Monday, December 22, 2008

of randomness and vampires....

I know what you're thinking; "Why don't he write?". Well it does seem as though winter has returned in the Northeast in such a way as to clearly and definitively punish us for the last few relatively mild years we've gotten away with. First a nasty ice storm that many cities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire have STILL not fully recovered from. Then, fluffy one-two punch of snowstorms over the weekend just passed. Today we'll be lucky to see any thermometer register more than 20 degrees. (That's Fahrenheit, for the rest of the metric and civilized world that would be -7 degrees Celsius. We're Americans and many of us still believe the metric system is some sort of communist plot! Present company excluded.) So I had to shovel or otherwise remove no less than a foot and a half of snow from 30' x 40' car lot that is now MY responsibility. Renting does have it's bright spots. As I am so fond of calculations let's figure out how many cubic feet of snow that is shall we?

30' x 40' x 1.5' = 1800 cubic feet of snow.

Wow! If I didn't have a snow blower I think I might be lying dead out on my drive way right now.

I am happy to report that my house is back in the 21st century. Power was restored after about 48 hours. The casualties resultant from the basement flood are as follows:

  • Several cardboard boxes of fabric (crap i wanted to get rid anyway, apologies to my wife)
  • Several RG-45 ethernet and RG-6 co-axial cables (that really frosted my cookies)
  • about 30 feet of 14-2 electrical wiring (ouch!)
  • 2 Panasonic surround sound speakers (sob!)
  • about 16 boxes that house my die-cast model airplane collection! (dammit!)
  • a box of old computer hardware (not much of a loss, what was I going to do with 4-40MB hard-drives anyway?)
  • 2 boxes of ridiculously ugly Xmas decorations (I secretly applauded this as i felt my wife had gone a tad insane in that regard)
Let this be a lesson to you. When you buy a house whose basement has lots of shelving suspended from the ceiling, there's probably a reason! I'm an engineer you'd think I'd have seen this coming. Perhaps I did and just pretended I did not.

Onto my next concern:

When the hell did vampires become so freakin' interesting to people? Did I miss a meeting? Everywhere I look...vampires, vampyre, blood suckers....

What's the bloody fascination. Between my eldest daughters obsession with the 'Twilight' series (which thankfully seems on the wane) and some HBO series called "True Blood".... I am bloody tired of vampires. Reminds of the 80's and 90's angel craze. Truly I am beginning to believe that Americans yearn to live in some fantasy world where either JK Rowling or Tolkien or CS Lewis is God. I have peers who are so enamoured with that damned Twilight series that they'll spend hours talking about what they got right and what they got wrong in the damned movie that just came out. I suppose that I should just be thrilled that my daughter actually reads. I just wanna toss her a copy of "The Slaughter House Five" or "Grapes of Wrath"! Vampires! Gimme a break! What's next? Goblins? Werewolves?

There must be some deep and hidden psychological explanation as to why people have always been fascinated with Vampires.

Anyway...back to work!

R.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Hello from the 17th century...

So the family and I have been living without heat and electricity for the last 36+ hours.

The ice storm in North Central Mass. has wreaked havoc with electrical lines and we have been living in the 17th century since late Thursday night.

Luckily no limbs have damaged cars or our house.

We are now in Chicopee showering and warming....according to the electric department we won't be back in the 21st century till Monday the earliest more likely Tuesday.

Fun, fun fun!!!

R.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wonderful...

Prescient...

18th Century American Philosophy:

"He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself."
-Thomas Paine for his pamphlet "Common Sense"

21st Century American Philosophy:

"Bring'em on!" - George W. Bush

and its fruits....










18th Century American Philosophy:

"He who is the author of a war lets loose the whole contagion of hell and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death."

-Thomas Paine for the pamphlet "Common Sense"

21st Century American Philosophy:

"But the risk of doing nothing, the risk of the security of this country being jeopardized at the hands of a madman with weapons of mass destruction far exceeds the risks of any action we may be forced to take."

- George W. Bush, President Meets with National Economic Council, White House (2/25/2003).

and it's fruits....

States Bear Billions in Iraq War Costs Total Economic Costs of the Iraq War 2003-2017



Decide for yourself which version of America you would live in.

R.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Belated Thanksgiving day photos...

Yeah yeah yeah! I have been slack...

Too busy playing games on Facebook lately. What is the world coming to. Here's a smattering of photos from our first T-day in the new villa. Hopefully more will follow as soon as my sister-in-law Di 'snaps to' sends me her pix! Come on Di!!!

Sheesh!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Really deep thought for they day...

"If the water table is 100 feet below the surface, it matters not how many 90 foot wells you dig."

The conspiratorial mindset...

Over the weekend past, my brother sent me an email with a link to a youtube video. In his defense he did clarify that he wasn't sure whether he should believe the claims the video, and by extension its author, makes. That video, is embedded within this blog posting. The video is short, about 5 minutes or so and it is important that you watch it in order for the rest of this post is to make ANY sense whatever. It has nothing to do with atheism or religion. If you are anything like me you'll want to take a hot shower and rinse your eyes thoroughly after watching it. Go ahead watch it...I'll wait...



Are you in pain now? Do you have an overwhelming urge to regurgitate your breakfast?

This is the type of non-critical supposition that passes for critical-thinking in our modern age. Putting aside the juvenile spelling errors and the obvious ridiculous claims, this video is case-study cognitive dissonance coupled with confirmation bias. Yet if you follow the video to its source at youtube's site and look at the comments, most show complete agreement with the outlandish and completely air-headed conclusions the author of this video makes. The author has the temerity...nay, audacity to make claims that can be rebuffed with about 90 seconds of research using a search engine.

My point is this: If we don't yell 'BULLSHIT' when we see it or hear it, this stuff has an unholy habit of crowing like a fungus and infecting everything.

