Monday, September 29, 2008

Revisiting my predictions for the electoral college 2008

One can note that back on June 30, I predicted that Obama would win 476 electoral college votes in November, to McCains's 62.

Today both Realclearpolitics and Intrade show serious progress in the direction of my predictions, both with Obama now over 300 electoral college votes, and Intrade with Obama getting 338.


I was glad to see Minnesota holding onto its senses, after sliding a little bit toward McCain recently. Minnesota is a hero of mine, being the only state in the union that did not vote for Reagan in 1984.

I'm standing by my predictions. We shall see.

Not again!

I am *seriously* pissed off by this whole $700 Billion dollar bailout of wall street thing. More evidence that Americans are just stupid. Period. The bloody congress and senate are going to pass this thing. Not *one* leader (at least not that I've heard) has called Bush and co. on their ridiculous urgency. The so called "House republicans" seemed to be providing a little resistance, for a while. But alas.

Nancy Pelosi should seriously be fired. Immediately. The frog is officially boiled.

Can someone please explain to me what's going to happen to *me* if we *don't* pass this "urgent legislation"? I'm *still* not getting it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Witness Protection

I wonder if the NSA is picking up on this post? =p

Have you ever known someone--a whole family--who were there one day, and then they were gone the next, seemingly having dropped off the very face of the planet?

I know a family that used to live not too far from here. They had a bunch of kids, and I used to go to church with them. A while ago they disappeared. All of them--mom, dad, and all the kids. Their parents don't know where they are. Their church denies that they were ever members. Their former workmates don't know any thing.

Very strange. I have concluded they must have gone into the federal witness protection program. That would very very seriously suck, in my opinion. I hope they are coping reasonably well with the trauma, in their new life. I hope whatever bastard or bastards they are testifying against get life in prison with no parole, along with all their cronies and confederates. This despite the fact that I'm rather of the opinion that putting people in prison is generally just a bad, dumb idea.

Register to vote!

I'm convinced one relatively simple thing you and I can do to help make the world a more just and compassionate place is to register to vote and then vote in local, state, and national elections. It's a chance to take our power and give it away, ideally. So if you haven't registered, I would encourage you to do so ASAP. I in no way mean for this post to be heard as against those who choose not to register or vote for well thought out reasons. I'm rather saying I'm kinda of thinking a lot of Americans don't register and don't vote from mere apathy, and hoping to throw my little voice out there against such apathy =).

A quick count from this page reveals 34 U.S. states have voter registration deadlines between October 4th and October 15th.

Rock the vote will email you a copy of your voter registration form. If for some reason that doesn't work for you, here's Obama's voter registration site (which will work just fine for you to register even if you don't support Obama) and here's McCain's voter registration site (ditto)

I tried out both of the latter sites, and the Obama one seems a bit more user friendly, but both of them work reasonably well. The Obama site will actually check for you to see if you are already registered.

And for our Canadian friends to the North, who are also holding federal elections on October 14th, I found this voting information website =)

By the way, can anyone help me out with why this question and answer are on the FAQ of Canada Elections online? I'm terribly terribly curious:

* Is someone allowed to eat a ballot?

Eating a ballot, not returning it or otherwise destroying or defacing it constitutes a serious breach of the Canada Elections Act.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

In defense of anti-wanking groups

About a month ago the brilliant and hilarious Stephy wrote a post entitled Not Masturbating on her insightful and astoundingly funny blog Stuff Christian Cultures Like. (There, not one but *two* links for you Stephanie!). She says:

Support groups are formed for the whackmasters to congregate and discuss how hard it is to keep their hands off their junk

I think Stephy has a point. Christians tend to get ... a bit obsessed with this whole thing.

Of course it's not just Christians. There are at least 3 big sexual addiction recovery organizations (SA, SAA, SLAA). There are guys meeting in rooms across Western World today, and tomorrow, and every day this week, reading the twelve steps aloud and sharing how sexual addiction has destroyed their lives, and then helping each other remain sexually sober, providing accountability, honesty, and support.

