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In His Image [Dec. 29th, 2014|08:30 pm]
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I wrote this for Antioch '99, a youth retreat I attended (and was a peer leader for) back in high school. Posting here without initial comment - feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section. Note that this post's Visibility level is Public.

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Pegasus as an RPG? [Oct. 7th, 2014|08:23 pm]
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Today I was talking with redlily, and I made the offhand comment "Whatever, if Robin McKinley hasn't finished writing the Pegasus "trilogy" in a few years, we'll just have to run a parent-led RPG for our kids and THEY can finish writing the story."


Cast of characters:
* Sylvi - aristocrat?
* Ebon - pegasus - base CR is 3; what's the ECL though?
* The guard guy - ?
* Sylvi's ?wizard? - probably the wizard class, since it seemed based more on study than on innate talent, right? Could also be another magic-using class, though.

The world seems high-magic, but the humans are generally low-magic. (Which is part of why they are so beset by badness.) Magic items and such would be fairly minor (or else very old/what one might consider "artifacts" in the non-technical-D&D-sense of "artifact").
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I write emails -- Arabic edition [Feb. 9th, 2011|05:06 pm]
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I just sent the following email.

Unlocked for importance.

Superintendent Morrison et al,

I read that your school district has attempted to introduce the Arabic language into its curriculum, and has received tremendous pushback from local parents who oppose this measure.


Arabic is a tremendously important language in the modern world. Aside from its rich cultural heritage (the part that your local parents were objecting to), it is also vital to our nation's national security interests to have a large population of Arabic speakers living here. The Middle East is, and will likely continue to be, an extremely important region, strategically speaking. Our country *needs* its children to speak the languages of our allies *and* our enemies.

Please do not allow the misguided actions of the bigots in your school district to prevent you from doing the right thing in this situation.


(name and job redacted for LJ)

(You may quote any or all of this email, in any context, but please do not use my real last name. Thank you.)


And I found your contact information here:
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Religion and history [Feb. 9th, 2010|10:49 pm]
This is an interesting argument for the importance of history when evaluating churches. Not sure if I agree with it (I mean, the Church has thoroughly repudiated Thomas More and his actions against translated Bibles, right?) (right???), but still. Interesting.

This part hurts:

"It is hard for me to be told that, to be told that I am evil, because I think of myself as someone who is filled with love."

That hurts a lot.

And it should hurt.

Updated 7 March: I just read this (a column about a Catholic school which is denying re-enrollment to the child of two gay women). I would like to quote one paragraph in particular:

Let me also just take a moment to note that, even granting the Catholic belief that homosexuality is a sin, it's interesting that a special dispensation is being made for every other child whose parents are sinners. By which I mean all the other children, of course, since Catholic doctrine regards all humans as sinners.

It is spot on. The reason why being told that homosexuality is a sin hurts so much is because the Church treats homosexuality as a special, unforgivable, stigma-bearing kind of sin. "All men are sinners, but some are more sinful than others, and those are definitely the gays" seems to be the message that is being portrayed here. I've never heard of a child being denied re-enrollment in a Catholic school because her parents committed some other kind of sin. (Although examples would be interesting to see.) (For example, "using contraception" or "having been divorced and remarried.")
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Religion in America, and a catharsis [Dec. 13th, 2009|12:28 pm]
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A friend of mine linked to this article from the NYT - "Paranormal Flexibility."

1. I find it weird and annoying that he lumps together "Eastern" * and "New Age" beliefs. There is a fuckload of difference (respectability) between Buddhism and Wicca, thank you very much. there? Is there something about "a religion being around for thousands of years" that automatically lends it credibility? Or the fact that the tradition has been passed down unbroken (major world religions), rather than reconstructed from the scattered writings of Roman conquerors (Wicca/neopaganism)?

I am pretty certain that the reason Mormonism (pro tip: if you want people to refer to your church by its proper name, make its proper name short - preferably one word - or people will just revert to the name you dislike!) tends to get less respect than other denominations of Christianity is because it is NEW. 150 years? That's piffle compared to the Big Five.

However, most of these "new" religions don't actually believe anything weirder than what the "old" religions believe -- they just lack the multiple centuries/millennia of cemented faith and tradition that (somehow) lends respectability to the old religions.

*: This reminds me of a critique some Catholic (? - somebody I read in HS, anyway) wrote about the Beatles -- "They dabbled in drugs and Eastern religions." Wow. Way to compare things which have nothing in common, asshole.

2. "Twenty percent of Protestants and 28 percent of Catholics said they believe in reincarnation." --> I personally find this to be highly unlikely. I don't think I know any Christians who believe in reincarnation. Although I suppose they could have just not told me, hmm.

