December 31, 2011

No problem here; move along.

Chief Justice John Roberts said Saturday that he has "complete confidence" in his colleagues' ability to step away from cases where their personal interests are at stake, and noted that judges should not be swayed by "partisan demands."
Phew! Now I can rest easy. 

Bon Iver's lyrics: bent and beautiful

Who else can pack so much into two virtually senseless stanzas? Bon Iver, that's who. Here's the video, lyrics below.



Beach Baby

When you're out,
Tell your lucky one to know that you'll leave.
Don't you lock when you're fleeing
I'd like not to hear keys.

Only hold till your coffee warms,
But don't hurry, speed.

Once a time put a tongue
In your ear on the beach.
And you clutched
Clinging heels.

On this brain-dead holiday . . .

Admirable folks at OWS.
New Year's Day is one of my top-two brain-dead holidays. The other is July 4th. Neither of these holidays means a thing. They're just opportunities to pig out and drink. Since I've already destroyed Xmas with the book Xmas Carol, I'll probably move on to either New Year's Day or July 4th with my next holiday-destroying book. They both heartily deserve all the negative attention I can send their way.

December 29, 2011

Bishops' Orwell-speak

George Orwell, a fun feller.
You've got to hand it to the Catholic bishops. They've got this Orwell-speak thing down pat.

The headline over at the NYT is "Bishops say rules on gay parents limit freedom of religion". I burst out laughing every time I see this Orwellian statement. Allow me to translate for you.

Here's the expanded version of that angry statement by the bishops:
Bishops say rules that limit their ability to discriminate against gay parents and deny them services available to everyone else infringe on their god-given right to act viciously and hatefully to one segment of society.

December 28, 2011

Meanwhile, back at the salt mines

Turda salt mine, Romania.
In the earliest days of this blog, I wrote a few posts that outlined my approach to novel-writing. I'm not the sort to heed other people's advice so I invented the process from whole cloth.

I had questions and I questioned everything. First person or third person? Must I include an antagonist? How would I avoid the boring pitfalls most novels fall into (like sci-fi novels including evil government agents in every single story)? How should I write dialogue? And how the heck do you structure a scene? It was all new to me. When I started writing, I didn't know a thing.

December 27, 2011

You know who makes me mad?

The Extinctionator
Ron Fouchier, that's who. That's him on the left. Each time I bump into a story about what he's done, I'm newly furious. If you read between the lines in the linked article, it tells us that there's a decent chance that over 50% of the world's population will be dead in ten years -- directly because of this guy's work.

In case you're not aware the story, Fouchier took bird flu (H5N1), one of the most dangerous flu viruses ever known -- but one that doesn't spread readily -- and made it airborne, thus creating the greatest viral danger humans have ever faced. H5N1 is nasty but it rarely spreads beyond the infected individual. However, now that Fouchier has given the virus wings, it can travel around the world with ease and infect virtually everyone it comes in contact with. We have absolutely no immunity to this thing.

December 26, 2011

A world lit by science

HD 278942: The "Wreath" nebula.
In Ross Douthat's idiotic op-ed on Hitchens' death, duly eviscerated by many bloggers, he used a phrase I've heard before. It's wingnut phrasing, meant to disparage atheists:
". . . the bloodless prophets of a world lit only by Science."
I love how they call reliance on science "bloodless" or "hollow". These people are so totally confused that they think scientists miss out on the awe factor, something they say their religion provides in spades. Indeed. How strange are these people?

December 25, 2011

Foolishness seen in HuffPo

The popey guy.
Once in a while I read HuffPo's religion page, just for laughs. So what did I find there today? This gem:

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Europe's economic and financial crisis is the consequence of an "ethical crisis" and a "crisis of faith," Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday (Dec. 22), resulting in the triumph of selfishness over social responsibility.

Can you believe this popey guy? He literally engineers the massive cover-up of the priest-rape scandal for the selfish reason of wanting to protect his church -- and then has the nerve to talk about "the triumph of selfishness over social responsibility." It's mind-boggling. And these people will tell you that they own morality.

And what is the cure he suggests for this selfishness? Why, faith of course. Faith in what? The child-raping priests! These people have no irony filters. None.

December 24, 2011

Jets/Giants today

Eli and Mark.
Ah, I finished my traditional Xmas Eve pizza breakfast and now it's time to move on to the big game. NY's two football teams are going to grapple with one another today and it's a major event for local fans.

I started watching football this year because I really missed baseball. It's a game, you know? So I figured I'd give it a shot. At first I was put off by the testosterone-infused nature of the sport. It's such a win-or-die thing. In baseball, you can watch a game that your team loses, and walk away saying "what a great game!" That doesn't happen in football. If your team loses by a point, you're so depressed you can hardly think.

But then I heard one of the football announcers say, "I've never seen a play like that in my life, too often," and I thought: Hey, it's just like baseball! So I'm going to watch today -- and the Jets better win if they know what's good for them. In NY, you're either a Mets-Jets guy or a Giants-Yankees guy. Color me green.

Oh yeah. Happy Xmas, folks. Merry, merry -- or whatever.

Photo credit: ganggreennation

Happy Xmas (War is Over)

Seems just as perfect in today's world. Good old John.

December 23, 2011

Out, damned blurb!

I finished Xmas Carol. I know you never expected to hear those words, but it's true. The book is done. Now all I have to do is assemble Kindle and ePub versions . . . and write the damn blurb. Dang, but that's unappealing. In case you're not familiar with the term, blurbs are those short paragraphs on the back of a book that try to lure the reader in.

Pigeons are smart, too

There's a story today in the NYT about pigeons' ability to count. It turns out they can do this as well as monkeys.

