Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Marital Mathematics

It's very close to my wedding anniversary. My wife’s, too. What are the odds of that? This anniversary is a round number, one of the Big Ones. My wife likes to call it “Ten down, two to go!”

The actual anniversary went by very recently. Or it might be coming up very soon. I forget. It might even be today, which would plausibly explain all the people in my house and possibly the balloons. However, I still haven’t gotten a satisfactory explanation for the streamers. I’m pretty sure they’re unrelated, and reject all claims to the contrary.

This is the kind of occasion when one reviews and takes stock of their life. In my case, it makes me wonder about a specific statistic. This is a delicate matter, but it should be clear from this blog that any aspect of my life, no matter how intimate, is fair game for discussion. Well, except for anything that’s actually personal.

Anyway, I got to wondering about, shall we say, “relations” statistics for my wife and I over the course of our marital career (sorry for the vulgarity, Mom!). If we appeared on baseball cards, this is the kind of thing I’d like to see on the back. So, I ran some numbers to estimate how many times we’ve (THIS PORTION OF THIS BLOG HAS BEEN REDACTED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF MORAL STANDARDS ON GROUNDS OF GENERAL ICKINESS) over the last decade.

Ten years is 520 weeks, or about 3,640 nights. So, divide that out, carry the eight…

Four times. Yep, that sounds about right.

No, wait, three. I forgot that 2000 wasn’t a leap year.

In other news, reliable reports indicate that Michael Jackson remains dead. However, several witnesses claim to have seen Generalissimo Francisco Franco at the 7-11 in Des Moines, Iowa on Monday. There was a special on Slush Puppies.

We have received no new information on the whereabouts or condition of Hostage Bunny. Our prayers tonight are with Mrs. Bunny, their 74 children, and their innumerable grandchildren.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of a finished frog pinata. Sadly, no photos were taken of the smashed-to-bits frog pinata that came to be soon thereafter. There was green paper mache and months-old candy (mostly hard candy wrapped in cellophane, so no worse for wear) everywhere.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Omar Khadr And Michael Jackson

I had intended to call this post "Michael Jackson And Omar Khadr", but I decided that just for once, Omar deserved to get top billing.

I've received four CNN Breaking News E-Mail Alerts (so far) about Michael Jackson's death. Unless he got back up shortly thereafter, screamed "BRAAAAAINS!" and took a bite out of Tito, that's probably three-ish too many.

What, too soon?

Poor Farrah Fawcett. She died first (garnering only a single CNN Breaking News E-Mail Alert for doing so), and promptly got overshadowed. It reminds me of C.S. Lewis dying on the same day as John F. Kennedy, meaning few people noticed. And so we add one final item to the list of "Eerie Coincidences Between The Lives Of Farrah Fawcett and C.S. Lewis".

On to Omar Khadr. This was going to be the entire entry until celebrities started dying. Khadr's case lets some people demonstrate that they think Canada should be dictating American policy (emphasis added):

...the argument raised by the federal government's lawyer in telling the courts to butt out of its handling of the Omar Khadr case is chilling...Federal Court Judge James O'Reilly had issued a blunt order "to return to Canada as soon as practicable" the young Canadian languishing in American custody... Justice O'Reilly's finding in April that the government's refusal to demand Mr. Khadr's repatriation was against fundamental justice...
In case you don't get the point, those quotations are from an editorial called, "Lawyer Exposes The Fragility Of Civil Rights". While the editorial makes some interesting points, most of it boils down to a theme that Canada should be able to demand (note that exact word used above) that the United States release accused murderers of their citizens, as long as the accused have a Canadian birth certificate. Sadly, lots and lots of people (in lots and lots of countries) don't seem to understand that this is at its core an issue of national sovereignty.

Omar Khadr is in American custody, facing charges under American jurisdiction for offenses against Americans. I would have liked his case to have been resolved in a more timely manner, but that's a separate issue.

Here's the bottom line on this whole debate: Canada has no business interfering with how the U.S. deals with Mr. Khadr. Imagine for a moment that an American were to come into Canada and commit serious crimes. Suppose that this hypothetical American criminal were then arrested and charged in Canada. If American lawyers were to call us up, demanding that we turn him loose and send him home, we'd see this as a ridiculous attempt at bullying. We'd say that he's our problem now, and that the U.S. can have him back if and when we're done with him.

