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Location: California, United States

Friday, March 16, 2018

Two bears

On the PBS NewsHour last night there was a segment about some victims of the awful Thomas fire here in California - two bears - and how they have been helped ...

Music from the ancient past ;)

More Than a Feeling by Boston ...

I looked out this morning and the sun was gone
Turned on some music to start my day
I lost myself in a familiar song
I closed my eyes and I slipped away

It's more than a feeling
When I hear that old song they used to play
And I begin dreaming
Till I see Marianne walk away
I see my Marianne walkin' away

When I'm tired and thinking cold
I hide in my music, forget the day
And dream of a girl I used to know
I closed my eyes and she slipped away
She slipped away

It's more than a feeling
When I hear that old song they used to play
And I begin dreaming
Till I see Marianne walk away

The Last Jedi: the book

My latest book from the library is actually an audio file, the electronic audiobook version of The Last Jedi: Expanded Edition (Star Wars). It's narrated by Marc Thompson, who does a lot of Star Wars books and is really good at the main characters' voices. Here he is doing a few impressions :) ...

And here' a review of the book - ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ novel is beautifully written

I'm really looking forward to the movie. Hopefully it will come to DVD soon. The trailer ...

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Lordy, there *are* tapes

Remember when former FBI director James Comey testified ‘Lordy, I Hope There Are Tapes’ in response to Trump's threatening tweet about their conversations? Well, it looks as though there might really be tapes (or some other form of memorialization) after all.

Yesterday, the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee - you know, the committee in which the ruling Republican members decided there was no collusion between Trump and Russia all on their own - have released a report (it can be read here) detailing some of the information the Republicans chose to ignore, including the probability of existing evidence of the conversations between Comey and Trump ... the report states ... The Minority has a good faith reason to believe that the White House does in fact possess such documentation [tapes or “recordings, memoranda, or other documents”] memorializing President Trump’s conversations with Director Comey. Subsequent press reporting revealed the existence of a memorandum reportedly composed by President Trump and Stephen Miller that referenced President Trump’s communications with Director Comey. The Committee should subpoena to the White House to produce all responsive documents.

More: Democrats tease James Comey bombshell in 'status report' on terminated House Intel Russia probe

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Catholic no more

An article at America magazine notes that Francis has been pope for five years now. Perhaps this is a good time for me to state what has been true for me for some time now ... I don't identify as Catholic anymore.

I became a Catholic about 20 years ago. Why I joined and how I felt about the church changed a lot over the years. At first I just wanted a friendly place where I could belong. My sister was living in Japan and I was lonely, I wasn't even really sure I believed in God, but a Catholic church was withing walking distance and Catholicism seemed so exotic and mysterious. That phase lasted for a few years, and I eventually stopped going to church, no closer to knowing anything about God or myself.

Some years after that, the internet happened, and I came upon Ignatian spirituality and took an online retreat. This made a big difference to my ideas about God. But at the same time, I was also learning a lot more about Catholicism too and it wasn't pretty: the sex abuse of children and its continuing cover-up, the treatment of women and LGBT people, doctrines on contraception, divorce, transubstantiation, purgatory and indulgences, celibacy, and the incredible wealth disparity between the church and its "preferential option for the poor", to mention a few things.

When Francis became pope I was hopeful that things would change for the better, but he has only doubled down on stuff like the mismanagement of sex abuse and the way women are seen in the church. I think the truth is that the church will never willingly change .... it has painted itself into a corner with its scholastic theory that what's perfect (like God, like the Catholic church) can never be improved upon. Because of this, the church is dying.

There are good things about the Catholic church, yes, but those things can be learned and practiced at pretty much any Christian church or often on one's own, including Ignatian spirituality. I don't want anymore to belong to a church that has become the last redoubt of misogynists, homophobes, child molesters, and worse, people who just don't care about that stuff as long as they are getting what they themselves need out of the institution.

Monday, March 12, 2018


What happened on The Bachelor meets the Mueller probe ;) ...

