Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"God! My brilliance is becoming a bit of a burden...

Get back to me."
--"Scrubs" on NBC

I hope I'm not right about this. Over the past few weeks, I've seen a friend stepping out with a new guy. The problem is she's engaged, or at least I ASSUME she still was before I started seeing her out and about.

She's not a person I share in-depth conversations with: friendly hall chatter is about our speed. I'm familiar with her fiancee, who's a decent guy. As a quick aside, when I say "decent guy", that seems to be code for someone who tries hard, does everything right, and treats women appropriately. But while that description of someone in a relationship might merit a "great guy" label, once they're having trouble, in my mind they get their title changed to "decent". I'm not sure why.


She and this guy I've seen together before. They're in the same meetings and organizations, so they have a perfect reason to hang together. I've seen them together a fair bit this semester, but that was nothing I even really paid attention too. I noticed, but it got filed at the back of the brain, with all the other stuff your brain observes but considers unimportant. For example, what color was the first car you passed this morning? You may not remember, but you definitely saw and stored the information.

Then I saw them pick up food from a restaurant while I was dining. When I saw them, I thought, "there they are again. Wonder if they're "together" now?" I did actually think this, but it was mostly in jest, seeing as how I know she's engaged. So I put them out of my head as soon as I turned back to my salad.

But I saw them again. And again. And again. And the little voice that started out as a feeble joke gets louder and more insistent. And just this evening, I noticed she and her fiancee have pulled out of social calendars and events. No big announcements; just a hole in the schedule where you think something might have been, but you can't quite remember.

I have a tendency to over-analyze people, even to the point of making up stories that I think go with my perceptions of the facts. It's not a pretty skill, I admit.

That being said, I don't want to be right this time.

Sobering Commentary

Craig Ferguson, probably best known for the being the crazy British boss on Drew Carey's show, now has a late late show on CBS. His monologues are ... not traditional late night talkshow fare.

This video is from his President's Day monologue. It concerns why he won't be making jokes about Brittney Spears for shaving her head, and his own history with alcoholism. It's long (approx. 13 minutes), but I found it interesting.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

"We checked, and we just can't tell!"

Everyone always laughs about trying to predict the weather, but sometimes those serious meteorologists make it too easy. This is from the weather web page last week.

I think it was raining small purple isosceles triangles. Or sleet. They look so similar...

Everything Old is New Again, or "Take that, Copernicus!"

I struggled for some time trying to find a good tone to set for this entry. I tried making fun of it, but the more I did, the more the issue haunted me. It seemed too important for a typical send-up. Perhaps it's because I'm getting older, wiser, and less prone to compromise on issues that I deem important. Perhaps it's because I'm tired, and want to go to be all the sooner. Perhaps I've run out of words.

And then I actually wrote the essay, and my frustration manifested itself as a flippant distaste for the ideas outlined by the sources I quote. So, it turns out I'm not above petty name-calling when the situation arises, no matter how much I bluster about proper journalistic integrity.

In the end, though, I'm still haunted by this. If I have enough maturity, I'll put together a cogent explanation. In the meantime, enjoy this diatribe which uses humor to cover my sadness and frustration.

I'm not sure what my deal is. But while I figure that out, let's talk about geocentrism.

*** *** ***

Geocentrism is a fancy word to describe the belief that all stellar objects, including (primarily) the Sun, orbit the Earth. Not just our solar system, mind! The entire universe spins around our little blue pebble. Makes you feel important, doesn't it? After all, if the Earth is just a rock drifting through the incomprehensible empty space of the galaxy, we feel insignificant. There are billions and billions of other stars, any number of which may have planets very similar to ours.

But! If our planet is the center of the universe, we're pretty important. In the geocentric model, the earth is stationary. All other motion in the cosmos is relative to us, since we are the only non-moving observer. All of the stellar objects of creation move around us like a fancy choreographed parade at your favorite theme park. We are the center of attention, literally.

Too bad the time of the geocentric universe is over. It gave such prominence to our lives. Plus, it easily explained why the sun and stars move. I mean, any fool can look into the sky and watch the moon move while the ground beneath him doesn't move at all. Obvious.

