March 9

The return of Christian Violence

Repent or Die
Repent or Die

My recent lapse and return to antiapologetics has had some rather stunning results.

While debating marriage equality, I found Christians who actively support slavery. I found one who excused slavery in the Old Testament by claiming that the slaves were not human.

While debating the story of Noah, I found Christians who advocated killing gay people. I found others who claimed that the US was a Christian nation and all other faiths existed here at the sufferance of Christians.

Recently, a pastor was fired for preaching compassion and love.

What the bleeding Hell is going on?

I think there are some factors that can account for this, at least for online interactions.

  • First, I think the Internet is acting to strip away many of the moderate Christians. Many are really looking into Christianity and finding the flaws and inconsistencies in it, and either leaving religion for apatheism or atheism. Many that are left are strongly Christian, and will defend it strongly.
  • Second, the moderate Christians that are left are not prone to examine their faith, and so do not participate at the front lines of causes that could cause them to question it. ‘Soft’ anti-choice sentiment, for example, can lead voting decisions, but, unless the person is active in the movement, they will not come up against those that question their views.
  • Third, the Internet fosters an air of anonymity that leads people to act in a way that is greatly exaggerated from the way they would in person. In addition, quick access to supporting information from like minds and opinions, as well as the rise of quote mines such as ICR, AiG, CARM, and Conservapedia.
  • Finally, it has allowed loud, aggressive Christians to gather in groups. In days past, these are the kind of wide eyed crazies that would have stood on street corners with sandwich boards declaring the end was nigh. Today, they can form entire churches and cults, convincing the slightly less crazy Christians to follow them.

These factors lead to large numbers of aggressive Christians appearing. But, there is one other factor that is in play, that I did not include in the list. Radical Islam has taught Radical Christians that society at large is finally willing to accept violence as a means again. September 11th didn’t just open the door to radical Islam like ISIS, but radical Christians like the WBC.

However, what it has also given rise to is a reactionary response that has led to the empowerment of causes that in previous years no one thought had enough traction to get anywhere.

I am the father of a transgendered teenager. My eldest was interested in joining the military, and, although I think the rigid discipline and regimented attitudes are exactly the opposite of their personality, one concern was how the military would deal with the transgendered status. We have an acquaintance who served in the military who is transgendered, but had to pretend to be their birth gender to make it through, so we asked a few months back if they thought the military might be ready to handy transgender by the time my eldest was of age to join.

They didn’t think so. A month later, this happened.

Thirty seven states allow for marriage equality for same sex couples. Ten years ago, that was a pipe dream.

The reaction from moderates to extreme, and public, religious zealotry has been to swing away from it and become more liberal. Perhaps their rage is fueling positive change in society, much to their dismay. In turn, it is probably fanning the fires of their rage. It is probably the same kind of pattern that was seen in the 1960s with civil rights.

March 8

MS and Zombies

The zombies don’t bother me much. They ignore me. I don’t know if they can sense the MS somehow, or maybe my shambling makes them think I’m one of them. I don’t really care.

I’m a little afraid of other humans. I’m hoping they won’t think I am one of the zombies, so I make sure I am well groomed before I go out. Zombies do decay over time. Most of them look like a cross between extras from Les Mis and medical waste.

Anyway, they walk right past me. When the whole thing started, I resigned myself to my fate. There was no way I could run from them. If they wanted to eat me, I was easy picking. When the infection hit my neighborhood, I figured I had a good run. Forty, never married, but happy. Life was hard but not impossible.

But, they didn’t even approach my house. I counted myself lucky.

When I ran out of food and water, I had to go out to get more. I cleaned myself up as best I could, and headed to the gas station down the street.

In was a matter of minutes before the first zombie appeared. I prepared myself for the end. I could smell the rotted meat smell as it came closer and closer…

…and walked right past me. Didn’t even look at me. Like I was invisible.

Several times in the two hours it took for me to get to the gas station, I prepared myself for death as either a zombie came close to me or I came near a zombie, only to have the zombie I thought would eat me simply shamble past me. Or I would shamble past the zombie. Either one.

