Listen, My Children...

Every Little Helps

Friday, August 29, 2003

Public Service Announcement


In many fora over the past week I have heard disturbing comments about SBC's broadband service in Houston and Austin (and likely elsewhere). Although they are still running ads for it, apparently they are not expanding their service area -- nor repairing problems had by their existing clients -- for three months or so, until certain legal problems are fixed. So, if you've got SBC broadband, and your service goes out, well, get another company if you want to get online any time before Thanksgiving!

Thursday, August 28, 2003

On Lemuria


I like UT. If you smile at people, they smile back! In Boston, if you smile at people, they give you a worried look and check to make sure their shirt's buttoned properly. My professors are grand as well, with such different styles of teaching.

One professor, a German lady, is exceptionally German. Her jokes, apparently, do not translate -- she had me in stitches the whole class, but no one else was laughing at all. Her teaching style is rather Germanic, which seems nice. I finally understand what people at Harvard, mostly transfers, were saying back in all that grade inflation hoopla -- the workload for this class seems miniscule, but students were complaining about how heavy it is and the professor was apologizing for the unusually large amount of reading. Same with one of my other classes (not Sanskrit, for Sanskrit's the same everywhere). It's true -- students at Harvard (and, I'm assuming, other Ivies) simply do a heck of a lot more work than students at other schools.

The Sanskrit professor, Patrick Olivelle, is incredibly brilliant. No surprises there. He also teaches in the best old style, the method used by and only by all of the old Sanskritists, German, American, and Indian, who were trained both in India and in the west. Not too much recitation, but also no imaginary dialogues between imaginary people named Raja and Rani.

But then comes my Tamil professor -- my word, he's unique. Like many Tamilians, his language and cultural history are tantamount to religion for him. Even billboards in Tamilnadu say, "Long Live Classical Divine Tamil." He's got all sorts of entertaining and easily refutable ideas about historical linguistics and South Asian history. The most entertaining -- and obviously the most important to him, as he spent nearly a whole lecture in a language class detailing his beliefs on the subject -- is the existence of a sort of South Indian Atlantis called Lemuria. This Tamil-speaking kingdom was grand and imposing and covered an entire continent filling up nearly all of what is now the Indian Ocean. Plate tectonics, of course, are out of the question for many Indians, because the geography of India is divinely created and has been exactly the same since the beginning of time. (Sinking continents and kingdoms excepted.) There have been some excellent books on the sacred geography of India; none of them, however, mention Lemuria. Why? Because of a North Indian conspiracy to keep from common knowledge the fact that the Tamil-speaking people were rulers of the world. The professor has been to the University of Wisconsin at Madison, place of exceptionally good language programs and home to an impressive geographical library. When the professor went to the library to look for their documents on Lemuria, the people there "refused" to give them to him -- further evidence of a conspiracy. Some even denied the existence of such a place, "more proof of western ignorance about this great and true kingdom." Well, then!

But I suppose it takes all kinds. Some of the biggest conspiracy theorists -- including the author of the most well-written of the moon-landing-was-faked books -- are college professors, but always in other fields from those they allege conspiracies in. They can still be quite good in their main field. Heck, the last remaining communist does quite well teaching linguistics at MIT.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Austin


Guess who's back and moved in? Finally got the cable guy to come out today, so I'm back online -- how nice. I like Austin.

Monday, August 18, 2003

On Computers and Blogger


I have my computer back! Posting from it right now.

And Blogger's new format is so confusing. On my father's computer, right now, it is obnoxious and hard to use. On mine, right now, it's a snazzified version of the old format and quite lovely. Nice colors as well.

Moving up to Austin permanently on Wednesday, so shall resume my frequent posting as soon after that date as Time-Warner hooks me up for cable internet. (Hey, Austinites: for cable internet, is Time-Warner the way to go, or should I use someone else?) Until then, do head over to the Weekly Standard and read an engrossing and well-written article on their cover.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

On LOTR Genders...


Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?


