09 December 2011

"Launching little green idiots into space."

That was my reply when somebody asked me what I was doing the other day. And lo, I was telling the truth, because I was playing the alpha build of the fantastic game-in-progress Kerbal Space Program. Read on for all the details and pictures of things blowing up.

Space: as beautiful as it is pants-shittingly horrifying (notice 2/3 of the crew in the lower right). (Image Source)

05 December 2011

I've been throwing a lot of long videos at you...

...so here's some nice, short, sweet entertainment. This is no excuse not to watch the recent talks I've posted below, though. They're enlightening and entertaining and worth your time, I promise. But for now, some Beck:

Some insights into the atheist mindset from Skepticon 4

Skepticon 4 went down in Springfield, MO, a couple weeks ago, and videos of the talks are up on YouTube now. Some people who identify as skeptics dislike that Skepticon seems to do deal so prominently with atheism, but given the current state of religious issues in our country I don't think it should be surprising at all how centrally it figures.

A couple of the atheism talks struck me as being addressed as much to non-atheists as atheists, so I thought I'd share them here. If you don't consider yourself an atheist and are wondering about the atheist mentality, these videos can give you a decent idea of where we're coming from, I think. Bear in mind that these folks don't speak for all atheists. Greta's views on the usefulness of anger are divisive in the atheist community, particularly.

The talks are long in today's world of thirty second videos of babies laughing (they're about 45 minutes each), but well worth it, I think. First up is Dan Barker, a former minister. He explains a bit about his program to help other clergymembers who have realized they don't actually believe leave their positions, and also discusses the lines of thought that brought him to his own conclusion that he is in fact an atheist. After the jump is Greta Christina, who addresses the perception of the general public that atheists are defined by their anger.

04 December 2011

The Gateway Game: Settlers of Catan

So a while ago I offered a general introduction to the world of modern hobby board gaming. I wrote that as a crash course in the topic so that I could jump right in to reviews of new games and thoughts on the hobby. Since then, though, I've decided that it would make more sense to extend the concept of that primer to a whole series of posts that not only introduce people to the world of hobby board gaming, but perhaps also help them get into it. (In light of that, that introductory post may or may not be of use to you. I think it's a pretty good intro, but it's mostly quick details and no meat, so may be more confusing than helpful.) Inasmuch, I'm gonna go more in-depth with a few games that I think are good for people getting started in the hobby, beginning with The Settlers of Catan.

It's a vibrant and engaging game. (Image Source)

Spread the infection!

This one's been around for a bit, but I just came across it again and decided to share it here. The good stuff's after the jump!

03 December 2011

A match-up for the ages: Stephen Colbert and Neil deGrasse Tyson

So I was watching some talks on YouTube from the recent Skepticon convention when I saw this video as a related item. It had me at the title; it didn't matter what they were talking about, I knew it would be great (and it was). If you've got an hour and a half to spare, it's well-worth a listen. The visuals aren't essential, so just put it on in the background while you go about some other task if need be.

I especially enjoyed Tyson's passionate remarks on science education toward the end. All I can do is reiterate the truth of his arguments: our culture is separating curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking from learning and pretending that fact-memorization is enough. Being able to recall the presidents and the different types of biomes is great and the facts have their uses, but our citizens need more than that to stay competitive in international economics and politics or to solve the problems that face us as a global society.

Another thing that struck me is his comment that our country may have reached the end of its greatness when we congratulate ourselves for depicting destroying an asteroid on a screen instead of starting preparations now for the very plausible time when the danger presents itself to us in the real world.

But don't let my cynical comments dissuade you; I'm just a grumpy person, and on the whole the talk is very positive and light-hearted, not to mention funny. And aside from it being enjoyable listening experience on its own, I'd say it's a great opportunity to make yourself a stepping stone toward learning something new. Do yourself a favor and look up at least one of the topics they touch on that you don't understand that well and see where it takes you. :)