What Ever Happened to Visions of Sugar Plum Fairies?

Nerdy: I had a dream...
HSBP: About what?
Nerdy: I was fighting Judy Dench and Julie Andrews.
HSBP: ...umm, 'kay...
Nerdy: I was using alcohol to fight them... I doused them with it and was going to set them on fire, but the matches had gotten wet, so I was just hitting them with the whiskey bottles.
I had a brother, and we had to go rescue him...
HSBP: You were fighting Judy Dench and Julie Andrews?
Nerdy: Mean Judy Dench and Julie Andrews - they were mean. And the part of my mother was played by Brigitte Nielsen...

Merry Christmas!

I tried to write a coherent post for Christmas morning, but the rush of memories seems to defy organization. I have settled for a random listing, as they come to me...

Sausage balls for breakfast - a mixture of country sausage, cheese, and bisquick. Slightly disgusting to me now, but a delicious memory none the less.

Midnight mass - I was an altar boy, and being chosen to serve at a high holy mass was like being called up to the big leagues. Which made serving at midnight mass something akin to playing in the world series...

The Advent Wreath - it lived on the dining room table, and each evening we would light the appropriate candles before saying grace. I was a believer then, in the way children believe; no theology, no holy wars, no sectarianism. To this day, the smell of freshly extinguished candles feels like religion to me.

Christmas in California - after opening presents with family, my buddies and I would pull on our wetsuits and go to the beach. The surfing was never particularly great; it was just the idea that we almost had the beach to ourselves. I first began to associate god and nature on those chilly outings.

Christmas in North Carolina - a classic white Christmas. I was 4 or 5 I think - my sister hadn't been born, and I still believed in Santa. After midnight mass, we came home through ordinary North Carolina winter weather; freezing rain. I checked to see that my stocking was firmly attached to the mantle - with a hammer and nails I found in the basement. Adorable as this sounds, it was not a hit with my mother...
When I awoke, I rushed to the living room to find my grandmother already sitting in her rocker by the fire, sipping her coffee. She had opened the drapes on the picture window to view the fresh blanket of snow covering our front yard. I don't really recall any of the presents, but I clearly remember the dirty little snowman (there wasn't really much snow) we made in the front yard, and the snowcream (like ice cream, but made with snow) we had for desert with our Christmas dinner.

And today, Christmas in Laramie - the ground is covered with new snow, it's still snowing, and it's 17 degrees outside. Nerdy and Squid watching "The Muppet Family Christmas" on the couch, our cell phones ringing every few minutes with Merry Christmas texts, the parrots chattering in the next room, and me, sitting in the rocker composing this post. We opened the oddly inappropriate gifts our well-meaning parents sent along and ate cinnamon rolls. This is the family we made, not the families that made us - no doubt I'll write about these memories in years to come.

I hope you are making wonderful memories today as well - Merry Christmas to all!

It's not like you need a reason, but...

Do you ever wish you could really make a difference in the world? Do you want to positively effect the energy field of our planet, and decrease global tensions? Do you wish there was something you could do to effect change, without having to leave the comfort of your own home?

You're probably thinking, "well of course I do, Your Sinfulness - but what can little ol' me do?"

You can take matters into your own hands (snicker) and join in the 2nd Annual Global Orgasm Day! Yes, Global O day was such a success in 2006 that it's come again (giggle), and this time they are getting more scientific. It is sychronized for the solstice, so 06:08 GMT on December 22nd is the time to shoot (hee hee) for. That works out to Friday the 21st, at 11:08pm for those in Black Vatican City - click here to check the exact time in your area. Since it is crucial that we are simultaneous (yeah, like that ever happens...) with this, I suggest that you plan it out a bit. Maybe take yourself out for dinner, light some candles, draw a bubble bath... but I digress.

Let's all pull together (snork) and make this world a better, albeit stickier, place!

Thanks to Maximus for bringing this important observance to my attention...

Last Minute Gift Ideas

These rare collectibles make the perfect stocking stuffer for the Star Wars dork on your list!

Post-Detonation Planet Alderaan

Relive the tragic destruction of Alderaan with this box of planetary debris...

Moisture Farm Playset

The destruction of the Lars Family homestead was a turning point for Luke - let your little Padawan relive the massacre over and over (burning corpses sold seperately).

Complete your Moisture Farm Playset with these lifelike smoldering corpses of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru (not that you can tell them apart...)

To complete your Sith-Lord-to-be's education about death...

...it's that lovable furry little Ewok that gets gunned down in Return of the Jedi! Rendered here in lifelike detail with no visible wounds, just like in the film.

Last, but certainly not least, The Force Action(?) Figure!

Oh, it's in there... I mean, it's everywhere, right?

The truly hardcore Star Wars fans out there have already seen these no doubt, but I stumbled upon them only a few days ago on McMorran.Org. A link to it would probably have sufficed, but since the author there bitched about his bandwidth problems and I'm a content whore, I stole the post pretty much wholesale.

Almost In

So... I've been accepted, sort of. Barring anything going stupid, I will be spending a lot of time in the building to the right, Ross Hall (home of the Sociology Department).

My undergrad adviser has told me that I'm in. The grad adviser has said, "there shouldn't be any problem" with my admission.... but I don't have that letter in my hand yet.

The letter is important; it, and a few keystrokes that change my status at the Registrar's office are required to unlock my federal funding. Until I have that letter, there is still the chance that I will be denied due to some damn loophole. Not a good feeling.

Despite that, I have enrolled in the graduate classes that my advisor suggested for me. I think the people who write catalog entries for grad classes go out of their way to make the class sound as terrifying and time consuming as possible. Observe:

SOC 4500. Sociology of Organizations.
Considers questions of organizational structure, decision-making, work situation and organizational environment across various types of industrial settings and cultures. Emphasizes transactions between organizations and their various environments and effects of these transactions for program implementation, as well as understanding of organizational effectiveness in terms of rational, institutional and societal perspectives.

I'm a good student. When I am actually interested in the topic, I am one of the best students around. In spite of this, I'm a little worried about my classes for next semester. It's a pleasant sort of anxiety, accompanied by a sense of finally getting back in the groove. I never really adapted to being just a working person.

Studying is really my vocation; I just work to fund the studying. Actually, financial aid funds the studying, so I guess I really just work for pizza money...

