Saturday, December 24, 2011

Many Holiday Blessings

For my Christian friends, I want to take this time to wish you a wonderful Christmas holiday. I hope the special time with your families are memorable and warm. I hope that midnight mass is inspiring and life-affirming. May the Holy Spirit be with you that day and all days. Blessed be.

For my Pagan friends, I want to wish you a wonderful Yule holiday (okay, Yule was a few days ago, but I didn't blog on that day). May the celebration of the return of the light be wondrous, cheerful and bright. Blessed be.

My Jewish friends, I want to wish you a happy Hanukkah. May you enjoy shared gifts and shared food with family and friends. Light the candles, sing the songs, and keep the traditions alive. Blessed be.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Fairy Tale of the Nation of Thea

Once upon a time, there was a land far, far away called the Kingdom of Thea. It was a prosperous land with green pastures, running streams, and lots of milk and honey. It was ruled by a mighty and powerful king named Yohevech. Now, Yohevech was a jealous king and didn't like anyone to acknowledge that in other areas of the world that there were other countries with other kings who ruled over other people. He wanted everyone to acknowledge himself as the one true King and nobody else. So he told his press secretary, a man named Monte Silas, to come up with a propaganda campaign against the other kings. Monte declared that all other kings were "false" kings and that people of other kingdoms really ought to be swearing fealty to Yohevech.

Under Yohevech's rule, the land's prosperity began to falter. The green pastures became sandy deserts. The rivers ran dry. The milk and honey became distant memories. And so King Yohevech's popularity began to wane. The citizens grew restless. Many began to say "King Lou in the north has lands that prosper" and "King Siv in the East truly cares for his people". So King Yohevech, instead of answering the pleas of his people, contacted his attorney general, Anton Levit, to come up with a very rigid set of legal codes to keep the grumbling population in check. In fact, Levit created over 600 new laws and most of those laws had the death penalty as a consequence.

"I am your King," Yohevech declared in a press release given to Anton Levit to read. "You shall have no other Kings before me. I hereby declare that any who transgress the law shall die!"

Now, nobody had actually seen King Yohevech in decades. Indeed, there were some who even started saying that there was no such thing as a "King" and that Kings were just fary tales. Indeed, the disbelievers started saying that the law enforcers were the real power, not the King, and that the law enforcers wielded their authority by inspiring fear of Kingly retribution. Of course, the King's law enforcers did actually begin killing people who either denied the King's existence, swore fealty to another King, or who broke even the most trivial of laws.

Of course, the King couldn't have everyone killed. After all, if you kill your entire population, who will you rule? So the King came up with a clever scheme in which he demanded that the citizens give their livestock to the law enforcers as a means of getting amnesty for breaking the law. This policy made a lot of people very poor while making the law enforcers very rich (for the law enforcers would simply turn around and sell the meat at the markets for a handsome profit!) This state of affairs went on for many decades. The King never made public appearances but instead spoke only through the chief of police, the attorney general, or the press secretary.

What the citizens of the Kingdom of Thea didn't know for the longest time was that King had a son out of wedlock. The son, named Jessie, had been raised by his mother and stepfather for most of his life, and had no physical contact with the King since birth. However, he was the King's son nonetheless. Being raised in the real community and not  in the hallowed halls of the law enforcers, Jessie saw firsthand how the King's policies had ruined the land, enslaved the people, and brought misery to everyone who was not a law enforcer. It was rumored that the King's illegitimate son had studied in the east where King Siv ruled, but nobody knew for sure. Likewise, some said that Jessie was celebate, while others said he was married. A few even said he had a partner of the same gender. What was certain, however, was that Jessie's attitude towards the citizenry was vastly different than his father's.

Jessie began his own political movement that was in opposition to his father's. Jessie declared that the rich should be generous to the poor; that judges should hold themselves to the same standard that they held others; that citizens should forgive one another instead of seeking retaliation. Likewise, he publicly declared that the law enforcers (especially the ones who claimed to speak on behalf of the King) were "broods of vipers". He had open antipathy towards the King's law enforcers when they would seek to assist the wealthy while stepping on the poor -- especially widows and orphans.

Now, King Yohevech could see the writing on the wall. Here was his bastard son he had forgotten about, who had been raised by a commoner and her blue-collar husband who had scrimped and saved to give Jessie a solid, liberal arts education. Jessie was younger, more popular, and really identified with the common citizen. So, what's a greedy, paranoid, power-mad, absentee King to do? Well, the chief of police for the law enforcers had an idea that the King really liked.

The chief of police, with the King's approval, declared that Jessie was guilty of treason. So the law enforcers captured the King's son, tacked on a list of trumped-up charges, and had him executed without even any formal appeals process.

This action, of course, made Yohevech pretty unpopular. So once again, he called upon his best propaganda spin doctors in media relations to come to his aid. Through his media outlets (again, nobody had actually seen the King in person in decades and a growing number of people outright denied the existence of the King), Yohevech declared that he loved his people so much that he had his own son executed on trumped-up charges just so that the King would somehow have the power to grant amnesty to the citizens for breaking the law. Somehow, through the murder of his own son, the King said that the citizens would be shown a new era of mercy and forgiveness.

There was a catch: to continue avoiding the death penalty for offenses like speeding, trespassing, and parking violations, the citizenry would have to acknowledge that King Yohevech was the only "real" King on the planet and that one had to also praise Jessie for his sacrifice (even though he was murdered, not sacrificed). Yohevech said it was still permitted to kill followers of King Siv, King Lou, King Bud, and any others who followed another King.

Of course, King Yohevech still didn't do anything good for his people. The Kingdom continued to deteriorate. An invading army captured most of the citizens and burned them alive in huge death factories while King Yohevech did nothing -- and hid from a place of safety. Later, after the war ended, his press liaison declared that the reason why the massacre happened was because the citizens didn't believe in Jessie with enough sincerity (rather than the truth, which was that King Yohevech was either unwilling or unable to help his own people).

The law enforcers of the King, however, did prosper. Rather than taking livestock from the people, they now only took cash. The law enforcers lived happily ever after in huge mansions and had bank accounts filled with money. (And still nobody has seen the King in person. And more and more people every day think the King is a made-up fairy tale!)

And that is the story of the Kingdom of Thea.

To those who would read this story, I might ask: Would you say that the King of Thea is just, good, kind, and loving? Does this story remind you of a tale from another book?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Paganism and Science

I got asked once how it could be that a witch could also believe in science. It never really seemed like a conflict to me. After all, Wicca doesn't actually have a Bible (or equivalent) that says how the world was made. So there's no Genesis story to conflict with what we know about planet formation and evolution. Wicca doesn't have the equivalent of Revelation, so there isn't any reason to think that the "end of the world" would be triggered by anything other than a natural catastrophe such as a large asteroid impact or the sun running out of hydrogen. So it's actually pretty easy to reconcile what I know about science with what I know about Wicca.

In Wicca, we believe that the sun, Earth, and moon all play a vital role in the continuation of life. Wicca states that there is an interplay of life-energy between these three objects. In science, we know that the moon is critical for keeping the Earth properly aligned on its axis. We know that the sun provides light, heat, and radiation. We know that the Earth generates in invisible projection of force that allows in light and heat but screens out the majority of the harmful radiation. So Wicca and science are not at odds.

Compare that to Christianity, and you get many conflicts. For example, in the Bible, the Earth is thought to be about 6,000 years old. The Bible cites the sky is a dome, not a spherical envelope. It states that the entire ecology of the planet once fit into a cargo ship. The Bible does not allow for evolution, plate tectonics, orother planets. In fact, the Bible disallows nearly every kind of science. The Bible cites natural disasters as acts of an angry and vengeful God. It is impossible to reconcile Christianity with science.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Four Americas

One thing that has become apparent since 2000 and the infamous election-theft by George W. Bush is this: There really isn't much "United" in "United States of America" anymore. Bush spent his time in office dividing America along every conceivable demographic. Then, in 2008, the Koch Brothers created the Tea Party and America became even further divided. I think this upcoming election will place this country past the point of no return as far as remaining a single, united power is concerned. Barack Obama is an incredibly weak and indecisive leader that has lacked the moral courage to follow through on nearly every relevant campaign promise (even when he enjoyed a significant majority in both the House and Senate in the first two years of his presidency.) The Tea Party contenders in the Christian Republican Right seek to create a religious/corporate oligarchy reminiscent of WWI Germany (with only rich, white, straight, conservative Christians in good health being the only "real" Americans). If Obama wins in 2012, the Red States will rebel. If a Tea Party Christian wins, the Rational States will rebel. Either way, the jig is up for a United America.

So, what will these new powers be that will form following the big breakup?

The Democratic States of America (DSA)
This region will include the north-east quadrant for the former United States, from Maryland to Main and from the Atlantic coast to Michigan. The capitol city will be Philadelphia. DC will be a "historical" zone as well as remaining a prominent tourist attraction thanks to its wealth of monuments and museums. DC will be granted full status as a state.

