decided that the pope didn't really mean what he said. The pope couldn't possibly want to hear from rank and file believers. What good would that do?! No, no, no. He wants to hear only from the church's polizia, the bishops.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has acted like agents of the Spanish Inquisition in recent years. It is their authoritarian thoughts that are promulgated throughout Catholic America. And they've told parishioners in clear language that gays are anathema, that abortion will bring down the wrath of god, that American nuns are evil feminists who must be disciplined, and that divorce means being severed from the church for all eternity.

These guys don't want to let go. Remember, it is the insipid and valueless Archbishop Dolan of NY who headed the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in recent years. It is he who led the national pogrom against gays and gay marriage. The man detests gay people and has devoted his priestly life to demonizing them.

And now the US Conference of Catholic Bishops seems to think the pope wants to hear their opinions rather than those of the, you know, believers. Every church around the world understood the pope's request -- except Catholic leaders in the United States.

I hope the pope smacks them down. He can't be pleased with their authoritarian reaction to his straightforward attempt to poll the believers. Go get 'em, Francis. I've got your back.

The folly of theologians

From this morning's post by Jerry Coyne:
...I suspect that the great majority of theologians who confect “proofs” of God were born to a faith, imbibed it with their mother’s milk, and then never grew up, but simply used the intellectual skills they acquired to justify their childhood beliefs. Such people were perfectly able to give up their belief in Santa Claus, but can’t do that for God. But of course Santa doesn’t bring us an afterlife for Christmas.
I love Jerry. No one sticks it to religionists like he does. No one. (Okay, PZ comes close.)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Left behind

I loved this NYT story.
“It seems he’s focusing on bringing back the left that’s fallen away, but what about the conservatives?” said Ms. Kurt, a hospice community educator. “Even when it was discouraging working in pro-life, you always felt like Mother Teresa was on your side and the popes were encouraging you. Now I feel kind of thrown under the bus.” 
Good. Stay there, lady. I assure you that's where you belong. Ah, the schadenfreude. It sparkles like new snow. So Pope Francis is being mean to the, (ahem), mean people? Tch, tch, tch. So sad. 
They were shocked when they saw that Francis said in the interview that “the most serious of the evils” today are “youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old.” It compounded the chagrin after he said in an earlier interview that he had intentionally “not spoken much” about abortion, same-sex marriage or contraception because the church could not be “obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines.” 
Imagine that! The pope said something evil was evil, instead of saying that something silly, kind or helpful was evil. Wow! That must have driven a stake through the conservative "heart" -- and I use quotes there for a reason. These people don't have actual hearts.

They're shaking in their boots:
Steve Skojec, the vice president of a real estate firm in Virginia and a blogger who has written for several conservative Catholic websites, wrote of Francis’ statements: “Are they explicitly heretical? No. Are they dangerously close? Absolutely. What kind of a Christian tells an atheist he has no intention to convert him? That alone should disturb Catholics everywhere.” 
In an interview on Friday, Mr. Skojec said he was overwhelmed by the positive response to his blog from people who said they were thinking the same things but had not wanted to say them in public. He said he had come to suspect that Francis is a “self-styled revolutionary” who wants to change the church fundamentally. 
Let's hope so. But seriously, these people are totally crazy. You don't often hear Catholics speaking of "prophecy" -- but these gomers do:
Some conservative Catholics are sharing prophecies online that foretell of tribulations for the church. In one, an Irish woman predicted that Benedict would be held hostage. Others cite the German mystic Anne Catherine Emmerich, who wrote of a “relationship between two popes,” one who “lives in a palace other than before,” which some now see as a reference to Benedict, who resigned as pope early this year but still lives in Vatican City. During this time there arises a “false church of darkness.” 
I'll bet they cherish the "Long Island Medium" too. Francis, if you're irritating these specific people, you're doing a bang-up job. Enough from me. I have to go share some prophecies online now. Later.

This sounds all too familiar

An AP story tells us about Pakistan's reaction to Malala Yousafzai. It ain't good. In fact, it sounds just like the American wingnut reaction to Obama. He does something peaceful and kind, and they call him a Nazi. Here's the Pakistani version of that move:
Pakistani education officials said Sunday that they have banned teenage activist Malala Yousafzai's book from private schools across the country, claiming it doesn't show enough respect for Islam and calling her a tool of the West. 
They'd say she's a Nazi pushing socialism but that tack doesn't work in their country. But that's okay; they have their own game: she is insulting the prophet. These are exactly the same kind of people as the American Christian lunatics that control our military and government. Here's a bit more:
Adeeb Javedani, president of the All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association, said his group banned Malala's book from the libraries of its 40,000 affiliated schools and called on the government to bar it from school curriculums.  

