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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I Am a Gamer

I am a gamer.

When I was young, and gaming was new, the title of "gamer" didn't exist.  Instead, we were known as "losers."  Few of us played video games.  Few of us played role-playing games.  Few of us liked science fiction and fantasy novels (and films).  Those pastimes were for the underclass of junior high and high school: the geeks, the nerds, the unpopular.

Popular kids detassled corn, played mumblety-peg with sharpened knives, rode unicycles...


Actually, I don't have a clue what the popular kids did.  I do know they had no interest in computers.  I like to imagine those popular kids are now shoveling garbage for a living.  I also like to imagine they think "Gee, if I'd only been nicer to those geeks, I would be able to cope with the modern world."

But I digress.

In between expeditions to the White Plume Mountains, we bemoaned our inability to talk to girls.  If only they played Atari cartridges instead of records.  If only they liked Star Wars instead of football players.  If only they tried Champions instead of... 

Er...  I'm back to unicycles again.  What did girls like in high school in the 80s?  Welding?  Trigonometry?

The point is, if only we geeks shared interests with girls, we could have talked to them.  Instead, we became bright red and silent in their presence.

Oh, how the world has changed.  Computers are everywhere.  Games are the dominant entertainment medium.  And we can talk to women without the need to discuss unicycles.*  This world is awesome!

And yet...

In this bright, shiny, new world do we get what we geeks always wanted: a diverse group of game lovers?  No.  Now those same idiots, exactly like those who ridiculed me in high school, are attacking women.  You read that right, women are being pushed out after it took so long for them to get in!

To those who are threatening women, ridiculing women, and attacking feminism in defense of games: Stop it.  Games will always be fun and groundbreaking and threatening to the status quo.  Games will always be played by women with opinions.

You are the problem, not them.  Get over it or, at the very least, learn to shut up.  This is our world now, not your world.

I am a gamer.  They are gamers.  We are gamers.

Fuck yeah!

*Except as foreplay.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

An Open Letter to Jennifer Lawrence* from Men

It's been a tough couple of weeks to be a woman.

No, wait, it's always tough to be a woman.  They make 76.5% of what men make for the same job.  They aren't allowed to control their own bodies.  They're kidnapped and forgotten.  While they commit a tiny percentage of violent crimes, they are still treated as if they were the emotionally unstable gender.

It's enough to make you think the world will be better off if men were locked away from the rest of society.

Let me rephrase: the last couple weeks were tough for men who care about women:

If you missed that last one, someone hacked the accounts of Jennifer Lawrence and several other stars and published compromising pictures of them online.  The backlash against the hackers was swift and severe.

Ha!  I'm kidding.  People blamed the victims.  Again.

I once posted an article called "Jennifer Lawrence Topless" in a blatant attempt to get people to click on my page (and it worked: 1056 hits).  I thought it was funny because she's a talented actress.  I thought she'd never do a nude scene.  Heck, she was the one from the "We Saw Your Boobs" song who didn't look embarrassed.

So, I feel bad and am writing to say "I'm sorry" and to explain why men hack accounts, kidnap, rape, drug, abuse, and generally mistreat women.


An Open Letter to Jennifer Lawrence* and Other Women from Men

Dear Jennifer (and the other three to four billion women),

Men are dicks.

I don't mean men are mean, selfish, losers.  That's an oversimplification.  I mean think of us as giant, walking penises.  If you consider us anthropomorphic phalli, everything we do makes perfect sense, because we really do think with our dicks.

Here's how it works: 
  1. When we see someone attractive, our reactions fairly normal: lust, desire, wistfulness.  
  2. Testosterone seeps into our brains in increasing quantities, changing our thinking processes in subtle ways.  
  3. Our way of thinking changes, and we become obsessed.  Acting like an idiot makes perfect sense.  Some examples:
    "If I sell my house and spend all the money on buying her gifts, she'll love me." or "
    If I shot the president, she'd notice me." or "Even though she's never met me, we're soul mates."
  4. In some cases, the feeling abates and we return to our "normal" state.
  5. Regret.  Anger (testosterone is an aggression hormone, too).
  6. Back to step 1.
You must have seen evidence of this behavior.  Someone pursued you desperately and, when you slept with him, he disappeared.  Once the hormones receded, he realized he didn't really like you all that much in the first place.  And, of course, it was your fault.

