Monday, February 25, 2008

More Fundie "fun"

Speaking only for myself, I have long thought the phrase “he’s a good Christian” referred to great virtue on the part of the person so described, someone who embodied the values of neighbourly love, compassion, honesty, and peace.

Seems it is time for me to revise my definition of a “good Christian”: see below for more examples from www.fstdt.com of what makes a “good Christian” today.

NB: there are a couple of quotes here from fundie muslims, but the mindset difference between them and fundie christians is so small as to be immaterial: they both ascribe to the notion that their interpretations of their own ancient book should be forced upon the rest of us, and those of us who resist or demur should receive horrible punishments, either here or in the afterlife…or both.

“women should dress modestly; if a woman dresses like a whore and gets raped, she is partly responsible herself” (No, she is not. The entire blame rests with the man who makes the choice to force a sex act on an unwilling woman, no matter how she is dressed. The definition of “modest dress” is subjective…what is modest to me might be provocative to you. But let’s just suppose for a minute that a specific immodestly dressed woman actually is a whore: how does this give a man the right to rape her? Even whores have the right to refuse, you know. )

“Of course the Middle Ages were a time of great prosperity, cultural advances, and general well being, as anybody who has cracked open a history book written in the last century should know, it was Rome that was oppressive to innovation and cultural change.” (You’re being sarcastic, right? The Middle Ages…also known as the “Dark Ages”…were a time of ignorance and superstition, repression and cruelty. Rome, as in the Roman Empire, had long been gone from Europe and the British Isles…but Rome had brought such innovations as running water (via aqueducts), paved roads, bathing and cleanliness, things pretty much unknown during the Dark Ages, or repudiated as works of devil. Rome, during the Dark Ages, referred to the Church of Rome (Catholic Church), which was pretty much all there was for Christianity. The Church of that period rejected as heresy any kind of science that did not conform to the bible. Galileo is perhaps one of the more famous examples of this. Thanks to the Church, the Middle Ages were a time of repression, torture, ignorance and superstition.)

Terri (Schiavo) was only disabled. Are you telling me that disabled people should be exterminated at for our convenience? If so you would have been great friends with Hitler! (She was not “only disabled.” Her brain had died and it consisted mostly of fluid. She was not disabled, she was dead and being kept artificially alive. Where were you when Tirhas Habtegiris was unplugged from her respirator against not only the wishes of her family, but her own expressed wish? That’s right…under the auspices of a law signed by GW Bush himself (and supposedly a christian), a Texas hospital removed a respirator from a conscious and responding patient against her wishes; she died 15 minutes later. Why did they do such a thing? Because her condition was terminal and she had no insurance. Under the Texas “Futile Care Law,” signed into law by Georgieboy himself, if you are too poor to pay for medical care and your condition is not expected to improve, the hospital can pull the plug on you without your permission! http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/12/14/151930/63
And where were you and your “only disabled” argument when six-month-old Sun Hudson died the same way and for the same reason? http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/healthlawprof_blog/2005/03/lifesupport_sto.html

Folk singer Eric Schwartz says it so well:
So you’ll execute a person and then protect the single cell?
But mercy kill the terminally ill and you’re going straight to Hell?
Well, I don’t know much about the word of God, far be it from me
But I can tell you what it ain’t, that’s hypo-Christianity.)

i dont see why someone would believe in darwin but not belief in the devil, the devil is real and you can see what evil he reaks on this world everyday. the devil makes war and desease and famine and yet you claim darwin made this? how does darwin explain evil and how it comes to this world? He cant because he didnt know because the devil is real and darwin isnt. Satan was proably working through the devil to test the faith of christians well i stand strong behind my faith, its the only real thing darwin is just made up. (This is one of the better examples of confusion and conflation I have found in the quotes on the site. Not only does this person have the language skills of a poorly instructed child, there is no evidence of reasoning skills at all. She seems to have cast Darwin in the role of a deity with the devil as his opposite number. She then seems to think that evolutionists believe that Darwin created war and disease and that he somehow is responsible for explaining evil and its origins. All of this is followed by her assertion that Darwin doesn’t (and perhaps didn’t?) exist! Not only is she confused about evolution, she seems to be a bit muddled about her own dogma: “Satan was proably [sic] working through the devil…” When did Satan and the devil split into two separate entities? The only thing more sad that the pure waste of this person’s intellectual potential is the fact that she will spread this ignorance to others and one day inflict it upon her own helpless, vulnerable children. )

No convert to Christianity has ever left the faith. The church is a group of believers. (Right…if a person converted and later left the faith, he wasn’t a TRUE convert, so he doesn’t count. Is that how it works? Tell me, when you count christians, do you include these apostates, since they once professed faith? Or do you leave them out because they weren’t TRUE christians to begin with? As far as the church being a group of believers, that may seem true on the surface, but if you’ve ever looked over a congregation and counted the obviously bored, the sleeping, and the daydreaming, you’d know that notion is stone dead.)

There is some Biblical thought that heaven is located in Orion and for the scientist there is a pure white light which comes from this region which cannot be diffracted into the rainbow of colours as normal white light. This would be pure white light from God. Heaven is a real physical place. There is no point to a spiritual heaven. Yes heaven is Gods residence. When probation is up and sin is dealt with, heaven will be relocated to this very earth, isn’t that exciting. (I find it very interesting how many of these people who self-identify as christians have no idea what their book says and just make up stuff they like and say it comes from the book. I promise a reward of $100 American dollars to the first person who can find scripture that clearly states (not your own woolly interpretation) that heaven is in Orion or there is a light from Orion that cannot be separated into the light spectrum of colours, or the physical location of Heaven (need address and directions). Leave the info in a comment and I’ll get back to you.)

