Trouble Thinking

March 15, 2016

The Wayward Astronomer – A brilliant illustrated novel

Filed under: Uncategorized — callmegeo @ 8:08 pm

Hello internet! Mighty fine day we’re having, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be great if your day was just a little bit better?

Well, look no further friend, because if you want to read a thrilling story that’s brought to life with breathtaking artwork, I have just the thing for you. It’s called The Wayward Astronomer, and it’s a kickstarter campaign going on right now !


The Wayward Astronomer is an illustrated novel set in the vivid and imaginative Dreamkeepers universe, which has been featured on this blog before! If you like what you see, you should head on over to the kickstarter page to learn more, or take a read through the graphic novel saga of Dreamkeepers

Bookmark Montage


September 5, 2012

Science is Not Atheistic, Science is Not Theistic.

So I saw a couple bits of fluff about these signs getting taken down:

Yeah, 10 more of these and Christianity will fold.

Look, man. I get it. I get that you’re more than a bit frustrated. Being an atheist in a mostly-secular country is a weird mix of completely uninteresting and incredibly annoying. You don’t really need to change much, but the language and culture kind of presuppose you’re at the least “spiritual”, and that to be otherwise is a bit rude. There’s not really much in the way of direct antagonism because the average religious person is more Christmas/Easter than 3 Mass a week, but people consistently seem to rate atheists as being secretly evil moral black holes. Also, you can’t run for a higher office than dogcatcher in most states. But come the fuck on. This sort of shit isn’t changing minds. It’s not changing minds because it’s not designed to change minds any more than the “Left Behind” books. It’s tribalism. No one has ever successfully evangelized their position by mocking relentlessly the most deeply held beliefs of those they’re trying to convert, pausing only to high five other people who already agree with them.

But again, I get being angry. I mean I just watched this after seeing Dinesh D’Souza in the news for his stupid movie about the President:

This is a reasonably well-respected man discussing intelligent design and not being laughed at. Like, he’s legitimately discussing the possibility that Man did not evolve. I know, it’s not the position of most people who consider themselves religiously observant. I’m not going to tack his stupid bullshit onto every theistic person. But he does hit on something I think Atheists should be talking about instead of simply mocking people for being religious. A hell of a lot of his argument is about how religion answers questions well that science either doesn’t answer or answers poorly. Which is weird, because science isn’t actually atheism.

I know, it seems weird right?  They get said together so often. But science doesn’t relate to the presence or absence of a god or gods. It’s observational. If deities interact directly with the world in a manner that is able to be observed, scientific discussions will eventually note that it appears to be the case that the physical world is acted upon by sentience greater than our own. If deities don’t interact in an observable manner, science will be unable to comment on their presence or absence. The reason people tend to tie atheism in with science is that science does make many conceptions of gods seem less than likely. The standard idea of the ancient pantheon that we tend to have involves 10 foot tall physical incarnations of gods going around legitimately forging lightning or carrying the sky on their backs or tugging the sun across the sky. Scientific progress has made it clear that these events are unlikely. We should be able to see Atlas, he would have to be enormous. Because many people see science as having dis-proven ancient conceptions of deities, they decide that the ball is in science’s court to disprove modern deities! Atheists love to do this too. Ohhh man if only we can get everyone to understand Physics better we’ll totally get them to renounce religion.

But see, we never did disprove ancient religious beliefs. Ancient religious beliefs may have leaned much more heavily on animism and the direct intervention of individual gods, but they sure as hell weren’t honestly waiting for Zeus to come down and shake their hands. Their gods were as invisible and unknowable by direct observation as those worshiped by modern adherents. Religion has not been progressively winnowed by science, leaving only the most difficult to eliminate ones in the modern era. Science and religious belief have never truly interacted. Ancient cultures could understand metaphor too, man. “Of course Atlas doesn’t literally hold the heavens on his shoulders, he’s meant to demonstrate aspects of good behavior you dope” and so on. Attempting to disprove Heracles is more likely to make ancient peoples think you’re dumb than to rock the foundations of their faith. I think both theists and atheists have taken this process of scientific destruction of religious belief as a given and gotten some really shitty arguments out of it.

