Thursday, February 28, 2008

Matt and Sarah and Jimmy and...Ben?

By now a lot of you may have already seen this (or at least heard about it). I just saw these videos for the first time last night and they are the funniest things I've seen in a long time. Jimmy Kimmel (late night talk show host and former co-host of "The Man Show") is dating Sarah Silverman (actress, or is that actor nowadays?). I don't stay up long enough to watch Kimmel but apparently he does a thing every night at the end of the show where as a joke he says he's out of time and he has to "bump" guest Matt Damon. Back in January Silverman surprised Kimmel on his show with this music video.

As the old Klingon proverb says, revenge is a dish best served cold. Kimmel waited and plotted. And recruited help. Lots of it. Then, on his show after the Oscars the other night, he struck. He unveiled a video of his own.

I love it when someone has the ability to laugh at themselves. I especially love to see big stars show that they don't take themselves too seriously. The turnout on Kimmel's video was priceless. Josh Groban? I never would've imagined. Oh the practical jokes you can play when you have a great sense of humor...and a big budget and great production resources. A lot of people should be thankful I'm not wealthy and/or famous.

Even if you've already seen these they're worth seeing again. Enjoy. Oh, you may want to turn the sound down at work.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


No Child Gets Ahead strikes again.

Survey Finds Teenagers Ignorant on Basic History and Literature Questions

I know, I know. I'm...

But honestly, this was in today's New York Times and reports the results of a new study that were released yesterday. 1,200 seventeen year olds were surveyed in January and asked 33 multiple choice questions. The conclusion that was drawn as a result of the study was "that a significant proportion of teenagers live in “stunning ignorance” of history and literature". Really? Hmmmm. I wonder why?

Okay class, here is our curriculum for the year:

Math, Science, Standardized Test Taking.
Math, Science, Standardized Test Taking.
Math, Science, Standardized Test Taking...
Please write it on the board 100 times.

Can you for a moment imagine how mind-numbingly dull and boring this crop of students will be when they are adults? How one dimensional they will be? Math and science (at least how they are commonly taught) are about rules. The laws of physics, constants, equations, learning to repeat the steps that others have already taken. Mindlessly marching along trails already traveled. Without history and literature and the arts, without the creativity and passion and longing of an open, expanded mind does anyone seriously believe that the people who blazed those well traveled trails would have ever taken the first steps? Would have ever dared to break the rules and veer from the well traveled roads of their day? If we are going to stand on the shoulders of giants shouldn't we at least know who the giants were? Leonardo DiVinci was a genius. A scientist and a student of just about everything he laid eyes on. And oh yeah, he did a little painting on the side didn't he?

To be fair to the kids that were surveyed, I didn't know the one about Ralph Ellison's novel "Invisible Man" (though I could tell you who wrote "The Invisible Man" and I bet they couldn't). Also the fact that the majority weren't familiar enough with bible stories to know about Job was in some weird way, encouraging. Still, the overall results were dismal and very discouraging.

The article concludes by saying "the Bush administration and some business and civil rights groups warn against weakening the law (No Child Left Behind), saying students need reading and math skills to succeed in other subjects." The only problem with that plan is that students will never succeed in other subjects if those subjects are NEVER TAUGHT because school administrators live in fear of losing funding because of "poor performance" on standardized test and not meeting requirements of No Child Left Behind!

Students may "need reading and math skills to succeed in other subjects" but I believe they desperately need those "other subjects" to give reason to reading, math and science and to not just succeed but excel, in life.

Okay, horse thoroughly beaten*.

*No actual horses were beaten during the writing of this blog.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Snogged by a Saucy Strumpet

I've been snogged from across the pond by darling Kitty. She received this Mwah! award
from SuzyB and decided to pass it along to all the (ahem) "gentlemen" listed in the sidebar of her blog. I'm honored just to be listed in the sidebar of her blog and this is icing on the cake. She expressed concern that bestowing a Mwah! to all the men on her list would make her appear to be a "saucy strumpet". I told her not to worry and assured her that saucy was indeed my favorite kind of strumpet.

