Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Anyone who doesn’t accept [Christianity] is just stupid. They don’t want to trust what anyone else knows.

Living in Raleigh is interesting at times. There are three or four churches in easy walking distance of my house. There are quite a few additional churches in very easy biking distance.

That’s typical of the Raleigh area. There are exceptions, but just about everyone is in easy distance of a church and usually several.

We’re saturated. If people weren’t attending and contributing to those churches, they would go out of business fairly quickly.

Evolution is based on circular reasoning. There’s no proof. Only idiots would believe in it.

This isn’t problematic by itself; it just serves to illustrate the severity of a problem. Here, people with common theological beliefs often assume everyone agrees with them and no intelligent person could see things differently.

In that environment, even an orthodox person who wants to examine claims critically will probably keep quiet. Only trolls and people who feel the need to win arguments will question the status quo.

They aren’t brave enough to consider that there might be something after they die.

The most unfortunate consequence is that Raleigh is a very lonely place for anyone who is less than orthodox. Also, the faithful never have their faith stretched. In my experience, the faithful would rather not be tested. It’s good for them, though.

I’m sick of being alienated. You can maintain your very strictly orthodox views without alienating people. Just be gracious and stop assuming.

If you want to chase people away, be a jerk.

The same problems and dynamics are equally true when an area’s culture is dominated by another belief. Where atheism is orthodox, agnostics and deists will be alienated if atheists assume intelligent people always agree with them.

In summary, don’t be a jerk because being a jerk is jerkish. Also, if you need an incentive, your incentive is not driving people away from your cause.

Note: The quotes in this article are as close to verbatim as I can get them without a time machine and secret recording equipment.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Good Dog

Zeke wasn’t a bad dog. He didn’t pee on the carpets, bite children, or chase mailmen seriously enough to catch them.

It’s just that he couldn’t seem to learn commands. He’d come if you called, but he didn’t seem to think it was a specific command. He could sit if he felt like sitting, but he wouldn’t do it when anyone told him. No amount of treats helped.

Of course, they never tried “avert international incident!” until the fateful day it was necessary.

He leaped into the fray, commandeered computers, negotiated, hacked, and finally stopped the bombing.

Good dog, Zeke.


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Thursday, June 24, 2010

TH: Skeptic's Guide

Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe #215 and H1N1 Special. Skeptic’s Guide is one of my all time favorite podcasts and these are two stunningly awesome episodes.

The first one I linked has an interview with Adam Savage from Mythbusters and tons of other awesome stuff. The second one covers the H1N1 situation in very clear, concise, and entertaining fashion. Check ‘em out.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

5 Tips For Writing Tolerable Blogs

You shouldn’t read a book on writing best sellers by someone who never wrote one. By this rule, you should close this tab right now.

My qualification is knowing what irritates me about blogs and being more patient than most of your audience. If you manage to bore me, you bored most everyone else long before.

Word Count

When writing for your own amusement, you can write works as long as you like. When writing for others, you want to at least keep people’s attention. It’s better if you’re entertaining too.

You want them to come back. The first thing your audience will notice after the title is that you’re a wordy bastard.

  • If a post primarily links to something, keep it under 100 words. Consider combining link posts.
  • For updates about your life, use less than 500 words.
  • To advocate or explain a position, aim for 500 words or fewer, max out at 1000 words. If your post needs more than 1000 words after merciless pruning, make it a series.

Keep Paragraphs Short

Long paragraphs are hard to read, especially on screen. Paragraphs should be one to five sentences long. Don’t abuse the extremes. They’re special occasions like ice cream, cake, and getting trashed.

Sentence Structure

Learn to write a damned sentence. You can start a sentence with But or And, but don’t abuse the privilege. Keep your sentences the right length. Punctuate appropriately.

There’s no magical appropriate sentence length, but it’s safe to say that most 27 word sentences exceed the escalator’s safe weight limit.

The easiest way to keep in-sentence word count acceptable is to avoid using lots of clauses. If it can be two sentences, consider splitting it.

Dump the Fancy (Prose)

It’s tempting to show off your verbal prowess with fancy words. Don’t. You want to keep people engaged, not show off.

Use conversational language, but follow grammar, spelling, and punctuation rules.

Embrace the Fancy (Visuals)

Most people don’t read books. You want to keep the attention of most people. Use headings, subheadings, bullets, numbered lists, quote blocks, and appropriate graphics.

But don’t have autoplay media. If opening your post starts a video or a song automatically, you’ve earned a Hate Point with each member of your audience. People won’t let you rack up many Hate Points before they stop visiting.


Shorter is better. Don’t be fluffy.

