The Writer in Black

The Writer in Black

Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy, RIP.

Ouch!

I've never met Mr. Nimoy. I only know him from the roles he has played on the screen, chiefly Spock, of course, but here and there elsewhere.

And yet I feel like I've lost a friend. Star Trek was such a big part of my life growing up.  Lots of people grew up wanting to be Kirk.  Frankly, I wanted to be Spock.


So, goodbye, Mr. Spock.  It may not be the Vulcan thing to do, but I'm going to go cry in a corner now.

"It Can't Happen Here."

The Second Amendment is Obsolete, some say.  The idea that the United States could ever turn tyrannical is pure paranoia, some say.

Well, let's look at that. Rounding up people and sending them to concentration camps (whether called "reservations" or "relocation centers"). Check. (Treatment of Native Americans.  Japanese-American "Relocation Centers" during World War II).

Illegal medical experiments involving infecting people with diseases, not treating them, and observing the effects done on people without their knowledge or consent. Check. (Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment--and particularly interesting how that was "explained" to the victims as they were getting free health care from the US Government.)

Arbitrary searches of American citizens' households aimed at the seizure of property without either probable cause or any kind of warrant. Check. (post-Katrina gun Confiscation)

Laws passed allowing the indefinite detention of American Citizens without due process of law. Check. (NDAA 2012)

American citizens going about their daily business being stopped and searched again without probable cause or any kind of warrant (or even the "reasonably articulable suspicion" for a "Terry Stop"). Check. (TSA, not just at Airports, but at bus terminals, rail and subway terminals, highways, even High School Proms.)

"Can't happen here?" It has and is happening here.

Tell me again how the Second Amendment is obsolete since it's not needed to defend against tyranny.

But "Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."

Yet, still, "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

Addendum Chicago police are instructed to shoot people for obeying the law. Background:  Illinois, the last state in the Union with no provision for legal handgun carry for self defense, had its "no carry" law struck down and was given a timeframe in which to come up with some kind of carry law before the existing law went away entirely.  So, Illinois now has provision for concealed carry.  But the Chicago police Chief vowed to train his officers to shoot people obeying that law.

Addendum 2 EPA exposes people, without informed consent, to high levels of toxic chemicals to track the effects.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Writers Write.

I started (not counted school assignments) when I was in fifth grade, mostly cheap Star Trek ripoffs, heavy on "Marty Stu", oh, one retelling of Tom Sawyer that was practically an abridgement.  I didn't finish any of them.  Really, I was trying to write novels and just didn't have grounding for that.

My mother suggested that I try shorts but for some reason I never went anything with those back then.  Then, in the summer of 1977 (between my Freshman and Sophmore years of high school) I finished my first piece that was relatively substantial.  A screenplay.  A science fiction screenplay.  Okay, it was a rip off of Star Wars.  It was a <i>bad</i> rip off of star wars.  Written entirely by hand (I didn't have a good typewriter at the time) there was only one copy in existence which was soon lost.  I wish I knew where it was.  Because, you know, if I knew where it was I could destroy it.  So long as I don't know, the specter of somebody finding it and threatening to release it to the world unless I perform some unspeakable act for the finder hangs over me.

It was bad.

I was back to partially done stories for a while but at this point I started looking seriously at shorts.  I read collections (had not discovered the magazines yet) from the library--the "Orbit" anthology series, the "Nebula Winners" and others.

Then, in my senior year, I started writing a new piece.  It grew and grew.  Five hundred pages (still handwritten, but I had a rather small hand back then so it was novel length) I had a completed manuscript.  It was still bad, but it had some ideas in it that I may revisit someday.

From then I went into the Air Force.  I started writing more while in, not so much while I was in training or assigned overseas, but when I returned to the US for my last two years I got serious about it.  I started writing shorts.  I started submitting them (I'd discovered magazines by this point).  I started having them rejected.

It took another five years before I had my first sale.  I sold a handful to Analog, one to the late Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, and a few non-fiction pieces.  While not much, this was enough, in fact, to get me exempted from the English language requirement at the college I attended (only person ever to do so).  But that's the thing, when I started college I really didn't have the time or energy (especially the energy) to write fiction much.  Then after college it was job and work.  For a while I worked on a webcomic (and I really suck as an artist).  But it was only in the last few years that I got serious about writing again.  I can't say I write every day, but I write most days.  I have had a few professional sales (some we don't talk about any more ;) ) and a few pieces I've taken "Indie" which at least some people have enjoyed.


