Passover thoughts on modernizing God
I am an athiest...
So if I were to accept a notion of religion and God I would focus on the concept of humans being linked together outside of just their bodies. The thinking conscience of a person is like a piece of software. While the software must run on some hardware, the wetware of the brain and nervous system, the brain is not the essence of the software. The thoughts and experiences are to the brain like software is to a processor and a hard drive. So the individual is a unique composition of thought and consciousness that can be disassociated from the general design of physical storage and processing systems that are common to all people. In the simplest case this is the difference between the minds of two identical twins born into different cultures. So for that metaphysical network of thoughts in each human I can translate the term more religious people call the soul.
People with these unique souls are not alone and they live in a complex world where many people and ideas surround each person. The ideas are absorbed into some people, rejected by others, and moved on. Every individual has a choice albeit not an absolute choice given predispositions to various vices or habits to accept or reject each idea. The ideas themselves exist in another conceptual plane from the souls. The ideas or memes are transportable and can be timeless transcendent things that exist beyond any single soul because they can be passed like a bible’s wisdom from one generation to the next or even something as simple as a fashion trend or fad.
So the bigger picture from the individual is the network of souls and the ideas that can be shared among them that are selected by each soul. While no intelligent being designs these souls and the network around them they create a collective evolution of ideas in a way similar to how we have an evolution of genes and bodies that transcends the capacity of any individual. The desire in each intelligent soul, man’s real difference from other animals, to live in a better world for themselves when the soul can learn ideas that lead towards this goal can be achieved by following ideas that lead to a more beneficial collective society. This collective world of ideas operating outside of the individual but in the world of everyone is a system greater than the individual and something the individual needs to be aware of, sensitive to, and attend to. The evolution that occurs within this world of memes is real athough not entirely physical and is easy to see including the evolution of products like cars, government constitutions and laws, religious beliefs, languages, and variation in the philosophy of generations.
The evolution of thoughts and ideas does have it’s own apparent moving will just like evolution of a genetic animal appears to have a will to improve the quality of the animal produced by the genes until the animal appears almost perfectly adapted into an ecosystem. This apparent will of selection while not controlled by any single member of society is as real as time moving in only one direction. Cars will get better, religions will evolve to align with science, science will discover mysteries, people will discover better ways to govern themselves, and religions will become more valuable to creating social groups and support for individuals. The collective transcendent and evolving pool of memes being not so randomly selected including both good ones and bad ones is the closest that I come to a conception of what most people call the will of a God.
Fighting injustice during Passover
This week is Passover so the Jewish tradition is to think about how lucky we are that we aren’t slaves and to try to figure out how to make sure that nobody in the world today or tomorrow is ever a slave again. Part of the solution was listed as Elijah who would arrive at the new world and put everything right. The smart Rabbis made sure that people couldn’t just let the work be done by a Peter Pan figure to solve the worlds problems and made it clear that you need to do the work yourself and not wait for Elijah. Among my favorite quotes from last night’s seder was that one very wise rabbi said – If you are planting a tree and you see Elijah, finish planting the tree. The importance of this philosophy is key, especially to an atheist because the concept is that if you want a better world then don’t look for a God to come and make it for you. Everyone shapes the world we all live in so real action is what makes the world a better place and not asking for a supernatural being to interfere because you behaved properly. The behaving properly is the act of creating the better world.
My father was speaking after the seder about a recent project he has been working on. The background is that an American cyclist was found guilty of blood doping through a new test that detects whether there are blood cells that are foreign to the person being tested in their system. The test came up positive and it cost Tyler Hamilton his career. But before the test was created scientific literature already showed that this test should create false positives because stem cells are often shared in the womb both between a fetus and a mother and between multiple embryos growing in the same womb. These stem cells appeared often enough in studies of fraternal twins that any test that found a foreign blood cell should also make sure it isn’t genetically similar to a mother or fraternal twin with regards to it’s DNA. So he is working with Tyler Hamilton and his legal team to examine the test to determine whether it had found blood doping or a normal human with stem cells from family members from birth.
Now my father is not someone who runs to the rescue of the guilty. In fact his earlier work in genetic testing was in the opposite side. He was an expert witness in both the first DNA evidence trial in the US to prosecute using DNA evidence and also worked on a number of cases afterwards. He is not interested in making money or fame on this case. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a leader in the project to map the human genome, and a very well respected molecular biologist.
So now I have a major problem with the head of WADA (World Anti Doping Association), a man by the name of Dick Pound because his reaction was ignorant and insulting. This is an excerpt from an article written in the LA Times April 17th – titled Hamilton Presses his Case .
‘USADA and its experts assail that theory as nonsense. They say, for instance, that blood banks would be dotted with donations containing "mixed populations" were it true, but they are not. "Maybe he should hire an exorcist," Dick Pound, the head of WADA, said with a laugh in a telephone interview, dismissing the notion of a "vanishing twin."
The problem is that he laughed at what my father proposes that through science is a real possibility and essentially equated the science that my father is doing in the realm of a charlatan exorcist. Unfortunately for Mr. Pound this type of ignorance is a perpetuation of injustice. Even if the test on Tyler Hamilton is somehow proven correct in this case through a private process of judgments the science of the test has major flaws that need to be investigated and false positive risks need to be resolved before using a test that can quickly and erroneously ruin the careers of the athletes being tested.
My only response to this is that I will look to determine who Mr. Pound works for - whether it is a political appointment or if he has a real boss and demand both an apology for the statement and his resignation as the head of WADA. The behavior of dismissing a scientist’s rebuttal of a purportedly scientific testing technique must be done through science and not by laughing at the scientific communities views on the flaws built into the tests. It is the burden of the testing body to respond to intelligent criticisms of the tests in place and if the head of the testing body is not up to the task of working with the scientific community in an intelligent manner then he should be disqualified from holding the position.
My father’s work on this case is important in the tradition of Passover because we Jews believe in the idea along with Oliver Wendell Holmes that it is better to let 100 guilty men go free than to imprison a single innocent man. In other words – You have the most perverse form of justice when the system doesn’t allow innocent people to prove their own innocence.
Guacamole freak in Brookline
I like all sorts of food but as a general cheapskate I eat a lot of Mexican food, especially burritos at the local establishments. The first and most important thing to know about eating Mexican in Boston is that Boston is not very close to Mexico. Mexico is closer to places like California and Texas where I am sure you can eat much better Mexican food than you can here. So any guide to eating Mexican food here is making the best of what we have rather than trying to appease snotty Californians who like to justify their lives by stating things like – There isn’t any good Mexican food in Boston when they visit. This is a similar phenomenon to when New Yorkers come to Boston and claim that there aren’t any good bagels or pizza in Boston. While they may be correct that the best of their world and customs isn’t available here their statements mainly come out of ignorance and insecurity.
