The Time Zone Calendar Problem: A Clumsy But Effective Hack

US Time zones.svg
So a little while ago, I was griping ardently on Facebook and Twitter about this stupid fracking thing my iPhone calendar had started doing. (I know, I know — first world problems.) If I entered an event into my calendar for (say) 5pm, and I then flew from the Pacific time zone to the Eastern time zone, my phone would ever-so-helpfully change the time of the event — of all the events in my calendar — to reflect the time change. The 5pm event in my calendar would get changed to 8pm.

So if I entered, oh, say, just to pick an example completely at random, A FLIGHT DEPARTURE TIME of 5pm, it would ever-so-helpfully change the time of that flight in my calendar to 8pm. If I’d made an appointment for a lunch meeting in San Francisco at noon, when I was on the East Coast it would tell me the appointment was at 3pm. Etc.

Useless. Completely useless.

I asked around on Facebook and Twitter, seeing if anyone knew of a fix for this. A few people suggested turning Time Zone Support on — or off, I forget which is which — a setting in which you could enter both the time of an event and the time zone it was happening in… but that didn’t work, either. If you entered a 5pm event and told the calendar it was in Chicago, and you then went to the East Coast, it would tell you the time of the event in East Coast time… not in Chicago time. And for events during which time zones changed — such as oh, say, just to pick an example completely at random, A FLIGHT DEPARTURE AND LANDING TIME starting in New York and ending in San Francisco — it was completely useless. There was no way to tell the calendar, “This event starts in one time zone and ends in another.”

All I wanted was a calendar in which I could enter the time of an event, and have it NOT FUCKING WELL CHANGE from the time that I had entered. I enter events in the way that makes sense to me, and I wanted them to stay exactly the way I entered them.

When I put out the desperate, anguished cry for help on Facebook and Twitter, a whole bunch of people begged me, “If you get a solution, will you please please please tell me?” Apparently my despair and anguish are echoed across the globe.

So I have a solution, one that was suggested by a couple of different people. (Sorry, I don’t remember who now — if it was you, tell me in the comments, and I’ll give you credit.) I’ve been using it for a couple of months now, and it totally works. It’s clumsy, it’s inelegant, it’s a total hack… but it works. It does what I want it to. It records the time of an event in my calendar, exactly the way I tell it to — and it keeps it that way, exactly as I entered it.

The hack:

Type the start and finish time of the event into the title of the event.

When I enter an event in my calendar, in the “title” field, I’ll type, “Dinner with Rebecca,” or, “Talk at Colorado State,” or, “SFO to ORD.” And then I’ll type in, “6pm – 8pm,” or “7:30 pm – 9pm,” or “11:15 am – 5:35 pm.”

And because it’s just text in the title field, it doesn’t change, no matter where I am.

It’s clumsy. It’s inelegant. It’s a total hack. But it works.

You’re welcome.

The Time Zone Calendar Problem: A Clumsy But Effective Hack

I have my archives!

I have my archives from my old blog! They’re here! With comments and everything! They’re even in the right categories!

Images and videos didn’t make it over, and there are a handful of posts that didn’t make it and that I’ll have to put in by hand. (For some reason, it didn’t like my posts about alternative medicine, speaking at Stanford, making atheism a safe place to land, atheists having morality, and my recipe for chocolate pie. Make of that what you will.) But I can live with that. The archives are here. Years of my old work — all finally in one place. This has been driving me up a tree, and I can now finally relax about it. (A little.)

If you want to see them, scroll down in the sidebar to where it says “Recent Posts/ Comments/ Archives.” Click Archives. There they are! You can also search for posts in the archives with the handy Search box at the top right of the blog. Which works waaaay better than the search box at my old blog.

When I’m back from my Minnesota trip, I’m going to start working on (a) getting the old blog to redirect to the new one, and (b) getting the best and hottest posts listed in my sidebar, so newcomers to the blog can browse them more easily. And I’ll probably start linking to the cool stuff from the archives, so newcomers to this blog can become familiar with it. For now, I’m just going to sit back and cry tears of happiness and relief. I can haz archives! Yay!

I have to express my intense gratitude to fellow Freethought Blogger Jason Thibeault, at Lousy Canuck, for making this happen. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that atheists have no sense of community or compassion. I owe him big time. Go visit his blog, and tell him Thank You.

I have my archives!

Strange Religious Signs in the Midwest

When I went on this trip, I’d been planning to do a Midwestern follow-up to my Strange Religious Imagery in my Neighborhood piece. But alas, Midwesterners don’t go much for floridly weird religious imagery. (At least, not in the part of the Midwest where we were.)

They do, however, go for some interesting religious language. So I thought I’d share with you my twisted version of vacation snaps: Strange Religious Signs in the Midwest. (We actually had a genuinely good time on our trip: my family is cool and fun as well as godless, and there’s much about the Midwest that is deeply peaceful and beautiful. I do in fact love it, and get mad when people dismiss it as “flyover country.” But this is what I was doing with my camera instead of shooting pretty trees and houses. There’s something deeply wrong with me, I know.)

God has blessed america

“God Has Blessed America Let America Bless God!” (Galva Assembly of God, Galva, IL)

One in a long series of “America is God’s special country” theocracy signs. We were traveling on the Fourth of July weekend, so this theme was all over the church signs like a cheap suit. I didn’t even bother to photograph most of them.

May the fourth be with you

“May the Fourth Be With You” (St. John Roman Catholic Church; not sure what town, somewhere near Galesburg if not in it)

Yet another in the “patriotic Christianity” series. With an “out of date pop- culture pun to inject some humor and please the kids” thrown in for good measure.

Have i got your attention

“Have I Got Your Attention? — Good! Now Give Me Your Heart -God” (First Church of the Open Bible, Galesburg, IL)

Not a particularly unusual sentiment, I know. What struck all of us about this one was the arrogance of presuming to speak for God. What exactly does a pastor think when he puts up a sign like this… and signs it, “God”?

A family altar

“A Family Altar Can Alter A Family” (Colonial Baptist Church, Galesburg, IL)

What is is with church signs and bad puns?

Presence of christ puts pain in perspective

“The Presence of Christ Puts Pain In Perspective” (Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church, Galesburg, IL)

I’m not quite sure what the point here is. It could be, “Your divine buddy Christ is here with you and will get you into Heaven forever, therefore your pain is no big deal.” But it could also be, “Christ’s suffering on the cross was more horrific and ghastly than you could imagine, so quit whining about your own petty pain, and have some gratitude for his sacrifice. If it’s the former, then my reaction is pretty much, “Screw you for trivializing my pain.” If it’s the latter… then ditto. With an added helping of, “If I hit myself on the hand with a hammer enough times, does that give me moral authority over you? I didn’t ask Christ to hang himself on a cross for three days, so screw him for using it to try to guilt trip me into obedience.” And with just a dash of, “Ew.”

Do you truly know god

“Do You Truly Know God?” (Galva Assembly of God again; return trip)

At last — a church sign with a clear question that I can answer. My reply to that would be have a big, fat, unequivocal, “No.” Glad we could get that one settled. (I am curious about this one. Is the point that we don’t truly know God but the church does… or that none of us truly knows God and it’s arrogant to think that we do? I like to think that it’s the latter. Although given the blind certainty of the church’s previous “God Has Blessed America Let America Bless God!” message, I’m not so sure.)

We see god every day open arms

“We See God Every Day. Do You Recognize Him?” (Open Arms Community Church, Kewanee, IL)

Providing a charmingly arrogant contrast to the delicate philosophical questing of “Do You Truly Know God?” I mean, isn’t pride one of the seven deadly sins? I’ve never understood why thinking that you know better than others what God thinks and wants and looks like doesn’t qualify.

Brief tangent: This one is even funnier in the context of the church’s “1960s drive-in” architecture. While I didn’t take pictures of many churches themselves, I had to make an exception for this one.

Open arms church

We see God every day. And he looks like a
roller- skating carhop from “American Graffiti.”

