Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Album: Greg Allman Tour

Picked at random from my vinyl collection.

Gregg Allman with a 24 piece orchestra, 3 voice chorus, wind section, &c.

An extremely ambitious effort from 1974. A CD digital release exists but is out of print. Amazon reviewers liked "Queen of Hearts" which I found saappy and over the top. I really appreciate Chuck Leavell's piano on this disk. Love the use of near-silence just before the turnaround in the blues number Feel So Bad, which is a kind of hallmark of the Allman/Southern rock thread. Tommy Talton's guitar riffs are a clone of Duane Allman's (deceased 1971 at age 25), that certain tangy squeak: ta-da-dada-SQUEAK-da.

There's a kind of blues-brothers-ensemble feel that keeps coming and going behind what would normally be a cowboy-fringe five-piece sound, but for me it works. One Amazon reviewer says this was the birth of jazz-rock fusion, but I don't buy that. It's not really an important recording because nobody really went in this direction later, but it's probably the rockinest orchestra ever and definitely worthy of note on that score. If anyone ever wants to do large ensemble rock and roll again, this ought to be primary source material.

My copy is a bit scratchy (and was a cutout to begin with) but still quite listenable. I'm moving this one to the front burner and will consider picking up a used CD if I get the chance.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Obama on science

More grownup talk:

Whether it’s the science to slow global warming; the technology to protect our troops and confront bioterror and weapons of mass destruction; the research to find life-saving cures; or the innovations to remake our industries and create twenty-first century jobs—today, more than ever before, science holds the key to our survival as a planet and our security and prosperity as a nation. It is time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and worked to restore America’s place as the world leader in science and technology.


Because the truth is that promoting science isn’t just about providing resources—it’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient—especially when it’s inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us

Like my friend J says, he better not f'ing blow it. Don't you want to hear Palin's take on this issue?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Overheard on Twitter

Courtesy twitter ID caseywright:

Watching the Blagojevich conference, and all I can think is "Don't any of these reporters have shoes?"

Monday, December 15, 2008

New 24" iMac

This screen is so gorgeous I don't think I will ever want to look at anything else ever again.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Canada Who?

The BQ (Quebec separatists) are in a governing coalition! The liberal and socialist parties find them less offensive than the conservatives.

You'd think the most eventful day in Canadian politics in forty years would make NPR news, or the front page of the Times or something.

At least it gets a terse mention on the front page of BBC News. See, right at the bottom there?

Afghanistan is not Iraq

When a former Afghanistan interior minister compares the two by saying "Afghanistan is not Iraq", he is implying that Iraq was a cakewalk by comparison.

I am no military expert, but I doubt it in principle. It seems that had the Bushies not been in such a hurry to engage Iraq, the campaign for Afghanistan would have turned out better. And of course, if Charlie Wilson's version of events (a v ery interesting movie except for the as-always insufferable Julia Roberts, by the way) holds any water, even that should never have been necessary; blame for that falls to both parties and typical congressional shortsightedness.

In practice, though, the volunteer military is tapped out and so is the world's tolerance for American military adventures. This needs to be a NATO campaign or it will be NOT A campaign.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Shrimp Breakfast Tacos (Tacos con huevos y camarones)

Irene wanted shrimp for breakfast. This recipe is my response:
  • olive oil or bacon grease
  • sweet onion, finely chopped
  • roasted, peeled, seeded, chopped Hatch green chile, one per medium onion (may substitute Anaheim, or Poblano)
  • two peeled cloves garlic per medium onion
  • chili powder or, (preferably Tears of Joy Armadillo Rub!) barbeque rub
  • pinch salt
  • a half dozen medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and coarsely chopped
  • two authentic flour tortillas (small, taco size; HEB house brand has lard but is nice Central Market and Whole Foods now carry oil or butter based tacos in these parts.)
  • Two eggs, cracked in a bowl and blended
  • black pepper
  • fresh lime
  • ripe Haas avocado slices

You will need two frying pans, one nonstick and one cast iron.

