Friday, July 31, 2009

If I was Brian Burke...

...who would I pick for Team USA? We can talk lots about Burkie's TML decisions, but let's not. Instead, let's look at a team with a much brighter future - Ze Amerikans! 34 players were invited to camp but only 23 make the team. Who would I choose?

Goalies: Ryan Miller (Buffalo), Tim Thomas (Boston), Jonathan Quick (LA).

That's it, there's no more goalies. I choose Miller to start because, while Timmy T is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, I don't think he'll repeat his performance this year coming. Miller is a more stable goalie. However, if Timmy T does managed to stabilize and give another great year, he can take the job from Ryan. I suppose the starting position is Ryan Miller's to lose.

Defensemen: Mike Komisarek (Toronto), Ryan Whitney (Anaheim), Brian Rafalski (Detroit), Erik Johnson (St Louis), Jack Johnson (LA), Brooks Orpik (Pittsburgh). Almost there: Ron Hainsey (Atlanta), Paul Martin (New Jersey).

This group has it all. Youth (the Johnsons), experience (Rafalski), big shots (Whitney and EJ), passing (JJ and Rafalski), big bodies (Orpik and Komisarek), big hits (Orpik), and more. Hainsey is just a little old and slow to slot in, but he could fill in for Whitney or one of the Johnsons. Martin is a veteran, stable player from Jersey, who could help calm down any lineup, but he just doesn't have the talent level to crack the top 6.

Forwards: Chris Drury (NYR), Patrick Kane (Chicago), Phil Kessel (Boston), Jamie Langenbrunner (New Jersey), Ryan Malone (Tampa Bay), Mike Modano (Dallas), Zach Parise (New Jersey), Paul Stastny (Colorado), Dustin Brown (LA), David Booth (Florida), David Backes (St Louis), Joe Pavelski (San Jose).

USA could have gone with their veteran players, but they have chosen youth, a very promising youth set. I make no secret of my love of Paul Stastny, and there should be no doubt he'll be top line centre for this very promising team. It has some great defensive forwards as well. I wouldn't put this team in the same rank as Canada and Russia, but it is definitely a medal contender.



If I was Steve Yzerman...

Who would I pick to be on Canada's 2010 Olympic Team, if I were Steve Yzerman? Everyone's got their opinions, and here's mine. One thing's for sure, I don't envy Yzerman his task of choosing the best possible players for Canada.

Goalies: Martin Brodeur (New Jersey), Roberto Luongo (Vancouver), Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh). Outside chance: Steve Mason (Columbus).

Marty is the man for Canada, and as the best goaltender in the NHL today, one of the most experienced international tenders out there, and as a multiple Vezina winner, he's the clear favourite to start for Canada in 2010. Of course, Marty is getting old, and if he has another injury-laden season or if his numbers slip, Canada will turn to Roberto Luongo, who is always good and has occasional flashes of brilliance. If one of Canada's top three can't make it, I predict Steve Mason from Columbus will get asked to participate over Cam Ward. Ward is a great pressure goalie, but if Mason continues his blistering performance from last year into this coming season, he'll be the clearly better player come February.

Defensemen: Jay Bouwmeester (Calgary), Mike Green (Washington), Scott Niedermayer (Anaheim), Chris Pronger (Philadelphia), Brent Burns (Minnesota), Shea Weber (Nashville). Outside chances: Dion Phaneuf (Calgary), Duncan Keith (Chicago).

Niedermayer and Pronger have earned their spot by being two great veteran defensemen, and Norris Trophy alums. Green was nominated this year, and there is no doubt that his huge point shot will help a team with the talent up front that Canada will have. Burns is a solid defenseman, and Weber brings a slap shot and a decent defensive presence. Bouwmeester is a great all-around player. The reason why I think Phaneuf won't crack the lineup right away is because Dion's play has been slipping the last couple years. He's not living up to his promise. Keith, on the other hand, could be a stable rock in Canada's back end, and I think if he had 2-3 years more experience, he'd be a lock in this lineup.

Forwards: Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim), Dany Heatley (Ottawa), Jarome Iginla (Calgary), Rick Nash (Columbus), Mike Richards (Philadelphia), Jonathan Toews (Calgary), Shane Doan (Phoenix), Vincent Lecavalier (Tampa Bay), Dan Cleary (Detroit), Jeff Carter (Philadelphia), Patrick Sharp (Chicago). Outside chances: Milan Lucic (Boston), Corey Perry (Anaheim), Eric Staal (Carolina).

One of the hardest things about putting Team Canada together is avoiding the temptation to build four unbeatable scoring lines when you really only need two. What we need is two super lines, an energy line, and a checking line - all of which are dangerous, but you need shut-down hockey players out there. So, that's what I'm looking at here, and why I'd invite Danny Cleary out to play when not bringing on Corey Perry. Lucic is the same as Cleary but I feel he adds less offense, and Staal is a good player, but why bring him when you have Vinny Lecavalier or Getzlaf?

My line combinations look a little like this: (LW-C-RW)


I like having Toews on a wing because I can slot him in for any centre easily, or move Lecavalier up to the top line and have Toews centre Sharp and whoever. He might not be ideally suited to playing left wing on the third line, but that doesn't mean he'd be bad at it - and we need players who can adapt.

