24 December 2008

Goodbye Green-eyed Lady

    Green-eyed lady, lovely lady.
      Green-eyed Lady by Sugarloaf
      (words and music by J.C. Phillips and David Riordan)

We lost Gypsy last night. Her back legs weren't working and she was in pain, so we took her to the vet. It was likely a clot blocking the flow of blood to her back legs, but that didn't really matter. She was sixteen and in a lot of pain. They administer a strong sedative first, so nothing after will be felt. Almost immediately she stopped howling and slowly drifted off. That's when we knew we'd made the right choice.

We'll miss you lady-cat.


    Space, the final fronier.

Let's put some space between here and election news.

That's better.

02 October 2008

"Belched into the right-wing echo-chamber"

    In law, this would create a mistrial.
      Greta Van Susteren
    No, it would get the lawyer fired.
      Keith Olbermann

The right-wing noise machine is in full bluster mode because they "just learned" that Vice Presidential moderator Gwen Ifill is writing a book titled titled Breakthough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama News of the book appeared in print as early as July 23, weeks before the debate moderators were even chosen and agreed upon by both campaigns.

But I digress. Here is Keith Olbermann telling us what he really thinks about Ifill's so-call conflict of interest, among other things....

"If the McCain campaign, which could have found out about it at any time over the last two months and nine days by simply googling her name, if that campaign really didn't know anything about this book until Greta Van Susteren emailed them last night...

They're morons!"

15 September 2008

Rick Wright 1943-2008

    And no one called us to the land
    And no one crosses there alive.
      Pink Floyd
      (Waters, Wright, Mason, Gilmour)

Pink Floyd keyboardist Rick Wright died today. Damn. At least they had this one last gig together:

And way back when...

08 September 2008

The Soup covers Kathy Hilton's response to McCain

    Now I'm not a political analyst, but when your candidate for president is wrong and Kathy Hilton is right....
      Joel McHale

I wish I'd found this when the McCain's Britney/Paris add was still running, but this clip still cracks me up...

01 September 2008

Cellist Zoë Keating

    I like to think of it as a DJ scratch approach to the cello.
      Zoë Keating

Another Radio Lab podcast highlight: Quantum Cello. Last season's War of the Worlds episode was live and cellist Zoë Keating provided the music. In this podcast, Jad Abumrad visits Keating to learn more about her music and listen to her perform a few pieces. Her music is really cool. There are certainly better adjectives than those, but that's all I can muster right now. Trust me, though, it's really cool.

As she plays, she digitally captures segments of her music which she loops back. As the loops are playing back, she plays additional layers over them. The result is sounds more like an orchestrated work than a solo one. What I though was especially neat is that she does this live. The loop capture is controled with foot pedals. In the podcast she performs three pieces live that sound more like studio recordings.

It's great stuff. Check it out if you get a chance.

Update: Here's a video of her performing live, so you can really get the idea:

29 August 2008

You know what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like this?

    When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like that:
    "Have ya paid your dues, Jack?"
    "Yessir, the check is in the mail."
      Jack Burton
      Big Trouble in Little China

Last night Sharon and I stayed up and watched a movie. We could have watched There Will be Blood, which we have from the library and haven't seen yet. We didn't. We watched John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China.

I love this movie. It is not a good movie. It's a bad movie, but it is so deliciously bad. It is corny and cheesey and makes no attempt to be otherwise. If it did, it would not be half as much fun. At no point does this movie take itself seriously, and that is what makes it so much fun.

28 August 2008

You canna change the laws of physics

    All you are is a bag of particles acting out the laws of physics.
      Brian Greene

Assume the universe is infinite, but the number of possible configurations of particles in the universe, while tremendously huge, is finite. That means that at some point somewhere in the universe, a particular configuration of particles must repeat. Somewhere, an almost incomprehensible distance from here, there is another version of me writing this exact same blog post in an identical office when he should be coding. In fact, there's not just copy, there are countless copies.

