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Looking back

I've been trying unsuccessfully to find a post I wrote some time ago, and taking a trip down memory lane while I'm at it. I found a few posts you might like that you may not have read if you weren't reading last year.

A serious one about the death of mother of seven, killed as a "collaborator" by the Al-Aqsa terrorists, made me realize what's going to happen in the next few days in the territories. Yassin said Hamas would be targeting collaborators.

Meet the Incredible Thulk.

Trust me, Dean, what I wrote about you was nothing compared to taking apart this jerk. Dishonest debating tactics infuriate me. As does being called a liar.

Lynn, please don't tell me this essay has been lost in Blogspot. I only have the excerpt. It needs to be read again. Repost it for us?

I forgot about this one. It's why I have a file called "shithead.jpg" in my images folder.

I simply must finish my editing of the greatest hits pages. I have a bunch ready to go. Have to finish my lesson plan for tomorrow, so maybe next week.

Okay, hell has frozen over

It's a balanced article by Reuters.

RIVA DEL GARDA, Italy (Reuters) - Stunned into action by the unraveling Middle East peace process, the European Union on Saturday denounced the political wing of Hamas as a terrorist organization, a move long sought by Washington.

Foreign ministers of the 15-nation bloc also called for swift diplomatic action to try to halt the incessant violence and warned that Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas's decision to resign would further destabilize the region.

The move against Hamas, prompted by a truce-shattering suicide attack in Jerusalem last month, opened the way for the EU to freeze the Palestinian militant group's assets and place its leaders on a terrorist blacklist.

There you have it, in the boldface type: Blaming the suicide bombing for ending the hudna, not the Israeli response to it. Gee, some Reuters editor simply was not paying attention. I fear for his employment future there.

Somebody check the temperature in hell

EU Joins U.S. in Denouncing Hamas as Terrorist Group


Hamas leader Yassin lightly hurt in IAF strike in Gaza


Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas resigns

One hardly knows which article to read first.

Reuters reporters must be crying in their beer right now.

The mystery of the 7 hot dogs/8 hot dog rolls, solved!

I bought a package of La Choy chow mein noodles while shopping yesterday, because I passed by them in the aisle and they were calling out my name. (That is how I buy most of my junk food; as I'm walking along, I hear various packages of chocolate and candy and fried snack foods call "Meryl! Meryl! Buy me!") ((You're all looking at me funny. Why are you looking at me funny? Oh, like you never heard your name called out as you passed by the Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chocolate Chunk?))

Anyway. Tigger likes chow mein noodles. He likes a lot of junk food, actually, but I don't give him much, because he's fat enough already, thank you, and I do get tired of the vet giving me dirty looks every time I bring Tig in for something. A fat cat is a happy cat, has been my motto for many years. The original Tig died of cancer, not obesity, so we're going to keep on overfeeding our cats, thankyouverymuch, and where was I? Oh, yes. So I'm looking at the can of La Choy Chow Mein Noodles, and trying to remember if they were kosher from the get-go (I seem to remember they were a Jewish-owned and operated company), and I find a website on the label and head over to, only I get subverted by, which apparently is the heir to the mega-food conglomerate (a new one seems to pop up every decade; whatever happened to Beatrice?), and damn, this is one long sentence. I'd better stop it and start a new one. (First I have to say, ConAgra? Geez, I get that the "Agra" is supposed to make you think of agriculture, but all I can think of is Viagra, which is not a very appetizing thought to be thinking about a food company. Dudes. Name change.)

So now ConAgra owns LaChoy, and I can find only one tiny screen on LaChoy (no recipes for me, darn it, and nope, not a Jewish firm, just kosher stuff). While I'm there, I find out that ConAgra also owns Hebrew National, and since I'm going with the kosher food flow, I decide to see what can be found on the Hebrew National site. So I check their FAQ, and find out a few things.

If you choose to freeze our products, we suggest you place the product in some type of freezer bag that can be tightly sealed. As much air as possible should be purged out. Our products can be safely stored for up to six months, but only if the freezing process occurs before the expiration of the "sell by" date. Once opened, our products should be consumed within one week or on or prior to the "sell by" date when stored at 32 degrees F.

Well, I freeze Hebrew National hot dogs right after I buy them—no, actually, after I eat the first couple, then I freeze the rest. But I've never checked how cold my freezer is. My freezer settings are not labeled by temperature. Is "normal" more, less, or the same as 32 degrees F.? I suppose I could put my thermometer clock inside the freezer and find out how cold it is, but then, I suspect my clock may not run as well afterward. I shall resist the impulse.

