31 March 2008

Bad News

The bad news is that I have to degrannify a house.

The even worse news is that my study into the correlation between religiosity and home decor will have to end.


25 March 2008

Spirits sagging: The end of the rover missions?

NASA's Spirit rover, currently exploring Mars, was only designed for an operational life of three months. Four years later both Spirit and its sibling, Opportunity, are a bit worse for wear but still going strong. Now I've just learned that Spirit is about to be waylaid not by the harsh Martian environment nor by mechanical failure but by budget cuts: the damnable US government is too busy pissing away money in Iraq to maintain the rover mission's $20 million per year budget1. The new budget of $16 million means that Spirit will have to be put in hybernation for the forseeable future while Opportunity will have its work cut back.

So, you can spend billions of dollars a year for an illegal and incompetently managed war but not an additional $4 million to unlock the secrets of the universe? Way to stick your heads in your asses, GOP.

More details can be found at The Martian Chronicles.

1 To be fair, the feds aren't directly to blame on this. NASA is given a limited budget, and they decided that it would be better to cut the rover funding and divert the $4 million elsewhere. Still, the sucky NASA budget comes from somewhere, and that somewhere has their priorities screwed up tremendously2.

2 Hey, dems, don't you control congress now? Shouldn't you, you know, do something about this?

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24 March 2008

Pastor doesn't have a clue

My wife dragged me to church on Easter Sunday. You'd think that since Easter is the most important day on the whole Christian holiday schedule they'd have a special service of some sort, but it really did seem like more of the same. They threw around the word "Truth" (capital 'T' intended) entirely too much, all for stuff which is unsupported opinion. They, in a semantic nightmare, referred to "the resurrection" as "a person (Jesus) not an event." And then the pastor got down to the actual sermon which, while mentioning the resurrection occasionally, was really focused on the persecution complex that Christians have.

"Christians are being attacked on all sides" by things like secularism, obscurism, and the neo-atheists, the pastor said. The neo-atheist part was interesting, in that it seems the pastor doesn't know what being an atheist means. He complained that people like Dawkins and Hitchens were ridiculously blaming things like war, disease, the spread of HIV, crime, etc. on God.

On God, eh?

It's not like the most important thing about being an atheist is, you know, not believing in God? I'd expect such unthinking ignorance from the fundy rank and file but I hoped better of the pastor. I guess I was hoping for too much, as I've yet to meet a pastor who isn't a theistard (I have no idea where the guys at Debunking Christianity find their ivory tower theists who in no way resemble the real theists - anyone who thinks The God Delusion attacks a strawman of religion needs to leave the aforementioned tower, go to a freakin' church, and listen to the head ignoramus speak).

It's also interesting how when Christians complain they are under attack, the attack consists of anti-discrimination laws (laws that ensure religious freedom), a bit of reasoned argument, and a big heaping pile of ridicule. It's not like it's the Inquisition or anything. Afterall, the secularists and the neo-atheists wouldn't kill a man for claiming to be the son of God. We leave that up to the Sadducees.

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20 March 2008

Home Décor – Additional

Upon another weekend of house hunting, we have a few more tallies for my pigeonholing of religion vs. décor. First were two houses that again fall into the single religion = very austere grouping. The first one I could tell from outside the house how granny it was; I could see granny drapery through the windows. The inside was not terribly religious, just a big, centrally-placed bible and a little cross tucked away in one of the rooms. Still, it fit neatly into my categories. The second one was terrific: the first non-Christian confirmation of my categories. This was a Muslim house, with inscriptions in Arabic all over the place. The women wore traditional fully covered clothing. And the house was very barren and not welcoming at all.

However, the next two homes kind of destroyed my breakdown a bit. The third house we saw just didn’t fit since the current owners were just reselling a house they bought last year. There was literally no décor to speak of. The fourth house was tasteful granny, but fully secular. I’d never seen one of these before. It’s always contemporary secular, tastefully granny but kind of religious. Very odd.

