Completely Stolen Content

This is some information on our Christmas present from the Senate. All kidding aside, this is important information, displayed graphically. Click on it to blow it up, and prepare to be less pissed off about the lack of a public option.

I heard about it from Fleur, but I got it here.

Also, there are about 8 hours left to vote on the "Change We Can Believe In" poll on the sidebar.


How Would Jesus Vote?

I rarely put up bible verses on this blog (I'm afraid it might burst into flames or something...) but this has been really bothering me of late. The following is the New International Version of Matthew 25:34-40.

34 Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,
36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37 Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?
38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?
39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40 The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

This passage is part of the bit about "the Sheep and the Goats." Jesus is hanging out on the Mount of Olives with his crew, talking about "the end of the age" (Matthew 24:3). He makes a clear statement about compassion and charity when he tells them that in order to be among the sheep who go to heaven, you have to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, take in the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit those imprisoned.

Given that bit in bold, why is it that the Republicans, the party that most often invokes Jesus as it's guiding influence, is so dead set against a public option? I think many of these so-called Christians need remedial Bible study. Notice that it doesn't say "...I was sick and you told me to get off my ass and find a job with health insurance for myself..." It also doesn't say, "...whatever you do for one of the least of these brothers of mine, it must reduce the deficit and not increase taxes..."

As usual, it appears that the teachings of Jesus are embraced when profitable and ignored when inconvenient. The greed, selfishness, and overall discompassion of their positions is appalling. I believe Christ would be saddened by all this, and the number of goats would just keep rising...

Would some conservative Christian please explain these verses to me in light of recent events?

Christmas is about Tradition

I've posted this before, but it deserves additional bandwidth. This touching video reminds us how precious Christmas traditions truly are...

Part two can be found here. Watch it for the children.

Leftover poll

I should have written up these results about two weeks ago, but better late than never, right?
The question was...

turkey 0%
stuffing 5%
cranberry goo 29%
pie 5%
candied yams 5%
greenbean casserole 23%
congealed gravy 0%
green glop (that weird "salad" with the green jello...) 23%
other (please specify in comments) 5%

Bottom line? Cranberry goo, green glop, and greenbean casserole should go directly into trash/compost/pigeon food immediately after the meal. No need for tupperware. And you thought statistics were useless!

The new poll is much more controversial...

Charitable Gifts

I promised a post about making donations as gifts almost two weeks ago. Then the final push of the semester ate my life and I never got around to putting it up. My prospectus was turned in Friday, and I've been sleeping and playing video games ever since - I think I've finally recovered enough to get back to some semblance of brain activity.

In addition to the list of Pope Tested, Ministry Approved gifts found here, the Pontifex Niger also endorses the making of charitable donations in his name. Make a donation to any of the worthy organizations below and you will receive a minor beatification and a 10% discount on indulgences purchased before January 15th! You all have the power to make these "holy days" instead of "hollow daze." Go forth and donate!

The plight of great apes in captivity is a topic I have been interested in for a few years now. The Center for Great Apes is a sanctuary that takes in orangutans and chimpanzees and gives them a permanent home. Most of these apes come from the entertainment industry or from research, but there are a few who were raised as pets. A donation to the Center provides them with food, shelter, an enriching environment, and the company of their own species. For more on great apes in captivity and their legal rights, check out GRASP.

Farm Sanctuary provides a home and an adoption service for farm animals. The residents include chickens, ducks, pigs, cows, goats, and other animals rescued from terrible situations. The animals there often come from conditions of horrible and inhumane treatment, torture, and slaughter - there is even one goat there who was headed for a ritual sacrifice! (By the way, if your god still calls for blood offerings FUCK HIM! Believe what you like, but leave innocent animals out of your insanity, ok?)

Another fine adoption agency is the Rocky Mountain Aviculture Society. They are based in Denver, and I'm proud to be a member. They take in abandoned and surrendered parrots, housing, feeding, and providing veterinary care for them until a new home can be found. They can always use a few more dollars, and be honest - couldn't your karma use the cleansing? I know mine could.

If none of the suggestions above lights your fuse you can go to the No-Kill Network and find a no-kill animal shelter near you and donate to them. These shelters take in abandoned pets of all types and provide them with housing and care until a home can be found for them - or for the rest of their lives if necessary. Animals that don't end up at no-kill shelters end up at the other kind of shelter, which is not so much a shelter as it is pet DEATH ROW. Make a donation so no animal has to go there. Better yet, adopt an animal from a no-kill shelter. If that seems more like a gift for yourself than a gift for me, you can just name the pet after me. I love the idea of everyone having a puppy that reminds them of me! I can just imagine it on Christmas morning...

"God damnit!"
"What's wrong?"
"His Sinfulness shit on the floor again!"

That's EXACTLY what Christmas morning sounds like at Flock Hall.

Wish List

It has been brought to my attention that I am one for whom it is hard to shop. I have been encouraged by the BCPs to construct the following list as an aid to the Cyber-Faithful. Naturally, I would be pleased with a donation to charity in my name - in fact, I have a post on that very topic planned for later this week - but for those of a more materialist bent, I present in no particular order a few things I'd like to have...

An udu. The udu is played by striking it with all parts of the hand, and by cupping the hand(s) over the hole(s). Different techniques and different locations on the drum yeild many different sounds. I love hand drumming (that is, drumming without sticks), and the udu offers a number of cool sounds, but with less volume than a doumbec, djembe, or congas. I could play this at FlockHall without disturbing all the other inmates...

A nice mate and bombilla for yerba mate. I have a serviceable mate and bombilla, but I would love to have a larger one (I am as big as a house - my caffeine tolerance/jones is quite phenomenal). Other yerba mate paraphernalia (like a cool thermos, so I can stop stealing Ducky's) would be lovely also, as would a bag of the herb itself.

Clubbells. They are an absolutely awesome workout tool. Versatile, sturdy, and even fun to use. There is something meditative about rhythmically swinging these beasts about your head, and they are coated in rubber in case you aren't all that coordinated. I have a pair of 15 pound clubbells - they are central to my workouts, but I have grown strong enough now that a larger clubbell would be a big help. Any club of 25 pounds or more would be useful for single-handed exercises, and disciplining the cat. KIDDING, of course. The cat is way too fast for that...

A push-up board. I know, I know - another workout toy, but this is an item I would use three, maybe four times a week, and think gratefully of the giver each time. If you like the idea of me sweating and grunting while I pump up and down and think of you, then this is the gift choice for you! It would also be perfect if you are just tired of looking at my flabby moobs (man boobs). All kidding aside, this helps reduce wrist pain while doing push-ups and other "forward leaning rest position" exercises. When gripping the ends of the board, your hands are in a more natural position and your wrists don't hurt... which leaves you more able to concentrate on the searing pain elsewhere in your body...

Apple butter. It's not just a joke around here - I really do love apple butter. It contains important trace elements that my body needs in order to keep up with my hectic schedule of evil-doing. The store brands are ok, but they lack the homespun goodness of apple butter that someone canned themselves. I like my apple butter like I like my women - smooth, spicy, and straight - but I am not opposed to the bi varieties (pumpkin-apple, apple-pecan, peach-apple, etc.).

If none of these suit your tastes, you can simply use the three cop-out gifts my family always uses; books, games, and hot sauce.

The End is Nigh

Another semester is winding down, and I have remarkably few things to complete these days. These are the final days of the final classes I'll be taking at UW - a take home exam, a 15-page paper, and a presentation will complete my coursework here. Next semester I'll just be writing my thesis - no classes, and although I still have GA funding, I am not assigned to a professor.

I am not worried about getting this semester's work done on time.
I am not worried about writing my thesis, or defending it.
I am not worried about my PhD applications, or getting accepted somewhere.
In fact, I am not even excited about being done here.

