Monthly Archives: December 2006

The Blasted Desk

Well, suffice to say for now… the stupid thing’s finally finished.

I’m only passingly fond of it but at least the door works…

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Dumb All Over

Ah, I kept meaning to find a copy of this song on the old internet but I’ll do one better. Here’s someone’s very apropos video for the song.

Oh, and the song is “Dumb All Over” by Frank Zappa from 1981. Listen to the words. Funny how appropriate it is after 25 years. Maybe things haven’t changed all that much (or at all) in 25 years.

Double Oh, ignore the first 2 seconds of the video. The maker isn’t… well, very friendly towards… well, it’ll be obvious.

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Why Bother? Randy’s Response

In answer to my Why Bother? post, Randy offered an addendum. That addendum along with my response seemed like a fitting blog post in and of itself so here it is.

Randy Says (quite rightly):
You may disagree, but according to my worldview there is another purpose: Service to God. This service can take many forms. For a Christian, serving others is one way that you can serve God.

So I says(quite responsefully):

Randy,

You’re right; it’s the ‘service to God’ that I explicitly omit at the beginning of the entry. I agree that religion is THE quick and easy answer to all the nagging WHY questions. You’ll probably completely fail to believe that I actually considered religion as an answer to this quandary for myself. (Really really.) There are only several reasons why I rejected it though:

    1. Which Religion to Pick? Yeah, I know, from the safe and secure harbor of a religion it’s preposterous to think that anyone could possibly have any doubt about what religion was appropriate for others. From your viewpoint as a Christian, I’m sure the answers to that are all sewn up tight. Of course the ONLY reasonable route to go would be (drum roll please): Christian! But see from the outside it’s not that easy.

      I know that Christians have a process whereby they ‘shop’ for churches that match their personal beliefs and that makes good, logical sense. Luckily, the field of Christian candidates is comparatively small though so you don’t have to hunt wide and far to find a decent fit. Shopping for religion in a broader sense is a much harder thing though. There’s a lot of room between Quaker and Devil Worshiper so there are a lot of variables to consider. Not the least of which is finding a religion with a local branch office and hours that are compatible with your lifestyle.

    2. Overhead. If there’s one thread that recurs throughout my blog posts it’s that of the skeptic. Despite all humanity’s best efforts, I can never accept the metaphysical overhead that’s inherent in the major world religions. I’ll buy almost everything you have to sell up to a very precise point.

      Should we follow a standard and fair code of laws? Damn right!

      Should we respect each other and ourselves as much as possible? Of course!

      Is the Bible a good example of a set of laws by which we should live our lives? Well, not the Old Testament at least. Those people were jerks.

      Should we try to live up to the example of Christ and be as much like him as possible. Better than using the average NBA player as your role model.

      Is a benevolent and forgiving (or wrathful and generally pissed off) God looking down on us waiting to smite us or elevate us based on our actions and beliefs? Here, of course, is where it all begins to fall apart for me. Sure, there’s a single binding and all-encompassing force that rules the universe. Yeah, you heard me. I said it. It’s called the Laws of Physics. No, I don’t mean the Laws as Man writes them. Those are the shallow interpretations of the Real Laws as seen from our dustmite-like existence. No, I mean the REAL rules. The rules that all infinite Cosmos follows in its day-to-day business. In it’s dispassionate, detached, unemotional day-to-day business. It’s day-to-day business in which a man is no more important than a microbe. That’s the really terrifying part of my belief system. In my church, the universe cares not for you any more than it does the cow you ate for dinner. Your existence or lack thereof is balanced on the head of a pin and the only thing between you and oblivion is your own ability to stay alive. Sometimes that means fighting off a cold and sometimes that means playing nice with the other commuters so they don’t snap and shoot you as you drive down the freeway.

    3. Hypocrisy. Lastly, I can’t adopt any mainstream religion at this point because, simply, it would be hypocritical. I’ve said very publicly for quite a while to anyone who would listen that the metaphysical aspects of religion make no sense whatsoever. There’s on new evidence on that front so to simply ‘change my mind’ on the subject would be the act of a hypocrite. I’d be very obviously letting myself hold a different opinion just for the sake of convenience. If there is a greater, judging power to the universe then I would expect such internal inconsistency to be one of the most mortal of sins.

So yes, Randy, I agree that for many people (heck, for 90% of the planet) there is a greater purpose than anything I’ve outlined. Despite your differences, most of you agree that any worldly concerns are trivial when compared to your service to God. Unfortunately, God isn’t exactly here for us to peel grapes for so in most cases ‘Service to God’ seems to boil down to either ‘Service to Humanity’ (My #1) or ‘Service to Church’ (God’s representatives on Earth). Service to Humanity I can live with but Churches, despite all their generally good intentions, are still just people. At their best, they serve as a conduit to help others and at their worst they simply help themselves to your money. So in the end, even ‘Service to God’ seems to boil down to ‘Service to Humanity’.

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Why Bother?

