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Writer's Block: Conversion Rate [Jun. 17th, 2009|09:43 am]
[music |"Bark at the Moon", Ozzy Osbourne]

Writer's BlockPreviousPrevious NextNext

Have you ever considered converting to another religion? <input ... >

I've not only considered it, I've done it. As noted elsewhere in this LJ (which I haven't updated in far too long), I was raised in a mainstream Protestant Christian denomination, underwent baptism, served as a church organist for several years, joined Young Life in high school. etc.

Then I went off to college, and started seriously questioning a lot of the ideas I'd been raised with, the religious ones among them. And it turns out that I had some serious problems with the Christian worldview. After several years of self-examination, research, reflection, and investigation of what for me turned out to be spiritual dead-ends, I wound up Heathen. This does not mean that I've stopped the process of questioning - as several folks on my f-list can attest, I'll still point out issues, absurdities, and contradictions even if they're ones I profess... :D

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(no subject) [Dec. 16th, 2008|08:55 am]
[mood |coldcold]
[music |"Gimme Some Slack", The Cars]

Some years ago, a friend of mine serving in the military sent me a copy of Skippy's List  - aka "The 213 things that Skippy is no longer allowed to do in the U.S. Army". The list is hysterical, and I've long treasured #87  - "If the thought of something makes me giggle for longer than 15 seconds, I am to assume that I am not allowed to do it." Skippy now sells this one on a T-Shirt - I may have to order one next time I need to buy a T-shirt...

Well, turns out that Skippy now has a full-on blog/website, and one of the occasional features is a List from some other profession. I've got several friends who are or were in the medical field, so I suggest popping over to the entry for the ER Admitting List...
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So Far, So Good [Dec. 4th, 2008|08:42 am]
[mood |amusedamused]
[music |"Stigmata", Ministry]

Well, we got a Yule Tree this year. Our senior cats have seen this phenomenon before, but Neil was pretty young - and the three new kitties have never had a water bowl with such an over-the-top garnish before. Last year, between socializing the kittens and having the garage be a complete disaster, we never got around to digging out the Yule decorations, and just lived vicariously through other people's light shows.

This year, however, we made it to an IKEA just before the holidays, and laid in a supply of star-shaped LED lights and Swedish woven straw ornaments. And people wondered why we packed such large suitcases for the BlizzCon trip...

At this point, the tree has been up since Sunday with no major incidents. The light strings on the lower branches have been knocked loose a couple of times, but the tree remains upright. We're refilling the stand regularly to minimize the risk to any cat who insists on drinking from it (we'd have to use epoxy or a welding torch to put together something truly cat-proof), and we haven't hung any of the other ornaments yet - so we'll see what happens once everything is in place. We've got plastic ornaments that do a very good job of looking like glass balls, and we'll keep the straw to the upper levels of the tree - but the kittens are amazing climbers, so we'll see if that works at all or if we just need to treat ornaments less as family keepsakes and heirlooms and more as seasonal items that can be discarded when too obviously gnawed on...  One handy thing about ornaments made out of grass - they're renewable :)
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Civics Quiz [Nov. 24th, 2008|01:54 pm]
[mood |melancholymelancholy]
[music |"Stone Dead Forever", Motorhead]

I've seen the news item floating around, and I've seen in mentioned in a couple of LJs, but here's a link to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute's Civics Quiz.

This is the one that the original 2500 randomly selected respondents scored an average of 49% on, and elected officials scored 44% on.

For the record, I scored 93% without ever having taken basic economics. I'm not sure whether to be insufferably smug, or scared.

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Not Dead Yet [Nov. 19th, 2008|10:14 am]
[mood |annoyedannoyed]
[music |"Sweet Emotion", Aerosmith]

... I've just been terribly distracted lately.  A broken metatarsal bone will do that, as will ruminating about the political fallout from the latest election, dealing with my own incipient flakiness, dealing with the flakiness of others, playing an online MMO, and dealing with some internal conflict and general ennui and lassitude.

The odd part is, I haven't felt like writing about much of this stuff, even under lock and key. It's just been kinda swirling around, waiting for something to spark the urge to pound on a keyboard for a while. And what was the straw that finally broke this particular camel's back?

A story in the Colorado Independent about the annual Christmas Boycott that Focus on the Family's flack engage in. Sigh. Of all the stupid things...

But sometimes it's much easier to focus on a stupid little thing than it is to deal with what's really bothering me, and this is a perfect example, since it's a symptom of the same condition on a grander scale. Certain sects of Christianity love to play the victim card and pontificate about how they're being 'persecuted' for their beliefs (just like the Martyrs! Except, of course, that nobody actually gets crucified or thrown to  lions, or even fired from a job, although they know this guy whose brother's uncle's second cousin once removed...). And this is the stupid little thing that has gotten under my skin already, even though it's not even Thanksgiving yet. The so-called "War on Christmas" is a classic red herring, designed to play up the victim angle and allow wealthy suburban Christians to feel a little frisson of combativeness over something utterly trivial. And conversely, it allows those of us on the other end of the stick to feel much the same thing. In a season that is allegedly about family, community, rebirth, the promise of life returning (or Life Eternal, if you're Christian), we've got a lovely little border war over social niceties that leaves everyone feeling just a little more smug and self-righteous than they did before, when simply being polite would have left everyone feeling much better.