That is just one of the concepts explored in this episode of the Radio Lab podcast. Brian Greene, physics and mathematics professor and director of the Institute of Strings, Cosmology, and Astroparticle Physics at Columbia University, sits down with Robert Krulwich to talk about the nature of the universe.

Two other tidbits from the conversation:

  • The universe is actually a lot like a block of Swiss cheese.
  • If you think about it, it is actually more likely we exist in a huge computer simluation than in the actual universe.

Krulwich keeps the science content accessible and the conversation tone fun and interesting. Take a listen if you have a chance.

13 August 2008

Games' most ridiculous getups

    Nothing says “I’m a competent combatant and a smart scientist” like a butterfly mask, tassels and matching G-string.
      Winda Benedetti

A regular feature in the MSNBC gaming section is the Top 5 list. Many are what you'd expect: action games, strategy games, game villians, etc. This week's was a good one: Top 5 most preposterous getups in games. Reviewer Winda Benedetti channels Nina Garcia in choosing her top 5 examples of an "Absurd Outfit Obviously Dreamed Up By A Man."

09 July 2008

Reading big

    The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.
      Dr. Seuss

Appearing on various blogs is a list of books that is published by, derived from, or inspired by the NEA's The Big Read or similar lists from the BBC. I got my copy of the list from Sharon, and I'm using her rules:

  1. Look at the list and bold those you have read.
  2. Italicize those you intend to read.
  3. Asterisk (*) the books you LOVE.
  4. Bang (!) the books you I left unfinished becuase you either hated it, lost interest, or (in my case) were in high school.

Here is my report:

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
*2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
*5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
!6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
*16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
!18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
*25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
!28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
*(?)33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
*(?)36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
*52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
*61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince- Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
*94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
*99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

So, 29 books in all. Not bad. #18 and #28 I did not finish only because I was slacking off in high school. I've read many pieces of #6, but nowhere near all of it, and how many people ever do? As for #33 and #36, the (?) is because I love them less now than when I first read them. As for #75, that's definitely in the someday of my life.

And here are a some great (IMHO) books not on this list:

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (on the NEA's Big Read list)

That's off the top of my head. I'm sure there's more.

19 June 2008

In stunning 3-D!

    "Ha! Is it come to this?" thundered the Stranger: "then meet your fate: out of your Plane you go. Once, twice, thrice! 'Tis done!"
      A Romance of Many Dimensions

      Edwin A. Abbott

A friend of mine is seriously into stereo photography, and he has begun posting his work online. You can see it for yourself here. His galleries utilize a Java stereo viewer that offers several different viewing options, and he has some viewing instructions on his site. I ended up using using the "cross-eyed" method that requires no special glasses and, if you can do it, offeres the clearest viewing options. His viewing instructions have a link to a really good explanation of the "cross-eyed" method.

His site doesn't tell you how he takes the pictures, but I got to see it first hand. He built his own stereo camera array out of a pair of fairly low-end Canon point-and-shoot cameras. Apparently these cameras offer a wide array of undocumented features if you know how to enable them. Luckily there are plenty of camera hackers online to show you how. I my friend's case, he was able to rig a custom remote that connects the the USB port on each camera, allowing him to trigger both cameras in unison.

The results are really cool. Check them out!

Ice on Mars!

    Salt can't do that.
      Peter Smith
      Principal investigator for the Phoenix mission

It's official. There is ice on Mars! Little chunks of material dug up by the lander have since disappeared. The only explanation is that the chunks are water ice that sublimated when exposed to the thin Martian atmosphere. That's cool.

Of course, other possible explanations were considered:

22 May 2008

Back in NY

    New York, New york
    Does it feel right?
    Does it taste light?
      Deborah Harry and Moby

Right now I am under the Hudson river. Literally. On on the NJ Transit 7:30 New Brunswick express out of NY Penn Station... wait... yup, back in NJ.

I'm back working in the city, though not much fun in it I have to say. Fixing someone else's "Heart of Darkness" code. It's scary stuff - 1200 excruciating lines of SQL that could make your eyes bleed. It took me a day just to figure out what the hell it was trying to do, then a day just to figure out what I might be able to do with it.

