Thursday, May 31, 2012

Car Chases in the Zombie Apocalypse

Can I just take a moment to point out that dead.winter is an awesome comic? Seriously. I say this because I don't believe I've ever seen a car chase, with soundtrack done in a comic-book layout... until now.

From the Search Logs: Religion and the Meaning of Life

So there I was, looking over the analytics for this blog, when I ran across this:
how would atheists respond to religion as a way of finding meaning in their lives
Someone stumbled onto my blog using that as a search string. Since they probably didn't find the sort of answer they were looking for, and since I am by nature always trying to help, here's my answer.

First of all, I can't speak for all atheists - and I wouldn't if I could. It's like trying to speak for all Christians, or all Buddhists; the term encompasses a wide variety of views. But, okay, how would this particular atheist respond to religion as a way for someone to find meaning in their life?

I'd say, "Does it work for you? If so, wonderful."

See, here's the thing: people are different. What works for me, might not work for you - and vice-versa. As an irreligious person, what I mainly want from religious people is acceptance of the fact that I'm not religious - not because I'm angry, in rebellion, or too attached to my sinful ways, but because in a fundamental way, religious belief doesn't make sense to me. It doesn't work for me; I don't seem to be wired for it, if that makes any sense. And if I'm going to ask for that acceptance from religious folks, it only makes sense for me to accept that their religious beliefs work for them, that they make sense to them.

There are, of course, some limits and conditions on my willingness to be accepting. To the extent that your faith helps you personally, and encourages you to right action towards other people, I'm in favor of it. To the extent that your religion encourages you to do things that are harmful to yourself or others, I'm opposed to it. (In most cases, I can't see that it particularly does either one; it's just a part of who that person is.) So if someone is practicing a particularly toxic sort of religion, I'm perfectly willing to try to argue them out of it... but the goal isn't to argue them out of their religious beliefs; it's to argue them out of hurting people. And if you feel like you can't quit hurting people without giving up your religion, then I have to ask if what you have is religion worth keeping.

But as far as being a way of finding meaning in life? Go for it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Reflections on Disorientation

This is... this is something I used to do, isn't it? Fingers on keyboard, keys to make letters, letters to make words, words to make sentences. Sentences to capture thoughts. Where did all the words go?

Weird. It's like part of me remembers how to do this, if I just... let it go, words come out.

Computer. That's a word. Hacking. I was hacking that guy's blog so I could say things I couldn't say. Like I'm doing now, but different. I knew who I was, but I couldn't tell anybody. Not 'til Claire. Now I'm... finding out who I was, by doing what I did then.

I wonder when Claire is?

Filler: Lego Zombie Attack

Since I'm feeling a bit like a zombie myself this morning, I thought I'd share this:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Writing Projects

Long, busy weekend. Plus, I got a bit of sunburn - not too bad, but enough to kind of throw me off. Also, this week should be the last stretch of cleanup from the Big Local Music Festival (and by extension, my busy season in general). So, naturally, this morning has been a steady stream of random interruptions. So was most of last week.

I'm tired. I'm cranky. I'm unfocused. If there's an ideal mindset for working on a writing project, this is about as far in the other direction as it's possible to get.

So, naturally, I have a whole new writing project that I'd like to be working on. Because apparently I haven't learned anything from the other nine projects that are sitting around, unfinished. Some of them, I'll probably come back to, someday, if I can ever find the time. Others, I'm pretty sure I missed the window and they'll never get written (or, in one case, re-written). Still, you never know...

So, yeah. Writing for the blog can be done in bits and pieces. Writing for a longer project requires - or at least seems to require, for me - regular writing time in large enough blocks that I can get "into the zone". At this point in my life, that's shockingly hard to come by. Which brings me back, once again, to trying to figure out if there's any way to arrange things - either physically, or in terms of scheduling - that would give me regular blocks of uninterrupted writing time, without dumping my household responsibilities onto the Beautiful Woman. And, honestly, since this is something that comes up every year or so, I'm pretty sure I already know the answer: no. Everything that can be done to create writing time and writing space in our current house and under our current schedule... has been done.

Which brings me back to self-care. I'm absolutely certain that I'd be feeling a lot less mopey and unworthy about my writing if I was fully rested and not fighting off a sinus headache. So that's pretty much the plan: Get Rest. And in the meantime, write as much as can, whenever I can. Who knows? Maybe it'll even work.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Into The Game 002

After dinner, the boys went and played in the back yard, and eventually Daniel went home. (He could have stayed over, but his family was attending a baptism in the morning.) Tom3 stayed up a bit later than usual, watching television with Bladefang -- the small tiger-statue balanced on the arm of the couch. I sat on the other side of the room, sketching an outline -- a flowchart, basically -- for my next coding project.

Finally, though, I called it. "Time for bed, me boyo. It's getting late."

Tom3 didn't argue; he just collected Bladefang and went up to his room. I listened until I heard the shower start, then went back to my project.

