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Saturday, March 31, 2007

If you've ever written a KSA, I Know Your Pain

I just spent the whole afternoon/evening writing up an application for a new federal job. I'm currently rather happily employed with the feds but in a random scan of USAjobs I found a couple jobs that look like fun and would be a promotion so I thought I'd toss in my hat.

However, I forgot how painful the process is! I already had my resume relatively up to date so I didn't think applying would be too much work but I forgot about the KSAs! The Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities essays. Each federal job posting is harboring 4 or 5 evil little essay topics that require you to rip-out out of your brain some coherent arrangement of words which show off your highly-qualified-uniqueness in a way that will get you the highest score and beat out the throngs of other federal wanna-bes. But usually the KSAs are all about communication skills or some other lame-o rather ubiquitous skill that is hard to show off in any concise way and leaves you wondering what they are really looking for and if you just wasted your afternoon rattling on about your leadership skills.

I don't think I could have made it through the evening if I hadn't taken a solid hit of Will Ferrell: I went and saw Blades of Glory. I recommend going in with low expectations and then you will be pleasantly surprised!

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Monday, March 26, 2007



I've seen this a dozen times before but it still makes me smile. I think its the image header that seals the deal.

Through the Friendly Atheist Blog (by the guy who sold his soul on ebay) I learned about the MySpace rip-off HisHolySpace.

Hemant, of the FriendlyAtheist blog -my current favorite blog- does a fine job highlighting quirky points of this website so I won't repeat him. I encourage you to go check it out. Its really quite amusing.

Some of the pages make me feel tenderly painfully sad, like when I saw a nature documentary about monkeys and a mother monkey just kept carrying around its dead baby trying to wake it up and feed it.

And other pages I just don't get at all. As a former hard-core christian, I can usually understand where most of the christian rhetoric comes from and the (usually flawed) rationale behind it but I was never big into the whole hell thing. So this page perplexes me. Why would someone choose their online name to be "Is Hell Real? YES!"? Bizzare-o.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Holy Moley!

People read my blog!

I just signed up for Google Analytics and found out people around the world are viewing, and therefore I assume reading, my blog.

Cool - thanks readers!

Sam Harris vs. Andrew Sullivan

There is a great email debate between Sam Harries and Andrew Sullivan (a gay moderate christian with his own blog) going on at

Sam Harris is a great writer with a very tight debating style. I haven't been such a fan of anyone since my pre-teen obession with New Kids on the Block. I'm afraid Andrew Sullivan is getting his butt kicked.

Here are some clips from Sam:
"You spend the first two paragraphs of your last essay taking offense at something I did not say, culminating with, "spare me the thought that you know it [fundamentalism] better than I do." I did, in fact, attempt to spare you that thought when I wrote:
'First, many moderates assume that religious "extremism" is rare and therefore not all that consequential. Happily, you are not in this camp, but I would venture that you are in a minority among religious moderates. As you and I both know, religious extremism is not rare, and it is hugely consequential.'
Indeed, this was one of several places where I sought to communicate that I do not view you as a run-of-the-mill religious moderate. I was extending an olive branch, of sorts, and you have gone and poked yourself in the eye with it. What's a well-intentioned atheist to do?"

"I am, of course, unconvinced by your response. But this can hardly disappoint you, as it was not intended to convince me. You simply wrote to inform me that you have never doubted God's existence, cannot account for how you came to believe in Him, and are well aware that these facts will not (and should not) persuade me of the legitimacy of your religious beliefs. I now feel like a tennis player, in mid-serve, who notices that his opponent is no longer holding a racket."

There is much more substance in the debate than I'm quoting. These litte jabs just amuse me.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Lori Lipman Brown

Highlights from last night's talk by Lori Lipman Brown of the Secular Coalition for America.

The Good:
I was happily surprised to hear that she has been welcomed by and works closely with many reglious lobbyists who also support the separation of church and state. Lori relayed that people are making an effort to include atheism when they discuss religous diversity. Also, she invited anyone who might find themselves in DC to stop at her office and she would bring them to meet thier legislators. I might take her up on that...

The Depressing:
My, admittedly very bad, defensive mechanisim for dealing with the Bush Administration is to ignore it. So I just learned about how appalling the Office of Faith-based Community Initiatives is. Lori relayed a story about one grant reviewer who proudly crowed that if the grant application isn't from a chirstian organization she just throughs it out.

The Overall:
Lori is not a fantastic speaker however she is very personable and seems to be doing really great work. She's a bit of a rambler and often struggled for words so the talk teetered on the edge of boring. I toyed with the idea of sneaking out early a couple times, but she always grabbed my attention again before that thought took root.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Amphibians & Secular Lobbyist

(MN PCA Photo)

Last night I went to the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Center for a talk by Tyrone Hayes about amphibian declines and deformities and the herbicide Atrazine. It was pretty a pretty depressing talk. Bascially, Atrazine is like today's DDT and, even though we know its really really bad, its not being regulated because of corruption within the EPA. Learn more at Haye's ugly but informative website and call and tell your legislators they need do something about this:
(Thanks Friends of the Mississippi River for hosting this event.)