The DSA will be a traditional democratic republic with some socialist leanings that will feature the best of what the Constitution has to offer. It will allow human beings to vote, but not corporations. The DSA will be a secular nation that values religious freedom but also refrains from any hint of church/state co-mingling. The DSA will be left-leaning in that it would espouse marriage equality, reproductive choice, common sense regulations on corporations (to keep them honest, but not to strangle all business activity), nationalized health care, and renewable energy. While taxes would be high in such a state, citizens wouldn't have to choose between buying food, medicine, heat, or education. There would be few billionaires in the DSA, but there would also not be one in four families living at the poverty line (like in Texas today).

While all manner of religions would be perfectly legal to practice, no religious body would get tax-exempt status. They would be taxed just like any other business.

The primary strengths of the DSA would be: as an educational powerhouse (all the best colleges are in the north-east area of present-day America), a financial/banking powerhouse (Wall Street did just fine before the Bush deregulation and will do just fine when the fail-safes are restored), and tourism (thanks to the DSA's many wonderful ports and historical locations. Likewise, with new regulations limiting corporate greed and outsourcing, Detroit will be restored to its former glory as an automotive manufacturing center for the world.

The primary weaknesses of the DSA will be: high taxes (although citizens will get more bang for their tax dollar than they currently do), less economic mobility (there will be very few billionaires, but there will be very few people in poverty either), and a weaker national defense (democratic republics with socialist tendencies have typically not valued large military reserves).

The Christian States of America (CSA)
This region will encompass the Atlantic states from Virginia to Florida as well as Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Arkansas. The capitol city will be Dallas. The CSA will be a hybridized theocratic plutocracy in which the national religion will be a neo-Pentecostal brand of strict, socially-conservative fundamentalist Christianity. The CSA would also ascribe "personhood" status to corporate entities with full voting rights. Non-Christians would be granted "resident" status but not "citizen" status.

The CSA's legal structure would be based on a modified version of the Levitical Law of the Old Testament. "Crimes" such as homosexuality and owning idols would be punishable by death. However, Levitical laws related to diet and working on Saturday would not be imposed (since the corporations are certainly not going to give workers a day off). Likewise, abortion would be outlawed in the CSA and natural miscarriages would trigger a formal police investigation, with the charge of premeditated murder possibly being imposed on a woman who miscarries. There would be no public school system, but instead there would be a fee-based education network. There would be no minimum-wage protections, no child-labor protections, no workplace safety protections, no disability insurance (SSDI), no retirement insurance (Social Security), no FDA, no USDA, no EPA, and no national parks. The police and fire services would be individually contracted on a tiered basis (the more you paid, the higher priority you got when making emergency calls). The prison system would be run by major corporations.

In the CSA, the career options for women would be limited to clerical, teaching, and nursing. There would be no female police officers, fire fighters, soldiers, or captains of industry. Women would be precluded from initiating a divorce or pressing charges against her husband for domestic violence.

Although all schools would be fee-based private schools, the CSA would require that Creationism be taught as a science. Evolution, human sexuality, climate change, and several other sciences would be outlawed. While it would be permitted for a non-citizen to be an atheist or other religion, the CSA would forbid the construction of temples, mosques, groves, or any other kind of non-Christian religious building. In addition to churches paying no taxes, corporations with more than 1,000 employees would also be tax-exempt. Furthermore, billionaires would be granted a special designation of "Job Creator". Once the Job Creator status is imposed, that person would be tax-exempt for the rest of his life. Likewise, a Job Creator would be granted immunity from prosecution for non-violent misdemeanors (such as bribery, embezzlement, etc.). In general elections, a Job Creator's vote would carry 10,000 the weight of an ordinary citizen's vote. Likewise, a corporation could vote in elections, with its vote having a value of  "1" per million dollars in assets.

The health care system in the CSA would likewise be fee-based. People who could not pay in advance for medical care would simply be refused medical care.

Strengths of the CSA: This country would directly compete with China and India for cheaply-made manufactured goods at cheap prices. Overall employment in the CSA would be higher than in the DSA, but the average wages would be pennies on the dollar by comparison. The CSA would enjoy a very large military, as straight, white, Christian men would volunteer to serve in foreign wars in order to get better wages and a better education. The CSA would be culturally united since all citizens would be heterosexual, conservative Christians. The CSA would have a relatively large reserve of fossil fuels.

Weaknesses of the CSA: The low wages and theocratic laws would inspire more criminal activity (more fodder for Jail Industries). The infant mortality would skyrocket. The CSA would very rapidly fall behind the rest of the world with respect to education, lifespan, scientific development, the arts, and quality of life. It is quite possible that the CSA could turn the ecology into a barren wasteland in under a century.

The Midwestern States of America (MSA)
This nation would be a theocratically-leaning democratic republic with a center-right social orientation. The capitol city would be Salt Lake City. With the Church of Latter Day Saints having very heavy cultural influence in this newly-created nation, one could expect polygamy to be legalized and homosexuality to be criminalized. Unlike the the CSA, homosexuals would not actually be prosecuted or killed. Rather, the decriminalization of homosexuality would simply serve to keep the GLBT population demoralized and living in a heightened state of alert at all times. Like the CSA, women would have few civil freedoms under the law and few career opportunities aside from duties typically considered "a woman's work". Unlike the CSA, the region controlled by the Church of Latter Day Saints would not be particularly interested in despoiling the ecology for profit, nor would it be interested in making the vast majority of the population poor.

Non-LDS faiths would be tolerated but not loved. Mormon churches would retain tax-exempt status but other faiths would not get exempted. Unlike the CSA, however, it would be perfectly legal to build a mosque, temple, etc.

Aside from the heavy religious overlay, not much else would change with respect to health care, science, police/fire services, and the like. Because the MSA would be a landlocked nation surrounded by other fragments of the former United States, the MSA would require the smallest military. Their military would consist primarily of young men would would do double-duty as "missionaries" and "soldiers" for a mandatory two-year period upon reaching age 18.

Strengths of the MSA: Most of these states are agricultural powerhouses. The MSA would also enjoy a relatively intact ecology and the opportunity to produce renewable energy (again, thanks to its agricultural base). The MSA would also be shielded from the worst of the immigration and gang problems since this nation would not share borders with Mexico.

Weaknesses of the MSA: It wouldn't have the manufacturing base of the CSA, nor would it have the educational/financial base of the DSA. Moreover, governments influenced by religion will invariable suppress sciuence and innovation.

The Pacific States of America (PSA)
This region would consist of California, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada. The capitol city would be Redmond, WA. This nation would be a center-left traditional democratic republic. While being less liberal than the DSA, the Pacific States would enjoy religious freedom, marriage equality, and decent educational system. Unlike the CSA, the Pacific States would be chiefly interested in creating high-tech jobs.Scientific literacy would be a top priority in the public school systems. The PSA would compete, technology, against Japan and Europe. Rather than running sweatshops for cheaply-made goods (like in the CSA), the manufacturing base for the Pacific States would be mainly high-quality technological items that would not fall apart 18 months after purchase. Because the Pacific States are already culturally divided, the public school system would make bilingual fluency a requirement for graduation. Thus, all English-speaking students would know Spanish by age 18, and all Spanish-speaking students would do likewise for English.

While the Pacific States would not need a huge military for overseas wars (like the CSA), it would require a very large internal police force to bring the incredibly heavy gang infestation under control. Likewise, the first order of business for the newly-created nation would be to grant citizenship to all illegal aliens. While that would initially seem counterproductive, that action would have the immediate effect of radically increasing the tax revenues coming into Redmond's coffers (illegal aliens don't pay taxes, citizens do).

Primary strengths of the PSA: Tourism and high-tech jobs.

Primary weaknesses of the PSA: Fragmented culture, gang infestation.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Who the heck owns the month of December?

Ah, December. It's time for the annual whining of the Religious Right concerning the entirely bogus "War On Christmas". You know, the "war" denoted that some companies have changed their sales circulars to read "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas". See, we're supposed to feel sorry for fundamentalists because they think that "soon" they won't be able to celebrate Christmas anymore. What a laugh.

The truth of the matter is that Christians don't own the month of December and they cannot handle the fact that we live in a country that enjoys religious plurality.

Here's a brief list of some of the religious holidays that occur in December:

5 Monday Ashura   - Islamic recognition of the Creation.

8 Thursday Bodhi Day -  Buddhist celebration of Prince Gautama.

12 Monday Feast Day of Lady of Guadalupe - Catholic 

21-28 Wednesday-Wednesday Hanukka  - Jewish Festival of Lights.

21 Wednesday Yule - Wicca solstice observance - Northern hemisphere.

25 Sunday Christmas  - Christian celebration of birth of Jesus.

26 Monday Death of Prophet Zarathushtra - Zoroastrian observance.

And that's the short list. By writing signs that read "Merry Christmas", retailers would essentially be saying to 24% of the American population "F--- You! We don't consider your kind welcome here!" Personally, I like the fact that "Happy Holidays" covers many holidays for many people. The fundamentalist Christians will just have to get over it.

