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Top 5 Webcomics

February 16, 2010 Leave a comment

I am a big proponent of time wasting online. In today’s world there are far worse things someone could be doing than drowning their existence with the entertainment of others. This post is about my favorite webcomics. These have all been on the net for years, and won’t be leaving anytime soon. All of them are funny, all of them are worth looking into.

Be warned, though. By reading any further, you will almost certainly be signing away countless hours of your time to reading these spectacular artistic endeavors.

These comics are in no particular order. Also, the links are to their first issue, not the latest.

1) Questionable Content by Jeph Jacques

A comic focusing on the adventures of a early 20-something indie rock loving guy named Marten Reed and his many friends that are girls (see what I did there?). Also his little anthropomorphic, sentient robot named Pintsize as comic relief. This comic has over 1500 issues, and is updated every weekday. Situational comedy surrounding relationships is the primary advancing device of the plot.

2) Real Life Comics by Greg Dean

This one is about a group of friends (the characters of which are added to and subtracted from over the course of the comic) who live their lives to the fullest. The main character is Greg Dean who lives with his friends. The cast is almost entirely consisting of nerds and geeks (yes, there is a difference) and how they live their life. Shout outs are given to recent movies and video games the the artist takes interest in. There are computer savvy interests here as well. Geek-comedy and pop-culture influences are the driving forces.

3) Abstruse Goose by [author won’t divulge name]

A comic very similar to XKCD, (which hasn’t been listed here for it’s sheer number of fans) the artist is very familiar to high mathematics and physics concepts. There is no named characters, but the one that appears in almost every issue is a blue-hatted geek that is either trying, or has gotten a girl. Also, consistent referenced to Star Trek/Wars is notable. Less about laugh-out-loud humor, and more subtle, almost British humor. Those geek-savvy will be the best audience.

4) Ctl+Alt+Del by Tim Buckley

One of the most popular comics online, this particular gem is a classic gamer comic. It centers around two guys, Ethan and Lucas, who love video games and other nerdy things. Pop culture references abound here. This comic is also praised as being (as of the last few years) one of the best looking online. Consistent updating and a loyal fanbase has driven this one to the top for very good reason. Video games, movie opinions, hilarious situations and relationship interweaving are primary plot points.

5) Sequential Art by Phillip M Jackson

Having over 600 issues, this comic is amazingly unknown. Being more a side project to the artist than anything else, SA is a masterpiece in it’s own right. You have a cast of just about every viewpoint and character. There is technically a main character (named Art) but he is co-starring with several friends, all of which have their own characteristics and observations. This comic can appeal to just about anyone, and everyone should give it a chance. The emphasis on artistically-inclined characters lends itself to that community more, but this reviewer is not artistic at all and loves it dearly.

There you go. With all of this info I wish you luck in not calling in sick to work/school tomorrow after delving into these works of genius. After having read all of this, did you noticed me missing anything? Are there any comics you read that should be on this list of awesomeness? Please drop a comment below!

-Trenton Stahl

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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Those Pesky Transitional Fossils

January 8, 2010 Leave a comment

As many of you know, I am a believer in the theory of Intelligent Design. Now, going to a public school, this tends to lead to conversations with atheists. Don’t get me wrong, I love to talk to people, as long as they’re willing to keep an open mind (believe it or not, I am too).

So when I talk with a believer in Evolution (thats macro evolution people) the first thing I make clear is that I love nothing more than hearing their perspective, but I want something from them first. I tell them that I want a clear transitional fossil of macro evolution (one species turning into another). That might sound like a lot, but according to Evolution we have been evolving for BILLIONS of years on this earth. Now, assuming this is true, shouldn’t there be many clear examples of this happening? I mean, come on, we should be tripping over this crap in our backyards!

Charles Darwin (you know, the father of the theory itself) said:

Why is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links?  Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely – graduated organic chain; and this is the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against the theory.*

Interesting. There are many scientists that claim to have such fossils. Also interestingly, one of the most well recognized proponents of the theory is late Stephen J. Gould, an ardent evolutionist, and he admits that they just don’t exist:

The absence of fossil evidence for intermediary states between major transitions in organic design, indeed our inability, even in our imagination, to construct functional intermediated in many cases, has been a persistent and nagging problem for gradualistic accounts of evolution.**

Note that he didn’t just say there weren’t any fossils, but that they haven’t been able to even imagine what they might be. Here also is a quote from the late Dr. Colin Patterson, senior paleontologist of the British Museum of Natural History, and author of the book, Evolution. A reader sent him a letter questioning him why he had not presented any transitional forms and in reply he wrote:

I fully agree with your comments about the lack of direct illustration of evolutionary transitions in my book.  If I knew of any, fossil or living, I would certainly have included them ….  I will lay it on the line – there is not one fossil which one could make a watertight argument.***

So why do so many scientists persist that there are fossils where none exist? The answer lies in them not wanting to be wrong. Unlike most theories in the scientific community, Intelligent Design is never considered because people feel it bears too close to God and religion. Science has gotten to the point where they believe they can learn everything, and that God has no place in the equation. Considering that the first pillar of science is to not have predisposition to a belief before experimentation, this seems highly hypocritical.

