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"No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."
Article VI, U.S. Constitution

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Justifiable homicide

I've always made a point of noting, especially to young women, that men are scum. But this break-up speech, in which Mr. Scum explains why he's returning to his former girlfriend, is so abominable it must violate the terms of the Geneva convention:

You're like the rookie phenom. You're really awesome. But there can only be one quarterback on the field at a time. I have to go with the tried and true veteran. I already know how far she can throw the ball. I'm not saying that you'll never get to play for the team again but right now I need to go out with someone I know is a winner.

Speaking of throwing balls, if I were this victimized young lady's father, Mr. Sports Metaphor would find his hanging like fuzzy dice from my daughter's rear view mirror.

(via Leslie's daughter's blog...)

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Video clip of the day


Jon Stewart: So, in summation, the bill takes money from cigarettes, and gives it to poor, sick children.

[video clip] President Bush: That's why I'm going to veto the bill.


Jon Stewart: Other Washington insiders tried impeccable logic:

[video clip] Sen. Trent Lott (R-Mississippi): They fund it with a 61 cents a pack tax increase, bringing it to one dollar. And say, by the way, that will discourage people from smoking. That's good. But the problem is, if people do stop smoking, you won't have the money, and the program won't be paid for.

Jon Stewart: It's foolproof! Wait! Unless... we convince poor kids to start smoking. Then, they would pay for their own health care! Genius! [With southern accent] "I'm a hunnerd an five Marlboro Milds away from gettin' mah tonsils out!"

There's only one way to learn what the President was thinking on this one... let's hear from the man himself...

[video clip] President Bush: My job is a decision making -[pause]- job. And, as a result, I make a lot of decisions.

(Audience falls into hysterical laughter.)

Jon Stewart: Pass.

[video clip] President Bush: I want to share with you why I vetoed the bill this mornin': Poor kids first. [pause] Secondly-

Jon Stewart: Wait a minute! That's your whole first point? Poor kids? Here's why I vetoed the bill: poor kids first. Secondly,
No. Poor kids?? Throw me a verb, give me a modifier! First, those [bleep]ing poor kids... Something! Give me something! All right, the first reason you vetoed the SCHIP, if I can summarize your point, and I may have trouble doing it: poor kids. Go on...

[video clip]: Secondly, I believe in private medicine, not the federal government, runnin' the health care system.

Jon Stewart: Yes, I don't think there's an uninsured kid out there who wants to be suckered into some slippery slope socialized medicine scheme. These kids don't want the government telling them what they can or cannot die from. It's just wrong.


The Republican arguments against the children's insurance program are laughable. The program will cost $7 billion a year and is funded by a specific tax. The deficit-funded debacle in Iraq, according to the Pentagon, costs $6.8 billion a month, a sum which could provide health insurance for 10 million children for a year.

On Hardball, (actually a link to, Rachel Maddow provided a withering analysis of the Republicans' true heartlessness.

"The reason that he's standing up against this program is because this is a phenomenally successful program that is socialized medicine, in the same way that Medicare is socialized medicine and Medicaid is socialized medicine, in the sense that the government helps out in a market that's broken. That's incredibly dangerous to the Republican world view that government can never help... So, they have got to shut down this working program, so they can continue to say that government is the problem."

As for Bush's sudden concern about fiscal responsibility, Maddow noted, "George Bush discussing fiscal conservatism on this issue would be like you telling me that Pat Buchanan just discovered multiculturalism right now. It doesn't make any sense... This guy airlifted $12 billion in cash into Iraq in shrink-wrapped bricks and didn't care when half of it walked off. You can't discover conservatism now."

Earlier today, I received an email urging I contact my Senators and Congressmen because the heathens at the U.S. Mint had removed the phrase "In God We Trust" from the new Washington dollar coin.

As is often the case, the righteous indignation was pointless, since the motto hasn't been removed, merely relocated to the edge of the coin.

But it makes me wonder how Americans have become incredibly self-absorbed and tolerant of immorality. We're spending billions of dollars and killing thousands of innocents in Iraq, our "compassionate" President is vetoing health care for children and coercing his Justice Department to permit torture, and you fine, upright Christians are worried about an inscription on a coin?

Instead of worrying about the presence of God on our money, we should be more concerned about the presence of God in our hearts.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Gee, my shrink says the same thing...

Your results:
You are Superman

Iron Man
Green Lantern
The Flash
Wonder Woman
You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

Actually, I think he used the term "overdeveloped superego," but it's in the ballpark. Thanks to Leslie.

