Saturday, December 31, 2005

Friday Pet Blogging | A Day Late

Oh man! This whole recovery thing has me forgetting which day is which. I cannot believe I missed Friday Pet Blogging yesterday. As many visitors here know by now, I had an emergency appendectomy two weeks before Xmas. Fortunately, the docs caught it before it ruptured (but it was close), and the post-surgery coincided with my vacation time. So, in honor of this downtime, I share pics of Milo and Otis doing their level best at maximizing their own downtime.

Milo wedges between blanket and pillow to grab some sun.

Otis finds some shade and sun.

In the new year, I will endeavor to make the pet posts in a more timely fashion.

More Pet Blogging
  1. See the Friday Ark, featuring a compilation of the 12-30-20005 pet blogging posts, over at The Modulator.
  2. Check the M&O Archives for previous Milo & Otis appearances.
  3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Jazzy Christmas Eve

Jazz (Running Scared) has a heatfelt Christmas Eve post in which he talks about his neighbor, Bill, and contrasts Bill's Christmas Eve with his own:
[N]o matter how much I keep myself embroiled in politics and social bickering on a daily basis, it never for a moment crossed my mind to think that someone would chastise Bill for being politically incorrect, or for not saying "Happy Holidays" instead of invoking the dreaded "C Word." Bill is celebrating Christmas as best he knows how and was just wishing a Merry Christmas to anyone who passed his door. Here I am on Christmas eve day. Between fits of dashing around trying to clean the house for company who are coming on Tuesday, I was running back to my computer to check CNN and run through my blogroll for any late breaking political news about which I might be able to rant. What kind of way is that to spend Christmas Eve? It occurs to me that Bill probably knows a lot more about Christmas than I do. It's going to give me a lot to think about on my way to the in-laws.
That's pretty much the payoff, but you really should read the whole long and poingnant post, just to get a better picture of Bill. I don't know the man, and I've never been in Jazz's neighborhood, but I feel like I could walk down my street and find Bill's house right around the corner. And I want to.

The Devil Made Me Post This

Tim Boucher, of the Gnostically inclined Pop Occulture, has posted an interesting riff on The Role of Satan in Universalism. Sample quote:

[T]his is a rather more nuanced view of Satan’s purpose than simply “evil incarnate.” Rather than just saying he’s evil, it asks us what the purpose of evil could be. And it suggests that perhaps the purpose of evil is simply to challenge us to become better, rather than to simply drag us down into the muck. We might even go so far as to consider Satan as the “house player” in a casino, or “playing against the computer” in a video game. In order to enjoy a game and learn from it, we need someone to pit ourselves against. If there is no opponent, then there is no challenge to overcome and no opportunity for growth.

Hmmmm. Satan as a self-help guru or life coach. There are stranger things!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Friday Pet Blogging | Sigh

Great start to the weekend. Milo is not feeling well. He's not exactly blocked, but he was having enough trouble that we felt the need to take him to the Emergency Vet ... and then to our regular Vet. Hopefully, he will get some, *ahem*, relief this afternoon and so won't have to spend more than a few hours there. Alone. If you can spare a moment, please think some good, healthy thoughts for our boy, Milo:

Milo Feels Kind of Yucky. :(

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 previous Milo & Otis appearances.
  3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.

Friday Pet Blogging | Substitution

I prepared this on Thursday night. Hopefully I will remember to publish it Friday morning. During my hospital stay for an emergency appendectomy last week, Mrs. Brainwise made sure that I had a little companionship. The boyz (Milo and Otis) could not come to me, nor I to them, so Mrs. Brainwise purchased a substitute kitty from the hospital gift shop. He now resides on our Yule Tree, which is also my recovery tree this year:

My Hospital Buddy ... My Yule Tree Decoration

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 previous Milo & Otis appearances.
  3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


Hello Prophets and Mad(wo)men. I returned from my "guest" stay at the local hospital on Friday afternoon. I have quite a bit of catch-up to play now -- and, of course, I need to recuperate from the surgery -- but I wanted to make a quick post to let folks know that I am at home. I will work on posting a summary of my appendiventure, but for now I want to thank the following folks:
  1. First and formost, I thank my wife for her tireless help and support during the whole ordeal. And for all she continues to do now that I am at home.
  2. I thank my family and friends for their concern, prayers, and support.
  3. I thank my blogosphere friends for all the well wishes.
  4. And last, but certainly not least, I thank the folks at Sky View Medical as well as the staff at Grandview Hospital for their fine work.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Appendix B

From Mrs. Brainwise: A blogger I will never be ... but I must tell you all that Mr. Brainwise had his appendics removed in emergency surgery on Tuesday night (12-13-05). He is recovering just fine now but computer work will be put off for a bit. Thank you

Monday, December 12, 2005

Piled Higher and Deeper

Nope, I'm not referring to the standard joke about a Ph.D. I'm talking about all the snow we got on Friday. In my latest cat blogging entry, I promised to post some "snowy pics ." Well, I've grouped some of the best on my Flickr account:
Winter Fence Keeps Silent Vigel Click for photos from Dec 9, 2005 storm
Let me know what ya think.

Trust Me

From Science Daily (with original release here):
Trust Building Hormone Short-Circuits Fear in Humans

[snipped from news release]

A brain chemical recently found to boost trust appears to work by reducing activity and weakening connections in fear-processing circuitry, a brain imaging study at the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has discovered. Scans of the hormone oxytocin's effect on human brain function reveal that it quells the brain's fear hub, the amygdala, and its brainstem relay stations in response to fearful stimuli. The work at NIMH and a collaborating site in Germany suggests new approaches to treating diseases thought to involve amygdala dysfunction and social fear, such as social phobia, autism, and possibly schizophrenia, report Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, M.D., Ph.D., NIMH Genes Cognition and Psychosis Program, and colleagues, in the December 7, 2005 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. "Studies in animals, pioneered by now NIMH director Dr. Thomas Insel, have shown that oxytocin plays a key role in complex emotional and social behaviors, such as attachment, social recognition and aggression," noted NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, M.D.. "Now, for the first time, we can literally see these same mechanisms at work in the human brain." ...

