Monday, January 30, 2012

I wrote this as an exercise...

So, I recently replayed several titles in the Zelda series, and one of the best is Link to the Past, the Super Nintendo version of the classic game. This game is beautifully set up - colourful, vibrant, and with intense and exciting gameplay. Replaying it was like opening a window to my childhood and stepping through it; like few things really can, the sounds and sights that dominated my Christmas and after back in 1989 really took me back.

So I was thinking about it, and imagining one of the more climactic scenes, when Link enters the Lost Woods to reclaim the Master Sword, and what that might have been like "rein-acted" using the new information about the series. Also, I was bored at work. Story below the jump.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Beer + Laptop =?

So I spilled beer on my laptop a few days ago. Oops. That sucks, and it sucked more when my trackpad and my keyboard stopped working. Lugging around a mouse with me and using half a keyboard was a pain in the ass, so I figured, hey, it's not under warranty, I'll just replace the parts.

Today, all the new stuff arrived and within 45 minutes I had reassembled the laptop. It works great, but I'm concerned the life lesson here isn't "don't spill beer on your expensive things", but instead, "hey, if you spill beer, it's only $35 in parts!"


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Open Letter to Ricky Hood

Ricky Hood is the superintendent for the Eastern School District in PEI, the largest district in the province, and he's cool with the Gideons handing out Bibles. Hemant has the scoop.

I sent him a letter, posted below the jump. Any other concerned Canadians should do the same. I'll post any responses here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

History & Jessica Ahlquist - The Founding Fathers

The wonderful and eloquent Greta Christina has written a detailed post regarding Jessica and the harassment she's been slammed with following daring to stand up for her rights. I suggest you read it in its entirety before coming back here.

What I'd like to do today is look at Jessica, and how she stands among a pool of Americans commonly considered great in times past. You see, those who study history know that there is a "right" side and a "wrong" side. The right side is the side that wins - and it tends to be, in American history, on the side of people who make the morally correct decision. In this situation, the situation of Jessica's First Amendment rights, we can look back through history and find some great Americans who would support - and those who would detract - from what she's done.

Please note that I am writing these as if these long-dead figures have knowledge of today's interpretation of the Constitution, including such important points as the 14th Amendment and Lemon v. Kurtzman.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fiction: alternate Civil War story

I started this as a story some time ago, and as always, I pick and prod at such things. This is based on the idea of a different outcome to the American Civil War - one where the British become involved on the side of the Confederacy. Although I've only written 11,000 words so far, I did some extensive backstory work that isn't directly relevant to the action. So far, what I have written is one of my favourite pieces of fiction I've ever put to paper. I hope to one day write more on it, and I hope you enjoy what I have so far written. An excerpt, a link, and more detail below the jump.

Andrew Sullivan on Obama's long game

The always eloquent Andrew Sullivan has written a detailed article for Newsweek regarding President Obama and the manner in which he makes change. He looks at the arguments against Obama from both the right and the left and concisely neutralizes them with a singular, effortless ease. This is one of the reasons I support Obama: his ability to play the long game of American and global politics sets him apart as one of the premiere presidents in living memory - if not of them all.

Obama's record should speak for itself - but it doesn't, as Sullivan notes, primarily because Obama's manner of getting things done is to get other people to stand up for what the President thinks is right. Who was the primary voice behind the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell? It wasn't Barack Obama - it was Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It's very difficult to suggest Admiral Mullen is an anti-American traitor, not when he wears a couple dozen ribbons on his left breast. The other force for DADT repeal? Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Sure, you could suggest that's an Obama political ally, but wait a minute - he was appointed by George W. Bush, and Obama simply kept him around.

Health care? Reformed. Wall Street? New legislation passed. Second Great Depression? Avoided. American automotive industry? Saved. Osama Bin Laden? Dead. US-world relationships? Fixed. Arab Spring? Happening. Torture in US detention centres? Ended.

But don't take my word for it. Sullivan nails it out of the park on this one. If Obama wins another term (and I believe he will), then he may be able to establish the best progressive record since FDR. Obama plays the long game with his eye on the prize - and more often than not, someone who plays the long game wins.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Crommunist on redefining racism

Ian Cromwell, the Crommunist, is quickly becoming a favourite blogger of mine. I suggest you read his stuff, but he pointed to a talk he gave awhile ago regarding redefining what racism means and working to avoid it. Powerful, insightful talk, and I recommend you take a half hour of your time to watch.

The video is below the fold.

What I'd tell Peter Palumbo if I was American

Required reading from JT on the Jessica Ahlquist story.

Okay. All caught up? I'm not an American, but this pisses me off. Why? Not because she's 16. Jessica has proven she is the equal of any adult out there in terms of maturity, intelligence, and bravado. Not because Palumbo is a Democrat - both American political parties are filled with idiots and assholes. Not because it's harassment or anything like that.

It's because Palumbo swore this oath:
You being by the free vote of the electors of this state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, elected unto the place of do solemnly swear to be true and faithful unto this state, and to support the Constitution of this state and of the United States; that you will faithfully and impartially discharge all the duties of your aforesaid office to the best of your abilities, according to law: So help you God.
The Rhode Island State Constitution even allows for a secular affirmation. But I'm guessing the above is what Palumbo swore. And I'm damn fine with that. He can swear by whatever god he deems holy enough. Sweet. But here's the rub: he swore to defend the Rhode Island State Constitution, as well as the United States Constitution.

Rhode Island's constitution declares:
[The Constitution], therefore, declare[s] that no person shall be compelled to frequent or to support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatever, except in fulfillment of such person's voluntary contract; nor enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in body or goods.
The United States Constitution states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
Here's how my letter would look:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Radar's Teddy Bear

You may not have seen M*A*S*H, but this teddy bear is the link used by Radar O'Reilly in his evolution towards becoming an adult. As the series progresses, Radar's reliance on his teddy bear lessens; when he leaves the 4077th, he leaves the teddy bear behind. At the end of the series, it is buried in a time capsule with other relics like Henry Blake's fishing lure, Father Mulcahy's boxing gloves, and one of Klinger's little black dresses - a memory of the boys who became men, the men who never came home, the women left behind, and of course, instruments for future wars to be fought. Symbolism was a very important part of M*A*S*H.

One of the more pivotal moments in Radar's character development on the show was the episode where Hawkeye disappointed and yelled at Radar. For the majority of the series, Radar had been portrayed as the proverbial dog nipping at Hawkeye's heel; in this episode, Hawkeye was devolved from hero to human in the younger Radar's eyes. He realized that our heroes are people too, that they make mistakes - and sometimes critical ones.

Sometimes, I am reminded of this when I look at the atheist movement. Though atheism is an old concept, the modern mobilization online is very young. Heroes are cast up - people like Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris. And then sometimes it casts them down (I am reminded of Dawkins's involvement in Elevatorgate, for one, and Hitchens's support of the Iraq War). Stephanie Zvan recently called out DJ Grothe of the JREF for similar ideas.

The movement is still young, and we still cling over-much to the teddy bears of the movement. To the idea that big names are heroes, rather than humans. We shouldn't be shocked when an old, privileged white guy like Dawkins comes out on the stereotypical side of an issue for his particular social groups. We shouldn't be shocked that Hitchens supported an illegal and ill-advised war.

Another word for this is the "sacred cow". But atheism (and it's related sibling, skepticism) is based on evaluating facts. Let's evaluate facts and realize sacred cows do not exist. Dawkins & co. are perfectly capable of making mistakes - as are the newer wave of atheists like Hemant Mehta, Jennifer McCreight, JT Eberhard, et al. When these people err, the gravity of their error is equal to their status in the movement, if we allow for those persons to become teddy bears. Hoisting up teddy bears is dangerous - because it means they can bring the whole tent crashing down when we remember that they are truly human.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Randy Cunneyworth's English Problem

Randy Cunneyworth's term as head coach of the most storied sports franchise in Canada, the Montreal Canadiens, is only a few games old. He has a lot of things to worry about. The Habs are losing games, Carey Price can't stop a puck, they can't put a power play goal in. Their top scorers aren't scoring and their defense is hardly playing at all. But the big reason why he's being criticized in the Montreal media right now is because he cannot speak French.

A lot of people are asking what the big damn deal is. And really, I can't blame them. Understanding why a coach must speak both French and English to get along in Montreal involves learning a little Quebec history - and it involves considering the social ramifications of having an Anglophone running le blue, blanc, et rouge. So, let's look at it, then.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Frank Burns vs. Rick Santorum

You might have heard that Rick Santorum almost won the Iowa caucuses. This man is a paragon of Christian conservatism - that is to say he's a racist, homophobic, Islamophobic hypocrite. So, in honour of that, I present a little quiz:

Monday, January 2, 2012

My beef with the Winter Classic

I remember when they announced the NHL Winter Classic. I was pretty excited. It was a great idea - an outdoor game in a huge venue, giving tens of thousands of fans to watch a hockey game. Buffalo vs. Pittsburgh, and the game was pretty awesome too. Fantastic ending, even if the snow had gotten thick enough that it was tough to see Sidney Crosby's OT goal. Regardless, it worked for me.

But the Winter Classic is currently on, and by all signs on Twitter is coming to a wild conclusion. And I could care less. And let me show you why:

Building a community: atheism isn't enough

Jason has a particularly long post on dissent. Stephanie Zvan concurs, and elaborates. But I think it all comes down to what Maryam Namazie said regarding this issue:
After all just because someone’s an atheist doesn’t necessarily mean they are pro-equality, anti-war, socialist, secularist, and so on...when we only focus on atheism or ex-Muslim or Muslim or … we miss the class, political and social dimensions that are most crucial in determining our allies and our enemies.