Monthly Archives: June 2008

Oh, Costco, how I loathe thee….

Yes, I have a Costco card. I have two teenagers; if I didn’t buy meat & milk in bulk, they’d stage food riots.

It isn’t that I hate the place. The store, in and of itself, is really rather a neat idea. Where else could I get a gallon vat of garlic olive oil, 20lbs of frozen orange ruffie and enough aluminum foil to make hats for 1,000 conspiracy theorists all in the same place? They even sell coffins. I’m tellin’ ya, they got everything.

So why, you ask, do I feel such a sense of dread at the prospect of spending half my paycheck in what should (for me, one of the world’s happiest shop-a-holics) be a joyful money spending experience? Let me tell you.

We start with the parking lot. No, even before the parking lot, as Costco is the second left turn off the freeway. Meaning that everyone is darting around everyone else, jockeying for position in order to NOT be at the back of the huuuuuge two lane line of people queued up to get in to the megaparking lot. Unless you’re going to the gas station, which is a category all its own, and I just do not have the strength to talk about it today. So. You enter the parking lot, which covers about three times as much space as the store. There are spaces everywhere, mostly hidden by the behemoth SUV’s which comprise the vast majority of vehicles in the parking lot. However, none of that matters to the people circling the same four aisles directly in front of the store, cruising like giant land whales waiting for a space to open up, and expending more fuel in the parking lot than they took to get there in the first place. So, I take a spot outside those four crucial aisles, grab a super sized cart, and make my way in with the rest of the cattle people lined up waiting to get inside.

Okay. We’re now inside. Aisles open up to the left, the right, and straight ahead. So what do people do when they first get inside? That’s right. They stop. Look around. And discuss with their SO/children/parents what they’re looking for. MOVE!! DAMMIT!! GET OUT OF THE WAY, THERE ARE PEOPLE BEHIND YOU! We navigate around them and move on, saving our ire for later because people standing in the middle of the damn aisle, oblivious to the dirty looks and muttered comments are all too frequent in Costco. Kitchen gadgets on the left, patio furniture on the right, meat aisle coming up ahead.

There is a special circle of hell reserved for the people who frequent the meat aisle at Costco, and by all that is holy, I will be the one to deliver their eternal torment. I walk calmly up and reach for a package of ground beef. Before I get less than two feet to the counter, a vindictive angry woman SHOVES her cart in front of me, gives me a look normally reserved for lepers or child molesters, and proceeds to shove her huge ass between me and the meat counter. I expect to hear a loud beeping noise as she backs up, effectively blocking everyone from the ground beef. I understand her consternation; after all, the butcher had just stocked the ground beef five minutes prior, and there were only a hundred or so of the six pound packages. She could’ve gone through those all on her own. I wait, and she flounces off. I grab a package and move on to the fruit where, oddly, I have very little competition while choosing produce.

Deep breath. On to the next hurdle; the frozen food aisles. These are actually wide enough to accommodate several carts across. The aisles themselves aren’t the issue. No. It is the end of the aisles, where Costco employees have set up hot plates and sample displays, that we encounter gridlock. And why? BECAUSE, DAMMIT! Parents feed their kids LUNCH at those sample trays! They go from one to the other, back and forth, over and over, and they park their carts RIGHT IN FRONT, effectively blocking the aisles, refusing to move lest anyone get an inch in front of them closer to the FREE FOOD!!! RUDE. ASS. JERKS!! If you’re going to wait for the food, fine! Move your cart out of the damn way, and STAND IN LINE! I WANT TO GET THE OVERPRICED MAHI MAHI, AND YOUR STUPID CART IS BLOCKING THE AISLE!!

*Wheeze…gasp*…. Okay. Nearly there. On our way to the queue, where OH YOU STUPID LITTLE BRAT, where is your mother, and does she have enough of the Brawny paper towels from the cleaning supply aisle to wipe up your blood when I dismember you for spilling your five samples of chocolate frozen yogurt all over my new shoes?! GAH!! GET ME OUT OF HERE! To the queue, where they don’t actually bag any of the groceries, and I have to ask for a box for the smaller items, but at this point, I don’t care because I just want OUT!

