Wednesday, December 31, 2008

This Year, and the Last

[original title was This Year and the Next, but I wasn't finished when midnight arrived...]

Quick wrap-up type thing...

10 best things about 2008:

1. Obama
2. General Assembly
3. Led an entire Sunday service and got some good feedback
4. This blog, Facebook, and other sites that introduced me to some great folks and broadened my outlook a bit
5. Positive general direction at work
6. Progressive politics and attitudes toward religion gaining ground worldwide, but especially in the west
7. Wally graduated from high school and started college
8. Got to read some great books
9. Took 4 short trips, all enjoyable
10. Slightly less monetary stress this year than last

10 worst things about '08:

1. Proposition 8
2. Ongoing misadventures of President Lameduck and his gang of idiots
3. Walking away from the neighborhood association -- it was that or a padded cell
4. Starting the year with a burglary and ending it with a sprained ankle
5. Carl's decision to change jobs, which turned out to be a bad one
6. Uncertainty about Wally's well-being and future
7. My 4-wheeled money pit
8. Lack of discretionary funds for things like a new fridge and landscaping
9. Dental issues
10. A general sense of weariness, of "been there, done that, nothing new under the sun."

I didn't like this year much at all, but making these lists does help to put many things into perspective. Looking at it objectively, it wasn't all that bad. Still felt like uphill all the way, though.

10 wishes/hopes/goals for 2009:

1. That Barack Obama lives up to his promises, in spirit if nothing else. I've become too accustomed to being disappointed by "leaders."
2. Find a way to enhance my income
3. That Carl will get his priorities in order
4. Ditto for Wally
5. That a slightly less hectic, less stressful schedule will free me to write more and better posts.
6. That we'll get one good, newsworthy snowfall down here in Dixie
7. That the church I'm in will prosper and grow
8. That Proposition 8 will be history by this time next year
9. That I'll find a good mechanic who won't rip me off
10. That the Cubs will win the World Series (this is for D.S., a good friend of mine) Click Here to Read More..

Got Your Calendar?

Tired of those "freebie" calendars you get in the mail from charities that nag you endlessly to pay for them?

Get what you really want at ... I just ordered this:

Click the Amazon box, upper right ... I get points!

Happy New Year! Click Here to Read More..

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


I haven't done any kind of daily chronicle of my ankle injury, simply because I'm obviously not the first person ever to have had an ankle injury, and by comparison, it's a pretty minor injury. Boring, in fact. The 4-day Christmas weekend was stultifyingly boring because the most exciting thing I did was polish off most of a box of Cheezits in front of the tube (actually quite novel...I haven't pigged out like that in years). I also rearranged my home office space. That was almost anticlimactic.

But the ankle sprain itself has had little effect on me other than making me want to sleep a lot. And that's mainly what I did for 4 days. Carl worked every day except Christmas and people were considerate enough to refrain from calling me on the phone and waking me up.

I wasn't able to use the boots the clinic gave me because when they put them on me, I didn't pay proper attention so as to put them on right next time. I remedied that today when I went for the follow-up visit. Now I can look semi-fashionable. The ace bandages are already somewhat worn and stretched out of shape (they were originally Wally's). This morning my gait wasn't quite as stiff and slow as previous days. The pain is noticeably less severe. The bruising, however, will be with me for awhile. My entire ankle is this scary eggplant shade.

Given the variety of pain medication I have lying around the house, I've used relatively little of it.

It felt good to get back to work yesterday. People have been nice. There wasn't any awkwardness about it being a w/c claim; I think everybody is just extremely relieved that it wasn't anywhere near as bad as it could have been. It didn't even count as "lost time" (which would have deprived us all of our quarterly Wal-mart gift card, the universe forbid), since the manager adjusted the time clock to cover the time I spent getting checked out at the clinic), and I've already made up the extra half hour that my appointment today took up. The last few days have been productive and low-stress, since da boss is out for the week.

Still ... this year began on a sucky note (we were burglarized in January, before I started posting here full-time) and I won't be sorry to see it go. Click Here to Read More..

Saturday, December 27, 2008


If you haven't seen it yet, Infidelguy is showing it for free on his site...bring your own popcorn. Click Here to Read More..

Friday, December 26, 2008

234 and the year's not over yet

I created an Excel spreadsheet to include this blog, as well as three others I maintain on different sites, and charted my activity for the years I've been at this.

This year, Blogger wins hands down with 129. This doesn't count all posts, just days on which I posted.

August was my heaviest posting month this year, but my lightest in '07.

Between 2004 and 2005 I had a total of 3 posts -- here. Then zero activity on '06, then 65 in '07 -- none of them here.

I'm hoping to do more and better posting in 2009.

Maybe for next Halloween I'll dress up as The Mad Statistician.

Personally, this hasn't been the best year for me -- not the worst, but there were some significant bumps in the road that I could have lived without. My activity on this site, especially, and the people I've come to know here, have been one of the bright spots. So THANKS!

Expect a different theme/layout as of early January.

/v Click Here to Read More..

Thursday, December 25, 2008

My Lazy-Ass Plan for Tomorrow

Tomorrow Carl is taking the bus to work and I am taking myself to bed. Or the couch, maybe. I really need to lie down ALL DAY with my foot up in the air. It hurt today and I didn't do much...except wander around the house doing various piddly, unimportant things. I certainly have enough books and magazines to read and DVDs and TV shows to watch. Staying horizontal for a few hours can only help.

Oh, yeah, note to self: those painkillers they gave you won't help you if you don't take 'em. Click Here to Read More..

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sore and Wondering

Yesterday I mis-stepped on some stairs while at work and messed up my ankle. Not broken, probably not even technically sprained, but painful as hell. Though quite a few people warned me that it would hurt "a lot more the second and third day," I'm doing fine and hope to be walking normally again a week from now. The timing on the holiday is good, giving me a 4-day weekend to do little or nothing while it heals.

That's the "sore" part. What I'm wondering about is my mother.

In 1973, while in the midst of yet another beer-soaked battle, my father grabbed my mother by the ankles and pulled her off the bed and onto a bare floor. Her right hip didn't fracture initially, I don't think, because she walked on it for 2 or 3 more days. My grandfather died the day after this happened, so instead of seeking medical help, she traveled a few hundred miles and back to the funeral, self-medicated with whiskey on the way home, then sat down on the sofa and could not get back up again until the paramedics carried her out some 24 hours later.

I remember the wail of despair she let out when the doctor told her her hip was broken. She had steadfastly denied the possibility all that long day while she sat on the sofa. She suffered for years with that hip. Despite having pins put in to restore function, exercises and various types of medication, it never healed right and eventually, about 5 years later, she had surgery to correct the mistakes made the first time. The worst part, I think, was that she never regained the regal posture she'd always prided herself on. And the hostility between her and Dad never went away, even when she was getting around on a walker and then a cane. This terrible lifestyle change for my mother came at the age of 53.

Moreover, I can only imagine the financial hit we must have taken from this. Two weeks or so in the hospital, doctor visits...then a re-do on the first fracture. Dad made only $15K a year, max, and while Blue Cross is one of the top insurance companies, there's no way they would have covered all of this 100%. How my father managed to hold onto a house and pay bills when he was the sole earner is a mystery I will never know the answer to. I do know that we never received charity. If we had, it would have been the subject of the rantings and ravings that went on in our home every weekend.

What astonishes me now, as I deal with this relatively minor injury, making my way carefully from room to room at home, planning every movement and reviewing ways to prevent something like this from ever happening again, is the fact that after that first hip fracture, my mother went on to break her ankle a year and a half later and then her other hip a year and a half after that. The second hip fracture was just before I started college. Three major fractures in less than three years! Certainly, the first one was perpetrated by my father (though I doubt he really understood what the result would be of his mindless action -- actors in such plays rarely do), the ankle and second hip fracture came about when my mother was entirely alone in a room and my father was either out of the house or asleep. Both of those times, she was intoxicated. Mom claimed that the ankle fracture was the result of "a wet leaf on the bottom of her shoe," but still, she was drinking. And the other hip was broken when she attempted to get out of bed and her feet became tangled in the sheets. "It could happen to anyone," she later said, but when you've had so much to drink that you can't feel where the sheets end and your feet begin, how surprising is it to land on a hard floor when all you wanted to do was walk 20 feet to the bathroom?

I am not accident- or injury-prone. That's why, for me, this ankle injury is a revelation. I don't like it, not one little bit, and you can bet that I will never again carry an object with two hands down a flight of stairs, no matter how short. I will be even more careful walking than before, looking down, checking for obstacles, measuring curb heights, etc. I am hugely grateful that the accident took place while I was on the clock, even though the items I was carrying down the steps were intended for a holiday luncheon. So far as I am aware right now, this is worker's comp, so it's not going to drain me financially. And yes, you know the first order of business at the clinic was a drug screen for Volly. I'm immensely grateful that the screen will reveal nary a questionable substance of any kind, for I had not taken so much as an aspirin in the previous three days.

