Watch out for the goat wedding. That's the high point.
A Spotting Guide To The Common Dalek.
Also available in poster format.
How about an inhabited island disappearing under the sea?
Rising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an inhabited island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara island, in India's part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one of the most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists has started coming true.
As the seas continue to swell, they will swallow whole island nations, from the Maldives to the Marshall Islands, inundate vast areas of countries from Bangladesh to Egypt, and submerge parts of scores of coastal cities.
Eight years ago, as exclusively reported in The Independent on Sunday, the first uninhabited islands - in the Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati - vanished beneath the waves. The people of low-lying islands in Vanuatu, also in the Pacific, have been evacuated as a precaution, but the land still juts above the sea. The disappearance of Lohachara, once home to 10,000 people, is unprecedented.
This isn't scaremongering by scientists. This isn't a problem that our great-grandchildren may or may not have to deal with. This is real. This is now.
So here's the answer which, I realise, was promised this time last year, but better late than never.
In the strictest sense, I don't. At least not in the sense that most people mean when they ask that question.
It must be emphasised that there is a significant difference between celebrating Christmas and celebrating at Christmas. It is possible, despite protestations to the contrary by some Christians and, indeed some atheists, to celebrate at Christmas in a purely secular fashion.
Now, I know that that sounds like something of a cop-out. I've read and heard many opinions from both Christians and atheists that celebrating in any fashion , irrespective of the intent, is a religious observance, a pathetic attempt to cling onto a life that, had I the courage of my convictions, I would have left behind.
And the atheists are, if anything, even more offensive about it*1
I could dwell on all of the many facts in support of secular celebration of Christmas. I could talk about how many of the facets of a "traditional" Christmas predate Christianity by, in some cases, thousands of years. The tree, the giving of presents, the decorating of the house, the singing, the pantomimes, all have their origins in traditions much older than a mere two thousand years. The date itself - December 25th, one week before the new year - has been celebrated as a winter festival, both secular and in varying religious terms, for so long that it's near impossible to pin down exactly where and when the practice started.
But these arguments would be ineffective on both judgemental atheists and Christians, because the former has probably heard all of the arguments and discounted them as irrelevant, and the latter would probably refuse to believe them.
No, in order to answer the question, it must be looked at from a different perspective.
Instead of "Why would an atheist celebrate Christmas?", we could look at "What would happen if an an atheist decided to not celebrate Christmas".
More specifically, this atheist.
The first and most personal problem is that it would cause serious friction with Mrs Doombreed. Christmas is a big holiday with my wife and her family. Am I to simply snub them? Stay at home?
But that, in itself, presents a problem. America, like England, almost entirely shuts down at Christmas. Virtually nothing is open*2. Almost all restaurants, bars, cinemas, shops, nothing going on, nothing to do. In England, there's actually a law*3 preventing many businesses from opening on Christmas Day.
For virtually all jobs, you've got the day (if not the week or more) off. Okay, I'm not about to argue if my employer wants to give me a paid day off, but that does leave one at a loose end.
Most of my friends are celebrating with their families, so going to see them is out.
Even the mighty atheist edifice that is the Atheist Parents forum was like a ghost town on Christmas Day, so busy were almost all of the members with their families.
And, when you get right down to it, why should I mope around whilst Mrs Doombreed goes off and has fun? Is your desire to be right so powerful that you'd rather I was miserable than happy?
The point I'm making here is that, when you live in a country as securely dominated by Christians as England or America are, you are included in the Christmas celebrations whether you like it or not. You probably won't be working, there's nothing else open, the telly is overrun with Christmas specials and Christmas films and Christmas comedies and Christmas dramas and people singing Christmas songs and people gushing about Christmas over and over and over.
So, if I can't escape it, why not simply make it my own? My nice, secular, religion-free, once-a-year, call-it-what-you-like*4, family celebration.
I like the gifts, both giving and receiving. I like the tree, the decorating, the lights, the ornaments*5, the tinsel. I like the Christmas dinner. I like the crappy Christmas telly. I like the eggnog. Oh, I like the eggnog. I like Mrs Doombreed's mum's Christmas candy. I even like some of the Christmas songs on the radio.
So why can't I enjoy it without the religious nonsense?
And why can't you let me be? Am I hurting you?
*1: There is nothing about atheism, despite the sterling example set by Your Gracious Host, to prevent an atheist from being an arrogant, offensive, loud-mouthed, pompous arsehole. What's perhaps more saddening is that, whilst there is much about Christianity that should prevent a Christian from being an arrogant, offensive, loud-mouthed, pompous arsehole, many still exhibit these qualities with depressing zeal.
*2: I would like to state, in the strongest possible terms, that I have no interest in seeing this change. The majority of atheists, in my experience, feel the same. If a business wants to close on Christmas Day or, indeed, any other day, that is their right and that should be protected. I am merely pointing out the consequences of that decision to an ordinary atheist.
*3: Christmas Day (Trading) Act 2004
*4: Some call it solstice, some call it festivus. I call it Christmas simply because it's just easier.
*5: I especially like the Hallmark Keepsake ornament of Princess Leia In The Gold Bikini that Mrs Doombreed bought me last year.
Merry Christmas, Felize Navidad, Joyeux Noel, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Solstice, Happy Kwanza, Mele Kalikimaka, or even just Have A Great Day, it's all the same.
Peace and goodwill.
P.s., just because it's hilarious and seasonal, here's a re-post of that great Daily Show clip from last year.
Merry 8-7-0 Christmas.
Now we've got to beat struggling but always tough Pittsburgh at home and get some specific help from a few other teams to make the playoffs.
Crap. They can see me, can't they?
Definitely a fantasy movie style blade.
Clearly intended for display rather than use.
