Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor (No. 24)

"Best I can tell, Jim, they're some sort of adolescent mutated warrior tortoises."

Follow the adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor, as he explores the far reaches of space (and my house... and my backyard... and my kids' toy boxes) with his friends Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Every week Now twice a week! Right here at ToTryANewSword.com.

For more, click on the "Space Doctor" tag below, or use the pull-down menu under "Ongoing Series" in the left side-blog.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Musical interlude: "Holocaust" by Big Star

So sad and beautiful.



Your eyes are almost dead
Can't get out of bed
And you can't sleep
You're sitting down to dress
And you're a mess
You look in the mirror
You look in your eyes
Say you realize
Everybody goes
Leaving those who fall behind
Everybody goes
As far as they can,
They don't just care
They stood on the stairs
Laughing at your errors
Your mother's dead
She said, "Don't be afraid."
Your mother's dead
You're on your own
She's in her bed

Everybody goes
Leaving those who fall behind
Everybody goes
As far as they can
They don't just care
You're a wasted face
You're a sad-eyed lie
You're a holocaust

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (3/27/2010)

Texas prepares to execute an innocent man. Basically 1) Hank Skinner was so drunk/stoned at the time that he would have been physically incapable of the murders for which he was convicted, 2) there was another good suspect, and 3) his court-appointed lawyer had a conflict of interest and fell down on the job. Even so, the government refuses to allow Skinner access to the DNA evidence that could exonerate him. The technical legal aspects of the case are discussed here.

The war on WikiLeaks.

The History of White People.

The Arachnid Hall of Fame.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (3/26/2010)

You might have noticed that a couple days ago I mentioned David Frum as a conservative who's written intelligently about health care reform. (Not to say that I necessarily agree with him -- I generally don't -- but at least he writes about the actual law and not about Republican fantasy talking points.) Well, now he says he's been fired by conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute for his heresy.

The health care reform law's mandate that everyone buy health insurance is probably constitutional because a) the Supreme Court has generally accepted an extremely broad interpretation of the "interstate commerce" clause and b) technically the mandate isn't a requirement that people buy health insurance, it's a tax penalty on people who don't, and the federal government has very broad tax powers.

Former Bush speechwriter Mark Thiessen's book defending the Bush torture regime has little basis in reality.

The Eugene Police Department has released the police report (PDF) in the case of suspended University of Oregon Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. There's not much that'll be new to people who've been following the story, but I think two things about it stand out. First, the report gives an interesting picture of the process of a police investigation. Second, it makes it clear how much Masoli lied his head off to head coach Chip Kelly as well as to the police.

Now, I can see that there's a conflict there, because if Masoli told Kelly the truth, Kelly might have to testify to that in court. There's obviously no "coach-player immunity" under the law. But Masoli didn't try to be evasive or blow Kelly off somehow, he flat out lied: "I didn't do it. I wasn't there." And lying to the coach probably had a whole lot to do with the length of the suspension (the entire 2010 season).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Alien vs. Pooh

Alien vs. Pooh is literally the best thing in the history of the internet. (And by "literally," I mean "in a literal manner," not "in effect; virtually.") If you only click one link for the rest of your life, Alien vs. Pooh should be it. (h/t: Make Awesome Sauce)

The Adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor (No. 23)

"I believe it may have been used in some sort of ancient sacrificial rites, Captain."

Follow the adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor, as he explores the far reaches of space (and my house... and my backyard... and my kids' toy boxes) with his friends Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Every week, right here at ToTryANewSword.com.

For more, click on the "Space Doctor" tag below, or use the pull-down menu under "Ongoing Series" in the left side-blog.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (3/23/2010)

What the health care law means to you.

Dozens of newspaper front pages from the day after health care passed. Pretty cool.

I see crazy people. They don't know they're crazy.

The Justin Bieber Guide for Old People.

Tarot Randomizer Day 7: Six of Pentacles

Day Seven (of Seven) of the Tarot Randomizer Group Creativity Experiment. This is the last one. Be sure to check out the galleries at Mind on Fire. There's some really good stuff there.

Today it's the Six of Pentacles.



"A pentacle -- who

Wants one?" "Me! Oh! Oh! Pick me!

What's a pentacle?"

Monday, March 22, 2010

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (3/22/2010)

Just a quick note on health care insurance reform. I'm glad it passed. I'm not actually sure yet if it'll help people like me, but at least it will help the most desperate people -- the ones who were dying because they couldn't get insurance. And probably there will be fewer people going bankrupt, losing homes, etc.

If you were against it, I don't have much to say to you about it. Except this. I kid, I kid. Hey, I had to put up with eight years of Bush. It's your turn now.

Anyway, if you want to learn all about what's actually in the bill law and not what Republicans keep trying to tell you is in the law, read Ezra Klein. If you want to read an intelligent Republican commentary on the law, i.e., one that's about the actual law and not about right-wing fantasies about what's in the law, try David Frum. Daniel Larison is also very good for a conservative point of view rather than the latest Republican talking points.

And some random links:

What if atheists are wrong?! What if they find out when they die?!

I've been having fun playing Miami Shark. (My six-year-old daughter likes Robot Unicorn Attack.)

Another reason to hate Wal-Mart.

How did Antoine Walker go broke after making $110 million over 13 NBA seasons? (video)

Tarot Randomizer Day 6: Two of Cups

Day Six (of Seven) of the Tarot Randomizer Group Creativity Experiment. (It's still not too late to join in.)

Today it's the Two of Cups. John posted two images, so I did two comic haiku.



Your cup is very

Fine, but I don't date boys with

Skirts shorter than mine.















OK, here's the other one. I think this one is funnier -- it's based on the premise "What do mermaids drink?" -- but this will show up on my friends' Facebook home pages and since it has a "bad" word in it and I don't want to offend anyone, I'm trying to fill up the entire teaser by rambling so nobody will be offended unless they actually click over. OK, I think that's probably long enough. If it's not, I sincerely apologize for making you see a dirty word on your Facebook. I really did try. Also, I assume nobody will mind if the picture has a topless mermaid in it. You can't see much anyway.

So here's a comic haiku I wrote, and it is mine.



Two golden cups and

Nothing to drink but water,

Water, water. Shit!

Democrats sure have a lot of nerve!

Acting like they have a right to pass laws just because more of them got elected and they make up more than half of Congress! It's like they think they're some kind of majority or something!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tarot Randomizer Day Five: Nine of Swords

Day Five (of Seven) of the Tarot Randomizer Group Creativity Experiment. (It's still not too late to join in.)

Today it's the Nine of Swords.



Again I wake up

With a headache. I think I'm

Allergic to swords.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Tarot Randomizer Day Four: Devil

Day Four (of Seven) of the Tarot Randomizer Group Creativity Experiment. (It's not too late to join in, you know.)

Today it's the Devil. Submitted for your approval, a comic haiku:



An unexpected

Visitor to our campfire.

We need more hot dogs.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Tarot Randomizer Day Three: Two of Pentacles

Day Three (of Seven) of the Tarot Randomizer Group Creativity Experiment...

Today it's the Two of Pentacles. Another comic haiku:




With pentacles, I


Dance. With pentacles -- what the


Hell are pentacles?












And a special bonus rejected first draft comic haiku:

With pentacles I
Dance in platforms. Stop looking
at my butt, you perv.

Video Favorites (March 2010)

Live webcast FAIL, God is a 12-year-old boy with Asperger's, Fish Heads Fish Heads Roly Poly Fish Heads, Axe Cop, El fin del mundo, Gaga in Wonderland, somebody thinks Gilbert Gottfried is funny, Sarah Palin is smarter than you thought (so is Larry King), and Chat Roulette piano improv.

Live webcast FAIL: "Can we watch ourselves?"




God is a 12-year-old boy with Asperger's, Eugene Mirman standup (h/t: The Whore of All the Earth).




Fish heads, fish heads / Roly poly fish heads / Fish heads, fish heads / Eat them up, yum! / Ask a fish head anything you want to / They won't answer, they can't talk.




Axe Cop (written by a 5-year-old boy, produced by grown-ups).




El fin del mundo.




Gaga in Wonderland.




Somebody thinks Gilbert Gottfried is funny.




Sarah Palin is smarter than you thought... so is Larry King.




Guy improvises on the piano while on Chat Roullette


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (3/18/2010)

What is it like to be a pastor who doesn't believe in God? (h/t: Friendly Atheist)

Congressmen acting like 10-year-olds. I take that back, actually. It's kind of an insult to 10-year-olds.

Just BTW, "godless people and godless societies fare better on almost every sociological measure than religious people or religious societies." And the Top 10 Good Things About Being Godless.

A powerful poem, "Dear Augusta" by Reginald Dwayne Betts. ("Augusta" is the Augusta Correctional Center in Virgina. H/t: TNC.)

Also, this month's Video Favorites will be up just after midnight PDT.

Tarot Randomizer Day 2: Hermit

Day Two (of Seven) of the Tarot Randomizer Group Creativity Experiment...

Today it's the Hermit. The strangeness of the illustration brought this haiku to my mind.



With flashlights they may


Find the Hermit; they won't find


Illumination













And here's a special bonus alternate haiku:

Laser beams miss and
Rocks float. Enlightenment or
Midichlorians?

The Adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor (No. 22)

"I'm a doctor, not a real estate tycoon!"

Follow the adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor, as he explores the far reaches of space (and my house... and my backyard... and my kids' toy boxes) with his friends Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Every week, right here at ToTryANewSword.com.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (3/17/2010)

American sewer and water systems are crumbling.

Word clouds from a survey on health care reform -- pro: "people... need... insurance"; anti: "government... insurance... cost..."

Is international law really law?

Inspiring photos from the 2010 Winter Paralympics.

Tarot Randomizer Day 1: Knight of Swords

John at Mind on Fire proposes "a group creative experiment with chance, disorder, fate, Jupiter, Steve–whatever you choose to call it. The randomizer will be a shuffled deck of Tarot cards." Anyone can join in. It works like this:

1) Each morning for one week, starting on Wednesday, March 17th (St. Patrick’s Day!), I will draw a tarot card. I will post a picture of the card on this site.

2) You simply use the card as a spark for some kind of creative activity. It can be a sketch, a paragraph from your novel, a tweet, a photo, an interpretive dance, a poem, a political blog post, a video. The activity can even change from day to day. The only requirements are that a) you leave some element of the project undetermined until you see the card, and b) the final creation has to be done by the end of the day, and c) it has to be linkable.

3) I will then post links to everything everyone created by the time I draw the next card the next morning.

I may not do the same thing every day -- we'll see. But for now, I'm going with comic haiku.

The first card is the Knight of Swords.





Knight of Swords trying

To look fierce, how fierce can you

Be in pointy shoes?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (3/12/2010)

Soccer's Next Big Thing: Romelu Lukaku (some highlights).

Rescuing sex slaves in India.

How tweeting can get you arrested.

The real reason Republicans hate Obama.

Also, I'll have something to say about the suspension of Oregon Duck football players, but not until Monday.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Good Reads/random Cool Sites (3/11/2010)

How Paul Krugman found politics.

Normalizing the police state (and how it ends with taser-firing drones).

American ice skater Johnny Weir (who supports his family financially because his father is disabled and is putting his younger brother through college) is not considered "family-friendly" enough for the Stars on Ice ice show.

I've always wanted to learn the International Phonetic Alphabet. With this chart with recorded samples, I think I finally can. Yes, I am a nerd.

Thursday haiku: free


stranger talking loud
to no one, are you hands-free



or sanity-free?

The Adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor (No. 21)

"He's dead, Jim! I think it was Col. Mustard, in the library, with the lead pipe."

Follow the adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor, as he explores the far reaches of space (and my house... and my backyard... and my kids' toy boxes) with his friends Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Every week, right here at ToTryANewSword.com.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Attacked by Glenn Beck

Fortunately, he doesn't know my real name, so he calls me "kuri the blogger." But this is still kind of scary.

In which I finally understand the mindset of Mormon apologists

During this discussion, I had an epiphany, a "Holy crap!" moment if you will, because of something Seth R said:

"Just about every supposed anachronism, every attack on the Book of Mormon, has been met with multiple arguments and explanations. The battle-field is utterly undecided here. No side has won a decisive advantage here..."

