On Illness and the Eternal Wheel of Law & Order

On Christmas I fell deathly ill and have been incapacitated (destroyed would be the better word) ever since. Only just today have I had the energy and wherewithal to go back on the internet since. Sadly my disease infected my dinner guests, too. (Sorry about that.) One of the only things my wife and I could do this whole week (so incapacitated we were by coughing, nausea, and fatigue) was watch TV and lie desperately still while experimenting with meds to get the coughing fits to stop (Benadryl eventually did it for me, i.e. diphenhydramine, but it leaves me dizzy, floaty, and dead inside, so it’s almost as bad as the disease…but dead inside at least works for sleeping).

Today is the first day since Christmas that I’ve had any energy or ability to get online again. So I’m clearing my much-delayed comments queue today, most without reply.

I rarely get ill. But when I do, it’s usually bad. It has literally been years since the last time I was so ill, though, that I couldn’t even do anything. Even for a day. Much less over a week. So this is the first time in years I discovered that you can watch episodes of Law & Order: This or That literally 24-7 if you have a large enough channel array on your cable service. An endless wheel of Law & Order. Anytime. Whether it’s Law & Order “Classic” or SVU or CI. When one marathon or syndication block ends, it’ll be starting up again on some other channel, rest assured.

Jen and I like the show so it was a tolerable thing to watch endlessly, especially as it’s mostly sad or serious and mostly not comedy (laughing is the worst thing when you are trying to suppress your horrible fits of coughing…as I found out when Jen and I started sharing jokes about the commercials and it didn’t go well for either of us, which became a joke between us all on its own…”oh no, don’t start that again…!”).

Though I did notice Sam Waterston’s character is apparently so beloved now that no one shows the eps before his tenure anymore, back when Michael Moriarty played the ADA. And yet I miss those. Channels kept shilling the Waterston eps in commercials as the “first” Law & Order and I felt that was kind of rude. As if the original series didn’t even exist. You know. Back when they had a black man as the assistant prosecutor? Golly, remember that? I liked Richard Brooks’s character. And does anyone even remember Chris Noth’s first partner was played by George Dzundza? Then Paul Sorvino? Before Orbach stepped in and became the mainstay wisecracking partner for ages and ages? (Far outlasting Noth.)

Not that there weren’t great characters and episodes all the way through L&O’s 20 season run, SVU’s (now) 15 seasons, and CI’s ten. But sometimes I get nostalgic for when it all began. And being stuck at home in the middle of a workday staring at a thousand channels and an endless wheel of Law & Order, it just seemed strange not to get a chance to see them again. As if they are now forgotten.

Support My Work with Your Christmas Shopping!

My FaceBook personal photo, me in glasses and shaggy hair and nice white collared short smiling while facing 30 degrees to the left of toward the viewer.Want to send me some dosh in appreciation for my independent scholarship and speaking and blogging, without actually spending any extra dosh at all? This is how…

When you do your Christmas or Solstice or other holiday shopping this season, you can buy gifts for people (friends, family…yourself!), or spend your own Amazon gift cards or credits after the holiday ends, by using the Richard Carrier Recommends Amazon Store. Not only can you buy stuff I’ve put in that store (lots of my own favorite or recommended stuff in several categories, from books to videos), but you’ll notice on the right margin you can buy other stuff as well (maybe from your own wishlist, if you’ve logged in to Amazon beforehand). The prices are all the same for you, but I get a small commission on every sale through there. So you basically end up getting Amazon to support my work, by using my recommendations to inspire you to give them your business.

You can also, of course, support me by just buying my books (that’s a special page just for them that includes audio and electronic editions), and now also any of my amusements or games (only one game for now, but another is on the way, though not in time for the holidays), and I get a cut equal to my share of pageviews out of all my fellow bloggers from what you pay to subscribe to FreethoughtBlogs (that subscription also lets you view our entire website without ads).

