Thursday, December 31, 2009

Simple Pleasures

Sometimes in life it's those simple things that mean a lot, for me, today, this meant a BISSELL - Little Green Compact Multipurpose Handheld Deep Cleaner - Green that I picked up at Best Buy for around $75. Best Buy is great, order something online and you can pick it up at one of their stores in a few hours, and I have one near work and another near my house.

This is a little spot cleaner, a good thing to have when you have pets. It started with a big brown spot under my computer table. Looked just like a leaf, which Aki had been bringing in the house just about every day lately. It's like she thinks they are prey that she has hunted down, she's not the sharpest cat in the kitty box. So because I thought it was a leaf I just left it for several days.

Turns out is was kitty yak (the grass in it is the dead giveaway), but because I thought it was a leaf I let it sit long enough to harden and become hard to clean. Then they did another one upstairs in the hall. Now, my place is half tile, the living room, kitchen and dining room are all tile, which I like a lot. The bedrooms and the hall are the only places with carpet. So where to the cats decide to yak? The carpet of course.

So now I'm feeling really annoyed and in no mood to clean this stuff up, so I started researching carpet cleaners, finally I settled on this little green machine for a number of reasons, being cheap was the main one. And as a cat owner I figure I'm going to need this thing for years.

So I pick it up this morning at Best Buy, bring it home and what happens? Sucker worked perfectly. How often does that happen??!! Now these annoying spots are gone and it makes me feel better about life in general, and I'm armed with a great weapon for the next time we get some kitty yak.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Yemen

Rachel Maddow and Richard Engel give a clear view of Yemen:

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Me and Darcy

This is from 1985 when we were first dating. We are walking up the stairs where we both worked at STS Graphics, I don't remember who took the photo. This has to be the earliest photo of us together.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Hard Headed Woman

I'm sitting here listening to Cat Stevens and thinking about Darcy. Yesterday was the one year anniversary of her death. The songs make me cry.
I'm looking for a hard headed woman
One who will take me for myself,
And if I find my hard headed woman,
I will need nobody else, no, no.

I'm looking for a hard headed woman,
One who will make me do my best,
And if I find my hard headed woman
I know the rest of my life will be blessed -- yes, yes, yes.
Here are the lyrics to I Think I See The Light :
I used to trust nobody, trusting even less their words,
until I found somebody, there was no one I preferred,
my heart was made of stone, my eyes saw only misty grey,
Until you came into my life girl, I saw everyone that way.
Until I found the one I needed at my side,
I think I would have been a sad man all my life.

I used to walk alone, every step seemed the same.
This world was not my home, so there was nothing much to gain.
Look up and see the clouds, look down and see the cold floor.
Until you came into my life girl, I saw nothing, nothing more.
Until I found the one I needed at my side,
I think I would have been a sad man all my life.
What happens when you've already found your hard headed woman and she died?

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

The New Car


Ever notice that when you buy a new car you suddenly start seeing all other cars like yours? I really saw this happen when I bought my 1996 Camry, it was the top selling car in America at the time and when I bought mine suddenly they were everywhere!


But with this new Elantra I didn’t see another one for 3 weeks. Actually kind of worried me a little, but I figure that’s why I got such a good deal on it. But now after 5 weeks of ownership I’ve seen 5 Elantras! There is even one on the same street where I work so I pass it every day.


Haven’t seen one in my color, though. I really like the color, a medium metallic gray, darker than the silver color that is so popular on cars that I REALLY can’t stand because it’s so boring. But it’s lighter than most dark gray cars you would see, and has a little hint of blue in the gray. I find it the perfect color, it’s light enough that my car doesn’t get that hot - WAY better than my black Camry. And it’s very hard to see any dirt on my car too. I’ve only had it washed once in the past 5 weeks and I couldn’t tell the difference before or after. On my Camry it would look dirty by the next day - black cars look cool but I don’t ever want one again.


I enjoy my Elantra every day, fun to drive and very comfortable. the gas mileage isn’t as good as I would like, around 21.5 mpg with about 85% street and 15% freeway driving. Still a lot better than my Camry which got just a little over 16 mpg with the same driving. With the Camry I filled up it’s 18 gallon tank every 2 weeks, with the Elantra I’ve only filled up once so far but I’m getting close to a second fill-up. So we are talking 2.5 to 3 weeks to fill up what is only a 13 gallon tank, substantial savings.


And then there is is’t most important feature - a cup holder that takes a really big cup! Back when I bought the Camry the drinks hadn’t even gotten that large yet and it wasn’t a problem for a couple of years, but it’s drink cup was just the right size for an average 12 oz can, way too small. Even medium drinks would not fit in it, so I’d have to put the drink on the seat next to me and hold it with my right hand while driving, very annoying. Good thing I had an automatic, although it was a little tricky sometimes when I was smoking. Now I have a cup holder that can handle the largest drink with no problem at all.