Here is the PROPER explanation for the 'reversed flag'. It should be readily apparent to anyone, especially a boy or former boy who has built model airplanes!

I have built countless model airplanes in my life....

Whenever a US flag decal is used, the union, (that’s the blue field of stars) must be pointed in the direction of the travel of the aircraft, such that the flag appears to be advancing in the direction of motion. A little spacial reasoning will demonstrate that on the RIGHT side of the aircraft the flag would need to be reversed to appear advancing. On the LEFT side of the aircraft the flag would appear as we normally see it. Here's two pictures of Air Force One that clearly show this effect:

Right or starboard side, reversed-flag.

Left or port side, standard flag.

It logically follows that the human body is a something that moves. So in practice the SAME rule should apply were the flag to be displayed to the right shoulder as it does to the right side of an aircraft.

Now, the video goes a long way to show that soldiers in the past wore flags on their right shoulder that were NOT reversed. It then offers up a ridiculous explanation for the change. The author clearly has not done any homework. Before 2004 there was no all encompassing Army regulation outlining and mandating the proper wearing of a US flag on the uniform. Generally this was done of the soldiers own volition or under the direction of that soldiers unit. It should follow that there were no 'reversed flag' patches available even if the soldiers KNEW about the arcane rule outlining the proper placement of the 'union' with respect to motion. See this page for a proper treatment of this particular rule.

Further, "Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker approved the uniform item Feb. 11, and all Soldiers have until Oct. 1, 2005 to get the insignia sewn on their uniforms." (Taken from this webpage) Once the Army had a requirement and a policy naturally it was decided that it had better display the flag properly.

So rather than then endeavoring to find the reasons for the reversed flag, the author made a leap of stunning proportions to support what was clearly a deeply held conviction in lunatic conspiracy theories. This is part and parcel for these type of people.....and sadly with the 'dumbing down' of America and the absolute dearth of teaching critical-thinking skills their numbers are growing...

Who is the 'celery' really...?

R.

Friday, November 14, 2008

This makes me cringe....

All I see this doing is riling up the reactionaries and making non-theist types look like 'kill-joys'.

Not sure what to do here...

R.

Addendum: There is one good thing that has resulted from this campaign. Making Bill Donohue spout off! *grin* That's always entertaining.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

and on the lighter side...

I'd rather have a cat Mr. Obama, but thanks!!!

This man just looks cool! So refreshing to see someone other than an old white man as president!

R.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Question 8....

November 4th, 2008 will no doubt go down in history as pivotal in American history. We elected a person of African descent to the highest office in the land. A man at least as capable as all the others who've held the office. The color barrier has been shattered! I wept with pride as Mr. Obama spoke from Chicago on election night with eloquence I haven't heard from a modern president.

That pride was tempered when I learned that on this same historic night the people of California decided to write discrimination into their state constitution. On a night where one wall came tumbling down, organized religion worked to build another one.

In an ostensibly secular country what possible secular reason could be given to allow for a majority to revoke a civil right from a minority?

I've heard many...

Marriage is a God-given blessing bestowed upon a man and a woman.

No. Marriage in the eyes of a state is a civil contract. It is simply called marriage by tradition. It could just as easily be called a civil union. If that would make the religious 'wing-nuts' happy i would gladly convert my 'marriage' to a civil union. It doesn't matter a damned to me what they call it so long as it is recognized by the state.

For thousands of years marriage has been accepted as the union of a man and a woman who are we to change that.

So what? For hundreds years it was acceptable to hold people in bondage or indentured servitude with no recourse. Now it is unthinkable for most people. For thousands of years women were considered property of the their fathers or husbands. When Elizabeth Cady-Stanton agitated for women's suffrage many quoted the holy bible and shamed her for going against God's plan. Time and human morality marched on. In the end Christianity was dragged into the 20th century kicking and screaming.

Allowing same-sex marriages will destroy American culture and lead to societal breakdown!

Oh please! We here in 'librul' Massachusetts have allowed gays to marry since 2004. Guess what? The sun still rises. Crops still grow. Tides still come in and recede. Interstingly God has not decided to 'smote' us for our rebellious ways. No hurricanes, famine nor pestilence*. Life goes on.

To the those in California who are disgusted and infuriated by the passage of that disgraceful piece of legislative discrimination: Protest!!! Fight!!! Scream and shout!!! Surround those churches night and day and voice your displeasure. Never stop, never give in. Demand action. Be a thorn in the side of legislators such that they have no choice but to give you the rights you deserve.

I think it's time to TAX the good churches of California for their partisan polticking!

R.

*foot note from wifey: I forgot to include locusts. Just because it sounds funny!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A curse broken.....

...more than 200 years after the first man of color was brought to this land in chains....

This is a victory for us all and leads closer to the ideal that is America!

Today I am, for the first time in more than eight years, proud to be American!

R.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Some perspective....on numbers...


The dollar bill.....it looks small enough...

Sized to be easily carried in a bill fold...

According to the National Debt Clock, the outstanding public debt of the United States is:

$10.5 trillion

That's 10.5 trillion 'Washingtons'

What is a trillion?

A trillion is a 1 followed by TWELVE zeros:

1,000,000,000,000

That is a million times a million!

1 Trillion = 1,000,000 x 1,000,000

A trillion is a stupefyingly large number.

If you lived to be a hundred years old, you only would have lived for just over:

3.1 billion seconds or 3,100,000,000 seconds

That's it. you come NO WHERE near a trillion seconds.

The total number of human beings who have EVER lived is estimated liberally at:

110 billion or 110,000,000,000

or

.11 trillion

No where close to a trillion.

How much paper would it take to print 10.5 trillion dollar bills? A little math here....

