30 December 2005

The New Year is coming

    Just say, "Happy New Year" so your blog isn't dead.
      Sharon GR

Happy New Year!

22 December 2005

Still here.

    It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.
      Miracle Max
      The Princess Bride

Hey, look at me. I'm posting! How about that. Boy, I wish I had something to say besides, "Hey, look at me, I'm posting!" Well, it's a start. Here's what's new:

  • The 2005 Holiday Ale is finally in bottle. It took forever for the yeast to go dormant and sediment out, so we racked it to secondary to get it off the spent yeast (which can impart off flavors). It finally cleared up and we bottled.
  • The trains are upstairs under the tree. One day I'll have a big long post about the 4'x8' train layout under out tree. For now, I'll just say that it's over 20 years old, has three tracks running simultaneously, and features some buildings older than me.
  • After the Dover, PA electorate smacked down the ID school board, the judge smacked them even more. I'm going to be lazy and not post any links, but follow the Center of NJ Life link on the right to read more about the Discovery Institute's post-trial spin.
  • I've been driving 170 miles a day to north Jersey to work in a loud basement computer room. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

That's all I can think of now. I'll try for something more involved later.

30 November 2005

Support HR 550

    The people who cast the votes don't decide an election, the people who count the votes do.
      Joseph Stalin
    Anything of value should be auditable. Votes are valuable, and each voter should have the knowledge-and the confidence-that his or her vote was recorded and counted as intended.
      Rep. Rush Holt

All ATMs have a paper trail. Most electronic voting machines don't. Is your vote less important than a bank's money? I don't think so.

House Resolution 550 is the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act and it needs your support.

Much more info here.

22 November 2005

Padilla Charged

    No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
      5th Amendment to U.S. Constitution

MSNBC reports that Jose Padilla has finally been charged. This after he was held without charge for over three years as an "enemy combatant". It is interesting to note that the charges, conspiring to “murder, maim and kidnap” people overseas, have nothing to do with the alleged "dirty bomb" plot that was the much touted basis for holding him in the first place.

All inidications are that the Bush Administration did not want to see the case go to the Supreme Court. Gee, I wonder why.

Mmmmm. Beer.

    Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
      Benjamin Franklin

Another year, another Holiday Ale. This past Saturday we brewed the latest in a distinguished series of holiday beers (and one holiday cyser). This year's offering has amber malts and honey flavored with ginger, orange peel, and French Strisselspalt hops and fermented with Belgian Wit Ale yeast. The yeast is an odd choice, seeing as we have not wheat malt. The hops are also a first for us.

It occurs to me that this beer would probably piss off the radical right on several levels. To begin with, we're using French hops. That alone qualifies us as enemy sympathizers. Then there's the name. In their usual if-your-not-with-us-you're-against-us manner, the RRR will attack you if you don't say "Merry Christmas." Here is but one example. Well, screw you guys. We celebrate Christmas, but this is our Holiday Ale. Don't worry though, we won't offer you a glass.

In any event, I'm looking forward to the final product. We've also got a Pilsner that'll be in bottle soon too. There's nothing quite like popping the cap of a bottle of beer you made yourself. Mmmmm. Beer.

11 November 2005

Vengeance is ours, saith the Right

    Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
      Romans 12:19 (King James Version)

Two prominent Republicans are looking for some post-election payback.

Pat Robertson wants Dover, PA voters to know they're on God's shitlist. According to Robertson:

[If] there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected him from your city. The 700 Club.

And don't wonder why hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for his help because he might not be there.

Meanwhile, Bill O'Reilly gave terrorists the okay to bomb San Fancisco. In response to a ballot measure urging local high schools and colleges to bar military recruiters, O'Reilly said:

And if al-Qaida comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.

Don't go looking for these quotes on O'Reilly's site, of course. They're conspicuously absent.

09 November 2005

More good news

      Homer Simpson

More good news: the House GOP leaders dropped ANWR drilling from the Omnibus budget bill.


    Are there Democrats in the house tonight?!!
      Governor Elect Jon Corzine
      And the crowd goes wild....

    I'm psyched! It was a great election day. I feel really good about this win. And this morning, when I was just getting about of bed, the Governor Elect was at Metropark meeting commuters.

    As reported by Lauging at the Pieces, Corzine wasn't the only winner. Tim Kaine won in Virginia, and, closer to home, Jun Choi squeaked it out in Edison. And I just found out from Sharon that our 12th district managed to hang on to Michael J. Panter, though we lost Dr. Robert Morgan.

    Rob also cheered the defeat of eight Dover school board creationists by Democrats in favor of teaching science. The Center of NJ Life reports that, although there's good news in Dover, another creationism vote didn't go so well. The Kansas State Board of Ed. thinks science shouldn't be limited to natural explanations. Insert you Wizard of Oz jokes here.

    Xpatriated Texan reports on passage of Lt. Gov. amendment in NJ and a gay-bashing proposition in Texas. No wonder he's expatriated. And by the way, it looks like Enlighten never answered his letter.

    In California, voters rejected Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger propositions to limit the use of their member dues for political purposes, cap state spending, redraw legislative districts and restrict public school teacher tenure.

    Where was George Bush during all this? In Virginia, his last minute campaign stop for Jerry Killgore did nothing to prevent a solid win Kaine. In new Jersey, he was last person the Forrester campaign wanted to see. Forrester was repeatedly hammered for his support of Bush. Those coattails are looking a little frayed.

    We needed this win. I'm savoring the moment, but I'm looking ahead. We need to be energized for 2006. It will be a tough fight, and we'll need to work hard. For the sake of our country, we need to take back the House and take back the Senate.

    The trend starts now!

    08 November 2005

    Vote with pride!

      Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.
        John Quincy Adams

    Get out and vote. That's what I have to say here. Get out and vote. The only people responsible for voter apathy and low turnout are the ones who don't vote. Short of a medical emergency, there is no excuse for not voting. I don't care who you vote for, just vote.

    I traded comments with Rob, debating his reasons for choosing Matt Thieke. Liberal as I may be, I cannot support Matt Thieke because his platform lacks detail, and I don't think he ever explained how he'll accomplish what he proposes. Rob felt that Corzine didn't need to attack Forrester as much as he did. I thought Corzine attacks were justified as they stuck to the issues. But I support Rob's choice because he made it.

    I think Sluggo is misguided when he says he is willing to let pass the personal attacks by the Forrester campaign. In comments to Rob's post, he said he would be casting his vote "holding their nose." I cannot disagree more with his choice and rationale. I think Forrester will be bad for New Jersey in more ways than I have room explain here. But Sluggo has made one decision I support wholeheartedly: he is voting.

    Over at BlueJersey, DBK makes his case. If I had any doubts about Corzine, they'd be gone after reading his. I was at his house when Rush Holt explained why Corzine is the right choice. I believe in Corzine too. He also voted for Whitman, an admission he notes might make his fellow Democrats angry. I, for one, am not. Why? He voted.

    I voted today, and I did so with pride. I chose Jon Corzine for governor, a candidate I for whom I have great confidence and high hopes. I think he's going to win, and I will be really bitter if he doesn't. But I'll have fulfilled the most important obligations of every citizen. I will have voted.

    Addendum: Xpatriated Texan posted a comment I wanted to put here. Of voting he said, "it isn't just your duty - it should be your pleasure and your honor." He couldn't be more right, and it was indeed an honor. It always is.

    04 November 2005

    Candidate responses to Joanne Corzine are revealing

      Without an acquaintance with the rules of propriety, it is impossible for the character to be established.

    Let's consider how the candidates have reacted to comments made by Joanne Corzine about her former spouse. I read the following three articles:

    Here are some snippets:

    John Corzine:

    Corzine yesterday would not discuss the breakdown of his marriage, news the couple's three children will undoubtedly be glad to hear.
    "I don't really think I can say much beyond the breakup of a marriage," Corzine said. "It involves two parties and children are involved and obviously it is filled with pain for everyone, including, by the way, my former wife."
    [Corzine] said the "breakup of a marriage can ... sometimes color how people might speak to issues. I totally disagree with the premises of them. That's the opinion that my former wife holds and she has a right to speak up."
      -Whelan and Margolin

    Doug Forrester:

    But Forrester distinguished between those sentiments and the comments about Corzine letting his family down. Asked directly about that quote by a reporter, Forrester said, "I think that's private life."

    He also ruled out using it in a television ad, saying: "Private life is just too complicated and I don't believe that it is appropriate to be brought into the political domain."
      -Whelan and Margolin
    The 15-second ad features a quote published in Wednesday's New York Times from Joanne Corzine, who divorced U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine two years ago after he had an affair with the president of the largest state employees union chapter.

