Sunday Sermon and New Poll

Sometimes our sight becomes occluded, our field of vision too narrow, the colors too muted. We need a reset, to clear our lens. I was lucky to get such recalibration this weekend.

Yesterday I stayed up way too late, having an epic conversation with a friend who is going away to another country shortly. She has come into the Flockhall inner circle far too late in her stay in Black Vatican City, and is departing far too soon, but it is good to have her here while we can.

The conversation ranged far and wide, over music and movies and higher education and writing and sex and relationships and travel and evolution and a dozen other things. There was no course to it - we wandered from topic to topic, seemingly pushed by the winds blowing in our sleep-deprived minds. Yet, together we found our way to the punchlines and confessions and realizations with the jerky sureness of a verbal Ouija board. We neither pushed nor pulled, and still the conversation pointed to facts beyond the ken of either of us alone.

It was dawn when we reluctantly agreed that sleep was imperative. She took her leave, and I stumbled to bed, aware that something very positive had just happened, but too tired to process it. I slept most of this day away, and now, more clearheaded, I sit here and still wonder what exactly it was. Perhaps it should just suffice that it was good... and sufficient it is. Genuine exchange is all we can ever really ask of another person.

I didn't finish all the various tasks that I had set for myself this weekend, but it doesn't matter. Being a bit behind on laundry is a small price to pay for a few moments of clarity.


In other news, there is a new poll on the sidebar at right. For this one, I have made it possible for you to click all that apply. Please choose wisely; when they ask me about you, I will almost certainly crack under water boarding and tell them everything...

Go in Peace.

The Apology Tour

I don’t know why I do it, but I’ve been listening to conservative talk radio again. This week, the big complaint is President Obama’s European tour – or as Karl Rove is calling it, “The Apology Tour.”

Karl Rove is upset – and not just because he’s slowly starting to look like a cross between Rush Limbaugh and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. No, he’s upset because Obama doesn’t accept the doctrine of American exceptionalism. Oh, we’re exceptional all right – we’re the only country that acts like the global economy should be our play-toy... we’re the only country that believes we can make something true just by saying it over and over (say it with me – “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction; Iraq has weapons of mass destruction…”). We’re the only country where purposeful ignorance of all other countries is the norm; we’re the only country where obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are the national birthright. We’re the only industrialized country where the majority of the population doesn’t believe in evolution. I could go on, but you get the picture. We’re exceptional all right – exceptional assholes.

We’re certainly exceptional in at least one other way – we’re the only nation that has actually nuked an enemy. Wow - there’s a point of pride. Now that we finally have a president who will admit that because of the Enola Gay's little delivery, we might have a special duty to the cause of global arms reduction, and he has the stones to step up and say, “yeah – our bad. Won’t happen again...” – the failocrats are calling him a guilt-ridden wimp.

Now, I understand that conservative self-esteem is all tied up in god, guns, and the belief that America has the most of both, but isn’t it time for us to get past the symbolic erection measuring that has characterized much of our foreign policy since the second world war? Ours might be the biggest, but that’s not always best – am I right ladies?

On to our poll wrap-up for this week. The question was:

Teabagging is...

and you responded:

A great way to get Obama's attention. (0%)
A great way to celebrate a headshot. (5%)
A great way to demonstrate how out of the loop you are. (55%)
A great way to follow-up a mushroom print. (25%)
A great way to get herpes. (15%)

I have a couple observations on this. First, I think it's interesting that no one chose "A great way to get Obama's attention." Supposedly about 250,000 Republicans thought it was exactly that. So why didn't they speak up in this poll? Wait - you mean, I don't have any Republican readers?! How could this happen?

As for the herpes thing, teabagging itself is not a real productive form of transmission. It can happen, but there are many more likely ways to give "the gift that keeps on giving." At any rate, you should check for sores before you put stuff in your mouth...

The Blooming

The weather has warmed into the 60s, and the ladies of Black Vatican City are striving for vitamin D poisoning as quickly as possible. Suddenly, their limbs have emerged from their winter dormancy, and tank tops, skirts, shorts, and sandals are blooming all over. The grassy commons in the center of our campus looks like a summer garden.

And it is good. I know it's premature, and snow will fall again before warm weather is truly here to stay - it has snowed during finals week every year that I've lived here - but it's still a welcome sampling of what is to come. Surviving until the end of this semester feels much more likely today.


Woke up at 3:45 this morning, knowing that I had forgotten something.
Got dressed, stumbled to my office, and remembered what it was.
Fixed it, and came back home.
The whole thing took about an hour.
But why did it have to be that particular hour?

Now I'm back in bed, trying to go back to sleep.
It's not going to happen, but I can dream, right?
Of course, my dreams are all about stats right now, so maybe that's not such a great idea.

I need summer to get here.
I need warm days and late sunsets and time to sleep properly, without deadlines and obligations overhead... just for a month or two. Then I'll be bored and miss the strife of classes, but right now, I really need time to read what I want to read, and to write what I want to write.

Less than three weeks to go.