Life is good, almost. We are approaching the first anniversary of Darcy’s death but we won’t talk about that now.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Copenhagen

Obama got totally dissed by the Chinese today in Copenhagen, to a degree that would never have happened in the pre-Bushian world. But good ole George lowered the bar so far world leaders think they can fuck with us now. It really makes my blood boil to see an American president treated that way, how far we have fallen. On the plus side Obama seemed to have rallied a bit and got a conversation going, but afterwards he looked visibly shaken. Rachel and Andrea Mitchell report:

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And then there is Senator Inhofe. He wanted to go there and talk about global warming being a hoax. No one wanted to listen to him and one reporter called him ridiculous. Man, that's all we need, more embarrassing Americans abroad:

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A Better World

Just found the perfect cartoon that sums up global warming deniers perfectly, found it here:

Tis the Season

WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 21:  A woman sit...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

And let's all remember the reason for the season - The Winter's Solstice! This year the solstice happens at 9:47 a.m. on Monday, December 21, 2009. That will be the local time here in California. That means it's the shortest day of the year also called the Yule and the Saturnalia. So remember your pagan rituals, burn a Yule log and drink mead, set up a tree and decorate it, etc.
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Christian Billboard

One blog I frequent is The Gaytheist Agenda. the most recent post has me laughing and laughing. Go look at it first them come back here:

What a weird billboard to put up. It makes me start fantasizing about God's sex life. Hey, he ought to be able to do all kinds of amazing stuff, I wonder if he has an infinite penis?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Keith and Health care

Keith Olbermann did another Special Comment, really laying it on the line about the anemic health care bill as it currently stands.


Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Friday, December 11, 2009

Atheist Revolution

This is a blog I read regularly but haven't linked to it in a long time but I had to share this post. It's very short and very funny, the name kind of sets the mood:
Religion Should Be Like Your Genitals

Saturday, November 21, 2009

New Car


After months of research and debating whether or not I could afford itI finally went out and bought one.

I seriously considered keeping my old car but even though it was a Toyota I hadn’t taken good car of it, too much on my mind for the last few years. And I didn’t think I’d ever be able to buy a new car again after this. Which was my reasoning on the Toyota, I got the most reliable car in America at the time because I thought I’d have to keep it 10 years or more and I was right, kept it 13 years, which made it a wise choice and I got my money’s worth.

So I bought this car with the same idea. By a fluke of luck (not all good) I’m able to afford to buy a car right now. I was aiming for a Honda Civic because it’s the most reliable car in America right now. I was also looking at a Honda Fit as the best gas mileage of any “normal” car, I was feeling a bit leery of hybrids or the Smart Car, the technology was too new and I needed something that might need to last me the rest of my life with little maintenance.

So I ended up with a Hyundai Elentra, yeah, surprised me too. But I found it listed as Consumer Report’s number one rated small sedan - above a Civic. And found it rated between one to three on everyone’s list, so I went and test drove one, as well as a Fit and Civic. The Fit I didn’t like at all too small so the ride was rough and it had terrible pickup. Now I know I’m not going to get a car with an automatic and getting good fuel mileage that’s going to be too fast, but there are limits. The Civic wasn’t bad but it had a dashboard that was so long I couldn’t see the front of the car, at all. More than a little disconcerting.

Bottom line, the Hyundai was more comfortable and was far faster and more agile than the Civic. Compare Hyundai’s 10 year power train warranty and a price tag $3,000 less than the Civic and it was no contest.

The longer I have the car the more I like it. I have to try hard to not accelerate from a stop light too quickly while I’m still in the break in phase, but it’s so tight and fast it’s hard to avoid it. And it takes corners better than any car I’ve ever had except my Nissan 280ZX.

I tried to take some photos of it but nothing makes it look good in a picture. It looks really good in real life but that can’t be captured in a photo for some reason, so I’ll leave it with just one.
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Next Hot Model


Here I am being a proud grandfather again, I just can't help it.

Ally went to some Disney concert, I have no idea who or what since I'm not an 8 year old girl. It turns out they won a contest and Ally and her friends got their pictures in the Disney magazine, Bop. She is certainly tall and thin enough to be a model.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Public Option

This commercial, starring Heather Graham and narrated by Peter Coyote, is the best one I've seen. Very funny and entertaining, yet the imagery truly captures what it is all about. It makes you feel it, which is something often lacking on the left. We get the intellectual bits but not the emotional ones.