    "When I saw the ad where (Forrester's wife, Andrea) said, `Doug never let his family down, and he won't let New Jersey down,' all I could think was that Jon did let his family down, and he'll probably let New Jersey down too," the New York Times reported.
    That afternoon, Forrester stood on the Morristown green and made it official -- he promised he would not use that quote.

    But strange things happen to candidates who are staring at defeat. What was a bright moral line suddenly become hazy.

    Within 24 hours, Forrester broke his word. The campaign released a TV commercial that featured the very quote he promised not to use.

      Doug Forrester is trying to use Joanne Corzine's quotes to call into question Jon Corzine's character. In doing so, he as sunk to a new low, breaking his own promises along the way.

      I think it's clear who the more trustworthy candidate is.

      For more on this issue:

      03 November 2005

      An ex-wife and an 8-year-old

        It's a sign of a desperate and failing campaign that he would inject family matters into a political context.
          Ivette Mendez
          Corzine campaign spokeswoman

      Joanne Corzine had some unflattering remarks about her ex-husband that were published in the today's Star Ledger. No surprisingly, the Forrester campaign quickly latched on to her comments. It seems more than a little desparate to me

      Is a candidate's ex-wife really a source you should be touting? Is anyone surprised that Joanne Corzine has a negative opinion of her ex-husband? In a 2003 statement she blamed politics in part for their break-up. Why wouldn't she say he compromised his political ideals? She's been hearing about his ex-girlfriend and the loan he forgave couldn't have helped. She specifically mentions the ad Andrea Forrester praising her husband. Of course she thinks Jon Corzine let his family down.

      For the record, in Corzine has always said the divorce was his fault, but the Republicans don't like to mention that because it demostrates honesty and personal responsibility. Forrester went on record holding her comments up as more proof, "that Jon Corzine is wedded to the political bosses." (Clever little play on words there, Doug.)

      Why would I expect anything else from Forrester. After all, his is the same campaign proclaiming that "Even Kids Don't Trust Corzine." I guess they've decided eight-year-old Gavin Rozzi speaks for every kid in NJ. That's one of the front-page items on the Forrester web site, by the way. Man, they really are desperate.

      Ookla the Mok

        The year: 1994. From out of space comes a runaway planet, hurtling between the Earth and the Moon, unleashing cosmic destruction! Man's civilization is cast in ruin!
        Two thousand years later, Earth is reborn. A strange new world rises from the old: a world of savagery, super science, and sorcery. But one man bursts his bonds to fight for justice! With his companions Ookla the Mok and Princess Ariel, he pits his strength, his courage, and his fabulous Sunsword against the forces of evil.
        He is Thundarr, the Barbarian!
          Openning narration from Thundarr the Barbarian

      Several years ago I was at a friends holiday party playing Celebrities. For those who are unfamiliar, it is a game where everyone writes down names of celebrities on slips of paper which are then drawn at random by teams of two, with one player giving hints so that the other says the celebrity's name. The celebrity can be anyone famous, real of fictional.

      One celebrity that showed up was Ookla the Mok. Do you know who that is? Ookla was the traveling companion of Thundarr the Barbarian, an early-80s Saturday morning sci-fi cartoon. The show ran only two seasons, and was one of my favorites. The Ookla entry wasn't mine, though I was one of only two people that even knew who Ookla was. There was some question as to whether he was really a celebrity.

      Well, the guys at HomestarRunner.com know who Ookla is. Check out this year's Halloween Toon. Each year, the characters costumes are a collection pop-culture references, famous and obscure. And Ookla is there.

      31 October 2005

      Congressman Rush Holt on honesty

        It's a form of lying that gets in the way of good government.
          Rep. Rush Holt(D - NJ)

      Yesterday I attended a house party hosted by DBK and attended by Congressman Rush Holt. It was a live blogging event, and his comments can be seen on Bluejersey.net. In discussing the Plame case and the GOP approach to Katrina aid, he offered some great insights into the Republican's brand of truth, both nationally and here in NJ.

      It was also a pleasure to sit and listen to him speak. Let me just say that I really wish he was my Congressman.

      30 October 2005

      Low flow

        It's not just a good idea. It's the law.
          Seatbelt law advertisement

      Yesterday I finally got rid of the last old toilet from our house. Yeah, let me just point out that this post is mostly about toilets. Consider yourself warned. So, as I was saying.... We'd already replaced two other toilets when we redid those bathrooms. The remaining bathroom hasn't been redone yet, and as much as we'd like to, it's going to be awhile.

      The old toilet started leaking, so I considered replacing the innards. Instead we went ahead and bought a new one. It is amazing when you comare a low-flow toilet to an older one. The old tanks are HUGE. On each flush that tank almost empties itself. The new tank is much smaller, and empties only half-way when you flush. I don't know why I didn't replace it years ago.

      Yet I still find many people coveting their old toilets. The arguments are usually the same, and center on the premise that 1.6 gallons is just not enough to dispose of their waste. Like a soccer mom with a Hummer, they want the biggest they can get and think anything smaller won't do it. Well, I'm here to tell you that these toilets work great. Rob could come over with 5 lbs. of carrots and I wouldn't worry. More scietific studies of back me up on this.

      We have a much more efficient and effective product now, and it doesn't cost any more than the old version. I don't think low-flow toilets would work as well as they do if their use was not required by law. This strikes me as a great example of why we should have real energy efficiency requirements. Sometimes you need mandates like this to spur development of more efficient products.

      So next time you hear someone saying we can't have significant improvements in, say, automobile fuel economy, just think of that great low-flow john. And if you still have one of those old 3-4 gpf toilets, it's time to ditch that clunker and go for something new and efficient.

      26 October 2005

      Anna Quindlen on Iraq

        In Vietnam we didn't have the lessons of Vietnam to guide us. In Iraq we did have those lessons. The tragedy is that we didn't pay attention to them.
          David Halberstam
          as quoted by Anna Quindlen

      Every so often, I read a column whose author puts into words everything I want to say, and does so infinitely better than I ever could. More than once the columnist has been Anna Quindlen, and this week's The Last Word is one of those columns.

      22 October 2005

      Impartiality is in the Eye of the Beholder

        I will not let a prosecutor who pursues his political enemies by abusing the law and manufacturing baseless charges wreck our justice system.
          U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas

      Pop quiz: who is Robert Fiske? He was the first Special Prosecutor investigating Whitewater. Despite being a Republican, he was criticized by the right who felt he not impartial, because Attorney General Janet Reno appointed him. When the new special prosecutor law went info effect, a three judge panel chose someone they were much happier with: Kennith Starr. That panel, by the was, was chosen by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, William H. Rehnquist, and was itself staunchly Republican.

      Starr's politics were much further to the right than those of Fiske. Nonetheless, he was hailed by Republicans as the truly impartial prosecutor they wanted. They routinely dismissed arguments from the Democrats that Starr was abusing his position to engage in the politics of political destruction. Those arguments may sound familiar to you.

      Republicans are now leveling these same criticisms againt Prosecutor Ronnie Earle and Judge Bob Perkins. They argue that Democratic party affiliation is enough to bias them against DeLay. The same people that thought only the stanchest Republicans are impartial enough to prosecute a Democrat think that any and every Democrat is too biased to prosecute a Republican.

      It's almost like they don't care about justice and are only interested in staying in power.

      20 October 2005

      Listenning Center: The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell

        This is a true story. You can tell because it makes your stomach turn.
          John Crawford
          The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell

      A comment on Audible.com said the following of John Crawford's The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell:

      To me it was very depressing and negative. I understand that war is not fun and games but the author was so negative that is was miserable to listen to. I quit about half way.

      This is somewhat ironic. A little after the point this person quit, Crawford writes that no one in America is interested in stories like the ones he tells - they just want the CNN version. The commenter is right, though. This book is very depressing and negative. As the author points out, that's how you know it's true.

      The book tells the story John Crawford's tour in Iraq. Newly married and one semester shy of graduation, his National Guard unit was activated. The chapters, each an almost self-contained short story, capture the fear, boredom, dark humor, pain, and horror that Crawford went through. It proceeds quickly, almost rapid-fire, switching from one emotion to another at a moments notice. It is also a very gripping story that you will find it hard to walk away from. The audio production I listenned to was very well done.

      As a literary work, it is not without flaws. Publishers Weekly notes this saying, "Crawford dresses up his story in strained metaphors and tired clich├ęs...." The review goes on to say that, "Despite its pretensions, Crawford's story is not the classic foot soldier's memoir and should provide enough gristle to please military memoir fans." I think they miss the point and underestimate the audience. This isn't just a book for war-story buffs. The book is a very real account of the war in Iraq that will hold anyone's attention.

