Thursday, November 30, 2006

Take one minute

What's more amazing than life itself? Nothing really. The world - the universe - is so big and so wonderful that it can hardly be imagined. And yet, for some reason, we go through our days - our lives - without even looking.

Just think of the breeze on your cheek.

On a good day we might stop and think that it feels nice to feel that breeze. But even on the best of days, we seldom think past that - we seldom stop in wonder at the combination of events that caused that moment.

The earth spun and the sun appeared to rise in the sky. That sun sent rays of light and energy through a vastness of space and they hit the earth causing the temperature to rise.

The temperature rose at different speeds and the warmer air rose quicker, displacing air that was in it's place and the movement of that air caused more air to move until someone, somewhere felt a breeze or saw a branch sway.

And that's just a fraction of the things happening around us constantly. Every instant is the result of countless other instants and will, in turn, become the cause of a following instant.

Our lives are made up of these millions upon millions of instants and we seldom look closely at any of them.

Today's assignment - should you choose to accept it - is to take one minute to stop and think about something. It can be anything.

Stop and wonder about how it got the way it is, or how it got where it is. What caused it? How does it work?

One minute - anything.

Think about something - yourself, your computer, the universe, a bird, a rock, a snowflake, a pen, coffee, whatever...

How hard can that be? It's easy. Try it and tell me or don't tell me. I'm okay with people just thinking quietly to themselves.

Today, for one minute, remember to feel some wonder.



Hubble telescope images

Microbes and organisms deep in the sea


Sunday, November 26, 2006

This and that...

My friend Eileen was in town visiting her parents, so we went and tipped a few back in the almost-too-lovely Cedarburg. Found a great brew house on the river and a completely seedy dive on the main drag.

Drama occurred. It was fun.

We also met a cat who was freaking out a couple because it was following them. He turned out to be a very nice cat and not scarey at all. He had a crazy curly tail too, which is always a clue that you may be dealing with a rather extra-ordinary cat indeed.

Eileen's friend who used to work in Cincinnati but now works at the Journal-Sentinel here in Milwaukee came out and met us. Fun was had.


Last night, I watched 'Finding Neverland.' I've had it sitting on the shelf for a while and never got around to putting it in the DVD player. I love J.M. Barrie and 'Peter Pan' so I knew I would like it. Plus, it features Johnny Depp. How can that be bad? Johnny Depp is one of my favorite actors.

Anyway, I watched it and balled like crazy. I was really glad that I watched it at home so it was easier to get all emotional about it. Don't know why it was so touching, but for some reason it was.


On the book front, I can't seem to read past the first 50 pages of anything I pick up lately. That's excepting the wonderful, 'The Anansi Boys' by Neil Gaiman. I read that one through in one long night. I love books like that, but I'm always sad to finish them so quickly.

Anyway, the characters are quirky and the story is crazy fun. So - of course - I loved it. Give me a quirky character, toss him into a weird reality and sprinkle on some god-like powers...and I'm sold.

I mean, how can you go wrong with a main character named Fat Charlie who turns out to be the son of an ancient god? Let me answer that for you. You can't go wrong with such a book.


I heard this on the radio and had to Google it...

It turns out that - shockingly, some say - Welsh Dragon Sausage doesn't actually contain any dragon meat at all. Thankfully, there was someone on the ball at one of the British agencies tasked with overseeing such things. Can you imagine how annoying it would be to order up some dragon sausage, cook it up with great anticipation, and then bite into it to find it was really just pork? That would be utter crap I tell you.

I'm just glad I wasn't one of those duped on this scam. Thank you 1996 Food Labelling Act and the Powry council for nipping this in the bud - I'm sure Brits are glad to see their tax dollars doing such fine work.

And this is no small story. It's been covered by many news outlets, including the BBC.

The lovely dragon-free Dragon sausages can be ordered online too...isn't this a wonderful world?


And...ummm...there's this too. I don't even know what to say. It's tragic, to be sure, but it's also a bit... Well, I'll just let you decide.

Who says that weird shit doesn't happen in the real world?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Watch out for the turkey...

Sometimes you just have to go with a re-run. I like the gun-toting turkey and didn't have time to make a new, different one - so, here he is again...

