Sunday, December 28, 2008

So lazy.

Sorry about that, laziness on my part is more the rule than the exception. I have a couple of artists that I want to discuss later today, but right now I would like to welcome everyone back from the hangovers, holidays, and helicopter duels (if you were so fortunate to have one.)

Enjoy this video, and the many others over on the TED website. They are (usually) insightful, funny, and many of the speakers have a lot to bring to the table.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Um... is this thing on?

Yeah? Good.

There has been something that has been bothering me the last few days (years) and I finally drug it kicking and screaming out into public.

Why the fuck do we have ignorant people in this day and age that are using the internet? If you are using Firefox (and I assume IE and others have something comparable) there is literally a box with a capitol G in it for you to type something into and be overwhelmed with information on any given topic!

With this the case, why do we continue to see, day after day, in forum after forum, and blog after blog the same stupid old wives tales, myths, and lies propagated. It is as if... though hard to believe... people are actually remaining ignorant ON PURPOSE.

(Insert a roll of thunder and lightning searing across the black ether of night.)

Is this some sort of conspiracy? A plague that causes someone to be unable to see results or search engines? Perhaps some allergen that makes you unable to cross reference or verify claims? Or, perhaps the most nefarious, someone has tricked you into thinking you don't need to?

What exactly am I talking about? Such myths as: There being no scientific basis for evolution, that people choose to be homosexuals, that the Earth is not 4.5 billion years old give or take, or that all conflicting view points should be taught to children no matter their level of divorce from reality.

Don't worry though, there is a cure, and we can do it the hard way or the easy way.

Here is the easy way.

The hard way is actually digging through page after page of information, cross referencing materials, and actually checking for little nuggets of reality known as 'facts'.

Good luck out there in separating the wheat from the chaff. There are those in this world, believe it or not, who actually do not want to tell you the truth.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Fear of Rejection

Over the course of writing my first novel, I learned one major thing about myself and other writers.

When the final chapter closes and it is time to sell the damned thing, we balk out of fear.

The question is asked "what if they don't like it?" I know I asked it over and over again as I wrote and rewrote the letter.

Sending out a query letter was a trying and psychologically daunting task, but in the end the letter went out and the world didn't end.

This weekend, I received my first official rejection letter for agent representation, and believe it or not it didn't hurt. I was left feeling a little ambivalent and honestly a little excited. (which truth be told led to me feeling really confused.)

I had taken my first steps towards publication, and met my first hurdle. Like the deer that stumbles into a clearing where you are having a picnic, I stared at the letter in astonishment. I read the little half page over and over, making sure it was real and didn't move around on me when I looked away.

I encourage all writers to send out a query, especially if it is your first work. Like all experience, it is best acquired while young in the field.

The rejection is not something to fear, but to embrace. Each time your work is dismissed by someone, let it build and excitement that will burst when someone finally says 'yes'. Don't fret over one person's opinion. Agents and publishers have tastes as fickle and different as the people who will be reading your book should it see shelves, so let a rejection serve a double purpose to prepare you for when someday someone comes to you and says "I don't like your work."

"Thats OK," I would say, "not everyone does."

Monday, December 8, 2008

Growing pains.

As with all new things, this blog and I are going through some growing pains as I try and settle upon something or theme that will be the cornerstone of this blog.

Some niche to fill perhaps.

So stay tuned and bear with me as I play Frankenstein with it for a while.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Artist of the Week

Brandon Bird.

Most of you have probably already heard of him, but so what? The man has pop culture art cornered like a rodeo clown. Really, his paintings and illustrations speak for themselves, so go and check em out.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Recent Reading

I have been reading the works of Thomas Jefferson recently, and I must say that he was right in hind sight.

His thoughts on government and of the people (specifically in regards to education) were so spot on, it is rather embarrassing to look around at my fellow Americans.

We live in an age where ignorance is seen as a virtue, obedience a civic duty, and government seen as a monolith given to impart what is best for us.

Where the fuck did we go THAT wrong? Seriously, how could we screw the pooch that hard?

"Our country is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation of power first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence." -Jefferson

Here we have, IN HIS LIFETIME, Jefferson telling us the path we find ourselves running along today. We see it everywhere, especially in the last eight years as Bush laid out his decrees from on high, and the fools who bowed at his feet called us Anti-American, terrorists, liberal whiners, or worse when we would use our right to question this insanity.

For the last century we have been told that a sword sits poised above our necks while we lay on the chopping block, and that only by being good and listening to our leaders can we be safe. We cannot see this sword because of the veil the nanny government has put over our heads for our protection.

Thus I posit to you that this constant FEAR is the only sword ready to severe us from our life and our liberty, and WE elect those who hold this blade over us. We elect the executioners of our liberty each time we allow a Congressman to lie, a President to run unchecked, or allow a candidate to go unchallenged in their assertions.

I believe we should take back that which is ours, lest we elect a firing squad instead of our own voice. A cry must go out to call our leaders onto the floor and answer to us as it was intended. They are the ones meant to lay down to us, not the other way around.

The actions we must take are many, daunting, and will at times seem overwhelming but it is up to us to defend our freedom. A place to start is by getting rid of lobbyists, who buy the vote of our representatives and place the tape over the voice of the people. The recent bailouts are a perfect example of this.

We must also never forget what truth is. There are no personal facts, no personal truths. A denial of fact is a lie, and a lie is a sign of dishonesty. Truth is derived from questioning, rigor, and letting no stone rest unturned lest the snake hide there.

We are to blame when things go wrong, and thus it is up to us to fix our problems. Let reason fight back against fear and superstition. Let your voice be heard lest you fall into a cynical void from whence no one may escape.

The only way an action is wasted is when it is never taken.

Monday, December 1, 2008

And who are you sir?

"I think I speak for myself, so here is my card should you need to contact me. "


Now, a word from the dead.

