Saturday, June 28, 2008


I arrived a little late, to join our regularly scheduled dinner already in progress.

My wife informed me that in an effort to get our son to behave and eat peacefully, she was experimenting with the silent treatment. Addressing me, she said, "We're not talking to him until he eats."

He looked at her and said, "You are too talking to me."

"No we're not!" she replied.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of a shoe and concrete.

Criminal Mindlessness

I've long held that, for the most part, criminals simply aren't the smartest people. Let's look at this guy, for instance:

A host of child pornography-related charges have been laid against an employee at a school on a native reserve south of Calgary.

Turner Valley RCMP launched an investigation on June 13, after "questionable" photos were found near a printer, at Eden Valley School.
I can understand the logic of a pedophile seeking employment at a school. It's truly loathsome, but logical.The Child Protection Policy at my church has a preamble to the effect of, "Whereas we understand the possibility that predators may seek access to children through the children's programs at this church..." for exactly that sort of reason.

However, consider for a moment how dumb you would have to be, and how badly you must at least subconsciously want to get caught, to follow this process:

(A) Print out kiddy-porn pictures on the printer at work, then

(B) (This is the really dumb part) Leave them there to be found.

The fact that bad guys do stuff like this on a semi-regular basis gives me continued hope for the good guys.

Enough rambling. Here's another picture of a chain-link fence in closeup. And pants.

Buried In Bits Of Colourful Cardboard

Advisory: This column consists pretty much entirely of Magic: The Gathering geekery. It's also going to be long. If that doesn't appeal to you, bail out now.

Well, as Magic: The Gathering tends to do to people, it's spiralled completely out of hand on me.

Not long ago, I started buying a few cards again. Just once a week, anything from one to five packs at a time, from Crave Manga.

Then my wife and I started playing regularly. It's tapered off a bit from its former frequency, but we still manage at least a couple of times a week. (Do I need to go for a "hey, maybe I'm not talking about what you think I'm talking about" bit again? No, not just yet.)

It snowballed from there.

First, we realized that we simply didn't have enough basic lands to build as many decks as we wanted. Each time I buy one or more new packs, i.e., pretty much every week, I have a policy: all the new cards go into one of our decks, at least for an "audition" of a couple of games. The only exceptions are commons that we're already familiar with. All uncommons and rares, and any new commons, get at least a cursory play-testing.

That means that our decks get quite large, quite fast. Also, whenever a deck gets too big and unwieldy, I go through it and "split" it, based on themes and card synergies. For example, we used to have a deck with pretty all our new red cards, and another with all the white cards. (Several weeks back, we had so few new cards that I simply made six decks: one for each colour and one five-colour deck that had any multicoloured cards plus any lands or other mana sources that could produce multiple colours.)

Then, when those decks got too big and we saw some themes emerging, I took all the giants out of those decks (white had a few), and all the Kithkin (which have a lot of cards that reference giants, either giving them bonuses or getting bonuses from them) from the white deck and made a red and white giant / Kithkin deck.

You get the idea. Anyway, now we have 13 decks sitting on a shelf to my left. Each one is ready to pick up, shuffle and play. Some of them are built entirely from new cards purchased since this revival began, and others are cobbled together almost entirely from old cards rescued from one of my formerly dusty binders.

They are:

- Cantrips (blue / green)
- 10th Edition Commons (black / blue / green) - we have two of these, identical.
- Rebels & Soldiers (white / black)
- Thallids (green with splashes of black and white)
- Black (no real theme, although it has a lot of discard)
- Elementals (red)
- Shadowmoor I (a tournament pack and booster, shuffled together and untuned)
- Shadowmoor II (another tournament pack, shuffled and untuned)
- Giants & Kithkin (red / white)
- Slivers & Other Multicolour (all five colours)
- Merfolk (blue / white)
- Warrior's Code (a Morningtide preconstructed deck)

Here's how this happened. First up, as mentioned, I realized I needed basic lands in fairly large quantities. Crave Manga doesn't carry singles. After a trip to the local card shop proved a waste of time, I turned to eBay.

The best deal was for a "playset" of 10th Edition commons (4 of every common card in the set), with 80 basic lands. I was actually far more interested in the lands than the playset, but it was a nice bonus. To make matters even better, I e-mailed the seller to ask whether he had any more lands for sale, and he offered to throw in a bunch more at no extra charge. (For the uninitiated, basic land cards are the most common cards in Magic. Dealers and players with large collections often wind up with far, far more of them than they can ever use.)

So, I got those. Another great bonus that the seller included was a stack of Saproling token cards. Since we already had the Thallid deck (one of my wife's favourites to play), those came in really handy. In fact, until that playset arrived, I had been looking around the net trying to find some of them to buy separately.

