30 April 2007

Just... Because


If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung,
Would you hear my voice come thru the music,
Would you hold it near as it were your own?

It's a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken,
Perhaps they're better left unsung.
I don't know, don't really care
Let there be songs to fill the air.

Ripple in still water,
When there is no pebble tossed,
Nor wind to blow.

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty,
If your cup is full may it be again,
Let it be known there is a fountain,
That was not made by the hands of men.

There is a road, no simple highway,
Between the dawn and the dark of night,
And if you go no one may follow,
That path is for your steps alone.

Ripple in still water,
When there is no pebble tossed,
Nor wind to blow.

But if you fall you fall alone,
If you should stand then who's to guide you?
If I knew the way I would take you home.

24 April 2007

Tests R Fun (Still)

What Your Favorite Color Brown Says About You:

Solid - Stable - Dependable

Masculine - Comforting - Responsible

Unwavering - Mature - Realistic

Daily Musings

My Dad, who is a retired Methodist minister and will be 87 next month, sends out a daily email to friends and family. This is from today's missive:

Dear Ones,

It’s been a rather somber week so I think its time for a bit o’ foolishness, like the following:

Famed fictional detective Sherlock Holmes and his gruff assistant Doctor Watson pitch their tent while on a camping expedition, but in the middle of the night Holmes nudges Watson awake and questions him, “Watson, look up at the stars and tell me what you deduce?”

After giving it some deep thought Watson replied, “I see millions of stars, and if there are millions of stars, and if even only a few of those have planets, it is quite likely there are some planets like earth, and if there are a few planets like earth there might also be life out there.”

“Watson, you idiot! Somebody stole our tent.”

A bit o’ humor can sometimes help us over the rough places along the way.

Getting peace of mind isn't complicated. You merely feed your mind with thoughts that cause it to be peaceful. Practice thinking a carefully selected series of peaceful thoughts. Fill your mind with all the peaceful experiences possible, then make planned and deliberate excursions to them in memory. For example, visualize some beautiful valley filled with the hush of evening time, as the shadows lengthen and the sun sinks to rest. Or, recall the silvery light of the moon falling gently upon soft shores of sand. Or picture in your mind a beautiful sunrise over the mountains spreading its colorful rays into the valley below.”—Selected [I assume he left something out here.]

“We may not be able to give much but we can always give the joy that springs in a heart that is in love with God.”--Mother Teresa

With love,

Ole Man of the Mountain

23 April 2007

A Letter From the Future

Part five in my
“Hey, to introduce myself to the Internets I’ll reprint some old magazine articles I wrote” series. This one was originally printed in the March 2001 issue of the Rapid River Literary Magazine. I meant to post this on Sunday, in honor of Earth Day, but... didn't.

My Dearest Darling,

I hope this letter finds you in good health. The situation here is, as always, stable but chaotic. Since we are deep into winter, the constant stream of refugees seeking water has dwindled to a trickle. The biggest problem we have now is trying to provide shelter for those who do show up. I spent the last two weeks stationed at the Black Mountain checkpoint (in the pass where the old interstate comes up the mountain). The few refugees that come up have been temporarily placed in the compound (the old Ridgecrest) until they can be processed and either granted admission into the Conclave or sent back down the mountain.

I don't think I'll ever get used to seeing all these destitute people, folk who believed the government of the United States when they were told that the future was grand and glorious, that unlimited growth and unlimited power consumption were not only posible but actually preferable, people who never gave a thought to the fact that humanity was destroying the planet. I'll never get used to seing them trudge up here, thinking that things here are like they used to be. I see the haunted looks on their faces, with their starving children and their meager possessions, clinging to the past. They still believe, for the most part, that civilization is merely experiencing a temporary difficulty and that somehow the remnant of the Federal Government is going to make things better.

Speaking of Federals, a company of soldiers passed through the other day, returning to the War Zone after a week of R&R at the beaches outside Fayetteville. I spoke with one of them, a young man from Ohio, and he told me that their unit had been stationed in Little Rock and had been part of the army that had attempted (unsuccessfuly) to liberate Dallas from the Mexicans. He also believed that things were "just about" to return to a pre-Collapse state. This was from a seventeen year old kid, who couldn't possibly remember much about the Old Times.

The best part of the Federal's visit was, of course, the barter. They had three crates of oranges, that must have been smuggled out of Cuban Territory, and several crates of (almost) fresh vegetables. In exchange for these delicacies, we were more than willing to allow them safe passage through the Conclave, and even hooked their vehicles up to our generators and fully charged their batteries, which was enough to get them to Knoxville and out of our territory.

We were very careful, while they were here, to not display too much power or water usage. They bivouacked on the old interstate roadbed, in an area where we had no winter crops, and weren't allowed access to any sensitive areas.

Some other rumors we heard from the Federals included news from Europe. Reports indicate that the Asian Hegemony has finally rooted out the last resistance cells of the Euro Army and that everything east of the Alps is now under Chinese control. The English still control the Isles and what remains of the northwest of Mainland Europe. Apparently, the Hegemony didn't think that invading Great Britain was worthwhile, since little natural resources remain in British Territory.

The Feds also passed on intelligence from Africa and South America, more news of total anarchy. It appears that both continents have completely returned to tribal unit status and that no national governments survived the turmoil there.

