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The Political and Religious Views of a Not Quite Normal Citizen of the Greatest Country in the World

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The True Meaning of Brotherhood

As most of you know, I’m a native and current resident of the great state of New Jersey.  As such, I was among those affected by Hurricane Sandy, to the point where our residence was rendered unlivable.  We’re all fine and now have a new place to live (thanks to my wife annoying the heck out of the real estate agent who was assigned to work with us), so there’s no reason to go into that.

What I would like to talk about, however, is the 3 weeks that we were without a home of our own.  My wife, 4 year-old daughter and I (the dog was being boarded) descended upon the Philadelphia apartment of my good friend and Fraternity Brother, Kurt.  For three weeks he not only put up with us invading his single life, but cooked us dinner and helped with the clean-up/recovery at our old place.  There aren’t many people in this world that are anywhere near as generous or patient as Kurt, who treated us like family.

Many people accuse those that join fraternities as trying to buy friends, or the like.  But when you have someone that offers you a place of stability in an extremely chaotic situation, you see just what kind of people you have joined up with.  Kurt and I took an oath (at different times, mind you) to treat all members of Triangle as brothers.  As a Heathen, I take oaths very seriously and I have to say, Kurt has upheld his in spades.

So I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank him and salute him for being a pillar of brotherhood and a man of unimpeachable character.  Wassail, Kurt!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Power Up

You know, I wish I could say it this well, but I can't.

The Devil's Panties - 10/22/2012

Being a Heathen as well as have a Masters Degree in engineering, I'm all for as many alternatives for powering my life as possible.  Clean, efficient, reliable power is what we all (I think anyway) want in our lives.  Saving the planet is a great goal, but we can do that and research nuclear, natural gas, coal, wind, hydro, geo and solar power possibilities.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hybrid Cars – An Unscientific Study

I was able to get to try a hybrid car recently (it was the rental I got when my car was being repaired) and I wanted to share my thoughts.  This is, like the title says, and unscientific study, as I only had one car to compare with my normal car, but I think the results are rather telling.  First, some facts so that we can do a decent comparison.  My normal car is a 2012 Honda Civic, purchased new.  As of this writing, it has just over 16,000 miles on it.  The rental was a 2012 Kia Optima and had just under 3,000 miles on it when returned.  This comparison was done while commuting, which involves 156 miles per day on some combination of the Garden State Parkway, New Jersey Turnpike, US 195 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, along with a small amount of local roads.  It’s safe to say that this is what you would call “highway” as far as gas mileage is concerned.

Typically I have to fill up the car every 2 days of commuting, and this is just over 10 gallons.  I’m going to just use 10 to make the math easier.  That produces approximately 31.2 mpg for the Civic.  With the Optima, I was able to go 3 days of commuting before filling up.  “That’s great!” you might say, “A 50% increase.”  Nope.  Sorry.  It turns out that the Optima’s gas tank took just over 15 gallons when filled up.  That produces, you guessed it, 31.2 mpg.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the EXACT same number.  OK, I rounded, so it’s not exact, but it’s close enough that I feel the hybrid gave me no appreciable gain, at least not enough of one to justify the added purchase price.

How much more would a hybrid cost, you may wonder.  Well, here are the numbers for identically equipped vehicles, purchased new (all prices MSRP from their respective websites):

                                     Standard       Hybrid        Premium for Hybrid
2012 Honda Civic         $15,955        $24,200      $8,245
2012 Kia Optima          $23,950        $26,450      $2,500

Even taking the Kia premium cost of $2,500, it’s too much for no additional performance.  Is this to say that someone with a more “local” commute won’t save anything in gas?  I can’t say.  What I can say, and why this is on the political blog as opposed to the other one, is DO NOT buy a hybrid if you plan on using it mostly for Highway driving.  It just will not pay you back.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Get a G.R.I.P.

It is now officially 5 weeks until the election this year and I, quite frankly, am fed up with politics.  Gone are the times when office holders considered themselves public servants and now all of them, even the ones that seem to be working for us, are just out for their careers.  No, I don’t have any proof for what I say, it is just the feeling I get watching the three ring circus we call government.  So, thanks to Jim Gearhart (the morning host on NJ 101.5), I am fully endorsing G.R.I.P. for this election.  What does it stand for, you ask?  Get Rid of Incumbent Politicians.  How does it work?  You take your sample ballot, mark down who currently holds the office, and vote for someone else.  “But I can never vote for someone with <insert letter> after their name!”  Well, you sir or madam, are part of the problem.  Your blind faith to a group, or worse, blind hatred of the other group, is why we’re on the road to Demolition Man becoming a reality.