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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Countdown and Health Care

Keith did a full one hour special comment on health care that was very powerful, had me in tears by the end of it. So beware of the video below, it's an hour long (minus commercial time).

You can find them in smaller chunks on the website as well as a transcript to download: Countdown.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Nation Building Begins At Home

The symbolic face of death:  detail from an 18...Image via Wikipedia

Obama is now thinking about whether or not to send another 40,000 troops to Afghanistan. I say forget that, we need health care here at home.

We are losing 45,000 people every year due to lack of insurance, that’s 15 times the number of people that were killed in the one, single event that was 9/11. Yet everyone went batshit crazy over 9/11 and is STILL crazy about it, but no one gives a damn about 15 times that many dying every year - not in a single event but every, single year; year after year. That means 405,000 dead Americans since those 3,000 people died in 9/11.

We have spent at least 1 trillion dollars on Iraq and Afghanistan in the last 9 years at the most conservative estimate, it was likely quite a bit more than that. And it doesn’t count the aftercosts - like the medical bills for all the wounded vets and replacing all the equipment that got used up by the bombs and desert sands.

Enough to provide health care - WITH a public option - for the next ten years. Yet every one is going crazy on the second trillion but don’t seem the least bit upset about the first trillion. In fact, they want to spend still more and I don’t hear anyone complaining about our debt when it comes to wars overseas.

We have spent one trillion dollars to avenge 3,000 people, but we can’t spend that same amount to save 405,000 of our own citizens.

No enemy can ever inflict as much damage on us as we do to ourselves. America is one sick country.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

FALL

The season of dreamsImage by Sabby3000 via Flickr

Today I was cold when I got up this morning. Ahhh that felt so good. We’ve had heat waves here in So Cal all through August and September to the point where everyone was more than ready for Fall to arrive.

And it did that today. The cats started making use of the kitty heat pad. Really a nice little device, a heating pad that is well cushioned and doesn’t come on until there is pressure on it and then it only gets warm where the pressure is. So it can be plugged in all the time and the cats can use it when they want.

They will need it with just me in the house. I don’t turn on a heater until ice is starting to form and then only because that level of cold can be depressing, not because I feel cold.

My nickname of the Bear is apt.

And today I also wore pants and shoes with socks for the first time in 3 months. Feels weird. That is one of the few things I like about Summer - being able to wear shorts and sandals all the time, but for the most part I hate the heat. I really don’t need the pants and shoes and socks because I don’t get cold but it’s cold enough today that people would look at me funny if I wore the shorts and sandals.

It's too bad Fall doesn't look like that picture above but the only change here is that the temp goes from a high of 90 to a high of 75. In the winter it will go down to 65. There have been some really cold winters where the highs were in the 50's. You should hear people whine when that happens.

Southern Californians have no idea of what a real winter feels like.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mac Pro

uploaded to replace :en::Image:moosa.Image via Wikipedia

My new Mac Pro is a real beauty, big sucker though. Almost too big to have on the desktop, I might have to do some rearranging.

It’s a 2.66 MHz Quad core Nehalem with 8 GB of ram. 640 GB hard drive and I added a 1 TB in a second slot. This thing is incredibly fast, apps open up instantly, everything is pretty much instantly.

But as it turns out it isn’t solving all my problems, apparently Adobe just can’t write software worth a damn. I still have their apps freeze up at times, but fortunately it is usually only for a few seconds. And instead of being down to almost no free ram as soon as I open Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop - as I was on the iMac - I still have 3.6 GB of free ram, what a joy.

But that isn’t the whole story. Even with this after about a day of use the free ram disappears and the entire mac starts screwing up and I have to restart because I’m getting the spinning beach ball on everything. Adobe still gobbles up 8 GB of ram, which is absurd. I think if I keep an eye on it and quit one of the apps before free ram is almost gone that will solve the problem for another day.

I thought this might be the case but everything is so fast up until that point it’s still a major time saver and I’m very happy with it.

My biggest problem right now is getting a second monitor. I’m only using one which I haven’t done in years and it has me climbing the wall. I’m off for Best Buy right this post to get me a cheap monitor to put my tools on.
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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Cats

Aki is healing nicely and her fur is growing back, but very slowly. What’s funny is her normal fur feels cool but the shaved area is hot. Cats must have a pretty high body heat and the fur traps it. Both cats haven’t been the least bit afraid to go outside but they keep a better watch for the evil cats now. Whenever I see them coming inside quickly I go outside and find one of the evil ones sitting in the yard. I chase them out every time and I think they are coming by less often.

The other night 2 of them showed up together in the yard and had a major cat fight with each other. Loud enough to wake me up at 1am. I actually ran downstairs and outside in my underwear to chase them off, I want them always afraid when they come here. The yard is pretty isolated so it wasn’t a big deal.

