Rhymes With Fuchsia

Monday, July 23, 2007

Holy Politics, Batman!

Before I start today's rant, let me say again: thank you, everyone, for all your good thoughts and prayers for my dad. I am, ahem, slightly behind on my email, and I'll get there, really — but until I do, please be aware that my whole family appreciates you.

I do have a rant today, about religion and politics, yet. You have been warned. I will talk about knitting again soon, really, but not today. By way of loin-girding, here's a nice picture.

OK, ready? Here we go.

Yesterday's New York Times had an article about whether Mitt Romney's Mormonism will make people less likely to vote for him. The answer turns out to be yes, but it could be worse. The article includes a graphic showing the results of a poll asking "would you be more, less, or equally likely to vote for a candidate who was..." Hispanic, female, divorced, etc. On the "less likely" scale, Mormon weighs in at 30 percent, Muslim, homosexual, and no college education all get 46 percent, but the hands-down winner is doesn't believe in God, at 63 percent.
“This is a deeply religious nation by many standards,” said Mark Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University. “They want their leaders to be believers. They want them to believe in something higher, to have a moral framework as they lead the country.”

Now, I want to know: where does this notion come from that atheists have no moral framework? From reason and empathy, duly reinforced by precept and example, any four-year-old can figure out how to behave morally, and why it's a good idea. It all boils down to the Golden Rule, which by the by dates from several centuries BC.

I've seen it said that because atheists have no rule book, whenever they want to do something wrong they can just decide to play by different rules, if they have any at all. Apparently some people picture atheists as perpetual teenagers: "hey, Dad's not home? Party!!!" If you have a raging case of atheism envy, let me assure you that it is not so. Like any Christian or Buddhist or Muslim or Jew, an atheist knows that right from wrong is as plain as the answer to, "how would I feel if someone broke their promises to me or took my stuff or left their mess for me to clean up?" — only without even the consolation that everything will get straightened out in the hereafter.

(I'm not exactly an atheist myself, but I'm very fond of several; I describe myself as a semi-agnostic pagan, and think there's probably Someone(s) or Something(s) out there. I can never decide if I really believe this or just want to. I do believe, and this again may be wishful thinking, that if there's a final judgment it's based much more on actions than on adherence to a specific list of beliefs.)

I would go so far as to say that I might be more likely to vote for an avowed atheist (although in the current political climate I could just as well say that I'd vote for a unicorn), on the ground that they've thought all of this through and don't follow the crowd just because it's easier.

What do you think? (Given that all of my readers seem to be knitters, I probably don't have to ask anyone to be nice, but it is a touchy subject. Also, if your belief system compels the conclusion that I'm hellbound, please note that I already know this.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Please Send Healthy Thoughts

My dad had a mild heart attack last week; we went up for the weekend and found him in excellent spirits if a bit bored by the enforced inactivity. The prognosis seemed good: a cath procedure yesterday, followed by an angioplasty today if warranted. This plan was indeed carried out, and everything appeared to be going well, but it seems that the angioplasty knocked loose a small piece of plaque that has found its way to the speech center of my dad's brain — the worst possible place as he is a writer and talker and wordsmith par excellence.

Things could get better. Or not. I'm going up first thing in the morning. Please send healthy thoughts.

Update: I just got home. He was much better when I got there, and continued to improve through the day. He's not quite out of the woods, but we (family and doctors) are cautiously optimistic. Thank you so much, everyone, for all your kind words, prayers and good thoughts.

Update II: My dad was discharged today. I talked to him this morning and he sounded totally himself. He'll get outpatient speech therapy to address some retrieval trouble (getting the words lined up right and flowing from brain to mouth). More later, must pick Miss B up from camp.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Calvin: I think today I'll go spelunking.
Hobbes: There aren't any caves around here.
Calvin: Who needs caves? (throws large rock in puddle: SPELUNK!)

We couldn't find any puddles (it's quite dry here), so we decided to visit the local caves, Las Grutas de Garcia, instead. My camera doesn't deal well with dim light, but I did my best. Also, the caves are on one side of a valley surrounded by mountains, so I took a bunch of pictures of them too. Pretty much wherever you go around here, you see drop-dead mountain vistas, sort of like Margene, only the mountains don't look like hers, either, nor is there much water around here. Once you get outside Monterrey, in fact, there's not much of anything except miles and miles of mountains (it's dry here).

Anyhow, we missed the turn for the caves the first time (there are many large signs on the highway saying things like "keep seat belts fastened" and "turn headlights on in fog"; the signs giving actual useful information are considerably smaller and easier to miss, affording us the opportunity for a scenic tour of a whole lotta nowhere and nothing but lots of lovely mountains — did I mention that it's dry here?), but not the second time. The cable-car ride was much less scary than I'd feared based on lurid descriptions from fellow wedding guests.

The cave tour took about an hour.

Grant was a bit disappointed that the tour was heavy on formations that resembled various animals and plants (the Gorilla Head, the Camel, the Christmas Tree) and, as far as we could tell given our extremely limited grasp of Spanish, light on geology. The caves themselves were pretty spectacular, though.

While waiting for the cable car back down I took pictures of mountains...

more mountains...

and some extremely determined trees.

There were also lots of flowers; these were my favorites, looking as if a swarm of butterflies had alighted on a bush. (Yeah, they're fuchsia. So sue me.)

Today we may try to find a nearby canyon and/or the open-air market. Wish us luck.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Not In Kansas

Well, all right, actually we've never been there, but I'm fairly confident that Monterrey, Mexico is not like Kansas, or Boston, or anywhere else in the US, for that matter. We came here to go to our now ex-babysitter's wedding; for some reason I was very nervous about the trip, so I didn't think or talk about it much before the fact. Despite various travel snafus, however, we got here safely and in good time, if a day later than planned. The wedding was completely awesome, but I have no pictures yet, so I'll save that for another post. Suffice it to say that the bridal couple and the whole celebration were gloriously gorgeous and joyous; also, Miss B is quite the party animal, and will not be allowed out unchaperoned until she's at least 27.

We're staying for another two days to sightsee and generally make like tourist idjits. We're just beginning to come to terms with the fact that being able to decipher most Spanish signs (extrapolating from our French and Latin, with occasional creative guessing) is completely different from being able to understand the spoken language, never mind speak it. If I manage to string a few words together, they come out with a horribly embarrassing (lack of) accent, my brain refusing to cope with assembling the words into reasonable syntax and pronouncing them correctly at the same time. With luck I'll improve a bit by the time we're ready to leave.

We're told that we can see some excellent caves nearby, if we keep our heads together on the cable-car ride straight up the mountain, so that's what we'll probably do today. Speaking of mountains, the ones here are pretty amazing. I don't think they're much higher than some of the bigger New England ones, but they're much craggier and steeper.

This was the first thing we saw from our hotel window. Definitely nowhere we'd ever been before.