I have no objection to Christians wishing each other a Merry Christmas. I have no objection to secular folks using the phrase, either. I likewise have no problem with holiday wishes that specifically mention Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Ramadan, Agnostica, or Wintereenmas. What I do have a problem with is people demanding that their specific festival be recognized above all others. For those who work with the public, a generic "Happy Holidays" is the safest route when wishing a complete stranger well. It's classic Utilitarianism - the greatest good for the greatest number of people is the proper ethical path to take, and proffering an inoffensive holiday greeting to every random stranger is a safer bet than trying to guess who's Christian, who's Pagan, who's a video gamer, a Seinfeld fan, or a Muslim, and tailoring one's response (and taking the chance of getting it wrong).

Most minority religions recognize that few people in the mainstream recognize their particular festivals, and don't expect to be greeted with a hearty "Blessed Solstice" or "Glad Yule" whenever they go shopping (well, maybe the latter at IKEA).Similarly, most of us recognize that the bulk of the U.S. is culturally Christian (leaving aside the question of actual belief), and most people grow up saying "Merry Christmas".  Depending on the circumstance, I'm likely to simply reply with the same greeting, or if I'm feeling more open about things, I'll reply with something Heathen-specific in reply (in a sort of "since you've offered me the blessings of your God, I'll reciprocate by offering you the blessings of mine...). But I'm not about to demand that the greeters at Wal-Mart recognize the historical significance of Yule, and greet all of their culturally diverse customer base with a greeting that's only significant to a tiny fraction of the populace.

What we're seeing here is a microcosm of a much larger perceived "war" on cultural hegemony. The majority is starting to realize that it's only holding on to its majority status by a narrow margin anymore, and those margins shift at an alarming rate. We see it with the national debate over immigration (both legal and non), with language arts educaion (immersion? ESL?), with science education, with population demographics (gentrification? Sinister plot to disenfranchise? Reconquista? Yuppification/Stepfordization?), and so on and so forth.  I don't have answers for any of these questions (except to point out that I remain an unrepentant pluralist with muliculturalist leanings) (damn pinkos...), but I do know that I appreciate the effort made by some companies to be a little more inclusive at the holiday season.

Especially since they're still using decorations that have symbolic meaning in my particular minority religion, even if they don't realize it.

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(no subject) [Nov. 4th, 2008|09:19 pm]
McCain's delivering his concession speech as I type. And I'm breathing a sigh of relief. As an independent voter, I've been on the receiving end of a remarkable amount of propaganda on both sides of national, state, and local races - and now, it's finally over. The Republican campaign materials that i got were remarkable for the amount of FUD used to try and sway me. While there were certain bits of propaganda from the other side that did the same thing, the overall tone of the Democratic material that I got was one of hope and promise (even when it was a little light on details).

Here's hoping that the campaign managers 4 years from now learn from this, and decide to take the ethical high road when shaping their propaganda efforts - peddling fear didn't work this time around, so maybe we can get a high road campaign on both sides next time around. Instead of character assassination, maybe we'll get some discussion about the issues.

And maybe we'll get the government we were all hoping for this time around.
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BlizzCon 2008, Day 2 [Oct. 11th, 2008|11:04 pm]
So today didn't start out all that well...

On our way to breakfast, we got rear-ended just before we turned into the restaurant's parking lot, and instead of sitting down to a nice early breakfast before heading back over to BlizzCon, we wound up exchanging insurance information with a woman in town from Iowa. Turns out she'd dropped off other members of her family at the Con and was on her way elsewhere when she decided to accelerate inappropriately while reading a map and smacked into our rented Buick. Fortunately, there was only a little cosmetic damage to our car, and no injuries - but her mini-van will be a little more expensive to fix (the front hood is noticeably off-kilter). We called the rental agency's roadside assistance number with the basics, and they told us to get a police report, so we called the local cops. A unit eventually rolled up, and when the officers got out of their car, one of them recognized the BlizzCon badges we had on, and told us that if we were Horde, he couldn't talk to us...                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Honestly, that made our day.