The academy has finally rendered me numb.

Well - not entirely numb. I can still feel how tired I am. I know that by the end of the month-long winter break I will be ready to get back to work, but right now I just want to sleep.

Caffeine Use Results

Coffee, drip (61%)
Coffee, espresso (27%)
Coffee, French press (44%)
Coffee, other (lattes, frappachinos, iced, etc.) (55%)
Hot Tea, plain (72%)
Hot Tea, doctored (with sugar, honey, cream, etc.) (44%)
Iced Tea, plain (44%)
Iced Tea, doctored (with sugar, lemon, bourbon, etc.) (33%)
Yerba Mate (11%)
Soda, regular (55%)
Soda, diet (33%)
Chocolate (72%)
Other (mints, soap, breath spray, intravenous drip, etc.) (22%)

This poll demonstrates that despite the academic bent of my readers, the Flock is still a "Blue Collar Joe" kind of group. At least in terms of caffeine. The average Flocker takes his tea hot and straight up and makes his coffee with little paper filters. Given the number of computer nerds, gamers, and other self-confessed geeks in our ranks I'm amazed at the small response for the more esoteric caffeine application methods. Perhaps a trip to this page of Think Geek's catalog would be a good place to start your holiday shopping!

I also feel the need to talk up my new favorite caffeine application method - yerba mate. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT tea. At least not in the traditional sense, nor in the Red Zinger herbal hippy sort of way, either. It is made from the leaves and stems of a South American holly (Ilex paraguariensis), and it contains a fair amount of caffeine, ranging between 0.7% and 1.7% of its dry weight.

The neat thing about it is that re-brewing of the same leaves doesn't make it bitter. In fact, the proper way to do it involves pouring hot (not boiling) water over the leaves repeatedly until the flavor is gone. It is common for several friends to share the same gourd, pouring more hot water on the leaves for each person. You can add sugar, honey, citrus peel, maple syrup, or even whiskey to the gourd - but it's quite yummy plain. There are few clinical studies of mate, but apparently, this re-brewing process is very effective at extracting the xanthines from the leaves, so the actual dose from it is quite potent. Interestingly, the three xanthines present in mate have been shown to have a relaxing effect on smooth muscle tissue, yet a stimulating effect on myocardial (heart) tissue. It hasn't made my heart race, but my response to caffeine is somewhat dulled by my history of overuse and my gargantuan bulk.

The paraphernalia for this beverage is quite lovely as well. The gourds (called mate, in the indigenous language spoken in the Andes, which means "cup") range from plain and utilitarian to elaborate silver-chased affairs with engraved bombillas (that's the straw you sip it with) to match. Very pretty, and quite satisfying to the hand, too. Drinking it reminds me quite a bit of smoking a pipe, and some people claim that without sugar it tastes a bit like tobacco.

Ok, enough gushing. I'm going to go have a gourd now. Enjoy your Black Friday!

Oh, one last thing - new poll just went up.

Sunday Sermon, Thanksgiving 2009 Edition

Everything was delicious this year. The tofurkey, the braised kale, the southwestern corn casserole - all turned out perfectly. The leftovers are in the fridge, the dishes are done, and everyone else has gone to bed. I'm sitting on the couch, seriously considering ordering the TimeLife "Sweet Soul of the '70s" collection. The pitch made by Cuba Gooding Sr. and his lovely young cohost is so compelling. They're showing clips from Soul Train, and I am becoming seriously nostalgic. It was hard being a little white boy tenor in the South in the '70s. There was a period when I really wanted to be Marvin Gaye.

Perhaps I should go to bed soon...

It's been a lovely day. After a slow morning (which began at noon for me), we enjoyed a quiet little feast. I was thankful for the food, for the company, and for everything else. I hope all of you enjoyed your day, and gave thanks in whatever way you deemed appropriate.

Drug Poll Results

The question: What is your drug of choice?

The results:
Caffeine (50%)
Nicotine (0%)
Alcohol (10%)
Marijuana (0%)
Cocaine (0%)
Heroin (0%)
Methamphetamine (0%)
LSD (0%)
Fallout 3 (32%)
I don't do drugs - my body is a temple. (I'm also boring.) (7%)

Ok, the caffeine is no surprise. The recycling bins at Flockhall are constantly overflowing with diet Coke cans and Mountain Dew bottles.

The lack of dedicated smokers is no shock either. Cold weather, a smoke-free lease, and a house full of pet birds pretty much guarantees that people we hang out with don't smoke. In fact, I had to leave the house a few weeks ago to find a place to smoke a cigar.

The Fallout 3 responses were higher than I expected. I can think of three or four regular readers who would choose Fallout over life itself, but I wonder who the others were...

I commend the handful of drunks who responded. If you can't be honest on an internet survey, where can you be honest, right?

The biggest surprise to me was the lack of marijuana responses. I am absofuckinglutely certain that there are potheads among the Flock... were you all too stoned to vote?

It was suggested to me that I didn't include a couple perennial favorites - there were no responses for X/MDMA, or ketamine, or poppers, or any number of others. Sorry if your fix was missed...

Since so many chose caffeine, our next poll is on how you get your jolt (see sidebar).

Why is it Right?

Despite the previous post, sometimes the IMs around here are quite serious...

"Ethics are not based in a fear of regret, or guilt, or fear of retribution, but rather in compassion. Realizing that we are all essentially the same, and we all want essentially the same things - that is the basis of ethical behavior. It took me forever to get this, but basically everyone just wants to be treated well. We are truly ethical when we can understand the hurt of others. The lesson is that we all deserve decent treatment."

I wrote all that during a chat, and I wish I could own it. How often do we do the right things for the wrong reasons? I don't cheat on tests, but is it because I know it's unfair to the other students, or is it because I fear expulsion? I avoid meat, but is it to reduce the suffering of animals or because I fear heart disease?

In the long run the results are the same. It is a question of orthodoxy vs. orthopraxy - does it matter if the motivation is right, so long as the ethical thing gets done?

In a utilitarian sense, getting the ethical thing done regardless of the motivation is better than not getting it done at all, but without the compass of compassion we lose our way. We may fall into legalism, living by the hollow letter of the law, losing sight of the guiding principles.

There is an old Zen story about this...

"When the spiritual teacher and his disciples began their evening meditation, the cat who lived in the monastery made such noise that it distracted them. So the teacher ordered that the cat be tied up during the evening practice. Years later, when the teacher died, the cat continued to be tied up during the meditation session. And when the cat eventually died, another cat was brought to the monastery and tied up. Centuries later, learned descendants of the spiritual teacher wrote scholarly treatises about the religious significance of tying up a cat for meditation practice."

I think we tie up the cat too often.

Just Like Old Times

In a time-honored tradition, I engaged a member of the Flock in a sleep-deprived IM conversation this morning...