But here was the great nugget of information, hidden all the way at the bottom of the page, that you've all been wondering for years:

Q: Why are there 7 hot dogs (versus 8) in Hebrew National packages?

A: With the traditional eight links to a package, each link was thinner than what consumers desired so the link count was reduced for the 12 ounce package with each link being the size the consumers preferred.

Okay, folks, let's translate corporate-speak into plain English: "Since consumers freak out about prices being raised, we shrink the amount of meat in each package without raising the price you pay for a package. Sure, you get less product for the same price, but we keep the size of the hot dogs the same, so something's got give, kiddies. We don't give a damn if you have an extra hot dog roll. We don't own the hot dog roll companies."

There's an even funnier addendum, though. Check this out:

We do manufacture other packages with varying links per size of package such as our Beef Dinner Franks, which are packaged at 16 ounces with four links. If you consumed two packages of the Dinner Franks you would use your entire package of frank rolls.

In other words: Buy twice as much of the bigger hot dogs, and you won't waste any of your rolls! (Of course, you'll all plump when you eat them, but hey, fat's your problem, not ours.)

I do so love corporate explanations. I get some of my best material from PR departments.



False Jews for Jesus

Eugene Volokh has a pet peeve that he wanted to get off his chest about Jews for Jesus.

I'm not describing what I think is the morally or logically right rule -- I'm describing what, as best I can tell, is the rule that's in fact accepted by virtually all strands of Judaism. You may think what you like about the theology or the behavior of Jews for Jesus (I genuinely have no opinion on the subject, since I haven't followed their arguments or practices); but if they were born Jews who accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are, by the rules of Judaism and Christianity, both Jews and Christians.

Jeff Silver is peeved at what Eugene wrote.

But it is not just observant Jews who consider Jews for Jesus tobe an oxymoron. That view is widely held even among Jews who haven't been to synagogue in years, and who would no sooner give up bacon than they would sex or water. What then is the source of their view of Jews for Jesus? It is this: we Jews are a community, one that transcends -- when we are our better selves -- differences of observance, of nationality, of language. Whether yankees fans or red sox fans (or, non-baseball fans pu pu pu), we are all one people. Becoming a Jew for Jesus is not just a bothersome difference of opinion over a matter of observance; it is a very public renunciation of membership in the community. Indeed, Jews for Jesus are without exception people who feel no connection to the Jewish people, and don't want one. That they claim one in their name (devised by evangelical chrisitians, who founded the movement and fund it) only rubs salt in the wound.

So am I, frankly. Jews for Jesus is a pet peeve of mine. They're not Jews. They're Christians. By the act of accepting Jesus as their God, they've renounced HaShem and the Torah. The fact that so many people can't seem to get that drives me crazy. Sure, they are still considered Jews by birth. But they're Christians. Jews don't worship Jesus. At all.

The feminist agenda: What she said.

Glenn Reynolds linked to Kate's post about the oppression of women in Muslim nations, with a question:

Why don't we hear more of this kind of thing from feminists?

Judith says: Because you're not listening, Glenn.

That's pretty much what I was going to post this morning. Judith has dozen of links showing that feminism has been fighting the oppression of women worldwide, not just in Muslim states, and they've been doing it since before it became fashionable. Does anyone remember the documentary "Behind the Veil" about women in Afghanistan? It was pre-9/11. CNN started showing it several times a day—after the WTC and Pentagon were attacked. Prior to that, it was another little-known documentary on the oppression of women in a far-off land that got little notice in the U.S.

And the women who made that documentary are still documenting Afghan oppression of women. Why don't we hear more of this kind of thing from conservabloggers?

The conservative side of the blogosphere is very fond of saying that feminists are ignoring discrimination against women in Muslim nations. They are not, and haven't been. From Judith:

Ironically, most of the "where are the feminists now?" crowd are feminists: feminism's successes are Exhibit B (right after capitalism) in their list of Western values worth fighting for. They proudly compare the personal autonomy, self-confidence, and smarts of American women to the subjugation of women in Islamic countries. And indeed, they recognize that the success of feminism is crucial to global freedom and prosperity, even as they resist giving feminism credit for its achievements because most self-identified feminists are Leftists.

I agree with many of the critiques of typical feminist politics, but there are many flavors of feminism and disagreements about how to proceed. It's not that hard to find your own place to stand without smearing the movement that played a huge role in bringing us to the (imperfect but impressive) state of equality and opportunity that we want to export to the Middle East. Especially with a dumb cliche that 15 minutes of googling would show you isn't even true.