Chinlone Revisited

A while back I came across a beautiful sport/art called Chinlone. Some of you may remember this as the subject of the least visited post on this blog in years... so naturally, I'm doing a follow-up post.

Above you see a modern Chinlone ball. Rather than rattan it's made of plastic, which makes it pretty much immune to the changes in humidity which are the death of the traditional balls. I ordered it when I saw the video, and it finally arrived last weekend. I've given it a kick or two, and some of my old hacky-sack skills have resurfaced, but it's really tough to control. My respect for the Chinlone players in Mystic Ball the movie has increased immensely.

Along with the Chinlone ball, I also ordered a kinja (jianzi in Chinese). As you can see, it's basically a big shuttlecock for your feet. Although I still look like I'm having some sort of seizure when I play with it, I am able to keep it in the air somewhat better than the Chinlone ball. It makes a unique clacking sound with each kick that is kind of hypnotic.

Both of these toys are a killer workout. Thirty minutes of intensely kicking either will leave you drenched in sweat, and it's far more fun than the elliptical machine could ever be. It also stretches and strengthens the legs as you try to keep it under control. I can't imagine how strenuous the competitive (over a net) version of this game would be. In addition, to all these health benefits the kinja also offers an unexpected bonus...

All this time I thought ninjas had to train at obscure locations in Asia. Had I known, I would have bought one of these a long time ago...

Ministry Trivia

Ok, pop quiz...
Aside from the obvious awesomeness of the service featured therein, what was special about Monday's post, Research Aid?

Ten extra-credit points for the the first correct answer.

Research Aid

This will probably be of no interest to the non-students in my readership, but I feel compelled to pass it on anyway...
If you are called upon to write academic papers, you know that collecting the data in one place can be a pain. If you were in school before the coming of teh intertubez, you will remember trying to organize stacks of index cards and piles of xerox copies so you could write your draft. You might also remember counting the lines of your rough draft so you could get your footnotes to fit on the bottom of the page, or formatting your paper through cutting and pasting - with actual scissors and paste.

I remember. I remember transcribing quotations by hand directly from books onto index cards along with the citation information. Imagine my surprise when I found a service that will insert the quote into your document for you along with parenthetical or footnote style citation, keep track of all sources used, and then create the bibliography for you.

Questia does that, and a lot more. It is an online library with more than 67,000+ books, and 1,500,000+ journal, magazine, and newspaper articles and approximately 7000 reference bibliographies on frequently researched topics. You can organize the books you need into a virtual bookshelf for easy reference, and you can create folders for multiple projects. The books are reproduced with the original pagination so you can cite them accurately, and the software records every citation as you go, so you can create a bibliography instantly, in MLA, APA, Turabian, Chicago, or ASA style.

I just used it to write a paper on Freud's view of religion as presented in his book, The Future of an Illusion. While reading the text in their library, you simply highlight the section you wish to quote and select the style of citation you need - Questia downloads it to your Word document in the proper format. Can't remember where your quote is? The entire text is searchable.

The only catch is that it is not a free service. It's $19.95 a month - or $44.95 per quarter, or $99.95 per year (there is "lifetime" membership of $399.95, too). I estimate that it shaved about two hours off the writing time for this last paper, so it is absolutely worth $20 a month to me.

There's also a referral system; you can get months of service for free by getting your friends to sign up. They put your username down as the referrer (mine is LinusF if you are so inclined) and Questia credits your account.

Ok, my nerdy gushing about this is over now. Not my best post ever, but at least it's not about cheese...

Cheeses from Hell

Spinnenkäse - cheese made by spiders

Well, mites actually. The cheese mite (Tyroglyphus casei), to be precise. Quite the industrious little fellows, these cheese mites. The village of Würchwitz, Germany, even has this statue to honor them.
You see, Würchwitz is the home of Spinnenkäse, which is more accurately called Milbenkäse (mite cheese). They take a big wedge of Quark (kind of like cream cheese), add caraway and salt, then put it in a box infested with cheese mites. The mites work on the cheese - and by "work" I mean "excrete" and by "on the cheese" I mean, um... "on the cheese" - and in three months the rind turns a reddish brown. At this stage the cheese is ready for consumption, but more serious afficianados allow the mites to "work" for up to a year, at which point the rind turns black. The cheese is consumed along with the live mites in the rind. The flavor is said to be like a bitter Harzer.

Why didn't I think of that? Spiders and cheese are such an obvious combination...

Casu Marzu - cheese that requires eye protection...

If I'm ever in Sardinia, I want to try this stuff. Casu Marzu literally means "rotten cheese," but the locals call it "maggot cheese." Apparently, introducing the larvae of the cheese fly (Piophila casei) to an otherwise perfectly fine wheel of Pecorino creates, according to a Wall Street Journal reporter, "a viscous, pungent goo that burns the tongue and can affect other parts of the body". It's usually eaten on pane carasau, the local traditional flatbread. The catch is that the larvae are still alive - in fact, the lack of live larvae is held to indicate that the rotting process has gone too far and the cheese is no longer safe [sic] to eat. These larvae are energetic little maggots, and they are reported to be able to jump up to six inches - hence the need for eye protection.

Makes dryer cheese sound wholesome and delicious....

Grad School - update

My application is in, my transcripts and GRE scores have been received, and my fee is paid - all that remains now is for three professors to submit letters of recommendation. Since I'm applying for Spring admission, I should know very soon.

Oddly, when I went to talk to my profs, two of them tried to talk me out of getting a degree in Sociology. One said to me, "Sociology of Religion? Do you EVER want to have a job?!" The other suggested that I could pursue an MFA in ceramics with equal likelihood of gainful employment.

Depressing? Somewhat, but relative poverty seems to suit me. This blog is certainly more interesting when I am not up to my eyeballs in a real job. One of my profs suggested that I have become a member of the clerisy (learned persons as a class) and he welcomed me aboard warmly. I think I have always been an ersatz member, but soon I could have the actual credentials to be considered one of the literati. It doesn't pay well, but all that smugness sure helps keep you warm at night...

Your Personal Prophecy

Although I clearly suffer from a messianic complex, I have never considered myself particularly prophetic. Although I sometimes predict outcomes, it is always based on an observation of human nature rather than hearing a divine message. I would be remiss as your internet spiritual leader if I didn't do something to address this lack. To that end, I direct you to Bishop Jordan.