Cerus: Get a morning shift?
Reverend: 3-7
Cerus: ahh
Reverend: Watching "Legend of Neil." It's making me dumb.
Cerus: But it's a good way to catch teh dumb
Reverend: oh, Felicia Day as the fairy… I'd hit it.
Cerus: No one would think less of you for it
Well, maybe someone. But they'd be wrong, and stupid.
Reverend: Even if she is the size of a smurf…
Cerus: True, but as porn has taught us, being a smurf or smurf-like doesn't prevent a porn From emerging.
Editor's Note: Google "Smurf Porn." It's in Spanish, even. The Papa Smurf scene is scarring, and Gargomel is just fucking wrong.
Reverend: eh.
Cerus: so, that may extend to other areas (shudder)
Reverend: I don't hink your date should fade or smear on you. Just saying.
Cerus: fair enough.
Man, it's going to be a shitty day.
Reverend: Why?
Cerus: I woke up two hours ago and I have this general feeling of dread I can't shake today
Reverend: Return to bed. Hide. That's my advice. It's the American way.
Cerus: meh, I've been back to bed. Sleep isn't coming. I might be stressing about my thesis or something.
Reverend: You think?
Cerus: More so about the other students asking me every 10 seconds if I have every single detail planned out and ready to go.
Reverend: Tell them you do. That's what I do. I love the look on their faces.
Cerus: Ha.
Reverend: I'm got a bastard.
…why is there a "got" in there?
I have no idea.
I should sleep at some point.
I haven't slept since 9:00 yesterday morning.
Cerus: ahh, well that should be easy for you
Reverend: Going on 21 hours now.
Getting kind of silly.
Cerus: I can hit about 38 hours before my body completely tells me to fuck off, it's getting sleep.
The six hours before that include a lot of auditory and visual hallucinations
Reverend: I used to do that... but I saw the Care Bears go feral once. It's not fun anymore.
Cerus: fair enough
Reverend: I also ate cookie dough ingredients once.
Not the dough - just the ingredients, one at a time.
Cerus: nice
Reverend: The egg was tough to get down. A little gaggy.
Cerus: I imagine. The shells hurt.
Reverned: Right. I had to floss.

The Violence of Our Times

I have been neglecting my internet life. My Google Reader has over 1000 items in it. Most are blogs and webcomics that I used to follow religiously. I haven't been posting, or tweeting, or commenting, or anything on the internet of late; hell, I'm even behind on my pr0n. Serious slacking has been taking place, in all maters not directly related to school.

Today, however, I'm feeling like I have time for other things again. I feel like I have time to write - that I must write. It's good to emerge into the light again. I attribute this rejuvenation to two things. First, I went to see "The Men Who Stare at Goats" which I heartily recommend to anyone who can relax and enjoy the humor of it without getting all worked up over the tax dollars spent in the pursuit of psychic powers. Secondly, I came across a quotation the other day from Merton. That's Thomas, the Trappist monk, not Robert, the sociologist.

"To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to the violence of our times."

I do that. Sociology is not a field for worriers, as we are steeped in the evidence of man's failure to live with himself in any numbers. The puzzle of how to adjust our ancient brains - designed to respond to the hazards of living in small groups on the savanna, armed with pointed sticks - to the paved and air conditioned world we have built to house our millions keeps some of us up at night. I'm one of those.

But Merton is right - it is a violence that I do to myself. I'm not likely to solve that puzzle by forcing myself into an intellectual fugue. I am much more likely to write something worthwhile, either on this blog or sociologically, when I am relaxed. Which leads me to our poll for this week - drugs! Please give your honest response (which is completely anonymous and untraceable) to the poll at right. If your favorite drug isn't listed, please feel free to mention it in the comments (which aren't anonymous at all...).

Is This Really a Problem?

Is body part furniture the wave of the future? I can't wait for the release of the scrotum couch...

Yes, We're Actually Writing This Thing...

Cerus, Jason, and I recently started talking about a joint research paper. Amid much joking, we began to seriously discuss the possibility of doing a paper on -


Our initial search of journals turned up nothing on them - they seemed to be the last unsurveyed subculture in the world. With our combined academic skills and knowledge of the 'net, we seemed to be the perfect men for the job. I was clawing my way through my midterms so that I could get to work on our questionnaire when Jason sent me this:

"Furries From A to Z (Anthropomorphism to Zoomorphism)"

Of course someone has already studied this. How stupid of me. Now, the obvious thing to do is to read this article carefully and refute it with findings of our own. I haven't really dug into it yet, but on first glance I did find some of their questions to be odd. "Do you consider yourself to be less than 100% human?" "If you could become 0% human, would you?" These questions don't really contribute to a clear picture of who furries are, and generate useless answers like, "I'm about 68% human..." What does that even mean?

Ah, the bloodless cut and thrust of academia...

We'll be focusing our study on a larger population of furries, with an eye toward gathering more demographic information. If you are a furry, don't let the media stereotype you. Make your voice heard by participating in our study! I'll be posting a link to our questionnaire here soon, but feel free to contact me by email in the meantime.

For the Woman Who Has Every Damn Thing

20 mph = 8.9408 m/s

Last weekend, at 2:50 in the morning, I was struck by the need for a sandwich… a veggie one, with avocado. If you are nocturnal like me, you know that means I had just 10 minutes to get to Jimmy John’s. Making it from Malcontent Manor to Jimmy John’s in 10 minutes is possible… well, it used to be possible, before the speed limits around campus were lowered to 20mph.

Most people go more than 20mph in a parking lot. In most cars with automatic transmissions, if you just take your foot off the brake, you’re doing more than 20mph. 20mph is the speed reserved for one or two blocks around the front of an elementary school, and even then there is a light - it’s only for about an hour in the morning, and an hour in the afternoon. 20mph is slower than the standard speed limit for residential zones, where there are old people, and children on bikes and rollerblades, and folks playing catch, and walking family pets – if 25mph is safe enough for that population, why, then, is the speed limit all the way around UW’s campus 20mph, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?

Is it because the leaders of tomorrow can’t successfully cross the street?
Did some trustee’s kid got mowed down on his way to Roofie Night on sorority row?
Is the city just trying to keep me from getting to Jimmy John’s in a timely fashion?!

It’s none of those reasons, as I helpfully explained to the officers who stopped me on 15th street. It’s just a revenue generation scheme. Just like doubling the cost of metered parking on campus, and extending the city permit parking areas, this too, is simply another way to squeeze the citizens of Laramie (Laramie-ans? Laramites? whatever) for a few bucks more.

As I told the officers – and yes, that’s plural, because I have been stopped twice on that downhill section of 15th – that speed limit is bullshit. As cops, they have discretion in how and when they enforce the laws, and as a former cop myself, I know this is one law that I would not enforce unless the offense was truly heinous. I wouldn’t stop someone at 2:50 in the morning on that stretch of road unless he was swerving from curb to curb with dead babies wedged in his wheel wells. Any cop that enforces that speed limit is either a ball-less automaton, or just trying to hang some paper to justify his existence.

When I politely explained that to them, one had the temerity to ask me if I’d been drinking. Seriously? Would a drunk person use the word "automaton" correctly in a sentence? Honestly! Not exactly detective material, are you Skippy?

In the end, that officer saw the logic of my argument – or he decided it wasn’t worth tazering me over. At any rate, I didn’t get a ticket, or an avocado sandwich that night, and frankly, I’m still pissed about it.

The moral of this story? Speak your mind. I questioned the genital soundness of a cop and lived to tell about it, and you can too! Also - plan ahead for the munchies…

A Glimpse of the Future

It's that time of the semester again. It's the time when you question why you're studying what you're studying. That leads to questioning why you're in school, then questioning what you want to do when you graduate, which leads to questioning your reason for living. Ah, good times, good times...

I have been through this many times before, of course. I have been enrolled in at least 6 credits for every semester since fall of 2001. I am coming to the close of my third degree now, so I suppose I have the right to be feeling a bit burned out. Usually, at this point in the semester I'm beginning to feel the pressure of a couple annotated bibliographies, perhaps a large presentation or two, and a big paper looming on the horizon. It makes you feel guilty every time you sit down without a book or article in your hands. Everything you do that isn't related to your work becomes a luxury - movies, games, friends, sex... for some real extremists, this comes to encompass food, sleep, and bathing as well. You reach a point where you can't enjoy anything until the semester is put to bed. Once that last assignment is turned in, you can breathe again. I love that feeling.