House Republicans end probe

The Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have decided there's no evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia. The Democrats on the committee were left out of the loop. Shocker! If Devin Nunes believes this will convince anyone, aside from Trump's dead-head base, he is even dumber than he seems. Thank God there's still the Mueller investigation.

An article and some songs

- An interesting article at The Atlantic ... The Last Temptation: How evangelicals, once culturally confident, became an anxious minority seeking political protection from the least traditionally religious president in living memory. It's about Evangelicals but I think it applies to Catholics as well - a lot of Catholics voted for Trump and the US Bishops, Republicans at prayer, turned a blind eye to Trump's badness to insure a Republican win (Cardinal Dolan especially).

- And a couple of songs from 1996 that I liked ...

Change the World by Eric Clapton ...

Don't Speak by Gwen Stefani ...

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Spring flowers

The plum trees are blooming ...

Friday, March 09, 2018

Music from 1995

I'm still checking out music by the year and I'm up to 1995 ...

- I have to post this one - it's a song by Cher but I only know of it because it was featured on an episode of The X-Files in which Mulder and Scully dance :) ...

- And this song by Edwin Collins I only know of because of Lucifer. There's a vibraphone! ...

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Catholic church: International Women's Day

On this, International Women's Day ... Women take to the streets as the world marks International Women’s Day ... there's one place that won't be celebrating = the Catholic church.

The church is one of the last western organizations (and states) that refuses to even consider the idea of treating women as equals with men. Pope Francis has been hailed as a reformer by many, but he has said about women that they will NEVER be priests in the church (nor deacons either). And women religious? Nuns and Sisters are used by the church as scut dogs .... In Vatican Magazine Exposé, Nuns Reveal Their Economic Exploitation

On days like today, more progressive Catholic sites post mournful articles about how sad it is that women can't be priests ... When my daughter whispered to me, “I wish girls could be priests,” I didn’t know what to say ... as if the issue was out of our hands. They hide behind the cover of 'the will of the Holy Spirit' though there have been numerous scholarly opinions, including that of the Vatican's Pontifical Biblical Commission in 1976, that show there's no credible religious reason women can't be priests. Women aren't priests in the Catholic church because of sexism.

And because of apathy. We in the church have no way to influence what the leaders of the church decide on doctrine and practice, besides making a stink or leaving altogether. Most of the Catholics who really do care about the problems of sex abuse or celibacy or women priests or divorce or contraception or LGBT rights have already left the church. Those who remain mostly don't care about these issues as long as they can go to church on the occasional Sunday and get the eucharist.

I think it's shameful. Shameful that the church treats women the way it does and shameful that most Catholics don't care enough to do something about this.

Here's more in the news: Catholic Church 'An Empire of Misogyny' Claims Former Irish President Mary McAleese

The Catholic Church is “an empire of misogyny” and must reform its traditionalist outlook if it wants to stay relevant, former Irish President Mary McAleese has claimed.

McAleese, who led Ireland from 1997 to 2011, was speaking in Rome, Italy, ahead of the Voices of Faith conference, the BBC reported.

The meeting—taking place on International Women’s Day—invites prominent Catholic women from around the world to speak at the conference, and campaigns for greater inclusion of the church’s female members within its leadership .......

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Trump and the porn star, cont.

I'm sure Trump just wants us all to forget about the affair he had with Stormy Daniels while he was married to Melania, but we shouldn't, and more info about the way Daniels has been treated is coming to light. Here's something from the LA Times on the latest ...

After Trump's legal team gets secret gag order against porn actress Stormy Daniels, she pushes back

Trump/Sessions sue California

The Trump/Sessions justice dept. has sued my state ... Why the Trump administration’s ‘sanctuary cities’ lawsuit against California could backfire. My first response to Trump and Sessions is "f**k you" but I'll let my governor, Jerry Brown and the AG, Xavier Becerra, speak to the issue as well, from an interview tonight on the PBS NewsHour ...

