August 30, 2012

Time to read Kafka again

About 270 miners were charged Thursday with the murders of 34 striking colleagues who were shot by South African police officers, authorities said, a development that could further infuriate South Africans already shocked and angered by the police action.
Up is down. Black is white. I can't even be shocked by this authoritarian world anymore. It's here, it's there, it's everywhere. Just ask Pussy Riot.

Book progress

I haven't been posting much lately because I'm finishing up my horror novel, Xmas Carol. I'm almost there -- just a few more days. And it sounds terrific. All those edits really did the trick. I can't tell you how happy this makes me. It's like a dream come true.

Blasphemy laws: not a good idea

There's a good op-ed this morning in the NYT about the inadvisability of passing anti-blasphemy laws. As I've said here many times, they are inimical to a free society and, if allowed to proliferate, will bring on the next Dark Ages.

August 29, 2012

Condi's dingbat remark

After helping her boss upend the entire world, dear, sweet, honest and never duplicitous Condi has something to say:
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the voice of the United States in world affairs "has been muted" under President Barack Obama, creating a chaotic and dangerous security environment.
Can you believe these people? I read that some folks tried to arrest her for war crimes yesterday. I applaud this group of Americans. Condoleezza Rice is disgusting. It surprises me that she can walk down an American street without someone spitting on her.

August 28, 2012

This is such a dumb move

Cardinal Timothy Dolan says he's now giving the closing prayer at both the Democratic and Republican conventions.
Great. So now Timmy will be able to chide the democrats, live on teevee. He'll tell them they're not being hateful enough to gays and women, etc. This is just what the dems need. What fool approved this? I swear the democratic party is its own worst enemy.

Mexico's religious crazies

Mexican religious loons don't want public education for their kids because that would cause them to encounter, you know, ideas. Can't have that.
According to traditionalists, the government-mandated uniforms, school books and lesson plans, not to mention the computers and televisions now used in many Mexican classrooms, would violate the Virgin Mary's orders, on her own sacred ground. 

The faith of the people here is built on messages purportedly passed from the Virgin Mary to a defrocked Catholic priest, an illiterate old woman and a clairvoyant. 
Same song, different key and country. Religion poisons minds.

August 27, 2012

It never ends, does it?

The brand new Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, has been arrested for drunk driving. Cordileone is widely considered the "father of Proposition 8." 
Joe.My.God has the details. This is the guy the Vatican put in place so he can persecute gays in SF. Nice job, popey guy.

This church stinks to high heaven.

Timmy Dolan and the GOP

Get ready to vomit.
Dolan recently told a radio program that he is "happy" Ryan is on the GOP ticket and called him a "great public servant."

"We go way back, Congressman Paul Ryan and I," Dolan said. "I came to know and admire him immensely. And I would consider him a friend. He and his wife Janna and their three kids have been guests in my house; I've been a guest at their house. They're remarkably upright, refreshing people."

August 26, 2012

A most excellent feeling

When I was a little boy, the concept of sanctifying grace was explained to me and I fell for it. What can I say? I was only six or so. By seven, I got over the notion. But for a time, I went with the woo.

Back in those black-and-white days, when I did all the right things and went to confession and prayed and whatnot, I had a good feeling in my stomach (or maybe it was my chest). It came from knowing that I was in a state of sanctifying grace. Even if god killed me, everything would be fine. In fact, it would be great because I'd go straight to heaven. Being in a state of sanctifying grace is the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card.

Today I get that same feeling when I know that all my electronics are charged. Just saying.

August 25, 2012

NYPD: staying classy

All nine people wounded during a dramatic confrontation between police and a gunman outside the Empire State Building were struck by bullets fired by the two officers, police said Saturday, citing ballistics evidence.

Dishy 1957 reviews of "Atlas Shrugged"

I've written here before about Ayn Rand's book, "Atlas Shrugged". I loved it because it's camp. People don't get that. Here's a review from when the book was first published:
Robert R. Kirsch, Los Angeles Times:
It is probably the worst piece of large fiction written since Miss Rand's equally weighty "The Fountainhead." Miss Rand writes in the breathless hyperbole of soap opera. Her characters are of billboard size; her situations incredible and illogical; her story is feverishly imaginative.
Yes! And that's why it's such fun. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the woman wrote in film noire style. By the way, "The Fountainhead" is equally campy and I adored it, as well. The only writer (quoted in the article) whose review was positive was Hedda Hopper! She loved it.

August 24, 2012

This comes as news to me

In an article about a woman being sentenced for punching a 70-year-old Walmart cashier on Xmas Eve -- very atmospheric, that -- they say the woman got:
"2 1/3 to seven years in prison under New York's Granny Law, which makes it a felony to intentionally injure someone 65 or older if the defendant is at least 10 years younger than the victim."
I had no idea this law existed. That's great! I'll turn 64 later this year. So the year after that, I'll be sure to antagonize every young man I meet. I mean, it'll be irresistible! How could I not? Talk about a get-out-of-jail-free card!

Cosmos in synch with GOP

As if to highlight the latest ugly turn by the GOP, there will be a giant coat hanger in the sky this week.
Some evening this week, if you turn your binoculars east-southeast and look  midway up from the horizon to the region of the sky roughly halfway between the bright stars Vega and Altair you will discover Brocchi's Cluster in the rather dim and nondescript constellation of Vulpecula, the Little Fox. (Snip.) Those who have seen it have described it as a rather curious grouping of about a dozen tiny stars looking very much like an inverted coat hanger.
Hallelujah! The end of abortion is nigh! The sky (which is controlled by Jeebus) tells us so. Or is this a sign from some other god, telling us that we must keep abortion on the books lest women resort to hangers to end their pregnancies?