[Read Full Article]

I don't know what to make of this. Oxytocin certainly seems to be a workhorse in the body, especially in women -- natural Oxytocin influences activities related to birth and lactation (and it has even been linked to establishing maternal behavior). At least, according to this Bowen person at the Colorado State University. And some folks are advocating Oxytocin's role in maintaining relationships, calling it a hormone of love. That might lend some credence to the idea that this hormone can affect a person's trust level (willingness to trust someone, not the level of trustworthiness he inspires in others). I am certainly uncomfortable with scientists mucking about in this area. I guess you could say I don't trust them (heh). But think about it ... if chemists can synthesize a compound that inclines anyone who ingests it to be more trusting, then how long will it be before said compound is abused? I'm not typically prone to conspiracy theorizing, but imagine for just a moment, if you will, another five or so years down the road. Administering certain levels of Oxytocin to the general public has been approved and found to be "safe." Perhaps Oxytocin -- or a manufactured derivative -- will be added to a regularly consumed product, much like Flouride in toothpaste. Or it could be released into the air in confined spaces, such as cublicles and fast food restaurants (refer to the snif test in the news release). People feel OK. They trust the media and their elected officials. They don't question what is going on in the world. Goodness me. Could this already be happening? More about Oxytocin: Note: Oxytocin should not be confused with the unrelated drug OxyContin (a pain-killer).

Friday, December 09, 2005

Monkey See, Monkey Do, so what?

From Knight Ridder Newspapers:
Monkeys show gender differences in toy preferences

[snips from the article]

Just like human boys and girls, male monkeys like to play with toy cars while female monkeys prefer dolls, a research project has shown...

..."Human evolution has created two different types of brains designed for equally intelligent behavior," Richard Haier, a neuroscientist at the University of California in Irvine, wrote in the journal NeuroImage.

In the monkey experiment, researchers put a variety of toys in front of 44 male and 44 female vervets, a breed of small African monkeys, and measured the amount of time they spent with each object.

Like little boys, some male monkeys moved a toy car along the ground. Like little girls, female monkeys closely inspected a doll's bottom. Males also played with balls while females fancied cooking pots. Both were equally interested in neutral objects such as a picture book and a stuffed dog.

People used to think that boys and girls played differently because of the way they were brought up. Now scientists such as Alexander say a creature's genetic inheritance also plays an important role.

"Vervet monkeys, like human beings, show sex differences in toy preferences," Alexander wrote in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. "Sex-related object preference appeared early in human evolution," she said...

[Read Full Article]

That's great work folks. Now, can someone tell me exactly why they were compelled to do this research (and if any of my tax dollars went for it)? And can any of these scientists explain why my 6-year-old niece enjoys playing with trains, cars and Barbie© dolls?! And does any of it really matter one freaking iota in the grand scheme of things??? I personally do like research about children and thinking/playing. But I like research that shows how children learn. Why they mimic. And how we can help them reach their full potentials. I could care less about gender differences and children (although I have seen research that shows a child knows his/her gender -- and some of the societal rules and roles for that gender -- by age three and that saddens me). Let children be children. Let them gravitate to toys and activities in their own way and time. And for the gods' sakes, don't be freaked out if a child does not conform to your notions of what a good little boy or girl should want to play with. Me? I am waiting for my niece to be old enough for a chemistry set, which is "traditionally" a boy's toy. I don't care. My niece is intelligent and curious, and I can hardly wait to introduce her to fun home chemistry stuff. (And, no, if it turns out that she does not like chemistry, then I won't push it on her.)

Friday Pet Blogging | Curl

I prepared this last night, so I could publish it bright and early this morning. But then, with shoveling out and such (for the last three hours or so), I forgot to change it from "draft" to "publish". So, despite my efforts to post a cat blogging photo first thing this morning, once again, I am posting after 10am. I'll post some snowy pics after I upload them to Flickr. Needless to say, this guy didn't help with clearing the driveway at all:

Otis ... Recharging

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 previous Milo & Otis appearances.
  3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Fire & Ice

Via Knowledge News Email:
Volcanic Fire Under Glacier Ice Some 1,240 miles (2,000 kilometers) north of Antarctica is an island--Montagu Island--in the treacherous waters of the South Atlantic. This is no place for people, or penguins even. A glacier blankets the island land. And beneath the glacier, actually creating the island, is an active volcano. Now scientists have satellite pictures of the volcano--Mount Belinda--spewing fiery lava down toward the icy sea. In just four weeks' time, the lava, traveling in a 100-yard (90-meter) flow, has released massive amounts of glacier-trapped water into the ocean and built up 50 new acres of land, as the molten rock slides into the water and cools. Scientists expect the changes to be dramatic. A decade ago, lava from a volcano in Iceland melted enough ice to create the second-largest flow of freshwater on the planet. At the time, only the Amazon River sent more freshwater toward the sea. Scientist John Smellie, of the British Antarctic Survey, says, "How hot rock interacts with ice is so poorly understood. This opportunity to monitor a live eruption and see how it affects ice cover is priceless." Dr. Smellie also says he would "give his right arm to be down there right now."
Mount Belinda Erupts -- NASA Image -- click for story and pics
Image Credit: NASA / Jesse Allen / Earth Observatory / HIGP Thermal Alerts Team + Full Resolution