In short, we'd tell the American lawyers to pound sand, go hug a rope, and / or sit on a pencil and twirl. And rightly so.

The same principle holds true in reverse. As long as Omar Khadr is in American custody, facing charges under American jurisdiction, then the diplomatic thing for Canada to do is butt out. We have absolutely no right to attempt to dictate to America. To even attempt to sway the proceedings by "just asking" (a suggestion contained in the linked editorial) would be an insult.

I acknowledge some exceptions. Rogue states and dictatorships sometimes lock up foreign nationals without valid cause, and in those situations I think it's perfectly appropriate for their home countries to call for their release and repatriation. However, I haven't heard any credible suggestions that Khadr was an innocent kid in the wrong place at the wrong time. By all accounts he was a non-uniformed enemy combatant on a foreign battlefield, which makes him a terrorist by definition, and quite possibly a war criminal. He could have been shot down like a dog on the spot, which in retrospect would have been simpler. Apparently I'm more grateful than he is that they chose to bring him in instead.

Just to deal with the objection that any wayward Daily Kos readers will surely raise at this point: just because you didn't like George W. Bush doesn't make him a fascist. Despite your fantasies, America did not change into a dictatorship between 2000 and 2008, on a slippery slope to dissidents being rounded into prison camps. The leftist delusion to the contrary is disproven by one simple observation. If America were really a draconian dictatorship, then Al Franken, Janeane Garafalo, and everyone whose picture appears on Zombietime would have disappeared in the night long ago. Instead, each of those folks are perfectly free to complain to their heart's content, without fear of jackbooted thugs showing up at the door. That's one of the greatest things about America: you can live in it without having to like it. (Same goes for Canada, incidentally.)

Here's a summation for Canadian terrorist sympathizers: how the U.S. of A. chooses to deal with Omar Khadr is really none of your business. He's their problem now. Go ahead and write all the protest songs about him that you want, but don't expect the grownups to take you seriously.

Hey, is Michael Jackson still dead? I haven't gotten a CNN Breaking News E-Mail Alert about it in like twenty minutes. How am I supposed to know?

Before this dies down (hey, see what I just did there? And it was an accident!), Jackson is going to be reported dead more often than Generalissimo Francisco Franco.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of an unfinished frog pinata. This started out as one of those projects with the kids (or kid, in my case) that sounded good on a dreary weekend afternoon, but for which all involved lost their enthusiasm partway. This thing hung in our kitchen like this (ostensibly "for the paint to dry") for months. The story didn't end there, though. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

And It Gets Worse

Chapter the Second, in which we continue to follow the curious case of Mr. Gilles Blackburn. Go read my last entry first, if you haven't already. After that, go read my first entry last. It's not relevant in the slightest, but I'm in a Lewis Carroll kind of mood today and enjoy the wordplay. By this time tomorrow I'll regret the previous two sentences. That one too, in all probability.

If I'm reading this editorial correctly, Mr. Blackburn stamped out some SOS signs in the snow, then kept wandering. On at least a couple of occasions, someone went to one of his signs, but Mr. Blackburn and his wife were by then nowhere around. I also enjoyed the offhanded mention that since there was snow on the ground, all Mr. Blackburn and his wife had to do when they first realized they were lost was turn around and follow their own tracks back to the trail they had left.

I'm no wilderness survivalist. I've needed to be rescued from the middle of city parks. In my defense, I was only afraid to climb back down from the statue because those park ducks looked fierce. The razor-sharp bills, the fleet webbed feet... I'm starting to get flashbacks. I'd best move along before I wind up back in therapy.

Anyway, the point is, even I know that the first rule when lost in the woods is stay put. Unless you absolutely need to move for some reason (like encircling park ducks drawing ever closer), find a comfy spot and wait for search-and-rescue. That's doubly true if you've somehow been able to signal your position with a flare, emergency whistle, fire, or SOS sign stamped in the snow. Of course, this may not hold true anymore if Mr. Blackburn achieves his dream of forcing search-and-rescue crews to cease operations. If there's no help coming, you might as well pick a direction and start walking. Personally, I'll be nervous venturing into my back yard without a trail of bread crumbs leading back to the shed.

