Saturday, July 30, 2011

Oldie, 12/31/08: This year, and the last

[original title was This Year and the Next, but I wasn't finished when midnight arrived...]

Quick wrap-up type thing...

10 best things about 2008:

1. Obama
2. My first Unitarian Universalist General Assembly
3. Led an entire Sunday service and got some good feedback
4. This blog, Facebook, and other sites that introduced me to some great folks and broadened my outlook a bit
5. Positive general direction at work
6. Progressive politics and attitudes toward religion gaining ground worldwide, but especially in the west

7. Wally graduated from high school and started college
8. Got to read some great books
9. Took 4 short trips, all enjoyable
10. Slightly less monetary stress this year than last

10 worst things about '08:

1. Proposition 8
2. Ongoing misadventures of President Lameduck and his gang of idiots
3. Walking away from the neighborhood association -- it was that or a padded cell
4. Starting the year with a burglary and ending it with a sprained ankle
5. Carl's decision to change jobs, which turned out to be a bad one
6. Uncertainty about Wally's well-being and future
7. My 4-wheeled money pit
8. Lack of discretionary funds for things like a new fridge and landscaping
9. Dental issues
10. A general sense of weariness, of "been there, done that, nothing new under the sun."

I didn't like this year much at all, but making these lists does help to put many things into perspective. Looking at it objectively, it wasn't all that bad. Still felt like uphill all the way, though.

10 wishes/hopes/goals for 2009:

1. That Barack Obama lives up to his promises, in spirit if nothing else. I've become too accustomed to being disappointed by "leaders."
2. Find a way to enhance my income
3. That Carl will get his priorities in order
4. Ditto for Wally
5. That a slightly less hectic, less stressful schedule will free me to write more and better posts.
6. That we'll get one good, newsworthy snowfall down here in Dixie
7. That the church I'm in will prosper and grow
8. That Proposition 8 will be history by this time next year
9. That I'll find a good mechanic who won't rip me off
10. That the Cubs will win the World Series (this is for D.S., a good friend of mine)

Oldie, 12/24/08: Sore and wondering

Yesterday I mis-stepped on some stairs while at work and messed up my ankle. Not broken, probably not even technically sprained, but painful as hell. Though quite a few people warned me that it would hurt "a lot more the second and third day," I'm doing fine and hope to be walking normally again a week from now. The timing on the holiday is good, giving me a 4-day weekend to do little or nothing while it heals.

That's the "sore" part. What I'm wondering about is my mother.

Oldie, 12/19/08: Now I wonder


I was reading yet another article about the trend wherein some doctors and pharmacists won't prescribe or fill prescriptions for contraceptives because of their religious beliefs. I guess I was idly thinking how glad I was never to have been victimized that way ... and then I remembered something.
Back in 2003 I went permanent as an employee at a large company that had excellent health benefits. We had insurance through a large company that offered prescriptions by mail at a discount.

My primary care physician gave me my first full physical in years and asked me a lot of questions. One of the things I answered yes to was breast pain. As a remedy, he recommended low-dose estrogen oral contraceptives.

Oldie, 12/14/08: Inspirational! Heartwarming! Phony as a $3 bill!

Take heart, fellow victims of Urban Legend Bombardment!

You are not alone.

Sooner or later, this one will hit your in-box, so be prepared. Whether you want to fire back with "Check Snopes before you send me this crap, you idiot!" or just diplomatically delete it, this will perhaps save you a few mouse clicks.

It's not true, and wasn't true back in 1945.

Note: The urban legend may be preceded by some lovely photos of paintings rendered on feathers ... Snopes doesn't have anything to say about that. The photos could be 'shopped, or they could be real, but they're nice to look at. Too bad so much time and effort is spent promoting religious schmaltz rather than a talented artist.

Oldie, 12/13/08: Sailing down denial river

Note:  I originally posted this on my old blog, which I'm in the process of shutting down. I'll be copying and reposting some of my "greatest hits" from 2008-2010.

So, I'm using a social-networking site to keep track of Wally. He obliges me by posting these cryptic little snippets, which I'm sure are intentionally designed to push every possible button. Things like "I don't like my new probation slip," and "I'm ready for an evening of underage drinking and intravenous drug use."

Now, I don't believe he does any intravenous drugs -- that really isn't his style. I believe that comment was sarcasm. The drinking, however, is another story. While he abstained after moving back into my home, mainly because he had no friends to hang with, he certainly did quite a bit while living with Doug between ages 13 and 16 -- his circle of friends was affluent and certain of their invincibility. Once he moved out to live on his own, the pattern reasserted itself.

Oldie, 12/4/08: A meme for grownups

Questions for the people who are a little older....