Kung Fu Monks Go Modern

From the Los Angeles Times:
Shi Yongxin wears a bright yellow robe and heavy prayer beads and lives in an ancient shrine high up in the mountains of central China. Yet he spends a lot of his time traveling in a chauffeur-driven jeep, jet-setting around the world and hobnobbing with Hollywood types. No wonder some people call him a CEO in a monk's robe. As abbot of the world-famous Shaolin Temple, the holy land of kung fu, Shi indeed plays multiple roles. His latest is executive producer of a $25-million movie about the life and times of the legendary fighting monks that is set to hit cinemas in time for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He also has a reality TV project in the works, a kind of "American Idol" for kung fu masters.
I wonder if they'll have a Simon Cowell-type judge on that reality show. If so, he or she will have to have some pretty impressive credentials -- and fight cred -- to poke fun at and insult potential kung fu masters. Otherwise, there will be some interesting footage for the blooper reel.

A Zen Story

A brash young man watched a sage drawing water from the village well. Slowly, hand over hand, the old man pulled up the wooden bucket of water. After some time the young man left and returned with a pulley, and excitedly explained how to use it, and how easy it would be to draw water by cranking the handle. The old man refused:
“Were I to use a device like this, my mind would congratulate itself on being so clever, and then I would quit putting my heart into what I was doing. . . . If I don’t put my heart and whole body into my work, my work will become joyless. And how, then, do you think the water would taste?”
-- Zen Calendar Workman Publishing

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Quotable | Torn

open quoteEvery morning I awaken torn between the desire to save the world and the inclination to savor it.
 -- E. B. White, American essayist and literary stylist (1899-1985).

E.B. White is best known for The Elements of Style, and three award-winning children's books: Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan.

Chrismukkah: Evangelize Your Secular Holiday Sensibilities

"Deck the halls with lots of tchotchkes, Fa la la la la la la la la la. Tis the season to eat latkes, Fa la la la la la la la L'Chaim!"
Chrismukkah is now upon us, or so the good folks at[dead link] would have us believe. And the Chrismukkahans want to help you celebrate a Merry Mish-Mash Holiday. For example, you can build your own Matzoh House (as long as you buy the Merry Mish Mash Holiday cookbook)!

You can plan a special Chrismukka Nosh[dead link]: invite some friends over for a Noel Nosh and a hot cup of Meshugga Nog. You can also read the Chrismukkah blog[dead link] and submit your own Chrismukkah stories[dead link]. Now, maybe this whole Chrismukkah thing is a joke. Maybe they really are trying to support interfaith families. But their only serving a portion of the population by narrowly focusing on Judeo-Christian celebrations. If they really want to go interfaith, they have to add Solstice, Yule [Heathen Yule, Wiccan Yule], Bodhi Day, Zarathosht Diso and probably a dozen or so others that I've missed. That would change the thrust of their site ... and force them to really come up with a snazzy name. And while you're checking out Chrismukkah, don't forget about Chrismahanukwanzakah (which I blogged about last year). The "Angel" link uses the song from last year, but not the cool animation. I guess they dropped it for all new stuff this year. That's too bad, the graphics on the original were outstanding.

Update 2014-12-09: Seems that is no longer with us. It went down sometime after 2009 (you can see some archived blog posts here), and the domain is currently parked by GoDaddy. And good luck getting your hands on that cookbook. It's currently out of stock

Monday, December 05, 2005

PBDR: You Can Dance ... If You Want To ...

Apparantly, this thing (Partner Ballroom Dance Robot) was news back in June of this year, but I'm only finding out about it now. engadget has another photo. And I'm curious, does anyone else find this thing the least bit disturbing?
story.ballroom.afp.jpg I'll bet his mother is thrilled that he found a nice, um ... robotic ... girl.
And the folks at Tokhuro University aren't the only ones interested in robotic partners. Kosuge & Wang Laboratory is working on -MS DanceR-.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Color me ... Gone (for the Weekend)

I probably won't be blogging this weekend, which won't be much of a change for me, really. But as opposed to the usual reason (um, just not getting around to it), I don't think I can blog this weekend. I'll be away and I doubt I'll have Internet access. Where am I going? (Ahhh, what a question, eh). I am attending a retreat during which we will discuss the topic of "Our Religions of Origin." Let me know if that piques your interest at all. If so, I'll post a summary upon my return to the blogosphere.

I.A.D. -- There's Help for the 'Net Addict!

Do you know what Internet Addiction Disorder is? Well, neither do I (though Mrs. Brainwise might argue that I am a tad too familiar with it). But I came across this story about it yesterday:
Hooked on the Web: Help is on the Way

By SARAH KERSHAW Published: December 1, 2005

THE waiting room for Hilarie Cash's practice has the look and feel of many a therapist's office, with soothing classical music, paintings of gentle swans and colorful flowers and on the bookshelves stacks of brochures on how to get help. But along with her patients, Dr. Cash, who runs Internet/Computer Addiction Services here in the city that is home to Microsoft, is a pioneer in a growing niche in mental health care and addiction recovery. The patients, including Mike, 34, are what Dr. Cash and other mental health professionals call onlineaholics. They even have a diagnosis: Internet addiction disorder...

[Read More]

Friday Pet Blogging | Hacking

When Otis jumped into my lap the other night, I thought, "Aw ... how cute. He wants to help me with my work." There he was, pretending to know what he was doing as he swatted at the keyboard and tried to reach the mouse:

"And when I press this key, all the catnip in the world will be delivered right to my door!"

Cute, right? And I kept thinking it was cute and humorous ... right up until I checked my credit card bill and found over 20 charges for cat toys, fresh catnip, and a video I don't even want to mention. *

Who the blankety-blank-blank showed him how to use PayPal?!

