Thursday, December 27, 2012

A father's love

I'm the father of sons and the son of a father (of course) and I can attest that while the love between a father and his son may not be talked about much it is nevertheless always there.  The story line in this set of comic strips made me wish that I had done a better job of telling my dad that I loved him, and helped me realize that I need to keep telling my sons that I love them - so they won't have to read it in the margin of my unfinished crossword puzzle.

Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis

  • December 17, 2012Pearls Before Swine
  • December 18, 2012

  • Pearls Before Swine
  • December 20, 2012

  • Pearls Before Swine
  • December 21, 2012

  • Pearls Before Swine
  • December 24, 2012
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  • December 25, 2012

  • Pearls Before Swine

    Or as George Strait put it:

    I love my sons every day, always and forever, and I know they love me, too - it's just that sometimes we all need to be reassured of that love.  Just as Andy did.

    Tuesday, December 25, 2012

    Guns don't kill people...

    ...they just make it really easy for people to do it.

    ...bullets do, but that seems like a distinction without a difference.

    ...unless of course they discharge accidentally and the gun owner dies.

    ...but if you are in front of one when it goes off chances are you're going to be dead anyway.

    ...but if they don't, why are they called "lethal force"?

    ...and neither do IEDs - but don't tell that to anyone who has served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    ...and the ones that hold a lot of rounds don't kill them even faster.

    ...and the Pope isn't Catholic and bears don't shit in the woods.

    Anyone, specifically including Wayne LaPierre of the NRA, who honestly believes that guns don't kill people should have his second amendment right to bear arms revoked on grounds of sheer stupidity or lack of mental competence.  A gun will kill a person quickly and efficiently as will any weapon of war - killing, in the final analysis, is what they are for and to deny that fact is either dishonest or ignorant, because the evidence is clear and overwhelming: guns DO kill people.

    If we could agree on this one simple fact maybe the conversation as to what to do to reduce gun-related deaths in America could move forward. Maybe we could agree that guns aren't the whole problem but they are certainly part of the problem - would that be a reasonable starting point?

    Because really - we have to do something to reduce the gun-related violence that is inflicted on innocent citizens in this country.  Does anyone have a problem with that?

    OK, one final time: Guns don't kill people...

    ...but rappers do.

    Thursday, December 20, 2012

    "Your proposal is acceptable"

    I admit my nerves are more than a little frayed by the latest incidence of mass murder using firearms, this one targeting school-age children for crissake, which are inevitably followed by pronouncements from the NRA that "guns are not the problem".  Some say that this time is different, that the age of the victims and the atrocity of the act have changed the dialogue concerning gun control and this time we will see meaningful regulations to rein in the gun-related violence that has plagued our nation for so long.  To which I say, "We'll see"; consider this headline from today's news: "Gun lobbyists [that would be the NRA] plan media push after Newtown massacre" - I'm willing to bet they will not be calling for any restrictions on the "absolute right" to own guns, including those that qualify as weapons of mass destruction.

    But maybe the cold-blooded murder of 20 elementary school children and several of their teachers was a cataclysmic event that will awaken the American public of the need to stand up to the gun lobby once and for all and demand an end to the unfettered access to the means of inflicting such violence - because let's face it, the politicians won't do anything until we make them do it.

    Here's an illustration of the kind of cataclysm I'm talking about and how it might affect the dialogue:
    I'm sure you already get the symbolism, but Edgar who is obviously used to having his way with everything, represents the NRA and his proposal is totally acceptable to an American public that is sick and tired of being told, "You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers".  I hope the NRA is in for as bad a day, metaphorically speaking of course, as Edgar experienced in this clip.  I'm not sure what the sugar water represents but it's pretty funny so I left it in.

    Here's the key scene again in case you missed it (and because it's so much fun to watch):

    Can you "Imagine all the people" rising up against gun violence?  That would be a very bad day for the NRA and a very good day for the children of the world. John Lennon, who (unironically) lost his life to a gunman in a senseless act of violence, had this to say (and it gives me hope):

    Please call your elected representatives and tell them we've had enough gun violence and you want them to do something to stop it! And if they don't, vote the cowards out because really, guns are the problem, or at least a big part of it, and we need to do something about them.

