Uncommon Sense

February 28, 2023

Conservatives Explain Why They Support ‘National Divorce’ Of Red, Blue States

The Onion provided some reasoning on this topic in an article with the above title. Most of their contributions were semi-lame however. Here is a sampling.

“Presumably, the red states would get alimony.”

“Just knowing San Francisco is only 1,500 miles away from me has me terrified to step out my door.”

“Getting rid of Illinois would really shorten the drive to my mother’s house.”

“It’s unfair for red states to bear the burden of receiving and spending more federal funds.”

“It just seems easier than trying to reason with the crazy liberals who want basic human rights.”

They even got some celebrity conservatives to chime in.

“It’s been 246 years, which is a long time for any relationship. I think red states are ready to explore the possibilities with polyamorous tantric sex gurus and personal trainers.” (Marge Greene)

“I self-sabotage all my relationships, so this felt inevitable.” (Lindsay Graham)

“Wait, hold on, I still get to live in New York, right?” (Sean Hannity)

As I said, not up to The Onion’s usual high standards (although the one about the burden of having to spend all those federal funds is pretty good).

They left off a number of good reasons I am sure are making the rounds in conservative circles, for example . . .

“Hey, look at how well it worked for the Confederacy!”

“We wouldn’t have to put up with Democrat politicians, no more, or even politics, at all. We could just elect DeSantis president, and let him rule.”

“West Virginia used to be part of Virginia, right? And North and South Dakota used to be just the Dakotas, right? And Northern and Southern California used to be one state, am I right?”

“I don’t really understand all this high falutin’ politicking, but if they put an (R) after it, I will vote for it.”

Note The Onion is a satirical magazine. They make all this shit up, just like Fox News, except they tell you that they are making their shit up, unlike Fox News.

February 27, 2023

New Name Proposal

The federal Representative for some obscure part of Georgia calls herself “Marjorie Taylor Greene.” We reserve references to people using three names for prominent people and serial killers. Since Representative Greene has identified herself as someone of the most common, least prominent sort, I propose we call her by her real name: Marge Greene. Well, at least until her divorce goes through.

So, I recommend one and all call her by her real name “Marge Greene.” Putting on airs is not becoming.

February 26, 2023

Red States Secretly “Woke”

The Guardian reports “A new report by Climate Central shows how US capacity to generate renewable energy shot up last year – and surprisingly, red states lead the nation in solar and wind power production.”

Solar and wind power production? Shouldn’t loyal, God-fearing people in Red States be burning coal and oil? Why are they secretly moving ahead with Woke Technology? Is this a sign that Trump’s campaign is in trouble?

Constantine Converted to Christianity . . . Didn’t He?

Ah, another Sunday, and the topic is . . . religion, what else?

There is more than a little controversy surrounding Roman emperor Constantine and Christianity. (No! Tell me it isn’t so!)

His conversion involves a miraculous vision appearing to Constantine. This was reported on by no fewer than four people in positions to report what Constantine claimed. Now, the fact that these are four wildly different accounts when they should all be very similar tells us that Constantine was a storyteller, or bullshit artist, whatever.

Historians aren’t doing much better. For example, according to Bart Ehrman, Constantine converted to Christianity in 312 CE (The Triumph of Christianity, pg. 13 of the hardbound version). Wikipedia, on the other hand, states “Just before his death in May 337 CE, it is claimed that Constantine was baptized into Christianity. Up until this time he had been a catechumen for most of his adult life. He believed that if he waited to get baptized on his death bed he was in less danger of polluting his soul with sin and not getting to heaven.

Wikipedia goes on to say “Although Constantine lived much of his life as a pagan and later as a catechumen, he began to favor Christianity beginning in 312, finally becoming a Christian and being baptized by either Eusebius of Nicomedia, an Arian bishop, as attested by many notable Arian historical figures, or Pope Sylvester I, which is maintained by the Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church.”

Constantine has historically been referred to as the “First Christian Emperor” and he did favor the Christian Church. While some modern scholars debate his beliefs and even his comprehension of Christianity, he is venerated as a saint in Eastern Christianity, and he did much for pushing Christianity towards the mainstream of Roman culture.

