Something to Think About

"I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Saturday Six - December 31, 2011

1. Was 2011 overall better or worse than you expected it to be? Worse but not as bad as it could have been, I guess.
2. What development made you feel happiest or proudest in 2011? My daughter's graduation from high school, admission to a college and her excellent progress so far in that school.
3. Consider the action you took in 2011 that you most regret because it hurt or offended someone: have you made amends with that person? I usually try to make amends right away so I'd have to say most likely yes.  I really don't remember a particular circumstance this year where I hurt someone, however, so it must have turned out alright.
4. Is your financial state better, worse or about the same as this time in 2010? It's a bit worse - and not likely to improve anytime soon.  K lost his job and is now working at a lower-paying job and my company didn't do as well as usual so I didn't get a raise this year.
5. If you could make any change in your personal life in 2012, what’s the number one thing you’d like to change? I suppose get rid of the excess weight I gained in 2011.  I had some rough patches over the year and when that happens, I tend to eat. I really just need to find the motivation, I guess. 
6. What’s the biggest purchase you anticipate making in 2012?  Probably new furniture for our new addition we should finish up in the spring.

These were the Saturday Six from Patrick's Place!

Have a happy and safe New Year's Eve, folks!  I'll see you next year! 

Friday, December 30, 2011

Store bought pies

There is something that bothers me.  It bothers me a great deal and probably more than it should. 

I often wonder:  Who buys store-made pies?  and  Do they really think that they taste good?!?

This came up the other day at work.  Someone mentioned that there were pies in the break room and that we should stop over if we want a slice.  Now... I love pie.  Frankly, I adore any pastry.  Mind, I'm not a cake person but I would have a difficult time cutting pies out of my diet completely. 

So!  I went over to have a look and there were two pies.  One was a coconut cream and the other was a cherry crumb but they were store-bought pies. I took a small slice of the coconut cream and hoped for the best.  It was bland and the crust was horrible.  I know I shouldn't have expected more but I have to wonder who bothers to buy these and are those people aware how horrible they are?  Have they never had a home-made pie that they think the store-bought ones are good or what?!?

I just can't figure out how a store makes money on these!  Who would spend good money on these poor substitutes for pie? The crusts are like cardboard and have no flavor.  A home-made pie has a tasty, flakey crust!  A store uses canned pie filling.  A good home-made pie will be made with fresh fruit or possibly fruit that has been frozen. There is just no comparison.

Do any of you enjoy eating a store-made pie?  Can you fill me in on what I might be missing?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Calendar Proposal

Have you heard about the proposed new calendar?  The Hanke-Henry calendar is named after the two men who came up with the idea: Richard Conn Henry (an astronomer) and Steve Hanke (an economist).  The calendar would have 8 months of 30 days and every 3rd month would have 31 days.  This would create a 364-day year.  That year would always begin on a Sunday.  In fact, Christmas and New Year's day would always be Sundays, as well.  There would no longer be floating holidays as these would be set.  There would be no more leap years with an extra day.  Instead, there would be an extra week added every 5 or 6 years.

I can see some advantages but personally I don't think people will be willing to adopt this.  For one thing, people don't like change - even when it makes sense. (Remember how it was decided that the US was going to switch over to the metric system back in the 70s?  Yeah.  Didn't happen, did it?) For another thing, I can't see having my birthday fall on a Monday every year!  That'd just be ludicrous!

Seriously, though... what do you folks think about the proposal?

Image courtesy of NASA

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Autopsies Uncommon

I was looking through the NPR site this morning and came across a rather disturbing story.  It seems that autopsies are not as routine as they used to be, contrary to what we are led to believe by TV medical shows.

The NPR article refers the reader to this story on Propublica, a site I've not heard of before. (apparently NPR, Propublica and the television show, Frontline, are cooperating on this investigation)

The articles point out that autopsies used to be performed on about 1/2 of all patients who died in a hospital 50 years ago but that number has been reduced to 5 percent.

It seems that hospitals are not required to perform autopsies and, with the great number of malpractice suits filed now days, they may feel it doesn't benefit them to do so.  The problem is, there are more reasons than you'd think to perform an autopsy - not just to see if there is evidence of malpractice.

For example, if you are not sure why a patient passed away, it may be due to a hereditary condition that was not diagnosed. This could be vitally important to living relatives of the patient who might be able to avoid the same fate if they are aware of the problem in advance.

Another reason that autopsies should be performed in some cases are so doctors can see if a particular medical treatment was effective for the patient or if it caused problems which lead to the death.

It seems clear that there is a lot of information that could be gleaned by performing an autopsy but the average person might have a hard time getting one done on a loved one who has passed away.  The Propublica website tells the story of a woman who died suddenly who worked in medical research.  Her colleagues offered to perform the autopsy pro-bono and her husband gave his permission for it to be done.

The average person doesn't have those connections and even if they could convince medical professionals to perform the diagnostic, they would have to pay for it themselves. An autopsy can cost around $1,275. That's quite a cost for people who are also possibly looking at funeral expenses as well.

