Jim Downey's picture

One step at a time.

So, the end of March I posted the poll about pot. In comments there, I said this:

But I listen to what people are saying, and how they are saying it, in different contexts. I look at the costs associated with our War on (Some) Drugs. And I just think that we're approaching something of a phase-change in thinking in this country. Yeah, it might be a form of 'decriminalization' which is so weak as to be de facto legalization (and I would interpret it as such), but I think we'll see something fairly radical happen within a couple of years.

This morning, the news:

Jim Downey's picture

Completely unsurprising.

Colorado sheriff: Runaway balloon saga was hoax

FORT COLLINS, Colo. – The parents who set off a worldwide drama by reporting their 6-year-old son was inside a flying saucer-like helium balloon hurtling over Colorado concocted the stunt to market themselves for a television show, a sheriff said Sunday.

* * *

Alderden said the parents Richard and Mayumi Heene "put on a very good show for us, and we bought it."

The sheriff said no charges had been filed yet, and the parents weren't under arrest. He said he expected to recommend charges of conspiracy, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, making a false report to authorities and attempting to influence a public servant.

Now who is the slightest bit surprised by this? I mean, seriously? That it completely captivated the media for most of Friday doesn't change the fact that the whole thing smelled from the very start.

Jim Downey

Jim Downey's picture

Don't bogart that billion, my friend.

I think Bloomberg's been had. In a profile piece about Ted Turner, there's these passages:

“If you were around at the time, I gave everybody a hundred thousand dollars if they came up with anything,” Turner said. “I just couldn’t hold onto it. I wanted to keep it moving. I get a dollar, I give it to you, you spend it, somebody else gets it. You know, pass it around. You know, it’s kind of like a joint -- you just pass it around, light it up, you know, share with your friends.”

The former media mogul’s Turner Enterprises owns about 2 million acres in 12 U.S. states and Argentina. More than 50,000 bison roam on parts of his land, according to the company. Some of those bison wind up in burgers and other dishes at Ted’s Montana Grill, a restaurant chain he co-founded in 2002. Ted’s has more than 50 outlets, according to its Web site.

Turner said he has learned to live with less, yet he still bemoans the decline in his net worth.

Jim Downey's picture

There are times . . .

. . . when I am *really* glad I am not in the demographic for most of what is marketed these days. Like now:

App To Help Men Score & Tweet (by Pepsi)

Tired of a night out clubbing only to come home with a limp ego? Then try AMP UP BEFORE YOU SCORE, an actual iPhone app that helps you change your game and increase your chances to score with any type of woman, whether she's a "rebound girl," "aspiring actress," or a member of the ever-growing herd of "cougars."

Once a woman is defined by type, the rest is a snap. Check the app for her profile, and review the cheat-sheet providing details as to what she's into, and more importantly what sure-fire pick-up lines will cinch the deal.

No, it's not a joke. Well, it is, but it isn't *really* an intentional one. Except in the hey-I-meant-it-ironically way that seems to be the escape clause for everything these days.

Ah, brave new world, that has such technology in it. Who could have imagined such a thing?

Jim Downey

BrainArmor's picture

God as terraformer

I just read an interesting article about a biblical scholar who thinks that the first sentence of the bible has been mistranslated.

She claims she has carried out fresh textual analysis that suggests the writers of the great book never intended to suggest that God created the world -- and in fact the Earth was already there when he created humans and animals.


She said she eventually concluded the Hebrew verb "bara", which is used in the first sentence of the book of Genesis, does not mean "to create" but to "spatially separate".
The first sentence should now read "in the beginning God separated the Heaven and the Earth"


God came later and made the earth livable, separating the water from the land and brought light into the darkness.

I wonder if the Ancient Astronaut folks are going to glom on to this tidbit?

Jim Downey's picture


I heard the news when the radio went on this morning at 6:00, and just started laughing:

OSLO – President Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday in a stunning decision designed to encourage his initiatives to reduce nuclear arms, ease tensions with the Muslim world and stress diplomacy and cooperation rather than unilateralism.

* * *

The award appeared to be a slap at Bush from a committee that harshly criticized Obama's predecessor for his largely unilateral military action in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The Nobel committee praised Obama's creation of "a new climate in international politics" and said he had returned multilateral diplomacy and institutions like the U.N. to the center of the world stage.

"The award appeared to be a slap at Bush . . . " No shit, Sherlock. I can just imagine heads exploding all across the Right today.

Heh. Hehehehehe . . .

Jim Downey's picture

Man, ya gotta love technology.

This is almost like ballet:


Jim Downey

Jim Downey's picture

...and speaking of stupidity...


Liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations. There are three sources of errors in conveying biblical meaning:

* lack of precision in the original language, such as terms underdeveloped to convey new concepts of Christianity
* lack of precision in modern language
* translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one.

