Friday, July 29, 2016

End Of Summer Blahs And Reflections

Between the election, the weather (insanely hot with periodic afternoon/evening thunderstorms that don't cool everything down but do add plenty of humitidy to the heat), and the general time of year (getting ready for school to start, trying to finish up a bunch of projects that seem for various reasons to be stalled at work), well... Blah. I just haven't had much to say, or much energy to say it with. Writing projects? Phbphbphbphbphbpbt. Housework? Enough to keep us clothed and fed. Various other things that need to be taken care of? Yeah.

It just seems to be one of those seasons where everything falls behind, until it starts looking like it's going to take a superhuman effort just to get anything moving again -- and forget about ever catching up. There aren't enough hours in the day for that, and you wouldn't get anything done if there were.

I was posting about Black Lives Matter, but... Meh. What it comes down to is that I (still) think they're legitimately protesting a real injustice, while the person who prompted me to "dig deeper" thinks they're bad people out to cause trouble. Even if I had the emotional energy to pursue that, I think the effort would be wasted; I'm not going to change anybody's mind about this.

I had some fiction things I was going to write, but apparently I'm not up to that, either.

On top of everything else, we're due to head back to where my father grew up to put my mother's ashes in the ground in a couple of weeks. It'll be good to get out of town, and I like that area, but it's also a two-day drive -- plus there will be a lot of family, plus the burial. On some levels, I'm looking forward to it. On others, it just sounds busy and stressful.

At this point, what I really want to do is crawl into a hole for a little while. Unfortunately, I don't think that's going to happen. I don't see any way it can.

So, um... have some Dessa? Sure. Have some Dessa:

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Eye Tyrant

We're unloading the storage unit, which means sorting through a lot of boxes of things that we were just sure we'd want to get back as soon as we moved into a bigger house. Only, we didn't move into a bigger house. We reconfigured the existing house instead. So we're doing a lot of giving things away and selling things off and throwing things out.

In one of the boxes, I found a picture that Firstborn did... I'm guessing about four years ago, so he would have been probably six years old:

It's a Beholder, an Eye Tyrant. Nasty floating eyeball critter.

It's... it's one of his stuffed animals.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Me: "That's not a cockroach. That's a cricket. He doesn't even want to be in our house. And unlike a spider, there's absolutely no chance that he's venomous. So what we do is, we pick him up very carefully, like this. See how I'm holding my hand, so he's trapped but he isn't squished? Then we take him to the door, and toss him into the grass."

Firstborn: "So he's a grass-type Pokemon who only knows the move Bounce."

Me: "Pretty much."

Monday, July 25, 2016

An evening reflection on life

One boy is in the bath. Another is eating a cheese stick. The world spins along on its meaningless path through the dark and uncaring cosmos. The cold winds howl between the stars. Somewhere, a dog is barking. Somewhere, a child is crying.

Also, I should probably go to sleep.


So, a friend pointed out this article, about a fellow who has made a film defending the geocentric view of cosmology. (In English: he proposed to show, in his film, that the Earth is the center of the Universe, and apparently this is vitally important for the future of Christendom.) Which, at a glance, sounds like the sort of batshit-crazy premise that could only be produced by a certifiable kook.

However, upon reading the article, I find that it's... well, it's far more persuasive than I would ever have imagined. In fact, the only real problem with Mr. DeLano's premise is that he didn't take it far enough.

You see, based on a lifetime of personal observation, I can only conclude that in fact the entire Universe moves around me. I am the center; everything else either moves or is still relative to me. (In fact, you could say that any observation of what any object is doing is subject to that... what should we call that... ah, yes: relativity.)

Admittedly, making that realization forces you to do some pretty weird calculations about the way things move...

For example:

I get into my car and start the engine. First, I put the car into Reverse and press gently on the gas pedal. This causes my entire house to move away from me, and in the process carries the garage away from around my car. As the end of the driveway moves past me, I turn the wheel; this cause the world to rotate as well as continue moving, so that the alley gets pulled under my car. At that point I press on the brake and the world quits moving. I then put the car in Drive, and press the accelerator; the world begins to move past me again. Throughout the whole process, I remain sitting still, surrounded by my car.

So you see, officer, you can't say that I drove into that wall. I was merely sitting in my car. Unfortunately, I happened use the controls in such a way that the wall moved over in front of my car and then crashed into me.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Lichen This Guy's Style

I'm still trying to dig out from under the avalanche, so instead go read about how How a Guy From a Montana Trailer Park Overturned 150 Years of Biology. Science is cool, y'all.