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012

    New Mexico Chili Cook-off

    This is the funniest e-mail story I have received in a long time so I'm sharing it here so you can have a good laugh, too.  Enjoy!

    For those of you who have lived in New Mexico, you know how true this is. They actually have a Chili Cook-off about the time Halloween comes around. It takes up a major portion of a parking lot at the Santa Fe Plaza. Judge #3 was an inexperienced Chile taster named Frank, who was visiting from Springfield, IL.

    Frank: "Recently, I was honored to be selected as a judge at a chili cook-off. The original person called in sick at the last moment and I happened to be standing there at the judge's table, asking for directions to the Coors Light truck, when the call came in. I was assured by the other two judges (Native New Mexicans) that the chili wouldn't be all that spicy; and, besides, they told me I could have free beer during the tasting, so I accepted and became Judge #3."

    Here are the scorecard notes from the event:

    Judge # 1 -- A little too heavy on the tomato. Amusing kick.
    Judge # 2 -- Nice, smooth tomato flavor. Very mild.
    Judge # 3 (Frank) -- Holy crap, what the hell is this stuff? You could remove dried paint from your driveway. Took me two beers to put the flames out. I hope that's the worst one. These New Mexicans are crazy.

    Judge # 1 -- Smoky, with a hint of pork. Slight jalapeno tang.
    Judge # 2 -- Exciting BBQ flavor, needs more peppers to be taken seriously.
    Judge # 3 -- Keep this out of the reach of children. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich maneuver. They had to rush in more beer when they saw the look on my face.

    Judge # 1 -- Excellent firehouse chili. Great kick.
    Judge # 2 -- A bit salty, good use of peppers.
    Judge # 3 -- Call the EPA. I've located a uranium spill. My nose feels like I have been snorting Drano. Everyone knows the routine by now. Get me more beer before I ignite. Barmaid pounded me on the back, now my backbone is in the front part of my chest. I'm getting sh*t-faced from all of the beer.

    CHILI # 4
    Judge # 1 -- Black bean chili with almost no spice. Disappointing.
    Judge # 2 -- Hint of lime in the black beans. Good side dish for fish or other mild foods, not much of a chili.
    Judge # 3 -- I felt something scraping across my tongue, but was unable to taste it. Is it possible to burn out taste buds? Sally, the beer maid, was standing behind me with fresh refills. This 300 lb. Woman is starting to look HOT ... Just like this nuclear waste I'm eating! Is chili an aphrodisiac?

    Judge # 1 -- Meaty, strong chili. Jalapeno peppers freshly ground, adding considerable kick. Very impressive.
    Judge # 2 -- Chili using shredded beef, could use more tomato. Must admit the jalapeno peppers make a strong statement.
    Judge # 3 -- My ears are ringing, sweat is pouring off my forehead and I can no longer focus my eyes. I farted, and four people behind me needed paramedics. The contestant seemed offended when I told her that her chili had given me brain damage. Sally saved my tongue from bleeding by pouring beer directly on it from the pitcher. I wonder if I'm burning my lips off. It really ticks me off that the other judges asked me to stop screaming. Screw them.

    Judge # 1 -- Thin yet bold vegetarian variety chili. Good balance of spices and peppers.
    Judge # 2 -- The best yet. Aggressive use of peppers, onions, garlic. Superb.
    Judge # 3 -- My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous, sulfuric flames. I crapped on myself when I farted, and I'm worried it will eat through the chair. No one seems inclined to stand behind me except that Sally. Can't feel my lips anymore. I need to wipe my butt with a snow cone.

