Friday, July 29, 2011

How Star Wars Saved My Love of Reading

I don’t know if I’ve ever done my love of Star Wars justice on this website. I’ve alluded to it. I’ve listed it as my most favorite SF thing ever. But I don’t know if I’ve ever really explained how much I really, truly love Star Wars.

There is so much to love about Star Wars. The original trilogy is a classic tale. A struggle of good versus evil. A story of redemption. A story of wizards in space. What’s not to love?

But I think the reason why I love Star Wars so much is because Star Wars saved my love of reading.

When I was in the 5th grade, I had read every book in my school’s library. So I branched out to the public library, following authors I trusted and loved. But this was not a good move. Why? Because I was in the fifth grade, and just because an author writes a couple of 9 year old appropriate books, that doesn’t mean all their books are appropriate. Hence I read my first sex scene at the age of 9.

I had no idea it was coming. And thinking back, it probably wasn’t that graphic. But it traumatized me. I didn’t want to read anything like that ever again. I didn’t like it. I wanted nothing to do with it. So what could I read? Books aren’t rated and I had long sense outread anything my parents and older siblings read when they were my age. And it’s not like we had the internet to look up books I could read. And this was pre-Harry Potter, so the middle grade section of the book store was not the over abundance of books it is now.

I was such a good reader that I had outread all of my possibilities. I was stuck. My love of reading had crashed into a wall. What was I to do? Where was I to go?

Thus my uncle loaned me The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn.

Luke, Han, Leia—they were all back in full force, plus new amazing characters like Mara Jade and Grand Admiral Thrawn. Had someone just made me like and sympathize with Imperials? Yes, yes they had.

Suddenly there was a section of the bookstore that was safe for me. Star Wars is and always has been rated no more than PG-13. And PG-13 I could handle. But not R.

And the Extended Universe (aka Star Wars books) was huge. So many books to catch up on! So many books to read. So many possibilities. Thus began weekly trips to the bookstore. My mom would take my brother, little sister, and me to the mall every Saturday. We’d get Chic-Fil-A for lunch and then go across the hall to the Waldens. I still remember where the Star Wars section was. Straight back in the dead center, a whole section of just Star Wars books. I would pick out two I hadn’t read every Saturday and by the next Saturday I finished reading them. I did this for two years. Star Wars was all I read in fifth and sixth grade. And then, of course, Harry Potter came out and everything changed.

Without Star Wars, I wouldn’t have survived to Harry Potter revolutionizing my world. I would have stopped reading in the fifth grade and found other pastimes. No one else in my family reads as much as I do, so I would have found something to replace reading. And reading probably would have been replaced. A person doesn’t just stop reading for two years and survive as the same avid reader she had once been.

So in middle school when everyone else was obsessed with boy bands, I was obsessed with Rogue Squadron. When everyone else was getting into makeup, I was figuring out how to build a lightsaber (in theory, not practice). Does this make me a geek? Yes, yes it does. But to this day I still read two books a week (if not more sometimes), and most of my other friends only read maybe a book a month.

I still have my geek card and my avid reader status. And I thank Star Wars for them both.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Using Logic in Life Decisions

This past semester the project manager of my research project was a senior who was graduating. He was a little lost in what he was supposed to do with life. Since I was a graduate student he had been working closely with—and theoretically respected—he came to me for advice on what he should do. Like any graduating senior he was faced with a choice: do I go out and get a job or do I go to grad school? And to add extra complication for him the grad school question broke down further: do I work in the Center for Space Systems or do I work in the ASDL? (Since he had offers from both). He was feeling quite lost and didn’t know what to do. So he asked me a lot of questions like “why did you chose to go to grad school?” and “why did you pick CSS over another group?”, etc.

So one day we were discussing this as we were walking somewhere (I have no idea where we were coming from or where we were going). I made the comment that for me, staying at Georgia Tech was an extremely hard decision. It went against all my emotions and gut instincts. I had been at Georgia Tech for four and a half years and the nomad in me could not allow for living somewhere that long. This was actually a huge deal for me.

So he asked, “Then why did you decide to stay at Georgia Tech, if you had such a strong feeling to the opposite?” I responded that I had made a pros and cons list and the pros of staying at Georgia Tech far outweighed the cons. The nomadic feeling was honestly my only con. And I recognized that this feeling was my messed up nomad brain trying to freak me out and make me run, when I should stay. The pros were just too great.

The boy looked at me with a completely stunned expression. He said, “You made a life decision using a pros and cons list? Using logic?”

