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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Friday, June 27, 2014

THE CASE FOR FATHERHOOD

"Bit by bit, I've realized that's when I need them;
That's when I need my father's eyes.
-Eric Clapton, "My Father's Eyes"

My father died quite young, back in 1988 at the age of 51.  I was pretty young back then too, barely 22 and a lot of growing to do in my life.  But his imprint and the things I learned from him were very foundational and still have a major impact on how I view the world and what I do.  In those short 22 years I learned so much about life, what it means to be a man, and how to behave that I cannot imagine what it would have been like to hot have my father in my life from the very beginning.
But many children experience just that.  And while I suspect deep down everyone knows better, society seems to want to act as if kids without dads are not really any worse off - and according to some radicals - are probably even better off.
Recently Anthony Daniels spoke (pdf) about fatherhood and the family in England, and his words resonate with far too many American families as well:
Certainly the notions of dependence and independence have changed. I remember a population that was terrified of falling into dependence on the state, because such dependence, apart from being unpleasant in itself, signified personal failure and humiliation. But there has been an astonishing gestalt switch in my lifetime. Independence has now come to mean independence of the people to whom one is related and dependence on the state.

Mothers would say to me that they were pleased to be independent, by which they meant independent of the fathers of their children — usually more than one — who in general were violent swine. Of course, the mothers knew them to be violent swine before they had children by them, but the question of whether a man would be a suitable father is no longer a question because there are no fathers: At best, though often also at worst, there are only stepfathers. The state would provide. In the new dispensation the state, as well as television, is father to the child.
And this is too often the case in America as well.  With the state providing food, shelter, utilities, and other goods for the children and mothers, it has taken much of the obvious roles of the father away.  The kids are taught about family and manhood by entertainment, local examples, and schools.  The protection comes from police and even gangs.  The fathers aren't exactly absent - they typically live nearby - but are in no relationship with the child.  They're not fathers, they are just men who live in the area.
The assumption of those who offer the state as a proxy for father is that anyone can be as good, or perhaps even better, a father than the real parent of the child.  That the state can do just fine in this role because parents are interchangeable. 
Former Texas Senator Phil Gramm illustrated the absurdity of this claim with a story.  He told a woman, “My educational policies are based on the fact that I care more about my children than you do.” She said, “No, you don’t.” Gramm replied, “Okay: What are their names?"
There's no relationship with other people's children for the state, beyond a clinical intersection with their life.  There's no fatherhood, only provision of various goods and services.  A few recent studies showed the significance of fathers in the lives of children.
Papa was a rollin' stone
Wherever he laid his head was his home
And when he died, all he left us was alone.
-The Temptations, "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone"
The first examined children who were abused or beaten, particularly when younger.  What they found might seem surprising to many: kids are more likely to be abused by single mothers than by fathers.  Why?  Warren Farrell speculates in his book Father and Child Reunion:
Domestic violence, as I document in Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say, is a momentary act of power designed to compensate for a continuing experience of powerlessness. Which is why adult women abuse adult men as often as the other way around and why single mother households account for 43% or all abused children.
According to the book, over 60% of all kids killed by their parents are killed by the mom in a single parent household.  Children are more than twice as likely to be victims of neglect by their mother than by their father, possibly because mothers are more likely to be in a position to neglect kids (as the primary caregiver in the home) and possibly because single parents feel they don't have time to properly care for them.
In fact, for women as well as children, the safest place, statistically, is in a home with a father and mother in it.
When you comin' home dad?
I don't know when, but we'll get together then son
You know we'll have a good time then.
-Harry Chapin, "Cats In The Cradle"
Another study examined a feminist quandary.  While feminists reasonably and properly insist that men need to step up and take their share of the care for children, they also argue that women are best at it and men shouldn't be taking care of especially young children on their own.
The concept of "Shared Parenting" by separated parents is that each one has a burden and can care for children - even infants - because both are parents.  While it is true that women provide things no man can and generally have a nature and approach to parenting that men lack... that is true in reverse as well; men provide what women in general cannot or do not.
An examination of 45 years of studies recently showed that fathers can and do provide good care, and further that it is bad for the children for the father to not share parenting duties and time.  Given the tendency of judges to side with the mother in child custody cases, and the pressures by feminist groups to keep children away from what they consider brutal, violent, and dangerous men (who are secretly all rapists anyway, according to some radical feminists), this kind of information is revolutionary.  Yet again, common sense notes this is obvious.  Fathers are parents too and there's nothing inherently inferior or incompetent about a man caring for a child.  Having been raised by two parents I know how well my father could do when mom was away.  It was different, but not inferior.
A third study in 2013 by Sara McLanahan, Laura Tach, and Daniel Schneider was even more confirming of common sense.  Lestlie Loftis writes at PJ Media:
The researchers took  peer-reviewed studies, culled them for studies designed to isolate causal effects, and ended up with 47 studies to analyze. They could not identify the precise mechanism of the adverse outcomes, but they did find causal effect between father absence and social-emotional development. (Finding cause without being able to pinpoint the mechanics is common in science. Just ask an anesthesiologist.)

They suspect, and recommend further research to confirm, that father absence does not reduce cognitive ability but that it increases behavioral problems which hamper cognitive ability. Or more simply, father absence doesn’t affect kids’ ability to think but makes them angrier, sadder, and more stressed. When they act out from those emotions, then they sabotage their potential.

McLanahan, Tach, and Schneider not only found causal effect, but also that causal effects were strongest where the conventional wisdom would call them weakest, in early childhood father absence and in boys.
That a missing father would be detrimental to the development and learning of children is not surprising, but it is not hard to find writing and speech that says otherwise.  Why anyone would argue otherwise is a matter of speculation, and while it is easy to assume the worst out of someone who would do so, I think its more a matter of academic detachment and theory rather than wicked mustache twirling.
He never said he loved me
Guess he thought I knew.
-Reba McEntire, "The Greatest Man I Ever Knew"
If you start with a theory (say, men are awful or centrally planned state power should be increased) and then start looking for ways to support that, you can find all sorts of ways to do so.  Its called an a priori argument in rhetoric - an argument that presumes it is correct, and looks for support rather than examining the facts to learn what is true and what is not.
And if you are so distant from families with children - as many academics and elites are, either having no children or having them essentially reared by someone else - then this becomes an intellectual exercise rather than one that is shaped by experience.  You can argue yourself into things that you'd never buy, had you gone through them personally.
The overall data shows an unpleasant reality: that children who lacked a father are more likely to become involved in crime, suffer poverty, lack education, and become dependent on the state.   Its no coincidence that Chicago, where 75% of black children are born outside of marriage and without a father to raise them, is the most violent, homicide-plagued city in America.
Fathers are a critical part of a child's growth, development, and life, beyond childhood.  There are still times when I, at nearly 50 years old, need my father's guidance and wisdom and do not have it.  I feel that lack, and have to try to find my way without what I should have had to help guide me.
And a nation without fathers is, I fear, a nation without a future.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

WHERE'S THE IRS?