If I write a follow up to this, I’ll show a Before and After with some bad text made better. It’s challenging as hell for me to avoid editing-in-process, but I’ll come up with something.

Bonus: This post follows the rules I mentioned. That doesn’t guarantee that you enjoyed it, just that you were more likely to finish it. Bring the gravy.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

A-Team Review

Holy crap, people. This movie was awesome. It’s the greatest adaptation since ever.

The cast was absolutely stand up perfect. The only thing that wasn’t absolutely perfect on that front was that Liam Neeson as Hannibal wasn’t quite as much of a smart ass as he should have been. The guy they got to play Murdock was absolutely hilarious. The movie won me over early when Murdock grabbed onto the blades of an off-helicopter and spun it around singing “you spin me right round, baby, right round.” Rampage did great as BA. Face was badass without completely removing Face from his wussy nature from the original series.

They start the movie off 8-10 years before the principle plot and show how the A-Team gets together, and it’s absolutely phenomenal. It’s kind of like an Opening Gambit from MacGyver rather than the House, MD opening that the original A-Team series did. It’s fun as hell and develops the characters without muddying up the main plot.

I kept worrying that they were going to do something crappy with the characters, but they didn’t. The movie is set near the theoretical withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, which was an interesting choice but I think ultimately a good one. It allowed us to see that, yes, the A-Team are real soldiers and they really do shoot people, but they are heroes because they avoid it when they can and thus are legitimately liked by the Iraqis.

They have got to make more A-Team movies with this cast.

There were a few parts where the special effects weren’t absolutely perfect, but it’s kind of like in Indiana Jones where you can tell it’s a movie, but it’s not enough to take you out of the never-slowing awesome.

Final note on this movie: I was amused that they brought up the subject of Gandhi, but somewhat less amused that they took a kind of “Well, I’m over that now, back to shooting people” take on it. Gandhi accepted that sometimes violence is a necessity, and the character that was struggling with that problem ran into a situation where Gandhi wouldn’t have disapproved of what the character ended up doing. That’s a perfect reason to continue pacifism, not put it on the top shelf.

My score: 99/100
Guess for other people: 85/100

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Ear Worm

“Celery Johnson, singer-songwriter of Pop Hit Amanda’s Front Teeth, was found dead in—”

Celery opened the fridge. The song played lightly in the distance. Her front teeeeeeeth. Beer wouldn’t do it. Not this time.

Are gaping hoooooles. His dealer’s ring tone nearly set him off. He shook and shivered.

“Take the call, I can wait.”

He picked up chips and beer from the QuickMart. It didn’t play on the PA. It played in his head.

I punched ‘em.

His ghost watched the investigation. The song in his head was on slightly different tempo than the version on the cops’ cellphones.


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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

TH: Writing Tools

For writers, I Should Be Writing #147 is critical. Advice on notebooks, software, and an interview with a Steam Punk oriented editor.

Reminder: This is the new format for Tactical Highlighter. More frequent updates, fewer things mentioned.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Tactical Highlighter #27


Well, now that we have that out of the way, back on the Tactical Highlighter. I know I promised a new format, but I also promised it would pick up sooner.

After today, I'm not going to do full Tactical Highlighters except when I have a lot to talk about. I'm going to link as I go. Some will be "hey, check this out, it's awesome," others will be "these people frequently do cool things and you should listen," and a few will be fuller reviews like I do in the old school Tactical Highlighter. Chances are most will be one or two things per entry.

  • The Empress Sword by Paulette Jaxton. I’m not huge on Fantasy in general, and I’m enjoying the hell out of this. It’s technically fantasy and some of the info dumps are almost noticable. However, they’re not nearly as extensive as SF info dumps.
  • Rastignac the Devil by Philip Jose Farmer (read by Gregg Margarite). One of my favorite readers reading a story with a lot of interesting SF concepts.
  • Home by Laurence Simon (read by me, bwa-hahaha). A fancy production I did of a 100 word story.
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Friday, June 11, 2010

The Genius

He called me a genius so I shot him.

As he died, he said I’d misunderstood. Explained it pretty.

I shot him again to be sure.


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Friday, June 4, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Shelly's Hobby

Shelly’s momma said Shelly needed a hobby.

Her momma collected stamps. Her daddy read the newspaper. Her cousin Louie made beads out of clay.

Shelly thought the good hobbies were taken.

It’s hard to collect fingers after you’ve gotten your first one, that’s for sure. The only book that interested her was Gladys’s Hedge Witchin Manual. Her clay projects turned out spiky and dangerous.

Then Shelly learned about ‘sampling.’

Shelly’s clay man—driven by the severed finger and magic learned from the manual—was a great hobby.

It got kittens out of trees and killed the mean kids at school.


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