Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hating Gay People is Anti-Christian

You can't be hateful and christian at the same time.

That's the plain truth.

There has been a lot of hate going around, about a lot of different things. Prejudice against political candidates because of their religious beliefs. Racial slurs of prominent figures. Anger at people for being too old, too young, too famous, too rich, too poor... the list goes on. And on. And on.

One of the hot topics is the LGBT movement. Talking about it seems to be the current fad. And much of the anti-gay hate has come from "christian" communities. People who are supposedly following the example of Jesus. Who claim to have Him as a leader and guide in their lives.

Guess what... Jesus didn't hate people.

Unlike Him, we're not perfect. So sometimes we mess up. Sometimes we get angry, or say something that hurts someone else. It happens. And that's normal. But the main point of being a christian is that we do our best not to let that happen. Ie. to "love your neighbor as yourself".

The same goes for any of the major religions. Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish... all of them teach the same thing. (See page 2 of here.) All of them teach that loving your fellow man is the ultimate goal.

So why is there so much hate?

There are some particular church groups that (Like Westboro Baptist. Again, see here.) have been picketing and rallying on national tv. Is there anything wrong with that? No. I firmly believe that it's not just our right, but our duty to stand up for what we believe in, especially in the political process.


Are they working for the passing or blocking of laws? Are they rallying to inform the masses of the issues? No. They are meeting together to throw hate slurs at gay people. They insult. They demean. They crash funerals with picket signs. They slander.

Is this christian?

No. No it is not.

The issue in question here is not whether being gay is right or wrong. I know where I stand on that question, but it isn't relevant. Not to this discussion. And I'm not going to go into it.

The issue here is that all of the major religions teach us to "love your neighbor as yourself." To "judge not, that ye be not judged." "why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"

The point is that hate is un-christian.

"Love the sinner, hate the sin."

Isn't that what we're taught? That without approving of immoral actions, we can still give love and kindness to the human beings around us?

I think most people would agree that stealing is wrong. And we have governmental laws against it. But when we come across someone who has stolen in the past, we don't shove them into lockers at school. We don't blackball them in the work place. We don't call them horrible names and make them feel like they are truly alone in the world.

We try to help them.

We can love people who make mistakes without agreeing with their mistakes. And without becoming "enablers" in their doing it again. Addicts. Thieves. Bums. Bullies. These people can be hard to love. But they're just as human as we are. And they need love and help just as much as everyone else.

Why is this such a difficult concept for everyone? And why should the reaction be different for gay people?

It doesn't matter if being gay is wrong. Because they are still people. Still human beings. They still need love and friends. They still deserve respect and kindness.

If you call yourself a christian, it's your job to love others. To help them through life. To be kind. To serve. NOT to shun. NOT to bully. NOT to hate.

No one is perfect. Least of all me. Least of all you. We all make different kinds of mistakes. Big or small, we all have problems. If you expect others to overlook your frailties, and love you anyway, you should do the same for them.

Love is all you need.

Read this instantly

It's 4:30 in the morning, and I'm falling asleep at my computer. But sometimes things need to be said.

I just read a spectacularly poignant blog post from Single Dad Laughing.

But even more than that was the response.

The essence of the post was "love the sinner, hate the sin." And that post saved someone's life. Literally.

He says it so much better than I ever could, so read it. Please.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Vote for Me!

I need a favor.

I entered a picture book into a contest. The winner of the contest gets a publishing contract. I realize my chances are slim. I'm just one out of 398, but there is a way that you can help.

You can vote for me.

All the manuscripts in the contest are posted on the website (link to come at the end), and the winners are determined by who gets the most "likes".

Yes, I also realize that this is more of a popularity contest than a talent thing. The good part about that is that the staff who runs the contest are also going to pick their favorites to go on to the final round. But I digress.

I really do hope to get a lot of votes by having my story stand on its own merits, but it can't do that if no one knows it's there. So spread the word, my friends! Share this link. Read it. Like it (if indeed you do like it.)

I haven't read them all. There are quite a lot. But the ones I have read, so far, are not very quality. Misspellings, never-ending sentences, premises that don't even make sense. This gives me hope. But it's not enough. Because even the bad writers have loyal friends and family.

