Posting Elsewhere Today

Although I am on the mend now, I was quite ill last night. After several hours of slightly loopy, fever-induced behavior, I was finally bludgeoned into unconciousness by over-the-counter meds... for the full details click here.

What Could Have Been...

I am completely exhausted.

Between work, the comic, the blogs, the new bird, sociology, stats, handball, volleyball, and badminton, (and some Halo) I am completely out of time. In order to do everything I want to do, I am on a tight schedule that no longer includes food, sleep, or alas, pr0n. I am taking steps to rectify this situation, but until my employers accept my completely reasonable proposal for maintaining my current pay grade while reducing my work day by 4 hours ("I'd be ever so much more productive if I didn't have to come in until noon..."), there is no real solution in sight. Something must give. Perhaps I could cut back on grooming... Cleanliness is for the lazy anyway - I'm too busy to bathe!

No - I can't let the BCPs down like that; my ability to smell good despite being a sweaty boy is legendary. No, something else has to get scaled back. The past few days, that thing has been this blog.

Instead of making actual posts I have just been storing up the ideas (Google Notebook is a wonderful tool). As a lame form of penance for not posting since Monday, here are the links to the topics I was going to blog about. Enjoy the links, and try to imagine the wry comments I would have made about each...

Interesting spiritual guidance from Church of the Churchless.

The huge birdcage I am considering buying for my babies. (Any bigger and I could help out the county by taking in a few low-risk inmates for the weekend when the jail is too full.)

The new version of the "Fortress of Solitude"* that I am considering buying for myself for Christmas. (Hard core readers will remember the original Fortress of Solitude from Flock Hall 1...).
*Fuck-proof brackets sold separately.

And speaking of Flock Hall, the Flock Hall 2.0 blog is actually active again. This week's topic is bath vs shower - feel free to join the debate.

I was going to post something on how the President of Iran is a tool, but Max beat me to it.

Now don't just roll over this post and say to yourself, "A linkfest? Weak, dude." These are quality links... get back up there, and clicky-clicky!

Confessions of a Halo Virgin

If you look at all the frothing on the net and the ridiculous amount of advertising out there right now, the release of Halo 3 appears to be something akin to the second coming, and what kind of pope would I be if I missed it? After surfing the net the last few weeks, I literally felt that it was my duty to finally play the first two, so I could be more fully enraptured by the third.

Flynn has tried in vain on numerous occasions to convince me of the fun of the newer first person shooters. Failing in that, he has tried to get me interested by arguing the technical advancement and cultural relevance angles... all to no avail. So when I asked him if he had a copy of the original Halo he was, naturally, ecstatic. Halo and Halo 2 were both games that were stolen when his place was broken into a while back, but because I was interested, he rushed out and bought both.

I was responsible about it - I did my homework first. If Halo proved to be the kind of video crack that it is reputed to be, I wanted to be free of pressing responsibilities when I took my first hit. On Saturday evening, I took the X-Box controller in hand and began.

After 5 hours of solo and co-op play, I arose from the couch with mixed emotions (I suppose losing your cherry is always like that - am I right, ladies?). We had completed about half of the storyline (on Easy) and I was somewhat impressed. Although the story is not terribly complicated, it was a relatively satisfying explanation for why you're shooting everything that moves. The controls are not too difficult to learn (although I hate the targeting system), and the array of human and alien weapons at your disposal is fun. I will confess that there is even an enjoyable rush when you complete a mission in good style - especially in co-op play.

And yet, I am not jonesing for my next hit. It was fun, and I will probably play some more, but I am not a Master Chief groupie. I have been assured that Halo 2 is even better, but I seriously doubt that I will get hooked when I play it. Who knows - maybe Halo 3 will do the trick for me, but I think it is likely that I will forever remain a casual player of first person shooters, and possibly of video games at large. When I look back at the games I have been hooked on in the past (Tribes, American McGee's Alice, Unreal Tournament) I realize that my addictions had more to do with the rest of my life being crappy, than the games being great.