Now I am always leery of deathbed conversions reported by churchmen. So many have been claimed to have been converted on death’s door, which later have been proven to be false, including Charles Darwin, most prominent atheists, etc. If Constantine wanted to die a Christian, and the excuse not to be baptized/converted sooner concocted by Constantine or apologists is that he didn’t want his soul sullied before he died, is brilliant if cockamamie, one does have to wonder why Constantine made sure all of the steps were taken to deify himself after his death as was the practice of Roman Emperors. How much could Constantine have believed in the One True God™ if he wanted to make sure he became a god after he died?

One historian argues that Constantine supported Christianity because many of his soldiers had converted and it was a way to bolster his position with his armies. Soldiers were closer to the bottom of Roman culture than the top and Christianity appealed to the downtrodden, so it makes some sense. And the Roman practice for centuries was to fold into its pantheon the gods of conquered peoples, so showing some respect wasn’t hard to do.

Another historian claimed that Constantine or his advisors admired the control Bishops had over their “flocks.” I assume the Council of Nicaea disabused them of that admiration as the bishops bickered like school children.

So, was Constantine the First Christian Emperor? About as much as he was the messiah and other claims. Such labels are the work of Christian Historians shaping history to their own likings. And, basically they are meaningless. Having a perfect description of his role in the growth of Christianity would prove nothing, and the churchmen wouldn’t like it, as they prefer things to be fuzzy, so their professional spin doctors, uh apologists, can “interpret” the situations more to the church’s liking.

February 21, 2023

Men are from Mars . . .

Filed under: Culture,Entertainment,Social Commentary — Steve Ruis @ 1:09 pm

I have been noticing several tropes in my reading and viewing lately. For example, men are castigated by women for eating too much meat. Women eat salads and consider themselves superior for doing so, e.g. the café scene in The Sandman. Another example, men seem to want to view violent action-adventure movies, while women prefer to watch films focused upon families and relationships, and the men are looked down upon for their choices. Of course, some of the most hateful things I have read, heard, or seen in movies are in those family-based efforts. Only someone close to you can say something really hateful.

I am wondering what is behind these tropes. I used to believe that any creative work needs to create some sort of tension to succeed, otherwise the work is just a walk in the park and not very entertaining. Men seem to prefer violent conflicts, women tend to prefer social conflicts, but still there is conflict because without it there is no resolution.

I wonder if outdated tropes are still being reinforced via our entertainment industries. We also seem to defend our opinions as if they were factual. I have heard the opinion that men wouldn’t be violent if they didn’t watch so much violence on TV and computer. Apparently this critic knows nothing of life before the invention of television.

Like our treatment of the physical environment, it seems we are also pursuing death by righteousness. We think we are right and are willing to act accordingly . . . <signed> Karen.

Note If you are confused by the title of this post there was a best-selling book a while back with the title “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” by John Gray (1992).”

Reread Much?

Filed under: Art,Entertainment,writing — Steve Ruis @ 1:02 pm
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I am an avid reader, not fast just persistent. I enjoy greatly fantasy and science fiction works and I learned early on a simple lesson: don’t start a multi-volume work until they are all available. I learned this in college. I acquired a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring (the infamous Ace Paperback version) and while I had trouble getting going once I did, I stayed up quite late for several nights only to learn that it was the first volume of a trilogy. Like a maniac I drove to my favorite bookstore and was able to get The Two Towers, but they had run out of the third volume. So, I searched avidly as I tore through the second volume, finding the third volume just in time.

I followed this rule for a long time. I also broke that rule because several of may favorite authors wrote trilogies of trilogies, sometimes more. One of my favorites, C.J. Cherryh, has written 21 volumes in her Foreigner series (putting her on a path to a trilogy of trilogies of trilogies). I read each one when it comes out; they are just too good. (This series is like an old movie serial short, each book starts up where the previous one left off . . . and I have read all of her other works, too, many, many dozens of them.)

I did make a mistake, however, when I was sucked into the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. The author warned us that he planned on the thing to be 12 volumes. And if you look at the publication history (see below), you can see that the final 14 volumes took almost 23 years to publish. The problem with this kind of work is that it may never be finished. (Will George R.R. Martin ever finish Game of Thrones?) In the case of Robert Jordan, he died before the series was finished! But he left copious notes and Brandon Sanderson was hired to finish/write the last three volumes (which he did brilliantly).