As I mentioned yesterday, I can't quite demonize Mr. Blackburn. I hold out hope that he's still a victim here, being manipulated by sharks and weasels who see his tragedy as a way to make a quick buck. Who, you may wonder, could possibly be so low? And lo, we have an answer:

The lawyer for a Quebec man who barely survived being lost for nine days in the B.C. backcountry and watched his wife die in the ordeal says she's surprised by the level of animosity being thrust toward her client.

[snip, snip, snip your cares away]

Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, Blackburn's lawyer, says the public appears to have lost sight of who the victim is in this case.

"I think it's important that people be reminded who's being sued here and why," Wilhelm-Morden said.

That's right, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, henceforth to be known as Weasel Number One. I love that she's "surprised" that people aren't falling for this nonsense. Since she presumably graduated law school, probably with flecks of ambulance bumpers already lodged between her teeth, I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she isn't actually stupid. However, it goes beyond disingenuous to suggest that this lawsuit is about improving services or contributing to public safety. This lawsuit is all about a payday for Mr. Blackburn, and more importantly for Weasel Number One. Those ads during Jerry Springer, encouraging idiots to file lawsuits when their idiocy backfires, don't come cheap.

I can almost understand Mr. Blackburn's lawsuit against the RCMP. I think he should lose it, but there may be an iota of merit to it. The RCMP has an explicit duty of care for Canadians, even when those Canadians are endangered by their own recklessness. However, suing the hotel is very close to the definition of chutzpah, and suing the search-and-rescue group is simply over the top.

I'd like to see the hotel countersue. Mr. Blackburn's actions caused them a lot of trouble, expense, and negative publicity. He should be billed for all expenses that they can reasonably attribute to him. Actually, my ideal scenario would be that they sue him, win, and are awarded a judgement of one dollar. I don't want him punished financially; I just want him to stop blaming others for his own foolishness. If he snaps out of this tomorrow, drops all the suits and publicly denounces Weasel Number One's opportunism, then all is forgiven.

In that spirit, I'd also like to nominate Weasel Number One as this week's Worst Person In The World, a completely meaningless award that I've invented for this blog, and -

What's that, Internet? Someone else already does a "Worst Person In The World" bit?

Huh. I didn't know that. Whoever it is must be pretty insignificant. I've certainly never noticed them saying anything noteworthy. Still, I don't want to rip off anybody else's fake, arbitrary awards. So, never mind, then.

Enough rambling. Here's the other end of Bookshelf # 1, with 12.5% fewer paint handprints! (Some of them are in behind the CD rack. Of course, you couldn't see all of them on the other end either. There was a monkey in the way, which happens a lot in my house.)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bite The Helping Hand

I'm still alive but busy. I've been sinking a lot of time into learning another language of late. Really.

Today my son, my Dad, and I went bowling together to commemorate Father's Day. It was the first time my son ever really bowled. He'd gone to the alley and chucked balls down the lane at birthday parties, but with no structure, rules, or scorekeeping. Today we kept score. On his first string ever, he rolled a 94. I don't think I've broken 90 more than a couple of times in my life.

I'd think we might have the bowling equivalent of Tiger Woods on our hands, but he declined to roll another string afterward. Dad and I went a second round, but my son only wanted to sit at the score table and keep score instead of bowling any more. He did a pretty good job at that, too. Good addition practice.

On to a news story.

So this guy, Gilles Blackburn, and his wife went on a ski trip. They decided that they were not only expert skiers, but apparently infallible in other matters as well. They crossed over the ski resort's clearly marked boundary lines into the wilderness, ignoring posted signs saying, "Don't go past here or you will get lost and freeze." They went past, and proceeded to get lost and freeze. She died, but he got rescued a few days later.

This is a sad story. It's more of a "too bad" than a tragedy, because these people were victims of their own hubris, but they still went through an experience that couldn't be wished on anyone.

Once Blackburn began to recover and make public statements, he of course expressed his profound regret for his poor judgement, thanked his rescuers profusely, and apologized to all concerned for having caused the situation in the first place.

