May 1 2013

Life Inside The Koi Pond

buddha statue in the snow

The koi pond remained still during the winter freeze.

The winter, for what it was worth, is officially over.  Spring always offers opportunities to get out into the yard and get the koi pond “back on it’s feet”. But for me, it’s more. Creating this small spot of life in the backyard is a way for me to control and nurture something that can give back. At a certain point, these creatures depend on you to maintain their environment. And who better to oversee the pond, than a statue of Buddha? I always thought Buddha was a cool icon in the spiritual world. Wise and subtle.

two koi

After a short time we accounted for the 3 koi and 2 goldfish from last year.

Another hidden opportunity besides playing god is photographing it all. How many times are you going to be next to these creatures otherwise? I am always amazed at the different things that happen in this utopia. I will try to share some of these things with you. Feel free to comment any questions about the pond that you have. This is the second one that I have built and maintained in the last 10 years. This pond is a free-form dug straight into the ground where a liner is placed and fastened down before filling. The pond matures over time and gets “seasoned” with plants and other parts of it’s eco system. The photo below is from the fall of 2008.

koi pond water falls

This shot of the koi pond is from the first year of its existence, 2008.

It usually takes about 6 weeks into the spring before the water and filter are doing their job correctly. The media in the filter grows a bacteria that in turn takes out the waste products by neutralizing the water as it flows through and puts it back into pond via the water fall. This is also when the plants spring back to life. The water lilies surface with their big flat leaves. The leaves help block the sun which will help hold back the overpowering algae growth.

mating toads

The shot of mating toads under water looks like two aliens to me.

In the end, I wonder if god is an alien scientist and this earth is his backyard koi pond. If so, I hope that he keeps giving us the right environment to live in. The rest is up to us!

 


Mar 19 2013

Sister Anne: A Super Hero For The Ages

Sister Anne

Sister Anne, ridding the world of evil!

With tattoos of the Ten Commandments on her shoulders, Sister Anne is an unlikely super hero. She is the brain child of Brian Clark, a talented artist, who has a background in the comic book arena. He is in the process of developing an online comic series with the goal being a full fledge cartoon on network or cable television. You can learn more about Sister Anne on this website, where you can also link to his Facebook page as well as his blog. I hope that I have a chance to sit down and interview Brian Clark in the near future and get more insight into this project. I absolutely love the concept and feel that the public is more than ready for this animated series. Please visit his facebook page and let him know what you think of his creation.


Mar 11 2013

We Are Everywhere…

More often than not, I meet more and more free thinkers. Whether it’s online or coworkers or random people you happen upon, we are out there in numbers. It feels like a secret club at times because a lot of the people are stuck in the closet. I understand why some people remain silent to the masses about their beliefs because ultimately it’s a personal thing. It really shouldn’t matter to anyone, however, the fact that religion is bound to politics and woven into our government makes a few of us stand against it’s influence.

Religion tears me into two different directions. Half of me believes that if religion makes a person happy, then no harm, no foul. The other half of me believes that the greatest story ever told is the greatest lie ever told. Besides completely discounting evolution, religion has been the cause of many wars where millions have died.

Most of all, religion is what has made us enemies with other people in the world. People die everyday in the name of religion. It is fair to say that depending on the random luck of where you are born, will determine what god you will worship. They all can’t be right. And to think there have been hundreds of gods over the centuries that have been worshipped by mankind, really makes the truth of any one of them hard to swallow.

I guess in the end, for me, it was said best by my oldest son when he asked me, ” Is Jesus just like Santa Claus?” When I asked what he meant by that, he said “Too good to be true.” If a ten year old can figure that out, then why do so many people believe?

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Mar 3 2013

Warning: In case of Rapture

First off, let me thank, the friendly atheist for reposting a portion of my blog on his blog. I received a ton of traffic from him for my “what would Jesus spread?” post from last week. We moved the website over from the wordpress.com website to the funnyatheist.com website. I hope I didn’t lose too many precious followers.