When I was a dedicated Tribes player (long live the rail gun!) I was working at a a job that I literally loathed; I needed the escape. When I was a dedicated Alice player, I was sharing a condo in CA with my mother - that's reason enough for anyone to want to leave reality behind for a bit. As for Unreal, it was winter in Wyoming and the woman I was living with had gone from being my best friend to being my worst enemy in a matter of about 6 months. I spent hours fragging because I really wanted to be ANYwhere but where I was. None of that is the case today, so Halo doesn't really have a chance to get its hooks into me.

The sad realization for me is that I doubt that I'm unique. I imagine that many hard core players - be it WoW, Evercrack, Halo, Madden, whatever - are so into their games because their real lives are so unsatisfying. I'm not sure if it's a symptom of our times, or just a statement on the human condition, but it appears Thoreau was right when he said, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." Instead of returning to nature, however, we relieve ours by destroying Covenant forces...

Baby Pictures

The pictures below were taken this morning, when both subject and photographer were somewhat sleepy.

The Vasa coloring is hard to capture. None of these photos really show what her feathers look like, although they do capture quite accurately her slightly rumpled condition at the moment. She is not fully feathered yet, but she is getting there. In the next few months she will lose that babyish look and begin to look less threadbare.

It should be noted that she was most definitely NOT happy about being photographed... hence the pissed off look.

The Vasa has Landed.

Imelda arrived at Denver International Airport at 09:35 yesterday. She received a clean bill of health from the veterinarian, and by 14:45 we were headed back to Black Vatican City. She was the largest of the babies, weighing 410 grams, which is considered medium-high for a Vasa parrot of her age, but she is a big girl, so the vet said she was not in need of any special dietary consideration at this time.

She was silent on the ride home, not making any noise until we reached Flock Hall. Even then she didn't really squawk - her vocalizations sound more like a whine. It is definitely a baby noise, sounding kind of like the hatchling dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.

This is not a picture of Imelda, but a relative of hers named Maddie. G Fresh did take some video and stills of her on her arrival and I will be taking more stills tonight, but last night after we got home and got her into her new cage, we were both exhausted, so no photos are ready to put up on the web yet. She was operating on Florida time, and I got up at 05:00, so by 20:00 we were both asleep. When I return home today after volleyball I promise she will have a proper photo shoot.

Ajax took it all in stride. They are currently housed in different rooms, but they can certainly hear each other clearly. He was his usual chatty self this morning and she was very attentive to his noises. She didn't make a peep as I filled her food and water this morning, but she did watch me closely and then lean forward to get some head scratches when I was done.

If you are interested in details on her species (Coracopsis vasa) you can click here. Incidentally, the baby pictured at the bottom of that page is Imelda - the pic was taken about 2 months ago at the breeder's facility in Florida.

More info and pictures can be found at Old World Aviaries, The Feather Tree, Featherlust Farms and Aves International.

My New Badminton Coach...

Ok, you don't need to watch all 8 minutes of that (although she does take her top off to reveal a matching bra around the 5 minute mark...). The real point here is that I did a search on YouTube for a video to put with a post I am writing about how two skinny Asian guys schooled Flynn and I in badminton on Saturday, and this was the first video that came up. I am so very tired of this kind of crap.

Why do people who run pr0n sites feel that they must spam the hell out of every internet venue they can find? To all of the pr0n producers out there, let me tell you a secret - if you have pictures/video of pretty girls in various states of undress and moral flexibility, PEOPLE WILL FIND YOU! Throw up a site with a url that tells the story - like, for instance - and the people who want to see that will come to you.

The video below is more like what I was looking for. As you watch the opponent slowly realize that he has been burned by a tricky drop shot, you get a hint of what it was like for Flynn and I. Except in the video it lasts like 5 seconds, while Flynn and I underwent this kind of confusion for about 90 minutes.