$240 and 14″ of receipt later, I am on my way to the door, stopping every so often because the daft cow in front of me has to stop at the food cart for a mega slice of greasy pizza and tub of diet coke for $2.99 before continuing on to the door, where some kid who barely looks old enough to count to ten checks the merchandise in my cart against my receipt. “Crown Royal, huh?” “Yep.” “Party at your house?” “No, it’s my gift to myself for making it through here without killing anyone.”

Pushing my cart along, navigating beyond the first four aisles where the same idiots are STILL circling for a spot, to my car. Load up and take the cart back. Come back and find three vehicles all waiting for my spot, wedged so close I have no hope of backing out. Eventually they figure this out, and back off. I pull out and narrowly avoid getting clipped by the winner, heading for the exit and home, the whiskey strapped safely in the passenger seat behind me.

Faith linked to IQ?

Gotta love The Register. University researcher Richard Lynn is trying to draw a direct correlation between intelligence (or lack thereof) and religious faith.

Lynn pointed out that most children do believe in God, but as their intelligence develops they tend to have doubts or reject religion. Similarly, as average IQ in Western societies increased through the 20th century, so did rates of atheism, he said.

It’s a bold statement, and I’ll be interested to see the follow up to the assertion. I admit that the first things I look for in posts by religious adherents are poor grammar and spelling; it seems inevitable.

There is no doubt that there are people who are both religious and intelligent. The doctor’s statement, however, looks not at individuals, but larger numbers; higher IQ generally speaks to an inquisitive nature. Religion requires faith without questioning. When the word “why” is discouraged, so is learning.

Fox News reaches new low.

Racism and sexism all rolled into one! That’s right, in a move that can only be called breathtakingly stupid, Fox News actually put up the headline “

Outraged Liberals: ‘Stop Picking on Obama’s Baby Mama’

There simply aren’t words. Really. First we have Liz Trotta smirking that someone should “knock off Obama,” then there was the “terrorist fist jab” (really, that is my absolute favorite. Oh, you silly, silly white people. You couldn’t get any more racist without joining the KKK). Now Michelle Obama will heretofore be known on Fox News as Obama’s Baby Mama.”

Fox News has finally joined the ranks of the National Enquirer. It seems they’re aiming to come as close as possible to calling Obama an “uppity nigger” without using the actual words. The racism has become more and more rampant the closer the election gets.

Tim Russert has died.

I’m going to leave this in “uncategorized”…certainly there are plenty of blogs recognizing the passing of Tim Russert. I, like those people, simply felt I could not allow the occasion to go unnoticed.

While CNN & Fox News battled back and forth for ratings and outrageous stories, Tim Russert and Meet the Press (and later, as bureau chief of MSNBC) went competently and quietly about the business of analyzing what was really happening inside Washington DC politics.

Anything I say at this point would merely be reiteration. In an arena that now screams partisanship, his objectivity was a welcome relief. He will be sadly missed and fondly remembered.

He doesn’t have enough experience!!

It’s about all the Republicans have in their arsenal against Barack Obama. Okay. Let’s discuss “lack of experience” as it applies to the job of President of the United States.

Job experience prior to becoming POTUS means precisely dick. Yes, I said it. It’s worthless. The only people who can arguably be said to have any experience are presidents running for re-election. Certain jobs simply cannot be guaged by previous experience. President is one of them, as are police officer, fire fighter, soldier and surgeon. Because until one is in that position, it’s impossible to predict what reactions, what decisions one will make.

Let’s see:

Bill Clinton had no experience as a Senator or Representative prior to being elected Governor of Arkansas in 1978.

George H.W. Bush had 4 years of experience as a Representative before being plunked on the ticket as vice-president in 1980.

Ronald Reagan had 8 years experience as governor of California prior to becoming President. I don’t believe he held an elected political position prior to becoming governor.

Jimmy Carter had 4 years experience as a governor of Georgia before becoming President.

Gerald Ford was a Representative for 24 years.

Let’s not forget our current president, whose years as governor of Texas led to the biggest presidential fail in modern history.

What executive experience has John McCain had? If “being governor” is the acid test, what was McCain governor of? Lack of executive experience applies to both candidates here, and to attempt to assert otherwise is to attempt to ignore certain rather important facts.

Let’s move on to the next issue, then. “He’s ELITIST!”

OMG! You mean….he can read? And believes in education? Look, call me silly, but I don’t care if he’s someone I can have a beer with or not. What I care about, and this may sound a bit arbitrary to you, is whether he understands the economy. If he understands foreign policy. Has ideas on how to fix our crumbling infrastructure, bring our troops home, and how to fix our national health care crisis. Maybe I’m elitist too, but I think those things are a hell of a lot more important than whether or not a candidate would be seen at an Applebee’s salad bar (when they get around to actually having them in their restaurants).