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 previous Milo & Otis appearances.
  3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.

    * Um, just in case it wasn't obvious ... the pic is real, but the story is a joke. No, Otis does not know how to order merchandise via the web. At least, I don't think he does. Milo, on the other hand ...

    Thursday, December 01, 2005

    A Simple Creed

    open quoteI believe in the forest, and in the meadow, and in the night in which the corn grows. -- Henry David Thoreau, American author, naturalist, pacifist, tax resister and philosopher (1817 - 1862)
    Henry David Thoreau, photograph published circa 1879. Enlarge Henry David Thoreau, photograph published circa 1879.
    As a writer, Thoreau labored over his work, writing and re-writing -- and then re-(re-)writing several times over -- until he finally expressed his thoughts to his satisfaction. The end result may not betray all that effort, since he seems to say so much with so few words. And, although many of Thoreau's statements have the easy brevity of a modern soundbite, a thoughtful reader can reap treasures of layered meanings and nuance in every paragraph. Take, for example, the quote that leads today's entry. Thoreau lists only three beliefs, and does so in brief. There is no explicit mention of a divine being. No trace of a nod to a personal savior. But I submit to you that these words carry more power and a deeper mystery than any creed or oath in 2000 years of christendom. On a literal level, the "forest" he refers to here means, of course, an actual forest. An outside wooded area. On deeper, metaphoric levels, this "forest" wherein Thoreau places belief refers to Nature, and the mystery and power that reside therein. What is the mystery in a forest, in Nature? As Robert Frost wrote, "The woods are lovely, dark and deep." Standing just outside the forest, your sight cannot penetrate to its heart. "What is in there?" you might wonder, or, more to the point, "what is it hiding? What dangers lurk there?"As for the power of Nature, look to the trees themselves. Branches that sway and bend with the breeze, but do not break. Roots that, over hundreds of years, can break down stone. In the right circumstances, and it doesn't take much (though it is a careful balance), trees and other woodland plants are highly resilient. And they can live hundreds of years, outstripping individual humans, or their societies, in their longevity. That is, of course, unless threatened by those human societies (see campaigns to save Old Growth forests in the U.S., Australia, and Sweden, for example). The forest can also represent the mythic "descent into darkness," through which the hero faces a crisis, or turning point, and achieves greater self-knowledge. Refer to Joseph Campbell's books The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1948, 1972), Myths to Live By (1972), The Masks of God (4 vols, released 1959-1968). Or, if you are short on time, just do a 'net search on "Hero Quest Cycles" and/or "Joseph Campbell." That will turn up lots of interesting reading, such as the concept of the Monomyth, an essay on Beowulf and Star Wars, and Linda Griggs' Hero Quest Cycles. I've barely scratched the surface of forest symbolism, and that is as it should be. So now I will leave the forest in the middle of my ponderings and turn to the meadow. This open space is still part of Nature, but it is more inviting, perhaps it feels safer. With wide vistas, one can see to the heart of a meadow, and beyond. It does not seem to hold any secrets. But that is, of course, its secret. The meadow may still have some part of Nature at its heart -- it is not tainted with human dwellings. But it is Nature tamed. The woodland cleared. The meadow is the boundary, perhaps, between the mysterious forest and the oh-so-safe structures of human civilization. I meditate now upon the phrase, "...the night in which the corn grows." To believe in that night is to believe so many things, particularly now that the growing season has passed. This is a hopeful statement, full of promise. Full of awe and respect for the power and wisdom of our true Mother, the Earth. And the night itself, domain of the Moon, plays yin to the sun's yang, represented here by the golden yellow of corn kernals. This phrase is also a knowing nod to humanity's first true currency and wealth: grains. The cultivation and storage of grains helped early communities grow and thrive -- from ancient Egypt, to the Mayans, to Indian tribes of the Northeastern United States. It is not just an army that travels on its belly. Hmmmm. Starting today, I will stake my belief in Thoreau's forest, meadow, and night for my own creed. And I don't mean this in a dogmatic sense, for the world is sorely drenched in dogma as it is. I merely want to explore what it means to believe in these things, perhaps only for a week ... maybe until the end of this year. I don't know what will come of it, and I don't particularly care. But for some reason, I feel I will be all the better for having d0ne it. For more about Henry David Thoreau, I invite you to check out the Wikipedia entry on him, as well as their collection of external links.

    Wednesday, November 30, 2005


    open quoteThus we see that the all important thing is not killing or giving life, drinking or not drinking, living in the town or the country, being lucky or unlucky, winning or losing. It is how we win, how we lose, how we live or die, finally, how we choose. We walk, and our religion is shown (even to the dullest and most insensitive person), in how we walk. Living in this world means choosing and the way we choose to walk is infallibly and perfectly expressed in the walk itself. -- R. H. Blyth, English Professor and Zen Scholar (1898 - 1964)

    Tuesday, November 29, 2005

    Back from the Road

    Greetings Prophet or Madman-philes, I have returned from my Thanksgiving holiday. I had a lovely time away from the office and I am not all that happy to have returned to work. But I did miss blogging. While away, I was not able to do my blog updates due to a lack of broadband access. (Have you ever tried to update Blogger on a dial-up connection? It's brutal! If you deal with that all the time, you have much more patience than I.) I do have a pile of work that I must wade through, and I will be going away again this coming weekend. But I will try to be a bit more regular in my posting here so as to make links to my humble page somewhat worthwhile.


    open quoteThe least of things with meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without. -- Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), Swiss psychiatrist and founder of Analytical Psychology.