After we got done playing, my legs felt like lead, my knee was bleeding again, and my clothing was completely drenched in sweat. It was sort of like handball, without any walls to slam into. The guys we played with are so fast, I swear that the smashes they were hitting defied the laws of physics - the shuttlecock seems to almost teleport from their racquet to the floor. Playing guys like them make the game an excellent workout. Maybe not quite as good for developing upper body strength as handball, but the cardio is as intense, if not more so.

Now, I know some of the Flock are not willing to be locked in a small room with Flynn and I so handball is out for them, but just about everyone can play badminton. Who is free on Tuesday at 8:00pm?

Handball continues to ROCK!

It's been a while since I bored you all with handball stories... If you're not into that, read this instead.

I woke up this morning with back pain. Perhaps it was because handball has been, as they say, "F*ing Metal!" lately. The regular players (Herr Doktor, Vanilla Fresh, Flynn, and myself) have all improved dramatically. There is an insane amount of spin on most serves. There is heroic diving for the low, short kill shots. There are floor burns to knees and elbows. There is serious sprinting to retrieve the long "fly kills," and back wall turnarounds that hit the front wall at warp speeds. In short, we have improved to the point that we are now pretty well killing each other every time we play.

Some highlights of the past week's games...

-Flynn dove for a shot, missed, and ended up landing on the ball. It was trapped under his throat - gave him a bruise and a sore throat for several days.

-Doktor Smith dashed to the left for a low midcourt return, and forgot to stop before he got to the wall. He hit it so hard with his left side that I clearly heard his teeth clack together. He recovered and finished the game in good style, but he definitely got his bell rung pretty solidly.

-I dove for a shot down front on the right side, missed, landed on my right side, and slid into the right wall back first. Wouldn't have been too bad if my head hadn't hit the wall too. I jumped right up, but within about 30 seconds, I knew I was a bit more hurt than I had originally thought. I'm still not sure what I did to myself, but it wasn't a good thing.

-Flynn slid to a shot on his right arm, giving himself a bloody floor burn. Still scabbed over as of this morning.

-I went into yesterday's game with a scabby floor burn on my right knee from a previous game. (Yeah, that's my knee over to the left.) Early on in our best of five doubles set, I dropped to my knees to make a quick return and tore it open. I left blood spots and smears on the floor for the remaining three and a half games... and I didn't notice until someone pointed it out, and even then I didn't care. The games were that good.

God DAMN I love me some handball! Can I get an AMEN?!

Papal Bookshelf

One of the great things about having a blog with over 500 posts on it is that it's likely I've already talked about anything someone might ask. This is almost one of those cases - I was asked about favorite pieces of literature just recently, and I had already commented on my favorite pieces of Buddhist literature back in 2004.

At that time, I listed my choices and asked the blogisphere to do the same. It got a lot of great responses, but thanks to the unrelenting suckitude of the HaloScan comment system, those responses are lost to us now. Thankfully, we are on Blogger's resident comment system these days, and those last effectively forever and ever, in the name of the Google, the Blogger, and the Gmail, amen.

So - please put forth a list of your essential bookshelf. Let's limit it to a half dozen or so, and they can be spiritual books, but anything else is fine too - erotica, cookbooks, erotic cookbooks... how to manuals, self-help books, pictorial histories of labial modification, apple butter retrospectives, graphic novels, coloring books, etc.

Ten extra credit points if you can identify the location of the quite famous bookshelves in the upper photo.

Death of a Legend

Most of you know that I love parrots. When asked why I have a parrot instead of a dog or a cat, I sometimes flippantly say, "Have you ever seen a cat talk?" The talking ability of some parrots is one of the most amazing things about them, and the most amazing talker of all, Alex, died last Friday. It was just announced today.

The MSNBC story can be found here.

Alex was one of the best ambassadors that companion birds have ever had, and his 30+ years of work with Dr. Irene Pepperburg offered an amazing insight into the avian brain and a tantalizing glimpse of what human/animal communication could be. He could identify shapes, colors, count to 6 including zero, and he even made up his own words and names for people around him. He was proven to be actually communicating, not just mimicking, and he was featured in numerous documentaries and books. He will be sorely missed - not only by his colleagues at Brandeis University, but by bird lovers the world over. I didn't ever meet Alex, but I've read and watched so much about him that I feel like one of my own flock has died.

