Thursday, November 28, 2013

Black Friday...

Look, it's not that I don't like sales. It isn't as if I think that buying things is intrinisically immoral. It's just that when you get to huge, crowded, pseudo-holiday sales, well...

"Some kind of instinct. Memory of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives."

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Swords and Sexism

I don't have anything useful to contribute for today (unless you want to hear about my sudden bout of nausea, in which case you're out of luck - I don't want to talk about that). So, instead, I'm going to send you over here to read this: Why I Hate (Most) Photos and Drawings of Women with Swords.

While you're at it, check out Women Fighters In Reasonable Armor.

Then, of course, there's... well... this:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Is atheism a choice?

I'm phrasing this as a question, but honestly it's something I hear as an accusation ("How could you turn your back on God?") or as an assumption, sometimes implicit and sometimes stated openly. ("Romans 1–3 makes it plain that the knowledge of God is written on our hearts—every human being knows there is a God and every human being is 'without excuse' (Romans 1:20). So there are no true atheists." -Ken Ham) However you phrase it, it's a very common conception: this idea that becoming an atheist, like becoming a Christian, is a choice.

I don't think that's true. I think it's untrue for many Christians, maybe even most Christians. But I'm sure it's untrue for a great many people who started as Christians, and later lost their faith. I know it's untrue for me.

The problem is, I don't think the opposite is true, either. So, I don't want to just say, "It's not a choice," because that makes it sound like unbelievers have no volition - as if we're hopelessly at the mercy at forces beyond our control. That isn't really how it works, either.

It's more complicated than that.

Mainly, I don't think that the language of choice is a good way to talk about faith at all. When it comes to the loss of faith, it's even worse: it isn't just insufficient, it's misleading.

I've said this in various forms before, but - as far as I can see - the loss of faith isn't a decision in and of itself. It's one possible conclusion to a much larger process.

It starts with questioning. There may be some particular slight or injustice that acts as a catalyst, and it's easy to focus entirely on that. ("She just had a bad experience with that one church." "He's just angry at God because his puppy died." "If her Youth Minister had been able to answer her questions, she wouldn't have left.") Or, there may not be any obvious cause; a lot of people start into this process precisely because they were trying to take a deeper look at their faith, or simply because they were trying to put things together and couldn't quite get the pieces to fit. But even if there's one particular moment or incident that seems to have started someone on the road to disbelief, it's a mistake to put too much focus on it. It might have been the trigger, but almost certainly isn't the cause. Again: it's more complicated than that.

So: it starts with questioning. The questioning is the important part: what a person is wondering about, or troubled by; what they find as answers; how they sort through possible answers and reach their conclusions. Everyone, believers and atheists alike, is doing the best they can with the information they have... but we don't all have the same information, and we don't weigh particular pieces of data in the same ways, and sometimes there are other factors as well. (It's possible, for example, that a bad enough experience can basically spoil someone for a particular faith - it's possible for someone to have personal reasons that make them unable to take part in something, without necessarily believing that the thing itself is evil and wrong. Presumably God, if He is as all-knowing and all-loving as advertized, would understand and even sympathize.)

So: after the questions, there's a period of evaluation. Some people find answers. Some don't find answers, but retain their faith anyway - faith being, for them, the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. Some lose their faith in particular doctrines, or churches, or denominations... but retain a fundamentally Christian faith, either changing denominations or becoming "Christian but unchurched" or "spiritual but not religious".

Some change religions entirely, but remain religious. They become Wiccans, or Buddhists, or... almost anything, really.

So atheism isn't the only possible result of this process. I suspect it isn't even the primary result of this process. Atheism is where you end up when you conclude that every religious, spiritual, or supernatural way of looking at the world just doesn't work for you.[1] And even then, it isn't necessarily an end-point. Some people leave religion, and remain unbelievers for the rest of their lives. Others pass through a period of unbelief, and eventually return to some sort of faith - either the religion of their birth, or something similar, or something else altogether.

That's what I see. That's what I hear from other unbelievers. The idea that someone would "choose" not to believe sounds... odd. Off-key. It seems like the sort of thing that only works as an answer if you're asking the wrong questions.