One little positive is that I get to ride in one of these:

The new (for me) NJ Transit Bi-Level cars. I admit it - train geek am I. As evidence, I will note that having ridden twice now, I've made a point of trying both the upper and lower level. There is actually something of a difference. The upper level feels a little smoother. Being up that high makes things a little more scenic. In contrast, the lower level feels faster. I think it feels faster because you're closer to the ground. When you're at a platform, you eye-level with people's feet, it's cool watching the edge of the platform speed by when moving. The new seats are nice, also. With the low ceiling, there's almost this airplane vibe going on. Definitely the way to commute to the city.

Anyway, we're going through Edison, so my stop's coming up. Time to publish and pack up.

02 May 2008

Buyer's remorse for the obsessive

    Does that make me crazy?
      Gnarls Barkley

Okay, I admit it, this is just a little obsessive on my part. We just got the new Gnarls Barkley album, The Odd Couple. It's great, a worthy follow-up to St. Elsewhere, and lives up to my expectations. Except....

You see, on the album, "Run" just fades in from silence. It doesn't have that "kick-off" beginning that you hear on the radio and in the video. This kept bugging me throughout the rest of the track, sort of like Roger Rabbit with the unfinished shave-and-a-haircut. (TWO BITS!).

I went a-googling and found out "Run [Radio Edit]" is what I was missing. A little more googling and I found it online for £0.79. Yep, it's only available in the U.K. But hey, they take PayPal, and PayPal handles the exchange rate (currently $.50 = £1.00). That's a little more than the iTunes $0.99 songs, but it's also a 256K MP3 I can use anywhere. I figured what the heck and embraced our global economy.

The radio edit is playing right now. I have no regrets.

01 May 2008

Bad gas holiday

    This isn’t an idea designed to get you through the summer, it’s an idea designed to get them through an election.
      Barack Obama

It turns out that economists think the so-called gas tax holiday is a really bad idea.

I think it's crap. It's the kind of shameless pandering I expect from McCain, and now Clinton gave me one more reason to be glad I voted for Obama. Regarding the gas tax holiday, Obama had this to say:

It would last for three months and it would save you on average half a tank of gas, $25 to $30. That’s what Senator Clinton and Senator McCain are proposing to deal with the gas crisis. This isn’t an idea designed to get you through the summer, it’s an idea designed to get them through an election.

Spot on, as usual.

Better yet, many economists don't think we'll even see that half-tank of gas. Suspending the gas tax won't have any effect on the gasoline supply. However, demand will increase and with it, the price at the pump. We will end up spending just as much money on gasoline, except now more of that money goes to oil producers.

As Paul Krugman said on this issue, "It’s Econ 101: the tax cut really goes to the oil companies."

30 April 2008


    A podcast for people who ponder the puzzles of life.
      Robert Krulwich

According to his NPR bio, Robert Krulwich is "a correspondent for NPR's Science Desk, reporting on the intersections of science and technology with culture, politics and religion. His specialty is explaining complex news — economics, technology, science — in a style that is clear, compelling and entertaining." He also teams up with with Jad Abumrad on one of my favorite NPR shows, Radio Lab.

I was psyched to find out he has his own podcast. Hmmm.... Krulwich on Science is basically a podcast of all his segments that show up on various NPR shows. He says in his bio that he likes "talking about 'invisible ideas' and trying to find a way to explain what you've learned so people can grasp it," and that's exactly what you'll find in this podcast.

If you get a chance, check it out. I think my favorite so far is the segment about yawning, and what triggers a yawn. (Hint: 55% of you might be yawning right now.)

25 April 2008

The old McCain, he ain't what he used to be.

    My friends, this is a defining issue...
      John McCain
    ...until you get the nomination.
      Keith Olbermann

Gone is the John McCain of 2000, that's for damn sure.

This is what I was thinking as I read this Washington Post story about McCain's recent tax policy reversals. It is not really surprising. He became a cheerleader for Bush's failed foreign policy, so why not do the same with fiscal policies?

