Steampunk Symposium – some thoughts…

At the Steampunk Symposium 2015, on the Queen Mary

Dee Dee, Unknown, and Alia At the Steampunk Symposium, January 17th 2015, on the Queen Mary

Back from our day at the Steampunk Symposium at the Queen Mary (at the? On the? Is it still “on” when it’s now just a hotel rather than a ship?) and I’ve got some thoughts about it.

First of all, Steampunkers are some of the friendliest folk I’ve met at a con. A simple “how did you make that?” can open up an hour long conversation, with other people joining in, commenting, and sharing ideas. And it seems nobody minds someone asking “how did you make that?”

The con itself had problems, though. First was the lack of any good maps of room locations. Okay, it’s a ship…a big, confusing ship…and maps are tricky. But because it’s a big, confusing ship, even more than usual, it needs a good map(s) to show where the heck you need to go. Fortunately – because of the “friendliest folk” above – you could always ask someone where something was. Unfortunately, even they didn’t always know.

Lack of maps tied in with lack of signage. Yeah, the Queen Mary staff would be annoyed if you started taping signs to everything (especially since it was still operating as the Queen Mary tour and hotel all around the Symposium), but even within that limitation, you can label things better than they did. Heck, finding the Con Suite was an adventure!

Not that it was worth the adventure. It was pretty much just a room…and they had some bottled water. That was it…

…I continue.

The costume contests had problems. First was the need for people to know they had to sign up at the registration desk – something you’d only know if, say, you were registering that day (see: “Signage, lack of” above), because it certainly didn’t say anything about it on the program guide (which was just a one sheet, two-sided paper).

Second, it wasn’t well planned – they actually had to ask for judges out of the audience to fill out their ranks! And the “woman’s” contest had about three, four men it – mostly I suspect because they didn’t get enough people signing up for it (see: “Need to know” above).

Third…well rather than announce a winner – or even have a winner…they told you to come back “at 4:30 to see if you’d be a finalist in the Fashion Show.” Mind you, it’s now 3:30, so you can’t really go much of anywhere or do anything because, well, things start on the hour, so you’d be halfway through a panel and then have to leave to see if you were going to be in the Fashion Show.

Finally, if you wanted to see the fashion show – you know, like you would at a con where costumes are 90% of the draw – you had to pay extra…

That’s right. A convention where the vast majority of effort and interest is put into costumes charges you extra if you want to see the big costume contest.

Yeah, I know there was food at it – which I assume was the reason for the charge – but that’s just – to quote Dib – “stupid, stupid…”

And then, the ball afterwards also had a charge.

So your at a symposium that nominally runs until midnight…but they’ve closed the huckster’s room at 5 (much to the annoyance of the hucksters, who thought they were open until 6), there are no other panels (until 11:30 at night, when there’s one), the con suite is useless, and the only events going on for those last seven hours of the day – you have to pay extra for!

And I have to repeat myself: Steampunk conventions almost totally revolve around the costuming. The costume contest and the masquerade ball are perhaps the biggest events of such a convention – and you’re charging extra for it just to see it!”

And not a little extra either – the Fashion show was $25, the Ball $20. Your one-day registration was only $35, so you are literally more than doubling your ticket price so you can see something that makes up the entire evening – and indeed, the heart – of the day you paid a ticket for! An evening containing the events you probably most wanted to see.

Let’s just say, this is a crappy way to do things…and leave it at that.

That said, we still had a good time, thanks to the oft-mentioned “friendliest folk” aspect. But to be honest, the actual con itself had little to do with it.

“Okay, what the heck are all these posts?”

Following this post, you’ll find five posts, mostly made up of random, dated (in many senses of the word) thoughts. So what the heck is all this?

Well, when I started my website back in 1990-something, one of the pages on it was called “Thoughts.” Basically, at its heart, the page was more or less a proto-blog – occasionally, a proto-twitter – back before such things really existed. I updated it – some years more, some years less, some years real less – until…

…flash forward a bit more than a decade. Now I’ve actually started a real blog, on WordPress and everything. And it seems a bit pointless to have a page called “Thoughts” which is – as stated – just a hard way to do what I’m now doing the easy way on that blog. So in 2008, I put a link to the blog at the top of the “Thoughts” page and went “there! If people want to read my thoughts they can just follow the link!”

Another flash of forward, this time to 2015.

I start up (a long and currently unfinished process…which no definite endpoint) another of my every few years redesigns of my website. One of the things I take a look at is the “Thoughts” page and its link to here and I go “this is silly. There’s not all that much on the page, why not just repost them to the blog and make the link to “Thoughts” just be a link to the blog?”

So I am.