The line between humans and animals becomes less distinct with every passing year. We're all the same, kids. The differences are merely a matter of degree.

December 22, 2011

Have you been watching Cenk?

Mayor Rocky Anderson
As I said the other day, I'm nuts about The Young Turks on Current TV. Cenk Uygur is just what America needs. If you haven't tuned in, you're missing phenomenal TV. Cenk knocks it out of the park night after night. I can't get over it: he actually tells the truth about what's going on in this country. You don't get that anywhere else on TV. That's for sure.

December 21, 2011

Submitted for your approval

HONOLULU (AP) — The second miracle in allowing a nun to soon become St. Marianne Cope involves the healing of a New York woman who had an infection that was destroying her organs.
Details on the miracle were revealed for the first time Tuesday by the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities in Syracuse, N.Y. They say a bag of soil containing Marianne's bone fragments from the Hawaii peninsula where leprosy patients were exiled was pinned to Sharon Smith's hospital gown. She was cured after months of prayer to Marianne.
Sure sounds miraculous to me! Sign me up! That popey guy really sets the bar high, huh? With standards like these, it's a wonder they don't make 50 new saints a day.

Excuse me while I go pin a baggie filled with dead people to my pajamas. Yuck.

PS: Is that first sentence in the AP article awful, or what? Yeesh.

December 20, 2011

The cover for Xmas Carol

Click for bigger version.
Here it is! Is that a great cover or what? And in a few days, the book will be available for sale. (Ebook only; no print version.)

Casey of casey/artandcolour did the cover and I think it's faaaabulous. I didn't dictate the image in any way. It's Casey's creation entirely.

Full disclosure -- I'd love to take credit for the subhead: "An artificially intelligent horror story" but I'm afraid I didn't come up with it. Casey did that too! He went way beyond what you'd expect from a book-cover designer.

Casey, I've thanked you already and I thank you again. It's been such a help to me, knowing that there's a great cover, ready and waiting for my book.

In publishing, they say the book itself -- the writing -- is only 1/3 of a book's attraction for customers. The other 2/3 goes like this: 1/3 for the cover and 1/3 for the blurb (what appears on the back of a print book, and in online stores for ebooks). But Casey went beyond 1/3 by coming up with that catchy sub-head. It makes you want to read the book, no?

Soon, my little pretties, soon. Xmas Carol is only days from publication.

December 19, 2011

It's not OCD, after all. Woot!

With all the editing I've done on my horror novel, Xmas Carol, I confess I was beginning to wonder if I was nuts. Would I ever finish the editing process? Or would I do it for the rest of my life, always finding myself changing the wording each time I read it?

Well, it turns out I'm not crazy! There is actually an end in sight. In fact, the chapters I'm leaving behind me as I work my way through the book this time -- are perfect. I heartily approve of every word.

Seriously, I was beginning to wonder (and you were too, I know). I think I'm somewhere in chapter 8, and there are only 12 chapters. So two more days and I should be done. Then I'll just have to assemble the book and sprinkle it on all the stores.

Snap! I'm not crazy! Hooray!

Here's some news: I'll post the cover tomorrow. So get back here then if you know what's good for you. Wait'll you see the cover Casey came up with. It's insanely wonderful.

December 16, 2011

I'm closing in

Sorry I haven't blogged much lately. I know a bunch of people have taken to visiting this blog, and I appreciate it. It's just that I'm really busy finishing up my horror novel, Xmas Carol. It's almost there. I think I could be done within the next few days.

So please bear with me. Once the book is released, I'll have oodles of time to write new posts. That popey guy better watch out!

Do click by occasionally, though. As I said, I'll post the cover on the blog before the book is published. You know you're excited about seeing what Casey came up with--and you won't be disappointed. So check in regularly and I'll be back soon.

December 15, 2011

Great TV: The Young Turks

Cenk and friends.
If you're not watching Cenk Uygur's show, The Young Turks on Current TV, weeknights at 7, you're missing out.

Finally, Cenk can say what he wants to say. It's a smart show and Uygur is a savvy progressive. He doesn't just go with the dems and lash out at the GOP. Instead, he's a rational observer who tells you the truth.

I've been waiting forever for a show like this. Olbermann fell off the cliff years ago and Rachel's nice but I just can't watch her show. It's too showy, or something. The Young Turks is just right. Give it a shot. You'll be glad you did.

December 14, 2011

The march of the moral twits

I keep seeing these appalling stories written by Christianists. They seem to have two themes:

1. America is 90% Christian (their figure) and therefore the country should be governed by Christian morals and rules; and

2. Only Christians understand morality because the only morals humans can know are the rules set down by god on stone tablets and burnt toast and whatnot. No one else knows a thing about morality. In fact, it is literally impossible for a non-Christian to be moral. Without god's Special Rules and Decoder Ring, we would be killing, raping and stealing 24/7.

December 13, 2011

Nobody likes the popey guy

It's true. No one in the whole world likes this popey guy. He is a bad popey guy.

Hoping that the Mexican faithful will make action figures of him after he's gone, the popey guy will soon visit Mexico. Now, if only the Mexican people cared.

I liked this bit in the linked story. First they say that Mexican religious shops sell a ton of statues and photos and whatnot depicting the popey guy's predecessor, John Paul popey guy. But, they say:
There are no Benedict-related items for sale here. 

"That Holiness is not very commercial," explained Jorge Sanchez, a 30-year-old vendor.
Indeed. The popey guy doesn't have a warm and fuzzy exterior and it's doubtful that he has any interior at all. When people look at the current popey guy, they see a shady Nazi character from some old movie. He is the Pedophile-in-Chief of the Roman Catholic church -- the man who, above all others, hid the child rapes while protecting the pedophile priests. The popey guy's fingerprints are all over the church's pedophilia scandal.

