Just Try To Grab A Pussy, Donald

I guarantee from this point forward you’ll be pulling back a bloody stump.

Yesterday showed me that this is not Germany 1938 and will never be. If Trump and his thugs think they’re just going to roll over the opposition, they’ve got another thought coming. This country has freedom of speech and of assembly woven into its DNA, and as much as Cheetolini would like to and will undoubtedly try to, this—and yesterday’s crowds—cannot be denied.

Photo source

A Glittering Jewel Box

The Pleiades

But also a bit of an optical illusion.

Messier Object M45, or as is commonly known, the Pleiades, aka “The Seven Sisters,” one of the most famous star clusters visible to the unaided eye in the night sky and now prominently visible after dark, presents itself as a compact grouping of stars surrounded by the wisps of gas and dust leftover from the stars’ creation. From all the earth-bound photos, one would assume that the cluster is physically compact and these stars are very close together.

But that assumption would be wrong. Thanks to the wonders of Celestia, an entirely new view of the cluster can be seen, exposing the true relationship of the stars in the group.

The Pleiades, Centered On The Cluster and Seen 90° From Earth’s Line-Of-Sight

Not only are the seven main stars in the cluster further apart from each other than the Earth is to its nearest neighbor Proxima Centauri, on average, adjacent stars are as far apart as the Sun is from Sirius, and the distance from the star closest to earth and the one farthest away is nearly 40 light years.

While a night sky on a planet orbiting any of the stars in the cluster would still be wondrous compared to a night sky on Earth because the stars of the Pleiades are young, hot, and burn with a blue-white intensity, it wouldn’t be as bright and filled with glittering jewels as you would think. The other main stars in the group would appear anywhere from the brightness of Sirius to about twice the intensity of Venus in Earth’s sky. Bright, yes, but perhaps not as awe-inspiring as you’d expect based on the photos from Earth.

That being said, I certainly wouldn’t turn down an invite to visit…

Just Because

Emperor Joseph II: My dear young man, don’t take it too hard. Your work is ingenious. It’s quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that’s all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Which few did you have in mind, Majesty?

What Gay Agenda?

The one thing that stands out to me the most after pouring over the few remaining gay blogs out there where authors actually write, is how incredibly normal, and dare I say—boring—our lives actually are. As human beings we all want the same things: food, shelter, to be loved, a means of making a living, a safe place to call home, and a modicum of happiness—however we choose to define it. That’s what angers me the most about those on the right who are constantly screeching in fear of “the other,” whether it be people of the same sex wanting to get married, or families fleeing war-torn Syria. We all want the same things, and—despite what certain harpies would have you believe—those things are not finite. There is plenty to go around once we let go of the “all for me and none for thee” mindset. “We are more alike than we are different” is so obvious. It’s really too bad that more people don’t get it.

Just a Few Questions…

Disclaimer: I am not Catholic, have never been Catholic, and quite frankly couldn’t give a rat’s ass what the guy in Rome wearing the fancy smock and the pointy hat has to say, but I ran across this today and felt it worthy of passing on.

“If my good friend Dr Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.” ~Pope Francis

From Rosa Rubiconidior:

Dear Pope Francis

I saw your recent statement in Manilla in response the the Charlie Hebdo atrocities in Paris, that people who insult religion can expect to be punched. I am surprised that you seem to be excusing Islamic violence, presumably because you feel solidarity with other religions in the face of growing secularism in Europe, and find it confusing in view of official Christian teaching.

I acknowledge your right to determine Catholic Church policy and dogma in this issue, and I am aware that you have been trying to present the Catholic Church in a more liberal, more tolerant and less bigoted light and that you may even have been trying to instigate some actual reforms yet to manifest themselves, but this statement raises a number of questions which I would like you to answer please:

1. In view of what the Bible says Jesus said should be the right response to insults – to forgive and turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-39Luke 6:27-29) – how does this new, violent response to insulting religion fit in with Jesus’ teaching? Do you think Jesus was wrong or just that he made a mistake in not explicitly stating this exceptions to this rule? Or does this apparent abandonment of the ‘turn the other cheek’ principle mark a change in God’s thinking on this matter and a repudiation of Jesus’ teaching?

