Thursday, September 29, 2005

Buy Your Time-Share Now!!

Excellent news! It seems that global warming caused by the excessive emissions of greenhouse gases is causing the arctic circle to melt. BIG TIME! In the past 30 years or so (as long as scientists have been taking satellite photos to document it) the arctic icecap has shrunk by about 30%. Now scientists are saying that if the trend is not reversed, by the end of this century the northern polar icecap will melt completely during the summer months. How fantastic is this?!?!? First off, buy your vacation property in Greenland, and the far northern coast of Canada now while prices are still reasonable. In a few years that is where people will be flocking for fun in the sun and surf. Forget Florida. In a few years it will be completely uninhabitable (I'm not convinced it is all that habitable now, as it is) - summers there will be 125 degrees and humid as all hell. Second, the area I live in (Western Pennsylvania) will be a subtropical wonderland; the emerald isles of Ireland and Brittain tranformed into balmy island paradises. No more shoveling snow for me; and end to shivering in February and suffering through pothole laden roads in March.

But what about the killer droughts you ask. What about the shortages of clean drinking water? The monster hurricanes? Crop failures and mass starvation? As my friend Fred the Monkey would say, "Eeh pah!" Who can be concerned with such human suffering? So I say, go out and buy your giant SUV's, your H2's. Continue burning fossil fuels at an exponential rate. Right about the time I'm sitting pretty on my sunny beach front property up on Baffin Island, is the time those non-renewable energy sources are going to run out anyway.

Get out your level 3000 SPF sunscreen folks, we're in for a sizzling future!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A Compatibility Test

Thanks to Rowan for the link to this amusing little web-quiz personality test which will also let you determine your compatibility with others. Here are my results:
Our highly complex set of computer algorithms has determined you to be: an irredeemably eejitous, liberal, tight as fuck, pathetically simple-minded, dribbling child!
See how compatible you are with me!
Brought to you by Rum and Monkey

And from these results their complex set of computer algorithms were able to determine that I was 80% compatible with Rowan. So there you go.

Just out of curiosity I went back and took the test again, this time giving completely different answers, and I got EXACTLY the same personality description, but was told that I was only 58% compatible with Rowan. *sigh* you just can't trust the content of some internet sites any more.

Sadists R Us

Have you ever had to have physical therapy? Yesterday I had my first ever appointment with a physical therapist. I've been having problems with significant pain in my left shoulder so my doctor sent me to an orthopedic surgeon, and after tests and x-rays, the surgeon concluded I had torn my rotator cuff. He recommended a period of physical therapy. 3 times a week for 12 weeks to be exact. Well I now know the profession that all sadists should pursue. Physical therapists hurt you, and I swear they must get pleasure out of doing so. My therapist, Colleen, kept asking me, "does that hurt?" with a great big smile on her face. And when I would grimmace, do all I could to hold back from shrieking in agony, and say, "yes," I swear the grin on her face got ever so slightly bigger.

It's torture plain and simple and all perfectly legal. I don't know why my doctor couldn't have just given me a prescription for vicadin or percoset or something and send me on my merry way. Nope - it's 12 weeks of hell for me, and 12 weeks of secret pleasure for Colleen who gets inflict terrible pain on me for an hour a day, 3 times a week. Life isn't fair.

Monday, September 26, 2005

We're at it Again

Yet again, a high level Federal court of this nation is hearing arguments in a case involving an issue that, (I'm not sure the English language has a tense appropriate for what I want to say here) was/should have been settled long ago - evolution versus creation in our schools. The question this time is should we teach creation/creationism/intelligent design as an alternative "theory" to evolution in public school science classes?

Each and every day I become a little more ashamed to admit I am a citizen of this country. How is it possible that this question is given the respectibility to be addressed by one of the high courts in this country? This makes me sick. Several years ago, the Dover Area School District board of education (Dover is a district in my own state of Pennsylvania) voted to require that high school biology teachers acknowledge that the "theory of intelligent design" is a legitimate alternative theory to evolution. They claim that this was in the interest of present a fair and balanced view of the subject and to promote "free inquiry" in education. The proponents of the cause continue to say that as a "theory" evolution is unproved science and so it is reasonable to consider alternative "theories" of how life came about. Of course that argument is seriously flawed and based on an incorrect understanding of the word "theory" in this context. The "theory of evolution" is a highly tested result of science and voluminous evidence exists to support it. It is established science right up there with Einstein's "theory of relativity" or the "big bang theory." Both of those models for understanding natural phenomena are well established and are the commonly accepted theories for the phenomena they describe.

