Wednesday, December 14, 2005



Sending...this...from...public library.

Must call...310-DELL. me.


Thursday, December 8, 2005

Skeptical Thursday

Coturnix has the 23rd edition of the Skeptics' Circle online at Circadiana. I totally stole that line from Matt at Pooflingers Anonymous.


Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Seven things, and an opinion on TWOC.

   Simon has tagged me for a meme called Seven Things. Although I had already played (in September, just before I went to Italy), Si's categories were slightly different than the one's I originally played, so I added an update to my version.

   On another topic entirely, The War On Christmas is apparently gaining speed, but The Evangelical Atheist says the side on the offensive is other than many normally believe it to be. I always knew I wasn't attacking anyone.


Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Friday, December 2, 2005

Great minds

   Tina left a link to one of her journal entries in the comments section of my previous post. She wrote it back in August, but I had not read it until I followed that link. Eerie, huh?


The Island of Loss in The Sea of Grief

   I was over at Byzantium's Shores today, reading the comment thread attached to Jaquandor's post about the recent loss of his son, Quinn, and I found myself welling up just reading the messages of condolence, and several times almost broke into full sobbing. I was surprised at how close to the surface was my own grief after all these years.
   My wife and I experienced our own loss similar to the one Jaquandor is currently facing, which I have never talked about here. I am still not prepared to talk about it here, but I am prepared to talk about grief, in the hopes that my experience may serve to be illuminating for Jaq, and any others who might stumble across it.
   In thinking about it today, the best metaphor I could find for my experience of grief is that of the castaway on the desert island. The storm which sank his ship was sudden, and unexpected, and the initial onset of grief was much like being swept from the safe and sturdy deck of his life, and plunged into the chaotic sea. An initial certainly of his doom flashed through his being for but an instant, then he was quickly tossed up from the Sea of Grief upon a sandy shore of calm on the Island of Loss.
   The beach is reassuring. The sand is cool, and seems firm, and the castaway crawls until he is no longer being tugged at by the waves. There he rests, confident that he has been saved. He has forgotten the tide. As he lies there, hands clenched in the sand, feeling that the worst is over, that he can go on with his life without fear of drowning, the waves of grief he thinks he has evaded are slowly working their way up the beach toward him. That tide might rise exceedingly slowly (for me it did), but it is inexorable. Eventually, a trickle of foam will just touch his extended toe, a short, sharp, shock of cold to the man, now warmed by the sun. But the touch is so fleeting that it is easily ignored.
   It might be a while before another wave comes high enough to wash over his foot, and when it does, it is easy enough to draw his legs up, and so avoid the cold. Eventually, the water has risen enough that it regularly washes over his lower legs, but hehasbecome inured to it, used to it, he can live with it, it seems. Until, without warning, a large breaker rolls up the beach and engulfs him. It fills his mouth and nose, choking him. It tries to drag him back down the beach. He clutches the sand more tightly, but it is washing away under his elbows and knees, and feels for all the world like the ground is simply falling away. He is in real danger of being swept back out to sea.
   If he is lucky, he will not be alone on that island. Strike that. He is not alone on that island. If he is lucky, he will reach out for help, and someone will extend to him a firm, and steadying hand. Someone who has been on that island for a while, and know the vagaries of the sea, and the paths up the beach to the relative shelter of the dunes.

   For me, that hand was extended by an organisation called
Bereaved Families of Ontario. They are a group made up of people who have experienced a loss of their own in the past, and offer help and support to those who may be having difficulty dealing with their own more recent loss. If you have experienced a loss, I highly recommend you seek out a similar group in your area. Even if you feel that you are dealing with the loss fine, just knowing that there are other people who have experienced similar losses is comforting.
   On a more personal note, to Jaquandor, if you ever feel you want to talk to someone, please feel free to contact me. I know you are doing OK right now. You have lots to keep you busy, and you are dealing with your emotions and feelings of loss. I know you will be fine for probably several months. At least, I know I was. But, one day you may find that a huge breaker has rolled up the beach unexpectedly, and is threatening to pull you back out to sea. If that happens, remember that you are not alone on the Island of Loss. There are other castaways who have survived the sea, and are reaching out to grasp your hand, and hold you steady until the wave recedes and you regain your footing.
   I am here, hand outstretched. I will be here, hand outstretched. If you reach out your hand, I will take it. Contact me any time.

   It has been fourteen years. The castaway has learned how to live on this island. He has learned that he cannot walk away from the sea of grief, because it does notmatter which direction he goes, he will eventually come back upon it. He has learned that, no matter where he goes, the island is not really all that big, and the sound of the surf is omnipresent. But as time goes on, that sound begins to blend in to his existence, to become a part of what he is, instead of a constant attack on his senses. He has found that he can walk on the beach from time to time, as long as he does not go too close to the water. Still, the occasional wave washes over his foot, giving him a bit of a start.
   And today, he learned that something can suddenly transport him directly there, and he will find himself on his knees in the surf, taking deep breaths, and waiting for that big wave to recede before he tries to get back up. But he knows that sea now, knows it intimately, and knows where and when it will be easiest to get his feet back under him, and walk back up to shelter.


Wednesday, November 30, 2005

So, what does 'elbow and send' mean anyway?

   I don't know if any of you read WWdN or not, but if the answer is 'not.' you're missing out. "Missing out on what?" I hear you ask, and well you might. Nobody wants to miss out.
   What you are missing out on is
Jesus' Favorite. A short excerpt follows:
Annie: "Fine. Best out of three."
Wil: "No. One time."
Annie: "Why once?"
Wil: "Cuz I only do it once. FACE!"
Wil: "Point for me!"
(we were keeping points which is a whole other story.)
Shane: nerd laugh.
Wil: nerd laugh.

Annie: "Ok. Here we go. One, two, three."

Annie: "Go! One, two, three."

Annie: "Come on!"
Wil: "Are you sure you want to do this?"
Annie: "Yeah. Come on."
Shane: "Oh, by the way, if you lose, you have to name your blog 'Jesus' Favorite.'"
Annie: "What?"
Shane: "Jesus' Favorite. Like you're his favorite."
Wil: nerd laughing.
Shane: nerd laughing.

Annie: "Fine. Whatever. I'm not gonna lose."

-I know, I know.-

Annie: "Go!"

Annie: "One..."
Annie: "Two..."
Annie: "Three..."

"...ROCK...kind of...morphing into paper because paper beats rock, no wait, its scissors beats rock, ah, wine in my head, uh, throw, much nerd energy around...uh..."

And before I could do anything, the 2 kings are having a nerd celebration with Ewoks and capes.

Wil: "Ha Ha. You gotta blog. Ha Ha!"
Shane: HA HA!
Annie: " No, we didn't finish it! I never really threw anything!"
Wil: "FACE."
Shane: "Yeah, FACE!"
Annie: "Shut up Nickerson!"
Wil: "We'll expect it tomorrow. Elbow and Send."
Shane: "Nailed you!"
Wil: "Nailed you- na na na na na!"
Shane: "...Internet poker, we love ourselves, boo bitty boo yeah yeah!"
Wil: "Seriously, I love me."
Shane: "I love you too."
Wil: "What?"
Shane: "What?"
Wil: "What?"

   Funny stuff. Why are you still here?


An evil, atheistic attack on Christmas

   In my never ending quest for new Cowboy Poetry websites, I came across this: The Last Nativity.
It seems things are always changing and I reckon not for the best,
But then something happens to you, that puts your meddle
[sic] to the test.
Slowly I'd noticed everyone taking our Christ out of Christmas--
Like others I was silent and just didn't raise much of a fuss.

First thing they switched the name from Christmas to the "holiday" season,
Saying that some folks might take offense or other nonsense reason.
Then they quit singing carols because they're "too religious" by heck--
Non-denominational songs are now politically correct!