1) Fry onions and chiles in oil or grease slowly, adding pressed or crushed garlic cloves, salt and spice blend to taste in nonstick frying pan.
2) when onions are translucent, remove most of the vegetable blend from pan and save for some other recipe; you will need just a small amount here.
3) Add shrimp; fry the shrimp with veggies until just barely cooked. Take nonstick pan off heat.
4) Warm tortillas in hot cast iron pan on each side until heated through and one side starts to brown. (If they start to puff up, you have the authentic kind. Remove them just as they start to inflate.) Put in warm oven or ceramic tortilla dish to keep warm.
5) Reheat nonstick pan. Once hot, add eggs. Scramble until no longer runny. Put into warm tortillas.
6) Sprinkle generously with lime juice and freshly ground black pepper. (This step is crucial.)

7) Garnish with avocado slices.

Serves two, obviously. Scales up to the number of eggs you can scramble in your pan. (Hungry younger folk can easily handle two tacos each.)

Serve with refried beans, orange juice or mimosas, and if you can find such a thing in Texas, a halfway decent cup of coffee. Enjoy! And don't ever tell me I never had an original idea in my life.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dire Symmetry

Republicans paranoid about people voting multiple times and Democrats paranoid about votes not being counted does not make for a stable democracy. Nobody is going to believe anything.

This better be a landslide; a close election going either way will be disastrous just by itself.

I don't think other countries have these problems, at least, not other established democracies.

More here. (h/t )

Saturday, September 13, 2008

CCSUSA Wastes Your Tax Dollars Bothering Me

Somebody named Benjamin something-or-other owes somebody money. A credit agency robot calls me at work every few days. It has stopped warning me sternly not to reply if I am not Benjamin, but it offers me no way to shut it up.

Today, I went to the website to enter Benjamin's account number and my office phone on their website, but it refuses to let me through. It says 

"Continue button will be enabled when form is completed."

but it isn't. Perhaps it's just bad HTML that only works on Explorer? I am pretty sure I got the account number right. They also gave me a telephone number to call. Every time I have called it it is busy, except today, Saturday, when it urges me to call during business hours.

Oh. It is bad html. Firefox 3 succeeded where Safari did not. However, to get anywhere I had to read past the place where they told me to avert my eyes if I am not Benjamin. It turns out this is about a debt of a bit less that $400.

Now I suppose this isn't costing them very much. But as my employer, do you think this is a good use of my time? I think it constitutes harassment. They ought to make some effort to see that I am actually the person they are calling.

In the private sector I could assign clerical staff to track this down.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Versailles Today

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dodging a Bullet

So night before last I'm in an overpriced motel in Pasadena, about 30 miles from LAX, and I have a 6:40 AM plane to catch. (Plus the following week is going to be stressful for reasons I won't relate here.) I figure I ought to practice returning the car the night before. I set out at 7:45, hoping to make it back to Pasadena within an hour, maybe an hour and change.

Sure enough, I take several wrong turns on the way to the airport. The rental car return
is abysmally marked, with a few haphazard signs but no clear path, and I'm driving around in circles on Sepulveda and Century and suchlike looking for Avis when I realize I have a desperate need to relieve myself. Thinking Avis would not be appreciative if I were to piss their car, (well sort fo a car, it is a rather worthless largish beast called an HHR or such that they have foisted upon me as "midsized") I begin an urgent search for a back street with a tree I can water.

Taking the road less traveled three or four times works smoothly enough. I find a deserted out of the way street which is unlikely to have any evening traffic and proceed to fertilize a handy eucalyptus. Or so I thought. In retrospect it was something of a dyscalyptus.

Much relieved, I pull a U and am surprised to see another car waiting at the light. So I'm behind this car at a bit of an angle. Perhaps my lights are not visible in the mirror of the nice lady in the other car. In any case, she suddenly takes into her head to go into reverse. I see the reverse lights come on and start leaning on my horn to no avail. She guns it and gives me a good solid thwok in the side.

Well, suddenly I am facing a sleepless night with accident reports, something which I can ill afford at the moment. I am furious. But when we go to look, there isn't any sign of damage on either car! Not a scratch!

"We dodged a bullet" I say to the nice lady, and let her go on her way and me on mine.

