Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Brilliant Letter to John Edwards

A post over at Pam's Houseblend has a letter written to John Edwards on his lack of support for LGBT marriage. Some time ago, Edwards made the statement about his own internal wrestling with this issue and responded: "I am just not there yet."

This letter speaks volumes to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender and straight communities. Using particular story images, the writer explains that while Edwards may not be there yet, there are a whole lot of people standing on the shore who are "already there".

The post is a bit long but be patient, dear reader. It is a good letter not just for the presidential candidate but for anyone who has yet to arrive on the shore of equality.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

You're Not to Blame

This satirical music video is hilarious as it puts the blame where so many folks are saying the blame belongs.

Hat tip to Towleroad

Monday, July 23, 2007

Here's a Good Question

The Best Potter Yet

Well I went and done it already. I purchased my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Saturday morning at 9:30am (when the bookstore opened), sat down at 10:30am and apart from bathroom breaks, dinner breaks, and walking the dog, I read the entire book finishing in the week hours of Sunday morning at 4:30am. The book was so well written, I just couldn't put it down. And besides, the rest of the world and myself waiting nearly two years for the final chapter in Harry Potter's life.

And let me tell you, it was the finest read of all the books. Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione are full of adventure, suspense, dark emotions, and incredible confrontations with evil. The ending was spectacular and has more Christian themes in it than all the other books combined. I am sure that won't make much difference to all the 'Harry-haters' out there who think his books are more about the occult than themes of loyalty, friendship, and good triumphing evil. As is often the case, you can get out of Harry whatever you read into it. And, if you're open to a great adventure, all the questions being resolved from the other books, and an ending to beat all endings, then this is the book for you.

The book, while incredibly well written, also has some disturbing parts and some eye-opening ones. I discovered that Dumbledore isn't quite the hero I always thought he was (Harry discovered this too). But you know, in real life, especially as we grow older, we often discover that our childhood heroes has limitations and skeletons in their closets. However, the author, J.K. Rowling doesn't discount him and neither does Harry. We just learn that we're all human, and some of us more so than others.

I was also pleasantly surprised to learn about Snapes' involvement and heroism in the story. As you remember from the preceding book, he kills Dumbledore. Without giving too much away, he and Dumbledore knew the moment was coming when something had to be done.

Anyways, the book is full of great eye-openers and revelations especially the one regarding Harry's mom and her biological sister. In the end, there is a final battle that beats all battles and what Harry has to do will surprise you--and once you're surprised, the story continues further. In the end, the book wraps everything up as only Rowling could do it and it makes perfect sense. I won't give away the ending but I know you'll enjoy it (if you're a fan of Harry Potter).

Keep in mind that the book is 750 pages. The good thing is that you won't mind so much because you'll be turning pages before you know it and the book will satisfy you as you go about it.

My hats off to JK Rowling who, unlike most sequels that suck, actually turned out the best book of all.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Fun Video to Watch

Here is someone mouthing the words to Sister Sisters I Don't Feel Like Dancing. It's awfully cute. A hat tip to Famous Like Me's blog.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Peanuts Grown Up... or growing up that is..

Follow this link to an artist's rendition of Charles Shultz's post adolescent Peanuts gang. It is really very interestingly and well drawn.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

An Unexpected Cost of Living in NYC

There are many costs to living in the one of the greatest cities in the world. With the cost of a 1 BR apartment in Tribeca going for $9500/mo to a $2 million dollar for a 2 BR/2 BA apartment, just making ends meet won't allow you to be a part of such a thriving metropolis. Add to that the cost of maintenance which could easier be over $1200/mo on top of your mortgage and you have to make a whole heck of a lot of money if you want to live there. That is, of course, if you're unwilling to live in the seedier and scarier parts of town.

When I lived in Manhattan, I lived on the northernmost tip of it in a neighborhood called Inwood. I had a regular sized 1 br apartment and paid only $1100/mo in rent. Sure, I didn't live anywhere near the happening places of the island. I was next to 2 major subway lines and I was within walking distance of Manhattan's oldest park that also housed Columbia University's Crew team. While it wasn't the safest area in town, there were far scarier neighborhoods in Manhattan than mine.

