Saturday, June 30, 2012

More lies from Fox News

I'd already posted that segment from the Daily Show, but I thought it was worth repeating. This was obviously a deliberate lie by Fox 'News'.

After all, it was in the very next sentence that Barack Obama explained what he was able to do himself about immigration reform, what he could do without Congressional action. The only way Fox could make it appear otherwise was to edit that out.

Well, that's no surprise. We all know that Fox isn't actually a news station. It's the propaganda arm of the Republican Party. (Admittedly, it's hard to tell which actually runs things, Fox or the GOP.)

The Obamacare decision

The eight stages of conservative grief

This is pretty funny. From Slate, it's the eight stages of conservative grief as shown in Republican responses to the Supreme Court decision upholding Romneycare Obamacare:
The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision upholding Obama’s Affordable Care Act led to rejoicing on the left and fiery, petty, and glum denunciations on the right. On Thursday, we saw conservatives pass through eight stages of grief. The first: denial. A representative example came courtesy of freshman Sen. Rand Paul, who said in a statement: “Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be ‘constitutional’ does not make it so. [He's right. It takes at least five.] The whole thing remains unconstitutional.”

Sarah Palin’s Facebook page opened a window onto the reverse psychology and delusional chest-thumping stage. “Thank you, SCOTUS. This Obamacare ruling fires up the troops as America’s eyes are opened! Thank God,” the former vice presidential candidate posted.

The politically grief-stricken are also sometimes known to exhibit melodramatic rage. In a private House GOP meeting, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence outrageously compared the SCOTUS verdict to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, reports Politico. ... And Ben Shapiro of Breitbart added: “This is the greatest destruction of individual liberty since Dred Scott. This is the end of America as we know it. No exaggeration.”

Right, no exaggeration. Heck, Republicans would never exaggerate, would they?

Those are the first three of the eight stages of grief. It really is pretty funny. And it couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch of people, either.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Sorry, no critical thinking allowed in the GOP

I blogged about the Texas Republican Party platform the other day, but I just had to post this. I like how Cenk Uygur gets worked up - as he should! This is just unbelievable, isn't it?

I could be wrong, but I thought it was the purpose of education to take ignorant children and teach them, not to just confirm their existing beliefs. After all, if children are supposed to maintain the "fixed beliefs" they've already got, why send them to school at all?

Yeah, I know - I shouldn't give the GOP any ideas, huh? But how stupid do you have to be to oppose critical thinking skills?

Does a kid believe the Earth is flat? Well, we wouldn't want to challenge his fixed beliefs, then, would we? Has he been taught that the stork brings babies? OMG, we certainly can't teach him about S-E-X! That would challenge his "fixed beliefs."

The rest of the platform is dumb enough, but this really takes the cake! I agree with Cenk 100% when he says that the Republican Party is a national embarrassment. How can Americans still be dumb enough to vote Republican? It just blows my mind!

I'm just as angry as Cenk about this - about the crazies in the GOP and the ineffectual, timid response this will inevitably get from Democrats. Christ, what kind of country have we become? I just don't get it. What has happened to us?

Today, there is no joy in Mudville

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
John Roberts as Obamacare Swing Vote
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

And then there's the "government forcing you to eat broccoli" argument (using the word "argument" very, very loosely):

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Obamacare & The Broccoli Argument
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Yes, this is Romneycare. But why won't Mitt Romney take credit for it? After all, he took credit for bailing out the U.S. auto industry, even though he opposed it at the time.

True, the Republicans have spent a lot of time demonizing their own plan, but hey, that's why you reboot the Etch-A-Sketch, right? I mean, if we Americans weren't hopelessly ignorant and easily distracted, the GOP probably wouldn't exist at all.

Dewey defeats Truman

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
CNN & Fox News Report Supreme Court Decision
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Funny, huh? Could CNN and Fox 'News' get any worse? I know that Fox won't learn anything from this, but CNN used to be a real news network.

Of course, this has happened before.

Civil War, part 2?

It's one of the ironies of history that the "party of Lincoln" has become today's Republican Party, with its base solidly in the white South, fighting for "states' rights" against the federal government, eager to wave the Confederate flag.

And when they don't get what they want, they often seem eager for violent revolt:
Like many conservatives, Matt Davis, the former spokesman for the Michigan Republican Party, was upset that the Supreme Court upheld most of President Obama’s health care law on Thursday.

But unlike those who simply saw it as a rallying cry to elect more conservatives in November, Davis wants to know whether an “armed rebellion” will be necessary to overturn the law.

Michigan Capitol Confidential got a copy of an email the Michigan attorney sent to fellow conservatives after the ruling. The news service posted it online:
If government can mandate that I pay for something I don’t want, then what is beyond its power? If the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday paves the way for unprecedented intrusion into personal decisions, then has the Republic all but ceased to exist? If so, then is armed rebellion today justified? God willing, this oppression will be lifted and America free again before the first shot is fired.

Davis told the news service he was serious about his email.

“You can’t have people walking with lattes and signs and think the object of your opposition is going to take you seriously,” he told Capitol Confidential. “Armed rebellion is the end point of that physical confrontation.”

"God willing, this oppression will be lifted and America free again before the first shot is fired." Wow, he sounds exactly like those old Southern slave-owners, doesn't he? Michigan was on the other side in our first Civil War, but I guess there were southern sympathizers everywhere, even back then, huh?

Of course, what's funny is that this is Romneycare they're protesting. This was the Republicans' own health care plan, developed in a right-wing think tank as the free-market, insurance company-friendly alternative to Democratic ideas of health care reform.

And it was widely supported in the GOP. Even by Republicans - especially by Republicans - it was considered to be Mitt Romney's signature achievement as governor of Massachusetts. This is the plan they're protesting. It's really kind of funny.

In fact, it's hilarious to hear Mitt Romney try to attack his own plan. Before the Supreme Court decision, when Republicans were certain that they'd packed the court with enough right-wing political operatives to get the decision they wanted, Romney simply argued that it was unconstitutional on the federal level.

Yes, it was a great plan - after all, it's Romneycare - but only for state governments. "States' rights," you know. But the Supreme Court - a right-wing Supreme Court packed with Republicans - disagrees. So what can Romney do now?

Well, Romney knows that you really can't underestimate the knowledge or the intelligence of the American people. After all, half the country wants him to be our next president! So now, he's just claiming that Romneycare - excuse me, Obamacare - is bad policy.

Yeah, their own plan - his own plan, his signature achievement as governor - is a terrible thing now that the Democrats agreed to go with it, too! (Do you really wonder why we can't get anything accomplished in Washington, when Republicans turn violently against their own positions as soon as the Democrats agree to "compromise" and adopt a Republican plan themselves?)

