Saturday, December 24, 2005

Gifts of the Season

Just a quick post here. We are heading out for a wintry adventure over the next several days. Being a non-believer, christmas does not carry the same significance to me as it does to christians. However, as mentioned earlier, I have always celebrated the day, mainly, and most importantly for me, as regards its opportunity to come together with family, to give, and, yes, to receive.

My side of the family could have a reunion in a phone booth. My parents have passed, my grand parents are long gone, and even my oldest brother died several years ago. I do have one older brother still with us and a # of nephews and a niece, but I rarely see any of those folks excepting my brother. Add in the fact that both of my parents were "only" children. No aunts, no uncles, no cousins.

However, my wife is the oldest of eight kids and her father, a good (and apparently fertile) Italian was one of eleven children. Most of my wife's brothers and sisters have had several kids, and now some of them are also having kids. (My own children are yet to go down that road.) So, I guess that makes me an uncle on my side and an uncle in-law on my wife's, and now I guess I'm a a "great" uncle and "great" uncle in-law if there is such a thing. Talk about culture shock.

Nevertheless, also, as I noted in a prior posting, I was the designated Santa at my wife's family christmas party last week. There were probably 35 or 40 people roaming around my brother in-law's house, eating, drinking and making merry (at least until the Colts lost.) I have another brother in-law who has a few acres on the south side of town where every July 4th he has a huge picnic for family and friends. Some of those parties have hosted in excess of 200 people. The evening always ends with a fireworks display that rivals some small town displays - like Beech Grove or Greenwood.

Over the last fifteen years or so, several of my wife's uncles have passed as have both my mother and father in-law. Their loss is sad and it has had an impact on the feel of these gatherings. But, we trudge onward, and still enjoy the coming together of everyone for a few hours a few times every year.

Merry (*) and Happy New Year

* You fill in the blank.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Hooray for Judge Jones

Well, what do you know? No "intelligent design" in Dover, PA. Whoop tee do! Again, its not a huge deal, but it certainly made a lot of people sit up and take notice. What I was most impressed with was that Judge Jones really raked the members of the Dover School Board, who voted to mandate the mention of ID in their schools, over the coals. Even accused them of lying. I love it. Intelligent design is not science.

I am to the point of exasperation with conservative politicos who cry foul everytime something goes against them. You'd think that they have been beaten down and have no voice in what's going on. Their beleagured outcries are at least ingenuine. What are they complaining about? They're running the joint, for crying out loud. They control the white house, congress, many governorships, the majority of state legislatures and fox news. Despite their protestations about "run amok" judges, many high level benches are held by right wingers. What more do they want? Is it mandatory that we have christianity shoved down our throats at every turn? If they want their children to buy into ID {creationism,} pull them out of public school. Fie! Get thee to parochial school! And, of course, they can be indoctrinated at home, and at church on Sunday, at Sunday school, at church on Monday, at church on Tuesday, at church on Wednesday, at church on Thursday, at church on Friday, oh, and at church on Saturday. Any preacher worth his salt can brain wash any "evolutionary" thoughts out of their impressionable young minds.

One last thought: Liberal is not a 4 letter word.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Being Santa


Well. Christmas is upon us. A festive time for all of us non-believers. As I have always celebrated christmas - first, as a child, then as an adult, husband and father. I am hardly offended by someone wishing me a merry christmas. How many jews have just had to smile and nod at this time of year when people wish them the same? It's of no consequence to me. I can't argue with a holiday that brings family together. A time - running from thanksgiving to after new years - which usually holds the promise of anywhere from 6 to 10 additional pounds.

But now. What happened to me yesterday at my wife's family christmas gathering? Guess who was santa? Yep. Yours truly. Supporting a myth? Yeah, I suppose. But santa clause is no sillier a myth than the virgin birth of the son of god, now is it?

