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God’s Nose Wiggles

If you didn’t hear, scientists discovered some unusual gravitational waves emanating from two black holes. It’s a big deal since it strongly bolsters Einstein’s space-time theories.

Mike Duran quoted astrophysicist Hugh Ross on Facebook:

“The existence of gravity waves is an important prediction of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Einstein’s theory of general relativity is a critical component of the spacetime theorems which, if general relativity is a true theory, implies that a Causal Agent beyond space and time must have created our universe of matter, energy, space, and time. The Gods of the non-biblical faiths create within space and time. The God of the Bible creates independent of space and time. Thus, increasing evidence for general relativity yields increasing evidence for the biblical account of cosmic creation.”

I don’t know what it is about Christian scientists and their careless language with respect to divine attribution. Yes, yes, I know: God did it all—somehow, but Christian scientists need to make any scientific discovery, that may kinda sorta weakly imply “God did it,” into a “God said ‘poof!’ and it totally ‘poofed.'” They reach out and wiggle God’s nose, Bewitched-style, for Him. Don’t do that; He’s perfectly capable of doing it Himself.

Additionally, these gravitational waves don’t even imply this Most Holy Wiggle, since the direct cause, or chain of causes, could still be material. If there are multiverses, the waves could have come from them. Or any manner of unknown, pre-our-universe, mechanism. Again: yes, God sure as sugar did it, but that’s not an excuse for cutting out the sciencey stuff that could’ve happened in between, especially if it’s your job to assume those causes exist.

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The Jay Test

Facebook friend Mike Duran posted about the Bechdel Test on his wall recently. I had never heard of it, but I’m happy to report any conversation between women appearing in Pale Blue Scratch fails the test. Well, not exactly happy; I’m really indifferent toward it. However, I don’t play the gender culture war and I don’t acknowledge finger-wagging moralists (looking at you, feminists and MRAs). That something I create might fail a silly test of one side is icing on the cake.

So, as a modest proposal, I offer my own test: the Jay Test (working title…I’m not that conceited, and “Jay Test” is easy to remember). Here it is, called out via the glorious h2 HTML tag:

A story passes the Jay Test if 90% of all the casualties in violent conflicts that occur in said story are female casualties.

I use 90% because of the non-academic estimate on my part—90% of all deaths in narratives seem to be male deaths. The “male death” ratio is heavily skewed by war films and books, simply because wars produce the greatest number of deaths. There are other genres—horror, for example—where the deaths aren’t as one sided, but the death count isn’t nearly as high.

For the record, not only does Pale Blue Scratch fail the Bechdel Test, it fails the Jay Test, too. Spectacularly. Lots of dudes dying in that book. No ladies.

EDIT: To tie this into Star Wars, as is the subject of this blog lately, see this video*. It’s a little flabbergasting to me, that a half-naked (attractive) female has a parent so riled up, when in the Star Wars prequels, there are damn well over 4 million cloned men, created specifically to fight and die in battle. The clones were also “conditioned to be absolutely obedient.” If Star Wars has a sexism issue, it’s this one. As I said, I don’t care about this…creating a clone army of men makes perfect sense, since men are more drawn to perform physical violence, etc. I’m using this example via reasoning by another framework, not my own.

* Interesting point about Leia’s slave outfit: it’s supposed to be demeaning. That Jabba stuck her in one is within his character, and the nature of owning another person. You’re not going to give a slave, male or female, a crown and scepter, are you?

EDIT 2: I’m retracting my perfect failure score for the Jay Test, for Pale Blue Scratch. There’s a scene were some people die, but it’s not explicit that it’s only men. In my mind, there were women involved. Also, “casualty” should be more defined if the test were to be administered. Is it just deaths, or can physical injury count? If it’s the latter, a female character in PBS gets injured often, almost critically.

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Links of Possible Relevance, Part 10

Buon Natale!

You Barely Make a Difference and It’s a Good Thing – Stop trying to fix the world
Also, you are not advancing the kingdom – “There is no social agenda that has any relationship with the Kingdom of God.”

The Metalhead Kids Are All Right

How Progressives Stole Christian History – Progressivism is an apex-Enlightenment philosophy, and the Enlightenment has nothing to do with God.

The Truth About The Crusades

Winter cycling: good idea or flat-out insane? – Just do it.

English is not normal

C. S. Lewis, H. P. Lovecraft, and the Problem of Alien Worlds

Research Points To Mental Health Risks Associated With Meatless Diet – Eat meat.
Also, eat fish. It’s Christmastime!

Socialism Is Dead. Mises Was Right

The Cult of the Toto Toilet – You’re not a bourgeois sissy unless you call the modern toilet “uncivilized.”

4 Simple Responses to Science-Based Atheism – via Mike Duran,

Study: Elite scientists can hold back science
Also, the death of science.