"I was not aware of this until I saw it in the news.  No one is more upset than I am"

Some readers might wonder why I haven't posted anything about the IRS scandal, or most other scandals for that matter.  That's because there's nothing to be said on the topic.  Everyone who cares knows about it, no one who reads or hears about it that cares will change their minds, and nothing will come of this other than yelling and posturing in Washington DC.
This is the worst, most blatant and ghastly abuse of power by a presidential administration in American history, or at least the worst I'm aware of.  But there will be no consequences, no heads rolling.  The next president, whatever Democrat is nominated, will have free reign to do this whenever and however they desire.
There's reams of stuff written out there about how the press is ignoring this to their own peril and loss of circulation and sales.  There's piles of things written about how where Watergate was a crime against an opposition party, this is a crime against ordinary American citizens.  There are gigabytes of sound files all about how this is so obviously a huge crime and coverup.
None of it makes a difference.  Even if, by some bizarre circumstance, a special prosecutor was chosen by the Justice Department and started investigating, when's the last time one actually found anything?  It was the 70s.  They spend millions and never get anything done.  You can't trust the executive branch to investigate its self.
Its just one in a long line of staggering offenses against the American people and the constitution under this administration (swapping terrorists for a deserting jihadi, Fast & Furious, Wiretapping and hacking the Associated Press, Benghazi, the abysmal Obamacare rollout, the egregious Pigford cash handouts, the million dollar party by the General Services Administration in Vegas, The continuous funding of green businesses who are huge party donators, the near-constant violation of separation of powers by executive orders and EPA "rules," The attack on Libya and war waged without congressional approval, The leaning on and firing of Inspectors General who won't play along, the leaning on and punishing whistleblowers in various organizations, on and on it goes).
The outrage and gnashing of teeth and frustration and fury is pointless.  Nobody is going to revolt or pick up arms, nobody is going to shoot anyone over this.  The voters don't seem to care for the most part, and there's no price to pay.
The only thing that prevented previous administrations and politicians from going so far was a combination of a press willing to do its job and gleeful at juicy reports written about people in power... and the honor, self restraint, and ethics of the people in power.  None of those pressures are in place, and the voters seem disinclined to make anyone pay for anything.
So on it goes.  Its not worth getting an ulcer over, any more than when it rains on your picnic.  Its out of your hands. Writing yet another blog entry or long facebook rant won't make a bit of difference.  That's where we are now.  Nobody listens, nobody changes their mind, everyone is an expert, everyone knows best and you're an idiot/madman/fag/fascist/hippy/communist/racist etc for disagreeing.  Its lots of sound and fury, empty of consequence or meaning.
You can protect your family, you can prepare for any potential disaster or problems that may take place, and you can work locally with your neighborhood, borough, town, and even county to try to make things better where you are.  But nobody is listening beyond that point.

Monday, June 23, 2014

WEED MAKES YOU DUMB

“When you smoke the herb, it reveals you to yourself.”
-Bob Marley

Daniel Keyes died recently at the age of 86 years.  He wrote the book Flowers for Algernon which is one of the saddest, most deeply disturbing books I have ever read.  It is beautifully written and a brilliant concept, and it makes me wonder about his other books, but a very sad book.
For the few of you who might not have read this book (I recommend doing so) it is about a retarded kid who is given a special treatment that increases his intellect enormously.  The book is written as a diary from his point of view as his intelligence and understanding of the world around him grows, and how that affects him.  He falls in love, he learns much, he begins to see and know things he couldn't before.
But the treatment is only temporary, and as the diary progresses, you feel the horror and tragedy of this young man's mind melting away and the sadness of watching him regress back into the childlike mind of his origin.  Now I'm hardly the smartest guy in the room but anyone with any degree of intellect reads this with fear and misery.  Fear that it might happen to us, some day, through just senility or Alzheimer's, and misery at what it would be like.
Which brings me to a study that was recently released by the National Institute of Drug Abuse in the USA.  Reported in the New England Journal of Medicine for the National Institute of Health, the report claims that use of marijuana in teenage years causes a permanent loss of IQ.  It is estimated that 6.5% of high school seniors use marijuana nearly every day (and that number is probably higher, as it is illegal and self reporting will be diminished by that fact).  After a long-term study covering 38 years, the researchers concluded:
The scientists focused on marijuana’s harmful effects on teens, an age group in which the brain rapidly develops, which is one factor that could help explain increased risks from marijuana use in this population. Research suggests that marijuana impairs critical thinking and memory functions during use and that these deficits persist for days after using. In addition, a long-term study showed that regular marijuana use in the early teen years lowers IQ into adulthood, even if users stopped smoking marijuana as adults.
The research, part of the "Dunedin Study" (no relation to Aragorn) examined over 1000 people starting in 1972 and watched their lives, testing them regularly to see how their brains and bodies were, examining psychology and behavior, and so on.  And they discovered that if you smoke weed as a teenager, you are dumber as a result.
Now, anecdotally, I know this to be rock solid objective, obvious fact.  You probably do too, thinking back of the idiot stoners in your youth.  I knew guys who were just brilliant in school that started smoking pot and over time just got dumber and dumber.  It was awful to watch, like Flowers for Algernon in action.
Now, some of that loss of intelligence can be recovered by stopping pot use, and certainly the amount you smoke makes a difference.  Guys who toke constantly are destroying their brains much faster and much more effectively than someone who just has a few joints over the weekend while watching DVR'd Parks and Recreation.
But the data is consistent either way: pot kills your mind.  And its not particularly surprising that smoking anything is detrimental to you.  I mean, deliberately sucking burning materials into your lungs is bad no matter what it is, and no matter how your doctor told you its good for your glaucoma.  And using it in other forms (brownies, etc) doesn't change the data any.
Every time I bring this up, at least a few people yell "no way, I toke up all the time and it hasn't affected me, dude!"  And I can't help but think of this scene from Beerfest (strong content warning, definitely NOT safe for work, but very funny):