Step one. Compute the Area of a dollar bill. Easily done. Multiply the length by the width:

length = X = 6.15"

width = Y = 2.6"

Area of Dollar = X * Y = 15.99 square inches of paper are required for a dollar bill


Step two. Multiply the area of a dollar bill by 10.5 trillion:


15.99 sq. inches * 10,500,000,000,000 = 167,900,000,000,000 sq. inches of paper


167.9 Trillion squares inches of paper! That's not at all easy to relate to anything in everyday life. So let's convert square inches to square miles. you'll have to trust me when I tell you that:

1 square mile = 4.014 billion square inches

so we divide:

167,900,000,000,000 sq. inches / 4,014,000,000 sq. inches = 41,820 sq. miles.

You would need 41,820 square miles of paper to print enough dollar bills to pay off our national debt!

That still may not be easy enough for most people to relate to anything. So, I'll offer up this last comparison. The land area of my home state of Massachusetts is 10,555 square miles....

The amount of paper needed to print 10.5 trillion one dollar bills could cover my home state....nearly four times!

41,820 sq. miles / 10,555 sq. miles = 3.96

I say we cut down what's left of the Amazon rain forest and make paper from that.

Sleep well!

Robert.

R.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I smell desparation...

...on the part of Republicans that is...

Submitted for your entertainment the latest piece of right-wing propaganda being used to scare righteous God-fearing Americans to the polls in two weeks to prevent Democratic challenger Kay Hagan from unseating Republican incumbent Elizabeth Dole as one of North Carolina's Senators.



Now to be sure I am communicating clearly here...

I am not a fan of the 'in your face' secularism/atheism/humanism of the type espoused by the likes of Ellen Johnson, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris etc. In my opinion they are preaching to the already converted and pissing off the other side further and thereby forcing more heels to dig in, much the same way that Dobson, Fallwell, D. James Kennedy, John Hagee and Pat Robertson so thoroughly piss me off.

But the preceding ad makes any atheist, humanist or secularist seem like a clear and present danger to the very fabric of what it means to be an American. It's this type of tripe that further promotes the cultural divide in this already fractuous culture. It wreaks of the same desparation that is emanating from the McCain/Palin camp. "Let's whip up anti-atheist, anti-liberal frenzy and ride it into the Whitehouse."

Disgusting....

Our fore-fathers are spinning in their respective graves.

Especially my mentor and hero, Thomas Jefferson...

"may it* be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self-government. that form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion."
*The Declaration of Independence and our subsequent war for independence.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The End....?

I'm beginning to question what good I am doing here.

I started this blog a while ago mainly as am on-line diary of my thoughts and views on matter political, religious....whatever struck my curiosity.

I have endeavored to be respectful of people with views different than mine.

I am a naturalist. I see natural causes and reasons for the events that happen in the universe. I do not see any evidence for supernatural causes. As such I accept that the best methods for discovering, understanding, and eventually surviving the natural world is human ingenuity armed with reason informed by empirical research.

A person can only be threatened with eternal damnation and continue to maintain his composure so long. Mind you it is not that those threats are actually instilling any fear in me, I still find such threats hollow and medieval. However, when my children are alluded to in such threats, that crosses a line!

R.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Caption this...

"Live Brains! The only thing that eases the pain of being dead!"

(you just can't make this stuff up!)

A warning to Mr. Obama...

I have been coy about it long enough...

It's time I lay my cards upon the table...

Spill my guts...

Convey my truest deepest darkest feelings...

Here it is...

I want THEM gone!!!

I want them hurled out of office like so much foul, wretched, stinking garbage that's been in the house for too long.

I want the Republican Party as a whole so throttled this coming election that they are naught but a shadow of their former strength.

Punish them!!! Punish them severely for their misguided, misanthropic and completely UNAMERICAN policies! I blame the G.O.P. and the G.O.P. alone for the disastrous state my beloved country now finds itself in.

It is my fondest and deepest wish that history will show George W. Bush to be the WORST to ever hold the office of POTUS.

Lest, anyone think that my rant here is a wholesale endorsement of the Democratic Party, think again. Though, as it is increasingly apparent that the party of the 'ASS' will sweep into power this November with sizable majorities in both chambers of the Congress, don't rest assured in my complacent acceptance of everything you do. I am quite through with having my freedoms, won at great cost to many patriots, whittled away for the illusion of security! I, and many like me will be watching, and if after a sufficient length of time I do not see progress in restoring this country to the ideals it was founded upon, those of Locke, Rousseau, Bacon, Jefferson, Madison and others, I will be agitating for your ouster just as loudly as I do the bastardization of the Party of Lincoln.

If you do win....Savor your victory Mr. Obama, Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Reed...

You will then be in the cross-hairs and the price of failure will be much more than any of you realize...

Re-read your history and learn from it.... particularly the era post Revolutionary War, The Shays Rebellion and the Alien and Sedition Acts.

R.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

We need you now more than ever...

"Man once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind."

-Thomas Jefferson to James Smith, 1822.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

2 score years ago....

Yikes! What do Hugh Jackman and I share other than rugged good looks and the ability to make women swoon (yeah right!)? We share the exact same birthday. That's right Wolverine and I turned the big 4-oh this Sunday past. What else happened on October 12th, 1968...?

Well let's turn on the 'way-back machine' and see, shall we?

October 12th, 1968

#1 song on Billboard: "Hey Jude" - The Beatles (that kicks ass!)

That's all I got...

Hell I was just born, what do you want from me!

R.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

There may be hope for Texas yet...

I'll admit that I've never thought much of Texas. Perhaps that stems from the 6 weeks I spent in San Antonio back in the late summer of '86. Air Force Basic Training...admittedly a joke compared to that of the Army and even more so when compared to a stint on Paris island training to become a US Marine. But the heat and the pure desolation of that region pretty much spoiled the state for me and I was only too happy to leave and I've never returned. Barring a forced professional trip to Houston, I have no desire to revisit the Lone Star State. I am unashamedly of the opinion that we'll never have to worry about Mexico sliding away so long as Texas still sucks.