The idea that unbelievers are "suppressing the truth in unrighteousness" (because everyone knows that God exists and that He looks exactly the way that particular strains of American Christianity describe Him) is worse. It says that I cannot possibly be what I am. It says that I'm either lying, or I'm delusional; possibly both. I suppose that might be reassuring to believers, but it's utterly useless to me. I know I'm not lying, and I really have no choice but to assume that I'm not delusional.[2] Once someone says that to me, the conversation is pretty much over; there's nothing I can say to that, and there's no reason to listen to it.

Atheism isn't a choice, and asking if (or assuming that) it is... is a fundamentally misguided approach to understanding it.

[1] I've seen arguments that everyone is born as an atheist, but I don't think that's entirely true; I think the truth is a bit more complicated than that. People are born without any specific religion, but the tendency towards religious belief in general - towards belief is some sort of Unseen Forces That Shape Our Lives - seems to be wired into the species.

[2] Also, if I am delusional - or even just wrong - a loving God would understand and accept that.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Hunter Prince: Lessons

"Where were you?" asked Saisha, as they were rolling up their palimpsests and gathering their writing boards.

"The very question I came to ask," observed Master Barigil, standing over them.

"My apologies," said Caijar, looking up at his tutor.

Master Barigil was a tall, lean man, too muscular to fit the typical look of a scholar. He practiced with the King's Guard in the evenings sometimes, having made his name among them before retiring to teach the children of the Court. Rumor said that he was born of noble blood, but the details varied: sometimes he was a second or third son, unwanted and bereft of inheritance; sometimes he was the illegitimate child of some unknown lord. Caijar thought it very likely that the man was nothing more or less than he appeared.

"Did you have to see a healer?" asked Janiva. "I didn't..."

Janiva was the one who'd knocked Caijar off his horse in the morning's cavalry training. Though they were almost exactly the same age, she was taller than Caijar and at least as strong. She was training for knighthood, and she was serious about it.

"No," said Caijar. "I was only bruised. There was a mess at lunch, and then..." He shrugged, not wanting to tell them about the grabby-monster. "It was a day where one thing went wrong, and then another. I came as quickly as I could."

Master Barigil glanced at Saisha, who nodded. She was the teacher's daughter, which put her firmly at the intersection of two worlds: courtly, but not noble. She was quiet, but that had nothing to do with being shy or deferential. She was just... observant.

"Well," said Master Barigil, "It's clear you've done the reading, at least. I'll expect a written description of the use of armor-statues in the Third Southern Rebellion for tomorrow, and we'll say no more about it."

Caijar bowed his head. "I'll have it ready." From the corner of his eye, he saw his cousin Dabin throw a disdainful glance his way. Dabin was a year older, and disdainful of almost everything; the few things he did admire, he admired in a way that bordered on worship.

Master Barigil turned away, and Dabin departed with his younger brother Seshil trailing behind him. Caijar watched them go, and wondered if either or both of them had left the grabby-monster in his room. They would, he thought, if they could manage it. He just didn't believe that either of them could acquire the beast without help, let alone get it into the castle.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Another one down...

Well, my story for the upcoming Nightbreed anthology (Midian Unmade) got rejected. I'm not entirely surprised by this - it took a heroic effort just get the thing written, and the end result was far from perfect. (I know there are writers out there who have children and still managed to get published, but at this point in my life I have absolutely no idea how they manage it.) Also, I'm pretty sure the anthology received about a billion and a half submissions. So, like I said, I'm not really surprised by this.

That, however, in no way prevents me from being completely bummed about it.

Parenting is all about the Little Disasters

Let me tell you how my morning is going:

1. I've slept on the floor in Secondborn's room for two nights straight. I do this because if I don't, there's a seventy percent chance on any given night that the boy will wake up at two o'clock in the morning and attempt to come and sleep atop his mother. If I'm in the room with him, he doesn't do this. If I try to sleep in his bed, he sleeps on top of me... and I don't sleep so well with toes in my eyes or elbows in my ears (or, on one memorable occasion, both).

So: me, on the floor, "sleeping".

2. Unlike my preferred under-the-covers-in-a-real-bed arrangement, being on the floor in Secondborn's room puts me in the perfect position to hear everything that goes on in the house. Someone brushing their teeth, for example. Or running a bath. Or clunking dishes and cabinets in the kitchen. It doesn't matter how quiet they try to be; I'm ten feet away through an open doorway. There is no ignoring it.