2. Does this violent response to insults to religion apply in principle to other insults to individuals or organizations? If so, which, please?

3. Some people might interpret a resort to violence as a tacit admission that there areno reasonable arguments which can be used and an awareness of that deficiency, and that it betrays an insecurity which translates as a perceived threat, hence the ‘retaliation’. This in turn might imply a personal commitment to an idea which is known to be defective or even a lifestyle which is known to be fraudulent and disingenuous with religion being used merely as an excuse. What would you say to these people?

4. If this permitted violent response applies only to religions, does this apply to all religions or just to major ones such as Islam, Christianity and Judaism? If all religions, how are you defining the term ‘religion’ in this context? Does it require a belief in one or more invisible deities or would you include Buddhism and neo-Paganism or religion as understood by people such as Baruch Spinoza and Albert Einstein, which would include very many openly Atheist/Agnostic scientists? For example, as someone who is in total awe at the Universe and the natural forces that have shaped it and which have given rise to life on Earth with it’s amazingly rich diversity, would I be justified in punching anyone who disagrees with Big Bang Cosmology or Evolution by Natural Selection rather than bothering to explain the science?

5. Can I define my own religion and then punch anyone who insults it or does it need to be an organized religion complete with priesthood, buildings, creed, etc?

6. How should we define an ‘insult’ in this context, please? Is it an insult to question religious dogma or to disagree with it and put forward an opposing point of view? For example, if I question the historical existence of Jesus or the validity of the claim that the Qur’an was dictated by Allah to Muhammad, or even the historical accuracy of the Bible, would this justify someone punching me? How about if I question your authority or the dogma that on ecumentical matters and matters of morality you are infallible? What if I advocate contraception, same-sex marriages or strict secularism in government, health-care and education?

7. As an Atheist, I believe that all religions are delusional in nature and have many of the characteristics of a memetic virus living parasitically on human cultures. Do I deserve to be punched by religious people who might be insulted by these views or by religious people who find the idea that they are evolved apes who share a common ancestor with the other apes offensive and insulting?

8. The other day in Oxford, UK a man was telling passers by that they were all sinners and his god would hurt us if we didn’t agree and do what he said. As a secular Humanist and Atheist I found this insulting. Would I have been justified in punching him for that insult and would he have been justified in punching me for telling him he was probably suffering from paranoid theophobia and needed psychiatric help and counselling?

9. Is it permitted for any Muslim to punch Christians who deny the divinely inspired nature of the Qur’an or the claim that Muhammad was Allah’s prophet, or for a Christian to punch a Muslim who claims Jesus was not an Earthly manifestation of God and that the only way to salvation is through strict adherence to Islam not Jesus? If not, why not? If so, to where do you see this leading humanity?

10. Is the violent response restricted to a single punch or is a slap, a push, a knee in the groin or a headbut permitted? Can it involve more than one of these and can it result in actual bodily harm? What if the punched person retaliates? Can the response include a weapon or is it always to be unarmed violence?

11. May a man punch a woman who insults his religion, or an able-bodied person punch a disabled person, or a large person a smaller one? At what age are children eligible to be punched by adults and can children punch one another?

12. What advice would you give to people living in countries where punching someone is a crime and who finds themselves in court charged with assault, affray or causing actual or grievous bodily harm? Would you support a plea of innocent or mitigation on the grounds of religious conscience or that you said it was permitted?

I would be grateful for a reasoned and prompt response to these questions, please as I feel the future of European civilisation in particular and human society in general may be enormously affected by a careless and confused attempt to implement what looks like a new, less tolerant and more violent Catholic dogma which can only be expected to result in retaliation and an escalation in communal and inter-faith violence.