My captain would be Jarome Iginla, with Nieds, Prongs, and Doan wearing As.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Networking from a Humanist Perspective

One of the things I have made a concerted effort of late is to network within the online humanist/atheist/secularist community. I've done this the same way I did it in the Iron Maiden fan community - found a good group of people and injected myself into them, blog comments, joining a forum, hanging out with smaller groups of like-minded people. At least I am trying.

It's important to network, and I have chosen to do so with American atheists because they have the best amount of experience dealing with the sorts of procedures that I never want Canadian atheists to worry about. But as we saw with the Halifax bus ads, Canada's far from perfect. We may have to fight less often than our American friends, but we should be ready to rock.

Hemant Mehta's Friendly Atheist blog is a great example of how to follow that brilliant Churchillian method:

In War: Resolution
In Defeat: Defiance
In Victory: Magnanimity
In Peace: Good Will

I am not foolish enough to suggest the concepts of the "War on Christmas" are true. No atheist (well, very few) want to see the theists in this nation have to stop celebrating Christmas. I love the opportunity to meet my family, or see my friends, or make double time-and-a-half. However, we should be concrete: there is a struggle going on, and this struggle (fought on the battlegrounds within the USA) is for our right to equality.

We must be resolute in this on-going battle. We want equality - we want to walk into a public place and not have the Ten Commandments thrust into our face. We want to hold money that does not lie, for in God I do not trust, nor do the 15% of Americans who identify as agnostic or atheist. We want to say a pledge of allegiance that doesn't feel hypocritical. One nation should be indivisible, but placing "under God" into the Pledge has divided the nation. In war, we must be resolved.

And we have had setbacks. Any atheist blog, or humanist news source, can remind us of the court cases we have lost, or the laws enacted that go contrary to our core thoughts. We can remember that it was but twenty years ago when a future president of the United States said that atheists should not be citizens. We can remember that it was a few years only ago that Kansas suggested that evolution and creationism were equal, the same battle being waged in Texas right now. We were sometimes defeated, but always we have risen from those ashes, ready for the next battle. In defeat, we must continue to be defiant.

Yet we have won battles. Court cases have been decided in our favour. When the judgment of Dover vs. Kitzmiller Et Al came down, atheists did not celebrate or hold parties, or pray to the higher power of Dawkins and Darwin for continued victories. We congratulated each other, congratulated the system that has allowed common sense to continue, and most tried not to rub it in the faces of our theist neighbours, for such would be rude, and it would be the same as we have seen for decades. In victory, we must be magnanimous.

And one day soon, I can hope that equality is attained on most levels. That bus ads can be run, that a secularist isn't part of the most hated group in America. That atheists feel free to self-identify as such, without worrying about discrimination or hatred or bigotry. And when those days come, we must remember that bitterness and resentment only breeds more hatred and distrust. In peace, we must have good will.

Bringing me back to H and his blog. Reading it has shown me that the man has a good head for what is right and what is not, and he's not afraid to express that. But he welcomes everyone to his ideas, to truly participate in the marketplace, and isn't afraid to hear the other point of view. Battles lost are highlit so they may be waged again; victories are posted so we know we are making progress, but they aren't oft gloated over. It is a good way for me to have learned the best way to make secularism a way of life, a way of life that seems acceptable to the majority of people who are theists.

Check it out. I've been learning a lot.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Trivia Night Was A Success

That's right. Trivia Night was a success. It was beer o'clock when I got home yesterday, and so I drank a beer. And another beer. And another beer. And bbq'd. And drank another beer. Then I went to Scott's. And drank another beer.

Then we went to the Pub for Trivia.

Rick the Trivia Guy is pretty funny. Really offensive in places, but funny. But boy does he ask hard questions sometimes. And one of the teams is usually put together of professors from the university. Which means that we can get screwed pretty hard. And last night they brought in Bob Zecker, the certifiably insane US and immigration history prof.

So immediately, I was thinking....uhoh.

We lost three rounds (two to the profs, and 1 to Jordan's team) and then tied with Jordan's team for the last one. Which meant...sudden death overtime!

What was upsetting was I knew the answer to every one of Jordan's questions. The nation with the smallest army (Vatican)...and there were more, I was pretty drunk. And the trivia guy wanted to know what Halloween was originally celebrated as in Celtic folklore. I said "Samhain", and he thought that was wrong.


I won. I knew the answer to the last question, and damned if I can remember what it was, I just remember knowing I knew the answer as he said it. And then...drinking free beer.

It was a good night. We actually beat the profs!!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hockey Talk

Time for Hockey Talk!

Let's talk about the off-season so far. There's been a lot of deals, a couple trades, but lots of signings. I'm not going to give you the entire list, but I do want to talk about my favourite signings and my least favourite signings. Then, of course, I'll give my opinions on Les Canadiens de Montreal.

So. My least favourite signings of the year. This year, at least there were no Jeff Finger 3.5 million signings, so that's up one from last off season. Still lots of WTF moments, though.

Mattias Ohlund: Tampa Bay has proven they still have the ability to overpay for someone nearing the twilight of their career. Ohlund has a front-loaded 3.75m/year contract for a defenseman who will likely spend 5 of the 7 years in the bottom-ranked defensive pair. A lot of people have said he will be good as a mentor for Viktor Hedman, but I you really want to mentor one of the best defensive prospects in years to turn out like Mattias Ohlund?