Why is it that when conservative women speak out on feminist issues, the right side of the blogosphere both notices the issues and insists that the left doesn't? Is there that much lack of communication?

Aren't you all tired of the politics of demonization? Why does every issue have to be a zero sum game between left and right? There are some issues on which we are all agreed, and the oppression of women should certainly be one of them.



Palestinian puppet shows

Once more, we see the true intentions of the palestinian leadership regarding their commitment to stopping terror attacks:

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, weakened by his power struggle with Yasser Arafat, told Palestinian lawmakers Thursday he will not dismantle terror organizations, and warned he would resign if Parliament does not support him.

"This government does not deal with the opposition groups with a policing mentality, but with a mentality of dialogue," he said.

A direct quote from the road map:

Palestinians declare an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism and undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere.

Rebuilt and refocused Palestinian Authority security apparatus begins sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure. This includes commencing confiscation of illegal weapons and consolidation of security authority, free of association with terror and corruption.

Of course, there's also the very first paragraph, which the pals have not fulfilled:

At the outset of Phase I:

Palestinian leadership issues unequivocal statement reiterating Israel’s right to exist in peace and security and calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire to end armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere. All official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel.

This is the first paragraph regarding Israel:

Israeli leadership issues unequivocal statement affirming its commitment to the two-state vision of an independent, viable, sovereign Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside Israel, as expressed by President Bush

This they have done. The pals have not issued an unequivocal statement affirming Israel's right to exist. If memory serves, they have yet to amend their charter. And Hamas' official documents call for the destruction of the state of Israel.

What road map? What peace?

Richmond stories

It's Thursday, so another trip to the Farmer's Market was in order. This time, after the market, we checked out the Jefferson Hotel, as I mentioned to Sarah that I'd never been there but had been told I simply must go to a Sunday brunch there. Among other things, Sarah told me that it's got the finest public restrooms in all of Richmond. So of course, I had to see for myself. And of course, I had my digital camera with me. And of course, I must share the pictures with you all.

The faucets

Some washroom, eh?

Nice floor! Stall doors. (What, you thought I'd give you the inside? Like you've never seen a toilet before.)

There you have it., the weblog that brings you pictures of fancy bathrooms. (And what kind of searches will that phrase bring? Only time will tell.)

They give out a brochure that tells you a bit about the history of the hotel. I particularly like the story about saving the Jefferson statue from a fire. They put the statue onto a mattress, dropped it out of the window, and the head broke off. The head was stored in a vault until the statue could be restored. (Cue Futurama jokes.) And since we had two small children with us, everyone was super-sweet. This is the secret to being a tourist, you know. Have a small child along, and you get treated better than if you're just looking around yourself or with an adult friend. Toddlers, of course, are the best, followed closely by children in the six to eight range. Nine and up is when it gets more difficult, because at that age, they're generally saying, "I'm bored. Can we leave now? I'm tired. I'm hungry."

Anyway. Bathroom pictures. You can't say this weblog isn't full of surprises.



A little of this, a little of that

I simply haven't got enough outrage in me. Kate has plenty for the both of us; check out this post on why she should be a resentful feminist.

Kevin's got the Bonfire of the Vanities up. The premise is you submit your worst posts of the past week. Then everyone can read posts that suck. Okay, got it so far?

I haven't submitted any of my posts. I don't write posts that suck. Kevin keeps trying to get me to submit, but let's face it: The incentive isn't quite there. Kev, if I were you, I wouldn't go into the advertising biz.

The scene: Dinner at Heidi's, Sunday night. Chinese food, where I discover that English as a second language causes you to hear "extra noodles" as "extra broccoli," but that's cool, because I like more broccoli than chicken in my chicken and broccoli. So I am opening the box, and a large piece of broccoli flings itself out in an effort to escape. Without hesitation my right hand shoots out and catches it before it can fall below table level. Sorena, watching, is impressed.

"It's my amazing agility and catlike reflexes," I tell her. "I told you I'm not making them up."

She thinks that one over, and asks, "Can you do anything else? Like catch a ball or play soccer or something?"

Sigh. No, in fact, I suck at depth perception in softball, and I swing too late too often. On the other hand, I can stop a wineglass from falling over before a drop spills, catch a box of butter as it falls out of a shelf in the supermarket as I pass it and put it back without breaking stride, and prevent my extra broccoli from going to waste. All these things and more I have done all of my adult life.

