Monday, October 31, 2005

Oooh! My UFO teacher speaks!

I'm listening to "Voices of the Family" on NPR, and one of the guests is Dr. David Jacobs. He's a UFO researcher who taught "UFOs and American Society" at Temple when I was an undergraduate, and I recognized his voice on the radio straightaway. He was a good teacher, and the course was not easy, despite what you'd have thought from the title. Although I can't say I believe his claims (Carl Sagan said it best about extraordinary claims and extraordinary evidence), I can say he doesn't come across as crazy. That's important, because he believes in the abduction theories*, and that stuff is creepy.

The class involved a lot of history of the sightings, and of course an in-depth look at the abduction stories. Unlike what you hear on TV, not all sightings are by John-Deere-cap-wearing nobodies in the country. That doesn't mean that they're true, but I always feel as though I have to point that out.

*I'm using the word "theory" in the layman's sense, not the scientific sense. Would that creationists followed suit.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Lookin' forward to lunch

I'm hitting Murray's, this great Jewish deli on Montgomery Avenue. Every time I go there I ask myself what the hell Hitler was thinking. Jewish people have great delicatessens, their neighborhoods always seem clean and well-tended, and they're available to accompany us atheists who go to movies Christmas morning. What's not to like? Maybe the Nazis were jealous that, unlike Germans, Jews actually have comedians. Come to think of it, wiping out the gays was a pretty bad idea, too, if only for practical reasons. After the Holocaust, there wasn't one good deli or one decent haircut in Germany. Take that, Nazis!

My tire is now fixed, and in celebration I exceeded the speed limit on West River Drive by seven miles. I plan to celebrate Halloween by jaywalking.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A Movie Night return!

Yeah, I'm back at Movie Night this week, but only at the expense of Game Night tomorrow. Fall League always exacts its due.

Lately I've been embroiled in an online debate about these "conscience clause" laws that shield pharmacists who don't want to fill prescriptions for contraceptives. My concerns about the state making things difficult for small businesses aside, I'm troubled that the moral stances shielded are Christian and pro-life. I wonder if we'll start legally shielding the beliefs of other sects. Also, can these laws be extended to moral issues other than contraception? Should a pharmacist who thinks that sex is only for procreation refuse to fill a Viagra prescription for an elderly man? Should a pharmacist who thinks that AIDS is God's wrath be able to refuse to fill a prescription for medicines that fight HIV? Why should we shield pharmacists alone? How about the cashier who refuses to ring up the order? The stockboy who must bring in the drug from the truck? The bus driver who must drop the patient at the pharmacy? My gosh...extend this policy to its possible end, and we could wind up with half the economy refusing to service the other half.

Are Americans newly judgmental, or am I just waking up?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Flat Chance

That's a bad pun, but as a heading it beats out the runners-up, which were "I Want to Kill the Corporate Whores Who Work With Me" and "Human Resources Professionals Are F*cking Useless." Live with it.

This morning I had a wildcat flat tire. In case you were wondering, that is not a flat tire that stalks me through the brush and then leaps for the kill, jaws agape. Instead, it's a flat tire that comes out of nowhere. Saturday, tire good; Monday morning, tire bad. Anyway, I managed to get the spare on with Dan's help and without staining the new shirt I bought at Daffy's, but naturally the spare itself is low on air. Ugh. I just hope the damn thing gets me home alive tonight. If you hear about a teal Toyota Corolla doing an 80-mile-an-hour cartwheel on West River Drive, Movie Night's cancelled.

Back to HR people. I am sure they mean well, and I'm not suggesting we send them off to New Auschwitz for disposal, but I have to wonder just how they participate in the recruitment process aside from making a few phone calls and shuffling paper. I can make a few phone calls, and my ten-year-old niece can shuffle papers, but that doesn't mean we should be hired as a tag-team HR executive. (Our office would be this weird melange of Hilary Duff posters and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" memorabilia. You have to guess who owns which.)

Friday, October 21, 2005

A Frisbee Story

Those of you who don't play Ultimate may find this post boring, or maybe not. I guess my newly installed comments section will tell.