So, why did we turn the movie Sex Tape into a documentary?  Why are we currently downloading them millions of times per minute?  Why are we blaming you for our actions?  

Because, for just a little while, we got to trick ourselves into believing you were our girlfriend.  We imagined you sent us those pictures.  

Look through all those steps above and remember-

We're dicks.



*Jennifer Lawrence will never read this blog.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Truncated Films

A couple weeks ago, I posted about (among other things) how movie theater signs cut off the names of films.  I noticed that these truncated names are more interesting than the original movies.  Take these examples:

Aren't these better than the originals?  Take "Dawn of the Plan."  Either it's about a jewelry heist (but the thieves never get past the planning stage) or it's a movie about a young woman named Dawn escaping an extremist religious cult: The Plan.

Compare this to the original film: "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is about apes and humans killing each other over...  Er.  I can't really remember why there was killing.  I just remember it was two hours of general crankiness.

BTW, General Crankiness was not a great guy to serve under.
Then there are the two new Transformers movies.  The original Transformers films are...  Well...
The term "awful mess" comes to mind.
In contrast, we have:

Transformers: Age 0 - A heartwarming animated film about the birth of Cybertron, starring Baby Transformers.  Awwww.


Transformers: Ag! - A film about the last moments of Michael Bay, who was strangled just as he was about to pitch his idea for Transformers 5.

There's also:

Deliver Us from Evi - The sad tale of children leaving their home in Evi, New York and travelling by "orphan train" to find families in the old west.

How to Train Your D - The Muppets teach you phonics!

X-Men: Days of Futu - The X-Men... Uh... There's this guy named Futu.  He's an evil mutant with calendar based powers.  No.  No, Futu is a new mutant-killing...  Er.  Yeah, I got nothing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Kids at School Theme Song

Well, that day has finally come.  The kids are in school.  Not just that lame, half-day kindergarten, noooo they're both in school full-time.

You know how there's always that one mom, sobbing in a corner on the first day of school?

"They grow up too fast," she moans.  Yeah, that's not me.  I've been waiting six and a half freaking years for this day.  Those were the longest years of my life, next to the two I spent watching Cirque Du Soleil's Dralion.
Six hours of guys jumping through hoops.  Cirque's not trying anymore.
I'm so pumped about having my life back, I'm picking a theme song about it.  Yes, that's right, the guy who'd be okay if they changed the Constitution to outlaw singing is picking a song.

Here's choice #1:
I plan to get as much done in a day, although the refrain of "When will my life begin?" is a bit contradictory.  My life begins fucking now!  Muhahahah.

Unfortunately, considering how much I usually get done when I have free time, perhaps song choice #2 is more appropriate:

In any case, I think this is the real song being sung by parents everywhere this week:
What would you pick?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

RIP Nexus 4

My phone died over the weekend.  It was killed by a Motorola car charger that didn't like it very much.  Now phoneless, I feel sympathy for Sauron from Lord of the Rings, who put all his powers into a small item that destroyed him when it was destroyed.

(Sauron and I have a lot in common, btw. We both went to Carnegie Mellon University, we both dated women who turned into monsters, we both think Orcs are cool, etc.)

Anyway, in honor of my dear, departed Nexus 4, I post this compilation of pictures I took with it.  Sometimes, I snap pictures of things I find amusing, but never get around to making full blog posts out of them.  Here's what I took:
I found this model at the local Michael's. "Hey, kids!  You want to look cool like detectives Crockett and Tubbs?" I guess Hobby Lobby isn't the only craft store that's out of touch with modern culture.  

This herbal remedy is supposed to help with your heart, but (from the name) I'm guessing they're trying to compete with Viagra.

Evidence that Trader Joe's is a front for a crystal meth operation.

My son made this tank out of items in our kitchen.  On the one hand, I admire his ingenuity.  On the other, I had to demolish it to make dinner.

Seems like an ad for people with ADD.  "You should really save energy POPCORN because the environment POPCORN needs your help."

I took this picture on the school playground.  Someone's note/napkin fell out of his or her lunchbox, probably while the kid was running.

Someone was selling magic, protective amulets.  Apparently, Judaism protects you from earthquakes.