If you watched the news this past week, you probably saw the Republican protests referred to as "teabagging." Now I understand the point of symbolically linking your protest to the Boston Tea Party, but referring to it as teabagging links you to a completely different kind of party - you know, the kind with loud techno, where everyone is wearing chaps, but no one is a cowboy...

To make the situation even more hilarious, one of the anti-gay marriage groups decided to call itself "2M4M." They think it stands for "2 Million for Marriage" but anyone with even a cursory knowledge of internet slang immediately assumes they're trolling for a Gay three-way.

Personally, I can't wait to see what term they choose next; Pegging day? National Salad Tossing week? Seriously guys - Google won't notify your pastor if you turn off the safe search filter. Where were your PR people when these names were chosen? Have you guys never heard of Urban Dictionary? Any internet search would tell you that these names are at best, giggle-inducing, and at worst, indicative of just how completely out of touch you are. As Nancy Pelosi pointed out, these protests are not the result of a grassroots movement. These are more like Astroturf - a completely artificial creation, funded by the wealthy, and shilled on talk radio by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck. Of course, it's probably not the first time that either of those guys has asked someone to participate in a teabagging, but I digress.

The really disturbing thing about this is that it's estimated that nationwide a quarter million people turned out for these events. That's 250,000 Americans who are so out of the loop that they can't even tell they are being manipulated and made to look foolish. But then again, why am I surprised? Republicans have been recruiting people to participate in things they didn't understand for years now. Maybe liberals should have their own day of protest, to tell the Right that we understand exactly what they're doing to the poor and undereducated masses of this country. Stock up on latex gloves - we'll call it Fisting day.

Someone Agrees With Me...


Completely by accident, I stumbled onto these reviews of the two Christian Bale Manbat movies (I refuse to call them Batman movies, because they have so very little to do with the Caped Crusader), and immediately I recognized a kindred soul. If I wasn't tied up with grad school right now I'd seek the writer out and offer to have his babies.

First, he explains in painstaking detail why "Batman Begins" is so amazingly bad, and then he gives "The Dark Knight" the sort of rough backdoor treatment it so richly deserves.

I think I knew I was in love with this guy when I read the following...

"...what was the deal with the mother? She had three lines. For the entire movie, it’s all about Papa Wayne. Apparently, Bruce didn’t love his mother very much. Oh, and there’s some awful exposition explaining Gotham City to young Bruce and the audience (in the film’s only incredibly offensive CG portion). If the Adam West TV show did an episode about the death of the Wayne parents (it didn’t, but if), it would have done a better job.

But this passage regarding the performance of Aaron Eckhart was the kicker...

"Eckhart’s hair does most of the acting. He’s exceptionally bad. In fact, he’s silly. If it weren’t for the overbearing music and the constant, weighty pretension, I would have laughed through every one of his line deliveries. Luke Perry would have been better..."

When I read that, I believe I wept.

Please click on the links above and read. If you are one of the brainwashed millions who lapped up these piles of visual detritus, this may be your last chance to get help.

Death by ANOVA*

You may well be asking, "where the hell have you been, Linus?"

Perhaps I can describe it best with colorful metaphors**... I was trudging through the swamp that is my statistics project, and out of nowhere, a huge linear regression came up and bit my leg off. My left leg - my FAVORITE leg - gone, just like that. Once I dragged myself back to camp, I had pretty much bled to death, and putting my open wound in the swamp water gave me a nasty case of trench foot (trench stump?). I put on a tourniquet, popped some ibuprofen and went back to work, but then a multiple correlation grabbed onto my balls like a lamprey (never wear a kilt in a swamp). I tried to pry it off with a screwdriver - no luck. I hit it with a baseball bat for a while, and when that failed, I took a cutting torch to it. So now, I'm crippled, infected with trench stump, and my balls look like they are ready to be served at the VFW's big "Rocky Mountain Oyster" feed.

That's where I've been.

At this point, my stats class is like a sucking chest wound - incredibly painful, and accompanied by a disconcerting death rattle. I am utterly lost in the lecture portion of the class, I've got no idea how to get caught back up, and the final project has spun completely out of control - it's the trifecta of math class failure. I am still curious about the outcome of the original research question I posed, but it has become a death march of sorts. It's like the 40 years in the desert, but without Moses or the manna from heaven. It makes me want to die; it's a Kevorkian project.

I've asked the professor to allow me to take an incomplete - the first I have ever considered in my academic career - so I can finish the project up in the summer. He's "thinking about it," because it will create additional paperwork for him. Or because he's a sadist. Possibly both. Regardless of his reply, right now I am focusing on getting my other classes finished up for the semester. I have a solid A in both at the moment. Assuming I get the respite from stats, I should be done with the papers for both in a week or so.

Then I could return to regular posting, get some sleep, and grow a new left leg. Good thing I'm immortal...

In other news, last week's poll indicates that a lot of you want to revolt. The question was:

The best way to solve the current economic crisis is...