The sun circles the Earth because it is smaller than the Earth, as is evident in Koranic verses. Have you ever seen how the sun moves? I have seen the sun moving. The sun makes one move every 24 hours. What I say is based on Koranic science. He bases his arguments on the kind of science that I reject categorically -- the modern science that they teach in schools. This science is a heretic innovation that has no confirmation in the Koran. No verse in the Koran indicates that the Earth is round or that it rotates. Anything that has no indication in the Koran is false. (OK, this is islamic fundamentalism, but if you just substitute the word “biblical” for “Koranic,” you’ll see a statement that closely follows some of the stuff posted in my last blog entry. As said before, I make no distinction between christian and islamic fundamentalism: they are merely different colours of the same garment.)

Witch, you have no idea of what Christianity is. That is why atheists are stupid. You can take your Wiccan beliefs and put em where the sun don't shine. Go ahead and smirk. Satan is jumping for joy because he has so many of you deceived. Worship him, that is what he wants most, is your worship and every time you deny God you are bowing to the devil. I hope you are happy in your self delusions. (Aren’t christians supposed to be loving, kind, help-your-neighbour sorts? Didn’t Jesus tell them to love their neighbours as themselves, and to turn the other cheek? Such hostility! Is this what passes for a christian today? Aside from being horribly misinformed (Wiccans and atheists are not even remotely aligned), this poster does not seem to embody any of Christ’s teachings.)

We took prayer out of schools,The ten commandments out of schools and courts,countless people use God's name in vain...and your shocked we have all of these horrible natural diasters in America?(I have to wonder about all the terrible spelling, grammar and sentence construction that permeates the posts from these fundies. Is it a result of home schooling? Or simply an indication of lack of intellect? This person must have missed the “non sequitur” portion of her English composition classes, not to mention homonyms, punctuation and capitalization.

I attended public school in southern California from 1952 to 1964. At no time did we ever say prayers in class (although the Pledge of Allegiance was mandatory). I never saw the 10 commandments in my schools either, and I can’t recall ever seeing them in a courthouse or courtroom. And my mother could curse to make a sailor blush…and throughout all of this, the closest thing to a natural disaster that befell my community in that dozen years was the typical drought conditions of a semi-arid region and the occasional mudslide when the rains finally came and filled up the drought-caused cracks in the earth. This, of course, was before this malignant, creeping fascist fundyism came along…makes ya wonder, doesn’t it?)

Both of your theories are blasphemy. Gods do not destroy life, but care for it and worry for it.
(It’s pretty obvious that this person has never cracked open the Old Testament or read any part of Revelations…and is woefully ignorant of faiths outside christianity, as well. There are plenty of myths that show gods destroying life from Shiva the Destroyer of the Hindu faith to Jehovah and his floods and fires and plagues and wars. How can a person know nothing of his own holy book and still profess to adhere to its dogma? When did christians get the OK to make up stuff and call it christianity?)

THE U.S. IS A CHRISTIAN NATION UNTIL OBAMA GETS IN..SOON WE WON'T BE ABLE TO SAY PRAISE GOD IN PUBLIC
(Uh, no it is not. The framers of the Constitution were not christians, they were Deists, they specifically repudiated the notion of America as a christian nation in the Treaty of Tripoli, and they wrote into the Constitution language designed to keep the church and state separate. And what does Obama have to do with being unable to say “praise god” in public? Oh, I know, you are one of those stubbornly misinformed morons who think, because he has an Arabic name, he must secretly be Muslim, right? I know a black woman in South Africa named Juanita…does that mean she is secretly a Mexican?)

Whites evolved from the more intelligent chimp, Blacks the more primitive ignorant gorilla and Asians from the orangutan. (I find it impossible to believe than anyone can really be this incredibly stupid…not just stupid enough to believe such nonsense, but to be stupid enough to post it on the internet for the world to see. The only thing stupider would be for this person to tattoo “I am a racist” on his forehead and then take a leisurely stroll in Soweto…or Detroit.

Why is it so hard for some people to grasp the idea that man is not descended from apes but that humans and apes have a common ancestor? Lions, tigers, and house cats all have a common ancestor…house cats didn’t descent from lions, they simply share an ancestor as do humans and apes. Why is this so hard for some people to comprehend?)

The theory of evolution is supported almost completely by atheists...and atheists don't have just a great track record for telling the truth. Lying comes natural for them, as they don't believe in The 10 Commandments and see nothing wrong with lying, cheating, stealing, murdering, etc....because, hey, we're all just dumb machines that operate by random chemicals bouncing into each other. To them, (or many of them) telling lies and killing Christians is a good thing because they hate Christians and wish we were dead. (The last time I looked, the Pope stated that evolution is not incompatible with scripture and that the Catholic Church endorses evolution. No sane person with more than one functioning brain cell is going to say the Pope is an atheist. It is obvious that this poster needs to get the beam out of his own eye before commenting on the mote in the eye of another. The entire statement about atheists is untrue and in violation of the commandment prohibiting bearing false witness. Personal ethics do not require religious prohibitions but emotional maturity: to refrain from bad behaviours out of fear of punishment is the way of the emotionally immature child; to refrain from bad behaviours because of an internalized sense of right and wrong (no punishments threatened or rewards offered) is the way of an adult.)

Hey be glad I'm not Pope, if I were, I'd call for a general crusade and then when we'd won, I'd ban Mormonism, and JWism, burn down their meeting halls and execute their leaders
(More christian love. Seems this person needs to crack open a history book and look to the results of previous crusades. But there’s always some mindless zealot eager to murder, maim, pillage and burn in the name of Jesus, eh?)