Alex's death was apparently without warning. If you have birds, or companion animals of any kind really, spend some extra time with them today. You never know when it may be the last time.

Interview with the Pontiff

I have been asked the following five questions by my Right Hand, Nerdygirl the Unbeliever.

1. A genie wreaks havoc upon you for not giving his son enough scholarship money. Out of all your incarnations, (Nebraska State Patrol, Punkrawk Star, SCA player, etc), you must choose one to live as for the rest of your days, excluding your current stint as a Financial Aid schlub and student. Which do you pick and why?
I choose SCA player, because in those days I was young, sexy, and deadly. Right now, I've only got two of those...

2. Dream bicycle--what is it?
Probably a 1950's era Superbe Roadster with a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed drivetrain. Or a Critical Power HPV. Or possibly a Bowden Spacelander... there are about 10 more, if you're interested...

3. If you could reshape the scholarship system, how would you do such?
%My ideas are quite crazy on this topic; I've been told so by people at my office. Here's one of my nutty, extreme ideas - let's give SCHOLARships to actual SCHOLARS! I know, it's whacky, but I think it might take the edge off all those accusations that Universities are just training grounds for professional sports. I have this insane notion that academics just might be what college is actually about! (The good thing is that I'm not bitter about this...)%

4. What is your favorite piece of literature, either prose or poem?
This question has been ruled ridiculously impossible by a panel of Inquisitors, so I get to answer the secret alternative question; "What is your favorite song by ABBA?" It's "Fernando" - the English version, of course.

5. What is the hardest part of being vegan in Wyoming?
I am actually just a vegetarian with vegan tendencies, but I'd say that the hardest thing is dealing with amateur dietitians who are convinced that if you don't eat meat you will die. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am quite hearty; my immune system is thriving, my coat is shiny, my eyes are bright, my nose is cold and wet - I am ridiculously healthy for a pontiff of my age.

If you'd like to be interviewed as well, let me know in the comments...

Warm Ears

Since there is a little snap in the air today, it's only fitting that I show you my new winter hat.

Modelled here by its creator, Doktor Smith, the "beanie-retta" proves to a be a stylish and functional addition to any clerical wardrobe. Unlike the birettas worn by the Cardinals at that other Vatican, the beanie-retta is constructed of polar fleece, and can be folded down to cover the ears on those bitter winter days for which Black Vatican City is so famous. Kudos and a minor beatification go to Doktor Smith, along with the right to style himself as the Black Vatican's "Tantum Solio Plasmator" ("only cap maker").

I think the TSP could be persuaded to make some other Flocktastic hats, if you're interested. You can contact him here in the comments window, or email me and I'll pass your message along to him. I have already placed an order for a cold weather mitre - eat your heart out, Benedict...

I Am a Fucking Idiot.

I had planned to study on Wednesday night for a quiz in my Sociology class. During class on Tuesday, the prof had borrowed my textbook to lecture from - and when I left the classroom I forgot to get it back. When I realized this, I went to the library and checked out an older edition of the text so that I could study.

I stayed up well past my normal bedtime, going over the first three chapters of the text. I didn't feel completely prepared, but I thought I had done a fair job of covering the material.

When the quiz was handed out, I immediately realized that I was screwed. The first two chapters I had studied were on the types of Sociological thought and how they were shaped by historical events in various countries, and the third was on the works of Auguste Comte. The quiz, however was on the work of Hobbes, Locke, and Kant. I assumed that it must be because the version of the text I had (2nd edition) was significantly different from the version for the class (6th edition). I fumbled through the quiz, patching together what I could remember from philosophy classes that I took back in the 80s. It wasn't pretty.

Once the quiz was over and I had my own book back, I checked the chapters. There was no mention of Hobbes, Locke, or Kant. In fact, there was so little difference between the versions that I understand now why the library didn't fork out the $75 for the most recent edition.

