Monday, March 31, 2008

Reading Log - Lewis & The States

Since this blog is largely self-indulgent autobiography anyway, I'm allowing it to take the place, for this entry at least, of my old reading logs. As I mentioned way back in one of my first entries, I've started to maintain reading logs several times over the years. So far, I've maintained this blog longer than all of those efforts put together.

I'm not even considering trying to mention all the magazines, newspapers, online essays, etc., that I read. I'd spend so much time listing them that I'd have to cut back drastically on the actual reading, thereby largely defeating the purpose. One of these days I intend to start talking about what websites I read on a daily basis and make links to them; that'll give a pretty good indication about my online reading anyway.

I'm also not going to point out my daily Bible reading (which I don't always do daily - I often miss a day or two, then catch up). Suffice it to say that I'm following the Bible in a Year schedule from the Our Daily Bread devotionals, published by Radio Bible Class. Each day's devotional, along with the readings for the day, are available by clicking here. I prefer the printed, pocket-sized devotionals, but reading it online will certainly do in a pinch.

Right now, I have three books on the go (counting one that I just finished today). First up, a nice all-in-one edition of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I ordered it from not long ago; the link is to the actual edition I have. I'm reading it as Lewis intended, in a way: by reading it aloud to my son, usually at a rate of a chapter each evening. Tonight we finished chapter 2 of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (which I think of as book two).

Earlier today I finished The Arrow Book of States by Margaret Ronan, 1964 edition. It's a very light overview, giving two pages per American state with a small map, a few historical notes, and some trivia on each state. Clearly meant for schoolchildren of its day, that's exactly how I wound up with it. It has the name of one of my uncles (who would have been a preteen in 1964) written on the inside front cover, and my Mom's (who was a couple of years younger) written on the back. It was one of the books I took from my grandparents' house after they died in the late 1990s. The items of any value or use were divided up among the family, and most of the rest was loaded into boxes and trash bags and hauled off to the dump when the house was cleaned out. All I really wanted was one framed picture that belonged to my grandfather - it now hangs in my computer room, just a few feet away from me right now.

I took the books largely because no one else wanted them, and I hate to see books thrown away. Most of the books held no sentimental value to me (my memories of my grandfather revolve more around traipsing through the woods or fishing with him, not sitting around reading), but I still like to take a look over the collection (I still haven't integrated most of their books into my bookshelves) from time to time and pick one out.

I enjoy trivia collections, so although U.S. states aren't a subject that holds a great deal of interest for me, the book was worth reading. If I ever try out for Jeopardy I'll go over it again. Their frequent Americentric categories would definitely be a weak point for me as a contestant.

Finally, I'm on a second pass, this time highlighting, underlining, and otherwise marking up passages, through another C.S. Lewis title, Miracles. I generally read good theology books twice. Once just for the sake of reading, to take in the author's ideas. If the book is good enough, then I make the second pass, highlighter in hand. Lewis' books (at least the nonfiction) always get the second pass (although, truth be told, I haven't read very many of them yet).

My eventual intention (which may wind up languishing forever on that "maybe someday" list that will no doubt be a mile long when my empty shell of a body is laid to rest) is to use this blog in part to record and elaborate on my notes from such books. I intend to use Lewis as a springboard for many of my Sunday school classes in the future, and my notes will probably wind up serving as a curriculum outline of sorts.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of the Winnie The Pooh starring vehicle Does It Float (closeup detail of front cover, number 4 in a series). And some of a finger.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Complacency Prayer

I'm sure pretty much everyone reading this is familiar with one version or another of The Serenity Prayer. As originally written by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, it began:

God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
It's more popularly paraphrased in popular culture these days as:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
This is the version used by Alcoholics Anonymous, and is a favourite subject for needlepoint and ceramics enthusiasts. If you go take a look around your local gift shop or Christian bookstore, you can probably find it plastered on a wide variety of tacky "decorative" knickknacks.

With all due respect to Mr. Niebuhr, I've never liked this prayer. I'm sure most people have never really given a moment's thought to what that prayer is really saying, but if we did, we'd see that it would be better titled The Complacency Prayer.

I don't ever want "the serenity to accept the things I cannot change." That's just an easy excuse for not bothering to even try to improve anything. I don't often side with Bruce Cockburn over Reinhold Neibuhr, but I'd much rather see people choosing to "kick at the darkness 'till it bleeds daylight."

Furthermore, even if I truly cannot do anything about a situation myself, there's Someone who can. The idea of just giving up and "accepting" things runs counter to Luke 18:1-8. There is always something you can do about a bad situation: pray. Thinking that serenity to accept things that we cannot change ourselves is not a virtue. It is a lack of faith, and a slap in the face to the One who told us to keep praying.

It also makes a mockery of Philippians 4:13. For those of you who don't know that passage offhand and don't feel like clicking the link, here's a hint: it does not say "I can do some things through Christ who strengthens me, and I'd like some serenity to accept the things I can't."

The other two lines of the prayer, as popularly circulated (there's more to it, but I'll stick with the part that everybody's great aunt has on her kitchen wall) are much less troublesome. Courage to change the things I can - sure. Wisdom to tell what I can change - that's also fine, but only if the alternative to "what I can change" (because God allows and empowers me to do so - I can do nothing on my own) is "what God can change, so I should be praying about".

May I, and may you, never be cursed with the serenity to accept the things we cannot change.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of the Winnie The Pooh starring vehicle Does It Float (closeup detail of front cover, number 3 in a series).

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Apologies In Advance For The Image

I often wonder when (or whether) the concepts of self-control and personal responsibility enter the minds of pro-abortionists. A recent conference at the University of Massachusetts (gee, I never would have expected rampant leftism to come from there) provides a terrific example. It's truly amazing how some people render themselves resistant to parody by being such ludicrous buffoons on their own that it's hard to top the reality.

At the conference, one of the speakers (she has a name, but I'm not bothering with it. Many of her organization's victims never even get named.) "asked the commission to improve access to abortion. She said that lower-income women who are working and do not qualify for Medicare funding sometimes cannot afford abortions or contraception."

I have a solution to their problem. How much does it cost for a tube of Crazy Glue and a cork?

Another amusing point, from the tail end of the linked article: "The hearing at UMass was the only one scheduled this year in Western Massachusetts. After last year's hearing drew a small turnout, the Everywoman's Center asked the commission to repeat the event."

Translation: very few people cared enough about the lunacy pushed at the conference to show up, so the moonbats whined for a do-over. They got one, no doubt at university (read: public) expense. When no one cares about this one either, they'll probably whine for another. Why am I guessing that the conference organizers all supported Gore in 2000?

Thanks to the good folks at American Life League for reporting this story in one of their newsletters. When it comes to life issues, it's far more important to change minds than change laws. Pointing out the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the pro-abortion position is a good start.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of the Winnie The Pooh starring vehicle Does It Float (closeup detail of front cover, number 2 in a series).

Estimating Canine Time Of Death

This is Another Reason Why People Don't Talk To Me, but I think the above title is funnier.

This comes from a recent conversation I was involved in where we somehow got onto the topic of our dogs that had died. Pretty much everybody has at least a story or two about a dog they used to have, even if it was when they were a child, which is no longer around.

I have a few such stories, at least one of which I eventually intend to tell in some detail here. I'll skip right to the point of this entry, though.

Me: "We came home from church one day and the dog was dead on the floor. She must have died right after we left, because she was already cool."

Them: (Raised eyebrow)

Me: "What? It's not like I checked her internal temperature."

Them: (Eyebrow moving a bit higher)

Me (realizing I could have fun with this, which I generally interpret as a mandate): "Although I suppose I could have. The equipment is right there in pretty much every kitchen. You just need one of those thermometers you use to see if the turkey's done."