Our first move with that playset was to divide it up into two identical (huge) decks. Each deck contained two copies of every common card in the set, and exactly half of the basic lands that we received. Those decks were a lot of fun to play against each other, but not so much fun to shuffle. Each one was about five inches thick.

We eventually dismantled those, at least partway. I wanted to get the Giants & Kithkin deck running, and we needed the Plains and Mountains. That also meant removing all the red and white cards. So now those 10th Edition common decks contain only the black, green and blue cards, but they're still fun to play. They aren't at all competitive against any of the other decks that we've actually built and tuned, though, so we just play them against each other.

Then, my wife got my a Shadowmoor tournament pack (which I still think of as a "Starter Deck") and booster pack for Father's Day. I simply shuffled them together and played them that way, without even looking through the cards first. (That's always been one of my favourite ways to play Magic.) hat deck worked surprisingly well, even against some of our constructed decks, and is still together in that form.

Throughout all this, we continued to buy packs at a rate of one or two a week. Usually Lorwyn, but also Time Spiral, Future Sight, and Planar Chaos. We're probably going to keep doing that unless and / or until Crave Manga are sold out of packs.

Then, I placed an order for a bunch of cards from a website. I included several "grab bag" assortments - I've always been a big fan of that sort of thing.

Back when I ran a comic shop, I even used to love it when one of my suppliers would run that sort of special. Diamond, the biggest (and practically only) wholesaler in that field, used to sometimes run "scratch and dent" specials (items that couldn't be sold as new due to a defect) or "final copy" specials (items they only had one of left in the warehouse and wanted to get rid of), where they'd basically send you as much stuff as they could cram into a large shipping box for an incredibly low price (usually well over 90% off retail). You didn't know what you were going to get, but you knew that it would be cheap and you'd get a lot of it. I ordered at least one box pretty much every time around, and was never disappointed.

Some comics publishers would even do that sort of thing - I remember the Fantagraphics "Box of Books", which consisted of a full box of their unsold comics from the last couple of years at a bargain basement price - something like $10 wholesale for $100 cover price in books. Those numbers may be off, but the point is that you got a lot of cheap books. Even if you sold them at a quarter each, you made a profit, while exposing customers to some good books in the process, maybe getting them to start picking up the new issues at cover price.

But I digress. The point is, I ordered a bunch of cards, not knowing what some of them would be when they arrived.

Then, as we were waiting for that order to come in, my wife picked me up another present: another Shadowmoor tournament pack (which again got shuffled and played as is) and a Morningtide preconstructed deck, "Warrior's Code", which is surprisingly nasty right out of the box. Again, those two decks are still being played as is. In fact, I haven't yet actually looked through the cards in them, beyond seeing them come up as we play.

Then, the funny part: my latest order of cards arrived in the mail the same day that we got those two packs. So, we're in new card overload mode at the moment.

First up, I ordered a few specific cards:

4 Reminisce
3 Sadistic Glee
2 Stinkdrinker Daredevil
3 Sporesower Thallid

All of these except the 4 Reminisce are for decks that we either have now, or that I have planned. Besides the 13 decks we already have built and ready to play, I have sketched-out ideas for 4 more written down.

Reminisce is a card I had wanted Wizards to print for years. I've always loved graveyard recursion. Feldon's Cane disappointed me because of its remove-from-game cost. Gaea's Blessing is one of my favourite cards; I almost always put two of them, allowing infinite recursion (barring countering, etc.), into every green deck I build. I was very pleased to hear it was back as a timeshifted Time Spiral card, and even happier to get one out of one of my first Time Spiral packs. (The only other timeshifted cards I remember getting offhand, out of the couple of dozen packs or so that I bought, were Bad Moon, Lord of Atlantis, Call of the Herd, and Enduring Renewal.)

Another longtime favourite of mine is Soldevi Digger. I have a few of them, and almost always toss one into any non-green decks I build. Still, I always wanted Wizards to print a card worded, "Shuffle your graveyard into your library." Because of the way spells resolve, a sorcery worded that way will (normally) always wind up as the only card in your graveyard. Put two of them in the deck, and you have infinite recursion in principle.

Reminisce is worded almost exactly as I hoped: "Target player shuffles his or her graveyard into his or her library." Since I don't object to having an additional option on the card (albeit one I'd generally be very unlikely to use unless playing team-based multiplayer) besides the ability I wanted, I'm satisfied with it.

As a side note, now that I'm talking about specific cards (and will be talking about lots more before I wrap this one up), I had considered linking to the Gatherer entry for each card, so you could click on its name and have it pop up. That would have been nice, but this entry would have taken far, far longer to write by inserting all those links, so I took the easy way out.

Gatherer is an official online database of Magic card information, maintained by Wizards of the Coast themselves (the folks who make the game). To see the Gatherer entry for any card, go to this page and type the card's name into the search field. You'll see the card, along with its official wording (long story - most cards don't do quite exactly what they say anymore), rulings, what sets it's been in, and more.

