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Archive for July, 2012

July 31st, 2012

You Say “Succeed” Like It’s A Good Thing…

Every election cycle the republicans run on deregulation, lower taxes and more jobs. And when they get power then it’s all about the culture war and everything they do seems to cost people jobs and depress the economy more and more. You wonder if they even care about the economy.

Get a clue: a productive economy, technological progress, and general prosperity, are the most destabilizing things for authoritarian cultural norms and religious fundamentalism. Religious fundamentalism and right wing authoritarianism flourish in stagnant or declining economies.

I’m not saying it’s a plan, I’m saying it’s a reflex. They act like they don’t want Americans to prosper because they have an allergic reaction to prosperity anywhere below the top 1 percent. Prosperous happy people don’t obey orders and generally don’t take a lot of crap from authoritarian louts.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on You Say “Succeed” Like It’s A Good Thing…

July 30th, 2012

Some Of My Best Friends Are People Whose Ring Fingers I’ve Cut Off

Le Dance Pathetique…as choreographed by Carmen Rasmusen Herbert, of the Deseret News

Un…

I have several friends and family members who support gay marriage.

Deux…

We’ve had lively discussions about our differing beliefs.

Trois…

But nothing they say would make me love them less…

Quatre…

…or stop supporting them as people I care about.

Cinq…

I strongly believe in supporting the traditional family unit.

   

Le Curtian…Applaus a vous…

   

   

Note: Deseret News is the news organ of the Mormon Church. If you think they’d let anyone take a genuinely friendly attitude toward gay people in its pages I have some real estate on the planet Kolob to sell you.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Some Of My Best Friends Are People Whose Ring Fingers I’ve Cut Off

July 29th, 2012

One Reason Coming Out To Yourself Was Very Difficult

Jim Burroway over at Box Turtle Bulletin writes a daily Today In History post, and yesterday’s gives me pause.  Here in 2012, even those of us who lived through this tend to forget it…

Illinois Rescinds Sodomy Law: 1961. On this date in history, the state of Illinois led the nation in becoming the first state in the land to enact a repeal of it’s law criminalizing homosexuality. The repeal was part of a very large omnibus legal overhaul of the state’s criminal code, and much of that overhaul was based on the American Law Institute’s Model Penal Code, which in 1956 recommended the elimination of anti-sodomy laws and other prohibitions against consensual sexual activity between consenting adults. Because the Model Penal Code also touched on a plethora of other criminal statues, it’s likely that most Illinois lawmakers didn’t realize that they were repealing their anti-sodomy law by adopting the Code. Nevertheless, the code was adopted, and the anti-sodimy law’s repeal became effective on January 1, 1962.

For the next decade, Illinois would remain the only state in the union to legalize consensual adult same-sex relationships. In 1971, Connecticut finally rescinded its sodomy law, followed by Colorado and Oregon (1972)…

1972 was when I graduated from High School.  So bear in mind the story I’m telling in A Coming Out Story was happening in an America where sex between same-sex consenting adults was a criminal act in 48 out of fifty states that could get you jailed.

If it seems like little teenage me is trying awfully hard not to notice he’s falling head over heels in love with a guy, this has some bearing on why.  The next three episodes form another small story arc, that centers on the horrible Sex Ed class I had in Jr. High, and how damaging it was particularly to a gay teenager.  There are other negative images of gay people I planned on including into it as background.  I may just rewrite some of the text of story arc to include this fact about the state of the sodomy laws back then, just as I was on the cusp of adulthood.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on One Reason Coming Out To Yourself Was Very Difficult


A Coming Out Story – Episodes 15 & 16 Now Posted!

Episode 15…in which our young hero discovers the power of names…

   

   

And Episode 16…  In which a boy and his libido continue their mutual failure to communicate…

   

   

Note: these two are part of a small three episode story arc that began with Episode 14, so if you haven’t been reading these for a while (because I haven’t posted any new episodes for a while) you might want to start over with that one.