I had a pretty good time. Only a few of the little ones looked upon me in horror. It did occur to me that my election to the job of family santa officially marks the moment when I have to realize that I am no longer in the game. Actually, I haven't been for several years; perhaps I never was. But when they ask you to be santa, well, that's pretty much it. I am now officially the old codger of the family. Can a walker and a bottle of oxygen be far behind?

But, seriously folks.

Winter grabbed hold of the mid-west about 3 weeks ago, and hasn't let go. That is rather unusual. Days which carry a normal high temperature of 40 degrees or better, haven't nudged much above freezing. Early this morning the mercury bottomed out around zero. We still have around 4 or 5 inches of snow left over from around 8 inches that fell around 10 days ago.

Now I know, any of you who live in the truly northern climates laugh at such concerns. (I spent most of a winter in northern Minnesota several years ago, and I agree. What we call winter here is often what you folks get in October or the nasty weather that lingers well into May up there.)But, hey, I've talked with people who had spent most of their lives in tropical climates who think what we get here in Indiana is the kind of weather that Nanook lived with. It just depends on what you're used to.

Woe is me, and all Hoosiers. The Colts lost. What ever shall we do? Relax for a couple of weeks, and then kick ass in the playoffs. On to Detroit!

Friday, December 16, 2005

West Wing Loss and Numb3rs

Just heard that actor John Spencer died of a heart attack. Spencer, who was in my modest opinion the heart and soul of the Bartlett Presidency, was 58. Fifty-eight? I really liked Spencer as an actor. Over the years he appeared in generally small roles in films and various TV shows. While I don't know, I assume he had a lengthy theatrical resume'. But, fifty-eight? I really thought he looked good for a man of, say, 68 or 70. Hell, I'm 59 and well on my way to 60. I look at myself and wonder. I know I don't look young any longer, haven't for some time. I don't smoke. I rarely drink. I don't do drugs. But. I am about 50 pounds overweight.

About a year and a half ago, I managed to lose just over 50 pounds, and I walked in the Indy 500 Mini-Marathon. I didn't run it, but still. Depending on how fast you walk, it takes around 3 & a half to 4 hours to complete the 13.1 mile distance. That's a long time to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It was hot on that particular day; one person died and 1 or 2 more suffered heart attacks. I thought I was going to die by the time I finished, but, by god, I made it, and I am still kicking.

Unfortunately, I have since gained back about 35 pounds. I didn't walk the Mini last spring, but I've signed up to walk it next May. I've got to lose these pounds, though. I hope I don't die. I don't want to follow Mr. Spencer into the great beyond too quickly. We're going to Europe to visit my older son after christmas. He, and his younger brother, who is going with us, have a tendancy to walk much faster than either I or their mother can. They often leave us in the dust. We visited him in Vienna a few years ago, and the two of them came close to leaving us behind at subway stations. I think I can keep up with them for a while, but I'm afraid my wife can't. This trip should be interesting. I don't want to die on foreign soil, either.

"NUMB3RS" You know, I struggled mightily in school (Thomas Carr Howe High School) to eke out "Ds" thru 1 year of algebra and 1 year of geometry. Now, anything beyond the basic 4 functions is beyond me. I have watched Numb3rs a number (ha-ha) of times since it began earlier this fall. It's one of those shows that try as I might, I generally haven't even the vaguest idea of what's going on. Actually, I sometimes had a similar problem with West Wing owing to the high energy chatter the characters maintained while hurrying thru the White House halls. But Numb3rs does me in simply with a glimpse of the chalk boards that usually pop up several times throughout every episode. However, even though I generally have no idea what's going on, nevertheless, I suspect that most of the math stuff that's flying around teeters on the edge of bullshit. I'm sure they hire math nudges to act as advisors, but give me a break? You have to assume that if it was possible to solve crimes as diverse as serial murder, rape, kidnapping and arson with a few theorems and a mess of calculations on a blackboard, they would do it. I ain't buyin' it.

But, I'll probably watch it again.

On another front: Oh, Ron Artest! We hardly new ye.

A Few Quotes

Often, in passing, I run across some words of wisdom that I think are worth relating. From time to time as it occurs to me, I will try to include some of these pithy little sayings in this diary.