    Judge # 1 -- A mediocre chili with too much reliance on canned peppers.
    Judge # 2 -- Ho hum, tastes as if the chef literally threw in a can of chili peppers at the last moment. **I should take note that I am worried about Judge #3. He appears to be in a bit of distress as he is cursing uncontrollably.
    Judge # 3 -- You could put a grenade in my mouth, pull the pin, and I wouldn't feel a thing. I've lost sight in one eye, and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water. My shirt is covered with chili, which slid unnoticed out of my mouth. My pants are full of lava to match my shirt. At least during the autopsy, they'll know what killed me. I've decided to stop breathing. It's too painful. Screw it; I'm not getting any oxygen anyway. If I need air, I'll just suck it in through the 4-inch hole in my stomach.

    Judge # 1 -- The perfect ending, this is a nice blend chili. Not too bold but spicy enough to declare its existence.
    Judge # 2 -- This final entry is a good, balanced chili. Neither mild nor hot. Sorry to see that most of it was lost when Judge #3 farted, passed out, fell over and pulled the chili pot down on top of himself. Not sure if he's going to make it. Poor fella, wonder how he'd have reacted to really hot chili?
    Judge # 3 -- No report.
    By now you probably have a hankering for some Red Hot Chili Peppers, so here you go:

    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    Moral Dilemmas

    Andrea Carla Michaels is a self-admitted name-dropper and because she has met some famous characters she has some interesting names to drop.  I won't try to impress you by reciting all of the names she has mentioned in the anecdotes she has related in posts I have read, but Bonnie Raitt and Neil deGrasse Tyson are just a couple of celebrities with whom she has crossed paths and whose names she has mentioned.

    So I was not surprised to learn  that Andrea had at one time long ago found herself in a social setting with none other that John Lithgow, the acclaimed actor, author and musician. What did surprise me, though , was what Andrea learned about John Lithgow during the encounter and the dilemma that knowledge caused for her many years later.  Andrea can explain it much better than I can:

    So there you have it, some "inside information" on a celebrity that may seem inconsistent with his public persona but really, what do we know about anyone other than what they choose to let us know?  As to Andrea's dilemma about whether to publicly expose the hypocrisy when she had the chance, well it's hard to say what I would have done if I were faced with the same situation.  But I think the take away lesson for Mr. Lithgow and all of us can be found in Andrea's closing line: "Don't cheat - because you never know who is going to tell the story 20 years later."

    Monday, December 3, 2012

    The Geminids are coming, the Geminids are coming!

    Everybody loves shooting stars and we should be in for a bunch of them later this month.  It's December already and that means that the Geminid meteor shower is coming.  The Geminids are caused by the dust and debris of an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon and they will peak on Thursday evening the 13th into Friday morning the 14th.  Conditions are right to produce up to 100 visible meteors per hour this year, so put on your parka, grab a glass of something to keep you warm and find a place with a view of the eastern sky in the constellation of Gemini (just to the left of Orion as an easy reference point) (viewers in the warmer climes can skip the parka - and if you live in the southern hemisphere sorry, you're just plain out of luck).

    December also brings the winter solstice for us in the northern hemisphere and this year it occurs at 6:12 a.m. on Friday the 21st.  Whatever holiday you celebrate to mark the occasion I hope it is a happy one.  The winter solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year, and then the days grow longer (and some say the cold grows stronger), so Spring cannot be far behind - now that's something worth celebrating!

    December 21 also marks the end of the Mayan calendar, an event which some say will mark the end of the world but which others regard as just the start of another cycle of the calendar - check back with me on December 22 to see who was right.

    The full moon, my second favorite night sky event after shooting stars, is at 5:21 a.m. on the 28th so the viewing should be excellent (weather permitting) on the night before as well as the night of - enjoy both nights if possible!  The full moon in December is called the Long Night Moon, which I'm guessing is a literal reference to the solstice, because if the full moon occurs before Christmas it's called the Moon Before Yule.

    Here's my musical tribute to the December night sky - "Winter Solstice" by Cold Specks.  I'm willing to bet you've never heard this before, so enjoy the song and enjoy the astronomical wonders of the December night sky - it's all good!