Monday, December 24, 2007

Brief Encounter (A Holiday Story)

Here is a holiday story I wrote in 1994. The story, to me, tells a little of what I hope for in this season. It was also my first experiment in 2nd person narration -- I really wanted the reader to feel the story was happening to him or her. Feel free to share the story as long as you respect my copyright. The version that appears here is almost exactly as I originally penned it. I hope all those who visit my humble blog will appreciate it on some level. Merry Holy Days!
Brief Encounter Not even close. It’s December 13, almost 7pm, and you're not even close to getting done. But then, holiday preparations are never truly over, are they? The lights and the decorations. The tree, the trimmings. The food, the drink. And the gifts. Oh, Gods! the gifts... "If I bump into one more shopper or excited child, or if I have to speak to just one more merchant, I may..." But you never finish the thought. You let it go in favor of something more practical: "I have to get out of here." You make your way through the sea of patrons, dodging and weaving, participating in some complex and ultimately energy-sapping dance. It takes some effort to reach the main doors, but you smile with pride: Didn’t drop a single package. Exiting into the night, you feel a rush of crisp air hurry to your face. Snow tonight? Doubtful, but anything is possible. Anything, perhaps, save what happens next. You notice him emerge slowly from behind a small tree, which is surprising because he is much taller, much larger, than you would have expected, not that you ever expected to actually see him. The trademark items seem to be in place: the beard (though much darker in color) and the fur trimmed clothing, which is not nearly as cartoonish as you have seen in movies or even imagined. And it’s green! He looks right at you and moves to close the distance. No one else notices him, though he comes quite close to brushing elbows with several shoppers. And he makes no effort to avoid being fully illumined in the streetlights; it just happens that way. When he reaches you, you are surprised yet again. His unkempt beard is not only darker than you expected, it is reddish-brown in color! Professional coloring? Maybe, but it does look natural. As he removes his hat, you gaze upon his rugged yet joyful features and wonder why you always pictured him as a balding man. He is pleased that you recognize him; how you actually know that cannot quite be said. You just … know. Once he has your attention, he begins a dialogue. "And so,” says the man in green, his voice boisterous and strangely calm all at once, “how may’st you spend the seventeenth day of this the twelfth month?” You find yourself bowing ever so slightly and somewhat absently. He winks, smiles, and continues, “If you will excuse such a breach of formality.” You begin to form an answer, but it's too much effort to explain. “I just don't know,” you offer flatly. True, your friends are having a little party on that same day. But with so very much to be done this very busy season, how can you possibly commit to any activity save completing the tasks set and accepted as your own? The wind increases its volume such that it blankets all sounds not directly within earshot. You shiver, but your coverings keep you quite warm. He somehow knows what you are thinking. You can’t be certain how he could know, but you suffer no discomfit. He stretches out his hands and gestures toward the mall. “There is much more to this season than the garish consumer’s plague that seems to have conquered the holidays. Long before the obligatory exchange of parcels and packages came to pass, people knew truly how to observe the closing of the year.” He takes in a deep, solemn breath before continuing. “When the darkness of winter lay heavy upon the land, no crops grew, but the people drank, sang, loved and fought in their great halls. Their communal celebrations were a mighty affirmation of light against dark, life against death.” He smiles at his recollection and, for a moment, seems very far away. You feel sad for him, but quickly come to your senses. After all, you have much to do. This old relic may be content to live in the past, but you're much too practical for that. Times do change after all. His chuckle catches you off-guard. Again, he seems to know your thoughts. “Times do not change; people do. Even if thou think’st that all have forgotten, some do yet persist in the memory.” He pauses. His smile seems to broaden, but it’s actually his eyes—great twinkling emeralds—that smile so greatly. Those eyes draw you in closer until you hear him say, nearly whispering, “And the practice!” Practice? What does he mean by that? For the first time you feel both excited and frightened, wishing to flee but rooted firmly in place. “Dear one,” he continues in soothing tones, “Do not become so caught up in doing, and planning, buying and fretting that you forget. This season is for revelry, mirth and spiritual asylum. Love is the only true gift of this season.” You ponder his words. For a moment, you can hear the celebrations of old. The parking lot shifts in your view, replaced by a Yuletide gathering. You feel—really feel—a sense of love and communal connection in your heart. His voice echoes all around you, “I danced with them, and I would dance with you!” As the Yuletide scene fades from view, you blink your eyes and turn to ask the man in green a question. But he is gone. You are all alone in the parking lot. Had he truly been here? You know he doesn’t, couldn’t exist. Right? And if he did, why would he pay you a brief visit in this crowded mall parking lot. In your heart, the answer sings bold and true. “Season’s Greetings!” you shout out loud as you dance to your car. © December 1994, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

RavenCast: Yule 2007 Episode

I received this notice via one of my mailing lists:
Ravencast has just put up our Yule podcast. We discuss practical ways to celebrate Yule, talk with Rick Oberg about what he does and have a "polite" discussion about the roots of Mr. Claus. You can download it via any podcatcher or at the site at http://ravencast.podbean.com.
Dave and Sandi of Raven Kindred North are the hosts of Ravencast, billed as "The Only Asatru Podcast". It's definitely the only one making regular updates. And that's a good thing because this is a quality podcast. By quality, I mean that the hosts are knowledgeable and engaging, and that they cover great topics. Check out their series of episodes covering national organizations (AFA, The Troth, Irminen-Gesellschaft, etc.). Now, the audio quality can vary from 'cast to 'cast, but that is usually due more to the phone connection used for an interview than to anything within Dave and Sandi's control. So, if you are looking for a great podcast covering Asatru in specific and Heathenry in general, definitely give them a listen. If you hear only one Heathen podcast this year, make it an episode of Ravencast!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Recent "Theater Lackey" Updates