Them: (Eyebrow now well on its way to the back of their head)

Me: "If the needle doesn't move, that dog's been dead for a while."

Them: (Walking away, uttering vow to avoid me in the future)

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of the Winnie The Pooh starring vehicle Does It Float (closeup detail of front cover, number 1 in a series).

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Why I Don't Watch "Lost"

I don't watch Lost because it didn't hold my interest the first time, when it was called Gilligan's Island.

Postscript: While I was thinking of writing this (yes, I actually put thought into it), I decided to check a few facts on the Internet, which has long since replaced TV as my time-waster of choice. Through a perfectly logical but long and possibly weird chain of related topics, I wound up on Wikipedia reading about obscure Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters.

Did you know that Scooby-Dum only appeared four times, not counting Laff-A-Lympics? That seems unbelievable. I'm sure I spent more time with him in the late seventies than with some members of my immediate family.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of the cover of the Winnie The Pooh starring vehicle Does It Float.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

This Too Will Change When I Am King

A man in New Brunswick was sentenced today for five years in prison for killing two people while driving drunk - a young married couple, whose two children were in the car with them but thankfully survived the crash.

Five years for snuffing out two lives and creating two orphans.

To add even more insult to the horrendous injury, he was actually convicted on two separate counts of whatever the charge is for getting sauced and killing somebody, plus a bunch of lesser charges. However, the judge in his cruelty (or perhaps the legislature in theirs, I really don't care) decreed that the sentences were to be served concurrently.

"Concurrently" is apparently a legal term meaning "anything past the first one's free, so if you're going to do it, do it big."

Presumably the judge has had occasion to address the children of this couple at some point. I wonder which of their parents' lives he explained to them didn't matter? Did this man get to kill their Mom with no penalty whatsoever, or was it Dad's life that was worthless?

Just to make the point absolutely clear, concurrent sentencing is a travesty and needs to be abolished. It rewards criminals for being more successful in their crime, makes a mockery of the justice system, and devalues victims. Unless they happen to be the first, of course.

Enough rambling. Here's an old picture of my computer room. It doesn't look much like this anymore.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Kodak Easyshare 5100 Speed Test

One more quick note about my new Kodak Easyshare 5100 printer, because someone asked me about this aspect of its performance.

I've timed several full-colour, 300-dpi scans to JPG, and they consistently take between 18 and 19 seconds from start to finish (from pressing the button to start the scan to seeing the JPG on the screen). Not a rigourous scientific experiment by any means, but enough to give you an idea if you're interested in that sort of specification.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my kitchen table. The only reasonable explanation for the bright, indistinct shape on the left is that we were visited by a paranormal entity, perhaps an errant member of the Heavenly Host. Catholics, do not, I repeat, do not begin organizing pilgrimages to my house.

Another Reason Why People Don't Talk To Me

Hey, Kids! It's time for Another Reason People Don't Talk To Me!

On one particular day, a friend was telling me about her mother's devout Catholicism. Her Mom is apparently an extremely frequent churchgoer. In my friend's words, for her Mom it's "Mass every Sunday morning, mass every Sunday night, mass every Wednesday night, mass every Saturday."

My response: "Wow. With all that mass she must have a lot of inertia."

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my kitchen table, with spooky shadows.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Begging For A Lightning Bolt

Just a short update today. Well, and one quick, possibly blasphemous joke. We'll get to that.

A couple of days ago I started working on what I thought would be a relatively short straightforward entry, but it's spiralled out of control. Looks like it's going to make my Christmas and Easter rant look short and extemporaneous. I don't have an ETA on its completion at this point; I'll probably do a couple of shorter, easier ones instead while I work on it.

We gratefully subcontracted parental duties out to my parents for a couple of days, so on Saturday (yesterday) I slept in, visited my friends at Crave Manga to pick up some Magic: The Gathering cards (I haven't gotten to actually play a game in a very long time, but there's hope on the horizon - more on that another time), shovelled the driveway some more, went shopping as quickly as possible, then went to my parents' place for dinner, bringing the offspring back home afterwards.

Sunday (today) we started the day with an Easter egg hunt, ate breakfast at church (where we had seven baptisms and eight new members voted in), then dinner with my wife's parents.

I have to go back to work on Tuesday. In the meantime, I'm hoping to not even leave the house tomorrow.

On to the joke. That's why you paid your cover charge, after all.

Mark 6:3 tells us that Jesus was a carpenter. Do you suppose he ever hit his thumb with a hammer and took his own name in vain?

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of mast rigging.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A True Story From One Of My Jobs

Hey, kids! It's time for another True Story From One Of My Jobs!

This story goes back to my days in tech support. Fortunately, I did not have to support the general public. I worked for a large organization, and was internal support for one large building and its staff.

As in most offices, everyone who worked in this building used a computer all day, every day. You'd think that they'd all have some basic computer literacy - in fact, it was usually listed as a requirement and sometimes tested during the hiring process - but that proved not to be the case. I remember once speaking to an employee who had absolutely no idea what to do when confronted with a computer that had been turned off for some reason. When I told her to just turn it back on, she didn't know how. I tried to explain that she only needed to push the big round button on the front - she couldn't find it. I finally had to go to her desk and push the big round button for her. "Oh, that button!" (Our PCs had only the power button and a very small eject button, right on the CD-ROM tray, on their front panels.)

She's not the subject of today's story. Today's story is a short play in three acts, about another lady who reported having trouble with her mouse. She couldn't be more specific, so I went and had a look, and it seemed fine. As was my custom, I opened up the bottom and cleaned the rollers, but there wasn't much else I could do with it. (Anybody else out there remember having to clean mouse rollers? It made my job a whole lot easier when my office finally went to optical mice, about three years after everyone else in the world.)

I asked her to let me know if it gave her any more trouble. It did, almost immediately. Again, she couldn't tell me what the problems were or demonstrate them, so I took the easy way out and replaced her mouse. Thus endeth Act One.

This brings up a trade secret that I'll reveal for non-tech staff: when your office techs replace a mouse / keyboard / etc. like that, they're giving you the last one that was complained about but with which they couldn't find any problem. And that "bad" one of yours will just be given to the next person who reports a nonspecific, non-reproducible problem. 99% of the time, the recipient is thrilled with their "new" equipment, even though the last user swore it was defective.

Act Two came a few days later, when the same user reported that her new mouse "would not go straight across the screen." I was intrigued. I first asked her to explain. "When I try to move the mouse" - by which she meant the onscreen cursor - "straight across the screen, it won't go. It curves down."

I had to go check this out. I went to her desk and asked her to demonstrate. She anchored the heel of her palm firmly against her desk, held the mouse with her fingertips, and pivoted her hand, leaving the heel down against the desk. Sure enough, the cursor moved in an arc. "See?!?"

Yes, I had to explain that she was moving her hand in a curve, and that she'd get better results by lifting the heel of her palm from the desk. She was very pleased with this solution.

Her happiness didn't last long. Act Three came within a very few days.

She reported that her new mouse (from Act One) "broke" a database program that our staff all used. When she entered a client's file number in the search field, the file would not come up. This obviously had nothing to do with her new mouse, but I humoured her and went to see if I could identify her actual problem ("ability to humour" should be listed as a requirement in any tech support job description).

She was adamant that the new mouse was the problem. Her program had worked before getting a new mouse, and now it didn't. I asked her to demonstrate. She picked up a client's file from her desk, and proceeded to type the file number incorrectly into the search field, missing a digit. Note that this process did not involve even touching her mouse. When after several seconds the program reported that it could not locate the file she requested, she turned to me triumphantly. "See?!? That new mouse doesn't work!"

Enough rambling. Here's another picture of those Beatles dolls my wife crocheted for me, this time displaying John's front and George's back.