Someone's bumper sticker against the NSA.  Thing is, if you use an old-style, rotary phone like shown in this picture, the NSA is probably ignoring you.  If not, this sticker will totally make them back off.

Underside of my Revere Ware pot.  The copper discolored in a cool way.  Once, I accidentally left a similar pot on the stove for hours and found the whole thing glowing these colors.  Then the ceramic cooktop of the stove cracked in half.

A water bottle from my son's school we put in the bottom rack of the dishwasher.  Actually, it's a good representation of how I feel about our recent agreement with the school district.

This tiny tree had grown one, GIANT lemon.  I see it as a metaphor for something in life.  Parenthood?  Unbalanced lifestyle?  Bad eating habits?  You be the judge.

The rubber thing on the left is an eraser shaped like a robot I had since I was a kid (named BRAK).  I noticed his face is eerily similar to the Telltale Games logo.  My lawyer tells me this means Telltale owes me money for copyright infringement.  Who am I to argue with a litigious old man in a Dodge Rambler?

My art installation: racism as told through the medium of biscuits.

Went to go see Edge of Tomorrow starring Tom Cruise.  The sign above the theater said "Edge of Tom," which was a very accurate review of the film.

Found this in the candy aisle of Office Depot.  That's right, if you want candy, they'll send some guy over to your house with it.  I think we could quickly bankrupt the store with this policy.

Goodbye, old phone.  I shall miss you.  Well, until my new one arrives and I get text messages again.  Sheesh, where do they go, anyway?  Is that YOU stealing them, NSA?!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My Heartfelt Apology

I just wanted to say to all both of my regular readers that I am deeply, deeply sorry for not posting last week.  I was using all of the valuable time (12-18 minutes each week) that I normally spend writing this blog to being in Alaska.  Check this out:
See, that's glacial ice.  That's why it's blue.  See, it forms under pressure from the snow above it making it so dense it bends light, making it look blue.  You could totally make a bundle inventing a glacial ice cube maker.

Wait, you don't believe me?  Here's a picture of a glacier AND a waterfall.
The glacier is the thing that isn't moving.
Funny story behind this picture.  I was planning to fast-walk down the mile-long path to this site.  The bus was coming to pick up my tour group, so I had to hurry.  As I'm jogging along, I see a sign: "Warning: a bear was sighted near here recently!"  A few minutes later, I hear this long, low growl coming from the path to my left.

I have never run a mile that fast in my life.

So, how was Alaska?  Hot, believe it or not.  Hot and sunny.  Hotter than when I got home to California.  Global warming is strange.

Other things that have been going on lately: my sunglasses broke.  This is one of the "temples."
Oooh, creepy!
See it?  No?  Look closer.

Seems I accidentally bought Maui Jim's Xenomorph brand glasses.

I also tried giving up my fingernail-picking habit.  At a suggestion from one of my two favorite aunts, I started taking something called N-Acetyl Cysteine.  It came highly recommended to her and stopped her nail-biting problem immediately.

Here's what my fingernails looked like before:
So you can see I have a problem.
I'm naturally dubious of any herbal remedy, but even if it was a placebo, it was worth trying.  The last time I had long nails was when I had mono in my twenties and laid around the house all summer, too tired to do anything.  So, relaxation might be key to stopping.

My remedy.
As you can see from the bottle, I had about 120 (giant) pills.  I took one a night for about two months.  When that didn't seem to be working, I doubled the dose.  So, three months later, my nails look like:
Ta da!
Yeah, pretty much the same.  Oh well, it was worth a try.  If there are any other suggestions, I'll take them.  What do you guys think I should try?  Excessive quantities of alcohol?  Cocaine?  Embracing trickle-down economics?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Love at First Sight

13 Year Old Me: "Do you believe in love at first sight?"
My 40-Something Mom: "I believe in lust at first sight..."
Let's face it: "love at first sight" is pretty absurd.  You see someone new and BAM! you've found your life partner.  You know what kind of person falls in love based on looks?  The shallow kind.  What someone looks like is the least important thing about a person.

Well, that's what I used to think.  Then I hired a personal trainer.