Thank you Kitty!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Fair and Balanced Reporting

I want everyone to know that I am fair and balanced (well, one out of two aint bad). The other day I posted about Saudi Arabia putting a woman on trial for witchcraft and sentencing her to death. Just so I don't give the unfair impression that Saudi Arabia is a sexist, male dominated society (be careful where you step, don't slip in the thick coating of SARCASM) I thought I'd post about this related article that turned up today:

Saudi Arabia arrests 57 men for flirting at mall

I mean, it was only one woman that was accused of witchcraft. They arrested 57 men for flirting. Never mind the fact that even if they're found guilty they'll probably get a slap on the wrist and the women they were flirting with will be stretched on a rack, tortured, hanged, beheaded and burned because they were the evil objects of temptation that caused the men to flirt in the first place. I mean, all that aside, surely this is progress.

Here is the list of charges being investigated:

  • "flirting with women in front of a shopping mall"
  • "dancing to pop music blaring from their cars"
  • "wearing improper clothing (believed to be tee shirts with images and/or (gasp!) English on them)

The ANIMALS!!! Praise the lord that we don't have that kind of criminal behavior here. Now if only we can force the stores inside the malls to put veils and head scarves on the mannequins in the windows of Victoria's Secret and Frederick's of Hollywood I wouldn't have to fear impure thoughts in the heads of the young men attending Bible study group meetings in the mall food court.

Actually what I find most seriously disturbing and terrifying about this article are these two phrases:

"The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice"


"the fearsome religious police"

If those two particular combinations of words don't underscore in no uncertain terms the dangers of a state religion and a legal system based on a holy book, I don't know what the hell does.

We should be very, very thankful for the Constitution. And yet...we have a current Republican Presidential candidate who stated that the Constitution should be rewritten to reflect the Bible and the religious right won't back the other Republican candidate because he isn't conservative (the New English to Political Bullshit Translation Dictionary defines this usage as meaning "Right Wing Christian Religious Extremist Nut-job who wants to wage a holy war, make the Bible the law of the land, establish a Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, and unleash the fearsome religious police on the sinners of America") enough. The fact that these people can read an article like the one posted above and see only the differences - and not the vivid crystal-clear reflection of themselves - boggles my mind.

Wake up America. Apathy is going to kill us.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Welcome to 1692

Saudi Arabia to execute woman for 'witchcraft'

I saw this headline last Thursday and was going to comment on it but it was Valentine's Day and then the weekend was on us and I just didn't want to end the week with a story like this. I was frankly just too damn dumbfounded and depressed that something like this was still possible.

Now to be fair we had our own little brush with Witch trials here in America. A little brush that ended with 19 men and women dead from hanging, an 80 year old man pressed to death under heavy stones, and several others dead in prison waiting for their turn on the gallows. But all that was so long ago. After all it's been 316 years. This is 2008 there couldn't possibly be any similarities between what happen then and this "modern day" case. I mean, come on, the Salem Witch Trials took place in a horribly oppressive Puritan religious environment where the word of God ruled law. In the 1600's women had few rights, were subservient to men and were easy targets. The accusers had either personal "issues" with the accused, stood to gain from their conviction and execution (usually land), or both. See? Not at all similar. The Middle East is nothing like that. There has to be more to the story. I have no doubt that logic and reason were applied to this case. I'm sure they have in their possession hard evidence (well, not from the impotent guy). Evidence like an irrefutable modern scientific test. A test like throwing her into water to see if she floats, or checking to see if she weighs as much as a duck. One couldn't argue with that. You'd have to conclude that she was guilty.

The woman in the story was convicted based on a "coerced" confession (I looked that up in my legal bullshit dictionary and it said coerced confession was defined as torture, see for example "waterboarding"). Her conviction was also based on statements of "witnesses" (defined in this case as ass-backwards MEN who think that women are sub-human, worthless chattel) who claimed the woman had "bewitched" them. Why, one of these MEN(?) even became impotent after being "bewitched". Imagine that. I'm thinkin' he was having impure thoughts and wanting to act on them with this woman and she either told him where to go or agreed to help him out only to find that thinking about it was all he could do. To either hide embarrassment or avoid anyone finding out what they were up to or to cast the blame on her when someone did find out, poof, she suddenly became a witch.

It might seem like I'm making light of this. While I am being a tad sarcastic, I don't find this subject at all funny. I am angry, horrified, disgusted and more than a little bit frightened. It's bad enough to feel like we're drifting backwards but this kind of thing is a harsh reminder that there are people out there slamming it into reverse and mashing the friggin' pedal. I want out of the car.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Happy President's Day

Today is President's Day in the United States. Far too often I hear uninformed and deluded people spouting nonsence declaring that the U.S. is a Christian nation. Claiming all the founding fathers and presidents to have been devout Christians. I believe that people should spend more time reading history and less time trying to rewrite it. I thought I'd remember our presidents and honor the day by posting a couple of reminders and more than a couple of quotes that give an indication of where we came from. What we were and where we SHOULD be.

