Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tell Us Tuesday No. 13

Tell us about jury service.

Have you ever served?
What happened?

How do you feel about it in general?

What do you think about the jury selection process in this country, where (wealthy) defendants can hire jury consultants? (In England, they just take the first 12 warm bodies.)

Friday, August 24, 2007

God's Warriors

I hope everyone got a chance to see Christiane Amanpour's excellent three-part series on CNN, God's Warriors. If not, I'm sure they'll rerun it soon. You can watch the trailer for it here. (Click on the "Behind the Scenes" tab to find it.)

She examined the fundamentalist beliefs of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and the increasing impact they're making on the world. Fundies have always been scary to me, and after watching three nights of her interviews of them, I'm even more appalled by the vehemence with which they vow never to give up their fight against secularism. It's some scary shit, people.

I recently ran across this website:

H.E.R.B. - - - Had Enough Religious Bullshit !!
A Collection of Articles, Quotations, and Cartoons For
Those Of Us Who Prefer Not To Live In A Theocracy.

and I have to agree with it's founder's statement:

The World is divided into armed camps ready to commit genocide just because we can't agree on whose fairy tales to believe. In the end, Religion will kill us all. -- Ed Krebs

The site has a large collection of scary quotes from Fundies the world over. Here's just a small sample:

I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!
-- Rev. Jerry Falwell

Secular schools can never be tolerated because such a school has no religious instruction and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith.... We need believing people.
-- Adolf Hitler, April 26, 1933

Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors -- in short, over every aspect and institution of human society.
-- D. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge Ministries and Bush advisor.

I couldn't agree more.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

How things used to be

Ever wonder where some of our sayings come from, like "raining cats and dogs" or "dead ringer?" This is another StumbleUpon find:

How Things Used To Be

Next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be. Here are some facts about the 1500s:

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children - last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

Houses had thatched roofs - thick straw, piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the dogs, cats and other small animals (mice, rats, and bugs) lived in the roof.

When it rained it became slippery, and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof, hence the saying, "It's raining cats and dogs."

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, hence the saying "dirt poor." The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (the straw left over after threshing grain) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they kept adding more and more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. To prevent this, a piece of wood was placed in the entrance way - hence a "thresh hold."

They cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been there for quite awhile, -- hence the rhyme, "peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old."

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man "could bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat."

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with a high acid content caused some of the lead to leach on to the food, causing lead poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Most people did not have pewter plates, but had trenchers (a piece of wood with the middle scooped out like a bowl). Often trenchers were made from stale bread that was so old and hard that they could use them for quite some time. Trenchers were never washed and a lot of times worms and mold got into the wood and old bread. After eating off wormy, moldy trenchers, one would get "trench mouth."

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, "the upper crust."

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock them out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up hence, the custom of holding a "wake."

England is old and small and they started out running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a "bone-house" and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, one out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they thought they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the "graveyard shift") to listen for the bell.

Thus, someone could be "saved by the bell" or was considered "a dead ringer." And that's the truth.

Who said that History is boring!? *


* FYI: the youngest daughter of my friend Grace, the artist, says history is boring.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

It was a dark and stormy night

Let's write a short story together. I'll start:

Millicent covered her mouth in shock, eyes growing wider with every word she read. Harry's long-awaited letter was not at all what she'd expected when she'd raced up to her room, clutching the envelope to her heaving bosom. She'd clawed through its seal with wild abandon, and now, holding the precious pages before her, she read the awful truth from Harry's own hand...

Your turn!
(You get multiple turns if you wish)

I can't wait to see what you come up with!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Get ready for the spin ahead of Gen. Petraeus' September report. The LA Times' headline talks about "pullbacks," but if you read the article, it's not what you'd think when you hear the word "pullbacks" in the current context of discussions about the Iraq war. The pullbacks may occur in selected areas throughout Iraq, and the troops will simply be reassigned to other areas within Iraq. We are being softened up in the hopes that we'll accept whatever the report says.

But that is not the part of the article I wanted to post about this morning. It's the paragraphs at the end of the article that really caught my eye. For starters, the report will be written by the White House. Read on. (I've posted only the last few paragraphs of the article. If you want to read the whole thing, click on the headline.)

Top general may propose pullbacks

Petraeus is expected to tell Congress that Iraqis can assume duties in some areas, freeing U.S. troops for other uses.
Copyright: Julian E. Barnes and Peter Spiegel, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
August 15, 2007


"Administration and military officials acknowledge that the September report will not show any significant progress on the political benchmarks laid out by Congress. How to deal in the report with the lack of national reconciliation between Iraq's warring sects has created some tension within the White House.

Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.

And though Petraeus and Crocker will present their recommendations on Capitol Hill, legislation passed by Congress leaves it to the president to decide how to interpret the report's data.

The senior administration official said the process had created "uncomfortable positions" for the White House because of debates over what constitutes "satisfactory progress."

During internal White House discussion of a July interim report, some officials urged the administration to claim progress in policy areas such as legislation to divvy up Iraq's oil revenue, even though no final agreement had been reached. Others argued that such assertions would be disingenuous.

"There were some in the drafting of the report that said, 'Well, we can claim progress,' " the administration official said. "There were others who said: 'Wait a second. Sure we can claim progress, but it's not credible to . . . just neglect the fact that it's had no effect on the ground.' "

The Defense official skeptical of the troop buildup said he expected Petraeus to emphasize military accomplishments, including improving security in Baghdad neighborhoods and a slight reduction in the number of suicide bomb attacks. But the official said he did not believe such security improvements would translate into political progress or improvements in the daily lives of most Iraqis.

"Who cares how many neighborhoods of Baghdad are secured?" the official said. "Let's talk about the rest of the country: How come they have electricity twice a day, how come there is no running water?"

