January 31, 2013

49ers' Culliver is an anti-gay fool

Okay, so here I am, all excited about the upcoming superbowl game, rooting for my 49ers...and then some asshole on the team makes an anti-gay statement. It's been reported (widely) that Chris Culliver said the following:
"No, ain't got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up out of here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff. Nah. Can't be in the locker room, man. Nah."
Obviously, the man has a tiny brain. But what on Earth could make him say this just before the superbowl? I mean, this is San Francisco's team. The team that lets drag queens sing the National Anthem. San Francisco!

Thankfully, there's another article at SF Gate (a great paper, by the way) that shows his teammates don't share his bigotry. Here's one excerpt. More at the link.
LINEBACKER LARRY GRANT: “I’ve known guys that I’ve played with in the past (who were gay). When you’re younger you hear different kinds of jokes, when you are in high school and college. At the end of the day, we are all family in this locker room, and we accept each player for whoever they are. … It’s all a brotherhood."
I still hope my 49ers win. But I also hope they don't let this Culliver pig anywhere near the field. He blew his big chance. End of story.

Update: Looks like Culliver had a really uncomfortable press conference. Good. I hope he dreams about it for the rest of his life. 

Good readers

Every writer needs good readers. Yes, it's wonderful when someone reads your book and says, "Gee, I really liked it." That helps (a lot). But it's more important when a reader notifies me that there's a mistake in the book. Horrors!

One of my nephews read Xmas Carol last week. Really enjoyed it, too, judging by his remarks. But he also noticed three places in the book where I referred to a character by name, when I really meant to refer to a different character. It's so easy to miss something when proofing a (gigantic) manuscript. That's why observant readers are so important.

Although lots of people read the book, no one else noticed these mistakes. Conor, I owe you. Later this week, I'm going to work up a new version that eliminates the errors. Then I'll upload the book to Amazon again (and to Smashwords, which is a great book store that gets your book out to all the sellers.) And at the same time, I'll use the opportunity to thank Casey Shain in the introduction. He's the artist who came up with the killer cover for "Xmas Carol". Somehow, I forgot to thank him when I first uploaded the book.

While we're on the topic, I see there's a new review at Amazon today. Five stars (so far, all the reviews of "Xmas Carol" at Amazon are five stars). Here's what it says:
this book is worth every penny! i haven't been able to put my kindle down while reading it.more from the author please! 
Short, but I'll take it!

Fascinating article about Robert Frost

Artichoke Annie sent me a link to a great article about the poet, Robert Frost.
There was, Holden writes, a “strength and vividness” to Frost in person, which you would be unaware of if you only knew his poems, as they lacked “the very quality which makes him most noticeable as a personality. It is as if that quality were kept out—frequently, but certainly not always—by some strangely generated sense of reserve.” In his poetry, Frost emphasized the part of himself that remained aloof and on the outside. He was like “a very keen-witted boy,” Holden says, “who would rather know how to sharpen an axehead than sharpen it, who would rather know where spruce gum comes from than go and gather it.” Active with one part of himself—playing baseball, clearing brush, trudging through the woods looking for wildflowers—he was also always watching and weighing. He was talking with you but he was also attending to the patterns of your speech, listening for a poetic rhythm.
I adore Frost and was surprised by what the article's author, Joshua Rothman, said about him. I thought Frost would have been reticent and uncomfortable with people, but Rothman made me think otherwise. Or is the second part of the article the truth? Did Frost have a "dark energy" and was his seemingly friendly demeanor a sham, a disguise? I guess I'll have to read a biography (or two) to make an informed decision.

If you admire the man and his poetry, do read the linked article.

January 30, 2013

The times, they are a' changin'

There's a great rant at SF Gate today. You really should read this one. It'll make you laugh. It's about how progressive change is finally happening.

Here's an excerpt:
And of course, the South, despite flickers of progress in various college towns, remains as racist, anti-smarts, and gun-lovingly homophobic as ever. The good news? This used to be a problem. The South used to have enormous influence on culture and politics, acting as the genteel, racist heart of “real” America. But as the new rainbow constituency takes hold and a calm, intellectual black man enters his second term as president, that influence is waning; the South is now more isolated, emasculated, increasingly meaningless in the new America dialogue. This much we know: The South will not rise again. Ever. Praise.
Mark Morford's post, "Godless, liberal sickos win again" is a great read. Seriously, read the whole thing. You'll be happy you did.

Ultra-Orthodox pigs

Did you think oppression belonged solely to the Roman Catholic church and Muslims? Not so. Orthodox Jews in NY have their own oppressors. In fact, they are their own oppressors. Read all about it and be disgusted. Ugh.

These are the people who gave a young girl to the pedophile Nechemya Wasserman, who was sentenced to 103 years in prison for what he did to the child. Orthodox "modesty patrols" handed her over to this pedophile for her own "good". And then he raped her for years. Disgusting!

Someone needs to go through Brooklyn and rip down the suffocating rules these pigs post on trees. And the police need to prosecute them for threatening store owners who show "revealing" mannequins. This is the Jewish mafia and it should be treated as such. Every one of these oppressors belongs in jail.

Thus came the Queen

Now that Queen Beatrix has stepped down, I see no reason why I shouldn't step up. Starting this very minute, I assume the mantle of Queen of The Worlds Blog.

Have no fear! As Queen, we shall rule justly. Already, everything feels different! I sense that we have certain powers. For instance, we can and will bestow knighthoods. And of course, we shall have our royal portrait done. Looking ahead, we shall issue missives occasionally. And of course we will do appearances and hand waves. Lots of hand waves. We've got our white gloves ready (and we really do have white gloves).

Suddenly everything looks fresh and new. We are pleased. Our subjects may begin giving us gifts immediately. There will be no waiting period. This Queen is fully up and running.

January 29, 2013

Gays, Boy Scouts and good ol' southern bigotry

Over at the Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky eviscerates southern bigots for their reaction to the Boy Scouts' statement that they'll (probably) allow gay scouts and adults in the organization. Here's a tidbit:
As I've written previously, we are past the point in this country now where one's views on homosexuality can be called a "matter of conscience." No. Being against equality here isn't a matter of conscience anymore than having been against racial equality in 1955 was. It is just bigotry plain and simple. Enough. Piss off. Go form your own Boy Scouts. Go form your own stupid country. You aren't America anymore.
Scroll down on the "reaction" link to read what the Southern Baptist Convention had to say about opening up the Boy Scouts' ranks to gays. These cavemen have to go.

Justice in a tiny town

Vicco, KY, with a population of 335 people, just voted to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. There's a pretty cool story about it in the NYT. I mean, this is a bunch of coal-miner types who voted for fairness. How could you not love a story like that?

Successful and schizophrenic

That's the title of an opinion piece in the NYT. It's about several people who, although they experience symptoms of schizophrenia, are able to maintain a successful career. It's about accepting your mental illness and moving on. Interesting.

Japanese spider crab

Look at this thing! The Japanese spider crab is 12 feet from claw to claw. I had no idea crabs got this big. Yesterday, Jerry Coyne put up a photo of a huge crab, which got me looking around the net, and I bumped into this guy. Amazing, isn't it?

And here's one with a person in the shot. I can't get over it.

By the way, if you visit Jerry's post, make sure to scroll to the bottom of the page to see the image of a crab on a garbage pail. Oy!

