Monday, October 20, 2014

Writing

Two weeks ago I started a book entitle 90 Days To Your Novel by Sarah Domet.  Essentially the book is a guide designed to get you into the habit of writing daily then focusing on some of the mechanics of good writing before it takes you through outlining, planning scenes, characterization, dialogue, and more planning of scenes.

I have over a dozen different ideas for novels floating around in my mind (plus a few for non-fiction works as well) but I always seem to have a difficult time developing them into a complete first draft.  I've tried many times, done outlines, written scenes, but I always stall out.  It doesn't matter what I do, I always stall out.  So when I saw the book I decided to pick it up and give it go.

Since I'm two weeks into this foray, I should be on day 14 of my 90 day task, right?  Wrong.  I'm on day three.  And probably will be until tomorrow.  But hey, progress is progress, right?  Maybe by day 180 I'll be done.  One can hope.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Movie Marathon!

Yesterday I had the privilege of being able to do a nice little movie marathon at the theater.  Got a chance to watch the new Left Behind, Dracula Untold, and The Judge.  Here are my brief thoughts on each.

Let me start this off by saying I'm a bad Christian.  I never read any of the books, nor have I seen the original movies.  (Pause to let the shock set in.)  Because of that, I had no bias going into the movie, except for the fact that it stars Nicolas Cage.


  1. Overall, it wasn't a bad movie.  I've seen better, I've seen worse.  Some of the acting was a bit cheesy but for a movie that bills good ol' Nic Cage as the star, no surprises there.  A few things perplexed me while watching the movie, such as why there were random explosions throughout the movie, why a driver-less bus is able to continue along the road for probably an hour before it comes careening down from an overpass, stuff like that.  At least half of the films 16 million dollar budget must have gone to pointless carnage because someone watched too many Michael Bay movies.


Was Left Behind worth my time?  It was.  Nothing spectacular about the movie, but a fun viewing nonetheless.  On a side note, after I got home and was talking to Destree about the movie, she told me how in the books there were a lot of explosions to symbolize fire raining down from heaven.  I guess that makes sense for how they did it in the movie...if you don't think about it too hard.

Next up was Dracula Untold.  This is probably the thousandth Dracula movie that been made.  I'm not a huge fan of vampire movies (unless it involves Wesley Snipes or Hugh Jackman killing off large quantities of them) so I didn't walk into the movie expecting to be wowed.

Dracula untold was a fresh take on the origin of one of the original Gothic monsters.  They brought together a keen meshing of history and supernatural.  Luke Evans was brilliant in the titular role and was able to make the audience truly empathize with him.  It was a very entertaining flick.  I won't rush out to buy it when it's released, but I'll pick it up if it's on sale.

Finishing out the night was The Judge.  All the previews show is Robert Downey Jr. as a high profile defense attorney who only represents guilty clients because they're the only ones who can afford him.  In stark contrast is Downey's father, a man who has presided for years as a judge in Downey's hometown.  From the trailers it is obvious the two are estranged and it is only the death of Downey's mother that brings him home.

On the surface alone it sounds like a great movie.  But there is much more to the story.  I don't want to spoil anything but it is a very intense movie, compounded further by several real life parallels for myself.  Out of the three I saw yesterday, The Judge was certainly the best film.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New Year's Resolution: Part Deux

Back in January I made a commitment to myself to 1-2 books a month with the ultimate goal of reading 20 books this year.  I wish I could pledge  read more, but life gets in the way.  So far I've finished 15 books, though I don't know if I have the concentration to finish another five books this year, though I will give it my all.

Undaunted Courage:  Following my completion of the biography on Theodore Roosevelt, I grabbed Stephen E. Ambrose's memoir on one of the greatest American explorers in U.S. history: Meriwether Lewis.  The book chronicles his entire life, though it understandably spends its main focus on the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Reading through the book, it was hard to wrap my mind around that fact that these men were the first westerners to see so much of the western United States.  They saw it unadulterated, a state that changed in just a few short years as news of their discoveries fueled migrations west.  They knew almost nothing about the territories they traveled to.  Lewis and Clark were some of the last people to explore a truly unknown area while being completely out of contact with home.  They were truly some of the greatest explorers.

Reading Undaunted Courage gave me a greater appreciation for the early pioneers.  It's given me a desire to traverse the Lewis and Clark trail myself.  It also induced me to pick up some more salt pork.  Healthy?  Of course not.  Tasty?  You bet.1qq

Daniel Boone:  This was a smaller book and admittedly written to a younger audience.  I nearly put the book down once I realized the teenage audience in mind, but I decided to deal with it, a decision that I was reward for.  While the writing style is simplistic the information is gives regarding one of early America's greatest pioneers is in-depth.

