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Cats

I’ve had a number of cats as pets over the years (or they had me). I’d probably still have one, if I wasn’t somewhat allergic to cat hair. I like them for several reasons. Among those reasons, they are independent and fairly low maintenance (unlike dogs). I was even able to teach a couple of them to fetch, which was much easier than I expected.

The first time happened by accident. I had just finished a pack of cigarettes and crumbled it up. I noticed the sound of crumbling cellophane drew the attention of my black, short-haired cat Nadir (I called him that because he was frequently directly underfoot). I continued to crumble the cigarette pack up into a ball until I had his total attention. Then, threw it across the room and he chased after it. He batted it a couple of times and then got it into his mouth. As soon as it was in his mouth, I called him to come to me. He got most of the way back before he dropped it, so I picked it up and did it again. He understood the game I was playing with him right away. After that, he could be totally asleep on the couch, but he would come instantly alert whenever I crumbled up a pack of cigarettes, ready to go chasing after it and play fetch with me..

Once, around the holidays, he was sleeping on the top of the couch. I stuck a couple of gift bows on his butt. Then, I crumbled up an empty pack of cigarettes. He sprang up, alert, and ready to play fetch. I threw the empty cigarette ball across the room. He dived after it and started running toward it, then he realized there was something on his butt. He suddenly lowered his butt in mid-stride and started dragging his butt across the floor, as if a big weight had unexpectedly been put on his back half.

It was pretty funny.

I had another black cat I was able to teach how to fetch later named Milo (or Milo Cat, or My Little Cat), but not every cat I’ve had was able to pick up on it. [I also used to be able to play hide and seek with Milo, but he was the one that always hided. Whenever I discovered him, he would jump up about 4 feet into the air sideways 2-3 times, before he would run off to hide himself again. He also didn’t mind riding in the car and would look outside the window at what we were passing.]

It’s funny how each cat has such a different personality from other cats (I assume that’s the same with other animals as well). Perhaps male cats are more aggressive in general, but it was a female cat that killed a bird to present to me in the bedroom. From what I can tell, no two cats are any more alike than any two humans.

Even earlier, I had a calico cat I named Loblolly, who was very independent. If I ever reprimanded her for anything, she would go to hide under the bed in the guest bedroom until I came and apologized to her. Nadir was one of her kids. If I reprimanded him for anything, he would be back in my face in a few minutes, begging for love and forgiveness.

My very first cat was a very beautiful white cat that I first named Fantasy but quickly renamed her Reality. There were a lot of jokes I could make about that. I could lose Reality, or hold Reality close, and so on. I finally had to give her up to a friend because I couldn’t keep her in the college dorms.

I’ve always had a weak spot for cats. Even after I had decided to never have another one (because of my allergies), I ended up semi-adopting one that I found in a very bad condition. She came up to me looking like she was starving. She was torn up like she had recently been in a fight, and she was the ugliest cat I had ever seen. I named her Grendel and took her back to my place to feed her. At that time, I lived in a garage apartment in the nicest section of town in Wilmington, NC. She ended up getting pregnant and having her kittens under the house next door. The kids in the house next door found her and her kittens, and her and her kittens ended up being adopted by the neighbors. So, there was a happy ending to that story.

This is me with Milo Cat almost 30 years ago…


A Case of ‘She Said/He Yelled’

“The whole country will reap the whirlwind.”


I can’t know if Brett Kavanaugh really believes he is innocent or not. Despite his denials about ever having an alcoholic blackout, he may have been so drunk that he doesn’t remember (which I think is much more likely considering all the overwhelming evidence of his excessive drinking than it is that Christine Blasey Ford mistook him for someone else), and/or he may have spent so much time polishing up his own halo over the years that he has convinced himself he could never have done such a thing. An alcoholic blackout is the best explanation for those who think they were both credible and don’t know who to believe. Regardless, I find her much more credible.

The contrast between Ford and Kavanaugh’s testimonies on Thursday were striking…..

While she was accommodating, he was angry.

While she was polite, he was petulant.

While she was courteous, he was aggressive.

While she was deferring, he was threatening.

While she was apolitical, he was nakedly partisan.

Had Ford acted like Kavanaugh, she would have been dismissed as a “hysterical woman.” Instead, he is praised by Trump and Fox News (sic).

Also… while she welcomed further investigation, he wasn’t able to bring himself to say that he did when asked directly.

I thought that part was interesting. In his opening statement he said, “I know that any kind of investigation—Senate, FBI, Montgomery County Police, whatever—will clear me.” Yet, when he was asked to request just such an investigation, he couldn’t do it. Instead, he didn’t seem to believe a FBI investigation would be able to accomplish anything, and he was dismissive about it.

He would have been much more credible had he asked for one, and even more so, if he had demanded one. He could have at least said that despite not believing such an investigation would accomplish much, he would ask for one. That he didn’t was clearly a mistake in retrospect considering one will be conducted anyway.