Watch a press briefing with Governor Brown and his AG here

Trump and big game hunting

Remember the thing about the Trump administration allowing the importation of animal parts from big game hunting in Africa (Trump's sons are big game hunters) - we thought Trump decided against this because there was such a public outcry against it. Well, Trump's changing his mind. Again ... Trump Administration Reverses Promise To Ban Elephant Hunt Trophies

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Steve Chalke: animals

Thinking of Steve Chalke today. He was one of the first Evangelicals (British) to be accepting of LGBT people, and he also created controversy by questioning to theory of penal substitution I like him :) Here's a bit about him from Wikipedia ...

Stephen John "Steve" Chalke MBE (born 17 November 1955) is a British Baptist minister, the founder of the Oasis Charitable Trust - now one of the UK's largest charities, a former United Nations' Special Adviser on Human Trafficking and a sometimes outspoken Christian leader, popular public speaker, entrepreneur and social activist ...

Today I listened to a video pf him speaking about animals ...

Friday, March 02, 2018

The last few days

- Marie and Goldy

It's been a stressful last few days. I got what I guess is a pretty bad cold (not the flu, I hope) and it finally seems on its way out. Also a big storm here the last couple of days ... Biggest storm of the season moves into California, bringingwarnings of blizzards and mudslides. Roof's leaking a bit despite the tarping :(

The most stressful thing, though, has been the continuing effort to catch and spay/neuter the cats. Of Marie, her five adult babies, and a couple of other strange cays hanging around lately, I've so far only caught Fig. When she so easily went into the trap I had bought (Fig goes to the clinic) I thought it would be just as easy to catch the rest of them. Hah!

We made another appointment at the SPCA, got up at the crack of dawn, and set up the trap, but the cats we needed to catch wouldn't go in and the cats we didn't want to catch all did. We missed the window of opportunity and had to reschedule. The next time I tried, I was able to lock most of the cats already spayed/neutered in the garage while i followed the other cats around the yard with the trap, trying to get them interested. They would have none of it. We missed that appointment too.

I was starting to really worry - cats get pregnant and have babies in two months so that's not a lot of time, and Marie, the mama of the other cats, was looking very bloopy and bulgy. I searched online and found advice for hard to catch cats, and they mentioned using a drop trap. I had actually bought one of these a couple of years ago but it was so heavy and unwieldy that I had never used it, but desperate times, desperate measures.

I did manage to catch Marie with the drop trap the day before the next appointment. My sister helped me get her from the big trap into a smaller container and I kept her inside overnight. She howled all night long. I hadn't realized just how frightening getting caught in the trap and then spending so many hours in the carrier would be for Marie. I hate doing all this stuff :(

My sister picked her up the next morning and took her to the County's spay and neuter clinic (almost identical to the SPCA in price and procedure). She picked her up at 4pm, whence we put her back under the drop trap in the garage to keep her safe from the other cats overnight. The clinic people said Marie was really feral and that we should let her go that night or at the latest in the morning so she wouldn't hurt herself trying to escape. Well, she somehow did manage to escape - this morning I went to let her out and she was gone. Marie Houdini! I hope she is ok! Still 4-6 cats to go.

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Stepford daughter

- Ivanka and Daddy, Getty Images

To be filed under "nepotism". Trump sent his top negotiator security-challenged daughter to South Korea to discuss new sanctions on the North. You know, because she's so adept at diplomacy interested in strengthening her brand. While she was there, she was interviewed by NBC news, one of the questions being whether she believed the women who had accused Trump of sexual misconduct. Her answer was cringe-worthy ...

Am I the only one whose skin crawled? According to Michael Wolff's book, Fire and Fury, Ivanka and Jared are machiavellian in their questionable business dealings and their WH power intrigues - and they're planning to run her as the first woman president after Trump leaves office. Good luck with that, because I can't be the only person who sees her as a massively damaged and corrupted human being who is also, to quote Steve Bannon, "as dumb as a brick".

Sunday, February 25, 2018

George: happy 75th

Today would have been George Harrison's 75th birthday ... George Harrison at 75: How the quietest Beatle became the most popular one of all. He was my favorite Beatle, in part because he had a spiritual bent.

One way to learn more about him is to watch Martin Scorsese's 2 part documentary, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, which you can watch free on YouTube. Here is the trailer ...

