Saturday, December 6, 2008

Now Hiring: Somalian Pirates to write my blog

I know, I know. I was a little slow on the draw today. I'm posting this and it's almost 7pm. Well, I have a good excuse. I was writing a paper all day. And, I have another 3 to go before the week is out. The good news is that the big ones are pretty much out of the way. 

In other news, I thought it was funny that Al Gore is being sued by the man who founded the weather channel. He's got a great voice (the weather channel guy, not Al Gore). Here's the link.

I'm going to apologize in advance for any extremely brief and/or unentertaining blog posts in the coming week. The planets are aligning, Space invaders are en route, France is taking over England, Dogs and Cats living together....MASS HYSTERIA! That and it's the last week before finals, and the week in which all of my papers are due.

I might hire a group of illegal immigrants or Somalian pirates to write my blog. 

Friday, December 5, 2008

Word of the Day: Utensil

Word of the day: Utensil

\yu̇-ˈten(t)-səl, ˈyü-ˌ\
Middle English, vessels for domestic use, from Middle French utensile, from Latin utensilia, from neuter plural of utensilis useful, from uti to use
14th century
1 : an implement, instrument, or vessel used in a household and especially a kitchen
2 : a useful tool or implement

When I hear utensil, it sounds like a slur or a put down. It's like "You Tensil!" And, I have no idea what tensil means, but it sure sounds vicious.

Another thing about utensil is how it's overused. It's like the use of the word utensil all of a sudden makes you an erudite sophisticate. For instance, you're sitting there in a class, or at work and you turn to a friend and say, "Do you by chance have a writing utensil?" You might as well be wearing a tuxedo rolling down the window of your stretch limo asking for grey poupon.

However, in another way, you can sound very utilitarian, economic, and even efficient when you say, "Would you please get out the utensils to set the table?" In that way, you use the word instead of silverware, which everyone knows is more posh and dignified.

Hope you enjoyed that rather unnecessary diagnosis. You Tensil!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The illusion of neutrality: Gay Marriage

Ok, I am going to take a slight detour from the typical satirical hilarity for a moment to give a little social commentary. I hope to make it brief and elicit some good responses.

I've been mulling over the issues of freedom of religion and individual liberty and how the state fits into it all for sometime. Issues that you might recall as being particularly divisive and even polemic are prayer in schools, the pledge of allegiance, and gay marriage. The one that has lately received the most attention is the latter. California's proposition 8 was covered a great deal by the press, and it's almost all I've heard any significant conversation revert to in recent weeks. For those of you who either live under a rock, in a shack in northern Canada, or are no longer living, Prop 8 was a legal amendment to California's state constitution that defined marriage legally between a man and a woman.

Even with Obama carrying the state of California, and California being a blue state since the 1980s, the Proposition was ratified with a 52%-48% vote. It was a tighter vote than it was for similar laws in Florida and Arizona because it was California, and because California's gay community is much more vocal, numerous and affluent than in those states. The proposition's acceptance makes California the 30th state in the union to enact a law defining marriage between a man and a woman (so this is not some amazing fluke).
Now here's where I'm going to weigh in. The argument of the gay community and those who are calling for equality claim that religious institutions like the LDS (Mormon) Church and the Catholic Church are trying to impose their morality on them. Well, I do not disagree. They are. It is in their interest to do so. The state is what allows them to operate on a legal basis. If the state sanctions gay marriage it affects the status of any LDS or Catholic institution, be it a private high school, a hospital, or a university. The government could quite easily tell the churches that they could not discriminate on sexual orientation, and could also tell the church they must marry homosexuals or be deprived tax exempt status, or be completely shut down for being unfair. But, lest we forget there are other rights at stake here.

The state sanctioning gay marriage limits the religious community's right to practice as it chooses. So it is freedom of religion versus freedom of the individual. But many people are led to believe that we can get along fine with a "live and let live" society. Or, in other words, whatever my neighbor does and believes is fine and equally valid as what I believe. The problem inherent in that sort of delusion is that both cannot be equally valid. If that were the case, neither would be worth a trough of pig feed. There need to be moral lines that our government draws. When people say, "morality doesn't belong in politics" they neglect the fact that by imposing this idea of a false neutrality, they are imposing a morality. 

It's the same as saying science can self-regulate. People believe that it is completely objective and neutral. However, if science were truly neutral, then it would need a guiding force outside of itself to help it decide what, how, when, and why it studies what it does on a moral basis. And, I would argue that it does. However, there are certain scientists, be them sociologists, biologists, or astrophysicists who believe that science should be autonomous from moral questions and philosophy. Well, as soon as it becomes autonomous, it must create its own morality, which, in the case of science is efficiency and predictability. Its morality becomes utilitarian. It begins to assign value to life based on utility (and I don't think I need to elucidate the path where that leads).

