Thots and observations about our culture  2014-2017

Merry Christmas to all.
A Pagan Holiday becomes a Religious Holiday which then becomes a Shopping Holiday.
(Above from Neil DeGrasse Tyson) People ask if I celebrate Christmas, now that I am no longer a devout Christian.
My answer: An emphatic Yes! Christmas is fun - the decorations, lights, music, food, and joyous festivities. And it is almost entirely a secular holiday. Even intelligent Christians acknowledge that there is nothing Christ-like about modern Christmas.
But, it is the time of the year when we have to endure mass amounts of ignorance.

Every year, Fox News, seeking to appease their ignorant viewers and stir up anger throughout the land, uncovers 'evidence' of a 'War on Christmas'. But, it is those defending Christmas who are not being true to their traditions and teachings. As we celebrate it today, Christmas owes more to Charles Dickens, Clement Moore, and Thomas Nast than to any church. This holiday is a ‘cultural creation’ rather than a sacred ceremony. All the whining about people 'stealing' Christmas, or declaring war, does not make the season any more religious. Here are some of the major issues:
Jesus is not the reason for the season.
The word Xmas is just as reverent as Christmas.
WWJD is inappropriate during the Christmas season.
Government Christmas displays are inappropriate.
Jesus was not about 'family'.
Please enjoy the beauty, excitement, joy, and festivities of the Christmas/holiday season, but please don't mistake it for an authentic historical religious observance.
More info about this misunderstood holiday season.

Black Friday Eve - overeating, television, and shopping - a true American holiday

Black Friday Eve is a great holiday, well, at least for men. Here's how the day often goes for them: easy morning - no work, can sleep late and read the paper, maybe watch a little football preview. Breakfast is fairly minor since they'll be pigging out in the afternoon - gotta make room. The primary chores for men are to, maybe, help with cooking the turkey and carrying the food dishes from the car to the host's home. At that point the females in the clan take over and continue the cooking, preparation and serving. The kids in the crowd wander off to a kid's room or outside to play. The men amble into wherever the largest screen TV is and notice the appetizers laid out. The host offers a drink. Sure, thanks. The day of feasting begins. The men eventually, after some small talk, settle into some comfy chairs and watch the television, which had been on the entire time, but is now commanding attention. "Who will win, Hope so-and-so's injuries have healed, Could you believe that catch last week." Because no one has eaten much today, the men are scarfing down the appetizers and starting to feel the drinks on their mostly-empty stomachs. Soon, the men are called from their comfort to find their seats in the dining room. The next hour or so is nothing but a pig-out AYCE banquet. There is more food than the entire extended family could eat, and that includes the weird cousins from upstate. At some point towards the end of the feast, the diners are warned to save room for dessert (since most contributing women in the family brought two different options). Despite some groans, most are looking forward to that course of the meal. But first, let's take a break from our bacchanalia. The men return to their comfy chairs to watch some football, the actual game now. The women clear the table, do some of the dishes, and begin to package up the leftovers to distribute among the guests. When they are through with that, they set up the dessert buffet. During a break in the game, the men struggle up out of their chairs and get a plate of several pie slices, with whipped cream. For those guys that don't drift off to sleep, the end of the game often signals the end of the banquet. The leftovers are distributed and the men are put back to work - carrying the dishes to their cars. A fun satisfying day (for the men).
In my parent's later years, my father, a semi-minimalist, and I would suggest to my mom that we should just go to the cafeteria and avoid the shopping, prep, cooking, and clean-up. She, being the traditionalist, would never agree. Cartoon above by Jeff Parker, Florida Today

Why I am no longer a Christian
Simple - I read and studied the Bible. I disagree with too much of it:
• I don't hate my mother and father.
• I don't think women should be silent.
• A woman who is raped should not have to marry her rapist.
• I sometimes like to work on Sunday (or Saturday depending on how the word Sabbath is interpreted).
• I like to eat shellfish.
• I don't want to sell all of my possessions. Sorry, I'm keeping my underwear, deodorant, and iPhone.
• I don't want to worship a God who just watches as his tsunamis, hurricanes, and tornadoes cause such massive suffering and loss of life.