“…the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them…”

“…that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…”
-The Declaration of Independence

“…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
U.S. Constitution, Article VI, Section 3

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”
U.S. Constitution, 1st Amendment

The passages quoted above are the ONLY mention of God or religion in the founding documents of the United States of America.

“…the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion…”

-Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11, officially ratified by the Senate, signed by President John Adams on 10 June, 1797.

George Washington

George Washington left behind a plethora of written letters and personal documents. While he mentions “Providence” many times, one is hard pressed to find the name of Jesus Christ or mention of the Christian religion. Bishop White knew Washington well for many years and wrote after Washington's death that he had never heard him express an opinion on any religious subject and added that although Washington was "serious and attentive" in church, he never saw him kneel in prayer. It is also documented that he refrained from receiving communion.

John Adams

"The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity."

"Let the human mind loose. It must be loose. It will be loose. Superstition and dogmatism cannot confine it."

"But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed."

"The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles."

Thomas Jefferson

"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear."

"I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature."

"Religions are all alike - founded upon fables and mythologies."

"Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined, and imprisoned, yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites."

"History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes"

"The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His father, in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter."

"In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own"

"But a short time elapsed after the death of the great reformer of the Jewish religion, before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, and perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, and aggrandizing their oppressors in Church and State."

"The clergy...believe that any portion of power confided to me [as President] will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion."

James Madison

"During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution."

"In no instance have . . . the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people."

"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise."

"...the number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people, have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the State"

"Every new and successful example, therefore, of a perfect separation between the ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance; and I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together"

Abraham Lincoln

"The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma."

"My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures have become clearer and stronger with advancing years, and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them."

Ulysses S. Grant

"Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private schools, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and the state forever separated."

William Howard Taft

"I do not believe in the divinity of Christ and there are many other of the postulates of the orthodox creed to which I cannot subscribe."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

I Was Awarded...

...and missed the ceremony. We went to my sister-in-law's house to celebrate her birthday and spent the night. We went sans computer. I got home Sunday afternoon only to find that my buddy Malicious Intent has awarded me her coveted "You Caught and Kept My Attention" award.

I'm speechless. Thank you MI and thank you everyone for stopping by to offer congratulations. Thanks to everyone who stops in and spends precious irretrievable minutes reading my ramblings. I appreciate it and I hope that in some way it adds something to your day.



It seems there was quite a post awards party while I was gone. Malicious Intent was kind enough to forward a picture of Malach the Merciless in his party garb. Don't let that expression fool you. He takes his partying seriously. I heard he had a fantastic time. You go Mal!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Indy's Back!

I'm excited. Indiana Jones IV is coming out in May and they just released the trailer yesterday. It's lookin' good. The first one was amazing, the second one sucked, and the third one was back to amazing. Let's hope that's not a pattern and that it doesn't suffer from the every other sequel sucking syndrome.

For those of you that haven't seen the it is.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

I wish you a very happy Valentine's Day

Most people are familiar with Rodin's "The Thinker". Personally I've always been partial to "The Kiss".

Many seasoned partyers consider New Year's Eve amateur night. I hope you won't think me full of myself when I say that I consider Valentine's Day amateur day. I try to show my wife how I feel about her everyday so I don't feel I need a special one to show it. In addition to that, my sweetheart is a romance writer so for me it's always Valentine's Day.

For those of you whose idea of romance is a card, some grossly overpriced flowers and a box of chocolates once a year let me give you an inside tip. If you want to become a master of foreplay read this article:

A very special Valentine wish to my three beautiful daughters who I love and adore and to their amazing mother without whom life just would not be worth living. Thank you for being my Valentines every day. I love you.

We're Waitin'

Lovely sloppy, cold, wet Winter weather we're having here in the Mid-Atlantic area. Snow yesterday which then turned to sleet/freezing rain/rain. I believe the popular term for it thses days is "Wintery-mix". Sounds so lyrical and festive, like something you'd make with Chex cereal and serve at a party. Pardon me my dear, could you please pass the bowl of Wintery-mix? In reality it's a pain in the ass to drive in. I'll take straight up snow any day.