Just a quick note (or a cross post) to let folks know that there are some new posts over at my theater blog, Confessions of a Serial Theater Lackey. Recent posts include:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Quotable | Lost

A venturesome minority will always be eager to set off on their own, and no obstacles should be placed in their path; let them take risks, for godsake, let them get lost, sunburnt, stranded, drowned, eaten by bears, buried alive under avalanches - that is the right and privilege of any free American. -- Edward Abbey, author, essayist, and environmental advocate (1927-1989) Today's quotable is from Abbey's account of life as a park ranger in Utah: Desert Solitaire (1968). I have posted it as a humorous (i.e., tongue-in-cheek) response to a few folks I heard complaining of being provided"poor directions" to a weekend event.
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More Ed Abbey on the web:

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Friday Pet Blogging (On Saturday) | The Otissian Knot

I have been most negligent in bogging generally, but my greatest infraction is the lack of Pet Blogging entries. And for that, I apologize. Today's (one day late) entry finds Otis mining the mists (myths?) of time to present an impression of the Gordian Knot:

Otissian Knot I

Otissian Knot II

And one by one, the pet blogging posts steal my sanity ...

More Pet Blogging
  1. See the Friday Ark, featuring a compilation of today's pet blogging posts, over at The Modulator.
  2. Check the M&O Archives for some previous Milo & Otis appearances.
  3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.
  4. And one of the funniest/cutest/obsessivest (OK, I know that's not a word!) sites for cat photos, StuffOnMyCat.com is a must see. Take it from them: Stuff + Cats = Awesome!
  5. And for a funny and saccharin sweet photo collection of cat, kitty, and other critters that have been tagged with LOL, go see I Can Has a Cheezeburger? Really, these are good.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

First!

Today is election day, and it's raining. I'm sure that will deter more than a few people from the polls, and that's a shame. Outside of the Philly mayoral race*, this election is already so low profile that I'm sure most folks are just skipping it. But I did my duty and cast my ballots. And, for the second time since I moved to my little town (2001), I was first at my local polling place!

Quotes about democracy

* OK. So Nutter has an unprecedented lead going into the polls today. That doesn't mean it's a forgone conclusion. Does it? Does it?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Blogroll Updates

I have updated the Sports category of my blogroll with several blogs for Penn State football. Let's Go Lions! (Oh, and here's one for Lehigh University -- Mrs. Brainwise's alma mater).

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Otis Tails a Video

OK, OK. I know! I've been remiss in posting. And I missed Friday Pet Blogging last week. So, I am going one better and posting a Friday Pet Video! Otis has taken to chasing his tail. In this video, he's not exactly chasing his tail, but he does try to catch it.

And one by one, the pet blogging posts steal my sanity ...

More Pet Blogging
  1. See the Friday Ark, featuring a compilation of today's pet blogging posts, over at The Modulator.
  2. Check the M&O Archives for some previous Milo & Otis appearances.
  3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.
  4. And one of the funniest/cutest/obsessivest (OK, I know that's not a word!) sites for cat photos, StuffOnMyCat.com is a must see. Take it from them: Stuff + Cats = Awesome!
  5. And for a funny and saccharin sweet photo collection of cat, kitty, and other critters that have been tagged with LOL, go see I Can Has a Cheezeburger? Really, these are good.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Funny 'Cause It's True?

Today's Non Sequitur comic is funny because it's true ... but only for a moment. After that pause, it's just frustrating. Too many people play this game on a daily basis. And the media doesn't help matters at all. Go Comics only keeps the comic available for a week or so. But I've archived it for your viewing pleasure.
Click for full Non Sequitur comic

Monday, October 15, 2007

Latin isn't dead, it just smells funny

"Latin isn't dead, it just smells funny." So says Josh Rocchio, a graduate student and an editor of Vicipaedia Latina, the Latin version of Wikipedia. Josh and his colleagues have a simple yet staggering goal: "Make a Latin reference work that is hip and alive" through the power of Wiki. And they are writing in honest-to-goodness, authentic, classical Latin. According to the article by Lee Gomes,

Vicipaedia has 15,000 articles. Catullus, Horace and the Roman Senate all are there; so are musica rockica, Georgius Bush and cadavera animata, a k a zombies. You can read in Latin about hangman (homo suspensus), paper airplanes (aeroplanum chartaceum) and magic 8-balls (pila magica 8), as well as about famous Italians like Leonardo da Vinci and the Super Mario brothers.

Sure, I'd like to make a joke about it being "all Greek" to me. But that isn't accurate, or even funny. So I will simply direct you to Lee's article on WSJ.com.

Veni, Vidi, Wiki: Latin Isn't Dead On 'Vicipaedia' By LEE GOMES September 29, 2007; Page A1 Online Reference Features Britannia Spears, Disneyi; Disputing Computatrum

It's not that ancient Romans didn't know a thing or two about wild sex. They had their Bacchanalia, after all. But lacking video technology, they had no expression for "sex tape." And that is why writing about Paris Hilton in Latin can sometimes be so difficillimum.

The editors of Vicipaedia Latina, the Latin version of the popular Wikipedia Internet reference site, were thus forced to wing it. In their article about the hotel heiress, they described Ms. Hilton's famous X-rated Web video as pellicula in interrete vulgate de coitu Paridis.