I will also think twice about consuming alcohol. Since Carl doesn't drive, I'm usually the one behind the wheel so I'm designated driver by default and that doesn't leave much room for imbibing. But even if I'm "just walking somewhere," I'm now much more aware of how easy it is to screw up while under the influence. This accident yesterday did not involve alcohol -- I think of how much more serious it could have been otherwise.

And so, my thoughts return once again to my mother. Three fractures in three years, and still she kept on drinking. I shake my head in disbelief that someone could be so cavalier, knowing what a bad fracture could mean, and then to carelessly let it happen twice more.

I've learned a lot from my accident. I'm still trying to figure out what, if anything, my mother learned from all of hers? Click Here to Read More..

Monday, December 22, 2008

RIP Jenny

I got a Christmas card from a second cousin, who told me that her sister Jenny died earlier this year. She'd had a host of health problems that were beyond the purview of 21st century medicine.

She and her husband Tony were married for about 43 years. I remember attending their wedding, thinking Jenny was the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen.

Not too long after the wedding, I heard gossip exchanged between my mother and Jenny's ... Tony didn't treat her well; they were "having problems." Our families weren't extremely close; we saw each other about once a year at most. It wasn't our family's way to make a big production out of our problems, so the truth of most situations rarely came to light; it just hung like a murky cloud on the horizon and could be forgotten by just looking away.

I saw Jenny at her sister's wedding, and then at mine, but don't remember even a little bit of conversation. I think I may have had those vague, undefined "problems" of theirs in my head and was worried about saying the wrong thing. Again, that's how our family was -- my mother identified me early on as someone who suffered from chronic foot-in-mouth disease, so when in doubt, I kept a distance. I think I still do that.

And yet...just like my parents, who stayed together for 48 years until Mom's passing, this couple hung in there, too. They had no children.

Jenny, I hardly knew ye. Click Here to Read More..

Friday, December 19, 2008

Now I Wonder

I was reading yet another article about the trend wherein some doctors and pharmacists won't prescribe or fill prescriptions for contraceptives because of their religious beliefs. I guess I was idly thinking how glad I was never to have been victimized that way ... and then I remembered something.

Back in 2003 I went permanent as an employee at a large company that had excellent health benefits. We had insurance through a large company that offered prescriptions by mail at a discount.

My primary care physician gave me my first full physical in years and asked me a lot of questions. One of the things I answered yes to was breast pain. As a remedy, he recommended low-dose estrogen oral contraceptives.

I'd used the pill only once before that, during the year following childbirth by C-section and gallbladder surgery that came soon after. It seemed to me that getting pregnant would be particularly dangerous during that year, so I went on the pill, but gave it up after repeatedly forgetting to take it daily. Fortunately, I didn't get pregnant, but had not considered ever using it again. However, the breast pain was fairly severe, so I followed my doctor's recommendation.

I ordered the prescription through the insurer and stayed on it for about 2 years. I suppose it did help the breast pain to an extent; it didn't make much difference in my cycles, other than enabling me to know exactly when they would start each month.

But I ran into trouble repeatedly with the pharmacy-by-mail folks. I would send in my payment ahead of time, and then the medicine would not arrive. On at least 4 different occasions, I would have to get on the phone with the insurance company and explain that although I had paid for the prescription, the medicine was failing to arrive on time. Disrupting the 28-day cycle threw everything off and of course, I had to worry about becoming pregnant even with a backup method. Ultimately, I left that job and the benefits that went with it, and haven't bothered to go back on the pill. I'm 50 now and figure menopause is bound to hit sooner than later...

But it wasn't until this evening, reflecting on this news topic, that I began to wonder if my missing birth control pills were due to something more sinister than bureaucratic incompetence. Was someone deliberately "neglecting" to fill my prescription? Or were they perhaps setting my order aside or on the bottom of the pile, to give the impression that they were technically taking care of it but letting it lapse long enough to increase the chances of my becoming pregnant?

My current job has just begun offering pharmacy-by-mail, but with a different insurance company. I haven't considered going back on the pill -- my current doctor would probably discourage it simply because my pre-menopausal symptoms benefit more from topical progesterone than estrogen -- but if I ever did deal with one of these mail-order pharmacies again, I'd be much more aggressive in insisting that my order be fulfilled to my standards.

Click Here to Read More..

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Inspirational! Heart-rending! Phony as a 3-dollar bill!!!

Take heart, fellow victims of Urban Legend Bombardment!

You are not alone.

Sooner or later, this one will hit your in-box, so be prepared. Whether you want to fire back with "Check Snopes before you send me this crap, you idiot!" or just diplomatically delete it, this will perhaps save you a few mouse clicks.

It's not true, and wasn't true back in 1945.

Note: The urban legend may be preceded by some lovely photos of paintings rendered on feathers ... Snopes doesn't have anything to say about that. The photos could be 'shopped, or they could be real, but they're nice to look at. Too bad so much time and effort is spent promoting religious schmaltz rather than a talented artist. Click Here to Read More..

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Let's Go Sailing Down Denial River

So, I'm using a social-networking site to keep track of Wally. He obliges me by posting these cryptic little snippets, which I'm sure are intentionally designed to push every possible button. Things like "I don't like my new probation slip," and "I'm ready for an evening of underage drinking and intravenous drug use."

Now, I don't believe he does any intravenous drugs -- that really isn't his style. I believe that comment was sarcasm. The drinking, however, is another story. While he abstained after moving back into my home, mainly because he had no friends to hang with, he certainly did quite a bit while living with Doug between ages 13 and 16 -- his circle of friends was affluent and certain of their invincibility. Once he moved out to live on his own, the pattern reasserted itself.

Wally should not drink. No kid his age should drink, but especially someone whose maternal grandparents were both alcoholics, and whose paternal grandmother and uncle have shown a propensity toward substance abuse.

The most recent alarming post was that he had been kicked out of his dorm. This is finals week and he will soon be traveling back to Doug's neck of the woods for his winter break. I texted him with a brief question as to his circumstances; he called back and told me the whole sad story: Unruly behavior indoors, more unruly behavior out of doors, a window broken, police called, alcohol found on him, etc. There were a few "I messed up" comments, but most of what I heard from him was along the lines of:

  • "It's finals week -- can't they give us a break?"
  • "How can they throw us out into the street? Don't they realize we're thousands of miles from home?"
  • "This is just another way they rip us off -- I'll have to pay to get my dorm room back and probably have to take some stupid sobriety course."
  • "They were so NASTY to us!"
  • "So we were making a lot of noise -- couldn't someone just tell us that without calling the cops?"
  • "I hate having to tell Dad -- he'll freak out; he's known to be irrational."
  • "I don't drink anywhere near as much as some other dudes on campus."
  • "Dad says I need to quit drinking -- oh, like he doesn't? He's the world's biggest hypocrite."
After expressing a reasonable amount of sympathy for his immediate predicament, I took the liberty of reminding him (via text message) that it isn't THAT hard to make good decisions. His response? "K."

Within the last month or so, he's expressed the desire to leave the rather large university he's attending and return to the environment he's called "home" on and off since 2002. I asked him if "up and moving" is going to be his default response to any difficulty. True, he's been "up and moving" along with one parent figure or the other since he was five and a half, but his father lived in his childhood home until age 27 or so, and ditto for me until about age 22 -- for us, the frequent moves are a relatively recent phenomenon. No, this activity is much more typical of the stepfather he so loathes. When I pointed it out to him, it seemed to get through. But now I'm not sure. I fear that instability is the norm for him -- one mini-drama after another. He was in trouble with the law for petty vandalism at age 13; refused to settle down and abide by the rules when living with Doug and Judith, thereby getting himself kicked out and sent back to live with Carl and me; continually restless, oppositional and uncommunicative for the entire year and a half he was with us; one can only guess what sorts of scrapes he encountered once he moved out and was on his own before heading off to the university. I know about 3 traffic tickets, one of which I paid. He seems to have fallen into that pattern of continually craving "excitement" and risk, especially if it involves other people. I'm amazed at his level of extroversion -- this is someone who seems incapable of just relaxing by himself. Doug is like that to a degree, although for him it's more of a strong need for one partner. Wally doesn't seem satisfied without a throng.

It's sad; I have no idea what to do about him. This is not to say that the divorce and parent remarriages on both sides aren't at the root of it, because I'm sure they are ... but what to do? Divorce Carl? Have Doug divorce Judith and get back with me? Apologize for ruining Wally's childhood? I've done that already, to a limited extent. Wally's been in counseling with Doug, Judith and more than one practitioner. He is not a stupid person; he has the ability to look himself in the eye and decide to grow up.

Question is, will he? And when?

Edited to add: Reading over his remarks leads me to the conclusion that he's way out of control and headed in a far more grim direction. Time to tie up the raft... Click Here to Read More..

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Too good not to share

Haven't posted in awhile; didn't want anyone to think I was dead...


If you have sex with a prostitute against her will, is it considered rape or shoplifting?

Can you cry under water?

How important does a person have to be before they are considered assassinated instead of just murdered?

Why do you have to 'put your two cents in'... but it's only a 'penny for your thoughts'? Where's that extra penny going to?

Why does a round pizza come in a square box?

What disease did cured ham actually have?

How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?