Hey, some talents are simply too good to get paid for.

Nobody, but nobody disses false gods better than Lair Simon.

Ilyka is trying to join the Grossest Bloggers Contest, currently limited to Lair and Bigwig. This is different. It's the first time a woman even rates getting in.

Judith Weiss has a great collection of information on the NJ Solidarity group, a.k.a. NJ College Kids Who Hate Jews, led by none other than our Charlotte "Hates" Kates. Seems the real reason why the Rutgers Hatefest was moved to Ohio (and with any luck, it won't make it there in time) is because dearest Charlotte is too radical for the Arab students in NJ Solidarity. Imagine that.

Judith's got the skinny and the links. Check it out, I'm certainly enjoying their discomfiture. Say. Maybe Charlotte and I could become email pals. Ya think?

How stupid are scientologists?

Nick S. points out to me that they're stupid enough to sign a contract that includes this:

The Spiritual Assistance agreement reads in part: "I understand that the Introspection Rundown is an intensive, rigorous Religious Service that includes being isolated from all sources of potential spiritual upset, including but not limited to family members, friends or others with whom I might normally interact."

"As part of the Introspection Rundown, I specifically consent to Church members being with me 24 hours a day at the direction of my Case Supervisor, in accordance with the tenets and custom of the Scientology religion. The Case Supervisor will determine the time period in which I will remain isolated, according to the beliefs and practices of the Scientology religion."

"I further specifically acknowledge that the duration of any such isolation is uncertain, determined only by my spiritual condition, but that such duration will be completely at the discretion of the Case Supervisor. I also specifically consent to the presence of Church members around the clock for whatever length of time is necessary to perform the Introspection Rundown's processes and to achieve the spiritual results of the Introspection Rundown."

But why would they include these restrictions?

The new agreement seems to stem from a long-simmering wrongful-death lawsuit brought by the estate of Lisa McPherson against the Church of Scientology.

It alleges that McPherson died in 1995 after being held against her will by the church for 17 days. When she died, it is claimed, her body was covered with cockroach bites and McPherson was dehydrated.

By having members sign the contact agreeing to be isolated from family and medical professionals, the church apparently believes it would be immune to such lawsuits. The lawsuit, which has suffered several postponements, may come to trial in 2004.

Outspoken critics of Scientology — such as Carnegie Mellon professor Dave Touretzky, who uncovered the new agreement — claim the form is designed to protect the church from further litigation.

You can read more about Lisa McPherson here. You can find more scientology links here. And may I point out that one of your shit-for-brains people who was stupid enough to fall under scientology's cultish grip was Charlotte "Hates" Kates, the organizer of the Rutgers anti-Israel hatefest that is now the Ohio State anti-Israel hatefest.

If there are any of you out there who still believe that scientology is a religion and not a cult, you haven't been reading the material I've been linking. This appeared in The Wall Street Journal some years ago, and still, scientology has "religious" status. The Germans are right to deny them the same. It's not a religion. It is a money-making cult that takes advantage of the less intelligent members of our society. Like actors.

Allah buy that for a dollar

Allah's been blogging, as they say. But Allah the supposedly all-knowing and all-seeing hasn't seen fit to include me on his Satan list, neither big nor little.

I don't understand it. I'm Allah's worst nightmare: Jewish, female, educated, American, westernized—and I live five minutes away from a gun shop and can have a weapon by tomorrow.

He's also promised to bring Arafat home if enough of us infidels link to him. I'm linking to you, Big Ragu. But you're obviously too afraid to put me on your Satan list.

I understand. Strong women can seem very threatening. Man, you must have a fit every time you meet one of the Matriarchs. Hey! Look behind you! It's Sarah!



News from Israel

This is a funny one:

Palestinians renew calls for international intervention
Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Sha'ath - in India on an official visit - called for international intervention in the Palestinian territories in order to achieve a lasting peace with Israel.

I guess the ISM creeps don't count. Nor does the EU assistance, or the UN administration of all those refugee camps.

Oh, you want American soldiers on the ground there?

Other Palestinian officials also said that direct US intervention in the form of buffer force was needed to move forwards on the roadmap, since such a force would stop Israeli reprisal raids and prevent terrorists from attacking Israel.

Excuse me a moment. BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

All better now.

On the other hand, there's still some infighting going on.

Arafat and his Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas remained locked in a bitter power struggle. Abbas, backed by the United States and Israel, is increasingly unpopular at home and could be ousted, possibly in a parliament vote next week.