[ Full Story ]

Friday, October 12, 2007

Not Missing Saigon

I went to the Media Theatre (in Media, PA, of course) last night to catch Jessica Edwards in "Miss Saigon." I met Jessica last year when she performed in the Montgomery Theater's production of "The Last 5 Years". It was a great show, and I'll be posting a review over at my theater blog later this weekend.

Friday Pet Blogging | Of Mice and Milo (and Otis!)

The Boyz are back!! After our most recent break from Pet Blogging, we are back on top of things. First off, Mrs. Brainwise noticed that Milo seemed quite content -- perhaps smugly so -- to just recline with a pink mouse wedged up close to his torso:

Otis, however, knows the purpose of a toy mouse, and he did his best to honor the mouse's true nature:

Mouseover?
To atone for the lack of Milo and Otis on these pages, I am posting two bonus pics from the recent series (looks like Otis wasn't all that happy after catching the darn thing, was he? Oh well, Milo's smug mug makes up for it.):
Ptuui! Milo's Smug Mug

And one by one, the pet blogging posts steal my sanity ...

More Pet Blogging
  1. See the Friday Ark, featuring a compilation of today's pet blogging posts, over at The Modulator.
  2. Check the M&O Archives for some previous Milo & Otis appearances.
  3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.
  4. And one of the funniest/cutest/obsessivest (OK, I know that's not a word!) sites for cat photos, StuffOnMyCat.com is a must see. Take it from them: Stuff + Cats = Awesome!
  5. And for a funny and saccharin sweet photo collection of cat, kitty, and other critters that have been tagged with LOL, go see I Can Has a Cheezeburger? Really, these are good.

Knights Templar Finally Get Thumbs Up from the Home Office

OK, so the medieval Christian order known as the Templars is not actually getting a thumbs up from the Vatican. News that the Knight's will be "partly rehabilitated" is, however, about as close as a bunch of ages-dead "heretics" can get to a hearty slap on the back. Never mind that it's about 700 years late. The real story is that the Knights Templar have won a heresy reprieve, and the minutes of the trials against the Templars (Processus Contra Templarios -- Papal Inquiry into the Trial of the Templars') is the subject of an epic republication -- and I do mean epic in both scope and price. Pope B XVI is getting the first of 799 copies of this massive volume, which has a price tag slightly north of $8000.00. At the very least, this is great news for historic researchers of every stripe. Scholars will have access to the original documents from the trials -- no one outside of the Vatican has seen these papers since the 14th century! Any time the Vatican Secret Archives serves up from their special stash, I count it as a victory for general world knowledge. Of course, it may damn the Vatican's forebears or at least further taint the Church's middle ages reputation. But, hey, it's all in the name of historical accuracy, right?

Knights Templar Win Heresy Reprieve after 700 Years Fri Oct 12, 2007 4:10am EDT By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Knights Templar, the medieval Christian military order accused of heresy and sexual misconduct, will soon be partly rehabilitated when the Vatican publishes trial documents it had closely guarded for 700 years. A reproduction of the minutes of trials against the Templars, "'Processus Contra Templarios -- Papal Inquiry into the Trial of the Templars'" is a massive work and much more than a book -- with a 5,900 euros ($8,333) price tag. "This is a milestone because it is the first time that these documents are being released by the Vatican, which gives a stamp of authority to the entire project," said Professor Barbara Frale, a medievalist at the Vatican's Secret Archives. "Nothing before this offered scholars original documents of the trials of the Templars," she told Reuters in a telephone interview ahead of the official presentation of the work on October 25...

[ Full Story ]

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Quotable | Decent

Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under. -- H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (1880-1956) Today's quotable was lifted from the current post at A.Word.A.Day. Subscribe for free and have a new word delivered to your own inbox every weekday!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Researching the Mystic

Scientists have long felt that religious feelings occur somewhere in the brain. Some have even speculated that these feelings can be traced to a specific place in the gray matter between our ears, but there has been little agreement on where exactly this place might be. Scientific American magazine reports this month on the latest attempts to map the neurological landscape of religious experience. Through the use of MRIs and brain scans, researchers are "attempting to pin down what happens in the brain when people experience mystical awakenings during prayer and meditation or during spontaneous utterances inspired by religious fervor." As an individual who performs a technical job, I can understand the desire to find the "God(s) spot" in the human brain. And as an exercise in better understanding human behavior and development, I can support such research. But I also walk the narrow line between the empirical and the ineffable. I firmly believe there is a spiritual dimension to human life. Andean mystics, for example, believe that all humans have a metaphysical body in addition to the physical. The metaphysical body mimics the physical, yet this "other" body is tied to energy in the way that the physical body is tied to food items. The spiritual stomach eats and processes forms of energy, instead of physical food, breaking it down for other spiritual entities to devour in a way that echoes our physical digestive system. So is there truly this direct a correlation between the spiritual realm and our physical anatomy? I don't know. But while I am interested in research that measures brain waves and records bio-electrical impulses during meditation, I do have my concerns. I am concerned that the actual intent that drives such research is a desire to prove that religious experience is no more real than a chemically fueled hallucination. If that is the case here, then there are no winners.

SEARCHING FOR GOD IN THE BRAIN by David Biello Researchers are unearthing the roots of religious feeling in the neural commotion that accompanies the spiritual epiphanies of nuns, Buddhists and other people of faith

The doughnut-shaped machine swallows the nun, who is outfitted in a plain T-shirt and loose hospital pants rather than her usual brown habit and long veil. She wears earplugs and rests her head on foam cushions to dampen the device’s roar, as loud as a jet engine. Supercooled giant magnets generate intense fields around the nun’s head in a high-tech attempt to read her mind as she communes with her deity. The Carmelite nun and 14 of her Catholic sisters have left their cloistered lives temporarily for this claustrophobic blue tube that bears little resemblance to the wooden prayer stall or sparse room where such mystical experiences usually occur. Each of these nuns answered a call for volunteers “who have had an experience of intense union with God” and agreed to participate in an experiment devised by neuroscientist Mario Beauregard of the University of Montreal. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Beauregard seeks to pinpoint the brain areas that are active while the nuns recall the most powerful religious epiphany of their lives, a time they experienced a profound connection with the divine. The question: Is there a God spot in the brain? ...