From the information given in these articles, it's clear that we are not better off with less autopsies being performed. Perhaps new regulations are needed to require they be done in certain situations and perhaps insurance companies should be required to foot the bill.  Allowing the hospitals to regulate themselves is obviously not working so it may be time for the government to step in.

Image courtesy of NASA

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sunday Seven - December 25, 2011

Name seven notable people who died in 2011 who you’d most like to bring back long enough for a conversation over coffee.

Okay.  Here they are in no particular order:

  1. Christopher Hitchens
  2. Harry Morgan
  3. Andy Rooney
  4. Anne McCaffrey
  5. Betty Ford
  6. Elisabeth Sladen
  7. Peter Falk
I really had a hard time coming up with the last one!

These are the Sunday Seven from Patrick's Place.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Saturday Six - December 24, 2011

1. What is your favorite Christmas memory: where did you spend that Christmas and how old were you (or when was it)?   My favorite christmas memory was when I was about 6 or 7 years old.  I wanted a particular doll that blew a kiss when you pulled a string on her back. [It made her hand move to her mouth and made a kissing sound.]  I was so tickled that Santa had brought exactly what I had asked for! I sometimes miss having that innocence and the belief in Santa but once we stop believing in the old elf, that is gone.  Pity.
2. Of the Christmas decorations you put up each year, which single one means the most to you and why is it so special? I don't really have any decorations that are special to me.
3. What food or drink that you only really consume during the Christmas season is your favorite and why? Egg nog - and it doesn't have to have the alcohol in it for me to enjoy it.  I love the taste of egg nog!
4. If you could bring back any deceased relative to spend one Christmas with, who would you pick and why? I think I'd have to choose my father.  I think he'd like to see how his grandchildren have grown and meet his great-grandchildren. I was especially close to my father and miss him to this day. 
5. What is the greatest single Christmas present you remember receiving and why did it mean so much to you? Hmm... I think I mentioned one of them in question one.  Another year, my sister gave me a stack of books.  I was thrilled to receive them! I don't spend a lot of money on myself - a habit that began when I had children and money was tight - so they were a welcome gift of something just for me!
6. What was the worst Christmas present you ever remember receiving and what was so bad about it?  My fiance gave me a crock pot early on in our relationship. I was greatly disappointed.  I think gifts should be for the person - not for the house unless there is a particular item one really is excited about and requests.  I dislike receiving appliances or household items as gifts.

These are the Saturday Six from Patrick's Place!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Stuff and nonsense

I find it ironic that, out of the 6 people who have desks next to the christmas tree at work, the atheist is the one most likely to plug in the lights every morning.  [and unplug them before we leave at night]
Three people are generally here when I arrive in the morning as they start earlier and another arrives when I do.  The last person arrives half and hour later.  And yes.  I've tried waiting to see what happens and invariably no one will get down on the floor to plug them in.  I think the tree looks stupid if it isn't lit so I plug it in.
Today is our holiday pot-luck dinner.  I made pulled pork.  Next year I'm going to find something easier to do...  It was a pain lugging the crock pot in along with several other bags and such.  [and I should have made more than one trip but I was lazy]
I was going to suggest that we have an ugly sweater day next year on the same day as our potluck but then I realized that some of my co-workers already wear ugly sweaters and may be insulted if we refer to them as ugly.  I'll probably bring up the idea, anyway... I like to live dangerously.
The latest office tradition seems to be to give out lottery tickets in their christmas cards.  I don't even exchange cards so now I have yet another reason to feel guilty. Perhaps next year I'll consider handing out  cards. What do you all think of this one?  No?  This one?  Maybe this one would be less likely to offend anyone.

Who knows?

I mean, certain Fox News commentators seemed to be offended by the White House card this year. I'm not sure what they are complaining about since this is the official Fox Business Network Card this year.  [For the record, I'm offended by the second card and I'm not even a christian!  I mean... two foxes roasting the NBC peacock over a fire?  Not exactly classy, is it?]
I have the day off work tomorrow.  I was tickled to have my schedule cooperate enough to allow this.  I'm a little less tickled now that I realize that K has the day off, too.  I was looking forward to a day to myself but that isn't going to happen.  Oh, well...
And lastly, I'm sure a lot of you have heard about SOPA [Stop Online Piracy Act] but might be confused by it.  Never fear!   Someone has created a document called SOPA for Dummies for those of us who might not be sure what it is about!  Okay.  That document is pretty one-sided, isn't it?  I found that the Wikipedia article seems to be pretty neutral.  I'm not sure, however, from reading skimming the Wikipedia article how SOPA would shut down Facebook or Twitter...  Can someone give me some facts, please? [and save me having to use my day off tomorrow attempting to read HR 3261 without dozing off]  I'm serious.  I really don't quite understand some of these things.

Image courtesy of NASA

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Carols and holiday tunes

The radio at work has been set on a station playing Christmas music 24/7 since the day after Thanksgiving.  

I am so sick of hearing Christmas music!  

