Friday, November 8, 2013

Building Altars

A few nights ago I was posed with the question of "What do you do when you're losing your faith?"  it's a very good question that has caused me to think a lot in the past few days.  I think one of the best ways to deal with a season of doubting is to prepare yourself beforehand so that when something shakes you to your core you're better able to hold onto God and weather the storm.

Reading through the Old Testament you see many of the Patriarchs and the Israelite nation itself stop what they're doing to build an altar.  Abraham built one when he got to Canaan.  Jacob erected one after he wrestled with God.  The nation carried stones out of the Jordan as soon as they crossed into the Promised Land.  The Old Testament is full of people building altars.  But why?

Whenever something significant happened, people built an altar to commemorate the event.  So whenever they were walking in the countryside and passed that place, they were reminded of what God had done for them, their fathers, or their ancestors.  I think it's a brilliant idea we should emulate.

Surround yourself with momentos that remind you of how God has been faithful to you in the past.  It will bolster your faith in the present and it will help you better process through your thoughts and emotions when you're struggling with hard times.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Ender's Game

Ender's Game, penned by Orson Scott Card, is one of the greatest novels I've ever read.  It's full of action, it surprises you at a few points, but most importantly it makes you think.  Any great piece of art--literature, poetry, paintings, film, etc., is supposed to make you think.  The whole "Ender" series does this very well, but none better than the original book.

I've heard for years that Card was trying to garner interest in a film version of the novel.  It excited me the moment I first heard it.  So last Friday night Destree and I shelled out the money to go and see it on the silver screen--is there any other way to see a movie?
Overall it was a good movie.  I'm happy we went and saw it.  But I was expecting more.  I was expecting a great movie.  As a fan, I wanted to every word from the page translated to the screen.  It didn't happen.  I understand that it's a choice of cutting minor scenes out or expanding it into a multi-film series.  I do think the story would have better fit two or three films.

They cut out certain details in the story and entirely emitted a major subplot to fit the movie into a two hour window.  They altered minor details to make the story flow quicker and to eliminate the need for a more extensive back story.  On one hand I understand why they did that.  For someone who is not familiar with the novel it makes a smoother film.  But to me the entire movie felt rushed.  The net effect of this is that the film is not nearly thought provoking as the book.  There is only one scene towards the end of the movie that even comes close to causing the viewer to ask the questions the reader asks while reading the book.  The movie is a step below the book.

I know I sound like I'm complaining a lot (which I am), but it was still a good movie.  In retrospect, I guess I had impossibly high standards for the film.  I'm sure the film will grow on me; it will definitely be one that I own.

The casting was superb.  No one did an average job of performing their character.  Everyone was great.  I think the two greatest choices were Harrison Ford as Colonel Graff and Moises Arias as Bonzo.  They really drove the multi-layered conflict that made the book so memorable.

They left it open to continue the series (the Ender half at least), though I don't know if they will or not.  If they do, I'll be one of the first in line to see them.  If not I will console myself by rereading through the series again and again.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My Ink

I like ink.  I like the way tattoos look.  They tell a very personal story.  You can get to know someone fairly well.  I have a few tattoos and I want to get more.  Thus far I haven't done much to chronicle them, but I figured now is a good time to start.


This is my very first tattoo.  I got it when I was 18.  I went with several friends on Saint Patrick's Day 2007.  It's a Celtic brotherhood knot that I got with a very good friend of mine.  Around the knot is the phrase "Iron Sharpens Iron."  It's a reference to Proverbs 27:17.  It's about brotherhood and accountability.

After the tattoo, I knew that I wanted more.  I wasn't sure what and where, but I knew that I definitely wanted more.  But tattoos require money and for several years I was underemployed so I had other bills that required immediate attention.  I had to bide my time until I had more disposable income.  But it gave me time to think more about what I wanted.

I was finally able to get my second tattoo last year.  Destree and I went out for our first anniversary to get this tattoo.  We love playing cards and spent a lot of time in high school playing cards.  Above it is Matthew 19:6 which states "What God has joined together, let no one separate."  It is a symbol of our unity and commitment to one another.

I've wanted more tattoos for a while and the desire has only gotten stronger.  Unfortunately we've still had bills that need to be taken care of.  Recently we were able to *finally* pay off my credit card debt.  It was time to reward myself.  That means another tattoo.

I've been trying to figure out how to incorporate the knotwork above into a full sleeve.  But I had no idea how to incorporate my first first tattoo into a larger piece.  I've had a few ideas, but nothing that's really stood out to me.

Thankfully I was able to talk to an artist--Gene--who was able to help me out.  On the left is his design that he drew.  It took nearly two hours of planning and sketching he was ready to start.

The shading isn't finished, and probably won't be for a few months, but below is the design so far.  I really like how the original tattoo is incorporated into the helmet.

In a few months when I have a little extra money to spend I'll sit down for the next session and I'll post some more pictures online.




Friday, October 25, 2013

Writing

I wish I had more time to write.  If I was independently wealthy, I could probably occupy the majority of my day with writing.  But I'm not so my writings are reduced to the fringes of my life.  Right now I have several short stories that I've stalled out on.  Whenever I've had the time I sit staring at my screen trying to make the words flow.  After a few minutes of nothing happening, I give up and resign myself to exploring the vast reaches of cyberspace--wasting time on 9gag and Tickld.

It's time for me to switch gears and give my short fiction a break.  I have several novels that I've started work on before.  I think it's now time to give them some more attention.  I doubt I'll be able to finish any of the novels in the near future but it will feel good to at least work on them.

