Sunday, September 30, 2007

Funny Searches: September 2007

Starting a bit earlier, and considering lowering some standards.

sylvia brown on star sights: She's got nuthin'. Try asking Phil.

The Replacement Theory/ Christian: Replace "God" with "Flying Spaghetti Monster." Silliness does not significantly increase.

brass pendulam for astrology: Dowsing for Mercury in retrograde?

king id has taken over the planet: And that's why we have to form a rough-and-tumble team of evolutionists to save the world.

measurements of the earth is flat movie: I hope it's not very long. It'd probably involve a lot of repetition.

how many atoms are in bronze?: How big a chunk you got?

how scientists from their theories now: Dude, wait, whut?

Doggerel #125: "Wonder"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

One eternally irritating thing woos often like to tell me is that I have no wonder in my life or that skepticism somehow sucks it all out. But just what is wonder?

I think wonder is a positive, optimistic feeling: When I see something weird and unexplained in a telescope, microscope, or whatever tool we're using to closely examine something, or even when I think about something I didn't bother with before, generally there are two thoughts that combine into what I know as wonder: "That's cool!" and "How does it do that?"

The latter is where woos typically fall short: First, there's the very strong probability that we already know how it's done. What's so special about that? If they want to claim it's something unknown, they have to prove it's not done through known means. That's why magicians typically strive to do their tricks faster and under new constraints: If the box he's stuffed in is well above the stage floor, we can't simply say 'it's a trap door.' If you want to prove someone's psychic, force them to work under very tight conditions so that we can't claim it's a well-known trick. Showing us a magic trick when we already know how it's done isn't wondrous. It's boring.

Second, whether or not we know the answer, woos typically provide answers that don't lead anywhere. When science answers a question, we typically get more questions. If I'm recalling this correctly, the question of how galaxies stick together was answered with "dark matter," which brings up follow-up questions like, "What are the properties of dark matter particles?" "Does dark matter have any interactions other than gravitational?" and probably lots more detailed ones than my level of understanding currently allows. Woo "research" negates curiosity: Once they say "psychic power!" or "magic!" or "the designer did it!", there's nowhere to go. The woo universe ends there. Everything that can be known is known.

Third, woo answers typically aren't useful. You can't do much with them. There's no reliability. No specific predictions, and those who claim otherwise are typically much, much worse at it than their public relations department and fan clubs claim. What makes learning wonderful is that new ideas have the potential to change the world for the better. Woo often ends up maintaining the status quo, despite claiming to be able to cure all sorts of ills. Science marches on. It may not do so at the speed we'd like, but it's better than languishing in vacuity.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Pointless Question #10

You're wandering through the Big Bad Evil Guy's lair and bump into a locked door. Why did he protect the key with a block puzzle?

Makin' a List

Well, doing a little thinking about what I'll be needing if I decide to go ahead with that platformer-RPG. Making a game of the level I have in mind is no small undertaking. So, tell me if I'm missing anything from this list:

1. Characters: Still need a fair supply of them. Would like each PC to have some useful specialty in the typical Mario-ish platformer weapons. Bombs (covered), fireballs (covered privately), hammers, stomping, kicked projectiles, and anything else I might think of. Would also like one or two "off" characters, like one with limited or no jumping ability, for new twists.

2. Setting: There's going to be some world hopping, so some suggestions for themes would be appreciated, along with various races. Suggestions for subversions of world and race tropes would be nice. Would also like to come up with some different method of world-travel.

3. Plot line: I'm going to be including multiple paths, so it'll be more like a plot flowchart.

4. Game creation engine capable of handling this stuff or a sufficiently devoted programmer. The underlying system I have in mind involves an inventory for various one-use items, and equipment: Clothing, Accessory, and weapon expansions. Each character will have the ability to attach certain expansion items to their signature weapons to enhance them in various ways. Example: Bomb + Fire Spirit = Napalm. Different configurations can be assigned to different buttons. Most of the action will be a diverse platformer with the occasional town scene with conversation. Would like to be able to do a lot of the zany tricks with the text that Paper Mario loves to do.

