Friday, November 30, 2007

Cocktail of the week - special edition! The French Martini

'Tis the holiday season, which means string musicians such as Mrs. Wit are out playing the various celebratory masses and (of course) the 10,001 renditions of "Messiah" that are played throughout this nation of ours. In fact, most musicians spell that Handel oratorio "Me$$iah" because of the important economic role this work plays in the lives of the classically trained.

Well, Mrs. Wit is out for the night to rehearse for a weekend performance of this work. I've decided to take advantage of it and make a special cocktail for her: the French Martini.

It's one of her favorites. Perhaps her most favorite after a classic gin martini with blue cheese-stuffed green olives. She hasn't had a french varient of this venerable drink in longer than recent memory, so I'm going to make sure she has one waiting for her when she gets home, later this evening.

Here's the recipe, courtesy

It's a hit. Trust me.

Hits: 6
Misses: 6

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Two Classic Statements of the Problem of Evil

The first, and earliest, is from Epicurus:

If God is willing to prevent evil, but is not able to?
Then He is not omnipotent.
If He is able, but not willing?
Then He is malevolent.
If He is both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
If He is neither able nor willing?
Then why call Him God?

The second, written by Hume (and my first exposure to the problem of evil), is a stronger formulation of the same argument:

"[Gods] power we allow [is] infinite: Whatever he wills is executed: But neither man nor any other animal are happy: Therefore he does not will their happiness. His wisdom is infinite: He is never mistaken in choosing the means to any end: But the course of nature tends not to human or animal felicity: Therefore it is not established for that purpose. Through the whole compass of human knowledge, there are no inferences more certain and infallible than these. In what respect, then, do his benevolence and mercy resemble the benevolence and mercy of men?"

I've yet to hear someone refute this without relying on the tired cannard of "Free Will." After all, even if we have free will, God should still be helping us if he is capable, omnipotent, all-loving, blah-blah-blah...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

And now, a song about Ann Coulter

Funny how the "perfected" people of the world tend to suffer the flaws of pride and arrogance.

Then again, what do I know? I am godless, after all.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Illinois Kids: Keepin' It Real

The "Moment of Silence" law in Illinois really rubs me the wrong way.

These kids don't like it either. It's nice to see them organizing a protest, making a point, and goofing off all at the same time.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dim Age Diary is proud to present "Moment of Silence... But Deadly"

(Kind of gives you hope for the future, don't it?)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Cocktail of the week #8: Campari & Soda

Campari, for those of you who don't know, is a form of bitters. But not just any form of bitters - it is the bitters. In fact, I find it almost improper to classify Campari in the same category as Angostura and Paychaud's. Campari is to those two what a sawed-off shotgun is to a pea shooter.

Yes, this is indeed the mother of all bitters... but it is extremely bitter. A dash of this stuff in your boomerang will completely overpower the other flavoring agents. Trust me. You wouldn't like it.

I'm going to put this one down as a hit; but it is a hit with qualifications: Campari is an acquired taste. The first time I tried it, some years ago, I found it quite strong, but nice. Mrs. Wit, on the other hand, found it absolutely disgusting. She even went so far as to describe it as tasting like "tobacco juice" (not that she has any experience with chaw). After a few years, she tried it again last night & was surprised to find she liked it .

Yes, it's an acquired taste, but once developed it yeilds great rewards.

Hits: 5
Misses: 6

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Further Chistmas suggestions

From 2005, but still worthwhile.

Brew your own: when cocktails just aren't enough

Sometimes I need beer.

Not just any beer, but real beer. You can keep your watery mass-produced quasi-pilsneresque lagers that were once the pride of Milwaukee but now come to us from every friggin' corner of the lower 48. You can keep your microbrews and imports to - and you know why?

Real men drink homebrew.

Yep. The weather has cooled down enough where I can start up another batch of homemade ale (I don't have lagering equipment, yet. Can't justify the expense.), and this time I'm going for a tried and true stout.

