A life in the day

10/22/2009

Limbaugh tells reporter to kill himself

Filed under: — Scott Sauyet @ 8:13 am

(found at Media Matters)

Rush Limbaugh: “If [New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin] really thinks that humanity is destroying the planet, humanity is destroying the climate, that human beings in their natural existence are going to cause the extinction of life on Earth — … why don’t you just go kill yourself and help the planet by dying?”

Paul Krugman was right: “Always good to remember what we’re dealing with.”

But there is one more important point. Mr. Limbaugh, if there is a suicide that would most help reduce global warming, it is clearly that of the one generating the most hot air.
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4/12/2007

So it goes

Filed under: — Scott Sauyet @ 2:36 pm

Kurt Vonnegut is dead. So it goes.

6/10/2005

Magic Picnic Basket

Filed under: — site admin @ 3:21 pm

The essay below is completely unfinished. But I don’t know when I will ever get back to it, so it’s time to post. I’ll note any updates at this location.


I have a magic picnic basket.

I know it is magical, because I was told of its powers when it was given to me — fifteen years ago, as a wedding gift. I’ve lost touch with the friend who gave it to us, but I think of her often. The note said that whenever we filled the basket with food and took it on a picnic it would magically transport us back to our wedding day. It has. For fifteen years, it has brought us back to an overcast June day and a picnic wedding.

But more than that, it reminds me of that friend. Betsy is a generation older than me. She was not the first adult to treat me as a peer, but somehow she was the first one with whom I felt entirely comfortable in such a relationship. Her example helped me define what it meant to be a productive member of society, how to stand up for what one believes and still get on with the neighbors. That was not a lesson that came naturally to a political active but socially awkward college sophomore. I never felt I idolized her, but I wanted to be like her in a way I never did with my own parents, who I love and respect greatly, or my father-in-law, whose gentle ways, firm beliefs, and contributions to the world around him make him an ideal role model. I’d known several priests with a demeanor like Betsy’s, but that always seemed to be part of the job and not the person. With Betsy, gentleness wrapped around a strong sense of purpose seems to be her very essence.

The basket is a plain reed basket, narrower at the top, with a green rim and handle and a design in green woven into each side. For no reason I can explain the simple design looks to me to be Native American. It was always easily able to hold lunch for two and could now — should we forgo the blanket — hold enough for our family of four.

It served its first picnic the day after the wedding. The honeymoon was scheduled eight weeks later; the day after the wedding was spent at a nearby park with the group of friends that had pulled together around our relationship. It was made up entirely of people of our own generation; I’m sure no one even considered inviting Betsy, who had anyway gone home. Now, when I’m closer to the age Betsy was then than to my own wedding age, it seems unfortunate; but really, at my age I would probably have to turn down such an invitation myself. I’m sure I’d have some responsibility to fulfill the next day. But this basket and two other wedding gift picnic baskets came along. I guess that when the wedding is itself a picnic, picnic baskets are a natural gift idea. The other two baskets have long disappeared. It doesn’t matter much; I don’t remember who they were from, and they certainly were not magical.

I met Betsy at my first Quaker Meeting. I’d grown up active in the Episcopal Church, and my first year of college had continued as a member. When I went home that summer and attended my first service back in my old church, everything was gone. The deep fulfillment I’d encountered in the service was just empty ritual. I decided to explore other religious possibilities when I returned to school. I did a lot of reading that summer to weed out the churches I wasn’t interested in trying, and two possibilities stood out as likely fits. I tried a Quaker Meeting first; it fit so well, I never felt any need to try the Unitarians. Betsy was at that first meeting. She was serving then as the Clerk of the Meeting, which meant that after the sole Quaker ritual — an hour of shared, expectant silence — she made whatever announcements were needed. The Clerk was the public face of the meeting. A communal group with no hierarchy, and little clear-cut organization, Quakers can seem almost anarchic. An effective Clerk can strongly bind the group together and find broad consensus where none seemed possible. I think part of my admiration for Betsy had to do with the accidental fact that I met her when she was Clerk. I’d never seen an organization that worked so smoothly, and to me, Betsy personified the bizarre but fascinating structure that is the Religious Society of Friends, aka the Quakers.