So remember when you walk into that voting booth this November, G.R.I.P!  It sure as heck can’t be any worse.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try and get out of this hand-basket before we get to where we’re going.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kinda, Sorta Back to Blogging

After five months at my new job, I think I’m settling in to the new routine, so I’m going to reactivate both The Hammer Strikes and Hold Your Hammer High.  However, I will not be trying to keep to any kind of schedule like I was last time around.  I’ll be posting things as they come to me, but I’ll still try to update THS on Thor’s Day and HYHH on Tyr’s Day (Thursday and Tuesday in modern parlance) when there’s is an article in the cue.  Posts like this one, affecting both, will be posted on Wednesday (Woden’s Day in the old way of thinking).  I’m working on something for each blog at the moment, so watch this space.

I would also like to thank those of you that kept checking in, even if it was just to use the links to other blogs for your reading list.  Your loyalty is much appreciated.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Now it can be told

Now that things are settling down (in a relative sense, of course) I can let you, dear readers, in on what has been going on in my life.  As on this past Friday (April 20th) I no longer work at my old company.  Don't get too upset, the reason for this is I got another job that fits me better.  However, due to the new schedule and the distance of this job from home, my on-line time will be severely curtailed.  We are planning on moving closer to the new job, but not for several months yet.  Therefore, until I determine how everything will be affected, I'll be leaving both blogs on hiatus until further notice.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Times They Are a Changin

Yeah, I know I haven't posted anything in awhile, which is highly disappointing to me as I had a self imposed schedule I was keeping to.  In any case, as the title of this post states, things are changing around in my life right now, so I am putting both my blogs on a hiatus for the time being.  I'll post more when things settle down, but let me just reassure you that these are good changes, so no worries.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


A lot can be said about making a commitment and seeing it through.  Still more can be said about thinking about the impact said commitment will have on your life.  It is always easy to say that something is "forever" but making it that way is never easy.  Sometimes we fight the good fight against overwhelming odds ... and we lose.  There is no shame in this, but ir does beg the question, do you get up and continue to fight for a lost cause or take all that energy amd fight for something else?  We each have to answer that for ourselves, but I say that fighting for your goal will make you a better person, even if that goal changes from time to time.  Know that you ha e friends to lean on in the struggle and to pick you up when you falter.  Such is the Heathen way.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pretty much all canidates

This comic sums up how I feel about pretty much all of the politians out there right now.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Preventing Tragedy

As some you may know, a 2 year-old girl drowned last week after falling into a septic tank.  Every time I hear the story I feel sick, not only because of what the family is going through, but for the future that little girl will never have.  This has cause many, including the radio station that I listen to during the work week, to ask how this could have been prevented.  Unfortunately, they are asking about septic tank regulations, which is a great idea, but it isn’t the cause for the death of this little girl.  I know many of those that might read this blog will want to roast me for saying this, but it is the mother’s fault that this girl is dead.

Let’s lay it on the line here.  This girl, remember she was only 2, was left outside, along with her four siblings, while the mother was inside the house.  The girl wandered off the property to a neighboring property, which was not inhabited, and fell into the septic tank.  I do not know how old the siblings are, but they were obviously not old enough to be responsible for their sister.  I’m sorry, but the mother should have been out there.  This was a horrible accident and it is possible that it could have been prevented if the septic tank was maintained, inspected, whatever.  It could have DEFINITELY been prevented if the mother had been outside making sure her toddler didn’t wander off of her own property.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Week Off

Too much going on in RL right now, so I will be taking this week off from both blogs.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Personal Responsibility

I could probably write a few paragraphs on taking responsibility for one's actions, but I think Tim Allen sums it up nicely.

BTW, if you haven't checked out Last Man Standing yet, I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Property Tax Relief vs. Income Tax Relief

Last Tuesday, Governor Christie introduced his budget for Fiscal 2013.  Part of that budget was a 10% Income Tax Relief, to be phased in over 3 years.  Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Oliver would rather have Property Tax Relief instead, feeling that the Income Tax break would benefit the wealthy more than the middle class.  I’m a great believer in reducing taxes, whenever possible, so I’m happy when an argument comes up as to which taxes to cut.  I do have a problem with the reasoning behind the Sweeney/Oliver position, though.  Actually, I have two problems.

First, the argument that an Income Tax cut would benefit the wealthy more than the Middle Class is entirely true.  However, a Property Tax cut would do the same thing.  I don’t know what planet they live on, but Sweeney and Oliver seem to forget that the wealthy tend to own more, and usually more expensive, land than the Middle Class.  Therefore, logic* dictates that the wealthy would benefit more from this tax break as well.

Second, saying that the Middle Class would benefit more from Property Tax cuts than Income Tax doesn’t hold water in the current state of affairs.  I consider myself to be Middle Class (as does most of America), but I rent.  Do you think my rent is going to go down because my landlord’s property taxes have gone down?  Not a chance!  I still pay Income Tax, though, so a break there would directly benefit me.

Like I said, though, this is a great argument to be having.  If this is the kind of thing we can be worrying about, I think we’re on the right track.  Now if we can only get the Federal government to balance it’s budget.

* Yeah, I know logic is a dirty word in politics.  It won’t stop me from using it, though.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why I’m a Heathen

Well the obvious explanation is that Christianity never worked for me.  It was a combination of factors, really.  Firstly, we were never much of a church going family, due to various issues that will not be related here, so the only regular contact I had with the religion was though CCD.  For those not in the know, this was a class for Catholic children where we were taught, supposedly, about the faith and what we were supposed to do.  We had to take these classes in order to have our First Communion and Confirmation.  It really wasn’t a fun thing for me to do and, as I got older, it was downright annoying, especially when I would ask questions and be told that I just had to believe.  Still, this is what my parents’ wanted so I did it.  I managed to make it all the way to Confirmation (which is a regret I have as a non-believer today) and I never went back.  Secondly, I never liked the fact that anyone, no matter how atrocious a person, could say that they were sorry for what they’d done in their life and be completely forgiven.  “Let’s see here.  Vlad the Impaler.  Well, it looks like you repented on your death bed.  Welcome to Heaven.”  Sorry, that just doesn’t work for me.

Around the later part of High School I decided that I was an atheist.  There just wasn’t some big, bearded father-figure out there worried about this, and only this, planet and had the ability to be everywhere, see everything and control the universe.  Besides, the Holy Trinity being three distinct beings, who can have a conversation, but all the same being is a little too out there for me.  This decision didn’t help me with trying to get my Eagle Scout rank, since one of the tenants of the Scout Law is that a Scout is Reverent.  Through a long drawn out process, the board finally decided that I was reverent enough and gave it to me.

So I get into college and, being an engineering student, I’m not all that free to think of philosophy.  That would probably be why I was required to take a philosophy course.  An entire course centered on ideas that all depended on if God existed.  Needless to say, I was not a fan.  I argued with the professor over just about every item, which resulted in an A in the course, and never took another class like that.  Still, I think it allowed me to look into areas that I wouldn’t have before.  I took a few classes in Roman history and culture, which were quite fascinating, and rediscovered the Hellenistic Gods.  Something still wasn’t right, though, as they were nearly all-powerful beings that didn’t have any kind of consequences.

Being the kind of guy I am, a geek, I briefly flirted with the Jedi way, but that wasn’t a very good fit either.  It was just a little too made-up, if you catch my drift.  However, being that most of the Jedi stuff was online, it caused me to look at other things like that.  Eventually, many years after graduating, I stumbled across Bil Linzie's website and started reading about modern reconstructionists worshiping the Norse Gods.  It was light a flashbulb went off in my head.  This fit.  This made sense.  Not only was I a huge fan of the Thor comic book (like you didn’t already know that) but I had read the Eddas and enjoyed them.  Here was a set of deities that 1) could be killed, either through use of weapons or old age, and 2) weren’t just sitting in their halls but actively fighting to prevent the end of all things.  Call it Ragnarock, Entropy, what-have-you, they were doing their damnedest to stave it off for as long as possible.  Now that’s a group of gods I can get behind.

In conjunction with that, because these Gods are busy doing stuff, they don’t have a chance to have a personal interaction with each and every person in Midgard*, so we have to get by on our own.  However, we can get in their good graces by making sacrifices (essentially giving them gifts), which, in the Norse worldview, means that they need to return the favor.  This Gift Cycle links Mortals and Gods in a mutually beneficial relationship.  I normally only approach the Gods for the big stuff, and leave them alone for normal day-to-day items.  Add this to the fact that a person’s destination in the afterlife is dependent on their life as a whole, and I’m all for it.

Obviously, religious belief isn’t for everyone, and there’s no such thing as a one size fits all religion, but I thought that I would give you, my readers, some insight into why I made the choices I have.  Also, being a polytheist, I know that I don’t have a corner on the Truth, so I’m not going to try and convert anyone, but if any of you have questions about my religion, please feel free to ask.

* Here I’m using Midgard to mean the dimension (or universe) that contains Earth.  Maybe it’s my exposure to the comics, but I’m not one to think that the Cloud Kingdoms exist immediately above us.  Therefore, Asgard, Midgard, Hel, Jotenheim, et al exist each in their own dimension, with certain portals, such as Bifrost, able to bridge the dimensions.  Of course, that make the Midgard Serpent absolutely ginormous, which I don’t like to dwell on too long.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Shared Services

Another item that is a hot topic in my home state of New Jersey is that of Shared Services.  For those of you not from this part of the USA, we have little thing here called “Home Rule”, which states that any town, no matter how small, has the right to its own police/fire/EMT/etc.  For a state with 566 towns (And here I’m using “Towns” to mean all types of municipalities.  There are five types of municipality in the state—boroughs (250), cities (52), towns (15), townships (246), and villages (3). New Jersey, the fourth smallest state, is 8,722 square miles, meaning the average land size of a municipality in the state is only 15 square miles.) this is a huge drain on our economy.  That means that we have >500 police chiefs in this state.  Wow.

What we really need to do is remove the services that all towns need and have them dealt with at the County level, of which there are 21.  Just brainstorming, this is what we would have at the County level rather than in the municipalities:
·         Police (under the existing County Sheriff’s office)
·         Courts
·         School District
·         Fire/Emergency Medical
·         Waste Disposal
·         Water & Sewer
·         Transportation (Mass Transit & Road Maintenance)
·         Tax Assessment/Collection
·         Animal Control (Including Shelters)
·         Parks & Recreation

Does this mean that areas like Newark or Camden would get the less service from the police, because they are more densely populated and don’t have control anymore?  Nope.  In fact, it means that police would be able to be moved from some of the areas of lower crime into areas of higher crime.  We could also be able to rotate duty areas so that you don’t have to deal with burn out.  What do you think a current Newark officer would say if he was told that he/she was to patrol the city for a two week period and then have two weeks working in Millburn?  Sounds like a great way to relieve workplace stress to me.

I suppose you’re wondering what would be left to do at the town level.  Plenty, as a matter of fact.  Each town would still have its own Planning/Zoning commission, so they could determine the look of each town.  They would also have their own financial department, which would get fed taxes from the County based on population & size of the town, but they would also be able to levy fees of their own.  An easy example of this would be beach badges (yes, for those of you out in the rest of the world, we actually charge people to go onto the beach).  Since not all towns would have need of things like this, it would remain at their level.

This isn’t only about cost savings, mind you.  This set-up would also be hugely more efficient on all levels.  Even if no one lost their job and were just reorganized under the county banner, you would see a streamlining effect almost immediately.  The county would be able to negotiate contracts with outside vendors from a much better position than a small town would.  Then there’s the improvement in the schools, with the reduction of the top-heavy management and more funds available for the teachers and needed supplies.

“Well, why hasn’t it been done yet?” you ask?  Pride.  Pure, unadulterated, “this is my sandbox and no one else to play in it” pride.  With the state of things today, I really hope that the politicians in this state wise up and realize that this would be better for everyone.  It sounds like we’re moving in that direction, for what the Senate President and Governor are saying, but it’s not quick enough, IMHO.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Gay Marriage

Yeah, I’m starting off with a bang here.  One of the hot topics of our time, especially in my home state of New Jersey right now, is should Homosexuals be allowed to marry under Federal/State Law.  Well I’m here to say that it should not be allowed.

(pause for effect)

That is because I don’t think ANY marriage should be allowed under Federal/State Law.  Marriage is a religious idea and, as such, has no place in the government.  Now if you want to talk about a Domestic Partnership Contract, I’m all for that for anyone and everyone, but not for life.  It should be allowed that any group of humans over the age of 18 years can get a term contract for Domestic Partnership with all the benefits of the current laws for Married People.  How long the term would be is obviously up to the States, but I think options for 1, 3, 5 & 10 years would not be far-fetched.  Nothing says that you cannot renew your contract prior to it ending, but it would have to be mutually agreed upon.