Kentucky law allows me to own all the blades in my collection; so does England. Kentucky law allows me to display them in my home; so does England. Kentucky law prohibits me from carrying them in public; so does England.
Well, with two exceptions. Kentucky state law makes it a crime to carry a knife in public unless it is (a) "an ordinary pocketknife" (like a Swiss Army knife or similar) or (b) a hunting knife.
That (above) is a hunting knife. It is 13" long with a 7" single-edged blade. The top of the blade features a false edge. The Bear's head ornamental crosspiece and pommel are brass, which make the knife fairly weighty. The handle, disappointingly, is plastic, but could easily be replaced with something more hard-wearing by a bladesmith.
Kentucky law does not define exactly what a hunting knife is, but by the generally accepted definitions, this qualifies.
So it's legal to carry.
Whatever the law, any police officer who found you carrying this could be forgiven for asking just why the hell you have it, unless you were actually engaged in a hunting trip.
Some words that might have helped the Bengals tonight:
Catch (as in: "..the ball")
Sack (as in: "..that tall guy in blue with the 18 on his chest")
Protect (as in: "..the guy in the same uniform as you with the 9 on his chest")
Don't (as in: "..drop the ball, Carson" or "..let Marvin Harrison run around unmarked" or "..give Payton Manning three and a half hours to decide where he's going to throw the ball")
Do (as in: "..score")
Still, at least the Colts cheerleaders looked especially nice in their tiny blue Christmas outfits. They now rank 2nd behind the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders in the Doombreed Scale Of Sexiest Cheerleader Outfits.
Scant compensation for the loss. Pun intended.
P.s. At least nobody spent $35,000 tonight.
It's a double-edged short sword, 27 1/2" long with a very plain 22 1/2" blade. The wooden handle has an inset filigree design, and the pommel and crosspiece are brass. The crosspiece appears to have been replaced by a former owner, because it is lopsided and the craftsmanship doesn't match the rest of the sword. Tidying it up might be a future project for me.
I don't know anything about the origins or history of this blade, but it does have a certain military look to it. The curve and length of the blade, and the angling of the handle suggests a cavalry sword, but I don't know for sure.
And now to the pride of my collection, a very nice display piece, this is an ornamental katana.
I am going to use the real terms, so forgive me, sword enthusiasts, if I err.
The sword is 37 1/2" long with a 26 1/2" blade, which makes it a daito, or long sword. Both the tsuka (handle) and the saya (scabbard) are decorated with various metal menuki (ornaments), the most impressive of which are the tsuba (hand guard), which is shaped like a pair of wings, and the koiguchi (scabbard mouth), which has an oriental wingless dragon curled around it. When the sword is sheathed, these two combine to make the winged dragon seen in the bottom picture (above). The kabuto-gane (pommel) is a stylised representation of a helmeted Samurai's head. The saya is decorated with a flame pattern, both halfway along its length and at the sayajiri (scabbard tip). The tsuka has a menuki on each side depicting the dragon biting its own tail, twisted to form the infinity symbol, which looks nice but would make the sword impractical for use.
And that's me done with the mangling of the language.
11" overall, and with a dangerously sharp 6 1/2" blade, this would made a nasty little weapon, but for the fact that the handle and sheath are plastic. Both look okay, despite the "we're not copying The Lord Of The Rings, honest" wizard-and-Elf motif on both and the amazingly bad faux plastic gemstone that adorns both sides of the sheath. The butt is metal, but the bolster is plastic, and whilst it does have a full length tang, it's so narrow it would make a pen look seriously overweight.
Oddly, the knife is very nicely balanced and would probably make for very accurate throwing, provided one could be confident that the handle would survive the impact.
It is 13 1/2" long with an 8 1/4" double-edged blade. It has the word "Lifeknife" and a curious lighthouse motif on the blade. The metal handle has two three-masted ships embossed on each side and the pommel is a crest surrounded by what appears to be Russian characters. The blade is extremely sharp and has a serrated upper third.
A nice decorative piece.
The first is the one that started my collection here. It's 15 1/2" long, with an 8 3/4" hook-ended, single-edged (apart from the inside curve of the hook, which is also edged) blade. The blade etching is a kind of Greek motif, the handle is metal with a wood-effect covering. It's nice and heavy, but not especially sharp.
Sharp enough to do damage, mind.
0620: Eat breakfast whilst checking AP for new posts
0630: Go out for morning cigarette
0640: Start coffeemaker
0700: Wake Mrs Doombreed
0710: Decant coffee into thermos
0720: Leave for work
0732: Prepare to exit car to go into work
0733: Realise that it's actually 0633
0645 (again): Blog about how dumb I am for getting up an hour early, not noticing that the bedroom clock is an hour fast, and failing to notice this on no less than seven other clocks along the way which were set right.
P.s. Sympathies to any Cowboys fans out there (including Mrs Doombreed). This game against the Saints is not at all going your way.
Here's what happened: Hollymead Elementary School uses a neat idea called "backpack mail", which involves special folders handed out to each child, containing weekly announcements, details of after-school events and the like.
Two students at the school petitioned to be allowed to use the system to promote their church's "Vacation Bible School", but were denied on the grounds of, well the Constitution of the United States of America, but more specifically, by the school's own policy forbidding the "distribution of literature that is for partisan, sectarian, religious or political purposes".
Well, the student's father "sicced the Liberty Counsel on the county". "Liberty Counsel" is a right-wing legal group "dedicated to advancing religious freedom" (although, in the opinion of this blogger, for "religious freedom" read "our religious freedom, not yours").
Well, as a result of this glorious assault on the foundations of the USA, the policy was changed and the leaflets went out.
Oh, but then comes the justice. A pagan group at the same school decided along the lines of "what's sauce for the goose.." and started advertising their religious activities.
