Things I love—a sequel to “Things I hate”

I love Peggy. She is kind and wise, and the best thing that ever happened to me.

I love baking crackers, cornbreads, and biscuits. I also love making soups and pancakes.

I love to write. I also love to read but not nearly as much as I love to write.

I love my new cat, Brewsky—aka Fuckface when Peggy isn’t around (“Isn’t that just like a man?” she would say.)

I love it when Peggy massages my shoulders each day.

I love the fact that, although I am in pain, I can still see, hear, and get around.

I love it that pain has made me stronger.

I love it that modern medicine has kept me alive when I would otherwise be dead.

I love camping with Peggy in remote areas.

I love learning about rocks and native plants.

I love oatmeal and mayonnaise but never together.

I love it that age has enabled me to give up most of my idolization of women. I love it that Peggy stayed with me during all the years before this was true.

I love having Ellie for a neighbor.

I love to dig. If I had my health back, and if digging didn't make such a mess, I could do it everyday simply for the joy of it.

I love living in the city instead of in the country.

I love it that I bike more often than I drive.

I love Peggy’s room, especially her “rabbit shrine” and her glass crystals that catch the sunlight and throw hundreds of rainbows.

I love PBS (Public Broadcasting Service).

I love a lot of Western movies and TV shows from before 1960 and a few after 1960.

I love it that I’m mostly unconcerned about what people think of me.

I love being able to do almost anything to a house that needs doing.

I love how much Peggy enjoys her button collection. I also love how much she enjoys her music collection and her Christmas ornaments.

I love my blog buddies.

I love Busby Berkeley dance numbers.

I love the beach, the desert, the forest, and the mountains.

I love keeping my house clean, orderly, and in good repair.

I love dark chocolate.

I love the bliss of narcotics in the middle of the night when pain awakens me.

I love the taste and the warm glow of hard liquor.

I love Baroque music. I also love cowboy music, both old and new.

I love the sound of an electric guitar.

I love my dog, Bonnie Blue, and I love my memories of dogs that have died.

I love cuddling in front of an old movie with a bowl of popcorn on a cold night.

I love having gained in prudence, knowledge, and wisdom over the years.

I love spring, summer, and fall.

I love coffee, strong and black.

I love making my yard look nice.

I love going to the nursery with Peggy to buy plants for our garden. I also love it when we go to Costco and say we’re having a “date.”

Herding cats

Part 1

When I took over leadership of my local atheist group, about six of us met irregularly. The first thing I did was to organize a regular monthly meeting. I also worried a lot. I worried that the group would fail, and I worried that its failure would be my fault. I thought I would feel better if I organized a steering committee to share the responsibility. Along with the regular meeting and the steering committee, we now have a monthly movie night, a monthly game night, and a bi-monthly book group. You might think I would feel better, but you would be wrong. I was so overwrought after our meeting on Saturday that I had to take even more pills than usual to get to sleep, and then I was awakened by nightmares.

In one, I was driving a car in which all 72 of us were riding. I had no idea where we were or even where we were going, but I didn’t want to admit it, so I kept trying to get my bearings by looking at road signs. Because I was going a little fast, I missed a curve. We ended up in a large flat area and came to a stop facing the way we had come. Still not wanting to admit my ignorance, I said I was just turning around.

In another dream, we were all in a house overlooking a river. I decided that maybe we were overlooking it from a bit too close, so I went outside and looked under the house. Sure enough the river was running under part of it, and although the house was built on posts, they didn’t look too substantial, and I worried that the house might fall into the river. When I turned to go back in, I saw that a mountain lion was stalking me, and I knew I would never make it to the door. I yelled for help, and when someone opened the door, I told her to bring me a gun. “Which one?” she asked. “Any of them!” I yelled, and woke up.

Part 2

The youngest person in our group is a teenager, and the oldest is eighty-seven. We’re equally divided according to gender, and nearly everyone has at least one college degree. Of the religious backgrounds represented, I only know of the following: Mormon, Mennonite, Unity, Jehovah’s Witness, Orthodox Jew, Baptist, Church of Christ (me), Roman Catholic, and one person whose parents were atheists. I’ve no doubt that many others are also represented, but I have no idea what they are.

The steering committee met before the regular meeting on Saturday, and one of the items on the agenda concerned how to handle group business between committee meetings. I had been doing it with the thought that the committee could overturn anything they didn’t like, and I rather suspected they would want me to continue, which they did. Later, I thought that I would be just as happy if two or three people shared the responsibility with me, but as soon as I thought that, I realized that for me to do it alone saves a lot of time.

