Never mind! Chip Kelly IS so great!

I think it’s pretty funny that the coach I said was overrated is the one who finally took my advice and signed the quarterback I thought was underrated.  With Kelly’s experience using the spread-option, this is definitely a good fit for Tebow.  Sam Bradford is constantly getting injured, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Tebow gets to play if he can make it through training camp.

The Eagles appear to be morphing into some kind of power-running spread offense.  But I do think they are making a lot of good moves this offseason.  Still, Kelly needs to win a playoff game before we can start anointing him as the next great gridiron genius. And that defense is still suspect.

Categories: football, NFL, Tim Tebow Tags: ,

Something in the Water

Napoleon Bonaparte–shown here “avec pantalon”, thankfully. (Image via Wikipedia)

I was listening to the song “Waterloo” by Stonewall Jackson. (The country singer, not the Confederate General, who met his own Waterloo at the Battle of Chancellorsville.) The song gives “Waltzing Matilda” a run for its money in terms of lyrical quality. Witness:

Little Gen’ral–Napoleon of France– Tried to conquer the world, but lost his pants.

The point of the song is that “everybody has to meet his Waterloo”.  For some reason, the thought popped into my head that Nixon met his Waterloo at Watergate.  And then I thought about the phenomenon I have complained about before: referring to every scandal that happens along as “[whatever]-gate”. So, by that logic, shouldn’t we start referring to all crushing defeats as “[whatever]-loo”? For example:

No, you say?  That sounds stupid, you say? My point exactly.

UPDATE: In the comments, reader P.M. Prescott informs me that this actually happened.

Categories: History, Humor Tags: ,

The “Food Babe” and chemicals in our food.

I have a pet peeve: people complaining about food having “chemicals” in it.  Three of my co-workers have done this in the past few weeks.  I can’t really blame them, though–some foods are actually advertised as being “chemical-free”.  I wonder how that works.

See, everything is composed of chemicals. So having them in your food is not inherently good or bad. It really boils down to what the chemicals are, and how they interact with the chemicals naturally occurring in the human body.

Then I read about this lady named Vani Hari, who calls herself the “Food Babe“, and who has been blogging about the pernicious influence of chemicals in food.  She’s even succeeded in getting stores and restaurants to pull some from their shelves.

But there’s been a backlash against her–people saying she has no scientific basis for her claims.  She responds by saying these people are shills for the powerful food chemical industry.

What I know from skimming her blog is that she seems to equate ‘processed” with “bad for you”.  While it’s true that there are probably preservatives and such that are used in some foods that do have harmful effects, I also don’t think you can just say “oh, that food is processed! It’s not good.” Cooking food is processing it, and that’s been a major development in human evolution.

I think there are a lot of things wrong with some of the commonly-available foods, and some of Hari’s advice is good.  (Avoiding McDonald’s, for example–their food is dreadful.) But I think some of the other stuff she says is built more on irrational fears of “chemicals’ than on concrete issues.

Categories: food, Science Tags: , ,

THE FINAL HOURS OF RESEARCH STATION A-57

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’m still working on my next book.  In the meantime, enjoy this little flash-fiction sci-fi/horror tale, written in the Lovecraftian/Alien vein.]

space station

It is with sadness and trepidation that I present for the first time since the shocking events of May 24th, 2077, the final transmissions between the on-site Tech Specialist and myself during that fateful expedition aboard the A-57 Research Station.

Everyone is pretty familiar with the station’s sad state prior to that day—how it was gradually developing minor flaws and breakdowns in key systems. It was these breakdowns which ultimately led to the Board’s decision to defund the station. Had it not been for the untimely failure of the station’s onboard data transmission system, it would not have been necessary to send a specialist up to the station to manually retrieve its last recorded findings.

The specialist was equipped with standard space exploration suit, a typical array of nano-machine tools and networked data collection devices for such a mission.  It was, all in all, a completely routine assignment, and as his handler I was not expecting to deal with some of the situations which we ultimately confronted. What follows is the transcript of our communications, up to the point at which I lost contact with him:

  “My systems show you’re at the docking bay entrance now. Confirm?”