I was baffled by his response and it took a lot of questioning to unwrap what he was actually saying. What was he saying? Well, we were both Christians and we both knew that. In his mind, God CAN NOT possibly speak to a person through logic. God speaks through feelings. So my feeling to run MUST have been from God. And the logical choice clearly wasn’t.

I could not believe I was hearing this from someone, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that many Christians think this is true. People expect conviction to be emotional, that God will bring you to tears. They expect people to be overcome with emotion and close their eyes while singing or dance to the music. They do not expect you to be sitting in your room studying your Bible and instead of being struck by sudden tear bringing conviction, saying “Huh. God seems to indicate in His Word that I shouldn’t do this. I should probably change my ways.”

How did this happen? How did we so disconnect God from logic? I’ll admit that God’s logic is not always our human logic, but God gave us brains for a reason. He gave me the ability reason. He gave me the ability to make decisions. And if I’m not hearing a voice from the heavens or seeing handwriting on the wall, I’m probably going to trust logic over my feelings when it comes to life decisions.

Because that nomad feeling? The feeling that I need to run and find a new place to live? That definitely wasn’t a God feeling. That was my brain. And I’m a logical enough person to realize where that feeling came from. It came from years of never living anywhere longer than four year. It came from frustration of not knowing how to maintain friendships past four years. It came from anger at the person I’d been labeled as—the person people saw me as—instead of the person I saw myself as.

And the logic? It made complete sense. And if I had not chosen to stay at Georgia Tech I would not be in this awesome job that was perfectly made for me. A job that I fit into like a hand in a glove. A job that I’m very certain God wants me to be in.

So please, do not disregard logic because you don’t believe God can use logic as easily as He uses emotions. God is all powerful. He can do anything. He can work through logic or emotion, pros and cons lists or strong feelings.

It’s sort of like being a Jedi (yes, I’m going geek on you here). Remember in the middle of the Empire Strikes Back? When Luke had that overwhelming feeling he should run off and save his friends? And Yoda was the voice of reason saying “Don’t do it!” Sometimes a Jedi is supposed to trust their feelings—just like a Christian—but this was a scenario where Luke should have listened to Yoda’s logic. Where logic would have yielded the response the Force (God in this metaphor) wanted.

So trust your feelings, Padawan. But remember that some emotions lead to the Dark Side.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What does that mean?

(Sorry about not posting an engineering Tuesday yesterday. These things happen. But I hope you enjoy today's Western Wednesday.)

I recognize that there are regional dialect differences in America. My dad is from New York, and my mom is from Georgia--so I was aware of this from a very early age. But for the most part, I thought regional dialects just meant different people said words differently or had unique regional sayings.

For example, the word "crayon." My dad says "cran", as many Northerners do. My mom says "cray-on". My sister and I, as their confused offspring, say "crown" and always have. I always make sure I say a "coloring crown" so people don't think I mean the regal headgear of kings.

I spent most of my life in the South so I say "mirra" instead of "mirror" and "I'm fixin' to do something" instead of "I'm about to do this". However, because of my Northern dad, I do not say "ya'll". I have nothing against the word. My friends use it all the time. But I say "you guys", like many Northerners do.

So strange pronunciations and sayings I always knew existed. But I never really realized before that its not just pronounciations and sayings. Different regions call objects different things.

Take the above picture. It shows the top of a stove, which consists of four round objects on which you generally place pots to heat them up. Bring water to a boil, cook some soup, make an egg, whatever--that's what you do here.

What do you call those round things?

I thought everyone in the world called them what I did. I thought that these objects had a universally recognized name in the American version of English. And I thought it was "eye". As in: "don't touch that hot eye!", "Put the pot on the eye", etc.

But recently a Western writer friend of mine was reading my story. And when my narrator described something as feeling like "a hot eye on a stove", my reader said: "What? What's an eye? Does that maybe mean the center of the coil?"

To which my response was: "Uh...coil? Like a helicoil? What are we talking about here?"

Turns out not everyone calls these round heating elements the same thing. That my Western writer friend calls them "coils". Since my story takes place in the South, I'm not planning on changing it. My narrator would think of it as an eye.

Another word my reader commented on was "lanai". She said she thought people only called patios lanai's in Hawaii. Well in Florida me and all my friends had covered pool areas that were called lanais. I think a lanai is different from a patio, which is different from a porch. When I think lanai I think concrete/stucco ground in which their is a pool, and its all screened it. When I think patio.....honestly, I don't know what I think when I think patio. Seems like if its not a lanai its a porch. At least we call my grandmother's covered, un-airconditioned, astro turf back area a "porch" and not a patio. I can't actually recall using the word "patio" in everyday language. "Go out to the back patio" just doesn't have the same ring as "go out to the back porch". But this might also be a southern thing.

