Friday, December 12, 2014

December Update

November was rough. I spent half the month traveling for work, the other half ill, and the two halves overlapping some. I had hoped to use the travel time and hotel evenings in strange cities as an opportunity to work on my NaNoWriMo project, but that proved more difficult than I assumed it would be.
These are not excuses, but the result is I did not complete my 50k word project. In fact, I don't think I hit 10k.

But that's okay. You win some and you lose some, and this time I lost. But not really. I did do more writing than I had in months, and reignited some of my desires to complete a novel. I worked off some rust by writing some really bad crap, and writing some stuff I was pleased with.
The goal now is to move on from this yearly contest as my motivation to sit and write, and to get into the habit of putting up words every week. It's time to graduate to writing regularly, rather than annually. I'm uncertain how that's going to look for me, but I have no shortage of writing projects to work on right now.

Of course, I have other things to overcome in this goal. Dragon Age Inquisition came out last month, and I am deep in my first play through. They say a play through averages around 70 hours, but can take up to 100. I'm already 45 in, and dreaming about the next play through. maybe I'll post a review after to keep the blog busy. Spoiler for that post, it's Game of the Year.
I'm also playing Elder Scrolls Online, which is a fun game. Got it with a great Black Friday deal, over half off. If you are looking for an MMO to move on to because you're tired of WoW, I recommend this one.

Games and writing aren't the only thing on the docket. I got some great reading done over the past few months, and finally started the Game of Thrones books. I'm not sure how I feel about them yet, as I'm still early in the first book, but was a bit turned off by a graphic sexual encounter involving a thirteen year old girl. When you watch the show they don't mention ages, so you imagine these characters as 18, 19, or older. I plan to continue through, and hope for less of that.

Don't forget, it's December, which means lots to do at work, and Christmas plans to take care of. I've also accepted a position as an Elder at my church, which will require more commitment on that front.

Even with everything I have on my plate, I am excited to see what I can accomplish. It occurred to me yesterday that I need to make sure I don't focus on what I'm going to do, or how I'm going to succeed. Instead, I need to trust the Holy Spirit, and let God direct me to the right projects at the right times. Through Him, I can do all things.

That's my update. Gotta go, lots to do.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Righteous Indignation

It seems to me many people like to spout indignation towards what they feel are plights on society. They become angry, because someone has done them wrong, or because someone's actions are not right, or because everyone around them doesn't know the correct way to live, behave, or speak.

We praise righteous indignation in our society. How many movies have you seen in which someone tells off someone else for how they have been treating them? Treating someone else? Or just behaving in a way that made someone uncomfortable? When we see someone standing up and speaking for someone else, we feel it is right for them to do so. And we love it when this is directed at other individuals who have oppressed us, or who have disagreed with our ideals. People who have put us out, made us uncomfortable, or interrupted our flow. People who have done life wrong.

There are many varying levels, but it's still the same. We are indignant towards those who do not drive well enough for us to be comfortable near them. We are indignant towards those who treat retail employees poorly, or who don't leave tips in restaurants. More seriously, we wish ill will towards those who would bully others, we demand justice be poured out on those who disregarded others due to the color of their skin, or rail against those who may threaten our personal freedoms.

We do this because we believe it is right. Then we define it as righteous indignation.

My only question is this: where do you get your sense of rightness?

If I divine rightness from my heart, gut, or feelings, then surely my righteousness is as fickle as I am. How can man be the source of righteousness? Perhaps I take it from laws. Just because something is written does not make it right, and the problem with law is it applies to us just as much as it does those we would wield it against. We often forget this. I could get my righteousness from a religion, much like the pharisees did, though this is just another form of law. A set of standards I cannot possibly match up against.

If your righteousness is fickle, cold, and ever changing, how can it truly be right? If it is not peppered with mercy and love, it is simply indignation. It is anger at humanity, and hatred toward our inability to be perfect. You are as indignant with yourself than you are with anyone else.

My righteousness comes from the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the only righteousness I can trust, as I did not earn it, live up to it, or create it in myself. The humility in knowing that has lead me to this conclusion: indignation is not for me to have. Justice is the Lord's, not mine.

I implore you, whether you chose to believe in Jesus or not, be careful how you direct indignation. You are not above it, and for everything you hold against others, there is something they may hold against you, as they will judge you to the same level you judge them.

Instead, find a way to love those that anger you. Bless those that war against you. Do not slander them, or guess at their motives. The surest way to defeat an enemy is to make them a friend, and only then will they be open to your teaching.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

NaNoWriMo is Coming

It really is right around the figurative corner. Saturday is November first, and the first day of NaNoWriMo 2014.