[ Full Story ]

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Devil ... Did It?

I've been away for a while, and I apologize for that. I want to break my blogging silence now with a tale of tragedy, triumph, and redemption. Instead, I have this strange tidbit to share. According to ClickOnDetroit.com, which I found by way of the Latest News links on CNN.com, a woman claims she was sexually assaulted ... by the Devil ... who had been living in her attic. And the Michigan Supreme Court is reviewing the case. Go check out the full story for yourself: Woman Claims She Was Sexually Assaulted by the Devil (there's even video of the court proceedings!).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Best Use of Lost & Found Hotline

Have you heard about the drug dealer, Leroy Carr, who reported his lost cocaine to the feds? Seems he was trying to smuggle two backpacks worth of narcotics into Canada, but had to hide the packs overnight. And he hid them so well, he could not find them in the morning. So what does Mr. Carr do? Well, he calls Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, of course, and reports the missing backpacks -- including their illegal contents! You see, Mr. Carr was afraid his employers would accuse him of stealing the stash for himself. So he simply wanted the federal agents to issue a news release stating that they had seized the 31kg of missing cocaine. The Seattle-Post Intelligencer probably has the best headline for this story: Man asks feds: Have you seen my cocaine? Happy ending: Two weeks after the incident, a Boy Scout ranger found the abandoned backpacks near a campsite and reported the missing drugs to law enforcement. Now, can you imagine the fund raiser that the troop could have held with that much coke? Not that they would ever do such a thing, of course. The BSA teaches young men to be trustworthy, loyal, and such. My bet is that Leroy Carr was never a member of his local Boy Scouts organization. More links:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Recalling ancient tribal fires

Ritual Fire. Sacred Paths Community. September 13, 2007. A new journey.

Blogroll Updates

In broadcasting the format updates, I neglected to mention the updates to the blogroll. Please give a great Prophet or Madman welcome to Siegfried Goodfellow of Heathen Ranter and Mark Seydel's eponymous blog (Reverend Mark J. Seydel). Siegfried has something of a lyrical quality to his musings on Heathen practice. Mark is something of a universalist who is recovering from a Roman Catholic background. Yes, they are both listed under the FAITH category, but they are truly from different ends of the spectrum. Just the way I like it.

The Moon is Lovely, Dark and Deep

My previous post provided some news about one of Saturn's moons and new images that were acquired this month. I would be remiss, however, if I did not also point out a Space.com article from this week that talks about our own Moon, that mysterious mistress of the night and our planet's closest astronomical companion. Charles Q. Choi has penned a wonderful piece titled "The Enduring Mysteries of the Moon." He covers questions of how the moon was made, was there ever water on the moon, and did the moon ever host life, among other tids and bits. He also provides links to lunar images, news, and lore. Check it out:
The Enduring Mysteries of the Moon by Charles Q. Choi
The moon--linked in myth with goddesses of witchcraft and the hunt, with gods of magic and wisdom--is nearly as old as Earth itself, with enigmas of its own. As close as the moon is to Earth, we are still far from solving all its mysteries--from how the moon was born to whether life on Earth has its past and future there...
[ Full Story ]

Yin & Yang Moon

Did you know that Saturn has a two-toned moon named Iapetus? The Cassini mission to Saturn scored hundreds of images during a Sept. 10 flyby of Iapetus. These pictures "show the moon's yin and yang -- a white hemisphere resembling snow, and the other as black as tar" (Spaceflight Now).
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute Download larger image version here
More information:

Rated Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Bob: Have you seen the new pirate movie? Doug: No. Bob: It's rated .... Arrrrrrrrrr!
That's right folks. Today is International Talk Like A Pirate Day! If you need help getting into the spirit, go visit the official site:

Little Moments (A Not-So-Long Distance Dedication)

I saw a link to this video on An Unfinished Soul, a blog that I frequent every now and then. I'm not the biggest country music fan, but I do like Brad Paisley's work. He brings an honesty and simplicity to his songs that are just hard for me to resist. Watching the video for "Little Moments" made me think about my wife and our relationship. I am definitely more to blame for any problems we have, but this little ditty reminded me that there is more joy to celebrate than I often pay credit. There are so many little wonderful things that far outweigh any seemingly large annoyances. I am reminded of why we got together, and why I stay with her. To my wife: If you read this, and I know there is a possibility of that, I dedicate this video to you. I love you, and I treasure our little moments.
Click to view video

More Mods: Three Columns!

On August 25, I unveiled an updated look for the blog. That was Stage I in the makeover. I have finally completed Stage II, which was my goal all along: Three Columns! Prophet or Madman is now organized just the way I want it. The left column contains the elements about me and mine, the central column contains the posts, and the right column contains off-site elements (the blogs I read, causes I support, and other resources). There may be other tweaks in the days or weeks to come, but this is pretty much the basic look and feel you can expect from here on out. Let me know if you have any comments or suggestions.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Drepung Gomang Monks coming to Philly Area

In the spirit of pluralism and activism, I am providing information about the monks from Drepung Gomang Monastery who will be in the Philadelphia area from September 26 through October 11. This all comes from Greg Schultz (gregschultz [at] pureinspiration [dot] org), the contact person for Pure Inspiration (www.pureinspiration.org):
The monks from Drepung Gomang monastery are returning to the Phila area. Please try to attend some of the events, listed below, and we need your help in spreading the word. Please go to the web site for event details in addition to the PDF file (see below). Please print and/or send to as many people as possible. We’re trying to raise $30,000 during the three week period that they’re here, which will feed the 2,200+ monks for at least three months. We look forward to seeing you at the events. Much Tashi Delek, Greg

_____________________

Events: see comments for Event dates/locations.

