Tag Archives: Rants

I Hate All Kinds of Marketing. . .

I Hate All Kinds of Marketing. . .

I was going to make this a pretty simple post, with just a couple of pictures and comments, but it took a while to get into my admin section of wordpress. . .because some shithead spammer hacked in and managed to post a link to his fake pharma site. It put a whole bunch of comments that had been marked as spam into the comments folder as well, which slowed everything down, on top of which there were 425 spam messages in the comments awaiting moderation. As always, these people take the prize for being scum of the earth.

In second place, would be the folks who are marketing to children. Erich Vieth at Dangerous Intersection has a post about these subhuman creatures that you should read (and watch).

So, by comparison, these next two ads are so far down on the vile and repugnant scale that they’re almost humorous. I’d imagine anyone who’s cracked open a magazine with a female demographic in the last couple of months has seen this:
skinnyjeans.jpg
Yep, those women were all 50 pounds overweight until they slipped into those jeans. They’re frickin’ amazing, those jeans. It’s like living in photoshop! Put them on, and people can see light between your thighs! Your inhumanly long, slender thighs that completely fill out pants labeled “natural fit”. Cut me a break.

Sunday’s coupon section of the newspaper is always good for reassurance that you’re feeding your family better than most of the country, but rarely does it give me a laugh as big as this did:
buccaneer-bbq.jpg
Oh, this has so many levels of stupid. Shall we begin with the simple ludicrousness that pirates knew anything about barbecue? I’m picturing the cook struggling to keep a grill full of hot coals from spilling all over the deck while the crew does battle with another ship, or fights nature’s fury. . .and, of course, the idea that they’d set sail for months at a time with a hold full of raw steaks, sausages, and ground beef. Yum! Moving on, because you can’t really see it in the image, I must point out the authentic pirate-y flavors of Apple Maple, Fra Diavolo, and Mesquite. Finally, you could really have fun with “Put the Arrr!!! in BBQ”. I mean, yeah, it’s short for “barbecue”, but let’s be honest – “BBQ” stands alone, so if you put an R in it, it could stand for all kinds of other things, depending on where you put it. Heh. Go on, give it a try!

Be Right Back, Quasimodo!
Beer Belly Quarter Round
Requisite Basic Bitchslapping Quiz

BTW, that parrot had better not poop on the potato salad. . .

Smart Carpet on Notice. . .

Smart Carpet on Notice. . .

Not quite 10 months ago, I was so excited to have new floors. It was about January I started to notice the dark lines between the flooring panels. I went to a local floor place to see whether there was a product that would safely fill the gaps in my laminate floor, and was given more of an education in flooring than Smart Carpet had offered. Apparently, those gaps shouldn’t exist at all. Nor should I hear cracking noises as I walked across it. Plus, I should have been given a whole lot more paperwork with warranties and instructions, like at least more than the absolutely none at all that were provided by Smart Carpet.

The store owner suggested that I should contact Smart Carpet directly, since this was clearly not the way the floor was supposed to look or act, in his experience. So I did, and this has led to several months of appointments and visits and reports. We went from being told that this was normal when a floor was installed on concrete, that it would be fine again when the weather warmed up (Somehow warmth expels dirt from cracks?) to Smart Carpet saying it was a manufacturing defect, to the manufacturer saying it was an installation defect, and finally to Smart Carpet saying that they would come in, pull up the floor, clean up the edges, and reinstall the floor – correcting the gaps as they went.

I kind of knew something bad was coming when the replacement flooring was dropped off on Monday (to acclimate it to the environment in the house) and there were only 6 boxes and one small roll of underlayment. I knew for darn sure that there was too much wrong with the floor for this to be the solution, and sure enough, when the installers started working, I could see that I was supposed to be placated by a token gesture.

There was quite a bit of animated conversation going on in Portuguese. Nice way to make sure you can talk freely in front of the customer. They showed me how much tighter the joints were on the new planks, which was certainly not helpful because there weren’t enough of them. I pointed out that the edges on the new planks were jagged and still had gaps that would undoubtedly widen from friction as the floor was walked on. One of them left the house, made a call (in Portuguese) and then told me his supervisor would be calling. We waited for a while. He called again, then spoke to his partner, and they began reinstalling the old planks. I asked him what was going on, and he said his supervisor would call me in an hour. Then they left.