Now, I'm beginning to see, that feeling is gone forever. It's not long after you begin to think about being a lifer in the academy that you realize that means it is NEVER all done. My methods class has made it abundantly clear to me that there is always another paper, another article, another study. And it's not just your own work - there is the work of others in your field that you must keep up with, think about, and with which your work must ultimately compete. When I'm feeling upbeat and positive, I call it "job security." I'm not calling it that today.

It's not that my life is all that terrible; I am, in fact, quite privileged. It's not that my class load is all that onerous either; I have only two classes, both excellently taught by professors I respect. It's not even the fear of this all coming to an end (which it will, gods willing, in a few more years). It is the realization that so few other options are open to me. I am destined for a career in the academe because I am so unsuited to anything else.

-I am accustomed to speaking my mind- this disqualifies me for a great many vocations, ranging from sales to customer service to politics to religion.
-I do not suffer fools gladly, which makes untenable any position in which I must deal with non-academics - and a good many academics as well.
-I am both cynical and critical, which would make me a terrible manager.
-I talk far too much, which keeps me from fitting into most office settings.
-I often stumble onto a new topic that grabs my attention in a sudden fit of interest bordering on obsession, but the duration of these fits is generally not long enough to make any sort of profit from them. (Tonight's fit was on the viability of an in-depth survey of furries, but that's another post...)

In short, I am easily bored and mouthy about it when I get that way. I need the room to explore, colleagues to discuss my findings with, and students to pontificate at. Unfortunately, the price for that is continual publishing and wrangling over tenure. I knew that already - my mother is an academic - but there is a difference between knowing something intellectually, and suddenly feeling it in your bones. When I look to the future I see my thesis prospectus staring back at me. Just past it stands the thesis itself, and peeking over its shoulder is a dissertation. There are articles and chapters and a book or two as well, all standing in a line that stretches out of sight, waiting their turn under the hammer.

My fingers ache for the typing yet to come.

Comfort and Cameron "fix" Darwin's work

Charles Darwin’s work on natural selection has been with us for nearly 150 years now. In fact, the 150th anniversary of his classic, On the Origin of Species, is in November. It was earth-shaking stuff when it came out, but after nearly a century and a half of biology, paleontology, anthropology, zoology, and a host of other “-ologies” lending credence to his concepts, the most amazing thing about it may be that so many people still prefer the literal biblical interpretation, with the 7 days and the tree and the whole “it’s the woman’s fault” thing.

Some of them are so convinced of that version, in fact, that they are taking their little snake and apple show out to college campuses. One of these people is former sitcom star and now uber-Christian, Kirk Cameron. On November 21st, he’s going to be distributing a new version of the Origin of Species with a 50-page intro penned by his sidekick, Ray Comfort. You remember Ray – he’s also known as Bananaman. He got his 15 megs of fame on the Internet a few years back when he taught us all about how the banana was designed by God to fit the human hand – and then quietly apologized as it was pointed out that man hybridized the banana into the shape it has today. This, of course, qualifies him to write an introduction to one of the most defining scientific books of all time… an introduction which paints Darwin as a racist, misogynist, and heretic, then goes on to link evolution to the rise of the Nazis.

They’re going to be handing out this literary gem on the top 50 college campuses in America – which by the way, apparently does not include the University of Wyoming, a fine institution of which I am an alumnus, two and a half times over. It’s one thing to tamper with the most important theorist since Newton, but simultaneously diss my alma mater? Son of a bitch must pay.

I’m tired of this crap, so I’m just going to lay it out for you here. The Origin of Species is not the problem. Natural Selection is not the problem, nor is evolution. The problem is blind faith. Blind faith has caused many more problems than evolution ever will or could. You can decide what you choose to believe, but don’t tell me to not think for myself, and lastly – if your god tells you to tamper with the work of minds so clearly superior to your own, then screw him too.

(Thanks to Cerus for the heads up on this.)

I shall fear no lid...

I know I promised that I would confine the workout shit to my other blog, but I'm too excited about this to not blog it. Some of you may recall that I have been working on my grip strength. The grippers that I use are the Captains of Crush (CoC) line made by IronMind. To put things in perspective, the little plastic grippers you see at your local godless corporate superstore call for about 30-40 pounds of pressure to close. The approximate poundage needed to close the CoC range is listed below.

CoC #1 - 140 lb.
CoC #1.5 - 167.5 lb.
CoC #2 - 195 lb.
CoC #2.5 - 237.5 lb.
CoC #3 - 280 lb.
CoC #3.5 - 322.5 lb.
CoC #4 - 365 lb.

I started out with a CoC #1, and mastered it pretty easily. Then came the overtraining, the injuries, the illness, and the painful starting over. I have been back to using the grippers regularly for a while now, but at a much more sane level of intensity than before. I have been doing proper warm up sets, stretching my fingers out, and giving my hands time to rest between workouts... which is all stuff that is found in every training manual, but why would I listen to experts, right?

So with the hard lessons learned and the injuries behind me now, I've been making some progress. About a week ago I finally closed the CoC #2 with my left hand. That was an amazing feeling, since my left side in general has been seriously lagging behind in strength development and coordination (ask any of my handball partners about how my left hand is "my lucky fin").

That was a nice dose of confidence, so I started hitting the #2.5 pretty seriously with my right hand. I have been close to closing it for a few weeks now, and today was the day! At the beginning of my evening kettlebell workout, when my grip was rested and fresh, I gave it a try and the handles touched pretty easily. I tried it again about an hour later, just to make sure it wasn't a fluke, and I was able to close it again.

In the grand scheme of things, it's not really all that important that I can generate 237.5 lbs of crunch with my right hand, but it does feel good to reach one of my short term goals. Also, it makes me the bane of pickle jars the world over...

Black Vatican Hardware Upgrade

My Tuesday class was cancelled, so I literally had nowhere to be all day. I got up at the crack of noon, and began the difficult task of breaking in my new Macbook Pro.

I got it on Monday afternoon, but due to my Monday evening class, I'd only played with it for a few minutes. Today I did all those things you do when you get a new computer - set up my email accounts, set my homepage, downloaded Firefox and Word for Mac, etc. I haven't, however, hooked this baby up to my old iBook G4 for file transfer yet, and I might not. I am enjoying the "clean slate" feeling of this shiny new toy. No old essays cluttering up the hard drive, no half finished blog posts on the desktop, no stale pr0n in the trash bin... It feels like New Year's Day - the future is full of promise, and resolutions of power computing.

"I resolve to properly categorize my bookmarks."
"I resolve to change my passwords every month."
"I resolve to keep food and drinks at a safe distance."
"I resolve to cycle my battery regularly to extend its life."
"I resolve to not use my desktop as a file cabinet."

Unfortunately, just as the resolutions of January 1st usually only last until the 15th or so, I know it won't be too long before I'm looking at my hard drive saying, "WTF is all this shite? When did I save 120 MB of lolcats?!

For now, however, it feels lovely. It is like skiing on fresh snow; I am alone on this pristine cyberslope, and each link I click on is a beautiful Telemark arc in the history window...

Wow - where did that come from? I don't even like winter sports.

Maybe it's time to put the Macbook down for the night...

New Accolyte

Since the Papal Hell Puppy has been reassigned to the D.C. branch of the Ministry, it was decided that FlockHall was underrepresented in the quadruped demographic. In the interest of cultural and species diversity, an exhaustive selection process was put into motion. After a final round of interviews yesterday, a female Havana Brown was chosen; Miss Quinn officially joined the Flock around 5pm Black Vatican standard time. She spent most of last night sleeping on my head, so she is fitting right in.

Just to clarify - I am not a huge fan of cats, but I do not, as has been reported, "fucking hate them." I was misquoted. I did say, "My mother had these cats; I fucking hated them." That is a very different thing. Miss Quinn is welcome here, and like any other member of my Flock, she is much beloved (Yes - I love you all, creepy as that sounds).

