January 31, 2015

Disappearing words, and other word stuff

The wind chill was -17 degrees last night. And yet I'm still blogging! Watta guy, huh? Okay, let's get to the words.

First off, a missing word. Recently, the IRS did something that lots of people do: they disappeared a word. Here's what they said: "The best bet: file sooner than later." Whither "rather"? I always say "sooner rather than later", don't you? This dropping of words is becoming widespread. Another regular offender is the loss of the word "of", as in "I'm going to look at a couple houses." Whither "of"? "Couple houses" just doesn't sound right to me. C'mon, it's a "couple of houses." No?

Moving along, I have a question. Has the term "polar vortex" been disappeared?" Last year, weather reports were littered with mention of the polar vortex. Personally, I think it scared a lot of numbskull Americans and the powers-that-be decided en masse to kill it. "Arctic blast" is now the preferred term (as it was before the introduction of "polar vortex"). Seriously, listen to your weather cast. Whither the polar vortex?

The next one comes from a friend who lives in Ireland. In an email to me, she said: "This might take a little time. The Irish use the term, 'to put something on the long finger'. [Name] always puts things on the long finger." I've never heard that phrase before so I trotted over to phrases.org.uk to check it out. Here's what I found:

Ruth (at the link) provides this explanation: 
"Someone asked about this last year: its an Irish expression meaning 'to postpone indefinitely', and I think comes from the custom of wearing a ring on the index finger of your left hand if you are not enagaged or married, on the second (long) finger if you are engaged, on the third (ring)finger if married, and on the little finger if entirely disinclined. Hope this helps." Sounds right.
One last thing. I get crazy when people pronounce the word "height" as "hithe". Yeesh. Last night I heard the zillionth person on TV use this pronunciation and as always, it made me think of dyslexia. People with this syndrome reverse letters and confuse their words. I assume "ght" is the problem here. It's a spelling that is apparently difficult for those who are dyslexic. This made me wonder if they'd pronounce "draught" as "drafth", if given the opportunity. I think they would, though I suspect they'd say blight as blight, rather than blythe. If this is true, it's not a hard and fast rule that dyslexics will have problems with "ght". It only happens with certain words, though of course that's just an opinion on my part. (I hope a dyslexic reader will happen upon this post and enlighten me in the comments.)

That is all. You may return to your wind-chilled life now, as will I. Have no fear; baseball spring training is only about two months away. I know it doesn't seem like it, but we're making progress.

January 30, 2015

This deserves wide distribution

This video is only 2 minutes and 25 seconds. Watch it.

Absent blogger checks in

Aw, ya miss me, doncha? I had to put the blog aside for a few days because I had a breakthrough. No, not on the book I'm currently working on ("The Worlds") but on a book of short stories. This is a collection that will be called "Ink".

I love several of the short stories I've written for the book -- but I want them packaged in a certain way. The book is five (or six, I'm not sure yet) short stories that live within a larger short story (I refuse to call it a "novella", which sounds like an ice cream concoction). The inner stories all relate to the larger story within which they live; they play a vital role, each in its own way.

The breakthrough was the addition of a final short story that ties it all together. As usual, the idea came to me while I was watching TV. (Someone should do a study on the volume of creative ideas that pop up while one watches TV; am I alone in this? Happens all the time.)

So now I'm diving back into this book of stories, trying to polish those that are written as I work on the final tale. It's going to be a sparkling collection. At least, that's my goal.

Okay, you may now return to the gloom that descended upon you this morning when you learned that Mitt Romney won't be running for president. Darn!

January 28, 2015

Dog is actual dog breed. Who knew?

Y'all know Dog, the creature from a distant galaxy who visited Earth recently. Conor Cunningham drew the image you see at left, and I've used it in all my posts about Dog.

But unbeknownst to me, Conor used a real dog breed for the image. It's called a shiba inu. Down below on the right is a photo I found at Wikipedia Commons, taken by this cute puppy's owner, Mrs. L Selle. Is he a little darling, or what?

I've been thinking about getting a dog. Wouldn't it be fun if I got one of these and hung a gold peace sign around his neck? And of course, I'd name him Dog.

This could be fun.

January 27, 2015

Hey kids, let's redefine marriage

Despite the headline, I don't really want to "redefine marriage". I want to kill it. I say we toss marriage in the dumpster and treat it like a plague from olden times. 

Seriously, with all these puffy old conservative gits saying we have to pass a constitutional amendment to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples (it sure sounds messy when you say it that way, doesn't it?), I figure the term "marriage" is permanently ruined. It stinks of wingnut.

So let's create a new deal. We'll "join with" others, and these others will be whoever the hell we want to join with -- singles, groups, kids and grandparents, whatever. Let's do this as a time-framed contract where you enter into a joining for five years, one year, 20 years -- whatever works for the two (or three or nine) of you. And at the end of the contract, the joining goes poof. No strings attached.

This way people could avoid divorce and courtrooms. You sign up for five years, you get five years and that's that. You can re-up at the conclusion if that is your (and your partner's or partners') wish(es). Neat and clean.

