Gods of Terra | I. Brekka-Yuu

I. Brekka-Yuu stood outside the pub’s entryway, arms with ropy muscles folded across his chest like those of a genie in a cheesy fantasy movie, a dour expression on his heavily boned face as the queue formed for Happy Hour and the opening night of a new local band.

The crowded streets were filled with human riffraff of all sorts, as is typical for such seedy collections of the Small Folk, Earthlings, H. sapiens. There were bionically enhanced youth, outcasts from mainstream worlds, obviously unsuited to this world’s gravitational pull.

You see, Mr. Brekka-Yuu stood slightly over four meters tall, and was built to support every centimeter of it effortlessly even in this gravity. Mr. Brekka-Yuu was a member of species Megathropus gigantaeus, a Mokthraga from the planet Tokmolos, and he was this fine drinking establishment’s bouncer and chief of security.

And yes, his first initial and surname sound almost exactly like a tastelessly insulting stereotyped Italian accent, as in “I. Brekka-Yuu face,” “I. Brekka-Yuu arms,” and “I. Brekka-Yuu in half.” So while the humans sniggered at this when he wasn’t there, they were smart enough not to mess with him, which made the owners of the pub very happy. You don’t want to be hit with fists bigger than your head hardened with titanium-laced knuckle bones.

Mr. Brekka-Yuu noticed that the queue had gotten longer than expected, which meant that some prospective customers would have to be denied entry. For there would be no more standing room in front of the stage after this lot.

He frowned even more, bony brow ridges prominent, as his eyes caught a glint of metal from the fingerless-gloved hand of the young and punkish-looking “gentleman” before him. Hmmmm, retractable hand razors built into the fingertips, and osmium- tipped. There could be trouble, he thought, but nothing he couldn’t handle. The pub had a strict “no weapons” policy, so he fixed his gaze, looking the man squarely in the eyes, and shook his head disapprovingly. The human was smart, this one. He almost reacted the wrong way, but thought twice and looked away while stepping out of the queue and leaving quietly.

It would be another typical night at Brogg’s Place.

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In Case This is It…Maybe, Maybe Not…One Can Hope.

Well, the suicidal election of #45 has come to this. Our president is off his rocker, or maybe high-chair. He’s just gotten into a pissing contest with Jong Un, and the two infantile national leaders just might do us all in in their mutual rage.

So, whether this is resolved sanely and safely by adults, or results in any of a number of other more or less pleasant outcomes, I’ll offer my thoughts on a worst-case such outcome, and why it doesn’t really bother me as much as it might:

I live in the home town of the largest US Naval installation on the East Coast. As such, it’s part of a designated nuclear strike zone in Hampton Roads, Virginia.

So dying in a nuclear holocaust seems pointless, but kind of abstract for me, so I’m rather stoic about it. Am I afraid? Yes, of course. But I don’t see how it helps, so I don’t let it bother me. Not for this. That’s because if and when the end comes, no evacuation will be possible in the time available, So I see no reason at all to worry about it, as worry would adversely affect my mental health, and so spoil the existential quality of what few minutes might remain of life.

Certainly, it would be a waste, would be pointless to die that way. but I see no reason that life must have a point outside of our own autonomy, that point, that meaning which we give it of our own choice, our own making.

But, the end will be swift and relatively painless due to my proximity to the base. Once the flash lights the sky up, that will be it for me, and I shall cease to exist.

The real tragedy would be the lives of the survivors elsewhere, who lose friends, family, loved ones in the targeted zones. They are the ones who must pick up the pieces of their shattered world, mourning the deaths of those they loved and moving on. Or at worst, lingering on in life while slowly, painfully dying, whether in the will to live and rebuild, or from the global consequences of a massive nuclear exchange on the human physical makeup.

I’m hoping that’s less likely than it may immediately seem with the current news cycle, but it’s the outcome for the survivors elsewhere that I think of whenever this comes up.

My life has meaning to me, meaning which I give it, not the authority of ancient texts of stories and Iron Age ritual purity laws. Stories can be very compelling to us humans as storytelling animals, but stories alone are not proof of anything real.

And that meaning will remain, along with my enjoyment of simply being alive, right up until the sky lights up.

So If you survive and you knew me, mourn not. My life is simply that – mine and no one else’s. Mourn instead for those others who live and must survive in a shattered world knowing the loss of those they knew and loved.

If you are among the survivors should the worst come to pass, then be brave. Move on. Do your best to rebuild what incompetents and lunatics have destroyed. You are still here, and in a way, lucky. Maybe, just maybe, you can change the world while rebuilding it. And make it a better world than the one that was lost.

A Few Things I’ve Learned from 3 Years of Skeptical Blogging

It’s been a few days past three years since I began posting on this site, and in terms of blogging principles, writing style, the tone of my ‘voice’ and my skepticism, there are some valuable lessons I’ve learned, and I expect, with more to follow from both prior experience and in future experiences in posting on this site.