I wasn’t keeping track of the time, but the man who called me was not the one I knew as their supervisor. He had it all figured out.

I had ruined the floor myself by exposing it to moisture.

What???

He cited the fact that a couple of spots were noted on one report as moisture damage. I told him that those were specific spots where I had told the various inspectors that I had spilled water, which was then immediately wiped up but still caused damage. He said that I had used a swiffer to clean the floor, so that must have done it. I asked him why, then, was the floor just as damaged in the areas that were covered with carpet and furniture? He just reiterated that I should have used an approved laminate cleaner, so I asked him how that would be applied? Well, a spray bottle, for spot cleaning only, with an approved solution, which I should then wipe up with a dry cloth. I asked him how this liquid would not get into the cracks, but wetjet laminate floor solution wouldn’t. I asked him why, if the salesman had told me this was an easy-care floor, I should be on my hands and knees with a spray bottle and a cloth to clean it. This went on – he continued to insist that I had damaged my entire floor, in two rooms, in a matter of months, by saturating it from above. Forget that the joints were gapped and uneven with no evidence of moisture damage, forget that the salesman said it would lock tight and could be washed with the swiffer, forget that the floor makes cracking noise when you walk on it, forget that you can see tiny chips on many of the edges of the laminate, forget that there’s glue gobs all over the transition pieces. Forget all that. The floor would have stayed pristine forever if only I’d never sprayed it down with the garden hose – I told him that in order for the floor to have the conditions he was describing, that’s what I would have had to do.

So now he has “tried” to get in contact with “someone” who can “address” this “problem”, but he’s “been in meetings all day.” That’s OK, I’m trying to get in contact with someone who can address the problem, too. Like, a lawyer. We’ll see who can address the problem faster.

Sometimes. . .

Sometimes. . .

it’s so hard to be nice. Yes, I’m a really nice person, sometimes disgustingly so, but I’m only human. I need to blow off steam just like anyone else, but that side usually comes out only in front of friends (who can forgive me) or on the internet (where it’s de rigeur and hardly noticed.) Bingo night usually gives all of us a chance to blow off a little snark, but last night I had to take a little retreat!

Let me give you a little exposition here first.

The end of the school year is always crazy, what with the concerts and kids’ parties and end-of-school things that I always have to do coinciding with the beginning of gardening season. There have been additional things this year, much of it relating to marching band in one way or another. I’ve been busy almost every waking moment. Ummmm. . .busy doesn’t necessarily mean productive. I have to be honest. I have done a lot of stuff, though.

Among the things I’ve been working on have been teaching myself a little more Excel, in the form of updating the band roster and getting it to have multiple tabs for different orders of the list. Hubby had to help, but I am definitely ascending the learning curve a lot on my own. The other thing I’ve been doing is honing some photoshop skills, assembling and editing images for band buttons. I thought it would be a cool thing for the kids to have buttons for orientation night that showed their section instrument. I was able to find some free clipart images of a number of instruments, but not all the ones I needed. So, it was off to Google image search, then a good amount of time trying to make photos look more like drawings, layer, resize, and skew multiple images (and then try to make them look the same so that I could then make them look more like drawings. . .) then play with the layer styles to make them look related without totally obscuring the background image. I think they turned out pretty neat.

So, I go to do the Bingo thing last night. I usually sell two different game sheets, and the money for these goes into separate boxes. However, people who are buying both usually give me a single bill to pay for them, so I need to make change and transfer money to the other box. It’s not such a big deal for me, but last night we had about 30 more people than we usually do, different jackpots, and a couple of new games. Even the cranky people still got smiles and thank-yous from me – and believe me, some of these people seem to be so stressed out by every little thing that you wonder why they even come.

Well, we get to one game, and a woman asks me how it’s played – it’s one where you have to get two bingos in two separate squares, but I don’t play this game, so we had some regulars yelling at me from the back that I was explaining it wrong. This table is our crankiest by far, but I figured I’d head over there and be all agreeable and let them explain it to me. I did this knowing it was probably a bad idea. There are certain sacrifices we disgustingly nice people have to make.