Signs are notoriously difficult to interpret. Hopefully, Pat Robertson or Bill Donohue will step in to tell us what this means. Or perhaps dog will visit me and give me a hint. I'll get back to you immediately if he does.

August 23, 2012

Blasphemy as art

Der Spiegel, which I've taken to reading lately, has an interesting article about a drawing used as an advertisement for a show in the city's caricature museum. Christians are not pleased by the imagery. I have to agree it's a bit over the top, but it's also funny. I'm sure Germany's version of Bill Donohue is having a great time denouncing it.

Der Spiegel has an appealing cosmopolitan flair. I enjoy it. And they have no silly compunctions about nudity. There was a delightful photo of nude Spanish firemen there the other day. (They were protesting in the nude.) You never see anything like that in our prudish country. But to Germans (and most Europeans) nudity isn't a big deal. I've heard they think Americans are childish about sexual matters. Sounds right to me.

August 22, 2012

Can you believe this?

NEW YORK (AP) — Roman Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan will give the benediction at the Republican National Convention on the night Mitt Romney accepts the presidential nomination.
Unbelievable. What a cheap church this pope is running. Cardinals for hire. Amazing. But at least we know what Timmy Dolan's been doing: shilling for the GOP. What a slimy character he is. Kids, get ready for "Jeebus for Romney" season. It should be lots of fun.

(Do you think the popey guy will do an ad for Romney? And if he does, will he wear the red shoes? I think he will. Definitely.)

Time's quickening

Anyone who is a teenager or older knows that time seems to pass more quickly the older you get. Early childhood years seem almost timeless; each year could be a decade. But as you grow older and attend elementary school, the years begin to pick up their pace. Before you know it, you're in high school. And though hours spent in the classroom can seem endless, these four years pass quickly. And then it's on to college and our "real" lives. From that point forward, the years really speed up, and this pace increases the older you get. For me now, at 63, the seasons pass by like the pages of a flip-book.

Such is life. But lately I've found myself wondering if this quickening also applies to a single day. It seems to me that time passes "normally" in the early morning hours. Then it slowly picks up pace through the afternoon, and by evening it's zipping by.

Anyone else out there notice this?

PS: Interesting take on this. Could it be that time seems to pass more swiftly as the day progresses because the longer we're awake, the more involved we are in goal-motivated tasks?

August 21, 2012

Great story on the Pussy Riot hackers

Today a group, perhaps a branch of Anonymous, took over the web site of the Moscow court that sentenced Pussy Riot. They wreaked havoc for a few hours in a playful way.

What they did to the site was funnier than the news reports would have you believe. US media never have fun with these stories. They're too uptight. Luckily, a blog post at the New York Times (somehow that doesn't work for me) delivers the juicy details. If you need a lift, go read it and do follow the links so you get the full flavor of what happened.

I can just see Putin's head exploding as they told him about this. I hope he watched Azis' video.

The GOP throws the election

Only a day after Todd Akin made his insane comments about rape, the GOP has approved "a federal ban on abortion with no exception for rape and incest survivors".

What else is there to say? The GOP just lost the election. To think of all the money that was spent on this doomed Romney campaign! And for what? A platform that guarantees they will lose the election? This turn of events is shocking in so many ways. They truly don't see women as autonomous human beings -- and are happy to admit it!

The GOP will never come back from this.

The next Mars mission

Titan. (NASA)
There's news about the coming Mars mission. Next time we're going to send something that can bore into the planet to find out what it's made of. Apparently, they'll be able to map out the entire interior in this manner.

That would be interesting. We need answers to certain questions. For instance, why doesn't Mars have a magnetic core, like Earth does? Because of this, Mars isn't protected from radiation and easily loses its atmosphere. Another question is whether Mars has moving continental plates. There have been hints of this, lately. We need these answers.

But there were three candidates for NASA's next mission. They turned down a mission to Titan, Saturn's moon, and chose Mars again. Why? Isn't it time to branch out? The Titan mission would have placed a boat on the surface of one of the methane lakes on its surface. I would love to know more about this planetary body. And hey, it would be completely new information, from a new place. I'm not alone in this feeling:
That's just "too much emphasis on Mars in our current plans for planetary exploration," said Carolyn Porco, a prominent scientist who studies Saturn and its moons. "Most of the solar system resides beyond the orbits of the asteroids. There is more to learn there about general planetary processes than on Mars ... Why more Mars?"
What the heck. I won't toss the upcoming mission in the garbage bin. I want the information it will bring back to us, just as NASA does. But c'mon. Plan something for Titan, guys. Have you seen photos of Titan? It's that lovely orange blur. How can you not want to go there? Titan is so enticing.

August 20, 2012

Then who, pray tell?

This is the funniest thing I've seen in a while:
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Vatican won a major victory Monday in an Oregon federal courtroom, where a judge ruled that the Holy See is not the employer of molester priests. 
Then who, pray tell, employs these creatures? Do they receive checks directly from Jeebus, to fund their forays into little boys' pants?
The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mosman ends a six-year question in the decade-old case and could shield the Vatican from possible monetary damages.
Isn't that convenient?
"There are no facts to create a true employment relationship between Ronan and the Holy See," Mosman said in his ruling from the bench. 
Indeed. No relationship at all. And no need to pay attention to this:
The plaintiffs argued that Ronan's fealty to the Pope, the Vatican's ability to promote priests, the Vatican's laicization, or removal, process, and the ability to change priests' training all pointed to the Vatican employing priests. 
But it's not employment. Again, how very convenient. It's nice to know we live in a world where the Vatican will never be held accountable for its actions. That must be comforting for the popey guy. He's probably having a celebratory chalice of wine right now. It's great to be the popey guy!