            “That’s right. Looks like most of the power must be gone from the place—there’s only emergency lighting. There’s a viewport here—I can see the earth. Wave so I can see you.”

            “Heh. Can you open the door?”

            “Roger that.” [Sound of hissing, buzzing as he apparently rewired the door.]

            “Okay, I’m inside now.”

            “What can you see?”

            “Not much. Main corridor seems even darker than the last one, can barely see in here. Looks like it’s… decaying. What the…, is that rust?”

            “No, it couldn’t be—it’s not made of metal. It’s strange that it’s only emergency power—the readings show full energy levels. In any case, the layout says you’re a couple corridors away from the data lab. Go down the main corridor and go left.”

            [Clanking of his magnetic gravity boots on the stations floor.]

            “It’s so damn dark, and—there’s some kind of… goo or something coating the floors. Like oil.”

            “That’s really weird. Might explain the weird auto-transmissions we’ve received. The energy signatures suggested it was overloaded, but I don’t…”

            [Distant crashing and hissing sounds.]

            “What was that? Hang on a minute.”

            [Heavy breathing, more clanking. Sound of hiss as door opens.]

            “I went through this door at the end of the hall. Where should I be now?”

            “You should be in the observation room. Should be a big window.”

            “Well, it’s closed. Emergency light here too, and—[expletive]!”

            [Sound of fighting, then heavy breathing.]

            “What happened?”

            “I just saw a head—it was flying around the room! I—I didn’t know what I was seeing. “

            “A head? A human head!?”

            “No—a, uh, animal or something. Did they run animal experiments up here?”

            “I think so—maybe they forgot to throw out their trash or something.”

            [More clanking, heavy breathing]

            “What would have caused the windows to all seal?”

            “Some kind of emergency warning might have gone off—again, could be tied into why we got those signals.”

            “Too dark—no emergency lights even. I’ve got my flashlight and—whoa!”

            “What happened?”

            “This area’s demagnetized or something—I’m floating.”

            “There should be two doors—try to reach the one on the left.”

            “Roger that.”

            [Long silence, followed by hiss of doors opening and a metallic clang]

            “Ok, this area seems better lit, although it’s… flickering. I can’t, uh, I can’t see the source of it…”

            [Slow clanking of his footsteps. Strange hissing or growling noise heard. A few seconds of silence]

            [Weird scrabbling or scratching sound]

            “Oh, God!”

            “What?”

            [Sound of metal screeching]

            “What’s going on up there?”

            [Heavy breathing.]

            “Answer me, man! What’s happening?”

            (whispered): “Be quiet. They might hear you.”

            [A minute’s silence. Distant scratching or hissing heard. Grunting or yelling; inaudible words, and then a howl.]

            “Are you there?”

            [More hissing and growling, ending in a final, metallic grinding or crunching sound.]

            <SIGNAL LOST>

That was the last of the transmissions received from him. I cannot speculate as to the meaning of his final words. We can only conjecture whether this bizarre and abrupt ending had any connection with the sudden degradation of the station’s orbit, and its furious plunge into the Pacific ocean, many weeks ahead of its scheduled destruction. Most of the station’s wreckage was incinerated of course, but among the few pieces recovered, one unusually large section of its hull survived relatively intact. The research team sent to recover the debris found it had a strange hole torn in it. Obviously, all debris is expected to be badly damaged, but the hole bore the appearance of having been torn deliberately from within.

Perhaps it is only a strange coincidence, but the specialist’s final words lead me to wonder if there is some unknown sentient force at work. In connection with the new reports of deep-sea divers glimpsing bizarre creatures lurking beneath the sea, and the sudden decimation of the whale shark population that has recently occurred in that part of the ocean, it leads me to feel it necessary to urge caution when exploring that region, and I think sending Naval forces to the area is advisable. Some may argue that it seems unlikely anything dangerous may lurk down there, but while it is certainly true that the darkest depths of the sea are very inhospitable to life, I contend that something which had once resided in the blackness of space itself could easily survive the extreme conditions of the ocean floor.

THE END

 Like this story? Then maybe you’d enjoy my book of similar horror-themed short stories and poems.