I've even starting to compile a list of the ones I dislike the most:

  1. Jingle Bells "sung by" the barking dogs
  2. Silent Night sung by Stevie Nicks 
  3. Dominick the Donkey
There are songs I never seem to tire of, as well:

  1. Home for the Holidays sung by Perry Como
  2. Practically anything sung by the Ray Conniff Singers 
  3. Anything irreverent such as Chipmunks Roasting on an Open Fire or I Came Upon a Roadkill Deer (you get the idea)
[What do you expect from a godless heathen?]

What are some of your favorite - or least favorite - songs of the season?

Image courtesy of NASA

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Intolerance Rears its Ugly Head

[Just a quick note this morning:  The school voucher bill that I discussed in this post was rejected by the state house and it is unlikely to come up again any time soon.  I'm quite pleased!]

It never fails to amaze me how intolerant subscribers of one particular religious belief can be towards people who subscribe to others.  Nowhere is this more obvious than in my workplace.

I'm not going to go into details of what was said but it is sufficient to say that co-worker A, who is a Christian, has a problem with the beliefs of co-worker B, who is a member of the Assemblies of Yahweh. [The Assemblies of Yahweh follow the Jewish holidays and keep the Jewish Sabbath.  They eat a kosher diet and the women wear coverings. They concentrate on the old testament of the bible but I believe they do use the entire thing.]

I find the whole situation absurd, to be honest.  It's clear to me that co-worker A's real issue is that co-worker B's beliefs are different from what she is familiar with.  They are foreign enough to her that she finds them ridiculous and complains - when out of earshot of co-worker B - that she doesn't even understand why she follows some of the practices she does. [Um... I'm fairly certain that it's because they are supposedly handed down by god and written in that book she follows.  You know...  the same one co-worker A uses?]

This is one of the problems I have with religion.  Members of one particular belief think that their religion is the right one.  Therefore, people who practice other religions are, by definition, wrong.  Not only that but they're different!  They have traditions based on ridiculous stories - as if angels, devils, heaven and hell, virgin births, resurrections and such are any more believable.
One man's theology is another man's belly laugh. - Robert A Heinlein
The point is that once you start highlighting the differences between your group and another group - and add in a belief that your group is special or "chosen"- you are looking at the same dynamic that allowed Nazi Germany to come into power.  Or the Taliban.

How many wars or acts of violence today can be blamed on religious differences between the parties involved?

Religious belief is just one more reason that people use to discriminate against each other.  You'd think that human beings would have outgrown this sort of behavior by now, wouldn't you?

Image courtesy of NASA

Monday, December 19, 2011

Controlling Destiny

And... it's that time of year again!  As the NFL season winds down and commentators spend much of their time determining who can or can't make the playoffs, there is an expression used that just drives me nuts! They talk about a team "controlling their own destiny".

Um... no.

Wikipedia tells us that:
"Destiny or fate refers to a predetermined course of events. It may be conceived as a predetermined future, whether in general or of an individual. It is a concept based on the belief that there is a fixed natural order to the cosmos."
Now... if your future is predetermined, then you don't control it.  It can be either predetermined or something you can control.  It cannot be both!

Bob Costas tried to set the record straight 3 years ago.

I truly think it helped for a year or so but now commentators are using the phrase once again and I am cringing!  I realize this is sports - not a more intellectual pursuit but we can't allow misuse of the language to be this widespread without speaking out!

Okay... I can't.

So...  when I hear a sportscaster make this error, I make note of the offender, get online and email the station or network with my grievance.  It won't change anything, but it does make me feel a little better.

Image of the Destiny Lab module courtesy of NASA

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saturday Six - December 17, 2011

1. Follow-up to a question from Episode 37: What is your least favorite Christmas dessert? I'd say anything with figs in them.  I really, truly, dislike figs. It's the texture, I think, as well as the taste.
2. Follow-up to a question from Episode 39: Which cartoon that was popular when you were a child could you just not get into? Fat Albert.  The fact that the characters lived in the inner-city and were black made them seem so foreign to me - a white kid from the suburbs.  I just couldn't relate to them.
3. Follow-up to a question from Episode 40: What’s the most embarrassing cell phone ringtone that you’ve heard someone else’s phone play? This is easy!  K recorded himself saying, "Hello?  Hello?" several times then set that as his ringtone.  I thought it was embarrassing. K did not.  
4. Follow-up to a question from Episode 44: When you’re having a bad day or you’re in a bad mood, which song best keeps you in that bad mood or makes it that much worse? The first one that pops into my mind is "Don't worry.  Be happy.".  That just makes me grumble more if I'm in a bad mood!
5. Follow-up to a question from Episode 48: What was the first time that you remember truly feeling like an adult? Hmm...  I guess maybe when I had my own children?  I still don't always feel like a grown-up, though.  
6. Follow-up to a question from Episode 52: When someone first walks into a room, what is the first thing you tend to notice about that person?  The way they carry themselves.  Are they comfortable?  Do they look nervous?  If so I try to make them feel at ease, if at all possible.  (I'm not the most social creature, myself, so I can understand feeling awkward entering a room.)

These are the Saturday Six from Patrick's Place!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sad Day

I had an idea for a post today but Christopher Hitchens has passed away so I'll leave you with the NPR story I heard when I turned on the radio this morning.