The Atlantic has reprinted a book review written in 1860 by Asa Gray. Now, I know what you are thinking: "Who is this and why do I care?" (Unless you are savvy on such things, or read other blogs who found this interesting too)

This book reviews probably the most controversial printed object in history.
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life

Now, I know the actual title is just On the Origin of Species, but I thought it looked more dramatic with the old title. So there it is, go read it and see what Darwin's friends thought at the time.


The Holidays are not over...

The 'season' has just begun. So for the next few weeks we will be tortured with erratic versions of the same song over and over, blinking lights, not to mention simultaneously jovial and belligerent fellow humans.

If THAT doesn't sound like a psychological stress test, I don't know what does.

The good news, of course, is that egg nog is on the shelves once more. I will proceed to drink myself sick on it, as is a yearly tradition no less daunting than the annual gift gauntlet.

Lets talk about that for a moment, this gift gauntlet. I find it a bit odd that, no matter how well I know a person's habits, interests, or cares, I still find it difficult to buy gifts for them.

The woman I have spent no less than five years of my life beside is one of the hardest of all.
The next hardest are the people who have a tendency to buy whatever it is they want throughout the year, and leave nothing really left over for gifts. (Guilty!)

So, I encourage you, make a list of things you want. I know you hope that your friends and family will get you the things you want, or that it is the thought that counts so what you get doesn't matter, but please think of the gift giver. They are stressing over that perfect something to get for you so that they can make you feel as special as they see you.

Give em a nudge, make a list, or (for the hopeless one in your life, like me) sit them down and straight up tell them and make a list.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Yule Tide Swag Day

So, I have a joke.

A Catholic, an atheist, and a Muslim sit down in front of a Christmas tree. Suddenly, the Baptist busts into the room and says:

"Happy Yule Tide Swag Day!"

OK, so it really wasn't a joke, it just sets up like one.

In all seriousness though, what do you do when the holiday season rolls around and you have friends from so many walks of life? Do you exclude them? Do you truck on and hope for the best?

No, because that is foolish. This holiday is supposed to be about being together, and about peace. Also, presents. Giving lots and lots of presents.

Thus I proposed a year or so ago that we switch out the name, toss on a new label, and bingo! All inclusive holiday that can mean whatever you want it to. No more having to list 60 different holidays that all land in or around the end of December, no more "war on Christmas".

Now, you might ask, what is the point if it isn't celebrating (insert religious reason here)?
Well, here are a few starters for you:
1. You are alive. (Good going by the way, its a rough world out there)
2. You have an excuse to gorge on an insane amount of whatever tickles your fancy. Why have a turkey, ham, or goose when you could have Basalmic battered fish? (or nachos, a personal favorite)
3. All those small things that you forgot to sweat over, but ended up working out in the end.

The list goes on. If you can't find a single reason to celebrate, then you are probably one unobservant individual. Even when things are awful, they could always get worse.

Thats what YTSD is all about. It is about stepping back, taking a breather, and not taking yourself too seriously. It is a time to put all of the bullshit aside and toss the noisy dog on the other side of the fence a new ball or treat.

If that isn't worth celebrating, then I don't know what is.

Monday, November 24, 2008


I would first of like to congratulate SpaceX on the successful mission length testing of Falcon 9.
You can read about it here, and I encourage you to watch the video. It is awesome, like most fireballs, but this one just happens to be a fireball of PROGRESS!

In other news, these crazy biologists just can't stop impressing me with how much evolutionary theory can push us forward, not only as people, but as a species.

I can understand why this kind of thing can scare people some people, but any trepidation I have personally is overridden by the excitement at the future these kinds of advancements offer.

Last week we had the first successful transplant of a body part formed entirely from stem cells, and already someone else is waiting for the same procedure.

THIS is what the future is based on, and something that the US needs desperately to bring back into focus. It is my fondest wish to see the Obama administration undo a lot of the damage of the last twenty some odd years, especially the Three Mile Island disaster of the Bush administration's science policies.

Speak up people, and let the leaders you elect know you are ready to move on, and boldly step into the uncertain future holding the reins of knowledge.

A lack of an artist last week.

So, I have already failed at bringing you a new artist every week.

So, to make up for it, I will bring you many.

With the holidays approaching and money tight, there are still ways to get expressive and wonderful gifts for people. Sites dedicated to hand made goods by really talented artists could really help out strained wallets, and show that you have a thoughtful insight into the person you are buying for.

Etsy- a good site with not too many ugly sweaters. The soap, jewelry, and ceramics are some of my favorites to look at. Also comes with handy guides in the form of favorites and treasuries.

The Pear Project- online store, recently started I believe.

Smashing Darling- another recently started online shopping are for hand made goods.

So get crafty this holiday.

This was what we should have feared.

While we were all occupied with who was receiving money in the bailouts, we weren't paying attention to the why.

Thus, when the bailouts came, so too did more hands asking for their own pie, not just a piece of what was there. It also failed to address the actual problem of poor government regulation, fiscal policies in both the gov. and private sectors, and not to mention company responsibility.

Now, some people have their suggestions as to what the problem is, from wars to atheists, but that for the most part is either excuses or scapegoating.

The issue is large, complicated, and rests on all of our shoulders. Thus, as one we must push back against the avalanche set off by those initial bailouts.

Vote these assholes out of office so we can have some peace of mind that things like THIS will stop happening.

To use terminology that the Republican's are fond of: It is a slippery slope we are standing on.

It does not help fill a hole in your yard if you fill it with dirt from a hole you dig right next to it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Week... three?

Maybe? I can't remember any more. I have been playing Fallout 3 for what seems like eternity, and after finishing the game for the first time, I must say I am ready for a second go around.

The problem, though, is that SecuROM is an absolute NIGHTMARE and causes more crash errors than I care to count. It will stress your system, not to mention the hoops you have to jump through if SecuROM decides you are running emulation software.

It is invasive, keeps your system taxed in an already taxing game, and makes it rather a pain in the ass to just INSTALL the damn game.