5. Music and sound: I can probably find a lot of public domain sound effects, though it'll probably involve me doing a lot of digging through countless .wav files. Music might not be so easy. Unlike Ryan, I have no musical ability whatsoever, so I can't compose. Suggestions and contributions would be greatly appreciated.

6. Animation: I think I've got a style in mind I can do in Adobe Illustrator for individual frames. Just need to convert those into a format the engine can handle once I have them.

7. A name: A working title would be nice.

Friday, September 28, 2007

70th Skeptics' Circle

Well, it seems we've been found out at The Conspiracy Factory, so I guess we should come clean. Those little plastic things at the ends of your shoelaces: They're called aglets. Their true purpose is sinister.

Open thread as usual, except telling them about what the lightbulbs in fridges REALLY do when they close the door is FORBIDDEN!

Doggerel #124: "Better Safe Than Sorry!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

The last entry relevant to this largely dealt with woos using appeals to consequences of normal actions. These alleged consequences typically had no evidence supporting their existence. This entry is largely about woos appealing to the consequences of belief.

The most famous of the appeals to consequences of belief is probably Pascal's Wager, paraphrased as: "If you believe in God and God exists, you'll get infinite reward. If you don't believe in God, and God exists, you'll get infinite punishment. If God doesn't exist, you don't get anything either way." Of course, the problems are myriad: It presumes that God acts on belief, rather than some other criteria. It presumes there's only one kind of God to believe or disbelieve. It presumes God cares. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Most of all, though, it's putting fear and selfishness ahead of curiosity. Follow the link above for more details.

Shouldn't we just study the evidence before reaching conclusions, rather than forming a selfish conclusion and making an appeal to that selfishness? That's what a lot of religious appeals to consequences of belief boil down to: Do this, because we say it's in your best interest, even though we defined the belief in terms of non-evidence-based self-interest.

What separates woo-based arguments like this from the scientific method is the emphasis: Woos highly stress the importance of believing in the conclusion, regardless of how it was arrived at, often exploding if someone dares question how they arrived. Science, unlike woo, emphasizes that method: How we know what we know? Science is willing to overturn its earlier conclusions when better evidence contradicts it. Woo, on the other hand, will generally never do such a thing. Conclusions are sacrosanct, and methods are only good if they agree with the conclusion.

Science, of course, tends toward the philosophy that sacred cow makes the best hamburger. Dissecting the 'holy' bovine will get more accurate answers than fear and egomania.

He's Baaaaack!

My brother's returned to the blogosphere. He's busier these days, so don't expect him to flood you with posts. He reboots the place with a story about how he was a jerk to a Buddhist.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Got the Creativity Bug

I don't have the requisite programming knowledge to build a game from scratch, but I figure there are plenty of designer programs out there if you guys can help me look. The mood of the moment: I've got the urge to create a platform-RPG along the lines of the Paper Mario series. Minus the whole 3D thing. I can figure out a different gimmick for 2D.

Anyway, I'd like a little help in brainstorming. The general appearance is going to on the cartoony side, though I'll dip into some more serious stuff in the plot. For those who haven't visited the TV Tropes website that's been circulating my area of the blogosphere, stop by and make some suggestions of tropes you like and those you hate. I don't want to force you to play The Wesley. It's going to take place across multiple worlds, so there'll be some level of mash up.

1. Starting character: Popped into my head, nearly fully formed after a nap: Droopy-eared cartoon rabbit from a world of eternal night. Neither he nor his world are evil, goth, emo, or anything. Just dark with a limited color selection. Not going to stop people from non-dark worlds making it a running gag. ("Who's Mr. Misery-Bun over there?") Platforming specialty: Jumping and bombs. Little bit of stealth. As the game goes on, he'll get new jump techniques and different bomb types. Personality-wise, I was thinking of having him as a genre-savvy (making a good excuse for in-game hints if you're stuck) reluctant hero.

2. Call for more characters. For some reason, I was thinking of doing something where each is especially vulnerable to some kind of status effect and nearly immune to another. My bomb bunny, for example, would be vulnerable to being blinded, being unused to bright light. Anyway, in addition to that, they'd each have different platforming abilities, possibly forcing the player to think differently for different runs through the stages. What are you going to do for the guy who can't jump, but has some other redeeming feature?