And if you’re new to these you might just want to start at the beginning with the main page. The guy who looks like me walking around naked save for a little fig leaf in Episode 16 might not make a lot of sense otherwise…

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

July 25th, 2012

We Love You Just Like Any Other Greedy Bastard

Le Dance Pathetique…as choreographed by pastor Ben Reoach of the Pittsburgh, PA Three Rivers Grace Church

Un…

I want to say something about how I hope that we, as a church, can address this whole topic…

Deux…

I want to begin by saying that men and women who are living a gay or lesbian lifestyle are welcome here…

Trois…

…and I hope we will all demonstrate a loving compassion toward the homosexual community.

Quatre…

Those who are living a homosexual lifestyle are welcome here…

Cinq…

…just like those who gossip are welcome here, and those who are lustful or proud or selfish or greedy.

   

Le Curtian…Applaus a vous…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on We Love You Just Like Any Other Greedy Bastard


Thinking About Nothing

Danger…deep thinking ahead.  Sorry…but I’ve been chewing on this since my last post about “Why is there something rather than nothing”. Probably it’s all the Science Channel stuff I’ve been watching lately.

Run it backwards. The question I mean. Or…forwards let’s say.  Instead of why is there something rather than nothing, ask how do you get nothing out of something. I’m serious here. Supposedly matter is never destroyed, it’s simply converted into the energies it sprang from, and energy is never lost, it simply goes to entropy…a state where you can’t do anything with it. That, as I understand it, is the rule by which our physical universe works.  The following is from Wikipedia…

The four laws of thermodynamics are:

  • Zeroth law of thermodynamics: If two systems are in thermal equilibrium with a third system, they must be in thermal equilibrium with each other. This law helps define the notion of temperature.
  • First law of thermodynamics: Heat and work are forms of energy transfer. Energy is invariably conserved but the internal energy of a closed system changes as heat and work are transferred in or out of it. Equivalently, perpetual motion machines of the first kind are impossible.
  • Second law of thermodynamics: The entropy of any isolated system not in thermal equilibrium almost always increases. Isolated systems spontaneously evolve towards thermal equilibrium — the state of maximum entropy of the system — in a process known as “thermalization”. Equivalently, perpetual motion machines of the second kind are impossible.
  • Third law of thermodynamics: The entropy of a system approaches a constant value as the temperature approaches zero. The entropy of a system at absolute zero is typically zero, and in all cases is determined only by the number of different ground states it has. Specifically, the entropy of a pure crystalline substance at absolute zero temperature is zero.

Okay…so as I read this, and as I have always understood it, you can’t destroy energy.  Energy is invariably conserved… You just move it from one place or form to another.  You need energy that hasn’t degraded into entropy to do work, but when you do the work, transfer energy, entropy increases.  No transfer of energy is ever 100 percent efficient.  Some is always lost to entropy.  Eventually entropy is all there is.  But as I understand it, the energy is still there.

So…the thinking these days as I understand it, is given that the rate of expansion of the universe is increasing as the universe gets bigger, the end game of our universe is The Big Chill.  That is, it spreads itself so thin the energy in it approaches absolute zero and it’s all entropy nearly all the matter in it has decayed and maybe there are a few protons left but even those will eventually decay and then time simply stops.  (the best definition I ever heard of time was when a physicist on a science program I was watching ages ago said that “time is one damn thing after another”.)  Fine.  I’m told physicists working in the standard model will basically dismiss questions about “what happened before the “Big Bang” as meaningless since time did not exist before there was a universe.  There was no “before”.  Okay.  Fine.  So no time before there was time, and time will stop eventually.  But at the end of time and beyond if energy isn’t gone (let alone the space) then you don’t have a state of absolute nothing.  You still have a “something”.  And from all I can grok here you can’t make it go gone.