So, as strange a request as this may sound, please shout my praises to all the world.

Thank you.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chariots of Fire

While you watch this, think about a question: How did he do it?

There are a lot of things that are important in making your dreams come true.





Work Ethic.

But there's something that a lot of people undervalue: Determination.

Why did Liddell win that race? Yes, he was fast, but not particularly faster than any of the others. He certainly wasn't lucky. He had worked hard, but so had all the others.

Fifty yards lost is a death sentence in a 400. But still he won. What did he have that those other guys didn't?

He wanted to win. He wanted it way more than any of those other guys.

In the words from the Horse and His Boy:

"And certainly both horses were doing, if not all they could, all they thought they could; which is not quite the same thing. [Lion attacks] And Bree now discovered that he had not really been going fast- not quite as fast- as he could. Shasta felt the change at once. Now they were really going all out."

You don't know how much you can do until you are absolutely pressed to the limits. And it is always, repeat always, much more than you think it is.

Liddell won that race because he was going to win that race. So he did.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Movies are all fine and dandy. But things don't always happen like that in real life.

Ah, but don't they? Maybe I won't win the olympics just from wanting it more than anyone else. But on a smaller level, I think that things like this happen every single day. But only to people who are not afraid to try for it.

It's happened for me.

In school, most people have those physical fitness tests at the end of the year. You know, the mile run, and the v-sit, and sit-ups, etc. etc. To pass, you have to get a certain score. On the mile, maybe it's finishing in under 15 minutes (which is super slow. I can walk a mile in 15. But it's not meant to pass only future olympians.)

If you get a certain level (the just above average level) you got the national award. They'd give you a little red badge at the end-of-the-school-year awards ceremonies. The elite level was called presidential. You got a blue badge for those. It was by no means unattainable, but certainly much harder.

I got the national award every year. Partly because I was one of the few girls in my class who actually ran the mile instead of walking it. And you know what? I was tired of it. National every year was just not good enough.

And so, in 8th grade, when physical fitness test time came around, I solemnly determined that I would have that presidential award.

There was just one problem. There was only one of the areas (situps, I think) in which I'd ever gotten presidential level scores. And it's not like I had any time to train. The tests were happening in like 3 days. But I didn't realize that until later. I didn't even think of it. All I knew is that I would have that award.

And you know what? I did it.

When the v-sit came, I just stretched farther than I had ever stretched before.

On the shuttle run, I had to re-do it. My first time wasn't enough. But my second time absolutely was.

On the mile, I ran a 7:57. To this day, it's still my fastest ever mile time. (Sadly, I got slower in my later high school years. A result of no longer being a stick figure.)

And the pull-ups. Oh, the pull-ups. You couldn't do the flexed arm hang for presidential. It had to be at least one full out pull-up. I had never before (nor have I ever again since) done a full pull up. But I got up there and I did one. Maybe two. I don't remember. And I'm still trying to figure out how.

Moral of the story? I had the presidential potential in me all along. I just couldn't access it until I wanted to badly enough.

And that's what makes all the difference.

If you want it enough, you can do miracles.

So be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'shea, You're off to great places. Today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.

Life, the Universe, and Everything


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Non-Spoiler Inheritance Review

Christopher Paolini is SO on my blacklist right now.

Summarized reason: For being good enough to make me NEED to finish the series, but being terrible enough that it was sometimes a real chore.

Details of this reason:

Writing a series is a real task. I understand and very much respect that. Especially when some of the books are over 800 pages long. (That's well over 200,000 words. Think about that number.) There's a lot of time and work involved in that.

But writing a series also binds you to a number of responsibilities. To your audience, to your career, to your work, and to yourself.

I don't think Paolini held up his end of most of these responsibilities.

A) Time: 

It's been 13 years since he started writing the Eragon series. He was 15 when he started. He's turning 28 this month (the month of the Inheritance release). That's straight up too long for a "trilogy".

This is a chart of the series:  

#TitlePagesChaptersAudioEarliest Release
1.Eragon5286016h 21mJune 2002
2.Eldest7047323h 30mAugust 2005
3.Brisingr7855929h 39mSeptember 2008
4.Inheritance8807831h 22mNovember 2011

As you can see, there was over 3 years in between each book. I suppose there's something to be said for consistency, but it's not good enough. It was so long that people forgot what had happened in the last one.