So there, Mr. C -- it's not that hard to show up as male!

Hmm. Perhaps that's not something I should be thrilled about? Meh.

On The Passion


Head over to Courreges for an excellent point-by-point reply to the ADL's complaints about the new Mel Gibson film.

One point, though, Owen (as your comments are down): according to their website, it's the Anti-Defamation League, not the American Defamation League. However, although the two names would seem to be rather in opposition to each other, the latter seems to be commonly applied to the former.

Monday, August 11, 2003

On Micro Center


I have fixed my computer; the problem was that the motherboard was shot. So confiscated the kid sister's (as she only uses a laptop anyhow) and all's done. Had thought that perhaps I needed a new power source, though, so I head out to Micro Center by the Galleria to get myself one. Get home, fiddle around, find out I don't need a new one; my old one works just fine, and I also have the sister's one. So, plan to take the (entirely unused) newly-purchased power source back.

I went back to the store and explained that I wanted to return it. "This doesn't match what's on the outside of the box," the lady at the counter says. Fine, perhaps something bizarre has happened, although I didn't even do anything more than take it out of the non-shrink-wrapped box and then put it back in. So, I take it home, look at the other power sources (both my old one and my sister's); none match what the box says. Obviously, there's been a mix-up, either at the store or somewhere before that.

Back to the store, new shift, new people at the desk, and I try a different tack. I explain that I want to return it because the power source in the box I had purchased was not the one the box had on the label. The clerk goes back to consult with the manager. Manager emerges after quite some time and says, "this isn't what should be in the box." I say, "yes; that's why I want to return it; the product in the box was not the one the box led me to believe I was buying." He says, "but I can't take this back -- it's not what was in the box. It's not what we sold you." I reply that I know it's not what should have been in the box, but it is what I purchased. I pull out my old power source, which I'd brought along, to emphasize that it can't just be a stupid mistake on my part. I point out that the boxes aren't shrink-wrapped or taped or anything and perhaps someone was looking at several in the store and got them mixed up. He then gets quite angry and accuses me of being a thief, trying to cheat them, bringing in my old parts with "some sort of a story" pretending I have something to return... my word. What ever happened to "the customer is always right"? There's no way I'm going back there again. I don't care if people say they're better; I refuse to give my money to any company that will treat me that way. It's just not worth it.

Kinds of People


There was a note from my father for me this morning, saying, "There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who know binary, and those who don't."

I liked that. Also liked the confused looks given by the rest of the family. Things I'm going to miss in a week when I'm on my own in Austin.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

On General Convention, II


The Episcopal church hasn't got this much news play since Henry divorced Catherine, one wag said.

Anyhow: I'm distressed by the way this whole thing is playing out.

On the computer front: some at OutRight are claiming that mygoodnessme we never had anything even remotely questionable on our website -- if anything was there, we must have been hacked into and it was put there and we just didn't notice! Of course. But there were strong enough denials to please the powers that be. In any case, Bishop Spong writes an often obscene and vulgar sex column, a column with little similarity to the church norms he swore to uphold, and he receives only praise from the Presiding Bishop, so perhaps even directing it at twelve year olds is now the in thing.

On the "inappropriate touching" front: this is what disturbs me. The charges were deemed not serious enough to warrant a full investigation. As far as has been given out, the statements made by the accuser are not being questioned. However, they are being cast aside for two reasons at least: I hear from one quarter that, since there was no "power imbalance" between the Canon Robinson and the accuser, there could not have been sexual misconduct. Sexual harrassment can only take place where there is a power imbalance. Good to know. Another source tells me that word is being put around at the Convention that it was quite intolerant of the accuser to make the allegations, as such behavior is what comes naturally to homosexual men and should be accepted and tolerated as part of who they are. Also, good to know. Grab your equals where they'd rather you not, and not only is that not inappropriate, but it's entirely within your rights and they'd be intolerant to complain about it.

