Thursday, July 30, 2009

Golden Rule? What Golden Rule?

(Warning: This isn't meant to be an overly religious post. I'm not debating the merits of religion, but rather the extent that people will go to use religion for their own means. I'm far from a theologian and I consider myself more of a person of faith than a person of religion.)

A few weeks ago, I got into a "debate" with an unnamed relative over the merits of her online comments. She posted something along the lines of Obama being an evil man for celebrating June as LGBT Pride Month. And I quote:

"U.S. President Barack Obama declared JUNE 2009 "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month for the United States... The people of America (and the same goes for any other nation) will surely rue the day they "call evil good, and good evil" Isaiah 5:20 (Source: White House presidential proclamation, June 1, 2009"


Yep, that's what my relative posted. The same relative who just a few months earlier vowed to protect any family member should he/she ever come out of the closet. Naturally, this relative and I came to a somewhat civilized but still disconcerting back-and-forth exchange, both citing different examples of the Bible as well as modern topics as debate ammunition. It came down to me citing Leviticus as condoning slavery, since Leviticus is the same book that "forbids" homosexuality. I thought I had my ace in a hole.

Then the second of three horrifying things happened: This relative said slavery was justified since the oppressed wouldn't believe in God. Nevermind that Jews were slaves (what happened to sharing the same text?), just the sheer thought of slavery being justified seemed to be wholly against any form of truly good-hearted organized religion. Suddenly any positive lessons were subject to be perverted in order to pass a belief.

The third of three horrifying things eventually came: soon after our debate, another unnamed relative chimed in and added the following:

"what a shame and America wonders about all these bad things hapenning :("

Suddenly all of America's problems weren't the compounding fault of decades of politicians, a weakening financial system, stretched resources and crumbling educational and social reform systems. No, it was all because of those LGBT folks. Just their mere existance was forcing America down this horrible path that will eventually take down the country.

Going back to point #2, Jews and others were slaves and somehow that was okay. But the second relative's point was extremely damning and very reminiscient. I bit my virtual tongue (and lips) and resisted the urge to counter that post for fear of erupting a familial civil war. Now I regret that I did. Apparently, it never occurred to this second relative that Nazi Germany used that exact kind of logic to start the Holocaust (missed joke: "'Scuze me while I sneeze... ah AH AHH AUSCHWITZ!" I'm a genius), or that Pol Pot used it to "cleanse" Cambodia with the Khmer Rouge. No sense of perspective or history. Why, everytime any leader blamed one minority for the faults of the entire country, the entire country went down in flames from the leader's own actions. Often the minority is blamed in the name of God, and I can believe that He is tired of it.

During the debate with the first relative, I brought up the point that there were many, many LGBTers who serve humanity honorably and with distinction. Firefighters, soldiers, teachers, medical professionals, politicians, and yes, even clergy. Naturally the relative disagreed with me. Today, I talked with an acquaintance of mine, who is a Reverend but who also happens to be gay and has a long-term partner.

The Reverend greeted me with such bouncy enthusiasm. I asked him what's right and he replied that a series of happy coincidences seemed to make his congregation happier and more gung-ho about participating with the Church. He mentioned that three members volunteered to talk about what their personal definitions of grace and faith were. And while he was explaining what was said at his service with big bright eyes and a sense that everything was going his way, I just stood there and thought to myself, "This can't possibly be a bad thing, can it? How can something so uplifting and positive and hopeful ever be called evil? How can tolerance, equality, and goodwill damn this nation?"

To that, I've no answer. People are free to believe what they want, if they don't twist original intentions or take texts too literally without consideration of elasticity.

I'll always remember the lessons of my 7th grade Catholic School teacher, Miss Szczepanik. Though strict and short-tempered, she did help forge my current hopes and dreams for myself. Part of that included one crucial lesson: when reading the Bible, remember to put things into context and to use critical analysis to see how it could help your life. This coming from a former nun, who one would think would be a near-fundamentalist with the Bible. I don't read the Bible anymore, as now I'm thinking that many who do aren't much different than my relatives who will bend it to their will. But one thing is very much needed: the ability to put things into perspective so that you can think for yourself. And that is a God-given ability.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Time To Think


As I sit here at the computer, my brain is trying to figure out which keys my fingers should press. Normally that's a good thing, as typing something out is better than nothing. And yet, as I reflect back at my blog, it's rather haphazard, as if each article was an excuse to type.

Really, that's a good thing. An unfocused mind gains focus through activity, after all. If a blog reflects a person's thought patterns, interests, and personality, then let it be known that this blog shows a somewhat varied array of curiosities. I feel like sharing them with the world. If the world won't have them, then at least my thoughts are there for someone to take.