Of course, none of this information is less than five months old, so situations could have changed drastically, but it now appears that the global population is now less than three billion people. This means that over four billion people have died over the last twenty years. And yet, there are people who still deny that the civilization of the late twentieth century, the gross over-consumption and amassing of economic power into the hands of a bureaucratic elite, the supremacy of materialism over stewardship, that all of these things, along with unsustainable population growth, caused the Collapse.

One of the Feds even told us that there is, in the planning stages, an invasion of the Arctic Territories -- an attempt to recapture the oil fields and restart production. I don't see how even the Feds themselves can believe that the attempt would by anything other than a total failure. The Inuit are too well entrenched, and without fuel for the tanks the Feds would have to rely totally on infantry to carry out such an invasion. It will succeed only in decreasing the population of North America even further.

It's hard to believe now, looking back over the last twenty-five years, that what we knew as civilization could have disintegrated so quickly. I remember seeing a television news program back in '01 that contained predictions regarding future crises and conflicts in which the United States could become involved. These predictions were based on Central Intelligence Agency studies, and said that the most precious resource world-wide would be, within ten years, fresh water.

As I recall, the greatest areas of concern in these reports were Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Well, this report was obviously one of the most accurate ever produced by any governmental agency.
By 2008, Egypt had conquered the Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia, thereby gaining total control over the Nile River.

Almost immediately after, the combined forces of Iraq and Iran invaded Southern Turkey in an attempt to gain control of the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Simultaneously, in Asia, China and India began land-grabs that ended only when they had divided betwen them all of Southeast Asia.

American's first involvement in these conflicts came when Turkey requested NATO aid in their battle against the invaders from the south. This involvement, as you know, didn't last long. The OPEC states immediately stopped exporting crude oil. Then, and to this day we don't know whether it was the eco-terrorists who were flourishing in those days or OPEC Special Forces, the oil fields in the Alaskan Arctic were destroyed, and the Alaskan Pipeline shut down, leaving Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana as the only sources of fossil fuels in the U.S.

That was when the Mexicans invaded, decimating the vaunted American Armed Forces, who lacked the effective counter to the masses of infantry and horse cavalry with which the Mexicans crossed the border. It was all the American forces could do to stop the advance west of the Mississippi River, keeping America in control of that strategic waterway.

The end of America's profligate use of energy came too late, however, to stop the environmental disasters that followed. Decades of over-consumption and pollution helped raise global temperatures enough to melt most of the polar ice caps and continental glaciers, which caused worldwide sea levels to rise over one hundred feet, inundating most of the world's major cities.

Other climatic changes ensued, and long-established weather patterns seemed to change overnight, blanketing most of North America (not to mention Europe and Northern Asia) under heavy snowfalls each increasingly longer winter.

I suppose, though, that those of us who have survived these upheavals are, in a way, better off than before.
We discovered, to the surprise of most, that a lot of the things that we "had to have" in order to get by turned out to be totally unimportant in the real scheme of things (remember the cell phone and automatic coffee makers?). Wealth at the expense of others, power at the expense of the environment, and decrees of government at the expense of the people all hastened the end of things "as we knew them."

It is my fervent hope, my Darling, that our children, and the children of the world, will grow up with the indisputable knowledge that we can make a difference -- positive or negative -- and that if we err in the future, it will hopefully be on the side of caution.

Love Always,

*The preceding letter from the future has been brought to you by the Ecosphere of Earth. We hope that it isn't too late already.

America the Great

The Return of the Moyers

Bill Moyers, a respected and distinguished journalist, who once served as White House press secretary in the LBJ administration, and 'retired' form the PBS program NOW, returns to PBS this week with his reincarnated Bill Moyers Journal. The show will premeire with a special episode on Wednesday, called "Buying the War" and will continue on Fridays.

Every responsible citizen should tune in.

For a taste of Bill Moyers, click here.

22 April 2007


"The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." - Article II, Section 4, US Constitution

"Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court." - Article III, Section 3, US Constitution

The Current Occupant, in a speech Friday (20 April 2007) at East Lansing High School in Michigan, used, as a visual aid to show how well the purge - I mean, surge - is going in Baghdad, a map which showed the placement of US troops, complete with major streets and landmarks (for reference, I suppose). Video footage of the speech, including the map, are available (a short bit was shown on Friday on Countdown [link via C&L]).

How hard will it be for anyone so interested to overlay that map with a Google Map image to gain co-ordinates for the bases shown? How difficult will it be to then aim mortars (or rockets) at those co-ordinates?

If any attacks occur at these locations, can it not be argued that George W. Bush gave aid to the enemy by showing the map?

Start the proceedings, Speaker Pelosi. Surely at least two people who were either at the speech, or have seen the footage, will be willing to testify to that effect.

21 April 2007

No To Taxation Without Representation

On Thursday, the US House of Representatives voted to pass the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act (HR 1905), 241-177. The bill will now go to the Senate, where it is expected to meet up with further objections (and probably more obstructions). If, if it passes in the Senate, the Current Occupant has said he will veto it.