Me? I love to start out on top. I always try to hit above and beyond the 1600 word count you need to reach exactly 50k in 30 days. If I can reach 5k on day one, I feel like I've set myself up for success.

The only problem is ensuring I have enough to go on to reach my goal, not just of 50k words in a month, but of finishing an entire novel. If you consider that the Hobbit, a respectably lengthened book, is around 93k words, and most novels require you to cut 10 or 20 percent of what you initially wrote, the goal for a first draft my be closer to 110k or 120k words. That's two NaNoWriMos and a couple weeks tacked on the end. (this may not be the best way to look at it, but it's how my mind views it)

This is why I want to accomplish more words, but I find myself with great ideas that lack details. I know how I want to start the book. I know how I want to end the book. I know several characters and locals that are important throughout the book. Where I struggle, as I race against the daily word count clock, is connecting the dots I have with details I didn't think to think of.

This is not a complaint, but the acknowledgement of the challenge before me. I challenge I haven't been great at meeting. I have reached 50k two years in a row, but found myself stalled out shortly after, unsure of direction, and no longer with the accountability of the NaNoWriMo status bar.

Here is to making this year different. I will be out of town the first week in November, and the third week in November, so I hope that limits my distractions, and increases focus. Best of luck to everyone else participating, and also to those who are not, but desire to write a novel.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Did the Pope say what you think he said?

More importantly, does it matter?

I'm not sure what the world's fascination with the Pope is. Catholicism has a long tradition of being mocked, hated, and discredited by secularists of every type. But when the Pope begins to say things like, "atheists can get into heaven if they love people," or that, "God isn't magic," or that, "evolution is a truth," the same secular society that distanced themselves from Catholicism suddenly want to tell you you should listen to this man. Why? Because this Catholic leader is not asking them to conform to the religion of his church, but instead, conforming to their secular beliefs.

I think it's important to note that the entirety of Christianity does not rest on the doctrine of this one man, nor do most Christians see Catholic tradition as Biblically correct. The Pope also suggests you should pray to the Virgin Mary, that crackers turn into Jesus' flesh in your mouth, and wine turns into his blood. Why then do I care of his thoughts on evolution, or his reservations regarding God's divine abilities?

There is only one reason for an unbeliever, or agnostic, to bring up the Pope's words: to tell you that Christianity is wrong. There is no differentiating between Catholicism and Christianity for them, and they want you to know that if the Pope believes in evolution, you should too, or be branded an idiot.

Many of the headlines regarding this event are misleading in regards to what the Pope has actually said. "Pope Francis says Evolution and the Big Bang are real," from Sploid, is just one of many articles on my Facebook feed, posted by friends concerned about my archaic belief in a younger earth, or the concept of creationism. The headline is supposed to indicate what the Pope said at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in a recent speech, but let's look at his actual words.
The beginning of the world is not the work of chaos that owes its origin to something else, but it derives directly from a supreme principle that creates out of love.
 Honestly, does this not sound like a Creationist to you? He continues:
The Big Bang, that today is considered to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the creative intervention of God; on the contrary, it requires it. Evolution in nature is not in contrast with the notion of [divine] creation because evolution requires the creation of the beings that evolve.
Here is where I don't get the secular interpretation of the Pope's words. The Pope states, essentially, that what they regard as the Big Bang, is, in fact, the work of a creator. He even states that the Big Bang, "requires," a creators hand.
This is vastly contradictory to the propaganda taught in science classes. The very concept of the Big Bang is a means to explain away the need for a creator, not to prove one exists. I've seen bumper stickers that say the same, just less eloquently;
I believe in the Big Bang Theory: God spoke and BANG, it happened!
He continues with Evolution, suggesting God created nature with he ability to evolve. Something Sploid leaves out, but is noted in Independent's coverage of the event, is that he says God created humans as well.
He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfilment.
This is important to note. Evolution, as the world would have us believe it today, suggests single celled organisms eventually became more complex, until they were like monkeys, and then neanderthals, and then homo-sapiens. But the Pope did not admit to that point at all. He says, "(God) created human beings," wight he ability to develop towards their full potential. This is not evolution of lesser organisms to more complex ones, but subtle changes in what is already considered the human being.
The concept of the Big Bang and evolution, as it is taught today, does not fit with the Pope's explanation of how it can be reconciled in the faith, but suggests God did create the universe, God did create man, God did create nature, and then allowed it all to grow towards their potential.
So, while he suggests Big Bang, evolution, and faith can coexist, he is not endorsing the theories in full, but that they are acts of God in nature, and less significant than scientists would lead you to believe. Despite this, the headlines read like Pope Francis is hanging out with Richard Dawkins at book signings. It's incredibly overstated, and not new to theological debate or study. Many a man of faith has worked with the suggestions of evolution and Big Bang, reconciling them with the possible coexistence of God. He is also not the first Pope to suggest it either.