Jaroslav Spacek: Isn't it great, how this category has a Hab already? Tells you a bit of what I think. More on that later. Spacek falls into the same category as Ohlund - an aging and overpriced defenseman who received more money than he's worth because Gainey can't attract quality players at the right prices. Unlikely to finish his contract - I think retirement will take him first.

And the best deals...

David Booth: Florida is a terrible team. And they're going to continue to be a terrible team, and nothing they have done will change this. That doesn't mean David Booth is a bad hockey player. On the contrary, I think he's a fantastic hockey player. He's a 30-goal-per-year guy who could hit 40 if he had a centre (something Florida doesn't have). At a very reasonable 4.25 million a season, Booth will either be part of the core of a resurgent Florida team or be packaged off to a contender after 2 or 3 years for a lot of future.

Nik Antropov: Not the best player, but he is making the right amount of money and he could be in a position to do very, very well as a centre for Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk is one of the most talented wingers in the NHL, and can score 40+ goals with a nobody on his line. Antropov can clear paths and can make a pass - the end result is that he could get lots of points shoving people out of Ilya's way. Even if he stays the same 60 point guy, 4 is a reasonable price.

And the Habs...

Let's just say I am of the opinion that Bob Gainey needs to lose his job. His signings go from the good (Cammalleri), the okay (Gill, Mara), the unknown (Gionta), to the terrible (Spacek). And the Gomez trade was terrible. Gomez is a good hockey player, yes - but he is not a 7.3 million dollar a year player. Glen Sather and New York City deserved to be punished for such a terrible signing and Gainey should never, ever have released him from that obligation.

Losing Komisarek is something I don't mind. Montreal has tons of defensive prospects in the pipe (including the energetic P.K. Subban, who I really, truly hope will make the big team soon), and Gill and Mara make up for his size. In fact, as Mark at work has pointed out time and time again, Komisarek pussied out against Lucic last season. He wasn't being big.

But Spacek? Come on. We have to have had someone better in the pipe. I would have loved them to sign Bouwmeester, but of course Gainey couldn't get his hands on the kid. I would have loved for them to trade for just about any decent defenseman out there, but he made no major moves in that department. It's just sad to see that D-corps get sliced down year-after-year.

Three years ago we lost Souray. Then last year we lost Streit. And now we lost Komisarek. For some reason, Montreal can't keep these players. We should be asking ourselves why.

Atop that, we lost Koivu. He would have played for under four, it seems. But Gainey just wanted him gone. It's...pathetic. Who is the leader now? Do we have one?

And if Price doesn't turn out...well. We're boned.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Congrats Jen!

Jen, over at has successfully completed a 24 hour, 49-post blogathon in support of the Society for Creative Atheism or something like that. I dunno, but I gave a few bucks. Bitchin.

Well done, Jen.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Story: An Atheist in a Creation Museum

The atheist crouched down low, taking one last drag on his cigarette. He knew, of course, the damage cigarettes do to one's body. He just didn't care anymore. They calmed his nerves, and he was about to go into the devil's den. He was about to enter the creationist museum.

He had a simple task: get to the head guy's office, Dr. Ben Bacon's secret interior hideaway. Crack the safe, take the documents, and get out. Someone in the Great Atheist Conspiracy HQ wanted those docs. It could make a difference in the War on Christmas. Something has to break their trenches, then the atheists could move on to Easter.

The atheist hated Easter the most. Coming back from the dead after three days? He makes sure people can never come back from the dead. The museum was still waiting. He ground out his smoke and started to move forward.

It was surrounded by a chain-link fence, with three strands of barbed wire running along the top, angled towards him. He had been observing the guards all night; now it was 3 AM. He had to make his move. The guards moved into a guard hut at the side of the museum. Only two guys were left, and they were each walking a dog.

The atheist had already set up his trap. Using a remote detonator, he set off a tiny charge. The pop didn't reach his ears, but it did alert the dogs, who turned, their black-and-brown snouts pointing in the direction of the distraction the atheist had rigged. Air was whistling out of a bottle after the tiniest charge went off, whistling high enough for dogs to hear.

As the guards moved off in the direction their hounds indicated (dragging the suddenly unwilling dogs with them), the atheist started to climb. He scaled the nine feet of chain easily, and then took a bottle, spraying the barbed wire at the top with it. The liquid nitrogen quickly froze the steel, and the atheist snapped it with his fingers, rolling it back. A quick look told him he still had time, and after vaulting over, he straightened the curls out, sealing the ends together with zip-ties. Not pretty, but he could undo it easily later if he needed an emergency escape route, and it should stop it from avoiding detection.

He dropped the nine feet, tucking and rolling, ending up behind one of the cluster of trees that spotted the museum compound. Seven minutes to wait until the next hole opened - he'd have all of forty seconds to cross the compound, scale the side wall, and get onto the roof of the museum. It would be tough, but he knew he could do it.

The guards left their meeting just five or six seconds after the atheist took his cover. He watched as they started to patrol around, splitting up. They were dutiful. No doubt they were pious (he suspected the hourly meeting was to pray that an atheist never showed up, sneaking into their compound). But they weren't particularly good. They were fat police academy rent-a-religious-cop, happy with a gun and a flashlight and a regular supply of doughnuts and coffee. The eight flatfoots dispersed slowly, following the well-defined walking routes in the museum compound.