Tommorow night I'm heading back over to the U to hear Lori Lipman Brown speak at an event hosted by C.A.S.H:
"Protecting Our Freedoms: Taking the Message to Congress"
7:30 pm Murphy Hall

In 2005, Lori Lipman Brown was hired by the Secular Coalition for America to be the first advocate to Congress explicitly representing nontheistic Americans. She will report on key issues she has lobbied, upcoming issues in the 110th Congress, the reception she has received both on Capitol Hill and in the media, and the changes she has noticed with the introduction of a new majority in both Houses of Congress.

Brown is a former Nevada State Senator, a lawyer, and an educator. Brown was named Civil Libertarian of the Year by the ACLU of Southern Nevada and Legislator of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers, Nevada Chapter, for her legislative accomplishments which included mental health care reform, education curriculum changes, and repeal of Nevada's consensual sex crimes law. In addition to lobbying Congress, Brown serves as a media spokesperson and speaker amplifying the voice of nontheists nationwide.

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Monday, March 19, 2007


This picture mesmerizes me. I just look at it and wonder: How did they all get out there? Are they all there to surf that giant wave? If so, why are they all just watching? Do they have to take turns? How do they decide who goes when? Are they scared, excited, bored? Is the photographer on a boat or standing on a surf board or what? Is it dangerous to just float out there? Could I go there to just float and watch?

(click for big - makes a nice screen background)

Sorry I can't credit this photo - I don't know where if came from. If you do, please let me know.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Virgin Mary says, "Welcome to Puerto Vallarta!"


This is the only picture I took in Mexico that I like enough to post. I didn't really feel like taking photos while I was there. I just felt like laying on the beach and drinking PiƱa Coladas. They told me they use Kool-aid to color the sand. There was also a Jesus-on-the-cross sand sculpure!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Nature Observations (Circa 2000)

As I was cleaning out the basment, I came across a paper of nature observations I wrote for my college Environmental Sustainability course. I knew my professor was a transendental sort of fellow so I decided to play it up Whitman stlye. I wrote this paper as sort of a joke but as I re-read it today I enjoyed it. So I'm posting it here.
I carefully nestle my foot into a nook in the snow. Beautiful yet deceiving snow, I keep in mind it has betrayed me before by harboring secret patches of slick ice. Scanning the ground for safe perches, I discover the rogue ice is confining prisoner bubbles of air. These dime-size bubbles march along the ventral surface of the ice like an inverted army. Mesmerized by their diligence, I stare as hundreds of hostages roll out from beneath the snow caps gliding towards freedom from the cold captivity.

A sudden chill jostles my focus back to my journey. As I reach my destination of the quaint bridge on the South Fork, I'm painfully aware of the low temperatures. Resentment begins to well in me for being forced into this treck. I close my eyes, with the intent to hydrate my eyeballs, but become entangled in the rushing gossamer sound of the river. It liquidates my discontent. The river is preforming to cheer me up; slipping, gliding, and toppling are puppeteers causing twigs to jig and waltz over eddies and ripples.

Reality is tugging at me. I resist. It insists.

Walking back, I glumly organize my obligations and separate myself from my surroundings. However, a meek drumming sneaks into my consciousness and forces me to seek out its origin. My searching eyes settle on a humble woodpecker. His beat strengthens. This bird launches his head forward and balances with his tail in cadence. He peeks and pivots his feet creating a glorious patter of shifts and thrusts combined with rythmic knocks. I cannot rebuke this humble creature, so I dance with him.

The memory of this little beast lingers with me until spring when it is replaced by tootling song birds. Robins, finches, and meadow larks practicing their twisting peppy tunes to pefection. Conifers lose their green uniqueness as the deciduous trees reclaim their glory of full broad leaves.

Lying on my back I stare at the budding hardwoods, and hope to glimpse the jovial vocalists. The grass smells of childhood: grazing horses, pond-goo potions, and T-ball practice. Surface moisture saturates my back contrasting my sun-parched face. In an effort to equalize, I hoist myself over.

Once again a river is tantalizing me. Big Falls River lures me with its majestic breadth and intriguing crannies. Dipping my feet into the water, I admire the rocks carved by such purposeful chance. Each dark boulder is streaked with white. Red flashes at me from a sandy bank. Again, I'm winked at by a river inhabitant. Investigation reveals three beautiful salmon: all large and dignified. They swim up at the same rate the river pours down, frozen in physics. Tempted, I reach to catch one, but they, scolding my arrogance, disappear.

Lions Children's Hearing Center Benefit Fashion Show

My husband and I were the volunteer photographers for the Lions Children's Hearing Center Benefit fashion show. These are my favorite shots.






All the photos from the Fashion Show can be found here.

Friday, March 02, 2007

My Pooch