In lighter news, my Pagan group (Turning Circle) got invited to open the worship services for the Unitarian Universalist church in Columbia, MD. Being the opposite of fundamentalists, the UU folk are very open-minded and inclusive. I was pretty happy that several UU members asked us about Paganism and some of them seemed genuinely interested in coming to at least one of our services at some point in the future.

My training at the police academy is going well. My test average for all the exams so far is 98%. Yay! Hopefully I will be able to keep it up. I have five more weeks of training before I am certified by the police department as a probation agent.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Doug and I have had a nice visit with his mom (Jane). She had gall bladder surgery a few weeks ago and I'm happy to say that she seems to have made a full recovery. Huzzah! It's always nice to visit with family when it is with family members that are accepting and life-affirming.

Doug's been a vegetarian for about a month, but I didn't hold it against him that he ate some turkey. I'm not really sure if I could tolerate meat at this point, after being vegetarian for four years. But Jane and Doug are both good cooks. They made me some tofu turkey cutlets that were quite good, as well as some mushroom gravy to go with the fake turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes.

I ended up giving Doug his Yule present a bit early. He has been wanting a Nook book reader for nearly a year. I could not afford one when the price was $140, but B&N had the gadget for $79.99 last night so I knew I had to get it for him. Doug is very pleased. The Nook has a really sharp monochrome screen that seems to be almost the same resolution of a printed book. I also discovered that I can read his Nook books on my cell phone too. Whoo-hoo! Gotta love the Android App market, eh?

I am grateful to my friend Jeff for watching our two cats while we are away. If Jeff had not done us this favor, I would have had to stay home with the pets. Jeff is a really good friend.

Tomorrow is going to be a drag. We must face the 6-7 hour drive from Erie to Baltimore. The horror... the horror...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


No, I’m not physically tired. I mean I had to get new tires. Some jackass flattened my tires. Since the back two only had 2mm of tread left anyway, it seemed that now was as good a time as any to replace two tires. Blech. I really like my car, but finding spare parts for hybrids is no picnic. As it turns out, the 2010 Honda Insight uses a very obscure tire size. I had to call 14 merchants before I could locate one that carried it in stock (this ended up being, of course, the same dealer that I purchased the car from. Surprise, surprise.) At least I didn’t get ripped off. The tires were $95/each. The tires for Doug’s Scion xD are twice that price.
Oddly enough, whatever punk in the neighborhood that gets his jollies from flattening tires never seems to *slash* the tires. He/she just lets the air out. Go figure. At least that makes it easy to get back on the road since my car insurance company has roadside assistance for a whopping 80 cents per month. But it’s aggravating to come out of the house in the morning and have to deal with this. I was glad that Doug was willing to let me drive his car to work yesterday since his duty shift starts later than mine. He was able to deal with the roadside claim.

So, after having the Insight for nearly two years, I still stand by my grade of “A-“. The car only has one recurring problem. There’s a sensor called a TMPS gauge that has failed four times since I got the car. Honda keeps replacing it for free and the sensor doesn’t make the car undriveable. This time, the sensor lasted EIGHTEEN MINUTES before shorting out. Huzzah!

In other news, I am now a Coordinator for Turning Circle. Positionally, this would be similar to “associate rector” in a Christian church. We don’t use the traditional Wiccan ranks, but instead use “member”, “officer”, and “coordinator”. Doug has assumed my vacated position of Liturgist, which means he is of “officer” rank. I’m pretty happy with how much Turning Circle has evolved in the past four years. In early 2008, it had five core members and met only once per month. Now it has 12 core members and meets for all sabbats and esbets. We also have a wider variety of services than we used to. We can do a dedication and initiation rite. At least one member is registered clergy (so we could, in theory, do a wedding of handfastening service). We have a website. We do two services each year for the Unitarian Universalists. We do four charity projects each year. So we are a fully-actualized religious organization.

Doug and I are visiting Doug’s family for Thanksgiving. I really like Doug’s mom. I feel bad that she is pretty close to being destitute. She made the terrible decision to bankroll her daughter’s decade-long cocaine problem. The best thing Doug’s sister ever did with her life was to die young. I know that’s a mean thing to say, but she was a person without a single redeeming quality. Through her drug problem and bad behavior, she inflicting lasting harm on everyone she ever knew. On the bright side, with her being dead, we now no longer have to worry about some crazed drug dealer banging on the door demanding huge sums of cash while the family is having Thanksgiving dinner (or Christmas dinner, or Easter dinner, or a July 4th barbecue, or whatever). So, while none of us have a lot of money, at least we’ll have a nice family dinner together in peace. That’s worth being happy about.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Onward and Upward

I am happy to say that I am now a Coordinator for Turning Circle. We don't use the typical 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree titles. Instead, we have the ranks of Member, Officer, and Coordinator. So I now co-lead Turning Circle. Huzzah!

The latest ritual (Autumn Rite) went pretty well. The only hiccup was that I did not know the other Coordinator was allergic to sage smoke. So she ended up sorta looking like an Old West desperado since she wore a bandanna over her face for the rest of the ritual. Oops! So for 2012, we're adding "known allergies" to the member database. 

Our little dog, Stella, is fully recovered from her surgery. Two weeks ago she decided to eat a USB cable. Blech. It was $5 to buy and $996 to remove. Egads. But she is back to her usual bouncy self and she was able to be rid of the Cone of Shame. 

I passed the first of five tests at the police academy. I scored 97%. So far so good. I need to pass four more tests with at least a 75% on each test. After that, I will get a huge caseload of desperadoes. Whoo-hoo! I also get fitted for my body armor next week. Huzzah!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

You know you're a loser when...

So, I've been having to take a long, hard look at my life's accomplishments lately and I've come to the conclusion that I'm worth a lot more dead than alive. I'm a colossal loser. My accomplishments are pretty close to meaningless. Doug deserves better than me.

When my father was 41 years old, he was a millionaire. At age 41, I presently have $19 in my checking account. At age 41, my dad owned a $400,000, 6-bedroom home on a half-acre of land in a very posh neighborhood. He also had six cars and two motorcycles. He had rare art from all over the world, including a Salvador Dali. I, by comparison, am barely keeping up with a tiny, 11-foot-wide rowhome in a dodgy neighborhood. My home needs repairs that I cannot afford to make. I don't own any art. I barely keep up with my car payments. And far from being a millionaire, my net worth is something like $10,000 if all of my assets were sold and the proceeds used to pay creditors.

That's pretty pathetic for someone who started working at age 14.

If I was killed in an accident or dropped dead from heart failure, Doug would get a $50,000 insurance payout and a $32,000 check from the pension service. I'm worth more dead than alive.

My other "accomplishments"? I manage to lead worship services that few people attend. When Doug leads, the attendance is typically 2-3 times more than services I lead. I'm just not that likable. I wrote two books that ultimately had about $25 in royalties paid -- ever. So if that's not the definition of a flop, I don't know what is. I wrote a roleplaying game (a three volume set) that took over ten years to write and has over 1,500 pages in all. No publisher would touch it with a ten foot pole. I was pretty good at jogging, but then my body developed a heart illness (yes, I can even be a loser in exercise). I compensated by doing bicycling instead, but then my bike got stolen (the losing streak continues) and I couldn't afford to replace it (because I am a loser).

Want to know more? Well, I'm also a loser at hang gliding. I've wrecked three gliders and could never afford to get a fourth (because I am a loser). I damaged my body in a diving accident and have had long-lasting medical repercussions as a result. I have few friends. Most people can't really abide being around me for more than an hour or so. I'm emotionally crippled. I have a dissociative disorder that prevents me from ever feeling whole. I have a college degree that is utterly worthless (it's in mathematics and I'm not actually all that good at math). When I worked in private industry, every company I worked for ended up going out of business. (Yes, I am that much of a loser).

In attempt to show that I can actually accomplish something, I applied to be a probation agent. The pay is better after a year in "trainee" status. The trouble is that I'm probably going to f--- this job up like I f--- everything else up. Losers only know how to lose. Doug deserves better than me. If I screw up at this new job, I will have to do the honorable thing before the termination papers can get processed. At least Doug will get some insurance/pension money so that he won't lose the house. I should just drive the car into a retaining wall at 100 MPH. That would at least end the losing streak and let Doug have a chance at a life with someone who doesn't drag him down.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Samhain Poem

A Year and a Day
By Indigo

Shining sun and glimmering sea
God and Goddess blessed be
Earth below and Sky above
God and Goddess thanks and love

A time of darkness, of autumn's hold
The God of Shadow rules the cold
Of fallen leaves, of wind so chill
The wizened Goddess loves us still

A spark of light in dark forlorn
The infant God is thus reborn
The time of loss is nearly past
The ancient Goddess declares at last

A ring of ice begins to melt
The Sun God's presence soon is felt
A ring of fire shall warm the night
The maiden Goddess shines with light

The day and night have equal hour
The Sun God has returned to power
Light and Dark, in balance be
The Maiden Goddess dances free

The time of growth, here and above
The Sun God bids the Goddess love
Fertility now of womb and fields
The Goddess to her lover yields

A time of light, a time of power
The Sun God's love doth rule this hour
A time of green, of warmth, and light
The Mother sings out with delight

A time of harvest, of wheat and grain
The Sun God's power begins to wane
A time of reaping, as spring foretold
The Mother Goddess is growing old

The days grow short, the fields are fallow
The Sun God becomes the Lord of Shadow
The fields stand barren, the fruits are stored
The Loving Crone has kept her word.