Back to normal tomorrow, then.

Image blatantly stolen from this blog, the owner of which borrowed it from a post on Facebook.('s pretty much public property,right?)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Knowledge is Power

People who have known me for some time realize that there are some things that drive me insane.  Sometimes these are petty little things but I simply can't help it.  I'd like to address a misconception today as it is appropriate to the season.

The misconception is that the use of Xmas instead of Christmas is part of some plot to remove "Christ" from Christmas.

Yes. *sighs*  This is a belief that may be part of that mythical "War on Christmas" that we hear about so much this time of year. [No, no... I'm not going to go into that whole thing right now so calm down.]

Did you know that...
  • X stands for the Greek letter Chi - which is the beginning letter of Χριστός, which means Christ in Greek
  • The first known usage of Xmas can be traced back to monks in 1021 who were translating old manuscripts into Old English
  • Franklin Graham - son of Billy Graham - is one of the people who have mistaken the use of Xmas as an effort to remove Jesus from Christmas
Now... some people - [including English professor and author, Paul Brians] - suggest we not use Xmas so as not to insult people who may not be aware of the origins.

Excuse me?  People are advocating ignorance rather than educating others?  No...  I cannot go along with this.  Instead, when I see or hear someone complaining about the use of Xmas, I speak up and educate them.

Now you can do that, too...  

Image courtesy of NASA

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Outrage and Implications

So... at some point yesterday I picked up on some sort of buzz concerning a building - or buildings, really. [Some of the trending topics on Google + caught my attention and I clicked to see what they were talking about] It appears that I'm a bit late to this story, but here's what I found out.

The buildings in question are pictured here. They are only in the planning stages at the moment but there is rather a large uproar about the design.

If you've not heard what the problem is, take a look at the picture and see if you can figure it out.

I really didn't see it myself until someone told me.  It seems that the buildings remind people of the World Trade Center towers and that bridge in the middle of the two buildings resembles smoke to some people.  [It reminds some people of the appearance of the Twin Towers when they started to come down.]

The buildings - called The Cloud - are to be built in Seoul, South Korea.  MVRDV, the Dutch company designing the buildings, states that it didn't see the resemblance and has issued an apology. [Click over to the MVRDV site via my link to see more images of how the buildings are to look. It really is a neat concept!  You need to see the drawings of what the living spaces will look like to appreciate the design, I think.]

Now I can understand people being upset at the resemblance.  I really can.  What I cannot understand is the direction some of the criticism is going.   Glenn Beck is apparently outraged and is calling for our troops to be withdrawn from South Korea.  The comments on the article about the building on The Blaze [which I believe is Glenn Becks news/propaganda opinion website] are ridiculous. It appears that there are people who are convinced that South Korea had the building designed this way on purpose! Now, seriously, people!

The building was designed by a Dutch firm. As far as I know, the Dutch have nothing against the US.  It is to be built in South Korea.  South Korea is our ally.
Why on earth would anyone reasonably assume the this is an intentional slight against the US?!?  
[Answer:  No one reasonable would make this assumption.]

And people wonder why I get so discouraged about the ignorance displayed by some Americans...

Image obtained from The Blaze article where it is attributed to MVRDV.  I hope there is no problem with me using it here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Forewords and introductions

I'm listening to an audio book with an extensive author's foreword.  In this case it makes sense to have one as the book itself is a collection of short stories and the author is detailing how many of them came about.  I do find it fascinating but would consider it moreso if I'd hear a snippet about a particular piece, then heard the piece, then another snippet followed by the piece it concerns.  If I were reading the book in the normal way, I might have skimmed the foreword but probably would have come back to see what the author said about each piece directly before reading it.  That isn't possible when it is an audio book, I'm afraid.   You are stuck going through it in linear order.  It's a pity.

I have a bit of a confession:  I often skip over an author's foreword or introduction in an effort to get to the book that I'm looking forward to reading. I feel slightly guilty doing so as I know that the author went through a certain amount of effort to write the foreword but I still do it as I figure the author need never know.  Hopefully.

Some forewords are... difficult to work through.  I remember reading a novel a while back where the author pleaded that we read the foreword before starting the story.  I complied - or tried to - but... well... the novel was based on a true story and the author used the foreword to explain what was accurate and what was not.  In painstaking detail.  I believe I made it through half of the foreword as I was ready to just give up on the whole thing if I didn't get to the book soon!

So, in a somewhat related matter, I'm writing a short story. It is based on an old tale - perhaps you'd call it a fairy tale.  I'm not sure what the official criteria is to call a story a fairy tale but anyway... as I was listening to the aforementioned foreword of the audio book the author clearly stated that one of his stories is based on the same tale.  I rewound just to make sure I wasn't imagining things and yes.  That is what he said.

I am hopeful that his story is nothing like my story.  I mean - not enough like my story...  You know what I mean.