When I got to the gas station, I filled my backpack with as much nonperishable food as I could. Tried not to go for just the candy, although that’s what I really wanted.

I sat down on the bench out in front of the gas station to think. I could stay in my house, which would require regular trips to get supplies, which were exhausting. I just wanted to lay on the ground and sleep for a few days just from having to walk from my house. So, walking was not the best idea for me. Problem was, I had no car. I would have to figure out how to get one.

As I sat there, an SUV pulled up carrying five people. A man, two women, and two teenagers piled out. The man pointed his gun at me. I raised my left hand. My right doesn’t work too well.

“Both hands!” he shouted.

“I wish I could,” I said, “I’m disabled. I’m also not armed.”

One of the woman came up to him and put her hand on his arm, lightly. He lowered his aim. At the ready, but not pointed directly at me.

“My name is Albert. You can call me Al,” I said, trying to be friendly.

No one responded.

“There is food in the station. Help yourselves,” I said, trying to wave, but doing it with my bad hand.
“What is it? Were you bitten?” the man asked.

I smiled. “No, nothing like that. I have multiple sclerosis.”

They stayed the night. We all huddled in the gas station. The zombies were a lot more interested now that there were five healthy people with me.

In the morning, the older woman, Anna, asked if I wanted to join them.

“Thank you, no. I’ll just slow you down,” I said, only a half truth.

As they drove away, I was grateful. Healthy humans drew the zombies. Who knew what would happen in the middle of an attack?

March 7

The Lure of Antiapologetics

The lure of chasing fish.
The lure of chasing fish. Image from Morguefile.

As an atheist, even one who feels like they have graduated from the angry phase of noob atheism, there is a certain attraction for the behavior I call Antiapologetics. Not exactly counterapologetics, which can be part of it, but the active state of challenging apologetics, especially among Young Earth Creation types, science deniers, and social conservatives.

On one hand, it is a rush to delve into debate with soft targets like these. Of course, they will never change their minds. Too much of who they are is invested in it. Even if they did, you are unlikely to ever find out about it.

On the other, it portrays atheists as intolerant blowhards, trolls, stalkers, or, worse, intellectuals. It seems not to be the kind of activity that does anything positive. So, why do atheists do it?

Newer atheists (not ‘New Atheists’) tend to have pent up frustration, anger, and resentment towards religion for wasting their time and money for so long. The temptation to rush in, guns blazing, defending the Atheist Way is a strong one. But, over time, as the atheist matures, they realize the startling truth that there is no “atheist way”. Atheism is a single answer to a single question. It confers no additional meaning. It is not a club, not a group. There is no secret handshake or code of ethics. Of course, if theists taught the truth about atheists, fresh atheists would know this. But, it isn’t exactly in the general theist best interest to be accurate in their portrayal of the people the consider to be an enemy.

So, then, where does this drive come from?

Well, we’re humans. We like to be right. It helps reinforce our worldviews when we confirm ourselves as correct. We, as humans, do a lot of things to accomplish this. Whether it is being part of a fandom, being a fan of a specific sports team, or merely hanging out with friends, we work best when we have positive re-enforcement. Become an atheist is a completely new thing, as there is no inherent structure for re-enforcement from our peers. Atheist churches and study groups have sprung up to try and provide this structure, which, of course, some theists attack. What they do not realize is that when people are marginalized and isolated, they tend to get stuck in negative cyclical thinking. I would be completely unsurprised if Craig Hicks, the atheist who shot and killed the three Muslim students, was isolated from others.

To return to the main topic, antiapologetics tends to appear in fresh atheists who are still in the early stages of atheism. The good news is that the core of the practice is research and knowledge, which naturally leads the fresh atheist towards maturity. It also drops the rates of recidivism. Few, if any, mature atheists become religious once they are atheists.

Take, for example, the case of Ryan Bell.

