Quick HTML reference for commenting

I’ve been asked to put up a short primer on how to properly format your comments so that you can take advantage of what HTML I’ve allowed. And I’m of course happy to oblige!

There’s a quick reference by clicking on the “allowed HTML” link right above the comment box. It gives you the following possible code:

<a href=”” title=””> <abbr title=””> <acronym title=””> <b> <blockquote cite=””> <cite> <code> <del datetime=””> <em> <i> <q cite=””> <strike> <strong>

To use a tag, enter it as shown. That starts the tag. Type whatever text you want, then close it with the slashed close tag as shown below. The parameters are optional, but some are necessary for the tag to be functional. They go only in the opening tag, not in the closing one. The quick reference shows what parameters are available for each tag, but doesn’t say whether they’re important or not. See below for what each tag does.
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Epic week of epicness

I have had just about zero time to blog all weekend. And what spare time I did have, I spent instead with my beloved wife. Now that beloved wife has gone to bed, and I can sleep in slightly more than usual tomorrow (plus I had a nap this afternoon), I should really get back to flexing my writing muscle. Use it or lose it, they say. Whoever they are, they’re probably right. And anyway, I don’t want to alienate you, my loyal readers. (Whom I can probably name, and count on one hand.)

Moved Mark and Sara into their beautiful new home today, which is a stone’s throw from ours. No, literally. Just a sec, let me prove it. … On second thought, that stone came a little close to a window, let’s not try that again. They have an absolutely gorgeous enclosed outdoor space with a watertight sunroom / greenhouse thingie — a screened in area that would allow them to enjoy the outdoors without all the outdoorsy things like bugs and such. And they have a sunroof in the kitchen. I’m muy jealous. A major advantage to our co-marriage-ers moving so close, is that Jodi can now carpool to work with Sara, saving us on the literal tripling-up on the amount of driving I have to do daily. Jodi’s work is about the same distance from our house as mine is, only in the exact opposite direction, so dropping her off in the mornings entailed driving her out to the vineyard then backtracking to my office. It sucks for Sara that she’s moved so much further from her work (she was almost within walking distance before the move!), but it benefits us, so I’m not going to complain.

We also got a bunch of work done on the house that we’ve been putting off. Mowed the lawn for the first time in three weeks, after the lot owners passed out flyers to the houses with the longest grass saying “mow or we’ll do it for you and send you the bill”. Good motivation to do it. Well, for most people… it just stuck in my craw, making me want to put off mowing another day in defiance. I did it anyway though. What a rebel, huh?

We also got a pressure washer and cleaned off the algae from the house siding, which I’m guessing has been building up since the house was built almost four years ago. The previous owners were not much for maintaining this place, evidently, between the sudden discovery of the wholly un-caulked back sill and the previous mold problem they spot-repaired, and the air exchanger that we cleaned last week, where there was so much gunk built up that it was preventing any air at all from getting exchanged. That exchanger is supposed to be serviced quarterly, but I’m guessing the previous owners had never done it, ever, judging by the filth and dead insects that caked the filters. Now that they’re all clean, it’s amazing just how obvious it is that it hasn’t worked since we moved in. We really should have looked at it sooner, I guess.

Three big moves have happened over the past week. Mark and Sara, as I just mentioned; Stilgar got moved into his finally-completed cage, which I mentioned when it happened; and we moved Jen and Opal out into their new apartment on Wednesday, so we’ve finally got the house to ourselves. I won’t be ashamed about saying it — there has been pantslessness in rooms that have not seen pantslessness in almost a year. Plus I can shower in the master bathroom now, which has a tub, as opposed to the stand-up shower in the ensuite that I’m just evidently far too gangly to manage showering in without banging elbows and such. Not even with a year of practice.

Now, a blogospherics rant below the fold. Skip it if you don’t care.
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Why prayer is nonsense – part 4

3 – But everyone knows prayer works!

This is part 4 in a series of posts on prayer. Please use the links at the top and bottom of each post to navigate through the parts. The master post is here.

even if it IS useless, what’s the harm?

Despite the evidence that most types of prayer do absolutely nothing, there are still large sections of society that employ and thus validate prayer as a worthwhile action, especially in times of desperation. Some employ it while in direct danger or out of utter helplessness, some employ it for shallow political purposes, and some genuinely believe that doing so intensely enough or in large enough quantities will actually convince their omniscient, all-powerful deity to change his course. As I’ve discussed earlier, the various qualities you apply to your deity, specifically, will flavour how you go about praying and under what circumstances. But what doesn’t appear to vary at all, is how people perceive this so-called “harmless” act. This section of my series on prayer will demonstrate that the baseline for the potential harm of prayer is anywhere on the scale but “wholly harmless”. Prayer is capable of real and tangible harm, as long as you understand that it’s not the praying itself that directly causes this harm.
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Jack Van Impe had a strange definition of hope

Have been tinkering with two servers for work this evening, sidetracking me from Part 4 of my prayer series. I was really hoping to get it out the door tonight before I ran out of steam. No way that’s happening now though. It’s almost 2 am! To keep my blog compliant with the CRTC-required quotas for blasphemy and lulz, I’ll have to lean on Everything Is Terrible once more.