Why is it that people say they 'slept like a baby' when babies wake up like every two hours?

If a deaf person has to go to court, is it still called a hearing?

Why are you IN a movie, but you're ON TV?

Why do people pay to go up tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?

Why do doctors leave the room while you change? They're going to see you naked anyway.

Why is 'bra' singular and 'panties' plural?

Why do toasters always have a setting that burns the toast to a horrible crisp, which no decent human being would eat?

If Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why is there a stupid song about him?

Can a hearse carrying a corpse drive in the carpool lane ?

If the professor on Gilligan's Island can make a radio out of a coconut, why can't he fix a hole in a boat?

Why does Goofy stand erect while Pluto remains on all fours? They're both dogs!

If Wile E. Coyote had enough money to buy all that ACME crap, why didn't he just buy dinner?

If corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil is made from vegetables, what is baby oil made from?

If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?

Why do they call it an asteroid when it's outside the hemisphere, but call it a hemorrhoid when it's in your butt?

Did you ever notice that when you blow in a dog's face, he gets mad at you, but when you take him for a car ride, he sticks his head out the window?
Click Here to Read More..

Friday, December 05, 2008

'Tis the Season to be Childish & Hypocritical

Some people need extra eggnog, methinks...

Why aren't they out shopping for gifts?

Or decorating?

Or feeding people at a nearby shelter?

Or filling the red kettles?

Have they nothing better to do than act out with no more maturity than a preschooler knocking down the other kid's Lego tower because it's better constructed and people come by to take a second look?

Gotta love it.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!! Click Here to Read More..

Thursday, December 04, 2008

A Meme for Grownups

Questions for the people who are a little older....
What bill do you hate paying the most?
Credit cards - reminders of past foolishness.

When's the last time someone cooked you a romantic dinner?
A couple of years ago -- some chef in a restaurant!

Whats the farthest you would drive to see someone?
So far, 850 miles is the most, but I'm not ruling out 1500 or so...

How many colleges did you attend?
2, not counting random "Continuing-Ed" stuff.

Why did you choose the shirt that you have on right now?
Um, it's cold enough for heavy cotton PJ's.

What are your thoughts on gas prices?
They made Thanksgiving affordable this year.

First thought when the alarm went off this morning?
Ha! It didn't go off 'cause today's a vacation day ... mwahahaha!

Last thought before going to sleep last night?
My feet are still cold. Wonder if I should put on sockzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.....

Do you miss being a child?
Only if I could do it all over, knowing all I know now.

What errand/chore do you despise?
Cleaning the bathtub, 'cause no matter how much I scrub, it still comes out looking the same, except some of the enamel has come off. :(

Get up early or sleep in?
I'm cursed with morning-personitis.

Have you found real love yet?
Actually, yes!

Favorite lunch meat?
Olive loaf. Yeah, I know...

What do you get every time you go into Wal-Mart?
Quite often it's an OTC pain remedy.

Beach or lake?

What are you listening to?
Music in my head, currently "Wrapped Around Your Finger" by Sting.

Do you think marriage is an outdated ritual?

Do you own land?
Just what my house sits on.

Favorite movie you wouldn't want anyone to find out about?
"Hannibal." I hate the way the ending deviated from the book's, and yes I know the dinner scene was over-the-top gross, and Julianne Moore isn't Jodie Foster, but DAMN the cinematography and Hans Zimmer's score were incredible, and it's Hannibal Lecter, and that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Cowboys or Indians?
Cowboys, until they improve the makeup jobs on the Indians.

Cops or Robbers?
Depends on the movie.

Sopranos or Desperate Housewives?

Grey's or 'The Office?
I've only seen "Grey's."

What famous person would you like to have dinner with?
Benjamin Franklin.

Indoors or Outdoor?
Outdoors, even though I'm rarely there.

Have you ever crashed your vehicle?

Have you ever had to use a fire extinguisher for its intended purpose?

Do you have a teddy bear?
Bunch of them.

What does someone have to do to get your attention?
Speak in a clear, firm voice.

Do you go to church?

How old are you?

What do you need right now?

What's the last thing you ate?
Salad last night, coffee this morning.

Do you have any pets? kitty has adopted a new family.

Last thing you bought?
Gas & snack at a convenience store.

Are you going to work?
Not today! Not tomorrow! Not until Monday! Eat yer heart out! Click Here to Read More..

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

It Came Out...

A couple of months ago I took this picture from the front porch. Our sunsets are always spectacular, but once in awhile the morning sky shows off, too.

Here's the shot I was hoping for:

Click Here to Read More..

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Losing "Friend Points" for myself

I just came back from the Midwest (barely ahead of the snow, which slowed me down a tad in Indy). Visited my two good friends who always make me feel welcome. It had been two years and I missed them.

These are such cool folks, really unique, self-determining, independent, colorful, and genuine. I met the wife through some online writing groups and have probably been to visit them about a half-dozen times since. They are very busy, even with the husband being retired -- they have a farm and the wife works full-time. Visiting them always gives me a lift, because their home is such a reflection of their personalities. First of all, there are books EVERYWHERE. Plenty of knick-knacks and art on the walls. Always something to look at, think about, talk about.

Being married to Carl for nearly 12 years has turned me into more of a neat/clean freak than I ever imagined possible. I take sparkling toilets, empty kitchen sinks, sorted laundry and invisible dust for granted. I've also become fairly intolerant of clutter, letting it build to a point and then clearing it all out. I sometimes look at my house, especially after I return from a visit with them, and decide that we're really boring people. Our house just doesn't scream out much about our personalities or lifestyle. It's just a house. It doesn't reflect our combined 102 years of life on the planet. You can probably discern something or other if you look long and hard enough, but I'm sure there's nothing memorable about it.

My visits with my friends have brought out these rather conflicting sides of me. I love all their "stuff," but have a problem with the sheer volume of it and the underlying environmental conditions. The place truly is not clean. He smokes inside, which Carl does not, regardless of the weather (bless him!!). Ashtrays are in every room of the house, filled to overflowing. The outside gets tracked in all day long, and there's an unemptied litter box in the bathroom.

Worst of all, things just get piled everywhere. My friend is something of a "mother hen" to some of her other friends, who have fluctuating financial situations. Some of them end up staying over there long-term. Consequently, their belongings stay there, too. My friend complained this weekend that her house has become a dumping ground for things that people bring over and leave -- her way of dealing with it is making it freely available for any other visitor to use (things like Judy's special green tea or Joyce's handmade pillows, etc.).

I really sympathize, except that I am convinced that the "orphan belongings" represent merely a fraction of all the other things that belong to them and never get thrown out, filed or sorted.

I've visited there every year since they moved in. First time, they were in a double-wide while the house was being built, so this is a brand-new house. In the course of five years, the mountains of stuff have just gotten bigger. I'm convinced that if you did an archeological dig on their kitchen table, you'd find old magazines from 2003, and maybe before. The place was "pleasantly eclectic" the first couple of years. Now it's depressingly chaotic.

There are no uncluttered spaces, no unobstructed lines, in the entire house. Nothing gets thrown out, just moved to the side to make room for something new. It's getting so I can't deal with it, even sojourning for 2 or 3 nights.

Someone reading this might think "Well, if it bothers you so much, why don't you offer to help them clean it?"

I have.

On my second visit after they moved into the house, my friend was under the weather, fretting about the new carpet being dirty, etc. I was more than happy to get out the vacuum and go over every inch of carpet they had. I also dusted, dumped the litter box and cleaned the toilet. There wasn't much clutter, so I stacked things a bit more neatly, folded some laundry and swept. I felt good about it and my friend was appreciative. I did the same, to a lesser extent, on the next couple of visits.

But this time? No. I see no point. I worry that my friends are turning into Mr. & Mrs. Collier, and that one day, the mountain of stuff is just going to cave in. The cat climbs up on the kitchen table and lies on top of it all until they yell at him to get down. One day the cat will take a false step...

I feel guilty writing this because a large part of me firmly believes that your behavior towards others is way more important than how nice you keep your house. But it just seems a damn shame on so many other levels -- mental health, physical health, even fiscal health. But these aren't the clueless, incompetent losers you often see on "cure the clutter" shows like Clean Sweep -- which used to inspire me on my previous visits. They are genuinely busy, simply not able to keep up. But I sense an air of resignation now, like "This is how we are, and everyone else will have to accept it."

I know I'll be invited back and am beginning to wonder whether or not to accept... Click Here to Read More..

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving to All of Y'all...

...and I'll be back here in less than a month to do it again for Christmas...

Seriously, do something that makes you feel good this weekend.


Volly Click Here to Read More..

This is New! Yeah -- It is!

My local online-only news site offers the absolute best and worst of grass-roots opinion. Never mind people having to give their real names when they send in a "letter to the editor." Never mind spelling, grammar or logical coherency. If you want boring stuff like that, read the New York Times.

One erudite soul wrote in to express the opinion that Barack Obama is "scary," by virtue of the fact that he appears in his press conferences behind a podium that carries the label "Office of the President-elect."

To this guy, it's all part of that grand conspiracy to take over the world. The man and his minions of secret Marxist satanists. How dare the guy actually prepare for the most important office in the world, which he's going to be assuming in less than 2 months?