That first sentence is quite correct. Every attack has indeed been met. Met by Mormon apologists in nearly every case with weak arguments and just barely plausible explanations. In terms of strength of arguments, the battlefield is decided and one side -- not anti-Mormons, but archeologists -- has routed the other. In response to archeology, Mormon apologists have piled implausibility upon implausibility to construct a towering edifice of unbelievability. Believers either don't know much about this, don't think much about it, or recognize it but believe anyway -- so I'd thought.

I'd assumed Mormon apologists all fell into the third category. I mean, when I was a believer, I engaged in some apologetics in a small way. I used a lot of the arguments that the leading apologists do. But I was still able to think critically about them.

I believed I had a "spiritual witness" of the truth of the LDS church, and that meant that many very implausible things had to be true. But I never thought they were other than implausible. I believed them to be true despite their implausibility. I never deluded myself with the idea that I was making powerful arguments.

When I engaged in apologetics, basically what I said was, "Here are the answers Mormons have made to those questions. Most of the answers are weak. Almost all of them are less plausible than the alternatives. But they aren't quite impossible. There's a tiny chance that they could be true. And because I have a spiritual witness, because I believe God has told me that the church is true, I believe them despite the overwhelming evidence against them."

I'd thought that's what every apologist did. But when I read Seth's comment, it hit me: "Holy crap! He actually believes what he just said! He actually thinks those arguments are good!" And I realized something then, something that should have been clear to me a long time ago: some Mormon apologists are just denialists, "choosing to deny reality as a way to avoid an uncomfortable truth."

Not all of them are, I'm sure. Some no doubt, see the relative strengths and weaknesses of their arguments. They hold onto their faith even though apparently they see reality just as clearly as the rest of us. But the denialists are there too. I can't say what percentage they account for, but at last I understand that they're there too, denying reality right alongside the creationists, global warming deniers, anti-vaxxers, 9/11 troofers, Obama birfers, UFO nuts, HIV deniers, and all the rest.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (3/9/2010)

A thoughtful post on growing up gay, closeted self-loathing gay conservative politicians, and Mark Massa's ongoing meltdown.

Building better teachers.

Godzilla haiku.

Sauron gets a great idea.

Monday, March 08, 2010

'80s Music Monday: Gary Numan

Gary Numan is an English artist I first heard of in 1979. He was considered "New Wave," but he didn't really sound like anyone else. He had one big hit in America with "Cars," and then kind of disappeared out of the mainstream here. He kept making records in the UK, though, and I listened to him all through the '80s.

He cultivated a robotic, affectless persona (to hide his shyness, he's said; turns out he has Asperger's syndrome too), and wrote quirky, original songs about alienation and loneliness. He was right up my alley, obviously. Way, way up my alley in 1980. (Yeah, I was a hella gloomy kid. )

Here are some of my favorites:

"Cars" (1979)




"Are 'Friends' Electric?" (1979)




"I Die: You Die" (1980)




"Love Needs No Disguise" (1981)
Sorry, I don't normally link, but I couldn't find a good embeddable version, and this is one of his best, but not so well-known in the US.


"Stormtrooper in Drag" (1981)


Saturday, March 06, 2010

So long Cro

The Chargers traded cornerback Antonio Cromartie to the New York Jets for a third-round draft pick in 2011 (second round if he plays a lot and signs a contract extension). He used to be one of my favorite players, but I'm not sorry to see him go.

Cromartie was spectacular in 2007, his second season in the league. He set a team record with 10 interceptions, and he did it during a stretch of 9 games. He was a backup for the first half of the season. He got two more INTs in the playoffs.

Check out his 2007 highlight reel:



Those three interceptions aganist Peyton Manning came in Cromartie's first NFL start. He ran back one INT for a touchdown and recovered a fumble for another in one game. The following week, he had that 109-yard runback on a missed field goal. That was the longest play in the history of the NFL. It's the longest possible play, unless they lengthen the field someday. He was the fastest player on the Chargers, and one of the fastest in the league. He was a threat to score anytime he got his hands on the ball. People were talking about playing him at wide receiver too so he'd get more chances to make plays.

But Cromartie wasn't the same player in 2008 and 2009. He only had 5 INTs over those two years combined. Part of it was only natural, simple "regression toward the mean." Nobody can stay as good as he was for those nine games in 2007. And he was injured a lot during 2008. He struggled in coverage during that year (though much less so in 2009).