    Friday, November 25, 2005

    Friday Pet Blogging | After Thanksgiving

    Well, it's the day after Thanksgiving. For some folks, that means the rush to begin Christmas shopping. For others, it means time to recuperate. Case in point:

    "I gorged on turkey, but all I see now are penguins!"

    Milo can barely move after the feast.

    OK. So I actually took these photos on Wednesday, and we haven't seen the boys since then (nor will we see them until Monday). But Mrs. Brainwise said that these images were perfect for a post-Thanksgiving pet blogging entry. I agree.

    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 previous Milo & Otis appearances.
    3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.

      Thursday, November 24, 2005

      Happy Thanksgiving

      Mrs. Brainwise and I found this on our annual "day before Thanksgiving Day" shopping trip to State College, PA. It is a wonderfully humorous message for today ... and it will make a great gift for my parents. (I can already hear my father laughing about it). Now, for message more in keeping with the true sentiment of this holiday, here is a prayer I wrote, called Hail Sun:
      Hail to thee, Sun ! Who warms the Earth and Sky Hail to thee, Sky! Who sends life-giving rains to Earth Hail to thee, Earth! Our true Mother, who brings forth food and sustenance from Her all-giving self We who gather together give honor and thanks to these Natural Powers to the Source behind and to all who labor doing their part in bringing this meal to pass
      Here is wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday. May you have time to reflect on your blessings, and to appreciate those around you, especially the ones you may not necessarily hold close.

      Tuesday, November 22, 2005

      FROST: Life & Culture of the Sámi

      You have got to check out this cool (no pun intended) photo essay...
      FROST: Life & Culture of the Sámi
        Norwegian Sámi photographer Fred Ivar Utsi Klemetsen’s photo essay “FROST” documents the life of those who still herd their reindeer the traditional way. The following is a selection of the photos from the exhibit which has been touring the U.S.
        Photo: Fred Ivar Utsi Klemetsen

          Fightin' Falwell Forewarns Foes!

          Not wanting to let Pat Robertson get too far ahead in the nutjob polls, radical christian cleric Jerry Falwell has taken off his kid gloves and launched the "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign." From the San Francisco Chronicle:

          Evangelical Christian pastor Jerry Falwell has a message for Americans when it comes to celebrating Christmas this year: You're either with us, or you're against us.

          Falwell has put the power of his 24,000-member congregation behind the "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign," an effort led by the conservative legal organization Liberty Counsel. The group promises to file suit against anyone who spreads what it sees as misinformation about how Christmas can be celebrated in schools and public spaces.

          They've got a fleet of lawyers on standby, just waiting for a school teacher to prevent third-graders from singing Christmas carols. Another group of lawyers is serving as part of The Christmas Project, whose slogan is, "Merry Christmas ... It's OK to say it." Apparently, these folks believe that the ACLU and Target stores are leading the charge in a grinch-like attack whose purpose is to secularize Oh my gods. If you want to see the other side of holiday holy wars, The WildHunt Blog points to this story which debunks the myth of an ongoing "secular humanist" campaign out to rid the world (or at least America) of all things Christmas. And, you know, all these folks who are trying to "save Christmas" don't realize that they are actually defending a thoroughly non-christian holiday (as I pointed out and Boondocks hinted at almost a year ago). Maybe I'll start a campaign of my own. One that will raise money to buy Falwell and his cronies a muzzle.

          Monday, November 21, 2005


          Today's quotable comes from Stephen Hawking (you know, the world-famous physicist) who recently appeared at the Paramount Theatre -- even after suffering a temporary medical setback -- as part of his current U.S. lecture tour on the origins of the universe During the presentation, he was asked: So, Mr. Hawking ... what do you think of the program to send American astronauts back to the moon? To which he responded:
          open quoteStupid. Sending politicians would be much cheaper, because you don't have to bring them back.
          To read more about the medical setback, the presentation, and more examples of Stephen Hawking's humor, check out the MSNBC story, The show goes on for Stephen Hawking.

          Friday, November 18, 2005

          Friday Pet Blogging | A Dialogue

          A typical exchange between Milo and Otis:




          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 previous Milo & Otis appearances.
          3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.

            Thursday, November 17, 2005

            Quotable | Profit and Value

            open quoteDon't be seduced into thinking that that which does not make a profit is without value." -- Arthur Miller (American Playwright, 1915-2005)

            Knowledge@Wharton: Online Books and Copyright Law

            Here is a gem from the latest Knowledge@Wharton newsletter:
            Will the Online Book Publishing Flap Rewrite Copyright Law? The latest frontier in the digital content revolution -- efforts by Google, Amazon and others to turn millions of books into bytes that can be easily searched, accessed and sold by the page -- could redefine copyright law and change the way knowledge is shared around the world, say experts at Wharton. Prompted by Google's controversial move to scan copyrighted works, the issue leaves many unresolved questions: Does the greater good of putting books online outweigh current copyright law? Is Google's complete scanning a violation of copyright law even if the end user doesn't get much more than a small excerpt of the work in a search result? Should Google be required to get publishers' permission before scanning content? Perhaps most importantly, is copyright law designed for printed materials still valid in the digital age? Full Article:
            I kind of like the idea of being able to "flip" through a book online. This helps me make a more informed purchase. And, aside from complaints about electronic repurposing of content, this could be a great research tool. Imagine being able to go online and find a specific passage in a book so that you can accurately cite it in a piece of your own writing. Note that I am not talking about copying copious amounts of text from said book. So, in this case, would this be any different than going to the library, finding their copy of the book (if indeed your local branch even has it), and then rummaging through page after page to fine the quote you need? Well, yes, in terms of speed and convenience, it would be very different. But the intent and practice are just about identical. Of course, maybe the libraries should be complaining about this more than the publishers are. Or, just maybe, libraries should be joining forces with Google on this one.