In a perfect world, I’d of reposted all these things backdated, so that so much old stuff didn’t end up at the top of the blog – especially since for some of it, I’d like to talk to my younger self about. But the world…and WordPress…is far from perfect and I have no real way to change the dates.

So I just broke it up into five posts – pre-1996, 1996, 1997, 9/11, and the Naughts – since that seemed to be the most logical way to do it, then left the original posting dates in the new post, so folks could see just how out of date it all really was (and wonder what happened, thought-wise, from 1998 to 2001).

And, yeah, it’s been a bit since I last posted here – five years of a bit – but I’m more or less back. Let’s see if it lasts…

So read or don’t read – it’s basically just me making sure this stuff is “archived” properly in my history…

Thoughts of the Naughts…

Found this image and thought it too was fun…

Explaining Christianity

August 26th, 2008

Just because it was fun…

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Reality-Based Intellectualist, also known as the liberal elite. You are a proud member of what’s known as the reality-based community, where science, reason, and non-Jesus-based thought reign supreme.

Take the quiz at

Mind you, technically, I’m not a liberal…but then “permanently remove all government, religion and any other organization over a thousand people, world-wide, now and forever” wasn’t one of the answer choices…

And, anyway, the usage terms “liberal” and “conservative” have drifted so far from their original meanings that, basically, both words are now meaningless.

July 24th, 2008

The horror that is election season is upon us again and I’ve noted that there are a lot of people who – for the good of everyone – should not be voting. Here’s a partial list:

Signs you Shouldn’t Be Voting (Last updated 4/4/08)

1) If you’re a creationist, you shouldn’t be voting – you lack sufficient grasp of reality to make a rational choice.

2) Ditto for any flavor of fundamentalist – or indeed, any religious believer who can’t entertain the possibility they are wrong about their beliefs. You also shouldn’t be allowed to raise children…but that’s another rant…

3) If you think it’s important to support your party, you shouldn’t be voting – the whole concept of political parties is anathema to democracy.

4) If you have to ask “what’s the difference between spring water and distilled water?” you shouldn’t be voting.

5) If you think George Bush has “done a good job” you shouldn’t be voting…and possibly shouldn’t be allowed outside without a caretaker.

6) If you don’t understand the laws of thermodynamics – and I’m talking just a general understanding here – they you shouldn’t be voting. Someone who can’t grasp “you can’t get something for nothing” has no business making decisions for other people…and wouldn’t make any good ones anyway.

7) If you think Churchill was a fictional character, then you shouldn’t be voting. Fortunately – in this case – you’d be British, and therefore couldn’t vote in the upcoming presidential election anyway…

8) If you’ve ever voted on American Idol then you shouldn’t be voting. Unfortunately for you, each American Idolvote uses up all your remaining potential voting ability for a minimum of ten years.

9) If you’ve ever written an email, usenet message, or “Letter to the Editor” with more than one in ten words “ALL IN CAPITALS” (unless they are part of a quote) then you shouldn’t be voting. First, you need to get off the caffeine, or crack, or whatever other psychoactive chemical you’re on (or – if you’re crazy – actually get back on your prescribed psychoactive chemicals…) and calm down. Then you can think about voting…maybe one day…Real Soon Now…

10) If you’ve ever used the words “only a theory” in order to explain why something science-based should be ignored, then you shouldn’t be voting. Instead, you should be researching what scientists mean when they used the word “theory” – and trying to grasp the fact that though Newtonian and Einsteinian “laws” of gravitation are “only a theory,” jumping off the nearest tall building is still not advisable. If you can’t grasp this…jump off the nearest tall building…its advisablity has changed.

11) If you’re a Scientologist you not only shouldn’t vote, but should be banned from voting forever. You either believe it – and thus are too stupid to vote, or even care for yourself – or you’re just using it as a scam – and thus should be in jail. There are no other options – deal with it.

12) If you think Obama is a member of Islam – and thus shouldn’t be voted for – you shouldn’t be voting. For two reasons. One, you’re stupid…as he isn’t and it’s trivially easy to find this out and, Two, you’re voting against someone simply because of his/her religion…which pretty much also shows you’re stupid.

13) Wanted to see the movie Expelled because you thought it would have some good points? Get out of the voting line then…you have no real capacity for thought.

And along with “shouldn’t be voting,” it should be obvious that these are also all people who shouldn’t be running.They will anyway – because they’re too stupid to realize this – but they shouldn’t…

January 28th, 2008, February 20th, 2008, April 4th, 2008

“A God who could make good children as easily a bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice, and invented hell; mouths mercy, and invented hell; mouths Golden Rules and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people, and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man’s acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites his poor abused slave to worship him!”

