Get out of Hell Free

Given my attitude, I’m sure no one would be shocked that I carry a wallet full of these cards around with me: I hand them out to anyone who’s having “one of those days”. Apparently, I’m not the only one:

I’ve never gotten a negative response. I’ve always received at least a smile in return, which can be quite an achievement, depending on how bad the day is. Finding something funny even in the worst situations is one sure way to alleviate stress (and as someone who’s Meniere’s trigger is stress, it’s important to know how to get rid of it) so I follow Saltheart Foamfollower’s advice and laugh, for “Joy is in the ears that hear”.

I’ve gotten some pretty strange looks over the years, laughing when there isn’t anything to laugh about. After twenty years experience in the architectural industry, when the boss once again shaves 30% off of all your estimations of time and money, and expects you to complete the project with no errors anyway, truly “it is to laugh”. Getting angry just makes the time pass more slowly.

…And who needs that?

Codes and Jesus the Superstar

I was reading a review of the Da Vinci Code movie over at the Atlasphere (The Da Vinci Code: Fighting Faith and Force) the other day, and noticed one of the links at the bottom of the page labeled the U.S. Catholic Bishops Brown-bashing site” I found the link intriguing, so I clicked on it.

The actual title of the page was the funny part. “Jesus decoded“, it proclaims.

That’s a great idea. Maybe they can explain the trick with the fishes and the loaves of bread, or perhaps the walking on water. That would be good to know. The most important trick, of course, would be the changing of water into wine. Very popular at parties, I would imagine.

Too bad this sort of insight wasn’t available to Judas ‘back in the day’. Might have saved him a lot of missteps. “Who are you, what have you sacrificed?” One of the most memorable lines of lyrics from Jesus Christ Superstar. Judas, as one of the disciples, should have known how to ‘decode’ Jesus. Obviously it isn’t as easy as the Catholic Bishops would have us believe.

A fondness for Jesus Christ Superstar is one of the few things that remains constant from my days as a ‘born again’ to my current ascribed atheism. I picked up the DVD recently and watched the movie for the first time. Alamo Drafthouse aired snippets of the movie between showings of The Da Vinci Code (I have written about the movie and the book before) and it intrigued me. I’ve listened to the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack since the early eighties, but I’ve never had the occasion to watch the film made from the play. Little did I know that the soundtrack was in fact the original version, created before the play even took shape.

That makes it all the more interesting to me that they chose to alter some of the lyrics from the soundtrack in making the play and the film. One of the most telling lines, for me, has always been Jesus’ despairing declaration to the lepers “Heal yourselves!” which is the last line in that song on the soundtrack. The movie uses a much more ambiguous “Leave me alone!” to end the song.

I prefer the more empowering declaration, myself. More fitting in describing what is wrong in the world today. The vast majority of people seem to think that what they need to fix themselves is external to their selves; when, obviously, the answers lie within.

Judas fails to comprehend were the answers lie as well. The movie, album, etc. ends with Judas still asking questions of Jesus (which still plays quite well) when the real question is why Judas would turn in the man he professes to love. Jesus Decoded, indeed., just like being back in school

I’ve had a running battle with for years. I originally joined up in order to reconnect with fellow Government School survivors, see if any of them have managed to pull it all together and make something of themselves.

Little did I know that the website is run by the same quality of petty little modo that they hire to administrate the average Texas School District. I’m surprised that the world continues to exist with the weight of so many soul-less creatures living on it.

Yepper, being on the classmates site is almost exactly like being back in school. Customer service reps like the average teacher, happy as can be until you question their judgment. The bullies have changed a bit. Now the nerds who program the site are the bullies (it’s probably revenge) setting up a confining little rats maze of questionnaires that are supposed to let everyone know who you are; but don’t let you give answers that actually describe yourself. And, of course, it wouldn’t be school without the in crowd. The in crowd is represented by the people so desperate to be loved that they pay the (over priced) subscription fee (revenge of the nerds!) so that they can hang out with all their in friends from yesteryear.

…if only there was a cafeteria stocked with greasy soyburgers and wrinkly green beans, I’d feel like I was back in that nightmare.

Luckily it’s still possible to slip a note in secret to a friend, or I’d have no use for the place, at all.

From the archive:


From: R. Anthony Steele
Date: Saturday, December 21, 2002 01:42 AM
To: Member Care
Subject: RE: Enter Profiles

The section on Politics is wholly inadequate.