This is one I just read today. It can be found on page 215 (in a chapter entitled "The Therapeutic Assault) of Wendy Kaminer's really excellent book Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials - The Rise of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety:

"The First Amendment protects your right to give offense, and requires that you learn
to take it. That is a simple and fundamental principle of democracy, which is rarely
polite."

A couple of others which unfortunately, I can't recall specifically where or when they were said or written are as follows:

"Life is a sexually transmitted disease." R.D. Liang

"We grew up founding our dreams on the infinite promise of American advertising."
Zelda Fitzgerald

I just like those. They work for me.

As I hear, read or remember others, I will endeavor to get them into cyber print.

Me think me hear horses, kemo sabe. We must go.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Jesus in a Box


Breaking News!!! Jesus has been found living and, in our opinion, held captive, in this - er - box in the back yard of a home on the near south side of Indianapolis. The authorities have been notified.

(I know it's hard to see, but he's in there, trust me.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Can't think of anything

Here I am, writing again, but I can't really think of anything to say. I drive around much of the day thinking as I drive, usually coming up with undeniably brilliant stuff. When I sit down in front of this cursed machine, my mind goes blank. All of my wit and wisdom evaporates into the stale air of my basement office. Hey, maybe it's Radon! It's eating away at my ingrams. (I don't know what ingrams are, but I remember a character on Star Trek [original series] who had implanted his brain "ingrams" onto some whiz bang invention he had created which proceeded to go postal and was about to blow the Enterprise into oblivion. Of course, Captain Kirk with the aid of Mr. Spock, Bones and the rest saved the day or night, or whatever it was - who can tell if your in outer space?)

The folks at the Indiana Legislature are still fussing over the court decree against sectarian prayer during legislative sessions. As I stated, I would have been delerious if the judge had completely banned any prayer in the legislature. I can't figure out why christians can't just do something without having to resort to beseeching their imaginary overseer, god. Are they really so unsure of themselves that they can't do their jobs (or much of anything else) without asking god to set themon the right path? Do they believe that human beings, even well educated, otherwise intelligent people just can't function without god? Give me a break.

Hey, the Colts have won, well, everything so far. I still am not convinced that they will get through the season undefeated, but they are pretty good. Can they win it all? I think they can.

The Pacers on the other hand are, once again struggling and have been sabotaged by Ron Artest now two seasons in a row. Bob Kravitz, an Indy Star sports writer, has been urging the Pacers to get rid of Ron-Ron for 2 years or more. Apparently, the Pacer's brain trust - Donnie Walsh, Larry Bird - didn't agree. I didn't either. But now, I must admit, Kravitz was right. They say the phones are ringing off the hook from teams wanting to make a trade. I agree that Artest is a hell of a player on the court. But who would want to take on anyone with the kind of baggage he'll be lugging along behind him? I don't think Artest is really a bad guy. I just think he basically is a few teeth short of a comb. He doesn't have both oars in the water. He's nuts! If the Pacer's can actually reel in a good, hopefully sane, player in exchange for Artest, more power to them.

Just another god thought. What's in it for him? Why in heaven (ha-ha) does he do all this? What can he possibly gain? Why did he go to all the trouble to create the universe, and put us all here in this puny little planet? Was he bored? Is all this just a diversion, an entertainment? Why does he need all of us insignificant little twerps grovelling at his feet? Seems like he has delusions of grandeur. I think he needs some serious therapy. But, who's couch is he going to lie on? Who would have the hubris to sit and interpret GOD's mental state? John Delancey - you know - Q?Opra? Dr. Phil? Martha Stewart? Yes! Martha. It's a good thing. (I loved the Martha segment I saw on the "Slammer Channel" when she showed us how to make shiv cozeys. Made me fell are warm and runny inside.)

Later dog.





Tuesday, December 13, 2005

New Designation For Raptarians

I have made a command decision! The erstwhile dubbed "Raptarians" are to be re-designated. "Raptarian" has bothered me in that it seems somewhat too elevated a moniker for such folk.