The thing I’ve hated most has been facilitating our regular meetings, both because I’m shy in groups and because atheists tend to buck authority. It’s even hard for me to facilitate the steering committee. Two-thirds through the one on Saturday, someone asked me if we were covering everything I wanted covered. I laughingly said: “Oh, I gave up on that ten minutes ago because directing you people is like herding cats.” That must have pleased them because they stayed on track for the rest of the meeting.

If I were screwing up, the steering committee wouldn’t be so agreeable, yet, as I told them, I don’t want anyone to think of me as a leader in the sense that they either have to get along with me or leave the group. Rather, I want them to think of me as a leader whose goal isn’t to dominate but to serve. They said that is how I come across.

Part 3

Madalyn Murry O’Hair actually did lead American Atheists by force of personality. She could dominate hundreds of people just by walking into a room. I heard her speak at LSU (Louisiana State University) one night. She trashed Christianity in the most vulgar terms before a largely Christian audience that sat in speechless horror. When she finished, she didn’t exit through the wings as speakers usually do, but down the center aisle. I thought, oh, my god, they’re going to beat her to death, but they made a path for her that was wide enough for five people, and the only sound I heard was that of her heels striking the floor. I was reminded of Moses parting the Red Sea.

The trouble with Madalyn was that she needlessly alienated a whole lot of people, many of them atheists. She saw herself as the epitome of what a self-respecting atheist was supposed to be, and if you had a less confrontative vision, she considered you a coward. Because of her harshness, one of her followers founded The Freedom from Religion Foundation, which is now much larger than American Atheists. Another problem with Madalyn was that when she died, her organization nearly folded. That’s just how it is with personality-dominated groups.

Madalyn liked my writing and, as a result, she asked me to call her Grandma. That was definitely one of the high points of my life because, say what you will about her, she was one smart, quick thinking, and courageous cookie. She lived for the cause of advancing atheism to such an extent that it would make the pope and Billy Graham together look like pikers.

Part 4

Ah, but I can hear some of you saying: “See there, atheism is just another form of religion,” to which I would say, “Define religion.” If you mean a faith-based worldview, atheism is not a religion. I would even suspect that, to most atheists, atheism isn’t even a means to end (as is most religions), but simply one result of a worldview that values evidence and rationality. In saying this, I don’t mean that religious people value ignorance and irrationality, but that they hold faith as a superior means of knowledge, at least in matters of religion. My challenge to them is: “But how do you know that faith is superior?” If they say, “Because I have faith that faith is superior,” they’re into an infinite regress.

Any claim to the superiority of faith over evidence and reason can’t be disproven by evidence and reason. This is why—in the short term anyway—atheists can only reach believers who are susceptible to rational argument. True believers literally don’t care about evidence and reason (although they might use it in an attempt to persuade the ignorant). For example, if it were possible to prove conclusively that the entire Bible was written by some prankster, it wouldn’t matter in the least to them. They would just say, “That was how God chose to bring us his word,” or, “God allowed Satan to create false evidence in order to test the faithful.” Afterwards, they would believe even more strongly than before. Faith isn’t just belief in the absence of evidence; faith is belief despite the evidence.

Upon shooting politicians

If I was outraged when Congresswoman Giffords was shot, surely it behooves me to ask myself how I would have felt had G. W. Bush been shot when he was president. What Americans are supposed to believe is that if they dislike one elected official, they should work to elect another. But what if you think the official you dislike is single-handedly taking your country down the toilet? The fact is that I would have liked it A LOT had Bush been killed. The only thing I would have liked better had been if his entire cabinet died with him because it wasn’t Bush the man whom I cared about but the policies of the Bush administration.

But what of those today whom—benighted though they appear to me—see Obama as being as evil as I saw Bush? I could say that nearly all of the harm Obama is said to be doing will almost certainly be overturned after the next election, whereas George Bush left generations in debt, started two unnecessary wars, and caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands. If I explained this to the Obama haters, would they be likely to agree that the politicians I want to see dead are worse than the politicians they want to see dead? But of course, when hell freezes over.

It’s almost a moot argument anyway because the odds of killing a president—much less a president and his cabinet—have gotten harder over the years (JFK was riding right out in the open through the streets of a city that largely despised him). Senators and Congressmen are another matter though. Any of us could kill one just by checking our local newspaper to see when she’s scheduled to appear at a nearby event, and showing up to shoot her. Imagine how scary this must make it for elected officials who support abortion, gun control, healthcare reform, or any other issue that makes the right lather.

But do right-leaning politicians not have just as much to fear from the left? Probably not. That’s an politically unpopular opinion, of course, but political popularity isn’t related to truth but to the desire to win elections. As nasty as the left can be, I don’t recall them putting crosshairs on opponents’ districts, threatening to exercise their “second amendment option” (for non-Americans, that’s the amendment that has to do with gun ownership), or talking about taking their opponents “out.” Neither do they have rabid radio talk show hosts egging them on 24 hours a day.