They created a one-page flier advertising a Dec. 9 event celebrating the December holidays with a Pagan twist and used the backpack system to invite the entire school community.
“Have you ever wondered what ‘Holidays’ refers to?” reads the flier. “Everyone knows about Christmas – but what else are people celebrating in December? Why do we celebrate the way we do?”
The flier invites people to “an educational program for children of all ages (and their adults), where we’ll explore the traditions of December and their origins, followed by a Pagan ritual to celebrate Yule.”
It concludes, “Come for one or both parts and bring your curiosity.”
Many members of this congregation are strong supporters of church-state separation who don’t believe public schools should promote any religion. But they were also unwilling to cede the field to Falwell and his fundamentalist allies. Falwell opened the backpack forum, and the Pagans were determined to secure equal time.
Suddenly not everyone was pleased by the open forum. Jeff Riddle, pastor of Jefferson Park Baptist Church in Charlottesville, wrote on his personal blog, “If the school allows the Baptist or Methodist church to send home a note to its students about Vacation Bible School, it also has to allow the Unitarian Church to send home a note about its ‘Pagan ritual to celebrate Yule’….This kind of note adds weight to the argument that it is high time for Christians to leave public schools for reasonable alternatives (homeschooling and private Christian schools).”
Another conservative Christian blogger in the county complained about finding the flier in her child’s folder. Apparently unaware of Falwell’s role in bringing it about, the blogger who goes by the name Cathy, noted disclaimer language at the bottom of the flier noting that the event is not connected to the school and wrote, “They [the school officials] aren’t endorsing or sponsoring this? Then it shouldn’t have been included in the Friday folders. The Friday folders have never been used for any thing other than school work and school board and/or County sanctioned/sponsored programs.”
She then fumed that a “pagan ritual” is “an educational experience my children don’t need.”
Well, Cathy and Jeff, it’s a new day. Your pals Falwell and Staver have opened up this forum, and now everyone gets to use it. Isn’t that what you wanted all along – freedom of religion? That freedom means all religions – even ones you don’t happen to like.
Here's a hearty ha-ha from me.
Read the full story here.
Hat tip to Looksbothways at AP.
Unfortunately, a second, less festive tradition takes place. In all but ten of the last forty years, the goat has been set on fire, sometimes within hours of being erected.
The town authorities in Gavle are hoping that this year they've got it licked. The goat has been painted in a special flame-resistant coating, and the goat is under 24-hour surveillance.
You can monitor the poor goat's progress by checking out "goatcam". There are two views available, from the side and from behind, both with large, slow-refreshing images.
You never know, keep an eye on the cams and if it does go up in flames, you may be able to capture a newsworthy image.
Or, just watch it burn, if that's your bag..
Hat Tip to MomSquared at AP.
Yeah, bit late for this Bengals fan.
At least Mrs Doombreed gets to see her Cowboys play the Falcons next Saturday.
Well, pardon me, Mr Montgomery, but bollocks. Great, big, sweaty bollocks.
According to ChildhelpUSA, 906,000 children are reported as abused in the USA every year, and estimates put the actual number as being around three times more than are reported.
Given as how we keep being told that 90% of Americans believe in God, at least some of those good ole God-fearin', church-goin', bible-thumpin', Jesus-lovin' folks must be involved here, somewhere.
They can't all be Catholic priests.
Child abuse is one of those abhorrent events that transcends race, creed, background, social status, and, yes, even religious belief.
Critics, of course, say that it's an anti-immigration tactic that seeks to target immigrants with little or no grasp of English.
Meh, doesn't a country have the right to set its own immigration agenda?
Anyway, I thought I'd have a quick crack at the five questions the Beeb identified as being on the new test.
Okay, so you only have my word for it, but this is off of the top of my head:
Why does the United States have three branches of government?
The major powers were split into three distinct branches so that no one person or group could wield total control over the USA.
Name two rights that are only available to US citizens:
The right to bear arms and the right to vote.
Name two cabinet level positions:
The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense. Off the top of my head I can also name: the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Transportation, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Energy. (after checking, I found that this list was under half of the positions. I missed the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, the Secretary of Education, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. I also missed the Vice President, the White House Chief of Staff, th Administrator of the Environmental Protection Angency, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Director of the National Drug Control Policy, and the United States Trade Representative. Still, with that many, it shouldn't be hard to remember two.)
Name one important idea found in the Declaration of Independence:
That power derives from a mandate of the people, not by right of birth.
What does the Constitution do?
The Constitution lays out the structure, rights and responsibilities of the Federal government, and guarantees, through the ammendments, the rights of the people and the States.
Man, it's a shame I'm not interested in becoming a citizen, that was pretty easy.
Oh, why not?
Because the oath goes:
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.
No, it's not the "so help me God" bit - that's optional - it's the "renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity" bit.
I'm British, a subject of Her Majesty The Queen, and any oath I take to the contrary would be a lie, and I'm not about to lie under oath.
The drama is just as compelling, the medical side is just as fascinating, Hugh Laurie is just as awesome as ever.
For those that don't watch, Dr Greg House (Hugh Laurie) and Michael Tritter (David Morse) had a typically "Housian" encounter - meaning House was rude and abusive as he always is - and Tritter came off worse, because, well, House is smarter.
But Tritter is a cop.
And a bully, an arsehole and a stubborn fuckhead.
So he's decided to go after House.
Yep, a police officer pursuing a personal vendetta.
We'll leave aside the fact that House was right and Tritter assaulted him. That's nothing.
Tritter arrests House on his way home from the hospital for DUI and resisting arrest, which he wasn't and didn't. The police know this, they admitted as much to House's Lawyer at the end of the episode Que Sera Sera.
That means it was an illegal arrest. By a cop persuing a personal vendetta. That'll get Tritter in trouble already.
But then, based on that illegal arrest, Tritter swore out a search warrant for House's apartment.
