Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween hijinks in Liberia.

Folks at the Marine House threw a Halloween shindig, so the Mrs & I were in attendance.  Hello Kitty and Sherlock Holmes wish you a Happy Halloween.

Kawaii Power!!!
Costume-y Competitions... 
She does love her cupcake treats. 

Bear witness to my crazy.

In summary, my computer died.  In tearing everything apart trying to make it work again, I'd pulled off the stickers I'd plastered all over it in order to easier get at the guts of it.  Nothing I did fixed it, of course.  So I put it aside, not touching it for 3 weeks or so, while ordering up a new laptop.  Go to check on it 'one more time' after 3 weeks and lo and behold, it works!  Huzzah!  Especially since the ordered computer hasn't routed its way through the overseas mail yet.

So, long story short [too late] - new stickers for the computer.  Bear witness.

All sticker awesomeness from here.

Freud, meet Jesus. Jesus, Freud.

There never was a golden age, politics has always been dirty and uncivil.

No sense of history, I swear.  Historical references for the quotes here.

Attack Ads, Circa 1800 - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine:
"Have this year's negative political ads really 'taken dirty to a whole new level, as CNN's Anderson Cooper frets? Is a 'return to civility...a relic of a bygone era,' as President Barack Obama laments?

Er, not exactly.

...attack ads are as American as apple pie. If you fancy yourself a patriot or a history buff, you will most certainly approve this message, which is taken from statements made by, for, and against the nation's founders."

'Torture and endless war have made America less safe, not more, and America is run by a oligarchic web of media, government, military, and corporate interests who profit by keeping Americans afraid of an external enemy.'

Inside Out was a well crafted, entertaining thriller.  [Though I still prefer the author's John Rain books.  You can't beat a half Japanese assassin with a heart of gold, I tell you.  With bonus points for the author's time living in Japan and also working for the CIA's Directorate of Operations.]

Here, the author makes a great point on framing the status quo, and how one side has constructed the narrative so that their political viewpoint seems like apolitical "common sense."  [Never trust 'common sense,' btw.  It's usually neither.]  More at the link, per usual.

The Heart of the Matter:
"If I had to encapsulate the politics of Inside Out, I'd say something like this: "Torture and endless war have made America less safe, not more, and America is run by a oligarchic web of media, government, military, and corporate interests who profit by keeping Americans afraid of an external enemy."

I don't deny that such a viewpoint is political. But now let's see if we can similarly encapsulate the politics of a more typical, ticking time bomb thriller:

"Alien, brown-skinned external enemy zealots seek to destroy us because they hate our freedoms, and through torture and a militaristic response, we can stop them and preserve our way of life."

For me, the second worldview is as political as the first (more so, in fact, for reasons I'll mention below). But my sense is that, for many people, only the first seems "political." If I'm correct, it suggests that the right has succeeded (at least in fiction) in establishing its own worldview as the norm, by comparison with which, other worldviews are suspiciously "political."

This success is striking for a number of reasons. Chief among them is that the "external threat is worst" view is contradicted by actual evidence. Multiple studies, including one commissioned by Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon, have demonstrated that the majority of what causes terrorism isn't our freedoms, but rather our wars. To the extent a view is driven more by ideology than it is by facts, I would expect it to be recognized as more political, not less. In fiction, at least, this seems not to be the case..."

Bible Sex!

Interesting, in particular and as always, in comparing and contrasting what people *think* their religion says - which is all too often simply their particular cultural prejudices and mores - and what their magic books actually say.

The key to solving the riddle of the purpose of scripture in the Judaic sense is really - and I can't remember where I learned/read this, but it's a remarkably accurate template to study the bible - is that when you're the Jewish tribe, numerically inferior and beset upon all sides by bigger and stronger competition, anything that increases your numbers is a goodness, anything that does not is "evil." That explains why in the Bible polygamy, taking slaves, getting drunk and knocking up your daughters [Lot, of Sodom and Gommorah fame,] marrying your brother's widow... these all get the big thumbs up. But masturbation, 'laying with men' and eating pork [thought to be an 'unclean' animal with an increased likelihood of causing disease,] these all get labeled as "sin." The New Testament takes it to the next level, of course, by trying to make the whole Gentile world more philosophically "Jewish." But someone forgot to check in with the Jewish nation on that point. [Thanks Paul!]

The larger, unanswered question, of course is why on earth do the superstitious scribblings of a small Middle Easter sect of 2-3000 years matter at all? But I digress. Much more at the link.

Q&A: 'God and Sex' Author Michael Coogan on the Bible - TIME:
"Editor of The New Oxford Annotated Bible Michael Coogan recently applied his thorough knowledge of Scripture to a universal and eternally relevant topic: sex. In God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says.

Your book begins with a discussion of the erotic Song of Solomon. Does its inclusion in the Bible mean there was a positive attitude toward sex back then?
I think there was a positive attitude toward sex in general, because reproduction was essential. Anything that led to reproduction was certainly viewed positively, and the idea of refraining from sex for religious reasons was something that was fairly unusual in Judaism in most periods. In many passages it's a highly erotic text, and it was a text that rabbinic literature tells us used to be sung in taverns. Yet when I was in seminary many decades ago, it was razored out of many of the Bibles that we had.