So once you have something you can’t make it nothing again.  You can move the something around but you can’t make it simply disappear.  Energy is invariably conserved.  If that’s true, then you can’t ever reach a state of absolute nothing.  Not in this universe, not in any universe.  If you could find a way to drain all the leftover energy out of this universe, all you’re doing then is just putting it somewhere else.  If it cannot be destroyed then how do we say it nonetheless had to have been created at some point?  If the question is where did the something in the Big Bang come from, then it’s looking to me like the answer is, it was always there.

So maybe we’re back to the concept of forces that are simply eternal.  Which is as hard to wrap your head around as absolute nothing, but then you pretty much had to figure whatever the ultimate answer is it would be.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Thinking About Nothing

July 24th, 2012

Dogs Have Owners, Cats Have Staff, And Birds Have Waiters…

I hear some thunder, check the weather radar and step out onto the front porch to watch a passing thunderstorm. I’m no sooner out the door when suddenly this little chickadee starts sassing me. I mean it’s cursing up a storm, calling me every name in the book. Fine, thinks I, I’m interrupting dinner at the suet feeder. I’ve noticed the chickadees and tufted titmice have been at it at the suet feeder lately. So I go back inside. Doesn’t shut the little dickens up. DeeDeeDeeDeeDeeDee!!! So I go back outside thinking there might be a cat lurking. No cat, and chickadee turns up the volume. DEEDEEDEEDEEDEEDEE!!! Sass Sass Sass Sass Sass!!!

What the hell? Then I notice the sunflower feeder is empty. So I take it downstairs and refill it, and I swear I can still hear that little thing cursing me all the way down in the basement. I put the sunflower feeder back up, full now, and go back inside and it’s all peace and quiet in the neighborhood.

Geeze…  If you thought cats were demanding…  How does something that small get that loud?  If you’re all lungs in that little featherball then your stomach is too small to be eating all that.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Dogs Have Owners, Cats Have Staff, And Birds Have Waiters…


“Why Is There Something Rather Then Nothing?”

Sullivan posts thusly…

Ask Jim Holt Anything: Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?

…he has a new book out, Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story. How Jim described the question in an interview with John Williams:

Why does the universe go through all the bother of existing? Why is there something rather than nothing? William James called this “the darkest question in all philosophy.” For Wittgenstein, the world’s existence was cause for wonder. “It is not how things are in the world that is mystical,” he declared, “but that it exists.”

… I was brought up in a religious family, so the stock answer was that God made the world, and God himself existed eternally by his own nature. As a teenager I started to doubt this theological story. I became interested in existentialism and got my hands on a book by Heidegger called “An Introduction to Metaphysics.” The very first sentence was, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” I can still remember how the sheer poetry of it bowled me over.

Well…this is a question I think we all ponder early on in our lives.  And for most of us, raised in religious households of one sect or another, the answer is given simply: God created everything.  And for those of us smart asses who asked the obvious follow up, what created God then? The answer was God always existed.  He got lonely so he created us!

Which…eventually stopped being a satisfying answer to the question.  Eventually I came to understand that unless you postulate eternity everyone believes something was created from nothing.  We just disagree on the number and order of the steps.

Fine.  We are not Gods ourselves that we can really expect to grok the answer to that question completely.  The details may simply be beyond the grasp of the human brain.  One of my favorite passages from the Bible is still where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? We were not there to witness it.  All we have is the result of whatever processes took place.  If space is the final frontier then the birth of the cosmos is the first mystery from which all other mysteries, all other questions arise.  But we can try to figure it out and we are a curious kind.  We want to know the story of our birth, why we came to be, what does our future hold.  And I still believe that if we are brave and honest we can get close to those answers.

Perhaps the problem is that creatures with finite lifespans such as ours just can’t get the concept of eternity.  Why not simply state that the cosmos always existed?  It seems after all the simplest answer.  To me it’s simpler to assume a small set of eternal forces of nature then such a highly complex thing as an eternal supreme intelligence always existed…and I accept that your mileage may vary.  Fine.  But maybe we’re all missing something.  Or rather, assuming it.