I'd been toying with the idea of brewing my own beer for years, but it was not until my girlfriend (who is now my wife) bought me a starter kit for my birthday, one year. There's been no turning back, ever since. Every fall through very early spring I can usually crank out one to three batches (roughly five to fifteen gallons) each year.

For those of you unfamiliar with brewing beer, it's really no more complicated than making bread. And only slightly more dangerous. Brewing your own beer will not make you go blind, will not poison you and will not lead to a drinking problem.

Believe it or not, some people are under the impression anyone who brews their own must have an alcohol dependency issue. Trust me: at five gallons of beer for one to two months' work, homebrewing is not the way to negotiate your liver into a state of cirrhosis.

But home brewing does have its hazards. The one that readily come to mind:

Reeking Kitchen Syndrome.

If there is one thing brewing your own will do, it will force you to keep your kitchen sparkling clean. You have to boil what basically comes down to malt soup on your stove for an hour or more. The stuff boils over real easy and is a terror to scrub away if left to dry. That, and free-born wild microbes absolutely love the stuff. If you don't scrub down the kitchen thuroughly afterwards, you'll have a sour rotting smell permeating your house and you'll have to break out the bleach before your wife starts getting irritated. (Not that mine has ever gotten irritated; I just know some other homebrewers who are not as fortunate in the spouse department as I am.)

Okay, enough of this prattle! I have a carboy to sanitize and yeast to activate!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

8th Annual Fairy & Human Relations Congress: Fun! Magic! Family! Inspiriation!

As Dave Barry would write: I am not making this up.

Yes, the 8th Annual Fairy & Human Relations Congress is coming to North Cascades, WA, this summer, and I am once more fascinated with the human capacity to sincerely delude ourselves.

Eight years? How can this have been going on for eight years? Then again, I also can't understand how anyone could keep a conference dedicated to bigfoot going year after year.

Be that as it may, this is woo on a grandiose scale:

Though many deny the existence of the spiritual realms and the nature spirit/fairy/devic realm, the numbers of people who are tuning into these realms is increasing by leaps and bounds. The Fairy & Human Relations Congress is one of the vanguard events bringing these people together.
Ah, yes! A variation on the "so many people can't be wrong!" arguement combined with a touch of persecution complex. By the logic presented above, Scientology's claim of being a rapidly growing religion which is being unfairly treated by Germany must have merit! (Not! on both counts!)

Many humans, fairies, devas, angels and spiritual beings come together to create an outpouring of education and celebration. The fairy and devas who attend the Fairy Congress are spiritually advanced and very intelligent. We approach the fairies and devas with respect and love as co-creators of this event.

It is a rare event for humans to experience so much fairy energy and such an outpouring of fairy/devic blessings.

Participants are requested to tune into their fairy friends, angels and spirit-guides in the higher realms and invite them to the Congress.

We are all Light Beings and each of us has the potential to assist in the widening of communication between our realms, in cooperation with the great Deva Light Beings who work with all of Earth's plants, animals and life forms.

This is nothing more than a variation of turning to God and using the power of prayer to solve all problems. Rather than spending all that time and energy petitioning a temperamental spirit (or spirits), how about trying to figure out how to solve the problems ourselves? I mean, you can always credit God or the Fairies for your hard work and ingenuity afterwards, if it's really all that important to you..

Then again, I'm talking about applying logic to situations, a skill the participants in these fairy congresses clearly lack. For example, among the items listed on their "things to bring" page for the congress are such essentials as:

  • Make lists, plan ahead and five yourself enough time
  • Enjoy the drive
  • We are blessed

I realize I'm being nit picky, here, but these items make no sense alongside "water bottle", "crystals", and "items for fairy altar."

But then again, what should I expect? The people attending this affair are not of the most rational and discerning mindset. After all the managers of this website are also fascinated with "orbs", a phenomenon anyone who's spent even a modicum of time taking digital photography seriously has encountered, investigated, and found the quite simple explanation. Unless they need to believe, in which case they will insist on having found the spirits of the dead.