Court rules on Guantanamo, Bush pouts & whines

The SCOTUS ruled today in favor of Gitmo detainees, stating that they have the right to challenge their cases in US courts. President Bush, on his “Farewell tour” in Europe, reacted rather predictably:

“We’ll abide by the court’s decision,” Bush said during a news conference in Rome. “That doesn’t mean I have to agree with it.”

“It was a deeply divided court, and I strongly agree with those who dissented,” Bush said. “And that dissent was based upon their serious concerns about U.S. national security.”

As usual, what Mr. Bush failed to grasp was that the SCOTUS isn’t there to uphold his personal opinions about national security. The SCOTUS is there to interpret the Constitution, and whether or not the cases brought before it reflect the Constitution, or are in violation of it. In this case….well, duh. It is not lawful to detain people without charging them. It is not lawful to withhold due process, or a trial in front of a jury of one’s peers.

This is no longer about national security, if it ever was. It’s about an insistence of the unitary executive; a concept so deeply flawed that it has divided and fractured our country’s political landscape to the extent that it will take decades to mend. Last time I checked, the entire reason this country exists is because we decided a “unitary execuitve” doesn’t work.

Since Reagan, the SCOTUS has been used as a political football (possibly even earlier, but it became more evident during the Reagan administration). It seems the term “activist judges” is only applicable when decisions are made with which one disagrees. But the fact remains, our President is under the impression that congress and the Supreme Court exist only to make and interpret laws of which he approves.

November can’t come fast enough.

Atheism: Lamp or Blowtorch?

There is a pervasive stereotype in our society that all atheists are “angry” and “unreasonable.” There are certainly easy enough examples to which we can point: Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris…the list goes on. And while I admire these men and the work they’ve done…they seem to create a backlash that sometimes makes open debate and its original intent (finding common ground through argument and discussion) more difficult.

There are those who would say that the animosity is fostered by the constant type of insult and refusal to acknowledge one’s beliefs to which theists so often lay claim, as well as an insistence that we should not have to show respect for anyone’s claims if they can’t offer a shred of verifiable evidence. Those people have a point, but I think mine trumps it.

Facts are not enough to persuade a person from firmly held beliefs. “Well, they should be!” you exclaim, wrinkling your nose at the thought of how people could be so silly.  But we don’t live in a world of shoulds our oughts. We live in a world of humans, and human beings are arbitrary emotional animals (yep, said animals. We are, whether we want to acknowledge that or not). And as such, we adhere to our beliefs with…well, no other way to say it…religious zeal. Like many subjects, we have invested a great deal of emotion in our beliefs, and to be told that belief, that emotion is baseless is a very deep and personal insult.

Nor do I believe it is possible to truly “convert” anyone, either to atheism or theism. It is a thing one must come to on one’s own. My mother has been trying to instill Christianity in my skull and my heart since I was able to open my eyes. It never really took. The questions I had when I was 5 became louder, more insistent, and more complex as (in my eyes) the self contradictions in the bible became more and more evident. Likewise, someone so steeped in belief that faith is “knowing” will dig their heels in deeper when we attempt to dissuade.

So, then….where next? There are those who say we must stamp out religion. I don’t think that will ever come to pass, given Dr. Dawkins’ and Dr. Hamer’s work which now shows that we are genetically “hardwired” toward spirituality. On the other hand, I do think it’s possible to point out the inconsistencies in any religion and question them. Someone recently said to me that questions go further than assertions. One is a request for information, the other a line in the sand.

Do I think it’s ridiculous to take on faith the words of a Bronze-age cow worshiping nomadic tribe barely capable of finding their way out of a desert over that of respected 21st c. geneticists and scientists? Well of course, but I’m already an atheist. I don’t need convincing.

It’s easy to reduce people to things. Just attach a label to them, and they cease being people, merely other causes against which we rail. I think we’d reach more people with reason. Which is not to say we should endure insult or derision, so much as maybe we (collectively, atheists AND theists) shouldn’t try so hard to find it.

One More Reason Gay Marriage Makes sense.