There is NO contradiction whatsoever in The Bible anywhere. Judas hung himself through strangulation via disembowelment (1. So many contradictions there are too many to name here. Open the book and read a few pages and you are sure to find some. 2. How does that work? He disembowelled himself and then used his intestines as a rope to hang himself? You should be very careful here that you don’t strangle on a loop of your own intestines, with your head shove so far up there…)

Nowhere (in the bible) does God condone or encourage genocide. Genocide is the killing of a group of people for who they are, God only commanded the killing of people for what they did. Also, totally innocent people do not exist. (So, what did the babies do that was worthy of the death penalty? Sodom, Gomorrah, Jericho, the flood…what were the heinous crimes of the infants and children too young to yet comprehend good and evil? Totally innocent people do exist, even today. We call them babies. But of those of us who do know right from wrong…are you saying that ANY transgression renders us worthy of annihilation from your god? Makes striving to avoid sin rather pointless, don’t you think?)

Atheism is a religion which is trying to pull the wool over our eyes by pretending its doctrines are affirmed by evolution, thus giving us the FALSE illusion that Atheism = Science. (There is so much WRONG in this sentence, it is amazing! First of all, by definition, atheism is not a religion…it means “without god(s).” So, if an atheist is a person who has no god, how is it a religion since a religion requires a god (or at least a doctrine)? Atheism has no doctrine aside from a lack of belief in gods/supernatural beings. The atheist’s repudiation of the concept of god is not affirmed by evolution…they are totally unrelated. Atheism has nothing to do with science, although atheists pretty much believe scientific explanations for things (as opposed to supernatural explanations). (BTW, a “false illusion” could be defined as reality, since if the illusion is false, it isn’t real.) Atheism and science may be comfortable in bed together, but they are far from the same thing.

[We legally recognise gays. Gays can have a gay marriage here in Britain, there are gay nightclubs all over Britain and the British public are tolerant of homosexuals. Why is it that we don't get these earthquakes? Are we special?] "Why is it that we don't get these earthquakes yet?" the element of surprise in the divine punishment is the most amusing (Wishing harm on an entire population is evil. Delighting in the pain and hurts of others is even more evil. So, if your god derives amusement from toppling brick buildings on little babies and feeble old women, your god is evil. And if you derive amusement from such a thing, so are you.)

A closing thought: "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction." --Blaise Pascal

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Taking the "fun" out of Fundamentalism

If you want to have the shock of your life, I have a website for you to visit.

On this website are quotes from various religious websites, mostly forums on which ordinary people who self-identify as fundamentalist christians post their opinions about everything from current events (the back-of-the-head classroom shooting of a gay 15 year old by a 14 year old classmate, for example) to classic issues such as evolution, sex education, the age of the earth, etc.

The more outrageous of these quotes are posted on a site that is dedicated to posting them for the entertainment of visitors and members alike. Unfortunately, a lot of the quotes are superficially hilarious due to their very absurdity, but when a moment is taken to reflect on the fact that the original posters actually believe the drivel they post, the sheer level of stupidity they demonstrate is alarming enough to make one fear for the future of the human race. And then there are those who are so steeped in the stultifying repressiveness of their beliefs that they have come to be the very evil they fear. These people make me utterly ashamed to ever have called myself a christian.

Some of the stupid quotes (remember, the people saying these things really believe them!):

“[Referring to J.K. Rowling] Because she's a member of the Church Of Scotland, believes in God, and does a lot of good things? Sorry, that doesn't make anyone a Christian.” (What does she have to do, sacrifice her first born son as a burnt offering? Shoot gender dysphoric teens in the back of the head? Murder a doctor who performs abortions? When did christianity become an exclusive country club, the membership of which is under your control??)

“…where Science contradicts something clearly revealed in Scriptures, Science is mistaken.” (Never mind that scripture says that insects have four legs, bats are birds, and rabbits chew cud.)

“The fact that there is no evidence of God existing is even more proof that he does, as it proves that he is a supernatural being.” (Well, there is no evidence of leprechauns, mermaids, and tokoloshies existing, so is that even more proof that they do, as it proves they are supernatural beings? And, of course, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny, can’t possibly exist because they actually leave evidence of their existence in the form of gifts, cash, or brightly coloured eggs and sweets, right?)

“I think this makes it very clear that the bible is only talking about "good" slavery.” (Oh, like “good” murder or “good” adultery or “good” rape or “good” child molesting?)

“I'm also coming to the conclusion -- through my own "science-less" investigation -- that cancer is not actually a "disease" at all. Sounds weird, but tumors are actually the body's defense mechanism that kicks into gear to surround the cells that are out of control. The formation of a tumor is actually a self-defense mechanism designed to control the spread of the problem...therefore when science cuts tumors out of people, they are actually causing the cancer to spread!” (OK, this is not just stupid, it is stupidly dangerous. Imagine someone with operable cancer deciding against it because of this stupidity. For those of you who don’t know, the tumor IS the cancer.)

“You say you're supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don't have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist. I can love the people who hold false opinions but I don't have to be nice to them.” (So, people who belong to christian churches that have been around centuries longer than yours are spirits of the Antichrist? And it’s OK to be rude to people who don’t parrot your own narrow belief system? What a lovely representative for Jesus you are!)

“If electricity were real, and we really had an electric potential of 200 volts from head to toe, why arn't we being zapped by lightning every living second? Why do bacteria and viruses change and evolve by the scientists terms? It's because of God trying to punish the sinful, the scientists are the median between God giving his vengeance to the sinful, so when the scientists cure a so called disease God changes the structure so it can continue killing the sinned.You can't even prove that God doesnt exist, look at Africa, they don't worship the Savior so they have famine thrust upon them.” (Electricity doesn’t exist? So why is everybody here so mad at Eskom? God uses bacteria and viruses to punish the sinful? My oldest son nearly died of spinal meningitis when he was only 5 months old…what sin had he committed that was punishable by death? This moron has obviously never heard of our Grammy-winning gospel choir…)

“All ppl think they have the answer to something until their own science proves them wrong. Science is always discovering new things. If you'd ask a guy who lives by science if the heart had a brain a few years back, he'd say" NO..... I know this b.c of science" ...and now we know the heart has a brain.” (OK, this one is so monumentally stupid I can’t even formulate a response to it.)