Eventually the mathematicians came and posited the Copernican model. Copernicus, noted astronomer and ardent Catholic (which becomes important later, I promise), brought us the heliocentric solar system, where we are but one of many objects which travel around the Sun. There's math and science involved here, but let's leave that aside. It's enough to say that he's been proven right again and again. We've even gone into space, and while there, had to compensate for the movement of the Earth when trying to get our shuttles and other spacecraft back home.

Story closed, right? Science demonstrates and proves that the Earth is in motion around the Sun. We (as a planetary species) have pretty much accepted this since in the 400 years since Copernicus' death. It's taught around the world in basic science classes.

But not for much longer, at least in Georgia, if a state representative has his way. He's lobbying his fellow lawmakers in his home state (and in other states) to remove the teaching of evolution from the classroom, which may lead to the removal of heliocentric science. In itself, this crusade against evolution (and, by extension, science) isn't big news. People LOVE to try to remove evolution from the curriculum. Hell, here in Kansas, it's practically the state sport, along with the related leisure activity of trying to pass intelligent design off as a science.

Anyway, though he's specifically looking to ban the teaching of evolution, the representative's quoted sources make no doubt that the "truth" of the world is that the Earth is the center. How is evolution connected with heliocentric science, at least in the mind of Georgia state representative Ben Bridges? I certainly don't see many connections, aside of : A) both are considered science-related and B), both can be tested scientifically. Am I missing anything? Oh, right. C) they're both part of an elaborate religious conspiracy.

Betcha didn't guess that third part, did you? Well, if you're a regular reader of my blog, you probably DID guess that third part. A religious conspiracy! 2,000 years in the making. And who is responsible for this far-reaching and globally pervasive falsehood?

If you guessed "the Jews", you're right! Of course, since it was such an OBVIOUS answer, you receive no points. Yes, Rep. Bridges circulated a memo which, among other things, blames the "secular evolution science" on the Rabbinical writings in the Kabbala, referred to in the memo as the mystic book of the "Pharisee Religion". Yes, you read that right: the Jews are so tricky, they're even tricking themselves! Evolution was originally a Jewish religious idea, which then made the mainstream crossover into science, brought to popularity by the devout Catholic Copernicus, where some Jews now have the opportunity to denounce it as non-religious, and Rep. Bridges points out it does "incalculable harm to every student and every truth-loving citizen.” How intricately clever! Such sneaky foresight! When will the Jews leave the rest of us alone?

Rep. Bridge's memo doesn't specifically mention geocentricity, but the web page he cites as "evidence" does. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a reporter who made an official entry about this story HERE. My favorite quote involved is from Rep. Bridges himself. He stresses that the though the actual memo came from staffers, he himself is not opposed to their viewpoint.

"I agree with it more than I would the Big Bang Theory or the Darwin Theory,” Bridges said. “I am convinced that rather than risk teaching a lie why teach anything?”

The memo also mentions "indisputable evidence — long hidden but now available to everyone." The evidence mentioned comes from a site called fixedearth.com. I encourage all readers of my blog to visit their site. It's extremely educational. Be sure to read the article on why geosynchronous satellites prove the Earth is the center. Be forewarned, the font changes color often, but that's probably because one text color can't possibly hold all the truth from the "real evidence" that's flowing out.

The showcase point is a couple of Bible verses that prove, along with "all real evidence" that the Earth is not moving. As much as the concept of a Bible verse "proving" anything makes me suspicious, let's look at their evidence. One such verse is Job 26:7, which states, "...he suspends the earth over nothing." The other verse is Psalm 93:1, which reads "...The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved."

Well! I don't know about you, but I'm convinced based on those verses alone! Clearly, if God knew and approved of heliocentricity, She would have said, in the book of Astrophysicus 37:4,

"And lo, the Lord God, being merciful and just, did maketh the Earth (third planet around the yellow sun) to move unto and among the stars in such a way that, being as a wanderer, it verily proceedeth to describe an elongated elliptical path of approximately eighteen score and five days in length."