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Too many ironies in the fire, #121

Click here for Tappy McWideStance's tuber recipe. (via Crooks and Liars)

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All the news that's fit to [buffer overflow]

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Video of the day

Thanks for the support:

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Blog of the day

The Disney Princesses Talk About Chlamydia

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Brokeback Asteroid

NEW YORK (AP) - George Takei already had a place among the stars in the minds of millions of Star Trek fans. Now he's taking up permanent residence as the namesake of the asteroid formerly known as the 1994 GT9.

The asteroid, located between Mars and Jupiter, has been renamed 7307 Takei in honor of the actor, who is best known for his role as Hikaru Sulu in the original Star Trek series.

"I am now a heavenly body," Takei said Tuesday, laughing. "I found out about it yesterday. ... I was blown away. It came out of the clear, blue sky- just like an asteroid." (link)

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I'm not trashing your book, I'm trashing your philosphy of life...

On last night's Daily Show, Jon Stewart utterly destroyed Hardball host Chris Matthews, who was shilling for his new book which posits that the way to succeed in life is to treat it as if you're running for political office.

Seizing on its deplorable premise, Stewart had the combative, confrontational Matthews pleading for mercy by the end of the interview.

Jon Stewart: If you treat life like a campaign...

Chris Matthews: Yes it is..

JS: (Exasperated) No! At the end of your life, do you give a concession speech?!


CM: Can you come on Hardball?

JS: What?

CM: Yes.

JS: You know what? Can I say this? I don't troll.

CM: You are unbelievable! This is a book interview from hell! This is the worst interview I've ever had in my life!

The direct link is

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Lex Luthor just swapped out my Comcast DVR

Or, more precisely, a helpful and personable Comcast employee who is almost a dead ringer for actor Michael Rosenbaum.

The Motorola DVR the cable company distributes is a real Comcastrophe. It has a hard drive that sounds like a freight train, generates more heat than a toaster over, and boasts a processor as powerful as the Democratic Congress, one that is easily overloaded and can take seconds to execute commands from the remote.

This is the fourth or fifth unit I've had in the past two years, so now I have to go through the button ballet to program it to record my favorite series. And, of course, I've lost the few HD movies I was saving on the box.

On the plus side, this unit supposedly has a 160 gig hard drive, 25% more capacity than the DVR it's replacing. Lex knew to adjust the audio processing to use high compression, to compensate for the absurd variances is volume between program sources. (They can aim a dish at an antenna 25,000 miles away in outer space, pick up a signal measured in microvolts, amplify it millions of times and retransmit it through a complex redistribution system, but can't adjust their head end so the endless Comcast ads inserted to basic cable programs don't blow out the speaker cones in the television...)

Lex was on time, in and out in less than ten minutes, and the box is performing well. The sound actually seems better, OnDemand now works, and the HD channels are crystal clear.

I just wonder why there's a green glow emanating from the back of the unit...

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Urgent political position of the day...

Everyone loves puppies.

(via Richele Kayton)

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Refresher course...

News Headline: "McCain sees Constitution establishing a 'Christian nation.' "



(from the February 21, 2005 issue of The Nation)

It is hard to believe that George Bush has ever read the works of George Orwell, but he seems, somehow, to have grasped a few Orwellian precepts. The lesson the President has learned best- and certainly the one that has been the most useful to him- is the axiom that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. One of his Administration's current favorites is the whopper about America having been founded on Christian principles. Our nation was founded not on Christian principles but on Enlightenment ones. God only entered the picture as a very minor player, and Jesus Christ was conspicuously absent.

Our Constitution makes no mention whatever of God. The omission was too obvious to have been anything but deliberate, in spite of Alexander Hamilton's flippant responses when asked about it: According to one account, he said that the new nation was not in need of " foreign aid"; according to another, he simply said "we forgot." But as Hamilton's biographer Ron Chernow points out, Hamilton never forgot anything important.

In the eighty-five essays that make up The Federalist, God is mentioned only twice (both times by Madison, who uses the word, as Gore Vidal has remarked, in the "only Heaven knows" sense). In the Declaration of Independence, He gets two brief nods: a reference to "the Laws of Nature and Nature's God," and the famous line about men being "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights." More blatant official references to a deity date from long after the founding period: "In God We Trust" did not appear on our coinage until the Civil War, and "under God" was introduced into the Pledge of Allegiance during the McCarthy hysteria in 1954 [see Elisabeth Sifton, "The Battle Over the Pledge," April 5, 2004].