But that's what writers do.  Writers write.  Selling is a secondary consideration, a nice one, but not the core.  To be a writer you must write.

One of my great fears even well after I started was that I would “run out” of ideas. I lacked the confidence that I would be able to come up with new stuff consistently. So once a story had been rejected by all the pro and semi-pro markets (this was before indie was a realistic option) I would redo, rewrite, polish and try again. And again. And again. I kept hanging onto these old stories rather than going on to something new for fear that I’d “run out” that much sooner.

Eventually, I learned that some of the worlds I’d created just dripped story ideas. There were just so many things I could do moving forward or backward in time or to different locations in the same world. And then I found, thanks to that writing book Sarah recommended, that I could sit down cold, pick some starting point (say, “I want to set this story on the Moon, in my FTI world during the colonization phase, and maybe have a teenage protagonist”) and just noodle around until I’d generated a “story idea.”

Finally, I’d reached the point where I no longer had to worry that I’d run out of story ideas, that the time would come that I’d have to say “I’m done” because I had nothing left to write.

Only took me 37 years. ;)


So, when cons have that panel on "Mistakes beginning writers make" I almost always volunteer for it because I am one.  I've just been one for the last 37 (or more) years.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

"License Guns Like Cars"

Just about every time the issue of gun control comes up someone will make the "we license cars, don't we" and suggest that we need to license guns like we license cars.

Well, I'll take that compromise right now.  Right. this. instant.

If we license guns like cars, then, first, licenses are only required for cars and the operators thereof, that will be operated on the public streets.  No license required for use on private property. (Note:  Don't bother challenging me on this; I used to drive autocross and have not only seen, but driven, more than a few cars that are not licensed, titled, or otherwise registered because they were never intended for use on public streets.  In fact, most of them weren't legal for public streets.)

Licenses will be available to individuals as young as 16, learners permits (for operating with supervision on the public streets) as young as 15 (depending on the State).

Licenses valid in all 50 States and every municipality within those States.

Licenses valid, by treaty, in most foreign nations (An "international drivers' license" is simply a translation of your State drivers' license into various foreign languages so the local law enforcement can know what your State licensed you to drive--has no legal weight in and of itself).

No federal license required for running a business buying and selling.

No background checks for purchase.  Indeed, if you don't intend to operate it on public streets no paperwork at all beyond a bill of sale (and that's just to protect you in case the previous owner wants to claim you stole it).

No license required to transport on public streets, concealed or not, (Those cars at the autocross?  They didn't get there by apportation--they were all transported on public streets, many in ways that would count as "concealed" for firearms in at least some States).

Dire emergence a valid proactive defense for an unlicensed operator.  If you have a real, life-threatening emergency that calls for the use of your item, then that justifies even an unlicensed user using an unlicensed item on the public streets.

No limits on size, power, or operating mechanism for items that are not to be used on the public streets.

Oh, and because it bears repeating:  no license required for item or operator if not being used on public streets, and even then "dire emergency" justifies non-licensed use on those public streets.


If we "licensed guns like cars" the only time you would ever need a license is if you were going to operate (drive , shoot ) the object (car, gun) on public property.  And dire, life-threatening emergency would be an affirmative defense of operation even without a license.

So, the only time a license would be needed would be for non-emergency use of the firearm.  I.e. hunting and sport shooting.  None would be required for self defense since that, by definition, is "dire emergency".

"License guns like cars" would be an unqualified improvement on the current situation from the perspective of gun owners because in every aspect where cars are restricted, guns are restricted every bit as much.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Home Defense Firearms

When it comes to home defense, the best, the absolute best, weapon for defense against a home invasion is a compact semi-automatic rifle with certain, particular features.

Despite what Hollywood would have you believe, criminals often continue to function after being shot, often after being shot several times. "The dead man's ten seconds" is a phenomenon well and long known (the phrase comes from the Civil War). The criminal may be effectively dead from the first shot, but they still have the ability to do a great deal of harm before they're stopped. Thus, it may take multiple shots to stop them. Maybe they'll spend their entire "dead man's ten seconds" staring down at the hole in their chest." Maybe it's easy for you to bet other people's lives that that's how it will go down but maybe instead they'll use that ten seconds to hurt or kill the homeowner unless distracted by, oh, other holes being put in their body from repeat shots until they do stop.

We have repeated reports of people in military theaters shooting an individual multiple times and having them continue to fight.