      The story paints a picture our leaders would rather we not see, like the flag draped coffins that come home every week. But, just like those coffins, this story embodies the cold reality which every American should understand intimately before endorsing this war. Even now, I think too many are like the person commenting on Audible, unwilling to face up to the ugly truth of it all. When I finished listenning, I drove on in silence for another twenty minutes feeling hollow and numb.

      I recommend this book to everyone, and hope it makes them feel the same.

      14 October 2005

      I'm saying it again

        Oh one more time (just one more time)
        Say it one more time right now (just one more time)
        Say it one more time now (just one more time)
          Ray Charles

      Have you seen the new about the northeast rains? It's been day after day of dark and dreary rain and clouds.

      Oh yeah, by the way, we're generating 300 watts of electricity at this very moment. Keep your damn refineries.

      The Politics of Terror

        Coincidence? You be the judge.

      Have I mentioned lately how much I like Keith Olbermann? He's one of the best commentators on the air right now. If you need more evidence of this, check out The Nexus of Politics and Terror, where Keith walks through a seriese of "terror events" and the corresponding political crises of the Bush administration. Read the blog post. Watch the video.

      11 October 2005

      What is truth? A Roman Catholic Perspective

        "You are a king, then!" said Pilate.
        Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."
        "What is truth?" Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, "I find no basis for a charge against him."
          John 18:37-38 (New International Version)

      A teaching document published by the Roman Catholic Church instructs the faithful that some parts of the Bible are not completely accurate, as reported in this article. “We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision,” they say in The Gift of Scripture. Wow, they almost sound like Episcopalians or Lutherans.

      One part of me wants to start bashing the Roman Catholic Church with questions like:

      • Well, if these parts aren't accurate, who’s to say other parts aren't?
      • What about all those religious texts you chose to not put in the Bible?
      • If this stuff has no historical basis, what about priests getting married or gay marriage?

      But another part of me wants to avoid the cheap shots. I have disagreed so often with the Catholic Church, but I have on occasion respected the stand they take on issues like capital punishment. At a time when the radical religious right, with the backing of the president, seeks to challenge science itself, the Catholic Church stood up on the side of knowledge.

      I still disagree strongly, vehemently, with their stand on issues like marriage and gay rights. But at least I don't have to argue with them about scientific fact.

      They've come a long way since Galileo.

      08 October 2005

      Good morning America how are you?

        I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done
          "City of New Orleans"
          by Steve Goodman

      Amtrak resumed rail service to New Orleans today. Two trains are back running.

      The first is the City of New Orleans, which runs between New Orleans and Chicago, and was made famous by the Steve Goodman song of the same.

      The second is more special to me, though. It's the Crescent. One cold February afternoon at the Trenton station, some thirty hours after getting married, Sharon and I boarded the Crescent to take us to our honeymoon in New Orleans. The stay in New Orleans was wonderful, and as wonderful was the trip there on the Crescent. Sometimes, in NY Penn station, I hear them announce the departure of the Crescent, and I smile at the memories of some of the best days of my life.

      I'm glad it's going again.

      Oil refineries. Yeah, that's what we need.

        If we're looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn't test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.
          P.J. O'Rourke

      I am so disgusted I don't know where to start. Yesterday, by a narrow margine, the House of Representatives approved a GOP-backed energy bill that encourages construction of new oil refineries.

      This right here is about the eighth or ninth sentence I've stared and then erased. I don't know where to start. I need to get children's teeth brushed, so I'll cut to the chase and vent, in no particular order:

      • Okay, if you had actually set some real fuel efficiency standards four years ago, we wouldn't need new refineries, dumbasses.
      • When you say five minute vote, try to mean it. Otherwise, just be honest and let everyone know up front that voting will remain open until you get your way.
      • Maybe you missed the news reports about oil companies' profits. They're big, really big. They don't need taxpayers subsidizing them. I mean, what kind of major fuck-you is it to rape the American people by price-gouging them, then take a their tax money to help produce more gas to hike the price on?
      • New refineries won't alleviate fuel shortages for years. How about some fuel efficiency standards? They'll take just as long to implement as building refineries. Oh, yeah, right, sorry, I'm using logic here.
      • What the fuck? More refineries? That's the big plan?
      • Okay, we get it, you're evil. We get it. Can you move on now?
      • Arrrrrgh!

      Unfortunately, I don't feel any better....

      Oh yeah, one more thing. Today the weather has been dark and dreary and raining. Nonetheless, our solar panels were still generating 300 watts of electricity. It's not huge, but come on. Have you seen the weather in NJ? And we're still producing. Don't you think the better long term strategy would be to throw that money at renewable energy? It's got to be better than funding oil, the source of most of our energy problems.

      Oh, yeah, sorry. Logic again. My bad.

      There is no "Joy"

        But what part is the joy?
          My oldest

      This morning we were discussing candy, as Halloween is approaching and there will be a large influx. My daughter asked this question about Almond Joy.

      Good question. The answer? There is none. Almond Joy sucks. It's the second worst candy bar in the world. I mean, come on, what does it have to offer? Aside from the almond, what does it have? A thin layer of chocolate that is sub-par at best. Under that, a big glob of shredded coconut whose consistency makes you wonder if you're supposed to eat it or put it between your cheek and gum like chaw. Bleah!

      Who on earth came up with that? The only good thing is the almond, which is why it's the second worst candy bar. The same culinary sado-masochists who came up with Almond Joy also created Mounds, a candy bar devoid of any redeeming quality at all.

      05 October 2005

      The Maxwell Edison Story

        It's a fun song, but it's kinda sick because Maxwell keeps on killing everyone.
          George Harrison
        If it's good enough to take to your psychiatrist, it's good enough to make a song of.
          Paul McCartney

      I quoted The Beatles song "Maxell's Silver Hammer" in my post about Delay. I got a comment I initially thought was just more blog-spam. It turned out to be someone who'd made a Flash animation video of the song.

      It's good - check it out (but not with kids around).

      Update: It turns out dave decay posted the link. Thanks!

      Undermining the institution of marriage

        This is New Jersey, where people of the staunchest faith are people who want equality for all.
          Steven Goldstein, of Garden State Equality

      I felt the need to comment on this article by Tom Hester in yesterday's edition of The Times of Trenton.

      At a rally against gay-marriage, Len Deo called attempts to legalize gay marriage an "assault" designed to "undermine the most basic institution of our culture, marriage, which is the bedrock of a stable society." Deo is president of the New Jersey Family Policy Council, yet another organization whose positive name masks their exclusionary politics. I wonder what it says about society then, if 50% of marriages fail, but I'll hold that thought for a moment. I have to ask, does Deo truly believe that there is a cabal of homosexuals intent on destroying our way of life? Yeah, he probably does, which makes it all the more sad.

      Rev. David Ireland could be making a case for gay marriage when he said, "Marriage has deeply rooted civil and societal benefits that have been recognized by government spanning hundreds of generations...." He is absolutely right about that, so wouldn't it be in society's interest to extend marriage rights to all of society? Ireland doesn't think so, as he continued his comment by saying marriage "should not be redefined from a political, judicial or social perspective in this generation." If not in this generation, then when?

      Clearly he believes it should be never, as he also said that the clergy in the rally will "never recognize same-sex marriages in New Jersey or agree to perform them in our churches." As religious institutions protected by the First Amendment, they are free to define marriage as it applies to their own religious beliefs. Certainly laws or court rulings granting marriage rights to gays would not mean all religious institutions have to perform these marriages. Right now clergy refuse to perform many heterosexual marriages, as is the case with Roman Catholic clergy declining to marry people who have been married previously.

      In all, I think the protestors' arguments demonstrate why the right to marry should be extended to gay couples. Their arguments find their basis in views on morality that are rooted in the creed and dogma of their respective religions. The same First Amendment that allows religious institutions their own beliefs on marriage prevents them from imposing those beliefs on society as a whole. Hester's article also shows not all religious leaders share Ireland's opinions. Rev. Charles J. Stephens notes that his church, the Unitarian Universalist Church at Washington Crossing, has includes gay couples in strong relationships that are "role models for a lot of the younger heterosexual couples."

      There is an important point there. I think the larger issue with the institution of marriage is its 50% failure rate. People enter into marriages they shouldn't, while marriages that might endure fall apart. Instead of focusing on how to build lasting marriages between the right people, the rally attendees want to prevent a class of people from getting married in the first place. As Rev. Stephens' congregation demonstrates, the example of these couples' commitment and dedication to one another strengthens relationships as a whole. Depriving these committed couples of the right to marry is what truly undermines the institution of marriage.