Then a few atheists complained about our school's small Christmas tree,
So before you could blink your good eye, there were no more left to see.
Then they even went and done away with the yearly Christmas play--
No more kids dressed like shepherds and kings or the star to show the way.
I felt that the message board in question was not the place to respond to the sentiments expressed in the poem. The purpose of that board is for people to share their poetry, not have political discussion. I did not want to let it go unremarked, however, as I have a strong opinion on the topic.
   The poet is making a common complaint in today's society. People are objecting to what they perceive as the loss of a part of their culture when they are confronted with the increasing secularization of Christmas. Traditions that they grew up with, like the giant Christmas tree in the town square, or the Nativity scene on the front lawn of City Hall, or the annual school pageant, are being stopped all across the United States, and in Canada.
   General secularization is not protested as strongly. Sure, people object whenever the Ten Commandments are removed from some public edifice, but not in anywhere near the numbers as when a traditional symbol of Christmas is removed. Why? Because these are all things we remember fondly from our childhood, and we feel their loss personally.
   What does the protagonist in this poem do about the situation?
I didn't breathe a word -- just walked on over to that manger scene
And stood right before it as I folded my arms and acted mean.
The policemen looked some nervous and one said, "what ya doin', son?"
Then I pulled back my old brown jacket, so that they could see my gun.
   This is probably the most common reaction among those who decry the loss of these public displays of iconography. Not the gun part, but the attempt to stop the removal of said displays. Unfortunately, that response is prompted by a complete misunderstanding of why the public endorsements of Christianity by a municipality need to be ended. To understand why, we need to go back to the founding of the United States.
   The United States began as an ideal. Almost 300 years ago, many people in Europe were being persecuted by their own governments for their religious practices. Not for their beliefs mind you, for they were Christian, and so was the establishment, but for the way they practised their Christianity. They were being persecuted for choosing to worship their God in a method different than the establishment would have them worship the same God
. They made a difficult decision to leave the homes in which their families may have lived for generations, to make a perilous journey across the sea, to a new, raw country, following the ideal of freedom. Freedom to worship their God their way.
   These same people, in their New World, lived their ideal, and desired to extend the invitation of that ideal to everyone. They drafted a document that became the foundation of a new-born country, and a sigil to be held up in the darkness as a beacon to all those who were being repressed in their own countries: The Constitution.
   Into this document, they put every right and freedom they had been denied in the past. They remembered every wrong done against them, and pledged that none of those wrongs should be done against others in the future, in The United States of America. They knew not what they had wrought.
   When they decreed a separation between church and state, and afreedom of religious worship, they did so only in remembrance of the way their former states had attempted to decree the way in which they should worship. They had no thought of a future America which was not exclusively Christian. They had no thought of a future in which religion and science, who had long since buried the hatchet, would once again become enemies. But their ideal was so strong, and so pure, that the document they forged addresses those concerns, even today, over two hundred years later.
   Let's put the shoe on the other foot for a moment, or, to use a truly American metaphor, let's walk a mile in another man's moccasins. Let us say, for the sake of argument, that you are a Christian, and that your town celebrates the holiday season with a public display of a Menorah on the lawn of the town hall, and no other religious iconography. Would you be upset? Would you feel insulted? Would you feel that your rights as an American were being trod upon? That is how people who are not Christians feel every holiday season, confronted by religious displays endorsed by their own municipal governments, that are contrary to their own beliefs. They feel that their own government gives no thought whatsoever to the non-Christian residents of the community. Many of these people are very devout, God fearing people, just not Christian. Is it right for the government to ignore them, and push a Christian agenda down their throats?
   The Constitution of The United States says that it is not. The Constitution of The United States says that it is wrong for the government to make any segment of the population feel uncomfortable for being different. The government is meant to represent all the people. That includes the Jews, the Muslims, the Hindus, and any other religion that might be represented within any community. A government that displays a Christian religious icon is not representing all the people. Therefore, all such icons must be removed from government property. Why? Because the Constitution says so. The very thing that makes America great, decrees it.
   Does that mean that those who are Christian, and do feel strongly about Christmas, should just take that lying down? Of course not. Another key freedom ensconced in the Constitution is the freedom for any man to speak his mind on any topic. As long as, in doing so, that man does not abridge the rights and freedoms of any other. I do not think that the protagonist of the poem should have taken no action. I simply think he should have taken a different action.
   Upset that the town hall is removing the Nativity scene from its lawn? Go out and get your own Nativity scene, and erect it on your front lawn, or in your place of business, and light it up with floodlights. Disappointed that the public school has cancelled the Christmas pageant? Organize your neighbours, your church groups, and hold your own. Publicize it heavily. Invite the whole town. These are the freedoms granted you under the Constitution. This is the difference between being reactive, and proactive. You are perfectly free to celebrate your Christmas in your way, just stop asking other people to celebrate your Christmas in your way for you. Instead of attempting to abridge the rights of another, go out and exercise your own rights. In America, this, too, you are free to do.
   Merry Christmas.


Monday, November 28, 2005

No more, the mighty Quinn

There are no words.

Christmas is coming

LED_lights   Everybody seems to like these new LED Christmas lights. They last about 10 times as long as regular light bulbs. They use less than one tenth of the energy of traditional lights. In our area, the local Electric utilities are sponsoring trade-in programs whereby you can take in a string of old lights, and receive a discount on a new set of LEDs, or, in some cases, a whole free string. What's not to like?

   I don't like them.

   I've decided not to buy them for our house. My neighbour pointed out that, while they are only slightly more expensive per string than traditional lights, the strings are shorter. While he and I can use two strings of incandescent lights each to line our roofs, he needed three sets of LED lights to cover the same distance, so, they are significantly more expensive to purchase. That's not why I'm not buying them.
   My father pointed out that, because they don't get hot like regular lights, when they get covered with snow, they stay covered with snow. The old style lights will eventually melt the snow around them, and become visible again, often illuminating the snow around them for a very pleasant effect. The LED lights stay covered with snow, and effectively become invisible. But, that's not why I'm not buying them.
   My problem with the new LED lights is that they don't sparkle. They glow with a constant and coldly efficient light that reminds me more of computers than Christmas. Incandescent lights twinkle like stars. They are Merry. LED lights are not Merry. They are... they're... well, they just are. They are not participatory. Their cold light does nothing to add the the warmth of the season.
lights   So, this week I'll be dragging out my boxes of Christmas lights from the basement. I'll be sitting down with Matthew to decide what pattern of colours we are going to put the lights into. I'll be putting up the lights, and then spending an hour poking and prodding those few sockets that don't want to light up. I'll be spending several days replacing lights that give up the ghost early after a year of storage. And later, I'll be found standing at the end of the driveway, gazing up at the house. And I'll be smiling.


Saturday, November 26, 2005

I'm not here

   I see that no one has claimed to have been the 20,000th hit on my AOL hit counter. Must've been one of those people who don't read my journal...


Friday, November 25, 2005

What's the password?