Have any of you ever run across regional differences like this? Objects that are called completely different words from what you're used to calling it?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Teenage Stereotypes that I Despise

My current WIP is a young adult novel, which for those of you who aren't up on writer talk, means its a teen book. In many ways, writing a teen book is much harder for me than writing an adult book. Heck, writing a teen book was hard for me when I was a teen. When I was younger, all of my books were "adult" books. Those were the sorts of books I read and the sorts of books I wanted to write.

Middle grade I understand. Adult I comprehend. Teen? Umm...not so much. And there is one very good reason for this.

I was an unusually strange teenager.

How? Well, let's take one small fact that made me hugely different from the supposedly average American teen. When I was a teenager I believed my parents had my best interests at heart, that they were more experienced and wiser than me, and that I should listen to them. I could have been called many things as a teen but disobedient was not one of them.

And strangely enough, most of my friends were the same. Perhaps they weren't as obedient to the extreme that I was (if I recall correctly, one of my friends did lie about going to that concert that one time and pulled a classic "I'm spending the night at so-and-so's house" trick. But that's really the only example of disobedience I can think of).

However, since I was so obedient, I can't recall a single time my parents said no to me when I asked to do something. I had no curfew because I so rarely went out, and when I did go out if the event required that I couldn't be back until three in the morning my parents understood. I was trustworthy. I wasn't going to get into trouble.

Because you can get into sooo much trouble at a LOTR movie marathon.

So when some people read my WIP they respond, "Teenagers don't behave this way." To which my response is always, "Uh, I was a teenager four years ago....", followed by, "Do you believe that because that's what TV tells you how a teenager should behave or because you know teenagers who behave that way?"

I suppose because of my strangeness there are a couple of teenagers stereotypes that really really frustrate me, because I've seen no evidence of these stereotypes in my life.

1. Every fifteen-year-old girl is fretting about her first kiss--because it has to happen by the time you're sixteen. Umm...yeah. I didn't date in high school. Out of a friend group of around eight girls, only two dated in high school. I have friends who are college graduates who still haven't dated. So yeah. I'm fairly certain this isn't as big a deal as books/movies make it out to be. And please, please, please do not "update" this by saying every high schooler is worried about their "first time" having sex. Because this is absolutely not true. Some are, sure, but NO ONE I was friends with was. It's hard to worry about sex when you've never even held a boy's hand, and we were all highly logical. The risks did not outweigh the benefits.

2. Teenage boys are incapable of rational/logical thought when confronted with a hot girl. I never once saw this. Ever. My teenage guy friends were highly logical. My favorite example is that one of my friends was offered by his girlfriend, sex as a way to celebrate their six month anniversary. Not only did my male friend turn her down, he broke up with her. He recognized that sex in high school is not always the most wise decision. He was thinking with his brain...and not so much other body parts.

3. Algebra sucks. Please. Can we move past this? Algebra is EASY. And before you "update" this to make it "calculus sucks", can we please recall that Calculus is in fact EASIER than Algebra? If you want to complain about matrix multiplication, be my guest. You want to complain about all those stupid trig tricks you have to memorize? Go ahead. But calculus? Algebra? Really? Really???? Can we move beyond 1980?

4. Popularity. Every belief you hold about popularity is wrong. A) Not everyone wants to be popular. B) If you went to a large school like I did "popularity" is literally impossible. The odds of seven thousand students all knowing the same five are ridiculous. C) Beautiful, mean, hot girls are not the popular ones. Ever. All the girls I know who got elected to popular things were in fact really nice. Beautiful, yes, still true, but definitely the nicest people ever. Meanness is a straight track to being hated. Teens aren't stupid. D) Being a nerd doesn't mean you can't be popular. I was Captain of the Woodwind Section, Captain of the Quiz Bowl Team, President of Latin Club, and Founder and President of our chapter of the Science National Honor Society. And I was elected to prom court. So yeah. Take that supposed social norms. Basically, all of this is to say that the '80s were a long time ago. The Breakfast Club is no longer true. Get over it.

So these are just a few of the stereotypes that bother me and that I didn't see reflected in my years of high school, oh so long ago (2001-2005). Anyone else out there have stereotypes that really annoy them? Anyone else realize that teens aren't just emotion driven creatures of hormone?

