My sixth sense is tingling, letting me know that this is one of those special Fridays wherein you feel like doing even less real work than usual. It would only be fair under those circumstances for me to provide as many amazing distractions as possible.
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In no particular order:

1. Here is a great "science for stupids" level video on how transistors work:

And now you know how transistors work. So that's cool, I guess.

2. Reuters posted a hilariously bad "travel postcard" on how to spend 48 hours in Minneapolis-St. Paul. This is not a joke, despite the fact that it details just about the worst two-day itinerary one could imagine.
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It advises readers to eat at chain restaurants, spend many hours at the Mall of America, and to take in a Twins game (helpfully noting that "matches normally last three-and-a-half hours but the possibility of overtime can mean a late finish."

3. In the category of "things in Ed's wheelhouse" we have a staggering gallery of 201 images of space art from the Soviet magazine "Tekhnika-Molodezhi" – roughly the equivalent of Popular Mechanics. The Russian title can be translated as "Technology of the Young Generation.
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" The gallery includes both cover art and various illustrations from space-related articles.


I was born in the wrong decade.
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4. Read the tale of a family's quest to get Thor's Hammer on the military tombstones of their deceased loved ones as a symbol of Odinism. Oh, by the way, apparently Odinism is a thing that exists. Sure enough, the Veterans Administration now includes Thor's Hammer as one of the 58 approved religious/spiritual "symbols of belief" available on military tombstones:


That list is fascinating. I consider myself fairly well informed about religions, but there are at least 15 or 20 there that I've never heard of. I'm sure some are very small (it only takes one service member past or present to request adding a symbol, although not all requests are granted). So many unanswered questions. Why the sandhill crane? What the hell is Eckankar? When did atheism get a logo?


53 thoughts on “NPF: BY THE HAMMER OF THOR”

  • I'm actually a Christian (non-denominational) but as a nihilist and a metalhead, I am quite familiar with Odinism and Norse Neo Paganism. Check out the band Amon Amarth sometime if you're looking to check out some amazing Viking themed Swedish death metal. The albums "Fate of Norns" and "With Oden On Our Side" are my favorites.

  • I looked at the atheist symbol and immediately thought of Dr. Manhattan: "This symbol is meaningless. It should be a hydrogen atom."

    The infinity sign is pretty cool though.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    The technologies behind transistors have come a long way since I was a boy, when, back in the mid-60's, in classes with kind grade school teachers who were baseball fans, we kids were allowed to bring our little transistor radio's (about the size of a hand-held, only thicker) in in October and, if we had behaved, when the game started, to plug our single little earpiece in, to listen to the early parts of World Series games – which used to be played only in the daytime.
    Not every kid had one – mine was a Christmas gift from a kindly neighbor – so we used to share what was happing by describing what was happening in the game to those poor souls who didn't have one. "WOW!!! Koufax struck out another one!!!"

    And then, with school over, and the game still on, we'd rush to our homes, or we'd go to one another's, radio's still plugged in our ears along the way, to watch the end of the game on some tiny B&W TV.

    Now, thanks to those advances, a single average hand-held device has many multiple times the computing ability compared to all of the gigantic computers all around the world that were linked together to initially design the mission, plan the trajectories, launch the Apollo 11 astronauts, and make sure they returned safely, after having travelled for the first time, to the moon.

    FSM, I am old.

  • @CU: if you haven't already, see "The Dish". They mention an archaic thing called a "slide rule". Best I can tell it was away of calculating higher math by slaughtering a sheep and counting the number of kinks in its gut ;)

  • Re. the Reuters travel post — I can only guess it is aimed at non-Americans who for some reason find themselves in the Twin Cities and want to experience kitschy American heartland culture. I'm imagining a 40-something German businessman who may well need explanation of baseball game duration and the concept of being ID'd for a Bud Light…

  • Also re: the Reuters travel post, it sounds like something my late-50s mother would write, with the possible exception of breakfast at Potbelly's (ew). That's roughly how she spends her annual trips to the Twin Cities, right down to lunch at Cafe Latté (which is not actually a chain, despite being all modern and having a website, and is actually pretty decent if you're in the market for soup/sammich/salad/ridiculous dessert).

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Slide rules are for wussies.
    An abacus is the real deal!

    Watch these kid from China doing massive calculations with an abacus, in seconds.
    And then, after years of doing those calculations on a abacus, watch them solve them without one, using just their brains – and just a couple of simple hand movements, simulating an abacus – to come up with answers I know I couldn't get to as fast using a calculator.

    This may sound like a joke, but maybe we ought to be American teaching kids to be using abacuses for math formulations until a certain age?
    There is a logic involved in them, which the mind then seems to be able to understand, and duplicate without one.