The basket doesn’t serve picnics any longer. It has aged too far. The fading green handle is askew and would probably fall off if we tried to carry ten pounds of picnic. For some years now it has served in a more menial role. It’s the recycling bin. It sits in the pantry next to the trash can and collects bottles, cans, milk jugs and whatever else we need to recycle. When we don’t let it overflow, I carry it outside and sort the recyclables into their separate bins. When we’ve let it get too full and can’t carry it out easily, I sit on the floor next to the basket and sort into paper bags. It’s then that I feel a twinge of guilt. This is not what the basket was meant for. This basket should be out in the sunshine. It’s not that I feel Betsy would object. She’d probably be happy that it helps serve a useful cause after it’s career of feeding the ants. But it doesn’t feel right. It’s a demotion and obscurely smells like neglect.

Perhaps my feeling is regret over the picnics not taken. There have been some, but far too few. And we never get less busy. Lately it’s been the four days each week of little league, two of dance, the recitals, the plays, the PTA. That’s just the kids. We also need to remember the turtle, guinea pig, rabbit, two cats, two dogs, twelve fish, and twenty-four horses on the property. And the business my wife runs. And my full-time job. There’s not too much time left for picnics. And yes, I’m on the town website committee, the Democratic Town Committee, and the Board of Education.

Betsy was on the Board of Education, too. Hers was a larger, more complex school system, almost certainly with larger, more complex problems. But still, it’s a Board of Education, a contribution to the children and to the whole community. When I discuss being on the board I mention my schoolteacher parents and my Superintendent father-in-law. But it’s Betsy I think about.

My basket probably won’t last much longer. There’s some mold in the bottom, and the handle is getting worse. One day, I’ll empty the basket into the bins, then drop it into a bin of its own. In the landfill, it will decompose quickly, providing fertilizer for new reeds, new baskets, new magical wedding gifts. It’ll be a terribly sad day, though, because I don’t know if I’ll be discarding the magic along with the basket, and I won’t know for sure until it’s far too late. You see, the magic is still there. I don’t have to take it to the park to return to the wedding day. I just need to hold the basket, to look at it, to absentmindedly discard a used olive jar into it.

There were other friends from the Quaker Meeting at the wedding too; I imagine they gave gifts as well, but none of them stand out. It’s funny what gifts I remember: the silverware from my in-laws, the green throw rug from Debbie, the waffle-maker and syrup from Elham, the knives from my kid brother, Mike, and from church-and-camping friends, a gigantic purple tent that served as our honeymoon suite. Still, no one but Betsy gave a magical gift.

I have a magic picnic basket. It conjures up memories of my wedding in a way nothing else can. I wonder, does everyone think of their own wedding as far different from the others they’ve been to? Mine seems decidedly non-traditional. A Quaker wedding involves no officiant. No one marries the couple; they marry each other. The exchange of vows is preceded by silence, followed by silence. The silence is broken by friends and family offering advice, memories, silly stories, just plain congratulations. There is no structure. It’s never your turn to speak unless you decide to stand up and break the silence. People are uncomfortable with this; it’s awkward to break a shared silence. Most Quaker meetings I attend are completely silent. Quakers are used to this, though. It is in shared silence that Quakers best hear the thoughts shared by the community. In a group of mostly non-Quakers, it could quickly become excruciating.

Betsy spoke first. I don’t remember what she said. I don’t remember what anyone said, really. But she stood up and made it clear that anyone who likes may break the silence. Her gentle manner made it clear that her words were simply extensions of the silence, silence made word, silence spoken aloud. Others spoke afterwards, hesitantly at first, then more rapidly, until after a while we could barely pause to hear the silence before the next person spoke. They made us laugh, made us cry, made us think. But Betsy made us listen. The only words I remember now, fifteen years on, were those of my father and those of one sister-in-law. But the tone I remember, and the emotions, and the interplay of seriousness and frivolity. That was the tone set by Betsy.