But there were some other problems. Cromartie had 60 tackles in 2008, a respectable number for a cornerback. That number dropped almost in half in 2009. He apparently decided to imitate Deion Sanders and stop tackling running backs. This frustrated the rest of the defense all year. It culminated in a horrible play against the Jets in the playoffs, when he simply stood and watched Shonn Greene run right past him on his way to a touchdown. The play is hilariously recounted here.

And "hilarious" is a pretty good description of Cromartie's behavior off the field. Off the field, he's a clown. He was part of a group of hard-partying Chargers who are constantly getting in (usually minor) trouble, much to management's annoyance. He was accused of throwing a champagne bottle at a guy in a bar. He was fined by the team for trashing the training camp food in a tweet. He's had a series of traffic tickets, for which he usually doesn't bother to show up in court. And he's allegedly $25,000 behind on his child support. It's probably hard for him to keep track, since he reportedly has "at least seven children with six different women in five states."

So that's who the Jets are getting. A second-rounder will be a steal if they get the 2007 Cromartie. That kind of play would make up for a lot of off the field antics. They might get that, especially since he's in a contract year. He has the potential to be spectacular again. It's probably a good gamble for the Jets.

But they just might get somebody who turns into a complete head case and flames out. Jets fans should remember that despite all his talent, the Chargers and Chargers fans are generally glad to be rid of Antonio Cromartie.

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (3/6/2010)

What the Republican National Committee really thinks of its donors. Make sure you watch the slideshow, especially if you're a Republican. It isn't a parody; it's real.

Trying to picture the millions and billions of astronomy.

Cops abusing children in NYC schools.

What gives the police the right to inflict pain on people who aren't physically threatening anyone?

Friday, March 05, 2010

Now with more sports!

I've been thinking I'd like to write about sports more. I've done it some in the past (mostly links, though), even tried to make it a regular feature once, but I've been pretty inconsistent. (What? What do you mean my entire blog is inconsistent? Just because I keep starting and stopping new things doesn't make me some sort of inconsistent blogger. It just makes me... um... eclectic. Yeah, I'm eclectic.)

I suppose part of the problem is the teams I root for and thus want to write about: the San Diego Chargers, San Diego Padres, LA Lakers, and University of Oregon Ducks. (Also, the San Diego State Aztecs, but I don't like to talk about that.) Kind of a, well, "eclectic" bunch. But hey, it's the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA, and college football and basketball, right? So I'll try to post stuff that's of pretty general interest and not just targeted to narrow fan bases.

Anyway, what do you all think? Do you follow sports? Any favorite teams? Any you're embarrassed to admit to? (**cough**Aztecs**cough**)

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (3/5/2010)

Many colons edition:

Obama: Chickensh*t on civil liberties

INTIWGDI: It's Not Terrorism If White Guys Do It

A brief history of Senate "reconciliation" votes: Republicans do it more often, in a more partisan way.

Why buses come in bunches: They're bosons, and they condensate

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor (No. 20)

"I'll never join you!"

Follow the adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor, as he explores the far reaches of space (and my house... and my backyard... and my kids' toy boxes) with his friends Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Every Wednesday, right here at ToTryANewSword.com.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (3/2/2010)

Some seriously good advice about how to be happy. (h/t: Wil Wheaton)

Why the Large Hadron Collider failed and will always fail: the future is preventing it from working?

You have less time to read my blog today, thanks to the Chilean earthquake.

Brevity is the soul of wit: I might have mentioned the chicken-foot bracelet and the duct-taped boobs, but Rolling Stone cut right to the heart of the matter: "Lady Gaga arrives with a rhinestone encrusted crustacean on her face...." (h/t: Matt Bors)

Monday, March 01, 2010

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (3/1/2010)

American exceptionalism: "Maybe even twenty years ago the claim that America was 'freer, more individualistic, more democratic, and more open and dynamic than any other nation on earth' could have withstood scrutiny. Now it is rapidly becoming something that nationalists tell one another to keep their spirits up."

Despite the sympathy we may feel for religious freedom and parental rights, it's important to remember that faith-based neglect is still neglect.

So, a cop walks into a bar... and starts arresting people. For drinking. Broad public intoxication laws in Texas lead to harassment of minorities.

"Intelligent" design. Heh.