            Friday, November 11, 2005

            Friday Bug Blogging | I Prey Thee

            Spied around the house last Saturday ...

            Could this be the last praying mantis of the season? For more pets and critters, check out the Friday Ark.

            Friday Pet Blogging | So Cute

            You know the old saying ... "They look so innocent when they're sleeping." Well, it applies just as well to little orange cats as it does to kids who walk upright. Here's the proof!

            Milo finally tries out the new radiator pillows

            Otis sneaks into the fresh blankets.

            And Mrs. Brainwise was wondering why the laundry seemed so heavy.

            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 previous Milo & Otis appearances.
            3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.

              Friday Pet Blogging | The Difference

              Although they come from the same gene pool, Milo and Otis exhibit quite different behaviors. Here is a photo that perfectly showcases their differences:

              Milo and Otis are undercover brothers

              Yes, that is Milo in the foreground. The funny thing is ... Milo is the one who typically hides while Otis it the outgoing brother.
              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 previous Milo & Otis appearances.
              3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.

                Wednesday, November 09, 2005

                Intelligently Designed, or Evolved, Voters in Dover

                Hmmmm. It seems that all of my blog entries today have something in common: Intelligent Design. Even the ancestor story fits the profile because it reports a find that could very will eliminate (or narrow) the gap that ID theorists use as their biggest weapon against the theory of evolution. So how about one more in the same vein...
                All eight members up for re-election to the Pennsylvania school board that had been sued for introducing the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in biology class were swept out of office yesterday by a slate of challengers who campaigned against the intelligent design policy.
                Read the story here (Boston New), here (MSNBC), and here (USA Today). And I find it interesting that I have not found a local website running the story.

                Worst Jobs in Science

                Popular Science Magazine takes a page from Dave Letterman and provides a Top Ten list of the worst jobs in science (bold emphasis added by yours truly):
                10. Orangutan-Pee Collector 9. NASA Ballerina 8. Do-Gooder 7. Semen Washer 6. Volcanologist 5. Nuclear-Weapons Scientist 4. Extremophile Excavator 3. Kansas Biology Teacher 2. Manure Inspector 1. Human Lab Rat
                According to Popular Science, these are all real jobs. As this was published in the October 2005 issue, I find the inclusion of Kansas Biology Teacher among the entries to be downright ... prescient. Perhaps they knew how this was going to turn out for these poor teachers who are "on the front lines of science's devolution." Do click the link so that you can read the description of each job. Some of them are humorous (for those of us who don't have to do them). But the same distance that makes some of the entries funny actually lends other jobs a more disturbing veneer. Update (8/14/2008): Popular Science moved, or removed, the page with the top ten list. But I found an archived copy via the Wayback Machine.

                Are You Missing An Ancestor?

                If so, the Guardian reports that a palaeontologist found his (her?) prehistoric skull in a dump:
                "Palaeontologists excavating a dump outside Barcelona [Spain] have found a skull dating back 14m years that could belong to a common ancestor of apes and humans." (Guardian, Great Britain)

                The Theory of Intelligent School Boards

                While intelligent school boards may not have evolved in the State of Kansas, it seems that some common sense has at least been sowed among the good students Purdue. In the Exponent, Purdue's independent student newspaper, we can see an example of fine reasoning under the following headline: Teach intelligent design as sociology, not science Nestled in this opinion piece are true jewels of wisdom. For example:
                "It is perfectly acceptable to teach young students about the historical impact of Intelligent Design, or the theological importance of creationist theories, but only within their proper spheres, as social phenomena. Science classes should be reserved for science, for a process of methodical experimentation and discovery." and... Teaching Intelligent Design in public schools can also open up debates on the mixing of church and state. While Intelligent Design itself has no overt religious meaning, it is easy for some to interpret the Intelligent Designer as a god, often in the Judeo-Christian sense. As such, the teaching of Intelligent Design leaves public schools vulnerable to attacks from parents outraged at the mixing of perceived religious content with secular education. (both quoted from The Exponent, Purdue University, Indiana)
                It's short, so go read the full piece at this link. This certainly goes along with the idea that ID has more in common with philosophy than science, an opinion that I already stated on this blog.

                Monday, November 07, 2005

                Get a Jump on Monday ...

                ... or any time you feel you need a jumpstart. It's quite the collection of athletic souls.
                Thanks to Dependable Renegade for the link.

                Friday, November 04, 2005

                Quotable | Stone Sermon

                open quoteNature teaches more than she preaches. There are no sermons in stones. It is easier to get a spark out of a stone than a moral.

                -- John Burroughs (1837 - 1921), American Essayist and Ecology Hall of Famer

                Friday Pet Blogging | Relax!

                Be like a cat...know that the world does revolve a round you -- Source unknown No day is so bad it can't be fixed with a nap. -- Carrie Snow
                Just a few quick pics of the boyz doing what they do best -- Lounging and Sleeping!

                Milo is king of the sofa

                A king who refuses to couch his terms (sorry ... couldn't resist!).

                A sleepy Otis

                Oh, the lessons these little buggars teach me.
                More Pet Blogging
                • The Modulator features the Friday Ark, a compilation of today's pet posts from other bloggers.
                • Previous Milo & Otis appearances on Prophet or Madman are indexed here (and might be updated soon) ... just in case you missed one.
                • And do keep your eyes peeled for the next installment of the Carnival of the Cats, served fresh every Sunday.

