Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Getting Schooled by My Dad

As I explained in the last post, I was brought up on a golf course. My dad started me on the game when I was about 6. He's a mechanical engineer, and a very intelligent and curious man. He loves to learn everything at an atomic level. As such, when he learned to golf, he took lessons and made sure he knew exactly what to do in every situation: how to place his feet, how to open or close the club face, etc.

He did his best to impart this knowledge to me. I retained some, but lost a lot.

So yesterday I went golfing with him for the first time since I was in my twenties. He was golfing for the first time in 15+ years. As is the tradition at our golf resort, we didn't technically keep score. But I watched him and guestimated his score.

And I was damned impressed.

Many guys my age use these huge, balloon-sized drivers so that they can swing really hard and still hit the ball straight. I've never used one, partly because I can't generate a lot of club-head speed (due to some past surgeries), and partly because I think that it's kind of cheating. Be that as it may, my father hits a low-profile driver, smaller than my own, I think.

I have 36 years on this man. I've been golfing during the last 15 years. But I only out-drove him over 9 holes by an average of about 5 yards. WTF. And he hit it at least as straight as I did. This guy was on fire, and right out of the chute after a decade-plus-long absence from the game. Watching him hit was frankly amazing. He putted me straight into the ground

I used to chafe at his constant attempts to correct my swing. Now I'm thinking I should hire him as an instuctor.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Reliving a Bit of my Childhood

I've recently been waxing a bit nostalgic for the summers of my childhood. This has been brought about, in part, by a blog called Free Range Kids, which I stumbled across, though I've forgotten how. Basically, it advocates giving your kids some free rein, rather than riding herd on them 24-7 the way so many people do these days. This is something I've thought about quite often in the last 2 decades, as I saw those around me placing their children in more structured, restricted environments than I had to deal with as a child. Then again, few children even when I was young had the opportunities to run at will that my siblings and I had.

My sisters and I grew up on the western edge of Milwaukee, near its border with Wauwatosa. Our parents also rented a summer cottage near a town called Eagle, about 45 minutes away. The cottage was a grand, musty behemoth drowsing between a run-down golf course and a beautiful, if somewhat weedy, spring-fed lake. Three other families rented it with ours, and each had at least 2 children in our age range. Total, there were 11 kids in our cottage, and another half-dozen in the neighboring cottages.
The Old Cottage

When in town, we roamed the neighborhood much like most children of that time were allowed to do. No one obsessed over abductions and other such slim dangers: we didn't have a sensationalist media shoving that stuff in our faces every evening. We regularly rode our bikes to the local dime store or the community pool. We checked in every few hours, but as long as our parents knew our general whereabouts, were relatively unsupervised.

When we were at the cottage, however, we were really free. We woke up in the morning, ate breakfast, and then disappeared. Sometimes up onto the derelict links to run, sometimes into the woods to build forts and slay dragons. The only restriction on us was that we couldn't go in the lake without an adult present. We came back when we were hungry, when we got a scraped knee, or to get a parent to take us swimming.

By the time I was 13, the cottage had gotten too small for us: 19 in a 5 bedroom house only works when lots of the people are small. So we relinquished our rental. The other 3 families continued to rent at other cottages at the resort, but my family decided to take an annual summer vacation instead. That was 27 years ago.

Recently, my younger sisters started renting there again, and this year I am, too. I went out to meet the landlady and check out the place Monday. It was bittersweet. A lot was as I remember it: The musty smell of the cottages, the old clubhouse with the trunk of a tree growing right up out of the middle of the great-room floor and into the ceiling, the spring house where we used to get our drinking water (the tap water was awful). But so much had changed: the road into the resort has been paved, taking away a bit of the going-back-in-time feel you used to have upon getting there. The clubhouse tree, which was still alive when I was young, has now been cut off at ceiling level and the roof hole closed: only the trunk remains, for tradition's sake. The golf course has been rehabilitated, and gets far more traffic. And the spring house water is now non-potable, likely contaminated by gunk from area farms and developments.

What has not changed is the isolated, self-contained, communal atmosphere. Everybody knows everybody. People wander around and visit, like folks did in decades past: and the people you visit probably have an ice-cold pitcher of daiquiris made up and waiting for you. Everything slows down to a cheerful amble.

And the children get to run. Without helmets.

Megachurch Minister Caught in Molestation Sting

...and in other news, the sky is blue.