That opinion has NOT been bettered by the state school board attempt to wedge creationism Intelligent Design, a NON-SCIENCE BASED hare-brained scheme, into the science curriculum. The rest of the civilized world must think Americans are insane!

However, it seems that the more sensible and rational members of the Texas community have finally rallied to oppose those who would dumb-down science education and effectively reduce the scientific literacy of Texas students to the equivalent of a student body from a third world country. The 21st Century Science Coalition writes:
"The 21st-Century Science Coalition is putting politicians on notice that the science community in Texas will accept nothing less than the best education for our kids. We will not allow politics and ideology to handicap the future of our children with a 19th-century education in their 21st-century classrooms."
The battle has been joined! Reason, rationality and common sense may yet prevail in Texas.

If I seem a bit snarky in this rant it is only because this is an issue very close to my conscience.

R.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A citizen of the world...


"They shoot without shame, in the name of a piece of dirt

For a change of accent, or the colour of your shirt

Better the pride that resides in a citizen of the world

Than the pride that divides when a colorful rag is unfurled"

Rush - Territories
lyrics by Neil Peart

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Lead OR get out of the way.....

If as you say all we need as prayer...then clearly we don't need you! Get out of the way and let someone who will propose some REAL WORLD solutions to problems rather than imploring the divinity to change 'His Plan'.

R.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A free-thinker taking flight on her own...

Cain & Abel: A heart-warming tale to be sure!

An actual conversation...
  • Libby: "Papa the Bible is messed up."
  • Me: Secretly howling with laughter inside, "Why do you say that?"
  • Libby: "Where the heck did Cain get his wife?"
  • Me: beaming with pride, "Doesn't it say..?"
  • Libby: "No!"
  • Me: "Perhaps you should ask that question in your next religion class..."
  • Libby: "What are you setting me up for?"
  • Me: "Nothing that bad really. This is one of those times when the reaction to a question is more telling than the answer given."
  • Libby: "Doing that might make me less popular with the teacher..."
  • Me: "Sometimes being the teacher's pet is NOT a virtue."
To be continued...

R.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sparse.....but for a time....

Some of my more loyal readers may have noted that my posting frequency has dropped off a bit of late.

This can be attributed to nothing more than the requisite insanity of boxing up the affairs of a household of 6 for transport to a new home.

The closing is on Thursday 25th, we will commence moving non-essential possessions the following weekend and then the weekend of Oct 3rd we will move BIG stuff with the help of friends and family.

I may or mat not post very much during this time but rest assured I am thinking of everyone who has wished me well in the tedious and never-wracking process I have started.

Post October 5th I should be back to my cantankerous and blasphemous ways!

Ciao for now!

R.

Friday, September 12, 2008

"The enemy of mine enemy is my friend"


I find myself in uncharted waters...

Sometimes situations present themselves that thrust us into deep conundrums that shake our convictions to the core.

Such is where I find myself this coming weekend.

How do I, a die-hard Yankee fan, push for them to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays, KNOWING that doing so enables the Red Sox to win the American League East!? I despise the Red Sox more than grim death. They are pretenders to the throne that rightfully belongs to my beloved Yankees.

I would much rather see a young scrappy team like Tampa Bay win the division than a bunch of blow-hards like the Red Sox.

Oh divided loyalty...

R.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

There is L-I-G-H-T!!!


"You can't always get what you want...
...but if you try sometimes, you just might find...
you just might find...you get what you need!"

St. Mick

The deepest and most fervent desire of both myself and my wife is one step closer to fruition. We received word today that the loan for our first house was approved today!

I cannot begin to express how happy my wife and I are at this moment. This truly is the American dream. No hard working citizen should be denied this joy. We are thankful to everyone who has expressed good wishes and prayers for a happy outcome.

We will be purchasing a house with this loan; the home is what will be created once my family moves in...

Everyone deserves a home!

R.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The stupid....it does burn....


Clearly there is a problem with the educational system in this land of ours...

Submitted for your approval...

Koshka Blackburn...a contestant on NBC's otherwise intellectually vacuous "Deal or NO Deal". (This is what passes for entertainment in our modern day Roman Empire.) Koshka had whittled down the choices of briefcases to TWO; one containing $5000 and the other $1,000,000. She was then presented a deal; accept $530,000 and walk away. A guaranteed half a million dollars was offered to her to NOT make the choice between the two briefcases. Wrap your head around this: She could leave with $530,00 more dollars than she came in with....

So what should Koshka the good God-fearing Christian do?

The answer is simple to anyone with a rudimentary understanding of a what a 50-50 proposition means. Who would bet their life on such odds. I think very few.

Poor Koshka, chose to give in to one of the deadly seven: G-R-E-E-D

And then to add insult to injury and in a mockery of her professed religion she incorrectly quoted from the Bible, Ezekiel 12:25:
"...but I wrote a check for myself for a million dollars, and I believe it's here [tapping her case]...I don't know, I don't know what to do, I just don't know...I know it's here, I know it's here! Howie, the contestants never go all the way, and I'm crazy. I'm too crazy. But I believe that if you speak it, it shall be done. So I'm gonna say, NO DEAL!"
And she lost...

See the arrogance for yourself.

Should have paid more attention to those sermons, Koshka...

Contrary to what Gordon Gecko said G-R-E-E-D is RARELY a good thing.

GREED cost you the half a million dollars that was offered to you. You thumbed your nose at your God and he made ya pay! In your world view what other conclusion could you come to other than maybe... sheer unadulterated stupidity!

The truly sad part of this story is the possibility of what DID not happen; had she picked the right case, there are those that would have used this incident to bolster the argument that God favors those that believe...completely glossing over the genesis of her choice...

PATHETIC!

R.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I love a woman with glasses...

...it's a shame I hate her politics...

'cause I would love to vote for a woman...but she ain't the one!