Hope everyone has a great holiday. I'm going to go out to see my folks and family today, maybe buy expensive drinks for my friend Gregg tonight, and likely see my friend Eileen on Friday.

I leave you with my kind of your backs or he'll kick your ass.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Check out at the checkout

There used to be a show on television called "Thirtysomething." It was pretty good and a bunch of the older folk I was friends with really liked it. They were all thirtysomethings and such, so it made sense to them.

I was a young twentysomething, so it didn't really hit as close to home for me, but I liked it anyway.

Anyway, one of the things that has stuck with me was Timothy Busfield's character lamenting that he had become invisible to teenage girls. Not that he wanted to hit on them or anything - he was pondering a proven scientific fact. At a certain point in the life of a man, they become invisible to teenage girls.

It's not that hard to understand actually, since everyone knows that teenage girls live in a separate world that only occasionally allows for the presence of creatures that aren't other teenage girls. Even teenage boys have a hard time cracking the shell of the teenage girl world.

And all this leads to today's happy moment.

I dragged into Starbucks to get a triple grande two pump vanilla mocha and a half pound of Christmas Blend beans late this afternoon and noticed a trio of cute girls. Wow, were they cute. That made me happy - cute girls always do. Puppies, sunny days and cute girls always make me happy.

Anyway, I'm not sure if it was the sgraggly beardishness, the fact that I held the door for one of them on the way in, or the sweet Addidas beanie I had on, but I got checked out. Not just a quick girl glance either - I got a full-on check out from them all on the way out. To be honest, it was really a full-on check out from one, a pretty solid check out from another and a well I guess should look too from the third.

The point is - I'm pretty sure that shit like this is what makes life so darn much fun.

That's it.

That's all I've got today. And it was enough to make me happy.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I've got your meaning right here...

Why is it so hard for people today to understand basic logic when making arguments and assertions?

I've just had another email from an aquaintance 'logically' proving that God must exist and evolution cannot 'logically' be true. Are you fucking kidding me? Hey, if that's what you believe and you want to make a point for it, fine. But don't toss up a load of pseudo-logic as your argument.

This most current email had some fine logic like this. I have found the Bible and that has given my life meaning - therefore, evolution is not possible because that would mean life has no meaning.


A logically correct statement might be - I have found the Bible and that has given my life meaning, therefore it might do the same for you. Why is that okay? Because it makes no claims of certainty that can't be substantiated while asserting that the possibility exists for something that worked in one case to work in another.

A + B led to C.

I (A) added the Bible (B) to my life and that led to my life having meaning (C). That may be true, but that statement - or argument - is only certain for that particular I. If A is someone other than this particular I, then the argument may or may not be true.

For example, Shawn (me) has read the Bible and it has not given my life any more meaning than it already had. So I could argue that A + B did not lead to C. Nobody but me can disprove that statement. But, if I try to apply it to other people, it may or may not be true. Therefore it is not a valid logical argument to apply universally.

Let me go back to the original argument for a minute. In the original argument, the person bugging the crap out of me with their annoyingly faulty email uses the same argument to claim that evolution could not possibly be true.

Essentially, they were saying: A + B led to C, so therefore D cannot be true.

Give me a break.

Why is it so hard for people who evangelize to just say they don't know, but they choose to believe what they believe? Good lord, even Buddhists will tell you that they don't know and maybe it's all horse shit.

Personally, Buddhism works for me. It might work for others, but I don't know.

In fact, it probably won't work for most folks in America since most of us come from a Christian background and that's easier for us to understand. You'll never hear me pushing my beliefs on anyone else, although I'm willing to argue the merits. And I'm also clever enough to realize that although religion and philosophy may play a part in science, neither are suitable standins for science.

Anyway, if others want to believe that a luminous being with a long, flowing beard and blue eyes created the universe in six days, that's fine with me. Just don't come at me with an argument that is nothing more than - I believe it so it's true.

And don't use some ridiculous logic that there's no way for the big bang to have occurred because all this matter had to come from somewhere so therefore God must have done it. Because guess what? The question left in that argument is the same one left in the previous one - where did God come from? And I'm sorry to lay this on you, but it's pretty likely that none of us will get to know the answer - at least not in this life.

