Saturday, September 29, 2012

Robot Apocalypse

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Hope all you good folks Down Under are getting a taste of spring, because here in my part of the world, it's beginning to feel autumnal.

Talk about a surprise! I tried to comment on my own blog yesterday at school. I didn't want to sign in using my email. And oh my, for the love of fruit flies! It has become next to impossible to leave a comment on Blogger. The admins are so concerned that no robots invade that the top secret codes of shame have become rather like an eye chart on shrooms.

I tried three times for the first comment before getting it posted. I tried four times on the second comment before aborting mission. Really. What happened to cute little words like ByRd coan? Now it's numbers, buried in misty blackness. Letters that are even insulting to faeries, who love puzzles and riddles.

Are the robots here? I know they are coming. I expect within two decades you won't need to drive your car, because it will drive itself. (A lot of people who can drive are going to hate that.) I expect that, in the same amount of time, you'll speak into a device that will activate your kitchen to cook Chicken Kiev for you and have it ready at 5:35, as your car drives you home from work. Little droids like R2D2 will run to the grocery and pharmacy for you, where another droid will double-lock your Xanax into the R2D2's delivery system.

Funny thing is, your whole robotic life will probably have a password like 1234.

No. Just kidding. You folks reading this are way too smart for that password.

Most of the movies about robots paint them as sinister. TV shows too. What's more threatening than a Dalek?

Well, young'uns, I would like to use my acquired wisdom to reassure you. Sadly, I can't. I never would have dreamed that the ungainly word processing machine wheeled into my lab at Johns Hopkins University in 1979 would morph into a machine that would bring the end to newspapers, a radical restructuring of education, a fundamental change in how we do business and seek pleasure. To me it was just a box that made typing faster. That's how much I knew.

In conclusion, based on my own personal experience of the past 30 years, I would urge you to worry less about zombies and more about robots. If it's getting next to impossible to keep them off Blogger, it will soon be impossible to keep them out of the most subtle recesses of your inalienable subconscious, i.e., your fine mind.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Double Secret Cone of Shame

Decibel and her poppet and I went to the vet this afternoon. It seemed the wily parrot, having nothing else to do for extended hours of the day and night, had figured out how to circumvent the Cone of Shame.

This was of concern, because Decibel's wing is healing. The poppet is holding up its share of the bargain.

The only option was to wrap Decibel in an even bigger cone. Poor thing! And on her birthday too! What a way to turn 25, huh?

I'll post a photo of the new, double-secret probation Cone of Shame when I have a pulse. In addition to everything else, I'm coming down with the flu.

This is a good place to deliver a strongly-worded sermon:

Do not purchase a caged bird. They are not domesticated. They need far more stimulation than they get sitting in a cage all day, and after they bond with you they will want no other owner. Which is a life sentence of wild animal care. Including biting and screaming loud enough to set off the smoke detector.

If you want a nice bird pet, put up an outdoor feeder. Then you will have lots of happy chickadees and no neurosis.

I love Decibel, but I feel awfully sorry for her.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Thoughts on Yom Kippur

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," sundown on Yom Kippur!

I have a colleague who is Jewish. She says if she doesn't go to Synagogue on Yom Kippur, she will go to Hell. She has to atone for her sins.

Can you imagine asking the busy god to forgive your sins? That's like asking some Goldman Sachs hedge fund manager to forgive you for pinching a candy bar from a Cub Scout. Even Hitler didn't flood the whole damn world.

I'm not just hurling stones at the busy god, though. I'm hurling stones at the way we look at gods.

We aren't created in the image of God. God is created in the image of us. This is why so many pantheons are populated with jealous, crazy, downright mean, and vengeful deities. They are who we are.

The flip side to that is, every now and then we endow a deity or deities with the better parts of our natures. That's how we get Mother Goddesses who nurture us. Nevertheless, at this point in our evolutionary history, we humans have not achieved the ability to separate the traits of deities from our own imperfect natures.

If this makes sense to you, reader, you might be a candidate for vulture worship. At least we can observe what vultures are like and then model ourselves after them.

Excuse me while I go scavenge through the landfill for some supper. The sun is setting, and the busy god might be real. The only sin I can think of that needs atonement is rage ... a trait that no godly vulture would stick at any price.

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Trying Not To Be a Hater, but...