So.

In a moment of inspiration into my overly clever little mind came a somewhat similar, but, I believe, a much more apt name that will live from this time forward, and even forever more (Unless I have yet another epiphany.) I dub them "Raptiles." That brings up some images, doesn't it?

I'd love to get some feedback on this, but so far, I have been, more or less, farting in the wind. No one has as yet taken note of my presence in Blogworld. I suppose I might gain the attention of some Homeland Security mokes if I made repeated use of some key words that they tend to watch for. But then, I'd probably just get hauled away by some other mokes (or is that jamokes?) and put in the slammer to rot. On balance, I think that that would be a bad thing.

I have been keeping the home fires burning, but the sirens are getting louder, and I guess I'd better get out of here.

'til later campers. (Oh, I know, so far there haven't been any campers.)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Christmas Sap

We are now in the midst of the run of TV series' christmas or holiday episodes which seem to play ad nauseam from before thanksgiving till, sometimes even after New Years. Most tend toward the maudlin. A few surprise. I just watched Grey's Anatomy, a show I generally enjoy. It's a little quirky, funny, and sometimes sexy. Happily, among the cast is Sandra Oh. I came to like Ms. Oh seeing her in Sideways, and have enjoyed her rather acerbic character in Grey's. A theme running through tonite's episode (12/11/05) was, of course christmas, god and spirituality. On balance they tended to side with the spiritual-god side of things, but they allowed Oh's character to win one for the (godless) Gipper. Again, a small victory, but a surprisingly satisfying one. A young heart transplant patient rallies just simply because he decides to live, not because god or santa or spirits came to his aide.

Have faith in yourself, and, if warranted, in other people. Don't give yourself up to some vague notion of god or spirits. Believe in yourself! Believe in humanity! We are all we've got!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Singularity

Hey, Raptarians. The Singularity is afoot!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Bad War!

Our involvement in Iraq just keeps getting worse. Over 2000 Americans, countless Iraqis and scores of others are dead. Many thousands more have been maimed, crippled or otherwise seriously injured. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent. The "war on terror' still rages and no satisfactory outcome in Iraq is evident at the end of the tunnel. Hell, we can't even find the tunnel.

Americans are pretty much hated everywhere throughout the world. My older son lives abroad and, in order to remain relatively safe, he does not openly broadcast his heritage. He's not ashamed of being an American, but he wants to be able to go about his day to day life without being brow beaten or worse by those with anti-American sentiments. Fortunately, he speaks the native tongue of the country in which he resides with reasonable fluency. He claims to have lost much of his "American" accent.

We have sadly discovered that we Americans are not nearly so special as we have been led to believe. We lie, we torture, we kill: all in the name of "national security." That has long been the catch-all defense for any such behavior on our part. We believe that we walk the higher ground, but so, too do bin Laden, al-Zarqawi and the rest. Regardless of what we think of them, they are seen as true believers by their admirers. They are just as sure of their sight as the most zealous American hawks. Each believes that god is on their side. Take god out of the equation and you have something much different. You have greed, lust for power, racial and cultural bias. Hatred. As this situation stands, there is really no common ground; no point from which to even begin discussions. Each side looks upon the other as less than human, as minions of the devil. Who is right? Who is wrong?

Bush has painted us into a corner. We blew our way into Iraq, and, now, there is no graceful way out. Bush and his cronies believe that they are going to create a democracy in Iraq. No matter how long outside forces stay in Iraq, once they are gone, the situation will quickly revert back to chaos. We are dealing with people who have lived with violence as a way of life for literally thousands of years. Many in this part of the world still harbor a 7th century mind set but wield 21st century weaponry. Aside from the city dwellers, those still living a nomadic existence in the surrounding deserts are tribal. The tribal leaders vie with others for territory and power. There is no reason to believe that this will change simply because we made it possible for the Iraqi people to vote. Blood will run in Iraq for years to come.

Thursday, December 01, 2005