Then there are the scary ones, and the truly evil and malicious, often convinced their evil is goodness itself. These people make me shudder. Some examples:

“…for those who say, "God is cruel by killing the infants of Sodom and Gomorrah," let's follow this through now. Suppose that God knows that city [sic] is full of diseases - including the children - because of their just horrible practices with all sorts of things they were doing. Incest and homosexuality and things filled that society with diseases. God's people are going to move into this area. God says, "I want you to kill the whole population for their own good and for your good so this disease is wiped out off the Earth." Then the guy is a smart god to command the execution. It's like me pulling weeds out of my flower garden.” (Considering the omnipotent nature of this man's god, doesn't it seem just a little unnecessary to commit genocide, including innocent infants, when the god is capable of simply curing the diseases? And the fact that this guy considers the mass murder of a multitude of babies to be of no more consequence than weeding his garden is, to me, blood-curdling.

“When asked how many Muslims he knows] What the HELL does this have to do with anything? Why do you libfuks always think that if one does not "personally know" (muslim, fag, commie, liberal{I'm being redundant}insert your choice here) or any other dregs of society, that we don't have the right, nor the ability to form an impression, or conception, or speak with any confidence about that muslim, fag, commie, etc.?” (By all means, work up a good hate for people and ideologies you know little or nothing about. If you actually knew something about these people, you might have to change your narrow little mind…and we couldn’t have that, now, could we?)

“ [about a report that Saudi Arabia has sentenced a 'Witch' to the death penalty] “Believe it or not, witchcraft is a serious problem in Pakistan; I believe in them completely and I think that they should be punished like this. These types of cruel punishments have the biggest deterrence than any other punishment.” (The “witch” was accused and convicted of causing a man to be impotent. Most likely her husband, since in her society she is not even allowed to be alone in the presence of a man to whom she is not closely related. She is going to be beheaded. This is fundamentalism at its worst (I make no distinction between Muslim and Christian fundamentalism: they are just different colours of the same garment)…not even the tiniest glimmer of light and reason permitted to crack open the dark, suffocating sphere of repressive beliefs.)

“God ordained the torture of Christ for our benefit. So that one day we may be so lucky as to see the kingdom of heaven. The torture of Christ on the cross came for a greater benefit. It saved all who profess faith in him. Torture, if used to benefit the greater good and save American lives, isn't morally wrong. However, it should only be reserved for when it is known that a terrorist has information that would save American lives. We have to be very careful with the people we decide to waterboard, and so far the government has done it's job.” (No, it has not. The US Constitution very clearly proscribes “cruel and unusual” punishments, and no amount of sophistry can contravene the intent of the framers to prohibit such things.)

“Evolution does not exist. It was invented by a jewish pig, Darwin. But there is one thing for sure. We WILL kill them... and soon!” (Gee, ignorance, anti-Semitism, misidentification (Darwin was not Jewish, he was CoE and studied to be a vicar!), and a premeditated violation of one of the more important Commandments. Peace and love to you, too!)

“I'm just waiting for Armageddon. I'm waiting for Jesus to destroy America and this entire piece of dung world. When God destroys America and the rest of the world, there will finally be peace on the land. No more evil when Armageddon Comes. No more satanic feminism. No more satanic child support laws that enslave millions of men. Thank you Jesus for the Coming Armageddon.” (I think this guy is just one Past Due bill away from taking his arsenal out in a duffel bag and attempting to bring on Armegeddon himself. This is good example why many people consider fundamentalists to be “death cult worshippers,” because so many actually subordinate actually living today to their expectations of the hereafter.)

Multiple quotes regarding the aforementioned 15 year old gender dysphoric student shot in the back of the head by a 14 year old classmate:

“Moral: Don't be gay.”

“His daily parade of his sexuality through the use of clothing, make up and so forth is, in fact, harrassment. Remember, these kids are forced by state law to attend these schools. It's the school's choice to inflict sexual offense on the kids. Obviously one young child was harrassed to the point he felt it necessary to defend himself with a firearm.”

“The sick freak didn't belong in school. He belonged in a mental institution. So do his "parents". As far as the degenerates wanting to crucify a 14 year old child for this; I would expect nothing less from them. If the situation were reversed and the freak had killed the straight kid, they would have a million excuses why the freak shouldn't be punished. The kid should not be tried as an adult. The administration should be put on trial for letting such abominable sick costume displays n school. When kids are allowed to act out their pathologies, nothing good results.”
(Note: in California when a person is convicted as a juvenile, he goes to a youth prison and will be set free (and his criminal record sealed) no later than his 24th birthday. If tried as an adult, he will go to the youth prison until he is of legal age, then transferred to an adult prison to serve out his sentence. Trying the offender as a juvenile guarantees his return to freedom, with a clean criminal record, in ten years or less.)

On this particular thread there is an abundance of hatred towards the dead youth and a huge tide of sympathy for the shooter. A family in California is burying their teenaged son because someone didn’t like the way he dressed, and these people, who have the audacity to call themselves christians, are lauding the killer. It is a chilling testimony as to where the disciples of Jesus have gone astray and taken a left into the Dark Side.

I'll leave you with a quote from one of the denizens of the website exposing all this insanity:
“Why is it you assholes always define yourselves by what you hate?”

