I have a confession to make…

I have motivation issues.

I know, it isn’t some grand revelation, or deep and meaningful insight, but it is something that I have come to realize about myself over the years. It is something that I struggle with on pretty much a day to day basis.

Sometimes I have an idea and I am going strong in following through on it, then something goes awry, I hit a stumbling block and the moment is gone, my motivation with it, and the idea languishes. Sometimes I make progress, but then I look back and haven’t come as far as I thought I had and my motivation evaporates in discouragement. Other times I look at what I have accomplished and find I simply am not happy with what I have done, I decide to scrap it and begin again, but that never happens, instead what was done is gone and nothing new takes its place. Then there are those times that I simply do not know how to begin, and the trying to figure out the how tos and where fors starting, or staring at the blank page before me, and it overwhelms my motivation and I end up walking away.

Part of it, I know, comes from my own self image. Those that know me know quite well how self-deprecating I tend to be. I, for various reasons, tend not to think very much of myself, and often times wonder what other people actually see in me. I think of myself last, if at all. It is another thing I have struggled with for more of my life than I most often care to admit, and I deal with it better on some days than others.

The two issues are quite often intertwined, motivation and self-image. At least they are for me. I have learned some little tricks over the years, things I can do to help with motivating myself, the carrot on the stick if you will. Incremental rewards help sometimes, even, or sometimes especially, if they are unrelated to the task at hand. Can’t have the ice cream in the freezer until I get at least so many words written, or some other treat for myself upon reaching the next step towards a goal.

They don’t always work, though, and of late for me they seem to be working less and less. Not sure why, but over the past few months it is something I noticed. So, I ask you, my friends and readers: What do you do to keep yourself motivated?

Published in: on August 3, 2010 at 4:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Cause & The Sacred Cow

Mooby the Golden Calf

I’ve been seeing a lot of this on a number of different fronts lately. People getting their panties in a wad because someone is doing something that is “hurting the cause.” It doesn’t matter what that cause is; it could be skepticism, it could be feminism, it could be science, it could be roleplaying, it could be any of a laundry list of things; there always seems to be someone, some group, for whom “the cause” is alpha and omega of it all, and anyone who doesn’t treat “the cause” with what they deem as a proper level of respect and seriousness is the enemy. These causes have become a sort of sacred cow to these people, to be revered, only approached in certain manners, manners approved by them of course, and only by the people that they deem appropriate.

There seem to be two things that raise their ire faster than anything: Humor and Sexuality. If you attempt in any way to inject either of these things you are quickly and vehemently decried as “hurting the cause.”

Humor is an odd dichotomy; to these people it is great to joke, parody or poke fun at those things that they disagree with, however the moment their sacred cow becomes the target they are offended. Living in the infamous Bible Belt you see it a lot. Tell a joke about a Catholic and it’s funny, turn that same joke around and tell is about a Baptist and people are up in arms. It isn’t just limited to the southern part of the country, though, you see it everywhere, especially now in our age of instant, continuous communication. It’s sad, really, to see otherwise intelligent people frothing at the mouth because someone dared to laugh, or because someone showed some cleavage.

It puts people in a bit of a pinch. “Be free!” they say, “Be liberated!” but then they don’t want you to actually talk about sex, or breasts, or anything like that, and if you do suddenly you are objectifying, or hurting the cause. It is a fine line they want people to walk, and a purely imaginary one at that. It exists only in their minds, because they have declared this or that as unassailable, and they have decided that their way is best, and that everyone has to do it their way for they seem to feel that if “the cause” isn’t some monolithic entity that it will crumble and fail.

The thing is, it won’t. No cause will fail because people have different approaches or different views. A group is more likely to fail if the leadership of that group attempts to squelch any dissenting opinions, but even a single group’s failure does not damn a cause. One guild is not all roleplay on a server. One blog is not all of skepticism, nor is one speaker no matter how well known. Nor should they be. Having different approaches, different tones, different thoughts gives breadth. Some work better than others sometimes, and others are better at others, that doesn’t mean either is wrong.