   So, I thought I'd see what Blogger had to offer. was the first blogging service I investigated several years ago when I first thought about starting one of these things. Long before anyone at AOL had even considered offering journals, blogging was a hot trend on the web. Blogger was one of the first companies to offer tools to the average user to make blogging easy to do. I joined up, and went about the process of starting a blog.
   At that time, Blogger had two options. If you had your own ftp space in which to store the files that make up your blog, you could use it, and have an ad free blog. If you did not, you could use Blogger's space, and they would place a banner ad at the top of your blog to pay for that usage. Not wanting ads on my blog, I chose the former option, only to find out that the Blogger software would not work with AOL's ftp format for some reason. I abandoned the attempt, and the whole blog concept at that time, and about two years later, started AWV here on AOL.
   Fast forward to today, and I have been fairly happy here in AOL J-Land for about a year and a half. Reading the many former AOL journalers who have moved to other services discuss the new features they can make use of that AOL does not offer awoke in me the desire to explore some of those things as well. I typed into my browser, and looked to see what I could see. My first thought was that I had already registered with blogger, albeit several years ago, perhaps I didn't need to go through the entire sign up process again. Tap, tap, tap, went my finger against my temple, trying to prod some kind of memory of what my login ID and password might have been.
   My first attempt was met with an error message saying that the login ID was not found. My second attempt resulted in an error message saying that my password was wrong. Progress! I had found the right login ID. Now I just had to figure out what my password was. I tried several passwords that I have used in various places over the last couple of years with no success, and finally succumbed and clicked on the link that says: "did you forget your password, schmuck?"
   That took me to a screen with two options. The first was to type in my user ID. After doing that, and hitting enter, I was told that an e-mail had been dispatched to the e-mail address associated with that account, and should arrive within fifteen minutes. Nope. Fifteen minutes, an hour, twenty four hours, no e-mail was forthcoming. The second option was to type in my e-mail address, and an e-mail would be dispatched with my correct User ID and Password contained therein. Here's where it gets interesting. I typed in, only to find that there is no user in their records registered with that e-mail address. Hmph! I must have used a different e-mail address. I used to get broadband access via a third party, and use AOL's BYOA (bring your own access) plan. Perhaps I had used an e-mail address associated with that ISP.
   I tried entering a couple of e-mail addresses that I (to the best of my memory) had used back then, with no luck. Blogger still kept telling me that no account existed with those addresses. Not that I could have retrieved mail sent to those addresses, I was just curious. I was left with two possibilities. One: I had mis-remembered my old non-AOL e-mail address, or Two: the user ID I had typed in actually belongs to someone else, and my old registration from so many years ago had long been discarded.
   Not that any of this was important at all. It would be child's play to simply start a new account, with a new user ID and password, and go from there. But I was, as I have mentioned, curious. On their help pages, they have a section on login problems, and they say this:
If you signed up with an old email address that you no longer have access to, or if you made a typo in your email when registering, then you will not be able to use the login recovery functions. In this case, you'll need to write to us for help.
You'll notice that the words 'write to us' are in the form of a hyperlink.
   Now, a hyperlink made out of the words, 'write to us' might lead one to expect that link to pop up a compose e-mail window with the address already filled out. Or, one might think it would lead to a web form in which one could fill in one's e-mail address, and describe the problem one is having. The last place one might expect to be directed to, after having clicked on a link saying 'write to us' in the context of having a problem logging in to a website, is that website's login page.
   I kid you not. On the website, there are several places where users are told, "if you have forgotten your user ID and/or password, click here." In every instance, the link provided takes one to a page asking for a user ID and password in order to log in. Am I crazy to think that there's something wrong with this picture?

4:00PM--edited to add: OK, so I'm a goof. I took a good look at the 'sign in' page blogger sends you to if you have a problem, and there is a link there labelled 'skip authentication' that allows you to access the help section without logging in. D'oh! Not all that intuitive, though (that's my story, and I'm sticking to it). But I have a new problem. I tried a different user ID, and that was accepted, too. So, now I have two valid user ID's that I do not know the password to, one or neither of which may, or may not belong to me. I think Karen's right. Starting over from scratch is the sensible thing to do here.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Different TV

   Monday night I was flipping through the channels when I came across the daily news and information program on the Discovery Channel Canada, Daily Planet. This week, they have a special series called Daily Planet Goes British. They have, as the title suggests, filmed a week's worth of episodes in Britain, concentrating on all things British, and scientific.
   The introduction mentioned the haunted Tower of London, a local nightclub called Hex, also allegedly haunted, and a psychic demonstrating the bending of nails. Much rolling of eyes ensued, along with repeated flipping of channels, but, as nothing else seemed to be on, I settled back on Discovery to see what they would make of it all.
   I must say I was pleasantly surprised. The nail bending 'psychic' was none other than English magician, and noted skeptic
Tony Youens, who was participating in a psychology graduate student's study of perception and the power of suggestion. The 'haunted' nightclub was investigated by Parapsychologist Dr. Ciaran O'Keeffe, who recently gained notoriety for revealing how out to lunch was medium Derek Acorah of the British TV show Most Haunted. As was to be expected, entirely mundane explanations for the haunting phenomena were found.
   And as for the Tower of London, they talked a lot about all of the alleged sightings there, but admitted that they hadn't seen anything even remotely ghostly while they were there.
   In this age of unbridled credulity, it was extremely refreshing to see a TV program espousing skepticism and critical thinking.


Counter watch

   I see that my AOL hit counter is creeping up on 20,000, only a few days after Rebecca's did so. If you happen to be the 20,000th visitor to Aurora Walking Vacation, drop me a line to let me know, so I can thank you for being the 20,000th person to make up their own mind about whether or not my shit stinks.



   Bigfoot, Yeti, Abominable Snowman, call it what you will, it has been the Holy Grail of seekers of the unknown for hundreds of years. Even the Loch Ness Monster pales in comparison to the popularity of this legendary creature.
   Let the truth be told! The elusive Yeti has been found, and in
this exclusive interview, the top is blown off years of credulous investigation. Don't miss this explosive piece of reportage at Mile Zero.

Brought to you by supporters of skepticism and critical thinking everywhere.


Monday, November 21, 2005

I came, I saw, I wondered what the hell they were thinking

   An interesting observation: many of the new non-AOL blogs that have been started by former AOL journalers, in their blogroll sections, are linking only to other non-AOL blogs of former AOL journalers. That kind of exclusivity seems to me to be a contradiction of the kind of thinking that promotes the healthy growth of communities. Kind of a "we're taking our dump trucks, and moving to another sandbox, and you're not allowed to come" kind of mentality that, if I remember being six years old, leads to lonliness on the part of the ones leaving, not the ones staying.
   I'm just sayin'...


CarnivAOL call

   It has been postponed by one week, but the call has gone out for the next (actually, the next two) editions of CarnivAOL. I am interested in submissions on any topic, but have made a specific request this week for links to your entries discussing the topic of the journals ad banners controversy. Remember, however, that in order for your submission to be considered, it must be published in an AOL or AIM journal. I look forward to your submissions. Click the link to go over to CarnivAOL for more information on this week's call for submissions.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

I am aghast

   I repeat, I am aghast. There are reports of AOL journalers being harassed for choosing not to close their journals, and/or leave the AOL service in protest of the new ad banners on AOL Journals. There are reports of AOL journalers who have chosen to cancel their AOL membership, and/or move their blogs to other services being harassed for those decisions as well.
   I can say only this:

Grow the hell up.

   Holy crap, people! I have been saying it publicly in various forums on AOL since this issue reared its head last Tuesday. Those who are the most outraged by it are acting in a decidedly unfocussed manner. If I recall, my exact words were, "headless chickens." I now choose to modify that expression to, "brainless chickens." Stupid, people, stupid.

   On a different, but related matter, those who have moved to a new blogging service are entering a whole new world. The AOL journals community is a pretty insular little place, and few AOL journalers get much attention from the blog-o-sphere at large. AOLer Jaquandor, who writes the blog
Byzantium's Shores, has an offer for those of you who are new to the greater blog-i-verse: linkage. Drop him a line and he will mention your new blog in an entry. Sure, he's no Boing-Boing, but he's been around for some time, and has a good sized readership. Take him up on his kind offer.


Friday, November 18, 2005

Where the hell did you go?

warningsign   If you dropped by over the last three days and wondered what was going on, I apologise for temporarily disappearing. I am painfully aware that making your blog inaccessible for a period of time is in the top two or three things a blogger can do wrong. However, I felt the need to back up from the blogosphere for a bit while a little tempest in a teapot played itself out here on AOL.
   You see, last Tuesday morning, the Majority of AOL journals owners awoke to find a new addition to their blogs. When the free AIM journals were announced last May, AOL made a big show of telling their paying customers that they had an advantage over AIM journals in that the paid AOL journals had no advertising banners on them. No longer. As of November 15 of this year, all AOL USA journals have banner advertising along the top.
   I know, you don't see an ad above my journal. I am a member of the AOL international community, and we, so far, have not been affected. I am sure that will only last so long. Once the tees have been dotted and the eyes have been crossed, and agreements are in place regarding what proportion of the ad revenue will go to AOL Canada, and AOL UK, we will see those ads as well.

