Winona LaDuke succinctly explains why Bashing Greens Won't Help.


A few years have gone by. Is it too early to say that Oasis was definitely NOT the Beatles of their generation? Or do we need to wait another ten or fifteen years to verify their longevity? (Oasis who??)



The Sacred Institution of Marriage vs the Civil Institution of Marriage

Way back when I was young and foolish, I thought the only way I would care to get married, officially and technically married, was if it gave me a financial or tax advantage somehow. This was not popular with anyone I admitted it to. But what does an atheist or an almost-anarchist care about going through a religious or political ceremony? If I decide to commit to one person, that's between me and her. What would it matter whether the church or government certified our commitment?

It never occurred to me until a few years after I got married that the thing I liked about our justice-of-the-peace wedding was making the promise in front of our friends and relatives. No matter how much you hate school or think it's useless, anyone who sticks it out to the end appreciates parading their accomplishment in front of family and friends. You don't need to believe in god to like the idea of publically proclaiming your relationship in front of everybody who's close to you.

So you'd think I could keep my mouth shut about the sacred institution of marriage when I don't have faith in any of the usual sacred things. My own marriage was just a secular, legal thing, and I've had relatives ask if we planned on getting married in church later. Some of them might not recognize what Melinda & I have as a real marriage, or they might hope that we'll eventually come to our senses and get some churchin.

That got me wondering: why doesn't our secular marriage outside of any church piss off a lot of religious folk? It probably does. If it bothers people to see gays married, then doesn't it also bother them to see non-church weddings like ours?

The easiest example off the top of my head (not to single-out my late Grandma Northrup's sect, but it's one I know a little about) is the Catholic view of marriage. They have some fairly strict rules about getting married, and some of them feel that it doesn't count if the ceremony is not performed by a Catholic priest. That's why my parents had an Episcopal priest and a Catholic priest perform parts of their wedding service -- kept all their parents happy. No one who has been divorced is allowed to get married in the Catholic church again, last I heard. This results in some absurd behavior to meet the word of the law without following the spirit of the law. I know someone who had his first marriage annulled in order to have his second marriage in the Catholic church. This in spite of the three kids from his first marriage. (Obviously I don't understand annulment Catholic-style, but I thought it was some kind of emergency thing to cancel the marriage if you haven't "consummated" the marriage. This sounds like something a lawyer would think up to avoid the nasty word "divorce" just by changing the wording and getting a church official to sign off on it. My ma's protestantism must have infected me a little too much.)

These are examples of one sect of Christianity that does not accept weddings performed in other sects of Christianity. But apparently if they really hated to think about people acting married who hadn't done it their Officially Sanctioned way, they at least got over it. I haven't heard Catholics criticizing the government for recognizing non-religious marriages or marriages by mail-order priests. They might keep you out of the Catholic church, or tell you that your marriage isn't really right until you've done it their way, but I haven't heard them claim that Lutheran weddings damage the sacred institution of marriage. Maybe some people do say that, and I'm just not hearing the right sources.

Here's my little leap of logic. If secular marriage doesn't bother religious people enough for them to badger the government to stop, and if marriages performed or endorsed by other sects don't bother them enough to badger the government about it, then why would gay marriages harm the sacred institution of marriage more than that? How sacred is the institution if they've been letting all these secular or heretical practices settle over it?

Of course, your marriage can't be very strong in the first place if it's damaged or lessened by other people trying new things with the institution. If four people want to try living in a committed relationship and call it marriage, how does that change my marriage? I probably have relatives who right now wish my false marriage by the Justice of the Peace were legitimized by a proper priest or preacher. That doesn't change my feelings or the importance of my marriage.

Next time you hear someone bitching about gays damaging the sacred institution of marriage, ask them whether my civil marriage damages their church or any of their sacred institutions. What the government did was put a civil layer over the religious ceremony. When they allowed judges to do it, they were making it a strictly civil ceremony, nothing religious left to it.

Those who object to homosexuality have the right to keep gay marriages out of their churches, but they can't dictate that a civil ceremony must conform to their religious beliefs, something that has been a civil ceremony for a long time now. How long? Hundreds of years? Ever since some parents bitched at their kid to get married in a "real" church, the institution of marriage has been skimmed of its sacred aspects. By worrying about gays co-opting the institution of marriage, they're trying to reclaim secular territory that was lost to them long ago.