If we had an intelligent, informed electorate, the Republican Party would be laughed off the political stage at this point. If we had a decent news media, Republicans would be hammered about this over and over again - and no one more than Mitt Romney. But we don't.

And all too many Republicans seem eager for violence, if they don't get everything they want - and I mean everything!  After all, this country is in a horrible mess after 30 years of right-wing trickle-down economics and especially after two presidential terms where they firmly controlled all three branches of the federal government.

And when they start threatening Civil War over their own policies, you really have to wonder about their sanity. Of course, I've been wondering about their sanity for some time now.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The truth about Fast and Furious

Cenk Uygur does a good job here. (And yes, I know exactly how he feels!) The article he's talking about is this one, from Fortune magazine. Here's the summary:
A Fortune investigation reveals that the ATF never intentionally allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. How the world came to believe just the opposite is a tale of rivalry, murder, and political bloodlust.

Get that? An extensive investigation by Fortune magazine has determined that the entire Fast and Furious scandal is just bullshit. It never happened.

Sure, Mexican drug lords bought, and continue to buy, massive amounts of weapons from America, but it's the NRA and its right-wing supporters which have made that possible. Read that again: the ATF never intentionally allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

It's a good read. Here are some excerpts:
Some call it the "parade of ants"; others the "river of iron." The Mexican government has estimated that 2,000 weapons are smuggled daily from the U.S. into Mexico. The ATF is hobbled in its effort to stop this flow. No federal statute outlaws firearms trafficking, so agents must build cases using a patchwork of often toothless laws. For six years, due to Beltway politics, the bureau has gone without permanent leadership, neutered in its fight for funding and authority. The National Rifle Association has so successfully opposed a comprehensive electronic database of gun sales that the ATF's congressional appropriation explicitly prohibits establishing one. [my emphasis] ...

[Dave] Voth's mandate was to stop gun traffickers in Arizona, the state ranked by the gun-control advocacy group Legal Community Against Violence as having the nation's "weakest gun violence prevention laws." Just 200 miles from Mexico, which prohibits gun sales, the Phoenix area is home to 853 federally licensed firearms dealers. Billboards advertise volume discounts for multiple purchases.

Customers can legally buy as many weapons as they want in Arizona as long as they're 18 or older and pass a criminal background check. There are no waiting periods and no need for permits, and buyers are allowed to resell the guns. "In Arizona," says Voth, "someone buying three guns is like someone buying a sandwich."

By 2009 the Sinaloa drug cartel had made Phoenix its gun supermarket and recruited young Americans as its designated shoppers or straw purchasers. Voth and his agents began investigating a group of buyers, some not even old enough to buy beer, whose members were plunking down as much as $20,000 in cash to purchase up to 20 semiautomatics at a time, and then delivering the weapons to others. ...

Quite simply, there's a fundamental misconception at the heart of the Fast and Furious scandal. Nobody disputes that suspected straw purchasers under surveillance by the ATF repeatedly bought guns that eventually fell into criminal hands. [Republican Darrell] Issa and others charge that the ATF intentionally allowed guns to walk as an operational tactic. But five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious tell Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic. They insist they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked. Just the opposite: They say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn.

Indeed, a six-month Fortune investigation reveals that the public case alleging that Voth and his colleagues walked guns is replete with distortions, errors, partial truths, and even some outright lies. Fortune reviewed more than 2,000 pages of confidential ATF documents and interviewed 39 people, including seven law-enforcement agents with direct knowledge of the case. Several, including Voth, are speaking out for the first time.

How Fast and Furious reached the headlines is a strange and unsettling saga, one that reveals a lot about politics and media today. It's a story that starts with a grudge, specifically [John] Dodson's anger at Voth. After the terrible murder of agent [Brian] Terry, Dodson made complaints that were then amplified, first by right-wing bloggers, then by CBS. Rep. Issa and other politicians then seized those elements to score points against the Obama administration, which, for its part, has capitulated in an apparent effort to avoid a rhetorical battle over gun control in the run-up to the presidential election.(A Justice Department spokesperson denies this and asserts that the department is not drawing conclusions until the inspector general's report is submitted.)

Yeah, the NRA really has politicians buffaloed, doesn't it? Even Democrats - maybe even especially Democrats - are absolutely terrified at seeming to be in favor of gun control.

And apparently, the Obama administration is so eager to appease their political enemies that they won't fight back even in a case like this. Well, maybe Fox 'News' has them buffaloed, too.
Irony abounds when it comes to the Fast and Furious scandal. But the ultimate irony is this: Republicans who support the National Rifle Association and its attempts to weaken gun laws are lambasting ATF agents for not seizing enough weapons—ones that, in this case, prosecutors deemed to be legal. ...

Issa's claim that the ATF is using the Fast and Furious scandal to limit gun rights seems, to put it charitably, far-fetched. Meanwhile, Issa and other lawmakers say they want ATF to stanch the deadly tide of guns, widely implicated in the killing of 47,000 Mexicans in the drug-war violence of the past five years. But the public bludgeoning of the ATF has had the opposite effect. From 2010, when Congress began investigating, to 2011, gun seizures by Group VII and the ATF's three other groups in Phoenix dropped by more than 90%.

It's a good article, very detailed and clear. But the Fast and Furious narrative is here to stay. That might have been the case even if the Obama administration had fought back. But it's absolutely infuriating that they won't try to stand up for themselves - even when they're in the right. (Republicans wouldn't even need to have that justification.)

Of course, the Republicans are getting exactly what they want, and so is the NRA - that same NRA that keeps the ATF from being effective in the first place.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Texas Republican Party platform

From Pharyngula:
Have you seen this thing? The Texas Freedom Network has a breakdown of its contents.
  • Declares separation of church and state is a “myth” and calls for Congress to withdraw federal court jurisdiction over cases involving religious freedom and the Bill of Rights

  • Calls for teaching creationist arguments in public school science classrooms

  • Opposes the sale and use of emergency contraception and backs the Legislature’s war on women’s health programs

  • Rejects “any sex education other than abstinence until marriage” in public schools

  • Adopts a radical position that would essentially bar abortion even in cases of rape, of incest or to save a woman’s life

  • Advocates for the repeal of the Voting Rights Act, minimum wage laws and the Endangered Species Act as well as the abolishment of the Environmental Protection Agency

  • Attacks LGBT Texans as a threat to families and objects to laws that would protect them from job discrimination and hate crimes

  • Calls for further funding cuts for public schools following draconian cuts by lawmakers in 2011

  • Seeks to change the 14th Amendment to limit citizenship by birth only to those born to a U.S. citizen

  • Threatens federal judges with impeachment if they don’t toe the far right’s line in controversial court cases

It also says we should end the Social Security program, arm college students, requiring presidential candidates to submit a birth certificate, and a return to the gold standard.