Of course he has. For the few of you out there who don't already know, DC is 90% Democratic. The chances of a Republican being elected in DC are about equal to the chances of the CO addressing the nation tomorrow and saying that he has decided to withdraw the majority of US troops from Iraq, that he has accepted Dick Cheney's resignation, and that he will step down effective immediately - and hand the keys to the White House to Nancy Pelosi.

The state of politics in this nation is such that Republicans are willing to deny full representation (meaning a vote in the House) to approximately 550,000 Americans. I seem to recall reading about an event in our history where cries of "No Taxation Without Representation!" played a major role.

How dare they claim any similarity with the Founders.

For more, see the WaPo article.

20 April 2007

These Tests R Fun

You scored as Balder.





























Which Norse God or Goddess are you most like?
created with QuizFarm.com

19 April 2007

Come and See the Violence Inherent in the Sysytem!

I began this as a comment over at The Dark Wraith Forums, but it was well on its' way to becoming unwieldy, so I "brought it home" with me:

Good E'en, Dark Wraith,

There is something (one of a great number of things, actually) that bothers me every time an event like the one at Va. Tech occurs and the hand wringing and the gnashing of teeth begins. "This society has become more and more violent", the people cry.

Well, when wasn't this society violent? As you state in your above response to Lucretius, the founders of the country brought it with them, when they (and my paternal bloodline was right there with them) invaded this continent and began crowding out and killing the natives.

Life was harsh back then. Guns were a necessary thing in a time when a person might encounter a bear or cougar on the way to the spring to fetch water. The native peoples fought back and could strike at any time. And let's not forget the deer, buffalo and other animals that were hunted, not for sport, but for sustenance.

As our country grew older, and the natives were banished to reservations (the small percentage that survived) we began to turn on each other. Brawls broke out in taverns and fields and churches on a regular basis. Domestic violence not not only occurred, but was an 'accepted' part of the fabric of the home. Hell, we even went to war with ourselves!

Our cities grew larger, with more and more people crammed into tenements - and no hopes of ever leaving them. The Robber Barons and "Great Industrialists" used armed mercenaries to not only disrupt picket lines, but, in many cases, to incite riots (which they would then be forced to break up - and if a few of the strikers (and with any luck, organizers) were killed, then oh, well). This included such incidents as the Homestead Strike.

Throughout the South, blacks were lynched for being "uppity" by the Ku Klux Klan (and others). In the cities of the Northeast, European immigrants were often forced to violence to protect themselves. In the West, Chinese immigrants were repeatedly classified as second class - denied property rights and jobs.

During the two World Wars, peoples from the the "enemy" nations (immigrants and those who had been American for generations) were looked upon with fear and, at times, attacked, because they might not be "loyal" to their new country. We even went so far as to imitate the Nazis by "interring" Japanese-Americans during WWII.

In the 1960's the Civil Rights Movement was met with violence. Volunteers were hanged, beaten, shot and otherwise harassed. Black churches were firebombed. Black voting organizers were harassed by cross burnings, beaten, and shot. By the end of the decade and into the early 1970's, the war in Vietnam had polarized the country to such an extent that police and National Guard troops would fire upon and kill protesters. That's right, people protesting for peace were shot and killed.

Today we have gangs, composed of all ethnicities, in even small towns. Racism and sexism are still around in this country where all were "created equal". The Robber Barons are back, this time under names such as Enron, Worldcom, and Halliburton. Income disparity between the rich and the poor continues to grow.

Anyway, I'm not sure I have a point, but I do have a question. Am I wrong in my belief? Please comment....

Speak, Phydeaux

I love the internets. Here's one reason why. DEFINITELY NSFW!!!

(found in the comment thread at The Dark Wraith Forums, thanks to "Weaseldog")

18 April 2007

The Ethanol Myth

The Green technology du jour is ethanol. When the Current Occupant was in South America recently, he "kicked off his tour of the region — the longest of his presidency — by completing an agreement with Mr. da Silva [President of Brazil] to increase the development of ethanol as a leading alternative to oil." [NYT 9 MAR 2007]. Among other things, when

Speaking about the ethanol agreement [Bush] said, “When you’re growing your way out of dependence on oil, you’re dependent upon people who work the land.” He added that “the distribution of wealth, the distribution of opportunity to farmers, particularly the smaller farmers in our respective countries, will enable the economy to be more on a firm foundation.” [ibid]

His speech writers can put all the pretty words they want into his mouth, but what is the truth behind the statements?

Doctors David Pimental, professor of Ecology and Agriculture at Cornell, and Tad W. Patzek, Civil and Environmental Engineering professor at Cal - Berkeley, showed, in a 2005 report [PDF here], that using ethanol (a 10 % mixture blended with gasoline) derived from corn would require 11 acres of farmland per car per year - those same acres of corn would feed seven people for a year. Also, 131,000 BTU are needed to make one gallon of ethanol and a gallon of ethanol produces only 77,000 BTU.

So, the energy required to make a gallon of ethanol is almost double the energy produced by using that same gallon. A net loss of energy, per gallon, of 54K BTU. It's not like this is new information (even in 2005, when the report was written). From the introduction to the report:

Two panel studies by the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) concerned with ethanol production using corn and liquid fuels from biomass energy report a negative energy return (ERAB, 1980, 1981). These reports were reviewed by 26 expert U.S. scientists independent of the USDOE; the findings indicated that the conversion of corn into ethanol energy was negative and these findings were unanimously approved. Numerous other investigations have confirmed these findings over the past two decades.