Schools were closed. My place of employment delayed opening for two hours, which of course meant I'd get there in about three and a half. Hey, I don't rush. Especially on ice. Once I got past the sheet of solid ice that was my driveway, the drive in wasn't as bad as expected. Mostly rain. While driving I was listening to the radio, mainly for traffic and weather info. This song by John Mayer came on that I hadn't heard before and caught my ear. Ya'll may know it but I didn't and I thought I'd share.

Yeah, we're waitin'. It made me think. How come the extremist nut-jobs on both ends of the spectrum always seem to be so well organized and influential? And they seem to be the ones the political candidates most worry about getting support from. Isn't it time we had an influential, extremely vocal coalition of middle-of-the-road, rational people who don't insist on making meddling in other people's lives their life's work? We could call it the "Live and Let Live Society". Or the "Golden Rule Coalition". How about the "I'll Mind My Fucking Business and You Mind Yours Association"? Imagine if the candidates worried about pandering to THAT group.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Weird Moments When Disparate Paths Become One

First a little background. Those of you who have been around a while know that I am a pretend cowboy. That is, I dress up as a cowboy and shoot real guns in competition known as Cowboy Action Shooting. Those that don't know that can go read up on it here. Go on. We'll wait. Everybody else, smoke'em if you've got'em. Hmm, hmm, la la la. So, how's everybody been? Can you believe the weather? What about...wha...oh, you're back. Good. So now everybody knows about the cowboy thing, right?

A little more background. I personally have an open mind when it comes to history. Especially ancient history. I don't think we know everything that went down and I don't believe there's a particularly high degree of certainty about the things that we do know went down. I don't care how many degrees or how authoritative the expert *ologists are. There are simply too many unexplainable things all around the world and a couple of pot shards here and there just aren't going to explain it. Ever since I read "Chariots of the Gods" when I was a kid I've been fascinated by the possibilities and I enjoy reading speculative theories. Theories that in many ways do a better job of explaining the past that the BS fed to us by the established, respected, mainstream experts. So I was reading a book over the weekend by Graham Hancock and I was in a section where he was discussing ancient Egypt. He was going into great detail about their creation myth and talking about their gods, Osirus, Ra, Set, Isis, and so forth.

So here I am on Saturday, Cowboy Bruce walking through the kitchen with ancient Egyptian gods on my mind (okay, the weirdness of the previous sentence sums me up pretty well). I glance on the counter and spot my daughter's American Lit textbooks. (WARNING. The following sentence contains an extremely high degree of SARCASM and may not be suitable for younger audiences) Now this is HIGHLY unusual because my kids NEVER, EVER leave any of their things lying around. For some reason I decided to open the book and check it out. I cracked it somewhere in the middle and thumbed through a few pages. With the book lying on the counter opened to a random page this is the first thing my eyes fell on:

I Am a Cowboy in the Boat of Ra
by Ishmael Reed

I won't post the text of the poem but here is a link to it on another site. Maybe not everybody's cup of tea, but I liked it. A lot. Mr. Reed is a contemporary African American novelist, poet and essayist that is known for his off-beat satirical commentary on American society. He is considered controversial by some.

I thought this alone was an interesting bit of coincidence, synchronicity, serendipity, whatever. Then I read the poem and a line in the seventh stanza stood out, "I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. Lord of the lash, the Loup Garou Kid. Half breed son of Pisces and Aquarius." I'm a Pisces and my wife is an Aquarius. It's our daughter's book. Hmmm (okay, it's son in the poem not daughter but still...Hmmm).

As if that wasn't enough, it continued getting weirder. I decided to look up more information about Mr. Reed and discovered that he is credited as being the first (or at least one of the first) to refer to Bill Clinton as "America's First Black President" in an April 1998 column in the Baltimore Sun. Given that this very issue had come up recently in the Democratic Primary contest I thought it appropriate to take a "Whoa" moment and allow that little tingly shiver to pass.

My point in sharing this story? None really. Except maybe to remind you to keep your mind open to possibilities. Every once in a while some weird stuff crosses your path.