No, he should be more like his predecessor, who did NO advance preparation for his office. Or none that any of us knew about. It was actually all done for him, by his handlers, who had been preparing for January 20, 2001 since approximately June of 1974.

Next time I show up early to a meeting, or make an effort to be prepared for anything important, I'll also be ready with an apology for my arrogance and Marxist-Satanist leanings. Click Here to Read More..

Monday, November 24, 2008

Whacko Tourism

Forget museum tours, saying farewell to the glaciers, swimming with the dolphins or even the 8 wonders of the world. No longer do we have to explore Aztec ruins to get a glimpse of how those quaint sects expressed their worldview. Just pick a spot at random on a map and chances are, you'll be able to find a fairly large group of people who think they have "the answers" and would like nothing better than to share them with you...

More mainstream traditionalists include people like actor Mel Gibson, who is building his own church in Malibu, Calif., that is not recognized by the Catholic archdiocese.

What’s unusual about New Jerusalem is its size, Leatham said. The town is probably the biggest “apocalyptic colony” in the world, he said, bigger than the Branch Davidian settlement at Waco, Texas, or Jonestown in Guyana.

And if you don't have your passport handy, hop on down to Florida. Tom Monaghan will be happy to see you. At the very least, you could get some free pizza. Click Here to Read More..

Saturday, November 22, 2008

From The New York Times on Wednesday:

Happy people spend a lot of time socializing, going to church and reading newspapers — but they don’t spend a lot of time watching television, a new study finds.

That’s what unhappy people do.


I can't dispute this one, in terms of personal and observed experience.

Though, it's hard to say if "gluing oneself to a computer and reading online versions of the news" really qualifies as "reading the newspaper."

But assuming it does ... my household aligns with this. Carl will sit in front of the TV all day whenever he can. I drop in to watch "Two and a Half Men" and then it's back to my preferred set of activities. I can only take the tube for a couple of hours tops, even without the usual distractions. Does blogging count as "socializing?" I think most people would say it does. Maybe not the same as attending a party or playing bridge, but there is give and take, varying according to the blogger's preferences and topics.

Too much time on the living room sofa is like being stuck in a high school locker room where there are lots of smelly socks.

Carl gets ALL his news from TV. He's not miserable, but he's certainly depressed and disinclined toward socializing.

Now, what would we have said in the pre-TV days? What did the unhappy people do back then?

Is there a correlation between TV-induced idleness and depression? How about the similar timelines between TV and other conveniences such as automatic washers and interstate highways that led to the development of supermarkets?

It's all connected, folks.

Click Here to Read More..

Thursday, November 20, 2008


A random overheard conversation yesterday conjured up a childhood episode I hadn't thought about in decades.

Nearly every weekend, my parents would get going on a case of beer (Ballantine Ale, if the brand matters to ya). They'd spend all of Saturday, and quite often Sunday as well, becoming increasingly loud, argumentative, and inevitably violent. It didn't matter if they went out somewhere or if we had company. By the time I was midway through elementary school, visits from relatives had trickled to nearly nothing. Outings always involved my dad showing off his alcohol-impaired driving skills, which weren't great even at the height of sobriety.

The "main event" was always a physical dust-up. The first time I called the police on them, I was eight. So it was sometime before that when this incident occurred.

Mom and Dad were in each other's faces. Dad was a few inches taller than Mom; he advanced on her and the body language said somebody was going to get hit. I grabbed a notebook -- a half-inch three ring binder, made of the flimsiest paperboard -- reached up and hit my father on top of the head with it.

He stopped yelling at my mother, turned around and looked down at me. The look and the tone of voice were classic parental disapproval.

"Oh, Volly," he said. "I am so disappointed in you."

No, there was no punishment. One time after that I tried to break them up; he kind of snarled "Don't interfere!" at me, but that was about as bad as that ever got. I'm just struck by the irony that he found my lame attempt at peacemaking to be so objectionable and inappropriate.

As many kids often mistakenly believe that they are the cause of their parents' conflict, an equal number must feel on some level that their purpose in being born was to "cure" their parents' problems. We feel a sense of personal failure when that doesn't work out. Click Here to Read More..

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Time to put back that Amazon widget and stick this one up there...

In their new book Steeplejacking United Church of Christ Ministers John Dorhauer and Sheldon Culver describe the organized efforts of the religious right to silence the members of the religious left within mainline Protestant churches.

The Institute on Religion and Democracy was founded in 1981 by conservative Democrats who realized that liberal elements in the mainline Protestant churches had been among the most powerful opponents of hawkish American foreign policy. Over the years, the Institute has been very successful in turning the flocks of liberal pastors against them.

More on this... Click Here to Read More..

5 Good, 5 Bad

Another quickie...

5 Good Things Right Now, no particular order...

1. Obama.
2. Lots of rain lately.
3. Quitting neighborhood association after the first of the year.
4. Spent the week getting reacquainted with my old job. Good crew.
5. Looking forward to probable Thanksgiving trip to see BFF in Illinois

5 Bad Things Right Now, no particular order...

1. Carl got sick at work yesterday.
2. The auto repairs I've been putting off may cost me an arm & a leg today.
edited to add, 11:43: I underestimated. It cost an arm, a leg, a couple of toenails, and several gray hairs. And probably my gizzard.
3. Another month and a half to go before I'm out of the neighborhood association.
4. Phone bill went up 20 bucks.
5. Another Sunday forum at church tomorrow and I have nothing prepared. Click Here to Read More..

Friday, November 14, 2008


I've been both busy AND blocked, to the point that I haven't even had time to sit down and check in with all the blogs on my list. Typically, I comment way more than I post, but in the last week, that has fallen off. Still, I find myself reading various things online and thinking it would make a good topic for a post if only I had the time.

So, here I'll just toss a few out, hope one or two sticks to the wall, and then perhaps come back this weekend and and expand.

1. Blame it on (the) Moon
This article from 3 months back fascinated me when I was directed to it this morning. It had always struck me, however vaguely, that while in the early 1970s, Rev. Moon was viewed as nothing but another potentially dangerous cult leader, all of a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, he was the owner of a respectable conservative newspaper, The Washington Times, and no one was sounding alarm bells about him anymore. In view of Jim Jones and David Koresh, to name but two, it did seem odd that Reverend Moon was no longer the focus of suspicion and distrust. This should help clear it up quite nicely, for anyone else who might have wondered about it.

2. Just move it to "fiction," already.
Some online friends of mine are having yet another debate about what the creation story in Genesis really said, really meant, etc. One person pointed out the passage in which Adam and Eve, having eaten from the tree of knowledge, covered their nakedness and then tried to hide from God. God came looking for them, and this person pointed out how silly that was -- what, his omniscience failed all of a sudden? He couldn't see behind a rock or a tree?

I just don't get why people debate the bible at all. How much simpler our lives would be to just say "Ah, some primitive type trying to make sense out of life's mysteries. An interesting take...flawed...I mean, look at the terrible plot devices and stilted dialogue. But kind of quaint to read. Now what were we talking about before? Oh, yeah...what we're going to do this weekend..."

Well, lunch hour is rapidly drawing to a close, so I'll post more as I think of them. I'm very, very glad it's Friday. Click Here to Read More..

Sunday, November 09, 2008


(I know, it's a weird title for a post but bear with me...)

My pediatrician was a big proponent of yogurt, and this was back in the late '50s, early '60s, long before yogurt gained any kind of commercial traction. So I grew up with it, the way other kids might grow up eating pudding. I remember back then, Dannon was the only brand out there, and the containers were much bigger than they are now. There seemed to be more flavors, too, including chocolate. I've always liked it, always bought it.

I started a diet a little over 2 months ago. I know my weight's been causing me a variety of lesser problems, including joint pain, acid reflux, sleep apnea, and a diagnosis of pre-diabetes. So I went back to my roots, so to speak -- Mom was a big believer in raw veggies, which is something else I grew up with. Green peppers, carrots & celery as a late night snack, instead of potato chips. All the things Carl, my husband, doesn't care for. Small portions, etc. Yogurt for dessert.

Well, I dropped 5 lbs with very little difficulty, and that's the first significant loss since 2002, when I tried the Atkins/Zone method. At that time I was unemployed so I didn't have to opt for carb-laden convenience foods. That time, I dropped 13 lbs in 6 weeks before starting to edge back up.

So that 5 lbs has been something to feel good about -- even after the first 3 lbs came off I saw the difference in the way my clothes fit.

However, around the end of October, I noticed I'd plateaued -- part of this is that our money situation improved slightly and we could buy more food with each trip to the store. For awhile there had been virtually no meat in the freezer - my husband, a big meat eater, would just get something at Mickey D's to hold him over. But things started to improve and we went back to our stock-ups. I think what happened was, we were making up for the lean times by concentrating our spending on what we'd missed. So we were buying meat, coffee, drinks, frozen stuff, etc. In order to maximize our "stash" of food, I think I made the subconscious decision to forgo yogurt in favor of things Carl liked more, like pudding.