Part of it is quite likely a result of our national view on sexuality, a very closeted, Puritanical view, and one that, quite sadly, lags behind the world at large. Another part of it is, it seems to me, that many times these people who do respond so vehemently to anything that challenges their views do so because they are not so sure of those views as they would like to be. The challenge scares them, because so very often people hate to admit that they might be wrong, and they are afraid to change their stance because it is the idea that has become sacred, rather than the goal that drives the idea.

To extend a metaphor that I have seen Hemant Mehta use about attacking sacred cows; the time has come to take some of these sacred cows and lead them out to pasture, and others to the slaughter house, but whatever is done with them none should be allowed to stand in the way.

So I say go ahead, full force and move those sacred cows where ever you might find them in your way. Let those who will rant and rail against you, let them label you radical and take pride in it because if they wouldn’t do it if you weren’t threatening that sacred cow.

Librarian’s Note: The whole time I was writing this post Logical by Supertramp seemed to be on loop in the playlist in my mind. Especially the third verse:

Now watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical,
liberal, fanatical, criminal.
Won’t you sign up your name, we’d like to feel you’re
acceptable, respecable, presentable, a vegtable!

Don’t be a vegetable, my friends! And do not fear the labels that those who disagree with you might hurl your way. Embrace them with pride, a badge of honor in the fight for reason to prevail.

Published in: on April 21, 2010 at 11:13 am  Leave a Comment  
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Cthulhu Tracts

Seems Jack Chick isn’t the only one proselytizing with tracts left in bathrooms and on restaurant tables these days. It seems that the Elder Gods have gotten into the act:


::Note:: I found this floating out in the aether between the tubes of the internets and I have no idea where it originally came from (other than perhaps the dark souls at R’lyeh Press somewhere under the sea). If anyone does know who the artist is let me know so I can give proper credit (and shake their hand… or tentacle… or… you know… never mind about the handshake…)

Published in: on April 18, 2010 at 9:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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On Open Mindedness

My boss happened upon this video today, and I couldn’t not share it. It sums up the fallacies of the anti-science crowd so well, and calls them for just what they are, a load of crap.

This has been around for a while, so a lot of folks have already seen it, but some things bear repeating, and the points made in this video are excellent for arming yourself in preparation of the next time you have to assault someone with science.

Published in: on March 25, 2010 at 2:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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End of the World as we know it? Not quite.

A good friend of mine (the ever awesome @furiey) linked a post from a blog she reads on twitter this afternoon. This, in and of itself, is not an unusual thing; we are both WoW (World of Warcraft) players, though I am on a bit of a hiatus from the game, many of our other friends on twitter are also gamers, and quite often links of common interest (as well as cute animals) get shared. What was unusual about this particular link was its content. You see it was a link to a WoW blog, however the post was not about WoW, it was about the end of the world.

Honor’s Code: What In the World Is Going On?

Now, this is the dude’s blog, and he can post whatever he wants, but not only did he proceed to preach at his readers from a rather inappropriate pulpit, he also uses “facts” that are so bad that they aren’t even wrong. Then he didn’t even have the nerve to allow comments on this particular post, which says to me two things: 1) He isn’t so sure in what he is saying that he can handle any sort of criticism of what he believes; and 2) He wants people to listen to him, but isn’t willing to do the same for others; especially those that might not agree with him.

I’ve read through his post. Closed it. Gone back and read it again. Decided about posting about it, then (obviously) changed my mind.

Looking at this, in the end it is more or less the digital equivalent of someone standing on the street corner with a cardboard sign that says “Repent! The End is Nigh!” That’s all well and good, and well within his right to do, what really bothers me is the faulty logic, misconceptions and just plain bad science. Seriously, I could refute pretty much his entire argument with one link. This one, in fact: USGS Earthquake Facts and Statistics

But me being who I am I can’t let it go at just that. Let’s take a look at some of this in greater detail.

After going through the motions and giving all his reasoning for doing this (because he cares about each and every one of you, of course) he goes into what is probably one of the oldest “End Times” arguments of all time:

There are over 50 signs that God said we could look for but one that I keep seeing over and over again is what he said about earthquakes in Matthew 24:7: For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places.

