Category Archives: News/Politics

Spring Miscellany

Today is a big day. Well, not really. Today is the first time this year that I am wearing a spring/summer dress. It’s this one, since I’m not planning on going anywhere today. I briefly considered wearing the crazy pink one. Anyway, I love dresses. They feel so free. That’s why this is sort of a minor big deal to me. It’s supposed to be cooler tomorrow though so it’s not quite time to put away the slacks yet.

It is definitely time to start summer sewing (I’m almost finished with a long sleeve cotton blouse, which I hope to be able to show off tomorrow but probably won’t get around to until early next week.) but I just realized that I do not have anything to sew that does not require some notion or trim or lining or something that I do not have yet. So I will have to either go to Tulsa in the next day or two or order stuff and wait a week. The latter is probably what I’ll do. I suppose it’s not a bad thing to take a short break from sewing. I can still work on that darned quilt that I’ve been stalled on for what seems like forever and I’ve got a couple of quilt tops I could be working on. But I’ve got the bug. I have pretty pieces of fabric that I want to sew now.

Remember I was talking about homemade shoes yesterday? Well, I was looking for the soling material and found these Xero Shoes kits. They’re very minimalist sandals. I don’t know… I don’t really like the look. I did also find the Vibram soling sheets at Amazon. That stuff is EXPENSIVE but there are some other brands. I’m not sure I’m quite ready to jump off into shoe making yet but I’m thinking about it.

Interesting article about the Hobby Lobby case. I don’t know what to think about this. I’m not familiar with the site but I’m sure it’s not exactly unbiased. (I saw this on Facebook) I’m not normally a very politically committed person. I don’t make purchasing decisions based on politics. It just gets too complicated. But I have to admit this thing with Hobby Lobby has really bothered me and made me not want to go there anymore. I don’t shop there very often but they have a small sewing department that is a little better than Walmart’s and there’s one closer to me than Tulsa. If what the article says is true it’s still not enough to make me completely change my mind about the case but it goes to show that the issues are more complex than the talking heads make them out to be and people on both sides of the political fence ignore anything that is inconvenient for their side.

Well, I don’t want to end on a political note but I’m fresh out of relevant and interesting [/sarcasm] things to say at the moment so how about a couple o’ cats. All together now: AAAWWWWWWWW….

False Conflict

I keep finding more reasons why Neil deGrasse Tyson is awesome.

He says several things in this video that I particularly like. At about 3:50 he says that “maybe there is something in the brain’s wiring that prevents some people from becoming atheists.” In a way, I don’t want to believe that because I don’t like to believe that a certain way of thinking (whatever it is) is “pre-wired” but, on the other hand, this explains a lot and, as I (and others) have said before, brains are weird. I also respect him for trying to avoid politicizing science, though that’s often impossible.

I wish I could introduce Neil deGrasse Tyson to my grandmother. Actually I wish I could introduce a lot of people to my grandmother. She was extremely conservative. She thought almost everything on TV was immoral in one way or another. It’s probably not surprising that she objected to I Dream of Jeannie but she even considered The Lawrence Welk Show immoral because when the young ladies on the show danced and whirled around you could see their knees and (gasp!) sometimes even their thighs. From knees to belly buttons to kids smarting off at their parents there was no show so wholesome she couldn’t find something wrong with it. (and we’re talking about the 60′s, when TV couples slept in twin beds) She had similar opinions about real life behavior. You might assume from this that she was an unpleasant person but she wasn’t at all. She was usually cheerful and pleasant and never preachy but when certain subjects came up she would certainly tell you what she thought.

My grandmother read the Bible every day and believed in it and considered it a guide for living but one thing she did not believe was that the world was created in only six days. She understood that the Bible was never meant to be taken literally. I can clearly remember when I was very small she explained to me that both Genesis and evolution were true because the Bible said that to God a thousand years were as one day, which, of course, she also did not take literally. The world was not created in six thousand years any more than it was created in six days.