<small rant>I swear!  Sometimes I think there might be maybe 50 basic stories in the world and people who write are simply re-writing one of these stories and there is nothing original left in the world!</small rant>

I may simply have to give up on that story and move on to something else.  I'm really afraid I'll unwittingly pick up pieces of this author's tale and use them without meaning to!  I do that.  Well, not quite but sort of.  I pick up accents. When I'm talking to someone with a pronounced accent, I'll pick it up and start talking like them.  I don't mean to - and I hope they don't think I'm mocking them - but I do this.  I'm afraid when I write my tale, it'll be too similar to this author's tale.

Of course my tale would not be as well-written as this man's tale...  Perhaps I simply need to read (listen to) his tale and make a concerted effort not to approach it the same way.  We'll see how that goes.  If not, I'll have to try to come up with another idea that I like and go with that.

But... how freaking annoying is this?!?  I mean, seriously!

Image courtesy of NASA

Monday, December 12, 2011

Warm Weather

The other evening I was watching the local forecast on one of our local stations.  The meteorologist and anchor were chatting about how unseasonably mild the month of November was in our area.  I believe they said there were more than 20 days with highs over 50 degrees this month. The anchor laughed and said he thought this was a good thing as it is saving us all money on our heating bills.  The meteorologist chuckled along with him and agreed.

All I could think was:
What the heck is wrong with these people?!?

Look, I realize that the climate change debunkers [as well as the handful of scientists who claim that global warming isn't happening] have gotten a lot of press in the US. I understand that when you repeat an untruth enough times people start to believe it. [Just check out how many people in the US continued to believe that Saddam Hussein had something to do with the 9/11 attacks for years after it was proven false.] However, shouldn't a meteorologist realize that this is not a laughing matter?!?

The US has been seeing an increasing and unnerving amount of unusual climate changes in recent years. Flooding in some areas, severe and persistent drought in other areas and increased severe weather are just a few of the changes.  Studies seem to indicate that things will continue to get worse.  This is not a laughing matter and could be used as an educational situation by the meteorologists!  Why aren't these scientists explaining that many of their peers believe that some of this extreme weather has to do with situations that we humans have created on our planet?  Perhaps this could result in further studies which could help us to know what we can do to improve the situation! Who knows what could happen?

Just when are we here in the United States going to take this threat seriously?  It appears that the rest of the world - for the most part - is on the same page and realizes we need to try to do what we can to reverse the trend.  Why are we so stubborn in our country?  What am I missing?

Images of the shrinking polar ice caps courtesy of NASA

Sunday Seven - December 11, 2011

Name seven of Time’s 100 All-Time Gadgets that you’ve either owned or used.
  1. Apple iPod
  2. Ballpoint pen
  3. Pager
  4. Credit card
  5. Velcro - I think you'd be hard-pressed to find any adult today who hasn't used this!
  6. Clock radio
  7. Digital thermometer 
These are the Sunday Seven from Patrick's Place!  (Posted a day late here because I wasn't around late yesterday!)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saturday Six - December 10, 2011

1. While going through old boxes, you find an old library book of which you are very fond, but you realize that it was a library book. You assume that the library has long-since written the book off as a loss because it has been boxes away for 20 years or more, and the book carries a great deal of sentimental value for you. Would you return the book or keep it? 
I'd have to return the book. It wouldn't be right not to.  If I liked the book that much, I would have to buy my own copy if I wanted one.
I had something similar to this happen, actually.  I could have sworn I returned a book to the library but they had no record of me returning it.  I finally had to pay the library for the book.  Years later I came across the book at home.  I was embarrassed but I took it back to the library. They did give back the money I'd spent on the book which was nice.

2. You visit one of your closest friends who is battling a terminal illness. It’s clear he or she will not survive, but is in a lot of pain. Your friend begs you to briefly disconnect life support long enough for death to come. If there is no way your intervention could be discovered and no way you could face any kind of prosecution, would you grant your friend’s request? 
I'm honestly not sure that I could do this.  I just think taking a life is so wrong regardless of the circumstances.  I suppose I really don't know, though as I'm not in that situation.  Perhaps if I was asked to, I could.

3. You have the chance to be in a parade and ride on a float supporting a cause you believe in, but you can’t appear in any kind of disguise or costume: which cause’s float would you most likely be comfortable selecting? 
I'd be comfortable on a float for any of a number of causes that I support:   LGBT rights, animal welfare, world peace, etc.

4. Your company’s top executive team arrives for a surprise visit, and selects you and a handful of other employees to meet with one-on-one in an attempt to get the pulse of their employees and to uncover any problems within the organization. How honest are you likely to be about your answers when they ask about specific problems you know exist, even if it means that friends you work with could lose their jobs over what you say? 
I would try to be as honest as possible but I wouldn't single out anyone specific. I'd try to be more general than that but still be helpful.

5. You find yourself slated to be a guest on a talk show: which host, living or dead, would you most like to be interviewed by, and why would you choose that host? 
I can't really think of a television talk show host who I'd prefer but there is one on the radio who comes to mind.  I do really like the respectful way that Terry Gross (from NPR's Fresh Air) approaches her interview subjects so I'd prefer her.

