Archive for October, 2006

Thanksgiving approaches!

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. It doesn’t have all the gift-buying tension of Christmas, but it still gets the family together.  For years, we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving jointly with our friends the Lillys, but this year Walt’s mother is having hip replacement surgery, so they’ll be out of town.  Added to the fact that Hannah and Sophie are both unable to get home for it, it was looking like a pretty sad little celebration — me, Robin, and Cabell, sitting around a table with a roasted Cornish Game Hen on it.

I was moping, so Robin told me to call my sister Gerry and see if we could have Thanksgiving with them.  Handily enough, when I asked what she was doing, it turns out they were bemoaning the absence of her daughter Paige and her family, which left them with only 6 for dinner.  The outcome is that we’re all excited to get together.  Cabell flies in on Tuesday, and Wednesday afternoon we’ll head to New Orleans (okay, really Pearl River) to have fun with Ralph and Gerry.  I’m really looking forward to it.

I love fall

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

After days of rain, this morning it was clear and crisp.  I puttered around the house, made french toast for me and Robin, then made some banana bread.  About 3 PM I went out for a bike ride.  There was a pretty strong breeze from the northwest, so I headed out west through Oak Ridge, and turned north on B.

Cow at the intersection of E and B, a couple of miles south of Daisy.
I usually go through Daisy and turn around somewhere in the area, but today I thought I’d check out highway AA west from Daisy.  I knew it was a spur that didn’t connect to any paved roads, so it would just be an out-and-back.  But I had the idea it was only a mile or so; actually it turned out to be almost 5 miles.  It goes through Critesville, according to Mapquest, although I didn’t know there was a town there when I went through.  The leaves were beautiful everywhere, and I stopped on a one-lane bridge over Caney Fork to take a picture.

Caney Fork.

The pavement ends and the road turns to gravel right about at the Bollinger County line, and that’s where I turned around.  It was a great ride back with a strong tailwind.  The only real problem with fall is that it doesn’t last very long.  Another couple of weeks and the leaves will all be on the ground.

Traditional Torture

Friday, October 27th, 2006

I missed this when it first came out, but saw it today in the Christian Century.  Back in mid-September John McCain was opposing the Bush administration by trying to pass restrictions on the use of torture in interrogation (later he folded disappointingly).  Louis Sheldon, head of the Traditional Values Coalition, said of the issue that “This is very definitely going to put a chilling effect on the tremendous strides [McCain] has made in the conservative evangelical community.”

Because, as we all know, torture is a traditional value, and as Jesus said in the sermon on the mount, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also, unless you think he might be a terrorist, in which case go ahead and torture the bastard.”

Rush, Michael J. Fox, and public discourse

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

By now everybody has seen Michael J. Fox’s ads for candidates, such as Claire McCaskill, who support stem cell research.  And pretty much everybody has heard about Rush Limbaugh’s attack on Fox as a faker.  Limbaugh is disgusting as usual; the man has no interest in truth or decency, but only in spewing his own prejudices.  Fox, as it turns out, is on a medication, levodopa, which helps counteract muscular rigidity, but causes involuntary movements as a side effect.  Limbaugh offered one of those “non-apologies” that are so universal these days — “If I was wrong, I apologize” — but then the next day reaffirmed what he had said.

Limbaugh seems to think that it’s appropriate to mock and denigrate someone with a very serious disease because he holds an opinion different from Limbaugh’s.  That’s not political discourse; it’s just slander, and it’s shameful.  David Kuo, former advisor to George W. Bush on “faith-based initiatives”, and author of “Tempting Faith”, takes other religious leaders to task in his blog for failing to criticize Limbaugh over this incident.

Of course, Limbaugh can say whatever he wants.  But his behavior is symptomatic of the real problem with political discourse today; instead of a dialogue about the issues, we get personal attacks.  The same is manifestly true of political advertising, in which both candidates use smears and half-truths to slander each other.

Here’s the real question: what’s the ethical status of a blastocyst? 