_____________________

Event Flyer (click to download larger version):

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Friday Pet Blogging | Otis' Prepositional Trapezoid

Otis loves this trapezoid kind of thing we have. He sleeps IN it. He sleeps ON it. He plays IN it ... and even UNDER it. Today, for Friday Pet Blogging on Saturday, we present Otis' Sesame Street audition in which he demonstrates the prepositions IN and ON. Enjoy!

Otis is ... IN ... the trapezoid. (Looks sneaky, huh?)

Otis is .... ON ... the trapezoid. (He looks kind of bored up there, doesn't he?)

And one by one, the pet blogging posts steal my sanity ...

More Pet Blogging
  1. See the Friday Ark, featuring a compilation of today's pet blogging posts, over at The Modulator.
  2. Check the M&O Archives for some previous Milo & Otis appearances.
  3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.
  4. And one of the funniest/cutest/obsessivest (OK, I know that's not a word!) sites for cat photos, StuffOnMyCat.com is a must see. Take it from them: Stuff + Cats = Awesome!
  5. And for a funny and saccharin sweet photo collection of cat, kitty, and other critters that have been tagged with LOL, go see I Can Has a Cheezeburger? Really, these are good.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Jackhammers in My Basement

No, the title of this post is not some clever analogy for my current mental state. There truly are jackhammers pounding away in my basement this morning. If I'm not too far off, they've been at it for half an hour now. It sounds like they are everywhere! Oh wait ... silence. Weird. Anyway, I'm sure you are wondering why there are (or were) jackhammers in my basement on a Wednesday morning. It's because we are having the basement waterproofed. The first part of this process it to hammer out a perimeter channel in the concrete floor. I would go down and get pics, but I don't want to get in the way. With a crew of 5-8 contractors, all wielding significant power tools, I'm sure the last thing they need is "Johnny Office-Boy" be-bopping around taking pictures as they work. Besides, I have work to do, too. And now that the pounding has stopped, perhaps I can think clearly enough to get back to it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9-11: Remember When?

Hey, remember when the Bush administration hunted down Bin Laden and brought him to justice for the 9/11 attacks? Oh, wait ... that didn't happen! Partisan political grumbling aside, here is a candle in memory of the victims of that horrific attack. I think we can all agree on the need to come together as Americans and Global Citizens to combat religious intolerance and violent shortsightedness.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Today's Question: People on Glass Beaches...

Would you walk on a beach of crushed glass? According to an AP story on Forbes.com, Broward County officials plan to use sprinkles of crushed, recycled glass to fill in the gaps on Florida's erosion-prone beaches.

Snip:

...The glass-sand idea grew from the unintentional consequences of an ocean dump site off Northern California near Fort Bragg. Beginning in 1949, garbage - including lots of glass - was dumped over a cliff into the ocean, said Charles Finkl, a marine geologist with Boca Raton-based Coastal Planning and Engineering.

Finkl said that while organic material degraded over the years, the glass broke up and became smooth as it tumbled in the surf. The area is now known locally as Glass Beach. Another dump site in Hawaii produced similar results, Finkl said.

"You talk about glass beach and people have images of sharp glass shards but it's not that way at all," he said...

[ Full Story ]

Monday, August 27, 2007

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Yezidi

"The Yezidi of Celle are one of the largest groups of their sect outside the homeland of Kurdish Iraq. There may be 7,000 in this small town. Yezidi across the world number between 400,000 and 800,000."
So wrote Sean Thomas in the Sunday Telegraph earlier this week. The Yezidi are an interesting "cult" that have been accused of -- and persecuted for -- devil worship. Some speculate that they worship "The Devil" (something that holds meaning only for monotheists), under the name Melek Taus. This Melek Taus is hard to pin down as either good or evil, according to Uta Tolle, a German scholar of Yezidism: "He is both [good and evil]. Like fire. Flames can cook but they can also burn. The world is good and bad." Setting aside the sensationalist nature of the title, Sean Thomas' The Devil Worshippers of Iraq is an interesting read.
THE DEVIL WORSHIPPERS OF IRAQ by Sean Thomas, Sunday Telegraph Last Updated: 4:01am BST 20/08/2007 "Ours is the oldest religion in the world. Older than Islam; older than Christianity."

I'm in a community hall, on the outskirts of Celle, a north German town. On the walls are pictures of dark blue peacocks. Sitting at various tables around the room are dozens of Devil worshippers. At least, that's what some people call them. Though we don't know it yet, right now several suicide bombs are going off near Mosul in Iraq, killing maybe 400. The victims belong to the same faith as those gathered here today. They are Yezidi. And I'm here to unearth the reality of their fascinating religion. Why do they have such troubled relations with outsiders? Do they really worship the Devil?

[ Full Story ]

Friday Pet Blogging | Sphinx?

Milo has taken quite the liking to my latest backpack. I'm not sure if he thinks he is guarding it, or just wants to be close to it. Of course, it could very well be that he thinks it belongs to him.

"Me ... and my .... backpack."