So how does this affect the gay marriage question? Quite simply. The argument that religion is imposing its values and beliefs on society and the state are valid, but so is the argument in the converse. By allowing gay marriage, the state is putting a moral stamp on that particular lifestyle choice (I know that's a can of worms because there are those who do not choose to be gay), and saying that it is on par with heterosexual marriage. This permits the state to limit the freedom of religions within their own sphere, and allows public entities like schools and state agencies to impose the gay marriage view on those who enter in them. 

For instance, Kindergardeners would be required to learn about alternate lifestyles and that Steve and his partner Dan are completely within their moral right to have a child, and are a happy wholesome family. Gender roles, and traditional family are no longer concrete. Children run home to their parents with questions like, "I thought families have a mommy and daddy, but at school they say you can have two daddies. Why don't I have two daddies?" Of course the parents can educate and reassure their children with their own private moral view, but the influence of the state has a dramatic effect on the children. The ability for the parents to teach and be responsible for the upbringing of their children is undermined. There is no way to opt out of this type of education. It is the law.

What gay marriage does is it denies freedom at the cost of "equality." But, it is not the only place that this is happening. The push to equality at all costs leads to an ever stronger, more powerful, centralized state. People who are unequal mentally, physically, monetarily all believe they have a fair grievance, and the only one who can flatten society is government. 

This tendency ignores the fact that people are different. Some are born smart, some are born stupid. Some are born with athletic prowess, others are not. Some are born to wealthy parents, others are not. These are things that differentiate us. Is it fair that Michael Jordan was an amazing basketball player, and I am not? No. But I don't want the government to change it. And, not to jump into another can of worms, but with biotechnology and eugenics, soon I may be able to have designer children who can jump higher, run faster, learn more, and be greater people. Of course this would be expensive, and it wouldn't be just and equal only for the wealthy to be able to have designer kids, so the government would subsidize gene therapy and enhancement. But then, after everyone's children were maximized, everyone would be the same. There would be nothing more that could be done to equalize. We'd be a bunch of identical, un-individuals. And yeah, that's what I want.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tiny Tim not really Tiny or named Tim

During this holiday season we read stories, decorate, chop down trees and put them in our house, darn socks, roast chestnuts, have fires in the fireplace, go caroling, bake cookies, and do a lot of things we otherwise would not. We believe in toy making elves, and overweight sled riders who bring presents by going down the chimney. We believe in mistletoe's magical power to bring lips together, and we believe that flat screen TVs are a necessity. However, I'd like to go a little bit counter current. I know I never do, so this should shock you.

You should all be familiar with Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol. It is probably one of the most oft-recited and most often readapted to TV specials of any other Christmas story. Even the Christmas story with "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out," "Fudge," and that stupid kid getting his tongue stuck to a poll doesn't come close to "bah humbug!" or Tiny Tim's "God bless us, everyone!" 
But, I have some news that might shock you. After some investigative journalism (and by that I mean the idea popped in my head with no references, research or anything), I have discovered the truth about Tiny Tim. As it turns out, his name was not really Tim, nor was he tiny. Tiny Tim was in fact an obese savant named Mark. Whether he was called Tiny Tim to be ironic, or to be endearing we may never know.
Tiny Tim did not in fact use crutches (although he tried several times to no avail). The best Bob Cratchit could do for his son was tie him up with the rope and winch at the town well. And this merely shows how good a man Mr. Cratchit was because, as you now know, Tiny Tim, or should I say Mark, was not crippled, but just overweight. But, to repay his father's kindness, Mark would make perfect clay models of animals with his teeth (that was his gift apparently). Then, Mr. Cratchit would sell these clay models and give the money to a nearby orphanage. 

Mr. Scrooge on the other hand was as big of a jerk as he appears in the book, and in TV adaptations. True to form, he didn't care much for his employees and in fact was very cruel to Mark. He had a fear of fat people and is believed to have come up with the name Tiny Tim to calm his nerves whenever he was pestered by Mr. Cratchit's humble pleadings for time off or bonuses.

So there you have it. That is the truth about the beloved Christmas tale. Merry Christmas! And as Mark the obese savant said, his mouth all full of clay, "God bless us, everyone!"

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Man wants to be legally declared a chicken

Perhaps you've heard the story that was all over the news stands several months ago about the "man who gave birth." With a title like that and pictures that showed what seemed to be a pregnant man, it sold a lot of copies regardless of who printed it. It's popularity came about because of its absurdity. And, in fact, our suspicions were confirmed when it turns out the "man" was actually born a woman and even participated in beauty contests. 

However, she/he felt that she/he was not meant to be a woman, passed a series of psychoanalysis tests, and legally became a man. She then began taking hormones and supplements and had her breasts removed. But, she/he didn't have a complete sex change, and that allowed she/he to have a child, and now even become pregnant a second time.

Because of she/he's increased popularity and press coverage, other people are following suit. All across the US people are making moves to declare themselves legally something they are not (at least physically).

