September 25, 2011

And now . . . this - Sept. 25/11

Oh no! Moosaholism is becoming a major Scandinavian social ill:

A homeowner from Storebro in northern Kalmar County arrived home on Wednesday night to find his garden littered with bits of apple and other signs that an elk had been partying in his back yard, the local Ă–stran and Barometern newspapers reported. . . .

While police and the hunter failed to meet up with the prank-playing elk, they did eventually find the family's swing set, propped up in a tree deep in the woods about 500 metres from their home.

[Full Story]

Yeesh. They'll be driving drunk and trying to pick fights outside orchards, next.

September 22, 2011

Are the unborn "individuals"?

As is my occasional wont, I got into it again today with the usual crowd of pro-choice folks tweeting their bumper-sticker slogans on Twitter. Today, the argument was that the unborn are not "individuals," by virtue of the fact that they depend on the body of another human being to survive.

You'll note that this is a functionalist definition of the term. Functionalism defines a person (or a human being or individual, as the case may be) by their function or behaviour: in other words, how human you are depends on what you can do, not on who or what you are.

Contrast that with the primary definition of "individual" as given at "A single human being, as distinguished from a group." A fetus certainly does meet this definition: a DNA test would rule out her being one of her mother's body parts, for example.

Aha, my Twitter opponent countered, but what about twins, then? Identical twins have identical DNA. Was I arguing that they are not individuals?

First of all, this missed my point, which was that they are individuals with respect to their mother. Fetuses are not body parts. What they are in relation to each other, on the other hand, is beside the point. (And even the fact of identical DNA is not so cut and dried.)

But nonetheless, I decided to press this question just a little farther. What do you do with conjoined twins? Take, for example, the Hensel twins, who share several vital organs. Abigail and Brittany Hensel were not separated at birth because of the unlikelihood of one twin surviving. They are highly coordinated and have learned to walk, swim, drive a car, and even type, even though each twin controls one arm and one leg. They are absolutely dependent upon one another for survival.

Are they individuals, I asked? Repeatedly. I got a lot of filibustering and personal abuse. What I did not get, however, was an answer.

Despite the necessity of the Hensel twins' functioning together, they are individuals. They have different likes and dislikes. They have different tastes in clothing, such that their joined garments are specially tailored to express their individuality. They each had to earn their own driver's licenses. So despite their dependency on each other's bodies for survival, they are indisputably individuals. And that is according to a functionalist definition.

How human you are does not depend on how dependent you are on another human being. Abigail and Brittany Hensel are not each half-human or half-individual because they could not survive separately. And neither are the unborn because they cannot survive outside the womb. The facts of life simply do not square with glib pro-choice rhetoric.

September 12, 2011

And now . . . this - Sept. 12/11

Or . . . just eat less HP sauce

It has enlivened countless fry-ups and given a kick to many a plate of bangers and mash.

But yesterday HP Sauce fans complained that their favourite brand had been left tasting "bland" and "disgusting" after a cut in salt to meet health targets.

Hundreds of readers contacted Mail Online to say the sauce just isn’t what it used to be, saying they were simply sprinkling their own salt on top or switching to other brands.

[Full Story]

The situation is obviously dire. There's only one possible solution: more bergamot.

September 10, 2011

Superman Saturday: June is bustin' out all over

Dadadada-dada! Saturday!

We last left Superman waiting to learn the fate of an unidentified girl who had, in the course of a day, been trapped in a burning high-rise, then stabbed by two men posing as her relatives. Also, Superman did a number of things that were not very clever. Fear not, Faithful Reader, for the Man of Steel's bonehead streak continues this week as Clark Kent continues to investigate the . . .

Episode 12: North Star Mining Company (1940/03/08)


Despite being nearly burned alive and stabbed in a single day, the girl's injuries were light, and she is now well enough to grant Clark his long-delayed interview. And since the script now calls her by her name, June Anderson, I will do the same.

And now . . . this - Sept. 10/11

Hey, it's 11/10/09! (And had it occurred to me an hour ago, I would have written this post at 08:07. So I couldn't resist back-dating it.)

Back to basics

What does the phrase "drunk moose, monkeys, and stupid criminals" mean? It was the thought that ran through my head that day in 2003 when I decided to start a blog.

It was a dark, windy and rainy night when Per Johansson returned from work to his home in Saro just south of Gothenburg, Sweden.

"It was raining really bad. In the wind I heard something screaming with a very dark voice," Johansson told CNN. "At first I wondered if it was the crazy neighbors, but then I heard it again and went and checked. I saw something really big up in a tree in my neighbors' yard and it was a moose. It must have been drunk after eating fermented apples and as it was reaching out for more fruit it must have slipped and fallen into the tree."