I find the Avis lot at last and head back to Sepulveda to find the 105 eastbound ramp. Something glitches in my brain, and when I pass the 105 ramp I think I see "405" and keep going. I am wondering if the car is a bit misaligned. Of course, I groan, she must have hit the tire. I stupidly think nothing of it, wondering if I will have to report this to Avis after all. When I am sure I have missed my ramp, I turn right onto a quiet little cul-de-sac on 30th street to do a 3-point turn and go back, but when I shift into reverse, essentially the wheel breaks off along with a bit of the axle, loosely remaining attached to the car at a jaunty angle.

I did dodge a bullet after all. Had I found the 105 ramp, this a axle-breaking trick would likely have happened at speed on an elevated expressway. Who knows what would have become of me.

Since my phone battery was dead, I was lucky to find myself right by a Domino's pizza to make a couple of calls. The tow came, Avis in total indifference swapped out the car, with no mention of the 45 degree angle that one of the wheels was dangling at. This gave me enough time to get back to Pasadena, sleep for two hours, collect my luggage and (with some trepidation) haul myself back to LAX where the plane to Austin was on time. Irene was kindly waiting at Bergstrom, and I came home and collapsed into bed.

One moral of the story is that what appears to be good luck can be bad luck and what appears to be bad luck can be good. I slept through my all too brief weekend, but intact, intact.

The other moral is that if someone backs really hard into your tire, file the accident report anyway. I guess. I don't know. I really wouldn't have thought of it, and maybe the cop wouldn't have either.

I suppose Avis will be bothering me this week as if I didn't have enough troubles. But all of that is better than getting onto the 105 elevated expressway with a wheel that is about to break off, something I had every intention of doing,

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Larry Monroe invokes Shakespeare Eggly

Larry is sitting in hosting the "Phil Show" this week on KUT. He just played a tune called "Plans Aft Gang Agley", but I think he missed the reference. So...

"PLAYuns EFT GAyung EGGly" of course.

Kick butt show just the same. I love Tixes.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Have to Give 'em Credit

The Texas Republicans certainly don't mince words.

See, e.g., p 18: "We pledge our influence toward a return to the original intent of the First Amendment and toward dispelling the myth of separation of church and state."

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Seven Blunders of the World

Some rich people's travel magazine has an article called the New Wonders of the World. I like the giant toaster somewhat; it's a posthumous le Corbusier church in France somewhere. The village's web site doesn't appear very proud of it, though.

The rest of the wonders, though, the usual Lebeskind and Gehry crap, ought to be prosecuted, not celebrated.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I love KUT

Paul Ray is the ever-so Texan jazz DJ. (Pay no mind to the picture. He sure sounds Texan.) He just came out with this:

"Y'know muh car's th'only shade I got out there."

Sunday, June 08, 2008


zed, dammit, zed

On a related note, progress is defined by running it backwards.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Famous Potatoes

I'm sure he wouldn't care for my opinions very much, and vice versa, but I find it impossible not to like this guy or the simple cheerful vision of America he represents. R I P J Simplot.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


I was struck by the resemblance between Obamamania and Trudeaumania so I went looking to see if anyone else had noticed.

Someone had. So, I just want to get it on record that this really isn't the way I, for one, remember it going.

What can you say to people who gather their evidence in an alternative universe of their own imagining?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Tobis and his Gauchos

"Tobis and his Gauchos - led by singer and guitar player Torvald "Tobis" Tollgren (1910-86) - could be described as the first Swedish latino pop group. During the 1940s and early 1950s, Tobis and his Gauchos was very popular with their (in the eyes and ears of the Swedes) exotic and colourful music. They lad lots of tangos, rhumbas and (as in this case) sambas and even a couple of hillbilly numbers on their repertoir and made over fifty 78 rpm records 1940-53. Tobis formed his group in 1938 and disbanded the group in 1956. Torvald Tollgren later worked as a manufacturer of ballet shoes." mp3 here

Update: I was remiss in not crediting my source:

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Song for Yom Tov

Well I came across a child of God, he was walking along the road
and I asked him tell where are you going, this he told me:
Well, I'm going down to Yasgur's farm, going to join in a rock and roll band.
Got to get back to the land and set my soul free.

