January 28, 2007

Nothing new until next weekend, I think...

Itching to write a post about Hillary's entrance into the race, Kerry's departure, Obama, and Gore's Oscar nomination... but it will have to wait. Next weekend...

In the meantime, here's a painting you should like.

January 21, 2007

Fishers of Men, Indeed

In case you missed it while some other things were going on in the world, once again the religious right is having a fit over something that ultimately ranks pretty low on the list of things that matter.

From the Dakota Voice -

The Christian fish symbol is an ancient and sacred symbol for the persecuted Christians in the 1st century, as well as contemporary believers in Christ. But that symbol which showed that Christians identified with each other in their obedience to follow Christ is taking on a whole new meaning. The Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, as one of their ministries, ‘Ministry with Lesbians and Gay Catholics’ decided to make the sacred fish symbol into a rainbow fish symbol pin... The Catholic Church thus teaches: "Basing itself on sacred Scripture, homosexual acts are acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” (Read More)

Genius! I love this story. There are so many things that are excellent about it, allow me to take you on a tour:

  1. Jesus rebels against staid, corrupt and sinful religious authorities; promotes inclusive, progressive faith that encourages debate and dissent.
  2. Christians are persecuted for deviating from the acceptable status quo and they adopt/co-opt a symbol from the Greeks and use it to identify one another in a hostile environment.
  3. Gays at the time, enjoying a permissive society.

Fast-forward 2000 years...

  1. Evangelical Christians support a staid, corrupt and sinful religious authority.
  2. Gays are persecuted for deviating from the acceptable status quo and they adopt/co-opt a symbol from the Christians and use it to identify one another in a hostile environment.
  3. Evangelical Christians, meanwhile, are enjoying a far too permissive society.

What is it with the Catholic church and copyright infringement? "That's our fish, you can't use it, and marriage is our word, you can't change what it means!" But I digress...

The many ironic reversals aren't the only part that's excellent, however. The particular fish imagery they're fighting over, the one that was adopted from the Greeks, was known as the Vesica Pisces and was a powerful pagan image representing the Goddess Aphrodite and particularly her genitalia.

Yup. That's right. The evangelicals are upset that the gays are co-opting their pagan vagina imagery. This stuff almost writes itself.

And is there anything better than gay Christians reminding their co-religionists of what it means to be an old-school Christian? The fish symbol is once again the symbol of a persecuted minority struggling to achieve an equal opportunity to practice their faith and live their lives as they best see fit.

You'd think Christians would appreciate the irony, but apparently not so much...

January 20, 2007

State of the Dan Address

You're probably all getting a little tired of hearing how busy I am, I realize that. And yes, it's no excuse for not fulfilling my self-inflicted responsibilities as a blogger - I'm derelict and I know it.

It's such an interesting change of pace for me, a whole different life than the one I've lived for a few years... For so long I used my dog as a welcome excuse to not do things in the city, to avoid meeting people (other than while walking the dog) and generally hibernate. Wasn't Zeke's fault, I wanted to hibernate and he allowed me to get away with it. Also, for a solid year there I was involved in a relationship that for at least half the year wasn't particularly solid, and for the last few months miserable, and that also encouraged me to just come home, put my head into video games or movies or whatever, and avoid the unpleasantness around me. And I had a terrific job I really didn't like so much at the end there, and that too contributed to the general malaise of my life over the past three years.

And then suddenly, radical redefinition. I've always been a huge fan of big changes, of fresh starts and tabulah rasas (rasai?). The events of last summer, as difficult as they were for me, opened up a brave new world and I'm taking full advantage of it.

Which, I'd like to add, can be frickin' exhausting. I'm out almost every night of the week these days, and this is my first weekend where I haven't been traveling since early December. There's got to be a happy medium somewhere between nothing and everything, no?

My life is firing on all cylinders at the moment, and it's hard to keep up sometimes. My job is terrific, I just love it. It's hectic, crazy, frustrating, absurd, and excellent all at the same time. I was invited to take part in a very significant project that is otherwise comprised of the highest and mightiest at my company, and though I was invited specifically to be the one taking the minutes, even the lowest man on the totempole can take pride at making it onto the pole at all. (Insert man-pole joke here). I'm traveling twice in February for work, to Miami and LA, and I'm starting to branch out into other projects. My fingers are all over a number of different initiatives, and I'm digging all of it. I'm even starting to think about taking classes again - either getting my PMP or perhaps even... yup - law school. Evening classes maybe, for a few years? I don't know, just thinking...