But She doesn't say that, does She? Therefore, the sun goes around the Earth. Quod erat demonstrandum. (Q.E.D.)

In any case, the web site also outlines how evolution has a religious base, which merely masquerades as a secular science. No doubt this is the "new" method for getting evolution tossed out of schools; what if it turns out that evolution is ITSELF a religious movement!

Separation of church and state, by God!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Cryptic Status Report

Mood swings: from Mild Disappointment to Cautious Optimism (not a very wide range)

Internal Gear-Turning considering current situation: 110%

Letter grade concerning current self-esteem: A-

Chance of Being Scared to attempt something without precedence in my life: 100%.

Chance of Failure after attempt: Unknowable

Chance of Feeling Failure if NOT attempted: 100%

If the thing is pressed, only progress and learning can come from it.

Let the thing be pressed.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Me to a T

Someone from Guandong Province in China reached my blog through typing "internal validation" and "unrealistic expectations" into a search engine. One of the search results led to my entry from April of 2006. I have no doubt it's exactly what the person was looking for.

This is why I love the internet. It's just so gosh-darn random!

Saint Valentine's Day Wiseacre

Yesterday was Valentine's Day. I know, I didn't get the memo either. I had flashes of V-Day awareness throughout the day, but they were few and far between. It passed much like any other day, except that I got a piece of candy from a grown-up.

I only really realized what day it was when one of my students said, "Happy Valentine's Day. Why aren't you wearing any red or pink?" This started a discussion of whether or not that was a more appropriate question for St. Patrick's Day (what with the green-less pinching), and my confession (much to her disbelief) that I didn't own any articles of pink clothing. I think I may have gone down a few pegs in her eyes as a result of confessing that shameful situation...

Anyway, several friends of mine over the years always get grumpy and feel great pangs of heartache and self-righteousness when February 14 rolls around. It's a completely split-purposed celebration. Those with significant others (on good speaking terms) enjoy some form of recognition (from each other) on the day. Most Valentine's gifts are recollections of the person you spend the better part of your leisure time with. It's a good way for people who normally get the short end of the stick to be recognized as important and significant. Even if only one day a year.

On the flip side, people without significant others seem to enjoy bemoaning this state. I've heard the day referred to as "Single Awareness" day, which I suppose means that the person was not really aware of it themselves until they had it thrust upon them by Hallmark and others.

I'm pretty sure that everyone who's mad about the day isn't happy about the situation they find themselves in. It doesn't really have anything to do with the poor people who might get wrapped up in someone's vitriolic attack on love and culture. People out of love tend to get grumpy, for some reason.

First of all, if you're not aware you're single (and you are), you've got problems. As a single person, I can verify the fact undeniably by looking at a few key locations;

1. my dirty dishes stay where I put them (on top of cabinets, under sinks, inside clothing drawers, etc)

2. there is only one single comb in my entire living space

3. when I mix plaid and stripes, people only laugh at me: they don't try to help and fuss

4. In the past year, the only flower I've purchased has been spelled "flour"

5. If I wake up in the morning and there's drool on the pillow, I have no one else to blame.

6. I can feel free to make plans at almost a moment's notice based on my availability, without waiting to compare against an equally complicated schedule.

Come to think of it, I was reminded I was single, but that had more to do with it being a Wednesday than a particular heart-affiliated commercial endeavor.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

He's completely* believable.

*not completely

Through the magic of the internet and a REALLY bizarre set of coincidences, I'm able to bring you updates on the events of a previous entry.

The first update concerns Ted Haggard, former head of the National Association of Evangelical Ministries. You might remember him from such heartfelt prayers as "Help me, Lord; I think I have 'the gay'" and "I was really stressed out and thought buying meth would help me chill out".

I wrote about him in this entry from November. I'm pleased to offer you an update.

Haggard Pronounced 'Completely Heterosexual'

Yes, apparently while Mr. Haggard was in the "examination period" by his church elders following his ceding of authority, he "discovered" he was completely straight, and not at all gay. Also, the group was "investigating his [Mr. Haggard's] claim that his only extramarital sexual contact happened with Mike Jones. The board found no evidence to the contrary."