As PZ Myers points out, this is the Republican Party base. Party leaders try to keep the base happy, while prettifying their policies for the general population. But this is what they want.

This is the kind of people they are - and, as I've said many times before, it's the result of the GOP's "Southern strategy" of wooing white southerners unhappy with the end of racial segregation. They put all of those kinds of people into the same political party. (Louisiana, too, shows the GOP base quite clearly.)

These are the old Dixiecrats, combined with the John Birchers and other loons who were already in the Republican Party. To a large extent, they're still fighting the Civil War, determined that the North won't win this time.

So it really does tell us something:
But the thing about these state platforms is that they expose the primal id of the party. I’ve been to local Democratic caucuses, for instance, and I see the extremists of that party at work — and also most of their ideas get pared away at the state and national level, too, smoothed out to a blander, more conservative muddle. You can see better where the party faithful want us to go, while the party leadership always steers a more middling course.

At the Democratic caucuses, you see people exposing the real dreams of their group. And at Democratic events, they want things like: free education for everyone; free healthcare for everyone; more open immigration policies and education and healthcare for immigrant children, legal or otherwise; an end to all wars; reduction of the defense budget; more support for labor unions; protection for endangered species; more environmental restoration; full civil rights for gay people; closing Guantanomo Bay; and just generally making the universe a friendlier place. They’ll also toss in some nonsense about organic herbal medicine or increasing subsidies for corn ethanol production, so they aren’t perfect, but one thing they are is idealistic.

Contrast that with what the dedicated Republicans propose. Sure, Democratic dreams are too often impractical, but they at least value human beings, every one of them, and want all of us to live safely and securely, with hope for personal improvement. The Republicans always sound so sour and stupid, dedicated to shutting down everyone who isn’t a white heterosexual male; it’s an “I got mine” attitude that seeks to influence the state to enhance their privileges.

I often hear idiots declaring that "both parties are the same." Pardon my French, but that's complete bullshit! Given the realities of our system of government - noting that we do not have a parliamentary system - party leaders generally try to pull their base towards the middle, in order to win elections.

For some reason, this isn't working in the GOP, and their extremism isn't losing them much support. I don't know if that's the result of Fox 'News' or just that people turn conservative in bad times - and that Republicans have done very, very well in recent years of creating bad times in America.

Anyway, to get back to my point, party leaders tend to be more moderate on both sides. Or maybe you can say they tend to be more practical, since they're always concerned about getting elected. But the party bases show their heart, their passion, their values, and there's a world of difference between the Democrats and the Republicans.

As frustrating as the Democrats can sometimes be, there's no question which side I'm on. I always wanted to be an Independent, but the Republican Party has simply made that impossible for me. If you're a Republican these days, I have to wonder at your sanity or your intelligence.

Or maybe you're just completely clueless, I don't know. Keep reading this blog and I'll try to fix that. :)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


A beautiful and moving video, isn't it?

Is the monster real?

Is the monster real?

From Indecision Forever:
At least in theory, there lives a beautiful creature that inhabits lochs and bayous. Evidence of its existence is anecdotal, with minimal and much-disputed photographic material and journalistic accounts. Unfortunately, this creature, "the Louisiana Republican state legislator that makes a modicum of sense," is most likely a modern myth.

I'm a skeptic, myself. And the rest of the article explains why we should all remain skeptical:
The latest strike against this elusive creature's existence came in the form of legislation signed by Governor Bobby Jindal, making Louisiana the leader in privatizing public education. Beginning this fall, thousands Louisiana schoolkids will receive taxpayer funded vouchers covering the full cost of tuition at private religious schools, while the public school they previously attended will lose funding.

But whatever the damage done to the separation of church and state, at least the kids will be getting a solid education
Thousands of American school pupils are to be taught that the Loch Ness monster is real — in an attempt by religious teachers to disprove Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

Pupils attending privately-run Christian schools in the southern state of Louisiana will learn from textbooks next year, which claim Scotland's most famous mythological beast is a living creature… Youngsters will be told that if it can be proved that dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time as man, then Darwinism is fatally flawed…

"Have you heard of the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland? 'Nessie' for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur."

Another claim taught is that a Japanese whaling boat once caught a dinosaur.

And to think, Muslims almost ruined this great innovation in American education policy, just like they ruin everything! An Islamic school had briefly applied for the voucher program, drawing ire from Republican lawmakers, before withdrawing its application.

Those darned Muslims! Just because Christians can get tax money to push their religious fantasies on kids, how dare the Muslims think that they can do the same?

Don't tell me they actually believe that stuff in the Constitution about freedom of religion! After all, we're supposed to have a 'wall' of separation between church and state, too...

Yeah, it's getting harder to see America as we limp back to the Dark Ages, herded by lumbering beasts with tiny brains.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Corporate-owned Supreme Court

It's getting worse. Since the Republicans on the Supreme Court decided that corporations are "people" and money is "speech," they've lost any semblance of respect for precedence and the rule of law.

Corporate CEOs can now spend your money to buy politicians to advance their own interests - and do it all anonymously, keeping it a secret from their shareholders and their customers alike.

Billionaires are currently trying to buy the presidency for Mitt Romney, too. But we let them do this. They can't do any of it without our full cooperation. If we're stupid enough to let this happen, what does that say about us?


Cataclysm is a zombie survival rogue-like game - free to download, and lots of fun, but still in alpha and very hardcore.

I thought I'd give it a try yesterday and, not being very hardcore myself, I downloaded the Windows port with Deon's 32x32 graphics tileset. (It's very simple. Unzip the folder somewhere, then click on Cataclysm.exe to start the game. Note that you might need the wiki for the controls.)

You start in an evac center. Unfortunately, you've apparently missed the last shuttle - or maybe no one made it out, I don't know. At any rate, there's only one other person there, and in both of my starts, he wasn't much help at all.

You've got nothing but jeans, sneakers, and a t-shirt, and that won't keep the zombie hordes at bay. If you're very lucky, there will be something in the basement you can scavenge. Unfortunately, you can't carry anything except what you can hold in your hands.

So the first thing you need to do is leave the shelter (which is not a safe house, BTW) and try to find some gear. Top priority is a backpack, or even just cargo pants or a vest, so you can carry items. Look for a military surplus outlet or maybe a sporting goods store. Everyone else is dead - or worse than dead - so you can't be squeamish about looting.

