Secret Word Dept.

November 30, 2007

From a Roger Ebert interview with Groucho Marx :

“You know, I don’t believe in religion, or the hereafter. Not at all. I discussed the subject with Chico and Harpo a couple of years before they died. They said they’d get in touch with me if there were a hereafter. But you know what?” He examined the ash of his cigar thoughtfully. “I never heard a word. Not a goddamn word.”


Black Friday

November 21, 2007

They don’t call it Black Friday because it’s the day many retailers expect to get into the black for the year. They call it that to describe your mood if you’re crazy or optimistic enough to venture out into the crowds for soe shopping on the day after Turkey Day. One Black Friday is enough to darken your holiday spirits until sometime in February.

Now I see that JCPenney will be opening their doors Friday morning at—good grief—4:00 a.m. For you military types, that’s O-dark-hundred. Even farmers and werewolves are not abroad in the land at that hour.

Okay, let’s say you’re not crazy. You are going shopping on Black Friday for perfectly sensible reasons. Even if you’re not insane, everybody else in the stores will be. And the picture of humanity that will pass before your eyes will leave a stain on your soul. But you go ahead and do what you feel you must. I’m just saying.

Stray thought

November 20, 2007

There’s disagreement about comparing tobacco with marijuana.  Isn’t one much worse than the other because it’s illegal?  Maybe so, maybe not.  You might be tempted to give tobacco the benefit of the doubt because it hasn’t been outlawed—yet.  But for the sake of discussion, let’s say that both are on the list of things you’re better off avoiding.

Assuming that pot isn’t more likely to kill you than tobacco—not that wild an assumption—then tobacco could be compared to some hypothetical alcoholic beverage, one that attacks your body and ruins your health but fails to get you drunk.

If there were such an imaginary form of liquor, it would probably be dismissed as useless, all the costs of drinking with none of the benefits.  By the same token, tobacco can ruin your health but can’t get you high.  Which frankly leaves me at a total loss to explain why it’s taking so long for the popularity of tobacco to drop, or why smokers defend their habit so bitterly.

Culture clash

November 13, 2007

We get visitors in our office all the time, but the lady coming in tomorrow had some people thrown into a special kind of tizzy.

Because she’s coming for a “working lunch” meeting.

And she needs a kosher meal.

“Because she’s Jewish,” the guy from the main office told me, as if there was another reason to need a kosher meal.

We were advised by an advance person that a green salad would be adequate. An immediate effort was mounted to locate a jew to serve as consultant. The big challenge there is to make sure the dressing is kosher, and that the salad doesn’t accidentally include, for instance, bacon bits or broccoli.

One office executive was overheard to say, “See, this is why we advanced to Christianity.” He then went on to tout the virtues of a really good smoked bacon.

The whole thing gave me a Borat flashback. Any minute now I expect to be asked to obtain a jar of gypsy tears in case of emergency.

One of the people in the office said she didn’t know what kosher meant. I’m not sure if she was saying she didn’t know the word or didn’t know what the rules were.

That poor lady—I hope nobody tries to convert her while she’s here.

10 Tips For Dealing With James Randi: Claim Your Million Today!

November 7, 2007

Psychic? Want to Prove it? How’s how you get arch-skeptic James Randi’s sweet, sweet moolah by winning his paranormal challenge.

read more | digg story

The afterlife is canceled until further notice

November 1, 2007

Michael Shermer has a lot of interesting things to say, about the supernatural in general and issues like life after death.

It has been estimated that in the last 50,000 years about 106 billion humans were born. Of the 100 billion people born before the six billion living today, every one of them has died and not one has returned to confirm for us beyond a reasonable doubt that there is life after death. This data set does not bode well for promises of immortality and claims for an afterlife.

Religion promises two things, the existence of a creator and life after death. Of the two, you can make a case that life after death is more important—if most people had to make a choice between

  • There’s no god, but there is life after death, and
  • There is a god, but no life after death, dead is dead

I think the first choice is by far the more attractive one. In fact, people want life after death so much that they’re willing to believe—or pretend to believe—all the other crazy dogma that religions throw at you claiming that it adds up to a coherent whole. Which it doesn’t.

If you don’t agree, just imagine that Jesus came back tomorrow. Assume that we were all in agreement that he was for real and that he brought with him the genuine word of god. And then imagine that Jesus said, “Okay, everybody, God told me to tell you that he’s having second thoughts about life after death, he thinks that the immortal soul turns out not to be such a great idea, and starting immediately the afterlife is canceled. So make the most of your time on earth, because it’s all you’re going to get.”

My guess is that Jesus stock would go way down.

Employer flunks own test

November 1, 2007

I just saw a job announcement online for an “Information Transcriber.”  The description included this:

Accuracy and timeliness with great attention to detain are required.

This is twice as funny because the employer is a government/military contractor who requires employees to qualify for a security clearance, and just in general takes itself very very seriously.

Of course, if you’ve been paying any attention at all to the news in recent years, you’ve seen plenty of evidence that, at least in the field of government and military, the degree that you take yourself seriously is inversely proportional to your competence.