Visit the Skeptics Guide to the Universe website and podcast:http://www.theskepticsguide.orgOn Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/theskepticsg…On Twitter:https://twitter.com/skepticsguideWatch Ep0 here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1X1F…Watch Ep1 here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUca2…Watch Ep2 here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?
It’s that time, time for a hiatus on scheduling posts until I’m back online on the 28th of this December, which would mark the tenth anniversary of this blog. So, posts going live from here until then will all be pre-scheduled.
I’ll continue to be active on blog maintenance and in responding to activity here from visitors to the site in the meantime.
I’ve lately seen a need to address my use of social media, including this blog, how I go about doing that. It would be nice to get more traffic on the site, but that’s a poor motivator, as I’ve health, physical as well as mental, to consider. Self-care takes precedence over page views.
The next few weeks and months will be busy as my family and our cats prepare to move out of the house in at least another year’s time. No details just yet until renovations are done and we get ready to sell the condo to move to a temporary place before our final residence out of state.
I’ll miss Virginia, where I’ve lived since 1974 at the age of ten, in short, most of my life. And I’ll miss the physical company of the IRL friends I leave behind, but I’ll continue to stay in online contact with all of you.
So, December 28 will see renewed post scheduling for the end of 2018, and for early 2019. I’ll be back, and I hope year’s end and the New Year see all of you in good health and high spirits, or at least better and higher ones given the terrifying shit-show of world news during the last three years.
Here’s to better times.
I’ll see you then!
Tf. Tk. Tts.
Vanakkam. With this installment I give you another sapient species, the Dalazinnu of Gods of Terra, the rulers of the Sodality, beings uplifted from alien animal stock by an extinct psionically aware branch of humanity known as the Kamuza. The Dalazinnu ur-species were pack predators native to the Kamuza homeworld possessing a bent for restricted cannibalism (restricted, otherwise they would quickly become extinct), and a strong sense of obedience and loyalty toward leadership in small groups. I’ve drawn as inspiration the official Traveller universe’s Major Race the Vargr, creating something out of a nightmare compared to the amicable and relatively benign if freebooting “Wolves of Space.”
Both species have difficulty in organizing in large groups, though the Dalazinnu come from uplifted big cat analogs, and have a nasty temperament. True social darwinists, and far exceeding even political Libertarians in this, Dalazinnu believe the strongest and most ruthless should rule. Pack leaders gain and keep their authority through force of arms, all four of them, and great big nasty teeth too!
Wait, WHAT?! Four arms?!
They’re based on a bilateral hexapod body structure, with two legs and two pairs of upper limbs, one with powerful muscles and thick, heavy claws, and above it a smaller, more delicate pair of arms meant for fine manipulation and weapon use. The lower, stronger pair of upper limbs is heavily padded and may be used as forelimbs in quadrupedal sprints while chasing prey.
Dalazinnu look roughly like a nightmarish cross between a bobcat and Tyrannosaurus rex, standing about 2.5 meters fully erect, with large tufted ears, patches of downy fur mixed with red scales, and three eyes, the central one a modification of a unitary gland in the forebrain. The tail is heavy, not very flexible, and used for balancing the body while standing or during sprints on either two or four limbs.
Dalazinnu are notoriously ill-tempered, and are psychologically unable to see aliens as anything other than enemies or slaves, having originated as slaves themselves before turning on their masters who bred them as soldiers. Dalazinnu are endothermic and have ravenous appetites, and will resort to eating captured enemies and slaves who disobey them. Dalazinnu have vision ranging into the near-infrared and acute hearing with a register threshold ranging into the ultrasonic. Their vocal output also ranges into the ultrasonic, and they have developed hearing aids for their slaves to better hear questions or commands when issued.
Dalazinnu have a range of genders along a spectrum, and can hormonally shift along that spectrum that as needs dictate when numbers are low. A group of roughly 2000 or more can easily serve as a sustainable breeding population on a newly conquered world.
The Dalazinnu have enslaved a species known as the Chadameer, who serve as their chief scientists, technicians, and go-betweens with aliens, due to the extreme levels of hostility Dalazinnu exhibit toward other species. A subpopulation of Chadameer with a tendency for recessive genetic traits also serves as telepaths, and are used as the chief interrogators and diplomats for other species.
You do not want to meet one of these things, much less a squad of them during combat operations, and the Sodality is known as a rogue state in the Local Galaxy. It is also effectively leaderless, due to the dominant species’ reluctance to organize on large scales. This is universally regarded as a Good Thing™, but the other powers of the Local Galaxy keep a close eye on the Sodality….
….Just in case!
Next week will see the second installment of Cruel Parodies, my SF critter design series, featuring a twisted, hideous mockery of the official Traveller universe’s freebooting wolves of space, the Vargr, and free of copyright violations. This Thanksgiving day, though, I, bring you a recent DeviantART upload, one of my best fractal transparencies to date, City of Quartz. Enjoy the holiday or whatever other event or festival(s) you celebrate this month, and I’ll see you next week!
Last evening’s Tamil language podcast listening was productive, and vastly more satisfying progress-wise once I got myself into the right headspace to immerse myself and process the dialogue and interviews.
Setup for that takes me about 15-20 minutes of quiet thought, and at the very least a full hour of immersion, whether to speak, read, write, or listen in any language I’m studying. I should work up to an entire day of immersion when family is away for extended periods.
There’s a bit of performance anxiety in that, stemming from previous study of both Japanese and Pilipino, the former in the early 90s and the latter just before the early 2000s.