*Emphasis in original

Often times you also see “war and rumors of war” on this list of “over 50 signs”, or whatever else is the hot topic talking point of the day. It is a simple fact that on Earth there are always famines, wars, and especially earthquakes. War is, sadly, just a part of human nature, and earthquakes are a fact of life on a living planet. People have been using these same references and reasoning to announce that the end of the world was at hand since at least the 4th century (Tichonus was sure it was going to end in 381, Hippolytus said 400: A History of the End of the World, Rubinsky and Wiseman, 1982) However, since earthquakes are the latest popular talking point in the news media that is what the rapture set seem to be focusing on lately.

That brings up one of the key points to this, the news media. The world is getting smaller. It was true in 1873 when Jules Verne wrote Around the World in Eighty Days, and it is even truer now in our modern information age. With cell phones, the internet, twitter, email, blogs and everything else we have near instant global communication, and countless 24-hour cable news networks and websites looking for content to fill the hours. So we hear of things sooner, and hear of more things that even twenty years ago would have gone mostly unreported. In 1710 it might take years before someone in, say, London heard about a devastating earthquake in Chile, or a war battle in Baghdad, if they heard about it at all. In 1810 much the same was true, news traveled slowly; it could take weeks or months for major news to travel. By 1910 technology had closed the communication gap to mere days, and as the century went on that gap grew ever smaller. Now, in 2010, we know things within minutes, if not seconds of their happening, I’m sure some news rooms were still trying to find Haiti on a map by the time the news of the earthquake had already made it around the world on twitter.

Unless you live in a cave you should know that earthquakes are everywhere right now, in the last month we have seen three major quakes in Haiti, Chile and in Taiwan. Just yesterday, there was a strong 6.0 magnitude earthquake in Turkey that killed 51 people. Not only were there earthquakes but these four earthquakes in diverse places brought hundreds of aftershocks with each one.

There aren’t more earthquakes, we just hear about more of them, and hear about them sooner than we used to. This is on top of more earthquakes being detected due to advancing technology. Don’t believe me? How about the United States Geological Survey:

The USGS estimates that several million earthquakes occur in the world each year. Many go undetected because they hit remote areas or have very small magnitudes. The NEIC now locates about 50 earthquakes each day, or about 20,000 a year.

As more and more seismographs are installed in the world, more earthquakes can be and have been located. However, the number of large earthquakes (magnitude 6.0 and greater) has stayed relatively constant.

The short of it is that the USGS expects about 18 7.0 or greater earthquakes every year. There have been 4 so far this year, and we are, give or take, about one third of the way through the year, so if we extrapolate that out we should have an estimated 16 earthquakes before the end of 2010.

These numbers do not make the loss of life from these earthquakes any less tragic, but one has to realize that the loss of life in an earthquake is more a factor of where the earthquake happens than how strong it is. A 6.0 earthquake in a heavily populated area, especially one with low construction standards or a large number of old buildings, is going to cause more damage and loss of life than an 8.0 magnitude earthquake in the middle of the Gobi desert. (For those of you who love graphs, I know I do, here is the data in a more visual form: Earthquake Facts and Statistics Graphs)

Maybe you think I’m just over exaggerating.

Actually I think you are being very uncritical in how you are looking at the information, and taking what you are told by others without looking into it deeper on your own to see if the science backs up the claims that are being made.

From here he launches into an appeal to emotion with a story about a man who died in the Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980, refusing to leave his lodge at Spirit Lake because he felt that the danger from the volcano had been “over exaggerated.” What he leaves out is that the man, Harry Randall Truman, also told reporters “If the mountain goes, I’m going with it.” While it is another sad story, the tale of a stubborn old man (he was 83 at the time) has nothing to do with earthquakes or the end of the world or anything else he is saying. “This man underestimated a volcano and died, so you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of what I’m saying” is not a valid leap of logic.