Cuddly indeed. This is one creepy popey guy. Even Mexicans think so and their country is 90% Catholic. Go, popey guy. Dzzzzt.

December 12, 2011

I've seen the cover for Xmas Carol!

(Republished to fix tags. Oops.)

Wow! Casey did a bang-up job on the cover for Xmas Carol. Wait'll you guys see it. It's amazing. And yes, I'm afraid you'll have to wait until the book is released. But tell you what . . . I'll post the cover here a few days before I click the "Publish" button at Amazon. So you will see a preview. (This means you're very important; never forget this.)

I can't get over it. The cover is so cool. Artichoke Annie and cousin Carmine -- both readers of draft versions of the book -- were given a special preview and both seemed to love it. Their opinions count because they're artists.

As I told Casey, I'll go to bed a happy man tonight. My book has a cover. Woot!  So hang on, guys. The book is truly, really, actually on the way. I'm not sure if I can meet the Xmas deadline but I'm going to try. It's going to be very close.

December 11, 2011

Digby on conservatives and satire

An echo from digby this morning about the topic I raised a few posts down, i.e., conservatives don't get satire:
This "study" is called "The Irony of Satire: Political Ideology and the Motivation to See What You Want to See in The Colbert Report."

Except, you know, the liberals are not "seeing what they want to see." It is satire! That is not an opinion. The liberals are factually correct and the conservatives are blithering idiots.

December 10, 2011

A sweet trip to the supermarket

Kettle of the evil ones.
I went to the A&P supermarket with my sister yesterday. We used separate carts and when I finished first, I went outside to wait for her. Lo and behold, what did I see in front of the market but a person jingling a bell over a Salvation Army kettle. Dang!

I'm not quiet. I said to the woman, "Do you know that the Salvation Army discriminates against gay people? A portion of every dollar people throw in this kettle will go toward oppressing gay men, lesbians and transgender people. No one should give money to the Salvation Army."

December 9, 2011

Mental mushiness is the problem

Pudding or brains? (image: Wikipedia)
At Why Evolution is True, I found a quote that is dear to my heart:
I suggest that the willingness to believe in fables and superstition makes one more resistant to believing things that are true, especially when those things fall into a category, “science,” that can be perceived as a threat to belief systems based on superstition. [My emphasis.]

I take this a step further (okay, a few steps). I think the reason Americans can't think anymore is because they believe in god. That's it, short and sweet.

If you think fairy tales are real, you can no longer judge anything soberly or clearly. Belief in gods throws a blurry shroud over reality. That is the idea: to separate believers from reality and ensure they show proper fealty to their overlords, the priests and imams and popey guys. It's a racket.

This is why there is such a stunning lack of judgment in America: everyone believes in gods and angels. Jeebus can't turn wine into blood but religion can turn brains into chocolate pudding.

Pudding image: Wikipedia.

Rats show empathy

We're even less special today than we were yesterday. It seems rats not only feel empathy but try to help rats that are in distress. Sound familiar? Yup, it's just like you and me (but not like wingnuts; funny, that). You'll find the story on physorg today.

I've said it before and I'll say it countless times: the difference between humans and other Earth creatures is merely a matter of degree.

December 8, 2011

Wingnuts don't get satire

The perfect Republican.
I suspect my readers already know that wingnuts don't get satire. They don't know what it is or what it's for. GOP types, Christianists, theists, fundies and sundry other wingnuts think The Colbert Report is a right-leaning show. I'll say it again: wingnuts don't get satire.

Of course, we progressives do get satire. It's not uncommon to see entirely satirical posts on many lefty blogs -- because we know our readers will get it. That's because the folks on our team have brains that work. But irony and satire have no meaning to rightwingers. They're just words, or more accurately, sounds.

This makes me wonder what goes through their minds when they read posts by, for instance, Digby. She never explains that she's kidding -- and they'd never know that she was. The words must clang inside their skulls.
"Why are these commies saying stuff I believe in?! Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!"
So here's what I'm thinking. Maybe we should only write satire, you know, to drive them mad(der).

December 7, 2011

Higgs mania

I'm excited by rumors of the possible discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN. You have to be a physics freak to get into this stuff, I guess. But luckily, that's what I am. If you're a physics fan, read on. The rest of you, carry on as before.

December 6, 2011

Christmas v. holiday tree

Image/Wikipedia.
I can't believe people have strong opinions about whether the vegetation they put lights on is called a Christmas tree or a holiday tree. I won't delve into this vacuous topic. It merits only a shake of the head.

But if these people think there's a war against Christmas now, wait'll they get a load of Xmas Carol.

Speaking of which, I'm doing my last, careful edit/proofread of the manuscript. It will be done by the weekend. And this time when I say "done" I mean final, all-time done.

Best of all, Casey is working on the cover as we speak. Xmas Carol will soon have a face to show the world.

December 5, 2011

Weird experience

The master.
A segment on the news tonight featured an invention I made up for Xmas Carol. There it was, up on the screen -- no longer my secret idea. How dare they invent something I made up? It's downright rude! 

Anyway, horrors. Now it'll look like I lifted the idea. Ah, but my pre-publication readers can attest to my coming up with it first! I'm saved. Then again, I may just come up a new invention and stick it in. Take that, inventors!

This was a seriously strange experience. Again, how dare they?

December 4, 2011

I hate to agree with religious folks, but . . .


This story in today's NY Times is about whether a church in the Bronx should be allowed to hold services in a public school. The issue will soon be decided by NY's supreme court.