Iran snubs half its population

Subjects now open only to men include accounting, engineering and pure chemistry, according to the Iranian news Web site Rooz Online. The University of Tehran, for example, will now accept only male applicants for subjects relating to natural resources, forestry and mathematics. Most petroleum-related subjects have also been made exclusive to men. 

“Some fields are not very suitable for women’s nature,” said Abolfazl Hasani, a senior Iranian education official, according to the Rooz Online report. 
Also note:
Women account for nearly 60 percent of university students in Iran.
Religion poisons everything.

August 19, 2012

Drive-in theaters

There's an article in the Sunday NYT about the resurgence of drive-in movie theaters in California. I remember them as being a ton of fun, back in the day. (And you could smoke dope in your car, which the article doesn't mention. Just saying. It was the 60s, after all.)

In discussing the downfall of these popular attractions, the article mentioned something I'd never thought about. It makes perfect sense:
The solidification of daylight saving time in the 1960s contributed to the drive-in’s downfall, forcing later starting times. 

Phew. The Brits didn't shoot Assange.

When I heard that Julian Assange would address the public from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, I thought the UK police would shoot him with a dart, he'd pass out and fall off the balcony, and they'd arrest him "on British ground".

Thankfully, this didn't happen. What Assange said from that balcony was important and true. From the BBC:
Mr Assange said: "As Wikileaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of all our societies.

"We must use this moment to articulate the choice that is before the government of the United States of America.
"Will it return to and re-affirm the revolutionary values it was founded on?

"Or will it lurch off the precipice, dragging us all into a dangerous and oppressive world in which journalists fall silent under the fear of prosecution and citizens must whisper in the dark."
What Assange did by publishing the American cables was the same thing the NY Times has done on many occasions. It's called breaking a story. Remember stories? We used to have them all the time; they told us what was going on in our country. Now, of course, all we have is government propaganda and the white noise of illogic. The fact that our government is fighting Wikileaks and Assange is the most disheartening thing in the world. It's so un-American.

August 18, 2012

Okay, I'm officially in heaven

This is the joint! When I set that accessibility option on my Mac earlier today, to enable me to zoom the screen on my Air, I noticed another option.

I'd seen it before: "Invert colors". For some reason, those words never meant anything to me. I'd seen them many, many times. But suddenly I realized what it was for. I enabled it and now I can press a simple combination of keys to turn a white page with black letters into a black page with white letters. And I can toggle back and forth with ease.

Now the screen doesn't look too bright when I visit the NY Times or any other site that uses a white background. And this capability applies to all programs. So when I open a new Word doc at night, for instance, I can make that blinding white page black. Same goes for Mail. Those programs look way too bright to me. The problem was always that if you turned the brighness down, you lost contrast. But this accessibility option makes things crisp and clear -- without the eye pain! I couldn't be happier. This is the solution for my most pressing computer problem.

I'm writing this post on a black page with white text. It's soothing. This may mean nothing to readers but it's a dogsend for me.

PS: You do this through System Preferences/Keyboard/Keyboard Shortcuts/Accessibility. Then check the invert colors box. Voila. 

Oldest Pullman porter dies

LA Times: For more than three decades, Ben Isaacs worked as a Pullman porter, one of the uniformed railway men who served first-class passengers traveling in luxurious sleeping cars — a much-coveted job for African Americans between the 1870s and late 1960s.
Isaacs, a charismatic centenarian who was believed to be the oldest surviving Pullman porter, died of kidney failure Wednesday at his home in Victorville, according to his brother, Andrew Isaacs. He was 107.

Ben Isaacs gushed about encounters he had with the rich and famous, such as prominent silent film actresses Anita Stewart and Gloria Swanson, while working as a porter. His said his favorite celebrity he met was cowboy singer and actor Roy Rogers.
This brings the past back to life for me. Those trains were wonderful and the men who worked on them were a joy to encounter. More than anything, the African-American railway staff were the reason that train rides were so pleasant. Yes, it was racism that they were all black. But hey, it was a coveted job in those days. I'm sure Ben Isaacs didn't mind his inclusion in this workforce. I salute him and mourn his passing.

Relief rippled through the land

This is a Mac thing. If you don't have a Mac, you can skip this post.

So I got an Air last year, Apple's svelte laptop. I love the thing. I really do. But I bought the 11-inch model, wanting something that was easy to haul around. And 11 inches is not a large screen.

On a Mac, it's (usually) easy to zoom the screen. But there seemed to be no way to zoom the desktop on the Air, which was really terrible. Some of the type is so tiny. You can make most of it larger but the system fonts remained (way too) small. I couldn't see them, which meant I couldn't see menu options. I went to user help sites but the people there were complaining about it too. It remained my only disappointment with the Air.

Now, this option may always have existed but only today did I find the answer to my question. I upgraded to Mountain Lion last week, and I found a Mountain Lion thread that answered the most pressing concern for 11-inch Air owners: how do you zoom the screen?

Turns out, all you have to do is go to Keyboard in System Preferences, choose Keyboard Shortcuts, click on Accessibility, and turn on the zoom option. Problem solved. I can zoom my Air screen! Woot!

August 17, 2012

Not gonna happen

ATLANTA (AP) — A relative of the late author Margaret Mitchell is giving the Archdiocese of Atlanta a 50 percent stake in the literary rights to her best-selling novel, "Gone With the Wind." 
For the record, I will never give the church a stake in Xmas Carol. You have my solemn word on this. They can beg all they want. Frankly, I don't give a damn.