After the cool jazz intro ends, click on "Free Prophecies Are Back! Click here to get yours!" If you enter some personal info (so they can put you on their mailing list) the Bishop will ask the Holy Spirit about you, and then tell you what it said. It's like in elementary school when you ask your friend to ask that cute boy if he likes you...

Naturally, I signed up for a free prophecy immediately, and I'll let you know how it goes when I receive it. The existence of "free" prophecies leads me to believe that there are probably paid prophecies as well. I'll keep you posted on that front as it develops.

I love stuff like this; job security for folks like me, and fun for the whole Flock.

Stealing from WNG (Again)

Thanks for the blog fodder, WNG!
I have answered quizzes like this before. If you go back and find one, do not compare my answers. I claim no consistency - Emerson was right.

1.What is your idea of perfect happiness?
It's fleeting; different every minute.

2.What is your greatest fear?
Loneliness. Not the same as being alone, which I like from time to time.

3.Which living person do you most admire?
Sadly, I don't have a ready answer.

4.What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

5.What is the trait you most deplore in others?

6.What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
It depends - are we talking about the four virtues of the classical era? Or the seven Christian virtues? Or maybe the Buddha's Eightfold Path?
Ok, I'm just being pedantic. We all know the one I couldn't care less for is chastity.

7.On what occasion do you lie?
As a rule, when I am trying to spare myself or someone else pain. Which is not logical, because the truth comes out eventually and then the pain is the same if not greater.

8.What do you dislike most about your appearance?
Thinning on top sucks. Especially when you have been known in the past for having long, fabulous, Celtic Warlord hair...

9.What is your greatest regret?
There are so many. Click here for a start...

10.What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Ask me at the end.

11.Which talent would you most like to have?
I wish I could dance. Can't do it - too self-conscious.

12. What is your current state of mind?
Pensive. Just came from a documentary on Nietzsche.

13. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I'd be less prone to rash acts; I'd be more mindful.

14. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I hope it is yet to come.

15. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
I'd like to come back as a bird. I think self-powered flight would be awesome.

16. What is your most treasured possession?
My wits. When they are gone, kill me in my sleep, please.

17. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Knowing too much. (Foreshadowing a future blog post.)

18. Where would you like to live?
A warm coast.

19. What is your most marked characteristic.
I'm obnoxious.

20. Who are your favorite writers?
Fitzgerald, Tolkien, Herbert, Heinlein, Bradbury, Asimov, Rilke, HHDL, Aitken, Kapleau, Gibran, Gracian, and so many more.

21. Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Lancelot du Lac. The "ill-made knight" and I are cut from the same cloth.

22. Who are your heroes in real life?
Activists. Even those I don't agree with; at least they have the conviction to do something.

23. What is it that you most dislike?
Avarice. Greed. Selfishness.

24. What is your motto?
Honor super omnia.

25. Favorite journey?
Any trip that ends at the ocean.

26. What do you value most in your friends?
Intelligence, patience, compassion - in whatever order I need them that day.

27. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
"the bottom line is..."
"the fact of the matter is..."
"are we out of apple butter?"

28. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
The Buddha. Of course, his story is everyone's story in some ways, so I guess it makes sense that I can identify with him.

29. What is your greatest extravagance?
It's a toss-up; eating out, having parrots as pets, or my knives.

30. If you could change one thing about your family what would it be?
I'd actually like them... but that's not changing them, that's changing me, isn't it?

31. What is your favorite occupation?
Professional puppet wrangler.
Victoria's Secret strap adjuster.
Webcomic Rockstar.
I would also like to be paid to point and laugh at rodeo cowboys when the bulls kick the shit out of them. That would be awesome...

32. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Gentleness of spirit. Also - no gag reflex.

33. What is the quality you most like in a man?
It's tempting to say "no gag reflex" to this one as well, just to get Jim and Maximus all hawt... but I have to go with self-sufficiency.

34. How would you like to die.
I wouldn't LIKE to die... but I suppose something heroic would be nice. Maybe while saving a box of kittens or freeing all the calves in a veal production facility. Naturally, once it happens I plan to explore the galaxy in my CAV.

35. If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be?
See 15 above.

Best Supervillain Ever

From time to time every man feels a bit... inadequate. It's not like any of your partners has ever said anything about size (well, not to your face), but you wish it was just a bit bigger. In my case, it's usually caused by watching pr0n - where do they find those guys? More importantly, how do those guys buy pants?! Normally when you see an appendage that large on someone, it has an elbow... but I digress.

Each of us has our own coping mechanisms. For some it's cars and trucks; for others it might be big screen TVs, stereo equipment, power tools, firearms - I'm sure someone might even argue that blogging is a way of compensating for a perceived lack elsewhere. (Don't say it. Just don't, ok?)

Raksha recently brought it to my attention that back in the 60s, DC comics explored this issue about as openly as any comic could. In Doom Patrol #70, they featured the ultimate in penile extensions...

Click here to see how his very brief (like 4 pages) career is brought to an end by a MTF Tranny superhero who melts his "apparatus" while wearing a frog mask.

Seriously. I'm not making this up.

(The second to last frame gave me nightmares.)

My Friends Know Me All Too Well

This was in my Email recently...

Thanks, Max...

Mystic Ball

Since most of my American readers all pigged out yesterday, I thought I'd post something very physical to motivate us. A while back I stumbled on this documentary called "Mystic Ball."

This is Chinlone, the national pastime of Myanmar (Burma). Chinlone is played with a ball made of woven rattan strips (the word chinlone means "cane ball" in Burmese). The video shows both the team style, called wein kat or "circle kick," and the solo style (performed only by women) called tapandaing. Although the Burmese consider chinlone a competitive sport, it is more of a cooperative performance, with the emphasis being on the beauty and entertainment value of the play, as opposed to winning or losing. Each team of six consists of 5 supporters who pass the ball back to the center soloist, all done in time with music.

Dedicated chinlone players experience an intensely focused state of mind, similar to that achieved in meditation, which they refer to as jhana. The link between Buddhism and chinlone is well established, and for centuries the major Buddhist festivals in Myanmar have been celebrated with chinlone - sometimes by thousands of teams.