Not shown: the 400 pound woman he takes home.  That's where the whole concept of "beer goggles" comes from.  You think you're no dumber because you're stoned.  The guy who's under the influence has impaired judgment.  The guy who is not as smart isn't smart enough to know better.  The people watching from the outside?  They can see what's really going on.
Now, usually this is where people say "well if you can't handle your weed, yeah but I'm better."  And that's what everyone says, no matter what a mess they are, until they hit rock bottom and say "I need help."  The problem is, pot is damaging to brains and has other strange effects (it seems to cause insomnia later in life, for example) at any level of use in teens, its just more pronounced the more its used.
Scientists believe this is because the human brain develops significantly in the teenage years, so the damaging effects of pot have long-term, possibly permanent effects.  But here's the thing to consider: pot affects your brain in negative ways at all times in your life; it just does nastier things to teenagers.
Now, that doesn't mean there needs to be laws banning marijuana; alcohol does terrible things to your brain too (by killing many brain cells, to begin with).  And I think that the federal government has no constitutional permission to regulate drugs in states.
It just means that anyone who's smart and cares about their health might want to think twice about how good it makes them feel to smoke weed and its effects on their life.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

EVERYBODY WAS KUNG FU FIGHTING

"Your kung fu is... bizarrely strong"

A modern trend in film that annoys me is the need to give every single character super martial artist skills.  James Bond is some kind of Bruce Lee expert these days, Sherlock Holmes as well.   Every single person who has to get into a fight at some point in any film automatically is a skilled 9th dan black belt super ninja.  Nobody just boxes or uses their fists any more, they all have these amazing spinning gymnastic maneuvers.
Its sort of interesting to watch, but after the 90th action hero does some improbable spinning maneuver, it starts to get a little stale, like watching John Wayne get in yet another fist fight in his movies.  Yes, Sherlock Holmes knew a little jiu jitsu.  Yes, James Bond would have some training in martial arts, given his background and skill set.  But they're not all super-duper kung fu masters.  They don't have time to learn that much skill and keep it up.
Like anything in life, being really, really good at martial arts takes near-constant effort and practice.  You can't take a class and suddenly be the best fighter ever, unless you download it into your brain like Neo (and honestly that wouldn't work either, because it requires muscle memory and reflex, which isn't in your brain).
There are a lot of myths involving martial arts that movies, TV, and books embrace wholeheartedly.  Its easy to see why, because they usually make it seem more exciting.  One of my least favorite images in film is the little guy beating the tar out of the huge hulking guy.  Kids beating up gigantic weightlifters because they know karate!  Sorry, no.  Big guy shrugs at the puny hits from the kid and slaps them across the room.
Now I'm no expert on mortal combat and have had only a very little amount of actual martial arts training, but I have talked to a lot of guys who have, and read even more, and this guy's analysis of martial arts myths rings not just true, but is repeated by all of the people I know in the field.
Myth 1: Size and strength don't matter much.

I hear this all the time, almost exclusively from people who haven't tried full-contact sparring yet. The tiny little Chinese master kicking the ass of the huge, uncouth bandit. A very compelling image. Unfortunately, real life doesn't work that way. It is possible for a smaller, weaker person to beat a bigger, more muscular opponent, but it is very difficult, especially if there is a large size difference.
Its not that a very skilled little guy cannot take out a big hulking tough guy, but its not easy, and if they're trained too... you're probably going to see a horrible beat down leaving the little guy in a Beetle Bailey heap.  Being big and strong makes up for an awful lot of training.  In fact, everyone knows this at some level, because they think all that martial arts training makes up for being small and weak.  Now think that through: if your training is to compensate for not being huge and strong... that means huge and strong is an advantage that only extensive training and expertise can match.
Which means you just admitted that the gigantic guy is a really tough fight just by being huge.  Which means that any skill at all in the big guy and he's going to be very tough to beat.  And while martial arts gives you more power in your punches, there are limits.  A little kid or a little girl simply cannot generate more power than a given limit, no matter how black their belt is.
Myth 2: Strength and speed are a trade-off. Big, strong people are slow.

I have several bodybuilder friends. Besides being stronger than anyone has a right to be, they are also obscenely fast. This makes sense, if you think about it: when you punch, your muscles (your triceps, to be precise) accelerate your fist forward. If you develop more powerful triceps, your punch will be both stronger and faster. This also applies to everything else: kicking, running, dodging, etc. The real trade-off is between strength and endurance; big muscles need a lot of oxygen to sustain them. The way to beat a steroid-enhanced mountain of muscle is to wear him down. Unfortunately, unless you're very strong, fit, and trained yourself, your chances of doing so before he crushes you are slim at best.
Its not that you can't become musclebound and slow by working out, it just depends what you're trying to achieve.  The problem is, big and strong does not necessarily equate to slow and cumbersome.  Most of the time being really fit makes you just physically much more capable and faster than other people.  That's why athletes work out to be really ripped: its part of their job.
Baseball fans know that getting huge can also mean having an incredibly quick bat: consider Barry Bonds.  That means the huge guy with the arms like tree trunks isn't necessarily going to be slow, he probably will be even faster than you.
There are several other myths such as how a crotch kick isn't man kryptonite - a well trained fighter can ignore it, and if your adrenaline is really high, you may not even notice it until later.  Ladies, be warned.  Pepper spray is much more reliable and doesn't require as much aim.
And as any fan of Mixed Martial Arts knows: almost every fight, unless the rules demand otherwise, ends up on the ground wrestling.  Think back to school and all the fights you participated in saw. How many of them were two people on their feet exchanging blows like in a boxing ring?  How many ended up with two people rolling around on the floor?
There are several others, but the much of what people presume about martial arts is simply not true, or distorted significantly.  The biggest myth of martial arts is that its a special magic thing that only the far east ever figured out.  That's simply nonsense.
Every culture that had any sort of regimented, teachable, and structured system of combat had martial arts.  Roman legionnaires learned martial arts with a sword.  German knights learned martial arts.  Cherokee braves learned martial arts.  Martial arts is not restricted to karate or kung fu or other far eastern disciplines, and it wasn't invented by Shaolin monks.
Martial Art just means a way of fighting which is trained and specific.  If you learn how to stab sandbags and shoot straight as a Marine, you've learned martial arts.  Some are more extensive and stylized than others (Kung Fu, for instance) and some are much more simple and freeform (wrestling) but all are martial arts.
Its related to the piece I did on swords a while back; the west had really, really good swords and combat training too, all that just was supplanted by guns and largely forgotten.  It takes years of training and expense to get really good with a sword, but any idiot with a pistol can kill you from a dozen yards away with the first shot they've ever fired.
So when I see a movie and little teenage heroine beats up hulking special forces guy, I just shake my head and sigh.  Its not that it is utterly impossible, but its about as likely as your cat killing and eating a great dane.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?

