Category Archives: Uncategorized

Deconstructing the Myths of “The First Thanksgiving”

Myth #11: Thanksgiving is a happy time.

Fact: For many Indian people, “Thanksgiving” is a time of mourning, of remembering how a gift of generosity was rewarded by theft of land and seed corn, extermination of many from disease and gun, and near total destruction of many more from forced assimilation. As currently celebrated in this country, “Thanksgiving” is a bitter reminder of 500 years of betrayal returned for friendship.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying this festive holiday (I certainly fully intend to do so); but let’s not entertain the pretension that it was originally a celebration of friendship and harmony with the native peoples of the area, or that God had miraculously “provided” food for the “pilgrims”. Instead, let’s enjoy the opportunity to dine, celebrate, and enjoy the company of our friends and family.

Fear? Politicking? Religion? Ignorance?

Repost of my response to a comment at The Barefoot Bum’s blog.

Fear? Politicking? Religion? Ignorance?

Having been raised as a fundie Christian, I’ll go with Ignorance (well, and Religion, obviously, but that’s redundant).

In the church I was raised in, we were not taught to hate¹ homosexuals, we were taught to “love the sinner, hate the sin”. We could genuinely feel kindness and good-will toward someone we knew to be homosexual, while condemning their lifestyle².

But the Bible condemns homosexuality³. It’s a “sin”, and the Bible tells us that temptation can always be avoided, so therefore it must also be a “choice” to be gay. It also goes against nature (never mind that there are numerous observed instances of homosexual behavior throughout nature; bonobos for example routinely use it as a relationship-building means). God created HIV as a punishment for homosexuality (never mind that its first sufferers would not have contracted it in that way; I suppose God hates African hunters, too).

Probably due to Paul’s language in Romans about God giving men over to unnatural desires, “[burning] in lust one toward another”, I believe most Christians associate homosexuality entirely with ravenous sexual desire, and do not realize that deep, unconditional and selfless love, thoughtfulness, and human affection play as much a role in gay relationships as they do in straight ones. This makes it easier to despise. For me personally, I think being exposed to the humanity of homosexual relationships may have played a significant role in my own change of perspective.

I suspect that most proponents of Prop 8, perhaps contrary to expectations, don’t actually support civil unions between homosexuals either, but referred to it as an attempt to placate. “Look, this law (as opposed to our desire) isn’t taking away your rights to a relationship together, just marriage!”

Ignorance really is the rule. But combatting it is difficult, when the biggest root of the problem is the belief that the Bible (or the Church) is the Word (or Voice) of God. Still, it can be eroded through steady exposure to the many evidences that the Bible is the work only of men, that homosexual preference is not a choice, that homosexual relationships can be as loving as heterosexual ones, that there’s no such thing as an engraved definition of “traditional marriage”, etc. It’s an uphill battle, but society is slowly coming around.

A decade ago, Prop 8 would’ve won by a landslide—in fact, a decade ago, no one would have bothered to propose it, because no one would have feared that their precious “definition of marriage” was in jeapordy. It’s a desparation act, and despite the temporary victory, its existence is in itself something of a good sign, I think.

That the proposition was accepted is also no reason to feel that we can’t repeal it in the next election: it succeeded in large part due to heavy financial support from outside the state; it may be that they’ll feel safe enough not to spend so much money in defense of their creation. Either way, we’ll never defeat it unless we remain steady and continue to challenge it at every turn.

¹ By “hate” here I mean intensely negative emotional feelings. I generally prefer to view “love” and “hate” in terms of the actions one takes, and not just emotions; from that perspective Prop 8 is absolutely an act of hatred. Also, I don’t mean to imply that my church experience is universal, or even necessarily usual: there are certainly plenty of examples of church atmospheres where the attitude toward homosexuals is unquestionably hateful.

² in much the same way we would accept unmarried couples but condemn their lifestyle. However, while many churches had unmarried couples the church would try to “love into righteousness”, I know of few to no churches that would admit gay couples under the same terms.

³ Despite having heard arguments to the contrary, I still find this a hard conclusion to escape. Fervently devoted gay Christians continue to fascinate me.

Obama Quote on “Doing Green Things”

My new favorite Obama quote, from the highlights from Newsweek’s Special Elections project:

I often find myself trapped by the questions and thinking to myself, ‘You know, this is a stupid question, but let me … answer it.’ So when Brian Williams is asking me about what’s a personal thing that you’ve done [that’s green], and I say, you know, ‘Well, I planted a bunch of trees.’ And he says, ‘I’m talking about personal.’ What I’m thinking in my head is, ‘Well, the truth is, Brian, we can’t solve global warming because I f—ing changed light bulbs in my house. It’s because of something collective’.

Why I’ll Never Buy Another Card From American Greetings

So, my wife’s birthday was yesterday. I had all the gifts wrapped, but then realized that I hadn’t remembered to get any cards to go with them.

So I went online looking for create-and-print cards that I could have done in time, and settled on’s “Create & Print” section. It requires a $20/year subscription, but offers a 30-day Free Trial period. So great, I’ll sign up for it, and be sure to cancel within 30 days.

