You’re Doing It Wrong

A Christian group that is planning a “fast” in opposition to same-sex marriage has claimed that members don’t actually have to stop eating food to take part.

The Virginia-based Family Foundation announced a coordinated fast earlier this month, in order to influence the US Supreme Court into rejecting same-sex marriage when it hears the first of a series of appeals cases in October.

The group had said previously: “The Supreme Court begins their session on October 6th. We fully expect them to take a marriage case sometime in the next year.

“Join us for 40 Days of Prayer, Fasting and Repentance for Marriage from August 27 through October 5, 2014.

“Our 40 Days will culminate on October 5th just before the court begins their session.”

However, the group has since told members that they don’t actually have to give up food at all to take part in the “fast.”

They wrote: “We are asking the entire Body of Christ to join us for this feast – giving up physical food isn’t necessary – but feeding on the spiritual food provided is vital.”

As people don’t actually have to give up food to take part, the group opposed to re-defining the definition of marriage seem to be re-defining the meaning of a fast.


So This Happened

After spending most of the afternoon attempting to download the installer, it finally completed without error.

I set up a separate partition on my hard drive and installed it.

Very pretty. “I love what you’ve done with the place.”

After about an hour, I got bored. There isn’t much I could do with it, because I only allotted a 60GB partition, and while I might’ve been able to reinstall all my applications, it definitely wouldn’t hold all my data, and frankly I just couldn’t deal with all that bother anyway.

I have too much on my internal drive to just split it down the middle and restore everything from Time Machine, so I decided to load it on an external drive.

That worked fine. It was impossibly slow, but I verified that everything worked.

After creating a complete backup of the existing internal Mavericks drive, I threw all caution to the wind and ignoring all published warnings, I then loaded Yosemite on the main drive.

So far, so good. The only issue I’ve run into is that the GUI interface of my VPN service didn’t work. That’s not a big deal, as I was able to set up a direct VPN connection in the OS.

Blast from the Past

My sister is still going through our Dad’s belongings, and over the past few weeks she’s been sending me the detritus of his electronic life. Boxes full of diskettes, CDROMs and Zip (!) disks have been arriving with disturbing regularity. They’re all coming Priority Mail, which makes no sense whatsoever, other than by spending an exorbitant amount to ship this stuff to me (instead of waiting until September when I’m in Phoenix and can ship the stuff myself), it’s her passive-aggressive way of guilting me for not being able to come coming down for Dad’s ash scattering last fall.

The other day a banker box arrived and I still don’t understand why the postman decided to stuff it into one of the parcel boxes instead of leaving it at the leasing office. I was barely able to get it out and by the time I finally freed it from the box, I was cursing out my sister for spending $25 to send this…whatever it was.

It turns out I shouldn’t have been so quick to judgment. While I was initially disappointed when opening the box and seeing Dad’s old wool Navy blanket (something I’d told her repeatedly I didn’t want), I dug deeper and found a small oil painting Dad had done of me as a baby and—this was an OH MY GOD moment—my old commercial aviation scrapbook from when I was a kid.

This was something I’d completely forgotten about, but seeing it’s bright orange cover jogged that memory in an instant. As I gingerly opened the cover and saw the very first page plastered with Airline logos from the late 60s and early 70s, it all came flooding back.

Among the newspaper clippings, hand-drawn airplanes, airline advertisements, box covers from the models I’d built, boarding passes and printed paper schedules, were a dozen or so photographs I’d taken from the observation deck of Sky Harbor Airport. (This was pre-jetway Sky Harbor, when you actually got to talk on the tarmac to get on an airplane; back when there was an outside observation deck!) Being 40-plus years old, the photos were faded and discolored, but through the modern day magic of Photoshop, I was able to return them to their former glory.

Remember PSA?
Remember Western?
That’s a Delta DC-9 and a Frontier 737 behind that Western 727.
Air California, acquired by American in 1987,

And then there was the day the first 747 landed in Phoenix. It was a very big day as I recall, as the mayor came out to greet it as well the full media complement. I had seen a PanAm 747 from a distance when we’d flown through O’Hare earlier that year and I was in awe. How could anything that big actually fly?