"The more important question is what did Jesus do?"
-Dr Rod Rosenbladt

There's a picture going around the internet which some wag put together, and it looks like this:
The point of this is to try to encourage ethically-minded people that taking direct action isn't necessarily a bad thing, and that Jesus was not a pacifist.  Its certainly true that Jesus is not opposed to action, even violence.  Its not like Jesus didn't exist in the trinity during the Old Testament period when the Israelites were ordered to obliterate the Caananites.  And when Jesus returns in glory, He's bringing justice and hell with Him.
People are easily confused by the Gospels into thinking Jesus was all pacifism and meekness because his role at the time was to be a suffering servant.  He came to earth to obey God perfectly and die for the sins of people who did not - you and me.  So He didn't fight back when taken, because that was the plan all along: to die on the cross.  He didn't slay the crowds of people who tried to kill him several times, because he wasn't a conqueror, he was a servant.
That said, the incident in the temple was a moment of explosive violence and anger.  And its one of the several shocking moments in the Bible which seem to come out of nowhere.  Before we get to those, I want to examine some responses to this image.
One of the stupidest and most dangerous - dangerous for us, that is - things we do as humans is to try to use the Bible as a political weapon, as a hammer to truncheon opponents into submission.  You see this happen regularly such as claims that God in on our side in a war, or how Jesus taught x political position.
This is a flaw which is the reverse of how we should approach scripture.  There's an incident in the book of Joshua (chapter 5) which illustrates the proper way of looking at the Bible.
And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?”

14 So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”

And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?”

15 Then the Commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.
So Joshua, one of the  most successful commanders in the history of humanity is about to fight a battle with Caananites, and he encounters this soldier who makes Rambo look like Joe Biden.  Joshua's first concern is a reasonable one: are you on my side or theirs?  And the response of this soldier is hilarious: "no."  
He's not on the side of either of you bozos.  He's on God's side, which is separate from your fight.  Something critical to understand here is that most theologians (and translators, note the capitalized "He" in verse 14) believe this to have been a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ.
See, God's not on our side.  He's on His side, and we should be too.  When we come to the Bible, we should approach it from that perspective: am I measuring up, am I on this side of things?  Instead of trying to find support for what we believe, we should be looking for what we ought to believe and move our support to that side.
So when I see this picture show up I always cringe a little, because it ends up being a "Jesus is on our side" moment far too often.  And almost always the interpretation is deeply flawed.
For example, usually someone says "yeah, they were moneychangers, Jesus got mad because of greed you filthy capitalist!"  The problem is, Jesus encountered greed all over the place in his life, he constantly was meeting up with greedy people.  Remember Zaccheus, the little tax collector?  He collected much more than the taxes required and kept the extra for himself.  That was legal, by the way, its how tax collectors got paid.  The government didn't pay them a sesterrii, they had to make their own money by collecting more than the actual owed taxes.  And Zaccheus, like most collected quite a bit more to fatten his own coffers, as was common among the job, which made them pretty despised people.  Greed.
But Jesus didn't respond by beating Zaccheus up, did he?  In fact, when he faced every other example of greedy people he seemed sad and gentle, with an attitude calling for repentance and salvation, not punishment and rage.
So what was different in this situation, in the temple?  Well that last word is a bit of a clue; the greed was happening in the temple.  Yes, Jesus raged about a "den of thieves" but he was upset because that den was in His father's house.  In other words, what upset Jesus was not so much the greed as the lack of respect and reverence for His Father.
In fact, if you examine the Bible you find that the times when God exploded most suddenly, violently, and shockingly into punishment was not for greed, not for sexual immorality, not for abuse of power or mistreatment of widows and orphans - although those sins all anger God - but for lack of reverence and respect for His name.
Repeatedly, God tells the Israelites to respect and honor His name, that He is a jealous god, that He will punish disrespect.  From fire exploding out of the altar to obliterate Aaron's sons to the ground swallowing people up to instant death one after another in the New Testament in both abuse of the Lord's Supper and the gifts to the church, God strikes fast and hard against those who will not honor His name.
And that's the key here.  This isn't about anyone's political agenda, this isn't about social justice, this isn't about greed.  Jesus got so upset he started kicking over tables and beating people with a whip because they were mocking God by their actions.  And God will not be mocked.
Sit back a moment and consider this.  I'm fine with a call to action, and its true that Jesus wasn't a passive meek wimp.  He certainly won't be when He comes back.  But the event in the temple was a dire warning to all of us.
Do not mock God.  Honor His name, not just in word but deed.  That's the main thing we're on this earth for, or as the Westminster Confession of Faith puts it:
Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
Now when you post that picture, is that your purpose and intent?  Is that what you're trying to accomplish?  Are you primarily concerned with God's glory, or with your political goals?  Is your call to action because of a desire that God be glorified above all things, or that you are unhappy with the present administration?  Are you more concerned with God's glory, or with the loss of a beloved country?
Its not that you can't be both, but using this particular image and event for anything that lacks a concern for God's glory is particularly troubling, given its context.
What would Jesus do?  Live a perfect life we could not, and die the sacrificial death we deserved, in our place, to bring us salvation and glory we do not deserve.  And in this image, his perfect obedience was given expression by an outrage over the mockery of God and His temple so fierce He tore the place to pieces and instead of fighting back, everyone ran in terror before His righteous anger.
There's a little story in the gospel of Luke (chapter 13) in which the Disciples were wondering about an event they'd heard of.  Pilate, then governor of the Roman district called Palestine, had killed a group of people during their sacrifices in the temple; likely they were plotting the overthrow of the Romans, as happened so often in Palestine at the time, but we don't know exactly.  The disciples asked a question: so what sins did they commit to be put to death like that?  Because they, like Job's friends, were certain that terrible things would never happen to a righteous man.
Jesus put them straight in a hurry.
2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.
Jesus' point is pretty clear: they didn't die because they were extra sinful.  You all deserve to die equally, for being sinners.  Repent while you still can.
And that should be our attitude when we come to the Bible, too: I'm a sinner.  I deserve God's wrath.  I cannot point a finger of condemnation at anyone else for being worse a sinner than I am.  We must all repent.  We must stop using the Bible as a weapon, unless its against our own sin.

