Monday, December 31, 2012

To be a cat

It must be really nice to be a cat.

I think about it a lot, about the feline excitement when the humans open the front door.  You put a paw out, and the tip of your nose out.  Adventure is calling you; you stop to sniff it and feel the breeze of it in your whiskers.

The cat adventures that cats go on throughout the day; stalking through the neighbors' gardens for the scurrying, squeaking things to hunt.  Pouncing atop fences and exploring, seeing the sights humans hide from each others eyes and all the secrets of backyards and under porches and inside garages.  Wandering to the woods, and hiding up tress or under holes when strange humans and dogs appear, then back out, to stare cautiously and curiously at the dancing water of a creek.

The human is making aggravated human noises at you, as your wet nose and twitching whiskers are tasting the adventures before you.  So you turn your lamping cat eyes at the human in pity, at the poor human things that never hunt and never climb or jump or pounce, and merely open your doors and cans.  The human makes more noises and starts to close the door.

But you tense up, staring in to the bright light of the yard.  You hesitate; crossing the threshold, again in to the unknown, leaving behind the familiar for the wide world outside.

"Cat, will you move?" the human yells.

And as the heros in the legends who received the questing call, reluctantly you leave behind your home; you answer to adventure, allow yourself to be swept in the hunting and prowling it affords, and wonder if you will return, later in the day, the same cat as when you left.

Monday, December 24, 2012

What IS Santa?: a proposal for a modern understanding

For as long as I can remember, every Christmas, I have been confused by what exactly Santa Claus is.

Historically, Santa Claus is St. Nicholas of Myra, a Christian archbishop in modern-day Turkey who lived during the Roman persecution of the Church and was present at the Council of Nicea.  He was claimed to be a wonder-worker, and was also well-known for his anonymous gifts to the needy.  He has historically been honored on the 6th of December, and because of his generous reputation convents and monasteries began a tradition of sneaking out at night and delivering gifts to the poor. (see here, here, and here for references, the middle one being especially fantastic)

Among the hundred or so other things of which he was patron saint, one of them was sailors.  For this reason, sailors would often find themselves back home on the 6th, and be able to give a present obtained at sea to their children "from St. Nicholas".

That all makes sense to me.  Santa was a really cool guy who loved the poor and Jesus, and he was such a great guy we still do nice things for children and the poor because of him.  "Here's an extra toy, son, in honor of this really great guy."  Awesome, sign me up!

What doesn't make sense, though, is the weird Santa of American folklore, the guy who lives at the North Pole with a cadre of elves, who flies around in a sleigh pulled by magic reindeer and sneaks in to your chimney to deliver gifts to all the kids all over the world.

I mean, what is he?

goblin --> elf, Great Goblin |-> Santa
This is literally how I understood
this as a child
The Night Before Christmas, arguably the progenitor of the modern mythofigure, describes Santa as a "right jolly old elf".  As a kid, I took that to heart and assumed Santa was like the Elf King by virtue of being the tallest and fattest of the elves, and that makes him in charge (I guess the same way the Great Goblin in the Hobbit is king of the goblins).

Saturday, December 22, 2012

In Defense of the Perpetuum Mobile

Somehow, I stumbled on a series of YouTube videos on perpetual motion machines.  They are very fun.  The videos mainly consist of two types:

  1. Scammers looking for a laugh trying to trick gullible people into wasting their time building them, though secretly there will be a hidden engine or off-screen fan providing additional torque to the device.
  2. The people who fall for these scam designs, and their own self-imposed scam designs, who are honestly trying to build a perpetual motion machine and honestly think they have built a machine that runs forever.
You get a lot of failed designs, obviously.  Technically, you get all failed designs.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How to Prep for Doomsday: You Won't Need Guns or Food When You're Dead.

According to one poll, at least 10% of the international population thinks the world is going to end on the 21st/22nd of this month.

I can't understand why you'd think that, first of all.

The Mayan's had some good knowledge of the position and movements of stars in the sky, sure, and incredible considering how little they apparently knew about much else.  But they also didn't know that the planets moved around the sun in elliptic orbits.  Or what stars were.  Or that gravity was a thing.  Modern astronomers exceed their knowledge on how the planets and stars behave in the same way string theory exceeds doing addition on your fingers.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Quick Thought After Seeing "The Hobbit"

I just saw the new Hobbit movie.

I liked it.  It was good and enjoyable and done very well.  The story was wonderful, the animation was wonderful, and most thankfully of all the hobbit protagonist was an actual masculine hero and not a mincing whiner crying all over himself for three solid hours.  You should go see it, too.  It's well worth the ticket price.

But then after you've seen it and gotten over how awesome it is, come back and I have to ask a question.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Ending that Would Have Made Harry Potter

I've spent a lot of time criticizing Harry Potter.  Just before the last book was movie-fied, I watched all of the movies on some HBO marathon special with my family, and spent the next several months abusing the series to anyone who would let me talk about it, for about as long as they'd let me talk about it.

I have recently finished reading all of the books (thereby eliminating that excuse for fans to ignore me), and my opinion of the books was elevated slightly.  It was.  The people who pestered me in to reading them have convinced me that Rowling put a good story together with good characters.

The books will obviously be around for a while, essentially owning their own table at Barnes and Noble, and may get inducted in to the Fantasy Hall of Fame with Tolkien and Lewis, and so no matter what I say the books are already a classic.  And no matter what I say, Rowling is the millionaire author with seven books and eight blockbuster movies, while I just have an internet connection.

But I think she really dropped the ball in the last book.

The ending we got was, basically, the ending that everyone would have expected from the very first chapter of the first book; it's the ending we would have expected from only the knowledge that it was about a prophesied chosen one and a powerful Evil Wizard set on destroying the world - no further details needed.  Spoiler alert: the prophesied chosen one wins.

Which obviously isn't bad.  I like the archetypes in fantasy fiction, otherwise I wouldn't read it.  I like "orphan farmboy runs away on adventure, becomes knight, kills dragon, rescues princess, rinse, repeat."  I would not get tired of it, and that's precisely the point of these archetypal stories.

But I think Rowling had the opportunity to do something completely, stunningly mind-blowing with the ending to her seven-book series that would have made even me swear by the series.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Leggings Are Not Pants

Did you know that leggings are undergarments?  Here's an easy test to determine if your legging-inclusive outfit is appropriate or not:

1) Replace your leggings with panties.
2) Would you feel comfortable wearing this in public?
3) If no, then don't wear it with leggings, either.

Pretty simple, really.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My Explanation for All Injuries

I have a small cut on my hand.  A friend asked how I got it.  This was my explanation.