Marchons, marchons

16 02 2015

FINALLY.

I’d collated all (+/-) of TNC’s posts on the Civil War, then at some point began annotating the list. There were two large chunks (120+ posts total) which remained naked.

Until today.

Since I didn’t have work for my second job—office was closed for President’s Day—I thought I might as well start backfilling those annotations. I didn’t think I’d finish them, but at some point thought, Ah, what the hell.

I’m sure I’ve missed posts I should have included and included posts I should have missed, and some of my annotations are. . . odd, but the mess is now more or less complete as of today.

~~~

Another reason for doing this might have a little something to do with another bout of self-pique: yesterday I turned a bunch of my dissertation research into printer paper—did I really need to keep a copy of a DOE ELSI Contractor-Grantee Workshop from 1997?—and proceeded to have a mini-meltdown.

Nothing serious, and nothing I haven’t had experienced before.

It happens whenever I confront all of the work I have done and how little I have done with that work. If the paper of all of that research wasn’t wasted, it seems like the research itself was. Yes, I created a dissertation out of all of it, but beyond that, nothing.

Nothing.

The dissertation matters unto itself, but it’s also supposed to serve as the cliff from which one is to dive ever further into the work. And for me, it didn’t: I peered down from different overlooks (my bioethics fellowships), but ultimately backed away.

Reasons, reasons: I had my reasons, but those reasons were no good.

And so, periodically, I am reminded of what I tossed away when I walked away, and not having any good way to deal with that deliberate waste, I stew.

Today, at least, I did something productive—if not with my own work, at least with someone else’s.





Better stop sobbing now

11 02 2015

I have no sympathy for Christians who whine that President was unfair to Christianity at the National Prayer Breakfast.

Not just because I am not a Christian, nor because I disagree more generally with these folks’ politics.

No, the reason for my “get over it” response is their unwillingness to grapple with the violence woven into the history of the belief they hold dear. It’s as if they can only hold to Christianity if Christianity without [recent] flaws.

Oh, wait, that’s pretty much exactly what they mean, even if they didn’t mean to mean it.

Ta-Nehisi Coates has a couple of posts on the response to Obama’s remarks, as does Jamelle Bouie, and they do a fine job of tag-teaming the No-True-Christian phalanx: here is this example and this example and this example and, oh look, another example of how Christianity was used to justify violence and oppression.

Reference to the historical record is crucial (even if the tres or quinque solas types want to claim history’s got nothin’ on them) if want wants to make or rebut historical claims—that’s kinda the whole point of historical claim-making.

But I want to focus here on the bad faith of those who seek to wash Christianity of its sins: they cannot abide criticism of their faith, not because God will punish them if they don’t savage the critics—I’d think such a position bonkers at best and murderous (see: killers acting to uphold the honor of the Prophet Mohammaed) at worst, but it has its own kind of insane integrity—but because it is “offensive” to and displays “contempt” for Christians.

And, yes, I get why these folks don’t like having the unsavory bits of Christianity against the unsavory bits of Islam—We’re good and they’re bad so how dare you!—but honest to pete, is their faith so thin that it is bruised by mere mention of imperfection?

I’m a pinko, and there has been all sorts of nasty shit—war, oppression, mass murder—done in the name of pinkoism. I can say Oh, but I’m not a Bolshevik/Leninist/Stalinist/Maoist, that’s got nothing to do with me, and nothing to do with Real Socialism, but that would properly be understood as a bullshit response.

I am an adherent to a tradition which has all too often failed miserably, murderously, to uphold its promises of liberation and the creation of a truly human society, and it would not be in any way unreasonable for you say, Uhhh, so why do you hold to ideas which have been used to justify those miserable, murderous failures?

And whether or not your motives were bad in asking this, I’d still respond, with both acknowledgement of the flaws in various incarnations of the socialist politics and a defense of the socialism itself—because I am fucking serious about my belief in socialism. As long as I think it possible to avoid or overcome the problems of previous socialist regimes, I will continue to think socialism is a program worth pursuing.

In other words, even though socialism has been flawed six ways to Sunday, I still think there’s something there worth hanging on to. I take socialism as it is, and as it has been, and what I think it could be. It ain’t perfect, but it’s all right.

Now, I understand that it’s easier to hold to imperfection in political than in religious programs, and my general sense that, well, to quote Leonard Cohen, there is a crack in everything, means that I can still see that’s how the light gets in. I don’t require perfection because I don’t think it’s necessary (which is also handy, given that I don’t think it’s possible).

Still, even you do believe that Christ were perfect, and that Christianity is the only path to salvation, it’s not clear why you can’t accept the bountiful historical evidence that that belief in something perfect has nonetheless been used to justify war, oppression, and mass murder. It’s a hard acceptance, sure, but if you want to argue on behalf of the Christian movement within history, then you have to engage that history, not wave it away or scourge those who dare to refer to it.

Again, radical sola types may not bother with history one way or another—all that matters is God, and we can’t really expect much of humans, etc.—but those who are incensed at the mere suggestion that Christian history might fairly be compared to Islam’s history clearly do believe that this history—the actions of Christians in the world—matters.

So to those who think history matters but are unwilling to look closely at it, I can only ask, Why not?

Because if you cannot accept the imperfections of Christianity in this world and still have faith in it, then I question whether you can have any faith at all.





So pick up that shovel

2 02 2015

As someone who used to live in the Boston metro area—Somerville, to be exact—this story surprises me not at all:

park snow shot

Except for my one year in Albuquerque (and, arguably, my time in Brooklyn), I have lived in snow-infested areas, and in all of these areas EXCEPT ONE, they knew how to deal with snow.

First, you plow the main streets (“snow emergency” streets in Minneapolis, e.g.), then one side of the street (even, say), then the other (yes, odd). This meant that you needed to move your car off those to-be-plowed streets, on which, after they had been plowed, you could then park your car.

There was also the general sense that, after you shoveled out your car and drove away, your slot was fair game. As someone who almost always cleared the hell out of her space, I tended to think I hope someone appreciates what a great fucking job I did clearing that spot—I didn’t want all that work going to waste.

But not in the Boston metro area, no. There, you cleaned out your spot and then you marked it: with a traffic cone, a trash barrel, a lawn chair, perhaps an old appliance (really!), and if someone took that spot, well, you were within your rights to do some damage.

And by damage I mean damage: if you only packed snow all over and around the interlopers car, that’s nothing. A broken headlight, a flat tire, a keyed side panel, and, if you were caught in person, a fistfight, yeah, these wouldn’t surprise anyone.

I should note that this utterly-fucking-nuts sensibility likely had something to do with the fact that, with the exception of the snow emergency routes, only one side of a street would be plowed (and then only eventually)*; given the difficulty of finding parking in good weather, you didn’t want to lose your claim to a spot in bad.

*I once asked why this was, and was told something about having nowhere to put all the snow. Uh huh. Montréal is a fucking island but they somehow managed to figure it out. And Fall River ain’t no Montréal—or Boston.

Still, a gun is going a bit too far; perhaps had he merely punched out a windshield, nobody woulda said nothin’ but wicked righteous.

h/t Raw Story





All things weird and wonderful, 50

29 01 2015

Calceolaria uniflora, photo by Thomas Mathis

The website from which a got this image, Strange and Wonderful Things (a title after me own little heart), compares these funky little flowers to “little orange penguins marching over the rocks”—and yeah, I can see that.

But I see a bunch of old aunties in wide hats toting their bins back from the fields, or maybe the market.

Clouds are masses of frozen liquids suspended in the atmosphere, and one can use SCIENCE to determine how they form and what their shapes say about conditions in the atmosphere and that’s all for the good. Similarly, one can use the tools of SCIENCE to discover that c. uniflora is “distantly related to Foxglove and Generiads”, and that the flower is pollinated by birds who eat the white bits of the bloom.

But sometimes clouds are castles or armies or profiles of Abe Lincoln, and sometimes flowers are little orange penguins or bin-toting old aunties in wide hats.

