Friday, July 31, 2015

Unentombed 1: Invaded

"They're through the wall, sir."

Colonel Jeremy Thompson glanced at the technician and nodded an acknowledgement. "The base is overrun," he said, making it official. "Activate the dark assets and begin withdrawal. Let AirCon know that they'll have to keep the Scales off of us until we're clear."

"Yes, sir."

Colonel Thompson was a tall, lean man with a bald head and a heavy beak of a nose. He was a competent, reliable commander, though he knew that his skills lay more in organization and administration than strategy or inspiration. He had a well-established record of carrying out his orders -- and, more importantly, making sure that his teams carried out their orders -- without taking shortcuts, making mistakes, or unexpectedly changing plans. So he stood, watching the monitors as the Scales moved in.

They were larger than human beings, averaging somewhere around seven feet tall, humanoid aside from their short tails and scaled skin. They had six fingers and six toes, slightly webbed, and their skulls were flatter and wider, giving the impression that they were wearing helmets even when they weren't. Nobody was sure where they'd come from or why they were intent on making war; all attempts at communication had failed. The prevailing opinion from SciCom was that either they perceived the human colonies as intruding on their territory, or they'd discovered that the planets humanity had colonized were suitable for their race too, and decided to take them over. Or maybe they were after new technologies. Theirs seemed to be about even with humanity's, a little ahead in some areas, a little behind in others.

"We're ready, sir," said the tech. "The last of the squad commanders just checked in, and AirCon is two miles out."

"Good. Pull the squads off the walls and get them to the evac areas. I want the internal turrets covering their retreat while AirCon does their work. On my mark... Now."

The tech spoke hurriedly into his comm, then stood and made for the door with his three assistants. Colonel Thompson followed, and the two guards at the door followed him. There were three routes from the command center to the designated evacuation areas, and they followed the shortest one. From his last glance at the monitors, Thompson knew that the Scales hadn't entered the building yet; they were inside the outer wall, but they would still have to get past the turrets. So far, the plan was working: the Scales would capture the base, the human forces would withdraw with minimal casualties... and then Command would learn whether the dark assets could do what they hoped they would.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Music: Ode To Joy

...Because I have nothing else for this morning, so why not. Also? Muppets.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Photoshop Speedpainting: "Burp"

Okay, until a few days ago I had no idea that speedpainting videos were a thing. And I'm desperately curious about how long, overall, this project took. Still: a really awesome video of art in the process of creation. Plus: monster!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Elder Gods and Related Items

Possible Bubbles of Spacetime Curvature in the South Pacific discusses the physics behind the peculiar architecture of the sunken city of R'Lyeh. (Use the Download box in the top right corner to get to the complete paper.)

The U.S. Government Inflicted Horrible Atrocities On Cthulhu's Followers looks at the aftermath of Federal efforts to suppress the Aeonists and their strange, destructive religion.

Hugh Hancock and Why Geeks Love Lovecraftian Magic

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Unconvincing Apologetics 1

This is continuing, if it continues at all, from this conversation with Steve from the UK over on Bruce Gerencser's blog.

Here's the initial assertion:
Given that most atheists are intelligent beings, you will have an eye on the times in which we live. So how do you square the fact that Revelation – a scholarly accepted dateable document ( contains prophecy written more than 1900 years ago that is coming true before our eyes today? Just Google Verichip and then read Revelation where it says man can neither buy nor sell lest he receive the mark in his right hand or forehead. As an atheist, how do you explain that degree of accuracy in an -allegedly ‘uninspired’ text?
My response:
As far as the Book of Revelation goes… well, let me take a moment to consider how the Book of Revelation is relevant to present-day events.

“John to manifold churches which are in western Europe and North and South America, which lands are currently unknown to you: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;”

And here, again, in Revelation 1:10-11
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in the United States; unto the United Kingdom, and unto Mexico, and unto Canada, and unto Brazil, and unto Argentina, and unto Puerto Rico, and unto all the readers of Bruce Gerencser’s blog.”

Look, at the risk of running this particular point into the ground… even if Verichip was really a thing[1], to tie it to Revelation you have to start with the highly dubious assumption that the Book of Revelation was A) secretly intended as a message for modern Christians, rather than the people to whom it was explicitly addressed, and B) a prediction of far-future events, rather than a coded message to Christians living in areas hostile to Christianity.

Yes, I remember a goodly number of Christians freaking out about Verichip, and about various other signs that we were clearly living in the End Times — Right now! The world could end tomorrow! Or even TODAY!!! — forty years ago, and I know it’s been going on for centuries longer than that. And every bit of it was supported by comparison to scripture. So what I’m looking at is a text that just about anybody seems to be able to fit to the events of their time, which doesn’t say all that much for its degree of accuracy. Flexibility, maybe, but not accuracy.

[1] “VeriChip… was the only Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved human-implantable microchip. It was marketed by PositiveID, a subsidiary of Applied Digital Solutions, and it received United States FDA approval in 2004. Its manufacture and marketing were discontinued in 2010.” From Wikipedia; emphasis mine.
Steve from the UK replied:
Michael, if the cashless society arrives and Denmark is already well on the way, will you accept your identification/goods payment chip in your right hand or forehead if that time comes?
I answered:
Who cares? Why should I be even vaguely concerned about that?

You posited that Verichip was the “mark of the beast” written about in the book of Revelation, and cited this as proof of the supernatural accuracy of the Bible. I pointed out that verichip is a discontinued product, and Revelation was most likely never intended as a chronicle of future — or even modern — history, making that an exceedingly weak example of accuracy. You then respond that Denmark — Denmark! — is well on the way to becoming a cashless society, as if that were some clear indicator of the impeccable accuracy of the Bible.[1] Even if we had somehow established that the Book of Revelation was in any way relevant to the economic activities of modern Denmark and/or any modern nation (and we haven’t), moving to a cashless society is still a far cry from implementing anything like the “mark of the beast”, so it’s still a weak and highly dubious example of The Accuracy Of Biblical Prophecy(tm).

But that does bring me to another point: even if Revelation is a prophecy in the sense that you think it’s a prophecy, it’s self-defeating. At least here in America, the Mark of the Beast would be impossible to implement. Why? Because any time something that might even sort of vaguely resemble something like the “mark of the beast” comes along, huge numbers of Christians start freaking out about it. The prophecy is inherently self-defeating; the very existence of such a prophecy prevents it from coming true.

So, if the cashless society arrives, will I accept my identification/goods payment chip in my right hand or forehead? No, I’ll pay with a credit card like everybody else. Sheesh.

[1] Actually, now that I look again, that might be possible. Revelation 13:16-17 does say, “And he causeth all in Denmark, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” Spooky.
So that's where we're at. The short answer to the original question is that I don't see the Book of Revelation coming true before our eyes; all I see is strained connections based on vague resemblances between modern events and an ancient bit of extremely complex visual metaphor. And frankly, I'm having a hard time taking that seriously.

Kros: Hallowed Ground

So, there's a Kickstarter campaign for Kros: Hallowed Ground.
Kros: Hallowed Ground began over 10 years ago as a tale of horror set during the Battle of Gettysburg. A dream project for us both, it waited silently, like a vampire in the shadows... The story was written, some pages were drawn--atmospheric, dark murky landscapes, the dimly lit surgeon's tent, a figure swirling from the smoke of battle...

It's time to hear the wolf's howl; to watch the undead descend like buzzards to the feast. It's time to unleash the vampires...

All wars are horror stories.

Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863. The blood soaked battlefields of the Civil War draw Vampires who descend to feed on the wounded and dying as Blood calls to Blood. One man, a Vampire Hunter named Kros, stands against them, waging a battle at night as fearful and horrific as the battles fought during the day.

KROS: HALLOWED GROUND is a 128 page horror graphic novel by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake. Kros is a dream project and Kros' story is one we have been wanting to tell for a long time.
This is a new project by a pair of extremely well-established comic book professionals, and I'm really looking forward to reading it. If you enjoy vampires and other horror stories, check it out -- and if you're so inclined, support it!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Greetings to the Cenobitic Order Of Saint Bruce

No, I'm kidding; Bruce isn't a Saint. He's more of an Ohio State fan.

Since I see that a couple of people have wandered over from The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser, and in particular from this conversation, I thought I'd sort of wave and say hello.

I feel compelled to point out that this isn't really an atheist blog, as such. It's more of a whatever-comes-into-my-head blog. So, if you're looking for atheism-related posts, you should follow the atheism tag. Otherwise, my topics are all over the place.

If you're a Christian interested in talking about your beliefs, my beliefs, or the intersection of the two, I highly recommend that you take a stroll though the Friendly Evangelism posts -- but, hey, if you want to jump right into the comments here and start talking, go for it.

Whatever the case, welcome to the Blog o' Doom. I'm glad to have you here.

Attack of the Clowns

Some days...

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

No sense of self-preservation

Trust my father to wander off and start reading the titles on the bookshelves in the zombie-infested haunted office. Yes, while the rest of us were looking for weapons and trying to figure out how to avoid being killed and eaten.

Yes, yes, of course I was dreaming.

I'm still irritated with him, though.

Friday, July 17, 2015


I didn't make it in to work yesterday. I've basically been trying to do too much on too little sleep (going back to the 4th of July weekend, I suspect) and I finally just hit the wall. I wasn't sick, at least not exactly, but I didn't trust myself to drive and I was really afraid that if I tried to do work, I'd end up accidentally wiping a server or something. And even if I'm not precisely sick, I'm hovering right on the edge of it -- I can tell by how tired I (still) am, how uncoordinated, how much deliberate focus it takes to be sure I'm typing the correct words. ("too little sleep" = correct, "too little street" = incorrect.)


So, for your entertainment today, I'm going to send you over to Cracked to read about The 7 Most Elaborate Dick Moves In Online Gaming History. (It's an older article, but it's still fun to read.)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Music: One More Soul To The Call

...Because Silent Hill is an awesome source for mood music. (In fact, I use a surprisingly large number of video game soundtracks for background when I'm writing.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Webcomic Artist Adam Ford Doesn't Hate You, Either...

So, I'm back to looking at this webcomic again. If you haven't seen it before, you should probably go give it a once-over; it's instructive, I think, even if you disagree with it. Maybe especially if you disagree with it. Last week, I wrote an extended criticism of a single panel in the comic; I didn't say much about the rest of it, or the overall message, because I'd already read some very good general responses here and here.

This week, I want to write a partial, limited defense of Adam Ford's comic. This is because, while I think the argument he's making with his comic is basically a giant load of bollocks wrapped in a sack full of three-day-old manure, I do think that on one level, he kind of has a point. He says:
I am a Christian who believe the Bible is the word of God, any homosexual practice is sinful, and marriage will only ever be the life-long union between one man and one woman.

But I promise you, I don't hate you.
And I believe him. I don't think Adam Ford hates gay people. Though, as I mentioned in last week's response, I don't think he loves gay people, either. I don't believe he knows any gay people well enough for either love or hate them. And I think that this is a common (and disruptive) problem in trying to talk to people who believe that homosexuality is inherently sinful about why we think they're wrong, and what it is that they're doing.

The problem, at least I see it, is that both hate and love (as they are commonly perceived and understood) have an emotional component. They aren't just a matter of policy; they're a matter of personal feeling. And so, if I try to tell Adam Ford (or any number of people who share his views, including some of my extended family) that their views are "hateful", they're going to blow me off. They're going to discount what I'm trying to say, and (from their perspective) rightly so: I'm accusing them of feeling a certain way towards gay people, and they know from their own experience that they don't feel that way at all. Saying that their views are "hateful" comes across as an attempt at gaslighting.

In some ways, I think this would be less of a problem if they would apply the same standard to the concept of love. I say this because I had a conversation with a Christian not two days ago, in which she stated unequivocally that she "loved everybody" because she was "commanded to do so". Now, that's not "love" in any sense that I would ordinarily use the term; love is a personal relationship, whereas that seems to be using the term as a shorthand for "behave in a loving fashion towards", which (as a matter of moral or theological policy) is not the same thing. Loving someone is a feeling and an experience. Loving everyone is more of a political stance -- it's general and theoretical, rather than concrete and specific. And that's precisely the problem.

The heart of the problem with Adam Ford's (and his ilk's) view of homosexuality isn't that it's hateful. It's that it's harmful. It may be working from a place of love -- love as policy, theoretical love, hypothetical love -- but in real, concrete terms with actual people in specific situations, it does clear, measurable harm. And the problem with their "love" for gay people is that it fails to offer help, hope, or comfort to real people in actual situations (and, very often, far-too-real pain).

That kind of love is only loving in the abstract. It doesn't do any actual good. And that's why I refer to it as "useless". If you're a Christian, and you're serious about loving your neighbor as yourself, then you're going to have to get to know your neighbor as yourself. That's what loves requires; that's what love means.

It takes work; it takes humility; it takes what the poet Keats called "negative capability" -- the capacity to embrace doubt, uncertainty, and ambiguity. It doesn't mean abandoning your principles, but it does mean accepting that some things you thought were carved in stone might actually have been written in sand instead. It means examining the actual situation first, and only looking to see what moral rule might fit afterwards. (This is not, in my experience, the way people normally operate.)

Hate and Love don't make for a terribly good framework to discuss all that. They're too easily misleading, too easily distracting. It's far, far too easy to get lost in theories and abstractions. Take a breath, and let that go. Talk to people. Hear their stories. If they'll tell you honestly what has hurt them (and, far more importantly, what is hurting them still) then listen. Don't just follow the map; stop and take a good, hard look at the terrain.

Then, then, do your best to go forth in love.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Behold, a map!

So, Secondborn brought me this the other day. "It's a map," he told me.

I'm pretty sure I can recover the legendary buried treasure, if I can just... decipher... the map...

Monday, July 13, 2015

Plasma Guns and Sorcery

So, am I the only one who thinks that Halo -- the original game -- is basically just a Conan The Barbarian story set in space? Consider...

The story opens with a small group fleeing from an enemy army after a (presumably disastrous) battle. Among their number is a man of enormous vitality and fighting skill.

During their flight, they stumble on an ancient structure built by a dead and vanished race. Pursued by enemy soldiers, they take shelter inside...

...only to discover that some horrible eldritch threat dwells there, and has been released/awakened by the explorations of the enemy soldiers.

Fighting ensues until eventually everyone is dead except for the exceptional warrior, who manages the narrowest possible escape. The ancient structure is destroyed during/by the final confrontation.

Seriously: Halo is a Swords and Sorcery tale, only with plasma guns in place of swords and Warthogs in place of horses. Oh, and a genetically-engineered Spartan in ultra-tech armor instead of, well, Conan.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Music: Honey, I'm Good & Same Love

Honestly, I think the only way you could possibly have missed this one is if you haven't turned a radio on in the last six months. It's everywhere. But what the heck, it's catchy, I like the video, and it's not like I had anything else ready for this morning. Plus, I'm enjoying the novelty of a song about a guy not picking somebody up at a bar.

On a completely different note, I heard this on the radio (here, in Texas) the other day. Surprised the hell out of me:

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Webcomic Artist Adam Ford Doesn't Love You...

This is a response to this webcomic (or, actually, just one tiny piece of it) which you may have seen in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision that essentially legalized marriage equality. If you haven't already, go look at it; this response won't make much sense, otherwise. But, if you want to skip that and continue, one panel in the comic says:
"The liberal 'churches' which are now saying, 'Oh hey! God changed his mind and is totes cool with the gay stuff now 4 real!' do not really love you. They want your approval."
As someone who grew up in one of those liberal churches, this is about six different kinds of infuriating. First of all, Adam Ford, I’m not aware of any church, anywhere, that’s saying "God changed His mind." That message just isn’t out there. So either you’re not looking — you’re making unwarranted assumptions about what those liberal denominations are saying and not bothering to do even a cursory check of the facts — or you’re lying outright. Either way, you’re bearing false witness against your neighbors. So that part where you keep protesting that you’re not super-perfect, and even with God’s love and guidance you screw up regularly? Well. You’re doing it again. You’re doing it again right here.

Second of all, Adam Ford, pointing out that those churches "don’t really love you"? Nobody loves people they don’t know. So this actually applies to everyone in your "[fill in the blank here] doesn’t really love you" list. You know what? That includes you. That little red circle at the bottom of your comic with "There’s love here. Lots, actually."?? Yeah, that’s pretty much bullshit. Maybe you have some sort general good intentions and friendly feelings towards gay people, but until and unless you really know them, those feelings are abstract, theoretical, and essentially useless. That’s not love. That's duty, or obligation, or maybe just theological policy.

Third, Adam Ford, if you’ve just finished listing all the people who are, y’know, actually supportive, and explaining why they don’t really love gay people, why on Earth would you expect gay people to think any differently about you? You don’t really love gay people; you just want to tell them the Truth Of God’s Word(tm). Or maybe we should all just nod along, and think No, it’s okay, this guy sketched this out in a cute little cartoon. He couldn’t possibly have any ulterior motive. Is that it?

Fourth, Adam Ford, did you just put scare quotes around the word "churches"? Do you really mean to imply that liberal denominations aren’t real churches, don’t really worship God, don’t do their limited human best to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ — just like you do? Do you really want to get into the "who’s a Real True Christian(tm)?" contest? Are you really that threatened by differing viewpoints? And, if so, why should those of us who don’t share your particular theological views assume that you have anything useful or even interesting to share with us?

The general line from those liberal churches you so blithely dismiss isn’t that God changed His mind. It’s that our understanding is limited, and as far as we can tell we have now come to a better understanding of what God wants for and from His people on this particular issue. In particular, arguing that gays shouldn’t have (committed, consensual, and — yes, a thousand times yes — sexual) relationships does real, measurable harm, and is therefore in conflict with Matthew 22:39, and is therefore immoral and in fact sinful.

They are treating this as a moral issue, just as you are. And they are arguing that you are on the wrong side of the issue.

What, in all of that, sounds like "They just want your approval"?