The church began in a halfway house. When it outgrew the facility, it applied to hold meetings and services at a nearby public school. There are 48 members in this church.

The idiot, Santorum

Hunter at KOS has been on a roll lately. I love this description:
It's difficult to take Rick Santorum seriously. It always has been, and adding "campaigning for president" to his resume did nothing to help. The man has no gravitas and even less charisma, but comports himself as if he did. The effect is of a whiny adolescent know-it-all who is eternally peeved that society isn't recognizing his obvious superiority. Add to this a devout narrow-mindedness, a stubborn refusal to even acknowledge others might have opinions or experiences different from his own, and you get the perfect Conservative Religious Whiny Emo Teenage Mutant Candidate. 

Hunter, you da man.

December 3, 2011

Good music

Why are religious people so mean?

God.
It's the question no one ever asks -- why do religious people enjoy seing others suffer?

It's not a secret. We can see the relish in their eyes as they tell people they'll be damned to hell for eternity. Judging by their facial expressions, the idea nearly gives them an orgasm. They like the idea that everyone but them will suffer eternal torment. In fact, they love it. Why is that? Why are these people so mean?

Why is it so damn easy for priests to rape kids? And why is it equally easy for their fellow priests to ignore their deeds and even protect them? Why don't these people grasp the suffering of the children and the wrongness of the deed? Is it because they're mean? It must be, right? What else can you say about this sort of behavior? The people that indulge in it are mean and immoral.

Why do these people lack a moral center? Oh, that's right. Because they think their religion provides them with a sense of morality when it does nothing of the sort. Rules are not morals. But let's leave that point for another post.

Today, what I want to know is why these people enjoy hurting others. Why are religious people so mean?

December 2, 2011

Heaven is a place where you can read all the time

NYC Public Library/Wikipedia image
When I was in my 20s, I lived in a huge apartment building in Manhattan. One of my memories from that time is walking up the block in the early morning, heading for the subway and work.

Along the way, there was something wonderful to see. In a ground-floor studio there lived an old couple, a man and woman, who enjoyed reading. No, I mean they really enjoyed reading. Every single time I passed their window, they were reading.

A sci-fi question

What if you were duplicated right this instant? Suppose another you appeared at your side. The duplicate is a perfect copy of you -- so perfect that each of you believes he or she is the original.

Here's the question:

If your duplicate moved in with you, would you get along?

December 1, 2011

Uppercase crazies

We've all encountered those crazy screeds on the internet that are written ALL IN CAPS and feature lots of exclamation marks (!!!) and usually some talk of Jesus and divine retribution. Who are these people and why do they write that way?

What's with the uppercase thing? Is it that they want to shout every word? I wonder if they scream all the time in their lives, at everyone and everything. Do they go to churches where their pastors scream at them, or come from screaming families? Were they drill sergeants? Did they recently stop taking their medication?

November 30, 2011

Chimps throwing stuff

Chimp. (Image/Wikipedia)
There's an interesting article on physorg today. It suggests that chimps throwing feces is a sign of intelligence. That's the headline they pulled from the story, anyway. But it's way more interesting than that.

It seems throwing and language are intertwined. It's a wild thought: that throwing something at someone in your group may have been one of the first forms of communication -- a comment of sorts. Looking at today's chimps, they found that those who threw the most stuff, and threw it more accurately than their pals, also showed increased activity in the left hemisphere of the brain, where speech is processed.

I love the idea that throwing and language are related. It's so unexpected. This is another sign that we know next to nothing about our own brains. That's because we are an infant race. Too bad we have nukes, huh?

PS: This is a fun story too: Hive mind to sort out whale sounds

Stupid things religious wingnuts say

A sensible slogan.
I know, I know -- it's a broad topic. But you have to start somewhere. For me, one of the most irritating things religious loons do is when they place themselves in cosmic dramas. They're just so important, doncha know.

For example, you're watching a TV report about a rape that was stopped when a woman happened upon the perp and victim as it was going down. The rapist runs; the woman is saved. Hallelujah!

But when the hero is interviewed, she says: "Do I think I was in the right place at the right time by coincidence? Do I think it was an accident that I arrived in time to stop this? No, I was supposed to be here."

That's right, dear. All the goings-on in the cosmos are about you and your random walks through the neighborhood. Makes perfect sense. It wasn't just that your hemorrhoids hurt so much that you had to stand up and walk around, and stumbled upon these two. That can't be it. No, it's God hisself who put you there.

I swear, these twits make me ill.

What drives you crazy about the things religious nitwits say? Again, I know: it's a hugely broad topic. But if you had to pick one thing that drives you batty, what would it be?

November 29, 2011

Espresso in the afternoon

There's nothing like it: espresso, the elixir of the gods (though they don't exist, of course; just saying). Espresso is the closest thing to a real miracle that I've found on this Earth.

I mean, there you are -- it's late afternoon and you're all played out. But you put a pot of espresso on and soon you've got a mug in your hand. After a sip or two, you have tons of energy -- so much so that you find yourself lashing out at the nearest banker or priest. You're back in the game!

There is no problem so difficult that espresso cannot solve it. Get yourself some espresso and go conquer stuff.

November 28, 2011

Let's talk about time

Dali's "Persistence of Time". Indeed.
I've been remiss. I should have posted a notice about the broadcast of Brian Greene's "Fabric of the Cosmos" on PBS. But I was wary of the show.

Greene wrote two books: "Elegant Universe", which is the best science book I've ever read, and "Fabric of the Cosmos", which was a terrible, simplistic follow-up book to Elegant Universe. But the odd thing is that the five shows based on Elegant Universe were terrible and the shows based on Fabric of the Cosmos were great. Go figure.