There is a warning given to young programmers: while designing a system, beware the hidden assumptions.   I think it’s a good rule in general, to ask from time to time, what do we know, and how do we know it? We tend to assume that nothing is a the most stable of states which if left alone, if untouched by some outside force,  will simply always exist.  How could it not be so? Then some months back I was watching Dr. Michio Kaku discussing physics and the origins of the universe and he suggested something very provocative, at least to me: Perhaps nothing is the unstable state.

And if you were to dismiss that speculation as simply nuts I’d have to shrug and reply that thinking the entire universe could have sprung from a singularity probably looked like pretty nutty thinking back in the day.  But then people began hypothesizing what you might find if it were so, and evidence was gathered.  The first step in gathering evidence can sometimes seem nutty.  It’s because the mindset is failing you, your tests based on it keep failing, and you’re just going in circles.  The first person to challenge a very entrenched mindset is going to sound nutty.  That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re right…usually they aren’t…but if you keep running into brick walls it might mean your frame of reference just isn’t working and you need to consider others that might look and sound nutty.  Just keep in mind that what matters ultimately is the evidence.  Lots of paths science takes turn out to be dead ends.  The point is to keep looking and respect the evidence.  Let nature speak for itself.

But to find the evidence, you need to figure out where to go looking for it.  If the question, “why is there something rather then nothing”, is a challenge to prove that something can be created from nothing, then perhaps the universe has already proven it.  We are here after all, and if you believe in God, fine, then God is here too.  But if nothing existed before either God or the cosmos then the cosmos has already pretty decisively proven that something can in fact, be created from nothing.  Quite a lot of something actually.

So then the question becomes not so much a why, as a how.  Maybe rethinking the assumed absolute stability of nothing might be a start at it.  Maybe the answer turns out to be something like that it is impossible for a state of absolute nothing to even exist because that state is simply too unstable.

What do we know, and how do we know it?

   

[Edited a tad upon further pondering…]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on “Why Is There Something Rather Then Nothing?”

July 22nd, 2012

Reasons Not To Procrastinate #22…Collect The Entire Series!

Five years ago I noticed the bottom step on my backyard deck was getting loose. The builder whoever they were, really didn’t use the best wood screws on it and they started getting loose. I saw the problem the moment I noticed it, and understood the fix. Just tightening down the screws wouldn’t do it.  It needed the right wood screws installed. But it was a minor thing and I always have things to do around the house, so for five years that step just kept getting looser and looser, and I adjusted to it by stepping carefully down on that one step.

Last week it finally came off.  Annoyed with myself for putting such a simple fix off, I got out my tools and the right wood screws and did the job. Five minute fix. It’s very solidly on there now, but after five years my reflex going up and down those steps while doing yard work is to keep stepping carefully on that one step. That step is going to keep reminding me not to procrastinate on the simple stuff for years now, I just know it.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Reasons Not To Procrastinate #22…Collect The Entire Series!

July 20th, 2012

Today in 1969. 1969. 1969!

On July 20, 1969 I was 15 years old and sitting in front of the family TV with my little Kodak Brownie Fiesta, and I snapped this shot off the screen…

The TV was a monochrome unit powered by vacuum tubes and had a tuner that picked up VHF channels 2 through 13 and maybe also UHF channels too, although there wasn’t much to see on UHF and on VHF you just had the three major networks and maybe one or two local independent stations.  It got its signal with rabbit ear antennas.  Cable TV was for the rural folks who lived too far away from the city transmitters to get a good signal.  The household telephone (there was only one) was hard wired into the wall and had a rotary dial.  The household music player was a German made console unit, also powered by vacuum tubes, that had an AM/FM radio that also picked up four shortwave bands, plus an automatic turntable you could stack up to five records on. It would play record speeds of 16, 33 1/3, 45 and 78 rpm. It was however, not a stereo unit.  We wouldn’t get a stereo record player in the house until I was 17 and mom bought me a small portable unit for Christmas.  Cameras used photographic film, you wanted to read the news you bought a newspaper, school teachers handed out assignments and tests printed on mimeographs, and if you wanted to listen to music on the go, something small enough to fit in your pocket say, you bought a small transistor radio.  These typically only picked up AM radio signals and had a jack for a single earphone to plug into one ear.  The Sony Walkman would not appear for another decade.  Computers took up entire floors and were programmed with punch cards and paper tape, and the “user” was considered to be the programmer who submitted the job, not the poor schlep who needed the output.  I was sitting in front of the TV with a camera on that day because the first mass market home video recorders would not appear until 1975.