Welcome we don't bite much

“Welcome Worship 9:00 AM Stop In We Dont Bite Much” (St. John Lutheran, Princeton, IL)

We don’t bite much. Wow. Do I ever feel welcome here. Especially with the barbed wire. And double especially with the other side of the same sign:

Hell is hotter

“Hell Is Hotter Probably Windier Too.” (ditto)

I think they were probably trying to be funny. With both sides of the sign. But something about this one told us, “Get the picture fast, and then get the frack out of there.” I am kind of entertained, though, by a church sign that warns you against the torments of hell by essentially saying, “The weather is even worse than it is in the Midwest!”

And finally:

God is perfect

“God Is Perfect Only Man Makes Misteaks” (First Congregational Church, Peru, IL)

Another in the “labored comedy” series. Rather more comical than most. Of course this one immediately makes me want to ask, “If God is perfect, then why did he make his most magnificent creation such bad spellers?”

A specially blessed country; bad puns; out- of- date pop culture references; the trivialization of human suffering; the presumption that believers recognize God and speak for him; jokey threats; labored humor; and weird logic. Let’s hear it for Christianity in America!

Strange Religious Signs in the Midwest

Night of the Living Vacation Photos

This is the price you pay, people. You want my opinionated rants thoughtful commentary on religion and politics and sex; you have to put up with my vacation snapshots. Hopefully some of you will emerge from the horror unscarred.


This is me and Ingrid in front of the Berwyn Spindle. Berwyn is a suburb of Chicago, on the way from Chicago (where my dad and brother live) to Galesburg (where my cousin’s wedding was). Or rather, it’s on the way if you take the scenic route and make a point of going through Berwyn. The Spindle — eight junked cars skewerd on a steel pole — is an ultra-spiffy art installation in a strip mall parking lot. There’s some controversy about it — some local merchants want to take it down — so we made a detour to see it while it’s still around. (Find out more at


Arty closeup on the Spindle.


The barn where my cousin’s wedding was held, taken the day before the wedding. (And no, she wasn’t brought up in a barn; it’s just a neat space that rents out for weddings and stuff.)


Mother cat and kittens, at the barn. But you’ve seen this before. I think Ingrid took more pictures of the kittens than she did of anyone else at the wedding.


Me, Ingrid, and Lincoln’s chair, the morning of the wedding. Knox College in Galesburg — where several members of my family have taught, worked, attended, or otherwise been connected with — was one of the sites of the Lincoln-Douglas debates (a fact that, as Garrison Keillor noted, the people of Galesburg will never let you forget). This is a chair that Lincoln sat in, and has now become a neat, if somewhat cheesy, photo-op prop.


Me on the wedding day, being interviewed by my brother Rick about a fictional preacher, ranting about how a code written into the molecular structure of DNA proves that there is no God. Rick is making a series of short films as part of this ongoing video project, and we did a bunch of shooting on this trip. Mostly I just held the camera, but I did a couple of impromptu rants in front of it as well. If you click to enlarge, you’ll see that the microphone is actually a wooden chocolate dipper.


Me videotaping my brother, on this same project.


Again. Ingrid really loves these photos of me in the Regency-style dress holding the video camera.


And again. Shooting this film with my brother was some of the most fun we had on this trip, and Ingrid took a zillion pictures of it. BTW, the location is an abandoned religious school in Knoxville.


Me and Ingrid, at the abandoned school. It’s a very photogenic location (can a location be photogenic?), and after we were done with the video shoot we took a bunch of photos there.




And finally we’re at the actual wedding itself. These are my cousin Dennis’s kids, Isabel and Emma, who were flower girls. They looked amazing, but it turns out to be very hard to photograph children, as they don’t hold still. I only got a couple of good shots of them; this is one.


My cousin Dennis, who played bagpipes for the wedding recessional. Here he is looking like a member of the Scottish Secret Service.


Rick videotaping me photographing him. Is there no end to the madness?


The bride — my cousin Caitlin — with the flower girls.


And again. I love this photo. It really captures the essence of this wedding: an odd and special blend of urban and bucolic. Especially with the flower girls in black.


Rick at the reception. Handsome devil, isn’t he?


The bride, dancing with the flower girls.


And finally, me and Ingrid at the reception. We have to remember this “candles under the chins” trick for nighttime photography. Much more flattering than a flash.

Thank you for your patience. We now return you to our regularly scheduled ranting.

Night of the Living Vacation Photos

The Weirdest Little City in the World: Our Trip to Reno

At the risk of sounding like a third-grader’s social studies report: Reno is a land of contrasts.

It’s a city whose entire reason for being is to suck money from out-of-towners. (That’s even true historically — according to a plaque we saw on the river, one of the city’s founders was a gold rush prospector who realized there was more money to be made fleecing other prospectors than there was actually mining for gold, so he built a toll bridge… and later a hotel.) At the same time, they want you to feel happy and pampered and like you’re getting something for nothing, so you’ll relax and dump your money into the slots… and come back next year and and get happily fleeced some more.

So it winds up being a profoundly weird blend of glitzy and depressing; chintzy and luxurious. Everyone’s really friendly, and everyone takes really good care of you and treats you like you’re a movie star… and it’s actually hugely fun, even when you remember that it’s all part of the Great Fleecing of the Rubes.

We had a ball.

But boy, was it a weird ball. It was so eclectic it was almost dizzying. A rough itinerary:

Trannyshack Reno. We decked out in our best glam-slut-trash outfits (for one night we said “Screw this aging gracefully crap”), took a cab to one of the diviest gay bars I’ve ever been to… and spent the evening getting very drunk, groping each other, schmoozing with the drag queens, ogling the dykes, and watching a scary San Francisco drag show in a smoky, crowded bar. It was an epiphany. If I believed in God, I’d call it a religious experience. I even had half a cigarette. (And yes, I appreciate the irony of going to Trannyshack in Reno when we could go any week we wanted to right here in San Francisco. But the Trannyshack bus happened to be in Reno the weekend we were there, and we couldn’t not go.)

Hot rock massages at the hotel spa.

Dinner at a lovely little French bistro.

Breakfast at the punk rock vegetarian diner.

A failed attempt at a nature walk.

Dinner at Harrah’s Steakhouse, followed by the Harrah’s tittie show. (We were hoping for topless girls in feather headdresses, but the theme of the show was custom cars, so instead we got topless girls in G-strings with racing stripes. Not to mention the worst stand-up comedian I’ve seen in years. I mean, I realize that being the comedian at the tittie show has got to be one of the most thankless jobs in show business… but oh, my God. Whenever he was on, I kept leaning over to Ingrid to abjectly apologize for dragging her there, and for the rest of the evening and the whole next day I had the lines from the Muppet Show theme stuck in my head: “It’s like a kind of torture/To have to watch this show.” The tittie girls were fun, though. Although I do wish they’d been in feathers.)

The Awful Awful burgers at the Little Nugget Diner, where the food is huge and delicious, and the service is refreshingly surly.

As to gambling…

I realize it’s profoundly weird to go to Reno and not gamble. But I’m just not that interested in it. I’ll make a bet with a friend about whether the Red Sox will win the Series this year… but casino gambling just doesn’t grab me. Either it’s slot machines, which require no skill and are therefore passive and boring… or it’s something like poker and blackjack, which do require skill, and at which I am therefore going to suck.

Here’s what I did instead. I took a pull on a one-dollar slot machine. I won five bucks on my first pull. And I walked away. I took the money and ran. I quit while I was ahead.

And I spent the rest of the weekend gassing on pompously about how I’d quit while I was ahead.

Which was WAY more fun than actually playing.


Oh, a quick restaurant roundup for those who might be going into the town:

Beaujolais. This was the lovely little French bistro. Easily the best meal we had in Reno. I haven’t been to a lot of French restaurants, so I don’t have many points of comparison there… but I have been to a lot of seriously good restaurants, and this was one of them. The asparagus soup was one of the best things I’ve eaten — not just in Reno, but anywhere.

The Pneumatic Diner. This was the punk rock vegetarian diner, on the second floor of a seedy apartment building that would give David Lynch the willies. (Note: You can, in fact, take a direct stairway to the diner without wandering through the labyrinthine hallways of the scary apartment building — a fact I wish we’d known beforehand.) Pretty darned good. A little on the chewy side of the vegetarian-cuisine spectrum, but not at all bad. And the punk-funk-lefty atmosphere was a refreshing change of pace from all the cheap glamour and excess.

Harrah’s Steakhouse. This was good. This was a very good steak. This place has been talked up an awful lot, and it didn’t quite live up to the talk — it wasn’t among the five best steaks I’ve had in my life, although it might have been in the top thirty. But it was a very good steak. And the vibe is fabulous. Very much the 1950’s vision of a classy joint, complete with hot towels and at-the-table flambeeing. Great if you want to pretend to be Frank Sinatra or Freddie Corleone.

The Little Nugget Diner. Home of the Awful Awful Burger (so called because it’s “awful big and awful good”). A nothing little greasy spoon in the back of a second-string casino… with a wall full of reviews, articles, and “best of” citations for their burger. And yeah, it’s a damn good burger. Again, not one of the five best I’ve had in my life… but a fine burger indeed, with kick-ass fries. And a whole lot cheaper than the Harrah’s Steakhouse. (Huge, though. We could easily have split one and been perfectly happy. I had it at around one this afternoon, it’s now after ten, and I’m still not really hungry.)

Many thanks to Chowhound for all the tips. Eating in Reno can be truly scary, and Chowhound made it very doable.

The Weirdest Little City in the World: Our Trip to Reno

Travel Diary, 7/26/05: L.A., N.Y., Annandale-On-Hudson, D.C.

Don’t worry. There’s no effing way I’m going to bore you all with a detailed diary of everything I did on my summer vacation. I’m going to content myself with a single exceptional (or exceptionally weird) moment from each city we went to.

Los Angeles:
A really good question from the audience at the reading/book signing from Three Kinds of Asking For It. I’d been reading from Bending, my literary smut story about a woman’s obsession with a specific sexual position, and a woman in the audience asked — I wish I could remember her exact wording — about depictions of fetishism in erotica, and whether we (I was there with editor Susie Bright and fellow “Three Kinds” contributor Jill Soloway) thought fetishists got short shrift in writing about sex, and whether my story was an attempt to rectify that.

(In general, this reading kicked ass. Packed house, attentive audience hanging on our every word, many smart questions afterward, and people actually lining up at the end to buy books and get them signed. Short of being carried away on the shoulders of an adoring crowd cheering wildly and chanting my name, it was every writer’s dream of how a reading/book signing should go. I will now be disappointed in every reading I do that doesn’t live up to it.)

New York:
A tie: Eating Ingrid’s corn souffle at that cool Brazilian restaurant near Bluestockings while talking with my friend Matt about trying to live as an artist; and eating Frito pie at Cowgirl Hall of Fame while talking with my cousin Caitlin about trying to live as an artist. Also “Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus” — a gorgeous documentary (why are all the good movies these days documentaries?) about music, Pentacostalism, and poverty in the deep South — but I want to do a proper movie review on that, so I’ll hold off for now.

A student art presentation at Bard College (we were there for my sister-in-law’s graduation) that hovered beautifully on the line between naive klutziness and brilliant parody. It was the artist’s proposal for his next year’s project, an elaborate performance art/opera about marriage starring 17 actors and a Greek chorus, which would feature his own green-card wedding and ultimately be performed at every Frank Gehry building around the world. Not one of us could tell when he was serious and when he was pulling our collective leg: it was clear that he was doing both, but it was never clear which was which. I don’t remember the artist’s name; I’ll post it here if I can find it. (I also liked the short film about steering bulky film equipment around tight corners.)

Washington, D.C.:
Dancing with Ingrid to “You Light Up My Life” at the piano bar at the Mayflower Hotel (of “Mayflower Madam” fame), while very, very drunk. (We’d asked the piano player for a waltz, and for some reason that’s the one he played.) Also smoking a cigar with my in-laws at said piano bar. (For the record… no, I don’t smoke cigars. My cousin-in-law Dirk had one and was passing it around like a joint, and it just seemed like the thing to do.)

Travel Diary, 7/26/05: L.A., N.Y., Annandale-On-Hudson, D.C.