A New Beginning

All good things come to an end. In fact, all crappy things come to an end too, and that's what this post is about.

Yes, my exile in Black Vatican City is about to end. After 8 and a half years, I am finally leaving the Siberia of the Americas for good!

For some time now, the Papal Consort and I have been working on getting teaching jobs in Korea. There were applications, then resumes, then FBI background checks, diploma apostilles, transcripts, a video introduction, and then in the last few days, a phone interview and a job offer. The offer is great - they pay roundtrip airfare, housing, and 50% of insurance for a 30 hour work week with 10 days of paid vacation as well as paid national holidays. There is a catch, however - they want us there in ONE MONTH!

Not a long time when you have to reduce your worldly possessions to two suitcases and get shots and papers for your pets, while finishing and defending your master's thesis. It's going to be a terribly hard month, and I plan to record it in all its glorious stressfulness.

And that is where another thing comes to an end. This blog has had a good run; 885 posts stretching all the way back to February of 2004, and covering most of my time here at Black Vatican University. It has served that purpose well, but a new endeavor calls for a new chronicle. I have been wondering for years now what life change would be sweeping enough to finally put a stake in the heart of this old beast - I think selling practically everything I own and leaving the country is a perfect end. I will miss the role of Black Pope, but I think it's time to abdicate.

Of course, there will be a new blog - I'm far too much of an attention whore to let my little corner of the internet go dark completely. It will cover the Korean adventure, starting with the details of this final month in Laramie. I plan on making it more like an actual diary, with a ton of pictures. Tentatively it's called, Black-clad in Korea.

Please join us there, and share in our adventures abroad. We will be blogging almost daily, with pictures, maps, and observations, blended with our patented, secret recipe snark. We hope to see you all there!

Supporting Democracy

Recently, ordinary folks have been taking to the streets and getting pretty rowdy around the world. First, we had the unrest in Tunisia, which led to the ousting of the government of president Abidine Ben Ali amid charges of corruption, lack of political freedoms, food shortages, and record unemployment numbers. Then the people of Egypt took to the streets to give Hosni Mubarak the boot for similar complaints. The spirit of dictator bashing soon spread to Libya, where the bloody rule of Moammar Gadhafi is slipping away.

It’s not just in Muslim countries – reports began to leak out today that there were anti-government protests in North Korea back on Valentine’s Day, and even right here in the USA, there are demonstrators taking to the streets in Wisconsin and Ohio to prevent the loss of collective bargaining rights for government workers.

These demonstrations have been pretty heart-warming to folks who love political freedom, democracy, and seeing the will of the people coming to pass. It reminds me a bit of the riotous beginnings of our own democracy, complete with civil unrest, vandalism, and the eventual overthrow of a leader who was more interested in lining his pockets than in giving the people good governance. Seems like a perfect photo and sound bite opportunity for politicians in America, to point out how much they love democracy and support those around the world who are fighting to make the common man heard. In fact, it seems like a perfect time to recall that the US revolution wouldn’t have gone so well without the support of the French.

So where are the statements of support from all the Joe Average, flag waving, freedom and democracy loving Conservatives out there?

If we had any sort of special effects budget, you’d hear the sound of crickets right now…

There aren’t any. In fact, the Conservative response to this wave of protests against oppressive regimes (and yes, that includes the Governors of Wisconsin and Ohio) has ranged from concerns about how it will affect gas prices to outright derision for the protesters and support for their ousted dictators. You see, the Conservative platform is not really about democracy, or family values, or taking the US back to a fictitious 1950s lifestyle – it’s about making sure that nothing interrupts the flow of money to the deepest pockets in the world. The very same people who claim to care so much about the democratic process and the ability of the people to hold their leaders accountable, are now criticizing the Obama administration for not taking a more active role in determining who will fill the shoes of Mubarak, Ben Ali, Gadhafi and the rest. Wouldn’t that be the responsibility of the ordinary people of those nations? Shouldn’t we support the will of the people being done? Instead, they are worried that the new leadership in those countries might stop being the fuel tank of the planet, and maybe finally get tired of the bullshit that is the Israeli situation and do something about it. This is probably the most telling example of what Conservative politicians actually represent that has come to light in the last 20 years.

