North Dakota, the Land of Mass Murderer

In an attempt to redefine the laws to make abortion illegal, the legislative assembly of North Dakota has passed the stunningly ill-conceived House Bill 1572, which defines a person as "includes any organism with the
genome of homo sapiens.

Obviously, the conservative goal with this is to push the law towards declaring a fetus as a human with full rights equal to a mother, and to declare voluntary abortion as murder. However, in the over-reaching grasp of its language, the North Dakota legislature has just defined every living cell cast off by a human as a human deserving full rights.

What does this mean? Among other things, that every single ovum and sperm in every single human in North Dakota is now a separate legal entity, each with the full rights of a human being.

Any female who menstruates is responsible for the death of a person (ovum). That makes most females a murderer every month or so.

Any male who masturbates is responsible for the deaths of approximately 40 million people (sperm). That makes most males mass murderers on scales that dwarf every single genocidal tyrant in history combined.

Any couple that has sex and conceives a child is still responsible for the death of slightly less than 40 million people (sperm), because only one or two of those sperm will actually survive.

It also means every single person in North Dakota has quite a few dependents they can claim on their taxes, ranging mostly between 400,000 to hundreds of millions, depending on the number of ovum or sperm they carry.

All because the legislature wanted to veil their pro-life intentions in the guise of science they didn't understand. The lesson here - apart from the general idiocy of North Dakota's legislature - is that non-scientists shouldn't try to use science to legislate their non-scientific morality.

Not Dead!

Hey, LJ! Been a while, huh?

A few days ago, I realized that it had been nearly a month since my last LiveJournal posting. I still read through here to see how everyone's doing, and occasionally comment here and there, but I find that when I have something to say or share, it never seems to end up on LJ anymore.

If it's short communication - something witty or a curiosity to share with the world, I'll toss it up on Twitter (where I'm also Fizzbang). But if it's something deeper and more long-form than a little quip, I'll type it up and post it on my actual website (you can find it here).

My LJ account isn't going anywhere, of course, and I intend to still keep it for when I've got posts or issues to talk about that are more personal than a professional website warrants, and deeper than a 140-character limit allows. I'm just explaining why my posts have been pretty spotty, here.

But for the record, I'm doing pretty well and all that. I'm holding my breath in anticipation of a lot of potentially awesome things in the next few weeks (going to Pittsburgh for the Steelers Superbowl, having a birthday, and seeing if I win a Writer's Guild Award for Fallout 3). So, somewhat stressful and exciting times!

Inauguration Rant

You may have seen people up in arms about the fact that Obama has asked conservative Evangelical mega-pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration. Large swaths of the left have expressed outrage that Obama has "betrayed" them by inviting a preacher who is anti gay-rights. Even very intelligent and respectable people like Rachel Maddow and John Hodgman have expressed the same disappointment at Obama's choice.

But these people are only paying attention to half of the story. They're ignoring a thousand things they agree with, just to get angry at one thing they don't. The thing that everyone seems to be forgetting is that Warren is only one of the two pastors officiating at the inauguration.

The pastor giving the benediction is Reverend Joseph Lowery: a man whose support for gay marriage and civil rights in general is unquestionable and steadfast. He is a man so firmly progressive that he would drive the conservative right into fits of apoplexy if he were even in the same room as Bush - and in fact, he did exactly that, at Coretta Scott King’s funeral. He is, in so many ways, the polar opposite of Warren, while being as fiery as Reverend Wright -- with none of the crazy.

And yet, everyone ignores Lowery’s presence there, and acts as if Warren is the only one attending. People who should know better are getting whipped into a fury because Obama dares to have representatives from both sides of the spectrum at the beginning of a presidency where he promised to govern for all of America’s citizens.

Diplomacy means interacting with people we find distasteful and trying to convince them to change, not shutting them out and trying to pretend they aren’t real. We’ve had eight years of a president who ignored people he didn’t agree with, and we’ve fought like crazy to change that. Are we really going to throw a tantrum when we finally get the change we want?

Fantasticker Contraption?

If you're anything like me or cocotopia, you might want to free up a few days before reading about this new Flash game.

If you remember the wonderful time-sink that is Fantastic Contraption, you'll recognize the heart of the still-in-beta game, Incredibots: build strange little devices, then set them loose on a playground of engineering dares.

But Incredibots aims to be the ultimate power-user's version of this game: rather than using only a handful of one-type-fits-all pieces, Incredibots gives you much more depth of control of each piece (sliding joints, motor strength, speed, limitation, density, etc). It also gives you much more control over the rest of your play - map engines to different keys and control your devices directly. Set your own goals for pure sandbox levels. Save, copy, post, share, and comment on your inventions. Build human-like effigies with controllable joints, put on a puppet-show with text balloons, save the whole thing, and post it as a video on your blog. The amount of control is nothing short of, well, incredible.

In fact, it's almost too much. After going through the excellent tutorial levels, I was daunted by the idea of what to do next. Like Leigh Alexander's experience playing Fallout 3, I was paralyzed with indecision at how much I could do in the game.

