Thursday, December 31, 2009

Playing God?

Here's a fun story from the Telegraph:

    Russia plans to stop asteroid crashing to Earth

    Russia wants to send a spacecraft to knock the large Apophis asteroid off a possible collision course with Earth.

    The ambitious plan envisages the co-operation of Nasa, the European and Chinese space agencies to pull off a mission with echoes of a Hollywood blockbuster.

    Anatoly Perminov, the head of Russia's space agency, said it would assess the difficulties of knocking the asteroid Apophis out of harm's way.

    The 885-foot-wide asteroid was first discovered in 2004. Astronomers estimated the chances of it smashing into Earth in its first flyby in 2029 were as high as 1-in-37, but have since lowered their estimate.

The rest of it is here.

Now, setting aside for the moment the fact that I already saw this movie, I am left with the same question I have whenever I read about this sort of thing, viz., do we know for a fact that it would be a good idea to stop an 885-foot-wide asteroid from crashing into the Earth?

Sure, it sounds like the sort of thing we should take on. But here's the thing: My chums on the right-wingnut fringe of society keep insisting that stuff like stem-cell research, cloning, genetics research, unplugging a dead person's respirator, etc., etc., is wrong because it's "playing God." And they always say that as if it's a bad thing, playing God, although, I dunno, I can certainly think of worse examples to imitate.

But let's go along with the idea that "playing God" is a bad thing. And let's skip over my usual question, namely, "Don't we 'play God' much if not most of the time?", say, every evening when I take my cholesterol medication without the slightest thought given to whether God wants my HDL to go down and my LDL to go up, or whatever's supposed to be happening. We'll leave all that for another day.

But back to the asteroid Apophis: How do we know that God hasn't sent it hurtling toward Mother Earth because that's how he plans to end the world? To my knowledge, most religions preach some kind of end-of-days scenario, however vague or specific they prefer to make it. Maybe Apophis is it!

Maybe this is supposed to happen!

And maybe our attempt to prevent it from happening is, well, "playing God." Which, we previously agreed, is a bad thing.

At this point you might say, "Well, you know, if God wants this to happen then it will happen. Nothing we can do to thwart God, after all."

To which I say, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, there, buckaroo! How come you're not so sanguine about, say, genetics research? Or cloning? I mean, if God doesn't want us monkeying around with those things, either, then can we not safely assume that all the effort will simply come to naught and we have nothing to worry about?"

One might--might!--almost form the opinion that it's only "playing God" if it's something of which we disapprove. Otherwise it is both hunky and dory.

So, first thing we need to do is get Bruce Willis. He knows how to handle asteroids.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Not So Fast!

Here are several of the headline articles in today's edition of Salon's e-mail newsletter, "Today in Salon":
      * Andrew O'Hehir on the best movies of the decade
      * Directors of the decade: No. 3: The Coen brothers
      * Stephanie Zacharek on the best movies of the decade
      * Films of the decade: "Spirited Away"
      * Films of the decade: "Up the Yangtze"

Add to this the hideous number of ads--print and e-mail--TV commentators' (I can hardly bring myself to call more than a couple of them "reporters") pronouncements, and other odds and ends, and one might be excused for thinking that the decade is drawing to a close.

Well, it is. In about a year.

It's not difficult, nor is it tricky. Whenever we reach this point in a decade, someone tries to argue that it has to do with the Julian calendar, or the Jewish calendar or which year Jesus of Nazareth might have been born, or sunspots, or whatever. In fact, none of those has anything to do with when a decade begins and ends.

A decade is a span of ten years--presumably we can all agree on that.

No matter where you start counting, you don't have a "zeroth" year. You start with Year One. So the first decade -- Mayan calendar, Chinese calendar, insurance company calendar -- is Year One through Year Ten.

And there's our pattern: Decades begin in years that end in 1 and end in years that end in 0.

Like 2010, for instance.

So in the commonly used Gregorian incarnation of the Anno Domini or Christian Era calendar, the current decade began on the first day of 2001 and will conclude on the last day of 2010. Because we count them from 1 through 10, not from 0 through 9.

I don't make the rules; I merely enforce them.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Carol

This from

    In today's encore excerpt - at the end of the 19th century, Charles Dickens' short novel, A Christmas Carol, had readership second only to the Bible's:
    "If only Ebenezer Scrooge had not, in the excitement of his transformation from miser to humanitarian, diverged from the traditional Christmas goose to surprise Bob Cratchit with a turkey 'twice the size of Tiny Tim.' But alas - he did, and as A Christmas Carol approaches its 165th birthday, a Google search answers the plaint 'leftover turkey' with more than 300,000 promises of recipes to dispatch it. As for England's goose-raising industry, it tanked. ...
    "The public's extraordinary and lasting embrace of Dickens's short novel is but one evidence of the 19th century's changing attitude toward Christmas. In 1819, Washington Irving's immensely popular 'Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent' had 'glorified' the 'social rites' of the season. Clement Moore's 1823 poem 'The Night Before Christmas' introduced a fat and jolly St. Nick whose obvious attractions eclipsed what had been a 'foreboding figure of judgment' as likely to distribute canings as gifts. Queen Victoria and her Bavarian husband, Albert, 'great boosters of the season,' had installed a Christmas tree in Windsor Castle each year since 1840, encouraging a fad that spread overseas to America by 1848. ...
    "What is true is that Christmas, more than any other holiday, offered a means for the adult Dickens to redeem the despair and terrors of his childhood. In 1824, after a series of financial embarrassments drove his family to exchange what he remembered as a pleasant country existence for a 'mean, small tenement' in London, the 12-year-old Dickens, his schooling interrupted - ended, for all he knew - was sent to work 10-hour days at a shoe blacking factory in a quixotic attempt to remedy his family's insolvency. Not even a week later, his father was incarcerated in the infamous Marshalsea prison for a failure to pay a small debt to a baker. At this, Dickens's 'grief and humiliation' overwhelmed him so thoroughly that it retained the power to overshadow his adult accomplishments, calling him to 'wander desolately back' to the scene of his mortification. And because Dickens's tribulations were not particular to him but emblematic of the Industrial Revolution - armies of neglected, unschooled children forced into labor - the concerns that inform his fiction were shared by millions of potential readers. ...
    "Replacing the slippery Holy Ghost with anthropomorphized spirits, the infant Christ with a crippled child whose salvation waits on man's - not God's - generosity, Dickens laid claim to a religious festival, handing it over to the gathering forces of secular humanism. If a single night's crash course in man's power to redress his mistakes and redeem his future without appealing to an invisible and silent deity could rehabilitate even so apparently lost a cause as Ebenezer Scrooge, imagine what it might do for the rest of us!"
    Kathryn Harrison, "Father Christmas," The New York Times Review of Books, December 7, 2008, p. 14. 

Monday, December 07, 2009

Crime Spree

This is one of the topic heads from today's e-mail update from the City of Sioux Falls:
    Date: 12/7/2009 From: Crime Stoppers Title: Crime of the Week: Vandalism Spree The Sioux Falls Police Department would like the public's help finding those responsible for eight or more cases of vandalism that occurred over the weekend starting Friday November 27, 2009 in the Southwest part of Sioux Falls. ...

