Thursday, December 31, 2015

Music: The Sound Of Silence

...As performed by the band Disturbed. Yes, really. No, I'm not kidding. Seriously, listen to this thing.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Stage Is Not A Crime Scene (Yet)

So there I was, watching the magic show. My eight-year-old niece, for reasons best known to herself, had decided that she needed to sit on my lap to watch the show. Secondborn (five years old) was in the seat next to us, with his Nana beside him and the rest of the family further down the row.

Up on the stage, the magician (who's really, really good) places his assistant (who's also really, really good) into an upright rectangular box, and rolls it around the stage, turning it completely around in the process so we can see that it has a solid back and isn't sitting on any trapdoors in the stage. For added verisimilitude, there are cutouts at (IIRC) the top left corner and the bottom right corner, so you can see one set of toes and one set of fingers from the assistant. (Wiggling, yet!)

Well, the magician then proceeds to slide metal sheets through the center of the box, from front to back along the vertical axis. It's the sort of thing where you'd expect him to split the box in half, and that's sort of what he does... except that instead of actually splitting it, he rotates two of the corners. The box has a central axis of some sort, and he swings the top left corner down and the bottom right corner up, turning the thing from a rectangle into a sort of cross or "t" shape.

At this point, while the magician is spinning the now-T-shaped box around so we can see it from all sides, that my eight year old niece, in a very distraught stage-whisper, bursts out: "He killed her! She's dead! He killed her!"

...And Secondborn, in an effort to be helpful and reassuring, pipes in with, "Dere's no blood! Where's the blood? How did he kill her if there's no blood?"

Meanwhile, I'm sitting there thinking, Damn it, Secondborn, quit telling people that my five-year-old son knows what a crime scene is supposed to look like!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Alarums and Excursions

The scene: Our lovely, lovely loft bed, this morning, slightly later than I'd normally get up except that I don't have to drop off the kids before I go to work.


Beautiful Wife: "Oh, God."

Me: {Shuts off alarm}

Beautiful Wife: "ZZZZZZZZZZZZ..."

Captain Meowy-Pants Stupid-Alarm-Clock: "Meow? Meow? MEOW!? MEOW!? MEOW!? MEOW!? MEOW!? MEOW!? MEOW!? MEOW!? MEOW!? MEOW!? MEOW!? MEOW!? MEOW!? MEOW!? MEOW!?MEOW!? MEOW!?MEOW!? MEOW!?MEOW!? MEOW!? MEOW!? MEOW!?

Me: "Oh, God."

Monday, December 28, 2015

Another Conversation About Baths

Me: "All right, Daddy is going to get into the bathtub."

Firstborn: "Okay."

Me: "So, if something goes horribly wrong and somebody needs help, where will you look for Daddy?"

Firstborn: "In the bathtub."

Me: "In the bathtub. If the Chitauri attack New York and the Avengers need someone to help them out, where will you look for Daddy?"

Firstborn: "In... the hot tub?"

Me: "In the bathtub. If giant monsters attack Tokyo and they're in need of help with a military solution, where will you look for Daddy?"

Firstborn: "I won't."

Me: "Are you saying I'm not military?"

Firstborn: "You have swords."

Me: "Swords are military."

Firstborn: "Swords are ninja." {pause} "...Or Samurai."

Me: "Fine. If you need ninja or Samurai--"

Firstborn: "In the bathtub."

Me: "Right."

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Just in time...

So, we came back from our Christmas trip just in time to hunker down through an evening of tornado warnings. We're safe, but the last count I saw said there something like eight tornadoes and at least eleven deaths. There are also a lot of people without power... or, very suddenly, without homes. The footage is impressive, but... FFS, couldn't we have had snow, instead?

The Red Cross is helping the victims, and the Mayor of Rowlett is also suggesting donations to the Salvation Army. This is also a good time to donate blood, if you can. Update: Rhoadan points out in the comments that, actually, donating in response to a disaster isn't necessarily all that helpful, as disasters tend to bring in a huge surge in donations and the Red Cross ends up having to turn people away. Donating regularly, as frequently as you can, is a much better way to help out -- particularly because they often don't have enough donors when there aren't any obvious recent disasters.