So I must start with the bottom of the barrel Mexican food - TacoBell (sometimes also a KFC like near Inmann Square). I eat at the Bell often enough to be able to provide some pros and cons for the place. I used to go to the Taco Bell near Boston University at Warren Towers when I was living on Bay State Rd and I recently revisited it when I was taking a Java class. Taco Bell is a typical industrial fast food chain where important executives debate how much synthetic cheese polymer they can mix with the real cheese before anyone notices the difference. The cheese doesn’t taste like cheese there because it isn’t cheese. The one reason that I go to Taco Bell is that the executives realized that Americans like myself don’t understand real Mexican food very well and don’t know what a Chimichanga is. The most important example of this is that Taco Bell is one of the rare places where you can actually get that weird American style taco that you can make in a kit you buy at the supermarket with hard shell tacos, taco flavoring for your ground beef, tomatoes, sour cream, and cheese. If you to do any other Mexican establishment they just don’t make hard shell tacos often enough to have a factory set-up with a giant dispenser of sour cream polymer to squirt on your tacos supreme. So when I have an urge for an American style taco I go to the bell where the little dog tells me to even if they are also frying chicken at a KFC in the same location. The other advantage of TacoBell is that it is dirt cheap for everything and you can get stupid things like a burrito with just refried beans in it.
Moving up the food chain a bit are the various burrito shop locations that are what most people are looking for. The most popular of these in Brookline is Anna’s Taqueria. They have two locations near me. The newer one on Harvard street near the corner of Commonwealth was so popular that it expanded to twice the size recently. The other one is on Beacon Street on the way to Washington Square. For a while I was a fan of Anna’s Taqueria but I have some serious gripes about their burrito delivery team. The gripe is about their delivery of sour cream and guacamole. In some strange attempt to save money on sour cream and guacamole they use a spatula to flit a small amount of the savory sauces onto the burrito. In my personal judgment these sauces are very important to the overall value of the finished product. The amount they flit onto the burrito is about one fifth of what I would consider to be the appropriate amount of filling. So I need to ask for extra sour cream and guacamole. They don’t have a real love for people like me who order outside of the standard menu so when I ask for the extra they flit another fifth of each item, charge me extra for it, and still fall very short of my expectations for my burrito. Because of this I will avoid Anna’s when I can despite their convenient locations. The one thing Anna’s does have going for it is a fairly convenient location.
Another option for a burrito is Baja Bettie’s in Brookline Village near the T station. Their burritos are everything you could hope for with interesting names and stuffed very fat. They are stuffed so fat that they use two tortillas to wrap the burritos. Each burrito has an interesting name like the California, a burrito that includes two choices of meat or other toppings. Jeremy swears by this place because he feels that the quality elicits visiting it over other similar locations. He also is very attracted to the salsas of variable spiciness available on a side counter that you can take-out in small containers. The décor is also indicative of a more intense attitude with bottles of spicy sauces captured from all over the world on the ledges of the walls. My only problem is that their burritos appear to be over priced for what you get. A burrito at another place normally costs $3.75-$4.00 but the burritos at Baja Bettie’s cost $8.25 after tax. That seems steep to me and makes me want to go to a lower priced option that still has good burritos.
My personal favorite place of the main burrito joints in Brookline is Boca Grande. It is hidden in a nook near the side of Coolidge Corner on Beacon Street. It has fairly accessible back-street parking that is a big plus when comparing it to the Anna’s on Beacon street that is almost impossible to park near. I think that Boca Grande provides a good medium between Baja Bettie’s and Anna’s. Boca Grande is actually almost a full service restaurant as it serves a lot of dishes that look like meals in heated plates but the burrito makers there are more pliable to my wishes for more liquid fillings (sour cream and guacamole) and at a reasonable price.
I have tried to buy guacamole at the supermarkets including Stop and Shop and Shaws. Both offer very gross facsimiles of guacamole in packages that vacu-seal guacamole packaged in Florida or California inside of a tub. You can unleash the “fresh” guacamole into the tub and have at it. It is not an acceptable product.
The chain supermarkets are put to shame by the guacamole available at Whole Foods. The people at Whole Foods follow one of two good recipes when they make their fresh guacamole. The recipes are either the plain stuff or the spicy. If you don’t like the spicy guacamole then read the labels carefully. The guac is usually close to a bag of gringo chips that are to me the best way to consume the guacamole.
For a total guacamole treat you also can go to Ole in Inmann Square. Ole is at the high end of Mexican food. I generally get a bit grossed out by too high end Mexican food, including a time that I ate fried worms while in Mexico City on a business trip. The big draw to the guacamole at Ole is that it is made at your table to your taste in a giant mortar and pestle set-up in front of you. I rarely have a hankering for the rest of the menu at Ole so I recommend going there to get a margarita after an ImprovBoston show while sharing some fresh guacamole late at night when you aren’t so obligated to eat off the whole menu. They also have good margaritas.
The closest Mexican places to me aren’t that good. The Sunset Cantina is at the end of St. Paul Street at the corner of St. Paul and Commonwealth. Their claim to fame for me is that they are on the iDine discount plan so you can save 10% off the meal put towards frequent flyer miles if you are a member of the rewards network and use the right card. The place is normally full of bratty BU students and the last time I was there I noticed that it was mainly groups of either guys or girls which indicates that the BU crowd doesn’t see it as a worthy place to bring a date. The problem they have is their menu is too broad for them to be able to cook anything very well. So the menu drives you to choices where you can get some rather brownish green looking guacamole on your hamburger or a southwestern burger. But you can get pasta and other non-mexican dishes there too. I wouldn’t recommend it to a friend.
A better place is the Café Sol Azteca on Beacon street close to Fenway and the Landmark center. The big selling point for me of Sol Azteca is that they have outdoor al fresco seating on warm clear days. The food is good authentic style Mexican like they have a Ole which is often over kill for a burrito take-out day but works well for a sunny day when I just want to be outside and enjoy the sunshine and nice weather.
The main thing I normally want out of a Mexican place for a bar, the bar was set in Harvard Square at The Border Café. The Border has been around for ages and provides a great party atmosphere for eating out. The meals are super cheap since they mainly subsidize cheap food by selling lots of margaritas. Not only is the food cheap but the non-alcoholic drinks like iced tea and lemonade come in cups designed to be used by Andre the Giant. They are the largest legal size of cups available for these sorts of drinks and I think they are the equivalent of a big gulp. This is important to me because I am one of those people who drinks hundreds of glasses of water with my meals when the beverages are accessible. There used to be a trick at the Border, that I used to use with my friends, to get through their incredibly busy front gate. In the basement they legally have set aside a number of non-alcoholic tables. Because most people go to the Border Café to get drunk on margaritas, the iced tea drinking freaks like myself can get ahead of the whole line by asking for a non-alcoholic table. I haven’t tried it in a while but it should still work. Among my favorite dishes there is the tostada because it is essentially a salad inside of a giant fried tortilla shell. Everything in it is edible. The Border Café also is very prompt and good at providing nachos with salsa with constant replenishment and a system for keeping the nachos hot, dry, and salty all the time. They also have a second location many people don’t know about in Saugus on Rt. 1 that is a little easier to get a table at but it does discourage drinking to go to a place that far out of the city. I imagine suburbanites go there and get soused.