"Vandalism spree." Doesn't "spree" sound like something fun and innocent? Like a shopping spree? Who came up with the idea of attaching it to crimes--killing spree, vandalism speee, etc.? More to the point...why? Seems like it just spoiled an otherwise perfectly good word.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

No Wonder Mondays Seem So Long

It's official, as illustrated by this e-mail that I received today (Tuesday) from HP: Monday is no longer an event but rather is now a process.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Two Unfortunate Trends

Of course, there's way more than two--but two that have caught my attention lately as I browse the interwebs are these, each of them annoying in its own way:

1. Multi-Page Lists

If you're going to give me a list of Ten Important Things Your Doctor Is Too Stupid to Know So You're Probably Doomed, then for crying out loud, give me the #@$%! list! Don't expect me to click a link or two, then bring up Item One with a row of icons below it for Items Two through Ten. I can pretty much guarantee you, I will run out of patience before Item Three. Indeed, I might well call it quits at Item One, when I see all of the scrolling and clicking that awaits me, and just take my chances with my doctor. If you're going to give me a list, give me a list--Items One through Ten, right there in front of me.

2. Pointless Videos

I enjoy a funny, poignant, provocative, or entertaining video as much as the next guy, and maybe even more. But the interwebs today seems plagued with a plethora of pointless videos--by which I mean videos that could just as easily been written pieces. A recent CNet Downloads Dispatch included a link to their list of Top Five Worst Downloads. Fun! So I click on the link and am taken to...a video. Which means first, a commercial. Already, I could have skimmed a written list during the commercial sponsorship. There was nothing wrong with the video, and the presenter was charming enough, but neither was there any reason for the video to be a video. The graphics consisted mainly of screen shots of the software dogs zooming in behind the presenter. There were no demos or anything else that required a video presentation. So it amounts to a time-sink: I could have read the copy and looked at screenshots in half the time it took to play the video. And I wouldn't have had to shut off my music to do so.

In both cases, the intent to me seems to be to pad, to dally, to make something small seem bigger than it is. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the reason for that is to keep eyeballs on a given site for a longer time, so as to please advertisers. If there are many people like me, however (and experience teaches that there aren't), these sites may in fact be losing audiences by being dilatory time-wasters. In which case, the trends should go away. Sooner would be better.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey Drop

From the great WKRP in Cincinnati:

Happy Thanksgiving - WKRP Turkey Drop - kewego Happy Thanksgiving from! This is a blast from the past, WKRP in Cincinnati Famous Turkey Drop. Sharkhost does not own any copyright to this material. Web host, web design, marketing and promotion.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In Other Words, You're On Your Own

Spotted this at Google News:

Say, Say, Say

Another batch of quotations that have been piling up in this and that corner of the hard drive. As is often the case, I think that all of these are from the excellent newsletter A Word a Day.

    Truth, in matters of religion, is simply the opinion that has survived. -Oscar Wilde, writer (1854-1900)
      Every man thinks God is on his side. The rich and powerful know he is. -Jean Anouilh, dramatist (1910-1987)
          The door of a bigoted mind opens outwards so that the only result of the pressure of facts upon it is to close it more snugly. -Ogden Nash, author (1902-1971)
          He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. -John Stuart Mill, philosopher and economist (1806-1873)
          Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous. -Confucius, philosopher and teacher (c. 551-478 BCE)
          If a man would register all his opinions upon love, politics, religion, learning, etc., beginning from his youth and so go on to old age, what a bundle of inconsistencies and contradictions would appear at last! -Jonathan Swift, satirist (1667-1745)
          Life consists in what a man is thinking of all day. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)
                We hand folks over to God's mercy, and show none ourselves. -George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), novelist (1819-1880)
                    It is not life and wealth and power that enslave men, but the cleaving to life and wealth and power. -Buddha (c. 563-483 BCE)
                      To freely bloom - that is my definition of success. -Gerry Spence, lawyer (b. 1929)
                          Prison: Young Crime's finishing school. -Clara Lucas Balfour, social activist (1808-1878)
                              Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. -Reinhold Niebuhr, theologian (1892-1971)
                                A good listener helps us overhear ourselves. -Yahia Lababidi, author (b. 1973)
                                  The eye of the understanding is like the eye of the sense; for as you may see great objects through small crannies or holes, so you may see great axioms of nature through small and contemptible instances. -Francis Bacon, essayist, philosopher, and statesman (1561-1626)
                                    Evil is like a shadow - it has no real substance of its own, it is simply a lack of light. You cannot cause a shadow to disappear by trying to fight it, stamp on it, by railing against it, or any other form of emotional or physical resistance. In order to cause a shadow to disappear, you must shine light on it. -Shakti Gawain, teacher and author (b. 1948)
                                        He who postpones the hour of living is like the rustic who waits for the river to run out before he crosses. -Horace, poet and satirist (65-8 BCE)
                                            Life's most urgent question is: what are you doing for others? -Martin Luther King, Jr , civil-rights leader (1929-1968)
                                                He who sees a need and waits to be asked for help is as unkind as if he had refused it. -Dante Alighieri, poet (1265-1321)
                                                    All high truth is poetry. Take the results of science: they glow with beauty, cold and hard as are the methods of reaching them. -Charles Buxton, brewer, philanthropist, writer and politician (1823-1871)
                                                        Writing the last page of the first draft is the most enjoyable moment in writing. It's one of the most enjoyable moments in life, period. -Nicholas Sparks, author (b. 1965)
                                                            No protracted war can fail to endanger the freedom of a democratic country. -Alexis de Tocqueville, statesman and historian (1805-1859)

                                                                Monday, November 23, 2009

                                                                "A Voyage Long and Strange"

                                                                This from

                                                                In today's Thanksgiving encore excerpt - the discovery of America. Author Tony Horwitz muses on the discovery of America after hearing from a Plymouth Rock tour guide named Claire that the most common question from tourists was why the date etched on the rock was 1620 instead of 1492:

                                                                " 'People think Columbus dropped off the Pilgrims and sailed home.' Claire had to patiently explain that Columbus's landing and the Pilgrims' arrival occurred a thousand miles and 128 years apart. ...

                                                                "By the time the first English settled, other Europeans had already reached half of the forty-eight states that today make up the continental United States. One of the earliest arrivals was Giovanni da Verrazzano, who toured the Eastern Seaboard in 1524, almost a full century before the Pilgrims arrived. ... Even less remembered are the Portuguese pilots who steered Spanish ships along both coasts of the continent in the sixteenth century, probing upriver to Bangor, Maine, and all the way to Oregon. ... In 1542, Spanish conquistadors completed a reconnaissance of the continent's interior: scaling the Appalachians, rafting the Mississippi, peering down the Grand Canyon, and galloping as far inland as central Kansas. ...