In another post, I will soon explain the many fossils pro ported to be transitional, but in fact aren’t. For now, I urge all of you to do your own research and find the truth. Keep in mind the difference between micro and macro evolution: micro is small things like birds getting different beaks due to different environments, and humans getting darker skin color. Macro evolution is the transition of one distinct animal species to another.

-Trenton Stahl

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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*C. Darwin, Origin of Species, 6th ed. 1872 (London: John Murray, 1902), p 413

**S.J. Gould, in Evolution Now: A Century after Darwin, ed. John Maynard Smith, (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1982)

***C. Paterson, letter to Luther D. Sutherland, 10 April 1979, as published in Darwin’s Enigma (Green Forest AR: Master Books, 4th ed. 1988), p. 89

Is School Killing Creativity?

January 6, 2010 2 comments

I’ll be honest with you all, I didn’t come to ask this question on my own. There is this amazing video of a TED presentation made by Ken Robinson about how he believes the school system as we know it is killing creativity in young people. [see end of post]

Now I don’t think of myself as a psychologist or sociologist by any means. Instead, this article is mostly centered around the perspective of a student, currently enrolled in the public school system. Also, I was in a private school from the grades 7-10, and have that perspective as well.

Lets look at the goal of the school system. The purpose surrounding it all is to educate the youth of America for as many career opportunities as they can, in the shortest time possible. In theory, this is a very worthy goal. After all, many people, either due to family situations or personal preference, choose not to go to school, and need to have all their education in grades 1-12. But here is where we start to have an issue: instead of giving the youth as wide of horizons as possible, the schools are focusing more and more on 3 main subjects. Math, English and Science.

If we were all Vulcans this would be just fine. But we’re not, we are human beings and as such we need things like music and art to have a deep culture with ties to the past. Look at the french, as far as they have gone to contribute in the fields of science and literature, they are most proud of their artistic expression and heritage. As one of the most, if not THE most, powerful nations on the planet, we are striving to make our children have a leg-up on the international competition, but at what cost?

In reality (as Ken points out) we are a society that is making the college professor (PhD of course) the ideal intellectual goal. Unfortunately it’s not just us, almost all countries are doing this! With international travel and cooperation at an all time high, it is getting easier and easier for our Asian cousins to take the high paying jobs that we would otherwise have had. With that in mind, what’s the problem? Why the heck shouldn’t we do anything and everything to stay at the leading edge in the race for intellectual superiority?

I’ll tell you why: because it’s killing us. Millions upon millions of people around the world are going to a workplace every day that they hate, to a job that pays too little, to be berated by a boss that thinks he’s god. As a result, happiness in the workplace is so low that there are psychiatrists who make their whole living off working specifically with white collar businessmen who have trouble dealing with the stress. This is ridiculous.

To get back to the point, what I am saying is the same as Ken: put more emphasis on the arts. Ensure that art classes have the same funding potential as any other, because what use is having all the knowledge in the world, if the only people around to share it with are mindless slaves to their “intelligence”.

What Would You Kill For?

December 11, 2009 2 comments

Back in September I took a two day, defensive handgun training course at the FrontSight Institute. Before I had gone, I knew how to shoot a gun, where all the parts were, etc. However, once I was there, I realized that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. They taught me things that have brought my skills with a pistol to a level rivaling people who have shot all their lives.

One of the parts of the course, though, was one I hadn’t expected. They gathered us into the large conference room and gave us a lecture on the different aspects of gun ownership, one of which was when to kill. Now, I am sure if you went up to any handgun owner, most of them could give you a generally vague idea of when they would pull the trigger, usually involving the risk of life.

Before I went to FrontSight I had an idea as well. My sentiments were that if a person was threatening my life, or the life of another, or was breaking into my house/car, I would fire without hesitation. This is something I had never REALLY considered, it was always more philosophical than anything. I had done some research and discovered that Washington (the state I live in) has whats called “Stand Your Ground” gun laws. That is, you can shoot someone for endangering your life, the life of another, or committing a class A felony. Matches pretty well with what I was thinking, huh?