A great cloud of gnats

For the past week, there has been a dense cloud of nearly a trillion gnats outside my house. You have to hold a hand over your nose and mouth and run like mad to get through them. You know, I can't help but wonder. Could dog have sent these gnats to me?

I've thought long and hard about what dog may be trying to tell me with this visitation of gnats. And I think I've figured it out! Dog is trying to teach me what a huge cloud of gnats looks like. And dang if he hasn't succeeded in his efforts. I know just what a huge cloud of gnats looks like now.

That dog! You have to give him credit. In his omniscient way, he takes time out of his busy schedule to teach us great things.

August 16, 2012

Declining sperm quality

There's a story in the LA Times today about the declining quality of human sperm worldwide, and especially in Israel. This is not a minor thing. In fact, it's scary.

And of course, the authorities are poo-pooing the whole thing. No problem here, move along. It's insane. This is about our future. Resources have to be focused on this problem immediately.

This is what's wrong with the NY Times

The New York Times headline blares: "Ecuador grants asylum to Assange, defying Britain". Of course, what it should say is "Britain threatens to storm Ecuadorian Embassy in London". That's the story.

But the New York Times always sides with authoritarian American interests. Apparently, it cannot do otherwise.

And this is our "paper of record". We are doomed.

What the American nuns say

I was trolling through HuffPo's religion section today when I came across an article about the Vatican/nuns divide. It was interesting. I was struck by something the nuns said:
Hughes [the most recent past president of the LCWR, which represents about 80 percent of the country's 57,000 Catholic sisters] said there's more to promoting the sanctity of human life than just working against abortion. She said her community's ministries against domestic violence and in support of homeless mothers and children is also pro-life work.

"That's about the sanctity of human life. It's about doing it differently. I think it's complementary. I don't think you can have one without the other," she said.
This is the crucial divide, and it's where most religious people show a severe moral deficit. There are so many "pro-life" religious people out there (and not just Catholics) who are only concerned with abortion. As soon as the child is born, they forget about it (or casually let some priest rape the child). The nuns have a much clearer view of morality. Life does not end at birth. It begins.

The Roman Catholic church, especially with this Pope's guidance, is grossly immoral. The solution is simple. The church needs women priests. Women would add what this church sorely lacks: a moral center.

August 15, 2012

Worldwide Pussy Riot rallies

Previously, I wrote about Pussy Riot and the ridiculous way that Putin attacked them after one of their performances. This was essentially an attack on free speech in Russia, so it's important.

Happily, the story caught fire and now global activists have taken up the cause. Here's an excerpt from today's Times/AP story:
The global campaign to free Pussy Riot is gaining speed: Supporters of the punk provocateur band mobilize this week in at least a two dozen cities worldwide to hold simultaneous demonstrations an hour before a Russian court rules on whether its members will be sent to prison.
Go read the story. Free Pussy Riot!

I love the wording

PARIS (AP) — Gay marriage and adoption are in the spotlight in France as the Catholic Church is using a religious holiday to urge politicians to protect heterosexual traditions
Just amazing. And "heterosexual traditions" need a lot of protection, you know. If someone doesn't nurture them, they'll die out, for sure.

I dream of pistachios

I keep thinking about them -- pistachios, wonderful pistachios. Your body sends you messages and I think this is one. I must be missing a crucial element that can only be found in pistachios. On the other hand, this could be a message from dog. You never know, in this mystical, fairytale world we inhabit. Why, just the other day, the popey guy's secretary turned into the Holy Ghost. Anything can happen! I think dog wants me to eat them -- for some reason that only his all-knowing mind can grasp. Yes, I think that's definitely what this is all about.

Thinking about pistachios reminded me that they used to be red, and the color would get all over your fingers and lips when you ate them. Dog, that was fun! But why did they do that? Why put a color on a nice, white pistachio when you know it will run all over your customers' faces?

Wikipedia says:
The shell of the pistachio is naturally a beige color, but it is sometimes dyed red or green in commercial pistachios. Originally, dye was applied by importers to hide stains on the shells caused when the nuts were picked by hand. Most pistachios are now picked by machine and the shells remain unstained, making dyeing unnecessary except to meet ingrained consumer expectations.
I must go buy some. I haven't seen red ones in years, but that's what I want. I won't feel like I ate pistachios unless my lips and fingertips turn red. Mmmmm. (But I totally don't get how the shells were stained through the process of hand-picking. You'd think a machine might cause problems, but a nice soft hand wouldn't. Just saying.)

August 14, 2012

Timelines and suspense novels

Xmas Carol, my horror novel, is suspenseful -- which means the timeline is critical. Everything has to fall into place, smoothly and easily.

While reading the novel this week I became aware of a subtle timeline snafu. As a result, I changed a few dates and moved four scenes into new positions in the book. Now I'm reading the two chapters in which those scenes appear, to make sure there are no conflicts. Other than this, things look good. Those never-ending edits seem to have done the trick. I'm very pleased.

Almost there, kiddies. Once I fix the timeline, the book will be done. And then I'll have to face unknown horrors at Amazon and the iBook store as I try to format my book to meet their specifications. I'm not looking forward to that. But hey, I'm almost done!

So much for Dial soap

Triclosan is the active ingredient in deodorants, deodorant-soaps, etc. We've been using it for a long, long time and it is everywhere in our homes (and our waterways). Today's news at physorg suggests this is dangerous:
"The effects of triclosan on cardiac function were really dramatic," said Nipavan Chiamvimonvat, professor of cardiovascular medicine at UC Davis and a study co-author. "Although triclosan is not regulated as a drug, this compound acts like a potent cardiac depressant in our models." 