                                                                "The Spanish didn't just explore: they settled, from the Rio Grande to the Atlantic. Upon founding St. Augustine, the first European city on U.S. soil, the Spanish gave thanks and dined with Indians-fifty-six years before the Pilgrim Thanksgiving at Plymouth. ... Plymouth, it turned out, wasn't even the first English colony in New England. That distinction belonged to Fort St. George, in Popham, Maine. Nor were the Pilgrims the first to settle Massachusetts. In 1602, a band of English built a fort on the island of Cuttyhunk. They came, not for religious freedom, but to get rich from digging sassafras, a commodity prized in Europe as a cure for the clap. ...

                                                                "The Pilgrims, and later, the Americans who pushed west from the Atlantic, didn't pioneer a virgin wilderness. They occupied a land long since transformed by European contact. ... Samoset, the first Indian the Pilgrims met at Plymouth, greeted the settlers in English. The first thing he asked for was beer."

                                                                Tony Horwitz, A Voyage Long and Strange, Henry Holt, Copyright 2008 by Tony Horwitz, pp. 3-6.

                                                                Friday, November 20, 2009

                                                                I Think This Might Be Spam!

                                                                Hmm. I just don't know. One hates to be so suspicious and cynical and everything, but there's something about this message that makes me wonder if it possibly could be an example of that "spam" of which one hears so much...

                                                                  Subject:, transfering to a new account. From: "BankAccountSupport" 

                                                                  Dear, The current account you now have is substandard. Your new account is ready for you to access. We hope you'll enjoy your new benefits! Please visit the link we've provided below. My New Bank Account Thank you, Account Support Manager, Tina Connor

                                                                As lamented in previous posts, these guys aren't even trying any more. You'd think that a recession might prompt them to step up the effort a little...maybe some graphics, maybe the actual name of a bank. But no. Come on, people! If you don't care, why should your intended victims?

                                                                Tuesday, November 10, 2009


                                                                  If kindness does, in fact, bind us to others, why is this so? 
                                                                  When we extend kindness, is there a shift in the way we see others as individuals, or a shift in the way we see our relationship to others in a larger context? 
                                                                  Does kindness change us only as individuals, or does it also engender a change in the social order? 
                                                                  If we feel ourselves to be kind, are we also challenged to become more just? 
                                                                  Is compassion greater than simple kindness?

                                                                These questions are asked as a "Midday Meditation" in "Your Daybook," an e-mail newsletter that I receive from the Odyssey Networks. As our society seems to increasingly distance itself from simple kindness--we won't even get into civility here--the questions seem to me more than merely a meditative exercise.

                                                                I find the last three questions to be the most pertinent. The answer, to me, is yes in all three cases. You?

                                                                Thursday, October 29, 2009


                                                                This is from yesterday's newsletter. I find the comments on "Passive Voice" to be especially applicable to my current work for a religious organization. The church loves the passive voice!

                                                                In today's excerpt - if you happen to work for a bureaucracy, you'll need to know the subtleties of "officespeak": "This section deals with the technical aspects of officespeak, such as passive voice, circular reasoning, and rhetorical questions. These are the nuts and bolts of the Rube Goldberg contraption that is the language of the office. Obscurity, vagueness, and a noncommittal stance on everything define the essence of officespeak. No one wants to come out and say what they really think. It is much safer for the company and those up top to constantly cloak their language in order to hide how much they do know or, just as often, how much they don't know. ...  

                                                                Passive voice: The bread and butter of press releases and official statements. For those who have forgotten their basic grammar, a sentence in the passive voice does not have an active verb. Thus, no one can take the blame for 'doing' something, since nothing, grammatically speaking, has been done by anybody. Using the passive voice takes the emphasis off yourself (or the company). Here [is an] few example of how the passive voice can render any situation guiltless: 'Five hundred employees were laid off.' (Not 'The company laid off five hundred employees,' or even worse, 'I laid off five hundred employees.' These layoffs occurred in a netherworld of displaced blame, in which the company and the individual are miraculously absent from the picture.) ...

                                                                Circular reasoning: Another favorite when it comes time to deliver bad news. In circular reasoning, a problem is posited and a reason is given. Except that the reason is basically just a rewording of the problem. Pretty nifty. Here are some examples to better explain the examples: 'Our profits are down because of [a decrease in revenues].' 'People were laid off because there was a surplus of workers.' ...

                                                                Rhetorical questions: The questions that ask for no answers. So why even ask the question? Because it makes it seem as though the listener is participating in a true dialogue. When your boss asks, 'Who's staying late tonight?' you know he really means, 'Anyone who wants to keep their job will work late.' Still, there's that split second when you think you have a say in the matter, when you believe your opinion counts. Only to be reminded, yet again, that no one cares what you think. ...

                                                                Hollow statements: The second cousin of circular reasoning. Hollow statements make it seem as though something positive is happening (such as better profits or increased market share), but they lack any proof to support the claim. 'Our company is performing better than it looks.' 'Once productivity increases, so will profits.' ...

                                                                They and them: Pronouns used to refer to the high-level management that no one has ever met, only heard whispers about. 'They' are faceless and often nameless. And their decisions render those beneath them impotent to change anything. 'They' fire people, 'they' freeze wages, 'they' make your life a living hell. It's not your boss who is responsible - he would love to reverse all these directives if he could. But you see, his hands are tied. 'I'd love to give you that raise, you know I would. But they're the ones in charge.' 'Okay, gang, bad news, no more cargo shorts allowed. Hey, I love the casual look, but they hate it.' ...

                                                                Obfuscation: A tendency to obscure, darken, or stupefy. The primary goal of the above techniques is, in the end, obfuscation. Whether it's by means of the methods outlined above or by injecting jargon-heavy phrases into sentences, corporations want to make their motives and actions as difficult to comprehend as possible." 

                                                                D.W. Martin, Officespeak, Simon Spotlight, Copyright 2005 by David Martin, pp. 11-20.     

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                                                                Wednesday, October 28, 2009

                                                                The Formula

                                                                The mystic was back from the desert.

                                                                “Tell us,” they said, “what God is like.”

                                                                But how could he ever tell them what he had experienced in his heart?

                                                                Can God be put into words?

                                                                He finally gave them a formula — inaccurate, inadequate — in the hope that some
                                                                might be tempted to experience it for themselves.

                                                                They seized upon the formula. They made it a sacred text. They imposed it on others as
                                                                a holy belief. They went to great pains to spread it in foreign lands. Some even gave their lives for it.

                                                                The mystic was sad. It might have been better if he had said nothing.

                                                                Anthony de Mello S.J., The Song of the Bird, 1984

                                                                Wednesday, October 21, 2009

                                                                How Not to Use the Telephone

                                                                My late father started working for Northwestern Bell Telephone Company (later USWest, currently Qwest) when he was in high school, retiring from it nearly 40 years later. He was quite the stickler for proper phone etiquette, and I guess I must have inherited some of that from him, for I find that instances such as one that occurred a few minutes ago really tick me off.