It is just one more sign of his last-chance, stop-at-nothing bid for the presidency. Clearly he wants it badly, and he'll do whatever he thinks it takes. Hell, he has even welcomed the masterminds of the 2000 smear campaign against him.

None of this surprises me, not anymore. I knew McCain had no shame whatsoever since February. That's when he voted against a bill that would require American interrogators (including those in the CIA) to follow the Amry Field Manual. Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow discussed this at the time:

As late as November 2007 McCain argued that torture is a "defining issue" for America and that the Army Field Manual should be standard. So much for that.

McCain has abandoned so many "defining issues" that one wonders if anything is sacred. I seems like the maverick image is nothing more than a convenient facade, cast aside once it outlived its usefulness.

24 April 2008

What I'm listenning to (and reading)

    We take you now to Grovers Mill, New Jersey.
      The War of the Worlds
      by H. G. Wells
      as performed by
      Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre on the Air

I had been anticipating the new season of Radio Lab for months, and I am loving it now that it's here. An early standout is the War of the Worlds episode, which was performed live. I've heard the Orsen Wells story many times, but I had never heard what happened when a radio station in the Equadorian city of Quito decided to do their own production in 1949.

I'm also catching up on episodes of This American Life that have been accumulating on my iPod. The episode "Nice Work If You Can Get It" includes an excellent piece with John Hodgman telling the story of his rise to fame.

As for audiobooks, I've just finished the third in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, and I'm really starting to enjoy them. The first two were read by Tim Curry, but the rest are read by the author. Sometimes an author isn't the best person to read their own work, but in this case I think it's an improvement.

Also read well by the author is Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders, his second short fiction collection. I expect people will have varying opinitons about each of the stories and poems, but I you'll find it hard to dislike "A Study in Emerald." If you don't have time to pick up the whole book, this story is available online here. In fact, if you've only listened to it, you should check out the PDF just for the illustrations and format.

Knowing little beforehand, I listened to Lauren Groff's The Monsters of Templeton. If you've read Everything is Illuminated, you would be inclined to classify Groff as a female Jonathan Safran Foer. That's not really accurate, but comparisons are difficult to escape completely. I'm also pretty sure that if I'd read more James Fenimore Cooper, I would have caught several references and in-jokes in the book. That said, I enjoyed the story, especially the final chapters.

An actual book that I'm actually reading is Tolkein's The Children if Hurin. I've been reading a chapter here an there, and I'm almost done. The chapters stand somewhat on their own, being true chapters in the lives of the characters. Each chapter mostly resolves it's own smaller story arc, so it lends fairly well to this casual style of reading. It's certainly not a pager-turner, nor is is inteded to be. At the same time, I am reading the Lord of the Rings with my oldest. Every now and then I come accross a name from The Children if Hurin, which takes place thousands of years before LotR, so it is sort of like reading ancient history.

By the way, reading LotR again is great fun for me. I really look forward to each night when we read. Having read it so many times already, and reading it aloud, I am noticing many subtlies and tidbits I'd either missed or forgotten. It's nice to know you still find new things in even the most familiar old favorites.

23 April 2008

Topic for future therapy sessions

    Hurry little children
    Run this way
    I have got a beast at bay
      Gnarls Barkley*

There's a little thing we do at home, mostly after dinner and especially when the kids are antsy. We tell them to run in circles around our house. Our floor pattern is one of those where you can go in a circle from kitchen to foyer to living room to dining room and back to kitchen again. (If it were a Kill Doctor Lucky board, this would be where you pile up cards, but this isn't a post about board games.)

This week we are pet-sitting, so we have extra dogs. One dog is named Tawney, a pleasant small mutt of 11-12 years whose visits we always enjoy. The other Angie, a young energetic Border Collie. She likes to chase things and would prefer to be active 23 hours of a given day. This is not the kind of energy level we expect from our own dogs. We now have to fight with Darkman for space on the couch, and I'm pretty sure Shadow's activity won't change much even after she recovers from ankle surgery.