I recommend you buy the game off of Steam so that you at least don't have the invasive kernel-mode driver that will decide your life needs to be a living hell.

I must say that Bethesda has lost an enthusiastic customer for future releases. As will any company that continues to not see the light and punishes their customers and not the pirates who steal their software.

DRM DOES NOT WORK. The pirates bypass it, and ENJOY doing so. Your customers are the ones left holding the bag on your fuckhead decisions. You know, the people with the money who actually PURCHASE you product.

Well, I wish I had thought of it first.

But here it is! Someone who has a blog just as dedicated to eliminating the misinformation spread by David Kirby and his filthy hordes.

I present to you, by way of Orac: The Age of Ignorance!

If you care about stopping these pro-infectious disease loons, the go forth and contribute your voice in the comments and make sure your voice is heard against these frothing masses of stupidity.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Its the most wonderful time...

I get so damned sick of hearing about xmas. I really do. The crazies all seem to come out, especially those on the far right to declare that their holiday is being taken away because some liberal assholes are trying to include all of humanity in their acknowledgment of the holiday season.

Damn them!

Well, the Humanists up D.C. have stolen a bit of their thunder by placing some bus ads up declaring: "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness sake."

Wow, what a novel concept.

You see, despite what people ignorant of history outside of fairyland might tell you, Jesus is not the reason for the season.

We can thank Saturn for gift giving, those crazy pagans and their Yule logs, geese, and another delicacies, not to mention that jolly man with the one work day a year job: Santa Clause.

So, when you walk around this November and December, go out of your way to wish people a happy holiday season. If it riles them up, and they start to bitch about stealing xmas, or how they don't celebrate [insert holiday here], just remind them to take a page out of Mr. Wheaton's book: "Don't be a dick."

Maybe we should somehow frame the holiday around that, but I don't think "Dontbeadicksmas" has the same flow.

Dungeons and/or Dragons

I enjoy playing Dungeons and Dragons. A lot. Like most RPGs it allows a chance to tell a small piece of a story inside of a world, whether you are a player telling the story of your character, or the DM guiding players through a world of your design.

What makes DnD particularly interesting though, is that the world is only roughly outlined, so that an infinite number of stories can take place inside of it.

This can be a very daunting set of shoes to step into, especially for a DM. This is the role I enjoy filling, as a writer, but even someone who decides they want to step up has only overcome the first hurdle.

From the get go, you are stuck in the middle between letting your players choose their own path through the world as they play and trying to tell a coherent story. Now, some fix this by leaving everything open ended and just handing their players a map and a couple of hints.

This can be fun for players, but it tends to get rough fast if there is any friction within the party and it means a lot of work in advance for you.

The way I tend to try and work it is by striking a balance between the story and the freedom of open world questing. I use the story as an overall frame that, instead of putting the players on a railroad into what I demand they enjoy, it just nudges them in various directions.

One good way of doing this is by having a lot of minor quests for players to accept or decline as they see fit. If the story sends them to a town that also happens to be the center for some strange occult activity, then they can decide to investigate. Along the way they may find a dispute to try and settle, or maybe a criminal on the loose that needs catching.

All the while, tie it back into the main story, by perhaps giving up a little information that will help them as a reward. Also, I try and make these the quests that reward them with the monetary types of treasure, while the magic items come in through the story.

The other thing to do is have multiple ways in mind that they can complete a given objective. If there is a mad leprechaun on the loose, perhaps they can pay him off, negotiate with him, or simply divert his energies elsewhere. Not everything has to end on the point of a sword. (Unless your players want that, which is cool.)

Now, I mentioned rewards a moment ago, which brings me to another point I hadn't thought of.
Players want to feel that their actions are noticed, so it is deathly important for you to pay attention to small things they do. Reward them for clever sayings by tossing a little bit of extra gold their way, or perhaps an action point for fast thinking. These small rewards go a long way to encourage players to think on their feet, and really helps with their immersion into the game if they feel like their actions have real consequence.

Now, this goes the other way also. The hardest part of the job is punishing player behavior, because you don't want to feel like a nanny that has to tsk their players. The problem is, if they decide to derail the game, especially if the whole party is not in on it, then it is time for you to step in and handle it. This can be done in or out of game.

For example, if the party has been dealing with the King of Wagonville, and one player decides that the king's blood pressure is too high and stabs him a few times to alleviate the problem, then that puts you in a rather tight spot. Do you allow the player's action to stand? Or do you tell them that their psychotic behavior causes him to turn into a weevil?

The best answer is to let the players decide, since to be honest they were the ones wronged, not you. (No matter how pissed you are that they derailed the work you put into a game.)

Remember, the game is about the players in the end. Without them, you are just left as a writer with a loose idea. (This has its own merits, but we all know how I feel about writing.) Make sure that they understand from the get go what you expect, and keep checking to make sure they are having fun, and things should go smoothly.

Good luck DMs!

Artist of the Week

I thought about it, and I have decided to try and have a new artist featured every week that has some how impressed me. Look forward to more of these (almost) every Friday.

Ptolemy Elrington is an scrap artist that just blew me away when I saw his work.

I have seen some terrible scrap art in my time, but it is gentlemen like Mr. Elrington that remind me that all mediums have their wizards.

You can see more of his work here.

Just look at that damned owl! Brilliant, sharp, and just a little intimidating.

Great job Ptolemy, and I hope to see much more of your work in the future.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

This could be interesting.

George R.R. Martin is an interesting writer. I haven't read as much of his work as I would like to have (or should have), but what I have has impressed me and hung around in the back of my head.
Now it seems that HBO has bought a pilot based on his work called 'Thrones'.

I don't usually keep up with television, a bit of House, Battlestar, and Burn Notice with a sprinkling of Heroes will usually be enough as long as it isn't too often, but Kristin decided that I had to watch their series True Blood.

It is interesting, to say the least. The acting is campy without being awkward, and the story is... well it is slow. The production quality is top notch though, and I will most definitely be looking forward to see that applied to the works of Mr. Martin.