Responsible Firearm Ownership

Today's entry is brought to you by this horrible story on CNN. Executive summary: a woman called 911 because someone was breaking into her house, and as the 911 operator listened, the intruders got in and murdered the caller.

This reminds me of two bumper-sticker-type slogans. Yes, bumper sticker slogans are simplistic, but sometimes there's a lot of wisdom to be found at the end of a late-model sedan. I'm guessing that this poor woman's family are feeling the truth of these ideas today.

First up: When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

Second: Saying you don't need a gun because you have the police is like saying that you don't need a toothbrush because you have a dentist.

I used to be a good liberal on the issue of guns, back before I learned what "critical thinking" meant. In my squandered youth, I even subscribed to Rolling Stone magazine, and happily lapped up whatever leftist drivel they doled out.

Of course I thought guns were bad. Rolling Stone, and most other media, told me they were. A gun killed John Lennon, so all guns must be evil. (There are at least two major logical errors in that last sentence - one in the premise, one in the conclusion. Identifying them is left as an exercise for the reader.)

Of course, my self-inflicted socialist media diet also taught me that anyone who claimed membership in, or even any sympathy with, the NRA was automatically a homicidal lunatic. I made plenty of fun of their "guns don't kill people - people kill people" rhetoric, usually by replying, "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will accidentally shoot their own children."

I can't say when or why I changed my view. I attribute it to simply growing up. John Hawkins from Right Wing News has defined liberalism as "childlike emotionalism applied to adult issues". That pretty much sums up my youthful position on firearms, and hopefully explains the change.

I hadn't even realized it happened until one day I was visiting someone in his office in a police station. He had a couple of firearms out, and several rounds of ammunition were openly visible in the room. He was working with the firearms as we chatted. As he handled one of the guns, he looked at me and, indicating the firearm in his hand, asked, "This doesn't bother you, does it?"

I replied, "Nope. The only time somebody having a gun makes me nervous is if the same person would make me nervous even without the gun."

I all but felt the light coming on as I realized that what I had just said was pretty much the same idea as the aforementioned NRA slogan.

These days I quite like firearms. I'm a big proponent of self-defense and responsible firearms ownership, and fully agree with the "bumper stickers" at the top of this article. I want the good guys to be armed, and preferably given carry permits (open and/or concealed). If the lady in the linked article at the top had spent her time steadying her aim of a large-calibre handgun (you don't want a small one for home defense - not enough stopping power) instead of dialing 911 (and probably waiting on hold), the story might have had a much happier ending.

Oddly enough, I don't actually have any firearms in my home at this time. This is because I don't feel that small children and firearms are a particularly good mix, and right now I'd much rather have the small children around. My four-year-old son can find ways to be dangerous with Silly String, so even a remote possibility that he might get his hands on an honest-to-goodness firearm is out of the question.

I've also become very familiar with Canada's firearms laws, and (here's where I lose the NRA and its Canadian fans again) I don't think they're that bad. Sure, they're inefficiently administered, but the actual ideas of firearms licensing and registration are sound. (Canada's firearms laws also have a nasty racist streak in them that I may address some other time.)

I used to agree with the standard Canadian firearm enthusiast's belief that licensing was acceptable but registration was unnecessary and needlessly intrusive. A friend argued it with me and changed my mind (see, it is possible). If we had licensing but no registration, there would be nothing preventing (well, maybe we should say "discouraging" - laws never prevent any action, they only provide for penalties that will hopefully be deterrents) me, as a licensed individual, from going to the gun shop, picking out something nice and nasty, then handing it off to Joe Gangbanger down the road who would never in a million years be approved for a licence. Remember, no registration means no record of the sale to me and no record of me giving the gun to ol' Killy Joe, and so no way for me to wind up sharing a cell with Joe like I should in this scenario.

There. Now that I've probably alienated everyone on any side of the firearms control debate, my driveway needs shovelling again. Oh, for a cannon large enough to just blow the snowdrifts away....

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of two of the Beatles dolls my wife crocheted for me (John's back, George's front).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Once again, I've decided to put in my two cents at someone else's blog. In the interest of laziness efficiency, I'll post it here as well.

The post was at Cassy Fiano's blog. I read it fairly often anyway, because Cassy is very insightful, intelligent, and well-spoken. I got to this particular entry by way of Conservative Grapevine, a roundup of interesting conservative links that's well worth at least skimming daily. Just to bring the lineage full circle, I first found out about Conservative Grapevine from one of my favourite pages, Right Wing News - where Cassy Fiano is a frequent guest writer.

Anyway, she wrote a good post about how to behave in restaurants. I posted the following comment; you can read the original article, with all the comments, by clicking here.

I like most of what you've written here, because most of it boils down to two principles: remember that your server is a human being, worthy of respect, and treat them accordingly; and remember that your server does not have total control over all aspects of the restaurant.

However, I have to take issue with one of your points - the one about tipping. Quoting excerpts: "When you pay your bill, don't forget to tip well. Here's something that people who don't tip well must not know: servers only get paid about $3.00 an need to tip an absolute minimum of 15%....Servers have bills to pay just like everyone else. We have to pay rent, buy food and gas, pay for electric and water bills... just like everyone else in the world. And perhaps most people don't know this, but your tips are our main source of income."

That's not the customer's fault. If a server can't make a living on the hourly wage that they're paid, then they should be looking for another line of work, not expecting customers to make up the difference. Cashiers in the retail sector aren't paid well either, but I've never heard a department store cashier arguing that they should get tips on that basis, and I'd laugh at them if I ever did.

I used to work in a restaurant, back in the kitchen. I got the same (minimum) hourly wage as the servers, but no tips. I know some restaurants operate differently, and backline staff get a share in tips, but not all of them. None of us back in the kitchen thought we were entitled to tips, or owed them in any sense. Our bills were our own problem. If they outweighed what we were making, then it was time to move on, and I for one did.

I'm feeling some cognitive dissonance here, because despite what you might have expected from reading the above, I do tip whenever I eat in a restaurant, and reasonably well (minimum 10%, usually considerably higher). Now that I think about it, by tipping we are - I am - distorting the free market. We're subsidizing the wages of servers, so restaurant owners can afford to offer submarket wages ("The hourly wage is low, but you'll make more than that in tips").

Paying a high enough salary to attract and retain employees should always be the employer's problem, not the customer's. If servers are forced to rely on tips to pay their bills, then they should refuse to work for the offered wages and move on. Restaurant owners would quickly realize that they need to raise wages (and perhaps prices - but if customers are effectively forced by social pressure to tip, then there's really no difference to them whether the 10% is added to the menu price or paid out after the meal as a tip).

Being a server is a fine job for someone who needs a position with flexible hours and no specific skill requirements - say, students. There comes a point, though, where people should be setting their vocational sights a little higher, or moving on to do something else with their life. Waiting tables should be seen as a job for now, not a career for later.


I'm going to continue to tip, but now the cognitive dissonance is going to make my head hurt every time.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of a forearm.

A True Story From One Of My Jobs

Hey, kids, it's time for a True Story From One Of My Jobs!

For this one we go back to the days when I worked in a comic shop. My shop was the only one in our city; the next nearest ones were in Moncton, a larger city a couple of hours drive away (that matters for purposes of this story).

On this particular day, a boy, age in the very low double digits, was in the shop. His mom was there as well, waiting patiently while he browsed. Nothing unusual about that, but things took a bit of an odd turn after he selected what he wanted (the Bone Volume 1: Out From Boneville trade paperback - an excellent choice). Mom brought it over to the counter, and things got weird.

She said, "We're going to take this - he'll pay for it next time he's in." Not a question, but a statement.

I told Mom, being as meek and polite as I could, that that would not be a workable arrangement.

She began protesting. "But you know him! He's in here all the time!"

