Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Surprise, surprise, the Catholic Church is wrong again

I'm no fan of the Catholic Church. Their vast conspiracy to cover up the systemic child rape by Catholic priests over the last 30 years makes them among the most reprehensible organizations of which I am aware, and they have no credibility in my eyes. So it should come as no surprise that they're once again spouting off ridiculous bullshit that has no basis in fact. What am I talking about, you ask? Well, the same organization that once tortured people in the name of The Lord has now made the ridiculous claim that Homer Simpson is, in fact, a Catholic.

"Speaking of fictional characters you guys make claims about..."

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a deep and abiding love for The Simpsons that can't quite be explained or quantified. And as such, I don't like it when organizations I despise go around disparaging my favorite tv family by making spurious claims based on lack of research and faulty logic. Once again, the Catholic Church seems to be talking out of its collective ass, because any true fan of the Simpsons can tell you that Homer Simpson is pretty much the exact opposite of a Catholic. In The Sweetest Apu, for instance, he claims to be Hindu, and in The Simpsons Movie, he says, "Relax, those pious morons are too busy talking to their phony-baloney god," (when entering the First Church of Springfield, which is of course a member of the Western Branch of American Reform Presbylutheranism, the "one true religion"). That seems to indicate that he's an atheist. He's also been a Movementarian, even moving his family to their work compound for a brief period of time. And let's not forget the plethora of quotes Homer has made about religion:

  • "You know, the one with all the well-meaning rules that don't work out in real life.....Christianity."- upon being asked what religion he practices.
    "Lisa, if the Bible has taught us nothing else -- and it hasn't -- it's that girls should stick to girl's sports, such as hot oil wrestling and foxy boxing and such and such." (emphasis mine)
  • "You make people miserable and there's nothing they can do about it, just like God."
  • ""I'm gonna die! Jesus, Allah, Buddha, I love you all!"
  • "I'm not a bad guy! I work hard, and I love my kids. So why should I spend half my Sunday hearing about how I'm going to Hell?"
  • "I'm normally not a praying man, but if you're up there, please save me Superman!"
Sounds like a Catholic to me. Of course, the Vatican is basing its decision primarily on the 350th episode, The Father, The Son, and the Holy Guest Star, in which Bart considers converting to Catholicism after meeting a "cool" priest (played by Liam Neeson), and Homer quickly jumps on board. Except, of course, that neither Bart nor Homer actually ends up joining the Catholic Church at the end. But, this minor detail doesn't stop the Catholic Church from declaring the exact opposite, contrary to the information that's available. 

But coming from an organization with so little credibility as the Catholic Church, is anyone really surprised that they just make shit up?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Today's "More Harm Than Good": Parents Television Council

I'm not a parent. I should say that up front because the rest of this blog entry is about parenting, of which I have no first hand experience. But just like you don't need to have ever driven a car to recognize a bad driver, you don't have to be a parent to recognize bad parenting. And today's bad parenting comes from a group called the Parents Television Council. According to their website, the PTC is an organization founded "to ensure that children are not constantly assaulted by sex, violence and profanity on television and in other media." These are the people you read about who bitch and moan to the FCC every time someone says a curse word on television, or any time a show has a plot that focuses around something that they consider to be less than wholesome, or when Janet Jackson's nipple accidentally appears on screen for 9/16th of a second.
If these parents were actually sitting there watching tv with their kids, this organization wouldn't need to exist.
They're in the news today because of a photo spread in GQ featuring some of the cast members of Glee. The Parents Television Council, deeming themselves morally sufficient to sit in judgment of others, have decried this photo spread as being too racy. The photos, which I readily admit are sexually suggestive (link is PG-13), are being ran in the latest issue of GQ, a men's magazine aimed at adults. Apparently, the PTC is concerned that these pictures send the wrong message to kids, who apparently view the show Glee as an amped up version of High School Musical. Now personally, I think Glee is a pretty shitty tv show. The plots are often incoherent, the musical numbers are extremely contrived, and WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE EXPLAIN TO ME WHY THE CHEERLEADERS WEAR THEIR CHEERLEADING UNIFORMS AT ALL TIMES?!? Basically, Glee is Kidz Bop for adults. And that's the key here: GLEE IS MADE FOR ADULTS. The show has featured themes such as homosexuality, losing one's virginity, teen pregnancy, and even featured a scene last season where a character ejaculates in a hot tub. But it's the GQ photos that have the Parents Television Council all up in arms. According to Tim Winter, the organization's president, "[i]t borders on pedophilia."