2b. "Furthermore, about the same percentages said they believe in astrology, yoga as a spiritual practice and the idea that there is “spiritual energy” pulsing from things like “mountains, trees or crystals.”" --> Um, okay?

2c. "Furthermore, 16 percent of Protestants and 17 percent of Catholics said that they believe that some people can use the “evil eye” to “cast curses or spells that cause bad things to happen.”" --> Who the hell is the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life interviewing???

3. Final paragraph (wow, this is a short op-ed): "The report is further evidence that Americans continue to cobble together Mr. Potato Head-like spiritual identities from a hodgepodge of beliefs — bending dogmas to suit them instead of bending themselves to fit a dogma. And this appears to be leading to more spirituality, not less. Cue the harps, and the sitars, and the tablas, and the whale music."

I'm not sure where he's going with this. I thought the point of writing an Op-Ed column was to state an opinion, not just sling together random factoids from a Pew study. (Incidentally, the latter is what blogs like this one are for.) :-D

Considering that he compares American syncretism to "Mr. Potato Head," though, I'm guessing that means he doesn't like it. Which is his prerogative.

However, I am very contemptuous of the opinion that it is NOT okay to "bend dogma to suit yourself" but it is TOTALLY okay to "bend yourself to fit a dogma." Frankly, that's retarded. Religions have stated doctrines which define what they are. Individuals have opinions which may or may not line up with these doctrines. To use my personal experience as an example: I do not believe in redemptive salvation (the idea that humanity needed to be saved, and was saved by Jesus). However, I do believe in the Catholic Church's mission of social justice (helping the poor, etc). I was baptized, raised, and confirmed Catholic. I even served as a Confirmation sponsor for a friend. But when I finally realized that I rejected the central tenet of Christianity (Jesus's redemptive sacrifice for our salvation), I also realized that I could not in good conscience call myself a Catholic. Should I have bent the Church's teachings to fit myself, just so I could keep a label I was attached to? Absolutely not. Should I have bent my own opinions - or PRETENDED my opinions were different than they were - just so I could keep a label I was attached to? Absolutely not.

My whole life, I grew up hearing from our priests "Don't be a cafeteria Catholic - don't pick and choose the doctrines that you like while ignoring others." I'm pretty sure they meant stuff like this one bumper sticker I've seen, "You can't be pro-choice and still be a Catholic." Or the ordination of women, or respect for the reality of homosexuality, or what have you. But I took them at their word, and here I am today - separated from the Church, because I respect its right to decide "what defines a Catholic."

I do miss the community I used to have at my old churches. There were a lot of good people there. But I've felt profoundly uncomfortable participating in Mass ever since that realization, because the bedrock of a community of faith is a shared faith. It would be profoundly disrespectful of me to waltz up to a Catholic church and say "Hey guys, I love your music, and you do good social work, but I think the very foundation of your faith is bunk - God would never punish people in any way for merely existing-without-believing-in-Jesus. Also I don't think Jesus's divinity is relevant to anything - he was a great moral teacher, and that's all that matters." (For the record, I utterly reject Lewis's trilemma. I'll try to post about that sometime too, if there's interest.)

Likewise, though, I don't think I would fit in very well at a Unitarian church, because there *is* no shared doctrine on which to build a community there. (If that's wrong, UUs, please explain!) There's just "Everybody comes to God in their own way." Which is good, but...I'm just not sure it's strong enough to build my own foundation on. It seems more of a "simple truth" than a "religious doctrine."

So, spiritually, I just keep on keepin' on. I know what I believe (e.g. the Golden Rule), I know what I don't believe (e.g. Original Sin), and I know what I am not sure about (e.g. actual existence of God). For the last category, I am content to find this out (or not!) after I die.

And to that effect, I'll end this post on a musical note: Let the Mystery Be.
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Jabberwockke [Apr. 24th, 2009|10:34 pm]
NB: I have not included any macrons (is that what we call them in Old English?) because I don't know how to type them. And you can't put an umlaut (my usual macron substitute) on an æ. So.

I don't know why I used thorn most of the time and edh twice.

I wrote this in the fall of 2004, for my Old English class (taught by M. Potkay at the College of William and Mary). It was half of my final project (the other half was translating William Ernest Henley's Invictus into Old English).

I'm typing it up as I wrote it + Prof. Potkay's corrections (as I interpret them here today, four and a half years later, without having studied any Old English in the intervening years); any errors are undoubtedly mine.

There are several words I never got around to translating; I've made a stab at "Jabberwock" itself in the subject line here, but some of the others are unfortunately still in their Modern English (?) forms. Hélas.

So, without further ado, I give you:

Hwæt! Hit wæs brillig, and þa slithige tavas
Guron and gumblon in þæm wabum
Ealle mimsige wæron þa borogavas
And þa mamas rathas utgræpon.