Parenting: Boss Battle

Secondborn: "I'm going to have to restart this entire boss battle."

Me: "Good luck. Get out there and show that boss who's boss. Wait, that didn't come out right."

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Real Work Conversations: Killing It

Me: "So, if you had to divide humanity into two groups, and one group would randomly drop dead (but you didn't know which one), how would you create your groups?"

Boss: "...I'd try to make them as even as possible: ages, education levels, all that."

Me: "Yes, I was thinking of doing it by birth date. Like, all even-number birthdays would be one group, all odd-number birthdays would be the other. You'd probably have to make some changes to make sure the groups came out to the same sizes, but that should give a pretty even distribution worldwide. It's still a pretty horrifying scenario, though."

Boss: "Yes, it is. Why are you thinking about this?"
Boss: "...It's a story idea, isn't it?"

Me: "I'm a writer. We like killing people."
Me: "That didn't come out right."

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Pokemon Go

Tummy bug caught me over the weekend. It wasn't horrible, but it was uncomfortable and it's left me feeling a bit run down. So, rather than doing anything particularly original, I think I'll say a few words about Pokemon Go.

Pokemon Go scares me.

I'm tempted to stop there and just wait to see what sorts of conclusions people leap to, but I won't.

Look, it isn't the prospect of getting exercise. Getting exercise by accident is about the only way I ever *do* get exercise, and Pokemon Go is perfect for that.

Nor is it the prospect of getting into some sort of accident. Yes, I've seen the news articles, but honestly? Just remember to look where you're going. Personal responsibility. Situational awareness. Similar such slogans.

No, the reason I don't play Pokemon Go -- the reason Pokemon Go scares me -- is the same reason I won't play Minecraft.

I'm afraid I'd enjoy. I'm afraid I'd really enjoy it. And I know myself: if the game is that fun and compelling, then there's a very good chance that I might look up at some point and find myself asking, "Wait a minute... what happened to 2017?"

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Evaluating Black Lives Matter, step 2

Note: When I say "evaluating", what I'm actually trying to evaluate is a series of claims that Black Lives Matter is -- let me go look -- immoral, evil, anti-police, pro-violence, anti-white, and pure Marxism -- quite possibly all at the same time. What I've seen so far is largely what the organization presents itself as being: a response to a genuine problem of injustice, focused primarily but not exclusively on the racial imbalances in our justice and law-enforcement system(s), and promoting its aims through peaceful (if sometimes disruptive) means. So I'm not "evaluating" the organization, the movement, or even the slogan in any sense that resembles "making sure they measure up to my high (and self-righteous) moral standards". It's just that I've been told that I don't understand that these are Bad People, and I clearly haven't done my research -- so I'm doing my research by taking a closer look.

So, if you want to know whether or not I'm approaching this question with a bias, well: I am. And that's what it looks like.

Next up in the Things I should really know about Black Lives Matter: the founders are bad people. Alicia Garza apparently said: "[BLM] is an acknowledgement Black poverty and genocide is state violence." She blames Black community problems on the state, and she (and her organization) promote hatred and violence as a way of attaining their goal of a separate Black nation. Garza's inspirations come from militant leaders of the 1960s and 70s rather than from the non-violence of Dr. Martin Luther King.

I, um, yeah. I suppose you could argue that "genocide" and "state violence" are loaded terms, except that as far as I can tell they're also accurate terms. And there are any number of examples of various aspects of "the state" creating problems for black communities and even "the black community" overall, insofar as there can be said to be a single black community. None of that seems poorly grounded or even particularly controversial -- at least not unless you assume that it must mean that the entirety of the United States government at all levels (Federal, State, County, and Local) was at all times hostile to black people and always out to kill as many of them as possible, which I'm pretty sure is not what Black Lives Matter and its founders are trying to say here.

...She (and her organization) promote hatred and violence as a way of attaining their goal of a separate Black nation. I'm now up to about fifty-six hours of following the Black Lives Matter feed on Twitter. (Again: their feed. Not the hashtag. Not any apparently-related groups or individuals. Just their feed.) Plus, as I was advised to do, I've been looking at their website. And let me tell you, if they're promoting violence, they're doing an extremely good job of hiding it. I can't find a single call to violence. I'm not even finding anything that I can unquestionably count as hostile towards police. And I can't find anything about creating a separate black nation. I remember some calls for that sort of thing back in the sixties and seventies; I don't see anything of the sort here.