Later, I heard voices in his room. When I looked inside, it was just Tom3; apparently he'd been speaking for Bladefang, too. "You doing okay?" I asked him.

He nodded. "We're fine," he said, and didn't say anything else.

I took the hint and went away again. There was a time when he would have wanted me to stay in the room with him, but he was eleven years old, now: moving more and more into his own world, leaving his mother and me behind. I remembered the experience well enough that I wanted to give him room to do it.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pimp My Art Friends 2: Meredith Viner

Visual art has been something of a theme in my life just recently. This isn't deliberate; it's just one of those funny little bits of synchronicity. But, since it has been prominent on my mental radar, I thought I'd take a moment and promote some of my artist friends. Some of these are people I've known in person for decades; others are Imaginary Friends (iFriends), people I only know through the Internet. All of them are awesome.

Today, I'd like to introduce you to Meredith Viner. Meredith is a visual artist Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She works primarily in acrylic paint, though like most artists she likes to experiment. In her own words:
Many of my paintings juxtapose two things that don't normally belong together, like a scoop of ice cream with teeth in it, a beautiful mermaid emitting a trail of fart-bubbles...or a self-portrait with birds flying out of my mouth. I like to challenge people's assumptions about art and about the world in general.
She also has a delightfully snarky sense of humor, which (if I recall correctly) is how we met. (Virtually, anyway - we've never met in person.) Her work ranges from charming and and quirky... surreal and slightly disturbing:
So check out her site, and buy things if you're so inclined. Whimsical stuff can be found in the Artfire store; darker stuff resides in the gallery on her main site. There's a lot of cool stuff to see there, so take your time and enjoy!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Music Festivals and Ableism

The Big Local Music Festival was last weekend. I was there the whole time, of course, taking pictures for the website. As a result, I have perpetual and nearly-irrevocable backstage access. This is not as thrilling as you might hope, since it mainly means that I get to stand right in front of the speakers while trying to take usable pictures of bands whose music I'm usually only vaguely acquainted with... for three days straight.

I wear earplugs when I do this. This is not so much a thoughtful precaution designed to mitigate long-term damage to my hearing. It's more because if I don't, I'll end the night with a ferocious headache and a complete inability to speak at normal volume. ("WHAT? WHAT DID YOU SAY?")

So I wear earplugs while I'm at the stages, and frequently I don't bother to take them out when I leave the stage. Or, you know, I just forget. Then I find myself walking through the festival (still taking pictures) or inside the command center (downloading pictures and recharging camera batteries) with -- at a guess -- about 80% hearing loss. I should note that the music festival is over 30 hours of overtime, sandwiched between two very full work weeks; so on top of everything else, I'm usually exhausted. Being that tired makes it easy to forget that I can fix the problem by removing the earplugs; it makes it easy not to realize that that might be a good idea when someone is trying to talk to me.

Because, of course, if they're speaking in anything resembling a normal volume and tone, I can pick out maybe one word in five. One in three, if I'm standing really close.

It's an interesting experience, and I wish I'd had the time and energy to write something about it during the festival, when it was still fresh on my mind. It changes the way I interact with people; not being able to hear or understand what people are saying is surprisingly isolating. I find myself smiling a lot and trying to look friendly; I do a lot of nodding vaguely. If someone seems to be saying something important, my first reaction is to lean in and cup my ear towards them... and I don't know why I fall back on non-verbal responses, instead of simply saying, "I can't hear you." After all, it's my hearing that isn't working, not my voice. Is that just me, or do a lot of people react that way? I don't know.

Maybe it's because I don't want to end up shouting at them by accident, and I can't tell how loud my own voice is.

And then, of course, I remember that I have earplugs in, and pull them out. Suddenly, I can hear again -- suddenly I can speak again. That usually forces the other person to recap whatever they were trying to say, or ask, or gripe about. At that moment, life returns to normal -- though I have to catch up a bit.

I'm not sure that this is what being deaf (or nearly deaf) is like, precisely because I can restore my hearing at any time. But it gives me some idea of that it might be like.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Into the Game 001

When I first met Skywyrm, she was a tiny metal statue of snake, smaller than my thumb.

I didn't think much of it at the time. My son, Thomas Black III -- or Tom3, as both of us preferred -- was playing a new game with his friend, Daniel. Daniel had just placed Skywyrm on a card, and the boys were comparing notes and doing math to see whether or not Daniel's Skywyrm could best Tom3's Bladefang in battle. Since this was a far better incentive than homework, I was prepared to encourage his interest... though honestly, the game looked overcomplicated and nearly nonsensical: precisely the sort of thing to attract an eleven-year-old boy's interest. I wondered, vaguely, what his mother thought; she might object, if she knew he felt free to play at my house. I wondered if I should care.