To shake up your complacency a bit, visit http://www.fstdt.com/. Just don’t be shocked at what you read…and don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Just for grins, see if you can figure out which of the quotes in this entry is from Dr. Dino himself, the convicted fraudster now serving time in a Federal penitentiary, Kent Hovind.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Eggs and I

The Eggs and I

I am becoming rather annoyed with the eggs around here.

Yes, this is a “spoiled American” rant, as my husband calls it. But the truth is, I am accustomed to certain things about my eggs that are not part of South African eggs and, after four years, some of these things are starting to annoy me.

I don’t mind that you can’t find a white egg to save your soul. Since I no longer have little kids who want to dye Easter eggs, it’s no big deal to me if the shells are white or brown. But it would be nice if the egg shells, regardless of colour, were of a relatively uniform thickness.

What do I mean? Well, anyone who has ever bought and cooked eggs in America has an unconscious expectation that, when cracking eggs, the same amount of force is needed for each and every egg. Americans have this expectation because…well…that is their reality. I doubt it occurs to any American that egg shells come in varying degrees of thickness because in America, they don’t! I have no idea how they do it, but every carton of supermarket eggs that you open will have shells of uniform thickness…the same amount of force you used to crack the first egg will be the same amount of force you need to crack the sixth.

Why is this an issue? Well, in a typical breakfast I make between two and six eggs. I used to crack my eggs right over the pan, but no more. If the egg is thin-shelled, a sharp crack on the edge of the pan will result in shards of shell scattering into the pan like shrapnel. If the egg is thick-shelled, I will have to pound the egg on the edge of the pan numerous times…again, fragging the pan with bits of shell. Thin-shelled eggs burst open unexpectedly, leaving egg on the fingers and shredding the yolk, thick-shelled eggs require digging one’s nails into the barely visible crack and prying the egg open…again leaving egg all over the fingers and often resulting in broken yolks. It’s a good thing that Hubby and I both prefer our eggs cooked with broken, hard-cooked yolks.

Another problem is that South African eggs often have blood spots in them. Now, most Americans would be grossed out by the little quarter-inch bleb of blood floating around in their egg white and would discard the egg. If South Africans did that, there would be a lot of eggs go to waste since I see that spot in fully half the eggs I smash open here. Again, breaking the egg into a bowl allows me to fish out not only the shell shrapnel, but to remove those blood spots, which look like a scab if they are allowed to cook. Again, fingernails are the best tool for this, so again, goopy egg-fingers.

Boiling eggs here has been a no-win situation for me. First of all, no matter what I try, I cannot get the yolks centred. Why is this an issue? Well, have you ever tried to make devilled eggs with the yolk cavity only half there? What about dishes in which the eggs are supposed to be sliced or quartered for garnish? I know all the tricks…I’ve been cooking for half a century now…but South African eggs seem to defy all the rules. No matter what I do, the boiled eggs come out with the yolk almost clinging to the inside of the shell. Last night’s batch was the worst yet…the yolks had migrated to one end of the egg and when I peeled them, the white was so thin over the end that it peeled away with the shell leaving exposed yolk in its wake. I have no idea how South African cooks get their boiled egg yolks centred…or if they even do.

I come to the opinion that the egg industry here doesn’t apply the same…or even similar…product standards that are the norm in the US. For one thing, I’d never seen a rotten egg (off the farm, anyway) in America. Here, I’ve managed to stink up my kitchen with two of them in the past four years. Admittedly, they both came from the same supermarket chain (Checkers) which will never, ever, ever see me buy anything fresh from them again, but the fact remains that I bought a carton of eggs from a major supermarket here and two of them were stinky, sloppy, liquidy, disgustingly rotten. Since I am afflicted with one of those open plan kitchens, the stench quickly filled not only the kitchen, but the dining room too, and enveloped the breakfast bar between them, where my husband was making coffee and awaiting his eggs. Unfortunately, the second bad egg was opened a few days later, repeating the experience. I now stick to Windmill eggs from Pick n Pay, their freshness never having disappointed me.

Americans are also accustomed to having clean eggs. You know…clean…no feathers or dirt or chicken poop sticking to them. Apparently that’s not a big concern here, and another reason that scattering egg shell shrapnel all over the edible part of the egg is not such a great idea. Three of the eggs in the dozen I boiled last night had dirty shells…looking actually like dirt…and one had identifiable chicken poop clinging to it (Grandma Violet used to send me out to the chicken house to collect eggs…I know what a poopy egg looks like). Gone are the days that I simply opened a carton of eggs next to the stove and cracked them into the pan as I wanted them. First it’s a wash, then into the egg basket, then a crack into the bowl followed by a smell test and then a fishing expedition to remove shell splinters and blood spots.

Making breakfast sure isn’t what it used to be!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Keeping the status quo

If you are like most people, sometime around your first birthday you learned to walk. Oh, it took you a year or more to reasonably perfect the skill, but with perseverance and the encouragement of those around you, but the time you reach the age of four, you were fairly fluent. You could get where you wanted to go, both quickly and slowly, depending on your mood and enthusiasm, you could go up and down stairs, stop, start, raise up to a standing position and sit back down, all with relative ease. Over time, you have come to think of walking as second nature, as if you were born to it, and no longer regard the skill as anything requiring your conscious attention, with the exception, of course, of walking on unaccustomed or challenging terrain.

So, what if things suddenly changed and you had to relearn walking every three to five years? And not relearn what you know now, but you had to learn new ways of accomplishing what you do now because the old ways suddenly no longer worked. Suppose, for example, that when you tried to sit in a chair, nothing happened. When you activated all the muscles and nerves you usually used to sit in a chair, you just remained standing,. Or worse, you sat on the floor instead. Suppose that some of your movements worked as normal…say, crossing your legs…but others didn’t work at all any more. And that you suddenly found yourself walking backwards when you wanted to climb the stairs.

