28 September 2007

Year of Living Biblically

An author by the name of A.J. Jacobs has just come out with a new book, called "The Year of Living Biblically." As the name suggests, this guy went for a whole year trying to follow the bible as closely as possible. I found out about him on a post at The Friendly Atheist and was intrigued. I'm probably not going to buy the book, mainly because I'm cheap, but if you find an interview, read it. It's fun. The Friendly Atheist link above has a link to a Newsweek interview that's pretty good.

Last night while my wife was at the dentist, I was searching for a magazine to read. Lo, as I was about to toss it aside as the crap it usually is, I noticed that a Macleans near the top of the pile of magazines mentioned it had an article on the book inside.

Twas an interesting, though quick read (I guess he wants us to buy the book). The author claims to be agnostic, and remained so by the end of the ordeal. He took pride in arguing with religious people, not in a condecending way: he would talk their ears off with lots of questions and observations, eventually getting a Jehovah's Witness guy to get sick of him and leave (after 3 hours). So this is an interesting guy.

So what did he have to do based on a literal interpretation? For starters, there's the dollop of olive oil he put on his head every day. Also, the big, untrimmed beard. All white clothing of unmixed, natural fibres (he even brought in a fabric expert to come check over his wardrobe to point out the "illegal" articles of clothing). He even chucked little tiny rocks at a guy he met who admitted to being an adulterer. Apparently, he was kind of morbidly eager to try out the whole stoning thing but felt bad about hurting people, so he carried around little rocks to stone people with because "the bible doesn't say what size of stones to use."

The most difficult requirements are actually the simple ones - no coveting, gossiping, or lying. Basically thought-police stuff. The other difficult stuff had to do with things that got in the way of his family life. For instance, you can't sit in a seat where a menstruating woman has sat. Because she was getting annoyed with the whole project, his wife intentionally dragged her butt across every piece of furniture in their apartment while she had her period.

That, and the whole sexism thing were problems. As recounted in the Newsweek interview, "Parts of the Bible say that the man is the head of the household and should make the decisions, which did not translate into reality in our household."

Tell me about it.

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27 September 2007

Penguins don't come from next door, they come from the Antarctic.

It's been many years since I first heard that Burma was now called Myanmar. I had always wondered why there was a name change. The CBC has a article that goes into some detail about it, and it's very educational. For instance, looking into the actual names "Burma" and "Myanmar":
But the names themselves share a much deeper past. The name first appears in a manuscript from 1102, spelled Mirma. Later manuscripts spell the name Mranma, the current name used in Burmese language. The "mran" is actually pronounced "mian" - so it's pronounced Myanma. The "r" at the end of Myanmar is an English addition.

Burma is spelled Bama in Burmese languages. The "mr" sound is often condensed to a "b" spelling in colloquial Burmese. So the names Burma and Myanmar actually share the same origin, just variations of translation.
Isn't that amazing? Words and names can evolve from a common origin in really interesting ways.

Also the article looks at how different organizations recognize different names for the same country. Some still use Burma, others use Myanmar.

So the question is, what do you yell when discussing flightless aquatic birds who may explode while standing upon your television?


As an aside, according to the article, we're still officially called the "Dominion of Canada." How archaic does that sound?

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What a great deal!!!

I was watching a TV station from Buffalo the other day when I saw an commercial for a store (whose name I've forgotten) that boasted:


Gee, that's ... great? =P


24 September 2007

Have Faith in God - but only during the sermon

Queen Aardvark took me to church again yesterday morning. Oh, the pain. The boredom. The sleepiness (after all, how am I supposed to wake up at 10:30 on a Sunday morning?).

The dreary sermon was about disbelief in God and how this sin would drag down you and everyone around you. The preaching was linked to the bible story (recounted in Deuteronomy and Numbers) of how the Israelites, upon leaving Egypt and reaching the borders of the promised land, lacked the faith that God could help them destroy the inhabitants there and claim the land as their own. They second-guessed God so he punished them by making them wander the desert for 40 years. The sermon was the typically horrible and heavy-handed "believe in God and don't ask questions or he'll damn you" horse droppings, but the point remained: part of being a good Christian is that you have to believe that God is there to help and protect you.