Another great place to hit is the Cactus Club. It is the best meat market Mexican place with a big open bar area in the front of it. What I mean by a meat market is that it is a place where a lot of people go to pick each other up. I have been there on numerous occasions with friends where we met cool women and hung out there for a while then roamed Boston for a while. There are some good pictures of Dave K. from a Cactus Club night. The food is actually quite good if you get past drunken scenes in the bar or get slapped by a hot bartender and need to take a time-out somewhere.
For a more family friendly sit-down Mexican place I am a big fan of the Iguana Cantina in Waltham. The main attraction of the Iguana is the thirty-foot papier-mâché talking iguana that greets you automatically in an Arnold Schwartzenegger voice to say things like “Asta la vista baby”. The menu is also good and the food interesting. They have a patio that you can eat on in the back and an interesting family atmosphere where they decorate ceiling tiles in memorial to past co-workers. They have been around long enough that there is plenty to ponder as you look at the ceiling.
I actually have been to even more Mexican places than these but I figure that these are the highlights. Drop me a line if you have your own opinions.
For other guides/opinions in Boston for Mexican food:
Lost thought - Where are the terrorists?
I was talking to Jeremy in the car and was letting him know how surprised I am that we haven’t seen any more terrorism in the US. The main reasoning I had behind this was that we sailed from St. Maarten to Massachusetts and landed on shore in Sandwich without a single peep out of anyone noticing us. Based on this trip it was clear to me that the borders to the US are not very secure from people importing nasty weapons and crazy people from other countries who hate America. So I still wonder based on the Sept. 11 attacks why we haven’t been attacked again.
One theory that Jeremy proposed is that the terrorists are not interested in doing anything less spectacular than the 9/11 bombing. That would make sense but the deal with terrorism is that it is equally effective when it is spectacular and when it is personal. If you want to get people to duck and cover whenever a minivan passes by in a gas station then get reports on the radio that there is a sniper shooting people from the back of a mini-van. The anthrax scare is more like what I would expect from the terrorists. They put some white powder in an envelope and suddenly everyone in the US is afraid of envelopes. If you put a little cyanide in four bottles of Tylenol then the whole country will be afraid of Tylenol. Basically all terrorists need to do is actually something very small but within the realm of every day life for all Americans in order to scare the bejeezus out of us. So why haven’t they done so?
The next theory is that our anti-terror homeland defense system is working great. By using the Patriot Act to read what people have taken out of the library we can find potential terrorists who belong to local libraries. The FBI now has lots of good tools on the Internet and can trace bits and pieces of terrorist cells quickly to their sources to eliminate them. Now I would believe this one if I didn’t think that people could just sail over to the US in a sloop, walk across the border in Mexico (if they aren’t killed by over zealous minutemen) or hop in the back of an un-refrigerated truck with no oxygen holes. The violence in Iraq, Israel, and other places shows that there are plenty of terrorists in a country despite a lot better military presence and less privacy than the Patriot Act provides. So why aren’t the terrorists here?
Jeremy discovered an interesting insight from an Army colonel who shared an airplane leg with him on the United Arab Emirates airlines on his way back to Boston from Australia. The colonel’s theory is that Iraq is a terrorist magnet and while it is terrible that the terrorists are attacking Americans or Iraqi’s anywhere in the world it is also a good thing that they aren’t attacking innocent Americans going to work in America each day. By having a presence in Iraq, a location close to the locations of most of the terrorists who are likely to attack Americans it is easier and more convenient and appears to be closer to home for them to stream into Iraq from Iran and other bordering countries.
This actually works well for our purposes as American civilians. If we are going to fight the Iraqis then we can have them fight the military that is equipped and have a job hired by us to fight back. This is much better than having vigilantes roaming the streets of the US looking for people who might be terrorists or having the terrorists roaming the streets playing nasty pranks like blowing-up buses, firing machine guns at toddlers, poisoning our water supply, or releasing a flu virus from the 50s that killed 4 million people at the time. While it costs us a lot of money to fight terror in Iraq we have seen almost no attacks in the US. I hope it stays that way.
Dancing friends: Talya Salant
Over dinner with Mark the other day his new wife Elizabeth mentioned that she had danced with a woman that knew my name. Elizabeth is a professional dancer. The woman who she had danced with is Talya Salant. Normally I would just have noted the name as yet another person from Newton who I vaguely knew but I perked-up immediately to let Elizabeth know that I had a very serious crush on Talya in fifth grade.
Back then I had just moved to Newton from Watertown and I still had yet to master the basics of living in an affluent neighborhood. My nickname from Watertown was messy harry and I had an afro dirty wild child look with ripped jeans that hiked up to the zone where I could become a clear target for teasing about my floods. Talya had been one of the few kids who was willing to talk to me and she had been incredibly attractive to boot. So the basics of our relationship were that we had spoken for half an hour on a park bench before her soccer practice. The next few weeks I would periodically sneak into the trees in the raised aqueduct area above the Newton Center Playground area where the young girls soccer games were played and would watch in a stalking mode perched in the trees above. I recall that terrible, gut wrenching, fear of speaking to her. Rather than speak directly to her I would wait on the park bench. She rarely came if ever. Eventually a girl who was her friend named Christine who could tell I had a crush on her sat next to me on the bench. I then formed a worse crush on Christine although I wasn't sure whether to talk to her to get through to Talya, which was the basis of our relationship or to talk directly to her.
Eventually we had a fifth grade trip to the woods where we were at camp in the spring. I got a chance to go on a field trip with Christine to a cemetery where we took engravings on the tomb stones. We chatted in the bus ride over and I still like Steve Winwood because his music was playing the whole ride to the cemetery and back. I also find cemeteries somewhat romantic. At one assembly a teacher read from a Ray Bradbury story about a time machine and screwing-up the future by grabbing a butterfly (hence the Butterfly Effect). The whole story I was staring longingly at Christine. Nothing ever became of that either.
So today when thinking of what to tell Alex G. about finding a date and driving in the 85 degree summer-like spring weather and pondering my weird fear of introducing myself to people I thought of what I would do if I was him. I would learn how to dance - salsa, swing, or ballet. Maybe I'll do so myself.
Welcome to the 21st century: Rockport
Rockport Mass finally made it a priority to legalize alcohol after 149 years. I can only imagine that it will be a great night to party in Rockport.
I went to the job source location this afternoon because they were having a free seminar on networking. I am increasingly interested in real networking with actual people outside of the Internet after having listened to the Tipping Point in the car for the past few days. Among the areas that I found interesting in the Tipping Point were some studies about how large a social group of humans can be before the group is too large for each individual to have the capacity in the social part of their brains to connect in a meaningful way with other people. The number comes out to about 150 people. I do wonder whether the Internet and computers can help augment an individual to be able to overcome this limitation of the human brain. The 150 is somewhat related to the magic number 7 for the human brain in that people can only easily recall seven items at a time. That is why phone number lengths were chosen to be seven digits long. So what does seven and 150 have to do with each other - I think it had something to do with the interrelationships you can track naturally growing as a geometric number where you can track seven people and all of their relationships with each other you can get to about 150 real relationships that you have.