Perjury. I don't know what the technical term would be for a police officer lying to a judge to unlawfully obtain a warrant, but whatever it is, Tritter did it.
Then he executed the illegal warrant.
Where to start? That's illegal and violates the US Constitution's prohibition on unwarranted search.
Oh, and unwarranted seizure, because he took House's pills.
Tritter has harassed House at work, as well as his superiors, colleagues and subordinates, repeatedly seized or perused hospital records - which violates Doctor-patient confidentiality.
Then he froze Dr Wilson's (probably the only person in the world who counts House as a friend) financial accounts in an attempt to get Wilson to testify against House.
That would be a violation of Federal banking laws.
Ditto for Cameron, Foreman, and Chase (House's subordinates) when Tritter froze their accounts.
He involved the FDA and had Wilson's right to prescribe drugs revoked.
Again, that's Federal.
He had Wilson's car impounded.
Oh, I'm going with the Constitution again, with a side order of local or state laws.
Now, I get that there are bad cops out there. Not every police officer can be Dixon Of Dock Green or Adrian Monk, so that's not the problem
The problem I have is that House's lawyer hasn't put a saddle and bridal on that smug little bent copper and ridden him all the way to the bank.
Not only would House end up owning a large slice of the city, but Tritter - if he didn't end up in prison - would be lucky to get a job guarding a gerbil cage.
Selene says she wouldn't hire him.
And why hasn't Tritter's superiors yanked him off of a case he clearly has a personal involvement in?
And why aren't the drug squad handling this?
Look, I get that the show's writers want to introduce conflict, that Tritter is this season's nemesis - the anti-House, if you will - but this is just unrealistic.
Okay, lets get to the root of this:
It's a necklace.
The fact that it consists of a cross-shaped piece of metal hanging from a chain is irrelevant. It is jewelry.
That British Airways takes action against her for refusing to obey their dress code does not, in any way, constitute discrimination.
That Mrs Eweida and her supporters continue to claim that she was fired for wearing "a symbol of her faith" does not make it so.
"Frankly I think the British Airways order for her not to wear a cross was loopy.
"I don't understand it, I don't think anybody understands it and that is my view."
No, pay attention. She can wear the necklace, she must, however, obey the dress code and wear it under her uniform.
She was suspended for refusing to obey her employer's dress code, not for wearing a necklace. She was suspended because, like most of the wacky religious right, she feels that rules should apply to everyone except her, not because this is some targeted anti-Christian hate tactic.
George Galloway, the Respect leader, said: "[...] BA must bring this woman back to work right now, compensate her and apologise to her and then explain to the rest of us what twisted thought mechanism allowed such a stupid thing to be done."
Were you not paying attention to that whole "suspended for refusing to obey her employer's dress code" bit?
Kinda makes me wonder how Mrs Eweida, her supporters and their ilk view this disturbing campaign to ban Moslem women from wearing their veils.
Bet they're not so into religious freedom then, are they?
By far, the best is by a user called JohnR7 on the Christian Forums who said "I can sum it all up in three words: Evolution is a lie."
A little geography for the uninitiated: Both Cincinnati and Cleveland are in the state of Ohio, so the Browns and the Bengals are huge rivals.
Anyway, cool match.
The Colts resumed their winning ways, slapping the Eagles about for a quite splendid 45-21 victory, and the hated Patriots cheated their way to a 17-13 victory over the Bears.
The Cowboys slipped firmly into first place in the NFC East when the NY GIants simply imploded against the Titans.
So... vandalise a church and get about a grand's worth of electronics?
Shit, that's a deterrent, dumbasses.
Would all fucktards please form an orderly queue outside the church of your choice, there's enough inside for you all to have a crack at*.
What do you get for setting fire to the church? A new sports car?
*Your "love package" may differ from that shown. Offer void where prohibited by law. May not be combined with any other offer. One per customer. Must have coupon to redeem offer. Enlarged to show detail. Serving suggestion. Not approved by the FDA. Not intended for the prevention, treatment or diagnosis of any disease. Read instructions before use. Take as directed. Not intended for professional use. For external use only. If rash develops, stop use immediately and contact a doctor. Please drink responsibly.
We watched the Cowboys stuff the Buccaneers, 38-10, giving Tony Romo 5 touchdown passes, equaling Troy Aikman's Cowboys record, and breaking the "touchdown passes thrown on Thanksgiving by a Cowboys quarterback" record. The Cowboys are gaining - sigh - Romomentum (thanks Madden) after a really shaky start to the season.
Earlier in the day, we half-watched the Dolphins beat the Lions, but we couldn't watch the Chiefs beat the Broncos because our cable company does not carry "those" games.
There's a new channel - NFL Network - that is showing eight games this season, on Thursdays and Saturdays, but a lot of cable providers are refusing to show those games at no extra cost to the consumers (which they should, because those games have all been taken from channels that are on basic cable), which means that Mrs Doombreed will be unable to watch the Cowboys - Falcons game on December 16th, and I'll miss the all-important divisional match between the Bengals and the Ravens on November 30th.
T(v) is Perceived Time before vacation starts, in minutes;
T(o) is the Time Off, in days;
T(a) is the actual time before vacation starts, in hours;
A is the Anticipation Index, defined as the number of weeks since the last vacation ended.
Thus, it can be shown, the last 2 1/4 hours of my shift today, with A being 21, T(o) being 11, took 4 hours 15 minutes 45 seconds to go by.
This can be readily demonstrated by showing that, despite quadruple-checking my formula and readings for over two hours, the clock only moved on a few minutes.
*QED means Quod Erat Demonstrandum, which is italics for "that which was required to be shown" or, in non-nerd speak, "told ya so".