It gave me a new viewpoint on pre-Revolutionary life in America as it told the story of a young Daniel Boone growing up amongst all the pre-war tensions.  Even as a child, Daniel Boone was constantly forging ahead to new frontiers and as soon as he got the chance he crossed the Appalachian Mountains and led a group of settlers.  This is where he spent much of his time during the Revolutionary War, at times defending the settlement against attacks from the British or their Amerindian allies.

Despite its short length and younger target audience, the book was packed full of information on one of America's greatest frontiersmen.  Daniel Boone was a man who lived more by the time he reached adulthood than most people today live in their entire lifetime.

Anatomy of Violence:  This has been one of the most eye opening books I've ever read.  I like to recommend books to people when I can, so occasionally one book may be drowned out by another.  Don't let that happen here.  I believe everyone should read this book.

Without getting too much into the science behind it all, the conclusion that the author draws is the the problem of violence has no single cause.  Environment does not solely influence an individual to become a violent criminal.  But neither is biochemistry.  Instead it's a complex web between your early life experiences such as abuse, nutrition, and head trauma mixed with a wide variety of genetic factors.  Even when all of these environmental, social, neurological and biochemical factors mix to create the perfect storm, that doesn't automatically mean that an individual will become a violent offender, but it does mean that such a person should seek help to help insulate against it.

I believe that every parent, every voter, everybody who has the ability to read and comprehend words on a page should read this book.  The sociological implications this presents is something that I believe everyone should be aware of.

Physics of the Future:  This is a very insightful piece by one of the leading physicists of our day, Michio Kaku.  He explores the future of several branches of science (and how they affect our lives) for the next hundred years, breaking a timeline down into thirty year chunks and examining what is likely to happen during each period.

He focuses on computers, artificial intelligence, medicine, nanotechnology, space travel, energy, wealth, and planetary civilization.  His predictions are very thought provoking.  He acknowledges that they are merely predictions, but as a physicist himself who conducted dozens if not hundreds of interviews with leading scientists in their respective fields, I think it's safe to say that there are some pretty good ideas in the book.

This is definitely one I'll read a few times throughout my life.  Not just to see how accurate Dr. Kaku's predictions are, but to look forward to the future myself and help make educated guesses as to which new technologies to adopt and which to ignore.  Physics of the Future was fun and fascinating, giving me a glimpse of the world that I will grow old in.

Hyperspace:  Another book by Michio Kaku, Hyperspace explores the quest for a unified theory of everything.  He begins the book by chronicling the past few centuries of mathematics and physics and outlining some of the major theories.  Presenting a brief timeline of physics, he shows how one generation of physicists builds upon the theories of the last, using what works and trashing what doesn't, which eventually leads us to Superstring Theory.  It was a fascinating look at higher level physics and a good summary for the lay reader.

How We Got The Bible: This is not the first time I've read Neil R. Lightfoot's informative history of how the Bible gained its current form.  I was inspired to reread it after a conversation in a class on the New Testament that I used to teach.

I'll admit the book is a little dry (which takes a lot coming from me) but it is jammed full of details chronicling the preservation of the Holy Scriptures starting from ancient times and leading up to the rediscovery of ancient Greek manuscripts and a brief history of English translations of the Bible.  Again, the book is a little dry yet it is very riveting.  I think every Christian should read it so they have an understanding of how the Holy Scriptures came to be.

Born To Run:  This book was a blast.  Writer and amateur runner Christopher McDougall went to the doctor to find out why he was in pain.  This began a journey that led him to the deserts of Mexico and the elusive Tarahumara--an Indian tribe of super runners.

Throughout it all, McDougall traces the history of running injuries which are suspiciously almost non-existent until the advent of the modern running shoe.  All of the supposed support that these offer weaken some of our key muscles and we leave ourselves open to serious injury.

The Tarahumara run for fun.  They run with simple sandals and spend their entire lives running.  And they are almost free from injuries.  I'm not a runner nor will I ever be, but I do like walking and hiking.  It makes me stop and think that not all of the innovations of the modern world are really helpful for the way our bodies have been designed.  Simplicity certainly has its benefits.

Friday, October 10, 2014

My Bucket List

As I've been reflecting on my life the past few months I've started to realize what is important.  I spent a lot of time focusing on just money.  Money allows you to buy more things, so why not?  I now see the falacy in that logic

Of course the people around you are of the utmost importance, but aside from people I think that experiences are more valuable and longer lasting than just "stuff."  That doesn't mean stuff is bad because they can certainly help make lifelong memories.  But I think the focus should be more towards experiences and away from the acclimation of more "stuff."