Daniel said, "No, look, tackle doesn't work in the Sky Realm, so it's just Bladefang's base attack." Daniel was a quiet kid; I was glad Tom3 had made friends with him. For one thing, he was never any trouble to have around; he dropped by the house when Tom3 was here, was politely unobtrusive, and kept Tom3 happy and busy. Okay, sometimes he was another mouth to feed -- and eleven-year-old boys can put away plenty of food -- but since the visitation agreement only covered one weekend a month, I was more than happy that my son had found a friend in the neighborhood. And Daniel was small, thin, and blond; I suspected he'd get picked on a lot, if he didn't have friends. So I really didn't mind including him in my weekends with my son.

Tom3 looked unhappy. "But I already played my poison card."

Daniel shook his head. "That doesn't matter, because Bladefang has to tackle before he can poison. If we were battling on Forest or Desert, Skywyrm wouldn't stand a chance, but in the Sky Realm she's got a serious advantage. Right, Skywyrm?"

The upstairs playroom was surprisingly neat. Both boys had brought their cards and game pieces in dedicated cases, and neither had bothered to pull out the other toys... which, admittedly, were mostly left-overs from when Tom3 was younger. I needed to sort them and pass them along, I just hadn't gotten around to it. Maybe I was hoping to recover some of the time I didn't get to spend with Tom3, too.

But Tom3 and Daniel were sitting at the central table, the cards forming a sort of landscape between them. They placed their figurines at strategic points, and calculated the results of the battle according to obscure and enigmatic rules. I stood and watched, and tried to figure out the basis for their conclusions. There was probably some sort of rulebook online, if I knew the name of this game - but since I didn't, I didn't worry about it. It wasn't like I'd ever need to know how to play, after all.

Tom3 scanned his cards, then glanced at the other figures resting in his case. "You win," he said finally.

"...This time," Daniel said, and Tom3 smiled. "Pull a different Realm, or learn Flying Tackle, and Bladefang could do it."

Tom3 said, "Just wait. We'll have you."

I said, "It's time for dinner, guys. Pizza all right with you?"

Daniel was looking at Tom3; Tom3 was looking at Daniel. "Pizza," said Daniel. "Pizza," said Tom3.

"Let's eat," said Daniel, glancing at me almost bashfully.

Tom3 nodded enthusiastically. But before they stood up, they carefully put away their figurines and gathered their cards back into their decks. I remember thinking that this game must be important to my son, because at that age I'd have left everything sitting in a huge mess on the table while I went to get pizza. But once everything was put away, the two boys followed me down the stairs and into the kitchen, where the pizza was waiting.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Support group for Christian Parents of nonChristian Children

Back in December, I wrote a post addressed to Christian Parents of Atheist or Agnostic Children. This post has received a small but steady amount of traffic ever since, which suggests to me that A) there are people looking for information and advice on the topic, and B) there isn't much out there.

So, as of yesterday, there is now a Facebook Group for parents who unexpectedly find themselves in that situation. The goal is to provide a place to help the parents get over the initial shock, give them a place to vent, and generally offer a supportive environment while they figure out how to cope over the long term. The group is "closed", so anything written in there can only be read by other members of the group.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions, I'd love to hear them. If you feel inclined to help put the word out, I'd appreciate it. Here's the link, again.

Facebook Group for Christian Parents of Atheist of Agnostic Children:

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Wombat Massage

Let me tell you of the wombat massage.

Firstborn will be six in June. He is the inventor of the wombat massage. The wombat massage is... well, as a treatment for sore backs after a long day at work, it's one of the finest known to man. (Not "Man". Just "man". A man. Specifically, me.)

The first thing he has you do is lie down on your belly. Any surface will work, as long as it's flat and reasonably comfortable; I've received wombat massages on the couch, the bed, and the living room floor.

Once you're laying down and stretched out, Firstborn steps onto your back. He puts his feet down at the point where the small of your back connects with your pelvis. He puts his hands down on the back of your shoulders, so he's now crouched on all fours on top of you. Then he rocks back and forth, like a wombat waddling in place.

This won't still work by the time he turns sixteen, or even twelve, but right now he's the perfect size and weight for it - and it works really, really well.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pimp my Art Friends 1: Robyn Seale

Visual art has been something of a theme in my life just recently. This isn't deliberate; it's just one of those funny little bits of synchronicity. But, since it has been prominent on my mental radar, I thought I'd take a moment and promote some of my artist friends. Some of these are people I've known in person for decades; others are Imaginary Friends (iFriends), people I only know through the Internet. All of them are awesome.

First up is Robyn Seale, whom I first encountered through her comic, The Watcher of Yaathagggu. She's also a writer, and has a story in the Future Lovecraft anthology. Since she shares my deep, strong love of Eldritch Horrors and fantastic settings, I was delighted to discover that she has started taking commissions. (Apparently this has something to do with being able to afford food? Anyway...) My current writing project (Afterworld) seemed like an excellent fit for her work, so I commissioned a portrait:

Do I really need to explain just how cool I think this is? I love the way it came out; I think it captures the character and the setting perfectly. So check out Robyn Seale's work, and if (like me) you have characters or scenes that you'd love to see, but you lack the skill to create them yourself, consider throwing 'em her way.

"Pimp my Art Friends" will be a semi-regular feature. Originally I was just going to put everybody together in a single post, but even if I had time to write that all at once - ha! - I don't think it would work as well. So, for the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting about artists that A) I know, and B) I think more people should know about. In between, I'll also be publishing the usual random anecdotes, commentaries, and rants.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

An Evening In The Life Of A Daddy

I got home just a little ahead of everyone else last night, so I fired up a video game. I didn't use the PS3, because it still has Splatterhouse in it, and I learned my lesson after the Ninja Scroll Incident.[1] The PS2 had the Bakugan: Battle Brawlers video game in it, which is about as close as I ever want to come to playing Bakugan, but which would serve to pass the time admirably. (I've been playing it since Firstborn discovered it a few weeks ago, partly out of curiosity but mostly so I'd have some idea of how it works when Firstborn inevitably starts asking for help.)

As far as that goes, it worked just fine: I fought a couple of battles, bought a new card to enhance my Bakugans, and upgraded the weakest of the ones I'm using. (Geek note: I'm playing Darkus, naturally.) And Beautiful Wife came home, and both boys came looking for me, and I started saving my game... whereupon Firstborn demanded that I continue playing so he could watch.

::sigh:: It's so difficult being a parent. Especially when the boys demand such sacrifices from me.

So I plant myself back in front of the TV in the living room, and Firstborn perches on the couch. And I proceed to kick butt, owing to my Mad Bakugan Skills, and also to the fact that I've set the difficulty rating down to the "One-Armed Toddler" level.

Secondborn, meanwhile, is in the kitchen, watching a Sesame Street: Love The Earth video with his mother and eating cheese. This is presumably sufficient to occupy his attention.

After a while, the Beautiful Woman comes into the living room and asks if she can fall into a hot bath. I allow as how this sounds fine, since Firstborn is completely occupied watching me, and Secondborn is being similarly entertained by a little furry red monster.

A few minutes after the sound of running water has shut off, Secondborn comes into the living room on his scooter. In retrospect, I should have taken this as a warning. But he just wheeled himself up next to me, waved, and said, "Hi, Daddy."

I said, "Hi, Secondborn."

He scooted his scooter back around the corner and into the kitchen. I went back to playing the video game.

Now, in my brain, the exchange went something like this: Oh, cool, Secondborn has come to check on us. "Hi, Secondborn." And now he's going back to watch more Elmo. Also, someone has just attempted a Sphere Attack on my Bakugan, and I must show them the error of their ways.

Secondborn, apparently, was thinking something more like this: They're busy. Excellent. Now I can practice my art, free from their Philistine criticisms and Puritanical rules. I must seize this opportunity without hesitation! LET THERE BE ART!!!

At least, when the Beautiful Woman finally yelled to tell me that it was time for Secondborn to join her in the bathtub, I found that he'd been engaged in a game of his own. For those new to the topic: there is a genre of video games known as "Platformers" which focus on the characters leaping about in unlikely ways to reach improbable places under suicidal conditions. There is a sub-genre of Platformers in which the characters are also required to move objects about in order to gain access to otherwise-inaccessible locations.

This was what Roland had been doing. He'd pulled a chair over to the shelves, and used it to climb up so that he could get out a crayon. Then he'd climbed back down, and moved the chair over in front of the television set. There, he climbed back up and set about coloring on the screen, and indeed most of the front of the TV.

If, some fifteen years from now, he's arrested as a Tagger, I will not be surprised.

I have to say, Sesame Street looks very different through an uneven wall of green crayon. Fortunately, our TVs are the old-fashioned sort - the kind that are about two feet thick, and have actual glass screens. (I'm told there's some modern sort of television called a "flat screen," but I don't hold with such newfangled devices.) As it happens, my Luddite tendencies are sometimes advantageous: I'm pretty sure that if this had been a newer television, I'd have been buying a replacement instead of just cleaning it off.

If there's a moral to this story, it's this: no matter how annoying your kids are when they're being loud, you should really worry when they're quiet.

[1] I was watching television while the Beautiful Wife was out with the kids. The DVD that was playing was an episode of Ninja Scroll: The Series, a particularly violent bit of Japanese animation. Apparently I didn't hear the garage door when they returned, because my first hint of their arrival was Firstborn walking into the living room and stopping to stare at the TV screen, where a bunch of ninjas were hacking each other into very bloody pieces - not exactly the sort of thing I was prepared to explain to a traumatized three-year-old. I didn't dare turn the television off, though, because then he'd really be curious. So I sat there, frozen with panic, while he stood and watched the gore and carnage.

Then, after a moment, he said: "Someday I will know how to use a sword." And he turned and walked off.

At which point I quickly stopped the show and shut off the TV, so I could have my heart attack in peace.

Suspicious Character Reported

I'm working on a surreal horror-survival story (Afterworld), basically for my own amusement but also in hopes of maybe having something publishable at some point. Like most horror stories, it's set in the real world - at least until things start to go wrong. My narrator works for a city government, just as I do; he's a very deliberate author-insert. Now, it would have been easier to use the building I actually work in, but it would also have been tantamount to giving anyone who reads the things directions to my cubicle. Instead, I placed him in a completely different city... which meant that he works in a building that I actually knew very little about.

So, yesterday evening on the way home from work, I stopped by that other City Hall to take some pictures and look around. This would, I hoped, lend some verisimilitude to the upcoming scene where Our Hero gets chased out of his office by a monster. All I really needed was a realistic idea of where the offices were located, and how the people in the offices would get out of the building.

The girl at the information desk was a bit puzzled, but I was wearing a work shirt for [MyCity], and I'm a white male, so she didn't object to me wandering around taking pictures of empty rooms and hallways. Once I had what I needed, I put the camera away and went home to think about how best to arrange the scene.

Well, today I got an entirely different scene of my very own. Apparently the head of my department got a call from MyCity's Police Department. They called him because they had received a call from OtherCity's Police Department. OtherCity's Police Department was concerned (as best I can decipher this) that some terrorist had stolen a shirt and an employee ID from MyCity and was plotting to blow up OtherCity's building. Apparently they were busily reviewing security camera footage and everything. So our CIO dropped by to see if I'd been over there taking pictures. Which, of course, I had been.

"Why?" he asked.

"So I'd have an idea of which way you'd run if you worked in the building and were being chased by zombies," I told him. "It's for a story."

He blinked.

"...Why am I not surprised?" he asked.

"Hey, I can call over to OurOfficer and tell him about the zombies..." I offered.

He answered just a little too quickly. "No, don't tell him that." The CIO shook his head. "I'll talk to him."

So I wasn't arrested, and OurCity's police presumably explained to OtherCity's police that it wasn't anything nefarious, and all is basically right with the world again.

But if anybody does blow up that building, I'm in real trouble.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Children's Games (Story Idea)

So, I have this idea for a short story. It's basically a father discovering that his son has started playing a new and involved game. In an effort to be a better parent, he decides to start playing himself... and becomes the first adult to discover that some of the more wildly fanciful elements that his son has told him about (talking game-pieces, otherworldly battles, etc.) are true.

...And then he has to decide what to do about it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Super-Parent Powers, Activate!

So, I let Firstborn pick out his latest set of toothbrushes while we were shopping. He went with a superhero theme. And yet, even though this was HIS idea, he still seems to get embarrassed when Daddy yells, "Hulk BRUSH!" while we're getting him ready for bed.

Strangely, though, he doesn't seem to mind when the Wolverine toothbrush says, "Gimme yer teeth, Bub. SNIKT!"

Sometimes it works like this...

Had a very nice development on Sunday; I was thinking over one of my perennial writing projects - Afterworld - and it just sort of fell together. I've been working on this thing off and on for, I don't know, at least two years. I've never made it past the first chapter; it's mainly been a series of false starts. I'd write a bit, decide I wasn't happy with that approach, and start over.

On Sunday it occurred to me that in order to get the full effect of the build-up that I'd originally wanted to create, what I really needed to do was start at the absolute beginning and go forward... and that I could do that by connecting (with only minor tweaks) a bunch of the false starts into a single narrative. And once I started looking at it that way, I could also see the structure I would need in order to connect them. So in the course of an hour, I went from having maybe a page and a half, to having more like ten pages - the better part of the first chapter. And I know where it ends, and how it crashes into the second chapter.

Now I just need to pry loose enough time to finish putting it together, and then move into the second chapter. Fortunately, I have a plan for that, too - I'll post more about that in about two weeks, after my busy season is over.

How about you? Any projects coming together? Any moments of inspiration and/or revelation you'd care to tell us about?

Monday, May 14, 2012

House of Idiosyncrasies

This week is trying to kill me, so you probably won't be seeing a lot of incisive and original writing around here. (That takes work, or at least time and attention.) Instead, this will be a week of random parenting stuff and anything else that comes to hand. Be warned...

This morning's offering is a pair of videos, of our boys doing things... in their own unique ways. Join me below the jump to watch...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Secondborn learns to negotiate

Let me set the scene:

It's about 9:15 at night. We've wrestled the boys through their baths and into their beds. (And when I say "wrestle", I mean that literally. Firstborn in particular throws a mean headlock.) We've read stories and turned out the lights. I've settled in the living room, where I can keep eye on their doors and listen for the sounds of incipient chaos. To idle away the endless minutes until the boys actually fall asleep, I have turned on a video game, wherein I am cheerfully reducing zombies and other monsters to very small pieces of zombies and other monsters.

From the doorway, a small voice says, "Daddy?"

I pause the game before Secondborn has any chance of getting to a position where he can see the bloody carnage on the screen. Briefly, I consider switching the television off as well. "Secondborn," I say gently, "You need to go back to your room. You're supposed to be up on your bed."

"Yummy eats, Daddy?"

Okay, so he's not going back on his own. He hasn't just wandered out; he's a boy on a mission. And his mission, clearly, is to acquire yummy eats. So I go over to him, and pick him up - he just turned two, he's not that heavy - and I put him back on his bed. "I need you to stay up here, okay?"

"Yummy eats?"

"No, Secondborn. It's late, and we've already brushed your teeth."

He thinks about this. "One yummy eat?"

I'm honestly not sure whether I was more dumbfounded by the fact that he was trying to negotiate, or whether it was the fact that he'd correctly switched from plural to singular. But, well, he's clearly not going to give up on this, so: "If I get you yummy eats, we'll have to brush your teeth again, okay?"

He thinks about that. "Otay."

So I got him a bit of string cheese, and he ate it, and we brushed his teeth, and eventually he went to sleep.

The little poot has learned to negotiate.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My Annual Nightmare

It's that time of year again - the approach of the Big Local Music Festival - so naturally I'm having Those Dreams again. Actually, they're late this year; usually I have them around the beginning of April. I'm guessing that we've been so busy with other stuff that they got delayed.

What dreams are these? Well...

I was in an old house; I don't know why. But the rest of my housemates were all getting ready for Final Exams, and it occurred to me that I didn't know when my exams were scheduled. Or when my papers were due. In fact, I really hadn't been doing anything, including going to class, all semester. (This may actually mean that I'm getting older; at least in this dream I was in college rather than grade school, and at least I was wearing my pants.)

So I started looking around, and of course I couldn't find the schedule which would have told me what classes I was supposed to have been attending. And then I couldn't find the registrar's office to get another copy of my schedule. Somewhere in there I was walking up a big stone staircase - the college was a wonderfully gothic structure, sprawling across at least one massive hill. Not quite Ghormenghast; think of some of those medieval abbeys, instead.

At the top of the stairs, I helped Firstborn up over the ledge to the top; then I handed up Secondborn, and Firstborn pulled him onto solid ground. No idea why this was necessary, let alone why I thought it was a good idea, but this clearly wasn't a children-falling-from-high-places nightmare, since they handled it just fine. The top of the ledge/hill had a little lakeside area with tables, where people were (of course) studying.

At this point - just after four in the morning - I woke up, got some water and used the restroom, and then went back to bed.

...Where I landed right back in the same NFBSKing dream, still not knowing what tests I was supposed to be getting ready for, what papers I was supposed to be finishing, or whether I was meant to be taking a final exam right now. This time I was trying to figure out if I could take an Incomplete on everything, and either try again next semester or finish up - by which I mean, do an entire semester's worth of work and take all the tests - during the break. I distinctly remember wondering whether I could learn enough to pass just by sitting down and reading through the entire textbook, and whether I had time to do that. Especially since there was more than one class involved.

This continued - I am not making this up - until the alarm went off at a quarter after six.

Note to the denizens of my Anxiety Closet: I'd rather be chased by monsters. Thanks.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

NC Amendment One vs. History

I don't really have anything profound - or even useful - to say about this. (North Carolina just amended its constitution to define marriage as only existing between one man and one woman. I'm told that the last time North Carolina amended their constitution, it was to ban interracial marriage, but I haven't been able to find a citation to support that assertion. Update: Oh, look, a cite!)

As a political move against gay marriage, it was completely unnecessary; gay marriage was already illegal in the state, and gay marriages which took place in other states were not recognized by NC. If it was meant - as at least one supporter suggested - as a message to the rest of the country, then it's almost certainly a complete waste of time; at least, the message I hear is not "marriage can only exist between a man and a woman," but rather "the majority of North Carolina voters support institutionalized bigotry." If it was meant to close some loophole in the existing law - by, say, denying any possibility of legally recognized civil unions, which it does - then a full-scale constitutional amendment is massive overkill... and in addition, it seems likely to create difficulties in prosecuting domestic violence and similar issues. The whole thing is profoundly bad idea, and the absolute best I can hope for is that it isn't quite as destructive as I expect it to be.

Basically, I'm thoroughly disgusted that Amendment One was even introduced, let alone passed.

That said, let me go back to the idea that Amendment One was meant as a message for the rest of the country. From the Huffington Post article linked above:
Tami Fitzgerald, who heads the pro-amendment group Vote FOR Marriage NC, said she believes the initiative awoke a silent majority of more active voters in the future.

"I think it sends a message to the rest of the country that marriage is between one man and one woman," Fitzgerald said at a celebration Tuesday night. "The whole point is simply that you don't rewrite the nature of God's design based on the demands of a group of adults."
This is, frankly, delusional. I mean, first of all, these sorts of issues never 'awake a silent majority of voters,' thus showing that you're in fact a heroic figure bravely leading the way to a brighter future despite all opposition from the forces of Evil.[1] No, what happens is that people get worked up about this one issue, vote on it, and then go back to their lives, voting or not voting in much the same ways that they've always done.

What really caught my eye, though, was that last line: "...You don't rewrite the nature of God's design..." Even if we leave aside arguments about the existence of God and the nature of His Design (which are far from settled issues), from a historical perspective this is derisible nonsense, parochial and short-sighted.

Traditional marriage? Biblical marriage? King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Lamech, Abraham, David: all had multiple wives. In 2 Samuel 12:8; God, speaking through the prophet Nathan, said that if David’s wives and concubines were not enough, He would have given David even more. (Source) Abishag was one of King David's concubines - at least in name, though the king apparently "knew her not" - and when his fourth son, Adonijah, asked to marry her, David refused to allow the match; he had the authority to do that. And yet, polygamy/polyamory remains illegal in modern America, and the idea of having formally-, legally-recognized concubine is, for most people, completely bizarre - a relic of another age. Over in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul states clearly that the Christian ideal is actually celibacy, with marriage as second-class fallback for people who can't remain celibate - "It's better to marry than to burn" is not exactly a ringing endorsement. Yet I don't see anyone advocating laws that would require people to prove that they can't remain celibate before being legally allowed to marry.[2]

Look, the definition of marriage is not some eternal, universal ideal that unrepentant sinners are only trying to change here in these Last Days. It's changed many times over the centuries, and it will again. (In fact, Amendment One to the contrary, it's changing now.) The closest thing to a consistent historical "tradition" of marriage is that marriage serves as an alliance of two families; love and even procreation are often secondary considerations, if they're considerations at all.

Yes, you can use the Bible to argue against marriage equality. The Bible was also used to argue against interracial marriage, and against the abolition of slavery. And I strongly suspect that future generations of Christians will find the former argument just as embarrassing as modern Christians find the latter two. God's word may be eternal and unchanging, but people aren't; people change, and societies change, and clinging to this idea that marriage can only ever be between one man and one woman - this revisionistic, non-traditional, not-particularly-Biblical idea - puts your Christianity on the wrong side the issue. It puts you on the side that's hurting people.

Is that really where you want to be?

Update: Christian writer Rachel Held Evans offers her own perspective on why initiatives like Amendment One are a mistake:
Regardless of whether you identify most with Side A or Side B, (or with one of the many variations within those two broad categories), it should be clear that amendments like these needlessly offend gays and lesbians, damage the reputation of Christians, and further alienate young adults—both Christians and non-Christian—from the Church.

So my question for those evangelicals leading the charge in the culture wars is this: Is it worth it?
Read the whole thing.

Second Update: What if this were a fairy tale?

Third Update: A friend of mine posted this on Facebook:
"[This type of union]... is repulsive and averse to every sentiment of pure American spirit. It is abhorrent and repugnant to the very principles of...government. It is subversive of social peace. It is destructive of moral supremacy, and ultimately...will bring this nation a conflict... Let us uproot and exterminate now this debasing, ultra-demoralizing, un-American and inhuman leprosy." ~Rep. Seaborn Roddenberry, of Georgia.

Arguing against interracial marriage in 1912. Sounds creepily familiar in light of North Carolina's vote today.

She adds:
And obviously, as a proud miscegenationist, this is a cause particularly dear to my heart; had Derek and I been born just one a generation before, we might not have been permitted to marry. That's just insane to me, and it's just insane that people are saying the same ignorant stuff about preventing gay people from getting married as well.

[1] That's almost exactly the same thing the Hutaree Militia apparently thought was going to happen after they attacked law enforcement officials, except with more voting and less bloodshed. Here's the money quote: "It is believed by the HUTAREE that this engagement would then serve as a catalyst for a more wide-spread uprising against the Government." Yes, really.

[2] I'm tempted to add something about the long, proud history of arranged marriages here, but honestly this screed is long enough already.

Zombies and Napalm

A friend of mine with an interest in chemistry (and, well, Mad Science in general) asked, "How well does napalm work on zombies?"

My answer? Works fine, as long as you don't need to collect supplies from that area afterwards. Or possibly be standing nearby yourself, afterwards.
"Ha-ha! Man, look at those zombies burn!"

"Oh, yeah. Look, one's down already."

"I'd bet five that the one with the hat is the last one down."

"No bet. He's still staggering along pretty good there... Hey, is he heading for the gas station?"

"Oh my God, I think he is..."

::Sound of running footsteps::


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Filler: Movie Quotes

Too busy to come up with actual content, so instead I'm going to throw a bunch of movie quotes out here. Feel free to play "spot the source" in comments. Or, better yet, feel free to toss out some of your own favorite lines. Movies, television, books... it's all good.
"Ah, the old Disco Room. Just as I left it."

"That's not it! Where did she get that rubbish? It doesn't even start with 'I wish!'"

"Oh, the reason I called... Could you find out who else is in town? I've made two spooks and a ghoul already, so if they've double-booked the job, and/or they're going to kill me, I'd like to know. If you could find that out, that'd be great."

"Another Great Conjunction coming up! Anything could happen! Whole WORLD might burn up! End of Aughra! Hm"

"Whoa, lady, I only speak two languages, English and bad English."

"I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."

"Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that two stood against many. That's what's important! Valor pleases you, Crom... so grant me one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to hell with you!"

"Ray. If someone asks if you are a god, you say, 'Yes!'"

"Don't you snap at me, unless you want an angry Solid Gold dancer on your hands, Ira."

Monday, May 7, 2012

Snappy Answers: Makeup

Beautiful Wife: "Why is it that the guys who insist that 'My girlfriend doesn't wear much makeup' are always going out with girls who clearly slather the stuff on with a trowel?"

Me: "Because any guy who would say that clearly knows next to nothing about makeup and how people use it. The statement doesn't actually have anything to do with their girlfriends; it's a sociological marker indicating their complete ignorance on the subject of makeup."

Beautiful Wife: "And they're dating these makeup abusers because they themselves don't know enough about makeup to know any better?"

Me: "Exactly. It's a variation on the classic 'too incompetent to realize they aren't competent' problem."

Beautiful Wife: "Should I be worried that you've actually thought about this?"

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Darkened Heart Returns

Good news!

As of midnight last night, the Intern is once again updating his(?) blog over at The Darkened Heart. Why is this good news? Well, for one thing, it means he hasn't simply disappeared. Which, given the way things were going when he last updated, was beginning to look like a distinct possibility. For another, it means that those of us who have been reading along with his investigations may once again get a special look at some of the more obscure items and collections within the Smithsonian Institution's archives, courtesy of their agreement with the Infusco Animi Foundation. And, just possibly, we may finally discover what really happened during that "outbreak" a century ago.

I'd suggest that everyone start from the beginning - even for those of us who were following along back in 2010, it's been long enough to merit a bit of a refresher.

Image is property of Infusco Animi Foundation.

Patterns in SPAM

So I'm looking through my SPAM folder, and I start to notice some disturbing patterns.

Dr. Max Member is offering to, um, "enhance my manhood". Presumably, once I've done that, I can go on to the next email:

Canadian Pharmacy is offering my THE BEST PRICES on Cialis and Viagra. With my newly-enlarged anatomy and low-price chemical performance-enhancers, I'm now prepared for the next step:

Sexy Adriana wants to know if I'm there, and if I'll please come online. (It's so nice to be wanted!) So presumably, with all my preparation in place, I can hook up with Sexy Adriana. Which will lead, inevitably, to the last email in my SPAM folder:

Get her flowers for Mother's Day.



...I wish I was making that up. But, no, that was really what my SPAM folder looked like this morning.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Filler: Large Hadron Collider vs. Your Hand

"What would happen if I put my hand in front of the beam at Large Hadron Collider?"

As you might imagine, this isn't a good idea.

Filler: Giant Vortex Cannon

The Mad Scientist is just sure we can improve on this. Nevertheless, it's completely awesome.

Looks like the Big Bad Wolf just had better equipment than we previously realized. He probably got the technology from those Ancient Astronauts!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My son, the architect

Firstborn has a knack for design. He's demonstrated this before, but it's always fun to see what he comes up with. First up: vehicles for his Angry Birds. One of these vehicles is entirely his design. I made the other one after he was finished, because he wanted me to play with him. Can you guess which one is mine, and which is his?

And here's another view:

Highlight this text to see the answer: The DrillPigCopter is his; the Flying Angry Birdcage is mine.

Then, on Sunday, Firstborn and his grandfather made a turtle out of his Magformers. Firstborn immediately insisted that the turtle needed a house. So...

You kind of have to rip open the wall - er, I mean, "make a door" - in order to let the turtle into the house, though:

Kids are awesome.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Confessions of an Introvert

Alise, over at Alise Write - who recently returned from the Sacred Friendship Gathering, which seems to be a sort of religious bloggers' conference - talks a bit about being an extrovert and asks: What’s your Myers-Briggs personality? How do you feel about meeting new people? Since this struck me funny, I thought I'd share my answer with my own lovely readers:
Heh. I come out at IN?J. (One of my big gripes with the Myers-Briggs system is that I come out very strongly on both sides of the T/F split, which says to me that it isn't always as much of a split as the test would suggest.) It takes me a little while to warm up to new people. Well, I mean, not too long. Six months or so, usually.

(As you might imagine, this had some interesting effects on my dating life. Her: "Oh, now you want to go out with me? After months of barely giving me the time of day?" Me: "Well, I didn't know you yet, did I?" Her: "We've been hanging out for two years now. We were in Middle School together." Me: "...")

Being around people I don't know is stressful - like, borderline demophobia stressful. Give me a small group in a quiet setting, and I'm okay. Put me in a crowd, and I have to make a real effort not to just close up and go away. Alternatively, I'll find someone I do know well, and use them to break the ice and run interference for me. Anything to push back that feeling of panic, you know?

It's time.

...Speaks for itself, I think.

(Tip o' the hat to John Jenkins.)