Besides the singles (which were all really cheap), I ordered 20 Forests (again, cheap, and helpful for the number of green decks I build) and a bunch of grab bags. On to those.

First up, I ordered a pack of 10 green rares for $2.99. At that price, I was willing to take a shot, and certainly wasn't disappointed. All of them will get at least a token "audition" in a deck, as I described earlier (and so will pretty much all of these new cards, or at least the uncommons and rares), but some may wind up as permanent additions, or inspiring completely new decks.

There was only one (Magus of the Candelabra) that I already had a copy of. Bounteous Kirin is probably the least interesting of the others, but only because I have (almost) no cards from Kamigawa block, and it's pretty dependent on playing a deck full of Spirit and Arcane spells. Bioplasm, Glissa Sunseeker, Magus of the Vineyard, and Tranquil Grove all earn indifferent shrugs, but I'll toss them into decks because they're new.

Hypergenesis, Spike Tiller, and Primeval Force all look like fun, and will probably stick around past a brief audition. Finally, Thelon of Havenwood is going straight into our Thallid deck and not coming back out. You could say that its ability, which encourages Thallid players to build up their counters instead of putting Saprolings into play, goes against the grain of a Thallid deck, but I just see it as giving another strategic option.

Next up was a $1.99 grab bag, with pretty much no indication of its specific contents. I was pleased with it overall. 12 of the 15 cards in it were artifacts, mostly mediocre ones from the mid-1990s (Ice Age, Chronicles, Fallen Empires).There were also three Kamigawa block uncommons and Grid Monitor, a rare. However, the stars of the pack were an Eighth Edition Phyrexian Colossus and a Skull Catapult. That last one may not impress most players, but I really like Skull Catapult. I think it's a terrific card in any deck that pumps out lots of little creatures (especially with token-making engines), and the fact that I only had one until now means that I had to choose which deck to put my single copy into (I don't care for swapping cards from deck to deck; if I need to remove essential cards from a deck to build a new one, I usually just completely dismantle the first deck).

Next, a $2.99 grab bag, again with no substantive description. I didn't even have any way to differentiate them when ordering, other than their price. I just decided to chance that the $2.99 version would have some advantage over the cheaper one.

As it turned out, the more expensive pack was larger (30 cards), with four rares. Of those, two are so narrowly focused that I can't see them fitting into any of my decks, Long-Forgotten Gohei is another card that's dependent on playing a deck full of Spirit and Arcane spells. Maybe someday I'll get a bunch more Kamigawa block cards, but for now it's essentially useless to me. Teferi's Response is powerful, but dead unless your opponent attempts to target one of your lands.

Cytoshape and Mephitic Ooze are more versatile, but still not especially interesting to me. Other than those, the pack contained commons (and perhaps a few non-noteworthy uncommons), mostly from Revised, Ice Age, Stronghold and Exodus. There were a few good utility cards included (Mulch, Sift, etc.), but nothing I didn't already have. Overall I liked the smaller pack better, but that's probably only because of my pre-existing like of Skull Catapult.

Finally, I ordered 13 Odyssey "repacks". Those are packs the retailer had assembled, each containing one rare, three uncommons and 11 commons from the set, the same ratio as an unopened booster. However, they were 99 cents each, instead of the three bucks or so that an unopened booster normally costs.

I wanted these because I had lots of cards from Revised / Fallen Empires through to Apocalypse, then lots from Time Spiral and Lorwyn blocks, but nothing in between. That made Odyssey the first set in the unrepresented gap in my collection, so I wanted to get a good assortment from that set. If (or more likely when) I order more cards, I'll go for a Torment mix, working up through the gap, and so on until I have a working assortment of cards from each set.

First up, I realize that these repacks do not show off the best each set had to offer. The dealer openly stated that buyers will not be getting the marquee rares or even the better uncommmons from the set, and I understand that. Why would they put a card that they could readily sell by itself for a few dollars into a cheap bulk package?

However, I'm not impressed with the cards. It seems like another Mercadian Masques: overcosted, underpowered, and not very interesting. I've separated them into colours, and here are the highlights as I see them:

Blue - Pedantic Learning, Unifying Theory. I'm nearly obsessed with card advantage, so anything that lets me draw extra cards immediately gets my attention. Pedantic Learning could work in a deck with cards like Mulch that cause you to mill yourself, but you'd have to plan that deck out very carefully to make it work. The Unifying Theory is very risky because it works for your opponent too, but that's a risk I usually don't mind taking. Symmetrical cards (cards that give your opponent the same benefit / drawback that they give you) are often worth it, because your deck will (should) be designed to deal with their effects, but your opponent's deck probably won't. Finally, I've been toying with the idea of building a Madness deck, and Rites of Refusal would be a nice addition to it.