If you want to protect kids, a couple (or trio or whatever) can take out a contract for 20 or 25 years. Got that? I don't want to hear a woman's voice yelling "Won't someone please think of the children?!" We can do it in a way that protects kids just like dumb old marriage used to.

If everyone starts joining instead of marrying, marriage will die out. It will be seen as a tired thing that old farts used to do. That would be fine with me. So I say let the gits have their goddamned marriage amendment. We'll just move on to something new. And this time it'll be something that works for everyone.

PS: The "historic" snowstorm dropped about...an inch of snow. I've still got power and I don't even have to shovel the sidewalk. (Not that I ever do that, of course. I'm just saying.)

January 26, 2015

Lotsa snow on the way

My area is about to get two feet of snow. And I'm told I should feel happy about this because some areas are getting three feet. Whatever.

Undoubtedly, I'll lose power. This is what happens when you live in the woods. So if you don't see me here for a bit, have no fear. I shall return! Stronger, finer, taller and with longer hair.

See you soon.

Why religious people fear death

I always wondered about this. Over the years, I've seen many friends and relatives die. One thing I've noticed is that religious people become terribly fearful as death approaches. This always seemed odd to me. If they expect to die and go to heaven, shouldn't they look forward to dying?

On the other hand, dying atheists that I've known, though they weren't thrilled to be dying, accepted death. It wasn't the scariest thing ever for them. It was just death, which they always knew was coming. They wanted their lives to continue but they didn't fear death itself.

But why were the religious people so frightened? I wondered endlessly about this and ended up attributing their fear to the idiotic melodrama they think will take place after they die. The approach of death meant they were going to be judged. And this terrified them...or so I thought.

Recently I began reading Greta Christina's book, "Comforting thoughts about death that have nothing to do with god". In it, she offers another explanation for the fear that religious people experience when death is nigh.

It's because they thought they'd live forever. Immortality, heaven, it was all theirs -- or so their priests told them. Christina's idea is that religion hides death behind a curtain. "Don't think about that. Here, watch this shiny thing: I'm going to transform wine into blood, right before your eyes! Abracadabra. Poof!" Essentially, they've been taught that since they're religious, they don't have to think about death. It's all just an illusion, you see. Religious people are special. Death can't harm them because Jeebus wants them to have eternal life. And so a life passes without reflecting on the inevitability of death.

But the real-life effect of this insidious belief system is that religious people never confront their fears about death. Why would they? They're going to live forever.

So when death comes calling, they freak out. They don't understand the basics, like the fact that people couldn't exist without death. Evolution produced us, and it is a mechanism for change that works through successive generations. The very concept of "generations" requires death. If nothing died, there would be no new generation for evolution to work through. And without that, we wouldn't be here.

It's nice to finally have a satisfying explanation for the rabid fear of death seen among religious people -- and here I'm referring to Christians, as I don't really know people who believe in other faiths. Obviously Muslims seem to think of death as a joy. But note that in neither case are the actual lives of believers helped by their religious concept of death.

Forget the fairytales. We live, we die, and it's okay. Read Greta Christina's book (it's only $2.99 for the Kindle version) if you want to get lots of other helpful tips about death, with an atheist slant.

Death, it's just natural. No boogeymen are involved.

January 23, 2015

Just wow

Came across this today: 
University of Colorado Boulder researchers will update NASA officials next week on a revolutionary space telescope concept selected by the agency for study last June that could provide images up to 1,000 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope.
Just wow. I guess we'll have to consider our current spectacular Hubble pix "low-rez" images. That's so weird. This new telescope sounds fabulous. A thousand times sharper than the Hubble! I can't wait to see the high-resolution photos. Maybe we'll see aliens waving back at us.
University of Colorado Boulder researchers will update NASA officials next week on a revolutionary space telescope concept selected by the agency for study last June that could provide images up to 1,000 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-01-space-telescope-concept-image-higher.html#jCp

Quick thing

I often enjoy hearing the words of local news reporters. The news anchors read copy that is written for them by someone else, but the reporters in the field write their own stuff. This is where the hilarity ensues.

Case in point. Two nights ago I was watching the news when a reporter told the tale of a mother and son who were both dealing drugs, though neither knew what the other was doing. They only found out when they were both arrested on the same day.

The reporter ended the story with this absurd sentence:
"Two family members, unbeknownst to one another, swimming in the same sour sea."

January 22, 2015

Spotty blogging

I haven't blogged often in the past few days because I'm trying to get to my "must read" pile. I keep putting things aside to read later, but later never comes. It's the damned internet.

New, shiny things pop up daily and I hafta read them. I hafta! For instance, the annual Edge question for 2015 sucked my attention away for days. I love this stuff. In case you don't know, each year Edge poses a different scientific question to noted scientists, science writers, philosophers, etc. This year's question is "What do you think about machines that think?"

Some of the responses are wonderful. I particularly enjoyed Susan Blackmore's response, as well as that of Frank Tipler. But lots of them were thought provoking. The Edge question is one of my favorite annual events. Sure beats the Academy Awards.

