It’s been a very busy (too busy) month, what with two conferences, a trip to Cooperstown, a 50th birthday party, a wedding, and all the attendant stuff. Not to mention the Move.

So, I haven’t had time to read a lot of stuff on the Internet; heck, I’ve barely had time to post. Even when I do see interesting stuff, I haven’t had time to comment on it. So these are a few things that struck my fancy in the last couple weeks, in no particular order:

Comic book artist Alex Toth died recently. If you’ve never heard of him, it is very likely you’ve seen his work. Read about him here and here and here and here and here (May 28) and here, but, annoyingly, not here.

Serene, who BTW put together a lovely CD compilation, wrote a review of the CD I put together, and only gave me a 9 out of 10. Just for that, I’m adding her to my blogroll.

Friend Judy’s personal fundraiser page for the National Kidney Foundation, in anticipation of a walk this coming weekend.

Greg’s reading about baseball.

America’s identity theft capital is Maricopa County, AZ, which includes Phoenix, though they’re TRYING to combat it.

Lefty wanted to know if we do math equations. Gee, I do them all the time. Halving or quadrupling a recipe is a math equation. So is figuring out the floor plan for my office space where an inch equals a foot. More than that, I do square root with pencil and paper, just to keep my mind sharp.
And I make equations out of license plates; I try to find the lowest common denominator. Since most license plates are letter heavy, I assign numerical values to some letters. First, the Roman numerals. If I need more, I might use 13 for B (mush the numbers together), 3 for E (backwards computer lettering), 100 for K (kilo), 10 for O, 5 for S, 25 for W (V times V) and 2 for Z.

Even China Daily talked about American Idol, with one picture of the two finalists, and one large picture of the runner-up by herself.

Tosy talked about the Who’s best songs, coincidentally the day before Townsend’s 61st birthday. At the wedding I attended Saturday, Darrin and Suzy’s first dance was to “Let My Love Open the Door”, not the hit version from 1980 (it went to #9), but the five-minute remix from a decade and a half later.

Homeland Security

Among the things people sent me when I indicated that I was grumpy last week – I’m not so much now – was this item. It was in a Word doc, so I had to reconfigure for your viewing pleasure. Done by people with too much time on their hands, and the last pic isn’t the right one, but close enough:

The US government has a new website,

The thing is that the pictures from the site are so ambiguous they could mean anything! Here are a few interpretations. [All of the pictures are actually on the page.]

If you have set yourself on fire, do not run.

If you spot terrorism, blow your anti-terrorism whistle. If you are Vin Diesel, yell really loud.

If you spot a terrorist arrow, pin it against the wall with your shoulder.

If you are sprayed with an unknown substance, stand and think about a cool design for a new tattoo.

Use your flashlight to lift the walls right off of you!

The proper way to eliminate smallpox is to wash with soap, water and at least one(1) armless hand.

Michael Jackson is a terrorist. If you spot this smooth criminal with dead, dead eyes, run the hell away.

Hurricanes, animal corpses and your potential new tattoo have a lot in common. Think about it.

Be on the lookout for terrorists with pinkeye and leprosy. Also, they tend to rub their hands together manically.

If a door is closed, karate chop it open.

Try to absorb as much of the radiation as possible with your groin region. After 5 minutes and 12 seconds, however, you may become sterile.

After exposure to radiation it is important to consider that you may have mutated to gigantic dimensions: watch your head.

If you’ve become a radiation mutant with a deformed hand, remember to close the window. No one wants to see that s***.

If you hear the Backstreet Boys, Michael Bolton or Yanni on the radio, cower in the corner or run like hell.

If your lungs and stomach start talking, stand with your arms akimbo until they stop.

If you are trapped under falling debris, conserve oxygen by not farting.

If you lose a contact lens during a chemical attack, do not stop to look for it.

Do not drive a stations wagon if a power pole is protruding from the hood.

A one-inch thick piece of plywood should be sufficient protection against radiation.

Always remember to carry food with you during a terrorist attack. At least you’ll be able to enjoy a nice coke and apple before you die.

What Is Pacifism?

This year, the blogger English Professor has written on What Is Militarism, What Is Realism, and What Is Pacifism, all very interesting pieces. I knew that I wanted to try to come to grips with the latter as it applies to me, and when better than Memorial Day weekend.

When I became eligible, I registered for the draft on my 18th birthday. At that time, I noted that I was a conscientious objector. After a whole bunch of stuff (I could probably write an autobiographical chapter just on 1972), I find myself in front of my draft board in the fall of 1972, explaining what being a C.O. meant to me. Among other things, I noted that the military life necessarily put one in the position of having to respond in a particular way to violence, and that my beliefs did not allow for me to put myself in that situation. One board member asked me what I would do if someone were attacking my mother. My response was that I would try to stop the attacker; I went on to note that there was a difference between putting oneself in the position to having to respond to violence and responding when violence unexpectedly comes calling. Someone expanded the question to suggest that someone like Hitler was the equivalent to someone attacking my mother, essentially, “If we don’t stop him now, your mother will be become imperiled.” I’m not quite sure of my response except that I rejected the premise of the question. And eventually, I was given C.O. status.

