December 28, 2005

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES

The problem with reading a science book written in 1979 is that you want to know what has happened since. Sagan kept bringing up wonderfully exciting things that made me wonder what we've learned in the past 25 years. Some things I knew had not come to pass -- such as the bittersweet missed opportunity of a rendezvous mission with Halley's comet -- but other things I have been trying to research to see what we've learned since.

This is how it came to be that I felt a great excitement and inner peace for 24 hours. I learned of the oscillating universe theory.

I've never been a person who thinks much about the meaning of life or why we're here. I've always found more solace in thinking that I'm a small being in an ever-changing cosmos, that there's nothing more special about me than some long-extinct triceratops. I find peace and comfort knowing that the universe is far more complex and wondrous than I could ever comprehend, and that my life is inconsequential in the big scheme of billions of years. This thought that my life is but a blink in time helps me cope with seemingly monumental stressors in my life: high schoolers, deployments, the fact that the coat I wanted from Land's End is discontinued. All of this pales when I think about what has come before and will come after me.

In 1979, Carl Sagan said there was not enough evidence to rule out an oscillating universe. This would mean that the universe could continue a series of collapses and big bangs, in a neverending accordion squeeze on the cosmos. And I liked that idea. As I lay in bed, I imagined another go-round for the universe, with planets at different distances from their stars, possibly fostering new and different life forms. Or not. I imagined the cosmos as a big game of Yahtzee, then laughed that maybe God really does play dice with the universe. I felt excited and at peace, and I wanted to learn more.

So does learning that there's probably not enough matter in the universe to cause a Big Crunch make me disappointed? A little, but I'd rather know the truth. I suppose it doesn't even really bother me that the universe appears to be speeding up and eventally all stars will flicker out and cease to be. If that's what really will happen, then I can accept that.

But boy, did my mind do cartwheels at the thought of an oscillating universe. That was a great feeling, even if it was short lived.

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December 27, 2005

REVELATION

I found an old entry by Vodkapundit that warmed my heart. He found an embed from Alaska who was struck by the magnitude of her job:

Think about everything you’ve heard about the conditions in Iraq, the role of U.S. forces, the multi-layered complexities of the war.

Then think again.

I’m a journalist. I read the news everyday, from several sources. I have the luxury of reading stuff newspapers don’t always have room to print. I read every tidbit I could on Iraq and the war before coming.

Everything I thought I knew was wrong.

Maybe not wrong, but certainly different than the picture in my head.

I liken it to this; It was real struggle for me to choose to see the Harry Potter movies. I had read the books and loved the pictures I had in my mind of the details I read. I didn’t need to see a movie; I had a movie playing in my head of exactly how I perceived the stories.

I had similar notions about Iraq, Mosul, the war and what exactly soldiers do. And it was handily shattered like glass today by a group of soldiers, half of them younger than myself.

She goes on to end with one of the most insightful things I've ever heard a reporter say:

I’ve listened to the soldiers and Parrish about the missing pieces of the puzzles that don’t reach home. My selfish, journalistic drive immediately thinks “Perfect. A story that hasn’t been told. Let me at it.”

But I have a slight hesitation; I need to keep balanced. I can’t be a cheerleader, even if I have a soft spot for the hometown troops, especially after the welcome they’ve shown me. I still need to be truthful and walk the centerline and report the good or bad.

But then I realize it’s not a conflict of interest. If I am truly unbiased, then I need to get used to this one simple fact; that the untold story, might in fact, be a positive one. It takes a minute to wrap my mind around it, as a news junkie that became a news writer. The great, career-making, breaking news stories usually don’t have happy endings; they usually revolve around disturbing news, deceit and downfall. Nasty political doings. Gruesome crimes and murders. Revealing secrets.

But I’ve come upon something that is none of those. Not this aspect of it. There are politics to this war and controversies and investigations. But there is another side.

There are heartwarming and heroic stories coming out of Iraq, and journalists are not "selling out" if they report this good stuff. It was a huge step for this embed to realize that maybe the stories that need to be told are the ones with happy endings.

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December 25, 2005

IF YOU WANT IT...PUH-LEASE

Beth sent me a good article:

Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, and the rest of the "Island of Misfit Toys" gang believe with all their might that, if America will just leave Iraq, all the terrorists will magically disappear! They believe that the UN and the EU can somehow make Iran's weapons-grade uranium go away. And if we all just put down our guns and give Cindy Sheehan a great, big Christmas hug, peace on earth will surely follow.

The husband and I heard John Lennon's "Happy Xmas" song this morning. I remarked that the line "War is over / if you want it" is about the biggest idealistic pile of crap ever. Gee, if we just wish real hard, war will stop all over the world.

Of course, I've been ticked at Lennon ever since I read this, so I was ready for a fight when his song came on.

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December 22, 2005

LABELS

Some commenter said yesterday that America's far left is Europe's moderate. I thought of that today in passing while reading Broca's Brain. I think people look at the world quite differently depending on how they classify themselves. If you think of yourself as an American, you see the world differently than if you think of yourself as a Global Citizen, as it seems most Europeans do. And if you think of yourself as a citizen of the universe, as Sagan does, you look at issues completely differently. Thus when Sagan talks of global warming, he thinks all humans should work together to prevent Earth's habitat from being like Mars. When an American talks about it, he typically thinks about what is best for the US first. I think the label you give yourself says a lot about how you deal with The Issues.