In addition, the mice had an 18-percent reduction in grip strength for up to 60 minutes after being given a single dose of triclosan. Grip strength is a widely used measure of mouse limb strength, employed to investigate the effects of drugs and neuromuscular disorders. 

Finally, the investigators looked at the effects of triclosan exposure on fathead minnows, a small fish commonly used as a model organism for studying the potential impacts of aquatic pollutants. Those exposed to triclosan in the water for seven days had significantly reduced swimming activity compared to controls during both normal swimming and swim tests designed to imitate fish being threatened by a predator.
Not sure where this will go, but it's important. If anyone is suffering from congestive heart failure, I suggest they get this stuff out of their home immediately.

August 13, 2012

The twisted Vatican butler trial

Holy Ghost and popey guy.
You knew it would get stranger, and it has.
Vatican Prosecutor Nicola Picardi, in seeking trial, quoted Gabriele [the butler] as telling his interrogators after his arrest that he thought that the role of whistle-blower in the church "belongs to the Holy Spirit, whom I felt in some way had entered into me.
He was apparently trying to expose corruption at the highest levels of the Vatican hierarchy.
The indictment quoted Gabriele as telling investigators that he was "motivated by my deep faith and by the desire that in the church light is shed on everything.

Vatican prosecutor Nicola Picardi quoted the butler as telling his interrogators that "seeing evil and corruption everywhere in the Church ... I was sure that a shock, even a media one, would have been healthy to bring the Church back on the right track.
Ghosts: holy ones. This is what happens when you encourage people to believe in fairytales. Dog knows how this will turn out. I hope it creates a major ruckus. Let's hear more about that corruption at the top. Go, Gabriele (even though you're crazy).

Friends in the yard

Squirrel and peanut. Match.
It's fun to walk around in my yard. Some of the creatures are too timid to be friendly, but I've definitely got a few pals out there. The entire flock of geese, about 75 or so at the moment, know me in the sense that they won't run from me. But only a few are actually pals. Remember the little one who followed me everywhere I went? I wrote about her last spring. She grew up, but never stopped that behavior. So I have a companion goose. It's fun. And of course, there's Milo, the finest goose who ever lived -- but I digress. This isn't a goose post. It's about squirrels.

There are five or six squirrels living on the property and I'm friendly with all of them. It's easy to make friends with a squirrel: just offer him a peanut. I do this all the time so the squirrels like and trust me. They'd never run away when they see me. But one thing they do intrigues me.

When I encounter one of them during a walk, he'll stop and stand on his hind legs, facing me. This position is maintained for about 30 seconds and then he continues on his way. This happens all the time. I swear they're telling me, "Thanks for the peanuts, big guy." I can see it in their stance: this is an expression of gratitude.

PS -- Squirrel facial expressions are complex and amazingly cute. I wish I could take a photo of my main squirrel friend but he's wary of cameras -- he's probably seen too many guns. We humans can be dangerous critters. Anyway, they're very cool. Anyone else made friends with a squirrel?

First-sentence fail

Dead-center on the NYT's first page today is an article on Paul Ryan that begins:
After Paul D. Ryan’s father died, he began forming a self reliance that would one day capture the imagination of Mitt Romney.
Four writers were given a byline on this article. Apparently, none of them could come up with a better first sentence. I can't get over it. That is piss-poor writing.

August 12, 2012

DUI Americans and the election

DUI (Distracted, Undisciplined, Ignorant) Americans have been handed their candidate slate for the upcoming election. Obama/Biden v. Romney/Ryan. It will be interesting to see which party DUI Americans vote for.

Will it be the evil, empty suit and his incoherent financial henchman? Or will DUI Americans stick with their Nobel Prize-winning drone-killer president? The choice is stark.

For some time, I've been saying that we reached the tipping point and danced past it. Americans are now too ignorant to vote, essentially. Will they vote for Romney/Ryan, who will destroy the New Deal and steal America's money while paying little or no attention to the overwhelming problems facing humanity (climate change, almost-empty aquifers, income inequality, timid journalism, etc.)?

Or will they stick with Obama and face four more years where he gives the farm away without getting a thing in return? Let's not forget that he's committed to cutting one trillion dollars from the federal budget in the coming years. That will mean less money for local governments in a time of great financial crisis: cuts in policing, trash collection, fire-fighting, health benefits, etc.

What will DUI Americans do at this critical juncture in time? I think it hardly matters. We've passed the tipping point and we're tumbling downhill at a breakneck pace -- and this will continue no matter who's elected. This is quite a country we've got here.

August 11, 2012

Wabbit apocalypse

I used to see rabbits frequently in our local area. They were morning creatures, for the most part. If I went out for an early walk I'd see them everywhere. I snapped this photo during one of those walks.

But now all I see is coyotes and foxes. No wabbits. You don't think there could be a connection, do you?

Horrors. You just can't trust nature. It's always eating.

August 10, 2012

No big splash by the nuns today

This was all I could find today on the nuns/Vatican kerfuffle:
ST. LOUIS (AP) — American nuns rebuked by the Vatican for tolerating dissent say they're willing to hold talks with church leaders but won't compromise their mission.
I think that's excellent. I want more but I understand. Saying anything even mildly argumentative at this point would bring on a massive fight. The damned Vatican is itching to excommunicate the lot of them.

The bottom line is that the nuns won't compromise and neither with the popey guy. Good. It's time for the nuns to say "So long, Catholic church." It's too early to say for sure, but I think they're movin' on out. Go, sisters!