Anyway, it was a nice old guy and his wife moving to a condo. We weren’t supposed to meet him, yet we did. Why? It was sort of a townhouse, in this case, garage connected to the neighbours’ garages but the actual living space did not share walls. Also, the backyards were separated by tall fences. To get to the backyard, you have to go through either the garage or the house. We went through the backdoor of the garage (we didn’t want to track our dirty boots through the house to use that back door). So me, my wife, my mom (who came down to help us out) and the real-estate agent were in the back when we noticed that the back door to the garage had closed and locked. We were trapped in the backyard with no way out. Doors unopenable. Fences unscalable. Neighbours absent. The realtor had his cellphone and was able to call the owners who had to hurry back to free us. The good news is that we got to examine the backyard in exquisite detail while we waited.

They had a very nice garden.

The owner did eventually free us after a little while. I was amazed he did. He’s quite hard of hearing and I was astounded he could understand our desperate phone call. Our agent said that in the many years he’s been working, something like this has never happened before.

Anyway, despite getting locked in the backyard, we put in a lowball offer on the house. We’ll see what happens.

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17 March 2008

This can't be a good idea

As my wife and I strolled into her church yesterday (15 minutes late, as usual) I suddenly realized it was Palm Sunday; one of the ushers was doing an impression of a tree, holding a large collection of palm leaves in front of him. To my surprise, he gave one to my wife and another to me. To summarize: he gave a palm leaf to me. TO ME!!!

Are they frickin' idiots or something?

2.5 ft long, fairly sturdy, sword-shaped palm leaf. Relatively dark enclosed room. Mind-numbing, gut-wrenching, jaw-dropping boredom.

And me.



On the scale of ideas, this is below Boston's maligned Big Dig and only slightly above giving a loaded AK-47 to an orangutan.

That is to say, not a very good idea at all.

*poke* *poke* *poke*

I'm amazed I didn't get thrown out.

Happy St. Patty's day, boys and girls.

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10 March 2008

Ape Book

As I mentioned here, the next time I was in Toronto I planned on picking up the ape book. Well, I did. And there was much rejoicing!

(FYI: the book turned out to be a lot more scholarly than I remembered. Turns out it's by famed primatologist Birutė Galdikas, so that's some Canadian content, too.)


05 March 2008

My office is getting kicked in the nuts

I have a crappy little grey cubicle at the office. This crappy grey cubicle sits in a pale grey room. I am far away from any source of natural light. The very loud PA speaker, which services a tributary area of about 8m x 10 m, is directly over my head.

I am being moved to a new cube.

You’d think I’d be happy about it, but I am not. You see, my new cube will be even worse. Even smaller. Even greyer. The room it’s in is small and prison-like, dark and with cinderblock walls on all sides. It also happens to be on the far side of the building through several additional security doors and past the garbage room in a part of the building that I had never been to before in my life.
I heard from the previous occupants that they called this room "The Morgue."

My current cube has the benefit of being near the rest of my department but far enough away that no one can conveniently bother me or walk by – the best of both worlds, really. The new cube will be the worst of both, as half the department will move with me to the new prison room and the other half will stay put. Now I’ll have to call ahead if I want to see someone from the staying half, and then walk all the way across the building to see them; however, the other half will be so close so as to be practically breathing over my shoulder.

The only improvement will be that I’m closer to the window, though I still can’t see it directly. I forgot to check if the PA speaker is directly overhead again and, since it would take me about 5 minutes to walk there, I don’t think I’ll bother checking now (even if I could find the place again – seriously, I didn’t even know this area of the building existed).

I must look on the bright side of life, though, for the situation is even worse for other people. My supervisor is losing his big office with a window and moving into a much smaller new office featuring zero windows in the walls, zero windows in the dark grey metal door, block walls on all four sides, a low ceiling, poor lighting, door frames and window sills from the previous incarnation of the room that have since been filled-in with masonry, and, inexplicably, a lightswitch that is on the opposite side of the room from the door (knowing my supervisor's predisposition towards clutter, I predict many injuries). Close the door and it really is like being in a storage closet.

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