6. Your church decides to take part in a political protest, and it seems that nearly everyone feels the same way about the issue. You, however, do not share their view. At the risk of being ostracized, would you deny to participate, or would you search for a way to quietly assist, without being out in front?
As a non-believer, I don't belong to a church so this question doesn't really apply to me.  I would, however, not take part in a protest I did not believe in as a part of any group.

These have been the Saturday Six from Patrick's Place!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Confusing Campaign Ad

Governor Rick Perry has a new campaign ad out.  Have you seen it?  I don't normally bother to view the campaign ads of the Republicans who are seeking their party's nomination for President as I'm not a Republican. [I'm sure this is a shocker to all of you. Who would have guessed?]  This one ad was brought to my attention, however, so I clicked to watch it.

I have to admit that I'm a little bit confused by the ad and have to wonder what country Governor Perry lives in!

I'm not entirely sure, for example, why Governor Perry believes that students can't pray in schools.  They most certainly can!  The fact that our public schools are secular only means that students cannot be led in prayer by school administrators or teachers.  Students can pray all they want to as long as it isn't disruptive.  What's more, students can meet before or after school to pray on school grounds. So... children can pray in school, can't they?

As for his issue with gays serving openly in the military I just find his objection pathetic.  I understand that some people are deeply offended by the fact that gay and lesbian people exist and would rather they hide themselves from the public but this is unreasonable. It is not part of a "War on Religion" to allow people to openly admit their sexual orientation while they serve our country in the military. I don't think any soldier is going to care whether a fellow soldier is straight or gay while they are fighting alongside each other.  Do you?

As for the entire term "War on Religion", I find it laughable. No one is being kept from practicing any religion they wish to in this country. No one has to sneak around in order to be able to worship.  No one is hunting down and imprisoning people for worshiping whatever god or gods they want.  No one is being killed for owning or distributing religious texts here. Where is this war, I'd like to know?  No, there is no war on religion in this country.  We simply recognize that people of various faiths [and lack of faith] live in this country and that we must be tolerant of each other.

Sounds more like peace than war to me!

Image courtesy of NASA

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Good Intentions Miss the Mark

I visited a local television station's website one morning to see the weather forecast and noticed a link to a community page.  I was curious what I would find there, so I clicked.

The first link on the page was for a Holiday Song Book.  I remember these!  When I was growing up, our youth group from church used these sheets when we went caroling.  It was a fun activity and I remember how happy the shut-ins were that we stopped to see and sing for them. Truth be told, they were happy to have any visitors but I suspect a group of young people singing was a special joy for them.

I was surprised to see that the television station still produced them.  [At least, if I remember correctly, they also produced them back when I was young.  It's been quite a few years since I was a young person myself  so I don't quite remember, to be honest. It was one of the local TV or radio stations.  That I know for sure.]  I clicked on the link to look at one.

As you can see, if you click on the link yourself, the sheet contains some small advertisements for local supermarkets who help to finance them and quite a few listings of song lyrics!

I was surprised to see that there were Kwanzaa songs and Hanukkah songs listed as well but as I examined them more closely I realized the songs for those holidays seemed to be made up lyrics set to familiar tunes.  I tried to sing them to myself and noticed that the lyrics weren't a very good fit to the songs in some cases, either.  What's more... I had to wonder if the people who celebrate either of these winter holidays would even consider singing any of those songs if they had an occasion to do so!  I really have to doubt that they would.  Both Kwanzaa and Hanukkah have their own traditions and I think, if they wanted to sing, they would use songs that were written for their particular holidays -not new lyrics set to older tunes.

The truth is that, even though the station was trying to be inclusive by listing songs for Kwanzaa and Hanukkah, they really were trying too hard.  Worse, it seems almost insulting to folks who follow those traditions to include these songs on the song sheet at all as it seems like whoever made up the lyrics didn't spend a lot of time on them.

Don't get me wrong.  I am all for being inclusive during this time of year.  I prefer for folks to wish each other a Happy Holiday rather than Merry Christmas unless they are sure that the folks they are greeting are Christian.  It just feels right  to do so.

This particular attempt to be inclusive has fallen flat, I'm afraid.  While I'm sure they meant well, I don't think they accomplished what they tried to do.

Image of Echo II - a balloon satellite - courtesy of NASA  More about balloon satellites can be found here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Atheists distrusted...

A Facebook "friend" recently posted a link to this article which discusses a study which seems to show that Atheists are distrusted about as much as rapists are.

I'll give you a moment to let that sink in.

It is believed by some researchers that this has something to do with the fact that many people believe a person cannot be moral without religious belief.

I take issue with that view. Understandably.

I took a deep breath and commented on the post with:

What I find interesting is the notion that some people have that one cannot be moral without a belief in a deity - as if the only thing that is keeping Christians from breaking the 10 commandments with abandon is that they are afraid they will go to hell.

[I found it amusing that my comment was initially misunderstood by someone who stated, frostily, that not all Christians avoid certain activities because they fear hell.  I noted that this was my point and we continued.]

See... morality does not appear to come from religion but from society, itself.  Children from all different backgrounds are taught right from wrong, good from bad - and we don't need a belief in a deity to tell us which is which.