His heart beating, the atheist counted off the seconds in his mind. He stayed as low and as still as possible, trusting to the light grey he wore to help him blend into the shadows. His face was smeared with grease, sweat beading down over his cheeks and foreheads gently. Short hair concealed beneath a bandana, red and green striped. The atheist waited still.

The seven minutes passed, and then this entire side of the compound was vacant. The atheist was moving before the guard had fully disappeared around the side. Every second counted. His footfalls were as small as he could make them, but they still pounded in his ear. Someone would hear.

His rubber-soled left foot hit the wall, and he pushed up, leaping, grasping a window ledge. Hand over hand be pulled himself up, free-climbing the twelve feet of wall. Window ledge. Window sill. Top of the window. Loose brick. Outcropping. Eaves. Roof edge. He was up, kicking his feet over and rolling, landing on the flat roof.

For a moment, the atheist rested. He caught his breath, but then he was up and moving. Now he had to infiltrate the building itself. Internal security was rumoured to be just as good as the external coverage. Originally, he had thought this meant the whole thing would be a joke, but then he realized: the guns and dogs were just for show. The real security was inside.

They want to catch atheists trying these sorts of things. They wanted to lull him into a false sense of security. The game's afoot.

He reached into a pouch on his belt and took out his night-vision goggles, popping them over his eyes. The world was illuminated in green pixels, all of a sudden. The miracles of science, the atheist thought. Split the atom, flew us to the moon, and lets me see the laser beam resting on the skylight. Can't cut the window.

The window was protected by a laser beam. It could detect the vibration of the glass being cut, as the diamond blade etched over the pane. Clever. A quick scan of the rest of the roof told him the other obvious covert entrance point was protected by lasers as well - an exhaust duct.

So, that meant he had to get original. The atheist moved over to the roof door and looked at it. It didn't appear to have any special locks, but it would surely have the usual protections - automatic alarms and such. You couldn't open the door without setting off an alarm. He pondered.

And then he made his decision, and moved to place a shaped charge on the roof, as far away as possible from the motion-sensitive skylight. It was just a small explosive, enough to blast a hole in the ceiling and let him peel back some of the roof. Counting the paces, he confirmed his first judgment. This should drop him into the Ark exhibit.

There was a tiny whoomp when he detonated the charge, and a hole the size of two fists appeared in the roof. The atheist reached into the hole, and grasped at the fractured planks, peeling them slowly back. He could hear cracked stone snapping as he exposed a man-sized hole into the subceiling. He removed chunks of insulation, and then pushed aside a bundle of wires, sliding down into the hole.

Supporting his upper body weight with his arms wasn't easy, as it was about four feet down until he reached the soft foamy subceiling. He twisted his body back, grunting with the effort of supporting his weight till he was spread out over the light ceiling. He could feel the soft metal of the subceiling straining, even though he didn't weight that much. Slowly, he removed a panel.

Night vision goggles on, he gazed down into the Ark room. A recreation of the bow of Noah's Ark spanned one wall, an animatronic Noah on top, welcoming aboard any number of creatures. Including dinosaurs, noted the atheist, seeing one of Noah's helpers loading a pair of rather docile-looking velociraptors aboard the Ark.

However, the Ark did have its uses, and the atheist (after looking for more laser detection) swung slowly out of the sub-ceiling, feeling the faintly-built installation give a little, he dropped down onto the Ark. It was eight feet down, and he landed heavily on the wood planking. The noise was amplified by the fact that the Ark itself was hollow.

"What was that?" a voice echoed. Dammit! The atheist moved quickly as flashlights flicked up over the Ark. Grasping onto the edge of the false boat, the atheist leapt over the edge, fingertips desperately grasping at the very last bit of boat available. He could hear footsteps.

"I swore I heard something."

"It was nothing, Charlie. Come on, let's go get some coffee."

"Alright, John." The atheist breathed a sigh of relief, waited another minute, and slowly hauled himself back into the Ark. Ignoring the throbbing of strained fingertips, he moved quickly down the Ark's ramp, and then vaulted the small fence designed to cut the display of adoring animatronic animals from small, easily impressed children. Not for the first time did the atheist wish this mission involved a serious quantity of C4.

But those weren't his orders. That's not how this war is being fought. He moved towards the main atrium of the museum. Animatronic dinosaurs playing with cavegirls. A triceratops with a riding saddle on it. Mastodons and t-rexes drinking from the same water hole. His head hurt.

The guards had a station up front, and the atheist hunkered down into the shadows to observe. They weren't particularly discreet about their job. He wondered if perhaps there was only the one layer of decent security after all. But then he noticed a camera in the security booth. Who watches the watchers? This is all for show.

Slipping on his night vision goggles once more, the atheist started to look around the room. He could see the lasers permeating the skylight, and noticed a few more, pressing on windows around the atrium, and criss-crossing over small, locked side doors. Wherever the real security department was...he didn't know. But he suspected he would need access to it.

Which meant that he needed to lure them out. Without making them so suspicious as to press the big red button. The atheist moved into the atrium, sneaking into the brontosaurus display, and lowering himself behind the replica ferns. He pulled out a hand-held listening amplifier, jamming the earphone into his right ear. He pointed it at the guard station and started to adjust it, listening.

It took a few minutes, but it quickly turned out the guards were discussing Big Brother. Great. Fucking Big Brother. After five more minutes, the two guards from the Ark room toddled off, heading off down another open hallway. One older, fatter guard remained. Then the guard's radio hissed and crackled.