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December 15, 2005

WHAT?

Get. The. F. Out.

This season, America celebrates a holiday whose premise is that God himself came to Earth -- and was given the death penalty. Tookie Williams died at Midnight on the Feast Day for Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of God and patron saint of the Americas. How fitting that the GOP and the Religious Right lobbied for the execution -- and that Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Catholic whose church opposes the death penalty, made the final decision.

Celebrity executions, from Jesus to Tookie Williams, have whatever meaning human actions give them. And the meaning of Tookie's? That the Religious Right, that bastion of politicized pseudo-religion and hypocritical power-grabbing, pronounced its own spiritual death by shouting hosannahs for his execution -- as it has done for the anonymous dead before him.

No disrespect is intended by calling the Crucifixion a "celebrity execution." Quite the contrary -- the power and meaning of the Christ story as it was taught to me is just that: that God Himself would come to Earth anonymously and died despised and forgotten by all but a few, only to be redeemed on behalf of all. His celebrity came later, as a result of His sacrifice. The significance of the death lies in its affirmation of life, in the understanding of believers that it was an act of love -- love for life and the living.

This post, found at RWN, is just jawdropping. You have to be absolutely kidding that 1) this was written, and 2) the comments section is full of people who agree. And the last line...

Another Christmas is coming to the Americas, and another American is gone. If you pray, don't pray for him: pray for us.

Must...fight...urge to start swearing uncontrollably.

Tookie Williams was a murderer. He killed four people before my husband was even freaking born, and he's been wasting air ever since. He was a gangster and a thug, and I don't care how many dadburned children's books he wrote. He shot four people that we know of and laughed about it later. He never expressed regret for what he'd done, yet somehow he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. (Maybe Arafat will show Tookie his while they're both rotting in hell together.)

I clapped the day Timothy McVeigh was executed, and I clapped again Tuesday when Tookie was finally dead. Tookie may have "died despised and forgotten by all but a few", but he most certainly will not be redeemed, and should never be compared to Jesus.

The more I try to grok, the more I feel disgusted at mankind.

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GOOD LUCK, IRAQ

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December 07, 2005

TERRORIZE THIS

Hey, John Kerry...wanna see some of the kids my husband terrorized in Iraq?

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This kid he terrorized by building a school for him...

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This kid he terrorized by letting him wear his Wiley Xs...

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This kid he terrorized by giving him a water bottle when it was 130 degrees...

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The only thing my husband terrorized these kids with was his handwriting...

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John Kerry, you're out of your element here.

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December 06, 2005

MR AND MRS

When I lived in Sweden, I noticed that my friend had a bald eagle trinket on her desk. "Where did you get this?" I asked. "Maryellen gave it to me," she replied. "Ahhh," I said. "Who's that?" "Your fiance's mother!" my friend gasped.

Is it regional what we call adults when we're kids? When I was growing up, I never would've dreamed of calling adults by their first names. All my parents' friends, all the leaders of my clubs, every adult I knew was called Mr. or Mrs. In fact, I still think of most of my parents' friends as Mr. and Mrs. (Hi, Mr. Schultz!) I didn't even call my in-laws by their first names until my husband and I had been engaged for quite a while.

Tonight I started volunteering with the Girl Scouts, and I was mildly shocked that the girls call the leaders by their first names. I guess there's nothing wrong with that if it's the leaders' choice, but it struck me as a little odd, given that I can remember all my old Girl Scout leaders' names, but they all start with Mrs! I couldn't tell you those mothers' first names to save my life.

I've noticed that most people around her prefer to go by Miss + First Name, as in Miss Sarah. That's OK with me, being 28 and all, but don't any kids call adults Mr. or Mrs. these days? Or am I just a stuffy fuddy-duddy from Texas?

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December 01, 2005

CELEBS

My neighbor moved over the summer, and she and I were instant messaging last night. She said that she had watched Barbara Walters' The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2005 program on TV, that is until it started to sicken her and she turned it off.

I love how celebrities can't get enough of themselves. (My husband is brutal to celebs, calling them "people who are attractive for a living".) Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning fascinating? In what way exactly? The winner, the most fascinating person of the year, was Camilla Parker Bowles. Really. That's funny to me, because she's about the last celeb I'm interested in hearing about.

My neighbor was upset. "What makes Tom Cruise more fascinating than Sean Sims?" she asked. I know that's not the point of these stupid celeb-backpatting shows, but for regular Americans, the contrast can sometimes be rather striking. The last sentence of that article killed me:

Rounding out Walters' "Most Fascinating" list are "Desperate Housewives" star Teri Hatcher, Academy Award-winning actor Jamie Foxx and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice."

Really, how dare they lump Condi Rice with Teri Hatcher? Rice works her butt off as one of the most powerful people in the world; Hatcher pretends to be a slutty housewife for a living.

I told my neighbor about something I had seen on TV recently that had made me guffaw. Sharon Stone organized some benefit for Katrina victims, and lots of singers participated to raise money. I swear Sharon Stone started crying during her interview clip, saying what "heroes" these singers were. I laughed out loud. Heroes? For showing up and recording a song that regular non-millionaire Americans could buy to raise money for Katrina? That makes you a hero? I swear, celebs wouldn't know a hero if he bit 'em.

My neighbor replied to the Sharon Stone story: "That just means she has never really met a real hero before. She should talk to me, I live with one."

Amen, sister.

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