Religious Orders

All-Star Game

Posted: Tuesday June 17 2014 @ 6:13pm

Religious Order: Sports

There's a problem with the All-Star Game. (Which All-Star Game? Baseball, duh.) Players get on the team via a popularity contest, which would be fine if the game was just an exhibition. Alas, the game counts now, as an overreaction to Bud leaving the 2002 game as a tie. If the game is going to count, then it should be played by the actual best players, not fan favorites.

Now, personally, I would be happiest with the game as an exhibition game. I don't see the point in the present meaningful game. To a very real extent, it could be abusive to non-contenting teams.

But let's say we're sticking with the meaningful all-Star Game. What would those teams look like? How would we pick? The most convenient way would be to use WAR (Wins Above Replacement). Is WAR perfect? No. But it's good enough for a blog post no one will read. So let's use ESPN's list, for the sole reason that it's the first one I found.

I'm going to follow Gold Glove rules and just use the top three outfielders, instead of worrying about which field they play. I'm also going to use the best pitcher as the starting pitcher and the next three as relief. (On the theory that relief pitchers are just failed starters.) I left closers out, as there weren't any in the top one hundred players, and I tired of looking for them. I also left out the DH, despite this year's game being held at Target Field, because the DH is an abomination.

So, here's what we get:

PositionAmerican LeagueNational League
CatcherSalvador Perez (Royals)Jonathan Lucroy (Brewers)
First BaseBrandon Moss (A's)Paul Goldschmidt (Diamondbacks)
Second BaseBrian Dozier (Twins)Chase Utley (Phillies)
ShortstopAlexei Ramirez (White Sox)Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies)
Third BaseJosh Donaldson (A's)Todd Frazier (Reds)
OutfieldMike Trout (Angels)Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins)
OutfieldAlex Gordon (Royals)Andrew McCutchen (Pirates)
OutfieldJose Bautista (Blue Jays)A.J. Pollock (Diamondbacks)
Starting PitcherDallas Keuchel (Astros)Johnny Cueto (Reds)
ReliefYu Darvish (Rangers)Adam Wainwright (Cardinals)
ReliefMasahiro Tanaka (Yankees)Tim Hudson (Giants)
ReliefMark Buehrle (Blue Jays)Julio Teheran (Braves)

Seeing Dozier in there was a pleasant surprise for this die-hard Twins fan!

Feel free to compare these with the actual All-Star Game voting. There may be various rules keeping some players listed above from being considered for the voting. I just don't know. Overall, though, the All-Star Game voting is clearly a popularity contest.

I think that's fine, for an exhibition game. I think it's crappy, for a game that counts.

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Short-Ass Book Reviews for June 2014

Posted: Friday June 06 2014 @ 12:53pm

Religious Order: Books

Whee! Short book reviews! In no particular order!

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World - Haruki Murakami

There's really two things you need from a book with parallel plot-lines:

  1. Do you stay interested in each plot?
  2. Do they come together in a pleasing way at the end?

This book succeeds at both. The two plot-lines trade chapters and I was continually looking forward to each switch. Neither overshadowed the other. The conclusion and melding also worked for me.

I've read that this isn't his best work. I don't care. I'm not familiar with his other work, and I liked this book.

Note: It was part of an article on SF books by non-SF authors. I'm still trying to find Gore Vidal's apocalyptic fiction book.

The Great Agnostic - Susan Jacoby

Readable and short biography of Robert G. Ingersoll. He was a pretty freakin' awesome guy, ahead of society in so many ways. Jacoby works hard at rehabilitating Ingersoll's chumminess with plutocrats.

Tropic of Cancer - Henry Miller

Gee, Henry Miller really likes the word cunt.

I'm tempted to leave it at that, but I won't. Yeah, the controversial stuff doesn't hit with much of a wallop anymore. Yeah, he's a misogynistic racist. No, there's no real plot. Is it a commentary on the human condition? Eh, certainly not my human condition.

All that said, there are some simply wonderful descriptions and passages here, interspersed in a lot of tedious nattering. I read it in segments, which is easy to do when there's no plot.

The 34-Ton Bat: The Story of Baseball as Told Through Bobbleheads, Cracker Jacks, Jockstraps, Eye Black, and 375 Other Strange and Unforgettable Objects - Steve Rushin

Entertaining book about baseball stuff. Not just a list of oddball [heh] baseball trivia, it has a nice cohesive flow that takes you through several aspects of the physical objects surrounding the game.

