Archive for May, 2004

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Bush Safe?

May 31, 2004

The following is from a discussion on Orkut about whether the president has made us safer from terrorists, or if Mr. Kerry would do a better job on this issue.

The man lied to us. President Bush and his adminstration lied. They said there were WMDs. They said they knew where they were. They said it was a “slam dunk.” They used frightening rhetoric and cited scary stories – stories which had already been discounted. The way you dismiss those voices, both international and domestic, which warned us against this course of action is truly remarkable, given the way things have turned out.

So, having led us into a completely unnecessary war, without the kind of international support we’ve enjoyed in the past, he’s now provided Mr. bin Laden with the ultimate recruiting poster for his terrorist organization. Fundamentalist and nationalistic Muslims are lining up like never before for the privilege of killing us.

Bush safe? The idea is absurd. He’s doubled our danger, and his terrible influence on our international reputation will outlast us all.

Mr. Kerry’s record and background, in spite of recent GOP distortions, are more than defensible, but I hardly even feel a need to state this fact; Mr. Bush’s failures since 9/11 have demonstrated clearly that almost anyone would be an improvement.

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Eats, Shoots & Leaves

May 28, 2004

I spell poorly, my punctuation gives people fits and my grammar isn’t much better. The truth is, I recognize good writing far more often than I produce it. But help is on the way. I just discovered a new popular book on punctuation and I’ve placed it on reserve at the library. With luck I’ll be punctuating better in a few days. The book itself is entitled Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. Why the title? Here’s your answer:

A panda walks into a bar. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

“Why? Why are you behaving in this strange, un-panda-like fashion?” asks the confused waiter, as the panda walks towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

“I’m a panda,” he says, at the door. “Look it up.”

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

“Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

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Keeping You Afraid Of It

May 28, 2004

Warning: If you are easily offended do not read this entry. In fact, it would be better if you did not read my blog at all. The opinions expressed here piss people off. And they certainly do not reflect the views of anyone but the person who wrote them. And even I might disavow them if they’re too controversial. You have been warned.

If you were vehemently against something and I told you of two ways to reduce the occurance of that thing, you’d be all over them wouldn’t you? I mean, if you were really against that certain thing and all you had to do to reduce it’s occurance was to support these two other things, you’d do it, right? At least that’s what you’d think. But when you tell anti-abortion people that comprehensive sex education and the easy availability of birth control prevents unwanted pregnancies, and thus abortions, they grow livid and walk away. Why is that?

I think I know the answer, even if they don’t know it themselves. It is this. Many of them aren’t primarily concerned with abortion. If they really were they’d be all over the proven methods of reducing it, right? I mean in addition to persuing all the legal and constitutional options, they’d be handing out condoms on the street and teaching kids about sex in schools. Everything that worked. Only they’re not. In fact they’re almost always against these things. Why would they be against the very things that can accomplish their stated goal of preventing abortion? It’s because they’re not about abortion, they’re about sex. They’re about sex and who can have it, and keeping everyone else afraid of it.

Specifically, they seem to want to keep in place all the risks – pregnancy, disease – of sexual intercourse. In this way, they hope they can keep you from having it. Because unless you’re married and having sex for the purpose of procreation, you shouldn’t be doing it at all according to them. And to ensure that you are afraid to do it, they’re going to make sure you have consequences: unwanted pregnancies and diseases. Anything that reduces or eliminates those consequences cannot be tolerated. Thus, no condoms, no sex ed and no abortions. Because each of these has one thing in common. They minimize the consequences of having sex outside the bounds of married procreation.

The vast majority of pro-lifers, then, are primarily (if sometimes unconsciously) about trying to preserve their worldview with regard to sex. Specifically, that it’s for procreation within the bonds of marriage, otherwise, forget it. They’re about keeping you afraid of it. Afraid of AIDS and pregnancies that you’ll be forced to carry to term.

Of course not all pro-lifers are like this. I have corresponded with several who fully support comprehensive sex ed and the use of contraception. But frankly if these few sensible people were the only one’s protesting abortion the issue would dissapear from the national scene. Because six or seven protesters just don’t make a very impressive movement. (And because we’d hardly have any abortions, it having suddenly become politically possible to teach young people to use birth control.) No, the majority of pro-lifers are, in my experience, against birth control and against comprehensive sex education.

But they go into schools and teach abstinence! I knew you’d bring that up. Here’s the thing. They say practicing abstinence is by far the best method for preventing STDs and unwanted pregnancy. And they’re right. But teaching abstinence isn’t. And that’s what’s key here. Teaching abstinence doesn’t do jack shit for the rate of teen sexual activity or teen pregnancy. Comprehensive sex ed does. The kind with all the information, condoms and all.

They’ll tell you that this only encourages kids to have sex! But that’s not true.

So the next time you see a pro-lifer, tell him or her that you’re sympathetic to their cause. Tell them that you want to join with them in preventing abortions. Tell them that you’re prepared to do whatever it takes to do so. Then tell them that you’re going to support teaching comprehensive sex ed in the public schools. Tell them that you’re going to give out condoms to young people and tell them how to use them. Because those are the things that actually work.

