October 31, 2012

REAL Horror!

Scaring kids existentially tonight: I'm answering the door in track pants and white undershirt that lets my belly poke out the bottom, yelling "LOOK AT YOUR FUTURE!!!"

Seems to work best on the teenage girls who are too old to go trick-or-treating, but are dressing up for it any way.


posted by Thursday at 6:25 pm 0 comments

October 25, 2012

A Puzzle

There is a certain joy in predictions - psychics have known about it for years (HA!).  It lets you play with odds, or apply hope to probability, or to exploit others who don't quite know what "probability" means.

It also lets you ignore facts as "only a possibility, and even that's in the future" if you want.

Thing is, some people are paid a great deal to deliver those odds.  Or even harder, change "there is a chance of" to straight up "yes" or "no".  This can be good or bad: some things, like football predictions, are essentially harmless outside of actual gambling addiction and the possibility of paying off debts by doing favours for local rough boys.  In other things, however, the stakes can be somewhat higher.

Like in earthquake prediction.

It is currently impossible to predict earthquakes.  It can't be done.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is either seriously deluded (their source being Oomgurk, Chief Scientist of the Atlantean royal court) or they are running a scam and are about to hit you up for cash.  It's simply impossible.

That hasn't stopped an Italian court from convicting six geophysicists and one former politician of manslaughter for the deaths of 309 people.  By earthquake.  That they didn't cause.  Seriously.

I live in an earthquake zone, and have all my life.  Scientists have known for decades that there is going to be a massive earthquake happening here at some point in the future - going as far to say that one is hugely overdue.  In geological time, of course; but still!  And do you know what people here are doing about it?

Having their kids hide under desks.

Yep, the same defensive tactic as was prescribed for thermonuclear war (except for the t-shirts).  Granted, it seems more likely to have a function other than "distract the young 'uns while the adults grab water and bunker down", but that really about it for earthquake preparation for the vast majority of people who life in the area.  Even if someone DID say an earthquake was imminent, so what?  We've been hearing that for all of our lives!  Until they can say "a major earthquake will happen tomorrow at 3:25 PM", most of us are going to be listening with half an ear at best.  Even then, we won't start packing (if we ever do) until noon, and probably wouldn't make it to the end of the driveway because of the raging debate over how many Tassimo packets to bring to the emergency shelter.

And for this, scientists can get six years in prison?  Tell you what, Italian courts: since earthquakes are described as Acts of God, why don't you do something useful and apply your expertise there?


posted by Thursday at 8:20 pm 0 comments

October 21, 2012

New Blogroll Item

The pictures are good; the writing is perfect.  It's a fine little time-waster that WILL make your day better, I guarantee.



posted by Thursday at 9:19 pm 0 comments

One of the Few Times I'll Say This...

posted by Thursday at 3:50 pm 0 comments

See? Nightmares CAN Come True!

I first learned locksmithing from my stepdad when he needed someone to sit in the store when he was doing other jobs, and couldn't afford anyone else.  I got a grand sum of $100 a month for around 60 hours work.  Eh, it was interesting, so that was fine by me.  Plus, how else was I going to find out we were tied when it came to cribbage (seventy-two games, finishing our series at 38 apiece, including skunks)?

That was a little more than 20 years ago, now; but I still remember one clear fear dominating my time, and I thought of it as soon as I saw a pin kit for the first time.

In short: don't drop your pin kit.  Don't lift it when it's not latched.  And never, EVER buy pins that aren't colour coded.

Still, nice to have my fears confirmed.


posted by Thursday at 3:01 pm 0 comments

October 17, 2012

Tricksy NHLses...

(Hey, I've called Bettman worse things.)

No more.  Final offer.  They weren't giving anything until the players made a counter offer.

Funny how 24 hours (and a pinhole camera) can make a difference, isn't it?

The discovery that the NHL hired the Frank Luntz corporation (Luntz Global) to massage their message isn't a shock for anyone who has been following...  well, any labour negotiations, really, but sports ones in particular.  But the insider scoop might be a revelation to more casual fans, or those who don't particularly care about that side of the game and just want top level hockey back.