                                                                The phone rings. Being involved in some important TV watching, I ignore it. Four rings, then on to the answering machine. But then it immediately rings again, so I go to see what's so blasted important. The Caller ID box for both calls (spaced one minute apart) says JPMorgan Chase, an outfit that I haven't done business with in some years and am in no hurry to deal with again. But there's a message from the second call, so I dutifully listen to it. A woman who speaks so quickly that I can't catch her name nor the company she claims to be with is calling for someone who doesn't live at this address (same last name, different first name) regarding "this matter that has been brought to my attention." She rattles off a phone number--not the one from which the call originated, which was 713-750-2005, but rather an 800 number--and then hangs up.

                                                                Of course my first inclination is to ignore it, but having had tangled dealings with Chase in the past I decide to follow up. I play back the message.

                                                                And again.

                                                                And again.

                                                                And several more times.

                                                                I come up with this:

                                                                Caller's name: Absolutely impossible to catch. Sort of sounds like "Ess." She has an accent but that's not the issue; the issue is that she talks too rapidly and ignores the first rule of phone etiquette, viz., speak clearly. Also the second rule, which is to repeat and spell out things that are important. Like your name.

                                                                Callback number: Well, the 800 part is clear enough. The prefix sounds like 3-8, but that can't be right; I guess it must be 3-8-8. Then maybe 4-2-2-7. Or (on subsequent listens) 4-2-2-4. She disconnects so quickly after rattling off the number once (see second rule, above) that it's next to impossible to say. In fact, it isn't next to impossible, it is impossible.

                                                                Company name: Chase something. Chase Auto Client? That doesn't make any sense.

                                                                By then my wife has come to see what the hoo-hah is about. She can't catch the woman's name either, and her guess for phone number is 4-2-2-4. I Google both 4-2-2-7 and 4-2-2-4; nothing on the former, and something called GAC International for the latter. I dial it, and get a menu: Press 1 for Imports; press 2 for Exports; press 3 for Accounting... Not too promising. I press * to speak to a person and get voicemail. Clearly not where I want to be.

                                                                I then try dialing the 713 number from which the calls originated, but of course that produces only a busy signal. Call centers almost never allow for incoming calls.

                                                                Back to Google. I type in Chase Au, and immediately Chase Auto Finance pops up. That seems promising. I go to their website, but there's nothing useful there.

                                                                I search Google for the 713 number, and read several irate entries at a couple of caller-complaint sites (my favorite: "These idiots keep calling me at my office phone, when I repeatedly tell them that the person they are looking for hasn't worked here in at least 12 months."), which in addition to being entertaining also unearths a slightly different 800 number, 388-4223. Close enough, I figure, and dial it.


                                                                After pushing a few buttons, I'm speaking with a nice woman. I tell her there's this message on my machine, I can't make out the name of the woman who called but she's asking for someone and there's no one here by that name. She asks me how long we've had this number.

                                                                "Well, let's see--since 1985, so, what, 24 years?"

                                                                And she says they must have misdialed and they'll check their records to make sure they don't call here again, etc. I don't go into the niceties of telephone etiquette with her, since it's probably not her area (based on tonight's evidence, it seems to be nobody's area) and I had no issues with her.

                                                                But one does wonder. This is not the first time I've had a call from a creditor or other business entity looking for someone else with the same last name or, on a couple of occasions, another person with the same name as me. Which always amazes me. I don't know about you, but whenever I've taken out a loan, or bought something of substance, or applied for anything, I've been required to give name, rank, serial number, blood sample, letter of reference from my Scoutmaster, etc., etc. And yet when these entities go looking for someone (I assume somebody named Reynolds owes Chase Auto Finance some money), it seems they merely stick a pin in the phone book and call whoever they land on. I mean, presumably you have the guy's SSN, yes? And I'm under the impression that these big business outfits have all sorts of ways to track you down based on SSN. Certainly that's the case on all those television shows such as the one I didn't get to see the end of tonight, thanks to JPMorgan Chase.

                                                                So why do they always seem to employ these horse-and-buggy methods to track down their persons of interest?

                                                                Too bad I'm not teaching Business Communication this term. I'd use tonight's message as an example. A negative example, naturally.

                                                                Thursday, October 01, 2009

                                                                Except for One Thing

                                                                Today's Headline: Yes, perfectly healthy, except for, you know, the dying part.

                                                                Sunday, September 13, 2009

                                                                "Courage to Accept Acceptance"

                                                                I have begun today a 34-week online retreat offered by the Collaborative Ministry Office at my alma mater, Creighton University. Among the suggested readings is an excerpt from the book As Bread That Is Broken by Peter G. van Breemen, S.J. (Dimension Books, Inc., 1974) I was struck by this passage:

                                                                  How often have we been told that it is important that we love God. And this is true. But is it far more important that God loves us! Our love for God is secondary. God's love for us is first: "This is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God's love for us" (1 John 4:10). This is the foundation. Karl Rahner once made the remark that we live in a time when there is much interest in Church politics (e.g. the pill, the reform of the curia, celibate priesthood). This may be the sign of a deep faith. It can also be the sign of a lack of faith. The basic faith is that I know myself to be accepted by God: "We ourselves have known and put our faith in God's love towards ourselves" (1 John 4:16). This is the content of our faith--"God's love towards ourselves." The whole Apostles' Creed is nothing but a statement twelve times over of belief in this very love which God has for us.

                                                                Interesting to reflect on the idea that my love for God is secondary. From the earliest days of Catholic catechism we were taught, in answer to the question "Why was I created?", "I was created to love God with my whole heart, my whole soul, and my whole mind." Which, even as a child, seemed an unsatisfactory answer. For one thing, it reflects rather poorly on the Creator, I think. The passage from van Breemen's book suggests something new to me. Which, I suppose, one must expect from a retreat.

                                                                Wednesday, September 02, 2009

                                                                New Foods

                                                                Today's excerpt from, from Atlantic Ocean by Martin W. Sandler:

                                                                In today's excerpt - Columbus's discovery of America brought new foods - including tomatoes, potatoes, corn, and widely-available sugar - that completely transformed the European diet:

                                                                  "Before Columbus, the diet of Europeans had remained basically unchanged for tens of thousands of years, based mainly on oats, barley, and wheat. Within a quarter century of his first voyage, the European diet became richer, more varied, and more nutritious. As Roger Schlesinger wrote in his book, In the Wake of Columbus: 'As far as dietary habits are concerned, no other series of events in all world history brought as much significant change as did [the discovery of the Americas].' The list of foods that made their way into Europe is extensive and includes maize, squash, pumpkin, avocado, papaya, cassava, vanilla, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes (yams), strawberries, and beans of almost every variety.

                                                                  "The potato was one of the first American foods to be transported to Europe. Valued by the conquistadores, they made it a key item in the diet of their sailors. The potato then spread to England and Scotland, and to Ireland where it became the staple of the Irish diet.

                                                                  "It was also the Spanish who discovered the tomato, first distributing it throughout their Caribbean possessions and then bringing it to Europe. In both Italy and Great Britain, the tomato was first thought to be poisonous, and it was not until the 1700s that the fruit became widely eaten. As was the case with sweet potatoes, which were regarded by some Europeans as having aphrodisiac-like qualities, the tomato was also viewed in some circles as having medicinal value. ... Actually, some of these claims not have been as farfetched as they seem, since many Old World ailments were caused by the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables. ...