Nearly 200 Palestinian legislators, academics and writers appealed to both men in newspaper ads Tuesday to resolve their differences, saying the deadlock was hurting Palestinian interests. "We call on you to stop all actions that may open the door to foreign interference," the ad read.

Leaders of the ruling Fatah movement met Tuesday in Arafat's chambers, without Abbas, but failed to find a compromise. They decided the Central Committee for Mediation between Arafat and Abbas were to keep shuttling between the two leaders who are no longer on speaking terms, and haven't been for a week. Officials close to Abbas, meanwhile, denied reports that he has threatened to resign and leave the Palestinian areas.

Keep it up, buds, because here's what Defense Minister Mofaz has to say about Arafat:

Yasser Arafat must "disappear from the stage of history," Israel's defense minister said Tuesday, adding that Israel may decide on the Palestinian leader's fate, most likely expulsion, before the end of the year.

[...] Mofaz said he favors expelling Arafat, but that the timing has to be right. "I believe that Israel made a historic mistake by not exiling him two years ago," he said.

You got that right. Let him go to his family in France, and arrest all the murderers that have been living under his protection for the past year and a half. It won't be nearly as easy to direct terrorist attacks from Paris.

They got a big one in Tulkarm:

An undercorver border police unit arrested Sufian Tipi, believed to be the Hamas second-in-command in Tulkarm, early today, the army said.

The army said Tipi is believed to have been involved in a long chain of terror attacks on Israelis.

"If this is the second in command of Hamas's operations in Tulkarm, then we have achieved disrupting and preventing many terror attacks against Israeli civilians from coming out of this West Bank city," a military source told the Jerusalem Post.

Keep up the good work, guys.


Dean Esmay wants me to accept his apology. He sent me emails, to which I did not reply. He sent me several instant messages, which I did not answer, signed off, and then blocked him from sending me any more. He posted several apologies to which I also did not respond.

And now he is posting about how unhealthy it is to not accept an apology, or for insisting that an apology be unconditional, or that, you know, a person really mean it or something horrible like that. Oh, I'm not mentioned by name in the post, but the subtext is obvious.

See, here's the thing. Dean started this whole brouhaha by deciding to rile up the only two liberal feminists he knows in the blogosphere, Judith Weiss and me. He titled a post "Special Message To Judith Weiss, Meryl Yourish, and Susan B. Anthony," and proceeded to tell us that we should be grateful to men for "giving" us the right to vote. His post ended thus:

So, for Judith Weiss, Meryl Yourish, and all the other resentful feminists I know, I have a special message for you. It's from all the males of America. It's a message not just from us, but from your fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers:


He linked to neither Judith nor me in the post, which is a major breach of blogging etiquette, and led me to suspect that all Dean really wanted was for Judith and me to get pissed off, post answers, and link back to his post. He denied that this was his reasoning.

But that wasn't really the crux of the matter. It was this phrase:

for Judith Weiss, Meryl Yourish, and all the other resentful feminists I know.

One more time:

for Judith Weiss, Meryl Yourish, and all the other resentful feminists I know.

Dean has since expressed utter shock that Judith and I got upset with his post. He insists that he was "tweaking" us. Where I come from, that's known as the "Just kidding!" defense, and it reeks to high heaven of "Shit! They got mad. I'd better make it seem like I was joking."

It is the excuse of a child. I no longer accept it from adults.

While I have certainly posted about sexism and feminism, I think it's quite a stretch to call me—let alone Judith—a resentful feminist. And this is what Dean did, straight out of the box. To say that he didn't think we would take offense is astonishing naivete at best, and disingenuousness at worst. Either way, it doesn't look too good for Dean.

In point of fact, I think I responded rather mildly for such a "resentful" feminist. Dean and Rosemary responded rather less mildly. I read their posts. I read the comments in the posts. When Rosemary used the words "feminazi c-nt," to describe radical feminists, I wrote the both of them off. It wasn't Godwin's Law. I have a policy in blog debates: When my opponents start slinging mud, I simply stop responding. I did that with Dave Sims regarding the Klan discussion. I did it with Aziz regarding the WMG discussion. When the insults start flying, I head for the exit.