This has been acknowledged for over a quarter of a century, and yet we now have the Current Occupant touting ethanol as our ’savior’ when it comes to ending our ’addiction to oil’. Why would he say such a thing? Hmmm....

...some large corporations, including Archer, Daniels, Midland (McCain, 2003), support the production of ethanol using corn and are making huge profits from ethanol production, which is subsidized by federal and state governments.

Aha! Now it begins to make ‘sense‘.

Some politicians also support the production of corn ethanol based on their mistaken belief that ethanol production provides large benefits for farmers, whereas in fact farmer profits are minimal. In contrast to the USDA [which claims in Shapouri (Shapouri, Duffield, and Wang, 2002; Shapouri and others, 2004) that ethanol production provides a net energy return], numerous scientific studies have concluded that ethanol production does not provide a net energy balance, that ethanol is not a renewable energy source, is not an economical fuel, and its production and use contribute to air, water, and soil pollution and global warming. Growing large amounts of corn necessary for ethanol production occupies cropland suitable for food production and raises serious ethical issues.

Well, if politicians support it, it must be for the common weal!

Based on current ethanol production technology and recent oil prices [~$60/bbl when the report was written], ethanol costs substantially more to produce in dollars than it is worth on the market. Clearly, without the more than $3 billion of federal and state government subsidies each year, U.S. ethanol production would be reduced or cease, confirming the basic fact that ethanol production is uneconomical.

Wha??? Now I’m getting confused. Could you clarify?

...the cost of producing an equivalent amount of ethanol to
equal a liter of gasoline is $1.88 ($7.12 per gallon of
gasoline), while the current cost of producing a liter
of gasoline is $0.33 (USBC, 2003).

Oh. So, what you’re saying is that ethanol uses more energy to produce than it produces by being used and it is an economic loser....

Here’s an idea. Let’s investigate hydrogen power for cars. Hydrogen is plentiful (indeed, the vast majority of the universe is hydrogen) and easily produced from water (see here ). But more on that later.

16 April 2007

On the Virginia Tech Shootings

Posted by Zack | Reply

Earlier today, someone was sitting in a classroom, maybe listening to a teacher lecture, maybe doodling in their notebook, and then someone came in the door with guns, and this person who was looking forward to the semester ending, maybe worried about some of the finals coming up, maybe hung over from whatever they were doing that weekend, and they glanced up and they saw these guns and their heart stoppped and their mouths went dry and adrenaline dumped into their veins and every single moment in their universe was narrowed to a fine exacting point and point was aimed at them and a trigger was pulled, and they might have been average or they might have been grand but now they are just meat. Rotting meat. And whatever was in their head is lost forever, and it probable only mattered to them anyway, but jesus. This happened 31 times today, in different places. It keeps on happening over and over and the only way we can deal with it is to categorize it, mark it down, present cause, effect, and turn it into an event with a beginning middle and end. But really all that mattered was the sweat, and the click, and final few seconds. God, how can we think about anything else?

I fucking hate politics.

(from the comment thread at Shakesville's "Dozens Killed at Virginia Tech by Gunman")

What else is there to say?

On Nature's Fury, Addictive Personality, and the Internets

As I write this I am awaiting the return of the internets to my life, which means that I do not know when I shall be able to post this essay.

As those of you who have read my profile know, I live in a camper in the woods in the mountains of North Carolina. Since late Saturday night, the wind has been howling through the woods, at times reaching around sixty miles per hour. As you might imagine, winds at this velocity rock the secret lair (aka "1973 Winnebago") with great amplitude.

I watched the local 11:00 news broadcast last night (on what, by the way, is probably the worst local station in the nation) as they bravely muddled through their show whilst being powered by a generator. The lead story concerned the fact that thousands in the area were without electricity (including the poor reporters) due to the sustained high winds.

And yet, out here in the sticks, my neighbor (from whom I get my grid power - via a long drop cord) had yet to experience a power loss. Even now, at almost 5:00pm, we have only had brief flickers of outage.

Unfortunately, we lost our DSL at about 12:30 today. AAAARRRGGGHHHHHH!!! I am reduced to listening to NPR for news (which isn't that bad, but...)!!

I am somewhat disturbed that I feel so left out of what's happening in the world. Why? I'll tell ya.

First, I am a semi-hermit. I really shouldn't care what's happening in the outside world. (Actually, I am very concerned with what's going on - because, be it minor or major, all things eventually affect me in one way or another - and, if the shit should truly hit the fan, I want to be prepared.)

Second, until my parents gave me the computer upon which I write this and my neighbor graciously allowed me access to his wifi connection, I spent my days listening to the local classical station and catching their hourly NPR update as I went about my daily tasks (which mostly consist of playing games and reading - on the days I'm not working, that is).

But in the last three months I have become 'addicted' to the internets. I wake up in the morning, start a pot of coffee, and turn on the computer. I then spend my leisure day(s) surfing, using the most excellent Shakesville as a 'home base', but ranging far and wide in my quest for information and knowledge.