To put religion in direct conflict with science doesn’t do anyone a service except assholes. People like D’Souza will insist that if science cannot currently conceive of an answer to any given question such as “why are we altruistic” then it should be abandoned, leaving the current religious explanation to take its place for eternity because now he wins you’re not so smart now are you. That robs science of the only thing that makes it useful, which is the ability to continue observing new data and improving upon existing models. I have no idea why we’re altruistic. There are a couple of not very convincing theories floating around, but so far not a lot of concrete evidence. But I am pretty certain that at some point in the future someone more clever than myself will observe certain things and construct a model that provides a reasonably convincing explanation of altruistic behavior. Science is a process. We don’t know any answer to any question, really. We only know currently what is the best match to the data we’ve observed. Replacing this slow process with an eternally fixed explanation because you’re afraid of science turning on your religion is folly not only because that ain’t actually going to happen but because it robs you of potential benefits of a deeper practical understanding of whatever’s being studied.

On the other hand when people like Hitchens attempt to set up science against religion they do atheism a disservice. You’ve heard time and again that “science can’t tell us why we’re here” or whatever the heck. That is indeed accurate! But you know what can do a decent job? Atheism! Atheism is not a religious belief, but it is a philosophy. It does enter into the realm of questions about meaning and man’s place in the universe. It should be allowed to do so! Science will sit and wait and watch and if there is a second coming of whoever’s deity is correct scientists will measure the scope of the holy and atheists will be dis-proven. Science sure as hell won’t be, though. Making atheism the “religion of science” just de-fangs atheism by making every argument come back to the idea that you need to do the same thing to modern religious belief that was never actually done to ancient religious belief. It  also does a huge disservice to science. Science isn’t a weapon against other philosophies, it’s just something you like in addition to atheism. It’s about as relevant to the conversation as your love of baking or model trains. Atheism will evangelize itself effectively by being a good explanation for the sort of questions that science doesn’t address. It will not evangelize itself effectively by putting up signs saying “science proves that your current philosophy is dumb.”

Edit: There’s a good bit from the “opposite side” on Slacktivist, a dude who is evangelical but can’t stand the idea of “believing in theistic evolution” any more than I can stand the idea of “believing in atheistic evolution”.

The War Game: Brilliant, Disturbing 1965 Antiwar Film

Filed under: History, Science — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 1:03 pm

Hey! You look even mildly happy! Chase those good times away with this absolutely heartwrenching look at the raw facts of a nuclear exchange involving Great Britain. Even though it was produced by the BBC, it wasn’t shown on television until 1985 because it was deemed to horrifying for TV.

It’s absolutely terrifying from any angle, and it makes me incredibly happy that I didn’t grow up during the Cold War. Though it does make me a little tweaked that we still have exactly the same ability to destroy everything we hold dear today.

So yeah, go find someplace with kitten videos or something now.

August 22, 2012

Planetary Annihilation Kickstarter Looks Really Neat

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Durandal @ 5:18 pm

If you’re already into games, you’ve probably checked it out by now, but for real it is worthwhile to give this a look:

Now, I actually never really got super into the Total Annihilation games, they felt a little bit more supply-chain focused than I found interesting. However, the concept of launching a goddamn asteroid at an enemy just appeals to me too frigging much.

As always I find the extra kickstarter stuff for paying more pretty silly, but the $20 level is perfectly cool for a preorder from a company like Uber Entertainment. They’ve got a solid handle on producing actual decent products. Plus, I like that the setting is a future of warring Von Neumann machines.

August 16, 2012

Hey Listen to All This Shit

HEY! Listen.

-Ben Sollee is a Cellist, he’s quite good! He’s a singer-songwriter who basically sings stuff that would be tired and a bit annoying if it was a dude with an acoustic guitar but sounds pretty awesome with a cello. He’s pretty neat! I’d check him out by clicking the thing below here:

-In Case of Emergency is a podcast! It’s cute! That’s really the main drive of my continued listening. In Case of Emergency is several of your friends having a silly conversation in the background of a party. It rarely gets me rolling on the floor, but the presentation and topics manage to consistently entertain and just generally feel like a cup of cocoa. It’s completely worth listening to all of them! All of the premises are equally funny, which is impressive! You’d think they would run out. Check it out here:

-Comedy Bang Bang is both a show and a podcast! But the podcast is something you can listen to immediately, so you should! It’s so good. I highly recommend finding any and all that include Paul F. Thompkins as a guest because he’s fucking amazing. The premise of the show is basically one actual guest, and one fake-person guest played by a comedian. They’re long, they’re consistently both in-character and out of character funny, and it’s just a good time to be had. It’s a great way to be introduced to a wide variety of comedic talent as well! Give it a listen at and in the meantime look at this clip from the show, it’s awesome.