So, here is hoping we get something interesting and watchable out of the deal.

Just pull that lever.

Chuck Norris is a never ending font of humor. Whether in the form of silly internet jokes or wonderful little short stories.

But nothing comes close to the man himself. The depths he plunges of self parody and the just insane comments that border on the surreal that shoot out of his mouth almost daily are enough to tickle anyone's funny bone.

Today is no exception.

Ever the comedian, Mr. Norris proceeds to tell our President elect how to do his job. Its great! He basically tells him to do the OPPOSITE of everything Obama ran for! What irony!

This bit of masterfully crafted piece of prose is brought to us by that house of laughs, the World Net Daily.

Thanks again guys.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008



The Gnome is a diligent servitor in the court of the Hippo of the Fallen, exacting her will that all corpses should be disposed of, lest move in with their still living relatives and become a bore who sits about whining about dead rights and how cold it is.

But these people don't even believe Gnomes are real! GNOMES! Angels, demons, gods, and souls are real, but not Gnomes? What a line to draw!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Discussions of game design.

I was having a discussion with my dear friend Eric, when the subject of Fallout 3 came up.

Apparently, his roommate is upset that the game wasn't perfect or up to whatever standard he expected, so the retribution he garnered was to get angry and play the game int he most exploitive fashion possible. ('Efficient' was the word used.)

This seems indicative of the consumer side of the gaming industry as a whole. They bitch and moan about how they can't turn off various frills or features, and this some how ruins the entire game. But they cannot actually vocalize what it is they DO want.

Take, for example, the menu display in the above mentioned game. Your character raises his arm, and looks at his pipboy. I'll pause for the gasps to pass.

Now, there was a complaint lodged in the discussion that you could not skip this brief graphic before the menu was displayed for you.

My only response to this is: Bethesda makes graphically impressive games, so they tend to stick in a lot of graphical bells and whistles. If you do not like graphical bells and whistles, then Bethesda does not make games for you. You are not the intended audience, and so would probably find another game fun.

There has been an argument long raging as to how much is necessary for a game.

Two camps have come about, as well as a six million mile gray area in between the two. The first, is the bare essentials, minimal graphics, game play focused. The other went for a more cinematic, movie like approach focusing on immersion in a world or story instead of new or innovative game play mechanics.

I don't particularly care for chocolate pie. So, instead of going to one of the best chocolate pie bakeries in town and telling them about how displeasing their product is, I go to the eclair shop and purchase their delicious confections.

See, it solves the problem, and sends a very clear, concise message to the pie baker that his product is not going to earn him my money. Then, when a product comes along that you do want, you do appreciate, then you give them your money, and keep them in business.

Seems to me to be a far more grown up way of dealing with a situation.

And on, and on, and on....

Texans, and humans in general, need to lay the hell off.

There is no evolution debate. Not about evolution itself, just the nit picky details. There is no need for the School board to form a science advisory board with three non-scientists on it.

None. It just hurts children.

So, to use a bit of their rhetoric: Do YOU want to hurt CHILDREN?

No? Then write to your local reps and get this shit thrown in the trash where it belongs, and keep god where it belongs, churches and imaginations.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Fallout

So, one of the problems with being home with a sickness is that you are really unlikely to get jack shit done that is productive. I keep saying 'oh, I am sick, I can write a lot more than normal!' but this is a dirty lie. It is difficult to stay focused or be on top of your game, and since I feel dismal anyway, it doesn't help to make myself feel worse by writing badly. (end of terrible excuses here)

So I play games. The most recent is one that has been on my wish list for TEN DAMNED YEARS.
Fallout 3.

I must say, it is great. Maybe not well worth the wait, but since I had to wait it at least did not disappoint. The characters are amusing, the situations range from gritty to hilarious, and most of all the game is FUN to play.

It is difficult for me to say that, since normally I am so hard on games, but it is. It is just plain fun to play. Whether I am out harvesting Super Mutants or trying to fix a leaky pipe, the game delivers.

Now, before you go 'but but but! the problems!' let me just say, I know. The game is buggy, I hate SecureROM with every fiber of my being, and it is so hard to be evil, that staying neutral in the game makes cracking walnuts with your ass cheeks look like a breeze.

Sure, you can just run around shooting everyone, but where the hell is the fun in that? Who is left to extort, take advantage of, or annoy? Where is the mastermind? Or the brigand? Our Mephisto of the Wastes?

These are things that can be fixed later though, so pick up a copy and play. Now then, I am going to go and pretend to get back to work while I relive the joy of ten years ago.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Catch up!

So, I have been sick the last week with a strange and undefined allergic reaction to... something. So I have been out of the loop.

But what a week it has been!

Elections are over, so I think we can all breathe a little easier knowing we are not going to be choking on election fumes for another three years. Obama won, which, while I am unsure as to if this is a good thing, it is a hell of a lot better than McCain. Especially with the off chance McCain bites it while in office and we were to be left holding the bag with Sarah Palin.

That woman embodies everything I hate about the current incarnation of the Republican party.

But enough! It is over, done with! Now there is only the future to watch. While some will complain about Obama's 'socialist' behavior, he is still conservative by most measures. What I hope to see him accomplish is to tear loose the reins of power in this country from the vultures who have forgotten We the People. That is change I can believe in, and if he can accomplish it, then Mr. Barack Obama will forever live the hearts and mind of this nation.

Now, Prop 8 and the other pieces of horse shit flung onto ballots around this country is another story altogether.
People, this is the year 2008. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that people being gay doesn't hurt you at all. Marriage is an archaic word and practice that really has no place in government what so ever. It should be between you, your spouse, and your various gods. You can't really say that your god did it first (unless you are some ancient people with some evidence on hand) since familial unions have been around for a long time. Just look at how tribal relations work.