When you write a series, there is an unspoken agreement that the writer will give the readers what they need. They pay for it. Just like a business agrees to give its customers what they need (and pay for). Leaving them out in the cold, waiting for ages and ages, and then giving them mediocre work is a breach of this contract.

(Rowling published all 7 HP books in 12 years. It took her a few more before that to get book one off the ground, but then again, she had 8 publisher rejections. Paolini got his contract handed to him on a silver platter.)

B) Effort:

Obviously I can't speak with facts for his efforts. But the timeline seems to speak for itself. 
Respectable authors of mega-popular series just don't dawdle their way through things. They can't. It's rude. It's obnoxious. It's selfish.

  **Later update: Actually, it turns out some do. I'M LOOKING AT YOU PATRICK ROTHFUSS. 

But a)  The delivered Kingkiller books were subsequently very carefully crafted and edited. Not perfect, because dude, I have some questions about some choices you made. But clearly written, and conscientiously crafted. b) Rothfuss consistently works at things. It just takes him a while. Unlike Paolini. Now back to our regularly scheduled rant.

It doesn't help that the kid was 15 when he started. His mom and dad saw that he'd written a book, oogled over it, and self-published without a second thought. He never had to go through the pain of rejections. He never had to work to make ends meet, and write in his spare time. He never even had to work at all. He was home schooled, got his GED at 15, and basically had a soft life.

I watched an interview with him where he admitted to playing too many video games when he should have been writing.

I don't know about you, but me and all the people I know were pretty lame at age 15. But the reason we've improved now is because we've had to do things like live on our own, earn money, study in college, etc.

If he'd ever had to have a real job in his life (even flipping burgers at Wendy's) he might have a shred of work ethic that would have solved half of these problems.

C) Quality

Inheritance was not quality.

Getting rejected hurts. No one likes to realize that they aren't as good at something as they used to think they were. It's painful soul-deep, especially when it comes to your life dream.

But it happens because it has to. 

Rejections weed out the ones who aren't really into it.

Rejections make you evaluate yourself, and make yourself better.

Rejections make you work harder.

Rejections make you learn more about your field.

Without rejection letters and quality beta readers, no author would be able or be motivated to improve. Paolini never had to get rejected. There was never anyone there to tell him to do better or try harder.

And thus, we get landed with hundreds of pages of extensive prose. So many badly used adjectives!
Prose has its place. Sometimes it's nice. But rambling on and on and on and on about the color of the sun as it touched the terminating line of the earth is NOT okay. No one has an attention span like that anymore. It gets boring FAST. And Inheritance had so much of this nonsense. So. Much.

Literally, I could have chopped 300 pages from the book and the story would still have been 100% intact. (See above chart for the sheer massive lengths of these books).

But I had to wade through all this bad writing, because the characters and the plot were just good enough that I had to find out what happened. It was hard. Like reading a textbook. I just endured until finally I reached the good stuff.

I actually tried to strangle the book a few times. Good thing they don't need an air supply.

D) Happy Endings:

This is, by far, the most important one to me. See, if all had gone well -if he had placated me with a good solid ending- I would have forgiven the prose. I did for all the other three books.

And he almost did. But then there were 100 pages left, and I was like what?

Yes, the conclusion was 100 pages long. And it didn't even get to ANY of the stuff I needed. No matter who your writing advisor is, this is bad form all around. Once the big bad is gone, and everything is dead and/or happy again, you've got a limited amount of space to wrap things all up. Any longer than that, and things need to start happening again (which probably means that you didn't actually know what story you were trying to tell, and you finished off the wrong big bad.)

Even Tolkien, who is unnecessarily verbose, and who has (as some boo hoo) like five different endings to Lord of the Rings, never once drones on for an entire 100 pages wherein nothing happens.

But that is what Paolini does. Big bad goes down (by means of a really unsatisfying Deus ex Machina, btw), stuff kinda starts to wrap up, and then... it meanders forever. Not to mention it meanders depressingly. I was sad when it was done, and not because the series had ended. I was sad because it was just... Jeez, why? Such a disappointment.