From here his post devolves into all the usual suspects of logical fallacies and emotional pleas that you so often see in things like this (Not to mention some comments that come across as down right insulting to any of his readers that might not share his faith). If I hadn’t already gone on so long I might take the time to deconstruct these as well, but this post is already bordering on Oracian in length so I shall leave that for others to do.

Things like this just make me want to assault someone with science.

Published in: on March 17, 2010 at 3:05 pm  Comments (2)  
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Does Sony’s New Move Mean the Wii Won?

Sony Move Unveiled

They say that imitation is the best form of flattery, and looking at the images from Sony’s big unveiling of their new Move controller I have to say they… well, they look rather reminiscent of something… I just can’t quite seem to put my finger on it though… what could it be…

Wii Controller

Yeah, it looks like a dressed up version of the Wii-mote that was the butt of so many jokes by the PS crowd when it first came out.

Oh, and it’s going to have a “sub-controller” as well, though they didn’t show that at the press event.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking Sony or their new bit of tech, I just find it humorous that in the coming months and years those “hardcore” gamers that have delighted in deriding the Wii and its interface are going to end up with the same sort of controller. It will be interesting to see how the Move is used in games, and how developers will be able to use the PS3’s greater processing power to do new and interesting things with the interface, and how everything stacks up once Microsoft finally pulls the sheet off of Natal for the world to see.

But in the final accounting of things, this time it looks like Nintendo was ahead of the game, and Satoru Iwata was right, their motion technology did create a revolution in gaming, it just too a while for it to catch on.

Published in: on March 11, 2010 at 3:34 pm  Comments (2)  
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Sitting here in the hospital waiting for our second baby girl to arrive. She’ll be here any time now, but at this point there isn’t anything to do but wait. Right now I can’t help but think about names.

Names are very important things, they cary power and meaning. By what you call something you show where you stand on something or what you think of it.

Pro-choice, pro-abortion, anti-abortion, pro-life – depending on which you use it shows how you feel about the issue of abortion, and how you feel about those who are on the other side of the issue.

Pro-vaccine, safe-vaccine, anti-vaccine – they all show where you stand on the risk-reward scale of the vaccine issue, and the safety of not only yourself but also your children and the children of those around them, and if you trust in science or the pseudo-science of the wooney tunes peddling cure-alls and magic water.

Christian, Muslim, Pagan, Catholic, Baptist, agnostic, atheist – religion, and lack thereof, in all of its guises both unifies and divides, and much of that rests on the rallying banners of “Us” and “Them.”

Evens in the real of personal names it makes a difference. Do you present yourself casually, or in a more formal manner. Jennifer, Jen, Jenny; Richard, Rick, Ricky, Dick; to some degree it influences how people will think of you and in some ways it shows how people think of you.

In the grand scheme of things names are very important. Very soon now one more will be added to the world: Abigayle Victoria, and I can hardly wait.

Published in: on February 10, 2010 at 10:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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Generally speaking there are certain words that make a designer’s skin crawl in horror. Words that carry with them connotations far beyond what you will find in any dictionary; that when spoken make a designer want to break and run. They seem like such simple, innocuous little things, but words have meaning, words matter.

Pop – Generally used to mean “I want this to stand out from the crowd” with the subtext of “…but I don’t know how I want it to do that.” From a designer’s point of view, unless it is going to be printed on bubble wrap this word should never be used to describe a design.

Jazz – Most often seen in the context of “Jazz it up.” Much like pop, this tends to be used to mean “make it different, but I don’t know how to tell you that” or something along those lines. As a designer it makes me want to say “Sure thing, Golden Age, Big Band or Free Form?”, but professionalism usually stops me. Unless the design is for an actually jazz band this is another term that should never be used regarding a design.

Something – This seemingly innocent word is like a stealth bomber, it sneaks up on you and before you know it things are falling apart around you. Commonly used in phrases like “…I don’t know, it just needs something…” or “…there’s something about it that doesn’t look quite right to me…” What they really mean is “I have it in my head what I want, but don’t know how to explain myself, therefore I want you to be a mindreader and guess what I have already decided and we will keep at this until you do.” If you hear this term in regards to a design, get ready, it is going to be a long haul.