... I hate falling off the map. This is what happens to your brain on the job. Seriously, I am challenged to find the essential time to make tea and biscuits for all the bored deities who visit my shrine.

Anyone out there willing to help? You don't need to take a collection or devise dozens of rules that everyone needs to follow. Just choose a bored god -- one that hasn't been shown any respect since the world was young -- and offer a little respect.

If you need something of the deity, don't hesitate to ask! The more bored They are, the more eager They are to help you out.

To the mighty deity Luna, I petition: Help me with Decibel the parrot. Decibel has figured out how to circumvent the Cone of Shame and is back pecking at her wing. Luna, please bring calm and healing to that bird.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Mummer in Word and Deed

I know the season is shifting, because I got my envelope of ten raffle tickets to sell as my share of fund-raising for the Two Street Stompers Comic Brigade, one of many fabulous Mummer units that strut down Broad Street on New Year's Day in Philadelphia. I'm proud to  be a Stomper. We won first prize in our division last January! Our theme was "Wenchtoberfest." You may have forgotten (or I might not have said) that the male comic marchers wear frilly skirts and carry parasols swathed in satin ("wenches"). We gals wear the same thing, only our skirts are a little longer. Anyway, our routine was all about hoisting a beer and rolling out the barrel. I think it lasted 2 minutes, maybe 3. We practiced twice. Twice, I tell you! That's dedication. That's what makes us champions.

That said, being a Stomper isn't a free ride. There's a new costume (we call 'em "suits") every year, hand-made, and better than any Halloween wear you'd find in a store. Then there are transportation costs, a lunch, and a big beer tab. Hence we have to pay out a personal fee and also do the raffle.

I will commence shameless imploring for raffle buyers at a later date.

"Mummer" means someone who doesn't say anything. Today I played the part brilliantly.

The colleague who teaches next door to me is a retired parochial school teacher/principal/superintendent who has a meager pension from the diocese. When asked to fill in at my school last year at a high pay scale, commensurate with her experience, she leaped at the chance. She's back this year, resolutely ignoring our union, and pretty much not buying into our curriculum either.

She is also, needless to say, a Roman Catholic of the first stripe.

I don't go out of my way to avoid this person, but I sure don't seek out her companionship. However, from time to time she comes into my room for a little socialization.

Today after lunch she dropped in to say that Wednesday is her big day. After teaching public school, she goes to church and teaches History of the Old Testament to seventh graders.

She said, "Well, I used to teach it in school, so now I don't mind teaching it at night. I'm glad I don't have to do it on Sunday. I like those three-day weekends."

I may have mumbled, "oh wow." But otherwise I stayed completely Mum.

*I could have said I studied History of the Old Testament at Johns Hopkins University, and that was where I learned that the early Semites were polytheistic, and Baal was one of their deities.

*I could have said I read in Harper's magazine that, try though they might, archeologists have never been able to find any evidence of the Passover, of Israelite slaves in Egypt, of the migration of Abraham, or of the antics of the rest of that early crew.

*I could have asked how she musters historical evidence for Noah's flood, and where they stored the dinosaurs.

*I could have asked if the curriculum includes all the laws about stoning people to death.

Instead, reader, I shook my head gently, said nothing, and began fumbling with my window shades.

If the Old Testament is history, so is Morte d'Artur. As much evidence for the one as for the other.

But I didn't say that. I visualized myself lurching down Broad Street, pumping a satin parasol, and saying nothing. That's how we Mummers roll.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fighting an Urge

Friday I got my first teacher paycheck of the year.

I didn't celebrate by going to the bar and getting wasted. Those days are behind me now.

Instead, I went to the thrift store.

There's an absolutely awesome thrift store near my school. What a great place to unwind! Plus, there are bargains galore. I found a pair of Lenox crystal candle holders that rock the block!

Alas, there was a down side to the thrift store on Friday. The place was loaded to the plimsol line with Halloween decorations.

Have you noticed that people are starting to decorate the exteriors of their homes for Halloween in extravagant ways? Maybe this is a phenomenon unique to New Jersey. But I doubt it. When there's money to be made, manufacturers will follow any trend.

In my mind I see my front yard (which isn't very big) as Halloween Central. Orange and purple lights, giant jack-o-lanterns, bats, ghosts, strobe lights, appropriate noises, and (this is my all-time wish) a fog machine. In my dreams, tourists drive by my house to see my Halloween display.

Alas, the budget does not permit me to entertain the idea.