Yours,

Rosa Rubicondior

I Just Don’t Care Any More

About anything Microsoft says or does, that is.

This, of course, does not bode well for my continued employment in this field. I’ve been doing PC tech support full time since 1996 and as part of other job duties for an additional ten years prior to that. Obviously there was something that kept me engaged for all those years, but it’s long gone.

For years I dealt with the continual patches and updates, the virus outbreaks, the malware, and the ever increasing bloat that was Windows and MS Office. The annoyance with all things Microsoft began several years ago, but was manageable and really didn’t come to a head until I started running Windows 7 on my personal laptop back in the summer of 2009. One day, for no reason whatsoever, it simply refused to display my chosen wallpaper. No amount of cajoling or voodoo worked to rectify the situation, and faced with the prospect of wiping everything and reinstalling Windows again, I said ENOUGH. That was it; I was through with Microsoft. I had to deal with this crap at work; I didn’t have to at home.

Within a week I was a Mac owner. I’d be lying if I said the transition was painless, and I am not afraid to admit that Apple does have issues—but they’re nothing compared with what I’ve had to deal with from pretty much anything coming out of Redmond.

For the last year I’ve been running Windows 7 on my work PC. About three weeks ago it started refusing to do something with Internet Explorer (to be honest I don’t remember what it was at this point—not worth committing to memory), so I wiped the damn thing and loaded XP.

I was amazed at how much faster the machine ran. This confirms my belief that despite the 120+ patches and fixes that came out after SP3, Microsoft basically got it right with XP.

I’ve been able to keep my disgust and ever increasing apathy toward all things Microsoft (and Dell) concealed on a professional level since then, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult. During meetings with our network consultants, they’re rattling off architectures and protocols and how the next big thing from Dell—or whoever—is going to fundamentally change our lives. Seriously dudes? Years ago I might’ve actually been interested enough to ask what all this meant (or at least research it myself later), but at this point I simply don’t care.

Don’t even get me started on the total lack of even he most elementary of computer skills in the workers my company hires (a despair I share with more than one of the managers). For example, today I got an email from one woman who wrote, “It never prompted me to change my password. How do I do that?”

Seriously.

I replied, “Knowing how to change one’s Windows password is a basic computer skill,” and then wrote out the steps to do it. I’m sure I’m going to get feedback on that.

But I don’t care.

And for some reason, people never think of rebooting when they encounter a problem. No, it’s so much easier to call me so I can tell them to reboot.

And then they give me attitude. “You always tell me to do that!” Well yeah, it’s because it fixes whatever’s wrong 90% of the time, asshole.

There’s a reason your I.T. guy is surly. We don’t start out this way. Like a clogged pipe, it takes years to get to this level of contempt for the people you’re supposed to support.

So what’s the solution?

I’m not sure. If I knew I wouldn’t be still hanging around the place I am.

I would like to find an Apple shop; some business that uses Macs and OS X instead of plastic Dell crap running Windows. I think that might rekindle my interest in this technology. I once thought about applying to work at an Apple store, but while I was once able to feign caring, compassionate customer service, I can’t even fake it any more and I wouldn’t last a day in that environment.

 

Clusterfucked, Part One

So far, this trip to Phoenix has been one clusterfuck after another and shows absolutely no signs of abating.

Before I even left Denver, my heart sank when I woke up and looked outside. After reading repeated weather forecasts for clear and sunny for the next ten days, it had snowed overnight.

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you know I love the cold weather, but I absolutely hate driving in snow, and will refuse to do it if at all possible.

I didn’t have that option this time.

I got online and checked the traffic cams down I-25, and I was not reassured by what I saw. Some parts were clear, but many were snowy or covered in slush.  As the sun came up, things started to look better, and by the time I finally left town at 10 am, the roads were virtually clear, and remained so all the way to my arrival in Albuquerque at 4:30 pm.