When I spoke to a few people at Skepticon this year they were often surprised to learn that I don’t make very much selling my books or blogging or speaking. Anyone who knows the industry, of course, knows no one makes any appreciable money blogging. My books, as obscure nonfiction, will never make Stephen King money (or even Richard Dawkins money). And I keep my speaking fees low as a way to help the movement, so more groups can afford to bring me in to speak or debate. When all my income is added up, and taxes and expenses are subtracted, I only take home about $15,000 a year. I could just barely live on that, with extreme “starving artist” frugality. But I live with an awesome woman who earns considerably more, so I’m not living like a starving artist. I gladly operate as her domestic manservant to earn my keep at home, in addition to my cash income paying our mortgage (and property taxes & insurance to boot).

But the more money I can bring in, the more it’s appreciated by both of us, and the more it keeps me going doing what I do. Because it shows I’m having an impact and my work is appreciated and valued. The advantage of being an independent scholar is that I do not have to fear the threat or meddling of any academic institution and don’t have to kowtow to their expectations or exhaust enormous amounts of time on endless committee work and other things they bury profs under. The disadvantage is that I have to cobble together my income from disparate sources. One of which is passing the hat to everyone who wants to show their appreciation for what I do, like any street busker would. You can of course just send me money (through PayPal at rcarrier@infidels.org) just to show me you value what I do.

But buying gifts for Christmas through my Amazon store is just one more way to do that that costs you nothing extra at all. So keep that in mind for this holiday season!

What Is Stellar War?

Snippet of the Stellar War sales page banner from GameCrafter, showing the title of Richard Carrier's game against a background of a NASA image of stars in a nebula. Some card faces are shown, including a Secret Agent card and a Fighter Attack card.Answer: a card game I invented in high school. (That’s back in the 1980s, for those who never noticed my birth year in Facebook.) I created it by hand with tape and cutouts and a photocopier using paper-card stock. My friends and family played it for years.

Why mention it now? Well, because now you can buy it. And it’s not just tape and cutouts and photocopied card-paper anymore. It’s an almost professional quality game set now, thanks to GameCrafter, essentially the “CreateSpace” of card and board game publishing (design-by-web-interface, publish-on-demand). If you want to check it out, then see the sales page for my now-resurrected childhood card game Stellar War.

Photo of hand-crafted pale wooden box containing Brother Sam's table game Superstructure, the Superstructure logo in red across the top.Why do this now? Well, because I was inspired by Brother Sam Singleton. Or as many know him, game designer (and jack of many other trades) Roger Scott Jackson (his pals call him RoSco). He designed a game back around the same time I did, called Superstructure, and he just recently resurrected it, with the help of his wife Cari. His IndieGogo funding campaign went off well (it even got a story in the Charleston Gazette). RoSco made a YouTube video about the project and now you can buy a hand-made reproduction of the complete game (at BestGameBuilt…note the amusing headline there).

This made me think, “Hmm. Technology has changed a lot since then. Maybe they have PODs for games now?” So I looked around and discovered GameCrafter, which I can now say (having completed one whole project with them) is a really excellent company as far as its online design and accounts interface. Its product is just a touch below professional corporate game manufacture (which is still far better than tape and cutouts and card-paper), and its pricing is high, but that’s unavoidable because this is one-off manufacturing (if you pay them to build just one box set for you, then you are going to have to pay a lot more than if you bought a thousand units at bulk wholesale price).

You can buy a Stellar War box-set set for fifty dollars. The price would be nearly half that (which is honestly more like what it’s worth) if I did a full production run of five hundred units and ran my own distribution network, but I’ll never sell enough of them to justify that, so I’ve made it available for die hard fans and table-game geeks like me who won’t mind dropping fifty bucks on a unique and entertaining bit of Richard Carrier’s creative past–and to enjoy a fun game your friends are unlikely to have even heard of!

A photo of Richard Carrier's card-game Stellar War in mid-play. Several decks of cards, a die, and cards upright on the table showing space frigates and dreadnaughts and missile attacks and lunar space stations and chain reactions and all manner of whatnot positioned around a table.Though I invented Stellar War in the 1980s, in 1998 I revised it slightly in order to pitch it to a major game company, which finally passed on the project because it did not fit the then-growing trend in tradeable card games. Other than that I’ve only had my hand-crafted mock-up set ever since the 80s (even a hand-made card-paper box–I built three or four complete sets for myself, friends, and family). With modern computer tech I redesigned all the cards and rulebook to look smart and professional. But I kept all my original hand-drawn graphic art. So as you play, you are staring at spaceships and commando helmets and lightning bolts that I drew by hand as a teenager…nearly thirty years ago.