David Atkins chimes in

I wrote a post the other day about the evil of Islamists destroying one-of-a-kind history and science documents and relics. Today, David Atkins chimes in on digby's site.
There is something deeply barbaric about casually, intentionally destroying humanity's heritage. Something terrifying, and something new to this world in the modern era. Something more inherently barbaric than run-of-the-mill murder or even mass murder.
Religion, at least of the Islamist variety, is the sworn enemy of mankind.

Most boring movie ever

What is the most boring popular movie you've ever seen? This is an easy question for me to answer: Star Wars. I have never been so bored in a movie theater. If I wasn't with someone who was enjoying it, I would have walked out after 20 minutes. This movie also marked the beginning of the awful tradition of ruining horror and sci-fi with humor and cuteness.

What's your vote for The Most Boring Movie Ever Made?

January 28, 2013

Planning for SKYNET

There's a smart "opinion piece" in the NYT today. That it's smart comes as no surprise since it's written by Huw Price, a shockingly intelligent philosopher. It's always an adventure to read Price's words.

The piece focuses on whether humans will create an artificial intelligence. And if this comes to pass, what will happen next? Price is part of an initiative to plan for this eventuality -- and push the odds in humanity's favor, so far as this is possible. As he readily admits, the "singularity" may never occur. But if it does, all the rules change, immediately and exponentially. And humans may themselves change, in the process.

Interesting read. Grab some coffee and hit the link.

Grand Central Station: the perfect building

I think Grand Central Station in Manhattan is the most beautiful building in the world. I used to go there as a teenager, just to hang out and stare. It's so open and accommodating, and so huge! There's a great little article about the terminal at NY1 this morning. In case you don't feel like clicking on over to read it, here's an excerpt:
Yet the building's Beaux Arts style of architecture, which was designed 100 years ago, is all about the people who walk through it.

"Beaux Arts design is based first and foremost on the importance of the individual," says urban historian Justin Ferate. "Every architectural detail in the space has some physical relationship to your body and that's very import because it helps you figure out where you are."

The architecture of the building is as much about psychology as it is about style. Every single corridor is designed to create a sense of consciousness and comfort.

"If you look around the Grand Concourse, you’ll find that the railings are roughly your waist height. The counters are just the right height to be leaned on," Ferate says. "Each block of stone in the upstairs concourse is one footstep wide for walking and one footstep long for running. And because the blocks relate to your physical movement, you use it subliminally as you run across the platform."
Image: Wikipedia Commons.

Religion is constant enemy of progress

Fleeing Islamist extremists torched a library containing historic manuscripts in Timbuktu, the mayor said Monday, as French and Malian forces closed in on Mali's fabled desert city.

"It's truly alarming that this has happened," he told The Associated Press by telephone from Mali's capital, Bamako, on Monday. "They torched all the important ancient manuscripts. The ancient books of geography and science. It is the history of Timbuktu, of its people." 
This is similar to events that occurred in the Dark Ages. Then, Christians took science books, bleached the writing from their pages, and painted prayers on them. Out with productive science, in with useless religion. We lost nearly 1,000 years of human progress then. Will we lose all of science today, as religion rears its ugly head all over the world?

I worry that, given a cataclysm such as a world-wide epidemic that reduced the human world population by half or more, religious lunatics would take over the world and disavow all scientific knowledge. It's very possible. This is one reason (among many) why we must rid the world of religion. It is and always has been humanity's enemy.

January 27, 2013

This oppressive, arrogant Vatican

Frank Bruni has a great opinion piece in the NYT this morning. The Roman Catholic church is on trial in the public square. An excerpt:
And this hubris also survives the crisis, manifest in the way that the Vatican, a gilded enclave so far removed and so frequently out of step with the rest of the world, clamps down on Catholics who challenge its rituals and rules. Much of what these dissenters raise questions about — the all-male priesthood, for example, or the commitment to celibacy that priests are required to make — aren’t indisputable edicts from God. They’re inventions of the mortals who took charge of the faith. 
The church's wall of indifference and high opinion of itself are destined to collapse. The church's arrogance and lack of accountability guarantee this outcome.

Is the word "book" on the verge of extinction?

Seriously, will the word "book" fade away? Who the heck buys books these days? I certainly don't. In fact, I doubt I'll buy another physical book in my lifetime. And if I do, it will be because the damn book publisher failed to produce an ebook.

In the e-publishing era, we may not use the word "book" anymore. We'd say we're reading a novel, or a horror story, a screenplay, or a collection of short stories. After all, what would it mean to say we're reading a "book"?

What the heck is a book? It's merely a physical thing, the product book publishers used to produce before people stopped buying their wares. So is "book" a soon-to-be useless term?

The meaning of the word won't fade away completely, of course. We'll always refer to the historical existence of libraries that contained wall-to-wall books. We'll always know what that meant. And some people will inherit books from their grandparents. But will we use the term in our daily lives? I'm not sure. I think at first we will. But in ten or twenty years?

What do you think?

What are you reading?

I have a confession to make. I no longer read fiction. (Gasps issue from the peanut gallery.) You may think this an odd statement for a fiction writer to make, and I suppose it is. I'd still love to read great fiction but I'm not willing to wade through a hundred or so books to find it. As you get older, you realize your time is valuable.

(I also find that without intending to, I absorb each fiction writer's techniques through osmosis -- and the next time I sit down to write, this influences me. I don't want to be influenced by anyone at this point in my writing life. It has to come from my head and nowhere else. Those are the rules.)

These days, I read only science or philosophy books. I've always been wildly interested in a double-headed question: what is reality; and what, if anything, does it mean? Science and philosophy try to answer these questions.

This is why I'm thrilled with the book I'm currently reading. It's "God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion" by Victor Stenger. (Link leads to Kindle version; much cheaper.) This is a winner for me since it combines both of my interests: science and philosophy. I've read Stenger before. He's a physicist and an outspoken atheist. And while he may not be the best writer in the world, Stenger is clear and always on point. And he gets out a zinger or two, now and then. I find him a joy to read.

So. What are you reading?

January 26, 2013

Idle thought

I'd love to know how many old, white male members of congress are on synthetic testosterone. There may be a simple reason why they're so irritable (and obstinate and aggressive and stupid). This would explain so much.

Catholic hypocrisy of the week (or decade!)

You know how the Catholic church is always saying that a fetus is a person? That's why you can't have an abortion, according to the Vatican: because you'd be killing a "person".

But when a Catholic hospital in Colorado was charged with the death of a woman and the twin boys she'd been carrying in utero for seven months, it claimed in court that the fetuses were not people. Murder? Pshaw, they were mere fetuses. Seriously, they were that hypocritical. If these were babies, the hospital might be charged with three murders -- so suddenly they weren't people anymore.

If you don't believe me, read the story. It's breathless hypocrisy -- just what we expect from the Roman Catholic church. How can anyone believe this church is connected to an "all-good" god? Nonsense!