      28 September 2005

      The hammer comes down on the hammer

        Bang, bang Maxwell's silver hammer came down on his head.
          The Beatles

      This couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

      27 September 2005

      The Voice of Comet

        From now on, we won't let Rudolph join in any reindeer games.
          Coach Comet in
          Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer

      Don Adams died yesterday at the age of 81. We remember him, of course, as Maxwell Smart. You might not know that he was also the voice of Coach Comet in the Rankin/Bass production of Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. He is listed in this role on IMDB, though he was not credited.

      It seems people have been wondering if he is indeed the voice of Comet, as search criteria like '"Don Adams" Rudolph Comet' are topping the list of search terms reported by BlogPatrol, leading people to my earlier post about the program.

      One thing I didn't know about Don Adams was that he was a Marine in WWII who fought in Guadalcanal and survived deadly blackwater fever. When he returned to the States, he became a drill instructor. Now that would have been something worth seeing.

      26 September 2005

      Losing My Religion - Wrap Up

        Walking through that door
        Outside we came
        Nowhere at all
        Perhaps the answer's here
        Not there anymore
          The Moody Blues

      Well, I've finally finished the series I began more than a month ago, and I can go ahead and state that I am a Unitarian Universalist.

      In the end, I didn't really lose my religion. I still don't know what I believe, and I don't know what religious truth is. But I found a place where I am welcome in my search.

      Losing My Religion - Part IV: Choosing My Religion

        Come come whoever you are
        Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving,
        Ours is no caravan of despair
        Come yet again come.
          Hymn #188 in
          Singing the Living Tradition
          the Unitarian Universalism hymnal

      This is part of a series that begins here. The post before this one is here.

      One of many traditions at our New Years parties was brought to us by our friend Beth. Sometime after midnight everyone thinks of something they want to give up or let go in the coming year. They write it down on slips of paper which are then gathered in pan and burned. Beth usually brings magician's flash paper, so they go up rather dramatically. For the past three years, I had written down God, religion, or both.

      One year, in a conversation loosened by alcohol, I explained what I had written and why. The details of the discussion are (understandably) a little vague now, but when it was over I had decided to visit a Unitarian Universalist church and our friend Rob said he'd go with me.

      I had begun poking around the UU website looking for alternatives to the Episcopal religion that I was having so many issues with. Dennis, my older daughter's godfather and a great friend, had once told me about Unitarian Universalism. What immediately attracted me was the lack of creed or dogma that defines what to believe. Instead, there is a set of guiding principals that define how one should act. In the Episcopal Church, my problem was never with how we were supposed to act. My problem was always with what we were supposed to believe.

      So Rob and I went to the UU service. In many ways, it was very similar; there were hymns, a sermon, and readings. In many ways it was very different; the readings were from Hindu sacred texts, and I had never sung "Food, Glorious Food" from Oliver! in church before. The service was about consumption, our need to consume, and the responsibility to use our resources wisely, hence the choice of music. Afterward we attended a discussion meant to introduce Unitarian Universalism to newcomers. I thought this might be what I wanted to do, but it would take another two years to do it.

      I kept going to the UU church's web site, mulling the idea of making the switch as I struggled with leaving the Episcopal church. Yet when I finally left, I held off. We spent a lot of time talking about if we shoud go, how we should go, when we should go, and so on. It would be tough entering a new church where everything was different and we knew no one. We also didn't know if this was something the kids really wanted. Finally we asked them, and they said they wanted to try it out. So we did.

      I'm happy to say we've been going for several months now. It was difficult at first, but we've gotten beyond the intial awkwardness. We went to the picnic and the fall Harvest Dinner. We now know a few people, and the kids have made a few friends.

      I think the girls are happy with our decision. Sharon and I concluded that it was important for them to have a religious education. The more we learn about the religious education program, the more certain we are that this is what we wanted. The goal is to give them the knowledge and tools to make informed decisions about what they believe. It was interesting to see how many other parents were looking for the same thing we were.

      For me, I finally find myself looking forward to church again. There have certainly been some interesting services. I like to tell the story of the pagan cakes and ale ceremony. The service explored the importance of meals in various religions, then focused on the pagan ritual. We all participated in the meal, which included real ale from a local brewpub. Cracking open a growler in church was yet another first for me. Most of the services are less exotic, but no less worthwhile. In a few weeks, I'll be attending a meeting after services to discuss membership.

      25 September 2005

      Iraq roundup

        They have more men, equipment, money, better explosives and remote-controlled detonators.
          Afganistan Defense Minister Abdur Rahim Wardak on the Taliban

      Here's a quick roundup of some recent stories on Iraq:

      • How the Iraq war is weakening terrorists:
        A Newsweek article reports that the Taliban are emboldened by the success of the Iraq insurgency, and they may be receiving training in Iraq. Wow, it finally is a terrorist training ground.
      • Iraq's "sovereign government" in action:
        A judge renewed homicide arrest warants for two Britons rescued earlier when troops demolished the jail holding them. I don't think we'll see them turning themselves in any time soon.
      • Bush know better:
        Despite all this, Bush still knows better.

      Meanwhile, the coalition casualty count is 2112. The civilian death to toll is between 26,000 and 29,000, and by the time you read this, these numbers will have probably gone up.

      21 September 2005


        There's a moon in the sky
        It's called the moon.
          The B-52's

      That full moon we just had was the Harvest Moon, so named because its light afforded farmers a few more hours to harvest their crops. This year's was special because it was in the same place as it was 50 years ago when captured on film as the famous "Autumn Moon" by Ansel Adams. Astronomers figured out the precise time and date of the original image, then predicted it's return (the story).

      The Harvest moon is not the only named moon. Most people know the Blue Moon, the uncommon second full moon of a calendar month. Actually, there are traditional English names for the full moon of every month. Native Americans had their own names, as did other cultures. Here's a list from the Farmer's Almanac (via Wikipedia).

      MonthEnglishNative AmericanOther Names
      JanuaryMoon After YuleWolf MoonOld Moon
      FebruaryWolf MoonSnow MoonHunger Moon
      MarchLenten MoonWorm MoonCrow Moon, Crust Moon, Sugar Moon, Sap Moon
      AprilEgg MoonPink MoonSprouting Grass Moon, Fish Moon
      MayMilk MoonFlower MoonCorn Planting Moon
      JuneFlower MoonStrawberry MoonRose Moon, Hot Moon
      JulyHay MoonBuck MoonThunder Moon
      AugustGrain MoonSturgeon MoonRed Moon, Green Corn Moon
      SeptemberFruit MoonHarvest MoonCorn Moon, Barley Moon
      OctoberHarvest MoonHunter's MoonTravel Moon, Dying Grass Moon
      NovemberHunter's MoonBeaver MoonFrost Moon
      DecemberMoon Before YuleCold MoonLong Nights Moon

      20 September 2005

      Low watermark for Bush?

        When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
          Old adage

        Until I read Eleanor Clift's recent commentary, Bush Repackaged, I hadn't heard that Karl Rove was in the hospital with kidney stones during the height of Hurricane Katrina. Clift suggests that this explains Bush's poor response to the disaster early on, and his subsequent retooling.

        The main focus of the commentary, however, is the implications of the Bush administration's reconstruction plan. Thusfar, I am mainly appalled at Bush's assertions that the $200 billion bill could be paid for with spending cuts. I saw the plan itself mostly as damage control. Having read the Clift commentary, I realize it is much more. "To hear Bush talk," she says, "we're about to witness a Republican utopia in the hurricane zone."

        Citing the Republican's current weakness in the polls, Clift describes this as "a pivotal moment in politics with a president severely compromised and the country poised to embrace a contrary view of government that rejects the Darwinian capitalism of the Reagan-Bush era." But if that is to happen, Democrats will need to offer real alternatives that voters can embrace. It is not enough, she says, "to stand aside and wait for the GOP to implode." Unfortunately, her assessment of the Democrat response is less than optimistic.

        Meanwhile, the Bush camp has already moved beyond damage control. In their eyes, Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath is an opportunity to further their conservative agenda, just like the 9/11 attacks. To be sure, the absencee of an aggressor makes it more difficult for Bush to rally the country behind him, and his early inaction hurt his credibility seriously. But that is in the past, and voters have short memories.

        With Rove back, they're working full-time to turn things around. If they do, the post-Katrina reconstruction could be a final crowning achievement of a Bush presidency, strengthening the neo-con's hold on the Republican party, and government as a whole. They are certainly doing all the right things to make that future a reality.