                                                                  "Tapioca, made from cassava root, eventually became a European delicacy, as did a drink made from the cocoa plant. By the time that Hernan Cortes and his men witnessed Aztecs drinking chocolatl, South and Central American natives had been consuming the beverage for hundreds of years. ...

                                                                  "As diet transforming as all these newly introduced foods became, sugar, perhaps, had the greatest impact of all. As ever-increasing amounts of sugar were transported from New World plantations to Europe, the types of foods that were eaten, and just as significantly, the ways in which they were cooked, were changed forever. Before the early 1500s, sugar was sold in European apothecary shops where, because of its scarcity, only the rich could afford it. But as sugar-laden ships arrived in Old World ports, prices tumbled and sugar became an important foodstuff for the masses. At the time, honey was both expensive and in short supply, but even if that had not been the case, most people found sugar to be a much more desirable sweetener, As a result, tea and coffee drinking gained a popularity that would never diminish.

                                                                  "Even more important, the availability of sugar led to the proliferation of confections and jams that soon graced tables throughout Europe. ...

                                                                  "Sugar's impact on the European diet went way beyond jams and confections and the sweetening of tea, coffee, and other beverages. Such leftover foods as rice and bread could now be given new life and a whole new taste when sprinkled with sugar and reheated. Fruits and vegetables could be inexpensively preserved when immersed in a sugary syrup. Sugar's popularity also led to the introduction of a host of new cooking utensils and accoutrements, including new types of saucepans, pie plates, cookie molds, sugar pots, sugar spoons, and tongs."

                                                                Martin W. Sandler, Atlantic Ocean, Sterling, Text Copyright 2008 by Martin W. Sandler, pp. 92-100.

                                                                Wednesday, August 26, 2009

                                                                Next Best Thing to Useless!

                                                                I'm not sure why, but this evening I received an offer to check out something called Alice (, which is some kind of shopping service, apparently. "At Alice, you’ll find great prices without buying in bulk or paying a membership fee," they say, touting their low prices and price comparison feature. Mildly intrigued, I clicked the Find the Best Price tab, and got this:

                                                                As illustrations go, this one is pretty darn useless, no? I mean, everything is grayed out, so what you really have is just a list of pulled-from-air prices without context--all of which are (surprise!) higher than Alice's. Wow, this does look like a great service! Oh, and that See Details & Disclaimer link? Doesn't work; not a link at all, really.

                                                                I'm sure that, were I to join up, all of Alice's wonderful features would be revealed to me and I could see With Mine Own Eyes how it makes my life easier, and also cheaper. But isn't the point of an illustration or example to convince me first so I will then be inclined to join? This does nothing of the sort. It merely asserts "Our prices are lower than every place where they're higher. And we won't tell you their names, either, so you can just take our word for it."

                                                                Thanks but no thanks, Alice.

                                                                (And why "Alice"? I suspect some kind of Brady Bunch angle here, for it was Alice who got stuff done in the Brady household. I suppose I could find all that and more under the See Alice in Action link, but, well, I'm just not that interested.)

                                                                Thursday, August 20, 2009

                                                                How Do I Know I Want to Be Your Friend?

                                                                Generally I'm a fan of privacy settings on such sites as Facebook. But I find lately that they seem to be in the way of "friending" people. For instance, a little while ago a name appeared in the "suggestion" box over on the right-hand side of my Facebook page. Well, I went to school with someone by the same name, but it's a fairly common name--not quite John Smith, but certainly in that neighborhood--and so I click on the little picture (unhelpfully, a dog) to see if perchance it's my old acquaintance.

                                                                Ah, but "John only shares certain information with everyone," Facebook tells me (in a very clumsy sentence, I might add). "To learn more about John, add him as a friend."

                                                                Well, no. See, I want to learn more about John to help me decide if I want to add him as a friend.

                                                                (I know that the object of the game, for many, is to have that friend list bulging beyond all recognition, to eventually be "friends" with everybody on Facebook. But that's not how I roll. I'm into quality.)

                                                                Sometimes in such cases I can look over John's list of friends and do some deductive reasoning. But not always. I mean, if it's someone I went to college with, well, that's 30 years ago. I have something like four college friends among my 168 high-quality friends. The odds are probably pretty good that that's true for many of my demographic group. Not a lot of clues to go by.

                                                                And, sure, I can send John a message and ask whether he's the same John Smith who had the locker next to me in tenth grade or whatever. But, sorry to say, by this point I've usually lost interest entirely and moved on to the next task. If I haven't made the effort to be in touch with Smith these past 35 years, why would I do so now? Let him contact me! He can read my profile, after all! Nor do I have a picture of my cat as a profile shot.

                                                                The Truth Is Always the First Victim

                                                                Christianity Today writes about my Lutheran friends' passing their Social Statement on Human Sexuality, unable to resist the temptation (irony!) to subhead it "Tornado touches convention center as Lutherans approve sexuality statement by the exact margin it needed to pass."

                                                                Very poetic.

                                                                Too bad about it being untrue. The tornado struck downtown -- and not just the convention center -- shortly after two p.m.; the vote came shortly after six.

                                                                Missed it by that much.

                                                                Later in the article Christianity Today does sort of slide in an "Hours later the assembly voted..." but of course by then the damage is done, and those who skim rather than read will -- as intended -- come away with the impression that my friends voted and then were smote by a tornado!

                                                                Great story, even if Christianity Today had to make it up.

                                                                Especially egregious in that the paragraph previous to the bare mention of the interval between tornado and vote quotes a Baptist minister (??) warning that "The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA ..."


                                                                And if the day had been bright and sunny, the skies blue, the birds singing, would Christianity Today have proclaimed that it obviously was a sign that the Almighty approved of my Lutheran chums' action?

                                                                Hahaha. I make joke.

                                                                Saturday, August 15, 2009

                                                                More Spam to Love!

                                                                You know, there is nothing like well-written spam. I have commented on this before, mostly in terms of disgust, since it seems to me that modern spammers just aren't trying. (See here, here, and here.) Today's mail brings a slightly better-than-the-norm come-on. Lacking in originality, I have to say--I was getting sob-stories like this via the US Postal Service 20, 25 years ago--it at least gives some indication that the spammer behind it--Mr. Fareed Usman, to you--put a little bit of effort into it.

                                                                For starters, he seems able to keep his story straight between his "from" line (Mr. Fareed Usman) and his "subject" line (From Mr. Fareed Usman)...unimaginative, yes, but consistent! As is his return address, too:
                                                                  As you read this, I don't want you to feel sorry for me, because, I believe everyone will die someday.
                                                                Wow! Already we have much in common, for I too believe that everyone will die someday! It's almost as if we were separated at birth!
                                                                  My name is MR. Fareed Usman a Crude Oil merchant in IRAN; I have been diagnosed with Esophageal cancer. It has defiled all forms of medical treatment, and right now I have only about a few months to live, according to medical experts.
                                                                Well, that sucks: You no sooner make a new friend than you find out he has only about a few months to live, for his illness has defiled medical treatment. Which is the sort of thing that really torques off doctors, by the way, which may explain why they've only given him about a few months to live.