Chinlone is similar to football games played around the world. Takraw in Thailand, sepak raga in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, sipa in the Philippines, kator in Laos and da cau in Vietnam are all similar, and probably have a common ancestor lost to history now; possibly the ancient Chinese game of cuju, which FIFA recognizes as the oldest form of soccer, or the similar Japanese game known as kemari.

For those more inclined to keep score, there is a competitive version of the game played over a net, called sepak takraw in Malaysia. It is considered one of the most physically demanding games on the planet, and in this video you can see why (no sound on this one).

Chinlone is also related to the family of sports played by kicking a shuttlecock, know as jianzi in China and Taiwan, and jegichagi in Korea.

There is some evidence to suggest that a variation of these games traveled across the Bering Straits and influenced Native Americans, who also played a variety of games keeping a ball up with the feet. These games are thought to be the origin of footbag, also known as hacky sack. Hacky sack has gone to some insane complexity in the last two decades. Observe:

I don't know about you, but I feel really fat, lazy, and uncoordinated now...

Sunday Sermon, Thanksgiving Edition

Today I am thankful.

I try to be thankful every day, but that can be difficult. It seems that we are incapable of contentedness; as Ms. Lang put it so well, constant craving has always been. Humans are possibly the only creatures on this planet who spend so much time yearning. Perhaps that is the price of self-awareness - we are aware, and thus we grasp our mortality and the fact that we can't have everything, try everything, be everything.

On this day in particular, we are encouraged to be thankful, but all too often it takes a negative form - we are told that we are luckier than others who have nothing. Unfortunately, no amount of looking at those less fortunate than ourselves can fully quench the want; we seem doomed to look at what we have and find it wanting - and look at what others have and wish it was ours. The old zenjis called it "the monkey mind," because it snatches at every shiny thing that wanders by. Detaching ourselves from those desires is what the Buddha set out to do way back when, and I think that's what everyone wants, even if they don't use those terms.

So today, I have decided to be thankful simply for what I am, not what I possess. I am not my job, nor my life situation, nor the balance of my checking accounts, nor the contents of my refrigerator (tasty though they are!). I am human. I am able to think, to reason, to realize. I am able to step back from the hungry animal in myself, and decide to awaken.

I am human, and for that I am thankful.

Go in Peace.

A Sad Tale...

An actual conversation that took place by IM yesterday. Click on the link first to see what caused it all...

His Sinfulness: check this out - Free Rice

Nerdygirl: Okay, that's awesome. And addicting.

His Sinfulness: I can't stop. I've donated 2320 grains of rice.

Nerdygirl: Awesome! What's your vocab level?

His Sinfulness: Vocab level = 49. Help. I can't stop. Stop me, before I define again.

Nerdygirl: But you're defining for a good cause... I've donated 400 grains. It'll be a good way to work on my vocab, I'm only at 38.

His Sinfulness: Oh, it's all fun and games for you, isn't it? But for me, this is a test of who I am! It's there, mocking me, saying "Ok, smart guy, do you know what fistula means? Hmm, do you? How about abrogate? or disconsolate?"

Nerdygirl:[shaking head] And here I thought we made so much progress in distancing your self worth from your vocabulary. Are you backsliding?

His Sinfulness:
My name is Linus. And I'm a Vocabulaholic.

Nerdygirl:[snork] Hi Linus.

His Sinfulness: You're never cured, you know? It's just one day at a time, Lord.

Nerdygirl: Damnit, this means I'm your sponsor, doesn't it?

His Sinfulness: Would "lexicographer" have been better there? You know I'm very serious about my perspicacity...

Nerdygirl: Put the ten dollar words down, Linus. Put them down, and walk away.

His Sinfulness: Possibly "jargonophile"? Vocab Level = 50!

Nerdygirl: Jargonophile makes it sound like you have sex with Mason jars.

His Sinfulness: Fuck! I'm back to step three. It might have gone better if I hadn't chosen Samuel Johnson as my "higher power"...

Nerdygirl: yeah, that might have been a mistake...

His Sinfulness: Possibly even a peccadillo. AAGH! I'm on a bender! I'm binging on vocab! I'm going to end up passed out in the reference section of the library again, amid a pile of dictionaries and thesauri!

Nerdygirl: [sigh] At least let me know which library you'll be attending...

His Sinfulness: [defiant] I might just hit them ALL!

Nerdygirl: Last time I thought you'd be at Coe, and ended up running through six floors while you were face down in the children's section of the public library.

His Sinfulness: Hah! You're not my spelling teacher! I'll do as I please! I might even use e before i... regardless of the placement of c!

Nerdygirl: [sigh] You would bring shame to the Flock?

His Sinfulness: The Flock won't even notice... half of them can't spell anyway.

Nerdygirl: That shame which cannot be removed, regardless of how many times one backspaces or whiteouts?

His Sinfulness: AAAGGHH!! Must... re-edit... every... blog... post....
only 590 or so... should be done by monday... then I can start checking the comic site over...
WHAT DO YOU MEAN "caracal" isn't listed?! Fucking cheap online dictionary! I need a real dictionary... the good stuff... there is a compact version of the OED in the Matthison reading room... I think my magnifier is still in my backpack...

Luckily, his Sinfulness was found by his handlers about four hours later. They were alerted to his whereabouts by concerned Barnes and Noble staff, who found him crumpled in a heap on the floor, sobbing in front of a display of Jeff Foxworthy's latest book, "Learning to Talk More Gooder Fastly." Mr. Foxworthy could not be reached for comment.

News of the Day

I was in a pretty good mood this morning. I unlocked a couple new characters in the video game I was playing last night, I skipped the gym this morning and slept in (because I'm playing badminton tonight and I don't want to be too tired) and G-Fresh made breakfast for us both this morning - it was looking like a good day.

Then I read my favorite blogs.

Leave it to Maximus, our local indy music reporter and harbinger of doom, to damage my calm with truth...

Seems the House of Representatives wants to stop homegrown terrorists. You know, those crazy radicals who publicly disagree with the government, or think about disagreeing with the government, or listen to radio on the internet where other people disagree with the government... Read up on the "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007" (HR 1955) - it's scary.