A blastocyst is a pre-embryo, source of embryonic stem cells.  It’s a hollow ball of a few dozen cells, some of which (in the inner cell mass, marked “ICM” in this illustration) will go on to form an embryo if the blastocyst implants in the uterine wall.

If it’s a person, then sacrificing it for the sake of research is clearly improper; it can’t be justified to kill one person for the potential to save others.

If it’s not a person, but rather something with the potential possibly to become one, then its ethical status is less than that of a person, and maybe it’s appropriate to sacrifice such a “possible future person” for the benefit of full persons now alive.

Probably most people, when pressed on the issue, don’t actually think that a blastocyst is a person.  Others do, generally on religious grounds.  However, the issue never seems to be approached in this way.  If only it were, we could have a genuine discussion, instead of a mud-wrestling match, and that in itself would be a very good thing for the health of the nation.

Not that it’s a surprise or anything…

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

but the Bush administration just flat-out lies to us constantly.

News Flash! Bush uses the Google!

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

Hear him here.  He actually apparently uses Google Earth, which he can’t remember the name of, and perhaps confuses it with “the Google”.  In any case, he’s tech-savvy, all right.

Taum Sauk

Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

Sometimes you get rewarded just for being stubborn.  This morning I got up and it was 40 degrees and overcast out, with a strong north wind.  I seriously considered wimping out of the Taum Sauk ride, but I decided that as long as I’d resolved to do it, I should go.  There were only five of us, as it turned out.  But by the time we got to Marble Creek for the start of the ride, it was clear and sunny.  Still a bit brisk, but I brought my full gloves and jacket, so no big deal.
The fall color is pretty close to its peak.  Here I am on Highway 21, right near the turnoff to Taum Sauk.

And here’s Rick Brindell on the lookout tower at the top of Taum Sauk:

We got back to Marble Creek, had a beer, and headed home.  By the time we got back, it was overcast again.  All in all, a great day.

More on Foley

Friday, October 20th, 2006

As posted yesterday, I went to high school with Florida former congressman Mark Foley.  So I dug up my old yearbooks, and lo and behold, I found him in my Lake Worth Junior High yearbook from 1969:

He would have been around 13 at the time — in other words, this is when he was being molested by the priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

In the interest of full disclosure, here’s me in 9th grade, same yearbook:

I’m hoping this was just a really bad picture.

Yet another brush with notoriety

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

Well, it turns out that Mark Foley was molested by a priest as a teenager, as we’ve all heard.  And of course, that this doesn’t “excuse anything”.   But now he’s named the priest involved, who, it turns out, was a priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Lake Worth, Florida.  My home town.

A quick check of my “Lake Worth Community High School Alumni Directory” reveals that I went to high school with Mark Foley.  He was a year behind me.  I don’t remember him, but that’s not a big surprise — it was a big high school.

Nevertheless, there you have it. The man whose inability to control himself around congressional pages may help hand both houses of Congress over to the Democrats is my homie.   I feel a sort of quiet pride.

Taum Sauk Ass-ault Part Deux

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

Yes, it’s time once again for the event that epitomizes testosterone poisoning, the Taum Sauk Ass-ault (note postmodernist language game in the name.  Subtle, eh? Just for the record, I didn’t name it).  As in the previous one, we will again ride bikes to the highest point in the state, Taum Sauk mountain (elevation 1775 ft).  This time we’ll have a different course, though, which should avoid some of the traffic we encountered last time.

We’ll start at Marble Creek campground on highway E, and take E up to MO 21; then MO 21 SW to MO CC, which goes to the top of Taum Sauk.  Total distance one way, 18.7 miles.  There are a couple of half-mile sections on CC that are about 9.5% grade.  Here’s a ride profile, for those who are interested.
We meet at 9 AM Sunday at Cape Bicycle.  I’m not in quite as good condition as I was when we did it last time, but this is pretty much the last gasp before cold weather really starts cutting into outdoor training.