But just when you think it's settled, the Pope wanders into the territory of strange doctrine. This isn't new for Catholic leaders, but is certainly noteworthy. This is what he said about God's ability to create:
When we read in Genesis the account of creation [we are] in danger of imagining that God was a magician, complete with a magic wand that can do all things. But he is not.
Is this not a contradiction to his previous statements? He suggests God can create a complex world and complex people, each with their own capability to grow within complex, "internal laws," but that God could not possibly have created the finished product.
This makes no sense. I cannot reconcile these two concepts with each other.

The Pope says that God cannot do all things. I'm unsure if he understand's what the word God means. While it is true God won't do a number of things, this is because those actions contradict His nature, not because He is incapable. This entire statement smacks of disrespect to the divinity that is God the Father.
Consider all of the acts of the New Testament performed by Jesus. Were these magic tricks? The work of a sorcerer? Or were they the power of the divine nature of God?

Some may call into question the literal meaning of Genesis, which is open for theological discussion, but none should question the power of the God of the Bible without first suggesting He is not everything His word makes Him out to be. This suggestion alone unhinge what we need in any faith; a faithful deity. You cannot have faith in the unfaithful, or trust the untrustworthy. You cannot suggest God has the power to transform you from sinner to saint, but not the power to create you in His image.

All of this is incredibly strange. The logic does not add up. It's a collection of soundbites used out of context to support a secularist ideal that stands only to eliminate the possibility of a creator. And while I don't care so much what the Pope has to say, it bothers me that people feel the need to misquote him, or remove context, in an attempt to refute the religious.

Good day.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Disney's Frozen: My thoughts, questions, and concerns

I am assuming most people have seen this movie (seventeen times) by now, because of it's quality and popularity. If you have not seen this movie, please know, there will be some MAJOR SPOILERS throughout this post.

You've been warned.

I enjoyed the film, for a number of reasons, but as I watched it over and over again, I began to wonder about some things. Certain lines began to annoy me. Obvious questions seemed to pop up. The magic began to wain a little, and now I'm left with a list of thoughts, questions, and concerns. I'm not saying I dislike the move. I still enjoy it. But there are some things I have to understand better.

Does the intro music match the theme of the movie?
This entire movie is located in Norway. Norway. So why does the opening theme sound like a mix between the Lion King and Lilo and Stitch? What am I missing here?

A boy and his reindeer do hard labor, and are then kidnapped by trolls.
First scene, a bunch of mountain men break ice from the river to transport to town, all while singing about the dangers of frozen water. That's good and fine, except none of them seem to notice the young boy with his little reindeer that tagged along, chopping away next to them.
From here, young Kristoff (the boy) and Sven (his reindeer) jump on a sled find themselves with a bunch of trolls, watching as the troll shaman tries to heal a young girl who was struck in the head by her sister's magic ice powers. One of the trolls comments to the Kristoff that she intends to keep him and Sven. Fast forward into the movie and we find out these trolls are now considered his family, suggesting he did live with them for some time.
The only logical explanation here is that Kristoff is an orphan that no one cares about, other than the trolls. His parents certainly wouldn't send him out to do hard labor, and then stand by while he is raised by rock trolls. But it is never explained, and we are left to think it's all perfectly normal behavior.

Was the horse in on it?
Anna finds herself swept off her feet early in the movie by a prince named Hans. We know by the end that Hans is using her to try and become the King of her lands, but the beginning is meant to make you feel it's a spontaneous relationship blossoming through awkward love at first site.
Part of the initial wooing is helped along by Hans' horse, who quite literally has Anna falling into Hans' arms. So, was the horse in on it? because he seemed so nice.
It's also important to point out that when Anna calls for her horse, it looks identical to Hans' horse. And her horse ends up leaving her stranded in the cold wintery night.

How does Elsa get up the mountain so quickly?
In no time whatsoever, Elsa is on the top of a mountain singing her big musical number, Let it Go. It takes the remaining evening for Anna and Kristoff to get there themselves. I guess this can be explained by a couple things, like Anna not knowing right away were Elsa went. They also got attacked by wolves and distracted by a talking snow man, but Elsa seemed to have a direct path to get there within a few minutes. Let's be honest though, cartoons have never been good at setting realistic timeframes for travel.

