30 December 2008

Can I ask a favor?

In this, my last post of 2008, I am going to ask for your help on something that I really think is important. I am reposting this from an Archinect thread that I started earlier and an email that I sent, so some of you are going to see this more than once. I realize it's been a bad year, but if we can look forward to innovative ideas like this in 2009, then I think next year will be much better.

So, can I ask you guys to vote for this?

The 2030 Stimulus Plan

It involves you going to Change.org, signing up (it's free, of course), and voting. It's pretty simple. Normally I wouldn't bother everyone but the goals of this plan could be a game changer....briefly, here's a description:

Essentially what happened is Architect Ed Mazria (a dude behind some important work on climate change initiatives in our profession) went to the Obama transition team and laid a simple idea on the table: what if we give mortgage rate reductions to homeowners if they agree to drastically improve the energy efficiency of their homes? In my opinion, the idea is pretty awesome - it ultimately lowers expenses for homeowners while providing jobs to thousands of people who work on the renovations. Check out the example they cite in the plan, I think you'll be as impressed as I am....

So, if you don't mind signing up for the Obama Change machine (which is cool in and of itself), please vote! And please pass this on so it will make it to the next round. (I should mention that if you are tempted to vote for any of the other "Global Warming" ideas on Change.org, that basically cancels out your vote for this idea....)

Thank you for your time, and I hope everyone has a great 2009!

29 December 2008

Seat Warmer

Since I've returned home to Cincinnati for Winter Break this year, there have been a few themes:
  1. Getting to see everyone that I don't normally have the money to see the rest of the year.
  2. Actually getting work done! Achieving pre-determined goals = awesome.
  3. Catching up on movies I wanted to see, and movies I didn't know I wanted to see, and movies I never wanted to see....
That last category is really a great time-waster. Since arriving, I've managed to see...
  1. The Incredible Hulk: Good. But I'll watch anything with Edward Norton.
  2. Burn After Reading. Do NOT believe the ads! This was not great, it wasn't even funny.
  3. The Spirit: Terrible, but Gabriel Macht is sweet and full of potential.
  4. Slumdog Millionaire: Great, but perhaps not as super-great as the ads say it is.
  5. Shutter: Not as bad as the 7% it got on Rotten Tomatoes but borderline laughable.
  6. The House Bunny: Awful. Just awful. This one was against my will.
  7. Marley & Me: Very cute, with a wonderful story, but if you are prone to crying, you should bring a whole box of tissues. Seriously.
There are still movies that I want to see, and a whole bunch that I missed this year that I'm still trying to catch up on, so if there's any on video that you want to recommend, let me know. This list includes:
  1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It's supposed to be good, right?
  2. Valkyrie. I'm hoping to see this without paying for it so I guess I'll have to wait.
  3. Australia. I'm a fan of Baz Luhrman.
  4. Milk. Yep.
  5. Quantum of Solace. Argh! How did I miss this?
  6. Tropic Thunder. Was it really funny? Not Burn After Reading, faux-funny?
  7. Hancock. I know, I know, I'm way behind...
I can recommend a few myself....if you have not seen these, in my humble, movie-fan opinion, go...
  1. The Dark Knight. Duh.
  2. Ironman. This was such fun.
  3. I Am Legend, from last December. I know some people didn't like this but I thought it was totally amazing; maybe it has to do with the portrayal of the intersection of Manhattan and nature. Also it both scared the crap out of me and was compelling enough to see a second time in the theater. The only other movie I've ever done that for was Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and, well, Strictly Ballroom. But I digress.
  4. The Departed. Ok, so I know this is old but I just watched it a couple of months ago and it was great! I was so surprised. Especially since I don't normally like gangster movies and I really dislike Jack Nicholson. But this was great.
And then there are the movies that have yet to come out that I want to see, namely, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Why won't they just release this already!?

Anyway, that's how I'm spending my time here. I'm trying to enjoy it because I'm fairly certain I won't have any days off in 2009...

22 December 2008

Why am I still talking about this?

