When the Westboro Baptist Church Protests Leonard Nimoy’s Funeral, What Is the Appropriate Phaser Setting?

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I’ve been trying to determine the appropriate phaser setting for dealing with these people, and have decided to go with “heavy stun.”

Heavy stun is kinder than the WBC adults deserve, but some of those WBC people are infants and children, and they have a chance of throwing off their brainwashing as they grow up. I would not deny them that chance.

[Photo credit: This website is where I found this image. It’s a story about the WBC announcing their intent to protest Leonard Nimoy’s funeral.]

A Short Short Story, Set In an Alternate Universe

QE2 and Patrick Stewart

Having run out of appeals, the famous actor bravely stood ready, as Queen Elizabeth II readied her ceremonial sword. Suddenly, a high-pitched voice from the gallery cried out, “Please, Your Majesty! Your Highness, please — anyone but Patrick Stewart! Spare him, and I will die in his place!”

Her heart moved by this young fan’s simple plea, the Queen slowly put down her sword. She carried out no executions that day, to the relief of millions of fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation, from all around the world. However, for the rest of his life, anyone who wanted to see Patrick Stewart had to visit the Tower of London to do so, during the limited hours of visitation permitted for guests of the prisoners there.

[Image credit:  see this website.]

Not Poker — Chess. I Am Not Captain Kirk.

Not Chess Mr Spock

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Something I have in common with the fictional Captain Kirk, from the original Star Trek series, is that I enjoy playing both poker and chess. In the scene depicted above, from the episode “The Corbomite Maneuver,” the Enterprise is facing an adversary who dramatically outpowers them — and Kirk escapes the situation with an outrageous bluff, right after making this reference to the game of poker.

Unlike Captain Kirk, however, I am not skilled at bluffing, with two consequences:  (1) I’m a terrible poker player, and (2) I do not attempt bluffing as a strategy, unless I am actually playing poker.

I’ve been an activist for a large variety of causes, for decades, and, because of this activism, have acquired a rather large number of adversaries. Many of them have figured out that I don’t bluff, but some — rather surprisingly, considering they have known me for years — have not. The amusing thing, to me, is that I’ve always been quite open about this, but some still fail to realize it, despite my candor on the subject. When engaged in any struggle, I only make statements I believe to be true, for one simple reason: I’m so terrible at bluffing, or other forms of lying, that any untrue statement I were to make would be instantly recognized as dishonest. Since I figured this out, about myself, decades ago, I deliberately choose to only employ strategies which are completely honest. It would be stupid, after all, for me to employ strategies with which I know I have weak skills.

So, unless I’m actually playing real poker, and am engaged in any sort of struggle, I’m basically playing metaphorical chess. This involves figuring out what my opponents are thinking, devising strategies to counter theirs, and remaining at least three moves ahead of my adversaries, at all times. I’m far more like Mr. Spock than I am like Captain Kirk, and always have been. This isn’t going to change.

I find it hilarious that I can post these absolutely-true statements right here,  on the Internet, where anyone can see them — and have full confidence that those who persist in their mistaken belief that I’m bluffing, about anything, will continue to make this enormous error in judgment — until it’s too late. For them, that is.

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The Five Fictional Characters Who Have Most Strongly Influenced My Life

These five fictional characters have strongly influenced me, and I will always be grateful to the brilliant people who created them. I am presenting them in chronological order — using the time when this influence started, rather than their date of creation.

#1: Snoopy

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When I was very young — before my memory-record begins, actually — I was given Peanuts books. They were simply left in my possession, as far as I know; no explanation was necessary. The antics of Snoopy, in particular, were extremely entertaining to the little-kid version of me. Since I could see Snoopy dancing around, playing baseball, typing, irritating Lucy, etc., I wanted to understand what was actually going on with all this activity — and this provided the necessary motivation for me to teach myself how to read. There wasn’t any other way for me to tell what was going on in these comic strips!

The fact that I learned to read in this manner led to some very funny moments, due to the fact that the number of words whose meaning I understood, generally from context, exceeded the number of words I knew how to pronounce — and, no doubt, still does. Once, in elementary school, I was laughed at by an entire class, after saying something about the “Eeffel Tower” (yes, that’s how I pronounced it). I also remember pronouncing the “b” in “doubt,” much to the amusement of my parents. Even in graduate school, I made a history professor groan in agony when I made a reference to the Weimar Republic — and pronounced the “W” as it is pronounced in English, rather than German.

