unHoly Land Update

So, another joyful Chrismahanakwanzaka has passed, and I was lucky to spend it with family. There really is no place like home for the hollowdaze - the smell of burning credit cards as we open gifts, the faint sound of my arteries hardening as we enjoy family recipes, and the familiar taste of guilt as my mother tries to get me to go to midnight mass. I wouldn't have it any other way.

All too soon we have to rush back to our busy lives. I was prepared to leave the unHoly Land today, but biblical rains, flash flooding, high winds, and snow covered the majority of my route, so I settled in for another day of leftovers and Murder She Wrote. (My mother is an addict. She has seen every episode several times, but she seems unable to change the channel. Between the A&E Network's holiday marathon and the Biography Channel's six episodes per day I am developing a serious pathological hatred of Angela Lansbury.)

The meteorologists out here in Southern California are beside themselves. Four to six inches of rain in the L.A. basin is big news - like, 'plagues of Egypt' kind of big. Big enough, in fact, to break into regular programming. In the middle of a great episode of Lilo and Stitch, The Series (oh yeah, like you don't watch it...) a well-coifed young meat puppet named Bitsy appeared on the screen to introduce a live shot of cars sloshing through an intersection somewhere in Los Angeles. The on-the-scene voice-over was delivered by a breathless graduate of the Kent Brockman school of broadcasting.

"As you can see Bitsy, the water here is actually coming up OVER the hubcaps of the cars - incredible! One motorist had to be rescued when the lower door seal on her BMW failed, allowing water to rush into the floorboards, possibly ruining her Prada Neros. Law enforcement officials are warning against any unnecessary travel."

Naturally, no one at the local station had the common sense to realize that these reports might look foolish on a day when the lead story of every national news outlet is "Tsunamis kill 60,000 in Southeast Asia."

Clearly, I don't call it the unHoly Land for nothing.

I'll be on the road tomorrow, barring locusts, frogs, or rivers of blood. I will be taking a lengthy route, perhaps going as far south as Phoenix to avoid the bulk of the rain and snow. Ordinarily, I'd feel fine about soliciting prayers for my safe arival, but right now I'd prefer that you spread all your prayer juice on the survivors in Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, and everywhere else that got hit by the waves.

Should I fail to show up by New Years Eve, here are my instructions;

Since the "Cybernetic Afterlife Vessel" is not completed yet, the BCPs must begin the preparations for my funeral and the requisite 30 days of mourning. Something simple; a funeral pyre, surrounded by 40 dancing girls, maybe sacrifice a few white bulls... you know, the usual.

The Deacon Mark is to prepare and deliver a suitable eulogy.

The Artist Theolaureate is commissioned to design and build an impressive tomb for me. Something gothic and spooky...

The Scribe is to collect my works, both written and spoken, in a single volume. She is also to edit them so as to make me not look stupid.

She Who is All Things Good and Cute is immediately elevated from 'Inquisitor' to 'Sainted High Lord Inquisitor' (it's not easy being the platonic girlfriend of the dark pontiff).

Although it is up to the Flock to choose the new Black Pope, I consider the Apostle Ben to be the heir apparent.

Oh, I almost forgot - if Mother Tessa says something's a bad idea, you might want to listen to her.

I'm sure this is all unnecessary - what could possibly go wrong?

Road Trip

This just in:
His Sinfulness departs today for the annual trek to the unHoly Land (Orange County, California). Black Vatican aids say he will visit numerous shrines and unHoly sites, including the Sacred Kite Fields of Huntington Beach, the unHoly Hometown of Los Alamitos (where His Sinfulness first became aware of his infernal purpose) and the Citadel of Wretched Excess (known to unbelievers as South Coast Plaza Mall).

Stretch Shelby Cobra Limo - the Black Popemobile

As the Dark Pontiff will be visiting the Basilica of St. Vegas on Sunday, the Sermon will be delayed until Monday - or later. Although Las Vegas is not technically a Ministry Approved unHoly site, Linus stated, “you’ve got to admire the accomplishment. It just goes to show what simple desert folk can accomplish with hard work, mafia ties, and a deep-seated belief in prostitution and gambling.”

The Sunday Sermon will return to its regular schedule following the Hollowdaze. For those members of the Flock who feel lost without this weekly inspiration, His Sinfulness has the following suggestions; “This is an excellent opportunity to read through the archives and attempt to interpret the mysterious numerological code with which every third, fifth, and seventh paragraph is encrypted. Or, you could just get a life.”

Happy Hollowdaze!
Go in Peace.

The Black Vatican's official Webmonger has just discovered an interesting little sect...

*poke* *poke* *poke*

The White Robed Monks of St. Benedict are a monastic order who have an extremely liberal interpretation of what it means to be a monk. The webpage for the order says, "They may be married or single, in any walk of life — and yes, from divergent religious traditions. Yet, each finds a commonality in the preciousness and dignity of life. They sense that an effective way to insure this preciousness and dignity is to practice compassion."

So far, not too far removed from the Unitarians, right? Well, here is where it gets interesting...
"The Monks live their life according to an adapted version of the Rule of St. Benedict, the foundation stone of Western monasticism. Their Rule provides for a meditation practice known as zazen. They follow the advice of David: "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 45:10). The specific practice is that which the Soto Zen tradition teaches in the writings of Dogen. Dogen brought the Chinese Chan practice to Japan where it became Zen. Thus the Holy Rule blends Zen and Catholicism."

Zen Catholics - how cool is that? (And you all thought that Mark was just an aberration.)

How, you may ask, does Mother Church see this? Well, offical church pronouncements on small groups like this are hard to find, but I did come across the website of "Our Lady's Warriors", a self-described "portal for those Catholic laity who are 100% loyal to and obey the Holy See (the Pope) and the teaching authority of the Church (the Magisterium), and who wish to defend our Faith against the wolves in sheep's clothing - those better known as dissenters." A fun crowd, no doubt. I hear they throw a big kegger every summer. Not.

At any rate, they had this to say about the White Robes in their list of dissenters:
"A neo-Gnostic group which incorporates Zen Buddhism concepts. They minister to "the Catholic [who] has outgrown the co-dependent need to adhere to an institutional church: its petty, bureaucratic, authoritarian, dictatorial, patriarchal, unresponsive ways. He or she is no longer co-dependent on religion to tell him or her what to do and how to do it." Also embracing Jungian psychology and feminist theology ("sophia wisdom"), they will accept any faith (indifferentism): "Membership in any church is not a prerequisite to be a White Robed Monk." Yet they still claim: "The White Robed Monks of St. Benedict are neither Roman Catholic nor Old Catholic, Liberal Catholic nor Eastern Catholic. The White Robed Monks are just Catholic."

Preaching free thought, universal acceptance, feminism, and compassion? Heretics, clearly.

Of course, they left out the rest of the White Robes comments about their brand of Catholicism: "Catholic in the sense of neither Roman nor non-Roman, but Catholic as the historical Christ originally taught. Christ opened his arms to everyone and accepted everyone without question. He turned no one away."

The knee-jerk response of hardline Catholics aside, this gives me hope. In fact, it may just be sleep deprivation, but I'm downright inspired.

Brace yourselves - I'm putting on my preachin' boots and my new robes. I've got a hell of a sermon brewing - hand me my poking stick...


I've noticed that attendance at confession is way down lately. I think it has to do with that nasty rumor that's been going around about me being an informant for Santa - you know, that I tell him who among the Flock has been naughty and who's been really naughty and who's been really damn naughty...

Well, I want to set the record straight right now; Nick and I are just friends, with no professional connections. Anything you may have heard about VIP parties at the Workshop or nude hot tubbing with the elves is all nonsense. We really only see each other at big events, you know, red carpet stuff. There's hardly ever anytime to really sit down and talk shop, so you've no reason to worry that your dirty little secrets will leak from the confessional booth to the North Pole.

One of the many confessional booths in
the Ministry's headquarters, built to
the Dark Pontiff's specifications.
This one has a wet bar and satellite TV!

If, however, you still feel that you cannot trust your beloved Reverend with your confessions, the Ministry refers you to this service. There you can bare your soul in total anonymity, and be absolved in the vast unsleeping eyes of the internet. It's Pope Tested, Ministry Approved!