I realize it's not a popular position to take - I'm a progressive who's not terribly bothered by the Rick Warren invocation thing - but this Huff Post blogger puts it in perspective pretty well. Also, I think it's strange to throw the President that everyone worked so hard for, and who I expect many great things from, under the bus before he even takes the oath of office. We have a LOT of huge problems in this country, and I just wish - for once - that we could put the culture wars on the shelf and work to get some of them done. Because at the end of the day, Rick Warren's beliefs are his beliefs, and everyone else has their own, and unfortunately, the ones starting this round of cultural battles are on my side of the aisle. The culture wars will not be won or lost over an invocation - but we might actually achieve peace in the land once we calm down and talk to each other. You can't argue with Melissa Etheridge, can you?

18 December 2008

Pick your battles

So I'm back in Cincinnati for the holidays, and I'll be in the Midwestern "tundra" until the new year. Before I left LA, I shipped my computer to Apple for repairs, and they received it, repaired it, and shipped it back to me in Northern Kentucky in the same day. It was a 5-day turn around. And it was totally covered by AppleCare!!! For the record, I cannot say enough good things about Apple. Spending time on Vista in the interim reinforced this opinion.

Anyway, I'm sitting here worrying about things, like I usually do - I mean, 2 million jobs lost this year. An economy in shambles. The job market crumbling. High-powered investors bilking charities and towns for 50 billion dollars. And just today, a real stunner - the United States, under the "leadership" of "still-President" Bush, has refused to sign a declaration presented Thursday at the United Nations calling for worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality! And I'm sitting here, worrying, and yet all I hear on the television or on various blogs is how progressives are disappointed in Obama's decision to invite Rick Warren to give the invocation at Obama's inauguration.

Rick Warren - probably less douchey than the evangelicals in Borat: image courtesy of ocregister.com

Seriously, is this as far as we've gotten since the election? This country is faced with gigantic problems created largely by the most incompetent and corrupt administration in the history of our country, and people are hemming and hawing over what preacher Obama invited to the inauguration!?! Has everyone forgotten that Obama ran on a platform not only of hope and change, but of bringing the country together? Last time I checked, there were a LOT of evangelicals in the country - more so than there are gay people, possibly - and Obama needs to reach out to them just as he needs to reach out to a lot of different groups. This doesn't mean that he agrees with Rick Warren, but as far as evangelicals go, the guy's less offensive than many. And according to Wikipedia:
Including the results of the 2008 general elections, two states (Massachusetts and Connecticut) allow same-sex marriage, five states recognize some alternative form of same-sex union, twelve states ban any recognition of any form of same-sex unions including civil union, twenty-eight states have adopted amendments to their state constitution prohibiting same sex marriage, and another twenty states have enacted statutory DOMAs.
That means 40 states either ban same-sex unions outright or adopted amendments to their state constitutions prohibiting it. 80% of the states in this country are currently on the same side of the issue as Rick Warren! Does that make it right? No, of course not! It just means that there's a heck of a lot of work to do, and attacking your new shiny President-elect for reaching across the aisle, or calling this preacher names, is not productive - it's self-destructive. It's subscribing to the same cynicism that left the Republican party in "rebuilding" mode this year. Lucia Brawley recognizes what Obama is trying to do in this situation, and I agree with her when she suggests that "if we can enfold (Rick's) numerous followers into our political dialogue, let them get to know us of all stripes, perhaps we can begin to wear away some of the myths and misconceptions that disconnect us."

I understand that the gay community is hurt by this. But we face many huge problems in this country, and we need all hands on deck, so I hope that people learn to start picking their battles. Gays and lesbians should and will gain equality, with time, and with understanding, because it's the right thing to do.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go back to worrying, probably about global warming, and the snow that it's causing in Malibu, Seattle, and Las Vegas. Especially since I just watched a Discovery Channel show about tornadoes. Tornadoes have become more and more destructive in the past several years ... in fact, while you've probably heard about Greensburg, Kansas and their efforts to rebuild the town with "green" buildings, I'm sure you've never heard of Manchester, South Dakota. That's because it's now a ghost town after a tornado totally wiped it out on June 24, 2003 and its inhabitants never came back. They never came back! How can we go on fighting about things when global warming is already wiping towns off the map!?! Hello!