So, for fuck's sake people, give it a rest. The only difference between you and a gay person is who you want to go to bed with. The only reason you are up in arms over this is because of a two thousand year old book that some people believe in and others don't. This isn't a christian nation, never has been and hopefully never will be. It should be a nation of freedom, where you can be what ever the hell you want and no one can tell you otherwise, provided it doesn't hurt someone.

Stop letting your book get in the way of treating your fellow man with respect and love. The world needs all the love it can get right now, so telling people that their love is wrong kind of defeats the purpose.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

All the king's horses....

With the economy seeming to be in shambles due to misregulation, idiotic business practices, manipulative marketing, poor consumer education, and enough bad decisions for everyone to take a pint or two I as a university student have to step back and take a look at a system that has placed a rather large burden on people like me.

Namely: Student loans.

One of the large problems with today's ease of going to college is the price of that same ease. Student loans are given out to people fresh out of high school with little or no money management skills. Most of them have very little concept of value or money, let alone how to plan to pay for something that is only getting more expensive with each passing day.

For some, they are told that they are making an investment. That the money they spend now will be paid back before they know once they are out in the real world and have a nice job where the money just rolls in.

Bull shit.

Unless you are getting one of those generic degrees that will always be needed (business, education, hospitality, medicine, ect) then your chances of finding that perfect job waiting for you is just slightly higher than rolling a thirteen in a game of craps.

This leaves a lot (read majority) of students entering the economy in the red with no real understanding of how to fix it except to throw some money at it and eventually it will go away.

Debt is a bad, bad thing for an economy. Especially when its largest consumers (young professionals and families trying to keep things running smoothly) are trying to fill a hole dug just to get them into a position so that they can make a decent go at making a living.

So, time to get down to the point.

Why do we encourage people to go into debt? It makes no long term sense! What the fuck is the point of making a ton of money one day, only to go bankrupt the next?

This current generation of graduates are inheriting what can only be described as a monetary clusterfuck, and are steamrolling along with debt up to their eyeballs ready to make the situation worse.

People, we all need to wake the fuck up and start doing this thing called saving that has fallen out of vouge in the last couple of decades.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Crazy people!

In this day and age, knowledge is literally a mouse click away. You just have to know what to look for and how to look for it. Many search engines have popped up to help us along in that respect. Hell, Google even has its own verb.

So, when someone comes to my attention that is absolutely bug fuck crazy AND uses the internet on a regular basis, I have to question:

How can people be ignorant in today's connected society.

Take for example this loon. (I know, I know, logical fallacy, ad hominem blah blah. I'll get to proving it in a moment.) She is constantly posting things she has 'googled' and found confirmation for.
So, lets start off with the first in the "WTF is wrong with these people" category of posts.

This lady suffers from what is commonly referred to as 'confirmation bias'.
As summary is that confirmation bias is looking only at results to back your point, and ignoring or disregarding results that counter your frame work.

Take for example her constant discussion of 'natural' cures to common maladies. Or, her damned constant evocation of her deity in order to justify her points without bringing to the table any evidence of her argument.

For example, her discussion of the so called gay agenda. So far, my 'googled' results have only come up with crazy right wing websites discussing some secret cabal of well dressed individuals who are organized by the devil himself and out to eat/rape/sacrifice children and bring about the downfall of mankind. All of the other websites just seem to express a general desire to not feel persecuted for who they are attracted to.

Hmm, one of these seems pretty reasonable, and the other COMPLETLY FUCKING STUPID.

She mentions that gay people are 'beyond redemption' in her ancient tome of wacky magic. Well, I would like to present evidence in the form of her blog that she may be beyond redemption for her intolerant, inane, uneducated screeds against her fellow human beings. Logic is beyond her scope of understanding, and she is raising a 'quiverful' family inside of this insanity.

It makes it that much worse that the children will never escape the oppresive, unjustified boot heel of religion. Reason dies a small death with each child not free to wonder and explore the universe without the confines of bronze age mysticism.

Eternal Sunshine of the...

Holy shit.

Scientists are on the trail of deleting those pesky traumatic memories. This concept has been addressed again and again in science fiction, and the results are rarely good.

Our memories are what shape us as people, especially the bad memories. It is where we draw our knowledge from. It is how we learn to how to deal quickly and efficiently with adversity.

But, I think there are instances that this technology can help people. Things that are needlessly traumatic, or that it would run a higher risk trying to get the person to cope than it would to wipe out the memory all together.

Don't get me wrong, anything that pushes us closer to understanding that wrinkly ball of matter twixt our ears is a good thing, and this technology if nothing else is a definite leap forward. I support what these researchers are doing, and no one should stop them. I just frown on those salivating waiting for it to hit open market so they can forget exes and excess.

But, feh to those people. Let them live their troubled lives and let us push forward unto a new age for mankind and a better future through understanding.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

My kingdom for a....

By now I am sure everyone has heard of, been exposed to, or had inflicted upon them the browser game Kingdom of Loathing.

I don't care if you have or not, I am still going to talk about it.

There have been two instances of me playing this game. Once a year or so ago, and then again currently. I must say, things do change fast in the kingdom.

This adventure compared to the first time I played through is about as far apart as the first Mario game and the third.

These developers so an almost obsessive dedication to their game experience, whether it be a constant influx of pop culture jokes, new dungeons, or writing more haikus about bugbears than anyone else on earth.

There is not a single character class that is boring to play, and each one has its uses so no matter who you play, you can always befriend someone else and gain the benefit of their buffs, skills, or meat. (That is the currency of the realm, NOT their... engorged weapon.)

Now, that is not to say that some classes aren't better than others. The best class by a wide margin is the Disco Bandit. Everyone else falls some where behind and in some order, but who really cares when you are sitting at the finish line sipping a gin and tonic while waiting for everyone else to catch up?

Not me.

So go and play. King Ralph might appreciate it... or he might not.

Day 2: The Bizare Bazzare Bizare

Was going to make an update yesterday summarizing what all went down yesterday at the MAKE Fair, but I sat down on the couch and fell asleep before the laptop was even done coming off standby.