Let me repeat that. It borders on pedophilia.

Obviously this guy is too busy trying to get his head out of his own ass to realize that both actresses portrayed in the pictures are over 18. In fact, they're both 24. So let's reiterate here. The Parents Television Council is upset because the 24 year old characters of a show featuring plotlines about hot tub ejaculation and losing your virginity are dressed in their underwear in an adult men's magazine.
If they could make sure I never saw this horrible woman on tv ever again, I'd retract everything I said about them.
These are the people that want to decide what you should be allowed to watch on television. I've proposed another solution for Tim Winter: how about you actually be a decent parent for a change and keep your own kids from watching shows you don't approve of? Rather than spending all your energy getting in a hissyfit about what adults are doing and its potential effect on your children (who will most certainly turn out to be normal, well-adjusted adults; that's always what happens when kids are raised in an extremely repressive and draconian environment, right?), how about you actually prevent your own kids from watching shows you find morally objectionable. If you want to "ensure that children are not constantly assaulted by sex, violence and profanity on television and in other media," maybe you should be the one to do it, not the network censors who have to listen to your incessant whining. Perhaps sitting down with your own kid and having a frank discussion about what they're allowed to watch or not watch and WHY is a better approach than a blanket sweep at all television you find objectionable. The PTC claims that "[t]he gratuitous sex, foul language, and violence on TV (along with stories and dialogue that create disdain for authority figures, patriotism, and religion) are having a negative effect on children." You know why children are being affected by this? Because parents like Tim Winters are too busy sitting in front of their computer typing up EMAILS OF OUTRAGE!!! to actually go over and turn off the goddamn television whenever there's a show that doesn't point in the same direction as their ridiculous moral compass. 

So, Tim Winter, here's a message you shouldn't let your children read: FUCK YOU. Get off your stupid moral high horse and go do some actual parenting before your kids go apeshit with rebellion when they get to college. 

Besides, if it gets too bad, you can always turn off the tv and read them stories from the Bible. Afer all, you'd hate for television to expose them to tales of murder, genocide, rape, incest, infanticide, slavery, sexuality, communism, cannibalism, human sacrifice, or bestiality.

Wonder how the PTC would feel if they ever made a Biblical tv show?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Don't Be An Asshole: Donate Blood Today

Blood donation is something I've been pretty passionate about for as long as I can remember. I've had more than one blood transfusion in my own life, and my uncle died before I was born as the result of hemophilia, a blood clotting disorder. So why the harsh tone? Well, here's the thing: most people are eligible to donate blood, yet only around 5% of the population donates blood regularly. Blood donation requires almost no effort on your part, and will almost immediately benefit patients in your local community. Here are some facts about donating blood that I've combed from various blood donation center websites, including Carter Bloodcare here in Waco.
  • Blood is useful in several different ways, and each use has a specific shelf life, making regular donation that much more critical.
    • Whole blood can be used for about 21 days after donation.
    • Red cells can be used for 42 days after they are donated. They are used in the treatment of accident victims, to replace blood lost during surgery, to treat burn victims and to increase the blood's oxygen-carrying capacity.
    • Platelets have a shelf life of about 5 days. They are used to treat bone marrow failure, leukemia and cancer patients, low platelet count or other conditions causing abnormally functioning platelets.
  • Blood donation is compatible with all major religions.
  • A healthy donor can donate whole blood every 56 days, plasma every 30 days, red blood cells every 4 months, and platelets every 2 weeks, or up to 24 times a year. Think about that- you have the opportunity to help 24 cancer patients every year by doing something that will directly benefit them in the immediate future. Donating money is nice, but you can't inject money into a cancer patient (trust me on this). 
  • Blood donation fits perfectly with your political ideology!
    • Democrat- donate your resources to help those in need where the private sector has failed them.
    • Republican- help the private sector thrive by donating blood to support independent blood banks.
    • Tea Party- I heard Obama hates blood donation.
  • Platelet donation is especially important if you're eligible. Because they have such a short shelf life, platelets need to be continuously donated to meet the growing demand. Also, platelet donation is better for the patient, since it allows a unit of platelets to be taken from one donor. Otherwise, platelets have to be filtered and assembled from as many as 12 whole blood donors, increasing the difficulty of the donee's body in accepting the donation.
  • You never know when someone you know is going to need a blood transfusion. Automobile accident victims often require as much as 50 units of blood, and with all these idiots texting and driving these days, it's only going to get worse. 
  • Free mini-physical. They take your blood pressure, pulse, temperature, check your iron levels, and once you donate, you can check your cholesterol online. Some places, like Carter Bloodcare, even allow you to track your cholesterol online with each donation.  They also check your blood for all kinds of diseases, including hepatitis, HIV, leukemia, and more, and will notify you privately of anything you need to be concerned about.
  • Free cookies and juice. Do not overlook the value of this. Not only do you get to be morally superior to other people AND directly benefit your community, you get PAID IN SUGAR. It's like winning the Nobel Prize without having to go hang out with a bunch of nerds in some socialist country in Scandanavia.
Looking down your nose at people is so much easier in that angled chair.
 Now, let's look at some reasons people give for not donating blood:
  • "I'm afraid of needles." Tough shit. You know what I'm afraid of? Getting in a car accident and not having enough blood around because people like you were too scared to get poked with a needle. Stop being a tittybaby and go give blood. 
  • "I'm too busy." Bullshit. I guarantee you if you were diagnosed with cancer, you wouldn't say "sorry doc, I'm too busy for treatment. I'll come see you in a few months when things settle down." Of course not, you'd want to start treatment immediately. So if you can make time to save your own life, why can't you make time to save someone else's? Besides, you and I both know that we all piss away an inordinate amount of time dicking around on the internet (don't deny it, you are reading my blog right now). If you can find time to visit Perez Hilton, you can find time to donate blood.
  • "Miscellaneous." Again, I'm calling shenanigans. Sure, there are valid reasons not to donate blood, but you should at least try and let a trained professional determine if you can give or not.
This is who you help when you donate blood. Afraid of needles? So is he. 
The bottom line is, if you can give blood, you should. Because donating blood helps out others directly, and if you can help someone at no cost to yourself, and don't, well, you're just an asshole.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