First up, in the words of my favourite line ever from Newsradio, "Even if what you're saying is true, then I still don't care." Even my regulars didn't take merchandise home without paying for it. I kept that thought to myself, though, and went to the second thought that occurred to me.

"I do recognize him. I think he's been in here a couple of times before, but I don't even know his name."

"But he's in here all the time!"

My store was small, and pretty much a one-man show in those days. If he had been in more than a couple of times, I would have known him. He hadn't, and I didn't. I apologized to Mom for the inconvenience (How Canadian is that? She apparently doesn't get the "store" concept, and I'm the one apologizing), but stood firm.

She got huffy. She stomped over to the shelf where the book had been, put it back, and said loudly to her son, "Come on, let's go! We're going to Moncton next week, and we'll get it there!"

I couldn't resist. As she stormed for the door in self-righteous indignation, her son sheepishly following, I said, "Ma'am? None of the stores there will let you take it without paying either."

The boy was in several more times over the following months. He picked up an occasional comic here and there, but never became a real regular. I never saw Mom again.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of fingertips.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Choose Your Own Adventure

Today marks my first not-particularly-interactive, choose-your-own-ending blog entry, as I offer you your choice of Reasons Why People Don't Talk To Me!

Today was St. Patrick's Day (except that it kind of wasn't, as I discussed in my last post, but never mind). I wore about as much green to work as you'd expect.

Before the day was over, I had three responses to the incessant inquiries as to where my green clothing was. I was rotating between them, but thanks to the magic of the Internet I offer you the chance to choose the one that would be likeliest to make you mutter an epithet at me and walk away!

Question (which I heard, over and over, more or less verbatim, all day): "Hey, it's St. Patrick's Day! How come you're not wearing green? Where's your green stuff? What are you, some kind of big spoily spoilsport spoiling person who spoils? Huh? Are you? Huh?"

Answer options:

1. Does my underwear count? It was white when I first put it on, but it's taken a bit of a bad turn.

2. If I were wearing underwear, it would definitely be green.

3. Some of my toenails are green. It's only because there's some stuff under a couple of them that I can't seem to dislodge. By the way, can I borrow your letter opener?

For the record, 3 seemed to get the best response at my office.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of an eye.

Solving The Wrong Problem

OK, so apparently the Catholic church has bumped St. Patrick's Day for 2008. The official reason is that they want to avoid scheduling conflicts between masses for that day and Holy Week observations. However, every Catholic I've talked to about it has been pretty forthright about the real problem: that the standard St. Patrick's Day celebrations are considered inappropriate for Holy Week.

So the Vatican, in a display of Solomonic baby-splitting wisdom, is asking the faithful to reschedule their drunken debauchery. While you're at it, if you could just get that abortion moved from this week to, say, the 27th or so, that would be just super. Thanks!

(I don't care about St. Patrick's Day much anyway, as you may have expected by extrapolating from the principles stated in a couple of my earlier posts. For me it's just like New Year's Eve: a day I only "celebrate" by trying to stay off the roads, because the chances of getting wiped out by a drunk driver are even higher than usual.)

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of the appliances I use to hold down my kitchen cupboards.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Grinch, Humbug, Scrooge - I've Heard Them All

As a Christian, I don't get the big deal about Christmas. Easter, either, although to a lesser extent. (This is going to be a long one. You may want to hit the bathroom and grab a beverage before diving in, should you choose to accept the challenge.)

Paul wrote in Romans 14:5, "One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind." I'm in the "every day alike" camp, and for the most part I try to adhere to that principle.

I do try to set Sundays apart for rest and worship. While the specific legalities of Sabbath observance were certainly softened in the New Testament, the concept behind the Sabbath remains valid. Human beings need a day of relative downtime, for a variety of reasons, and that day is a perfect opportunity to devote some peaceful time to God.

I observe Sundays in a few ways. First up, rather predictably, by going to church. As much as I'd enjoy an opportunity to sleep in (insofar as my parental status allows), I won't do it at the cost of forsaking gathering with my brothers and sisters in Christ for worship and fellowship (even as awkward as I am with the fellowship part).

Second, I try to refrain from economic activity on Sunday. This is more of a preference, not a principle. I don't lose any sleep over it if I have to put some gas in the car or pick up some milk on Sunday, but I try to plan ahead to avoid those situations.

This extends past just shopping at department stores and the like - I try to avoid anywhere that requires people to work (restaurants, movie theatres, etc.), with the do-I-really-have-to-spell-this-out exception of church (the pastor, after all, is doing his job). Yes, some people have to work Sundays in the interest of doing good on the Sabbath, as commended by Jesus. Hospital staff, police officers and snowplow drivers come to mind. But, most people should be free to set it aside.

I find it kind of funny that I've had many conversations at church on Sunday mornings with people who decried Sunday shopping while sipping from the steaming Tim Horton's cup in their hand. Maybe they figure that their double-double was prepared by robots. But as our pastor recently said during a sermon, "If you think the Church is full of hypocrites, you're right. But come on in anyway - there's always room for one more."

I also try to refrain from secular labour on Sundays, even of the unpaid household task variety. For example, I try to either get the lawn mowed and dishes washed on Saturday, or leave them until Monday. I try to listen only to Gospel music on Sundays, and my Sunday blog posts will usually be on spiritual themes. These are all token gestures, but they help to remind me what the day is supposed to be about.

There is one thing about keeping Sundays holy (distinct, or set apart) that bothers me a bit. I think the Seventh-Day Adventists might be right about the Sabbath. It was Saturday, not Sunday, in the Old Testament, and still is for observant Jews. Where Sabbath observance is discussed in the New Testament, there does not seem to be a direct Scriptural basis for moving our day of observation from Saturday (the seventh day) to Sunday (the first). Since I try not to be too legalistic about it (as long as you set aside a day, I'm not sure that it matters overmuch to God which day), I can move past it, but it's still something I think about from time to time.

I also think that most holiday traditions are silly. I evaluate each holiday-specific activity on the basis of whether I would do the same thing on any other day just because I felt like doing it. Buy a present for a family member? Sure. Set off some fireworks? Quite possibly. Stick a decorated tree up in my living room? Not so much. Disguise my kids in costumes and send them around the neighbourhood begging for food? Not a chance. (The costumes are not the problem with that last one. As any parent will attest, sometimes a child will get up in the morning and decide, for no apparent reason, "I think I'll be Batman today." The parental response of least resistance is usually to help them tie their cape.)

As for Christmas and Easter, I think most of us are being hypocritical in our observance (which reminds me of the earlier quotation from my pastor). I'm going to just talk about Christmas to explain this; feel free to mentally substitute the appropriate Easter terminology as you prefer.

There are two ways to handle Christmas: believe the Christmas story, or don't. That is, believe that God took on human form and came to live among us, ultimately dying to redeem us from our sinful state, or reject the idea.

If you don't believe it, then December 25 should mean nothing special to you, and it's simple hypocrisy to pretend that it does. (On a side note, no, December 25 was very probably not the day that the baby was born in the Bethlehem manger. That date was chosen for reasons other than historical accuracy that are beyond the scope of this article and irrelevant to my point anyway. At least Easter has the added virtue of being at the right time of the year.)

Even if you're one of the mushy modern "Christians" who rejects the idea of the virgin birth, the Incarnation, and the Resurrection but thinks that Jesus was a nifty (but utterly mortal) guru-type guy, then that only brings December 25 to the level of, say, Martin Luther King's birthday.

In that case, what's the big deal about Christmas? You could buy presents for your loved ones (or those not-so-loved ones for whom you feel an obligation borne of reciprocity or societal expectations) anytime. You could chop down a perfectly good, oxygen-producing, topsoil-reinforcing, wildlife-sheltering tree and stick it in your living room until its status as a fire hazard becomes too blatant to ignore anytime. You could wander around the mall and deal with rude, stressed-out shoppers and harried retail staff anytime. Why cram it into the last few weeks of the calendar year with everyone else?