So, as I was saying, we tell the children to run in circles and burn off some excess energy. We did this a couple nights ago, but now we had Angie to join the chase. As might have been predicted, this did not go over well with our youngest. There was whining and fussing. How did we respond, good parents that we are? We told her to run faster, of course.

"But Angie's chasing me me," we were told.

"Run faster so she doesn't catch you," we responded.

Now let me be clear, this is not a snarling, one step away from mauling, Kujo wannabee dog. Angie wanted to play, which to be honest is what she wants to do all the time (even, say 4 AM). My children have played with her often, and they were certainly in no danger at this point. Yet even so, I could already picture my therapist's office somewhere in my child's future, where she would be recalling this incident....

"...And I'll never forget it. They kept telling me to run... run faster... run, run, run! I don't know why they wanted me to run. The dog was chased me and all they did was tell me to run. And the were laughing. Laughing! How could they be laughing?" At this point my now grown child breaks down. The therapist offers the tissue box, and she circles the word "laughing" in her notes.

Of course, the dogs were sent outside to chase one another or (more likely) bark under the fence at the neighbor's dogs. We explained everything was fine, there was nothing to be afraid of, Angie was just playing, yadda yadda yadda, and all was right with the world again.

Except for the screaming night terrors.

*Yeah, that is two GB quotes in a row, from the same song no less. It's just stuck in my brain....

22 April 2008

Yeah, still the same

    When you see me coming run
    Before you see what I’m running from
    No time for question asking time is passing by
      Gnarls Barkley

I have no specific reasons for not blogging - just haven't. Maybe I just needed to overcome the inertia. If this doesn't get you going, I'm not sure what will. The first single from the new Gnarls Barkley album:

P.S. To ivorybillchick, don, and rob s.: Thanks. It's nice to know you're missed.

04 March 2008


    I had thought we were going to have a considerable audience of gamers and science fiction and fantasy fans. I thought easily with those we'd have 50,000 or more [buyers], but when people began to write me [with questions] about what fantasy books to read, and I saw the wide range of both younger and older people who were attracted to the game, I understood that it was reaching a deeper chord, something deep within us.
      Gary Gygax

Gary Gygax, creator of Dungeons and Dragons, has died.

Until today I did not know we shared a birthday.

28 February 2008

Reel 13 Shorts

    Brevity is a great charm of eloquence.
      Marcus Tullius Cicero

Last Saturday Sharon and I ended up watching A Letter to Three Wives, which we thouroughly enjoyed. It was on the NYC public television channel, WNET/Thirteen. Their program Reel 13 presents a classic film, a short film, and an indie film each Saturday night. We stayed up to watch the short film, Thirsty, and we weren't disappointed. It was clever with a nice little surprise at the end.

The neat thing about the short films is that you get vote for your favorite. They post three films online each week, then broadcast the top pick. They're still there, so check them out. The three shorts were titled Wrigley, Little Pumkin, and Thirsty, which won. Little Pumkin was fine, but I thought Thirsty was definitely better. But I really like Wrigley, too, and it would have been hard to hard to decide which I like more.

P.S. Fans of Homicide: Life on the Street will notice a familiar face in Wrigley.

26 February 2008


    And so today, my world it smiles, your hand in mine, we walk the miles.
      Led Zeppelin

For those who don't know, I met Sharon at a party she was hosting. (Yeah, she was throwing a party - no surprise there.) Anyway, I remember at some point leaning against the dining room hutch only to discover it wasn't secured to the base. The china laden cabinet slid several inches but did not fall. A few more inches and it's a good bet I would not be writing about our fourteenth wedding anniversary.

When I look back on that moment, I still shudder to think how close I came to missing the best thing that ever happened to me. Here's to fourteen great years and many more than that yet to come.