So, he's super-duper NOT GAY, and (in a completely unrelated matter) the only person he's had sex with besides his wife (while married) was a homosexual masseuse prostitute. For three years. Not to worry, though. Everything that was immoral was in the context of "acting out situations."

The article goes on to state that he and his family are considering moving to Iowa or Missouri, and that he and his wife are planning to pursue degrees in psychology. This makes me sad. These aren't people who should be studying. These are people who need counseling themselves. I would hope that he'd use this to better understand himself, but I have this feeling that in four years he'll be making the rounds to all the "gay is a choice" conventions touting his new degree and his personal "turn-around story".

On a related note...

"Jesus Camp", the documentary I mention my entry linked above, has been released on home video. It is also currently up on one of the more popular video clip archives, in its entirety. Leaving aside the moral issue of copyright law and illegal video copies, I'm struggling with whether or not I should watch. I do want to see the movie, but I feel that the time must be appropriate. I can't just plunk down and watch it after rehearsal and before a basketball game.

Luckily, the movie's not going anywhere, so I can feel free to await a more favorable mental state.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Best get cracking, newlyweds!

Stick with me, this story requires a bit of reading and may actually need some drawn diagrams. I'll try to help you as best I can.

Here's the current story, from CNN.com: Washington State Marriage Proposal

I've been going around in circles trying to sort out the organization names, which means treading through "spin land". A group called the Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance is trying to introduce legislation that will force couples to have children within three years of marriage, or risk having their marriages annulled. The legislation is premised off the idea that marriages are solely for procreation.

When I first read the CNN.com article, I was getting all fired up and righteous. People are trying to justify marriage as only for making babies? Unbelievable! The religious conservatives have gone too far. Even their name, the Defense of Marriage Alliance, sounds like it is all for the "right" kind of marriage.

But wait...

If you visit the W-DOMA website, you find out that they're actually pro gay marriage. Huh? See, it turns out that the "defense of marriage" is meant as ironic. Or possibly even not-ironic, depending on how many layers of subtext you want to believe.

Anyway, Washington State recently barred gay marriage, but it did so by having the courts rule that the state has a compelling interest to insure that marriage results in children. So, the W-DOMA group is trying to bring this interpretation into law, in order to call into question the legality and reasoning behind the original ruling.

Their proposal would do three things. "The first would make procreation a requirement for legal marriage. The second would prohibit divorce or legal separation when there are children. The third would make the act of having a child together the legal equivalent of a marriage ceremony." The tactic is to get these laws passed, thus forcing the Washington Supreme Court to declare them unconstitutional.

It's similar to what parties on both sides in South Dakota were trying to do in November. A bill was made law in February 2006 with extremely restrictive abortion controls, which did not consider health of the mother or rape or incest. The bill was passed in the hopes that it would provoke a lawsuit, thereby forcing a re-examination of Roe v. Wade. Instead, the opposition gathered signatures to actually force the measure to go before a state-wide vote in November, where it was defeated. Which opens the way for a slightly less restrictive bill next year, and so forth.

Back to Washington...

One of the pro-heterogeneous marriage (is that an appropriate way to describe them?) groups is quoted in the CNN.com article as confirming that the only important issue is that marriage is only between a man and a woman, and that the issue of children is not the hinging factor. The name of this group is Allies for Marriage and Children, and their website speaks to their outlook: they believe in authentic marriage*.

Gosh, you might say. "What's that asterisk for?" It leads to their definition of what "authentic" means. I'll quote from their website:

Authentic marriage is the time-honored, universally-endorsed relationship between one man and one woman who choose to assume the legal and societal commitments of becoming husband and wife for a lifetime.

Obviously I need to head back to the dictionary, because apparently I don't understand the definition of "universally". Their website does have an extremely interesting point/counter point section. For those who wish to challenge (or confirm) what they believe on this issue, take a look.

To See or Not To See; that is the question.

I was thinking about distractingly large breasts while eating lunch today.