If you are a Christian, then of course the situation is different. The Incarnation and Resurrection are central aspects of your life. In that case, I don't see where it makes any sense to relegate their celebration to specific times of the year.

If you are a Christian, then you should understand that the reality of Christ and all He does for us is just as true on May 21, or August 5, or whenever, as it is on December 25. Each day should be a celebration of Him.

If you are a Christian, then every day is Christmas, and every day is Easter.

Of course there's nothing particularly wrong with making special acknowledgement, and using the calendar to remind you. I'm glad every day that each member of my family was born, and yet we make special celebration on their birthdays. If that's the function Christmas and Easter serve as practiced in wider society, then it's a tolerable one. However, for the vast majority of people, Christmas and Easter serve to keep Jesus locked away in a cupboard like the good china, to be taken out and dusted off once or twice a year, then promptly packed back away. After all, He's for special occasions only, not everyday use.

Christmas and Easter can also serve an important witnessing function. If even one person, anywhere, ever, has come to know Christ as Saviour after the hoopla of one of the seasons started them thinking about what really matters, then all the decorations and TV specials, as silly as I think they are, were and are worth it.

I've changed my view over the years about the many people who only show up at church at those two times each year (or even at only one of them). For those who aren't familiar with the jargon of regular churchgoers, we call those folks "C & E's."

In my younger, more legalistic years, I thought C & E's were hypocrites. I've softened now. They aren't hypocrites - they're travellers, working their way home. Every journey begins with a single step, and if someone's first step towards Christ is attending a Christmas Eve service, even though they haven't darkened the door of a church in months, then praise God for bringing them. I once went to a Christmas Eve service where the pastor preached a hardcore, fire-and-brimstone, you-need-salvation sermon. I loved it, and I wish more pastors would do the same. Yes, it would offend some people. The Gospel message is supposed to.

Despite my misgivings, I hope that the upcoming Easter long weekend gives you time to contemplate Him, whether you believe it all or not. I hope you think about why you do or don't believe it. Remember, because Mom (or Oprah, or Somebody On The Internet) said so should stop being a good reason right around the same time that Mom (or Oprah, or Somebody On The Internet) stops setting out your clothes in the morning.

And Merry Christmas. It's today, after all, whenever you're reading this.

Enough rambling. Here's a blurry picture of my bathroom door.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Another Reason Why People Don't Talk To Me

Just a quick one today. I have a couple of more substantial entries in the pipeline. My wife saw my computer screen last night when I was working on one and said, "Is that for your blog? Wow, it's a long one." When I told her I was pretty much just getting started, she replied that she may skip this one. It's tough to accept an instant 78% decline from my usual readership, but I'll soldier on.

Today's offering is cut-and-pasted from an e-mail exchange I just had with a friend. His new e-mail address has been redacted because I don't want the same fate to befall it as his old one. For the less e-mail innoculated, the part with > in front of it is him, the part without that is my reply to him.

> I'm going abandon this e-mail address. Unless you
> want to send spam, go to (address removed). If
> you have shocking videos that I should download for
> $15 per month, or you want to sell Viagra, send the
> offers here like everybody else does.

Yeah, I'm sending you most of those. If you only respond to .01% of them, I'm in the black.

You have to admit, though, that $15 a month is a great deal for shocking videos. Normally that kind of thing will run you at least $20. Shop around, you can't beat that price!

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of one of my son's books edging its way off the table. At this point, seeing no other way out, it was contemplating ending it all by hurling itself into the unknown. Thankfully, we were able to talk it down safely.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Principle Of Communication

The idea I'm presenting here is not at all original to me. I'd love to attribute it properly, or at least word it as the original author did, but I don't know who it was or where I heard or read it.

This is a principle that I heard of some years back, and have tried to put into practice since. It has generally served me in good stead. I have also recommended it to many others, and their reaction tells me whether they hold a theologically orthodox position on the subjects of original sin and the depravity of mankind.

Whenever presenting material, verbally or in writing, assume that your audience is mean and stupid. Mean, in that if there is more than one way to interpret your words, they will choose the least charitable interpretation. Stupid, in that if you are not absolutely clear, they will simply fail to understand you.

If anyone knows where this idea originated, I'd appreciate it if you'd let me know. I tried Googling it up, but had no luck. There's certainly no shortage of "mean and stupid" on the Internet, but I couldn't turn up anything matching the above. Of course, since I'm working strictly from a distant memory, I may not be recalling the same precise wording. Come to think of it, maybe I didn't understand what the original author meant.

And yes, I know that every time I make a joke based on a news item, that I'm providing a great example of that first audience category. The last article I posted, just a few minutes ago, is a great case in point.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my now-dead dog's hip right after surgery (I warned you, way back when, that this might be coming). The surgery presumably had little to do with her death, having taken place five years prior.

An Unfortunate Choice Of Words

I grew up in a household where we made jokes about cancer. There's not much that I consider off-limits for comedic purposes. However, there are areas where I didn't think I'd ever go with this blog. Some things, although they may be funny to some people, could be quite hurtful to others, at least at certain times in their lives. In that spirit, since I have no control over who reads this, or when (once something's on the Internet, it's pretty much out there effectively forever), I have chosen to avoid jokes on some subjects.

Other areas are left untouched because even I, whose sense of humour is among the blackest, can't find anything funny about them. Anything involving children being harmed generally falls into this category.

This is not a new policy since becoming a dad myself. Although I can find something to laugh about, however twisted, in even the most tragic news stories, the ones involving harm befalling children simply don't lend themselves to satire. My emotional reactions to some things have changed since fatherhood; movies on the theme of parental devotion, like Life Is Beautiful, or even Finding Nemo, have much more resonance nowadays.

What I'm trying to say is that it's tough to make jokes about things like pedophilia.

Thus today I find myself at the edge of a precipice, peering down into the chasm below.

Deep breath to settle the nerves, count to three....



This is from a story about a man recently found guilty of possession of child pornography, According to the article, his attorney "said the situation involving his client was on the minor end of the scale".

OK, new rule for defense attorneys. If your client is charged with any form of pedophilia, it's imperative - I cannot stress this enough - to avoid the word "minor" when arguing your case.

(OK, the wording may very well have originated with the reporter who wrote the article, not the attorney. But that interpretation isn't as funny.)

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my pants walking away.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Trying To Help

I really enjoy this story out of Vancouver. Feel free to go read the original, or not, because I'm about to paraphrase it anyway.

This guy is hanging out in the park, and sees a suspicious device. He thinks it might be a bomb. He decides that the authorities need to be notified, and so he loads the 'bomb' into the trunk of his car and drives to the nearest police station.

I like to think that he had to put it in the trunk because there was no room in the back seat, what with the kids in their car seats taking up all the space back there.

Once he gets to the station, he walks up to the front desk. "Um, hi.... I'm not quite sure who to talk to about this, but my car's out in your parking lot with a bomb in the trunk."

After the station is evacuated and the bomb squad does their thing (and, presumably, a tasering is narrowly avoided), the device is thankfully found to be non-explosive.

Then, my favourite bit (although with this story it's hard to choose). The police have issued a statement that while they appreciate the vigilance of the citizenry, they recommend that if you find a bomb, you not load it into your car and take it for a drive. Or at least if you do, try to avoid potholes and speed bumps.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my pants.

Nice Pants, Emperor

Here's what Geraldine Ferraro said:

"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is."

She went on to even more controversial pronouncements, claiming that gravity makes things move downward, and that next winter's snow may, in fact, be white.

How can anyone seriously question the truth of her statement? Without the issue of ethnicity (I agree with Ken Ham in not liking the term "race" in this context), Obama would never have been a serious contender. Maybe someday, but certainly not with his current level (read: lack) of experience. He's Dan Quayle circa 1987, with more pigmentation. OK, and better spelling, I'll grant that.

