Category Archives: Uncategorized

Ireland and marriage equality

Sterotype me, I'm Irish.

Not so easy anymore.


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Ten thousand views

This small blog was launched to air personal observations among a few colleagues and friends, mostly folks who know why there’s a red squirrel on the masthead. The first post appeared on May 23, 2011, a story about Antony Flew.

As a secondary purpose, I resolved that when I couldn’t easily find a satisfactory resource online about something interesting, and had to go to an actual brick-and-mortar library to research it, that I’d post here what I found there, so that then it would be online. Two posts filed under that resolution, discussing Winston Churchill’s intemperate remarks about Islam and Carl Jung’s letter about his idiosyncratic God, attract most of the blog’s traffic, so much for “secondary” purposes.

This is still one of the few places where you can find all that Einstein wrote to Eric Gutkind, and only what he really wrote. My favorite posts feature Alexei and Clea, brother and sister Akitas, brilliant and beautiful in life, now gone on ahead to scout the unexplored territory that awaits us all. The Hallowe’en posts are fun to write; both stories so far were “stumbled upon.” I hope to stumble upon a third story in time for this year. And there still are personal posts, viewed by few except that small circle of red squirrel cognoscenti for whom the blog was launched.

Thanks to all the readers, both the one-time visitors looking for a particular piece of information and the hearty regulars, who have taken the Uncertaintist blog to this milestone.


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Tuesdays with Clea

Last December, The Uncertaintist wrote about Clea, an elderly Akita, remembering her late brother, Alexei (link). This fall, I had the privilege of attending Clea on Tuesdays, filling a hole in the weekly schedule of her human housemates.

Clea’s world was contracting around her. She did not walk outside as frequently, or stay out as long, or venture as far as she had done only months before. And yet, when she did walk down the street, before turning for home, she pointed her nose and ears in the direction she was abandoning. With her head held high, she tested the air. She wasn’t going to go there, but she knew what she would have found there if she had gone. And sometimes she didn’t turn back after she tested the air and you thought she was going to turn. There were even times when you had to remind her to turn back, not to overdo it. But those times became rarer as the fall progressed.

Inside the house, she avoided stairs, because of her arthritis, and because she feared falling. Thus, she was living only on the main floor, not joining her family for movies downstairs in the basement, or ever venturing onto the upper floor.

But on that one floor left to her, she had her window, across from her bed and overlooking her back yard, through which the smells and sounds of a larger world reached her even when she stayed inside. Many of her indoor walks included a stop to stick her head outside through that window. Opening and closing Clea’s window, on demand, was part of an attendant’s duties.

In the late mornings or early afternoons on Tuesdays, Clea and I would just sit, as she used to just sit with her brother Alexei. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, in her book The Hidden Life of Dogs, discusses her discovery that dogs just sit together, not grooming, not playing, not doing anything except just sitting, quietly together, completely and easily together, alert and calm. Years ago, Clea and Alexei sometimes allowed me to just sit with them. They were much better at it than I was, but they were good teachers. And now years later, while I couldn’t be the just-sitting companion for Clea that Alexei was, I would just sit with her, as best I was able.

Some Tuesdays were better days for Clea than others, as her appetite and activity level varied from one week to the next. Clea never had been one to pace herself, and when she felt up to it, she would overdo being active. When she overdid things on the weekend, she was apt to be still paying for it when I joined her on Tuesday.

So it went, week after week, for the eleven Tuesdays that I would share with Clea. I brought work with me, and I got a lot of it done, but never as much as I planned. It took attention to attend to Clea. Her body no longer did what she wanted when she wanted it to. Her bedding needed changing several times during the day. Wherever she walked, indoors or outdoors, she needed an escort, because her fear of falling was well-founded.

Saturday after Thanksgiving, I picked up a few small things for Clea, thinking to see her that coming Tuesday, as I had every other Tuesday this fall, but on Monday, Clea died.