Well, not only has the weight loss come to a screeching halt, but my digestion has recently become problematic. That never happened before. Picture an interstate highway at rush hour with all but one lane blocked for construction and you'll get the idea. Not pleasant. I had my first reflux episode a few nights ago, too -- I attributed that to Carl's killer chili, which tastes awesome but wouldn't ever be mistaken for a health food.

...Incidentally, "Carl's killer chili" is a tongue-twister to rival "toy boat."

But it wasn't until yesterday that it occurred to me, this problem coincides with the period of time I haven't been eating yogurt. As soon as I figured it out, I couldn't wait to get over to the store and hit the dairy aisle. Carl worked a super-early shift today (6:30am), so I dropped him off and high-tailed it to good old 24-hr Wal-mart. Got 2 big multi-packs of Activia and DanActive, which have different types of cultures, but both aimed at "digestive health." Two other happy moments came with that. I got a slight discount, being able to use the rest of an old gift card I had in my wallet -- a couple of bucks. And, leaving the parking lot, I noticed their gas station was advertising $1.99 per gallon. First time since 2005 at the earliest that the price has been so low -- maybe Thanksgiving of 2006. It was such a treat to see $1.99, I went ahead and filled up. Can't remember the last time I did that, either. Maybe last March, when I went to visit Wally up north.

So the day has started off on a pretty good note. I have an absolutely insane day ahead of me, with about half a dozen separate church activities all requiring my presence, but I think it will be fine. Click Here to Read More..

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Just one question

...and I'd love to get feedback.

How many of you are OLDER than our Prez-elect?

This is the first time for me. Feels a little strange.

Not bad...just strange!! Click Here to Read More..

Volly's Souvenir Post

Other than "Yay!" I can't think of anything terribly original to say about this awesome, wonderful, hope-affirming election result. So, I've decided to paste the first headline from all the bloggers in my sidebar (or the best ones starting around 11:00 last night, since many have posted several times already).

This, after all, is what blogs are for.


From The Immoral Minority:
Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States!
From The Chaliceblog:

WAHOO!!!! Thank you, Virginia!!!

From Atheist Revolution:
From Fran's Ramblings:

If she could .....

Lady Liberty would be dancing!
(picture at right pasted along with the headline).

From Lugosi's Mirth, Musings & More:
This Race is Now Over.

From James Ishmael Ford:
Joys & Sorrows
(a sober reminder that all is not well - Proposition 8 appears to have passed in California)
From Hugo Schwyzer:
Quiet Tears
From Mound of Sound:
From Cosmic Connie:

"Sail on, sail on, o mighty Ship of State..."

From The Atheist Experience:
One big victory
From the divine Ms. Kay:
All Done.

From Bad-Tempered Zombie:
thank you, America
From The Rev. Reed Braden:
That Was Quick

Letters from a Hill Farm:
Quote du jour/Mary Lois
Tomorrow will be another day. But this is the big one.
From Primordial Blog:
Way to Go America!
From The Invisible Pink Unicorn:
It's Obama!
From Tangled Up in Blue Guy:
I Have Been to the Mountaintop
From Questions About Faith, Etc.
Obama's Hope
From Internal Monologue:
Fireworks lighting up my neighborhood
[mine too, Zach, and surprisingly few gunshots!]

From Dennis Palumbo:


From Helen Wheels:
America WINS!

A good representative sample for now and a good stopping point, since I'm late for the shower.

Have a great, inspiring day, everybody!

-Volly Click Here to Read More..

Sunday, November 02, 2008

This truly sums it up for me.

Johann Hari in the Huffington Post

Here are a few excerpts:

"...we can already map out the four tectonic shifts rumbling beneath this election. They all began before Obama...

"...the reasons why so many of us love the US, even as we hate some of its actions. The country is capable of many crimes - but it is also open and free enough to produce the antibodies that begin to put them right.

"...for under-30s, Obama has a 47 percent lead. Not a 47 percent vote - a 47 percent lead.

"This election shows a desire by American people to move beyond the sterile stupidities of racism..." Click Here to Read More..

A long, long road for the rationalists in INDIA

Okay, all you Western skeptics.

You think YOU'VE got it tough?

Try being an atheist in India.

Some folks are trying and they can probably use all the help & support they can get.


Now, today at church we had a guest who lives half the year in an ashram in southern India, following a lady popularly known as The Hugging Saint. We saw DVD's of "Amma's" work -- she's attained multiple honors from the UN and the Indian government, and there is no doubt whatsoever that she has done phenomenal work for humanitarian causes.

It's certainly not difficult to become inspired by Amma's accomplishments. Our guest today talked about how she "was called -- sold everything and went to join the ashram." I pondered this -- over the last year or so I've met more than a couple of people who have chucked nearly everything in the material world to devote themselves full-time to one spiritual cause or another.

Sometimes it's tempting to contemplate. A great many of us, I think, often look around and ask themselves, Is this all there is? Is this what life's about - schlepping back and forth to the office every day, trying to keep ourselves from going under, losing this house, with its carpeting, Cuisinarts and computers? Would it be such a radical leap to give it all up and just go where the need is greatest? To save just one life? To bring hope?

Unlike some uber-materialists like Rush Limbaugh, I find no reason to denigrate people who adopt such an ascetic lifestyle. In fact, the older I get, the more sense it makes.

And that's the place where you start hearing the spiritual talk. The "higher purpose" talk.

Is it a spiritual undertaking to care more about other people's lives and well-being than your own interests? It's troubling to me, because it's nearly impossible to hear anyone talk about wanting to adopt a self-denying existence without bringing invisible beings into it. Seems to me, it's enough just to say, "Hey, look at this teeming mass of humanity we're all part of. We need a way to ensure that we don't lower ourselves to a primitive, animalistic state just to survive. We need a way to achieve our greatest potential, make the most of the few decades we have here and secure the future for the generations that follow."

I find it interesting how people who have come back from the brink of extinction (victims of flood, earthquake, famine, etc.) almost immediately turn inward and start wasting their time and energy setting up shrines and praising an imaginary being, rather than rolling up their sleeves and saying "Those people who rebuilt our village and got the power on are the ones we should be inspired by. I'm going to learn how to build houses and roads and make a difference." Or "None of this can be achieved without education -- I'm going to get some people together and start a school." Certainly some people do just that -- judging by the videos we saw today, that's the mindset in some places But the same catastrophes are going to just keep happening until people start looking at life in a pragmatic way, rather than just relying on superstition and magic.

Plenty of rambling thoughts here -- sorry! Click Here to Read More..

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Don't dress like you come from the wrong side of the aisle!

Mike at TangledupinBlueGuy offers us a fascinating story about students at the University of Northern Iowa being ejected from a McCain rally. It appears visual profiles were used by campaign staffers to identify the students as, well, "not our kind."

A lack of photos in the article makes it impossible to figure out what the staffers saw to aid in their decision. Stories like this tend to make me imagine myself in this type of situation.

I'm fairly confident that I would go under the radar of any hypervigilant staffer, regardless of the event. I don't think my outward appearance could ever be "typed" -- I'm your classic fade-into-the-woodwork sort.

So what would I need in order to get myself thrown out of a McCain rally?

Let's see...a suit or a dress would allow me to stay UNLESS it were a peasant skirt. Hmm. Screams "hippie!" Ditto for something too revealing. A formal-looking Jackie-Kennedy type dress would work OK, even if it were black, but otherwise, it would have to be pastel or floral to pass Republican muster. Unless I sported an American flag pin...then I'd be waved through.

Shoes. Nice, low-key sandals and properly pedicured toes would get me the GOP stamp of approval, as would pumps. But nothing that looked too "comfortable." No hiking shoes or subversive-looking sneakers. If I were a guy, well okay, but no decent Christian girl runs around in feminist footwear. "Real" women prefer to "mince & wince."

Hair -- a biggie. Bleach-blonde is fine and better than fine, and subtle streaks would work OK, but no garish reds from the bottle or other non-natural colors. And if my actual color is anything darker than "brownette," I'd do best to plop a wig on my head or go for a lightening job. Don't want to look too witchy. Of course, if I happen to be African-American, nobody's going to believe I really want to support McCain. No point in even trying to get into that rally. ...or Cedar Falls Iowa, for that matter...

The style should be neat, freshly cut, preferably kind of on the straight side. And not so short that anyone wouldn't immediately know I was a girl. No wild perms or untamed manes. Must look preppy. A ponytail is fine as long as it's adorned with a cute scrunchie or other ornament.

Jewelry should look like I borrowed it from Mom. Precious stones that came from African mines with darker-hued natives doing the hard work. No wood or stone jewelry -- that's for the Haight-Ashbury crowd, dontcha know, and that includes the cross around the neck. That always gets worn on the outside, but it doesn't have to be too big -- think Madonna and you'll understand the size restrictions.

McCain girls smile at all times. Why? Because they have no worries. Hubby, or Daddy, or their hockey mom will be close by to protect and shepherd them at all times. It's only those angry liberal women who forget how to turn on the charm.

Guys want to look like they either stopped by on their way back from Iraq, or the duck blind, or the office. No shorts, no pink, no hairstyles that look like they might have been fashionable in the 1970s.

