The Watering Hole, Monday, October 12th, 2015: I’ve “Got A Case Of The Mondays”


"Office Space"

“Office Space”

Technically, it’s not quite Monday as I’m writing this, but I’ve already “got a case of the Mondays.” So to help brighten up the day, here’s a little gif of cute animals:



There, I feel a little better already.

This is our daily Open Thread–what’s on your minds?

Sunday Roast: Taino Genocide Day


This is a few years old, but still pertinent, as Thom scrapes away at the white-washing — literally and figuratively — of the life and actions of Christopher Columbus.  It’s absolutely sickening, and a horrifying indicator of the coming genocide of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

Thank goodness the holiday isn’t until Monday — you have time to get to the mall for that big sale.

This is our daily open thread — Barf.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 10th, 2015: Communication: Some Rambling Thoughts

Since Wayne is out and about working on clearing his mother’s apartment, I figured I would just throw up a few thoughts that recently came to mind regarding communication.

I think that all of us can agree, without false humility, that each of us in our little group here is well above average when it comes to communicating our thoughts and opinions on national, global, and universal topics. Whether we’re all highly educated or not (i.e., I only have one year of college, while many of you have actual degrees), we have one very basic thing in common: an understanding that each and every word we use has its own particular history and evolution, and therefore its own uniquely particular meaning. We revel in the ability to express ourselves as exactly as possible, and the fact that any one of us Zoosters is capable of writing something so eloquent that it pierces mind and heart is one of the many characteristics that brought us, and continues to keep us, all together.

Of course, searching one’s mind for that perfect word or phrase is not always easy, and I’m sure that, at times, each of us experiences the dissatisfaction of having to resign ourselves to the limitations of language.

This idea was brought home to me this morning, when I was reading an email from my sister. (Background note: none of my family has been very good about communicating with each other, and my sister and I have been the worst. In the olden days, she would talk to mum every weekend, and mum would pass the conversation along. Since our parents died [and the world became a darker and colder place – it was December of 2004, just after the Bush re-election] we’ve become even worse.) I had sent my sister, Anne, belated birthday wishes, and I had lamented that my upcoming birthday, when I will turn 60, was too depressing to think about. In part of Anne’s response to me, she wrote,

“… sixty is so far in my rearview mirror, I…admit thinking it’s right in your face that you aren’t young anymore…But it also made me think about what is important to me and how not to add to my list of regrets. Those sentences took me about ten minutes and still sound more philosophical than I intend. It was more like: YIKES! I could live to a hundred or I could be done and I better get on the case.”

Those few sentences alone told me so much more about my sister than most of our few face-to-face conversations. I realized a long time ago that we were very much alike in many ways, most particularly in our sarcastic/sardonic/sometimes waspish sense of humor, but it had never really occurred to me that we shared the same innate desire to express ourselves as precisely as possible. I won’t bore you more with personal baggage, but her phrase “how not to add to my list of regrets” truly struck home with me.

Moving on to another area of communication…

At work the other day, one of the women in Sales & Marketing was complaining about new requirements and restrictions that the chain drug stores (we deal with Walgreens, Wal-Mart, CVS, etc.) were demanding regarding the wording on our products’ packaging. As you know, the company for which Wayne and I work sell footcare products for various problems such as corns, calluses, bunions, heel pain, etc. Naturally, our packaging includes descriptions of the benefits that each product provides, along with instructions for use and care of the product. The chain stores, for some unknown reason, want us to eliminate much of this. Now, our customers range from medical professionals to dancers, athletes, everyday workers who stand all day, veterans, and so on, and they sometimes include some of the dumbest people on the face of the earth. I don’t know if the chain stores mistakenly believe that dumbing down the packaging information will broaden our products’ appeal, or what, but they pretty much want us to boil our wording down to “Use this, feet feel better” without saying how or why.

Which brought me around to a topic that we’ve much discussed, the use of language by conservatives politicians and pundits. Let me just take two examples of conservatives who have used their understanding of language to make a living in politics, William Safire and Frank Luntz.

In the before-time when my parents got the Sunday New York Times, mum and I shared two favorites: the crossword puzzle, of course – we took turns working on it, and it always irritated me that mum would use a pen while I used a pencil – and Safire’s column “On Language.” His column helped fuel my already keen interest in words and their origins which has obviously stayed with me all of my life. So regardless of William Safire’s conservative faults, and they are many, I have to thank him for his influence on my life.