Oh, wait. That was in Imaginary Utopialand. In real life, he blamed his rescuers for taking so long, demanded an apology from them, and threatened to sue. At this point the word "prick" isn't nearly strong enough, but I try to keep this blog PG-13 or lower. Here are some highlights from the linked article:

"I lived in Alberta and in B.C," (Blackburn) said. "I know the ski slopes."

Blackburn said it is not unusual for experienced downhill skiers familiar with expert runs to ignore warning signs and to go off into unpatrolled areas.

Blackburn said he is only partially responsible for what happened.
I was going to say "emphasis added" and bold or italicize some of that arrogance, but I realized I'd have to emphasize all of it.

I've been tracking this story since it broke back in March, and there were a few times that I started drafting up articles about it. However, there came a point when I started feeling sorry for the guy and couldn't bring myself to slam his actions. He's been through a horrible experience. He watched his wife die in front of him. I don't even like to think about how traumatic his experience must have been, and the fact that it was his own fault only compounds it.

So, I could excuse his ranting for a while. He's projecting, unable to deal with the fact that he effectively killed his wife. She was, I assume, a willing participant, so she shares responsibility for her own death, but unless he's a completely emotionless sociopath, that's probably of little comfort to him. I couldn't hold him fully accountable for everything he says during his grief.

If I had written about it back then, I hope I would have been compassionate about it, but I suspect not, so I chose not to write. I saw a few other articles and editorials about the matter expressing the position that Mr. Blackburn needs to stop blaming others and start into therapy to figure out how he's going to get through this. This one was my favourite.

Now I find myself wondering how far that sympathy should go. Mr. Blackburn has officially filed lawsuits against the people who risked their own safety to come rescue him when he did something stupid. If I were of less generous spirit, I'd note that they may have done well to wait a few more days before hauling his butt out of the snow. Frozen corpses don't hire ambulance-chasing bloodsuckers with law degrees.

These lawsuits had the results you would expect: search-and-rescue organizations, which are operated by volunteers, are shutting down. It seems that people aren't particularly interested in signing up for arduous, exhausting, hazardous, uncompensated duties. Actually, lots of people are interested in that sort of thing, because they care that much about helping others. However, when the others they help turn out to be ungrateful wretches who file lawsuits because their rescuers don't show upon demand like magical genies, the bloom falls from that rose.

Here's the problem with the whole idea of suing volunteers. There's a contractual concept called "consideration". Consideration is a necessary element in any contract. It means what’s in it for each party. Volunteers with search-and-rescue organizations get no consideration for their efforts. As a general rule, without consideration, there is no valid contract. Without contract, there is no (legal) obligation. One can argue moral obligation, but that’s not what this is about.

As an illustration of the distinction between legal and moral obligations, suppose I'm visiting a public pool and notice a child obviously struggling then slipping below the surface. For whatever reason, the lifeguards and / or his adult supervision haven't noticed the situation, and are far enough away that they may not be able to react quickly enough. I'm a strong swimmer, and there are no life preservers or ropes readily at hand, so I should dive in and help him out of the pool. My moral obligation to do so is obvious, although some would probably (and depressingly) argue otherwise. My legal obligation to do so is nonexistent.

A volunteer organization bears no individualized responsibility toward the beneficiaries of its activities. Those beneficiaries have no basis to sue if unsatisfied with any services – free services, remember – that may be rendered. This does not absolve government agencies or businesses, both of which are compensated for their services, or situations where an explicit legal relationship with according rights and responsibilities exists (parent and child being an obvious example). If you're dissatisfied with the free service you receive from an all-volunteer organization, then by all means feel free to decline their services and take care of the situation yourself the next time around.

For Mr. Blackburn, this means that the next time he ignores warnings and takes a family member out into the woods to freeze to death, he shouldn't expect any help from search-and-rescue (assuming he hasn't managed to chase every volunteer out of the search-and-rescue field with his malicious lawsuits). He should feel free to be out there completely on his own. Well, with a companion, until his arrogant actions kill them too.