So this little group starts telling me that it’s two bingos in a column but they can be rows or columns or diagonal but it has to be two out of three and they can be in different columns but they all have to be in the same column and I’m saying wait, they don’t have to have two B columns or two N columns, so what columns are they talking about and they start screaming at me two out of the three, not the columns, it’s two bingos in the same column but they don’t have to be up and down!!! Holy crap, it could have been a comedy routine about people who don’t know how to explain things, but it wasn’t funny. I smiled and said that as long as they all knew how to play it, then we wouldn’t have to worry about anyone getting it wrong, and as I walked away they began talking about me to each other. “How can someone be that stupid?” “She’s so stupid she can’t even understand Bingo!” Mmm-hmmm. Smart enough to know the difference between stupid and deaf, which would put me a step ahead of them. . .

As it turns out, a rational person explained to me that the two bingos could go any way in two separate boxes, but that the boxes on the sheet were arranged in three rows and two columns – therefore, a bingo in row one, column one and another in row three, column two wouldn’t win, but any two rows in the same column of boxes would. Aha! Believe me, I’ve been spending enough time with Excel to know what rows and columns are, but when I see a grid, the rows and columns within that grid are the first thing I think of!

Oh, the things I would love to say and/or do to these people! The huge, steaming piles of snarkiness I could unload on them in one fell swoop! What a thrill to contemplate an act of revenge, delivered with the unbesmirchable sweetness I have perfected through years of practice! But no, what about an actual snub, a wise and witty retort guaranteed to cut them off at the knees? Why, they’d never see it coming! Perhaps I could be too stupid to be able to sell them eight of each game and give them correct change for a fifty? Maybe some choice phrases from several different languages uttered before them, followed by a sugary “Oh, you don’t know Latin? I’m so sorry. . .” The direct, in-your-face confrontation enumerating some concrete differences in our levels of intelligence and/or education just to see who exactly is stupid around here. The possibilities were swirling through my head, tempting and intoxicating.

Let’s get real, though. These people come every week, and spend an embarrassing amount of money that helps support the band. I have to deal with them only once every four weeks, and for such a short time in the grand scheme of things. On top of that, I am unaware of anyone who would find them a credible source of character judgement – I don’t have to worry about getting a reputation for stupidity on their say-so. Whatever I might fantasize about doing would never have any positive result in real life.

Still. . .I might just have trouble adding and subtracting money next month. Just a teensy little bit, and I’ll be really, really, really nice about it. . .

What is it with people?

What is it with people?

From the Associated Press:

WESTON, Wis. — An 11-year-old girl died after her parents prayed for healing rather than seek medical help for a treatable form of diabetes, police said Tuesday.

Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin said Madeline Neumann died Sunday.

“She got sicker and sicker until she was dead,” he said.

Vergin said an autopsy determined the girl died from diabetic ketoacidosis, an ailment that left her with too little insulin in her body, and she had probably been ill for about 30 days, suffering symptoms like nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, loss of appetite and weakness.

The girl’s parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, attributed the death to “apparently they didn’t have enough faith,” the police chief said.

They believed the key to healing “was it was better to keep praying. Call more people to help pray,” he said.

The mother believes the girl could still be resurrected, the police chief said.

Telephone messages left at the Neumann home by The Associated Press were not immediately returned.

The family does not attend an organized church or participate in an organized religion, Vergin said. “They have a little Bible study of a few people.”

The parents told investigators their daughter last saw a doctor when she was 3 to get some shots, Vergin said. The girl had attended public school during the first semester but didn’t return for the second semester.

Officers went to the home after one of the girl’s relatives in California called police to check on her, Vergin said. She was taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead.

The relative was fearful the girl was “extremely ill, dire,” Vergin said.

The girl has three siblings, ranging in age from 13 to 16, the police chief said.

“They are still in the home,” he said. “There is no reason to remove them. There is no abuse or signs of abuse that we can see.”

The girl’s death remains under investigation and the findings will be forwarded to the district attorney to review for possible charges, the chief said.

The family operates a coffee shop in Weston, which is a suburb of Wausau, Vergin said.

Who the Hell Can Get Into Heaven?

Who the Hell Can Get Into Heaven?

It’s pretty interesting to see how incredibly diverse and self-contradictory these suppositions can be among the various Christian sects. The Internet, of course, gives ideas that otherwise might be almost invisible a worldwide forum, and it’s a curious thing to see that they are all purportedly drawn from the same holy text.