Catholic hospitals fail German public

Der Spiegel minces no words when addressing the failures of Roman Catholic health facilities in Germany.
Wanting nothing to do with a possible early termination of a pregnancy, doctors working for the Cellitines turned away a woman who was seeking help shortly before Christmas, despite the strong suspicion that she had been raped.
Last week, the order publicly downplayed the case when it made national news, calling it "very regrettable" and "a misunderstanding."
Turning away rape victims can hardly be called a misunderstanding.
This failure to meet the needs of female patients outrages Germans, and rightly so. How can this church, of all churches, pretend that it is ethical?
Catholic facilities are increasingly sealing themselves off, often behaving as if they were part of a state within a state; a cosmos subject to its own rules, which are monitored by the pope and his bishops; and a world in which federal, state and local governments have little say.
Every year, Catholic dioceses receive billions in funds from obligatory taxes paid by church members. But when it comes to scandals, such as when sexual abuse is systematically covered up and remains uninvestigated for years, citizens have little influence and are left to experience how the church energetically defends its special rights.
The internet is shining a light on the church's evil doings. I don't see how Catholicism can survive the current, heightened level of scrutiny. It's a church without ethics, without morals. This doesn't escape people's notice.

January 25, 2013

Pope is fun tweeter

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI is giving a shout-out to an anti-abortion rally in Washington, tweeting that politicians should protect the unborn and "promote a culture of life." 
Catholic Church teaching holds that life begins at conception and ends at sexual maturity.
Wow, now that the pope's tweeting, everything is so much better. People all around the world agree. The pope's tweets are fixing everything.

And -- be still my heart -- I heard there's gonna be a popey guy app released by the end of next month! Can you imagine the wisdom we'll be in for? Wow! 

Now that the pope is tech-enabled, surely the first second coming of Christ can't be far off. Wowee! Thanks, popey guy, for everything.

They speak in tongues

These are the words of Ken Ham, probably the biggest creationist wingnut in the United States:
Atheistic evolutionists do not want any talk of “critiquing” or “thinking critically” about evolutionary ideas, because evolution is their way of explaining life without God, which is why we call evolution a religion.
Uh...evolution is how atheists explain life without god...and that makes it a religion? Lotsa sense there. Tons. It's easy to see why Ham is so admired by the brainless set.

These people don't make sense but their followers never notice. This is because the common factor shared by all wingnuts is that they don't understand logic, don't even know what it is. We truly live in different worlds.

January 24, 2013

Moving forward on guns

Authorities say a shooting at a Houston-area community college that left three people wounded erupted after two men bumped into each other.
Well, that settles it. We've got to get more guns into the hands of students. But we'll have to put extremely tight controls on people bumping into each other.

There is no afterlife, no heaven or hell

People are heavily invested in the idea of an "afterlife". Apparently, this life isn't good enough for them. And the fact that there has never been the slightest indication that life continues after death does nothing to diminish the hopes of believers. They want it and won't settle for anything less than eternity.

Personally, I don't get it. I have no wish to "live" beyond "death". This is an oxymoron, a concept that collapses in on itself. Death = the end of life. So how can life persist?

If, however, you insist on an afterlife, your only option is to hope that life is a simulation, a sort of computer game. It's far from likely but perhaps an advanced race created this "reality" for us. Maybe Earth is a training ground, meant to improve a person's mettle. Perhaps we're really giant bats that travel through space, not needing air, and living forever. And maybe our kids misbehave unless we toss them in the Earth Simulator for a lifetime or two. Perhaps it gives them moxie.

This scenario is the only hope of an afterlife. Maybe your life is a dream. Could be. I seriously doubt it, but if you're the type who needs a hope like this, you'd better latch onto this concept and hold on tight. Because Jeebus isn't going to greet you after your death. That's just a fairytale (and I think you know this).

I hope this lifted your spirits. As for me, I think death is an appropriate end for life. It seems to work for all the other creatures that inhabit our planet. Death doesn't bother me because once I'm dead, I won't exist. So there's literally nothing to worry about.

Wake up and smell the espresso. This is the only life you'll ever have. Treasure it and be kind to everyone you meet. That's the atheist message -- and it's a good one.

Siri in camouflage?

Found this at TUAW (a Mac site) today.
Also to be found within the exhaustive look at Siri's backstory is the tale of how the concepts behind [the] software got their start as a project of the US Department of Defense. Only instead of finding nearby restaurants and setting alarms, the goal of creating a military-grade virtual assistant was to aid top brass in day-to-day base operations and other important tasks. We can't help but shudder at the idea of it interpreting a general's request to "order some flowers for mom" as "deploy all our nuclear bombs."
If you've interacted with Siri, you know how frightening that prospect is. The software is easily confused. Siri on the battlefied? Horrors.

Solution as bad as problem?

I assume readers are familiar with the danger posed by BPA in plastic bottles and food cans. To fix the problem, the powers-that-be have substituted BPS for BPA. Problem solved, right? Not so fast.
The industry responded by creating "BPA-free" products, which were made from plastic containing a compound called bisphenol S. In addition to having similar names, BPA and BPS share a similar structure and versatility: BPS is now known to be used in everything from currency to thermal receipt paper, and widespread human exposure to BPS was confirmed in a 2012 analysis of urine samples taken in the U.S., Japan, China and five other Asian countries.
But guess what?
Like BPA, the study found, BPS disrupts cellular responses to the hormone estrogen, changing patterns of cell growth and death and hormone release. Also like BPA, it does so at extremely low levels of exposure.
It's a good thing we have a food industry that does everything it can to protect our health, eh? This stuff is everywhere.

So what can we do? It seems it would be prudent to avoid contact with store receipts. You don't need to touch them; just toss them in the garbage. Don't buy anything that comes in a plastic bottle. And eat no food that comes in a can. This is especially important for children and women of child-bearing age.

And a big "meh" to the FDA. Thanks for nothing, guys.
"On its own, though, this study shows us that very low levels of BPS can disrupt natural estrogen hormone actions in ways similar to what we see with BPA. That's a real cause for concern."

Read more at: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-01-bpa-substitute-bisphenol-disrupts-hormone.html#jCp

Chimps, apes get a little respect

This was nice to see. Research chimps owned by the National Institutes of Health are being retired from lab work and moved into supportive, pleasant sanctuaries. This will affect approximately 450 chimps. The plan is to keep about fifty chimps on call, just in case there's a medical emergency and we need them for research. But there will be extensive discussion -- including public input -- before any are returned to the lab for experimentation. Basically, the chimps are movin' on out. It's about time.

And now for something completely different. With the help of Orangutan Outreach and the Apps for Apes program, apes at 13 American zoos are playing with iPad apps -- drawing, listening to music, whatever. Apparently, they like their apps as much as we like ours. (And they're looking for iPad donations, if you can help out.) The lesson, in case it's not obvious, is that these primates differ from us only in degree. Same idea, different model.

It's nice to see our extended family respected like this, especially in the case of animals who've "worked" for us. I hope to see many more stories like this.

January 23, 2013

Signs of the downfall

Saw this in the news. It's about Jindal's Louisiana:
Hundreds of people on their death beds who can't afford private insurance would have to go without end-of-life care in their homes this year if Louisiana goes through with Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to shutter the state's Medicaid hospice program in February.
When you don't care for your young, sick and elderly, you no longer belong to a civilization, a society. You are merely individuals, fending for yourselves. This is how the end comes.

The conflicted soul of Cardinal Mahony

There's a story in the NYT this morning about Cardinal Roger Mahony, the now-retired head of Los Angeles' Roman Catholic community. He seems to be a very conflicted character. On the one hand, he was the embodiment of liberal reforms:
In an increasingly conservative Catholic Church, he was known as one of the last relatively progressive prelates, embracing the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and encouraging increased participation of women and laypeople.
But he also hid the crimes of pedophile priests:
Internal church personnel files released this week as part of a civil court case reveal that he and his top adviser knowingly shielded priests accused of child sexual abuse from law enforcement.
Apparently his allegiance to the church was greater than his ability to care for the children of his parishioners. Read the story for more. It made me sad. How can a seemingly good person do things like this? It's as if the children did not exist.

