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Uncle Orson Reviews Everything
March 21, 2010

Every Day Is Special

First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC.

Anti-Church Zoning and the Moon

You have be vigilant to protect the Constitution all the time. And I'm not talking about anything to do with Congress or the President -- not this time!

In the town of Gilbert, Arizona, Pastor Joe Sutherland of the Oasis of Truth church began holding Bible study classes in various homes -- his own, and those of various church members.

Imagine his surprise when he was served with a violation notice. It seems that in Gilbert, it's forbidden to hold "Bible studies, church leadership meetings, and fellowship activities" in private homes! (Source: AP report from 15 March.)

There were no complaints from neighbors. And I don't know about you, but this seems to me to violate the Bill of Rights in several ways.

First, we have the right to freedom of assembly. As long as you're not blocking traffic, what business is it of the government?

Second, we have the right to be secure in our homes and properties. Certainly having people over to discuss religion is one of the things that the government cannot possibly have any interest in prohibiting on our private property.

Third, there's that little thing about freedom of religion.

In practical terms, I have to wonder how such a city ordinance ever got passed. Gilbert is in "Mormon country" -- a part of Arizona that is thick with my co-religionists. And if there's one thing Mormons do, it's meet in people's homes for scripture study, leadership meetings, and fellowship activities!

It happens at our house all the time. (I lived in Arizona from 1964 through 1967 -- apparently I got out just in time.)

The fact remains that somebody in Gilbert, Arizona, actually wrote a law that puts a specific burden on churches. There's nothing against having a birthday party at your home. Apparently you only break the law if you pray, read the Bible, and call each other "brother" and "sister."

Maybe it's a Homeland Security issue -- you know how those Muslim terrorists are praying all the time.

And I thought zoning regulations in Greensboro were insane.


I love my iGoogle page -- the first time I've actually use an honest-to-goodness home page in all my years on the web. Since it's the first thing I see when I start up my browser, it's nice to be able to litter it with items that otherwise never enter my consciousness: Like a calendar highlighting today's date, a clock, a Greensboro weather report, and newsfeeds from the New York Times and CNN.

Now, I don't actually watch CNN or read the New York Times, because I'm so weary of their hyper-ideological slant to everything.

So why don't I use the FoxNews feed? Impartial sources corroborate my view that FoxNews is the only impartial news network. (This makes it seem like a rabid right-wing network to the mainstream media, of course, but that's only because they live on Planet PC, where anything they don't agree with gets hidden away. Being balanced feels like extremism to them.)

Here's why: It's so incompetently programmed that it continues to show the news items from the day that I loaded the gadget onto my iGoogle page. CNN and the New York Times update automatically; FoxNews doesn't.

Besides, even when I do remove and then reinstall the FoxNews gadget, the news they cover is all "soft" news -- scandals, car chases, missing people. Not a breath of genuine news. When I looked at the headlines I realized: FoxNews on the air might be "fair and balanced," but it's still a Rupert Murdoch-owned news outlet. Always aiming at the lowest common denominator.

And they're probably right: That's what most Americans seem to want to watch. But not me. I didn't watch the O.J. Simpson trial. I switched away from the endless coverage of not finding that girl who was (probably) murdered on a Caribbean vacation after the first minute, which contained all the actual information that they then spent a thousand hours repeating and talking about.

So FoxNews doesn't update itself on iGoogle, and when I update it manually, it's not worth reading -- to me, anyway.

It's a sad day when Ted Turner and the Times are the best source of quick-headline news. Next thing you know, I'll start believing in global warming.


I picked up an intriguing book the other day: Neil F. Comins, What If the Moon Didn't Exist? Voyages to Earths That Might Have Been.

The book consists of a number of thought experiments. What would Earth be like if we hadn't been hit by a Mars-sized planetoid, which spewed a lot of Earth's mass up into space, where some of it coalesced and formed the moon?

But he doesn't stop there. He calls the first experiment "Solon: Earth without the moon." But then he moves on to "Lunholm: Earth if the moon were much closer."

Then there's Petiel: A less massive Earth; Urania: Earth tilted like Uranus, completely on its side; Granstar: if the sun were more massive; Antar: a "nearby" star explodes; Cerberon: a star passes close by; Diablo: A mini-black hole passes through the Earth.

The last chapter is an explanation of why we can only see visible light. It's not random chance -- visible light has properties that other regions of the electromagnetic spectrum don't have. The only other spectrum that might be useful (and a few animals do exploit it) is the infrared, where instead of seeing reflected photons, you see the heat generated by living beings.

This is an excellent way of discovering how our present world works -- by seeing the ways our lives would be different (or, sometimes, impossible!) if the system weren't set up the way it is.

Even if you're not a science fiction writer and this doesn't constitute research, it's great fun. Comins is a good writer; his explanations are clear. You come away from the book with a great deal more appreciation for things we normally just take for granted.

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