Police forces across England and Wales will shortly be carrying electronic fingerprinting devices, according to Auntie, and will be able to take fingerprints on the spot and check them against a national database.
Although, the report notes, fingerprints can only be taken in this manner if the person accosted agrees to it.
Oh, here's a rider from me: "..for now".
How long is it going to take before some group or other starts campaigning on the grounds that officers having the equipment is pointless if they have to ask permission to use it? Then we'll see a change in the law that allows officers to take fingerprints with or without permission, if the suspect is believed to be involved in a crime.
Cue "fits the description*".
And then how long before police are allowed to just fingerprint anyone they want?
I know that the "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" mob are all over this, but I'm reluctant to trust the goverment with fingerprints since we had that hugely under-reported scandal a few years back where almost all constabularies across England were completely ignoring the guidelines about disposing of elimination fingerprints and were, in fact, keeping what amounted to the basis of a national fingerprint database.
Yep, if your home was burgled, your car was stolen, your place of work robbed, and you did your civic duty and gave your fingerprints "for elimination purposes", the chances are that your fingerprints are still - unlawfully - on file somewhere.
And, just a question, but how is local bobby-on-the-beat going to react if he flourishes his fingerprint taking machine at me and I say no? Is he going to be of the "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" persuasion and conclude "saying no equals something to hide"?
*"Fits the description" is an old police tactic that allows any copper to detain anybody at any time. You, they say, "fit the description" of a person identified as committing a crime in the vicinity (which can, in reality, mean anywhere within a hundred miles or more). Given that most witnesses tend towards the shaky and memory is easy to fool, I can almost guarantee that you - yes, you - "fit the description" of at least one criminal who was identified somewhere near you some time in the recent past. I, personally, fit the description of any criminal described as "a white guy of average height, heavy build, with brown hair and a close cropped beard."
See if you can spot how many crimes my description commits around the world.
Thursday is, of course, Thanksgiving, which involves eating too much and watching the Cowboys play.
Quite an outstanding game, although, I would say that.
Another quite oustanding game was the undefeated Colts visiting the struggling Cowboys, and being handed their first defeat this season.
Tony Romo is shaping up to be a quarterback to watch.
It was good.
It was short.
One season, then pfft. Okay, at least it was a regeneration and not an ending, but still.. I liked Chris Eccleston. This new chap looks a bit wishy washy.
I refuse to like him. I do. He replaced someone who, in my opinion, was up there with Tom Baker, William Hartnell, and John Pertwee as The Greatest Doctors Ever.
I'm going to watch because, well, it's Dr Who. And, maybe, I'll give this David Tennant person a fair shake, but I won't like him. I refuse.
And now it's nine episodes into the new season (the twenty-eighth season, for those who are counting) and, crap, I do like him.
He's funny. He's different, but he's also similar enough to make it work. He's more Colin than Tom, but with echoes of the sober styling of the first few Doctors, but with an undertone of Sylvester McCoy's irreverence. And the plimsoles make a great whimsical touch.
Well, that seals it. There are no bad Doctors. The series is, officially, The Greatest Sci-Fi Show In The History Of Everything, Ever.
And The Impossible Planet's cheeky reference to EastEnders was hilarious enough to require a pause whilst I dried my eyes.
Shame it'll be lost on 99% of The Sci-Fi Channel's viewers.
And here's a plug for my favourite Dr Who site, Beavis and Duncan's Dr Who Guide. Episode synopses, cast lists, background. Excellent stuff.
Well, it came back with elevated white count. Not panic-inducingly high white count, but high nonetheless.
So my doctor ordered a re-do, because elevated white count could simply have been a response to the bronchitis I was fighting.
It came back, again, elevated.
By this time, Mrs Doombreed had quizzed WebMD and found out that elevated white blood cell numbers are rarely a good sign.
My doctor referred me to a hematologist - a blood specialist for those who don't savvy the medical lingo.
Today was my appointment.
We arrived at the hospital, located the main desk (by the cunning tactic of walking through the main door and looking straight ahead) and, aided by a directory, found out where the hematologist's office was based.
We turned, and beheld a pair of doors that could only be described as mid- to late-funeral parlour. I'm talking heavy wood, gleaming varnish job, beautifully presented heavy glass insets, tasteful gold details, and, above these portals that were the visual equivalent of a heavy brass bell mournfully tolling out endless peals of grief, was some understated, yet almost sympathetic scroll work picked out in an incredibly restrained hand.
Four or five words. I don't remember which because there was only one word that was hammering for my attention.
One of the nastier options Mrs Doombreed recalled from WebMD was leukemia.
Leukemia. Blood cancer. High white count. Oncology. Did my doctor know - or suspect - something she wasn't telling me?
Then we went inside.
Y'know how you can almost always get an idea of how serious, debilitating or life-threatening a problem a doctor deals with is by just how comfortable their waiting room is?
It's almost like they're saying "It's okay, life has already laid a giant turd on your head, we're going to be extra-specially nice to you while you die".
This place was like the lobby of the better class of hotel. The soft hiss of air in the large fish tank, the wide, airy spaces, the rather expensive widescreen plasma tv on the wall, more incredibly restrained and tasteful gold work, comfortable seats, open reception desk (no privacy window between the impressively sympathetic receptionist and the victim - sorry - patient), soft drinks, coffee, snacks, all laid on free.
By now my heart was in my boots (which were back home, I was wearing my trainers) and Mrs Doombreed was already planning my funeral.
Then the impressively sympathetic receptionist explained that, whilst hematologists don't always deal with cancer, oncologists always need hematologists, so mostly they go hand-in-hand or, in this case, in the same office. Not all hematologists work through oncology centres, but most, apparently, do.
Being sent to a hematologist, she explained, didn't mean I had, nor was at imminent risk of developing, cancer, and if my doctor had sent me there in order to start work on anything cancerous, she would definitely have told me beforehand.