Finally, I returned to the syllabus. There I discovered that the material covered by this quiz was not the first three chapters, but it was in fact the first three assignments. These were additional readings, available on line. Naturally, they were on Hobbes, Locke, and Kant.

I was so angry at myself that I could hardly speak. Even now, I so deeply wish there was someone else to be upset at that when I think of it my mouth becomes dry and it's all I can do to unclench my jaw.

I can cover the material that I missed for future testing.
I can still get a good grade in the class, despite these lost points.

However... I can't undo how idiotic this makes me look in the eyes of the instructor, and that is what is truly galling. Call it vanity, but I am unaccustomed to being the stupid kid in any class. Fuck I hate that feeling. I wish the next quiz would hurry up and get here so I can redeem myself.

Questions of Faith, Part XIII

Today we consider Modern Paganism, as understood by a Kitchen Witch. If you'd like to see the other posts in the Questions of Faith series, click here.

1)What faith do you espouse?
The path of spirituality that I follow is, I believe, most accurately referred to as modern pagan witchcraft; particularly I'm a kitchen witch - I am a solitary practitioner, meaning I don't belong to a coven or circle.

2) Who was the founder of your faith? When did he/she live?
There is no one founder, but many influences - there have been many philosophers, poets, essayists, spiritualists, and fanatics who have all contributed to the rise of the religion. 17th and 18th century philosophers of Enlightenment(1620-1800), German Romantic poets such as Goethe and Schiller(1750-1800), English Romantic poets- especially Keats and Shelley(1790-1820), late-century Victorian poets- primarily Algernon Charles Swinburne(1866-1909), spiritualists like Helena Blavatsky, Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune, and Gerald Gardner(1877-1959) - they have all inspired individual exploration into the ideas that make up the many varied beliefs of modern pagan witchcraft. (dates are of writings, not lives)
Though it is based on historical recreations and previous philosophies, there is no public documentation of modern paganism, in it's current form, prior to 1890; there is hardly any prior to 1940. Claims of continuity are highly dubious.

3) What are the sacred texts of your faith?
A Book of Shadows or grimoire. (A grimoire refers to a set of rules for doing something and is a journal kept by practitioners containing information and contributions relevant to their specific field of study. - Wikipedia)
This book or collection of books is often passed down in a group or hereditary situation, however every practitioner is encouraged to create their own based on their particular practice and tradition. There are several references available for a solitary practitioner, any of which could be considered sacred to the individual, however a personal Book of Shadows is a record of rituals and practice, making it the sacred text for the person who writes it.

4) What is the central teaching of your faith?
Modern pagan witchcraft is an umbrella term which covers several related practices and beliefs. These all arise from three forces: 1) admiration for an ancient culture, originally Greece and Rome, but in more recent years other ancient cultures are being evaluated and incorporated; 2) nostalgia for a vanished past; 3) a desire for an organic unity between people, culture, and nature. How these properties manifest themselves, the study of healing herbs, spellwork, divination, working with spiritual and natural energies and many other things, and the importance of certain aspects of practice varies from individual to individual, and group to group.
Literal belief in deities is not an essential feature of religious practice, though it can be part of it, depending on a person or group's path. Deity may be referred to by many different names depending on a person's personal preference or the tradition that they follow. There is also the belief that deity is immanent, meaning that the God/dess is within everyone and within all of nature.

5) How does your faith define sin? What are the major sins, and how is one absolved?
Most practitioners of modern pagan witchcraft do not accept the existence of Satan (which is seen as a Christian creation) or in evil forces. They do know the existence of negative energy but recognize that it is part of nature and believe that there are valuable lessons to learn from both positive and negative energy. Most believe that all things are interconnected and that all thoughts and actions can have a positive or negative influence, which is reflected in the threefold belief that all things that anyone does is returned to them threefold. So in effect sin is harm done – to the earth, to others, to self – and absolution comes from living with the consequences that are returned to you as a result of your actions.