Here are a few:

  • Avoid perfectionism. Rather than attempting to seek perfection, which is conceptually questionable in the first place, as well as a road to inevitable failure, seek instead to asymptotically strive for perfectibility, always strive for improvement, as there is plenty of room for it in any enterprise.
  • Rational justification permitting, allow for the questioning of every source of information, even other skeptics and especially scientists, who are, after all, only human and have finite reliability even in their own field of expertise.
  • Do not dehumanize believers. Avoid gratuitous cruelty in critiquing individuals and unfair blanket generalizations of believers. There’s a surprising amount of variation in any demographic, including members of paradigmatic and ideological subgroups.
  • Restrict the most pointed attacks to ideas, actions, and claims, and strive to keep personal critiques fair and honest, though perhaps a bit blunt. I don’t need to give those critiqued a valid reason to accuse me of libel or slander, however often that sentiment is not shared by some of the more irate, easily enraged and unstable proponents and believers.
  • Avoid unnecessary snark when addressing individuals in personal comment responses, especially trolls, since being attention-whores, that’s what they want in the first place. Offer it only if the situation truly warrants it. If I’m going to be a d*ck, I should be the best possible at the time.
  • Avoid undue reverence for and unrealistic enthusiasm about skeptics and skepticism in general. It makes no sense to think of and de facto treat others as saints when one does not believe in saints. Other skeptics are simply both teachers and learners, sometimes both at once, not impossibly epic intellectual Brobdingnagians to be held in rapturous awe.
  • Strive for the most realistic, fair, accurate, and clear conceptions of science, atheism, and skepticism one may harbor. Avoid naivete in what they are and how they work, the better to avert cognitive dissonance in the here and now. The truth is more important than wishes or personal feelings of how these things ought to be, and recognizing this fact greatly reduces if not eliminates disappointment and possible disillusionment. The truth is also much more interesting.
  • As a skeptic, I do not have all the answers, I cannot have all the answers, and I know that I don’t have to. It is permissible for me to say, “I don’t know. I have no independent access to the events you’ve described in your anecdote, and so can’t explain it without enough data to go by. I remain skeptical of your claim until that changes.”
  • Saying the previous does not strengthen the case for anything paranormal or otherwise out-of-this-world. Such things are often unexplained because of a mere lack of sufficient data, not because they’re magic.

I’m fairly certain that this is not an exhaustive list, and likely I’ll be following it up with other posts in a similar vein in future.

To me, allegedly necessary rather than contingent statements about reality tend to be problematic anyway, so I try to avoid them:

No principle should be held dogmatically when keeping open one’s provisional understanding of matters of fact, for it causes one’s grasp on reality and intellectual honesty to fail disastrously, giving rise to the fallacy of thinking that what is true must be dependent on faith, or on a misconstrual of personal experience, the one being a core principle in many organized religions, and the other the seed of nascent pseudoscience.

A Question of Remembrance – 3 Months Hence

It’s been three months since the passing of my devoted friend and companion for over a decade, not just a pet, but a piece of my heart given the shape of a cat, a blue-point Himalayan female named Sammy.

Three months…and it still hurts just as much now as it did then when she went to sleep in my lap, the last thing she remembered being me.

This is a good thing, the pain is good.

And it’s something I hope never goes away, for it shows I still care.

It shows that unlike my online alter-ego and other characters I’ve imagined, I’m human, and being human is good.

Sure, the pain is still there, it never dulls, but it gets more bearable with time.

I’ve posted a couple of entries about her (Here) and (Here) before, but it’s like no time at all has passed between now and then.

I miss her.

At least she can’t miss me, that’s some comfort…

That, and the fact that she still lives…not in some imaginary afterlife in somebody’s mythological version of Heaven, not in some fairy-tale Paradise beyond the material world, but in the minds and hearts of those who knew her, who remember her, beautiful to the very end.

I wish that she would continue in some Other Realm, but I have no reason to believe in such a place, and I won’t confuse that wish, my hopes, with fact. I have no need to dress up Reality with anything supernatural, no need to supplement what is with what I want to be. That would be a fool’s errand, and I would rather stare the world in the face as it is than look at it with the rose-colored glasses of feckless naivete and delusion.

As long as one person on Earth remains alive to remember her, she will never die, and indeed has gained a sort of online immortality through this blog. I miss you Sammy, and I hope I never stop, for then it is I who am truly dead. Be forever.

And so do I ask my readers:

How you deal with the loss of a loved one, human or pet? How do you deal with death?

Goodbye, Little Sammy (Yes, Skeptics do Have Feelings…)

Sorry, guys, but I can’t guarantee that I’ll be posting this week except for prescheduled entries, including this one. If you see this, it is because I had to put one of my cats to sleep — a beautiful blue-point Himalayan cat of some 18 years named Sammy, who has been my devoted companion for over 12 years. The pictures accompanying this post are an homage to her. Goodbye old girl…your passing left a hole that will never be filled…