So during the networking class I represented the dorky Internet world that is very expert at communicating with people using computer tools but who have extreme panic attacks when faced with the prospect of meeting a new, strange, and intimidating human being.
Among the things I knew that I always forget about people included:
- Saying hello to people isn't very hard and is a generally good thing for building a very simple foundation for relationships with people in your world (gym, library, classes, dog walking, coffee shop, house of worship, etc.
- People are more likely to answer your questions if you don't want something from them and as a result they will be happy to provide you with help when you ask for it later. For example - calling on non human resources related people to just ask questions is a good guerilla job hunting tactic. It may also be a great guerilla PR, sales, and marketing tactic as well. So why not ask a press contact for their opinion about the space you are in, a user about how a product might fit into their day and the problems/challenges they see, or a partner sales person about challenges selling a partner's product
- People like to talk about themselves. It is easier to approach someone with a question about them then about you. I may try to put this into practice by testing the emails I send to recent downloaders to not ask them to help improve the product but to just tell me about themselves and in user interviews I will start with the basics to ask them about what they do for work and their hobbies.
- Smiling, humor, taking risks, and energy are as important if not more important than the content of what you say.
- There is a book called the Adam's Cover Letter Almanac that is apparently well worth having in order to get he best templates for engaging people with initial letters. I'll have to purchase it.
Turning errors into hits
Yesterday Manny Ramirez made two errors in the outfield fighting the sun. Curt Shilling was pitching and went on to win the game by fighting to get three outs in the fifth inning. I was listening to Shilling's remarks this morning and was reminded again how nice it is to have smart sports figures in Boston who are leaders and teachers that can transcend sports.
When Shilling was asked whether he got angry or frustrated with his fielders when they make errors when he is pitching he gave a great response. He doesn't get angry at all because he knows that his teammates are working hard behind him to make the plays and errors just happen in baseball. Instead he sees the errors as a chance to help his teammates out to give them a boost in a tough situation. The players already feel bad about the errors but the pitcher can give them a big boost by getting out of the inning and not having any runs score as a result of the error. It is as close as a pitcher gets to having an offensive situation where their teammate hit a double and they are at the plate hitting to give them an RBI. The pitcher has a chance to partner with the player making the error to resolve the problem from the error before runs score. The result is that his teammates then see that he is working hard for them when they need him personally and they are highly motivated to support him when they come to bat with him as a pitcher.
The takeaway from this in the world of business or management is that mistakes and errors happen. When they do it isn't most productive to get angry with someone but can instead be a great opportunity to increase trust and to give someone who needs a boost a lift what they need to get more committed to a project. This doesn't mean that people who are making errors because they aren't trying should be excused and given special treatment to cover for their mistakes. Shilling made a big differentiation between how he reacts to an honest error and one where the player wasn't trying. If a player isn't trying then Shilling expects a full apology for the error and will talk to the guy to let him know he is disappointed because the player let him down. That seems like the right rule to apply for the boost opportunity behind mistakes plan. If the mistake is a result of a reasonable error and not laziness then support the person and the team gets better. If it is because they aren't trying then let 'em have it and make sure they shape-up or ship out.
Cracks in the brakes
I am on a short trip to NY with Jeremy to run some errands including Sunday and Monday. The Acela train was being repaired by Bombardier technical staff because of the millimeter wide problems with their brakes and we were afraid it might affect the service levels of the Fung Wah bus in Chinatown so we drove down in the PT Cruiser. We also had to stop in Bedford to drop Sarah at her parent's house because she was sicker than a dog. The dog, Leelin, was not sick at all. But Sarah did have a fever about 102 when she awoke.
On the drive down I argued with Jeremy about the best way to provide healthcare in the US and the challenge of how to get democratic governments to offer altruistic services. His impression is that we are way behind the rest of the world with the concept that citizens have a basic right to core healthcare. He made a very good point at one time that I can't remember and neither can he. The drive down passed quickly and I survived the dog food like Dunkin' Donuts bagel egg and steak creation. I wouldn't recommend getting any items labelled steak from Dunkin' Donuts based on this experience. Jeremy was also still talking about the SMS service in England where people are more likely to use a SMS sex chat line if they knew they were talking to a robot than if they were talking to a real person. Eliza has come a long way.
Sunday was a beautiful day and since it was among the first days with nice weather the whole city was wandering outside in their skin displaying outfits and enjoying the weather. So we walked from the Edison hotel, an art deco place in the middle of times square, down Broadway until we were at the bottom of NYU near Union Square. On the way down we passed through a street fair where I ordered the worst boba-tea I had ever had. Instead of the tapioca balls they put chopped hard jello in the bottom of some green tea that was flavored heavily with rosewater.
After we made it through the crowd at the street fair Jeremy led me into Deisel, an upscale jeans store where he had once had a girlfriend. He was unhappy that she wasn't still where she had left her. Jeremy is worried about hedging his bets with entymology girl. The deisel store was cool because they had a DJ station in the basement that looked like a real DJ was spinning in the middle of the store. I think it was an illusion though because the guy behind the DJ booth looked like a clerk and the music kept playing after he left the DJ booth.
I got tired and napped on the couches downstairs from Matt's place until about six when I met Matt and his pregnant wife Mai briefly before moving onwards to dinner with Matt, Mark, and Mark's new wife Elizabeth at Bar 89. Matt seemed highly concerned with the price on the menu since he is now trying to juggle living in Manhattan, going to medical school in his first year, and having a baby. Bar 89 didn't look like a Gray's Papaya option but Mark and Elizabeth were inside and we pledged to mainly order light to keep the tab down.
Bar 89 is an interesting location with a very modern look. The bathrooms are the main attraction with opaque windows in front of each stall showing the sink and toilet you are about to enter. All the stalls are visible from the lobby area in front of them. The ladies and mens rooms are demarked with a pink or a blue neon glowing light inside of the stall. When you enter a stall you can see outside until you latch the door. Once you do the glass frosts over in an opaque look and a sign appears within the glass saying occupied. The people on the outside can't see in and you can't see out again until you leave the bathroom. My only complaints were that the first time I went into the booth I didn't realize the rules of pink vs. blue so I entered a ladies stall and I couldn't figure out where in the high-tech stalls they had put the paper towels. I did find them on my second trip to the stalls. Although I have seen this gimmick in other locations before it never ceases to amaze me.
Back at the table Matt had ordered a Sapphire and Tonic. When it arrived the tonic was apparently flat. So Matt figured he was paying for an expensive drink and sent it back to the bar. The waiter, bar staff and manager then disappeared and huddled around the bar to figure out what was wrong with the tonic and Matt didn't get a replacement drink for about forty minutes. They had needed to reinstall the tonic CO2 system and rewire the building to meet code or something. The good news was that his drink was very bubbly and very strong.
Deciding on a meal was luckily quite simple. We split two orers of wings with extra blue cheese as a dinner for five. At some point we were chatting about medical school in Barbados where Scuz is going and he told us about an uncle of his who went to medical school in Mexico where they kept all of the cadaver's in a big pool of formaldehyde. Each class began with fishing your cadaver out of the pool with the hook.