But what's really sad is, a lot of people either passionately believe in fairies, or think that this congress is a bunch of kooks getting together for harmless fun. Me? I just find it sad, and a little worrisome. I mean, the only real difference between this and say, a group of people building a new utopia based on a shared spiritual outlook, is time and sophisticated centralized dogma. Then again, that's the same difference between this, and say, a church.

I give this fairy congress group another five to seven year before one of three things happens:
  1. It fizzles out
  2. It splinters into two or more competing congresses due to "spiritual differences" regarding the nature of faries
  3. It consolidates into a more formal organization, heading towards churchhood (in which case the splintering factor is not far behind)
After all, is that not the fate of most religious systems?

If this doesn't scream "scam"...

Although I have to give this guy props for finding an original way to fulfill his needs.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Separated at birth?

We're geeks. Geeks who love cocktails.

So it's probably not surprising that we have an ice crusher (from the Ikea "Groggy" line) and a Marvin action figure from the film version of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

We noticed a certain similarity. Coincidence?

We're not sure. Alcohol is a depressant, after all...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

So what are you thankful for?

Today is Thanksgiving, and Mrs. Wit and I are preparing to spend the majority of the day with family.

It's fairly well known and understood that the earliest versions of what we Americans (and Canadians) would recognize as a "thanksgiving celebration" (note the lower-case "t" in "thanksgiving") where end-of-the harvest celebrations. Examples of such celebrations can be found throughout the world and across a variety of cultures. But in these United States, we are taught to believe that thanksgiving properly has a capital "T" and had its origins in the pilgrims expressing their thanks to God for all their good fortune, and breaking bread with the local Native Americans, who were gosh darn chummy with the colonists. Kind of gives you a nice nostalgic image of the two groups gorging themselves on turkey, maize and bread; after which the goodwives and squaws set about cleaning the dishes while the pilgrim men and braves, bloated and slowly sinking into a food coma, sat back to watch a lacrosse game.

Well, I want to look at what Thanksgiving is supposed to be, what others want us to believe it is, and what it has actually become.

What it is supposed to be.

The United States of America has had several proclamations of a "national day of thanksgiving," but as a proper holiday it did not exist until the FDR administration set it as the fourth Thursday in November in 1939. Prior to that, it was set by presidential proclamation... and such proclamations only happened sporadically until Abraham Lincoln set the last Thursday in November as a "prayerful day of Thanksgiving." After ol' Abe set the benchmark, the Office of the President has made an annual declaration of a National Day of Thanksgiving. All of them talk about how hard we have worked as a nation, about how we should show gratitude for what we have, and give thanks to Almighty God for what we have.

And I can deal with that. I can even accept the "thank Almighty God" part as lip service to the God Believing Voters out there. But what does it mean to be "thankful," which is the core concept behind this holiday of ours?

For an answer, I consulted one of my favorite online resources: Ask Oxford. Say what you will, the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language is considered the standard for definitions of words in what is arguably the lingua franca of Earth.

Ask Oxford defines "thankful" as:
  1. pleased and relieved
  2. expressing gratitude
Hey, this is pretty cool! We'll come back to this in a little bit.

What others want us to believe it is.

If you choose to believe such self-appointed monitors of moral righteousness as Jim Dobson's Focus on the Family and Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, the Annual American Turkey Feast is primarily supposed to be about worshipping God and thanking him for all the wonderful things in our lives.

Pardon me. I think I'm having an intestinal cramp.

Oh, wait, sorry. That was just my normal reaction to having read two web articles written (ostensibly) by two Fundamentalist Theocratic Nether Orifices who, when you examine their theology in the cold light of reason, are not that much better than the Taliban. But I digress...

Okay, so Focus on the Family and CBN want us to kneel down to an ineffable omnipresent being who has had more personality changes than Sybil for the turkey, the sweet potatoes, and positive aspects of our lives.