Sarah Palin on faith, life and creation.

R.

Friday, August 29, 2008

More random lyrics...

Sometimes I think my Ipod can read my moods and mind...

"I can't promise that I'll grow those wings
or keep this tarnished halo shined
but I'll never betray your trust...angel mine"

Cowboy Junkies - "Angel Mine"
from "Lay It Down"

The ever-haunting and beautiful voice of Margo Timmins! She still makes my knees weak.

Who said nothing good comes out of the Great White North?

R.

Where has he been dammit!?


Why haven't I been 'round....?

Confluence of many things really...

I have a couple of professional projects that had me consigned to the lab with little respite from hacking and configuring....

...couple that with the headache of scheduling terminate and pre-closing inspections... and I have little time to to do much else other than sleep!

And even sleep is eluding me lately!!

I guess I'm now concerned about some issue with setting up the mortgage!

"I'm sorry Mr. L we cannot give you the loan. You see, you didn't dot that 'i' in your last name on your March 2008 rent check. No money for you!!!'

You want to send good wishes, say prayers, perform candle rituals....whatever...I'll take all the positivity you got! You'll all have my eternal gratitude!

It's gonna be a long month!

Thanks in advance!!!

R.

Monday, August 25, 2008

...

I AM FREAKING OUT!!!

*Oh! We put made an offer on a house
(See countdown on the right side bar!)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gross consumerism and the credit 'crunch' and the dreaded covet!



I was reading an article on CNN yesterday titled "The next credit crunch". I got to thinking about the situation our society finds itself in currently and how we got here. Property values are falling, people are losing their homes. Everywhere pundits and analysts are looking to assign blame. Looking at my own financial history and my own trials therein, I come to a conclusion that seems some what self evident to me. We are ALL to blame for this mess.

First a little back ground. I got my car when I was in the Air Force, I think it was some time in 1987. It was a brandy-new 1987 Mercury Lynx (a Ford Escort with better trim!). My parents co-signed the loan for me as I was only 18 with no credit history. I remember the payment was $228.01 a month for 60 months. It worked out to a 10% interest rate which isn't that bad for a car loan. I remember my parents cautioning me that I needed to be careful and to be sure I made the payments on-time and monthly as they could not afford to make them if I didn't. The veiled threat was that their credit would take a big hit if I didn't live up to my responsibilities. As I was an enlisted man in the Air Force my paycheck was pretty much guaranteed for another three years. As I lived on-base in the enlisted dorms and filled my belly at the base chow hall, my only real financial responsibility was the car, the requisite insurance and gas! So it wasn't much of a strain at all.

No sooner had I made a few payments then the credit card offers started rolling in. VISA Mastercard. I thought it would be a good idea to have one in case of unforeseen emergencies. So I applied and for whatever reason I was declined, it may have been insufficient credit history. My parents again stepped in and co-signed. Within a month I had a VISA card with a $1500 limit and an 18% interest rate.

At first I was very judicious with its use. Only using it once to repair a broken driver's side window on my new car. Over time I started to notice that many of my fellow airman had really cool stereos in their rooms including those new fangled CD players. I was still playing my cassette tapes that I made from LP's in high school. I coveted a new stereo system! One day i went to the Cherry Hill Mall in New Jersy close to where i had been stationed. On a lark I wandered into a store known as 'Silo' similar to what a 'Circuit city' or 'Bestbuy' is today. in retrospect, it is all too clear to me that the salesman saw me coming! He showed me the latest stereo receivers, CD players and dual cassette decks. I was probably salivating! I selected a modest receiver, a CD player, a dual-cassette desk and Bose 301 speakers. The total price was in the neighborhood of $1000. i was about to lay down my new plastic, when the salesman said, and I think to this day there was an echo with it: "Hey! why don't you apply for our own charge card! You wont need to put the balance on your VISA." I agreed instantly and my application was approved almost as quickly. Less than a half hour later I was on my way back to the dorm with a car full of state of the art audio gear.

Thus began a long almost 15 year saga of the abuse and misuse of credit.

I have never declared bankruptcy, but I have come close.

Now whose fault is it that this happened to me?

I fully accept that my own nature, my coveting of toys and things that I wanted more than contributed to my abuse of credit. But, why in the modern age is a concept of 'time value you of money' not a required bit of education? Consider that most Americans have no concept of how long it will take to payoff $1000 dollars at a 21% APR while making minimum payments of say $35. The answer is 40+ months! You end up paying more than $400 dollars on top of that original $1000.

These things were NEVER made clear to me at anytime in my youth nor early adulthood. Why is that?

Clearly, I am guilty of coveting that which I didn't have. I wanted many things! Most kids and young adults do.

But what cost is too much and how many things are enough?

Why is it we live in a society that doesn't require that its children LEARN basic finance along side the math to do calculations and the ability to read fine print?

My own little admittedly cynical view is that the powers that be in this society aren't interested in a population of educated people who can see that if they laden themselves with high-interest debt they'll be working to pay that debt for a very long time further enriching the already wealthy!

I see advertisements in print and in various other media showing off the latest Iphone, the latest Ipod, the newest car...all squarely aimed at those who can least afford them. In the western world we have created this stew, this unholy realm of gross consumerism fueled by people who are conditioned to covet that which they don't have and are convinced that they must need. I see my own children falling prey to this virus. I have an 11 year old telling me that his friends all have cellphones. Why does an average 'tween' need a cellphone? I did just fine without one! What does he possibly have to say to anyone that can't wait till he gets home to the essentially free 'land line'....other than"Mom or Dad can you come and get me?"

The article I referenced speaks of a people using credit to 'pretend' to a standard of living that they are ill equipped to sustain. Now, even that ocean of free and easy credit is drying up. What will be the consequence of all that principle coming due, with no other resources to pay it off?