He said the book did not show enough respect for Islam because it mentioned Prophet Muhammad's name without using the abbreviation PUH — "peace be upon him" — as is customary in many parts of the Muslim world. He also said it spoke favorably of author Salman Rushdie, who angered many Muslims with his book "The Satanic Verses," and Ahmadis, members of a minority sect that have been declared non-Muslims under Pakistani law.
Huge crimes, huh? And never mind that her point is about educating the country's children, especially the girls. The Pakistani Taliban-enablers seem like mirrors of the Tea Party Christians in the United States. If people aren't doing things in accordance with their wingnut view of religion, then they are doing the work of the devil -- and one must oppose them at all costs. Next stop: government default. The consequences don't matter to these people. Only the red-hot, irrational thoughts inside their brains seem real to them.

It's the same song, sung in a different key. In both countries, this type of "religious thinking" puts blinders on the population. By adhering to nonsensical religious ideals, they ignore the things that actually matter -- like providing a good education for their people. The Taliban do it there; the Christian wingnuts do it here. (Texas education standards, anyone?)

In the long run, if these sentiments blossom out of control, they will bring death to us all. Why think about climate change when you've got godly matters to sort out? Don't know where to store your used nuclear fuel? Not to worry; just go to church and forget about it. This road leads to doom.

And some people speak of the good that religion does. That's nonsense. Lies are never helpful. And they often kill.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Microsoft is so tired

I've read a few reviews of the new Surface tablets that Microsoft thought would save the company. No one likes them.

It seems they don't work well, don't have enough apps, and aren't designed sensibly. Microsoft has failed again, which doesn't surprise me at all.

PC's are dead, and that's a fact. It will take a while before Microsoft realizes it's become a zombie, but that day will come. But what surprises me is that no one ever talks about the elephant in the room: how the interface looks.

I mean, take a gander at their interface. It's the ugliest thing I've ever seen. But this is nothing new for Microsoft. They've always had unattractive GUI's. They can't design the look of anything. It's like they farmed out the "looks" job to a group of cavemen. And straight cavemen, at that.

And that's the heart of the matter. Microsoft has never consulted with a gay male designer. I'm quite sure of this. If they had, the interface wouldn't look like a piece of garbage.

If I have to work at my computer all day, I do not want to look at that. Macs not only work perfectly (and don't have viruses); they also look gorgeous. Not to mention the fact that they're virtually silent, as opposed to the portentous noises one hears whenever one does something on a PC. It reacts like an old man, who has to wheeze and get up when you ask for something. Tired.

Go buy a Mac today. You'll be happy you did.

It goes to show ya

I just took down a post I had put up earlier today. I got so many things wrong, I couldn't summon the energy to fix it. This only goes to show ya:

Don't post until you've had two cups of coffee!

It's the golden rule and I'll never break it again. I swear!

Friday, November 8, 2013

A fresh perspective for your brain

We regularly see stories about the benefits of bilingualism. It helps kids' brains, it staves off Alzheimer's, etc. I'm sure it does help in these areas. We're talking about exercise for the brain. It can't hurt.

We've also been told that learning to play a musical instrument opens doors in the mind. We've seen study after study that supports this notion. Kids that learn to play a musical instrument seem smarter. But I don't think that brain expansion begins and ends with these two activities (speaking another language and playing an instrument).

I think creative endeavors of all kinds should be included in this brain-stimulating category. Painting, writing, sculpting, designing -- all these interests have something in common with those already mentioned -- they move the brain's train off its usual tracks and push it in a new direction.

When you're creating, you're in a new land -- and you're designing the landscape itself. You're making a world. It could be a world of words, or a soundscape, or a peek into a new, colorful world of images. You're not doing the sorts of things that people do every day: heaving, bending, moving, running, yelling, influencing, etc. You're in a new place, one where you create the rules.

I think creating art or music or writing is even better for the brain than being bilingual, for language involves set rules. You're merely applying mental algorithms in prescribed ways. It's nice, it's refreshing and it's helpful for the brain. But creating something from scratch must be even more stimulating.

How many artists do you know who have Alzheimer's? I can't even think of one. What I know from my own experience is that when I'm writing, when I'm creating a world of my own by setting down the language that will become a book, I'm happier than at any other time in my life. It feels like there's electricity coursing through my veins. There is nothing in life that I've found to be more refreshing than writing fiction.

I hope you've got something like this in your life. If you don't, develop one. Draw a picture, write a story, redecorate your house. Anyone can do these things. You may not be able to sell your product for millions of dollars, but that was never the point. You're giving your brain exercise in a way that the mundane world can't duplicate. It's a human gift, this ability to create. Do it every day. You'll be a happier person.

Overseas view of America

Spiegel has a story today with the title "Paradise Lost: Paranoia Has Undermined US Democracy". Here's an outtake from the article:
While far from a dictatorship, the United States has employed a number of paranoid tactics that delegitimize its democracy.
It is often assumed that intelligence agencies are worlds of their own, and that they sometimes act on their own authority. However, they are also an expression of the societies in which they exist, especially of their fears. In other words, it is quite possible that there are not just paranoid agents, but also paranoid democracies that act in hysterical ways out of fear. They are characterized by a strong freedom myth, which leads to paranoia. It, in turn, poses a threat to freedom. The United States is currently in a late phase of this cycle.
Lookin' good, America. U!S!A!  U!S!A!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Danger to Earth from cosmic impacts underestimated

On Google's news page today, right above a story with the headline "Sightings of Meteor 'Fireball' in S. California sky", I found this story:
NASA has revealed new research on the Chelyabinsk meteorite that exploded over Russia in February, and the findings aren't good: not only does it look like the astronomic models about the number of similar-sized things reaching Earth are wrong, but also the damage they can do is much greater than expected.