So, in a brief summary: Monster fur hats sell well, Kristin sold a ton of jewelry, the folks next us are nice, black smithing is a hoot to watch, and the battlebots are disappointing because all anyone ever builds are flip bots. I think I will have to agree with Aaron on this one and say bring on the lasers.

In other fantastic news, Krispie Kreme has brought back that pasty of delight: the one, the best, Pumpkin Spice Donut. It honestly made it worth waking up at 7:30 in the morning so that we had time to pick them on our way back to the trenches.

Also, for you types who enjoy music and invention, head overe here.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Adventure Continues. (BB Pt.2)

Human ingenuity never ceases to amaze me. I just took a stroll through the technology booths here at the Maker Fair, and discovered just how far computer/shop tool networks have come.

I watched a ShopBot tool cut 3D objects out of a urethane board in seconds! It was amazing! (Or I am easily entertained, either way it was great.)

Instructables has a booth, and are showing video and handing out printed versions of their instructions. It is amazing what the Intartoobs have done for DIY projects.

Best of all though, was looking through all of the robotics entries made by high school students. These kids had been mentored by students at the University of Texas and the BEST Robotics program. The variance and dedication of these students made me almost hope for a future of science in this country.

I felt like a child running through a candy store while I walked through the artisan booths. So much creativity and thought put into most of these works. There are always some that lack, but they are outshone one hundred fold by the diligent and dedicated crafts people who turn art into business. This is another point at which I would like to plug technology, in that the internet has given most of these people an outlet and a customer base that used to be so scattered about that most of these trades would be placed in the hobby bin and left to rot.

More later. Also, pictures.

Bazaar Bizarre (Pt. 1)

Austin, Tx is home to some rather odd events, but none so interesting as the Maker Fair.

Here, crafts people of many walks of life gather to give demonstrations, sell their wares, and battle robots.

Yes, battle robots. This year's fair is home to the first annual Texas Cup battle bot fight. Teams will be competing to see who can trash the most metal in an arena about ten feet from where I am sitting currently. (There will be pictures later, promise.)

Speaking of robots, the arena master bot, hovering from his chair on high began spitting the lines of that infamous A.I. Glados, followed by a 'glitch' that caused it to Rick Roll everyone within earshot.

Before breakfast even.

But enough about robots (for now), and let us turn our attention to the many craftsmen who have turned out today.

So far I have seen everything from hand made soaps, jewlery, shirts, and custom woodwork, many of which can be found on that ever growing craft site, Etsy. I hope to get a chance to take it all in. If I find someone interesting, I'll take their picture and put up a brief synopsis of who they are and what they are doing.

To the trenches!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Texaaaaans assemble!

So the anti-science brigade is trying to douse the fire of knowledge for our students here in Texas, and it is up to the people to stop it.

But, before you act, make sure you gather the facts. Start with information about Don McLeroy, the man in charge of the Texas Board of Education and supporter of Intelligent Design creationism. The BoE is soon going to vote on the new science standards that will affect not only children in this state, but nation wide.

How you say? Easy. Texas is one of the largest purchasers of textbooks nationwide, and therefore publishers look to what we are buying in the way of educational material before they take it to other states. If we allow IDiocy into classrooms, then textbooks with accurate and relevant information will be passed over in favor for puffy, soft fairy tales dressed in lab coats.

This is a matter that is endlessly frustrating for me personally, but as I am not a parent my voice carries less weight than those whose children are at stake.

This ID group is sneaky, subtle, and underhanded in their dealings with public education and are trying to toss religious belief in the back door of our classrooms and hope no one notices.

Let your voices be heard. Organize and fight this kind of intellectual sabotage so that perhaps Texas can lose the stereotype of backwards, ignorant, tree dwellers who do nothing other than shoot things and watch NASCAR.

There are enough reasonable people in this state to have us become an intelligent oasis in a sea of madness, so go and take back the Lone Star State.

Dear The Protomen

Get your new CD out and come back to Texas.

That is all I wanted to say.

What is the difference?

Philosophy and religion have often been viewed in the same light despite their obvious differences.

How obvious? Well... lets find out. Perhaps they are not as obvious as one initially thinks.

First, lets turn to the definition of the words themselves. For that, let us turn to our old friend Merriam-Webster.

1 a (1): all learning exclusive of technical precepts and practical arts (2): the sciences and liberal arts exclusive of medicine, law, and theology philosophy> (3): the 4-year college course of a major seminary b (1)archaic : physical science (2): ethics c: a discipline comprising as its core logic, aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology2 a: pursuit of wisdom b: a search for a general understanding of values and reality by chiefly speculative rather than observational means c: an analysis of the grounds of and concepts expressing fundamental beliefs3 a: a system of philosophical concepts b: a theory underlying or regarding a sphere of activity or thought philosophy of war>4 a: the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group b: calmness of temper and judgment befitting a philosopher

Phew, what a mouthful. Oh well, we can pare that down in a moment into something more useful.

But first, religion

1 a: the state of a religious religion> b (1): the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2): commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance2: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices3archaic : scrupulous conformity : conscientiousness4: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

Again, we can pair this down to something more useful.

After reading over both of these definitions, I think that a functional summary of philosophy would be contained in definition 1 a(1) and 2 a. For religion I think that 1b(1) and 4 will sum up the majority of what people think of when they think of religion.

Right off the bat philosophy and religion diverge in that religion focuses on belief and the supernatural, where as philosophy is focused more on the pursuit of knowledge in either a technical or empirical manner.

This makes sense when put into the context of the origins of the two. The early philosophers are what we base our education systems on. They made observations and then contested one another through jousts of logic until one philosopher conceded their point on the grounds that the other one had more proof. This is where we get the beginnings our the scientific method as well as a lot of our Western abstraction.

Religion, on the other hand, deals more with the intangible and the unprovable. It relies on faith for its explanations and less on the observable or testable.

So why do so many say they are interchangeable?