Be that as it may, if one side of the governmental aisle feels itself in danger of being assassinated, then it’s reasonable for the other side to get uneasy too, so the most outrageous rhetoric will no doubt be toned down, at least by the politicians themselves and at least until the next election, because if there’s one thing we can trust our elected officials to do, it’s to take care of themselves first, and that’s true of the right and the left. After all, it’s not their lifelong government subsidized healthcare they argue over; it’s ours.

For those who care, the Glock in the photo is similar the one used in Tucson but with a laser scope. I chose this photo because it also shows an extended clip similar to the one used by Loughner. Four extra clips are also pictured.

Things I hate

I hate litterbugs. I think they should be shot on sight, and I would include cigarette butt litterbugs. I can sympathize with an occasional murderer but there’s no excuse for littering.

I hate people who talk loudly and/or in public places on their cellphones. In fact, I hate cellphones. I just want to take them out of people’s hands and stomp on them.

I hate people who smoke in public, especially if they’re walking in front of me on the sidewalk. They’re killing themselves anyway, so why not euthanize them now—with a flamethrower?

I hate my country because we’re forever bombing the hell out of other countries and then pretending that we did it for their own good.

I hate it when people are so fat they waddle. It’s one thing to be a little overweight; it’s another to have a feedbag full of doughnuts hanging around your neck all day. I think we should send 300-pounders to Third World countries so that starving people will have something to eat.

I hate political correctness, which I define as legal or occupational coercion on the part of some people to force other people to conform to their definition of niceness.

I hate predictable—and often silly and redundant—phrases such as “at this point in time,” “he broke down in tears,” and “the merciless flood waters.”

I hate stores that don’t carry bulbs and batteries for the products they sell. I also hate stores that play loud music or try to sell me stuff over their PA.

I hate it that every fitted sheet now comes in a range of sizes—say 12” to 18”—because the only people whose beds look properly made up are people who have the largest size mattresses that the sheets will fit.

I hate it that every weakness has become a psychiatric disorder. No one is shy anymore; he has a social anxiety disorder. No one is a glutton; she has an eating disorder. No one is sexually impotent; he has an erectile dysfunction disorder. Clearly, the whole damn society is in immediate and desperate need of pharmaceuticals. I think we should follow the money if we want to understand such things.

I hate it when desperate people believe silly things in order to feel comforted, but instead of admitting to their desperation, they say they have “faith.”

I hate it that I can’t trust corporations, ever, about anything. For example, when Dawn Dishwashing Detergent made its bottles smaller, they wrote on the side that it was a “NEW AND IMPROVED SIZE,” so consumers would be fooled into thinking they were getting more for their money.

I hate legalese that is written in small print so people won’t know what they’re signing even if they’re able to read it.

I hate the word folks. When I grew up, folks was used by hillbillies to refer to their relatives. Then, George W. Bush (no surprise there) referred to Al Qaeda as folks, and now everyone uses it all the time.

I hate upspeak (the practice of unintentionally making declarative statements into questions by finishing them several notes higher than they started). A woman (and it IS always a woman) might have eleven hundred doctorates, but when she uses upspeak, I know she doesn’t have confidence in what she’s saying, so I don’t either.

I hate the word “survivor,” as in, “I’m a sexual abuse survivor,” because it’s invariably an excuse for being a perpetually angry twit.

I hate it when people let some “holy” book or person do their thinking for them. If the next pope declares that it’s god’s will that Catholics support stem cell research, then that’s what they’ll do. Or if a long lost chapter of Genesis is found in which “God” says that life came about as the result of evolution, then fundamentalist Christians will jump on that bandwagon. In the final analysis, “people of faith” value compassion, justice, reason, and evidence less than they value having someone tell them what to think.

I hate the word like when it’s used as a substitute for uh. “Like, me and him, like, we, like, got wasted, like, you know?”

I hate style changes in clothing. Speaking for men, at least, tie widths and shirt collars don’t change constantly because guys can’t make up their minds, but because people who sell clothes make more money that way.

I hate Texas because we’ve had three presidents from Texas during my lifetime (Johnson, Bush, and Bush), and they were all warmongers. What’s wrong with those people down there in the most Christian state in the Union?

I hate commercial television. What kind of a dimwit do you have to be to sit through one minute of intelligence insulting commercials for every two minutes of intelligence insulting programming? Even on those rare occasions when it’s a good program, doesn’t it have a desensitizing effect on your psyche to be suddenly and repeatedly yanked from scenes of rapes, murders, and autopsies only to be thrust into deodorant commercials?