For the next few days I'll continue blogging, though spottily. Gotta read several books (one of them written by a relative). It's just so hard to pull away from the computer. It's the ultimate bright, shiny thing. (Okay, you knew that already.)

Matt Taibbi nukes "American Sniper"

I enjoy reading Matt Taibbi, but only now and then. I couldn't take him on a regular basis. But once every month or two, I enjoy reading his words. The man murders his subjects, which is fitting for a review of American Sniper. Here's a link to the article and here's a paragraph from it:
Sniper is a movie whose politics are so ludicrous and idiotic that under normal circumstances it would be beneath criticism. The only thing that forces us to take it seriously is the extraordinary fact that an almost exactly similar worldview consumed the walnut-sized mind of the president who got us into the war in question.
And that takes care of that. In case you're not familiar with Taibbi, the man typically rips the life out of his subjects and then tears their corpses to shreds. In this case, it's well deserved. More at the link.

January 20, 2015

Pope Francis on a roll with stupid remarks

Lately, the pope's really been on a roll, extinguishing people's expectations that he might be reasonable and modern. Ha. He said contraceptives are evil, gays are a threat to "traditional" marriage, and now he's said this:
“Women have much to tell us in today’s society,” the Pope said, drawing applause from the crowd at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. “Sometimes we’re too macho, and we don’t leave enough room for women.”

Pope Francis also said that women should be included because they’re able to “see things with different eyes” than men.

“Women are able to ask questions that men can’t understand,” he said.
You mean, questions like "why can't we be priests and cardinals and popes?"

Same old church, same old restrictions on liberty, sex and enjoyment. Did you know you're not allowed to have fun during sex? This is a real Catholic teaching. Bizarre. And of course, they see gay marriages as being all about teh sex. Love ain't got nuthin' to do with it.

Pope Francis is just another sad, silly man in a dress. Move on, nothing to see here. (Nothing new, anyway.)

PS: I have nothing against men in dresses, of course. Go for it, if that's your thing. But religious men in dresses who go around launching verbal missiles at gay men...that, I have a problem with.

January 19, 2015

Gotta run

I'm busy today but I wanted to share this link. It's unbelievable. These religious gits are such misogynists.

Here's the lede:
An Orthodox Christian diocese in eastern Macedonia has banned female swimmers from taking part in the annual blessing of the waters ceremony to mark the Epiphany holiday.
It's even worse. Read the full story.

January 18, 2015

Pope to make evil friar a saint

Always with the surprises, that Pope Francis. He's quite the guy. The latest is that he plans to create a new saint. He's chosen a Spanish friar named Junipero Serra for this honor, but perhaps the church should have done a little investigation first. You know, maybe talk to the people he tried to convert, suss out what happened. For instance, maybe the tribes and descendants of the Native Americans he converted would have something pertinent to say about this soon-to-be-sainted man.

Alas, the church seems to have skimped on the local investigation. Thus, we get this:
Tribal leaders have condemned Pope Francis' wish to canonize a 18th-century Spanish friar believed responsible for the destruction of indigenous people through his missionaries.
[H]is work was anything but holy, argues Chief Anthony Morales of the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe. “There’s nothing saintly about the atrocities on our culture and our people,” Morales told KNBC-TV.
Serra’s beatification heralded protests at his Carmel gravesite and the Junipero Serra Museum in San Diego for rumors of harsh punishment, such as whipping while converting reluctant tribes, that have been passed down through generations.

The museum was defaced with slogans such as “Genocidal Maniac” and “Serra was a Baby Killer.”
Saint Genocidal Maniac. Kinda has a Catholic ring to it. He'll be welcome alongside Mother Theresa, for sure. She's been lookin' for a buddy, up there in heaven. No one else will talk to her. I'm thinking this guy will.

A pastor's sermon

There's an interesting article in the NY Daily News today. It's an excerpt from a sermon that a Protestant minister (Dona Schaper, senior minister of Judson Memorial Church) will give on Martin Luther King Day. Although it comes from a Christian viewpoint that I don't share, it's basically a diatribe against dear, sweet Cardinal Dolan -- he who attacks gays at every chance and loves every NYC police officer he meets, even when they go around killing people of color for no reason at all.

Here are two excerpts from the sermon:
There is also no surprise in Cardinal Dolan thinking he has to defend the police. He sees them as his people in a way he can’t see Eric Garner or Michael Brown as his people. The cardinal doesn’t know how to see from the middle and mess of the table.
The Pope may think his cardinals have spiritual Alzheimer’s, as he said in his Christmas message. But Cardinal Dolan has arteriosclerosis, the hardening of the heart’s arteries.
Let's hope Dolan reads this article. He is a terrible spiritual leader who is rarely confronted about his hateful beliefs. In fact, I've only seen gay people confront him to his face. We recognize evil when we see it.

Anyway, not my usual fare. But I thought readers might be interested in reading the full article. There's something there for believers, too. After all, Schaper is a minister.