Not so Frank Luntz. Luntz has been a snake-oil salesman who has used his language skills on a national level, poisoning the political conversation in order to mislead the voting populace. Luntz has taken words, language, and twisted them into meanings that they were never meant to have, using his ‘force’ for evil instead of good. At least William Safire, in his column, wanted to educate people on the use of language; Frank Luntz has no such interest, rather, he uses his power to blur the lines between good and bad, one of the best examples of which is the title “The Clear Skies Initiative.” In my opinion, this type of wordsmithing (too grand a word for what Luntz does, but technically correct), has snowballed to the point that, now, conservatives’ speeches are a combination of big words that say nothing and stone-age grunts of “left – BAD.” I hold him personally responsible for much of destruction of our political discourse which has brought our country to its present state of Idiocracy.

Okay, enough of my words, let’s hear yours.

This is our daily Open Thread – communicate!

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, October 7, 2015: 2nd Amendment v. Education

By now you’ve probably read about the latest mass murder on a school campus. There’s always two predictable responses: 1) an outcry and a call for sensible gun regulations and 2) “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”.

Let’s face it, those who want to be armed to the teeth will, ’till their dying breath, say “you can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers”.

Neither of these approaches has put an end to mass murders at our schools. It is time to try something different. Something radical.

The right to bear arms is carved into our Constitution via the 2nd Amendment. But there is no corresponding right to an education.

The solution is obvious. Shut down schools. Without schools, there will no longer be mass murders on school grounds. Kids can learn what they need to know from parents, grandparents and internet chat rooms.

Problem solved.

You’re welcome.


The Watering Hole, Monday, October 5th, 2015: Mixed Bag Monday

Let’s start off with a bang:  According to Foreign Policy magazine, the same idiots in Congress who tried to stop the Iranian Nuclear Agreement now want to ‘make it up to Bibi’ by giving Israel bunker busters.  An excerpt from this excellently-written article by Jeffrey Davis:

Since the battle over the Iran deal was largely fought over the question of whether proponents loved Israel or not, both sides are talking loudly about providing the country with a big arms package. Those who supported the deal are eager to make it up to Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, while those opposed have to find ever more extreme proposals to prove they love Israel more.

This absurd competition — which is primarily about political posturing, not Israeli security — has reached an almost perfect level of absurdity. There is now a growing chorus of people arguing that the United States should give Israel the Massive Ordnance Penetrator — a huge conventional bunker-buster bomb — and a fleet of heavy bombers to drop it.

Israel’s air bases don’t even have runways that can accommodate heavy bombers, though apparently one base — Nevatim — could be modified.**

[**Personal note:  the engineer for whom I used to work had earned the money that enabled him to buy a nice house and start his own business from a contract constructing the Negev Air Base runways.]

Next, let’s go back to the Pope’s meeting with Kim Davis.  Although most news reports agree that the Vatican’s ambassador to the U.S., Carlo Maria Vigano, arranged the visit, so far none seem to have specifically asked or answered “Why?”  Was it solely Reverend Vigano’s idea?  Or – yeah, I’m the suspicious, cynical type – did someone with a stake in a Papal stamp of approval of Kim Davis and her ilk, someone perhaps running for the Presidency, arrange this very, very quietly?  Yeah, I’m looking at you, Huckabee.

Only the Washington Post appears to be curious about the backstory of this now infamous meeting:

Church leaders in the United States and in Rome have been resolutely tight-lipped about the meeting, perhaps concerned about the prospect of appearing to publicly rebuke or challenge the pope, particularly on such a sensitive issue. At the same time, church-watchers have debated and swapped rumors about who set up the meeting, whether it was at the behest of the pope himself, or whether it was an idea pushed by other bishops or religious freedom advocates or donors.

Among those who declined to comment was the Rev. Carlo Maria Viganò, the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States, at whose residence the meeting took place.

Rev. Thomas Rosica, an English-language spokesman for the Vatican, told the Associated Press. “And in the pope’s characteristic kindness and warmth and hospitality, he shook people’s hands and gave them rosaries. We should understand it as that. In terms of why this person was invited, you have to ask those questions of the nunciature.”

A controversial figure both in Rome and in the United States, Viganò has gone further than other church leaders in his campaign against same-sex marriage. Among other things, he appeared at an event this year with the National Organization for Marriage, a group that vocally opposes same-sex marriage and with which U.S. bishops typically don’t publicly ally.

And, of course, Liberty Counsel, and through them Kim Davis, are more or less calling Pope Francis a liar.  According to Christian Today’s article, “Kim Davis denies Vatican account of her meeting with Pope, says she was invited”:

“Disturbed by statements coming from the Vatican, gay marriage nemesis Kim Davis would like to set the records straight that it was the Vatican that extended an “unsolicited invitation” for her to hold a “private meeting” with Pope Francis at the Vatican embassy in Washington D.C. last Sept. 24.

Liberty Counsel, the group representing Davis, said the Kentucky county clerk—who spent six days in jail for defying a court order for her to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples—had spoken with papal representative Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano before she met the Pope.

“This meeting was a private meeting. No other members of the public were present,” Liberty Counsel said.