There's more. Of course there's more. But this is all I'm looking at tonight. I'm going to set this to post, and then I'm going to do some writing on the Dark Fantasy project.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Evaluating Black Lives Matter, step 1

So... over on facebook, in the wake of the death of Philandro Castile, I posted on my Facebook timeline a graphic from the Huffington post, which was basically just the phrase "Black Lives Matter" over and over until the bottom, where it says: "It must be said until it's heard."

I wouldn't have thought that this was controversial -- or rather, I would have; but I wouldn't have thought that this should be controversial. I mean, even if you firmly believe that All Lives Matter, clearly Black Lives would, by extension, Matter too... right? It seems fairly clear to me that there's an imbalance in our justice system, where law enforcement is more likely to accost blacks and other minorities; where law enforcement (overall, not necessarily everyone or always) seems to use a very different scale of threat assessment where blacks and other minorities seem are concerned; and where police misconduct, especially in cases involving minorities, is punished far more lightly than it would be for a civilian, and frequently isn't punished at all. My impression is that Black Lives Matter -- either the slogan, or the movement -- is aimed primarily at convincing people that this situation really exists, and needs to stop. Again, not the sort of sentiment that I really expected people to argue with; we may disagree on specifics, but as a general thing we're all pro-Justice, and this seems to me like a pretty clear-cut case.

Instead, within a short time it had escalated to a major argument, which is now in its third day. Admittedly, it's been a fairly civil argument as these things go (note: that is not a high bar, since the usual course of these arguments is to dissolve into name-calling incoherence and wild accusations within the first twenty minutes). Still, I have Facebook friends on both sides -- and, oddly, not some of the people I was expecting -- accusing each other of ignoring the evidence, not supporting their assertions, and generally failing to make a persuasive case for their views. Complicating the issue is an imbalance of numbers, since at the moment I have one person arguing that Black Lives Matter is a dangerous and immoral movement that I shouldn't be supporting... and a fair chunk of the rest of my feed arguing that that isn't true and quite possibly doesn't make sense.

Regardless of the merits of either side, that isn't a comfortable situation, and it isn't likely to promote actual dialogue. It's too easy to get frustrated. It's too easy to pile on.

{And here there was a twenty-minute interruption where I went back to Facebook to look for the links I needed to look at, found that the argument was devolving, and asked everyone to hold off for a bit. We'll see how that works.}

Anyway, here's the first of the anti-Black Lives Matter responses: "Black Lives Matter on their twitter feed are mainly antagonistic toward the police, such as, 'sign the petition to oppose Blue Lives Matter ordinance in Chicago'. Yet, over 60 people were murdered in Chicago over the July 4th weekend, and not one by a cop. This is a ramped up organization that promotes violence against cops, other races and our government. One of their slogans is, 'Pigs in a blanket, fry 'em like bacon.' Really?! Also, if you go to their website, you will notice that they are promoting to rebuild the Black Liberation Movement."

So, the first point: antagonistic towards the police. I've started following the official Black Lives Matter feed -- not the hashtag, which could contain anything, not some apparently-related feeds which may or may not share their goals -- and after about thirty-two hours, I'm just not seeing it. Protests, yes; people getting arrested, yes; anti-police or pro-violence messages, no. Signing the petition to oppose Chicago's Blue Lives Matter ordinance doesn't strike me as "anti-police", for somewhat complicated reasons; essentially, the ordinance looks less like it was designed to protect police and other first responders (who are fairly protected already, legally speaking) and more like something that could easily become a legal and financial cudgel to use against protestors and even random citizens.

Over sixty people murdered the weekend, and not one by a cop? I'd have to say that's irrelevant. For one thing, that has nothing to do with the question of whether, among the people who are killed by cops, blacks and other minorities are far more likely to be the victims, and far more likely to be unjust victims. Black Lives Matter isn't making the argument that cops kill people (or kill black people) more than anyone else does. It doesn't appear to be promoting the view that police, on the whole, are the enemy. If they were, this would be a reasonable point.

One of their slogans is "Pigs in a blanket, fry 'em like bacon." I can't find this anywhere on their website, and I can't find this anywhere on their Twitter feed. Apparently one of the groups at one of the Black Lives Matter protests managed to get themselves on camera while chanting this; but what I'm hearing from people I know who have attended these protests is that this isn't typical, doesn't represent the aims of the official Black Lives Matter movement or the majority of the people involved with the protests. And really, I have no problem whatsoever believing that some media outlet caught a fringe group of protestors chanting this, and blew it way out of proportion. (I don't subscribe to the idea of the "liberal media", but I sure as hell subscribe to the idea of the "profit-driven media".) I'm not surprised that there might be more extreme and violent view hanging around the edges of a call to fight injustice; on the contrary, I'd be surprised if there weren't. But "this is one of their slogans" is simply wrong.