~~~

h/t PZ Myers, Pharyngula





Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

26 01 2015

Yes, it’s January in New York, so cue the surprise at the prospect of snow.

I snark because I care.

Anyway, WNYC had a half-snarky/half-serious segment on the impending deluge, during which they asked what folks are doing to prep. One woman bought flowers.

Me? I’ll be hitting the gym in a few hours, as there might be issues* in getting to it tomorrow.

And milk, I need milk: I dunae like dry cereal.

Other than that, it’s winter in New York.

*The train system really does make a difference in my indifference: I don’t have to worry about the state of the roads in my travels. That said, the MTA is apparently planning to shut down some of the express lanes tomorrow and use them for train storage. (No, I don’t know what that’s about.) And while CUNY’s semester begins Wednesday, my class doesn’t meet until Thursday, so, again, I gots no reasons to fret.





Everbody knows that the captain lied, 16

19 01 2015

This seems like a singularly bad idea.

I mean, sure, the airlines are more than willing to screw over the lumpenproletariat mashed like potatoes into the cheap seats, but how will they deal with the haute bourgeoisie up front who number too few to gain priority over other flying buses?

And will they do these on an absolute or relative basis? Total number of first class seats sold or percentage of First-to-last class? Total dollar amounts spent on first class?

Or maybe this could be the greatest selling point (from the airlines’ point of view) for first-class seats since the invention of first-class seats: pay more to increase your odds of landing before the fuel runs out!

Now that’s service.





My dog reminds me of this whole world

19 01 2015

Death sucks.

I mean, I don’t what, if anything, it’s like for the dead, but for those who live past the dead, it sucks.

Two and a-half weeks ago, Jon Katz announced on his blog, Bedlam Farm, that his charming and ornery mule, Simon, had died.

Shortly thereafter, he noted that Lenore, the “Love Dog”, was out of sorts; she died less than a week after Simon.

Then, this morning, I popped over to Love & Hisses and found Robyn Anderson’s obit for her beautiful 5-year-old tabby, Corbie.

I cried for each of these creatures.

Yes, these are animals, not people, and these are not my animals—I had never met nor expected to meet any of them—but they were familiar to me, a presence, and now they are absent.

Such absence, of course, puts me in mind of my own critters—Chelsea and Bean, Jazz before them, and the family pets before them—and made me sad all over again.

While Katz doesn’t believe in the Rainbow Bridge, as Robyn does, he does believe that his animals will have a life beyond this life. I have no such belief in life beyond life—tho’, as an agnostic, I can’t/won’t completely rule it out—but understand the desire to believe that those who were here are not gone forever, but simply moved on to another place.

As a general matter, I consider death simply a part of our condition as living creatures: we are born into life and leave it at death, or, more succinctly, everything living, dies. For some it may come too soon, others, too late, and for some, as a relief.

I would like to live a while longer, but not everlastingly longer, and to have some sense of my death, when it does finally come. It will be my end, and I will be no more—a closing, not a loss.

No, the loss is for the living, when others are no more.








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