That one person could believe both the Bible and the true time scale of evolution and that humans evolved from a single cell, up through amphibians, small mammals, primates, early hominids to modern humans, does not compute for some people but I say, “Why not?!” We all believe things that are much more unlikely than that. My grandmother did not care for conflict. She did her best to educate her children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews but was content to leave strangers to believe anything they liked, but I know that if asked she would have said that creationists reduce God to human scale because they are not capable of grasping anything greater.

My grandmother was actually very interested in science. To her, science was the study of God’s creation so you had to get it right. I’m sure there are people who would say that she was cheating, that she had been convinced of the scientific truth of evolution but still couldn’t let go of religion. Perhaps there’s some truth to that. So what? People manage to reconcile seemingly conflicting ideas in their minds all the time, maybe because these ideas are not really as opposite or mutually exclusive to one another as some have been led to believe. Maybe someone with an agenda decided that a conflict would be to their advantage, created one, and convinced a lot of other people. Oh man, I wish I had that kind of talent! The talent to convince people. Well, if I can’t maybe Dr. Tyson can – the kids at least.

In Hope of a Just Afterlife

Here’s an old favorite of mine, posted in memory of the “Reverend” Fred Phelps, may he soon be forgotten.

A Pagan died and, much to her surprise, found herself at the Pearly
Gates facing St. Peter. He walked up to her and said, “Hello, and
welcome.”
She stared at St. Peter in complete confusion. “Wait a minute,” she
said. “I was supposed to end up in the Summerlands.” He smiled. “Ah, you
must be one of our Pagan sisters. Follow me, please.”

Peter gestured for her to follow him down a small path which went
through the gates and down a bit to the left. They walked for a short
while, then he stepped back and gestured her forward. Looking past his hand,
she saw the verdant fields and forests of her desired Summerlands. She saw
people feasting, dancing, and making merry, exactly as she expected.
While standing there in wonder, the Pagan happened to glance over to one
side and saw a small group of people near the edge of the Summerlands. The
people in the group were watching the revelers, but not joining them.
Instead, they were screaming and weeping piteously.

The Pagan looked at St. Peter. “Who are those people?”

St. Peter replied, “Them? They’re fundamentalists. They’re a bit
surprised to see you all there, so they stand there and carry on like
that all day.”

“Why? Don’t they have better things to do?” asked the Pagan.

Peter leaned conspiratorially toward her. “They don’t really have a
choice. They’re actually in Hell. God doesn’t like being told what He
thinks.”

Not In My Wallet

Maybe we should actually read those user agreements before we click Accept. On the other hand, does it really matter? It’s not like we can negotiate a more agreeable agreement.

Capital One specifies that they can contact their customers by any means they choose, including telephone, email, text message, or even “personal visit.” Well, of course we all knew they could do that anyway but seeing it written out that way does make it seem rather creepy.

They also say, “We may modify or suppress caller ID and similar services and identify ourselves on these services in any manner we choose.” Now that’s beyond creepy. If you ask me, (and, sadly, no one ever will) that should be a capital offense. (See what I did there.)

Just Chill, Oklahoma

The story of the day is that a federal judge has ruled that Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. I think you can imagine how popular this decision will be in Oklahoma.

I am all over the place politically. I am neither left, right, nor center. I like to say I’m somewhere out in space. I have opinions that would creep out, offend and horrify conservatives and other opinions that would creep out, offend and horrify liberals and some opinions that would just confuse everyone. But I have found a statement – perhaps you could call it a mantra – that is useful in many, many different situations: “It’s none of my business. It doesn’t affect me personally.” Just keep saying that to yourself, over and over again, until you believe it.

Flyover Country Does Not Exist

That’s what it seems like sometimes, watching the national evening news, which I really only watch for entertainment and the occasional blog fodder. Last night the weather was the lead story and the anchor dramatically announced that there were freezing temperatures in every state in the continental U.S. That is pretty significant. You would think that they would focus on those parts of the country that rarely have freezing temperatures, such as Florida and southern Louisiana, and the hardships of those who are not prepared for such cold but they only talked about places like New York and Philadelphia and interviewed a few well-dressed people complaining about how cold it is.