This probably explains how I came to be dreaming that I was visiting my Supposed Former Wife at a very, very strange military base. (There was a bar created entirely for oriental personnel. It served sake. Also, the windows on our quarters were blacked out, and we had turn out all our lights when the rest of the base did -- it was like nobody was supposed to know we were there, even though we were walking around the base normally during the day.)

So: when I was sleeping, weird and slightly disturbing dreams.

3. Firstborn woke up approximately two hours before Secondborn did, and therefore woke me up approximately two hours before I wanted to. I sent him off to watch videos in his room. He woke me up again. I sent him off to watch different videos on my Kindle Fire in the back room. He woke me up again to explain that he needed to use my computer instead. I sent him off to do so. He woke me up again: "Daddy, I have news! I've learned all the controls on--" "I don't need news, I need sleep."

Then Secondborn woke up.

So: no more sleep.

4. Every parent has a list of inviolable rules that they would never have come up with if they didn't A) have kids, and B) have the particular kids that share their household. This morning's example is this: Never Keep Paint In The Kitchen Pantry. This morning, you see...

No. You know what? I can't even bring myself to describe it. I'm just going to leave it to you to envision what might have happened.

So: me, instead of making breakfast, performing a massive, messy cleanup on a massive, messy mess.


5. It's now ten o'clock in the morning, and nobody -- including me -- has had breakfast yet.

So: hungry. So, so hungry.

We're... going out to breakfast. Now.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Don't Tell Daddy

My wife was on her way to bed last night when she passed by Secondborn's room. (Secondborn, for those coming in late, is three-and-a-half going on seventeen, and finds the entire concept of "bedtime" morally repugnant.) Secondborn was supposed to be in his bed; he was supposed to be lying still and being quiet; and he had been warned emphatically that if Daddy found him out of his bed, he would be In Trouble.

Instead, as the Beautiful Woman passed by his doorway, she heard the sounds of movement. So she stepped inside and flipped on the lights.

Secondborn was standing on the floor, trying to wrestle his mattress back up onto his bed. When the light came on, he whirled to face his mommy. The first words out of his mouth were: "Help me wif dis, and don't tell Daddy."

We are in so much trouble when he gets to be a teenager...

Fur Elise

Here. This should brighten up everyone's morning:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Snappy Answers to Banned Questions

So, Christian Piatt has a new book coming out (apparently it's now available for pre-order) called Banned Questions About Christians. If you follow that last link, you can see a list of the fifty questions that the book thoughtfully, patiently, and faithfully addresses.

Unfortunately, I'm nowhere near so thoughtful, patient, or faithful. So I'm only going to look at the first fifteen questions, and my answers (in italics) aren't going to be anywhere near as helpful.
1. Can you be LGBTQ and be a Christian? Yes. A minister? In some denominations. More denominations and Christian communities are welcoming LGBTQ people, as well as ordaining LGBTQ as ministers. Is this really possible? Absolutely.

2. Preachers such as Joel Osteen preach about Jesus wanting us to be rich. Where does this belief come from? Wishful thinking. Wasn’t Jesus poor? Yes. Didn’t he tell rich people to give everything away? Emphatically.

3. Where did all of the pictures of the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jesus come from? Psychological projection. Do Christians really think Jesus was white? Not if they've given the matter even a moment's thought.

4. Why do some Christians not seem to believe in science? They've been told they can't. Can a scientist be a Christian? Yes. Have there been famous scientists that were Christians? Many.

5. In too many instances, the most gracious, gentle, peaceful, thoughtful, patient, kind, generous, and steadfast people in my life have been non-Christians. Does it really take being a Christian to be Christlike? Dunno about that. It certainly doesn't take being Christian to be moral, caring, or decent.

6. Is Christianity really just about fire insurance? For some people. Are we just trying to make sure we don’t go to hell when we die? Not all Christians, no. And if personal salvation is a once-and-for-all event, why bother taking part in church after that? Coffee and donuts? (Actually... and I realize this may come as a shock, but... some people genuinely enjoy it.)

7. Some Christians believe the Bible is without error and the only real authority for living, but they ignore parts of the Old and New Testament. Why hold on to six verses on homosexuality but ignore books and chapters about slavery? People focus on what's important to them.