Give me a break.

If we look at the definition of "thankful," above, you might notice something missing from both definitions: God.

I can be pleased and relieved today that no one in my family has died or suffered some tragic loss. I can also be pleased and relieved at the engagements and marriages in my circle of peers, and the births of gurgling babies to my more distant relations. But I don't need to drag God into the whole thing.

And I've already expressed gratitude to my wife for making the fabulous cranberry cheesecake we'll be taking to the table, later today. And I'll more than likely express my gratitude to her (again) for deeming me worthy enough to marry. And I'll be expressing my gratitude to my wonderful in-laws, and I'll be ever so grateful to human ingenuity for developing the agricultural technologies and practices that will allow us to overstack the dining room table and kitchen counters to the point of breaking. And again, I don't see how God has to fit into the entire equation.

In fact, I really appreciate no longer having the burden of imagining an eternal, petty judge looking down upon me and evaluating every move I make and every thought I have. I'm grateful most of all to myself for now being able to look upon the world as it truly is, warts and all, and find it a more beautiful and wondrous place than could ever be painted by pontiffs and preachers.

We, as a species, have enough holidays which we can use to thank God for whatever we want to thank him for, if we are so inclined. I'd just like to take this day to appreciate the good things in my life for their own sake, and nothing more. Yeah, the argument can be made that God makes all these things possible, but that's presupposing God exists. Give me a preponderance of empirical, independently verifiable proof of a supreme being who has cause over our lives, and then we can talk.

In the mean time, as for me and my house, we'll appreciate the people around us and the tangible and intangible things we can give each other: a smile, a hug, another dollop of mashed potatoes and gravy, unconditional love, etc.

What it has become.

Let's face it: Thanksgiving, like New Year's, is a more or less secular holiday in this nation of ours, despite the religious rhetoric contained in the various presidential proclamations. When we talk about Thanksgiving among our friends, relatives and co-workers, what do we really communicate?
  • Travel to see family, sometimes family that is geographically distant (usually for reasons of another kind of distance)
  • Having to deal with family you are obligated to see on such a holiday, but would otherwise ignore (see the preceding bullet point)
  • A big ass feast involving mass quantities of poultry and starch (how many of us call it "Turkey Day?")
  • And, most importantly, it is the starting gun for western capitalism's High Holy Days, the Christmas Shopping Season.
No, I don't like it, either, but let's at least be honest about it.

If we can openly acknowledge - and, more importantly, accept - these truths about Thanksgiving, it will be much easier for us as a people to start making it something more, again. Something about being thankful.

Not thankful for some non-existent uber-daddy in the sky. But rather something more important. More here and now. Something we can reach out, touch, know is there and let it know how much we care.

Let's be thankful for each other.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

So what happened with the sweatshirt?

To my surprise, nothing.

I swear, I'm getting paranoid as I approach middle age.

Here, for your visual pleasure, is the sweatshirt in question.

And while you're there, check out the rest of the Freedom from Religion Foundation site. It's definitely worth your time.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mangroomer: the movie!

Some outfit named made a demo video for the Mangroomer almost a year ago (wow! This technology has been around for a year and I'm just now learning about it? I may have to hand in my technophile credentials!).

Bon appetite! And this will hopefully be my last posting on this topic.

I wonder if there are any electric corn removers out there...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Cocktail of the week #7: Pink Lady

We actually have a two-fer this week (yes, it's actually going to be a weekly feature now, rather than near-daily). The main drink, the pink lady, requires egg whites. Making this drink left me with a couple of egg yolks, and it seemed to me a waste to just throw them out.

So I did a search on that venerable web repository of cocktaily goodness, and discovered this weeks Bonus Cocktail, the bosom caresser!

That's right. We had pink ladies and bosom caressers. Insert your own jokes, here.

First, the pink ladies.