We all know that both sides have been pushing to win the support of the fans, and the NHL owners were WAY behind in that field, with the last lockout still fresh in people's minds.  This time, they weren't able to spin the "greedy players" angle anywhere near so well; when that is combined with the well known fact that the NHL totally dominated the last negotiation, getting almost everything they wanted, and the sympathy was going to be tough to win.  The players, after all, are who the fans want to see.

The owners, on the other hand, had Daryl Katz.  The players really should send him a bouquet or something.

What Katz has realized is that fans vote, and voters really should like you if you're going to ask them to give you money poured out of a dump truck AFTER a deal was negotiated...  Those fans who think they don't matter to the owners, guess what?  Here's proof otherwise.

So knowing you're screwed pretty savagely in the public relations battle leaves fewer options: they could have let rumours and speculation fly around for five days until their next scheduled meeting (which was to be Friday), or they could try getting ahead of the curve and releasing their own proposal despite their insistence they would do no such thing.

As far as a PR move, it was the right thing to do: with the full proposal being released today, people can see for themselves what the offer is.  As for the proposal itself, it's a damn sight better than the utterly ludicrous thing they initially handed out, saying "take it or leave it", a statement they strenuously avoided this time around (apparently, that didn't poll well with fans).

The offer has plenty the players won't like, but that's no surprise: successful negotiation means no one's completely happy.  As a fan, however, there's quite a bit there I like, but the devil is, as always, in the details.  Negotiating in public isn't something the owners like doing, but their hand was forced by this PR leak.  Now the players are negotiating a deal that the NHL can put their spin on, declaring themselves to be the proactive ones.

And for now, they're right.


posted by Thursday at 9:23 am 0 comments

October 14, 2012


Hey, what else could I be feeling?  I get into frequent conversations with religious folks, and one of the issues that frequently comes up is Hell: does it exist and, if so, why?  And the responses have been, as you might imagine, varied.

At one extreme, Hell not only didn't exist but was against orthodoxy.
At the other, not only did Hell exist, but only a very few people could avoid it.

In between was the belief that Hell was the extermination of consciousness; the waiting room for Heaven, but without God's presence; the last effort by God to convert unbelievers; and most popularly, an eternity of torment a la Dante.

Unsurprisingly, the milder versions have been promoted by people who I was talking to in person, while more extreme versions has been pushed by folks online, that have little chance of meeting me.  This is the same tactic most trolls take, which gives one pause to think about the potential validity of their views.

So call me thankful for a documentary made by Christian Kevin Miller called Hellbound? (that includes the question mark).  It is a study of what Hell means to various people around the world, but sticking to the Christian theology.  Obviously, he is pushing his own point of view, but it is an idea that stirs up a LOT of negative commentary from the hard core evangelicals, if not from the hard core metal heads.

This should be fun!


posted by Thursday at 8:29 am 0 comments

October 13, 2012

I Want This

And you may not know it yet, but you do too.

Trust me.


posted by Thursday at 12:52 pm 0 comments

October 12, 2012

A Small Giant?

This is likely to have come from a giant squid, though it's nowhere near as large as they can get.

Also: is there any possible way that this isn't the coolest thing to find on a beach since the Fraser Delta had Bobbing for Limbs week?


posted by Thursday at 12:43 pm 0 comments

October 10, 2012

On the Internet, You Can Be Anything...

...So why did you choose "stupid"?
-Something more people need to hear

Picture this:

You're at a convention, held by folks that some people find controversial.  A lot of people disagree with your views, but not inside the convention: here, you're quite safe.

As one of the speakers, you give a talk you wrote up just for the occasion, and it goes over well; everything's good, and when that meeting is over you greet some well-wishers say thanks and head back to your room.  Everything's good.

Until you notice someone followed you, and he's holding a gun.

He wasn't noticed until you pressed the call elevator button, and now he's right behind you telling you how much he liked your speech and how he thinks you're really great.  His gun hand never comes up, and he doesn't raise his voice.  In fact, he doesn't seem aggressive in any way.  He seems happy and smiling and really, genuinely pleased to see you - even if he is a bit nervous, and possibly a little drunk.