Dear rightwing lunatics

We're watching you.
We bloggers are a powerful lot. With our words, we can do anything. We could even pause the rotation of the Earth for a moment, if we wished. Oh, yes. This is within our power. But we're not a showy lot. Lowkey -- that's us.

In fact, we have the power to stop the beating of every rightwing heart, all over the Earth, all at the same instant. All we have to do is say the words of the Special Incantation. The Incantation is very well known in the blogging world. It's bandied about at conferences all the time, emailed and pasted all over the place. We all know the words of the Special Incantation.

Like nuclear power, the Incantation holds us in thrall. We don't want to be the one to set it off because the results are so far-reaching, and the Incantation cannot be recalled. Once it's loose, it's all over in a flash.

So, rightwing lunatics, consider yourselves on trial. We haven't done it yet; don't make us. If I was you, I'd be very good for the next few months and years (and decades). One false move, and surely some blogger somewhere will whip out the Special Incantation -- and recite the sacred words.

Don't make us do it. Just don't.

Illustration: Jessica Masi

January 22, 2013

Football talk (sorta)

Jim Harbaugh
No one is talking about the most important factor in the superbowl matchup.

John Harbaugh, the Ravens' manager, is way cuter than his brother, Jim Harbaugh, who manages the 49ers.

John Harbaugh
Nevertheless, Jim's team will win because they're my favorite. Sometimes in life, you have to toss looks aside. It's sad, but necessary.

I mean, compare them. That's John on the right, and Jim up top. Clearly John is way sexier than Jim. Clearly.

It's hard to root for the less-cute guy. It really is. But I will.

Dolphin seeks human help

There's a video and story over at AmericaBlog about a dolphin that was wrapped in fishing line. It approached divers to seek help. Awwwww. Such a sweet story.

January 21, 2013

Keeping your iPad happy

With or without accessories, my iPad is my favorite possession. But I bought a couple of goodies to make it even better.

First up, this great real leather iPad case from Bear Motion. That it, top-left. It fits the iPad like a glove and feels so good. The green is a granny-apple green. Though it's probably not everyone's cup of tea, I love it.

But the best accessory may be Levenger's Tech Bag. (Full disclosure: it's tiny and you should expect "man purse" comments.) This thing is so cool. It's made from a very soft leather and the iPad slips in like a dream, cover and all. The inside is lined with cotton twill (I wish it was flannel, but there you go) and there are pockets all over the place, including deep wells right under the handles.

Siri tells me my iPad is very happy. In fact, she said it might be the happiest iPad in the world.

Wow! The pope tweeted in Latin!!

Here is what the pope tweeted:
"Unitati christifidelium integre studentes quid iubet Dominus? Orare semper, iustitiam factitare, amare probitatem, humiles Secum ambulare," the pontiff wrote.
Since I understand Latin, I'll translate for you:
"Untying Christian fidelity will integrate students, for a quid, in the bed of Dominic. Roaring or simpering, with justice or farts, but loving the probing -- it makes me humble. Call a secular ambulance!"
I still don't know what it means but I hope my translation will help religious authorities to understand the pope's blessed intentions. As always, he seems to be thinking only of young people. Watta guy!

Baby, it's cold outside

Polar air has engulfed New York. It's time for my annual posting of this classic.

January 20, 2013

Football Sunday

Here's the way I want the day to play out. First, Joe Buck calls in with a terrible flu and says he can't do the Fox broadcast of the 49ers game. That would be a major plus but I'm not counting on it. I figure I'll have to watch the game with no sound. But the 49ers win, either way. And in the second game, the Patriots beat the Ravens. (I think the 49ers can beat the Patriots more easily than the Ravens, so this is what I'm hoping for.)

Who do you want to see win? And do you also hope Buck has a dreadful flu? (Mind you, we don't want him to get really sick; just enough that he can't do the broadcast. Hmmm, maybe it's time for imprecatory prayer, eh? It's the holy way, you know. And we do so want to be holy.)

Update: Well, I got my 49ers wish. They won! Hooray for Kaepernick et al. But the Ravens beat the Patriots. That's okay. I figure Kaepernick can outclass Flacco. The 49ers have to win. Have to.

The pope doesn't like Father Flannery

There's an article in the NYT today about an Irish priest named Father Flannery. The pope would really, really like to silence Flannery because he's raining on their all-male parade of power. For one thing, he doesn't believe Jesus established the priesthood.
Instead, he wrote, “It is more likely that some time after Jesus, a select and privileged group within the community who had abrogated power and authority to themselves, interpreted the occasion of the Last Supper in a manner that suited their own agenda.” 

Father Flannery said the Vatican wanted him specifically to recant the statement, and affirm that Christ instituted the church with a permanent hierarchical structure and that bishops are divinely established successors to the apostles.
Bishops not "divinely" established? Horrors! If that was true, the pope would be...just a sad, deluded closet case in red shoes and an outlandish hat. Can't have that. But why is Father Flannery being attacked now? What could be the cause of this onslaught?
He believes the church’s treatment of him, which he described as a “Spanish Inquisition-style campaign,” is symptomatic of a definite conservative shift under Pope Benedict XVI. 

“I have been writing thought-provoking articles and books for decades without hindrance,” he said. “This campaign is being orchestrated by a secretive body that refuses to meet me. Surely I should at least be allowed to explain my views to my accusers.” 
Surprise, surprise. The evil pope is the troll behind the curtain. The attack on Father Flannery is one with the pope's relentless effort to lash out at gays, nuns, women in general, and any priest who doesn't think the pope is god's infallible representative on Earth. It's all a turf war pushed by this dreadful, closet-case pope.

But I thank the pope for all he does. The man is bringing about the end of the Roman Catholic church, possibly within my lifetime. Go, popey guy! (Also too, go Father Flannery!)

January 19, 2013

Spiegel interviews semi-mad scientist

Actually, I don't think he's mad though he does seem a bit odd. And I liked the way he handled the religious questions posed by the Spiegel interviewer. If you have ten minutes, check it out. It's about using the methods of synthetic biology to alter our own biological future. And yes, there's talk of cloning.

Amazon's weird marketing

I don't get it. Amazon is the biggest, most successful online marketer. You'd think they'd have their act together by now. But a glance at their main page reveals something strange: they have no idea how to market goods.

Like you, I've been shopping at Amazon forever. But when I go to the site it shows me nothing I'm interested in. I'm sure you've noticed this. How can it be that they don't know what I like? Of all the sites in the online universe, Amazon should know my tastes as well as my friends do. But they don't.

For one thing, they have this utterly useless idea that if you buy something, they should continue to show that class of items to you for the rest of your life. Now, I'm not talking about physics or atheist books; they're good about showing me books I might like. But say I buy a coffee pot. For the next few months after the purchase, they show me...coffee pots. Duh. I already bought that item. So of all the items they could show me, a coffee pot should be at the very bottom of the list. Not so. They're gonna show me coffee pots for months or years. What a waste of space.

And the Kindle ad at the top of the page! Oy. Amazon, if you've been showing me a Kindle for several years and I haven't bought it, chances are I'm not interested. Doesn't matter to Amazon. They're going to donate a full third of my home page space to the Kindle for the rest of my life. Amazon, I don't want a Kindle. Get over it.