What do you suppose it all means?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Happy By A Factor Of Ten

Well I managed to fix my laptop over the weekend. What happened was this. I was surfing along last week minding my own business when all of a sudden I found myself staring at a black screen. I did the old reboot and several other standard things that one tries when their computer isn't doing what it's supposed to (including cursing) but all I got for my troubles was the brief flash of the Dell logo at start-up then an instant inky darkness that felt as if it was closing around me. A cold black endless void that drew from me the very essence of my soul and left me adrift and alone. Well, maybe that's exagerating a bit but the screen WAS still black.

I love the internet. I also hate it and I'll get into the reasons why another time but in this particular instance I love it. I researched my problem (with the laptop) on our old slow office desktop and discovered that what was happening was a fairly common occurance, especially in laptops, especially in the particular Dell model that I had. Who here knew that the LCD screen in your monitor had a light bulb behind it? Go on. Raise your hands. I confess that I did not. I do now however. It's actually a very thin flourescent tube that when lit provides a backlight which shines through and provides illumination for the screen so that you can see it. When it's not lit, you have a black screen. One of the ways to diagnose it is to shine a flashlight on the screen while the computer is on. If you see the image of your normal desktop well then, you know it's a problem with your backlight. Only it's a little more complicated than that. In addition to the bulb there's also this thing called an inverter. In a laptop it's a little narrow circuit board somewhere in the lid near the screen and it shoots a pretty sizable voltage up to the bulb to power it. So the problem could be either/or or even both.

Following Dell's assembly/disassembly instructions for my model I commenced surgery. The inverter is the easier part to get to and replace and all the advice I read said to try that first. Once I had extracted said inverter I headed to the one place where (almost) anything in the world can be bought. EBAY! I said I love the internet. I also love Ebay. After spending some time trying to match part numbers and pictures I purchased what appeared to be the correct part. I had it in my hands in about three days for a total cost of right around $30. I repeated the surgical procedure in reverse and before completely closing the patient, uttered a prayer to the Goddess, God and the Universe, then pressed the power button. Houston We Have Liftoff! Happy dance and an utterance to aforementioned Goddess, God, and Universe.

If that had not solved the problem, the next step would've been to track down a replacement bulb (hello Ebay!) and install it. That procedure would not have been as straight forward and would've involved soldering and a few other things that I was happy to not have to perform.

The whole process, once researched, was actually very easy. Once I knew what I had to do, it honestly took me longer to track down the correct part on Ebay than it did to remove the old one and replace it with the new one. If I would've sent it in somplace for repair it would've cost close to $300 and I would've seriously had to consider whether it would've been smarter to put that money towards a new one. Instead I paid $30 and invested a little bit of my time. I like to try to fix or build things myself if I can. I'm not the type who can't admit that I'm in over my head but on those occasions when I can truly do-it-myself, it's very gratifying when it actually works out.

Long story short. I'm back on line at home. Of course that doesn't solve the problem of what to blog about.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Mercury and Mardi Gras

Well today is Mardi Gras. Or if you prefer, Carnivale, Faustnaut Day, Kinkling Day, Pancake Day, Shrove Tuesday or whatever else you may call it. The Tuesday before Ash Wednesday when all good Christians are supposed to use up their leavening supplies, lose their effing minds and go absolutely wild with the intention of getting all that sinful behavior out of their systems in preparation for the pious abstinence of Lent.

I was always taught that you were supposed to give up something during Lent. It was supposed to be something that you liked so that it would be a sacrifice to do without it. I went to a Catholic college that had a Catholic Seminary. I learned from the Priests and some of the Seminarians that there is a Lent loophole. There’s always a loophole. Lent is supposed to represent the 40 days that Christ disappeared into the desert to fast and to endure and ultimately overcome the temptations of Satan as well as the days during Holy week ending on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. This is the reason that the dates for Easter, and by extension Ash Wednesday move around every year. They have to fall on a Wednesday and a Sunday that are 40 days apart. However (and here is the loophole), Sundays don’t count. Don’t believe me? Get out a calendar. This was straight out of the mouths of Priests and Priests-in-training (who happened to regularly drink with us). If you like that it gets even better. The Sabbath, or for our purposes – Sunday, according to the Church officially begins after sundown on the evening before. Yes. That would be Saturday night. Think for a moment how important this information (directly from a Church official) would be to a college student. Can I hear an Amen!? Like I said, there’s always a loophole.