Rev Joe Barron borrowed his wife's car and drove 200 miles to meet what he thought was a thirteen year old girl. Instead, he was greeted by the police, who had been working a chat-room sting. Barron claimed he only wanted to buy the girl a soda. Funny, when I want to buy a soda, I generally don't even need 1 condom, much less 10.

I can't say that I'm surprised that another evangelical minister has been nabbed for the same deviance that he decried from the pulpit on Sundays. This sort of thing is all too commonly the result of the sexual repression that most religions demand of their followers (and their clerics: yes, I'm looking at you, Benedict).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Archbishop Dolan chimes in on Necedah Cult

Archbishop Timothy Dolan commented in his Sunday sermon on the Tammy Lewis case, in which Lewis and her "bishop", Alan Bushey, concealed the death of Magdeline Alvina Middlesworth for 2 months while they glommed on to her Social Security and annuity income. From the WTMJ website:
The District Attorney in Juneau County called the couple a cult. They're accused of using religion to commit fraud.

Alan Bushey and Tammy Lewis allegedly kept the body of a 90-year-old woman sitting on the toilet for two months, claiming God would bring her back to life.

Archbishop Dolan says he isn't familiar with the group, but he was saddened to hear what they're accused of.

"That's not even religion, that's a terrible distortion and corruption of religion to even call that part of the patrimony and tradition of the church," Dolan said.
Hmm. Taking advantage of someone's fear and credulity to avail yourself of their property. Promising immunity from death in exchange for prayer and financial support of the organization doing the promising.

No, the Church has never done that.

Nothing to see here, folks: move along.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Body of Dead Woman Found in Inhabited Home

Necedah, WI - According to press reports, police found the body of a 90-year old woman sitting on the toilet in her bathroom, where it had apparently been since March 4th. Sad, but not shocking, one might think initially. People who live alone and have few friends or relatives to check on them occasionally pass away and are not missed for a while.

Except that she didn't live alone. There were 3 other people in the house, and at least one other who knew she was dead.

Would you be terribly surprised to find out that these are batshit crazy deeply religious people?

Apparently, Tammy Davis, who calls herself "Sister Mary Bernadette", moved in with the elderly woman, Magdeline Alvina Middlesworth, some time within the last 2 years. They both belong to a Christian cult called the Order of the Divine Will, presided over by Alan Bushey (pronounced boo-SHAY), who calls himself "Bishop John Peter Bushey". Along with Lewis came her 2 children, a son and daughter now 11 and 15, respectively.

Some time in early March, Middlesworth collapsed in Lewis' arms while Lewis was helping the woman dress. Lewis, rather than calling 911, propped her (still breathing at this point) up on the toilet and called Bushey. Bushey told Lewis that Middleworth was under attack by demons, and that he had received signs from God that praying would save her, even bring her back to life if she died. So Lewis not only failed to get Middlesworth emergency medical attention, she let the corpse sit there in the barthroom for 2 months and forced her children to pray over it.

A gruesome story, certainly: those poor kids are going to have some serious issues to work through in the coming years (on top of those incurred by growing up in a fundamentalist household to begin with). But as always, this seems only the first shoe. The children are quoted as saying the following:

He [Lewis' son] said Bushey told him that if Middlesworth's death was discovered, the children would have to go to public schools and they would all have to get jobs because Middlesworth paid the bills.

Lewis' daughter told authorities that Middlesworth was the provider for their "religious community."

Ah. So. Elderly lady pays the bills for younger religious crazies. Elderly lady dies. Religious crazies conceal the death from the authorities, justifying their actions through religious craziness. Religious crazies thereby keep the financial pipe open.

I'm just waiting for the figures on how much they bilked this woman out of. You know it's coming. We've seen it before.

Daily Dose of Happiness

Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Cyanide & Happiness @ Explosm.net

Today we are 40

Hippo birdie to meese.

Think I'll go with Sheryl Crow on this one: it's the "new 30"! Really!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Well, Now I've Put My Foot In It

Don't get me wrong: I'm honored to be on Cuttlefish's blogroll. But that means that now I have to actually start posting quality material. Damn. I'll do my best.

Leaving to do some tromping around in the north woods tomorrow AM: I'll attempt to use that for some inspiration.

The Genius of Cuttlefish

Anyone who has spent time on Evo v ID blogs out there has probably come across Cuttlefish, an anonymous poster of incredible improvisational verse. Cuttle's posts are often eagerly awaited in the blog sphere, and are always good for a laugh.

S/He has a blog now: I'm not sure how long it's been up, but it's definitely worth a regular visit.