Now, I had my moments of Christian religiosity during all these years, but it was always within the Congregationalist church. Heaven and Hell didn’t get a lot of discussion, but it always seemed that there were a whole bunch of ways to get to the first and avoid going to the second. “Heaven” was a kind of vague concept, with the basic idea being that when you get there, it’s all good all the time. A real, honest-to-goodness eternal reward.

One of the things that got me thinking about this was a story I read once about a young man asking a wise man “who gets to go to heaven?” It started off with one person who was perfect and worthy, who would be miserable if his loved ones were suffering in hell, so they got to go, too, then how their misery at the suffering of their loved ones would also make heaven less perfect for him, so they got to go, too, until everyone was in heaven and nobody was in hell. It kind of made sense to me, and it seems to a lot of practicing Christians to be the same – but for them, it presents a dilemma.

You see, just because someone who’s guaranteed a spot in heaven loves you, you don’t get a free pass. And people who are absolutely certain that heaven exists and life is an entrance exam are just as convinced that there’s a hell, and anyone who doesn’t follow their doctrine is going there no matter what. Obviously this could cause a problem with the eternal bliss thing, but some folks have come up with the answer:

How can we enjoy heaven with loved ones in hell?
God’s Word foretells that the Lord will wipe away all tears and sorrow for Believers –that all the things of the past, sinful world will be removed in some way. We infer from this that all memories that are painful –such as knowledge that we have family and friends who are suffering eternal damnation because of their rejection of Salvation through God’s son, JesusChrist, will be totally erased in the Heavenly dimension.A primary Scripture for this Truth is the following:
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: forthe former things are passed away.” (Rev. 21: 4)

There ya go. You’ll just forget they ever existed. You won’t notice the huge gaps in your memory of life on earth (which you need to remember, because you’re called upon to give an accounting of it to god. . .) and you won’t even know hell exists. Or will you?

That quote came from Rapture Ready, a site dedicated to the idea that a chosen few will be bodily assumed into heaven and the rest of us will be brutally hacked up and mangled by none other than Jesus Christ hisself, followed by an eternity in agony. They live for this – they can’t wait for nonbelievers to get their comeuppance, and pay for their “sins”. Ironically, a couple of weeks ago, Terry James of RR said, “You unsaved folks who happen to be reading this article and think it is total nonsense, you are pure gold to this cause. Once you meet your unfortunate end, you’ll cry out 10 times louder from bowels of hell than a saved person who might be distracted by the glories of heaven.” So. . .do the blessed souls truly enjoy listening to the screams? If they do, wouldn’t they equally enjoy the screams of their loved ones? Or does the enjoyment of suffering enhance the delights of heaven only if the sufferers remain anonymous? They sound like the audience at a dogfight.

Well, that kind of chips away at the eternal bliss concept for me. If so much joy comes from the suffering of others, it doesn’t sound all that appealing. But then, along comes another idea to make things even more confusing. You see, some groups hold proselytizing (oh, excuse me – witnessing) above all else, and want to use hell as a threat not just to the unsaved, but to the folks who aren’t making their quotas. This video shows the reprehensible tactic of this particular belief group: Letter from Hell

I’m assuming that if you go to heaven and feel this awful about some kid you hung out with not hearing your “good news” and therefore going to hell, imagine the absolute soul-crushing despair of knowing that EVERYONE YOU EVER MET and didn’t witness to is burning in hell AND IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT!!!! Can you imagine? Why in the world would you want to go to this place for all eternity? I’m just thinking about all the times I was selling movie tickets, and the line was out the door – how many thousands of people said “two adults, please”, paid, and left without telling me about Jesus? How many of them are going to be suffering because of that? Can you think of anything suckier than doing everything you can to get into heaven, only to find that it’s a neverending guilt trip?