Each book averages 306,277 words and 702 pages, which was good because there was like 21 months to wait for the next volume (on average). But I don’t read that slowly so when the next volume came around, it was many months since I finished the last one.

The Wheel of Time Publication Schedule

The Eye of the World  January 15, 1990
The Great Hunt           November 15, 1990
The Dragon Reborn    October 15, 1991
The Shadow Rising      September 15, 1992
The Fires of Heaven    October 15, 1993
Lord of Chaos             October 15, 1994
A Crown of Swords     May 15, 1996
The Path of Daggers    October 20, 1998
Winter’s Heart             November 7, 2000
Crossroads of Twilight January 7, 2003
Knife of Dreams          October 11, 2005
The Gathering Storm   October 27, 2009
Towers of Midnight     November 2, 2010
A Memory of Light      January 8, 2013
Totals   11,898pp (PB) / 10,173pp (HB)           4,410,036 words            19d 5h 25m reading time

So, for my last birthday, I gave myself a gift. I had since given away my hardbound copies of the Wheel of Time books, so I purchased the Kindle versions and I am re-reading the series. I am currently in volume six. And I am frankly amazed.

I wonder if this is how people with Alzheimer’s disease feel. It is as if I am reading this for the first time. I do remember most of the main characters, but much of the details about them I remembered incorrectly or not at all.

And I love long books. I have read Tolkien’s trilogy many times (as well as listening to the audio versions several times (while commuting). But the number of characters and storylines in this work borders upon the bizarre. And, like many male authors, I find his characterizations of his female characters shallow. I have to ask myself whether half of the characters and storylines advance the narrative at all and we would be better off without them. One count lists 2,782 characters in the series, 148 of which are point of view characters at one point or another. I wish Jordan had followed the Rule of Parsimony, like Jack Vance, say, and trimmed this down to six or seven volumes.

I find myself skipping through parts that drag, being able to pick up the narrative fairly easily down the road. And, yes, things are always more complicated than we think, but this is supposed to be an entertainment, not a lesson in realpolitik.

I am enjoying the effort but find myself shifting to another book for a while when the plot drags. On my eBook reader, another book is just a tap away and I, as usual, have several dozen “in progress.”

February 20, 2023

Oh, For Woke’s Sake!

Last weekend at a golf tournament, Tiger Woods slipped a tampon to his playing partner Justin Thomas, who dropped it immediately. Unfortunately, the TV cameras picked it up and now myriad people are offended?


First realize that the two golfers are good friends, live near one another, and practice together. They also play practical jokes upon one another, frequently of the juvenile kind. So, no ill intent was involved.

Apparently, Tiger had just out driven Justin, and he was giving him a “you play like a girl” sign.

Now, I can see how this might be offensive . . . to the female golfers who can outdrive Justin Thomas. Can we get a line over here? All of the women who can outdrive Justin Thomas. (No, not the long drive champions, those who actually play golf.) Anyone? No?

So, to the people who are offended on the behalf of others, in this case nonexistent others, shut the fuck up. Your input is neither helpful nor needed.

Instead of expressing your outrage, wokeaholics, how about you do something productive, like Tiger. Open up a chain of learning centers to help kids of all races and sexes get into college or a trade.

Hey, if there were a commandment against Tiger’s joke, how would it read? “Thou shalt not commit juvenile pranks” or “Prank not lest ye be pranked.” This is especially lame with the outrage coming from Christians who have a history of misogyny a mile wide and ten fathoms deep.

February 19, 2023

Republican Jesus Yanks Rug of Free Will Out From Under Us

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:38 am
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A recent survey (from the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution) found that most Republicans surveyed view themselves as either Christian nationalist sympathizers (33%) or adherents (21%). While most Democrats lean toward rejecting Christian nationalism, with 36% of them indicating they are skeptics of the ideology and 47% saying they reject it.

I wonder whether these are the same Republican Christians who insist that their God gave us free will so we could choose to be saved by Jesus or not (thus solving the Problem of Evil, don’t you know). Apparently these Republicans don’t want us to have the free will their god granted us. They want us all to be Christians whether we want to be or not.

Is great puzzlement!