"Are they on their rounds?"

"Yessir. All is quiet."

"Alright. We'll call back in twenty."


The athiest moved quickly, stuffing away the listening device, sneaking rapidly across the shadows on the side of the wall. The guard wasn't paying attention, so he moved to the area beside the guard station. Readying a heavy, leather-coated sap in one hand, the atheist tapped on the wall.

The guard sat up with a jerk. The fat old man had been nodding off. Stupidly, he looked around. The atheist couldn't see this, but he could hear the grunts of disbelief. The atheist tapped the wall again.

Moving towards the door, the guard started to grunt. "Whozzer?" he said, opening the door and stepping out. The atheist swung the sap, and the guard topped. Quietly, he drug the body out of the line of sight of the camera, sneaking into the guard hut to wait.

The camera in the guard hut wasn't particularly brilliantly placed, and the atheist was able to sneak a doughnut from the box. It wasn't as good as the ones from Tim's, back home. But they brought him in to do a job, and they were paying top dollar.

The radio crackled about twenty minutes later. A voice probed for the fat, old guard. There was no response, and the radio went dead. Watching the monitors from the corner the atheist was curled into, he could see the other two guards were redirected from their patrol. Quickly, the atheist moved to hide.

Moving as fast as they could, the younger guards returned to the atrium. The door to the guard room was open. The two men were confused. "Go check the washroom," one said to the other. One of the guards peeled off, and moved towards the guard room. He stepped in, cautiously. "Frank? Frank?" he called. But there was no response. Moving in a little further, the guard peered at the open doughnut box. He reached towards it. The atheist dropped down from where he had spider-climbed to the ceiling above the door, rubber soles of his boots touching down softly, and brought the sap hard down onto the guard's skull. He crumpled, into the line of sight of the camera.


The other guard was off to check the washroom, but the atheist watched the cameras. Then he saw two men in dark suits moving along a hall. It was a floor down, by the "eye" chamber. Moving quickly, the atheist left the guard room, running across the atrium, soles tapping gently on the tiles. With the plans for the museum memorized, it was easy enough to choose the second-shortest route to the eye chamber. He dashed down that hall.

The next room the atheist entered was a display of Jerusalem, discussing the historical evidence for Jesus's resurrection. He wanted to mock it, badly. But he had a job to do. He continued forward. He passed down another hall, and turned, walking into the room that attempted to disprove evolution. The eye chamber was at the end. The atheist slowed and moved to the door to the eye chamber, and peered in.

This room was circular, and basked in an eerie glow. Quickly, the atheist looked for cameras. There were two. He dropped himself into the room, behind a stand, crouching as small as possible, hoping the rather more useful guards had not yet reached the guard's room in the atrium. He hoped they were the only guards, otherwise he would have been caught while dashing along the hallways. Sometimes you have to take risks.

His hand patted the hilt of his pistol on his side. It was still there. Good, he might need it yet. He hadn't needed it in a long time, he tried to avoid such things. But he might need it tonight.

The camera in the eye room panned left to right slowly, and the atheist noticed that, if he was quick, he could get behind one of the long tables. Just maybe, that would let him scan the room. There had to be an access door here. But where he was, he couldn't see it.

He could see the large glass case on the wall, with a many-times magnified human eye inside of it. Lit up from inside, it was the source of the glow slowly filling the chamber. There were various buttons around the case, each with an arrow pointing to the wall, and a speaker. No doubt pressing the buttons would fill the eye chamber with propaganda about how the eye was too complex and perfect to evolve, explaining in very scientificy-language about how it would require an intelligent designer.

His fingers itched to reach for the gun. But he didn't. Instead, he rolled out from his cover, tucking in under a long table. He didn't know what was on the table, and he didn't want to know. But he could see a thick security door on the other side of the room. It was ajar.

The atheist inched to the edge of the table's cover and prepared. He listened to the sound of the camera panning, the faint sound of the tiny electronic motor. He'd have three seconds to cross the chamber and enter the room. Three short seconds. He ran for it, dashing across the room, grasping the door and pulling it open, leaping inside.

A man in a suit stood up. He was wearing sunglasses. Inside. At night. He was clearly a bad guy, and he reached into his jacket. The atheist kept running, crossing the seven or eight feet of the rather more secure security room, and slammed into the guard, knocking the wind out of him. The momentum of the impact carried both men back towards the wall, and the atheist rammed the museum security guard into it, heavily, bringing his knee up with the speed of impact and jamming it into the man's groin. He doubled over, and then the atheist brought his fist down on the back of the suit's head. The fellow crumpled.

The commando went through the guard's pockets, finding his pistol. It was only a simple matter of taking the gun's slide off to remove the spring behind the firing pin, effectively disabling the gun. He put the weapon back in the guard's pocket, and took something rather more important: the man's keycard.

Then he looked at the security screen. Ben Bacon's office was up two floors, near the back. A scan of the various display screens told him the other suits were in the atrium, looking at the cameras there. There was a radio on the display panel, and the atheist picked it up.

"Saw some motion in the Ark chamber," he said. "You guys better check it out." The static on the radio hid the change of the voice, and the two men stepped out of the guard room, moving into the Ark chamber.

Then the atheist hit the lockdown button. Gates slid into place, isolating the various chambers from each other. Corridors were locked and thick steel bars slid over the internal security doors. It was designed to capture people from the central control room. But with the atheist in control....the museum was his to run.