Yes, I was angry. I don't appreciate being called names, and I didn't appreciate the way my words were twisted and misrepresented there, and on other blogs in comments sections. So when Dean sent me email, I ignored it. I wasn't interested in apologies. Nor was I interested in chatting with him via IM. By the time he posted an apology on his weblog, I didn't care if it was a full apology or a conditional apology or a from-the-heart apology. And I was frankly busy driving to Ohio and back for a four-day educators' conference, which Dean would have known had he bothered to read my blog at that point. When I checked his and saw still more insults flung my way and Judith's, I completely stopped caring at all. I thought that if I let things go, they'd simply die down and that would be the end of that. But Dean refuses to let it go.

There's a definite misunderstanding here. You see, it isn't just the definition of "feminism" that Dean and I disagree about. It's also the definition of "friendship."

I'm sorry to inform you of this, Dean, but we're not friends. You're someone who writes a blog that I used to read, and frankly, you weren't even on my daily reading list. The loss of you as a blog-buddy simply does not affect my day-to-day life. I'm not saying this to be hurtful. I am being honest. We never shared anything deeper than a surface relationship that was essentially letters about blogging and blog happenings. You don't know my phone number. You don't know what color my eyes are. You don't know how tall I am. You don't know how old I am. We've never spoken to each other.

We are not friends. That's why I never responded to your apologies. First, was because I was angry. Then because I didn't care enough to respond. It has nothing to do with hatred and forgiveness. We're simply not friends.

Now if you don't mind, get over it. We're done. I didn't ask you to issue an apology, nor am I under any obligation to accept one. This sort of thing happens in blogging. Your sphere of influence is fluid. I'm not pals with Shelley Powers anymore, either, but I did ultimately restore her link, and vice-versa. We even mention each other kindly from time to time.

That's about the most you can hope for, now. Next time, perhaps you won't try to "tweak" someone in quite the same way. Actions have consequences. Deal with them.

Some links

The cutest damn kitten pictures on the web. Sigh. William, I wish I had found a kitten like that. S/he is going to be one gorgeous cat.

Kelley is sending a bunch of people here to read my blog, so it's only fair that I send some people back her way to read her blog. Even if she didn't manage to see anyone while at Dragoncon. (Ya know, Kelley, if you had told me it was only in Atlanta, I might have driven down and joined you.) By the way, she's got an amazing digest of blogs in her weekly Cul-de-sac post. I have no idea where she finds the time. She has a five-year-old. Yeesh.

Kate's husband is talking sexy to her. And he doesn't even know it. (Hey, besides the post being funny, I want to knock that woman-hater off the top of her referrers list. Click, people, click. Show him the power of Meryl.)

An observation: For a cat that weighs only twelve pounds, Gracie makes a hell of a racket when she decides it's time to play Superkitty and run like hell upstairs and then run from room to room over my head. Damn, skippy.



Reader mail

It turns out I do not, after all, have the desire to write much today, so instead, I'll turn things over to my readers. There's a lot of mail to catch up on, so some of it is what I used to call in the newspaper biz "stale news," but this a blog, and my blog at that, so, like, tough.

First, from Mary C., more on the difference between priests, ministers, and preachers:

Well, obviously the Christian church is no monolith, but here's a =big= difference between priests and preachers: priests have to get educated and ordained by the larger church, and then are assigned to their parishes by the larger church. I believe the only Christian churches to call their ministers "priests" are Roman Catholic, the Orthodox churches, and the Anglican churches. In the Catholic church in the U.S., priests have to have bachelor's degrees and have training in theology and philosophy.

Preachers can designate themselves such, though many do go to some sort of "Bible college" which tends to be strong on evangelism and Bible study, light on theology, philosophy, and comparitive religion. They get their jobs by congregations' shopping around. If a preacher is charismatic enough, they can get a job at a church without any credentials whatsoever. At my grandmother's church, there's no hired preacher at all, but people in the congregation take turns picking readings from the Bible and preaching -- that's pretty common in the South. In particular, Southern Baptist churches decide their own "take" on Christianity by congregation, and pick a preacher who they agree with. In Raleigh, NC, where I used to live, there was Pullen Baptist Church, which had a minister who performed gay marriages, and there were Baptist congregations there who thought it was immoral to be a Democrat.

Still, it's not necessary for the non-Christian to know, other than heirarchy can range from the highly structured (as in the Catholic Church) to the non-existent.

And preachers of any sort make for bad judges. There's a difference between morality and legality, and thankfully there are some in the legal system who know the difference.

Mary, I promise I will try to never again confuse priests and ministers. (You'd think I'd know better, what with my best friend being a minister's daughter, too.)

To the various African government employees trying desperately to give me all those millions of dollars from all those deceased foreigners and former heads of state: Please keep the money in your country and donate it to feeding the hungry and giving comfort to the millions of AIDS victims in your nations. Okay? Soright.