And the love life? Working. I'm still with Amy, who frequent readers will remember I began dating in November. We just had our first weekend away, and though it was originally not intended to be a romantic sort of weekend away it turned into one rather nicely. Most importantly, we spent nearly 24 hours in the car over a short period of time, and I still like her as much as I did beforehand, which I think is something. We're still pretty low-key about everything, but clearly moving forward. She's easy to be with, makes jokes that I laugh at, and most importantly laughs at mine. We have fun conversations, and did I mention she's low key? I can't possibly stress how nice a change of pace it is to try that out for size, after experiencing higher maintenance relationships for the past few years.

That's not to say she won't be bringing the crazy at some point in the future, but at the least she's done a great job sparing me from crazy so far. Mostly, anyway. And yes, I suppose it's misogynistic to presume that all women have crazy in them just bubbling below the surface, waiting to spray all over some poor unsuspecting man, but I'm afraid that it's accurate none the less. You can accuse me of misogyny all you like, but not libel, and you all know it.

I also got my first skiing of the year in, finally. Amy and I headed up to Tremblant, and though we had to go 500 miles north to find snow, find it we did and it was glorious. Truly one of the most beautiful, perfect days for skiing I've seen, and the mountain was in great shape. I overskied and was sore all week, but it was that wonderful sore that reminds you of a job well done. I skied the crap out of Tremblant last weekend, and can't wait to get back.

So that's what's shaking with Dan. Back to your regularly scheduled political ranting...

January 17, 2007

Gigging the system

Should intentionally being a prick be against the law?

Woman settles case over flour-filled condoms

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters Life!) - A U.S. college student imprisoned for three weeks for trying to take flour-filled condoms onto an airplane has settled her lawsuit against Philadelphia for $180,000, a city spokesman said on Friday.

Janet Lee, 21, a student at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, was arrested at Philadelphia International Airport in 2003 after police and security officials thought the flour was an illegal drug.

She was held in Philadelphia on drug-trafficking charges and released only when tests proved the substance in the three condoms was flour.

The condoms, which are sometimes used to smuggle drugs, were a joke among the students, and Lee was taking them home to Los Angeles.

Her civil rights case against Philadelphia, which had been set to go to trial on Thursday, was settled for $180,000, said Ted Qualli, spokesman for Philadelphia Mayor John Street.

When I was a kid I played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. While I'm sure you'd all love to hear more about that, and how cool we all were back then, I mention it specifically to bring up the idea of intentionally causing chaos.

In Dungeons and Dragons your characters would choose an alignment, which represented their moral and ethical standards. In addition to the general good vs. evil, there was also the concept of lawful vs. chaotic. Lawful folks recognized the need for order and used order to their own ends while chaotic folks felt differently; they leaned towards anarchy as the surest route to freedom, and bristled against the rules and regulations of an orderly and structured society.

It was a fun game, and in my youth it was fun to be intentionally chaotic within the confines of the game, just like it was fun to pretend to be a wizard, or how it's fun today to dress up in your elf costume and watch all three of the Lord of the Rings extended edition DVDs over and over and over... But in reality, in our civilization, chaos just doesn't work.

Our history as a species, our civilized evolution is marked by the slow and steady march from chaos to order. We organize into families, into tribes, into societies, and establish laws and standards and ethics and social contracts. We co-exist because we all have a reasonable expectation of each other's behaviors, and it's only the exceptions that make news. Our society functions because we all agree, tacitly or implicitly, to adhere to certain guidelines. Order brings safety, and safety brings prosperity.

So what should be the punishment for an adult who intentionally increases the chaos in the world? As a very good friend commented recently, is that not the surest definition of evil?

January 16, 2007

Why we need Gore more than ever...

A few years back, pre-blog, I read about the Grand Canyon gift store and how it sold a book in its natural sciences section that claimed the canyon was created during the biblical flood. (Read here)

This time around, when evangelical Christian "science" finds its ways into our public institutions, I happen to have a blog and can at least draw your attention to the increasingly rapid erosion of the separation of church and state.
An Inconvenient Truth called "too controversial"
After a parent who supports the teaching of creationism and opposes sex education complained about the film, the Federal Way School Board on Tuesday placed what it labeled a moratorium on showing the film...
Read More
Skin crawling...