However, if you live anywhere south of 125th Street, you could find yourself paying an astronomical amount of money every month for rent and a whole lot more for a mortgage. It wouldn't be surprising to pay over a million and a half dollars for a 1 BR or converted studio apartment. So it isn't too much of a stretch then to read an article where one parking spot in the Chelsea section of Manhattan is going for $225,000 just to have a place to park your car. Here is an interesting news article about the high cost of parking spots in NYC and other major metropolitan cities where land is expensive because most of it is owned by other people.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

He Didn't See It Coming

This is kind of funny although you know it hurt.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

On a lighter note...

A producer for Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who plays Harry Potter in the extremely high-grossing movie franchise, is emphatically proclaiming that Radcliffe is straight. One only needs to see how Radcliffe's been trying to shed his boy wizard imagery to understand why such a pronouncement is necessary.

My thoughts are simple: if he doesn't want people to think he's gay, he needs to stop doing London theatre in the buff and posing for pictures with next to no clothes on, or dressing up like a leather boy on his way to the Fulsom Street Fair in San Francisco. And take this picture, for instance, I mean, you can understand why folks are thinking he'd rather saddle with Professor Snape than take Cho to the evening ball (for you non-Harry enthusiasts, Cho is Harry's girlfriend in the books and movies). The way I see it, there are only three options for Radcliffe's odd behavior:

1. He has no idea what he's doing;
2. He knows exactly what he's doing in trying to shed the Potter image (even before he's finished making two more movies, not counting the one due out next week). Could he derail his chances to continue being the young boy turned young man wizard in any upcoming movie?
3. He has a public* (corrected from a hilarious misspelling) image director who is a moron and likes to put Harry in uncompromising situations.

My guess it's the latter. Still, if he keeps up this sort of thing the only movies he'll be in will be those called, Harry Pooter and the Prisoner of Ass-kaban.

Theology According to Homer Simpson

I sit here amazed and dumbfounded. I now understand that Homer was right after all, at least according to Pope Benedict. In a recently released statement, the Pope reaffirmed and reminded the world that the Catholic Church is the universal primacy that its always claimed to be but Benedict event went so far as to say that if you're not in the Roman Catholic Church, then you are either defective (as are the Orthodox Churches) or not a true church at all (everyone else) and are not a means to salvation.

Of course, most Protestant churches would agree that their church isn't a means to salvation, only Jesus is. And one might be tempted to 'read into the Pope's statement' that he means the church and Jesus are somehow intertwined in such a way that he really means what Protestant churches say. But he doesn't. The Roman Catholic Church is THE ONLY church Jesus authorized and by means of apostolic succession, the RCC continues to lay claim as the only heir to Jesus' continued physical and spirtiual manifestation on earth.

When one talks about ecumenism and "we're all in this together", one doesn't think of Homer Simpson and two versions of heaven: the boring Protestant heaven and the partying Catholic one. It seems the Pope's version of heaven is closer Homer than many Protestants who think we'll all be mixed there together, in one form or another.

There is a new book by Mark Pinsky aptly titled, The Gospel According to the Simpsons, explores the spirituality and gospel message of Homer Simpson. In this book, Pinsky explains,

[Homer's] capacity for love dwarfs his failings. Even God sees this. Homer can't stand his fundamentalist Christian neighbor (sic.), Flanders, and is bored to death by the sermons of the weary Reverend Lovejoy. He also has little time for the Bible – “If the Bible has taught us nothing else,” he tells Lisa, "and it hasn't, it's that girls should stick to girls' sports." But when God drops in for a chat, he discovers in Homer a surprisingly convincing theology. Basically, this is that life is tough and humans are hopeless but, without making a fuss about it, God is always there as the last safety net. And, when He's not around, there's love.

"It is Homer," writes Mark Pinsky in his book The Gospel According to The Simpsons, "who has the most personal relationship with God." A special hat tip to Andrew Sullivan for this quote.