What I had failed to consider is that this is a far more complicated world than I had envisioned. After taking the FrontSight course, I sat down and seriously considered what I would shoot someone for, as there are several factors to keep in mind:

-After shooting someone, no matter what, you are likely going to jail, at least for a short while.

But It Was Justified!

-If there is any doubt in the case, you will likely be prosecuted, which will take time and a lot of money to defend yourself.

-Your family and friends may see you differently for having killed a man, regardless of it being justified.

-If you did ANYTHING wrong in the shooting (shot the person in the back, was mistaken on your report of how many shots you fired) they will use that against you in court.

-The obvious grief you will have to live with for the rest of your life for taking a life.

These are all things I have thought long and hard about. I have come to the conclusion that while it is technically legal to kill someone for taking your stuff, it isn’t worth it. The policy I have chosen to adopt is one of “if I’m not willing to die for it, I’m not willing to kill for it”. I am willing to die for my family, or even (believe it or not) a person on the street I don’t know. What I’m not willing to die for is the CD collection in my car that I see some punk stealing in the middle of the night.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no compunction drawing down on him and placing him under a citizen’s arrest until the cops show, but popping the lock on my car isn’t worth a death sentence in my book.

Now here’s a different situation: A person has broken into your house, and you hear him rummaging around downstairs. What do you do? I know what I’d do, I’d go down and double tap him in the chest without a second thought. He is in MY house. And while he may just be there to steal something and get out, I can’t know that. Also, he may have a gun. I would never be willing to risk the life of my family by drawing him down and ordering he get down on the floor.

How about this one: Your on the street and see a woman getting mugged, what do you do? If he were holding her at knife point, I would pull out my gun and tell him to assume the position he no doubt knows well. If he makes a move, he’s dead. If he were to have a gun, I would take aim and fire, knowing that even if he didn’t mean to kill the woman, I don’t know where the gun is going to end up, or what the person is going to do in the future.

One last scenario: your on the street and you see a man run up to a woman and steal the infant in her arms. You pull out your gun and take aim. You have a clear shot, can’t miss, but you don’t know the circumstances. That could be the child’s father, or it could be a joke, or even if you are correct in that its a kidnapping, what if the baby is seriously hurt when the man falls? They could even be killed! This was a scenario that a friend put to me a while back and I still don’t have an answer. If I shoot and it’s a misunderstanding, I am responsible for the possible deaths of both child and man. If I don’t fire, and it is a kidnapping I could have prevented, I would never be able to forgive myself if anything bad came to the kid.

What about you? Under what circumstances would you use deadly force? Are they the same as me, or different? Comment below.

-Trenton Stahl

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Top 5 Christmas Music Videos

December 8, 2009 Leave a comment

With Christmas time coming up, I figured I would share some of my favorite songs. Most of these are older songs being performed by contemporary bands. Enjoy

O Come All Ye Faithful, by Casting Crowns

We Wish You A Merry Christmas, by Relient K

The Night Santa Went Crazy, by Weird Al

Christmas Eve/Sarajevo, by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra

While You Were Sleeping, Casting Crowns

Now, it should be known that I have very limited music knowledge, so I would appreciate feedback. What are your favorite Christmas songs?

-Trenton Stahl

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

A Petty Gripe With TVs Everywhere

November 8, 2009 Leave a comment
Notice it doesn't say "muting"?

Notice it doesn't say "muting"?

You’ve seen it before. You may not have paid it much attention, or thought it something worth mentioning, but you have all noticed it.

Some TV manufacturers have this annoying habit of programing their products to say “Muting” when you press the mute button. This, I hate. Let me tell you why!

When you press the mute button you aren’t asking it to consider muting, you are telling it “Hey! I need silence now!”. And while it does do this, I always get a small rise in my blood pressure when I see this.

Pathetic? Maybe. Meaningful? Probably not. Worth my time to worry about? Not a chance! Which is why you all just got to experience it.

Thank you :)

-Trenton Stahl

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

The Warrior Song

November 8, 2009 Leave a comment

I recently came upon this song. Depending on who you are you will either see it as highly inspirational and pleasing, or you will see it as promoting violence. Either way, I think it is something to listen to.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do have issues with the war in Iraq (not that I am against it all together, that’s another article all together) but I believe this song has more to do with the “Warrior” in general rather than what we are doing now. All credit goes to The Warrior Song Project.

(Note: There is a small amount of cursing)

-Trenton Stahl

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.