Have you ever tried working out?  No, you haven't.  Sure, you've been sweaty.  You've had to stop exercising because you felt you couldn't go on.  You've had cramps the next day.  That's not working out.  That's exercising once.  Imagine working yourself until you thought you would die: slipping on sweaty hands, feeling muscles tear, thinking you'll have a heart attack, gasping for breath.

Then your trainer says "Five more."  Trainers are funny.  They have their own language.

Trainer to English Dictionary
What the Trainer Says
What the Trainer Means
Five more
I've/you've lost count OR that didn't kill you, so let's keep going.
Good work today
I'm impressed you survived what I put you through.
Have fun last week/weekend?
You've gained weight.
You can do it
I'll get the defibrillator.
Use your core
Use that thing under all the fat.
Bend your knees
That snap you heard was your spine breaking.
Looking good!
You look like a sweaty, red, asthmatic pig.
That flabby part of your body.
That flabby part of your body.
That flabby part of your body.
Nice to see you again
Can't believe you're not in the hospital.

Imagine you've got to work yourself past what feels right, past pain and exhaustion to endangering your own health for several days a week.  That's what I've been trying to do.  I had severe back cramps from sitting in front of a computer all day and was gaining weight.  A girlfriend in college used to tease me about having a "concave chest."  So, I decided to pull myself out of it through fitness and diet.

Now I'm hungry and sore all the time.  I work myself as hard as I think I can a couple times a week (plus running other days and seeing my trainer).  I'm still 27% fat.  I still have a curved space over my sternum.
I used to look at movie stars and snort with derision.  Think they were born with a physical advantage.  They were dumb jocks.  They were half-starved jerks, cranky from eating salad and grilled chicken breast their whole lives.  As you can guess, I don't know any stars.
Except Arcturus; we go way back.
Now that I have a glimpse of how hard reaching model/actor level-fitness is, I realize what insane, mind-blowing discipline it takes.  I simply can't do what they do; I can't push myself to my limits and keep going.  After years of working out as hard as I can with free weights and eating a sensible diet that leaves me hungry several times a day, a quarter of my body is fat and can't do a single pull up without some aid.

So, you know what?  Go ahead and love people for their looks.  If they're fit, really fit, that means they have a degree of self-control that borders on inhuman.  They're disciplined, driven, powerful.  Heck, there's nothing wrong with loving someone for that.  It's a good sign.

We chubby people are good to fall in love with, too.  We're warm at night.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

How to Read a News Article

This is how most people read news articles:

How I read a news article.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Dr. Horrible 2?


Okay, so I got this strange email.  I mentioned it in the last two blog posts and hoping someone would say "Hey, I sent that!  Just kidding, sucker!" but it didn't happen.  So, I decided, what the heck, I'm going to post it.

It's a synopsis for Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.  Part two.

If you haven't seen Dr. Horrible, you've missed out on a phenomenon.  It was created by Joss Whedon and Friends during the writer's strike of aught eight and chronicles the life of a humorous (eponymous) supervillain and his attempts to join a supervillain group and woo the woman of his dreams.

If you haven't seen it, you should.  It's free.  Watch it now.  Seriously.  I'll wait.

Dr. Horrible is (except for one badly directed song) kinda perfect  in a Greek tragedy kind of way.  It really doesn't need a sequel, but I'd love to see one anyway.  I figured I never would because, although Whedon and Friends keep dropping hints about making it, it's been eight years.

Eight years.  That's "never going to happen" territory.

So I get this email from one of those fake email addresses that's made up of all the consonants in the alphabet strung together with a .com at the end.  I've tried to email back, but just get bounce messages.
Legally, I don't know if this is something I can post.  Is it stolen work?  Is it fan fiction.

Ah heck with it.  Here's what I was sent.