8. Are Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Spiritists, Christian Scientists, etc., really Christians? Who cares? Who gets to decide? Whoever has the power to enforce their opinions.

9. Do Christians have to be baptized? Yes. Absolutely. Unless they don't. Why do some sprinkle while others immerse? Because given the opportunity, people will disagree about anything. Which one is “right”? When you let yourself get sucked into arguing over trivial minutiae, everyone is wrong.

10. It seems like there’s a lot of conflict between Christians and Jews. Wasn’t Jesus Jewish? Yes. Aren’t Christians technically Jewish too? You know who really ought to answer that? Jews. Ask them. Yes, seriously.

11. If all Christians basically believe the same thing, why do they have so many different denominations? Because given the opportunity, people will disagree about anything. And if there are so many denominations struggling to survive, why don’t they just combine with other ones? Because these things are important, dammit. (Old joke: You know why office politics are so petty? Because the stakes are so small.)

12. Can someone be both an atheist and a Christian? No. Not without stretching the definition of "Christian" to the point of absurdity. If “Christian” actually means “follower of Christ,” could someone be a student of the life of Jesus without accepting the claims of his divinity, or claims of the existence of any divinity at all? If you take away the divinity and the miracles, there isn't much "life of Jesus" to be a student of... and what's left isn't all that unique.

13. Why do so many churches do communion in different ways and on such different schedules? Because people will disagree over anything. I may be repeating myself on this point. Who is allowed to serve communion? It varies. And do all Christians believe the bread and wine/juice actually become the body and blood of Jesus? No. Why? Because, say it with me, people will disagree about anything.

14. What do Christians believe about disaster and suffering in the world? It varies. If God has a plan, why is suffering part of it? A. It's because of The Fall. B. The people who are suffering are clearly being punished for their transgressions. C. The people being punished are being taught a Meaningful Life Lesson. D. It's ineffable. (Pick any combination you like. Answers may vary according to how well the person explaining knows the people suffering.) How do Christians reconcile suffering in their own lives? They tend to take it more personally than they do when it's happening to someone else. Otherwise, it's about the same.

15. I’ve met lots of people who say they are Christian but haven’t been to church in a long time. I’ve even met some who say they were raised Christian but never went to church. Can you be Christian outside of a community of Christians? Yes, but other Christians will probably mistake you for some sort of heretic.

Thursday Morning Music: Godzilla

I had another post planned for this morning, but I'm having second thoughts about it; so instead, here's Godzilla:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Infamous: Festival of Blood

So, I finished playing Festival of Blood on Sunday night.[1] This post may feature some spoilers for anyone who hasn't actually played the game yet; consider yourselves warned.

I'm... weirdly ambivalent about it. I loved Infamous and Infamous II. (It's hard to separate them entirely; they're two games, but basically a single storyline.) I posted some earlier thoughts on them, and on the Karma scale and the way that morality is conceived and applied within the game, here, here, and here. I love the way the storyline comes together; I love the game dynamics and the graphics and the voice acting, the little touches that really make the setting come alive. I love that it's possible to be extremely good or extremely evil, but it takes some effort either way; I love that part of trying to be Really Good involves Not Hurting Innocent Bystanders, and the way that means that you have to be really careful - especially with the really powerful powers.

Festival of Blood does away with a lot of that. It features the same protagonist, Cole MacGrath, and it uses the same engine and setting as Infamous II, so in a lot of ways has very much the same feel. Then... well...

First of all, it adds vampires. Now, in the original storyline (in the first two games), super-powers only appear after the explosion in Empire City, and they're connected to the item that caused the explosion: the Ray Sphere. This isn't a world in which some people have always had powers; it's a world in which suddenly, now, things that only happened in comic books and movies have suddenly intruded into real life. To maintain that sense of a more... realistic, plausible world, the powers aren't magic; they're basically psychic powers, brought out and radically enhanced by the device known as the Ray Sphere. In other words, the powers are A) a new thing; and B) amenable to scientific study, albeit of the Star Trek This-Sounds-Plausible-Enough-For-Suspension-Of-Disbelief variety. Except now, in this story, there are also vampires, and they've been around a lot longer than the sort of power brought out by the Ray Sphere.

Second of all, because this story is built around Cole being turned into a vampire and then trying to restore his humanity by slaying the vampire who turned him,[2] the Karma meter is suddenly gone. There's no particular penalty for draining the blood of innocent bystanders; in fact, at a couple of points the game encourages it (and I think at one point requires it, though there might be a workaround that I didn't find). So this where I emphatically did not like the game: the Cole MacGrath that I'd just finished playing in Infamous II would never have killed civilians just to power his vampire-cloud-of-bats flying power while he was chasing a Bad Guy. He'd have found another way. But... that didn't seem to be an option here. (Evil-side Cole, from one of my previous games, would have cheerfully done it just to escape his creator's control - but, again, choices.)

So that was my first reaction: an Infamous game without the moral choices and moral consequences just doesn't feel like an Infamous game, and using the same character just felt wrong. What almost saved it, and what allowed me to play it all the way through instead of giving up in disgust, was the framing device: the whole thing is a story told by Cole's best friend, Zeke... to a woman that he's trying to pick up at a bar. That helped, because Zeke is probably some sort of Grand High Poobah of unreliable narrators. Except that in the very closing scene, we discover that the woman he's been talking to is a vampire herself, which means that enough of the story is probably true that all the my initial objections - This Doesn't Fit The Established Setting and This Is Out Of Character For Cole - that all of my disgruntled objections immediately came rushing back.

My second reaction was that it would have been very possible to create a story similar to Infamous, in which instead of receiving electricity-based superpowers, the main character had just become a vampire. Yes, the powers involved would be different, and the environmental hazards would change, but you could still do a fairly awesome story that way: something like Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain in a modern setting[3], with an awful lot of the same moral and social choices found in the other Infamous games.

This particular combination, though... It was kind of fun to play, but aesthetically it just felt wrong.

[1] Yes, I realize that my gaming tends to run anywhere from six months to four years behind whatever's current; and yes, I also realize that this makes my reviews essentially useless as reviews. That's... not the point. Not generally. Not much of it, anyway.

[2] ...before dawn arrives, because now we're dealing with magic and not bothering to rationalize how this makes any kind of sense...

[3] The powers could either be traditional horror/fantasy vampire milieu, or could plug directly in to the established world as a new variety of Conduit. Cole can already drain fallen enemies of their bio-electric energy, though it's considered an evil act; it's not like conduits can't have some vampiric tendencies already.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A conversation at our house

Beautiful Wife: "Take a look at this: Cowboy Bail Bonds."

Me: "Have you heard their theme song?"

Beautiful Wife: "Theme song?"

Me: {singing} "Yippee Ki-yi-yo, get along little felon. It's your misfortune and none of my own. Yippee Ki-yi-yo, get along, little felon. You know if you call us we'll give you a loan."

Beautiful Wife: "They should hire you."

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Brief Dissertation Upon The Ghastly Subject Of Grabby-Monsters

"The grabby-monster," said the wizard, ponderously, "is a product of dark magic. It was first conjured into our world from the outer reaches of Nightmare, by a young man named Orbil Mithrump. According to the records, young Mithrump had grown tired of leaving frogs and snakes in his sister's bed, and wanted something that would really scare her. Nowadays, of course, they can be found in marshes and swamps. A few foolhardy souls even raise them as pets.

"Grabby-monsters do not breed as natural animals do, neither laying eggs nor giving birth to their young. Instead, once every six years, all their tentacles fall off and grow heads, becoming young grabby-monsters themselves." He paused. "What else...? They're predators, naturally. They tickle their prey until it can no longer breathe; their victims usually suffocate. Then, of course..." He trailed off, looking at Caijar. "Well, their eating habits are a nasty business."

Caijar nodded. "Could someone conjure one? Here, inside the castle?"

"Of course not!" The wizard's hand curled through his long, white beard. "Every stone in this place is woven through with protections. And a rift like that would not go unnoticed. Nor, for that matter, would a grabby-monster come here on its own: the beasts prefer isolated hunting grounds, where they can strike from hiding." He shook his head, sending waves through his fluffy mane of white hair. "Fear not, my prince. You're quite safe here."

Caijar nodded, though he wasn't really surprised. It was a plot. Of course it was a plot. Some days it seemed that everything that happened here was either part of a plot, or the result of one. His father had once remarked that if it weren't for plotting, the court would never accomplish anything at all.

He thought of the grabby-monster, still locked in the chest in his room. He hadn't told anyone about it; though he'd drawn the breath to do so, Caijar hadn't yelled for help. He was thirteen years old now, and that (as his father liked to remind him) was more than old enough to start solving his own problems.

Right now, though, he had more urgent concerns: he was late for his studies, and Master Barigil would not be pleased.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Video: What Does Adoption Mean?

This is not a topic I talk much about, mainly because it's not a topic I know much about. This particular video only came to my attention because it happens to include my soon-to-be-nephew. What the video mainly does is try to drive home just how little the kids involved in international adoptions understand about adoption, Americans, and what happens when/if they get adopted - just how much of a culture shock it really is for them.

It will also, very probably, make you want to adopt one of these kids.

Watch it anyway.

Friday I'm In Love

...Friday morning music:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Story For Firstborn

I was going to explain how Wednesday kicked my butt, between the sinus headache, one or both of the cats peeing on the clean laundry, and the discovery that I was vastly more tired than I'd heretofore believed. It would have been a wonderfully depressing and self-indulgent post. However, as a small service to humanity in general and my readers in particular, I'm instead going to post a bit of fiction. Or a piece of a bit of fiction, anyway. I have no idea if this is shaping up into an actual story; it was something that I came up with at bedtime on Tuesday, when Firstborn was suggesting that we should stay in his room and tell stories, instead of reading quietly and falling asleep. That may have shaped the course of the narrative somewhat...

Once upon a time there was a prince named Caijar. Caijar was having a very bad day. In morning cavalry practice he fell off his horse. Then at lunch, the Jester slipped while juggling fifteen wooden balls, and one of the balls landed right in Caijar's soup. Soup splattered everywhere, but mostly on Caijar.

The servants brought towels, of course, but there were still bits of soup dripping from Caijar's hair as he opened the door to his room.

His valet should have been standing ready with fresh clothes for the prince. Instead, the room was empty. Caijar sighed and stepped into his room, then pulled the door closed behind him.

That was when the grabby-monster grabbed him.

Prince Caijar started to laugh. That was the worst part about being attacked by a grabby-monster: it didn't hurt, it tickled. Grabby-monsters made you laugh, so everybody would think you were having fun, and nobody would think you were being attacked.

The second-worst part was how it grabbed you. Grabby-monsters looked like big, flat snakes or worms, but they had rows of tentacles on both sides of their bodies. They wrapped all around you, and tried to pull you into a little ball so that you couldn't get away or call for help.

Caijar kept his arms out and grabbed for the tentacles, trying to pull the monster off him. When that didn't work, he used one hand to reach back and hit its head. When that didn't work, he used his other hand to push the tentacles away from his ribs and belly, trying to stop the tickling so he could breath. His ribs ached from laughing, his face hurt from smiling, and despite the laughter he was furious. So when that didn't work either, he turned around and slammed himself backward into the corner of a table. It would have really hurt, but there was a monster on his back, so it hurt the monster instead.

The grabby-monster grabbed tighter, but it stopped tickling him. Caijar could have called for help, but he was too angry. He slammed his back into the wall, then into a desk. Finally he threw himself back into a chair, trying to squish the grabby-monster.

It struggled, and this time he was able to tear the tentacles loose from one arm. He held them tightly with both hands. He pulled on the tentacles until the monster slipped forward and he could reach its head. Then he grabbed its head, and used its head to pull it off his back. It tried to escape, but he stuffed it in a chest and closed the latch.

Then, finally, he could get enough of his breath back to call for help.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Random Parenting Thought 257b

It occurs to me -- and this is the sort of thought that I would never have had before becoming a parent -- it occurs to me that Wreck-It Ralph must be a really, really good movie... because I have now seen it twenty-three and a half times, and I still don't hate it. Trust me: after that many viewing in the space of the last few weeks, if there were anything wrong with the film, I'd be ready to talk about it.

Toys, games, movies... Three-year-olds don't have favorites. They have obsessions.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Jedi Ninja Lightsaber Duel

I'm not feeling entirely well, so... um... have a ninja Jedi battle! Sort of. Yeah.

Here's hoping that today is a lot quieter than yesterday...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Cthulhu Ftagn

I'm pretty sure I've posted this (or something very like it) before, but what the heck. It's Monday morning, embrace the madness!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Sound The Bells

Friend of mine recommended this:

It might have come to his attention by way of Pacific Rim. I don't judge. Enough of my music collection has been acquired from children's movies that even if Pacific Rim wasn't my thing (it may or may not be; I haven't seen it yet), I still wouldn't have any room to criticize. And in any case, the song stands perfectly well on its own.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Homework Is Not Optional

Firstborn has, apparently, been having some trouble "staying focused" in school - meaning, primarily, that he hasn't been finishing all his work. We're working on this, but we don't seem to be making a lot of progress. Today I came home to find that of his four "subjects", he'd only received a smiley face in one.

On top of this, he also appears to have made it home without his math Review Boxes, which are his homework.

I am... irked.

So, Firstborn has now been obligated to sit and watch Daddy create a Genuine Faux Review Box Worksheet ("Made from Genuine Faux Math Problems!"), and then do the worksheet. I doubt his teacher will give him any credit for it, but I hope she'll appreciate the fact that we intend to have him do his homework on school nights, no matter what it takes.

I'm still irked, though.

Notes from the Mad Science Lab: An Intro To LARPing

My son has expressed interest in a new hobby. Apparently he and his friends want to try some LARPing, and he's hoping I'll help them out.

For those of you who don't know what LARPing is (I had to look it up, myself), the word is short for Live Action RolePlaying. It's an outgrowth of the older RolePlaying Games, or RPGs, in which a small group of people got together and told stories in which they pretended to be other characters (elves, dwarves, garden gnomes, and suchlike) and go around fighting off evil wizards, saving the world, collecting treasure, and growing even stronger so that they could go on to fight even greater threats. The "live action" part means that instead of sitting around a table telling each other these stories, they actually want to dress up in costumes, and actually fight simulated monsters and villains and such.

For the record, I do not consider this the best use of my son's intelligence and imagination. That said, it sounds like good exercise; and my son assures me that there's a lot of math involved, though I don't see where. Still, his birthday is coming up, and he wants to have a couple of his friends over to celebrate, so I should have time to put together a LARP for his party.

Naturally, I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

If the Dark Forces had a sense of humor...

Dylan heard a soft, girlish giggle and caught a brief glimpse of a white dress. He looked, but the child was gone... again.

He'd been wandering this city for two days now, and he hated it. It was always dark here; even in the daytime, the sky remained a dark, sullen gray: clouds heavy with the promise of rain that never came. The people who lived here were furtive and sullen. Maybe they didn't like strangers, but after two days of watching them Dylan had concluded that they must not like each other very much, either. He'd given up on trying to get a room, and slept on a bench in the bus station.

That was where he had first seen the little girl. He'd woken up to find her sitting on the bench across from his own: a bright-eyed child of six or seven in a clean white dress, cherubic despite the darkness of her curly hair, and smiling the first genuine smile he'd seen in what felt like weeks. But when he'd try to say something to her, she'd run away, laughing. He'd caught glimpses of her here and there, since then. Once he'd seen her in a shop, but when he went inside the only person there was an elderly woman who looked him over and sniffed as if disappointed. Later, he'd seen her in a park; but again she was gone before he could round the fence. Then he'd caught a glimpse of her sitting on the steps of an old, weathered house; but it hadn't been her, it had been a stout matron in a frumpy old dress with a white blouse. That was when Dylan had first started to wonder if he was losing his mind.

This time, though... He'd seen which way she went. She'd darted into an alley, dim and grubby even by the standards of this place. He took to his feet, following her. Whether she was a real girl or just a figment of his imagination, this time he meant to keep up with her.

The alley narrowed further, until he was running with brick walls at arm's length to either side. There wasn't much back here, just rusty pipes and a few lines of laundry strung overhead. The girl had a good head start, but Dylan had longer legs and he knew how to run without exhausting himself. He fell into an easy pace, gaining steadily, letting the walls of the alley slide past.

Ahead, the buildings came together to form an arched roof over the alley. The girl never hesitated. He heard her laugh as she vanished into the darkness. The laughter stopped a moment later, as he followed.

He slowed, running with his arms in front of him. He couldn't see anything here, and if he ran headlong into a wall... Well, that would definitely put an end to the chase. Still, he didn't quite slow to a walk. He couldn't hear the girl anymore, not her laughter nor the sound of her footsteps. It was possible that she'd ducked off to one side, in which case he might go past her without even realizing she was there. The thought made him slow further, to a fast walk.

That was when the alley went dark behind him. He turned, looking back, but there was nothing there. He turned again, and realized that he wasn't sure he was still going the same direction. He might be headed straight for a wall, or an open manhole, or... Anything.

Dylan stopped.

Anything could be in here. He fumbled in his pocket, wishing for the first time in his life that he smoked; if he did, he might have had matches, or a lighter. He had... nothing. Half a dollar in change, a crumpled receipt, and a keyring with only three keys. Finally, he gave up and started forward again, shuffling slowly. He kept his arms out, feeling for walls; he tried to feel along the ground with his feet. He drew a breath, finding nothing but darkness.

Another breath.

A third.

As he drew in his fourth breath, his hand found a solid surface: smooth and cold, definitely not brick. He stopped, barely touching it, and suddenly there was light all around him.

He had his fingers against the back of a massive steel door. All around him were rows of tiny, numbered cabinets. There was no way in or out. "What the hell?" he wondered out loud.

* * *

Forty-five minutes later, he was sitting in the back of a squad car with his hands cuffed behind him. The officer who'd arrested him, a big red-headed man with a build like a fireplug, slid into the driver's seat. "Look kid," he said. "I read you your rights, so you know you don't have to answer me, but... how in the hell did you get into that vault? The door was sealed, there isn't a mark on the walls or anything out of place, but the cameras went dark for a second and then there you were. How'd you do it?"

Dylan shook his head. "I wish I knew," he said.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Why is it always November?

November has been a strange month, at least for the last couple of years. I mean, sure - it has Thanksgiving (here in the States), but it's also National Novel Writing Month, and "Mo-vember" - when otherwise-sensible people decide to grow mustaches in order to raise awareness, or money, for some issue or other. (Possibly just facial hair; I can never remember.)

Now, Thanksgiving is logistically nightmarish, but the actual family get-togethers are fun. So we'll be doing that.

Mo-vember, obviously, is Not My Thing. I don't do mustaches, not by themselves, and if there's a cause I particularly want to support I tend to donate directly. So that's out.

This pretty much leaves NaNoWriMo. On the face of it, it seems like exactly the sort of thing I ought to take part in. Write your novel with the help and support of your friends, family, and complete strangers on the Internet! Settle in and really work on your draft! Put some actual time and effort into that thing you always said you were going to do!

...I won't be doing it. If Thanksgiving is a logistical nightmare, NaNoWriMo is a logistical impossibility. I could devote enough time to writing to finish a rough draft, probably... but the house would be a disaster, the boys would have disowned me, my wife would quite probably have killed me out of aggravated aggravation, and likely as not I wouldn't be employed anymore.

I like being employed. It means I get to eat.

I like being able to eat.

So, yeah: I'll be writing. I'm always writing. I'll even be working on a novel-length project - but again, nothing too unusual there. I will not, however, be participating in NaNoWriMo. I just don't have it in me.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Surviving Halloween

Well, our Halloween went very well - this despite all of us being exhausted when we got home yesterday. Firstborn went as - is it "Steve"? - the main character from Minecraft, anyway. He had a foam sword and diamond armor, and was convincing enough that the Minecraft fans were able to recognize the costume. Secondborn went as Batman... sort of. He wore a Batman shirt, a Batman hat, and black pants which he calls "Batman pants". Despite this, he insisted that he wasn't Batman.

As usual, I stayed at the house to hand out candy while the Beautiful Wife took the boys over to their Nana's house for Trick-or-Treating. I wore a Batman T-shirt with a little cape that velcro-ed on the back, and a Batman mask. Despite being just about the laziest costume imaginable, this proved wildly popular with the various middle-schoolers who came to our door.

The boys had a great time; apparently they ran basically the whole way, racing from door to door, yelling "Trick or treat!" and collecting some candy before sprinting on to the next house.

So, all in all, a very successful Halloween.

Now, of course, I'm ready to collapse.