Then again, you could always hook up with one of those sects that believes that you could do everything absolutely, perfectly right, and still miss the eternal bliss express. You don’t even have to get as extreme as Westboro Baptist Church, with a god who really, really wants everyone to just die and go to hell and leave him alone, and makes you do all this stuff just to keep you out from underfoot. There’s a passage in the Bible that pretty specifically limits who’s allowed in to heaven. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are OK with this, accepting that only 144,000 souls will get in, and it’s a crap shoot whether they’ll be one of them. However, they’re not reading the fine print: the book of Revelation states clearly that it’s 12,000 virgin men from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. I’d say that leaves pretty much most of us out, but that’s sounding better and better the more I hear. It certainly solves the problem of feeling bad about your loved ones suffering in hell, since you’ll be there, too.

Of course, if I still believed in heaven, I’d like to think that it’s the place that all good people go, regardless of their religion and/or level of devotion, and I think that’s the version that many people who attended churches like the ones I did prefer that version, too. The problem is, though, that from that most liberal, love and forgiveness view of who gets to go there, all the way to the “I’m gonna point and laugh while you burn” one, there are Biblical verses to support them. In fact, while some Christians object to the “cafeteria style” method of picking and choosing which verses to believe, it’s something even the fundamentalists and literalists have to do, because the book contradicts itself about this throughout.

So who does get to go to heaven? You’re not going to get one definitive answer from the Bible, no matter how you try. The people who are most certain about it are making it up as they go – and a lot of them are not the type of person most of us would want to be with for eternity, either. After checking around and seeing some of the answers, I think the more important question is, “Who would want to go to heaven?”

It’s good to not have to believe in this anymore. It saves a lot of time and worry. I won’t be going, and it doesn’t bother me a bit.

You Can’t Disagree with What You Don’t Understand

You Can’t Disagree with What You Don’t Understand

Here’s a little story I threw together this morning to put you in the right frame of mind. Imagine this:

Cousin Angus is visiting his U.S. relatives from Scotland. One day he tells his little American cousin Mary that she’s very twee. Being young and sensitive, she runs away in tears and tells her mother what Angus said. Mom, not knowing but wanting to soothe her daughter assures her, “oh, honey, he was just teasing you about being short. He didn’t mean anything, and besides, you’ll grow!”

In school, she tells her classmates with authority, frequently, and over many years, that in Scotland, the word for short is “twee”. As she and her classmates grow older, and learn more about the world around her, there are some who wonder, “I thought I heard that it meant cute or precious?” or “Are you sure it wasn’t an insult? I heard it meant really nauseatingly sweet,” only to be firmly assured by Mary that it means short, and that’s the end of it.

In her teens, she finally gets to go on a plane for the first time to visit Angus’ side of the family. She picks out an outfit that she thinks will make a good first impression, something with lots of plaids and pleats, a darling little hat, kneesocks with garters – kind of a Hot Topic take on the pictures she remembered from her childhood books. She touches up her hair and makeup before the plane lands, and debarks knowing she’s looking wonderful. When she’s greeted by cousin Angus, she declares, “Remember when I was little and you called me twee? Well, look at me now!”

“Oh,” he says, taking her in, “You’re still twee.”

(Needless to say, every Scot she meets tries to correct her understanding, but she goes back home convinced that they don’t even know what their own slang words mean.)

The inspiration for this came from reading statements from people in Florida who are protesting proposed school science standards that would mandate teaching evolution. None of their arguments are new, none of the statements contain any valid refutations, and each one shows that they understand science just as well as Mary understood anything about Scotland. Someone told them their assumptions were true, maybe even fed them a scripted argument, and since it reinforced what they wanted to believe anyway, they have no reason to question or (god forbid) change their minds.

Most of these egregious, deliberate redefinitions have been fed to people from the Discovery Institute into the churches, books, radio broadcasts, and internet forums and blogs of creationists, who gobble it up.

Of course, it started with the word “Theory”. In science, a Theory is an explanation of facts – how they work, how they came to be, what causes them, what they cause, etc. A Theory is not a fact because it isn’t one single thing that can be expressed in a sentence or a mathematical statement, but is a collection of many facts, formulas, observations, etc. A Theory is not a fact the way a Library isn’t a Book. However, people who haven’t been educated in science have allowed this word to be co-opted by the cdesign proponentsists as equivalent to the colloquial “theory” (small t) that means a wild stab in the dark. As soon as you hear someone describe the Theory of Evolution as “only a theory,” you know that more misunderstandings and lies will soon follow:

“To be scientifically proven, it has to be observable and no one was around 6,000 years ago. We want students exposed to all theories so they can become critical thinkers.”