Maybe the south doesn’t provide enough drama or maybe it’s because, generally, even unprepared, southerners deal with bad stuff pretty well and therefore do not fit into the mainstream media’s preferred narrative regarding the people of the south and flyover country. I didn’t hear anything about North Dakota either and I’m sure many people there, like many people here in Oklahoma, have to drive 30 or 40 miles to work and can’t just walk to work or take the train when the weather is “too bad to drive”. Maybe they just don’t know how to report things like that. Maybe they are reduced to, “How do those people even live?”

Save the Doorknobs!

Vancouver has banned doorknobs. What the…? What? Apparently they’re more difficult for elderly and arthritic persons to open. I should be more sympathetic I guess but I really hope this idea doesn’t take off in the U.S. Every time I see one of those lever-style door handles I think, “I bet my cat could open that.” In fact my cat sometimes reaches for the doorknob. I actually sort of doubt he could successfully perform the entire pulling the lever and opening the door operation, but I’m pretty sure there are some dogs that could. I don’t know… I suppose some people might want their dogs to be able to open doors but I like having a little control. The ability to open doors is the one power I have over my cats.

Of course the real issue is that the levers look too modern no matter how antique-brassy they are and it’s nobody’s business what kind of hardware I have on my doors.

Oh That Brady

There has recently been some controversy over the name of a street in Tulsa – Brady Street. Some people wanted it renamed because Tate Brady, whom it was named for, was a Klan member. But people like their street names and hate change, and besides, it would cost money to change all the signs. So, last night Tulsa city councilors voted to “rename” Brady Street for civil war photographer Matthew Brady. If one wanted to be snarky one could say they could just as well have “renamed” it after Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch, but I like it. Rarely in politics has there ever been such a handy solution to a problem.

What She Said

Wow. Preach it, sister. This absolutely wonderful screed has already gone viral but I just have to say this is awesome. This is exactly the kind of thing I’m always saying or thinking only she said it better. There is so much there that is quoteable but I especially like this bit:

The fact that I’m not fixating on the perfect purity of my food and not doing it to those around me means I have a pretty good quality of life.

I’m fortunate that I don’t often run into people who bother me about my food choices but if I did I think I would be tempted to print out copies of this and pass them out to the busybodies.

Thanks.

Next Please

Do you ever, a few days after a major news event, find yourself wishing that something else Big and Important would happen just so the media would move on already? I mean… it doesn’t have to be anything really tragic, just, say, something like a group of Republican congressmen from the bible belt hire a bunch of prostitutes and have a drunken orgy. Could we maybe make that happen?

Stop! Think!

The recent two minute stock market crash, due to a hoax Tweet, has to be one of the top ten idiotic news events of all time. Seriously? Now our economy is controlled by Twitter? I hope everyone involved feels properly embarrassed. It’s true I don’t know anything about the stock market but I’m not stupid. I understand that people who are responsible for huge amounts of money need to do what is necessary to protect that money but it is obvious that panic causes exactly what they are afraid of.

I know how to fix the stock market. It needs to run like an older version of Windows. Every time someone buys or sells, after a 30 second delay they are asked, “Are you sure?” Then, if they choose “Yes”, there’s another 30 second delay before anything happens. And any time the stock market drops more than 100 points it blue screens. But, lacking that, if you’re in the financial industry, STOP READING TWITTER AT WORK!

IRS Mistake

The IRS says that making a Star Trek parody “training video” was “a mistake.” The only thing about it that I see as a “mistake” is that they spent $60,000 on it. Well, on that and another short parody video. How can you spend that much money making a six minute video? There are thousands of videos on Youtube that cost little or nothing to make and many of them are, no doubt, better than IRS’s expensive attempt to entertain their employees.

Food Fraud

There’s a good chance that some of what is served as calamari is actually pork bung. Well, I think I’m safe; I wouldn’t knowingly eat either one. But, sadly, that’s not all.