UPDATE: What was a short, 3-paragraph article has morphed into something more substantive. (AP does that: fleshes stories out during the day and republishes the same link, but with more meat.) In any case, the article is great now. Here's how it ends:
Still, Farrell [president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious] gave no sign that her group would back down. In a speech Friday morning, she said the sisters have been asking themselves whether the Vatican assessment was an "expression of concern or an attempt to control?" Farrell ended the address with a phrase she learned while serving the church in Chile when the country was under a military dictatorship.

"They can crush a few flowers, but they can't hold back the springtime," she said, before receiving a standing ovation.
I love these nuns. They are totally cool.

About all those buried bodies

The other day when I was watching the news, there was a story about idiot kids who wrecked a cemetery. Headstones were overturned, monuments were cracked, etc. It was a sorry sight.

I was struck by the lament of a woman who was interviewed for the story. She said (I'm paraphrasing since I didn't save the recording), "Don't they understand that this is all that's left of us when we're gone?"

That simple statement opened a door for me. I'm always flummoxed when people show fierce attachment to dead bodies. Truly, I don't get it. The instant a person dies, the body is meaningless. We should toss it out or better yet, recycle it. What we shouldn't do is put it in an expensive box, bury the box and then visit it on Sundays. I've never understood that.

But this woman's statement opened a door for me. She really believed that graves represent "all that's left of us when we're gone." What a concept. I guess it's true that if you haven't left something worthwhile behind on this Earth, all you are is a dead body rotting in a buried box.

But who doesn't leave something behind? True; sometimes it's wreckage: harm, pain and evil deeds. But sometimes the person leaves a beautiful painting or a history book that she wrote. If you make something wonderful, it will continue to live beyond the moment of your death. If you were a decorator, there will be homes that still show your style. A construction worker leaves buildings in his wake. Politicians leave laws that continue to function. And parents leave children who, in turn, create other children.

But yeah, I guess if you've done absolutely nothing with your life, all that's left of you is that creepy thing rotting inside a box, six feet under. This doesn't change my opinion at all, mind you. Cemeteries are an appalling notion. But it was good to finally understand what people see in this odd cemetery tradition.

Accomplish something in life. Leave something beautiful behind when you depart this Earth. That's why you're here.

August 9, 2012

Tomorrow is D-Day for American nuns

Storming the beaches.
Tomorrow, the largest group of American nuns will issue their response to the ridiculous charges spewed at them by the Vatican. No way they're gonna lie down for this. I cannot wait to read the response. And the nuns are getting tons of support from Americans:
More than 900 Roman Catholic nuns gathering in St. Louis, Mo., this week to discuss the future of their relationship with the Vatican were surprised to be greeted by supporters with a simple message on their signs: "We're with you, sisters."
We are indeed with you, sisters. Since the Vatican will never back down, I expect this to end with the nuns seceding from the Catholic church and forming their own, independent religious organization. That would be lovely. They could model Catholicism for the Vatican, to show them what it looks like.

Eat it, popey guy. No one in the US is going to bow down to the Vatican's authoritarian edicts. No one.

Is this a metaphor?

THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — A large forest fire that broke out at a remote monastic community where women have not been allowed for a thousand years spread Thursday to a nearby resort area, forcing the evacuation of a seaside vacation village and sending up a thick pall of smoke over the area. 
The article also says:
It was not clear how the fire started Wednesday on the Mount Athos peninsula, a World Heritage site and self-ruled community of Orthodox monks that bans women — and even female animals — from entering. 
When you have rules like that, stuff just bursts into flames. It's basic physics.

August 8, 2012

The hair makes the man

Mars Science Laboratory Engineer Adam Steltzner has a great Jimmy Neutron thing going on in his hair. It's not wildly evident here, but sometimes he skootches the front of his hair up really high. And that's why I like the guy.

Okay, it's more than that. He makes science fun.

Fame is exactly like the plague

In an America where many people would kill to "go viral" and be known to others, I'm an outlier. In fact, I'm way off the chart. To me, fame is the saddest thing that can happen to a person.

If my horror novel is a hit, I'll be very happy. But I refuse to become personally famous. It's just not happening. I won't be interviewed, won't go on shows, won't appear here and there to promote the book. I ain't doin' nuthin'. The book will sink or swim on its own merits.

Mind you, I'll always be here at the blog and any reader who wants to interact with me will be able to. That was my aim when creating this blog, to give people a way to speak to me. But I will always be a virtual experience. There will be no live video chats, no images of Keith O'Connor in the media. I'm a hermit and that's that. Just saying.

August 7, 2012

Writers and interruptions

When I write (or edit), I get on a roll. It's an all-encompassing thing and the last thing I need is an interruption. Yet they arrive like clockwork.

What qualifies as an interruption? Sometimes it's a real-life issue, like having to tend to matters out there in the world (ugh). Getting sick can also throw me off, though not always. It depends on the illness. Even changing a prescription drug, or adding a new one, can make me feel so weird that I can't write. Lately, when a doctor suggests a prescription, I say, "Can I skip it?" And usually the doc says "fine" (which makes me wonder why he suggested it in the first place).

In any case, this is a lead-in to say that I'm suffering an interruption. No big deal but I haven't been able to start the final read-through of Xmas Carol. I'll begin tomorrow. And hopefully that will bring an end to this long, long period of editing. I want this book to be finished now.

If you know a writer, don't interrupt him (or her).

August 6, 2012

Afternoon delight

As I enjoyed the sacrament of espresso this afternoon, I watched last night's CNN coverage of the Mars landing. I may not have stayed up late to watch it, but at least I set the DVR.