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"Atheists' Worst Nightmare"

Here's the famous Ray Comfort/Kirk Cameron video "disproving" evolution with um, a banana. This clip is augmented with commentary, including pics of how bananas have evolved. It's a scream. Enjoy. Oh, and enjoy this wonderful cartoon, too. :)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bush Loses Brain

The Mark of Rove

The best quote from the article:

Rove "knows he'll continue to be a target, even from afar, since belief in his influence over every Administration decision has become, well, faith-based." Rove said, "I'm a myth. There's the Mark of Rove."

So ... this leaves Shrub and Shooter in charge for the next 16 months.

What do you think is really going on here, folks? Did the RNC demand his blood?

Of particular interest, this story broke at 4:00 AM this morning in the now-Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Reality check

I got a catalog from Mary Maxim Needlework and Crafts, touting Over 400 New Items! plus 21 Pages of Exciting Christmas Crafts! There was a time when this would have set my lil ole heart to pitt-a-patting, but today? Not so much. No, it isn't because I'm now an atheist and therefore the Christmas holiday hasn't the same meaning it once did. I still "do" the holidays. It's just that my interests are changing. No, no - that's not it, either. It's that ... I've had to narrow my interests down to what can actually be accomplished in Real Life. (Oh, and that reminds me of a great cartoon I recently StumbledUpon. This will only be funny if you've spent any time in VR... But I digress.)

I used to have a craft room full of stuff, with hundreds of projects tabbed and indexed in hanging files. I used to have boxes of patterns for clothes and drapes and Christmas projects. I used to have tons of fabric and yarn. I used to spend summers crafting everything from afghans to ornaments, from decoupaged footstools to clocks.

Then, several things happened. One, I started writing, and that took up a lot of my crafting time. Actually, now it's like everything takes up my writing time.

Another thing was a bit of arthritis in my hands, so I had to give up thread crochet - no more lacy bookmarks for friends at Christmas. Then I had to give up all but Q-hook crochet - that's the huge hook that can be held comfortably, but you can only make afghans with it, and after a while, meh.

Here's the thing. I'm getting older. Not old, mind you, because that doesn't happen to us Boomers. No, it doesn't. Stop laughing - it does not happen to us! See, I'm getting older ('course, not as old as Hoss), so I'm more aware of the fact that chances are, I'll never get around to doing those hundreds of craft projects. I didn't come to this realization just now - that was a year ago when we were going to sell Maxwell House and make our alleged move to North Carolina - hah!

It was back then when I realized that instead of packing all those nicely-indexed projects and craft supplies, I should face reality and only keep the things that I (1) enjoy doing the most (and can still do), and (2) that I might actually get around to finishing.

That left ... needlepoint.

And writing.

I and my creative muses will be perfectly happy concentrating on those two things. See, when you're young, you believe you really can do it all because you're not thinking about practical things like time. And maybe some of you overachievers (like my in-laws) out there actually do get it all done. I applaud you as I mutter under my breath.

So, the Mary Maxim catalog goes into the recycling pile, and until the day that I do the same, I'll be here happily writing and needlepointing (hmm, there might even be a way to do those at the same time...)

Monday, August 06, 2007

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Support Bridges, Not War

Heidi Sheen, left, and Brenda Asmus put down a sign to protest war as President Bush's helicopter flew over head to view the destroyed Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2007. The sign reads 'Support Bridges Not War.' (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Just think, Al Gore was talking about the need to save our infrastructure way back in the '90s.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

News flash!

Why people have sex: it feels good

copyright: By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer Wed Aug 1, 7:35 AM ET

WASHINGTON - After exhaustively compiling a list of the 237 reasons why people have sex, researchers found that young men and women get intimate for mostly the same motivations. It's more about lust in the body than a love connection in the heart.

College-aged men and women agree on their top reasons for having sex — they were attracted to the person, they wanted to experience physical pleasure and "it feels good," according to a peer-reviewed study in the August edition of Archives of Sexual Behavior. Twenty of the top 25 reasons given for having sex were the same for men and women.

Expressing love and showing affection were in the top 10 for both men and women, but they did take a back seat to the clear No. 1: "I was attracted to the person."

Researchers at the University of Texas spent five years and their own money [emphasis mine] to study the overlooked why behind sex while others were spending their time on the how.

"It's refuted a lot of gender stereotypes ... that men only want sex for the physical pleasure and women want love," said University of Texas clinical psychology professor Cindy Meston, the study's co-author. "That's not what I came up with in my findings."

Forget thinking that men are from Mars and women from Venus, "the more we look, the more we find similarity," said Dr. Irwin Goldstein, director of sexual medicine at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego. Goldstein, who wasn't part of Meston's study, said the Texas research made a lot of sense and adds to growing evidence that the vaunted differences in the genders may only be among people with sexual problems.

Meston and colleague David Buss first questioned 444 men and women — ranging in age from 17 to 52 — to come up with a list of 237 distinct reasons people have sex. They ranged from "It's fun" which men ranked fourth and women ranked eighth to "I wanted to give someone else a sexually transmitted disease" which ranked on the bottom by women.

Once they came up with that long list, Meston and Buss asked 1,549 college students taking psychology classes to rank the reasons on a one-to-five scale on how they applied to their experiences.

"None of the gender differences are all that great," Meston said. "Men were more likely to be opportunistic towards having sex, so if sex were there and available they would jump on it, somewhat more so than women. Women were more likely to have sex because they felt they needed to please their partner."

But this is among college students, when Meston conceded "hormones run rampant." She predicted huge differences when older groups of people are studied.

Since her study came out Tuesday, people are coming up with new reasons to have sex.

"Originally, I thought that we exhaustively compiled the list, but now I found that there should be some added," Meston said.


Stay tuned for other breaking news as it happens...