And look for a weapon. Guns are nice, but the noise will bring zombies running. A melee weapon is quieter, but if you're close enough to hit a zombie with one, they'll be close enough to hit you. Of course, you need food and water, too - plus drugs for medical care and morale.

Note that you've got about ten minutes at the start of the game before the zombies show up, though that doesn't mean you're safe until then. My first character was eaten by a pack of wolves before he'd even seen a zombie. I'd found a gun, but no ammunition. And wolves are fast. I could have beaten off one or two, but not a dozen.

The game is turn-based. It's all about smart decisions, rather than quick reflexes. But don't expect your character to last long. It's very tough. Still, if you do last, there's no limit to the world. The gameworld is procedurally generated, so you can explore pretty much forever.

My second character started out in a poor location, I thought. But I was quickly able to find a backpack and a pair of binoculars (when that's in my inventory, I can usually spot zombies before they spot me). I found a sweet little .22 rifle and a box of shells, too, but I hesitated to shoot it, not without a silencer.

Instead, I've just been running away - or trying to. (That graphic at the start of this post, by Sedate Meerkat, is perfect for my character.) I found a baseball bat, and I was able to use that to kill the first zombie that surprised me. Yeah, I was injured a bit in the fight, but not too bad.

The worst thing is that I don't have a safe place to live, and I can't carry very much in my backpack. It just... hurts to leave stuff behind - water purifiers, tools, pots and pans, a hotplate. I even passed up a bow and arrows, because I couldn't stand to leave my rifle behind (but I debated that for a long time).

I was looting a gas station when there was a huge explosion outside. I don't know what caused it, but when I checked, it looked like a zombie convention out there. Not just the ordinary zombies, either, but the really dangerous ones.

So I scooted. There was a pile of batteries there, too - essential for my flashlight, among other things. I just hated to leave them. But if I'd delayed, I would have died.

The candy and potato chips and beef jerky I'd scavenged at the gas station didn't do much but keep me from starving (I did fill up my water jugs at the broken toilet there), so I headed for a grocery store. It was full of good food, and since a thunder storm had moved in, I decided to spend the night in a back room with only one door and no windows.

Note that I've got no way to barricade doors, and my character is a very sound sleeper (one of his bad traits). Nevertheless, a loud noise woke me some time before dawn. When I cautiously looked out the door, I discovered that the whole grocery store was on fire. I'm guessing that lightning struck it.

Luckily, there was still a narrow passage past the fire, though it was filled with smoke. In the front of the store, I grabbed what food I could, then ran out into the pitch-dark night.

My binoculars don't help when it's too dark to see, and I didn't dare risk turning on my flashlight, so I was sure I'd stumble upon a zombie. But I was able to follow the wall north to a building next door, where I waited until it got light.

The next day, I found a crowbar, so I was able to enter locked homes - with some effort, but without needing to smash noisily through the door or windows. (Unfortunately, I had to give up my comforting baseball bat - just not enough room in my pack.) I got tired early, so I tried to sleep in one of those homes, only to be awakened by zombies crashing through windows to the northwest and northeast.

I left to the south, smashing a window myself (and getting cut in the process). It was already getting dark, and zombies were hot on my trail. I tried to loop through some traps to the southwest, then headed northwest again. But a shocker zombie followed me, and sent a bolt of electricity in my direction just as I rounded the corner of a house.

I didn't have a choice, then. I pulled out my .22 rifle and started shooting. It took an embarrassingly large number of shots before I killed the zombie - and it got frighteningly close - but at last, it was dead. And I took off running again.

This time, a strangely-deformed, sinewy zombie caught up to me, loping forward with unbelievable speed. Again, I had to shoot. Again, it took awhile before I was able to kill this very speedy zombie (I'm not the world's best shot), and it got close enough to hit me a couple of times.

Other zombies were starting to catch up by then, so I continued to run north, tired, hungry, and limping. It was pure luck that I managed to lose them, pure luck that they didn't catch me as I slept in a house sometime later. But you need luck to survive a zombie apocalypse.

The next morning, I was very hungry, so I headed north again, towards a distant grocery store. This time, a huge, brutish zombie started following me, and I couldn't seem to shake it. I was afraid my little .22 wouldn't have much effect on such a brute, so I kept running.

I reluctantly passed up a gas station, despite my hunger (and despite my wish to make some Molotov cocktails). It was just too clearly a deathtrap. But I dodged around one building and into a pawnshop, where I found a more powerful pistol, with ammo. (I had to drop some things. I hate to give up useful supplies, but... one must prioritize.)

I expected the zombie to follow me inside, but it must have lost my trail. (I saw a wolf to the east. Do zombies chase animals, too, or just people?) At any rate, I'd entered the back door, but there was also a door to the north, and a grocery store just to the east, so I ran over there and finally satisfied my hunger.

I spent a long time in the grocery store, eating and resting in the back room. I almost decided to spend the night there. But I don't like to spend too much time in any one place. And there was no back door, so no place to run if another horde of zombies broke through the front.

So I'm on the run again. I ate all the produce in the grocery store that hadn't spoiled, so I'm back to living on candy and potato chips. And it's getting late, so I really do need to find a place to sleep. I still need a silencer for my rifle, too - and a million other things, most of which I couldn't carry, even if I found them.

But so far, I've found the things I have to have to survive. So it could be worse. And tomorrow, it probably will be.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Alan Turing: the cost of bigotry

Today is the 100 year anniversary of the birth of Alan Turing - mathematician, computer pioneer, World War II code-breaker, and convicted criminal (for his homosexuality).

An article in the Atlantic, with the very personal title of Alan Turing Saved My Life, explains just how important Turing was to the war effort:
"I won't say that what Turing did made us win the war," his statistical clerk, Jack Good, told me later, as I was researching a book that would be the first history of artificial intelligence, called Machines Who Think, "but I daresay we might have lost it without him."

I interviewed Good in the mid-1970s, when the Official Secrets Act still silenced many. Only decades later were Turing's associates, and then, historians of computing, mathematics, and cryptography, able to reveal in detail how crucial Turing's contribution had been to the war effort, to the ultimate Allied victory, and to hungry babies like me, born into what then looked like a losing effort.

So, how did Britain treat this war hero?
But he was also homosexual, which in his time in England was a punishable offense. A brief liaison in January 1952 with a common criminal brought this to light, and both he and the other man were charged with gross indecency.

Convicted, Turing had to choose between prison, or "chemical castration," injections of estrogen, then thought to kill the homosexual libido. He accepted chemical castration; his conviction and punishment were public, degrading, and lost him his security clearance.