3. Not going to have a save-the-world(s) plot. Any suggestions for stakes in a multiple world-spanning game? Anything involving multiple possible endings is welcome.

4. Consider this an open create-a-critter call for worlds and the more hostile inhabitants of those worlds. I'm thinking of something along the lines of six to eight worlds. I'd like to hear some concepts for bosses that involve creative strategy to defeat.

5. Any platforming/RPG conventions you absolutely love or hate? Paper Mario players: Anything you would have done differently? Should combat be like the first to Paper Mario games, with separate battles, or should platform jumping and combat be one, like in Super Paper Mario? Or a different system entirely?

6. Any thoughts on customization? I'd like to include a variety of equipment, though I'm not sure what to let it change. Don't want anything to be absolutely superior to another, just more or less suited to different play styles.

Anyway, for the sake of avoiding spoilers if I really like a plot idea, I might end up asking you to move your part to email. My address is:

Monday, September 24, 2007

Create-a-Critter #2: It's Anti-Life, Not Dead!

Well, it's a bit early, but I felt like bringing up another idea that sprang to mind that got inspired by Metroid. One area I just liked looking at was a lab-created phazon environment where the space pirates were attempting to breed nasty phazon versions of local life forms. Had this dark cave with radioactive blue stuff on the floor and giant mushrooms continuously shedding spores. After clearing out the enemies, the scene was strangely serene while remaining deadly.

So, I'm thinking of trying to capture that feeling with some critters in one of the few Underdarky areas of my setting: They live in underground caves flooded with negative energy, and aren't normally hostile or evil. Think xenobiology, not life-sucking undead.

Background of positive and negative energy in my setting: There's no association between souls and energy polarity. Positive energy is just something your typical biological life form eats up like crazy for generally beneficial ends. Negative energy is the opposite, inhibiting biological functions of us 'normal' critters. The critters in question, though, have adapted in the opposite manner than most, able to utilize negative energy at the cost of being vulnerable to positive energy.

Bonus: Environmental hazard: Help me think of some detrimental effects that'd be appropriate for normal characters traveling through one of these negatively charged regions for too long. Don't want it to be something as quick as 1d6 damage per round or negative levels (though those would be options if they get too close to whatever MacGuffin generates the bad stuff). I'd like it to be something that applies over hours, and takes a long time or exotic methods to fully recover from.

Miscellaneous Fundie-Related Stuff

Someone sent me a bit of a newspaper that published a random raving fundie today. I was both groaning and laughing on the initial skim. When the world's full of crazies like this guy, you just have to poke fun to avoid spending all your time in Shinji Ikarian wangst.


I find some of these quotes truly silly, like this one:
There are even people advocating that God's name be changed to Allah to appease Islam.
Like who? I know there are a lot of people who'll bend over backwards to appease the terroristic part of the Islamic population, but somehow, I don't think there are many people willing to go that far. If you find someone who advocates that, please either laugh derisively or give him a serious 'or the terrorists win' speech. Or both, if you think they won't detract from one another.
Do you not think that God sees everything you do and hears everything you say? Do you think you can turn away and pretend that he does not know? Don't you think that God might get mad at the suggestion of changing his name to appease a faith that denies He and His Son's existence?
Apologies for any suddenly coffee-covered monitors and keyboards out there.
1. No, I don't think a magic man sees and hears everything I do.
2. Therefore, I do think I can turn away and be confident that he doesn't know. (Shouldn't this guy be capitalizing his pronouns, by the way?)
3. God seems to get mad about anything and everything. Only thing separating him from being a whiny little emo is the fact that he's allegedly a omnipotent bully, if those centuries-old books are any indication.
4. Islam doesn't deny the existence of God or Jesus. They just slap a different label on the same bloodthirsty deity, and claim that Jesus was merely a prophet, rather than a supernatural haploid. They swapped out a D&D template for some more cleric levels.
Have you no fear of God's anger and wrath, when you put nonbelievers before him? You are putting God second to people who do not believe in Him and His Son for your own personal gain.
Omnipotent bully. Told you. Sounds like he values some label more than people whose lives could possibly be lost. Personally, I have no fear of God's wrath, since I haven't run into any of this stuff, suggesting he's either a monumental procrastinator or nonexistent. Frankly, I'd rather fight both fundie evils so that neither one can kill over frivolous issues over how Aerith's name is spelled. Anyway, I don't see what the problem is: Christianity was very keen on absorbing stuff from non-Christian sources in the past.
Where are the "belters" when you need them? No sale of beer and wine to stop, no illegals to ship out, no gays to bash, no politics to win, no material gain here, why bother? In this world there is only one God, His son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit to guide us. Can you not stand up for the one who gave us this wonderful country to live in — a gift from God — not an achievement of man. Can you not stand up for the one that gave his life for us?
Riiiiight. It's lot like Texas is engaging in a massive campaign to insert unethical, immoral, and unconstitutional endorsements of religion that I had to protest. (Followed the next day by Muslims denouncing terrorism, though I didn't pay a lot of attention to that. Glad to know they do indeed exist and speak up.)