Mark Twain, “The Mysterious Stranger,”
June 21st, 2007

Top Ten Signs You’re a Fundamentalist Christian

10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

9 – You feel insulted and “dehumanized” when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the “atrocities” attributed to Allah, but you don’t even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in “Exodus” and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in “Joshua” including women, children, and trees!

6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs — though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most “tolerant” and “loving.”

3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in “tongues” may be all the evidence you need to “prove” Christianity.

2 – You define 0.01% as a “high success rate” when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian.

From “Evil,”
June 3rd, 2007

This is your brain, This is your brain on religion - any questions?

May 9th, 2007

“One pair of hands at work…

Does more than 1,000 clasped in prayer.”

Seen on “The Angry Astronomer,”
May 7th, 2007

If your culture or religion demands
you burn, destroy, or kill
to protest a cartoon
then your culture or religion deserves extinction…period

if you want to hurt me over this - then your memes need to die

Multiculturalism only works
if all the cultures involved agree to respect
all the other cultures involved…

…this never happens

February 5th, 2006

“Abortion stops a beating heart”

And stepping on a cockroach stops six…your point?

July 6th, 2004

September 11th, 2001 Thoughts…

September 11th – and I’m awakened by my Mom calling me at 7:30 to tell me “they’ve crashed a plane into the World Trade Center” – and I went to the TV and it was true…

Spent most of the next couple of days watching the TV (they had them set up at work, too). Saw the Center collapse at least a hundred times during those days. Spent those days trying to get “are you okay?” messages through to people in New York.

We had a number of links to the events back East: Both Dee Dee and I have friends that live in New York City. Dee Dee, in fact, has a friend that worked at the World Trade Center (on alternate days – and, fortunately, the 11th wasn’t one of those days). Dee Dee’s sister works for United* and actually knew some of the crews of the flights (they were based out of L.A.).

(*Mimnette is a Stewarde…er…Airline Hostess…er… Flight Attendant at United. She actually went on vacation September 10th! Now, due to events, she’s on “leave.” She’s worked there long enough they just can’t fire her, but Attendants don’t get paid if they don’t fly either – and they don’t fly if United doesn’t call them. She could be on “leave” a very long time until things settle – assuming there’ll still be a United!)

Now it’s nearly two months later and we’re busy bombing chunks out of Afghanistan. I suspect that the Taliban – as rulers of Afghanistan – will probably be out by year’s end. Quite frankly, they deserved to be bombed for destroying the “Buddhas of Bamiyan,”IMHO (or just for how they treat their own!), but that’s neither here nor there. On the whole, even absent September 11th, I wouldn’t suspect they’d have remained in control for more than another decade anyway.

Which is good. Multiculturalism be damned: Some cultural memes deserve to die.

Other observations:

By the time I first turned on the TV – which was less than two hours after the attack – news programs already had a logo for it! Life imitates The Daily Show… Sheesh!

I have never seen so many U.S. flags in my entire life. Even people who were, at best, uncomplimentary about the U.S. government and such are flying them. In its own way, it’s almost as scary as the terrorism itself, for it shows how easy it is for a country to slip into a nationalism frenzy – and it’s at least as easy to use that frenzy for “evil” (to use a Bush term…) as good.

99% of all the “security measures” I’ve seem suggested, put in place, demanded, etc., wouldn’t have done a thing to stop the terrorists in the first place. What will, however (at least, from a hijacking standpoint), is the fact that “don’t tick the terrorists off in a hijacking” is no longer going to be a viable strategy – even if the hijacker(s) really are just “going to Cuba!”

Interestingly enough, I suspect the recession we’re drifting into would have happened anyway – heck, all the signs were leading that way even if Washington kept trying to ignore them (the airlines were already having a losing year, fer instance. Now they’re having a bad losing year – but with a bailout…). Mind, the recession hit faster because of the 11th – and may hit a bit harder

But OTOH, I suspect it’ll be over faster too, if for no other reason than folks in Washington can put some massive effort into recovery while “blaming” the recession on the terrorists (which, politically, is much, much safer than either blaming it on your own policies, or admitting that your policies couldn’t stop it – three-hundred dollar tax “break” my foot!).

In spite of all the pronouncements on how “the World Changed after September 11th,” it really didn’t – at least, no more than usual. We think it did (which some may say is the same thing), but it’s still basically the same world it was before.

Originally in POD 31 – November 14th, 2001

1997 Thoughts (my most thoughtfull year)…

The Origin of Gullibility, Religion,
And Other Insanities: A Theory

Major update April 29th, 1998
– update April 24th, 1997
– new March 20th, 1997

“Ignorance of the Laws of Science
Is No Excuse”

David L. Freitag
December 17th, 1997

The world would be a far better place if no one ever used a personal pronoun
followed by the word “people,” “kind,” or “race” ever again…

December 3rd, 1997

Anyone who doesn’t believe
man descended from apes
has never watched small children play…

October 21st, 1997

If “There are no Atheists in Foxholes”
does that mean that if everyone was an atheist
there’d be no wars?