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Sorry guys! This week has been crazy. I'm traveling for work and for a bridal shower and that has added insanity to my life. But I promise I will be back in full force next week.

I solemnly swear (I'm up to no good).

Sorry, Harry Potter still isn't out of my system.

Mischief managed.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Geek out???

I know I didn't post anything today. One of my friends from high school came to visit me and we had a grand time. I saw the seventh Harry Potter movie again (I got the privilege of seeing it at a pre-screening on Tuesday) and then when we went to the adult night at the local children's science museum.

Yes, a bunch of engineers running around the science museum playing with everything. It was awesome.

So you'll have to forgive my lack of post. But you can look back at yesterday's post on Harry Potter, which was sort of a geek out. :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Harry Potter

(Another late post. Forgive me. I'm not trying to make this a habit. It doesn't help that I live in Mountain Time now either.)

I've written about Harry Potter three times before on this website. Once, I reviewed the sixth movie. Another time I spoke about The Harry Potter Generation--how the books brought my family together and made me friends I never had before. Then I talked about how Harry Potter introduced me to even greater books--how it literally changed my life.

And today is the day it all ends. The end of an era.

But today is also Thursday, so I'm supposed to talk about my faith. But I can get away with talking about Harry Potter today, because Harry Potter has been one of the most controversial Christian topics in recent history. (You know that and gay marriage. Somehow, I feel like Harry Potter should be a more trivial concern, but that's just me).

So how do I as a Christian rationalize reading Harry Potter? Well it's actually really easy.

Harry Potter isn't real. Can I say that again? Do you get that? HE'S NOT REAL. I may have been 11 when I started reading Harry Potter, but I wasn't stupid. Kids aren't stupid. We get it. Harry Potter is not real.

Yet somehow parents, who spend years convincing their children that there is a man in a red suit who sneaks into their house once a year to give them presents, condemn something that everyone accepts as not real.

Some people argue that Harry Potter is a gateway into witchcraft, which is clearly denounced in the Bible. However, I think there is a definition difference here. Witchcraft in the Bible seems to be calling upon spirits and using dark powers to do something. Wizardry (and witchcraft) in Harry Potter is not the same.

Even if at 11, had I thought Harry Potter was real, I would never have "tried to become a witch". Why? Because it's more like being a Jedi. You can't become a wizard. You're born a wizard. I received no letter at the age of 11 asking me to come to a magical school, so obviously I'm not a wizard by the definitions of Harry Potter.

As for Harry Potter not being a "Christian book" in general, if my parents had limited me to only "Christian books", I fear for what my reading level would have been. I love God. I love Jesus. I love my beliefs and my faith. But I do not love Christian literature. Most of it is poorly written and it patronizes the reader--even the adult ones.

So if I'm allowed to read The Sweet Valley Twins and The Boxcar Children, which aren't Christian books--where is the line?

As for the argument that Harry Potter is a bad role model because he disregards the rules and has no respect for teachers--I challenge that someone who makes this argument ever read this book. Harry respects the teachers who deserve his respect. He does not respect Snape because Snape treats him so poorly and unfairly. I would not respect a teacher like that either. Yet despite his disrespect for Snape, he rarely directly challenges him. And in the end, (slight spoiler! Skip to the next paragraph if you haven't read the books or seen the movie) Harry learns that not only was Snape worthy of respect, but he was the bravest man he ever knew.

Also, I would challenge the person making such an argument to find a middle grade fiction book where the protagonists actually obeys his elders. It doesn't exist.

I am 24 years old, and I have read Harry Potter for over half of my life. And I love my God with an undying devotion, and I uphold the teachings of the Bible higher than anything else. Clearly, Harry Potter has not scarred me for life. If anything, I believe Harry Potter has made me a better person and has made me a better Christian.

You have the right to believe whatever you wish, but I believe in God. And I don't think God is upset with me for having read and enjoying Harry Potter. I think He used it as a tool to teach me about friendship, good, evil, snap judgements, and how to socialize with my peers. He could have done it without Harry Potter, but I am grateful that He chose to use Harry Potter to teach me these things.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Navy Girl in an Air Force Town

(I know my post is late! But better late than never! Here is a Western Wednesday.)

My father was in the Navy, so in many ways I was "raised in the Navy." I know a lot of the weird Navy quirks and traditions. However, Albuquerque is an Air Force town, thanks to Kirtland Air Force Base, and aerospace engineering is in many ways an Air Force business. So I've had recent encounters with Air Force members.