Shining sun and glimmering sea
God and Goddess blessed be
Earth below and Sky above
God and Goddess thanks and love

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Samhain is coming up!

Yes, indeed, it is only six days until Samhain (October 31st). It is the day when the veil between the material and spiritual worlds is the thinnest. It begins the "darkest" quarter of the year when there is less sunlight than at other times of year. The leaves of the trees are vibrant yellow, orange, and red. There's a crispness to the air that is special to this time of year.

I am co-officiating for a Samhain ritual this upcoming weekend. Doug, my spouse, isn't a big fan of this holiday since it focuses on ancestors and loved ones who have died. Doug's sister died from lung/breast cancer about four years ago, so Samhain is a tough holiday. It's aggravated this year because our wonderful little dog Lola died over the weekend. She was about fifteen years old. She did not suffer. She went to sleep on her little doggy bed and that was it. I'm guessing she had a stroke since the only indicator that something was wrong was that she had some coordination problems earlier in the day.

Samhain can be a sad holiday, but it is a necessary one. There is an ongoing balance between life and death. There has to be one for the other to continue. Without life, there can be no death. But without death, the cycle of life would also stop. That is the beauty of Wicca is understanding that darkness is not evil, but simply a necessary balance to light. Death is not evil, but simply a necessary balance to life. Likewise, death often brings sadness and despair, but how can one ever know joy and happiness if one has never experienced its opposite?

So Samhain recognizes the harsher realities that are very much part of our lives. Death is real, but it does not have to be feared. And it is merely one stop in the ongoing cycle of birth, growth, decline, death, rest, and rebirth.

So, for Samhain, here are the people I light a candle of memory for:

Lola the Dog: You were a wonderful little beastie and a loyal friend. You were a wonderful companion.
Charles: You were a great stepfather. I often think how wonderful it would have been if you had raised me instead of the monster who actually did. I'm sorry you died so young.
Jewel: I didn't know you very long because your life was cut short be cancer. But I am grateful that you introduced me to Wicca. My life has changed for the better in so many ways since walking the pagan path.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


I have to say that I made the most out of yesterday. It was one of those rare autumn days in Baltimore in which it *wasn't* overcast and raining. I think it actually rained every day here for nearly a month. It wasn't a hard, flood-causing rain, of course, but instead it was a consistent drizzle that made outdoor activities miserable. But, lo and behold, it was warm and sunny yesterday. I used the opportunity to walk six miles and do yard work. It was pretty nice being able to get out and exercise.

I am still getting strung along by the Department of Parole & Probation. Apparently I am "approved for hire" but not actually hired. My guess is that I am a backup plan in case their preferred candidate (most likely someone 25, in perfect health, and 800 credit) cracks up. I'm not holding my breath concerning this job. I am good at my current job but I'l like to leave because of the grotesquely asymmetrical working conditions. Just to give you an idea of what I mean, there are 12 case agents in my unit. The recommended duty load is 45 cases. I and six other agents have duty loads above 70 (mine is currently 80). There are some agents that are "friends" with upper management that have case loads under 20. One even has a duty load of *one* case. It's just pathetic. I don't mind working hard, but it bugs the crap out of me to know that the reason why my case load is 80 is because some skinny, 25-year-old sweet-looking, lazy, petty bimbo has a caseload of *one*.  And that is why I want to get a different job. I'm tired of doing other people's work and getting paid less for it. The bimbo actually gets paid more than me too. Blech.

I am really distressed about how sick and frail my mom has become. She is terminally ill due to her smoking habit. There is nothing to be done. But it's just pains me to know how sick she is and how little quality of life she has remaining. And I really resent the fact that I can't be there for her as much as I'd like.

I also get resentful over the fact that I feel like a creep because I am not as emotionally close to her as I think I'm supposed to be. But when I was a child, she was an out-of-control alcoholic who was passed out on the couch with an empty vodka bottle next to her every day when I cam home from school. She was also a narcissist who used to do utterly fake suicide attempts and make my sister and me watch. I remember a particularly wretched attempt where she swallowed an entire bottle of aspirin and then made us watch her throw up blood into the bath tub. Nice. You just don't really "bounce back" from seeing that.

I think I'm as emotionally close to her as I *can* be, but there's certainly some distance there. And I feel like a creep because of it. But I don't see how there is a way around that. I do call mom twice each week.And that's two more calls than my worthless sister ever does. It's two more calls than my cheapskate millionaire uncle ever does. He lives only a half-hour drive, is a millionaire, and won't spend a minute with his sister nor help her out financially in any way. Mom is on food stamps and medicare and my uncle won't give mom a thin dime. Of course, he's a devout Christian, so that's to be expected.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Modern Job Interview. Blech.

So... I applied for a job at Parole & Probation. I've been on job interviews before. I'm usually pretty good at them. For the job I currently have, I was able to successfully draw a reasonable comparison between running a credit check and a criminal background check. But that was before the "modern" era in hiring where you have to be under 30 years old and already know how to do the job.

To get an interview out of P&P, I had to let them look at my criminal, credit, and medical record. I didn't think I had anything to hide. Oh, how wrong I was!

Here's how this really humiliating interview went:

Interviewer: "So, you're 41 years old?" (Said with a sneer. The interviewer looked to be about 28 or so).
Me: "Yes, that is so."
Interviewer: "I see" (said with a distinct frown).

Interviewer: "You missed a car payment in 2006."
Me: "That is so. I haven't missed any since."

Interviewer: "You have a heart condition?"
Me: "Yes. But I have not missed one day of work in five years."

Interviewer: "You were suspended from school once?"
Me: "Yes. I was 13. And I was stupid back then."

Interviewer: "Have you EVER drank alcohol?"
Me: "I have."
Interviewer: "I see. So you're a drinker."
Me: "I do not thinking averaging one mixed drink per month constitutes being a 'drinker'."
The interviewer did not reply, but scribbled notes for a while.

Interviewer: "That's all. Thanks for coming."

Yeah. I'm not counting on getting this job. Apparently the Department of Parole & Probation is looking for 30-year-olds with perfect 800 credit, perfect health, no alcohol use EVER, and no teenage disciplinary problems. Oh, and the candidate has to know how to do the job already. What a laugh.

I guess it's a good thing I am good at my current job.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

911 Ten Years Later

When I think of what has become of our once-great nation ten years after the cowardly terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001, it is hard to say that the terrorists achieved anything less than an unqualified success. America is on the verge of bankruptcy. Our national debt is ten trillion more than it was in 2001. Gas prices are three times higher. Food prices are twice as high. Unemployment is 20% and still steadily spiraling upward (the official 9.1% is a barefaced lie.) The CEOs of defense-industry contractors made billions and billions of profits off the blood of our soldiers. And our soldiers have been driven insane or dismembered at amazingly high rates (the death count doesn't even begin to tell the story). And then there are the 600,000+ Iraqi civilians that have lost their lives. They didn't ask for this.

Aside from the economic devastation of 911, the Federal government used the terrorist attack to jettison the Constitution and all pretense on privacy. Our phones are tapped by the government without a warrant. Our email is read without a warrant. Our citizens can be interrogated and imprisoned without judicial review. An airline flight has become an exercise of public humiliation in the name of "security", where security guards strip-search the elderly and the disabled.

Then there is the social degeneration that has occurred since 911. The Christian Right has determined to turn America into a freedom-stifling, sinister, and austere theocracy that could rival Saudi Arabia. Don't believe me? Do a net search on the term "Dominionist" sometime. It will be a real eye-opener. The Dominionists have put a lot of money into the Perry campaign and they expect results if Perry wins. If you're gay, non-Christian, or an unmarried woman, you can kiss your freedoms goodbye (and possibly your life too).

The 911 terrorists won. We lost. America is finished. Our government did everything that Al Qaeda couldn't. The American citizens were attacked by Islamic terrorists but the real betrayal of the American people can at the hands of Bush and Obama. They chose to throw away the freedoms, wealth, prestige, and secular law that had made America great. Now we're one election away from becoming a theocratic plutocracy -- just like every country in the Middle East.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Super-workout and the day after

So, one of my phobias is somehow ending up being one of those 500-pound, middle-aged slugs that is so heavy that he has to do his grocery shopping using an electric scooter. I can't make myself stop eating (I lack the willpower to eat significantly less than I do) but I do seem to have the willpower to exercise. So I do -- a lot.