The world can be pretty uncertain. Deal with it however you choose, but don't pretend to speak for everyone when you find something that makes you feel more secure.

And please, please, please don't try and prove your point by making statements that have no logic to them.

Monday, November 13, 2006

And we've got Bigfoot too...

As if thundersnow wasn't enough to shock and awe the rest of the country, we've got Bigfoot too.

Yeah, that's right. We've got Bigfoot and it's even on the news. Because what could possibly be more important than someone thinking they saw Bigfoot?

So, while the rest of you are getting buried with boring news, we're hearing about another Bigfoot sighting in Wisconsin.

You're probably jealous. I can understand that. But don't blame us for being blessed - just go out and find your own Bigfoot.

Unless you live in California. In that case, find something different to steal from us. You already took the dairy producing title away from us. Don't think we don't remember that. We know your tricks. We'll find a Bigfoot here in Wisconsin and the next thing you know there will be two Bigfoots in California.

And the best part about Bigfoot being in Wisconsin? I'll tell you. Bigfoot isn't just in some far off part of the state. No sir - Bigfoot is right here in my county. I might get to meet him if I start wandering around the woods. That would be pretty sweet, but I don't think I would tell if I did meet him. Obviously, he values his privacy and who am I to trample all over that?

Bigfoot, you and your secret are safe with me. Now, can you make some coffee and clean up the mess in the kitchen? It's the least you can do dude.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Thunder Snow rocks

Friday night we had some our patented Wisconsin freak-of-nature weather. It was 65 on Wednesday and still pretty warm on Thursday. Then Friday rolled out some wackiness.

We had a bunch of snow on Friday evening. It was weird too. One minute it's pouring and the guy on the radio is saying, 'good thing this isn't snow, huh?' and the next it is snow.

The best part - okay, the second best part because I didn't have to work - was that there was a lot of lightning and booming thunder.

I thought that was awesome and it deserved an awesome name. Lo and already had one. They call it Thundersnow.

There's no way to do it justice. You just have to believe that thundersnow is crazy cool.


Last night, I got a call from my friend Andy. It was just after 10 p.m. when the phone rang and I got hit with the age old 'what are you doing?' line.

They were a couple of blocks away and heading downtown. So, I threw on some jeans and grabbed my coat.

The Jeep was full. Becka, Andy's wife, was there and I couldn't see the people in the back. I hopped in a realized that it was Renee and her hubby.

I haven't seen Renee in ages. We used to hang out a lot, so it was nice to see her.

The pub was filled to capacity and an annoying new guy at the door was pondering impeding our progress. I gave him the look and he whithered. All of West Bend was out it seemed.

Fun was had, much drinking was done, and at some point karaoke occurred...but don't worry, I sang not a peep.

Got home in one piece, didn't get sick and got up before noon. I would call that a successful night.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Around the world...

*Note...I'm being lazy, but I'm tired. This is a from the other day. I originally posted it on a certain left-leaning blog. In the mean time, I need a nap and to find some humour. Cheers till then.*

There's good reason for much of the world to feel a bit safer as Wednesday dawns. The Democratic congressional landslide has changed the terrain of politics in the United States.

For many people in other countries, that's a relief.

While a lot of there's a lot of talk of ethics and other reform from Democratic leaders, for much of the world the results of this election mean that George W. Bush will find his power reined in. And that, many believe, will make this a safer world.

The BBC hasn't gone too far into what the changes might mean, but they've given the U.S. elections prominent play. They do point out some interesting firsts and notes from some key races.

BBC International story is here.

Reuters International, surprisingly, gives no play at all to the U.S. elections. But they do have a story on Ortega's return to power in Nicaragua.

Deutsche Welle has only a short blurb on the results of the elections. They will likely have more later.

Die Zeit has a much more lengthy look at the elections, but it's in German. The quick rundown is that they realize the elections were very much a referendum on the Iraq war and that the President no longer has carte blanche to bull on ahead without regard for what the American people want.

It goes a bit more into the elections in that vein and shows that even around the world, people understood that the elections were largely about Iraq.

It also talks about the polarizing effect Bush's presidency has had so far and that this is a clear sign that the American people want to see co-operation and a less divisive Congress. Democrats have a great oportunity to take the center of the spectrum and leave the Republicans holding to the extreme right.

