Sunday, November 26, 2006

For some, Thanksgiving is defined by popcorn, toast, and Charlie Brown. In my family, it's always been the WKRP Thanksgiving Turkey Drop.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Let's take a minute to talk about shop safety...

My mom likes to brag about the 2 a.m. phone call she got from me that opened "Hi, Mom. Everyone's okay." So I'll say that I'm fine, but I'm going to have one ugly finger. Depending on what the doctor decides, it might also end up being a bit shorter. I was rabbeting a small board, and it kicked up, twisting in the air, and kicked the first finger of my left hand into the dado blade.

I've been thinking aot about what I was doing and how I was doing it, and the simple fact is that using a tablesaw is somewhat inherently dangerous, but using the tablesaw to rabbet small pieces is especially so. That's a job for a router. When I get back on the horse, that's the plan. But that's a ways off, since no power tools on pain pills is safety rule one.

And really, I'm fine. Feeling a little stupid, and fairly heavily medicated, but I can count up a bunch of ways I was lucky. Just not on my fingers.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

More brilliant furniture: This time, it's a chair that converts to a table, using the same technology as a rolltop desk.

Meanwhile, I've been thinking lots of heavy thoughts about religion, largely, I think, because I've been running across a lot of religious books at work. And also because I got a new Flying Spaghetti Monster Gelaskin. Bertrand Russel used to compare a belief in God to a belief in a giant teapot the size of the Earth on the opposite side of the sun. Neither was provable or disprovable, but both were equally ridiculous.

That always bugged me, though, because no one ever quit drinking and cleaned up their life because of a giant teapot on the other side of the sun. Christianity as it currently exists marries Eastern compassion and introspection to Western individualism and drive to change things, combined with the Rabbinical tradition of scholarship and inquiry, and the impact on history was unmistakeable. And I can't escape the fact that my values have been shaped irretrievably by the church upbringing my parents gave me.

But it's not all a positive. Those values came with a boatload of guilt and judgement, mostly over stupid stuff. Kids raised in that environment are exposed to a heaping load of bigotry alongside the "judge not lest ye be judged", and the cognitive dissonance is bound to do some damage. And nobody ever burned down an abortion clinic or shot a doctor because the giant teapot told them to, and nobody ever drowned their kids in a bathtub because they believe the teapot's ancient adversary had possessed them.

And that's not even getting into politics, where the loudest voices proclaiming themselves Christian are the ones who want to turn our public schools into pulpits for their particular beliefs and enshrine those beliefs into law, all while dismantling our social safety net, looting the treasury, and lying us into a war of choice, all while shouting from the rooftops about their moral superiority. Nor have I mentioned the guy who brought all the wisdom his 22 years had given him to bear to the task of telling me why I was letting God down by getting a divorce, or the members of my liberal churche who brought a different flavor of guilt to bear on me for resisting my first wife's desire for a divorce.

All those negatives don't erase the positive feelings I have associated with church, but they do explain why I don't think I'll ever be comfortable setting foot in church again. There's just too much baggage and no benefit. It'd be one thing if I really, truly believed that what the Bible says is true. But I don't. I just think that it has been, to a certain degree, a socially useful message. That's just not compelling enough for me to put up with that knot in my gut. Or give up Pajama Sundays.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Christie and I were talking last night about why we're not interested in seeing Borat. For her, it comes down to the fact that Sacha Baron Cohen has, in essence, a giant pulpit from which to ridicule the people in his movie. After all, it's the number one movie in America. But the people he's making fun of have, for the most part, no pulpit, no power, no voice with which to defend themselves. It's bullying on a grand scale.

For me, yeah, there's that. But there's also the fact that he purports to be making fun of intolerance and stupidity in America, but the people he appears on film with are the ones open and tolerant enough to invite him into their homes or otherwise seek common ground with him. The intolerant ones are the ones who punch him repeatedly in the face until Dr. House can come to his rescue (man, to have been a fly on the wall for that altercation). As near as I can tell, the "humor" in this movie is based on Borat's pushing these people's tolerance to the absolute breaking point, well past what most of us would take. I just don't see the humor, I guess.

For both of us, though, the clincher is that comedy based on humiliation makes us cringe, not laugh, making this the cinematic equivalent of 90 minutes of fingernails on a chalkboard.

Maybe I'm just getting old (actually, I'm definitely getting old), but I can't remember how long its been since they made a movie I actually was excited about seeing.

