What's on my mind.

28 December 2007

Transitional Form


I went by to check on Honu-Girl's cats today. I think I offended Percy when I didn't let him sit in my lap because I was about to eat. And I generally offend Molly because "I'm not Mom." But I stayed and tried to convince Percy to come sit with me and get some loving and watched a Nova episode they had tivo'd, "Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial". A great episode in my opinion.

If you haven't seen it here's a quick summary. The Dover, PA Board of Education's curriculum committee adopted a brief statement that was to be read to the students presumably just before studying evolution. The statement mentions the State's requirements that evolution be taught and that standardized test would cover it. It then states that evolution is a theory and not a fact (and it has "gaps"). Intelligent design is said to be another theory of how life on Earth began and suggests the book "Of Pandas and People" as a reference. (Sixty copies had been donated to the high school.) The science teachers refused to read the statement and eleven parents sued the school board on the basis that requiring the mention of intelligent design was a violation of the Constitution. The judge agreed that intelligent design was not only not science but that the statement's intent was a violation of the establishment clause.

One of the things creationists, and their descendants the intelligent design proponents, like to say is that if one animal evolves from another than why are there no transitional forms. THERE ARE. Plain and simple, transitional forms exist*. Scientists have not found every single transitional form in an evolutionary line and never will, but transitional forms do exist. In fact one person who testified for the plaintiffs had recently been part of an expedition that found an excellently preserved fossil of a fish that had lobed fins, scales, and a flat amphibian like head. He didn't get to talk about that fossil since the paper was in preparation during the trial but he did talk about many others. Transitional fossils are one piece of evidence amongst many many pieces that support evolution as the explanation of how life began.

Intelligent design proponents argue that an "intelligent agent" designed life. Well, even if you don't call it God, Allah, Gaea, or Yahweh, this intelligent agent is a god. Intelligent design may not specify a religion but it relies on the existence of a god. This is not good science. The existence of God cannot be proven or disproven. Her intervention in a given event may be disproven, although the most stubborn will cling to the argument that "that She only makes it look like [insert appropriate scientific principle like gravity, germs, and natural selection]", Her actual existence is not disprovable. The key to science is that if something can't be tested, often by negation, than it isn't science. Many things can't be proven to always be true but can be disproven. Take Pythagoras' theory for example, find just one right triangle that doesn't fit a*a + b*b = c*c and no one will ever have to learn their Pythagorean triples again (but they are so useful).

My favorite part of the two hours was when they went back to discuss one tactic for proving the religious nature of intelligent design. A reference to the academic editor of "Of Pandas and People" wanting to write a "balanced" textbook that presented both evolution and creation was found, so the lawyers subpoenaed all drafts of the book from the publishers and sent them to Barbara Forest. She found two drafts one written shortly before the 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard decision that outlawed the teaching of creation in schools and one shortly after it. The first had this statement:

Creation means that various forms of life began abruptly, through the agency of an intelligent Creator, with their distinctive features already intact: fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks and wings, et cetera.
The second had this sentence in place of the above on:

Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact: fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, et cetera.


Wow, there's a big rewrite. The first word becomes two and a seven word phrase becomes a four word one. Gee, really changes the meaning, doesn't it? Well, in addition to this blatant attempt to hide the religious foundation of this "theory", she also found something somewhat amusing. You may have noticed up there I referred to intelligent design proponents as the descendants of creationists. They really evolved from the creationists. Now you may ask if they evolved than where is the transitional form? That's what Dr. Forest found. In the later draft there is reference to "cdesign proponentsists". This is the transitional form between "creationists" and "design proponents". There you have it evolution occurs even to those who don't believe in it.
(I can't take credit for the transitional forms bit, Nick Matzke said it on the show. I just thought it was hilarious and wanted to share it with y'all)

*Bill, hate to break it to you but fossilized rooted surfaces are found under coal seams. Jack can show you some, not that it will change your mind. All coals are NOT deposited from rafts of floating vegetation and they most certainly were NOT deposited in a world-wide flood.

26 December 2007

Christmas wrap-up

So, I had a nice Christmas. Got some cool stuff; I'm already using the kitchen composter and have made an origami tetrahedron. Ate dinners with two of my brothers and their families; one without his crazy in-laws. My house mates moved out; and took almost all their stuff.

Yep, that's right. Ellen and Allen have moved out! I'm glad that they are able to have their own space again. And I will probably miss them a little; it was nice to see Ellen most days. But...

I can move my T.V. back upstairs and rearrange the living room so it is a conversational group again and not theater seating. (Not that anyone comes over to conversate.) I don't have to worry about snoring or if my door is closed when I change clothes. (or hearing other people gettin' it on in my house) No one else will be dirtying dishes and leaving food where my dog can get to it. (Now I can only blame myself.) And best of all NO LITTLE DOG PISSING ON MY COUCH CUSHION! (or pooping on the rugs in my bedroom.)*

Unfortunately peace does not seem to have broken out all over the world. Our troops are not headed home. There is no evidence that most Americans woke up yesterday morning with the realization that no one likes a bully. And the primary season is not over with a moratorium on campaigning for the general election until June. So there are some Christmas wishes left unfilled.


*May I suggest buying stock in Simple Solution, I suspect I will be using a lot of it to get the cushion to not smell by human standards.

19 December 2007

Mish Mash (with some Christmas thrown in)

Since I don't feel like doing actual work this morning (Motivation is a little low on a Wednesday morning.) and I'm don't feel like playing sudoku, I think I'll write up some random things.

First: Monday Photo Shoot: Show us something of interest on your porch.


Ellen's ferrets


2. Did you know that when after a woman has a baby and her ligaments all tighten back up her hips may not return to their normal position? This apparently happened to my mom about 35.5 years ago. This is why her already bad back has gotten SO bad. So our spines are designed to carry all that weight out front but our hips could use some work.

C. What large piece of equipment is backing up outside my office and why is it's beeper so damn loud? It's stopped now.

D: Why the f^@k isn't our heat on? Yes, I could get a space heater but that still begs the question "WHY?". Has the university really saved any money by not having the heat on through the entire semester (steam plant cranked up Monday, they have heat next door) when students, faculty, and staff are putting (illegal) space heaters in their dorm rooms and offices?

5th: I forgot now what that was going to be.

Sixthly, I was reminded Sunday of a Christmas anthem that I really like. Nettie and I went to the choir concert at church and one of the things they sung was "This Christmastide" the chorus of which is "May peace and hope and love abide, this Christmastide." It is a very pretty quiet song. I don't remember all the words but it is a nice quiet Christmas song. Another anthem I love for Christmas time is "Peace Came to Earth." Not only does it have a lovely French horn part, but it is also a quiet awe-filled Christmas song, too. The chorus isn't exactly the same every time but follows the pattern "Who could but ____ Emmanuel? Who could but _____ Emmanuel?" with different verbs filling the blanks. The piece builds to the last verse ending with "Who could but shout Emmanuel? Who could but praise Emmanuel?"

Driving in this morning I was thinking about how I like the joyful Christmas songs but I also like the quite reverent ones, too. While the Christmas holiday is one of joy at the coming of the Christ (going to be a bit religious for a bit here) and we should celebrate His birth, it is also one of awe. (If you are not a Christian, try to imagine how the following knowledge would make one feel to believe this.) God choose to come down to earth not as a king or a hero or champion. He came to earth as a baby, a most fragile and vulnerable creature. Not even a prince or the child in a wealthy family but the son of a carpenter. Jesus bumped his head a million times as a toddler, scraped his knees playing chase, and got his butt tore up for sassing his momma (of the Israelite equivalent). God choose to be born a baby, to be a surly teenager with raging hormones*, to have to do chores, to fight with his parents for his independence, etc. God didn't have to do that. That is what we celebrate Tuesday. (Well, those of us who celebrate it as a religious holiday as well as a cultural one.)