Green - Gorilla Titan looks like fun, and I definitely have an affinity for ape / monkey cards. (By the way, my wife immediately noticed that the Gorilla Titan has a long prehensile tail. That's a taxonomic problem.) However, my decks would usually have a hard time meeting his condition of having an empty graveyard. I'll still probably play it, just because it's an ape. Time for a new Planet Of The Apes deck, perhaps.

Other than that, the green cards of note included Bearscape, which I normally wouldn't like but I could use to empty my graveyard for the Titan; Chatter of the Squirrel, which I would like if it had buyback instead of flashback; Elephant Ambush and Sylvan Might, which demonstrate that Wizards went way off the rails setting their flashback costs too high in this set; and Woodland Druid, which I really, really don't like. It's so bland that I'm surprised it didn't get reprinted in 10th Edition.

White - I like Karmic Justice, Delaying Shield, Testament of Faith, Sphere of Reason, and Sphere of Duty. I assume there are other Spheres out there that prevent black and red damage; those would be better, of course. Ray of Distortion again demonstrates the flashback cost insanity that had apparently gripped Wizards. It's pretty much completely unplayable.

Red - Epicenter is the definite highlight. I've never been a big fan of Armageddon effects, so my collection doesn't contain many of them. However, I'm starting to see how they would fit into some decks, so I'm warming to the idea a bit. Bomb Squad looks like fun, Battle Strain is good, and Earth Rift and Scorching Missile continue the theme of wildly overpriced, unplayable flashback costs. Finally, Dwarven Recruiter may be the most useless tutor I've ever seen, given how poorly supported Dwarves have been over the years. I see a few more in this set, but the Dwarf population still isn't particularly impressive compared to Goblins, or even Homarids.

Black - Repentant Vampire looks nice, but suffers from the same problem as all of Magic's vampires: you almost never get to use its ability. Your opponent simply will not block it, or attack into it, with anything that it can kill. It has a great Threshold ability, though. Sadistic Hypnotist and Hint of Insanity are good discard engines, although Hint of Insanity is probably overpriced for how much it does. Travelling Plague looks like fun in the same vein as Bomb Squad.

Painbringer could be good removal for most players, but I don't like removing cards from the game, even when they're already in my graveyard. I enjoy graveyard recursion too much for that. Skull Fracture and (especially) Morbid Hunger complete the colour cycle of wildly overcosted flashback cards. Black also has way too many "remove a card in a graveyard from the game" effects.

Other - I got no artifacts, and only one gold card, Thaumatog, which is mildly interesting. I like the common cycle of nonbasic lands that can be tapped for one of a given colour, or sacrificed for one of any colour. Those will be going into my five-colour Sliver deck. I'm a lot less impressed - which is to say not at all impressed - with Cabal Pit.

The second order of cards I placed, with all the grab bags, was from Magic Arsenal. I picked them after looking around the web for single card dealers (I started out just looking for the Sadistic Glees and some basic lands, and it snowballed from there). They got the order - and will probably get more orders from me - specifically because of their selection. They offered lots of interesting bulk packs, repacks and assortments. Their shipping rates were reasonable (i.e., no "Canadian orders triple the shipping costs then add another $20" nonsense), and the order arrived quickly with no errors. I recommend them to anyone looking for Magic singles.

Anyway, this has really all been mostly to record this for myself. My apologies for using the blog in lieu of a notepad stuck on the fridge. However, I'll probably do it again, which makes the apology worth the electrons used to spray it onto a CRT monitor.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture that was taken out the car window.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Preschooler Astrophysicist

Cue theme music and opening titles.

ANNOUNCER: It's time once again for another exciting adventure of.... PRESCHOOLER ASTROPHYSICIST!

Scene: PRESCHOOLER ASTROPHYSICIST'S bedroom, nighttime. PRESCHOOLER ASTROPHYSICIST and DAD are sitting on the bed. PRESCHOOLER ASTROPHYSICIST is holding MISTER BEAR, whose scarf is missing.

DAD: Teddy bears don't just take their own scarves off. Where did you put it afterward?

PRESCHOOLER ASTROPHYSICIST gestures vaguely toward his bedroom floor. DAD looks around, but finds nothing.

DAD: Well, it's not there anymore. Do you suppose it grew legs and walked away on its own?

PRESCHOOLER ASTROPHYSICIST: No.... but maybe when the Earth spun around, it slipped into another room!

Announcer: Join us again next week for another thrilling installment of.... PRESCHOOLER ASTROPHYSICIST!

Cue closing titles & music.

Enough rambling. Here's another picture of a chain-link fence in closeup.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Crossblogging Followup

This is a followup to my last Crossblogging entry, about the comparison between gay "marriage" and polygamy. Just to refresh the point: I'm not aware of any arguments for or against either one that couldn't be applied to the other. Just swap the terms, and off you go.