Number 1 on the charts

On the day I was born, the number one song in America was;

"This Diamond Ring" by

Gary Lewis and the Playboys.

What was the number 1 song in America on the day you were born?
Find out here. Isn't the internet a supreme waster of time?

Sunday Sermon
Crazy Wisdom

Ten Guides Along the Path

1) Why hope for perfect health? Perfect health leads only to greater greed. Treat illness as medicine, not disease.

2) Why long for a life free from hardship? Such a life leads only to haughtiness and self-pampering. Make worries and hardships a way of life.

3) Why hope for a lack of impediments in your study? Release is hiding right behind obstructions.

4) Why hope for a lack of temptations in your training? A lack of temptations will only soften your resolve. Treat temptations as friends who are helping you along the way.

5) Why hope for easy success? Easy Accomplishment leads only to increased rashness. Accomplish through difficulties.

6) Why hope to get your way with friends? Having friends give in to your wishes only leads to arrogance. Make long-term friends through compromise in your relationships.

7) Why expect people to follow your wishes or commands? This, too, leads to arrogance. Consider those who differ with you to be your character builders.

8) Why expect rewards for your kindnesses? This leads only to a scheming mind.

9) Why expect more of your life than you deserve? Exaggerated profit seeking leads only to foolishness. Become rich at heart with small amounts.

10) Why complain about vexations? This leads only to resentment and poison in the heart. Consider vexations as the first door on the path.

Go in Peace.

In our never-ending struggle to better serve the Faithful, the Ministry, in conjunction with the MBI* and the AIOBCP** is proud to present...

The Black Pope's Guide to Web Comics
(originally titled "Eleven Ways to Fail Your Finals")

Usually cute, often obscure, and frequently poignant.

Sluggy Freelance
Torg, Riff, Zoe, and a switchblade-wielding minilop. "Stay good Riff, stay good!"

Questionable Content
Indie love stories where no one gets laid. Faye lives with Marten, but he can't get anywhere with her. Dora likes Marten, but she can't get anywhere with him. Ellen likes Steve, but she's only 17, so no one should be getting anywhere with her. And Pintsize is like an iPod with legs - only he eats cake mix.

Diesel Sweeties
Pixelated robot love stories where everyone gets laid regularly.

Butternut Squash
The adventures of Ramon, Rob, Evan, and Vince - with special guest star Cola, sweet ginger pony nipple kitten...

Little Gamers
They're little. They play games and curse a lot. 'Nuff said.

Fabulous art, Windows bashing, and a new character that just sucked dry the power grid of the Eastern seaboard.

Largo and Piro are trapped in Tokyo, surrounded by hordes of mindless zombies and beautiful anime voice actresses. Poor Piro and Largo.

Oh My Gods!
It's Little Gamers meets Charmed - only funny. Nice, normal, queer pagans trying to deal with the Pope, Clowns for Christ, the Booby Vampire, and a Unitarian.

Surreal U
I'm a minor character in this one, so you know it's good.

This next strip is just plain fucked up. You've been warned - don't come crying to me. (These words coming from His Sinfullness, the Black Pope himself. Think hard about that before you click this link.)
Sexy Losers
A healthy mix of incest, necrophilia, coprophagia, face shots, and obsessive masturbation. Despite that, it still manages to be funny - sort of.

These comics are all Pope Tested, Ministry Approved.*** Be careful; some are seriously addictive - Sluggy is worse than sex and crack combined in a crunchy candy shell, while Sexy Losers is the proverbial train wreck that you just can't turn your web browser away from.


*The Ministry's Bureau of Inquisition
**The Ancient Infernal Order of Bisexual Cyber-Preistesses

*** The Ministry will not be held responsible for late papers, failed finals, or carpal tunnel caused by excessive archive surfing.

Sunday Sermon

The house smelled like Christmas - cinnamon and sugar, ham, candied yams, and melting marshmallows. An LP crackled and hissed on the ancient record player, filling the house with the voice of, naturally, Bing Crosby. The tree stood twinkling in the living room, and the place settings sparkled in the dining room, but all attention was on the newest member of the family.

Jeopardy was small and clumsy, but it was generally agreed that he was very lucky. His mother's death had left him an orphan so he was skinny and a bit behind the curve on size, but now that my mother had seen to his vet bills, he was reasonably healthy. His black and white coat was sleek, and free of the fleas and ticks that had plagued his earliest days. He was being passed from person to person, petted and fawned over, and generally being spoiled rotten.

"He's getting stronger everyday," someone said, "but the vet says we still have to watch him. He wouldn't have made it out there for much longer." We all agreed again how lucky he was.

The timer on the oven dinged, and our focus shifted to dinner. Whatever failings my family might have, they are not in the kitchen. My grandmother, my mother, my aunt, and my sister all cook quite well, so holiday dinners are usually an epic event at our house. Like many Irish folk, we obsess over food. We communicate with it. We say "I love you" or "Happy Birthday" or "It's good to have everyone home for the Holidays," by filling the table until it groans; that way, we don't have to say those awkward things face to face. My mother once said to me, "I'm sorry to hear you're getting a divorce" by way of a big plate of spaghetti, and I understood her completely.

Given that food means so much to us, it was only natural that no one was watching Jeopardy closely. It wasn't until we heard the ornaments crashing to the floor that we suspected anything.

We rushed into the living room, to find him hanging by his neck from a loop of the twinkling Christmas lights. He was flailing wildly, spinning the green wire into a tightening noose. We grabbed him and tried to untangle it, but his panic had made quite a knot. He stopped thrashing and lost consciousness as a knife was hurriedly fetched from the dinner table. He hung limply as my mother carefully slipped the blade between his neck and the wire. Just as she began to pull the blade up and away from his throat, it occurred to me that the lights were still plugged in...

That was about 17 years ago - he was indeed, quite lucky. Jeopardy not only recovered, but he overcame his rough start in life to become a mighty giant of a cat, both in size and in capacity for love. I'll admit, he wasn't quite right (in the head) after his 'shocking' hypoxic first Christmas, but he was possibly the sweetest cat I have ever known.

My mother had to put Jeopardy down yesterday; he had a fast-growing tumor in his jaw. He had been a part of the family for over half my sister's life. Although he didn't seem to be in pain, it had reached the point that he wasn't really able to eat anymore. The vet came to the house and gave him a lethal injection while Mom held him wrapped in his favorite towel.

Our animal companions are great teachers. Emotionally honest, comfortable in their identities, and definitely living in the moment. I'm convinced that my American Eskimo, Tobi, stepped up the ladder during reincarnation - I can't really be so sure of that for myself.

I've been somewhat disgusted of late. The greed, the selfishness, the whining, the brutality, the laziness - and that's just me; don't even get me started bitching about other people. I'm not going to insult you all now with some lame-ass moralizing about trying to be the people our pets think we are - I'd just like to be half the people they are. Over the years, my pets have been some of the finest human beings I've known.

A cat never mopes about feeling that she's not a very good cat. Dog's don't have midlife crises. My parrot isn't worried about renovating the cage to keep up with the Joneses. They simply are. They love us when we are there, and they miss us when we aren't. They listen when no one else will. They tolerate our foul moods patiently (albeit sometimes by going under the bed, but who's to say that's not the best method?). They forgive, and if they ever take revenge it is usually limited to the destruction/disappearance of a sock or something similar. Pretty mild considering that we usually cut out their sexy parts...

At the holidays I always see the dog and cat stockings. This year I have even seen them for birds - complete with four little toes - filled with honey sticks and chewies. But we know those gifts are for our benefit, really. If you asked your pets what they really wanted for Christmas, they wouldn't ask for toys and treats. They would just ask for more time with you. Give them that gift. They have something great to give you in return.

See you 'round, Jeopardy.

Go in Peace.

Questions of Faith, Index

For those who aren't familiar with the Ministry's on-going Questions of Faith series, see the post that started it all. For the rest of you who may wish to revisit the collective wisdom of the Flock, the posts are listed below. This index will be updated as needed, and this post is permanently linked in the "Sacred Texts" on the right sidebar. For the sake of posterity, the hard copies will be lovingly cared for by the Ministry's bisexual cyber-priesteses, and kept in a mayonaise jar behind the books in this alcove

in the Black Pope's Study.

