Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Snow Abounds

If we had two 4 wheel drive vehicles, I wouldn't care if it snowed every day. Also, if the trees didn't fall over the power lines and kill our power, that would make snow days less problematic. And if dog poop didn't build up to epic proportions under the snow, who would even care? If all those problems went away, I'd say let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

It's going to snow like hell whatever I say about it so I may as well make the best of it. Staying in and drinking isn't such a bad way to spend evenings, and snowstorms help you feel less guilty about it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

An Open Letter to Commode Designers

Dear Commode Designers:

I have some user comments on a couple of commode designs I have encountered recently, and I hope they will help you make improvements.

The commodes in the men's locker room at my gym have completely round bowls and seats, and when I sit on them it is very difficult to cause the openings in both my anus and my penis to be situated over the target area. If I sit back enough to clear the way for urine, I will poop on the seat, and if I place the poop chute over the target area, the urine flow will be directed onto my feet and my trousers that are resting on them. I have to stretch my "nozzle" uncomfortably and point it to make sure that the urine flow is direted to the target area. This is not a good design. If I were any bigger I would be unable to shit and pee at the same time.

The commodes in one of the men's rooms at the Minneapolis Airport feature a lip inside the bowl at the front which directs urine flow upward and outward and onto one's clothing, the floor, even the door of the stall. This is a bad feature. Did you even try this design before you submitted it?

Public commodes in the third world inevitably end up without seats. I don't know why this is so or what the seat thieves are doing with them or whether the manufacturers just don't include seats in sales to the third world. Whatever. Make a third world commode that doesn't require a seat or force you to perform feats of contortion that require major development of the quads and that would challenge a yogi. You'll probably get a Nobel Prize if you do this. Mention me in your speech.

I hope this helps.

Sincerely yours,

Vache Folle

Monday, February 22, 2010

John Yoo, Douchebag

If Goering had had John Yoo as his defense counsel at Nuremberg, he'd be alive today.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Sermon Takeaway

Our prophetic back up pastor preached today, always a treat. He preached on the temptation of Christ by the devil after fasting in the wilderness. He pointed out that The Holy Spirit led Jesus to the devil and that the temptation was not so God could make sure Jesus was ready. It was so Jesus would know He was ready. The devil was just doing his job.

Anyway, the point of the tests as they apply to us was trust in God and God's plan whatever that may be. The preacher asked us to consider whether we were living out all that God wanted us to be. I know what he was getting at, but it didn't entirely make sense from a Calvinist perspective. Of course I'm everything I am supposed to be. I hope that I will be better in the future, but that's not up to me now, is it?

Friday, February 19, 2010


I resisted the cell phone fot many years. I hate the frakking phone to begin with, and I sure as hell didn't want to get calls when I was out of the office or away from home. For emergencies, I kept a prepaid cell phone, and I never gave anyone the number. I don't think I even knew the number.

Then Mrs Vache Folle got me a Blackberry on which I can receive and send e-mails and go on-line. I can open most attachments. I never go out without it, and I refer to it often. I take pictures with it and play games on it. It kills time in waiting rooms, etc. I love it and don't know how I ever lived without it.

I still don't give out the phone number. I have never even turned on the ringer. If you need me, e-mail me. Mrs Vache Folle can text me through BBM, but nobody else can.

I'm reminded of the story of an old man who got a phone after fifty years. When he had visitors one day, the phone rang and rang, and a visitor asked if he were going to answer it. The old man replied, "It's for my convenience."

More Deuteronomy

It does not appear that the rest of Deuteronomy applies to me, either. Everything is directed to the Jews of that time. There's a lot of stoning called for, including stoning to death of rape victims who are raped within the confines of a town. I don't believe God sanctioned this and reckon this was just a preference of Moses or the author pretending to speak through Moses.

There's still no afterlife or Satan. If Israel follows the laws, it will prosper. Otherwise it won't. It will be blessed or cursed, as the case may be, depending on whether it abides by the law and eschews other gods. Reward and punishment are in this life, and the idea of the next life doesn't come up.

So much for the first five books of the OT. Unless they come up later, I can forget about them.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Nine Categories of Voters

In thinking about the relationship between cowardice and conservatism, I began to wonder if the degree of cowardice in personalities is normally distributed such that about half the people cluster around an average measurement where they are neither especially timid nor especially bold. On either end of the distribution would be the timids and the braves, each representing about a quarter of the population. Suppose also that intelligence and timidity are independent variables and that level of intelligence is unaffected by or unrelated to degree of timidity. That would mean that the population could be divided up into the following categories:

Stupid and cowardly folks would comprise the solid core constitiuency of the conservative movement. They amount to 6.25% of the population. No effort is needed to frighten them or to misinform them as they are already both extremely anxious and ignorant. They welcome a fascist police state as their only hope for security.