"Grrrrrrrrrrrr. This is my toy!"

And one by one, the pet blogging posts steal my sanity ...

More Pet Blogging
  1. See the Friday Ark, featuring a compilation of today's pet blogging posts, over at The Modulator.
  2. Check the M&O Archives for some previous Milo & Otis appearances.
  3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.
  4. And one of the funniest/cutest/obsessivest (OK, I know that's not a word!) sites for cat photos, StuffOnMyCat.com is a must see. Take it from them: Stuff + Cats = Awesome!
  5. And for a funny and saccharin sweet photo collection of cat, kitty, and other critters that have been tagged with LOL, go see I Can Has a Cheezeburger? Really, these are good.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

An Unmonitored Toaster Always Scorches

Wednesday is "free bagel" day where I work. This means that all morning long, the cafe is generally inundated with the aroma of ... scorched baked goods. And it does not necessarily smell like victory, I can tell you that. I have observed this ritual long enough -- a little more than a year now -- and I have a question:
Why is it that "a watched pot never boils," but if you turn your back on a toaster for just a moment, you end up with something on the order of a roof tile?
burntbagel.jpg
A burnt bagel image lifted from Cakehead.com, who lifted it from the Museum of Burnt Food
I'll appreciate any thoughts my loyal Prophet or Madman-philes might have on this topic. I know others must have thought about it. It turns out that puffintoad beat me to it by a little more than two years.

Dinner at the Apocalypse Cafe?

According to an entry over at Instructables.com, roadkill is what's for dinner when the apocalypse comes. This is more than just a recipe for (or with?) a gross-out factor. There is a fair bit of useful and interesting info, and a skill showcase to boot. Having said that, however, it's not for the faint of heart (or simple of palette).

Additions to the Blogroll

I added two links to the Blogroll today. Under FAITH, please welcome The Northern Path by Astrid, "a Heathen humanist living in the United States." The Northern Path features news and personal views of the indigenous European spiritual path invariably known as Asatru, Heathenry, the Northern Path, the Folkway, etc. Under THINK, you will see a link to Wotan's Musings by Andrew Higgins. Now, I know what you're thinking: "Hey Brainwise, why didn't you place Wotan's Musings under FAITH?" Well, I'm glad you asked because I have a very good reason for stamping this new addition with THINK. You see, Mr. Higgins' blog is all about linguistics and language and he blogs about [I'm sort of paraphrasing Higgins' own description here] his current studies into Tolkien's linguistic efforts and his explorations into the ancient and medieval languages of Europe. So, his blog fits very will with Blogroll neighbors such as The Cranky Professor and Dialogic. Welcome aboard, Astrid and Andrew! I doubt this new linkage will generate much traffic for you, but at least I'll be able to keep up with your musings more easily.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Time and Perspective

Oh, what a difference a little time can have on a person's perspective. Case in point: Dick Cheney in 1994 and Dick Cheney post-2001. In a CSPAN interview dated April 1994--shortly after the conclusion of Desert Storm--Mr. Cheney defended the first President Bush's choice to not invade Iraq. In the interview, he provided a litany of things that would have gone wrong had the U.S. pursued Saddam Hussein and overthrown his government after pushing his troops out of Kuwait. Recently, a video clip from that CSPAN interview was rebroadcast on Countdown with Keith Olbermann. The clip, archived at MSNBC here, does have Cheney's original comments on Iraq, Baghdad, and Saddam Hussein, but it is over seven minutes long! There is, of course, a commerical (hey, it's a free video folks) before getting into the actual clip. Once the clip does start, it moves from the Countdown intro/montage right into Olbermann musing on how a surgical change in heart might lead to a behavioral/attitudinal change heart -- i.e., replacing the heart with machinery might make a person "heartless" in more ways than one. From that interesting theory, we move into the Cheney bit. After that, we have Olbermann's always entertaining editorializing and an analysis/discussion with guest commentator, John Nichols of The Nation, who discusses what might have caused Cheney's change of heart. If you don't want all of that media fluff, and just want to see/hear Cheney's comments so that you can judge them for yourself, you can find several briefer, more succinct, versions of the CSPAN clip over on YouTube. This one is only 1:23 long and it has not been hit with countless comments.
A quick search on YouTube will turn up a number of creative showcases and responses to this historical gem. Watch the Cheney clip and think about what has happened since March of 2003. No matter what your politics, you have to admit that it's pretty chilling.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Pet Blogging | AfterImage

Nope, it's not a Photoshop. Today's Pet Blogging image is an example of almost capturing a clash between Milo and Otis. I mean, I saw them lock in combat, and I snapped the pic. But they were just too fast.

AfterImage

They were RIGHT there a moment ago!

And here are the boys in more tranquil (or at least less active) moments:

The Milo Pages 2

Milo!

Otis Between the Pillows (w/ Flash)

Otis!

And one by one, the pet blogging posts steal my sanity ...

More Pet Blogging
  1. See the Friday Ark, featuring a compilation of today's pet blogging posts, over at The Modulator.
  2. Check the M&O Archives for some previous Milo & Otis appearances.
  3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.
  4. And one of the funniest/cutest/obsessivest (OK, I know that's not a word!) sites for cat photos, StuffOnMyCat.com is a must see. Take it from them: Stuff + Cats = Awesome!
  5. And for a funny and saccharin sweet photo collection of cat, kitty, and other critters that have been tagged with LOL, go see I Can Has a Cheezeburger? Really, these are good.