We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon,
and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Well, then can I walk beside you? I have come to lose the smog.
And I feel like I'm a cog in something turning.
And maybe it's the time of year, yes, and maybe it's the time of man.
And I don't know who I am but life is for learning.

We are stardust, we are golden, we are caught in the devil's bargain,
and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Talkin' 'bout My Generation

I wonder what it would be like to be from a generation that wanted to please its parents. I suppose that's the norm, but to a childless boomer everything mentally healthy young people do seems bloodless and shallow, on whatever side. It all seems to be a quest for parental approval, not for creativity or self-actualization.

This may have something to do with why waiting around for youth movements isn't going to amount to much. It's not all roses, but maybe we really are a special generation. Nobody will ever have parents as out of touch as ours were. We were on opposite sides of the Future Shock.

We really had no guidance. This led to many very bad things and many very good things.

Maybe the future is still up to us.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Folk etymology

Now that's one for the books. Spotted online:
Legally Google can not be in kohutz with Yahoo.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

So Hip It Hurts


I bought a Scion xD because it seemed practical and comfortable. I wasn't trying to be brash or act other than my age. I just wanted a car.

Apparently this makes me so hip it hurts. Or so unhip I can be hip by accident. Which is the same thing I guess. Somebody in Chicago was amazed by the thing, wnted to talk about it and figure me out like I was riding Ken Kesey's bus.

The fact is just that apparently I am missing some neurons. It looks exactly the same as any other hatchback to me. I prefer to buy cars from Toyota because their stuff works. I got a silver one because the red color was even uglier.

I like the steering wheel controls of the audio system, but the dash controls of the radio are among the worst user interface designs I have ever seen, and I used to run Windows 3.1 . The roof is too low and the vertical extent of visibility a bit cramped. Everything important works, and it works great for small Ikea runs. City mileage isn't great compared to the Prius but it's really pretty good on the highway.

Update: Luigi refers to its "bug eyes". The headlights are indeed a bit distinctive. I rarely approach the car from the front though and I really hadn't noticed.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Honor Among Thieves

From today's Statesman:

University of Texas at San Antonio students wanted to draft an honor code that discouraged cheating and plagiarizing.

Unfortunately, it appears they copied another school's code without proper attribution.

The student in charge of drafting the code said it was an oversight, but cheating experts say it illustrates a sloppiness among Internet-era students who don't cite sources properly and think of their computers as cut-and-paste machines.

Akshay Thusu said he took over the project a month ago and inherited a draft from other students.

He said he discovered that a group of students attended a conference put on by Clemson's Center for Academic Integrity five years ago. Materials from the conference, which are used by many universities, were probably the main source of UT-San Antonio's code, Thusu said.

That's why parts of the draft match word-for-word the online version of Brigham Young University's code.

Brigham Young credited the Center for Academic Integrity, but UT-San Antonio didn't. That will change, said Thusu, who plans to submit a draft with proper citation to the Faculty Senate


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Rule of Law


It appears that Mr Bush got one right and the supreme court overruled him. This is pretty close to a showstopper for me. Man.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Avoid Circuit City

I must have been Texan in a previous life. I can't believe how, on leaving Circuit City after a repulsively foul consumer experience, I mutterred in perfect Texan "That's alright (assaw rat). I'll take it out of their hide (attather had.)" Weird.

So herewith, delivery on my vow. I offer you a strong piece of advice to avoid Circuit City, which essentially will not accept returns of merchandise that does not function as advertised. I won't bore you with the details of my story. If you are foolishly tempted to enter the place, and you aren't within 300 miles of a Fry's, please just go to Best Buy or some small time place instead.

If you won't take my word for it check this story out. Corroboration here, there and everywhere. Treating staff with this sort of contempt apparently leads to staff that treats customers with comparable contempt. Don't let them take it out on you.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Blame Canada

I guess it's not funny anymore.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A Stray Thought for PyCon

So it turns out I actually end up believing that rules and regulations are a good thing, but really, it's just a stray thought, don't read too much into it:
So your brother's bound and gagged
And they chained him to a chair,
Won't you please come to Chicago
Just to sing.
In a land that's known as freedom,
How can such a thing be fair?
Won't you please come to Chicago
For the help that we can bring.