Make It So: Interaction Design Lessons From Science Fiction - Nathan Shedroff & Christopher Noessel

Entertaining look at human interfaces in the world of science fiction movies and how they can be applied to real-world stuff. Entertaining, but not gripping. This is a book to peruse, not read straight through. Suffers in eBook form, on an eInk eReader, due to the poor resulting quality of the example screenshots.

The Edible Exile - Carl Hiaasen

Hiaasen found an old short story of his and decided to publish it. It's not very good. The found copy was missing its ending, so he added a new one. It's also not very good. I mean, it's somewhat entertaining, but overpriced for what you get.

Assemblers of Infinity - Kevin J. Anderson & Doug Beason

Serviceable SF. It's not great, but it's entertaining enough. The authors have a really bad habit of changing scene without any notification to the reader, so there are plenty of places where I was momentarily confused. The ending isn't much of a conclusion, serving really more to try and draw you into future books.

Alligator - The Harvard Lampoon

I mentioned last fall how much I disliked a history of the National Lampoon I read. It did make be curious, however, about a James Bond spoof they wrote back in the day called Alligator. So I read it and enjoyed it plenty. It's funny and clever for fans of the books. It may not work for you if your only experience with James Bond is via the movies.

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An Experiment Gone Meh

Posted: Friday May 23 2014 @ 6:17am

Religious Order: Books

John Scalzi has reached a point in his career where he can do pretty much whatever he wants. This lets him experiment, the results of which can be awesome, or, well, meh.

A good example of this experimentation working well was Redshirts. (A number of his fans think that it was his worst book ever. They're wrong. Clearly his worst book ever was The Android's Dream.)

So, while writing his latest novel, Lock In, he thought something along the lines of Hey, I've always wanted to write an oral history. I'll write a novella intro to the book as an oral history!

How do I know this? He told us all. He tweets a lot.

Anyway, so he wrote the novella, called Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden's Syndrome. How is it? Meh.

It's not bad. Scalzi's too skilled for that. It's just not compelling. None of the characters stand out. It reads more like a Wikipedia history section minus the neutral point of view. Without fleshed-out characters, what's the point of an oral history?

The novella includes the first chapter of Lock In. That first chapter is meh, too. It appears to be The Caves of Steel, except R. Daneel Olivaw is remote-controlled by a person.

Okay, seriously, I suspect it'll be much more than that, but I base that suspicion on Scalzi's skill, not on the provided first chapter.

Despite all the meh, I still pre-ordered the full book. It's a very rare occasion when Scalzi writes a bad book. (See The Android's Dream, above.)

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Gems and Rocks

Posted: Thursday May 22 2014 @ 8:52am

Religious Order: Politics

Gems

I gleaned some really sweet quotes from Women in Secularism last weekend. Here are four that I particularly loved. One came very early on, in the very first session:

The reality is not that [women] speak too much. It's that we're expected to speak less.
-Soraya Chemaly

This one was part of a panel on multiculturalism:

I love everyones culture, until they are harmful.
-Taslima Nasreen

Note that this next one is likely paraphrased a bit. Everyone quoting it online has it a little different.

The extent to which religion is not dangerous to women is the degree to which it has been forced to adopt secular ideas.
-Susan Jacoby

This last one comes from the closing comments and wraps things up appropriately:

A person's life is not an argument to disprove.
-Lauren Becker

There were, of course, many other great things said.


Rocks

There will always be those who don't like a conference and will voice their opinion, as is their right. This year, the #wiscfi tag wasn't trolled as hard as last year. I think that's partially because CFI CEO Ron Lindsey actually welcomed attendees instead of, literally, scolding them for not listening to white men often enough. This new-found civility led to a lack of outrage all around. Still, there was some naysaying.

Complaints about the conference, and about many of those presenting, are generally some form of:

I have differing opinions, and those with whom I disagree aren't giving me a forum in which to voice them!

Let's look at a few and laugh at them!

No drama at wiscfi prives we wouldn't have a Boko Haram problem if Nigeria had instituted a harassment policy. Or outlawed disagreement.

So, this one seems to think folks are saying that insisting on harassment policies at conferences means that we think harassment policies will solve all our problems! That's some simplistic thinking there! It's a common refrain that if something doesn't solve all the problems, then that something is, in fact useless. I see this in Libertarians a lot, in which law X doesn't totally eliminate behavior Y, so law X is bad. (I'm not fond of Libertarians. I suspect the overlap between Libertarians and sexist assholes is quite large.)

A nice touch is the implication that disagreement is outlawed. What they mean by this is that they were banned from some forum at some point. Again, they're insisting that those with whom they disagree are duty-bound to provide them with a soapbox for their disagreement.