Dogs are gray wolves who tolerate people, with all their rude human noises and smells, but dogs are no less wolves for being patient and gracious. The occupation of wolves is death. Their loyalty to one another, once chosen, is bottomless, but there is no sentimentality in it. The loyal infirm leave the wild pack, and the wild pack leaves them, with no evident hard feelings on either side

Clea lived tame, as an honored guest of a different species, but she died as a wolf. She ate well that morning. She walked outside, slowly but on her own feet, circling the house that had been hers and her brother Alexei’s. Some of us followed her. Whenever anyone walked with Clea, they followed her. She was an alpha; she led. There would be no exception now, and so, no exception ever.

When she finished her walk, Clea returned to the warmth inside the house, waiting for the veterinarian, who came late, but soon enough. Clea’s death was crisp, clinical and anticlimactic. One hypodermic shot into the once-glorious mane across her shoulders, and Clea left us. A second shot ensured that she wouldn’t come back.

Shots be damned. Weeks have passed, and the essential Clea hasn’t begun to leave. We just can’t find her anymore, which makes no sense, because we see her everywhere she has ever been.

Clea in August 2013

Clea in August 2013. Click to enlarge.


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Hamza Kashgari reportedly released

Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari has been freed after being jailed since February 2012, according to BBC News. Kashgari was arrested by Saudi Arabian authorities  (with the assistance of Malaysia, where he passed through while fleeing) because he had tweeted these lines, addressed to the Prophet Mohmmed,

On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.

On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.

On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.

No formal public charges were ever brought against Kashgari.

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This May 20th, read Hamza Kashgari

Monday will be the fourth “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.” Last year’s event was dedicated to protest the jailing by Saudi Arabia of Hamza Kashgari, a writer who had tweeted some civil comments about the Prophet Mohammed on Twitter.

It appears that the goal of freeing Kashgari wasn’t achieved. Writing in the New York Times last month, Salman Rushdie reported that Kashgari is still in jail, awaiting trial. The Uncertaintist wrote to the information office at the Saudi Embassy to the United States to confirm this, and to ask what specific charges are pending aginst Kasgari. The inquiry wasn’t answered.

As I wrote here last year after DMD III,

it was altogether unclear how drawing cartoons of Mohammed, or typing out ASCII-graphics stick figures of him could ever have been expected to do any good for Kashgari. What’s needed is an act of solidarity that engages rather than alienates Muslims of goodwill. Muslims are the decision makers in this case, and Muslims are the principal audience for the morality play the Kingdom is acting out. Gratuitously insulting somebody’s religious beliefs is a predictable way to fail. Daring his captors to keep him in jail is a surefire way to keep him in jail, or worse.

So, let’s try to stir up some interest in Kashgari’s case, or at least preserve the memory that there is a Hamza Kashgari case. Drawing Mohammed cartoons has been done to death anyway. Instead, let’s read what Hamza Kashgari wrote on May 20th, encourage others to do the same, and foster discussion about what Kashgari did that was wrong.

Here’s what he’s in jail for, as reported last year by The Daily Beast site:

On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.

On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.

On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.

There, you’ve read it. Now bring it to somebody else for them to read it, with an explanation of who wrote it, and what has happened to him as a result. Write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper about it. Seek out Muslim friends and discuss these 111 words with them. Here are some suggested discussion points:

What’s wrong with these ideas, within a faithful Islamic framework? Isn’t Mohammed a human being according to the Islamic faith? Wouldn’t acquiescing in placing a “halo of divinity” around Mohammed be a serious lapse? Isn’t bowing to a man for religious reasons idolatry? … and so forth.

Don’t have many Muslim friends? Post something about Kashgari on a web discussion board, and feature the words there. Feel free to mention the case and the words that keep a man in jail after Monday, too. If in your web surfing, you encounter a discussion about Draw Mohammed Day 2013, then remind folks that there’s some unfinished business from 2012.

Update: In October 2013, Kashgari was released.

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Boston stands as one


Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Menino have announced the formation of The One Fund Boston, the purpose of which is to raise money to help those families most affected by the tragic events that unfolded during Monday’s Boston Marathon.

“We are one Boston. We are one community. As always, we will come together to help those most in need. And in the end, we will all be better for it,” Mayor Menino said.

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