I am at the point in my life where I am now looking for a house for my young family. My past credit woes while not a extreme detriment have made it more difficult. I often wonder: If the society I live in had chosen to educate its children about 'time value of money' and basic economics how different would our current circumstance be?

The flip side is how many things are enough? How much of these material possessions do you get to take with you after you draw your terminal breath? The answer is ZERO, bupkus, zilch, nadda! You will leave with that which you came in with.

So what's really important?

R.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Teleportation and the human 'soul'...


The year is 2134. A world Engineering and Scientific consortium has perfected a method of 'transporting' an object from point A to point B without traveling through the intervening space between. They've started small with simple objects made of difference substances. Before transport the objects were characterized completely so as to compare composition after transport. This is done over and over, with items of ever increasing complexity. As nearly as the best of the worlds intellects can tell there is absolutely no difference in the objects pre and post transport. The time is now come for the transport of a much more complex object: a living thing. The moral sensibilities of the time preclude using animal life for such a dangerous experiment. Thusly, it is decided to use a specimen of living plant life: potted tea rose is chosen for transport. Pre-transport characterization of the rose is meticulously carried out. Living matter is far more complex than any piece of human made technology, even at this time. The time comes, the transport of the rose is accomplished. Painstaking analysis of the rose reveals that no appreciable difference exist in the rose post-transport. After several further tests with different plant specimens no deaths can be attributed to effects of teleportation. Emboldened by their success the consoritum begins to conduct experimentation on non-living animal tissue. Yet again, no appreciable difference in the cellular structure of the tissue is found after transport. The question is then debated as to whether or not a living specimen should be transported. After long deliberation it is decided that a sedated mouse will be the next subject of experiement. The experiement is started and the members of the consortium wait breathlessly for the sedated mouse to materialize. The mouse arrives and in time awakens from its induced slumber and seems completely normal! Elation sweeps the consortium! Could it be that human ingenuity has found a way to travel without physically crossing space? All evidence suggests that the teleportation device is completely safe. Humanity is at the dawn of a new age...or is it? Who among us will volunteer to be the first human transported?

I tell this hypothetical story to induce the reader to ponder a very simple and implied question:

Are we humans simply the sum of our matter or is there something more, something immaterial, non-physical that might not be subject to or lend itself to our technology?

If you believe in the human soul, do you allow yourself to be transported?

What is the nature of the soul if it exists?

What is it that makes us who we are?

Would the transported Robert be the same Robert that existed before transport!

Is a non-material soul smart enough to latch back onto its body post-transport?

Ah metaphysics!

R.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Thought for the day....

Often I will throw my IPOD on shuffle and it will pick at random one of the 9000+ songs I have loaded onto it...

Today this lyric seemed appropo

"Look in -- to the eye of the storm
Look out -- for the force without form
Look around -- at the sight and the sound
Look in look out look around."

Sums up my own view...quite tidily!

R.

Picture credit: http://www.nicholas-hughes.net/index.htm

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Physics everyone needs to know...

There's professor at UC Berkley who is doing something kind of special and cool.

Back in 2000 he had the idea to teach physics at a very basic level. He named the course Physics for Future Presidents. Professor Richard Muller has been teaching this course for more than eight years and it's one of the most popular at Berkley. The course is designed to explain important real world science in such a way as to be understandable to students with other plans than to be scientists.

The best part is you can go to the website and download MP3's or Videos of the lectures so you can take the course too...for FREE, no university credit though.

If you have an ipod or an MP3 player and want something engaging and very interesting to listen to give it try!

R.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Monday, August 11, 2008

Punishment or Reward. (and when...?)


So I was engaged in my morning commute while listening to one of the many podcasts I subscribe to. One of the topics that arose was divine punishment and reward. I started thinking about the concept of a God that punishes and rewards a being accordingly of the merits or liabilities of his or her life.

I can't help but think of Jerry Falwell after the horrible events of 9-11 when he said:
"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen."

Let me add my disclaimer right here before i get tons of responses irrelevant to the purpose of my post
The writer of this post in no way believes that the late Jerry Falwell in any way represents the opinions or intentions of ALL Christians.

Now I regard Mr. Falwell in much the same vein that a scientist regards a pathological virus that needs to be studied and observed such that it might be eradicated before it does more harm.

So Mr. Falwell, please consider:

1. It can be said that the majority of the country is some flavor of Christian. Estimates vary but let's say that number is 80% (conservative estimate probably higher)

2. Assuming average dispersion of a population could further then assume that roughly 80% of those that died on 9-11-2001 were Christian too.

So 8 of 10 that God was PUNISHING that awful day were his own followers?

That's a bit of a scorched Earth policy wouldn't you say?

Heck my home state LEGALIZED gay marriage back in 2004 and the worst we've seen is a maple syrup shortage!

From his on-screen antics it seems that Mr Falwell holds to the view that he must either punish or reward in THIS life, in addition to meting out judgment in the afterlife. Honestly, I don't think Mr. Falwell is was as much an idiot as he played at in front of the TV cameras. I very much feel he was considering only the lowest-common-denominator theists in this country. You know the ones I mean... the dentally and genetically challenged sub-species that populate the backwoods of southern states and frighten hikers of the Appalachian Trail*.

So if you are a Christian or Christ-follower, what are you to make of this punishment or reward issue?

Consider the poll I put up in the sidebar of my blog.

What's your view on divine punishment or reward?

Do you believe that God is actively punishing and rewarding people in this life? If so how does He choose when and where to act? Or is that a question you wouldn't even begin to answer?

As far as I can see the evidence is very much against Him acting against those that are doing evil (Paris Hilton, Dick Cheney, Vladmir Putin, Fred Phelps) and those that have done evil (Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, PolPot, McCarthy) evil.

Discuss!!!

R.

*from Bill Bryson's excellent book "A Walk in the Woods"

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Alright already!!!