Now, in his case, his path was slightly different than most atheists. A minister who decided to test his own faith and found it lacking. I applauded his attempt even before he, in the end, rejected his faith in favor of atheism, but my point is that atheists who stick to reason and skepticism and do not fall prey to emotional appeals or other logical fallacies find atheism not a difficult position to maintain.

One of the points I was trying to discuss with this piece is that, sometimes, an atheist has to put their foot down and end their antiapologetics. Even so, it is a difficult road.

Recently, Jeff Dee, one of the hosts of The Atheist Experience, a well known atheist television show out of Austin, responded to a anti-atheist post on a Facebook group. As he is someone I follow online, it popped up on my timeline, and I was drawn into the debate as well. Even though I have tried desperately to stay out of online debates, the siren song of these debates keeps bringing me back in.

I’ve had to resist debating with family and friends. I even unfollowed my own mother on Facebook after a kerfuffle earlier this year.

To sum up, humans like to win. We like to be right. That’s the point of apologetics, counterapologetics, and antiapologetics. Sometimes, the only way to win a game is to not play.

March 5

EA did NOT kill Maxis

Maxis Logo. Copyright EA Games.
Maxis Logo. Copyright EA Games.

Well, the news hit the streets today.

Many long time gamers will be mourning the loss of Maxis, the nearly thirty year old game studio that brought us a slew of amazing games, such as SimCity, SimCity 2000, SimCity 64, SimCity 3000, SimCity 4, SimCity Social, SimEarth, SimAnt, SimLife, SimFarm, SimRefinery, SimTower, SimCopter
Streets of SimCity, SimHealth, SimIsle, SimTown, SimPark, SimGolf, SimTunes, SimSafari, Sim Theme Park, SimCoaster, SimGolf, SimAnimals, and other games that did not contain the word “Sim” in the title.

However, I will not be joining my fellow Maxis fans with pitchforks and burning torches at the castle gates of EA to demand a blood sacrifice for the death of EA, as I know that Maxis was poisoned long before EA got a hold of them. I even have a picture of the poison. Would you like to see? Here you are!

Simcity 1 Copyright Protection Sheet
Simcity Copyright Protection Sheet

This is the copyright protection sheet from the original SimCity game. Years before DRM, Maxis was paranoid about game piracy. Don’t get me wrong, they had a perfect right to be. In the late 1980s, early 1990s, although the spread of pirate copies of software was slower that now, it still existed. Heck, even I did it.

But the issue is that they focused so much on protecting their IP that they neglected their customers. Take a look at the sheet to the right. What do you see? Well, first, it says nothing about copyright protection. That’s because they never once said that is what it was.

A prompt would appear when you started the game, asking for the three symbols after the city name. If you did not enter them correctly, it gave you two more chances. After the third chance, the prompt would vanish, and the game would run, apparently normally. You would start building your city. Time would pass. and that is when the disasters would start.

Depending on how good a player you were, your city might end up a flooded tornado alley, a radioactive alien infested wasteland, or a flaming mass protest. And it would not stop. With midi sound effects, the descending buzz of disaster became nearly constant.

Cute, right? Sure, save for a few things.

First, the deception from the game not telling what the prompts were for left quite a few legal owners frustrated with burning cities they could not control, and their games ended up in yard sales. That was how I eventually got a legal copy.

Second, the dark red sheet, designed to make photocopying impossible, made reading it difficult and did not make photocopying it impossible, just more difficult. I played the pirated copy at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Took us about a half hour to get a decent photocopy of the sheet, and, from that copy, a dozen more were made. We slipped one under each monitor.

Finally, the entire experience made it clear that it was the company versus the user, a feeling that continues to this day with most DRM. It may make piracy slightly more difficult, but at the same time, makes the pirate feel more like Robin Hood and less like a common thief.

Do you know why Minecraft sold millions of copies and has such a loyal fan base? They didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about DRM. Sure, they put in certain protections, but playing single player and one could play with a pirated copy indefinitely. But, I would be surprised if Notch did not read up on Singer Sewing Machines.