I’d like to take a moment to mention that the planet Mercury is in retrograde. If you’re not into Astrology that probably doesn’t mean much to you. What it means to me is that my friggin’ laptop died yesterday. You see, Mercury rules communication among other things and under that falls things like electronic devices and the internet. Which reminds me, the internet was down here at work this morning. I researched the problem and I think it’s going to be something I can (attempt) to fix myself. I just need to run down the parts. In any event, whether it is Mercury in retrograde, a design flaw in my Dell, or a three year old computer just going kaput, the point is…my communication from home will be spotty for a while.

I’ve got my supply of beads ready in case someone yells “Hey Mista, throw me somethin’!” Happy Mardi Gras!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Small Signs of Our Decline

I went to a very small college. 1400 students total. One of the benefits of going to a small college was that you got to know the faculty pretty well (that actually was both a blessing and a curse, depending on the particular faculty member). There were no TA's teaching, in fact I don't remember there being TA's at all. I was a biology major and the head of the biology department was Dr. Meredith. Doc Meredith was pretty easy going and soft-spoken and he had the affinity for dumb jokes that all science teachers seem to have. There was a folksy, aw shucks intelligence about him that reminded you of Andy Griffith or Will Rogers.

One day I was in the department office for one reason or another and Doc Meredith was there with a package that had been delivered to him. He was looking around the desk for something to use to open the box. Now when I was growing up every male in the house carried a pocket knife and I was no different. It was a natural thing to me. I got in the habit when I was around eight years old and I've carried one ever since. Naturally I reached into my pocket and produced my knife and handed it to the good doctor.

He looked at the small knife in my hand, smiled that small smile that told you something was coming, then he looked at me and said, "Why, Bruce. You are an educated man."

Well, I was in college in the hopes of becoming educated but I didn't really know what he was talking about so I responded in the manner that any college freshman-aged educated man would. I said, "Huh?"

He proceeded to explain, just as I knew he would, that back in the days when writing was done with a quill dipped in ink, the quill had to be frequently cut and sharpened in order for it to hold the ink and write properly. This cutting was accomplished with a small knife kept and carried specifically for that purpose. The knife became commonly known as a "pen knife". Back then the vast majority of people did not know how to read nor write. The only people that had "pen knives" were those who had and used quills. The only people who used quills were those who could read and write and the only people who knew how to read and write were those who were educated. I carried with me a pen knife, one of the early earmarks of one who was educated, therefore I was an educated man.

It's interesting to me that I had entire semester-long classes in college that I have absolutely no recollection of but the parts of my education like the pen knife story will stay with me for the rest of my life. Strange.

The reason I relate this story to you now is because I was reminded of it last weekend. My wife and I went to Washington, DC for a couple of days for her birthday. We spent the day Saturday walking around near the Capitol and hitting a few of the museums on the Mall. We were about to enter the Library of Congress when I remembered that in this post 9/11 world it is impossible to enter government buildings without first going through security. I have reluctantly gotten used to leaving my pocket knife at home or in the car when I travel by air but I had completely forgotten about the security checkpoints in our public buildings. I really wanted to see the exhibit but I didn't want to have to give up my knife for good. We had traveled by Metro and were too far from the hotel to go back. Hmm. What to do? My wife suggested hiding it outside. It was a Saturday. It was cold. There were very few people around. Sounds like a plan to me. That's what I did. I hid it as high up as I could reach on an out-of-the-way ledge around the corner from the entrance, then retrieved it when we came back out. My wife is a genius. Fortunately, there wasn't much security to speak of in the other buildings we visited that day so I didn't have to resort to knife hiding again.

My point to all this is that from time to time (often when I'm standing in my socks in an airport) I am slapped with a reminder of how far we have regressed. A reminder of what we have lost. When I was a kid we trusted eight year olds with pocket knives. Then the terrorists struck on 9/11 and put us into shock. But that which we lost was not taken away by the terrorists. They acted. We reacted. That's what this country has gotten really good at. Reacting. Usually with a jerk of the knee and little to no thought. To be responsible means at its root that we have the ability to choose our response. We could have chosen to respond using reason, and education, and intelligence. We could have responded in so many ways. But we responded, and continue to respond blindly with fear of a boogieman that our government constantly reminds us of. Our response was to take off our shoes and stand in our socks at the airport. Our response was to accept that our bottles can't hold more than three ounces and that the stock of the companies that produce one quart plastic bags went up. Our response is to reach in our pocket and hand over the sign and symbol of an educated person. In many ways, for me at least, it's the little seemingly insignificant things that speak the loudest. On Saturday I heard that one loud and clear.