As it turns out, the Canadian government agrees with me. Not that I'm overly impressed with that, given how rarely I agree with the Canadian government, but I just wanted to throw it out there.

Back when the Canadian federal government was working out the logistics of overriding the will of the majority of its citizens and tossing aside what has historically always been understood as basic morality and common sense, some bureaucrat came to the same conclusion as mine above. If they were going to shove gay "marriage" legislation through, then polygamy would be next. A study was carried out, and committees were formed - the usual Canadian responses to, well, anything.

Unsurprisingly, the results that came back were that there was no problem. When the issue gets raised by a court challenge, then polygamy will be legalized as well.

I found a couple of sources from opposite ends of the spectrum that talk about this in more detail: Lifesite, and Pro-Polygamy (guess which side they're on). Reading both of those, if you have the stomach for it, should get the point across. Of course, you could be excused for then thinking the point is that Canadian bureaucrats are spineless nitwits.

I've heard a lot of conservative folks say that gay "marriage" would start us down a slippery slope. Polygamy, incestuous marriage, and who-knows-what-else will inevitably follow. They're partly correct.

They're correct about the path eventually and inevitably leading to who-knows-what-else. They're wrong about where the slope started.

The slope started with two disastrously wrong decisions. I haven't researched when either was made (in any jurisdiction), but I'd be interested in those details if anyone else knows offhand. These are on my "I'd like to know but it would take more research than running a term through Google so who knows when I'll get around to it" list.

The two decisions were allowing no-fault divorce, and the legitimization of common-law relationships as having legal status equivalent to marriage (or any legal status, for that matter).

Once those battles were lost, marriage (strictly in the legal / civic sense) was lost. By allowing those two concepts to pass into law, the State tossed away any sense of what marriage ever was or should be, and all moral authority to have any say in its future.

I've seen liberals pick up on this underlying truth and say things like. "If you're so interested in the sanctity of marriage, shouldn't you be more concerned with divorce than gay marriage?" Well, some of us are. Simple as that. I don't know, but I hope (again, does anybody reading this know any historical details?) that no-fault divorce and common-law relationships being given legal status were opposed at the time.

Those decisions (most accurately, whichever of those decisions was made first) are where the slope began. We're a long way down that slope now, and picking up speed. Within a few short decades, the word "marriage" is going to become essentially meaningless to most people.

As usual, I don't have an ideal solution to propose. I guess my wish now would be for the State to remove itself entirely from the whole "marriage" concept. Strike the words "marriage", "husband", "wife", "spouse", etc., from all legislation, and institute a new legal status of "civil partner" or somesuch that would replace marriage in legal matters (insurance, inheritance, taxation, etc.). This "civic partnership" would have to be readily available to any persons who wanted to register as such, regardless of gender, previous relationship, or even number of persons involved (as noted, what we currently call polygamy follows inevitably if any other restrictions on what we currently call marriage are removed).

Let marriage be defined and administered by clerics, and completely irrelevant to the State. Of course, the State would in short order decide that it had the right to determine who qualified as a "cleric" and start regulating marriage all over again, but that's a separate matter that the clerics can ignore when the time comes. We're long past the point where people should be telling the State to get stuffed anyway.

This whole system would, of course, be laughable, illogical, and unduly complicated. Then again, so is what the State has already made of what used to be called marriage.

Enough rambling. Here's another picture of my son's feet after a day of playing outside.

This Year's Answer

Way back when I first started this blog, oh so many months ago, I told the story of my workplace having a "Canadian spirit" day, during which employees were encouraged to wear as much red and white as possible. In case you haven't read that entry (which you can do by clicking on the link in that last sentence, if so inclined), I can summarize it by saying that I find the whole idea a bit silly.

Like many silly activities, it appears to have become an annual tradition. When the time came this year, I had a new answer for the inevitable "Hey, where's your red-and-white stuff?" inquiries. With as much artificial cheerfulness as I can muster: "You haven't seen my underwear yet!"

It's unfortunate that I had to go back to the underwear theme, but it works. The "yet" is the heart of the line. Take out the "yet" - not funny. With the "yet" - at least mildly amusing, and usually good for being left alone by my interrogator for at least the next 10 working hours.

The followup bit was even more effective. Returning to my desk after a brief absence, I loudly announced to everyone within earshot, "I just checked while I was in the washroom, and some of my underwear is still white!"

One unfortunate individual was puzzled by this, rather than taking the sensible path of just blocking me out.

"What do you mean, 'some of it is still white'?"

"Well, more of it used to be." (Pause for effect.) "I don't expect there'll be any white left at all by this time next week."

Enough rambling. Here's another picture of a chain-link fence in closeup.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I've stepped into the fray once again at John Dvorak's blog, in the comments on a post about same-sex "marriage" being legalized in California.

