Saturday, April 01, 2006
It's the first of the month. If you're a woman, that means that it's either time for you to do a breast self exam, or, if you prefer to do them at a certain point in your monthly cycle, to calendar your breast self exam, so you won't forget. If you're a man, that means it's time for you to remind the women you love about breast self-exams.
It was a lovely, windblown Spring day today, although I had hoped for rain, which we desperately need here in the MidAtlantic. But I used the nice weather to plant twenty-four Psychedelic Spring violas (you do know the Dorothy Parker poem about violets, don't you? You are brief and frail and blue—/ Little sisters, I am, too./You are Heaven’s masterpieces—/Little loves, the likeness ceases) and twelve white foxgloves. By hand. With my trusty trowel. Using a trowel to dig holes uses exactly the muscles that were injured when I had surgery for breast cancer and those are muscles that I've let atrophy over the winter, so I can definitely feel the stiffness setting in.
I'm hoping that tomorrow I'll still be able to move, as I want to get out into the herb bed, repair one wall that's getting loose, and plant a whole, whole lot of dill seedlings and some black velvet nasturtium seeds.
Now, in the words of the old MoTown song: Oh how I wish that it would rain, rain, rain, rain.
Friday, March 31, 2006
A couple of people asked how to make pots to start seeds from newspapers. I use one of these. You cut a strip of newspaper, wind it around the round thing (yes, that's a scientific term), tuck it under, and then smush (another technical garden term) the round thing into the saucer-shaped thing. Voila, a small pot. Fill with dirt and add seed. I put the pots inside aluminum trays that I save from year to year and then water. When the seedling is ready to plant, you just plant it in the newspaper pot, which will disintegrate. It's cheaper than buying peat pots every year.
Really, these fundies are so whacked that it's difficult to imagine how they could ever be rehabilitated to live in normal society. Via Witchvox, Southern Voice reports that:
"Addressing the "down-low," a term that describes married black men having sex with other men in secret, Pleasant told hundreds of worshipers March 25 that God intended man and woman to procreate.
"The marital duty is not being fulfilled," Pleasant said. "Why are we with you women? Just think about it…we have a strong sex drive. You need to do your part and keep the marriage bed pure. Whenever your husband wants sex it is your duty to say yes.""
Further, "In January, Sheldon, who is white, and 70 black pastors who supported President George W. Bush met in Los Angeles. The summit yielded the "Black Contract with America on Moral Values," the Los Angeles Times reported.
In exchange for black churches focusing on defeating marriage for same-sex couples, the churches will receive money through the government’s faith-based initiative programs, the paper reported."
If it's true that they're getting government dollars to work on political issues such as gay marriage, I swear I'm going to start taking hostages.
And yet they had this extra child, which directly affected me because they did not have enough to go round everybody
A great story from the BBC on African men opting for vasectomies.
The article discusses Ghanaian Kwaku Antwi-Boasiako, 35, a finance administrator, who explained his reasons for having a vasectomy:
"My father had 10 children and I think that how he had to care for so many of us influenced me to take this decision.
When he and my mum had their last but one child, I was still in secondary school really struggling to make ends meet and not having what I needed as a student.
There were nights when I went without food - I virtually starved.
And yet they had this extra child, which directly affected me because they did not have enough to go round everybody."
Mr. Antwi-Boasiako, also explained that: "For my father himself, if he hadn't have had so many children he would have enjoyed his retirement benefits much better than he did.
I don't think he ever enjoyed them himself. I don't want that to happen to me and Femi.
What makes a man, a real man, is not how many children he is able to have but whether he is able to take very good care of the children that he does bring into the world.
The operation has not had any effect at all on my sexual life and there is no difference between now and before the vasectomy.
I am still the man I used to be."
It's amazing how logical people can be when given a chance.
Goddess, I would love to have the time to hop on the train to NY and see this exhibit. Someone, and i forget who, once called Hatshepsut "the first great woman of history." True story: my son has always been delighted that he was born a boy, as I'd always wanted to name a daughter of mine Morgan Moria Hatshepsut Aurore. Fine. Laugh if you like. But she was pretty fucking impressive, was Hatshepsut.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
BBC reports that, "Africa's farmland is rapidly becoming barren and incapable of sustaining the continent's already hungry population, according to a report. The report shows that more than 80% of the farmland in Sub-Saharan Africa is plagued by severe degradation." BBC also notes that, "increasing productivity on African farms is critical to feeding a population that is expected to grow to 1.8 billion people by 2050."