Committee – “I like it, now I just need to submit it to the committee” or anything of the sort is one of the worst things you can hear. Design by committee is like design hell, because everyone on the committee wants their fingerprints on the design somewhere, and there is always at least one person on the committee who has to have the last word on everything. Even worse is when they ask for proof prints for each individual committee member, because they most always come back to haunt you. Each member marking changes on their own copies, and it all coming back to you to sort out the various, often conflicting, annotations, notes and changes.

Fun – Fun, does it mean casual? Bright and colorful? That they want coloring book style activities in the design? All of this? None of this? This one is always a conundrum, especially when it is used in reference to something that is otherwise very refined or sedate.

Words have meaning, both connotation and denotation, and sometimes they mean very different things to different people. To those people who are speaking to designers, always remember, if you don’t know what you mean then there isn’t any way that your designer will know what you mean. Always strive to be a clear, detailed, and concise as possible. To my fellow designers, never be afraid to ask questions, there are times that the person using these words doesn’t realize they are being unclear, and in the long run a few well times questions can save everyone involved time and trouble, and fewer headaches are always a good thing.

Published in: on February 8, 2010 at 12:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Welcome to the Labyrinthine Library

The Labyrinthine Library, what is it? Why is it here? Does the world really need another blog? Where did the name come from? Did you really have to name it something so hard to spell?

All very good questions. Questions I will endeavor to answer here.

The Labyrinthine Library, to put it simply, is the best way I have every found to describe the way my mind works. My thought processes follow strange pathways at times, and my synapses are filled with years of random trivia, pop culture references, and snippets of information on a myriad of subjects that have caught my interest at one time or another. The Labyrinthine Library is my attempt to give my thoughts some semblance of order and share them with the world, because knowledge kept is knowledge lost, while knowledge shared is knowledge magnified. I’m certain that the world doesn’t really need yet another blog out there, and I am sure that I am no Orac or Phil Plait , but I have things to say, and if anything I post helps even one person in some way then this blog will have served its purpose in being. The name itself is a recent development, a little while back a friend of mine (Carolyn) tossed out on Twitter that she was trying to come up with a domain name for the site she was planning as a place to put her writing blog, so of course being the word geek that I am I began tweeting all the silly things that came to mind. Among all of that was one that just wouldn’t leave after I put it out there, it bounced around inside my head and refused to go away, until at last there was that eureka moment when I realized that the reason it wouldn’t leave was that it belonged there. After years of trying to explain to people how my mind works, and failing again and again, those two words managed to sum it up better than all the volumes I could ever write. So then, with much encouragement from my best friend Jenny the Labyrinthine Library was born.

What will you find in this library? A bit of everything, really. One of the main focuses will be on the ins and outs of art and graphic design, my particular area of expertise. In addition to design entries will touch on topics ranging from science and skepticism to the ranting and raving of ultra-conservative pundits and wooney toons to being a parent and a progressive minded individual living in the heart of the Bible Belt with stops just about everywhere in between.

Who am I? Never an easy question to answer. I am, first and foremost, a father with one beautiful baby girl and a second on the way any day now. (The sooner the better as far as my long suffering wife is concerned.) Beyond that I am a graphic artist, having worked professionally in offset print media for around ten years now. In that time I have seen trends come and go, and watched as the industry changed dramatically. A career in design wasn’t always the plan, a life long science geek my original major in college was aerospace engineering with dreams of designing the next generation of spacecraft. Some time around the end of my first year I came to a realization, aerodynamics wasn’t what I enjoyed, rather it was the creative process of design that I loved. So here I am, still a geek to the core, lover of all things scientific even though I don’t work in any of its fields, and looking forward to teaching my girls the joys of scientific discovery when they are older.

So what does that make me? A father, a husband, an artist, a designer, a skeptic, an amateur scientist, a geek, a nerd, and a hundred other things, but here, here I am simply the Librarian.

Published in: on February 1, 2010 at 9:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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