Okay, a relief, but damn, my doctor could have bloody warned me where I was headed.
Oh, the white count thing? Probably normal. I gave some more blood and we're waiting on the result. If it's still elevated, I'm going back in a month to see if maybe higher is just normal for me.
Snopes has a great story about a guy who tried to steal a car from a dealership by pulling a gun on a guy wearing - get this - a "Friends of the NRA" baseball cap.
Now, what are the chances that a guy so proud of his affiliation with right-wing, gun-rights group, the National Rifle Association, wouldn't be armed?
Four thousand of the dolls were offered by one2believe, the company that makes them. They are a foot tall and quote selected phrases from The Bible at the push of a button. No, not the good stuff about stoning misbehaving kids to death (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) or people having genitals like a donkey (Ezekiel 23:20), but the "love thy neighbour" stuff and the like.
Bill Grein, vice president of Toys For Tots, said that the Marines don't discriminate when it comes to recipients, and "we don't know anything about their background, their religious affiliations."
Bravo. Toys For Tots is about spreading a little happiness into the lives of poor families, not about proselytising on behalf of the fundies.
Said Grein, "[w]e can't take the chance on sending a talking Jesus doll to a Jewish family or Muslem family". Or a Buddhist family, or Wiccan, or any of the hundreds of other religions that don't follow that one diety. Or Atheist. It kinda defeats the point to get this wonderful gift from the caring guys 'n' gals of the US Marine Corps and it turns out to be Blasphemy In A Box.
But, of course, the fundies don't even understand why there's a problem.
Michael La Roe, of one2believe and their parent company, Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co., said "I believe as a churchgoing person, anyone can benefit from hearing the words of the Bible."
That would be Fundamentalist Belief Number 7: "Everybody would be a Christian, if you could just explain it to them", or possibly Number 4: "Everybody is really a Christian, they're just pretending not to be".
The stamp on the envelope, which may or may not have been mistakenly used, is apparently worth around $200,000.
And American law says that a used postage stamp on an envelope is public property, so most likely the stamp will be auctioned off and put into the relevant county budget.
The envelope had a second stamp, dating from WWII.
Silly mistake, if mistake it be.
The Bengals couldn't stop a four year-old from running and couldn't catch a frikkin' bus.
That's a three-game losing streak.
And Baltimore won, so the Bengals are now three games behind in their division.
At least the Colts keep on keeping on, winning to go 9-0.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A poll worker was arrested Tuesday and charged with assault and interfering with an election for allegedly choking a voter and pushing him out the door, officials said.
It apparently started as a dispute between the two over marking the ballot, said Lt. Col. Carl Yates of the Jefferson County sheriff's office.
The voter told poll worker Jeffery Steitz that he didn't want to vote in a judicial election because he didn't know enough about the candidates, but Steitz told him he had to vote in the race anyway, Yates said.
Steitz, 42, eventually grabbed the man by the neck and threw him out of the polling place, Yates said.
LONDON, Ky. (AP) -- A woman who was bitten by a snake at a church that neighbors say practices serpent handling died of her wounds hours later, a newspaper reported.
Linda Long, 48, was bitten Sunday at East London Holiness Church, where neighbors said the reptiles are handled as part of religious services, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported Tuesday.
Long died at University of Kentucky Medical Center about four hours after being bitten, authorities told the newspaper.
"She said she was bitten by a snake at her church," said Lt. Ed Sizemore of the Laurel County Sheriff's Office
Handling reptiles as part of religious services is illegal in Kentucky. Snake handling is a misdemeanor and punishable by a $50 to $100 fine.
Police said they had not received any reports of snake handling at the church.
Snake handling is based on a passage in the Bible that says a sign of a true believer is the power to "take up serpents" without being harmed.
Church officials could not be reached for comment.
LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - A Kentucky police officer trying to unload his gun accidentally shot himself while driving on an Indiana highway, police said.
Sullivan McCurdy, 41, an officer with the Radcliff Police Department, was driving south on Interstate 65 near Lafayette Sunday when the weapon discharged, Indiana State Police said. A bullet struck the 10-year police veteran in the right leg, police said.
McCurdy was listed Monday in satisfactory condition at St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Lafayette, said hospital spokesman Matthew Oates.
Hat tip to Snopes.
And, for the sheer hilarity, here's a Guy Fawke's Night story about an attempt to anally launch a rocket that went a leetle bit wrong.
Here's the quick and dirty of this election:
The US government is made up of three branches: the Executive (the President); the Legislative (Congress); and the Judicial (The Supreme Court). These elections decided the Legislative. Congress is made up of two "chambers" - in almost the same way as British politics has the House of Commons and the House of Lords, it's just that over here, both are elected. The Senate consists of 100 Senators - two from each state. In the Senate, each state has equal say and no state has undue power. The House of Representatives consists of 435 members, with varying numbers from each state depending upon its population. In the House, bigger states have a bigger say.
In the House, the Democrats now have 234 seats, Republicans have 201, and one is held by an Independent.
The Senate is closer. The confirmed count at the moment is 49 Republican, 49 Democrat. The two missing seats are Virginia and Montana. Both sets have already been called for the Democrats, and in both, the vote counts show Democrat victories.
The Republican candidates are, the last time I heard, challenging the counts. It would be uncouth, I think, to dwell overmuch on the contrast between the 2006 Republican attitude of "all votes must be counted" and their 2004 and 2000 stance of "be a man and concede you lost for the good of the country".
Other things were decided, too. The Democrats took 6 state Governor's elections.
Referendums were also held. Seven out of eight states voted to make same-sex marriage illegal. Voters in South Dakota, however, overturned the state's abortion ban, and voters in Missouri voted to legalise stem cell research in that state, despite a Federal ban. Initiatives in Colorado and Nevada to make marijuana use legal failed, also defeated was an initiative in South Dakota to make marijuana legal for medical use only. Seven states voted to raise minimum wage. California and Oregon defeated initiatives requiring parental notification for abortions.