And we were putting human footsteps on the moon.

It was 1969.

  

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Today in 1969. 1969. 1969!

July 19th, 2012

Are You Sure That Isn’t Demon Rum Talking?

So Towleroad posts the following…

Idaho Bar Refuses To Sell Pepsi, MillerCoors Over Gay Support

Citing their Christian faith, Mike and Mari Fuller, owners of the Waha Bar & Grill in Idaho, say they will no longer sell Pepsi or MillerCoors beer because of those companies’ ties to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Others have pointed out the list of products they still sell that also support gay equality. But the first thing that struck my inner Baptist boy about this story was…er…wait…this is a bar for goodness sakes.

The home I grew up in had no car, and when I was very young we took the bus downtown to go shopping and then walked my little legs off.  I remember, and I am not kidding and not exaggerating, how my Baptist grandmother would point to the bars along our way and say “The devil lives there!”

Eventually I became a teenager and the instant some high school friends of mine gave me my first taste of illegal (for my age) rum and Coke I decided the devil might not be so bad after all.  I’m a middle-aged gay man now with a taste for sugary cordials and fine tequilas.  But I still count that distrust of the pleasures of drink as one of the pluses of the religious training I got way back when. It’s that little bird perched on my shoulder whenever I am miserable and depressed, telling me that there is no path to happiness in a bottle.  I’d Like A Drink is fine.  I Need A Drink is…ooooohhh…then you don’t get one Bruce Albert Garrett…

Unlike a reflexive distrust of sex and sexuality, a reflexive distrust of alcohol actually does have something to be said for it. Alcoholism, unlike homosexuality, really does cause health and social problems. And there is a pretty well known period in the history of this country of massive Christian opposition to the making and selling of alcohol on those grounds. So…listen…Mike, Mari…I appreciate your right to carry whatever products you choose, for whatever reason you want. But…seriously…I don’t think the Christian Women’s Temperance Union would approve of your line of work.  Don’t you know how destructive alcohol is to the family and society?

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Are You Sure That Isn’t Demon Rum Talking?


Bad Lying Is A Lot Like Bad Writing

Writing fiction is hard. Writing good believable human dialog is very hard. You have to have an ear for listening. I sat in a jury box once, on a case where the accused was charged with a very horrible series of crimes against an individual. One of the places where the prosecution lost me was when the alleged victim testified their attacker said something to them and it sounded more like bad dialog from a low budget crime movie then anything anyone would actually say in the middle of a violent kidnapping and robbery. I’m not saying I’m the world’s greatest listener, and you can’t always tell when somebody is making things up, but I suspect that for most of us it’s pretty obvious when someone is trying to invent dialog, write a scene as it were, and they’re no damn good at it.

You will die tonight. You will die tonight. You will die tonight. Yeah. Right George. Maybe it’s God’s will that you can’t shut the fuck up like your lawyer probably wants you to if he’s any damn good.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Bad Lying Is A Lot Like Bad Writing

July 18th, 2012

Lost

How the game is played in the pews of the church of righteousness, godliness, and moral values…

Fischer: It Was Liberals who Opposed the Fight for Civil Rights

Ladies and gentlemen, who was it that abolished the institution of slavery? It was the Republican Party, it was a Republican President, it was a conservative who abolished the institution of slavery.