Already there are several crazy Halloween houses all set up here in Snobville. I've never been jealous of lavish Xmas displays, but the Halloween ones ........ want it!

I'll have to see what I can accomplish on a shoe string. Good ideas are welcome.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Conducting Important Missionary Work Today

I don't know about you, but I dislike missionaries.

It's not just that their sex position is a little bit boring. It's that they all seem to work for the busy god, in one way, shape, or form. Seems to me their God doesn't need the leg work.

Upon hearing today that one of our intrepid American ambassadors had been killed by a faction that ascribes to the busy god, I began to re-think my lack of personal missionary zeal.

Maybe it's time for me to knock on some doors.

If you've just arrived here, mistakenly thinking I'm the newest voice for teachers' rights, you may want to biff off now. What I really am is a High Priestess for the Sacred Worship of Vulture.

Have you had enough of these religions where people kill other people and think it's a holy thing? Come join us in the Sacred Worship of Vulture!

I'll dispel one myth, and you'll be ready to pledge.

Vultures do not kill anything that isn't already 90 percent dead. And they much prefer their food to be really, really dead. In my religion, you will never hear anyone say, "I killed that sinner because Vulture told me to." Vultures don't kill! And they don't want followers who do!

You could stand on a roadside and insult a vulture until you are blue in the face, and it will not be offended. Vultures are called nasty names all the time. Does it bother them?  Nope. They are not jealous or wrathful or easily angered. If you frighten them, the worst they will do is barf.

You'll never see a vulture hoist a bloody standard and sally into the fray. Very peaceful bird. They don't even squawk. (Decibel, please take note and try to be more holy.)

All that remains, then, is to ascertain that Vulture's prophet (that being me) can also be insulted without demanding revenge on the disrespectful.

Trust me, unbeliever, I can be insulted. Grievously. I can be dismissed with a disdainful flick of the wrist, lied to bare-faced, trash-talked and mocked. You could fling a rotten vegetable in my direction and say mean things about my mama. And still I would not ask anyone to deck you on my behalf. Nor would I deck you myself.

The High Priestess of Vulture is basically wimpy, like her deity, and expects you to be wimpy too.

There may be a few individuals in this big, wide world who deem me capable of extreme foul play. Don't believe it for a millisecond. All followers of the Sacred Worship of Vulture are forgiving of insult and unwilling to do harm.

Join now! Needless to say, there are no dietary restrictions. As for clothing, we have no restrictions down to, and including, your pink skin. No sexual position or inclination is disallowed, so long as no one gets hurt and the furniture remains free of stain. The only commandment is to harm none.

Church of Vulture: Don't kill. Wait for it to die. Don't hate the infidel who calls you names. Give that person a mirror. Soar over it all, exercising patience and embracing solitude.

Time to pass the plate. Dig deep. The parrot vet is costly!

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Sunday, September 09, 2012

Of Poppets and Sea Glass

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," coming to you in chapters today:

CHAPTER 1
BEACH GLASS BINGO

Earlier in this epic year, I began collecting beach glass in earnest. Before 2012, I was a casual beachcomber, but lately I've been trying to bond with the dark Atlantic. Sea glass seemed to be a good way to do it, because it's very special: the sharp edges have been worn dull, and the glass is frosted -- consequence of rolling around in the surf for who knows how long.

I dredged up some old jars from the ancestral lands in Appalachia and began a very odd project: filling glass jars from the mountains with sea glass from the beach. There's a hedge-witchiness to this that appeals to me.

Then I discovered something. The jars were filling up (well, not the "good stuff" jar, but the others). What would I do when I had the jars filled? Would I still go? What would be the point? Greed to have more and more sea glass? Not how I roll.
 
Turns out there's an artist in Philadelphia named Isaiah Zagar. He does immense mosaics using discarded glass and mirrors. If you visit Philly and walk along South Street, you will see Isaiah's work both large and small, including his amazing, faerie-friendly, bored-god-approved artistic playground, the Magic Gardens.

EXHIBIT A: THE MAGIC GARDENS, PHILADELPHIA (Photos don't do it justice.)

I spoke to Isaiah's staff, and they spoke to him and the upshot is that most of my beach glass will go into mosaics in Philadelphia! I took in a big bag on Saturday. Spare and I walked down to the Magic Gardens and handed it over. If he likes it, I'll give him more.