And then you discover your next door neighbour is doing the same thing, but he doesn’t seem to be as concerned or upset as you are. “You’ve been upgraded,” he tells you over the back fence. “Some new features added, some old one deleted or their controls changed. You’ll get used to it.” And grumbling that it’s taken you three years to master this last upgrade, you walk backwards into your house (because trying to walk forward the old way doesn’t work at all any more) and click on the TV to the Help channel and being the laborious task of learning how to use the lower half of your body all over again.

This would be a pretty stupid way to live our lives, wouldn’t it? A waste of time, energy, brainpower, effort…all of which could be better spent doing other things, if only taking a leisurely Sunday afternoon nap. Just recently I lost half a day trying to figure out why I couldn’t connect to the internet. Hubby, technical whiz that he is, tracked down the problem after first discerning the problem was not Telkom, our ISP, our modem or our wireless router…his computer was humming along the internet just fine. Mine, however, was dead. At first we thought it was the wireless radio in my laptop, because I could connect to the net if I connected to the router via a phone cable. Had this been the case, it would have been a very costly fix, since my laptop is 2.5 years old and it is unlikely that parts for it exist anymore. It would likely have meant a replacement had Hubby’s wizardly brain not discovered that a bunch of my settings had been altered in such a way that my radio was no longer functioning. Effectively, it was shut off in some part of the software.

Now, nobody uses my computer but me…and I didn’t turn anything off. In fact, I make it a point to stay away from all those internet settings and such because I don’t know what they do and as the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But the settings had been changed and when Hubby discovered that fact and returned them to their previous conditions, I was back on the internet without a hitch.

So what happened? Well, as near as I can figure, one of those automatic upgrades came along and reset some stuff which was incompatible with the settings necessary to connect to my wireless lan. I usually leave my computer on overnight and some mornings I awaken to find that Microsoft has taken my computer over and forced some kind of upgrade upon it, then rebooted the machine. Other times, I find that Symantec has updated my Norton Utilities without asking my permission first (it is only supposed to be able to do that to my anti-virus definitions). Perhaps one of those updates involved resetting something? I don’t know, but I do know that nobody in this household changed them.

I don’t like upgrades, updates, and things like that. Yes, I know that could make me look like a Luddite in some circles, but c’mon, if I don’t want to make MSWord play “Oh Danny Boy” on bagpipes in the background while I type, why should I have to add that ability to my existing installation? And if I’ve memorized 500 shortcuts and keystrokes, do you really think I want to relearn half of them? Just how irritated…and unproductive…do you think I get when a key combination I’ve been using for years now doesn’t work any more or worse, does something entirely different? I’ve been using MSWord since 1986 (before PCs had mouses!!) and I probably have learned 500 keystroke combinations in that time…not that they all work the same way they used to.

This may sound petty, but think about it for a minute. What if you got into your car one morning and the turn signal stalk and the wiper stalk had been switched? Hubby deals with this every time he switches from the S2000 to the Merc, and his annoyance does not diminish with time. He will hit the indicator lever and when water sprays up onto the windscreen and the wipers deploy, he is NOT a happy man. Wouldn’t it be just jolly if one day he trod upon the brake pedal thinking it was the stiff clutch of his sports car?

I am not antiprogress, but I think change for the sake of change is just stupid. In 1975 I bought a TR-6 and I drove it until 1990, giving it up only because my hip was just not managing with that clutch anymore. In 1990 I bought a Mazda B2600i 4x4 and drove it until early 2004 when I moved to South Africa. In both cases I drove the vehicles for years without having a car loan hanging over my head and, with proper maintenance, sold them in excellent condition. In the time that I had only two cars, the average American had ten…and a never-ending debt load, since they were trading in one loan for another with each upgrade. And why? I got rid of the TR for medical reasons, and the 4x4 because it was impractical to export it…both ran well and looked good…why would I want to trade it in?

I’m kinda the same way about my houses. I bought a house in 1977 and lived there for 13 years. A divorce brought that house to sale. My next house I also lived in for 13 years and only sold it to move to South Africa. Now I’ve lived here for four years, three of them in this house…the first house was just too small for all my big American furniture (literally…we had half of it out in the garage!). It will be no surprise if I live here until I die in 20 or 30 years hence.

I’m good at keeping stuff that works. My Maytag washer and dryer set lasted me 28 years, my GE refrigerator 22. Some of my furniture is nearly 100 years old, inherited from relatives who have gone on to the Great Beyond. The stuff I purchased new…well most of it is creeping up on 20 years old, but it’s solid wood and non-trendy in design, so they’ll likely be the heirlooms of the future. Most of my appliances toddled off in the arms of new owners at garage sales because the power is different here in SA, so I can’t use them here. But my dishes are 22 years old and still grace the table as well as they did when they were new.

I believe in changing things for rational reasons. In California, the Maytags fizzled out and were not energy efficient, so I had no qualms about replacing them. They had, after all, served an entire family for more than a quarter of a century. Here, I replaced a nearly new kitchen stove…one of those ceramic top jobs…with a gas range: electricity is a very expensive way to cook your food and now, with the power failures, while everybody else is trying to boil water on a BBQ grill, I have a kerosene lamp on the counter and my burners are merrily dancing with flame.

So, today I drive an eight-year-old car. My husband’s is nearly new, but that was because his previous one was wrecked by the dealer and had to be replaced…otherwise he would be driving a car the same age as mine. I try to add things to my wardrobe that both appeal to me and will stand the test of time, things that, when past the first blush of fashion, will enter the pantheon of enduring style. I have no qualms about spending hundreds on a handbag, but only if it is the kind of bag that is not dated by its trend trappings. No blingy Guess bags for me, I’ll take timeless Ralph Lauren.

