Blogger’s new look

Oh cool – allows you to access the cool new features. Let’s see if it makes Blogger any better to use than WordPress for composing and editing.


"Tomer" Simpson

Yes, I did go to see The Simpson’s Movie. Why do you ask?

More to the point, one of my friends turned me onto, a marketing site with a Simpsons and Burger King (Home of the Whopper) tie-in. You upload a picture and the “simpsonizer” scans it for facial characteristics and creates a Simpsonized likeness. I suspect that instead of creating something, it matches your pic up to one of many templates, to which you can make small customized changes.

Accordingly, I decided to post some pictures of my family. Above is my lovely wife of 17 long, long, wonderful years…
And my daughter, who has just discovered the online world and is now glued to the PC more than her father.

And this scruffy dude would be my son, who complained that I hadn’t done his pic when I first posted.

Death by Blog Meme

Getting tagged with a blog meme is a love/hate thing. On one hand, since most of them are left-over teenager “Truth or Dare” games, they’re a PITA. On the other hand, if nobody ever tags you, then you start to feel left out. Proof that some of us never seem to leave junior high school.

Anyway, Chris Garlington over at my new blog discovery (and not un-ironically named) “Death by Childrengot sucked into agreed to play along when he was tagged by themolk and decided to spread the misery over here. This is an interesting meme because instead of asking for your favorite ice cream flavor or to pick random embarrassing fact about yourself, this meme has one pick five posts that you feel identifies, or gets to the core of your blogging. For me, this is interesting because this blog barely even has five posts; I started this as an offshoot of my Masonic blog, The Tao of Masonry, when I started getting the itch to write about things that are a bit off the Masonic path. With that in mind, I’m going to list posts from both blogs.

In no particular order:

Marriage, Memorial Day, and the Kobayashi-Maru
For anyone who’s ever gone shopping without a safety net.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation – Part 2
I’m not crazy about flying. But I certainly prefer flying to falling out of the sky.

Auntie Em! Anti-M!
In which I finally admit to the secret world-wide Masonic konspiracy.” (One of my favorite posts)

Guarding the West Gate
Was Freemasonry really better in the “old days”?

Master of My Domain
What I did wrong – and how it was okay in the end – as Master of my Masonic Lodge.

I’m not sure if these are my best writings, but I think that they are all good examples of what I’m trying to do here.

No blog meme is complete without the tagging, of course, so I’m picking on:
Burning Taper, Pagan Temple, John Ratcliff, Chris, and Christian Ratliff

How I spent my summer vacation – Part 2

I know – where’s Part 1, right? Briefly, I flew down to the Orlando area where my wife and her family were having a reunion of sorts. I hung around trying to relax amidst the various family and friends who stopped in, left, came back, stayed for dinner, slept over, left, and returned with others.

People from large families know what I’m talking about. However, I’m from a small family, so this was foreign to me.

It was nice to see nieces and nephews, and the weather was pleasant, and I managed not to get sunburned. Right away that puts it in the Plus column.

But I’m not writing about the family vacation, I’m writing about how I ended it. Specifically, the part of it in which I spent circling a storm over White Plains, NY. on my way home.

The rest of my family was staying the rest of the week, but I came back for work. Early Wednesday afternoon I headed out to Orlando airport, dropped off a borrowed car, and headed into Terminal A to find the AirTran desk. My first inkling of trouble came when I discovered that AirTran was no longer in the A terminal; that morning they had officially moved their operations to the B side. So, a long healthy walk later, I got to wait in line for the privilege of getting half undressed in public in order to pass through the security gates. Amazingly, I managed not to set off any alarms; I usually forget an item – cell phone, Palm, souvenir bottle opener, etc. Having been deemed acceptable steerage, I got dressed, packed my things into my backpack, and wandered down the concourse looking for Gate 92 and my flight. I was still almost two hours early, a “personal best” for me.