Part I, The Path of the Druids by Zeus
Part II, Catholicism with a small c by Mark
Part II.V, Mark's Catholicism continued
Part III, The Baha'i Faith by Rachel
Part IV, A more catechismal Catholicism, by Tessa
Part V, Curanderismo, by Jim
Part VI, The Latter Day Saints (LDS for short), by Clay
Part VI.V, LDS continued
Part VII, Wicca, by Mandy
Part VIII, Buddhism, by the Reverend
Part IX, Islam, as seen by Wahab
Part IX.V, Wahab's Islam continued
Part X, Another view of Islam, by Ayesha
Part XI, Germanic Reconstructionist Paganism, by Christin

Unfortunately, the wonderful questions and comments on most of these posts have expired, but I'm sure that the original posters would still be happy to answer any questions directed to them.

If you would like to add your faith to our little survey of world religions, check out the original list of questions here. The Ministry welcomes all faiths! If you are a Jew, Hindu, Jain, Seventh Day Adventist, Jehovah's Witness, Quaker, Mennonite, Peyotist, Metheist, Satanist - or anything else - please drop me an Email at the address listed in my profile.

Go in Peace.

Questions of Faith, part XI

Perfectly timed to coincide with my current case of writer's block, Christin has given us her take on Paganism.

Freya, riding Hildisvini the boar.

What faith do you espouse?

I just call myself a Pagan or a Heathen. I'm a Germanic Reconstructionist, but I don't want to lay claim to any specific name, like Asatru or Odinism, because I'm just getting started in this faith so I don't feel I have the right to yet. I also feel that some specific groups (like Asatru) focus a bit too much on the Scandinavian traditions and not enough on the German ones. My ancestors were mostly German, so those are the Gods I want to honor. Also, with Germanic/Norse faiths you have to be careful that the specific group you join or lay claim to doesn't have racist ties. That really sucks. Those assclowns ruin everything.

Who was the founder of your faith? When did he/she live?

The Gods are the founders of my faith. They live now!

What are the sacred texts of your faith?

We don't have specific sacred texts, per se. The myths, sagas, and legends are sacred to us. Old oral tradition and all that. A lot of them got written down in the Prose Eddas and the Poetic Eddas by a guy named Snorri Sturluson in 13th Century Iceland. However, even though Sturluson did a pretty good job, that was after Iceland had already been Christianized, so it's a challenge to sift out the old meanings from Christian influences. There are other sources, but the Eddas are the major ones. Any stories about our Gods or heros are inspiration to us. We also look to modern archaeology to give us information about the way our ancestors lived and thought, but you have to be careful with that too, what with the modernized Christian influences on it.

What is the central teaching of your faith?

Basically, honor the Gods, the earth and each other! There are nine major virtues that are promoted: Fidelity, Truth, Honor, Courage, Hospitality, Discipline, Self-Reliance, Industriousness, and Perseverance. Family and community are important, but so are diversity and idividuality. The challenge is to find the right balance. Also, we're hard polytheists, which means we believe all of our Gods and Goddesses are individuals, not facets of "The God" and "The Goddess," or of "The All."

How does your faith define sin? What are the major sins, and how is one absolved?

"Sin" is such a troublesome word. It's really heavy and guilty. Our "sins" are not always so heavy. They would just basically be ignoring one of the major virtues or dishonoring the Gods. To be "absolved" isn't that hard. Learn from your mistakes and try not to repeat them, and if you've hurt someone try to make amends if you can. You don't have to be perfect, but you're expected to at least try not to be a complete failure. Dishonoring the Gods is a more serious matter. Fixing that is between you and the God you pissed off. And good luck trying to make amends with some of them, they can be a bit hostile sometimes.

Roughly how many adherents does your faith have?

No one knows. It's hard to be a Pagan of any kind in today's world, especially in America with our current religio-political climate. There are a lot of people who are still deeply in the broom-closet, lots of people who (like me) are out to some people and not others. My family doesn't (and will never) know and I only recently came out to my boss (she's awesome. Her sister is Wiccan).
[Reverend's Note: I hope your family doesn't stumble upon the Ministry...]

What does your faith teach about the afterlife? Is there heaven, and how do you get there?

There are several places you can go after death. People who die in battle (or even by edged instruments in other situations) go to Valhalla and party with some of the Gods. Others go to Hel (not to be confused with the Christian Hell). It's calm and peaceful there; the horrific descriptions of it in the Eddas are a Christian addition. Some also believe that evil people and oathbreakers to to Nastrand or Niflhel, which is a pretty bleak place. Other people can end up with various other Gods(Valhalla is not the only residence of Gods) if the God has a special attachment to that person.

What are the practices of your faith? (Daily, weekly, etc.)

Well, the nine virtues are a daily practice. There are four main holidays on the quarters (the equinoxes and the solstices). A lot of people also celebrate four other holidays around the cross quarters (about half way between one main holiday and the next). You can also do rituals and celebrations for a variety of reasons at any time. Stuff like marriages, births, or deaths can have their own religious rites and sometimes people just want to connect with their Gods or they need help with something, so they'll have a ritual for that.

How is your faith organized? Are there priests and bishops and
archbishops (oh my!)?

Paganism in general is pretty disorganized. Organizing Pagans has been likened to herding cats. A lot of people (like myself) practice alone. However, a lot of people also organize into groups (Hearths or Kindreds). They have a priest and a priestess. People can dedicate themselves to a particular God or Goddess and become a priest or priestess that way.

Are there regular services available to you locally? If so, where?

None that I'm aware of.

How did you come to be a believer?

I was raised Christian, but I'd been questioning it since I was about 6. In Sunday School I asked, if Adam and Eve were the first people, then where did Cain and Abel's wives come from. In response, my teacher snapped at me not to question the word of God or I'd go to Hell. So, of course, I began questioning constantly. By the time I was a teenager, I was calling myself an atheist, but what I really meant was that I was most decidedly not a Christian. Then, when I was on an internet message board when I was about 16 and the discussion turned to religion. Because of so many different people there it really hit me that Christianity was not the only option. I knew that before, of course, but it was only then that I realized the option of other religions was open to me specifically. I started looking into other religions and neo-Paganism and Wicca really appealed to my strong feminist and environmentalist convictions. When I went away to college at 17, I really started researching it and calling myself a Pagan. Eventually, I realized that I was a hard polytheist (I believed each God and Goddess were seperate beings, not a facet of the Great God or Great Goddess), so that ruled out Wicca and a lot of neo-Pagan stuff. I wanted to worship the Gods of my ancestors, and at the time I believed my ancestors were Celts. So I started looking into Celtic Reconstructionism, but I always felt an affinity with the Germanic Gods. Then, this summer I found out that most of my ancestors were, in fact, German and that my grandmother had hidden this my entire life because she never quite got over WWII. So now, I'm studying Germanic Reconstructionism. For a lot of reasons that would take forever to tell, I found my patron Goddess, Freya, fairly recently. She rocks.
[Reverend's Note: It is remarkably hard to find a good jpeg of Freya...]

What do you wish others knew about your faith?

We're not Satan worshippers! We're also not racists and we don't want to sacrifice your pets or your kids. While it's true that in the past animal sacrifice was a part of religious practice, that's not necessarily true anymore. A lot of us (myself included) believe that the entire point of a sacrifice is to offer something of value to the Gods. In an agricultural society, animal sacrifice makes sense. Now, however, that's not really the case. I think the most important sacrifice we can make now is time or money. Or offer up a computer or cell phone or something. However, there are some who stick to the old practices, but it's always done humanely. A lot more humanely than commercial slaughterhouses, that's for damn sure.

Well, there are my answers! I hope they help.



Feel free to direct questions to the comments window. If you have a more private question for Christin you can send it to the Email address listed in my profile and I'll forward it along.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy the spread...
(That's so bad it's good.)

May the Black Pope's most special holiday blessing be upon each member of the Flock on this day of gratitude. I am grateful for each and every one of you. Go where ever you go in safety, give thanks, eat way too much, and fall asleep in front of the TV with your pants unbuttoned. Amen.