And when the elevator comes, he steps on with you.

He doesn't bother pressing a floor, but does keep talking about how much he liked your speech, and by the way, he really likes your writing which he's been following online for a long time.  And do you know what?  He really likes you, too, especially now that he's seen you in person, up close like this.  Did you know you're really cute in person, up close like this?  Because you are.

His gun hand never comes up, and he never raises his voice, and he doesn't seem aggressive in any way.  He clearly doesn't think he's doing anything wrong, and hey: can he ask you just one question...?  Please?

Here's my question: is there anything in his behaviour that strikes you as potentially dangerous?  Any alarm bells going off?  Then, congratulations!  You're a woman!

Funny story:

This has happened, and at a convention of skeptics.  I've been away from blogging for nearly two years, but I like to think of the online skeptic groups as "my people" - these are the ones I most consistently identify with, despite the wide-ranging (and often rambling) fields I wander through.  I tend to like them, despite and because of disagreements in approach and ideas that crop up - the reliance on logic and snark usually gets  entertaining results, especially when blended with politics, which frankly needs way more humour in real life.

Which is why it's stung me to see a stories about women being harassed at skeptical conventions.  That alone was bad enough, but what has been shocking is the astounding reaction when these women have complained about inappropriate behaviour: they'd get attacked.  Not in person, of course, but online.  The way would be led by so-called men whose mission in life seems to be huddling in misogynistic echo chambers full of desperate idiots, gathering digital bile to spew at imagined slights to "manhood", whatever their fevered imaginations define it as being.

You know: what atheists like to laugh at when the poor, persecuted Christians in America bemoan their outcast state?

Yeah.  Same thing.

Those folks who know the story know the blogger in question had to stop writing because of the constant bombardment of insulting and barbarous attacks on her, and we lost a voice of reason to hate.

Her crime?  To say that following a strange woman onto an empty elevator while trying to chat her up was NOT the way to win her over.  Some of the guy's "defenders" (I don't know if he even knew what was happening online) will no doubt be outraged that I put a gun into his hand, but it was done for a reason: so you would feel uncomfortable.

I am not a particularly strong man.  I don't work out, I don't have a physical job, I'm not naturally big, and I'm a long ways away from my theoretical prime-of-life.  But I am physically stronger than 95% of the women you know, and that is something most men simply don't think of.

Unless you have been a single woman or small man (I didn't hit my growth spurt until grade 12), then the idea of potential threat is just not something that will occur to you until you encounter someone who has had it as part of their lives.  Now obviously, this does not mean that everyone is an enemy - but it does add the possibility.

Ask Western soldiers stationed in Afghanistan as community liaisons how it can colour your world.  Ask them how they react when they see someone following them through the streets, or what they think when they're alone and a stranger approaches them.

Hint: it's not "Oh, here's a charming person about to engage in some light conversation!"

Remember when I said that the women I'm talking about haven't been attacked in person?  A couple of them have had their addresses published in open forums on expressly misogynistic websites.  Can you think of any reason for that to happen other than to intimidate?  Again, picture the home addresses of Seal Team Six getting published on a site dedicated to supporting al-Quaida.

But instead of taking her advice on how to actually approach women in the real world (ie. not following them into empty elevators chatting them up) and moving on, the pathetic folks suffering their imaginary wounds hounded her until she left.  The guy who liked her speech?  He's not going to hear another one from her.  Likewise, no more of her writing is going to appear online and she's really, really not going to go to another convention for him to try talking to her again, but with a more acceptable and understanding approach this time.

Total losers in this unnecessary and hyperbolic exchange?  Him, her, us, and the idiots who think they won.  But that's pretty much a given, isn't it?

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posted by Thursday at 12:30 pm 8 comments

October 06, 2012

It's the Unexpected

After eventually coming to the realization that employer seems to want me around for more than a year at a time (can't imagine why), I decided to open a locksmith shop here in Small Town, Canada.  It's been interesting and surprisingly successful: in the first two weeks, I didn't cut a single standard house or car key, but did open a jukebox and a pool table, replaced the keys to a clock, rekeyed a trailer and cracked a safe that had been sitting in someone's attic for years.