In other news, we got a package yesterday at the Black Vatican. No - it wasn't our regular pr0n shipment (that comes on Thursdays), nor was it another of that other Vatican's many attempts to convert/poison/blow me up...

It was preserves and pumpkin butter from our #1 Fangirl, Mayren! While on her recent trip to Solvang she kept us in mind. Her dedication is both touching and tasty!

Turning now to sports. The local Flock played wallyball last night for the first time. Wallyball is a volleyball variant, played in a handball court. The back wall and ceiling are out of bounds on the serve; after that, pretty much everything goes, including sidewall spikes, and hard bumps into the ceiling that become attacks. Aside from repeatedly getting hit in the head, I liked it. It's not a replacement for handball or badminton, but it might be a fun way to work on my volleyball skills once a week.

So - what's new in your world? Please report your beginnings, ends, discoveries, disappointments and the like. Obviously, nothing much is happening around here...

Maggie, Mother of Invention

As you all know, I love handball. The only thing that could improve handball (they do call it "the perfect game") would be to make it less of a sausage fest. Vanilla Fresh, Flynn, and Doktor Smith are all attractive in their own sweaty, hairy way, but I'd really like to spend more time in the presence of attractive, lycra-clad women. Alas, my attempts to convert the ladies of the Flock to handball have mostly fallen short. This is due, in part, to the nature of the game. Unlike badminton, where coed play works nicely, handball just doesn't lend itself to mixed doubles very well, and even less to singles competition between the sexes. The ball is small and very dense so it can be painful to hit, and it takes considerable strength to make a good shot that hits the front wall the way you want it to. It is telling that in competitive handball there is no mixed doubles category - it just doesn't work.

I was talking with one of the more competitive females in the Flock (Maggie), and she was advocating for racquetball. She argued that it didn't hurt like handball, and that the racquet gave her, a small person (5'4"), the ability to hit with sufficient power to be competitive.

Now, I was an avid racquetball player at one time. I suffered from a wicked case of tennis elbow because of it until I saw the light and gave up that tool of the devil, the racquet. I have since been heard to ridicule racquetball as a "game fit only for little girls and children," but it occurred to me that we might be able to level the playing field by taking the racquet away from the larger, stronger player. We discussed it, and Maggs agreed to give it a try.

It was a resounding success. We used a racquetball and played to 15 as is the custom of that game. Maggie used her racquet, and I went in armed with only "my mitts," as Marv would say. Although I lost all three games, it was an excellent workout, and the scores were close enough to indicate that with due diligence I could possibly win in the future - which is exactly the type of situation that motivates me the most.

Since then, I have identified only two problems with our new invention:
- The woeful lack of lycra in Maggie's wardrobe
- It needs a name

If you have a name idea for our fabulous new game - something that conveys its hybrid nature - let us know! We'll give you naming credit when we become famous...

The Pope is Out Right Now...

"You can never be too broken."

One of my former profs said that. His specialty is poetry, and he's in favor of a life on the emotional edge, to be close to the feelings that inform the greatest verse. I am inclined to agree with him... most of the time.

I think of it as a state of willingness. It's being willing to keep your shields low, willing to stay open to others, to reach out and to stay awake to others. It's knowing that you will get stomped on emotionally from time to time, but believing that the effort is important enough to risk that. The broken moments are outweighed by the moments when you see your attempts to connect making some kind of difference, making the world a less cold place.

Sometimes, however, you just take too many unanswered blows. As of Monday afternoon, I am officially tired of reaching into the piranha tank without a fucking glove. A string of events beginning a few months ago has finally made me raise my shield and close my visor.

In simple terms, I need time to regroup. I have no energy to advise, foster, prop up, shelter, coddle, succor, sympathize, or handle anyone else right now. I guess you could say that I'm emotionally away from my desk. Leave a voice mail, and my compassion will get back to you as soon as it returns. I don't care that this is whiny or indulgent. I don't care that I'll read this later and be horrified with myself. I don't even care that the people who have upset me probably won't read this - and if they do, they are unlikely to realize that it's aimed at them.

The poetry from all this better really kick ass...


There has been an unsettled issue in the Flock for some time now... Beginning with this post back in June, Vanilla Fresh and I have been waging a quiet little war on each other.

In that post, I proclaimed that I was undefeated in singles to that point in the year. In the comments, VF rightly reminded me that he had beaten me in a single game. To which, I responded that a single game did not a match make, and the battle was on.

Because we usually play doubles or cutthroat, it was quite a while before our next game of singles could be played. When it finally did happen, I was victorious after a titanic struggle, making the score one to one in our best of three series - and then the others showed up so we switched to doubles. The final outcome was postponed again.

Finally, this past Thursday we met to play singles. No other players showed up to join us for the entire session, so we were able to play a full best of three. VF took the second game on the strength of some wicked serving and strong forecourt play, but I was able to win both the first and third games by using arcane Sith techniques and a few nigh on to crippling dive shots.

I walked from the court feeling like I'd been hit by a bus, but vindicated. My winning streak was intact - I could hold my head high while I limped home. I felt positively gladiatorial for about 24 hours... and only for 24 hours because the following day I played in my first badminton tournament.

I signed up for the men's B class of the UW intramural badminton tournament. The guy I played - a grad student from Hong Kong - absolutely wrecked me. In the first game I scored two points, and in the second I scored four. For those of you not familiar with badminton (old school) scoring, that's six points to his thirty!

It wasn't all that bad, actually. He was a very good sport about it, and we joked the entire time. It was made even less painful when I found out that the other two Flock competitors (Flynn and Beckers) met with similarly horrible fates. We all walked into it expecting nothing less - we have been playing badminton for about 6 weeks - most of the people we were playing against have been at it since they were in elementary school!

So, the great Handball War of Aught-Seven is over, and the victor has had his ego stamped down by badminton, and all is right with the world...

The List

Somewhere in the back of everyone's mind, there is stored a list of things you wish you had said. This list is specifically for the things that it's too late to say now - there are no "do-overs." It's right next to the list of things you wish you hadn't said, and in the vicinity of memories of the awkward moments in jr. high when you tried to speak to the cool kids and they shunned you. At least that's where I keep mine, but my mental filing system resembles the love child of the Dewey decimal system and DOS 3.1, so yours may be easier to find.