How To Carve A Badass Pumpkin

Here in the United States, we have a great tradition of wasting valuable food resources for decorative purposes, and this is a hobby I picked up in college. I realized early on that I happened to be quite skilled at it, and every Halloween I'm constantly fielding questions about how to carve these pumpkins. So I finally decided to carve a pumpkin and write a step by step blog post about how it's done. A few things I should note before we begin:
  • Kids, ask your parents' permission before wielding sharp and deadly knives. 
  • Adults, give your kids permission when they ask for permission to take a knife and go to town. Be cool, man.
  • This pumpkin is not quite as detailed as some of the other one's I've done, because I wanted to do it using only the tools available in the average supermarket pumpkin carving kit. So I bought a $2 kit from HEB and only used that. I actually have my own set of precision tools that I've created, but I wanted to show you that it can be done by the ordinary joe with ordinary tools.
  • Carving pumpkins takes patience. 

Alright, so let's carve a pumpkin!

Step 1: Select a pattern
There are a ton of great pumpkin patterns out there, ranging in difficulty from beginner to advanced or you can create your own from a photo or drawing. I'll be posting some instructions on how to make your own pattern out of a photograph here in a few days, but for now I'll focus on the carving itself, so if you have a pattern you don't have to create, you can go ahead and get started. For this exercise, I've chosen to immortalize the indomitable Professor Larry T. Bates, a man who strikes abject terror in the hearts of first year Contracts students every year. To get in the appropriate mindset, I cranked up some Van Der Graaf Generator and read a portion of Article 9 of the U.C.C. Here is the pattern I created: 
I can still feel the nausea that I felt after I read through the Contracts 2 exam.

Step 2: Select a pumpkin

The pumpkin you select should fit your pattern. That is, if your pattern is taller and thinner, as mine was, your pumpkin should be taller and thinner, and vice versa. You want a pumpkin that's got a good solid flat side on it with no or few scars or blemishes on it. Here's the pumpkin I chose: 

I like to mark the middle of the side I'm gonna be working on with a little +, so that I know which side to hollow out. But we'll get to that in a minute.

Step 3: Cut the top off

Now you've gotta open it up to get all the delicious food out. I prefer to cut a pentagonal top, so it doesn't fall into the pumpkin, which can happen with a circular top. Plus, pentagrams are in the spirit of Halloween. Rock on! To carve this pumpkin, as I mentioned before, I used only the tools that came in the standard pumpkin carving kit. Plus a nail that I found to punch the design into the pumpkin. But we'll get to that.
This is more complicated than what they used to perform brain surgery with in the 1600s. The results are similar.