On their website, Black Lives Matter is promoting to rebuild the Black Liberation Movement. This is where it gets a bit more complicated, and a lot more open to political and historical interpretation. The Black Liberation Movement is associated -- or deliberately conflated by its enemies -- with such organizations as the Black Liberation Army, which (if you don't care to follow the link) was a paramilitary, Black nationalist organization back in the 1970s. In the modern, post-9/11 world, they'd almost certainly have been called terrorists. However, there's a political dimension to that as well; I'm also seeing some fairly persuasive arguments that the overall Black Liberation Movement was far larger than just the Black Liberation Army, and included plenty of groups with more peaceful aims and approaches. In this view, the Powers That Be lumped the entire movement together and equated everyone involved with the worst and most violent of its elements.

Strangely, I have no trouble believing that this might well be the case. But even if it isn't, it still isn't unreasonable to assume that at least one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement might legitimately holds to that view. And that ambiguity seems like a very understandable explanation for why the Black Lives Matter websites adds parentheses when it talks about "(re)building the Black Liberation Movement". (The other likely explanation is that they feel that the Black Liberation Movement, overall, never entirely died away. This is not incompatible with the first explanation, and the parentheses may actually be acknowledging both elements of ambiguity. So far, I haven't found any definite statements from any of the movement's founders addressing the topic, but this may be a failure of research on my part.)

Look, this is just one guy trying to sort things out. And I'm a white, heterosexual, cisgendered, moderately-educated, middle-class guy. In other words, I'm trying to evaluate the claims and aims of a group that's addressing a problem that -- by definition -- not only doesn't affect me, but that I essentially never see. When a cop pulls me over, my first thought is never "Am I about to die?" And right now, I have a six-year-old and a ten-year-old who need my attention, and I'm out of time (and, if we're being honest, out of energy) to keep trying to research whether I'm being naively led astray, or whether the objections to the Black Lives Matter movement are mainly specious, if not actively deceptive. So far, I'm not seeing any indication that the Black Lives Matter movement is anything other than what it says it is.

Regardless of everything else, I have yet to see any compelling evidence that the fundamental problem that Black Lives Matter is supposed to be addressing is, y'know, not a real problem. So even if the movement somehow proves to be an issue, the sentiment is, I think, still well-placed. (Remember, "Black Lives Matter" started as hashtag -- as a slogan. It only became a movement later. Even if the movement proves completely corrupt -- and the evidence for that looks really flimsy -- there's still a legitimate issue there.)

So that's all for tonight. There's a mess of other stuff I still need to sort through and look at, but it's going to have to be another post.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Morning Routine

Since I'm sure you all were wondering, here's what my morning routine looks like. I've compiled it into a handy set of instructions that will doubtless be of great assistance to everyone:

Step 1: Pound on the alarm clock until it stops making that horrible noise.

Step 2: Groan. Loudly.

Step 3: Remember all the things you have to get done.

Step 4: Fall off the bed.

Step 5: Use the bed to help pull yourself up.

Step 6: Walk into a couple of walls and possibly a door frame on the way to the bathroom. Stepping on the cat is optional, but may also be included in this step.

Step 6: Flip on the light.

Step 7: Wince.

Step 8: Squint.

Step 9: Crack one eye just barely open.

Step 10: (Optional) Realize you're standing in the closet, and stumble back out and down to the bathroom. Repeat steps 6-9.

Step 11: Stand there looking blank until the light doesn't hurt so much.

Step 12: Pick up toothbrush.

Step 13: Pick up Neosporin.

Step 14: Realize that Neosporin is not toothpaste, and put it back down. Make a mental note to put the Neosporin back in the first aid kit now that the child has completely forgotten that he ever scraped his knee.

Step 15: Pick up the toothpaste.

Step 16: Forget all about the Neosporin, first aid kits, and children. Focus on getting toothpaste onto toothbrush.

Step 17: Brush.

Step 18: No, you idiot, not your hair. Brush your teeth.

Step 19: Turn on the shower.

Step 20: Realize that you're still holding your tooth brush. Put it back down atop the sink. Now turn on the shower.

Step 21: Wait for the water to warm up.

Step 22: Wonder why the room is so foggy. Realize that shower is still running, and step into it.

Step 23: Stand under warm water until it starts to get cold.

Step 24: In a panicked rush, do whatever minimal amount of shaving, shampooing, and/or lathering will allow you to pass as a functional adult.