OK!!! I disabled the 'word verification' option on my comments!

Sheesh!

When I get deluged in solicitations for who knows what in my comments you'll have only yourselves to blame!

R.

The end of the trinity?!

Perhaps it's my twisted and warped sense of humor but this is freakin' hilarious!


from xkcd

Friday, August 1, 2008

Labels...labels...we got so many labels....

There's a BIG discussion going on over at one of my favorite sites about this graphic:


With maybe the exception of one* of these men, these are all individuals I greatly admire for their deeds and positions on matters political, religious and scientific. As little as a year ago I would have wanted this image emblazoned on a t-shirt I could wear or a poster I could hang in my office. Now...it makes me uncomfortable. I don't think any of these individuals would have self identified as an atheist. More to the point I see this as another attempt by otherwise well meaning people to ram what is more of a political statement down the throats of theistic-leaning people. This makes we who would honor these men little better than some of the theistic-apologists we are fighting against.

The identities of some of these men are obvious. If some readers cannot identify all of these men, don't feel bad, they are:

1. Albert Einstein
2. Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain
3. Charles Darwin
4. Thomas Jefferson
5. Ben Franklin
6. Ernest Hemingway
7. Abraham Lincoln
8. Carl Sagan

I think we all get hung up on labels and claiming dead people as our own instead of leaving them as they are: individuals. It is true that like many things the meanings of words changes over time and what we define as atheism today is very different from the definition you'd receive from people of different times. Might be of some interest to my theist friends that Pagan Romans referred to early Christians as atheists, because the Christians didn't believe in the Roman Gods.

For my part I consider myself atheistic insomuch as I don't believe in the Gods as described by any of the religions of man. I share this characteristic with almost ever one of the names listed above. This not an arrogance! Far from it! It is because I feel the characterizations of God offered thus far by the faiths of men do a disservice to the very concept of God. Ascribing to God traits which are similar to the 7 deadly sins is anathema to me. God is far bigger and better than that. The agnostic part comes into play on the question of the existence of God in general. I cannot KNOW for certain whether there is or there is not a God. What sort of evidence would I consider acceptable and verifiable evidence of an eternal and omniscient and omnipotent God?

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
- Arthur C. Clarke


Given that seemingly self-evident truism ... would God be capable of convincing me of his existence? I think He would be up to the task, as He would know me better than I know myself.

A fellow commenter reworked the above image in such a way that made me much happier and is much more in keeping with the spirit of the individuals represented. This one makes me smile and does my non-conformist heart proud!


Let's not label each other or history any more!

R.

*Contest!!! Given what my faithful readers know of me; Name which one of these individuals, I think, does NOT belong there. For extra credit... why?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The World according BUSH...

...and his apologists!

R.

What does it mean....

Interesting article in the NYT...

Does this change anything for believers? I suspect not.

Is this much ado about nothing?

R.

Ummm try and look at her eyes gentleman...

And now I poke a little fun at astrology....

...clearly the astrologers couldn't predict the earthquake that hit Cali the other day.



For some reason and I can't put my finger on it I can't remember what color her hair or eyes were.

Weird...

R.

Gimme, gimme, gimme!!!

One of my hobbies, as many of you know from Deb's blog, is collecting 1/72 scale World War 2 Aircraft models. Some I build from kits, some I buy fulling assembled in die-cast metal. My home office has two shelves stuffed with my current collection. B-17's, B-24's, B-25's, P-51's, P-47's (my favorite), Corsairs, Hellcats, Zeros, Stukas, Messerschmitts...

My latest covet:
Not to be released till November though. BLAST!

Incidentally my 40th birthday is October 12th, I will be needing some consolation!

Nothing says, 'I love you, Rob' like a diecast model airplane! I'm just speaking the truth here.

R.

From the files of "The bizarre"


I have an ex who was a student of Wicca. To many of you that is akin to Satan worship, which is interesting to me in that Wicca doesn't really have a devil per se. I look at Wicca as kind of a corny 'peace love and granola' trendy sort of pseudo-spirituality. More of a response to the overtly paternal nature of the Abrahamic faiths. I think it mainly harmless, though many who come by would disagree with me. I'm not going to get into that right now. Yet again I digress...

Anyhoo...

I heard this story on the way to work.

Seems a lass in Indianna accidentally ran a 3 foot sword through her foot (would this qualify as stigmata) while performing a Wiccan ritual in a cemetery (and these people wonder why the scare the be-jesus out of Christians). I don't even know how you'd do that!

Ridiculous...

Lest, anyone think I am overly hard on Christians... let me say here and now that I consider the Wiccan rituals as goofy and ridiculous.

R.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The most ridiculous statement I have ever read:

"The freedom of religion means that no one has the right to attack, malign or grossly offend a faith tradition they personally do not have membership or ascribe all"

This was taken from the response of The Cofraternity of Catholic Clergy to PZ Meyer's desecration of a cracker.

Ummm...Padre? Come close I have a secret for you. Listen closely now.... The founders of this country wrestled power away from the likes of you BECAUSE of little bits of sophistry like the one you just uttered! I am neither inclined nor required to respect your insane little beliefs regarding transubstantiation. You want to engage in your silly little pagan rituals fine.....but i will treat them with the same silliness as I do Candle Magick, Tarot Cards and any other non-evidence based pile o'crap.

Perhaps the pious members of said organization yearn for easier and more godly times when they could deal with such blasphemers in their own enlightened ways!

R.

This blog will be unmanned...

I am guest posting over at Deb's blog today...

Though I am a tad disappointed that no one has commented on my previous post!

R.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Selective Quotations 101


It is always interesting (read: upsetting) to me how certain citizens are accused of historical revisionism with regard to their admittedly unpopular stances on the words of our founders. It is plain to me as it is to many today that our fore fathers, many of whom being very religious, saw the dangers of entangling the objective realm of government with the subjective realm of the spirit and pulpit.