He was found dead of cyanide poisoning on June 8, 1954, his death ruled a suicide, though Turing's mother protested that it was accidental, and the consequence of her son's carelessness with laboratory materials. He was 42 years old.

Turing's homosexuality, and the tragic circumstances of his death, were known and spoken of among the people I interviewed for my book, but several of his colleagues were dismayed that I would say it in print. For me, who owed my very life to Turing's work, this petty delicacy was unconscionable.

A man who had saved his country had been hounded to death by it.

Today is a good day to remember Alan Turing, and to remember what bigotry costs us:
Three years after Turing's death, the Wolfenden Report was published in 1957, recommending that homosexuality be decriminalized in the U.K., though it took another ten years to change the law. Honors were eventually heaped upon Alan Turing's shade: the highest award in computer science is the Turing Prize; plaques appear on buildings where he lived and worked, a road is named for him. Two biographies have appeared, a play, and at least two films. In 2009, Gordon Brown, on behalf of the British government, formally apologized for its treatment of Turing, "one of those individuals ... whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war." On the 100th anniversary of his birth, elaborate tributes and celebrations have been held in San Francisco, London, Cambridge, and Manchester.

Of course we will never know what Turing might have contributed to human knowledge if allowed to live out his natural life, surely our very great loss. This is the cost of human bigotry.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fast, furious, and crazy

Rachel Maddow: "This is a conspiracy theory that was cooked up by the guy who told people to break people's windows after health reform passed. But the right is hard-wired to believe stuff like this. ...  It can be easy to forget that, on the right, they are susceptible enough to conspiracy theories like this, in their sort of closed-loop, fact-free universe of conservative media."

And listen to those gun-nuts she interviews in the street. That's a fact-free group if there ever was one! But this is where conspiracy enthusiasts on the right gravitate. (On the left, they're more into vaccines and 9/11 fantasies.)

But as Maddow points out, "Agitated people protesting on the street who are not good at explaining their views can be forgiven for sounding nonspecific, or even a little crazy about these things. But what those folks were articulating to me,... it's not just a random street protestor view, on the right. What those people were telling me on that street corner in Anchorage is how the right talks about the Obama administration even when they're standing at podiums."

I suspect that this is the direct result of Fox 'News.' Sure, every political party has its crazies - if some more than others - but usually, those crazies are on the fringe. Indeed, that's how it used to be even in the GOP. But not today. Today, the crazies are the Republican base. Today, crazy is mainstream in the GOP.

Some of that is undoubtedly racism. After all, the Republicans' notorious "Southern strategy" filled the party with racists in its successful attempt to take the South from the Democrats. These people have become absolutely hysterical about our first black president. (And note that Eric Holder, too, is black.)

And gun-nuts - I use that term appropriately, I think - seem to be prone to hysteria anyway. (Listen to Wayne LaPierre's speech at CPAC. Do you really wonder why I have such a poor opinion of the NRA?)

Well, conspiracy thinking in general has become mainstream in the Republican Party. Republican leaders thought to use those people - and did so successfully for many years - but now the crazies have taken control.

And until sane Americans repudiate today's extremist GOP, our nation will continue to suffer. If you think the Bush administration was a complete disaster for our country, you ain't seen nothin' yet!

Note: Thanks to Jeff for the link. This is a perfect example of why I love Rachel Maddow!

Unintelligent design

This reminds me of an argument I had with a believer who insisted that his god must have "guided" evolution to create life as we know it.

I pointed out some examples of poor design, including the panda's thumb, probably the most famous example:
Our text books like to illustrate evolution with examples of optimal design--nearly perfect mimicry of a dead leaf by a butterfly or of a poisonous species by a palatable relative: But ideal design is a lousy argument for evolution, for it mimics the postulated action of an omnipotent creator. Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution--paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process, constrained by history, follows perforce.

"Well," my friend explained, "God doesn't care about animals, only about people."

So I pointed out some examples of poor design in human beings. His reply? "God didn't want us to be perfect." Heh, heh.

This was a guy who claimed that he'd researched "all" the major religions and came by his faith objectively. It was just a coincidence, apparently, that the religion he'd been raised to believe just happened to be the right one!

His belief in Intelligent Design was similar. He already knew what he wanted to believe, so he just rationalized away any contradictory evidence. And note that he had no evidence of his own to back up Intelligent Design. No, he didn't need evidence. He just believed it.

Unfortunately, you can't reason a person out of a position they didn't reason themselves into. He didn't believe in Intelligent Design because of the evidence backing it up,... because there isn't any. So evidence against it didn't affect his belief in the slightest.

And that's common among human beings. In fact, I'd say that's a great example of poor design (of human brains) right there! We find it easy to believe what we want to believe. And when you don't require evidence - real evidence - for your beliefs, it's even easier.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Creeping Sharia slaw

Too bad all those liberals and their gun control led to slavery in the early years of our republic, isn't it? But what could conservatives do back then, with leftists so firmly in control of the American South?

For more improbable history, just check your local Republican Party headquarters. But have patience. They're rewriting our history as fast as they can.

PS. This part was especially hilarious, don't you think?
And what do you know? Michelle Obama happens to grow organic carrots and cabbage at the White House. That can only lead to creeping Sharia slaw!

The bod squad

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Bod Squad
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

So what's worse, the way the mainstream media plays up these inconsequentials or the relentless way Fox 'News' pushes its anti-Obama agenda?

Well, yes, Fox is worse, of course. But we expect Fox to be this way, don't we? I mean, is there anyone who still expects journalism, instead of propaganda, from Fox 'News'?

Maybe I'm being naive, but I still hope for journalism from real news outlets.

Nostalgia for George H.W. Bush

I must say, I like David Frum, too. Oh, I don't agree with him about most things, but he's actually a sane, and even a reasonable, conservative. Do you know how refreshing that is these days?

And he is a conservative - very much so. He's just not crazy. And he's got the courage to criticize the loons who've taken over the GOP. He's suffered for that, losing his positions at the National Review and the American Enterprise Institute, but he continues to do it anyway. Very admirable.

As Frum says, "The most important difference [between Ronald  Reagan/George H.W. Bush and today's Republicans] is a commitment to the institutions of the U.S. government. ... They would not have pushed the country to the edge of bankruptcy in order to make a point."

On the other hand, I agree with Bill Maher, too, that Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush were not good presidents. As he points out, George H.W. Bush gave us Clarence Thomas, for chrissake! They may look good compared to current Republicans, but that's really grading on a curve.

I also liked Maher's guest, Karen Finney, pointing out how Jeb Bush quickly walked back his criticism. Well, the Republican Party marches in lockstep these days. You're either with them 100% or you're the enemy.