Oftentimes a person will say that they believe that their deity dictates what is right but this argument doesn't hold water.  If a god tells you to torture a child to make him behave, for example, that isn't going to make it morally right, is it?  Of course not. The argument that your deity wouldn't tell to do something that wasn't right doesn't work, either, as that proves that morality exists outside of the deity, now doesn't it?

No... the only conclusion I can come to is that one group of people have as much of a chance of being "moral" as any other group of people.  That is:  We all follow the norms of the society we live in, for the most part. [Yes.  There are certainly exceptions but those people are not more likely to be Atheists than believers.]

Personally, I think this study shows that non-believers have their work cut out for themselves.  It's time to step out of the closet and show other people that we are "normal" folks just like them.  After all, I think I'm fairly average - and moral - and I'm an Atheist.

Image courtesy of NASA

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The persistence of ignorance

I was saddened and dismayed when I heard a news story recently.  It was about a local school - Milton Hershey School - which denied admission to the school to a 13 year-old boy who is HIV positive. The boy's mother is now suing the school.  The story is here, if you haven't heard about it.

I am just flabbergasted that this sort of disinformation and discrimination exists in this day and age when we know so much about HIV and AIDS than we once did!  I'm astonished that the school officials -apparently -didn't seek the advice of a medical professional before making their decision and shocked that they are unaware that people with HIV are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

It just amazes me that anyone would think that this boy poses a huge risk when proper precautions should already be taken at the school to prevent transmittal of diseases through bodily fluids.  That is, school officials should operate as if anyone could be infected with a blood-borne disease and act appropriately when dealing with bodily fluids.

I hope that this issue is resolved soon but it just highlights how persistent ignorance can be.  I feel really bad for the boy to have to deal with this at the age of 13. I am glad to see that his name and image have been kept out of the news - at least for now.

Image of Antarctica from the International Space Station courtesy of NASA 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Back at it, again!

So... I've decided, once again, to attempt to control my weight.  I'll go back to eating 4 "meals" a day, 4 hours apart - to keep my metabolism up. (because that really seemed to help) I'll attempt to eat more whole grains and watch my sodium intake. I'll try to reduce my meat intake and increase my green, leafy vegetables.  And, yes.  I'll exercise.

In short... I'm going to attempt to behave myself a bit more than I have been as I've gained a ridiculous amount of weight and I'm tired of buying new clothing...

Last time I attempted this sort of "diet" (I'll call it that, but it really isn't a diet), I believe I made the mistake of allowing my diet to become too boring.  It's difficult to stick to the same selections every day - no matter how much you like those foods - so I'll try for a bit more variety this time.

I've just had my first "meal" - which, really, should have occurred within an hour of waking this morning but if I eat then, I can't eat lunch with my co-workers.  I'll have to decide if things work this way or if I have to go back to eating at 6:00, 10:00, 2:00 and 6:00, again.  So!  Right now it's 8:30, 12:30, 4:30 and 8:30.

My menu today:

1st meal: 1 container of Chobani greek yogurt (verry berry flavor - yes. It is spelled that way. [don't get me started!] It's a kid's yogurt, really, but I can't stomach the less-sugar "adult" greek yogurt so I'll deal with this kind.)
1 slice of organic, whole grain, bread - toasted - spread with a little bit of butter

2nd meal: Salad - organic spring mix greens and baby spinach leaves, black olives, cheddar cheese, and Goddess dressing
Amy's medium chili - 1/2 a can.

3rd meal:  Leftovers!  Pork chop, cauliflower and maybe 1/2 twice-baked potatoes (which are really awfully unhealthy but need to be eaten.) or another vegetable, perhaps.

4th meal:  Not sure yet.  Perhaps a bowl of whole grain cereal?  I'll have to see...

I'll apologize if I'm boring you, but I want to document a little of what I'm doing for myself and I thought some people might be interested.  Or not!

Back to normal programming tomorrow...


today's image courtesy of NASA

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Seven - December 4, 2011

Name your seven favorite characters from M*A*S*H.
This is a tough one this week!  I think I liked them all! Well... most of them.  I'll try to list my favorites, though...
  1. Hawkeye Pierce - Witty, intelligent, thoughtful... what's not to like? I've no idea how Alan Alda managed to memorize some of those lines, though!
  2. Maxwell Klinger - Klinger always makes me smile!  I love his various antics and how well he and Potter played off each other!  
  3. Father Mulcahy - He always treated everyone fairly - whether or not they were religious.  Seemed like a nice guy to get to know.
  4. Charles Winchester - Snotty and pompous, but funny to watch!
  5. Radar O'Reilly - I loved how Radar could read Henry Blake's mind. 
  6. Sherman Potter - What a character he was!  One classic scene that comes to mind is when Frank Burns tries to show off how he can drive a tank and ends up leveling a building or two and finally rolls over a jeep before he can get it stopped!  Col. Potter takes a look at destroyed jeep, shakes his head, pulls out his pistol and shoots the flattened jeep! Hilarious!
  7. BJ Honeycutt- Most of the time he played straightman to Hawkeye, but he seemed like a decent guy just doing his time in the military and hoping to get home to his family soon- though he could be the prankster himself, sometimes!
One complaint I always had about the show was the fact that there was only one 3-dimensional character who was female - Margaret Houlihan - and she was just awful, in my opinion.  She could have been a really strong woman but she chose to attach herself to a married man- at least for a while - instead of finding an unattached man to date or choosing to remain single - which is not an unreasonable option. Yes - she did eventually marry a man - and divorce him - but it didn't change my opinion of her. It just irritated me to see a strong woman who didn't live up to her potential.  I just despised her, to be honest.