Proper endings are part of that author/reader contract. When you're publishing a popular series, you're not just "writing for you". You're writing for the audience. You have contractually promised to deliver certain things, and if you don't give the things you set your books up to promise, then you've broken your contract.
Now, sad or depressing or horrible endings are allowed, but they have to have a reason, and make sense within the narrative. The ending can be tragic if it teaches a lesson. Or fulfills a purpose of some kind. Or has someone die in order to save someone else, and thus affect the triumph of the protagonist over the antagonist.

But if none of these things are the case, you've lied to us, and we have every right to be upset at being lied to. If there isn't a good reason for however it ends, it is only disappointing for everyone involved.


I am so disappointed in this whole experience.

The characters were good. Ish. To a point. Like they weren't super well crafted, but most of them were interesting enough to be getting on with.

When important stuff was happening, the plot was fun and cool. There were a couple places where I gasped out loud and freaked out for a few seconds. Unfortunately, only for a few seconds. None of the stakes ever got particularly worrisome. 

All in all, I can't decide if it was worth it. All of the waiting, all of the trudging through useless prose, the depressing ending, the sheer number of hours that I took from my life to participate in this... was it really worth it?

And since the answer isn't an obvious yes, a giant No is looming over that 'terminating line of the earth'.

Monday, October 31, 2011


There are certain times of the year when a person's real and true inner self shines through for the world to see. Halloween is one of those times.

And no, I don't mean all the nerdboxes like me who go all out and also wear their costumes at least 3 times the week of. (If you're going to do it at all, do it right. Yes?)

I mean all those people who cop out. On halloween, we can see the inner lame-scape of some of our fellow humans.

Things that qualify as terrible costumes: (Which I've seen almost all of today)

  • Your old karate gi
  • Your nurse scrubs from work
  • Completely normal clothes with a hat that's supposed to count as something.
  • Trying to pretend that the normal clothes you are wearing have some sort of theme.
  • Pajamas
  • "This is my costume" signs. (Probably the most retarded of all).
  • Your exercise getup
  • Sports Fan
  • Trying to make a real costume for literally 4 seconds before quitting and going as is. (See picture. Lady Gaga?)
  • Deuschy puns
  • Being scantily clad doesn't automatically count as dressing up.
  • Oodles of fake blood for no reason
  • "myself". (Almost as bad as "this is my costume")
  • 80's girl (This was cool once, but has since become the ultimate cop out)
  • Anything where other people can't actually tell that you're in a costume.

A clue: No.

That is all. I just wrote this post because I feel so bad for people sometimes. They have no idea how pitiful they look.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Medieval Personality Test

"So tell me, who are you?"

"Uh, Mike. We met like four seconds ago."

"No, no. I mean your personality. Likes, dislikes... Do you have a girlfriend?"

"I really don't see why that's relevant, sir. I'm just here to choose a weapon before I enter the academy."

Master Jarek shook his head. "Oh, dear. Another one. Come with me, boy."

Mike glanced around skeptically, and then followed him through a narrow hallway. Master Jarek opened the door at the end and shuffled through. Mike could still see traces of the grace and strength that had once belonged to the city's greatest weapons master. Despite that, he didn't entirely trust that the old man was 100% "together".

Once through the door, Mike forgot his concerns. They had entered a round room that housed a magnificent museum. Weapons from every age of history were there. All sizes, types, qualities... it made the armory at the academy look like an old tool shed.

"Sir..." He whispered.
"Just call me Jarek, lad. Now, what you see here is the finest collection of history in the world."

"I can see that, sir... Jarek."

"No, you can't. Not yet. What do you see in these weapons? A bit of metal that you use on your enemies? Feats of smithery that chronicle our technological advances? As long as that is all you think of, you will never understand.

"Weapons are war tools, it is true. These displays show the steady march of time, and remind us of the battles that shaped today's world. But there is so much more.

"Every warrior has a favorite. Even those who are accomplished masters have one weapon that suits them the most. The one they use more than any other. Why do you suppose this is?"

"Uh... because all people are different?" Mike replied, unsure of the direction that the questions would take.

"Precisely. All people are different. Every person is completely unique, and not just physically. The tool that you prefer, the one that chooses you if you will, tells a great deal about you - the inner you - even if you don't know these things yourself."

"How do you mean, Master Jarek?"

"Just Jarek, thank you. What I mean is that each type of weapon lends itself to a different style. In other words, a different type of person.


Jarek grabbed an ax from a display and started swinging it, coming straight for Mike. The boy looked around for some sort of protection, but there was nothing within his reach that could have halted Jarek's momentum.

"This type of blade offers very little in the way of defense. Parries and such are simply not what an ax is built for. The only way to be truly effective, therefore, is to keep the ax in motion. Swinging, slashing, beating back the defender by sheer aggression. Even if you had a sword in your hand, what could you do against me?"

Mike didn't answer, but his frantic backpedalling said enough. Jarek smiled and replaced the ax on the rack.

"The man who suits an ax-like weapon will have many of the same qualities. Aggressive, pro-active, impatient.

"Bow and Arrow:"

He pulled a long wooden staff from a display and strung it in two seconds.

"A bow, on the other hand, is quite different. You could almost call it an intellectual weapon. Long range. Practically useless in close quarters, so you have to be smart about it. You have to see the enemy before they see you. You have to plan and think ahead. Use strategy and stealth. And not just mentally. Your movements have to be quick and strong, but extremely precise."

Jarek fired three arrows at an old target on the other side of the room. They hit within millimeters of each other.

"With a bow, moving your hand a mere inch can mean a miss of dozens to hundreds of yards. And the warrior who wields the bow has to appreciate this exactness and embody all of these traits, or he will never be a true master."

"War Hammer:"

Jarek picked up a beautifully crafted hammer that Mike was sure should have been far too heavy for him.

"Similar to the axe in most respects, but for one major qualification. The wielder must possess great strength, more than even an axe-man. The entire effectiveness of this weapon depends on the power behind each hit.

"By extension, the warrior who prefers the hammer must have a certain coldness. There are no blades to pierce or slash with. There will be no swift and merciful deaths. The hammer-man must be okay with bludgeoning his enemies to death. With beating them until they can no longer fight back, after which they are left to slowly die in a broken heap."

Mike shuddered and looked away from the hammer. He sincerely hoped that he would not become that sort of warrior. Jarek noted the expression and smiled.

The next weapon he picked up was long and thin, but somehow looked even more deadly than the hammer. Mike had never seen one before, and he was immediately intrigued.


Jarek said the name with reverence, and Mike had the distinct impression that this was the master's true weapon.

"Once again, a near opposite of what we have just discussed. The katana is all about grace, poise, confidence, humility... Like the bow, it requires precision and a great deal of dedication to master. But unlike it, the katana is a close quarters weapon."

As he spoke, Jarek began taking the katana through a beginner's routine. Though the moves were simple, each sweeping stroke was perfect and deadly.

"Master Jarek, how can a warrior be confident and humble at the same time?"

"Excellent question," he replied, while still working through the sword form. "This is something that all warriors must know, but while an axe or a hammer will rarely use it, it is absolutely crucial to the more graceful battle styles. With a katana, one must be completely and impartially aware of his exact limitations. He must never underestimate himself. (Confidence.) But neither must he over-estimate. (Humility.)

"Thus, the man who prefers a katana must be balanced. Graceful, calm, collected, unafraid, yes. But balanced above all. At peace with himself. The katana is a weapon of harmony and peace, not of brutal war."

"Sir?" Mike asked, wondering how 'weapon' and 'peace' could go together.

"You will understand in time, my boy. But let us move on." He placed the katana back on the display stand, and took up another sword, this one much more familiar to Mike.

"The long sword (or broadsword):

"A highly sensible weapon. Well rounded. Easier to master than the Katana or other similar weapons. But more difficult than the axe or the hammer. The long sword is good for both offense and defense. It allows for a great deal of variety in style and form. One can slash, hack, stab, and bludgeon.

"It is easy to see why this weapon has become so widely used, and such a common favorite. Downsides: It really is very commonplace. As such, it is hard to judge the quality of your education, and thus, difficult to truly know your own abilities until it is far too late."