I don't think I've touched on this issue here, although I may get around to it one of these days. My position on the matter is pretty much what you'd expect if you've been reading this blog for more than a couple of minutes. Hint: note the quotation marks in the previous (and next) paragraph.

Anyway, par for the course on Dvorak's blog, anyone who has any hesitation at all to jumping up and down and applauding gay "marriage" is being attacked. Here's a sampling from what's being said about those of us on this side of the fence in the comments:

  • "hatemongering"
  • "the Founding Fathers would have applauded"
  • "disproportionally vocal minority of biggots and hate mongers" (sic - twice)
  • "It is still cute, if not anachronistic , to see the usual crowd of breast-beaters for 'freedom and liberty' - trot out the centuries-old range of excuses for 2nd-class citizenship. You clowns should just join the KKK and admit your bigotry"
  • "(this decision) will eventually benefit society by according equal legal status to people I believe have been improperly discriminated against"
  • "I’ve got no problems with polygamy either!"
  • "So you didn’t like seeing black folk get married to white folks, or Jews move into your Christian neighborhood, or the Irish take your jobs."
  • "You racist bigots were wrong then, and you’re wrong now…you’re always wrong."
  • "I’m sorry you don’t get your all white society free of gays, Jews, blacks and immigrants."
  • "That’s why they condemned rock’n roll - too many black-and-white couples."
  • "the only reason not to call what gays and lesbians do when they tie the knot “marriage” is to placate a minority of hatemongers and xenophobes."
  • "It’s self-evident that these anti-marriage folks are homophobes"
  • "gay marriage sure seems to whip up a frenzy among the wide-stancing right-wing homophobes."
And, an editorial note from Eidard, a Dvorak blog editor and the poster of the item itself:
Of course, there still are those who think second-class citizenship is OK - for someone else. Someday, their children and grandchildren may forgive them. It’s the “Christian” thing to do. Right?

Here's what I posted. This was going to form the nucleus of a new post here anyway, linking to the same article. I might as well be lazy and just report it here rather than write a whole separate entry:
Quick question: are all the enlightened folks who are name-calling and flinging hyperbole on this issue (Eidard, #7, and #23, I’m looking in your direction) going to go argue with anyone opposed to polygamy, too?

Check out this article:

Here’s the money quote, from that article (words of the prosecutor in the case):

“the degree of harm, social harm resulting from polygamy per se - not just in Bountiful - is such that criminalizing it is justifiable in a free and democratic society.”

Clue: “polygamy” and “same-sex marriage” can be used interchangeably in any argument for or against either that I’ve ever heard.

Anybody going to hurry over and call that prosecutor a hatemonger and a bigot?

If not, why not?

If so, well, then, I at least admire your intellectual integrity.

The only direct response to me - so far - was when an editor of the blog stripped out the link to the National Post article and replaced it with this:
[edit: pls learn to use tinyurl}

(For the record, I deliberately didn't use TinyURL, a service that changes long addresses you can read to short ones you can't. I never will. Websurfing 101: never click on a link blindly. If you don't have at least some idea where you'll wind up, stay where you are. There are too many people out there who think it's funny to redirect links to porn sites or sites that will silently install malware on your computer to ever click blindly.)

So, no responses to the actual question I raised. I don't expect any to show up, especially now that the article's been pushed off the front page over there.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of the sky and A Bit Of Finger.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Dying To Kill

One of the favourite lies of pro-abortionists is that before abortion was widely legalized, women were dying in droves during illegal abortions. The pro-aborts love to trot this argument out whenever any abortion restriction, no matter how minor, is suggested. Not terribly long ago, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, a prominent Democrat, claimed that a hypothetical reversal of Roe v. Wade would mean that "a minimum of 5,000 women a year will die."

These numbers get cited frequently, and were in fact instrumental in getting Roe v. Wade passed in the first place. Pro-abortion advocates testified that abortion had to legalized, with absolutely no limits of any kind, to save thousands of lives every year.

The logical problem there is obvious: someone dies every time an abortion is (successfully) performed. In some even more tragic cases, two people do. The one who dies every time doesn't seem to count, though. Maybe it's because those victims don't vote, pay taxes, recycle, or buy Indigo Girls albums. For purposes of this discussion we'll (mostly) ignore those deaths, much as it pains me to do so.

There are a couple of other problems with the whole "illegal abortions kill huge numbers of women" argument, though.

First and foremost is that the numbers are trumped up. Made of whole cloth. Pulled from a bodily orifice. In a word, lies.

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, one of the architects of current U.S. abortion policy (i.e., "kill 'em all and let God, if there is one, sort 'em out") has admitted as much. So has everyone else who's got even the slightest shred of integrity.