I'm the enemy. Too bad I can't really do them any harm, huh? :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Marriage: a man, a woman, and his prostitute

Apparently, more Nevadans - far more - support prostitution than support gay marriage.

From Indecision Forever:
A recent Public Policy Polling survey found that 66% of Republicans, 66% of Democrats and 58% of Independents agreed that brothels should be legal, as opposed to just 23% of all Nevada voters who believed they should be banned. Even the ideological landscape divide is muted, with 72% of "very liberal" voters supporting brothels compared to 50% of "very conservative voters."

But though there's no prohibition on gay sex in brothels, there is a prohibition on gay and lesbian partners forming state-sanctioned families together. And many brothel-supporting Nevadans would like to keep it that way. According to a recent survey, Nevadans are split on same-sex marriage by a 45-44% margin, with 67% of Democrats supporting equality, compared to just 20% of Republicans.

The results highlight the strength of traditional family values. After all, historically, marriage is an institution involving a man, a woman, and the the women with whom the man is cheating on his wife.

Yeah, we've got to support 'traditional' marriage, huh?

Getting tough on crime

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Unscooped Dog Poop Crime-Busting Service
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Forget about the Social Contract,... unless someone's dog is pooping in your yard!

Stephen Colbert: "'Oh, without schools, parks, and police departments, it's going to get scary out there!' Not for me. Because I don't live out there."

But most of us do. So it amazes me that Republicans and their billionaire backers can get the ignorant to cut their own throats like this, with constant tax cuts for the rich. The rest of us do need public schools. We do need parks. We do need police and fire departments.

But that unscooped dog poop crime-busting service - it's "the one crime that rocks my suburban community to its core" - is just hilarious, don't you think? "I call it Public Enemy Number Two." Heh, heh.

Yeah, the rich can't afford to pay the same tax rate you do, but they sure have plenty to spend on themselves, don't they? Even on idiocies like this.

And hey, I have no problem with them spending their money on anything they want,... as long as they pay their fair share to support our society, too! And as long as everyone gets a fair start in life.

More Republican lies

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Democalypse 2012 - Pander Express Edition - Obama's Immigration Reform
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

If only Barack Obama had gone through the legislative process, huh?

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R, WI): "The executive branch has arrogated to itself something that the people's representatives in Congress rejected two years ago."

Just think about that. The Dream Act easily passed the House, and an overwhelming majority, 55 to 41, voted for it in the Senate. But Republicans filibuster everything these days, so it didn't pass.

But that's certainly not Congress "rejecting" it! Unfortunately, we've let the minority dictate legislation in this country. No longer do we have government by the majority.

The legislative process is broken. Republicans broke it. Republicans have pretty well destroyed our institutions of government. (Note that they are busy destroying our Supreme Court, too.)

Yes, Democrats let them do it, and I'm not happy about that. But I'm absolutely furious at what the Republicans have done to our country. (And then they have the incredible gall to lie about it!)

And speaking of lying,... how about that Fox 'News'? Is it any wonder that people who watch Fox are even more ignorant than people who don't watch any news at all?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

'Stand your ground' laws increase murder rates

From the San Francisco Chronicle:
Texas A&M University researchers say controversial ”stand your ground” laws have increased the number of murder and manslaughter cases – rather than serve as a deterrent to crime.

The study, which looked at 23 states that have passed the castle doctrine laws, comes at a time when many critics say such self-defense statutes encourage vigilantism and escalate violence. At the center of that debate is the case of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager who was fatally shot in February in Sanford, Fla., by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. ...

In their study, Texas A&M associate professor Mark Hoekstra and grad student Cheng Cheng analyzed crime data from 2000 to 2009, finding that murder and manslaughter cases increased between 7 to 9 percent in those states with castle doctrine laws. The castle doctrine term is derived from the idea that people have a right to defend their home or castle using lethal force, if necessary.

The homicide rates in states that had not adopted castle doctrine laws remained steady, the study found.

The study concludes that the laws “do not appear to offer any hidden spillover benefit to society at large.”

The cartoon?  That's a real insurance policy offered through the NRA. Think about that. Think about buying insurance because you think you'll want to shoot somebody!

You think those people aren't eager to use their guns?

The Atheist Experience: the history of the Bible

This is an excerpt from the Atheist Experience TV show, episode #483, with hosts Matt Dillahunty and Tracie Harris.

I never thought the Bible was 'the word of God,' but this is still fascinating stuff.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

"The Collapsium" by Wil McCarthy

(cover image from

The Collapsium (2000) is the first in Wil McCarthy's Queendom of Sol series. I've only read the first two (I'm rereading them in preparation for the third and fourth volumes), but they seem to be a throwback to the classic era, being optimistic hard SF.

I really miss that old... engineering mindset, where the heroes know how to find solutions to problems. Yet in characterization, in insight, this is very much a modern book. As far as I'm concerned, it's the best of both worlds.

It's the future - still in the 'third millenium,' but that's the only clue we're given - and technological advances have created a near utopia, not just on Earth, but elsewhere in our solar system. We're terraforming Mars and Venus. We're tinkering with black holes. We've even conquered old age and death - at least, effectively so, most of the time.

But human beings remain human beings. And even immortality has its drawbacks.

Bruno de Towaji is working alone on a miniature artificial planet (he walks entirely around the world for his morning constitutional) lit by a miniature artificial sun, when he's interrupted by the queen of Sol. There's been an industrial accident which threatens to destroy the Sun.*

A couple of things here: All of this sounds very plausible in the book. There are appendices and even a glossary, explaining such things as collapsium (an array of black holes) and wellstone (programmable matter). They certainly seem plausible.

Of course, most of it goes right over my head. But that's actually an advantage, I'm sure. If you're a theoretical physicist, it might seem like pure bull. But McCarthy makes it sound very plausible to a layman like me, and that's the important thing here.

Secondly, yes, the Earth has a queen. It turned out, as civilization advanced, that people hated self-responsibility. "Only when it was inescapably universal... did it become clear that what people really wanted, in their secret hearts of hearts, was a charismatic monarch to admire and gossip about and blame all their problems on."

Normally, I'm quite skeptical of futuristic science fiction with hereditary aristocracies (admittedly, that's not quite the case here). And I can't really buy McCarthy's description of how the Queendom came about. But it works here - mostly, I think, because it's our own celebrity culture writ large.

I've never understood our fascination with celebrities, but I can't deny that widespread interest. And McCarthy really makes it work. Queen Tamra is the ultimate celebrity, with little real power but the continuous focus of intense interest.