It was a system he was familiar with. It only took a few minutes to familiarize himself with the basic parameters of the doors, and he began opening up the appropriate gates to get him to Ben Bacon's office. Then he was off at a run. No guards could get in from outside, the ones inside were isolated. Finding a stairwell, the atheist charged up, two at a time. He turned on the halfway landing, to dash up to the next floor, only to see the guard from earlier pointing his standard-issue Glock down the stairs.

"Stop right there!"

The atheist stopped. He didn't believe in an afterlife, and he wasn't ready to die right now. The flatfooted guard was holding the gun in both hands. He may have fired it before, but probably had never pointed it at a human. Seems like he's an honest bloke. "Whatever you've done, you're gonna undo it."

"Can't do that," the atheist said in his deep voice, a scratchy growl made worse by a life of cigarettes and alcohol abuse. Really, he wasn't a good poster child for atheism. "Gotta job to do, pal." The guard's hand was shaking. And maybe he hadn't noticed....

"I don't want to have to shoot you," the guy said. The atheist started to move up the stairs slowly. The guard was sweating, but he tried to straighten up and aim his gun more accurately.

"Sure you don't. But I know you won't. Safety's on." The atheist pointed to the gun.

The guard turned the Glock and looked at the safety, which was certainly off. The atheist closed the distance, grabbing the gun with one hand. The other hand moved to break the man's trigger finger, and he howled in pain. Pulling the Glock away, the atheist swung it like a hammer, bringing it down on the side of the man's head. He crumpled.

The atheist checked the man's pulse. Oh good. He's alive. Then he continued, heading to the target floor, and along the row of offices. The one at the end said "Dr. Benjamin T. Bacon, PhD". He opened the door with the guard's keycard, and moved in quickly.

No time to be subtle. He took off the painting of God creating the universe from the wall behind the desk, and looked at the safe. He could crack it. He would have cracked it, if he had the time. However....he didn't have time. He took out the can of liquid nitrogen from earlier and sprayed down the lock, then hit it as hard as he could with the hilt of the Glock. It cracked. He repeated the process, spraying nitrogen into the crack. The next hammer split the lock open. He reached in and manually fit the tumblers into position.

Opening the safe, the atheist emptied it of contents, putting the flash disks and the burned dvds into a pocket of his vest. He then thought for a moment on how best to escape the museum. It didn't look like his plan of pretending he was a guard and walking out with the day shift would work. This was going to need to be more dramatic.

He headed back to the main guard room and lifted all the internal doors. The external doors remained locked. The suits were heading for the eye chamber right away, and the atheist slipped out of it before they arrived. He wasn't heading for a door, or back to his original entrance point (which the guards damn well had better be aware of by now). He was, instead, heading for the employee parking garage in the basement.

The parking garage doors would be the most reinforced doors in the building, and the rest of the garage would be underground. However...he reached the garage quickly, and found exactly what he was looking for. Jamming on the green helmet over his bandana, the atheist hotwired himself a Kawasaki Ninja, in bright green. He kicked the engine into life and drove over to the elevator.

There was a ding as the elevator opened on the main floor, followed by the high-pitched roar of the Kawasaki's engine as the atheist kicked it into gear. He could see the men in suits come running out of a side room as the bike charged through a high, arched hall, diving between tables covered with various displays. Bullets sparked as they slammed into glass cases or skipped off the walls, and the bike swerved more.

Another suit popped in front of the atheist and lowered his pistol, but when he squeezed the trigger, nothing happened. Grinning, the atheist gunned the motor, heading for the large, glass double-doors at the entrance. Switching over the pistol to fully automatic, the atheist shot a burst at the doors, shattering the glass. The Kawasaki zipped through the shattering fragments, and ripped along the walkway.

More shots rang out, as the bike headed for the gate. It was closed, but that wasn't a problem. The bike turned and ran along the parking lot quickly, till it reached the employee parking lot. A few guards were running his way - they had congregated around the main entrance, obviously trying to get in since the security locks engaged - but he had distance. He shot of a burst of three or four bullets at them, to make the guards think twice, before he whipped the bike around and took aim at the other end of the parking lot.

The atheist tossed something over his shoulder, and the bike revved again as the atheist pushed it to its limit, and charged down the line of guards and suits. Pistol recoils filled the air, and one or two sparked off the bike itself, but the little Japanese bike kept going. Another burst from the pistol caused the parking lot to clear, and the atheist passed the line of guards, squealing the tires as he whipped the little bike around in a semi-circle, to charge the group again.

This time a bullet bit, and he felt a searing pain in the small of his back. He could still wiggle his toes, though. So it was time to leave. He pressed the detonator and the charge of C4, his last, blew. It wasn't huge, but it ripped a hole in the chain link. The atheist aimed the bike at the hole and bent down. He felt sharp steel scrape his helmet, rip at his shirt, scrape and rip open his skin, but then he was free.

He hit the main road and turned at high speed. Headquarters needed him, needed what he'd found. The bike revved as it vanished into the night.


(wow, that got out of hand.)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Fact: Birthers are idiots.

Fact: Birthers are idiots.

They aren't only idiots. They are gigantic, mouthbreathing, inbred morons. Asinine, low-brow, racist fucktards. Dickless, spineless, illogical assholes.