Mark is involved in a new start-up involving rebates and free bandwidth. We had an incredibly fun time jabbering about every silly Internet tool and product we knew of for five hours. It was a little frigthening how excitable we were about all of the new technology out around blogging, RSS, email, smart clients, embedded databases, and desktop search tools. We considered partnering together and I may meet with Mark and his entrepreneur partner to investigate whether we can connect his business with Viapoint.
Mark let me know that Olenick (the locked out trumpet angry drunk) is now working on buying and selling malls, salsa dancing to pick-up women in long lines who await his arrival, and bringing to market a concept of buiding concrete in mall parking lots with embedded solar components that power the mall to market. Maybe when we run out of fossil fuels the pave the earth project will at least generate enough power to keep our gadgets running.
Jeremy has to return to his place of business when he comes to town. It is filled with fairly religious Jews many of whom can't understand the strange lack of ambition that Jeremy has. Somewhere in New York in a cubicle there is an orthodox jewish girl who eloped to Brooklyn with a Peurto Rican man and was ostracized by her religious family, community, and high school. She wants to go to college but still hasn't managed to return to her religious high school to get the diploma that she needs to get through the admissions process.
The Taxing Point
I paid my taxes on Friday since it was the 15th but I filed for an extension instead of putting all the paperwork through on time. This year my excuse was that TurboTax has a terrible installation utility for updating the forms and it went into a useless cycle every time I tried to install the update forcing me to reboot, install, reboot, restart, reinstall and it always failed and asked for another reboot. So I wasn’t comfortable filing my taxes with the outdated software and forms and neither was the TurboTax robotic advisor. The TurboTax advisor actually didn’t even want me to file for an extension. It kept warning me that the extension form was out of date and then spent a long time attempting to fax it and refusing to heed my command to send via my standard printer. When I called Jeremy in to provide IT support he noted that somehow my default printer driver had been set to fax. My guess is that TurboTax rebooting had something to do with it. We then proceeded to protect our wireless network to reduce the freeloading bandwidth grabbers on our network. I don’t mind freeloaders but when my connection starts to slow down I have to do something to make sure I get my $70 per month of DSL value.
Then I went to mail the forms while walking Leelin. I tried mailboxes etc. first because they have a good dog policy and often leave biscuits on the counter. As I passed by the H&R Block office I could see a woman accountant whose job it was to do people’s taxes or to assign them to open agents press her face up against the glass to marvel at Leelin’s tremendous cuteness. It would have been fun to stop in to say hi but given that I was working with their competitor, the TurboTax robot with forms that don’t update correctly I didn’t exactly feel like they would find me welcome. They might find Leelin to be a good way to break-up a hectic tax day. Nobody was in Mailboxes Etc. This was a great disappointment to me since I was expecting the big tax season to drive throngs of panicking citizens to the counters.
When I asked if they would do certified return receipt mail to make sure I could prove I sent George Bush and Mitt Romney their tithes the man recommended that I go to the post office. So Leelin and I checked out of that establishment and moved onwards to the Brookline post office at Coolidge Corner. The first thing that I noticed at the door was a clear sign explaining that I could go inside but if Leelin wasn’t going to aid me because I was handicapped he was going to have to wait outside while I went in. We had a brief conversation about this and Leelin let me know that he would prefer to be inside the post office than outside. So I went inside and looked at the enormous line backed-up from the counter in the front wrapped all the way around to the automated stamp vending machines in the back.
So I grabbed the return receipt stickers and cards and took them home to fill them out in the convenience of my own living quarters where Leelin was welcome to sniff my feet and distract me by instigating games of fetch with puppy safe stuffed animals. I bicycled back to the post office with the certified stuff in hand. When I arrived the line was even further bloated with tax payers from all walks of life. But there were tons of other people in the line who clearly weren’t tax payers at all. These people were holding boxes that they were mailing to far off places like Venezuela that the postal officers would need to open because they wouldn’t know how to properly answer their customs questions like “what is inside?”. The answer “catalogs” that then changed to “books”, potentially a translation problem resulted in a long hold-up as the postal officer at the counter used her special scissors to remove the carefully applied packaging tape to open the packages.
Meanwhile I just stood in line waiting and watching all of these crazy people who had decided that tax day was the perfect time to send a Christmas present to another continent. I was tempted to let them know that there would be no line if they went down the street to Mailboxes Etc. and it would probably cost the same to ship through them plus they don’t have a stick up their butt about customs forms. So after about thirty five minutes in line I came to the front of the line and was cut by a woman hysterical because she had “lost money” in the stamp machine at the back of the line. So my assigned postal worker told her in no uncertain terms that if she found the stamps in the corner at the bottom where they fall from the machine into the bottom that she would go postal on her through a violent fit that the service is famous for.
I looked around for any automatic weapons and upon seeing none proceeded to the other attendant. We had a chuckle about how many idiots were mailing packages on tax day while the postal worker was yelling at the woman who had lost money because she had found the stamps at the bottom of the vending machine where she had expected them to be. I got the hell out of there on my bike and biked to my car to drive into Burlington.
Later in the day I had a meeting with an MIT person in charge of working with alumni to acquire large gifts. We had our meeting inside the Stata Center. I had been running around all day and never had time to get myself any lunch. The result was that I was starving as we met so I bought myself a sandwich. I probably looked like an idiot trying to wolf down the sandwich while talking about all the things that the school could do to help build alumni good will. I pushed the school to do a better job of integrating functional social networking into their alumni relations strategy, to focus people on the context they remember MIT in through their ILGs and courses, and to keep working hard to get VMS to drive new and successful ventures in the community. I was a little high on having listened to disk two of The Tipping Point in the car driving back and forth to Burlington and had learned about how Sesame Street had used improvements in context to drive kids to watch and learn through the television show. I don’t know if I had any impact and I can tell that the best case scenario for the MIT gift folks would be to get a few million bucks from me once I make my hundred million. I’d do it too if I got the support I needed to be successful. There is no real cost to paying for success once you have it and MIT is taking a lot of risk by investing in lots of programs to try to help graduates succeed in ventures.
So I’ve been all anxious so far today because it appears that the downloads from our web site are slowly driving downwards as our main traffic driving agents become more cluttered. I am counting on those links to generate those 100 million bucks for MIT. Maybe they can help drive some of the traffic? It’s their million if they can help. I did find an interesting site by looking through my logs. The site is called stumbleupon. Someone had stumbled upon Viapoint and had linked to it in the process. That drove 40 new users to come to the site. The benefit of social book-marking tools is that they provide the potential to use the Internet to accelerate the word of mouth about a new product or service. So one idea I had was to chat and promote the software within the connectors and mavens using the social bookmarking services and forums for existing related software that we will integrate with going forwards. These would potentially work well if I believe the ideas from The Tipping Point.