I just hope when the endgame is tallied, that Homer isn't right about the heavens. Check out this video and you'll see what I mean.

I find it dishonorable that a person of faith can be so callous and self-righteous to assume that his understanding of God is so complete that he would make such a statement proclaiming the RCC as the only true church AND that everyone else either has it wrong or has somehow screwed up their church to warrant their exclusion from God's realm. You know, if we're going to do an historical analysis of how "the church" has screwed up in its history, one doesn't have to look far to the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the selling of Indulgences that the RCC made happen. Heck, we can stay in the past century and look at priestly abuses to children and their families.

Instead of making amends for its horrid past, the Pope ought to instead ask humbly if they can join the rest of the world's Christians in coming to God, rather than protecting its Bishops, covering up its sins, and proclaiming to the world, "You're wrong, your church is wrong but thankfully you have us, the RCC to lead you in the path of righteousness."

No wonder there are so many atheists, agnostics, and the like. If the RCC is the only choice for Christianity (and for many folks in the world they are), I too might choose to not believe in anything rather that align myself with Pope Benedict.

To be fair, I know some great American Catholic priests who have a heart for Jesus and a love for everyone else. My disdain is directly aimed at this pompass-assed Pope. Hopefully one day the RCC will find its own redemption when it finally chooses a Pope with the humility and kindness that Jesus had hoped would sustain his church, after he was gone.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Things an Employer Can Do and Cannot Do

I just read a news article about a court case in which an employer, who is Christian, fired one of his employers because the employer discovered his employee to be gay. The employer is citing religious freedom as his defense. The attorney defending the fired employee said that "People who hold those views (that gay people are sinners and are going to hell) have to know that they can't act on them with regard to employment." What he probably could have said that was more clear was, "You can believe anything you want, but those beliefs cannot infringe upon the rights of an employee, if those rights are protected by law." See. This is more clear.

If you are an employer, you can fire someone for dishonesty (lying, cheating, or stealing). You can terminate an employee if they don't show up for work, or if they don't do their work, or if the word they do is below specified standards of productivity. You can fire someone for disrespect, dishonoring the ethics of the company, or causing mischief (as long as the mischief is spelled out and defined in the employees handbook).

As an employer in New York and New Jersey, you cannot fire someone because they are an atheist, a Jew, a Christian, or a Muslim. They might be going to hell but, even if they are and you hire them (you cannot refuse to hire someone of a different religion either, but that's another post), you cannot fire them for it. You cannot legally fire someone if they are an African American (or an African, for that matter). You cannot fire someone because they are fat, or too thin (like whoever would do that, right?), or bald. You cannot fire someone who has a disability (including HIV). You cannot fire a person from France, England, Russia, Mexico, or any other country (immigration rules aside). And, you cannot fire someone based on their sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation. Regardless of your religious beliefs (or lack thereof), a person who works and does their job has a right to have that job protected. As simple minded as this sounds, in 31 states in the USAmerica, an employer has the right to terminate an employee if that employee is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (actually 39 states can fire you if you're transgender).

In New York and New Jersey, we honor the vision of Martin Luther King, Jr., as it applies to the LBGT community, when he said in his famous "I Have A Dream" speech, "I have a dream that one day my children will live in a land where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." It's unfortunate that not every state honors the visions of its prophets.

What's In a Name?

Given this year's drama over at Grey's Anatomy where one person (a straight person) called another person (a gay person) the "f" word, people have been talking about the power of words, what they mean, and how different words with the same meaning has extraordinary power. Just listen to Isaiah Washington's public service announcement. He explains it well, even if he can't always follow his own advice.

I am about to post a story from AmericaBlog about one gay person's opinion, "Stop Calling Me a Homosexual!" Well, he doesn't shout like that but that's the theme of the post. And, for the most part, I agree with the author. What's in a name you say? I mean, doesn't 'homosexual' mean 'gay'? Well, it does and it doesn't. The nuance is important and the article explains it quite eloquently.