And smile, fellas. Show that entrepreneurial spirit!

Remember, it's not how you feel, it's how you look. Remember to look mahvelous, dahlink, and you get to keep your seat. Good luck... Click Here to Read More..

Friday, October 31, 2008

Letting Go of My Judaism

For a formerly religious individual shifting toward atheism, one of the hardest processes has to be rethinking all the assumptions that we took for granted for years and sometimes decades. The list of these truisms could fill many volumes, and the Bible is certainly the source of many. From obvious ones like those contained in the Ten Commandments, to more subtle views, such as the role of women, it can take a lot of time and patience to examine each one rationally. On top of the formalized canon, we often grow up surrounded by family members, neighbors, co-congregants at church and classmates all echoing the same opinions and disguising them as fact.

Quite recently, I’ve come to see that I’m not entirely innocent of this. While I’ve been pretty diligent about rejecting the fictions fed to me during my 15 years as a Christian, I now understand that I’ve been equally blinded during the 32 years or so since my freshman year of college, when I began exploring the paternal side of my family tree – the Jewish side.

Even a year ago, I would not have thought to post a blog like this.

Here’s a quick summary of a few vestiges of faith that I have stubbornly hung onto, to one degree or another:

• Everything Israel does is absolutely right, no matter how much the world community protests and no matter how brutal it may appear to an “outsider.”
• Jews are inherently more moral than other people.
• All religious law that originated with Judaism is logical at the core, even if it’s hard to fathom in the modern age.
• All Muslims are the enemy.
• Judaism is in danger of becoming extinct and this cannot be allowed to happen.
• Anybody who voices objection to Jewish practices is either anti-Semitic or ignorant, and these two things are really synonymous.
• My Jewish father lowered himself by marrying my Gentile mother; he came from a better “bloodline.”

Is there a “chosen people?” A year ago I would have said yes. I find it encouraging to have backed away from such a notion on two fronts: As a Unitarian Universalist, I promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person and the goal of a world community, with peace, liberty and justice for all. And as an atheist, I find it unacceptable to endorse “chosenness.” Unless someone can prove to me that Jews, or any other group of people historically singled out as being exceptional and distinguishable from other humans, actually originated somewhere outside our planet and possess measurable, objective qualities that make them superior to others here on Earth, I will strive to reject any such notions, no matter how deeply rooted they are or how strongly rejected by what some call the “conventional wisdom.”

I’d like to try fine-tuning my previous misconceptions, based on those two principles.

• Israel has maintained something closer to a democracy than the other (Islamic) countries that surround it. However, very much like the United States, it has more recently taken its roots for granted – just because it was originally founded to protect a persecuted class of people does not always make Israel the target or the victim. Sometimes the Israeli government falsely justifies brutality and oppression purely out of fear.
• Jews are not inherently more moral than any other people. There is a strong correlation between a codified scripture and a tradition of reason and our Western democratic ideals. That gives Jews and Christians good reason to view themselves as more moral by nature, but in truth, the morality is a learned one, and the learning process itself is highly imperfect. This particular weakness in my thinking hit me just this morning, listening to the NPR report about the kosher slaughterhouse in the Midwest, whose owner, first name Shalom, is the target of a federal investigation for illegal hiring practices. My knee-jerk reaction was something like “Oh, no, a religious Jew knows better than to hire workers under unfair conditions,” and this was based entirely on all the Torah and Talmud that was spoon-fed to me during my college years. Ideas I simply absorbed as iron-bound truth. In a similar way, I was horrified and let down upon hearing of the infamous crimes committed by child abuser Joel Steinberg, and Ira Einhorn, who murdered his girlfriend and then lived as a fugitive overseas for over a decade. I also know how many people make the opposite assumption: that all Jews are fundamentally evil and greedy. In fact, the way I learned it, all non-Jews are anti-Semitic at heart! I knew a woman some years ago who declared that all Christian churches preach “blood libel” every Sunday. This was so ridiculous, I called her on it, thinking maybe I misunderstood what she had said. But she re-asserted it. That was the end of our friendship.

What we have to get straight, once and for all, is that it’s all too easy for us humans to give in to our baser impulses and act completely in our own short-sighted self-interest and think about consequences later. It doesn’t matter what religion or ethnicity our ancestors were! And we all tend to show favoritism toward those who resemble us. It’s a fallacy in our thinking that keeps us down at a primitive level, rather than allowing us to be elevated to our potential of intelligence.
• All religious law that originated with Judaism may have seemed logical at the time it was set down, but its focus was narrow and imperfect. It was used to justify behavior that was a means toward an end. It is not supernatural in origin! It is not timeless or universal. It may be interesting to study and some of it may be adaptable to our present age, but it must all be viewed with great caution and objectively assessed.
• Side note: Yes, our present system of government is based largely upon Judeo-Christian principles that came before. Some of it’s great; some of it has to go. Keep the good stuff; ignore the stupid and harmful. We can have our democracy without someone else’s theocracy.
• Not all Muslims subscribe to the theocratic, oppressive belief system that is so commonly seen on the news. Like Christians, Jews, and other religious people, they’ve been brainwashed and victimized by the entire religious mindset. All humans can be reasoned with, under the right circumstances, and no one should be condemned just because of a label.
• “Judaism,” exemplified at its best by reason, logic, intellect, study, and discourse, is only in danger of becoming extinct if these qualities are neglected and devalued! We can always honor our ancestry and reflect on its lessons, regardless of who we marry or what culture we adapt to. We have to learn to let go of ethnocentrism if we are to advance the only race that matters to our existence: The human race. Click Here to Read More..

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Found this article referenced on LiveJournal...

Prof. Dawkins is taking aim at Harry Potter for the same reason he takes aim at the fundies who condemn the books.

It's all magical thinking, he claims, all an encouragement to children to follow their elders' path to delusion.

Despite being a devotee of all things Potter, I have no problem with this, for a couple of reasons:

Dawkins is not taking the hard line toward the Potterverse that he has taken toward religious dogma ... in fact, this article says he's embarked upon research to check it out thoroughly and objectively.

He admits he hasn't read any of Rowling's work yet and has no fixed opinion. Quite different from this charming lady, who literally judges a book by its cover.

I see too many parallels between fundamentalist religion and some new-age doctrine. While it's nice to speculate about "energy," "vibrations" and "unseen forces" influencing our lives, it's all too easy to delude one's self by substituting one questionable mindset for another. Our society encourages this on a universal scale, and it's troubling.

There are no Potter churches; even in high school, nobody gets ostracized by saying "I'm glad other people enjoy Harry Potter, but it just isn't for me." Try doing that at your average church!

Get the facts! Know the science!

...and then enjoy some escapism without getting lost in La La Land. Click Here to Read More..

Doing my bit for the cause

This is for Reggie Finley, The Infidel Guy.

He has a MySpace page, and I've been a fan ever since he appeared on Trading Spouses (or was it Wife Swap? ... anyway, you get the idea).

Please check him out if you haven't yet, and help him out if you can!


Keep The Infidel Guy Show on the air!
Much like PBS, it's time again for fans of The Infidel Guy to help keep us on the air.
More details are available at infidelguy. com

http://www. infidelguy. com

--- John Loftus will be our guest this Thursday discussing his new book. Why I became an atheist. 10-30-2008 @ 8PM ET.

-- Thanks for all of the help guys.

-- Reggie Finley Sr Click Here to Read More..

Friday, October 24, 2008

Leftover Christian Fiction

There was a time, at the height of my religious phase, when I was an eager consumer of anything offered for sale at Christian bookstores. As a regular listener to religious radio, I got plenty of recommendations for authors of both fiction and non-fiction. One of those authors is Frank Peretti -- I've read 3-1/2 of his books. Three were penned by him; another was a collaboration. I remember most of his books only vaguely, though I'll give him a bit of credit for trying. The dyed-in-the-wool Christian reader (who hasn't had much exposure to more mainstream fare) will find him "edgy," I am sure. He follows the standard protocol of limiting the language to about a PG-level -- lots of "hecks" and "darns" and euphemisms for basically everything -- but pulls it off reasonably well without letting it become a distraction. He also has a taste for action and suspense, so you don't necessarily feel like you're being forced to sit through interminable reruns of The Andy Griffith Show or Little House on the Prairie when you pick up one of his novels.

And for the Christian reader, this is sufficient. Mild entertainment, with the payoff being the preachy message woven throughout.

The number of tomes on my shelves left over from those days can now be counted on one hand, with a digit or two to spare. I've got a couple of dusty bibles and a book called The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey. I haven't picked that one up in about 7 years; one of these days I'll check it out again and most likely will come to a parting of the ways with it.

Beyond that is a Peretti novel called The Oath. Its description in Wikipedia says that it's Peretti's most acclaimed work. I can believe this, because I hung onto it and have re-read it even after giving up completely on Christianity and all religion within the last 6 years.

The basic elements of the story include a small, isolated mining town in the Pacific Northwest; various people brutally killed or vanished without a trace; corrupt cops; secrecy and distrust of outsiders, and the probable existence of a dragon.