How important is it to read the Bible in its original languages?
It's essential for some of us to do it, if for no other reason so that translations can be made that are as accurate as possible. Often translators reflect their own views and their own biases just as much as the biblical writers do.
[I'd insert a smartassed 'duh' here, but I know many folks who believe it impossible for there to be mistranslations and misinterpretations in the Bible.  The rationalizing mental gymnastics for that is quite astonishing. - Rob]
I was interested recently in this case that the Supreme Court had in the Westboro Baptist Church. I looked at their website, and he lists all the passages that he says the Bible talks about sodomy. Well, in most of them sodomy isn't discussed at all. The term sodomy is a translator's term to translate Hebrew words that never mean sodomy in the sense of anal intercourse between males.


Given all the examples of polygamy, where in the Bible is marriage sanctioned as a union only between one man and one woman?
There is no unequivocal statement in the Bible, especially the Hebrew Bible, that says that monogamy should be the norm. For the most part, biblical characters we know well, if they could afford it, had many wives. Solomon, the greatest lover of them all — maybe why he's attributed with writing the Song of Songs — had 300 wives. So the fundamentalist Mormons who insist that polygamy is biblical are right, in a sense. If you're going to be a strict literalist, there's nothing wrong with polygamy."

Liberian President's stepson went to West Point - damn service Academy grads are everywhere.

Kind of interesting, that. More at the link, of course.

Strained Relations: Liberia's President and Her Stepson - TIME:
"A federal indictment alleges that a group of traffickers sought to bribe the director of Liberia's National Security Agency to allow more than $100 million of cocaine to pass through the country. The Liberian official was cooperating with the Americans; he also happens to be the president's stepson, Fombah T. Sirleaf.

Operation Relentless has also focused attention on the ambivalent relationship between the much-lauded President (she was named to the TIME 100 in 2006) and her stepson, a West Point graduate she depends on for security in a Liberia deeply scarred by a horrific civil war."

Friday, October 29, 2010


10/28 - 8x8 - bw flyes, bw rows, db laterals, bw curls, bw tri x, back x 2x15/10, rc situp 1xmax
10/29 - 3x30s wall sits, 8x8 - sngl leg calf rs, rear delt bw flyes, db high pulls, gripper, 3x8 neck iso

Inspiring: Ross Enamait is just a MACHINE.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wife finds most perfectly appropriate birthday card ever.


When the wife craves southern food, she does not play around.

 The aftermath, less appealing.

Beaches in Liberia.

Once you get 10 miles or so out of "town" are actually quite nice.

 @ one of the Mrs co-workers' concrete palaver hut.
 And what is a "palaver hut?"  Glad you asked.

The Palaver Hut:"A Palaver Hut is a circular structure constructed of clay and bamboo or wood, with a thatched roof. Organic materials including decomposed leaves are plastered on the interior and exterior for preservation and decoration. In West African villages, the Palaver Hut is the place where guests are welcome."

Official "Member of the Foreign Service." In writing.

Even the President says so.

Tides bar in Monrovia.

Cool little bar, with a nice patio and a heckuva view.

Something very cool about a handwritten chalkboard drinks menu.
Me, drinking the "White African" [see above.]  How could I not try it, honestly?
When a bar has 1970s era insane-o movie posters, take it as a good sign.

American style pizza in Liberia is actually quite good.

And not really much more expensive than pizza in Japan.  Bamboo Bar FTW.

Random apartment shots...

The apt is not all "finished" yet, but probably 90%...

The "library."

We have a hutch, like the fancy people.

I have kind of a ridiculously good home-gym setup now.  If I'm not in great shape in 6mos, anybody reading this has permission to punch me in the face.

Religion has even ruined gospel music for me.

I used to, despite my religious misgivings, enjoy some down home, old school style gospel music. But having had attended a recent gospel shindig, I found I wanted stab myself in the brain w/a dull fork in order to end all the "praise-Jesus-salvation" ignoring-reality-tripe. Though, to be fair, it might just be the urban contemporary stuff.  It reminds me of that palate destroying Christian rock/hip-hop nonsense.  Bet I'd dig on some blues gospel, still.

The wife calls it my "I love me" table...

Whereas I tend to think of it as the "Hey, people actually used to like me... sometimes" table.

Passing as respectable.

I totally don't recognize that dude/feel like I'm wearing a costume.

Driving in Liberia is... different.

Case in point, no license plate?  Just draw one on.  Good to go.

Roadways in Liberia...  the carrying-about-stuff-on-your-head bit still is very cool.
Oh, yeah... and there doesn't seem to be a single stoplight IN... THE... COUNTRY.  Seriously.

Liberia & sushi. [And beer.]

Apparently there's not one, but two sushi restaurants in town.  Go figure.  Only been to one so far, but it wasn't half bad.  Not as good as Japan [but then, what is?]  But pretty good.
The local beer, however, is a little... lacking, imho.