January 16, 2015

Jason Rosenhouse on the pope's sad free speech comments

If you're late to the party, this story on Jason Rosenhouse's excellent blog covers the whole kerfuffle. I was pleased that he arrived as the same conclusion I did:
What is the Pope trying to say here? Why would you hedge in your condemnation of religious violence? Why do you respond to a vile terrorist attack by warning everyone to be respectful of religion? To me it sure seems like he’s saying the terrorists were justified in their rage, they just overreacted a little. 

That’s the real face of religion. One minute they’re telling you they are God’s emissaries on earth, uniquely qualified to hold forth on morality and the nature of reality, the next they are so touchy that the slightest insult is considered a provocation worthy of violence. The Pope says it’s a duty to speak one’s mind for the sake of the common good. But what if a major threat to the common good is coming from self-proclaimed religious authorities? 

Charlie Hebdo is acting to promote the common good. I don’t know what the Pope is doing.
Blasphemy is good. Try to insult religion every single day: it's your duty as a responsible human being. Religion is a fairy tale -- and yet it's tearing the world to shreds and preventing us from focusing on real problems. Religion is a great evil. Let's relegate it to the past.

Pssst. Is a Satanic item on American store shelves?

Have you tried Glad Press'n Seal? If you have, I know you're as worried as I am. Humans couldn't have come up with a product like this on their own. And you know what that means. Oh, yes. Satan had a hand in this. If you don't believe me, go buy a package at the supermarket...if you dare.

Press'n Seal isn't like Glad Wrap or Saran Wrap, the traditional plastic wraps that are impossible for humans to use. Admit it: you tear off a sheet and almost immediately it sticks to itself. You try to separate the sheet from itself but you can't, so you throw it away and grab some more. On the fifth try, you're able to cover a dish with it. Now, that's a product made by humans.

But this product...(pardon me while I ward off the evil eye...spit, spit, spit)...was not made by man. Glad Press'n Seal -- I shudder to say the name -- is easy to use. So right there, you know it wasn't made by humans. Here are its sins:

1. It doesn't stick to itself
2. It rips nicely
3. It sticks immediately to anything you press it to

I'm a New Yorker, so I'm not easily fooled. The very first time I encountered this product, I knew it was Not Of This Earth. Nay, it's from down below. If you dare to try this product, I'm sure you'll agree that it was made by Satan.

666, ya'll.

Ice for you

Yesterday, commenter cm sent this photo my way. Unlike me, he goes out into the world. On a daily basis, no less! Wattaguy.

This is the fountain in Bryant Park after it was attacked by the Ice Monster. Brrrrrrr. It's been crazy cold in New York this winter. I think we're going down to 2 again tonight, with a wind chill below zero.

I've heard there are states where it gets even colder but I haven't verified this for myself. Still, there are persistent rumors to this effect. I can't imagine how people face weather colder than this. Where is Spring? And more importantly, where is baseball?

How's the winter in your area?

A must-read column

In today's column, Frank Bruni Timothy Egan demolishes those who would curtail free speech. Here's a bit:
[Free speech] still has trouble finding favor in our country. Donald Trump, whose daily musings are proof that nothing is more revealing than a Twitter account in the hands of a simpleton, compared Charlie Hebdo to “rag magazine Spy that was very dishonest and nasty and went bankrupt.” He was referring to Spy, the thinking person’s Mad magazine. Or take a look at a list of banned books in the United States over the last hundred years: It’s a guide to good literature, and the small minds behind American hypocrisies.
Go read it. You'll be glad you did.

PS: It was so good, I thought this was Bruni's column at first. (I'd opened both columns in tabs before reading them. Doh!)

January 15, 2015

In dog we trust

OMD! I just found this on Joe Jervis' blog:
A rug has been removed from a sheriff's office in Florida after it was noticed that it read "in dog we trust" instead of "in God we trust". The $500 mat lay at the entrance to the office in Pinellas County for two months before someone noticed, a spokeswoman said. The error was made by the rug's manufacturer and is being corrected. But there have been several offers to buy the misprinted rug on the office's Facebook page. "I'd buy or donate to a charity to get one," wrote one user. "I'm a great dog person and really find that a rug like that would be wonderful for my dogs to have for beds," wrote another.
What a perfect rug for my house. (New readers may not know the story of Dog, the visitor from another galaxy, who came to Earth to learn if we were intelligent enough to join the other sentient races in the universe. End of story: Nuh-uh.)

Illogic from Pope Francis

Thinking clearly while hobbled by religious beliefs is impossible. Showing this to be the case, Pope Francis said this:
Francis spoke about the Paris terror attacks while aboard the papal plane en route to the Philippines, defending free speech as not only a fundamental human right but a duty to speak one's mind for the sake of the common good.

But he said there were boundaries: Those who insult the faith of others are provocateurs, he said.
Anyone who thinks there are "boundaries" on free speech doesn't understand free speech. That's the first point.

But the pope also said there is "a duty to speak one's mind for the sake of the common good". At the present time, religion is killing humanity. So anything said against it surely adds to the "common good". Failing to deride religion is the true sin.

The pope needs to brush up on logic. I hereby offer myself as a sounding board. If he'd like to come over for coffee, I'd happily welcome him. But he shouldn't think I'll let him off the hook. Religion is a magic fence surrounding nothing, and I'll let him know this in no uncertain terms.