Anyway, Bruno is pulled back to society to solve an engineering problem, basically (though one which threatens all of humanity). But, eventually, it becomes clear that this disaster - and the succeeding disasters - aren't accidents, but deliberate sabotage and murder.

I won't say much about that, except that it's exciting. Bruno is a genius, solving problems implausibly fast, but he's up against an enemy almost as capable as he is, who's had a long time to plan this attack. But Bruno is also an interesting character - and an appealing one. The book is lots of fun.

I mentioned insights, and there are. I've already noted the insights into celebrity culture, but there's also the problem with immortality. If people don't die, if people stay young and don't retire, then no one can move up. Your boss is always your boss - forever.

Bruno asks how a police lieutenant rose to his position. But you don't rise to positions in the Queendom. The lieutenant was appointed directly to his position, from more than 7000 applicants, on the basis of exam scores and aptitude. He doesn't expect promotion, because his superiors will never die. He could lose his position for poor performance, but there's no expectation of advancement for anyone.

That issue is addressed more extensively in the next book, The Wellstone, which I liked even better than this one. (That was actually the first book I read of this series. Since the main characters are different, that was no problem.) Well, I plan to reread that one and review it, too, eventually.

There's a lot we don't see of ordinary society in this book, but I get the feeling that there isn't any 'ordinary' society, not really. In Eric Flint's 1632 series of alternate history, modern Americans all act like nobility to 17th Century Europeans. Similarly, the Queendom feels like a place where no one is 'ordinary,' as we'd recognize it.

To our minds, it would be a utopia, just like modern American society would probably seem like a utopia to most of our ancestors. But these people in our future still have problems, just like we still have problems. That seems realistic to me. We're never going to live in a utopia, because we won't recognize it as a utopia.

But the Queendom is a fascinating place! It's imagining futures like this that got me hooked on science fiction in the first place.

* PS. According to Wikipedia, the first part of The Collapsium is based on McCarthy's short story, "Once Upon a Matter Crushed."

PPS. Note that I review the sequel, The Wellstone, here.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Cetaganda" by Lois McMaster Bujold

(cover image from

I've been  hooked on Lois McMaster Bujold's space opera for years. As I noted in my review of the last book in her Vorkosigan series, she started out good and just got better and better (which is not typical in series fiction).

Cetaganda was a middle-to-late volume (first published in 1996), though it's set relatively early in Miles Vorkosigan's career. Like the rest of the series, I've read it many times. However, I re-read it this month because it was June's modern science fiction pick in our Classic Science Fiction reading group at Yahoo.

Much as I love Lois McMaster Bujold, it wasn't easy picking a standalone read from her series fiction. With most authors, it wouldn't be so tough, because the first book in a series is almost always the best. Here, though, the series builds on itself. This is character-based fiction, and the characters evolve. We learn more about them - they learn more about themselves - all the time.

I highly recommend that you read this series in order of initial publication, I really do. The later books will mean much more if you understand the background. However, if you want to sample the series first, I'd say that Cetaganda works great as a standalone volume.

That's because it's set on a different planet than most in the series, and there are only two recurring characters, Miles and his cousin, Ivan. Both are young lieutenants - and lords - sent to represent their planet at an important state funeral on Cetaganda.

Cetaganda, note, is an aggressive civilization which had invaded Barrayar, their home planet, some decades earlier. It remains a serious danger to its neighbors, and Miles is eager to use this opportunity to gather intelligence. Ivan just wants to get laid.

You know, I tend to pay more attention when I'm reading a book for our science fiction group (and, quite honestly, when I'm planning to write a review, too). And in this case, I was particularly impressed at how quickly and how effectively Bujold shows us the essentials of her two heroes.

Miles is brilliant, though hyper, but he's four-foot-nine, hunchbacked and brittle-boned - not exactly recruiting-poster material on his military-mad planet. Ivan, on the other hand, is a perfect physical specimen, the ideal of what a naval lieutenant should be. And his attitude about wine, women, and song probably fits Barrayar's space navy pretty well, too.

Both characters, though, are appealing. Miles would be obnoxious without his physical problems. With them, he's sympathetic and downright heroic. But there's more to Ivan than you might think, too. At the very least, he's absolutely dependable. (Bujold's next book will be "Ivan's book," apparently. I can't wait!)

Right off the bat, strange things happen in Cetagada. Miles is eager to investigate, and peculiarities soon become deadly dangerous. But there's humor here, too. It's really great fun.

But don't expect great SF ideas. This is character-based space opera. It's a great example of that kind of fiction, but it's fun, rather than mind-blowing. Where Bujold is deep - and she is deep, on occasion - it's in understanding her characters. In this series, she keeps finding new things to tell us about her characters and about their situation.

She also shows us different and unusual cultures. Usually, her books are about Barrayar, at least in part. But in this case, she shows us Cetaganda, which is conducting a long-term genetics experiment, while also controlling an aggressive military.

These books are very much to my taste - and I loved Cetaganda - but they probably won't appeal to everyone. Well, what does? If you want entertaining space opera with great characters, you definitely need to give this series a try.

And note that Bujold has made the entire series available for free online. (If you want a shorter work than Cetaganda to sample, I'd recommend one of her novellas, either Labyrinth or The Mountains of Mourning.)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Bank Yankers

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Bank Yankers
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

The 'mighty' Senate Banking Committee... Yup, all sucking up to Jamie Dimon for all they're worth. And that's Nebraska's own Sen. Mike Johanns praising Dimon's hugeness. (We're so proud!)

So why are these senators sucking up to this banker? Well, this second clip explains that:

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Bank Yankers - Jamie Dimon on Capitol Hill
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

"Does Sen. DeMint think that spending money is the same as losing money?" No kidding! Honestly, is this the best we can do for United States senators?

Finally: "It must be nice to be a Republican senator sometimes, because you get the fun of breaking shit and the joy of complaining that the shit you just broke doesn't work."


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dwarf Fortress Adventure Mode

I'm still playing Summitspear, as I have time. But I also wanted to check out a new Post-Apocalypse mod for Dwarf Fortress. Since I didn't want to start a new fortress, and since Adventure Mode would give me more of a Fallout vibe anyway, I thought I'd try that.

Unfortunately, the mod was just unplayably slow for me. I'm not sure why. But then, it's still in development, so I hope to play it... sometime.

Anyway, the attempt reminded me of how much I enjoyed Adventure Mode last time, so I thought I'd play it in vanilla Dwarf Fortress for a bit. None of my characters ever last very long, so it's a much quicker game than building a fortress (and a nice change of pace, too).

Enter Kasat Blazesword, human swordsman, member of the Nation of Flickering. He started in Dipfocuses, a little human hamlet in the Blockaded Hills, and quickly recruited some companions - a pikeman and two lashers.