So, I’m not a big fan of change for its own sake. Fashion passes me by, trends don’t bother to stop at my doorstep. If I can’t think of a justification beyond “it’s cool!” or “I want one,” it’s not very likely to end up in my life. It’s my opinion that buying a new car every three years or moving house every three or four is just a waste of money, money that could be put to better use elsewhere. Next year my car will be paid off and, knowing that I keep cars for 14 or 15 years, Hubby is already planning what to do with the money that will be freed up. Right now he’s tossing around either the down payment on another piece of rental property or setting the money aside to finance a truly fabulous vacation.

I’ve been looking in jewellery store windows…quality jewellery can be a really good investment…

Monday, February 11, 2008

Generators, Eskom, and my wallet

Hubby is an engineering manager for Eskom and, as such, has access to information the rest of us don’t have. A few weeks back, based on some of that insider knowledge, he began to consider having a generator fitted to our house and wired into the DB board so that in the event of a power cut or failure, we could still have electricity.

We had a brief discussion over the weekend and, for a considerable variety of reasons, have decided against it, despite knowing that the load shedding may continue for as many as five or more years. Access to the funds to do so is not an issue…we have a comfortable income, investments that could be liquidated if necessary, excellent credit and a huge amount of equity in both our home and our rental property. Access to the cash to add a generator and have it professionally installed so that it would automatically start up and switch over at the drop of a KW is no problem for us.

The problem lies in our assessment of the situation. We have come to the conclusion that it is the wrong thing to do for a variety of reasons:

1) First of all, we decided that we can live without electricity for 2 to 3 hours per day. The notion that our lives will crumble and fall apart because we can’t watch Oprah or Noot vir Noot is just stupid. Yes, it will be inconvenient, but since when are we guaranteed convenience in our lives? I mean, how spoiled can I be that I resent having to light a couple of candles and read a book or play scrabble or cards with my husband?

To be honest, it just wasn’t that hard to arrange my maid’s work around the outages. Since, if we are going to have an outage, it usually occurs between noon and 2:30, I’ve restructured her work schedule so that, during that period of time, she is doing things that don’t require electricity, like sweeping, mopping, dusting, washing windows, changing beds, etc. She can vacuum and do the wash as soon as she gets here, and when the power returns at 2:30, she can do the ironing and any other chores requiring electricity.

Why can’t my own work be arranged that way? The blackouts are a good time to do tasks that don’t require electricity, whether it is cleaning out cupboards, clearing out the garage or wendy house, sorting and filing papers, or hauling stuff. Sitting down and thinking of ways to be productive without electricity for a paltry two hours a day may not exactly be easy, but who among us was promised that life would be easy?

My own father was raised in a household without electricity or running water or telephones…and he’s still alive and kicking (and fully electrified). All of our ancestors until about a hundred years or so ago, lived their entire lives without the stuff. How can we be such whingers over losing its benefits for a trifling two hours every couple of days?

2) Purchasing a generator is quite a financial commitment…I’d rather spend the money elsewhere. The cost/benefit just doesn’t move me to parting with thousands of rand: how much is a couple of hours of electricity a couple of times a week worth to me, anyway? Not that much!

3) One thing nobody has thought of is the pollution problem. If you run a diesel or petrol generator, you are going to create both noise and air pollution. Having that diesel generator clattering along at the back of your garage would be very much like having a large diesel truck sitting there, idling for a couple hours and pumping a mass of hydrocarbons into the atmosphere. Imagine if all of your neighbours also had the equivalent of a diesel truck idling in their gardens all at the same time…

4) Then there is the matter of fuel. First, you have the logistics of keeping your generator fuelled: you’ve got to get fuel containers, then you have to fill them…which is not going to be cheap. Then you have to transport them safely. Then you have to have a safe place to store them…how close to your bedroom or lounge or children’s playroom do you want a fuel dump? And, of course, there is the matter of filling the beast and then going out again for more fuel.

Second, if we all decide to run out and buy generators for our homes…even if that many generators are available at prices we can pay…we will put huge pressure on fuel availability. And what happens when a commodity is in short supply? The cost increases.

Did someone say “biofuels”? Well, if we are dealing in futures here, eventually Eskom is going to get this sorted out and we won’t have the load shedding anymore. Biofuels come with their own set of problems, including lack of immediate availability. And, frankly, in a country where poverty-induced hunger is still a significant social issue, I have serious moral qualms about removing food sources from the reach of the poor just so I can surf the net while my neighbour’s house is dark. Only if I can be absolutely guaranteed that turning corn into fuel won’t make the price of corn rise or reduce the availability of cheap mielies for poor people, will I consider biofuels a viable solution. It is more important for poor people to eat than for middle class people to have light.

5) One of the things we are not considering is that this is a short term problem. Do I want to spend thousands of rand to purchase an alternative power source for my house when, in just a few years, it won’t be needed? Ok, if my power was down 4 hours every day, I might consider it, depending on what time of the day the outages were occurring. Or, if this is what electric service was going to be from this day forward…then it might make sense to have the alternative power. But two hours just a few times a month? Sound like a huge waste of money to me.

6) Which brings me to our final reason for rejecting the idea of installing a generator: cost effectiveness. It ain’t.

Diesel generators costs thousands of rand. Installing it so it will power at least a few of your mains plugs isn’t free, and setting it up to automatically switch over isn’t free either. Then you have to count the cost of fuel and maintenance of the generator (just like the engine of a diesel bakkie, it’s going to need maintenance from time to time). Add this all up and divide it by the number of hours you think you are going to need it this year. If you get hit with load shedding twice a week, that’s about 5 hours a week or 260 hours per year. Assuming you can do all your own electrical installation without frying yourself or your house wiring, what is it going to cost you?