We can change the World.
Rearrange the World.
It's dying
to get better.

Politicians sit yourselves down,
There's nothing for you here.
Won't you please come to Chicago
For a ride.
Don't ask Jack to help you
Cause he'll turn the other ear.
Won't you please come to Chicago
Or else join the other side.

We can change / yes we can change the World.
Rearrange / rearrange the World.
It's dying / do you believe in justice?
It's dying / and if you believe in freedom.
It's dying / Let a man live his own life.
It's dying / Rules and regulations who needs them?
Open up the door.

Somehow people must be free,
I hope the day comes soon.
Won't you please come to Chicago,
To show your face.
From the bottom of the ocean
To the mountains of the Moon.
Won't you please come to Chicago
No one else can take your place.

We can change / yes we can change the World.
Rearrange / rearrange the World.
It's dying / If you believe in justice.
It's dying / and if you believe in freedom.
It's dying / Let a man live his own life.
It's dying / Rules and regulations, who needs them?
Open up the door.

OLPC grumble

Won't have one before PyCon for sure.

Dear Michael,

Please accept my apologies for the delay in receiving your XO laptop. Give
One Get One was such a phenomenal success that we over-taxed our order
processing, and payment systems. Demand exceeded supply.

Additional XO laptops are being built now, and will be delivered in April.

One Laptop Per Child
Donor Services

-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Tobis []
Sent: Monday, March 03, 2008 12:05 PM
To: Support

I have been in the following status for more than two weeks.

"Your donation is ready to be shipped and is in our shipping queue.
Please check back with us every few days for updates If you have
received this same response after several days (2 weeks or more)
please contact Donor Services to verify your shipping information."

I am pretty frustrated. Hoped to have mine in hand months ago.

Please ship to ...

Update: It finally arrived at the older shipping address, about two weeks before it would have been impossible for me to retrieve it from there. It was on my desk on my return from PyCon. All's well that ends well, I guess. Now the problem is figuring out what to do with it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


I've only been here a year now (this is the 1-year anniversary this week, now that I think of it) and I usually have on hand the following ingredients, probably still difficult to find in Canada. You could do most of it quite well in Chicago, though I never went this far there.

  • corn-syrup-free Coke imported from Mexico
  • iced tea
  • Shiner Bock beer
  • proper top-shelf margarita fixin's, i.e., good tequila, triple sec,
  • fresh limes (ten for a dollar in season)
  • proper barbeque sauce
  • red salsa
  • pico de gallo (marinated vegetables with tomato, for tacos)
  • green salsa
  • escabeche (hot pickled onions and carrots)
  • ground ancho chile (dark red, smoky, mild)
  • ground guajillo chiles (red, spicy)
  • ground chipotle chiles (red, smoky and tangy)
  • ground jalapeno (green, hot)
  • if there's company I will spring for some queso, which resembles Velveeta until you taste it (served hot in a crock pot)
  • mole' sauce
  • mexican sour cream
  • green chiles, preferably Hatch, anaheim acceptable
  • (also poblano and serrano green chiles on occasion)
  • tomatillos (a.k.a. "Mexican green tomatoes", close relative of the tomato but has a paperlike husk)
  • I always have onions, regular peppers, on hand. sometimes mushrooms, zucchini and celery
  • fresh corn tortillas, coarse grind, strong preference for El Milagro brand
  • fresh flour tortillas, strong preference for lard-free house-made from Central Market
  • if there's company I will spring for some tortilla chips for the queso
  • pecans are essentially free in Texas, though they do require some work to shell them. Real Mexicans put ground nuts in everything. Not so much the Texans, who save them for sweets and chop them. Either way, roast em in a cast iron pan for a few minutes as soon as they are out of their shells. Watch carefully and stir constantly. Don't burn 'em.
  • I don't eat beef except when in a restaurant and essentially forced to as a social obligation, this happens in Texas. Also non-beef at rural restaurants is usually unpalatable compared to the barbecue or the burgers.
  • I mostly get quality fish, shrimp (very cheap! $5/lb.), chicken, pork, or non-beef sausage at Central Market and grill it and refrigerate it, then throw it in a stew when dinner comes around
  • I always have some low-fat refried pintos available from cans. Served with every meal including breakfast
  • Mexican chorizo is nice for breakfast, I found a turkey based one at H.E.B.