Luke 2:19 say "But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." I have an image of Mary, obviously not jumping up and down with glee since she'd just given birth, sitting there with angels signing and shepherds adoring and thinking not only I am now a mother and responsible for this child but my child is the Christ. And possibly following that up with an "OMG, WTF am I suppose to do?" Sometimes I think we Christians are suppose to just sit and be amazed. There is a lot about the Christmas story that doesn't make much sense. (Why were the shepherds in the fields in winter? It had to have been spring.) And I'm not entirely sure I'm completely on board with the whole virgin birth thing. But, to me, that doesn't change the beauty of it all.

Sorry, didn't mean to get all theological on you.

*I do not believe that Jesus was always a perfect child who never got in trouble. If he was fully human than he screwed up a bit along the way.

18 December 2007

Time Warp?

So it hit me this morning as I rushed to get dressed, the problem isn't that I get in the shower too late it's that I think too much.

I take long showers. It is my one great environmental failing. (That and not recycling steel cans.) If Lake Tuscaloosa weren't so much larger than Tuscaloosa really needs, I would be better about this.* Anyway, back to why my showers are so long. I always shower in the morning. My hair is just greasy enough to need to be washed every morning and it is part of my wake up routine.

Sometimes I take long showers to warm up. This is particularly true this time of year. I've been known to stay in until my toes are warm. Sometimes I take a shower/bath and it takes a while to fill the tub (especially when you turn down the water so you can keep the hot water from running out.;) Sometimes I just stand there and all but fall asleep. Most of the time I really don't know where the time goes.

One weekday mornings I use the timer on my little shower radio so I have some idea of how long I've been in there and that I really need to get a move on. Often I'll set it for 15 minutes. When it turns off I know I need to wash my hair and get out. (Washing my hair is always the last thing I do. Washing my face is usually the second to last thing I do.) When I get out of the shower I'm sometimes floored by the amount of time that has passed. Where did it go? This morning provides a clue.

As I was rinsing my face off, I started thinking about something**. Really pondering it. I was finally awake enough to string more than two thoughts together and this thing just popped up and I started wondering. I'm not sure how long I stood there but it was far longer than I intended. Really, I have no clue how much time passed. So maybe that's where all that time goes - random musings. If I'd just not let my brain start working on something, I could get out.

If I'm really really late I rush through my shower and don't get a chance to daydream. If I get up on time, I have plenty to spend in the shower. If I snooze, I'm late to work.



*But really even with the drought this year, we still have plenty of water. The lake is lower than I've ever seen it but we have plenty of drinking water. If we have a dry winter, things may change. Also, I have little sympathy for Atlanta (the people yes, the planners no) because they've had their head in the sand about the needs of the city and the capacity of Lake Lanier for about 20 years AND didn't start restricting users (except landscapers) until September. They partially brought the crisis on themselves.

**Do I start talking mid-thought? My mother sometimes starts mid-story (like she thinks she's told you the background info before) but I swear several times lately she seems to have missed the first half of my first sentence and the whole conversation gets confused from there. So do I start mid-sentence or was Mom just not listening well?

14 December 2007

Someone check my math

Apropos of this comic, the other night I was watching the “Mythbusters” episode where they test being talked through landing a commercial airplane (plausible, it is possible to be talked down but the odds against circumstances that would lead to this are astronomical) and three parachuting “myths” all from one scene in “Point Break”. To test the length of the scene (about 90 seconds before the chute is opened) they tossed Buster out of a plane at 4000 feet (the altitude of the plane when Patrick Swayze jumped). Buster hit the ground in 31 seconds. For some reason this caused me to go get paper and pencil and start doing so calculations.

At first I couldn’t figure out why it took so long, then I remember that Buster was not falling in a vacuum. Then I did the calculations based on a terminal velocity of 120 feet per second (the number they calculated as the terminal velocity of a person in the “spread eagle” position) and Buster fell too fast. (Because being a crash test dummy he didn’t know that he could live a couple seconds longer if he’d kept his arms out wide.) So I decided to find out what Buster’s actual terminal velocity was.

Here’s where I need someone to check my math. (Sign convention: plane is at x=0 and positive x is towards the ground. This gets rid of a bunch of superfluous negative signs)

We know that:
xt= x0 + v0(t) + ½ a(t2) vt = v0 + a(t)

If:
xa = distance traveled while accelerating,
xt = distance traveled while at terminal velocity,
ta = time accelerating, and
tt = time at terminal velocity
vt = terminal velocity
a = 32ft/s2, the acceleration due to gravity
Then:
xa + xt = 4000ft,
ta + tt = 31s
And:
xa = ½(32ft/s2)( ta2),
xt = vt (tt), and
vt = (32 ft/s2)( ta)
So:
tt = 31s - ta
xt = (32 ft/s2ta)(31s- ta)
xa = ½(32ft/s2)( ta2)
(let’s drop some units to make this easier to read)
4000 = [(32 ta)(31- ta)] + ½(32)( ta2)
4000 = [(32 ta)(31) – 32ta]+ (16ta2)
4000/16 = [(32)(31ta) – 32ta2]/16+ [(16)( ta2)/16]
250 = [(62ta) – 2ta2] + [ta2]
250 = 62ta –ta2
0 = 62ta – ta2 – 250
(Rearrange into the standard order)
-ta2 + 62ta – 250 = 0

Use the quadratic equation to find ta
if ax2+bx+c=0, then x=[-b±(b2-4ac)½] /2a

ta = [-(62) ± ((62)2 – 4(-1)(-250))1/2]/2(-1)ta = [ -62± (3844 -1000)1/2]/-2
ta = [-62 ± (2844)1/2]/-2
ta = [-62 ± (53.3292)]/-2
ta = [-62 + (53.3292)]/-2, [-62 – (53.3292)]/-2
ta = (-8.6708)/-2, (-115.3291)/-2
ta = 4.3354s, 57.66
(57 seconds is longer than the whole fall took, so it can’t be the time spent accelerating)
ta = 4.3354s
vt = (32 ft/s2)( ta) = (32 ft/s2)(4.3354s) = 138.7328 ft/s

Buster’s terminal velocity was 139 ft/s

We can check this by finding the distances he fell while accelerating and while at terminal velocity and making sure they add up to 4000ft.
tt = 31s – ta = 31s – 4.3354s = 26.6646s
xa = ½(32ft/s2)(ta2) =½(32ft/s2)( 4.3354s2) = 300.7311ft
xt = vt (tt) = (138.7328ft/s)(26.6646s) = 3699.2546ft
xa + xt = 300.7311ft + 3699.2546ft = 3999.9857 feet
Not quite but close enough for government work.;)

(Actually, four decimal places is far more precise than my initial inputs, so my answer is way more precise than my inputs. Actually, I’m a huge geek. And typing math is a pain.)

13 December 2007

Caroling

I had some other topic but now I've forgotten so back to my seasonal one. What's your favorite Christmas carol?

I love Christmas carols, particularly the actually religious ones, and loved to go caroling when I was a kid (and with my Sunday School class more recently). Here are my favorites songs of the season. (I have a few more than one fave so bare with me here.)

"O Come, O Come Emmanuel" isn't actually a Christmas hymn but rather an Advent hymn. I love the haunting melody. I like "In the Bleak Midwinter" for the same reason. Besides, how often do you get to say cherubim and seraphim? I've always liked "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." I like "Good Christian Men Rejoice" because it is fun to sing. I love the chorus for "Angels We Have Heard on High". I know many people find "Do You Hear What I Hear" to be one of the most annoying songs ever but I like it. "Good King Wenceslas" is a good story (and as a samba a GREAT tune) but you have to sing all five verses. You have to sing all verses known or in the book to all carols anyway, IMHO, so that's not a problem. ("The First Noel" is an exception to this rule.) I could go on and on but I'll stop now.

What are your favorite carols? Do you like to go caroling? You want to get together and go caroling???

12 December 2007

Frosty?