“Faster Than Light”: An Absurdly Addictive Strategy Game

I normally don’t like games that are just about repetitive gameplay. I like to make progress through a story, and reach a satisfying ending.  To just keep doing the same thing to try and get a high score doesn’t really appeal to me.

But Faster Than Light is an exception to the rule.  The game, in spite of its 1990s-caliber graphics and nearly-impossible to win gameplay, it’s extremely fun and addictive. (It doesn’t hurt that the Advanced Edition has material written by the great Chris Avellone.)

The idea is that you are in command of a starship, and you have make through nine sectors to fight the enemy flagship.  You can get different types of starships, with different crews, weapons and layouts.  I’ve only unlocked one so far, and I’ve never beaten the enemy flagship.  That’s right: I’ve never actually won the game.

It doesn’t matter, though. FTL is a journey, not a destination.  As you travel through the sectors, you never know what will happen.  Sometimes, you’ll get a free laser weapon upgrade, or “scrap” (money).  Other times, you might be lured into a trap by evil aliens.  You never know what you’ll run into.  It really is like playing a season of Star Trek.

Another element I normally hate, but FTL makes enjoyable, is the resource management aspect of things.  I normally am terrible at this,  but in this game you have enough downtime between space battles to think about whether you wan to upgrade lasers, shields, engines, etc.  You’re not rushed in making decisions.

The best part is, it’s available on the iPad, which makes it easy to take with me.  Only downside to that is I end up getting hooked when I really should be doing something else.

There are a few nit-picks–the menus are kind of dense, and on the iPad sometimes I end up pressing a menu button when I want to select a part of the ship.  But it’s not a big deal.  I can hardly wait how much fun it will be when I actually win it.

Categories: gaming, Video Games Tags: ,

It Never Ends

I watched two history documentaries yesterday. One was about Ancient Greece, and the other one was about Napoleon’s invasion of Moscow.

  1. In the Ancient Greek one, as the Persians were invading, the Greeks evacuated Athens and lured the Persians into it.  It was a bold and self-sacrificing move, but it ultimately enabled the Greeks to win and brought defeat and disgrace to the invaders.
  2. In the Napoleon one, the Russians evacuated Moscow (and burned most of the city and countryside around it) and lured the French into it. It was a bold and self-sacrificing move, but it ultimately enabled the Russians to win and brought defeat and disgrace to the invaders.

Now, I’m not saying the situations were identical.  The Greeks’ triumph was a Naval one, whereas the Russians just let nature take its course on the French army in an abandoned city with no food in wintertime. I’m just saying that you start to see the same things happening again and again in history.

You may find my blog posts boring, but when your Capital city is being invaded by the army of a Foreign Emperor, you’ll thank me.

Categories: ancient greece, History, napoleon Tags:

What Good is a Conspiracy if You’re Not Around to Enjoy It?

In my previous post, I wrote something that I’d like to enlarge on a bit.  I mentioned how the alleged Bob Dylan conspiracy required a bunch of people to be involved in a conspiracy that would not come to fruition until long after they were dead.  I realized this might be a good rule of thumb for determining how likely a conspiracy is to be true: “are the alleged conspirators going to be around to reap the success of their conspiracy?”

In a lot of these Illuminati/Freemasons/CIA/Assorted Other Shadowy Group conspiracy theories, there is at least a strong insinuation, if it is  not outright stated, that it is all part of some centuries-old plot.  And that has always struck me as really unlikely because it requires these conspirators to not only know which actions will have which consequences centuries later, but also care enough about how it develops after they’re dead.

Most real conspiracies (here are some) are conspiracies that generate immediate results for the conspirators. They’re not doing it to achieve some long-run goal decades later.  And while I’m not saying that all conspirators care only about themselves–ideologues of any type will often justify whatever they are doing by saying “it’s for future generations”–I am saying that it’s one measure of assessing a theory’s plausibility.  There needs to be something in it for the conspirators, not just for future generations of conspirators.

Conspiracy theories like the Dylan one, which are supposedly about making money, strike me as especially unlikely, since people generally have a preference to have money sooner rather than later, and especially have a preference to have money before they are dead rather than after.  This is one of the finer points of decision theory.

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