It’s pointless to include the questions at all, if a full range of answers is not allowed. Specifically, I am a Libertarian, I have been one for more than ten years. If I continue to participate in politics, I will continue as a Libertarian. As such I am not able to complete the first of the profiles, and I’m not interested in filling out the rest unless some modification of the first is possible.

The structure of the answers also leaves out the possibility of truthfully stating your politics if you are a Green or any other minor party.

I sincerely suggest a re-vamping of the entire structure for questions of politics.

R. Anthony Steele


Dear Classmates Member,

Thank you for contacting Classmates. Our members are at the heart of our business, and it’s your involvement that helps us continue to grow and change to meet your needs. We appreciate and value your taking the time to provide feedback.

In response to your feedback, we will forward your message directly to a Product Manager for review. While Product Managers generally can’t respond to all feedback directly (with millions of members we get a lot of feedback), please know that member comments were responsible for the current change and have been responsible for many improvements in the Classmates site.

Again, thank you for your suggestion. We appreciate your help in making Classmates a better Web site.


Member Care Team


Sounded promising. A few months later, they sent me an invite back to check out the ‘all new’ bio questions.


From: R. Anthony Steele
Date: Saturday, January 25, 2003 01:42 PM
Subject: Enter Profiles

I got an e-mail today claiming the profiles were “all new”. However I still can’t get past the first three questions, because ‘Libertarian’ is not an answer that I can give.

So I’ll never know what the rest of the profile looks like.

-R Anthony Steele


Dear Tony,

Thank you for contacting Classmates. You can only access the first 3 questions for a profile because you are a Basic member and not a Gold member.

If we may assist you further, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Member Care Team
Classmates Online


Kitty is clearly a rocket scientist. She has stumbled across the coincidental facts that:

  1. I am a ‘free’ member, and
  2. free members are restricted from viewing the bio’s of other members past question three.
So she helpfully sends me a note. She has blithely ignored the obvious and relevant fact that don’t want to see other peoples bio’s, I simply wish to edit my own. She also calls me “Tony”. A bit familiar, don’t you think?


From: R. Anthony Steele
Date: Monday, January 27, 2003 09:24 PM
To: Member Care
Subject: RE: Enter Profiles

I’m sorry, but you’ve missed the point.

I’ll never get past question number two, because question number three’s choices preclude an accurate answer. There is no dichotomy of politics; no left/right liberal/conservative contrasting of political views.

I am a libertarian and an objectivist. As such I am clearly not encouraged to participate at Classmates, since the questions are designed to exclude me.

Why would I want to pay a membership fee to a website designed to exclude me?

-RAnthony Steele

PS. Tony is a nickname I reserve for friends and family. I don’t think ya’ll have earned the right to refer to me by that name. Mr. Steele would be acceptable.


From: Member Care
Sent: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 2:23 PM
Subject: RE:Enter Profiles

Mr. Steele,

Thank you for getting back to Classmates. This is not a political forum here at Classmates. It is about fun and reconnecting with old friends. If you would like for us to remove your registration for you we would be more than happy to comply with that request.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have created for you. If we may assist you further, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Member Care Team
Classmates Online


From: R. Anthony Steele
Date: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 04:58 PM
To: Member Care
Subject: RE: Enter Profiles

If it’s not a political forum, then why am I REQUIRED to state what my politics are in the ‘profile’? Also, who says politics isn’t ‘fun’?

It’s a simple request. Make the question answerable by those who do not conform to mainstream politics, or remove the question all together. It makes no difference to me, as long as some action is taken.

To take no action at all is to state unequivocally that those who do not conform need not apply; and as I am quite active all over the web, you can be certain that I will let others who share my views know exactly where classmates stands on the issue.

You can consider this an escalation of the issue. Please forward this to someone in a management position; someone who cares more about the client base than the front line techs obviously do.

-RAnthony Steele


After that rant I got the “sending this to the product manager” canned answer again. Well that’s just spiffy-dandy, idnit? The next time they sent me an invite to check out new content, I had a better one for them…


From: R. Anthony Steele
Date: Tuesday, September 07, 2004 07:44 PM
Subject: Other

Ya’ll ‘spam’ me with the latest “come visit us” message so I wander by to have a gander at who has joined. Oh, here’s a name I don’t know, who is it? Let’s check the profile… Oh, I haven’t completed my profile yet, because of the unresolved issue of the required answer to the unanswerable political question… Which still hasn’t been changed (see below) can’t complete the profile without the question, can’t read up on who is new on the site.