Who was it that filibustered the Civil Rights Acts in the Sixties? It was liberals, it was progressives. It was conservative Republicans that voted in greater percentages that voted for the Civil Rights Act then Democrats did.

Who where the ones that were standing hosing people off with fire hoses? Those were Democrats, those were liberals that were doing that.

But Fischer is no ignoramus.  He knows his history, he knows the subtle as a serpent lie he’s telling his listeners. The slight of hand here is when he says, correctly, that it was democrats who manned the fire hoses against civil rights protestors back in the 1950s and 60s. What he conveniently fails to mention is how they switched parties in droves after LBJ signed the civil rights act. Yes, they were democrats. No, they weren’t liberals.

And the Nixon republicans welcomed them in, seeing a path to breaking up the New Deal coalition and winning elections finally. When LBJ said after signing the civil rights act into law that democrats had lost the south for a generation he was only foretelling part of the tragedy. The democratic party lost the south, and the republican party lost its soul.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Lost

July 17th, 2012

Progress…

Inks and scans done on A Coming Out Story, Episode 16. So now I have 15 & 16 all inked and scanned, now it’s do the in the computer stuff (basically, the panels, all the shading and the text) and they’re both done. But that’s still a lot of work. Give it another two weeks at the earliest.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Progress…


On My Honor, I Will Do My Best, To Hate The Stranger…

Bill Browning argues that there was no secret committee…that it was just a hastily assembled pile of bullshit they threw together because they were getting pressure from some pretty big sources to rethink their cheapshit prejudices.

I don’t believe them. Their story has too many holes in it to be remotely believable. This is a spin put in place to cover their ass at the recent blowback they’ve been getting as opinions change on gays and lesbians. There’s more holes in their statements than a block of Swiss cheese.

I’m inclined to agree…this was the first thing that crossed my mind this afternoon when I saw the stories about this go by in the news stream. But it makes no difference. You had to know this organization, whatever noble work it initially set itself out to do, had become corrupted by hate long ago when they started in earnest kicking good kids out of their ranks when they dared to be honest about themselves. Prejudice and morality do not co-exist within the same heart. Whether or not the BSA leadership is lying through its teeth about this secret committee is beside the point. They are lying to every kid they take into their ranks now, and to their parents, and to their country.

I would like to point out since it seems to be getting lost in the conversation here that it’s not just gay kids that the BSA deems unworthy but also atheist kids. Basically what BSA is pushing is a mindset that gay kids and non believing kids cannot aspire to the moral character of a boy scout. It’s a mindset they’re determined to keep pushing on kids, both straight and gay, believing and non-believing.  Picture a Cub Scout happy to belong to his troop, working hard for his badges, winning the approval of his parents and troop leaders. Picture that kid as a teenage Scout, at the threshold of adulthood, coming to terms with his sexual orientation. He’s gay, he knows it, he’s not sure what it means for him and the adult life ahead of him but he’s at the point now where he knows he is gay. And because a Scout is brave and a Scout is trustworthy and a Scout is honest he comes out to those he trusts most.  And for his trouble he’s kicked out of the organization that taught him the moral values he now holds.  What’s the message here?  The message is obvious: you are not worthy to wear this uniform, because you are a homosexual.  And homosexuals Are Not And Can Never Be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

Forget all the values we have taught you. You have failed them all. You are not worthy to bear them in your heart. That’s an absolutely disgusting attack on the self worth of children, but also on American society. It is enforcing, under the guise of teaching important moral values, nothing more noble then cheap bar stool prejudices, teaching fear and loathing of neighbor against neighbor, and starting it young.  You’ve got to be carefully taught…

Prejudice and morality do not co-exist within the same heart. One will eventually drive out the other. As long as Scouting teaches kids to distrust if not hate each other outright, whatever other moral values they claim to teach are rendered moot in the process. You cannot teach both moral character and prejudice at the same time.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

Visit The Woodward Class of '72 Reunion Website For Fun And Memories, WoodwardClassOf72.com


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