Note: It seems NPH = Neil Patrick Harris, DH1 = Doctor Horrible 1, CH = Captain Hammer, ELE = Evil League of Evil, and BH = Bad Horse.
Open: CH sitting in a couch by a therapist.  He wails into the camera reminiscent of NPH's opening laugh from DH1.
The Hero I Used To Be - Backstory montage from DH1 in CH's skewed perspective. 
Explains to therapist he's been in hiding because NPH has been trying to kill him.  Therapist pulls off mask, revealing NPH.  As NPH charges up weapon (Prop: sword with lights, NOT like lighsaber!), CH jumps out of window. 
NPH turns to camera and explains to audience he didn't think CH would jump twenty stories.  Shot of CH face down in destroyed pavement below.  Gets call from Moist on cell phone. 
Moist (Prop: Moist needs an absurd costume) leads the ELE now.  ELE is down to Fake TJ, Dead Bowie, and any of the others who are free during shooting). 
Moister Than You - Exposition of NPH defeating BH and taking over ELE, before leaving Moist in charge. 
NPH explains he still needs to "get Hammer."  Looks at picture of Penny he carries around (Prop: high tech locket, alternate: SFX).  Runs downstairs to find CH is gone. 
NPH working on figure in his lab under a sheet (ala Bride of Frankenstein).  Gets text from BH.
Gunfight at the BadHorse Corral - BH Singers read letter of challenge to NPH for control of ELE.  Song ends with them asking if he's brave enough to reply. 
NPH uses gun to shoot one of the BH Singers in mid song.  Others run away. 
I'm Gonna Nail You Next - NPH recounts several attempts to catch CH. 
NPH grabs Death Ray and goes to fight BH.  Pull back to reveal CH is watching the blog video gleefully. 
Challenge in the Park - Reporters recount fight between BH and NPH. 
BH stomps NPH.  NPH is revealed to be Moist in disguise.  NPH catches CH who is watching from the crowd. 
CH with NPH in lab next to experiment. CH is wired to various devices.  Pleads for life.
I'm Gonna Nail You Now - Reprise.  NPH pulls lever. 
Bride of Frankenstein revealed to be Penny, who wakes up. 
Laundry Day Forever - NPH takes a shaky Penny out for a walk.  Reveals he's a villain.  She's entranced, but stumbles in front of oncoming truck.
Penny is fine.  NPH has been chasing CH to get a sample of his invulnerability DNA.  Now she's alive again, strong, and can't die.  Takes Penny to a restaurant where they are treated as royalty because of NPH.  She notices a homeless man (Can we get our "hero bum" back?  Call his agent.) tries to enter the restaurant and is forced out. 
I'm Not Evil Like You - Penny leaves restaurant with homeless guy. 
At homeless shelter, Penny finds CH.  Finally connects with him.  He persuades her to team up with him. 
Hammer and Tongs - Montage of CH and Penny defeating the ELE, and NPH! 
NPH sitting in front of camera doing blog.  He has a black eye, missing teeth.  Suddenly smiles. 
"She's alive." 

My reaction?  It's kinda bad, isn't it?  I don't know what the Whedon and Friends process is, but this would have to be a waaaaaay early draft.  Or it is, as I said earlier, a fake.  However, let's face it, if you were sending someone fanfic, why send it to my blog.  I literally have like six readers!

What do you both think?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Games without Combat

As a professional deadbeat, I don't usually apply for jobs.  However, one listing caught my eye last year.  It was an attempt to recruit writers for a game company.  The application process involved writing about a game story that could be told without combat.  It also (quite sternly) warned applicants not to reference Journey or The Walking Dead.

After a few minutes, I realized I'd love to spend a few minutes applying for the job.  Here's what I wrote:

I don't normally apply for work in the games industry, as my writing career (my latest novel: and teaching game design keeps me fulfilled, but your posting was intriguing.

What stories could I tell without combat? All of them! Action is fun but it completely destroys a plot (except for the "who kills whom part"). Here's six I came up with just sitting here filling out this form:

1. The player must dig out people trapped in a burning building while dealing with the collapsing superstructure and his or her own claustrophobia.

2. The player's planet is being consumed by a plague and has to develop a virus to combat the plague. Meanwhile, the player's spouse and children are being held hostage by an extremist group to ensure the cure is never found.

3. The player has fifteen minutes to live (or however long a play-session is) and must discover who poisoned his or her food.

4. The player is a spirit and wants to be reincarnated, but must cause the death of someone else to be reborn.

5. The player applied for a cool job. Just after he sends his resume and cover letter, he realizes he has forgotten to remove all references to Journey or the Walking Dead. He now has to break into the offices of his recruiter and change the file before it is sent on.

6. The player is a sentient pile of goop with only vague memories of being human. As he or she masters forming different shapes, more bits of memories come back (and they're different memories, depending on what shapes are made).

See, much more fun than making a combat-based story:
1. Player must kill bad guy.
2. Player must kill good guy.
3. Player must kill aliens.
4. Player must kill zombies.
5. Player must kill demons.
6. Player must kill ghosts.

Hey, this was fun! Thanks for the diversion. 
They responded saying that they liked my submission, but were hoping for someone with more experience.  Then they stole all my ideas and didn't give me credit.

Ha ha!  Just kidding.  That was Oni (no seriously, I submitted a weapon called a Van DeGraff as part of interviewing).

Sorry about the strange reference to an email I got last week.  After some thought, I decided I'll post it next week.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Potter Inconsistencies

When you've read the Harry Potter books out loud as often as I have (about four times per book), you start to notice a few... inconsistencies.  I'm hesitant to criticize, because I'm a ray of unabashed sunshine, but I felt I had to post them here.  Why?  Well, partly because I'm reading them out loud (AGAIN), but mostly because I need an extra week to digest this email I got and am trying to decide if I'm going to post.

More on that next week.  Meanwhile, on to the memes!

We invented LASIK and ballpoint pens for a reason.


He seemed all proud of the name in book 2.  Why are Death Eaters upset if anyone says it?
Update: Just remembered one more that bothered me.
Of course, the difference is Harry did them on a nonhuman... UPDATE 2: I keep getting things wrong.  No, he used them on Death Eaters as well as goblins.  My bad.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Map of San Francisco

Sometimes, at the request of our government, I make maps.

They give the maps to our enemies so they get lost along the way here.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Defending Science from Morons

So tired of defending science from morons. You accept science, even if you don't like it, or you SHUT UP.
I posted these words last week and almost immediately regretted it.  I posted the following semi-retraction shortly afterwards:
On second thought, replace 'SHUT UP' with 'find a better way of doing things and prove it to the world, jackass.'
Not much of a retraction, eh?  I figured I should explain myself more thoroughly than 120 characters would allow, hence today's blog post.  The day I wrote the posts, I was feeling good about science.  John Oliver had released a video about climate change denial.  If you haven't seen it yet, you should:

Oliver's video is funny, informative, and completely irrelevant.  Saying a majority of anyone believes anything is meaningless, because beliefs can be wrong.  A majority ofAmericans believe God played a role in evolutionA majority of dentists believe you should chew Trident gum.  Who cares?  It's a belief.
Some beliefs are wackier than others.
I have some friends who are both smarter than me and don't accept anthropogenic (man-made) global warming (AGW).  They gleefully pointed posted about the logical flaws in Oliver's argument.  I jumped in to argue with them.

What's important, I said, is the evidence.  There are thousands and thousands of scientific papers that support AGW.  Each paper counts as a piece of evidence, and that's a heck of a lot of evidence.

Those papers were funded by the green energy industry, they said.
Evil, anti-science forces.
That's a logical fallacy, I said, called Ad Hominem.  It doesn't matter who funded the studies; what matters is the studies themselves.  If you disagree with a paper, you produce a counter-study or you point out failures in methodology.

I was told, by someone who claimed he was a scientist, I was spouting rhetoric.  I got disgruntled and left the thread.  Then I got on another thread where people were talking about the surge of childhood diseases due to people refusing to vaccinate their kids. 
Children not sacrificed to herd immunity.
I was, as you may have guessed, a little annoyed at this point.  I called anti-vaxers stupid.  I was told I was trying to "poison" their kids and "sacrifice them for herd immunity."  And so, I posted the comments at the top of the page.  So, let me just make three points, and then I'll quit:

Point One
Every scientific study is a piece of evidence.  If you don't think the evidence is true, you attack it for that way it was produced or find counter-evidence.  You don't attack the person who collected or presented the evidence. 

Sir Isaac Newton traded in slaves; that doesn't mean gravity is false.

Point Two
If the evidence points overwhelmingly to a conclusion, you accept it.  You don't keep pointing at the same tiny shreds of discredited data over and over.

Yes, CO2 is a terrible insulator and the spike in temperatures hasn't gone up as much as predicted.  On the other hand thousands and thousands of studies support AGW.  Yes, there were studies that linked vaccines and autism.  Every single one was discredited on methodological grounds.