Step 25: Put on clothes. (NOT optional.)

Step 26: Make tea.

Step 27: Realize that you need to be at work in seventeen minutes, and and it's a fourteen minute drive if you hit all the lights just right and the traffic is good.

Step 28: Clutching your tea in one hand and you bag in the other, rush out to your car. Note: it may be necessary to open doorknobs with your teeth. It might also be a good idea to set the bag down while you open doors.

Step 29: Pull the car out, then make sure you remembered to close the doors behind you.

Step 30: Drive to work, dodging lunatics, poor drivers, and people who are talking on phones or looking at the notes for their morning presentations instead of watching the road. Bask in the slow, daily erosion of your former faith in humanity.

Now you're ready to handle anything!

Yes, I realize that there are two step sixes in this list. That's the sort of thing that happens when you're still waking up.

Friday, July 8, 2016

How to tell if something is electronic

"How much longer do you have left on that video, Firstborn?"

"About ten minutes."

"That's... probably okay. When I told you to get in the bath at the end of that other video, I also told you to shut your computer down and not turn on any more electronics. But, you had your headphones on and you probably didn't hear me. So, benefit of the doubt--"

"I didn't hear you."

"Okay, well... end of this video, shut it all down -- and no more electronics. You can read your Kindle. I mean, it's electronics, but it's basically just a book."

"Reading. Not electronics. It totally doesn't shoot missiles when I'm angry. Totally."

"Exactly. Doesn't count as electronics."

Seriously, don't trust the early reports

As of this morning, the count appears to be five officers dead, seven more injured. The shots did not come from the protestors, but from elevated positions in a car park. Police cornered at least one suspect, who took his own life. What else do we know about this? Almost nothing. The "suspect" whose photo was released last night (A) turned himself in as soon as he realized he was being sought, and (B) evidently had nothing to do with it, and (C) will very likely have people who saw his picture and are still thinking that he was one of the shooters.

Most of what gets reported during and immediately after an event like this is speculation, not fact. News article this morning is reporting that the police aren't sure what prompted the attack, and aren't even sure they have all the suspects. So, please, PLEASE be very cautious about what information you pass along and what you take to heart. That's especially important in the midst of something as horrible as this.

EDIT: No sooner had I posted this than I saw another article indicating the suspect in the car park had not taken his own life; the police apparently killed him while using one of the bomb-defusing robots. So even the clearly-reported "facts" aren't always right.

Don't Trust Early Reports

I'm watching the news that several officers have been shot and killed in the wake of a (mostly peaceful, and mostly over) Black Lives Matter protest (which the Dallas police were aiding and supporting).

This is, broadly speaking, where I live. I don't get to downtown Dallas all that often, but it's not that far away, either. I used to go to clubs not too far from where this is/was happening.

I don't even know what to say about this. So I'm not going to say anything about it now, other than observing that it's piling horror on top of horror -- and you, gentle readers, could probably work that out for yourselves.

However, the Dallas Police are already releasing pictures of "possible suspects". And it's way, WAY too early for that. Edited to add: Sure enough, this guy looks like he couldn't possibly have been an actual perpetrator. But there are people who are going to see his picture, assume he was one of the attackers, and never follow up to correct their misconceptions. Don't be one of them.

So whenever these sort of situations come up -- these chaotic emergencies -- I'd ask you to remember these things, contained on this handy graphic:

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

That... is a big monster...

Had a dream on Saturday morning where there was a very large (like, nine feet tall) monster was going around eating people. It turned out that it lived in the local prison, and was part of an experiment being done on some of the prisoners. So the warden tried to shoot the thing with a tranquilizer, only that sent it into a berserk rage instead. As a result, I spent a fair amount of time trying to shoot the thing enough to make it fall over, and dodging around trying to make sure it didn't eat me.

And in the middle of this, my father kept trying to call my cell phone. While I'm trying to hide from the monster, yet. Repeatedly.

Yeah... I've got issues.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Not all who wander are lost.

"I am free and that is why I am lost."
― Franz Kafka

I'm not lost. I was the kid who stepped off the path in the deep dark woods, and found that exploring was much too interesting to give up, the kid who eventually made a home among the wolves and the boggarts.

Beyond the path, all the map says is "Here Be Monsters." And that's right: here we all are.

Friday, July 1, 2016

We must copyright Brexit, of course...

Turns out that Sam Adams (the brewer) is seeking to do exactly that. Apparently they want to use Brexit as a name for a hard cider.

That's their business, I guess... but I'd have gone with a bitter ale, myself.