Normal and cowardly folks comprise 12.5% of the population. They are ready to be afraid, and their limited ability for abstract thought makes them prime targets for GOP misinformation. With their stupid and cowardly fellow travellers, they make up the reliable conservative base.

Smart and cowardly folks are 6.25% of the population. They want to be afraid, but they aren't entirely susceptible to right wing propaganda. They need at least a plausible threat and are as apt to direct their fear at conservatives as at any bogeyman the conservatives propose. They are not reliably Republican. At best, half can be counted on to vote Republican.

Stupid and brave folks are another 6.25%. They are not motivated by fear, but they can be duped into almost anything because of their stupidity. They are a wild card and can't be counted on by either side, but about half will end up with the GOP for random and inexplicable reasons.

(This gets us to the solid 25% that the GOP can count on no matter what, the same 25% that approved of GW Bush no matter how big a failure he was. The rest of the categories require the GOP to do some work.)

Normal and brave folks are 12.5% of the population. Fear does not motivate them, but they are not entirely immune to misinformation about other things. They cannot be counted on by the GOP.

Smart and brave folks are another 6.25%. They can't be frightened or fooled. Some of them are evil, however, and will support the GOP for personal gain eg Wall Street moguls.

Stupid and neither brave nor cowardly make up 12.5% of the population. These folks are up for grabs by the GOP because they can be made fearful by taking advantage of their stupidity.

Normal and neither brave nor cowardly is the largest category with 25% of the people. They are the battleground.

Smart and neither brave nor cowardly are 12.5%. They are a hard sell for the GOP without a plausible threat, and you can't fool them forever.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

GOP and al Qaeda Depend on Fear

I have read in a couple of places over the last couple of years that people with more fearful personalities tend to be more conservative and, accordingly, to vote for the GOP. People who have more fearless personalities tend to be liberal and to vote for Democrats. Those in the middle are sometimes capable of being frightened enough to tilt them toward GOP candidates.

This is why it sometimes seems that the GOP and al Qaeda are in cahoots. They both want to frighten Americans, so there is a convergence of interests. If al Qaeda did not exist, the GOP would have to invent it. In a sense, the GOP did invent the version of al Qaeda that many of its dupes have bought into, the one where al Qaeda is an existential threat instead of a bunch of yahoos in some caves.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Presidents' Day

On this Presidents' Day, let us consider William Henry Harrison who gave an especially long inaugural address without a hat and who died from illness within a few weeks of taking office. He was one of only a few War Hero Presidents who gained his notoriety by defeating indigenous peoples and who had a catchy nickname: Tippecanoe. Had he lived, it is likley that the course of American history would have been largely unchanged. He also had a grandson who was an equally forgettable President.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My $0.02 on Iran

The regime in control of Iran right now (and their counterparts, the American GOP) is doing all it can to provoke the US into some aggressive and irresponsible action. Internal opposition is a problem for the regime, and it would be helpful for them to be able to rally the Iranian people around a nonexistent external threat. It would also help the American GOP for the hardliners to stay in power in Iran because they need as much instability in the world as possible in order to lend a modicum of credibility to their fearmongering. "Stay scary, Iran," is the GOP mantra. Hmm, that explains a lot of what the Bush/Cheney regime was up to.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Deuteronomy begins with a recap, like a new epidode of Lost. We are reminded of the curse that led to 40 years of wandering and given a summary of the various genocidal exploits of the Hebrews as they began to possess the Promised Land. Then, beginning in Chapter 5, Moses lays down the Law.

"Don't have any other gods besides God. Do not make any idols and worship them", Moses tellls the children of Israel. "Don't take the name of God in vain. Observe the Sabbath. Honor your parents. Don't murder, commit adultery or steal. Don't bear false witness. Don't covet. Obey these commandments, says Moses, and you will live and do well in the Promised Land. Moreover, keep these commandments and be ruthless and merciless, and you will possess the Promised Land and prosper.

"When you go into the Promised Land, destroy the religious buildings and cultic places of the people whom you encounter. God will set up a special place where you are to bring your sacrifices and eat before Him. Did I mention that you shouldn't eat blood? Kill anyone who even mentions serving other gods.

"Here's a list of animals you aren't allowed to eat. Be sure to tithe."

As far as I can tell, none of these commandments is directed at me but at the children of Israel. I'm not saying that some of them aren't a great idea, just that Moses wasn't talking to me. I can eat pork and shellfish without offending God, and I don't have to kill anyone.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Belhar Confession

Our pastor has been preaching on the anti-Apartheid Belhar Confession, not because we have a problem with racial segregation (which we probably do in some sense but that's another story) but because of the ideal of unity and reconciliation in general. He pointed to Nelson Mandela as an example of what a spirit of reconciliation can accomplish and to the US federal defense budget of 741 billion dollars as an example of what it costs to live in a world without reconciliation.

