Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I Don't Care About Birthdays

If people forget my birthday, I don't care. Why celebrate the random day when my mother's water broke? There are things that are much more worth celebrating than birthdays.

Women seem to make a bigger deal out of birthdays than men do. Actually, thinking of a handful of my closest friends, I can only tell you off the top of my head when one of them (Colin) was born, and that's because he was born the day before Halloween. And I've never called him on that day that I can remember. I don't think that makes me a bad friend and I'm pretty sure he doesn't either.

I only care about this subject enough to give it seven sentences.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New Business Idea for my Home Bar?

Now here's a guy who's innovative with his awesome retro basement:
Welcome to Club Thunderbolt, the strangest place in the city to get a lap dance. It's located in the back room of an old house in an east side neighborhood of working class bungalows.

"Everybody in the neighborhood knows what I do," says Jay Thunderbolt, the 45-year-old club owner, homeowner, house mom and house DJ. "In the summertime you got all these girls leaving wearing four ounces of clothing, so they kind of get what's going on."

Thunderbolt doesn't need a cabaret license like other Detroit strip clubs must have. The city ordinance regulating other places doesn't apply, because it's not a bar serving liquor or food, but rather a private arrangement in a private home. To him it's like having a strip-o-gram sent to your own house.
And this part of the article pretty much sums up my life philosophy:
"I tell everybody, 'This is what I'm gonna do. Don't be freakin' out.'"
Holy crap, next time I visit the in-laws in suburban Detroit, I hope we can hit up Thunderbolt's home strip club. Check out his harpoon on the wall in that picture. Man, I gotta get one of those for my place. I'm slippin'.

What do you think, can you picture bouncing tits and grinding asses amongst my cow skull, nautical paraphernalia, and bitters collection? I guess that could be a fall-back if my export business goes by the wayside. I'm sure Katie won't care, and Elliot loves bare boobs, so I'm sure it would be cool with him too.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Shit I've Fixed on the Sailboat in 2010 (Non-sailors need not read this).

Whenever the winter is hard on my mind, it's harder on my sailboat. I am nearly ready for the 2010 sailing season once I get a couple more things done. Here's what I've completed so far, with details.

I love reading the sailing blogs' lists of Spring fix-it tasks, but I'm always disappointed that they just make a short bullet-pointed list without good descriptions of what it took to do this or that. I always find that the smallest job on a sailboat takes MUCH longer than anticipated, so here we go, as I see that it should be written:
Regardless of all this, as my Todd said, "the fun things in life are never very practical." And we spend money on the fun things because that's what "living" is all about.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Alexander Stephens: Slavery Was a Major Cause of the Civil War and the "Cornerstone" of the Confederacy

The argument that slavery was not a major cause of the Civil War has been around for 140 years; it was started by the people who got their asses handed to them. It's easy to understand why -- I mean, in Mr. Ulysses S. Grant's words, it was "the worst cause for which anyone ever fought" at that time. I suppose they just felt guilty, and needed pseudo-history to settle their consciences.

Most people in the south have long ago gotten over this and moved on, but every once in a while, you hear that slavery was -- oh yes -- such a small small, very small part of why they fought.

A nice piece of evidence against this bullshit is the speech given by the Vice President of the Confederate States, Alexander Stephens, on March 21, 1861. This "Cornerstone Speech" is worth reading in full which you can find here.

I've bolded the key parts. I quoted extensively so no one can accuse me of "taking it out of context":
"But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the "rock upon which the old Union would split." He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the "storm came and the wind blew."

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics. Their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.
The Confederate constitution was modeled on the US Constitution, except, as Stephens so proudly described, it was the first constitution in history to fully legitimize slavery in the founding documents of that would-be nation.

As I've said before, I love when facts get in the way of a good argument.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Here's the Eight Years, Gentlemen

On May 22 this year, me and my old friends will have taken our annual Chesapeake Bay sailing trip for eight years in a row. On most of the trips, we've taken pictures, so I put some of my favorites in this collage. Click through to see a larger version:

These photos tell like a hundred stories. A print version of the above collage will be gracing my aft bulkhead.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A Perspective from My Friend, the Catholic Priest

I have a drinking buddy who's also a Catholic priest. (No, that's not the beginning of a joke. I really do).