And, of course, this person has to deny the efforts our founding fathers had to go through so that we could have a secular nation. Because the Constitution fell out of the sky and the redcoats were driven out by musket-wielding angels, not people who fought and died for our sake.
Christ taught us that if we are ashamed of him before the people, he will be ashamed of us before the father. The "belters" nation-wide have let the nonbelievers take prayer out of schools, try to take in "God we trust" off money and other government documents, so why aren't you storming the Capitol enraged at this blasphemy? Are you embarrassed to proclaim your faith in the Holy Trinity, are you ashamed of them?
He also taught us about where to pray, and hint: It's not in school. Of course, thought, this lying liar has to lie about what the measures against school prayer really did: They took away the "right" of government employees to coerce prayer. Kids can pray on their own time, so long as they don't disrupt class.

As for the rest of the stuff: Why do you think our efforts meet with so much resistance? It's because unpatriots like him have control over pretty much all the government offices.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Create-a-Critter #1: Curse-y Thing

So, here I am, creating another non-skepticism-related series. Anyway, here's the rundown of how this'll go: I start with an undeveloped germ of a seed of a concept for a monster, and those of you oriented towards gaming (usually specifically for tabletop RPGs, may extend to other genres) help me flesh it out some. So, today's candidate:

I'm working on a campaign setting that's got a lot of spirits that kind of resemble a cross between some fey and various Japanese spirits/demons/whatever. They usually hang out in these dimensional pockets that form in the center of large areas of one biome type. Mortals can create different kinds of wards against them, usually designed to prevent them from entering an area, or from affecting people in the protected area.

Anyway, now that I've gotten that little bit of background down, I'm trying to think of some kind of critter with some kind of signature curse. The thing that keeps it from just spreading it around easily for its own benefit or amusement is that it only affects the target if it performs a specific action, which varies from cursing critter to cursing critter. If players go up against one of them wandering a city, part of the fun will be figuring out what triggers the curse.

So, here's some questions I'd like your help in brainstorming:

1. What does the curse do? (Maybe even a case of cursed with awesome)

2. What sort of interesting triggers could there be for the curse?

3. The players have figured it all out and track down the bugger. How does it defend itself?

Dear Strong Bad...

A while back, I decided to drop an email to Strong Bad whenever I thought of one. Haven't had any luck, of course, but one of these days I might make it.

So, anyone want to share some emails they've sent to Strong Bad? Here are some of mine:

Dear Strong Bad,

I've sent you a shrink ray via snail mail. Every cartoon needs an Incredible Shrinking Whatever episode, so here's your chance!

-Bronze Dog

Dear Strong Bad,

If you ever want to see your dear little brother ever again, you'll come to the back of Bubs's Concession Stand with a case of Cold Ones.

Dear Strong Bad,

If you ever want to see your dear little The Cheat ever again, you'll come to the back of Bubs's Concession Stand with a case of Cold Ones.

Dear Strong Bad,

If you ever want to see your dear little case of Cold Ones ever again... Well, nevermind. I got what I want.

Dear Strong Bad,


-Bronze Dog

So anyway, on with yours.

Promises, Promises

Hi. Just a short, possibly moving into foamy rant ahead.