I have two friends in the Air Force who I see regularly. They're my age and my friends, so there is no need for me to call them by their rank. But as my friends know, I often like to call people by their Jane Austin names. Not out of any love of Jane Austin, but because I feel there are some occasions that call for a little bit of formality. For example, if I'm a little bit angry at my friend I'll call him "Mr. Last Name". Or if I'm just in a formal feeling mood.

So on two occasions I called one of my Air Force friends "Mr. Last Name" within hearing of my other Air Force friend. The one I called Mister didn't seem to mind, but both times the other friend corrected me. "Captain Last Name" she said.

I was completely miffed by this. I mean, not because of the title. I get titles. I would never call my boss "Mr. Last Name" even if I was angry at him, because he's a PhD. I would call him "Dr. Last Name." However, I was fairly certain that for junior officers, which a captain in the Air Force is, Mister was a perfectly acceptable form of address. If this was a mistake, it was a mistake I'd been making all my life with Naval officers.

So I asked my dad. And thus struck my Navy upbringing.

Mister is a perfectly acceptable form of address for a junior officer in the Navy, he told me, but not the Air Force.

So you can call an Ensign Mister--like they do in Star Trek. But you can't call a Lieutenant Mister. Even though they're basically the same thing, just different branches.

It's not a big deal. From now on, when feeling formal or upset, I'll call my friend "Captain Last Name". But it’s just another example of culture shock--not necessarily a Southern culture to a Western one, but a Navy culture to an Air Force one*.

I had never before really thought about how being raised Navy affected my culture, but there it is--it does. It'll probably take a couple of corrections until I remember that. I'd never call a high ranking officer "Mister". You don't do that in the Navy either. So at least I shouldn't be making any big errors in this Air Force town. At least, I hope not. Hopefully, there aren't a lot of other Navy tendencies I've learned that will get me in trouble.

*Not to be confused with THE "Air Force One". :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

RANdom capiTALIzation SyNDrome

If you're not an engineer, it's possible you've never experienced this. And its possible that if you're not an engineer who is in the aerospace industry or ever worked for or with the government you've never experienced this. But for those of us who are aerospace engineers, whose lives revolve around government organizations like NASA, we tend to have this syndrome quite badly.

You see the government is a world made of abbreviations and acronyms. I have received entire emails written in acronyms and abbreviations. It's really insane. There are possibly good reasons for this, like its basically writing in code so if anyone intercepts your email they can't understand it. But sometimes its just crazy.

But if you work in the aerospace industry or for the government, no matter how crazy you think it is, at some point you will find yourself uttering a sentence that sounds like this "Hey, I'm going to the VAB to work on the MLE with my LDE. Don't forget tomorrow I have RDO and my LT has PT, so we'll be MIA."

Utter nonsense.

Then if you continue working in the aerospace industry or the government, something nefarious will start to happen to your brain. You will start thinking that things that aren't acronyms actually are. You'll forget which words require capitalization and which don't. And to be on the safe side, you'll start capitalizing everything.

For myself personally, I see this most often with the word "CubeSat." A CubeSat, for those who don't know, is a little 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm satellite. Basically "CubeSat" is an abbreviation of "Cubical Satellite"; hence, only the C and S need to be capitalized to show the beginning of each word. Yet for some reason, I want to call it a CubeSAT. As if SAT is an acronym for something. Of course, it is in other worlds. The SAT is a huge test. But that doesn't apply here.

The other day I was writing down some instructions when I paused. Is the word MOSFET all capitalized or not? I want to say it is, but I don't know. And Cornell's Violet mission. Is it Violet or is it VIOLET?

I realized at that point, I had full blown Random Capitalization Syndrome, or RCS.

There is no cure for RCS. Even if you leave the aerospace industry--or the government--you will find you do this for years after. You will have relapses when the news reports NASA's latest findings. There is no escape, no cure, no hope.

And the worst thing is, you can never even get your acronyms and abbreviations straight. All the different branches of the government use the same acronyms to mean different things. What some people call a 9/80 schedule, others call RDO. While VAB might stand for the "Vehicle Assembly Building" in can also stand for "Virginia Associations of Broadcasters." And one satellite might just be a word, like Violet. But another satellite will be an acronym, like MESSENGER. (Heck, if you want to see a perfect case of RCS, MESSENGER is it: MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging (MESSENGER). Methinks, someone was trying a little too hard to find an acronym).

The truth is that you can never be sure in this business what something stands for or if it should be capitalized. So every year RCS gets worse and worse. Essentially, we're doomed.

