Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Curiouser and Curiouser

It's really easy for me to lose touch with news about the exploration of space. I avoid news on TV, and turn off any political news when it comes on the radio (because I'd rather be sane than well-informed), so I tend not to hear about developments in the field of space science unless I purposely go looking for it.

In a brief burst on NPR this morning between uninteresting blurbs, I learned that NASA's new Mars rover, Curiosity, is expected to touch down on Mars this weekend. From the Washington Post coverage:

It’s the most ambitious, the most costly ($2.5 billion) and the most high-stakes mission ever to another planet. It was also described last week by the agency’s top scientist, former astronaut John M. Grunsfeld, as “the most important NASA mission of the decade.”

I watched Carl Sagan's COSMOS religiously as a kid, and still revisit the show every few years. In the episode "Blues for a Red Planet," Sagan imagined a future where millions of people would be glued to their television sets, watching through camera eyes as robots explore Mars. Sadly, that hasn't come to pass - yet. I'll be keeping fingers crossed for Curiosity - I still haven't given up on the possibility of life on Mars. OK, so maybe no thoats or tarks or red princesses...but it would be cool if there were something there.

Here's a good article about it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Lamentations of the Flame Princess

I'm completely geeking out over this European RPG company. I won't go into it here but I did review one of their gorgeous and imaginative products on the Gonen's World blog. If you're a gamer, check it out!

Monday, July 23, 2012

"Bad" Bad Guys

I've been reading DC's Flashpoint, thanks to a loan from Joebeslaus, and that's got me back into the superhero groove for a while.

One thing the Cape City setting has always been missing is more really great supervillains. I think Penny Dreadful is about played out for now, and can languish in prison for a while (incidentally, like most great super-ideas, Penny appears to be taken). As we think up some new Cape City Villains, some cautionary examples of really dumb supervillains might be in order. 

Here's a great article on some of the worst supervillains of all time, and here's an earlier one on the same blog. They include such losers as Mr. Polka Dot, Stiltman, the Purple Piledriver, Mister Doll, the Porcupine, Crazy Quilt, the Calculator, and Kite-Man...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Christian Left

I didn't even know this group existed. What a liberation. For years I have struggled to be a person of faith while simulteneously being disgusted by the actions of the most vocal Christians. I have never believed good people go to hell and I have never believed gay people shouldn't get married and I have never believed the government should make laws based on religion.

Honestly, I thought I was alone.

Here is a great quote from their web site:
We are The Christian Left. We’re all around you. We’re among the people. Take a look. We’re part of the Body of Christ. We’re Christians. We’re Liberal. We make no apologies. In fact Jesus' ways are “Liberal.” That’s why He was killed. The Pharisees and the Sadducees were the conservatives of their time. This is clear.
...and another:
Unfortunately in this country today, we have a sort of spiritual revival of the Pharisees --people who don’t want to practice love, grace, or compassion, but would rather try to bury people under legalistic demands that they themselves aren’t capable of keeping. Culturally crusading right-wing Christians have substituted the Gospel of Jesus Christ for a Gospel of Morality. They've made it more about following rules than loving God (having a relationship with Christ) and loving their fellow brothers and sisters.  This is unacceptable. It's exactly what Jesus spoke out against. People are stuck in the Gospel of Morality. They are drained by the shame it produces. Far too many are repulsed by this false religious system they can't live up to.  This insanity must stop. When we walk with Jesus, he refines us as he sees fit, by his Spirit. Proponents of the Gospel of Morality don’t get that on some level. Jesus didn’t say “Get refined then follow me.” He said “Follow Me … and get refined, the way only I can refine.” Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:2; Jeremiah 18:6; Romans 8:28; Matthew 4:19
...and another: 
“Many on the Christian Right are fond of posing the question WWJD?-- What would Jesus do? I’d like to remind them what Jesus DID do: He cared for the poor. He did not condemn the woman caught in adultery. He prayed alone. He commanded us to love our enemies. He preached peace. He ate, drank, and lived with ‘tax collectors and sinners’ -- the lowlifes and outcasts of his day, while reserving his condemnation for the religious leaders who, from a place of privilege, imposed their legalism and literalism on the people they were responsible for leading.
...and finally, this quote from Billy Graham, which I was staggered by. I can't believe he even said this. What a nice surprise:
"I don't want to see religious bigotry in any form. It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it."
— Rev. Billy Graham, Parade, 1981  
I'm not here to preach to anyone. I'm well aware that almost none of my friends think you can both have a brain and be a Christian. It stopped bothering me long ago. But I no longer feel alone. I haven't seen or heard anything that made me feel good about religion in years. What a revelation.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Repairman Jack

I started a new job recently and my boss turned out to be a big fan of Jim Butcher and other paranormal fiction. I told her I'm and old buddy of his from high school and maybe that helped get me the job, heh. But she recommended F. Paul Wilson's "Repairman Jack" novels and lent me The Tomb, first in the series. At first I started reading it to please my boss, but I got hooked fast!