-The Alex Bellegarde Trio is cool! They play well, also there’s a regular jam session thing that I guess I got to see without having any fucking clue what was going on. I distinctly remember being in the bathroom thinking “jeez, the sax is really loud” and coming out to find someone practicing right outside the door, getting ready to go on stage! It’s cool, you should go. Be more respectful than I was! I wasn’t paying as much attention as I should have, I didn’t really understand it, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Check them out at: Also check out a neat thing on the Jam Sessions! It’s got a lot of music too.

That’s it! Listen to a bunch of neat stuff, have fun you crazy kid.

August 2, 2012

How I Feel About: “Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes”

Good! Generally Good. So, if you’ve got like $15 to burn and you were dumb and missed it on deep discount during the Steam sale, grab it in penance.

Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes is a game developed by Capybara games and published by Ubisoft, and is another in the long line of games that are all vaguely related to the original Might and Magic that everyone has forgotten because the like 40 spin-offs are all more popular.

Remember this? No, no you do not remember this.

So I’m assuming that all the random fantasy names and general plotline somehow tie into the larger universe, but I’ll be damned if I can tell you how. Suffice to say: demons are breaking out of Not Quite Hell, called Sheogh, and they kill the parents of a group of five children right in front of them with fire. The game’s sort of dark for a cartoony kid’s game! Like, I’m gonna say it straight up: there was more immolation and murder than I really expected. Like a bunch more. And yet, the bar you go to in one portion of the game serves milk and tea. Oh and it also has

The most amazing dude. This is a guy who knows exactly what needs to be done during a demon invasion.

But anyway the kids go on their own quests to become Heroes of Might and Magic and they each get a short chapter where you overcome some aspect of the ongoing war and treachery and ultimately foil the evil villain as expected. So how do they accomplish these mighty tasks? Why, PUZZLING of course! Similar to Puzzle Quest and a few other puzzle-based RPGs, your prowess in combat is represented by your ability to maneuver little arrangements of shapes properly except in this case rather than gems they’re beautifully animated archers and knights and whatnot.

In each battle, you have columns of random assortments of these units, in 3 colors. You can only move the bottom-most layer of each column, but you can spend a move to eliminate a unit at any level of a column. Align 3 units of the same color vertically, and you start charging an attack, and when it goes off your units shoot up and try to make it to the top of the gameboard. If they do, they deal damage to your opponent, minus any that’s been absorbed by their defenses. Align 3 units of the same color horizontally and you get a 3-column wide wall that will block damage from enemy attacks. There are also twists like larger champion units that deal more damage, your core units having different charge times and effect, and fusing or linking attacks to make them deal more damage. There’s room for some strategy, it’s very moreish to call in random selections of reinforcements and see if this is the turn you can cascade 3 walls out and then like 5 attacks or get one of your champions charged. It’s an engaging system! And it had fucking better be because it’s all you’re doing for like, 15 hours.

Not gonna lie here, I will probably win.