The fighting worm
Last night as we were celebrating Hattie’s birthday the conversation got to telling stories about fights we had been in. It had began as Scott and Roxanne were describing their experience as they were exiting Hattie’s party. They walked past some 15 year olds and the kids were drunk and tried to provoke Scott by telling him “I shit in your mother’s mouth”. At the time Scott didn’t have a good response to this invitation to fight but it was good enough to get us all thinking about great fights in our history.
Kate had experienced a fight at the practice session for her debutante ball. Her friend was in the lobby of a hotel with a Frisbee. A mean looking drunk walked up to him, took the Frisbee away from him and said something about him being a faggot. The drunk then proceeded to attack him and punch him in the face to break his nose then took the Frisbee and left.
I had wanted to tell a fight story and was going to tell the story of the worm. I’ll get to that later, but with six people at the table it was hard to break in with a story in time that was relevant and the angry drunk story seemed to fit better at the time. So I told the story about Olenick being an angry drunk and how he had wanted to fight me in my room after he had played the trumpet throughout the night to announce to everyone that he was an angry drunk. I was a wrestler in high school and still bulky from trying to stay in shape so Olenick must have thought that it would be fun to fight recreationally. I wasn’t in the mood for it at the time and I had already experienced my room getting totally trashed one night when he came into my room to shower me and Yuval as was custom on special occasions like birthdays and Yom Kippur. So to avoid the Godzilla style destruction of lamps, computers, and thermodynamics textbooks I hatched a plan to get rid of Olenick.
Since he was very drunk he didn’t have a great sense of logic. I told him I would be happy to fight with him but not in my room or inside since I didn’t want to knock anything over. I would fight him if we did it outside. Since this made sense to him I walked down the stairs with him and walked him politely out the door. When he reached the outside of the door I slammed it shut and held it shut such that he couldn’t get back inside. He ranted outside for about half an hour and as he became more sober and tired the drunken adrenaline ride of anger inside of him wore out like the incredible hulk coming down from a green day and returning in tattered rags sitting on a street corner wondering what had happened to him.
This was a separate incident from the time Yuval and I saved up burned out light bulbs for eight months. When we finally had about fifteen of them while Olenick was out drinking one night we replaced every light bulb in his room with a burned out bulb. This gave the illusion that the circuit had blown a fuse. So when he got home to his room at midnight we listened to him as he tried turning on his lights in a drunken green hulk stupor and then started hitting his lamps in anger that the fuse had gone bad. He then tried to fix the fuse but it didn’t work so he moaned and paced the halls shouting at the electrical system and cursing Yahweh his supreme being of choice before finally resigning to sleep off the horrible night to awaken to learn about the burned out light bulbs.
The prank was actually inspired by a black market practice by people in Russia who would always keep burned out light bulbs and then go into apartment buildings with them to replace working light bulbs with the burned out ones. They would then sell the working light bulbs on the black market.
But the unfortunate challenge of being in a group of people drinking and enjoying telling stories is that you can’t get all of your stories into the conversation without becoming a major story hog. Scott had some great stories to tell about his deck hockey league where some of the players are not allowed to play against other teams because there are restraining orders that they would be breaking if they came into too close of a proximity to the people on opposing teams. Deck hockey is apparently just like real hockey except that you don’t wear skates. You do wear pads, can check each other and it often becomes very violent. During one match one of Scott’s teammates had been decked hard and was bleeding from an illegal hit. He had wanted to start a fight during the game but hadn’t managed to get the fight properly instigated so he was fuming mad during the game. So after the game in the parking lot when both teams were near their cars this disgruntled deck hockey player wanted to start a full brawl between the two teams initated by the player who had hit him. Scott is not the typical player at 5’ 10” because the other players are generally more in the 6’ 2” 220 lb with lots of scars on them class. So he was likely to become the punching bag for anyone choosing him as an opponent in the parking lot brawl. Luckily the whole fight diffused before anything further occurred.
Hattie had gotten kicked out of her fair share of softball games for fighting with the umpire and other players over whether she had been safe or not. I used this to tell my story about S. Eliot when he had been in a line-up where everyone was supposed to shake hands and he cold cocked the opposing pitcher in the face breaking his nose instead of shaking his hand. He had some criminal genes in him or something. I think he may have had an extra Y chromosome or something.
The story that I had wanted to relay but never could fit into the dialog was the story of the worm. I had been playing during recess in fifth grade in the Newton Center Playground behind the Mason Rice elementary school. We had been playing kickball but the game had ended and I had told Chu, an asian boy the same size as me that he was a dummy. He had not been amused by this and had gotten more angry than I had expected. The result was that he pulled a worm out of the ground and told me that because I had offended him that I was going to be forced to eat the worm. Now I was a fairly tough kid but the one thing that I both didn’t understand and feared was the martial arts. Chu happened to have a very valid threat in that he was a black belt in karate and intended to use his karate skills to force me to eat this worm. Nothing quite gets the fight or flight juices pumping in a young chubby Jewish boy in a school yard like the combined threat of having to eat a worm and a black belt kick from a young Asian boy. Since eating a worm was about the worst fate I could imagine I decided to face the karate challenge by raising my fists.
Now I was no ingénue. I grew up in Watertown where you learned to fight by getting used by older kids as a punching bag. They would ask me to push my stomach out so that it was swollen and then would punch me as hard as they could. Expecting that I might double over in pain they were always surprised that I never let out a peep or complained. This was some protection for being the only Jewish kid in eight square miles amongst a highly organized set of Irish Catholic families each filled with seven to twelve be freckled and often evil sons and daughters of police officers. Strangely the only time they managed to make me cry was when they stole an apple from me and threw it back and forth to taunt me. It wasn’t that I cared about the apple. I just hated having something stolen and not being able to get it back from them.
But the stomach punching had trained me well for defending myself from worm eating. As Chu warmed-up for a roundhouse kick that would kill the average fifth grader I swung a strong upper-cut right into Chu’s lip. The result of this was quite predictable. I had a large tooth gauge cut into my palm and Chu’s lip began to swell like a small water balloon. At roughly the same moment the recess had reached near an end and the teachers were looking to Chu and me for an explanation for our injuries. I hadn’t been to the principal’s office often because in general, when not threatened by eating annelids I don’t do crazy things like punch other students in the face, but the initial arbiter of the situation believed that there was sufficient reason to believe that the accident that both Chu and myself had claimed was responsible for each of our injuries was a fabrication that we were using to protect ourselves from a permanent blight on our elementary school transcripts that would be used by any college admissions officer to eliminate us as deviants with extra Y chromosomes when considering our carefully authored essays and high SAT scores.
Chu and I stayed in the waiting area in front of the principal’s office for over thirty minutes waiting and synchronizing our story for the chief. We managed to create an elaborate lie where he had been running behind me and had tripped, causing his face to fall into my hand, during which his teeth had cut into my hand and his lip was cut. The principal actually bought the story and we lived the rest of our lives without the major scarlet letter of having been violent youths.
The dinner to celebrate Hattie’s birthday ended without any incidents of fighting over the bill and then I drove back to pick-up Leelin the pug dog for a fun pugsitting weekend.