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Show something frosty. A frosted window pane, a frosty mug of beer, a pet coming in from the cold -- if it's frosted, it's in. If it's not particularly frosty where you are, or you don't have any frost laden pictures in your archives: Fake being cold. Because that would be funny.

Well, I am somewhat frosty in that photo. I needed the sweater but haven't needed my gloves today. Outside my office the only cold place I know is my freezer. While I need the sweater inside (and occasionally the gloves) it is currently mind numbing 75° (at 2:15) in lovely Tuscaloosa. Only 17° above average. Yesterday we set a new record, official high was 78°. Whoopee! Really helps one get in the Christmas spirit.

Unfortunately all this warm weather (and the proceeding colder weather) means that the University hasn't turned the heat on in our building. My office is close to the air handlers, so it is extra-specially cold at this end of the building. I really hope the students living in the dorms have good blankets because we've had a light frost or two, already.

A couple odds and ends:

It takes a some kind of genius to not only write a really funny chapter long fart joke but make that fart joke the cause of an interspecies (& interplanetary) diplomatic incident. Thank you John Scalzi.

Is there a free music program that will allow you to balance to recording levels? I have several CDs that are recorded quieter than most and when I try to make a mixed playlist or CD* those songs are soft while the rest are just right (or just right while the others are really loud). I could do this on my old tape deck when making a tape of a CD.

This was suppose to be my submission for last week's MPS:


The odd man out could be either the African violet not in bloom in front or the philodendron behind the violets.

Untangle, The Consumerist is not porn. Please stop blocking it.

*That’s right RIAA, I rip CDs I own and burn mixes. Deal with it. It is bullshit that you say it is illegal to rip a CD. If a software company tried to sue someone for making a backup copy of software, they’d be laughed out of court. It's not quite the same thing but close. The main reason I've ripped most of my CDs and burned a copy is I don't want to carry around the $17 originals in the car and back and forth to the office. I'd much rather scratch up the 17¢ copy. (I have had a CD "explode" in a computer; it almost certainly had a flaw on it that I'd not noticed.) Hopefully, I'm not inviting a lawsuit with that comment.

06 December 2007

We've come a long way, Baby!

Backwards, that is.

Here's a transcript of Kennedy's speech explaining why his Catholicism shouldn't be an issue in the election. A really short summary would be: Separation of Church and State should (and will with me) be absolute. I don't speak for the Church and they don't speak for me. There are bigger issues at stake.

Now, at least half of the candidates seeking nomination use their faith to court voters. They will (or at least say they will) make decisions based on their faith. Some of our current elected officials have even made decisions based on their faith and not on the Constitution.

Different religions often emphasize similar values and those common values are ones I think are good ones for elected officials to ascribe to and want to bring to the office. (Talking about honesty, peace, charity, stewardship, tolerance . I didn't say all sects of all religions emphasize all of them.) Therefore, I have no problem with an elected official being religious. I have no problem if their faith informs their decision making. BUT in the end whether to sign or veto a bill, whether to normalize relations with a country, whatever, has to be decided on the best interests of the country and the constitutionality of it, not whether your pastor (rabbi, imam, priest, guru,...) says it is right.

03 December 2007

OMG, WTF is wrong with the world?

This weekend I finally got the story on why a good friend of my mother's daughter is now being home-schooled and heard about what happened to her son, too. And OMG WTF?!?!?!?

First the son's story. (It's shorter.) He was hanging out with some friends from high school and one of them spiked his drink with something. He spent a week in the hospital. The doctors don't know what it was. He's been unable to work or go to school because he can't concentrate and now he's severely depressed. He's spending December in the hospital's psychiatric ward. Hopefully he'll be able to function in the new year. He was allowed to medically withdraw from school, so at least it won't hurt his GPA. Guys, don't leave your drink unattended, don't accept open drinks from other people. (Apparently, this information isn't just for young ladies anymore.)

Now the daughter, I'll call her C. C was attending one of the City's high schools and doing well. She's a good kid. A few weeks ago she was in a fight and ended up at the hospital with her scalp. split open. The other girl claimed C jumped her for no reason and the next day expulsion proceedings were begun on C. (The other girl was suspended for 2 or 3 days.) C tells her mother that she didn't know what hit her, she didn't start it, she doesn't know what it was about.... Since C is a basically a good kid and the other girl hasn't a scratch on her, C's mom is suspicious about the official story. When she finds out that the school is going to expel C, she is furious. She meets with the principal who tells her that there are no witnesses, the security
cameras don't actually work, and the other girl said C jumped her. End of story. C's Mom is very suspicious, as she's been in the school a lot and the halls are never completely empty. This all sounds very fishy, but she has no proof.

Then a teacher calls C's Mom and says she resigned over this but is afraid to speak publicly. The former teacher wants to meet at Wal-mart. When they meet, the teacher tells C's Mom that there were witnesses, a bunch of them, the other girl jumped C without warning, and it was a gang initiation. Now C's Mom goes to legal aid and tells the story. Legal aid lawyer goes to the school and gets a copy of the security tape (which does work after all). The tape shows not only multiple student witnesses but teachers and the principal either witnessing the fight or there immediately afterwards (e.i. completely aware that there were witnesses). Now the other girl is expelled and the school board reverses their expulsion of C. But C now refuses to set foot in the school (I don't blame her.). So C's Mom pulls her out for the rest of the year, to be home schooled, and isn't sure about next year. Meanwhile the principal at the school, who lied about the incident, is still there.

WTF is up with our schools? The city has reorganized the schools in the last few years in ways that have messed them up and re-segregated them, but this? This is beyond the pale.

30 November 2007

Church, part 4 (final installment)

On to the biggie - The Nature of God.

Warning: Logic and internal consistency may not exist in the following. I'm OK with that.

So, I believe that God exists. That's as far as I can get with certainty.

Is he eternal? Sort of? Only to the extent that the universe if infinitely old (to our reckoning) and will exist infinitely long (by our reckoning). But the universe isn't actually eternal, it had a beginning and, if I'm up to date on my astrophysics, will end one day. Did God exist before the universe? If not, how'd he come to being? I don't know. I like to imagine him a mad scientist who created the Big Bang and has watched the development with great interest.

I don't think God directly controls things. Maybe he got bored with the dinosaurs and decided to see what would happen if he tweaked gravity just enough to pull a comet into our orbit; maybe not. I believe he is capable of controlling every atom in existence but doesn't. I have a friend who believes that God's plan is absolute and we can not deviate, we think we are in control but He knows what is going to happen. I think, why would He do that? It'd be much more interesting to watch events unfold. (Yes, I want God to be like me and anthropomorphize Him a lot. It is only human to do so.) I'm not always sure God realizes we exist here. He does have an entire universe to look after. But I think he does, most of the time.

If God doesn't follow our lives in detail and doesn't make the world run, why pray? Because prayer is for us. By asking for God's help, we often remove the burden from ourselves. And he may whisper in our dreams helpful hints and words of encouragement. Because admitting our own faults allows us to acknowledge them and move on. Because giving praise lifts the spirit. (Can you not smile while singing "Joy to the World"?) God's not going to heal someone because you asked but you will feel like you have helped. I don't believe in praying for material or small stuff. When I pray for someone (or myself) I usually pray for peace of mind, strength, acceptance and the like. Not a good hair day, good parking space, etc. OMG, He has better things to worry about and so do you.

Finally - God is not male or female. He has no face, no body. She is everywhere and in everything you see and feel, especially the good things.

Church, part 3

Warning: Logic and internal consistency may not exist in the following. I'm OK with that.


So on to more complicated issues.


Is there an afterlife? I don't know. I like to think that there is something but it isn't like what, I think, people usually think of. I don't really have any firm beliefs on what heaven is, mostly what it isn't. I don't believe it's like this life only without bad stuff. I don't believe you can earn heaven or wings or stars for your crown by trying for it. God gives us forgiveness and grace, we can't earn it. If you get stars, they are for the little kindnesses that you do without thinking and just to be nice. I don't think anyone is condemned to Hell forever, or if it exists. I've never understood how God could pick some people and not others. I am not personally ready to go to heaven and meet Hitler but I believe he may be there.