I know what you're thinking: did you stumble onto the "letters to Penthouse" blog instead of ordinarily reserved Doctor Andy's blog? I'll try to explain how this got into my mind.

I didn't start out thinking about breasts; I started out thinking about how good the sandwich I ordered was going to taste. Peppers, salami, and vinegar and oil? Yum. I sat at a table and waited for my food, reading the KC alternative paper.

The clack of heels on the tile got my attention. Since I have rehearsals and other odd time-occupiers going on today, I was eating lunch at about 4:00pm. At that time, any eating establishment is usually empty, and today was no exception. The prevailing silence commanded that I look up to notice who had broken it. The "who" was a young woman, dressed in high-heeled snow boots (is there such a thing?). She was (and I don't use this description wantonly) top-heavy. In looking at her, there was no way to avoid noticing that she had large and out-of-proportion breasts.

So, why did I notice and pay attention? Probably for the same reason I would have if she were abnormally short. Or freakishly tall. Or had a gigantic nose. Or very small eyes. Things that are outside of the "normal" experience are notable. I use normal in quotes because I'm not trying to say that there is anything correct about the norm, only that what is normal is often most common. In this case, women with extremely large breasts would be normal and expected at the Skin Club or other such establishments, but not so much working at a no-tips food outlet.

She seemed to be an employee, since she strode behind the counter and got straight to work restocking cups, filling the chip displays, checking the ice tea levels, and all the other things that I loved employees to do when they came to work with me. She is an efficient employee, on good terms with the rest of the staff, and takes it upon herself to use idle time to clean. A model worker.

I was sitting at a table perpendicular to the counter, and I couldn't see the employees at the registers. I did have an excellent view of the customers, standing in profile as they ordered. The woman was also running the front-of-house register, so all new orders had to go through her. What was most interesting was watching the people ordering, and how they reacted to the obvious sight of her.

Two woman who entered smiled nicely, but their faces fell as they walked off to find a table. Their expressions were scornful as they whispered and laughed. Three men came in; two made valiant efforts not to look at the counter at all while ordering. The third stared shamelessly until the other guys bumped into him (on purpose). Must be sort of the ogling equivalent of telling someone off for staring at a solar eclipse too long: bad for the eyes, and all that.

Me watching them react to her is a variation on a "game" I enjoy. An offshoot of people watching, it's always entertaining to walk seven or eight paces behind a very beautiful woman. From that point, you can catch the unguarded reaction of people walking opposite your direction, after they have passed out the subject's view. I say "unguarded" because some people let their guard down to an absurd degree once they think they're safe from being noticed.

A friend has been known to engage in a similar activity if he's walking next to his wife. He prefers sunglasses, so he can see (and inwardly chuckle) at men who look at his wife as they walk. This makes me slightly uneasy, as I'm not sure I'd want to know how much other men eye my attractive wife, but to each their own.

The subject of a completely different post would be whether or not the woman at the restaurant was aware of the attention, and if she cultivated it on purpose. A business that does most of the traffic at lunch time would seem to be a strange place for her to be trying to catch attention in the late afternoon. Her attire certainly emphasized her figure, but I could see it also being presented only as "looking nice for work."

What was surprising (what with me being a man, and all) was I noticed her being such a conscientious worker. And what took me completely off guard was how that was her most memorable and noticeable quality.

Razing the Past?

One of the dorms on campus is in the process of being demolished. The take-down is making way for a new set of apartment-style dorms for students. The old twin buildings embody their time period: they remind me of the housing projects in Chicago, such as the infamous Cabrini-Green. These projects were built in the 60's and 50's as an answer to the expanding population of the larger cities, a city planning phase commonly known as urban renewal.

I don't know what the original purpose of the buildings was before the university pressed them into service as dorms. I don't really know anything about the structure. I can only reflect on it as an observing outsider.

Within the past month, the southern tower is slowly being disassembled. Contrary to news-covered implosions, the take down of this building is slow and methodical. Over a period of weeks, the building is slowly pulled down and the rubble carted away. Every day, I end up driving past it, only to see a little more of the interior structure exposed, or the ragged end of the building (like the victim of a giant shark bite) moving two or three windows further in than I remember from yesterday.