Which brings me to my major gripes. This game doesn’t wear nearly as quickly as Puzzle Quest, where I found myself dreading battles which was basically the entire game. You pick all of your fights, and you can always back out. For most of the chapters, most of the fights can be attacked in a lot of different orders thanks to things like Bounties and random grinding if you don’t feel prepared for a fight. But the thing is, the average fight is about 10-15 minutes if you know you’re going to win. The randomness inherent in the system and the fact that heavy attacks take a while to charge mean that you can be at 100 health to your opponents 50 and still have a 10-20 minute fight just waiting for things to line up right. Too much of the battle system depends on this random dropping in of new units, and too little depends on actually figuring out clever move combinations. Almost every fight can be won by making every available move that grants you one extra move, then lining up as many attacks as possible. It’s not necessarily the fastest method, but the game doesn’t really give you many clever ways to deliver a coup de grace. Eventually it can become pretty rote. Speaking of rote! They end the game with just the worst idea. Throughout the game, you take on the role of a hero, slowly build their army and take them from wimpy level 1 to godlike level 10. Except at the end. You start with all units, you start at level 7 which is just high enough for leveling to feel like it takes forever, and you have just the least fun to play army with the least ability to end a fight fast. So the last section of the game ends up suddenly ramping every tiny issue you’ve had thus far way up and isn’t the best note to go out on. There are 10 Battle Puzzles sprinkled through the game, and I feel like expanding the concept further would have helped. Having something to break up the relentless match-3 that requires some time and thought and comprehension of the rules was super fun.

I haven’t tried multiplayer yet, but the fact that it has hotseat gets it high marks in my book. Too few games of this sort recognize that turn-based means I can play on one dang controller.

Anyway! I highly recommend grabbing this, it’s a bunch of fun. Just don’t make the mistake I did and bomb through the whole thing in like 3 days. Spread it out a few hours at a time and have fun watching little cartoon archers impale adorable cartoon demons.


July 21, 2012

Steam Summer Sale 2012: Days 9 & 10

Filed under: Game Reviews — Tags: , , , — Durandal @ 10:47 am

What to get in these last few batches of sales?

Day 10

-Batman Arkham City: Yep, yes. Well worth the $10. Not as much of an innovation or improvement on Asylum as it could have been, but amazing.

-Dawn of War II: There’s a big following for these games, but they’ve always struck me as the dumb cousin of the Company of Heroes games. There’s just less satisfaction to be garnered. I’d give it a go if you like the universe a lot. $7.50

-Torchlight: Preorder Torchlight II instead. It’s worth it, but preorder Torchlight II because that will be even more worth it. $3.75

-Indie Bundle X: Nah, just buy Machinarium. It’s an adorable little adventure game. The other stuff on offer here just isn’t all that much fun after the first few minutes.

-Quantum Conundrum: A slightly different Portal with more FPS jumping puzzles and less innovation. Which is to say it’s probably still great but also eh. FPS jumping puzzles, ugh. $9

-Prince of Persia (2008): I liked it! It’s got a lot of troubles, like how it basically surgically extracts a lot of the challenge of the older games, but it’s beautiful and charming and engaging. Worth $2.50 definitely.

-Fable 3: I loved Fable 2, but I never bothered with Fable 3. I think the moral-choice BS and the ultimate goal of establishing a large savings account never jibed with my idea of fantastical adventure. If it were as big a leap forward as 1->2 I’d care more but nah. Plus please man, still originally priced at $50? Fuck you. $12.50

-Evochron Mercenary: In the tradition of space games like the X series, you’re a mercenary in a big, kind of empty galaxy looking to make your way in the world. These things always depend too much on dogfights to interest me. $6.25

-Arma II: Hey, you can play Day Z! Grab it if that sounds fun. $18

Day 9

-Driver: San Francisco: I’m seriously considering this weird game. It’s an open-world driving action game, where you race and stunt-jump and generally cause chaos with a car. What really interests me is that you play as a coma patient who can leap to new bodies, but only other drivers. So you can slow down the person you’re chasing by leaping into some civilian cars and making them T-Bone in front of your quarry. That’s so weird! I want it. $7.50

-Magicka: Yes! Grab this. It’s weird, it’s fun as hell particularly with friends, it’s pretty and funny and it has the best implemented magic system I’ve had the joy of figuring out. Completely worth $2.50

-Red Orchestra: Heroes of Stalingrad: If you’re itching for WW2 action, go for it. It’s only worthwhile if you’re into the multiplayer, but it looks pretty solid. Plus, I like things that focus on the Russian front, they get too little play. $5

-Dungeon Defenders: Cute fun with friends, if you’re all into tower defense games. I find Sanctum easier to do with strangers, but these things usually wind up fun if you’ve got the requisite pals. $3.75

-Civilization V: Yep. It’s not perfect, but it’s a dang good world-conquering game, and if you get it cheap now you can probably afford the new expansion if it turns out you really dig it. $7.50