He also told us that Anaheim PD did not file reports for non-injury traffic incidents, so we called the details in to the rental agency, parked and went in and had our (slightly delayed) breakfast, after which we headed back to the Con. By this time, the doors were long since open, so no lines to stand in getting in. We sat in on a couple of panels, got some more hands-on gameplay time with all three of the demo products, and then settled in for the closing ceremonies, whicn included comedy by Patton Oswalt (the voice of Remy from Ratatouille), a performance by Blizzard's own house metal band, Level 89 Elite Tauren Chieftain, and a live performance by the symphonic ensemble "Video Games Live" - which included guest appearances by several well known session musicians and talents who were involved in creating the music for Blizzard products over the years. I'll be honest - I had no idea that David Arkenstone had composed the tavern music in World of Warcraft, so tonight's concert was a bonus, as his band sat in for a symphonic medley and then performed the tavern music live! The final piece was "Lament of the Highborne", which is evidently becoming a Blizzcon staple - it was performed last year, and at this year's World Wide Invitational.  All in all, a very cool evening to wind down two days of gaming fun and nerdy goodness...

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BlizzCon 2008, Day 1 [Oct. 10th, 2008|10:11 pm]
[music |The Disneyland Fireworks show across the street]

So - this morning, we got up and thought maybe we'd see if the Starbucks in the hotel lobby had anything edible for breakfast...

No such luck. 300 other Geeks had already had the same idea, and the line was halfway across the lobby. We turned around, hopped in the rental car (a ginormous Buick Lacrosse) and grabbed a quick bite at Jack In the Box. Once we got back and ate, I sent a quick note to my co-workers about some of the items that were being advertised for sale in the BlizzCon catalogue, promising to check back around lunchtime to see what they had to say. Shouldn't have worried about it, actually - we headed over about an hour early, figuring that there would be a line, and sure enough - the line went all the way around the Convention Center, into the Arena, back out and around the Arena, down the block and around the corner. People kept walking by and doing double-takes when they realized that they'd reached a corner, not the end of the line. A couple of locals got in line behind us, and we spent some time chatting about game play, the number of people in anime t-shirts, and the GameStop truck advertising "Wrath of the LIch King" pre-orders that kept driving by...

The guys clued us in about the store - they have a tendency to sell out of popular items fairly quickly unless you get there first thing, so we decided to head for the one in the specific convention hall where the opening ceremonies were scheduled, which turned out to be a good plan. We were about halfway through the line when the opening ceremonies started, which means we'd been standing in line outside for about an hour and 10 minutes, then standing  in line inside the convention hall for another hour... and it was yet another hour before we got to the counter to place our order for t-shirts, miscellaneous tchotchkes, and calendars... After all of that, it was a positive relief to go sit down snack on an apple and some granola bars, and listen to the World of Warcraft class abilities update panel. After that, we wandered across into the second of the three halls, pausing to check out several vendor booths (including one where the cast of "The Guild" were signing pictures and selling DVDs!). We signed up for a demonstration of the upcoming collectible miniatures version of WOW, and I picked up an advance copy of the starter kit, plus one for one of my co-workers. Unfortunately, they're limiting purchases - but the official release should be announced any day.

After that, we sat in on the StarCraft II gameplay panel, which has me completely sold on picking up a copy once it ships. They're going to be releasing it as a trilogy of games, actually, in order to do each of the factions justice. I'm also convinced that this is a step toward a "Wordl of StatCraft" type MMORPG: No confirmation of that from Blizzard, of course, but it sure looks like a step in that direction to me. We grabbed some dinner, and came back in time to get some gameplay on both StarCraft II (so far, what was demoed is an updated version of Starcraft with better graphics) and Wrath of the Lich King (we ran around as Gnome Death Knights just to irritate people... :D). Meanwhile, the costume contest was being broadcast on the big screens, along with the dance contests, the /silly (joke telling) contests, and the singing contests. Becky got some good shots of several costume contest entrants, who were posing afterwards. The winner was an industrial designer who had not only done a good Dranei costume, but had also put together a mechanical Riding Turtle mount (operated by a joystick concealed in the saddle). The host was totally blown away by this, and convinced the winner to let him mount up and give it a shot....

Tomorrow's agenda includes getting some play time with Diablo III, which had lines out the wazoo all day, as well as some more panels and the closing ceremonies, which include a couple of musical performances. Along with another probable hour in line in the morning - but this time, I'm bringing along my Nintendo DS...     

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Nerdgasm [Oct. 9th, 2008|10:43 pm]

So we made it safely to Anaheim...

BlizzCon updateCollapse )BlizzCon updateCollapse )
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(no subject) [Sep. 5th, 2008|09:40 am]
[music |"Deutscher Girls", Adam and the Ants]

So it looks like we'll be heading up to Estes Park this Saturday for the Longs Peak Scottish/Irish festival. My usual MO is to head for the Clan Tent to check in with the Buchanans, then check the schedule to figure out what looks interesting next...

I usually suggest to the local Heathens that anyone else who is going look around the baseball fields for me - I'm kind of hard to miss at 6'2", long blonde hair, big red beard, wearing a kilt, but for some reason I tend to blend in a  little more in this crowd... :)

For those not familiar with the Buchanan "Target" tartan, here's a small sample:

Not quite as eyebending as some of the tartans out there, but I think I'll still go with a basic black shirt - nothing else in my wardrobe has a prayer of coordinating.
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