Samples sold as snapper and tuna had the highest mislabeling rates (87 and 59 percent, respectively), with the majority of the samples identified by DNA analysis as something other than what was found on the label. Only seven of the 120 samples of red snapper purchased nationwide were actually red snapper. The other 113 samples were another fish. Halibut, grouper, cod and Chilean sea bass were also mislabeled between 19 and 38 percent of the time, while salmon was mislabeled 7 percent of the time.

[...]

“Our study identified strong national trends in seafood mislabeling levels among retail types, with sushi venues ranking the highest (74 percent), followed by restaurants (38 percent) and then grocery stores (18 percent). These same trends among retail outlets were generally observed at the regional level,” Oceana said in their summary report.

And it’s not just seafood that might not be what it seems:

But what about honey? Or extra virgin olive oil?

These are products most of us believe we could spot as fraud. However, most of the honey sold in American chain stores does not meet international quality standards.

Testing done for Food Safety News found that most store honey isn’t honey, with ultra-filtering techniques removing pollen and hiding the honey’s origins.

“More than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn’t exactly what the bees produce.

I knew about most honey being excessively processed, if not outright fake. I try to always buy honey produced in Oklahoma. There’s not a huge difference in taste and I can’t tell if it’s less processed than other honey available in the grocery store. We have a beehive in our back yard but haven’t been very successful at beekeeping. We got honey from them only one year.

Just One

I’m going to get a little bit political here. This is not really about the politics but I have to mention the politics to get where I’m really going. Every time there is a major tragedy involving guns we start having the gun control debate again. The pro-gun people say that more restrictions on guns will not stop anyone from killing people. The anti-gun people say, “If it saves just one life we have to do it.”

I will not debate the merits of either of these arguments but I have an idea that might “save just one life” and you don’t even have to write to your congressman. It’s simple: befriend the quiet loner at your school or workplace. Just as the vast majority of gun owners will never shoot anyone, the vast majority of quiet loners will never hurt anyone. But what if the quiet loner that you work with or go to school with is the one? Would having a friend and not feeling “always left out” make a difference? Maybe, or maybe not. But what if it would? What if you could be the one to make a difference?

Many loners are just relatively normal folks who really just want to be left alone. Many others are socially awkward, don’t know how to talk to people, and desperately want to fit in. A few become paranoid and think everyone hates them and is out to get them. Either way, would it hurt you to smile and say “Hi, how are you?” Would it hurt you to invite that person to sit with you at lunch? Would it hurt you to ask, “How’s the family?” – “What are your hobbies?” – “What kind of music do you like?” – “Did you see last night’s episode of Castle?” Maybe you don’t feel comfortable approaching someone you don’t know well. Maybe the guy’s weird and creeps you out a little bit. Get over it. If it saves one life won’t it be worth it? Not even that – if you just make someone’s day, won’t that be worth it? And once you start talking to him (or her) you might find out he’s not so weird after all. Or that weird isn’t always a bad thing.

Be Counted

I live in the reddest state in America. My vote in the presidential election won’t count. But I’m voting anyway. It’s my statement – a tiny, insignificant statement, it’s true, but still my statement. I am proud to be one of the 34.35%. (Interesting they have the colors backward in this graphic)

Think about what that number means. It means that in a state that prides itself on being conservative, a little over one third of voters disagree with the majority. Each of our votes is a tiny, personal statement but together they make a larger statement. Not enough of a statement to change Oklahoma’s seven electoral votes but still an important statement – a statement to my fellow Oklahomans that their beloved conservatism is not nearly as universal as they would like to believe.

And what if everyone who is planning to stay home because their vote “won’t count anyway” decided to vote tomorrow? There is still no chance it would be enough to turn Oklahoma blue but maybe that 34+% might go up to 35% or even 37%. Dare we dream of 38%? That’s starting to look a bit more significant isn’t it? We’re more than just a handful of weirdos. Will the majority pay any more attention to us? No, they won’t. But the higher that number goes the harder it will be to deny that we exist. And maybe someday… who knows?