I decided to give you all one more thing to be grateful for by not posting the really bad "stuffing" joke I made up to go with Miss Turkey here...

Sunday Sermon
Unseen Forces

As the semester draws to a close, many members of the Flock begin to feel the pressure of research papers, lab reports, and other assignments piling up. You begin to believe it will never be done... you'll fail the class, thus ruining your GPA and with it, any hope of getting into a decent grad school... you'll go on to some third-tier degree mill, get a meaningless PhD, and fifteen years from now you'll be unmarried, sharing a frozen dinner with your cats as you try to pay off your $110,000 worth of student loans by teaching Art History in some backwater liberal arts college in the Midwest!

The Ministry feels your pain. We realize that it's not always your fault - there may be other forces at work in your failures... Dark Forces.

Could it be that your research paper is not done because Foy-Verekod, The Bloody Hunter has placed a bounty upon your soul? Perhaps your hard drive has been possessed by Ka-Tidzawh, The Blind Forbidden Duke with a Thousand Young!

These demons and many others can be yours with the new
Evil Deity Generator! Why blame your poor time-managements skills, or even the demands placed upon you by family, friends, and your nearly non-existent love life for your poor academic performance? With the Evil Deity Generator you can craft beautiful, unverifiable metaphysical excuses for your Profs.

It wasn't the dog that ate your homework - it was eaten by Teexyaiclt, The Goat of the Final Universe!

You don't have to fabricate an ailment - call it a curse from Utzriel, The Depraved Maw of the Darkness with a Thousand Voices!

This collection includes old favorites like, Nooypug, The Bloody Consumer in the Unholy Gateway, Tnuxyaal, The King of the Depraved Vortex, and Muuxhitl, The Howling Forbidden Sultanna of the Underworld with a Thousand Children!

All kidding aside, we are all going to be under pressure the next few weeks. Be good to each other, and to yourselves. Budget your time wisely, get plenty of sleep, eat regularly, and try to take time out each day to just sit and breathe. These moments may seem miserable now, but one day we will look back fondly on them. We will long for the friends we had here, and even the hours spent in the library or the lab will seem golden. Hold the day close, and give each its full measure.

And remember; Taestiel, The Ravening Eye of the Woods is watching you...

Go in Peace.

As requested by some of the Flock, today we are going to discuss
Playing with Swords...

I want to make one thing very clear on this topic. For the Reverend, playing with swords will never be the light-hearted thing that playing with boomerangs is. I have a deep respect for the traditions and etiquette of the Western Martial Arts, and I will expect others to do the same. When you fence, you are learning how to handle a weapon that was meant to take another man's life. Regardless of your reasons for fencing (recreation, fitness, coordination, camaraderie, etc.), its original intent deserves to be treated with some seriousness.

Now that the philosophical disclaimer is out of the way, let's look at weapon styles. These practice swords are probably the best soft sword design out there at the moment (see the link called "Padded Contact Weapon Design). These can be used in the absence of armor or masks, if we play with common sense and restraint. Since we have neither (ahem) I am going to suggest that we at least wear eye protection.

These are a significant step up from the padded weapons that were available a few years ago. They supposedly have a much better "feel" than previous foamies, and are much closer to the weight of an actual sword. Supposedly, a guy can make one in about 2 hours, for about $12.

If you are not a do-it-yourself type guy, there is always this option. Yes, those are foam. They are pricey, but pretty. I have no knowledge regarding their usability. My guess is that they are very light... which can be good if you have no control.

There are several other companies out there making boffers as well. Here are a few...
Tyger Knight Smithy
Edhellen Armoury (They offer group discounts...)
Sei Do Kai

At the next level of contact in Western swordplay, there is a fork in the road. You can go the fencing route, and shift over to a late period style of combat in which the thrust is king - it is very challenging and a great form of exercise, but it bears little resemblance to any kind of real swordplay. I was authorized to fence with all weapon forms in the SCA, but truthfully, I find it rather boring. I have always preferred having the ability to slash.

The other fork in the road leads to stick and waster fencing. Wasters are wooden swords, usually made of Hickory, or a similar hardwood. They can be quite realistic, both in weight and, unfortunately, injuring power. (This is not to be confused with the type of swords that we used in SCA heavy weapons combat, which are made of rattan. They actually are more like the batons used in Behourd tourneys of the 14th and 15th centuries. They too can maim and kill, and full armor is required.)

There are several companies making wasters as well. Here are a few...
Purpleheart Armoury, Raven Studios, and the cleverly named Wooden Weapons.

These require heavy masks and padded gloves at the very least, and quite a bit of "touch." In other words, until I see that the folks who want to play with swords can do so with a modicum of control and accuracy, I'm not willing to expose my limbs to their flailing. After a decade of SCA heavy weapons combat at a fairly high level, I am quite aware of the ouchies that wooden swords can dish out. I still limp when snow is on the way...

So - it is now up to the Flock to do some homework. I suggest that you all look at the foamies at the top of this post as a starting point. I'd love to use those as a stepping off point, to work the group up to something like this.

Honor Super Omnia.

Bathroom graffitti

Recently, a dialog of sorts has been brewing in the bathroom nearest my work station. The topics are varied...

"Democrats can suck my dick - I like my guns."
"How are you going to buy more guns without a job you ignorant fuck?"
"I've never had a hard time finding a job, so you can eat shit asshole."
"Yeah, but not all of us suck dick as a source of income."

"Democrates are bad for America"
"Was Enron good for America? And what the hell is a 'Democrate'? Fucking stupid Republican."

Race Relations
"Kill niggers"
"Give the niggers guns - they will kill themselves."
This one was later modified to read:
"Kill bigots"
"Give the redneck Republicans guns - they will kill people in a foreign country for oil."

"Dan (name deleted) received a blumpkin from a shemale right here."
"That was a shemale?"
"That wasn't a shemale - it was your mom."
"His mom sure has a big dick."

This piece was written in black sharpie...
"Had I heaven's embroidered clouds
enwrought with the gold and silver light
the blue the dim the dark
the night the light the half-light
I would spread the cloths beneath your feet.
But I being poor have only my dreams.
I have spread my dreams beneath your feet
Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams."
The response was in ballpoint...
"Poetry is gay"

I'm sure that none of the contributors there would express these opinions publicly, but in the privacy of the stall these men are bigots and homophobes and rednecks in a way that they could never be in their daily lives. Perhaps it's all role play - it is a bathroom wall after all; you're supposed to be offensive and childish - but I fear that these sentiments carry a seed of true feeling for these writers.

Despite the disgusting attitudes being delivered there, I am kind of thankful for this sick little community. Surrounded by my liberal friends, it is easy to slip into complacency. I begin to think that things are going well, that tolerance is on the rise, that intelligent discourse is replacing slurs and hate speech. I have only to walk into that stall to find evidence to the contrary.

Progress has been made, but there is much to do still.

Sunday Sermon

It's 7:50 A.M. on a Sunday. The weather page says that it is about 24 degrees outside, with a windchill of 17, so it is too cold for the Flock to go do what passes for church with us - the throwing of boomerangs. We could throw, but the result would be broken 'rangs, jammed/broken fingers, and probably sick parishioners - not worth it. I'm calling around to let folks know that we're going to stay in, and one of the group says, "You're working on the Sunday Sermon, right?"

"Um, yeah. Right now."

Actually, I hadn't even chosen a subject, but she drew my attention to the proper topic...

The weather will not cooperate from now on. We might have a few unseasonably warm Sundays that will allow us to get in some throwing, but it will be April or May before we have warm enough mornings to go consistently again. Shouldn't be a big deal, really - like a great many hobbies, boomeranging has a distinct season - but this has become more than just a hobby for some of us. It is a community time, and I already feel its absence keenly. Despite all of our joking, it has in fact become like going to church for some of us, especially those of us who spent lots of childhood Sundays in a pew. We have spoken a bit about other activities that the Flock could engage in on Sundays, but I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't really matter, as long as we do something.

I could be wrong. Perhaps the Flock would prefer that we take the winter off. I'm putting it to you all - do we want to try to find a warm, indoor space large enough to accomodate us all? Do we want to choose a new activity? Do we want to just sleep in on Sunday?