So, the next time you see a candidate claiming that he supports the worker, the ordinary man, and freedom and justice for all, ask him where he was in the early days of 2011, when the Arab world was tossing out its hegemony, and Union workers in the heartland were struggling to keep their rights. Ask him if he supported the rights of those ordinary people.

And then prepare to be lied to.

Kites for Sale

Getting down to the last few...

Where have you been?

I've bumped into some friends lately who have said, "Hey... what happened to you? No blog posts, no tweets, no Facebook status updates... what's up with that?"

My answer is to share with you a typical 24 hours in my life.

02:00-03:00 - wake, shower, shave, breakfast, etc.
03:00-07:30 - work in labs
08:00-09:00 - sleep
09:15-13:00 - tutoring athletes
13:30 - lunch
14:00-17:30 - sleep
18:00-20:00 - mentoring athletes
20:15 - dinner, relax, etc.
22:15 - workout
23:00-02:00 - sleep

This is my schedule for most days of the week. While I'm at the labs I work on my thesis and job applications. Not much time for anything else.

I need a real job now, ok?

On the plus side, I've gotten so caught up in rushing from one job to another that I kind of forget to eat. My meals lately consist of heating a can of soup or cooking an egg or two. Both can be done quickly in the microwave, and both result in a meal that is not exactly satisfying, but it will keep you from dying. I'm just one more part-time job away from my goal weight...

First Post of the New Decade

For the first day of the semester, I awoke to snow, negative temperatures (-11) and windchill advisories. Wyoming expects you to wrest the new year from it's icy clutches, or die trying.

In a break with the traditions of this blog, I let the holidays pass with only a cursory mention this year. I just didn't feel the same ire towards the crass commercialism that I usually do. It seemed less pervasive this year, as if merchants knew that the dismal job market called for a smaller Christmas. More likely, I just wasn't paying as much attention to it as I usually do.

I did notice that just after 2011 had begun (on the 2nd) Valentines day was upon us already at our local godless corporate megastores. About a decade ago I worked in a two million square foot warehose that sorted and delivered goods to those stores, and I recall the odd feeling of temporal displacement that came from handling pallets full of candy hearts and pink teddy bears around Thanksgiving. It made you aware of how structured and bureaucratized corporations really are. I knew that if I was seeing these pallets of goods intended for February sale in November, then some purchasing agent in Arkansas had ordered them in October, some factory in China was probably cranking them out back in August, from materials that were purchased in June, based on designs that were finalized around May. The level of planning that goes into separating you from your money makes one feel small and disorganized.

But we are back at school now, and getting organized is the order of the day. I've got my calendars set up and my tasks for the next few months are planned out. I have a few New years resolutions that actually started before the 1st and so far they have been going well. Today is day 24 of Tacfit Warrior for me, and I haven't missed a workout. I've also been soda-free and virtually caffeine free since Christmas Day - I say "virtually" because there are trace amounts of caffeine in one the teas I drink now. I know, I know - I am a famous tea-hater, but I have actually found three herbals that I can stand.

Overall, it hasn't been all that hard to give up soda - I had already tapered down to just one a day, so quitting wasn't as painful as it would have been back when I was fueled by caffeine alone. As for the workouts, I really like them. They are all bodyweight, so the only equipment required is a mat and some floor space. There is a lot of yoga built into the program, so I'm working on flexibility, muscle tone, and cardio all at the same time. It is a 4x7 schedule with recovery days built in too, so I'm not feeling wiped out by it.