Since my yard is pretty enclosed with fences 7’ high I thought that might keep the cats in for a while, but no such luck. One time I’m calling Aki to come in and she comes flying over the 7’ tall fence like it was nothing.

Did I mention that the fence is 7 feet tall! And they are very small female kitties, which didn't slow them down at all.

They both love going outside but I still don’t let them out unless I’m here and never at night. And when I let them out I go out first to make sure the coast is clear. Caed will actually stop and look back at me, like waiting for me to chase off evil kitties, then follow me out. And if I’m outside with them each cat will make a point of walking over to me and rubbing my legs at least once to let me know they appreciate me letting them out.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dancin' Tom Delay

This was on Countdown last night with Lawrence O‘Donnell as guest host. This is something that is so funny, yet so horrible at the same time I didn't know if I should laugh or throw up.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Socialist?

be Over at Pharyngula PZ Myers has a pledge to printed out and signed by all anti-socialists. Here is just a small sample of what the pledge says to stay away from if you hate socialism:

Social Security

Medicare/Medicaid

State Children's Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP)

Police, Fire, and Emergency Services

US Postal Service

Roads and Highways

Air Travel (regulated by the socialist FAA)

The US Railway System

Public Subways and Metro Systems

Public Bus and Lightrail Systems

Rest Areas on Highways

Sidewalks

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

We're Number 37

That's our standing in the world as far as health care, yeah USA!! But the important thing is that the multimillionaire health care CEO's get their profits, even if you have to die to get them. We DEMAND to be #37 and to give huge profits to insurance companies! We are marching in the streets for that.




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Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Real Death Panels

Countdown has the story of where the real death panels are, and they already exist today. It's our insurance companies. Research shows that in California alone 22% of medical claims get rejected. How many of those 22% died or went bankrupt from medical expenses no one can afford? No way to know but I know a few people personally, so it happens. The irony is that what the righties are calling "Obama Care" will actually save the lives of those rejected by their own insurance companies. Most of what they say about Obama Care is already true with private insurance. You have an insurance company bureaucrat between you and your doctor and your care is rationed by them. Not based on medical reasons but based purely on trying to make millions of dollars for the insurance companies. Anywhere else if you did not receive the product you have been paying for it would be fraud.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Story of Aetna

Aetna was your average billion dollar health insurance company, but they wanted more. So they brought in a guy named Ron Williams to be the new CEO in 2006. Let’s look at some numbers, shall we?

In 2005, the company had $1.1 billion in earnings.
Aetna's 2007 revenue, reported in 2008, was $27.6 billion.
Aetna's 2008 revenue, reported in 2009, was $31 billion.

Wow!! That was some leap, huh? Bet you wish you had bought Aetna stock back in 2005. How did Ron Williams achieve this phenomenal growth to increase revenue by $26.5 billion in a single year?


He looked at who they were insuring. Any individuals who were costing them a lot of money they got rid of any way they could. Now that’s the American way, isn’t it? Have someone pay lots of money for years, possibly decades, then when it’s time to give them the very thing they had been paying for all this time, cut them loose!! Business as usual or a massive fraud?


Groups were more difficult, they can’t just toss out individuals in groups, that’s kind of the point after all. So Ron looked at which groups were costing Aetna the most money and canceled entire groups. This means entire companies lost their health care because too many of them actually needed that health care the company had been paying for.


So when Ron had trimmed out all the expensive - i.e. sick - people and groups profits went up, so did the stock prices of the company and so did Ron’s bonus checks. He made many millions, all of it by denying health care to sick people. A lot of them probably have died, certainly all suffered some tough times but what the hell, that’s just business and that is what America is all about, right?


He also raised the premiums everyone was paying and cut back on what was covered. Sometimes they get sneaky, they cover drugs but only generics, you'd have to read carefully to catch that one. And they were very careful about only bringing in new people who were healthy. The big one is pre-existing conditions, keeps lots and lots of the very people who need health care the most from getting it, they are the ones forced to go to ER's when something serious could have been prevented by regular visits to their doctor, but they don't have doctors. They can't even pay for the ER visit but hospitals are required by law to treat people when it's an emergency. The hospitals make up the loses by charging more for insured people because that bill will be paid. So everyone's insurance keeps going up because costs keep going up. Don't want to pay for someone else? Guess what, you already are, at the highest possible rate because you are paying for the most expensive medical care there is, ER visits.


Certainly couldn’t be any worse than evil socialism like they have in Canada and Europe - right?


For the record people in those countries would be horrified by this story and it would make them even more thankful they don’t have an American-style health care plan than they already are. And believe me, they ARE already thankful.