Random Bonus Thought: No matter how noble or malicious your intent, propaganda does have its place. Many lies have bullhorns, and we all know how truth is received.

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The Diversity Issue

After a some comments I made on one of Mike Duran’s post, “Does Christian Fiction Have a Race Problem?”, I was set to write a lot of about the politicized nature of the modern diversity concept. Stefan Molyneux beat me and saved me some writing time, so I’d advise you to watch the video below. Perpare to be exasperated by the pace of the conversation—the caller makes some pretty poor arguments and Molyneux has to clear the brush to really get at what the guy is trying to say. This is the nature of call-in shows, but it can reveal some interesting results.

To summarize my thoughts, not Molyneux’s: what’s known as “diversity” today is a preference for a trait (more accurately, diversity is a meta-trait) of a collection of people. But the way it is treated now, this trait of diversity is also comes with a moral imperative component, which is to say that groups should be diverse. There are varying reasons for this moral component, all based, as far as I can see, in politics, particularly in the social engineering aspect of political thought. In this sense diversity lies at one of the end points of western sociological thought. As of yet, I have not heard of a convincing argument that makes the moral component more categorical than other moral principles. For me, it’s still stuck at the preference level.

Diversity, though, like a lot of western progressive concepts, really means diversity of a certain kind, and in certain circumstances. Molyneux shines the light on this fairly well on its contextual scope, early on in the video. I have no moral issue with people prefering a certain degree or type of diversity, since we all have a preference that shifts with circumstances and are set at a sub-rational, lizard brain level, to a barely rational level. I’d even go so far as to say people can openly communicate their preference for diversity for a group, even one of which they are not a part…though any group has the moral right to reject the preference wholesale with no reason given. Again, the moral imperative component does not exist for diversity.

Bottom line: diversity is a preference; everyone has a subconcious preference for diversity; there is no moral component for one’s diversity preference; any use of force (political or otherwise) to set the diversity of a group is categorically immoral.

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Images. And Words – Pale Blue Scratch Email Newsletter #4

“The role of the artist is to not look away.” -Akira Kurosawa

I first saw that Kurosawa quote on Mike Duran’s blog. After I finished writing my first book which will never be released, I had searched for “swearing in Christian fiction” and Mike’s blog was one of the first results returned.

The quote is no longer on his blog’s sidebar but it stuck with me for a few years, to this day. It inspired one of the lines of dialogue you see in the second image below.

Oh, by the way, this email is the first of an undetermined number of emails with images of quotes from the book. They link to larger versions. Keep in mind they are initial-draft quotes so they are subject to change. You get what you pay for.

Not that anything online requires practical or social blessing, but feel free to share them however you like–but don’t be a butt and remove the URL. That makes baby seals cry.

pbs_quote1

pbs_quote2

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Book Review: The Ghost Box

The Ghost Box is Mike Duran’s third full novel, about Reagan Moon, a journalist of the paranormal who gets caught up, to put it mildly, in some otherwordly happenings in SoCal. I don’t dabble too much in modern science fiction or paranormal (see below), so I can only really competently comment on Moon’s first person skepticism and its “enlightening,” a certain archetypal progression in literature.

Moon comes off as a middle-quality man: not quite a loser but not achieving any great heights, motivated by money (understandably, since he’s barely getting by) and by a vague promise of discovering the true circumstances of his girlfriend’s death. In this way, his willingness to play extra-legal paranormal investigator for a wealthy industrialist is merely an extension of his day job. Not a huge stretch of talent or character for Moon. That event comes after he dons the a certain pair of goggles and is presented with near-irrefutable sensory evidence of the supernatural. In this way, Box‘s theme is more about rationalizing a strained worldview than a material-world problem-resolution scenario.

Reading The Ghost Box is not an untoward experience: plot, style, pacing, and characterization are all on point. The only drawback for me personally was Moon’s voice. His cultural references and attitude were appropriate to his vocation and station in life but it took some mental adjustments on my part. I’m too used to reading first-person narratives like Casaubon’s exhaustive academic logorrhea from Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, or the gradual crescendos of horror in Lovecraft’s short stories. This is more of a personal preference than a character flaw (heh) in Duran’s style.

Having not read anything else of Duran’s prior—except for the Subterranea collection of stories, which I enjoyed—I didn’t know how this book exactly fits in with its predecessors. Additionally, besides Jill Domschot’s Anna and the Dragon, and a forgettable Christian spec-fic/horror novel (literally forgettable; I don’t remember the author, title, or major plot points) my frame of reference with respect to Duran’s peers is close to non-existent. Take this review as such, from a reference point lacking a certain context.