As you can see, this is a rebuttal to one panel. Just one. For responses to the whole thing, check out Jarred's Open Letter (where this comment was originally published), or Jonathan Nichols' extremely well thought out answer.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Five Facts

Alice over at Whatsoever Is Lovely tagged me on this, and honestly I didn't have anything prepared for this morning anyway, so here goes. Five facts about myself:

1. I have a Master's Degree in English, so naturally I went into Information Technology, where my time is split between various websites and a document management system. This is why it's so important to have goals in life: the constant surprise at Things Not Turning Out The Way We Planned helps keep you on your toes.

2. In my twenties and early thirties, I collected swords. Nowadays I collect ceramic mugs. I'm not sure that I can realistically cite this as evidence of any sort of growing up. (Especially since I still have the swords. In fact, I could outfit a good-sized group in the event of the Zombie Apocalypse.)

3. My mother is paralyzed from the waist down because of a childhood case of Polio. For a long time, my parents didn't think they'd be able to have children, but they had me in their early thirties and my brother a few years later. I don't get into discussions with anti-vaxxers, because there is absolutely no way I can do so and remain even remotely civil; I go straight to frothing rage.

4. I have never broken a bone. Not mine, and not anyone else's, either. Unless we're counting chickens -- I have broken a couple of wishbones -- but I digress. In fact, I digress fairly frequently. I also pontificate and occasionally editorialize. Wait, what was I just talking about?

5. I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. (I've been at something of a loss ever since I found out that "wizard" and "superhero" weren't really options.)

As a matter of personal policy, I generally don't tag other people on these things. However, if you're so inclined, feel free to share five facts about yourself and leave a note in the comments so I can go read them.

Monday, July 6, 2015

True Vacation Adventures: Directions

So... we're on vacation. We have gone down to Salado, TX, which is both very quiet and very far removed from the Metroplex, with my parents, my aunt, and my brother and his family. A couple of our oldest friends -- basically another brother and sister-in-law, and the genetics of the matter be damned -- have driven up from Austin to join us. We have made it all the way to Saturday night, which was supposed to culminate with dinner at a Mexican restaurant a few miles up the highway. After that, my brother and his family would be heading back to Dallas/Fort Worth, while my family and my parents would return to the inn for one more night. Our friends would be heading directly back to Austin.

I am driving the van, following my mother (in a Toyota Camry, if you're interested) to the restaurant. Or at least I was, until my mother suddenly changes from the middle lane to the right lane and immediately takes an exit. The only possible way I could follow this would be to drive through a truck, which happens to be driving innocently along in the lane between me and the exit. So we go up to the next exit, u-turn, and come back... whereupon we attempt to follow the directions that my father has provided (just, y'know, in case of such an eventuality).

The restaurant we're looking for is supposed to be off the main square in Belton. Since we've cut across the road we were originally supposed to take -- or at least the one we were told we were supposed to take -- but we aren't sure which way to go on it, we call my brother (who is already at the restaurant). With his guidance, we choose our course and promptly find ourselves passing out of Belton entirely, in the general direction of either Temple or Killeen. Clearly, despite everything, this is not the right direction.

We turn around. The less said about that, the better.

Fifteen minutes later, after having passed the point where we first got onto this road, we reach the town square of Belton. From there, we are able to locate the restaurant without too much further difficulty -- it helps that my brother was able to actually provide the name of the place. I might have been edging towards a homicidal, axe-wielding dementia by this point... but a few drinks and a really good meal help calm me down, and the populace remains un-rampaged.

So, with dinner over, we go our separate ways. My brother and his wife and child all pile into their vehicle and head back. My parents and my aunt prepare to return to the inn, and -- since the Beautiful Woman and I have stopped to talk to our friends a bit longer -- they take Firstborn with them. Before they depart, my father comes back over to us to offer new, updated directions for how to get back... to make up for abject failure of the original directions. I smile, nod, and commit the new route to memory.

Twenty minutes later, after we've finally pried ourselves away from our friends and are walking Secondborn towards the van, the Beautiful Woman's cell phone rings. It's my dad, calling to offer a new update to the new, updated directions that he'd given us. We listen carefully, get in the van, and promptly ignore everything we were told and punch our destination into the GPS instead. This provides us with a quick and easy drive back to the inn where we're staying.

At this point, we swing by my parents' room to pick up Firstborn... only nobody answers the door. My parents' car is not in the parking lot. My wife calls them, and -- sure enough -- we learn that we have, in fact beaten them back to the inn. Those updated directions that my father called to give us as we were leaving the Mexican restaurant? Yeah, he was giving those to us while they were lost.

I... I just... I do not have the words for this.