Wednesday night after my game I hit a bar with some of my team. They're drinking beer, and naturally I'm drinking diet soda. One of my teammates offers to buy everyone a round, and when asked what I'm drinking, I quipped, "Diet soda. In a dirty glass." In my world, that's a common Western-movie-type reference, when the gunslinger orders something (gin, whisky, whatever) in a dirty glass because he's so tough. Well, my world and my team's world evidently exist in different solar systems, because all I got in response were blank stares. As if to drive home the pop-culture gap, one person even said, "Uh...what's that mean?"

Speaking of the game, we won, but only because we were ahead when the rec center shut off the lights. (In nighttime Ultimate, the game ends when the lights go off, and the team ahead in points wins.) Given that we lost our last game for the same reason, it sort of balanced out. It was an exciting match, though, made more interesting when my team captain called the play.

Drew: "Scott and Sylvan play deep, with Todd and Patti popping, and Corey, Neil and I handling."
Me: "Drew, I've never handled in the zone before. I've seen it, but..."
Drew: "You'll be fine."
Me: "Uhh...okay."

For the Ultimate uninitiated, handlers are the folks who remain in the thick of the fray, sending the disc back and forth between them in short, controlled passes. The goal of the handlers is to wear down the defenders (who form a cup to prevent the offense from from moving the disc forward) and wait for a hole in their formation. A successful handler must have an accurate arm and a keen eye, as well as good judgment in knowing when to keep the disc amongst the handlers or when to try to send it deep or to a popper. In league, I never get to be a handler, and I never ask because in normal circumstances I'd be turned down flat.

Well, I pulled it off. I never once dropped the disc, nor did I make any crappy passes that hit nothing but dirt. I even dared to send the disc deep into the end zone, an attempt that was unsuccessful but lauded by my teammates as a good notion. We regained possession soon after the turnover anyway, and handled that bad boy right into the end zone. Ha-cha!

In case you haven't noticed, I find the competition of league quite invigorating. Although some people take it way too far, I think competition is a natural and necessary part of any sport. You can practice all you want, but only competition hones your skills to a razor's edge* and gives you the hunger you need to really win a game. Besides, it's fun to pit yourself against a player of equal or superior skill. The greater the challenge, the more satisfying the victory.

*My skills probably don't qualify for a razor comparison, though, unless it's a Bic razor. Or maybe a stone knife.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

"Intelligent" design, Part II

Check out this article about the duh-Dover kerfuffle. My favorite part:

Because ID has been rejected by virtually every scientist and science
organisation, and has never once passed the muster of a peer-reviewed journal paper, Behe admitted that the controversial theory would not be included in the NAS definition. “I can’t point to an external community that would agree that this was well substantiated,” he said.

Behe said he had come up with his own “broader” definition of a theory, claiming that this more accurately describes the way theories are actually used by scientists. “The word is used a lot more loosely than the NAS defined it,” he says.

The NAS, by the way, is the National Academy of Sciences. Therefore, Behe is saying that the NAS, and all its thousands of members, are wrong, and he's right. Well, if we'd known that we could have saved ourselves a bunch of time and effort. From now on, I think perhaps school boards should simply decide to teach whatever Michael Behe, and not the National Academy of Sciences, says is right.

Thanks to Sarcasmo for the link. She knows how to make my day.

My own quiz!

Do you like "The Hobbit"? I do, so I have made me own quiz to test the knowledge of ye who dare. Put your responses in the comments. Or email them to me. Or keep them to yourself. Or ignore the quiz. See how easy it is?

  1. What was the Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities?
  2. Who fought in the Battle of Five Armies?
  3. What were the names of the swords Gandalf and Thorin took from the trolls?
  4. Who killed Smaug?
  5. What hides behind stars and under hills, and fills empty holes?
  6. On what day did the setting sun shine a light on the keyhole?
  7. Where did Gandalf find Thrain, Thorin's father, and get the map and key?
  8. What game did Bilbo's fierce ancestor invent?
  9. Who became King Under the Mountain?
  10. How did Gandalf defeat Bert, Tom and Bill?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Gettin' Bagged

Last night I attended a mock-the-movie night, which features bad movies that take themselves quite seriously.* Since the last flick we screened was "Glitter", a cringeworthy little number, I was looking forward to the event. I was not disappointed.