Rainy season in Liberia.

They're quite serious, apparently. Lotta rain.
On a clearer day [we do have a nice view.]
Girded for battle w/the elements.

Oh Japan... - "Teacher Used “Sexual Harassment Dice” to Decide Classroom Punishments."

So wildly inappropriate that it goes around the bend to kind of 'well-done.'

Teacher Used “Sexual Harassment Dice” to Decide Classroom Punishments | Japan Probe:
"The 59-year-old teacher at Ogi Elementary School in Iruma, Saitama Prefecture, apparently had three dice, one with sides marked with the words “hug” and ” forgiven,” another marked with “kiss,” “snot” and “forgiven” among others, and the third marked with “snot” and “forgiven.” Students who forgot to bring something to class were forced to roll one of the dice. The teacher has apparently admitted to kissing one boy and acting as if he would put snot on one girl. He nicknamed the dice the “sexual harassment dice.”

“I made the dice while playing with the children. The first two dice were for boys, and the third was for girls,” the teacher has told the Iruma Municipal Board of Education. “I apologize deeply for my complacent teaching method.”"

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Beyond The Invisible" podcast w/ guest Joe Rogan = brilliant.

2 and a half hours of DMT, isolation tank, hallucinogenic, conspiracy theory, comedy awesomeness.

Download here - Beyond The Invisible w/ guest Joe Rogan – 10/24/10 : Truth Frequency


10/25 - 8x8 - pushups, bw rows, ovr press, curls, ovr x
10/27 - hs 40/16/8, 8x8 - cr, r flyes, shrugs, grip, 3x20c bridge

Don't know what to be for Halloween? Here ya' go...

"I have to call you back.  It's just my subconscious."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sweet, delicious blasphemy.

I'd actually disagree with Hitchens a bit, it's not that "religion poisons everything" as it's the unwavering unthinking allegiance to any belief system that is the culprit. Religion is the most obvious target, and the most common abuser, claiming infallibility & omniscience. Political ideologies follow a somewhat distant second, imho.

Of course "substituting dogma for critical thought poisons everything" is far less catchy.

Nothing explains everything.

Via Is Everyone Driven By Fear; an Evolutionary Artifact, our Chief Success Mechanism? | Free The Animal

"Talking To Dad."

Via Fumblog » Archive » Talking To Dad

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Making history more interesting - "...the more that "bad" people existed, resisted, and won, the greater was what I called "the margin of freedom" for all of us."

Thaddeus Russell: Why I Got Fired From Teaching American History:
"Five years ago, I had every reason to believe that my job as a history professor at Barnard College was secure. I had been teaching there for four years, I had published my dissertation with a major publisher, and because I had tripled the sizes of the introductory U.S. history course and the American Studies program, colleagues told me they "would be shocked" if I were not promoted to a tenure-track position.

But that was before my colleagues knew what I was teaching.

...I showed them that during the American Revolution drunkards, laggards, prostitutes, and pirates pioneered many of the freedoms and pleasures we now cherish -- including non-marital sex, interracial socializing, dancing, shopping, divorce, and the weekend -- and that the Founding Fathers, in the name of democracy, opposed them. I argued not only that many white Americans envied slaves but also that they did so for good reason, since slave culture offered many liberating alternatives to the highly repressive, work-obsessed, anti-sex culture of the early United States. I demonstrated that prostitutes, not feminists, won virtually all the freedoms that were denied to women but are now taken for granted. By tracing the path of immigrants from arrival as "primitives" to assimilation as "civilized" citizens, I explained that white people lost their rhythm by becoming good Americans. I presented evidence that without organized crime, we might not have jazz, Hollywood, Las Vegas, legal alcohol, birth control, or gay rights, since only gangsters were willing to support those projects when respectable America shunned them..."

Cute/Awesome NYCC photos.

Via Are These The Best NYCC Photos In The World? Bleeding Cool Comic Book, Movies and TV News and Rumors & marniejoyce's photosets on Flickr

NYTimes profile on LIberia's president.

And a good summary of the political, economic and social scene here.

An Uncompromising Woman -

Watched - September & October.

Started doing these "watched" posts so the Mrs would have an idea of what was going into the brainpan unit, video wise at least.  Together again so this'll be the last of these.

Flying US to Africa I caught Date Night & The Joneses, both pretty entertaining.

Once in Liberia watched the season of True Blood, Louie & the latest season of The Closer that I'd saved for the wife, plus the damn-near-entire-run of Will & Grace that she'd borrowed from a friend.

Netflix gave us Funny People and Gone, Baby Gone.  The latter was really quite good.

Slow 'net speeds mean I'm really only watching the 'best of' of TV - Modern Family,  The Venture Bros, UFC 119,  Modern Family, 30 Rock.  New show Terriers is really good.  Noir-ish, even.

AFN let's me catch most UFC events, once I figure out the schedule.

New BBC series Sherlock from, though I'd seen it before, bought it, really well done.  Nice Sherlockian update.