I'm guessing all my skeptical friends have noticed it at some point or another: Woos make all sorts of promises about how their favorite woo will cause a world-changing, possibly world-saving revolution. They never seem to deliver.

We've had nuts studying psychic powers for a long, long time, and yet have yet to do anything that would pass a test worthy of any attention. And somehow, a lot of them expect to develop practical applications for stuff like remote viewing and telekinesis. Still others claim that the ancients had practical applications, like pyramid building. As if it were impossible with standard human ingenuity (Our primitive ancestors were just as smart as we are. They just didn't have the enormous knowledge base we have today) and a lot of elbow grease.

We've had all sorts of people claiming to have perpetual motion machines, free energy devices, and so on. They can't ever seem to keep them running, or can't ever seem to complete them, but often promise that they'll get the bugs worked out if they get just a little more money.

Another thing that annoys me are these basement inventors who never get their magical machines out and working under controlled conditions. They're an insult to the real basement inventors like all the computer geeks we now have to thank for your ability to read my blog.

Thought its sloppiness and unwillingness to engage people, woo is probably one of the biggest forces for maintaining the status quo. Imagine if all the PR funding for woo was instead spent on genuine research.

Friday, September 21, 2007

If I Get Tazered...

...please don't just sit there.

Aside from a little schauchenfraud (however you spell that) for a conspiracy nut mixed in with a lot of outrage over the response (Seems he did a lot more than shown), this thread is devoted to discussing useful anti-The Man measures.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Quote of the Time Being #14 or Blake Stacey Wins the Internet

It would be nice, to say the least, if the anti-Uppity Atheists advanced a positive position, rather than ceaselessly declaiming their unhappiness with the Uppity Atheists. Otherwise, how can they hope to succeed? You can't have a world-view which is entirely negative, after all.
-Blake Stacey on Pharyngula

Doggerel #123: "You Argue as Loudly as a Fundamentalist!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless. This particular entry is currently interrupting the original schedule, brought on by a troll elsewhere.

The point should be obvious to my regulars, but it seems to escape so many woos, fundies, and squishy pseudomoderates: Arguing with passion is not equivalent to advocating or performing violence. It is possible to be very opinionated without wanting to use violence to force anyone to agree with you.

Just because an author slashes at the pages with his pen doesn't mean he's bringing a sword anywhere. Just because I press my keyboard a little harder or start using more bold tags doesn't mean I'm advocating violence, much less performing violence. It is entirely possible for someone to be passionate, loud, and persistent without entertaining any thoughts of violence.

Unlike a lot of fundies, my friends and I know very well the difference between a metaphorical debate table and a literal gladiator arena. My chosen weapons are text sent over the internet, my votes, the occasional cartoon or video, and, hopefully soon, letters sent to my region's elected officials. About the only violence I can really do with those weapons is give a senator a paper cut.

This is the inverse of the fallacy of 'argument by volume' a lot of trolls are fond of employing: Just because they're loud doesn't mean that they're right. Just because I'm loud doesn't mean I'm wrong. Judge my arguments' merits by their merits, not their implied volume. If I'm not advocating something, don't use my apparent decibel level to imply that I am.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Slimer! and the Real Pointless Fun

Well, it's been a while since I've done a straight one of these.

The big item in this is a website Nodwick introduced me to a while back: The Independent Gaming Source. It covers a lot of games made by individuals and small companies. The really great thing is that a lot of them are free. The favorite thing I've seen there: A big list of 50 indie games.

I like Cave Story, Warning Forever, and Samorost. Be sure and tell me if you find a favorite or two on the list.

Anyway, here's some YouTube stuff: The guy who does "I'm a Marvel, and I'm a DC"

And since it's Speak Like a Pirate day, I should post something about that, since pirates are having a hard time making it in our modern office world:

In other news, I'm hankering for something steam punk:

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

This Time, You Ask the Questions

Was idly talking about logic puzzles and recalled a variation on the familiar Knights and Knaves. So anyway:

(Updated with more possible deities)

You live on an island ruled by three deities who will answer yes/no questions for the inhabitants. They're overly obsessed with never appearing in the same form twice, so you never know which one is which when you show up at the temple. Truth always tells the truth. Liar always lies. Random Whimsy will switch between telling the truth and lying whenever he darn well pleases, and will favor whichever aids him personally. All three deities travel together and answer all questions, so you can't direct a question to a specific deity.