        17 September 2005

        Humor in motion

          That's what we call love. You'll like that a lot.
            Captain Kirk

        In a recent post I linked to a stick figure animation of Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice" video. I started poking around that site, looking at the other animations. Nothing is nearly as complex, but there are a bunch of really cool animated GIFs. Here are some of my favorites (links all open in the same window):

        • In this, a tiny bit of animation makes all the difference in.
        • A bunch of the animations are simply moving eyes, winks, etc., so I wasn't expecting this one.
        • This I just love.
        • But this is my favorite. (It also explains the quote on this post.)


        16 September 2005

        Google Earth is COOL!

          Everybody lives on a street in a city
          Or a village or a town for what it's worth.
          And they're all inside a country which is part of a continent
          That sits upon a planet known as Earth.
          And the Earth is a ball full of oceans and some mountains
          Which is out there spinning silently in space.
          And living on that Earth are the plants and the animals
          And also the entire human race.
            Yakko's Universe
            performed by the Animaniacs

        If you haven't played with Google Earth, and you have an hour to kill, check it out. It's the coolest!

        P.S. If you've read Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, Google Earth will look familiar.
        P.P.S. If you haven't read it, you should.

        Losing My Religion - Part III: The Problem With Leaving

          I wish I were Catholic
          I don't know why
            Happy Birthday to Me
            by Cracker

        This is part of a series that begins here. The post before this one is here.

        I have often joked that it would be easier if I was Catholic. I have so many issues with the social and political stance of the Roman Catholic church that I would have no qualms leaving. The same would be true if I were Southern Baptist or Evangelical. I would have left those churches on principle alone, without ever considering the deeper aspects of religious truth.

        The Episcopal Church is different. It's an open and liberal Christian community. Both men and women can be priests, and they can marry. They welcome practicing homosexuals, ordain them, and make them bishops. To be sure, not all Episcopalians were in favor of this. Acceptance and ordination of gays, ordination of women, even modern language in the Book of Common Prayer all came with controversy and threatened schism. Yet the church has weathered these storms without halting its progress towards openness and acceptance.

        After reading that last paragraph, you might be wondering why in the world I wanted to leave. Indeed, I was always proud of the Episcopal church and its progressive stand on social issues. So what was the problem? As I became more involved as an acolyte and vestry member, I was increasingly called upon to profess my faith. I was asked to mentor a young adult preparing for confirmation. I attended retreats with the vestry. I spoke in front of the parish about stewardship.

        In all these situations, I always became uncomfortable discussing my personal relationship with God and Christ. That's actually an understatement. I began to resent being put in the position at all. I was skeptical when people sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit. The last thing I wanted to hear was someone's story of how God spoke to them. In vestry we often prayed for guidance before discussing an issue or voting, and I hated it when our decisions took on extra weight because they were made with God's guidance.

        It was a while before I realized why it bothered me so much. The answer difficult to face, but it was simple. I just didn't believe it. When someone sensed the Holy Spirit in our midst, I thought they were just excited. I thought the silent prayer in vestry helped people clear their heads, not tune into God. It seems obvious to me after the fact, but it was hard to accept. I would have to accept it, though. As I discussed in Part II, having children pressed the issue as much as anything. I needed to be honest with them.

        I resolved to leave the Episcopal church. It was a slow process. Sharon and the kids stopped attending first. I continued to attend vestry meetings, and went to church when I was scheduled to acolyte. Eventually my rector figured out something was up and asked me about it. I think he was worried that I was having trouble at home or something. We discussed my doubts and concerns, but did not come to any resolution.

        I stopped going to church altogether when I was done with vestry. The last service I attended was the Sunday of the Annual Meeting, officially my last day on vestry. I had still not explained about my decision to my rector. Nonetheless, I think he sensed it was my last day there. I keep meaning to write him and let him know how I'm doing, but I haven't yet. That last thing I did was congratulate one of the new vestry members. She was my age, and had been there as long as I had. I left with a strange mixture of regret and relief. I miss that church, but I think I made the right choice.

        For the next several months, we didn't go to church at all. However, it didn't stay that way. That story, in what should be the last installment of this series, Part IV.

        'Duct Tape Man' and other nonsense

          If Michael Brown’s resignation this afternoon as the head of FEMA was supposed to end the political controversy over the administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina, it probably won't.
            Keith Olbermann

        Keith Olbermann is keeping his critical eye focused on the Bush administration with his latest blog post on "Duct Tape Man" David Paulison, who told Americans every home should stock up on duct tape and plastic sheeting.

        Meanwhile, the failure wants to reassure America that no taxes will be required to pay for Gulf Coast reconstruction. "You bet it will cost money," he said, "but I’m confident we can handle it."

        Well, that makes me feel better. George W. Bush is confident that we can handle it. His assessments have been so dead on in the past. He went on to tell us that, "It’s going to cost whatever it’s going to cost," demostrating his unique insight into the situation. In case you're wondering, you can also expect recontruction to take as long as it takes and fix whatever it fixes.

        By the way, how are we going to pay for this? The same way we'll pay for everything, Pinky, spending cuts. Ahhh, panacea of the borrow-and-spend republicans. All spending can be paid for with spending cuts. Who needs that pesky math, anyway.

        Don't worry though, Bush assures us that they'll be "wise about the money we spend."


        I'm not even going to bother with that one. If you want, you can read the MSNBC article on Bush's little fantasy world.

        By the way, they also have this article on the who-knew-what-when question, where they note that:

        Bush told ABC on Sep. 1 that “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.” In its storm warnings, the hurricane center never used the word breached.” But a day before Katrina came ashore Aug. 29, the agency warned in capital letters: “SOME LEVEES IN THE GREATER NEW ORLEANS AREA COULD BE OVERTOPPED.”

        National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield also gave daily pre-storm videoconference briefings to federal officials in Washington, warning them of a nightmare scenario of New Orleans’ levees not holding, winds smashing windows in high-rise buildings and flooding wiping out large swaths of the Gulf Coast.

        A photo on the White House Web site shows Bush in Crawford, Texas, watching Mayfield give a briefing on Aug. 28, a day before Katrina smashed ashore with 145-mph winds.

        15 September 2005

        Nice what?

          You can't always tell a book by its cover
            Old adage

        Likewise, you can't always tell a web site by its domain name. Case in point:


        Go on, check it out. Thanks to Snopes for this one.

        Update: I'm two-for-two on posting screw-ups. The site should end in ".org" not ".com" as it did earlier.

        Interesting challange to abstinence-only

          Never in recent history has so much government money been put into so many programs with so little oversight and so little proven impact.
            James Wagoner
            president of Advocates for Youth

        This AP article reports an interesting challange of abstinence-only sex-education programs. The Information Quality Act allows affected persons to seek correction of erroneous and ineffective information disseminated by federal agencies. I think erroneous and ineffective pretty much describes absitnece-only.

        Update: Duh. I forgot to link to the actual news story. It's there now (the first one).

        Check out my new weapon

          Don't be shocked by the tone of my voice
          Check out my new weapon, weapon of choice
            Fatboy Slim

        I was listenning to some Fatboy Slim, and it got me looking for the classic video for "Weapon of Choice" that stars Christopher Walken. I found it.

        I also found a stick figure version.

        06 September 2005

        Olbermann on the "city" of Louisiana

          If ever a slip-of-the-tongue defined a government's response to a crisis, this was it.
            Keith Olbermann

        Once again, Keith Olbermann shows why his is my favorite news blog with this post about the "city" of Lousiana.

        Update: Thanks to Shakespeare's Sister, I found video of the commentary that is worth watching. This version is in Windows Media format, but the sound is low. This version is much better, but you need Quicktime.

        Be Cool to the Pizza Dude

          Tip him well, friends and brethren, for that which you bestow freely and willingly will bring you all the happy luck that a grateful universe knows how to return.
            Sarah Adams

        One of the readings in church this past Sunday was Be Cool to the Pizza Dude, an essay by Sarah Adams for the NPR "This I Believe" series. It's a quick read, and worth it.

        The blame game

          They told me they fixed it. I trusted them to fix it. It's not my fault.
            Lando Calrissian
            The Empire Strikes Back

        A stinging criticism of the Bush administration was offered by Michael Moore in this open letter to President Bush. As Moore is wont to do, the letter is heavy on sarcasm and, IMHO, tries too hard to blame Bush.

        In particular, Moore goes after cuts in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' budget. To be sure, Bush's cuts have been the largest to date, but previous administrations from both parties had already cut plenty. FactCheck.org has an analysis of this issue, and the jury is still out.

        More accurate and appropriate criticism was offered by Eleanor Clift in this commentary about the Bush administration's leadership (and lack thereof) in the days leading up to and immediately following Huricane Katrina striking the Gulf Coast.