The other day, I posted a Facebook status that said:
"I cannot read any more priestly pedophile stories. Now that I have a child, that type of news affects me like never before."
My Catholic priest friend didn't comment on that status, but he sent me a private email which was very interesting, and illuminates the stress and depression many priests who are genuinely good people must be going through at this time. That may sound strange coming from a non-believer like me, but I went to Catholic high school and have fond memories of the church, and I have sympathies for my friends, despite their religious background.

My Catholic priest friend wrote me:
"These stories are hard for anyone to read, I suppose, in your case because you have a child, in mine because I have loved the priesthood and the Church and am horrified by the enormous evil that has been wrought and so inadequately addressed over the years.

The last few days have been enormously depressing for me, despite my own personal successes in preaching and the beauty of our Easter liturgies, I have found it difficult to be optimistic about where things are headed and difficult even to focus on my own work.

While I meant what I wrote on your post last week that some of this stuff was being distorted and overblown with respect to Benedict, other things that I have read (chiefly through the obsessive and unfair Andrew Sullivan's blog, but not his work itself) have made it difficult to defend the institution even in light of the changing standards of history, etc..

I'm blessed that my own religious community has had good leadership in this regard. In the last 25 years I'm aware of only one case that we've had involving children, and as soon as the complaints surfaced we removed the guy from his work, investigated, and kicked him out of the priesthood. We handed him over to the police, fully cooperated, and refused to pay his defense. Quite right, too--we were convinced of his guilt, after all. He is now in jail. Any cases are too many, but as with family and school, so in the church to a certain degree they cannot be totally avoided--what is essential is to be vigilant about dealing immediately with any hint of threat so as to protect children. (We do have extensive screening for candidates and so forth, but it's not easy to totally predict who will have these tendencies in life).

Anyway, sorry to prattle on, but your status update has been on my mind since I saw it first come up."
It is quite unbelievable and sickening what's been going on with the Catholic church. These scandals damage or destroy so many people's lives in different ways, but it's important to remember how it also affects normal, good Catholics, including the priests.

I love when facts get in the way of a good argument.

I love This guy actually uses facts and data to prove conservative bullshit wrong.

In a recent post, he shows that as a percent of GDP (the only way to properly measure anything in the US economy) the USA has one of the lowest tax revenues on the planet.

Of the OECD countries, there are 25 that have higher taxes than the USA and 4 that have lower taxes. So unless conservatives want to live in Mexico, Turkey or Korea, the US is the best place for taxes:

And taxes in the US have been basically the same since about 1950:

And make sure you take a look at 538's post on income distribution in the USA where he make the true point that:
"Dollar for dollar, America offers the most effective and efficient government on the planet, doing so for about 20 cents on the dollar nationally, 28 cents if you include state and local taxes."
I love when raw facts and data get in the way of a good argument.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Your Grandparents Will Teach You A Lot -- Even After Life

My wife's grandfather just died at age 86.

During his funeral, something happened that gave me a feeling that I get every now and again -- that I should have served in the military.

Blaine W. Evans piloted a B-17 over Germany -- led a crew of 10 in 33 missions. He's been out of the military for 65 years, but the honor that veterans receive is, and should always be, timeless. During the funeral ceremony, two young members of the armed services arrived and walked past the (mostly) old folks attending the funeral. They walked to the front of the room in silence and slowly saluted the urn where Grandpa Blaine's remains were on the table next to an American flag and his picture.

These two, fully decked out in US military uniforms, stood in posed salute while a man walked in front of everyone and played Taps on the trumpet.

It is hard to describe what that feels like -- the appreciation that even the oldest war hero receives in this country -- but every single person in the room was dealing with tears at that moment. To bring this closer to home for the reader, this is what it sounded like:

After Taps, they folded the flag and presented it to the next of kin -- Katie's grandmother, Jean.

There's a confluence of emotions that run through your mind when this is happening -- sadness, patriotism, pride, pain, strength, pain.

I remember when this happened at my grandfather's funeral back in 1997, but I feel like I was maybe too immature to soak its full meaning in.

In the past year, I've felt the happiest I've ever felt about the direction of my country. I've experienced patriotism that is unparalelled in my recent memory. Biking or driving past DC monuments makes my cold godless heart swell with pride.

And this experience with Grandpa Blaine just makes me want to write about it without editing. I'm so lucky to have had him as my wife's grandfather.

God bless his soul.

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