First, he offered upgrades and new versions for free to registered users. Pirating over and over again is difficult. Dropping the cash for the full version is more convenient. And the upgrades were actual upgrades, with new, fresh content that did not detract from previous content and expanded gameplay.

Second, he didn’t need to entice people with DLC; all he needed to do was make skinning your character dependent on being logged in, legally, to the Minecraft ID server.

Finally, there was humor in the game, and not in the developer making fun of forcing the player to enter in a silly code every time they wanted to play.

But the problems were deeper that just an attitude of distrust of the end user. Over the past few years, it was clear that Maxis, under the guidance of EA, was trying to combine the standard gaming business model of buy once and play with micropayment add ons traditionally found in free-to-play games. Take Sims 3 for example.

The base game currently retails for between $20 and $25 on Amazon. Not bad for a game… until you consider that it is six years old. The majority of other games of the same age retail for half the price, with a few exceptions.

But, it doesn’t stop there. There are a total of twenty expansions and add on packs, each retailing for $20. On Steam, you can get the whole kit and kaboodle for $384. You read that right. $384 for a game.

But wait! There’s still more! That does not include all of the stuff you can buy online! Not only can you buy additional content a piece at a time or in packs online from inside the game, the game actively encourages you to do so. Enter the editor, and a window pops up declaring how wonderful it would be if your family had something from the online store.

Now, I understand trying to make a profit off of something one has developed, but this is utterly shameless. Especially for a six year old game. And this is what killed Maxis. Sure, itmay have been pushed over the edge by EA, but it walked up to the cliff on its own.

Category: Gaming | LEAVE A COMMENT
March 2

The Never ending Rhythm

Bum ba dum
The beat began
A chance encounter
A happenstance of physics
Billions of years
A bright idea
And the idea on clay, on reeds
On stone, on paper
On glass, on plastic
And now, here, in the waves of electrons
But the rhythm continues
Not a heartbeat, not one
But a hundred billion
We think of ourselves
As self contained cosmoses
Narcissistic realities and one man plays
All playing for our own amusement
But we all drink
From the same succulent pool
Deliciousness dripping from our ravenous mouths
Never wanting to turn away from the source
But all ultimately becoming full
The best of us adding the best ingredients we find
To the broth
Fuel for our journey up
From where we started, to a destination unknown
Do not despair, and drink deep the broth
It sustains, it keeps
It fuels the fires inside
The passions within
The music goes on
Even if we think it dies
It merely changes key
Sometimes to one only the younger ones can hear
But that is natural
Bang your drum
Strum your string
Drink your wine
Be alive
For those that can’t or won’t
Do not bathe in the dust of the past
Do not paint yourself with pain
Breathe when you think you cannot
Walk when you want nothing more than to fall down
Because you are all of us
And we are moving on

Category: Poetry | LEAVE A COMMENT
March 1

Triangles, screaming legs, missing hands, and snow

Look deeply into the network...
Look deeply into the network…

This has been an interesting week in the Aaronverse. I think the highlight has been the two hour span last night, where I got to spend a white picket fence style two hour session with my oldest helping with homework. Sure, it was over the phone, crossing two time zones, three states, and discussing math that I either never learned, did not remember learning, or did not pay attention to when I was learning it (and so, had to relearn it). And it was followed by playing a pseudo version of Cards against Humanity online, but it was still bonding at a level that I missed a lot of being a divorced father.

My legs, my left leg specifically, has a build up of fibrous tissue that is painful but I have to wait for the it to heal naturally. Loos like a weird alien has latched on to my leg.

My right hand has gone to sleep, probably due to MS. This is really not good and it is already causing problems with my typing.

Winter also decided to show up to Indiana right at the tail end of February, bringing with it blizzard level snowfall and chilly temperatures, though, not exactly at the same time. Seven inches of snow on the ground outside as I write this, and the temperature is a balmy 271 degrees Kelvin outside (28 degrees Fahrenheit or -2 Celsius for you scientifically lazy peeps), even though it was colder earlier in the week.