Since you're tired of chronically playing games of Knights and Knaves every time you've got a trivia question you want answered, you decide to thin down the numbers: The ancient scrolls or some such say that if a deity is unable to produce a yes/no answer due to a paradox, his head will explode.

So, what questions can you ask to identify each deity (fairly easy, no points), kill a specific deity which will not harm the other two (2 points), or a question that'll kill two deities without harming another (5 points). Minus infinity points for a question that'll kill all three, since that'll arouse the attention of the Hounds of Tindalos, who'll rip you to shreds, or whatever they're supposed to do. All I know is that I like their plush.

Alternate deities to replace Random/Whimsy, to possibly expand the challenge:

Chaos: Switches randomly between honesty and lying.
Alternator: Switches between telling the truth and lying with each question. First answer is random.
Yes-Man: If Truth and Liar give the same answer, he will give the same answer as well. If Truth and Liar give different answers, he will lie.
Ragnarok: If Truth's and Liar's heads explode, he will answer to cause his head to explode. If that option isn't available, he tells the truth.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

On the Road

Just thought I'd let you know I'm only intermittently connected to the nourishment of the umbilical cord of the internet. I'm in pretty much the middle of nowhere where dad grew up, inspecting some land with him. Got wi-fi from a relative, but just barely.

Got to try out a cane sugar Dr. Pepper that, unlike the previous one, didn't spend too much time in the sun. Wasn't all that different, aside from an aftertaste.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pointless Question #9

You've saved the world from mad scientists, meteors, alien invaders, demons from a lower plane of existence, and inexplicably giant gorillas hundreds of times over, and all while making very good excuses for your alter-ego.

How did the world stay in one piece before you and your caped friends came along?

Doggerel #122: "You'll Be Sorry!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

When I think of it, just about everything is an appeal to consequences. If you get into a car accident while not wearing your seatbelt, you're more likely to get injured. Therefore, you should wear your seatbelt. Unfortunately, woos like to use fallacious appeals to consequences.

Exaggerated example: If you don't wear a tinfoil hat, the government will read your mind. Therefore, you should wear a tinfoil hat. Where the fallacies come in, of course, is the first part of that statement: What evidence do they have that the government can read your mind, and furthermore, what evidence do they have that tinfoil can prevent it?

Alties are particularly fond of this, since they can try to use it to discourage people from seeking real medicine, generate fear about what'll happen if people choose not to use their product, just doing a normal, health-neutral action, and so forth. Such efforts involve a lot of other doggerel and mistaken "common knowledge."

Conspiracy theorists love this one because they can portray critical thinking and honest questioning of their crankery as complacency in the face of the MIB black helicopter invasion that's due at 4 o' clock tomorrow.

I could go on (and I will, in the next Doggerel entry, "Better Safe Than Sorry!"). They key problem is that they have to show good evidence of that, not just chant the mantra. If we question the premise, they have to defend the premise.

So, What's the Point of All This, Again?

Well, my brother unceremoniously announced he's quitting blogging. He's been pretty frustrated lately about what he was trying to do, and didn't want to be someone who just recycled what he saw online.

So, I think I should pretty much review my intentions over here:

1) Support First Amendment rights: I make a stand for separation of church and state, freedom of speech, and all that good stuff. The two are vital for the advancement of science, and our ability to improve ourselves. That was one of my reasons for going to the rally: To oppose some of the nasty laws passed in Texas, intended to tear down the wall, while masquerading as protection. Of course, that 'protection' is born of double-standards and such. Open-mindedness (the real stuff, not the fake woo kind) demands that we be able to speak about anything without government coercion intended to enforce conformity in children.

2) Atheist/Skeptic Representation: A lot of people out there lie about atheists and skeptics all the time. Expressing our actual opinions all over the internet is supposed to make it harder for them to get away with it. We've already got pithy responses for everything they say we don't. Additionally, I can do my part to show atheism and critical thinking in a positive light, and show evil in an appropriately bad light.