Davis, accompanied by her husband Joe and lawyer Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, arrived in Washington on the night of Sept. 23, the Liberty Counsel statement said.

The following day, the Davis couple were met by people with “heavy Italian accents” who led them to the Vatican embassy.

“Kim and Joe Davis were placed in a room with no one else present. Later Pope Francis arrived with only Vatican or Embassy personnel and security,” the Liberty Counsel statement said.

“He stretched out his hands. Kim clasped his hands, and he asked her to pray for him. She said she would, and she asked the Pontiff to pray for her, to which he said he would.

“Pope Francis then thanked Kim for her courage. They embraced. The Pope said, ‘Stay strong.’ He then presented Kim and Joe with two rosaries. There was no line of people or other members of the public seen anywhere,” the statement said.

Liberty Counsel said the Vatican requested Davis to keep the meeting a “secret” until the following Tuesday.”

Really?  In this particular case, I have to say that, since Liberty Counsel and Kim Davis are already proven liars, I tend to doubt their account of the “meeting”, which seems to be just another pathetic attempt to keep Liberty Counsel’s pet martyr for Christianity in the limelight.  But I still want to know, who really arranged this on Davis’s behalf with the Papal Ambassador?

Last, a belated birthday present for our resident Turtle:  from National Geographic, glowing sea turtle!

“The critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle is the first reptile scientists have seen exhibiting biofluorescence—the ability to reflect the blue light hitting a surface and re-emit it as a different color. The most common colors are green, red, and orange.”

This is our daily Open Thread–go on, discuss things!

Sunday Roast: Mesmerize me, Fibonacci

I found this on facebook, which found it on The San Francisco Globe.  Never heard of it before, but I haven’t heard of everything yet.  Heh.

I watched this video until my eyeballs went googley, and then I watched it some more the next day.  Here’s the info:

John Edmark is an inventor, designer and artist who teaches design at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA. One of his latest creations is a series of 3D-printed sculptures designed with proportions corresponding to the Fibonacci Sequence. When Edmark’s sculptures are spun at just the right frequency under a strobe light, a rather magical effect occurs: the sculptures seem to be animated or alive! The rotation speed is set to match the strobe flashes such that every time the sculpture rotates 137.5º, there is one corresponding flash from the strobe light.

These masterful illusions are the result of a marriage between art and mathematics. Fibonacci’s Sequence is defined as a recurrent relationship that can be expressed as  F_n = F_{n-1} + F_{n-2}…  where the first two digits of the sequence can be defined as F_1=1, and F_2=1. What this means is that the sequence starts with two 1’s, and each following digit is determined by adding together the previous two. Therefore, Fibonacci’s Sequence begins: {1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89…} etc.

What does all that mean?  No seriously, I’m asking — what does all that mean?  I dunno, but it creates some pretty cool designs and amazingly mesmerizing video.  Or a dude in Palo Alto has way too much time on his hands — could be that.

This is our daily open thread — Watch the video over and over…

The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 3, 2015: Backward, Christian Soldiers

There is a belief among some people (and when I say “some people,” I mean Conservative Christian Americans) that the United States of America was founded as a Christian nation, on Judeo-Christian values, and for the benefit of Christians. They are wrong on all three counts. The only evidence I’ve seen that the USA was “founded” as a Christian nation come from David Barton, a well-known snake oil salesman who has been misleading people for decades, and all of it refers to the USA as it was founded under the Articles of Confederation. Barton and his ilk want the USA to be a Christian nation so badly that they promote a philosophy called Seven Mountains Dominionism, which is a plan to establish a virtual theocracy here. In their minds, the Bible takes precedent over the US Constitution. (I can promise you this atheist will oppose such a movement at every turn, but I seriously doubt any such thing will ever happen.) But I don’t believe that any of their thinking is correct regarding the secular United States of America formed under our present Constitution. The authors of the First Amendment saw what a government run according to someone’s idea of Religion, Christian or otherwise, could do and decided they wanted no part of that. Besides, when Conservatives speak of “Judeo-Christian values,” what they’re really talking about is Old Testament punishment for things they personally find offensive, especially gay people. (If someone could explain below why there are both Leviticus 18 and Leviticus 20 in the O.T., I’d really like to know. Both list pretty much the same sins, but Lev 18 says the sinners should be banished, while Lev 20 says they should be put to death. Which one Conservative Christians quote can tell you a lot about them as human beings.) And just because it was Christians escaping persecution in Europe for their extreme conservative Christianity who landed here and took the land from the people living here at the time does not mean this nation (under our present Constitution) was founded just for Christians. Again, some people (see above) actually believe that. The only argument I can say against that belief is that nowhere in the body of the Constitution, or in its Amendments, are the words “God,” “Christ,” or “Christianity” to be found. If the USA was really “founded as a Christian nation,” wouldn’t you expect those three words to be all over the Constitution and its Amendments? Why would they not be? BTW, through his usual tactic of lies and deception, Barton is pushing a new movement to get Conservative Christians to vote for Christians candidates and principles. I have to wonder why this movement would be necessary if this were already a Christian nation, founded on Judeo-Christian values, for Christians. Logic means nothing to people like this.