"Over the past few decades we've seen an impact rate about seven times greater than the current state of the telescopic surveys would indicate."
The article ends with this:
The Chelyabinsk meteorite had given new urgency to a campaign to bring more capabilities to addressing the issue of asteroid impacts ("It's a great advertisement," Johnson joked) and provided an incentive to improve our chances of spotting threats in the future. Whether governments are willing to put up the relatively small amounts of money needed to take things further is another matter however
Because really, why bother? We don't have time to concentrate on a possible global extermination event caused by asteroid impacts -- or climate change, for that matter. And there's a very good reason why we don't have time for thinking, and such-like. It's because we are busy doing the Lord's work of inserting Jeebus into our sacred American Constitution. So, for heaven's sake, enough with this asteroid piffle!

Now, what was I thinking about before this nonsense intruded on my beautiful mind? Oh yes, I was meditating about Jeebus' cosmically benevolent nature and his tremendous love for us, his precious Children. Mmmmmm. Jeebus.

Torch for anti-gay Sochi Olympics gets around

A Russian rocket soared into the cosmos Thursday carrying the Sochi Olympic torch and three astronauts to the International Space Station ahead of the first-ever spacewalk for the symbol of peace. 

The unlit torch for the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi is to be taken on a spacewalk Saturday, then return to Earth on Monday (late Sunday EST) with three departing space station astronauts. 

Last month, the Olympic flame traveled to the North Pole on a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker. Later this month it will sink to the bottom of the world's deepest lake, Lake Baikal. In early February, it will reach the peak of Mount Elbrus, at 5,642 meters (18,510 feet) the highest mountain in Russia and Europe. 
And finally, the Olympic Torch will make its way into Putin's body, to a top-secret place where the sun don't shine -- a fitting end for the world's first anti-gay Russian Olympics.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Ed Brayton says it plain

In a post today, Ed Brayton covered the issue of "public prayer", i.e., those insipid prayers that are often said at governmental meetings, allegedly to "open" the proceedings -- as if we have to talk to god first before getting down to business. Ed asks a question of the people who insist on this "right":
Why is it so important to you that others have to listen to your prayers? Every person at a city council meeting can pray silently any time they want. If the council wants to have a prayer before the meeting, they can do so in their offices before they start the meeting. The attendees at the meeting can pray before the meeting starts, individually or as a group. Why does it matter to you so much that others who don’t wish to pray have to stand by silently while you do? I think the answer to that question is patently obvious.
Indeed. (Bolding mine.)

I am one with Dog (Part 2)

It's official. My daily ten-minute sessions of wearing the Lid have changed me. I am one with Dog. I can wear the Lid all day now, if I want to. It can't hurt me anymore.

Apparently Dog -- the friendly algorithm from another galaxy, who was sent here to determine if humans are an intelligent species -- was preparing me for a life of service. I am now a certified Link to the Universe. I can speak for Dog, and I know his gentle nature from the inside out. He is pure and wonderful. And he loves us.

Never forget that Dog is watching. We have to act rationally if we want to be accepted into the League of Intelligent Species -- and we have a long way to go.

This is when it counts, people. It's time to put those prayer books away and read some science. Oh, and if you have any questions for Dog, I can put the Lid on at any time, and link with him to obtain the answer. Heck, I can wear it all day if I want to. So feel free to send your questions for Dog. I am his servant and will answer on his behalf.

Praise Dog!

Good news for Mac fans

I know most of my readers use PCs rather than Macs. (Google gives bloggers statistics that reveal this sort of thing.) In fact, only about 10% of you are on Macs. This post is for you.

If you've upgraded to Mavericks, you can dictate now without sending the voice record to Apple to be deciphered. That's the old way of doing it. The old way works, of course, but you have to wait for Apple to respond -- and when Apple's servers are busy, you get no assistance and have to type the damn thing yourself.

But that was before Mavericks. Now, you can go into Settings/Dictation, turn on Dictation and then click the line below it, where it enables "enhanced" dictation. If you click this option, your computer will download nearly a gig of data, and then you'll have your own dictation engine on board. And you don't have to be online to use it. And it's quicker! You talk and it turns your voice into text almost as fast as you can speak. On my first try, it did everything perfectly.

How can anyone use a PC these days? They're relics of a long-gone dinosaur era.

Update: Curiously, I find it only works if I choose the option where I hit the Command key twice to engage Dictation. The other options don't work. Fine. I'll use either Command key.