A miss. I was unsure about this drink from the start, base on the ingredient list: lemon juice plus dairy equals little bits of proto-cheese floating in a clearish liquid.

We went ahead anyway, wondering if the egg whites would act as some form of stabilizer thus sparing us from drinking micro-curd cottage cheese.

Fat chance. It curdled. And worse yet, it tasted the way Pine Sol smells.

Mrs. Wit mentioned to me that there are variants of the pink lady recipe that do not require the addition of cream. We'll try them after we make our way through the rest of the deck.

We had the pink ladies as an aperitif. We saved our next drink for after dinner.

Bonus Drink: Bosom Caresser.

This drink was much stronger than the pink lady. It reminded me of a cross between a nasty version of advocaat and some tropical drink concoction I can't quite remember and would rather forget.

The sad thing is I was looking forward to making an egg-based drink (salmonella risks notwithstanding). I made one some years before, and it was quite lovely. Too bad I can't remember what it was.

Ah, well. More cocktail coverage next weel.

Hits: 4
Misses: 6

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Will the real Dim Wit please stand up?

Just to avoid some potential future misunderstandings, I want to clarify something: I'm no the only person on Blogger who is going by the appellation "Dim Wit."

Dimwit (Oracle and Seer), has been "teaching grandma to suck eggs since 1695." I like that! (Wish I thought of it first. Oh, well.) This particular Dimwit has been posting sporadically since September of 2005. Judging by the content, I don't think he'll mind co-existing with me.

The other Dimwit, however, has never posted to his blog.

Yeah, I know; I should have done a little more research before choosing that name, but "Dim Wit" just seemed a perfect play on words as my pseudonym for the Dim Age Diary.

Well, for future reference, if it's not the Dim Wit from the Dim Age Diary, rest assured it's someone else. You should check him out if you like what you read, here. We seem to share similar opinions on certain matters. I should see if D(O&S) wants to meet up for a virtual manhattan, sometime, and trade stories.

Cocktail of the week #6: Fuzzy Navel

Until the advent of commercialized wine coolers, this drink is what made it possible for high schoolers and younger to get plowed to the point of puking without ever having to deal with that nasty, nasty alcohol taste.

It's fruity, sweet, and goes down smooth. Too smooth, in my book.

And for me, it's missing that essential for any good drink: the actual flavor of alcohol. I, personally, like it.

I'm going to make this one a "hit," anyway, because it is tasty and it will mess you up. And ain't that what cocktails are all about, at the end of the day? That, and goofy lounge music and hors d'oeuvres?

Hits: 4
Misses: 2

Saturday, November 17, 2007

For your man this Holiday Season

Gentlemen: are you wishing the rest of you was like your balding pate?

Ladies: are you tired of your husband or boyfriend being mistaken for the family dog when you spend a weekend at the beach?

Members of the gay community: are you wishing your bear was more of a naked mole rat?

Then friends, you need the Mangroomer!

Yes, Mangroomer! The world's first do-it-yourself, extendable, electric back shaver!

No longer will you have to suffer the tortures of razor burn, nicks, ingrown hairs, or waxing to get rid of that rich carpet covering your dorsal section! No longer will you have to suffer the humiliation of insisting it's the approach of the full moon that has mad you hairy, not your genetic heritage! No longer will you have to spend endless hours pondering when the capitalist system will do something, anything, to bring men closer to the same level of non-body acceptance as women, which is what will truly bring equality between the sexes!

Yes, friends! Mangroomer is here! Just in time for the Christmas shopping season!

And a good thing, too. I'm getting tired of using that Epilady.

Cocktail of the week #5: Pina Colada

"If you like pina coladas/and the pouring rain..."

The quintessential tropical drink! And this recipe is actually pretty decent. 

Note to tropical drink lovers: never trust a place that puts ice cream in their pina coladas. It's a crime against humanity and, I dare say, nature itself! A proper pina colada is made with crushed ice and derives its creamy texture from that most beloved of palm fruits, the coconut.