Memories of my own wedding remind me of others. I remember clearly the weddings of my wife’s brother and of two of her sisters, all what seem to me perfectly traditional weddings, but perhaps were enchanted to the couples involved. Both of my brothers had less traditional weddings. A church-going family, none of us married inside a church, nor indeed inside anywhere. Chuck and Julie’s backyard wedding, where there was actually a response to “speak now or forever hold your peace,” an impassioned and articulate response by Julie’s dog. Holly and Tom’s outdoor wedding where the best man was a woman and the maid of honor a man. As far as I know, all these marriages are still going strong.

Two weddings less fortunate stand out even more strongly. The first wedding Amy and I attended as a couple was a few years before we married. Kathy and Mike didn’t seem to have what it took to keep a marriage going, but how could we tell them that? There seemed no way to tell Kathy that we didn’t approve without losing her friendship, and we kept silent. The first wedding we attended as a married couple was between Ellen and John. We liked them both, but not the relationship between them. Again, we kept silent. Both marriages lasted some years before falling apart. I can’t help but wonder if they wouldn’t have been helped by a magic picnic basket.

4/24/2005

Crazy Cyclists?

Filed under: — site admin @ 1:14 pm

I’ve been teasing cyclist friends for years about their obsession with the weight of their equipment. Many serious competitive cyclists will spend a great deal extra money on a component that weighs fifty grams less than the cheaper one. Fifty grams! Their own body weight is sure to fluctuate more than that from day to day. How can their equipment’s weight make such a big difference? They always insist with some hand-waving argument that there is a real difference between their own body weight and the weight of their equipment.

Well, I’m starting to wonder if there really is something to it. I’ve been taking long walks most days, a 4.2 mile (6.6 km) loop through our hilly neighborhood. In the middle of it I run for about 1 km (.62 mi.) I’m not in good enough shape yet to run much further. I start out running up a very gradual uphill, then flat, downhill, flat, and back up a steeper hill. I’ve never made it to the top of this (fairly short, but hey, I said I was out of shape!) hill. But I’ve noticed that there seems to be a correlation between how far I make it and whether I’ve locked up one of my dogs before I leave.

Now, wait. There is logic there. I always take along Ballou, my Newfoundland cross. He’s younger, more energetic, and able to keep up. I have to have him on a leash, though, or he’ll run free. Our older dog, an epileptic yellow lab named Mowgli, loves to tag along, and he can run free for almost the entire walk. I have to leash him for the last stretch, which is a busy, windy, and hilly road. But this means I have to carry a leash for him the rest of the way. I carry a leash that splits into two ends which I attach to both dogs, since the short handle I use for Ballou doesn’t work well when I have another dog attached too. And I use a choke chain on the end of it or he’ll pull out of his collar when he decides he’s too tired to keep up. This whole setup probably weighs a pound and a half (.7 kg.)

I don’t always take Mowgli along. I’m doing this walk for excercise, and he slows me down and frustrates me, even when I’m letting him trail behind.

When I don’t have him with me, and the leash is hanging on the gate at home, I can run further up the hill than when he’s by my side. Is it coincidence? Possibly. Is it the extra weight? I’m starting to wonder. But I check the scale most mornings and know that my day-to-day weight fluctuates significantly more than the weight of that leash. Are these crazy cyclists actually onto something?

4/10/2005

John Paul

Filed under: — site admin @ 7:03 am

It’s quite the popular name, isn’t it? There’s the magician, John Paul Ziller, the musician, John Paul Jones, and the admiral of the same name. There’s the judge, John Paul Stevens, the pontif and his predecessor. And of course most famous was the entire band, John Paul Georgeandringo.