Sadly, it's not as easy to find music of the Beatles online - I guess the copyright people are obsessive - but here are some of his songs I liked from when he was in the Beatles and after ...

Saturday, February 24, 2018

What I've been reading

I've been reading novels from a 25 book series based on the science fiction tv show Stargate SG-1. I really liked the tv series - I actually own all ten years of it - so it was great to find that my public library has the book series in kindle form. I've read two of them so far, not in order, and both have been good.

For those not familiar with the tv series, it was based on a 1894 science fiction film, Stargate. The tv series ...

Stargate SG-1 begins about a year after the events of the feature film, when the United States government learns that an ancient alien device called the Stargate can access a network of such devices on a multitude of planets. SG-1 is an elite United States Air Force special operations team, one of about 20 teams from Earth who explore the galaxy and defend against alien threats such as the Goa'uld, the Replicators and the Ori. The series draws primarily upon Egyptian mythology, Greek mythology, Norse mythology and Arthurian legend.

The series was a ratings success for its first-run broadcasters and in syndication and was particularly popular in Europe and Australia. Stargate SG-1 was honored with numerous awards and award nominations in its ten-season run. It also spawned the animated television series Stargate Infinity, the live-action spin-off TV series Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe and the direct-to-DVD films Stargate: The Ark of Truth and Stargate: Continuum.

I began watching the show in the first place because the main character was Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver) but I came to like all the characters, including when they added Ben Browder of the Australian science fiction tv show Farscape. Then I watched Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe too, but Stargate SG-1 is still the best :)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

More on the gun debate

The NRA pours poison into our ears at CPAC ...

And Patkland students debate with lawmakers at CNN's town hall on gun violence. Democratic congressman Ted Deutsch of Florida made this opening statement, which I thought was really good ...

"A lot of people have told this community, people from all around the world, that it's too soon - it's too soon to get together, to have this kind of forum, it's too soon to talk about preventing another tragedy like the one that struck our community from happening anywhere again, it's too soon to talk about getting weapons of war out of our communities.

It is not. It is not too soon, it is too late for the 17 lives that were lost, it is too late for the grieving families, too late for the injured, too late for the 3,300 survivors of what happened. Senator Rubio and Senator Nelson, we represent these fine people. We will not be judged by what we say here tonight, by the quality of our answers, or by any back-and-forth in words. The folks in our community don't want words, they don't want thoughts and prayers, they don't want discussions. They want action and we owe it to them ..."

As with so many other issues, from our treatment of the environment to our treatment of the less fortunate, the Republicans, now in control of every facet of our government, have cast their lot with power, money, and individual self-interest at the expense of community. This gun debate shows us the conservative soul and it's not pretty.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Who is Alex van der Zwaan?

In the news: Former Skadden Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Lying in Russia Investigation

The son-in-law of a Russia-based billionaire admitted on Tuesday to lying to investigators about his communications with a former Trump campaign aide. The guilty plea by the defendant, a former lawyer at a powerful New York-based law firm, broadened the scope of the special counsel’s inquiry into Russia’s election interference.

The lawyer, Alex van der Zwaan, a 33-year-old Dutch citizen, acknowledged in federal court in Washington that he lied to prosecutors about a September 2016 conversation with Rick Gates, the former Trump aide, over work they did together for a Ukrainian political party aligned with Russia. He also admitted that he deleted records of email exchanges that prosecutors had sought. He faces up to five years in prison but said in court that he expected to serve six months or less ...

Long story short: Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, had earlier been an adviser on the Ukrainian presidential campaign of Viktor Yanukovych, who, after being elected, jailed his opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko (think Hillary/ & 'lock her up'). Because this looked sort of, you know, bad, he had his minion Manafort hire a law firm, Skadden, to write a report justifying the jailing of Tymoshenko. Van der Zwaan worked for Skadden and provided info from the report to a PR firm and to Rick Gates, Manafort's bud and the most recently flipped Mueller witness. Mueller interviewed van der Zwaan, he lied, and now he's been indicted. Oh, and van der Zwaan is married to the daughter of Russian oligarch German Khan, one of the guys mentioned in the notorious Steele dossier on Trump.

Rachel Maddow with the details ...