September 23rd, 1997

“What if there were no hypothetical situations?”

John Mendoza
July 30th, 1997

People are amazing.
Your average American parent will say with anger hundreds of times to their kids
“Don’t be smart!”
then have the gall to be surprised when they end up not…

June 17th, 1997

You know, most people are really impressed by the fact
that your average Plains Indian
“used every part of the buffalo”
Yet really disgusted to learn your average Chicago slaughterhouse
does the same with a cow…

June 17th, 1997

The statement “It’ll get worse before it’ll get better” is true,
unfortunately, it’ll often get worse before it gets worse too
and there’s no good way to differentiate between the two…

June 5th, 1997

By my standards, any deity worthy of being worshipped
would not want it…

…which gives you an idea of the contempt I hold for gods that require worship,
upon pain of eternal damnation…

June 3rd, 1997

I think I missed the memo where they told us the word “used” is now to be replaced by the word “pre-owned…”

…and positive I missed the changeover notification to “nearly new”…

May 29th, 1997

In some sense, everything we do makes history for we are history…

James Burke
May 21st, 1997

The “Secret of the Universe” may be
that there isn’t one…

May 13th, 1997

It is perhaps telling that the one belief system with actual, physical evidence for its beliefs
– Namely, the belief in Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy –
is the one belief system everyone eventually declares is a myth…

May 6th, 1997

I strongly suspect that no government can, in the end, do more good than harm – a sorta political version of the laws of thermodynamics.

It’s not because of vast conspiracies, or that the rulers are evil, or anything correctable, it’s just something that is, like apples falling from apple trees.

April 29th, 1997

You know, “I Want to Believe” may be the single most dangerous slogan ever invented…

April 29th, 1997

It’s popular these days to refer to nature as a “fragile, delicate web”
but I doubt this is true.
In reality, nature is a rather robust, adaptive network,
capable of surviving huge changes and disasters
– if it weren’t, it wouldn’t be here now.
Quite frankly, the idea that man is the most disastrous thing to happen to nature
is a homocentric conceit of the worst kind.

April 25th, 1997

At exactly what point did we become legally responsible for everybody except ourselves?

April 9th, 1997

Setting a Fox to guard a henhouse doesn’t work terribly well
However, neither does having the chickens guard it
Thus, the problems with both autocracy and democracy…

March 20th, 1997

I am not my ancestors
Why are you yours?

February 10th, 1997

“All The Universe or Nothing,
Which is it to be?”

From “Things to Come”
February 4th, 1997

People often say to those depressed about their lives
“Cheer up, you’re better off than most people”
to which I have to ask, exactly what part of
“Don’t worry, your life can still get worse”
did you think was going to cheer them up?

February 3rd, 1997

Governments, indeed, all groups or organizations
are made up of individuals
I think this is often forgotten…

February 3rd, 1997

The Primary Problem With Representative Government
Is That It Very Often Is…

January 21st, 1997

Barbecue Sauce is the Universal Condiment…

January 15th, 1997

Johnson’s Law:
“If You Can Successfully Outlaw Something
You Didn’t Need To”

January 8th, 1997

1996 Thoughts…

“Anything Worth Waiting For
Is Worth Having Immediately”

December 28th, 1996

“In the end, you’ll die, your descendants will die,
your species will die, your world will die,
your sun will die, your galaxy will die,
your universe will die, time & space will collapse upon itself,*
and not only will it be as if it had never been,
but even the ‘been’ will be gone…

So try and relax…”

December 28th, 1996

*Actually, current available evidence now suggests that this won’t happen.
Instead, the universe will fade away into a sea of entropic dissolution
or instantly erase as the “branes” come back together.
I’m not sure either is an improvement…and the effect is exactly the same.
July 6th, 2004

pre-1996 Thoughts…

“Man is a marvelous curiosity…he thinks he is the Creator’s pet…he even believes the Creator loves him; has a passion for him; sits up nights to admire him; yes and watch over him and keep him out of trouble. He prays to him and thinks He listens.
Isn’t it a quaint idea.”

Mark Twain

“Unfortunately, we are unlikely to get rid of religion
because gullibility is evolutionarily advantageous”

“The problem with Government solutions
is that they have a half-life of the next election.”

“Postulating a god does not change a pointless,
meaningless, futile universe
into one with a point and meaning –
it just means it’s deliberately
pointless, meaningless, and futile…”

Something to keep you up worrying at night:
If salmon always return to the river they were born in to spawn,
how the heck did they ever spread to more than one river?