With that being said, here is my Bucket List:

Own property and build my own place (no matter how small)

Backpack the entirety of the John Muir Trail in one trip

Backpack across Europe for a year (or longer)

Have a book published

Hike down and up the Grand Canyon

Visit every state

Drive the entirety of all highways and freeways in California

Get under 200 pounds and maintain the weight

Visit every continent

Go skydiving

Visit Glacier National Park before it disappears

Thursday, October 9, 2014

What I've been learning

This is a bit of a follow up to my last post.  I've been learning a bit over the past few months.  They've been long painful lessons that I don't particularly enjoy learning, but I know that I need to.

The first lesson was one on selfishness.  I can be kind of an egocentric narcissist.  (Just to give you an idea I pay so that my email address is chris@chrisdhall.com.)  It's always been (or at least I thought that it should be) the Chris show.

It started when I was younger and realized that I was smarter than most kids around me.  While I never admitted it, a guiding thought in the back of my mind said that if I'm smarter then I'm better.  And that's when my ego was born.

Since my earlier years my ego has tamed some and I haven't thought that I was a better human being merely because I was more intelligent than someone else, but the over-inflated ego has remained.  It's all about me.

That erroneous idea infected all areas of my life--including my marriage.  I put my needs first instead of our needs.  I put my wants, my desires at the top of the list.  Everything else came second.  That doesn't lead to a healthy marriage.

So God has been working in me through that, to show me that life is not about me, it's about everyone.  There are seven billion people on this planet, and they're just as important as I am.  He's showing me that if I want to live a fulfilling life then I cannot focus on me.  That doesn't mean I treat myself like crap and that I don't matter, it just means that I need to keep things in a healthy perspective and put the needs of those around me ahead of my own--especially those of my wife and daughter.

The other word that the Lord has been imparting upon me is submission.  It ties in directly with selfishness.  Since I've viewed life as all about me it seems natural that I wouldn't want to submit to God.  It's my plan for my life because I know what's best for me.

But recently things have happened in my life that are out of my control.  For the first time in my life I feel truly helpless.  Man is that humbling.  I keep wishing and praying for control, but it doesn't come.  Nor will the control come, methinks.  I'm realizing how out of my control it is and how purely in God's hands my life is.  So I'm doing everything I can to submit to Him and let Him take control.

To be honest, this process sucks.  I hate it.  But I'm surrounded by friends and family who are supporting me through it all and I am truly greatful for all of you.

I am grasping onto Isaiah 43:1-3 "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."

Wow.  This has been more open than I thought it would be.  Again, I thank you all for taking the time to be a part of my life and read through this.  I continue to ask for your prayers and your support.  Have a blessed day!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Me

Let's be honest, I'm not the most open person on the planet.  If you were to ask me how I'm doing on one of the greatest days of my life I'd respond by saying that I'm doing really well and leave it at that.  If you asked me on the worst day of my life, I'd probably tell you that I'm doing okay or that I'm hanging in there.

I don't know why but I've always had a difficult time opening up to others.  I'm an introvert and I'm very closed off unless I know you exceedingly well.  And even then I can easily be closed off.

It is an issue that I'm working on changing, but it's taking time.  More time than I would have thought but it does feel good to have friends again.  It feels healthy.

Without going into details, I ask for prayers from all of my family and friends out there (or anyone who happens across my blog).  Life gets complicated and rough.  You make poor choices and realize the idiocy of your actions only as you see their full ramifications.  It is humbling as the storm tears you down to your roots.

But the light in the darkness is that you're able to build yourself back up again and get rid of all the crap that has accumulated in your life that has masquerades as important and necessary.  That is what I'm attempting to do at the moment.

It is a daily struggle.  I find myself crying out the Lord daily, asking Him to make everything better.  The way that it should be.  But He doesn't.  It's a growing experience for me.  I like to think that I've done all the growing and changing that I need to and things will be put right tomorrow, but I know that's not true.  I don't know how much more there is--I hope I'm nearing the end of this but I cannot be sure.  All I know is that I cannot keep living the way that I have.  Change is inevitable and necessary.  I grudgingly embrace the change and pain that precedes it in hope that everything will be better than ever before in the end.  Lord please let that end come soon!

I ask, I beg, and I beseech all of you who are reading this to keep me lifted up in your prayers.  There is so much going on and I apologize for the vagueness of it all, but please pray for the God of Heaven to grab and heal everything.

I thank you all for taking the time to read this and for keeping me in your prayers.