(Dr. Nathanson has since repented of his earlier position and is now a pro-life activist. Like many who have turned from evil to good, he's found that it's much harder to put a lie to rest than to put it into play in the first place.)

Second - and I'll warn you now, this will sound harsh - is that women who die during illegal abortions (or legal ones, for that matter) die in part due to their own actions.

I deliberately and explicitly stop short of saying that it's their own fault. I take absolutely no pleasure in any of these deaths. Each one is a tragedy ( just reported on one such awful case, which is what prompted this entry).

However, I believe in personal responsibility. People have to take some degree of responsibility for their situation if they develop cancer after smoking, get in a car accident while driving drunk, or get punched out for mouthing off in a bar. Sometimes people wind up suffering, even dying, at least in part because of their poor choices.

Whenever I hear of a woman dying during an abortion – especially an illegal abortion – my main reaction is pity for both victims (the child who didn't make it to birth, and the mother.)

Mainly, though, I mourn that some poor woman was so desperate to kill her child, so selfish, so unfeeling, so hateful (which I think is an appropriate term for this level of coldness), that she was willing to lay her own life on the line as long as the goal of killing her child was achieved.

I feel sorry for anyone who has given themselves over so completely to evil.

Of course, the recurring theme of the Gospel, and (I hope) of this blog, is that there is hope even for those people.

Another recurring theme is that we're all one of those people sometimes. The difficult part is recognizing when.

Enough rambling. Here's another picture of a chain-link fence in closeup.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

If You Laugh At This, You're A Bad Person

My local supermarket has an "Incontinence" section. They even have one of those big signs hanging from the ceiling in that aisle, announcing where to find it. I guess that's understandable; the target market for incontinence products might be in a bit of a hurry to find them. You don't want to make them wander the store for too long.

One of my life's ambitions is to take a glass container of - well, anything, really - down into that aisle and drop it. I just want to hear the announcement over the store loudspeakers: "Cleanup in incontinence..."

I've noticed that the incontinence section seems to be covered by more security cameras than most areas of the store. I guess it just goes to show what I've always said: you can't trust the incontinent. They'll steal anything that's not nailed down.

Then they'll pee all over it.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture taken down the front of my son's shirt.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Internet Is A Bad Influence

I'm nitpicking another news story - this one about how terrorists are starting to work alone, rather than in small infiltration-prone groups. From the article (emphasis added):

A newly declassified Canadian intelligence report is warning about the emerging threat posed by "lone wolf" Islamist terrorists who operate completely on their own.


A lone wolf is inspired by a terrorist cause but takes action independently. Lone wolves are difficult to identify because they do not join terrorist groups or associate with other known extremists.

The phenomenon is being linked to the Internet.

Yes, that's right. Before the Internet came along, people were far less likely to become troubled loners and all Muslims really were peaceful.

Why, if not for chat rooms and Grand Theft Auto, Muslims probably wouldn't blow up much of anything. I imagine a dialogue between a Muslim parent and teenager a century or so ago: "What's wrong, Mohammad-Al-Mohammud-Bin-Mohammed? You're so sociable and nonviolent lately. Your mother and I are starting to worry." "Well, Dad, I just don't know how to get motivated to hate these days. If only someone would invent a global computer network to tell me how to make IEDs. Oh, and invent computers, of course. And the term 'IED.' Hey - you said my mother was starting to worry. Who allowed the woman to express an opinion?"

This reminds me of a conversation I had a while back with a nice older lady who was sincerely worried about the Internet. She had never been online, and all of her information came from scary sound bite teases for the local news. "Can syphilis be transmitted by e-mail? Find out if your kids are at risk, tonight at eleven on Action News!"

She expressed concern over people being able to find "all sorts of bad stuff" (presumably bomb plans, civil disobedience strategies, etc. - her concept of the Internet seemed to be The Anarchist Cookbook in HTML) on the Web. Finally, she said (perhaps not verbatim, but very close), "The Internet doesn't do anything except give people bad ideas."

I replied, "You do realize, don't you, that the same was fairly recently said about literacy?"

One other point: who could have predicted that a newspaper (remember those? They used to be relevant.) might want to make people fearful of getting information online?

OK, you can put your hand down now. It doesn't make you Nostradamus.

(And, yes, I get the actual intent of that sentence in the article: that the Net allows those who are so inclined to easily and anonymously find reading material to feed their prejudices and hatred, and to get info that they would have needed to join a group to access in days past. Like I said, I'm nitpicking. I'm annoyed at how people who understand as much about the Internet as Barack Obama does about actual terrorism - i.e., nothing - will read that passage, then walk away saying, "See, Myrtle? I told 'ya them thar Intarwebs was fulla fore-un ter'rists.")

Enough rambling. Here's another picture of a chain-link fence in closeup.

Careful, You Could Put An Eye Out

Recently in the news....