See what reaction you get.

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Vacation Laziness

May 22, 2004

I’m on vacation. I left work yesterday afternoon and I won’t be back until Tuesday, June 2, the day after memorial day. That’s ten consecutive days away from work. Go me! When I told people at work that I wasn’t going to be there they always asked “so where are you going?” I said “home!”

And the truth is, home is mostly where I’ll stay. I hope to clean out my garage, haul some yard waste to the dump, read a book, get a haircut, make a few nice meals, mow my lawn, run every other day in the park, practice my tae kwon do form… I just want to do all of the things I sometimes don’t have time to do. And have time to spare for sitting around doing nothing. Maybe I’ll even take a nap. Who knows.

In the spirit of getting things checked off my to-do list, I want to dump a bunch of fascinating URLs on you. I didn’t have time to write big entries for each of them, but I wanted to share them with you. Here they are in no particular order.

proper sushi etiquette

another boy scout leader kicked out for being an atheist

The sexiest t-shirt ever – link fixed!

eight state constitutions that explicitly discriminate against atheists

the white house briefs nutcases

historians go off on dubya

Gates likes blogs

did gay marriage destroy hetero marriage in scandinavia? (spoiler: no)

Bush discovered to be evil cyborg: Kerry still lags in polls

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Sometimes You Just Have To

May 20, 2004

Angela went out for dinner with her mother and Beth went out for dinner with her father, thus Paige and Dan and I were left to fend for ouselves this evening. The three of us spied out the fridge and the cupboards. There wasn’t much there. After a careful study of the inside of our pantry I announced “Well, it looks like we could have couscous and a sack of suckers.” It got a good laugh but nobody was really into that menu. So I took them to the New China Buffet. Somemes you just have to.

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Thirteen

May 17, 2004

There’s a long history of really strange and funny stuff on the internet. But there’s always room for one more. Have a look at this movie (2.6 mb). It’s apparently some kind of ad for a Sony digital video camera.

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Speaking of dragons…

May 12, 2004

ranking_yudansha.gifI’ve been thinking more and more about finally getting a tattoo. More on why and where and all the details later. But since I’ve been thinking more about it, I’ve also been thinking more about what my tattoo might depict; that is to say, what will it be of? At first this seemed easy. I want to commemorate the achievement of my black belt, which I expect to attain in six months or so. A perfect way to do this is with words or phrases associated with martial arts written in Asian characters. The one pictured on the right is written in Japanese kanji and says “yudancha,” meaning “black belt holder.” (I have not decided on this. There are other words and phrases integral to martial arts and the training that I have undertaken which might be better. This is just a handy example.)

But then I had another idea. I belong to an online discussion group on orkut called “tattoos.” There a man had posted a picture of his own tattoo and I found it inspirational. I recognized it right away as Smaug the dragon from J. R. R. Tolkien’s classic children’s book The Hobbit. This book has been a favorite of mine since I fist picked it up in grade school. In fact I am a lifelong, dedicated Tolkien nut. So when I saw that tattoo I naturally flipped. Perhaps I should get that instead. Or perhaps I could combine the two elements in some way? Or maybe I stick to my original plan and let this dragon simply become tattoo number two!

But before I went down any of these roads, I thought maybe I would do a little investigation. Tattoos are permanent. I had to know where this particular dragon had come from. Sure it looked like Tolkien but was it really? And did I want to find out for sure after having it permanently affixed to my body? As luck would have it I work in a library and that library happens to have a one-of-a-kind Tolkien collection. Manuscripts, first drafts, sketches, letters, the whole thing. Theoretically I could make an appointment and, after donning white gloves, pick my way through boxes of pages containing first drafts of The Lord Of The Rings and other amazing Tolkien treasures. Now, any good archive has a resident archivist who’s job it is to organize the material, display it, and even acquire new pieces to add to the collection. In this case the archivists name is Matt and he is a very nice fellow. He works down the hall from me where the Tolkien collection is kept.

So I sent Matt the archivist an email including a picture of the guy with the tattoo. “I think it’s Tolkien,” I told him. “But I want to know for sure. Can you identify it?” A short time later I got a reply stating that while it sort of looked like the dragon from dust jacket of The Hobbit, it wasn’t the same dragon. Oh, well. But even if it wasn’t drawn by Tolkien it was drawn by someone. I still wanted to know more. So, not entirely satisfied with Matt’s answer, I went to google and to the public library.

smaugs.gifWhat I discovered made me happy. As Matt pointed out, Tolkien hand-painted the original dust jacket of The Hobbit, but he also sketched a design for the book binding under the jacket. The dragon in question appears there. Here is what Tolkien drew and the final product. Sketch, book binding, tattoo. Perfect matches.

When shared my discovery with Matt he was somewhat nonplussed. “How did you find all this stuff?” he asked. “And why??” Here I was in front of a man who made his living fussing over J. R. R. Tolkien artifacts and memorabilia and he was clearly expressing his belief that my level of interest in the subject was well beyond what one could consider normal and healthy. That’s quite a statement.

And it’s exactly why I must at some point get my own Smaug tattoo.