Speaking of unfocused, did you know that Ancient Greek has four words for the word "freedom?" According to IF Stone, the time of old philosophers in Athens was the true height of the First Amendment.

I use this time as a means of procrastinating on a personal project that I've been hammering at for weeks now. Since January, I've made leaps and bounds both professionally and personally. These six months included the completion of a leadership training course, occasional performances (at the most biweekly, but at the least monthly), networking like never before, and an academic paper. These accomplishments may pale compared to someone more organized than I, but it also means something crucial for my ego: if that company saw fit to give my old self a try, then companies that would be a better match are now worth going after.

So when I say it's a time to think, it's a reflection of what I was and where I am in the here and now. More importantly, it's a time to think of where I'll be soon. Not to sound cliche, but you never know what's in store in the day ahead of you, and whatever happens, you owe it to yourself to make the most of it. Lately I've come to realize how lucky I am to know some very intelligent people, as well as meeting new and bright faces across all backgrounds. They set examples for me to reach as well as the opportunity to expand my mind. Ultimately, what is the mind good for? Why, to think, of course.

Ah-thank you.

Friday, July 24, 2009

It's A Televised World


From the Archive of Knowledge

-There are more TVs than Americans in the United States.
-One in every four people in the United States has been on TV.
-Shakespeare's family was illiterate, but no TVs were involved.

Further Road Thoughts
-People need at least one, but preferably two, hands to steer. Knees or elbows will not suffice.
-Ever notice that Lexus makes great cars but are owned by people who can't drive? Maybe that's just me.
-If there are ever clogged exit lanes on the highway, please do NOT try to cut people off deep into the lane. Not only is it very rude to all those who waited, but more often than not, you end up blocking traffic anyway. You become a very unsafe and very dickish road hazard.
-A few light, sporadic drops of water on your windshield will not mean you will skid out of control. Don't slow down by twenty miles out of panic!
-People need to use their turn signals. It's quite literally a flick of the wrist!
-If you're in the left or middle lanes and you see everyone swerving around you, maybe you're the road hazard.
-I still hate minivans.
-For the love of God, either use a headset/bluetooth or hang the phone up.

A Thought
When someone says, "You can't talk like that to me, I'm a full-grown adult," then perhaps they're not. Especially if they're watching TV while driving.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

An Ode to Rice


(Freewrite)

Oh rice, how I love thee
Let me count the ways
By the bowlful, not the grain
That would take too long
Though one grain is good
Dozens or hundred (or thousands)
Of grains clumped together
In a nice steaming batch
Work much better for the buds

Pilaf, fried, spicy, sweet
Peas, Curry, Chicken, Beef,
White, Brown, Red Beans
Saffron, Sushi, Krispie, Condi,
Chinese, Greek, Cajun, Thai
Mexican, African, Puerto Rican
Jamaican me crazy

In clumps, stews, or pudding
You make everyone better
Meals more fit, tummies complete
In all its simplicity
All it takes is access
So tiny, so minute, so crucial
The world would be a better place
If we all had a bowl of rice.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Rocket Man

In honor of the 40th Anniversary of the first Lunar Landing on July 20, I present to you the Apollo 11 Edition:

Da Eagle Has Liz-zanded
The Times: To commemorate the anniversary, Buzz Aldrin has teamed with Quincy Jones, Snoop Dogg, Talib Kweli, and Soulja Boy to create a rap single and video.

Don't worry, all proceeds are going to Aldrin's non-profit foundation ShareSpace.

Coincidence?
The CIA, eight years to the day after Apollo 11 landed on the Moon, revealed documents showing that the Agency had conducted mind-control experiments.

Solitudious
In the Apollo 11 Command Module, Michael Collins lost radio contact with Earth 30 times with a length of 48 minutes each for a total length of 1,440 minutes of isolation.

Something to keep in mind the next time you feel slightly claustrophobic on the CTA.

Trickle-On Economics Update, Space Edition
According to current inflation rates, the Apollo 11 mission cost $578,000,000, give or take a couple tens-of-thousands.

One Giant Leap for Mankind
Notable events to happen after the landing but on July 20:
-The Viking 1 Lander reaches the surface of Mars
-Hank Aaron hits his 755th and final home run
-Gisele B√ľndchen is born
-Canada becomes the fourth nation in the world to legalize same-sex marriage

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Driving Pet Peeves


I've been meaning to write this for a while now, ever since my dear Sofia (aka 2006 Nissan Sentra) was the victim of a hit and run. Of course, such a violation is much more than a pet peeve, but today, I saw a rather sweet Lexus SUV swerving in and out of lanes very erratically with its gas tank cap hang and dragging in the wind, only to see the driver with one hand on the wheel and another hand around his girl.