Now, most of the people that know me, know that I am a t-shirt kind of guy. In fact, I have designed a ton of them over the years for different places that I have worked. My favorite designs are the ones that I have total freedom. One such client is a swellshirt.com. It doesn’t matter how stupid it may be, they always humor me and put up my latest design. After all, if it sells it sells. If it doesn’t then they can take it down and throw it into the digital trash can. No harm, no foul. It’s a sweet gig, so sweet in fact they are sponsoring my blog space and .com name. It’s great to think free thinkers can collaborate together in business. I plan on coming up with a new funny shirt in this theme every month. To have a community of similar minded people is a great asset. It lets you know that you are not alone or crazy to think this world came about by things other than a mystical presence. I am going to focus my blog on satire. I feel it is through humor that we can gain strength in our convictions and bond together. It’s gonna be a long haul. Until next time, cheers!!!

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Feb 26 2013

What would Jesus spread?

Jesus on a miracle whip jarYes folks it’s the commercialization of Jesus. This first became visible to me with the WWJD bracelets that popped up in gas stations and flea markets everywhere. I doubt that a single penny went to the ministry. Outside of the obvious irony is the idea that mortals could even do what Jesus would do. I am sure that we would love to feed the hungry with a basket of fish and loaves.

So I say why stop there? So many products could dominate the marketplace with the King of Jews as their pitch man. Why drink bottled water when you can drink holy bottled water? Whose face do you want to see on your angel food cake? The point is, this is capitalism and no one is cashing in. Come on man!


Feb 23 2013

Coming to a church near you!

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I drove by this beauty on the long way home after work this week. These type of signs and more importantly, the message within them are ubiquitous in the lawns of churches everywhere. I often chuckle while reading the clever sayings. The classic “No Jesus no peace, know Jesus know peace.” Clever indeed! Sometimes they say odd things like “What it is, is what it is, and that’s what it is.” Maybe these churches subscribe to some service that gives you these clever things to put out front. It must a lot of pressure to keep them fresh.

The sign above however, plays on fear. Reminding the reader, it’s heaven or hell for eternity. Do you really have to throw that out there to draw them inside? Lets play nicer on the signs, ok?


Feb 20 2013

Atheist in the Foxhole Part 2

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After settling in the country for the next 4 months, I noticed something very revealing about the Saudis.  When it was prayer time, like clockwork they were all praying.  No matter where they were, I would see groups of them on the side of the road lined-up, left to right praying to towards Mecca.  I was amazed at how faithful they were to their religion.  I wondered, how could there be this other “culture” of people who didn’t have Jesus as their savior?  This is not possible is it?  Why would god let so many people in the world stray down the wrong path?  It must be horrifically unlucky to be born in a culture where Christianity hasn’t prevailed.

Over time I become to accept them for who they were.  I even respected them for following their dogma so strictly.  I asked someone who had lived in Saudi for a while, why the people drive so fast creating devastating accidents?  He said, “If you die in an accident, it’s the will of Allah.”  The will of Allah?  Interesting.  Sort of a “if it happens, it happens.”  This same gentleman also said to me, “You know, Jesus is in the quran, not just in the bible.” “Only in the quran, he is a prophet.” I really found this interesting.  What was disheartening was the fact my own beliefs, were starting to crumble.

 

And so there I was, five months later, sitting in my foxhole.  I realized that spiritually I was no further along than I was entering the country.  Instead I rode a roller coaster of doubt where fear was steering the car.  This was a bad time to find faith.  Faith should be found in the still waters of your life.  Trying to find it hastily gives you little choice or ration in your decision.  I was reaching for something that wasn’t there for me.  It was pathetic.  And if there were a god, he would surely see through this desperate attempt to save myself from the eternal hell that salvation offered.  Oh sure Mike, come to me now when you are afraid of dying!  It was true, but as I looked around at my fellow Christians, a theme started to appear.  The more desperate you are, the more you need god.  It is why so many find faith behind bars.  What do you have to lose?  I have seen so many people who live an unchristian life until something happens and boy do they drop to their knees!  It’s like they pull god out of a drawer and dust him off when the shit hits the fan.  The safety net is if you do commit a sin, you can always pray for forgiveness and get back on the road to salvation.