In 1993 health insurance companies paid out $.95 in actual health care for every dollar they took in. In 2007 the average is now $.79 for every dollar. Have that go up by a penny and the company’s stock price will fall, have it go down by a penny and stocks will rise. A company’s only motivation today is to pay as little in actual health care as possible.


Nothing personal, just business. Perhaps health care shouldn’t be business as usual? Perhaps profit isn’t the most important thing in the world. I wonder how many people will call me socialist because of that one sentence?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Shaved Aki

There was a down side to letting the cats go outside. I suddenly hear the screech of VERY serious cat fighting and rush over to chase away the white cat with black spots. I'm assuming he is brother to the black one with white spots. There is also an all black one but he hasn't come into the yard yet. I was there in a flash and chased the cat out, screaming at the top of my lungs so the cat wouldn't want to come back but he had already tagged Aki on her back right where the tail meets her back.

A few days later both the black and white ones cornered Caed and this time I was even faster getting there but they both got her, one between the shoulder blades and one on her lower back. I don't let them go out when I'm not here and I go out first to make sure the evil ones aren't around, then I check several times while they are out.

Didn't seem to bother Aki and Caed much though, they went right outside the next day and rolled in the grass. But a few days ago Aki started acting a little lethargic. On Monday I picked her up and got a meow of pain and I noticed she was swollen where the cat clawed her. So I took her to the vet yesterday and she said it was an abscess and they had to do surgery to clean the puss out. I left her for the day and she was pretty groggy when I picked her up, after spending $400 I felt kind of groggy too.

She doesn't seem lethargic any more and her appetite has come back, she's also been very affectionate. Things like that make me wonder what cats think about these things. Does she think I saved her and brought her home from a dangerous situation where she got wounded and is thanking me? Or does she just want to get in to my good graces so I don't do that to her again? Just how deep can a cat's smooth little brain think?

I think she is thanking me for bringing her home safe but without clear thoughts of what actually happened. I think she also knows she is feeling better and that I must have fixed it somehow.

No going outside for a few days.

Caed seems fine.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Blackwater

This was a breaking story yesterday that Blackwater has been a crusading Christian organization out to rid the world of Muslims by killing them one at a time. The overall story is just incredible. This video is from Countdown and it has a much more comprehensive explanation of the whole thing than anything I can say:

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Welcome Back, Keith

He was on a 2 week vacation and I didn't realize how much I missed him until his show today. It's as if he saved up 2 weeks of anger to spill it all out in this one hour show. Most of it went into his Special Comment. This one is as good as his best and one that proves, once and for all, that he is the master of cable news.

He takes on health care and all the Republicans bought by the industry, backed up with numbers. But he doesn't stop with them, he moves on to the Blue Dog Democrats who are holding up health care in the senate and house and gives numbers on them, how they represent not the people who elected them but the big business that has given them millions. Keith makes one hard hitting comment here when he says that the industry is spending 1.4 million dollars per day in lobbying against health care reform: "My god! How much must they be making!" They make those millions and billions by denying you treatment, by letting you suffer and die. Talk about blood money.
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Great Tax Con Job


Thom Hartmann is one of my favorite talk show hosts because he's incredibly knowledgeable about the economy and has details on how and why the Republicans have screwed the whole country while making themselves rich. He also happens to be a good writer, too. I knew he had several books out but I haven't bought any, fortunately I did sign up for his newsletter where I got this article from Thom called The Great Tax Con Job:
Novelist Larry Beinhart was the first to bring this to my attention. He looked over the history of tax cuts and economic bubbles, and found a clear relationship between the two. High top marginal tax rates (generally well above 60%) on rich people actually stabilize the economy, prevent economic bubbles from forming, prevent economic crashes, and lead to steady and sustained economic growth (and steady and sustained wage growth for working people).

On the other hand, when top marginal rates drop below 50 percent, the opposite happens. As Beinhart noted in a November 17, 2008 post on the Huffington Post, the massive Republican tax cuts of the 1920s (from 73% to 25%) led directly to the Roaring '20s stock market bubble, temporary boom, and then the crash and Republican Great Depression of 1929.

Rates on the very rich went back up into the 70-90% range from the 1930s to the 1980s. As a result, the economy grew steadily; for the first time in the history of our nation we went 50 years without a crash or major bank failure; and working people's wages increased enough to produce the strongest middle class this nation has ever seen.

Then came Reaganomics.
Isn't that great? Where else are we going to get this kind of precise info? The major media will never cover it, I'm just glad Thom is out there fighting the good fight. Follow the link above for much more of this, it's a long article and he has more where that came from.

I might have to buy one of his books someday. Wonder if any are available for Kindles?