I also think it was interesting that when pressed directly about his excessive drinking, his go-to move was to evade and start reciting his resume… as if a straight A honor student and captain of the football team couldn’t drink so much he could have an alcoholic blackout. It was the same strategy he tried to use in his Fox interview by implying that a church-going virgin couldn’t sexually assault anyone. Also in his Thursday testimony, he kept bringing up the testimonies of people who had said they weren’t there or couldn’t remember (including Ford’s friend) as if that was evidence in his favor (when it wasn’t evidence for either of them). You would think a judge would know what constituted relevant evidence.

James Roche, Brett Kavanaugh’s roommate at Yale University in Fall 1983, said, “…although Brett was normally reserved, he was a notably heavy drinker, even by the standards of the time, and that he became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk.”

Kavanaugh evidently didn’t need to be drunk to display his “aggressive and belligerent” side when he gave his testimony. He talked over senators’ questions and inappropriately/irrelevantly threw their questions back at them. He was angry, petulant, and occasionally indignant and sneering. At times he seemed to be out-of-control.

There are also examples of him being evasive and deceptive about what he wrote for his 1983 yearbook personal page that are being cited elsewhere, so I’ll not go into all that here.

Additionally, unlike his previous appearances before the committee, he was blatantly partisan and threatening saying, “what goes around comes around,” “The consequences will extend long past my nomination; the consequences will be with us for decades,” “You sowed the wind for decades to come,” and “The whole country will reap the whirlwind.”

When comparing his behavior in earlier testimony before the committee with Thursday’s, it was like watching Dr. Jekyll fight against transforming entirely into Mr. Hyde on live TV (complete with the contorted facial expressions).

Virginia House Del. Danica Roem (D) had this to say about his testimony on Twitter: “Tip: If you’re being nominated for a nonpartisan position as a neutral arbiter on the Supreme Court, attacking ‘the left,’ ‘Democrats,’ ‘the Clintons’ and ‘the media’ in your opening statement while noting there will be reprisal for years to come is, well, disqualifying.”

Agreed.

If anything was proven beyond a reasonable doubt coming out of Thursday’s hearings it is that Brett Kavanaugh doesn’t have the judicial temperament to sit on the highest court in the land. And it was Kavanaugh who provided that proof.

One Nation Indivisible

In 2010, FreethoughtAction organized secular groups throughout North Carolina to form the North Carolina Secular Association (now, the Carolinas Secular Association) to conduct a billboard campaign during the month of July featuring the original words of the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance “one nation indivisible” over the American flag. The billboards appeared in six cities across the state, from the mountains to the sea (Asheville, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Charlotte, Raleigh, and Wilmington), and each city had its own media representative.

Below is a link to a video I put together about a year ago about it. The first few minutes tells the story of the campaign and the remainder is just some of the television coverage the campaign received in each area, concluding with coverage from the national ABC Evening News broadcast. The entire video is 32 minutes.

I think it’s very interesting to watch on a number of levels.

Thank You, Science

I wake up to the alarm on my phone….
 
I turn the thermostat up to 74 from where it was set before I went to sleep at 72.
 
I brush my teeth in the bathroom sink, where I can get water on demand.
 
I spend several minutes on the toilet, where I can easily flush my waste.
 
I take a shower. I step into an alcove in my bathroom and all I have to do is pull a lever to adjust the rate the water is falling on me and how hot or cold it is. I can even adjust the showerhead to spray me with water in any direction (or remove it to direct it where I wish).
 
While I’m waiting for my hair to dry, I can check any new emails I’ve received on the internet, I can check to see if anyone has responded to my FB posts, and I can check CNN and CBS News to find out if anything major has happened.
 
Just think about all that for a second….
 
I had a comfortable room to sleep in; if I didn’t wake up myself, an electronic alarm would have done that for me; I was able to instantly control the temperature of my environment and almost instantly dispose of any human waste I had.
 
I had instant access to however much water I wanted at any speed or temperature from any direction to brush my teeth and take a shower.
 
I had instant access to anyone sending messages to me from anywhere in the world while I was sleeping, as well as what was going on all around the world that was being covered by the news media.
 
If I wanted to, I could drive out to the airport and buy a ticket to another part of the world and fly there!! I could travel to the other side of the Earth in less than a day.
 
And I could listen to whatever music I wanted to hear or whatever podcast or other broadcast I wanted to listen to along the way.
 
I have the internet at my fingertips. It’s better than having the Library of Alexandria in your pocket.
 
I can take pictures and videos at a whim, play games, or live stream some experience.
I can talk to people in real time all around the world.
 
When I come home in the evening, I can take some food out of the refrigerator and put it in the microwave or cook it on the stove, OR I could have it delivered to me in 30 minutes.
 
There are about three things to take away from this….
 
The first thing is that we are living better than kings used to live, but we don’t appreciate it. We tend to judge ourselves in relation to our contemporaries and not what conditions were before us.
 
The second thing is that these conditions were all brought about by science, not faith in religion, which would have left us all in the dark ages forever if religion had its way. Science has given us everything from refrigerators to the internet.
 
The third thing is the reason of science make sense, and it helps us progress into the future and improve our situation.
 
[Note: not everyone is there yet; this is a first world scenario, but things are hopefully moving in this direction as they have continually been, if you look at the bigger picture.]