It was great. Being the perfect audience, I was nervous about the landing. Didn't matter that I knew things would work out; I just get caught up in the drama. It was so exciting. Everything not only went perfectly, but did so immediately. It was like boom, boom, boom. They got confirmation at every stage of the descent and within a very short time, had photos from the surface to prove it. It was stupendous.

The best part was seeing the faces of the NASA scientists as they learned the mission was a success. They seem to be a very huggable bunch. I always think this when I watch landings. (They also seem like hippies; just saying.) Seeing them cheer as the first results came in was inspiring. This is what real science looks like. I'm so glad I recorded it.

But afterward, I couldn't help but wonder. Is this incredible Mars landing the swan song of a formerly smart, technological society? Will this be like our moon landing, an event never to be repeated? The future of space exploration seems dim, given our financial reality and the dimwitted people we elect as legislators.

Sad but true: I can't imagine our current know-nothing society producing a similar or greater technological feat in the future. We aren't even educating our children anymore and we've placed extreme financial barriers -- like a protective moat -- around higher education. For most young people, it's no longer possible to go to college. This is not only insanity, it is national suicide. Where is the next generation of well-educated Americans supposed to come from?

But if the Mars landing was our swan song, at least it was lovely.

Because it makes so much sense

Have you seen the latest Olympic news? The headline says Disqualified for Cannabis.
LONDON -- American judo fighter Nick Delpopolo was expelled from the Olympics for doping Monday, saying he unintentionally ate something before the games that had been baked with marijuana.
So let's play this out. They disqualified him because marijuana will give him an unfair advantage? Have you ever seen stoned people play sports? Duh. This makes no sense at all.

I've heard this song before

Internal documents from the Boy Scouts of America reveal more than 125 cases in which men suspected of molestation allegedly continued to abuse Scouts, despite a blacklist meant to protect boys from sexual predators.
Gee, that seems familiar. Now, let me see...Oh, yes, it reminds me of a certain church. Isn't it odd that the Boy Scouts of America and the Roman Catholic Church are the loudest and most virulent enemies of GLBTs -- and yet we see rampant child abuse within both organizations, abuse that each organization was long aware of, yet never corrected?

What's wrong with this picture?

Wow. Just wow.

As I was trying to decide whether to stay up for the Mars landing, I fell asleep. When I awoke this morning, I ran to the computer to find out what happened.

We did it! That is so cool. Congratulations to everyone who contributed to the Curiosity mission. It's almost surreal. How could they have done something so complicated?!

This is one of those rare moments when it's okay to say, "USA! USA! USA!" Just wow!

August 5, 2012

Does today seem a bit shaky?

I swear, I'm a nervous wreck about tonight's Mars landing. Are you going to stay up for it? I don't think I could take it, so if I can fall asleep I'll probably get up in the middle of the night and scurry to the computer to learn what happened. Please let this work. Dog, are you listening? Help NASA. Good doggy!

Today I've tried to while away the hours by taking a long look at Xmas Carol, my horror novel. I do believe it's done. I've edited this thing so many times, I hardly know what it says anymore -- but the proof is in the pudding: no matter where in the book I read, I don't change a word.

Tomorrow, either elated or completely crushed by the landing news, I plan to read the whole book again. I need to see it as one expanse rather than piecemeal chapters. This is the final go-through, for sure. I should be able to get the book out this month.

Y'all have your electronic readers ready to go, right? Xmas Carol will be a digital-only publication. You're going to love this book (unless you're a religious twit). I promise.

Mars! Totally amazing.

The hottest summer

I just walked outside to feed the Legion of Geese and it was sweltering. Not only humid but hot as a blast furnace. Which reminds me...

Lately, I've heard several weather forecasters say we're "entering the dog days of summer". What planet were these people on for the last two months? The dog days are just beginning? It's been one big Dog Summer. These folks are pre-programmed. It's August so they speak of dog days. It's mindlessness personified.

And as long as I'm on a weather rant, where the hell are the drag-queen weather-girls? I can't believe that in this day and age, a major city like NY doesn't have at least one fun, drag-queen weather-girl. It's 2012, people. Get with the program. Or is being a straight female a requirement for the job?

I'm ignoring the male weather forecasters since they all seem to be gay -- but they're not allowed to act gay. I heard from a reliable source that one of the local gay NYC weather guys was told by the network to "butch it up". Jeez. They can't even wear fun outfits and make fun of stuff, as is our god-given right. Seriously, why is the weather (and the news) so straight?

Okay. As you were.

August 4, 2012

Michael Rowe nails the chicken

In The Great Chick-Fil-A Snake Oil "Faith" Hustle, Michael Rowe eviscerates the Christian snakes who slithered over to Chick-Fil-A this week to display their hatred for the TV cameras. Here's an excerpt, but do read the whole thing:
The spectacle this past Wednesday of "Christians" and other, more generic garden-variety anti-gay bigots lining up around the block to "support" Mr. Cathy's enterprise and to cram their faces with junk food on the specious grounds of "supporting Biblical marriage," or "supporting free speech," was a pageant of banal, cheerful deep-fried American hate, unified in bigotry and detestation of a group of their fellow Americans who were different from them, all the while licking grease from their fingers and congratulating themselves on their piety and rectitude and patriotism.

The fact that Chick-fil-A claims to have posted "record" sales on Wednesday doesn't meant that thousands of Americans waddled into a fast-food joint to deliver a "blow for freedom" or a "blow for Jesus" or "traditional values."

America didn't get any holier or more "free" last Wednesday. It just got meaner and fatter, and even more rage-filled than it was before Mr. Cathy decided to sell his version of Christianity instead of chicken.
Perfect. (And let me tell you, this spectacle was particularly disgusting to me because I'm a vegetarian. "While licking grease from their fingers", indeed. Ugh.)