Seriously, shouldn't Amazon be gold for all of us? Knowing our buying patterns so well, shouldn't Amazon be almost magical in its ability to show me what I want? I don't get it.

Oy, the dripping

You know how when you're having a glass of V-8, you have to swing your ponytail around to the back so when your mustache absorbs the juice, it doesn't drip all over your hair?

Never mind. Go read Xmas Carol.

January 18, 2013

Beyond tone-deaf

I won't provide a replay. You'll have to read the original Booman post for the lowdown. It's a very short piece. Trust me. You really want to click on this one. It's priceless and it proves once again that the GOP is the most tone-deaf collection of people in the world.

In case you thought Obama was rational

I'll bet you thought Obama would ease the ban on stem cell research. Silly you. When the bill came to him, he vetoed it. After all, we don't want anyone getting well through much-needed research.

Via digby:
The president said: "We must remember that embryonic stem cells come from human embryos that are destroyed for their cells. Each of these human embryos is a unique human life with inherent dignity and matchless value. We see that value in the children who are with us today."

"These boys and girls are not spare parts," said the President.
No, what they are is garbage, given the veto. Because that's what we do with these embryos if they aren't used for research. They're tossed in the garbage.

The president is not rational. I never thought he was.

The vampire media strikes again

A couple of nights ago, CBS Evening News covered a press conference held by the parents of Newtown on the one-month anniversary of that day. The parents had a message for America about the insanity of our gun laws, and it's fine that CBS covered this event.

But then the station went trolling for blood. They sent a bleached-blond, male creature -- I'm not sure what species he was, but definitely not human -- to interview the Barden family in their home.

The creature asked Mrs. Barden, "Do you let yourself think about that horrible day?" She answered, "It seeps in. But I try not to go there."

And the creature asked, "Why?"

He actually did that: asked this mother why she didn't want to think about the day her son was shredded by an assault weapon in his first grade classroom.

In response, she began to shake. After a moment, she replied, "Because it's too painful." And then she broke down.

Let us also note that her two surviving children, both youngsters, were seated beside her on the couch as this media rape occurred.

Seth Doane is the bleached-blond creature who pretended to be a human being. CBS is the station that planned and aired this disgusting "interview".

My revulsion is beyond words.

January 17, 2013

Lemmings march to sea, pick up pace

Some days it's hard to blog because I'm bone-tired. Not because of anything I've done, but because the world is at least as stupid and blind as it was yesterday. The news tells the tale. As someone who's been waiting since the 1950s for the world to wake up and get sensible...yes, I get bone-tired. And sometimes this makes me feel like there's no point in blogging.

Paul Krugman makes the obvious point today. The United States is worrying about the cost of "entitlements" as the Earth slides into a future that will be inhospitable to life. This future isn't hundreds of years away. It's coming at us full-speed and we're already feeling the effects. "Superstorm" Sandy, anyone?

But we are lemmings. We have important things to do, like watching "American Idol". We can't be bothered with survival. (Just look at the resistance to sensible gun proposals.) Humans must like death, because we're hurtling toward it without a care.

It just takes the life out of me, some days. I think I'll go write a short story where rationality wins the day. At least in fiction, this is possible.

January 16, 2013

C'mon, this can't be

Okay, so a helicopter crashed this morning in the UK. It was a terrible scene, with many injured. I offer my condolences to all affected.

But there's already a Wikipedia entry for this event?! With references and links and reactions? How can this be?

It's just weird. It's like when I order something from drugstore.com late on a Sunday afternoon -- and the package arrives the next morning. It's just not normal.

Wikipedia is alive, I tell you! Alive!!!

Good article at CNN

A mother writes about why she's raising her child without god. It's quite good. Nice to see things like this in the mass media.

This actually happened

So Leon Panetta, acting war lord for the United States, visited the pope, the only infallible person on Earth who spends the majority of his time attacking gay people and women. According to AP, this was their conversation.
Panetta kissed the Pope's hand, and the Pope said, "Thank you for helping to protect the world." 

The Pentagon boss responded, "Pray for me." 
Is that inspiring, or what? I don't know about you, but this exchange makes me feel peaceful. Maybe I'll go say a prayer, or something. Or lie down. Yeah, that's it. I'll go lie down.

We need five new planets

Now that the human race has bifurcated into opposing factions, and there seems no hope of mending the rift, we need a new idea. Wouldn't it be great if we could divide the population into groups and send each group to a separate world?

Can't you just see Jesus World now? Every house would be constructed like a cross, sex would be outlawed, there would be priests galore and new saints would be minted every year. Heaven!

Allah World would be a sunny world of dusty streets, where no one accomplished much of anything. Science and its child, medicine, would not be allowed on Allah World. Given the lack of medicine, people would die early and rush off happily to meet their 70 willing virgins. (What happens when the women die, by the way? Please tell me their bodies are not refurbished so they can play the role of after-life virgin.)

Wingnut World would house the GOP, along with all the rich people in the US. They would have no government at all, having drowned it in a bathtub, and every house would have a "Get off my lawn!" sign in red, white and blue. Huzzah!

Old-People World (okay, there's some overlap here) would be a nice, safe shuffleboard paradise where the TV reports only on yesterday's news and never today's, to avoid surprising or frightening sensitive viewers.

And finally, Science World would house all the intelligent people, atheists, people of color, and kind people. All the new inventions would come from Science World and any that didn't give people the ability to kill, would be sent to the other worlds (except Allah World, of course).

So that's the deal. We need five more planets. This one's already a goner so we'll just abandon it. No more global warming for us. And by migrating, we'll leave all our unspent nuclear fuel behind. This is a win-win thing. But we must find these planets within our current lifetime.

Then again, we may need six planets. From a post yesterday by digby:
Non-college white men are the only constituency that opposes a ban [on assault weapons]. 
Looks like this group will need a planet, too. We'll call it Gun World.

January 15, 2013

Ed Brayton's great suggestion

I assume my readers are internet mavens, familiar with what goes on each day on these intranets. Therefore, you all know about the bigoted NC restaurant owner who gave two lesbian customers an anti-gay letter as they were leaving his establishment.

Here's Ed Brayton's suggestion:
Here’s what I think should be done here. Every gay couple in the area should go there at the same time, sit down and order something really small, like an order of french fries. Then when they leave they should each give him a letter telling him that he should go to college and get an education, which might free him from the bigoted views of his false religion.
I love it. But I'd just have coffee. I don't want to get fat, even in the pursuit of justice.

Now that dictation works...

Apple's dictation software works. Is it perfect? No, but it gets the job done. So what good purpose can we find for this new technology?

I think one use is staring us in the face. The US houses about a zillion inmates in "super max" prisons. They are kept in tiny cages for the sole purpose of driving them mad. (At least, that's my assumption. After all, it's the inevitable result of constant isolation.)

I say let's give the dictation technology to these men. They have absolutely nothing to do in their torture cells. Why not install the software throughout the prison? Let the inmate push a button and record. This tiny improvement could make the lives of these men bearable.

They could tell their life stories. They could write poetry or letters. They could write a book. This would give them purpose and improve the emotional tenor of their incarceration. For many inmates, it would change hell into purgatory.

This is within our capability, so why not do it? Once a year, the prison could print out what the inmate dictated -- and give it to him as a printed book. Let the inmates publish, if that's their wish. After all, everyone has the ability to self-publish these days. Why not offer this simple option to these men whom we brutalize each day through the very nature of their confinement? 