But then I read something like this, and I have hope.

January 12, 2007

More dead birds

And I don't mean the tasty fried kind. These are dropping from the skies in Australia...
Mystery as thousands of birds fall from sky

Thousands of birds have fallen from the skies over Esperance and no one knows why. Is it an illness, toxins or a natural phenomenon? A string of autopsies in Perth have shed no light on the mystery. All the residents of flood-devastated Esperance know is that their "dawn chorus" of singing birds is missing.
Read more here.

You'd think a worldwide phenomena of birds dying for no reason at all would elicit more notice, no?

January 11, 2007

Conspiracy Theory du Jour

Frequent readers of this blog will know that I am somewhat susceptible to the many different worst case scenarios out there, anything from 9/11 being an inside job to the reasons why we're building internment camps in the American west - brought to you by Halliburton, of course.

Fortunately I'm also an optimist, so while I'm quite concerned about the insidious direction our country is taking, I'm also pretty sure things'll work out in the end.

This week's dark and devious plot by the Republicans to screw us out of justice goes like this - at some point relatively soon Cheney resigns due to health problems. GWB nominates Condi Rice to replace Cheney, and she sails through the confirmation hearings and is sworn in. As a great thank you to Dick Cheney for his years of service, GWB grants him a Nixon-style full pardon for all crimes he ever committed ever even in his imagination.

Then as we get closer to the elections and GWB becomes more and more of a liability to the Republican ticket, which is now suddenly sporting Condi Rice as the front runner, GWB gets sick or otherwise resigns as well. Suddenly there's our first African American president AND our first woman president at the same time, and the Republicans are suddenly the party of inclusion. What a coup, stealing that plum from the Democrats!

Inevitably our new President Rice will pardon GWB as well. But not until after she's elected in her own right, that's of course part of the deal - if the GOP doesn't get her the Oval Office, they won't get their subpoena-proof "get out of jail free" card.

And then 8 more years! 8 more years! But only for evangelical Christians. The rest of us will be in Camp Halliburton long before then. First they'll come for the Muslims, and we'll do nothing, because we aren't Muslim...

January 10, 2007

Will someone please think of the canaries?

One of the most dangerous aspects of the many extraordinarily dangerous aspects of mining is the pervasive risk of deadly gas in the highly confined spaces underground. Pockets of methane and carbon monoxide, both odorless, colorless gases, were occasionally encountered by the miners as they dug deeper and deeper and the only way a person might know they were in danger was through the use of a simple early warning system - the common yellow canary. Before the gas became deadly to humans, it would knock the poor canary on its ass, alerting the miners to their emergency. Though low-tech, this live-saving (for everyone but the canary) method was in use until as recently as 1986.

With that in mind, does this bother anyone else?
Downtown Austin reopens after dead birds found
AUSTIN — More than 10 blocks of downtown along Congress Avenue reopened this afternoon after police said the area where 63 grackles, sparrows and pigeons were found dead and sickened posed no danger to people.

Meanwhile, in other possibly gas-related news, the foul gas-like odor that hung over New York yesterday still lacks a confirmed source, and speculation abounds. The most alarmist entails new terrorist plots, either successful in an as yet undetermined fashion, or unsuccessful because, well, we're still alive.

Yet there are sources of gas release that are known, and I find even more likely. Beginning in the lovely harbor nestled between New York and New Jersey and extending four hundred miles into the Atlantic Ocean is the Hudson Submarine Canyon, and I'm pointing my as yet un-pulled finger there.

Why might this be the source of the foul odor? With rising temperatures, trapped methane is escaping from the ocean floor in much greater amounts than we are accustomed to. So much so, that according to the US maritime industry sources oil tankers are reporting their on board methane sensors are going off despite no leaks in their cargo holds, because the sensors are detecting ambient methane being released from the ocean seabed.

Methane is odorless so it wouldn't be directly responsible for the stank that New York City and Jersey City experienced Monday, but when the methane starts bubbling up to the surface it is often accompanied by hydrogen sulfide, a byproduct of the bacterial decomposition that occurs on the ocean floor. And the Hudson Submarine Channel would be particularly susceptible to extra-stinky decomposition, as many speculate it is still covered with the sludge and trash of several centuries of the inhabitants of New York City dumping their garbage and sewage directly into the harbor.