While we debate this; stay warm, be good to each other and to yourselves.

Go in peace.

Swimming Lessons

I've always thought that I didn't want to linger. I wanted to just wink out, squeezed between the wetted cosmic thumb and forefinger like a guttering candle. I wanted to close my eyes and not wake up here again. To be, then not to be - that was the proposition. I didn't care much about the body at that point; always figured I'd just be cremated and strewn somewhere, but I've been wondering of late if the soul doesn't need a bit of time to pack its shaving kit, and get its affairs in order for the trip. I imagine it takes time to disengage, to let the pains of the physical world fall away - some of us are very attached to our pain. Some of us are our pain.

At some point, though, I figure you must feel ready to take the plunge; you become acclimated to death as it were, and slipping into the river of souls is welcome, like a warm bath after a life long day of shoveling snow. Even though most have an entire adulthood to get ready for it, few of us ever really do much preparing - no spiritual swimming lessons, so to speak - so I figure there is fear, and denial, and doubt - and then acceptance. By then you're just hanging onto the edge, already up to your neck in it, and that kind of swimming comes back to you. You let go, push off, and swim away from this life and the body you used up living it, and find your way home. The pain of this life recedes, and the snow is all shovelled.

mish·mash, n. [Cf. G. mish-mash, fr. mischen to mix.] A collection or mixture of unrelated things; a hodgepodge.

From Craig's List.

Straight male seeks Bush supporter for fair, physical fight
Reply to: anon-47785163@craigslist.org
Date: Wed Nov 03 19:11:50 2004
"I would like to fight a Bush supporter to vent my anger. If you are one, and have a fiery streek, please contact me so we can meet and physically fight. I would like to beat the shit out of you."

Biggest Working Boom

Tony Butz believes he has it. The one pictured here is actually the 6th largest working boom in the world; I'm currently waiting for a picture from him of the biggest one. His response is supposed to include the exact dimensions of the monster - so that I can build one that will beat it. They aren't made of aircraft plywood like most of our 'rangs - they are solid hardwood. He throws these bricks with two hands, hammer style. To count as "working" a megaboom has to go out from the thrower at least 20 meters, and then return somewhere in the accuracy circles. They don't have to be caught (but I'm sure I'll try to catch it anyway - what's one more concussion?).

The Power of Prayer
(from Clifton's Encyclopedia of Heresies and Heretics)

One member of the Neo-Platonist school, Iamblichus, held that one could approach the One, the highest level of Deity, through theurgy - sacramental magical rites - as well as through pure contemplation. Although contemplation was considered a more desirable form of worship, he suggested that the philosopher could use theurgy to conjure spirits or divine manifestations to confirm his intellectual findings. He opposed the skepticism of Porphyry (a big-time heretic in his own right) regarding ceremonial religion, saying that it was appropriate and beneficial for the majority of the population, who are not capable of living the purely philosophical life. His own experiements in theurgy were apparently fairly impressive; his disciples said that while praying he was at times elevated 10 cubits (roughly 16 feet) above the ground.

Sunday Sermon
Sometimes, a guy just wants to brag about his Flock

Firstly, our own little unbeliever, NerdyGirl, spoke this weekend at an academic conference in Buffalo, New York - not bad for an undergrad. She was doing her part to spread the good news of the Ministry (and you'll just have to ask her about how).

We've also had some physical successes on the boomerang field - and I'm not just talking about Squid falling down less, Mark going several weeks without offering a 'rang up to the trees, or Zeus not smiting anyone of late. I'm referring to our three-foot-long Club Boomerang (so named because it is big enough to use as a club) has been thrown and caught by three of the Sunday Morning 'rang crew. Ancient tradition dictates that once a warrior has tamed the beast, their name and the date of their herculean deed is inscribed on the back.

In addition to my own bad self, both Zeus and Clay have joined this elite cadre of big 'rang ninjas.

I'm sure that there are numerous other great achievements among the Flock, and I'd love to share them with you, but attendance at confession has been a bit sparse of late... so I'll leave it to each of you to share with everyone. If you have recently done a great thing - if you know of someone else who has recently done a great thing - if you know of a great thing about to happen - post it here!

We want it all; births, christenings, confirmations, deaths(?), debuts, ship launches, ground breakings; the works. Blow your own horn, or blow someone elses! Ok, that came out badly...

Go in Peace.

The Annual Pagan Winter Festival approaches, and I was asked by my maternal unit what I wanted the creepy old voyeur in red pajamas ("he sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake" [shudder]) to leave under the tree for me.

I thought that maybe one of those nifty USB drives that people keep losing in my computer lab might be cool...

USB Sushi

This same company brought us the Devil Duckie drive

and the Love Duckie drive as well.

Perhaps I could store my data on something more utilitarian...

or maybe something rugged and techno-chic.

After much Googling, I decided to just embrace the toddler within...

Distraught over Ohio's provisional ballots, Petey takes his own life. (Click picture to enlarge)

Election Overview

I've been doing a lot of blog surfing these past two days. The following is a summary of what I found out there in the blogiverse...

Rant rant rant Dubya! Bitch rant moan, rant rant Right Wing rant piss moan. Selfish, greedy rant rant corporate interests bitch rant, lying sack of shit gripe rant weapons of mass destruction!! Piss moan bitch rant Haliburton, bitch bitch War on Terror rant rant deficit. Fucking rant rant Imperialist moan bitch stem cell research, and rant bitch moan Supreme Court bitch bitch rant reproductive rights rant rant fucking conservatives rant bitch moan same sex unions. Rant rant fucking mandate my ass bitch piss rant...

It goes on like this for a few more pages, but you get the gist. The general consensus is...

I know what you're thinking; "As a faithful member of the Flock, what should I know about the Black Pope's position on this issue?"

Glad you asked.

After all-night meetings at the Black Vatican with his Press Secretary, the Department of Spinnuendo, representatives of the Inquisition, and numerous infernal "consultants", a spokesman for the office of His Sinfulness has issued the following statement:

The Flock may make their displeasure known in any number of ways, but the Godpope is partial to placing a small, burning bag of dogshit on the steps of the Whitehouse, ringing the doorbell, then hiding in the bushes. "Sometimes traditional means are the best," the Black Pontiff told reporters at his daily press briefing this morning.

Sources close to the Godpope, however, hint that he might have other tactics in mind as well. Early this evening a rumor emerged regarding the Black Pope's plan to give one of the President's twin daughters a "special blessing." An anonymous Black Vatican staffer quoted the Dark Primate as saying, "The hot one - her name is Barbara, right? Ok, get her on the phone, and stock the Popemobile with condoms and a case of Lone Star - I have a date tonight."

To help the Flock recover from election day, we are going to play...

What's on your clipboard?

Just go to the comments, right click and hit paste. Feel free to explain your cutting and pasting, but it's fine (and sometimes quite a bit more fun) if you don't.

For example, my clipboard currently holds this:

"with love, hugs, and kim chee"

(I know, it's lame... but I can't handle pondering the next four years anymore. Not today, at least.)

Election Day

Did you vote? If you did, you are a hero. The power to vote is a great responsibility.
Make sure to turn up the sound...

Sunday Sermon

Please answer the following four questions:
(Make a reasonable attempt to answer before clicking on the "Correct Answer" link for each question)
1. How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator?
Correct Answer

2. How do you put an elephant into a refrigerator?
Correct Answer

3. The Lion King is hosting an animal conference. All the
animals attend except one. Which animal does not attend?
Correct Answer

4. There is a river you must cross but it is inhabited by crocodiles. How do you manage it?
Correct Answer

The simplest answers are often the best. By the time most of us reach adulhood we have accepted the idea that complexity is a necessary evil. Even the 14,000 year-old technology of the returning boomerangs that the Flock enjoys each Sunday is now explained and demysitfied by equations calculating lift, drag, and gyroscopic precession.

The Aborigine who first made a hunting kylie come back didn't know about Calculus. He just noticed one day that a larger hook on his hunting stick made it curve a bit in flight. He noticed that a bit of sanding in one spot made it fly higher, and somewhere else made it fly lower. He tried different things until he got one to come around. Simply put, he paid attention.