CNN's Quickvote poll question today is, "Should Geraldine Ferraro apologize for her comments about Barack Obama and race?"

Obviously not. What she said was not racist, meanspirited, or dishonest. She expressed a reasonable opinion.

The voting is currently 46% for Yes. You know, if I ever start losing my faith in the Christian principles of original sin and human depravity (Christianity is, to my knowledge, the only major religion which includes cynicism as a foundational teaching), a couple of minutes of reading opinion polls will set me back on track. This culture is doomed.

Now CNN has a breaking news report that Ferraro is "leaving" the Clinton campaign due to this "controversy". An adulterous sexual relationship with an intern (followed by perjury), leaving your date to die in a river and waiting several hours to contact the police, having the FBI and IRS investigate your political opponents - these things could be considered controversies. Making a blatantly obvious remark about an unqualified presidential candidate who's coasting on a special blend of identity politics and cult of personality - not so much.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of something red.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I'd Definitely Pay To See "Pirates Vs. Zombies"

I'm convinced that whoever books the movies for my local theatre has placed surveillance equipment in my house. They monitor my conversations to determine which movies I'm actually willing to pay to see (and there aren't many), then make sure not to bring those ones in.

Since my nearest alternative for big-screen movies is over an hour's drive away, that generally means I'm out of luck and have to wait for the DVD. Well, that's what it would mean if I'd never heard of the Internet. For legal purposes, assume I've never heard of the Internet.

I've bitten the bullet and driven the long trip for Land Of The Dead, Shaun Of The Dead, 28 Days Later, and the 2004 remake of Dawn Of The Dead. If you've got a really good eye for detail, you may detect a pattern.

In each of these cases - and we're not talking obscure indie releases here - my local theatre either didn't get these movies, or got them only very late in their runs, and couldn't confirm that they would in fact be getting them (I contact the manager and ask before taking the road trip). I had to embark on the journey, or risk missing them on the big screen.

(As a sidebar, I've been informed that the local theatre operators, up to the owner and manager, have little-to-no say in what movies they get in. They pretty much have to take whatever the chain decides to send them. That only makes me adjust my surveillance theory to encompass my private movie-related conversations being transmitted to a distant corporate boardroom.)

The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything was a recent casualty. Sorry, Phil Vischer - because I said out loud that I'd be willing to plunk down the cash for at least three tickets, my local theatre didn't run your movie.

However, I now hear that the local management is hoping to get Pirates for the Easter long weekend. If so, they can still get my money, because my torrent download is taking forever it isn't out on DVD yet.

George A. Romero's Diary Of The Dead will, I expect, also not get played here, for two reasons.

First, it is a relatively small movie in terms of budget and promotion, and my local theatre tends not to get anything even slightly out of the mainstream. At any given moment they're still playing Adam Sandler's last three movies, but heaven forbid they get anything that doesn't actively seek to make its audience stupider.

Second, I have said out loud that I'd go see it.

Of course, I'd only be springing for two tickets on this one. No big-screen R-rated zombie flicks for my son until he turns five (in May).

I may lobby the local management to see if they can exert any meager pull they may have to bring Diary in over the Easter long weekend too. First of all, I think the two movies I've been talking about would make a spiffy double-bill. There's got to be huge audience crossover potential there.

Second, what more appropriate time to show a movie about corpses getting up and walking around than Easter?

(I could hear that "Ooh" you just said from here, and I didn't even need to borrow the theatre chain's surveillance equipment.)

Enough rambling. Here's my dog on a bed. As previously alluded to, she's dead now. The dog, not the bed. At least for now, I'm not getting into the metaphysics of whether a bed can be considered truly alive in the first place.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Poop Candy

This is a True Story From One Of My Jobs. I like the above title better, though.

In my current workplace, there's a small table, just a few feet from my desk, that's usually laden with a variety of candy and snack foods brought in by employees and free for public nibbling. I suspect that it's there to make employees drift steadily toward not fitting in their chairs without first removing the arms. It's succeeding in at least some cases - I gained almost ten pounds in the first month of being assigned to this department. The ultimate goal is no doubt to make us all drop dead from obesity-related disorders before we become eligible to collect a pension.

Today, one of the offerings was a bag of coffee-flavoured Werther's Originals candies. They were rather unpleasant. Reading the ingredients, I found out why. First of all, they're comprised around 50% of some artificial sweetener chemical whose name I can't remember and probably couldn't pronounce anyway.

Second, and far worse, there was a warning printed on the bag: "Excess consumption may have a laxative effect." They were promptly dubbed Poop Candy. This didn't hurt their popularity as much as one may have expected, since it had very little leeway to get lower. I expect they'll languish on the table for quite some time to come.

This reminds me of a conversation I had a few years ago, when an ingrown toenail was giving me some trouble. The doctor advised me to soak my foot in a solution of water and epsom salts. I read the label on the package of epsom salts, and found that they have a wide range of near-miraculous powers. One use, though, stood out, so I asked my doctor, "These things only have a laxative effect when taken internally, right?"

To this day, I'm not sure he didn't lie to me. I don't think that doctor liked me much. Sure, his Hippocratic oath would prevent him from actually killing me, but he may have gotten a chuckle from the idea of making me spend a night in frequent gastrointestinal distress.

I take inordinate satisfaction in using phrases that don't turn up on any other site in Google searches. I'd give some examples, but then this entry would become a second hit for those phrases, thereby tainting my victory. I had originally thought that "Poop Candy" might be another rare phrase. I already checked it, though, and there are a few thousand other hits. Just pointing that out in case you didn't already think the Internet was messed up.

Anyway, even though the phrase "Poop Candy" might not be unique to this site, I still have high hopes for "free for public nibbling."

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of the light fixture in my dining room.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

In Memoriam - Jeff Healey

As a Canadian kid growing up in the late 80s, I was aware of Jeff Healey. I heard his hit single, "Angel Eyes", and thought it was pleasant enough if not particularly distinctive. I was aware of his blindness, and I always liked that although people were duly impressed by what he accomplished despite his handicap, he was never seen or treated as a novelty act.

When he released a cover of a Beatles song, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, it put him front-and-centre on my radar. I became an immediate fan. On January 9, 1991, he played in Fredericton, NB, and I lived close enough to there to get to the show.

It was terrific. Although the relatively small venue was not sold out, the audience was attentive and appreciative, and Healey, Rockman and Stephen put an an energetic show. I actually recorded it with a smuggled-in pocket tape recorder. I still have the tape, but it's unfortunately unlistenable. My cheap recorder had no input volume control, and so most of the cassette just consists of distorted rumbling. The only really discernible parts are Healey's speaking between songs.

The friend I went with and I were both huge music fans, and we were there primarily for While My Guitar Gently Weeps. We knew the song very well, and had read an article in a guitar magazine (which I still have around here somewhere) that described Healey's exact technique for playing it, so we were actually watching in anticipation for his hands to be in the correct position for it at the start of each song. The biggest fakeout he gave us was Life Beyond The Sky, which starts with the same chord (A minor, incidentally).

He was enthusiastic, dynamic, and very personable. His jumping all over the stage was very entertaining, considering that he couldn't see how close to the edge he was getting, and he in fact made a couple of jokes about having "fallen off the stage in Saint John last night". I don't know whether he actually did; it's entirely possible that a joke about falling off the stage last night was a standard part of his stage patter. It doesn't really matter, because it was funny either way.

That night was the peak of my interest in Healey, unfortunately. While I certainly respected his later work, I didn't share his passion for jazz and historically authentic blues, and the MOR radio-friendly singles never really caught my attention. I bought his 1992 album, Feel This (and played its closing track, Dreams of Love, a lot when I was a college radio DJ) and 1995's Cover to Cover (for Badge and Yer Blues - the Beatles connection again), but drifted away somewhat after that. Whenever I visited Toronto, I considered stopping by the club where he played, but it never quite made it to the top of my agenda.

