Sunday, August 21, 2011

On the gender identity of deities...

As I was indoctrinated, God (infer Yahweh) was a mean old white guy with a beard. His Son (another white guy) also had a beard quite often, it seemed. Though it would have rounded out the trinity, the Holy Ghost was never depicted, though I do not believe that depiction is scripturally prohibited. One has to suspect he's bearded. And white.

To me, thinking "out of the box," it always seemed that if there was a god, I'd be more inclined to wish for a goddess. The feminine aspects of deity were more attractive to me -- love, compassion, tolerance -- than the masculine aspects -- dominance, aggression, dogma. When I saw Star Trek, and realized that women came in many colors, I began to imagine my goddess in shades of blue.

So, while I've been more exposed to religions with a dominant male deity, I've been more interested in religions with female deities. Which most often rears its head in conflict with the Christian "no other gods before me" because (in my limited experience) feminine deities are most often encountered within a pantheon.

In your studies, what religions have you encountered that placed a feminine diety as the only, or dominant deity within a belief system. If it involves a blue goddess squatting on a pyramid, that's fine, too.

Monday, June 06, 2011

the death of media

I visited a record store recently. I probably shouldn't have. Confirmed a lot of things I'd only suspected. I arrived with a couple cases of assorted CDs, and a few of every other media format except vinyl. I carted this into a vinyl mecca that also sells the rest. This was my first foray into enthusiast territory in years. Since I decamped from Arlington, in fact.

The short version is media is dead. Pretty much completely. Sure, rare collectibles remain rare collectibles, but anything else is now worthless. Applies to all forms of vinyl, all forms of videotape, cassettes, and every other format up to and (already) including DVDs. There's a market for used DVDs, still, but it's pennies-on-the-dollar compared to what it used to be, and effectively dead. The more obscure the format, however, the higher the floor on prices. Aficionados will want media to play on vintage gear, and keeping a stock of obscure media is proportionately profitable to the rarity. Keep a stock of cylinder recordings, they'll sell for a high price, as they're rare collectibles. Keep a stock of mainline catalog LPs and 45s, and the rent on the space they occupy will eat you alive. By volume, 8-track tapes are the last profitable aftermarket, and that presumes you have the knowledge, skills, and materials to effect repairs. By weight, CDs and DVDs still sell, and they are, at least compact.

So out of two cases of stuff, he's interested in less than a dozen pieces, and I leave with most of my stuff, and a couple of mint european singles in trade. Much better informed, and saddened.

A lot of the joy of collecting used to be the difficulty of acquisition, and the comparative rarity of everything other than standard catalog items. Getting an early copy of the latest cult single, or better yet, getting the special package colored-vinyl release because you knew they guy at the store. Today is not without it's premium packages or promos, but it's not the same. Oh well, at least one more time, I was able to validate that yes, I can still maintain witty record store banter on an expert level. However little that will ever matter again, sadly.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Let’s Fuck With The Russians, or What Memorial Day Means To Me


I have been asked what Memorial Day means to me. As one who served and got out alive, I’m largely ambivalent. My memories of those who didn’t are thankfully few, and don’t require a holiday to occupy my memory.

There was a point in time where I realized what game was being played, what part I played in it, and the larger implications. Let me tell you a story. I was serving aboard the USS Long Beach (CGN-9), Ronald Reagan was president, and we were cruising the Sea of Okhotsk. Our job was to launch a Tomahawk cruise missile. More specifically, we were to launch a Tomahawk toward a range in the Aleutian Islands, while in the Sea of Okhotsk, so that the Russians could observe a “back-of-the-loop” strike on one of their military bases in Siberia. In other words, we were to go to a specific location, and launch a missile at our own territory, but on a course and distance that if precisely reversed would have targeted one of their bases. Once I understood what were there for, and why, it became obvious that our mission was essentially “Let’s fuck with the Russians.”

While this is going on, I’m up on deck with a friend, just stretching our legs and getting fresh air. We’re looking over the side, and we notice a sub running alongside. Not uncommon, but we also note that it’s precisely the wrong shade of gray. He takes out his camera, snaps a few pictures, and we go down to the Combat Information Center (CIC). We walk into the sonar shack, and ask “What’s the sub running off our port side?” “Sub?” Oh shit. We say what we’ve seen, and they’re totally dismissive, but my friend never got his camera back.