A true belief system of love
• When I was a Christian, I was required - required, no choice, I had to - believe that all Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Atheists would spend eternity suffering in Hell. Billions of people on the planet right now, I had to believe, would suffer once they died. Friends, family, children - all destined to suffer horribly.
• A Muslim is required to believe that Christians, Jews, and Bahais will spend eternity in Hell. Billions of people. Suffering.
• As an Atheist, I can (and do) believe that nobody has to suffer in Hell. Not a single person. No one.
Now, which belief system is one of love?

Useless handicap parking places

It is the belief of some that this life, the life you are living now, is a test life. They believe that this life is designed specifically for preparation to pass to another life. Such beliefs suggest that this life isn’t “it.”
However, it is our perception that THIS LIFE IS IT. There is no life after this life for the individual human identity.
It is our intention to:
• Live this life to its fullest, and harmoniously with the rest of the humans on the planet.
• Improve the recognition of the non-religious community. People committed to the possibility of a world community based on healthy, rational, and socially interactive support.
• Create a network of social centers that can be used for weddings, community organizing, debates, day care, art exhibits, funerals, sewing circles, voting, games, music instruction, dance instruction, yoga, etcetera. Unlike many other social centers, WYDYD centers are wholly inclusionary - not places that discriminate based on race, age, or sexual orientation; WYDYD centers have philosophical intention - when people come to these centers, they’re coming to act in community with others, always acting with humanist ideals.
The WYDYD website.

Above left: On the NYC subway. Others: Intermission in a Broadway theater.

People were talking behind me at the conference. It was distracting, rude, and inconsiderate. I wanted to glare at them, hush them, or and ask them to keep it down. I wanted to control those around me to suit me. Yikes. How disgusting. Instead, I thought more deeply and realized my life would be better (and theirs) if I just accepted what was happening, adapted to the new environment, and turned my attention back to the conference speaker. Those previously annoying voices now just became part of the environment, like air conditioning noise, coughs, rustling of papers, and scooting of chairs. That makes so much more sense. I felt so much better. Why, I wondered, was I conditioned to try to control so much around me? Seeking some control is normal and healthy for survival. Seeking to change threatening situations or those that impair good things from happening for the society is probably good. But there's a limit. Sometimes it makes the most sense to just accept, adapt, and move on.

One more rep
I was at the gym, Gold's on the north side. I was a new member and was doing some chest presses when I looked across the bicycles and rowers and saw the sign over a set of double doors: Cardio Enema. Huh? Did I read that right? It was a serious sign - individual thick letters mounted on the wall above the door. Was it a cruel joke or a mistake by the sign company that no one had yet noticed? I couldn't tell, but I figured that there may have been some exercises in that room I didn't want to do.

I finished the presses and then went to two other machines. I took another look. Nope, still there. Still says Cardio Enema. I got my stuff from the locker room, no shower, not after what happened last week, my first week at this gym. On my way out, I told the fit young woman at the front desk about the sign. She looked at me like I was a fool, turned to read the sign, read it again, gasped audibly, and ran to the manager's office. I waited, no one came out. I was satisfied: I had alerted them, not much else I could do. So, I went on out the front door just as two police cars pulled up, lights flashing. They ran right by me. As I turned back to look, they were pulling their guns out. I drove on home and made a protein shake. Chocolate. Sugarfree - well, I had just worked out.

This is so American that it is embarrassing and shameful

Advertising bullshit from the website: Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s are serving up a delicious symbol of freedom with the arrival of the Most American Thickburger. The Most American Thickburger unites three popular American picnic foods together on one bun: a split hot dog and crunchy Lays Kettle Cooked Potato Chips atop a charbroiled Black Angus hamburger patty, along with a slice of American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup and mustard, served on a Fresh Baked Bun. “Nothing is more American than a summertime cook-out with grilled burgers and hot dogs served with potato chips; three classic American favorites that taste great on their own but taste great together, too. A hot dog, potato chips, and a beef patty is, unquestionably, our most American creation yet."
"A burger this epic required an equally epic ad campaign that salutes all things American.” American as the military, sex, red white blue, blonde, liberty, boobs, cleavage. Who do ya think the target market is - probly the FuxNews non-thinker. Simple colors, sex, and blind patriotism appeal to them (as does fast food).