And that's not even counting that robberies are often committed by more than one person. Again, local news reports suggest that the majority of home invasions involve multiple attackers.

Now, maybe in the "average" it's over after only a couple of shots. But one can drown in a stream that "averages" 6 inches deep if one happens to step in a hole that's 8' deep (the rest of the stream only being 4" or so, so the "average" comes to 6"). But multiple attackers requiring multiple shots each to put down is one of the scenarios as "civilian" may face, and this without a partner, without backup on call, with just what they can grab ready to hand.

In high stress and fear situations human beings have certain common issues. One is that fine motor skills go to hell. Simply working the action of a rifle or handgun can become a thing of fumbling when one is in fear for ones life (a necessary condition of use of lethal force in all jurisdictions in the US). Much better a simple action of "aim, pull trigger, aim, pull trigger". Thus, semi-automatic.

When an attack comes, you can't be sure that everyone in your household is all together. You may, for example, have to go get the kids. This doesn't involve hunting the "bad guys." I don't recommend that at all. Get your family together and defend them if the bad guys come to you, but "get your family together" may require some moving around. Now, when you're moving around, you may have to do things like open doors or work light switches. Or maybe (it's dark, say, and this occurred after everyone was in bed) you need one hand free to hold a flashlight. Maybe you have a light mounted on your rifle but, well, you're looking for your kids. It would be good to have a light you can shine on things without pointing your gun at them, don't you think? A "pistol grip" simply makes it easier to handle and keep control of the rifle in such circumstances. Also, a more "compact" design is easier to maneuver down hallways, through doors, and the like.

The attack happens at night? When you fire the muzzle flash blooms in front of you, temporarily blinding you. Who knows what can happen in the couple of seconds it takes your eyesight to recover. A flash suppressor/hider doesn't actually suppress or hide the flash. It diverts it to the side where it interferes less with your vision allowing you to keep eyes on target allowing you to assess whether the attacker had been stopped or if you need to keep shooting, and if you do need to keep shooting you can aim rather than fire blindly (literally) and trust to luck.

A rifle is easier to aim accurately than any handgun. A centerfire rifle has more stopping power than any handgun.

Now, maybe you're not the one to hand to grab the rifle.  Maybe it's your wife who's smaller than you.  Or maybe you sometimes use the rifle out in the cold while wearing heavy, thick clothing and sometimes when its warmer so you don't have so much heavy clothes on.  A stock that can be adjusted for length helps size the rifle for easy, comfortable, accurate shooting.

Now note what I've just described: a compact rifle with a pistol grip, "large" capacity magazine (actually "standard" capacity since that's what these rifles are designed for), flash hider, adjustable stock, and possibly a rail to which a light can be attached. While there's no "shoulder thing that goes up" (Carolyn McCarthy can never be sufficiently mocked for that) what I've just described is an "assault weapon" per the media and folk like the Brady Campaign.

It also happens to describe the best tool for defending your family against one of the between 4 and 40 thousand home invasions that occur every year.

How many of those 4 to 40 thousand families, many with children, are you willing to sacrifice?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Feeding the Active Writer

Once upon a time I used to love watching movies, big tub of popcorn in hand.

These days, of course, that's not possible.  I can still watch movies and there are a few that are actually worth watching (may I recommend the Marvel Cinematic Universe?).  But popcorn?  Way too much carbs.

Not just the popcorn.  Nothing at the local theaters is safe for me to eat.  Even the chicken strips and mozzarella sticks are breaded with pure carbs. (What's with all this stuff?  When I was growing up it was popcorn, candy, and sodas.  That was it. Kids today....)

So, I came up with my own snack.  Carb free popcorn chicken.

Of course I most theaters are posted "no outside food or drink" and I woudn't publicly endorse anybody breaking those rules but, you know, if you have a medical reason why you can't eat what they provide but do have to eat on a regular basis, well, that rule could probably be challenged under the ADA.  I'm not a lawyer so don't take that as legal advice.

Still, here's my very simple recipe.

Ingredients:
2-3 lbs of boneless skinless chicken breast cut into 1/4" cubes.
1-2 eggs lightly beaten.
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (the real cheese, not the cheese flavored stuff).

Preheat over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit  (about 175C)
Take a small handful of the chicken pieces and roll them in the egg, mixing until the pieces are each completely covered with egg.  Remove the chicken from the egg and let them drain on a strainer so that excess drips back into the container with the egg.

