Sunday, December 23, 2007

43 questions

(Ed.: It's actually 44, but if you look at the answer to the last question, that's why I was in no condition for accuracy.)
I haven't done one of these pass-around things in ages, so here's one that I saw at Rae's Place.

1. Were you named after anyone?
St. Christopher and my dad. My mom isn't Catholic, but for some reason she always liked the St. Christopher story, so she named me after him. My middle name is my dad's name.

2. When was the last time you cried?
A few nights ago, listening to music.

3. Do you like your handwriting?
Yeah, I do, actually. It's sort of a rolling print. It's rather unique, I think.

4. What is your favorite lunch meat?
Turkey.

5. Do you have kids?
Four: Girl 17, girl 15, boy 12, and girl 4 (Mommy and Daddy's Little Accident).

6. If you were another person would you be friends with you?
Maybe on the internet. (lol)

7. Do you use sarcasm a lot?
No, never.

8. Do you still have your tonsils?
Yes. My mom had her appendix out when she was a girl, and while she was in the hospital a little boy got his tonsils out and hemorrhaged and died. So even though I'm old enough to have been on the tail end of the time when childhood tonsillectomies were routine, my mom wouldn't even think of it.

9. Would you bungee jump?
Sure, if there's a bungee cord stout enough to hold me.

10. What is your favorite cereal?
Granola, I guess.

11. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?
Depends on the shoes.

12. Do you think you are strong?
Not for my size. For other people's size, I'm pretty strong.

13. What is your favorite ice cream?
I like just about all flavors, except if they mix mint and chocolate. Blech.

14. What is the first thing you notice about people?
Physical flaws. I forget them as I get to know people, but initially they're very striking to me.

15. Red or pink?
Red to look at, but pink to wear. Red's not my color.

16. What is the least favorite thing about yourself?
The way I look in red. But seriously folks, my least favorite thing about myself is that I procrastinate too much. I've been meaning to do something about it.

17. Who do you miss the most?
My friend who lives in Hong Kong.

18. Do you want everyone to send (link) this back to you?
Sure, if they want.

19. What color pants and shoes are you wearing?
Green sweatpants, but I never wear shoes inside my house.

20. What was the last thing you ate?
My son made chocolate chip cookies for his Sunday School class, so he gave me a couple.

21. What are you listening to right now?
"Kicks" by Paul Revere and the Raiders is on my iTunes just now.

22. If you where a crayon, what color would you be?
Electric Blue? I don't know. Brown?

23. Favorite smells?
"Ozone." Not real ozone -- I don't know if that even has a smell -- but the smell that sometimes comes with a thunderstorm. It's so fresh and clean-smelling....
Women. I think it smells more like vanilla than tuna, actually.

24. Who was the last person you talked to on the phone?
My sister. My mom just had a "mini stroke," so we were talking about me driving down there.

25. Do you like the person who sent this to you?
She didn't actually send it to me, and I don't really know her, but she seems quite nice.

26. Favorite sports to watch?
Women's beach volleyball. Just kidding (although I actually do like to watch volleyball). Football and basketball, I guess. I'll watch pretty much anything but golf, though. Like sex, golf is fun to do but boring to watch.

27. Hair color?
It used to be blond on top and light brown on the sides and in back. Now it's skin-colored on top and graying light brown on the sides and in back.

28. Eye color?
Greenish-bluish-grayish.

29. Do you wear contacts?
I used to, but I got tired of them. I wear glasses sometimes now.

30. Favorite food?
Fruitbread! Or ice cream.

31. Scary movies or happy endings?
I like movies where everybody dies.

32. Last movie you watched?
2001: A Space Odyssey.

33. What color shirt are you wearing?
Blue.

34. Summer or winter?
Summer.

35. Hugs or kisses?
Depends on the person, but kisses with the right person can't be beat. Not by hugs, anyway. ;)

36. Favorite dessert?
Ice cream.

37. What book are you reading now?
Water for Elephants.

38. What is on your mouse pad?
It's a plain red one. My other computer has a "Taz" mouse pad.

39. What did you watch on TV last night?
I didn't watch TV last night.

40. Favorite sound?
The ocean, maybe.

43. Rolling Stones or Beatles?
Beatles, I guess. Not by much, though.

41. What is the farthest you have been from home?
I don't know -- which is farther, Asia or Europe?

42. Do you have a special talent?
I have a few talents, but none that I think are "special," no.

43. Where were you born?
Mt. Clemens, Michigan.

44. What time is it now?
12:52 a.m. PST.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Fruitbread!

Fruitcake is a traditional Christmas gift that I just can't get enough of. But if there's anything I like better than fruitcake, it's fruitbread.