This comment was made on February 11th, during a meeting about the new standards, which took place in Orlando. The speaker shows how incredibly wrong you can go just by starting with a basic lack of education and then swallowing the rest of the anti-evolution propaganda hook, line, and sinker. It has allowed people to simply accept that Intelligent Design, or whatever flavor of creationism they favor, to qualify as a Theory, once it’s been redefined as a theory.

The success of this linguistic sneak attack has led to more of the same. People who have found their assertions of biblical truth torn apart by scientific facts are appropriating the language of those facts and repurposing them for their own ends.

For example, take “random mutation”. What it’s like is a random number generator that’s told to pick a two-digit number. Well, all the numbers from 00 to 99 are there, all the program does is pick one of them. In biology, there’s a limited set of mutations, determined by species, parental genetics, dominance or recessiveness of traits, environmental factors during development, and so on. In arguments against evolutionary theory, though, it means that a fish could turn into a bird, or cows could develop wings. To a scientist, “random” means not predetermined. To an antievolutionist, it means something that comes completely out of left field.

The worst, in my mind, is the recent interpretation of “peer review” by the Discovery Institute. Defenders of the “Theory” of Intelligent Design have consistently been criticized for their lack of documented, peer-reviewed research. (Any research at all, really.) To circumvent this, they’ve assembled a group of like-minded thinkers to approve of their books and papers, and called it peer review. With that kind of peer review, you could go into a bar in Massachusetts, buy everyone a few rounds, and have a peer-reviewed opinion that the Patriots really won the Super Bowl this year, someone just tinkered with the TV broadcast.

There are many, many examples of this tactic. The credibility of all science is eroded by this linguistic attack on “Evolutionism”. Like actors long ago who sought to make themselves shine in film by surrounding themselves with a dull supporting cast, these people are trying to make their arguments valid by devaluing the truth. We could hope for the same result, that people would see through the deception, but there are so many who are accepting this without question, repeating it in public, and having their words spread by the media that it seems to lead only to more credulity. No matter how much is said to show that these statements show a lack of education and understanding, they still hold sway whenever the subject of evolution comes up. Like Mary in my little story, their minds are made up, and they won’t allow themselves to be confused by the facts.

Ooh, for some more fun reading on this, check out this editorial by Carl Hiaasen and its comments on the Florida Science Standards issue.

Looking in the Mirror

Looking in the Mirror

Hmmm. As a person who’s spent a good deal of time trying to get her head on straight, I’ve done plenty of introspection, spent way too much time self-flagellating, and come a long way in self-improvement (but still have a ways to go, no question!) What brought this into the forefront of my brain this morning was this post on Pharyngula about Bill Dembski asking his lawyer to make the mean people go away. Specifically, he’s been caught using a video about evolution that was produced by Harvard in his Intelligent Design presentations – by dubbing over the soundtrack with ID-friendly language and eliminating the credits so his fraudulent use would be harder to detect. Dembski has a history of doing things that turn out to be illegal, embarrassing, or both, then being surprised at the negative consequences. He is a public figure because he has made himself so, but he never seems to expect anyone to see through his pseudonyms and make it public that he was behind the fart video, or the public posting of peoples’ addresses for the purpose of harassment, or fan messages to himself on various review sites. He also hasn’t glommed onto the fact that anything that goes on the internet easily becomes public, and that goes for the letters he’s been ccing to other parties who are less than sympathetic towards him. So I said:

I’ve always lived with the attitude that you shouldn’t say anything you’d be embarrassed to say in public, or to the face of a person you say it about. That goes even more for anything written or sent over the internet. Never, ever assume that it won’t be passed along somehow, or that you’ll never be held accountable for it. (I also believe that there’s nothing wrong with apologizing, or admitting you were wrong, so that helps.)

Unfortunately for Dembski, he regularly says and does things without giving weight to the potential consequences, and never apologizes when he’s called on it. His lawyer, no matter how well-trained or well-connected, can’t protect him from himself. Better that he should be a little more contemplative than outspoken, but it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

Read the rest of this entry

Holiday Display Controversies

Holiday Display Controversies

In Racine, Vernon, CT, Philadelphia, and elsewhere, atheist groups have put up their own displays alongside Christmas themed ones, and it has raised at least as much ire as the legal insistence of menorahs and kwanzaa decorations on public property.