Disclosure: I was a beta reader for The Ghost Box, in addition to working with Mike in the past on some other projects of his. This novel was sent to me specifically for reviewing purposes.

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A blank LCD monitor.

Once You Go Dark…

A blank LCD monitor.Kind of a throwaway post, but in the last few days I made everything darker here at jd.com. The development environment I use at work is by default a white background and customizing the colors is hellish, so I leave it as is. I generally don’t like staring directly into flashlights so I thought I’d change what I’d have full control over, i.e., this site.

That darker screens save energy is actually not true, assuming you are using an LCD monitor. See here. It’s Science™!

As a reward for absorbing semi-useless information, please enjoy a bluegrass cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” by Ironhorse (HT: Mike Duran).

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Buy Mike Duran’s New E-book, Subterranea, Even if Only for the Decent Formatting

His Kindle is on the ground.

I recently helped Mike Duran with the formatting for his Subterranea e-book, which released earlier this week. You don’t have to dig into the ground to buy it*, since it can be unearthed on Amazon and read on your Kindle. If you think about it, downloading an e-book is as opposite of shoveling into dirt as you can get…but the real issue on hand is why you hate shoveling so much.

The cover was created by one Ravven. Go ahead and savor the book’s good-loookingness. Also, read it—I mean, why would you not want to read a book of short stories with titles like “Father Fayad’s Curious Compatibility Projector”?

Oh hey, since you randomly brought up e-book formatting, if you have a manuscript in need of such a rendering, consider hiring me for all of your formatting needs. I will work for pancakes**, which is a fancy way of saying, “probably below market rates”. Amazon seems to be growing a complicated set of requirements for formatting for Kindle, I guess because Kindles are getting more advanced and getting wise to things like HTML.

For reference, besides Subterranea, I’ve formatted Mike’s other e-book, Winterland, and my own, Bored in the Breakroom. Enjoy!

* Pun intended.
** I will not work for pancakes.

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A Post Where I Feature a Comment I Made About Car Accidents

The beginning of something great.

Writers love to hi-five each other with permalinks instead of dollar bills in our hands, then we return to our dens and badmouth others’ sentence structures and word choice into half-empty coffee mugs. This post is different because I’m referencing a comment that I made and liked, posted on someone else’s site. Mike Duran’s blog will remain nameless but I will still speak ill of my own talent because it’s not hard to do.

Good writing is like car accidents. The writer constructs a scene of metal and glass and bodies gone wrong. There are certain brute facts about it, and as the god of the book’s universe the writer knows them all, but everyone who sees the accident, the readers, witnesses those brute facts different. Writers do a disservice to their readers when they hammer every detail out in plain language, leaving no room for engagement.

Readers should be confused enough about the violence of your story to need to think about how not to be confused, but not so much that they believe the effort is not worth the return. For people that see books as a drug fix while in between reality show seasons will not understand this—having to do thinky things while reading? That’s for like, school—but that might be preferable to being told the backstory of the auto industry or worse yet, how we should think of and feel about the accident.

Photo by the Seattle Municipal Archives.

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On Blogging Too Much About Writing and Armadillos

"Just secured a three-booker with Random House. Low five!"

Tobias Buckell posted on and about his blog a few days ago, with a interesting chart on his blog’s traffic. He turned off comments some time ago but his traffic increased. This is counterintuitive to a lot of chatty blog marketeers, who overstress the community aspect. If your blog doesn’t have comments, then it’s just a webpage with some fancy PHP tags, right?

That advice is good for beginners or no names like me, but Buckell is published by real publishers (it’s true! I’ve held a book of his before and even read it) and is widely-known, so he will have some audience no matter what. But what he attributes his blogs continued success is its identity:

It wasn’t a blog ‘about writing’ as I’d initially conceived. With readers of my stories and novels being a large part of my readership, I now begin to work on creating a blog that was ‘about’ the sort of stuff I was trying to write about in fiction: technology, futurism, global perspectives.

Any armadillo with opposable thumbs can write about fiction and the toiling to get published, and a lot do, but the armadillos that stand out inject their own interests to set them apart. More, interests that influence the subject matter of the author’s fiction are doubly compelling. Buckell writes sci-fi, so it makes sense that he would post about space and technology with a little politics. It informs his writing so it’s relevant to his “branding” as an author.

Thinking about my own interests (religion/theology, philosophy, economics, exercise/nutirtion, music) seem too broad at first blush, and I don’t really write about anything specific in my fiction since I don’t have a real publication yet. The specifics of the first three, being Christianity, epistemology, and Austrian economic theory/libertarianism. Granted those are three very large areas of knowledge but I see them leaving a scratch in what I write and have written.

Good food for thought if you’re a author-blogger, Buckell’s post, I know some people that already follow it in some form. Maybe I should follow suit?

Photo by memestate.

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