Despite being in town and operating for a few years, the storefront has definitely brought people in - even after a couple of months, I hear a lot of "I didn't know you were here" comments.  This morning I also got a "Hey, man; I'm looking for Bryan Adams' Waking Up the Neighbours CD, okay?" comment, but hopefully that's just an aberration.

Something's going to have to be done about the front door, though: maybe ten percent of the people who walk up to it can't figure out that they need to grab and turn the door knob in order to get through.

On the other hand, I suppose that is proof positive they could use professional help.

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posted by Thursday at 10:00 pm 0 comments

October 05, 2012

Politics. Why Did it Have to be Politics?

The impulse is back.  Because I couldn't stand to write based on impulse.

Originally, I was going to talk about politicos North of the border and some profound stupidity, but instead my attention has been turned aside by Facebook, of all things.  David Gorski (that's Orac at Respectful Insolence in the links off to the right there for any new folks) put up a link to a post on the New York Times site mocking the famous Undecided Voter.  His position was that anyone who hasn't been able to decide at this point simply hasn't been paying attention.

A follower (hate that term!  Sounds so zombiesque!) replied that he wasn't going to make a decision until the day of the election itself.  My own response to that was surprise that after three years of being in power for the incumbent and two years of campaigning by the challenger (a horrible, stupid, and wasteful method of electioneering, but that's for later) he didn't have enough information to make a decision.

It's actually understandable why not, I suppose.  But still, kind of shocking to see.

His response was straightforward: it's no one's business who he votes for other than the person who counts the ballots, and that person won't find out until he casts his vote.  So there would be no actual advantage to declaring who his vote is for before then - in fact, the only people who would be happy with it would be:

A) other folks who had made up their minds so they can confirm their own bias;
B) pollsters.

Neither one did it please him to make happy.  Again, a perfectly valid point (especially B).  Who's business is it who he wishes to vote for?  It's not like any one else deserves to know!

Which brings us to politics.

Elections are not like other opinions: had the decision been about a range of as-yet-unreleased ice cream flavours or favourite superhero or the name of a sports team.  What is being decided is who gets to hold political power over every one in the country.  New laws will be introduced; tax rates and possibly even collection will be changed; military might will be in different hands.

This isn't just true of federal elections - it's true of all elections.  (Well, except maybe the "military might" thing - presumably your local mayor doesn't actually hold that much sway over international events.)  It is true that people tend to be happier when they are surrounded with "their own kind" - in this case not so much racially and culturally, but philosophically.  We are simply more comfortable when life is easier, and not being confronted (however benignly) with differing ideas makes our lives easier.

As the New Yorker cartoon put it, on the internet, nobody knows you're a dog: all people have to go on is your words, and those are only the ones you decide to put out there.  Those words don't have to include anything but what you want other people to hear, and if you discuss politics, then you can't be rejected from whatever group because of your appearance or wealth or sex or anything else.

Not so real life.  In real life, you have to live with a whole lot of other people, and those people may have different ideas on how to govern and be governed; what is acceptable behaviour and what isn't; who gets what benefits and who gets them taken away.

Which brings us back to politics.

Who gets to wield that power, who gets the right to make those decisions, comes down to the choice of a whole lot of individuals, the particular individual I was talking to included.  And if no one knows who you support, and no one lets you know who they support, then neither you nor they have the opportunity to explain the reasoning behind that choice.  And without that, you might not be able to save them from a rash decision supporting their candidate, or they may not have the chance to explain what you missed about yours.

To steal from a Canadian philosopher, even if you think the decision is between the lesser of two evils, if you don't vote, that means you're okay with people voting for the greater evil.  Which makes you Pro-Evil.

Don't be Pro-Evil: talk to people about your vote.  Because if you don't, you just might wish you did.


posted by Thursday at 4:14 pm 2 comments