Too bad he is completely wrong about atheists and makes all the same mistakes most theists do. No one is perfect, I guess.
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The New Place

I've had the Blackberry Storm for months now and have not used the camera even once. Since I also just moved in to a new place it only makes sense to take a few shots.

This is my front lawn. Follow the path and out the gate and there is another front lawn, also a garage to the right.

And here is my view of the front lawn looking out of my studio window. Pretty cool, huh? Just ignore those boxes on the left, unpacking takes a while.

And here is my living room, taken at an odd angle to avoid more boxes over to the right. Nice tile floors, much better than carpets. At the back is a sliding glass door that leads out in to a private patio. Makes me almost want to start smoking again so I have an excuse to go stand out there.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Imaginary Man In Sky

SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 05:  A copy of the Onion i...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The Onion clearly has at least one atheist working over there. Unfortunately it was very funny but was way too true to be anything but sad:
Even more incomprehensible, sources said, is that hundreds of millions of Americans openly worship the all-knowing invisible man—who apparently observes the world's events from atop his perch in outer space—without fear of mockery, shame, or violent government reprisal.
Ouch - WAY too true indeed.
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Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Evolution of God

Robert Wright (journalist)Image via Wikipedia

On Bill Moyers Journal last Friday he talked to Robert Wright, the author of The Evolution of God. It was a very interesting discussion about the book and the nature of God. I wanted to post the video but they had no embedding code so you’ll have to follow the link to watch it. They also have a written transcript, which is how I got these quotes from, so don’t blame any misspellings on me.
BILL MOYERS: So, here's my journalistic lede I would use if I were reviewing your book. "Robert Wright has made a convincing case that if circumstances change, god has changed, because the story of god is intrinsic to the human story. But what Wright has not done is to make a convincing case that god exists."

ROBERT WRIGHT: I would say it's hard for anyone to make a convincing case that god exists in the sense of pointing to evidence. And I don't really try to do that. I mean, I do argue that there is evidence of some sort of larger purpose unfolding through the workings of nature. But that doesn't tell you much about what might have infused the purpose.
Wright says that God was invented by humanity as stories meant to deal the things we could not control and has evolved in many ways, changing to fit the times and the needs of humanity. Personally, I think that is THE argument that tells us there is no god and never was, it was, and continues to be, a human invention. Pretty much ends all argument in my opinion, come back when you have evidence that supports a god as being something other than a made up story. But Wright falls just short of making that claim. He seems to want to walk a line that has him believing in some kind of transcendence but without having to explain what that is.
ROBERT WRIGHT: Because I don't-- what do I mean. I don't--I mean what. Transcendent is a very tricky word. And I get into trouble from hardcore materialists by using it because people think, "Oh, you mean spooky, mystical, ethereal stuff." I don't know exactly what I mean by transcendent.

I may mean beyond our comprehension. I may mean you know, I may mean prior to the creation of the universe or something. I don't know. But I do think that the system on Earth is such that humanity is repeatedly given the choice of either progressing morally in the sense of accepting more people into the moral circle or paying the price of social chaos. Okay?
I recommend watching the video because when you read the above he doesn’t sound very bright, but in the video it comes across very differently and he seems quite intelligent. He fudges the meaning of transcendent in order to give himself wriggle room for not claiming to actually believe anything but without claiming full disbelief. Kind of bizarre, actually. He spends the entire time with Moyers explaining how god is merely a human invention but then tries to deny that he is saying there is no god. Moyers himself is a big god-believer and keeps trying to steer Wright into saying there is a god but Wright just won’t do it.
BILL MOYERS: I don't find any traces of cynicism in the book. In fact, I want to ask you about something you say toward the end. You say that, "Human beings are organic machines that are built by natural selection to deal with other organic machines. They can visualize other organic beings, understand other organic beings, and bestow love and gratitude on other organic beings. Understanding the divine, visualizing the divine, loving the divine--that would be a tall order for a mere human being." But we've not given up trying, have we?