"Too late?" Mike asked.

"Your deathbed is a rather inconvenient place to learn that your swordmaster was a ninny." Jerek answered dryly. "I've seen it happen far too often. But that is not the fault of the weapon.

"A long sword is a responsible and flexible weapon. If you choose a long sword, my only caution is to keep your mind open to learning."

"Now the Dagger:"

He picked up an ornate, silver blade and spun it in his hands.

"There are two qualities to daggers and knives that make them especially preferable for some. The first is stealth. A dagger is easy to hide, easy to retrieve, and easy to maneuver in small spaces.

"A king may occasionally prefer a dagger to a sword because of the protection it gives him in unexpected situations. An assassin or kidnapper may be thwarted by the sudden appearance of a blade in his ribs.

"Or thieves. Most men who prefer daggers are not entirely honest. Not all, mind you, but stereotypes do exist for a reason, sometimes. The stealth, the quickness, the easy concealment, all marks of the thieve's trade.

"But more than anything else, the thing about daggers that appeals to some types of warriors is the risk. A dagger is very "devil-may-care". You must be fast, quick thinking, and agile. But even if you have learned all there is to know about dagger or knife fighting, there is still the element of chance. Fighting with a dagger is always to gamble with your life, even when the odds are in your favor.

"Some enjoy the everyday thrill. For others it is a momentary mood - a time when he has nothing left to lose, or feels the need to do something incredibly stupid. Desperation can make a man do many a strange thing. Either way, the man who chooses the dagger will tend to be impulsive, cocky, and headstrong."

As he spoke, Jarek had been wandering a bit aimlessly. Mike paid it no attention. He thought about the master's words, and understood them completely. There had been times in his life where he craved danger. A gamble. "Something incredibly stupid." He was about to say so when he realized exactly why Jarek had been wandering.

"What the...?"

He tried to duck away from the dagger that Jarek had been casually holding at his throat only to find that another was pressed to his back.

"I could kill you in at least 12 different ways from this position, and you didn't even see it coming."

Mike tried to stay relaxed. He knew the old master wouldn't really kill him. Or at least he was almost sure he wouldn't.

"I think I understand now, sir. Er... Jarek. I mean about the personalities thing."


"Yes. You're trying to say that we don't just learn about the technology or the wars from all this. We learn about the people. Who they were, how they lived and fought, stuff like that."

"Success!. Yes, my boy. That is exactly what I am saying. Take these axes, for example. They are all from the same ancient northern tribe. From the shape of the blade and the wear on the shaft, we can tell what sort of men belonged to this tribe."

"Right." Mike said. "So it really is the best history collection. Not just history of war."


"And the best way to see what I'd be suited for is to see what my personality will lend itself to."

"You'll make a fine addition to the academy, Mike. Now, tell me a bit about yourself."

"I do have a girlfriend, actually." Mike grinned.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

You Can't Salvage What You Don't Have

I've only had 26 years to work on this, which isn't very much when it comes to learning lessons through life experience, but there is one thing that I've figured out already.

When it comes to taking risks, you have a lot more dignity when you go for something and completely bomb than you do if you chicken out and don't even try.

That might seem a little counter-intuitive. Most people's reasoning behind not taking risks is the exact opposite. In order to salvage dignity, they quit before they can get hurt.

I am sorry to inform you, but that's not going to work out very well.

You see, in order to salvage your character, you've got to have some in the first place. And there's only one way you get it.

You guessed it. By working. Trying stuff. Building it through trials.

It's sort of like muscles. You don't get strong by sitting on the couch all day. Yes, it's easier to be a couch potato, but it doesn't get anything done. You have to use your muscles.

And not just use them. Use them against resistance.

When astronauts go into outer space, they can do all the arm curls they want while they're in the space station. But when they come back to earth, their muscles will be in just as bad a shape as if they did nothing at all.

The key here is resistance. Working against gravity is what builds muscles.

Working against hard things is what builds character. Doing only easy things is a complete waste of your life.

(Obviously there's a difference between taking risks and being a moron. But we won't go into that just now.)