We're almost caught up, kids! Soon I'll only be posting one of these a week... unless we come across something truly special.

Hits: 3
Misses: 2

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cocktail of the week #4: Stinger

This was the first cocktail we drew from the deck requiring us to buy something to add to the bar. We already had brandy: the wife enjoys a snifter of it from time to time, and I am fond of mixing it with ginger all (something useful I learned from the James Bond novels).

Creme de Menthe, on the other hand, was something new for us. The only time either of us had ever really experienced Creme de Menthe was via Ande's Candies. I always knew it was a liqueur, and that it was used in various cocktails from more or less my grandparent's generation, but never actually tried it myself.

Well, we were quite curious, so we picked up a bottle. We purchased the white version of the liqueur rather than the green to comply with the recipe.

And the verdict?

Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.

Imagine slurping on a chilled martini glass filled with watery liquid Crest toothpaste (to which one has added a healthy dose of pureed raisins) and you get the idea.

The stinger will not be made again, by us, unless we are forced to do so at gunpoint.

Hits: 2
Misses: 2

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Are You Jewish?"

I get that a lot, which is funny, because I'm not Jewish (ethnically or otherwise).

I did spend half of my childhood in a Jewish neighborhood, however, and it did affect my mannerisms. From my experience, when people tell me I "look Jewish" (ugh! What does THAT mean?) I find they really mean I "act Jewish."

What brings this up? A short meeting I had with a co-worker, who happens to be a naturalized citizen originally from the other side of the world.

He was nervous as he asked it, which sent up a red flag for me. I also knew, as he asked it, that if I told him I held no religious convictions he would think even less of me than if I were a Jew.

So I used my pat answer when confronted by potential religious bigots in the workplace: "I was raised Catholic."

Which is true, but you would be surprised how rarely I am asked to clarify that statement.

Or maybe you would not be surprised.

I don't always hide behind that answer. I did admit to one co-worker - a Muslim - that I am an atheist. He was surprised.

"How can you be an atheist?" He declared. "You're the most open-minded and moral person at work!"

Yeah, imagine that.

Anyway, back to the tale my other co-worker, who was concerned about my potentially Semitic heritage. I gave him my pat answer and he breathed a huge sigh of relief and laughed. He told me how my hair, nose and "way of talking" made me seem Jewish to him. He apologized. I told him I was not the least bit offended, and that I would not have been offended had I actually been Jewish.

But if I had been Jewish, I would have been deeply suspicious of him. And it turns out with good reason.

For the next fifteen minutes I was entreated to a rant about his Jewish neighbors and their spending habits, and an elicitation of stereotypes about... Greeks...?

I stopped my co-worker and asked him to clarify: was he talking about Jews, Greeks, or Greek Jews?

He looked at me, a little confused, and said: "Aren't all Greeks Jews?"

That gave me pause. I strongly recommended he keep his views to himself because we do have some Jews and, yes, Greek Orthodox Christians, on staff, and that they would take offense to some of the things he was saying.

His eyes went wide when I mentioned we had Jews on staff. He also asked me to explain what "Greek Orthodox" means. Thankfully, he did not ask me to name any of the Jews on staff. I'm sure he can find that out from someone else, anyway...

What did I learn from this? The anti-Semitic jokes in the movie Borat are not really jokes. People really do seem to believe such extreme, richly horsefeathered nonesense.

And now I'll try to find some way to introduce my errant co-worker to this fine organization.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cocktail of the week #3: Mimosa

Does this one really require any explanation or justification?

I thought not, counselor...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cocktail of the week #2: Boomerang

I'm working through the back catalog of cocktails to bring everyone up to speed.

After the disappointment of the Shirley Temple we found ourselves rewarded with this variant of the venerable martini: the boomerang.

It's basically a classic gin martini with the addition of a dash of bitters and a dash of maraschino cherry juice. Deceptively simple sounding, but it creates a whole host of complex flavors that left us pondering long after the last few drops found their way to our tongue.