It's something we don't really know how to do today. Zeus and I went to the field last week armed with sheets of instructions on how to tune our MTAs, but the best way was to simply pay attention to what was happening. I thought about making a list of tuning instructions for others in the Flock who might want to get MTAs for themselves, but then I realized it would look like this:

1) Throw boomerang.
2) Pay Attention to the boomerang.
3) Twist boomerang.
Repeat steps 1-3 until flight is satisfactory.

So, this is an invitation to everyone to spend some time this week paying attention, just looking for the simplest answer. To EVERYthing.

Go in Peace.

P.S. Check out the Blessed Blogs - there are several new ones...

What's Your Number?

The Kinsey Scale was a major breakthrough in the 1940s - today we're just going to use it as a party game...

I know it's nosey and politically incorrect, but I don't care. I'm calling on all members of the Flock (if you're reading this, you're a member): put a number to your kink*.

The Scale
0 - exclusively heterosexual
1 - predominantly heterosexual, incidentally homosexual
2 - predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual
3 - equally heterosexual and homosexual
4 - predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual
5 - predominantly homosexual, incidentally heterosexual
6 - exclusively homosexual

Remember that it's not just actual sexual activites that count - fantasies, dreams, thoughts, and emotional feelings are to be included in this assessment. Commonly, those who identify themselves as heterosexual score anywhere between 0 and 3, while those who consider themselves homosexuals may score between 3 and 6. Decimals are allowed.

Gremlin here rates herself as a 1.5, mostly because she likes to lick herself and fantasize that it's Lassie doing it...

Bill likes tinkering with motors and he says he's seriously into leather - he's a 4.7 and currently single.

Now it's your turn - don't be a chicken! No matter how you rate yourself, we'll still love you. In fact, some of us might love you even more, if you get my drift...

I'll go first: I'm a 1 (I'm not a zero primarily because of a deep-seated love of show tunes and Jim's insistence on command performances of my patented "Predator growl." Oh yeah - and that one drunken evening in 1983...)

*For amusement purposes only. Please, no wagering.

Questions of Faith, Part X

Here to give us a slightly different look at Islam is Ayesha. As always, feel free to post your questions here in the comments section.

What faith do you espouse?
I am of the religion known as Islam.

Who was the founder of your faith? When did he/she live?
The founder of our faith is Prophet Muhammed and he was born in 572 CE (I believe).

What are the sacred texts of your faith?>
The Koran.

What is the central teaching of your faith?>
The Koran is what we go by and also Hadiths (stories of the prophet).

How does your faith define sin? What are the major sins?
We don't take sins very lightly. A sin is a really bad thing that you have done. The major sins are having sex before marriage, drinking, eating pork or any pork product, and killing a person intentionally. Usually when you make the pilgrimage to Mecca for Hajj or for Umra (the mini-Hajj), by the time you are done, you are just like a new born baby so any sin that you did in the past will be forgiven. Now, if you do the Umra and/or Hajj and then you do the same sins over and over again, then that means that you are going to be sentenced to hell.

Roughly how many adherents does your faith have?
Worldwide, I believe that there are 1.2 billion Muslims and we are still growing.

What does your faith teach about the afterlife? Is there heaven, and how do you get there?>
We do have an afterlife. Basically, we believe that our stay on earth is only temporary and the afterlife is for eternity. There is heaven and hell. After you die, you are sent up to God where he will question the things that you have done and if your good outweighs the bad, you go to heaven. If your bad outweigh the good, you go to hell. Heaven is paradise where you are transformed to your youth and you enjoy things like orange trees and date trees and milk rivers, whereas hell is fire and demons and the devil and bears and lions and snakes.

What are the practices of your faith? (Daily, weekly, etc.)
Practices of our faith is praying 5 times a day and also washing and cleansing yourself before each prayer, fasting in the month of Ramadan, reciting that there is no god but Allah and Muhammed is his messenger (the most important thing), paying charity, doing the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in your lifetime. Also reading the Koran is a major practice.

How is your faith organized? Are there priests and bishops and archbishops (oh my!)?>
We don't have priests but we have people called Imams who lead us in prayer. They are very knowledgable about Islam and its practices.

Are there regular services available to you locally? If so, where?>
Yes, at the Islamic Center of Laramie located at the corner of 7th and Garfield.

How did you come to be a believer?>
By birth. My parents are Muslims and they taught me everything.

What do you wish others knew about your faith?
That Islam is a religion of peace and whatever is going on around the world, Muslims are very peaceful people. What happened on September 11th was an act of terrorism by a Muslim group but that doesn't mean that all Muslims are terrorists.


In other news:
Down below there is an update on those Lutino Macaws.

Sunday Sermon
Taming the Golem

I was planning on posting another "Questions of Faith" installment on Islam, but the saga of Zeus and his MTA boomerang continues...

This morning, the Olympian and I met at the 'rang field an hour before the Flock was due to arrive to learn how to throw our new Golem II MTAs. Mine had never been thrown, but the stick Zeus was throwing was the very same deadly implement that nearly took the NerdyGirl from us last week. My list of private nicknames for it included, "Head Hunter," "The Reaper," and "Brain Seeker." Naturally, I was a bit leery of being on the field when this exotic monster was being thrown, but Zeus and I agreed that we had to learn how to tune and throw these things someday.

Plywood MTAs

For those who are not familiar with obscure 'rang slang, MTA stands for "maximum time aloft." These sticks are made very thin, and tuned to garner maximum float time. The event consists of each competitor making 5 throws which are timed from release to catch - if you don't catch, you get a zero for that throw. The score for each player is the total of their best 3 times, and the longest cumulative time wins. The flight of a standard boomerang might last 5-10 seconds, while well-tuned MTAs frequently stay up there for 20-30 seconds. You have time to consider the flight, and walk - not run - to where it is coming down.

Tuning is the arcane science of tweaking a boomerang to get the desired flight characteristics. For MTAs, tuning consists mainly of bending and twisting the arms, while using important-sounding terms like "positive dihedral," and "increased angle of attack" which we only vaguely grasp.

When they are tuned well, they are a thing of beauty; they seem very alive, like some kind of bird looking for a place to land. When they are out of tune, or thrown incorrectly, or the wind shifts, or you don't hold your tongue just right - they come screaming down in a death spiral, swooping wildly back and forth or packing into the ground with a scary thud.

Despite it being quite cold we were getting some good flights. We would each throw, then discuss the next little bit of mangling that we thought our 'rangs needed to stay aloft just a bit longer. Just before the arrival of the rest of the Flock, I was having some good results with "negative dihedral on the tip of the dingle arm" - which basically means bending the short arm downward. Zeus decided to try that with the Head Hunter. He carefully applied downward pressure to the short arm, forcing the thin plywood into a slightly different shape, as we had been doing all morning. Maybe it was the chilly air, or the numerous hard landings that the Reaper had taken earlier that morning - or perhaps it was simply karma - but the tip of the dingle arm snapped off in the Olympian's hand.

No fanfare, no amazingly high throw that breaks itself against the cold earth - just a little snap and a quiet, "Damn." The NerdyGirl wasn't even there to witness the demise of her nemesis.

The break was clean and thus repairable, so the Brain Seeker will fly again, but it will no doubt, be a changed beast. The distribution of weight will be different, the profile of the blade forever slightly changed. I like to think that it will be tamed by it's brush with death - a kinder, gentler, MTA. Perhaps we'll rename it the "Second Chance," "Take Two," or "Resurrection."

Long time readers know that this is the part of the Sermon where I draw some not-so-clever parallel between this anecdote and the spiritual lesson hinted at in the title.

Not today.

This time, you all get to tell me the moral. What does the parable of the MTA mean?

Go in Peace.

Strange Genetic Wonders

Over the centuries, man has selectively bred many animals. Usually, this breeding is undertaken to increase the productivity, tractability, utility, or heartiness of the species. Rarely is it undertaken solely to increase diversity.

Not so with pet birds. In the past few decades, parrot coloration has exploded. Breakthroughs in the breeding of Budgies, Lovebirds, and Cockatiels have yielded literally hundreds of color variations in each of these species. When you are next at PetSmart or PetCo, take a look at the cage filled with Budgies and realize that each member of that rainbow of animated skittles was bred from the plain old green parakeet.