I'm amazed at atheists who rightfully claim that they're under no obligation to debate with every Christian who comes along, then turn right around and insist that feminists who don't debate them are censoring cowards.

Moving on...

So sad. Very few attendees, 50% fat middle-aged men, and everything paid for by the patriarchy. Fail.

I don't have a good handle on actual numbers of attendees. The room was much larger than last year, spreading folks out, which made for a nicer experience for the myriad introverts. Offhand, I'd say there was a similar number to last year, perhaps more.

I love the bit about fat middle-aged men, as one of those fat middle-aged men. In addition to being pointlessly ageist and sizeist, it's just mind-boggling that gaining allies in a fight is somehow a bad thing.

Everything paid for by the Patriarchy? Really? My wife's registration fee was paid for by the Patriarchy? All the donations to CFI that helped fund the conference came from the Patriarchy?

Let us close with this beauty, in which a white man shakes his head sadly that others won't be able to partake of his tweets.

Sadly, many at wiscfi such as Greta Christina won't see my tweets because they have pathetically shielded themselves with block bot,

I love the assumption that he deserves an audience. It's so sad that others are deprived of it.

And it's pathetic that others would avail themselves of means of not being his deserved audience. Because that's what's really missing, the perspective of a random white guy.

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Tiny and Tasty

Posted: Tuesday May 20 2014 @ 7:52am

Religious Order: Food

So, we were up in Alexandria last weekend at the Women in Secularism III conference. (See yesterday's rant.) Just two blocks from the hotel was a tiny BBQ place called Sweet Fire Donna's. We ate there twice and liked the food both times. Here's a quick review:

Meat

Normally, I'm a bigger fan of pork over beef when it comes to BBQ. That said, Sweet Fire Donna's really does beef well. Here's all the meats we tried, in order of decreasing deliciousness:

I'll note that Sweet Fire Donna's provides four BBQ sauces. There's a traditional sweet one, which was fine. There's a chipotle one that wasn't very hot at all, but did pack in a nice flavor profile. The mustard-based one was weird. It was more of a flavored mustard than a Carolina Gold sort of sauce. Tasty, but not what I was expecting. Worked great with the sausage, but was simply too much for the pulled pork. Then there was a very nice North Carolina vinegar sauce, puckery but not too puckery. This worked wonderfully on the pulled pork. Its only flaw was that the pepper flakes sometimes jammed the hole in the squeeze bottle.

Sides

Pretty much anything you order comes with two sides, in addition to specials that add on even more. So we were able to try most of the sides. Again, in order of decreasing deliciousness:

Despite some disappointments, this was very good BBQ, especially when it came to beef. If I lived nearby, this would be a place I would visit far too often.

Oh, here's a photo. Trust me, this photo doesn't do the food justice. Also note that the Burnt Ends were nearly gone by the time I remembered to take a photo.

BBQ

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So Sick of Assholes

Posted: Monday May 19 2014 @ 1:32pm

Religious Order: Politics

Spent the weekend in Alexandria, at the Women in Secularism III conference. While there was lots of great stuff heard, it also pisses me off as I hear the stories about what women go through when asserting themselves. Here's my reactionary rant:

I'm so sick of MRA assholes. I'm so sick of women receiving multiple daily threats of rape and death because they spoke up online. I'm sick of them receiving even more threats because they mention the threats they already receive. I'm sick of claims that those threats are just words, are not really harmful. I'm sick of the assumption that this is stuff women have to fix, that it's their problem. I'm sick of it mainly coming from smug atheists with a tenuous grasp on social realities. I'm sick of men who think free speech means they can send threats to women or stalk them online, but that others can't moderate comments on their own blog. I'm sick of people who think free speech means they shouldn't be criticized. I'm sick of entitled white men thinking that the world owes them a hearing. I'm sick of whiny white men complaining that every small decrease in their privilege is a calamity, that every loss they have in life is the gravest injustice and proof that the system is actually against them, that misandry runs rampant. (Everyone loses at times, even when they're in the right. Get used to it. Women and folks of color have to deal with it *all the time.*) I'm sick of simplistic shallow Libertarian thought and the pitiful need Libertarians have for drawing bright lines, because they gave up on God but can't deal with the resulting lack of objective rules.

And I'm a 6 foot tall white guy. In my over 20 years on the Internet, I've received a grand total of one threat of violence. (For drawing Mohammed, from someone located in the Middle East.) While it wasn't a remotely realistic threat, it still bothered me. I can't even imagine what it would be like to actually be a female feminist and have to deal with this shit day after day after day.