We watched "The Legend of Bagger Vance", which starred Matt Damon and Will Smith. Evidently Ernie and Bert were otherwise engaged, so the producers settled on wooden actors made of flesh instead of wooden actors made of cloth. If you ask me, they should have saved their money and waited for the muppets. Anyway, this movie is about golf, and as such it is very long, very boring, and very pointless. Matt Damon plays a golf pro, mentally scarred by his experiences in World War I, who must come out of retirement to win a tournament for his hometown Savannah. During the combat scenes I found myself wishing the Germans had invented the atomic bomb about thirty years early, if only to wipe Damon off the screen. During the tournament scenes, I found myself amazed that the director had captured on film the exact tedium that is golf. However, just in case you need some insult with the mental injury that is "Bagger Vance", at the film's end, nobody wins the tournament. It's a three-way tie.**

Also, does anyone besides me think that Matt Damon really isn't very good-looking? He's got that all-American boy look, I grant you, and he's primped and polished for the screen, but when you get right down to it he ranks on the high end of average. If I'm going to suffer his acting, I at least want something pretty to look at, and Damon's looks just aren't worth it.

Still, the mocking was quite amusing, and so were the brownies, so I call the evening a success.

*Don't feel threatened, Movie Night are without rival.
**I suppose this is a spoiler, if anything could be said to spoil that piece of vomitous crap.

Monday, October 17, 2005

More from duh-Dover

As you may have heard, the Dover school board is now presenting its defense of the inclusion of "intelligent design" in its curriculum. To open the defense, they've summoned Michael Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University. For those of you who aren't familiar with him, Behe is one of the few creationists who is a professor of a hard science; most of the others are doctors of theology or philosophy, or else they are juris doctors. Accordingly, they wheel him out whenever they have to defend their attempts to place their crackpot ideas into public school science classes.

Let me tell you a few things about Michael Behe. His first book, "Darwin's Black Box", was largely panned by academia, and he can neither get grants nor be published in mainstream scientific journals. His own university has stated that his "theory" has no place in science classes, and puts up with him mostly because he secured tenure before wandering into the realms of fantasy. In addition, despite his attempt to present the "intelligent designer" as something clinical, he believes that designer and the Christian god are one and the same. His children are all home-schooled, which is usually a pretty good sign that a person is strongly religious, and not in a healthy way. Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, and an awesome speaker, has said of Behe:

"I think Behe truly believes that he has discovered something quite
astonishing," said Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for
Science Education, which supports the teaching of evolution in public schools. "But no one is using irreducible complexity as a research strategy, and with very good reason ... because it's completely fruitless."

(Irreducible complexity, by the by, is a criticism of evolutionary theory that I have seen and heard debunked many, many times. It's a lame horse Behe continues to insist can win the race.)

Michael Behe may have uncovered some vital truth, but if so he has failed to prove it scientifically. Until he does, I wish he'd shut his yap.

A Feast for Crows...finished!

Yep...I polished off this bad boy in four days, bettering my record with A Storm of Swords by one day. Of course, Crows was shorter than Swords, but I am proud nonetheless. Neat book, but one chapter disturbed me enough to make me put down the book for an hour or so. That rarely happens to me with any book, so take note.

Can I say that job-hunting is reminding me more and more of dating?* When a prospective employer tells you that the job you wanted is filled but they'll keep your resume for the future, it's the same as a boyfriend saying "It's not you; it's me." That's what we call a lie. Geez Louise...I haven't been single for coming up on two years, yet I get to hear this bullshit from another source.

I'd like to recommend to prospective employers the following policy: Be brutally honest. If you thought my resume sucked, or if my interview made you want to rip off my head, say so. Don't tell me you're going to keep a resume you really intend to trash, and for Pete's sake don't use the rejection letter as an opportunity to compliment me on my skills. That's too close to being told, "You're going to make someone very lucky someday." Too close for comfort.

Hey, I'm now wondering how the "rip off your head" rejection letter would go. Let's see...

Dear Applicant:

Thank you for your interest in Smith and Company. Although we appreciate the time you took to interview for X position, we wish you'd spent that effort in an activity other than wasting our time. We really hated your interview; I mean, you suck. Man, you suck. After you left, we sat around and discussed how we just couldn't believe how much you sucked. Seriously, dude, you need to do something about that, because if that interview had been three minutes longer we'd have ripped off your head. With rusty pliers.

Good luck in your career.