The dragon is merely symbolic, but where Peretti goes so far off into la-la land is in his depiction of the villain at the heart of the legend. The founder of the town was a despot, a tyrant, a man of many vices. So far, so good. Since this is a Christian novel, it's no surprise that the bad guy kills an itinerant preacher and banishes anyone who may have embraced Christianity. This is because the Christians are suddenly campaigning for workers' rights and are putting a damper on the local brothel's once-thriving business.

But hold on -- the bad guy is eventually revealed as (don't be too shocked now!) an atheist, who has the gall to draw up a town charter that includes the following statements:

"...having founded and established the city...through their own resources, wisdom and resolve...
"...confident of their own capacity for good, do wish to pursue happiness, peace and contentment by whatever avenue they may choose...
"We are the masters and makers of our own destiny.
"There is no God but Reason.
"Only by Reason can Truth be established."
and the last line:
"If This Be Sin, Let Sin Be Served."

Other than the last line, these sound like my kinda people!

But of course, Mr. Peretti has other ideas. The present-day bad guy (grandson of the original one) is shown conducting a ritual, whereby he writes the names of his enemies on a slip of paper, burns it on an altar in the dark of night, and sits back with smug satisfaction as the people he named disappear, presumably devoured by an immense fire-breathing reptile.

This does not sound like something Carl Sagan or Richard Dawkins would do. Unless you're a fundie who has been steeped in the fallacy that atheists are simply better-educated versions of your average mass-murdering cannibal child rapist!

This most recent read-through convinced me that The Oath will be making a swan dive into the bin on my next trip to the recycling center (which is tomorrow). Rather than impressing me as a better-than-average example of Christian fiction, it does little now other than offend and annoy me.

Trashing a book is a drastic step for me, but this is little more than slander, and I will not pass it on to some naive reader and add to the damage done by such misguided minds as Frank Peretti. Click Here to Read More..

Thursday, October 23, 2008

He's Honest. You Gotta Give Him That.

Like many others in the 1990s, I thought of Alan Greenspan as some sort of financial guru. It wasn't my area, really (still isn't, probably never will be), but he was one person for whom I was willing to put aside my core liberal inclinations and go with the free-market flow. It seemed to be working, at least for me ... I had a steady job and was getting along well enough; there seemed abundant, limitless hope for the economy of the future. I had plenty of other stuff to worry about besides macroeconomics.

Well, now the macro has, um, trickled down here to us micro types; it's all falling to pieces (though, knock wood, I remain employed and expect to continue that way), and Mr. Greenspan has had to come crawling out of his peaceful retirement and eat crow up on Capitol Hill.

I don't hate the guy, or even dislike him. He's not a smug, smirking, insensitive jerkwad like Phil Gramm, who seems to think anybody who isn't mindlessly happy continuing the status quo unto infinity is merely a "whiner."

No, Alan Greenspan came clean. He said, in effect, "I was wrong." And this is how he said it:

Greenspan called this

"a flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works."

I mean, dayum, that is elegant! He not only admits to being wrong about housing prices, the banking industry, the credit system and deregulation, he basically says he was wrong about EVERYTHING.

And at the age of ! 82 !, he's -- dare I say the word? -- articulate.

My family of origin had a few stock sayings. One of them was "Let's face it..."

Another was "He's honest. You gotta give him that."

I'll give it to him.

What the hell. Click Here to Read More..

Oh those backward folks in Saudi Arabia ... but wait...

Interesting little story on CNN. Made me think.

This is one of those quickie generalizations I've been known to make when I only have a couple more minutes before having to get off the computer and ready for work.


Is American TV REALLY all that much more progressive than Arab TV?

Don't our soap operas glorify the dysfunctional, codependent woman who would be diagnosed as "borderline personality" by any competent psychologist?

Don't prime time shows exalt the beautiful-but-dumb stereotype and winkingly excuse obnoxious, sexist behavior in men?

Don't female news anchors, politicians and corporate executives all feel the pressure to tone down their personalities and project a more "feminine" image?


Gotta go. Click Here to Read More..

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Done Deal. And Now We Wait.

Well, the loan has been approved (which means the people at Equifax are doing some serious chemicals), and I am now on the hook for about $22K.

And Wally still firmly believes that Doug is going to pay it back and that I won't have to. He won't even entertain the notion that my suspicions and distrust could be justified. He cut me off as I tried to express my misgivings -- he was downright rude. Well, all righty then. I still think Doug is a slug; that he still wants to try to ruin me financially, and that this is his twisted way of keeping a connection between us.

Yes, I suppose Doug may have told himself at some juncture that he has behaved badly during the last several years and needs to let it go and start acting like a human being again, which would mean that he intends to keep his word...

...just as there may be li'l piggies with wings out there that I've simply never had the opportunity to meet.

It will be interesting to see what happens in March of next year when the first payment is due. We will see if Wally is singing the same tune. And I guarantee, however callous it may sound, that if my prediction trumps his, he WILL hear about it. In detail. He will also be informed that any and all future monetary requests to me will be refused, for as long as it takes for ME to repay this loan. The rest of his undergraduate experience, grad school if applicable, wedding, birth(s) of child(ren), and most especially, any "inconveniences" such as speeding tickets or other similar misadventures. He gets his medical costs paid for by me, and that's it.

Of course, if those flyin' piggies happen to show up, I'll gladly go back to being his mother again. Click Here to Read More..

The Phone as a Weapon of Mass Frustration

My new favorite place to get a cheap laugh is this site; the timing is perfect, too, because they post their new stuff for the day during the hour that I'm noodling here on the PC before signing off to get ready for work.

Today's offering was a phone conversation that brought back several vivid memories of similar encounters. Two of these took place when I worked for the psychologist back 20 years or so.

Giving driving directions to the emotionally fragile is always an adventure.

Me: So, take I-75 to exit 201, then turn left at the bottom of the exit ramp.
Caller: At the bottom of the what?
Me (feeling like the idiot here for some reason): The exit ramp. You know, you get off the interstate, and there's that little road that takes you to the road you're trying to get to...
Caller: What little road? What's the name of it?
Me: Let's try this again...

A person who doesn't know what an exit ramp is should NOT be driving themselves to an appointment to take an IQ test.

Another time:
Me: Make a left turn at the light, into our parking lot. There are three office buildings. Look for the one with the big "Sports Institute" sign at the top.
Caller: The big sign that says what?
Me: "Sports Institute."
Caller: Forks Institute?
Me: No, SPORTS. You know, sports. Baseball, football, soccer, SPORTS.
Caller: It's a baseball park?
Me (thinking, not saying): You just hang on, I'm gonna run over to the nearest bar and toss back a few, and then I'll be ready to talk to you some more... Click Here to Read More..

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"Atheists Become Increasingly Vocal" - Article

...courtesy of the Ft. Myers FL News-Press, by way of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life:

Atheists become increasingly vocal

By PETER SMITH • Gannett News Service • October 21, 2008

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Alan Canon grew up in a fundamentalist household and was a Bible camp prize winner.

But his family also valued science, and he ultimately couldn't reconcile the two and became an atheist.

"For people openly to say they're atheist is similar to gay people coming out," said Canon, of Louisville, who often wears a pin with a scarlet-letter "A" to prompt conversations about atheism. "It's not popular at all for people to say they're atheist, especially in these parts."

More here Click Here to Read More..

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Doing something for the world before I stagger off to bed

Similar to the "Grains of Rice Vocabulary Quiz" (see sidebar), this one is for water. Click Here to Read More..

Diagnosis: I have a personality. Sort of.

drawing personality

What does your drawing say about YOU?

The results of your analysis say:

You tend to pursue many different activities simultaneously. When misfortune does happen, it doesn't actually dishearten you all that much.
You are a thoughtful and cautious person. You like to think about your method, seeking to pursue your goal in the most effective way.
You are creative, mentally active and industrious.
You feel morose and are prone to lethargy.

I wanted my path to swing around to the left and go BEHIND the mountain but my mouse wasn't cooperating and I didn't want to start over.

Try it. Click Here to Read More..

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hooray for Hilary (the other one)

Actress Hilary Duff has launched a public service advertising campaign to discourage teenagers from using expressions like "That's so gay" as putdowns.

Good for her.

I grew up in an intensely blue-collar Long Island suburb, in which the word "fag" was the forerunner of "nerd" or "geek."

I suspect a teenager's conscience can be more readily appealed to than that of any other age group. It will be interesting to see this issue gain more widespread attention. It may also continue on its course to include other types of people, such as the overweight. Click Here to Read More..

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hope it comes out...

I am not, nor have I ever been, a photographer. I do not yet own a digital camera (someday, maybe...). It's disposables all the way because I don't have the confidence to load film.

Occasionally, a photo will surprise me and come out really well. But usually if I make a serious attempt at photographing something, I'm born to lose.

This morning I stepped out on the front porch, getting ready to lock up and head for the car and work, and just happened to look up. The sky was a faint pink and the full moon was on its way westward. Sunsets where we live are beautiful EVERY evening, even if it's raining or snowing. But lovely sunrises are more rare, especially one like this. So I went back in the house, grabbed the Kodak disposable we picked up when we visited the Smokies on Labor Day, and snapped two versions of this interesting early-morning sky. One with the flash on, one without. Ya never know.