Needless to say, I'm picking my battle ... with carbon emissions!

the tornado that destroyed Manchester: image courtesy of silverliningtours.com

10 December 2008

Calling in Gay

It took me a while to figure out something fun to write about again ... after all, my last indignant episode was crushed almost as soon as I wrote about it. Plus last week was a little crazy for me. But this is just cool.

Today is officially Day Without a Gay, the day that gay people are encouraged to call into work to protest the state of gay civil rights and do some community service instead. It is being referred to as "calling in gay", and if I didn't need the money for Christmas gifts, I would have totally called in "gay-friendly". Alas, I am here. But I have a gay coworker who called in!

Next up, I will be pushing for a "Day Without a Thesis Student". It probably won't go over well, but I can try...

01 December 2008

What a bunch of turkeys.

I would like to thank my friend Jason for giving me something to be indignant about on this otherwise quiet Monday morning.

Apparently the Cincinnati Zoo has entered into a joint marketing agreement with the Creation Museum, and the two entities are selling "combo tickets" to get into both for one price.

(UPDATE! Monday, 3:25 pm, EST. Wow, that was fast. The promotion has been pulled due to public outcry. Most of what I said here still applies though, sans the Zoo-boycotting part.)

A lot of things came to mind when I first read this:
  1. Maybe the Zoo was enchanted by the live nativity at the Creation Museum.
  2. OMG! Thayne Maynard is a crazy Christian!
  3. Is this a joke, or maybe a blog rumor gone wrong?
  4. Seriously though ... WHAT were they THINKING?
Unfortunately that last one is a bit hard to answer. Mainly because entering into any agreement with the Creation Museum requires a certain lack of thinking. Either you believe that the Earth has been around for billions of years, OR you don't. Either you believe that dinosaurs walked the Earth millions of years ago, as evidenced by the carbon dating of their fossilized bones found in the ground, OR you think that they hung out with Adam and Eve 5000 years ago (cough cough Sarah Palin cough cough). Either you agree with all known scientific teachings about biology, or you don't.

This is what has always struck me as completely incomprehensible about fundamentalist Christians. From what I understand, they take the Bible at face value, rather than interpreting it as a series of lessons or instructive stories, if you will; and then, often, but not always, they try to force these views on everyone else. Sometimes it comes in the form of seemingly innocuous entities like the Creation Museum, which I have no intentions of ever giving money to (and don't need to, thanks to Clair). But it's really more insidious than that. Their rejection of science, and their propagation of fairly ludicrous concepts presented in the Bible is, to me, not unlike the strict adherence to the Koran practiced by the Taliban in Afghanistan. The difference, thankfully, is that the Bible's 10 Commandments list "do not kill" amongst them, or else the fundamentalist Christians might go around killing and terrorizing for their cause like the Taliban. But do fundamentalist Christians still believe in slavery, as the Bible says? Or in stoning people who commit adultery? And how about those Mormons out in Utah with their multiple wives, just like the dudes in the Bible? Has anyone asked them lately, how closely they follow the Bible? Or should we just wait for the "Old Testament Museum" and exhibits devoted to the oppression of women to pop up?

I like to believe that most fundamentalist Christians are well-meaning, if misguided, people. But I'm a science nerd and frankly I'm going to side with my fellow science nerds pretty much all the time. And in this case, that means boycotting the Cincinnati Zoo. (And Utah, too.) C'est la vie.

On a side note ... I like animals enough to eat them, as I did with a turkey that I helped prepare on Thanksgiving a few days ago. Turkeys, as most of us are aware, are probably descendents of pterodactyls, which were giant flying creatures from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods millions of years ago. Our turkey was 12 pounds and was only scary-looking after we carved it: