Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Few Things

I'm currently reading Doubt by Jennifer Michael Hecht, and I've noticed again that my reading pace drops off when I'm reading fairly dense non-fiction. I'm enjoying the book, but I compare its 812 (epub edition) pages which I've been reading for what seems like forever to the three or so days it takes me to read a roughly 350 page fiction book. Anyway, I am enjoying the book, it's an interesting look at skeptics and doubters throughout history, but it's not necessarily about atheism, though that is a focus. There is also discussion of how doubt led to changes within religion. It's an interesting position to discuss how doubt defined early Christianity. The connection is overt in the mythology concerning Jesus's walking on water and Peter failing to follow him because of his doubt. But later the book discusses St. Augustine struggling with his own doubt, finding it to be hindering his faith and allowing him to remain fixated on sex rather than his god.
There is discussion of Eastern doubt from India to Japan with China between, but little else for the rest of Asia and nothing from Africa nor the pre-Columbian Americas. While I'm sure that there was something going on in those regions, I wonder if this absence is due to the usual Western-centric view or because of a lack of accessible and extant historical documentation as everything discussed in this book is backed up with extensive source footnotes.
The book follows along chronologically and I'm currently in the second half of the Nineteenth Century, and currently in the United States leaving me around one-hundred fifty-ish pages of content before the footnotes begin. In other words, it'll still be a few days before I finish and can move on to the next book.
In other worlds within my life I've long enjoyed crappy sci-fi and fantasy B-movies from the 80s and 90s, so I think I'm going to start posting up my thoughts here as I watch them. Before that I'm going to work my way through Starhunter. I caught a glimpse and watched an episode a while ago on Amazon before they lost the broadcast rights and no one else had them. Anyway, I got the first season collection through and I'll be watching and posting thoughts on the series one episode at a time. The first few episodes are out of order so I'll be making sure that I watch in the proper broadcast order. My Internet searches regarding the show came up with very little so I'm watching it with new eyes, which in this day and age is a weird feeling.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Illogicon IV

The fourth annual Illogicon was this weekend, which brings my attendance to three and a half. Last year my car was making some horrible noises on the way there and I couldn't focus enough to enjoy it until I took the vehicle to a shop. Unfortunately I found the failure to be both a bad oil pan gasket and a crapped out AC compressor. Anyway, there's no need to dwell on the past in this case, but I did regret having to miss Mary Robinette Kowal's panel on the intersection of sci-fi and puppetry.
Okay, Illogicon IV, 2015 was great as it is every year. I didn't run (as I did last year) nor play a tabletop RPG this year but I did attend some really great panels. I'm not the most extroverted person so I can't say that I interacted directly a whole lot but I did have a few small conversations with the guys looking to get Worldcon in Washington DC and one of my friends, Jenny Moore, who is one of the partners of Yarn Twisters, an outfit you should solicit if you ever have the chance.
Most of the panels I attended dealt with writing, which has been a staple of the con from its beginning.  Christopher J. Garcia, who edits the Drink Tank fanzine, was the fan guest of honor and totally fun, I'll be sure to be reading his work. Gail Z. Martin and Misty Massey were two very cool ladies who are also involved in a Kickstarter for a story anthology called Tales of the Weird Wild West, which I'm backing. I'm going to go ahead and admit to having a bit of a crush on Natania Barron and her book, Pilgrim of the Sky, has jumped to the next spot in my reading queue, as well as Kaiju Rising, which includes a story by James Maxey, and Larry Correia (whose Grimnoir Chronicles I love). Baen (they also have a good free ebook library) was in attendance again and put on the usual good showing of books recently released or soon-to-be released books, and I definitely took notes. Saturday night offered a great panel regarding independent publishing put on by Chris Kennedy, Ian J. Malone, and Thomas A. Mays (also adding them to the to-read list).
It's partly because of them and all the other writing-related panels that has led me to beginning this blog and returning to posting on my others as well as my intent to focus on writing again. Last year was the year I began reading more than watching TV, movies, or playing video games, 2015 will be the year I refocus on writing, which is something I haven't done in earnest since high school. So, we'll see what happens there as I practice writing short stories (not my strongest), essays (which I've always enjoyed) and complete the first draft and begin revising the novel I began with NaNoWriMo 2013 (I accomplished around 53,000 words by month's end). So those are my plans for this year. And if anyone winds up reading this, you should check out all of the links I've put up in this blog as all of these people are really cool.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Today was a day of entertainment disappointments. I watched last night's season finale of Doctor Who. Without giving away spoilers, the ending "surprise" was glaringly obvious in the earlier part of the episode. It didn't have the gravitas of the Davies-era finales. I didn't feel like the world, or the universe, really was in dire trouble. The Pandorica finale was much better than this. Honestly, I felt like the last few episodes were rush jobs, like the production heads and writers weren't really trying. I think the actors are fine, and do well with what they have, but I'm not sure about everything else.