The real problem with the "theory of intelligent design" is that it isn't scientific in nature at all. It can't be empirically tested. And the simple fact of the matter is, THAT is why we teach high school students science - to teach them scientific method. The systematic methodology scientist use to pursue their work and further human understanding of our world and universe. There is no room in a science class for consideration of "theories" which cannot be subjected to the scientific method. Exposure to such theories under the guise of legitimate science undermines the entire of science itselt. I'm not saying students shouldn't be exposed to the idea - but they should be exposed to the idea for what it is - a religious point of view. Bring it up in a humanities class - it definitely shouldn't be happening in science class.

And of course I don't need to say all of the above, because the truth is, the "intelligent design" camp doesn't really believe that they are presenting a valid scientific theory. These are people who don't believe science is even valid. These are people who condemn the scientific method as being secular and the label it "rationalism" as if, rational, scientific thought was evil and bad. It is absolutely their intention and goal to undermine the teaching of science in this country. "Intelligent design" is their way of getting the wedge into the door. Given the chance, they would love to see the Bible as the only textbook in schools. And slowly but surely, step by step, these people gain more and more power and influence in our nation. In local politics, at the state level and at the Federal level, they are winning more and more elections, school board seats, seats on town and county councils, in state legislature, even Congress and...oh my goodness, the Presidency!

Why doesn't this scare the shit out of more people?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Saved by the Television

At last, something to talk about! So if you have been paying any attention to US network television this year as we head into "season premier" season you have noticed that each of the major networks is offering something either in the paranormal realm or alien encounter realm. Some of the networks are offering both. I like some of the paranormal shows out there. Patricia Arquette is good in "Medium" and I watch it if I have nothing better to do on Monday nights. But I wouldn't say I'm a huge fan of the show. But I do thoroughly enjoy a good alien invasion/encounter story. So I've been looking forward to this season. The three major offerings this season (in order of their premiers) are "Threshold" from CBS, "Surface" from NBC and "Invasion" from ABC. "Threshold" premiered on Sunday night, but I was away camping again, so I TiVO'd it. "Surface" premiered last night. So I got a double dose of aliens by watching the recorded premier of "Threshold" right before "Surface" came on. All I can say is WOW. If ABC's offering (premiering tonight) is as good as the other 2, I'm gonna be a serious television junkie this year. Both "Threshold" and "Surface" premiers were quite good. Good writing, gripping stories, and interesting characters. "Threshold"'s characters are really the selling point of the CBS show, while the story developing on "Surface" is its best feature.

Of course the problem now is, how long will they last? It's a fact that about half the new offerings from the networks at the beginning of the season don't make it to the end of the season. Networks need ratings, and the shows that aren't earning them get pulled real fast. Well, one can only hope that these intelligent and well crafted shows will attract the viewers and stick around for a while. My only concern is how much of a couch potato I'm in danger of becoming!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Blogging Blahs

OK, so the thing is, I post when I have something to say. Well that makes sense, doesn't it. Posting gratuitous posts that have nothing to offer is silly, and is the precise problem with most blogs. And the truth of the matter is, usually there is a lot on my mind and I have a lot to say. So I don't know what it is lately, but I just haven't had much to post. And coincidentally, I've noticed this is true of a lot of the blogs I read regularly. There has been a real lull.

I'm sure this will pass soon, but it is a very weird feeling for me. I sit down and think, "what should I post about today?" and end up with nothing. And there is plenty going on that should be getting me worked up. The Roberts confirmation hearings, the continuing news of the fall out from Katrina, the Emmy awards (I'm a television addict, what can I say? I was happy that the Amazing Race won again, and absolutely ecstatic that Felicity Huffman won the Emmy for Desperate Housewives - she is an amazing actress. I've loved her ever since Sports Night), school starting up for the year, and on and on, but no...I sit, stare at the screen and have nothing to say.