A Guinea Pig’s Adventure

When I was a kid, my two brothers and I were each given a guinea pig as a pet from my grandfather. My mother wouldn’t allow them in the house, so my father put a cage for them in the backyard about 4′ off the ground. I stepped outside one day to see the door to the cage hanging open and one of the guinea pigs hanging from it… evidently trying to escape. Directly below him was our dog, taking a nap in the afternoon sun.

Before I had a chance to move, the guinea pig let go of the cage door and fell onto the dog’s back. The dog woke up and stood up. When the dog stood up, the guinea pig dug in his claws. The dog started running and yelping while the guinea pig was squealing and holding on for dear life. The guinea pig riding on the back of the dog around and around the back yard was one of the funniest and most unexpected things I’ve ever seen. Neither animal knew what was going on and both were scaring the hell out of each other.

After a couple of trips around the yard, the dog bucked the guinea pig off his back. The guinea pig flew up into the air, bounced off of the chain-link fence, and fell to the ground somewhat stunned. I reached him pretty quickly after that and picked him up to put him back into his cage. I told him, “I bet you won’t try that again.”

A Very Brief History of CAA (2003-2013)

The following was written in 2013 as a result of the 10th anniversary of the Charlotte Atheists & Agnostics (CAA). It serves as an example of how one secular group began and evolved a little differently than most groups of its kind. 

The ‘official’ birth of ‘Charlotte Atheists & Agnostics’ (CAA) can be traced back to January 2003 when an email distribution list at YahooGroups was created for the few atheists who had previously been meeting once every 3 months or so through MeetUp.com.

In the summer of 2005, the group became affiliated with American Atheists. Later, it would also become affiliated with the American Humanist Association and Atheist Alliance International (now, Atheist Alliance America).

In January 2007, Dan Russell-Pinson built the first website and forum for the group, and he became the official group organizer.

During those first several years, meetings were occasional and purely social.

Meetings were held at places like: Hartigan’s Irish Pub, Applebees, Outback Steakhouse, and the Mellow Mushroom.

The meetings usually topped out at around 10 people.

As the group began to grow, people inevitably envisioned different directions for what CAA should be: some wanted a purely social outlet, some wanted more formalized activism, and so on.

In March 2009, to avoid fragmentation, CAA enacted bylaws and elected its first officers.

Dan Russell-Pinson became the first president….

A mission statement was approved…

“To create and foster a close-knit community of non-believers and to put a positive face on atheism through education, public outreach and community service.”

The group had grown to such an extent by then that it had to find a new place to meet. It found a “home” of sorts at Dilworth Neighborhood Grille, where members could take over the room in the back or the space downstairs.

CAA decided not to make any changes regarding the purely social aspect of the now monthly socials, but started holding separate “planning” meetings each month.

When some wanted to start having speakers, CAA made that a separate event as well–and so on with any other activities–until the calendar was filling up each month with many different types of CAA events.

There were monthly community service projects, charity drives, movie nights, and book club meetings, and there was now an annual Garden of Eatin’ picnic added to the calendar….

While Dan was president, he was interviewed on radio, television, and for “Charlotte” magazine…

A new website and forum were built, and the groundwork was laid for CAA’s participation in the statewide “One Nation Indivisible” billboard campaign in 2010.

In the spring of 2010, Dan passed off the torch to Mike Tooney, who became the second president of CAA.

That summer, CAA received several rounds of media attention—local, national, and international–from its involvement with the “One Nation Indivisible” billboard campaign. CAA member William Warren was the media representative for the billboard in Charlotte.

Over 300 new members joined the new CAA website as a result of the campaign, bringing the total to over 1,300, and the following monthly social drew a record 75-80 people.

In the spring of 2011, Shawn Murphy became the third CAA president with Mary Snow as VP.

Monthly steering committee meetings began, monthly “alternative” socials were tested, and annual Darwin Day brunches and annual fundraising Summer Soirees were added to the calendar.

A youth group was launched, more speakers were brought in, a group page was started on Facebook, and CAA adopted a street in downtown Charlotte to keep clean….

President Shawn Murphy was interviewed on radio and television, and participated at interfaith events….

In 2012, several CAA members attended the Reason Rally in DC and Rock Beyond Belief in Fayetteville, NC.

Later, CAA representatives spoke out in the “Free Speech Zone” at the Democratic National Convention and received some media attention as a result.

CAA’s original logo, seen in the picture above, was replaced with a new one….

CAA became affiliated with the Carolinas Secular Association, and  later went on to help sponsor and host two of that organization’s conferences held in Charlotte.

CAA also became an endorsing organization of the Secular Coalition for America and later joined the Charlotte Coalition of Reason (Charlotte CoR).

For two years running, CAA was able to get former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx to sign proclamations proclaiming a “Day of Reason” for Charlotte…

This resulted in more media attention when Foxx was appointed Transportation Secretary for the Obama Administration shortly after he signed the second one….

In 10 years, CAA went from not being able to gather five people together more frequently than quarterly to a thriving group with over 1,300 registered members on the website.

In the summer of 2013, CAA celebrated its 10 Year Anniversary with a dinner banquet at Dilworth Neighborhood Grille…