November 27, 2011

Look, up in the sky!

Launch photo credit: AP / Terry Renna
I don't know about you but I'm greatly relieved that the Curiosity rover lifted off without a hitch. I don't think we're going to have another 2.6 billion dollars for a space mission anytime soon. We have to hope this one sticks.

This summer is going to be agonizing as we wait for the Mars landing to take place. I'll be a nervous wreck by the time August rolls around. This lowering-down-by-cables technique has never been tried before. Please, oh noodly one, look kindly upon the Curiosity mission.

If the landing goes as planned and the rover works well, we are in for some fun times. Surely the mission will find evidence of past life. But I'm not ready to give up on current life on Mars -- some basic creature must have found a way to survive. Like many people, I'll be surprised and crushed if neither past nor present life is found. But no matter how it plays out, it's going to be grand just to be there with such capable instruments. Finally, we'll have the answers to so many questions.

Congratulations to the NASA team, who are probably living through the most exciting time of their lives right now. Enjoy -- and good luck!

What is it with obituaries?

I have a major peeve about obituaries. It concerns the people who place the damn obits in the paper. They write the thing so it's a paean to them! Why, pray tell, is the largest paragraph in the obituary a list of the people who "survived" the dead guy? Why should an obituary be an opportunity to list healthy people in the person's family? They didn't die; the dead guy died. Shouldn't the obituary be about him?

Wherever we look, even in obituaries, we see self-important twits.

November 26, 2011

Popey guy tries to hide the salami

The popey guy can't get away with it anymore. Those days are over. From an article in the NYT today:
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI insisted on Saturday that all of society's institutions and not just the Catholic church must be held to "exacting" standards in their response to sex abuse of children, and defended the church's efforts to confront the problem.
But the Times didn't let it lie there and that's what's so great. The church can no longer rape children and lie about the facts with impunity. The article includes a direct response to the popey guy's attempted sleight-of-hand:
He didn't address accusations by many victims and their advocates that church leaders, including at the office in the Vatican that Benedict headed before becoming pontiff, systematically tried to cover up the scandals. Investigations, often by civil authorities, revealed that church hierarchy frequently transferred pedophile priests from one parish to another. [Emphasis mine.]
The church is now known for its actions rather than its words, and it's about time. The roman catholic church is a criminal enterprise. Short and sweet. And the popey guy honcho'd the worst of the worst behavior for the church. He is evil.

November 25, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Xmas

Today I finished editing Xmas Carol. I think this was my millionth pass through the manuscript -- it can be edited no further.

Now all I need is a cover.

From the dep't of misplaced modifiers

"Plus, there's a project under way to build a baseball field that will bear Will's name for children with disabilities." 

I just hope he didn't call them anything nasty.

November 23, 2011

Super athletes coming soon to a game near you

The original.
There have been some startling medical breakthroughs lately, though hardly anyone seems to have noticed. I assume people are busy watching the latest shiny thing on their teevee. These discoveries are going to change the shape of our lives -- and the shape of life itself.

Today we learn it's possible to suppress a natural muscle-growth inhibitor to produce muscles that are double normal strength. Think about increasing granny's strength by a factor of 2. Sounds great, right? The linked article even mentions using the discovery "as a basis for developing a treatment for genetic muscular dystrophy". Big stuff.

Let us adore the virgin Mary's sacred belt

BVM with hand-beams but no belt.
Maybe you're having a difficult day, burdened by all the things you have to do for Thanksgiving -- cooking, traveling, dealing with dreadful relatives, etc. Some of you are probably feeling overwhelmed about now. Well, take heart -- at least you aren't doing something colossally stupid and meaningless today, like these people are:
MOSCOW (AP) — Braving freezing cold temperatures and ice-covered sidewalks, tens of thousands of Russians stood in line Wednesday to see and kiss a newly arrived relic of the Virgin Mary in Russia's largest Orthodox cathedral.
It gets worse:
The Virgin Mary's Cincture, a belt that Christians believe was worn by Jesus' mother, was brought to Russia last month from Mount Athos, a monastic community in Greece.

Kissing the relic, which is encased in an ornamental box, is believed to help barren women conceive and heal other ailments.

The line of people, mostly women, waiting to enter the golden-domed Christ the Savior Cathedral stretched for 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) along the Moscow River despite temperatures that dropped to below minus 5 Celsius (23 Fahrenheit).

Police officers announced through bullhorns that it will take worshippers 24 hours to get to the relic as the line swelled to tens of thousands.
So be happy today. At least you're not an imbecile waiting in the cold for 24 hours to kiss a goddamn belt that somebody probably made a couple of years ago. Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and remember -- the thing to be most thankful for is that you're not burdened by mindless religious beliefs. Woot!

November 22, 2011

Turn it on and hope

For some reason, Amazon only shows me things I'm not interested in. I've been shopping with them for two decades and they still have no clue what I like. How is that possible? Aren't there these things called algorithms that could help them suggest items I might actually, you know, buy? Never happens.

Anyway, they keep showing me this radio lately and every time I see it, I'm filled with memories. In the days before clear transmission (of any kind!) we used to listen to radios that looked like this. (At least the later ones did. They were bigger and clunkier at first.) You'd have to bend the antenna this way and that, searching for the music. It was somewhere in that cloud of static. There! Gotcha!

Thinking of old radios brings back the beach, the park, the stoop and endless, hot summer nights. We would huddle around our little radios, listening to tinny music sparkling with static, and we would dream. The world offered endless possibilities then. Nothing was ruined; it was all still fresh -- the water, the air and our plans for the future.

I remember dreaming as I listened to the radio.