        For its part, the White House addressed these criticisms by doing what it does best: pointing fingers and shifting blame.

        02 September 2005

        Ride the spider

          We love you spider
          Get rid of
          Must stop
          He is our hero
            They Might Be Giants

        I spent a week down the shore in Seaside Park two weeks ago. I'm only just getting to blogging it now. We spent one day at the Funtown Amusement Pier. We rode many rides, including ferris wheel, bumper cars, Mighty Mouse, and the Tower of Fear, a ride that rockets you to 225' the air, then drops you. None of these rides, not even the Tower, tested my stamina like the Spider.

        My youngest needed an adult to accomany her, so I went on. The ride went on forever. We were on it so long, my daughter annouced that she was bored. I wish. When we were done, I felt as if it literally sucked the life of me, like Count Rugen's machine in The Princess Bride.

        The Spider is one of several amusement park rides designed by Lee Eyerly. Eyerly was initially building flight training devices, but found a better market for them as amusement park rides. The Spider is one of his later inventions. The key to the Spider's evil is that the ride operator has full control of the ride's movement. Instead of the push-and-go green start button we are see on newer rides, the spider has two levers that control the speed and tilt of the ride. It's like a demented video game for the ride operator's own twisted enjoyment.

        Not a stunning endorsement of the Spider, eh? Well, that was only the second time I've ridden an an Eyerly Spider in my life. The first time I was eight or so. I remember the unpredictable twisting motion had me sliding up the back of the chair. I thought I was going to be flung out at any moment. That ride went on forever too.

        Wherever Lee Eyerly is now, I hope he's happy.

        Hard times for the Big Easy

          We're holding on by a thread.
            New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin

        As I watch the residents struggle to survive, I cannot conceive of their suffering. As I sit comfortably at my desk in my air-conditioned office, I cannot imagine what it is like to have witnessed the devastation firsthand. I cannot fathom what trials lie ahead. Yet this disaster still touches me in a personal way.

        New Orleans will always be a special place for me. When planning our honeymoon, Sharon and I had two criteria. It had to be warmer than New Jersey in February and there had to be a train that went there. That's how we ended up spending an unforgettable honeymoon in New Orleans. Eleven years later we still remember all the little details of the places we saw, the music we heard, and the wonderful food we ate. The city is like a dear friend.

        I've been at a bit of a loss as to what to say about this. Anything I have to offer seems insignificant or trite. But I'll take this moment to join the Hurricane Katrina: Blog for Relief Weekend and ask anyone reading this to help out this dear friend of mine, and its neighbors, in their time of need. But then, you probably already have.

        As for me, I'm donating to Habitat for Humanity. Katrina has left countless people homless. Habitat has been helping people get new homes for thirty years. Credit Sharon with the choice.

        24 August 2005

        Summer update

          Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
          Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here
          Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
          and I say it's all right
            The Beatles

        What a difference a couple days make. Summer is back home. She looks much better, and she's adapting to the one leg. She still gets tired very quickly, but she keeps making progress. We went on a walk and she made it two houses up the street.

        Acquitted, but still imprisoned

          Give me your tired, your poor,
          Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
            Emma Lazarus

        Today the Washington Post reported that fifteen Uighurs, Chinese Muslims, remain imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay even though the pentagon says they should be released. A lawyer for two of the prisoners noted that one of his clients was schackled to the floor in a windowless box.

        Information about how they ended up in Guantanamo is limited, but at least some of them were in Afghanistan and Pakistan after fleeing persecution in China. Ironically, they looked to the United States as a beacon of hope. So much for that.

        Particularly disturbing is that we let Chinese officials to interrogate them. One of the detainees claimed that Guantanamo personal helped the interrogator photograph him, despite his attempts to resist.

        22 August 2005

        Wishing for Summer

          oh these little earthquakes here we go again these little earthquakes
            Tori Amos

        I'm not in much of a mood to post anything. If you've read Sharon's post, you've heard about Summer. She's our wonderful greyhound who just lost her leg, probably has cancer, and is back in the veterinary hospital because of complications from the amputation. She's is a wonderful pet, and it breaks my heart to see her like this. If you have a retired racing greyhound, keep an eye out for this. If they seem extra sensitive, it may be a sign.

        I wish she was home now, but she's in really good hands. She was home for a day, and she was already hopping up steps going on walks. She wants to be home and we miss her.

        10 August 2005

        Doug Forrester - a doomed campaign strategy?

          Always with the negative waves Moriarty, always with the negative waves.
            Sgt. Oddball
            Kelly's Heroes

        On Blanton's and Ashton's - Article. II. Section. 4., G. D. Frogsdong posted this comparison of lead stories from the campaign sites of Jon Corzine and Doug Forrester. I went to each site so see for myself. Here's what I found:

        Click on each for a larger version.

        Basically, Corzine's page is focusing on what he plan's to do while Forrester's page is focusing on what's wrong with Corzine. The lead-off story is particularly nasty, as Frogsdong points out. If you go to the Corzine "reading room" section and compare it to the Forrester "newsroom" you'll find a similar trend.

        I remember the post election analysis of the 2000 Senate race where Hillary Clinton handily beat Rick Lazio in what was supposed to be a close race. Pundits pointed to Lazio's focus on attacking Clinton, while saying little about what he himself would do if elected. Their point was that you can't win an election simply by saying that you're not the other guy. Many have argued that this was one of the problems with Kerry's failed 2004 Presidential bid.

        It looks like Forrester is getting desperate here, but the "Corzine Sucks, Vote Forrester" campaign strategy is sure to fail.

        07 August 2005

        It's Carnival time

          Check it out! Check it out! Check it out!

        The Center of NJ Life has the Carnival this week. Check it out!

        06 August 2005

        What's so funny?

          I know, everybody funny, now you funny too
            George Thorogood

        I just took this 3-D humor test. Check it out, it's fun. (Thanks to Jeri for the link). Here is my result:

        (73% dark, 17% spontaneous, 33% vulgar)
        your humor style:

        You like things edgy, subtle, and smart. I guess that means you're probably an intellectual, but don't take that to mean pretentious. You realize 'dumb' can be witty--after all isn't that the Simpsons' philosophy?--but rudeness for its own sake, 'gross-out' humor and most other things found in a fraternity leave you totally flat.

        I guess you just have a more cerebral approach than most. You have the perfect mindset for a joke writer or staff writer.

        Your sense of humor takes the most thought to appreciate, but it's also the best, in my opinion.

        PEOPLE LIKE YOU: Jon Stewart - Woody Allen - Ricky Gervais

        Losing My Religion - Part II: Teach Your Children

          As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of Morals and his Religion, as he left them to us, the best the World ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupt changes, and I have, with most of the present Dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the Truth with less trouble.
            Benjamin Franklin

        This is part of a series that begins here. The post before this one is here.

        When it's just you, it's a lot easier to leave certain questions and doubts unaddressed. Sharon often asked me what I believe, in part because she wanted to understand how important church was to me. My answers were always wandering and noncommittal. It turns out, that's the way my beliefs are too. My approach to religion echoed Franklin's sentiments. I had no issues with what my religion said about how people should act. But God, Jesus his divine son, the Resurection, the Holy Spirt? Well, let's just say I had my doubts.

        Surprisingly, this was not a big deal when it was just me. I could go to church and interpret what I heard and what was taught. I would listen with an intellectual ear to the analysis of a Bible passage. I discussed the intent of the author and the audience they were writing too. I would filter doctrine through my own interpretations. In short, as an adult, it was okay if I didn't buy into everything. It got harder with children.

        I went to an all male Catholic high school. One thing I will always remember from religion class is the way we were taught that everything in the Bible is true. It was explained that parts of the Bible are not historically accurate, yet they always contains spiritual truth. I tried this concept on my kids, but it didn't really fly. For someone their age, it's either real or not, fact or fiction, true or false. At church, each week, my kids were being taught a version of reality that wasn't mine.

        That was probably the turning point for me. It's interesting, looking back on it now. I never confronted my own doubts until my religion was being taught to my children. If I was going to be honest with them, I had to decide where I stood. However, once I did, I realized I couldn't stay where I was. With much difficulty, we decided to leave our church. The question was, how? And, what next?

        This will be continued in Part III.

        05 August 2005

        Losing My Religion - Part I: Growing Up Episcopal

          I am an Anglican, I am P.E.
          Neither High Church, nor Low Church,
          I am Protestant and Catholic and free.
          Not a Presby, nor a Lutheran,
          Nor a Baptist, white with foam!
          I am an Anglican, just one step from Rome;
          I am an Anglican! Via Media! My Home!
            Sung to the tune of God Bless America

        This is part of a series that begins here.