In a little more than a month, Ben and I will be moving.


No…not out of Denver (that is still two years away), but simply into a smaller, cheaper apartment.

While I’m looking forward to the monthly cost savings this move will provide, just thinking about the actual process of getting from here to there has me wide awake and blogging at 4:30 in the morning.

Like most young people, when I was in my 20s it seemed that I moved every six months. And to be honest,  I loved it. It was an adventure; a new place, a new neighborhood. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to loathe the whole process. Once I’d moved back to Phoenix from San Francisco, I moved only twice—and one of those moves was simply to a different unit in the same complex—over a span of eight years. I like being settled, but with the arrival of our annual $100/month rent increase notice a few weeks ago, the cost-to-benefit ratio of staying in our current apartment for another two years simply didn’t make any sense. Both of us are already stretched financially; we’re no longer using that second bedroom, and its Pepto-Bismol stained carpet is a constant reminder that we need to get out of here and into somewhere that’s totally free of the bad juju of the past year.

We looked at several other places. We wanted a location about halfway between both our jobs, but it seems everything built in the Englewood/Tech Center area of Denver was designed with ridiculously overpaid urban professionals in mind; a demographic that apparently owns nothing more than a love seat and a twin-size bed and doesn’t mind paying an exorbitant amount of money for living in an oversized coat closet.

I’m sorry, but we have stuff. Not an inordinate amount, but even with a bit of extra room that would be available in a separate garage, we need more storage in the unit than what is being offered these days.

Fortunately, we finally found a place that met all our requirements about a mile and a half from our current location. It was built only a few years ago and the rent is what we were hoping to pay. It’s not perfect; we’re back on the third floor and we’ll be giving up our current faux-wood floors for a return to carpet throughout, but it’s gotten excellent online reviews (in stark contrast to our current complex), and it’s conveniently located adjacent to a light rail stop for my snow day commutes.

America’s Next Rocket

NASA’s Space Launch System, or SLS, will be the most powerful rocket in history. The flexible, evolvable design of this advanced, heavy-lift launch vehicle will meet a variety of crew and cargo mission needs.

In addition to carrying the Orion spacecraft, SLS will transfer important cargo, equipment and science experiments to deep space, providing the nation with a safe, affordable and sustainable means to expand our reach in the solar system. It will allow astronauts aboard Orion to explore multiple deep-space destinations including an asteroid and ultimately Mars.

The first configuration of the SLS launch vehicle will have a 70-metric-ton (77-ton) lift capacity and carry an uncrewed Orion spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit to test the performance of the integrated system. As the SLS is evolved, it will be the most powerful rocket ever built and provide an unprecedented lift capability of 130 metric tons (143 tons) to enable missions even farther into our solar system.

On the anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing, I can’t tell you how much this excites me.



Finally, something good has come from working at  ██████. And ironically, it may provide me just the ticket I need to get out of that hellhole.

Last week I—and four of my coworkers—spent three intensive days in offsite, company-paid Mac OS X training. Exactly why this was provided is not exactly clear to me since only directors and above have Macs which limits their penetration into the company, but I believe it has to do with the fact that we currently had only three Apple-certified techs on staff and if they’re all out for whatever reason and someone with a with an “O” in their title has Mac problems, the whining can be deafening. Or maybe it’s simply because the company finally upgraded to Mavericks (just in time for Yosemite!) and they figured we all needed a rounded education.

In any case, it was an enlightening three days. I can’t honestly say I learned a lot of things I didn’t already know, but what I did learn was very worthwhile, and if nothing else, further confirmed my love for the Apple ecosystem.

██████ is also paying for the first attempt at passing the certification test. I’m a little nervous about testing because—as I’ve written about before—I do horribly at these technical tests, but luckily we still have Ben’s old MacBook and I was able to wipe and and recreate the training environment on it without problems (actually part of the training itself).

Fortunately I can retake the test as many times as necessary to pass—at $250 a pop, but still it would be nice if I could pass it the first time on their dime.

Ben and I are both on vacation next week. Sadly, for a multitude of reasons we aren’t heading east to visit Erik again as originally planned, but counting the three days of training, the time away from ██████ comes to a total of 12 glorious days; almost half a month—and even without a road trip, it will not be wasted.