After browsing around for a few minutes, I found a card I liked, and clicked to start the process of customizing and printing it. I then got a message about installing a plugin to continue. Fine. Except that the download link is a 404 (that’s for Firefox; I suspect MSIE would have worked fine).

Well, screw that. I’m not going to mess around any more with it, I just wanted it for my wife’s birthday, and dealing with tech support would be too little, too late. So I wanted to cancel the account.

The problem is, there was no obvious way to do this. I looked under “My Account” (or “My AG”), the first most-obvious place, and there was nothing there for cancellation. I had to spend around 20 minutes in the help section before I finally found it: “Currently online cancellation is not available. In order to verify ownership, we require that all cancellations be completed over the phone.”

This, of course, royally pissed me off. This is a really lousy way to do business, and I’m fairly certain that it’s illegal as well: it should be as easy to unsubscribe as it is to subscribe. I tried calling, but of course, being Sunday, I was given a “we’re closed, our business hours are…” message.

So I come around today to cancel the subscription. But their site is acting up, and four out of five page loads fail, so I’m hitting reload three to five times after every click, in order to find the page that gives the phone number. Fortunately, I was only on hold for about 5 minutes. I got “Why do you want to unsubscribe? We notice that you just subscribed yesterday…”, but after reiterating that it was what I wanted, I got the cancellation.

This is a really shitty way to treat your customers, though, and I’ll be damned if I consciously buy something that feeds money to them in the future. Of course, I won’t yell at friends or family for giving me an American Greetings card, though I do hope they read this and join me in my boycott; this kind of business practice is really unpardonable.

I’ll note here that Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears are among the properties of American Greetings. Subsidiaries include Gibson Greetings and Carlton Cards.


We have this coffee machine at my workplace. I want one, it works great. You just push a button, and out comes hot, fresh-brewed real coffee.

I’m surprised it’s advertised as an “espresso and cappuccino machine”, though, as it doesn’t make a true espresso, since it doesn’t use high-pressure steam to brew the coffee. As near as I can tell, it super-heats water and then drip-brews it, which is even less of an “espresso” than moka (which is also a wonderful way to brew coffee, and does use steam, but also fails to be a true espresso because the steam pressure isn’t high: if you can’t “pull” a shot of it, it ain’t espresso).

At any rate, though, it makes damn-good coffee, and very quickly. You press a button, it grabs some whole beans for grinding, heats some water, and you’ve got a cup of coffee in about a minute, maybe less. You can’t adjust the quantity of beans used, but you can adjust the amount of water used. I tend to put mine fairly low; about the second “big dot”, and then hit the brew button two or three times to make the amount I want, at the strength I want.

Amazon seems to be sold out, though, so maybe Saeco doesn’t make these any more. At any rate, though, it has given me a fairly high opinion of the company. Maybe when I have a little extra money to throw around, I’ll buy one of their current products.

GNU Teseq 1.0.0 Release

I wrote in a previous post about a project I’d been working on, called Eseq, that translates terminal escapes and control sequences to something a little more descriptive, and readable by humans.

Well, after roughly a month of work on it, including features for an “interactive” mode of operation, and a 30-page manual, it’s release-ready. It’s now called Teseq (someone pointed out the confusion Eseq might cause that it might mean “extended seq”, seq being a program from the widely-deployed GNU coreutils package), is an official GNU project, and has seen its official release as of 4 Aug.

The website is at, the manual is online there, and there’s a discussion mailing list.


I keep on seeing those stoopid television commercials for HeadOn: “Apply directly to the forehead!” The commercials feature plenty of folks praising HeadOn for its effectiveness (“it really works!”). Great. But, works at what? I thought it was kind of strange that they went to the trouble that “it really works great”, without telling you what it actually does that it does so well. I had no idea. Do you?

I just saw the commercial again a few minutes ago, and finally worked up the curiosity to look it up on Wikipedia, and finally found out what it does: nothing. It doesn’t do anything. Its manufacturers want you to believe that it treats headaches, but they can’t actually claim that on TV, because there’s no evidence that it’s true.

Okay, Now I’m Pissed

I don’t watch a helluva lot of TV, I’m more of a DVD-watching kinda guy. ‘Swhy I’ve got my Netflix. But, I love to watch The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Pucca. My wife likes to watch King of Queens, and the kids like various cartoons and such.

A disturbing trend I’ve been noticing, is the increasing use of distracting and interruptive advertisement techniques, used during the show, usually to advertise other shows on the same network. The slim bar animations at the bottom of the screen are barely tolerable, but they often obscure parts of the show I want to see. Some of them get around this problem by squishing the whole show vertically while they do their business on the bar below, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s worse. Several notches below that, is when they add audible noises to the stupid animations. Explosions are the worst.

But now, now they’ve not only crossed the line, they’ve smashed it into tiny, tiny pieces. While I’m watching Family Guy on TBS, a Bill Engvall bar comes across the bottom of the screen. He grabs a remote, reaches behind him, and actually pauses Family Guy while he pimps his new show, then unpauses it so you can watch the final 10 seconds before the actual commercial break starts.

Un-friggin-believable. Now, we not only have to deal with commercials between slices of our favorite show, we have to freaking watch commercials during our favorite shows.