Mark of the Beast from Everything Is Terrible! on Vimeo.

What a prick!

People wonder why I try to suck the joy out of life by destroying their deeply held beliefs when they are otherwise harmless. Then I point to stories like this one and those people generally shut up.

Three men, imprisoned in Vietnam since 2002 for gang-raping an 18-year-old girl, were released after an acupuncturist examined them and made some wholly unscientific claims that apparently nobody was around to debunk.

Pham Thi Hong, an acupuncturist at the national traditional medicine hospital, said prison officials had sent one of the men to her for treatment in 2006.

She said examination of a pressure point beneath the convict’s ear showed a small capillary was unbroken, which Vietnamese traditional medicine holds to mean that he was a virgin. Hong then examined the other two men.

“I recognised these three men had never had sex with women,” Hong said.

How a capillary in your ear could be broken via sexual intercourse, but not rubbing one out or even just having a wet dream, I’ll never know. No idea whether this is because of his training as an acupuncturist (which has no scientific validity outside of the endorphin rush that comes of small amounts of pain), or his training as a “traditional medicine” (read: witch) doctor. Either way, the capillary idea is fucking nonsense and three probable gang rapists are free because nobody said so. Whether there were legitimate issues in the original investigation or not, the presence of an unburst blood vessel that nobody has ever even linked properly with virginity is no grounds for reopening it. Present some real goddamn evidence before you question the investigation, is that so hard?

But “what’s the harm” from believing silly pseudoscience?

I gotta go punch something now.

Geek Pride, Towel Day, Glorious 25th of May

Three geeky celebrations happen to fall on the same day totally coincidentally. May 25th was chosen as Towel Day, celebrating the life and works of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams, two weeks after Adams’ death in 2001. Geek/Nerd Pride Day has been celebrated since 2006 on the anniversary of the premiere of Star Wars in theatres in 1977. Terry Pratchett fans can also celebrate today as the Glorious 25th of May, wearing lilacs and hard-boiling an egg in honor of an important date in Discworld’s history; when Pratchett announced that he had a rare form of Alzheimer’s in 2008, fans brought the celebration into real life to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s research.

I have a towel at work with me today. And I will be unabashedly geeky in both posting this and in explaining the provenance of today to anyone who asks about the towel. I have a few words to say about geekiness in general though. Specifically, while a perfect world would include tolerance for the kinds of specialized knowledge that generally gets you teased in grade school, the social awkwardness that often accompanies this specialized knowledge, unless you’re talking specifically about high-functioning Asperger syndrome, is not necessarily married to that specialized knowledge. Often social awkwardness is coupled with this specialized knowledge because exhibiting any kind of knowledge is grossly discouraged in grade school in an attempt by your peers to breed conformity.

Granted, having a thorough understanding of the interconnected Spider-Man chronologies and an encyclopaedic knowledge of his rogues’ gallery is of limited utility at best, but this drive to enforce conformity by my peers probably resulted in the specific neuroses I have today. If you’re from my distant past and you’re reading this, I am what I am today because you tried to make me like you, and I resisted.

Would there be fewer “nerds” and maladjusted social pariahs without this pressure for conformity? I think so. Certainly it wouldn’t eliminate such social ineptness altogether. But there would be less shame in this world over knowing every word to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, or knowing every statistic of every team from the 1985 NHL season, or being able to crochet any three-dimensional object just by looking at it, or being a writer for Lost. They may not be USEFUL talents, but they are talents nonetheless.

Take your towel with you today. Do something nerdy. And explain proudly, not meekly, when someone asks you about it.

We like the moon, but it won’t always be close to us

Sit still for a moment. You’re still moving! I mean perfectly still. Don’t move at all.

Having trouble complying? That’s probably because, without launching yourself off this planet, you can’t. The planet you presently call home (unless someone puts this blog post in a time capsule or launches it out into space for other civilizations to discover and translate), is spinning right now. That’s what gives us the day/night cycle, as our fixed location relative to the Earth turns away from, then toward, our sun, Sol. If you were to float above the equator for an hour, you’d get to see roughly 1600km pass below you. Earth in turn is whipping around Sol at a rate of roughly 108,000km/h. And the sun isn’t exactly still either! It’s rotating in turn around the galactic centre point at a rate of roughly 220km/s — a second. That’s 792,000km/h.
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