I have become Brian Williams' 'Vinny' - and I don't even own a bathrobe....

Oh, thank Luna (since it's Monday)! I'm back online!!!!

14 April 2007

What Kind of Philosopher Are You?

You scored as Friedrich Nietzsche. You are Friedrich Nietzsche. You are a sweet philosopher who belived that humans are caught up in "herds" and need to break free and be individuals. Also, there are no standards to judge against, because "God is dead." You also probably suffer from a mental illness, probably due to some form of an untreated STD, and will most likely suffer a mental collapse.

Albert Camus


Friedrich Nietzsche


Jean-Paul Sartre


Martin Heidegger


Soren Kierkegaard


Not An Existentialist


Which Existentialist Philosopher Are You?
created with QuizFarm.com

h/t to konagod

Illegal Downloading is Illegal

As a onetime semi-professional musician (for a while I played bass in a bar band), I can definitely empathize with musicians wishing to get what they can out of their creations.

That being said; funny is funny, and this "PSA" is funny!

13 April 2007

Support Our Troops

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

We should All be Outraged

I have just finished reading an excellent post over at PoliTits, To Have A Say.

The post is a response to this Daily Kos post from Wednesday 11 April 2007. Or, more specifically, in response to the part of the post where the author refers to this post, by tech blogger Kathy Sierra. I'm relatively certain that all who read this will already be familiar with the situation (for those of you who are not, take the time to read the linked posts - I'll still be here when you get back).

In his climax of belittling Sierra's statements, Kos states the following: "If they can't handle a little heat in their email inbox, then really, they should try another line of work." Well, sir, I say to you: If you cannot understand that women have to take the heat (threats) seriously, because they are often, despite what you believe, carried out, then perhaps you have no right to comment on them.

I read the post in question at Daily Kos because I was following a link thread about the proposed "Blogger Code of Ethics". I agreed with him that it's a pointless endeavor, but then I got to the part where he disparages and dismisses Kathy Sierra. It was at that point that I decided to stop 'listening' to what he had to say.

As I said in my comment at PoliTits (if I may be so bold as to quote myself):
I am hesitant to enter into discussions on these topics, being a man myself, because of the narrow-mindedness and latent (or even blatant) sexist attitudes that male posters and commenters often display. I prefer not to be associated with such... morons. I am not suggesting that I would be blindly, or blithely, lumped in with the Neanderthal (no offense, Geico dude!) ravings, but, rather, that anything I, as a man, say about these topics, should rightfully be taken with a grain of salt.
DCup pointed out, however, "[r]ead them and comment and engage them." She was referring to feminist bloggers, but I believe that what she says should apply to all bloggers. Only by engaging - in a civil manner - can we hope to eliminate the barriers that society, and each of us individually, create.

When I read the Kos post, I should have added my voice to those who derided the author for his narrow (and incorrect) viewpoint. Instead, I decided that I just wouldn't read him anymore. That was wrong, and I apologize to to Kathy Sierra, and all the other women who have been threatened or worse, for whom I have not spoken up.

09 April 2007

Friday Cat Blogging, Special Monday Edition

This is the coolest kitty ever!!!

Best comment from the thread:

He doesn't pay his fare because he has a "Bus Paws" !
- Jason, London, UK

Random Thoughts

I was just reading through the comment thread re: Is Pat Robertson’s law school changing America? over at Crooks & Liars and a thought occurred to me. It was caused by this comment:

South Park actually got it very right when they had Donahue wanting to kill Jesus. Because if Jesus came back today, would any of these so-called Christians even recognize him? I would suspect that you'd have far more secular leftists - hell even atheists, defending Jesus on his return than you would have of these apostates. (He would be considered a fake, possibly even the anti-Christ.)
JJohnson | 04.09.07 - 8:51 am |

I (and, indeed, many others) have wondered why Christians continue to espouse faith in a God who hasn't made His presence known for the last two millennia (our Islamic brethren would question that statement, since Mohammad lived in the late Sixth and early Seventh centuries CE, and certainly believed he had received messages from God (Allah) - with such conviction that an estimated 1.4 billion adherents now follow his teachings - oh, and let's not forget the Mormons).

My thought was this: What if the messages have indeed been squelched by "Christians"? What if the 'second coming' happened hundreds of years ago, and perhaps even a third, fourth and fifth coming? This is certainly plausible, given the power-mongering attitude of the Church throughout the ages.

I have said this before, but let me restate it so that their is no misunderstanding: I do not believe that all Christians are hypocrites, just an unfortunate many.

I, myself, do not claim to be a Christian, though I do live my life in as close to a Christ-like manner as I can manage. Despite what the Fundies say, one can believe the message without worshiping the messenger or subscribing to a set of religious rules.

Anyway, as I said, it was just a thought....

Letters, We Get Letters...

It's time to open the Phydeaux Speaks mailbag. Even though we (the kitties and I) live in a secret lair (aka “1973 Winnebago”) in the woods, the USPS still finds us on a regular basis. 'Sall good, though; the junk mail makes excellent tinder for campfires, and I am able to receive (and respond to) questions from my fellow hermits.

Now that I have this online venue, I have informed the Hermit League that I will now post and answer their queries here. Oddly, though, I have yet to receive replies from any of them. Ah, well, on with the questions!