The car itself had me a little concerned. Yeah, it had just gotten new brakes, an oil change, and a thorough going-over by the friendly staff at MINI, but it wasn’t starting immediately like it used to. I wrote it off to the extremely cold temps, but when I attempted to move it nearby my room after checking in at the motel, it almost didn’t start.

Not wanting to be stuck in Bumfuck Arizona because I had to take a bathroom break on the next leg of my journey, I tracked down a replacement battery (thanks to help from Ben) at a local Walmart.

Little did I know this was going to be one of the the worst customer service experiences I’ve ever had. When I pulled the car around to the service bay, the tech told me it would be about 20 minutes. I went back inside and saw that the new battery had been pulled from stock and was sitting on the check-out counter. At that point, with only one guy on the register (the one who was supposedly taking the battery out to the shop after I’d pulled in), a steady stream of customers apparently decided that going to the front of the store to check out was too much trouble, and decided to take the “no waiting” approach in Automotive—including one woman with a full cart of groceries.

Then there were the three separate people who needed keys made. And the couple who wanted to audition car stereos. And about four other yahoos who simply brought their shit there to pay for.

All the while the battery sat on the counter.

Finally another tech came in from the service bay and walked over to the battery shelf and started scrolling through the electronic battery finder.

“Are you looking for the MINI Cooper?” I asked. Twice. “It’s on the counter.” Twice.

“I wanted to make sure it was the right one.”

Did I mention the not one, but two sets of parents who decided it was an excellent idea to drop off their kids in the Automotive waiting room (because they were showing Rango) while they went shopping?

So, what was supposed to have taken 20 minutes ended up taking about 90. Finally, the battery was replaced, and I was once again on my way, confident that this was going to be the last of it.

The motel in Albuquerque wasn’t bad. It was a Motel 6 right near the freeway and had been recently “updated.” It was quiet and reasonably comfortable, but the bedspread had several obvious fluid stains of unknown origin. I’m sure that if I’d brought my blacklight flashlight with me they would’ve lit up the room.

The car started right up the next day despite the frigid temperatures (I stopped to wash the dry snow-slush off the car from the previous day because I couldn’t see out the rear window) and the water froze onto the car before I had a chance to dry it off.

It warmed up as I continued the journey and I arrived in Phoenix at a balmy 60℉. The Motel 6 I was staying at in Phoenix (for a total of four nights) was not as nice as Albuquerque—not by a long shot.  For starters, there was a prominent sign displayed at the check-in desk that stated there were to be no unregistered overnight guests, and if discovered, all parties concerned will be thrown out WITH NO REFUNDS.

Reminds me of a prison block in some twisted Sci-fi flick…

Because of the attitude I’d gotten from my sister, I didn’t call when I arrived; I simply texted her after I got settled. “I’m here. You have me until dinner time on Saturday. What’s the plan?”

She wanted to know where I was, and then to meet her at Dad’s place.

I asked for an hour or so to unwind before heading over, thinking that we’d meet there, go grab a bite to eat, and then head over to the care center to see Dad.  An hour later she called and said she had finished eating and was leaving to head over to his mobile home.

Great. Now I had to find dinner before going over.

I grew up on this side of town, and I haven’t been gone from Phoenix that long, so I had a good idea of what my choices were for something easy and quick. Panda Express was the obvious choice since I was already growing weary of fast food.

It took four tries to get my debit card to scan.

Seriously.

I still managed to get to Dad’s place before my sister arrived, and I was appalled. I knew he hadn’t dusted since I’d briefly lived with him in 2002 upon my return from California, but I was unprepared for the episode of Hoarders I was walking into.

Okay, maybe that’s a little unfair. There was a clear path through all the rooms.

It turns out that only existed because my sister and brother in law had been in a week earlier and cleared it.

If I had any doubts about the need to get him out of that environment prior to coming back to Phoenix, they immediately vanished. It was no wonder he’s been suffering years of allergies and other sinus/nasal problems.  I lasted all of a half hour before I started sneezing. Thankfully during that time my sister had arrived and we were soon on our way to the care center.