They aren't asking for volunteers in the area yet, but I'm sure that will also become possible very soon.

We're also seeing a lot of heavy rain (and apparently there was some hail, last night) so there's potential for more storms, power outages, and the added threat of flooding, flash- or otherwise. If you're in the area, be careful and stay safe.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

My brain has gone bye-bye...

So, last night I picked the boys up from school, then swung by the grocery store for a half-dozen items (including dinner). Went through the checkout line, got everything in the cart, drove home...

...I'm not sure I actually paid. Like, I seriously have no memory of even taking my wallet out, and I don't see a receipt anywhere.

I called the store, and they checked with the cashier, and she thinks I paid, so maybe I just swiped a card with my mind on other things and have no memory of it. That's not entirely comforting either, but I suppose it's better than not paying. Just to be sure, I left my name and number with the manager, in case that register comes up short; they can call me.

You guys, I might -- might -- be really, really tired.

Monday, December 14, 2015

'Tis the Season for failure...

Here's something to make you feel better about how your holiday season is going...

...because I'm a bad person.

I've been wondering...

How exactly does one go about harking a herald? Or is that something only angels can do? My brilliant and delightful readers, I require answers. Please provide your best explanations (on matter how far-fetched or absurd) in the comments.

Friday, December 11, 2015

For Taylor

Ok, Taylor, maybe this isn't such a big deal. I mean, compared to Adele, you're still looking positively sane. Still...

Honey, all I did was ask if you wanted to get out of town for a while. You know, take a brief vacation, get some time to ourselves, see new sights and get away from the day-to-day stress? It wasn't some nefarious setup to take you somewhere nice and get you all happy before I break up with you. I wasn't planning to break up with you at all.

So all this stuff you've been saying about how you hope I'll remember you, and look back on our relationship fondly? You know what, if we do break up, I'm very sure I will. I'll even make sure to picture you in that nice dress that you like so much.

But maybe we can wait until after things don't work out before we get nostalgic about how good we were back when we were together? Deal?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

For Adele

Adele, honey, you've got to quit calling me. I mean, seriously. How many times do I have to not answer the phone before you finally take the hint? My current girlfriend, or whatever? She's got a long list of ex-lovers who'll tell you she's insane, and she's started referring to you as my "crazy ex". You need to lay off.

Whatever this is -- Loneliness? Sadness? Some sort of nostalgic regret? -- I can't help you with it. I'm living on the other side of the country, I'm in a relationship with somebody else, I've moved on. Because that's what people do.

And these vague romanticisms you keep leaving in your messages? Honey, we aren't running out of time. We ran out of time years ago. We ran out of time back when you broke up with me. Let it go. I don't need your apologies, any more than I need your nostalgia. We were together for a while, and it didn't work out. Sure, it was heartbreaking, but it happens. You sound like you're hoping that I'm still heartbroken about it -- like maybe I never really got over you or something? -- and Adele, that's just not how it works. It's not so much that time heals all wounds, but... people keep going, they find new things to occupy their attention, and eventually they're living completely different lives. I did. You should, too.

And if your life right now isn't enough to do that, then maybe you ought to reconsider what you're doing. Or -- hell, you're in California -- get some therapy. Or both. Find something that makes you happy, and do it.

But for the love of Christ, quit calling my phone. Am I going to have to change my number? Or get a restraining order? How far is this going to go?

Think about it.

~Your Ex

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Two Turtle Doves?

My family, looking at an exhibit: "Look! Two two turtle doves!"

Me: "Hmph. Those aren't turtle doves."

Beautiful Wife: "They aren't?"

Me: "Look at them. They're just doves. No shells."

Beautiful Wife: "Turtle doves don't have shells."

Me: "Of course they do. The shells are great protection from predators. Especially when the doves pull their wings inside their shells."

Secondborn: "Daddy--"

Me: "I'm serious. On the small island-nation of Begonia, they're considered quite the hazard..."

Firstborn: "What?"