-FEAR 3: Eh. I mean if you really really are hard up for a new FPS, sure. But it’s a horror game without any horror. Maybe if you have a friend who’s willing to buy it as well. Then you could check out the co-op mode, the only new idea they had. $5

-Crysis 2: I’d get Crysis 1 for $6 instead, it seems like a better time in a more open environment. But Crysis 2 got decent reviews. For some reason neither of these games really appeal to me though, they seem fluffy and indistinct. Tech demos labeled “SHOOTER”. But whatever, better choice than FEAR. $12

-Deus Ex Human Revolution: Absolutely buy this, it is entirely worthwhile. It doesn’t quite deliver on being the original only better and smarter, but it gets so damn close. It’s a lot of content, a lot of ideas, a decently told story, and a lot of very entertaining stealth and gunplay. Get this now. $7.50

-Indie Bundle IX: This is the one! This is it! Get it! So gooood. Jamestown is a great old-school shmup with a fun theme, Capsized is a fun, weird sort of metroid-y platformer, Revenge of the Titans is great Tower Defense, VVVVVV is an amazing open-world platformer with a great hook, and Zeno Clash is a surreal fighting game that’s well worth the entry fee. $10

July 19, 2012

Steam Summer Sale 2012: Days 7 and 8

Filed under: Game News — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 6:17 pm


-Gratuitous Tank Battles: Have not heard great things. Get Gratuitous Space Battles instead, wait on this until you’re really certain. $7

-Indie Bundle VIII: Man these things have been a mishmash. Hoard, not worth it, Swords and Soldiers seems fun looking, Demolition Inc is interesting but flawed… I mean it’s just such a mishmash. I can’t imagine someone interested in all of these. Worth it if you want all of them? But, you won’t. $10

-Krater: Interesting, but flawed. Get if you like flawed weird gems. It’s kind of an old-school RPG, only a bunch of shit isn’t working the same, usually for the worse? That makes it sound terrible, just try the demo it’s probably worth it if you like the demo. $7.50

-The Witcher 2: Yes. Yes now, yes get it get it now it’s the best fucking RPG. It’s so good, so good. They even updated it for free with a bunch of extra shit just because they love us. It’s fun, engaging, reasonably complicated, it manages a bunch of shit people keep whining about games being unable to do. $16

-Alan Wake: I’ve heard middling things. Nice high-production-value game, decent but repetitive action and a mildly interesting but mostly wasted narrative. I wouldn’t bother unless you’re really intrigued. $7.50

-Fallout New Vegas: I’ve heard amazing things, go for it! Fallout 3 was actually pretty fun, worthwhile. It’s one of those games I never actually finish finish though which nags at me forever so I’m not into it, you should give it a shot though. $5

-Amnesia The Dark Descent: Fun! Go for it. One of the only scary games, even if people keep acting like it’s the most frightening thing in the world, and it just ain’t. $5

-Sniper Elite V2: I’ve heard decent things. Kind of inherently repetitive though. I wouldn’t bother for $25, it’s a series of pot-shooting exercises.

-Plants vs. Zombies: Fun times, not worth $10, definitely worth $2.50


Yesterday’s Deals:

-STALKER: YEP. Get it, now. Yep. It’s a fun, weird, strange shooter/RPG that just you cannot get any other way. Nothing else is quite like it, you need to give it a shot now. $3.75

-Age of Empires Online: NO. $2.50

-Thief Deadly Shadows: The whole series is such a touchstone, this is a necessary purchase. At least Deadly Shadows, the latest best-looking one. I’ve heard it’s less interesting than the early ones, but it’s probably worth not seeing super early-gen 3D $2.50

-Super Meat Boy: The best platformer, yes. $3.75

-Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion: Instead, grab the Sins of a Solar Empire: Trinity deal, it’s only $5 and you’ll get essentially the same dang game. Pony up for Rebellion if you’re really into it. $25

-Total War Mega Pack: Eh. They’re big, impressive, but I’ve never really felt that much for them. Fights are huge and impressive but not nearly fun enough, and the strategy AI isn’t quite smart enough to be fun. $12.50

-Indie Bundle VII: Dungeons of Dreadmor is definitely worth it, the rest I’m not certain about. I’ve seen Vessel and it seems like a good puzzler, and Avadon is from Spiderweb Software, who make good shit. Yeah, go for this one. $10

-L.A. Noire: Supposed to be wonderful, but like Alan Wake it’s leaning more production values than actual gameplay. Unlike Alan Wake, the gameplay it does have is interesting and reasonable uniquely focused on investigation and interrogation. Go for it at $5, come on.