        For those who don't know, I was born an raised Episcopalian. My family was very active in the church. We attended regularly. I went to church school each week. I was an acolyte, I was in the youth group, I even gave the sermon on Youth Sunday. While in college, I attended a small Lutheran Sunday worship group. I really liked intimate atmosphere of it, and the service is very similar to the Episcopal one. After college, I went back to my family's church, and when Sharon and I were married, it was there.

        Our attendancence lapsed somewhat, until the children were born. I had always expected them to be baptized, so they were and we started attending as a family. The girls started going to church school like I did. I went back to serving as an acolyte. Being an acolyte had become very comfortable and familiar to me. The church was, as I'd been going there for for nearly twenty years.

        Then I was asked and agreed to run for vestry, the governing body of the parish. Actually I was agreeing to serve on vestry as the elections are rarely contested. It was kind of surprise to be asked, and a little flattering at the time. I'd later learn that they had a lot of trouble finding people who said yes. It's a three year commitment, and managing resources and budget, difficult in any organization, is very challenging in a church.

        Yet overall, I was finding it a rewarding experience. I remember when my parents were on vestry. I'd tell them about what was happenning and they'd tell me about what it was like for them. It was sort of like a coming of age for me.

        I was a very active adult member of the church I grew up in. But there were issues I would need to face soon.

        This is continued in Part II.

        Losing My Religion - Introduction

          Another turning point
          A fork stuck in the road
          Time grabs you by the wrist
          Directs you where to go
          So make the best of this test
          And don't ask why
          It's not a question
          But a lesson learned in time
          It's something unpredictable
          But in the end is right
          I hope you had the time of your life
            Good Riddance
            by Green Day

        Awhile back in a post about God in government, I alluded to some conclusions I'd come to with respect to religion. In a comment, Rob asked about this, and I promised to post about it later. It's been on my mind a lot. I began a post on this last night, but I'm realizing there is a lot I want to write. Instead of one huge post, I decided present it as a series. It is a very personal topic, so forgive me if it seems a little self indulgent.

        Anyway, I've now posted Part I.

        Oh yeah, time for a beer!

          Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.
            Dave Barry

        Looking for good beer in NJ and NYC? Have no fear, The Crooked Beat is on the case. Now I've been warned not to add this link to my blog, but I'm throwing caution to the wind. Check it out!

        04 August 2005

        One day on the River Line...

          I am no better and neither are you
          We are the same whatever we do
          You love me, you hate me, you loathe me, and then
          You can't figure out what bag I'm in
            Everyday People
            written by Sly Stone

        Today I took the day off and the whole family went to the The Adventure Aquarium in Camden. To get there, parked in Bordentown and took the River Line. It's a nice ride, cheap, and convenient to the aquarium. We had a great day. They've added a lot to the aquarium (from what I understand - this was my first time). We like the sharks best. Then we headed back to Bordentown. The return trip back was much more interesting.

        When we boarded, a nice gentlemen who also got on asked if we liked the aquarium. This was clearly his regular train home, and he told us the crowd gets on at Walter Rand station. Before we got there, he was joined by another man who got on at the next station. They talked a bit and you could see they ride together frequently. I picked up from their conversation that the second guy is a prosecutor, probably for Camden County. Then we got to Walter Rand and the man was right. Everyone got on.

        It got interesting when a group of guys took the seats across the aisle from the prosecutor, and in front of us. They were having a long conversation about prison. Specifically, they were comparing and contrasting. I learned that Camden county is the worst, in their opinion. You don't want to be there. Mercer and Burlington are nicer. They'd been around. Apparently the only thing everyone talks about is women. There was also some doubt expressed as the true nature of their fellow inmates' convictions. (Their language was far more colorful.)

        The good part was when they moved on from prisons and began critiquing county prosecutors. Again, Camden came out low on their list. Some things are universal, I guess. I could see the prosecutor across from them sitting Thinker-style while he worked on his laptop. He had his hand half-in front of his mouth, and I swear he was stifling a laugh. There was an interesting story of one guy's plea bargain session where he kept asking for a trial until he talked them down to "3, out in 1." In general, they had a low opinion of the prosecutors they faced.

        Judges, however, faired better. In fact, they felt that, despite being a hard ass, one particular judge was fair. They were all in agreement on this. Judges, you see, are like gods. They have the power. The governor, too. Oh, and the mayor. Well, Doug Palmer, anyway.

        There were other discussion topics. It was interesting to hear their take on the manslaughter conviction of wealthy CEO Jonathan Nyce for the killing of his wife. It was depressing to hear about they guy's girlfriend and kid, and the job he lost due to his felony conviction. There was also the story about shooting a neighbor's pit bull. It turns out that one bullet wasn't enough. After being shot in the chest, it kept coming because, "those dogs are tough."

        So there you have it. A convicted felon telling a story about shooting a neighbor's dog while sitting next to a county prosecutor.

          And different strokes for different folks
          And so on and so on and scooby-dooby-dooby....

        01 August 2005

        What I did on my vacation Pt. 2

          Swimming, swimming, in a swimming hole,
          When days are hot and days are cold,
          In a swimming hole.
          Side stroke, back stroke, fancy diving too.
          Wouldn't it be great if there were nothing else to do
            Camp Song
        Okay, I've realized that I never posted part two. I figured I'd add something here before I'm off on another vacation. We did do a lot of swimming. The lake was a wonderful temperature, and very inviting in the hot weather. The kids were in every day for hours.

        The day we left, before heading home, we stopped at the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. We figured it was a small nature park, maybe a few small animal, etc., so the admission (Adults $12, Kids $9) seemed a little steep. It turned out to be more than worth the price. The center is home to all sorts of animals indigenous to the region. For one reason or another they cannot be released back into the wild. Many were injured (especially the birds). Several were kept as illegal pets. They all live now in large naturally furnished enclosures. At each enclosure, there is lots of information about the animals, how they live, and how to protect them and their habitat. It was all very well done, well maintained, and highly recommended. The kids had a great time.

        After the center, we ate lunch at a great restraint in Holderness, seated at a window overlooking the lake.

        There's probably more, but I can't think of it. I really wanted to mention the nature center. It was great. If you're up there, you should go.

        28 July 2005

        Crap - Shuttles on hold

          Until we’re ready, we won’t go fly again. I don’t know when that might be.
            Shuttle program manager Bill Parsons
        Today Discovery docked with the ISS, after performing a back-flip maneuver to inspect the whole shuttle. Unfortunately, there's bad news with the good. The fleet is grounded as NASA determined that a foam piece came loose during launch. Thankfully, it looks like Discovery came through unscathed.

        27 July 2005

        See Discovery from many angles

          You can go with this
          Or you can go with that
          You can go with this
          Or you can go with that
            Fatboy Slim
        MSNBC put together this cool interactive that let's you watch the launch from multiple angles at once, changing cameras on the fly. Check it out.

        26 July 2005

        Godspeed Discovery

          Freedom lies in being bold.
            Robert Frost
        Good luck and godspeed to the crew of Discovery. The dedication and determination of the men and women of NASA are an inspiration.

        25 July 2005

        Things I miss from childhood

          You set sail across the sea
          Of long past thoughts and memories.
          Childhood's end, your fantasies
          Merge with harsh realities.
          And then as the sail is hoist,
          You find your eyes are growing moist.
          All the fears never voiced
          Say you have to make your final choice.
            Childhood's End
            by Pink Floyd
        Rob at Laughing at the Pieces offered his post on this subject then tagged me. So here goes:
        1. The woods behind my neighbor's house.
        Many a war game was played there. Many an expeditions were launched. We dug up old farm equipment and hid in the old chicken coops. They were a safe place for us to play in an unsafe manner. Now, the woods are gone, replaced by houses.
        2. Climbing trees
        There was one you could climb high enough to see the high school, a couple miles away. We built tree houses (plural, because they lacked the structural integrity to last), a rope swing, and the slide for life (a pulley that your rode down a 50' length or rope). There was one time when I jumped down from a tree, and my knee caught me in the face, putting my tooth through my lip. Good times!
        3. Vermont
        Every year we went there, to the same lean-to in Calvin Coolidge State Forest. They were all named after trees. Ours was Basswood. Such was my family's dedication to this annual vacation that they went when Mom was eight months pregnant with me. Going there each year was like going home. I keep pestering Sharon about going there again. Someday....
        4. Gram
        My dad's mother came to live with us when we moved to a larger house. I didn't realize how lucky I was to have that, though I do now. Gram always had stories about this and that, so familiar that I took them for granted. And there was her cooking. I don't miss that, to be honest. Having lived through the Depression, she wasted nothing. This made for some, um, interesting dishes. How about a lamb sandwich? No mayonaise for the egg salad? BBQ sauce will do.
        5. Atari 2600
        Okay, I've got to be honest on this one. I loved that Atari. I did. I wasted countless hours of my life finding the chalice again in Adventure, rolling the score over in Space Invaders and Asteroids, shaving another second off my time in the Indy 500 ice race, etc., etc.