It's always good when the police bust up a nest of criminals. This story, though, is especially reassuring to all peace-loving citizens. As always, the funny part is highlighted:

RCMP estimate they seized $250,000 worth of cocaine and marijuana during a raid on two Côte-Sainte-Anne homes Friday morning.

[Unfunny stuff in the middle snipped out]

While a large amount of drugs were seized, the number of weapons in the homes was surprising. Police recovered handguns, shotguns, an assault rifle with a bayonet attached, a high-powered rifle, a large number of knives and daggers, a crossbow, throwing stars, several swords and a walking stick with a sword hidden inside.

As happy as I am to hear that any criminals have been placed safely behind bars, it sounds like this was an especially dangerous gang. Apparently they were ninjas, the scariest criminals of all.

There are just too darn many ninjas prowling the streets these days. It's getting so that you can hardly go out for an evening stroll without taking along a couple of samurai bodyguards. Nice to see a few ninja drug dealers getting put behind bars where they belong.

Where they will probably be teased - perhaps even given wedgies - by the other convicts. Nobody likes a ninja. They're like the mimes of the underworld.

Seriously, throwing stars? What, was the Things 1980s Nerds Thought Would Make Cool Weapons But That Are Actually Really Lame And Useless store out of nunchucks?

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my son herding goats.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Fundamental Pastoral Error

I've been hanging around churches on Sunday mornings for almost two decades, very close to half my life. (I intend to keep showing up until it actually sinks in.) I've heard a lot of sermons. I've also heard and read far more devotionals, "moments of reflection", Bible studies, informal discussions of spiritual matters, etc.

There's one recurring theme that keeps popping up, especially from pastors in the pulpit, and I think they're dead wrong about it. In fact, I think they have it exactly backwards (for most unsaved people).

Over and over, far more times than I could count, I've heard pastors assuring listeners that they can come to Christ, no matter what they've done. No sin is too great for God to reject a repentant sinner. That's certainly true and scriptural, and it's an important message. The breadth of human experience is too great for me to say that no one, anywhere, needs to hear it. I'm sure there are many people who do.

However, I don't think I've ever met any of them.

The people I meet and interact with on a daily basis do not have a sense that their sin is so great that Christ would reject them. Instead, although most of them would not explicitly say so, they have a strong sense that their sin isn't so bad. They don't see a need to stop fooling around with their lives and come to Christ.

Everybody says, "I'm not so bad." They usually follow this with, "Why, look at that person over there! I'm definitely not as bad as them." (This is a recurring pet peeve of mine: pointing out someone else's failings does not excuse your own.)

My own grandmother, who was a strong believer in Christ, didn't like to sing Amazing Grace. The line "that saved a wretch like me" seemed inappropriate to her. She lived a good, moral life by most peoples' standards, and didn't see herself as a "wretch".

Thankfully, it was eventually pointed out to her that by God's standards, every human being is a wretch in need of salvation that we are completely incapable of earning through our own efforts. (I wish I could say it was me that pointed it out to her, but it wasn't.) Once she heard that, she understood and accepted it, and sang joyfully from then on.

Modern western society has lost the vocabulary of sin. We don't understand that we are sinners, much less what that means or what to do about it. Sure, plenty of people will cheerfully admit to being sinners, with a wink and a grin, but they don't really understand what they're saying. If they did they wouldn't joke about it any more than a German Jew in the 1930s would joke about the Nazis rising to power.

Sin is deadly. It is no funnier, no cuter, than AIDS.

Preachers, by all means keep preaching the message "that no sin is too great". It's true, and there are no doubt people out there who need to hear it. However, please consider moving "no sin is too small" up in the thematic rotation.

Enough rambling. Here's another picture of a chain-link fence in closeup.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Epitome Of Canadian Terrorism

Yes, these terrorism suspects were definitely Canadian. From an article talking about how wiretaps were used to eavesdrop on conversations between people who were allegedly (that word inserted for the lawyers in the audience) plotting to blow stuff up and cut off heads in the name of... I forget. Buddha, maybe? Anyway:

Another wiretap played in court Thursday featured a discussion on the possibility of being tortured. The conversation, in which one adult suspect says he'd rather kill himself than endure torture, ends when the car they're travelling in goes through a Tim Hortons drive-thru and the suspect orders a hazelnut smoothie.

"Yes, the filthy infidels must die... but, man, do they make a fine pastry!"

I really hope the reporter who prepared this story understands how funny that sentence is. I'd hate to think that it was intended as straightforward reporting of the facts.

It pains me not to correct the spelling in the quotation, but here at the House Of Zirbert we strive for authenticity. Note to reporters, editors, and signmakers everywhere: There is no such word as "thru." Inability - or unwillingness - to spell correctly is a move down the slippery slope toward illiteracy.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of ducks eating from my wife's hand.