 

So I am here to call bullshit.  I believe that evolution happened.  I don’t believe in a virginal birth.  I believe that it is not wise to follow or believe anything based upon one source.  I believe that anyone that tells you to believe in a certain way or face eternal damnation is cruel and heartless.  I believe that religion is corrupt and causes pain and death to mankind on a massive scale.  I believe that no one has the answers to life’s mysteries.  I believe that if you are a person of faith and live within the moral guidelines of your beliefs, then good for you.  I believe that a lot of people need religion to fill the gap created by the unknown, and that is ok.  But most of all, I believe in me.

 

Stay fearless my friends.

 


Feb 19 2013

Atheist in the Foxhole Part 1

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I was a member of 2nd Brigade in the 82d Airborne Division in August of 1990.  We were the first ground troops to deploy to Saudi Arabia for the Desert Shield/Desert Storm conflict.  As Gen. Johnson put it, “We are drawing a line in the sand.”   With that said, we were wheels up, headed for the gulf.  The moment we arrived there was fear and tension in the air.  We knew as we landed, we were greatly outnumbered by the Iraqi forces just over the border.  If they attacked us at that point, all hell would have broken loose.  I am glad that Saddam balked at the opportunity.  For it wasn’t long before the follow-on forces were quickly streaming in behind us.

 

When thrust into a situation like this, it is not long before your look at your mortality.  In doing this, your mind imagines what will happen if you “buy the farm”.  You start to mourn the loss of your own life and what it will be like for the people you leave behind.  Do they truly know how I feel about them?  Will this change the course of their lives?  There is so much unfinished business when dying before your time, and with very little notice. 

 

After my mind played out several scenarios, I began to wonder about my “soul”.  I never had proclaimed myself to be saved by Jesus and had always hinged on being agnostic or atheist.  I had come to believe that heaven was too good to be true.  A fantasy ending – to a fairytale story.  But this situation was different, I had to be sure because we weren’t in Kansas anymore.  The stakes were higher than ever, you have to get this one right.  There is no turning back.  And there it was, a military issue bible in camouflage sitting on my cot.  Could the answer be in here?  I started to read.

 

I had read the bible, or parts of it in the past, but this time I needed to give it my full attention.  What I found was things that really didn’t make sense to me.  I could say the same if I was reading Shakespeare.  There are a lot of quotes and bits and pieces that make sense, but as a whole, I can’t put this all together.  They sure didn’t make it easy for the novice reader.  This is my soul we are talking about!  Thankfully there are guides to help you along your path.  Experts in the field to answer these questions and help guide you to salvation.  There are also a lot of common folk who have taken it upon themselves to interpret the bible in the way that they see fit.  I began to understand why there were so many different Christian based religions all based on the same book.  And if you were a part of one of these, you will be covered in the whole soul and afterlife department.  Good!


Feb 10 2013

Open mouth, insert boot

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After jump school I arrived at the 82d Airborne Division and was assigned to 2nd Brigade. After a quick orientation by the Command Sergeant Major (CSM), he asked the group if anyone could draw. Thinking that he might need a poster drawn, I raised my hand. He sent me upstairs in the brigade headquarters to the S3 shop. Upon my arrival SGM West asked me to hand draw a falcon from one that was on the front of a manual he had in his hands. I carefully drew the falcon and brought the paper back to his desk. He said “Congratulations private, you are now a draftsman for the 2nd brigade headquarters company.” What that meant to me as an infantry soldier, instead of being in the line unit, I would have a job in headquarters drawing map graphics, operation orders, and driving a hummer that carried our mobile tactical operations center (TOC).

My first big war game was at Ft Chaffe in Arkansas. We set up the TOC deep into the woods on the mock battlefield. The TOC consisted of 5 tents, each 10 feet square and were joined together to form one big area. This tent structure housed several components of the army that would serve as the control center or “brain” of the battle. After setting up the tent structure, we were told that the “war” would begin in the morning and I was to show up at the TOC at 5am in full camo.