   The reaction in the AOL blogging community has been predictable. A rapid and vehement response from the journalers hereabouts has the message boards buzzing, and the membership rolls of Blogger, and other free blogging services swelling with AOL refugees. I don't know if the high uppity-ups at AOL really had any idea how big a deal this would be to many of the seasoned journalers here.
   A selection of comments from around the service:
   I have been sickened and dismayed since 6:15 this morning when I entered my journal and found that it had been defiled in my absence. I have been grieving the loss of a sacred space today, when normally I would be painting and enjoying my life. I have notified AOL through every means available, and have written a couple of letters to higher ups. Remember not that long ago they asked me to participate in that article for the Washington Post.
   I believe that AOL thinks that this will be a tempest in a teapot, and soon we will all go back to writing and making them look good, and they will continue to collect ad revenues from the signs pinned to our backs.
   I have thought long and hard today and feel that I have to make a stand against something that is ugly and wrong, even though it may cost me the support system I have found here. You all mean so much to me and have become my surrogate family, and that is what makes this decision so difficult.
   I will not write in this journal again until the banner ads have been removed, and I will be blogging solely at my blogspot journal.
                                                  -Judith Heartsong

i am angered that ANYONE at aol decided my thoughts, my life, my words are for sale

i am angered because i feel i've been forced to make a decision .. to take a stand against something i feel is wrong

the part that upsets me the most is that from the VERY beginning of aol Journals, we here at JLand have been treated like puppies attempting to play with "The Big Dogs" .. and they refused to let us play .. we didn't have REAL blogs .. they were only aol Journals .. anyone who was a part of the corporate aol giant couldn't have anything worthy of reading

because of my aol journal, i made the front page of The Washington Post .. proud that my journal had finally received some form of recognition outside of aol .. gathering from my email, guestbook and comments, i have a large number of readers who are not aol members .. they found me via the internet, some google search on lung cancer, or on some of the medical procedures i've undergone .. and now because of some decision some idiot at aol made, they've sold my journal as advertising space and pissed me off in the process

   Criminals snuck into my extremely PERSONAL journal pages last night and sprayed their graffiti across the top of my PERSONAL PAID for web pages without my permission.
   This intrusion is unacceptable, unforgivable, and unbelievable.
   I am completely disguested by this corporate decision.
   I do not enjoy being blinded by Quizno's and Bank of America Ads. Their mere presense on my pages ruins everything I have put my heart and soul into.
   My journal has become a cheap flashing banner page for AOL.
   I abhor this and the beautiful thing, is that there is a grand solution.

   My eyes have been yanked wide open by the realization that while WE pay for the service, WE are not the customers that AOL cares about.  They are concerned about their Corporate Advertising Customers.  Here we were offering our silly little monthly subscription and crumbcake, while they were pimping us out for $$$$ contracts.


   I can fully understand why everyone is so upset over this issue. AOL is selling content created by their members to their advertisers, without any recompense coming the other way. Many other ad driven blogging services offer their members some modicum of control over what ads appear on their blogs, and often the bloggers themselves receive payment, or credit for click-through on those ads. Not so here on AOL. The ads here are huge banners spanning the entire top of the journal page, and most of them feature some sort of garish, distracting animation. Many of them are ads for services which are wildly unpopular, like Bank of America, for example.
   A grassroots movement is afoot in an attempt to pressure AOL into removing the ads. Unfortunately, it will be a futile attempt. AOL desperately needs the ad revenue these banners represent, and the number of potential members that will be lost over this issue will almost certainly be negligible. They also have the confidence that their journaling tool is, by far, the easiest to use of any available. Many bloggers who leave to set up new residence on Blogspot, or Xanga, or Livejournal, will come flooding back in short order when they realise how much more difficult those tools are for the computer neophyte to use.

   What am I going to do? Probably nothing, at least in the short term. The ads are not affecting me yet. My preference is not to use AOL as my ISP. I had, in fact, left for several years ago. I returned to AOL at the urging of my wife and son, who prefer the ease of use of the e-mail system and organised content here. As well, the parental controls work very well for the sake of my eleven year old son. I am tied to AOL right now, for their benefit.
   I had recently been considering moving my blogging efforts to a different service, but for completely unrelated reasons. I am still considering it, but I don't do anything quickly, and a number of other puzzle pieces would need to fall into place before that happened. So here I am. I am sorry I disappeared this week. I promise I won't do it again. At least, not without a significant amount of advance warning.


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Saturday Six

   Patrick's Saturday Six is a wildly popular, weekly meme that I have never participated in before. I don't know why, it has just never grabbed me. This week, the first question tickled me, and so, here are my answers to this week's Saturday Six.

   This first question needs a little bit of tweaking...

1. You are invited to spend a night, alone, in a large house that is believed to be haunted.  A close friend of yours whom you trust tells you of his or her own experience, and you have sufficient reason to believe that [they may be a complete nutter].  Without promise of any kind of reward for staying the night, would you agree to do so?

Of course I would, without any hesitation, because there are no such things as ghosts.

2. What do you most enjoy about your job?

That would be the part where I quit it 18 months ago.

3. Who was the last person you had a conversation with?  What was the main topic of the conversation?

"Matthew, it's time for bed."

4. Take this
quiz:   What kind of "smart" are you?

Naturally Smart

You're a naturally smart person. Your intelligence comes to you naturally, rather than from instruction - and you are better with applied or more real-world things... which comes in handy, here in the real world.

20% applied intelligence
60% natural intelligence
Take this quiz at

5. What was the last food that you totally ruined -- to the point that it was inedible -- when trying to cook?

I can't remember. A couple of weeks ago I totally overdid the ribs on the BBQ, but we ate them anyway. My screw-ups tend to be more on the minor, yet additively annoying scale.

6. STRANGELY-OBSCURE QUESTION #1:  If you had to do over again, would you change anything?

I would like to think that I would, and yet, I have a scary suspicion that I would be entirely unable to.


Saturday, November 12, 2005

The polite mask of pride

   The latest edition of CarnivAOL has been published. There are a whole bunch of interesting links to AOL and AIM journals to check out. So, why are you still here?


Weekend assignment

Weekend Assignment #85: What magazines do you subscribe to and why? This assumes you currently subscribe to a magazine or two, of course, but I'm reasonably confident most of us do. If you don't have any current subscriptions, however, you can list some of your most recent subscriptions or magazines you want to subscribe to.

Extra Credit: What was your first magazine subscription?

   We're not a huge magazine family. We used to subscribe to National Geographic, but the wife let that one lapse several years ago. To this day, I'm not really sure why. National Geographic is one of the best sources of information about our natural world that is available. We subscribe to a few, primarily because selling magazine subscriptions is one of the fundraisers my son's school does.
   This year, because Matt is taking guitar lessons, we've ordered a couple of different guitar magazines. One, which I cannot for the life of me remember the name of, is specifically aimed at beginner players, and the other is Guitar Player Magazine, one of the premier guitar mags on the market. Matthew also gets Nintendo Power magazine, and Game Pro magazine, because he is a kid, and he plays lots of video games.
   I subscribed to Golf Digest. I used to get it regularly. My wife would renew it for Fathers' Day every year. This year she let it lapse, and told me to go out, and pick up a few different magazines, and choose a different one to get. I read several different Golf magazines, and decided I liked Golf Digest best, so we subscribed to that one again. I added Score Golf, a six issue per year magazine, primarily because it is Canadian.
   My wife gets Chatelaine. She's not sure why she gets Chatelaine, because she let that subscription lapse last year, but the magazines keep coming, and she keeps throwing them in a pile unopened because she doesn't have the time to read them. I have recently received a couple of phone calls from Chatelaine looking for Pat, so I think the jig is up.

   The first magazine I ever subscribed to was PhotoLife, a Canadian photography magazine. It was the late 80s, and I was working at a camera store. I had about six years worth of that one stored in the basement until I tossed them all into the recycling bin this past summer.


Friday, November 11, 2005

And a meme...