(It may also be that the game is just a little too complicated, with too many options and a UI that's a little clumsier than FC's hotkey-able gears and friendly icons. But since it's still in beta, I'm inclined to cut it some slack in that regard.)

In any case, if you can't get enough of Fantastic Contraption, check out Incredibots. Just make sure you've cleared your schedule.
  • Current Music
    Man of Constant Sorrow - Battlestar

Tag With Stuff

Tonight, Sci-Fi's will be premiering a new realty-/game-show called Cha$e and - stupid punctuation-as-letter-use aside - it seems like it could be some cheesy fun.

It's billed as a "live-action video game" but it's basically just tag in a city with a whole bunch of extra rules, occasional mini-game challenges, and cash money for the last survivor. Sort of like Journey to the End of the Night, or "Tag With Stuff," if you will.

Anyway, the first episode is tonight, and you can watch it right now on their website. I'll wait until tonight to watch, but I'm curiously interested.

Religious Extremists are a Threat to America

Turns out that Bush and the neoconservatives were right: religious extremists bearing ill will towards our government are a threat to the nation. After Obama's election, there's been a sharp spike in communication about how he's the Enemy and talking about his death - from extreme fundamentalist cells hidden across the United States, all too close to home.

Except Bush & Co. was wrong about one thing: this isn't from radical Muslims claiming America is the great Satan - it's from radical Christians claiming Obama is the Antichrist. Google Trends shows that since Obama's election, searches for "antichrist" have risen more than tenfold, with "Obama-is-the-antichrist" webpages receiving record-breaking traffic.

As much as I'd like to laugh them off as wackos, it's a terrifying fact that the secret service has already broken up two assassination plots, and blame Palin's attacks for a sharp increase in death threats to Obama. I'm glad our Secret Service is top-notch, because I get the feeling they'll have to bring their A-game.

Of course, many less-religious Republicans fear Obama will bring problems other than the End of Days, and it's generally easier to laugh these off.

And even if the apocalypse does show up, the New York Times says that post-apocalyptic DC is a great place to spend my time!

Yes, more politics

From TIME magazine, an excellent article on what Obama's sweeping win means for a new America:
Obama's decision to expend so much effort on a field organization was quietly revolutionary and a perfect fit for the larger political philosophy that he described when I spoke with him a few weeks ago. Obama insisted that while creating a new energy economy was his No. 1 priority, "we can't divorce the energy issue from what I believe has to be the dominant political theme underlying everything — the economy, health care, you name it. And that is restoring a sense that we're growing the economy from the bottom up and not the top down. That's the overarching philosophical change that we've got to have."

That was the substantive heart of his campaign and of this election. It was a stark difference between the candidates. Unlike many elections I've covered where the stakes were small and the differences between the candidates were minor, this was a big election, with big differences between the candidates. It was a referendum on the Reagan era. Try as he might to dissociate himself from the Bush Administration, John McCain remained a classic Reaganite. He believed in the unilateral exercise of American power overseas, with an emphasis on military might rather than diplomacy. He believed in trickle-down, supply-side, deregulatory economics: his tax plan benefited corporations and the wealthy, in the hopes that with fewer shackles, they would create more jobs. Obama was quite the opposite. Unlike Bill Clinton, whose purpose was to humanize Reaganism but not really challenge it, Obama offered a full-throated rebuttal to Clinton's notion that "the era of Big Government is over." He was a liberal, as charged. But the public was ready, after a 30-year conservative pendulum swing, for activist government.


But this election was about much more than issues. It was the ratification of an essential change in the nature of the country. I've seen two others in my lifetime. The election of John Kennedy ratified the new America that had emerged from war and depression — a place where more people owned homes and went to college, a place where young people had the affluence to be idealistic or to rebel, a place that was safe enough to get a little crazy, a sexier country. Ronald Reagan's election was a rebellion against that — an announcement that toughness had replaced idealism overseas, that individual economic freedom had replaced common economic purpose at home. It was an act of nostalgia, harking back to the "real" America — white, homogeneous, small-town — that the McCain campaign unsuccessfully tried to appeal to.

Obama's victory creates the prospect of a new "real" America. We can't possibly know its contours yet, although I suspect the headline is that it is no longer homogeneous. It is no longer a "white" country, even though whites remain the majority. It is a place where the primacy of racial identity — and this includes the old, Jesse Jackson version of black racial identity — has been replaced by the celebration of pluralism, of cross-racial synergy. After eight years of misgovernance, it has lost some of its global swagger ... but also some of its arrogance. It may no longer be as dominant, economically or diplomatically, as it once was. But it is younger, more optimistic, less cynical. It is a country that retains its ability to startle the world — and in a good way, with our freedom. It is a place, finally, where the content of our President's character is more important than the color of his skin.


First of all, if you haven't voted yet, go do that!

When you've voted, come back and check this fascinating little web-gizmo on the New York Times site - type in a word that describes how you're feeling, and then select which candidate you voted for (or "neither"). Then take a look at the reported moods of other supporters of McCain, Obama, or both.

Filtering by either candidate is particularly revealing - here are the last handful of responses for each candidate:

McCain: worried, nervous, impatient, betrayed, frustrated

Obama: hopeful, proud, inspired, patriotic, happy