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A Love/Hate Relationship

Posted: Wednesday April 16 2014 @ 6:23pm

Religious Order: Books

Back when I used to read paper books, I picked up Elizabeth Moon's The Speed of Dark from a paperback swap club. Then I bought a Nook, and the book sat with a bunch of other paperbacks on a shelf, neglected. This winter, I purchased an exercise bike, to try and keep up some sort of exercise regimen during the cold days. Since I didn't want to drip sweat on my Nook, I've been going through old paperbacks, starting with the long neglected The Speed of Dark.

If you look at reviews on Goodreads, you'll see some folks who think this is the best book ever. Others think it's crap, an inferior rip of Flowers for Algernon. Neither are fully correct. I both liked and disliked it intensely.

On the positive side, most of it is from the first-person perspective of an autistic man, albeit one with some near-future therapies applied. These parts are really touching and insightful. They do make you look at folks differently, with better understanding. It's very effective and evocative writing. I fully understand readers who laud the book based on this, and while I'm only dedicating a paragraph to this aspect of the book, it's equally as important as all my complaints to come. For you see, The Speed of Dark has a, well, dark side...

Bwaa-ha-ha!

Actually, it's nothing sinister, it's just that the story is tepid and antagonists are awful. Let's talk about the story first. The gist of the book is that the protagonist has a chance to take advantage of a new treatment for autism. Should he avail himself of it? Seems simple, no? The story tries to be a mechanism by which the protagonist grows as a person, but it's utterly unnecessary. His growth occurs as part of his daily activities, which happen alongside the main storyline. Meanwhile, the main storyline itself churns along, adding very little. Yes, it forces a decision, but it does so in a very clunky manner. Midway, there's some intrigue suggested behind the therapy, but it's just left to sit there, as a vague threat. It's never developed. (If you want to see this threat actually developed, I highly recommend Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky. That book also does an excellent job providing a viewpoint from a radically different perspective.)

The book would be better without that storyline. Just give us the day-to-day personal growth of a compelling individual.

It's also worth noting that the whole book is very different from Flowers for Algernon in that most of the book leads up to decisions about the treatment. The book would have been fine stopping at the decision rather than continuing on with a couple more chapters showing the ramifications. The decision stands alone without need to be justified either way by subsequent events.

The second problem is with the antagonists. There's a main one, who propels the main storyline. He is, well, just awful. He may as well be twirling a mustache while he cackles his hatred of the protagonist, a hatred which is neither explained nor justified. It reminds me of reviews of The Lord of the Rings, complaining that Sauron is just this evil bad dude with no real motivation. (He actually has tons of motivation, but you need to read much more Tolkien before you see it. Or so I'm told. I haven't read that much.) Every time the book brings this guy in, I would cringe.

The second and tertiary antagonists are more realistic, in different degrees. It's weird. I totally buy the tertiary one and partially buy the secondary. It seems like the less central the antagonist, the better job she does making them real people with real motivations.

One other aspect that bothered me was that most of the book is written in the first person perspective, but it occasionally shifts to third-person to show things not apparent to the protagonist. This causes two problems. First, it lends an objectivity to the antagonists described above. Without these third-person sections, I could chalk the shallowness of the characters up to the differing perceptions of the protagonist. With those third-person sections in, I have to accept that those characters are just poorly written.

Second, it takes me out of the sense of immersion into which she so masterfully puts me for most of the book. Because most of these third-person sections involve the main storyline, they could just as easily be jettisoned.

So, final judgment? It's a really great book with some really big flaws. I enjoyed my time reading it, but I never felt compelled to read more. Normally, it's the plot that drives me to keep picking up a book. Instead, I picked it up, here and there, eventually reaching the end.

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Barefoot + Pregnant!

Posted: Monday April 14 2014 @ 5:56pm

Religious Order: Music

Well, crap, I haven't posted in... let's see... over a month? Damn. So here's a post:

Yes, it's time for another album from the Dollyrots. If you're a regular reader of this blog (ha ha ha, ikr?), you'll know that I'm a long-time fan of the duo. (Yeah, after going through more drummers than Spinal Tap, they finally gave up pretending to be a three-piece.) I wasn't all that delighted with their third album, made for an actual record label. Undoubtedly in response to my tepid review, they struck out on their own and funded their next release through Kickstarter. That one was a winner, showcasing them in all their pop-punk glory.

That brings us up to the latest one, again funded directly by fans, through something called PledgeMusic. The up-front promise was a return to their punkier roots. Also, they were having a baby! They were taking advantage of the touring downtime enforced by the pregnancy to record. Sweet!