Prepping ingredients weekly:
  • roast and freeze some chiles. When frozen, peel and seed them, chop
  • and refrigerate.
  • grill some meats
  • boil some shrimp
  • cut up some peppers and onions and sautee slowly in garlic and salt
Typical breakfast:
  • Heat and crumble chorizo (NB, Spanish chorizo is not the same stuff), and scramble into an egg with some chopped roasted green chiles
  • Heat up a flour tortilla in a cast iron pan. Wrap around the scramble.
  • Serve with reheated refried beans.
Typical lunch:
  • Microwave a grilled sausage.
  • Heat up a flour tortilla in a cast iron pan.
  • Wrap, add good barbecue sauce.
  • Serve with salad
Typical dinner:
  • chop grilled meat, some sauteed vegetables, and a sauce, add spices to taste and cook long enough to blend spices
  • offer rice and refried beans
  • Optionally sour cream, and pico could be available, depending on the filling. Grated cheese and shredded lettuce possible if you're leaning more Tex than Mex.
  • for company, start with a tortilla soup
Recipes? We don't need no steenking recipes.

OK, here's a tortilla soup recipe:

Tex and Mex both tend to excessive sweetness with their desserts though I'll enjoy a tres leches or a chess pie on occasion. When we don't have company we settle for a square of chocolate. If the occasion calls for dessert and we don't have time to bake something I will pick up something at Dolce Vita on Duval Street. Not really thematically unified but yummm!

We are also close enough to Lousiana to make a difference. Between all the good food and the lousy walking and bicycling, it's really a treacherous place for the likes of me.

It's striking how differently I have treated my kitchen since coming down here, though. If I ever go back to Canada I will need a tortilla press of my own.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Urgent Information Regarding Mortgage Holder!

I must be in a low IQ zipcode.

Apparently buying a house in a middle-class neighborhood in America these days makes you a target for various scam artists intimating that they are your lender or your government. I have here the six offers from this week:


1) "It has been brought to our attention that you are not yet participating in the Mortgage Cancellation Program to which you are entitled". (OK, at least it looks optional. This is an assume-your-mortgage-in-case-of-death offer. If I ever plan to off myself I will certainly look them up.)

2) Attention: Time Sensitive Material. Complete and Return.

LENDER: Supreme Lending
Michael Tobis

(This is an offer of life and disability insurance)

3) Important Notice to Michael Tobis. Please Complete and Return.

Travis County.

(life and disability. AT least they said "please". This one is especially creepy because it seems to claim to be from the county.)

4) IMPORTANT NOTICE from Mortgage Protection Services. Complete and Return.

Supreme Lending
To Borrower:
Mr. & Mrs. Michael Tobis

(Cleverly dressed up to look like it's FROM the lender. Of course, they sold me off to Wells Fargo inside a week. Maybe the U of T thinks I'm marginal but the banks think I'm golden...)

5) Attention: Time Sensitive Material. Complete and Return.

Lender: Supreme Lending
Record Date: 01/22/2008 (huh?)
Loan Amount: [amount]

6) Notice of Interest Overpayment

(This one is the best. Apparently if you pay off your loan early you will pay less interest! Who knew? Anyway these people will kindly collect payments biweekly and pay your mortgage down monthly for a modest fee.)


I wonder how many people fill out everything marked "Complete and Return" and end up with twenty life insurance policies...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ethical Society, Unitarianism, Trinitarianism

Irene and I have applied to join the Ethical Society, which is sort of an engineers' religion.