Salvation and grace are gifts. I think some times we are not ready to accept them but God still gives them to us. I may officially be Presbyterian but I'm not sure having water sprinkled on you means you are going to heaven. Baptism is a symbol of your, or your parent's, faith and desire to live a good life, but not a get out of hell free pass.

I think we should try to live Christ-like lives. As recorded in the Bible, he was a really good dude. He taught some really good values and LIVED them, too. He was fairly consistent with his story. It all boiled down to the commandment he gave to his followers: Love one another as I have loved you. Not that that is an easy thing to do. Loving and respecting everyone you meet (and don't) for who they are warts and all is HARD. Jesus knew it, too. He knew that we wouldn't be perfect but wants us to try. He also wants us to take the two greatest commandments of the Old Testament (Lev. 19:18 and Deu.6:4-6) and step out of the box.

I think, from my readings, that a lot of the Old Testament rules and regulations were directed to specific people. Like the reason everything was a capital offense is because a semi-nomadic/subsistence farming population can't afford jails. (There was a fairly high standard for applying the death penalty, too. But that's another topic, another post.) Prohibition of pork and seafood makes sense when food preparation was iffy (e.g. several pig parasites can infect humans); separation of meat and dairy, again, makes sense when living in biblical times. They don't make sense now except for religious reasons. Jesus' teachings tend to be more universal - don't judge, everyone is your neighbor, what comes out of your mouth is more important than what you put in it, love. (to name a few) These things apply across time. They also don't lend themselves to legalistic enforcement. At the time Jesus lived the Pharisees went around saying how they followed all the Mosaic laws and, gee, weren't they good Jews. They claimed to follow the letter of the law but didn't follow the spirit of the laws. Jesus was rebelling against that. We all should.

(Almost done, one more post should cover it all.)

29 November 2007

Church, part 2

Warning: Logic and internal consistency may not exist in the following. I'm OK with that.

What I believe? Let's start with the easy stuff:

The Bible not the inerrant Word Of God, completely true, accurate, historical...whatever; it was written and translated by men (possibly inspired by the Spirit, mostly with the best of intentions, but still men); it is not internally consistent (Don't you think God could manage to be consistent?); it does contain some useful suggestions for how to live and interact with one another; and the King James version (translation errors and all) contains some beautiful poetry which the New King James version generally manages to keep (with a fewer errors).

Creation did not take place in a week, certainly not in the way we experience time. I read a book (well part of it, got tired of it about 1/2) where the author put way too much effort into using relativity and time-dilation to explain the 6 days thing. It was forced, he was a physicist who desperately wanted the first chapter of Genesis to be accurate. I have no problem with Genesis 1 being a creation myth; it's just a plausible as Gaia being created out of Chaos, creating Uranus and then the two of them having babies. "Believing in" evolution does not, for many, people, require a lack of a God. (Evolution doesn't actually require "faith" in anything except facts, so I'm not sure one really "believes" in it; one agrees with the facts and the conclusions drawn from them.)

Church attendance is not required to be a believer. God does not actually require his faithful to get up early on the one day a week when most of us could sleep in, finally, and catch up on the sleep debt. It can be enlightening, pleasant, and uplifting; it can also be boring, guilt-ridden, and a pain in the rear (figuratively and literally).

That's enough for now. I'll write up some of the more complicated stuff later.

Church, part 2.5

I forgot this.

Church music is often awesome (listening to an album of hymns now, wishing I had one of Christmas hymns). Apparently people get pretty inspired when writing music in worship and praise of God. Christian rock and contemporary worship music often sucks eggs.

28 November 2007

Church and Public Life

Early today I was driving a co-worker and two visitors out to our project site. I was running late and never properly introduced to the visitors, so I'll just refer to them as the Kingsport guys. (Their office is in Kingsport, TN.) We got talking about being in the Bible-belt. And how public religiousness isn't confined to the traditional Bible belt anymore. Then KG#1 says that he didn't like that they had stopped having invocations/prayers before football games and such. He understood why you couldn't have prayer in the classroom but seemed to be saying that a school football game is different and if the majority want it then it would be OK. What harm is there? seemed to be his point. Luckily, my co-worker is a talker. He jumped in with comments about how uncomfortable this can make the religious minority and how arrogant it is to assume that it isn't a problem to make someone else sit through your prayer. KG1 agreed that American Christians are often arrogant and assume they are in the majority and that a little humbleness could go a long way. I don't think, in the 2 minute conversation, he changed his mind about public prayer.


Now I would never suggest that one can not pray in public. Or that one can't pray out loud in public; or that one can't pray in groups in public. But we were talking about public school functions - that means the government is, in some small way, sanctioning this prayer.* All the non-Christian spectators and participants have to listen to the blessing. No one can force them to join in the prayer but there is strong peer pressure to stand and bow your head. Can you imagine a lone Muslim football player not kneeling and removing his helmet for the prayer? I'd be very impressed if he didn't, that would take some serious balls. I joined the circle when the marching band clasped hands to pray before going out for the pre-game, at my Alabama high school. The time I was too shocked not to join in. It had never occurred to me that a public school group would have teacher lead prayer. The rest of the season, I just was too much a wimp to not join in. (The director, in addition to everyone's safety, would pray that the band had a good performance. Like God doesn't have bigger fish to fry!)

The school system I grew up in was diverse. We didn't have "Christmas Break" it was "Winter Break." The idea of having a elementary school class concert in December with out the dreidel song, is completely foreign to me. When we were sending a jazz combo to play at a Toys for Tots collection site, our HS band director said "You guys know these tunes." (carols) and the sax player said "not really" under his breath. Non-Christians weren't free of Christian symbolism at school but they were also exposed to other faith's symbolism, too. If you decorated your door with a cross, there had better have been a menorah and/or Star of David, too. And possibly a crescent. Prayer before a football game? Are you insane? (But everybody stood, removed their hat, and faced the flag for the national anthem. Something I don't see all the time here.)
(Kinda' belabored the point, sorry.)

Because of where I grew up, I think I have a different view of the issue than a lot of Alabamians I've talked to about this. Religious diversity isn't a moot point, it is real to me. I'm aware of the minority and have been taught to take their feelings into account. I also like what my former Sunday school teacher said about it: "We won't be the majority forever. If we cram our religion down their throats, they'll cram their down ours." Unfortunately, she didn't say this to our whole class, just me.

I am amazed, along with several other co-workers that we have a blessing before the meal when we have a pot luck. There isn't even an attempt at being ecumenical with the blessing, it is definitely a Christian one, and usually pretty Baptist sounding, too. A co-worker of mine is shocked we have a Christmas party; I'm more shocked by the Christmas tree that goes in the lobby. At least the meals and party are for employees (and families) only. The lobby is public space at our government office. But that's Alabama.




*Yes, I know sessions of Congress open with prayer, doesn't make it constitutional. I also know that most (if not all) 50 State Constitutions mention God, that does not make it OK either.

It's all in the lighting.

Monday Photo Shoot: Show us light in a surprising way. Long exposures, interesting reflections, the play between light and shadow -- anything that calls attention to the light itself. This is very open-ended, so I'm curious to see what you all will come up with.

These first three were taken Tuesday at the project site. The first two are basically the same but using different settings on the camera. (I don't remember what, sorry.) Obviously different exposure lengths. In the third I was trying for the maximum color spots. I like how the refraction of the light colors the trees.






This one was also taken Tuesday. I picked up the camera because the sky was a really cool color but, since I was inside, I couldn't get a picture of it. Instead you get the reflection of my office on top of the view from my office window.

19 November 2007

Church

So a while ago I mentioned my beliefs and said I'd write more later. It's only taken me a few months to get back to this.