Were it not that I know and am very close with homosexuals who do not believe these outrages and who do not lead bizarre lives, after hearing things like this I'd be tempted to believe that they are all sick and depraved.

UPDATE: Of course, the kid sister thinks it's a turn for the better; that truth and morality are changeable, "tradition" means "old-fashioned things that should be abandoned without a thought" rather than "things that have stood the test of time and might be worth keeping," and the Bible writers obviously only thought that God was speaking to them. We wrote the Bible, so we can change it; and the church must change to match the present culture. Oh, ok.

Monday, August 04, 2003

On General Convention


What news! The vote of the bishops on the confirmation of Vicky Gene Robinson has been postponed -- due to one concern that should have been raised much earlier and also due to some shocking allegations. The websites of his organization ("Outright"), up until yesterday, were pornographic themselves or linked to the kind of crud you see if you search for cracks on astalavista. This, while claiming to market themselves to people ages 12-22. Suddenly, after the news was made public, the websites have been cleaned up, but I and many others managed to see and be sickened by them before they were cleaned up and all wrongdoing was denied with shocked, angelic faces. In addition, there's an email that would seem more in place in Boston's Catholic church: Mr. Robinson apparently does not understand the concept of "ok and not ok touching" that we all learned when we were four and our parents worried about our well-being.

Purely a smear campaign by a homophobe, right? Well, some people, foreseeing the website whitewashing, cached the pages themselves, and that is being looked at in the investigation into conduct unbecoming of a bishop; and the accuser begins his letter with the argument, "PLEASE DO allow the development of some sort of blessing of committed same-sex relationships. That symbolism is important and overdue."
I know, through emails, a substantial proportion of the higher-ups opposed to this confirmation. A few feel that a man who makes sacramental vows to God and then breaks them is not to be trusted to hold to his sacramental vows to the church as Bishop. Those people do not consider divorced people of any variety to be proper candidates for church headship. Others could care less what someone does on his own time in his own bed but aren't comfortable appointing as a defender of the faith a man who says that the source and tradition of said faith is wrong or subjective. The majority seem to feel, as I do, that, in certain circumstances, someone can do what the church they swear to obey and uphold says is wrong, be it drinking to excess, atheism, dishonesty, or unallowed sexual behavior, and still repent and hold a high position -- but under no circumstances should they hold a high position while saying that what they are doing is not wrong. They can go be unitarians, or they can form their own church, or do whatever they wish, but such hypocrisy is not in keeping with the church. I'm no vegetarian, but I'd certainly question the honesty of an unrepentant meat-eater in charge of PETA.

One thing all those opposed to Robinson's confirmation have in common is that they would never use dishonest means to achieve their goal -- it would be entirely incongruous with the beliefs defining that goal. (Here I do not speak for the average lay member; I know very little about lay and uninvolved Episcopalians. I speak about clergy and those educated laity involved in the confirmation process.) I have heard prayers that the confirmation would not take place, but next to those prayers are resignation that the church will have to be abandoned should it take steps deemed to be heretical. I have also heard prayers that the confirmation would take place in order that it would hasten an inevitable schism. Deviant methods would disgust the same people disgusted by what they believe to be a church affirmation of sin; deviant methods would drive them out as well, albeit not as quickly.

So, I believe the allegations to be worth looking into and not discarding out-of-hand, as some have already done. I know the first to be true, but I hope the second is not -- the last thing we need is yet another priest getting his jollies off of parishioners.

UPDATE: As for the timing of the sexual misconduct allegations: Michael Hopkins, president of the Episcopal homosexual organization Integrity and one of Robinson's strongest supporters, emphasizes that people with such complaints often come forward at the last minute. If he doesn't automatically assume the timing to prove the claim's falsity, others shouldn't either.