I do have a separate book that I'm working on at the moment.  There is a good chance I'll have it finished (at least a rough draft, maybe the final edit) by the end of the year.  If anyone wants to help me out with the editing process when I'm finished with the initial draft, please let me know.  I'll have myself and Destree, but extra eyes never hurt anything!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Candide

Voltaire's magnum opus is the novella Candide.  I first read it as part of the required reading the summer before my freshman year of high school, then went through it again a few months ago.  During my first reading, much of the satire escaped me and I viewed the book as okay. 

This time, however, I had a much better appreciation of the cutting satire found throughout the story.  The contrast of eternal optimism in the face of rampant evil is just as thought provoking today as it was in the middle of the 18th century.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Measure of a Life

Recently I've watched as a good friend has dealt with the premature death of a college friend.  I had the pleasure of meeting the man once.  He was a good, godly man.  Through Facebook, I've seen as many people who knew him much better than I did have payed a tribute to him in their own way.  I've seen just how many lives he's touched during his abbreviated time on this Earth.

How do you measure a life?  It's not about what you have because possessions are temporary.  They won't follow your soul after death.  All that really matters is the life you've lead on Earth and the impact that you leave on those around you.  We only get one chance at life and we need to give it our all.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

New Beginnings

One chapter has ended and another has started.  For those of you who don't know, Destree and I moved to Vacaville almost two months ago.  There is a certain appeal to having the major parts of our life in the same place--house, work and church.  It makes life feel much less scattered.

Once we moved (and moved again--long story for those of you who haven't heard), the next step was to find a church.  It was odd going "church shopping" (a term I don't like, by the way), because it's been so long since I've done it.  I've attended several different churches in my life, but this was the first time that I'd been a true visitor to a church since my family and I started attending regularly when I was still in elementary school.  Since then, every church I've attended, I've known members of leadership before I actually started going.

It's weird, being on the new visitor side of things.  So often, I've sat in meetings brainstorming ways to make new visitors to church feel more welcome.  I've spent so many hours in church meetings pitching ideas, critiquing church processes to make it a smooth flow for visitors.

Do you know what I've discovered?  I don't think half the stuff is as important as it seems in meetings.  Having been through the "visitor process," I'd say what matters is that as a visitor I know what to do (i.e. no weird rituals that make me feel out of place), and a warm welcoming environment.  Everything else is just icing on the cake.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Les Miserables

I took Destree to see Les Miserables a while back.  Okay but interesting movie.  I'd give it three stars (more stars if there was less singing).  SPOILER ALERT: but here's the plot, in a nutshell:

Gladiator and Wolverine sing at each other, then Catwoman bursts onto the scene singing, crying, and dying. Then Wolverine and Gladiator fight (but wolverine is nice and doesn't use his claws).  Then Wolverine goes and rescues Red Riding Hood (who is apparently Catwoman's daughter).  Turns out she's living with Borat and Bellatrix Lestrange.  More singing.  Fast forward a few year (and even more singing by kids with British accents in a movie about the French) a bunch of kids get shot, Gladiator commits suicide, Wolverine dies, Catwoman takes him to heaven, and Red Riding Hood gets married.  The End.

The movie was entertaining and held my attention--until the last hour.  The plot jumped forward a few years, and it wasn't able to bring my attention back in.  Decent movie, but not worth raving about.  Oh, and Gladiator couldn't sing if his life depended on it.




Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Little Book of Language

In addition to Bursts, I recently read A Little Book of Language by David Crystal.  It was a quick and easy read, but I honestly remember almost nothing from the book.  I learned that sign language has its own accents, and I learned that as someone develops their language skills, they can only go consonant  vowel, consonant  vowel.  That why young children have a hard time saying "tree."  It's not that they're lazy or someone is letting them get away with speaking poorly; their tongue/ear/brain coordination just hasn't developed enough to put it into practice.  As a father of a 3 1/2 year old, I found that chapter of the book fascinating.

Other than that, there wasn't a whole lot of substance to the book.  After reading it, I found out that it was a book geared towards middle-schoolers.  I am intrigued by the author and I'd like to find more of his books--most of what he writes is geared towards adults.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Bursts

I'm back!  It's been a few months since I've posted anything here, and I should have a few different posts up in the next week.  I've been busy and blogging has been pushed to the back burner, though it is my intention to post once or twice a week drom now on.

Just a few days ago I finished a book entitled Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do.  Destree and I picked it up from a Borders going out of business a while back, and I've just now gotten around to reading it.  As the title suggest, the purpose of the book is to see if we can mathematically predict group behavior.  In short, yes we can predict group behavior, but individual behavior is much harder.

Without getting into too much of the math (the author, Dr. Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, doesn't delve too much into any equations), human actions are full of bursts.  Take me for example.  I love reading, but I don't finish books with the frequency that I would like to, though that's probably due to the fact that I usually read five or six books at a time.  In the past week and a half, I've started and finished two separate books.  I'll probably go for a few weeks before I finish anything else, at which point I'll have a few more books finished in a relatively short period.

The same is true of my blogging.  It's been two months since my last post.  If all goes as intended, I'll probably have a new blog up every day for the next week.  Then I'll ease back into a slower pace until sometime in the future I have another burst of blog posts.

I had never thought about human patterns like that before, but it makes sense.  For whatever reason, we tend to operate in bursts.  We will spend a period of time focusing on one activity, then let it lay dormant for a stretch of time before we pick said activity up again.  I have no profound thoughts on this unique sociological phenomena, but it's an interesting thought to ponder during my introspective moments.  It makes me feel a little better about having posted nothing in the last two months.

On a side note, I learned a little bit of history while reading this book.  To illustrate how closely everything is connected, he used the story of  György Dózsa, a crusader turned freedom fighter in 16th Century Hungary.  It has kindled in me an interest in Eastern European history.

Bursts is a great pop science book, easy on math/physics and very entertaining.  I highly recommend it (see link below).