                                                                As he nears the end of life's highway, Mr. Usman seeks to atone for his past; evidently he was "always hostile to people and only focused on my business as that was the only thing I cared for." Now, however, he has
                                                                  willed and given most of my property and assets to my immediate and extended family members as well as a few close friends
                                                                who must be pretty saintlike if they remained close friends even when he was "always hostile" to them. Or maybe they're not so close after all, since they don't seem to be very helpful to Mr. Usman as he strives to make amends:
                                                                  I want God to be merciful to me and accept my soul so, I have decided to give alms to charity organizations, as I want this to be one of the last good deeds I do on earth.
                                                                Points for honesty. Hope God sees it that way, too. But I think God might want a few sharp words with Mr. Usman's family:
                                                                  So far, I have distributed money to some charity organizations in Austria, cameroun, Liberia, Algeria and Malaysia. Now that my health has deteriorated so badly, I cannot do this myself anymore. I once asked members of my family to close one of my accounts and distribute the money which I have there to charity organization in Bulgaria and Pakistan; they refused and kept the money to themselves.
                                                                Those jerks! Now, not being rich myself I can't quite relate to all the problems that wealth must bring with it. But I have to wonder how tough it could possibly be to give it away. I mean, Mr. Usman seems well enough to have e-mailed me--maybe he's even e-mailed other cyber-friends; who know?--and can than be much more difficult than giving money away? He's already made these connections in Africa, Malaysia, and, um, Austria (?!)--why can't he just e-mail them and say, Not having much luck in Bulgaria and Pakistan, so I have some extra money for you? Well, as the man said, the rich are different than you and me.

                                                                It comes as no surprise that Mr. Usman no longer trusts his family, "as they seem not to be contended with what I have left for them." And that, apparently, is where I come in:
                                                                  The last of my money which no one knows of is the huge cash deposit of Twenty Five million dollars $25, 000, 000, 00 that I have with a finance/Security Company abroad. I will want you to help me collect this deposit and dispatched it to charity organizations. I have set aside 10% for you and for your time. If this is okay with you get back to me and I'll give you all the details you need to know.
                                                                Of course, now people in fact do know about the huge cash deposit, but so it goes. I'm a little confused about why Mr. Usman needs my help to "collect this deposit" when in fact it is his deposit, and he should simply be able to withdraw it, it seems to me. I don't know how Mr. Usman came to settle on me for this task--perhaps he reads this blog; perhaps my legendary devotion to honesty has reached his ears even in Iran--but however it came to be, two and a half million dollars seems fair recompense for my time. I mean, again, how tough can it be? You call Charity A and ask if they'd like a couple million dollars. They say yes. You call Charity B and ask the same question. You wouldn't even get through the whole alphabet at that rate. A day, maybe two, at most.

                                                                I only hope Mr. Usman lasts long enough. These diseases that defile medical treatment and leave you with only about a few months to live can be tricky bastards.

                                                                Monday, August 10, 2009

                                                                Back Into the Echo Chamber

                                                                Today's edition of the local rag included a truly bizarre "editorial" from a member of the state legislature who also is an orthopedic surgeon and thus has no stake at all in the outcome of the current movement toward health-care reform...which of course is what his "editorial" was about. "Controlling health care won't yield greatness" it was titled. I don't know why. I suppose because his essay includes this head-scratcher of a sentence:
                                                                  "We cannot tax, deny, control, penalize and regulate our way to greatness in health care."
                                                                Which of course leads one to wonder who ever said anything about achieving "greatness in health care"? I thought the discussion was about access to health care, specifically providing health-care insurance options to those who are otherwise uninsured. You know--the poor, people like that.

                                                                Taking care of the least among us--that's where "greatness" will come from.

                                                                It bothers me a little that a medical doctor seems not to understand that. And it bothers me a little that a state legislator seems to have swallowed whole the canard that a public insurance program for the otherwise uninsured would somehow mysteriously lead to "denial" of health-care services.

                                                                But what really bothers me is that the learned doctor, in typical right-wing obstructionist fashion, presents not a single fact in his little essay. He lectures us, and tells us all of the bad things that will happen if we do something to take care of one another...but he doesn't tell us why, or how, or where he gets his information. So we have no way of judging his statements. We have no way of engaging in the sort of critical thinking and questioning that makes for true social discussion.

                                                                Because of course these guys aren't interested in true social discussion. They're interested in scaring people. They're interested in preserving the status quo.
                                                                  "The United States stands as a shining symbol to the rest of the world because of the different way we do things. Our health care should be no different."
                                                                Meaning what? In the name of doing things a "different way" we should continue to be the only industrialized country on the planet that doesn't think it's important to look after its citizens? All of them, regardless of the thickness of their wallet. (Again, I think he means health-care system, but why quibble.)

                                                                So I was motivated, against my better judgment, to post a little response in the Comments section of the local rag's online edition:
                                                                  Interestingly, Curd includes not a single source, not a single verifiable fact, not a single shred of evidence to back up his claims. Typical of that faction that believes that the greatest country in the world need not provide basic health care to its people. Typical of a party that has run out of its own ideas and thus can only throw nails on the road in a misguided effort to halt progress. Typical of the scare tactics employed by those who benefit from the status quo. Give us some FACTS, please, and not mere opinions presented as some sort of learned analysis.

                                                                  And P.S.: Why does the Argus Leader even publish stuff like this? Any decent editor would have bucked it back to Curd with a request to back up his assertions with some EVIDENCE.
                                                                Of course, that tends to assume that evidence exists. Which may well be the case. But it's hard to know, since the obstructionists never seem to trot any out.

                                                                By now you may be asking why I waste my time on this sort of stuff. Believe me, I've asked myself the same thing, and more than once. I might as well be talking to the wall. Not that I don't do plenty of that, too.

                                                                Friday, August 07, 2009

                                                                Wow. He Really IS a Big Fat Idiot!

                                                                This evening I signed a petition from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee "telling Republicans they should immediately condemn [Rush] Limbaugh's hateful rhetoric," in light of the blowhard's "comparing the Democratic Party to Nazis and using swastikas on his website."

                                                                When I sign these things I don't often fill in the optional comments box, but tonight I did, thusly:
                                                                  "Typical of an increasingly marginalized entertainer who fancies himself a pundit and who must constantly find new ways to shock sensibilities in a vain effort to appear relevant."
                                                                I'm quite certain that these petitions are all but useless, but everybody needs a hobby.

                                                                Saturday, August 01, 2009

                                                                And You Can Quote Me!

                                                                A couple dozen quotations of the sort I like to collect. Most of them, as usual, come from the newsletter A Word a Day. Have fun!