[Full Story]

At last we have the answer to the age-old question: Can mooses climb trees? When they're really, really drunk, they can. Getting down . . . not so much.

"At first I wondered if it was the crazy neighbours." As they used to say on Tales of the Riverbank—that's another story.

Public nudity, the San Francisco treat

I'm having trouble deciding whether this is intentional, or Freudian. Nonetheless:

In the San Francisco Bay area where tolerance is king, it is a rare politician willing to clamp down on citizens who let it all hang out.

But San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener stepped into that position earlier this week when he introduced an ordinance that would require nudists to cover their seats in public places and wear clothes in restaurants. . . .

Wiener, who represents the Castro neighborhood, said he hears from merchants who fear the public displays may drive away customers, hurting the business' bottom lines. . . .

California does have legislation against indecent exposure. But the law is lenient enough that it has barely affected San Francisco's current coterie of flaunters.

[Full Story]

Some days, the jokes just write themselves.

September 04, 2011

Earl Grey: Now even more overpoweringly perfumey

Now, I like Earl Grey Tea— I have done since my second day of university when I bought a mug of boiling water and a bag of Bigelow's Earl Grey, without knowing what I was getting into. (And I was still a couple weeks away from knowing anything about Captain Picard or his hot beverage of choice.) My favourite brand of Earl Grey has always been Twinings, but if this is true, then I very well may end up looking for a new brand:

Charles Grey, the second Earl Grey, gave the world many things, notable among them the Reform Act of 1832, but most of us remember him as the man they named a kind of tea after. Earl Grey is a brilliant tea; even its name conjures up both class and softness (most teas taste like they should be called Baron Harsh), and its taste—bergamot, by and large—is unique yet not too disturbing for the British palate. . . .

Twinings' bizarre plan to change the flavour of Earl Grey seems a misguided one. It has added more lemon and more bergamot to make it even more "wonderful." Leaving aside the fact that only in the world of tea-producing have the words "more bergamot" and "wonderful" ever been combined, you do feel that they have, how can I put it, gone barmy.

[Full Story]

Also coming soon: New improved Guinness! Now with more melon flavour!

There's an apropos saying. It starts, "If it ain't broke . . ."

September 03, 2011

Superman Saturday: When we kiss, ooh baby, it's fire

After last week's triple feature, I return this week to the regular two-episode format and a new adventure for Superman: a tale of danger, intrigue, and frankly enough super-boneheadedness that I'm actually going to keep count as we go. Let's just say it's not Superman's finest hour.

When we last left our heroes, Clark Kent as Superman had just defeated the megalomaniacal Yellow Mask, by deliberately colliding a plane with his to prevent him from destroying the Daily Planet with atomic Science! Clark returns to work the next day, presumably to bask in adulation for saving everyone's lives. Immediately, a photographer named Mike rushes up and informs Clark and Perry White that the Sterling Building, one of Metropolis' largest, is on fire and there's a girl trapped on the 20th floor . . .

September 02, 2011

Friday night downtime

Now is the time on the Crusty Curmudgeon when we dance.

Friday in the wild: September 2, 2011

Ha! It's actually Friday this time. No unnecessary delays, no accidentally falling asleep at 8 pm, blog article unwritten. Nope . . . just doing what I set out to do. Such a refreshing change from the usual, which I like to call "failure."

If you've ever wanted to write a novel but didn't know where to begin, the Art of Manliness blog had what I think is a helpful article on how to begin:

Many men have dreamed of writing a novel. Perhaps you have been told by a teacher that you have a knack for writing. Maybe you’re an avid reader and you think you could do just as well as the authors of the books you enjoy. Or perhaps you see writing a book as a challenge for yourself.

The good thing is this: anyone can do it! Nothing is stopping you from firing up your laptop and hammering away to create the caper of the century. There is no barrier or cost to entry. All you need is paper, pen, and the will to succeed.

[Read How to Write a Novel]

I had intuited many of the same steps myself, in the past. Hasn't resulted in any novels, yet, though.

Over at the Gospel Coalition blog, Collin Hanson wrote an article about the death-but-not-death of postmodernism in the West:

Christians tend to think of postmodernism as a revolution in philosophy and ethics. This view of postmodernism—an all-encompassing, coherent alternative to the arrogant certainty of modernism—stands on shaky ground. Postmodernism has always been applied selectively and often resembles a hyper-modernism, not a radically new enterprise. Indeed, postmodernism can only be explained in relation to its predecessor. The postmodern schools of art and literature represented a scattered protest against the conventions of modernism. The London art exhibit’s curators explain:

The modernists wanted to open a window onto a new world. Postmodernism, by contrast, was more like a broken mirror, a reflecting surface made of many fragments. Its key principles were complexity and contradiction. It was meant to resist authority, yet over the course of two decades, from about 1970 to 1990, it became enmeshed in the very circuits of money and influence that it had initially sought to dismantle.