The world simply cannot afford for population to continue to grow at current rates. Getting African farmers to use more chemical fertilizers is not the answer. We can begin to help people who voluntarily want to curb their families now, or we can wait, continue to pursue the insane policies of George Bush, the catholic church, and various assorted nutjob fundies, and then resort to forced abortions later on when the problem gets really bad.
I know which options makes more sense to me.
My friend Elizabeth, aka maker of the world's best cocktails, pointed out this article in Salon by Sidney Blumenthal. The comparisons between Bush and Herbert Hoover are pretty amazing. And Hoover's "more profitable job selling apples," sounds eerily like Cheney's suggestion that many Americans are now employed selling things (aka their old shit) on eBay. (You may have to click through the ad to get to Blumenthal's article, but it's worth it.) After noting that Bush recently gave yet-another Rose Garden announcement that he won't ever change his policy (whatever the fuck it is) in Iraq, Blumenthal writes that:
"Historians now agree that Hoover did take important steps to deal with the Depression, for example, creating the Home Loan Bank system and the Reconstruction Finance Corp., among other measures. However, it was all too little, too late. He clung desperately to an ideology of social Darwinism masquerading as laissez-faire individualism. And he came to regard change outside the narrow parameters of his vision as evil, threatening the self-reliant American character as he understood it. In the name of ideology, he vetoed public works and unemployment insurance.
Hoover repeatedly expressed his faith that the Depression was ending as though such faith itself were sufficient to restore the economy. On May 1, 1930, he said his policies had "succeeded to a remarkable degree" and "we have now passed the worst." A month later, he declared there was no need for further measures: "The depression is over." Later, after leaving the White House, his illusions persisted. "Many persons left their jobs for the more profitable one of selling apples," he wrote.
Hoover entered office with overwhelming one-party dominance over Congress. In the 71st Congress, the Republicans had a 100-seat majority over the Democrats in the House of Representatives and a 17-seat majority in the Senate. Two years later, in 1930, the Democrats controlled the House by six seats and the Senate was deadlocked.
In 1932, Hoover campaigned against the promise of the New Deal as something that "would destroy the very foundations of our American system." When he heard Hoover's remark, Franklin D. Roosevelt said: "I simply will not let Hoover question my Americanism."
Like Hoover, Bush builds walls of denial as the facts tumble down on his policies. And, like Hoover, who periodically proclaimed prosperity just around the corner, Bush almost daily announces progress in Iraq. Like Hoover, he sustains a Micawber-like optimism that something will turn up in the face of worsening conditions. Hoover's rigid approaches inspired a crisis of confidence. His inviolate integrity fostered greater frustration about him as his honesty turned into sanctimonious armor. He suffered a crisis of credibility because his statements were glaringly at odds with reality. But Hoover was not responsible for creating the Depression. And no one accused him of being a liar. Bush, by contrast, has created his crisis himself.
On the day after Bush made his brave statement in the Rose Garden about "nerve" against "the terrorists," his ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, is reported to have observed that there have been more assassinations by Shiite militia than killings by the Sunni insurgency. Khalilzad also delivered a message to Shiite leaders that President Bush "doesn't want, doesn't support, doesn't accept" the man they had selected to be prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and demanded that they depose him."
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Fundie Xians. Knock It Off. I Am Not Kidding. You're Beginning to Annoy Me. Which is Always a Mistake.
Fucking whiny-ass titty babies. I'm getting really, really tired of these people. And I'm beginning to develop a real understanding for how the ancient Romans must have felt.
Via ABC News: ""The message of 'V for Vendetta' is that Christians are plotting to seize the reins of power," said Don Feder of Vision America."
Butcha are Blanche! Buctcha Are!
"They also called the enormously popular Web site MySpace.com poison for its millions of young users. "It's a pornography hole," said Rebecca Hagelin, of the Heritage Foundation."
Yeah. Goddess forfend young people hook up. Cripes. Would someone please throw these people to the lions?
Scientiests cannot say whether the males perform a sexual function
I keeeed; I keeeed!
My brilliant friend, Elizabeth, who's a fan of Don Savage's sex/relationship advice column, Savage Love, turned me on to this very fun site: ITMFA.
As I am likely the last person on the planet to know, ITMFA stands for: Impeach The Motherfucker Already. Frankly, I'd like a button that says: ITMFY, for Impeach The Motherfucker Yesterday, but, hell, I'd settle for ITMFT, for Impeach the Motherfucker Tomorrow.