At any rate, I have been reviewing mine of late. I began to write about it and it turned into an epic saga, a veritable Ring des Nibelungen of regret, but once I got the outline done, I realized that it was just too big. It would have required a cast of thousands, location shoots all over the world, CGI special effects, Jack Black to play me, and Peter Jackson at the helm. I just couldn't get the backing.

So instead, it's this blog post. I had to cut the dance sequences, the aerial dogfight over the Grand Canyon, the scale model of my elementary school blowing up, the barroom brawl, the come-from-behind touchdown scene (in fact, the whole sports montage had to go), the scene of my devirgining where toothpaste was the lubricant (tingly!), the car chase, and that one night in 1984 - but I think it still holds together artistically...

Ok, so all of that was just a clever ruse to bury the list itself deeper in the post, so the casual readers will miss it. They'll come to the blog and look at this long-ass post and say, "Oh fuck, Linus is preaching again," and just click right on through. And don't think I don't know who you are, you 20 second visitors! My site metrics are so powerful I know what tissues you use to wipe up when you are done jacking to pr0n, so don't try to pass yourself off as hardcore. You're only hardcore around here if you know (without a search engine) about Carpocration Gnosticism. Carpocrates and I are tight - we go way back, so don't even front, yo.

I suppose it's possible that I could actually be allowing this post to run hither and yon because it is fucking hard to actually publish this list. This is a list of all the times that I had a chance to be really honest, but failed to do so. All of the local Flock has heard me say, "He who hesitates is lost." If that's true, this list proves that the Coast Guard already gave up on my sorry ass. And don't think that because these were in the past, I don't still feel them. Each one is like a little hang nail, and hitting the "publish" button is like dipping your finger in lemon juice. It's something akin to going to a family reunion, where the only funny story any of your relatives seem to be able to remember about you is the time you peed your pants in church - big laughs for everyone else, and you have to go along and nod, and say, "Yes, my childhood incontinence was terribly amusing, Uncle Bill. Thanks for telling that one again."

So here, in no particular order, is the list of things I wish I'd said. I have cut it down to just the greatest hits; these are the things that are huge in my mind, or the ones that have happened more than once. Unlike a recording artist, however, the existence of a greatest hits list does not mean that my career is mostly over. Oh no, I'm sure I'll continue to be a wishy-washy jackass for many years to come.

The list:

"Yes, I would like that very much."

"No, that would be wrong, and you know it."

"I'm sorry."

"No, not without a condom."

"No, that hill is way too steep."

"I love you."

"Biting is only good sometimes."

"I don't love you anymore."

"I knew all along."

"Yes, I would like pain medication please."

"I know this is over."

"He is better for you."

"The sex was mediocre."

"Will you marry me?"


A Big Fat Lie

There are some things you should never say to a fat person.

For example, when the fat person mentions that they won't eat what you are offering them because they are trying to lose weight, you shouldn't say, "Oh, you're not fat!" I realize that some people have an unrealistic view of their bodies, but I am clearly not a bulimic. Do not blow smoke up my kilt about how I "carry it well" or how I'm "stocky." I am not just "solid," nor am I "husky." I don't need anyone to pat me on the back and tell me it's ok to be fat. It's not ok, it's unhealthy, and pretending otherwise is bullshit. It's not ok to shoot heroine and no one would tell an addict otherwise, but people lie to the fat on a daily basis. We tell smokers constantly that cigarettes are killing them, but we tell fat people it's ok to be "big and beautiful." I've been irritated by this behavior for several years now - soon I will tear someone's arm off and beat them with the wet end for it.

I know that there are different body types and I don't think everyone should be a swimsuit model, but being fat is unhealthy, period. It is shortening my life as we speak. By not doing anything about it for all these years, I may have fucked myself and my loved ones out of time we could have spent together. I may have set myself up for a heart attack or diabetes or high blood pressure or joint problems or any number of other issues by allowing myself to get fat and stay that way.

I'm not advocating a country-wide wave of fat bashing, but it would be nice to see some honesty. When the fat person in your life shows a little initiative and tries to make good decisions, don't lie to them - support them the same way you would support a friend who is trying to quit smoking or dry out. It's the best thing for their health, and it's safer for you - because I'm going to fucking END the next person who tries to tell me that I'm just "big-boned."

Fashion Gone Awry

Fashion is somewhat baffling to me. I have never been able to understand why anyone would pay the prices that designers demand for the kitschy crap that totters down the runway each season, but clearly someone wants it. In fact, someone wants it so badly they are willing to just rent it.

From Bags to Riches is a reprehensible little company that will allow you to use an absurdly priced designer handbag for an absurdly high monthly fee. Observe:
I would think that it should be obvious that a handbag should NEVER cost $1900, but apparently someone is willing to pay that amount. Equally baffling to me is the idea that someone would fork out $190 and then give the bag back after a month. Is it not obvious that if you can't aford to purchase a luxury item, you definitely shouldn't rent it?

If you simply must have the bag, basic math should tell you that you could save $190 per month for 10 months and you could own it. Of course, by then this little bit of wretched excess might not be in style anymore, but you'd have a little nestegg set aside for whatever the new bit of fluff is that you can't live without. I would even posit that you could buy the bag, use it for a few months, and then sell it for less than purchase price on Ebay and still have paid less for it on a monthly basis than if you rented it from these folks.

The most appaling part of their website is their mission statement:
"At From Bags to Riches fashion has a deeper meaning than just the latest styles and trends. We believe the power of fashion inspires excitement, confidence, and that “feel good” vibe every woman gets from wearing something new. We know that when a woman looks her best she feels her best. Our mission is to extend this feeling to every woman on a regular basis by offering high fashion at a highly affordable price."

Do I need to point out that getting your "feel good vibe" from fashion accessories is kind of pathetic? This is indicative of an absolutely ridiculous level of status worship. Priorities have gone completely wonky. Please tell me that my Flock is more sensible than this...

It Begins... Again.

Today I officially begin, once again, the process of applying to grad schools. I %absolutely love% spending $50 to be rejected by strangers. If I wanted that experience, I'd just start dating again.

The application itself wouldn't be so bad if you didn't have to write that damned personal essay. Last time around, mine was about 3 pages long, and went into some detail about my odd religious upbringing and subsequent study of religion. It was well written, extensively edited, and quite safe.