-Carpe Fulgur Collection: Only get Reccetear, but get Reccetear. It’s a weird sort of almost Diablo clone, but you also run a cute little item shop oh man it’s the best. $5

July 17, 2012

Steam Summer Sale 2012: Day 6

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 1:47 pm

Alright today isn’t super amazing but alright here we go:

-Grand Theft Auto IV: Eeeeeh. Grab Saints Row 2, or 3. Or anything. Don’t get GTA, it’s a snoozefest. $5

-Call of Duty: Black Ops: NO. And fuck, $20! Fuck you guys.

-Stronghold 3 Gold: Everything I’ve heard says nope, even people who were super excited about it.😦. $14

-Limbo: It’s… kind of… it’s worth $2.50. It’s atmospheric, but I wish the puzzles were more puzzle, less trial and error. But it’s worth giving a shot for that price.

-Company of Heroes: Get the first one, only the first one, if you haven’t tried it. Great single-player RTS, fun multiplayer if anyone is on. $2.50

-Indie Bundle VI: Spacechem is an absolute must in this. If you dig ticket to ride, just get the pack so you can get both for $5 off, but the test is dross, so get Spacechem alone if you’re not into that. $10

-Train Simulator 2012: I’ve heard oddly good things. You buy it, I’m not buying it. $3.50

– Spec Ops: The Line: If you were thinking about Call of Duty, get this instead. At least they tried. $35

-Wargame European Escalation: Horrid name aside, I’ve heard it’s one of the better new RTS games. Poor thing can’t compete with the big names though. $20

Must Have Flash Deals:

Double Fine Pack! Totally worth it for $7.50 if you don’t have any of them, and all worth it alone.

July 16, 2012

Steam Summer Sale 2012: Day 5

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 10:27 pm

Hey! Here is the lowdown on what to purchase, you need it. I trusted you for Day 4 and look where that got us.

– Age of Empires 3: This is a weird one. I mean it isn’t as though it’s bad or anything. I just can’t think of an RTS fan these days who seriously considers Age of Empires as a touchstone. That said, having played around with the demo I enjoyed it. If you don’t dig Starcraft or Supreme Commander, give it a shot! $10

-Rage: I feel like this got pushed to the wayside because it didn’t really do anything new or interesting. But it did do corridor shooting well. So if you have a jonesing for killing waves of enemies that run straight at you… get Serious Sam: BFE. But also this, if you have extra. $10

-Indie Bundle V: I’d get this one. Tiny Bang Story is what happens when describe Katamari to a terminally dumb person, but the rest are critically acclaimed and quite interesting. Greed Corp is also fucking hard, but the good kind. $10

– Iron Front: Liberation 1944: Nah. I mean it’s 33% off an let’s be honest, you’ve never heard of it. Fuck these guys. $20

-Men of War: Vietnam: It’s a tough series to get into, but particularly if you dig the multiplayer it’s this big sprawling war-movie of a war game. It’s worth checking out an earlier cheaper title even if you don’t get this. $9

-Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: A classic, but one of those classics that only assholes tell you is fun to play at this point. It’s fine, it’s fine. Worth a couple bucks if you’ve never played. But seriously find something new. $2.50

-Assassin’s Creed: Revelations: No, you’ve had enough. Everyone had enough. Do not bother. $13.50

-Dear Esther: If you’re the sort of person who would buy this, at least buy it on sale. $2.50

-Metro 2033: YES! Get it. It isn’t perfect but by god it’s like a linear companion piece to STALKER and it is so worthwhile. It’s just a great fucking game. Do it, make them more successful. $5

Flash Deal You Need:

Amnesia The Dark Descent: Half as scary as people make it out to be, still 15 times more scary than any horror game in the past 10 years. Give the Penumbra games a look too, same people made them. $5.

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