Several people have written to tell me that "spathic" is a geological term that means great cleavage. Thanks to, in order, Eric, Michael C., Joe L., and Daniel S. Since the author of Spathic hasn't written to me or indicated in any way what gender s/he is, I can't tell you if Spathic has a nice rack or simply appreciates one. We could start a poll and see what you folks think, but that would take effort, and I find I'm all out of energy tonight. I think the snake hunt took more out of me than I'd realized. Either that, or the fumes from having the swim spa sealed on Friday, and sleeping in the bedroom over the fume-filled room on Saturday night.

Ricky D. writes me about my episode with the McDonald's employee who couldn't find the "small drink" button on the cash register:

It is highly possible the poor young lad was a new recruit. I am a reasonably bright young man, but the first few days at the crazy colorful Wendy's register were quite difficult. I hated the job, but felt some compunctory need to defend the guy.

Then again, it was the combos that really gave me fits. I don't recall a single drink being cause for assistance. But please, try to not be too hard on America's working future. Cause I'm still embarassed by my former employment there.

Oh, don't be embarrassed. I'm not embarrassed that I used to be a clerk at Cumberland Farms (my first real job, in fact), or that I was a dog washer in a dog grooming shop (yes, really, and yes, I was a teenager at the time), or even that I got fired after only two weeks of trying to sell advertising for a small radio station in Puyallup, Washington. The key word in that sentence is "trying." The reason I was fired was because I couldn't sell fur coats to an Eskimo, to mangle a non-PC aphorism.

Beth C. writes that perhaps G. and I should have identified the snake before we captured it. She has a good point there, one which I shall definitely follow in the future. In our defense, we wanted to catch it before the girls got home or the dogs discovered it, as it was in the dog yard. And we were identifying it because that was going to determine whether the snake lived or died. We saw no reason to release a venomous snake into Heidi's back yard. However, I'm mighty glad we didn't have to experience the results these folks had with their garter snake. Ew. Just—ew.

On the feminism discussion from a few weeks ago, Sarah M. wrote:

Anyway, I have come to a personal conclusion that being asked whether you are a feminist is like being asked whether you are religious -- people have their own interpretations of what those words mean and a lot of the time there's no point debating it. I do enjoy watching you debate it, though.

Well, at least one of us is enjoying it. Actually, you make an excellent point, though there has to be a common definition that everyone can work from. For instance, I maintain that if you call other women "feminazi c-nts," you are not a feminist, no matter how often or loudly you pronounce yourself one. (Stay tuned for an upcoming essay on the use of the c-word and other gender-specific insults.)

Feminism must include an abiding respect for women, and calling them c-nts has nothing to do with respect for the gender. Even when the name-caller is also a woman.

I think Michael L. figured out my nefarious plan.

Tig wears shorts and throws them on the bed? Or did somebody else do that and frame him as a slob? Oh, it's a terrible world where cats are slandered!

Oh yeah? How do you know Tig wasn't wearing my shorts? Huh? Huh? He steals my socks from the laundry basket. He's definitely strong enough to carry my shorts around.

Barbara S. has some advice to stop drawing blood every time I use a new razor:

2 words for you: electric shaver. You can even buy them to use wet, if you want, though I'm happy to do it dry. I had the same problem as you, switched to an electric razor, and haven't had a problem since. I'd forgotten all about the scrapes and cuts.

But I do agree - I wish we didn't grow hair on our legs in the first place.

On the other hand, Michael N. has the other gender's point of view:

On to your shaving observations. It’s interesting to me that you prefer a somewhat dulled blade for your legs. I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that women don’t shave ‘em every day. I say that because I was instructed, when I started shaving my face (mumble-mumble years ago), that the sharper the blade, the better, and I must say that I have found this to be true.

Perhaps because I (and I’ll speak for all men, everywhere, because it’s my e-mail and I can, damnit) shave every day, a nice sharp blade removes the hair without the necessity of going over the hirsute area more than once or twice, whereas, as I approach the 4th or 5th day of use of the current blade, I have to go over said area maybe 3 or 4 times. All of those extra strokes add up to a lot (and I mean *a lot*) of wear and tear on my skin, which is bad to begin with, don’t get me started on *that*.

That's going to be it for the mailbag for the moment. Although I must say I find it fascinating to hear what you folks like and dislike. Some people write me that they like everything except for the Hulk stuff. Others say they bypass the cute kids and cat posts. And some have told me they don't care for the posts on feminism, or Israel, or other serious topics.