So anyway, whether you’re a blue person in a red state or a red person in a blue state, go out and make your statement tomorrow.

It Will Be Okay

The election is just two weeks and a day away now. I know who I’m voting for and if you’re voting I’m sure you know who you’re voting for too. I’m not going to try to change anyone’s mind because I know it would be impossible, just as it would be impossible for anyone to change my mind. I am a little nervous and worried and if my candidate doesn’t win I will be very disappointed, and still worried. But I try to keep reminding myself of something that I have said to other people: Everything will be okay. That’s not to say it doesn’t matter who wins. Of course it matters. A president can make things better or worse. But no matter which candidate wins, America is not going to turn into another North Korea or another Saudi Arabia. America will be okay. Life will go on. Get a grip.

I really hate the way so many people act like politics is a team sport and can never admit it when the “other team” has done something good or when “their team” has done something not good. It’s always “Ra ra! Yay, our team; boo your team!” And yes, I know, “good” means different things to different people but even when “the other team” does something that they have already been saying should be done people will find a way to deny it or dismiss it. As to that, I would like to tell the whole world to just stop it! Grow up! But of course no one would listen to me even if I could talk to the whole world.

I was there when…

Well, there in front of my TV, that is, but some events give you such a feeling of thereness even if you are not really there. You know what I mean? The last time I was “there” for a historic scientific event was many years ago. I was lucky to have caught this latest one. Of course I had heard about the upcoming sky dive from the edge of space, but I didn’t know when it was to be and I expected that I would hear about its success or failure as one of those fifteen second gee-whiz tidbits on the news. But Sunday morning I got up, made my cup of tea and turned on the TV as usual. After an hour of HGTV I started channel surfing and found on the Discovery Channel a several hours long program labeled “Space Jump Live”.

It had very much the same feel as the NASA broadcasts I saw as a child – a view of a mission control room alternating with a view of a space-suited person in a tiny capsule and exterior shots of the craft and surrounding landscape. The TV commentators spoke in quiet, almost reverent voices, explaining what was happening, and sometimes there were long silences. They didn’t try to fill up every minute with talk. The thing that was different was that instead of “NASA” we saw the Red Bull logo everywhere.

We watched the balloon ascend, with the altitude and speed displayed on the screen. Finally, via cameras on the capsule, over 24 miles above Earth, we saw Felix Baumgartner step out of the capsule. Infrared cameras on the ground showed a tiny, white, human-shaped speck rapidly tumbling through the sky. After nearly four and a half minutes the parachute opened. They briefly cut to a scene of Baumgartner’s family cheering and hugging each other, then back to the tiny parachuted figure.

I expected a hard landing but he landed gently on his feet, took a couple of steps and sat down. I thought, “The parachute maker is a hero too.” Everything went so smoothly one might almost think that it was easy but of course it wasn’t. This was not at the same level as the moon landing but this was a significant scientific achievement, not merely an elaborate stunt. Think of some place that is 24 miles from where you are now. Now imagine falling that distance, faster than the speed of sound at one point. And landing safely.

The involvement of Red Bull seemed at once both cool/futuristic and a little bit wrong. But mostly cool. Profit is neither a dirty word nor a sacred one. Many atrocities have been committed for profit but the hope of profit also provides incentive to do stuff like this. There are two main forces that drive progress: war and the desire to make money. I know which one I prefer.

UPDATE: I see that the video has been removed. [dirty words... lots of really bad, highly imaginative profanity and curses] Maybe you can find it at the link above. I don’t know; I haven’t looked today.

UPDATE II: Okay, found another video. Let’s see how long this one lasts. It’s a little bit shorter than the one that was here originally and maybe not quite as good but it still shows the entire jump.

What If Nobody Told Us

I’ve been wondering… If politicians and the media stopped telling us that the economy is bad, how many people would know? If you have investments and you’re losing money on them you probably pay attention to such things so you would know. If you own a business and your profits are down you might suspect that the economy is not doing so well. If you are unemployed you might blame the economy if you even think in those terms.