Frogs Are People Too

I was all set to just come in here and bitch about how Lewis Black stole my flying car joke, which I posted here, on this very blog, on July 18th of this year. I’m not looking for royalties or anything, just a little recognition and maybe some better seats at your next show, Lewis…

Instead, I’ve spent the last two days trying to figure out if Glen Beck is actually so deranged as to throw a living frog into boiling water on live television. In case you haven’t heard about it – the alleged amphibicide took place on the September 23rd edition of his show. In order to illustrate some arcane point about how the American people are being boiled alive slowly by John McCain or suddenly by President Obama, Beck appears to toss a small frog into a pot of boiling water, with fatal results. For the frog, alas.

After reading a dozen so-called news reports, and watching the video over and over… I just really can’t tell. He does look a bit stunned when it doesn’t jump right back out, but Beck is a consummate showman – that could be part of the act. What point this was supposed to make is beyond me. What I can tell is that Glenn Beck is one pathetic little monkey. He reminds me of a 5 year-old kid dancing around in his pajamas when company comes to visit. It’s kind of pitiful really, the way he is willing to do anything for attention and a bigger slice of the Nielson pie. It was making me feel kind of sad for him, as if he didn’t deserve the all the ire that is heaped upon almost daily – I mean, he’s sick, right? It was as I was leafing through the DSM IV in an attempt to diagnose his personality disorder when I suddenly remembered… he made 23 million dollars last year! Even if it is a sickness, it’s a lucrative one, and I kind of wish I had a case of it myself…

Becks lunacy aside, what does his popularity say about his fan base? I can’t believe that they’re really just a pack of ignorant hillbillies who would be amused by dropping live animals into boiling water. I mean, that’s just… wait, what? I’m sorry, hang on, folks… Oh – oh, they are? Ok, one of our fact checkers is telling me from the booth that they are just ignorant hillbillies. Ok, wow – I stand corrected. Well, in that case, I guess this is just par for the course. You can’t really expect much more from the demographic that made turning left for 500 miles a major televised sport.

Glenn – as one radio personality to another – let me give you some advice. This kind of crap may be good for ratings, but in humor, you really only have two choices – tell a joke, or be a joke. Looks like you’ve made your choice.

Fallout is a Harsh Mistress

Contrary to what you might have assumed, neither this blog, nor I, are dead. I wish I could say that I've been really busy or that I'm still sick, but no - the truth is, I've just been Lazy McSlackenheimer of late.

I only have two classes this semester, plus 3 credits of thesis research. Granted, those two classes (Sociobiology and Research Methods) are both beastly, but in past semesters I have taken 3 classes and still had time to post. I'm not sure what the deal is this semester, but it seems like I have less time to write than ever. I am beginning to believe that the days are shorter this year. It probably has something to do with the economy - fucking greedy Wall Street types...

Several of the BCPs have tried to motivate me by offering topic suggestions. Some have suggested that I go back to my usual pissy ranting about the ennui of college, but even I'm tired of that. Another wanted me to put more effort into bashing the talking heads of the Right, but that would mean that I'd have to listen to Limbaugh and Beck more. The Papal cardiologist and the Papal therapist both recommended against it, as listening to those asshats simultaneously depresses me and makes my blood pressure soar.

One even offered me a book concept. She said, "You know how you're always saying that the average American doesn't begin to understand why the Proletariat should rise up and throw off the Capitalists? You could write a book that explains it to them!"

"Yes," I said, "but that book has already been written. It's called The Communist Manifesto."

"Well, yeah, but you're so funny!" Then she wrinkled her pretty nose and said, "Besides, no one wants to read Marx."

Despite these adorable shows of support, I have remained a non-productive lameass. Some of the problem is related to my brief but intense fling with Fallout 3 (if that game was a woman, I'd buy it chocolates and ask it out - and it would say "no," because it's way too good for me, and I would just love it from afar... maybe wait outside it's house... and end up with a restraining order). I can't really blame my silence on that, however, as the Xbox here at Flockhall is currently out of commission, due to the red ring of death. It is by sheer force of will alone that I am not at WalMart right now buying a new one.

Truthfully, I believe it is mostly due to my lack of a proper schedule, which is directly related to my lack of regular workouts. Simply put, if Linus no tired, Linus no sleep. Now that I'm well enough to sweat again, I'm trying to remedy that lack. We have been playing handball for the last two weeks, I've been swinging the kettlebells again, and I've started going back to the MMA gym as well. I am taking it easy, however, as I am finally accepting the mileage my body has on it. I don't want a relapse of the mystery virus, nor do I need to tweak my shoulder again. I just want to be tired enough to fall into bed around 11:00 every night, so I can rise early and get stuff done. If that works, I should be able to take some daytime shifts in the computer labs, and that is when the blog magic happens.

So - if you have missed my inane blathering here, make the correct obeisances before whatever heathen altars you frequent, and pray that I sleep. Light candles, make burnt offerings, anoint things, or even one another - I'm authorizing you to pull out all the stops. Once you get the attention of the supernatural entity of your choice, ask nicely, like you would ask Santa.

Not Mono, but Dying Just the Same

In my ongoing quest to destroy what little readership I have left, I've been posting nothing but political rants and Veganazi propaganda. Despite this, my tracking software indicates that my daily number of hits has remained steady. This led me to wonder just exactly who my readers are. I wanted to equip my corps of flying monkeys with a list of referral URLs and send them out to hunt you all down, but the boys down in Legal said no. Apparently it's some kind of liability issue if you cause people to freak out by subjecting them to living proof that their childhood fears are real. Stoopid Wizard of Oz PTSD...

In order to give you a post that will neither destroy your faith in the political system, nor ruin your lunch (you filthy omnivores) I'll just try to fill you in on some changes in my life.

I am working what I hope is my last overnight shift in a computer lab, ever. Because the class I am the GA for is in the mid-morning, my office hours are in the early afternoon, and my own classes meet in the evening, working 03:00 - 07:00 means I'm not getting anywhere near enough sleep. If you follow my fitness blog, you may recall that I mentioned a blood test for mono a few weeks ago. Turns out that I don't have mono, nor do I have a host of other viral nasties, but they are not sure what IS wrong. All they can tell me is that I have a lingering viral infection, and the treatment is rest. Anecdotally, I have to agree. If I get 6-7 hours of sleep on a given day, I will begin to cough by late afternoon. If, however, I get 8-10 hours of sleep my cough does not return.

I have thrown myself on the clemency of my boss, and begged for some day shifts. Failing that, I'd be ok with slipping back to a "subs only" status on the schedule, where I'd only work the shifts that others give up because of personal conflicts. Hopefully, he will oblige - if not, I'll just have to quit outright.

In other fun news, I am getting certified to judge ISCF MMA bouts. It's a bit like the judging in boxing; a "10-point must" system, with equal weight given to standup striking, clinch fighting, take-downs, positioning, submission attempts, ground striking, and overall control. It means that I will be one of three sanctioned judges at the next cage fight in Black Vatican City, which happens to be taking place on the 11th of September. If you are local and would like to come to the bout - there are three championship belts on the line - contact me by email and I'll give you details on getting tickets.

Anywho, I have some poll results for you. The question was:

How do you want to see the health care issue resolved?

(This, of course, assumes that you see health care as an issue. If you don't, you may not have felt the need to participate in the poll. You also may not feel the need to remove your cranium from your rectum. Your call...)

The Results:

A single payer system, like the European models. 43%

A modification of the current system, with both private and public options. 56%

A slight reworking of the current system, with more options for those with pre-existing conditions. 0%

Viva la Capitalism! Fuck the poor and the ill - health care for the highest bidder! 0%

The cyber-faithful are divided, but both factions want to see some form of public health care - you godless Socialists. (I'm so proud of you...)