Point Three
If you can't accept the truth, you SHUT UP.

I think marijuana is harmful, but I don't have evidence so I SHUT UP.

I can't imagine fracking causes burning water and earthquakes.  However, I haven't looked into the evidence so I SHUT UP.

Thousands and thousands of tons of GMOs have been consumed worldwide without a single, verified instance of harm.  So, I...  Oh, wait, I can talk about that.  Never mind.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Thank You Note Art

Once a year, everyone has to endure the worst hardship imaginable: writing thank you cards to those who sent you birthday gifts.  Okay, maybe it's not the worst imaginable, but it's got to be a close second.

Actual worst: having to watch this film again.
Ever since we're kids, our parents force us to do this annual chore, perhaps as a way of getting us to stop asking for presents.
And this is just cheating.
As much fun as it is to force your children to write these cards, grown ups have to do them as well, taking away all the fun of inflicting the pain on others.  If you hate writing cards as much as me, you've come up with tricks to make the writing of thank you cards easier.  I used to write them in poetry, but I came up with something new this year, thank you card art. The basic idea: draw a big, freaking image in the middle of the card and then write (big) words around it.

Thanks for the drawing tablet and cookbook.
Even if you're thanking someone for a terrible gift, a little art here and there can brighten up the scorn of your words.
Thanks for that supremely terrible movie.
If you can't draw something well (in my case, a gun), you can dramatize events.
Thanks for launching burning shells at my nose.
The real problem is when you get two of the same gift.  What if the people you sent the cards to compare them (because my art is so awesome, this is a distinct possibility)?  The answer: proportions!
Thanks for the check.
Thanks for the freaking huge check.
And don't forget your kids.  They love seeing you enduring the same pain learn from your example.
Thanks little boy.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A New Pledge of Allegiance

Lemmie ask you something: when was the last time you said the Pledge of Allegiance?

I've had an uneasy relationship with the Pledge for a long time.  At first, I thought it was something meaningless that I mumbled out with the other kids every morning.  As I grew older, I became annoyed at the addition of "under God" and started, quietly, omitting it.  Watching my son's class recite it recently, I became sad about the Pledge.  It didn't feel right.  I couldn't sense any emotion in the crowd of parents and kids droning it out.

The problem with the Pledge is it's too impersonal.  It's been rewritten over and over by congress.  As much as I hate to agree with conservatives, it sounds like something made by a government: clunky, slow, and insipid.

I mean, listen to it.  You've got it memorized.  Recite it right now (in your head if you're embarrassed).  Go on!  The first half is:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation...
It's just saying the obvious.  We already know we're pledging allegiance.  We know you're pledging to the flag, because you're looking at it.  And we know you're not really pledging to the flag itself but the country it represents because we're not morons.  And really, one nation?  Duh.

The second half is:
Under God, indivisible, for liberty and justice for all.
My favorite part is "liberty and justice for all."  That rocks.  The indivisible is nice, because it means we stand together.  The Under God thing is just a silly holdover from the Cold War.

I had planned to write about creating a new Pledge.  Our Pledge has been rewritten every 30-50 years; it's due for an update.  Then I realized anything I wrote would be meaningful to me, but not to anyone else.  That's when I understood what the Real Problem is.

The Real Problem is our country means different things to different people; it's great for different reasons to different people.  Who am I (or any group of elected officials) to tell people what to say when they pledge allegiance to their country?

So, here's what I'm proposing: let everybody write their own Pledge.

Imagine this: around fifth or sixth grade (after the time the words "fart" and "poop" get huge laughs but before the hormones really kick in), there's a special assignment.  Every kid sits down and writes a list of what they think makes our country great.  They get into groups and edit it into a new Pledge of his or her own.  Then, once a day, one of them reads his or her Pledge to the class and everyone recites it.

They don't have to recite it.  After all, there's going to be a lot of kids who want to pledge their allegiance to Minecraft and Satan, who pledge to stop the Illuminati and kill all the Jews, who pledge to themselves.  However, they should pledge something.

Here's the one I'd use:
I pledge to serve the United States of America and the principles that made it great: freedom, equality, justice, and joy.
Still needs some work, but the point of this exercise is to think about what would make it work.

What would your Pledge be?