November 21, 2011

Writers need privacy

Perfect mug from zazzle.com
People don't understand that writers do something. There is this inane impression that since a writer is home, he's available for visits and chats. It doesn't work that way, kiddies. The books don't just materialize out of thin air.

People regularly intrude on my writing time. They just don't get it. Writers need to be alone. That's how it happens, this writing thing. You have to apply yourself and this requires a block of time when you will not be disturbed. You see, we're actually doing something when we write. And shockingly, this is true even though we're at home. Amazing concept, huh?

November 20, 2011

Needed context

I was so excited about putting the video of the silent walk up (see below) that I didn't bother to provide context for readers who might be unaware of the situation.

After the chancellor allowed the campus police to pepper-spray unresisting OWS protesters, she found herself in a building surrounded by protesters. Lest she be allowed to play this as "they've trapped me and won't let me out!", the protesters organized the classiest response in the world.

They broke to create a clear passage through which the chancellor could walk, denying her the option of playing the victim. When she came out, the protesters joined in a total, eerie silence, allowing her to take the longest walk of her life. I love it.

Full story here.

Powerful OWS video

If you haven't seen this, you need to. It is so powerful. The OWS protesters who were pepper-sprayed at UC Davis organized this picture-perfect moment.

The video shows Ms. Pepper Spray herself, chancellor Katehi, walking to her car as the students do absolutely nothing, in total silence. It's gold.

Amazing photo today

The Astronomy Pic of the Day site has a great image today. (Link leads to huge version of the photo.)

Aren't the colors great? I'm a big fan of combining red with green. But what gets me is how vivid the image is. This is one of the prettiest space photos I've seen. It was taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope. That's star forming region W5. Ain't it grand?

The universe is so beautiful. How can people say that without god, reality would have no meaning? Don't they have eyes?

November 19, 2011

Mother's sick

By Horse Feathers. I find it haunting.

The shape of what isn't there

My hippie rant image.
You know us hippies -- we like nothing more than pondering the imponderable -- preferably in the evening with candles and music. So here we go.

A long time ago, I had a good friend who was a music composer. One day I asked him about a perception I experienced while listening to music. It seemed to me that some composers wrote a sort of stealth music, where the true melody wasn't played. Instead it was described by the music that was played. I thought I heard the music dance around a hidden melody, hinting at it without revealing it. Finding it, hearing it, seemed to be up to the listener. He just looked at me like I was nuts.

Birds of a feather

PG loves him some voodoo.
So the popey guy is sending his shtick to Africa, the land of voodoo. And he wants to make nicey-nice with the voodoo folks:
Catholics need to cultivate respect both for Islam and for traditional practices, the pope said in the document. But he also told bishops they must carefully discern which traditional practices might clash with church doctrine so they can "separate the good seed from the weeds."
In with the good voodoo; out with the bad. Here's the birds-of-a-feather image:
As he signed the 87-page papal treatise, several dozen Voodoo practitioners sat in plastic chairs in the Temple of the Pythons located at the opposite end of the basilica's square, less than 100 yards from where Benedict was preaching. The high priest, who sat with his foot on a bottle of gin, a traditional Voodoo spirit offering, said they had gathered to hear the pope's message . . .
The popey guy finally found his people! It's such a great image because it shows there is little or no distinction between catholicism and voodoo. They're just different flavors of insane nonsense.

Let's all wish the popey guy luck. "Luck, popey guy! May you find several new voodoo saints for your church!"

Interesting Mars mission coming up

What's hiding on Mars?
NASA hopes to launch the Mars Science Laboratory next week. This super-rover mission is going to be highly cool.

The idea is to determine if life is, or ever was, on Mars. The rover, which is named Curiosity, is the size of a car and contains the most advanced scientific instruments we've ever sent into space. When it lands in August, we are in for some interesting times.

C'mon, admit it. You love Mars. All humans do. It's in our genes. So go read the article. The mission is going to be great fun to follow. I think of it as the highlight of the coming summer -- baseball aside, of course.

November 18, 2011

Marriage. Yawn.

It's wonderful that gay people can marry. You can't bar people from doing something everyone else can do, so it's only fair. But really, I'm so anti-marriage that it's hard to do more than yawn.

I always have a negative reaction when a friend tells me s/he's getting married. It just seems so dull, so old-world and unnecessary. Marriage is tired.

If you and another person are in love, you should stay together. When and if the love dies, you should part. I don't see how making a financial bet (marriage) changes this, except to make it more painful and labor-intensive to break up.

It's just creepy. And for gay people, marriage seems unutterably dull. Now, adding kids to the mix muddies the water. I understand: you think marriage provides security for the kids. So don't abandon them. If you have a kid, you have an obligation. The nature of that obligation has nothing to do with being married.

Finally, I can't ignore the big picture: marriage is a mutual agreement to slap on the handcuffs. That doesn't sound very grown-up to me.

Editing like mad

What can I say? I'm editing Xmas Carol yet again. I just can't help myself. I'm cutting through it at a furious pace, though, so I don't think it will take much longer.

For this reason, blogging will continue to be lite. Don't give up on the blog. I'll pick up the pace as soon as the book is completed.

A match made in heaven

Photo credit: USA Today
I find it hugely amusing that the roman catholic church has purchased the Crystal Cathedral, the ridiculous-looking mormon cathedral in Utah. Has there ever been a building that screamed "twits within" any louder? The catholics will feel right at home there.

What can I say? It's perfect.

Update: I'm told I missed the boat. Doh! See comments.

November 17, 2011

So that's it!

There's an article on physorg that explains why we get up from our chairs to do something, and then forget what it was. Turns out, the problem is walking through doorways. It's a fun explanation.

