December 26, 2005

Merry We-Ass.

Unless I'm crazy (resist, Anonymous -- resist lest I smite you with veggies and beer gas), people are getting really nuts with this whole, "I won't say 'Happy Holidays.' We're all Christians, and it's 'Merry Christmas' in America" crap this year. An un-named Scout leader for whom I have massive respect told his troop that last week, and I almost respectfully slugged him in the throat. The BSA is a fundamentally non-denominational organization, just like the good old U S of A. They have the coveted religious medal for all sorts of non-Christian denominations. And, much to the dismay of people who buy their religion at Wal-Mart along with a crate of cupcakes, there is no such thing as "Christianity." If we are a Christian nation, what kind of Christian nation are we? Catholic? Russian Orthodox? Like I said to a nice and reasonable -- although moderately radical -- member of the Right whom I love like a family member, if the religious Right didn't have the Godless Liberals (Godless and bearded! Oh my!) to fight against, they'd just be fighting against one another over who's right. You know, there is no "Christian" position on the birth of Christ that has the same implications for all Christian faiths. Same Bible, different interpretation. The whole American Christian Christmas does not exist. There is no such thing as an American Christianity as a whole of everyone who puts their faith in Jesus anyway. Take the gay marriage issue off the table, and I know some Baptists with some nasty things to say about Catholics, and vice versa. And any intelligent, scholarly or non-lazy person willing to do some research (or to at least watch The History Channel) knows that Christmas was never intended to be a Christian holiday. It had nothing to do with the birth of Christ. It predates him. And it is only recently a Christian holiday even in the United States. So take that my super white cupcake brethren. You're wrong. The whole "I wouldn't get offended if someone said 'Happy Chanukah' to me" thing is complete bullshit from anyone I've heard say it. If one is so narrow-minded and evangelical, this person would most certainly take offense at another religion. The insistence on saying "Merry Christmas" and meaning "Happy Christian Holiday" to a non-Christian indicates a closed mind and an implicite judgment. It's borderline violence if you ask me. The whole argument that starts from the supposed fact that "most" Americans believe the same thing (which is absolutely false anyway) and ends that the rest of us should suck it up and go along is abominable. Most of us are white, too. Should everyone else (and by that I mean everyone who's not a boring white person) go away or just "act white" the best way they can? Come on, are we really that stupid? Add this up to the long list of reasons (kept in a fancy notebook of course) of why I hate white people. Even the white dude I happen to be. But that might be a joke. I don't really hate anyone. Or everyone. Or whatever. And didn't "Happy Holidays" used to mean both "Merry Christmas" and "Happy New Year" anyway?

December 20, 2005

Baggage.

I suppose this is a busy time of year and that not a lot of folks are really reading blogs. Add to that the small number of nice folks (YOU!) who read this blog, and you get the idea that blogging this week might be in vain. I'm glad that things are hectic and that the year is closing. I started this year with a lot of baggage and issues and crazies and obsessions and compulsions, etc. Mazda drama. No more Mazda. Focus drama. Moving drama. Getting rid of car altogether drama. Getting a little in shape challenge. Spinning my wheels academically. Personally. Not reading enough. Not working enough. Not going outside enough. I'll go ahead and say that 2005 is not my favorite year and that I'll be very glad to see it over. So glad I'm thinking about it a week and a half before 2006 starts. I'm ending 2005 in slightly better physical shape. With new ideas, academically. The resolution to read more, explore more, write more, draw more and to live more. A six-week with no trimming save the uni-brow (at the request of the Mrs.) beard that is far redder than the hair on my head -- yeah, like Santa in training beard. A dedication to leading a simpler lifestyle that's been working very well for the last three weeks. Recognition that I've wasted a whole year that I can't get back and the determination that I won't do it again, at least not this year. I'm not sure how I feel about New Year's Resolutions. I made one in 2003 to go totally vegan, and it lasted until late August, when I moved to Southern Illinois. I vowed to quit smoking several times, but that only worked when I quit on a whim in June 2002. Last year, I swore to myself that I would get in shape. That's only started to work lately. I think I'll be setting myself up for more self loathing if I have a resolution this year. But we'll see. Depends on libations and eating that night. Who knows? But I think I already have the implicit resolution to just make 2006 better than 2005 was. And I'm getting a running start already.