See - here I am posting about having nothing to say. How desperate is that?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

It Made Me Smile

A friend of mine told me about this website where students can go and "rate" their teachers. So of course I had to go and check out my ratings. Sure, only 3 students have rated me so far, but it still brought a smile to my face.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

"Based on a True Story"

I went to see The Exorcism of Emily Rose last night. Aside from the fact that the movie is just a dressed up, 2 hour long, Law and Order episode, I just couldn't suspend my disbelief enough to enjoy the story. See, the problem is, this is one of those "based on a true story" movies which basically means that the film maker doesn't want suspended disbelief, he expects you to actually buy what is happening in the movie. Now I'm all for a good monster flick. I'm happy to sit through a demonic possession/battle for good and evil film and be scared and on the edge of my seat. As long as I'm allowed to say in the back of my mind, "this is fiction - of course this doesn't happen in real life." Because if I'm expected to actually believe any of it, then I'm gonna spend all my time picking holes in the story, and analyzing why it doesn't make any sense. And as a "true account," Emily Rose's story makes no sense.

I actually do believe in "angels" and "demons." That is to say, I believe that there are beings who exist on something other than the material plane - call it the spiritual realm if you like, that is just a matter of semantics. But I simply don't believe that there is evidence to suggest that those beings regularly manifest themselves in our physical realm. I'm not saying I don't think it ever happens. I just think it is extraordinarily rare, and I believe that when it happens, it happens for a reason. Emily Rose's possession appears to be completely random. The "demons" don't seem to have any reason to possess her other than to scare her silly and waste away to nothing until she dies. Why in the world would superintelligent spirit beings want to do such a thing - even if they are evil demons? It makes no sense.

The film really digs a hole for the story when it goes further and attempts to bring in the Virgin Mary and provide a rationale for why "God" would allow Emily to be possessed. The film suggests the "Job Syndrome." In the Bible book of Job, God allows the devil to torment Job, a faithful, god-fearing man, to demonstrate that the truly faithful cannot be broken. This line of argument leads to all kinds of contradictions. The most significant problem with it in the case of the story of Emily Rose is that it requires us to believe that the "demons" are doing God's work while at the same time being his enemies. Apparently Emily's possession is going to bring about a spiritual reawakening by making people aware of the fact that angels and demons really do exist. So aren't the demons happy that so many people have turned away from a spiritual path - isn't that their goal? Why would they want to attract more believers to God? Utter nonsense.

Want a fascinating and intelligent treatment (albeit fictional) of the battle in the spiritual realm and a conception of its manifestation in our plane? Read the "His Dark Materials" trilogy by Philip Pullman. Written under the guise of "young adult" fiction, this is a really well developed exploration of a theory I've had for quite sometime. I still can't believe he got away with marketing these books to kids. The ultimate message is sophisticated and radical.

Monday, September 12, 2005

A Real Shocker

In the aftermath of Katrina, there is a huge amount of clean-up and reconstruction to be done. While the nation's economy took a massive hit from Katrina, many experts are now saying that the work involved in cleaning up, restoring and rebuilding will actually boost the economy in the long run. There will be thousands of jobs created and millions of dollars pumped into the economy from reconstruction efforts. Some of the early, profitable restoration contracts have already been awarded and you will never guess who is getting them.

I know this will come as a terrible shock and surprise to you all, but the winners are.....Bush's cronies and colleagues! Bush's campaign manager - big winner. Halliburton? Right there in the profit pool. Check out this article at CNN money. Well, at least we can be comforted to know that the Bush administration is consistent in this as it has been in the past. Some things never change.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

It Finally Got to Me

The news about hurricane Katrina has been inescapable here for 10 days now. I can understand that. This is the worst natural disaster the United States has ever experienced, and people want to talk about it. In the first few days after Katrina hit the reports coming out of the region were often sketchy and contradictory. The day Katrina hit and the day after reporters were saying that New Orleans had been spared the worst of the storm because the center of Katrina had actually passed slightly east of the city. Initial casualty reports indicated that perhaps 200 to 250 people had died - most of them in rural Mississippi. When reporters likened the event to the tsunami or worse, the bombing of Hiroshima (yes, a CNN reporter used those words) I was appalled at such comparisons. What American arrogance! What gall! Within a week however, it was clear that hurricane Katrina was truly a disaster. New Orleans was devastated - almost completely destroyed. Thousands, perhaps as many as 12 to 15 thousand, are now believed to be dead. I still don't agree with the tsunami comparison, but I do agree that this disaster is one of historic proportions.