Step 4: Scoop all the crap out of it

This is probably the least fun part, since you get pumpkin crap all over your hands and it's kind of a pain in the ass. But, it's important to get all the stuff out of it so you have a clean surface to work with. What you want to do is to scrape the inside of the side you'll be carving down to about 3/4 of an inch thick or less. You want it to be as uniformly even as possible; this will make carving about 10 times easier and will help your shapes be clearer. I kind of rushed this part on this particular pumpkin, which made carving it a little more difficult, so I again stress the importance of being thorough on this part.

This is what Bates' brain looks like after the 1970s. Nothing but psychedelic rock and contracts cases.

Once you're done carving it out, the pumpkin will look like this:

Because you couldn't possible visualize what the inside of an empty pumpkin looks like.

It's hard to see here, but I tried to get a picture of what the inside wall of the carving side should look like if you scrape it out evenly.

Step 5: Transfer the pattern to the pumpkin

This is certainly the least fun and most time-consuming part of the process. To transfer the pattern to the pumpkin, essentially what you do is tape the pattern on the pumpkin, then use a small pin or something sharp to punch holes around the edges of the pattern. The holes should be as close together as you can get them, and the finer the detail you want in your pumpkin, the closer the holes will need to be. First, tape the pattern onto the pumpkin:

It's ok to fold it a little at the corners so that it sits as flat as possible on the surface. Just remember that this will distort the edges of your pattern if you don't correct it, which is what happened to me. (Prof. Bates, I'm sorry your hair isn't as long and luxurious on the pumpkin as it should be. It's been 3 years since I've done this. No pumpkin could truly do it justice anyway.) I should also point out that it's important to have 2 copies of your pattern if possible, so you can reference what it looks like after the first one gets destroyed in the process of transfer.

Next, begin transferring the pattern to the pumpkin by punching holes through the paper and into the pumpkin along the pattern lines. Here's what I mean, in case that's not clear:

By the time you finish the pattern, your first paper copy will pretty much be shredded.

Continue punching the lines along the entire pattern, including the lines you are going to cut and the parts that will be shaded. In this pattern, the white areas will be cut out entirely, and the grey areas will have the skin peeled off and the flesh left remaining to provide shading.

Did I mention it's a tedious process? Better crank some Who to kill the time..

Once you've punched holes around the entirety of the pattern, if you've done it right, you should be able to see your pattern in lines on the pumpkin. It will look like this:

This is where it helps to have an artistic eye. It also helps to have another copy of your pattern around, so you know where to be cutting and where to leave alone. However, even a well-traced pattern can be hard to see, so I add a little flour to the pumpkin to help the lines show up better. Just sprinkle a little flour on the front of the pumpkin like so:

And then rub it in with your hand a little bit. Wipe off the excess and the lines become a lot easier to follow:

I am a genius. Also, this is kind of creepy.

Step 6: Carve it!

The next part is actually probably the least difficult part. You want to carve out the white areas of your pattern (or black, if you got one of those reverse ones) and leave the grey and black intact. To do this, make short, confident cuts with your saw, starting with the finest detail areas (it's much easier to carve a small hole when the rest of the pumpkin is intact than at the end when the structures are much more fragile). Also, for larger cutout areas, like the forehead in this picture, I prefer to section it up into 1/4ths or smaller, since smaller pieces are generally easier to cut and remove. Your mileage may vary.

You will probably be referencing your pattern quite frequenly during this part, since it's very easy to get mixed up at this stage. I forgot to get any pictures of me carving the skin off the pumpkin, but basically you just run a knife under the skin and peel it off of the shaded areas. In the end you'll end up with something that looks like this:

Frankly this looks like something you'd see on an acid trip. And not a good acid trip. 

Another thing I should mention is that these pumpkins really aren't that great for displaying for more than a day or two. The more detailed they are, the quicker the finer structures wither and deteriorate, and the person on your pumpkin ages about 30 years overnight. Also, they require a lot of light for the really fine details to show up, but 3 or 4 tealights inside will do the trick. For pictures, I just stick my desk lamp in it and take a picture.

Anyway, by the time it's all said and done, you should have a fine-looking pumpkin to put on your front porch and terrorize children with, especially if those children know anything about Article 2 of the UCC.

Again, Prof. Bates, sorry for failing to fully capture the true essence of The Hair.
To preserve, you can put it in the fridge or freezer, which tends to help keep it for more than a day. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them, and no, I will not make a custom pattern for you/of you.