I intend to double-down on getting this training material committed to memory so I can feel comfortable going into the test. When I pass and get that certification, it will definitely look good on my resume, even if I don’t end up working for a company that uses Macs.

In addition to me studying, we’re also planning on spending a day at Rocky Mountain National Park and another day at the Denver Botanic Gardens to see the Chihuly exhibit. There will also be a few movies thrown in, and just a general exhalation from not having to be at the frat house.



At the Risk of Dating Myself…

…whenever I hear this

I am transported back to 1977 and a warm, sun-dappled autumn afternoon in my dorm room in Kaibab-Huachuca Hall at the University of Arizona.

The 12″ 45 rpm single was pressed on red vinyl and when it was new, smelled of strawberries.

And from there the trip down memory lane invariably leads to these:

“And you thought it was over…no, no, no…”

This one wasn’t pressed on colored vinyl (at least not the copy I had), but to this day I swear it smelled of poppers when it was first opened.

The cut Violation was the soundtrack for the first time I slow danced with another guy. I was so disappointed that I could never find a translucent pink vinyl copy of the record all the DJs seemed to have—until nearly 30 years later. And it was only a few short years ago that my friend Kevin (of The Lisp fame) provided me with a definitive translation of all the lesbian making out that was going on in the song.

It was the summer of “I Feel Love,” but eventually all my favorite cuts from the album were on the A-Side.

Still one of my all-time favorite records. Rumor at the time was the costumes cost thousands. I find that very hard to believe now.

Do You Live in a Blast Zone?

Wow. Just wow.

I stumbled across this today and while I normally don’t reblog stuff word-for-word, this bears repeating.

Did you know there are more than 25 million people at risk due to unsafe tanker cars carrying highly-flammable oil on railways near homes and schools? It’s time to get these dangerous cars off the tracks and protect our communities!

Find out if you are in the oil train Blast Zone here and sign the petition demanding that Congress stand up to Big Oil (yeah, I know…fat chance that will ever happen) and get unsafe oil cars off the rails.



adjective |ˈpərfikt|

having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be: she strove to be the perfect wife | life certainly isn’t perfect at the moment.• free from any flaw or defect in condition or quality; faultless: the equipment was in perfect condition.

The Limits of Corporate Citizenship: Why Walgreen Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Influence U.S. Politics If It Becomes Swiss

Dozens of big U.S. corporations are considering leaving the United States in order to reduce their tax bills.

But they’ll be leaving the country only on paper. They’ll still do as much business in the U.S. as they were doing before.

The only difference is they’ll no longer be “American,” and won’t have to pay U.S. taxes on the profits they make.

Okay. But if they’re no longer American citizens, they should no longer be able to spend a penny influencing American politics.

Some background: We’ve been hearing for years from CEOs that American corporations are suffering under a larger tax burden than their foreign competitors. This is mostly rubbish.

It’s true that the official corporate tax rate of 39.1 percent, including state and local taxes, is the highest among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

But the effective rate – what corporations actually pay after all deductions, tax credits, and other maneuvers – is far lower.

Last year, the Government Accountability Office, examined corporate tax returns in detail and found that in 2010, profitable corporations headquartered in the United States paid an effective federal tax rate of 13 percent on their worldwide income, 17 percent including state and local taxes. Some pay no taxes at all.

One tax dodge often used by multi-national companies is to squirrel their earnings abroad in foreign subsidiaries located in countries where taxes are lower. The subsidiary merely charges the U.S. parent inflated costs, and gets repaid in extra-fat profits.

Becoming a foreign company is the extreme form of this dodge. It’s a bigger accounting gimmick. The American company merges with a foreign competitor headquartered in another nation where taxes are lower, and reincorporates there.

This “expatriate” tax dodge (its official name is a “tax inversion”) is now at the early stages but is likely to spread rapidly because it pushes every American competitor to make the same move or suffer a competitive disadvantage.

For example, Walgreen, the largest drugstore chain in the United States with more than 8,700 drugstores spread across the nation, is on the verge of moving its corporate headquarters to Switzerland as part of a merger with Alliance Boots, the European drugstore chain.