Baylor has changed things a bit this year; their website now says, "submit a personal statement, including academic/research area interests." It's tempting to make some really outrageous claims like "I plan to challenge the current academic understanding of the conversion process in American Religions..." but then I remember that I don't want to piss them off. Some of the people who created the current academic understanding of the conversion process are on the faculty at Baylor. I suppose I will have to keep it down to the basics - conversion theory, growth of new religions, and the Bahá’í Faith in America. Is that specific enough to be interesting, yet broad enough to build an academic career upon? I think so, but we will see what they have to say.

"They" are those academics who already have their little collection of initials after their names. In my Sociology class just the other day, we were discussing the idea of job specialization, and how it is in your best interest, economically speaking, to join a profession, and then keep everyone else out. In theory, it keeps your specialization rare, and gives you greater value in the marketplace. So applying to grad school is, in essence, asking a group of people to let you into their club, which will eventually lessen their worth. As you progress in a grad program, you slowly make the transition from "student" to "protege" to "colleague," but in that final capacity, you really are also seen as "competitor."

It could be argued that academics would be best served by not admitting people that they feel are smarter than themselves. At least not until they are far enough along in their careers that they are no longer concerned about competition. By admitting folks who are not quite as bright as they are, the career academic lessens the risk of losing in future competition with that student - assuming that said student even makes it through the program and receives their own little collection of initials.

Of course, we cling to the idea that academics are concerned about the progress of their field and that they would never think in such base ways as to purposely choose candidates that they thought were slightly less capable than themselves. In fact, some scholars pride themselves on the success of their students and encourage them to eclipse their old mentors, but what about the subconscious mind? Is it possible that by being a challenging applicant with new ideas and an aggressive intellectual stance, you are forcing those old guard professors to react negatively to you on a subconscious level?

Maybe I'll just revise last year's essay.

I'm Skeered

With Halloween looming, I thought it might be a good time to take a look at the truly scary things going on in the Presidential race. Tell me...

Who is most frightening to you?

Rudy Giuliani
Mike Huckabee
Duncan Hunter
Alan Keyes
John McCain
Ron Paul
Mitt Romney
Tom Tancredo
Fred Thompson

For me it's a toss-up between Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, because I'm a religion wonk and both Mormons and Baptists are creepy. In all seriousness, Huckabee is doing well - we all laughed when Pat Robertson ran, but this guy could actually get the Republican nomination.

How bad could that be?

Well, Huckabee is in favor of:
-Repealing Roe v. Wade
-The death penalty
-Displaying the Ten Commandments in public schools
-Giving Israel access to our best weapons and military technology
-Supporting the Iraqi government militarily and financially

He is against:
-Funding for organizations that provide abortions
-Embryonic Stem Cell Research
-Gay marriage, civil unions, and even Gay adoptions
-Evolution (doesn't believe in it)
-Gun Control
-Amnesty for undocumented workers
-Troop withdrawal from Iraq

That's how bad it could be.

Romney's positions are similar, although he is somewhat less rigid about LGBT issues and stem cell research. Before you start thinking that he's the lesser of the evils, remember that he is in favor of abstinence only education, and opposed to medical marijuana. And here is the kicker - he publicly said, "We ought to double Guantanamo. I want them in Guantanamo where they don't get the access to lawyers they get when they're on our soil. I don't want them in our prisons. I want them there."

Are you scared yet?

Got $2200 to Spare?

I like pretty girls as much as the next guy; more so than many, in fact. I also like guns and armor. I even like Halo - and I don't like many video games. Seems like this should be a perfect mix, right?

And yet, it disturbs me. Full Ebay details here.

Hurry Up and Wait

I have started about 5 posts before this one. I scrapped all of them because they were shite. Not funny enough, not clever enough, not "Popey" enough...

I have since realized that it might just be my attitude that is shite. I am irritated and sick of waiting around for things to happen. I'm waiting for payday, waiting for badminton tonight, waiting for other people to post, waiting for the results of the last Sociology quiz, waiting to get back my Stats homework, waiting for grad school, waiting for lunch, waiting for Godot, waiting for this president to be gone, waiting for the war in Iraq to be over, waiting for the war in Iran to start, waiting for the Neo-Cons to ruin what is left of this nation, waiting for this day and week and semster and year, to be over.

And what am I looking forward to this weekend? Not much. Badminton is the high point. From there it kind of goes downhill; cleaning cages, laundry, dishes, homework...

SOMEone should be having fun this weekend - tell me in comments about YOUR weekend plans.

Control Freak

I have a tendency to be a bit bossy at times. One does not become the Pope of one's own religion without a bit of pushiness. I will even go so far as to freely admit that I am a bit of a control freak.

There is one arena, however, in which I have almost no control - and that is food. I have always had a big appetite; my mother tells of beginning to add baby cereal to my bottle when I was just a few weeks old so that I would stop crying for food every 90 minutes. Being an athlete in school only made it larger, and once I stopped being so physical on a daily basis, it never really went back down. Sure, I'm a vegetarian so I have some control where meat is concerned, but denying myself meat seems to give me carte blanche to eat a lot of other stuff in unhealthy quantities.

Over my adult years I've ranged from extremely fit to very heavy. At the moment, I fall more into the category of "stocky." My build has also been called "husky," "sturdy," "solid," and "imposing." I have no illusions; those are all nice ways to say "fat."

I have decided that it is time to take control of this. Naturally, that means I have started a blog about it...

It's called 100 Pounds and it's more for me than for you all. It's already got a few posts on it. I don't really want advice, or suggestions, or applause, or encouragement; I just want witnesses. It's actually just my way of blackmailing myself into sticking with the plan. Thanks in advance for your scrutiny.

Fighting Crime, Dallas Style

There is a new campaign in Dallas, Texas. Like so many cities, they are trying to put a stop to the social ills that plague their city. Is it violent crime, or gang activity, or drugs, or prostitution, or child abuse/neglect that they are combatting? Nope - it's saggin'.

Yes, Dallas has joined a number of other cities in trying to ban or discourage the fashion trend. Citing its prison origin (in the joint, wearing your pants down around your ass means that you are someone's bitch, ready for sexual activity with your "daddy") and the indecent extremes to which the trend has been taken of late, Dallas, Atlanta, and a number of other cities and towns around the nation have discussed or passed laws banning pants that show the undergarments.