Red Sox opening day 2005
My dad and I spent the better part of yesterday at Fenway Park to experience opening day 2005. It was a little colder than this weekend which was too bad because the weather was perfect on Saturday but it is April so I should be glad it wasn’t like it is right now outside – snowing. The day began with a walk from St. Paul down to the park. When we arrived at noon, three and a half hours before game time the lines to go through the gates were already packed with people trying to get in.
My dad and I rarely have seen batting practice because the park isn’t usually open early enough to watch the players hit. We carried a couple of beers from the Irish pub over to the stands and watched the Sox bat balls. Johnny Damon got ushered over to talk to Tom Arnold and he seemed very excited to chat with him. My dad and I pondered whether we could make money building a mock Fenway somewhere in the suburbs and rent it out to people who want to answer the question – Can I hit a homer out of Fenway park and to let corporate groups play baseball on a field with the shape of Fenway. We also considered a pint sized Fenway for the little leaguers. The folks in front of us weren’t big supporters of the fantasy Fenway in the burbs. I guess I’ll have to make friends with Theo Epstein if I want to take batting practice or try to hit homers in the real park. Some times it seems like it would be really nice to have a couple of billion dollars. Apparently, according to MSN – they live longer.
Everyone was snapping their digital pictures of each other, the Sox, and any angle they could find. My dad and I realized it was cold on the first base line so we moved into the sun on the third base line. Then we went for a walk to grab some food. We went to the steak house where we got two steak tips sandwiches and a sausage. The woman at the counter recognized my dad. On the way to our seats the ushers recognized my dad too. It is funny when you go to a sporting event, your team wins the championship, and the staff is all acting like family with the fans. Pretty cool stuff that you don’t find other places.
The pre-game show was what the fuss about opening day was all about. There had been radio talk show banter about the appropriateness of giving the sox their rings in front of the Yankees on opening day. The ceremony included the Boston pops playing in center field with James Taylor, a bunch of banners dropped from the Green monster, and veterans from the Iraq war, some missing limbs, walking the rings in from center field. The flag was at half-mast when they raised the banner and we had a moment of silence for the pope. He wore red a lot so I figure he might have been a Sox fan? It was good that the pope managed to see the sox win a championship before he died.
The old sox heroes were hiding in the outfield to raise the banner along with last years Sox. Pedro was conspicuously missing. Among the heroes were Bill Lee, Loius Tiant, and Jerry Remy. Johnny Pesky got a ring for sticking around and staying alive for so long.
The game was great because we beat the Yankees 8-1 with Wakefield pitching great. We had a good time teasing A-Rod because he made two errors that put the game far out of reach.
Smelling opening day
The weather has turned beautiful and opening day at Fenway Park is on it's way. On Wednesday Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore were strutting around Kenmore square getting a taste of the Boston Pappahrahhzzi. I'll be out there watching the rings ceremony with the Yankees on hand with my dad. That should be a great moment in history to experience. I'll have to recharge the batteries on my camera.
The Bedford Police log for March was finally released so I can figure out whether they took note of my driving around in fits and stops down Sweeney Ridge Road in the early afternoon. While I couldn't find a note about my suspicious driving I did find this to be an interesting and not so subtle conincidence because I was driving at that time around the corner of Sweeney Ridge and Old Stagecoach.
From the April 7th Beford police log.
Sunday, March 27
At 2:31 p.m.an officer reported a large pot hole had formed on Old Stagecoach Road at Sweeney Ridge Road. DPW was notified.
I didn't see any potholes on Easter and I think that I was driving slowly enough to have seen them; Just an angry suspicious local guy on a bicycle.
If it wasn't bad enough that we have to deal with the anti-same sex marriage battles throughout the country I heard about a new debate brewing relating to pharmacists who would like to select which pills they are ethically comfortable providing to their customers.
Texas Considers 'Conscience Clause' for Phamacists
by Janet Heimlich All Things Considered, April 5, 2005 ·
A bill in Texas state legislature would protect pharmacists who refuse to fill
prescriptions based on their opposition to abortion. Most of the prescriptions
are for emergency contraceptives and birth control. Ten states are looking to
expand "conscience clauses" for pharmacists.
What this boils down to is the right to contraception or emergency morning after pills. The right to life pharmacists and lobbyists in states where the majority of people don’t want certain drugs legal in the first place believe that they should be required to fill prescriptions if they are ethically opposed to it.
Here is my take on it. A person who can decide whether a prescription is available to a patient or not is already available. That person is called a doctor. So if a prescription can only be obtained by a doctor it should only be deniable by a doctor. If a pharmacist wishes to go to medical school and become trained as a doctor then they would have a right to deny a prescription to a patient or to provide a prescription to a patient.
If a pharmacy claims to offer the service of filling prescriptions from doctors, is licensed by the state and employs licensed pharmacists, and an individual licensed pharmacist chooses to not provide the service then they should have their license revoked to provide the service. Why, because they are refusing to provide the licensed service and one that is specifically regulated through licensing in order to ensure that patients have their rights upheld and doctors prescriptions can be effectively and safely obtained with limited abuses.
This may get a little more complex when it comes to items that are over the counter at the pharmacist desk. There are items that are actually discretionary. I believe that certain forms of Tylenol containing codeine require the consumer to request the item from the pharmacist. This control is put into place to provide the consumer with adequate instructions on use of the product and potentially to log usage to monitor abuse. In the case of Tylenol with codeine the concern is that codeine is addictive and causes constipation in a large percentage of users. The consumer needs to be informed of this. But this does not give a pharmacist the new right to deny a consumer the items that have been placed behind the counter due to an ethical objection. If the pharmacist believes that ethically they believe that codeine causes evil spirits they shouldn’t have a sudden right to deny use by the over the counter consumer. They are licensed and trained to provide a specific service which is to manage public safety as mandated by the government for that drug. When they fail to do this they are not doing their job and should lose their license for not doing their job.
Unfortunately this is a states rights debate where the split is between the states with high religious backing and ones that are more secular and often less urban. It appears that two sets of laws will be appearing such that the same drug will be at the discretion of a pharmacist based on ethics in one state and will be available regardless of the pharmacist in other. The less urban areas are the ones where this will cause the biggest impact because people will be unable to conveniently avoid the proscription by the pharmacists.
I don't have a great recommendation to stop this nonsense other than a hope that the core of the US Constitution provides more rights for the consumer and equality than the individual providing the care. I don’t think this will bubble up to doctors since doctors tend to specialize and don’t provide procedures they are ethically opposed to like abortions, sex change operations, or plastic surgery.
Social hate crimes: Ungolden rules
I feel bad about the Pope being dead. I can’t say I don’t have respect for him. He spoke seven languages and in general did what a good leader is supposed to do. He stood-up for what he believed in even if a lot of those things are areas that I don’t believe in. They flew flags at half mast for him on Sunday even in Brookline.