As I sat downstairs trying to read over the din of my own thoughts I was struck hard in the face by the usual question: Why Bother to actually do anything? Why not just sit and stare at the TV or perhaps go to bed early. It made me realize that I’ve not properly laid out the reasons in my mind for actually doing any of the things I do. It seems as good a time as any since my internal dialog apparently intent on drowning out whatever it was Dickens had to relate this evening.

It would seem there is a finite and indeed VERY short list of ultimate motivations for anything a person can do. I’ll list them in order of importance as I see them and ignore (as usual) any items related to personal mythologies.

  1. Service to humanity, community or the universe in general. I’ll admit that I’m pretty sure that nothing I’ve ever done has touched this level. Not that I’m against that mind you but my personal sphere of influence on this planet is just about three people and those only because I tend to control their breakfasts.
  2. Service to family, friends and your genetic progeny. Almost everyone does this. Every time you wipe your child’s nose, you get credit in this category. Humans are very attached to their children; probably because they’re just so darn cute.
  3. Service to self. We all REALLY do this. Every time you buy yourself a new tie or shave or study for that big algebra final so you can get a good job when you get out of college you’re dancing in three-land.
  4. Merely passing the time. Every single episode of Seinfeld you’ve ever watched… yup, it’s in this basement category.
  5. Negative crap. This is all the stuff you do to the detriment of humanity, family, friends and yourself. Hopefully this is kept to a minimum.

Okay, so there you have it. Everything I’ve ever done falls into one of those categories. It’s almost sad to think that human endeavor is so easily reducible to just a trivial handful of basic motivations. Now, for part two of our exercise, let’s go through the items that suck time out of my life and assign them to a category. This is sure to be ultimately depressing… In general order of total time consumed…

  1. Work. Clearly a 2. It should be obvious that most people (myself included) wouldn’t work merely for the joys of working. But, we all do it so that our families will have the stuff they want. If it were just me kicking around here, I’d have a much less lucrative position involving some topic of greater interest if not greater importance.
  2. Clean house, take care of kids, etc. Again, this is clearly a 2. In fact, so clearly that it’s stupid to say anything else about it.
  3. Reading those damn books. I’ve tried without success to take what is a type-3 activity and promote it to something that’s actually useful. My wife has long ago tired of my random anecdotes from whatever crap I happen to be reading. I’ve even gone so far as to try to write up summaries and share some of these random tidbits online. Sadly, the results are too dull even for me to read over again. One can’t properly summarize a book without in fact writing a book of your own it would seem. (Damn the incompressibility of human knowledge.) My summary of Genesis is actually LONGER than Genesis.

    One could even argue that this is not even a proper type-3 activity. While it may entertain me personally, it does nothing to improve me in the eyes of society. By the standards of my contemporaries I’m already far too filled up with irrelevant information to be approachable and my conversation is amusing but only in the same sense that Napoleon Dynamite is amusing.

  4. Studying… well, stuff. Over the past few years I’ve studied a lot of crap. The mathematics phase wore off about a year ago and since then it’s been languages. Much like reading those damn books though, this is only a self-serving activity. While it may entertain me, it only deepens the gulf of my geekishness.
  5. Woodworking. In woodworking, the most normal of my activities, I find a brief reprieve from weird. I can also promote this to a happy type-2 activity as well since the vast majority of my productions have been for those yahoos who live downstairs. It is my hope that this at least will be my gift to my children and children’s children. They’ll have something to remember their great-grandfather for. Now see, that’s happy and uplifting now isn’t it?
  6. Write on this blog thing. Of all my activities, this is probably the one I understand the least. Its use is inconsistent and slides from soul-searching (but generally uninteresting) posts like this one to dead boring tidbits about random factual topics. In a way, it’s my vague and sad attempt to do something, anything, for the world in general. Unfortunately, my voice is too soft and my soliloquy to sleepy for anyone to notice. I am like a stone dropped into a raging rapid. But really, isn’t everyone?

And I think that’s it. That’s pretty much what I do. It’s sad to think that an entire person, the endeavors of a human soul, can be summed up so succinctly and tidily.

So what do you do?

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Real Spells. Real Fun. Placenta Pregnancy Delay Spell

Today’s spell from “The Element Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells. The Ultimate Reference Book for the Magical Arts.”

[My comments in square brackets.]

** Spell Begins

Placenta Pregnancy Delay Spell – Hills and Valleys

Many contraceptive spells are cooperative ones between a man and a woman, with much of the action [or more likely INaction] traditionally performed by the father, as with this Cherokee ritual. If the father is unavailable or unable to do this, someone else may be delegated by the mother to perform the spell. This spell is intended to prevent pregnancy following too quickly upon the heels of a birth. The spell must be cast immediately following that first birth.

  1. Carry the placenta, with respect and reverence [meaning: at arms length as far from the face as possible], far from home. [preferably to the home of your in-laws]
  2. Ideally several hills are crossed, with each hill representing another year before a new baby is born. (If there are no hills, designate and articulate other landmarks as substitutes.) [how convenient] Consider how many hills to cross. [you’ll have plenty of time to think as you walk around with this rotting placenta in your arms]
  3. When the proper destination has been found, the placenta is buried in Earth.