Both taught me a lot, but in both cases I was not…well…at either time, and was to my eternal regret a bit of an idiot as a student even in my late 20s.
Without getting into personal details or drama, my experiences of both left me with a difficulty in switching between English and other languages quickly or in a public context, especially for interviews or social media posting, and dreading again making an idiot of myself as a learner, this time on the Internet for all to see.
There’s also a lack of patience on my part, as I must remind myself that even in formal study it takes several whole semesters for anybody to make progress at my age in any non-native language, even with an instructor and fellow students to interact with for feedback.
Hindi, Tamil, and Bangla are not easy languages to begin with, especially for non-native speakers like me!
All of my study to-date on the current languages, ALL of it, has been informal, but still marked by progress over time, even with my biases and impatience getting in the way of seeing that.
It helps to take, even in a passing moment of introspection, and actually immersing myself in the damn languages instead of whining, a long view, to see the forests of India’s Big Three languages over time for the trees of any given study period.
Maybe I’ll always be somewhat anxious about being the village idiot of students, but maybe too I can avoid that outcome, to keep up the long game toward what level of mastery I can achieve.
At my age, I’ll probably never reach native fluency in any of them, but that’s cool. I’m not trying to pass as a native speaker anyway, not perfect fluency, only to broaden my horizons and reduce my ignorance of the rest of humanity elsewhere in some small way, however imperfectly.
And d’you know what? I think that’s good enough.
Tf. Tk. Tts.
Earlier this week, Marvel Comics’ icon and movie cameo star Stan Lee passed away at the venerable age of 95. As a boy, I grew up on the publications that he and others at the Marvel bullpen had created. Yes, he wrote about superheroes, with or without powers, but deeply human, flawed, and believable ones, and he created universes one could discover in the magic of ink on paper. I would eagerly catch these worlds, ripe for discovery each month from the magazine racks of the local convenience store.
That was a time when comics books were “still only 45¢!” and filled with enough stories to tide me over till next month, stories of wonder, no, stories of marvel, pun intended because I own my puns, stories that showed what it’s like to be human in a vast universe of the strange and superhuman. Stories that taught us things about ourselves, stories with real lessons. Through it all, Marvel has always had a humanistic bent, that humans, ordinary humans, were somehow special, unique, a force for both good and evil that could shake the cosmos even without super powers or fancy hardware. Even when rubbing shoulders with aliens, mutants, cyborgs, and among many others, even the gods themselves.
So it’s here I’d like to posthumously thank Stan for inspiring us with heroes we could relate to, heroes we could for the space of a few pages of text and image, believe and delight in, share their adventures in their delightfully flawed, limited, sometimes broken but deeply entertaining humanity, even in those with sometimes mutated DNA, extra-dimensional origin, or advanced technology.
Stan, your work has inspired, and I think will continue to inspire, those of us who carry on.
I’ll close this post with a tweet I found:
I’ve given up on a few American skeptics, especially certain so-called thought leaders. I wash my tentacles of them. I’m much keener on most UK, continental European, Canadian, and other skeptics abroad. For the most part, as well as American skeptics I follow and am friends with on social media, they totally rock.
It makes perfect sense to me to focus on bad science, hoaxes, urban legends, pseudoscience, and claims that do real harm to people’s lives, education, and health.
But I see absolutely no sense and no real point in being “skeptical” of feminism, of anthropogenic global climate change, in “skepticism” of whatever the f*** “cultural Marxism” in academia is supposed to be, and the denial of the existence or validity of transgender and non-binary people.
That is not the skepticism I have come to know and love through such podcasts as The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, Monster Talk, Skeptics with a K, and The Reality Check.
I don’t dislike those on the political right, not over something as petty as differences of opinion. I feel that how we relate to and treat each other as human beings is more important than politics. But touting awful ideas, advocating already tested and failed policies as fair-minded and “controversial” is just giving the pseudo-skeptics, the far, far Right, the alt-Right, the armies of the night, and reactionaries who see skepticism as a threat, ready ammunition for their culture war.
I don’t even think it’s fair or necessarily true to many I know to use the phrase “right-wing” to label these ideas, as it’s more like “nut-wing” to me and at any extreme edge along a political compass.
Stop. Just stop. I don’t care about your political leanings. I don’t care how even-handed you’re trying to be. I’ve been down that road myself. The end result is that lending even token credence to terrible ideas feeds the illiberal enemies of a free state, and aiding those who would gleefully bring down organized skepticism and destroy the (((FREE SPEECH!!!))) you think you’re defending in trying to be edgy and calling yourselves (((THE INTELLECTUAL DARK WEB!!!)))
Not all ideas deserve equal time, and some ideas are terrible enough that once they have had their hearing and been found wanting, they should rightly be discarded in the wastebin of history, not to rear their ugly heads again.
But if there’s anything skeptics know, it’s that certain ideas are roundly debunked, only to rise zombie-like from the grave to walk the earth in later generations.
“Unsinkable rubber duckies.”
Guys, the culture warriors getting free press from you in magazines, blogs, vlogs, or podcasts, don’t really give a damn about free speech, except their own, and certainly not yours. And they’ll gladly bring you down along with every other hated enemy or useful idiot in their sights once they win the war.
After all, skepticism is not something one is. It’s a process to follow, a set of methods, of thinking tools, not an identity, not a set of claims or doctrines.
I think that those most vocally claiming to be skeptical of identity politics should be most wary, first and foremost, of their very own.