4/6/2005

Moral Dilemna

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:37 am

It’s fun to actually struggle with a moral debate involving the day’s news. Usually, I find myself quickly making decisions on most of the issues presented in the media. But a story on NPR’s All Things Considered show last night on states considering a “conscience clause” for pharmacists gave me pause.

Basically, a pharmacist refused for ethical/religious reasons to fill a prescription for the “morning-after pill.” He was fired for violating the drugstore’s policies on these matters. Now some states are considering laws which will allow these pharmacists the right to refuse to fill these prescriptions.

I’m in favor of conscientious objector rules. I think there are many places for them. A Quaker, I know many people who have in fact invoked them in regards to military service. And I absolutely agree with rules that allow medical personnel to opt out of providing abortions, although I don’t know any details of the relevant laws.

But there is something different here, and it is only now as I type this that I’ve really put my finger on the issue. I certainly think the owner of a pharmacy has the right to refuse to stock any medicine which offends her. But doesn’t she have the right to choose the policies of the pharmacy, and to fire those employees who refuse to follow them?

Arguing by analogy is frought with problems, but I’m going to do it anyway. Should such laws also protect Walmart employees who refuse to sell a gun because they think it might be used for murder? How about a Burger King employee who refused to sell an Enormous Omelet Sandwich because it’s high-fat content is too dangerous?

Okay, now it’s clear to me. Thanks for listening. :-)

2/10/2005

Cool hunting is real

Filed under: — site admin @ 9:32 am

It turns out that coolhunting is a real job. William Gibson’s marvelous book Pattern Recognition introduced Cayce Pollard, whose job it is to spot the coolest trends. I thought it was a wonderful conceit, just close enough to the edge of reality to be plausible. But no, I’m sure Gibson must have read Malcolm Gladwell’s 1997 New Yorker piece (hat tip to wetciv for the link).

I can’t figure out if that enhances my memory of the book or detracts from its edginess. And now I’m starting to wonder if there might have been interviews with Gibson back when which even mentioned the Gladwell essay, things repressed by my admiration for Gibson and my general feeling that an author who mostly writes science fiction is supposed to invent subjects like this.

In any case, if it turns out that the Footage is real, I want to know immediately!

2/4/2005

Reskinning

Filed under: — Scott Sauyet @ 10:52 am

What took me so long? I’ve been using the default WordPress theme from day one. It’s not ugly, but it’s awful generic. Several times I’ve started developing my own look and feel, but each time I’ve stopped quickly. It’s not that I can’t develop decent looks, but that’s just never been important enough to take precedence over everything else I want to be working on.

Finally, yesterday, as I did my upgrade, I thought about looking at the existing themes, and there is a very nice collection at alexking.org (which I learned of on the WordPress Wiki.) This blue and orange theme seems a nice simple one to use until I either get tired of it, create my own, or set up a style switcher.

Maybe I’m just tired of grey.

2/3/2005

Upgrading WordPress

Filed under: — site admin @ 4:33 pm

To load the anti-comment-spam plugins, I needed a later version of WordPress (v1.2.2) than I was using (v1.0.2). Upgrading was relatively easy, although I did it entirely manually, by just adding the missing DB tables and columns to my existing database, and using things like post-date to calculate post-date-gmt, then overlaying my PHP code with the new one, copying back in only the stylesheet I’d adapted. Everything seems to be working, and I added Kitten’s Spaminator plugin. I haven’t seen any comment spam since. Now if I can finally get around to doing something about the look-and-feel…

Update: Oh, maybe comment spam isn’t coming because comments aren’t working at all! :-) Let me go see what’s up!

Further update: Comments are working now — forgot to copy over a column. But I can’t seem to turn off column moderation. Hmmm.

Still another update: After working to convert to a fairly recent version, and getting that to happen successfully, I decided to go whole-hog and convert to the very latest and greatest, the bleeding edge. (I didn’t actually get the CVS version, but I did get last night’s daily build.) Upgrading was much easier, and it’s much nicer to administer. This is a really cool tool!