I hate rich people because they either: (a) inherited their money from people who cheated others; or (b) cut out the middleman and cheated others themselves.

I hate college athletics because they’ve become more important than education. For every one person who knows how a university ranks scholastically, ten thousand know how its football team did.

I hate it when people join the military during one or another of our many wars without giving a lot of study and thought to whether they believe in the war. I’m truly sorry when they get killed, but I’m not going to pretend that they died “fighting for freedom,” because the truth is that they probably died for no better reason than that they were young and stupid.

I hate it that our planet is doomed because my species is too asinine to plan for the long-term. We’re like three year olds in that we have enough brains to get ourselves into deep shit, but we don’t have enough brains to see it coming or get ourselves out of it.

What to do with a catatonic cat

Peggy and I took Brewsky to the vet last week for the free check-up that we were promised when we adopted him. We had to wait a long time for the vet to finish his cigarette break, and when he finally did come in, we were practically in tears. He asked what the hell could be wrong since he hadn’t even done anything yet, and we said that he had recently euthanized our cat-hating old dog in the same room that he was about to examine our dog-hating young cat. He started laughing like a man who had positively lost his mind. Peggy and I were just a little completely outraged by this display of inappropriate jollity, so we sat with our arms folded and glared at him hatefully.

After what seemed like a half hour but was probably no more than twenty-seven minutes, we looked at one another, and we could each see in the other’s eyes that we too thought it was pretty funny—in a weird kind of way—so we started laughing with him, and in no time all three of us were laughing so hard that we were crying. It turned out to be a really great vet visit, partly because nobody had to be killed but mostly because it was free. I had much rather go home with a dead animal than to go home with a hundred dollar charge on my credit card.

When we told the vet that we were virtual virgins when it came to owning a cat, he took it upon himself to help us understand how cats think, but he used a lot of technical jargon about feline sexual fantasies, and we couldn’t follow it any too well, so he finally summed up everything he had said by telling us that all we really need to remember is that cats are sexual perverts, and that there’s no point in even trying to understand them. He suggested that we write this down for future reference, but neither of us had a pencil, so we just repeated it in our heads until we had memorized it.

He asked how things were going with our new cat, and we told him that we were having two problems. He said that he needed a smoke, so he would only have time for one of them, so while he trimmed his fingernails, we told him that Brewsky was keeping us up all night every night only to sleep all day—when we had to be up. The vet said that this served as a case in point for what he had said about how sexually obsessed cats are, but that we didn’t have to put up with Brewsky’s selfishness. He suggested that we embark upon what he called Feline Sleep Re-Programization (it goes by the acronym FELINESLEEPREROGRAMIZATION).

Basically what we’re supposed to do is to keep one or more battery operated squirt bottles in every room plus the garage, attic, crawlspace, front porch, back porch, front yard, backyard, vegetable garden, and flower beds. We said that we only needed nine bottles because Brewsky stays indoors, but the vet insisted on selling us 34 bottles plus 102 gallons of tap water just to be on the safe side. The brand name for these bottles is Deluge-A-Kitty, and they each have a gallon tank that’s good for two squirts. They also have a strobe light and an air horn (it’s not quite as loud as a train whistle) that come on automatically when you squeeze the trigger. What we’re supposed to do is to tiptoe all over the house and yard (the vet said that we might as well look everywhere since we own so many bottles) twice every hour, and when we catch Brewsky napping, let him have it. When we asked the vet if all that water isn’t a little tough on furniture, sheetrock, knickknacks, electronics, wall-hangings, carpeting, clothing, woodwork, books, elderly dogs, and so forth, he sold us a gasoline-powered blow dryer that can hit 650 degrees Fahrenheit on high.

We’ve only been using the bottles for three days, and Brewsky is already staying awake all day. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he’s staying awake all night too. He has also stopped eating and playing (he did drink a little water day before yesterday), and he will only shit in our shoes. Mostly, he just sits in the corner while staring at the floor and trembling. We’re starting to worry that he might have some hereditary psychological problem, because we can’t understand why else he would start acting screwy just when he’s showing progress toward staying awake during normal, healthy daylight hours. I’m not saying that we’ve given up hope yet because we’re more patient than most people, but if he doesn’t snap out of it in the next two days, we’re going to have him euthanized, and we’re going to ask the vet to do it in the same room he used for Baxter. Then, when we get another new cat, we’re going to have him examined in that room so we can see the vet laugh like that again. This was Peggy’s idea, and when I asked her why she was so enamored of laughing vets, she said it was because our laughing vet has a tight ass and nice dimples. Peggy might be old, but she’s not completely dead, I guess.