I think that it boils down to that both are a system of thought centered on acquiring explanations in regard to the world we live in. Each has steps and questions that can be asked.

But once again we come to a divide. One, religion, starts with the answer and then people ask questions of that and observe the outcomes. Philosophy, and by proxy it derivatives, start with the observations and then ask questions from that to see what answers they can come with to explain the original observations.

So, the next time you find yourself pondering this scenario or faced with it directly, hopefully my discussion of it will help in some way. If not, then by all means seek elsewhere, for this is an age where many answers and thoughts lay at the tips of your fingers.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Front Row Tickets to Tragedy

It has been suggested that people who watch Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report are not taking this election seriously. Many people I have talked to seem to scoff at the notion that this Presidential Election (tm) can or should be laughed at.

To a point, I agree with them. But that point came and went early on when both parties decided who they would nominate for office.

On the republican side of things, you have Grandpa Simpson and Peggy Hill promising more of the same.

On the democrat side, a Pepsi spokesperson and Richie Rich sixty years after his inception promising "change", what ever the hell that means.

It occurred to me after last Tuesday's debate that what I was watching was a train wreck in slow motion. Each agonizing second was broadcast to homes across the nation where many a drinking game was played in order to deaden the pain caused by each utterance of "my friends" or "change." These caricatures that danced on television screens across this fine country were indistinguishable from their SNL counterparts.

So I say to the comedy naysayers: Whatever granite faced seriousness you approach this with will mean absolutely dick in the end.

But no matter which line you stand on, what principles you stand for, or whether you laugh or cry at these proceedings there is one thing we can all count on.

We all have front row tickets to another American Tragedy.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Music, writing, and mood.

When I write, I listen to music that fits the mood of what I am working on. It is a habit I got into back when I lived in a college dorm and had room mates that were living their lives in our shared space and thus used headphones in order to focus.

What I found was that the tempo of the music carried my fingers are a rate that fit the story, and tone carried a certain set of words from deep within my mind.

When writer's block rears its ugly head, I will often turn off the lights, queue up a list of songs that fit the mood of what I am trying to write, and simply lie on my back and listen to what the music is telling me.

Once I have the mood good and settled on my brain like so much silt, I start mucking about with the characters internally. I think about their breakfasts, how they feel about an issue, where they would like to go to lunch, and how they deal with a crisis all in the frame work of the emotion that I am trying to convey.

Often I will find that if a character is sufficiently developed, they will spring into action right away and I can get to work. If not, then this exercise forces me to explore characters that may be weaker than I had once thought.

So, I encourage you to find your method of pecking away at your world and characters so that they can stand up on their own and live the lives you want them to.

Friday, October 3, 2008

How to finish a novel.

In this post I will discuss the step by step process of writing a finished novel. It is a long, dusty road, so stick with me.

First, preparation. Only one step here, and that is have an idea of what you want to write.

Next, writing it. This is where the long list comes in.

1. Sit in your chair and write your damned story.

OK, I guess that was rather short after all. In all seriousness though that is the way to finish a novel. Suck it up and stick your ass in a chair until your eyes hurt and your brain is a wheezing wreck. Then, order a pizza, indulge a hobby or vice, and get back in the trenches.

This is seriously the hardest part of finishing anything. Let that simmer for a while as National Novel Writing Month looms before us.

Good luck.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Changing Times

Oh, we fickle people. How things change.

As I sit and watch the financial markets eat themselves, it was brought to my attention by the lovely Kristin Freeman, that this is a rather new tune as compared to before.

Travel back with me, if you will, to 1999.

Ah, what a wonderful trip that was. As you can see, this sub-prime melt down came as no surprise. It was asked for, nay, begged for by the banking institutions of this country.
Will we ever learn that banks managing our money is like trusting a frat with your personal liquor stash.

When you come home and go to pour yourself a well deserved and hard earned drink, you find instead some strangers vomit all over the bottle, and little to no explanation as to where all your damned booze went and why. Then, when you start to ask about it, your landlord shows up out of no where, and tells you that they have a great idea to clean this up.

Why don't you give this frat some of your money so they can replenish their booze stocks?

Everyone is happy right? The landlord (who also owns the frat house) keeps his most valuable customers happy, and the frat gets to chug again this Friday.

Win-win right?

Oh, whats that? What about you? Well, since they went ahead and maxed out your card buying that booze, you will need to go ahead and stay late to pay it off, and go ahead and grab the interest while you are at it.

Well, maybe one day we will learn. If we can catch time between shifts that is not dedicated to sleeping or eating.

Science and Fiction: A Love Story.

As I write this, I stare with great longing at the blank page of my most recent attempt at writing science fiction. It is no small task to approach a subject so based in reality, with so many rules and processes to consider, and express the beauty and wonder that lies just below its surface.

I see many writers go out to the far reaches of speculation and write about where ever their mind takes them. This far future fiction is often grounded in the ideas of today, and then drawn out to some spectacular point. This type of fiction is often as close as people can get. If things go awry, then it just is written off or ignored. The other side of this is near future fiction, in which technology is just one step or jump ahead of us. I will not bother going into the problems that it faces, for Charles Stross has already elegantly discussed it here.

Others, as put by Issac Asimov, write science fantasy. To clarify, they write something as Tolkien's Middle Earth, but instead of orcs and wizards, we get aliens and laser guns.

The reason I bring it up is because of how I want so much to be in that first category. Especially in the way that Stross or Gibson weave words around the the technology of this age and the next in a seamless mesh of fact and fancy. As I rise to this challenge, I encourage other writers endeavoring to write sci-fi to reach for the same. Let us bring the literary value of science fiction back to the table and try and reclaim the timelessness these works exist in.

Well, I suppose I am done ranting and had better get back to work.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Agency Hunt and Letting Go

There are many, many steps on the road to becoming an author. It involves patience, dedication, and a rather thick skin.

I say this because I am about to take the next, most dreaded step.

Agent hunting.

We all done shuddering now? Good.