1/31/2005

Comment Moderation

Filed under: — site admin @ 8:43 am

I’m recently getting tons of comment spam. Until I get some time to investigate the techniques available in WordPress to get rid of it, I will have to moderate comments. I’ll try to look at this in one of the next few evenings.

Update: I’ve also turned off trackbacks for the moment. I’ll figure this out soon.

1/5/2005

Martin Sexton

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:13 am

Well, everyone’s been telling me about Martin Sexton for years. I finally got a disk, Black Sheep, and it’s stupendous. This is someone I’m going to have to see live!

Hey folks, sorry I’m so slow. But you were right.

Great, one more artist to collect…

11/24/2004

Is America a Post-democratic Society?

Filed under: — site admin @ 8:54 am

Paul Kurtz’s essay, Is America a Post-democratic Society? in the latest issue of Free Inquiry is an especially cogent and concise analysis of the current state of our society. It’s fairly long, perhaps 6,000 words, but says an amazing amount in that space. There is nothing surprising or new in it, but it brings together a number of facts in interesting ways.

11/9/2004

Half-way

Filed under: — site admin @ 2:43 pm

I’m half-way there!

When I was diagnosed with diabetes (nearly six months ago, wow!) the doctor told me that I would really need to lose some weight. She set a target weight that was 75 pounds below where I started. (For my vast horde of international readers, 1 kg = 2.2 pounds.)

I lost quickly at first, losing 35 pounds in eighteen weeks. And sat there. And sat there. And sat there for five weeks, bouncing around between 31 and 35 pounds down. But this week, I seem to be heading in the right direction again. And today I’m down 37 ½ pounds!

Of course that is just the doctor’s target. I’m aiming lower. I want to shoot for my high school weight, which is 90 pounds below my starting weight. But it feels really good to reach this point.

And although I had to resume the medicine that I tried to stop at the fourteen week mark, I have now cut the dosage in half, while still keeping the sugars under tight control. So I’m feeling pretty good about that. The exercise is going well again now that Daily Savings Time is over and I have some daylight to walk in before I have to get ready for work. (The alternative is the gym, which I hate, although I’m sure it’s good for me.) The only number which doesn’t make me happy now is blood pressure. I’ve been doing pretty well, I thought, but today it was 135/82, slightly above the 130/80 recommendation and my usual 125/75 numbers. I assume it was just a fluke. I’m feeling too good to think it’s anything more.

11/1/2004

No reason to vote?

Filed under: — site admin @ 1:10 pm

Tomorrow is election day.

Feeling like there isn’t anyone to vote for? Don’t worry. There is always someone to vote against. I know who mine is.

So who are you voting against?

10/5/2004

A White Board

Filed under: — site admin @ 2:51 pm

After six months on the job, I finally have a white board. They’ve been in storage for months, waiting for the boss to find someone to hang them. Finally, I’ll be able to think properly again!

First quote to go on the board, in recognition of politics’ silly season is one from Lily Tomlin: “Ninety-eight percent of the adults in this country are decent, hard-working Americans. It’s the other lousy 2% that get all the publicity. But then, we elected them.”

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Advertisement

Filed under: — site admin @ 2:43 pm

I have given money to several political campaigns in recent years. So now I’m on a number of mailing list, and get begging letters I rarely read. I know who I’m going to support and how much I’m willing to give them, so I simply refuse to bother with these missives. Yesterday, though, I got a chuckle when my very close friends, former President William Clinton and Senator Edward Kennedy, each sent me a letter. The very first thought at seeing them next to each other in the pile of mail was to wonder how many others got mail regularly from Bill and Ted.

I still haven’t opened them. But there’s a lot you can tell from the envelope.