Dear Phydeaux,
I recently heard, from a passing fur trader, that the United States is involved in a war in the Middle East. Since I know your weakness re: contact with the outside world, I figured you would be the one member of the League that might know the truth behind this rumor. Could you elucidate the facts for the rest of us?

Gumpy Joe
The Back Forty

Dear Gumpy,
First of all, let me say that it is great to hear from you, and to know that you recovered from the Boy Scout "invasion" of last summer. I trust that you have moved back out of the cave and into your Scout-rebuilt cabin. I reiterate, they were only trying to be helpful, as is their wont.

Yes, it is sad, but true, that George W. Bush (whom you may recall was selected, in the year 2000, by the Supreme Court of the United States, against the popular vote, to be President) has entered the country into a war in Iraq. He told us that Saddam Hussein possessed "weapons of mass destruction" and his National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (who has since been promoted to Secretary of State) warned us that if we didn't act first, our only warning would be "a mushroom cloud." He also alluded to a connection between Iraq and the Al-Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on 11 September, 2001.

It has since been proven that the Iraqis had no 'WMD' or connection to Al-Qaeda (even though Dick Cheney still makes those claims on a regular basis). Once the claims were shown to be erroneous, the Current Occupant began stating that we were in Iraq to spread Democracy. Apparently he was unaware that Democracy cannot be forced upon a people, but can only be gained by the will of the people.

As it has become increasingly evident that the Iraqis are more interested in resurrecting millennia old fights between religious sects and settling old grievances than establishing a functioning Democracy, the Current Occupant has decided to send in even more US troops, in the apparent hope that our soldiers can keep the warring factions separated until Bush's term in office ends, thus keeping him from being seen by history as the man responsible for destroying the country.

My hopes that this answers your question,
P. Speaks

Dear Mr. Speaks,
I have heard through the grapevine that there is still a debate going on in the world regarding climate change. Speaking as one who has had to rebuild her cabin three times in the past two years, due to the permafrost melting, I don't understand how there is still a question. Can you explain what is going on?
Yours in Solitude,
Mild Mary Grimble
Cicely, Alaska

Dear Ms. Grimble,
There is indeed still a debate going on in the United States regarding the existence and cause of climate change. However, there is also still debate in the US about evolution, an established and well proven aspect of biology, so that tells you something about the level of debate in America.

It appears to me that those who deny that human activity is contributing to climate change are the ones that either, a) depend, for the most part on one news source, namely the Fox News Channel or b) would be adversely affected financially if we actually tried to alleviate the readily observable changes (such as your cabin sinking into the newly melted swamp) that are occurring. By the way, Fox News- which is owned by Rupert Murdoch (whose vast wealth no doubt has tentacles reaching into many, many different companies besides the media outlets he owns all over the world) - falls into the latter group, so their “fairness” in reporting about climate change can validly be called into question.

The obvious conclusion to be drawn from this is that the health of the planet - and of humanity as a whole - is inversely proportional to the amount of profit generated by the world economy. And since 40% of the total wealth of the planet is held by the richest 1% of the population (in the US the top 5% sit on nearly 70% of wealth and property), and money - under the system of capitalism - equates with power, the other 99% of us are pretty much shit out of luck.

It seems, therefore, that as long as money continues to be worshiped, the 'debate' will continue.

My best advice to you is to move to higher ground and stock up on heirloom vegetable seeds (most commercially available seeds produce ‘fruit’ that does not contain viable seeds - which requires the farmer to purchase new seed every year instead of using seed from the previous year‘s crop) and farming tools.

Yours in agriculture,
P. Speaks

If you have a question for the Mailbag, send it to me here.

08 April 2007

Close Call

"Credit Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally with saving the leader of the free world from self-immolation."

Not much to say about this Detroit News article that won't end with my incarceration....

06 April 2007

Friday Cat Blogging

As promised last week, today I blog about Callisto.

Callisto, aka "Callie", is my eight year old tortoise shell. She came to me as a kitten, to be a friend and playmate for Puff, who had recently lost her brother. It didn't quite work out that way....

Callie was a vicious little shit. She would attack anything that moved. Puff, me, the curtains, dust bunnies - it didn't matter; if it moved, it was fair game. It took me quite a while to break her of this. I finally managed it by holding her tightly (and for long periods of time) and patting her back - much like one burps a baby (except for the 'holding tightly' bit).

This, of course, is now her most-favorite-thing-in-the-world-ever. Followed closely by "chase the laser dot" and "fuck with Puff". Callie has been 'part of the family' for almost exactly eight years (she arrived at the loft on Easter in 1999), and she and Puff still don't get along. I have long since given up hope that this will ever change.

This lack of getting along is especially difficult, given that the three of us have, for the past seven years, lived in a 25' Winnebago RV - and neither cat will go outside (I can leave the door open and they run from the opening - course that's a good thing, considering I live in the woods and there are owls and mountain lions [at least one]) . When Callie decides that it is time to chase Puff, I usually end up being a climbing post. You know, leg slashed open by claws sort of thing as Puff tries to escape by hiding on my shoulder.

I can say only that I'm eternally thankful that my kitties spend 99.7% of the time sleeping.

Slavery Bad!!