   Ok, so I'm at SINS' place, and she's been over to Tommy's, and brought back one of those meme thingies, right? It's based on some English radio program, where they ask what four CD's you'd want with you if you were stranded on a desert island. Also, they ask what eight individual songs you'd call must haves if you were making a mix CD to have with you on said desert island. No word on what palm tree you'd be plugging your CD player into, but I digress.
   I must say, I was happy to have four choices for albums. I'm used to the
Q107 desert island gig, where they limit you to three. Here are my choices:

What would be your Desert Island Discs?

1) Jeff Beck Band--Truth
2) Bob Marley--Legend
3) Rimsky Korsakov--Scheherezade
4) Pink Floyd--Meddle

8 Must have songs on a mix Cd on a Desert Island?

1) Led Zeppelin--Dazed and Confused (live version from the Soundtrack to The Song remains The Same)
2) The Band--The Weight
3) Dire Straits--Brothers In Arms
4) Eagles--The Last Resort
5) RUSH--2112
6) King Crimson--Epitaph
7) Jimmy Page and Robert Plant--Kashmir (from the album UNLEDDED)
8) Bruce Springsteen--Jungleland

   Wanna play? List your selections in your journal, and drop a link in the comments section here. Or, just list them in a comment. Whatever.


Do you doubt it?

   Also on the backed-up slate: The Skeptics' Circle, as in the latest edition has been published at Pooflingers Anonymous. Roll on over and check out this regular round up of blogging on the topics of skepticality and critical thinking.


At a snail's pace...

   I am getting all backed up by my limited access to the Internet. I have several things to address. I want to start with the Vivi awards.
   I did not address the awards prior to them, for a couple of reasons. First, because I saw how some people were almost pathetic in their self promotion, and I absolutely did not want to look like some of those I saw crawling around J-Land begging for nominations, and then votes. It was really sad how much this meant to some people. I was also saddened that those people, who most desperately needed the attention, the outside affirmation, those for whom it might have been most therapeutic, did not win. Do not let their bitterness affect you.
   Second, because it didn't really mean much in my category. No disrespect meant to the other to blogs that were nominated for 'Marquis of the Blog,' but let's face it, nobody in J-Land had even heard of those guys before the Vivi nomination process began. I can imagine the conversation that took place via e-mail or IM while the organisers were setting up the categories:
   "Hey, let's have a best Canadian journal category."
   "There are Canadian journals?"
   "Sure, AOL is huge in Canada. There's Paul, and... Hey, does anyone else know any Canadian journalers?"
   There was even a message posted on the AOL journals message board to that effect. I was the one who went over to Technorati, made a search for the domain, and posted some results in reply. Don't get me wrong, I think the other two guys who were nominated write great journals. It's just that of those people who participated in the voting, most of them had at least heard of me before, and the other two journals were brand new to them. Best outcome from this situation,
Jeremy and Mark have now received some attention. AOL J-Land has expanded to include them. If that has happened in the majority of the categories, and I think that it has, then these awards were truly a success.
   And, don't think I'm not pleased to have won. Personal validation is a part of what blogging is all about, and all the congratulatory comments and e-mails are very gratifying. But, I certainly would not have been sitting here holding my own personal pity party if I had lost. It's just the Internet, people.
   Next year's goal, to be nominated in a different category.

   On a related topic, why was it so hard to find Canadian journals to nominate? There have to be more than three out there. There are no official, public statistics available about how many AOL journals there are, but a source I consider knowledgeable estimates that the number could be on the order of several hundred thousand. Let's be conservative, and say 100,000. Some estimates say that as many as 66% of the blogs in existence are abandoned, having not been updated in more than sixty days. So let's say there are 34,000 active AOL blogs (OK, that's really way conservative. There are, for sure, a lot more than that. Just go with me for the argument's sake).
   (Think about that number for a minute. There are probably more than 34,000 active AOL journals. Quite likely two or three times that many. We had 901 votes for the Vivi awards [and that number can probably be reduced as well, as I am sure there are several people who worked out a way to circumvent the security in order to place several votes for themselves]. In reality, J-Land is but a tiny beauty mark on the face of the AOL journals Cindy Crawford. But I digress.)
   So, let's say there are 34,000 active AOL journals. The population of Canada is approximately 10% of that of The United States, and the proportion holds out over many statistics. If there are X number of something in the USA, there are likely X/10 of that something in Canada. Logically, there should be about 3,500 (or as many as 10,000) Canadian journals. Taking the same ratio, about 90 of them should be known in J-Land. We could find three.
   So, where are all the Canadian journals? There may, in fact, be fewer Canadian journals out there than we might expect, for a couple of reasons. Canadians subscribing to AOL get AOL Canada. Our software is slightly different, and our main information screen is different. It is possible that AOL Canada has not focussed on journals as aggressively as the parent company has in the US, resulting in fewer Canadian users being aware of their availability. As well, those Canadian users that do find out about AOL journals may not, as I have, get a address. I originally created two journals: this one, and a private test journal I use for fine tuning the look of entries before I publish them. This journal has an address, but my test journal has an address. Why? I have no idea. That's just the way they came out when I created them. So, there may be hundreds, even thousands of Canadian journalers out there who are not immediately identifiable as such by their journal address.

   A little bit more searching, and I am still having trouble locating Canadian Journals. I did come across these:

Ebanks Adventures: written by the 'caymanadians,' a couple that are currently living in the Cayman Islands. It is not entirely clear, but one or both of them may originally be from Canada.

Rants n Raves from Canada: This one might fall into that category of 'abandoned blogs.' We'll see.

Juanaco's Journal: This one is fairly new. Although it is not explicitly stated, the subject matter appears to be Canadian.

My Journal: In this on it is explicitly stated. The journal of a grade 7 student. Almost a month since the last entry. Another one to wait and see about.

All About This Girl: Another young Canadian journaler. Another one that hasn't been updated for a little while.

the brown fly's views: A journal started by a new immigrant to Canada from the Philippines. Only one entry so far.

   I will bring you new Canadian journals from time to time, as I come across them. If you run across any, please let me know. And, hey, if you are a Canadian AOL journaler reading this, drop me a comment to say Hi.


Sunday, November 6, 2005

Thank you

   I just popped in real quick-like to say thank you to all those who have congratulated me here via comments or e-mail. And, congratulations to all of my well deserved fellow winners, and to all of the nominees, as well. I am having a temporary broadband crisis, and dial-up sucks, so I will not be around much for the next 24-48 hours. Unless, of course, good ol' AOL and Bell Canada get their hineys in gear and fix the problem faster than that.


Saturday, November 5, 2005

Awards night is upon us

OK, I'm ready for the party. I even changed the name back to AWV for the night.


   I can never get a shirt to fit properly.
   I know, it's early, but you know how it is. I want to get there ahead of time, to get a good seat. And, I really don't have any idea where I'm going, so I have to leave lots of time to drive aimlessly around in circles looking for the place. What? You don't actually expect me to stop for directions, do you? See you there.

Many thanks to Kell for the photoshop.


Thursday, November 3, 2005

The Call

   The call has gone out once again for submissions to CarnivAOL. Please drop over there to see what it's all about, and send me some stuff.


Wednesday, November 2, 2005

A sad story

Friday, September 30, 2005



   Everywhere you turn in Mandanici, you see evidence of a limited gene pool. For a community of 800 people, the frequency of some sort of handicap is exceptionally high. There are people with obvious, serious physical handicaps, like M.S. I have seen several people with less serious, but still visible defects, like cross-eyedness. And, there are a few people who are slightly mentally handicapped.
   There is a younger gentleman in the piazza across from the bar everyday. I couldn't say exactly what his age is. I say younger only as a contrast to the rest of the retired men who usually congregate there during the day. He is always wearing the same clothes (I don't know if he never changes his clothes, or if he simply owns several of the same outfit), sitting on a bench smoking, or wandering around smoking. He has taken to saying hello to me every time I walk by. I mean every
time I walk by. Even if the last time was only fifteen seconds ago.
   At first he would just nod, and say, "Buon Giorno." As time went on, he got bolder, and began walking up to me, and shaking my hand. Now, he has whole conversations with me, even though he has been told numerous times that I can't understand a word he is saying. He's a nice enough guy, but I don't have the time, nor the inclination to stop and say hello to him forty-six times every day. I'm beginning to see why many people around here cross the street when they see him coming.
   Good times.