Last night I got in a cab and the driver said, "Lady, let me ask you a question. Do you think this country can survive three more years of George Bush?" I could only reply, "Nope." As we used to say in the sixties, "Hey, hey! Ho, ho! George Bush has got to go!" OK, we didn't say it about George Bush back in the sixties, but you know what I mean.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Via Witchvox, check out this incredibly fun article from BP News -- apparently a publication of the Southern Baptist Convention. Crying about evil Wiccans who insist upon being able to offer prayers at public meetings, BP News pouts that, "Oconee County was one of three South Carolina councils sent threatening letters by ACLU attorneys around that time last year. The leftist organization was emboldened by a recent U.S. Court of Appeals decision which declared that no specific deity could be mentioned in an opening prayer.
In that case, Wiccan “high priestess” Darla Kaye Wynne was offended that a Great Falls, S.C., town council invocation mentioned Jesus. Demanding the tolerance to her religion that she wouldn’t afford to others, Wynne fought the council. And won.
Not only did the ruling force Great Falls council members to censor their religious expression, the “priestess” also extracted nearly $60,000 in attorneys’ fees from the town and its taxpayers. " I love the scare quotes around the term high priestess. I also love the fact that this moron doesn't understand that if the town hadn't fought Ms. Wynne all the way to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case, there's have been no lawyers' fees to recover.
The whiny-ass titty-babies at BP News go on to piss and moan about some local ACLU chapter's leader who, "[w]riting for the left-wing website The Common Voice, . . . penned a shockingly intolerant article titled “A Bullet Memo to the Right.” In it, Cubelo wrote, “To Bob Jones, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson: Kneel down, shut up, and pray in a church closet somewhere. We’ll come and get you when we need a [J]esus jihad.” Oh, man, I wish I'd written that.
But honestly, the logic here is so twisted it's almost impossible to refute it logically. The basic premise is that if xians aren't allowed to shove their religion down everyone else's throat, then the xians are being persecuted. If they have to take turns at public meetings offering prayers with members of other religions, then the xians are being persecuted. If anyone, anywhere breathes, the xians are being persecuted. For a group of people who claim to have such a mighty sky god, they sure are a bunch of mewling, puking, bully-babies.
BBC reports that tomorrow's full moon will pass between the Earth and the Sun.
The report notes that, "During the "totality", darkness will fall over the surrounding landscape and the solar atmosphere - or corona, normally hidden from view - is visible. . . . "Solar eclipses are the ultimate astronomical show," said Dr Robert Massey, senior astronomer at the UK's Royal Observatory Greenwich.
"It's up there with the highest-rated television programme. If there is one thing you do to do with astronomy in your lifetime, go and see a solar eclipse.
"I think it's such a special event that you can't help but be moved by it.
"Day turns into night. Suddenly, in place of this brilliant Sun, you have something like a flower opening. You see the corona - the outer atmosphere of the Sun - radiating behind the dark silhouette of the Moon.
"It's indescribable - utterly beautiful. I think it's such a special event that you can't help but be moved by it," he told the BBC News website.
A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon completely covers the face of the Sun as seen from the Earth's surface. The track of the Moon's shadow across Earth is called the "path of totality".
Skywatchers have been warned against looking directly at the partially eclipsed phases of the event."
Now, you know, any time you have a chance to see the "path of totality," well, you should do it.
Again from MarketWatch:
FOMC raises rates, signals more to come
Growth should moderate, but inflation still poses a worry
By Greg Robb, MarketWatch
Last Update: 2:22 PM ET Mar 28, 2006
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) - The Federal Reserve opened the Ben Bernanke era on Tuesday the way it closed Alan Greenspan's: With a quarter-point rate hike.
The Federal Open Market Committee raised its overnight lending rate by a quarter percentage point to 4.75% as expected and left the door open for further rate hikes.
With the unanimous vote, the FOMC has now raised interest rates at 15 straight meetings.
"Some further policy firming may be needed to keep the risks to the attainment of both sustainable economic growth and price stability roughly in balance," the Fed said, repeating language from the January statement.
The FOMC statement acknowledged that temporary factors were boosting the economy in the first quarter. The committee said it expected growth to "moderate to a more sustainable pace."
Higher prices for energy and other commodities have had only a "modest effect on core inflation," the committee said, warning that high rates of resource utilization, along with elevated energy and commodity prices, could have the potential to add to inflationary pressures.
At 4.75%, the federal funds rate is now the highest it's been in five years."
This story and the story about consumer confidence just don't fit in the same universe. If you owe money on, for example, an adjustable rate mortgage or credit cards, your payments are going to go up as a result of today's announcement. "Inflationary pressures" means, for example, that the Fancy Feast cat food I used to be able to buy for fifty cents a can now costs 59 cents a can. I may be crazy, but I can't see how this environment is good for consumers.