PS: If you're a blogger and you write a post about Chick-Fil-A, be sure to append the tag: "tastes like hate". It will become like Santorum and "frothy mix". Whenever anyone googles Chick-Fil-A, "tastes like hate" will pop up in the results. Get on this immediately!

August 3, 2012

Wide stance extended

You remember dear Larry Craig, don't you? The congressman whose story went like this: "I wasn't coming on to the guy in the next stall with my foot -- I just have a wide stance [when I poop]." Oy on so many levels. But today, he went a step further.
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Former Republican U.S. Sen. Larry Craig aims to fend off a federal election lawsuit against him by arguing his infamous July 11, 2007, Minneapolis airport bathroom visit that ended in his sex-sting arrest was part of his official Senate business.
Could this man be more bizarre? Wait, there's more.
"Not only was the trip itself constitutionally required, but Senate rules sanction reimbursement for any cost relating to a senator's use of a bathroom while on official travel," wrote Andrew Herman, Craig's lawyer in Washington, D.C., in documents filed Thursday. 
The very fact that he would call attention to this again is beyond insanity. And it's such a pathetic notion: he was doing government "business" in the bathroom. There's so much fun with wording here. Just as "business" could refer to having a bowel movement, saying the "trip" was "constitutionally required" could be read as "he really had to go". It's just stumblingly bad on every level.

As my header said: wide stance extended. The man should have flushed this episode down the toilet long ago. But apparently he likes being a bathroom joke. Good. He deserves the scorn. Closet cases are the lowest form of human being -- always have been and always will be. I'm cheered by his public shaming. Good old Larry!

Bad...but also good?

You've seen the news, I assume.
As police and store employees grappled with graffiti that appeared overnight on the back wall of a Torrance Chick-fil-A, online supporters and protesters alike criticized the vandalism.

"Tastes like hate" was scrawled in large black lettering on the wall of the restaurant, mimicking the chain's advertising.
Listen, kids. It's not okay to do this. Vandalism is not a virtue. But on the other hand, a zillion newspapers and web sites carried the image you'll find at the link, or at least printed the phrase "Tastes like hate" (often in the headline). As a result, this slogan is now burned into people's minds.

And that's a good thing. Because Chick-Fil-A does taste like hate.

Mars landing to occur this Monday morning

I've been too nervous to talk about it. But now the landing for the Mars rover/science lab is imminent. I swear, I'm a wreck. The landing sequence is downright alarming -- so many things could go wrong. In fact, let's say it out loud: success seems all but impossible. Still, I've got my fingers crossed. And according to the linked article, NASA is rather confident about the mission.

As for the timing, it's going to land early Monday morning. Am I going to stay up and watch it live? I don't think so. If the landing is a bust, I'd rather hear about it in retrospect. I'd be too depressed if I watched it live and it turned into a disaster. Besides, there won't be any images from Mars until much later -- days or weeks. It will take a while for NASA to roll out the rover's abilities.

But this is very cool and if it succeeds, it will answer a lot of questions. Surely, there was life on Mars at some point. I suspect it's still there, hiding underground, and I look forward to waking up on Monday morning to read the good news. Dog, if you're listening, help NASA out on Monday, okay? Thanks.

August 2, 2012

Be still, my heart!

The Benedict's Jesus.
I was extremely excited to see the news today:
VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican says Pope Benedict XVI has completed the third installment of his planned trilogy on the life of Christ.
The publication date will be announced after "Jesus of Nazareth" is translated into various languages from the Benedict's original German.
It's a wonder they can announce something like that without using several exclamation marks. And not only will there be a new, exciting Jesus book to read, but I learned of a strange nuance to the art of speaking about a pope. Note the odd language up there: "from the Benedict's original German." 

You can't even say his name now without saying "the" before it? I guess it's kind of like calling Springsteen "the boss". Wow. I mean, I knew there were uppity ways of signing your name if you're a cardinal -- like "Timmy Cardinal Dolan" instead of Cardinal Timmy Dolan. But this one is new. I'm doubly excited!

I wonder what the Benedict is doing right now? No, wait. I'd better not think about that or I'll fall out of my all-but-constant state of sanctifying grace.

August 1, 2012

To survive, humans must become Vulcans

Live long and prosper if...
You know the Vulcan story. They had to fight their basic instincts in order to become a peaceful, productive race. Seems to me, humans could use a program like that.

Imagine if we admitted our faults and tailored our society to counter them, as the Vulcans did. If we admitted our tendency to believe in the irrational, for instance, we could instill proper respect for reality. Like the Vulcan people, we would benefit greatly from teaching logic at an early age. Imagine humans who could actually understand the issues involved in an argument! It's possible.

What if we went so far as to admit that evolution produces only predators, including humans. Everything preys on something else. And in our world, where we don't have to kill our food, this vestigial tendency plays out in human-on-human violence. What would happen if we admitted this and adopted a no-fight, no-war world?

What if we taught children the truth, that there is no god. What if we explained that the same ability that makes us see faces in the clouds, makes us see gods? Imagine how we'd prosper, unhindered by false gods.

What if we admitted what we are, and worked with it? What if we became Vulcans?

UPDATE: For anyone who sees this as a silly suggestion, try to remember that the human race is in the process of killing itself. Global warming will cause the extinction of at least 50% of all Earth's creatures by the year 2100, and humans will become extinct some short time after that. And we're not doing a damn thing about it. That's because we can't see reality, can't use logic, can't plan because we think a fairy god will save us all. We need a global intervention. I suggest the Vulcan model.