December 18, 2005

Chicago is awesome, etc.

Here we are, in Balitmore City. The train from Chicago to Washington wound up running over five hours late. This is more the fault of the gubmint who values freight over people, outside of the "Northeast Corridor" than Amtrak. And the ride through the mountains of Western PA, MD and WV was more than enough to put one in a nice holiday mood. I mean, I've lost no love for the rail. It's still my pal and buddy, and I would buy Amtrak a coffee or beer if I could. So it was cloudy all day in Chicago, but it did snow a ton, which as awesome and cool and a nice change from too-warm Carbondale. Not to mention that I'm a city boy at heart. My friend says it's weird that someone who likes Thoreau so much would be a city boy, but I think my appreciation for the "outdoors" comes from living in cities my whole life. Now that I don't, I don't appreciate the clean air, the stars and the trees. I suppose it's a defect in me that I need to be deprived of something in order to appreciate it's value, but I think I share that malady with much of our species. I'm certainly not the first one to notice that. I'll write more about Chicago later. I'm busy enjoying the company of my family now, and I'm going shopping with one of my brothers today. Thanks for sticking around though. Love you.

December 17, 2005

Photo Friday: Depth of Field.

Old Union Station. Chicago, Illinois. USA. A little late, my entry for Photo Friday: Depth of Field.

December 14, 2005

Leaving on a wet train.

Make a song out of that! We're out of here in a few hours for a 3:16 a.m. train to Chicago. A little layover to kick around The Windy City and then a train from Chicago tomorrow that gets into Washington, DC Friday around noonish. Then a MARC train to Penn Station in Baltimore City. Home. Yeah, it would seem like this is more complicated than getting into the car and just driving, but no. It's not. I get to sit and read and write and listen to music. That's awesome. I don't have to psyche myself up to being a driving machine all night or all day or at all. Don't have to worry about the fact that I'm tired -- probably won't even try to sleep tonight. This kind of travel makes me excited, not stressed out. Trains are the slowest way to travel from here to Baltimore, and the most expensive. But totally worth it. Totally. See ya'll this weekend.

Bottom.

I think I've been letting down some folks lately. Just thought I'd mention that. You know who you are. I am very sorry. Seriously. I am one of those people who can really take his friends for granted, and considering his semi-reclusive/academic lifestyle situation, he's lucky to have good friends. If you're in Baltimore, I'll make it up to you at the Hon Bar or One World Cafe'. If not, I'll send you some pencils. If not still, come to Carbondale, and we'll take a nice bike ride or walk around the lake nearby and confide in one another and be merry.

December 11, 2005

Setting semester.

You know, with the idea of moving, the car drama (and finally, the resolution thereof) and assorted lifestyle choices that had to be made, I hardly got a lick of work done this semester. True, I thought about my dissertation prospectus a lot. Save for the "works cited" pages, I think I could crank it out tomorrow morning if I had to. But I'm supposed to really be working harder on it. My wife passed her "hearing" last week. Oh, well. Next time. That tends to be how I work. Lots of mulling, and a quick write. I usually work on papers for a while and then write them in a few hours (Okay, more like all morning) -- ADD and the writing process at work. Whatever works. I'm almost a little sad about leaving Carbondale and the idea that this is the last holiday season we'll spend here. We went to dinner this week after the Mrs. became officially A.B.D. and walked back to campus at dusk. Waved to the nice guy at the bike shop downtown. Rode our bikes into the sunset and our warm little apartment. Then again, life my wife says, anyplace is nice this time of year. Maybe so, but I'll sure miss the view from the side of our "balcony" and front door. There are some gorgeous sunsets out here. That's the sunset from today in the photo. But if you're from Baltimore (and Hampden in particular) then you might be familiar with sitting in St. Mary's graveyard on Roland Avenue with some Dunkin Donuts coffee, watching the set over T.V. Hill. Can't be beat. And there's always my parents' back roof, at their house in Baltimore, where I'll be watching the sun set for a few weeks, starting Friday. I'm very excited for the trainride.