N.C. Senate Apologizes for Slavery

Well, praise be, and glory hallelujah. North Carolina finally seems to be ready to put the Civil War behind it.

The North Carolina Senate apologized Thursday for the Legislature's role in promoting slavery and Jim Crow laws that denied basic human rights to the state's black citizens.

As a native and life long resident of the "Old North State", I must say that it's about bloody time. I can only hope that the people of North Carolina, the average Joe's and Jane's, are in accord with the state legislature. Based on the attitude of the folk I grew up around, however, I have my doubts. Not to mention the still present racism, disrespect and denigration.

I grew up in one of the more backward areas of the state. My family moved there (in the early 1970‘s), from the next county over, when I was eight years old. My first day in my new school, I was stunned to find that I could barely understand my classmates’ speech. Turned out they were speaking a remnant of Elizabethan English, as their families had lived in the tucks and folds of the eastern escarpment of the Appalachian Mountains, and, until very recently, had little or no contact with the outside world.

There was another aspect of my new classroom that took a couple of days to sink in. All of my classmates were white. I (innocently) asked my teacher why this was so, and she replied “We don’t have any niggers here.” I’ll never forget hearing that. At my previous school, two of my best friends were black, and I honestly don’t remember anyone using the ‘n’ word [and by the way, I apologize for using it in the above quote - but it is a direct quote].

Being a child, it didn’t take long for me to adapt to the language of my new classmates, and, before long, had developed new friendships. One of my new friends was a budding artist and liked to draw pictures of warships. They were always flying the Confederate ‘Stars and Bars’.

I had, for various reasons, the option of attending three of the four high schools in the county. However, two of those were all white (so much so that if a black family tried to send their children to one of them, they soon had a cross burning in their front yard), and that played a large role in my choice to attend the third, integrated, high school.

I was a band geek and book nerd in high school, but to the best of my recollection, ‘race’ relations were, for the most part, pretty good there. I have heard, however, from friends that were unable or unwilling to escape the area, that several years after we graduated, the school became very racially polarized.

I am a descendant of one of the families most responsible for the existence of slavery in the United States, as an ancestor of mine spoke up in the Second Continental Congress - and led southern states to not vote for independence unless wording banning slavery were removed from the Declaration. Therefore, I have always felt a personal shame regarding slavery and ethnic inequality. So these beginning steps by the North Carolina Legislature to right this historical wrong help lessen the burden on my ‘soul’, and hopefully will help to bring all of us together into a more peaceful rational and equal existence.

05 April 2007

Climate Change is Real!!!

The following is the fourth in the continuing series, “Hey, to introduce myself to the Internets I’ll reprint some old magazine articles I wrote”. This one was written for the September 2000 issue of Rapid River Literary Magazine.

Have you been paying attention to the weather lately? I mean, you've obviously noticed the weather, but have you actually paid any attention to it? Over the past couple of weeks, we, here in Asheville, have experienced everything from chilly and wet (approximately, oh, late March weather) to cool and dry (late Fall weather) to hot and humid ("appropriate" August weather). A year and a half ago [1999], Asheville laid claim to a statewide temperature record. Do you remember that record-setting day? 80 degrees Fahrenheit... in Asheville... in February.

I remember, as a puppy growing up in the northern foothills of North Carolina, consistently cold weather in the Winter, and, oddly enough, consistently hot weather in the Summer. To be sure, there were mild days, both in the Winter and Summer, but for the most part, Winter was cold and Summer was hot (those of you who grew up in South Florida and Southern California will have to trust me on this seasonal climatic variance).

I also remember general precipitation patterns. In Winter there were regular snowfalls and/or ice accumulations (depending on latitude and elevation). Springtime brought showers and steady rains, Summer had its strong afternoon thunderstorms, and Autumn delivered its usual gentle rains and occasional early frosts. These patterns were well established and had been observed and relied upon by the Cherokee and other peoples that inhabited this area long before any Europeans came this way.

What about cataclysmic weather, you may ask? Of a certainty, Spring brought tornados through the Midwest and in the Piedmont and coastal regions of the southeast, and, from late Summer through Autumn, hurricanes were always a potential threat. There were also periodic droughts and floods. I remember a family trip to Texas in 1975, the purpose of which was a visit with my grandfather, that took place during a great Mississippi flood. As we traveled west on I-40, we encountered standing water just west of Nashville, Tennessee, and didn't reach the other side of the flood until almost Little Rock, Arkansas.

I also remember listening to Walter Cronkite relay a news item, some time in the early 1970s, about a new theory proposed by climate experts, a phenomenon they called Global Warming, caused by something known as greenhouse gases. There was concern expressed that, unless more research was done and steps taken, these accumulations of greenhouse gases could eventually adversely affect our climate.

Well, it's thirty years later, and what have we learned? Carbon dioxide (CO2) content in the atmosphere is at its highest since the time of the dinosaurs. There is at least one hole in the Ozone layer (which protects our planet, and all life on it, from ultraviolet rays from the sun) which, despite the banning of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) is continuing to grow [ This, however, may be changing; see here] .