Of these three sources of errors, the last introduces the largest error, and the biggest component of that error is liberal bias. Large reductions in this error can be attained simply by retranslating the KJV into modern English.[1]

As of 2009, there is no fully conservative translation of the Bible which satisfies the following ten guidelines:[2]

What an amazing project. Because the bible isn't already enough of a fairy tale, these guys feel the need to rephrase it in a manner more suited to their politics. Howso? Well, it's right there on the site, but let me point to just one of the "ten guidelines":

Jim Downey's picture

Origin of Stupidity

OK, I'd seen references to this elsewhere, but not the actual video. Just in case you too happened to miss it, here it is:

Jim Downey

Jim Downey's picture

It's like the old joke . . .

. . . about how advertising your Love Canal home as Now 3% Less Toxic isn't going to send the right message to potential buyers:

Apparently the Vatican has finally decided that the best defense is a good offense. According to a bellicose statement issued Monday, the Catholic Church doesn't have a paedophilia problem, it has an ephebophilia problem, thankyouverymuch. Plus this:

The statement, read out by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's permanent observer to the UN, defended its record by claiming that "available research" showed that only 1.5%-5% of Catholic clergy were involved in child sex abuse.

He also quoted statistics from the Christian Scientist Monitor newspaper to show that most US churches being hit by child sex abuse allegations were Protestant and that sexual abuse within Jewish communities was common.

Only 1.5-5%! Not bad! And anyway, Protestants and Jews are doing it too. So there.

Jim Downey's picture

"Grab your ankles, please."

Good lord. I'd heard about this, as an "attempted assassination", but I hadn't heard the details:

On the evening of Aug. 28, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the Saudi Deputy Interior Minister — and the man in charge of the kingdom’s counterterrorism efforts — was receiving members of the public in connection with the celebration of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. As part of the Ramadan celebration, it is customary for members of the Saudi royal family to hold public gatherings where citizens can seek to settle disputes or offer Ramadan greetings.

One of the highlights of the Friday gathering was supposed to be the prince’s meeting with Abdullah Hassan Taleh al-Asiri, a Saudi man who was a wanted militant from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Al-Asiri had allegedly renounced terrorism and had requested to meet the prince in order to repent and then be accepted into the kingdom’s amnesty program.

* * *

Jim Downey's picture

Swingin' religion!

Not what you think.

Heard this Saturday morning on Weekend Edition, and about split a gut:

Rabbi Shea Hecht plucks a chicken off a truck parked behind a synagogue in Queens, N.Y., and demonstrates how to swing a chicken.

"You take it by the wing," says the white-haired Hecht, careful not to get the chicken's feathers or anything else on his black suit and tall black hat. "You put one wing over the other wing. See? It's very relaxed. And you swing it very softly over your head like this."

Hecht holds the bird, waves it three times above his head, and says the prayer of Kapparot (or Kapparos, depending on heritage). He prays that his sins will be transferred to the bird and he will escape the divine punishment that he deserves. The prayer is more than 1,000 years old, and countless Orthodox Jews will recite it in the days before Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, which begins at sundown Sunday. Hecht says waving the chicken isn't the point of this ritual.

Jim Downey's picture

Yeah, they'd have to arrest me.

Heard about this on "Wait Wait... " this morning:

KALONA, Iowa (AP) — A tourism gimmick in the southeast Iowa town of Kalona is giving new meaning to the phrase three hots and a cot.

Last week the town's Chamber of Commerce and Washington County sheriff pulled over people with out-of-state license plates and offered them an all-expense paid visit — including free meals and a night's lodging just as if they were really being arrested — to the town of 2,300, about 20 miles southwest of Iowa City.

* * *

Then, along came Ron and Cheri Cunningham of Sedalia, Mo.

"I was behind a truck that I'd followed for about 15 miles. I wasn't speeding. I didn't know what I could've possibly done," Ron Cunningham said.

Mr. Cunningham and his wife enjoyed their visit, however. But then, they're from Sedalia. Almost anything would be an improvement.

Anyway, I've been to Kalona, back when I lived in Iowa. Used to drive through it pretty regularly, in fact, when the highway ran through it. They have a nice cheese shop there. But when the DOT relocated and modernized the highway, it was an improvement. And if I was driving by now I would really resent being pulled over for such a promotional stunt - it is nothing more than an abuse of police powers, and undermines the respect for those powers.

Yeah, at this point, they'd have to arrest me to get me to go back to visit Kalona.

Jim Downey

(Cross posted to my blog.)

Jim Downey's picture

I think this tells you all you need to know.

Well, about "infotainment" that passes for news these days, anyway:

(Howard) Kurtz: “I don’t fully know. Katie Couric may make $15 million a year, but she grew up in a middle-class family in Arlington. Brian Williams was once a volunteer fireman. Dan Rather graduated from Sam Houston State College. And it’s not just the anchors—the opinion guys, O’Reilly, Rush, Olbermann, Matthews and the like, make millions each year. Does that mean their values change, that they’re automatically out of touch? In some cases, perhaps, but I don’t think that’s universally true.”

OK, seriously now - do you really think that someone who makes millions of dollars a year really has any connection with the life that you or I live?