A little personal history first, maybe? (or maybe a lot)

Dad was raised Roman Catholic. Ate fish (or some other non-meat entree) every Friday of his life (at least) until he joined the army, mass every Sunday (or sometimes Saturday, when he was a teenager), and nuns for elementary school teachers. All of his siblings are still practicing Catholics, most of my cousins are, too, as far as I know. Dad's first wife was also RC and his older kids were raised in the church. I think Anna was the only one who still went. Dad was heavily influenced by his Jesuit teachers and basically came away with what I do is between me and God. So he managed to escape Catholic-guilt.

Mom's early church was a Southern Baptist one. PawPaw resigned from the church because he disagreed with some racist policies they had. Granny was too embarrassed to go to church without her husband and Mom thought "woohoo no church on Sundays!" So Mom didn't attend any where for several years. When she was a teenager she went to the Methodist (I think) church with some of her friends, because they had a good youth group. When she was younger she had "walked the aisle" and been baptized mainly to get the preacher to stop bugging her about it. Her older boys were raised in S. Baptist churches, as far as I know. One sometimes attends mass with his wife; the other is Baha'i. Mom isn't sure there is a God.

I didn't grow up in a church. I liked going to mass with Grandma when she visited and kind of liked all those wedding masses I went to for my cousins. (Except for the one in Latin. I don't think the priest really knew what he was saying, but you could tell who'd been an altar boy pre-Vatican two.) I went to church/Sunday school sometimes with my friends, if I spent the night. I'm sure both my grandmothers, anyway, worried about the fact that we didn't go to church. At least, Grandma knew I'd been baptized.

Someone gave me a comic book version of the Bible. I kinda' wish I still had it. It was much better than a children's Bible I read one night while babysitting. Yes, I read about 3/4 of that "Bible" in one evening. That one glossed over a lot of the sticky bits. (For example, Jacob was sold into slavery by his BROTHERS because they could make money off him, which they wouldn't have made just KILLING him. The whole averted fratricide angle was not mentioned.) In fact I think the Old Testament portion was actually shorter than the New Testament. It also glossed over the inconsistencies of the 4 gospels....

A few years ago, when Nettie was about 2, Mom decided that she really need the social network that a church provides. She knew Dr. Charlie through work and thought if Dr. Charlie could preach there 1st Pres couldn't be all bad. So she and Nettie started going. And I started going. I even started going to Sunday School. I got fairly comfortable in my class, but not enough to talk much. I joined the choir. I really enjoyed choir. I joined the church. I like the traditional style church service and choir. I find Sunday school interesting; I like learning about how other people think. (Liked my lit classes for the same reason.) But never felt like I quite fit in. When I dropped out of choir because I was too exhausted to go to Wednesday evening rehearsal, I lost all interest in getting up for church on Sunday morning. So, now I go on Christmas Eve and Maundy Thursday.

Tune in later for some on what I actually believe. (I promise it won't be three months from now.)

Thanks

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Show something you're thankful for this year. It doesn't have to be the thing you're most thankful for; even the little things count. But of course, picture whatever you'd like.

What I am thankful for? Gosh there are a lot of things. Here's one.

I hate washing dishes. In addition to the usual reasons for hating to wash dishes, sinks are about a half inch to short. If I stand there washing for a while, I find myself leaning over just a hair and my back kills me later. I also am thankful for the timer feature (you can almost see the red light), so I can run the dish washer while I'm asleep. For some reason, pretty much no matter what I do I can always smell the dish detergent, unless I'm upstairs, so I don't like being around when the dishwasher is running. And it's noisy. (OK, I got the idea for this from someone I used to go to church with, but I am thankful for this.)

Here are some others:

Awesome Sister! (yeah, again)

So my little sister's best friend in the whole entire world, J., had to clean out her toys. Her paternal grandmother is coming for Thanksgiving and her mom said clean it up, sort out what goes to charity, or toss it. (MIL have this effect on people, I don't get it.) So J and her sister sorted through their old toys and came up with a box of Bratz dolls to go to the thrift store. When my Dad and Nettie got to their house to pick of J (after she'd finished cleaning her room), J asked Nettie if she'd like some of her old dolls. Nettie said sure and brought the box home to pick through.

The eight dolls were all naked, had ratty knotted hair, and no feet. (Instead of little shoes the Bratz dolls have interchangeable feet. At least they don't have to wear high heels all the time.) Nettie didn't think they looked very good, certainly not good enough to give away.

Sunday afternoon she gave each doll a bath and washed their hair. (Granny had a special Downy solution recipe that works wonders on doll hair and stuffed animals.) Each doll got her own little cupful of rinse so her hair would untangle. Then her hair was combed smooth. Then Nettie, out of her limited selection of Bratz clothing and shoe-feet, found an outfit for each doll and feet for all but one.

Mom encouraged her but the idea for the bathing, etc. came from Nettie. She is so awesome. (most of the time;))

P.S. This is my 101st post!

16 November 2007

Change

Weekend Assignment #191: Show us, or tell us a story about, change.
A before and after picture of the street where you grew up, a story about meeting an old friend after many years, two pictures of yourself separated by a number of years, a tale about changing your life, or showing or tell us about something in the process of changing itself. Any of these is good. And doesn't have to be a negative, because sometimes change is a good thing.

Extra credit: Do you feel that you are changing in some way right now?
So this one day I went over to the drink machines across the street (we don't have any in our building) and the damn machine was sold out of Cherry Coke and wouldn't give me my money back. I didn't have enough more change to get a drink. And one time I hit the change return and even though I'd put in a bunch of nickels and dimes, I got quarters back!

Oh...you mean the verb 'to change' not coin money.

Seriously, here are some puppy pictures at a day old, one week, two weeks, and three and a half weeks old.


You can't tell in the 2-wk old pic but their eyes had just opened. They are three of the cutest little handfuls you will ever see. Anyone want a Chihuahua-Feist puppy for Christmas? They'll be 8 weeks old the Sunday before. Please. My sis and bro-in-law really need the cash and I'm not adding any more semi-permanent residents to my house. If a puppy stays my BIL will have to move into his truck. (Actually...hmm...well, my sis might not like that option.)

Extra Credit: No. A lot in my life has changed in the last 10 years or so but mostly I feel just like I did when I was 20. In someways this is a good thing, in someways it isn't.

15 November 2007

I care.

So I got this email the other day (for at least the second time, from the same friend) where a woman goes on about why she doesn't care if we violate some one's human rights, violate some one's civil rights, offend them....because it was Arab, Muslim terrorists who attacked us.
When I hear that a prisoner, who was issued a Koran and a prayer mat, and fed "special" food that is paid for by my tax dollars, is complaining that his holy book is being "mishandled," you can absolutely believe in your heart of hearts: I don't care.
Well, I'll delete it and certainly without passing it on because I do care. I think we, as citizens of a country that holds itself up as the greatest in the world, should behave better than terrorists and thugs. If the US wants to put itself up on a pedestal and say we are better than you to countries that don't hold democracy and freedom dear, than we need to act the part.

I think the rule of law, while not perfect, is one of the most important things about the US. We have a Constitution, that everyone has to follow (even you Mr. President!). We have rights granted us as citizens that have to be respected by the police and the government. (I think those rights should be extended to everyone, as I believe they are part of the founding principles of our country.)

If we don't follow our own rules why should anyone even listen to us?
__________________________________________________
And so the day isn't a complete downer: Puppies! (I've added more pictures to the album.)
Puppies and more

09 November 2007

Bloo-oo-ooo Grass!