Until fairly recently, this color explosion has been limited to the smallest and fastest breeding species. The larger birds are harder to breed, lay smaller clutches, require much more space, and cost a great deal more per specimen. In the largest species, like Macaws and Cockatoos, sexual maturity may not happen until the bird is six to ten years of age, and even then pairs are sometimes incompatible for unknown reasons. In short, it is quite an investment in time and money to try to create new color strains.

The Macaws that most people are familiar with are like those above - the Blue and Gold and the Greenwing are among the most commonly available in the pet industry (along with the Scarlet). It has become increasingly common to put mixed pairs like the one above together to get hybrid Macaws, but these are not truly new color strains - they are more like mixed-breed dogs, in that they usually retain something of the physical characteristics of each parent. They may or may not breed true (which means their offspring may or may not look like them). Many bird breeders frown on hybridization, as most of these species are dwindling in the wild. Some day, captive birds may be the only examples of these incredible species that remain, and when/if that day arrives we will need pure bloodlines to preserve them.

Below, however, we have a legitimate color strain mutation.

These three-month-old baby Macaws are lutino mutations. The lutino was one of the first mutations to appear in Cockatiels, and it is believed to be the key to many other color possibilitites. The presence of lutino chicks indicates that the male of this breeding pair is a heterozygous "split" to lutino - meaning that the cock carries the sex-linked gene for lutino in the recessive state.

The other good news here is that, as shown above, they keep this coloring in their adult plummage!

Soon, we may be seeing other colors of Macaws. I personally want one that is plaid...

I've since discovered that these birds were born in Texas. There was one female, but she died during a surgery to repair a broken leg. There are now 5 males, and they are all paired with normal color females at this point (the picture above is one such pair). They were originally hatched back in 2000, so they probably won't begin breeding for a while yet (B&Gs mature at around 8-10 years of age), but they have a lengthy reproductive lifespan (up until they are 35 or more) so it is possible that these birds could be the foundation of a new Lutino breeding line!

What did YOU do at work today?

smoked salmon makes a very poor lube
I would imagine so.
dogs can barf at will
Why do you know this?
but they don't like to
bears can barf at will too
and they don't seem to mind it as much
antelope can't look at you with both eyes at the same time
without a mirror
but how often are there mirrors on the prairie?
(they make the Buffalo feel fat)
Did you know that they are actually bison, not buffalo?
Seriously. Need To Lay Off The Crack.
true buffaloes are old world
they get pretty cocky about it too
Yes, actually I learned that in the 3rd grade when we did the mock Oregon trail.
talking smack about how they are "OG" and all that gangsta shit...
Original Gangsta
they form gangs, go around roughing up deer and stuff
shaking them down for their lunch money
making them go to other watering holes for drinks
you know, it's the age old story
you've got a bunch of young males
with no jobs and no hope of finding jobs
just hanging around, producing babies
males producing babies? Young males producing babies? I think you are mistaken my friend.
You know what I mean - they sharpen up their horns, buy some bling bling on Home Shopping Network
next thing you know, they're out there fucking your local farmer's cows
HSN still exists?
creating little mulatto beefaloes with no daddy bull to look up to
tragic, really
dude, you should blog this.

Bigger is Better

The Reverend's new 9.45 meter boomerang being delivered to the International Headquarters of the Ministry

I had hoped this would be the end of the whole size issue, but the Aussies just won't leave well enough alone...

Exact dimensions are unknown, but the guesstimate is around 10 meters. *Edit - just got an Email from Boyd at Jedda Boomerangs that reads, "The Boomerang out the front is 10.5 m wide..."

It has become clear that I need to have the boys down in R&D whip up something truly huge... something more in scale with the Imperial Galactic Throne of the GodPope. Since I'll only be able to throw it in space where there is no atmosphere, I'm leaning toward a kylie (non-returning hunting stick/warclub/percussion instrument/thingy) like these...

All kidding aside, I am thinking of getting one non-returning stick just to round out my collection. Anybody else want to go out and break targets with me?

Sunday Sermon
You Are the Target

The new stick had climbed high, and now was coming down fast. It was in an edge down attitude, which is the worst fear of every boomeranger - this is the kind of landing that tends to break ‘rangs. I have known the feeling of watching a treasured toy crumple on impact - boomerangs, kites, etc. - so I held my breath as if it were one of my own. As it neared the ground, it suddenly pulled up - as unlikely a recovery as any I’ve ever seen in my experience with flying stuff - and leveled off, converting all of that downward momentum into horizontal speed. I used to guess the speed of oncoming traffic for a living, and I’d guess that this ‘rang was doing at least 40mph as it whistled across the bulls eye, about four feet and ten inches off the ground, impossible to catch even if the thrower (Zeus) had been standing in its path.

I know that it was four feet and ten inches off the ground because NerdyGirl the Unbeliever is five feet and one half inch tall, and it hit her squarely in the forehead. There was a crisp, awful slapping sound, followed by a stunned silence.

Aside from a bit of redness and soreness she is ok, but I didn't think that was going to be the case in the seconds after the hit. It was a thin MTA (Golem II), and it hit her so hard it brought tears to my eyes. I was sure there would be blood and a trip to the emergency room, but she had only a red line to indicate where it had hit. The ‘rang survived the impact as well, which I found rather surprising considering the sound it made on impact. Good sport that she is, NG even laughed about it shortly after it happened.

We all get caught off guard sometimes. New boomerang throwers are sometimes told, “remember - you are the target.” Even with that advice, it’s easy to let your concentration slip, lose the ‘rang in the sky, and get popped by it as it comes home.

That's not what happened here. This wasn’t NG’s fault. She was standing in the same area we all stand in while we await our turn to throw. She wasn’t goofing off either - she was paying attention to the ‘rang, as we all were. She even told me that she watched it all the way in.

Nor is Zeus to blame. He let us know he was throwing a new stick for the first time, and he threw with due precautions, from the usual place.

To the scientist, it was a simple case of many variables combining to give an unlikely, but ultimately explainable outcome. To the spiritual man, it had all the makings of an act of God. Since physics is boring, I'll talk about the latter...

Often, through no fault of your own, some crappy thing happens to you or someone you love. Things stun us, frighten us, or sneak up and bite us, and there seems precious little we can do about it. Is the divine just a big prick who laughs about this kind of stuff?

Perhaps - but that needn't keep you from learning something when the shit hits the fan. The lessons here might be simple ones about where to stand and how to adjust for the wind in the future, but there are deeper levels as well - like how to accept physical pain as gracefully as possible, or how to give aid and express concern without smothering the recipient. Whatever the situation, we can take something useful from it.

I hope we all take something useful from this incident as well. Perhaps when the swelling goes down, NG will tell us what she learned...

L to R: Zeus, The Reverend, Squid, NerdyGirl (pre-impact), The Pink Princess

Go in Peace (and remember to duck).

Miraculous Google...

Is there anything that Google can't find for you?

May the Internet be with you.
And also with you.
Let us surf.

I did some very random surfing tonight. I typed in "kangaroos & wallabies" and started clicking on pages. With no further typing, I found everything from Denise Richards covered in chocolate
to Paris Hilton getting busy with Mario, and a lot in between.

Some of the highlights include these instructional photos on the proper use of jewelry:

and this solution for world hunger.

Eventually however, I stumbled onto a movie gossip site:
-Drew Barrymore may be making a remake of Barbarella...
-Charlize Theron is playing the title role in a live-action version of Aeon Flux.
-And once Arnold is done with the governor's mansion, he will be making a remake of the classic killer robot flick, Westworld.

Praised be the Internet.
The Internet's name be praised.


It's been a while since we've had a visit with The Devil's Dictionary. Here are a few entries selected for their applicability to our current academic, spiritual, and political situations...

Something acted upon by magnetism.
Something acting upon a magnet.
The two definitions immediately foregoing are condensed from the works of one thousand eminent scientists, who have illuminated the subject with a great white light, to the inexpressible advancement of human knowledge.

A dead Quaker.

A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made by God for man -- who has no gills.