Blaspheme, my children, every day and every way. Remember, it's for the common good.

January 13, 2015

An 11-year-old explains dark matter

I found this on Sean Carroll's blog today. It's a video created by an 11-year-old boy to explain the nature of dark matter. It's amazingly good. Here you go:

Hermit in the dark

That's me: the hermit in the dark. I detest light.

During the day, I shield the windows with dark curtains. No light may enter my domain. At night, the blessed darkness envelops me. I hardly have any lights in my house, though I do have a few nightlights. In other words, there's no way to turn a real light on because I don't own one.

So when my cleaning lady said she couldn't come at 8 am yesterday - her usual time - but could come by at 5 pm, I said "No way, it's too dark in here at night. You'll never be able to clean." She said, "No problem, leave it to me."

She arrived at 5 pm wearing a miner's headlamp, the band you put around your head to position a light that essentially beams from your forehead. Without prelude, she proceeded to clean in the dark. It made me laugh whenever I looked her way.

And this morning, everything is wildly clean. She did it! I think she deserves the House Cleaner of the Year Award. Whatever, I just thought I'd share a page from my life.

Muslim idiocy

The New York Daily News is an odd paper. They have progressive articles at times and yet they also feature incredibly regressive, caveman nonsense on their pages. Today, they did well, sorta.

By way of background, I was horrified last night as I watched the news. All the stations that I viewed blacked out the new Charlie Hebdo cover as they "reported" on it. Great "reporting", guys. Here's what they were afraid to show you:

Scary, huh? Two shows revealed the words but not the image. Wimps. And these media guys actually go around saying "Je suis Charlie". Not by a long shot, fellas. But today, the Daily News at least showed this:

It ain't much, but it's more than the other media outlets showed their readers. Guys, it's news. You may have heard of news. It's what you're supposed to be about. If you don't show your readers what you're talking about, they remain in the dark.

The Daily News also has a fun story today about Saudi Muslim types forbidding the building of snowmen. Seriously, a fatwa on snowmen:
Religious scholar Mohammad Saleh Al Minjed said it's "not permitted to make a statue out of snow, even by way of play and fun," according to reports.

"God has given people space to make whatever they want which does not have a soul, including trees, ships, fruits, buildings and so on," he wrote in his ruling, reported Gulf News.
Al Minjed reportedly added that building a snowman is "to create an image of a human being" — an action considered sinful under the kingdom's interpretation of Sunni Islam.

Another claimed that building snowmen "is imitating the infidels, it promotes lustiness and eroticism."
These guys are afraid of everything. They almost remind me of Christians.

January 12, 2015

Only Lovers Left Alive

I watched "Only Lovers Left Alive" a few nights ago and I loved it so much, I cheered at the end. What an elegant retelling of the vampire tale.

Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton were marvelous as the leads. They are presented as aging vampires, trying to seek their place in a modern world. Though we're never given the inception information (i.e., how they became vampires), it seems they've been creatures of the night for many, many centuries.

At first I was a bit miffed at the movie's casual adoption of ideas from other vampire movies and novels. But they ran with it in such an entertaining way, I forgave them entirely.

Imagine living for a thousand years. One of the things brought out in the movie is that you'd know many things. These two vampires are experts in so many areas, it makes your head whirl. And they seem to have senses beyond ours, though these are not explained to us. They're just very perceptive and seem to know everything.

I won't ruin the movie by going any further into it. It's definitely worth watching if you're a fan of either horror or great movies. The music, the cinematography, the script -- all are engrossing and so damn stylish. This movie is art.

I suggest watching it with captions turned on. The script is that delicious, and you might miss a few words. Enjoy. PS: Here's the trailer.

January 11, 2015

The LSST is coming!

Starting in 2019, we're in for a treat (though I suspect it will be a bit scary, too).
LSST stands for Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, a name even astronomers agree is clunky for what has been described as the world's most powerful sky-mapping machine. While most telescopes can take only snapshots of a narrow sliver of space, LSST will scan the heavens continuously in wide swaths.

The telescope will produce an image of the entire southern sky every three days - a feat that would take the Hubble Space Telescope 120 years to accomplish once.

The result will be the equivalent of time-lapse cinematography, allowing astronomers to track the motion of billions of objects and watch as galaxies collide and stars are born and die.

"It will be the greatest color movie of all time," Ivezic said.
With the LSST, astronomers will be able to note the movement of celestial bodies in the resulting image, which will be constantly updating. This will give us a much better handle on the asteroids, comets and perhaps errant suns or planets that are heading our way -- and I'll bet the images finally scare us into doing something to prepare. Probably, soon after it turns on, scientists will note this, that and the other asteroid heading for Earth. Right now, we're in the dark about these threats. Ah, bliss.

When we open this wide-view window on the universe, we'll certainly encounter new phenomena, and perhaps we'll learn a thing or two about fear. One well-placed comet or asteroid and we're not only toast -- our entire history will disappear from the universe. It will be as if we never were.

Now that's something to worry about, but not yet. Wait till 2019.