Me: "...Because if they're startled, by groups of Christmas carolers for example, they'll sometimes pull their wings into their shells in mid-air. Falling turtle-doves can be very dangerous. People have died."

Beautiful Wife: "Begonia?"

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Unconvincing Apologetics: Created or Not?

So, over on FB, a dude calling himself Tony Terrana showed up on Bruce Gerencser's page. He opened by posting a bunch of scriptures (which, y'know, is always a winsome way to approach a bunch of atheists -- seriously, there's nothing we love more than having someone quote from the Bible to rebuke us for not accepting the authority of the Bible.) When Bruce pointed out the, um, minor flaw in that approach, he decided to go all Deep and Philosophical instead:
Subjectively speaking - either some higher-level creative Intelligence is responsible for our existence or not. There is currently no publicly-known, objectively-verifiable, scientifically-reproducible, peer-reviewed evidence sufficiently leading to proof that either is the objective truth. It is a choice to believe one or the other is the truth. Whichever you choose - you are using the concept of faith. Faith is belief without proof. Objectively speaking - only one is the truth and our subjectively formulated opinions or lack thereof have no effect on that objective truth. Such is the nature, beauty, and glory of The Truth - He is perfect and unbreakable.
Now, I have a number of issues with this bit of misguided semi-philosophical rhetoric. I settled on the one I felt was most relevant, and responded:
But you aren't interested in us acknowledging some esoteric, imperceptible "higher-level creative intelligence", are you? I mean, if you want to talk about that, sure: could be. But if there is such a thing, it's effectively indistinguishable from impersonal natural processes. It makes no difference.

No, what you want us to agree to is the existence of the God described (in many and varied ways) by Christianity. And that's something else altogether. That's an entity that, its followers claim, actively intervenes in our world and our lives; that's a being with firm opinions on how we should live and what we should value. That's not "Oh, there might or might not be extra-Universal power/intelligence/principle which created everything." It's a different sort of claim entirely. And it's a bit disingenuous to conflate the two.
Apparently deciding to stick to his guns, Tony answered:
Michael Mock I'll simplify for you.
Do you perceive the following statement to be true or false?
1. From our subjective perspective either some higher-level creative Intelligence is responsible for our existence or not.

How about this one?
2. Of the two subjective possibilities mentioned in the preceding statement - only one of them is the objective truth.

And just so I know who I'm talking to?
3. Boots exist now - at least conceptually.
At this point, I went off to have brunch; while I was away from the computer, he went back and forth with Bruce for a while. I'm not going to reproduce all that here, but I think I can fairly summarize it by saying that Tony kept trying to get Bruce to answer this set of questions, and Bruce kept responding that he had no interest in playing the Meaningless Philosophical Bullshit game. I, on the other hand, sometimes enjoy meaningless philosophical bullshit, so when I came back I answered Tony's questions, like so:
Tony, you aren't simplifying anything. You're just repeating yourself -- and the assertions (or propositions) that you're repeating aren't relevant to the argument that you eventually want to get to, which is whether or not Christianity accurately describes the world in which we live.

So, to answer your questions:
1. You're overlooking the possibility that it might be more complicated or less clear than the either/or scenario you offer... but let's assume, for the sake of argument, that everything more complicated falls into the second category, "or not". So, sure: either our Universe was created, or it just happened.

2. Unless the nature of ultimate reality is a lot stranger than any of us realize, only one or the other of those possibilities can be true.

3. What the hell are you talking about? Is "Boots" the name of your cat or something? Or are you trying to establish some philosophical point about the nature of reality by asking whether or not a perfectly mundane material object actually exists? And if so, why?

Look, you've already said that "there is currently no publicly-known, objectively-verifiable, scientifically-reproducible, peer-reviewed evidence sufficiently leading to proof that either is the objective truth." So at best, you can argue from there that some sort of Deism isn't an unreasonable view -- and I think Bruce and I would both agree with that. That being the probable extent of your argument, let me ask you a couple of questions:

1. Is there any meaningful difference between a Deistic Universe (one which was created by an entity that no longer interacts with it, and which cannot be perceived with any degree of certainty) and an atheistic/materialistic Universe?