Thankfully, none of you punks chose that last response. Even if you had just done it as a joke, there would have been flying monkeys galore - liability be damned.


I know you hate it when I bring this up, but this is just plain fucked up.

The machine they use to grind the chicks is called a macerator... yeah, as in "to chew." Think about this when you order your next Egg McMuffin. Or anything with eggs in it... which is a lot more than you'd think. Read labels - and be horrified.

A New Semester

Hopefully, this is my final semester of coursework at UW. I am enrolled in two seminars; Sociobiology and Advanced Research Methods. Both look to be great classes, with excellent instructors. I'm also the Graduate Assistant for Sociology of Gender. I'll be lecturing a bit in that class, so that should be a good time.

The first week of classes is always a time of adjustment. This semester, however, has been more lumpy than usual. I am not as organized as I'd like to be, and I've already missed a workshift because of it. I'm not sure why this semester has gotten off to a rougher start than usual, but here is a partial list of the stressors that come to mind...

I have a metric fuckton of reading to do for my seminars
I want to keep up on my workout schedule
I want to maintain my morning meditation schedule
I am trying to eat a better diet
I want to find time for writing, both academic and this blog
I feel like I should be more politically active (I want universal Health Care!)
I want to get as much done on my thesis research as possible
I need to get enough sleep to stay healthy

The past few days have gone by in a blur, and I feel like I haven't gotten much done. To alleviate that feeling I've spent the last few hours getting all the articles for my seminars downloaded and put into folders, and I've also been getting my Google Calendar loaded with all my assignments. I feel simultaneously better and overwhelmed. Seeing the work all spread out before me like that is daunting, but it also removes the need for concious thought. I know what is to be done each day, without wasting any cerebral resources on it.

As for this blog, I am not certain what will be appearing on here. I have, however, decided that it is time for another poll - see the right sidebar.

I still don't play WoW...

...but good goddamn Felicia Day is hot.

If I thought it would get me any closer to her, I'd log on right now...
(Thanks to Raksha for bringing this to my attention.)

Poke Glenn Beck in the Eye

More often than not, the news makes me sad. Recently, it’s been all health care this and health care that, and Ann Coulter putting Zeke Emmanuel on her “death list,” and some crazy birther ripping up a poster of Rosa Parks at a town hall meeting – seriously, who hates Rosa Parks?

In the last few days, however, there has been a string of news stories that have warmed my withered and blackened heart and brought a smile to my face. No, I’m not talking about Michael Vick getting signed by the Eagles – that just made me uneasy – nor am I referring to Hillary being asked what her husband thought of foreign affairs – that just made me come up with jokes about picking up girls while on a goodwill tour of other countries…

No, I’m referring to the current exodus of advertisers from the TV show of right-wing asshat, Glenn Beck. In the last few days, major corporations have been fleeing Beck’s idiot hour like rats being attacked by Somali pirates. He’s lost Lexis-Nexus, Procter & Gamble, Progressive Insurance, Travelocity, SC Johnson, Sargento, ConAgra, Radio Shack, Roche, Sanofi-Aventis, and my personal favorite, Geico. The caveman and talking lizard company won’t even be on TV with Glenn Beck. And rightly so. In recent months he has really stepped up his game. In addition to his usual schedule of incoherent screaming, crying, and drawing bizarre connections between Obama, Nazi Germany, and his handicapped daughter, he has added calling the president a racist to the docket. Well, to be precise, he called the President a racist who hates white people and white culture. If race baiting was an Olympic event, Beck would be suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs.

Of course, it would be too much to expect the Fox network to sanction him for this behavior, nor can we expect corporate America to actually have a conscience. No, it was the hard work of an advocacy group called that actually got results. By emailing their 600,000 members, they were able to solicit enough support to actually tug on the purse strings of big business by threatening a boycott of products advertised on Beck’s show. It’s beautiful really – Beck was attempting to rouse the ire of whites, and instead he pissed off the black community so much that they actually reacted effectively. He has moved people to action – against him. I absolutely love it.

ColorofChange is still pressuring his other advertisers to pull their ads, and they want you to add your voice to the outcry. At you can sign an online petition, or better yet, you can write to his advertisers directly. Currently, folks are asked to write to the CEO of Red Lobster, and to WalMart’s Director of Ethics – which, incidentally, has got to be the most oxymoronic title in corporate America.

You should do this. You should do it in the name of responsible broadcasting… or in the name of corporate responsibility… or in the name of poking Glenn Beck in the eye… or, just in the name of making the Black Pope happy – you want me to be happy, right? My life is so hollow – help me out here…

Are "Ordinary Americans" Really This Stupid?

I love democracy. I love it as much or more than the next guy – especially when the next guy is a whacked out teabagger who has been whipped into a frenzy by the likes of Limbaugh and Hannity. As our legislators wade into the festering cesspool that is the health care debate, the right-wing talking heads have encouraged their devotees – so called, “ordinary Americans” - to assault every town hall meeting with a barrage of half truths and irrational frothing about everything from assisted suicide to Obama’s Muslim Kenyan origins. In an attempt to protect our Democracy from the dangerous Socialists who want to institute horrible Nazi reforms like giving everyone the ability to see a doctor, these thinly-veiled lynch mobs have disrupted town hall meetings all over the US, and prevented any realistic debate about the issue. The fact that just out-yelling your opponents is completely counter to the ideals of our Democracy apparently hasn’t occurred to them yet, but even if it did, they certainly wouldn’t let a little detail like that deter them from their appointed mission.

In fact, some of them are taking that mission so seriously that they’re prepared to take the next illogical step. Numerous Democratic lawmakers have reported receiving threats by phone, email, and in person. Just as you’d expect from the ignorant “guns and god” demographic, these threats involve promises of violence and death for legislators who support the health care bill. It’s only a matter of time before some lunatic hopped up on huge doses of Glenn Beck and Pabst Blue Ribbon actually demonstrates his interpretation of the 2nd Amendment and drops the hammer on a Democrat. Of course, Beck and the rest will abhor the violence, even though they are actively fomenting it with fear mongering and disinformation. According to them, the government is going to tell us all which pills to take, force us all to stand in line for hours in pools of your own blood, and euthanize grandma when she gets too expensive to care for.

Folks, I’ve looked the bill over – and notice I said, “looked it over,” because the PDF is over 1000 pages long. When someone says they’ve read the bill, please feel free to call shenanigans because they’re full of crap. At any rate, I’ve looked it over, and from what I can tell they really aren’t going to bureaucratize us into death camps, no matter how many times those wankers on Fox News say so.

The truth is, the majority of Americans have nothing to lose in this battle. The number of uninsured and underinsured is always a subject of debate, but the experts all agree that those numbers are rising steadily every year. The Census Bureau reports that the families hit hardest are those with incomes between $25,000 and $75,000 a year – which is the bulk of “ordinary Americans.” Hand in hand with the rising uninsured number is a decrease in employer coverage, which also hits the 25 to 75k crowd the hardest. So tell me again why these “ordinary Americans” are protesting a bill that will help them the most?

It comes down to this – they have been lied to. Worse yet, many of them lack the cognitive skills to know a lie from the truth. That's right - I'm outright calling them stupid. Given that they are stupid, those who would lie to them to further their own political ends are despicable, but those who would do so for something so base as ratings deserve to be placed in the very same dystopian healthcare systems they predict. When Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh are bleeding out while standing in line for government health care, THEN I might support euthanasia.

Technical Difficulties

Apparently, Blogger is borked...

Jerk Yourself Thin

I think this is a real product...


Tired of getting cramps in your arms before he's done? Now, for only $19.95 you can have beautiful, sculpted chicken-choking muscles in as little as 6 minutes a day!

Why don't they just call it the "JackMaster 2000" and be done with it?