In 1797 our government concluded a "Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, or Barbary," now known simply as the Treaty of Tripoli. Article 11 of the treaty contains these words:

As the Government of the United not in any sense founded on the Christian religion- as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity of Musselmen- and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

This document was endorsed by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering and President John Adams. It was then sent to the Senate for ratification; the vote was unanimous. It is worth pointing out that although this was the 339th time a recorded vote had been required by the Senate, it was only the third unanimous vote in the Senate's history. There is no record of debate or dissent. The text of the treaty was printed in full in the Philadelphia Gazette and in two New York papers, but there were no screams of outrage, as one might expect today.

The Founding Fathers were not religious men, and they fought hard to erect, in Thomas Jefferson's words, "a wall of separation between church and state." John Adams opined that if they were not restrained by legal measures, Puritans- the fundamentalists of their day- would "whip and crop, and pillory and roast." The historical epoch had afforded these men ample opportunity to observe the corruption to which established priesthoods were liable, as well as "the impious presumption of legislators and rulers," as Jefferson wrote, "civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time."

If we define a Christian as a person who believes in the divinity of Jesus Christ, then it is safe to say that some of the key Founding Fathers were not Christians at all. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Tom Paine were deists- that is, they believed in one Supreme Being but rejected revelation and all the supernatural elements of the Christian Church; the word of the Creator, they believed, could best be read in Nature. John Adams was a professed liberal Unitarian, but he, too, in his private correspondence seems more deist than Christian.

George Washington and James Madison also leaned toward deism, although neither took much interest in religious matters. Madison believed that "religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize." He spoke of the "almost fifteen centuries" during which Christianity had been on trial: "What have 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." If Washington mentioned the Almighty in a public address, as he occasionally did, he was careful to refer to Him not as " God" but with some nondenominational moniker like "Great Author" or "Almighty Being." It is interesting to note that the Father of our Country spoke no words of a religious nature on his deathbed, although fully aware that he was dying, and did not ask for a man of God to be present; his last act was to take his own pulse, the consummate gesture of a creature of the age of scientific rationalism.

Tom Paine, a polemicist rather than a politician, could afford to be perfectly honest about his religious beliefs, which were baldly deist in the tradition of Voltaire: "I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.... I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church." This is how he opened The Age of Reason, his virulent attack on Christianity. In it he railed against the "obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness" of the Old Testament, "a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind." The New Testament is less brutalizing but more absurd, the story of Christ's divine genesis a "fable, which for absurdity and extravagance is not exceeded by any thing that is to be found in the mythology of the ancients." He held the idea of the Resurrection in especial ridicule: Indeed, "the wretched contrivance with which this latter part is told, exceeds every thing that went before it." Paine was careful to contrast the tortuous twists of theology with the pure clarity of deism. "The true deist has but one Deity; and his religion consists in contemplating the power, wisdom, and benignity of the Deity in his works, and in endeavoring to imitate him in every thing moral, scientifical, and mechanical."

Paine's rhetoric was so fervent that he was inevitably branded an atheist. Men like Franklin, Adams and Jefferson could not risk being tarred with that brush, and in fact Jefferson got into a good deal of trouble for continuing his friendship with Paine and entertaining him at Monticello. These statesmen had to be far more circumspect than the turbulent Paine, yet if we examine their beliefs it is all but impossible to see just how theirs differed from his.

Franklin was the oldest of the Founding Fathers. He was also the most worldly and sophisticated, and was well aware of the Machiavellian principle that if one aspires to influence the masses, one must at least profess religious sentiments. By his own definition he was a deist, although one French acquaintance claimed that " our free-thinkers have adroitly sounded him on his religion, and they maintain that they have discovered he is one of their own, that is that he has none at all." If he did have a religion, it was strictly utilitarian: As his biographer Gordon Wood has said, "He praised religion for whatever moral effects it had, but for little else." Divine revelation, Franklin freely admitted, had "no weight with me," and the covenant of grace seemed " unintelligible" and "not beneficial." As for the pious hypocrites who have ever controlled nations, "A man compounded of law and gospel is able to cheat a whole country with his religion and then destroy them under color of law"- a comment we should carefully consider at this turning point in the history of our Republic.

Here is Franklin's considered summary of his own beliefs, in response to a query by Ezra Stiles, the president of Yale. He wrote it just six weeks before his death at the age of 84.