The International Herald Tribune in Paris has several articles. One talks about the voter discontent that swept Republicans out of office. Another urges a cautious outlook on what the elections might mean for the strained relations between the United States and much of the EU.

Le Monde has a special section on the elections, but it's in French and I'm not enough of French speaker to translate.

The U.S. congressional elections also lead the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. It's in German, but one of the stories talks about the changes that might occur in U.S. policy making. The main headline says that Bush faces some radical relearning - in other words, he needs to make some radical changes.

Die Welt is talking about a change in course of Iraq policy. They also have a story on Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress.


Asian newspapers aren't showing much yet, but their cycle hasn't fired up yet.

If you want a great site with links to newpapers around the world, check out


Pravda in Russia has an English language version that has a Russian take on the election. Their story brings up some interesting points and talks about how disappointed Bush is by the results.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I wonder...

I wonder if this is how Republicans felt when they swept into control of Congress? I'm guessing they were pretty giddy when they won in a landslide...I know that, as a Democrat, I feel pretty good about the outcome of this set of elections.

Unlike the spirit of gloating that Republicans rolled out however, I get the sense that the majority of Democrats around the country are looking to extend an offer to work with Republicans to fix some of the many problems facing our country. Despite suffering through years of an arrogant and out of touch Republican leadership, most Democrats want their fellow Democrats to move to the center to attempt to work out some bi-partisan solutions.

I also get a pretty strong feeling that there are a lot of Democrats that - although they want to see a Congress working together and a President working with them - won't have much patience for a continuation of the extreme partisanship of the Republicans. If the President comes out defiant and unwilling to listen to the people's vote, or if Republican congressional leadership quickly begins to derail Democratic efforts to clean up the mess that Congress has become, there will be a loud and strong call to play hardball.

American's want to see oversight taking place and they want to hear solutions to the quickly deteriorating situation in Iraq. The President should come out and show a real willingness to work with congressional leaders to come up with a plan that goes beyond 'staying the course.'

There's a lot of talk that Democrats haven't shown a plan - but the reality still remains that the President led us into this mess and even now hasn't presented a plan. And he's the commander-in-chief. He remains that, but he would be wise to show some ability to compromise.

All I hope for is the return to some sanity in the federal government. This election was a rejection of the course we were headed - now it just remains to chart a positive course forward. There are plenty of rocks and shoals to avoid, but if we begin to head in the right direction then most Americans will be show themselves willing to help man the oars.

***And in some personal races***

There were a lot of races that I was interested in and most fell the way I had hoped. Over the course of the campaign, I was able to learn about some great candidates and even sent several of them some money. In a way, it gave me a small stake in the outcomes of their races. It also made election night a lot more fun.

Sadly, the guy I was doing a bit of stumping for, Bryan Kennedy, was soundly defeated by Wisconsin's most embarrassing politician, James Sensenbrenner. It's really not a big surprise to me as it was a long shot race all along, but there were some openings in the last month that Kennedy was unable to take advantage of.

It wasn't a perfect campaign - that's for sure - and this was a race that could have only been won with a perfect campaign. Lack of experience in the political arena and in generating the kind of publicity needed to move forward really cost Kennedy on this one. And there wasn't even the satisfaction of seeing the numbers come back much higher than the last time around.

Well, at least I can say that I felt like I put in an effort to change something that I believed needed to be changed. Sensenbrenner still needs to be removed - I wish it had been this election year, but you can't have everything.

The national races I was into were:

Bryan Kennedy here in Wisconsin - I had great hopes, but not such great expectations.

Patrick Murphy out in the Philadelphia area - Murphy's a big proponent of net neutrality and that caught my attention...I for one don't want my tubes tied.

Larry Kissell in North Carolina - how can you not like a guy who set up a gas station to sell gas at a buck something a gallon, the price it was when his opponent took office not that long ago? And, the guy sent out personalized 'thank you' letters for every donation I made. That's frankly awesome and how it should be.

Scott Kleeb out in Nebraska - he's just a down-home sort of guy and young. Hell, he's so good looking I would do mean...he's got some pretty good ideas. Actuallym, I was impressed with him when I read a couple of posts he made on DKos where he stuck around to answer questions in the comments. It was very cool how he took the time to not just talk, but to listen.