By my calculations, I'm managing to write at least one thing that everyone likes, and at least one thing that everyone dislikes. Hey, that's quite a talent. Not everyone can please and displease everyone all of the time. That will be my new goal. Perhaps even my new tagline: You hate me. You love me. You hate me. You love me.




G. Mighty Snake Hunter

I was off at Heidi and G.'s these past two days, hanging out, chatting, doing a bit of this and that, supervising Heidi as she constructed her firewood racks (I am a superb supervisor; anyone needs any supervising done, I can do it). The big excitement yesterday was, uh, well, let's see. There was none. The big excitement today, however—well, do I have to draw you a picture? Okay.

Look out! It's the harmless Easter Garter snake!This fella was sleeping inside a cinderblock that Heidi reached her hand in to pick up and put under her firewood rack. I was inside the house while this was going on, and Heidi and G. came indoors asking me to bring my camera and take some pictures of the intruder. G. and I discuss how we're going to catch it and what we're going to put it in. I, having just seen an episode of All My Children in which Kendall bought a snake and transported it in a sack greatly resembling a pillowcase, suggested a pillowcase. "I saw it on TV," I stated helpfully. G. suggested his laundry bag, which was right within reach, as this discussion took place, well, in the laundry room.

Now here's the part that stunned me. I have known Heidi for more than thirteen years, and in those thirteen years, I've learned that she is fearless sometimes to the point of recklessness (see the tree-chopping exercise and shudder). G. and I are generally the voices of reason where she is concerned, sometimes to the point where he sounds like an old woman and I'm not far behind on the timidity scale. But this time, you'd have thought that G. and I were the souls of recklessness and Heidi was a mass of phobias. Because the snake was really bothering her, especially as none of us knew what kind it was, or if it was venomous, and, well, we didn't exactly have Steve Irwin-level experience catching snakes, either. But G. and I trode forcefully out to the snake, with only a brief question or two by me.

Do you think I should have gloves too?
No, it won't bite you if you're just holding the sack.
Uh—are you sure?
Yes. It can't bite through the sack.
Uh, are you sure?

So we go to the back porch steps, under which is the cinderblock with the sleeping snake, and I take a couple of pictures as Heidi says, "At least the girls aren't here. They'd want to see the snake and get too close and—"

On cue, Sorena and her three friends arrive.

We're back from our nature walk!
What are you doing?
Why's Dad got that sack?
What are you doing?
What have you got there?
Can we watch?
Can we help?
Can I hold the bag?
Can I take a picture?
Can we help?

So now, with an audience of four girls ranging in age from nine to twelve, a very worried Heidi, and three dogs in the house wondering what the heck we're up to, G. and I capture the snake. He picks up the cinderblock (which was on the back of a step about shoulder level), I hold open the laundry bag, and he dumps the snake into the sack. I close it quickly, we have successfully captured the snake, and now, of course, all the girls want to look in the sack. By this time, it has registered on me that Heidi is, indeed, quite worried about the snake biting all of us, if not actually frightened. This is so unlike her that I inquire as to why she is so afraid of snakes. She explains that in Africa, where she spent most of her childhood, there were no non-venomous snakes. All snake bites were basically fatal, because they were too far from a hospital and would not receive the antivenom in time. Spitting cobras were common in the chicken house, and then there was a breed of snake—black mambas?—that used to drop out of the trees and land on people and animals.

So I can understand her fear of snakes. This did not, of course, stop me from making a few wisecracks, although I did promise I would only bust her chops for today and that would be it. No more. Done. Even though she makes fun of me constantly for my regularly relayed disgust for insects and other creepy things. (You don't even want to know what I was saying when the girls came back from the creek with a leech stuck to one of them.)

Anyway. I went inside after we caught the snake, did a quick Google search, and discovered that our boy was the Eastern garter snake, found in virtually every county in Virginia, and utterly harmless to humans. Heidi's mind now at ease, we let it go, snapped more pictures, and went back to our other interests.

The rest of the day passed uneventfully. All in all, a very pleasant Labor Day weekend.


Last week's blogs are archived. Looking for the Buffy Blogburst Index? Here's Israel vs. the world. Here's the Blogathon. The Superhero Dating Ratings are here. If you're looking for something funny, try the Hulk's solution to the Middle East conflict, or Yasser Arafat Secret Phone Transcripts. Iseema bin Laden's diary and The Fudd Doctrine are also good bets if you've never been here before.