Sorry. No give-backs.
I can't believe Bush pissed on the week with my birthday in it. It's bad enough when Columbus Day falls on a Sunday and gets officially celebrated on my birthday. At least Columbus Day is so boring that hardly anybody celebrates it. Now on my birthday people can celebrate their religious bigotry as endorsed by their favorite war criminal.


Hold On to Your Humanity, an open letter to GIs in Iraq, from retired Vietnam vet Stan Goff. I'm curious to see how soon the shit hits the fan in responses to this. Such a devastating and true comparison between Iraq and Vietnam. If any Bush apologists read this thing, they're going to jump all over him claiming he's demoralizing the troops, but it's so solid. He's so obviously in touch with the military mindset, showing honor for grunts while reminding them that it is legal and appropriate to disobey illegal commands. Too bad this thing doesn't get sent around as a chain email, antidote to the weepy yellow-ribbon-y chain emails that usually make the rounds.


Violence as Therapy, or: How to Be a Dick - decent interpretation of Kill Bill: V1 by co-editor of "The Simpsons and Philosophy."


Plumb Wore Out
First there was the leak. In the course of assessing the leak, Frank discovered the bigger problem: lead pipes still fed shower and sink and toilet upstairs. Ma and Frank, with a little assistance from Melinda and I, tore out the kitchen ceiling, removed the lead pipes, ran new copper pipes, replaced some old brass fittings leading to the tub. Took a few days, but it worked. Then a new problem, the valve leading into the water heater would not open, so that needed to be replaced too. Seemed like new problems kept cropping up.

At this point, we've had hot and cold running water again for three days or so. Before that we had the hot water shut off, and tried to run the cold water only when we needed it, otherwise shutting off all water at the main. We were just getting accustomed to hauling pots of water from the stove top and microwave upstairs to pour our baths. The strategy now is to leave the kitchen ceiling exposed for a few weeks to watch for slow leaks that might develop. Wouldn't want to put time and money and effort into finishing and painting the ceiling only to find out that some fitting had a slow drip.

Now Melinda wants to paint the whole kitchen pink, not just the ceiling. I'm fine with that, plus it will mean that I can make an unpopular decision with some other room and she'll have to go along with it. Not sure which room is all mine to decorate. Probably the basement. Oh well.


Hooters In A Bagel
(This is a little ditty that Melinda sings around the house all the time, sung to the tune of "pizza in a bagel".)

Hooters in the morning!
Hooters in the evening!
Hooters at supper time!
When you have hooters in a bagel,
you commit a cannibalistic crime!
Our First Leak
I keep thinking of things as "firsts" related to the house, because getting the house seems like passing a threshold. Makes it feel like I haven't been spinning my wheels in the mud for the last five or ten years in jobs that require skills I mastered by seventh or eighth grade. So humor me. Getting old, not sure how many "firsts" are left after 31.

Sunday night (3 AM Monday Nov 3) I heard a hissing sound in the cupboard behind the tub. The tube leading to the tub's hot water faucet is spraying like a sliced garden hose. The water already seaped through the floor of the bathroom/ceiling of the kitchen and set up a steady drip down to the kitchen floor. I run up and down stairs trying to figure out whether there's a valve I can shut off to stop water running to the tub. I tie a plastic grocery bag around the leak, which stops it from spraying, but isn't water-tight. Finally I shut off the main water supply in the basement and resolve to call the plumber in the morning.

Monday morning at 8 I wake up, eat some leftovers, and talk myself into calling Grampa Northrup (retired Master Plumber) to ask for some advice on how to fix it. The leak was at a joint in some copper pipe. I've soldered copper pipes before, probably fifteen years ago, under supervision from my father who was a pipefitter. But those were new pipes that were not yet attached to a system. What are the dangers or requirements when the pipe has been (or may still be) full of water? Just ask Grampa what I need to do, sorta walk me through it, and this will be a lot cheaper than hiring a plumber.

But I don't want to wake Grampa up or call him at a rudely early hour, on top of begging info from him, so I resolve to call him at 10. I set the clock for 10, rehearsing what I'll say to him as I fall asleep, dreaming of watery conflict.

At 10, I sit in front of the phone rehearsing what to say to Grampa. I don't want to impose. He's 81. Do I really need to ask him anything? I've soldered before. What's the big deal? Sure, it was 15 years ago or more, but it's like riding a bike. Solder, flux, heat the pipe until it's hot enough that the solder melts on it, don't try heating the solder and dripping it on. All I need is some reassurance that I don't need to find some important valve to let off the pressure or drain the water. But even if it's full of water, all I have to do is heat it until enough water boils out, right? I can do this without bothering Grampa.