"Warnie þone Jabberwock, min sunu!
þa ceaca þe bitaþ, þa cleas þe gefoþ!
Warnie þone Jujub fugol, and onscunie
þone frumlicne Bandersnatch!"

He nam his forpale sweord in handa
On oftsiðas þone mancsymlicne feond he sohte
Gereste he be þam tumtumlicum treowe
And stod þonne in geþohte.

And þenden in uffegum geþohte he stod
Se Jabberwock, mid eagum liges
Com wifflan þurh þam tulgigum holte
And burblede swa se com!

An twa! An twa! And þuhr and þurh!
Se forpalu ecg maðelode snicker-snack
Afor hit dead, and him mid heafde
He gonge galumfan eft.

"And gesloh þu þone Jabberwock?
Come to min earmum, min beamig bearn!
Oh frabjolic dæg! Calu, Calæ!"
He chortlede in his wynnum.

Hit wæs brillig, and þa slithige tavas
Guron and gumblon in þæn wabum
Ealle mimsige wæron þa borogavas
And þa mamas rathas utgræpon.

Cross-posted to linguaphiles.
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Rattled [Aug. 28th, 2008|05:14 pm]
I have a younger friend (no names; the vast majority of you don't know her) whose ex-boyfriend (a recent ex) is threatening to kill himself if they don't get back together.

What the bloody fucking hell.

I left her this comment on her livejournal (which is the primary means by which I communicate with her). I'm reposting it here, in a rare public entry, because I believe that this is important.

The Gift of Fear is a book by Gavin de Becker. I was going to buy it for you, but there might not be time for that. Here it is on Amazon.

Here is an excerpt:

...there are many reliable pre-incident indicators associated with spousal violence and murder. They won't all be present in every case, but if a situation has several of these signals, there is reason for concern:

1. The woman has intuitive feelings that she is at risk.
2. At the inception of the relationship, the man accelerated the pace, prematurely placing on the agenda such things as commitment, living together, and marriage.
3. He resolves conflict with intimidation, bullying, and violence.
4. He is verbally abusive.
5. He uses threats and intimidation as instruments of control or abuse. This includes threats to harm physically, to defame, to embarrass, to restrict freedom, to disclose secrets, to cut off support, to abandon, and to commit suicide.
6. He breaks or strikes things in anger. He uses symbolic violence (tearing a wedding photo, marring a face in a photo, etc.)
7. He has battered in prior relationships.
8. He uses alcohol or drugs with adverse effects (memory loss, hostility, cruelty).
9. He cites alcohol or drugs as an excuse or explanation for hostile or violent conduct ("That was the booze talking, not me; I got so drunk I was crazy").
10. His history includes police encounters for behavioral offenses (threats, stalking, assault, battery)
11. There has been more than one incident of violent behavior (including vandalism, breaking things, throwing things)
12. He uses money to control the activities, purchases, and behavior of his wife/partner.
13. He becomes jealous of anyone or anything that takes her time away from the relationship; he keeps her on a "tight leash," requires her to account for her time.
14. He refuses to accept rejection.
15. He expects the relationship to go on forever, perhaps using phrases like "together for life," "always," "no matter what."

And there are more. But you get the idea.

For the record, too: This sort of behavior is not specific to any one gender.

Please, people. I don't want to read about you in the morning newspaper ten years from now.

And while I'm here: Nobody is responsible for anybody's actions but their own.
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D&D specific post, ignore if you want :-) [Mar. 2nd, 2007|09:51 pm]
[Current Mood |giddygiddy]
[Current Music |Dar Williams--You're Aging Well (among others)]

Why would ANY Favored Soul ever *not* take the Spontaneous Healer feat, combined with knowing Cure Minor Wounds, Knowledge (religion), and a decent Wisdom score? Holy crap!

Okay, I lied, here is some folk music stuff. Two new-country songs I've heard recently have the folk feel to me: "Would you go with me" by somebody, and "Little Bitty" by somebody else. The former has folkish (or is that oldtime?) instrumentation, and the latter has modern production but a really folky feel to the lyrics. I don't know, I just really like them (for the instrumentation and the lyrics, respectively). Musings.


God, I'm glad it's Friday.
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(no subject) [Mar. 1st, 2007|11:08 pm]
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I miss Tucker. Oh, for the days of grammatically prescriptive graffiti...
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(no subject) [Feb. 26th, 2007|07:43 pm]
A good Fraywatch on Slate recently. "Why is it so hard to say what everyone knows, namely, that there is an entire world between the two extremes of religiously-enforced abstinence until an arbitrary offical ceremony on the one hand, and random no-holds-barred fucking everything in sight on the other - a world in which, incidentally, the majority of the population lives?"
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