But even with all that, I've felt detatched. I haven't had any kind of emotional reaction to the event. And then I saw this picture and I started weeping. This is a dog that for several days now has stood vigil over the body of it's owner - showed covered in a tarp in the background. My heart finally broke. Not for the person covered in the tarp, but for the dog. For all the animals. Look at the expression on that dog's face. When people were evacuated from New Orleans, as people are STILL being evacuated from the city, they are being told that they may not bring their pets. Tens of thousands of animals died in this disaster, tens of thousands more have been abandoned and are going to die - of neglect, of starvation, of exposure, of drowning. THAT is enough to make me cry.

Friday, September 02, 2005

What are We Waiting For?

What are we looking at here? Images of the dessert of the American Southwest? A particularly desolate region of the Australian Outback perhaps? No, these are all pictures of Mars, taken by one of the Mars rovers. There are two of these little robots wandering around the surface of Mars, and for over 500 days now, they've been taking pictures and collecting data and sending it all back to the earth. As if all of that weren't remarkable enough, the rovers were only expected to last about 90 days! If they had only lasted as long as their mission were intended, the wealth of information they collected would still have made the program a smashing success, but these little robots have continued to operate for more than 5 times their expected life span. And they show no signs of stopping!

I've always been fascinated by space, ever since I was a little kid. I check NASA's sight regularly to check for updates about the Mars rovers, and another mission I am fascinated by, the Huygens/Cassini mission - this one to Saturn and it's moons. The things they scientists are discovering from these missions is amazing. And the images are spectacular. I admit, I'm a real geek when it comes to this stuff, and I've never been able to figure out why EVERYONE doesn't have the same gut level reaction to this as I do.

I grew up in a decade (the 70's) when there was incredible optimism about space exploration and travel. Coming off the success of the first mission to the moon, NASA and the nation were caught up with the idea of exploring and colonizing space. By 2000 we were going to have orbiting space stations housing hundreds if not thousands of people. There was going to be a permanent colony on the moon. We were going to send manned missions to Mars and possibly beyond. Space colonization was going to solve the problem of overcrowding on earth. I used to draw designs of space stations with self contained little cities on them where people lived and worked and played. As a boy, these ideas captured my imagination in huge ways. And here it is 2005, and those ideas are mostly dead. What a shame.

Do you know, that for the money that the US has poured into the Iraq war and occupation, we could have sent several manned missions to Mars. Imagine it! Human beings setting foot on another planet. Many politicians argue that manned space missions are too expensive and a huge waste of money. I don't know, I think a trip to Mars would have been a significantly better use of billions of dollars, then the debacle we are now engaged in in Iraq. "What benefits would we get out it?" the politicians ask. I think that is a stupid question. The truth of the matter is, I think it is part of human nature to want to explore. The drive to go out and explore the unknown has been a critical factor in the history of the human race. Maybe there is nothing there, who knows. But even to only find that out would make the trip worth it. To be able to say that the human race left the comfortable realm of the known to go out and explore the unknown and discovered that there wasn't much to discover would be huge!

My imagination isn't completely cold yet. I'm still hoping for a renewal of that spirit of exploration and adventure that so moved the country 30 and more years ago. I still believe that in my lifetime, we will send people to Mars - I just hope it is sooner, rather than later.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Who's to Blame?

In the midst of the tragedy of hurricane Katrina it was only a matter of time before the reactionary religious right in this country would make this claim. So I've only got one question - if their god wanted to being his wrath to bear on homosexuals, why did he cause this great catastrophe on New Orleans a week BEFORE Southern Decadence, and not the week of? Their god missed all the gays. It's almost as if he spared them from destruction. What's this?!? The god of the reactionary right secretly loves homosexuals? That's an even better scandal than John Roberts doing pro-bono work for gay rights organizations!

How can these people possibly be so hateful and so very, very stupid?

Back to School

"Back to School" that should really say it all. I promise, I'll try to do better.

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