Monday, July 11, 2011


When it comes to writing, I've always considered myself a "pantser" or a "gardener". For the uninitiated, let me explain.

All writers essentially fall into one of two camps. They are either pantser/ gardeners or plotter/architects. Pantser/Gardeners tend to write by the seat of their pants, or in the secondary metaphor, by having an idea and the nurturing it without being entirely sure what its going to grow up into. Plotter/Architects like to plot everything out before hand and plan everything out.

Though I sometimes make crazy excel charts that relate to my stories, they're rarely plot related. Usually they keep track of characters and their histories. My excel charts might "plot" out the lives of my characters that led them up to the story, but I never actually plan out what the story might be. I generally have a point A and a point B. I know where to start and where I want to end, but what goes on inbetween is up for grabs.

Well, yesterday, that all changed.

For the past week I've been working hard on my story "The Descent of Chris Chappell." You might have noticed that the word count on my Works In Progress page has increased by 10,000 words. I did not "plot" out per say this first 36,000 words; however, I did write it in a different fashion then I normally do. When it comes to chapters, usually I just sit down and write and then break where it feels right. But this time when writing, I know what event I wanted to reach by the end of each chapter. It was strange.

So yesterday, I reached "the event" that I had been working towards with this 36,000 words, the event I decided was a huge change/twist in the plot and would therefore mark the end of the "first part" of the story. I then sent out the story to my critiquers. I don't want to go much further until I have feedback, in case I need to make huge changes.

However, I was feeling restless. I wanted to know what was going to happen next in my story. I knew where I wanted my story to end, but I had no idea how I was going to get the characters from the end of Part 1 to the climax of my story. There were things that needed to happen and the characters needed to change and develop for those things to happen. And I couldn't see it.

But I did have some ideas. So I thought "heck, why don't I write my few ideas down?" So I broke out some index cards and colored markers. I assigned each character a color, even non-main characters, and started writing down my ideas on each notecard. As I wrote my ideas down, more ideas came. But I had to keep track of them all, when my ideas would happen in the plot. So I started laying the notecards out chronologically. But I had too many cards for my desk! So I started taping them to the wall.

And suddenly we got the monstrosity you see in the picture above. My entire novel plotted on notecards.

It's insane. It's crazy! I've never done anything like this. But it feels good. Now when I next sit down to write, I know exactly what I should write.

Granted, these cards don't cover everything that will happen. If I had written out everything that was going to happen, I would have written the novel. But they cover all the big plot points that essentially each chapter should be working towards. And I completely discovered how the climax is going to work. It's crazy how some things clicked together. Crazy how things I "just made up" because they seemed to fit clicked together to make the climax work at the end. I mean that's how a story is supposed to work, but it's still amazing.

I don't know if I'm going to forever change my ways and become a plotter/architect, but for this story, I think it has definitely helped me see the way forward. Who knows! Maybe this is the start of a new era in my writing.

If you're a writer reading this, are you a panters or a plotter? Have you ever tried writing using the other method?

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Movie Channel Conspiracy

I think movie channels are purposefully working with my favorite SF/F things to keep me out of the loop. I don't know why. Maybe my geek status has ratcheted to such heights that they feel the need to knock me down a few. Maybe they just hate me. I don't know, but I would like it to stop.

When "A Game of Thrones" premiered on HBO, I let it slide. A Song of Ice and Fire is not my favorite fantasy series. I'm pretty sure it scarred me for life by exposing me to sexual acts I never wanted to know about. It might be a good series, but lets all be honest with ourselves. It's rated at least NC-17. (Wait, is that a rating, or the number on the Enterprise? I can never remember and I'm constantly getting them confused.) I would have liked to have given the show a try, but I understand. I have no expectations that George R.R. Martin would try to appease me, since I'm not a huge fan.

But Torchwood? Really? Come on! How can they lock me out of the Whoniverse? I need to see this. "Children of Men" left me with nightmares and questions. I can't leave it like that. I need my Captain Jack Harkness. I need to know how he can get on with his life after what he did. I need to know if Gwen and her husband are going to stick it out. I need to know how the universe can go on.

Just thinking about how I can't watch it in another two and a half hours, when it comes on, is making me sad. Why did they have to put it on Starz? I mean, I understand they can have more gratuitous sex by putting it on a movie channel, but Torchwood did fine on regular cable before, or at least BBCA. Just put it on the Syfy channel and show it late at night so kids don't stumble upon it. Pleeeease. *sad puppy dog eyes*

Please don't separate me from my Captain Jack Harkness. The real Captain Jack. The only Captain Jack. Johnny Depp doesn't hold a candle to him.