Friday, June 13, 2014

READING THE CHARTS

Kent Brockman: Professor, without knowing precisely what the danger is, would you say it's time for our viewers to crack each other's heads open and feast on the goo inside?
Professor: Yes I would, Kent.

A chart was recently posted on Twitter that showed an interesting statistic.  It compared two different sources of fatalities in the United States; auto collisions and guns.
As you can see, since 1979, the general, overall trend of auto deaths has been downward, with a slight increase over a few different time frames.  Although we don't have a crystal ball, if the trends continue as data shows presently, by 2015, gun violence will surpass auto accidents as a cause of deaths in America.
Now a couple things pop out as you look at this chart.  First, auto accidents have always been FAR more significant a cause of deaths, even during the spike in gun killings during the 90s.  The second is that gun violence is on the rise.  And finally, this chart appears to show a horrendous increase in gun violence; so much so that for the first time since the automobile became popular, guns are killing more people than cars.
Now, a response to this could be "see, guns are horrific, we need to ban guns!  AARG!"  And certainly that's how at least some people are viewing and promoting this chart.
But here's another chart that helps shine a bit more light on the subject:
Although this isn't covering exactly the same span of time, it does show a roughly similar total pattern.  Its from a Pew Research Center study that shows the dramatic drop in gun violence and killings over time.  Since the peak in the 1990s, gun violence has dropped by almost 50%.  Not shown on this chart but on the one above is a slight uptick in the last few years.
With these two pieces of information we can conclude that there's been a slight increase in gun violence recently, but the long term trend is definitely downward, despite the enormous increase in gun ownership since President Obama took office.  Since both charts include accidental deaths and suicides, its difficult to peel out murder data, but the general information is useful.
What we can also conclude is that cars are getting safer and more survivable.  The data is too general and vague to understand why that's so.  It might be just a cultural thing of people driving more carefully.  Conditions of roads might have improved, such as lighting, road wear, and so on.  People might be drinking and driving less, so they're more alert and capable.  Safety measures such as airbags might be saving lives; there's been a lot of new technology for auto safety in the last 25 years or so, such as automatic braking systems, rear view cameras, HUD alerts, crumple zones, and so on.
But what we can't take away from this is that guns are flooding the world with death and horror.  The truth is, gun deaths are not overtaking car deaths because of a massive increase in the number of deadly gun attacks, but because auto safety is much better.
And that's an example of how charts can be misused.  A little piece of information like the top chart can easily be twisted to mislead or promote an agenda because its too discrete, too limited.  There's not enough information on the chart to draw large, definite conclusions, only some basic, vague ones.
Now, some may ask why post something like this so soon after a school shooting.  Am I so kneejerk in my defense of guns that I feel compelled to yell about how great they are?
Frankly no.  I don't really like guns much.  I love the engineering and styling that goes into them, like any finely tuned device.  If I was a very wealthy man, I'd have an armory with fascinating weapons in it.  But they scare me.  I don't care for guns, and I've used them some.  I've gone out shooting and they're amazing devices, but they frighten me still.  I get a chill of discomfort by holding a gun.
The point though is to try to bring a bit of reason and perspective into the discussion.  As I noted recently, people respond emotionally to events such as a school shooting, and that can lead to very bad reactions.
And using automotive deaths as a contrast helps make my point.  If you hear about a bunch of schoolkids killed by a drunk driver, have you ever, even for a fleeting moment, thought or felt that cars ought to be banned or restricted?  That we're too easygoing in America about cars?  That we need more car laws to keep them out of the hands of people?  Ever?
I doubt it.  I'd be frankly astounded if anyone did.  Because they're not only much more familiar (and dependent on) cars, but they're able to separate the automobile's misuse from its purpose and proper use.
Now, you might argue that cars aren't designed as engines of death, while guns are.  And you'd be right, unless you're in Death Race 2000.  But for almost a century, automobiles have been a major cause of death in the United States, far more than guns.  So designed to kill or not, they've long been much more lethal, and what's more pretty much everyone knows that. 
So when a bunch of schoolkids are killed in a car or by a car, we know that's more likely than gun violence.  But our reaction is more reasonable and reasoned.  We think "that driver is scum" and "we need to keep people who can't drive out of the car until they're ready."
And that's the kind of dialog we need to have with guns, too.  To treat them as a tool that people misuse, not an evil death machine that is innately horrific.  People talk and act as if guns make people do horrible things.  Don't think so?  Then why do they want to ban guns, pretending that will reduce violence and death?  Because they blame the gun, not the killer.  If the killer is to blame, then they'd do it anyway, no matter what the tool.  Guns don't make people do anything. They make killing easier, but they don't make killing.
And we need to have a more reasoned reaction to these evil events, or our reaction won't make things any better, won't help deal with the problem, and will not do justice to those who have been killed by a monster.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

THE MADNESS OF SCHOOL SHOOTINGS

"Do it for the children"

One of the truest sayings about politics is that crisis makes for bad law.  Like the sinisterly named Department of Homeland Security or the utterly failed "stimulus package," when a major crisis takes place, government tends to react poorly.
Decisions are made in the heat of anger or fear, legislation that ordinarily would be slowed and examined is pushed through out of the need to do something, and as a result we get bad law.  The thing is, that doesn't just apply to legislation.  We tend to make poor decisions in the heat of the moment as well.
One of the best pieces of advice I've ever heard is that when you learn of something truly heartbreaking and grieve, to make no major changes, no matter what.  Its easy to do something extreme and thoughtless when you are really hurt.  People for all history have regretted rash decisions made when a spouse dies, or they learn of some terrible sickness they are blighted with.
Each time we hear of a mass shooting, particularly one that takes place in a school, we respond at a gut level, with dismay and disgust.  Its awful to read about.  Its frightening to consider, particularly if you have children of your own.  That could happen to me, I could be shopping and some crazy opens up with a gun.  My children could have been in that school, what if it happens to them?
That's not selfish, its a reasonable human response to events.  Part of how we analyze things is by placing ourselves in that scenario in our mind, and seeing how we'd respond.  It helps us understand and work through the meaning and significance of events.  What would I do?  What would it be like?
But when an event is particularly traumatic or emotionally charged, that natural response also can tend to make us react poorly and unwisely as well.  That visceral "what if it was me/mine" analysis can make people respond emotionally and irrationally.
THE FLAGS
There's a chart going around the internet recently from Everytown for Gun Safety that shows flags all over the country looking like this:

This claims to show all the places where "gun incidents" have occurred in schools just since the Sandy Hook shooting, a total of 74*.  Seventy-Four gun incidents just since December 2012!  
Now be honest, when you saw that image, you were shocked and dismayed, right?  If you believe that the 2nd amendment protects us as a people and that the right of self defense is absolute and inalienable, you were worried that maybe we've gone too far - just a little bit, in your gut, right?  
And if you are all for more gun control or banning guns, you felt a bit of elation about how you're vindicated, and this is proof you're right, even if just a little bit.
Emotion.  Visceral response.  Now, there's nothing wrong with emotions, and they're useful to us.  But they cannot ever be the sole, or even primary source for making decisions.  They're too fluid, too irrational.  Facts and truth don't drive emotions, only subjective response.
The reason we get that response is because we want to protect schools, we're probably thinking of the Portland-area school shooting (and all that emotional baggage, particularly if you live in the area), and the image is loaded for a particular, deliberate response.  They use Sandy Hook as a reference: a horrible mass shooting of little children.  Its designed to get you to go OH NO! when you look at all those flags.
The problem is, almost none of those flags represent an actual mass school shooting like Sandy Hook.  There's been just a tiny handful of actual mass school shootings.  Now, if you're like me, you think that any number is too many, but that's a side issue: the chart is deliberately attempting to manipulate you emotionally toward a specific response.
It turns out that with closer analysis, you see that almost every one of those flags is only vaguely related to schools.  Many are suicides by schoolkids not at school.  Many are gang-related shootings, drive-bys and such that took place near a school.  Several are from robberies and drug deals near a school, and so on.  Not mass shootings at schools at all.  And that's not just kids schools, its universities and other learning institutions as well.
In other words, the chart is deliberately loaded up with false flags, literally, to prompt that visceral emotional response.  It was designed to get you to emotionally connect Sandy Hook with any gun use near a school or involving school kids.  And in this, it was deliberately false as so often this kind of attempt is.
PROTECT THE CHILDREN
Still, children have been shot in schools, and that should not happen. I think everyone, whatever side of the gun control issue they stand on, agrees to this.  Its a horrible, evil event that ought never take place.
We can argue about laws and rights and zones all we want but in the end we all want children protected from predators and monsters.  We all want kids to be safe and healthy and alive.  So whatever side you are on this, you need to recognize this about your opponents.  They aren't for kids being killed or murder.  They aren't in favor of gun shootings.
And I think whatever side of the issue you're on we can all agree that everyone should be able to defend themselves.  Nobody is in favor of people being helpless victims, even if they want to ban all guns everywhere forever.
So let's not get into the ridiculous modern pattern of condemning everyone who disagrees with us as monsters, morons, or lunatics.  Someone who disagrees with us politically or on an issue does not by that disagreement become evil.
The question is how and why, as always.  And if we look at this issue rationally and wisely, we can see a few basic facts that help shape what our response ought to be.

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Monday, June 09, 2014

UNCOMPREHENDED CONSEQUENCES

"Whether or not what you do has the effect you want, it will have three at least you never expected, and one of those usually unpleasant."

Right now McDonald's is the target of a bold experiment by the SEIU; they want to see if they can get fast food joints to raise their pay.  The long term goal is unionizing these companies, but for the short term, its an exercise in power.
If they can get McDonald's to raise their minimum wage to some ridiculously high amount, then they will have pushed the idea to the front in other businesses and affect change across the economy, in theory.  The fact that none of these paid protesters are getting even minimum wage is a hypocrisy carefully ignored by most.
Backers of this idea believe that if the top CEOs and owners took a small pay cut, then workers could get a raise without needing to raise prices!
Now, this idea is transparently false; it comes from a basic misunderstanding of the number of workers and how expensive labor is.  You can't subtract a number from employers and add it to employees for wages, that's not how it works.  There are a lot of costs to businesses which do not show up on the paycheck for each employee, such as matching tax contributions to social security, etc.
But that's the kind of wishful thinking that often comes with this sort of push.  The idea that its all so simple and if only people did what you wanted, it would work out.  That's why so many folks think their political opponents are not just mistaken but awful, evil people: my idea is so obvious and true that only a monster would disagree!
And when their ideas are attempted, things go terribly wrong.  Here are a couple of examples of how this works.  In Seattle, they had the bright idea of pushing the minimum wage for workers up to fifteen dollars an hour at the beginning of this year.  After all, if people were paid more, they would have a better life, and who could oppose that? Well here's an example of how that played out:
“Are you happy with the $15 wage?” I asked the full-time cleaning lady.

“It sounds good, but it’s not good,” the woman said.

“Why?” I asked.

“I lost my 401k, health insurance, paid holiday, and vacation,” she responded. “No more free food,” she added.

The hotel used to feed her. Now, she has to bring her own food. Also, no overtime, she said. She used to work extra hours and received overtime pay.

What else? I asked.

“I have to pay for parking,” she said.

I then asked the part-time waitress, who was part of the catering staff.

“Yes, I’ve got $15 an hour, but all my tips are now much less,” she said.
She's getting paid more, technically, but the benefits that came along with her former pay have been stripped away.  In the end, she may even be making less now.  And since people have to pay more for their services and goods, they tip less.  Here's another example from someone whose ideas once implemented have not gone the way they had hoped:
"I'm at the breaking point," said Gretchin Gardner, an Austin artist who bought a 1930s bungalow in the Bouldin neighborhood just south of downtown in 1991 and has watched her property tax bill soar to $8500 this year.

"It's not because I don't like paying taxes," said Gardner, who attended both meetings [of "irate homeowners"]. "I have voted for every park, every library, all the school improvements, for light rail, for anything that will make this city better. But now I can't afford to live here anymore."
Both of these people pushed for and got what they wanted, and now that they have it, they don't care for it.  Many call this "the law of unintended consequences" in which events come about from an action that were not desired or planned on, but were a necessary result of that action.  Raising minimum wage means cuts elsewhere.  Raising taxes means your taxes go up.
But this isn't unintended at all.  These were the exact, predictable, and readily warned-about consequences of the actions taken.  The results might have been unintended in the sense that they weren't the desired end result, but they were certainly the obvious and easily predictable results.  Its like complaining that you used up so much gas after driving for hours.  Only an idiot would expect something else.