It's fairly easy to mock, on the one hand.

It leads one to ask questions about focusing one one particular "sin" to the exclusion of other "sins". And I'm using the term "sin" here in an entirely secular sense. I'm talking about relational harm, about ... life vs. death, about hope and glory vs. despair and destruction and horror.

I think people who really understand and appreciate the 12 steps, and *maybe* people who really understand and appreciate the way of Jesus, are aware that "sobriety", or "being in God's will", or whatever the hell you want to call it, go way beyond wanking, or not wanking, or (insert your "sin" of choice here).

Is it possible that 12 steps groups, or church groups, or churches, or what have you, are ultimately accomplishing more good than harm? This seems like a reasonable question. Often the answer is probably no.

But again, I think Stephanie has a point. While sex addicts are focusing on trying to improve or repair their relationships which have often been destroyed by their masturbation, use of pornography, voyeurism, exhibitionism, having sex with other people without their spouses knowing about it, sexual abuse, etc. etc., it is distinctly possible that they are missing the perhaps much larger sins of consuming inordinately large amount of food, gasoline, textiles, etc. etc. while a billion people go without fresh water and live on less than a dollar a day, or 30,000 children starve to death today, or their government spends another $600 billion on it's military this year, leading directly or indirectly to the death or impoverishment of millions of people.

On the other hand, maybe anti-wanking groups are actually helping people grow as human beings to the point where they can appreciate these larger issues. Just a thought.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The unnaturalness of death and the glorification of war

Today I went with my dad to visit my mother’s grave site for the first time. I found myself feeling disturbed and furious. I don’t know whether my emotions were right or wrong, nor whether they were normal or abnormal (and I use these terms in the way my psychology training has taught me–in the sense of where they fall on the distribution)

My mom died very nearly three months ago, June 27, 2008. Her body was burned, and the ashes, which my father tells me were heavier than one might expect (one of the many and ongoing surprises, mostly painful, which my father keeps butting up against in the aftermath of my mom’s death), were placed in one of these vaults at Tahoma national cemetery. She was 57 years old, and had been healthy all her life before being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2004.

I found the burial method very very disturbing. My mothers ashes are somehow forever separated from … nature–from the sun, the wind, the dirt, the natural cycle of things. Separated by cement and steel. I decided I must take steps to make sure this doesn’t happen to my mortal remains.

I also found the burial *place* very disturbing. There are 139 national cemeteries in the U.S., and they are almost exclusively for the burial of U.S. military personnel and their spouses (or spice, if you wish). My mother “served” in the U.S. air force from 1970 to 1981, so she had the right to be buried here.

It seems like part of the glorification of war in this country, which, I think it might reasonably be argued, glorifies war more effectively than most other nations. If you “serve” in the U.S. military, one of the many benefits you can look forward to is the right to be buried in a national cemetery, with beautifully landscaped grounds and promised maintenance and so forth for as long as the U.S. federal government exists.

But what have all these people who “served” in the U.S. military done? I don’t mean what have they done *individually*. I mean what have they done *collectively*? How many people have they (we) killed?

My mother’s gravestone says “Vietnam” on it, because she “served” during the era of the Vietnam war. During that same era, the U.S. military (that is, “we”) was certainly largely to blame for the deaths of some 5 million Vietnamese people. I am led to wonder what sort of burial, what sort of cemeteries, were afforded to those 5 million? Anything like the beauty of Tahoma National Cemetery? Somehow I doubt it.

I don’t understand the whole cemetery/burial thing at all. I found it really disturbing that so many flowers had been placed there. There are 6 billion living people on the planet, many of whom, no doubt, would be enormously delighted to receive flowers. How many flowers are delivered to the dead every week? It seems a shocking waste of beauty and joy, to attempt to give it to the dead.

My mother isn’t *here* anymore. She’s not here, and she’s not there. Her actions and her words live on in seen and unseen ways in the people she was in relationship with, probably more than anyone else in my sister and me. We can’t escape the truth of that, both the nasty and glorious parts of it. But the actual real her is *gone*. It doesn’t make sense to me confine the ashes of her dead body to a “niche” in a cemetery. If for no other reason than that the cost of building and maintaining the cemetery could go toward alleviating the suffering of some people who don’t have enough food to eat.