From MarketWatch: "Judge dismisses some counts against Enron's Skilling, Lay:AP
By Carolyn Pritchard
Last Update: 12:45 PM ET Mar 28, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed three counts out of 31 against former Enron Chief Executive Jeffrey Skilling and one count out of seven against company founder Kenneth Lay, the Associated Press reported."
MarketWatch reports that:
""Despite generally mediocre attitudes, consumers have performed admirably over the past two years, overcoming a variety of obstacles such as surging energy prices, hurricanes, rising interest rates, and now the housing sector 'bust,'" said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at RBS Greenwich Capital. "In contrast to the prevailing view, we believe that consumer spending will hold up just fine in 2006."
The percentage of consumers who think jobs are plentiful rose to 28.4% from 27.4%, the highest in this expansion. The number who thinks jobs are hard to get also rose slightly, to 20.7% from 20.2%.
The percentage who thinks conditions are "good" rose to 28.3% from 26.4%, the highest since August. The percentage who thinks conditions are "bad" fell to 14.7% from 15.4%.
Despite sagging home sales, the number of consumers who expect to buy a home in the next six months rose to 4%, the highest level since last April."
For the love of Venus, stop buying things on credit. And, BTW, "buying on credit" is what's really meant by "consumers have performed admirably over the past two years, overcoming a variety of obstacles."
Monday, March 27, 2006
For my birthday, Prior Aelred send me a book called Second Simplicity - The Inner Shape of Christianity by Bruno Barnhart. I'm working my way through it slowly; it's fascinating but much of the vocabulary is foreign to me. But I came across the excerpt below and thought, "Yes! Yes! That's exactly right!", so I thought I'd share it.
Barhnart is discussing different techniques, such as silent meditation, for what he calls "going upstream," by which he means the process of achieving "a truly unitive experience, a movement beyond duality into oneness with divine Reality." He says:
"Another way upstream is poetry. Poetic discourse knows the way to the Source that is hidden within words: the path within words to the invisible Word from which they originate. The words of the poem dwell within a bright little aura, a field of energy that participates in the energy that is beginning and end. [He sounds very much like a witch, here!] The poem is an epiphany, a little eucharist of the Word in which the cosmic communion is momentarily realized." OK, eucharist sounds very Xian, as does the capitalized "Word," but if you read "cosmic communion" without assuming that "communion"="eucharist" most witches would easily agree with his point.
Wicca has been described as an ecstatic religion, with rituals -- including poetry, drumming, dancing, and the Great Rite -- designed to induce ecstasy. Ecstasy is, I think, important for its own sake, but also for the reason that Barnhart describes. Ecstasy, which for me often comes from reading poetry, allows one to be aware that one dwells within (and is, in fact, a part of) an aura (I hesitate to call it "little" as Barnhart does), a field of energy that participates in the energy that is beginning and end. It allows one to realize the cosmic communion of everything. Absent that realization, on a cellular level, there's really no point trying to do magic, or read Tarot, or do any of the other things that most people associate with witches. Or, I guess, with any of the things that most people associate with monks.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Anna Akhmatova - You Thought I Was That Type
You thought I was that type:
That you could forget me,
And that I'd plead and weep
And throw myself under the hooves of a bay mare,
Or that I'd ask the sorcerers
For some magic potion made from roots and send you a terrible gift:
My precious perfumed handkerchief.
Damn you! I will not grant your cursed soul
Vicarious tears or a single glance.
And I swear to you by the garden of the angels,
I swear by the miracle-working icon,
And by the fire and smoke of our nights:
I will never come back to you.
BBC reports that Iceland has plans to bore into volcanoes and use supercritical water to increase its energy production. Supercritical water is "water that is not simply a mixture of steam and hot water but a single phase which can carry much more energy."
The article notes that, "Engineers on the project have calculated that increasing the temperature by 200 degrees and the pressure by 200 Bar will mean that, for the same flow rate, the energy extracted from such a borehole will go up from 5MW to 50MW. Power station manager Albert Albertsson predicts that, by the end of the century, "Iceland could become the Kuwait of the North", exporting energy in the form of liquid hydrogen as part of a new hydrogen economy."
So, that's great, but here's the part that made me really, really jealous. Describing a lake heated by geothermal energy, Mr. Albertsson says, ""For me, the ideal time to take a dip is in the middle of winter, in the middle of the night, looking up at the stars and the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights."" How wonderful does that sound?