Then, I get through my second DLC on Fallout: New Vegas, Dead Money (I started with Old World Blues) and proceed to download Honest Hearts and Lonesome Road. I play the game on the Playstation 3 and, like most people, I've experienced bugs and crashes from day one. Patch 1.07 seemed to make things better, OWB worked fine, and DM didn't really have problems until right there at the end. Today I get the other two main DLCs plus the Courier's Stash pack. Now I can't play for more than half an hour before the game slows and finally freezes. At first I though it was a heating issue, and I've had the system on blocks for air flow, but this time I added in a desk fan to move the air. No luck. Searched the Bethesda forums for issues and found several others with similar problems. Someone had a pretty straightforward bit of advice involving reinstallation and disabling the auto-save feature so I give it a go. It was okay, got into HH, but it kept up the same problem whenever I was in the main world map. I've also learned that Obsidian has "turned off the lights" on Fallout: New Vegas, meaning that there are to be no more patches, which is infuriating for me and everyone else who has these issues. And I've repeatedly read that this problem isn't limited to the PS3 anymore. It appears that PC and Xbox 360 players are also having issues. I am, actually, pretty angry for having put around $100 (spread out over a year)  into a game that's pretty broken, and by a developer (Obsidian Entertainment) that has glibly ended its support for this game. I do hope that Bethesda leaves them out of Fallout 4 or whichever Fallout game they'll make for their guaranteed third game. Beyond that, as much as I love Fallout 3, I hope that Bethesda can continue with the franchise and that whatever they're developing for Skyrim has an influence on those supposed future games.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

I obviously haven't posted in days, and, really, two of them are excusable. I closed Thursday and opened Friday so I went to be early the first night (but still didn't get much sleep) and I was beat the next. Saturday, Saturday I have no excuse. Anyway, moving along.

I have never had an erotic dream that went anywhere after the beginning. I bring this up because this is how I work up this morning. A dream was just starting, just getting to be interesting, and bam! I wake up. Just like every other time. You know, just once I'd like to stay asleep the whole time. So many other people do. What the hell?

I don't really have much more to write about. I've had two days off and I spent them pretty much giving my mind a little bit of a vacation. The Internet can do that. Even as I watch documentaries on Discovery, my mind isn't really running with its own thoughts. I'm just taking information in. I tend to come up with thoughts when I'm working, but it's hard to avoid the Internet on a day off. My interest in Transhumanism causes me to wish that I could exist as an infovore. I tend to like research too much, so I spend too much time reading on the Internet. It's kind of like going to the gym. I need a buddy to keep me off the net.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Through fairly convoluted means I've come across a song entitle "My Body is a Cage" by Arcade Fire. Now I don't know what their intent in the meaning of the song, but it's one of those songs that I've connected with. For me it came down to some of the deep-seated emotional hang-ups about myself. For reasons I don't really understand myself I have never felt that things such as physical contact or affection or closeness from me would be received very well. In fact I don't make any contact with people and I remain aloof because I believe that for some reason I disgust people. And, no matter how much people have told me that this is not the case, it sticks with me even though I know that it's all in my head. I can't get over the feeling that others would not be receptive to anything I have to offer beyond information and opinion derived from logic.