Roll the egg coated chicken pieces in the cheese, breaking up clumps until each piece is evenly covered with the cheese.

Spread the chicken pieces in a single layer on a foil covered cookie sheet.

Repeat until all the cheese has been coated or until there is no more room on the cookie sheet.

Place in the preheated oven and back for 15 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown.

Let cool slightly, then transfer to a bowl or other container.

Enjoy.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

On Belief

Recently, in a post on another forum, someone made the statement “You can believe what you want.”  This is not the first time I have encountered that idea but it caused me to stop and think.
A classic example of this is Pascal’s Wager:  If you believe in God and are wrong, you lose nothing, but if you don’t believe and are wrong, you end up in Hell.  Thus, to be safe, it is best to believe.  Implicit in that is that one can simply choose whether or not to believe.
Can people really simply choose to believe, or not believe, something?  Or put another way are there really people who can do that because I cannot.

I cannot simply decide that, today, I am going to believe in invisible purple unicorns (and you “invisible pink unicorn” types are heretics), nor tomorrow that the purple unicorns have pink polka dots.  I cannot simply choose to believe that the Apollo shots, the Russian robotic sample return missions, and everything else were hoaxes and the Moon really is made of green cheese (despite appearances where a “white cheese” such as Parmesan would be a better fit).  And I cannot simply choose to believe that I’ve got an invisible friend in the sky who made everything and is controlling everything.

One of the things that one has to understand about me is that I am a scientist both by profession and by character.  As a result, I take the position that there is an underlying reality to the Universe and that my job is to try as best I can to learn/understand what that reality might be.  Science, religion, philosophy, Zen Buddhism, all are approaches to attempt to comprehend that underlying reality.  These approaches may be better or worse at moving toward that comprehension (I submit that no one ever has, or probably ever will, completely obtain that comprehension).  They may be closer or wider of the mark.  But the goal is moving toward that comprehension.

Different people, at different times, may have seen parts of that underlying reality.  Others might have been mistaken by what they thought was that underlying reality.  To me, Asatru (More on this later) is the idea that the Germanic/Norse people saw a bit of that underlying reality a bit more clearly than others such that the Germanic/Norse deities are at least a partial description of real powers in the Universe (or possibly a "meta-Universe" of which our observable Universe is but a part).  I do not know if this is so or not.  It might be true, or might not.  But am willing to entertain the idea and explore it seeing if I can find evidence to support it.

It's possible that the underlying reality is, in some manner, shaped by our beliefs (I don't say it's likely, but it's possible).  It's also possible that that underlying reality is supremely indifferent to what or how we believe.  Either way, it is what it is and we seek to find that "what is".  I find, for the most part, that I approach from the perspective of science (look for patterns, try to determine a "rule" for the pattern, compute what must happen or must not happen if the rule is true, look to see if it does or does not. Boiled down to "how do we know if we're wrong" and then go look) because I have found it very effective at sorting wheat from chaff as it were.  OTOH, I've encountered things that I cannot explain with my current understanding of science and so recognize that there are things that my current understanding of the world, obtained through science, is far from complete.

As Shakespeare put into the mouth of Hamlet, "There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy, Horatio." That, of course, does not mean that any particular fancy one might come up with is one of those "things" and, in fact,  that's not the way to bet.  As big as the Universe is, it is only (so far as we can tell) one but the possible "might be's" are endless.  There are simply more ways to be wrong than there are to be right.  Still, our knowledge, both as a species and as individuals, of the way the Universe is is incomplete and we do well to remember that.

One example of the “incomplete” nature of my, personal, understanding comes from my training in the Martial Arts.  Over the years I have studied several martial arts.  One of them was “Togakure-Ryu Ninjutsu” as popularized in the US by Stephen K. Hayes.

One part of that training was various “sensitivity drills” designed to open us up to “energies” (quotes because these “energies” do not meet the definition of energy that I know as a physicist) beyond those accessible to our normal senses.  One day, we did a particular drill which involved standing in a circle, about 20 feet across facing away from the center.  One member of the group would stand in the center holding a wooden “training pistol.” He would point the pistol at one of the people at random in the circle and focus his attention on that person as if he meant to attack him.  We were supposed to “feel” the intent and, when we felt it, pivot to face the person in the center.

During the course of the exercise I felt “twitchy” and would jerk my shoulders as if I were about to turn but then I’d go back to my original position.  Then, after several minutes, without any conscious intent on my part I found myself facing the center and there the person was, pointing the wooden gun right at me.