In fact, this conspiracy is the one to date that bothers me the most. You know, I can see how some people wouldn't want to believe man landed on the moon. They're wrong. We went there, nine times and we landed on six of those attempts. But I can understand why the mind would rebel against the thought.

Then there's those 9/11 conspiracy idiots. I hate Bush, therefore Bush would clearly have done something hateful. Sadly, the evidence they often use is easily refutable (a common stance with these conspiracy loving folk), but is so easily explained by pure incompetence. And while we did see some malice from the Bush Administration, we sure as hell saw tons of incompetence. Why should we assume 9/11 is any different?

What is unique about these birthers is that they aren't seeking to explain away a past event as hidden for profit, but they are seeking to actually remove a sitting president from office, and discredit his entire life story. I suppose it's akin to what was happening with 9/11 really, but instead of attacking Bush's supposed actions, they are trying to discredit a man's birth, something he has no control over. Really, they're attacking the late S. Ann Dunham and Barack Obama Sr. of lying.

Why aren't they accusing the current president of lying? Because the evidence that Barack Obama II was born in the USA is incontrovertible. Not only does he have a birth certificate, there are announcements placed in the local newspapers from the same period of time. There also isn't a shred of evidence that the man was born anywhere else.

Let me make this clear: if you want Barack Obama to not be born in the USA, despite a massive preponderance of evidence that he was, then you are a moron. I can understand not wanting the man to be president. That's absolutely your right, and I agree with you. But a serious challenge to a president's citizenship has never happened, and I can't believe that it is innocuous of the man's skin colour and name. You're probably a racist if you want BHO to be removed from office. And that's the end of the story.

I said earlier that I think this is worse than the 9/11 conspiracy fucktards, and here's why: wanting 9/11 to be a government job is a defense mechanism. Nobody wants their government to fuck up that badly. But wanting Obama to be a Kenyan is being done out of pure malice.

And that is why the media needs to stop giving birthers attention. Nobody gives 9/11 conspiracy theorists attention; it's only the internet that they survive on. But giving birthers attention encourages them, it makes them think they belong in the debate...when they don't. They don't belong in the debate. Stop giving them attention, and treat them like the freak shows they are.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why it is important that I blog

Why is it important that I blog?

Because over the past two years I have felt my writing skills slip. I have noticed in my recent attempts to post longer, more coherent posts that my ability to put together a good, cohesive flow of language has fallen away, and that scares me more than a little, so I am going to try and make an effort to post something every day. Large or small, fiction or fact, I think it is important to get some thoughts down. I don't want to lose the writing skills I so carefully honed over the first 22 years of my life.

It doesn't have to be long, though I am hoping that over time it will be easier to write longer posts that make sense. We shall see, though.

Monday, July 20, 2009

July 20th, 1969

Welcome to July 20th, 2009. At 11:56 (local time) tonight, it will have been 40 years since man first walked on the moon, since astronaut Neil Armstrong put his boot in the dust coating the lunar surface. And how the world has changed since then - how the world has altered in the wake of that achievement. And how the world has simply passed it by.

Where are we, since that fateful late night, when Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon? What have we changed? Sure, countries have fallen and evil empires collapsed; we've built a space station, we've cured disease and we've tried to make the world a better place. But this world of ours, this fragile little blue marble in the deep, vast void of space, was never better served than by the program that sent men to the Moon.

Consider the technology involved. Without Apollo, the microprocessor would not have been born when it was; it may never have been born at all. Without Apollo, we would not have fuel cells that promise endless, pollution-less power. Without Apollo, we wouldn't have valuable insights to the history of the planet Earth, and our solar system. But most important, without Apollo, we wouldn't have hope.

Dr. Stephen Hawking is a far smarter man than I, and pretty much all of us, and he has said that we need to colonize this universe, because we've put all our eggs in one basket for far too long. I humbly agree with him, and the Moon is our closest neighbour, our companion in space, and the first logical destination for colonization. The Moon can give us natural resources, it can give us a valuable base for learning to survive outside of our neat little 80/20 nitrogen and oxygen mix. It can give us a place to go if we manage to kill our world off. It's a foothold in space, a launching pad to Mars, and to the greater universe before.

Imagine the value of a lunar observatory, for instance! No atmosphere, but you could build a mirror a thousand times the size of Hubble. Everyone has seen what Hubble has done, but imagine a fully functional observatory. What secrets of the universe we could get there. Plants and bacteria may grow differently in 1/6th gravity - we could discover new methods of treating illnesses. The potential is endless. The Moon is there, and it is ours. We should use it, instead of looking at it and remarking that it is pretty.

But let us turn from the future, and look to the past.

Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins set course for the moon because of the work of hundreds of thousands of people, and with the goodwill of the planet Earth on their side. They weren't the first pioneers.

Let us remember those who imagined this concept. Men like Robert Goddard, Herman Oberth, Sergei Koroylev, and Werhner von Braun. Men like John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

Let us remember the very first who stepped foot into space. Yuri Gagarin, Alan Shepard, Gherman Titov, Gus Grissom, John Glenn.

Let us remember the first who went to the moon. Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, William Anders. Tom Stafford, John Young, and Eugene Cernan.

Let us remember those who went to the moon after Apollo 11: Conrad, Gordon, Bean, Lovell, Swigert, Haise, Shepard, Roosa, Mitchell, Scott, Worden, Irwin, Young, Mattingly, Duke, Cernan, Evans, and Schmitt.