*The big difference is that, with the former, you're trying not to get screwed.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


I'm listening to an 80's CD kindly created for me by VisMajor, and I just finished "Come on Eileen." I've been hearing that song for about twenty years, and I can still decipher no more than one word out of five. I just Googled the lyrics, and they make no more sense than before.

Two Updates

First, I am about 180 pages into "A Feast for Crows", and I am enjoying it immensely. It doesn't have the radical ups and downs of "A Storm of Swords" (or at least not yet), but that doesn't surprise me.* Those of you who follow the series know that ASoS is a veritable frenzy of war, betrayal, and political intrigue, but that kind of frenzy can't last forever. AFfC feels more like the eye of the storm, in which political players both old and new are regaining their strength and taking stock of new opportunities for gain. I know that there have been bad reviews, but I enjoy this story and these characters so much that even if AFfC doesn't have much action I will still love it. George has created this incredibly rich and fascinating world, and I'm glad to tour it via reading.**

I was reading today about the progress of the Dover, PA trial regarding the introduction of "intelligent design" into public schools. The following exchange is between Brian Alters, a professor of science education at McGill University in Montreal, and defense attorney Robert Muise, who has the unenviable task of defending the Dover school board. Muise is questioning Alters' assertions that teaching "intelligent design" is detrimental to students.

Muise: "Do you have studies to show that intelligent design is detrimental?"
Alters: "I have no studies that show that any pseudo science is detrimental."

Go Dr. Alters!

*No doubt in the rest of the book a giant kraken will eat Westeros or some other suitably cataclysmic event will occur, just to make me a liar.
** If you're getting ready to chide me for providing spoilers, save it. First of all, I've said nothing that speaks to specific or even general actions on the part of characters. Second, my blog, my rules. I won't spoil the story here, but I reserve the right to make general comments.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

It's here!!!

"A Feast for Crows" is mine! All mine! It arrived this afternoon, smelling of paper and England. I am now convinced that all good things come either from England or from Hershey, Pennsylvania.

I have to hang around after work for an 8pm game, which gives me about two hours in which to gorge myself on war and political intrigue. I'll make certain to post here phony spoilers that will annoy and mislead you. 'Cause that's that kind of guy I am.

Jury Duty! Whee!

I got called to jury duty! Joy and rapture! Some of you are probably wondering why the joy and rapture, but to me jury duty is almost always a winning deal. I get a day off from work, fully paid, during which I get to read books and maybe answer a few questions under oath. I got lots of books for my birthday, too, so I am all set.* I'm looking forward a day I don't have to drive to Bala Cynwyd (shiver) and during which I can use my juror badge to get a discount lunch at the Reading Terminal Market.

I did jury duty about twelve or thirteen years ago**, and I thought it was fairly interesting. Admittedly, I would have found it less so had I been stuck on the Scarfo jury or on some dreadful asbestos litigation, but I lucked out and got a criminal trial. Big shout-out to our founding fathers for that speedy-and-public-trial thing, which ensured that my jury service began and ended within five days. That was long enough for a pleasant break from work, but short enough so that I didn't want to strangle the other jurors. I was elected foreman, too, which meant I got to read the verdict, which was both more and less dramatic than I expected.

*Although A Feast For Crows is on its way, I will have finished that book WAY before jury duty begins.

**It's pretty terrifying that I was old enough thirteen years ago to discharge the duties of an adult American.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The New Jacket

I am wearing a new jacket today, one that I bought at (surprise, surprise) Daffy's for about thirty bucks. It is nice.

I received many books for my birthday, and although I am 25% of the way through the one kindly provided by Sarcasmo, I shall cast them all aside in favor of A Feast for Crows. Amazon tells me that the book is currently winging its way across the Atlantic, headed for my eager, grubby little hands. Yay! Some questions I want answered are:

  • What will Prince Doran do when he learns of his brother's death?
  • How will Varys duck responsibility for Tyrion's escape?
  • Will Tommen actually marry Margaery?
  • How will things shake out at Pyke in terms of the kingship?
  • Will the Blackfish be taken during the siege of Riverrun?
  • How will Westerosi treat the Freys in the wake of the Red Wedding?
  • Will Littlefinger be able to retain his position as Lord Protector of the Vale?

Must know! Must know!

(I am happy to lend my copy to those who wish to read it, but be warned that Dan has dibs.)