It was a bit of a shock to see him there. On the one hand, because of his surgery and subsequent diet of liquid and semi-liquid food, he’d lost about 30 pounds and looked good. On the other hand, I’d never seen the man looking so frail, and he didn’t immediately realize that I’d walked in with my sister.

But once he did, he was very happy to see me.

Since he’s basically in a rehab nursing home at the moment, the plan is to get him resettled in a permanent managed care facility. My sister needed me here mostly as another set of legs to get the necessary paperwork together to get him set up for ALTCS (Arizona Long Term Care System) like we’d done with Mom.  After we finished our visit with Dad, we went back to his mobile home, where she gave me a to-do list of what she’d like me to help her with over the next couple days. It was nothing earth-shattering, but I felt kind of annoyed that this was all she wanted me to drive 700+ miles for.

The next morning, after getting dressed, I headed over to Starbucks to grab breakfast, and since I was in the neighborhood, decided to pop in and see some of my old team at my previous job. Only my boss was actually there, but it was great to catch up with him.

My next stop was my dad’s doctor’s office to sign all the paperwork to get a copy of his medical records sent to my sister. (We both have Medical POA.) From there it was to the VA to do the same thing. It was there I ran into the worst customer service ever. It’s a government agency. Should I expect anything less? The guy at the window was downright surly, but I got the request put in.

I headed to lunch at Honey Bear’s BBQ and then back over to the mobile home to begin cleaning and tossing stuff out.

(To be continued.)

 

 

 

10—No, 11—Things Facebook Has Taught Us

1. Punctuation. is. a… lost cause.

2. People who use the word “FIRST!” to comment are rarely over the age of 15.

3. Lose and Loose now mean the same thing.

4. Spelling is a loost cause.

5. Their, There, and They’re are now all interchangeable as well.

6. Trolls usually have pseudonyms.

7. Some people think “Wat” is a word.

8. People think other people really want to see pictures of what they’re eating.

9. I can’t believe you’re still reading this.

10. People like to click “like.”

11. People are fucking stupid, and the human race is doomed. Think Idiocracy, but much worse.

Under-appreciated

The other night I was watching a documentary about the life and times of Sir Elton John, and as they were reeling off all his albums, I noticed that they completely skipped over one of my personal favorites, his eleventh studio release, Blue Moves.

Even at the time it came out, the two-disk Blue Moves was considered a bit of an anomaly, and as I recall the critics were unerwhelmed. It was Elton’s first release on his own label (Rocket Records) and contained many strictly instrumental cuts, which was unusual for EJ. It also wasn’t the “classic” Elton John sound we’d all come to know and love, but it in retrospect—having begun with Rock of the Westies—it was the sound he was moving toward.

It garnered one hit single: Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word.

I personally consider it one of his best, and most under-appreciated albums.

My favorite high-energy cuts are Crazy Water (I love to crank this one in the car), One Horse Town, Boogie Pilgrim,  and Bite Your Lip (Get Up and Dance). Elton is quite soulful on Someone’s Final Song and If There’s a God In Heaven (What’s He Waiting For?). Elton’s fun, indomitable story telling talent is highlighted in Shoulder Holster.

But you know what the strongest memory this album invokes?  The time I had recorded it onto one of those nortorious 120-minute cassettes that should never have been used for anything, and the cassette player in truck ate it while I was out running around one afternoon with my friend Steve.

Here are a couple photos from that afternoon…

R.I.P.

Ralph McQuarrie, the man who helped bring the vision of Star Wars to life.

These are some scans from the first Ralph McQuarrie Star Wars portfolio. Once upon a time I had all of the portfolios from the first three films, but one was lost somewhere in a move and the other two were sold when I was unemployed in 2003. I still have the “The Art of…” books from the first three films (before Lucas started fucking around with them), and I will never part with those.