I always found it poignant that so many of Healey's best-known songs dealt so directly with vision-related imagery. Angel Eyes, See The Light, Baby's Looking Hot, Lost In Your Eyes.

Healey lost his eyes to cancer when he was eight months old. The most impressive thing about him, even more impressive than his guitar mastery, to me was that in all his interviews that I heard or read, I never detected the slightest bitterness or self-pity over his lot in life. That says volumes about his character. If anyone ever had an excuse to feel sorry for themselves, he did. (In case you didn't catch that, he lost his eyes to cancer when he was eight months old).

He never seemed to give in, though, and many of the recent tributes from those who knew him well indicate that his positivity was not just a public image front. That's just who he was. He had goals and dreams and things to do, and not being able to see was no more a long-term obstacle than breaking a guitar string and not having a spare at hand.

I had no idea that cancer, apparently not satisfied with taking a child's eyes, had returned for another shot at him. Now I see the reports that he had been sick for a few years before his death, and for all I know he may have had medical problems for his entire life. Again, that topic never came up in any of his extensive interviews that I knew of. He had other things to talk about.

So, his death came as a surprise to me, and from what I'm reading to those close to him as well. 41 is far too young for anyone to go, especially for the sake of his wife and children. I hope that once the worst of their grief eventually passes - right now their terrible loss is too fresh for them to believe it ever will - he will have left them with as much inspiration as he gave to the rest of us.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of a rug.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


I've joined in the conversation on another blog; you may want to check it out, or you may not. The important thing is that I get to do another quick and easy post by (mostly) just copy-and-pasting what I wrote over there.

The blog is Dvorak Uncensored, run by John Dvorak (a well-known technology opinion columnist), although he has a few other people posting to it as well. I don't agree with much of what gets said over there, but it's generally interesting enough to keep me coming back. The tone of that blog is geared for mature readers. It also tends to be pretty hostile toward pro-lifers, creationists, and Christians in general, from both the bloggers and the majority of the commenters. Be forewarned that if you stop by over there, you're probably not in friendly territory, given what I know about the readers of this blog.

The post where I stepped in was about India having trouble trying to discourage sex-selection abortions of baby girls. You can read it by clicking right here. My comment is # 18, but I'll be putting it here shortly as well. I took issue with the lone comment from the blogger, Eideard. The article they linked to was about how in India, people tend to want sons rather than daughters, and so they abort baby girls. This (sex-selection abortion) is technically illegal there, but the law is not enforced. Out of other ideas, the Indian government is planning to try paying families to have daughters (i.e., bribe them not to murder baby girls). Eideard added only, "Sad but true" at the end.

Here's what I posted:

Regarding Eideard’s “Sad but true” remark (with which I agree, as another apparently rare pro-life Dvorak reader) -

If we’re going to “respect a woman’s right to choose”, then why should we care what the motive for any particular abortion is? Why should it even be any of anyone’s business? Isn’t the baby’s gender, or eye colour, or suspected sexual orientation, as good a reason as the mother’s economic situation?

Similarly, if we’ve had a good slurp of the “population crisis” kool-aid and are ruthless enough to see abortion as an acceptable solution (or component thereof), then, again, why would anyone complain about the gender of the dead baby?

I strongly suspect that we’re seeing simple hypocrisy from those who have a problem with this. However, I can hold out hope that at least one Dvorak mod doesn’t worship at the altar of Planned Parenthood (see the March 4 story about Arizona’s mandating prenatal care for meth users being “a step toward banning legal abortions” - I’d link back to it if I’d bothered to figure out how…).

-Zirbert (
Oh, and since I do know how to make links here on my own blog, here's a direct link to the March 4 story I refer to in the last paragraph.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of a Spongebob Squarepants placemat on my kitchen table. You may choose to infer that it's my son's.

Quick Update - Snow, Taxes, Games, Etc.

This one's just a quick update to explain why I haven't updated much lately. The prognosis for a full recovery is good, but I can't commit to a timeframe.

First up, the snowstorms. We've had a completely unnecessary amount of snow this year, including two storms within the last week. Each storm generally requires me to shovel my driveway at least twice. Whenever possible I wait until the snowplow goes by, swamping the end of my driveway, before doing it the first time. However, the snowplow often takes another pass to widen the street, sometimes as late as a full day or two later, requiring me to do it again. By the time I'm done shovelling, I don't even have the energy to type.

The last storm required shovelling sessions both last night and earlier this evening. Instead of normal snow, this time we got granular ice pellets that were like shovelling tiny ball bearings. They ran merrily off the edges of the shovel, and flowed neatly back into any hole I manged to create.

I'm also back in the grip of a full-blown Desktop Tower Defense addiction. I'd sign up for a twelve-step program, but it's been my experience that the crackheads all point and laugh when you say you're there because of a video game. I play the latest version, 1.5, and can walk through Medium level or Random mode, which is what I usually play. The 100-Level Challenge is my recurring nemesis. The furthest I've managed to get so far is level 91.

I'm also working on my taxes. I'm spending more time than usual trying to turn up where I've buried my charitable donation receipts. Since they're pretty substantial (I don't always manage to tithe, but I at least come pretty close most years), I'm not submitting without them. I've used QuickTax most years and found it very easy and powerful, but this year I'm trying StudioTax for one simple reason: it's free. I plan to report what I think of it once I'm done.

As for posting in the short term, don't expect much. We're going to see the Backyardigans "Live" tomorrow night, so instead of ranting on the Internet, I'll be watching some poor schlubs in foam-rubber suits trying to remember where the edge of the stage is so they don't fall into a sea of toddlers and get ripped apart.

I was very pleasantly surprised that my dear wife agreed to my suggestion of buying one ticket fewer than we need for the whole family to go. They weren't particularly cheap, and I figured that both parents don't need to be present. Unfortunately, when we pitched this idea to the offspring today and offered them the opportunity to choose which parent would be going, Daddy was elected in a landslide. Rats. I had done my best to offend and alienate the electorate over the past few days, but to no avail.

Then on Sunday, we've got a birthday party for one of my son's friends. The potential for chaos is high, because the party is being held at a bowling alley. Since my son can do significant damage with a ping-pong ball, I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do with access to bowling balls. I always did enjoy the sound of sirens.

Enough rambling. Here's a blurry picture of my son being strangled by a mascot.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Vile Racism From Planned Parenthood

I've made a couple of offhand remarks already about being pro-life. Time to get that issue way out into the open, since it'll probably become a major recurring theme around here.

I always intended that it would; the right topic just hadn't presented itself to open that door until today. (On a side note, I maintain a text file called "Blog Ideas" - one-line summaries of things to write about at some point. Lately it's been holding pretty steady at around 30 backlogged ideas. Plus whenever something new comes up, I write about that instead of dipping into the barrel. So, I have no shortage of topics to write about for the time being.)

This blog is really as much journal / autobiography as anything else. So, as usual, I'll start with some relatively brief background on my involvement with today's subject matter.

I didn't know what abortion was until I was around sixteen years old. I had seen the word, certainly - I distinctly remember it being mentioned in Stephen King's The Stand, and Watchmen. However, I hadn't given a second thought to what the word meant.

When I found out what it meant, I was appalled. However, I was comforted by my certainty that it must be extremely rare. I had great faith that the maternal instinct of women would prevent it from ever being done casually or becoming widespread. I thought it would be along the same lines as (any other) extreme child abuse. Certainly it happened in some dark corners, but would never be accepted by the mainstream.