    Of course, this video shows the best students, so who knows how others do?
    But I had a relative who knew how to use one, and he gave me an intro when I was a kid. And man, once you got how to use one – which didn't take too long – it was pretty cool. Of course, I was just doing simple things.
    These kids are doing calculations with decimals. Amazing!

    Still, I'd put my money on these kids beating ours, even if ours had the latest calculators – mainly because ours would trust the technology, without necessarily being able to figure out if the answer is right or wrong, and these kids would.
    If you finger-fudge a numeral, you're screwed unless you can spot the error, and not just trust the machine. These kids would know intuitively, if the answer didn't make sense.

    I think, sometimes we need to go back, to make a better future.

  • Mingent Whizmaster says:

    There was a time when those little hand-held radios
    were referred to as 'transistors', which is an example
    of synecdoche or something (don't bother correcting
    me, I won't recall it tomorrow.) The collection of approved
    symbols for military tombstones was bewildering, but
    I also liked the infinity symbol. Which religion does that
    represent? If the ceremony involves smoking some
    sanctified herbs, I might join up.

  • All those religions with "Christian" or "Christ" in the name remind me of a certain third party in California called the American Independent Party.

    The AIP is a sad-sack of racists and Birch Society leftovers. But new voters sign up for it in droves, entirely because of the name.

    The Lutheran cross is very… girly. Just sayin'.

  • The cat who wrote the Twin Cities piece never set foot in the Twin Cities. It just sounds 'not right'. I have spent 2hrs of my life in the Twin Cities, one was in the airport and other on the interstate, and even I can tell he had never been there.

    Why so many different symbols for Christianity? Do the Methodists think the Lutherans have cooties and they won't share the same cross?

  • @sluggo "Why so many different symbols for Christianity?"

    Because there are something like 20,000 different Christian sects, any one of which will gladly take the time to explain to you how the others are all wrong wrong wrong.

  • PhoenixRising says:

    Wow. The logos for about 10 of those officially recognized tombstone options make me wanna join the Guard so that when I die, I can get one.

    Sadly, DADT was finally rescinded the same week I got a confirmed diagnosis of a kind of cancer that makes you ineligible even if you're younger than 40.5 years, so it's just a pipe dream for me.

  • They mention an archaic thing called a "slide rule".

    Hey! I own a slide rule!

    I also am curious about that sandhill crane; a search on the intertubes reveals it was a symbol of the Miami tribe. So maybe that? Or it's just a cool symbol.

  • Not to tar all Odinists with the same brush, but there are powerful affinities between some Odinist beliefs and white supremacist ideology. Perhaps for that reason, there are a lot of white-power racists in US prisons who claim "Odinism" as their religious identity (the Southern Poverty Law Center has apparently said that prison-based white racist Odinism is the fastest-growing Odinist sect). None of this is to say, as noted, that this particular serviceman or his family fall into this group. The DoD, however, has recently stepped up its efforts to "purge violent racists" from the ranks of the military (per a 2012 HuffPo piece).

  • @robo: Why would the DoD want to PURGE violent racists from the ranks of the military? Wouldn't violent racists be keen to wage war on the brown people Dick Cheney's profits want us to wage war on? Oh wait, they'd also want to wage war on the brown people in the US military. Never mind. Sorry.

  • To judge by their logo, the Christian & Missionary Alliance looks like a fun bunch to hang out with on a Friday night.

  • If i recall correctly, one of Eckankar's doctrines is that when you daydream, you are in fact engaging in astral travel. That's right, with Eckankar you can learn to astrally travel WHILE YOU ARE DRIVING.

    As for Odinists, during the initial fuss over Kennewick Man (prehistoric remains found in Washington State that seemed to display Caucasoid characteristics), some wannabe Vikings wanted to claim the remains using the same affiliation criteria as laid out by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

  • One of the many inappropriate and extremely-unprofessional joys had working in a prison for seven years was the day in which the chaplain for the yard would clear the rec yard during lunch and have the Multifaith Gathering. The Aztec guys would do their thing praising the sun and cardinal directions, the Native Americans would beat a drum, the Wiccans sometimes went to a lunchtable and played Dungeons and Dragons in their heads, the Pagans wouldn't join them for fear they'd then have to resubmit paperwork for their religious property under a new heading, and the Asatru inmates would stand in a circle and yell to Odin and other gods to praise them. Many white guys tried to join so they could be allowed to grow beards and have these shirtless rituals and wear cool hammer pendants.

    I would always sing to myself as I watched them: "O mighty hunter of great fighting stock!"

    They didn't understand references to "speaw and magic HELLLLmet!!!"

    No wonder they ended up in prison. No connection to our culture.

  • It was a more yelly version of the Technoviking video. The inmates wouldn't be allowed to grow their beards long enough for braiding, but I can easily imagine a younger and smaller concubine offering a bottle of water to an Asatru/Odinist in the manner displayed on the video.