On first try, we found the earthy accents of the additional ingredients a bit confusing. After careful consideration, we decided we were needing to get past the whole "martini plus additives" notion if we were to truly evaluate this drink on its own merits.

And so, after the second one, we loved them!

We tried making boomerangs with both Angostura and Peychaud's bitters. While I generally prefer the lighter, more complex flavor of Peychaud's, we both agree Angostura makes for the superior boomerang.

Make one for yourselves and let us know what you think.

And no, I'm not a friggin' shill for the military-bitters industrial complex. I just happen to like cocktails.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Cocktail of the week #1: Shirley Temple

Ah, yes, cocktails!
My father and stepmother gave us a novelty deck of playing cards. They look to be from the Fifties, and instead of naked women each card face contains a drink recipe.

Well, we found this rather cute, in a kitschy sort of way. We also saw it as a fun little opportunity to experiment with different cocktails and restock our bar. We decided to experiment: every Sunday we would draw a random card from the deck and that would be our "Cocktail of the Week."

We've been at it for six weeks, now, with mixed results.
Our first draw?

A Shirley Temple.

Talk about a letdown... but it did bring back memories of kiddie cocktails at pizza parlors when I was a little boy. So I guess it wasn't all bad. I mean, c'mon! How can you go wrong with 7-Up and grenadine?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Please allow me to introduce myself...

Last Friday I woke up late and rushed myself out the door to get to work

In my hurry, I grabbed a sweatshirt from the drawer (Friday is "casual day") and threw it on. It was a gray sweatshirt, and so assumed it was the cheesy one I got from my workplace last year on "Employee Appreciation Day." Every year we worker bees get an article of clothing, emblazoned from the company logo, from our employer. Last year, it was a said sweatshirt with the logo stitched on in an almost florescent orange thread.

If I had taken a moment to look in the mirror before running to the car and gunning the engine, I would have noticed I grabbed the wrong sweatshirt.

I'm an atheist. I am also a skeptic and a freethinker. If you don't know what those are, read a book. (Or maybe I'll define them in a later posting.) My wife also falls into these categories.

What has this got to do with anything?

Keep reading and you'll see.

Being atheists, skeptics and freethinkers, we took time off from our jobs and journeyed to Madison, Wisconsin, last month to participate in the 30th annual convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an organization to which we both belong.

While there, we had a grand time. We met some really cool people - like PZ Myers, whose "Pharyngula" blog is a favorite of mine - and listened to some of the keener minds of our time. I'll let PZ's assessment of the convention speak for me, if you are interested in a report on the overall affair.

While at the convention, we bought too many books and a large gray sweatshirt for myself. This particular sweatshirt has the word "Infidel" on the front on large and friendly black letters. I loved it!

And that was the one I grabbed as I headed out to work, this morning. I did not realize my mistake until I parked my car at work and reached for my briefcase and caught the word "Infidel" in my rear-view mirror.

I looked down at my chest to double-check and sighed. I was in a bit of a predicament.

My workplace, I'm sad to say, is not an environment where the values of logic and reason aren held in high esteem. It's an unwritten rule there that to get into the upper echelons management you have to be a fundie Christian. There's also a bit of a double-standard regarding personal expression: many of my co-workers openly display their little crosses and fish symbols and "inspirational literature" on the walls of their cubes quite openly.

I tried using a "Darwin fish" mouse pad and was forced by my boss to conceal it within half an hour... she did not want me to start a scene.

So I stared at the word "Infidel" on my chest and wondered if I really wanted to wander into my Christian workplace with such a potentially inflammatory piece of clothing on me. Di I really want to do this in a workplace where:

  • My boss openly declared to me that she no longer "believes in the efficacy of the scientific method" when I asked her to start seeing a doctor about her asthma (rather than the "Chinese medicine" practitioner she now sees)
  • Her boss openly keeps a Bible and several concordances in his office alongside his management materials.
  • And a VP who used the death of an employee last year as an opportunity to witness for Jesus to someone on staff who is Jewish (she got rather upset about that).