22 February 2008

Nexus revisited

    Coincidence is the word we use when we can't see the levers and pulleys.
      Emma Bull

It's been a couple years since Keith Olbermann first presented the Nexus of Politics and Terror. Yesterday he delivered an updated version:


05 February 2008

Radio Lab tackles The Ring

    Well what did you expect in an opera? A happy ending?
      Bugs Bunny

Catching up on some of my podcasts, I listened to a really interesting Radio Lab/WNYC special about The Ring Cycle, a series of four epic Wagner operas. That there are four operas by Wagner collectively called "The Ring Cycle" was something I did not know, nor did I know of the near fanatic devotees, nor its influences on more current music and literature, including Tolkein's own tale of a Ring and Bugs Bunny. It features commentary from a diverse cast, including Howard Shore, composer of the Lord of the Rings film scores I love so much. It's definitely worth a listen.

19 January 2008

Which way is the trend really going?

    Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.
      Thomas Jefferson
      Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, January 1, 1802

    I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that's what we need to do -- to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view.
      Governor Mike Huckabee
      Michigan campaign speech, January 14, 2008

A popular theme of the radical right is the so-call secularization of America. The standard argument is that left-wing atheists are systematically removing God from its traditional and historical place in the laws and governance United States. So let us examine the historical trend, shall we?

  • 1776 - The Declaration of Independence is adopted. It includes mention of the "laws of Nature," "Nature's God," and a "Creator" that is the source of our unalienable rights.
  • 1782 - The motto E pluribus unum (from many, one) is adopted the motto written on the scroll held by the eagle on the Great Seal of the United States. This is the original motto used on U.S. coinage, beginning in 1795.
  • 1787 - The U.S. Constitution is ratified. Drafters rejected religious language and any religious qualification to hold office, and as ratified it contained no mention of a deity whatsoever.
  • 1791 - The First Amendment becomes law when Virginia becomes the 10th state to ratify the Bill of Rights. It guarantees the free practice or religion and forbid laws that favor or forbid specific religious beliefs.
  • 1796 - Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli states that the "government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion...."
  • 1802 - Jefferson's writes the now famous letter to the Danbury Baptists describing the separation of church and state as guaranteed by the First Amendment
  • 1861 - Rev. M. R. Watkinson petitions then Secretary of the Treasury Samuel P. Chase for "recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins." The motto "In God We Trust" is ultimately chosen and begins appearing on U.S. currency in 1864.
  • 1863 - Several protestant Christian organizations, most notably the National Reform Association, begin attempts to amend to U.S. Constitution. The goal is to re-word the preamble to say, "We, the People of the United States [recognizing the being and attributes of Almighty God, the Divine Authority of the Holy Scriptures, the law of God as the paramount rule, and Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior and Lord of all], in order to form a more perfect union...."
  • 1892 - The original pledge of allegiance is written by Baptist minister Francis Bellamy. It is undergoes slight modifications until the 1925. None of these versions mention God at all. The final version in 1925 was as follows: "I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."
  • 1954 - Congress votes to add the phrase "under God" to the pledge, in part as a response to the threat of atheistic Communism. The family of Fancis Bellamy lobbied Congress against the change. The same year, Congress also moves to officially include the motto "In God we Trust" on all U.S. currency.
  • 2001 - The White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives is established by executive order by George W. Bush. By 2004 religious organizations are receiving billions of federal dollars without a strict separation between their religious activities and social service programs, and despite discriminatory hiring on religious grounds.
  • 2008 - Republican Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee speaks in favor of amending the Constitution to reflect "God's standards."

As adopted, the supreme law of the land, the U.S. Constitution was completely secular. Yet since that time, there has been a slow march toward adding religious, and in particular Christian, language to our laws. That's the real trend, and it definitely concerns me.

17 January 2008

Do you speak it?

    Think what you're dealing with. The majesty and grandeur of the English language, it's the greatest possession we have.
      Professor Henry Higgins
      My Fair Lady

I got a real kick out of this.

See www.insureyourgunrights.com

This is a real recruiting site owned and maintained by the NRA. Those of you proficient in English may wonder if “insure” is the proper word.

If so, check: www.ensureyourgunrights.com