Quotable | Dream

Sometimes, a dream is all the more powerful simply because you know it will never come true. -- Obadiah (from Angel-Seeker, a novel by Sharon Shinn)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Interview with an Interfaith Minister

It's a little over a year old, but still an interesting interview. (And there is that blue humor part of me that giggles at the thought of "Reverend Schwing"!) Anyway, from SFGate.com:
FINDING MY RELIGION by David Ian Miller, Special to SF Gate Jurgen Schwing, Interfaith minister at Kaiser Permanente Walnut Creek, Tends to All Who Seek Comfort

From Adventists to Hindus to Wiccans, the Bay Area is home to believers of all faiths and creeds, not to mention its share of atheists and a healthy number of devotees pursuing spiritual paths outside the boundaries of organized religion. To all of them, Rev. Jürgen Schwing says, "Welcome."

Schwing, an interfaith minister who runs the spiritual-care unit at Kaiser Permanente and Hospice, in Walnut Creek, is accustomed to wearing many hats. In his job, the United Church of Christ pastor, who emigrated to this country from Germany in 1990, is also part imam, part rabbi and part priest...

[ Read the Full Interview ]

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Young Iranians Want to Rock

Oh well, you can still rock in America:
Authorities in Iran have arrested over 200 young people for attending a "satanic" rock concert. Iranian officials said that those who had gathered were breaking Islamic law and were guilty of "immoral behavior" for holding a party without government permission.
Just their luck, someone was keeping an eye out for them:
Ali Farhadi, a public prosecutor in Karaj, told state television: "Most of them were wealthy young people who were not aware of the satanic nature of the concert."
Oh, but I am sure those youngsters are getting a sense of the dictatorial nature of their government. Sources: Fox News, Reuters

Next They'll Be Charging Tolls

From the "What were they thinking" department of the Center for the Separation of Church and State....
China Tells Living Buddhas to Obtain Permission before They Reincarnate From August 4, 2007 by Jane Macartney in Beijing

Tibet’s living Buddhas have been banned from reincarnation without permission from China’s atheist leaders. The ban is included in new rules intended to assert Beijing’s authority over Tibet’s restive and deeply Buddhist people.

“The so-called reincarnated living Buddha without government approval is illegal and invalid,” according to the order, which comes into effect on September 1.

The 14-part regulation issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs is aimed at limiting the influence of Tibet’s exiled god-king, the Dalai Lama, and at preventing the re-incarnation of the 72-year-old monk without approval from Beijing.

It is the latest in a series of measures by the Communist authorities to tighten their grip over Tibet. Reincarnate lamas, known as tulkus, often lead religious communities and oversee the training of monks, giving them enormous influence over religious life in the Himalayan region. Anyone outside China is banned from taking part in the process of seeking and recognising a living Buddha, effectively excluding the Dalai Lama, who traditionally can play an important role in giving recognition to candidate reincarnates...

[ Full Story ]

Yes this is a power play. Yes, on the surface, it seems wholly ridiculous. We will have to wait and see if China can actually enforce this ruling, and how Tibetans react to it over time.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Posting Delayed For MusikFest

MusikFest is here, so my postings will be even more sporadic than usual. Last night, Mrs. Brainwise and I saw XPN fan favorite Jonatha Brooke. As usual, she did not disappoint. Great performance punctuated with funny and quirky stories. After the show, we got her to sign some stuff, including her new DVD/CD combo. We also took some photos with her. I'll post them later.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Subtle Prime

Researchers at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver have been testing whether religion might encourage altruism. One theory is that the concept of "God" acts as some kind of policing agent over behavior. Seems that experiments showed that people who were primed with religious concepts (in a pre-text exercise) tended to give, on average, more than twice as much as people in the control group. However, people "who declared themselves religious before the study were no more generous than non-believers." Obviously, their tests only looked into believers of a Judeo-Christian kind of all-powerful and judging deity. But I wonder if there are implications for other spiritual paths.

Friday Cat Blogging | Mellow (Otis)

Cats know how to keep it real. I mean, you don't ever see a cat fretting over what's going to happen at work tomorrow, doing taxes, or wondering where the next meal is coming from. (OK, Milo might be an exception to that last one -- he's always wondering about food and eating). Here, reminding me once again that you are in charge of your own "mellow", is that cat's meow of the mellowness: Otis!

Mellow

"Dude, seriously ... you just can't harsh my mellow."

And one by one, the pet blogging posts steal my sanity ...

More Pet Blogging
  1. See the Friday Ark, featuring a compilation of today's pet blogging posts, over at The Modulator.
  2. Check the M&O Archives for some previous Milo & Otis appearances.
  3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.
  4. And one of the funniest/cutest/obsessivest (OK, I know that's not a word!) sites for cat photos, StuffOnMyCat.com is a must see. Take it from them: Stuff + Cats = Awesome!
  5. And for a funny and saccharin sweet photo collection of cat, kitty, and other critters that have been tagged with LOL, go see I Can Has a Cheezeburger? Really, these are good.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Quotable | Study

If you want to study something, it's better not to know what the answer is. Because then you are not satisfied with something you are told, and because you cannot rely on anything set up by someone else. -- Nantembo Nakara

Ravencast Interviews Stephen McNallen

Pop on over to Ravencast to download or stream their interview with Stephen McNallen of the Asatru Folk Assembly. It's the first in their series addressing national organizations for Asatru. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

LOVE TARA March

From TaraWatch.org
LOVE TARA March - Dublin - July 21 2007 at 1.00pm

Please help us promote our LOVE TARA march which will take place on Saturday July 21 in Dublin at 1.00pm. We will march from the Garden of Remembrance to the Department of the Environment, Custom House Quay, where we will hand in 50,000 petition signatures. Please email your contacts, post a natice on your favorite message boards, write a letter to the newspapers, call your local radio station, contact celebrities, political parties, etc... This may be last chance for the public to have their say.