John Tester in Montana - talk about a real Westerner, Tester ran a clean and admirable campaign. He's the kind of guy who isn't going to play political games, he's going to do what he thinks is right.

Webb in Virginia - mainly because I felt that Allen ran a sleazy campaign and deserved to lose because of it. Also, Webb is highly qualified. The fact that he was a good writer also weighed into it for me.

And because I met some people that worked really hard for her, Claire McCaskill in Missouri.

Anyway, all of them - with the exception of McCaskill - got a few bucks from me and that makes me feel good.

Cheers...and may the numbers stop bouncing around in my head.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Some things just make me laugh

As part of my daily ritual of wasting large blocks of time sitting in front of my computer, I sometimes like to click on the 500,000,057 bookmarks I've saved and don't remember why. Sometimes. (not very often mind you, or I wouldn't have 500,000,057 bookmarks would I?) I even take a bit of time to whittle them down a bit.

Don't worry, I didn't do any cleaning today. I did, however, come across this little gem and it made me laugh. Maybe not laugh but at least chuckle...

Friday, November 03, 2006

Stop the presses!

I was so going to keep my mouth shut for the last few days before the election, but I just couldn't resist. This has been a week that could only be called bizarre.

First, John Kerry makes a gaff in a speach and seems to insult American troops. Despite the fact that it's obvious that he meant no such insult, Republicans jumped back on their soapboxes, eager to grab hold of anything they could use to stay afloat in a sea of anti-Republican sentiment.

And, it worked - for a couple of days. Until Kerry apologized.

Now it's some Evangelical high priest that's in the spotlight. It appears that will he's been banging away at the sin of gay marriage, he's been busy banging a gay man behind his wife's back. Guess what's getting a lot of play in today's news?

While I do believe that it's another example of a hypocritical church leader using his position to push forward a message of hate and intolerance, I don't think it deserves to be a top-of-the-fold, lead-the-newscast kind of story.

But what do I know? It's not like I was ever a journalist or anything. Oh wait...yes I was.

As much as I would personally love to see the smarmy bastard buried under a pile of the kind of hate he helped create and perpetuate, I would never argue for the huge play this story has received.

On the other hand, I would shine a spotlight on some of the real stories that have been lost in the last week.

First of all, why is our government posting top-secret information on nuclear weapons programs online? If this isn't the stupidest thing I've ever heard, it's definitely high on the list.

The administration, in a rush to prove - well, I'm not sure what actually... - posted a whole bunch of technical papers gathered after the invasion of Iraq on a government website set up for the purpose. They were spurred by pressure from fellow Republicans.

Problem is, they never went to the trouble of even checking them out before they did it. Call me a worry wort, but it just seems less than bright to put nuclear weapons information online - in Arabic even - while claiming that you're making the world safe from those crazy Muslem extremists.

I'm also pretty sure that further evidence joins the mountain of evidence of war crimes committed under the orders of the president - the decider in chief. This came in the form of foreign journalists digging into the secret torture facilities run by the U.S. in Europe and other countries and the complicity of those countries in the crimes.

The big story appeared in the German weekly 'stern' but was in German. Deutsch-Welle had a story about the story in English. It chronicles the U.S. torture program and identifies one of the bases as being located in Bosnia.

Going along with this story is another that chronicles the lavish lifestyle that the pilots of the planes and the men charged with transporting these terrorist suspects to torture facilities. The Guardian ran a story on the extravagant spending done by the CIA agents operating the torture transfer program. All on our dime, by the way.

Or, perhaps I would top the page with a story about the missing U.S. soldier abandoned by the administration and high command in Iraq.

I wonder what his family thinks when they know he was just left behind and the top story being covered is a sleazy high priest of the temple of Evangelical or a tongue-tied bumble by a former presidential candidate.

All I can say is that not all of us who have ever been in the journalism field would make such bad calls.


I would, if I were an editor at a major metro paper, run a copy of my friend Josh's excellent scientific explanation of his dragon bones theory. Risking the wrath of flat worlders and anti-science creationists, he explains in simple terms one of the world's most Thank god there's at least one sane voice in this wilderness of babble.