What bill do you hate paying the most?
Credit cards - reminders of past foolishness.

When's the last time someone cooked you a romantic dinner?
A couple of years ago -- some chef in a restaurant!

Whats the farthest you would drive to see someone?
So far, 850 miles is the most, but I'm not ruling out 1500 or so...

How many colleges did you attend?
2, not counting random "Continuing-Ed" stuff.

Oldie, 11/1/08: Don't dress like you come from the wrong side of the aisle!

Note:  I originally posted this on my old blog, which I'm in the process of shutting down. I'll be copying and reposting some of my "greatest hits" from 2008-2010.

Mike at TangledupinBlueGuy offers us a fascinating story about students at the University of Northern Iowa being ejected from a McCain rally. It appears visual profiles were used by campaign staffers to identify the students as, well, "not our kind."

Oldie, 10/31/08: Letting go of my Judaism

For formerly religious individuals shifting toward atheism, one of the hardest processes has to be rethinking all the assumptions that we took for granted for years and sometimes decades. The list of these truisms could fill many volumes, and the Bible is certainly the source of many. From obvious ones like those contained in the Ten Commandments, to more subtle views, such as the role of women, it can take a lot of time and patience to examine each one rationally. On top of the formalized canon, we often grow up surrounded by family members, neighbors, co-congregants at church and classmates all echoing the same opinions and disguising them as fact.

Quite recently, I’ve come to see that I’m not entirely innocent of this. While I’ve been pretty diligent about rejecting the fictions fed to me during my 15 years as a Christian, I now understand that I’ve been equally blinded during the 32 years or so since my freshman year of college, when I began exploring the paternal side of my family tree – the Jewish side.

Oldie, 10/29/08: Dawkins vs. Potter?

Found this article referenced on LiveJournal...

Prof. Dawkins is taking aim at Harry Potter for the same reason he takes aim at the fundies who condemn the books.

It's all magical thinking, he claims, all an encouragement to children to follow their elders' path to delusion.

Despite being a devotee of all things Potter, I have no problem with this, for a couple of reasons:

Dawkins is not taking the hard line toward the Potterverse that he has taken toward religious dogma ... in fact, this article says he's embarked upon research to check it out thoroughly and objectively.

He admits he hasn't read any of Rowling's work yet and has no fixed opinion. Quite different from this charming lady, who literally judges a book by its cover.

I see too many parallels between fundamentalist religion and some new-age doctrine. While it's nice to speculate about "energy," "vibrations" and "unseen forces" influencing our lives, it's all too easy to delude one's self by substituting one questionable mindset for another. Our society encourages this on a universal scale, and it's troubling.

There are no Potter churches; even in high school, nobody gets ostracized by saying "I'm glad other people enjoy Harry Potter, but it just isn't for me." Try doing that at your average church!

Get the facts! Know the science!

...and then enjoy some escapism without getting lost in La La Land.

Oldie, 10/24/08: Leftover Christian Fiction

Note:  I originally posted this on my old blog, which I'm in the process of shutting down. I'll be copying and re-posting some of my "greatest hits" from 2008-2010.

There was a time, at the height of my religious phase, when I was an eager consumer of anything offered for sale at Christian bookstores, up to and including Testa-Mints. Yes, that's exactly what it sounds like it is. 


As a regular listener to religious radio, I got plenty of recommendations for authors of both fiction and non-fiction. One of those authors is Frank Peretti -- I've read 3-1/2 of his books. Three were penned by him; another was a collaboration. I remember most of his books only vaguely, though I'll give him a bit of credit for trying. The dyed-in-the-wool Christian reader (who hasn't had much exposure to more mainstream fare) will find him "edgy," I am sure. He follows the standard protocol of limiting the language to about a PG-level -- lots of "hecks" and "darns" and euphemisms for basically everything -- but pulls it off reasonably well without letting it become a distraction. He also has a taste for action and suspense, so you don't necessarily feel like you're being forced to sit through interminable reruns of The Andy Griffith Show or Little House on the Prairie when you pick up one of his novels.

Oldie, 10/23/08: Greenspan's Honest - You've Got to Give Him That

Like many others in the 1990s, I thought of Alan Greenspan as some sort of financial guru. It wasn't my area, really (still isn't, probably never will be), but he was one person for whom I was willing to put aside my core liberal inclinations and go with the free-market flow. It seemed to be working, at least for me ... I had a steady job and was getting along well enough; there seemed abundant, limitless hope for the economy of the future. I had plenty of other stuff to worry about besides macroeconomics.


