Humble Indie Bundle 7, Ads, and Modernity

So, Humble Indie Bundle 7 is live.  You best believe I got in on that: it was just $6 to unlock all the games and soundtracks earlier this morning. I’m especially psyched for Dungeon Defenders as well as Shank 2. (Not to mention the soundtracks!)

I like the way they incentivize faster sales and a higher price (since you get to pick) by saying that if you pay more than the average paid to that point you get the extra unlocks, but there’s another wrinkle that’s either new or I simply hadn’t noticed before: the live dashboard of their current sales. 

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Bullet-proof Backpacks for Kids

MotherJones has an article detailing several companies that make backpacks that include hidden bullet-proof plates.

Each of these backpacks includes a bullet-proof plate.

I think the article is meant to be sarcastic or just sort of “What is the world coming to?” because it also includes both children’s bullet-proof vests (clearly not for every day use) as well as a combined body-armor/weapon system that allows you to quickly deploy a chest-plate with a Mac-11 machine pistol. This is not something I imagine Mother Jones would ordinarily be willing to advertise, but effectively they’ve just done that. For free. Politics makes people do strange things.

As far as terrible gun-related advertisements go, these are pretty tame. I once got an ad from The Blaze (run by Glenn Beck) advertising a model of a new civilian rifle that came broken down in a carrying case and could be unpacked into a sniper configuration. At that point you might as well just label the gun “Assassination Model”, and that’s just a little insane.

I'm a fan of guns, and I think the carrying case is neat, but the way the advertisement was structured weirded even me out.
I’m a fan of guns, and I think the carrying case is neat, but the way the advertisement was structured weirded even me out.

I have two kids who go to school, and I’m not really interested in this product, but I wouldn’t look down on someone who bought one (just the backpacks, I mean). The reasons I’m not interested are first of all: my kids are about as likely to be involved in a school shooting as to be struck by lightning. Secondly, I’m not sure that the limited protection of a single plate would really do that much good. And finally, the armor in these backpacks is only rated for handguns, not the rifle that was used by the shooters at Sandy Hook, Aurora, or many other public mass shootings.

Still, I thought it was interesting enough to share.

Don’t Expect Major New Gun Control, This Is Why

It’s just a local article from the CBS Denver affiliate, but I have a hunch it actually speaks volumes about the state of gun control in our country:

The day after the shooting in Connecticut a lot of people in Colorado tried to buy a gun.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation says it received 4,154 requests for background checks from potential buyers on Saturday. That was so many the CBI couldn’t process them all and the backlog grew to nearly 18 hours. The Unit could only process 3,001 checks on Saturday.

Extra staff was brought in over the weekend and workers are still trying to clear the backlog.

There are a lot of ways you could interpret this, and a lot of potential conclusions you could draw. (Some would probably be true, others might not be.) The one stark reality seems to be that, no matter how much Americans may fear guns in the hands of ruthless killers, they see putting a gun in their own hand a part of the solution.

Understanding after Tragedy

When I realized the scope of what had happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, I posted the news to my Facebook feed to get the word out and called for people to hold off on the political debate out of respect for the tragedy. That’s not what happened, and even after getting used to the fairly rapid news-cycle in the wake of the Virginia Tech and Aurora shootings, I was shocked and dismayed at how quickly the two sides squared off and began attacking each other. 

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Second Piece for Times & Seasons: Faith is a Work in Progress

My second post about epistemic humility is now up at Times & Seasons.

For the record, I’ll be posting therefore about 2 weeks (1 and a half remaining), and then my guest-blogging time will be over. There will be some new blog pieces here as well during that time, and of course after it, but volume will probably be a little lower than usual while I’m writing the pieces for Times & Seasons just because they are unusually complicated for me to write. I’m trying to pull together a lot of tangled threads that have grown without much order over the years and wrangle them into something coherent and structured. It’s tricky work (for me, at least).

Neurons from Urine

 

The ick factor is so outweighed by the cool factor it’s barely worth mentioning.

Nature covers an article in Nature Methods that describes how researchers were able to create new brain cells starting only with discarded cells flushed away in urine. This is terrific news for a variety of reasons, starting with the fact that this stem cell treatment doesn’t require destroying human life. In addition, stem cells derived from embryos tend to be hard to control, but the brain cells cultured this way–when implanted into rats–didn’t lead to any tumors. It also helps that these cells are obviously easier to harvest (“We work on childhood disorders,” said one of the researchers. “And it’s easier to get a child to give a urine sample than to prick them for blood.”) Finally: this allows researchers to create stem cells for a patient from that patient’s own cells.

Sometimes, the future is rad.

 

WSJ Lets You Balance the Budget

So the fiscal cliff is looming closer and closer, and a new poll shows that “Americans clearly want Washington to solve its looming budget crisis, and they clearly reject almost every option to do that”. It sounds like typical voter stupidity at first, especially since a lot of the options on the table are not only palatable, but probably should be enacted for their own sake. The article lists: “raising taxes on everyone, cutting Medicaid or Medicare spending, raising the age for Medicare, or taking away tax deductions for charitable contributions or home mortgage interest,” and the last three all seem like no-brainers to me.

Before you start to feeling too smug, however, you can head over to the Wall Street Journal and try your hand at balancing the budget on your own. You start with the $1,102,000,000,000 10-year deficit and a menu of choices for raising taxes and cutting discretionary and entitlement spending. 

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