You can learn all about the game, and see shots of the game in play, and, if you feel so inclined, buy one for yourself (or as a Christmas gift for a friend!) at GameCrafter.

I have another amusing game in the works at GameCrafter now–History or Hogswallop!?–which I invented just a few years ago to teach historical methods to kids and teens at Camp Quest West (it has consequently been very well playtested). So stay tuned for that!

Sense and Goodness on Kindle for Three Bucks!

Image from Amazon of the cover of Sense and Goodness without God, kindle edition.Amazon is running a special on my critically acclaimed book Sense and Goodness without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism for kindle. I don’t know how long this special price will last. But it’s something worth taking advantage of. Just three dollars (and three cents). That’s an 88% discount off the print edition list price. Check it out!

And now I’m off to Sacramento for Freethought Day…

Now You Can Wear Even More Bayes’ Theorem!

Picture of the Odds Form Bayesian mug (white mug with artsy black text) offered at Richard Carrier's Marvelous Amusements shop at Cafe Press.Did you say Odds Form? Shirt? Car Flag? Panties? Hell yeah.

I just finished loading my old Cafe Press store with tons of different shirts and other odds and ends featuring my Bayesian graphic, which uses imaginative rather than standard mathematical notation (as I reported last week, you can get jewelry with it from SurlyRamics).

I also duplicated most items with a cool graphic design of the Odds Form of Bayes’ Theorem (in standard mathematical notation, but artful font). Because a lot of people are fans of the Odds Form. No joke…it has actual vocal fans. It’s also the form I use to run the math in my upcoming book On the Historicity of Jesus. If you want to know what the difference is and what the Odds Form equation means and how to use it, see Proving History (index, “Bayes’ Theorem, Odds Form”). Like with the other graphic (as I explained last week), you have to assume b (background knowledge) is in the givens of every term (a common assumption mathematicians allow).

Picture of women's cap-T shirt with Odds Form Bayesian graphic across the chest. White shirt with black shoulders and neckline.Above right is a pic of the Odds Form mug I’m selling. It actually looks pretty awesome. Likewise the women’s Cap-T (below right).

To check out the full range of products, and help support my work by buying some, visit Richard Carrier’s Marvelous Amusements. Note that many items actually have color options at the purchasing page (so it’s not just all black or white). If you have ideas for other products I could develop and offer there, feel free to recommend them in comments here. Just note that I’m limited by the stock and capabilities of Cafe Press.

I have also included some Solon’s Commandments materials, as some fans requested I do many months ago, after I wrote about them in That Christian Nation Nonsense (Gods Bless Our Pagan Nation). Cafe Press doesn’t offer the option of an inscribed plastic plate, so you would have to get the mini-poster and put it in a hard plastic casement or sheath from a local office supply store–or else buy the expensive framed print option (although that does look quite nice). Junior high and high school students who feel like living dangerously can even bring a Solon’s Commandments lunch bag to school.

Want to Literally Wear Bayes’ Theorem?

Picture of the Bayesian SurlyRamic: shows Bayes' Theorem, graphically arranged in an attractive way, black text in haly of white on black ceramic circle.Surly Amy has kindly met my request to create a SurlyRamic of Bayes’ Theorem. I designed the graphic for her, and she has made the product. You can check it out here, and buy one if you are keen. In the interests of art (to make it look elegant and not a busy mess), I took two liberties: I didn’t put the two expressions in the denominator inside brackets, but just stacked them on either side of a plus sign to indicate that (obviously) the multiplications have to be completed before the addition. I also left out the variable b for background knowledge, though that is commonly done even by mathematicians. You should understand that it’s present in every single term (see my Bayesian Calculator for an explanation of this and the rest of the equation). For example, P(h|e) represents P(h|e & b) and P(h) represents P(h|b), and so on.

