PRESENTING: A Blog-Based Magic Trick!

Today, ladies and gentlemen, I propose to do nothing less on my website than astound you with a feat of prestidigitation so incredible it will make you question what you truly know of the world around you. However, please let me assure you that what you are about to see does not involve congress with unholy spirits, nor a rewriting of the laws of space-time. No matter how it may seem, it is just a lark, a bit of entertainment, and may be enjoyed by virtuous citizens of firm reputation.

For the trick, you will need a deck of cards. Any standard poker deck will do, assuming it has all 52 regular cards (you won’t need the Jokers). Once you have the deck, please follow these steps.

1) Shuffle the deck as many times as you please. I suggest at least five good shuffles, but you can add to that as many as you like.

2) Deal the cards out into four equal piles of 13 cards each.

3) For each stack take the middle card — that is, the seventh card from the top — and gather those together to form a hand of four cards.

4) Place these four cards in a cross however you like and choose a number from 1 to 9. Add 7 to that number and then count off from the top card and going clockwise, one card per number.

5) The selected card is YOUR card. Hold it towards the screen for 20 seconds, concentrating on it.

Now, click the link below to see your card revealed!!


:o :o :o

I’ll now give you a few minutes to recover from that blown mind of yours.

So…how did I do it? Feel free to look over the steps above again, and perhaps you’ll figure it out. Keep in mind that it’s YOUR deck of cards, YOU shuffled it, YOU picked a number…I couldn’t possibly have known your card. And yet: I did!

Tomorrow I will reveal the secret behind the trick. If you figure it out before then, please don’t spoil it for others who are still trying to deduce it. And feel free to share this post with friends, so you can delight, amaze, and astound them as well!

Posted in Geek Stuff | Tagged

I Had That! #9: Battlestar Galactica Space Alert


Before Battlestar Galactica was a gritty, super-serious 9/11 analogy that you had to either love or not get, it was a jaunty network TV show intended to capitalize on the popularity of Star Wars, and it didn’t do a bad job of it. In fact, th show made its debut in 1978, the same year as the Star Wars Holiday Special, so one could argue that Galactica even had a bit of an advantage.

This was also the dawn of handheld electronic games. While “pong” devices and the Atari 2600 were popular, hand-held devices powered by 9-volt batteries were also everywhere. Mattel had the lock on this sort of thing, and Mattel Football was the king of this court. But the one for me was the Battlestar Galactica Space Alert!

It was rebranded from a Missile Attack game because apparently the “save New York City from destruction by enemy missiles” theme was felt to be something of a bummer. Now you were simply saving the remnants of a human civilization from outright destruction by an alien intelligence, and that was better. It was simple stuff: the Cylons would come down from above and you’d fire steerable torpedoes from the bottom. The “graphics” were little LED pips and it, like its brethren, made loud, awful noises you couldn’t turn off.

I had to have this thing, and I remember making my parents chase all around town looking for it. I was kind of a pain in the ass.

As you can imagine, this had limited play life. If we kids we smart we would have swapped these games around, getting fresh ones when we got tired of what we had. However, I do remember the discovery that the Cylons attacked in a definite pattern, and my resolve to get a perfect score. (You got a maximum of 6 points for killing a Cylon as soon as it appeared, and there were 20 attacking in total.) I remember literally closing myself up in a closet to concentrate on this task so as not to be distracted nor annoy the rest of my household with the shrill bleeping from the game. I don’t believe I ever succeeded and I imagine I quit when it got too hard.

When did I get it? Sources claim the game came out in 1978, same year as the show, which seems early to me. It was still hard to fin when I got it, so that probably would have been ’78 as well.

Do I still have it? No. It probably went the way that most of these games went, destroyed by a corroded battery after being neglected for a while.

Posted in Videogames | Tagged ,

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U Believin’ AWFUL

In the late 90s the world held its breath as it watched a dog try to become a rap star. That dog’s name was PaRappa the Rapper, and his quest for rap perfection captivated the imagination of everyone on the planet. I don’t think I need to tell you that he succeeded, or what the key to his success was.

PaRappa’s mantra of “I Gotta Believe!” propelled him to worldwide stardom and adoration, but what works for two-dimensional dogs might not work for everyone.

There’s an article in the latest New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell about the assault on the Branch Davidian “compound” by the ATF. Make no mistake, that event was a travesty, a nothing situation escalated out of control for no reason by a bunch of hyped-up lunatics, with tragic results. There is no justification for the ATF’s actions in that awful situation. But Gladwell’s article posits that the problem with the Bureau’s decision-making was that they thought they were dealing with a bunch of deluded, brainwashed kooks instead of devout believers.

Devout believers who sincerely thought that David Koresh was sent by God to usher in the Apocalypse while having a harem of spiritual wives.

I gotta say, I might be inclined to err on the same side as the ATF in that case.

Somewhere along the way we decided that when it comes to determining reality, genuine, sincere belief is good enough. That as long as you, in your heart of hearts, believe in something, then no force on Earth can or should try and move you otherwise. Belief is seen as something noble and sacred, inviolable and unimpeachable. How many people, including George W. Bush himself, have defended their position on the Iraq war by stating, simply enough, that they genuinely (it’s always either genuinely or solemnly) believed that Saddam Hussein had WMDs, as though having that belief relieved them of the responsibility of finding any actual evidence or being culpable in any wrongdoing. And who can forget Saint Reagan’s line regarding the Iran-Contra Scandal: “A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.” The facts and the evidence, like party crashers, were laying siege to his beliefs and his heart.