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Friday, June 06, 2014

A DELICATE SUBJECT

"Tate came to us two days ago, saying his friend's behavior had changed in the last few weeks."

I enjoy NCIS as a television show, its been pretty consistently entertaining and interesting over the years.  I think its time to retire the show not due to any significant drop in quality, but on the principle that its best to quit while you're ahead.  Nobody wants to see the show get worse and dumber until there's the inevitable alien show and the celebrity guest stars promoted as a "very special" NCIS.
I've noticed in the last few years an annoying trend to show the bad guys as anyone except the actual bad guys in the world.  Its never the North Koreans, or the Chinese, or Muslim Terrorists, or any other real world bad guys, its almost always some businessman or a military rogue, or weapons contractors.  In other words, they've shifted from a pretty reasonable focus on actual enemies of the US to the usual Hollywood litany of hated white people.
And every few shows they do what feels more like an After School Special of hot topic stories.  The last one was about female sailors on ships being sexually harassed and even raped (although it wasn't actually stated - you had to infer), and it ended up being the Captain (an old white guy).  Another old white guy was shown being insensitive about the women's plight.
Now, I'm all for protecting women, and I think them being drugged and raped is a deep evil that must be punished, no matter where they are.  I think rape - if proven conclusively and truthfully - should carry the death penalty... after castration with a rusty spoon.  And I think guys who sneer at and shrug off the trauma of women who are attacked in this manner are at best jerks who need to be knocked down a few times.
However - and I say this with some hesitation because I know how it will be portrayed by some and responded to by others who will not read and consider carefully - this brings up a concern of mine about the modern military.  This is difficult to express without coming across as callous and cold.
I've written in the past about how women aren't the same as men and hence cannot do exactly the same things as men, particularly when it comes to military service.  However, the navy is not as rough a trade as marines or army in terms of physical punishment and endurance, so that may not apply in this case.
But there is a basic level of endurance and difficulty that being a soldier at war carries even in the easiest, most cushy branch of the military (*cough*airforce*cough*).  And this episode of NCIS noted this problem.
See, the women portrayed in this show were pretty and seemed capable enough, but when attacked they hid it from authorities, withdrew into themselves, even quit their jobs.  Their lives were ruined, they were destroyed by the events, haunted by it years later.  They were traumatized and lost all confidence; careers were ended.
And I think that's accurate; I've spoken to women who were raped in the past and they were severely damaged by it and the experience.  They are never the same; that's why I think the death penalty is a reasonable punishment for rape.
But that brings up a question: is there any equivalent event that men can experience that destroys them in this manner?  And what impact does this have on their ability to function as a soldier?  Because if there's something that technically easy to carry out (if not morally easy; no one with a healthy and proper conscience or mind could do so with ease) that destroys a soldier, does that not speak to their capability to do the job?
I mean, putting aside the insanely obvious problems with men and women serving on ships together - even submarines - this prompts some questions about whether its such a good idea for women to be serving in the armed forces at all to begin with.
And that puts aside the proven and constantly attested concerns of soldiers about protecting the girls in their unit more than the guys.  I mean, men tend to be chivalrous toward women to begin with, without stacking on the way soldiers bond.
I don't know if this really is a valid concern or not, but after watching the show, I couldn't help but sympathize a bit with the old crusty captain that everyone condemned for his callous response.  His response was the same he'd have with a male who was hurt and cried about it: you need to toughen up, buttercup, this isn't summer camp.
Now, he was a bit too careless for my taste, particularly about women, but he had a point: you're in the military now.  You need to deal with your problems, not collapse into a weeping foetal position.  And maybe that's something that suggests women ought not be IN the military to begin with.
Because their response to this trauma is not unreasonable, uncommon, or unexpected.  That's why rape is so very evil.  But that's kind of the point.
His response was wrong from the perspective of compassion and caring about women, but not wrong in terms of being a sailor.  This is a rough trade about breaking things and killing people and we cannot have the military coddling and comforting its members or protecting them specially.
Maybe I'm just being cold hearted here, and I need to meet more female soldiers and sailors to see what they're like. Maybe the NCIS episode overstated the trauma they went through, although I seriously doubt it.  Maybe there's some aspect to this I've not considered.  But it seems like a pretty strong argument not that the military needs more sensitivity training but that it needs to consider maybe women in combat isn't such a great policy to begin with.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

WOMYNISTS

"If you put a mirror on a dessert menu, me as a female, the first thing I'm gonna think is I don't want a dessert. I look fat."

Feminism is in a strange place lately.  They insist that their movement is deeply critical and important, but fewer and fewer people seem to be listening.  The National Organization for Women (NOW) is the largest and most powerful feminist activist organization in the United States.  NOW Claims that it has a membership of 500,000 across the USA (out of about 160,000,000 total females, or .03%). 
However, membership in NOW costs $35 a year, and according to data compiled by OpenSecrets.org, they aren't pulling in 500,000 members worth of dues - total receipts of $137,439 for 2012 (35x500,000=over $17 million).  The same site also notes a decline in salary and benefits paid to workers at NOW, with the average dropping from $46,762 in 2006 election cycle down to $744 in the last listed year (2012).  Their donations to various organizations and candidates have dropped off at a similar rate.
In other words: NOW is claiming membership it has no record or financial basis of claiming.  They might believe they have half a million supporters or sympathetic people out there, but they show signs of having more like 4000 members.  Of course, its always possible that the NOW PAC only gets a tiny shred of the dues, and the rest is being spent... elsewhere.
Small wonder the "war on women" push and the ridiculous "I need feminism because" and "yes all men" twitter campaigns; they need money and notice.  Signs of the decline of radical feminism are all around us.  In the mid-1990s, according to Paste Magazine (a publishing journal) there were more than 100 "feminist bookstores" in the US and Canada.  Today, there are only 13 left, including In Other Words in Portland, Oregon where the TV show "Portlandia" films segments.
Eva Longoria, actress in such stellar work as the lesbian-themed TV show "The L Word" started up a female Steak house.  No, they didn't serve only steaks from cows, the idea was to have a steak house called "SHe" that wasn't so darn masculine and was more comfortable and pleasing to women.  Ms Longoria's concept?   To "create a feeling of empowerment" for women and challenge the notion that steakhouses are a place for men. 
SHe opened in 2012 but it never took off like Ms Longoria hoped, and recently the place was shut down by the health department after 21 demerits for undercooking the food.  In any case, SHe's idea of empowerment doesn't sound like what NOW would want.  According to Kaitlin Roberts at TheWeek:
"She-sized" steak portions, mirrors on the dessert menus so women could reapply their lipstick, and "sexy" décor. And let's not forget SHe's main attraction: a catwalk where women in scanty clothing perform for the restaurant's female and male guests.
Whether the steak house will reopen is unclear, but its hardly the first female-themed eatery to suffer.  Kaitlin Roberts goes on:
SHe isn't the only restaurant that has drawn criticism for invoking gender stereotypes under the guise of being "female friendly." The international steakhouse chain STK received backlash after posting a female-friendly promotional video that featured sexist images of stilettoed women feeding each other steak. A pink sports bar in New York's Union Square hit every feminist's nerve when owner Ken Sturm told DNAinfo, "We did a softer design [because] we wanted to make it very inviting for women so that they don't feel like they're sitting a men's kind of club."