I’m well aware of the kinds of things where a person might pick up on something without realizing it:  seeing a reflection, feeling air pressure from the motion or breath of the person involved, hearing movement, that sort of thing.  There were no reflective objects in the training area.  At a distance of 10 feet I don’t think I would have felt any slight breeze from his motion or his breath, certainly not to the extent of being able to discriminate between his pointing at me or at the next person over.  "Targets" weren't chosen in sequence so I couldn't just spot the person next to me turning and know that I'm next.

Was there something that simply cued my physical senses at a “subconscious level” telling me that that was the time to turn?  I don’t know.  I’ve eliminated the obvious ones but who knows what might have been there that I don’t know about.  Or could it have been something else, something that goes beyond, sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell?  I don’t know.
 
Now, many of my beliefs, the ones that make up “me”, were formed when I was very young.  I believe that falling down hurts because I’ve fallen down a lot and, sure enough, it hurt.  But a lot of my beliefs aren’t so prosaic.  I believe many of the things I believe simply because that’s the way I was brought up in my “formative years” and taught whether by precept or by example, that that’s the way things are, taught by people I had reason to trust (teachers at school, parents, and so forth).  These beliefs are not always logical.  They are not always well supported by evidence.  And the experience may simply be that they’re the ways I saw and I didn’t see other ways.

There is a certain reasonableness in believing what one is taught from youth.  Parents, teachers, and to a lesser extent peers, are all people one has reason to trust to some extent.  When all, or even most, of them tell you a thing over the course of years it is natural, it is reasonable, to believe it.  It is not always right, but it is reasonable.  Without new evidence or argument of some sort it appears far less reasonable to pick up a new belief.  If one decides that one cannot accept, cannot believe in, the God with which one was raised, it is not reasonable to simply decide, arbitrarily, that one is going to believe in a flying spaghetti monster, at least it is not for me.  And so I look for experience, evidence, and argument and logic before accepting new beliefs.

An example is religion.  I was raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS or Mormon).  Now, the Church has many beliefs but one of the ones that was endemic to my teaching (whether official Church doctrine or not) was Young Earth Creationism, well, slightly modified Young Earth Creationism since one of the Church’s scriptural books “The Pearl of Great Price” contains a description of a planet “Kolob” described as being nearest to “heaven” and for which a single day was 1000 Earth years.  So the “six days” of Creation could have been 6000 years.  However, as I started learning more about science, particularly geology and biology, I learned of a huge body of evidence that the Earth was far older than what I had been taught.

One small piece of that body of evidence was the existence of what geologists call angular unconformities.  This is a case where rock layers, originally horizontal and flat, had been bent or tilted by geologic forces, partially weathered away, and then new layers of sediment laid on top of it to be gradually compressed into rock(1).  This process, to occur naturally, would take a long time indeed, far too long to happen were the Earth only a few thousand years old.

Example of an Angular Unconformity
(1) Example of an Angular Unconformity

And so, once I started questioning my previously unexamined belief in Young Earth Creationism, I started looking at the totality of my belief in the LDS religion and I soon found that I just didn’t believe it any more.  Too much contradicted the evidence that was available to me.

That did not, however, mean that I was simply going to grab onto any other belief that came my way.  Nor was I going to exclude the possibility of things beyond my understanding, things that could include a “God” or “Gods.” Loss of belief in something does not automatically mean belief in its opposite.  It did, however, put me in a position to consider different beliefs.  I looked at Wicca for a while.  While I do not doubt that many are sincere in their beliefs, I did not find the evidence to support those beliefs compelling.  Nor did I find the idea of reincarnation particularly appealing when I look at the world, do the numbers, and figure the odds of being reborn to a situation better than my current one.  That does not mean it isn't true--"appealing" and "true" have no necessary relationship--but appealing or not, I did not find the evidence as presented to be compelling.
I looked at Buddhism, Shinto, Hinduism, and various neo-Pagans.  I also looked at various forms of Christianity.  Oh, and I took a brief look at Islam.  I found none of them particularly convincing.  And so my agnosticism remains.

People have tried to present me with what they saw as evidence.  I have had fundamentalist Christians who have invited me to their Church to see people speaking in tongues and the like which, they believed, would convince me of the reality of their version of the Christian God.  They did not appreciate that I could point them to studies on “religious ecstasy” which showed similar effects in a wide variety of contexts and, since it is not limited to their religion is therefore not strong evidence for any particular religious belief.  Others have pointed me to people who have “died and come back” (technically a “near death experience”), but I can point to the work of Dr. Susan Blackmore and others on the neuroscience involved and how the typical “near death” effects can be shown to stem from the biological structure of the brain.