NB: Prison authorities need to back up the inmates' work on a regular schedule. Unless they want to torture the men in new, terrible ways. "Sorry, we lost the book you've been working on for 20 years."

I'm serious. Let's do this.

January 14, 2013

This should be posted everywhere

Jerry Coyne, my favorite science blogger, has been posting excerpts from Robert G. Ingersoll's 1872 essay “The Gods“. (Yes, 1872!) Here's today's installment:
    Would an infinitely wise, good and powerful God, intending to produce man, commence with the lowest possible forms of life; with the simplest organism that can be imagined, and during immeasurable periods of time, slowly and almost imperceptibly improve upon the rude beginning, until man was evolved? Would countless ages thus be wasted in the production of awkward forms, afterwards abandoned? Can the intelligence of man discover the least wisdom in covering the earth with crawling, creeping horrors, that live only upon the agonies and pangs of others? Can we see the propriety of so constructing the earth, that only an insignificant portion of its surface is capable of producing an intelligent man? Who can appreciate the mercy of so making the world that all animals devour animals; so that every mouth is a slaughter house, and every stomach a tomb? Is it possible to discover infinite intelligence and love in universal and eternal carnage?
    What would we think of a father, who should give a farm to his children, and before giving them possession should plant upon it thousands of deadly shrubs and vines; should stock it with  ferocious beasts, and poisonous reptiles; should take pains to put a few swamps in the neighborhood to breed malaria; should so arrange matters, that the ground would occasionally open and swallow a few of his darlings, and besides all this, should establish a few volcanoes in the immediate vicinity, that might at any moment overwhelm his children with rivers of fire? Suppose that this father neglected to tell his children which of the plants were deadly; that the reptiles were poisonous; failed to say anything about the earthquakes, and kept the volcano business a profound secret; would we pronounce him angel or fiend?
    And yet this is exactly what the orthodox God has done.
    According to the theologians, God prepared this globe expressly for the habitation of his loved children, and yet he filled the forests with ferocious beasts; placed serpents in every path; stuffed the world with earthquakes, and adorned its surface with mountains of flame.
    Notwithstanding all this, we are told that the world is perfect; that it was created by a perfect being, and is therefore necessarily perfect. The next moment, these same persons will tell us that the world was cursed; covered with brambles, thistles and thorns, and that man was doomed to disease and death, simply because our poor, dear mother ate an apple contrary to the command of an arbitrary God.
Has it ever been stated more clearly? Either there's no god or he's a vicious psychopath. I'll take the former option.

January 13, 2013

A flawed protest

The headline says 4 women strip, protest Vatican gay marriage stance.
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Four women have gone topless in St. Peter's Square to protest the Vatican's opposition to gay marriage.
Police quickly took the women away Sunday, and the pope appeared not to have been disturbed as he delivered his traditional prayer from his studio window overlooking the piazza. 
Of course the very gay, anti-gay pope wasn't "disturbed". I'm sure he didn't even glance at the women. Now, if male protesters had gone bottomless -- that would have gotten the pope's attention (and wormed its way into his dreams). Alas, only women took part in the protest. Even a topless male would have drawn the pope's glance. Who plans these things?

Vatican cares ever so deeply for children's welfare

After hiding the rape of a zillion kids under the rug, the Vatican says kids need momma and pappa. Or they'll be harmed! Oy, the irony. But of course, it's not about kids at all. It's about hating the gays.
VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican has insisted that children should grow up with a father and a mother after Italy's high court granted custody of a child to his gay mother.
They just care so damn much about the kids. There's so much love in their hearts, they can't hold it in. It spews all over the children, this love.

The Roman Catholic church, especially under this pope, is a church of hatred. It's what it's made of; it's what it does. Oh, and it rapes kids. Mustn't forget that.

January 12, 2013

Dimwit opens mouth. Words fall out.

Bill Donohue, NYC's resident Catholic loon, taking a page from Laurence O'Donnell, said:
"[B]ecause Obama embraces the gay agenda, he should not swear on the Bible. The point is not without merit. Given Obama’s ideology, perhaps it would make more sense for him to swear on Das Kapital."
It's a fun idea. Obviously the bible is a cesspool, so let's get rid of it. What book do you think Obama should use when being sworn in as president?

My suggestion is "Catch-22".

The wonder of Brian Cox

Have you seen "The Wonders of the Universe" on the Science Channel (or BBC)? I love this guy. It's not only the fascinating scientific stories he tells, but his spectacular accent. Brits refer to this as a "soft Oldham accent". Here's a clip of him speaking:

Is that a great voice, or what? I almost don't care what he says. I just want to listen. Check out the show, if you haven't. It's very good, though it seems to be broadcast only sporadically. And here's a Daily Mail article that discusses his accent.

January 11, 2013

Sounds about right to me

Tony "Christian Asshat" Perkins' statement:
Americans need to wake up and realize that the homosexual movement cannot be appeased--not by marriage, not by special benefits, not by anything but the sanitization of Christianity from the public square.
I like the phrase and it seems apt. Christianity of the sort that Perkins favors is indeed filthy and removing it from the public square would be an act of sanitation. Good work, Tony! You're starting to see your disgusting religion clearly.

Hat tip: Joe.My.God. I don't know how to link to an individual post on his blog. Anyone know how to do this?

The fate of guns

Politicians and media outlets are saying that the US can't ban guns, that they must remain in people's hands. After all, it's our god-given cowboy right!

Ha. As soon as the police have drones prowling our skies, good old Americans will begin to shoot them down. And suddenly the government will find the will to ban guns. Until then, nothing much will happen.

Kill people? No problem. Interfere with government? You're going down, buddy!

More on the German Catholic church dust-up

I posted recently about the collapse of an independent investigation into child sex abuse in Germany's Roman Catholic church. Although the church promised transparency to investigators, it tried to block their efforts and censor the final report. As a result, the investigation was called off.

There's an article about this at SpiegelOnline. What I found interesting were the various opinions espoused by media. It didn't seem to matter whether the media outlet was liberal or conservative. They all rued the breakdown of the investigation and many said the Roman Catholic church remains unwilling to take a candid look at the pedophilia scandal.
The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"Problems with a system can only rarely be recognized and remedied from the inside. And the sexual violence in the Catholic Church also has intrinsic systemic causes. It is driven by a perception that an institution, pure on its own, has been tainted by perpetrators and only has to be purified again. That it is fueled by the loneliness and overwork of many priests. The problem will remain unresolved as long as the overriding question is: 'How are we perceived?'"

"This view from the outside cannot purify the church. On the contrary, it will only strengthen the awareness of its own problems. But only when the church recognizes these problems will it turn from its own reflection to focusing on the victims, who have been largely ignored in this whole fight. And then to the people, in order to make the church credible again for their sake."
Sounds accurate to me. And that's not the left-most opinion. It's time for the church to face its ills -- and change. It will still be an organization based on utter nonsense, but perhaps fewer priests will rape kids.

January 10, 2013

Still irritated

In an updated NYT/AP story about the anti-gay pastor stepping down, there's a lot that's irritating. For instance, these were "Reverend" Louie's blessed remarks when he bowed out:
The Rev. Louie Giglio of Passion City Church in Atlanta said in a statement he withdrew because it was likely that the "prayer I would offer will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration." 
"Their agenda." How sweet. He feels a pressing need to attack gays, even in his withdrawal statement. Way to go, Louie. We can see you're a true man of god.