I used the military issued camo in basic training which consisted of a large crayon-like stick encased in a metal tube. It was dark green on one end and light green on the other. We were trained to paint your face with the dark end in all the high areas on your face, and use the light green around your mouth and eye sockets. The problem was, the next morning, ten minutes before I was to report to the TOC, I had no camo. I saw Spc Mann wearing “fancy” camo earlier which consisted of multi-colored creamy camo sold in tubes at Ranger Joe’s. I told him of my dilemma and asked him if I could borrow his so that I wouldn’t be late. He agreed and told me that his kit was in the front of his hummer. Time was ticking quickly as I ran to his hummer. Sure enough, his kit was there, but all the green and brown colors were missing. Where were they? Oh my god! The only colors left was the black and the off-white. The time! I’m going to be late!

With no other options I covered my whole face with the black camo, and put the off-white around my mouth and eye sockets. I quickly ran to the TOC and entered the tent structure. A burst of laughter nearly knocked me down as the men inside nearly doubled over in pain upon seeing my look. However, there was one man who wasn’t laughing, my section sergeant, SFC Jackson. Need I mention that he is an African-American? He said “Who in the hell are you supposed to be?” Embarrassed and caught off guard, I foolishly said “Al Jolson?”

Less than thirty seconds later I found myself behind the tent structure doing push-ups until my arms exploded. The pain was incredible. By the end of the “war game” I had proven myself with my peers as another one of our leaders put me in for, and I received, the army achievement medal. Redemption!


Feb 7 2013

my father’s son

My father is a great man. He is loved and respected by all who know him, myself included. He is a man of principles. Do not lie to my father.

A few years ago, I moved to Chandler, AZ for a few months to “get back on my feet”. Part of this was buying a car. With my dad’s help, I bought a 1984 300zx. It needed some work. One saturday my father and I were driving around “the valley” in his truck. We were in Apache Junction a few miles from the house when dad said, “Let’s stop in Auto Zone and get those back shocks for your car and we’ll put them on this weekend.” So we preceded to go into the store and buy the two shocks. Much to our dismay, the parts guy informed us that he only had one of the shocks in his store. Dad said, “I live in Chandler, can you call our Auto Zone and see if they have a pair there? We will pick them up on our way home.” The parts guy called the other store and informed us that the Chandler store only had one shock as well. “Hmmm? Ok, well go ahead and ring out this one and we will buy the one in Chandler.” And with that, we left the store and headed to the Auto Zone in Chandler. We arrived at the other store, gave the clerk our part number and he retrieved the shock from the back room for us. As we started to take it to the check-out counter dad asked the guy, “By the way, how many of these shocks do you have in this store?” “Let me check sir”, he replied. “We have 13 here.” With that said, I could literally see the red rise from my father’s neckline, up over his chin, across his nose, eyes and forehead, and disappear into his hairline. My father calmly said, “Go ahead and give me a second shock.”

It was a long silent ride back to the Auto Zone in Apache Junction. It wasn’t going to be pretty. I had flashbacks of grocery shopping with my Aunt Mame as she cussed out butchers for too much fat on the cuts of meat. There was going to be a “scene”, and I was going to be front row and center. When we arrived at the store, I was going to play it cool and stay in the truck when my father quickly said, “Come on!”, as if he wanted me to see the blood bath of words. We walked in, shock in hand and my father says to the first employee he sees, “I need to see the manager, Right Now!” The manager emerged from the back of the store and asked my father,”What seems to be the trouble sir?” My father explains in complete detail of the deception portrayed by one of the store’s employees, and how we drove all the way back 20 miles to return the one shock that we had bought earlier at their location. Sheepishly the manager asked my father, “Which one of our guys lied to you sir?” And there, on the last computer on the back side of the store, he sat. He was cowered down, fear in his eyes as he had just heard the exchange between his manager and my father. With his long arm raised toward him, my father said, “That son of a bitch right there!”