                Tuesday, November 01, 2005

                Quotable | Considerations

                open quoteIn an archery contest, when the stakes are earthenware tiles a contestant shoots with skill. When the stakes are belt buckles he becomes hesitant, and if the stakes are pure gold he becomes nervous and confused. There is no difference as to his skill but, because here is something he prizes, he allows outward considerations to weigh on his mind. All those who consider external things important are stupid within. -- Chuang-Tzu

                Alito Musings

                Note: I was going to title this entry, "Alito Droppings," but decided against it. Aren't you glad? So there's a now SCOTUS nominee in town. GWB has re-emerged, fresh from the wounds he suffered over the course of the Harriet Miers nomination debacle, and put forth the name of Sam Alito, an appeals court judge with seemingly solid credentials. Well, law credentials that is. At least he had been working in Constitutional Law as opposed to Miers. I'm not fully up on my appeals court judges, so I don't have any commentary of my own on this nomination ... yet. But I will direct you to some of the better commentary I have found around the blogosphere (mostly courtesy of Heretical Ideas, Running Scared, and Middle Earth Journal). I'm sure I missed a few other good posts, but this list will at least get you moving in the direction of getting informed.

                Power Source for a Floating City?

                From Open Source Energy Network:
                Inventor Tom L. Lee, Ph.D. has developed a floating wind turbine platform concept for accessing the higher winds out at sea, and convert wind energy efficiently to hydrogen and electricity. Would prefer to see its manufacture and distribution licensed to a U.S. party. [Read More]
                Concept drawing by Tom L. Lee. (from the listing, but used here without permission)
                I have more questions than answers (or even comments) at this point:
                • Will this concept fly (er, float)?
                • Would you be willing to live in a floating city, or is this likely to be used to generate power for a land-based community?
                • If so, how does it transfer the power across the sea?
                • How loud is this floating turbine?
                • And how floating turbines are permitted on the open seas before someone cries about oceanic sprawl?

                Sunday, October 30, 2005

                An Enlightened Lynch

                Director David Lynch, speaking to a group of NYU students, and quoted by Timothy Gunatilaka in the October 21 (2005) issue of Entertainment Weekly:
                Open QuoteIf you have a golf-ball-size consciousness, when you read a book you'll have a golf-ball-size understanding. But if you can expand that ball, then you read with more understanding ... [Meditation] turns up our light. And like a lightbulb, we can enjoy the inner peace but also spread it—that's the key to world peace.
                Apparently, he was serious. Since September, he's been touring East Coast campuses touting meditation-based curricula (he goes west in November). A transcendental meditator for 32 years, Lynch hopes to raise $7 billion to endow seven universities of world peace. Other links for 'University of World Peace' (but I don't know if they are part of the same project that Lynch is pushing):

                Friday, October 28, 2005

                Friday Pet Blogging | Window Gazers

                I admire through a piece of cut purple glass the sun in its nimbus of glistening light: it will shadow nicely between the amethyst folds in the goddess's spreading skirt.
                From "The Buddhist's Window," a poem by Beth Houston. Read the full piece in the Spring 1998 Literary Review. We've covered a few serious, and some not so serious, topics this week. But we now return to the one thing that unites most, if not all, Prophet or Madman visitors: photos of adorable orange cats. Today's photos are courtesy of Mrs. Brainwise ...
                "Window Shopping"

                We're still haveing a few problems with the boyz and their, um, plumbing. And it is affecting our sleep and general well-being, so I can only imagine how it is actually affecting them as well. Milo seems to be having the most trouble right now, but we're not certain if it is a behavioral issue, or a physical ailment. Fortunately, he does not seem to be in pain. In fact shortly after showing any kind of symptoms, he acts as though nothing out of the ordinary just took place. But going through all of their problems is almost worth it for moments like these, when they are so darned cute. They almost look meditative in these photos ... even though I know they are hankering after the little birdies.

                This pic is from the other week, but I love it, and Milo could really use your positive thoughts right now.
                Please stand by for the standard Pet Blogging Closer:

                The Modulator has a compilation of today's pet posts from other bloggers. Previous Milo & Otis appearances on Prophet or Madman are indexed here (and might be updated soon) ... just in case you missed one. And do keep your eyes peeled for the next installment of the Carnival of the Cats, served fresh every Sunday.

                Thursday, October 27, 2005

                Fishering for an Answer

                Click here to view a larger image. Fisher DeBerry (Photo: Scripps/Rocky Mountain News)
                OK. by now, most folks have heard -- or read -- Air Force Academy football coach Fisher DeBerry's comments following a 48-10 loss Saturday to Texas Christian University. After Texas orchestrated the Academy's first loss this season, DeBerry blamed his team's woes on a lack of minority players. Yes, DeBerry said that his school needs to recruit faster players, specifically pointing out that TCU had more African-American players than the Academy did and that those players ran a lot faster than his Falcons players did. When asked to elaborate, he said:
                "It just seems to me to be that way, that Afro-American players can run very, very well. That doesn't mean Caucasian kids and other descents can't run, but it's very obvious to me that they run extremely well.''
                Shocking words, eh? So shocking, in fact, that many folks are saying DeBerry's words, in the year 2005, are nothing short of a racist statement. Well, damage control has commenced. AFA reprimanded Mr. DeBerry. And yesterday, no doubt at the behest of his employers, DeBerry offered a (non-)apology, saying that he was sorry if anyone was offended by his remarks. But who exactly should be offended? No, really, I want to know. Is DeBerry a racist hayseed (sorry, his accent didn't help him at all), or is he merely stating the obvious? One way of looking at this is to say that DeBerry was complimenting Black athletes, although in an admittedly awkward fashion, and debasing White ones. I mean, he pretty much implied, 'I lost this game because I got too many White guys on this team, and they can't play as well as Black athletes.' So, maybe he should apologize to the White suburban couch potato, who is lamenting his lack of credentials for a sports career. On the other hand, touting the positives of Black athletes tends to paint an overly broad picture. And, some folks would say, this praise sends a controversial message, and it could be construed as saying: 'Hey, you guys make great athletes, but you suck at everything else.' And blaming a loss on the lack or presence of a particular minority on either side of the scrimmage line is probably missing the point. So, who's right? Any comments?