I am held back by feelings that don't even come down to body image ("My body is a cage"). I don't feel exceptionally unattractive, I even feel that I'm pretty average in that department. I don't goof off, I don't dance, I don't act to draw attention because I'm convinced that no one would accept that from me without making some sort of disparaging commentary or social ostracizing.

I'm sure that this isn't really the case ("But my mind holds the key") but I can't seem to move beyond being frozen and trapped in my deep-seated neurosis. Perhaps it's some form of social anxiety disorder. And I am well aware that this is a self-reflective "armchair diagnosis" but it fits. There are things I'd love to do but I just can't because of what I know to be irrational fears. I don't know what to do about this. I certainly can't do it alone.

But here's the weird thing. After listening to this song in study mode (you kind of get trained to do so when you seek a music degree) I feel more open and receptive. If there was someone here I felt close to, I don't know. Maybe I'm feeling a sense of love and there's no one around to share it with. Unlike my past feelings, I don't feel depressed. I'm actually feeling a little warm and content. There's a smile on my face right now. Now, if there was just someone to cuddle with. (awwwww)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

So I've finally decided to really start writing more often. This time I mean it. Before I was always holding back because I never wanted to put something out there that wasn't polished, that I wasn't satisfied with. The previous entry was my first posting of a fiction piece in its first draft form. Now I'm just going to write whatever the hell I want. So, this first post in that vein will hopefully shed some light on who I am, what I'm about and why I decided to change my habit.

Why change? Why write random entries and stream-of-consciousness mess? Well, I'm honestly at a point in my life where I might not be keeping pace with my peers. Most of my friends are getting on with their lives. Marriage, houses, babies, careers, the whole thing. Me? Well I'm working retail because it's currently covering the bills and I'm honestly afraid of taking chances right now especially when those chances will likely involve more student loans (not something I'm too keen to do) and probably mean a reduction in pay, which is something I can't really afford. Most of the people I hang out with these days are at least a bit older and all have their own family lives so it's not like I can just up and visit just to hang out. Their lives are busy. Mine, not so much. Friends from college are spread out. Even the ones close by aren't all that close, and, well, gas isn't cheap.

As for me, well I'll first identify myself as an autodidact geek with polymath intentions. What that means is that I'm more inclined to teach myself what I want to know than to seek out classes (the autodidact) and that I want to be more than a jack-of-all-trades (the polymath). In other words, I am always doing some sort of research and I will readily jump from one subject to another. Recently it's ranged from pre-revolutionary Russia to emergent augmented reality technologies to making my own soap (this one is current and I'll probably be purchasing some kits in the near future). If you don't understand what a geek is, I have to ask how long have you been on the Internet. Science fiction? I grew up on Wells, Verne and Bradbury. I was with The Next Generation from their Encounter at Farpoint. I was three when The Transformers first aired, and I'm pretty sure that I've been a huge fan ever since. I find strange (in my thoughts) enjoyment in 80s-90s B Sci-fi and Fantasy movies. Yes to anime. Video games aren't an everyday thing, but I put in some good time. I've rediscovered tabletop roleplaying games as I never had time in college (I'll explain that later). I'll probably meet most other geek-cred checks but I will maintain that Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings were horribly written.

Other real word descriptors are pretty much as follows.
Religion: none, I'm an atheist. I just don't think that I've been presented with any credible and believable evidence that couldn't be explained more simply.
Politics: libertarian. I pretty much dislike the two major parties and I don't think I've seen a good President since I've paid attention (did not pay much attention to Reagan or Bush). I think that we should be free to do as we wish so long as it doesn't harm another person or their property. The most difficult part of an libertarian ideal in my opinion is that it relies on independent responsibility, and I just don't think most of us can maintain that kind of effort.
Music: I was a music major so what I listen to is pretty eclectic, but most of the time these days (and most of my history) it's metal.
Food: I may not be much of a risk-taker or impulsive, but I do have a bit of an explorer side (wandering new areas when I have time to kill, investigating new places) and that holds true with food. I'll try just about anything, even if some might find it disgusting, but I would need some thorough convincing with fugu or huitloche.