I'm really hoping it will come out. I want to call it "Sunrise Moon." My husband thinks I should call it "Moon Over the 'Hood."

Stay tuned; it may end up here if I get lucky. Click Here to Read More..

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Turning a Corner? Stepping Off a Cliff?

I had a long conversation with Doug regarding Wally's education.

Doug, Wally and I have gone back and forth and all around for many months regarding how Wally's college is to be paid for. To be sure, I've barely a penny to spare right now. I have Wally on my health insurance, which is quite good, and send him small checks when I can. But if I were the sole source of funding, Wally could kiss college goodbye. Fortunately, Doug put money aside some time ago for Wally. The downside of this is that in applying for financial aid, Doug's finances can't be considered or Wally will get none. The application used Carl and me as parent sources because we show up as poor (which we are). Beyond the small grant that Wally got, the rest has to come from direct payments or loans. Doug decided to go the loan route, since it slows down the rate at which he has to shell out money. This I understand. However, the loan application also has to be in my name. If it goes under Doug's name, he has to forfeit the small grant.

The plan is for Doug to write the loan payment checks. However, it's my name on this loan. So that if Doug becomes unable or unwilling to continue writing checks, guess who gets hit with a loan default?

There was this concern, and also Wally's odd behavior. I'd almost be willing to bet that he's been up to something. He's asked me for my social security number a couple of times; he's gone on the school's website with me on the phone. Every time I go onto the website, I end up with a dead end. So he goes on the website, using my information, and somehow gets through. Then he tells me, OK, a 'promissory note' is going to come to you in the mail or via e-mail; just sign it and we'll be good to go. After several days he tells me "I'm not sure what I did, but I got a note from the school saying you had to sign it, not me, so you're gonna have to go on the website and do this." Sounds to me like he's been trying to make an end-run around me, get this thing signed under my name and get it going without my direct participation. This would be because of the questions and objections I've raised, making it clear that I don't trust Doug any farther than I could fling a Steinway. Wally, of course, feels like he's stuck in the middle, and I think this is how he's attempted to resolve it. However, it didn't work for him. So now it's back to me.

Coincidentally (not), Doug calls me, ostensibly to wish me a happy birthday and invites me to call him if I "want to talk about anything." So I called him; we talked; I expressed my very valid concerns about this loan thing.

Here's where we ended up: Yes, it's true that Doug could screw me over royally if he decided to stop writing checks. However, here's the nugget I got from this. Wally getting a college degree is a very high priority for Doug. Perhaps the highest. So, he says, he's willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that.

If he stops writing checks, yeah, it would put me in default of the loan. But it could also put an end to Wally's education. I think he's sincere about this, and I think I'm probably not completely helpless in this thing. If he tried to back out of paying this, I believe I would have some recourse. I may not be able to go after him directly, but I could put some interested parties on his trail.

More than anything, I sense that Wally is under a huge amount of strain regarding the hostility between Doug and me.

Doug said "Wally needs to get a degree." I answered "He needs to get a job." A moment later, I played the tape back to myself and decided I was voicing a lower-class mentality, and it echoed some of what I internalized -- the idea that being employed is more important than being educated. It was this mindset that led to me dropping out of college to enter the workforce because it made me feel more like an adult. During the years since our divorce, I've become aware of a class gulf of sorts between Doug and me. He's done much better money-wise and class-wise than I have. I had been fairly upwardly mobile during the time we were married, but at some point, I retreated back to my blue-collar roots (becoming an evangelical Christian was part of that). Meanwhile, I've filed Chapter 7, maxed out credit cards, and basically descended several rungs down the social ladder.

I hate to admit it more than anything, but Doug is right about that, at least. Getting the college degree is more important for Wally in the long term than being a schlub chasing a paycheck. I have been so hostile toward Doug for so long (probably going back to the days before we even moved in together), that I've adopted a "whatever Doug is in favor of, I'm completely against!" type of stance. I've long known that my relationship with Doug was like a 15-year extension on my childhood -- I moved out of my parents' house and into his, and simply continued my stubborn, short-sighted patterns. In fact, I even replicated what my parents had: Dad was into order and success. Mom was into chaos and self-sabotage.

It's one thing for me to opt for a life that's just a few millimeters above trailer-trash, but I shouldn't drag Wally down into that as well.

Long & short of it: I'll sign the goddamn promissory note and hope Doug doesn't decide to get greedy or ugly and leave me holding the bag.
Nothing beyond this point... Click Here to Read More..

Days to Remember

Atheist Jew offers an interesting New Meme: Can You Remember The Day That You Officially Became An Atheist?

1. Can You Remember The Day That You Officially Became An Atheist?
For this question I am using the standard definition of atheist: Answering the question "do you believe in God" with a NO.

A. No, not specifically. I do know that by spring of 2007 I was writing snarky rejoinders to Mary Grabar on It got so bad she pulled the column off-line. By that time I had read Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation, after seeing it advertised in Harper's Magazine, sometime in the fall of '06. Dawkins and a re-reading of Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World followed shortly thereafter. Around the same time, I joined the UU church, which has been a source of joy, courage and renewal for me.

However, during preceding decades I had considered myself an atheist on and off. But back then I tended to give knee-jerk responses based on mood or mindset, without really considering what it all meant. The same held true during the 15 years I spent being religious.

2. Do you remember the day you officially became an agnostic?

A. This was very much a gradual process, starting with my "renunciation" in 2002. I remember starting by being angry with God -- see below -- but trying to qualify it by saying I had nothing against organized religion.

3. How about the last time you spoke or prayed to God with actual thought that someone was listening?

A. Okay, now this one I can answer: the days leading up to Friday, August 9, 2002. As I've described elsewhere in this blog, I'd just come off about a month's unemployment and was working one temp job after another. Like a good li'l Christian, I was "giving thanks" when a new assignment would come, but almost as soon as the prayer went up, bam, the job was gone. This went on for a few weeks. At one point, I said "Okay, let's see what happens if I don't pray any 'pleases' or 'thank-you's.'" Sure enough, that particular assignment showed signs of turning into something permanent. Then I fell back on habit, prayed on it, and whoops, another dead end.

That particular Friday was the end of a week spent interviewing. I had a fair amount of time to think, since the temp assignment was undemanding. I'd gotten so into the habit of putting my mind on auto-pilot, just "waiting to hear from God," but for a change, I began thinking about happier times in my life. I zipped back to spring and summer of 1987 -- those were happy, optimistic times. But then I attended a Messianic service (ironically, also on a Friday), thinking it was something that might improve my life. In the ensuing 15 years, I miscarried, my parents died, my marriage went down the tubes, my finances were in turmoil, I totaled my car, got chicken pox, and experienced ups and downs in jobs and relationships. It came to me in one incredible moment of clarity: I had been much happier before I became a Christian. I may not always have made the right decisions, but they were "my" decisions -- what the fundies call "leaning on your own understanding" -- rather than waiting for the Sky Wizard to give me clues. In a fair amount of disgust, I asked myself what kind of sheep I'd turned into. I felt more excited and turned on about life than I'd felt in a long time; that evening and the weekend that followed, I couldn't think of anything else. All I could think about was the person I had been "before," and went about working to recapture that sense of myself.

I felt no particular surprise on Monday when one of the places I'd interviewed at called to tell me I had a job. Another temp assignment, but this one was long-term and it gave me the spare time I needed to fine-tune my resume; ultimately, I landed a permanent job, one of the best I ever had. It greatly enhanced my net worth and lasted until I moved to where I am now.

There have been ups and downs in my life, but that decision marked the beginning of a trend of improvement that began with my 4-year depression lifting and continuing to today. By the way, today's my 50th birthday... Yay!!

4. Did anger towards God or religion help cause you to be an atheist or agnostic?

A. Yes. But it was also anger toward myself. If not for that, I probably would have sunk back into passive mode. Calling myself a sheep somehow jolted me out of my complacency and made everything else happen. It was as though I took my ego out of mothballs and put it back on.

5. Here is a good one: Were you agnostic towards ghosts, even after you became an atheist?

A. I'll let Atheist Jew answer this one, since my POV is quite similar: My honest answer is yes, for a little while I think. But I don't believe that ghosts are possible anymore, probably because I've become more of a militant skeptic atheist type, reading lots of science stuff and all in the last 5 or 6 years.

And I'll add: I haven't totally abandoned astrology, though even at its peak, my interest was cautious and laced with solid skepticism. I enjoy looking for correlations between what's actually happening in my life and what shows on a chart. Occasionally I find them, but more often than not, I don't. The more I study REAL science, the more confident I feel in dismissing paranormal stories I hear, regardless of how sincere or credible the storyteller may seem. The closest to a "spiritual" bent in me nowadays is a fondness for Stephen King's fiction.

6. Do you want to be wrong?

A. NO. I spent 15 years being wrong. All it was is wasted time. I can't afford to squander time anymore. Being "wrong" means surrendering my own judgment, and I've belatedly come to understand how precious it is. I intend to nurture it. Click Here to Read More..