#2: Mr. Spock

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A scientist aboard a starship, exploring the galaxy, who uses logic to try to understand two things:  the nature of the universe (much of which he understood), and the behavior of illogical humans (something which confuses me to this day, just as it often confounded him). The first person I remember seeing on television had pointed ears, and there were several of them in that episode, “Amok Time.” In other episodes, of course, few Vulcans other than Mr. Spock appeared, and I always found him, to use one of his favorite words, “fascinating.” He influenced me in several ways, and still does, to this day. I am grateful to the creators of this character for inspiring my passion for science, ability to use logic, appreciation of diversity, and strong desire to maintain control of my emotions.

#3: Matt Murdock / Daredevil

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I may not have red hair, but I share many other characteristics with Daredevil — and I mean the character from comic books, not that disappointing B-movie (which deserves no further mention). Other than amplified senses — which I experience (unpleasantly) when I get migraines — Daredevil has no superpowers, yet he faces, and does battle with, super-powered villains, and usually wins. He is also a study in contradictions: a lapsed Catholic, who spends a lot of time dressed in a devil costume; a lawyer, with a second “career” as a costumed vigilante; and a blind man, who nonetheless perceives the world around him more clearly than anyone else. Matt Murdock has inspired me to respect the concept of justice, has influenced me to study what laws I need to understand, and, most importantly, has shown me, by example, how to face down those who would do harm to those I care about — and do it, as Daredevil does, without fear. I have also developed my “never give up” attitude, toward my adversaries (bullies, mostly), with inspiration from this character.

Matt Murdock and I have also had very rocky histories when it comes to romantic relationships. I have (finally) found happiness in this aspect of life, and am writing this next to my beloved, sleeping wife. Unfortunately, the writers of Daredevil, while they will let Matt Murdock enjoy temporary happiness in relationships with women, will never allow him to keep it.

#4: Data

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Data is amazing to me:  a sentient android, and an artificial person. He actually had to go on trial to assert his rights to personhood, and, with the aid of Captain Picard, won the case. He has a lightning-speed calculator, built right in to his positronic brain, which far exceeds the abilities of my own, not-too-shabby mental calculator. I have long had the ambition to gain the ability to reprogram my own brain’s “software,” and have written, on this blog, about how I finally gained that ability, after working on developing it for roughly thirty years. Data, of course, had this ability from the moment he was activated, but, unlike me, he does not have to sleep for it to work.

Despite his claim to experience no emotions, Data often expressed a feeling of being perpetually alone, for there was no one else like him anywhere — until he met his brother, another android, who turned out to be malicious. That feeling of being unlike everyone else is quite familiar to me.

Both Data, and Mr. Spock, display many characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome, and my study of these two characters helped me figure out that I am, myself, an “Aspie” — our nickname for ourselves.

#5: Calvin

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When I am playing (and, yes, I play a lot, especially with mathematics), and someone asks me why I, an adult, am playing, I have a standard reply: “Because I’m six.” This is a reference to Calvin, who was six years old during the entire ten-year run of Calvin and Hobbes, the best comic strip ever created. I read it from the first day it appeared in newspapers, and have the boxed set of the complete collection of these comic strips only a meter away, as I write this. Calvin is a six-year old prodigy, as one can tell from his expansive vocabulary, but is prone to making social errors, due to a lack of understanding of social conventions — and both of these things mirror my own life. (I grew up, literally, in science laboratories, unsupervised for hours at a time, designing and conducting my own experiments, and that sort of thing simply doesn’t happen without having profound effects on a child’s development — but, then again, why would I want to be normal?) Calvin, like myself, found elementary school boring in the extreme, and so he slipped, frequently, into his own inner life of fantasy. The fact that, being socially isolated (no siblings, and no friends, other than his stuffed tiger), he is usually alone, never stopped Calvin from having fun. Just like Calvin, I can have unlimited fun, in solitude — because I choose to be this way. Some adults lose the child within them, but, thanks to Calvin’s inspiration, that will never happen to me. I’m actually 46 years old now — so I’m pretty sure that, if I was ever going to lose the ability to have fun, it would have happened already.

To those brilliant people who invented these five characters: thank you.

“I would accept that as an axiom.” ~Spock

x not xI would also accept this as an axiom. It’s obviously true, but I see no way to prove it. It is not what Spock was referencing in the above quotation, but the content of the quote still applies.

Amazingly, though, I have encountered people who think this is up for debate.

It isn’t.