I hope that once Mr. Blackburn's mental state returns to normal (assuming and hoping that it does), he'll drop these foolish lawsuits, apologize to his rescuers for having spit in their faces, and condemn the opportunistic sharks around him who encouraged (or even failed to warn against) this shameful behaviour. If he's still holding this childish position, continuing to blame others for his own error and failure, even after his grief subsides... well, then, maybe that's the type of person he was all along. More's the pity.

Enough rambling. Here's the left side of what I'm arbitrarily designating bookshelf # 1 in my house. We saw the stuff on top of it last time out. The handprints up the side are my son's. Unlike his handprints all over the walls, windowpanes, and television screens in our house, these ones were made with parental approval.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Trivial Pursuits

Today’s entry is all about a variety of games. Mostly Magic, but not all.

I recently decided that I was spending way too much time playing single-player games, so I decided to cut back. Other than a minor relapse involving Bejeweled 2, I’ve been doing pretty well. I’ve just had a lot on my plate, and wanted to reclaim some time. I’m down to watching only two television shows (The Simpsons and The Office) for similar reasons. I intend to talk about that a bit more some other time.

I haven’t given up, forsaken, sworn off, or otherwise expressed any intention to permanently quit playing single player games. I fully expect that I will resume at some point. For instance, when Diablo 3 comes out. I intend to buy two copies and do most of my playing on Battle.Net with my wife, but I’m sure I’ll squeeze in the odd solo session as well.

There are two upcoming video games that interest me. First up, there's finally a new Magic: The Gathering game, Duels Of The Planeswalkers, being released on June 17. This looks terrific. It has almost everything I want in a Magic game: computer AI to play against (I don't enjoy playing games online against strangers), customizable decks, and a low price point. I've logged far more hours than I care to think playing the old Microprose Magic PC game, and it's still installed in my older PC, because it meets those requirements.

Now the downside. First of all, this game doesn't have nearly enough cards in it. The promotional material says it includes "around 280" cards, many of which can only be unlocked through reaching goals in the single-player game (that part is fine). However, 280 cards is what Magic players call "a nice start". Apparently the cards only go back as far as Invasion block, which to an old-school player like me might as well have been yesterday. Add a zero to the end of that card count and dig further back into the game's history, and you'll have my full attention.

Far more important, though, is the platform. This game has only been announced for the XBox 360. My family doesn't own a console, and if we ever get one (maybe this Christmas, maybe not) it'll be a Wii. A PC version of Duels has been discussed, but apparently those plans are on hold for the time being. In that case, so is any chance of my purchasing this game. If they put it out for PC at a reasonable price point ($20 or under for a retail box, or $10 for a download), I'll give it a shot despite the low number of cards. 280 cards would let me build enough decks to hold my interest for a little while, at least - probably around $20 worth of "while". If they add a zero to the card count, they can double that price and I'll still buy it.

In other Magic news, Wizards have announced some fairly significant rules tweaks. I'm indifferent to some of them (terminology changes, mulligan and token ownership rules), and mildly-to-moderately opposed to others (no mana burn, immediate combat damage, ordering blockers). There are none of them that I can look at and say, "Hey, yeah, that's a good idea!"

I sympathize with their goals of making the game more accessible to new players. I understand that doing so may be essential to the game's long-term survival. The folks at Wizards aren't stupid, either. With very few exceptions (reserved list and power-level-testing-for-Urza's-Saga, I'm looking in your direction...) their tough decisions have been the right ones.

However, my problem with some of these changes is that although they simplify the game, they do so by dumbing it down, removing strategic options that served as opportunities to demonstrate play skill. The elimination of mana burn and the fast effects window during combat damage makes the game easier for new (or less-skilled) players to learn, but the corollary is that more skilled players are effectively penalized. Magic is a game of both chance and skill. Lessening the impact of skill by removing strategic options increases the impact of chance. There comes a point where you might as well just flip a coin at the beginning to determine who wins, and skip all that fussing about with cards. Magic isn't there yet, but this is a toe on the slope.