For the most part, Christians are quite willing to share the secular part of Christmas with everyone, not bothered in the least at decorated trees, lights, santas and snowmen showing up in the most non-religious of places. Plenty of people understand that retailers are profit-motivated rather than religiously motivated when they have “holiday sales” and wish people a generic “Happy Holidays”, and don’t mind seeing some gifts, decorations, and wrapping paraphernalia that isn’t exclusively Christmas-oriented. And when courts decided that displays on public property had to be either completely secular or inclusive of all celebrations, most people understood and accepted that. The idea was that if everyone was paying the taxes on the land, the purchase price of decorations, the electricity costs, labor by public employees to erect, dismantle, maintain, and store the stuff, that it shouldn’t be exclusionary. No big deal. Nativity scenes without anything unrelated aren’t forbidden on private property or church property, after all, any more than menorahs, or Buddha statues, or pentagrams, so religion is hardly being suppressed. Really, most people are OK with it. Read the rest of this entry

Matthew Murray

Matthew Murray

The recent shootings at a youth mission and its associated church by Matthew Murray got a lot of blog attention recently, much of it, of course, speculating wildly about the young man’s motivation. My take is that he was maybe a little mentally unstable, but was certainly involved in a Christian sect (Pentecostals) that says in no uncertain terms that anyone who’s an outsider is hell-bound. They have very rigid rules and a literal interpretation of the parts of the bible they like to interpret literally. His parents were also very religious, and he was homeschooled, so I would imagine that the church was the major, if not sole, source of his social life. So we have a young man who is heavily dependent on a religious organization, and who believes he will go to hell if that changes.

Then they throw him out.

It’s a perfect set-up to turn a depressed and lonely person into an angry, murderous one, I’d say. His posts in an ex-pentecostal internet forum in which he expressed his hatred of Christians (among others) was likely an anger at this particular group that grew into something that was easier to express in generalities. Plus, had he written only of his venom towards this particular organization, someone might have been able to step in and stop him. He had also been sending hate mail to Youth With a Mission since he was rejected from the missionary program.

Given the timeline, plus some understanding of how a depressed person’s mind operates, I think this is a plausible explanation. Religion could be blamed insofar as that it nurtured a dependency so obsessive in a person so needy, but not much further than that. Blame, if there is any, is spread about piecemeal among the church decision-makers who ejected him from a program to which he desperately wanted to belong (although they might have been entirely justified) but did not try to get him the help he needed; parents who allowed him to live under their roof for 26 years, but apparently didn’t know him well enough to recognize signs that he needed help; doctors or mental health organizations that might have recognized his needs and inadequately addressed them. Of course, Murray himself is ultimately responsible, but to what degree depends a lot on how affected he was by mental illness. He was sane enough to keep his plans secret, conscious enough of the source of his anger to drive to two specific places about two hours apart rather than open fire at the first convenient location. If you read some of the forum posts attributed to him, it looks very much like this was the case. Read the rest of this entry

Maytag, You Are Dead to Me.

Maytag, You Are Dead to Me.

So, perhaps you recall the saga of the washing machine. The first time it made the horrible smells and noises, I also mentioned the dishwasher. The second time, when it set off the smoke alarms, I had said I wouldn’t buy another Maytag. Well, hubby had to disassemble the Maytag dishwasher for the third time in a year (keep in mind that the machine is two years old) to get the thing unclogged. We’ve been cleaning everything off the dishes before they go in since the last time, but we still are getting particulate grunge stuck on the clean dishes every cycle. The filter has a fine plastic mesh that’s supposed to trap this stuff, but the problem is that it’s completely enclosed and can’t be cleaned. So, the plain water rinse we tried from the tap and from the garden hose didn’t loosen a thing – but when the dishwasher starts forcing water and detergent through it, it comes loose. Hubby ordered a new one, because a $30 part is less expensive than a new dishwasher. However, he and I agreed that I should write to Maytag and see what kind of response I got. We expected it would be an exercise in futility, but we’d feel a lot better getting it off our chests. So here it is, and I’ll show you the pictures I couldn’t show to Maytag: Read the rest of this entry