So if anyone out there knows where to go to watch Torchwood online, I would really really appreciate it. I'm counting on you geek community.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Faith Thursdays

I know in the past, I never had a scheduled day of the week to discuss my faith, or God, or anything like that. This was for a very good reason. I didn't want to become fake or rote, or feel like I had to write something because of a schedule. It's sort of like when you close your eyes while singing. Sometimes you do it because you really feel it, and sometimes you do it because you want people to think you really feel it. I never want to be that second scenario. It's so easy to become fake, to know the Sunday School answer and so just write about it. Therefore, I never scheduled a day of the week. I only wrote about things when they came to mind.

This summer is different. Why? Well, there are a lot of things on my mind and heart. A lot of issues I'm struggling with. Well, maybe struggling isn't the right word. I feel like that conveys I'm having a hard time believing something. I'm not struggling with my faith. I'm struggling with what I've always been told to believe about issues in my faith. I'm struggling with things that people don't like to talk about. And I struggle with the role of adviser that so many of my friends give me. As someone other people respect, I have a responsibility to know what I'm really talking about, to know it and really believe it.

So this summer I plan to do some research on certain topics, research it and sort of write essays here on what I think. I'm no C.S. Lewis, but I do take the Bible seriously, and I think too often as Christians we let our American culture infect what we think we should believe. So here are a few topics on my heart that I'm going to explore:

--The American Dream: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
--The Responsibility of the Wealthy
--Divorce and Remarriage
--Marriage and the Wife
--Marriage and True Love

You'll notice there seems to be a theme here, and there is. A lot of my friends have gotten/are getting married this year. From February to December of 2011, there are eight weddings. Eight. It's crazy. It really is. And essentially all my best friends now have either gotten married or are getting married. And as I think about marriage, the Bible, and American culture, I have some thoughts and questions.

And these thoughts and questions have led me to other thoughts that mainly directly correlate to happiness. I have a lot of questions about happiness and what sort of goal it should be in our lives. Clearly, American culture says its should be pretty high, but lets just say, I'm not so sure.

However, in addition to these topics, I will also write about other things I've promised in the past to write one: namely, I'll finish my evolution series, which I started and never finished due to the chaos that occurred in my life at the end of the last semester. (You know, getting a new job, moving to Albuquerque, etc). But there were be other little topics, but I'll leave those for a surprise.

And just so we're on the same page, the reason I'm doing this is not so I can show off my flashy Christian knowledge. I'm partly doing this because I have friends who ask me questions about these beliefs a lot and so it would be nice to have an essay I could direct them to do. I'm also doing it because these are topics I want to/need to study, and by mandating that I will post my results here, I'm giving myself deadlines and accountability. I really need that sort of thing sometimes. That's what happens when you've been in school all your life. You need someone to say "this is do then". And if no one gives you a deadline, you don't do it.

I also just need to organize my thoughts, and as a writer and engineer, if I don't write my thoughts down they're not organized.

So I hope you'll all bare with me as I stumble through the Bible and try to figure things out. And if you have any topics you would like to suggest, I'm open. I intend to use the topics as a study guide through my Bible study, so extra direction is always appreciated.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Prairie Dogs

(Sorry about not posting yesterday. I had a post planned, but as it was the day after the fourth of July, things were crazy. You see my dog absolutely hates fireworks. It was a late night and an early morning. Bleh. Anyway, on to a new Western Wednesdays.)

Being from the South I'm used to squirrels. Crazy, crazy, attack squirrels. Squirrels that have absolutely no fear and will come right up to you and eye you like crazed animals. Anyway, being used to said squirrels, I don't usually see any other small rodents. Chipmunks? Never saw one until I visited Boston. We don't need them in the South. We have squirrels, which not only fill an evolutionary nitch but scare all the other creatures of that sort away.

Here in New Mexico we don't have squirrels or mere chipmunks. No, no, we have prairie dogs.

Next to my apartment complex lives a whole colony of prairie dogs. (I'm not sure if they're called colonies but go with it). They kind of act like merekats, which I've seen on the Lion King and at Disney's Animal Kingdom. They live in burrows in the ground and occasionally you see one stand up on its back legs and just stare into the distance, as if on lookout for predators. They also run between the holes in the earth and occasionally wrestle with each other. I think they're incredibly cute. Apparently native New Mexicans think of them as pests.