My second inkling of trouble came when I couldn’t find Flight 673 listed anywhere. I waited in line by one of the AirTran counters, and when my turn came I asked about the flight. “Sir, 673 has been delayed because of weather.” You’re kidding, right? It’s a beautiful day out there. “No sir, the weather is in New York. They’re having some pretty bad thunderstorms.”



I bought a couple of computer magazines, and parked myself in a chair near the gate. Several hours later, they herded us onto the Boeing 717, and we took off around 6:00 pm. We made good time up to New York, and sitting on the right (starboard) side of the jet, I could see the outline of the Atlantic coast. After an hour or so, one of the babies a few rows behind me woke up and started screaming. That triggered a second baby, and the two of them dueled with their lungs for the next forty five minutes. What is it about baby screams that is so irritating? Anyway, I tried to close my eyes and rest for a bit, in spite of the noise. I managed to doze off for a few minutes, when I was woken by the annoying sunlight coming in the window.

Sunlight? Wait – I was on the wrong side of the plane to see the sun. Either that or we were flying south…

“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We are currently in a holding pattern while we await clearance to land. The weather is pretty bad down there right now, and they’re not allowing any landings. Don’t worry, we’ve got plenty of fuel to wait this out.”

So, it should come as no surprise to discover that an hour later, we were still circling. The captain came back on the intercom and explained that we still did not have clearance to land, so we were going to head back to a better terminal and figure out what to do. Forty five minutes later we were landing in Baltimore Washington airport, where we sat on the tarmac for close to an hour so AirTran could figure out what to do with us. Eventually they found a gate and a while later we were allowed to leave the plane. The terminal was empty, so we sprawled out on the chairs, and some people went hunting for vending machines. An hour later, the plane was refueled and we were herded back onto the plane…

… where we waited for yet another hour before being allowed to take off.

At some point the flight attendants thought to pass out snacks because most of the passengers were now long past dinner. They managed to rustle up 1/2 ounce bags of pretzels and some cinnamon flavored graham cookies. Served with either bottled water or soda, it was just enough to make the passengers hungry for an actual meal. The captain tried to call for a catering truck, but they had all gone for the night.

Now, I know that most of you are feeling pretty annoyed, if not downright aggravated just reading this. Few things can instill feelings of annoyance like air travel, mainly because the typical passenger has so little control over his environment. You can’t simply open the door and walk out, and a raging argument will now get you arrested by the TSA. At some point in the evening, I simply resigned my self to the idea that this was going to be a long night, and tried to relax. I diverted myself by reading the magazines I had picked up before the flight, playing with my phone, and reading on my Palm. I transcended the aggravation.

We made it to New York – again – without incident, where we circled the little airport in White Plains until about 3:00 am. Unfortunately, the ground crew had all gone home, so we waited – again – for another 45 minutes while the airport could find people who knew how to work the gate equipment. At nearly four in the morning we were released from bondage allowed to deplane and wander across the terminal to be united with our luggage.

If anyone is expecting some story about how our luggage ended up in San Francisco, or needing to be quarantined for a week, I’m sorry to disappoint you. My wheeled bag came around and I wrestled it off of the carousel and out the main doors, where the new commuters of the day were slowly beginning to filter in. I bid them a mental farewell, and lugged my 40 pound suitcase up several flights of stairs in the parking garage, and found my car in the same place that I’d left it five days earlier. I put the bag in the trunk, tossed the backpack on the passenger seat, and slid into the driver’s side, where I put the key into the ignition and turned the switch. The engine turned over.


I sat there in stunned disbelief. The battery had just enough juice to power the dashboard. I waited a few minutes and tried again. And again.


After pulling an all-nighter, this was almost enough to drag me down from my state of transcendency. I’ll admit that I was on the verge of getting pretty aggravated at that point. Somehow I managed to keep my cool, though, so I locked up the car and went back to the terminal. By now it was around 5:00am, and it was filling up with commuters. I managed to find a policeman, who explained that they did not have any emergency service and that I would have to call a tow truck. I told him that I had AAA, but he told me that AAA was not allowed in the parking garage, and that I would have to use the airport “approved” service. He made the call for me, and I went outside to wait.