Repairman Jack is one of the most likeable antiheroes I've come across in a long time. He lives off the grid, and makes his living by fixing people's problems. He's not afraid of a little violence, is paranoid about the government, and has a strong smart-ass streak, but he's got a heart of gold and a righteous sense of justice that transcends the courts. Of course, it's tough to go to the police when your problem is a horrible monster, a family curse, or some other supernatural trouble. Who do you call then? Not Ghostbusters, but Repairman Jack.

A Repairman Jack film is in development. It's just an internet rumor but they say Nathan Fillion is one of the actors being considered for the part. Trust me, he'd be perfect. 

I can't wait to continue this series!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

E-Gads.

Here's a link to an interesting post by Space: 1889's Frank Chadwick about ebooks surpassing hardcover sales. Not sure what to think about it. You?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Hoodless Joe

A few weeks ago, as Lynette and I were driving home from a Burning Wheel session, a fellow in front of us at a stoplight backed into my car. My hood crunched and popped up and there was damage to my left headlight. The latch assembly of the hood was destroyed so that even if the hood wasn't bent, it wouldn't close.

All in all, minor damage. No one was hurt. No big deal in the grand scheme of things.

Of course, the guy took off. He fled the scene. But I got his license plate number. We called the police, they took a report, and long story short, they caught the guy. He admitted everything. He said he got scared and ran off because he didn't have insurance. My liability policy isn't going to cover the damage. So, in a word, I'm screwed.

I decided to call the guy and offer him the chance to fix my car. If my car was fixed prior to the court date, I told him, I'd have no reason to push for court-ordered restitution. He apologized profusely (of course, he was caught - it's not like he would have tracked me down and apologized otherwise) but seemed to indicate there was little he was going to be able to do about it. A friend of my mom's helped me take the old hood off (the car is still drivable, and my headlight even works, though it's cracked, so the car is even legal), and he'll help me put all the parts back on if I can get the parts (a hood, a latch assembly). But I don't really have the wherewithal or know-how to get out to Pick-n-Pull and take those things off some old Chevy by myself. I also don't have a way to move a whole hood.

We had a court date today, but the guy didn't show up - the case was continued. In the meantime, I'm going to have to pay someone to go out and get me those parts and bring them back to me. But my regular mechanic (not the guy who helped me take the hood off) isn't answering the phone. He quoted me $450 for the whole job. I called Pick-n-Pull and the parts cost a grand total of $58. I told him I knew what the parts cost, and I wanted to clarify that he wanted to charge about $390 in labor. Never heard from him again....

So, until I figure out what to do, if you see a guy driving around the KC Metro area in a silver Chevy Lumina with no hood, it's me. Give me a wave!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

It's Not You, Facebook - It's Me.

I have deleted my facebook account (again) and while I will probably start it back up again sometime in the near future (there are too many people I'll lose contact with, and, after all, I giggled like a schoolboy when one of my personal heroes, Andy Hopp, sent me a friend request - that's kinda hard to walk away from), but I'm not going to until I can learn how to 1) behave myself, and 2) ignore others who are bugging me. Frankly, I just don't think I'm mature enough for facebook.

I have an unpopular opinion that I can't prove about facebook status updates; they're a perfect avenue for passive aggression or actual aggression, and this is what many people use it for, whether they really know it or not. The favorite pasttime seems to be to post something purposely provocative, then crying foul when someone is upset by it ("what? I'm just giving my opinion!"). Well, your opinion sucks and it pisses me off. So there. I'm tired of looking at it. Even more annoying are those generalized, vague posts that are clearly and angrily aimed at a specific person, written in such a way as to garner support from sympathetic friends. I find it all irritating. In fact, I spend much of my time irritated about one thing or another, so I guess all I'm doing with my "facebook stalk-off" is to eliminate a source of annoyance until I'm better able to cope with annoying bullshit. I mean, I know I can go through and stop certain people from showing up in my newsfeed, but that's an awfully big pain in the patootie. So, really, giving your opinion about something in your facebook status update is basically the same as putting it on a sign and placing it in my front yard.  

I do need facebook for professional purposes, so I've made another one that is "the work me."

If anyone from facebook is looking for me and somehow found me here, hello. I'll be back on facebook eventually. In the meantime, this is "the real me." Please let me know you were here, if you're not one of my two readers.

13 Days to Warehouse 13

Ooh! I just realized the new season of Warehouse 13 starts on July 23. If you don't watch this show, you ought to try it. Warehouse 13 is sort of like Eureka (it shares a fictional universe, and characters sometimes cross over). By that I mean it's not too deep, just good silly entertainment with plenty of action and feel-good teamwork-related stories. When you've just finished, say, Pillars of the Earth, Game of Thrones, or similar material, it's nice to sit back, watch a show, and NOT get pissed off at the main characters. Joanne Kelly is adorable,and Eddie McClintock is likeable as a tough guy with a touch o' geek. For my money he's a better leading geek-TV man than David Boreanaz, because, let's face it, while legions of Buffy/Angel fans adore Boreanaz, you all know down deep that he's the guy who used to kick your ass in high school.

Like I say, Warehouse 13 ain't Shakespeare, but for escapist entertainment it's almost (not quite, but close) as good as it gets. It also proves that good entertainment can still be clean and more-or-less positive and uplifting, and I always like to remind myself of that when I'm feeling too dark or cynical.