Founded in Chicago in 1901, with current headquarters in the nearby suburb of Deerfield, Walgreen is about as American as apple pie — or your Main Street druggist.

Even if it becomes a Swiss corporation, Walgreen will remain your Main Street druggist. It just won’t pay nearly as much in U.S. taxes.

Which means the rest of us will have to make up the difference. Walgreen’s morph into a Swiss corporation will cost you and me and every other American taxpayer about $4 billion over five years, according to an analysis by Americans for Tax Fairness.

The tax dodge likewise means more money for Walgreen’s investors and top executives. Which is why its large investors – including Goldman Sachs — have been pushing for it.

Some Walgreen customers have complained. A few activists have rallied outside the firm’s Chicago headquarters.

But hey, this is the way the global capitalist game played. Anything to boost the bottom line.

Yet it doesn’t have to be the way American democracy is played.

Even if there’s no way to stop U.S. corporations from shedding their U.S. identities and becoming foreign corporations, there’s no reason they should retain the privileges of U.S. citizenship.

By treaty, the U.S. government can’t (and shouldn’t) discriminate against foreign corporations offering as good if not better deals than American companies offer. So if Walgreen as a Swiss company continues to fill Medicaid and Medicare payments as well as, say, CVS, it’s likely that Walgreen will continue to earn almost a quarter of its $72 billion annual revenues directly from the U.S. government.

But as a foreign corporation, Walgreen should no longer have any say over the size of those payments, what drugs they cover, or how they’re administered.

In fact, Walgreen should no longer have any say about how the U.S. government does anything.

In 2010 it lobbied for and got a special provision in the Dodd-Frank Act, limiting the fees banks are allowed to charge merchants for credit-card transactions — resulting in a huge saving for Walgreen. If it becomes a Swiss citizen, the days of special provisions should be over.

The Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision may have opened the floodgates to American corporate money in U.S. politics, but not to foreign corporate money in U.S. politics.

The Court didn’t turn foreign corporations into American citizens, entitled to seek to influence U.S. law and regulations.

Since the 2010 election cycle, Walgreen’s Political Action Committee has spent $991,030on federal elections. If it becomes a Swiss corporation, it shouldn’t be able to spend a penny more.

Walgreen is free to become Swiss but it should no longer be free to influence U.S. politics.

It may still be the Main Street druggist, but if it’s no longer American it shouldn’t be considered a citizen on Main Street.

Who’s That Boy?

I’m sure I’m not the only one whose eye this cub has caught…

But the question is…

Is this the same guy, or merely separated at birth?

And what the hell is he doing in this commercial? Has he moved on from puppets something a little warmer and fuzzier?

Worth Repeating

In light of the recent Hobby Lobby ruling, I think this excerpt from Robert Boston’s book Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give You the Right to Tell Other People What to Do bears repeating:

Certain words should not be tossed around lightly. Persecution is one of those words.

Religious Right leaders and their followers often claim that they are being persecuted in the United States. They should watch their words carefully. Their claims are offensive; they don’t know the first thing about persecution.

One doesn’t have to look far to find examples of real religious persecution in the world. In some countries, people can be imprisoned, beaten, or even killed because of what they believe. Certain religious groups are illegal and denied the right to meet. This is real persecution. By contrast, being offended because a clerk in a discount store said “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” pales. Only the most confused mind would equate the two.

Far from being persecuted, houses of worship and the religious denominations that sponsor them enjoy great liberty in America. Their activities are subjected to very little government regulation. They are often exempt from laws that other groups must follow. The government bends over backward to avoid interfering in the internal matters of religious groups and does so only in the most extreme cases.

What the Religious Right labels “persecution” is something else entirely: it is the natural pushback that occurs when any one sectarian group goes too far in trying to control the lives of others. Americans are more than happy to allow religious organizations to tend to their own matters and make their own decisions about internal governance. When those religious groups overstep their bounds and demand that people who don’t even subscribe to their beliefs follow their rigid theology, that is another matter entirely.

Before I delve into this a little more, it would be helpful to step back and take a look at the state of religious liberty in the United States today. Far from being persecuted, I would assert that religion’s position is one of extreme privilege.