Mostly, it's really cool. The amount of engineering know-how to take down a building must be almost as complex as putting one up. They've managed to proceed so far without even closing the streets, which lay less than 50 yards from the 15-18 story building.

But the strangest thoughts began to creep into my head. The more I looked at the building, the more I thought about all the history that will "die" with the building. No doubt countless memories echoed in those rooms. Partying. Studying. Hook-ups. Break ups. Tears. Laughter. Anger. Sickness. Possibly even death.

Does the destruction of the building constitute the removal of the memories? Probably not, since they still live on in the minds of the occupants. But I can't help feeling like the memories will slowly dissipate, now that the place that housed them will vanish into dust. People may remember when they kissed someone in this room, got raped in that room, or got the terrible phone call in this other room, but they'll no longer be able to visit the physical site and point to the window.

To say nothing of all the events that no one remembers. All the times when nothing happened. When everything was just completely normal. Those events, already lost to history because no one remembers them, will vanish entirely when the situate place also vanishes.

Here's what I think: our minds are designed to forget. When things stop occurring, our brains filter them out as no longer relevant. Obviously, this doesn't apply to trauma. Those events our brains keep at the top, ready to be acted on.

But for things which are not traumatic (in the most violent sense of the word), our brain tries to forget. Even things like heartache, or lost loved ones; if there is no reminder, then the memories will fade. Days will pass, weeks will march on, and sooner or later actually *thinking* about the loss is the strange circumstance worthy of notice.

Again, this is how it works for me. I never would have thought that some things in my life would stop hurting. I would never have believed that I wouldn't be focused on them every minute till the end of days. But I have. First I got busy, which forced me to think about other things. Then I stayed busy. Now it passes me by like a face on the sidewalk; it might look familiar, but I don't even think about it past the double-take.

So it will be for the dorm. In time, people will forget what was there before. The existence of the buildings and the sum of all memories and encounters will be reduced to a photograph on the wall of the city museum. Next to the pictures of all the old farm houses and barns that once dotted the area.

Down to Brass Tax

Tax season is approaching. W-2 forms and other tax related things have been arriving in my mailbox. As every year at this point, I reflect on how much I enjoy doing my taxes.

I know that taxes are traditionally a headache for most people. I can certainly understand that. However, since I don't itemize deductions (last time I tried, the standard deduction worked out to be more appropriate), and I don't have a fantastically large income (which keeps all calculations simple), I enjoy putting all the numbers in their proper places.

However, as a musician currently cobbling together varied income sources, sooner or later I'm going to want to keep track of expenses related to running my "business." Things like music, repairs, and maintenance items can all be written off, as can more nitpicky things like mileage to and from destinations, and parking fees when I arrive.

I came to realize it was a mistake to put off thinking about this until I had *a* job, in the sense that I work on one job. That's not the life I lead, so I needed to come to turns with the fact that the three jobs I currently work need to be treated as part of a single whole: a business whose end goal is to support me.

A few years ago, I knew a family who "incorporated" as a company to allow themselves tax breaks on all sorts of things. At the time (and because of my other concerns about their attitudes), I wrote it off as some sort of quasi-legal attempt to dodge taxes. With the benefit of some elapsed time and more financial savvy, I see that the concept does have its good points. I still feel slightly shady about that particular family, however.

As much as I love order and logical thinking, there are some calculating husband/wife teams that leave me cold. When I worked at a local cafe, a particular pair was always bringing clients in for meals and coffee. They basked in the false sacrifice of always picking up the tab, because they treated it all as business. Behind all the friendliness and largess, they'd always ask for a second copy of the receipt and file it in an organizer.

This isn't horrible behavior, as it's part of corporate life. But because the husband/wife were parading with such false charity (and possibly also because they were pushy real estate agents), it felt shallow. I felt rather like I had been given glasses which, through the polarity of the lens, allowed me to see more clearly. Perhaps it was because they'd come in on the weekends and chat two other couples for fun, but mention something about houses and write it off.

Business as usual?