"Deed before creed" is the motto; what we believe is less important to us than our actions and their consequences in the world.
...each of those religions, these value systems, have two principles they share in common: tzedakah and tikkun olam, and the two principles started with monotheism and the Jews. Tzedakah means generally that we must treat each other as brother and sister. We should show one another respect and dignity because we are like things; we are human beings in a world that has nothing else like us, and we ought to treat each other with love, charity, use your own words. And the second principle is, "Well, what do you do with this relationship?" Well, we don't know exactly how we got here and why we are here, etc. etc.; that's for minds larger than our own. But we do know that we are like kinds, and we should work together to make this as good an experience as possible: tikkun olam -"let us repair the universe." Now, Islam believes that, and Buddhism that has no god believes it. Every Ethical Humanist I ever met believes it. Those two principles: We're supposed to love one another and we're supposed to work together to make the experience better. That's all the religion you need, really, to make a success of this planet...

-Mario Cuomo
That said, today's meeting was all about comparing the ethical society to other comparable groups. It's sort of droll to consider myself an apostate Unitarian. Garrison Keillor has many jokes about Unitarians but I only remember this one. Forgive me if you;ve heard it before.

"Did you hear about the Jehovah's Witness who converted to Unitarianism? He went around the neighborhood ringing doorbells for no particular reason." I myself have written a Unitarian hymn. It's called "To Whom It May Concern". What I like about the ethicists is that they don't feel compelled to pretend to be protestants during their meetings. The superficial resemblance to a protestant service does nothing at all for me.

The discussion of the history of Unitarianism showed that it arose as an alternative to Trinitarianism. We also discussed atheism and agnosticism and the fine distinctions between them. Most of us feel that agreeing on what you disbelieve is almost as bad as agreeing on what you pretend to believe as an organizing model for a community.

When it comes to Trinitarianism, though, agnostic doesn't begin to capture my philosophical response. I simply don't get it. I have never had the slightes clue who the Holy Ghost was supposed to be. Everyone I've asked has failed to come up with a coherent answer. I am certainly Unitarian as opposed to atheistic or agnostic, myself. I can't begin to express an opinion on the Trinity though. It simply baffles me who the third guy is. I am not so much atheistic or agnostic when it comes to the trinity as baffled. Call me an acomprehensive.

I've been hearing this stuff all my life and I just don't get it. Somehow polytheism is heresy unless the number of gods is three? Three shall be the number of gods, not two nor four? Five is right out? I'm still waiting for something to wrap my head around. I sort of understand the savior thing though it doesn't ring true for me but I just don't get it about the ghost.

Anyway I am down with the unity of the universe, and perfectly comfortable with calling it God and taking an attitude of deep gratitude to that God for what seems to me the astonishing miracle of life.

The only reason I'm a Unitarian apostate is because the services are silly.

Good night and God bless.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Grownups in Government

A valentine widget seen on .

Would it be too much to ask for some grownups to run the country?

Unlike traditional Valentine's messages, the GOP-grams are perhaps better sent to people you dislike. The Valentine site launched Monday without a privacy policy. After an inquiry by on Wednesday, the RNC added a link to the privacy policy, which allows it to share any information it collects with "like-minded" organizations "committed to the principles or candidates of the Republican party." How romantic.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Yiddish Radio Project

Better late than never. Here.

Hmm, it doesn't actually rock. It does sort of swing in a schmaltzdikke sort of a way.

Related resources here. So click, why don't you? Go. Click, click.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


In a comment on "In It", Hank R points to a very interesting observation by Greg Palast.

It starts with the observation that the number of millionaires in the US is comparable to the number of poor children, and then compares the benefits offerred to each class by the Bush administration.

Read it.

This is why we need numeracy. Fear of big numbers prevents people from thinking clearly.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Island of Noise

Fly silly seabird
No dreams can possess you
No voices can blame you
For sun on your wings
My gentle relations
Have names they must call me
For loving the freedom
Of all flying things
My dreams with the seagulls fly
Out of reach out of cry

I came to the city
And lived like old Crusoe
On an island of noise
In a cobblestone sea
And the beaches were concrete
And the stars paid a light bill
And the blossoms hung false
On their store window trees
My dreams with the seagulls fly
Out of reach out of cry

Out of the city
And down to the seaside
To sun on my shoulders
And wind in my hair
But sandcastles crumble
And hunger is human
And humans are hungry
For worlds they can't share
My dreams with the seagulls fly
Out of reach out of cry

I call to a seagull
Who dives to the waters
And catches his silver-fine
Dinner alone
Crying where are the footprints
That danced on these beaches
And the hands that cast wishes
That sunk like a stone
My dreams with the seagulls fly
Out of reach Out of cry

JM (1968)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Exercise Plan

I was bemoaning the fact that I can't hire someone to exercise for me.