November 16, 2011

The new West Bank

The Oligarch King
Is it only me who sees the parallels? Nah, you all see it, right? Let us review: Bloomberg fenced in Zuccotti Park and installed militaristic checkpoints designed specifically to ensure that the lives of those inside are as miserable as possible.

Does this not reek of the restrictions placed on the Palestinians? I can't believe Bloomberg is this stupid but apparently he is. The man has guaranteed that his face will represent the oligarchy in the eyes of everyone in the movement -- which is a sizable portion of the country. What a fool the man is.

I told you he'd haul out the jackboots, and here they are.

Photo credit: The Oligarch Kings

Lost power again

Since the early snow in New York, power has become a sometime thing. It comes and goes, almost every day. Today it was out all damn day. Just came back on at 4 pm. Aaaargh!

If I disappear, you'll know why. Here's hoping.

November 15, 2011

Welcome to the police state

When Mikey Bloomberg sent his stormtroopers on a cowardly mission to trash Zuccotti Park under cover of darkness this morning, not one NY television station covered it live.

We're not waiting for the police state to take over our country. It already has. Welcome to the end of the United States.

November 14, 2011

Catholic bishops launch new hate site

You have to give it to these guys: they never give up. Their eruptions of hatred must come forth -- there's no way to stop them, you see. And anyway, it's their god-given right -- and don't you dare try to abridge it with none of your new-fangled "laws"!

So now the good bishops have created a marriage ain't for homos site. The link leads to my favorite page from the site. You know why you need a man and a woman for marriage? Of course you do. It's all about those plugs and sockets -- and how nicely they fit together. How innovative! Here's an excerpt from the page:
Marriage is about love, but it’s about a unique love that only a man and a woman as husband and wife can give to each other.
Because of the sockets and plugs, of course. That's all they've got. After all, they say, there is absolutely no possibility that love could emerge from a plug-to-plug or socket-to-socket romance. It's just not possible! And they know this because god told them so. So there!

They're just insane. I mean, the header for that particular page is: "Made for each other: sexual difference is essential to marriage." They're not even pretending the site has any usefulness other than as a vehicle to slam gay people. It truly is the "marriage ain't for homos" site.

The site is called "Marriage: Unique for a Reason". Get the idea? It's not about marriage at all, not about Catholics or even heterosexuals, for that matter. It's just about hating gay people. Congrats, bishops. You've done it again.

These guys are so deep.

More fun from the bishops

Today from Associated Press:
BALTIMORE (AP) — The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says the church should not be dismissed as an outmoded bureaucracy. Archbishop Timothy Dolan says the church is a spiritual family that has much to teach the world.
. . . The archbishop . . . said bishops repent daily for their missteps . . . [b]ut he says the church should not be defined by its problems.
Indeed. The church should be defined by its actions against children, gays and women -- and that is exactly what's happening. It's the reason why Catholics are leaving the church in droves. In fact, we can hope that the church will soon collapse -- and good riddance.

November 13, 2011

Great post about Republicans

Hunter eviscerated the Republican party today, in grand style. Go read it. It's funny and dead-on.

The roman catholic church is going down

Victim. Ha!
There is a marvelously reassuring and chuckle-some article in the NY Times today about the "state of siege" that US Bishops seem to think they're under. In essence, they consider any externally imposed constraints on their ability to continue discriminating against gays and women to be an infringement of their inalienable "religious rights". These guys are so tone-deaf and immoral, it's shocking.

The article has wonderful quotes like this:
Scott Appleby, a prominent religious historian at the University of Notre Dame, says many church leaders have recently adopted "a more pugnacious style, much more of a kind of culture-wars attitude." At the same time, the bishops' have been stung by their loss of public influence from the sex abuse crisis and the years of bruising revelations that many dioceses moved guilty clergy among parishes without alerting parents or police.

"The church no longer receives deference or the hands-off attitude that it once had for many years. That's gone," Appleby said. 
Duh. I wonder why. There are evil groups and there are evil groups. The roman catholic church is one of the truly evil groups. Go read the article. It's fun.

November 12, 2011

Maybe it's a dream

Our kids, long ago.
It's November 12th and I'm still not done with Xmas Carol. Probably the notion that I can get the book out by Xmas is just a dream. Still, I'm finding the deadline useful. It's making me work longer and harder each day, and will cause me to finish the book within a very short time.

Let's face it, hardly anyone's will gt a chance to read the book before this Xmas, whether I meet my self-imposed deadline or not. But even if I don't make it, once the book is complete I'll have a whole year to build momentum before the next Xmas season. Some season, some year, this book is going to be a cult hit. It might be ten years from now, but it's going to happen.

So I'm pleased. If I can get the book out very soon, I'm going to whip out my short-story book next, and sell it for 99 cents. Maybe people who don't want to fork over 2.99 for a book will try the cheaper one, like it, and buy Xmas Carol.

Hey, I can dream, right? See you later. I've got a big day of work ahead of me.

November 11, 2011

First real peek at the disaster in Fukushima

Just go read this. The report is out about what really happened at Fukushima. The bravery and dedication of those nuclear plant workers in the midst of one of the world's worst disasters is amazing.

November 10, 2011

Light posting for a bit

I'm trying to nail down the final version of Xmas Carol. If this book is to be published in time for Xmas, I've got a passel o' stuff to do and it's all gotta be done lickety-split. (I'm on a cowboy kick lately; don't worry, I'll get over it.)

There are still hurdles. The cover doesn't exist; I have no clue how to make the text inside the ebook look attractive; and I still haven't settled on a final version of the book.

So please pardon my absence as I get this work done. I'll be back soon. In the meantime, don't forget me.