Kind of reduces the usefulness of Classmates for me, don’t cha think? Not being willing to include my political views kind of gives me an incentive to *not* be a paying member (something my wife has wanted to do for awhile) Feel free to snub me again, your customer NO-service types have done so before. (also see below)

More than willing to leave my name up for free at this point. Won’t be paying for a thing until something changes in the profiles.

-R. Anthony Steele


I have sent that one each subsequent time that they have sent me a message to “check out” something on the Classmates site. ‘Clarice’ helpfully submitted my address for removal from the optional mailing list (apparently I missed that option. There’s only about 8 pages of options to wade through) The removal didn’t take, and I had a brief conversation with ‘Sam’…


Hi R. Anthony,

Thank you for contacting Classmates.
There is a selection for the political views question that says “I prefer not to answer”.

In response to your feedback, we will forward your message directly to a Product Manager for review. While Product Managers generally can’t respond to all feedback directly (with millions of members we get a lot of feedback), please know that member comments were responsible for the current change and have been responsible for many improvements in the Classmates site.

Again, thank you for your suggestion. We appreciate your help in making Classmates a better Web site.


Member Care Team
Classmates Online


From: R. Anthony Steele
Date: Friday, September 10, 2004 01:15 PM
To: Member Care
Subject: Re: Other

See, that’s the problem. I want to answer; I demand to be allowed to answer since ya’ll put the political question on the bloody thing in the first place. But, I can’t answer, because ‘libertarian’ isn’t one of the pre-set answers you can give, and I can’t just leave the question un-answered or I can’t get to the next page.



…and I get sent to the “product manager for review” again. They’ve since fixed the problem as far as they are concerned. The political question is no longer mandatory, you can leave it unanswered; and they quit sending me messages. I still want to answer the question. I enjoy a good political debate. Apparently I’m not the kind of person they want hanging out on Classmates. Which suits me, I was never one of the in crowd anyway…

Liberty Dollar In the News: Big Bad Black Balloon Dramatizes Debt!

Bernard von NotHaus is staging a media event the day after Bernanke’s next expected interest rate hike (August 9th):

The day after Ben Bernanke raises interest rates for the 18th time, Bernard von NotHaus, noted Monetary Architect, will present a $50 Gold Federal Reserve Note for redemption as specified on the Note and guaranteed by the Constitution, at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York at 33 Liberty Street in lower Manhattan.

Anticipating rejection, von NotHaus will present the sorry outcome of a National Debt gone wild at the Press Conference, while a large black balloon with “NATIONAL DEBT” lettered on it inflates behind him until it bursts, just as von NotHaus predicts the US economy will burst.

The entire press release is located here.

I don’t want to be too hard on ‘Helicopter Ben‘. He really is facing a no-win scenario. There isn’t any way out of the current fiscal crisis. A hundred years of fiat paper is coming home to roost, most likely during his tenure in office. Yep, you can almost feel sorry for him, till you remember all the perks that come along with his job.

Oh, the pain, the PAIN.

The “for coverage by CBS” link at the bottom of the Press Release leads to a totally unrelated, yet interesting, news article about the Chambersburg “Chamberfest” that features Liberty Dollars being used to bolster local commerce. It also features a close up of the ALD vending machines that were rolled out last year at LDU. Don’t know why they felt the need to include that…

Anyone taking bets on whether Bernard gets his gold from the Fed? Didn’t think so. There hasn’t been any gold backed currency since about 1933, and I doubt they left a clause in to cover all that old paper that still says Gold Certificate on it.

…Of course, it helps if the Fed chairman actually does what you say he’s going to do. Who knows why Bernanke didn’t raise interest rates today. The symptoms related to looming inflation are nothing if not stronger today than they were at the last Fed meeting, so why not raise the rates again? Perhaps interest rates really have nothing to do with inflation? Perhaps they actually make inflation worse?

Israel Should be Allowed to Kick Ass

I don’t know, do you think the title is too ambiguous?

There have been a couple of columns from Thomas Sowell over at the Atlasphere on the subject of the latest Israeli conflict. One of them Peacemongers and War I couldn’t agree more with. A good portion of our problems today comes from appeasers who are all too willing to talk to aggressors. You don’t talk to aggressors, you destroy them before they have a chance to act.