Here is my creed. I believe in one God, Creator of the universe. That he governs it by his providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is doing good to his other children. That the soul of Man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion, and I regard them as you do in whatever sect I meet with them.

As for Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think his system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble. I see no harm, however, in its being believed, if that belief has the good consequence, as it probably has, of making his doctrines more respected and better observed, especially as I do not perceive that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the unbelievers in his government of the world with any particular marks of his displeasure.

Jefferson thoroughly agreed with Franklin on the corruptions the teachings of Jesus had undergone. "The metaphysical abstractions of Athanasius, and the maniacal ravings of Calvin, tinctured plentifully with the foggy dreams of Plato, have so loaded [Christianity] with absurdities and incomprehensibilities" that it was almost impossible to recapture "its native simplicity and purity." Like Paine, Jefferson felt that the miracles claimed by the New Testament put an intolerable strain on credulity. "The day will come," he predicted (wrongly, so far), "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." The Revelation of St. John he dismissed as "the ravings of a maniac."

Jefferson edited his own version of the New Testament, "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth," in which he carefully deleted all the miraculous passages from the works of the Evangelists. He intended it, he said, as "a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus." This was clearly a defense against his many enemies, who hoped to blacken his reputation by comparing him with the vile atheist Paine. His biographer Joseph Ellis is undoubtedly correct, though, in seeing disingenuousness here: "If [Jefferson] had been completely scrupulous, he would have described himself as a deist who admired the ethical teachings of Jesus as a man rather than as the son of God. (In modern-day parlance, he was a secular humanist.)" In short, not a Christian at all.

The three accomplishments Jefferson was proudest of- those that he requested be put on his tombstone- were the founding of the University of Virginia and the authorship of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. The latter was a truly radical document that would eventually influence the separation of church and state in the US Constitution; when it was passed by the Virginia legislature in 1786, Jefferson rejoiced that there was finally "freedom for the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mohammeden, the Hindu and infidel of every denomination" - note his respect, still unusual today, for the sensibilities of the "infidel." The University of Virginia was notable among early-American seats of higher education in that it had no religious affiliation whatever. Jefferson even banned the teaching of theology at the school.

If we were to speak of Jefferson in modern political categories, we would have to admit that he was a pure libertarian, in religious as in other matters. His real commitment (or lack thereof) to the teachings of Jesus Christ is plain from a famous throwaway comment he made: "It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." This raised plenty of hackles when it got about, and Jefferson had to go to some pains to restore his reputation as a good Christian. But one can only conclude, with Ellis, that he was no Christian at all.

John Adams, though no more religious than Jefferson, had inherited the fatalistic mindset of the Puritan culture in which he had grown up. He personally endorsed the Enlightenment commitment to Reason but did not share Jefferson's optimism about its future, writing to him, "I wish that Superstition in Religion exciting Superstition in Polliticks...may never blow up all your benevolent and phylanthropic Lucubrations," but that "the History of all Ages is against you." As an old man he observed, "Twenty times in the course of my late reading have I been upon the point of breaking out, 'This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!'" Speaking ex cathedra, as a relic of the founding generation, he expressed his admiration for the Roman system whereby every man could worship whom, what and how he pleased. When his young listeners objected that this was paganism, Adams replied that it was indeed, and laughed.

In their fascinating and eloquent valetudinarian correspondence, Adams and Jefferson had a great deal to say about religion. Pressed by Jefferson to define his personal creed, Adams replied that it was "contained in four short words, 'Be just and good.'" Jefferson replied, "The result of our fifty or sixty years of religious reading, in the four words, 'Be just and good,' is that in which all our inquiries must end; as the riddles of all priesthoods end in four more, 'ubi panis, ibi deus.' What all agree in, is probably right. What no two agree in, most probably wrong."

This was a clear reference to Voltaire's Reflections on Religion. As Voltaire put it:

There are no sects in geometry. One does not speak of a Euclidean, an Archimedean. When the truth is evident, it is impossible for parties and factions to arise.... Well, to what dogma do all minds agree? To the worship of a God, and to honesty. All the philosophers of the world who have had a religion have said in all ages: " There is a God, and one must be just." There, then, is the universal religion established in all ages and throughout mankind. The point in which they all agree is therefore true, and the systems through which they differ are therefore false.