Then I saw some statistics, and was appalled all over again. Horrified and sickened might actually be better words for my reaction. I was immediately gripped with a need to do whatever I could about this problem. I saw an ad for a meeting of a Right-to-Life group, and went. I was surprised to see that I was the youngest person there by a margin of decades, and one of very few males in attendance. To this day I find it a demonstration of severe ignorance whenever someone stereotypes pro-life activists as being mostly men. That has certainly not been my observation. I've been the only male in the room at an awful lot of meetings and activities.

I've stayed involved ever since. I was the treasurer of a provincial organization for a few years, and the treasurer for a local affiliate for several more (so far - I still hold the position).

Just to stick a pin into another stereotype, I'd like to point out that when I became a pro-lifer, I was definitely not a Christian. That came a few years later. While these days my faith certainly informs my position, I have never seen abortion as a primarily religious issue. To me it has always been a scientific and philosophical issue. A distinct human life clearly beings at fertilization (not conception, as commonly argued), and no one has any moral right to kill another without a truly compelling reason (self-defense, etc.).

I should address the obvious pro-abortion response that the mother's rights constitute a compelling reason. If the mother's life is in danger, then I'll agree with you. Tell you what: for purposes of this discussion, I'll grant you that those abortions are justified, free and clear. Now let's talk about the other 98% or so. I think this next sentence deserves to be set apart and bolded:

I've never heard an argument for abortion on demand (that is, for reasons other than to save the mother's life) that wasn't incredibly selfish, incredibly stupid, or both.

I'm trying to keep this brief, but that clearly isn't my forté.

I'll move straight to what brings this post about. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood (the largest provider of abortion in America), was a racist. She was an unabashed eugenicist, considered immigrants "human weeds", was a featured speaker at a Ku Klux Klan rally, and founded a major abortion promotion campaign called The Negro Project. Planned Parenthood venerate this vile woman to this day, hanging her picture in their offices.

There are plenty of sites where you can read lots of truth about Sanger. I've linked to a few in that last paragraph, but I really want to draw your attention to one that I found while researching this article: The Truth About Margaret Sanger. It's a terrific single-focus blog with lots of well-researched information and links. I highly recommend that you go check it out. I intend to spend some quality time in their archives over the next few days. My favourite part so far is a quiz where you try to guess whether a quote is from Sanger or a noted white supremacist.

There's one Sanger quote that comes up more frequently than any other when researching the issue of her racism:

"We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don't want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population. And the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members."
The bolded section is often held up as proof of her racism. I think it's a bad idea to use this one as such evidence, though (and there's plenty of better evidence available anyway). That quote can easily be interpreted as her saying not that she wants to exterminate blacks, but that she does not want (presumably false) rumours getting started that she has such intentions. Since that alternate interpretation is reasonably available, it will almost certainly get trotted out if you try to cite this passage in debate.

Besides, that quote has enough in it to offend decent persons even without the suggestion of race-based genocide. She is clearly saying that people should be manipulated by getting corrupt clergy to endorse Planned Parenthood's agenda. Any clergy who would go along with such evil clearly does not deserve the title of minister of Christ and should have the decency to stop profaning His name by claiming affiliation (yes, Misters Sharpton and Jackson, I'm looking at you).

A story has recently broken that demonstrates Planned Parenthood's continuing racist agenda. It's funny, but terribly tragic at the same time. Someone posing as a racist called a Planned Parenthood office and taped the call. I'll let the transcript (which I cribbed from WorldNetDaily, who have more background and commentary on it as well) speak for itself. I'll bold the funniest / saddest bit:

Actor: I want to specify that abortion to help a minority group, would that be possible?

Planned Parenthood: Absolutely.

Actor: Like the black community for example?

Planned Parenthood: Certainly.

Actor: The abortion – I can give money specifically for a black baby, that would be the purpose?

Planned Parenthood: Absolutely. If you wanted to designate that your gift be used to help an African-American woman in need, then we would certainly make sure that the gift was earmarked for that purpose.

Actor: Great, because I really faced trouble with affirmative action, and I don't want my kids to be disadvantaged against black kids. I just had a baby; I want to put it in his name.

Planned Parenthood: Yes, absolutely.

Actor: And we don't, you know we just think, the less black kids out there the better.

Planned Parenthood: (Laughs) Understandable, understandable.

Actor: Right. I want to protect my son, so he can get into college.

Planned Parenthood: All right. Excuse my hesitation, this is the first time I've had a donor call and make this kind of request, so I'm excited, and want to make sure I don't leave anything out.

I can't really add much to a Planned Parenthood executive (a vice-president of marketing) being "excited" about donors wanting to target specific ethnicities for extermination. If you don't get what's wrong with that, then I can't help you. If that's your situation, then I strongly recommend dropping to your knees and begging God to give you back the moral compass that you've lost somewhere along the path.

Enough rambling. Here's a blurry picture of my fridge and stove.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

From Clifford To Kafka

My local library recently held a book sale. I love these events. I've managed to break the habit to some extent, but I used to always come home from any library book sale with at least one box full of books. I'd automatically take anything in the fields of religion, humour, psychology, economics, technology, or horror fiction, plus anything else that caught my interest in the slightest, in a wide range of subject matter. I'm a big fan of intellectual curiosity, although I agree with Reagan that there's no reason for the government to subsidize it. Basically, I'd grab up anything at a book sale except the bodice-ripper romances.

As you may well expect, I never had time to actually read all those books, so my house to this day has boxes of books stashed away in several places, besides (quick count) 8 large and very full bookshelves. After a while, I realized that I wasn't doing any good by hoarding these books up, when I had no realistic chance of getting them all read in the foreseeable future. So, I reluctantly stopped buying in bulk.

These days I still pore over every inch of any library book sale I encounter, as well as yard sales, etc., but now I don't buy anything unless I realistically intend to read it in the near future. Of course, I leave "realistically" and "near" undefined, to keep my options open. If I think a book will just be added to one of the boxes (or piles, or dedicated "to read sometime" shelves) and remain there indefinitely, neglected and increasingly dusty, I leave it for someone else. Not without regret. I like to think that the books I leave behind all get taken to good homes.

Nevertheless, I found a few things at this latest sale. First, a stack of magazines, which I mentioned in an earlier entry. I often burn through magazines at a rate of one or two a day, because I read while doing tasks which require no mental engagement, like eating, brushing my teeth, watching almost anything on TV, or writing blog entries. This means I can afford to be less discerning about magazine purchases, since they will be read in very short order. I also selected a remarkably few - for me - three books.

The first book was The Trial by Franz Kafka. I've worked in more than one nightmarishly bureaucratic environment, where even the staff seemed to think that paperwork and red tape were ends as opposed to means (or, more accurately, debatably necessary evils), so I expect to be able to relate to this one. Plus I haven't yet read any Kafka, so I might as well get a better feel for the exact meaning of "Kafkaesque".

Second was We The Living by Ayn Rand. I've read a lot about Rand, and like some of her philosophy (I strongly believe that personal responsibility and personal freedom - in that order - are cornerstones of civilization), but again, I've read little of her actual writing. I would have preferred to start with Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead, but I took what was available.

Third was Clifford Saves The Whales by Norman Bridwell. I skimmed it to make sure it wasn't tree-hugging Greenpeace / PETA propaganda before purchasing.

I took them to the counter, and as I paid for them, said to the librarian, "I'll be giving one of these books to my four-year-old. I haven't decided which one yet." (Maybe this post should have been under the "Another Reason Why People Don't Talk To Me" heading.)

She knows my son, as do all the library staff. He's been reading since well before his third birthday, and is a frequent library visitor. She smiled and replied, "He could probably handle any of them."

Overall, it was a good trip. Any day where I can score both Kafka and Clifford The Big Red Dog goes in the win column.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of what I got at the sale. Sorry about the flash glare on that middle Maximum PC.