Irish Times - TaraWatch steps up M3 protests Irish Examiner - Ireland facing EU fines over environmental failures Irish Independent - Tara protester threatens new court action to halt motorway Sunday Business Post - Commission issues fourth warning over landfill pollution

Tara activists picket Irish embassies

Irish Times - Last Updated: 13/07/2007 14:32

Campaigners opposed to the M3 motorway running through the historic Tara Valley have started to hold a series of demonstrations in three different countiries today.

TaraWatch held protests outside Leinster House in Dublin and the Irish Embassy in London earlier.

There will be protests later in New York, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles.

A protest march will also be held in Dublin on Saturday, July 21st at 1pm, which will go from the Garden of Remembrance to Custom House, the headquarters of the Department of the Environment.

Campaigners have said they are "inflamed" by what they describe as the Green Party's election pact with Fianna Fáil to agree to the M3 motorway project and today's announcement by Environment Minister John Gormley that the Government will not re-route the road despite Euopean criticism.

The demonstrations come as Minister for the Environment John Gormley holds talks today with European Commissioner for the Environment Stavros Dimas in Brussels.

Campaigners claim international support has grown rapidly since the World Monuments Fund designated Tara one of the World's 100 Most Endangered sites.

Darren Delahunty, one of the organisers of the London protest, said: "Irish people in the UK are outraged at the refusal of the Irish authorities to try and proceed with the road, even when the public are so against it."

A "Love Tara" march will be held on Saturday, July 21st, in Dublin.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Tarot and Runes

Yngona Desmond has a brief but dead-on explanation of the difference between Tarot and the Runes. Highly Recommended!!

Shouting Down Diversity

The Wild Hunt Blog posts a story about the limits of christian tolerance. Three highly vocal Christians from Operation Save America caused a disruption in the public gallery by shouting down a Hindu chaplain (Rajan Zed) who was conducting the opening prayer for that day's proceedings. Jason does not sugarcoat his own take on the situation -- and there really is no way to excuse what those idiots did -- but one of the comments points out that there may have been more support for the chaplain than Reuters reports. I certainly hope so. On the Prophet or Madman scale, Operation Save America, and their radical director, Rev. Flip Benham, score very high on "Madman". And I mean that in the worst way possible.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Do You Believe in Elves?

Forty percent of Icelanders do! And Iceland has been highly literate for ... well, a very long time*, so it's not necessarily a case of simple-minded superstition. The Iceland Review author, however, resorts to blaming quaint rural superstition for this high percentage of believers. I have to give her some credit, though, as she refuses to "firmly deny" the elves' existence. Story: Iceland's Hidden People (Iceland Review Online, 7/6/2007 11:00am) * Notes on Iceland's literacy: Iceland experienced "increased literacy from around 1100 onwards and with all kinds of literary activities" (Time-Reckoning in Iceland), and "literacy has been universal in Iceland since the end of the eighteenth century (Iceland - History & Background).

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Why Drive a Prius?

When the Toyota Prius first hit the road, the majority of people who bought it did so because they wanted to be ahead of the technological curve; that is, they wanted to check out the latest in hybrid tech. These days, according to some marketing research, hybrid vehicle owners are certainly concerned with fuel prices and our country's dependence on foreign oil. But the Prius is the vehicle of choice for hybrid drivers because they want you (as in "other drivers") to know they are driving a hybrid.
The Prius has become, in a sense, the four-wheel equivalent of those rubber "issue bracelets" in yellow and other colors - it shows the world that its owner cares. [International Herald Tribune 07/04/2007] [Centre Daily Times 07/05/2007]
Full Disclosure: I drive a Subaru Forester. I chose it for it's safety ratings, four-wheel drive ability, and because I can sit up straight in it. Yes, I'm concerned about the environment and the "Arab crack pipe", but I'm waiting for hybrid tech to improve and become more sustainable before I try it out.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday Pet Blogging | I See You!

Last month, Mrs. Brainwise snapped these splendid pics, perfectly capturing Otis peeking through the living room curtains:

And one by one, the pet blogging posts steal my sanity ...

More Pet Blogging
  1. See the Friday Ark, featuring a compilation of today's pet blogging posts, over at The Modulator.
  2. Check the M&O Archives for some previous Milo & Otis appearances.
  3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.
  4. And one of the funniest/cutest/obsessivest (OK, I know that's not a word!) sites for cat photos, StuffOnMyCat.com is a must see. Take it from them: Stuff + Cats = Awesome!
  5. And for a funny and saccharin sweet photo collection of cat, kitty, and other critters that have been tagged with LOL, go see I Can Has a Cheezeburger? Really, these are good.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Pet Blogging | Window Treatment

Late last month, I watched Milo sit in the bedroom window and observe the world outside his cozy existence. My camera was handy, so I took a few pics. I really don't have much to say about them aside from my biased opinion that he's a really handsome kitty:

And one by one, the pet blogging posts steal my sanity ...

More Pet Blogging
  1. See the Friday Ark, featuring a compilation of today's pet blogging posts, over at The Modulator.
  2. Check the M&O Archives for some previous Milo & Otis appearances.
  3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.
  4. And one of the funniest/cutest/obsessivest (OK, I know that's not a word!) sites for cat photos, StuffOnMyCat.com is a must see. Take it from them: Stuff + Cats = Awesome!
  5. And for a funny and saccharin sweet photo collection of cat, kitty, and other critters that have been tagged with LOL, go see I Can Has a Cheezeburger? Really, these are good.