January 10, 2015

More religious satire is what the world needs

PZ has a great post up today, tearing apart the idea that we shouldn't satirize those poor, poor Muslims. Why, they're a minority. Yeah, a murderous minority. As PZ says, "satire is not the problem". Terrorism is.

Go read the whole thing, but here's how he ends the post:
[R]ight now Dick Cheney is probably squatting in a vat of virgins’ blood in a secure location, sipping on a cocktail made with the tears of innocents, and chortling at the fact that his enemies are butchering effete French literateurs and refocusing the world’s contempt on Muslims, rather than hauling his ass off to the Hague for a war crimes trial.
Uh-huh. He's got that right. Saying that Charlie Hebdo had no right to be mean to Muslims is literally support for terrorism. Everything and anything can be the target of satire -- and religion is the finest target of all. When you lampoon religion - any religion - you are doing something constructive. Religion is for fools, and killing for religion is the stupidest thing a human can do. There is no god, people, no Allah and no grace. Religion is a magic fence surrounding nothing. Never forget that.

January 9, 2015

Memories from another era

I'm always a bit surprised when I read semi-hysterical reports that say (gasp!) measles was seen somewhere in the United States!!! Jeepers, Mr. Kent! Run!
Five more people who visited Disney theme parks in California last month have fallen ill with measles, bringing the number of cases in the state to a dozen, local health officials said Friday.
When I was a kid, long long ago, if people heard that your kids had measles, they'd call you and say, "Oh, wonderful, Marge. My kids haven't had it yet. I'll bring them right over!"

We literally tried to spread it around, just to get it over with. I don't remember anyone ever getting seriously sick from measles or mumps -- but I was a kid then, so who knows. These diseases are irritating, for sure. But they never seemed to kill anyone. Nonetheless, these days it's like the end of the world when a single case is seen.

I had them all -- mumps, measles, even whooping cough. Mind you, you should do everything in your power to avoid whooping cough. I still have bad dreams that involve perceptions I experienced when I was in the hospital with whooping cough at the age of two. My kid mind told me that evil creatures were sticking carrots up my nose, and that's why I couldn't breathe. It was freaky.

Times change. Get your kids vaccinated against everything for which there is a vaccine. That's my advice. But I'll continue to shake my head and smile when I read these frightened stories about measles and mumps. It just doesn't fit with my recollections.

(And yes, I know some childhood diseases can be dangerous for adults. But aren't all the adults immune because they already had them? Or has it been that long since there was a widespread outbreak of measles and mumps?)

January 8, 2015

Wingnut insanity

Ed Brayton has a funny post up today about a local wingnut. I won't crib. Just go read it.

January 7, 2015

Craziest priest evah

There's an amazing article at RawStory today. It's by David Ferguson. The headline is "Demoted Catholic Cardinal says 'Radical Feminists' are to blame for Pedophile Priests". I'm sure you can tell why this nitwit was demoted. Now that he's been sent to the religious backwoods, he's taken to angry, illogical finger-pointing. You see, the whole priests-raping-children thing was a temporary snafu caused by those awful feminists. Evidence? Who needs evidence?
“Unfortunately, the radical feminist movement strongly influenced the Church,” Cardinal Burke complained, “leading the Church to constantly address women’s issues at the expense of addressing critical issues important to men; the importance of the father, whether in the union of marriage or not; the importance of a father to children; the importance of fatherhood for priests; the critical impact of a manly character; the emphasis on the particular gifts that God gives to men for the good of the whole society.”
Did you like that? Here's more:
Women and their needs have not only decimated the church, he said, but the institution of marriage as well.

“I recall in the mid-1970’s, young men telling me that they were, in a certain way, frightened by marriage because of the radicalizing and self-focused attitudes of women that were emerging at that time,” he recalled. “These young men were concerned that entering a marriage would simply not work because of a constant and insistent demanding of rights for women. These divisions between women and men have gotten worse since then.”Worst of all, he said, the church took a “fluffy,” womanly attitude toward sexuality.
Making things worse, there was a very fluffy, superficial kind of catechetical approach to the question of human sexuality and the nature of the marital relationship,” he said, which has led to sexual anarchy, the abundant availability of pornography, homosexuality and child sex abuse.
The man is completely insane. What the heck, here's even more. (All bolding above and below is mine.)
“We can also see that our seminaries are beginning to attract many strong young men who desire to serve God as priests,” he said. “The new crop of young men are manly and confident about their identity. This is a welcome development, for there was a period of time when men who were feminized and confused about their own sexual identity had entered the priesthood; sadly some of these disordered men sexually abused minors; a terrible tragedy for which the Church mourns.
Indeed, that must be how it happened. With all the mentions of "manly" men, I suspect this priest is gay. In any case, this is truly a disordered individual. Hopefully they'll take him to a vet and have his vocal chords cut so he can't talk anymore. He's like a mad dog. How did someone this deranged climb so far up the church ladder? Oh, right: Eve. I forgot about the Eve legend. Never mind.

Baby it's cold outside

It's going to be one degree tonight in NY. Uno. With wind. It must be time for this song.