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Especially when its Christmasy red and green candied fruit is actually only one kind of fruit with different kinds of food coloring.

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And even more especially when it has double monoglycerides.

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But most of all, I love fruitbread when its symbol is a she-bear of dubious morals and intelligence.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

And Boobies too

Ornithology is a fascinating discipline. In what other science can you study Tits and Boobies? I'm no ornithologist, but I do consider myself something of a connoisseur of Tits and Boobies. It's a very worthwhile field.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I like Tits

They're my favorite kind of bird. I especially love Great Tits. I suppose they're everyone's favorite. Who doesn't enjoy getting a look at some Great Tits? Of course, Elegant Tits are always a fine sight to see as well. I enjoy some of the more exotic kinds of Tits too. For example, I once saw some very pretty Somali Tits. I'm also very fond of Japanese Tits. Even though they tend to be smaller than a lot of other Tits, they can be very perky. Dusky Tits and Southern Black Tits (but not Ashy Tits) can be lovely also.

On the other hand, Tit-Babblers can be pretty annoying. Sombre Tits are a little depressing, and Blue Tits just worry me. And Penduline Tits are actually kind of gross sometimes. But they're all still tits, and that's always a good thing. Although I do have to draw the line at Bearded Tits.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Good reads/random cool sites (12/11/2007)

Billboard's 25 best rock posters of all time.

Free holiday cards you can download and print from the Hubble space telescope site.

Progress report on Kevin Everett, who broke his neck playing football. (Bonus: one of the funniest TV news bloopers ever.)

Long article on Rudy Giuliani's rhetoric and record.

Monday sports report on my favorite teams (12/10/2007)

San Diego Chargers: Beat Tennessee 23-17 in overtime after trailing 17-3 in the 4th quarter (highlights). It was a rough, dirty game by all accounts. Shawne Merriman is out next week with a knee injury and Lorenzo Neal broke his leg. The game wasn't carried locally, so I only saw the end of the 4th quarter when the Oakland-Green Bay game ended, but damn, that was fun! Philip Rivers sucked through three and a half quarters and then led them to three quick scoring drives. He sucked at times last year too -- nowhere near as often as this year, though -- but he usually played well in the 4th quarter. That's been the real difference between this year and last. Oh, and Antonio Cromartie got another interception. He leads the league with nine. Remember that name: Antonio Cromartie.

University of Oregon Ducks football: They're just getting ready to play in the Sun Bowl. It's funny; expectations were so low, and then so high. For awhile. The Ducks came out of nowhere to have a legitimate shot at winning the national championship, and Dennis Dixon at the Heisman Trophy. Then Dixon went down. Then his two backups went down. And that was that. Nobody would have been disappointed back in August if you'd told them the Ducks would win eight games and go to the Sun Bowl, but it's a huge anti-climax now.

University of Oregon Duck basketball: Beat Utah 75-64. They're 7-1 and ranked 16th in both polls.

Los Angeles Lakers: They're 12-8. Kobe's still a Laker.

San Diego Padres: They signed pitcher Randy Wolf and lost out on Milton Bradley, who signed with Texas. They're trying to sign Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome and his career .397 on-base percentage.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A little Christmas music

Here's a little Christmas music:
Jussi Bjoerling, "O Holy Night" (audio only)



Translation from the Swedish by evidux:

O holy night, O holy hour of the World,
When the man-god to earth ascended
To redeem the world's crimes and sins,
For us, he suffered death's pain.
And the beam of hope goes through the world,
And the light glimmers over land and sea.

People, fall down
and joyfully greet your freedom
O holy night, you gave us salvation
O holy night, you gave us salvation

For the savior has crushed our heavy shackles
Our world is free, heaven is now open
In your slave, you see a beloved brother
And see, your enemy shall become so dear to you
From heaven, the savior brought us peace
For us, he stepped down in his still grave

People, fall down
and joyfully greet your freedom
O holy night, you gave us salvation
O holy night, you gave us salvation

Friday, December 07, 2007

Mitt Romney hates atheists

Not really (I assume), but I needed a catchy title, and everyone else is already using a variant of "You're no Jack Kennedy."