I am living the Pagan Purpose-Driven Life.

CHAPTER TWO
A POPPET FOR DECIBEL

You three readers of mine have been very generous helping me out with Decibel the Parrot's astronomical bird bills since she hurt her wing earlier in the summer. The good news is that, so long as she doesn't peck at it, her "ouch" is mending nicely. She's in a parrot collar that we call the "cone of shame." (I posted a picture a week or so ago.)

In August I went to a Pagan Pride event in central Jersey, and there I met the amazing and fabulous Mrs.B. She has a blog on Patheos.com where she writes about raising children by good Pagan principles.

On the day of the Pride event, Mrs. B gave a talk about poppets. Maybe you've heard the word, but the long and short is that the idea of sticking pins in a doll in hopes of hurting someone from afar is mostly just a stupid thing made up for t.v. On the other hand, people have been using poppets for centuries. Poppets are small dolls filled with stuffing and herbs. They can be decorated in any way. If you have a poppet, it will hold some of your energy within it and provide you with healing, strength, and safety when you need it.

Mrs. B makes and sells poppets, so I commissioned one for Decibel. It arrived over the weekend and is now near, but not too near, Decibel's cage.

I'll let Mrs. B describe this magickal dolly:

"This custom made Voodude (tm) was created for healing and for added protection. It's stuffed with poly fil stuffing and contains herbs of healing, including lavender, plantain, eucalyptus, bay, and comfrey.

"The wings have been stitched with the following runes: Ken (healing), Thorn (protection), Ur (protection, health, and strength), and Rad (safety during traveling).

"This poppet has also been infused with Reiki healing and serves as a proxy for distant Reiki healings."

Mrs. B has never met Decibel, but nonetheless the poppet is a ringer for the bird. It's like having two Decibels, only one of them doesn't mouth off all the time.

EXHIBIT B: DECIBEL'S POPPET

If you want a poppet, or an herbal infusion for an ailment, you should visit Mrs. B's store. And for those of you who haven't gotten to meet her in person, let me just say that Mrs. B is as wonderful as her blog would lead you to believe!

Here's the link to her store:


 http://www.patheos.com/blogs/confessionsofapagansoccermom/shop/

Catch you next time on the Big, Broad, Flexible Portal of the Bored Gods!

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The Purpose-Driven Blog

Just now I opened my email, and there was a note from an educator, wanting to post something about guidance counselors on my blog.

Egads! Am I drifting off topic, or what?

This blog is for Holy Higher-Ups who don't get a podium at national political conventions! It's for the gods who got sent packing by "In God We Trust." Pagan, Neo-Pagan, Animist, Psychic, Nature, even the Flying Spaghetti Monster and Elvis! Enough about teaching, already! Dull topic, unless you're Socrates. Or Henry Higgins.

COMPLETE POWER FAILURE

Last night we had severe weather in the area, remnants of Hurricane Isaac. The storms and heavy rain rumbled through all day and into the evening.

It wasn't even raining outside, but all of a sudden our whole neighborhood lost power. My over-lit, over-air conditioned house was plunged into blackness. (I admit I could do a better job of energy conservation. I am working on it.)

When I say black, I mean nearly total, blinding black. I was standing in the kitchen, and ... blip! Dark.

My daughter The Spare teases me about the way I buy candles. Send me into a store, and if you want to find me, look for the candles. I get most of my candles at the thrift store, but never mind the source of purchase: I buy and burn a lot of candles.

Therefore, in the total darkness of an electricity-free kitchen, I was able to grope my way to the matches and to a pair of tapers in about 30 seconds. Less than a minute later, the shrine candle came into use. And if I had been diligent in my praise and worship of Queen Brighid the Bright, there never would have been darkness to begin with! Her altar was between candles, and I forgot to light a new one.

Public service reminder to followers of the bored gods: Keep your altar candles up to date. Don't burn them where you can't see them, but do kindle that fire. One of these days, all the fancy power plants might be rendered useless, and in that case you will like having fire at your fingertips.

Speaking of fingertips, my Decibel is still having trouble with her wing. She has adapted to the bird collar, but she's not as sassy as usual, by far. I may need to give her a whole new name. How do you like "Crackers?"

Monday, September 03, 2012

Labor Day 2012

I go back to teaching tomorrow, but I am bound and determined not to martyr myself to my job anymore. Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," Labor Day 2012!