I have the sneaking suspicion that my *thoughts* on this whole subject are *way* out in the tails of the distribution–4+ standard deviations out. Ah well.

As for my *feelings* on the subject–I’m out of touch with them. I have feelings about the … general concepts–feelings engendered by my thoughts. But in terms of feelings about my loss specifically, I … can’t find them. Maybe I’m still in denial. Maybe I’m still obeying, against my own will and better judgment, the rule which my mother so strongly inculcated in me: “Don’t feel”.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

On hope and the existence of fauns, dwarfs, and talking beasts

I'm reading Prince Caspian aloud to my two beautiful children.

Clive Staples Lewis writes:

"... You can search through all the nooks and wild places of the land to see if any Fauns or Talking Beasts or Dwarfs are perhaps still alive in hiding."

"Do you think there are any?" asked Caspian eagerly.

"I don't know--I don't know," said the Doctor with a deep sigh. "Sometimes I am afraid there can't be. I have been looking for traces of them all my life. Sometimes I have thought I heard a Dwarf-drum in the mountains. Sometimes at night, in the woods, I thought I had caught a glimpse of Fauns and Satyrs dancing a long way off; but when I came to the place, there as never anything there. I have often despaired; but something always happens to start me hoping again. I don't know. But at least you can try to be a King like the High King Peter of old, and not like your uncle."

Bloody C.S. Lewis, nailing that whole unavoidableness of hope thing. Lazarus wasn't safe even after he was dead.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

An exercise in three parts

Here's a wee exercise I learned (by doing) from an acceptance and committment therapist at school last year. I found it really helpful, and thought you might enjoy doing it. It's important to complete each part *before* looking at the next part. The whole exercise probably won't take more than 20 minutes, and all you need is a pencil and one or two sheets of paper.

1. Take a blank sheet of paper, and at the top, draw a line from the left to the right. Imagine that the line represents your life, with the left end being your birth, and the right end being your death. Now draw a mark on the line for where you are on it right now.
In between the left end and the mark you have made for right now, think of five highly significant things that have shaped who you are so far. As you think of each one, put a number for it on the line approximately where it happened, and then below the line write 2 to 4 sentences describing how what happened and how/why it was significant. Take approximately 4-8 minutes to complete this part, but don't stress if it takes you longer or shorter. Also don't stress if you want to do 4 things or 6 things, these are just general guidelines =).

Here's Part 2

Looking forward.

My favorite person in the world recently asked me “What are you looking forward to?”

My immediate answer was “There’s nothing I’m looking forward to.”

Which, in one sense, is a rather disheartening answer. And in another sense is a rather dishonest one. Looking forward seems to be a bit of a human thing to do. I, for instance, am actually looking forward to many things that a lot of people can’t look forward to. I’m looking forward to having plenty of food to eat, each and every day for the rest of my life. I’m looking forward to having health care provided for me when, not if, I find myself in need of it. I’m looking forward to sleeping in a warm house this winter, out of the rain. I’m looking forward to engaging in relationship with my current friends as well as new ones I hope to meet. I’m looking forward to doing all these thing for probably another 40 years. Not to mention education, reading, writing, movies, bicycling, motorcycling, sailing, fishing, singing, guitaring, surfing the net, changing the world (that last one I’m not super sure about anymore, truthfully).

What are *you* looking forward to?

My mindset

I think it says rather a lot about my current mindset that I found the following very slightly funny:

"Sarah Heath Palin" can be rearranged to spell "Ahh shit, anal rape."

(so much for being a family oriented blog. yeah, like this was ever remotely close to being that. At least my kids aren't *quite* old enough to find this yet.)

You know about this one, right?:

Person one: Everyone knows that in English a double negative always equals a positive. What few people know is that there are no instances in English where a double positive equals a negative.

Person two: Yeah, right.