Not everything was plain sailing. Wikipedia has a list of confirmed or alleged problems with the running of this election, but of special note is that the FBI is apparently investigating possible instances of "voter intimidation" in Virginia.
Anyway, that was it in a nutshell.
The high point of the day was Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert joining forces (and their shows, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report) to bring Indecision 2006: Midterm Midtacular on Comedy Central, clips of which you can see at the Comedy Central site.
Priceless, truly priceless.
Early indications are that the Democratic Party are going to make a few giant leaps, maybe even take back congress.
In Kentucky's 3rd congressional district, Democrat John Yarmuth has beat out Republican incumbent Anne Northup, which was a massive upset.
Fayette county voted overwhelmingly against allowing the government to use the Eminent Domain laws to force a purchase of Kentucky American Water.
As of nowish, the Democrats have taken thirteen House seats. They need fifteen for a majority. They've also taken three key Senate seats, and now need four more for a majority there.
This is vital because President Bush had been working with a Republican Congress, so anything the Republicans wanted to do, they did. But Pres. Bush could end up spending his last two years in office the same was Pres. Clinton did, facing a hostile Congress and unable to get just about anything done.
And here's the breaking news: The Beeb is calling the House for the Democrats.
Oh dear. I foresee much blame-throwing amongst the Republicans over this one.
The story is a straight continuation of Saw II. Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), who was at death's door and grooming Amanda (Shawnee Smith) to take over his life's work at the end of the last installment, is up to his old tricks again.
He's kidnapped his old oncologist Dr Lynn Denlon (Bahar Soomekh) to keep him alive whilst he plays one last gruesome game on hapless Jeff (Angus Mcfadyen), who is looking for revenge against the person who killed his son.
But there's just something lacking..
The tension doesn't get as high, the drama seems a little forced at times, and Jigsaw's all-knowing, all-seeing attitude seems a little smug instead of scary. What's also a little weird is that we're clearly supposed to be sympahising with Jigsaw rather than his victims. Denlon is pompous, Jeff's a moron and the others are far too two-dimensional to care about.
It's surprising to see that the goriest part of the movie is completely and utterly unnecessary. The entire trepanation scene could have been removed, cut right down or shot from an obscuring angle without any loss to the film whatsoever. And there is where the film falls down. The previous installments relied upon drama and tension - the suggestion of gore rather than gore itself - to make the viewer squirm. This one scene goes more for the "Eeeww! Look! She's drilling into his skull! Can you hear it? Can you see the saw cutting? Can you see the blood flying?" style of feel.
The blood and gore should be a counterpoint - an accent, if you will - to the scare, not the cause of it.
Other than that, not too bad. Weakest of the three, certainly, but still way better than most attempts at the genre.
And I won't guarantee it's over with the third, because there's still some loose ends.
Doombreed rating: * * * * 1/2
This season in the NFL has seen some incredibly bad refereeing. Every game I've seen has had at least one major - and in most cases game-changing - bad call, or a lack of call when one should have been made.
In today's Cowboys-Redskins game, a "minor facemask*1" call was awarded a 15 yard penalty - reserved for "major facemask*2" - which put the Redskins in range of a game-winning field-goal.
And, whilst typing this, I'm watching the Broncos-Steelers game which has been littered with calls so bad that it's almost like watching a parody of refereeing.
And what's with the ridiculous "false start*3" penalty? Both teams line up and then, for no apparent reason, the flags fly and the offense gets marched backwards 5 yards because someone breathed out at the wrong time.
What's really annoying is when some defensive player goes tear-arsing over the line of scrimmage whilst everyone else is still waiting - but the penalty goes against the offense because the defensive player uses the skillful tactic of pointing randomly, but emphatically, at an opposing player.
Ah well. Steelers lost, too.
We still have the Colts and, after the debacle that was the Bears-Dolphins game today, there's only one undefeated team in the NFL.
I really hope that the Colts destroy the Patriots*4.
The game is about to start and everyone is predicting the Patriots. No real surprise there.
The first half is winding down and a great example of the bad refereeing has shown up. The Patriots did not get that first down, and even if they had, there is no way that the ref could have seen it from where he was standing and, even if he could have seen it, he should have spotted the ball and measured it instead of moving the chains.
And then, to add insult to injury, the same guy gets to review his own call! Of course he's not going to overturn it!
This is a great example of a game-changing call. As it stood, the Colts intercepted and ended the half 3 points up. However, it could just have easily ended up with a touchdown and 4 points down.
If the call had been made correctly, Manning and the Colts take over at the 47 yard line with 1.00 left and a timeout. Now, Manning's going to score off of that, even if it's only a field goal. Colts at the half by at least 6, probably 10.
Bad refereeing, bad calls, changing games.
[end of game]
Despite the refs' best efforts, Manning and the Colts remain undefeated, Brady and the Patriots get beaten two years running, but still everyone is going to wobble on about how Brady is the better quarterback.
And the Bengals sink to 4-4-0
*1: In case you were wondering: grabbing the facemask is against the rules. A "minor facemask" call means that the player grabbed his opponent's facemast momentarily before letting go.
*2: A "major facemask", on the other hand, means grabbing the opponent's facemask and not letting go.
*3: A "false start" is when a member of the offense jumps before the ball is snapped. However, the slightest movement is often interpreted as jumping off, and thus it's often near impossible to tell, even with slow motion replay, exactly who false started and exact;y what it was that he allegedly did.
*4: I really hate those Patriots.
A man was walking home alone late one foggy night, when behind him he hears:
Walking faster, he looks back and through the fog he makes out the image of an upright casket banging its way down the middle of the street toward him.