3) Vent: Sometimes, I just have to blow up at woos in comments. It's a luxury I can't afford here in meatspace most of the time. There are problems in the world, and it irritates the generic fiendish plane(s) out of me that there are people who so devote their lives to obstructionism, apathy, intellectual isolationism, and cynicism.

4) Have fun: Sometimes it's very easy, and other times it's very hard. Where there's gross absurdities in life, there's humor to be had if you can get in the right mindset.

Stuff I should probably do: Write to relevant politicians, take the fight to woo places more often, etcetera.

69th Skeptics' Circle

It's up at Screwing the Inscrutable. And it's got a plain Jane version for you people who don't want to deal with hosts being cute and/or comedic.

Open thread, but black-hatted people are FORBIDDEN from commenting.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Want to See Me in Meatspace?: Part 2

Well, I'm back from the rally. It was small, but respectable, and I'll save the details for a later post.

Anyway, my brother and I are planning on going to Opal Divine's for dinner. On the off chance one of you is in the area, you'll see me wearing a black T-shirt declaring who my master is. And no, it's not PZ or Dawkins, or any of the others trolls like to bring up. You'll figure it out.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Directory Directory

Just got an annoyance. Surfing some links, looking for some tips on fantasy world building to work a little on a D&D campaign I'll be keeping for a rainy DMing day. I ended up going through some directory sites... except they only link to other directories allegedly about world building. There weren't any that contained actual articles or tips for world building.

Anyway, I'm trying to flesh out an archipelago culture (Not entirely for player benefit. Sometimes I just like the world building process), and I'm trying to find some information on island ecology, economics in isolation, and that sort of thing. Would like the place to be potentially valuable once the players kick out the baddies. So, know any links I could use, rather than directories?

This is the IDiocy That Never Ends...

PZ ended up with an email from Michael Korn that induces another round of groan-inducing stupidity I've touched on in a rant before. I think it's pretty revealing of the typical Creationist mentality, as you'll see below.

Anyway, here's the quote I'm going to be talking about briefly... unless I go off on another rant:

survival of the fittest

i wonder if, since you are a proponent of darwinism and its creed of "survival of the fittest", you would accept my challenge to a fight, at a place of your choosing, using just our God-given or, in your case, randomly evolved, hands and feet (i.e., no weapons of any kind, as in a duel).

it would be interesting to see finally who really is fitter: an Evolutionist believer in Darwin or a Creationist believer in God.

our exhibition could render a real service to the community and help resolve this vexing issue.

for your information, i am 5' 6", 120 lbs, and have no military experience or training in martial arts or any other form of self-defense or combat.

it will be a very fair battle i think.

please respond soon.

Rhetorical question I feel I must ask: Since when is combat ability a determiner of fitness?

PZ's fitness and success as an organism isn't determined by his ability to beat up some crazy little Creationist on demand. Life is not a Mortal Kombat tourney. In terms of evolution, a pacifist who raises a small family in the suburbs is more successful than some virgin who defines his life in terms of how much combat he can handle. Humans are adapted for life as social creatures. Senseless violence tends to decrease a human's fitness when other humans band together to lock violent people up in a concrete building where their gametes will never meet up with those of the opposite sex.

Biological fitness is not measured by combat. I suppose fitness could be described as problem-solving ability. "Kill it!" might be the favored solution for the typical D&D dungeon crawl, but that hardly applies to the real world. There are plenty of other methods for competion (including cooperation). The typical Creationist's ignorance of this suggests that they honestly believe violence is the best solution to any given problem.

On top of that enormous level of stupidity is another, of course: Since when is the truth of evolution dependent on the fitness or combat ability of its louder proponents? It's positively medieval: Trial by combat. Are Michael Korn and his ilk going to insist on bringing back that barbaric tradition? It's the logic of bullies. Might makes right.

Science is done by performing experiments and seeing the results: The experiment is analogous to a question we ask of nature, and the measurement of the end result is nature's answer. What a novel idea!: Asking reality what reality is! Much more intelligent to test reality about evolution than asking irrelevant questions like "Can PZ beat up some 5'6", 120 lb. guy?"