The point of that article is that what top network news anchors are paid exceeds the entire budget for NPR's news shows 'All Things Considered' and 'Morning Edition'. Together. And it is a good point:

Jim Downey's picture

Fantastic News!

OK, this has nothing to do with UTI. But I just had to share the news, I'm so pumped.

Wow - the MacArthur fellows were announced this morning.

And one of them is an old friend and mentor: Tim Barrett.

I spent several semesters with Tim, studying papermaking, at the University of Iowa Center for the Book, as part of my training as a conservator. I can honestly say that without his help, I would never have become the book conservator I am today, because Tim did such a thorough job of teaching me about how paper behaves and how to use it intelligently.

Wow - I'm just gobsmacked!! I've never known a MacArthur fellow before!

Jim Downey

Jim Downey's picture

You gotta admit, the man had style.

I haven't written much about him, but I have always admired Abraham Lincoln. And not just for the usual sixth-grade Civics reasons. In early adulthood I explored the man's personal history - his personal story - and ever since I have tried to keep up with at least some of the current scholarship about him.

Why? Well, because he was smart in how he handled himself. And furthermore, because he learned how to be even smarter as he went through life, even when he knew that he was faced with impossible situations. Here's one example of this, which I had forgotten until a recent comment on a MeFi thread jogged my memory. Lincoln had been involved in a public argument with another Illinois politician, and had pushed the man too far - to the point where he was challenged to a duel. Here's the full story, but I want to concentrate on this passage:

Due to the fact that Lincoln was the one who had been challenged to the duel, tradition gave him the privilege of choosing the time and location of the duel, as well as the weapons that were to be used. Being a man of humor and wit, and having no desire to kill Shields, or allow himself to be killed; Lincoln put together the most ridiculous set of circumstances that he could think of regarding the logistics of the upcoming duel.

Jim Downey's picture

Compensate, much?

Another item from my recent trip to Pittsburgh . . .

We're happily driving across Illinois on I-70, making good time. It's been . . . well, decades . . . since I had driven through Effingham, and I wasn't in the slightest prepared for what I saw when I crested a particular hill. This:

The Cross in Effingham, Illinois.

Yeah, that's a real picture. See the size of the itty-bitty people at the base of the thing? From their website, the thing is said to be 198 feet tall.

It looms there, looking very much like some kind of alien construction, all shiny* and sharp edges. Surreal. There are very few instances when I viscerally feel my lack of religious belief, but this certainly was one of them. I almost drove off the road looking at that bizarre thing.

Jim Downey

*No, not that kind of shiny, silly!

Jim Downey's picture

An early fall.

I first noticed the change on the way to Pittsburgh almost two weeks ago. Here and there, a blush of color amongst the green. A slight touch of yellow, a bit of red creeping in on the edges. Just accents.

On the way back almost a week later, there was more. Oh, it was still summer. But there was just a hint of the fall to come.

* * * * * * *

On my walk with the dog this morning, I ran into some old friends who were visiting family a block over. She's now an L-2, made Law Review this year. Made the Dean's List both semesters last year. A former employee, who decided on going to law school after being out of school for some years.

"We should get together."

"Well, you're busy with school right now."

"Yeah, but I'm trying not to lose contact with all my friends. My personal life has to have some priority."

I smiled. "It's OK. Your friends understand the whole delayed-gratification thing. Do what's important now, secure your future - there'll be time for us to socialize later."

* * * * * * *

Jim Downey's picture

The best reason yet to go to church.

In spite of what a lot of believers think, I am not actually allergic to going into a church from time to time. Which, when you think of it, should actually be considered some kind of proof that God does not exist, since I haven't been struck down by lightning or anything on these occasions. But anyway, I'll go into a church for weddings and funerals, for public events, even just to enjoy the architecture and artwork.

Now I've found a new and much better reason, however: beer.

Yup, I have seen the light at The Church Brew Works. From their website:

By far, the most breathtaking element is the position of the brew house on the altar. Because the altar was built as a centerpiece of the church, the steel and copper tanks gleaming in the celestial blue backdrop is nothing less than captivating. This extraordinary view is only paralleled by the quality and taste of our beer.

Amen, Brothers & Sisters! Amen!

Too damned bad it is in Pittsburgh. Or I'd be a regular church-going fella.

Jim Downey's picture

Let's all say it together now:

"It's OK if you are a Christian."

What is? Well, this:

Ky. school trip included baptisms

LOUISVILLE — A mother is angry about a trip led by the head football coach at Breckinridge County High School. The coach took about 20 players on a school bus late last month to his church, where nearly half of them — including her son — were baptized.

Michelle Ammons said her 16-year-old son was baptized without her knowledge and consent, and she is upset that a public school bus was used to take players to a church service — and that the school district's superintendent was there and did not object.

* * *

But Superintendent Janet Meeks, who is a member of the church and witnessed the baptisms, said she thinks the trip was proper because attendance was not required, and another coach paid for the gas.

Meeks said parents weren't given permission slips to sign but knew the event would include a church service, if not specifically a baptism. She said eight or nine players came forward and were baptized.

Syndicate content