I recently added a comment to someone’s blog regarding Gay Marriage and the inevitable “slippery slope” argument. While such arguments aren’t always fallacies, it’s usually the way to bet, especially when coupled with the emotional tag line “Won’t someone think of the chillllldrrrrreeeeeeeennnnnnnnn!!!” I responded to each point and hit enter, not at all confident that my comment would be approved. As it turns out, I was quite correct in my trepidation; the person to whom I posted was not only incorrect in their assertions, they were stubbornly closed to any disagreement.

Fortunately, I have this article to put forth yet another reason gay marriage is a brilliant success. It works economically. We have the potential of seeing nearly $700M infused into the state’s flagging economy over the next three years, as well as adding over 2100 new jobs. Considering the way the economy’s going right now, that’s nothing to sneeze at.

While this certainly helps to put yet another nail in the coffin of discrimination against the GLBT community, I do wonder if even pragmatism and cold facts will persuade where reason has failed. Anti gay groups are now grasping at straws, oblivious to the fact that it’s simply no longer a tenable position.

Cloned meat “bad,” says superstitious public.

Alright, I may be going a bit overboard in my reaction to the reaction against meat from cloned animals. But really, that reaction is knee jerk at best and stubbornly ignorant at worst.

“Cloned meat” (as it’s being called) is nothing more than the next step in how we, as a growing population, continue to manage to feed ourselves. Cloned animals have nothing genetically wrong with them. They are not missing anything, nor do they have anything “extra” that the animal from which they were cloned did or did not have. It is the exact. Same. Meat. And no. It isn’t like making a copy of a copy of a copy til everything is “all out of whack.” I’m sorry. It simply does not work that way, no matter what the last sci fi show you watched may have said.

Look, whether you like the idea or not, we have been eating genetically engineered food for as long as anyone can remember. Those breeding programs to make the biggest hens, or the best tomatoes or insect resistant crops? What do you think that is? That’s right. Genetic engineering. This is simply the next logical step. It will not turn your children into raging psychopaths or make everyone sick or mutate the human population into some sort of mad cow-man weirdos when the moon is full. It’s okay. Really.

And because Ben Stein gets on my ever lovin’ last nerve….

And I actually had an email argument with someone about it this morning (my god-fearing cousin), so I’m ranting.

It’s been fairly common knowledge for a while now that the movie distorts facts and sneers at any scientific theory that doesn’t have God in it, but I had no clue it would resort to Godwinizing itself.

That’s right. Ben Stein actually said that Darwin’s theory of evolution is responsible for the Holocaust. “What, the Ben Stein?” you ask, all flummoxed at the idea of an obviously intelligent individual actually making such a ridiculous assertion. Yes, I respond, the same. He’s been making silly assertions for quite a while now. The Scientific American article states:

Ben Stein acts grief-stricken and the director juxtaposes quotes from evolutionary biologists with archival newsreel clips from Hitler’s Reich

Oh, the HUMANITY!!! How can scientists ever look god in the face? If he had one. Or even existed.

The main issue with the movie is, of course, that it isn’t actually science. It’s a propaganda film for ID, and doesn’t really bother to refute any scientific evidence with scientific evidence of its own so much as it mislabels evolutionary theory (Darwinism…I guess Mendelism or an -ism on the end of any of the other half dozen better known evolutionary scientists’ names just didn’t sound as good) and scientists (Darwinists. Because, y’know…that’s all any science that adheres to verifiable fact is really about. Darwin) and attempts to paint their work as faulty for lack of a deity.

At any rate. My cousin was trilling praises to the movie in her monthly newsletter to the family. She took her daughters to see it so they could know just how science “misleads us and attempts to lead us away from our father.” I’m still not sure how, exactly, since all science really does is present facts, but she was fairly insistent that science attempts to divorce us from god.

It went rapidly downhill from there. I hit “reply all” to make sure I had everyone in my entire family on the cc line as well as hers (after all, if you’re going to start a family war, do it big, I always say…) and sent a few links showing the critical flaws in ID, the absurd flaws in Expelled, and kindly requested that she take me off her mailing list if she was going to insist on sending out patently wrong information with which she knew very well I would take issue, as I would just have to call her out in front of the entire family again.

So far only two responses. One from my brother, who accused me of timing my email to perfectly coincide with his ingestion of his morning coffee and a request for $25 for a new ergonomic keyboard, and one from my sister who called me evil. But I think she meant it in a good way.