Monday, November 13, 2006

TIME.com: Exclusive: Charges Sought Against Rumsfeld Over Prison Abuse

It's very odd to think that an American general might be appearing before a German court, using the "I was just following orders" defense.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I'm bummed about all the gay marriage bans that passed across the country, but not exactly suprised. The gay marriage conversation only started a few years ago, and it takes people a while to get used to an idea like that. Christie was the first person I heard suggest that the government ought to get out of the marriage business altogether, and just do civil unions for everyone, regardless of gender. Now, though, I'm hearing that call from a number of people. As one pundit put it, "I keep hearing about the sanctity of marriage. Since when is it the business of government to sanctify things?"

On the bright side, I think every single minimum wage increase passed. That's a strong sign that people across this country are not happy to see the economic growth going exclusively to the Paris Hilton crowd.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

BBC News: "A genuine moustache has been proven to contribute to a significant Guinness wastage, as a result of inter-fibre retention at every sip," the company said in a statement.
Totally Anecdotal
There was one electronic voting machine in our polling place this morning, and a half dozen places to sit and fill out paper ballots. People were standing in line, waiting for a chance to sit down, but not one person chose to save time and use the computer. This in a state that requires electronic voting machines to have a paper trail. What's interesting to me is that lots of people chose to use the computer during the primaries. So in my neighborhood at least, people seem to trust electronic voting only enough to use it for relatively unimportant races. Of course, by the same anecdotal standards, all but one of the voters in my neighborhood have names starting with L-Z, so skepticism is certainly warranted.

I've still got this crappy cold, but I'm riding a nice election-day buzz. Voting was easy and straightforward, the lines weren't bad at all (it's depressing when there's no line at all), and just for spite, I voted to recall Stephen Limbaugh from the Supreme Court partly for being the lone dissenting vote in favor of requiring photo IDs for all voters, and partly for being Rush Limbaugh's cousin. I don't know that any state Supreme Court justice has ever lost one of these "shall _____ be retained in office?" votes, but I just couldn't bring myself to put a Yes next to a Limbaugh. Funny, though, how I'll have no problem voting Jay Nixon for governor in a few years.

Tonight will be crazy news watching, and then I think I'll be giving up on politics for a while. Unless the Dems take Congress and the Repubs do something crazy with their lame duck months, like invade Iran or scuttle Social Security.

My favorite part of voting, though, was the pile of political signs at the curb of the polling place. We vote at the Free Will Baptist Church, and this whole season, their yard has been littered with signs on this issue or that. Today was both election day and trash day, though, so they threw out all the signs. Originally, I was grooving on the symbolism of a church stripping itself of politics in order to do its civic duty. Now, though, I kind of enjoying the coincidence of Election Day also being Trash Day.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Talking Points Memo has the details, but here's the gist: If you get a recorded phone call purporting to be from a Democrat, or offering "more information about" the Democratic candidate, the odds are good that it's coming from the Republican National Committee. They've admitted to running these robocalls to swing voters all over the country, and the really fun part is that they call during dinner time or late at night, and if you hang up on them, they're programmed to call you back many, many times.

Basically, the NRCC is harassing swing voters in the name of their Democratic opponents, hoping to swing their votes. Charming. In some cases, the Republican candidate has asked them to stop, and the NRCC has refused.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Haggard
What is it with the Republican Party and dirty little secrets? There's Foley, now Haggard, and, well, all the other folks who've gotten caught with their pants down.

One could certainly argue that people with an unhealthy relationship with their own sexuality tend to be drawn to moralistic crusades, but I actually think it's simpler than that. If you're going to move up in the world of politics, you're going to need a hand up from the existing power structure. We left-wingers have always wondered at the party unity and discipline displayed by the right. Maybe part of why they have so much party unity is that they tend to promote people with secrets to hide, who can therefore be controlled.

Just a theory, of course.

Friday, November 03, 2006

US Presidential Speeches Tag Clouds - Drag the slider at the top to move through time. Wicked awesome.
In the category of "Too Stupid to Be Believed", the Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight is trying to prove they had good reason to invade Iraq, so they put all the intelligence documents on the web, so we can all look at them. They included detailed instructions, in Arabic, on constructing an atomic weapon.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

WikiWalki only has two trails listed in Missouri, both of them in St. Louis. And there are none in Arkansas right now. Sounds to me like a job for Billie.
I've gotta tell somebody, so I'm telling you: Our neighbor stopped by with his 3-year-old to Trick or Treat, and the kid was the cutest Darth Vader ever. His dad asked him what Darth Vader liked to say and he said:

"Come to the dawk side!"

He's apparently also partial to "Wuke, I am your fadder!"
From the Poynter Institute, via Billia, 50 Tools to Stengthen your Writing Skills.