You will note that I said “any group of humans”.  That was deliberate.  First of all, I don’t think it should be legal to marry a dog, tree, or kitchen sink.  That’s just … odd.  I don’t have a problem with more than two people wanting to join their lives together.  Not my cup of tea, mind you, but I think that the polygamy laws have fulfilled their function and protected women.  Now everyone is equal under the eyes of the law, regardless of sex, race, etc, so let those that want to do this be able to.

I would ask that the arguments against this that any of you decide to make be limited to non-religious arguments.  The whole point behind this is that marriage is a religious ideal and has no place in governmental law.  Thank you.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I don’t know about any of you, but I am sick and tired of the “if you’re not on my side you’re an ignorant scumbag who cares only about him/herself and not the American People” attitude in Washington and elsewhere.  Just because someone doesn’t agree with you doesn’t mean that they are out to get you or those you think need protecting.  Along these lines is the refusal to compromise on things, great or small.  The worst example of all this is the United States Congress (both House & Senate) over the past 10 or so years.  Yeah, I get it that you all have your own pet projects/causes/whatever, but just look at where not compromising has gotten us.  I’m all for fighting over what you think is right, but when it just keeps driving us further and further into the hole then what good does it do?

I think a great example of all sides working together is the recent Pension/Healthcare reform that happened in New Jersey.  There was a problem where the Pension system was grossly underfunded (no, I’m not going to get into whose fault it was because it was just about everyone at the State level for about 20 years) and the State couldn’t afford to keep paying for the vast majority of the Healthcare premiums.  No one wanted to deal with the other side, initially to the point that the House Speaker said that nothing would be done on the plan as it was.  Eventually, though, rational thought won the day and a compromise was reached, passed in the Senate & Assembly and signed by the Governor.  Is it perfect?  Nope.  Did everyone get everything they wanted?  Not by a long shot.  But it’s a damn site better than what we had and the problem is now on the path to being solved.

Why can’t this happen more often?  Yeah, there are people that are upset by the outcome, but just remember that little axiom.  “You can’t please all of the people, all of the time.”   The result was as just as it could be, it had input for all sides and was passed in a decent amount of time (not rushed through and not stalled in some committee).  It’s not that hard of a thing to do, is it Congress?

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Glutton For Punishment

Yup.  That’s me.  At least, it must be.  Not only am I trying to maintain a weekly schedule on a blog that seems to be getting some decent readership, but now I’m starting another one to deal with two really hot/controversial/will attract possible hate mail topics.  Those topics being ones that I refuse to mention on my other blog: Religion and Politics.  OK, now let’s set up some ground rules here.  First of all, I am allowing comments and that is because I like intelligent discourse.  One of the hallmarks of intelligent discourse is that it is filled with facts.  Please make your arguments from a place of verifiable facts, as I will try and make my posts.  Secondly, while I might post on a topic that you don’t agree with me on, I invite you to try and change my mind.  Everything I post here is opinion and, like any reasonable human, I am willing to reevaluate that opinion based on the situation/facts changing.  Third, please be polite to your fellow commenters (or to me, if it goes that far).  Any comments that I deem inappropriate I will delete.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, let me give you my background.  First, religion.  While I was a Catholic growing up, I never felt like I belonged there.  After much research and years of soul searching, I finally found something that I fit with, and that is Asatru.  For those that don’t know, Asatru is the worship of the Norse Gods (the Aesir) such as Odin, Thor and Freyr.  It is a reconstructed religion that harkens back to the pre-conversion days of Scandinavia and Iceland.  The name of this blog is a reference to the hammer amulet that most Asatruar wear.  My wife, OTOH, is a Protestant Christian, but she it involved in what ceremonies that I do (normally at the New Moon of every month) and accepts what I believe.  Secondly, family status.  I come from a white, middle class background.  My dad was a truck driver and my mom worked at a bank, before getting a job in the treasurer’s department of the town.  I hold a Bachelor’s & Master’s of Science in Engineering and work for a Sheet Metal Contractor as an Estimator.  I have been married for nearly 10 years and have a 3 year old daughter.  I have had ~5 alcoholic drinks in my life, have never smoked or done drugs, not because I don’t think one should, but because I don’t see a need for it in my life.  Lastly, politics.  I’m an odd duck here.  Due to my religious views, I know that there has to be some kind of communial safety net for the less fortunate.  However, I am also big on personal responsibility and freedom.  I believe that a person should be free to do as they please in their own life, as long as it doesn’t harm another.  I also think that the government, on whatever level, needs to live within its means, just like all us plebes.

So, that’s where I’m coming from.  Let the games begin!