As John F. Kennedy faced questions regarding his Catholic religion while running for president in 1960, so Mitt Romney faces questions regarding his Mormon religion today. Kennedy dispelled those questions for reasonable people with his "Catholic speech." Yesterday, Mitt Romney gave his own long-ballyhooed "Mormon speech." Two things stand out: Romney's pandering to the religious right and his marginalization of nonbelievers.

First, compare this bit from John F. Kennedy's speech:

...So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again not what kind of church I believe in — for that should be important only to me — but what kind of America I believe in.
I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation, or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.
...And neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test — even by indirection — for it.

with this from Romney's:

There is one fundamental question about which I often am asked. What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior of mankind.


Kennedy's view -- essentially that "My personal religious beliefs are none of your business" -- will no longer hold up in an American election. Because there is a basic "religious test" that the religious right wants to impose on presidential candidates: "Are you (our kind of) Christian?" That's the real question Romney is answering, and by answering, legitimizing "by indirection."

This is what Kennedy said about separation of church and state:

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, ...where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference....
I believe in an America... where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials....

Romney doesn't agree:

We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It's as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America — the religion of secularism. They are wrong.
...
We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from "the God who gave us liberty."

So separation of church and state is no longer "absolute." I guess what Romney is saying is that church and state should be separate, except when it shouldn't be. Makes perfect sense. At least, it does to the religious-right voters he panders to. Because it's actually pretty easy to tell the difference between the "should" and "shouldn't" cases in their minds: promotes (evangelical Protestant) Christianity = "should"; promotes some other religion = "shouldn't." You won't find them protesting or hiring lawyers to bring, say, paganism or Islam into public life. Quite the reverse.

Now, what about the atheist part? Well, listen to what Romney says:

There are some who may feel that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the weighty threats that face us. If so, they are at odds with the nation's founders....
Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. ...Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.
...
It's important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions. And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it's usually a sound rule to focus on the latter, on the great moral principles that urge us all on a common course. Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people.

I think you can see where this is going:

Perhaps the most important question to ask a person of faith who seeks a political office, is this: Does he share these American values — the equality of human kind, the obligation to serve one another and a steadfast commitment to liberty?

That's only a question for a "person of faith"? Why not for a person of no faith, or for a doubter, a questioner, a seeker?

They are not unique to any one denomination. They belong to the great moral inheritance we hold in common. They're the firm ground on which Americans of different faiths meet and stand as a nation, united.

They're not unique to religious people either. Obviously. They're the common inheritance of all Americans.

We believe that every single human being is a child of God — we're all part of the human family. The conviction of the inherent and inalienable worth of every life is still the most revolutionary political proposition ever advanced. John Adams put it that we are "thrown into the world all equal and alike."

Take out the "child of God" part, and again, this is something pretty much every American believes. Romney is marginalizing nonbelievers, implicitly separating "we, the moral believers" from "they, the immoral unbelievers." Again, the contrast with Kennedy's words is striking:

Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end; ...where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind; and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.

That is not Romney's vision. If it were, he would not be pandering to the evangelical bloc, nor would he speak of nonbelievers with disdain, nor would he be dividing them from believers. His speech is indicative of a sad degradation of our public discourse.

Dave Letterman almost makes Paris Hilton cry

Question 1: Do you spend a lot of time in New York?
Question 2: Which do you prefer, New York or Los Angeles?
Question 3: New York's exciting, isn't it?
Question 4: So, how'd you like being in jail?
The complete lack of a segue is brilliant, and Letterman just pours it on after that. An increasingly upset Hilton -- and for all her evident shallowness, she is at least intelligent enough to know when she's being mocked -- tries to "move on" to other subjects, but Letterman is relentless. It's almost enough to make me feel sorry for Paris Hilton. Almost.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (12/4/2007)

Malcolm Gladwell explains why America's healthcare system is so messed up.

"Internet security guru" Bruce Shneier answers reader questions at Freakonomics Blog.

Philip E. Agre answers the questions "What is conservatism, and what is wrong with it?"

Some quirky maps of Europe (distribution of blonds, legal status of cannabis, various GDP measures, etc.) are here (via Strange Maps).