The following is a song list for the album Golden Throats, by Various "Artists" (Rhino Records)

Proud Mary - Leonard Nimoy
It Ain't Me Babe- Sebastian Cabot
Blowin' In The Win - Eddie Albert
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds- William Shatner
A Whiter Shade Of Pale- Noel Harrison
I Can See For Miles- Frankie Randall
Try A Little Tenderness- Jack Webb
Twist And Shout - Mae West
House Of The Rising Sun- Andy Griffith
Mr. Tambourine Man - William Shatner
You Are The Sunshine Of My Life - Jim Nabors
White Room - Joel Grey
Like A Rolling Stone - Sebastian Cabot
If I Had A Hammer - Leonard Nimoy

And no, I am not making this up.

(WARNING: Users follow that link at their own risk. The Nest is not responsible for any ear-bleeding, brain meltage, or emotional trauma resulting from exposure to the referenced material. You have been warned.)

Note to Self: Do Not Take a Teaching Job in CA

Not that that was any great possibility anyway: but this loyalty oath nonsense has now cost another teacher her job.

For the unfamiliar, last February, a teacher was fired from her position at Cal State-East Bay because she refused to sign a loyalty oath to the government. This is evidently legally mandated in CA, due to a McCarthy-era amendment to the state constitution which requires all public employees (excepting non-citizens) to swear an oath of loyalty. The oath reads as follows:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely,without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well andfaithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.

She placed an asterisk after the word "defend", and footnoted the document with the words "as long as it does not require violence." She's a Quaker, you see. So her religious beliefs prohibit her from using violence in any situation. But, we can't have subversive shenanigans like that going on, so she lost her job. After the deserved internet firestorm this story raised, she was eventually reinstated.

But now they've gone and done it again. This time it's Cal State-Fullerton. The teacher in question, Wendy Gonaver, is again a Quaker. As in the earlier case, she is willing to sign the oath as long as she can attach a brief statement explaining her objections as an addendum to the document. Not a chance, said CSF, and gave her the heave-ho.

When asked about it, the university had this to say:
California State University officials say they were simply following the law and did not discriminate against Gonaver because all employees are required to sign the oath. Clara Potes-Fellow, a Cal State spokeswoman, said the university does not permit employees to submit personal statements with the oath.
I just about did a spit-check on that one. It's not discrimination because all employees are required to sign it?! What utter nonsense. That doesn't mean it's not discrimination, you towering boob. It just means that there are more cases of discrimination out there. (Though admittedly, I think that the discrimination issue is secondary here: my primary objection is forcing a teacher to take the oath in the first place. It's nationalistic crap.)

But what really relegated my shiny new irony meter to the scrap heap was this:
When Wendy Gonaver was offered a job teaching American studies at Cal State Fullerton this academic year, she was pleased to be headed back to the classroom to talk about one of her favorite themes: protecting constitutional freedoms.

But the day before class was scheduled to begin, her appointment as a lecturer abruptly ended over just the kind of issue that might have figured in her course.
So she loses her job as a teacher of US citizens' liberties for exercising one of those liberties.

Poor, poor little irony meter.

To California's credit, they have made attempts to remove the amendment in question from the state constitution. Unfortunately, those attempts have failed. I have little doubt that it would have been stricken down long ago had it been normal state legislation rather than an amendment. Unfortunately, in post 9/11 America, it's even more unlikely such a change would make it past a popular vote.

But I just don't get Cal-State's position on this. Other state institutions allow signors to attach personal statements to the document. Challenges to the legality of doing so have failed, with courts allowing them as long as such statements don't render the oath invalid. So why is it that an institution of higher learning would object to such expression? And, of all things, a member of the California State University System? That's like Hillary Clinton objecting to socialized medicine.

I could understand requiring an oath of loyalty if someone is in a position of protecting the public and/or public institutions, or if a person has access to sensitive information. I don't see how anyone is served, however, by forcing such an oath on a teacher. Especially while allowing other teachers who are not citizens to get the same job without doing so.

Opening Day - Mostly Harmless

The fishing opener over the weekend was fun, but not terribly successful. One legal trout boated (by my friend Jim, not me: I got skunked on trout) between three guys, and one lost at the side of the boat. Conditions were not on our side: the wind was ferocious: dragging the boat across the lake, even when we had both anchors down. The pan fish were nowhere to be found. Mostly, we caught undersized largemouth.

Ah, well: next time.