Well, now the macro has, um, trickled down here to us micro types; it's all falling to pieces (though, knock wood, I remain employed and expect to continue that way), and Mr. Greenspan has had to come crawling out of his peaceful retirement and eat crow up on Capitol Hill.

Oldie, 10/14/08: Days to Remember

Atheist Jew offers an interesting New Meme: Can You Remember The Day That You Officially Became An Atheist?

1. Can You Remember The Day That You Officially Became An Atheist? 
For this question I am using the standard definition of atheist: Answering the question "do you believe in God" with a NO.

A. No, not specifically. I do know that by spring of 2007 I was writing snarky rejoinders to Mary Grabar on townhall.com. This was back when I still read conservative columns. It got so bad she pulled the column off-line.

Oldie, 10/9/08: I Sort of Get This

Note:  I originally posted this on my old blog, which I'm in the process of shutting down. I'll be copying and reposting some of my "greatest hits" from 2008-2010.
CNN recently had a feature story about phobias. As an example, they used this one lady who could not cope with wet wood:

"If I saw someone lick a wooden spoon, I had to turn away," says the 41-year-old massage therapist from Portland, Oregon.

"I'd break out into a sweat ... and I'd just get sick to my stomach. I could not even look at someone with a toothpick in their mouth."

It wasn't just looking at wet wood that freaked her out. It was touching it, too.

"I could not eat Popsicles to the end," [she] explains. "As soon as I got close to the end, I would give it to my kids. I would not even own wooden utensils because I could not wash them. Not even in the dishwasher because they would still be damp when they came out."

Until [she] was treated by a professional -- a process that involved gradual exposure to wet wood to "reprogram" the way she thought about it -- physical contact with wet trees, fences and the deck surrounding her hot tub was out of the question. (Instead, she would wear slippers to walk back to the house post-soak.)


OK, I can happily and confidently say that I'm not phobic about anything. True, I've never been through an earthquake, a tsunami or a tornado, and any one of those would probably leave me catatonic. I'm somewhat over-avoidant behind the wheel when it comes to making left turns when there's heavy traffic and no traffic light, and my personal body "squick" is amputation. But that's far from being phobic. I can cope with all those things. Yes, even spiders. I used to be kind of freaky about arachnids, until I worked at a summer camp where the choice was adapt or go home and forfeit the $300 salary plus theoretical tips.

Oldie, 10/8/08: Read Between the Clouds of Incense


Pulled this off Google Reader. Couldn't resist a bit of editing...

Pope: Millions are losing their religion and declaring God is dead

Modern culture is so devoid of faith coming to its senses that some people are declaring God “dead” and entire nations are losing their identity enjoying life to the fullest, without fear, Pope Benedict XVI warned yesterday.

The 81-year-old pontiff said that God was being pushed out of people’s lives under the “harmful and destructive relentless rational influence” of today’s society, especially YouTube and the bloggers.

His comments, made during a Mass at the start of a month-long synod of Roman Catholic bishops from around the world, come amid growing concern glee about the decline in church attendance and interest in religion in many Western nations.

Pope Benedict is particularly worried about a growing indifference to religion in Europe.
[...] His relevance is decreasing at an alarming rate.

In recent decades, the Catholic Church’s influence has seen a decline in developed countries, although it is growing in the Third World, which will be under the influence of magical thinking until it learns that IT is responsible for curing its ills, not some invisible sky-daddy.

Both the Church of Scotland and Scottish Catholic Church have seen a drop in worshippers suckers with open wallets in recent years – the Church of Scotland has seen numbers revenues fall nearly 60 per cent since 1960, and between 1994 and 2003, Mass attendances fell from 250,000 to 194,728. Earlier this year the Vatican also reported a dramatic fall in the number of Roman Catholic monks and nuns, largely due to the wide availability of internet porn and reduced airfares for travel to Thailand.

Ronnie Convery, spokesman for the Scottish Catholic Church, said Pope Benedict’s comments reflected the concerns religious leaders had been aware of for some time.
“What we are seeing is that our culture has changed, subtly but significantly for the better,” Mr Convery said. “Many people today, even though they wouldn’t declare themselves atheist, at least not yet, behave as though God doesn’t exist, let their actions speak for themselves because the lure of common sense and rationality is too strong to resist. Our evolving brains simply won’t allow us to continue this deception.

“One of the main challenges of the Catholic Church is to remind people of their Christian roots and the important role that the Church has played in the shaping of our culture intimidate impressionable youngsters, instill them with guilt, and distract them from reality and their own considerable ability to think and reason.”

- Source: Pope: Millions are losing their religion and declaring God is dead, Lyndsay Moss, The Scotsman (Scotland, UK), Oct. 6, 2008 — Summarized by Religion News Blog