On Friday, I had the day off thanks to the budget cuts (I still have my job, thankfully, but sometimes the office closes because of the Governor's decree to save money). So I was feeling paranoid about my weight since it had rained earlier in the week and I was unable to get the amount of exercise I usually get. I went to the NCR trail and walked 14 miles. While I have walked that length before, I really stepped up the pace this time. My sustained speed was 3.9 MPH for the whole walk.

Doug and I also stayed out until 2:00AM doing karaoke that same night. It was a real blast.

The next morning, I was so tired that I could hardly stand up. I guess doing a huge amount of exercise combined with staying up really late was not the best activities to put back-to-back. I feel better today, however.

The rational mind would suggest that the closer I get to age 50 the less I have to worry about being a 500-pound slug. While my psyche is 29, the physical body is 41. So, rationally, it would be pretty hard to somehow gain 310 pounds in nine years. But who ever said that phobias were rational? Realistically, I'd like to be 20 pounds lighter than I am. But I just can't seem to accomplish it.

I am a vegetarian. I don't drink alcohol to excess (I've had one mixed drink in the past three months). I don't smoke. I am not excessive in consumption of sweet things. And I surely do exercise. And yet my weight remains rock-steady at 20 pounds above what it should be. I suppose that my one really bad dietary item is cheese. I just like cheese way to much to give it up. I often worry that if I ever lose my discipline for exercise, I'll balloon up to 500 pounds very quickly.

I don't want to end up being the kind of person that cannot climb a flight of stairs, can't fit onto a roller coaster ride, can't squeeze into a fuel-efficient compact car, and can't buy el-cheapo off-the-rack clothes. I don't want to be on a dozen medications for blood pressure or diabetes. In theory, I'm supposed to be on medicine for tachycardia but I don't take it. I've tried it and it interferes with my ability to exercise, so that's a deal-breaker.

So, the long and short of it is that I completely destroyed any enjoyment I could have had on Saturday because of fear. That really sucks. Fear sucks.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

High Priest Syndrome

From a religious standpoint, few things are more annoying in Wicca than dealing with someone with "High Priest Syndrome"
 I've had this ongoing problem with a third degree High Priest that made five dedicants last year. This weekend was supposed to be the weekend in which the dedicants were supposed to be upgraded to initiates.

Well, it turns out that the High Priest outsourced the writing of the ritual to someone else who apparently wrote an over-the-top monstrosity that involved whips and nudity. What a laugh! Needless to say, the HP rejected that ritual. However, he had no "Plan B". He also went AWOL.

I'm glad that I am already an initiate in another tradition. This High Priest really wasted my time .

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Seasonal Changes

One of the great things about Wicca (and Paganism in general) is that it affirms that we really are part of the ecology as well as being part of something much larger and greater than ourselves. Back when I was a Christian, I used to wonder why it was that certain days felt more powerful than other days, and why I found the cycle of the moon interesting. Of course, when I discovered Wicca, I found out that I wasn't imagining things. There is a specific life force in everything that lives, not just humans. And this force does have an ebb and flow as the cycle of the year progresses.

So, as I was doing my usual hike on the NCR trail, I really could feel the subtle shift from "summer" to "autumn". It's still hot as the blazes. The leaves are all green. And yet, it really seemed like there is some invisible change in which the collective life force is preparing for the coming of autumn. I wish I could put it into words better than this, but I cannot. I feel blessed that I can have this kind of spiritual experience. I think that being a witch is a lot more that slinging spells (I don't actually do much in the way of spellcraft). Instead, a big part of being a witch is understanding our role in the ecology, being aware of the forces of life and energy, and to help those seeking that same awareness to find what they seek.

As sentient beings, I think we have a special responsibility that other animals don't have. Because we have the power to make changes to the environment, we also have the added responsibility to ensure that the changes we make do not make the ecology collapse. For instance, I understand that we need homes and we need food. But I think we must find ways to make that happen that makes as little negative change to the environment as possible. For instance, it would be preferable to grow food without artificial fertilizers that leech into the water supply and kill off life in streams and lakes. For our homes, it would be preferable if we planted trees in our yards instead of worrying about a pristine lawn. Likewise, cutting the lawn is pointless, since it just consumes fossil fuel and adds to pollution. (Also, grass is actually much taller than 3" in its natural state). I think we should be driving the most fuel efficient cars that meet our needs. Likewise, we should be walking more and driving less. I usually walk to the grocery store and post office instead of driving. It's good exercise and saves gas.

Of course, Wicca isn't the only faith that honors the environment. *Real* Christianity (something not really practiced anymore in the modern day) does instruct its followers to be good stewards of the Earth. Quite a few Eastern religions place a high premium on ecological stewardship. And, of course, the Unitarian Universalists place environmentalism as one of their seven core principles. My estimation is that the only reason why environmental recklessness is only tolerated by the general population for the following reasons: Our elected officials worship the U. S. Dollar as their god; they have lied to the American People about the real costs of ecological conservation so as to scare the populace into not demanding change; the politicians' allies in the mega-churches have lied to the people concerning the Biblical nature of environmentalism (Hint: Jesus never said "Blessed are the strip miners and oil tycoons") but instead have equated ecology with Paganism (while that part is true, Paganism is not actually evil).

My hope is that someday (preferably sooner than later), individual citizens will make better ecological choices on a widespread scale and that those same individuals will make ecology a priority when voting. So far, I haven't seen that happen. I believe, however, that when the Middle East truly starts running dry, you'll see a very large percentage of Americans demanding real action on the environment, alternative energy, efficiency in transport, and sustainable farming. Hopefully they won't wait until it's too late.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Thing of Shame, Things of Pride

I saw a political cartoon lately that, for some reason, filled me with a deep sense of shame. It depicted an "Uncle Sam" character swearing allegiance to the flag of China. But he was also depicted as being feverish and covered with sores, as if he was delirious and diseased. Everything he wore had a tiny tag that read "Made In China". I don't know why that sketch in particular really got to me, but it did. For the first time, it made me really feel like our nation has passed through some kind of "event horizon" from which it cannot return. It's like we're living in the early days of the aftermath of something terrible.

It's depressing to consider what has become of the good ol' "U.S. of A" in the past eleven years. With the reign of George W. Bush, it ushered in a new era of rudeness, hate, and fear. For eight years, he signed laws that took from the many in order to give to the few. He made people afraid. He divided America along every possible demographic -- gay/straight, religions/atheist, Christian/Muslim, Christian/Pagan, left/right, rich/poor, black/white, rural/urban. There was not one single opportunity wasted to turn one fellow human against another. And I am not the exception either. I loathe the intensity of hate I sometimes felt during his reign, and still feel that hate today. It is like a spiritual poison.

And it wasn't just social division that grew in the past eleven years. Financially, the rich expanded their wealth beyond all dreaming, while the masses now have to fight over crumbs. We have an artificially created political party bankrolled by two billionaire brothers with Nazi ties that the American People were hoodwinked into believing. Now the Tea Party has been in power for 18 months and they've proven to be nothing more than a toxic hybridization of corporate shill and religious bigot, all rolled into one. The corporations are wealthy beyond all reason, and yet they get huge checks from the government while the masses lose their homes, their jobs, and their health. The children of the masses go hungry. And this artificially created political party masquerades as a "voice of the people" when in fact they are the voice of perhaps a few hundred people in a nation of close to 300 million.

And then there is our current President. I cannot begin to describe how this man fills me with shame. During the "budget crisis" this month, President Obama collapsed before the combined might of the corporate/church interests like a house of cards. Rather than stand proud and brave -- like Gandolf the Grey against the fire demon, declaring "You shall not pass", Obama capitulated to every single demand of the Tea Party. He sold our future to the Brothers Koch. He sold our birthright and received nothing in return. Our president demonstrated unprecedented cowardice and lack of will. For all intents and purposes, he abdicated his role as defender of the Constitution, protector of the People. As of now, he is just a smooth-talking, attractive man in a very expensive suit. But he is no president. He just looks like one on TV.

So what is our future? We are mortgaged to our enemies and have a monetary debt that can never be repaid. When our enemies come calling for what is owed, it will be the working class who will be forced to forfeit their land, homes, and possessions -- not the rich. It will be the working class forced into sweat shops and labor camps -- not the rich. The government has become the shining light for approximately a thousand wealthy families and all the rest of us are as chattel.

Jobs? forget about it. Social Security? Forget about it. Energy independence? Peace? Ecology? Equality under the law? Forget about it. The barbarians at the gate were lawfully elected in 2010 and they have been pillaging ever since. And the "leader" of this once great nation simply looked on and gave pretty speeches. He did nothing to protect the people he swore the most solemn oath to protect. He did nothing.