We have heard a lot over the years from our pastor about how we shouldn't quarrel about nonessentials and that there are more nonessentials than we might think. So Catholics venerate saints? What does that matter as long as we agree that Jesus is lord and love one another? Sprinkling or dunking; wine or grape juice; transubstantiation or not. None of these are worth being divided over. Sins? Forgiven. Next objection! Political differences? Get real, they're not important from a cosmic perspective and they're not even that profound when you examine them closely with tenderness and humility.

The Belhar Confession goes even further and concludes that we ought as a church to struggle against injustice, that the credibility of our ambassadorship for Christ is impaired if we sit by while injustice is done and say nothing, risk nothing. With all the suffering and injustice in the world, shouldn't we be able to set aside our petty differences and doctrinal squabbles and do something? At least say something?

If the church is silent about the holocaust in eastern Congo, the most horrific example with seven million dead that I can think of, do we not signal our indifference or even our approval of what is going on there? Shouldn't we forget about our differences until this kind of injustice has been addressed? How can we waste ourselves in arguments about the liturgy with those kinds of nightmares going on? There is the work of the kingdom to be done.

Friday, February 05, 2010

E-mail Good; Phone Bad

If it were up to me, I'd do all my work communication via e-mail. E-mail is great because you can get the benefit of prior discussions in the string, relevant documents and materials as attachments, and a message that someone has thought about enough to put down in writing. I like to look at my e-mails first thing in the morning and prioritize them and work off of my in-box. If I can't get to something the same day, I at least acknowledge it with a projected return date.

Occasionally, I'll encounter a dinosaur who insists on using the phone when an e-mail would do. I hate that. I have come to regard non-emergency phone calls or non-privileged calls as the epitome of rudeness. It is like saying DROP EVERYTHING AND ATTEND TO ME NOW BECAUSE I AM MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANYTHING ELSE YOU COULD POSSIBLY BE DOING RIGHT NOW. I almost always answer my phone, so it's really a bother when it's something routine. I frequently give people the brush off and make then set up an appointment to call at a set time if they can't e-mail me. I have begun to treat phone calls the same as in person appointments. They are both drains on productivity.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Candlemas Showed Promise

Candlemas has come and gone, and for what it's worth the Crelleach laid in very little wood and the marmot saw his shadow not. That is to say it was overcast on the great day itself. I am going to pretend that this presages an early Spring.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Try Terror Suspects in Court Except When You Don't

At the gym the other day, I saw on the TV that Lindsey Graham was complaining about prosecution of terror suspects in civilian courts. I reckon it's up to the executive to decide whether to use the criminal justice system in particular cases rather than some questionably constitutional military tribunal or even more questionable detention without any kind of a hearing. In the absence of some really compelling reason to forego the criminal justice system, I reckon it would make no sense to do so other then to appease some yahoos in the GOP.

I have heard it argued that terror suspects don't "deserve" constitutional rights. This argument doesn't signify. It ain't about deservin'. We all get constitutional rights whether we deserve them or not. Hell, even imaginary people like corporations get them.

I have also heard it argued that affording terror suspects the rights of accused persons in the criminal justice system makes it harder to get them to cooperate in fighting terrorists. I'm not sure why this would be true as a blanket proposition. The potential terrors of the penal system are a pretty good inducement to cooperation. The government won't be able to torture them or to use the fruits of torture, but that doesn't usually turn up anything useful anyway. If you need a false confession, torture. If you want reliable information and leads, don't.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

If Corporations Are People...

In my job, I have helped to dissolve or merge out of existence numerous corporations. Am I guilty of assisting suicide?

Can I marry a corporation (assuming Mrs Vache Folle is out of the picture)? Can I adopt one as my child?

If a corporation is under eighteen, shouldn't it be required to have a guardian?

Monday, February 01, 2010

More Youth as National Security Concerns

While we are training teens for military duty, we should also recognize that other aspects of their health are matters of national security. Accordingly, youngsters should be provided with regular physical examinations free of charge at military entrance and examination stations. Moreover, illnesses and injuries that do not disqualify a youngster for service should be treated at the expense of the DoD. We want potential soldiers to be both fit and healthy when they reach enlistment age.

Since the health and fitness of youth are matters of national security, football playing should be discouraged or even outlawed. The risk of injury is too great, and the benefits of football playing are negligible and can be derived from other less stupid sports. Football could be replaced with the military pentathlon to the benefit of the nation.

Driver training should also be handled by the DoD. Safe handling of vehicles is critical to preserving the health and safety of future soldiers. Also, youth could be trained to operate various military vehicles as a head start on BT.

School lunches could also be handled by DoD as part of the effort to build fitter youth for America's defense.