                                                                Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

                                                                Faith is believing what you know ain't so. -Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910)

                                                                "Faith" is a fine invention / For gentlemen who see -- / But microscopes are prudent / In an emergency. -Emily Dickinson, poet (1830-1886)

                                                                Snakes and ladders: the game of organized religions. -Yahia Lababidi, writer (b. 1973)

                                                                We have not passed that subtle line between childhood and adulthood until we move from the passive voice to the active voice - that is, until we have stopped saying 'It got lost,' and say, 'I lost it.' -Sydney J. Harris, journalist (1917-1986)

                                                                In youth we feel richer for every new illusion; in maturer years, for every one we lose. -Madame Anne Sophie Swetchine, mystic (1782-1857)

                                                                Words are the small change of thought. -Jules Renard, writer (1864-1910)

                                                                Words are like money; there is nothing so useless, unless when in actual use. -Samuel Butler, writer (1835-1902)

                                                                We are all of us more or less echoes, repeating involuntarily the virtues, the defects, the movements, and the characters of those among whom we live. -Joseph Joubert, essayist (1754-1824)

                                                                The propagandist's purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human. -Aldous Huxley, novelist (1894-1963)

                                                                What monstrosities would walk the streets were some people's faces as unfinished as their minds. -Eric Hoffer, philosopher and author (1902-1983)

                                                                Power is only important as an instrument for service to the powerless. -Lech Walesa, human rights activist, Polish president, Nobel laureate (b. 1943)

                                                                I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity. -Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. general and 34th president (1890-1969)

                                                                It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. -J. Krishnamurti, author, speaker, and philosopher (1895-1986)

                                                                Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. -Oscar Wilde, writer (1854-1900)

                                                                I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world. I may not complete this last one but I give myself to it. -Rainer Maria Rilke, poet and novelist (1875-1926)

                                                                Conscience is a man's compass, and though the needle sometimes deviates, though one often perceives irregularities when directing one's course by it, one must still try to follow its direction. -Vincent van Gogh, painter (1853-1890)

                                                                One man meets an infamous punishment for that crime which confers a diadem upon another. -Juvenal, poet (c. 60-140)

                                                                Pride, like laudanum and other poisonous medicines, is beneficial in small, though injurious in large, quantities. No man who is not pleased with himself, even in a personal sense, can please others. -Frederick Saunders, librarian and essayist (1807-1902)

                                                                Like cars in amusement parks, our direction is often determined through collisions. -Yahia Lababidi, author (b. 1973)

                                                                A fixed idea is like the iron rod which sculptors put in their statues. It impales and sustains. -Hippolyte Taine, critic and historian (1828-1893)

                                                                Some men of a secluded and studious life have sent forth from their closet or their cloister, rays of intellectual light that have agitated courts and revolutionized kingdoms; like the moon which, though far removed from the ocean, and shining upon it with a serene and sober light, is the chief cause of all those ebbings and flowings which incessantly disturb that restless world of waters. -Charles Caleb Colton, author and clergyman (1780-1832)

                                                                I once met a man who had forgiven an injury. I hope some day to meet the man who has forgiven an insult. -Charles Buxton, brewer, philanthropist, writer and politician (1823-1871)

                                                                How easy to be amiable in the midst of happiness and success. -Madame Anne Sophie Swetchine, mystic (1782-1857)

                                                                Monday, July 20, 2009

                                                                A Generation Ignored!

                                                                A line from a post in an online forum that I monitor (but seldom participate in) for my work:
                                                                  Furthermore, I think the constant exposure to the kind of sex we see on TV and in advertising contributes to unhealthy sexual behaviors (i.e., promiscuity), especially among the young.
                                                                Which causes me to wonder: Why does our society seem so callously unconcerned about the problem of promiscuity among the old?

                                                                A quick Google search (my current lost cause is to resist using "Google" as a verb) turns up any number of hits in re promiscuity among the younger set--"Record rise in sexual diseases among promiscuous young adults"; "Lower drinking age pushes promiscuity"; "Promiscuity Among Teens Often Due to Sexual Abuse"; and a couple that sound really interesting: "Sexual Promiscuity -- A National Plague" and "Westminster Exorcist Says Promiscuity can Lead to Demonic Possession"--but scant reference to anything having to do with the old.

                                                                This, friends, is the shame of our modern society.

                                                                Monday, July 13, 2009

                                                                Waking with the...Bats?

                                                                So it develops that the clicking, scritching sound I had been hearing off and on as I dozed in the pre-alarm-clock darkness was not a beetle on the screen of the west window, nor a new sound that had developed in the ceiling fan. I had wondered about the cats' odd behavior: they seemed to be climbing up the side of the bed rather than making their usual mattress-bouncing leaps, and if the noises in question were being caused by an insect--on either side of the window screen--one would expect them to be in the window, investigating. Finally, as a gray light began to intrude into the room, I sat up, perched my glasses on my nose, and observed a bit of movement amongst the stacks of books along the wall by the bed. (You are perhaps surprised to learn that I have dozens of books stacked next the bed?)

                                                                And to my total lack of surprise, a tiny brown bat rounded the edge of a volume as, I assume, he looked for the exit.

                                                                This is not our first encounter with bats; thus my lack of surprise. You live in an old house in an old neighborhood, you probably meet up with bats from time to time. Some years ago we were aware of a sound up in the attic, and one of the cats was quite desperate for us to open the attic door and let her investigate, but we declined. Next day--next night, actually--there was no noise that we could hear, so we assumed that whoever had gotten in there had gotten out again and was on his merry little way.

                                                                Perhaps a year or so ago, one of the little dickenses had gotten downstairs and was crashing around in the living room and dining room. Well, for the most part it was
                                                                cats crashing around, hunting, while the poor bat tried to find an exit. We didn't help him much by turning on the lights (all of this happened, of course, after the family had settled down to bed--or so we had thought), but it couldn't be helped. He blundered his was into the kitchen and holed up under the edge of the cabinets (two cats intent on that corner helped with the detective work), where I was able to get a towel around him and take him out to the street. I'm afraid I inadvertently injured him, since there was a spot of blood on the towel when I got back into the house. Whether it was a serious injury, I know not. Come daylight, the bat was not where my daughter and I dropped him, so perhaps he made his way to safety.

                                                                This morning's exercise, by contrast, was straightforward. Having ascertained the situation, I grabbed a washcloth from the bathroom, scooped up the little guy, and--in my skivvies, mind--trooped out to the alley and let him go. I sort of flung open the washcloth and expected him to take off, but instead he dropped into a pile of branches next to the compost bin. I don't know why. Perhaps he was sick; perhaps he was scared and confused; perhaps it was already too bright out for him. Who knows? I assume he'll find some place to hole up for the day (he could even climb down into the branch pile and chill there till nightfall) and then go on about his business. Or not. I can do only so much.

                                                                What's striking about these guys is how tiny they are. Today's intruder was all bunched up, and as such only about the size of your palm (easily contained one-handedly in a washcloth); his predecessor, flitting back and forth from room to room, had a wingspan of probably no more than six inches. I assume that we're dealing here with
                                                                Myotis lucifugus, the little brown bat, which is the most common bat in North America. He's actually kind of cute, as evidenced by the photo below. But I think he's cuter outside the house.