The second one, however, I have a real problem with. Is It Time for a Cease-Fire? offers the same old tired argument that I’ve heard from overzealous hawks since the mid-70’s, when I first started paying attention to politics. “We have to be united behind our leadership in times of crisis.” I’ve heard it so many times I can quote it verbatim. Generally they include some wording like the following:

Back then, the president’s defeated opponent in the 1940 election – Wendell Wilkie – not only supported the war, he became a personal envoy from President Roosevelt to Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Personally, I like to hear disagreement. It proves that we are indeed still a free country. The crazy thing is, no matter how many hawks recite history with a solidarity message, there was disagreement in the 1940 election on the subject of war. “Isolationism” was the rule of the day, and Wendell Wilkie and FDR both paid lip service to it. Wilkie flip-flopped on whether he was in favor of going to war or not, but FDR was “dedicated to keeping America out of the war”.

[that he went on to get us into the war by baiting the Japanese with the Pacific fleet is still hotly contested, but I suggest that you pick up a copy of Day of Deceit and give it a read]

On the subject that is really on everyone’s lips, whether or not Israel should be called to heel, I have to stand on defense; real defense, not this “holding some imaginary line” defense that lost us the Vietnam conflict. No, Hezbollah is the latest in a long line of aggressors that has sworn the destruction of Israel (and the US) and has made good on it’s threats by taking hostages and violating borders. As far as I’m concerned Israel should be allowed to continue cleaning house until the last Hezbollah fighter stops breathing or surrenders. This is the only lesson that an aggressor will respect, application of superior force.

I think we should resurrect an old pre-WWII program and lend-lease Israel whatever weapons they need. The more house cleaning they do, the less we will have to do later.

Generating Power

Every time I hear someone lamenting “But what will we replace the oil with if we don’t buy it from the Middle East?” I run across some other way that we can generate power without relying on imported oil.

Methods like this one A proprietary system that converts wave energy into electricity. Or maybe you just want fuel for the car? Check out Biodiesel. Want to heat your house? Vegetable oil can be used for that as well (Stumbled across this process just recently. Garbage into Oil. Another obvious process) Then there is always the sexy solar panels and wind turbines.

As an architect, I’ve always been fond of the earthshelter home, myself. Position your home correctly, with just the right amount of soil built up around it, and you have a home that stays cool in the summer and warm in winter, with little or no need for air conditioning. Combine that with rainwater harvesting and a decent photovoltaic system, and you’ve got a potentially self sufficient home.

As I stare at the electric bill that my standard builder home gifts me with each month during the typical Texas summer, I can’t think of a more beautiful dream than to not have to write that check anymore…

Rebuild ’em

Stumbled across this group the other day

This was my first thought after watching the towers fall. We need to rebuild them, taller and stronger than they were before. Nothing will show our resolve more clearly, than to reconstruct what was taken from us on that day, as best we can.

No other construction or memorial on the ‘ground zero’ site will ever equal the statement that restoring the twin towers will make.

Travel Status

In the film I watched Sunday, they made some comment about “letting the airlines go broke” if you couldn’t travel without proper ID (the soon to be rolled out National ID card) when the time comes. Well, I can do you one better.

I haven’t flown since 9/11/2001, because the wife refuses to take me with her when she flies. Apparently she objects to my choice of flight apparel. What is that apparel, you might ask? Flip-flops, hand cuffs, and paper scrubs stenciled “Federal Airline Prisoner”… and nothing else.

I have carried a pocket knife, nail clippers and whatever else I felt was needed, every day of my life, pretty much since the day I first put on pants. I’m not about to give up my essentials just because some jack-booted thug tells me I “can’t carry that in here”.

…At least not without some sort of a show, anyway.

When I’ve said this to people in the past, they generally mouth some words to the effect that “they’re only trying to make the airlines safer”. Let me tell you how to make the airlines safer. The attendant who greets you at the door of the plane asks you a simple question “are you carrying a weapon?” If you answer no, she hands you one to carry (loaded with the proper rounds, of course) for the length of the flight.

…Do you honestly think there will ever be a hijacking under those circumstances? Didn’t think so.

America: From Freedom to Fascism

I invited a friend along and went out to take in America: From Freedom to Fascism this last Sunday night.