Is this where the Texas flag came from?

Nice image that reminds us of the rainbow of people on this planet

Army Staff Sergeant Richard Berry was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Afghanistan. Survived by his wife, he was 27 years old. Her dreams for their life together were also killed. I wonder how many children of those in Congress authorizing the war went to fight that war.

Race together?

When this question was posed to me, I asked,
    "Do you include Hispanics as a different race?"   Yes, we do.
    "What about Native Americans?"   Yes.
Well then, because I don't know the ethnic heritage of many people (where skin color isn't a giveaway), I can't answer the question. Here in Oklahoma, there are many Natives and so many mixed breeds that one can't tell by looking at the person. And, shouldn't we be working towards not being able to tell? If so, then this question is counter-productive. Starbucks may think they're helping. But not in this way.
More on racism

One of the reasons why I prefer Austin and Dallas over Oklahoma

Some selected area cities. Oklahoma City was #2 of all cities over 250,000 people (Mesa Arizona was #1).
The full article with chart of more cities

Walton Arkansas
Spent a weekend in Northwest Arkansas. I was amazed at how the area has boomed in population, stores, restraunts, museums, and housing. It appears to be a major urban metro area, spread out throughout Northwest Arkansas. But, saying Northwest Arkansas is a bit too much There ought to be a shorter moniker to refer to the metro area. The boom is a result of Sam Walton keeping his headquarters in the area.
Great idea: combine the communities in Northwest Arkansas under one more appropriate name - Walton.

Full story of the Walton metro area.

A night out with the girls

And by girls, I mean devices.

How a cup easily and quickly becomes litter

One Sunday morning, I walked the dogs up the bike path to the local Starbucks. After coffee, we crossed this street and saw this cup full of water sitting in the pavement. I was baffled. Why there? I ran through some scenarios - the most likely seemed to be that a driver opened her door and set the cup down on the pavement, shut the door, and drove off. But what was going through her mind? "If I put this cup out here, I'll be rid of it." But, where did they think the cup would go? Now, the cup (which has been repurposed as litter) will be someone else's problem. If no one else takes responsibility for this cup/litter, it will either blow around the street or eventually float down the drain into the nearby creek. To somewhat avoid becoming disappointed at how selfish and unempathetic people are, I picked up the cup, emptied it, and took it home where I put it in the recycle bin. It's life of litter was over.

Time required for litter to break down
1-5 months: Cotton rags
2-5 months: Paper
6 months: Orange peels
80-100 years: Aluminum cans
Forever: Glass bottles, Cigarette butts, Nylon fabric, Plastic bottles, Plastic 6-pack rings

Great business for when some people regret what they have done

Store that sells diapers to Viagra users

Why the 'politically correct' term African-American is so wrong

During the Ferguson riots, the media showed some protesters waving the A-A flag, giving credibility to the notion of the divisive term, African-Americans.
If we segregate and classify Americans with descriptors, then shouldn't we also segregate buses, theaters, and naberhoods?

Artist David Hammons created the A-A flag in 1990, the year in which David Dinkins was elected the first black mayor of New York City and America was deep into its decades' long culture wars. The flag is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

"I am a conservative Republican and I believe in God first."

Susanne Atanus, 2014 Illinois Republican Congressional candidate, believes God controls the weather and has put tornadoes and diseases such as autism and dementia on earth as punishment for gay rights and legalized abortions. "God is angry. We are provoking him with abortions and same-sex marriage and civil unions. We need to respect God."
As a resident of Oklahoma with many tornadoes (and many 'Christians'), this is a bit disturbing. Surely, there's a better way to express displeasure than for a God of Love to murder innocent children.

The Zen of leaving the toilet seat up or down
One way to solve the seat up or down conflict:
• If you don't like the person you share the bath with, are annoyed by something they do, or want to feel in control over them, then bitch at them for not leaving the seat just the way you prefer it.
• If you love someone, care about them, and feel good about yourself, then just put the seat up or down as you prefer and go about your business.
So simple.