Our First Fight...

UPDATE: Apparently, the President and the two principals in this incident will be having some brewskis in the near future...

I knew this day would come. Even in the heady days of our whirlwind romance during the campaign, I knew the spark would grow cold, and someday Obama and I would have out first spat. I mean, it’s only natural, given my uber-left worldview, fickle nature, and tenuous grip on my temper – but I had hoped it would happen later, and I hoped it would be for something roguish and cute, like diddling an intern with a cigar. But earlier this week when the President said the Cambridge, Massachusetts police officer who arrested prominent Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. acted stupidly, I wanted to make him sleep on the couch.

As you have probably figured out by now, I’m about as liberal as a guy can get. I’m all for exposing discrimination and racism in all its forms, and I think that agencies and officials should work to even the disparities between the races in terms of policing. I’m well aware that Blacks and Latinos are arrested in disproportionate numbers in this country, and I’m also not opposed to sanctioning police officers who overstep their powers, despite my own previous career as a law enforcement officer. That said, I am opposed to the President, or any official for that matter, making off-hand remarks about a case, the facts of which, he admittedly didn’t know.

Because Professor Gates is an African American and the arresting officer is white, the immediate assumption is that he was the victim of racial profiling, and I confess that upon hearing of the incident, that was the conclusion I jumped to as well. Upon hearing just a few of the details of the case, however, I began to have my doubts.
According to all the published accounts I’ve seen, at the point that the arrest was made, Professor Gates had already shown the officer his Harvard ID card, and the officer was trying to get some confirmation that the house was, in fact, his. With that fact confirmed, the officer would have no reason to make an arrest – it is perfectly legal to break into your own house. The fact that the arrest was made for disorderly conduct while he was trying to ascertain that fact indicates that the words which were exchanged between the officer and Gates were probably quite heated.

This leads us to the question of why? Why would the officer and Gates begin yelling at each other to the point that the officer felt it was necessary to jail the professor? And believe me, it takes a lot to get the average cop to do that - taking someone to jail requires an affidavit and a bunch of other paperwork hassles, so it's generally not done on a whim. I came up with several possible answers.

It could be that the cop in question is a racist pig bastard, following the dictates of “the Man” and he was just taking the opportunity to jail a black man for no reason. While I admit that’s possible, I think it unlikely, given that the officer, Sgt. James Crowley, is the guy who teaches the racial sensitivity classes at their local law enforcement academy. If anything, he would be hyper-aware of the ramifications of such an action. Plus, he has no prior history of such behavior in his career.

Could it be that this was just a case of a guy losing it on a cop because he was embarrassed? Possibly – an incident like that would certainly generate a police report, which would be published in the police blotter, which could cause a prominent man like Gates to feel a bit foolish. In that situation, some of us will yell before we think of the consequences. Especially if we feel that our position should carry some prestige with it which makes us believe that we should be treated with greater respect or deference – sound like any prominent professors you know?

Or worst of all, could it be that the victim of racial profiling here is the cop? Could it be that because he is a white man arresting a prominent black man on charges which were ultimately dropped, that the assumption is that his behavior was racially motivated? In fact, could he take any action in this situation without the shadow of race falling over it?

Any of these scenarios could be the case, and only Crowley and Gates really know what happened that evening. It does seem likely to me, however, that this is not a case of blatant racial bias on the part of the officer, and even if the arrest was not wise, this is not Rodney King or Abner Louima we’re talking about here – no one got severely beaten or had a broomstick broken off in his ass. In short, it’s not an incident that requires national media attention. Had this taken place between two men of the same race, would this even be an issue? It wouldn’t have gotten national coverage, and it certainly doesn’t require the comment of the President.

Although I’m not ready to break up with the President yet, the honeymoon is definitely over. He needs to do something really romantic to win me back… like, attaching dental coverage to the health care plan, or, making gay marriage legal in all 50 states.

Actually, I’m easier than that. I’d probably settle for lower gas prices and some flowers...

At War with the Plants

My allergies are quite irritating right now. Even while staying indoors I am sneezing and my eyes itch, but I have already exceeded the allowed dosage of my meds for today. This is one of the great ironies of my life here in Black Vatican City - I bitch all the time about the cold, yet during our all-too-brief summer the plants outside are trying to kill me.

As for medications, the next step is steroids. I've tried the steroid shot in years past and it worked like a charm, but I'm less than excited about going that route. It is both expensive and not great for your innards, plus I'd rather be treated in a more natural way.

This brings me to one of the many thorny crossroads that all vegans face. It seems that there is a body of evidence (mostly anecdotal, unfortunately) that indicates that raw local honey or bee pollen taken daily can reduce or eliminate allergy symptoms. Honey is one of the grey areas of veganism - many will avoid it simply in the name of consistency, while others will tell you that honey is one of the only animal foods that doesn't actually exploit the animals producing it. I've done a bit of research of late on the subject, and the domestic honeybee is, in fact, probably far better off than his wild cousins, but some are killed during the harvesting of full honeycombs - it's unavoidable.

I know many of you will scoff at my concern for a few tiny bees, but I want to kill as few animals as possible in the years remaining to me in this incarnation. I choose not to eat animal foods because I don't need them to live a long, healthy life; avoiding unnecessary suffering and killing of any kind is the point. In this case, however, the animal producers don't appear to suffer terribly, the number of deaths is reportedly very low, and I may actually NEED the fruits of their labors in order to live a healthier, less pharmaceutical-dependent life

So, the long and the short of it is that after much thought, I've decided to give the honey and bee pollen treatments a try. I've read that it takes a long time to work, so this may not be particularly useful until next spring, but I think It's worth a try. If anyone knows of good ways to ingest bee pollen (I hear it's nasty) I'd be grateful for your recipes.

How Was Girls' Night Out, Honey?

Remembering Apollo 11

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, and in a few days it will be the anniversary of the first moonwalk.

I imagine that most of you weren’t born yet, but I recall both of those events. I was 4 years old at the time, and the quality of those first televised images from the moon was pretty grainy, but I remember it, and I’m thankful my grandmother sat me down in front of the TV that day and threatened to beat me if I wasn’t quiet.

I’m glad I remember it, because the Apollo program proved that when mankind applies its talents we can achieve great things. It was a time of optimism, and vision, and a belief that with technology, anything was possible. It seemed obvious to us that by the time I became an adult, on the weekends we’d all be driving our hover cars to the spaceport to catch a flight to the Sea of Tranquility for some R&R.

Of course, just a few years later, the Apollo program was dismantled. Having accomplished our real objective of beating the Russians in the race to the moon, the government lost interest and turned to more important things – like beating the Russians in the race to see who could have the most missiles. Since then, we’ve seen NASA change from the place where the best and brightest go to push back the horizon, to being a place where every launch knocks another piece off the shuttle and makes reentry a crap shoot, and weird kidnappers go to get astronaut diapers. I heard today on NPR that American astronauts will soon have to get rides from other countries to take them into orbit. That’s right – our astronauts are now that guy - probably bumming freeze dried ice cream off the Cosmonauts, and crashing on the couch at the International Space Station.

Where are the Buzz Aldrins and Neil Armstrongs of this generation? We need those men, and not just to beat the Russians to Mars. We actually need them to survive. You see, we, as a species, need to believe that we can overcome what we face. I’m struck by the irony of the bumper stickers all over town that say “Yes We Can” when it’s clear we don’t believe that anymore. Look at the news - we can’t seem to do anything about global climate change, we can’t solve our energy problems, we can’t seem to feed everybody, we can’t give everyone medical care – hell, we can’t even get our banking system to work properly anymore. Take swine flu as an example. World wide a few hundred people get the piggie sniffles and we start to act like it’s fucking judgment day. Epidemiologists and health policy makers wring their hands and tell us there is nothing much we can do but cancel school and hand out Tamiflu. Back in the 1950s, when polio was taking down over 50,000 Americans a year, Jonas Saulk and his crew at the University of Pittsburgh didn’t get all whiny – they just kicked that virus’s ass. Oh sure, it’s illegal to experiment on institutionalized children like they did, but that’s just nitpicking – the point is they believed they could do it, and that’s the kind of thinking that will keep man alive long after we have burned this little rock to a crisp. If the Republicans really oppose cap and trade, they should support the expansion of the space program – ‘cuz where else are you gonna’ go when the ozone layer is smoked?