And wait.

Having practiced waiting in a cramped airline seat, it was almost a pleasure to wait for a half hour on the sidewalk for the wrecker that eventually showed up. The driver – a young college student, I learned – explained that it was $70, cash preferred, and that he would not need to go into the garage as he had a portable battery booster. Ten minutes later my engine was running, and he cautioned me not to turn the engine off for the next half hour to give the battery a chance to charge. I determined that I had not left a door ajar or any lights running; we decided that the battery was simply old (five years, which is like 70 in human years) and should probably be replaced ASAP.

I thanked him, and began the hour and a half drive home to Connecticut. I was fully expecting to get a flat tire on the way home, but I made it back without further incident.

I Can Haz Sidecar?

For some reason known only to the gods of teh int3rw3bz, one of the most consistently popular blogs on WordPress is a place where people send in terminally cute pictures of cats (they allow token other animals, but it’s mainly a feline blog) that have been “capped” – tagged with sickeningly cutesy captions. The blog has spawned several parodies, and I can envision a time in the not-too-distant future when the phrase “I can has ___ ?” will be as ubiquitous as “All your ____ are belong to us.”

No, I’m not going to give you the name; I have no wish to be linked to it. Go to WordPress and find it yourself.

So it’s probably no surprise that when my Harley-riding, camera-wielding sister sent this out, it was the first thing that popped into my head.

The dog’s name, by the way, is Polly.

Go ahead. Ask me.


Because she had a parrot named Rover, of course.

Just to show that my sister really is not a crazy cat dog lady, here’s the link to her own websites:

Shoot Photography
The World in Black & White

One-Day Blog Silence

Here’s something that I ran across this morning:

Silence can say more than a thousand words.

This day shall unite us all about this unbelievable painful & shocking event and show some respect and love to those who lost their loved ones.

On April 30th 2007, the Blogosphere will hold a One-Day Blog Silence in honor of the victims at Virginia Tech. More then 30 died at the US college massacre.

But it´s not only about them. Many bloggers have responded and asked about all the other victims of our world. All the people who die every day. What about them?

This day can be a symbol of support to all the victims of our world!

All you have to do is spread the word about it and post the graphic on your blog on 30th April 2007. No words and no comments. Just respect, reflect and empathy.

Spread the word about this event:

One Day Blog Silence


My first reaction was “Cool, I’m in.”

But then I read the text again. Originally conceived to show support for the tragic and horrible Virginia Tech shooting victims, the One-Day Silence now is trying to be an “all things to all people” vehicle.


This is what jumped out at me a few minutes ago:

“Many bloggers have responded and asked about all the other victims of our world. All the people who die every day. What about them?”

I can’t believe this. Thirty two young people were gunned down for no reason by a psychopath, and now “many bloggers” want to hijack a tribute for them into some kind of emotional appeal that is so wide reaching that it completely dilutes the original substance. The only thing that’s missing is for Rev. Lovejoy’s wife to stand up and ask “But what about the children? Will someone please think of the children?”

It’s too bad that the ODBS people responded by suggesting that

“This day can be a symbol of support to all the victims of our world!”

Not that victims of other circumstances should be ignored, of course. I believe, as John Donne said “Every man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind.” But why take an event for a very specific cause and then open it up so wide that it becomes virtually meaningless?

How much better if the ODBS originators had politely told the “many bloggers” who asked “What about the others?” something like this: “We appreciate your concern for the deaths of so many others, and we therefore encourage you to open a blog account and spread the word. Let us know if you need any help. In the meantime, we are taking this opportunity to show our sympathy and respect to the family and friends of thirty two people who should be alive today.”

The deaths of thirty two, or even thirty two thousand unknown victims must pale beside the anguish one feels over the death of a single loved one. This is why I think that the way to show your support for those who lost their loved ones is to reach out to those people – in whatever way you believe appropriate – and not turn it into what is essentially an empty gesture.