Consider the following points:

  • Religious groups enjoy complete tax exemption, a very powerful and sought-after benefit.
  • Unlike secular nonprofit groups, houses of worship are not required to apply for tax-exempt status. They receive it by mere dint of their existence. Houses of worship are assumed to be tax exempt as soon as they form. This exemption is rarely examined again and is revoked only in cases of extreme fraud (such as someone claiming that the entity he or she has formed is a church when it’s really a for-profit business).
  • Houses of worship are free from the mandatory reporting obligations that are imposed on secular nonprofit groups. For example, secular groups that are tax-exempt must fill out a detailed financial form and submit it to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) every year. This document, called a  Form 990, must be made available for public inspection. Houses of worship and ministries are not required to fill out and submit these forms.
  • Religious entities are not required to report their wealth to any government agency. The question often comes up about how much money houses of worship raise every year or what the value of the land they hold is. There is no way of knowing this because they are not required to tell anyone.
  • The IRS has the power to audit individuals and secular groups at the merest suspicion of wrongdoing or financial irregularities. Houses of worship, by contrast, are very difficult for the IRS to audit. This is so because Congress passed a special law governing church audits that requires the IRS to show heightened scrutiny before initiating such procedures. In addition, church audits must be approved by highly placed IRS officials.
  • Religious groups enjoy a loud and robust public voice. They own television and radio stations all over the country (all tax exempt, by the way). They own publishing arms, and they maintain various outreach sites on the Internet. The ability of religious groups to proselytize and spread their theology is limited only by the imaginations of their leaders.
  • Across the country, religious groups own a network of hospitals, secondary schools, colleges, social-service agencies, and other entities that often enjoy a cozy relationship with the government. Many of these institutions are subsidized directly with tax funds—even though they may promote religion. In recent years, religious groups that sponsor charitable services have seen themselves open to a host of new taxpayer assistance through the so-called faith-based initiative.
  • Religious groups are often exempt from laws that secular organizations must follow. A house of worship or a ministry can fire employees at will if those workers violate (or are merely suspected or accused of violating) some tenet of the faith. A religious school, for example, could fire a woman who becomes pregnant out of wedlock. A corporation or a secular nonprofit would not be able to do this.
  • In many cases, religious groups are freed from following even basic laws designed to promote health, safety, and general welfare. Houses of worship are routinely exempted from laws designed to improve access to facilities for those with disabilities, for example. In some states, daycare centers and other facilities sponsored by religious groups are wholly exempt from routine inspection laws.
  • Many religious groups engage in extensive lobbying on Capitol Hill and in the state capitals. Under federal law, there is virtually no regulation of their lobbying activities. Federal law exempts from oversight “a church, its integrated auxiliary, or a convention or association of churches that is exempt from filing a Federal income tax return.” This means that, unlike other groups, religious organizations are not required to report the money they spend attempting to influence legislation or to register their lobbyists. In rare cases, some states have tried to impose minimal regulations, such as public financial-disclosure reports, on houses of worship. The religious groups often fight such laws and call them an infringement of their religious-liberty rights.
  • Many legislators are quick to placate religious groups and the clergy. The results of their lobbying campaigns are often successful. In the 1990s, when some religious groups began to complain about experiencing difficulties with zoning issues and the ability to build houses of worship where they pleased, Congress was quick to pass a special law called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. This law essentially trumps local zoning regulations with a federal fiat—even though, for many years, zoning had been considered a matter best handled by local officials.
  • Religious groups are often treated with special deference in cases of suspected law breaking. Anyone who doubts this need not look beyond the experience of the Roman Catholic Church during the pedophilia scandal. A secular corporation that engaged in such a massive cover-up and acts of deception would have found its top leaders behind bars. Yet in that scandal, only a handful of relatively low-level clergy were held accountable.

I have created this list not necessarily to criticize or call for changing these policies (although some of them are overdue for scrutiny) but to make the point that the leaders of religious organizations have very little reason to complain. Their position is an exalted one. They are well regarded by lawmakers, and their institutions are not only tax supported in some cases but are also beyond the reach of secular law. What they are experiencing is not persecution; it is preferential status.