6) Roughly how many adherents does your faith have?
This is very hard to estimate, as over half of those who fall into the boundaries of modern pagan witchcraft hide their religious affiliation, largely due to a continuous persecution by Christian mainstream society. The estimates fall anywhere from 7000 to 10 million.

7) What does your faith teach about the afterlife? Is there heaven, and how do you get there?
This, again, varies according to tradition, but there is usually a form of reincarnation incorporated into the belief – often seen as a part of a continuous natural cycle of life and death. There is also often some sort of heaven or limbo, where the soul can rest between incarnations.

8) What are the practices of your faith? (Daily, weekly, etc.)
Daily striving for an organic unity between people, culture, and nature.
Awareness and celebration of natural cycles, primarily the waxing and waning of the moon and the 8 Sabbats - seasonal festivals which mark the turning of the Wheel of the Year and the cycles of nature - Winter Solstice or Yule (circa 21 December), Summer Solstice or Litha (circa 21 June), Spring Equinox or Ostara (circa 21 March), Autumn Equinox or Mabbon (circa 21 September), and the quarter days or fire festivals - Samhain (31 October), Imbolc (1 February), Beltaine (1 May), and Lughnasadh(1 August).

9) How is your faith organized? Are there priests and bishops and archbishops (oh my!)?
This is not a highly organized religion. Solitary practitioners will sometimes have a teacher or mentor, but just as often they explore and practice on their own. Covens and circles usually have a hierarchy based on their set of beliefs, often with at least a high priest and/or priestess.

10) Are there regular services available to you locally? If so, where?
If I perform them, and where I perform them. A solitary practitioner is solely responsible for his or her own ritual creation and execution. As a kitchen witch, my home is my temple and I practice rites of hospitality and rituals of life. Celebrations of the Sabbats often center around food and involve hospitality to friends and family.

11) How did you come to be a believer?
Well, doctors are dumb. In my search for alternate medicines, my research overlapped with the occult - astrology, herbalism, diets, crystals, rituals - often leading to the kitchen in the practicalities of the various remedies and rituals - were all recommended with various degrees of seriousness and success. The overlap among the practices I encountered, my love of the kitchen arts and my faith, led me to call myself a Christian witch. Deeper research into the theology and dogmas of my cradle faith, Roman Catholicism, lead to some serious questioning on my part. The new beliefs I was embracing eventually no longer fit with what they held to be unquestionable - they do not allow for Christian witches, among other things - so out of respect for their beliefs I no longer call myself that.

12) What do you wish others knew about your faith?
All Wiccans are Witches, but not all Witches are Wiccan. Satan is a Christian creation having nothing to do with Modern Pagan Witchcraft.

I Return

Like so many ideas, it sounded reasonable at the time. I had the funny, he had the pretty... joining them would be easy. We began with light hearts and a very random posting schedule, and for a time we just amused ourselves and our friends. It seemed there was always time for a good sermon, no need to worry about continuity, and plenty of apple butter to go 'round. We bathed in the comments of our readers, who laughed and cried with us, and slowly named themselves "fans."

And there it began to change.

You see, the fan is to the internet creator as the faithful are to the preacher. If they come to your little church, and maybe bring others with them, it proves to you that all of your pulpit pounding is not in vain. For that vindication, you must give them something in return. You have to offer up what they seek - be it guidance or salvation or an example or protection - in the proper doses to keep them coming back for another hit. In short, you now have a responsibility to your flock.

Although the comic rolls along, the blog has not. I have failed in my responsibility. I was called away to the mountaintop (well, a mountain of paperwork, but still) and I left you to your own devices. Although I was given no stone tablets with commandments to bring back with me, I did sort of expect to find you all dancing naked at the feet of a golden calf. Apparently, in my absence, cooler heads prevailed (which is comforting and disappointing at the same time).

Please understand that I am sorry, and to make ammends, I intend to begin a frenzy of posting that will rival the Great Comment War of '04. There will be religious posts, funny posts, sick posts, clever posts - hell, I might even talk about Harry Potter's wang again...

It's good to be back.