ROBERT WRIGHT: No. And I think, you know, in a way we shouldn't. I mean I think if there is you know, something out there called moral truth. And we should continue to try to relate to it in a way that brings us closer to it. And it--
BILL MOYERS: I don't understand what you mean. Out there?
ROBERT WRIGHT: Well. Well--
BILL MOYERS: What did--
ROBERT WRIGHT: Did I say that?
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, you've said it several times. I mean--
ROBERT WRIGHT: I should be careful.
BILL MOYERS: --if you don't--
ROBERT WRIGHT: Because I don't-- what do I mean. I don't--I mean what. Transcendent is a very tricky word. And I get into trouble from hardcore materialists by using it because people think, "Oh, you mean spooky, mystical, ethereal stuff." I don't know exactly what I mean by transcendent.
Wright continues to say that trying to understand god is not a bad way of trying to align ourselves with some kind of transcendent morality. He uses the example that our morality has also evolved over the centuries, steadily getting better and better, in a sense of including more and more people within our tribe. He seems to be saying our morality keeps improving because we are continually moving closer to some kind of morally that exists out there in the universe.
Keep in mind that Wright wrote The Moral Animal which was all about how natural selection created our morality. He even explains how we can be moving along a pathway to better and better morality because to fail to do so leads to societal chaos. This means we evolve morally because it is in our self interest to do so and those that don’t are less likely to survive their own chaos. This is pretty much the same process of morality evolving through natural selection but Wright seems to not notice this, he keeps trying to attribute this evolution to higher morality as us somehow listening to transcendence, or god, and trying to understand it and get closer to it.
Definitely a blind spot on his part, but the video is worth watching for a very interesting discussion between 2 very interesting men. Maybe I’ll get the book, too.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Obama Talks at the NAACP

I thought this was one of his best speeches, it is most certainly his angriest speech. He is really fired up for this one, I wish he showed this side a whole lot more, I was beginning to think he was a milquetoast.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Poor Farrah

Michael JacksonMichael Jackson via last.fm

Farrah Fawcett died 2 days ago on June 27th. You all heard about that, right? Or did you miss it? I heard a brief mention and then all the news shows were only about Michael Jackson's death because of the unfortunate and incredible event of both of them dying on the same day. What are the odds?

OK, Michael was the bigger star and touched more lives in more profound ways than Farrah, but hell, a person only dies once. Too bad she didn't get her due. She had that film of her dying shown on TV, twice, so I guess she's gotten some.

Of course, I never liked Michael - or Farrah either for that matter. Still, Farrah fought cancer and took a long time dying, showing courage in the face of adversity. Michael just lived badly and that bad living knocked him off in an instant. But in all of this the one person who really ticked me off was Ryan O'Neal. On TV he had to say in a mournful voice; "Why did they have to take MY girl?" Fucking publicity whore, stick a camera in his face and he can't resist milking it for all it's worth, even if it means using his girl's agonizing death struggle to make himself look like the noble victim.

Hey, they took MY girl too, Ryan, but I never tried to say that to anyone, even myself.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

My Favorite Pharyngula Post

PZ Myers in LondonImage via Wikipedia

I'm a regular reader of Pharyngula because PZ Myers is a fun writer. One of those guys who makes a story or idea interesting because he is almost always writing with a sharp, sarcastic wit - a lot like me! Also, I almost always agree with him. But he has written his best post so far, and that is on the subject matter not the style of writing: He compares the incompatability of science and religion! This is the kind of thing I've been ranting about for years, but who reads me?
But in a debate about the compatibility of science and religion, we have to put the argument in an appropriate context and define a specific shared purpose for both science and religion — it's the only legitimate ground for discussion. In this case, what we're trying to do is address big questions (remember, the Templeton Foundation says they're all about those "big questions") about the nature of the universe, about our history, about how we function, and then we encounter a conflict: religion keeps giving us different answers. Very different answers. They can't all be right, and since no two religions give the same answers, but since science can generally converge on similar and consistent answers, I know which one is right. And that makes religion simply wrong.
Ah, that is so satisfying to see someone with READERS say "religion is simply wrong". Stephen Jay Gould tried to be nice to religion and called it nonoverlapping magisteria (NOMA). Essentially trying to say that science and religion operated in very different realms and therefore could not be judged the same way. That science was about reality while religion was philosophy. This would be fine if religion stayed over in it's designated territory but it never, ever has, Christianity has even attempted to do science using the bible, which is how we get a 6,000 year old Earth. Gould's idea is so obviously wrong I always thought it was just a desperate attempt to placate the theists. PZ attacks the different methods:
We have to look at what they do to see why. In order to probe the nature of the universe around us, science is a process, a body of tools, that has a long history of success in giving us robust, consistent answers. We use observation, experiment, critical analysis, and repeated reevaluation and confirmation of events in the natural world. It works. We use frequent internal cross-checking of results to get an answer, and we never entirely trust our answers, so we keep pushing harder at them. We also evaluate our success by whether the end results work: it's how we end up with lasers and microwave ovens, and antibiotics and cancer therapies.
To put it simply, science is self-correcting. There are a number of excellent methodologies (which PZ outlines briefly above) that are employed in the self-correcting process. Over time various hypothesizes converge in the closest thing we humans have to truth. I've often said this is the difference between science and religion; over time science converges from splinters to solidity, while religion is the opposite, it simply keeps splintering more and more. Look at all the sects of any one religion, this is because all that is needed in religion is a charismatic leader and you have a whole new set of answers and there is no way at all to check anyone's answers.
Religion, on the other hand, uses a different body of techniques to explain the nature of the universe. It uses tradition and dogma and authority and revelation, and a detailed legalistic analysis of source texts, to dictate what the nature of reality should be. It's always wrong, from an empirical perspective, although I do have to credit theologians with some of the most amazingly intricate logical exercises as they try to justify their conclusions. The end result of all of this kind of clever wankery, though, is that some people say the world is 6000 years old, that it was inundated with a global flood 4000 years ago, and other people say something completely different, and there is no way within the body of theology to resolve which answers are right.
"Religion uses a different body of techniques" - oh the depth of meaning over that one. Their methodologies are crap and never yeild any accurate answers about the nature of reality. They end up with ridiculous conclusions, the Earth being 6,000 years old is a favorite to look at because it is SO absurd and so easily demolished. But the hard core fundies can't say that their religion is wrong and science is right so they start making up things to make it seem like science is crap, the end result of this is an American society that is frightfully ignorant of even the basic scientific answers about the world. Or about the basics on how science finds answers.