** Spell Ends

Alright, well as grotesque as this spell is, I can see some truth hiding here. I’m pretty sure that if I walked around carrying a placenta that my wife wouldn’t want anything to do with me for a while either.

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Real Spells. Real Fun. Trap-A-Vampire

Here we go… just in time for the Holidays, it’s the spell I know you’ll all need tomorrow.
[My Comments in square brackets. See yesterday’s post for the back story on this.]

** Spell Begins
Trap-A-Vampire Spell

Vampires, like genies, may be trapped in bottles. Choose a glass or metal bottle; presumably the vampire can bite through a plastic one. This spell works on the same principle as a fly-trap. [Whoa now, slow down a minute. Presumably? I’m here bottling the undead and you’re hitting me with your ‘presumptions’ about the equipment? You’d best have this all properly planned out before I go tracking down Nosferatu. It’s crap instructions like these that get people eaten alive.]

1. Place some kind of food the vampire likes inside the bottle, but not blood. [And how, exactly, am I supposed to ascertain this little nugget of information? Shall I ask? Perhaps present him with a menu? It’s a vampire. All it friggin’ EATS is blood. Jeeze.]
This spell works on a vampire who is understood to have once been a regular person with predilections for human food. [Oh, so a former human then. Aren’t MOST vampires supposed to be former humans? And last I checked, most HUMANS have a natural taste for HUMAN food. It’s pretty natural. Dogs… Dog Food… yeah, see how that works?]
Find something particularly tempting and put it in the bottle. [… and then prepare to die. So yeah, figure out what ELSE the vampire might like to eat besides human blood and put in the bottle. Damn! That’s so simple. Sure hope ‘ole Dracula had a taste for food small enough to FIT into a stinkin’ bottle. Somehow I’d feel more comfortable with a box, a stick and a few feet of string. At least you can FIT a meal into a Wile-E-Coyote style box trap.]

2. You will know when the vampire is in the bottle when you observe a bit of straw of fluff within. [Assuming, of course, that you cleaned out the bottle in the first place. You’d sure hate to mistake a bit of belly button lint for the undead. Imagine your embarrassment.] Seal the bottle up securely. [After you’ve snuck up on bottle so the lint can’t see you, plug the top with some of that watermelon you couldn’t fit into the bottle in the first place.]

3. The bottle and the vampire may be destroyed by throwing the sealed bottle into a fire. [Crap. But then I’ll lose my 5 cent deposit. Screw it, those villagers can just watch out for themselves.]

** Spell Ends

It’s exactly this reason that it’s EXTREMELY important to keep track of all your friend’s favorite foods. You never know when you may need to tempt them into a bottle and trap them.

Tomorrow’s Spell: Placenta Pregnancy Delay Spell

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Real Spells. Real Fun. Beef Tongue Court Case Spell

Alright, so I was at the bookstore and I saw this fun looking book called “The Element Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells. The Ultimate Reference Book for the Magical Arts.” Now I don’t even HAVE to pick this thing up and look through it. It’s a done deal. This book is SOLD. I figure there are two possibilities. Either:

A. This is a real spell book and the people think they’re really publishing magical spells to do… well, stuff.
B. This is a historical book talking about what crazy people used to do when they thought they were using magical spells to do… well, stuff.

In my opinion, this was a win-win scenario. Either way, there’s big-mega-mystic fun to be had.

After thumbing through this a bit, I will admit that I’m not really 100% sure which way these people are going. It has a clear disclaimer on the back though:

“Any reader uses the spells entirely at their own risk and the author and publisher accept no liability if the spells to not have their desired effector if adverse effects are caused.”

So yeah, this is serious business folks. Don’t be trying this crap without a licensed witch or you may end up needing a witch… doctor… hey-HEY? Get it… witchd… oh hell, never mind.

Let’s begin, let’s open the 1105 page book to a random page… page 226…
[any commentary from me will be in square brackets]

** Spell Begins:

Beef Tongue Court Case Spell (I) The Basic Version

This spell is intended to provide legal victory.

  1. Write the names of the judge, attorneys, adversaries, anyone who’s involved in your case who may be perceived as your opponent or an ally of your opponent on individual slips of paper, about the size of the fortune in a fortune cookie. Each name gets its own piece of paper.
  2. Using a sharp knife, cut slits into a beef tongue, one slit per paper. [Oh, I can see where THIS is going.]
  3. Insert one name paper into each slit. [DAMN! I knew it!]
  4. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper and vinegar. [and salt to taste]
  5. Close the slits with pins and needles.
  6. Wrap the tongue up and place it securely in your freezer for at least a year or until you’re sure all danger has passed. [or until we have the technology to bring the tongue back to life and cure whatever killed the cow… last I checked though, there was no cure for slaughtering.]

** Spell Ends.

Um… yeah, good luck with that. I’m gonna recommend that after you’re done screwing around with the dead cow lingus, maybe, I dunno, hire a lawyer?

Tomorrow’s spell: Trap-A-Vampire!

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