Mercifully, the service ended and everyone in the packed hall started to shuffle out. Very, very slowly we shuffled out, as narrow aisles, small doors, assorted bottlenecks (completely off-topic: this is a very cool drawing of a bottle), and a general lack of exits slowed the pace to that of highway 401 heading east out of Toronto during rush hour. There were grumblings of discontent from some guys in front of me. Not thinking about the scenario until after the words were escaping from my lips, I muttered, "If there's a fire in here, we're all dead." Now expecting to be berated by inspired church-goers, to my surprise, grumblings of agreement came from in front of me.

So what happened? Not 5 minutes earlier they had been told (and enthusiastically agreed) that they need to have faith in God's protection always, and here they were affirming that they were doomed. No indignant, "God would never let this place burn down with us trapped in here." In one ear and out the other, eh?

Hat tip to BigHeathenMike for the link.

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20 September 2007

My Wife Discovers Jesus Fish

My wife made a startling discovery (well, startling to her) in the car coming home from work yesterday. I have no idea how she never noticed before; I guess she really doesn't care about reading the crappy accessories people attach to the backs of their cars. I was making some lame comment about the GMC Jimmy in front of us, something to the effect that only people named Jimmy should ever drive one (hahaha, I kill me ... well, not really) when she saw the Jesus fish on the back hatch.

She was really excited. Her younger sister had informed her of the concept just a day or two earlier and she was amazed that we had stumbled upon one so soon after.

I, meanwhile, was not terribly impressed and said something mean about Jesus fish being all over the place and she just isn't observant. Normally when my snark gets the better of me like this she gets offended and doesn't talk to me for a while. Believe me, we were well on the way to that here. That's when I stunned her by pointing out that her beloved sister-in-law, who happens to live in the same town as us, who we see on a regular basis and who often gives my wife rides to church events, also has a Jesus fish on the back of her minivan and my wife has never noticed it. Anger dissolved into incredulity as my wife struggled with the fact that she could be that clueless: "Nawwwww, you're joking. She doesn't have one. Does she? Are you sure? I'll have to check." Crisis averted there.

Anyhoo, I was tempted to not only explain the history of the Jesus fish, but also Darwin fish as well. However, I decided against it; she had had enough of a shock already that day and anything else would have been cognitive overload. Undoubtedly, now that she's looking for them, one day she'll notice a queer little Jesus fish with tiny feet and will ask me what it is; that's when I'll fill her in.

There was another crisis brewing now about Jesus fish - now she wants to get one for our car. I said an emphatic NO, and she got offended that I was emphatic about it. As I explained to her, I don't like putting unnecessary emblems and such on our car: no bumper stickers, "baby on board" signs, and hell, I'm not even keen on the idea of slapping on a Darwin fish. It's just too tacky for me. But more importantly, I'm not going to advertise for something that I don't agree with. She can advertise for her religion as much as she wants (and she does), but not on joint property that reflects on both of us, not just her.

I hope she understands; I'm sure she'd be pretty annoyed if I slapped a FSM fish on the car.

Hmm, I wonder if I could pretend to cave but buy one of several more subtle anti-Jesus fish emblems instead. Would she notice?

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12 September 2007

8-things meme

Ages ago, TheBrummell memed me with the 8 Facts About You meme. Of course, TheBrummell (being Pedantic Man in his spare time) absolutely hates the verbing of nouns, so my first sentence should piss him off.

My guess is that I was also tagged for this meme by at least one other person and I just can't remember who it was. Sorry if I forgot to mention you if you did.

Apparently, we're supposed to display the rules first. Then we're supposed to tag 8 more people. Since I'm not going to bother with the latter, I'm going to give the ol' heave ho to the former as well. I will not be constrained by your rules.

Anyway, I'm superlazy right now, so instead of writing 8 facts from scratch, I will recycle a 5 things meme that I did earlier and just add 3 things to it.

First, the old 5:

1. I used to be a competitive swimmer in my youth. I did that for about 8 years, with all the stuff that high level competitive swimming entails. Ie. early morning practices, reeking of chlorine all day, and Speedos.

Scarring thing: I still wear Speedos now. Not usually on the outside, mind you - I have more sense than that. I usually wear them underneath my trunks. As I told someone from my department at university (and her boyfriend, also a competitive swimmer, agreed) once you're used to that level of support, there's no going back.