                Wednesday, October 26, 2005

                Lite Nite

                Every October, a time-honored tradition is observed: Avengelidiots complain about Halloween! This year is not too different. We have a Bishop who is saying that "Hallowe'en is becoming too 'Pagan' to be celebrated by good and decent Christians." Oh, what are good and decent Christians to do?? Why, create their own holiday: Lite Nite. Get the details over at the Wildhunt Blog.

                Don't Give Guns to Doctors

                I don't know who authored it, but I recently received this dis-arming piece of information...
                Guns & Doctors
                Statistics on DOCTORS: (courtesy of the U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services)
                1. The number of doctors in the U.S. is 700,000
                2. Accidental deaths caused by physicians per year are 120,000
                3. Accidental deaths per physician is 17.14%
                Statistics on GUNS: (courtesy of the FBI)
                1. The number of gun owners in the U.S. is 80,000,000 (yes that's 80 million)
                2. The number of accidental gun deaths per year, all age groups, is 1,500
                3. The number of accidental deaths per gun owner is 0.001875%
                So statistically, doctors are approximately 9,000 times more dangerous than gun owners. Remember, guns don't kill people, doctors do. FACT: NOT EVERYONE HAS A GUN, BUT ALMOST EVERYONE HAS AT LEAST ONE DOCTOR. Please alert your friends to this alarming threat. We must ban doctors before this gets completely out of hand!!! Out of concern for the public at large, I have withheld statistics on ATTORNEYS for fear the shock would cause people to panic and seek medical help.
                I cannot verify the information. A search on Snopes comes up with zilch. But I do know that I am far from the first person to post it.

                Those Offensive Piggies

                According to an Australian Associated Press story in The Age [], British banks are banning a time-honored symbol of thrift and saving because, they say, it just may offend Muslims. They're giving the boot to those nasty old Piggy Banks. That's right, freaking piggy banks. Halifax and NatWest banks will no longer give piggy banks to children or use them in their advertising. Their reason: "Muslims do not eat pork, as Islamic culture deems the pig to be an impure animal." So, from this dietary restriction, the banks have made a great leap in logic to believing that little hollow ceramic pigs will be offensive to one who follows the injunctions of the Q'uran (Koran). And some folks support this move. Salim Mulla, secretary of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, says, "This is a sensitive issue and I think the banks are simply being courteous to their customers." Courteous? Since when is full-blown idiocy a courtesy??? Others, I am happy to say, view the move as political correctness gone mad (mad I tell you!), and I agree. One sane voice in this debacle comes from Khalid Mahmoud, the Labour MP for a Birmingham seat and one of four Muslim MPs in Britain, who says:

                "We live in a multicultural society and the traditions and symbols of one community should not be obliterated just to accommodate another." 

                Wow, that's so good I could feature it as a Quotable. To Mr. Mahmoud and his supports Prophet or Madman says: Amen my Muslim brother of another mother! Fight this idiotic application of political correctness!! 

                Read the full story (without my ranting) here.

                Tuesday, October 25, 2005

                Gospel According to ... Anne Rice?!?

                I have to agree with The Heretic ... I didn't see this coming either. I've never actually been a fan of her writing, so this news doesn't affect me at all. But I suppose I can understand how all those Goth Girl fans might be feeling about this ... um ... reversal. I mean, if Neil Gaiman suddenly converted to the Mormon church, gave up writing his fine, occult stories, and decided to devote his potent pen exclusively to ... oh, I don't know ... exploring the depth of wisdom in the LDS teachings on exhaltation, I might be a tad miffed, too. Actually ... I'd probably just gripe for a few minutes and then move on to another writer. So, get a grip girls!

                And Speaking of Leaf Blowers...

                ...this is what happens when you apply a leaf blower to a bonfire. The frightening this about this photo gallery is that it was posted by a guy who is doing biomineralization research as a graduate student at Cal Tech. His IQ must have been pretty high before purchasing that leaf blower (see previous blog entry) ... although there is no indication that it was his leaf blower ... perhaps he was just an avid obersever. And I did give a pass to folks doing transportation research. Perhaps I could extend that pass to bored graduate students.
                Burn baby burn Photo from Cody Z. Nash's Gallery

                Suburban Border Wars

                Today's offering from Wiley's Non Sequitur is more true than funny, but it still gets a chuckle out of me. And it raises a hackle or two. You see, this comic clearly illustrates something about suburbanites that I declared years ago: open quoteEvery idiot who buys a leaf blower should be given a bumper sticker or t-shirt with the phrase: I bought a leaf blower, so my IQ just dropped 40 points! Folks who purchase a leaf blower for transportation research are, of course, excluded. But seriously, what is the fascination with these noisy, smelly instruments of hellish torture? I have seen guys spend 15 minutes or so trying to move one single leaf from the middle of the yard. Bend over and pick up the damn thing, you moron!! Is all that noise and wasted gasoline worth the time and effort you 'saved'?!?! Particularly when the wind -- or that other leaf blowing moron from next door -- is just going to blow some of those leaves right back to where they started. Which is precisely the subject of today's strip. Since's strips are free to view for only a week or so, I've archived this one at my site. So if the above link does not work, just click the snipped image below to view the funny: I realize that there are much more pressing topics and issues in the world right now. But I am sure that the rest of the blogosphere is handling them quite well. I will try to get to some of them myself, but (if you'll pardon the paraphrase of a popular song lyric):
                "It's my blog and I'll rant if I want to!"
                Manual Leaf Blower