Clinton is looking for money to build a library; we knew that was coming, didn’t we? His is in a large envelope with a nice looking return address for The William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation in Little Rock, Arkansas. The 2003 USA Nonprofit Org. stamp is pretty, a stylized seascape in front of a coniferous forest on a cliff, all rendered in shades of blue with a red and orange sky. If the letter shifts up in the envelope you can read much of the next line below it: “…se make your check payable to the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundatio…”

Kennedy is looking for contributions to the Democratic Town Committee. His envelope has a plain D.C. return address with “Senator Edward M. Kennedy” in bold. Across the middle of the envelope is, “We are within days of the most imporant election of our lifetime.” The stamp is more boring, a stylized eagle in brown on gold. Above my address is “Official Democratic Contributor #: F011471213.” Look at this honey, I’m official. They must think a great deal of my fifty bucks!

I think I won’t open these. They would lose the strange artistic quality with which I’ve somehow imbued them. Maybe I’ll frame them.

9/30/2004

Cwobber

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:11 am

On Chuck’s blog, someone pointed out the need for a new term to describe co-workers who are also bloggers. The suggested term was “co-bloggers.” I don’t know; it sounds like something out of abnormal psychology. While that might well be appropriate, I think something more fun is in order. I’m suggesting “cwobber”. It has just the right playful ring to it. (And don’t bother telling me that “cwogger” would be more logical. Sure it would, but it just doesn’t have the right ring.)

9/16/2004

Family connections

Filed under: — site admin @ 1:34 pm

I’m very distressed by an example of bad parenting I witnessed and I really don’t know why.

I’ve taken to eating lunch in the park near my office. It’s not much of a park — some ball fields, a few tennis courts, and a playscape exciting only to fairly young children — but it’s certainly better than eating at my desk. I read, juggle, and sometimes play chess. But mostly I watch people.

Yesterday there was a woman at the park with twin boys who, I’d guess, were between eighteen months and two years old. They were there for all of my lunch hour. The boys were having a great time, running, jumping, yelling in the echo chamber formed by the covered slide, and inventing games the way only twins can. Mom was alert and attentive, smiling continually at their antics, comforting one boy after a little fall.

But she had a cell phone to her ear. The entire time.

The whole check-email-on-vacation disaster has been building for a while. Cell phones are everywhere. Being always connected is one of the huge trends for the last ten years. I have resisted it — I even held out against an answering machine for years after everyone else had one — I’m sure, though, that I will eventually succumb. I’ve never seen someone who seemed to be doing everything right with her kids end up doing somthing so wrong. And I can’t even articulate just what I think her transgression is: if you’ve gotta ask, you’ll never know. I’ll I can tell you is that a was gently horrified.

Do you think these kids will ever remember having their mother’s undivided attention?

8/25/2004

Infections

Filed under: — site admin @ 1:40 pm

Back from vacation. A great time was had by all…

Actually, although the weather was better than last year, it was the second worse trip I remember weather-wise. We still had a lot of fun, and rainy days at Sebago are better than rainy days at home. I ended up with an ear infection, though. I got one last summer too, so I think I’m going to have to try something to prevent them.

Until I got that infection, my blood sugar was fantastic. The infection drove it up 35 points or so, to around 130. I’d like to learn more about the mechanism by which infections raise the blood glucose. But I still haven’t done the research into body mass index, so I don’t know when I’ll find time for a new topic. I’ve been home from vacation three days, and I still haven’t even found time to get through all my e-mail or snail-mail. Uggh!

I’ve got to write a little application for posting my blood sugars on my website, with some analysis and graphing tools, and stop typing all those silly

Blood sugar: Some pm: ###, Next am: ###.

lines. Soon. Real soon…

Right! As though I don’t have enough to do…

:-(

8/6/2004

Vacation

Filed under: — site admin @ 5:16 pm

Well, it’s off to heaven for me — two weeks at Maine’s Sebago Lake State Park!

I hope all my anxious readers can survive without me for that long…

:-)

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