Broken_doorway   This is a sight that has become all too common here in Mandanici. You can imagine that when a thriving community of almost three thousand shrinks to eight hundred people, there are left behind a large number of abandoned buildings. The problem, of course, is that it's a new world.
   Sixty years ago, my father-in-law used to ride his bicycle down the mountainside to the oceanside town of Roccalumera carrying a basket of fruit and vegetables. When they were all sold, he rode back up again. On a good day, he might have time to do it again. His family lived on that income.
   Not that they needed for much. They built their own homes, and grew their own food. Cut their own wood for the stone oven, and raised goats. Today, the young people have to leave town to find work in the larger cities. Mandanici is dying. In another sixty years it may be completely gone.


Monday, October 31, 2005

Late weekend assignment.

   Well, tonight is Halloween. That means that my wife spent last night sewing, and I spent it scraping the guts out of pumpkins. I always wait until the day before to carve the pumpkins, owing to the disturbingly common trend of having your pumpkins smashed in the middle of the road by local teenagers if you put them out too early. My wife, on the other hand, absolutely hates waiting until the last moment to do anything, and Matthew's third mind change of the week regarding his Halloween costume late yesterday had steam coming out of her ears. Luckily, my Mother was here, and contributed her considerable sewing experience to the endeavour. Now, I'm not saying that the costume would not have turned out as well without her, but it would have been well past midnight, with me and Matthew cowering in the basement, trying to stay safely out of her way before Pat got it done on her own.
   That brings us to last week's weekend assignment. Yes, I know that the weekend is over, but what better day is there than Halloween itself to tell a Halloween story?

Weekend Assignment #83: Tell us a scary Halloween story... that happened to you. What I'm looking for here is a story where you were spooked or scared by someone or... something... in or around Halloween (or, alternately, a story where you spooked the heck out of someone else). Please note I don't want stories in which you or others were genuinely in danger -- I'm talking about you getting one big BOO! moment, which, after you were able to get your heart back into your chest, resulted in you saying something along the lines of "Don't do that!" to whomever was giving you a spook. A fun frightening, in other words.

Extra Credit: The song "Monster Mash": Fun or lame?

   OK, so, first things first. The Monster Mash is definitely fun. I don't think any generation of kids since the song came out in 1962 have ever labeled The Monster Mash as lame. Although, as today's kids all label me as lame, what do I know?
   As for a scary story, this one has stayed with me my whole life. I don't remember how old I was. Younger than Matthew is now, for sure. Probably somewhere around seven or eight, is my best guess. I don't remember what my costume was that year. In fact, I remember very little about the whole episode, other than a few vivid details here and there.
   My father and I were out trick or treating. We came to a dark house, on a dark corner. I remember my father warning me that it might be scary to go up to that house, and asking if I wanted him to come up with me. Apparently, I confidently announced that I could go up by myself.
   I'm sure the conversation was more in-depth than that. I'm sure my father explained to me that the man who lived there was a friend of his; a friend who enjoyed dressing up his house for Halloween, in as scary a fashion as possible. The explanation must also have included the standard admonitions that it was not real, that everything I saw there was make believe, although I don't remember those things.
   What I remember is standing at the front door of that dark house, and calling out, "trick or treat!" I remember eerie music playing. A light somewhere inside the house began flicking on and off. In the brief flashes of illumination I could catch glimpses of a towering, shadowy figure through the small window in the door. I remember saying, "I'm not afraid of you." Then, the door slowly started to open. The next thing I remember is trying to burrow into my Dad's chest at the bottom of the driveway. The moments in between are completely gone.
   My Dad filled them in, recounting the story years later. It seems that I was, indeed, scared by Mr. Taylor (I think that was his name). When the door started to open, I fled. Mr. Taylor, really a nice guy, and concerned about having truly frightened me, decided to chase me down the driveway, a handful of candy extended in contrition. In retrospect, I'm sure he later felt that was a poor decision on his part. It only made me run faster into the protective arms of my Father.
   That is all I remember of that night. I can recall nothing that happened before we arrived at Mr. Taylor's house, nor anything that happened after, but I have these few brief flashes, like film clips clumsily edited together, and I can see them clearly whenever I think about Halloween.


Sunday, October 30, 2005

I had to do the test twice to get this result

   I loved the movie They Live, starring Roddy Piper. The guy can't act his way out of a soggy paper bag, but there's something hypnotic about watching him try.

You're Nada from They Live.
They Live.

Which B-Movie Badass Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

via Cyber Chocolate


Thursday, October 27, 2005

What's all this then?


Mmmmmmm, nope. I'm not feelin' it.


I doubt it

   The latest edition of The Skeptics' Circle has been published. To read up on the latest and greatest writing about critical thinking in the blogosphere, go on over to The Uncredible Hallq, and enroll in the College of Skepticism.

P.S. This one is my favourite this week:
Quite Reasonable Doubt. Warning, a little bit o' language gets thrown around here, so if you're of a tender constitution, you might want to give it a pass.

tags:, ,

Destruction and creation in equal measure

note: this post is back dated to September 29th. It was originally hand written in my travel journal during my recent vacation in Italy. The first post in that series is here: "Well, I'm back."


I miss my dog.

Thursday, September 29, 2005.
   Today is my fifteenth wedding anniversary.


   Mt. Etna is Europe's highest (at 3315 meters altitude) and most active volcano. In fact, it is considered by some to be the second most active volcano on the planet. It erupted most recently in 2003, and has a constant stream of steam and smoke issuing from it. It is also the volcano with the longest recorded history of activity, with confirmed eruptions dating back as far as 1500 BC. In antiquity, the mountain was believed to house the forge of the Greek god Hephaestus, and later, his Roman counterpart Vulcan (from whose name we take the word volcano).
   We were supposed to go there today with Joe, a friend of my Father-in-law, who is visiting his mother here. Unfortunately, she became ill, and he had to cancel, so Ciccio took us instead. As we drove along the Autostrada on the way to Catania, we came upon a stretch of highway that presented a clear view of the mountain, so I rolled down the window, stuck my camera out, and took a picture. Later, we marveled over the fortuitous positioning of the road sign in my random snap. It certainly was pointing the way to where we were headed.

   The road up the mountain is new, the old one having been covered by the flow from the 2003 eruption. It curves back and forth across a barren landscape of jagged black rock, almost reaching the tree line on either side before abruptly turning back toward the center of the eerie, dead fields of lava. As time goes by, the forest will slowly move inwards over the lava flow, like an occupation force. The advance scouts are already out, in the form of patches of mosses and lichens, establishing a first foothold in enemy territory. Following close behind are the scrub grasses, sproutingwherever dying moss has combined with crumbled lava to form a rudimentary soil. As each successive cycle of life and death adds more organic material to the mix, the larger, bushy plants will eventually move in, to be followed in time by the full sized trees, whose roots serve to crush the lava rock into smaller pieces and, at the same time, holdit in place. Slowly, the frontier will be pushed back, until, in several decades, it will be almost impossible to tell that the lush forest one is hiking through on the mountainside was once burned away and paved over by nature.
   Also new, at just under 2000 meters of elevation, is the tourist area. It, too, was completely destroyed in 2003, and has been completely rebuilt in impressive fashion. The wide, smooth, freshly paved road and parking lots, the massive, chalet style restaurant buildings, the cable car system, the heli-pad, none of which was here eighteen months ago, all speak to the amount of tourist money flowing through this place. We took the cable car up to 2500 meters elevation to have a look around. From there, it is possible to take a guided tour up to 2960 meters elevation, about 350 meters shy of the summit, but we didn't want to spend the extra money to do so.