I hate that look as much as the next crabby middle-aged white guy, but it is amazing to me that some local governments are spending time debating, writing, and enforcing a law so trivial. Is there no more pressing matter for the city government in Dallas?

In searching for info on this, I came across an email that is making its way around the African American portion of the blogisphere that points out that "saggin' is "niggas" spelled backward. It seems that a lot of blacks, particularly women, object to the look. There is even a rap anthem called "Pull Your Pants Up!" by Dooney Da' Priest.

Is saggin' on the way out? I was just catching up with the trend! I was about to order some really big jerseys so I could strap my kilt down around my ass. I should probably buy some underwear first, though...

Wake Up Call

I know what you're thinking. "Bitch, please! No blog post from you in over a week and now you come back with a lame-ass video swiped from YouTube?! Aw hells no!"

And you're right, but this video is good stuff.

Black Vatican Sports News

The 2007 US Open of Handball will be going down October 18th-21st, at the Los Caballeros courts in Fountain Valley, California. If you can't be there, you can watch the live webcast - details here!

In local handball news, His Sinfulness seems to be recovering from his slump, winning two games of cutthroat in convincing fashion yesterday. The Pontifex Niger had been stinking up the courts for the last few weeks, until illness and exhaustion forced him to take about a week off. The rest seemed to do him some good, and he was back to his usual shaved-ape-like form.

The Infernal Pontiff was quick to point out that his fellow players were also on their games. "Vanilla Fresh was making some great shots, and Doktor Smith was playing well all over the court - until his penis came unscrewed."

His Sinfulness was referring to a brief stoppage of play, when the top ball from the Good Doktor's apadravya came off, fell down his pant leg, and rolled across the court. When it was brought to his attention, he quickly reattached his penile accessory and the game continued, but apparently the phallic wardrobe malfunction ruined Smith's concentration. "Having something fall off of your junk has got to unnerve a guy," said the Black Pope, adding, "I thought it was from my tongue bar initally - really glad I didn't pick it up and put it in my mouth."

In other sports news, Flynn and His Sinfulness took to the badminton courts last night with their new racquets in hand. Despite the horrible crushing they both received at the hands of two more experienced players from Asia, the racquets were a success.

Flynn's Qiangli B 86 (shown at left) performed well, helping the artist play better than pitiful badminton. Although His Sinfulness literally had to drag the slothful one from the house, he had a good time once he got to the gym. As he left the courts, the Canadian was heard describing the racquet as "cool as fuck," and "more smackier."

His Sinfulness was also impressed with his new Pro Kennex Titanium Pro 727 (shown at right). "It's light, quick, graceful, and maneuverable - everything I'm not," said the Sable Primate. Black Vatican insiders say that His Sinfulness has been spotted in private moments stroking the new racquet and speaking to it in a low voice. "We'll show those skinny Asian players, won't we Precious?" The Precious could not be reached for comment.

Whiny Drivel

The parts of my life are banging together again. Imagine trying to keep a feather, an origami crane, a crystal vase, two rusty tack hammers, and a steaming plate of fettuccine Alfredo all in the same sack while you hop over barbed wire fences at a dead run. When you look in, the parts are all there, but you don't want to touch any of it.

There is a very strong sense of futility in everything I'm doing right now, and yet, I can't seem to stop and find things that are more meaningful for myself. My role - that of angry guy/chief pastor to a pack of atheists and agnostics/all-around asshole - has gotten old. If I'm tired of my antics I'm sure others must be too, but once you're type-cast it's tough to get other gigs. At this point, I am in a rut bigger than Leonard Nimoy's acting career.

The temptation to say, "It's ok - I'll be applying to grad school soon, and hopefully leaving all this crap behind," is very real, but the problem there is that I will take all of this with me. Same show, different stage.

So what is the solution? If I knew, this would be a Sunday Sermon, with a snappy title and better organizational structure - not a half-assed, half-edited pity party on a Tuesday afternoon. No, there is no handy solution to this emo-funk I find myself in. I wouldn't even really take note of it except that it is off schedule; I usually don't get this pissy until later in the academic year. My patented "Black February" is fairly famous in these parts, so I'm surprised to find that I feel all emptied out in October. Early October, even.

In an ironic bit of perfect timing, a friend just IMed me a Goth Names link. Turns out mine is "Demented Whore."

Pumpkin Contest!

There is a nip in the air, decorations on the shelves, and a sense of futility in my heart - we must be nearing the 'hollowdaze.' Regular readers are well aware that the holiday season - now beginning with Halloween and continuing straight on through St. Patrick's Day and Easter - causes me considerable chafing. I have ranted at length about the Christian take-over of the pagan holidays, the faux sincerity, and the commercialization of it all... so I won't bore you all with that here. (If you want to catch up on my ranting, feel free to search the archives - who doesn't want to start their week off with a scavenger hunt of angst and discontent?) No, this year I'm going to give in completely to the crass mercantile nature of the beast...

The traditional jack-o-lantern has lost almost all of its meaning for us today. Who actually recalls the myth of the shrewd Irish farmer, Jack, who tricked the devil and for his troubles ended up traversing the earth for eternity by the light of an ember in a hollowed-out turnip? To help reinvent the tradition of the jack-o-lantern for the new millennium, I am hereby declaring the very first Black Vatican Jack-O-Lantern Contest!

Send us a picture of your Black Vatican themed pumpkins, and the denizens of Flock Hall 2.0 will choose a winner in the categories of "Best Likeness", "Sexiest", and "Best Overall." Later this week, Flynn will be posting some Halloween themed art on the BV site, to help you get some ideas for your designs.

Now, I know my Flock, and I know that you are not the type to do something for nothing. To make it worth your efforts, we will award the winner in each category a t-shirt of their choice from our extensive catalog o' swag, now including the much requested Nerdygirl Thong!

Click here for full details, and may the most Faithful win!

Photo Op

I miss this guy.

He wasn't perfect, but at least he didn't look like a Sith lord...

Or a mafia boss...

Or a tourist...

Or a golf caddy...

Or a scary Santa...

Or a Fashionista... (Love the Prada!)

Or a frilled lizard...

Or a gay cowboy...