It's enough to make you sick

While New York's police officers continue to act like spoiled children, local TV media have taken to fellating the NYPD on a daily basis. Ever since two officers were killed by a maniac, local TV news has devoted at least the first half of each broadcast to canonizing all police officers. You ain't seen deference until you've heard these losers sucking it up to cops. Apparently, cops can do no wrong. It's enough to make you sick.

Tom Sullivan at digby gives us one example of this syndrome, caught by Wonkette. Yup, the media is whitewashing everything about cops in NY. (I'm not going to excerpt it because it's too long. But you can read it in full at the link.)

Digby also chimed in, focusing not on the media but on the cops' behavior. Here's a bit:
[P]olice officers acting like petulant children day after day over the mayor's alleged failure to kiss their feet isn't going to garner them the respect and admiration they crave. It's making them look like people who need to find a line of work in which judgment, patience, maturity and professionalism aren't required. Perhaps they could all join boy bands.
I saw an interesting idea mentioned in the mainstream media today (sorry, no link). The idea is to have the Justice Department investigate this and then replace all the cops. I vote for this option. These guys deserve to lose their jobs. Maybe they can apply to be tin gods in a third world country where violence rules the day and police officers rule the country.

January 6, 2015

I want a dog

Lately I've had a powerful urge to get a dog. So far, I haven't acted on it. But I'm close.

If I do get a dog, will I still be happy about this decision when it's raining or snowing and the dog is looking up at me with those "gotta go" eyes? Seriously, they can't use indoor bathrooms -- some kind of genetic defect, or something. Will I happily tend to this dog's needs?

Of course I'll take good care of the dog, if I get one. I love all animals (and birds and fish and bugs and pretty much everything else; I even like wasps) so there's no way I'd let it suffer in any way. But will I resent having to make this effort? That's what worries me.

Right now, I'm pleased with my outdoor pets. Every day, I feed four crows, six squirrels, about a dozen blue jays, and two groundhogs. So okay, the ground hogs are hibernating right now. But I'm still handing out peanuts to the other guys. I just stick my head out and call, "Crow!!!" and they all come. It's like a Disney movie, very zippity doo dah.

I enjoy this, but is it enough? I like the idea of snuggling with a smallish dog in the evenings, preferably with the creature on my lap. That sounds so warm. And since we're in the middle of a cold spell, this seems appealing.

To adopt or not to adopt. That is the question. I guess I'll just fret about it some more. Don't worry, I'll share my decision when I make it. Until then, here's a relevant song. It's one of my favorites.

Ed Brayton on Tucker Carlson

This is why I enjoy Ed Brayton's blog. Here he is, eviscerating Tucker Carlson:
Tucker Carlson continues his lifelong and incredibly brave battle against reality after a Missouri legislator dared to mention white privilege. Because there is no such thing, you see. In fact, only a racist person could possibly believe that white privilege exists. So says Tucker Carlson, who is so white he’s translucent.
I know you won't click on the link and read it (because you're lazy), so here's how he ends the piece:
Yes, the mere mention of white privilege makes one a racist! In the next segment, Carlson explained that up is down and war is peace. On the next show, they should just represent Tucker Carlson with a mayonnaise sandwich on wonder bread listening to Yanni.
How can you not love Ed? You hafta, you just hafta.

January 4, 2015

Yup, they did it again

AP sez:
Thousands of city police officers turned their backs Sunday as they watched Mayor Bill de Blasio eulogize an officer shot dead with his partner, repeating a stinging display of scorn for the mayor despite entreaties from the police commissioner not to do so.
What a bunch of goons. I hope New Yorkers turn their backs on every police officer they encounter, especially if the officer is speaking to them. Backs is all they deserve. Seriously, putting on a tantrum at the funeral of a fallen officer? These cops have lost their bearings. And why? Because they don't want to get real and face their racism. Well, boohoo. They have to. 

I'm curious to see where this will go from here. Are the cops still refusing to arrest anyone? Has NYC become a lawless place because the police won't do their jobs until they're assured that they are above the law and can continue to abuse and kill people of color with impunity? This mess is being caused by one thing only: white racist cops.

Any thoughts out there in Peanut Land?

Speaking of equality

Anne Karpf, author of "How To Age", has an interesting op-ed in today's NY Times. It's called "The Liberation of Growing Old". Here she is, discussing the negative attitudes so many Americans have about old people:
Such “gerontophobia” is harmful because we internalize it. Ageism has been described as prejudice against one’s future self. It tells us that age is our defining characteristic and that, as midnight strikes on a milestone birthday, we will become nothing but old — emptied of our passions, abilities and experience, infused instead with frailty and decline.
I think it's worth a full read, especially if you're heading toward geezerhood, as I am. Personally, I love getting old. I don't want my youth back even one little bit. You can keep it.

January 2, 2015

Aravosis nails it

You've heard that the FDA is toying with the idea of allowing gay men to give blood, right? What a novel and, dare I say, fair notion. Well, it seems they haven't got it right yet. In fact, the way the FDA is acting on this is downright offensive. John Aravosis of AmericaBlog nailed it today. (Bolding below is mine.)
The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said this week that it will not ask potential blood donors about their high-risk sexual behavior, even if the questions would help ensure the safety of the nation’s blood supply from HIV/AIDS, because heterosexual donors might find the questioning “offensive.”