I love that PZ talked about this in detail - and I highly recommend following the link and reading the entire posting - because he has a lot of readers and this message will reach many people. Unfortunately he is probably preaching to the choir for the most part, but I'm sure there is a fair number sitting on the fence, trying to make up their minds. PZ gives them some tools to work with for judging things.

If religion stayed in it's own territory along the lines of Gould's NOMA I would have no complaints about it. But when it ventures into sciences realm it needs to be prepare to defend itself.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

The Public Health Care Option

Legendary transplantation of a leg by Saints C...Image via Wikipedia

Well, it looks like Obama and the Democrats are going to let us all down again, no single payer plan will even be talked about, they are just going to try and have a public option. This means that most likely people will be able to sign up for Medicare since that is already in place.

Darcy had Medicare and she got the best treatment of any of her online lung buddies, who were all told their private insurance didn't cover organ transplants. Darcy never had a problem getting anything covered in 16 years while her friends had to fight tooth and nail over and over again just to stay alive - and not all of them succeeded.

The idiot Republicans keep trying to stop a public option while telling all of us how horrible government run health care is. What are they worried about? If government health care was so bad they should welcome the public option so we can all experience how bad it is. If the Republicans are even slightly right then all a public option would do is let private insurance win the competition hands down and end the argument.

So why aren't they all for it? Because they are lying like crazy and every one of them knows it. They know that the public option will blow private insurers out of the water, that over time everyone will get tired of paying big bucks for inferior care and will move over to Medicare and all those fabulously wealth CEO's of private insurance companies will lose their billions of dollars in bonuses and salaries.

Yes, it's true. They are willing to let you and everyone else who can't afford health insurance die from cancer and a dozen other serious illnesses, and let everyone else pay for the most expensive health care in the world, just so their friends can make some big bucks and will then give some to them as campaign contributions. 20,000 people die every year in this country because they don't have insurance and it's been happening for nearly 20 years, since the last time they pulled the wool over the public's eyes and shot down health care reform in 1993. All that blood and suffering is on their hands. And you know what? They are laughing all the way to the bank. Laughing at all of the public who fell for their crap last time and will do so again this time.
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More Photos

Still packing to move and running across more photos. Found some real gems today I had no idea I had, mostly of Darcy and Nikko. I don't have time to scan in very many, got to pack like crazy! I'm running out of time.

This one is a great family portrait of Darcy, Nikko and me. Look how intent Nikko is, she was so full of personality. And unlike most cats she loved for me to hold her, but only me, no one else could do it.

The second one is Darcy and Nikko sacking out. I love this one. It has to be 16 years old at least. We were still living in Fullerton but I can see Darcy is already sick because she's showing the weight gain from her medications. She was skinny before she started taking prednisone.

I'll be very glad when this move is over. I will finally feel like I can move on, being in my own, post-Darcy place, rather than the one we shared for 10 years. It will be very nice having Ally right next door, too, she came over last Sunday to help me paint.

I hate to think how the current cats, Aki and Cead, are going to react to the move. They've never lived anywhere but here, and cats hate change. I won't even be able to let them outside for at least a month so they won't try and head back to the old place.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cuteness

I'm a real cat person and a real sucker for cat cuteness. Here is a tiger cub looking incredibly cute. Thanks to Pharyngula for the link.

It's amazing how housecat-like he is. All the same moves, even the "cute" looks like when they cuddle into the bed and show their stomach. I swear that my cats practice those cute moves when I'm not home, probably critiquing each other. I can read his body language because of my familiarity with house cats. He feels warm and safe and comfy.