Of course all these men knew, as all modern presidential candidates know, that to admit to theological skepticism is political suicide. During Jefferson's presidency a friend observed him on his way to church, carrying a large prayer book. "You going to church, Mr. J," remarked the friend. "You do not believe a word in it." Jefferson didn't exactly deny the charge. "Sir," he replied, "no nation has ever yet existed or been governed without religion. Nor can be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man and I as chief Magistrate of this nation am bound to give it the sanction of my example. Good morning Sir."

Like Jefferson, every recent President has understood the necessity of at least paying lip service to the piety of most American voters. All of our leaders, Democrat and Republican, have attended church, and have made very sure they are seen to do so. But there is a difference between offering this gesture of respect for majority beliefs and manipulating and pandering to the bigotry, prejudice and millennial fantasies of Christian extremists. Though for public consumption the Founding Fathers identified themselves as Christians, they were, at least by today's standards, remarkably honest about their misgivings when it came to theological doctrine, and religion in general came very low on the list of their concerns and priorities- always excepting, that is, their determination to keep the new nation free from bondage to its rule.

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Quote of the day

Do you know why the menopausal woman crossed the road? To kill the chicken.
-Jane Condon

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Staged cyber attack reveals vulnerability in power grid

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Researchers who launched an experimental cyber attack caused a generator to self-destruct, alarming the federal government and electrical industry about what might happen if such an attack were carried out on a larger scale, CNN has learned. (Story here.)

What really scared me was that the economics expert cited in the story is named "Borg."

(via Rafal M. Sulejman)

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Sunday, September 30, 2007

It only took 32 days...

..but I finally was able to get back into my Google accounts, including Gmail and Blogger.

I've been posting here for the past month by directly editing the index.shtml file on the website. I've re-entered the past month's posts through Blogger; they're now all neatly dated, archived, and permalinked.

Gmail also required contortions. I don't know what caused the behavior, but I could only access Gmail via my PDA through the Verizon Wireless Sync (VWS) service. Gmail rejected my password via both the web interface and my settings in Outlook, but for some reason, VWS had no problem getting through.

I switched my main e-mail account to Yahoo, handled my Gmail through the PDA until the posts slowed to a trickle, then disabled VWS and waited five days until Google quit sending my "forgotten" password to a now-defunct e-mail account and instead asked me my security question.

It's still going to take me days to go through the 2,000 or so e-mails that backed up since August 28, the last date I could successfully access Gmail via Outlook. As if I have nothing else to do.

Lesson learned here: you get what you pay for. I've used Gmail since shortly after its inception and had no problems. But when the password debacle occurred, I learned there was no way to get any assistance from Google. If it hadn't been for the fact I was able to access my Gmail through my PDA, I would have been seriously screwed over.

So now I have a paid Yahoo premium mail account, which means that if something goes wrong, I should be able to actually have a conversation with someone who can correct the problem.

If you have a Gmail account, be careful... you could find yourself, as I did, unable to access years and gigbytes worth of personal data. Put it on your calendar to check your account status monthly; make certain the secondary e-mail address is valid, and make certain you know the answer to your security question.

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Copyright © 1987-2024 by Kevin G. Barkes
All rights reserved.
Violators will be prosecuted.
So there.  
The e-mail address is now something other than saga. used to be until December, 2007 when the domain name broker Trout Zimmer made an offer I couldn't refuse. Giving up and adopting created a significant problem, however. I had acquired the domain name in 1993, and had since that time used as my sole e-mail address. How to let people know that was no longer but rather which is longer than and more letters to type than and somehow less aesthetically pleasing than but actually just as functional as I sent e-mails from the address to just about everybody I knew who had used in the past decade and a half but noticed that some people just didn't seem to get the word about the change. So it occurred to me that if I were generate some literate, valid text in which was repeated numerous times and posted it on a bunch of different pages- say, a blog indexed by Google- that someone looking for would notice this paragraph repeated in hundreds of locations, would read it, and figure out that no longer is the they thought it was. That's the theory, anyway. Ok, I'm done. Move along. Nothing to see here...


Crystal Methodist

Laugh while you can, monkey-boy

I am a professional. Do not try this at home.

I canna change the laws of physics

As a matter of fact, I *am* the boss of you.
(as a matter of fact, i AM the boss of you.)

Truly great madness cannot be achieved without signficant intelligence

I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Left wing liberal nut job

Flies spread disease. Keep yours zipped.

Eff the ineffable, scrute the inscrutable.

If my answers frighten you then you should cease asking scary questions.

If evolution is just a theory, why am I surrounded by monkeys?

Nutrition makes me puke

Feral Geek

eat wisely

Dyslexics have more fnu!

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