Not normally one to be particularly upset by the odors of New York urban living, this methane release hypothesis is concerning because methane has twenty-times the heat-trapping effect of carbon dioxide, and is the second most responsible gas contributing to global warming.
If we're venting enough methane to stinkify our entire metro-area, we're venting some serious methane. And the more methane we release, the more the world warms, and the more the world warms, the more methane is released from the ocean floor and from the melting permafrost...

The sheer volume of near-surface methane that could rapidly be released into the atmosphere would have an impact similar to that seen when someone throws gasoline on an already warm fire, dramatically hastening the climate changes we're most worried about. And while I'm just a short hairy Jew writing a self-indulgent blog, unusual gassy smells around New York (and also California) and birds falling dead out of the sky in Austin appear to me to be somewhat portentous.

I'm just saying....

January 09, 2007

I love this story

I love this... From Eleanor Clift at Newsweek. (Link)

Around The House We Call Chelsea "46"

Democrats in Washington have found a subtle new way to annoy Republicans: Every chance they get, they're starting to refer to Bill Clinton as "42." The idea is clear enough--that Hillary Clinton will be "44," a wink at the way the Bushes have long referred to George H.W. as "41" and W. as "43." The new Clinton nickname is spreading "like a wave," says Democratic strategist Mark Siegel, who says he casually drops the reference into conversations with Republicans and then waits for the reaction. Usually, he says, it's a blank stare. "Then a look of understanding, and then a look of anger." Makes us crack up every time. And people say Washington doesn't have a sense of humor.

January 08, 2007

Whoever smelt it, dealt it

As I entered the office today at Rockefeller Center, there was a distinct odor of natural gas in the air. By the time I was at my desk, I was hearing that the Concourse as well as other buildings in the complex were also filled with the smell. For a brief period of time we were concerned about a gas leak under us, and were considering evacuating, when a quick check of the internet informed us that it wasn't just Rock Center, but that much of Manhattan was suffering under the same fog.

Knowing the gas wasn't internal to the building it was immediately apparent to me that being inside was vastly superior to being outside, as the gas - or whatever it happened to be - was coming in from the outside. This insight was lost on many of my co-workers however, who given permission to leave "if they felt they needed to" promptly left. Some went home, and many just wanted to get out of the building into the fresh air, because there were parts of the building that the gas odor was oppressive.

The irony, of course, is that many of them went outside for fresh air and immediately lit up cigarettes. The added double-plus irony being that lighting cigarettes as a stress-response to a gas leak is an ill-considered strategy at best.

It wasn't long before folks were attributing the smell to a gas leak in Jersey City. However that was followed shortly by the mayor of Jersey City stating that it was a leak emanating from Chelsea. I checked the New York City Office of Emergency Management website a good 90 minutes after the leak began being reported on the major news outlets, to be met with wonderful suggestions for a healthy and safe New Year's eve, and some suggested New Year's resolutions. Nice to know they're on top of things.

It was interesting to see the impact of post-9/11 thinking on building management. As a duly deputized representative of "the man" I was in on several of the discussions happening at a high level regarding whether we should send employees home or no. Following the horribly ill-fated decisions made in the World Trade Center, no one wants to be responsible for making that particular call one way or the other. On the one hand if we keep everyone inside, we all know what happens if something goes horribly wrong. On the other hand it's very well understood that except for the recent notable exception, it's nearly always better for people to stay put during an office building emergency than to wander aimlessly outside.

Today we were much better off inside the building with the ventilators off than outside sucking down whatever was in the air. And sending folks home downtown or perhaps to Jersey City if the leak was actually coming from either location would have been an even poorer plan. But knowing what we know now, who can make that decision for another person? So responsibility is abrogated and you get "go if you feel you need to" instead. In our post-9/11 urban experience no guidance is better than incorrect guidance, and so we'll leave it to employees to make the best decision for themselves. So some did leave, and some didn't, as they best saw fit.

There's no moral of the story. It's just one of those things we deal with now.

January 05, 2007

Steers and Queers

Doing a terrific job helping to put to rest the idea that homosexuality is merely a sinful choice of humans, an exhibition at the Natural History Museum of Oslo, Norway addresses the prevalence of homosexuality in the animal kingdom. And we're not talking dogs humping for dominance, we're talking hardcore giraffe on giraffe action.

"There are things that are more contrary to nature than homosexuality, things humans alone do — such as having religion or sleeping in pyjamas."
- Magnus Enquist, Stockholm University

Check it out. It's a great read.