November 9, 2011

You know what's really awful?

When they paint you out of the mural. That's gotta hurt. It's amazing how quickly Penn State moved to blot out this problematic aspect of their past. Poof, he's gone: no more Sandusky. It's as if the man never existed.

Advice about writing a novel

No, not my advice: John Baker's. I like what he says. Here's a link.

Let's declare every grain of salt to be a person!

The little girl is a hint.
You know how salt tastes, so you know it's actually a human being. What else could make that burst of wonderfulness in your mouth? Only a human being could be that tasty.

And yet grains of salt are constantly sprinkled on the tables of restaurants, they fall to the ground from french fries, and old people even throw granules over their shoulder to ward off Satan. These abuses must stop!

Let us band together and demand that every grain of salt be declared a human being! If we don't, the slaughter of innocent salt will continue. It's up you to, people, and our esteemed Congress. We must demand that they drop everything -- no matter what it is -- and concentrate solely on the fate of salt granules.

People, it's the right thing to do. You know it and I know it. Call your congressperson today! And don't worry about wasting their time. They're not doing anything anyway.

Transsexual v. transgender

Transgender symbol.
I noticed yesterday that several online newspapers referred to the first transgender lawmaker in Poland's parliament as a "transsexual".

I find this offensive and I imagine many transgender people do, too. The term "transgender" has been around for quite some time so why use an outdated term that has a shaky history? To me, the word transsexual reeks of early sensationalist headlines.

We don't call gay people "homosexuals" anymore. Only wingnuts do that. That's because "homosexual" is a clinical term. So is "transsexual". It is a term invented by doctors to describe a medical phenomenon they were seeing. Why go clinical? Doesn't it make sense to use the term most transgender people prefer?

(Mind you, I'm basing my judgement on comments made by the transgender people I've known. For all I know, there's a huge group who detest the term "transgender". I hope those concerned will chime in in the comments.)

This reminds me of the old days when we tried to convince the New York Times that "gay" wasn't a dirty word. They stuck with the homo terminology for so long! The change was way past its due date when they finally capitulated and went gay.

Transsexual indeed. The word is transgender. At least, I think so.

November 8, 2011

Will wonders never cease?

Unbelievably, I saw two good movies on the Sci-Fi Channel, which thinks its name is the SyFy Channel and which we actually think of as the Siffy Channel. But yeah, the movies were great.

One is "Let Me In". It's a vampire tale told from an unusual angle, from the viewpoint of two children, one of whom is a vampire. The movie includes few adults yet I didn't even notice this because the kids were so fascinating. These two 12-year-olds are wonderful actors. Each scene involves at least one of them, and they are never boring. I won't say more. If you like vampire tales and good acting, rent it.

November 7, 2011

Things are looking up

Last time for this graphic?
This is your official Xmas Carol update. It looks like Casey of casey/artandcolour is going to do the cover for the book. For a while it seemed his schedule wouldn't permit it -- but we're on again. Woot!

In the meantime I'm doing the final read-through of the book. I'm not editing it. That's done. I'm just searching for typos now. It should only take another day or two to complete. Then when the cover arrives, I'll be ready to publish.

And you know what that means -- you'll finally have a chance to buy my book and decide for yourself if I can write. There's a good possibility it will be out by Xmas. Xmas Carol out by Xmas! Could anything be finer?

Stay tuned. And I sure hope this is the last time I'll have to use that awful graphic you see above. Soon there will be an official cover to grace these posts. I can't tell you how exciting this is. It's a dream come true.

November 6, 2011

Good article on OWS surveillance in NY

Over at AlterNet, Nick Turse has a great article about the dissonance of focusing high-tech police surveillance equipment on non-violent, non-weaponized OWS protesters in New York.

It's a perceptive piece and isn't too long a read. Here's the link. Go, Nick.

If life had a fast-forward button

The 1950s were so dull.
The title of this post is half of an old remark of mine: "If life had a fast-forward button I'd be dead." I was thinking about this today and wondered what it would be like to have such a device.

What if you could fast-forward through a bad day -- or week or month or year? Imagine that you could do this and add the notion that you'd age appropriately. In other words, you'd be that much older when you let go of the button. You would remember the time you missed but would never have experienced it as a first-person event. Would you use this device?

The span is what gets wild when you think about this. For instance, if I had possessed a magic fast-forward button when I was a kid in the 1950s -- I'd have skipped the whole damned decade. Life was far too dull in those days. Which means I would have missed my childhood -- I could live with a deal that.

So that's the question. Given access to a device like this all your life, how much time would you have skipped?

November 5, 2011

A lost voice

I've been thinking about Nico lately. I don't know why. She just keeps popping into my mind. I see her in both editions: the original, gorgeous-creature version and her broken-down end state. I watched a documentary about her last days a few years ago. It was terribly sad, as sad as this song. It's not musical -- nothing she sang ever was. But it's Nico and she was always golden. Here she is singing "These Days".



More on Mayor Mikey's pot mania

The only thing that matters.
The Mayor of Money, Mike Bloomberg, don't like him no black or Latino people, especially the young ones. So he uses pot as a device to obtain their data and fingerprints. You know, so he can arrest them later on and prevent them from bothering rich white people, i.e., his pals.

And you just watch. Mikey's gonna explode very, very soon over the OWS protests. He just doesn't get it. Why would all those people hate bankers, i.e., his pals? It just doesn't make sense to poor Mikey.

Bloomberg is the exemplar of the out-of-touch rich guy who lives in a money bubble. I hope he gets in a ton of trouble over this. He won't, of course, for the simple reason that he has money. In our current version of the United States, if you have money no one can touch you. I wonder what that feels like.