The other day Sarah wrote about how boring her life was. Well, last night was my first "real concert" (non-orchestral, I wasn't playing in it, had an opening act). This would be the first time I've gone to hear a band play that didn't involve some other activity (arts festival, drinking,...). I think much of the audience was dead. I was about 2/3 of the way back and saw very little seat dancing. Some whooping and whistling, though. I think I like hearing bluegrass in outdoor settings better, it's a more relaxed atmosphere. That way I can stand in the back and dance a bit without feeling as stupid. Maybe I should have sat on the back row, then no one would have seen my head bobbing and swaying. On to the performers:

Ruby Jane, the opener, has some mad picking and fiddling skillz. Wow, just imagine what she'll be doing when she can drive. Her voice is young but I heard potential in it.

Claire Lynch's band members all have fingers of gold. Well, Claire herself may have fingers of silver (on rhythm guitar) but she has a voice of gold. I heard a few years ago at Kentuck. She was, I think, even better last night. (Except for the more staid audience.) Missy Raines is an awesome bassist. Jim Hurst is great on guitar and banjo. Jason Thomas was excellent on the fiddle and mandolin. They could have done two sets, or three.

It was the best reason I've had for staying up late for a long time. Hate it for all of you who missed it.

07 November 2007

Images

Is the such a thing as sub-pathological body dysmorphic disorder? Can it be a disorder if you think you look better than you do? I ask because....

In my last post I said I looked fat in a picture, now I know part of that is the camera angle, clothing, etc. but part of it is my image of myself. Most of the time when I look in the mirror I see myself basically they way I've seen myself since I was 17 or so. A size 12/14, pale, with bad acne. That's what I expect and if I don't look too hard it's what I see. Sometimes when I look at the mirror I see myself as I am now or maybe even a little bigger (for measurements see this post). When that happens I think "I fat!" or "This outfit makes me look huge!" (usually followed by "oh well, I'm dressed now.") But most of the time I barely notice my waistline, just whether or not my clothes still fit it.

With my skin it's even weirder. I know my acne is WAY better than when I was a teenager (Look at the before pictures on a Proactiv commercial, that was me.) but I got kind of numb to it so I still don't notice my skin much. Years ago, I'd have to concentrate on what I saw in the mirror before going to the dermatologists to decide if it looked "better, worse, or about the same as the previous three months" (the doc asked that every time). I usually could not have given a accurate answer; I always said 'about the same.' This morning I really looked at my face for a minute because it was a little dry/tight and it made me think about it. But most days I just see 'my face' and don't see the details. When I put on make-up or pluck eyebrows, I'm only concentrating on a small part at a time so small flaws stand out or I just discount the good. I know other people often can't see the scar in my left eyebrow but it jumps out at me (line of no hair, not really a flaw just an oddity.)

I guess this is why it is good to see a picture of yourself every once in a while. Because most of us don't see ourselves as other do, at least figuratively and some of us literally.

P.S. I'm still pale.

05 November 2007

Weekend Roundup

Warning: Long and rambling post follows.

Saturday:

On "Splendid Table" one of the callers asked about how to spice up meatloaf. This discussion started me thinking about 2 things. One - where could I get meatloaf for dinner? Two - Dad's forays into meatloaf.

Dad will get on kicks and cook the same thing over and over for weeks. Try pork chops 3 times a week for a month or rice pudding. Sometimes good, sometimes not so much. Years ago he decided to make meatloaf (I think it was the first one either of my parents had made my entire life.) and he kept making it for about 6 months. Luckily we didn't have it multiple times a week. He never made the exact same recipe twice; he kept trying new ones. Well, one time he ran out of bread crumbs and he had some leftover popcorn from lunch, so he substituted popcorn for about half the breadcrumbs. Then he thought mozzarella cheese would be good in the meatloaf. But he didn't shred it, he used the string cheese in the fridge. The resulting meatloaf, while tasting fine, was a little weird looking. It was medium grey and the slices had lighter spots where the cheese slices were. One of my brothers, his wife, and kids were staying with us at the time. The kids didn't even try it; they went straight for the peanut butter and jelly.

After "Splendid Table", APR airs "Travel with Rick Steves". One of his callers talked about how wonderful it was to travel with his son. His family had been to Europe 14 times with his now 19 year-old son and it had been great for his education and broadened his horizons, etc. This made me think of a funny story from an uncle and aunt of mine.

My Uncle Danny was a french teacher and they went to France several times while my cousins were growing up. One summer they went to southern France, including the beaches. If you've never been to Europe you may not know that going topless on the beaches is pretty common and women don't necessarily cover up before leaving the beach. (Similar to going to the Walmart in Panama City Beach and there being girls shopping in a bathing suit and towel, only less.) My cousins were a pre-teen and teenagers on this trip. Just the perfect age to see topless woman walking nonchalantly down the street. Their jaws hit the ground when the first lady walked by. Aunt Judy just looked at her boys and said "You say one word and I'm doing it." The threat of seeing their mother topless was enough to keep Jonathon and Robbie in line.

Saturday afternoon Ellen and I took Honey and Izzy to the park. Izzy was tuckered out from the mile long walk. We would've eaten at Roly Poly's but they were closed, "gone to the game." So we sat at Ken's next door. The next restaurant over (New Orleans Bar and Grill) was, apparently, the place for all the LSU students without tickets to hang out, in the outside seating. They had been drinking since at least kick-off and when we got there, towards the end of the 2nd quarter, several were getting loud. And the first half didn't go their way. Note: The f-bomb really loses its punch when it is every other word out of your mouth.


Sunday:

If you want service go to the Centerville McDonald's. They had more people working at late lunchtime, at a small store than the Micky D's in Taylorville ever has. Didn't make them terribly fast with the iced coffee, because they were out of cups, but they gave Mom two apple pies for making us wait. After picking up Nettie, we went riding. Patches was a bit of a snot. He settled down for me, but kept giving Nettie trouble. She did an awesome job handling him. She made him back-up by accident a couple of time, but did really well. I think part of the problem was she has to use these extra stirrups (which were a little short for her) and the regular stirrups were bouncing a bit on him so Patches was getting some mixed signals.


(My hair looks weird and, God, I look fat. Don't know why Nettie looks so serious.)

Then I had to come home and scrub out the dryer so I wouldn't get candy or gum or whatever that purple stuff was on my clothes.


Oh, the puppies eyes are open (They are two weeks old.) and Ellen started a new job Friday.

31 October 2007

I Can Has Happy Dance?

This is how I feel today:




Thank you I Can Has Cheez Burger for summing it up so well.

17 October 2007

Other campuses

Last weekend I was on the campus of the University of South Alabama, to participate in GEMS. I didn't get any photos of the girls in my workshops but I did take some of the campus between lunch and the afternoon workshop and before I left.

A squirrel (not unique to USA):

Chains on the sides of steps to prevent cyclist (and others) from going around the stairs and causing erosion:

A large pond in the middle of campus:

(I know there is a lot of road in the pictures. The first I took from across the street; the second I took it out my car window. So sue me.)

The buildings at USA are not as fancy as at the UA campus but that doesn't mean they are all boring. The Chemistry building:


The Humanities building:

(Slightly, annoying because there is no sign on one side to tell you which room numbers are on that side; the other wing has a couple pieces of paper stuck in the window with the room numbers listed.)

I also found this interesting:

JagTran, USA's answer to long walks from parking area to class. It has few stops but looks (from the map) like it runs fairly efficiently; it gets people from where they park to the different clusters of buildings. They are lucky to have a smallish, compact campus. They have really nice shelters at the stops, too.


The UA started a new bus system for campus this year (they had one years ago), CrimsonRide, with eight routes, and 15 buses running during the day. There have been some kinks to work out this fall but all in all the buses, with the new parking scheme, have been, IMHO, a success. There is less traffic between classes!

Some of the problems I see with Crimson Ride have to do with how it is set up, however. There are too many stops on some routes; in some areas the stops are less than a block apart. One of the routes, in particular, is too long (45 minutes to make one circuit!). Often the two buses on a route are not well spaced; ideally they would be half a circuit apart. And there are a few places for where taking the bus would actually be faster than walking; this is particularly true once one is in the center of campus. I think cutting the number of stops (3 in one block is excessive); taking the buses off campus, even just a little; and adjusting some of the routes would help a lot. They do plan to re-evaluate the system at the end of the year, maybe one or two of those things will happen.