So, I ask again, what is our future? We will become the largest third-rate nation on Earth. We will become a nation of beggars, huddled in the street, hiding in the shadows of the palatial (and well-guarded) fortifications of the rich. We will become a nation of slaves. In the end, the center will not hold, and you will see the once United States become a collection of smaller, regional nations. China will undoubtedly purchase several states in payment of the massive debt that we will surely default on. But that won't matter much to the thousand or so billionaires that made this catastrophe happen. In the end, America will look a lot like the movie Soylent Green (without the cannibalism, one can hope.) It will be an America in which the overwhelming majority live in crumbling shacks and abandoned cars, scavenging like rats for rations and scraps. Meanwhile, the rich will laugh at us. In all likelihood, it will be legal for them to shoot us for sport.

This present day was a time when a man who had the power to stand up to greed, hate, and evil -- and who had promised to do just that -- instead chose to surrender unconditionally without ever putting up the slightest show of resistance. And so, we are now headed down a darker path instead of a path of hope and recovery. We have been betrayed. And I am ashamed of what we, as a country, have become.

And what of pride?

For what little comfort it offers, I can have pride in my own moral compass. By my understanding of "right" and "wrong", I choose to do right even when it's costly, painful, inconvenient, and gives advantage to others. By my understanding of "honor", I have honor. I do not betray a trust, nor do I willingly deceive. I do not take what is not mine. I do not ask for what I have not earned.  By my understanding of "work ethic", I do my job to the maximum efficiency and accuracy I can. By my understanding of "deity", I serve the god and goddess in the best ways I know how: I choose to not harm others; I choose to not steal; I choose a path of peace (even though we live in a time when it is fashionable to kill.)

So I can have pride in myself even if I can no longer have pride in my country. It is a small comfort indeed.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lughnasa :)

The Lughnasa service at Turning Circle worked out pretty well this weekend. It was the first time for me leading this ritual and thirteen people came. Being able to write poetry comes in handy since I can create rhyming Quarter Calls.

It is a time of power. It is the midpoint between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox. It is a time when the forces of growth have slowed and on the verge of decline. It is the last day of the brightest quarter of the year. Soon we will see autumnal colors and the days will cool. There is something good about every season. :)

Our poor old dog, Lola, probably doesn't have a whole lot of time left. I don't know how old she actually is, but she cannot be younger than 16. Doug and I have been together 14 years. Doug got Lola a year before we met, and Lola was already a fully-grown dog. She's really slow now, hardly eats, and pretty much sleeps all day. She doesn't seem to be in any pain, but I have the feeling that one of these days she will go to sleep and not wake up. I will miss her. She's a really nice dog.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Exercise when it's hotter than Hell!

Well, it's a good thing that we have ecologists like Pat Robertson and George W. Bush to tell us that there's no such thing as global warming. Otherwise, I might be concerned that over 900 heat records have been broken this summer. ::sigh:: There are days where I think Carl Sagan was being optimistic when he gave the human race a 40% chance of surviving 100 years (and that was in the 1980s.)

It was 101 degrees yesterday when I did my ten mile power-walk on the NCR trail. Usually the first two miles is pretty packed with casual visitors and then it drops down to nothing. But yesterday, it was vacant from the get-go. I guess most folk don't like to exercise when the heat index reads 113, eh? Despite the heat, it was really nice to have the trail to myself. I heard all kinds of insects and birds, and I DIDN'T hear any ambient noise from cell phones and iPods. It was great.

I brought two liters of water with me. I discovered around mile 8 that two liters is not enough water for a 10 mile walk in 100+ degree weather.

According to the ten-day forecast, it is going to be close to 100 degrees every day for the foreseeable future. So I guess holding my Lughnasa ritual outdoors is probably not going to happen.

It was 92 degrees when I got up this morning. Blech.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The looming end of Dino Fuel?

I think it's really interesting that most people I know are unaware of what a bell curve looks like:
For large oil reserves, the production life of a particular field very closely follows the bell curve progression. For example, the United States hit the top of the bell curve back in the 1970s and those reserves are now about 80% exhausted. When the "peak oil" hit, the drop in Texan oil production happened very quickly and very dramatically, leading to huge price increases, gas rationing, and the formation of disastrous trade deals with nations that don't necessarily like the United States.

As a nation, we should have learned something from that catastrophe. Government policy should have been rewarding innovation in automotive efficiency. Instead, the average fleet fuel economy remained nearly unchanged for 40 years.

Fast forward to 2006. This is the year that the Middle East reached peak oil. Sometime between 2012 and 2016, it is very likely that production output will begin to have a very steep, sustained decline. It will make the Texas peak oil of the 1970s look like chump change. It won't be a matter of simply paying very high prices for gasoline. It will be a matter of not being able to get gasoline at all. If OPEC has a choice of selling fuel to India, China, and America, which nation will get first dibs (hint: it's won't be us).

By 2050, however, the Middle East oil fields will be in the same condition as the Texas oil fields are in now. And that will bring humanity to face another uncomfortable problem: overpopulation. From what I have been able to research online, the Earth can sustain indefinitely between 1-2 billion people if you take fossil fuels out of the equation. The Earth is almost at 7 billion people. So we're basically overpopulated by a factor of three.

I don't see a way around a terrifyingly brutal ecological correction of the human population towards the middle of this century. I really do believe the human race will survive. I really do believe Earth's ecology will survive. But I think that humanity will cause grievous injury to the planet during the last ten years of the big oil crunch. They will try to extract oil from shale. They will convert coal to oil. They will convert crops to fuel. All these things will deplete the water from the ecology or water and farming land. Of course, that ecological devistation will only hasten the ecological correction of the human population.

So... what will the human race be like by 2150?

It will be a much less populous species. Without electricity, the Internet, cars, modern medicine, etc., people without practical skills in agriculture, construction, cooking, and sewing will be unable to survive (personally, I would starve since I don't know the first thing about raising crops or cattle). My best guess is that there will be a few hundred million people worldwide and it will take several hundred years to build back up to the ecological maximum.

Without fossil fuel, the future humans will be unable to make some of the same mistakes we made. If cars make a comeback, they will have to run on something other than gasoline. Likewise, future humans won't be able to "cheat" on crop production using petroleum fertilizers because there won't be any petrol. With fewer natural resources, the future humans will be far less likely to create "throwaway" cultures. (Actually, I think today's junkyards will be tomorrow's mining operations since we throw away so much plastic and metal). My guess is that planned obsolescence will be considered obscene. Technology will likely grow at a much slower rate, but it will grow. I'm hoping that the new Dark Ages lasts only a hundred years and not several hundred years.

I really do that humans are innovative and survivors at heart. I think the humans of the post-oil age will make better decisions than we did. I think they will find energy solutions that we are too lazy, blind, or greedy to see. And I think the future archaeologists will be able to look back on the madness and irresponsibility of this era and use that information to guide humanity away from future disasters.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Workout Help

I have discovered that having a puppy is a great way to keep up with one's workout schedule. A few months ago, Doug brought home a completely adorable cocker spaniel puppy that had survived a pretty abusive ordeal at the hands of not-nice owners. So we were happy to give this new critter a home.

Lemme tell ya: I have never seen a creature that just NEVER runs out of energy! She practically bounces off the ceiling. The plus side is that she loves to go out on walks with me. She's a favorite amongst the neighborhood kiddies. She also gets along with our 9-month-old kitten.

I think Stella would drag me at 20 MPH if she thought she could get away with it. She's also been unintentionally helpful in getting rid of clutter since she chews and shreds the crap out of anything she finds on the floor. She also likes to eat old paperback novels. And wallets. And stuffed toys. And DVDs. And cell phones. She also likes to chew up my socks and chew on my fingers. Egads!

I'm hoping that when she is bigger she can come on power-walks on the NCR trail. As it stands, when I go on a 3-mile neighborhood walk, I usually end up carrying her the last mile home.That would be pretty cool.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Some Family Worries

I haven't been posting lately because I've had a lot on my mind. First and foremost, I didn't know where my mom was for six weeks. No one told me she was in the hospital. My sister is basically MIA and my brother's cell phone got cut off. So I kept calling mom several times per week for the past 1.5 months until I finally reached her.


My brother and sister are about useless.

So mom was in a rehabilitation center because her weight had dropped to 77 pounds. Now it's back up to 92. Her target weight for her height is 100 pounds. She did sound a lot better than she has in nearly a year. But I feel bitterness towards my brother and sister for being so useless.

Doug (my spouse) has to be away for a week soon. His mom is having a surgical procedure done on her shoulder so she will need Doug's help for about a week after the surgery.

It really seems like my family (apart from Doug and his mom) will basically cease functioning as a family once mom dies. She is the only thing that me, my brother, my sister, and my uncle Jimmy have in common. I have a seething hatred for Uncle Jimmy (he's a millionaire but mom has to use food stamps for groceries because he won't give a dime to his terminally-ill sister). My sister is a lying, cheating, money-grubbing sociopath that has never done a day's honest work in her life (she's done quite a bit of dishonest work, however, since she was a loan shark for a few years as well as a check forger). My brother... well... I just don't know what's the matter with him. He has an exceedingly high IQ, is creative and funny, but he can't hold down a job for more than a few weeks. We also don't have much in common since he is about 14 years younger than me.

So, it just seems that it is unlikely that any of the four of us will have any reason to talk to each other once mom dies. It's a shame. I really would like to have a family. I sure didn't have one growing up. Dad was a sexual sadist who showered me with ceaseless, withering derision. Mom was a raving, histrionic drunk. They both cheated on each other. They both used their children as living weapons against each other. I may be genetically related to my mom and dad, but they utterly failed to fulfill the role of "parents" by any reasonable definition of the word.

And so it really feels like I don't have a family in the traditional sense.

I am grateful, however, that I have family in the non-traditional sense. I am very happy that I have Doug in my life and that we were finally able to get legally married last year. I have Doris and Clint -- two very dear friends that are very much *like* family. I have a best friend named Jeff that is as close to being a brother as two unrelated people can be. My "real" family rarely failed to fail.

It's funny how life works out sometimes, eh?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Since the world didn’t actually end this weekend

I was on vacation last week so I was pleasantly surprised that Baltimore was actually NOT a smoking, depopulated ruin. Huzzah! I rolled into town and found that it was pretty much the exact same way I left it. So I guess that the Christian fundamentalists were wrong about the “Rapture”… again.

Seriously, however, the thing I’ve always wondered is why do Christians want God to destroy the planet and murder seven billion people.And why would a loving God who knows that human beings are flawed (but willing to try hard) suddenly decide to kill everyone? It never made any sense to me.

What does make sense in a diabolical way is how the Church stokes up fear and hate in order to make a quick buck. From what I read online, Harold Camping (mastermind of Family Radio and the May 21st Doomsday) made a $30 million profit on the latest doomsday scare. People quit their jobs. People gave him their life savings. People severed ties with loved ones. For what?

I think there’s a lesson to be learned here. My take on the May 21st “Judgment Day” is this: Maybe the universal deity did judge humanity. Maybe deity decided that it’s okay to have a world filled with both gays and straights, monotheists and polytheists and atheists, liberals and conservatives, smart people and idiots. If everyone were just one religion, one ideology, one orientation, and one level of ability, the human race would be stagnant. Humanity might have its share of problems, but it is NOT stagnant!

I have a hard time believing that deity would consider a prayer aimed at Allah to be inferior to a prayer to the Goddess, or a prayer honoring Shiva is inferior to a prayer to Jesus. How we honor each other and how we honor deity is much more important than the name we use when addressing deity.

Perhaps the “judgment” is that we, as a species, still have lots to learn, plenty more to experience, and have many more avenues for growth before we’re ready for the next stage of development. But I do believe that, whatever the future brings, we are loved by deity and that deity will occasionally nudge us in the right directions so that we can become what we were destined to become. We will not be “left behind” because deity is already with us all the time – within us now, in the ecology, in rocks and seas, in the stars, and in all the possible unseen dimensions. We will never be abandoned, found unworthy, or banished by deity. And that, my friends, seems to be the “Judgment” that came down this weekend.

Blessed be

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy and Blessed Beltane

Ok… this is a bit late, but here goes.

Last weekend was a super-Wiccan weekend for me. I had a really nice time. On Friday, we had our Beltane service at Turning Circle. It was actually a two part service, with one part being Friday night and the second part (the May Pole dance) set for Sunday morning. On Saturday night, Doug and I led a Beltane service for Candles & Cauldrons. Very life-affirming.


On the fun side, Turning Circle scheduled a “field trip” to the Pennsylvania Fairy Festival. It was really great going to an event where being Pagan/Wiccan was the *norm* and not the exception. There was a May Pole dance there that all the Pagan kiddies attended. There were a few totally awesome Pagan rock bands (I bought a CD from Telesma).


This weekend was a super-workout weekend as opposed to a super-Wiccan weekend. I did 44 mils of bicycling over a three-day period. I was pretty happy about how much Druid Hill Park has been upgraded over the past three years. The park services removed a lot of dead trees and planted new trees in their place. The bicycle paths are smoothed out. There are more goodies being sculpted. I can’t wait to see the next set of improvements. A few years ago, the park was a real dump, full of druggies and muggers. You won’t see them now (at least not during the day!)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Weekend Super-Workout

So… last year I was prescribed some dreadful heart medication that not only didn’t treat the heart condition successfully, but it made me gain 30 pounds in a 60-day period. So after two months of feeling like an appliance with dead batteries, I junked the heart meds and felt a lot better a week later. After about six months of moderately-intense exercise, I lost 15 pounds of the 30 pounds that the meds made me gain. I’m starting to almost feel “trim” again.

Lemme tell ya: I think most doctors these days are pill pushers because they are afraid of getting sued. I’ll take a prescribed medicine if it actually works, but if the side effects are worse than the condition it’s treating, I junk it.

This weekend, I walked 14.4 miles on Saturday at the NCR trail, and I did 14.4 miles on my bicycle today. Over a 7-day period, I’ve done a little over 3,000 calories worth of exercise. Obviously my heart can’t be in that bad a condition if I can do all that! Screw the pills!

I currently weigh 195 pounds. My vegetarian diet also got my blood pressure down to normal range (so maybe I don’t need the pills anyway!)  Before the meds, I weighed 180. At least I have my stamina and metabolism back. My goal is to weigh 180 again by the end of summer. I am pretty sure I can do it since I have pretty high willpower.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

If you believe in the Rapture, why can't I have your cash?!

Apparently the latest "doomsday" for fundamentalist Christians is May 21, 2011. I've seen billboards all over town. Seriously! It even says "the Bible guarantees it!" So, I thought to myself, "Self? I'll bet those churches have a lot of money that's going to simply go to waste starting May 22, 2011". After all, I figured, the churches won't have any parishioners or clergy left. They'll all be up in Heaven. What's a Wiccan like myself to do?

I came up with what seemed to be a logical solution. The churches that believe in the Rapture could send me all their money via PayPal, with a preset transaction date of 5-22-2011. After all, they won't be here and we Pagans will be. And given that Pagans and Wiccans are the true stewards of the Earth, I figure that I could plant a whole lot of trees and flowers with the unused cash being hoarded in the Rapture-believing churches. I would also be able to properly care for my mother (also Pagan) who is dying of a terminal illness. And aren't Christians supposed to care about the sick and the dying?

So I wrote to the pastor of the local Rapture-believing church that had put the doomsday signs all over town. I politely explained that I, as a Wiccan, won't be getting scooped up to heaven in six weeks but would certainly look forward to doing some ecological renovation in the Baltimore area -- if only I had the financial backing. And I pointed out that the pastor and his flock *certainly* wouldn't be needing all that money in heaven!

Would you believe that the pastor turned down my request? Really! He dismissed the idea right out of hand. One might think (and surely only the most cynical of minds would think) that perhaps the pastor doesn't really believe that every Christian is going to get an Escalator To Paradise in six weeks. Oh Reverend of little faith! I'll bet that he hasn't stopped doing weekly collections on Sunday either. Maybe he thinks he can take the money with him, ha ha!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The blows keep coming

There isn’t really a roundabout way to say this.I spoke to my mom two days ago and she told me  she plans on killing herself soon. She has been terminally ill for three years. Her doctors originally gave her six months to live when she was diagnosed with COPD three years ago. I am grateful for the fact that she has had 2.5 years more than I had thought she would have. But that extra time has worn her down. She is very ill, very frail, and she said that she is coming very close to the limits of her endurance for pain, sickness, and relentless fatigue.

I will not, of course, blame her if she chooses to end her life. She has nothing to look forward to other than more sickness, pain, and fatigue. Her condition can only get worse.

I just don’t understand how my brother and sister can still smoke cigarettes after seeing how sick it has made our mother. I just don’t get it. She is dying a lingering, horrifying death and yet those two keep lighting up. It’s just unbelievable.

It frustrates me so much to know that mom is so sick and there isn’t a damned thing I can do about it. She smoked two packs a day for 40 years and drank a quart of vodka per day for 40 years. And this is the result: incurable lung disease, congestive heart failure, edema, and the beginning stages of renal failure. I wouldn't wish this illness on my worst enemy.

It also frustrates me that the people who most desire to help mom (that being my brother and myself) have few resources to offer. My brother and I are not doctors, nor do we have jobs that pay very much. We are unable to help mom financially either. She has to receive food stamps and housing assistance. I feel deeply ashamed that I usually have less than $20 in my account by the time we pay our bills. I get my bills paid on time, but there is so rarely anything left. I haven’t had a raise in three years. My brother is in a similar position.

The flip side, of course, is my knowledge that there are two family members with the resources to help but refuse to lift a finger to help my mom. I have an uncle who is a millionaire and he has literally not parted with a single dollar to help mom. Yes, that’s right, he is willing and able to let his own sister subsist on food stamp vouchers and Medicaid instead of paying for better food and better physicians. What a fine Christian he is. Then there is my sister. She had been helping mom with mundane tasks like shopping and errands. But she decided to abandon mom on Christmas Eve so that she could go back to Tennessee. No one has heard from her in four months. Personally, I don’t care if I ever hear from her again.

I’m not sure how my brother and I will pay for mom’s funeral. Fortunately, mom decided that she wants a cremation. But it is a forgone fact that my uncle won’t part with a penny to help pay for the funeral.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Great Ritual!


Despite the fact that my spouse has been involved in Wicca for less than two years, I have to say that he REALLY knows how to craft and lead a ritual. This past Friday was the Ostara Rite for Turning Circle. Doug managed to create a ritual that had elements of Wicca and the Unitarian Univeralist’s “Flower Communion” ritual. It was very life-affirming.

I am really glad that we are part of Turning Circle. When I joined 3.5 years ago, there were five or six full members and two or three irregulars coming to each service. Now we have twelve full members and another 9-12 irregulars. For Ostara, we had 21 people show up! And people are starting to bring their kids. I think this is great. It really does seem like Turning Circle is becoming a mainstream religious organization and not a mere curiosity.

Doug also did a rune divination for everyone. It was pretty neat. I’m really happy that Doug found a religion that he is happy with. He was quite unhappy with Christianity and Buddhism sort of left him cold. But Wicca really does seem to work for him.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

First flowers

I'm happy to say that the flowers seem to be blooming at last! This weekend was a lot better than last weekend. First, I wasn't sick. The weather was a heck of a lot better. Daylight savings time started today too, which means that it will still be light out when I get off work.

I did almost ten miles of power-walking this weekend. Exercise is great for combating depression and tension. Most of the trees are still bare, bit I did see a few that were starting to sprout new leaves. I saw some blue and yellow flowers that apparently bloomed in the past two weeks.

Doug is officiating for Ostara Sabbat on the 19th. That will be pretty cool. This will be his first time leading a service for that holiday.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Feeling Unwell

This is not the best weekend ever. I'm still waiting for the insurance check to come so that I can get the roof and ceiling fixed. The temporary patch is leaking. It's not leaking a *lot*, but I am not happy about dragging the buckets out again. In theory, the insurance check should come this week sometime. The sooner the better.

From a metaphysical standpoint, I blew it on Friday. I was doing a healing ritual and I didn't ground correctly afterward. The result is that I was physically wiped out on Saturday. This morning (Sunday) I woke up with a cold. Good one! :(

I also find myself angry and disappointed with my sister. She abandoned my mom on Christmas Eve to sneak off to Tennessee. I suppose she found some new victim with deep pockets. She has, thus far, declared bankruptcy twice, has had two marriages go belly-up from massively conspicuous infidelity, and also drained every penny out of every husband/lover she's ever had. She also stole from my grandmother when she was still alive.

But, last summer, she *swore* she had changed her ways and moved up to Pennsylvania to help take care of mom. And she did. For a while. Then she started sleeping around with anyone with a zipper. Then she moved away on Christmas Eve with no notice or explanation. I guess she figured out that mom is destitute and that caring for someone desperately ill takes a lot of effort.

My brother does the best he can but he is an hour away from mom. I live four hours away and can't do a whole lot.

So... This isn't too good this weekend. I feel sick. I am sad that I can't do a lot to help mom (I'm almost as broke as she is and I'm four hours away.) The weather was so dark today that the street lights stayed lot all day. :(

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Busted Roof

I'd upload a picture of the roof but I don't have a tall enough ladder. Apparently the big wind storm that rolled through on Friday ruined the roof on our house. So the insurance adjuster is supposed to be coming out on Monday to see what has to be done. I am hoping it doesn't rain tomorrow -- really hoping it doesn't rain. Egads.

From the Wiccan perspective, I take great comfort in the firm knowledge that "shit happens". My ruined roof is not the result of divine wrath. It's not because I'm gay. It's not because I cannot afford to tithe. Disasters just happen.

Realistically, there're not really such thing as "bad weather" either. There's weather that is capable of destroying my property. But there's no moral component involved. It just is what it is.

I am, however, glad that I'm the kind of person that pays bills on time. So my insurance will cover the cost of getting the house fixed. It's stressful and it's a drag. But it is what it is.

On the bright side, I have a firm date set for teaching my first Wicca class at Candles & Cauldrons. Starting May 29th, I'll be teaching an 8-part introduction to the Wiccan faith. Very cool.

I'm very displeased with my sister. She abandoned our mom (who is terminally ill). She snuck off to Tennessee after extracting every red cent out of her boyfriend. She had lived only three miles from mom. My brother, Andy, lives an hour away and I live four hours away. This sucks. I'm basically through with speaking to my sister for the foreseeable future.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Better Weather :)

I am really happy that we had warmer weather this week. I was able to do an outdoor walk almost every day. It is definitely looking like post-Imbolc weather. Of course, nothing is green yet. But the snow has almost all melted and the ground is thawing. The energy is changing from "rest" to "growth" even though it it not visibly apparent. I know that there will likely still be cold days ahead but it is trending warmer. It was a cold, dark, harsh winter. It's good to see the Wheel of the Year turn to the brighter time.

February 12th was the second anniversary of my Wiccan initiation (which means I've been involved in the Craft for three years). I've become a trusted member of Turning Circle in that time I am now an officer in that organization. We do "member", "officer", and "coordinator" as ranks as opposed to the usual "1st", "2nd", and "3rd" degree. But you get the idea. I'm very happy with my progression in the faith.

Life's to short to believe that God hates you. I think that realization was the thing that finally made me renounce guilt, fear, and self-hatred. Since I am a gay man, there is no way, under the rules of Christianity, that I could ever be loved by God. It's really that simple. Do I really believe that God hates gays? No. Do I think that the Bible is a tragically flawed, politically-motivated, and irrevocably contaminated view of God. Absolutely. The Bible was written by warlords of a desert nomadic culture. God had precious little to do with it.

Instead, I think that the spirit of God/Goddess works through us on a dat-to-day basis. God doesn't live in a book. God lives through us. It's why Wiccans don't need a Bible.

I'm leading a ritual this upcoming Friday. Doug is leading the service for Ostara (spring equinox). Life is good :)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Thoughts on Imbolc

This was the first day in a while that it was warm enough to do a decent nature walk. I really missed being outdoors. I missed seeing the trees and the sky. So it was good to get out for a while. I did a five-mile walk. It was pretty nice.

We had Imbolc recently (February 1st). Thanks to some weather problems, we didn't actually hold the service until February 10th. However, this year's Imbolc service was led by Moonlight. It was the first ritual she ever led, and I was proud of her for being able to plan a really nice service. She seemed pretty nervous, but she got through it just fine. Rituals only get easier with practice :)

Of course, we also had the biggest turnout ever at Turning Circle. 27 people attended! When I joined Turning Circle three years ago, there were five core members and 3-4 irregulars. Now we have 12 core members and 10-15 irregulars. Our pursewarden actually has a purse to warden over these days, hee hee.

So... What does Imbolc mean to me? It's a good time to invoke Brigit for a healing ritual. It's the end of the darkest quarter of the year. It's a time when I can feel the life energy just beginning to gather for the growth that soon will arrive. Although the days remain cold, the light is returning. It is a period of anticipation.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

No recent photo ops

For all intents and purposes, I'm a warm weather person. I don't even mind when it's very hot. For example, I did a 14-mile power walk in 105 degree weather. But I sure don't like cold weather much. So, alas, I don't get out much when it's freezing cold.

It was 14 degrees out yesterday when I did the grocery shopping. The sky was flat grey and the sun looked like a heatless brass disc in the sky. Very uninspiring. Even the limited exposure outdoors made me feel fatigued.

So... There will be more entries and more pictures when it's at least 40 degrees out. For now at least I'm sorta trapped in the house for the next six weeks or so when the weather starts warming up.

But fear not, friends, spring will come. There will be new flowers, new growth, new butterflies, and the critters of the woods will return. The wheel of the year turns. This is just a quiet part of the year.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


I'm very excited that I might be teaching a class on introductory Wicca this spring. The owner of Candles & Cauldrons also has space for instructors who want to teach about various magical topics. My plan is to have eight 1-hour lessons. I also got permission from the coordinators of Turning Circle.

So now comes the tough part: writing the curriculum. I have the first two lessons written and I'm writing the third lesson now. Here's the outline of my lesson plan:

Part One
-- What Wicca is and what Wicca isn't
-- Brief history of modern Wicca
-- Cult Awareness

Part Two
-- The Wiccan Rede
-- Basic Core Beliefs and Ethics

Part Three
-- The Eight Sabbats
-- Moon Rituals (Esbets)

Part Four
-- Essential Ritual Tools (Athane, wand, chalice, pentacle)
-- Additional Ritual Tools (broom, cauldron, censer, boline, etc.)

Part Five
-- Constructing a ritual

Part Six
-- Basic meditation exercises

Part Seven
-- Basic spellcraft
-- Magical correspondences.

Part Eight
-- Divination tools (Tarot, Runes)

So... I'm pretty excited. Hopefully the class won't be a bomb. :)