Here we see several key elements of what has led so many Christian observers to take notice of postmodernism. We have grown skeptical of grand theories that purport to explain the way things were, are, and will be. Unlike modern schools of thought—say, Marxism—we recognize the complexity of human motivations. We have learned to live with contradiction, to embrace paradox.

[Read Postmodernism: Dead but Not Gone]

Nathan Finn at the new blog Credo posted another good article on William Carey:

History influenced the missiology of Carey and his associates. Scholars argue that the Moravians, David Brainerd, and John Eliot were all taken into consideration when Carey, Joshua Marshman, and William Ward drew up their famous Serampore Form of Agreement. In other words, Carey and friends understood that there was nothing new under the sun and they wanted to learn from the successes and failures of missionaries who had gone before them. History was used in the service of cross-cultural evangelism and church-planting.

[Read William Carey's View of History]

Stuff Christians Like had a pretty funny article about sitting in church near someone who can sing. "Why aren't they in the choir?" Having an OK voice myself, I get this a fair bit. It's embarrassing. My singing isn't that good; that's why I bury it in the choir.

Finally, with communion coming up this Sunday, I really enjoyed what my pastor wrote on his blog this week, after finishing up radiation treatments (he's OK):

If you’ve never been through radiation treatments for cancer, the whole notion of ringing the bell may seem a bit strange. What could be so meaningful about clanging a steel triangle? When I was starting my treatments, I didn’t see loads of meaning in the ceremony. But by the time it was my turn to ring the bell, I could hardly wait.

The cancer patients at Radiation North will tell you there’s something very symbolic, almost sacramental, about ringing the bell. The music announces that radiation is finished. As you ring the bell you remember and you celebrate.

[Read The Bell and the Bread]

Until next week . . .

September 01, 2011

And now . . . this - Sept. 1/11

Enough is enough . . .

Never mind ants in your pants, what about snakes and tortoises?

That's what authorities at Miami's international airport said they found inside the trousers of a passenger as he tried to board a flight for Brazil.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration said the man had seven exotic snakes and three tortoises wrapped in nylon bags that had been stuffed into his pants.

[Full Story]

I've had it with these bleepity-bleep snakes in people's bleepity-bleep pants!

Well, come on, what did you expect me to say? But at least it wasn't monkeys.

Science-Fiction Free September VII, 2011

It's September 1 . . . and so it's time for the annual moratorium on reading science-fiction books. (Read that title again: "Science Fiction Free September Seven, Two Thousand Eleven." Just rolls right off the tongue. Plus, SFFS is a palindrome. What more could anyone ask?)

SFFS came about back in 2004, when (after keeping track of my reading for the previous year) I realized my literary input was woefully lacking in anything other than SF. I decided that I would set aside a month to read anything but SF (apart from finishing a book already in progress), and planned out a selection of works to read. That first experiment was a success, and it also led to my reading Yann Martel's Life of Pi—my review of which is still one of the most popular posts on the blog, at least according to the search engine hits I get. So SFFS was a success, and in subsequent years I would celebrate it with various themes: Canadian literature, Victorian literature, and so forth. I have two restrictions: no science fiction (and preferably no fantasy either), and it should be something I haven't read before (since the whole point, after all, was to broaden my horizons!).

Of course, success has been varied, and I don't think I've ever succeeded in reading everything I set out to. So this year, I'm setting my sights a little lower. I'm going to finish as many books as possible that I've started, before moving on to something else:

  • Dead or Alive, by Tom Clancy. This was given to me for Christmas. I finished about 3/4 of it by spring, then got caught up in some required reading and never got round to picking it up again.
  • Under the Dome, by Stephen King. Recently given to me by a friend as a "birthday" present (he didn't really know when my birthday was). For some reason, I have a real phobia about reading later Stephen King books. I have intended for years to read them all in order before starting on his newer books, but never got farther than Pet Sematary. The result is that with the exception of Dreamcatchers, I've never read any of King's books later than The Green Mile in 1996. And this is the guy I claim is my favourite author? Sheesh . . .
  • Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo. In a sense, I've both read this before and finished it—I was hospitalized for a week in 1996 and, with nothing better to do, read an abridged edition from the hospital library. (Frankly, it was the only book they had that I was even interested in, so I'm glad my stay wasn't longer.) However, I've not read the complete novel. I started it earlier this year and got as far as Hugo's description of Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo.
  • Bleak House, by Charles Dickens. Actually, this will turn out to be a re-read, since I started it about 12 years ago and only got about five chapters in. Still, the story intrigued me enough.

So there you go. I think I'll actually post a progress indicator of sorts in the sidebar, too. Wish me luck!