Elsa gets swagger.
While singing her hit song about finally feeling free to be who she is, Elsa puts her hair down, throws on an evening gown, and begins to walk with a wide hip swing. While understated, why does making herself sexy go with feeling free to be who she is?

Size doesn't matter.
Anna meets Kristoff and is obliged to explain why her sister went ice crazy. The basics, she met a guy (Hans) and they got engaged, after knowing each other for only a few hours. Kristoff immediately begins railing on her for getting engaged to someone she barely knows. During this moment, he lists off a number of questions about Hans to test her knowledge; what's his last name, favorite food, best friend, etc. Lastly, he asks, "what's his shoe size?" Anna's response is, "shoe size doesn't matter."
I recognized this as a euphemism immediately, and can't help but wonder how necessary that was.

Can you truly fall in love with someone in a day?
Frozen receives a lot of praise for not making the true love kiss the miracle act that saves the day. This is deservingly praised, as they highlight a level of selflessness as true signs of love. When Anna meets Hans, she becomes convinced they are in love. Why? Because he shares her interests, relates to her family life, and compliments her. Hans appears to be the perfect guy for her.
When Anna meets Kristoff, he grills her over her decision to marry Hans, whom she only spent a few hours with before agreeing to a wedding. He says you can't marry someone you just met. He agrees with her sister, Elsa, that she can't possibly know she loves him after less than a day spent with him.
After this scene, Kristoff spends several hours helping Anna find Elsa, which results in her heart being frozen. Kristoff rushes her back to Hans (whom he has already argued couldn't be her true love) so he can kiss her and save her with that act of true love.
There is only one problem, Kristoff is showing signs that he cares about Anna deeper than just as the random mountain man who traipsed around the wilderness with her all night. When things go south with Hans, Kristoff rushes to the rescue to kiss her in his stead (though that never happens). Despite the kiss not being the cure, they go through a lot of trouble to dismiss the idea of love at first sight, only to have Kristoff and Anna fall in love in a matter of hours. So, was it stupid for her to fall for Hans? was it stupid for her to fall for Kristoff? What's the lesson here?

The Trolls don't understand anything.
Kristoff touts his troll friends as being experts on the subject of love, but as soon as they see Anna, they throw an impromtu wedding, asking the couple to recite vows on the spot. They do this despite knowing Anna is engaged to someone else, but insist that can be fixed by getting rid of the fiancee. Let's not mention that they are attempting to put Kristoff in the same situation he rebuked Anna for, by having him marry someone he just met.
Furthermore, they counsel Anna that she shouldn't try to change Kristoff (which sounds like good advice) but say the reason is that people don't really change. Don't they? It aggravates me that we would teach children that some things about them cannot be changed, and are, therefore justified. The idea that we are all who we are flies in the face of every sociology experiment ever attempted.
And let's not forget, at the beginning of the movie the trolls kidnapped a boy and his reindeer because, and I quote, they were cuties. I'm not sure their judgement is to be trusted.

A castle made of ice, and no one slips.
Yeah. This speaks for itself. Climbing steps of glass like ice, and the only one who can't manage is the reindeer. People are running through the castle with no thought to the floor. At all.

Are her clothes made of ice?
As Elsa lets it go, she runs her hands over her arms and creates a new gown with frilly sleeves and a cape. Do her powers include the ability to create clothes, or are they made of snow and ice? And if they are ice, can she really not be bothered by the cold?

How do you spell Weasel-Town/Wesselton?
I really just want to know if they are being mean, or if the dude doesn't understand phonics.

Have any answers, or maybe some questions of your own? Let me know.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hey, EA, Why Not Tebow?

Some friends and I started an online Madden league when Madden 13 came out two years ago. I picked the Jets as my team. Why? Because Tim Tebow was on the roster.
Over the course of three seasons, Tebow lead my Jets to a 41-7 regular season record, and a 6-2 playoff record, with an AFC Championship and Super Bowl victory (in which I dominated my opponent 31-7).
Last year we took the league into the next generation with Madden 25 on PS4. Taking over the Eagles, I brought on Tim Tebow for two consecutive undefeated seasons, though I was only 2-2 in the playoffs with an NFC championship and a Super Bowl loss.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

How Reading Gene Wolfe Makes Me Feel Like I'm Dreaming

Occasionally I have vivid dreams.Sometimes I enjoy them, sometimes not so much. Most of these dreams tend to follow this pattern: I start out someplace specific with a clear objective (like get from point A to point B). As I begin my journey, I often find I have forgotten something, am without an important piece of the puzzle, or need to accomplish another task before I can reach my destination. Sometimes, it's someone else dragging me to something they have deemed more important, or more necessary, than what I am currently attending to.

This is where things get rough.