Other solutions: install a urinal for the men. I hope that one day, urinals will be common in homes. No more seat issue. Or, install a handle to decrease the yucky factor in touching and raising the lid. There are several styles of these available online.

Fascinating wisdom from Neil deGrasse Tyson (host of Cosmos on Fox, Sunday evenings)

If the gridiron was a timeline, the Big Bang would be on one goal line and the time from the cavemen until now would be just the thickness of a single blade of grass at the other goal.

American culture is making some progress
Civil rights
The "Gay Marriage" issue is all over. All that's left is for the national recognition to take effect and the scramble for churches to announce that they received a new revelation from God - treating people fairly and with love and compassion will soon be 'Divinely Ordained'. Just as the Mormon Church, which had received a message from infallible God that dark-skinned people were cursed and inferior, received a new divine revelation that was quite different - Negroes were okay, after all. Gay Americans will soon be officially considered 'okay'.

Marijuana laws
As other states see the tax revenue and the lowering of police and prison expenses, they will join the movement. National recognition won't be too far behind. It's about time. These antiquated, harmful, and totally ineffective laws have hurt too many Americans and their families; lives ruined due to unfair, unreasonable, and totally ineffective laws. More
Below: Percent of respondents saying marijuana should be legal or illegal. Survey conducted Febuary 2014 with previous data from Gallup. From the Pew Research Center.
Religion and superstition
Will continue to move off to the fringe sideline. Science explains 'miraculous' phenomena, more adults seek logic and intelligence, and studies continue to show that prayer has no influence (except for the feelings of the one praying). Religion has nothing of substance to stand on. It is just feelings and promises from stories in a book. The category of 'non-believers' is the fastest growing segment in America. Much of Europe and Australia has already surpassed the USA in percentages of those who don't rely on fairy tales and promises of eternal life.
There will likely always be a place for religion - some people will need comfort and familiarity with like-minded believers. But, in most developed nations, it will play a smaller role in government and politics. It will continue to provide rationale for hatred, discrimination, and violence - and storylines for movies, cartoons, bedtime stories.

So much crap in seatback pockets

6 pieces of literature. I had to rearrange and neaten them up. I put 3 of the technical pieces inside the 4th, a single fold piece that served as a folder; magazine and catalog in front.

Just not sure what to make of this

It caught me off-guard. It seems impersonal, but it does make sense - at IHOP, instead of seeking a manager and interrupting the workflow to get an application, the application process starts here and then moves to online or a phone call. The dispenser is like those that are used in bakeries and butcheries. 'Take a number, please' does have value as an alternative to standing in a sequential line. Wait til your number is called - wander the store, airport, or salon. Many of these places have an electronic board mounted up high that shows the number being served so those waiting can see hen to approach the counter. In the instance above, the number is replaced with contact information.

"Any damn fool can get complicated. It takes genius to attain simplicity."
From Bound for Glory, by Woody Guthrie

The somewhat-new Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa is well worth a visit. Guthrie is part of American history - many of us are familiar with the name but know little beyond a folk singer who wrote This Land is Your Land. But, there are so many more fascinating details - his artwork, poetry, and stories. The center is the home of the Woody Guthrie Archives, a collection amassed by his second wife (of 3) and bought by a foundation in Tulsa. The center website. The logo and graphics were designed by TOKY in St. Louis.

A breath of compassion, clear thinking, and logic - in Oklahoma!

In Tulsa, January 14, 2014, Senior US District Judge Terrence Kern ruled that Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage discriminated for no rational reason. Judge Kern wrote:
Protecting the sanctity of marriage wasn't a valid reason for the ban, given Oklahoma's high divorce rate of opposite-sex couples.
Encouraging procreation wasn't logical since opposite-sex couples aren't required to say they'll produce offspring in order to get a marriage license.
Moral disapproval of homosexuals as a class, or same-sex marriage as a practice, is not a permissible justification.
"Exclusion of one class of citizens from receiving a marriage license based upon the perceived 'threat' they pose to the marital institution is an arbitrary exclusion based upon the majority's disapproval of the defined class. It is also insulting to same-sex couples, who are human beings capable of forming loving, committed, enduring relationships.
The majority view in Oklahoma must give way to individual constitutional rights."
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said, "I am troubled that the will of the people has once again been ignored by the federal government."