Terrified, the man begins to run toward his home, the casket bouncing quickly behind him
He runs up to his door, fumbles with his keys, opens the door, rushes in, slams and locks the door behind him.
However, the casket crashes through his door, with the lid of the casket clapping.
on his heels, the terrified man runs.
Rushing upstairs to the bathroom, the man locks himself in. His heart is pounding; his head is reeling; his breath is coming in sobbing gasps.
With a loud CRASH the casket breaks down the door.
Bumping and clapping toward him.
The man screams and reaches for something, anything, but all he can find is a bottle of cough syrup!
Desperate, he throws the cough syrup at the casket...
(hopefully you're ready for this!!!)
...the coffin stops.
Here's the bad news:
All of the NFL team's emblems are copyright images. It would be an infringement of that copyright for any place to produce patterns without the permission of the NFL. And the NFL, apparently, aren't giving permission.
Spookmaster was trying, but the NFL refused. Still, his site does give one an idea of how the carved pumpkins might have looked.
It should be pointed out that pumpkin carving patterns are simply black-and-white pictures printed out onto a page. You cut out the black bits, lay it over the pumpkin and draw through the design.
So.. how hard can it be to make your own, no matter what you want to carve?
If you want to buy pumpkin carving patterns for your favourite NFL team, they are out there. Yankeehalloween.com has a couple, the Giants and the Patriots.
But, really, where else you gonna go? NFLShop.com has 15 teams. Redskins, Titans, Rams, Eagles, Jets, Giants, Vikings, Dolphins, Colts, Packers, Lions, Browns, Bears, Ravens, and Falcons.
And if they ain't there, they ain't anywhere.
Sports commentators: filling the silences in the game with mindless pap so you don't have to think.
2001 was Eddie George, who had his worst career season that year.
2002 was Daunte Culpepper, who went out with a knee injury.
2003 was Marshall Faulk, who with an injured ankle had his worst season for four years.
2004 was Michael Vick, who fractured his tibia on the day the game was released.
2005 was Ray Lewis, who had a terrible season and had to sit out the last game because he was injured.
2006 was Donovan McNabb, who had a "sports hernia" and was eventually (and painfully) retired for the season by the Cowboys.
2007 is Shaun Alexander.
Who just broke his foot.
I'm not superstitious, but if I were a football player, I would stay the hell away from John Madden.
And Campbell's soup.
And Sports Illustrated.
That's the not-particularly-imaginative title of a piece over at MSNBC on Alabaman Gubernatorial candidate Loretta Nall (nallforgovernor.com and nallforgovernor.blogspot.com)
Nall, a Libertarian, is campaigning for the Governor's office and as part of her strategy is using the slogan "More of these boobs (under a picture of herself) and less of these boobs (over pictures of her four opponents)"
However, as Nall herself points out, that's not all she's about. Neither is the fact, inexplicably pointed out in the article, that her blonde hair colour comes from a bottle.
Her blog is worth a read, even if only because it's startling to find a politician with an actual, real, honest-to-goodness sense of humour.
And I look foreward to celebrating Winter-een-mass with you all this year.
Hat tip to Office_Shredder at AP.
And, courtesy of tain, we have:
First, I heard about the incident (in a previous post) where Pres. Bush basically told the American people that their opinions didn't matter.
Then radio talking-head, hate mongeror and darling of the right, Rush Limbaugh, had the total and utter stupidity to attack Michael J Fox - he of the Back To The Future, Spin City, Doc Hollywood, and, more recently, breaking our hearts with his courageous fight against Parkinson's - by accusing the pint-sized, yet lovable actor of faking his symptoms to garner sympathy. in a recent set of ads to support stem-cell research.
Then we learn that Wyoming Republican Representative Barbera Cubin said to Thomas Rankin, the Libertarian candidate who is challenging her seat next month, "If you weren't sitting in that chair, I'd slap you across the face."
Rankin is in a wheelchair.
Then there's Jim Gibbons, Republican candidate for the Governor's job in Nevada. Hates illegal immigrants, talks tough on illegal immigration, employs an illegal immigrant for years.
Of course, the biggest story is Mark Foley. I probably don't have to provide links for that name. He's the dude who was up to no good with some of the under-age pages in DC.
Okay, remember when the Conservative party went under in Britain? What happened? Years of incompetence and nothing happened. Years of screwing us out of everything and nothing happened. Years of running Britain into the crapper and nobody lifted a finger! A few months of serious, complete, constant, and unending scandals and they've not seen office since.
The outlook is not good.
Although, a word of warning to my American chums. We replaced the Conservatives with Blair and his cronies. And we've all seen how that clusterfuck worked out.
Don't bank on the Democrats riding to the rescue on a white charger and putting the world to rights with a wave of a magic wand.
Remember, no matter who you vote for, the government always gets in.
Well, at least Blair's opinion counts for something, somewhere.
All joking aside, I'm stunned that there hasn't been more - which is to say any - outrage over the President saying to 300 million Americans "I don't give a shit what you think".
I mean, democracy, right?
At what point did the carving of pumpkins turn into a "cute" event? When did boys stop carving and moms start? Where did we lose touch with one of the years coolest events?
Today we will seize back this ritual. Today is the day we throw away those safe, cute carving tools. Today. We will buy a big, ugly, pumpkin so large one man cannot lift or move it. Today. We will carve that sumbitch into something ugly and plop it on the front porch. Ocrober 31st we will light it brightly enough to give visting children suntans.
Pumpkin carving is reborn.
Welcome to ExtremePumpkins.com where strange pumpkins, pumpkin patterns, and alternative pumpkin carving techniques are developed and demonstrated for you. Pumpkin carving will never be the same.
Link found via Positive Athiesm, funnily enough.