Go to NASA’s website and watch the videos of the original landing. We took that one giant leap 40 years ago, and it’s about time for more. I want Obama to parallel Kennedy and set some deadlines. I want us to go back to the moon, I want us to establish colonies, and I want us to go on to Mars. I want the spirit of innovation and perseverance that was once the hallmark of humanity to be rekindled. I want us to explore, simply because it’s what humans have always done. I want us to embrace our destiny and leave this cradle. And most of all, I want my damn hover car!

Museum Goes the Way of the Dinosaurs

Budget cuts hit the UW Geology Museum.

Although no one is making emotional films about it, they also closed the Graduate School Office. There is still a Graduate Program, but no staff to administer it...

Our Latest Poll - MJ, Cause of Death

In our most recent poll, the tackiness of which may only be overshadowed by the picture that accompanies this post, we asked...

What do you think was the actual cause of Michael Jackson's death?

...and you answered...

Medical malpractice 18%
Assisted suicide 0%
Accidental overdose (prescription drugs) 31%
Accidental overdose (illicit drugs) 0%
Plain old heart attack 12%
His nose fell off 6%
He's not actually dead - he's rooming with Elvis 31%

It will probably be several more weeks before the officials release a final report on the cause of death, but I think the Medical Malpractice/Accidental Prescription Overdose angle is most likely. His list of prescriptions allegedly included Dilaudid, Vicodin, Soma(carisoprodol), Xanax, Zoloft, Paxil, and Demerol, as well as more minor stuff like Prilosec and various antibiotics. I'm no pharmacologist, but I would imagine that when dealing with a drug list of this calibre, simple miscounting could be fatal; another tragic victim of Heath Ledger syndrome.

If, however, MJ just decided he was sick of the celebrity lifestyle and decided to move in with Elvis in hiding, I applaud his courage - although living with your former father-in-law can be trying, especially when you are both "the King" of something...


The early morning has become largely foreign to me, but it was not always this way. I've had several jobs that required me to be up and functional at ungodly hours - one job that I had for several years required me to be on site, ready to lift heavy things at 6:00AM. During another period of my life, I lived just a few blocks from a Zendo and I would attend meditation at 7:00AM each morning. The last few months of student life, however, have turned me back into a bat. I have grown accustomed to calling 9:30AM "early," and going to bed before 1:00AM seems quaint. I had convinced myself that I did my best work after dark, and I would seldom even start to work until everyone else in the house was in bed.

The net result of this has been one of the least productive times I can recall. For the last month, my bedtimes got later and later until I was a true vampire, falling into bed as the sun came up, and waking in the early afternoon. I became sluggish and grumpy, and I never felt like I had slept enough. Worse yet, I was doing very little of my summer reading, not getting much done around the house, working out sporadically, and writing nothing. Depression was setting in.

When I finally faced up to this situation, the solution was obvious. I must get to bed early, and rise at a decent hour. Unfortunately, I was trapped in a vicious cycle - if I don't get enough exercise I don't sleep soundly, and if I don't sleep soundly I have very little desire to exercise. On the day I finally decided to fix my problem, I had gone to bed at about 5:00am, then gotten up at noon to keep an appointment. I decided that instead of going to bed at 5 or 6 the next morning, I would force myself to stay awake until the following evening and then turn in at a more normal bedtime.

I made it to about 4:00PM the next day - about 28 hours of consciousness - when a headache forced me into bed for a nap. I set my alarm for about three hours, then I got up and had a light supper. I went back to bed around 8:30PM and I woke up naturally at 5:30AM.

That day was amazing. It was like I had finally emerged from a lengthy illness. I felt more energetic, I finally made progress on several projects around the house, and I got in a great workout before 8:30AM. This trend has continued for the last few days; I've been in bed at quite reasonable hours each night, and I've woken up without an alarm between 6:00 and 8:00 each morning.

I know what you are wondering - "Is the Black Pope turning into a morning person?" I, too, was concerned with this development; it's hard to maintain your sinful street cred when you are going to bed at 10:00 every night. I finally had to face a difficult truth that I have only glanced at in my darkest hours... the Black Pope may be dead.

Yes children, the Pontifex Niger may have to hang up his cassock. I am no longer the creature of the night I was when this persona was born. Although I still abhor organized (i.e. "stupid") religion as much as ever, I am much more interested in steering folks away from it by pointing out its illogical positions than by personally tempting them into sinful behaviors. In short, it is much more satisfying to create skeptics than degenerates - and less labor-intensive, too.

I suppose that some of the Faithful may find this new, less vitamin D-deprived Linus a bit of a disappointment, but the trend has been there for a while now. More exercise, veganism, no alcohol, no drugs - hell, I've even begun to occasionally enjoy wearing colors other than black(!). If you think about it, the most extreme of my evil personae, Darth Furious, has hardly reared his head at all in the last few years. My rehabilitation from Sith Lord to Grey Knight may be almost complete (you're never really cured, you know? One day at a time, Lord, one day at a time...).

Revenge of the Fallen

Ok, I admit I just went to see Megan Fox, but it was surprisingly good. Just like the first Transformers flick, this one is filled with explosions, and robot fu, and lots of military personnel and equipment getting jacked up - and that's just the first 10 minutes! As much I want to HATE Michael Bay (he is responsible for Pearl Harbor and both of the Bad Boys movies), I have to say that he got this one right. He seems to really understand how the whole giant robot/teenage boy/hot girlfriend/special forces/crazy parents/misguided bureaucrat thing goes together. This one has a bit more rough language than the first one, and a bit more skin. Perhaps the third one should be rated R, and there could be a Decepticon hiding in the shower with Ms. Fox (a boy can dream, right?).

There are no surprises in this film - it steals liberally from Star Wars, Terminator, the Matrix, Fifth Element, Stargate, and even a little bit from Species - but it's still quite entertaining. You could do worse with your summer movie dollar. Also, if you are a Bumblebee fan, he is certifiably bad-ass in this one.

A Poll on the Polling

Another of our polls has closed, and unlike the ones in Iran, we actually counted the votes!
We asked:
What should the U.S. do about the situation in Iran?

The Flock hasn't been so united since the Intelligent Design poll. Seems nobody wants to touch this one - could it be because most feel we already have our fingers in the Middle Eastern pie too much?

The responses:
Nothing - it's their affair. 89%
Apply political pressure to get a recount/repoll. 11%

(We offered other possible answers, including the option of going all Hiroshima on them, but no one selected them.)

I am torn on this one. On the one hand, we wouldn't want some foreign power to come over here and back some political faction - say, for instance, the Teabaggers. In fact, I'm relatively certain that we would go ape-shit crazy if that happened, and the violence in the streets would be epic. On the other hand, the current Iranian regime does seem to have stolen an election from the people. We certainly know how much that sucks, now don't we?

If I were president, I don't know what I would do. I hope the president has based his decision to stay out of it on a great deal more information than that to which we are privy. I also hope that information is better than the intelligence his predecessor was working with (or making up).

I'm not known for my optimistic stance where global politics is concerned, so I don't know where I'm getting all of this hope. It sounds a bit hollow, even to me...