And so my agnosticism remains.  But out of all that, I did find one form of religion immensely appealing:  Asatru.  As part of my exploration, I read Diane Paxson’s “Essential Asatru” and Greg Shelter’s “Living Asatru” (I have since lost my copy of Shelter’s book and would dearly love to have both of those as ebooks).  One of the things I found most compelling is the idea that “wyrd” is something you build out of accumulated “orlogg.” In short, sin and punishment are not there because of some arbitrary “God says so” but rather are simply the natural result of the accumulation of ones actions.  I also found the “Nine Noble Virtues” which strike me as a far better model for a “good life” than the Ten Commandments (half of which amount to “stroke God’s ego.”)

These and other reasons made Asatru very appealing to me.  While being appealing is not, in itself, enough to be convincing for me, it was enough for me to see about giving the practice a chance.  Perhaps, if I gave the religion a chance, the Gods, if they exist, would see fit to provide me with evidence that would convince.

One chance for that came when one of our dogs, a six-month-old puppy, was very sick and was not expected to live much longer.  You have to understand, I am very much a “dog person.” While I’m fond enough of cats, my worship of the canine stops short of idolatry…barely.  Dogs aren’t just “pets” to me they are “furkids” (picked up that term from our regular pet sitter).  My daughter (eight years old at this writing) also loves our dogs dearly.  Now, add to that that we had only shortly before these events lost an old and beloved family pet (who I truly hope is awaiting me at “Rainbow Bridge”) and you see that this was a very traumatic event for our family.  I decided to make an effort.  I purchased a four lb “Engineers Mallet” (similar, in my conception, to what Mjolnir would be) carved Thor’s name into it in Elder Furthank, anointed it with some of my own blood, and sacrificed it into a large nearby body of water asking Thor, if he existed, to “hold his hammer between Trunks and harm” and to intercede with Eir, who Snorri described as the best of physicians among the Gods to grant Trunks healing.  I also offered a bottle of Guinness (Paxson said that “Stout” was a good offering for Thor) to Thor to that end.

Time passed.  Much to the surprise of everyone, including the vet, Trunks perked up and seemed to be healthy and happy.  A couple of months later, the vet said that the ultrasound techs were curious about what had happened since Trunks seemed to be doing so well.  They offered to do a follow-up ultrasound for free and the vet agreed.

The follow up ultrasound was completely normal.  The large internal abscess was gone.  The kidney irregularities were gone.  The spots on the spleen were gone.  I had a perfectly healthy young dog.
Did Thor intercede?  I do not know.  Human and animal bodies are marvelously complicated things and seeming miracles can happen from entirely natural causes.  On the other hand, I found the bottle (which I had left on the front porch, behind the railing) in the same place but empty.  Maybe somebody came along and drank it the put the bottle back.  My daughter said that maybe Thor accepted the offering and came and drank it.  I offered another bottle as thanks on the possibility that maybe Thor is real and had accepted the first offering.  That one was found later, in the same place, about half empty.

So it could be.  By itself, it’s not enough for me to truly believe.  There are other possibilities (including that I’m underestimating how long it would take for the drink to evaporate).  But it’s a start and enough for me to continue my exploration of Asatru.  Who knows, perhaps in time, bits and pieces will come together enough until I find that I truly believe and am no longer simply exploring.

One of my core beliefs is that there is an underlying truth to the Universe. At some level, what is, is, and what is not, is not. Anything else is chaos. And as a scientist I want to know and understand as much as I can of that underlying truth. If part of that truth is that Odin and Thor (by whatever name) are real beings, than I want to know that. If there is something more to human "being" than electrochemical reactions in the complex neurological structure of the brain, I want to know that.

And if none of that is true. Well, while I might be less happy with that knowledge, I still want to know. My quest is for "truth", whatever it might be. I'm willing to entertain possibilities outside the "conventional" (see above) but in the end, I want to know what is.

Belief is not the same thing as proof. However, even belief, at least for me, has to have something behind it beyond just blind speculation. I don't believe in invisible pink unicorns or flying spaghetti monsters. I do believe in "dark matter" even though I haven't observed it and the evidence is rather abstract and mathematical. I don't need proof to believe, but I do need something to go on.