Which is why I was somewhat troubled by my reaction to our invasion in Afghanistan in 2001, which was, pretty much, none. I did not protest, I did not write letters, as I did in the buildup to the war in Iraq. I was sad when war became the answer, but I certainly understood, in a way I hadn’t before (and haven’t since) the desire to use military force. And I realized that at some level, I’m not as pure in philosophical spirit as I would have liked. At least part of it was that I really disliked the Taliban, in large part because of the capricious and totally unnecessary destruction of the Buddhas earlier that year. And if the troops got Osama, all the better.

So, I’m thinking on Memorial Day, we should remember those who fought and died. But we should also remember that when we send people to war, all sorts of unintended consequences will arise (think Abu Gharib), and that war needs to be the last resort, not the first option.

Love Me, I’m a Liberal

Kelly posted this meme thing on how “liberal” she is. It’s pretty limited test, with a bunch of either/or questions for which I was desparate for a third choice, but I’d try it anyway.

I’ve been worried about the term “liberal”, not recently, when the term seemed to become synonomous with “Why do you hate America?” (note: I don’t), but back to when the late Phil Ochs wrote and performed a song from which I stole the title of this post, which suggests that “liberal” is not nearly progressive ENOUGH:

Your Political Profile:
Overall: 15% Conservative, 85% Liberal
Social Issues: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Ethics: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal

And while I was at it, I thought I’d see just how “tolerant” I am.

You Are 44% Open Minded

You aren’t exactly open minded, but you have been known to occasionally change your mind.
You’re tolerant enough to get along with others who are very different…
But you may be quietly judgmental of things or people you think are wrong.
You take your own values pretty seriously, and it would take a lot to change them.

Sounds about right, actually.
Note to Sarah, and any of you who are concerned about voter participation: I’ve been fascinated and encouraged by the rise of Instant Runoff Voting, which will, among many other things, allow someone to vote for a third party candidate without thinking that one is throwing one’s vote away.

Book Review: Our Endangered Values

I always felt sorry for Jimmy Carter. He was giving the right message (conservation, compassion, honesty) at a time when the American ego was most bruised by the twin stains of Watergate and Vietnam. Add to that 444 days of American hostages in Iran, and there you have one flawed Presidency. (Whereas Ronald Reagan could send troops to Grenada- less than two days after we lost over 200 troops in Lebanon – and show it was indeed “morning in America” – we CAN kick butt after all.)

Many have commented, and I tend to agree, that he has been one of our best ex-Presidents. Recently, I read his book, Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis (Simon & Schuster, 2005).

In his chapter, “The Rise of Religious Fundamentalism,” he quotes his letter to the magazine Christianity Today: “Increasingly, true believers inclined to…decide ‘Since I am aligned with God, I am superior and my beliefs should prevail, and anyone who disagrees with me is inherently wrong.'” Then later, “Those Christians who resist the inclination toward fundamentalism and who truly follow the nature, actions, and words of Jesus Christ should encompass people who are different from us with our care, generosity, forgiveness, compassion, and unselfish love.”

The self-described evangelical Christian believes there is no conflict between science and religion. He notes that the entwining of church and state is a rejection of “Jesus’ admonition to ‘render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…'”
He also has some good thoughts about abortion, the death penalty, women’s role in the church, foreign policy, just war, and the environment.

The former President notes that the average income per person “in the 20 richest nation was $27,591, and in the poorest nations only $211, a ratio of 131:1!” He believes the divide between rich and poor, throughout the word, and even within this country, is the single biggest issue we must face.

I recommend this book, especially the first half, to those with a Christian point-of view, and especially to those who have an antipathy towards Christianity as it is often practiced in this country.
THREE QUESTIONS for you, if you please:

1. I’m curious who you think are the best ex-Presidents. I’m no history scholar, but JQ Adams’ return to the House of Representatives and Taft’s ascension to the Supreme Court as Chief Justice ought to rank. I’d be inclined to give kudos to Clinton and poppa Bush, but there hasn’t been enough time to judge fully. Oh, yeah, a Nobel Peace Prize ought to count for SOMETHING.
Of course, there have only been 33 ex-Presidents. W is Prez #43, so 42 -1 for Cleveland (he may have been President twice, but I’m counting him as an ex only once) -8 (the four assassinated and the four who died of natural causes- I’m putting Zachary Taylor in the latter category, FWIW.)

2. I find myself agreeing with the current “leader of the free world” – these things happen – when he apologized for his cowboy rhetoric after 9/11 – he specifically mentioned the “wanted dead or alive” stuff. It wasn’t a “mistakes were made” non-apology, but (seemingly) a true act of contrition. I’ve chosen to believe it’s a sincere apology. Do you? Do you recall any other REAL Presidential apologies? I recall Clinton said something post-Monica, but details are sketchy in my mind.

3. I saw about 24 minutes of the show “24” this past season. I did catch David Palmer’s casket on the tarmac during the last show. I found it oddly moving. I’m going to miss knowing that strong guy’s around. My favorite fictional POTUS is J. Bartlett on The West Wing, because he was so complex, so believable. Though I do have some affection for Dave in the movie of the same name, a much nicer guy than his doppelganger. Who are your favorite faux Presidents, and why?
A review of the documentary about global warming An Inconvenient Truth, featuring “he coulda/shoulda been President”, Al Gore.

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