                                                                Sunday, July 05, 2009

                                                                A Few Words

                                                                It's been awhile, and the quotations that I like to collect have been, you know, collecting. Here's a bunch of them. Many of them--although, this time, not all of them--are from the always-interesting newsletter A Word a Day:

                                                                Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, everyday, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity. — Christopher Morley

                                                                Faith which does not doubt is dead faith. -Miguel de Unamuno, philosopher and writer (1864-1936)

                                                                To profess to be doing God's will is a form of megalomania. - Joseph Prescott, aphorist (1913-2001)

                                                                Only the madman is absolutely sure. - Robert Anton Wilson, novelist (1932-2007)

                                                                The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience. - Eleanor Roosevelt, US diplomat & reformer
                                                                (1884 - 1962)

                                                                You can't help someone get up a hill without getting closer to the top yourself. - H. Norman Schwarzkopf (1934 - )

                                                                In all recorded history there has not been one economist who has had to worry about where the next meal would come from. - Peter Drucker (1909-2005)

                                                                Each morning puts a man on trial and each evening passes judgment. - Roy L. Smith

                                                                Whatever a man prays for, he prays for a miracle. Every prayer reduces itself to this: Great God, grant that twice two be not four. - Ivan Turgenev, novelist and playwright (1818-1883)

                                                                It is not how old you are, but how you are old. - Jules Renard, writer (1864-1910)

                                                                It is one thing to show a man that he is in error, and another to put him in possession of the truth. - John Locke, philosopher (1632-1704)

                                                                It seems like the less a statesman amounts to the more he adores the flag. - Kin Hubbard, humorist (1868-1930)

                                                                Our heads are round so that thoughts can change direction. - Francis Picabia, painter and poet (1879-1953)

                                                                I believe I have no prejudices whatsoever. All I need to know is that a man is a member of the human race. That's bad enough for me. - Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910)

                                                                Knowing what / Thou knowest not / Is in a sense / Omniscience. - Piet Hein, poet and scientist (1905-1996)

                                                                I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice. - Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. President (1809-1865)

                                                                Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product. - Eleanor Roosevelt, diplomat and author (1884-1962)

                                                                Myth: we have to save the earth. Frankly, the earth doesn't need to be saved. Nature doesn't give a hoot if human beings are here or not. The planet has survived cataclysmic and catastrophic changes for millions upon millions of years. Over that time, it is widely believed, 99 percent of all species have come and gone while the planet has remained. Saving the environment is really about saving our environment - making it safe for ourselves, our children, and the world as we know it. If more people saw the issue as one of saving themselves, we would probably see increased motivation and commitment to actually do so. - Robert M. Lilienfeld, management consultant and author (b. 1953) and William L. Rathje, archaeologist and author (b. 1945)

                                                                Friday, June 05, 2009

                                                                Wow. Seriously?

                                                                Reproduced below, in all of its froth-spewing, red-eyed, hate-filled, venom-dripping, punctuation-challenged glory, is a lovely bit of e-mail that arrived a few weeks ago. It came from an acquaintance, forwarded with dozens of other e-mail addresses intact, and with the odd subject line, "FW: Pardon the language.. but this is a reality check.. Hugs,M----- & R---" whom I take to be the originators of the message, or at least the most recent passers-along. They are unknown to me, for which I am grateful.

                                                                As you read the message, perhaps you will be struck by some of the same things I noted:

                                                                1. Any time someone troubles him- or herself to utilize President Obama's middle name, you know they are about to regurgitate some particularly loathsome bile. Whenever you call them on this, the response is, "I only call him that because that's his name." And yet I have yet to hear any of them refer to his predecessor as "George Walker."

                                                                2. How the heck would the perpetrator of this repulsive missive know what George S. Patton "would have said"? Anyone can shove his bigoted comments into the mouth of any deceased historical figure. It has no meaning, no weight.

                                                                3. Why on earth should I care what Patton "would have said"?

                                                                4. Taken to its logical conclusion--although I admit it's dangerous to apply logic when dealing with something obviously written by a hate-mongering bigot--one must conclude that the author advocates genocide. For the anonymous author puts these words into Patton's mouth:
                                                                  If they [Muslims] manage to get their hands on a nuke, chemical agents, or even some anthrax -- you will wish to God we had hunted them down and killed THEM while we had the chance.

                                                                Yep, there you have it. Kill them. Kill them all. That's what Patton would have said, by golly, or so we're told. Gotta kill them all before they kill us. By the time you realize "they" want to kill you, it'll be too late for you to kill "them." Gotta do unto them and do it first.

                                                      , didn't Patton--the real one, not the one made up by this anonymous hate-monger--also say the same thing about the Soviets? Didn't he want to wipe them out before they wiped us out? Didn't he warn that "they" wanted to kill us--all of them wanted to kill all of us?

                                                                Well, just to remind you that really warped, really scary people are all around us, here's the diatribe. Please note that your humble correspondent repudiates it entirely. And be sure to scrub off good after you've read it.


                                                                After todays Barak Hussien and Cheney speeches this seems to be a good summary.

                                                                What Patton would have said...

                                                                This is how General George S. Patton would sum things up .... and then catch holy hell from Ike.

                                                                He sure had a unique way of expressing his thoughts.



                                                                To ALL those whining, panty-waisted, pathetic Citizens, it's time for a little refresher course on exactly why we Americans occasionally have to fight wars to keep this nation great.


                                                                See if you can tear yourself away from your
                                                                "reality" TV and Starbucks for a minute, pull your head out of your ass -- and LISTEN UP!!


                                                                Abu Ghraib is not "torture" or an "atrocity." This is the kind of thing frat boys, sorority girls, and academy cadets do every year. A little fun at someone else's expense.

                                                                Certainly no reason to wring your hands or get your panties in a wad.

                                                                Got that ?


                                                                THIS IS an atrocity!




                                                                So Was This!!!


                                                                WHICH PART DON'T YOU GET?

                                                                Islam a peaceful religion?
                                                                My Ass!
                                                                Millions of these warped misled sons-of-bitches are plotting, as we speak, to destroy our country and our way of life any way they can.

                                                                Some of them are here among us now.

                                                                They don't want to convert you and don't want to rule you. They believe you are a vile infestation of Allah's paradise. They don't give a shit how "progressive" you are, how peace-loving you are, or how much you sympathize with their cause.

                                                                They want your ass dead
                                                                , and they think it is God's will for them to do it.


                                                                Some think if we give them a hug or listen to them,
                                                                then they'll like us, and if you agree -
                                                                Then you are a pathetic dumb ass!

                                                                If they manage to get their hands on a nuke,
                                                                chemical agents, or even some anthrax -- you will wish to God we had hunted them down and killed THEM while we had the chance.

                                                                How many more Americans must be beheaded?
                                                                You've fallen asleep AGAIN - get your head out of your ass!
                                                                You may never get another chance!

                                                                NOW GET OFF YOUR SORRY ASS

                                                                and pass this on to any and every person you give a
                                                                damn about - if you ever gave a damn about anything!


                                                                Do you have enough balls to forward this email.

                                                                The truth shall set you free!