The basic core idea is that using this term stigmatizes and clinicalizes a gay or lesbian person, it dehumanizes the person, it makes it easier to condemn him or her by depreciating the human element. Unlike the 'gay' term, homosexual makes some folks cringe because in the very word itself "homo" and "sex" are two terms that most folks don't talk about it public conversation. The term gay takes the sex out of the description and reminds us that the person in question is more than a sexual person. A gay or lesbian is a person who laughs, learns, has responsibilities, can be angry, joyful, or just themselves. A gay person isn't all about "sex" anymore than a heterosexual person is all about sex with members of the opposite sex.

Over a hundred years ago, there was a sociologist and mystic named Edward Carpenter, who termed the word homogenic when he tried to take the 'sex' out of homo-sex-ual. He did so to explain that men and women, men and men, and women and women all have homogenic relationships. Think about the guys who play poker on Friday nights; they are not meeting to have sex but they enjoy one another's company. Think of the Tupperwear or tea parties your mother used to attend with other housewives; they weren't meeting for sex, they were enjoying one another's fellowship. Our lives are about more than just sex--as are your lives. The term homosexual then, while at one time was a descriptive term, now has a lot of baggage and often anti-gay positions attached to it.

This article explains this well; so I'll stop typing and let you read it.

Dear Washington Post, please stop calling me a "homosexual"

The Washington Post published a pro-gay editorial today about marriage. And that's great. But they called us "homosexuals" throughout the piece, and that's not great. It's degrading and offensive and archaic.

I've written about this before, and some have disagreed. But I'd argue that those who disagree don't understand the nuance of language or of this particular phrase. Ask any gay person, regardless of whether they agree or disagree that the word "homosexual" is archaic and offensive, whether they use the term "gay" or "homosexual" to described themselves. I.e., "I'm gay" or "I'm a homosexual." Just ask them. Unless they're living under a rock, gay people rarely if ever use the word homosexual. (My gay-friendly straight friends, however, use the term all the time. In the same way that I still hear friends use the word "oriental.")

Why? First, because it's become archaic. Usage changes, and just as Negro and colored changed to black and African-American, just as oriental gave way to Asian, homosexual has become gay. But second, and more importantly, the word homosexual is offensive in the same manner as negro and oriental. Sometimes archaic words sting. In the case of homosexual, I think the main problem is three-fold. First, the clinical nature of the term. It's a scientific word that mildly dehumanizes gay people by suggesting that they have a medical or psychological condition. Second, the words "homo" and "sex." Both words connote something negative, or at least something that shouldn't be spoken out loud, to a lot of Americans. Third, and most importantly, homosexual is the word the religious right uses expressly and uniquely in an effort to dehumanize gays. Anti-gay religious right activists have said publicly that they will not use the word "gay" - rather, they insist on using "homosexual." Why? Because for some reason or another they figure that the word homosexual helps their cause. And while I don't agree with the religious right on many things, their ability to gay-bash swiftly and effectively is unqestioned. If they think the word gay help us and the word homosexual hurts us, who am I to argue?

Again, I don't mean to opinionated about it, but if you don't hear the negative nuance in the word homosexual, it's either because you're not listening, or more likely, you don't have an ear for language. There's a reason that colored and Negro and oriental weren't offensive terms years ago, yet are today. The nuance of words changes over time. And while gays were once thought to be mentally disturbed - that all changed in 1973 - the language has not changed since that time.

It's time it did.

PS Don't believe me? Read what a communications professional has to say about this. (Actually, I hadn't read his piece until after I wrote mine, but the logic is remarkably similar.) Also, check out this recent editorial in the lead gay newspaper in the US.

I Finally Did It

I spent yesterday, most of it anyway, reformatting my home computer's hard drive and reinstalling the XP operating system. My computer had become so sluggish of late that something had to be done. Now that everything has been updated and reinstalled, the computer runs like new. If you're looking to get a new computer because your present computer is running slower than a preacher's sermon on Mother's Day, let me recommend a few things you can do to your computer to make it like new (and save you a few hundred dollars in the process).