As a long time member of the Libertarian Party, I was already pretty familiar with a large portion of the central argument in the film; the unconstitutional nature of the Income Tax and the Tax Honesty movement that is trying to shed a little light on the subject. However, the film certainly doesn’t limit itself to this subject alone.

Done much in the style of Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11, which brought Michael Moore critical acclaim, Aaron Russo is trying to bring some popular attention to arguably the most serious problem in America today, the growing size and power of government.

So I was prepared for sensationalism, and I was prepared to hear many arguments I’d heard before. What I wasn’t prepared for were the interviews with several former IRS agents who are now the targets of the agency they worked for. I wasn’t prepared for the frank conversation with a juror from a failure to file case who simply states “they never produced the law”. I wasn’t prepared for the (former) IRS commissioner who showed nothing but contempt for court rulings and questions from citizens concerning the nature of the laws that govern us all.

I found these sequences to be the most illuminating, since they involved people who aren’t in the “tax honesty” movement. Not that G. Edward Griffin, Bob Schulz and others don’t deserve respect for at least standing up in the face of tyranny that is the IRS; but that these people had no axe to grind, and yet found themselves unable to answer the very simple question “what is the law that requires an American to file and pay income tax?” In the case of the (former) commissioner, he could not present a reasonable argument concerning the existence of the law, even though he ‘wrote’ the tax code.

In the end, it was Dr. Ron Paul’s answer that I think is the most ‘truthful’. To paraphrase the gist of it, he said he knew of no law that requires Americans to file and pay the income tax on the face of it; but since those who carry the guns and enforce the IRS code think they are authorized to do so, it makes very little difference.

…Which is pretty much my opinion on the matter in a nutshell.

The remainder of the film tallies up a rather frightening list of programs, executive orders, and laws that together with the current electronic voting nightmare, and police largesse, paints a pretty grim picture of the future. Anyone who has visited Alex Jones‘ sites is probably familiar with the gist of it. Whether you take any of it seriously is entirely up to you.

The problems with the film are visible the moment you sit down and it starts rolling. First, the film was shot on DV, and hasn’t been transferred to film for projection purposes (at least it wasn’t in the theatre that I went to) so the quality of the viewing experience is less than most people would expect. The pixelization on the screen makes the production appear to be amateurish, something I’m sure Russo wasn’t looking for when he made the film. If the theatre had been equipped with a decent DLP projector, the results might have been different.

Second, the theatre I attended was only about a third full. The people who need to see this film will never attend it of their own free will. They are far to willing to have their minds numbed by watching films of the caliber of “You, Me and Dupree” to ever do the requisite thinking required to appreciate the message Aaron Russo is trying to communicate.

…And since they make up the majority of “We the People”, the sovereigns who are supposed to be “Eternally vigilant” in order to preserve our freedom, it leaves me very little doubt that the future described in “America: From Freedom to Fascism” really isn’t too far away.

My Two Cents Worth

Wrote a check the other day for a periodical subscription; and while I was writing it, it suddenly occurred to me “Why 19.97?”

I can sort of understand the old marketing approach of $19.99 is seen as $19 and not $20; but why $19.97? They had to consciously set that price. Do those two cents really mean that much?

“Hey, let’s give ’em a two cent discount!”

It even makes less sense when you think about what the use of a penny really is these days. Can’t even buy two cent gum any more. Don’t even get me started about gas pricing. Does anybody out there realize that they still price it to the tenth of a cent, 9/10’s to be exact? So that the $2.39 a gallon is really $2.40, less a tenth of a cent per gallon. What is the point of that? If a penny can’t buy anything these days, what does a tenth of a cent get you?

“We saved 2 cents on that 20 gallon tank of gas, let’s go get some gum!”

Why do they even bother pricing to the penny anymore? It costs more for the cashier to count correct change these days, than it would to price goods to the nearest dime; perhaps even setting prices to the nearest quarter dollar is warranted.

I still stop to pick up change these days. But I’ve been noticing a lot more pennies just lying around; and even penny pinching me will occasionally let the singleton just lie there.

Ben Franklin said “A penny saved is a penny earned”. But Franklin’s pennies were made of copper, rather than the aluminum alloy slugs we get today (not to mention they were a good bit larger then, too) I wonder if he would stoop to pick up a modern day penny.

I guess I should thank that publisher for starting me off on this rant. I’ve definitely got my two cents worth out of it…