So how was I? I was a backstroker and, when I was 14, I was 13th in the province in my age category. That's not bad. However, my small town team of only about 40 swimmers managed to produce two other swimmers who each went to the Commonwealth Games - both of them backstrokers - making me look a lot crappier than I actually was.

2. I had braces as a kid. Wore them for 2.5 years. Hurt like hell whenever they were adjusted. My already complete lack of a social life as a kid was amplified into a mind-boggling trough of geekdom. No regrets though. Remember that classic Simpson's episode with the nuclear workers striking about Burns's attempt to remove their dental plan? Remember the simulation of Lisa if she didn't get braces? Yeah, that was me.

3. I love little fluffy dogs. The stupider looking and the smaller, the better. It doesn't really matter the breed. And I'll also accept miniature dachshunds. My wife calls me a "girly boy" because of it, but so what? They make me happy. However, I would never consider buying one. I like variety in my little dogs, and I'm far too busy to look after a little useless thing that isn't related by blood. Also, dogs are axpensive. I'll just continue to live vicariously through other people's dogs.

4. I'm half asian-half generic white guy. I also grew up in an area with practically no asian people around, so half asians were real oddities.

There is a weird possibility in this heritage though. My mom, who's asian, is mostly Chinese, but her family immigrated to Indonesia generations ago, in one case marrying into the local tribe of Dayaks. The Dayaks were notorious headhunter. My dad, who's white, has some Dutch ancestry. The Dutch colonized Indonesia. You do the math - We have no proof of anything happening, but there is a chance that some of my ancestors could have been killed by some of my other ancestors.

5. I'll probably post something about this in the near future, but my first job out of university was to design shit tanks. I shit you not. I don't mean little tiny septic tanks; I mean big, honking tanks that are part of sewage treatment plants. The largest tanks I've designed were over 30 m (~100 ft) in diameter and 10 m (~30 ft) tall in the case of the aerobic digester tanks (the ones that let the solids, ie. bacteria from your poop, burn themselves out and become inert), or 65 m (~210 ft) by 56 m (~185 ft) in the case of the aeration tanks (these provide oxygen to the microorganisms in the liquid waste stream to destroy any nasties in there).

Fortunately, I've moved on to other design projects since. It got a little annoying visiting with other grads of my program and hearing "I'm designing bridges," or "I'm designing parking garages," when I have to respond with "I'm designing shit tanks."

And now the new 3:

6. I have double-jointed elbows. Check this out:
Pretty nasty, huh? I can touch the insides of my elbows together yet have my wrists a couple of inches apart. Some people are really grossed-out by it; others aren't bothered at all. Regardless, it's good for feigning injury.

7. I like sleep a lot. And I do mean a lot. One of the best things about my wife is that she really enjoys sleeping in too. One time, we went to bed 2:00am Friday night, woke up Saturday at noon, went to the bathroom, went back to sleep, got up at 6:00pm, went to East Side Marios, ate a lot, went back to sleep. Man, we're so lazy on weekends. It's great.

Unless we've made plans, that is. If there are plans, I don't get to sleep in (and we've had plans almost every weekend since April). Our plans usually involve going out of town - meaning getting up early, lots of driving, and unfamilar/crappy beds. This results in me being tired and grumpy because I don't get enough sleep...much like I am during the rest of the week, actually.

8. I lived in a bachelor-sized basement apartment for three years during undergrad. Three years of the bleakest years of my life. I only had sunlight for about an hour each day at approximately 4:00 pm. The ceiling was low so that I felt claustrophobic all the time. Since the kitchen was the same as the bedroom (and air circulation was lacking, to say the least), all my clothes smelled like whatever I had been cooking (This actually resulted in people thinking I smelled pretty good - not in the "clean and fresh" kind of way, but in the "man, that's making me hungry" kind of way). My apartment was also infested with nearly white, spindly little spiders, which are almost impossible to see because my apartment walls were already off-white - camouflage in action.

Alright, that's my list. I hope it was enlightening.

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06 September 2007

I know what you're thinking...

From Berlzebub:

Your Superpower Should Be Mind Reading

You are brilliant, insightful, and intuitive.
You understand people better than they would like to be understood.
Highly sensitive, you are good at putting together seemingly irrelevant details.
You figure out what's going on before anyone knows that anything is going on!

Why you would be a good superhero: You don't care what people think, and you'd do whatever needed to be done

Your biggest problem as a superhero: Feeling even more isolated than you do now