On July 4th 1776, the Continental Congress, adopted a document outlining the States grievances with the British Crown and their intention to sever the bonds between themselves and said crown. This brilliant document was a refutation of an ideology or a dogma that had been sacrosanct in Christian Europe for nearly 2000 years: the divine right of kings. With the Declaration of Independence came the radical idea that governments are not sovereign, the PEOPLE are sovereign. To this day the idea of a monarch is anathema to Americans.

The writer of this seminal document, Thomas Jefferson, knew full well his intentions and what he meant.

Clearly our Glorious and Benevolent Leader, and current occupant of the White House AND his writers want to subvert or suppress Mr. Jefferson's words. Submitted for your consideration:

As is tradition, most sitting presidents on July 4th will administer the oath of citizenship to those who have completed the requirements of American citizenship. This 4th of July just past, Mr. Bush did so at Monticello, Virginia, the home of Thomas Jefferson. In a speech prepared for the occasion, Mr. Bush quoted from a letter Mr. Jefferson wrote to Roger C. Weightman on June 24, 1826, just ten days before his (Mr Jefferson's) death. He spoke of the rights of man. This is the relevant excerpt from Mr. Bush's speech:

Thomas Jefferson understood that these rights do not belong to Americans alone. They belong to all mankind. And he looked to the day when all people could secure them. On the 50th anniversary of America's independence, Thomas Jefferson passed away. But before leaving this world, he explained that the principles of the Declaration of Independence were universal. In one of the final letters of his life, he wrote, "May it be to the world, what I believe it will be -- to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all -- the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government."


Sounds beautiful doesn't it? Yes good ole' Thomas prescient and relevant even today. Or is he? I wonder why Mr. Bush's speech writers* chose to redact a very important part of the original quote. The following is the FULL Quote with the curiously ommited part in bold:

"may it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self-government. that form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion."


See the full text of Mr. Jefferson's original letter for yourself here.

Isn't just like a self-serving and pandering politician? Use that which supports your case and ignore that which doesn't.

Sorry Mr. Bush I know the truth. And it isn't what you and your political advisors say it is.

R.

*Not for one second do I believe the Mr. Bush even knew about the letter he quoted from let alone write this speech! Mr. Bush couldn't string together a coherent thought that wasn't written for him if his life depended upon it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lavender....

I love things that grow.

Does that make me a hobbit in the Tolkien sense? Perhaps.

I am always referring to my younger son, Vincenzo, as a hobbit for two reasons:

1. I think he has big feet

2. He has a curious and mischievous side that seems to me very hobbit like.

But I digress, yet again...

I love all things that grow and the whole concept of life developing and growing from very small seemingly insignificant origins is an endless source of fascination for me.

As a father of four, I am ill afforded the time to devote to a full size garden at home. Such will not always be the case, surely my children will abandon me sooner than I wish and then I'll have more time than I have occupation for. In the interim my one enterprise horticultural is an herb planter occupying my window here at my place of employment. Contained within said planter are 4 different herbs, chosen for their forgiveness of varying amounts of sunshine and less then consistent watering. Those choices are sage, rosemary, lavender and lemon-thyme.

I arrived at work this morning at my usual time and I commenced my usual morning ritual of checking e-mail and keeping tabs on the likes Tam, Deb, Christian and Ed. One does need to keep ones friends honest and at the same time guessing about your mental stability from time to time. In the midst of typing one of my cryptic posts to Tam's blog I noticed an aroma that overpowered my Starbuck's Ethiopian Sidamo blend. It was alluring to the extreme. I immediately glanced behind me thinking that Denise, one of my co-workers had snuck up on me, but she was no where to be found.

What is that lovely scent?

It then dawned on me that the aroma was originating from my window. Knowing intimately the scent of sage, rosemary and thyme, I knew immediately that this scent had to be none other than lavender. I had never smelled anything like this before. Surely, I had smelled bath products that ostensibly claimed to be lavender scented, but they were forgettable to the extent that I couldn't have rememberd even less so have told you what they smelled like ten minutes after sniffing them.

My current herb planter was gift from my wife who put it together for me with herb starters purchased from Annies in Sunderland. I have always been most partial to herbs with culinary uses: parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, tarragon, various mints etc. My wife, always trying to surprise me added the lavender, which I took to be tarragon by visual inspection alone.

Lavender is, visually, an unremarkable plant, long thin leaves on leggy stems. However, when allowed to go to flower it produces a flower of the color that is the plants name! Fascinating the human predilection for naming things in this manner.

So impressed and taken was I with this scent I decided to look up lavender through google.

This little herb has been used for a very long time:

The ancient Greeks called the lavender herb nardus, after the Syrian city of Naarda. It was also commonly called nard

Lavender was one of the holy herbs used in the biblicle Temple to prepare the holy essence, and Nard is mentioned in the Song of Solomon.

nard and saffron,
calamus and cinnamon,
with every kind of incense tree,
with myrrh and aloes,
and all the finest spices
further:

During Roman times, flowers were sold for 100 denarii per pound, which was about the same as a month's wages for a farm labourer, or fifty haircuts from the local barber. Lavender was commonly used in roman baths to scent the water, and it was thought to restore the skin. Its Latin name was lavandārius, from lavanda (things to be washed), from the verb lavāre (to wash).


I have always felt the best things in life are those that come naturally from the physical world. Experiences like this remind of that!

Does anybody else like to grow things?

R.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sometimes it's like finding treasure...

You decide to go through your "My Documents" folder and you stumble upon stuff you haven't seen in years...

...these are priceless now...and will only increase in value with every passing day...

video
Vin and his Mozart Cube



video
Sofia digs AC-DC
(she is her Papa's girl!)

video
Vincenzo learns to walk!

video
Vin and Sofia at Coggshall Park
I must change the world for them!

R.