But if you are an ordinary employed person, would you think anything is seriously wrong with the economy if you weren’t being reminded of it every day? I’m quite certain all those people waiting in line for the latest iPhone wouldn’t notice.

Now I’m not saying that the economy is A-OK and that we should just ignore it. And I’m certainly not saying that we should ignore all those unemployed people. All I’m saying is, is it bad enough that most people would notice even if nobody told them?

Of course, I live in a state where unemployment is just over 5% so what would I know?

A Quick NFL Football Opinion

I have no idea what the problem is with the referees – my heart tells me to blame the NFL – but, as with most such situations, I think all parties involved in the negotiations should be locked in a room with no food, nothing to drink except tap water, only metal folding chairs to sit on, and NO modern facilities, and forced to stay there until they come to an agreement. That’s just my opinion, of course, but I happen to be right.

I Hate When Stuff Like This Happens!

Dammit! Drug Warehouse is closing. Now I hate Walgreen’s even more. Drug Warehouse is nice, big, but not too big, and spacious. Walgreen’s is cramped, crowded and confusing. The Drug Warehouse parking lot is easy to park in and easy to get in and out of. The Walgreen’s parking lot is narrow and very difficult to get in and out of.

I would like to say that I am going to boycott Walgreen’s but I know sooner or later I will have to shop there. I will probably go there to get my flu shot next month, like I did last year. There’s another drug store in town that I’ve never been in. I could try that one. And of course there’s always Walmart.* But Drug Warehouse was so convenient. I’m going to miss it. I’m considering writing a nastygram to Walgreen’s, not that it would do any good.

*I could even get a flu shot at Walmart but something about that creeps me out a little bit. I know it’s the same flu shot as anywhere else and it’s administered by professionals, not the regular Walmart employees, but… but… getting a flu shot at Walmart! [shudder]

I Don’t Care

Why should I care that an old geezer got up on stage at the Republican convention and talked to a chair? I will still vote for the candidate I’ve been planning to vote for all along. I will still go see the old geezer’s movies because I usually enjoy them. Was this an embarrassment to the Republican party that will sway some people to vote for President Obama? Would be nice to think so but probably not. The Republicans have been doing worse things than that. I want more people to remember those things and forget about the old geezer.

By the way, I haven’t even watched the video yet. Maybe I will if I get really bored this weekend.

A Brief, Politically Incorrect Rant

I know this may piss off the pathologically PC (I can only hope) so I apologize to those who come here for the peace and quiet but I must say this. A sentence I would very much like to never have to hear or read again is, “You wouldn’t ask a man that question.”

News flash: men and women are different. Always will be. Get over it. Yes, women are just as capable as men of performing well in positions of power and responsibility. Women are also just as capable as men of being wiseass jerks. You want to talk about equality? There it is. You can’t own the positive without also owning the negative.

And you know something else? You never hear a man say, “You wouldn’t ask a woman that question.” I’ve heard interviewers ask the President about sports. I’ve never heard him respond, “You wouldn’t ask a woman that question.” You want to be treated the same as a man in your position would be, then don’t act like such a “typical woman.” Be professional.

I’m not saying you should necessarily answer every question. Reporters are notorious for asking inappropriate, irrelevant and just plain lame questions but people are interested in the personal lives of our leaders and since men and women are different that means different questions for men and women. If you don’t feel that it’s an appropriate time for a particular question the better response would be to say, “I would rather talk about the issues,” or “I would rather talk about [a specific issue]“. That’s how a man – or a truly professional woman – would handle the situation.

Skinny Model Ban

Israel has just passed a law that requires models to have a BMI of at least 18.5 or a doctor’s note saying that they are not underweight. That sounds likes a step in the right direction. The only concern I have is the doctor’s note loophole. I’m sure it won’t be all that hard to find a doctor unethical enough to provide the required piece of paper to anyone for a fee. However, the law also bans models who “look underweight”. Hmmmm… Well, anyway. It should make for some entertaining court cases.