The ideal would be a temporary mind swap. My contractor would go to the gym in my body and exercise for me, and I'd be in his body reading a book. Afterward, I'd be healthier and he'd be smarter.


In It was linked directly from the lead RealClimate story yesterday, and a nice one it is indeed. Nice to know Ray is getting so much attention, and a bit daunting to know I am.

Ray linked to my Bambi vs Godzilla posting, which is really just a quote from David Mamet.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

No Shortcut to Freedom

OK, it's painfully sappy in that pedestrian folksinger way, but true enough just the same:
One blue sky above us
One ocean lapping all our shore
One earth so green and round
Who could ask for more

And because I love you
I'll give it one more try
To show my rainbow race
It's too soon to die.

Some folks want to be like an ostrich,
Bury their heads in the sand.
Some hope that plastic dreams
Can unclench all those greedy hands.

Some hope to take the easy way:
Poisons, bombs. They think we need 'em.
Don't you know you can't kill all the unbelievers?
There's no shortcut to freedom.

(Repeat chorus)

Go tell all the little children.
Tell all the mothers and fathers too.
Now's our last chance to learn to share
What's been given to me and you.

(Repeat chorus one and a half times)
- PS (1967)


The most realistic glossary of Yiddish words commonly used in English that I have seen is under your nose in this clicky thing, what, you never saw a computer before?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Homage a M Cohen

So in honor of the explicitly Cohenesque recent discovery in my old diaries, I thought it would be churlish to pass up the opportunity to go see a Leonard Cohen tribute concert this weekend.

Irene and I and friend Linda accordingly trucked ourselves out to beautiful downtown Marble Falls (a fairly remote town but it has a nice downtown, a bit tarted up for the tourist trade which has its plusses and minuses) where we took in a marvelous show put on by the astonishing (and amazingly eclectic) group Strings Attached. It was among the best concert experiences of my life. They managed not only to present the poetry but to make a musically coherent and varied experience out of, let's face it, LC's perpetual droning. Amusingly it was a flawless performance except for bobbling the lyrics of the one hit song, you know the one, the one with the garbage and the flowers.

I also enjoyed the random reference to cooolllld snoooowy Monntreal in the stage patter; you could almost hear the shivering. It was T-shirt weather in Central Texas yesterday.

They were brilliant. Watch out especially for the astonishing young vocalist Molly Venter.

Some of us (names are embargoed) were reduced to tears at various points during the show. I am eagerly awaiting release of the recording of the very performance we attended.

I am now a Will Taylor/Strings Attached fan for life. (They also have done a Led Zepellin tribute! A Paul Simon tribute is coming up and I can hardly wait for it.)

Austin really lives up to its billing as the music capital of the world and I find it a great joy and privilege to live here.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Now I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew her
She tied you
To a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain
I don't even know the name
But if I did, well really, what's it to you?
There's a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
-my homeboy, LC of course

Saturday, January 12, 2008

On Moving South

Be flexible! cries the pragmatist within me - why can't you write your diary on this steno notebook passed through an iron grill of a half-closed drugstore on Christmas night, a Saturday, this fuckless bicentennial year.

Be poetic! cries my muse, wondering at the instant add water and stir summer into which I have suddenly been propelled, writing weak poetry or is it strong prose propped up against a garbage bin under the shade of a street lamp flooded palm tree.

Be with me! cries my disease, but she whom it addresses cannot hear.

Be still! cries the December summer wind.

- mt, Christmas 1976, Gainesville FL

Friday, January 11, 2008

Asian Restaurant in Texas

Spotted in a mini-mall outside San Antonio, the Aw Dang Asian Restaurant...