Zio_Giovanni   OK, truthfully, we didn't want Ciccio to spend the extra money for us to do so. It's not like he was going to let us pay. Between Ciccio, his father, Pat's Zio Giovanni, and Pat's other Zio Mario, we were not allowed to pay for anything during the trip. Early on, we managed to pay for our espressos and granites at the bar one morning, but after we slipped that one by him, Giovanni started a tab, and instructed the bar owner not to take our money again. It's nice going on vacation and not having it cost you anything, but there is a limit to how much you can take for free and not feel guilty about. We let Ciccio pay for the cable car ride because once we were in line, he wouldn't let us back out, but we demurred on the further jeep ride up to the top.

   In the winter, Etna is a ski resort. It is the only place in Sicily where snow can be relied upon to fall in sufficient volume. As we ascended in the cable car, we could look down on the smaller t-bar lifts running up various short portions of the mountain, and trace out the path the ski runs would follow. I can only imagine the machinesnecessaryto gouge those pathwaysout of the jagged lava fields, and, grinding the knife sharp rock into black sand, spread it along the way. In places the distinctive  quadruple herringbone patterns of hikers' footprints and climbing poles could be seen, following the cable car towers to the top, or, perhaps back to the bottom.
   Back at the bottom, in the souvenir shop, we bought a kit containing examples of all the various types of volcanic rock that, almost certainly, came from somewhere else. Etna makes black and red basalt, and that's about it. Oh, and a profit.


   Later that night we had dinner at Ciccio and Concetta's, where they surprised us with a cake and champagne.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A few little things

   Just a note to say that this week's edition of CarnivAOL has now been posted. Drop on over and check out the bumper crop of entries submitted this week for your enjoyment.

   Also, a couple of things have dropped off the front page, or nearly so. If you have not already done so, check out
my personal quiz, and find out how well you really know me.
   If you are a member of the AOL J-land community, make sure you add yourself to the
AOL J-land map.
   And, if you want to read more about my adventures in Italy, you can find the start of the story at
this entry, and work your way forward.

   Oh, and one more note: if you are reading my journal for the first time, be aware that, for some incomprehensible reason that has something to do with the fact that I am on AOL Canada, there is a glitch in the software of my journal that causes my archived entries to be pushed down below the end of the sidebar. So, if you are trying to read some of my older entries, and you don't see anything, just scroll down. I thank you.

tags:, ,

Oh, Frak!

   You scored as Capt. Lee Adama (Apollo). You have spent your life trying to life up to and impress your Dad, shame he never seemed to notice. You are a stickler for the rules. But in matters of loyalty and honour you know when they have to be broken.

Capt. Lee Adama (Apollo) 81%
President Laura Roslin
Lt. Sharon Valerii (Boomer)
CPO Galen Tyrol
Commander William Adama
Tom Zarek
Dr Gaius Baltar
Col. Saul Tigh
Lt. Kara Thrace (Starbuck)
Number 6

What New Battlestar Galactica character are you?
created with

via. Respectful Insolence


Sunday, October 23, 2005

Padre Pio...he's everywhere!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

   It has been a wonderful two and a half weeks, but I have started the homeward bound countdown. I miss home.

   They keep giving us things to take home with us. Home made liqueur, home pressed olive oil, home grown lemons, walnuts, pomegranites... I'm pretty sure I'm not allowed to bring those things into the country. I have a horrible poker face. Going through customs is going to be interesting.

Padre_Pio   I don't remember seeing him anywhere in Rome, but here in rural Sicily Padre Pio is everywhere you look. Well, not Padre Pio himself, he's dead. But, pictures of the guy. Padre Pio is the most recently canonized Italian saint. He is a hero to religious Italians.
   Born Francesco Forgione in 1887, he entered a monastery at the early age of 16, and was ordained a priest in 1910, at only 23 years of age. Eight years later, he was sent to the Friary of San Giovanni Rotondo, where he remained until his death in 1968.
   According to popular reports, Padre Pio, as he named himself when he first took orders, bore the stigmata continuously for 50 years. Local legend also has it that Allied fighter planes during WWII attempting to bomb the area saw a huge vision of Padre Pio in the air above San Giovanni Rotondo, and encountered an unknown force that prevented them completing their missions. His most important "miracle" took place in 1962, when a young priest asked Padre Pio to pray for a woman in a hospital in Poland who was reportedly dying of cancer. The woman made a full recovery, and we are told that the doctors could not explain it. That priest would later become Pope John Paul II.
   Although everything one will hear about Padre Pio in the popular media is all wine and roses, it was not always so. Investigations into his youth reveal that he was prone to fits or faints, or some kind of spells. Unusual behaviour would sometimes accompany these episodes. It is likely that his parents placed him in the care of the Capucin Friars in order to get rid of an embarrassing problem child. It is also likely he was sent to San Giovanni Rotondo because it was a small, out of the way parish where they might hide an oddball priest. Thatis, after all, how the Catholic church traditionally deals with its problems. Just ask any Newfie orphan.
   Claims of stigmata are not taken lightly by the Catholic church. They are always investigated thoroughly, and ruthlessly. Padre Pio's first claims of stigmata were of the sensation of pain in his hands and his side only. It was three years before any physical manifestations became apparent. When they did, it was claimed that he lost a cup of blood per day through the wounds. It was also considered miraculous by many that the blood smelled of floral perfume. Apparently, the man bled continuously from 1918 until just before his death in 1968. A few short days before he passed away, the stigmata disappeared, reportedly leaving no traces that there had ever been wounds.
   It is instructive that after an early investigation into his stigmata, the Vatican ordered Padre Pio not to appear in public without gloves on to cover his stigmata, and eventually prohibited him from public celebrations of the mass. Doctors' reports of the time period suggest that his wounds were self inflicted, perhaps by the use of acid, and an investigator for the Holy See expressed the opinion that the floral perfume was simply something Padre Pio used to mask the musk generated by frequent "giving of penance" in the confessional to female members of the congregation.
   Padre Pio's transformation from priest of questionable piety to miracle worker bound for sainthood appears to mirror the rise in prominence within the church of Karol Józef Wojtyła. The man who would become Pope John Paul II was reported to have steadily advanced the cause of Padre Pio, and he was the one to beatify in 1999, and then canonize Pio in 2002. John Paul II was also the Pope responsible for the elimination of the office of the "Devil's Advocate," a Vatican scholar charged with casting a critical and challenging eye over the evidence put forward to support a nominee's potential sainthood. Other questionable candidates to attain sainthood under John Paul II were excommunicated 15th century theocratic dictator Girolamo Savonarola, and Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, the founder of the Opus Dei group who was a virulent anti-Semite and fascist sympathizer. In total, John Paul II was responsible for the raising of 482 saints, the most by one Pope in the history of the Catholic church. In Italy, the canonization of Padre Pio is his most popular decision.
   So, let's see what we have. A young man, born at the end of the nineteenth century, so alarms and embarrasses his parents that they send him to a monastery to get rid of him. The Capuchin Friars find him so disturbing, they fast track him for the priesthood. (It's the only way to get rid of him, you see. If he doesn't become a priest, he spends the rest of his life there). He is a priest for less than eight years before the Vatican needs to make him go away, and sends him to some out of the way church in a backwater province. Eventually, they prohibit him from performing the mass in public, in his own church. Sounds like a saint to me.


Saturday, October 22, 2005

New addition

   If you look at the right, farther down, where it says 'other journals.' Yeah, down at the very bottom of that I have added a link that says 'my complete blogroll.' Clicking that will take you to a list, at, of all the blogs I read regularly. I had it pared down to 78 earlier this week, but it tends to grow on me. Not that any of you really care what else I'm reading. I just thought...never mind.


Friday, October 21, 2005


Astrologer predicting hour of his own death fails to die.

Is anyone really surprised? One more piece of evidence supporting the fact that astrology is claptrap. Of course, he has an excuse. Some people prayed for him. Perhaps he can show us in the night sky which planets were moved out of their proper positions by the prayer, thereby rendering his astrological prediction inaccurate.


Weekend assignments

   Yes, I said Assignments, plural. I haven't participated in any weekend assignments in a while, although I really like the last two. So, I'll try here to make at least a cursory stab at this week's, as well as last week's, and the week before's. I have absolutely no idea if those apostrophes are in the right place.

