Friday, February 8, 2008

Ah, Parenthood

I don't think I'm going to get much sleep tonight. My youngest daughter, Shaena, is spending the night at a friend's house. I can't stop thinking about all kinds of nightmarish scenarios that could happen. My mother no doubt went through similar moments and now that I am a parent, I can understand.

Faith and Lost Souls

If you have any religious beliefs at all, you should read this story.

Living Your Beliefs

Rod Dreher has a great post on the importance of living your beliefs and not just talking about them on Sunday.

What's the broader message for people of faith? That passing on the faith to our children is not something we can or should rely entirely on the institutional church (sermons, Sunday school, Christian schools) to do. We have to do it in our homes and in our cultural lives -- and not in the sense of, "Tonight, children, we are going to discuss the doctrine of the Incarnation." The Christian faith (or any faith) has to be woven into the fabric of everyday life, has to be experienced not as an interesting add-on to normal life, but as normal life itself. This is particularly challenging in a culture like ours, where increasingly the only normative belief is that there is no normative belief. But what choice do serious religious believers have?

This is very true no matter what your beliefs may be. It doesn't take long for (most) parents to realize that so often with their children what they say isn't nearly as important as what they do.

Conservatives or Authoritarians?

A scathing critique of the direction many Conservatives have taken.

We need a change in nomenclature. Those who continue to support the administration’s radical theory of executive power are properly described as authoritarians. Once upon a time they may have been conservative but I think it’s safe to say that circa February 2008 conservatism has been orphaned by its ostensible champions. As a philosophy for governance it has no meaningful support on the national stage and hasn’t for years. I won’t dwell on long-forgotten odes to small government and fiscal responsibility, the counseling of prudence and pragmatism in foreign affairs, or reverence for tradition and precedent in conducting the nation’s business. All of it deserves more attention and the erstwhile conservatives served us all very poorly by abandoning it, but what bothers me most is their enthusiastic embrace of militarism, torture, fearmongering and a near-voyeuristic obsession with surveillance. They are at best former conservatives, as are those who maintain a discreet silence while all this happens. Some like Andrew Sullivan have explicitly distanced themselves from it and identified as Burkean conservatives (a lonely tribe at the moment, but possibly the only long-term alternative to extinction for the Republican party). The rest don’t deserve the legitimacy “conservative” implies.

As I've written before, I think the Republicans are really adrift right now. They are going to need a strong leader to bring them back to the core principles their party was founded on. Who knows when that person will come along, though, and how far the party will sink before he or she does.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Rules of the Library

A fellow bibliophile writes about the rules for his library. My favorite?

RULE #3: NO BORROWING -- No borrowing of books is allowed under any situation.

I do lend my books out, but I'm always worried that they won't return.

Refinancing a No Go

Mom talked to the mortgage company earlier this week. She wanted to refinance the house for a longer period of time to drop the house payment. Unfortunately, it wouldn't work because she's got such a great interest rate now that if she went for the new loan, her rate would go up and the payment would drop by (literally) a few dollars. So, that's not going to work.

If anyone knows someone who wouldn't mind sharing a house with a geek and his Mom, send them my way.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Another First

I donated money to a political campaign today for the first time in my life. I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out to whom.

A New Era of D&D

I don't get to roleplay near as much as I used to or would like for that matter (oh, why must I be a responsible adult?), but I still try to keep up on the goings on in the world of table-top RPGs. Wizards of the Coast is putting out the 4th edition of D&D this June. In a somewhat surprising move they are going to release a license for the rule set, but unsurprisingly it is going to be much more restrictive than the OGL that accompanied 3rd edition. Chris Pramas, one of the major (and better) third-party developers blogs about what this means for WotC and the industry.

Clearly many changes are in the wind. Until we see the Game System License we won't know all of them for sure. No matter what I'm positive publishing under the original OGL will continue (that's how we'll do M&M and True20, for example). A year from now the publishing landscape will likely be quite different though. I think the big question is whether any of the prominent third party publishers will decide to just skip 4E and the GSL and continue to publish 3.5 material. I think Paizo is best positioned to pull this off but it would be a gamble for sure. As for WotC I guess I continue to be surprised they are making this attempt at all. I seriously wouldn't blame them for saying, "This is a huge headache with few tangible benefits for us, so 4E will not support 3rd party publishing."

Clinton's Woes

First she loans herself $5 million and now some of her senior staffers are working for free. I think she is more concerned than she is letting on.

Religion Fact of the Day

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, falling forty days before Easter. A priest or minister will draw ashes in the shape of a cross on the foreheads of believers while reciting a short Biblical verse. As the ashes are sacramental and not sacrements, anyone can recieve them. The penitential Psalms are usually read during the service. Ash Wednesday is a day to remember human mortality and express penitence for sins committed. Many Catholics also fast and abstain from meat for the day or throughout Lent.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday, Part 5

Clinton is now the projected winner of California. This is big for her, but it looks like Obama has eked out a victory in Missouri. California or not, I think Obama has a lot to brag about after today.

Who's Patriotic Now?

I wonder what McCain would say if he was asked about the fact that the two candidates getting the most donations from members of the military are Ron Paul and Barack Obama, the two most adamant anti-war candidates. Would he insinuate that the troops don't support the troops?