Our first quest was to kill a bandit chieftain in the sewers of Pointycharmed, a nearby town. But I couldn't find any way to get into the sewers. I could see into the sewers from the occasional grate in the streets, but it was always a long drop down (usually into water - at least, I hope it was water - and I couldn't swim).

At first, I didn't realize I'd have such a problem finding the entrance, so I wasn't particularly deliberate in my search. And Pointycharmed turned out to be a very large town.

So I started over, trying to cover every bit of the city. Unfortunately, clearing the "fog of war" in Dwarf Fortress is always only temporary, so it's not easy to tell where I've searched and where I haven't.

At any rate, it was taking so long that I started to worry about my character starving to death. I could have sold some of my clothing to buy food, but I thought I'd just find a different quest. (There's always loot after a successful quest - and often, as you'll see, even when they're unsuccessful.)

So, in a nearby village, I got a quest to kill Obu Floorstokers, a vampire in the hamlet of Ferrymarked. Supposedly, she'd already killed 1217 people! Hmm,... that seemed a bit tough for a beginning adventurer,... but what the heck, I had several meatshields, er, companions, who could help.

When we got to Ferrymarked, it turned out that the whole town knew that Obu was a vampire, though they told us they didn't have any proof. I wondered about that, but they all were eager to point us in the right direction.

Obu turned out to look just like all the other villagers, and she seemed to be getting along just fine with them, too. Certainly, her house was filled with people. But when I accused her of being a vampire, she boldly - and loudly - admitted it. And then, all of her... friends immediately drew their knives and attacked her.

I kind of wondered why they'd needed an adventurer to do this, since I couldn't get through the mob to attack her, myself. But then the vampire quickly killed two of the villagers, so I guess they needed us after all. But she'd been stabbed a million times by the time I edged close enough to take her head off with my longsword.

The townspeople were appreciative, despite their losses. Indeed, they even let me loot the bodies of their poor dead neighbors, not just that of the monster we'd killed. And the vampire wasn't even their only problem, since they quickly gave me a quest to kill a nearby bandit captain, too.

So after selling our loot - and buying plenty of food - we headed to the bandit encampment. It turned out to be a piece of cake. There were only three bandits, none of them archers, and they attacked individually. So it was a simple matter to surround each of them in turn. None of us received even a scratch.

Well, at this point, I was feeling pretty confident, so I figured we'd finish exploring Pointycharmed for that sewer entrance. (I recruited another swordsman, too, just for extra backup.) But we still couldn't find it.

However, there were a couple of ruined temples in town. One of them was just a big hole in the ground, with no passages leading anywhere. But the second was different, with several underground passages. Unfortunately, it was clearly an old burial ground. There were skeletons everywhere.

Well, as long as they stayed dead, no problem. But I wasn't confident of that. Still, we just needed to find a way into the sewers, that's all. We really didn't want to mess with any undead.

But as we continued to explore, there didn't seem to be any real danger down there. There were a few traps, but my character was a pretty observant guy. So we just went deeper and deeper. And at the bottom, we found some really nice loot.

And yup, greed won out. I know that's been the death of many a young adventurer, but I just couldn't resist. I grabbed a few of the nicer items and made a run for the exit. And that's when the mummy ambushed me from the top of the stairs.

You know, I thought I had a chance, despite the curse he immediately cast on me. (Note that curses in Dwarf Fortress are permanent, apparently. I don't think there's any way to cure them, not yet.) I parried the mummy's attacks and counterattacked myself - to good effect, I thought. But then, it's hard to tell. Mummies don't look too healthy at the best of times.

Unfortunately, he'd caught me in a narrow corridor, where I couldn't dodge. He kept charging at me and knocking me down. I don't know what happened to my companions. I thought they were behind me, but I never saw them again after the mummy attacked.

There was a skeleton behind me, though, and the mummy reanimated it. That made it even harder to dodge his attacks (and the skeleton's attacks). I knew I wasn't going to make it when the mummy chopped off my left hand and my bronze longsword sailed off into the darkness.

But I still had my shield,... for a few minutes, at least. Then he chopped off my right hand. Yeah, I still had my feet, but there wasn't anywhere I could run. But I kept trying till the end.

It was lots of fun. I hadn't seen one of those ruined temples before. (Of course, it's been a year since I last played Adventure Mode.) And towns have gotten really big, too. But obviously, I didn't see much of the world. I was still a rank beginner when I died.

So I've started a new character. :)  This one is Bale Flyspell, a human maceman, a member of the Kingdoms of Rock, far to the north of Pointycharmed. And just to give you an idea of how different things go, I'll tell you about his first quest:

Right off the bat, I was asked to kill a bandit chieftain, so I grabbed a couple of good soldiers and headed out of town. But right at the edge of the encampment, we encountered four archers.

Immediately, Ithev, my lasher companion, took an arrow to the knee (any Skyrim fans here?), dropping her to the ground. That effectively put her out of the fight, since archers aren't going to get into melee range voluntarily. A few minutes later, Dether, a fellow maceman, took a crossbow bolt to the head, killing him instantly. Both of my guards were taken out of the fight before we'd even started.

One enemy crossbowman got too close, and I was able to kill him by staying to his northeast, where his own body blocked the aim of his fellows. (I still had to dodge a few missiles, but I was lucky.) But I couldn't get at the others. And note that we hadn't even seen the bandit chief yet!

So I looted the body of the crossbowman - and poor Dether's, too - then headed back to Ithev. She was in bad shape. The bandits seemed to be in no hurry to kill her, since she was clearly no threat. Every so often, they'd shoot her with another arrow or bolt.

Well, I couldn't defend her and I couldn't rescue her. She was dying in agony, and there wasn't anything I could do about it. So I crushed her head with my mace, putting her out of her misery. It had to be done.

And sure, I looted her body (always choose companions with good armor in your size!), but I mean to come back and get revenge. So I'm sure that's what she would have wanted, don't you think? After all, we were comrades. Only for a couple of hours, admittedly. (When she joined me, she said she wanted a warrior's death. But she probably wasn't expecting it to happen so soon.)

That's Dwarf Fortress Adventure Mode. It's been a lot of fun. I'll probably play Bale until he dies, then jump back into Summitspear again. But I haven't had a lot of time to play anything, really. Or to get much blogging done, either. Well, it's summer, and that's a very busy time of year for me.

PS. Sorry, but I didn't expect that I'd be writing about this, so I didn't get any screenshots. (Here's a comic for you, though.) Well, there wouldn't be much to see, anyway. Dwarf Fortress is all about using your imagination.