December 09, 2005

First snowfall.

I don't remember when, but I told you that there was an oak tree behind my apartment that never loses its leaves. And that I had photos from two years ago with snow to prove it. Well, here it is today. With the temperature in the teens and snow all around, with its leaves still attached. That's one persevering tree I tell you. It has the spirit that Thoreau talks about in "A Winter Walk" -- not shunning the unpleasant parts of nature, just because they are disagreeable to us. I know, this is weird coming from someone who cringes at the idea of leaving the house in 95 plus degree temperatures. Don't say it.

Photo Friday: Weight.

For Photo Friday: Weight. A freight train along the flood wall in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. March 2005. It's been a while since I did a Photo Friday. I wanted to take one of my bike in our old parking space for last week's "Experimental," but the weather didn't cooperate. It's good to be back. (Click image for a somewhat larger one.)

December 06, 2005

First bike photo.

My good buddy and bike champion Brian has been urging me to post some photos of my bike, especially since he's posted some of his wheels. There's always an excuse on my part. It's too dirty -- I'll do it after the tune-up at the bikeshop. It's raining -- I'll do it tomorrow when the sun's out. I'm too lazy -- no solution for that one. Well, here's one of the warning on the brakes. I'm not sure why it's there, since you can't exactly read it while you're riding. I guess the brakes are...complicated or something like that. I sure never mess with them and let the nice guys at the bikeshop (and I mean nice like I will hug them when we move because they rock) who know what they are doing adjust them. I know, I should take this stupid little sticker off, but I like it. Makes me feel dangerous.

December 04, 2005

"Drink this...

....it's good shit!" Statue in front of the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA. Really cool museum, but they do not allow cameras inside. Dang it. Went there the day after Thanksgiving. My old troop was going to take a trip to Frederickburg, VA, but only one kid was going to go, and let's just say all four of the leaders would love to leave him there. So we cancelled the "official" trip, and four of we leaders went to the museum in Harrisburg instead, on a very very cold and windy day. Stopped at the Amish market, where I found a cool red cedar pencil cup. Chinese food, then beer and cards that evening. Male bonding at its finest.

December 01, 2005

Decipher this.

We did it. We ain't got no car no more. [Bike photos coming soon.]

Later, bee otch car.

This was me saying "Don't let the door hit you where natural selection split you" to the Mazda last February. In the spirit of the death of the first Focus, etc. Drunk and cross-eyed and stressed out. A little bit of a beard. Long time readers and heroes of the useful will remember the stupid car drama of the last two and half years of my short life and how much of it was actually my own fault through a faulty worldview. It all ends tomorrow. I think we sign some papers, write a check for what we owe (after the dealer's check) -- which is more than I want to lose, but whatever; we start saving this week -- and leave. That's it. At least, I hope so. I suck at paperwork. We've had two weeks to really really think about this, 1,700 miles, etc. I have only driven the long trips to Baltimore since then. Didn't touch it in Baltimore for a week and a half, not even to get gas. Walked to the market since getting back to Illinois, which is actually faster. Same for biking to Faner Hall -- faster. Not to mention the lack of guilt and the nice cold air. We feel very good about this. Reminds me of how...romantic life was when we lived in Boston. A nice feeling, and a nice time of year to feel it. Between warm weather, car nonsense and personal failings, the fall just sucked this year. Hard. I'm trying to start winter off better. I should post a newer photo (or take one) of me saying "Kiss my bum" to this car. Which is (hopefully) going to be gone in like twelve hours. In protest of I forget what, I haven't shaved at all since November 4th -- not even my neck or uni-brow. That would be a fuzzy photo. I'll take a bike ride first, so I'll be sure to be smiling.