Super Tuesday, Part 5

CNN just predicted Romney will win my home state. Ron Paul came in second. I'm glad to see that he got 25% of the vote, but it would have been nice to see him win one state.

Super Tuesday, Part 4

Obama's victory speech is very good. He has really done well lately at drawing distinctions between himself and the Republicans. I think this would be one of Clinton's biggest weaknesses were she the nominee with her vote for the Iraq war, the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, and her hedging on torture. The only way McCain or any other Republican has a chance of winning in November is if Clinton is the nominee.

Super Tuesday, Part 3

The biggest story of the night may be Huckabee. He is doing surprisingly well especially in the South. The Republican party really is fractured. Unless something drastic occurs, I imagine that a Democrat will win the White House this year and in 2012. Will this be enough for the GOP to rebuild itself or will it continue to crumble?

Super Tuesday, Part 2

Two more states for Obama - CO and ID. Early numbers from California show a big lead for Clinton, but that's to be expected as the larger cities have yet to report. It's also fascinating to see the breakdowns - whites and African-Americans break strongly for Obama while Asians and Latinos are coming out strong for Clinton.

Super Tuesday, Part 1

They may end up in a dead heat delegate wise, but Obama has won 8 states to Clinton's six at this point. If he keeps this up, he will have some good spin in the coming weeks.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Darkness That Comes Before

I just finished this book last night. It is the debut novel of R. Scott Bakker and the first of a trilogy, the Prince of Nothing series. A very impressive effort. It has some of the basic fantasy tropes such as a world on the brink of disaster from an ancient evil, but is very different in many respects. The main character, Anasurimbor Kellhus, is almost superhuman having been trained by monks since in agility and intellect. It bears some similarities to darker fantasy stories such as A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin in that there are no white knights who are paragons of virtue. No, the characters all have very real flaws and come across as very human. It also owes a lot to the classical world with many Greek parallels especially in philosophy and to the history of the Catholic Church.

The story starts 2000 years in the past with all members of the royal family save one son dying in an abandoned fortress after a disastrous war with the No-men and the bestial Sranc. An order of monks, the Dunyain, soon come by and take the boy in. Flash forward to the present and Anasurimbor Kellhus, descendant of the royal family, is living in the same fortress. The fortress is in a remote part of the north, far from civilization, and Kellhus has never been out in the world, his existence consisting only of the Dunyain monks and their training. He receives a dream message from his father, though, the only person to have ever left the community. Kellhus decides he must find his father.

Elsewhere in the world great events are being set in motion. The leader of the Thousand Temples, the great church is about to declare a Holy War. The Emperor of the most powerful nation in the Three Seas wants to use the Holy War to increase his own power and wealth. The Schools, practitioners of magic and considered blasphemers, are concerned the Holy War will be declared against them as it has in the past. Achamion, from the Mandate school, is tasked with discovering the nature of the Holy War. The Mandate school's mission has always been to keep an eye out for the Consult, leaders of the No-god and unseen for 2000 years.

On his mission, Achamion encounters an old flame, an old student turned priest, multiple factions vying for power in the chaos caused by the Holy War, and Kellhus. A man whose name and story hint at the Second Apocalypse.

I can't wait to get into the next book. The Darkness That Comes Before is an excellent book, one of the best fantasy books I have read in a good while, unique and intriguing. Highly recommended.

Military Spending

Matt Yglesias writes about America's massive spending on defense. We are now spending more than we did during WWII. Is this really justified, especially considering the fact that our budget for this is more than the next several spendiest countries combined. I support a strong military, but this is ridiculous. Think of all the great things that money could go toward.

The Abortion Debate Cont.

Jeromy commented on my previous abortion post.

The new language that pro-choicers have adopted (and it has been popularized the media) is that abortionists are pro "reproductive rights." And Joe America says, "Hey, I'm all about rights..."

This is exactly what I'm talking about. The language we use helps shape our thoughts and so in a debate this serious; it becomes critical to use the right language. Obviously people who support abortion rights have done a fantastic job (from their POV) of using language that makes it easier for them to support their views. If you call your side "pro-choice" or "pro-reproductive rights" it becomes harder to argue against that because suddenly you're a fascist who wants to suppress people's "rights."

It's why I support a bottom-up approach to tackling abortion rather than a top-down approach. It's easier to talk to individual family member, friends, and acquaintances than to be a demagogue (no matter which side you are on) trying to persuade the masses that your team is the right one. You can connect to people better and (hopefully) have a better debate this way rather than a shouting match that does nothing but inflame emotions and shut down real debate.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

My First Foray into Vlogging

I thought I would give this a try just for the hell of it.

Another Endorsement for Obama

In a rather surprising move, Maria Shriver has come out in support of Obama. She is a Kennedy, but her husband, the Governator, recently announced his endorsement of McCain.

That's got to make for some interesting dinner conversation. Maybe Schwarzenegger will go back in time and attempt to assassinate her before she announces this. Hmmmm....

Weekly Music Video

How about something a little different this week? This is funtwo playing an arrangement of Pachelbel's Canon for the electric guitar. Check out how fast his hands move. Insane. This kid is awesome and it's a great arrangement of one of my favorite classical pieces.

Weekly Secret


Minesweeper: The Movie

I am totally stoked for this flick, a sure-fire Oscar winner if ever there was one.

Courtesy of these fine folks.