And then there's the aggravating statement from the White House:
"We were not aware of Pastor Giglio's past comments at the time of his selection and they don't reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this inaugural," Whisenant said in a statement. 
Indeed. So what was the excuse at the first inauguration? Celebrating "the strength and diversity of our country" wasn't important at that time?
Obama faced a similar uproar in 2009, when he chose prominent pastor Rick Warren to give the inaugural benediction as an olive branch to evangelicals, who overwhelmingly vote Republican. Warren had compared gay relationships to incest and pedophilia. He had also urged congregants at his Saddleback Church in California to support the Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage on the 2008 state ballot. 

Only for physics freaks

A seminal event in quantum reality has occurred. The article about the experiment isn't for light science readers, but if you follow quantum matters, check out A Non-Quantum Causal Eraser at physorg.

Short excerpt:
"In a certain sense, quantum events are independent from space and time", says Anton Zeilinger.
I love when scientists talk dirty.

(PS: My own take is that "spooky action at a distance" is the result of extra dimensions -- which is also why particles jump into and out of existence in the quantum foam. Gotta be.)

What is wrong with Obama's brain?

I was disgusted to read the news today. Obama, after having an anti-gay preacher (Rick Warren) offer an "invocation" at his first inauguration, is having another anti-gay preacher (Louie Giglio) do the "benediction" at his second inauguration.

This makes me ill. What is wrong with Obama that he can't do the right thing? Ever? He always has to let some rightwing crazy piss on his efforts.

If the country was 1/6 Jewish, would he invite a Nazi to do the "benediction"? That would be the exact same situation.

I will never feel good about this president. Yes, he's better than the devil. But that's as far as I can go.

Update: All right!!!

January 9, 2013

Investigate this, not that

So the Roman Catholic church in Germany asked an outside expert to "analyze data on abuse from German dioceses as far back as 1945". Didn't work out so well.
Pfeiffer [the investigator] said that researchers and church worked well together for the first few months, but then resistance emerged, starting with a call from the Munich archdiocese for the researchers "to bow to church requests for stronger controls" on their work.

A group representing German dioceses then called for the researchers' work to be submitted for pre-publication approval, Pfeiffer told ZDF television, a demand that he said was unacceptable.
The good old Catholic Church -- always seeking truth and justice, with nary a concern for its own self-interest. It must be the Pope's leadership. Wattaguy!

Oy, the dead people

When someone tells you that a dead person "came to" them, say "Oh, you mean you had a dream?"

And when they further explain themselves, say, "Oh, you mean you had a dream?"

And when they're done, say "You know, one night I dreamt I was Golda Meir."

Image: Wikipedia Commons

January 8, 2013

Gay Boy Scout to make Eagle rank?

We still have to wait for the final decision of the national Boy Scouts organization, but this great kid is getting strong local support. Good for him! I'll report back when the final decision is in. And boy, are they going to look bad if they turn this kid down.

Did Jesus travel extensively?

(Phys.org)—The quest for a twin Earth is heating up. Using NASA's Kepler spacecraft, astronomers are beginning to find Earth-sized planets orbiting distant stars. A new analysis of Kepler data shows that about 17 percent of stars have an Earth-sized planet in an orbit closer than Mercury. Since the Milky Way has about 100 billion stars, there are at least 17 billion Earth-sized worlds out there.
Do you think Jesus visited all those planets to save their people? Sure, right? Jesus wouldn't leave anyone out. He's all-good, after all. Busy guy, though. Good thing he got around to visiting Earth. Hmmm, I wonder if Earth was an afterthought. We sure are lucky he came here, huh?

Muslim wingnuts just like Christian wingnuts

In Indonesia, wingnuts want to increase the amount of religion taught in schools. And when we look at their reasoning for this move, we see it's the same argument made by Christian wingnuts in the U.S. who want to inject prayer into the public school curriculum.
Officials who back the changes say that more religious instruction is needed because a lack of moral development has led to an increase in violence and vandalism among youths, and that could fuel social unrest and corruption in the future.
Yeah, that'll work. And pretty soon it will be the year 1400 again -- and there will be no more problems from feisty young people. Hooray!

From country to country, religious wingnuts sing the same damn song. If we could only return to the dark ages, things would be swell. Indeed.

January 7, 2013

The benefits of atheism

Susan Jacoby has an interesting op-ed at the NYT. Here's an excerpt:
When I try to help a loved one losing his mind to Alzheimer’s, when I see homeless people shivering in the wake of a deadly storm, when the news media bring me almost obscenely close to the raw grief of bereft parents, I do not have to ask, as all people of faith must, why an all-powerful, all-good God allows such things to happen. 
Go read it. It's really good.

English majors can think

Interesting article at CNN. I agree with the premise: English majors have a ton of creativity, energy and talent -- and this translates into an ability to deal with complex problems on the job.

I was an English major. Later in life, when people asked me what I did for a living, I'd say, "I don't know. I'm just smart and I figure things out."

Take note, employers. People with business degrees might not be aren't creative.

Slice of Vatican life

As he cleaned his teeth with a gold toothpick, Pope Benedict XVI urged world leaders on Monday to try to reduce the growing gap between the rich and the poor...
I wonder if he was sitting on his gold throne as he said this. Though I don't know the answer to this question, I have it on good authority that when he finished the speech, he spat on the Vatican floor and said, "Good! Now we can get back to persecuting the gays. Bring me my high-heeled red shoes! And get Timmeh in here. That boy is so damn good at this!"

Russia: going, going...gone?

There's a sad article in the New York Times about Russia's return to its authoritarian past. Putin is back in power, which means jackboots, truncheons and detentions for dissenters.

Here is a longish excerpt from the article:
  When testimony began in the trial of the activists from Pussy Riot, Mr. Terekhov served tea as his workers watched prosecutors request seven-year sentences for three women who had lip-synced a crude anti-Putin song at an Orthodox cathedral. The judge ultimately sentenced each to two years (one was released early).

  He described the atmosphere in the room as one of “black humor, like sarcasm. Laughter through tears.”

  ...“From the point of view of international PR, if earlier Russia was associated with balalaika-matryoshka-caviar-Gorbachev-perestroika, now of course we have to add Pussy Riot,” Mr. Terekhov said, his distaste apparent. “Balalaikas, bears — they were fun. They were something you could joke about. But this is some sort of marvel from the Middle Ages.”
Russia is slipping into a dictatorial nightmare. Observing this from elsewhere is painful -- I can't imagine what it's like to actually live through it. Without freedom, life is a sham. I wish the Russian people well. Their situation is a tough one.

January 6, 2013

Steinbeck's writing suggestions

Artichoke Annie has an interesting post up today. It's about John Steinbeck. The post lists several of his suggestions for writers. One of them is:
"If you are using dialogue--say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech."
I never do this. As I write dialogue, I hear the words spoken by the character. Each character's voice and way of speaking is unique. I truly hear these voices and I don't have to do anything special to make this happen. So I've never read dialogue aloud.

But some of the suggestions are spot-on. For instance: don't edit as you write. Just get the damn scene down on paper or screen. You can always go back and edit it. For now, you're writing.

Writing and editing are two very different things that probably utilize separate (though overlapping) brain areas. They're that disparate. When you write, you should write. After you're done, you can spend the rest of your life editing your book. Almost happened to me. Well, okay, it was just a couple of years. Still.