Now we can totally geek out the Bayesians.

I’m Auctioning a Piece of My History at Sacramento’s Freethought Day Festival!

This October 12 (Saturday 2013) I’ll be at the ever-growing and amazing Sacramento Freethought Day at William Land Park. I will also be attending the donor’s reception the night before. And doing a panel. And the day of the festival they’ll be auctioning off a piece of unusual Richard Carrier memorabilia.

Here are the details… [Read more…]

I’ll Be at the Atheist Film Festival This Weekend

I believe there are still tickets available for attending this Friday’s director’s party as well (which I will also be attending, among other folk many might like to meet or chat with). All the details here. The festival itself will be all this Saturday. I’ll be hanging out for most of it. I’ll probably head home after the premiere of Hug an Atheist, which I donated a small amount to fund and have been looking forward to for some time. If you bring any books you want me to sign while I’m there, I’ll be happy to oblige.

Thank You for So Many Books

Some people who like my work occasionally buy things for me from my Amazon wishlist. The package I get often doesn’t say who sent them or how to reach them. So I’d like to extend an open thanks to everyone who has done that over the years. What especially prompted me to say something today is that I received one such package last week, amidst controversial blogging and an exhausting home renovation project (Jen and I finally did something with our bedroom, which had looked like a moldy, stained, style-less, colorless disaster area since we moved in…you know, as for example, the previous owners had strange ideas about what was an acceptable “repair” to holes in the ceiling or wall…anyway, all sorted; its a beautiful and functional room again).

This time the package I received was filled with some of the more expensive items on my list, and a lot of them. Someone was extraordinarily generous, and I am very grateful. Thank you! Some of the items will help me with my next books (my books on ancient science have been at an academic publisher in search of peer reviewers for ages), some will give me an excuse to learn a little more about Islam (maybe next year), and one in particular is the two volume set by Keener that desperately tries to insist miracles are real, which I may find time later this year to read and review on my blog (since that’s kind of one of my long standing specialties).

Now back to work.

Two More New Bloggers

We have two more new awesome bloggers at Freethought Blogs. Kate Donovan (of the US) joined us in July, and now Alex Gabriel (of the UK) joins us this August.

Kate is blogging here at Gruntled & Hinged (“A Blog about Madness and Mental Health by Your Incorrigibly Optimistic Narrator, Who Is Neither Disgruntled Nor Unhinged”). As she describes herself…

Kate Donovan's Gravatar pic. Illustrates her best snark face.Kate is a psychology student at Northwestern University who runs on coffee and snark. At some point she’d like to make people sit on couches and tell her about their feelings, but right now she writes on the internet and makes silly faces when she doesn’t know what to say. An incorrigible optimist, she likes to knit, juggle, and will devour any book in reach.

In Which Our Narrator Strikes Out on Her Own is her inaugural post. If you missed it, check it out to get even better introduced. She’s been blogging cool things about psychology and mental health from an atheist and skeptical perspective.

Alex is now blogging here at Godlessness in Theory (“Queer Left Politics, Pop Culture and Skepticism”). As he describes himself…

Alex Gabriel's Gravatar pic. In which he looks curious, whimsical, and ready to warrior his keyboard.Alex Gabriel is a twentysomething British graduate. He writes from a theoretical perspective on religion and how to leave it, popular rhetoric and political dissent, secular, nerd and LGBT cultures, sexuality and gender or whatever else crosses his mind. His main pursuit is blending frameworks of secularity and social justice – more than just intersecting actions, he yearns for synthetic secular thought. When not putting sacred cows to slaughter or training with the PC brigade, he can usually be found somewhere online.

Secular Synthesis and Why We Need It – or, Hello Freethought Blogs is his inaugural post. Definitely check it out to get even better introduced. He blogs insightful, thoughtful, and detailed things about politics and culture from an atheist and skeptical perspective. And as he says, “I’m 22, secular, British, poly, queer, tall, ex-Christian, left wing and long-winded, a nerd, a graduate and a keyboard warrior.” Indeed. He’ll fit right in.

Enjoy the juggernaut!