There is also a belief among some people (and when I say “some people,” I mean Conservative Christian Americans) that Christians in this country are being persecuted for their beliefs, with Rowan County, KY, Clerk Kim Davis being one of the latest examples. They believe that Christianity itself is under attack. They’re so insecure in themselves and in their Religion that they act as if the mention of any other religions will bring everything they believe crashing down. (In reality, the Truth is enough to do that.) It has gotten so bad that a conservative Christian organization in Georgia is freaking out because students are being taught the basics of the three Abrahamic religions (the ones who all worship the same God under different names) in their studies of the Middle East. [Never mind the school district being targeted has been teaching the same class for nine years without prior complaints.] Now face it, you can’t begin to comprehend the cultures and events in the Middle East without first understanding the role Religion plays in the region. For one thing, it is the birthplace of all three Abrahamic Religions. On that topic there’s something I have to say. For the life of me, I don’t understand how we can get three major Religions who all worship the very same God (on this, there is no dispute, even though some people in the story expressed disbelief of this, which is proof that this particular education is needed there) but who all say that worship must take place in different forms, under penalty of death (all three, not just one), yet all claim to be the “One True Religion”? And how can there be hundreds and thousands of variations of these Major Religions who also claim to be the one correct way to worship God? (They must be different or else they would all be the same one.) Anyway, perhaps that’s something the curriculum might have explained, but I’d have to move down to Georgia to hear it, and I have spent enough time in Georgia, thank you. (Military training. Can’t say more.) But why do Conservative Christians see teaching someone the basics (some call them “tenets”) of other religions as a threat to the free exercise of their own? Learning about them is not converting them to that religion. Besides, it’s what you actually do, not what you tell others you do, that defines which religion you practice. You can learn everything you want about Islam, but if you still pray to Jehovah, and you still attend church services each week, and you still wear a cross around your neck, you’re still a Christian, so stop worrying about it. There’s nothing wrong with being a Muslim anymore than there is with being a Jew or a Christian. You can pick apart any Religion based on a belief in a supernatural being who secretly tells only three people what he wants, and then expects everyone to believe that person (again, under penalty of death in all three cases), and find all kinds of things that make that religion look bad. If you want to save time, I’m sure you can find things in all three that make them look good. But there’s no reason for American Christians to fear persecution just because other Americans are exempt from Christianity’s rules. That hasn’t stopped our installing 44 consecutive Christians as President (one of them twice.) Get over it, Conservative Christians. No one is coming for your cross.

There is yet another belief of at least one person (and when I say “one person,” I mean the conservative Tennessee Lt Governor Ron Ramsey, a gun nut who believes the NRA’s crap about the purpose and scope of the Second Amendment) that because this latest mass shooting specifically targeted Christians because of their faith, those “who are serious about their faith” should “think about getting a handgun carry permit.” He goes on to say, “I have always believed that it is better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it.” That’s funny, I have always believed it is better to resolve a situation without someone dying than it is to kill someone to bring it to an end. What I don’t understand is this belief that a gun is the only option for self-defense. It is because of this cavalier attitude toward guns that so many children have died from being shot by other children. I understand why Conservatives feel this way. (It has to do with the way their brains perceive danger more than a Liberal’s brain might.) But what I can’t understand is why a Christian would believe this, too, especially one who was “serious” about his faith. Jesus never carried a gun nor did he preach violence. The Lt Gov concluded his post with, “Our enemies are armed. We must do likewise.” Really? I’m no ally of any organized religion, and I may even go so far as to call myself an enemy of them, but I also believe in non-violence and I would never carry a gun around with me (absent the collapse of civilization) to make my enmity toward religion known. Like Jesus, I would use words to persuade my fellow Americans that more guns and religions are not the answer to America’s problems, one of which is the presence of too many guns and religions.

If nothing else, Conservative Christians want to take this country backwards, not forwards. They are likely the very people to whom then-Senator Barack Obama referred on the campaign trail as those who “cling to guns and religion” during frustrations with economic conditions. [BTW, I learned something in looking up that remark. I always heard that Mid-West Christian gun owners were offended by that remark, but they weren’t the only ones he mentioned. The entire sentence was, “And it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”] I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Jesus wasn’t a Conservative. And he wasn’t a gun nut, either. And he wasn’t afraid of other people. You’re the ones who are supposed to be like him, not me.

Give us this day our daily open thread, and forgive us our late posting, as we have forgiven those who have failed to timely post before.