Sidebar: this utter lack of player input is my problem with many games aimed at children. I can't stand Candyland or any of its myriad clones, or Snakes and Ladders, or any other game where there's absolutely no time where a player can make any decision that affects the game's outcome. I view these games as a necessary evil, a first step toward getting children used to game concepts. Once the kids are used to the boards, dice, tokens, and cards, though, put the mindless games away and move on to anything else that involves at least a little bit of thought. Trouble is a good next step. If you're lucky, your kids will move on quickly. My son, who is in kindergarten, enjoys Battleship, Monopoly, Pass The Pigs, Uno, Disaster, and Heroscape. I'm thinking it's almost time to introduce him to Risk. (I didn't link to them, but pages dedicated to each of those games can be found on Boardgamegeek.) End Sidebar.

The worst of the changes doesn't even make the game simpler. If anything, it has the opposite effect. Under the new rules attacking players "order" blocking creatures when more than one blocker jumps in front of an attacker. The attacking creature's damage is then doled out in order. If there's enough to kill "blocker one", then the rest goes to "blocker two", and so on. Blocker two doesn't take damage unless and until blocker one is dead.

That's apparently supposed to be simpler and more intuitive than "the attacking player chooses how damage gets divided up between blockers." I'm not seeing it. I'm also not seeing how blocking with banding creatures or Furnace of Rath will work. If the Furnace is in play, can I assign half the damage required to kill blocker one, then move on to blocker two, or do I need to assign full lethal damage to each one and let the Furnace overkill them? I hope the Wizards rules team have thought things like this through. Experience tells me they probably have. (They've announced that they'll explain banding under the new system "at a later date", which implies to me that no, they hadn't thought it through.)

I'm well aware that I could simply ignore these rules changes. My Magic playing takes place at my kitchen table, not in sanctioned tournaments. If I didn't specifically tell my wife about these rules changes, she would have no idea they existed. However, that's not the way I like to do it. I like playing by the actual, official rules. I like that if I do happen to go into a game shop and get into a pickup match, we'll all be playing the same game. I've been known to correct people who say that they always play by some house rule that directly contradicts the actual rules - being allowed to play all lands in your opening hand on your first turn is a popular one - by telling them that they aren't playing Magic: The Gathering, but a game of their own that happens to use Magic cards and borrow some of its rules. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, but you should understand that you're playing a different game than the rest of the world.

So, my house will be sucking it up and playing by the new rules, effective with our next game (hopefully this weekend). There's no point in putting it off. I'll miss having some of those options, and tune a few decks to account for them (some cards, like Magus of the Vineyard or Power Surge, have been made far worse or completely useless by these changes), but the game goes on.

On to another new video game: The Beatles: Rock Band. As frequently noted on here, I came perilously close to idolizing the Beatles for much of my life. I'm over that adulation, but still a fan. There was a time when I would have scrimped and saved and sold my blood to get my hands on this game. Nowadays, I just think the trailers look cool.

However, as noted earlier, I don't have a console. I like playing games on a machine I can also use to store my MP3 collection, write blog posts, etc. Consoles have enough advantages (primarily simplicity of use) that I may get a Wii someday, but I haven't hit that trigger point yet, and The Beatles: Rock Band isn't going to do it.

There are two major reasons I won't be buying this game anytime in the foreseeable future. The first is the price. A console aficionado friend warned me that it would be expensive. I thought that meant maybe a hundred bucks. Instead, it seems like it's more like $250 to get the game with all the necessary controller hardware. Add in the fact that I'd need to buy the console to run it, and we're talking over $500. Nope, go fish. Simply and absolutely not going to happen.

Second - here comes the heresy to many gamers - I watched the gameplay trailer, and although the graphics and animation are great, I'm just not sure the game looks like any fun to play. I've never tried any of the Rock Band / Guitar Hero games. I've never taken a good look at their controllers, or touched one. However, I just don't think I'd enjoy the gameplay experience. It may stem from the fact that I actually play guitar (albeit far from well). Rather than tapping buttons on a vaguely guitar-shaped bit of plastic, I think I'd get much more satisfaction from sitting down with my guitar and some sheet music and actually learning to play the songs.

Who knows? Maybe if I tried one of these "pretend you can play an instrument" games, I'd be instantly hooked. Maybe I better not try one. I don't want to get sucked in and wind up eager to pay $500 for the experience of pressing coloured buttons in time to Beatles songs.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of the top of one of my bookshelves, Hostage Bunny's captors apparently having gone incommunicado for the time being. This particular shelf holds a bunch of old toys.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Return

I had no intention of letting this blog lie fallow for so long. I haven't abandoned it, at least not consciously. Over the past few weeks I've just had a lot on my plate, and frankly all of it took precedence over sitting here typing. Some of it will continue to do so.