Last year, when The Bachelorette's Chris Bukowski opened the Bracket Room, a female-friendly sports bar in Arlington, Va., Washington City Paper reporter Jessica Sidman chided the bar and other similar restaurants, writing, "[S]mall plates and sexy décor? If this is what these restaurants believe women want, their target audience should be insulted."
Of course, its women who are building and opening these places, not men.  And the article points out that even restaurants that formerly promoted themselves as being female-oriented are dropping that from their publicity material.  Either its not paying, or they just want to avoid the publicity.
Either way, this does not add up to what feminists would like to see.  And its not hard to understand why.  Feminism won, they succeeded, they got what they were after.  They destroyed the glass ceiling, they smashed sexism in the culture, they've wiped out all kinds of barriers.  A strong feminist would say there's plenty of work to do but if they are honest, they'll admit there really isn't much left.
Compared to 1966 when NOW was founded, today is amazingly triumphant for the cause.
And when you succeed, people strangely feel no need to keep supporting the cause.  Once the airplane was designed and functional, people stopped trying to make airplanes.  Once Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball (officially, at least - he wasn't actually the first black player, but that's for a Common Knowledge post) there wasn't any need to keep pushing to get blacks in baseball.
The truth is, feminists got what they were after.  Even in bad economic times, women are doing well.  Women lost far fewer jobs and lost less earning power during the recession than men.  Women are accepted in pretty much every position and job they try for.  There are women on submarines these days in the Navy.
Feminism, at least as defined by the NOW crowd, is pretty much rejected by young women today.  They don't want any part of the "never shave, men are rapists, we are oppressed" outlook of the modern feminist.  They liked the "stop treating me like an idiot child and let me have that job" sort of feminist, but that's not what NOW offers.
Like most activist groups, NOW and other feminist organizations are casualties of their own success.  They did what they set out to do.  They succeeded.  They won.  And having won, now they have no purpose and are losing influence, power, and money.
But they also suffer what most organizations - especially activist ones - face.  Each successive generation of leadership tends to get more radical rather than less.  Unless the organization consciously and continuously strives to remain neutral or conservative, it becomes increasingly leftist over time.  This is an artifact of the very nature of activists.  People who are so driven and passionate about any one cause tend to be more emotionally driven and more radical by nature.  Over time that increases each step and eventually you end up with loons in charge.
The Sierra Club was founded to enjoy and protect beautiful areas, they were naturalists.  These days they're radical environmentalists.  Most large religious denominations face this as well, as more conservative and doctrinally-concerned leadership gives way to more "modern" and culturally-driven leadership and they lose their way.
So the organizations of feminism are facing success not with joy and triumph, but with greater wails of despair as they see (or invent) greater areas of horror and crisis.  And as they grow ever more radical, they get ever less influential and meaningful in the culture.
Most women today would call themselves feminist but they usually will qualify that with "but not like those feminists."  The only ones who cling to the "those feminist" sort are college sorts and the kind of radical men-haters that folks like Rush Limbaugh like to ridicule.
Congratulations ladies, you won.  You'd think you would be happier at losing membership and power; it means you did your job and can go home, like an army that beat their enemy.  Instead, you seem more miserable and determined to cling to power than ever.

Monday, June 02, 2014

THE FANTASY CODEX RELEASE PARTY

"Wow that's a lot of spells"

Almost eight years ago in 2006 I finished up work on a book for fantasy role playing called The Fantasy Codex.  It was a big book of spells and thoughts on making spells, running a game that has magic in it, and a system for a Game Master to use to handle magic in a game.  The rules bits were written for Fantasy Hero by Hero Games, but the contents could be used with any role playing game that had spells.
A few years later I finished the second volume with more spells in it, mostly for bad guys to use against the heroes, and published it.  The two volume set has sold a few dozen copies over the years, not exactly encouraging, but it was useful and people seemed to like it.
Well the Hero System underwent a version upgrade between those years and I wanted to do some redesign on the book.  I had all the hundreds of spells divided between "schools" of magic like Fire and War magic, which meant there was some repetition and the books were bigger than they had to be.
So I set about rebuilding the spells to the new edition, which has some new options and interesting possibilities I took advantage of.  And I redesigned the book for a better, more attractive layout, and streamlined both books into a single volume by removing repetition and changing the basic structure.
Instead of two books with over 500 pages total, its one book with about 350 pages.
Now its done and out on the shelf.  This is a bit narrow in its appeal - a book of spells for role playing games - but at least a few of my readers are gamers and I thought you might want to know.  Plus, why have a blog if you can't use it to promote yourself.
Front Cover


Back Cover
The e-book is already up for sale on the Hero Games website and at Lulu.com in print and in pdf format.  Here's the pitch:
Empower your Wizard! Almost a thousand new spells for your fantasy game, detailed and organized for use by GMs and Players alike. Designed for Fantasy Hero by Kestrel Arts, this collection of magic may be adapted for any fantasy setting.
Unlock spells like Grimstaff’s Grand Enhancement, Cinder Spray, Tornado, and Call Aether Spite! Learn magical spells from five different orders and seventeen magical schools! Summon not just elementals but a keep or siege weapons! Cast spells to baffle and confound your enemies! The Fantasy Codex is packed with unique and creative magic for your spell caster to learn and use... and for your GM to use against you.