But today I was listening to NPR while driving and I got very angry with the religious folks in the US. The issue that was causing my blood to boil was the folks in Kansas being the 18th state to work towards a vote in the near future amending their constitution to prevent same sex marriages. The amount of money raised to fight this constitutional amendment raised by the opposition to it is $32,000. Now I have to draw a hard line on this issue. Although people do appear to cloak the issue as a clarification of what is already included as standard policy it has become overwhelmingly clear that standard policy is that gay people don’t have the same rights as heterosexuals. So while we are fighting in the world to liberate women who don’t have the same rights as men in the middle east and riding a wave of democratic fervor in the name of human rights it is clear that even the world’s model democracy has a major problem understanding the basic concepts of human rights.
The concepts theoretically are taught in the bibles read by the folks heading to vote. As I understood the Christian bible the Jews had come to a crisis where law makers, the rabbis, had gone far abreast of the spirit of the bible itself. They had taken the literal parts relating to rules and forgotten about the important areas of how humans are supposed to treat each other through the Golden rule. The Golden rule is a clear statement and whether you are worried about what God thinks of you or not you can base almost all the ethics of human rights upon it. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. The golden rule is about empathy and equality. Basically you shouldn't entitle yourself to rights that other people don’t have. You shouldn’t do things to other people that you wouldn't want them to do to you. You should act towards other people as though you were the person who was being acted upon.
So let’s apply this Golden rule concept to the question of same sex marriage. Regardless of whether you like homosexuals or not the Golden rule doesn’t say anything about liking other people. In the example set for Christianity Jesus helps the disenfranchised people who many people didn't like or would be likely to be disapproved by God including prostitutes, invalids who could not work, and folks who didn’t like the way the government and the temple was being run. So putting it into the context of a heterosexual looking at a homosexual's right to marry. Would you as a homosexual vote on a law to prevent heterosexuals from having equal rights for marriage? How about some simpler cases? Would you as a Jew in a Jewish majority state vote to have Christians be unable to marry under equal rights for marriage? What would you want the majority to do if you were in the minority and you would never have the voting power to protect yourself through the power of democracy?
This is what is disturbing to me about the issue of the right to have same sex marriages. It is that a group of people claiming a moral high ground are brainwashed into believing that they actually are conforming to the human rights that their religion professes. I think Christianity is a beautiful religion – it moved a society locked into very legal interpretations of life into one that could appreciate love, beauty, and charity as core values. In this case an anachronism continues to drive the basic enemies of freedom – fear and hate.
While it seems like people are having a debate about whether homosexuals can have the same rights upon examining the underlying debate there is clearly something insidious and disgusting. This debate from the side of the people looking to clarify marriage is a platform to use the hatred of a specific group of people to deny them the respect of the Golden rule. This legal battle to deny equal rights to homosexuals is an ugly socially sanctioned hate crime. Denial of the Golden rule is not acceptable as it quickly breaks down into breaking down the rest of the moral structure that follows from it. Thou shalt not kill or not steal can’t be conditional and allow for casting people you don't like outside of the rules. You weren’t about to kill or steal from people you liked? Were you?
The rules only work if it includes all people. So ultimately when people in the United States claim to be taking the moral high ground and included in that moral high ground is essentially the persecution of specific easy to identify segments of people then what we have is a real problem and a country that claims to be a champion of human rights but really is just a façade for human rights for certain humans. That is the root of totalitarianism, the stuff of Animal Farm. That is something every Christian should have learned to be very afraid of and after learning the core of the Christian faith be something to defend with all of their strength.
When the Centurions decide who is going up on the cross and they hate you then who will be strong enough to protect you?
While the pope is dead Catholics have't shed the shadow of a religion whose legacy should be to keep working towards the original vision of people fighting for human rights by applying the Golden rule first and the law second.
Quotes of note
In the Big Bounce Morgan Freeman's character commented - "God is an imaginary friend for adults."
In the meeting this morning the CEO of a potential partner said "You know you are a geek if when you look at your email but see that you don't have any new messages you click on a button to check again."
After seeing what some people have been trying to do with our software, me "You keep try to make better idiot proof software but someone out there keeps making better idiots."
Robert amidst an email "btw, Lisa, Dave and I had blast dressing up as ducks Saturday afternoon!"
Final grad performance
Last night we had our second and final ImprovBoston graduate performance. ImprovBoston was completely oversubscribed with over 40 people trying to reserve and getting placed on the waiting list. My Improv Boston class is now over. I got to Bukowski’s at five and had a drink with Mike as the class started to fill out the table in the back of the room. We took lots of pictures and then wandered over to the theatre at six to warm-up. We had to warm-up quickly because most people’s friends had been warned to come early to claim their seats and early meant 6:30. So as we were warming up a big crowd was gathering by the door. As Robert said about the evening - we needed a bigger venue. It was good to have such a large crowd although everyone I knew except for Sally T. had come two weeks before and they didn’t manage to get seats reserved early enough for last night’s performance.
The performance was very fun. As usual Joan had the best line in the show. Last time she managed to barb back at Mike when he made a fat joke that his character was balding a little early for a seven year old. Last night acting as Juan Carlos, the Colombian drug lord, she was involved in a plot to kill Pat Sejak, Vanna White, and a grocery store clerk. After being asked about this she told Suzy – I have six bullets in my gun – give me three more names. I am not sure if I was funny or entertaining. I managed to hop around like a bunny rabbit in one scene and sang No Woman No Cry, in a bizarre battle scene where I came on as a Rastafarian. In one scene where Marlena and I were both sick and wanted the other person to take care of us like our mothers. As an old man trying to sell my even more ancient mother along with my sister I proposed to Suzy with a pair of dentures with the money I had made on selling my mother. I also tried to purchase a large piece of real estate as royalty and my daughter played by Emily fell off of a horse. I stayed out of a scene with gardeners despite the urge to go into it. Mike and Aaron did a great job as sexy gardeners without me. The last scene was great, especially because the suggestion from the audience was elementary school. Heather was teaching a class of rambunctious children who all were asking her questions about her personal life because she had apparently broken off an engagement and became a lesbian. I came into the scene as her ex-fiancee and then we went into a full on rant and the show ended.
After the show we went downstairs. We drank some champagne. Sharon read a poem to all of us. I was mentioned in one line that shows how I project myself:
"He came from the East, MIT, on two wheels a marketing god
And she from the west, LA, to stroke and ponder his rod."
Sarah got a kick out of that one when I got home. I had been stupid and didn't reserve a ticket for her. We also got certificates that I can put in my office where my normal diploma should be. I should take it with me when I look for work. After the show one of the guys was scuttling around worrying that he might have to interact with two potential women that he invited and came. I can’t say who and it wasn’t me. All was well as we split into two crews, one going to the jam, and the other going to the S&S. A couple of Mike’s friends made it onto stage and did some freeze tag with us.
By the end of the night I was picking through Sharon's cobb salad and mooching hummos at the S&S while we chatted about the show and life in general. The Red Sox were getting clobbered on opening day by the Yankees on the televisions in the background. At the end of the night Marlena and I chatted about what to do next and wondered whether the group would stay together. I intend to find some way to continue doing Improv now that the class is over. Hopefully so that I can get folks who missed these performances a chance to see me do it.