        Well, there ya go. Who should I tag next? I will randomly choose from my friends' blogs. Leaving Rob's off, there are six. The result of 1d6 is... six! That means I'm tagging Jeri.

        24 July 2005

        Point of view

          "First of all," [Atticus] said, "If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-"
          "-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."
            To Kill a Mockingbird
            by Harper Lee
        Today I was posting some comments to this post at The Center of NJ Life. I was critical of random searches in the NYC Subway and NJ Transit, and someone asked me for alternatives. After explaining why I thought random searches wouldn't work, I voiced support for better information sharing, espionage, and good old detective work. I also said need to address root causes in our foreign policy. That's a buzz-word laden way of saying I think we need to do more to understand what is leading people to terrorism.

        Here's the thing. I almost left that last one off. I wanted to avoid the inevitable accusations that I hated America and supported terrorism. I was remembering Karl Rove's remarks in June. I went ahead and put it in. We'll see if the thread gets derailed or not.

        I've been thinking about this whole root cause thing for awhile. As a software developer, I deal with root causes often. There's a problem with an application, bad behavior, a bug. For example, I have a label on a button. All of a sudden, the label is garbled. What do I do? I can just reset the label, fixing the immediate issue. But something garbled that label. There's still a bug, and odds are it will manifest elsewhere. To do it right, I have to dig in a little, look at what's changed recently, maybe step through the program as it runs watching everything. That takes more effort, of course, and the solution is more complex. Yet that is clearly the right way to handle it, and the solution is more robust.

        Like the quick fix, we have a quick answer for why terrorists hate us. "Because we're free," is what Bush has said more than once. It's a great soundbite that plays well in big speaches. But it denies the complex issues at hand. It turns a blind eye to real problems that lie at the heart. Until these root causes are addressed, this hatred will manifest itself over and over in new and different places. I am not advocating for apeasement here. I don't believe we should bargain with terrorists. We need to truly understand what motivates these people to such extreme actions.

        It can't just be that they're evil. No one is born wanting to do this. People learn to hate. Mohammad Atta came into this world just like the rest of us. He was an innocent little kid once. He learned to hate us. Why is that? Have we really thought about it? Are we doing anything to change that? Shouldn't we be? And why is it un-American to do so?

        I know most of the people who read this, so I know I'm preaching to the choir here. But I'm just so sick of hearing that the only solution is to "brandish steel," as Rove put it. We've brandished plenty of steel, and what has it gotten us?

        13 July 2005

        Is Rove the new North?

          The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history.
            George Orwell
        This post from eriposte at The Left Coaster does a great job detailing and debunking the GOP talking points about Karl Rove blowing Valerie Plame's cover. I was incredulous when I watched John Gibson's ridiculous commentary suggesting Rove deserves a medal. He went above and beyond today in service of his GOP masters.

        Then it dawned on me. Karl Rove could be the next Oliver North. I re-read the talking points, and it starts to add up. They tell this story:
        Self-serving Valerie Plame recklessly hands an overseas assignment to her hubby, left-wing nut Joe Wilson. Joe is supposed to look into the yellow-cake deal, but he's a liberal peace-nik who doesn't want a war, even in Iraq where there is a clear and present danger. He also wants John Kerry to win, so he can get a job in the new administration. So he tries to sabotage the case for war by offering up a flawed report designed only to serve his own agenda.

        Enter patriot Karl Rove. He sees through Joe's plan, and he's willing to stop Wilson no matter what the cost. Selflessing putting himself in legal peril, Rove does the only thing he can: he exposes the secret backroom dealings of Plame and Wilson. Sure, it could be against the law, but our national security comes first.
        It's a great story. It side-steps the legal fallout and re-casts Rove as the selfless patriot. As a bonus, it implies that Saddam really was trying to buy yellow-cake after all. New life for the WMD justification.

        Sound too far-fetched? Don't think the American public will buy it? How many people still, still think Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks? How many think Ollie North is a hero?

        Call me Uncle Pennybags

          Advance token to nearest Railroad and pay owner Twice the Rental to which he is entitled.
            Chance card in Monopoly
        That phrase signaled the end of the game for my daughter this past weekend. It was anyone's game until then. In order to come up with the $400 rent, she had to sell off all her houses and mortgage two of her last three properties. I did the only appropriate thing for a loving father to do at this point: I danced around laughing and shouting, "IN YOUR FACE! IN YOUR FACE!"

        That's a joke! Geeez! What do you take me for?

        Actually, I said she played a good game, told her it was bad luck, and noted that had I hit her houses first, it would have gone the other way (which it would have). Of course, I did still take her money and build two more houses on Boardwalk and Park Place, just to make sure. And I said, "Sorry honey," right before I asked for the $1400 rent that officially bankrupted her. For the record, she's won several games of Monopoly in the past.

        Sharon had taken my younger daughter to a birthday party in hell, I mean Chuck E. Cheese. My oldest and I were home, and I asked what she wanted to do. It was hot out, and she'd already ridden her new bike for an hour, so she asked if we could play a game. First we played Stratego. She picked that, I swear. Then (and I am not making this up) she asked if we could play Risk. I said that would probably take too long to play, so she suggested Monopoly, which we did. We both had a really good time playing games. I'm psyched that she has my love of board games.

        After the game, we headed up to the school where she rode her new bike around the parking lot while I flew a kite. A nice finish to a great afternoon.

        12 July 2005

        Joel Stein, you're lame, lame, lame, lame!

          Here's what I think: Joel Stein is a ninny.
        Rob offered this post about Joel Stein's slamming of adult Harry Potter fans. I read Stein's piece. He's clearly trying to be contrarian. He also talks big for someone who didn't read the books. I began a comment on Rob's blog, but decided to go full-blown-post because, well, I need something. Here are my observations:

        He says Judy Blume is a good author, but adults don't read Freckle Juice. Well, my daughter read Freckle Juice. It's, like, 48 pp., so yeah, he's right, adults don't go for books like that. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is 309 pp. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is 672 pp. A little different don't you think?

        He also points to the equivalent books of our youth. (His point: we had those books to fill our adolescent needs, leave it at that.) He includes Tolkein's books in there. So he's saying Tolkein is only good for thirteen-year-olds?

        Oh yeah, he needs to point out how simplistic the plot is. It's just your basic good/evil story. Surprise, a fantasy story that has a battle between good and evil. How about that. And the story is by no means that simplistic. There are plenty of shades of grey. Take Delores Umbridge. What she does, and why, is more complex than simple a good vs. evil plot. And what about Snape? Talk about an ambiguous character.

        Etc., etc., etc. Joel might figure this out a little more, but, as I mentioned, he didn't read the books.

        Strength in numbers

          You let one ant stand up to us, then they all might stand up! Those puny little ants outnumber us a hundred to one and if they ever figure that out there goes our way of life!
            A Bug's Life
        The White House press corp demostrated that intimidation can only carry the Bush administration so far. The briefings from yesterday and today are sights to behold. You'll find nothing of value in Scott McClellan's answers. He can't even come up with new and interesting ways to say, "No comment." The good stuff is in the questions, which are relentless. It's like the reporters all decided at once they'd had enough bullshit.

        I'd love to blog about this on a play by play basis, but I need to get back to work. But Seething in the Wilderness has everything you'll want to see here and here.

        08 July 2005

        Rove the White House leaker?

          Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds?
          Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
          Croupier: Your winnings, sir.
          Captain Renault: Oh, thank you very much.
        Newsweek is reporting that Karl Rove is one of the sources behind the outing of Valerie Plame. Okay everyone, together now in your best Steven Wright monotone:
        Oh my god. Can you believe it. What is this world coming to? I am sooooo surprised.
        Karl Rove, huh? Who would have thunk? Well, anyone with five or more neurons, but why care? Rove can relax, secure in the knowledge that he's more likely to be ridden to victory in the Kentucky Derby than face prosecution.

        Besides, the London bombings will leave this story buried. Just another reason for whoop-whooping over at Fox (SitW has the details on that).


          1. To show the way to by going in advance.
            The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
        I looked up leader and found a picture of Antonio Villaraigosa.

        Details from: