" /> Ironic1: March 2007 Archives

« February 2007 | Main | April 2007 »

March 31, 2007

Fence to Keep Out Illegal Immigrants Built by Illegal Immigrants


I made and posted the above comic nine months ago and today I found out the ironic truth. Mel Kay, head of the Golden State Fence Company, plead guilty on charges of hiring undocumented workers. This firm was contracted by the U.S. Government to help build the Great Wall of Bush along the southwest border in order to keep undocumented workers out.

The slogan of the Golden State Fence Company is "Home of the American Dream."

Comedians have to get more and more outlandish because the truth gets weirder and weirder.

March 30, 2007

Line 25... There is no Line 25...


So I was doing my Minnesota State taxes and filling out form M1M and I found this line stuck in there. Anyone else find this vaguely Pythonesque? Hails of derisive laughter!

March 22, 2007

Six Weird Things about Me

fortune-cookie.jpgFuzzy tagged me to post six weird things about me and, of course, I was compelled to do so. So here it goes.

1. When given a fortune cookie I will break it open, eat half immediately, then read the fortune. If I like the fortune I will eat the other half. If not, I leave the other half uneaten (or give it to my son, Simon).

2. I often break into song at the mere mention of something. While some people think musicals are weird because people suddenly start singing for no apparent reason, I find that perfectly normal. Oh, and I'm not that great of a singer.

3. I randomly make up my own idiosyncratic sign language. This is a passtime I share with my kids. For example, we have signs for "big and crunchy," "comparing noses," and "plotting deliciousness."

toiletpaper.gif4. If the toilet paper is not oriented with the sheet hanging down in the front I will take off the roll and reorient it, even if this is in a public restroom.

5. I watch so little TV that last year after the election I realized that the only election ads I saw were those I sought out on YouTube.

6. My ex-wife, Charlotte, and I are still really good friends. In fact, when I couldn't think up a sixth weird thing, I called her to suggest one.

Oh, and by the way, tag! You're it! Now you have to post six weird things about you on your blog. Or, if you don't have a blog, put 'em down here in the comments.

March 20, 2007

40 for 40

Well, 40 for 40 is officially done, and then some. Here is a graphical index of the project.

"Don't sweat the small stuff."

280px-NGC_4414_%28NASA-med%29.jpg"Nearly everything is small stuff."

It's said that Theodore Roosevelt, when he occupied the White House, would sometimes take a break from matters of state to take a stroll outside at night and comment on the vastness of space, the billions of stars, the unfathomable distances, the astounding improbability of our being, and then say, "Now I think we are small enough. Let's call it a night."

Or as Douglas Adams said...

Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.

I discovered that I misnumbered about a week ago and this is actually quote number 41. But it deserves to be included and, you know, don't sweat the small stuff.

40 for 40, #40b

Or as Eric Idle said...

"Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke."

image034.jpegYou know, I will probably offend some of my blog readers with this quote, but I'd be lying to you if I didn't include this quote in the mix. I've been debating whether to add it or not since I started this series and several times it's come up randomly and I just decided to pass over it and go to the next one, but tomorrow I will be done with the series, so today seems like a good day.

Fact is, I'm a people pleaser and I'm not rude or obscene by nature. I want people to like me and I recognize there is great danger in that. Sometimes to do your job you have to be honest to yourself, your mission, and if people want to pick nits about it or bring you down, you have to let it go. You can't please everyone all the time.

There are fault finders out there who want to be critical of everything, even those with the best of intentions.

And, likewise, I have to be ready to step back and laugh and not take everything so personally. It's not all about me, after all.

And that allows me to sneak in another quote:

I'm trying to tell you something about my life
maybe give me insight between black and white
and the best thing you've ever done for me
is to help me take my life less seriously
it's only life after all
Emily Saliers, Indigo Girls, Closer to Fine

40 for 40, #40

March 19, 2007

"You can't do everything, so choose what you do very carefully."

multitasking-queen.jpgMy first class in seminary was Pastoral Care and Counseling. The professor, on the first day of class, apparently took great sadistic pleasure in passing out the 50 page syllabus to each student, dropping them on our desks with a deadly "thud." Bug-eyed and shell-shocked, we started to thumb through the tomes with visions of a carefree first quarter vanishing before our eyes. But, as he passed these out, these words were uttered - "This class is good preparation for ministry. You can't do everything, so choose what you do very carefully."

I took that to heart and I didn't do everything in that class and managed an A. In fact, that advice proved great for not only that class, but grad school and my career in general. I try to remember this when I'm faced with multiple deadlines and asked to be in three places at once.

I often miss those grad school days because of the syllabus. The wonderful thing about a syllabus is that it lays out all of the expectations in black and white, tells you what you are going to be tested on and when, and when the trials will be over. In life you get tested all the time, but you never know when and using what criteria or by whom and you have no idea when it's ever going to end.

40 for 40, #39

March 18, 2007

"You're no fun anymore!"

Monty Python's Flying Circus, Episode 7

Another fine and useful line from Monty Python.

40 for 40, #38

March 17, 2007

"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding."

cosmic_gc3_new.gifJob 38:4

I love this portion of Job in which Job, removed from everything of earthly value, gets to question God as to his fate. And God shoots a series of questions right back at him.

It reminds me of a high-stakes game of "Questions" which we used to use as an improv warm up where the actors establish a scene and are only permitted to ask each other questions.

God: How's it going?
Job: How do you think it's going?
God: What's that supposed to mean?
Job: How do you think I feel after losing my wife, kids, farm, and everything I own?
God: Do you have any idea how hard it is to make a universe?
Job: No, but...
God: Ding! Round goes to God!

In some ways, completely unsatisfying. But in other ways, completely true to experience. To the big "whys" of life there is seldom an easy answer.

40 for 40, #37

March 16, 2007

Daring! Don't fear of my eyes.

emma-simon-glasses.jpgFuzzy had LASIK surgery so he sent these glasses to my kids, Emma and Simon.

The glasses are amusing enough, but we loved the advisory text on the packaging - "Daring! Don't fear of my eyes."

Thanks, Fuzzy!

"Curiouser and curiouser!"

aliceg.gifAlice, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Alice is a hero of mine who, again, contends with a world wildly different than the one she thought she knew. Everything from physical laws to social conventions are turned topsy turvy and she's left only with her wits and instincts to try to traverse this strange, new country she finds herself in.

"Curiouser and curiouser," is a handy quote to have on hand when I read the news these days.

40 for 40, #36

March 15, 2007

Top 10 Censored Things Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Was Responsible For

khalidsheikhmohammed.jpgKhalid Sheikh Mohammed apparently confessed to more than two dozen acts of terrorism in a censored interrogation transcript that the Pentagon released today. In it he apparently confessed to planning the September 11 attacks, beheading Daniel Pearl, plotting the Bali nightclub bombings, and many aborted or unsuccesful attacks, including the Richard Reid shoe bombing, a planned assassination of Bill Clinton, and an aborted attack on Big Ben and many other prominent sites.

But that's not enough for this fiendish mastermind of evil, he also confessed to...

10. causing the Irish potato famine,
9. shooting JR,
8. producing Gigli,
7. putting the bop in the bop-she-bop-she-bop,
6. sinking the Titanic,
5. mixing #5 plastics with #1 and #2 plastics in his recycling,
4. changing Daylight Savings Time,
3. shooting Greedo,
2. causing Global Warming,

and the #1 censored thing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed claimed to be responsible for is...

You tell me. Put it in the comments.

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

skydome.jpgHamlet, Act I, Scene 5

Another quote about humility and wonder.

People often ask me what I think about ghosts, UFOs, life after death, ESP, and so on. While I don't really have much direct experience of any of these things, I tend to be open-minded because, hey, what the bleep do I know?

I'm skeptical by nature, but I'm not a total reductionist. I believe there are areas of knowledge still out of our ken. A good skeptic, in my opinion, is also skeptical about the reach of knowledge. We are, after all, finite beings and to believe that we can extrapolate all truth from our limited experience seems the height of arrogance to me.

40 for 40, #35

March 14, 2007

Happy π Day


Math is everywhere.

An excerpt from π.

"Security is an illusion."

CHINA-Great%20Wall%20ofr%20China%203.jpgThis is less of a quote and more of a personal mantra.

The idea we can make ourselves safe, our loved ones safe, our world safe is a pernicious and dangerous idea that limits freedom and kills curiosity. Unfortunately, it's an idea our society seems to be preoccupied with lately.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for reasonable precautions, but I worry about a generation that has more wrist and thumb injuries from playing Nintendo than broken arms and legs from playing outside. When fear rules our lives we cease to live.

We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

40 for 40, #34

March 13, 2007

"And also much cattle?"

FarSideCownCar.gifJonah 4:11

This, of course, is the wonderfully odd ending of the book of Jonah in which God questions Jonah as to why he's so peeved that he spared the people of Nineveh.

And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?

And that's the end of the book. No answer.

Which leaves you wondering. Was the question supposed to be rhetorical or were we supposed to answer the question?

It also shows that God, who enlists whales and worms to teach lessons to Jonah, cares deeply not only about human beings, but "also much cattle." In many ways Jonah is a deeply ecological book in which God demonstrates an abiding concern for all of creation.

But, that as it may be, I just like a book that ends with the words, "and also much cattle?"

40 for 40, #33

March 12, 2007

"The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't."

dna3c.jpgDouglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

This is, perhaps, my favorite sentence in the English language. It is both absurd and fully comprehensible.

One of my favorite afternoons in memory was in May of 1989 shortly after graduating from Purdue. With nothing better to do, I sat in the Blue Cafe in West Lafayette, Indiana and read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy cover to cover casting, in my mind, various members of Monty Python to voice the parts.

I'm sure I looked odd giggling to myself in the corner as I read the book, but I don't really care. It was pure bliss.

40 for 40, #32

March 11, 2007

"There is no spoon."

I'm not a gnostic by any means, however I do have a healthy skepticism about the world around us. It was pointed out to me that a crucial element of some of my favorite stories is that the protaganists realize the world around them is not what they thought, from Plato's Cave to Hamlet to The Matrix.

Jesus often spoke of the end of the age and not to get too attached to the way things are or have the rug pulled out from under you. Buddha spoke of the same thing in different ways. Throughout human history there are mystical teachers reminding us that the most important things, the really real stuff cannot be seen, heard, tasted, smelled, or touched.

40 for 40, #31

March 10, 2007

We call him "Steve"

I may not have a jetpack but, by golly, I have a robot.

"What's the big idea, Idea Man?"

ideaman.gifThe Tick, The Tick vs. The Idea Men

The Tick was a great animated series from the mid 90s about a nigh invulnerable superhero who really liked the sound of his own voice. This was from the first episode and, actually, I remembered the line wrong. The actual exchange was...

The Tick: Okay, Idea Man, what's the big idea?
Idea Man: Well, we figured we'd steal a lotta money, and then we'd be rich, and we wouldn't have to work anymore!
The Tick: You cads!

You have to admire an honest bad guy.

What I love about this is that it cuts straight to the heart of the matter. So much of the time we couch our thoughts in what we thing are socially acceptable packages so that they will pass muster and we try to avoid expressing what the "big idea" really is. Or, worse, we have no "big idea" and we just kind of muddle along.

So every so often I like to ask myself, "What's the big idea, Idea Man?"

40 for 40, #30

March 9, 2007

"I'm using my resources to the best of my ability."

img_5916_1.jpgI'm a game player. My brother, Dan, and I grew up playing games and we still do. This quote is a catch phrase of my brother that has become so much more than about games.

I can't remember the first instance of the phrase, but I think I accused Dan of cheating at some game or another and he protested with this phrase. "I'm not cheating. I'm using my resources to the best of my ability."

Which, of course, was charming and disarming. Yeah, that's my bro.

This phrase in my life has come to mean leveraging whatever advantage you have, not in a mean spirited way, but not letting up because of a perceived weakness on the part of your opponent. I've always been taught to play your best, whatever you are doing. I vividly remember being frustrated as a child with my grandfather because he would pound me at checkers and he told me that if he played less than his best it would be an insult to me. It would be telling me that I wasn't worth his best effort.

I do the same when I play games. My son, Simon, has not yet beaten me at Chess though we have been playing since he was five. I often tell him what I'm doing and why, but I never play less than my best. When he does win, he will do it honestly, and, trust me, that day is coming soon.

Using your resources to the best of your ability is not about cheating or even competition, it's about playing aggressively, respectfully, and cunningly.

40 for 40, #29

March 8, 2007

"There are at least two kinds of games: finite and infinite."

dice.jpgJames Carse, Finite and Infinite Games

There are a few books that you read that make you stop and really assess what you are doing and why. Finite and Infinite Games was this kind of book for me. It's a book of philosophy that starts with simple, axiomatic statements and procedes to look at all of human conduct in terms of playing games. This, of course, is automatically appealing to me, game player that I am.

He goes on to delineate differences between finite and infinite games...

The rules of the finite game may not change; the rules of an infinite game must change.
Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries.
Finite players are serious; infinite games are playful.
Finite players win titles; infinite players have nothing but their names.
Finite players strive for control; infinite players enjoy surprise.
To be prepared against surprise is to be trained. To be prepared for surprise is to be educated.

Most memorable to me is that the goal of the finite player is to conclude play by being victorious where the goal of the infinite player is to continue play.

Now, none of this is to say that finite play is evil or infinite good. Carse is clear that people participate in finite games all the time and do so authentically, but one shouldn't fool oneself into thinking that the titles finite players win are anything but transitory.

This whole taxonomy of play has helped me greatly in my relationships, career, ministry, and so on. It reminds me to be playful and not to get so seriously mired in my little finite games that I miss the big picture. And, believe me, I like to play.

40 for 40, #28

March 7, 2007

"We do not struggle against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities..."

berriganicon.gifEphesians 6:12

This quote is a two-fold reminder for me. One, that struggle, conflict, contention is not only inevitable, it is part of a spiritual life. As the saying goes, "If you aren't outraged, then you aren't paying attention." Two, that this struggle can never be against people. It isn't personal, no matter how much you want it to be.

The people I call heroes understand both of these things. They understand the only way to defeat an enemy is to make him or her a friend.

40 for 40, #27

March 6, 2007

"Do or do not. There is no try."

yoda_biography_2.jpgYoda, The Empire Strikes Back

My personal paraphrase of this is -

"Don't do anything half-assed. Do it full-assed or no-assed at all."

40 for 40, #26

March 5, 2007

"The ball is round, the game lasts 90 minutes, everything else is pure theory. Off we go!"

arunlolarunabol4.jpgRun Lola Run begins with this quote from German football coach, Sepp Herberger. What I love about this quote is that it nicely describes both the limits of human knowledge and the artificial nature of our constructed reality.

Even though games (like football, chess, politics, stock investment, war, etc.) are circumscribed by rules of convention and laws of nature, we engage in them not knowing what the outcome might be. What we know is much less than what we don't know.

Secondly, much of what we "know" is artificial. The game is 90 minutes... why? Because we have defined it as such and we agree that it is so. If we do not agree then we aren't playing the same game.

The ball is round. Anything can happen.

40 for 40, #25

March 4, 2007

"Always look on the bright side of life."

I first saw Life of Brian at the Harvard Square Theater in 1984. I was supposed to be spending a summer there studying logic and astrophysics, which I was, but I was also getting a crash course in cinema.

Harvard Square showed a different movie every night and, as I remember it, the cost was only $2 or so. Not bad even in 1984. There I also saw for the first time Bladerunner, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python and the Meaning of Life, A Hard Day's Night, A Clockwork Orange, and probably a dozen other films.

The Harvard Square Theater, then a wonderful old-fashioned single screen movie theater complete with balcony, reminds me of the Snark Theater from Daniel Pinkwater's Snarkout Boys and the Avacado of Death.

40 for 40, #24

March 3, 2007

"It's never the same five percent."

oneinacrowd.jpgSo, a person was taking an informal survey of people as to what percentage of the world's population are assholes. She would ask people wherever she went and she traveled a lot so she asked a lot of people, and the answer was invariably between 20 and 40 percent or so.

On her way to an interview at the NPR studios in New York she asked a cabbie what he thought.

"Five percent," he said.

She was floored. Five percent? Only five percent? No one had ever given her such a low figure. She asked the cabbie about this apparently low figure.

"Well," he said, "it's never the same five percent."

I have forgotten the name of the person who was doing this informal survey, but I have never forgotten the punchline. I love this quote because it keeps me in mind of the fact that it is not who we are, but what we do that defines us. And that can change with time, it's not fixed.

Assholedness, as it were, is not static. It's a moving target. And if that is true of less desirable behavior, maybe it is true of our better angels too.

40 for 40, #23

March 2, 2007

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes."

Jesus.jpgWalt Whitman, Song of Myself

Another great, all-purpose quote, and one that I use often to laugh at myself.

Consistency is boring... and downright inhuman.

40 for 40, #22

March 1, 2007

"Without pain, honor is like a salad."

kling.jpgKlingon Proverb
(It loses a little something in the translation.)

Back in the mid-nineties I was very involved in on-line interactive fiction on newsgroups. One of these was a Star Trek based universe where we created characters, ships, worlds, and stories whole-cloth from our imaginations.

One of the things I loved about this group was their sense of humor. This fabricated proverb was offered up in a story thread by Celia Fox, a very talented writer.

I love this line because it is absurd and it points to the truth of trying to translate anything from one culture to another... something is lost in translation.

At any rate this struck me so much that I had a banner made up to put in the hospital room for Charlotte to look at when Simon was being born. In my haste I left it at home, of course, but it was oft repeated as we waited for Simon's arrival, let me tell you.


40 for 40, #21