I call Ma. Can I borrow a propane torch?

I drive to Ma's and discuss it with her and my stepdad Frank. Just need to drain the water out of the pipe by leaving the hot water faucet open downstairs in the kitchen, heat up the joint, pull apart the pipes (hmmm, hadn't thought about that, good idea) and make sure the leak was just in the soldered joint, not a hole in the pipe itself.

Frank says: Behind the hot water faucet on your tub? I thought you said pipe. You mean tubing?

Whatever, yeah, the thin stuff that goes right up to the the hot water faucet. Three-eighths inch or whatever.

He says just undo the nuts at the top and bottom and you should be able to get that tubing out...

I don't remember a nut at the top, but the bottom of the tubing is where it's leaking, where it's soldered to the thicker half inch copper.

Doesn't quite sound right to Frank, so he suggests coming out to take a look at it. [Yes please! Less chance of me screwing up!]

Frank came back to the house with me and looked it all over. Judgment: what we got here is two sizes of tube and pipe jury-rigged together by building up a lot of solder (apparently less professional than actually fitting two proper ends together of same size), and the thicker pipe below the leaking joint is very soft, scratches easily and deeply. Lead pipe.

Not cool. Remember lead poisoning? I thought this stuff went out with Roman aqueducts? They still used lead pipes in 1937?

Frank's not sure how to resolve it, needs a different kind of torch to cast heat at a low enough angle for the quick-fix, and wants Grampa's advice on whether we can get this lead pipe out without tearing out a hunk of floor, or how to go about tearing it out if we have to. Meanwhile, he shows me how to turn the hot water off at the water heater, so we can still get cold water everywhere, including flushing the toilet, without water continuing through the leak upstairs.

Since then, we've been too lazy or too meek to call Grampa yet, ask him to come out and size up the situation so he can advise us what to do. Like Frontier House, we take our baths by heating pot after pot of water and dumping it in the tub. Melinda reminded me they never heated bath water in the microwave back in frontier days.

In other news, Ma gave me a case of home canned jam. The lids say, "PEACH JAM '82." I probably helped her grind the peaches into sauce and spooned the finished product into jars back then. I would have been nine in the summer or fall of '82. This jam is old enough that it could now purchase alcohol, 21 years. I surfed for info about home-canning longevity and spoilage (eXtreme Canning!), plus asked around at h2g2. [Read or join the conversation if you feel like it.]

They talked me into it. No mold or dried-out stuff is visible in the jars. The lids appear properly sealed, bowed inward toward the vaccuum. No rust. They were stored in Ma's basement in a box, so they didn't get too much sunlight or too much heat. At 1:30 am on Nov 6, I popped a jar open with a resounding thwunk, so hopefully that means the seal was good. Smells fine. Tastes fine. I was going to make a peanut butter and peach jam sandwich, but Melinda talked me out of it. See if I get sick from the little taste I took, and wait a few days to try more of it.

If a doctor is reading this after admitting an unconscious, food-poisoned fool, it was less than a teaspoon, maybe half a cubic centimeter or less. I put plastic wrap over the jar and stuck it in the fridge, so it's still available for testing if you need it, or for that sandwich later. Center for Disease Control website says symptoms would usually manifest in 18-36 hours, so check back on Friday. Ta!


Possibly the worst fake accent you've ever heard
Am I a sucker for pirate stories, or just desperate for something to occupy my mind while wasting my life doing data entry? I passed over Afloat with Henry Morgan the first time I saw it listed on Why would I care about some variety show hosted by Col. Potter from M*A*S*H? Then the word "afloat" caught my attention, and I realized they were talking about Captain Morgan.

Anyhow, it's chopped into 12 minute episodes, and most of them meander back and forth between the same characters squabbling. Still, if you listen for the slimy character "Diaz" (which they constantly pronounce as "Dee-OTTZ"), you may hear the worst Spanish accent ever attempted. I don't know how to describe it, but he's got it all wrong. He's supposed to be a despicable scoundrel, so it somehow fits that even his accent is fake. Experience Morgan's epic raid on Panama in 52 pulse-pounding episodes, and enjoy how the Kitty the tavern wench repeatedly threatens to lay open Diaz's skull with her pewter mug. (She keeps specifying that it's pewter, in several episodes.)