Of course, though, my baser instincts think that irrelevancy would make for an amusing, if not informative, experiment.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

So, Should I Move?

Got to thinking about moving my blog again, mostly because I've so radically changed the place since Ryan's original incarnation. It'd probably be easier for people to find "" or something.

The trick is that I'm not sure how to do it easily. I'd like to duplicate the posts at whatever new place without going through the sheer number of individual posts, keep this place up, at least for a while, and maybe even find some way to get people redirected from the posts here to the new counterpart, to give people time to update bookmarks, links, etcetera.

So, any general recommendations from those more experienced at the matter?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Quote of the Time Being #13

From the Uncredible Hallq:
Can you imagine an actual government writing laws to guarantee that everyone will wind up guilty, and then making pardons conditional on loyalty to the leaders? Such a government sounds horrific, yet that is exactly the program that has been a major strand of Christian theology since Paul.

Anyone Else Get This Particular Cultish Vibe?

I've read pretty much all of The Brick Testament to date. It's kind of creepy to see some bits of the Bible, especially the bloodshed that tends to get just briefly mentioned.

Anyway, sometimes it gets creepy with Jesus, and reminds me of stuff I've seen about cults:

Here's a collection of passages talking about the family conflicts he came to cause, including a bit about requiring his followers to hate pretty much everyone associated with them as well as themselves. I'm not an expert on cult recruitment tactics, but one familiar theme that comes with cults is that new members are given reason to separate from their family and friends, the people who'd be most interested in talking them out of it. As for self-hate, it pretty much goes along with one of the typical cult lines of "let go of yourself/your ego/etcetera."

Extending the internal house conflicts to their natural extension, Jesus wants the world to burn. Lot of obligatory doom talk.

The self-mutilation bit is a bit creepy even if you take it "metaphorically." Glad I haven't met anyone who takes it literally, yet. Suspect they'd have a hard time typing, though.

Everyone knows cult leaders like to have the followers share all their money. Hence the later bit about "Accept Communism or Die."

There's the whole "Hell" thing, generally used as a threat against those who would dare to question the faith.

There's a fair bit of love mentioned there, like other cults, but actions don't seem to match up to words.

There's also something else I noticed: It seems like the whole thing was set up as a resistance movement against then-mainstream Judaism, depicting themselves as persecuted throughout history or something. Always need to generate the impression of being persecuted in order to attract contrary thinkers, it seems.

Of course, I realize that there's not much separating "cult" from "religion" except popularity. But anyway, anyone else get the impression I do: That Jesus was just a leader of a typical doom cult that got popular?

Doggerel #121: "Eureka!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

Contrary to what you see in movies and outside Archimedes's favorite bathhouse, science doesn't really come from startling revelations made by a single person. At least not very often, anymore.

Science is usually a team sport that requires a lot of hard work. In the early days, before we had a large understanding of the human-scale world, bright individuals could discover quite a lot. A lot of the knowledge we now take for granted wasn't around back then. The problems science deals with these days are growing more subtle and more expansive.

In medicine, you can't just give a pill to a guy and expect his results to be typical. You have to give it to an experimental group and compare them to a control group and pay attention to how it affects different people in different demographics. That's a lot of work. You may suddenly have an inspiration that leads you to think Chemical X would have beneficial effects, but don't presume that your intuition about the complexities of the human body is as straightforward as Archimedes's realization about displacement volume.

In physics, scientists have to deal with tiny particles, velocities, and so forth that don't follow our everyday Newtonian expectations. A physicist may have some potentially ground-breaking idea to untangle some knots in a superstring, but he still has to show how the math and/or experiments work to support it.

In biology, critters can come up with all sorts of unexpected defenses against our efforts to control them or whatever. With the vast time scales involved in evolution, you might get blindsided by some of the shorter-term thinking of your squishy brain. That's why you have to refer to the large body of evidence that's been collected.

I'm sure more examples could be dropped in the comments. The point is that science doesn't end with sudden realization, thought experiments: You have to test your ideas in the real world. Many of the woos out there just don't get that. "It's just an idea! Why do you have to criticize it?" is one of their common complaints. They don't realize that new ideas demand to be explored.