So, it just came out last week. (It was just last week when I started this post, but no longer.) Does it deliver the goods? Fuck yeah, it does!

It's certainly more punk-pop than pop-punk. It does lack some of the bouncy poppiness of the previous album, but that's because it ladles on more balls-out rock. It's much more of a four-on-the-floor, three chords, bam bam bam, shouted chorus sort of thing. I don't mean it's simplistic, it's just more driving. Again, this was what they promised, and I'm delighted with it.

The songs caught in my head immediately. It really only took a couple runs through before I was shouting along. In other words, the album grew on me immediately. I could go track by track, but they're mostly gems. There's nothing on this album that would make you skip it in a shuffle. The title track is wonderfully primal-scream-esque. First World Anarchist makes me laugh every time.

There's also a good complement of love/relationship songs. One complaint I had with their third album was that sexually-oriented songs sounded immature. They've grown as songwriters since then, and the racier songs are both more mature and more fun.

The weakest track is Nightlight, only because it borrows heavily from U2's With or Without You. That said, it's sort of like Jet's Are You Gonna Be my Girl swiping the bass-line from Lust For Life in that both are derivative yet, frankly, better songs that the swiped-from songs. (Another example is The Only Ones' Another Girl, Another Planet, which shamelessly borrows from Thin Lizzy's Cowboy Song.)

Backers of the album also received some bonus tracks as well as a full second copy of the album remixed to favor a full sound spectrum over loudness. Backers also were privy to adorable videos of their kid, dubbed the Dollytot. The Dollyrots treat their fans right!

There's a full-fledged video for Barefoot and Pregnant. They're also putting out what they call lyric videos for each and every song. These are simpler videos that also showcase the lyrics. It's sure a better way of learning the words to a song than reading them off a lyric sheet!

So, bottom line? It's a fucking sweet release, on par with their very earliest work, if not better. If you love pop-punk/punk-pop at all, you need to get this.

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Lent Jokes

Posted: Thursday March 06 2014 @ 6:30am

Religious Order: Religion

It's the Lenten season! So, of course, I spent Ash Wednesday telling people they had a smudge of dirt on their foreheads. (No, I didn't.) And asking them what the t on their necklaces stood for. (No, I didn't.) But I did spend part of the day posting Lent jokes to Facebook:


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Yo Momma

Posted: Friday February 07 2014 @ 6:34am

Religious Order: Non-Sectarian

Got into a fight online with my friend Domo... A Yo Momma Joke Fight! Bonus points for religious ones!

(I am, admittedly, not great with these jokes. Plus, I was supposed to be writing, dammit.)

Domo: Yo mamma is so fat she got to iron her pants on the driveway.

Me: Yo mamma's dandruff so bad she gotta use a snowblower on her head.

Domo: Yo Mamma is so ugly she walked into a haunted house and came out with an application.

Domo: Yo mamma so old AND fat the last time she jumped in the ocean it rained for forty days and forty nights.

Me: Yo mamma so fat, last time she took a bath, the animals started to board her, two-by-two.

Me: Yo momma so fat, she deforested the Garden of Eden trying to cover her nakedness.

Me: Yo mamma so promiscuous, even Oholibah's lovers thought she was loose.

Domo: Yo momma is so fat, I took a picture of her last Christmas and it's still printing.

Me: Yo mamma so fat you can only store one picture of her on a 16 gig SD card.

Domo: Yo momma so stinky her Speed Stick got a ticket for driving too slow.

Domo: Yo mamma so ugly Zeus wouldn't F her with Poseidon's dick.

Me: Yo mamma so dumb she though Ken Ham made some good points.

Me: Yo mamma so old she older than the Earth, according to Young Earth Creationists.

Domo: Your momma is so ugly she made One Direction go the other way.

Me: Yo mamma's butt so big it made a liar of Sir Mix-a-lot.

Domo: You mamma so stupid she brought a spoon to the Super Bowl.

Me: Yo momma so dumb, she bet on the Broncos.

Domo: Yo mamma so hairy they made a TV show about people trying to find her.

Domo: Yo mamma so crazy Dennis Rodman tells the press she's misunderstood.

Domo: Yo mamma so fat she got a tattoo of the Bible... all of it.

Me: Yo momma so fat she uses a pizza crust for a communion wafer.

Domo: Yo mamma eat so much Jesus ran out of fish and bread.

Domo: Companion: Yo mamma drink so much Jesus ran out of wine.

Me: Yo Savior so fat, they crucified him flat on the ground.

Domo: Yo Savior so skinny they stapled him to the cross.

Me: Yo Savior so drunk people can't tell whether the wine has been transubstantiated.

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