And there. It happened. I ran out of steam. I don't know what else to put down in the self-explanation entry. Eventually I see about putting up a FAQ, maybe. That is, if there are ever question asked, much less frequently.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


How does one define the nature of what constitutes a family?  Can it be deduced via methods available to our physical senses?  Is its existence concrete as is a rhododendron or a light bulb or is the family wholly conceptual no more or less real than Superman, honor or a nation?

If I were to ask you to show me a family, would you show me a man (father), a woman (mother), and children?  What would differentiate this group from a similarly constituted one built of strangers chosen at random?  Would you say that the man and woman came to love one another and through that love decided to have children?  What of couples who decide to not have children?  Would they not be considered family?  Do the children need to be genetically related for this to be a family?  What of adoptive or foster children?

What of biological families who splinter and fracture?  Is a family dissolved if parents separate?  What of the rare instances of child emancipation?  Is this any different from parents who divorce?  Are step-parents considered family?  Can a child consider himself/herself to have two pairs of parents?  Does this situation or mindset disqualify these people for familial status?  If so, what then is this group considered?

Are parents and children needed to constitute a group one calls a family?  What of soldiers who served and fought together?  Would they not call themselves family?  From my own history, would fellow band members consider one another family?  Is it not uncommon to form fraternal or sororal bonds with peers to whom we are not related be it within or without organization?  And when we come across mentors who take on particular importance, are they not often considered to don the mantle of father- or mother-figures?  If the family is not beholden to biological relationships, what then forms the definition of a family?

If a family can be something other than a man and a woman coming together and the progeny thereof, might couples of the same sex also consider themselves of the familial persuasion?  What of polyamorous or polygamous individuals and groups?  Do they not consider their relationships the bases of families?  Why shouldn’t they?

This writing came about due to a conversation with an individual who repeated the mantra that traditional, American family values were under attack or in danger of dissolution because of the potentiality of legalized homosexual marriage.  First, as was elaborated upon in prior paragraphs, defining a traditional, American family is problematic at best, and more likely impossible.  And what of the values therein?  Due to their infinite variability based upon culture, geography, economics, climate, ethnicity, local and federal statutes (it was once considered a family value for children to go to work as soon as able to provide for the family, not so anymore) and evolution over time, defining these basic values proves just as troublesome as defining the families that are supposed to espouse and practice them.

The primary intent of this writing is to question the  nature and definition of the family unit, but the conversation which inspired it demands a logical examination upon its single point:  that marriage between two individuals who happen to be of the same sex (while gender is a wholly different issue) is an act destructive to people, events and circumstances outside this private union.

In any real sense, does the marriage of two men (or even of a man and a woman) in one state have an impact upon anyone else in any other state?  Other than potentially  sparking debate of its legality within that other state’s borders, likely not.  Does it have an impact upon strangers completely disconnected from the couple by way of social, legal, paperwork, or employment/service/sales connections?  Barring rather singular circumstances, no.  Realistically such a marriage would only impact a statistically minute population, primarily centered around their family, friends, those working the wedding and possibly their coworkers and acquaintances.  Logically it should not affect anyone else.

For a marriage of a homosexual couple to affect virtually anyone not mentioned, the affected person must choose to be affected.  Gay marriage in reality has no more significance to anyone not involved than some stranger’s lunch choice.  Decisions on how to live one’s life are private matters.  This does not preclude the involvement of others, but their  involvement is likewise private.  In this matter, as in virtually all others, consensual agreements combined with a lack of harm to others outside of this agreement should be all that is necessary for an act to occur.

As the family is nigh-impossible to concretely define within set parameters, that any conceptual thing could be an attack thereupon is a ludicrous assertion.  A family is an amorphous concept and we all belong to myriad families whose boundaries can be either hazy or clear-cut.  Marriage is likewise conceptual, having no concrete existence outside of paperwork.  Most importantly it is a private matter between the individuals marrying be they straight or gay, two or a multitude.  If people wish to marry they should be allowed to.  No harm will come to you or your family.