No. I would not normally chose to wear such a controversial piece of clothing to work. But once I realized I had done it, I set my teeth and resolved to get through the day, rather than hide it.

Besides, if I drove back home to change, I was going to be late for work. And I hate being late for work.

Well, the day went without much of a hitch. Several co-workers complimented the sweatshirt and did so sincerely. One of them was a Muslim(!), which made me feel good. My boss, it turned out, took PTO that day, so I did not get called into her office.

A lot of True Believers on staff, however, did notice but said nothing. As I expected: direct confrontation is no longer an offended person's way, in my opinion. I'm sure they have complained to their superiors rather than express their disapproval to me directly. My boss will be back in the office tomorrow. I'm sure she'll have words for me then.

So who am I and why am I doing this?

I'm just a working schlub in the Midwest trying to make it through life with his wife. I'm educated, well-employed, and hope to start a family one day. My wife is educated, ambitious, and running her own fairly successful business.

We work hard, we pay our taxes, we are actively involved in our community, and we believe that the United States of America is one of the greatest nations ever to develop on the face of the Earth and are proud to be among its citizens.

But we don't believe in God. And we don't like to take things at face value.

In President Bush II's U.S.A. this makes us suspicious and un-American. Kind if like "communists" during the McCarthy Era. Not that I'm drawing any comparisons, or anything. (*Cough!*)

I'm doing this because there are a lot of sequestered nonbelievers like me in this country. We doubt, we question, or we just don't believe... but if we express it, or express it too much, we are sanctioned by our fellows and, worse yet, pitied by those whose minds are so closed an entire case of WD-40 would not let an independent, critical thought slip through. I'm doing this because I need to express to a wider audience my frustration and dismay at the world slipping into a new Dim AgeTM.

Not a Dark Age. A Dim AgeTM.

The Dark Ages resulted from the collapse of the Roman Empire, the intellectual, technological and civic infrastructure of Europe. It fell away and barbarians squabbled amongst themselves and fought bloody wars among themselves for who gets to own what piece of land or who sits upon what throne on what piece of land.

This Dim AgeTM is different. We still have the intellectual, technological and civic infrastructure that makes this nation great (read "educational and governmental systems"), but there have been forces active almost since the beginning - and steadily gaining steam and power since the days of Barry Goldwater - to chip away at science and reason in education and erode the Bill of Rights in the name of Providence or God or Jesus or whatever you want to call it. We are willfully turning down the light. Or, at least, we are passively allowing others to try to blow out that "candle in the dark," as the late great Carl Sagan called it. And I can't stand it much longer.

So why are you remaining anonymous?

For one thing, I'd like to keep my job. I don't think I would get fired if it got out into the general population that I am an atheist (a few co-workers know, already), but work would become generally uncomfortable. And outside the religious nonsense, I do really like my employer.

More importantly, my wife's business would suffer. She's an independent music teacher, and due to where we live an inordinate number of her clientele are deeply religious. We lived together for a year before we married, and just "living in sin" cost her some customers. If it got out we are atheists? Her business would collapse and she would have to go back to contracting with several music schools in the area, working much longer hours for a good deal less money. That would be unfair to us and unfair to the children she teaches. And the children have become very attached to her.

And sadly, I've known too many Christians who would take personal joy in watching a pair of godless heathens such as us suffer so, regardless of the damage to us or anyone else.

That doesn't mean I'm living in fear that my identity will be discovered. I'm anonymous, for now, and maybe one day I'll reveal my identity. Or maybe I'll be ousted by someone on the net who sees this as a challenge or wants to be annoying. As with the sweatshirt, I'll deal with it when the time comes, setting my teeth and getting through the day.

And it won't all be serious stuff on this blog. There will be irreverence. And jocularity.

And even cocktails.

Welcome to my Dim Age DiaryTM.