The Labor Movement was begun to combat extremely long working hours, bad working conditions, and child labor. Out of the moral struggles of working people came the 40 hour work week, regulations for safety and health, and revised ages for child labor. Anyone who put in a 40 hour week had to be given health care benefits and a pension plan (most everyone, that is). Workers could bargain, i.e. negotiate in their best interests.

Corporate interests have found sneaky ways around all of these provisions in almost every profession except public sector employment. Take it from me, the public sector is also under siege.

Let's look at what corporate America has done to undermine workers' rights:

1. Instead of working people too long, they work them not long enough. If you hire someone at 28 hours a week, you don't have to pay them benefits.

2. Instead of putting people on the payroll, they hire "contract workers" who have no benefits beyond what they, as contractors, can afford to buy.

3. Cheap child labor produces goods abroad, where countries set their own labor laws.

4. Blue collar work has been sent to foreign countries where laborers are subjected to long hours and dangerous working conditions.

5. Coal mining now employs fewer people who use machinery to knock down the mountains, resulting in widespread environmental destruction.

6. Renewable energy sources will not flourish until the finite fossil fuels are exhausted, leaving environmental destruction behind.

Basically, business tycoons have figured out how to bust unions. First they moved factories from one part of the country to another, then they just sent the factories abroad.

Would you be willing to pay more for goods if everything was produced in America, by workers who were covered for health and pension benefits? I will answer that question for you. Of course you would, because you would be one of those workers who had health and pension benefits.

But then some people wouldn't get richer than God at your expense.

I petition the bored gods to afflict the comfortable and to restore American workers' rights. Now, there's a job for some really mighty deities!

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Saturday, September 01, 2012

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Well, what do you know? The door blew open around lunchtime, and in breezed The Spare, home from college to see ... her cat. Yeah, the cat. She misses the cat. How about that?

Today's sermon: Weed Out the Weak

As a public employee, I can understand having to pay more of my health care and pension costs. Notwithstanding what you have heard about school teachers, we are also taxpayers, and we know that times are hard everywhere. We are willing to do our part.

This differentiates us from the one percent, who aren't budging a fat inch.

I am really disturbed, however, by an article I read yesterday in New Jersey Magazine about a new "report card" system about to be launched upon teachers. This system, under the guise of making tenured teachers more accountable, actually kills tenure completely. If a teacher gets an unsatisfactory rating two consecutive years, he or she can be fired.

The tenure system dates from an era when teachers were among the few professionals who earned college degrees. It is, pure and simple, job protection. And while some few teachers cruise through doing nothing (in my school I would say we have one out of 50 who does this), most teachers are dedicated and hard-working, and happy about that job security.

I have so many concerns about this "report card" that I can hardly enumerate them. But the biggest one I see is very disturbing. I already see it happening in other industries.

The concern is this: What happens to a person whose abilities erode due to age or infirmity? Maybe I'm worried about the "shoot the old horse, he eats too much" problem because I will be getting old and infirm while teaching. I have seen older teachers wilt under the pressure and stress of the job. Not all the time, but sometimes. Are we going to reward a person for a lifetime of public service by firing him or her due to infirmity, absenteeism, or just plain age? Is it a coincidence that these older teachers are the best paid?

It says in the article that teacher evaluations, formal and informal, will be done on IPads. Yo, they've built a better clipboard!

Teachers, who are already buried in paperwork, will have to be proactive in creating records of their effectiveness. I would love to hear from anyone who will help me create the protocol for these records.

The following is a true story:

Some of you stalwart readers might remember Mr. Bigwand, my night school teacher who had perfected the gift of gab to a standard set only by the worst broken records. Bigwand told this story at least four times during the course of my long year under his interminable monologues tutelage.

One of Bigwand's female colleagues received an unsatisfactory evaluation for a school year. In her rebuttal, she wrote, "I am sorry I was ineffective this year. Perhaps it was due to breast cancer surgery and a long recuperation that included radiation and chemotherapy. I'll try not to ever get sick again."

There you have it. Teachers will be fired for being sick (thus saving high health care costs for their districts) and being old (thus saving high salaries for their districts). All other teachers will take evasive action and live in a constant state of anxiety.

A constant state of anxiety. Wow. Why should teachers be any different from any other workers in this country?

No reason, except we're entrusted with your kid. Anxiety does not improve effectiveness, even in open warfare.

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