You responded:

Legalize marijuana 25%
Stimulus package 0%
Regulate the markets 20%
Revolution! 40%
Another world war 0%
Legalize marijuana... wait... 0%
Dig up F.D.R. 15%

OK, so I'm proud of you - no one voted for another world war - but no love for the stimulus package? I know it's not the sexy solution, but let's give it a chance to do its thing before we give up on it completely. I suggest that we allow it a year or two - if things are still shitty, then we call shenanigans. That gives us time to plan a proper revolution.

We'll need pitchforks and torches... a big red flag (Viva la RĂ©sistance!)... maybe some matching t-shirts... I'm not good at this group organizing thing. Does someone want to be in charge of planning?

*ANOVA means "analysis of variance" in statwonk talk...
**I know those aren't, strictly speaking, metaphors. Um...don't correct me - it sickens me.

Unsurprising Poll Results

This week's poll - Do you believe in Intelligent Design? - got a lot of responses, and the outcome was gratifying. It confirmed what I have always wanted to believe about the Flock - that you're not stupid.

The results are below:
-Of course - He stretched out His noodly appendage... (12%)
-Of course - Our Pink Lady created everything with her blessed hooves (may they never be shod) in 2 1/2 weeks... (12%)
-Of course - and all shall continue as planned until Ragnarok plunges the world into the waters, and it is cleansed. (4%)
-Of course - and you'll all be sent to hell by our loving and benevolent creator if you don't join me in this belief. Heretics. (8%)
-No - would an intelligent designer create a species in which sex drive peaks for the males at 18-20, and for the females at 30-32? (64%)

A whopping 64% of you realize that intelligent design, isn't. Another 24% selected atheist/religious parody answers, which brings our group condemnation of creation myths to a solid 88%! I thank you for standing up for your beliefs - a posture which gave our ancestors a competitive edge on the dangerous savanna's of the distant past. Let's hear it for bipedalism, and all the other benefits of evolution!

As for the one vote for Ragnarok, we all know that was Raksha. Raksha honey, I hope you're right (it would make her so happy to see the world drowned...).

Ok, and you guys who picked the Abrahamic answer, knock it off and quit being silly right this instant. Don't make me pull this blog over, you two...

If you'd like to explain your answer, feel free to do so in comments.

On to our next exciting poll: The best way to solve the economic crisis is...?

Friday Knight

I spent the evening last night in the company of Sir Elton Hercules John! He was in Black Vatican City, playing a benefit concert for the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and I had some primo seats. I was so close I could count the sequins on his jacket, and he played just about every song I wanted to hear (he didn't do "The Bitch is Back" or "Sad Songs Say So Much" but these are minor quibbles).

He gave us extended versions of "Rocket Man" and "Philadelphia Freedom" as well as incredible renditions of "Levon" and "Daniel". I found myself getting quite emotional during "Tiny Dancer", and again, but for very different reasons, during "American Triangle" (a song that Sir Elton wrote about Matt's death).

For me, the high point of the night was when he hit the first chord of "Bennie and the Jets." I recall listening to that single on vinyl when I was a kid, over and over. To this day, if I hear that first chord on the radio in the car I immediately turn it up and sing along, regardless of any passengers. I know the words by heart, and singing along with him in person last night was incredible.

Of course, this all took place because of a horrific crime, perpetrated some 10 years ago now. Sir Elton has made it clear that he plans to do more to help the Matthew Shepard Foundation. We can all do more to help. Get involved, get educated, or just get out your checkbook.

Possible Signs of Maturity

This has been a hard week. The semester is sliding into that time when you know you should be writing papers and preparing for finals, but all you seem to be able to do is surf the internet and wait for the pressure to mount sufficiently to force you to actually work. There is also a dull ache that accompanies this time of the year - friends are graduating, moving on, building lives in exciting other places, while I must stay here for another semester at least. Don't get me wrong; I'm happy for them, but I have been here too many years by half already. I shouldn't complain - I'll be leaving here with three degrees, but I was ready to leave three years ago.

My responsibilities for the remainder of the semester are not too bad, actually. I have two tests, two papers, and one god-awful statistics project. It's not just that I hate stats. In fact, I discovered last summer that I actually sort of like statistics, and I am capable of doing quite well in a stats class. I do hate, however, the particular approach to stats that is being used in my current class. I hate it with a passion I normally reserve for fundies, uber-conservatives, and people who use words like "irregardless" (three groups which overlap a great deal, I realize).

Well, regardless of my angst over it, the project must be completed, preferably with a minimum of bloodshed. My current plan is to write drafts of the other two papers in the next week, and get them to the point where the respective profs can tear up the drafts, and all I'll have to worry about is editing and polishing. Then I can dedicate myself to slogging through the stats over and over until they are satisfactory.

This is uncharacteristically forward-thinking of me. I usually don't plan out the end of the semester until about two to three weeks out. Am I actually learning better habits? Could this be maturity creeping into my usually childish behavior, overtaking my carefree, "don't sweat the petty things, just pet the sweaty things" approach to life?

Don't be concerned. I'm sure I'll return to my slovenly, juvenile ways shortly.