In other news, I think my proposal is finally going to get approved. I had just a few more changes to make to satisfy a committee member. Those are made, so I should be in business. Once this part is over, it should go quickly - much of it is already written. I've also had several job opportunities pop up in the last two weeks, and I have an interview for the most promising one later today. With any luck, I will actually have a chunk of money in my pocket come graduation day... I will be hooded, and be free to leave this frigid tundra if I wish.

So far the decade of the 20-teens is looking good.

I look good in stripes...

I have recently been involved in a discussion on Facebook about "hateful atheism," which has led to some interesting conversations with friends off-line as well. I tend to find the hardline arguments on both sides to be pretty absurd, so lately I've been taking on the role of "referee." In this capacity, I have noticed that the two sides make frequent use of non sequiturs ("Illegal Procedure, Theists - 5 yard penalty..."). Another favorite illegal argument is the ad hominem attack on the previous poster ("Unnecessary Roughness, Atheists - declined, the play stands.")

What is most fascinating to me, however, is how often they use the very same arguments. For example:

"I am saving them from X!"
In this case, X could be hell, or it could be irrationality. Both camps assert that their agenda is based in concern for the other. To both, I have to say, "no one believes you." The hardest fighters in each camp seem to be motivated mostly by dislike of the other side. I will admit that I find the "holier-than-thou" Christian pretty irritating, but no more so than the "more-logical-than-thou" atheist. Be honest folks - you don't like people who differ from you, because you are convinced your position is correct.

"I am sick of being pushed around by them!"
Both sides make some pretty ludicrous arguments about how oppressed they are. Christians; there is no war on Christmas. It's the largest, most universally observed holiday in the world - get over yourselves. Atheists; Christianity is not putting an end to science, reason, or logic. They are alive and well, and they have more impact on daily life now than they ever have - get over yourselves.

"But their ideology is dangerous!"
Yes - Religion has spawned wars and witch hunts and abuse... and science and reason continue to give us bigger and better ways to kill each other and destroy our health and that of the planet. Just about every ideology worthy of the title is guilty of something shitty, past or present. Let the ideology that is without a skeleton or 20 in its closet cast the first stone.

Now, if both sides of a given dispute are using the same arguments, it might indicate that they have other things in common. I think the commonality here is faith. No atheist wants to discuss it, but it is just as difficult to categorically prove that god doesn't exist as it is to prove that he does. Certainly, they can show that it is very unlikely that such a being exists, but improbability is not proof when you are dealing with a universe that is believed to be infinite (or a finite local universe within a larger megauniverse which is infinite in nature, if you're really into this sort of thing...). Just as theists take it on faith that there is a god, atheists have faith in his absence. To the atheist who argues that at least his belief is bolstered by logic and the scientific method, the theist will reply that his belief is based on his own experiences of the holy spirit or whatever he choses to call it. Regardless of the support, these are cases of belief, not certainty. Instead of these futile attempts to convince the other side, we could talk about ways that theists and atheists and everyone in between could coexist more smoothly. But then there would be no need for a ref - what fun is that?

So, this is Christmas...

Friday is taking the hustle and bustle of Christmahanakwanzaka in stride. She likes her new hollowdaze dress well enough, but she was really hoping for an elf costume... maybe next year.

Actually, the reason she looks so calm in this picture is that she is high as a kite on Tramadol. She just got spayed yesterday, and her pain meds are keeping her very mellow. She's got a few days left on this prescription while her sutures heal, and I think it's making the craziness of the season much easier for her to handle. I recommend it for everyone at the holidays. The Tramadol I mean, not the spaying...

I have taken no end of shit from others in Flockhall for buying this little outfit. The very same people, mind you, who wanted desperately to dress her up for Halloween. I argued that she didn't need a halloween costume because she wasn't going trick-r-treating (she can't reach the doorbells) but she IS going to Grandma's house for Christmas, so a new outfit was a must. At least I stopped myself from getting the fuzzy red boots...