Measured Extravagance

21 May 2003 - 11:50 p.m.

The train of links in my head currently runs something like this:

"I kind of looked at it like a kooky, annoying relative who shows up at your house and rearranges your furniture."

- Adam Dread on Carolyn Baldwin Tucker seating chart issues in this week's Scene

(Caveat: The article makes absolutely zero attempt to be even-handed in its depictions of Dread and Tucker. I would find it off-putting were I neutral, but, nonetheless, I find myself hoping it will help convince others to get Tucker out of there.)

* * *
'Figuring out just where to draw the line on how much you can massage your data before it becomes worthless is one of the hardest parts of experimental science training. Data analysis and presentation are more art than science, and a Black Art at that. A running joke in the sciences is to note that the phrase "typical data are shown in Fig. 1" is code for "Fig. 1 presents the very best data we ever got. Ever." ' - Chad Orzel
* * *

"A good scientist (not every person with that title, just the honest and ethical ones) will make decisions based only on the weight of evidence and will admit what he or she doesn't know. Incidentally, any rabbi I would be inclined to trust will make the same admission." - Dichroic

* * *

"Religion addressing "how" has gotten us to some very strange places, like women being turned into spiders and deities performing routine surgeries." - Mer

* * *

"This is by no means an exhaustive list-- other common Types include Basket or Bust, Forty Minutes of Heck, and the Foul-Line Lamprey-- but it gives you some of the idea, both of what goes on on the basketball court, and just how obsessed I am with the game these days." - Chad Orzel

[From the comments that followed:]

Train: In the interests of intellectual honesty, though, I would like to see a post on how, despite your insight into the game and its dynamics, you were embroiled in a four year long saga of Sunday night hoops futility.

Chad: Oh, that one's easy. It's the same reason why, despite having a degree in physics, I still play pool like "a drunken mountain gorilla with a crooked tree branch," in Darnell's memorable phrase. Just because I know how the game works, doesn't mean I can actually do anything with it.

* * *
"These days Im more or less doing my own thing, which strangely enough beliefnet classes as Unitarian, one thing Im sure Im not." - l-empress

The last quote plays into both my current fascination with names (speaking of which, do go help M'ris out with her Unified C.U.B. Theory, if you've a mind to) and a current preoccupation with the term "Unitarian Universalist." During Friday night's service, one of the delegates from Mississippi made a point of emphasizing that she came from Our Home Universalist Unitarian Church - "and we would never dream of putting 'Unitarian' before 'Universalist' in our name." A quick Google shows a number of churches from California to Halifax that also prefer "Universalist Unitarian." It's a thought-provoking point, and one I think that ought to be made more often, as it recognizes that the words "Unitarian" and "Universalist" actually have independent meanings - and that the phrase "Unitarian Universalist" has come to mean something else entirely. In fact, I find it both interesting and irksome that "Unitarian" is so frequently used as shorthand for "Unitarian Universalist," albeit understandable - both words together make for a mouthful, but the abbreviation "UU" commonly used within the church just doesn't sound all that dignified - but the jokes made on the Simpsons and Prairie Home Companion and elsewhere tend to play on the Universalist aspect of the movement - that is, the pluralism and open-endedness that attracts atheists and pantheists and pagans and humanists and other non-monotheists to participate in its services and activities.

Briefly and all too simplistically, "Unitarian" = one God (as opposed to the Trinity). "Universalist" = many paths (i.e. no one route to heaven). I know a fairly high percentage of UUs who aren't Unitarian in the least (and several who aren't all that Universalist, either), and the consolidation of the Unitarian and Universalist associations wasn't so very long ago (when I visited King's Chapel, I was struck by the tour guide's interest in whether each visitor had joined their church as a Unitarian, Universalist, or UUs) - and to complicate matters, King's describes itself as Unitarian Christian. And even more recently, there was a significant, controversial attempt to form a more explicitly theist Unitarian Association, which seems to have settled upon American Unitarian Conference as its title.

At the First UU seder a couple of years ago, two of the organizers (both raised as Jews) joked about being "the really Reform Jews." There can be quite a bit of overlap, and there exist a number of people who consider themselves Unitarian Universalist and Jewish - and then you have me, not a Jew, even though I sometimes wear a "chai" and sing the Sh'ma -- and l-empress, who knows she's not Unitarian, even though the thoughts she posted would resonate strongly with many UUs. And I hate it when other people presume to classify someone as "not knowing that they're _____" ("(s)he's gay and just doesn't know it" is the most frequent one. Drives me up a tree. Not your damn business to begin with unless you're sleeping with them), so no, her voicing UU-compatible thoughts doesn't mean she counts as one.

There's an interesting pair of posts on regional UU differences over at Plastic (link via Philocrites). "Paris" writes:

I have a friend who is studying to be a UU minister. He breaks up UUs into three groups:
1. The east coast ones are liberal Christians
2. The midwest ones are humanists
3. The west coast ones are neo-pagans

I haven't traveled enough to verify this for myself, but I will say this - there's an old joke about how whenever there's two Jews in a room there's at least three opinions. (A variation: two Jews stranded on a desert island subsequently build for themselves three synagogues - one Orthodox, one Reform, and one that neither of them would be caught dead in.) I am not making this up: a year or so ago, after a rather tense forum at First UU, I stood in the parking lot discussing worship issues with two men, one a former officer of the church and the other a current board member. The man to my left said that he felt that the church was getting "too spiritual" for his comfort. The man to my right mentioned that, being Christian, he'd be pleased if the church offered more in the way of theist observances.

And, yes, me in the middle, literally and theologically - I can't bring myself to participate in bread communion, even with the language and symbolism altered, yet I'll be delivering the homily for a water communion service later this year. And preparing another sermon as well - perhaps on the weight of the terms "Unitarian," "Universalist," and "Unitarian Universalist". . .

Last quote of the evening: '"I have found two things in every city I have ever visited," a noted Israeli rabbi once remarked. "Coca-Cola and Lubavitcher Hasidim."' Including, now, Las Vegas.


One year ago: "A proper Southern woman would find some other way of saying it."

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