Let us remember those who have died pursuing the destiny of our species: Bondarenko. Grissom, White, and Chaffee. Komarov. Dobrovolski, Patsayev, and Yolkov. Jarvis, McAuliffe, McNair, Onizuka, Resnik, Smith and Scobee. Husband, McCool, Anderson, Brown, Chawla, Clark, and Ramon.

Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin rode the Saturn V rocket into space, by far the most powerful rocket ever to carry humans. The first stage of the Saturn V rocket produced 7,648,000 million pounds of thrust (34,200,000 N), enough thrust to push forward around 225 Peterbilt 379 tractor-trailers. If the Saturn V blew, the lethal blast radius was three miles. Yet they rode this beautiful machine flawlessly from the earth to the moon...and brought their Apollo Command and Service Module (Columbia) back home. Safely.

The Apollo Command and Service Module was built by North American Aviation, and took about five years to take from concept to the actual manned craft. Unfortunately, poor wiring in one of the capsules claimed the lives of Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee in 1967. But the Command Module flew flawlessly after that. The Service Module's major malfunction was in April of 1970, when an oxygen tank exploded and put Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise in life-threatening danger. Regardless, the CSM was a gorgeous machine that took twenty-four men (three of them twice) from the Earth to the Moon. Fifteen CSMs flew in space; six had no name. Before the moon landing, those with names carried titles less dignified: Gumdrop and Charlie Brown. The seven Command Modules that bore astronauts destined for the moon were better named: Columbia, Yankee Clipper, Odyssey, Kitty Hawk, Endeavour, Casper, and America.

The Lunar Module, designed by Grumman in Long Island, was the only piece of hardware that never had a serious failure. It had some problems (famously the overload error during the Apollo 11 descent), but never truly failed. Indeed, one LM saved the lives of the Apollo 13 astronauts when their CSM was stricken by an explosion. Like the CSM, the names for the first two LMs were almost comic: Spider and Snoopy. But the seven LMs destined for the moon had more appropriate nomenclature: Eagle, Intrepid, Aquarius, Antares, Falcon, Orion, and Challenger.

We can only imagine what appropriate names the next class of ships to take us beyond Earth's gravity will bear, and what men and women will be inside of them. But when we return to the Moon, whoever and whenever that might be, it shall be in peace, and with hope, for all human kind - and we shall be returning to a legacy greater than any of us and the equal of all.

And we should remember what JFK had to say:

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too...Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, "Because it is there." Well, space is there, and we're going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God's blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Atheism and me.

I have had the distinct pleasure in the last few days of immersing myself more in the atheist/secular blogging community, primarily over at Friendly Atheist, run by Hemant Mehta. I won a book on his site, so hey, how bad can it be to get involved? Most of the comments there are exactly what I would expect from a group of like-minded individuals: calm, cool, collected, relaxed.

Not too bad, really.

So, I thought I'd start blogging again, with a little topic about how I became an atheist. It's really only in the last couple years I've started identifying as an atheist. I was nominally Christian for the first ten or fifteen years of my life, but I always challenged the core beliefs of that dogma - the concept of an earth created in seven days, the idea that Christ died to protect me from sin. Pretty much everything except for the concept of the afterlife.

And that was comforting to me. In university, I finally began to identify as a deist, someone who believes in a divine source of creation. I've always had an overwhelming belief in the integrity of the scientific method and the results therein, so it was only a logical step. But as I refined my mind through my university years, that phase did not last long, either. I realized what I've read a thousand times since then: if a god created everything, who created a god?

So yeah. What makes my journey particularly fulfilling is that I've made it all on my own (like Li'l Brudder). It's not very outstanding, aside from that I can recall points in my journey that were defining.

1. Sunday school at the Baptist Church just down the road, I asked the teacher about the possibility of God creating the universe from a deist perspective, allowing science to partake on its own. I wasn't welcome back. I was six.

2. In grade 5 or 6, a group of Christians passed out New Testaments to my class. They then came by in recess, asking us to sign the back at them, where you acknowledged that Christ is your Lord and Saviour and all that. I was pressured into signing by these people, and my classmates. I was twelve.

3. In grade 10, I had a confrontation with two girls in my class who were originally from South Carolina. Admittedly, I was extremely attracted to one of the girls, so I think I gave her point of view more credence than I would do today. But we disagreed on the concept of evolution, and I heard my first real intelligent design argument. To be honest, till then I had never even conceived that people existed who believed evolution was false. I was fifteen.

4. In grade 11, the same two girls invited me to meet "Dr." Kent Hovind, the infamous creationist and tax cheat, none of which I was familiar with at the time. Two hours later, I realized that this man was absolutely off his rocker.

5. Grade 12, one of the two girls gave a presentation on intelligent design to the biology class. She was laughed out of the classroom. At the time I felt bad for her, because I still didn't know the sort of damage that ID had done in the USA. I still hadn't broadened my mind.

6. By the end of university, I learned...quite a lot about politics in the rest of the world, and I had a MSN conversation with one of the same ladies. It was 2004, in November, and quite heated - she was volunteering for GWB's campaign in Virginia, and she attacked my pro-Kerry views quite vehemently. She later apologized, but I am quite sure that she views me with incredible distaste...simply for disagreeing with her.

These things each pushed me further and further from religion. Trying to justify why I think abortion is a critical right to someone who screams about God damning us all to an experience I never want to engage in again.

So that's me...