Additionally, about the website charges: what's being reported is that, through several (accounts range from 2 to 6; on Sunday, it only took 2) clicks, you could access run-of-the-mill XXX porn sites from the website in question. Many people, fairly sensibly, are saying that you can get to porn from just about any site, if you go enough links away from it. That's not the whole story, though; what concerned me and others more was in the writing directly on said site (and other OutRight sites). Contests for writing "juicy" and "c---alicious" sex stories, people describing in detail their sexual experiences and giving tips, basically somewhat more than the stuff you'll find in playboy if you're reading the fantasy articles or what you'll find on the 18-plus areas of the About.com webpages. And this aimed at twelve-year-olds. As for the timing of the website charges: I can say quite certainly that hardly anyone had even thought to look at his organization's websites before a few days ago. When they did, they were shocked, and they brought it to the attention of the higher-ups immediately. People weren't looking for material reasons to stop the consecration; they were leaning on theological ones, as the church, one would assume, is based on theology. Of course, theology is played out in material ways; but they didn't need any additional reasons beyond those they already had. (See Kendall Harmon's "con" speech for an example of the reasoning most used, although not all expressed it so calmly or so well.)

Sunday, August 03, 2003

The City of West University Place


I live in an unincorporated city surrounded on all sides by Houston. There are many benefits to living in West U. One of them is a very vigilant police force. There are also a few downsides to living in West U. One of them is an over-vigilant police force. Speed limit is 30? Don't go 33, or you'll get a ticket. Really.

One of my friends, proud owner of a 1972 baby blue Pinto and resident of West U., gets pulled over every time there's a new cop in the area. What are you doing here in this neighborhood? I live here, officer. Oh, really? Yep, check out my address on my license. And how about that car -- you don't have a shoulder strap on your seat belt. Yes, officer; under law ______, it was grandfathered in. (He's memorized quite a schpiel about it.)

Bob got pulled over last night for "loitering" when he dropped me off in the wee small hours. I'd already gone inside, so he had no way of proving that he had a legitimate reason to be around. Anyway, the officer asks to see his license, and it turns out the fool is too lazy to have gotten it renewed when it expired last February. So he gets a ticket for driving without a license. Of course, that means he's angry, and, even though he's at fault, he's refusing to come back to this part of town. He's also still not going to go get his license renewed. Doesn't have time when he's in Houston; doesn't know where DPS is in Austin (and when I look it up and tell him where they are, he gets mad, so that's not the real reason). Hey, I'm mad because they caught me out in my negligence -- I'll keep on being negligent! That'll show them!

It sounds like something my father would do. Some men are so childish.

UPDATE: Part of the charge was a large fine for "failure to maintain liability insurance." Now, Bob has insurance, and he has the card in his car and showed it to the cop. No matter; since an insurance company won't allow you to take out a policy if your license is expired -- that is, since he wouldn't be able to get a new policy if he had tried to get one yesterday -- he doesn't have insurance, no matter what the company says. Quite sensibly, he takes that up with his insurance company, who tell West U. that the cop's a fool. So all that's left is the license violation; after much nagging (I hate nagging, but sometimes it has to be done) he went and got his license renewed, at which point he finds out that, if you renew your license within a week or so of the citation, you get the ticket waived and just have to pay $10 for the inconvenience. Huzzah!

Moral of the story: West U. cops are over the top (which is better than having useless ones, though), and it pays to be responsible and do what your girlfriend tells you to do.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

On HIV


This article in the NYTimes is distressing:
According to figures just released by the Centers for Disease Control, the number of new AIDS cases rose last year for the first time in a decade. Four Americans now become infected with the disease every hour. Many of our young men see infection as a right of passage, an inevitable coming of age. I hear of them seeking the disease as entree into the cool, queer inner circle that being negative denies them.

I've heard this many times, this story of young men, especially in New York City, actively seeking to become HIV+ to feel "included." I have also been called bigoted and homophobic for sending just a link to an article on the topic, with no comments on my part, to an open email list -- apparently, according to my attackers, that story is made up by people who want to smear the reputation of homosexuals. Perhaps, now that it's in the NYTimes, people will believe it and realize that there is a problem.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Bob


My Bob's back in Texas; all's right with the world. :)