I enjoy riding the bus to lunch just at the edge of campus, but don't wait for one to ride back. The buses are great when it is very hot (like September) or raining but not the best way to get around campus - that is still your feet or a bike (Woohoo bike lanes!).

P.S. - Check out the USA online map - Click on a building, it's picture and name pop up, choose a building from the list and it is highlighted! Awesome. Anyway we could get that for the UA?

P.P.S. - I would like to thank the people who set the thermostat in the Humanities building and those who designed the A/C system. I was not freezing Saturday. I hope this was not because it was Saturday but because the system is well designed and not set too low. The thermostat for my office (and the rest of the hallway) is set at 80 at I am wearing a sweater.

Lounging

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Picture someone or something in the act of lounging about or slacking off. Naps, loitering, general loafing -- it all works. Show yourself, show friends, show pets. All this shoot needs is to have them not doing much at all.


Exhibit A: Q-tip on the porch


Exhibit B: Honey on the couch

She's saying, "You go on to work Mom, I'll stay here and keep the couch from floating away." (I really need to put the cover back on the cushion, goodness that thing is ugly. Oh wait, can't do that 'til the cushion stops smelling like puppy pee.)

15 October 2007

Oops!

I forgot that today was Blog Action Day. I forgot I was going to write a post all about how much I love having air to breathe, water to drink and play in, and green places to walk my dog. But all you are getting is this dinky post. So check out some of the thousands who are officially participating. Maybe you'll learn something.

Class of '94

So, John Scalzi is going on about his 20th reunion over at Whatever. And it reminded me that a) my 10th blew by a few years ago and I didn't even notice and b) I'm not sure I'd ever go to my high school reunion.

It isn't that I had a HORRIBLE high school experience and don't ever want to set foot in there again. It's just that the high school I graduated from is not the high school I identify with. We moved to Alabama the summer I was a rising 12th grade. When I think of high school, I think of my school in VA not AL. But since I didn't graduate from JMHS, I won't ever hear about the reunions. There are people there I'd be interested in seeing again, finding out what they're doing, etc. I hardly knew anyone at HHS. A few people I remember. I might recognize a few more names, if I had class with them. (One of the nurses at my internist office was in my English class, I have no idea what her name is.) Otherwise, I have no clue. And they wouldn't know me either.

The local schools tend to run announcements in the paper about reunions and I don't know if they mail stuff out to graduates or just figure we'll see it in the paper. I don't know if we had a 10th reunion or not (or anyothers).

A funny thing about moving when I did, and having been in a class of about 500, was that other than my friends few people realized I'd moved. That meant I got to go to the "All Night Graduation Party". The party was only for that years grads, nobody else younger, older, or from other schools. If you left you couldn't come back and no one admitted after a certain time (like 11 or 12). My Alabama school got out three weeks before my old school and I was still "dating" (obviously not many actual dates that year) the same guy. So he bought the two tickets and no one batted an eye when he put my name down for the second ticket. I came up to visit, watched my friends graduate, and went to the party.

05 October 2007

Democracy or Republic?

A red herring in a comment made by Shadowhelm a while back, started me thinking about the different ways in which we can define our government. He said our government was not a democracy but a republic. My initial response was to think, "damn, everybody calls themselves a republic. What does that tell you?"

So it has been in the back of my brain to look up the definitions of 'republic' and 'democracy' as well as the different types that could apply to the United States of America. Since I don't feel like doing actual work this morning, I decided I'd look them up (using wikipedia and a couple of online dictionaries).

The word "republic" comes directly the French and its most basic meaning is a state in which supreme power rests in the people. There are some modification to this definition in modern usage making the best definition I've found to be: a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them. Additionally, the head of state can not be a monarch, although the United Kingdom can, as a constitutional monarchy, be considered one type of republic. As you can already see, definitions of political systems can be complex and confusing.

The word "democracy" is derived from the Greek meaning rule of the common people. Key parts of the modern definitions include majority rule, free elections, and the power of the people. Most modern democracies are representational, where the power of the people is exercised by their representatives and not the individuals personally. Most people think of Athens as the first democracy but the Athenian government would probably not fit the description of a democracy by those same people. The number of "citizens" was relatively small (between 10-15% of all residents) and not all had the same vote. Additionally, Athens would be a direct democracy (if one at all) and most modern democracies are representational.

From my (not vast) reading the USA is a federal and constitutional republic. We can also be said to have a mixed government/constitution. Some other would say we are a capitalist republic (Marx's "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie"), but those would be people who aren't fond of our economic system. In terms of democracies, we are a representative, or more specifically a liberal democracy. (Please note that almost all of the world's government's refer to them selves as republics and/or democracies, whether anyone else would define them as one or not.)

That brings an end to my lesson on types of governments. Regardless of how one names the government, a representational government requires an educated electorate or it will become an oligarchy, ruled by the those already in power and their hand picked successors.

02 October 2007

Eeyore

My sister says "With my luck...." and means it. We all (or most of us anyway) have at one time or another said "with my luck [something bad will happen/continue to happen]" but most of us aren't serious. It is more of a expression of frustration or defeat than of actual belief. My sister seems to believe it. A friend of mine (and her co-worker) likened my sister to Eeyore. Now she may be the "office Eeyore", but his description of her and how she is like Eeyore didn't sit well with me.

Sis will tell everyone, and just about anyone, everything that is going wrong in her life from not getting off the days she requested to her car being reposed. And she often acts/talks like somehow the world is out to get her. These traits would make her a source of depressing conversation but that doesn't make her depressed and Eeyore isn't paranoid.

Eeyore is in the grips of a serious depression. He doesn't think the world, or anyone in it, cares about him. In order for the world to be out to get you, it has to know you are alive. He is genuinely surprised when people do nice things for him. (One of his Disney-catchphrases is "thanks for noticin' me.") He doesn't expect good things to happen or anyone to care. He doesn't want to bother other people. He just sits in his house of sticks and ponders things*. I should know I strongly identify with Eeyore. (or as he spells it Eor.)

I tried to convince my friend that I'm more like Eeyore than my sister but he wouldn't have any of it, then our movie started and conversation ceased in favor of Halle Berry, Bruce Willis and Taco Bell.

*Please note it has been a while since I read any A.A. Milne or watched Winnie-the-Pooh on TV (or movies) so my impressions may be inaccurate and colored towards the Disney version watched more recently. Wikipedia actual has a nice, I think, description of Eeyore and the British-ness of his personality. And while I'm on the subject, I generally prefer Shepard's illustrations (or the other early renditions) and the "classic Winnie-the-Pooh" over Disney's except I do like the blue-grey of Eeyore's coat of the Disney marketed items. (BTW, Pooh should not be bright yellow, but honey-gold)

27 September 2007

Damn.

Mom's been doing so well this last week or so. Saturday I drove her to the mall and grocery store and she was calm and rational about her not being able to see well enough. Sunday she seemed in good spirits at Nettie's party, if a bit tired at the end. Then she calls me today and starts crying. I don't know what to say, I never do. I sometimes wish I could just run away.

Mom has a macular pucker in her left eye (I think). She first noticed a problem back in late May early June. She went to the eye doctor after we visited Anna; he diagnosed it and referred her to the local retinal specialist. The eye doc said that these things move slowly and surgery isn't done until one's vision is significantly effected, i.e. loss of vision affects one's daily life. She was suppose to see the specialist in October. The pucker got worse. By mid-July Mom couldn't read paperbacks anymore. Reading Harry Potter to Nettie in the car was hard. I finally nagged her into calling the specialist and seeing if she could get an appointment sooner. He saw her the next week (now early Sept). With her glasses on, she could only read the top two rows on the eye chart with her left eye. The specialist set up surgery as soon as possible, the end of October. It takes about six months for maximum recovery of sight and that will be about half of what's been lost. He also told Mom that the surgery tends to trigger cataracts, in both eye, so she'll probably need cataract surgery in about 6 months (at least that doesn't involve actually cutting the eye).