We have also learned that the two main contributors to these record CO2 emissions are power plants and automobiles.
And so we come to the heart of the problem: power plants and automobiles -- electricity and cars. The abilities to dispel darkness and be mobile -- two cornerstones of the "American Dream". A recent report shows that there are more autos in the US than people by almost 20 million. Cars probably outnumber legal drivers by upwards of 100 million.

Power companies steadfastly refuse to voluntarily reduce harmful emissions, and our elected federal officials (Senators and Congressmen) are equally steadfast in their refusal to mandate reductions. The reason usually given for this stance by industry and government is that it would be cost-prohibitive to retrofit existing plants to make them cleaner. I'm here to tell you that it will be much less "cost effective" (not to mention impossible) to retrofit our planet with life once our modern, enlightened society destroys what exists now.

So when you vote this November, remember that all the money in the world won't help you breathe when the air is toxic.

See ya.

Well, it's been another seven and a half years since I wrote that. What has happened since then? Weather patterns have become even more unstable. Greenhouse gas emissions have increased, both in the United States and abroad. The Current Occupant of the White House has voided implementation (in the US, at any rate) of the Kyoto Protocols and directed political appointees to edit scientific studies to show reduced climate impact by pollution. Even NASA has muzzled climatologists who wish to speak out regarding Climate Change.

In the meantime, the scientific community has continued its' attempts to beat past the bulwark of misinformation and religious obstinacy (see Falwell, Robertson, et al) and illuminate the problem. An Inconvenient Truth, and Al Gore's continued efforts, are helping. Even the disbelievers (see Inhofe, etc) sometimes, through the sheer stupidity of their arguments, inadvertently champion the cause.

My personal opinion is that it matters not at all whether human activity is contributing to climate change (and, yes, I believe that it is). What matters is, human activity can help minimize the change, if we get off our fat asses and do something.

04 April 2007

The End Is NERE!!!

The Newsweek Poll, 31 March 2007, included, after the perfunctory political quiz, questions on religion. The answers to these questions (and, indeed, the questions themselves) provide more evidence that America is becoming a third world theocracy and dumber than a fencepost (no offense to all you fenceposts reading this) to boot.

Let's start with the first God-themed query:

12. Which one of the following statements come closest to your views about the origin and development of human beings? Humans developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process [A] (or) Humans developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process [B] (or) God created humans pretty much in the present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so [C]?

Of course, there's always "the question is bs because there ain't no God", but that answer had to settle for the "other/don't know" [D] column. And by the way, why is other/don't know lumped together? Which is it? there's a big difference between "other" and "don't know".

Current Total 30% 13% 48% 9%
Evan. Prot. 18% 4% 73% 5%
Non-Evan. Prot. 42% 9% 39% 10%
Catholics 42% 11% 41% 6%
Agn./Ath. 27% 45% 13% 15%

A "point of order" here. Under which of the above four categories does Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Pagan, etc, fall? it’s not like the poll didn’t ask “What is your present religion?”(question #20). But I, like the populace of Uhmurrrrica, digress.

The percentages, while sad, are not that surprising - except for the responses of the Agnostic/Atheist. I would assume that the Atheist portion of those respondents picked [D], but 40% of this category chose one of the answers that had God at least partially involved in the process. According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, agnostic means:

1[noun] : a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god
2[adjective] : a person unwilling to commit to an opinion about something

Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t this sort of preclude attributing anything to the actions, or indeed, inactions, of God? Of course, the literal translation of ‘agnostic’ is ‘without knowledge’, so maybe those respondents were just that.

Okay. Next question:

13. Do you think the scientific theory of evolution is well-supported by evidence and widely accepted within the scientific community?

This time, the choices are “Well Supported” [A], “Not Well Supported” [B], or Agnostic - I mean, “Don’t Know” [C]. Apparently no one came up with any ‘other’ on this one.

Current Total 48% 39% 13%
Evan. Prot. 25% 63% 12%
Non-Evan. Prot. 57% 24% 19%
Catholics 58% 33% 9%
Agn./Ath. 73% 18% 9%

The fact that any non Evangelical would answer anything but [A] is sad. Evangelicals are just plain sad. Next question!

14. Do you believe in God?
Yes No Don't know
91% 6% 3%

This one I’ll accept (even though it’s scary). This tells us that 6% of respondents are atheist and 3% are agnostic - but wait! Question 16 (I’ll get to 15 in a minute) is:

16. Would you describe yourself as an atheist?
Yes No Don't know
3% 96% 1%

As Mama Shakes, over at (the newly renamed) Shakesville, says, “What the Poop?” Maybe I need to check the definition of atheist (Merriam-Webster again):

one who believes that there is no deity

Hmm, that’s what I thought. So, let me get this straight. 6% do not believe in God, but only half of those identify as “one who believes there is no deity”. Ohhh-kay. My head hurts.

Alright, back to question 15:

15. People who don't believe in God are called atheists. Do you personally know any atheists, or not?

Yes No Don't know
49% 48% 3%

This tells us that atheists, remember- only 6% (or is it 3%) of the population, really get around. My question to them is, why haven’t you introduced yourselves to the other 48%? Do they smell bad or something?

Check out the entire poll, if you haven’t already. I need a nap.

DISCLAIMER: I apologize for the poor structure of the block quotes. I can't figure out how to get them aligned properly. I hope it's not too confusing.