Blogster Against Idiocracy

Some of my brother Freemasons have joined the online movement “Blog Against Theocracy,” which ostensibly supports the ideals of maintaining the political firewall between church and state. I write “ostensibly” because in backtracking the various links, I’ve noticed a few things that gave me pause for reflection.

For one thing, the logo proposed for the “Blogswarm Against Theocracy”, designed by Mock, Paper, Scissors shows the US Statue of Liberty holding a large cross, with the international red “No” crossed circle around it. Okay, that’s cool, but what this tells me is that this is not about theocracy in general. Nobody is protesting the Sharia in the various middle-Eastern or Asian countries. I live in an area of the US with a lot of Jewish citizens, but I never hear the term “right-wing Jewish Fundamentalist”. Rather, this is about keeping (presumably) fundamentalist Christians out of American politics. Fair enough. I guess “Blogswarm Against Theocracy” is a catchier, umm, catch-phrase thingy then “Keep the Christian Fundies out of Government.”

I keep seeing the term “Democracy” bandied about, but I think that some of us miss the point: If a number of people in an area get together, vote en masse to elect politicians in agreement with their cause, and manage to change local laws to reflect their beliefs, well, isn’t that democracy?

Yes, this is not a perfect analogy, but the point is that people tend to get the government that they deserve. If you and the other people in your area do not make your views known to the local politicians – loudly and clearly, then the politicians will listen to those who do manage. No, it’s not “fair” in the sense that we would like to think that people have a reasonable expectation to not have repressive laws passed without representation, but it is fair in another sense to the people in a community who manage to make their views known to the legislature. That’s the problem with a democracy – it’s meant to be a form of representative government, but politicians themselves keep tweaking the system to get the votes. The only groups that can “win” are those who manage to tweak the politicians.

Look, I have nothing against the general concept of what “Blogswarm Against Theocracy” is trying to portray. In fact, I agree with the concept. I would like to see religious fundamentalists keep their ideals where they belong – in their communities. But by the same token, I also would like to see most other groups not force their personal ideals on the general populace. I maintain that the BAT people have got it slightly wrong; the real threat to our liberty is from those who are already infiltrated into our political system.

By that, I mean the politicians and their supporters. More specifically, the politicians who get elected and re-elected by promising things to voters that can only be given by taking things from one group and giving to another.

You’re worried about religious intolerance? Barely a week goes by without a news report of an innocent civilian wounded during a police raid on the wrong home. Recently, a 70-something woman was shot because she brandished a shotgun at what she thought were intruders during a drug raid gone bad. Another home was raided twice in the same day as police got both the address and the name wrong.

You’re worried about your neighbors having a problem with your views on religion? The “war against terror” has made business and vacation travel more costly and inconvenient as middle-aged suburbanites are hauled out of lines to be stripped of their nail-clippers and cork screws. The “war” has led to laws and edicts that tighten up on public security at the expense of the privacy of law-abiding citizens.

You’re concerned about your children having to study Intelligent Design? In several large US cities, the food police have outlawed certain food products, not because they are poisonous, but because over-indulgence can lead to heart disease.

You don’t want religious-based morals to interfere with a woman’s right to choose? Your right to choose what to do with your body has already been compromised in Orwellian ways. Most states have passed anti-smoking laws for public places, and some states have now passed anti-smoking laws for private places, as well. Not content to stop there, some towns have banned smoking in your home if you live in a multi-family dwelling. Some areas are even passing legislation to ban smoking in your car.

You don’t want certain religious groups vilifying your way of life? The perils of smoking and high-fat diets are being vilified in much the same way that alcohol was done right before the Prohibition. But more than that, some communities are looking toward regulating cell phone use, or the hours that teenagers can be at the local mall, or your the colors that you can paint your house. The color? Hell, thanks to the city of New London, CT, some people are now worried that the local government will simply take their house and hand over the land to any developer that promises to “benefit the community” by way of increased tax revenues.

Instead of protesting against minority religious groups, I’d like to see those energies directed toward blogging about the situations in which our freedom is already compromised.

To that end, I propose a blogswarm against idiocracy.

Anybody out there interested?