Wisdom from Nancy Struby: If we allowed civil rights issues to be decided by "the will of the people," schools would still be segregated, slavery would still exist, and Ms. Fallin would not be governor since women wouldn't be able to vote, much less be elected to public office.
To those who oppose same-sex marriage: please stop. Please find a stance that is more loving and caring in which to put your time and energy. The marriage equality issue is over. Civil rights won.

Why I can't watch all of the Disney Christmas Parade

1. There is a constant annoying background noise of screams and yells. I have watched this parade in person. Nobody screams and yells throughout the entire parade.
2. The people clap nonstop, even when the emcees are introducing a performance. How rude to clap while someone is speaking. I suspect someone at Disney felt that they needed to up the level of excitement and coached the parade audience to clap, yell, and scream.
3. The visual images are flashed in constant rapid cuts. The viewer can't focus on a person, a dance number, or a song - the action is jerky quick cuts.
4. It is just one very long and repetitive infomercial for the Disney Company. It is a cover for promoting Theme Parks, Hawaiian resort, Cruise ships, Films, and Broadway shows.

Why not Christmas birth stars instead of Easter death crucifixes?

Every Christmas season, two skyscrapers in Oklahoma City turn on lights on their facades that form Christian crosses (the full story). Unfortunately, the crucifix, an instrument of death, is more closely associated with Easter and the Resurrection, than with birth. How simple it would be to replace the crucifixes of death with the Christmas Star of birth. This would better reflect the joy and life of Christmas and better convey that Oklahoma City is becoming more of a major league, inclusive, and respectful city.

But, that is probly just too logical and thoughtful. Even though this simple change would be more appropriate, Okies would likely see it as another attack in the War on Christmas and demand that Christ (as represented by the crucifix) be kept in the season. Of course, this attitude just highlights the ignorance about Christmas (full story).

Why I watch less Jeopardy!

1. Really ugly, poorly designed stage sets
2. The category title of Black America.

There is no place called Black America. Nor, White America or Polish America, etc. There are Black Americans, but those Black Americans live in America - they don't live in a place called Black America. Even as a seemingly harmless descriptive term, it still confirms the bias and ignorance of many people that America is divided into racial segments.
Jeopardy has been using this category name for decades. Many years ago, I wrote them a letter with the rationale for less divisive language. They responded and stated that they saw no reason to stop using the category title, Black America.

Where the USA may be headed
From The Week magazine: A minority student group at the University of California, Los Angeles, is accusing a professor of racism for correcting grammar and punctuation in minority students' assignments. The group, Students of Color, says the grammar "lessons" are acts of "micro-aggression" that have created "a hostile class climate." The Professor said he was just trying to help students.

We should have seen this coming, in this day of wanting special privileges without earning them, this is an obvious step. If this continues, we may see the day when teachers can't put negative comments or low grades on work, since they might be seen as detrimental to self-esteem, offensive, and acts of hostile aggression.

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz

Sure, Christians can have nice things. But, maybe don't flaunt the two together. If you buy a Mercedes, don't announce your belief in God We Trust. "I don't mind some of God's children going to bed hungry, I just trust him to provide me with a Mercedes." I have read the Bible many times and can think of no verse in which Jesus instructs us to buy expensive cars. Mostly, he says just the opposite. But, that may not apply here as most Okie Christians do not read the Bible. When I pointed out to a female friend that the Bible says women should serve men and be quiet in church, she replied, "No, that can't be right!" I asked if she had read the Bible. No, only what is mentioned in church. The Bible is like a software agreement - nobody reads the thing, they just click 'Agree'.

"Mercedes Benz" is a song written by Janis Joplin, Michael McClure, and Bob Neuwirth. It was originally recorded by Joplin in one take on October 1, 1970. It was one of the last tracks she ever recorded; she died three days later. The song, a hippie-era rejection of consumerism, was on the album Pearl, released in 1971.

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