The doctrine, or belief, that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything right that is wrong. It is held with greatest tenacity by those most accustomed to the mischance of falling into adversity, and is most acceptably expounded with the grin that apes a smile. Being a blind faith, it is inaccessible to the light of disproof -- an intellectual disorder, yielding to no treatment but death. It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious.

A sufficient number of members of a deliberative body to have their own way and their own way of having it. In the United States Senate a quorum consists of the chairman of the Committee on Finance and a messenger from the White House; in the House of Representatives, of the Speaker and the Devil.

VOTE, n.
The instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.

A wolf that was once, or is sometimes, a man. All werewolves are of evil disposition, having assumed a bestial form to gratify a beastial appetite, but some, transformed by sorcery, are as humane as is consistent with an acquired taste for human flesh.
Some Bavarian peasants having caught a wolf one evening, tied it to a post by the tail and went to bed. The next morning nothing was there! Greatly perplexed, they consulted the local priest, who told them that their captive was undoubtedly a werewolf and had resumed its human form during the night. "The next time that you take a wolf," the good man said, "see that you chain it by the leg, and in the morning you will find there a Lutheran."

(1) Any ugly and repulsive old woman, in a wicked league with the devil. (2) A beautiful and attractive young woman, in wickedness a league beyond the devil.

YEAR, n.
A period of three hundred and sixty-five disappointments.

Ever feel like this?

Sunday Sermon

The Wicked Bible

Back in 1631, when the bible was truly THE book in England, the king (Charles I) ordered 1000 copies from the printhouse of one, Robert Barker. Now Bob was a busy man, so he cut some corners, the way businessmen do, and he let some of the proofreading fall to his employees... who were either careless, or had a wicked sense of humor.

The result was this little gem...

I want one. To wave in the faces of absolutists. A book - ANY book - is a product of man's efforts. If you believe it contains the word of God, that's great, but don't pretend that man didn't mess with it as he wrote it down, or translated it, or typeset it.

So the message of today's sermon is; enjoy your holy book, whatever it might be, but be smart about it. Learn from it, be guided by its examples, but don't allow it to replace your common sense.

Go in Peace.

Questions of Faith, Part IX.V

Wahab's reposnes to our questions were longer than the comments window would allow, so they are posted here. To make it easier to follow, I've reposted the questions here as well.

Question #1 came frome ZEUS
First, thank you for your words. I find this discussion truly facinating.
Have you ever personally been able to make the Hajj? Is the journey or the destination more important?

I had the opportunity to perform Hajj, twice. The journey is more significant than the destination. It is not only a spiritual journey but a discovery journey for brotherhood, fellowship and love. You come back as Christians say, "Born Again" in the real sense of the word. God promises his faithful that once you perform the Hajj you are cleansed from your sins and it is your duty to try to stay clean again from sins and strive to remainn in that Hajj conscience as you live your daily life.

#2, by Linus
Hi Wahab,
Are you a Sunni? If so, which Maddhab do you follow, and why? (Thus far, all the Muslims I have known were Hanafis...)

I am Sunni but I don't adhere to any particular Madhab especially while living in the West. Muslim countries have populations that have tendency to follow a certain Madhab depending where they are located geographically. For example, most of North Africa is Maliki but in recent years with people more open to other Muslim countries and traveling is more easily practiced between countries, people may find themselves attracted to another Madhab or parts of the philosophy and practices, and therefore may pick and choose what suit them best. The most important thing to remember is that these Madahib, in general, have no conflict in the matter of worship, Sharia, Fiqh, Hadiths, etc... The belief and practice structures are very much the same and all based on the five pillars of Islam, Quran, Sunna and the Prophet's Hadiths.

Salaam and best regards.

Feel free to continue adding comments or questions. Also, tune in this Sunday for "The Wicked Bible" - demonstrators are surrounding the International Headquarters of the Ministry as we speak, protesting the heretical content of this sermon (even though I haven't actually written it yet...).

Just when you thought it was safe to return to the Ministry for some mindless entertainment, we bring you...

Questions of Faith, Part IX

Our guest blogger, Wahab, is a lifelong Muslim from Algeria. He works as an instructor at Regis University, where he teaches Islamic history (as well as Statistics and Calculus). As usual, feel free to post your questions in the comments section.

1) What faith do you espouse?
The faith I espouse is Islam.

2)Who was the founder of your faith? When did he/she live?
The founder was Mohamed who came following Jesus approximately 600 years later.

3)What are the sacred texts of your faith?
The main sacred book of Islam is called the Quran, which is also spelled Koran. Then, there is a collection of the sayings of the prophet Mohamed called the “Hadith."

4)What is the central teaching of your faith?
The central teaching of Islam is basically Abrahamic. It teaches us to believe in one Omnipotent, Almighty God. The God of Abraham: the creator of the universe. To believe in the resurrection or judgment day when we all have to respond to our deeds once faced with God. At that time we will enjoin in the companionship of the Almighty God and his beloved prophets and messengers and followers.

5)How does your faith define sin? What are the major sins, and how is one absolved?
A sin is any action or behavior that goes contrary to the teaching of God. The most unforgivable sin is to associate another deity with God. No one/nothing is worthy of worshipping except God. In this instance, the Trinity is a major sin in Islam as it associates a "three-wholeness" with God. Islam speaks of the oneness of God rather than the unity of God. A person is absolved by supplication and asking for forgiveness from God. Only God can grant such forgiveness, without any outside intervention, human or otherwise (no priesthood).

6)Roughly how many adherents does your faith have?
There are approximately 1.3 billion people adhering to Islam worldwide.

7)What does your faith teach about the afterlife? Is there heaven, and how do you get there?
Islam teaches that from dust we come and to dust we shall return and be resurrected on judgment day when all of us shall account for our good and bad deeds. We will join either the company of God in heaven or the company of Satan in the everlasting hell. The bottom line is that it's by the grace of God that we will succeed, not only through our good deeds in this life. It is a check and balance phenomenon where we’re all supposed to do good deeds and avoid mischief and malfeasance.

8)What are the practices of your faith? (Daily, weekly, etc.)
There are basically 5 pillars in Islam that must be reflected on the Muslim person on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis. Muslims are supposed to observe five daily prayers to regulate their daily lives and keep them constantly in touch with God while keeping Satan at bay. They are encouraged to share their wealth and what God has bestowed on them with the poor and needy. In addition, the wealthy in the community are ordered to share a certain percentage of their wealth on a yearly basis, similar to a tax levy. Fasting during the month of Ramadan from sunrise to sunset brings the community wholesomely together during good and bad times. It encourages fellowship and strengthens the bonding between members of the family and community at large. Charity is actively practiced during this holy period of fasting. Finally, the Hajj or pilgrimage to the holy land of Mecca and Medina is prescribed for the wealthy & healthy of the community.

9)How is your faith organized? Are there priests and bishops and archbishops oh my!)?
Islam is practiced by its followers but sponsored by the learned ones in the community. It does not follow a hierarchy of clerics or priests. Each person, mature male or female, is responsible for acquiring the knowledge to be a good practicing Muslim. There are scholars at the disposition of the faithful in order to help them learn the ropes for good practicing and understanding of Islam. Each faithful is wholly responsible for his or her actions. The Quran is the source of knowledge and understanding God’s nature and laws. The teachings of the prophet Mohamed are there during this journey to complement the search for knowledge.

10)Are there regular services available to you locally? If so, where?
There are mosques and gathering locations for Muslim to worship on a regular basis and on Friday afternoon community services in particular; Metro-Denver, Boulder, Golden, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins. (editor's note: In Laramie, we have the Islamic Center of Laramie, 612 E. Garfield.)

11) How did you come to be a believer?
I was born and raised Muslim but surrounded by people of the Jewish and Christian faith during my early childhood. During my adult life I reserved some time to learn more about Judaism and Christian and contemplated other faiths as well. I participated with many different interfaith groups and committees. This strengthened my belief in Islam and the teachings of the prophet Mohamed.

12)What do you wish others knew about your faith?
I wish other people would be more open to learning about Islam and discover its simplicity, rationality, and reasonableness.

If you have question that you wish to address to Wahab privately, feel free to send them to the Email address listed in my profile and I'll forward them along to him.