Weekend Assignment #82: What was your favorite bedtime story as a child?

Extra Credit: As an adult , have you shared that favorite bedtime story with a child?

   I have always been a vociferous reader. Even before I could read for myself, I wanted the stories read to me over and over again. I can remember being at my grandparents' house and reading Little Golden Books, like The Poky Little Puppy, and The Little Red Hen. When I was about three, I amazed my grandparents by being able to read them out loud all by myself. It didn't matter which one of the books they put in my hand, I read the whole thing correctly, all the way through. They believed they had some kind of prodigy on their hands until my parents illuminated them. I had heard them all so many times that I had simply memorized them, and said the stories from memory as I turned the pages.
   Other favourites were the Dr. Seuss books, like
Hop On Pop, and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. Later fun was had with Green Eggs and Ham, and Fox In Socks. I used tohave a record (you know, those antique, black vinyl pancakes that music used to come on) of those two, and could at one time recite them from memory. That was a long time ago. These days I get all my ticks and clocks, sir, mixed up with my chicks and tocks, sir. Horton Hears a Who is one I remember from my childhood, as well as How The Grinch Stole Christmas, but the television special of that one was always way better than the book. I think my favourite was The Lorax.
   Did I introduce them to my son? You betcha. In a garage sale this past summer some of the most popular items were our stack of Little Golden Books, and Matthew still can be found reading
The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins or Bartholomew and the Oobleck from time to time. He did graduate to older reading material fairly early, though. As an experiment, I read him The Hobbit as a bed time story over the course of several weeks when he was about six. I had to stop, because it scared him a little bit, but two years later he picked it up on his own and read it in one week. Last year he read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy all by himself. I didn't get through that until I was a young teen.

Weekend Assignment #81: Share one of your favorite science fiction movies. Note that this doesn't have to be the "best" science fiction film ever, or the most popular, or the most significant; it doesn't even have to be a good science fiction film. It just should be a science fiction film you enjoy watching over and over again -- the kind that always sucks you into the couch whenever it's on TV.

Extra Credit: Who is the coolest science fiction character ever? Note that this character doesn't have to be in the film you've selected asyourfavorite -- consider the entire genre.

   I'm a huge science fiction fan, and I've been looking for an excuse to participate in the meme that Jaquandor created out of Scalzi's Science Fiction Canon List. So, here it is. This is the list that John Scalzi called the 50 most significant science fiction films in history. I have emboldened the ones I have seen.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension!

Back to the Future
Blade Runner
Bride of Frankenstein
Brother From Another Planet
A Clockwork Orange
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The Damned
Destination Moon
The Day The Earth Stood Still
Escape From New York
ET: The Extraterrestrial
Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers (serial)
The Fly (1985 version)
Forbidden Planet
Ghost in the Shell
The Incredibles
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 version)
Jurassic Park
Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior
The Matrix
On the Beach
Planet of the Apes (1968 version)
Solaris (1972 version)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

The Stepford Wives
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
The Thing From Another World
Things to Come
12 Monkeys
28 Days Later
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
2001: A Space Odyssey
La Voyage Dans la Lune
War of the Worlds (1953 version)

   Twenty nine. Just over half. And that's just counting the ones I'm sure I've seen all of.There are at least six on the list that I know I have seen parts of, but I can't remember if I've seen them all the way through. Still, as a self professed science fiction fan, that's not really very good. Obviously, I have some work to do.
   Here are a few movies that did not make that list, but I think are interesting films (not that I think they should be on the list, I just liked them):

Silent Running
The Man Who Fell to Earth
Waterworld (Honest, it wasn't that bad)
AI:Artificial Intelligence
Titan AE
Dune/Children of Dune (2000/2003 made for the SciFi Channel. Way better than the original theater film from 1985)
Minority Report

   And a few that are less serious, but I thought were a lot of fun:

Tank Girl
They Live (A really bad film, but redeemed by the completely over the top acting job by Roddy Piper)
Total Recall
Independence Day
The Fifth Element
Men In Black
Galaxy Quest
Pitch Black

   My favourite? I thought about this for a while. Should it be the cerebral Blade Runner, or 2001:A Space Odyssey, an intelligent film? No, even though it isn't a deep thinker, as one of the best skiffy romps of all time, as well as a movie that redefined science fiction movie making, I have to go with Star Wars. I was twelve when it came out, and I still remember the awestruck feeling I had watching that Imperial Cruiser lumber overhead, like nothing I had ever seen before. My favourite-no, wait-it says the coolest science fiction character ever? Tank Girl. No contest.

Weekend Assignment #80: Share a favorite joke. Keep it clean, of course. Otherwise, go nuts.

Extra credit: Seriously: Do people think you're funny?

   I don't tell a lot of jokes. I hear a lot of really good ones, but I can never remember them when an opportunity to share them comes along. There are three jokes that do stick in my mind. One of them I can't tell on this forum due to its content. The second is one in which the politician of the day can easily be substituted. I first heard it with Jean Chretien's name used, but he has since retired. I will use someone more topical.

   George W. Bush was sitting comfortably in the back of his limousine as the Presidential motorcade made its way through a tour of ruralTennesee. Somehow, due to bridge construction, and a series of confusing detours, the President's car had gotten separated from the secret service vehicles accompanying it. The driver, in a high state of anxiety, as you might imagine, was craning his neck right and left, looking for a way back to the main road, and the rest of the convoy. He never saw the hog.
   It was a formidable collision that left the large porcine beast dead, and the presidential limousine completely immobile. Having a total fit by now, the limo driver was frantically punching at his cell phone, trying to reach someone in one of the other cars, but to no avail.
   "Relax," his employer told him. "It's not a big deal. First things first, we need to locate the owner of the farm animal we have just killed, and explain what happened, and offer to pay for the damages." So the driver, after making Mr. Bush promise to lock the doors behind him, and stay in the car, went up the hill to the little shack they could see tucked in the trees.
   He was gone for almost two hours. When he finally returned, he had a cigar in his mouth, whiskey on his breath, and lipstick on his collar. "What the hell happened," demanded the President. The somewhat chagrinned driver explained that the family in the shack had pulled him in through the door, fed him, shared a bottle of whiskey with him, let him sleep with their gorgeous 18 year old daughter, and sent him out the door with a pocket full of cigars. Incredulous, the president asked, "what the hell did you say to them?"
   "Well," the man said, "all I said was, 'I am George Bush's limo driver, and I have just killed the pig.'"

   The next joke is one with a distinctively Canadian flavour. Although, like most jokes, you could insert the protaganists of your choice, telling this one with a authentic Newfie accent adds great punch to the punch line.

   Two Newfies working in Ontario decided to take up the sport of hunting. After going through the process, and the waiting period, they purchased rifles, and headed up to the north country. They parked their pick up truck on the side of the road, and hiked off into the bush. After several days of near misses, they finally bagged a nice buck. Of course, they were at a bit of a loss as to what to do next. After a short discussion, they each grabbed a leg, and started dragging the animal back in the direction of their pick up.
   It was very slowgoing. The deerkept getting hung up on stumps, and in thick brush. Sweating, and aching, they stopped to rest, and sat wearily down on a fallen log. Suddenly, an old man appeared in front of them. He appeared to be of native descent, and he watched them intently. Finally, he spoke: "you know you are going about that the wrong way?" he asked. "You are dragging the animal against the grain of its pelt, making you work far too hard. You should take the deer by the antlers, and drag it head first. Not only will it slide easier, but the legs will drag behind it, and be less likely to catch on obstructions."
   The two thanked the man for his advice, and he silently melted back into the forest. Rested up, they stood, and each took a firm grip on one of the buck's antlers. After about a half an hour of pulling the animal through the woods, the first Newfie spoke up. "Lard Tunderin', By, but dat ol' Indian feller sure knew what he were talking aboot," he said. "Dis here's much easier'n it were before."
   "Yeah," said his buddy, "but we're gettin' furder away from da truck!"

   Seriously, nobody thinks I'm funny.

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