The most interesting case comes from Washington State, where a man named Leroy Jones wants to be legally declared a chicken. Having grown up on an egg farm, Jones said he learned to love the chicken lifestyle, from pecking and clucking to even the occasional cock fight.

"I love the taste of chicken feed. It's just so crunchy. I also feel accepted among those in the chicken community. One day I hope that I might even be able to contribute, and lay my first egg," says Jones.

Jones has been undergoing chicken gene and hormone therapy, that he self-administers each day in the form of shots. He has begun growing feathers on his arms, and says that in a week he will move out into the chicken coupe. 

His wife Carol thinks it's just a phase. "Last time he wanted to be an astronaut and he painted our hay silo like the space shuttle. Now he wants to be a chicken. Everyone has a mid-life crisis, and at least his is a whole lot cheaper. I don't have to cook for him anymore, or worry about him buying a new sports car and marrying a bunch of random dancing girls from Vegas. He's chasing chickens," said Carol.

Before leaving the premises I left some feed for Mr. Jones. He clucked exuberantly and was followed to the feed by his new found family. 

God bless the chicken man.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Smuggling rosemary across state lines

My room mate is a fan of spices. He has a veritable schmorgasboard of peppers, salts, seasonings, oils and what not. I have on more than one occasion used his seasonings to make delicious roasts, steaks, and other sumptuous meals. 

Unfortunately for both of us, I have a pension for rosemary. I use it a lot. And, that means I used his rosemary a lot. So, after a while we (and by we I mean he) were out of rosemary.

Well, I knew how this little dilemma could be remedied. Over the Thanksgiving break I went to visit my grandparents. And, it just so happens that my grandmother grows a lot of herbs. One herb which she has in vast quantities is rosemary. My room mate knew this when sent a text message to me during a dinner with my grandparents, aunt, uncle, brothers and cousins. This was his text message:

"Hey. Bring back copious amounts of rosemary."

The reason my room mate knew about the rosemary was because he had visited my grandparents' home before when we stopped there on our way to the coast for our surf trip. On that trip we collected bags of kumquats, boxes of oranges, bags of lemons, and of course my room mate grabbed quite a bit of rosemary. So, after having used up all of his rosemary at home, I promised him I'd get some when I went out to my grandparents' home for Thanksgiving. 

He didn't forget my promise.

Getting the rosemary was no big deal. I just told my Nana that my room mate wanted some, and she was more than willing to oblige. She and I went out to her gardens with clippers and she and I went to work. She is probably the most agile pruner I've ever seen. In the time it took me to fill one big freezer bag full of rosemary, she had filled two (For those of you who are not math majors out there, that means I had 3 bags of rosemary). Later, as we were packing to leave, Nana asked if I had remembered to pack the rosemary. I said, "Yes. All three bags," to which Papa replied, "Yessir, yessir, three bags full." He rarely misses an opportunity to be anecdotally irreverent. 

So then it was on to the airport with two carry ons. One was my typical carry on, my computer, head phones and reading material, and the other was the bag full of three sack lunches and three bags of rosemary. After eating the lunches, I was able to consolidate the rosemary into my brother's carry on as well as my own.

Here's where it got interesting. I'm sure you're familiar with the TSA. They are that ever so useful new bureaucracy that screens bags and pats us down at the airport with efficiency that only the government is capable of.
Well, apparently they had either a botanist or herbologist on their staff because they let both me and my brother through security without even lifting an eyebrow at our three giant bags of herbs. I thought to myself, "Wow. Imagine if it wasn't rosemary? Or imagine if we had some other herbs in the bags with the rosemary to trick any drug-sniffing dogs?" 

I had to ask around to figure out if this was a familiar incident with the TSA. 

My other room mate (the one who doesn't really care about rosemary and is not my brother) told me he accidentally left a pocket knife in his bag and he got through without a hitch. My uncle told me a group of his friends had two boxes of airsoft guns in their bags and they only got stopped for sunscreen. A classmate of mine said that he got stopped in the airport for shampoo, while his friend got away with a whole can of mace. Oh TSA. You're so competent (and I love you for it).

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Welcome to Visalia Municipal Airport

I am currently sitting at Visalia Municipal Airport. We're not talking about Phoenix, LAX, Boston Logan or even Salt Lake International. We're talking Visalia Municipal. 

On the wall is a framed photo of a man with a cowboy hat leaning on an old biplane. Underneath the picture is a plaque on which the following is written:


I'm dead serious. Underneath it are two drinking fountains. This place was so busy, I had to ring a bell to get service and am pretty sure I interrupted either a birthday party in the back or a game of gin rummy.

The room is partitioned by a wall with a bunch of windows. On the other side is the x-ray machine and metal detector. On the partition is a sign that says: Be Vigilant. Oh yeah. I'm vigilant. Don't worry. I'll stop all those crazy jihadist farmers who want to take out their neighbor's orange grove.