For now, I'm only focused on highway drivers, since the vast majority of my driving time is such. City driving I'll leave for others or for another day with more observations.

Let's get started. I don't like:
-People (not "drivers") who insist on driving 20 miles below the speed limit
-People who don't know the difference between the fast and slow lanes (yes, there are two guilty parties here)
-People who can't maintain their speed but maintain their cell phone conversations (head sets are okay)
-People who break for emergency vehicles in the opposite flow of traffic but are separated by a 6 inch wide cement barrier
-People who insist on driving 20 miles below the speed limit, but then increase by 40 miles when they see you trying to overtake them
-People who assume that a highway patrol car already tending to another speeder/driver-in-need/accident will immediately stop what they're doing and go after them for driving 5 over the limit
-People in the left or middle lanes who don't realize that cars (and even giant semi trucks) are outpacing them
-People on motorcycles (especially in squadrons) zipping between cars at 125 mph
-People who overtake you but then slow down, thereby defeating the purpose of switching to a faster lane in the first place
-Minivans.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Let's Hear it for Citizen Journalism

Because it allows me to continue the practice of/homage to QT:



We Have Seen the Present, And It Does Not Work
Alex Astilean has created a human powered treadmill on wheels called the Speedfit. Very convenient when you don't want your feet to touch the ground yet have the audacity to jog outside.

Trickle-On Economics Update
Several people have been charged (approx.) $23,148,855,308,184,500 on their Visa BUXX prepaid credit cards.

Modern Education + The Criminal Mind =
A Portage man was sentenced to three years in prison for stealing over $2,000 from his Dunken Donuts workplace after his boss denied him a loan in an attempt to stop himself from doing something "stupid."

What Recession?
News item: "A $43 million estate in Aspen, Colo. is the largest single-family residence to be sold in the United States so far this year...The 25,000-square-foot mansion has 11 bedrooms (including the guest house), 15 bathrooms, a gym, four powder rooms, a wine cellar, and a pool."
The buyer was not named, but what are the odds that he bought it with a Visa BUXX card?

Bonus:
A little bit of an explanation: Dave Chappelle made a "secret" appearance last night, expecting to perform for about two hundred people. However, due to Twitter, Facebook, and trusty word-of-mouth, Chappelle attracted in his estimate four-to-five thousand people. He did not bring the necessary equipment to handle that many fans (nor did he bring security or an entourage), so the surprise show fizzled. Still, it was something of a treat for fans, and I have to extend some kudos to Chappelle for thoughtfully and sincerely keeping the crowd largely under control.

Dave Chappelle at Pioneer Square











Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Zzzz...

(second draft of a freewrite rewrite)

As I spend waking moments
struggling not to be unwoke,
Whatever neurons I have left
try to fire as best they can
Synapses shoot electrical bursts
with increasing dullness
But I lay my head back, listening to music
Of summer and butterflies and rest
All I can feel now is just exhaustion, but a smile
Choices to be put off later
Sleep to be had
Now I lay me down to bed
And always will I be led
To sweet slumber oft said
Never mix wine with med(s).

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Because I owe it...


Does Topher Grace provide free and open elections?

... to myself and to others to at least write online with some amount of regularity, like a literary e-bran muffin. I write to strive to think to complete. Not necessarily in that order, however.

For a while now, I've been thinking about continuing a version of the former Quick Takes column by Zay N. Smith in the Chicago Sun-Times (and yes, he's printed some of my suggestions before. Woo!). The column was a funny take on current events, spliced bits of helpful and/or random trivia. The humor was spot on, the brief news bulletins were full of perspective, and the tidbits were very much engaging. But most of all, in my ADD-riddled mind, the delivery was often key to its charm and wit.

If I continue in Smith's style, that means I would have to practice quite a bit with each and every category that Smith used. While I'm poor at starting good habits, I'm open to the idea of taking it slow with perhaps just one category at a time. I wish there was a QT archive on the Sun-Times' website for the sake of reference. Additionally, I can't use the QT name, since it's been (I guess) retired and I really should forge my own identity anyway.

For the sake of practice...

From the Archive of Knowledge:
-KFC is the most requested final meal of death-row inmates
-A lone, common house cat rendered the entire Stephen Island Wren species extinct
-Actor Topher Grace is exactly one year older than the island nation of Kiribati
-Hijinks is the only word in the English language with three consecutive dotted letters

Also, a special congratulations to Savanady and Matt on their wonderful marriage. Though I've signed the guestbook, danced with the bride, shook the groom's hand, and bought a gift, is it still possible to give my blessings to the happy couple through an electronic format? If not, I will be more than happy to do so in person after the honeymoon. There's no such thing as having too many well wishes, after all.