I'm bemused to note that my traffic remains pretty consistent whether I post a new entry or not. I'm not sure what to think of that other than "random reinforcement works". I'm pleased, though, that my most popular article of late is one of the serious Bible study entries, Bible Defense: Of Birds And Bats (No Bees). That kind of article is really why I'm doing this. The other entries are fun (frequently more so for me than the reader), but of no real lasting value.

I'm also well aware that my last entry, about the horse being given to the Queen, was subpar. I'm sorely tempted to delete it or completely rewrite it to punch it up. It had some potential, but needed another round or two of polishing. For now, and probably forever, it stands as a testament to what happens when I phone it in.

If I were to re-do it, here are some of the improvements I'd make. There would be a joke about how the Queen was going to get the horse back to England. ("Can you check a horse as baggage? You'd have to do a lot more than just geld it to fit it into the overhead compartment.") The whole "telling the horse about the name change and gelding" section would be revamped ("Umm, Terror.... I have two pieces of bad news."). The reference to events before the horse was gelded would use the term "pre-gelding", which I find inexplicably amusing. And it should have been called "I Hope She Looked In Its Mouth". So, basically, yeah, I'd tear the whole thing down and start over. But onward.

Here's a very short summary of some of what I've been doing over the last few weeks. Some of these may be expanded in future entries. Most probably won't.

I had a job interview, and the new position is looking like a real possibility. I spent a lot of time preparing for it, which seems to have paid off. I passed the initial screening and some tests to get an interview, and after the interview I was asked for some references, which I take as a good sign. That's where it stands now. If I get the job (and accept it, which is a whole other question), I'll be moving, which makes pretty much no difference to this blog. I won't be any more specific about the new job than my current one. That is, it'll just be fodder for occasional True Stories that could take place in any office.

My son had a birthday, with accompanying party. My house grows ever more full of Transformers.

My wife and I are still playing Magic frequently, when she takes a break from reading the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. She's still playing Thallids almost exclusively. I usually play a black and blue bounce / discard deck, including several cards from the new expansion, Alara Reborn (I got six packs while travelling for the job interview). I love the Cascade mechanic. Deny Reality is a key card in the deck. Magic players - click on that link, and try telling me that card isn't ten pounds of fun in a five pound bag. I still rotate through other decks sometimes, too - we have 19 decks ready to shuffle and play at the moment.

My Bible study series has wrapped up. I miss it already, and may revisit it as an adult Sunday School class in the fall. On the other hand, finishing the series frees up my Wednesday nights and the time I was putting into preparation each week. I'm using some of that time to catch up on, ironically, my Bible reading. I follow the Our Daily Bread devotionals, including the "Bible in a year" reading plan, and I've fallen a wee bit behind so far this year. I'm currently on April 21. I'm catching up slowly but surely, by doing a couple of days' worth at a time. Doing more than that gets counterproductive. Trying to cram too much Bible reading at once leads to poor retention and reflection, thereby defeating the entire purpose. The goal is to internalize Scripture, not to check off chapters on a list like I'm collecting hockey cards.

I've been chasing contractors to come look at my house. I'm not quite sure why people who repair houses for a living don't seem to want my money. I have many stories on this topic for other days. A guy is supposed to be here tomorrow morning for an initial meeting about replacing some water-damaged ceiling. We'll see.

I've been sleeping (not quite enough) and eating (a little too much).

All for now. This was going to be a Quick Notes entry, with several short unrelated thoughts about random things, but turned into something a bit different as I typed. Maybe Quick Notes will be next, maybe not. Oh, and I'm fresh out of Hostage Bunny pictures. I think there will be two more. The second one is going to make Bleeding Heart Barbie (which made me laugh out loud - thanks, RebelAngel!) very, very sad. Know what makes me sad? The fact that this blog isn't the top Google result for "Hostage Bunny". Yet.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my basement. This is after some straightening up.