Well, a generator big enough to supply a small household can run you R10 000, assuming you are not buying a name brand like Honda or Cummins. One that I investigated has a 12.5 litre fuel tank and will run about 12 hours on a tank of fuel. So, assuming best case scenario, i.e., no maintenance required on the generator, no increase in petrol/diesel prices, you average two outages a week and the power crisis is solved in 5 years, allowing you to retire the generator, how much is that 2.5 hours per day going to cost you via generator? Just under R22, or about R44 per week. Now, let’s assume the criteria remains constant, but the power crisis is resolved in 2 year: just over R50 per day, or R100 per week. If fuel prices rise, so will this operating cost. If the number of load shedding incidents drop to less than an average of two per week, the average operating cost will also rise. And, if you had to hire someone to do the installation, that cost will be higher still. Bottom line…are you prepared to fork out R400 a month for 20 hours of electricity? What do you think you will be doing with that electricity that it is worth R400 over and above your current expenses? Washing a load of clothes? Surfing the net? Watching TV?

For me, it seems a lot of cost and not a lot of benefit. The outages don’t happen that often, and when they do happen, they don’t last that long. I can live without a couple of hours of electricity…I could do it every day, if I had to, without much difficulty. Oh, I’d have to give some thought to things I could do by natural sunlight or candlelight, but I like to think and solve puzzles, so it’s no biggie.

When I consider that my father grew up in a house with no electricity, that he was able to finish high school (including homework), that he ate nutritious meals and didn’t suffer from food poisoning, even though they didn’t have refrigeration, it tells me that being deprived of my power two hours each day is a very tiny sacrifice for the benefit of my adopted homeland.

What can you do when your electricity goes out?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Old dogs, new tricks, and hadeda birds

I usually park in the drive way, so the doggies don’t realize I have arrived home from a jaunt until they hear the garage door motor grind to life. And, ordinarily, they wait until they actually see me before they start their chorus of greetings. It was with great surprise…and a secret soup├žon of pleasure…that I heard their little barky voices as soon as the garage door began its torturous journey upwards.

My joy, however, was short-lived. I stepped out onto the patio not to the expected milling of little doggie bodies milling about my ankles, but to the sight of all three of them milling about a hadeda bird they had managed to surround on top of the pool cover!

I enticed them away with the magic word. “Goodies!” I warbled. “Who wants a goodie?”

Six big brown eyes turned instantly in my direction, twelve little doggie legs churned madly off the pool cover and onto the patio, all making an eager beeline directly in my direction. The bird staggered around the patio cover for a few moments, then folded her ruffled wing feathers neatly against her body and then slowly, with great dignity, stalked her way off the pool cover, onto the lawn, and around the corner of the house where the little pack of goodie-snarfing wolf-descendants could no long see her.

Biggie-dog, the Foxy, had a harder time relinquishing her hunting instincts than the little white Maltese fluff balls. She dithered a couple of times at the ironwork that surrounds the patio, taking a step back towards the pool, but the lure of goodies is strong. She could see me standing at the kitchen door, my customary spot for dispensing dog treats, where the other two little miscreants were already bouncing up and down, loudly demanding their promised boon. Eventually the certainty of the treat won out over the potential fun of continuing to torment the bird and she, too, squeezed herself between the iron bars and presented herself at the kitchen door for the dog biscuit.

Treats in hand, I led the dogs through the house and out into the front courtyard and, once they were unable to return to the back garden and resume harassing the bird, gave them the promised treats. Checking through my bedroom window a few minutes later, I could see the bird indignantly striding back and forth across the lawn, occasionally stopping to twitch a ruffled feather into place with her long dark beak, her continued aggravation obvious. It wasn’t until she considered herself sufficiently presentable to rejoin her brethren that she powerfully flapped those long wings and, with a raucous cry, lifted off for less dangerous pastures.

Biggie-dog has been having difficulty integrating with the others and we have begun to grow concerned. At 14, she’s always been an “only dog,” and while she is friendly to other dogs, really has had no real experience in the group interactions and sharing that is part of being a multi-dog household. We do not allow our dogs to fight…aggression between them is swiftly and soundly discouraged…but you cannot force acceptance on them. At night, when there is just one large bed for the three of them, Biggie-dog often barks for us to come out and force the other two to let her into the bed, and if she gets up in the night for a drink of water or a pee break, the other two will spread out and growl at her on her return, prompting her to make that single yark, repeated incessantly, that brings us out to silence the growls from the Maltese Mafia.

But yesterday I saw them working together in a remarkably well orchestrated show of cooperation, as if their differences had been laid aside in order to pursue a common goal. Old dogs can learn new tricks after all!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Eskom, yet again

I received a very nice comment on my last blog entry:

We decided to start a website aimed at constructively addressing the problem, getting people involved and seeking solutions and alternatives...

Feel free to visit http://www.shedhappens.co.za/ . The site has only been running for a week now, but we honestly believe that it has a lot of potential to become a valuable nationwide tool in solving this problem.

Pointing fingers at this stage will not help us. We must look at sustainable long term solutions.

I am chuffed that I am not the only person who recognizing that whingeing and finger-pointing is not the solution to the power shortages here, and particularly encouraged that someone has actually started a website dedicated to solutions to the problem rather than just pissing and moaning about it.

I encourage you to visit the site, join up, read the comments and forums, and make your own contributions. We really are not entirely helpless in this situation and by helping ourselves and each other, we can help take some of the pressure off Eskom and thereby allow them to commit their resources to fixing the problem rather than defending themselves against continual attack.

When we all pull in the same direction, we get there faster.