The macular pucker makes things look wobbly or crocked (Mom's whole 6" Amsler grid is crazy, viewed at a distance of 2'). Mom's vision seems to change in jumps. She'll be doing OK and then wake up one morning and the floor looks like a roller coaster again. Usually, by the next day she is compensating and can get around OK and drive. After this last change it took three days for her to be able to drive again. Not that she does much, it is a strain. She's been using her cane and handicap tag again, not because of her back but because she has so much trouble judging where the floor is or if there is anything in her way. She started using the cane after she walked into the wall next to the door one day picking Nettie up from school. (BTW, Belk's in town has a VERY slick floor, not good if your cane doesn't have a rubber tip.)

We live out in the boonies so to get anywhere, one has to drive. Dad will take her places but he has things he has to do and he doesn't get as lonely as Mom. And he doesn't want to go to lunch with one of her girlfriends. Right now she's kind of trapped in the house. She can't read at all. She can't really watch TV, just listen, and the daytime programs she likes are all decorating type shows - not good listening. There are many TV shows she likes anymore, anyway.

So she calls me. And I don't know what to say and want to hang up, and run away, forever. And then feel bad, because I'm a bad daughter. And a bad person, because I feel sorry for myself despite being almost perfectly healthy.

24 September 2007

The Red Eye

Actually mostly green ones.

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Show off a recent picture that is chock full of red
eye. Because there's nothing more amusing than light reflecting off retinas,
making folks and animals look like demon spawn! Admit it, sometimes it just
gives you giggle. For the purposes of this photo shoot, other reflective eye
colors work too, so if you've got green or yellow glowing eyes (or some other
color), bring 'em on.
Here's Stubby, glowing in anticipation of supper.


Q-tip has one green and one blue eye. I don't know if this is why she always has one green and one red "red-eye" or not but she does. Here she is looking very devil-spawnish at having her picture taken.

Here's Honey getting fed from the table , with one bluish eye staring lovingly at Ellen. (Bad dog! Bad Ellen!) I'm not sure what she was just handed but it makes her look like she has no teeth and an orange mouth.


And Irish, in a unusually good night picture of her, eating supper be herself because the Queen does not share.

18 September 2007

Personally Obsolete

Monday Photo Shoot: Personally Obsolete
Take a picture of something in your house you used to use a lot, but now hardly use at all. This could be a piece of obsolete technology, or possibly some equipment for a hobby you no longer pursue, or just something you stopped fiddling with for no good reason at all -- the basic idea is simply to highlight something that no longer has that much use for you, for whatever reason.



My ice skates. I took three ice skating classes (alpha, beta, and, you guessed it, gamma levels) the year before we moved to Alabama. Now I live over an hour away from a skating rink. In the 14 years I've lived down here I've been skating maybe 1/2 dozen times. I keep them because I still dream of being an ice dance champion. I realize most girls give that dream up around age 10 but I've held on to mine past 30. I watch "Dancing with the Stars" and think, "I could do that," too. So much for reality.

17 September 2007

Happy Constitution Day!

In honor of the 220th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of the United States of America:



And if you feel inspired to read the whole thing. It is here.

If you need a refresher on how a bill becomes a law, listen to it here.

13 September 2007

Dress Codes

Chad, over at Uncertain Principles, brought up dress code today. (He was pondering this weighty issue thanks to Steinn and Incoherent Ponderer.) Then he asked his readers about their academic dress code. Well, I'm not an academic but I play one on TV. Just kidding, I work for the state geological survey and the dress of myself and my coworkers varies at least as much as it does for the academics who surround us here on this lovely campus. We have people how wear fairly traditional office attire and people who never wear traditional office attire. Most of us are somewhere in between. And then there are field days.

Officially we are to present ourselves in a neat and professional manner. Actually the only place I can find where anything is actually specifically said about dress is that we are to be "professional and conservative" in appearance when traveling, because we represent both the agency and the State to the people we interact with.

At the office most people dress fairly casually. The State Geologist often wears jeans. The Deputy Director actually dress up more wearing slacks and shirts most days. In the past the Oil & Gas Board (our sister agency, housed in the same building as most of the GSA) employees had to dress up a bit for work because the attitude was that anyone including the Governor might stop by and they had to look "professional", that's relaxed some now that office dress codes have relaxed in general. My office is in the other building, so we almost never get walk-in visitors, making the need to impress the public with our professional nature pretty much non-existent.

Personally, I usually wear jeans but avoid t-shirts; wear sandals whenever possible (with socks in the winter) and kick them off under my desk most of the time; occasionally wear skirts; wear loafers some in the winter and the occasional pair of heels. When I'm presenting at a conference I dress more "professionally" in skirts and heels and such. When we are having a meeting here I will dress slightly better.

In the field I wear what ever will be practical; in the summer that usually means jeans of khakis with a tank top and long sleeved over-shirt (tucked in), pants tucked into my socks, bandanna or hat (depending on amount of shade), tennis shoes or boots depending on the location, and lots of bug spray; in winter it is basically the same out fit except I'm wearing a long sleeved t-shirt under a flannel shirt or wool sweater, plus or minus a jacket.

Something none of the guys touched on was hair. Guys don't have to worry about this as much. Mine hasn't been brushed since I combed it after my shower and probably won't be until I go to bed. I may finger comb it later and put it up. I don't blow dry my hair either, so it is often still wet when I get to the office - deal with it. I don't wear make-up to work because that is five minutes I would rather spend sleeping, besides then I'd have to worry about it all day.

I don't think people should wear lab coats unless they are actually in a lab and concerned about things spattering on them. Otherwise one just looks silly. One can be an uncausally dressed scientist without putting on a lab coat. Although I will not be joining their ranks anytime soon.


For the record, I am uncasually dressed today in a very cute outfit including heels. Although I will probably revert to my Birkenstocks before the day is out.

Hummers

Some pictures of one of my hummingbirds. He guards one of the feeders rather jealously and then perches nearby, so I could get some good pictures. But I never managed to get one with the Sun on his throat.








12 September 2007

Mugging!

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Get Mugged

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Take a picture of one or more interesting coffee mugs you might have. Because it's my experience that people have coffee mugs with interesting stories behind them. At least, I do.

These are from my office.

The tall travel mug is for when I have to take my tea in the field; the short wide-bottomed travel mug was bought when I was describing core everyday because the lid kept the tea warm longer and the wide bottom fit over the dividers in the boxes making it more stable than other mugs (on the boxes or the rollers); the short mug was a Christmas gift from a pair of my students when I taught high school; the tall mug that says "Everyone's entitled to my opinion"was my birthday gift from my sister, Anna, this year. She had a number of gifts stashed in her closet. She also planned a joke present for our brother with Dad, because she wasn't going to be able to get it - tacky South of the Border stuff. (Is "tacky" redundant?)


These are at the house.

The blue one I bought a potter who lives in Andalusia, AL when I lived down there. It makes a wonderful ice cream cup! The other, as you can read, is from the Glasgow Festival of British Youth Orchestras of 1991. I participated in the festival because the youth symphony I was in had been to the Aberdeen International Youth Festival and was invited to play in Glasgow*, also. All together it was an awesome three weeks in Scotland - the castles, the gardens, the wandering through town, the Dee and the Don, the coast,...(there were rehearsals, too) I'd love to go back.

*I don't know why the venues for the Festival of British Youth Orchestras are both in Scotland(Edinburgh and Glasgow) and one's not England or Wales (you know, another part of Britain) or, even, Ulster (not on Great Britain but part of the UK). Okay, Belfast (or any city in Ulster) was, for sometime, probably not somewhere most British parents would particularly want to send their children but I'm sure there are some lovely cities in Wales.