This, after decades of the FDA asking male blood donors if they are gay, and then asking the gay ones whether they have had sex with men at any time since the late 1970s.
Indeed. Those poor, beleagured heterosexuals. Why doesn't anyone ever think of them? The FDA must protect those straight people's feelings at all costs. Who knows what would happen if they were asked unwelcome questions? Oh, the fruited plain! How it would suffer.

The whole thing is sickening. Here's more from Aravosis:
So to recap, the FDA believes that a total stranger asking a man if he’s gay — a highly personal, and for some embarrassing, admission that could get you fired from your job, and disowned by your family — is not “offensive.”

Nor is it offensive to ask a gay man when the last time is he screwed another guy.

But if you ask a straight man whether he’s monogamous, how non-monogamous he is (how many different partners he’s had), and whether he use[d] condoms during intercourse, suddenly the FDA becomes a collective prude.
It boggles the mind. Go read the whole post. Good work, John!

NYPD "work stoppage" benefits poor New Yorkers

Yesterday, commenter cm said he'd like to see the results of the NYPD's unwillingness to arrest anyone. (Immediately, let us pause to say "Aw, the poor police officers feelings are hurt so they're not gonna do their jobs no more". Hahaha. Okay, on with the post.) But it looks like NY's poor, who are the traditional target of "broken windows" policing, stand to benefit the most. (There is wondrous irony in this, since Eric Garner was killed during a meaningless and totally unnecessary "broken windows" arrest.) Think Progress is on the case:
In response to growing tensions between the New York Police Department and the city, police unions encouraged officers last week to not make arrests “unless absolutely necessary,” resulting in a 66 percent drop from the same period last year. While the protests have drawn scrutiny for “squandering the department’s credibility” and leaving the city’s streets virtually unattended, they have also had the unintended effect of benefitting New York’s low income residents who are usually the target of the city’s tough-on-crime practices. 
There's also this:
Although it’s not the intended goal of the work stoppage, the decline in arrests could save New Yorkers money. The city residents who are normally hit with tickets for minor violations tend to be low income individuals who are forced to pay up a hefty portion of their paychecks.
Sounds like the NYPD is shooting itself in the foot. Since that's a lot better than them shooting black people, let's hear it for the NYPD work stoppage. Hooray!!!

Extra bonus: the NYPD relies on the money it makes from harassing poor people, so their budget is experiencing a huge hit. Okay, let's say it again: Hooray!!!

January 1, 2015

Are we done yet?

Are the holidays over? Is 2014 over? Good. I'm happy to say goodbye to both.

The internet is filled today with blog posts and news stories about how awful last year was. "Good riddance" seems to be the mantra. But though I'm happy to see it gone, I don't think 2014 was awful. Sure, ugly people continued to do ugly things; that's what they do. But I'm pleased that the issue of racism in America has come to a head. If it hadn't happened now, when would we deal with it? Ten years from now? Fifty? The time for change is right now. And for this, I am thankful.

Something tells me the protests against police abuse will continue -- as will the police murders of innocent people of color. But soon we'll reach a breaking point, a moment when real change seems necessary to all observers. Of course, the trend could turn negative and go in the other direction -- in which our country would be lost, probably forever. But I don't hold Americans in such low contempt. Decent people will not let this issue go. It's time for change and Americans of all colors will demand it.

So I'm hopeful about the coming year. It will be incredibly tiresome, in that Hillary and all the other exhausted practitioners of old-style politics will be positioning themselves for election, and saying and doing stupid, meaningless things. But hey, that's the way we roll in this country. Nothing in politics has to make sense anymore. The Republicans (and lilly-livered know-nothing "Democrats") made sure of this. Common sense is now a rare visitor to our Congress and Supreme Court.

But something else is happening: the American populace is waking up. Gays are getting married all over the place. Transgender people are finally seeing their stories enter the mainstream. Black people are not taking it when police try to rough them up or abuse them in any way. Religion is losing its hold on young people. And longtime immigrants in this country are finally being shepherded into citizenship. And hey, just about anyone can get health insurance.

Will something go wildly wrong this year? Probably. Putin is feeling intense pressure and he would love an excuse to play with his nukes. China is trying to shut the internet (and communication in general), much to the consternation of its people. And of course, Israel is still being Israel, and Muslim extremists are still killing everyone they meet. There are so many situations that could ignite.

But human rights are finally coming to the fore. The whole world now knows that the United States tortures people, lies, snoops, employs a militarized police force largely composed of white racists, and starts spurious wars for monetary gain. This means it won't only be American citizens who push for a return to the rule of law in the US; there will be many other countries insisting that we right the human "wrongs" that everyone can clearly see. With everything that's going on, even the Bush/Cheney in-crowd is probably feeling nervous. International Court, anyone? It's time the US was hauled before that body.

These are interesting times where just about anything could happen. But I'm hopeful. How about you?