I mentioned them to a New Mexican coworker. I expected her to react like we might react at the mention of squirrels in Atlanta. They look cute from afar but be aware. Those squirrels are vicious and they're not going anywhere. Instead she reacted as if I might have mentioned rats. In her mind they're pests that need to be gotten rid of.

It's weird. They don't seem like pests to me. They just stay in their little colony; they don't infest my apartment. It's possible they carry diseases. But it seems that if I just stay out of their little colony and don't bother them, they won't bother me.

Anyone out there know about Prairie Dogs? Or have local crazy rodents?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fourth of July!

Happy 4th of July! To celebrate this, here is the greatest speech ever given by the greatest American President.

Friday, July 1, 2011

My Science Fiction Hierarchy

I believe I've been pretty clear that I'm quite the geek. I love science fiction and fantasy. But my friends often confuse what aspects of science fiction and fantasy I love the most. This is especially true when it comes to science fiction. I have had a number of friends come up to me and say, "Such and such said such and such about Star Trek, but I don't think that's right and you're such a Trekkie..."

At which point I interrupt them and say, "What? I'm a Trekkie?"

They sort of pause and stare at me sideways, and then say, "Aren't you? Don't you love Star Trek?"

Me: "I like Star Trek but love might be too strong of a word. I definitely prefer Star Wars more." At this point my friends' heads usually explode in surprise. For some reason, being a geek seems to automatically translate to Trekkie in most people's minds. And I do like Star Trek. Star Trek has played a huge role in my life. But to be honest, Star Trek doesn't even make it into my top three favorite science fiction things.

So what is the order in which I love Science Fiction? I'm glad you asked! Here is my top five.

  1. Star Wars - Star Wars will always hold a number one place in my heart. When I was young, my family only owned Episode IV, and it was a version we taped off the TV. Whenever we watched it, it was a huge deal. We would have to go down to Blockbuster and rent the other two. It would be an all day affair, involving popcorn and ice cream. I loved it. Then when I was in the 5th grade, my uncle loaned me the Thrawn Trilogy. It was like a whole world opened up to me. While most girls my age spent the next three years obsessing over boy bands, I spent them obsessing over Luke, Han, and most importantly Wedge Antilles. I love Star Wars. I always will. Not even the new movies could destroy that.
  2. Terminator - Most people see this as a curve ball in my list, and especially that its so high on the list. This is because I don't talk about my love of Terminator much with my friends. But ask my family, they know. I can't remember the first time I watched Terminator 1 or 2. Terminator 3 was the first rated R movie I saw in theaters. My entire life I've known the name John Connor, and that he will save the world from robots. My family loves discussing these movies and the time travel paradoxes. I love the ideas. I watched the short lived television show avidly and still lament its end. I wish Terminator had an extended universe like Star Wars. I want to know what happens. I need to know if humanity wins!
  3. Stargate - Most people who know me expect this one. When I was little, every time the movie Stargate came on TV, I would drop everything and watch it, glued to the screen. Stargate SG-1 is the one show my little sister and I could enjoy together, the archaeologist and the engineer both enjoying a show. Colonel O'Neill is one of my favorite characters, and I would be lying if I didn't say Stargate SG-1 directly influenced why I work where I do today. I own all 10 seasons and can identify an episode by any ten seconds within the episode. I also enjoyed Stargate Atlantis. But don't get me started on Stargate Universe. It was an abomination.
  4. Planet of the Apes - People don't usually expect this one either, but once again my family knows. My brother has purchased me five gifts in my entire life, and the best one he ever gave me was all five original Planet of the Apes movies on VHS. I own the book in English and the original French. Like Terminator, I enjoy the philosophical questions it brings up, the conundrums and paradoxes. I didn't much like the new movie, but when I saw the new X-Men movie recently, I saw an interesting trailer. As soon as they mentioned a smart monkey named Caesar, I thought to myself "If this isn't a remake of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes then someone is certainly paying obvious homage to it." Turns out it is a remake. And despite the awful new movie, I have high hopes that James Franco will do my number four on the list justice. (EDIT: I've seen it, and it was awesome.)
  5. Asimov's Robots/Empire/Foundation Universe - This is a book series, but there is no denying that I love Asimov. Daneel Olivaw is one of my favorite characters of all time, and Asimov is a genius. From short stories to novels to epic histories of the universe, the man was amazing. I reread Caves of Steel yearly. A science fiction murder mystery? Genius!
So that's my top five, which doesn't include Star Trek. Surprise, surprise, but true. So if you're a science fiction fan, what are your favorite shows/books/movies?