In all of my time, few things have caused me this much tension and stress, but at the same time few things have left me with such a sense of excitement.

But with a third draft of a manuscript, the first couple chapters of another work, and a compilation of short stories in the pipeline I figured it was time to get off my lazy ass and get something done and take the steps to putting things into print.

It is not the fear of judgment or rejection that has stayed my hand this long. Nay, it is the fact that once it sits in its new shiny dust jacket and its new spot on the shelf, then it is no longer my private joy, but one I must now share with the world.

It is simultaneously heart breaking and beautiful and the only thing I can think to compare it to right now is of a mother letting go of their child's hand on that first day of school, or a father's hug to that same child on the day they graduate and enter into the world.

Once those steps are taken, the baby you have nurtured is off to make its own decisions and in turn have opinions formed about them.

A pure moment for pride and sorrow to grip one's heart and give one pause where action is needed.

Thus I address the envelope and once more read over its contents with a heavy heart. The long weeks of waiting are all that lie ahead as the children of my mind try find their way in this world.

Ron Paul is PISSED

So... the bailout didn't pass. Saves me from being in debt 3k to the Chinese, but since I am not an economist I am not sure if it is good or bad. Need to do more reading.

But Ron Paul is pissed they even considered it.

And how.

Critical vs. Magical Thinking

"Leave no stone unturned." - Euripides

These words are true, but to what extent?
The physical world?
The mental one?
The spiritual?

I would say, and there are those who would disagree and agree, that there is no limit. Skepticism is one of the boldest, most straight forward tools we possess.

In the recent months it has become alarmingly clear that people at large have lost all sense of critical thinking.

Take one good look at the evolution vs. creationism "debate" to see people on both sides ripping into each other with fallacies that have been long debunked.

All of it points to a lack of reading, either through choice or just an inability to read for meaning.
Fret not, dear reader, for UK-Skeptics and others are here to save us from the wild fields of ad-hominem and other knee jerk idiocy.

But first, what is magical thinking?

Magical thinking is usually defined as any type of thinking that takes the locus of control away from the individual and attributes it to some supernatural force. Be it luck, fate, Thor, or the Christian "God." These forces are mysterious, unverifiable, and at times completely insane.

Critical thinking, on the other hand, is a review of the evidence at hand with a mind ready to ask hard questions. The hardest being 'What exactly am I being asked to swallow?'. Critical thinkers then look at the evidence and decide what it really means.

So why the lecture?
In short, because I will be posting on topics that are controversial and it will be up to you, the reader to look through my evidence and evaluate its validity to you. If you can't do that, you don't belong anywhere until you can.

Here are some of my guidelines:

1. Don't disregard experts. If it is about biology, listen to the biologists, if it is about space listen to the astronomers. The list goes on. People disregard these people who have dedicated their lives to a subject. Examples of this include the anti-vaccination (pro-infectious disease) movement and the creationists in dealing with evolution.

2. Don't believe everything you read, but believe something you read after thinking critically. Weigh it against the proof you think you have, and if your's holds up then by all means keep it close. But don't start ranting up and down just because some "puppet" spouted off something that contradicts you. I'm looking at you 9/11 Truthers and the rest of the conspiracy theory nuts.

3. Don't be a complete wanker when someone calls your bluff. Either come up with counter examples or shut up. What you "believe" isn't valid in a discussion of facts.

No idea is sacred. All of it can be questioned and should be. Failure to do so leads to dogma.
The problem is knowing where to draw the line. My personal opinion on the matter is to cut it off at the point that verifiable facts outweigh nonsense.

So, in closing, please enjoy a useful resource here.

Fighting for Truth, Justice, and... American Immigration Reform?


We all know him, some people love him, others hate him.

For most, he is an unbreakable force of nature from another world here to save us from whatever disaster or villain happens to appear. (This in turn leads to another problem, but we can address that later.)

What many do not consider, is that the Caped Crusader is not from America, nor this world. Yet he chooses to stand by the common man and fight for 'Truth, Justice, and the American Way.'

Why is this, do you think?

I would say that it is often immigrants, aliens, and peoples from outside who take to heart what was once on everyone's lips. 'The American Dream'.

Here we have the example of an alien (from outer space no less) adopting a value set that was not his own, and taking it to heart so much that it is the focus of his life. How many people born here do you know that do the same? I can't say there are many that I know. I myself am just as guilty as anyone for taking the opportunities we in this country have for granted.

This is not to say that all immigrants do this. To say so would be foolish. Just as foolish as me saying all Americans take for granted what they have. But, it is a prevailing attitude, one that has cost us respect in the world at large. One that has caused a corrosive veneer to form on the once shining name of this country and her people.

I have seen news articles from many sources (CNN, Fox, AP, ect) discussing how some people feel that immigrants, both legal and illegal are 'stealing jobs from American workers'. But, I pose to you this question, how can someone coming to this country and calling it home and getting a job like any other good citizen be stealing? This sense of entitlement is insane. You are not entitled to a job just because you were born here.

Fortune favors the bold. The American Dream allows for us to make our own way here. To work for what we believe in. It would be sad to watch it die as people profess to believe in special interest and snivel about how they deserve a job because of some birthright. Should we return to the dark ages? Should America fall into the hands of noble houses?

Stand up I say, and grab your life by the reins as so many who took the initiative to found this country, to push it into being a superpower in both industry and technology, and continue to try and work their way through life.

Let these people come here if they want to be just like us. I see no reason not to.

Hell, maybe one of them is a Superman in hiding, waiting in the wings to stop the decline of America at the hands of her sons and daughters.

First and Foremost (Redux)

I totally blew it when I created the first blog... so lets try this again. Below is my original post. I will get the rest moved over ASAP.


I believe introductions are in order. My name is Jarrad, and I am a fiction writer based in Texas. I enjoy critical thinking exercises, science (focusing on physics, astronomy, and biology), and always love a bit of controversy tossed into my day.

I hope you enjoy reading, and I look forward to comments left here.