These are the answers to the Sunday Seven at Patrick's Place.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Saturday Six - December 3, 2011

1. Follow-up to a question from Episode 1: If you could spend one day as a member of the opposite sex and a different race, would you stay closer to the places you currently frequent, or would you try to spend your time in a place where more people like your current form would go? I think it would be much more interesting to see how I would be received if I stayed in the same area I usually do.  

2. Follow-up to a question from Episode 4: Of the following three types of presidential candidates, which type would you be most likely to vote for in 2012: A) Someone who supported all of your concerns and got every bill you supported passed …but was unscrupulous and often lied to get where he is. B) Someone whose political views were nearly the opposite of yours, who was only able to pass a handful of bills you didn’t want passed…but who was completely honest and ethical all the time. C) Someone who was middle of the road, passed bills that tended to favor compromise more than any one side of the issue, and was usually (but not always) ethical and honest.  This is a tough one...  Obviously I would like someone who is ethical and honest in that office but I wouldn't want a President who disagreed with all my political views!  I guess I have to go with C as I can't have both in this scenario.

3. Follow-up to a question from Episode 12: You learn that your best friend’s spouse is carrying on an affair, and that person realizes that you know the secret. He or she begs for time, promising that he (or she) will reveal all to your best friend. How long are you willing to give the cheater to confess before you will step in and let your friend know yourself? I would give the cheater only 2 or 3 days before I spill the beans.  I wouldn't be able to carry that secret around with me for much longer than that.  It would seriously bother me to do so.

4. Follow-up to a question from Episode 15: If you had to give up one of your five senses, which one would you be most unwilling to live without? It's a toss-up between sight and sound. I guess I'd have to go with my eyesight.  I think I would greatly miss being able to hear but I'd be much more able to get around without help if I had my vision than if I lost my hearing.  Not having smell would make me sad as that would affect taste and could be dangerous as could living without a sense of touch but I think sight would be the sense I'd miss the most.

5. Follow-up to a question from Episode 27: What would you say is your biggest character strength? I've no idea... Perhaps my honesty.  I do try to be as honest as possible -within reason.  I'm not going to tell a friend that I think her dress is ugly, for example, though I might tell her that it wouldn't be my first choice.

6. Follow-up to a question from Episode 33: Which seasonal or holiday movie do you least look forward to this time of year? Hmm...  Good question!  As much as I love Rudolph and Santa Clause is coming to town (as I grew up enjoying those)  I think my favorite is It's a Wonderful Life!  It reminds all of us that each of us affects other people - sometimes in ways we don't realize - and that we are each important in that way.

These have been the Saturday Six from Patrick's Place!  This week he has given us follow-up questions from prior Saturday Six episodes!  Go visit his site and play along!

Friday, December 2, 2011

It's the holiday season...

And so the awkward time of the year begins...

As a non-believer, I'm not always comfortable with some activities around the office as we near Christmas. For example, yesterday the office Christmas tree was set up and we were all pretty much expected to participate in decorating it. I do participate in this activity but I have to wonder if I'm being misleading by doing so.  I mean, I don't really consider the tree a "Christian" decoration - not like a nativity scene would be - but perhaps others do.

Many of my co-workers give each other Christmas cards.  I don't participate in this activity anymore but I used to.  I just would give out ones that say "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays" so as to be all-inclusive. After I overheard one particular discussion between two co-workers about people not saying "Merry Christmas" and the alleged "War on Christmas" I don't bother to exchange cards with my co-workers.  It seems some of them only appreciate the "right kind" of card or greeting anyway.

See, it appears that my co-workers - Christians all of them with the exception of a couple Catholics* - presume that I'm a Christian.  I've never given them that impression on purpose. On the other hand, I don't loudly broadcast my non-belief.  If I were asked, I'd be honest but I'm just not quite sure what to do in the face of that sort of silent assumption.

I don't want to get into a religious discussion with them.  That I do know.  It isn't a conversation that belongs in the workplace in my opinion.  I do feel a bit like a fraud, though.  I've not found an easy solution to the problem. I suppose part of my the issue is that I don't feel that I'd be accepted as an atheist and I really don't want to become the token non-believer in the office. Maybe I'm just a wimp.

But, I guess as usual, I'll put up my nutcracker, snowflake and winter penguin decorations in my workstation, avoid discussions about church services and keep my head down until January. I really wish people would try harder not to make assumptions about other people, though.  Of course, that's like trying to change human nature so it isn't going to happen.

*are Catholics considered Christian?  I always thought so but some folks seem to think not.

image taken by the Hubble telescope courtesy of NASA