2. Given that you've already admitted that there's no functional proof of a creator, are you angling towards some version of Pascal's Wager?
Bruce, at this point, had had enough of the esoteric mumbo jumbo and verbal dancing around, and banned Tony. Frankly, I have no problem with this; for starters, it's Bruce's page and he gets to decide what he's willing to put up with there; also, and perhaps more to the point, I agree that Tony wasn't interested in having any sort of honest discussion of views -- he was trying, fairly obviously, to trap us into some sort of philosophical argument that he thought we wouldn't be able to refute. (I'm guessing it was either #17, or #32, though there are a couple of other possibilities. If you've been an unbeliever for any length of time, you've probably run into some variation of "Let's look at this logically!" many times before.)

The argument itself isn't the only problem, either. This entire approach, this "Let's have a structured, logical argument between our views" schtick, isn't really designed to compare views. It's designed to let the person laying out the argument set the ground rules, and (ideally) lead the listeners along to his* conclusion. It's a rhetorical trick as much as, or more than, it's an actual philosophical position. I don't mind playing along sometimes, but as a general thing it comes off less as someone trying to share their faith, and more as them trying to control the conversation. And that gets tiresome very quickly.

* It's usually a "his" rather than a "her".

Friday, December 4, 2015

Christmas Movies In Our House

I have a somewhat... fraught... relationship with the holidays. So my idea of holiday spirit really doesn't mix with most people's. Bearing that in mind, here's a list of my family's traditional Christmas movies, sorted by what we like about them:

Explosions and Gunfights:
Die Hard
Lethal Weapon
The Long Kiss Goodnight (optional)

Supernatural Horror:
Rare Exports
Sint ("Saint", as in Saint Nicholas)

Just Plain Wrong:
Santa's Slay

Sort of Vaguely Wholesome:
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special
How To Train Your Dragon: Gift Of The Night Fury

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Lovin' that holiday season...

Work ran a little long today, so I didn't get to leave until 5:15, which put me squarely in the holiday traffic, making me ever so slightly later than usual in picking up the boys. I grabbed Secondborn first, and he continued the trend by pointing out -- halfway between his own school and his brother's -- that he felt sick to his stomach. I pulled off and stopped the car. He spat a few times, but seemed okay; nothing... catastrophic. So we went on, picked his brother up, and came home; sure enough, Secondborn is running a moderate fever (101.5 or thereabouts). So I have him try eating a cracker, and put him in the bathtub while I make dinner for Firstborn and myself. Firstborn, meanwhile, decides to start lobbying for his brother's right to play video games ("because he's sick"), something we normally don't allow on school nights. Then the cat (who desperately needs a bath himself) decides that it's time to sit on my toes and meow at me, in the hopes that I'll come and change his (rather foul) bowl of water. And, of course, that's when the phone starts ringing.

If my wife comes home and finds me curled up in the fetal position on the floor, sobbing helplessly, this is why.

Music: The Ship Song

Nick Cave:

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Christmas Movie Suggestions

Me: Okay, we need a Christmas movie. How about Resident Evil?

Boys: No.

Me: Silent Hill?

Boys: No.

Me: Dead Space: Downfall?

Boys: No.

Me: Aliens?

Boys: No.

Firstborn: Star Wars.

Me: No, there is no Star Wars holiday movie.

Mommy: Lethal Weapon?

Boys: No.

Me: Rare Exports?

Boys: No.

Me: Santa's Slay? Or maybe it's Santa Slays?

Boys: No. Whichever, no.

Me: Dawn of the Dead?

Boys: No.

Firstborn: That will give me nightmares before Christmas.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Natural Habitat

On a recent visit to the Dallas Zoo, Firstborn perched himself atop an island of rock in the middle of the artificial stream in the children's play area.

Me: "Come on, Firstborn. If anybody falls in the water, we're going home."

Firstborn: "I am in my natural habitat."

Me: "That is not your natural habitat."

Firstborn: "This is my natural habitat."

Me: "Your natural habitat is in front of a Playstation."

Firstborn laughed and jumped back off the rock.