(And hey, there's a shout-out to Steinbeck in Xmas Carol. Let's see if any XC readers can identify it.)

A thought as we enjoy the playoffs

When football players "celebrate" in the end zone, it seems to bring out their inner Carmen Miranda. Just thought I'd mention this.

I've got the flu or a cold or something. Be back soon. Go RG3!

January 5, 2013

The brain-dead Church of England

Is this the dumbest thing you've ever heard?
The Church of England has lifted a ban on gay male clergy who live with their partners from becoming bishops on condition they pledge to stay celibate, threatening to reignite an issue that splits the 80-million-strong global Anglican community.
What a ridiculous position. Thanks for nothing, C of E.

Big party going on

Artichoke Annie took the ball and ran with it. Big, big party coming up. (And if she wasn't joking in today's post, the party just got a lot bigger.)

A non-boring guide to punctuation

I already see your eyes glazing over. But hang on. I promise not to bore. Here's the thing: punctuation is about timing. (See? It's easy.) Forget the boring rules (for now) and start to see punctuation as a tool writers use to pace the reader's experience. It's pretty cool. Here's how it works.

A period is a full stop. "The gull took your sandwich." Big pause (and probably a shriek on the other end). A comma is half as long a stop. "I love you as a person, not because you're wealthy and famous." You're helping your reader to understand your sentence by guiding her through the dance: stop here, pause there.

A semi-colon (;) provides a longer stop than a comma, but not a full stop like a period. "He's a fool; nothing has changed." It ain't quite a period, but almost. (I'm totally ignoring the rules here; there are additional reasons for punctuation, other than timing. But let's just look at it this way for a moment. I think it's helpful.)

A colon (:) guides the reader through a greased sluice, easily and quickly, into another phrase. "This is what you need: a broom that can fly!" Yes, there's a pause but less than if there was a semi-colon. (These days, you'll use an em-dash more often than a colon. I'd show you one but they don't appear consistently on the internet. It might look wrong.)

And yes, I've ignored all the sensible reasons to use punctuation. I just wanted to point out that timing is a big part of the story. This is important to remember if you're a writer. Use punctuation to guide the reader through your prose. And through the use of pacing alone, make your words more understandable.

January 4, 2013

This makes me feel old

Has it really been 50 years since the first James Bond movie?
Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron announced Friday that the [Oscars] show will pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film franchise, which they describe as "the longest-running motion picture franchise in history and a beloved global phenomenon." 
I remember seeing "Doctor No" in Times Square with a gay cousin in 1962. I was 14 at the time. My cousin had a plain brown bag in his hand when he arrived at the theater. We paid our admission fees and ran for the balcony, where we could smoke. Newports, I think. 

I was surprised when he opened the bag and offered me a cheddar cheese and mayo sandwich. I had never seen anyone bring food into a movie theater. And cheddar cheese was entirely new to me. I thought it was the best sandwich I'd ever had and we both loved the movie, probably because of Sean Connery's chest hair. (And I'm still eating cheddar cheese -- almost every day, in fact. What can I say? I eat boring food.)

But fifty years? Oy.


Did you see the video Paul Krugman posted today? It's amazing. I don't want to steal from him, so go there to hear it. It's Head & Heart, singing Rivers & Roads. I haven't heard of them before. Great voices.

Chinese news censorship challenged

Interesting AP story this morning. It's about Chinese journalists rising up and challenging the news censorship imposed by Communist party leaders.
BEIJING (AP) — In a rare move, some Chinese journalists are openly confronting a top censor after a southern newspaper known for its edgy reporting was forced to change a New Year editorial calling for political reform into a tribute praising the Communist Party. 
It takes a brave person to champion news freedom in China. But I couldn't help laughing at the bland "we never censor news" statements of the party. I liked this too:
The party-run Global Times newspaper hit back with a defense of the government line, publishing an editorial saying the media cannot exist "romantically" outside the country's political reality. The spat has become one of the hottest topics on China's popular microblog site Sina Weibo. 
I love that: cannot "exist romantically". Top-down leadership is always a disaster. Frankly, I can't imagine how the ruling party has kept such a huge number of people in line, for such a long time. But it sounds like they're breaking out now, and that's great news.

January 3, 2013

In case you were wondering

It's okay to give cops the finger. I always thought so but it's good to have these things confirmed.
A Vietnam veteran and retired airline pilot arrested after giving the finger to a police officer can sue police for malicious prosecution, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday as it reversed a lower-court judge who found the actions of officers reasonable.
No one has a right to not be insulted. Free speech means free fingers.

Never put up with racism

It's pretty creepy that Kevin-Prince Boateng (cool name, huh?) was the object of racist chants by fans at a soccer game. But I love what he and the other players did. They walked off the field, unwilling to put up with it.

That's the way to go, for all of us. I threw a "good" friend away over one racist remark. You just can't do that around me. If you do, you've tainted yourself in my eyes and there's absolutely nothing you can do to recoup your position. You're dead meat.

If none of us are willing to put up with racism, it will go away.

I used to like Skippy

Hormel Foods apparently has a hankering for a peanut butter and bacon sandwich. The company primarily known for Spam and other cured, smoked and deli meats said Thursday that it's buying Skippy, the country's No. 2 peanut butter brand, in its biggest-ever acquisition.
Ugh. I'll never eat Skippy again.

Chances of life beyond Earth heat up dramatically

Astronomers estimate that there are 100 billion planets just in our own Milky Way galaxy. Think Earth's the only place where life arose? Think again.

Maybe Earth -- and people -- aren't so special, huh?

France doesn't get it

Even if you've never read Glenn Greenwald, you should take the time to read this column. It's about the insane efforts various countries are making to ensure that they and their beliefs are not criticized. We've seen it with religion; we've seen it with politics.

Putting a muzzle on people is the end of democracy. And as you'll see in the column, even France (not Iran; not China; France!) doesn't understand this.

January 2, 2013

Krugman's not happy today

[Obama] may say that he absolutely, positively won’t negotiate over the ceiling — but nothing in his past behavior makes that believable.
Indeed. The president is a wimp. He'll probably give 50 years of progress away because he can't stand firm. It's amazing and disheartening.

PS: I cut several adverbs out of this post and sent them over to Artichoke Annie. Dog knows what she'll do with them.

I guess we're having a winter this year

After last year's mild winter in New York, I wondered if it would ever get cold again. But lo and behold, the wintry weather has arrived. It even snowed right after Xmas.

Right now it's 14 degrees outside -- and I'm not talking about the wind-chill factor. It's 14 for real. And it's going to be 1 degree tonight. So yeah, I guess we're going to have a real winter in New York this year. Thank goodness. Warm weather is nice but I treasure winter. There's just something so clean and pure about cold air.

When it gets this cold, I always think about how the wild animals are dealing with it. I've been feeding our local birds and squirrels for many years. The photo up top is this morning's plate of peanuts and seeds for the squirrels. I feed the birds elsewhere, though of course there's overlap. My sister says the squirrels are getting so fat from my peanuts, they can hardly walk. Success!

One last thing. I love to look outside in the morning, to see the animal tracks. It's like Grand Central station out there. Look at all those marks in the snow. Deer, mostly. But who knows what passes by in the night? I sometimes hear a deer trotting around the house, looking for peanuts. It sounds like a horse is circling my house. At times, antlers hit my windows.

I love animals (and insects and fish and anything else that moves). Just love 'em.