  • @Fitzroy Glibherbert "I *must* know what the Sandhill Crane is all about" – I had to go looking, and….

    (Sorry, forgot how to make the link real…)

    Apparently it means "when I was alive I was gay-married". I'm gay-married myself and I think that's just weird. My husband calls me "Jesus Christ" all the time but it's usually followed by "flush the fucking toilet."

  • @Robo: but if the military purges the white supremacists would there be anyone to join let alone left in it? Heck after a steady diet of Fux'd Nüz, country music and military indoctrination my brother is starting to become borderline.

  • The United Church of Religious Science seems to have borrowed their insignia from a chain of gas stations in the 1930s.

  • I don't really understand why every piddling Christian sect needs its own cross. A cross is a cross. For example, half of Germany is Lutheran but AFAIK they would all be really surprised to learn that there is a specifically Lutheran cross in the USA with a silly little heart. German Lutheran churches simply appear to have… a cross.

    And while I am an atheist I am not quite sure I would like to be saddled with the weird Science Fiction-y logo that some other atheists apparently thought a good idea. How about no symbol at all?

  • If you visit Minneapolis and don't eat at Hell's Kitchen for breakfast and dinner, you're doing that trip wrong.

    I highly recommend the Kangaroo.

  • @Alex SL: "I don't really understand why every piddling Christian sect needs its own cross. …"
    "And while I am an atheist I am not quite sure I would like to be saddled with the weird Science Fiction-y logo that some other atheists apparently thought a good idea. How about no symbol at all?"

    I believe you answered your own question. Human nature. ;)

    Though Emo Philips says it better:

  • Not only did the "travel postcard" author never visit the Twin Cities, they didn't even bother to look at a fucking map. The Twins stadium is on the west side of downtown Minneapolis, making a "A shot of the game with the stadium and the skyscrapers of Minneapolis right behind as the sun sets…" just a bit difficult…

    Although hilariously, Curt Carlson built a twin office tower for Carlson Companies (the 5th largest family business in the US) about 10 miles west of downtown Mpls. From downtown, all you can see is the tops of the two towers, which is why it's called "Curt's tits"…

    (scroll to #5 for a pic)

  • as someone said, "religions is just another form of mental illness." that seems so true. sad but true. being on a tiny planet in the orbit of a sun in the vast universe, the idea of a GOD, it's so human, so insufferably idiotic.

    Got to love those humans, though. wonder if ants see us a evil monsters? lol.

  • As robo noted above, Odinism is something that's been co-opted by White Supremacists. In my neck of the woods (Northern California), I'm constantly seeing trucks emblazoned with a confused array of decals depicting Norse and Celtic symbols alongside the SS emblem, the Iron Cross, the SKIN logo, etc. When seen like this, it's pretty clear that these symbols are just being used as Swastika substitutes.

  • I grew up Lutheran, and there is definitely a difference between the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) and the Missouri Synod. Notice that the Lutheran cross has a heart in it and the Missouri Synod cross does not. That speaks volumes. All one needs to do is examine the issues of LGBT clergy. the ELCA has accepted this and the Missouri Synod has not.

    @mew, I was wondering this the other day when I saw a car with a vanity plate that said, "VikingPwr"… I was wondering if that translated to white power.


  • Well, there's regular Asatru, and then there's folkisch Asatru. The first group are much more pleasant, generally speaking. The second group are more like the prison gang. Somehow, whenever European descended types get really into their heritage, there's a temptation to go a little too far. It's just not pretty.

  • I once tried to look up Tolkien and his reply to Germany when they wondered if he was Jewish to clear up that important publishing task before the Hobbit could be published under the Nazis' control of things. First Googly-google was to Stormfront. It's hard out there for a purity pimp: they were worried about Elvish being based partly on Icelandic but also partly on the impure Finnish, an Ugro-Hungarian tongue that's clearly NOT ARYAN.

    It was a rabbit hole of assholery… and after actually reading Tolkien and having these particular set of readers of Tolkien, I was amazed at both their knowledge of the subject and their selective blindness of their ideology. I've read criticisms of his work for being too Eurocentric and monarchic and purity-based, but not like those criticisms.

  • The Pale Scot says:

    Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, "Don't do it!" He said, "Nobody loves me." I said, "God loves you. Do you believe in God?"

    He said, "Yes." I said, "Are you a Christian or a Jew?" He said, "A Christian." I said, "Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?" He said, "Protestant." I said, "Me, too! What franchise?" He said, "Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?" He said, "Northern Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?"

    He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region." I said, "Me, too!"

    Northern Conservative

  • The Pale Scot says:


    ….Northern Conservative†Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912." I said, "Die, heretic!" And I pushed him over.

  • The Pale Scot says:


    ….Northern Conservative†Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912." I said, "Die, heretic!" And I pushed him over.

    Sorry, thunderstorm hit in the middle of upload

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