Before I tackled the huge project, I backed everything up on an external hard drive by making a duplicate copy of my programs and files. Then, after I finished that, I added some more RAM to my computer. That has helped enormously. RAM doesn't necessarily speed up your computer, instead it allows you to do more on it at the same time. For instance, you can have 4-5 open windows running at the same time (if you have your email program open, plus your internet browser, and are currently working on one or two Word documents). RAM is pretty inexpensive but realize that not all RAM works on all computers--you have to find the RAM that works for your system. To find which RAM you'll need to buy, go here.

As I was taking the computer cover off my CPU (knowing that doing so voids my computer's warranty), I purchased a can of pressurized air and blew out the dust that had accumulated there. Lots of dust tends to make your computer run hotter by insulating the heat. Blowing out the dust allows the motherboard inside to "breathe". Also, remember to blow the dust from your various fans inside the CPU. Be careful blowing the dust off your motherboard, I did it holding the can about 10 inches away from the board. Some of the circuitry can get damaged from a direct hit of that compressed air, so be careful.

I installed the RAM being careful to touch a metal surface before touching anything in the CPU to discharge any static electricity that would immediately damage anything inside. When I was finished, I put the cover back on, plugged in my cables, and turned on the power to the computer. Now the tedious process began.

Once I reinstalled my operating system, I went and began to delete all the computer programs that came with my computer that I knew I'd never use. Using them only once, you will discover that deleting them can be next to impossible. So, I got right to it. I went to by Add/remove program option and deleted just about everything that came with my system including Microsoft Money, Norton Utilities, Outlook Express, and anything having anything to do with AOL. Once any one program was removed, I had to reboot. That was okay, I had the entire day.

Without going into too much detail (as I am tempted to do, and as I probably have already done), here are the programs I either installed or reinstalled. Note, that all of these programs are open-source and are free to use. In most instances the free programs do as good a job as the paid-for versions.

Avast! This is a free anti-virus program that is rated tops by PC World.

Zone Alarm. This is a free firewall that is extremely popular and efficient. You can purchase a firewall or use this one, but for heaven's sake, don't use the Windows Firewall that is in SP2 of XP. While it serves well as a basic firewall, it doesn't do eveything that a good firewall needs to do, as a result, it can leave you open to a lot of trouble.

OpenOffice. This is a free utilities suite (similar to Word, PowerPoint, Excel and includes extra programs like Draw, and a Database) that looks a lot like Microsoft Office. It even opens MS documents, saves to them, as well as creates its own. It has some handy extra features such as a .pdf creator. I love it, be sure to have it load in your system tray for faster starts.

This is also a handy office suit because it'll help your conscience too. Unlike many of us who have used "borrowed" versions of MS Office; this way, you'll get to use something without the guilt of continuing to use an office suite that you didn't really pay for. ;)

Firefox. This is a free internet browser with tabbed capabilities (IE 7 now has this feature).

Thunderbird. This is a free email client that lets you pull all your internet email (or work emails) threaded via pop3 access. I love this email client, I've been using it for years. And it has some of the best spam filters that I've ever used.

Picasa 2. This is a free photo management program from the fine folks over at Google, that one day may stir the same amount of ire that is directed at Microsoft (some folks are already getting a bit nervous with them). Until that time actually comes, this is a handy photoshop-lite like program that organizes and can manipulate your images to your taste.

AT Notes. This is a handy free program that lets you put those cool yellow stickums on your desktop screen to serve as reminder notes.

Evernote. This is a free information handling program that lets you copy and store all your information in one place as you surf the web, think of notes to jot down, or share information with colleagues. I use it with my sermon preparation and it's wonderful.

Okay, so there are my basic programs and as of this morning, my computer was running fast, smooth, and efficient. I am so glad I took the time to do this--hopefully I'll get another couple of years or so out of my computer before there is any need to upgrade to a fancier unit. (Heh heh, I just said, "unit" - is one ever too old to quote Beavis and Butthead?)