This week the concept of belief being just as good as reality is getting a big test. The crafts wizards at Hobby Lobby are appearing before the Supreme Court to argue that paying for contraceptives goes against their spiritual beliefs, as they sincerely believe that those contraceptives are abortifacients. Never mind that they demonstrably, factually, aren’t, it doesn’t matter because they sincerely believe they are. There’s no reason in a sane society that a doctor should say, “these are the facts of this medical matter” and a hobby store owner say, “yes, but I sincerely believe otherwise” and the result would be, “I guess we have to go to the Supreme Court, then, how else can we sort this out?”

There’s a term for someone who, despite constant naysaying and obstacles and the prevailing attitudes of the day, clings to what he knows for certain in his heart and strives to achieve a goal or maintain a belief that others find impossible or ridiculous: that term is “crazy person”. Sure, every now and then one changes the world, but for every one of those genuine visionaries there are millions of just plain deluded or ignorant fools, and we can’t coddle them all in the hopes that one of them turns out to be a Copernicus or Picasso or PaRappa. As physicist Robert Park so eloquently put it, “Alas, to wear the mantle of Galileo it is not enough that you be persecuted by an unkind establishment, you must also be right.” Sadly, today’s Galileo would be in a bind, as the only support he could muster for his theories would be simple observations, experiments, evidence, and facts, which is sadly insufficient in an America where sincere religious belief (and, let’s be honest, a pile of money; the Hobby Lobby guy is loaded) is valued above mere reality. After all, this is still the country where many of our elected leaders still maintain that the Earth was created 6000 years ago because to yield to the vast mountains of evidence to the contrary would make them feel less special.

It’s time to ditch this concept of “belief” as a bulletproof shield festooned with eagles and Jesuses. We’ve got to grow up and stop wanting to be told how special and full of possibility and potential we are and instead focus on actually doing something with that potential and possibility. We need to be sat down and told to believe in one hand and shit in the other and see which one fills up first. This kind of belief is unnecessary and crippling when it’s replacing something far more powerful and useful: actual knowledge.

Posted in Religion | Tagged

You Don’t Need a Handout From the Government, You Need Your Hands Up for the LORD

Please send this link to all your grandmothers and sisters-in-laws.

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I Had That! #8: Star Wars Hoth Gun Turret

This is the Gun Turret and Probot playset, part of Kenner’s enormous line of Star Wars toys. It was a medium-sized* set, mostly notable for the Probot (that’s what we called them then instead of “Androcorps XK-45 Long Range Surveillance Drone” or whatever the hell the West End Gamified name of this thing is) which was a super cool. This set got about the expected amount of play time, but that’s not what it’s here for. I only want to talk about the gun turret. Specifically, the base of the turret.

Once I got into Doctor Who I started up my own sort of Doctor Who fan-fiction. I didn’t write it (though I wrote a little), instead I acted it out with my Star Wars and other toys. I don’t remember a lot of what I did when I played Star Wars, but I remember a lot of the Doctor Who stuff. It wasn’t quite Doctor Who; the lead character wasn’t the Doctor but a human who had gotten hold of a larger-on-the-inside time machine with a peculiar outer shell that traveled through time and space and encountered enemies based on Doctor Who’s. The part of the TARDIS exterior was played by the gun turret base.

(The part of the Doctor stand-in, whose inexplicably oddball name was “R.C. Delomitt” and no, I have no idea what prompted that, was played by Bespin Han Solo, and that one in the photo is the very same Bespin Han Solo from lo those many years ago.)

When I got into computers later on a lot of my Star Wars toys went to my friend’s little brother, in exchange for disks full of pirated Commodore 64 games. The turret and Probot were, I guess, one of these trades, but I later wished I’d kept the turret piece.

In the mid-90s or so I went to Chicago Comic-Con (before it was Wizard World Chicago) and there was a guy selling old Kenner Star Wars toys. He had a box of miscellaneous pieces and in this box was the turret base. I started to cheer but then realized I was at a comic convention, where the dealers can smell desire and cash, so I tried to play it cool. “How much for this?” I asked as though I couldn’t care less about it. Naturally, nothing in the booth had a price tag on it, so he began to scan me to figure out just how high I’d be willing to go. Either I hid my eagerness well or he wasn’t too good at this because he let it go for something like three bucks. That turret is the one you see in the photo above.

When did I get it? It was released in 1981, and I probably got it then. By 1983, when Return of the Jedi came out, I wasn’t really getting Star Wars toys anymore. I got the replacement around 1998 or so.

Do I still have it? The replacement, yes. Not the original.

* — I say that, but I see it retailed for $16.99, which was about $45 in today’s dollars. Yowch. Had to be a birthday or Christmas gift.

Posted in Toys | Tagged

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I Gotta Step Up My Blog Game

Earlier today I clicked a link to a blog. Dude was talking about a movie he’d seen, some comics he’d read, stuff like that. My first thought was, “Wow, this looks very much like my own blog.” Second thought was, “Who cares?” and I closed the tab.

I appreciate any folks who read this junk, but I gotta do better than I’ve been doing.

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