February 17, 2023

I Wish the Bible Thumpers Would Read the Bible—A Follow-up

Filed under: History,humor,Politics,Social Commentary — Steve Ruis @ 10:17 am
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I had additional thoughts regarding this comment regarding Israel’s claim to the land they occupy:

“Mike Pompeo, the former US secretary of state (under Trump, of course), has defended Israel’s decades-long control of the Palestinian territories by claiming that the Jewish state has a biblical claim to the land and is therefore not occupying it.” (Italicized words are mine.)

My thoughts eventually got to birtherism, something a former Trump official should back since Mr. Trump led the charge that President Obama should provide his birth certificate to prove his qualifications for becoming president. Well, since the Israelis claim to ownership of the land they occupy is based upon a story that says the God Almighty gave them that land; He not only promised them that land but also helped evict the squatters who were then occupying the land God had set aside for them.

This provides us with a golden opportunity. The Israelis need to show us the deed to the land that was granted them. It being signed by God Almighty would go a long way to legitimizing their claim to the land, and be the first concrete evidence for the existence of their god at the same time! A twofer!

Now we need a cute name for the campaign to get them to cough up the deed . . . deederism? How about documentarianism? Maybe it would be the world’s first probate courterism?

Show us the deed! Show us the deed!

February 16, 2023

Climate Modeling

One of the tools used by climate change deniers was to pooh-pooh computer modeling of climate change. In a recent post on Grist, entitled “Just how good were Exxon’s climate projections?” The author stated Exxon predicted climate change with 99% accuracy — in 1985, nineteen fucking eighty-five!

A study of the climate models used over the decades showed something quite interesting. When correct data was put into those models, the results were quite, quite good, that is the models from the time suffered from a “garbage in, garbage out” problem. The data entered into them was flawed, substantially so. When better data was entered, even the early crude models worked quite well.

But if you approach the man on the street as ask them how much confidence he/she has in computer climate modeling, they will probably respond with “Pfft.”

The reason for this is we allow our enemies to define/label our terms. Computers, pfft, what do they know?

I was watching a documentary on the life of basketball legend Bill Russell last night and I heard a similar one. When Bill Russell entered the NBA, he joined the Boston Celtics who had a stellar offence but lacked a forceful defense, which Bill Russell provided. They won the NBA Championship in Bill’s rookie season. A couple of years later, along came Wilt Chamberlain, who was drafted by the Philadelphia Warriors and Wilt took them to the NBA Playoffs and lost in the Eastern Division Finals, to the Celtics. Since Wilt’s stats were so dominant, way ahead of the stats Bill was putting up, the Celtic supports claimed that Wilt was only interested in stats while Bill was only interested in winning. This, of course was a lie, but I still hear people retelling it today.

So, why did Bill’s rookie team win the Championship and Wilt’s failed to? The season prior to Wilt’s arrival, the Warriors were 32-40, not woeful but not even a .500 team. With Wilt, they became a 49-26 team. The Celtics the year before Bill’s arrival, were 39-33 and finished second in the Eastern Division. That first team of Bill’s also had Hall of Fame players such as Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn, Frank Ramsey, and Bill Sharman on it. Wilt’s rookie team had one player of equal caliber to those Celtics, Paul Arizin.

This was the reason the Celtics won so many championships—the brilliant Coach and General Manger Red Auerbach put together teams of extremely good players each of whom fit the mode of play he desired. The Boston Celtics have the most players inducted into the Hall of Fame of all of the teams (40), Auerbach coached 12 of them: Macauley, Ramsey, Cousy, Sharman, Heinsohn, Clyde Lovellette, Arnie Risen, Andy Phillip, Russell, K. C. Jones, Havlicek, and Sam Jones.

Bill Russell was a keystone to those teams. As to the best centers of all time in the NBA, I have Bill and Wilt rated as 1A and 1B, tied. (You can assign which gets the A or B to your heart’s delight.) Wilt and Bill consider the other their favorite player and told stories to that effect. They were friends. Bill told the story of when Wilt grabbed 55 rebounds in a single game (November 24, 1960). Bill says he had a front row seat as they were playing the Celtics at the time. (Bill and Wilt own 24 of the top 25 rebounds in a game totals.) Wilt consider Bill the smartest basketball player alive, and Wilt didn’t like to give up a #1 position ever.

But ask a current fan and they will give you the “Wilt was chasing stats” trope almost every time.

Don’t let your enemies define terms or motivations or anything else. And remember who your real enemies are. (Hint: They aren’t fans of other sports teams.)

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