So, the realizations begin to set in. Geopolitically, despite the purported tensions of the day, we were in a comfortable enough place that we could be sent out on a mission to fuck with the Russians, and the Russians were actively fucking with us, too. For sport, it seemed. We could each have destroyed the other, but that either actually would never actually occurred to anyone involved. This was when I realized I could relax. The projection of power was a game. Dangerous in general, but between these “adversaries,” not so much.

As I was getting out of the Navy, many things were happening. The Berlin Wall. Tiananmen Square. And a gun turret exploded on the USS Iowa (BB-61). When we’d left Persian Gulf Tanker Escort operations, we’d turned over to the Iowa, and we’d all been encouraged to take the tour and meet the crew. I’d met, and spent a day working and a night drinking with half the people on the dead list. Then a war happened, and I was not part of it, and I was glad.



Monday, May 23, 2011

On the subject of raptures...

As many may know, I was raised from birth by Baptists, which at least gave me the advantage of having much to rebel against in a healthy manner. I made my escape only when my mother married and moved out, and kindly consented to take me with her. Thus began the journey.

I have observed the latest rapture phenomenon with amusement. A thorough reading of the Bible refutes not only the claim, but the concept. Matthew and Mark said exactly the same thing on the subject: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

Matthew 24:36
Mark 13:32
(New International Version)

Thursday, May 05, 2011

a dangerous skill, nearly black art

As a flipper, one of your most valuable skills will be the ability to use plaster tools and drywall joint compound to hide anything. Case in point, one of my upstairs bedrooms. I find that the roof leaked, and the plaster failed. I kept wondering why a corner remained damp long after the roof and gutter above had been repaired. Then I took the wall apart, and understood.

Under the surface, I found drywall corner bead, a very bad sign when you're working with plaster. Under a generous amount of joint compound, I found three layers of wallpaper, and finally the plaster. The plaster has only actually failed where the accumulated crap on top of it held the water in for long enough for it to explode. So I have more demolition than I originally understood, in addition to the anticipated plaster repair. I fear I'll end up hand-scraping every wall surface.

But, if you encounter this, and you're an evil flipper who can use a plaster float and a bucket of drywall mud according to the black art, you can hide all of it, slap on some corner bead, and be ready for paint in under 24 hours. Or you can invest an extra three days stripping it back to the plaster, repairing the plaster properly, and applying two coats of oil-based primer. I'm going to have to do that now, and then some. Had they not taken the easy way out before, I'd have far less work ahead.

I've been advised to be suspicious of any alterations made in the 70s or 80s, as in those decades the neighborhood was in severe decline and nobody was making long-sighted investments. It looks like there was another wave around 2000 of quick flips. So far, I can't tell which of those categories this particular sin falls into, but (so far) at least it appears they've only screwed up finishes, not structure, and only made silly electrical mistakes, not criminial ones.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

almost done with contractors

The main roof has been repaired, patched, and resurfaced. The kitchen roof has been replaced. All the old gutters and downspouts have been replaced. The damaged soffits, fascia, and trim have been repaired and repainted. As soon as they finish the last roof section in back, that's about it for the roofers.

Plumbers finished their callbacks today. Hot water heater has a new gas valve, igniter, and sensor. The two "radiators" have been replaced by actual cast iron radiators. The "radiators" weighed about 10 lbs each, while their replacements are 180 lbs and 240 lbs, respectively. 20x underkill yielded cold atrium and kitchen, even with the heat on.

The second floor air handler has been removed. In pieces. As soon as they started taking it apart, it started to slide off the roof. It had never actually been attached to anything except the (eaten away by vermin) fiberglass ducts. As a bonus, we tested the first floor air handler, and found that it needed absolutely no maintenance except a new air filter, and works astonishingly well.

The gas fireplace has been demoted to artifact, although a beautiful one. Saves lining the chimney and refurbishing the burner. The plumber says they can't legally hook it up unless/until it's been upgraded/modified to current standards, and my first and second string people either stopped returning my calls  or started backpedaling after I explained what I wanted. So it's an artifact which can be restored later.

The heat is on and working. First floor AC (surprise!) is on and working. Hot water is on and working, as is cold water. Washer and dryer are installed and operating. The next steps are to complete demolition and cleanout, and move on to plaster repair and refinishing. That's my plan for May (and maybe June.)