Would the Beatles have become the most famous rock band in the world if they had avoided the risk of performing in front of someone for the first time?

For those who are wondering, the random dude in this pic is Pete Best, who drummed for them before Ringo.

Would J. K. Rowling be a world renown (millionaire) author if she hadn't taken the risk of turning her manuscript into publishing companies?

Would Barbra Streisand have won literally every kind of academy award there is to win if she had avoided the risk of auditioning for the first time?

And the thing about these people is that they all got No's before they got Yes's.

The point is that when you risk yourself by turning in a project, or trying out for a sports team, or applying for a job, you learn and grow, even if they say No.

And what's the worst that could happen? They could say no. And then where are you?

Answer: Back where you started. Except smarter and stronger.

In other words, whether they say yes or no, you're better off than before.

So you have a choice: Sit around being a spineless worm, or go out and build yourself enough character to be worth hiring in the first place.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Freedom of Religion

To base your presidential vote entirely on the religion of the candidate is incontrovertibly un-american.

It happened four years ago, and it's happening again. Mitt Romney is running his presidential campaign, and the anti-mormon hate is on the rise. Not a complete surprise. There has been anti-mormon hate for 180 years. But now it's political.

So, why un-American?

Let's talk about the freedom of religion - one of the first things that was amended into the constitution.

After the American Revolution, the colonies realized "Oh, hey. We won the war. Now what?"

They needed to create a government. Preferably one that resolved all of the issues that had led them to revolution in the first place. And they needed it right away. So quickly they made up the Articles of Confederation. But even while they wrote them, they knew the articles weren't going to be good enough, and they really weren't.

So they followed those articles for a little while until they could structure something better. Something that would be really solid, last the test of time, and give the people the rights and protections that they deserved. That something was the Constitution.

The bill of rights is a list of specific rights and freedoms that the majority of the people wanted in the constitution before they would be happy with it. The first on this list reads thus:
Amendment I: Freedom of Speech, Press, Religion and Petition

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

'Or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' In colloquial English: The government isn't allowed to force you to belong to a certain religion. And they're not allowed to force you to not belong to the religion of your choice.

While I have skimmed over many of the smaller details, this review of history shows that the first amendment is not just a law that the government made, but was created and ratified by those same men who wrote the Declaration of Independence.

It was these same men who put their lives on the line in fighting a hopeless war for freedom. They are the very founders of the United States of America. The reason this country still exists after all these years is because of the Constitution.

In other words, the constitution IS the essence of America. And any breach of it is profoundly un-American.

But sadly, the freedom of religion has transformed into more of an "I can do whatever I want, but you need to do what I say" mentality. Starkly opposite to the words written by our founding fathers.

As evidenced by the hate surrounding this election campaign.

This selection was taken from a ksl article about a pastor from Dallas, Robert Jeffress, talking about his past stances and how he's at it again.
"Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise. Even though he talks about Jesus as his lord and savior, he is not a Christian," Jeffress said in a 2007 sermon. "Mormonism is not Christianity. Mormonism is a cult. And just because somebody talks about Jesus does not make them a believer."

In that sermon, Jeffress said he was frustrated that some religious leaders had backed Romney anyway. "What really distresses me is some of my ministerial friends, and even leaders in our convention, say, `Well, he talks about Jesus, we talk about Jesus, what's the big deal?' It is a big deal."

Let us break this down.

A) Mr. Jeffress is implying that Mitt Romney should not be voted for because he belongs to a "cult."

Does Mitt Romney belong to a cult? Answer: who cares?

Dictionary.com says:

cult [kuhlt] noun
1. a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies.
2. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult.
3. the object of such devotion.
4. a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.
5. Sociology. a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.

By these definitions, every religion in the world is a cult.

And didn't we just establish that it is a fundamental aspect of being American that we can worship how and what we choose?

B) Mr. Jeffress says that even though Mitt Romney says that he believes in Jesus Christ, he doesn't really.

Person 1: I really like chocolate ice cream.
Person 2: No you don't.
1: Um, yes, I do. I eat it all the time.
2: You think you like chocolate ice cream, but you really don't.
1: But I've had it many times. I like to eat it.
2: You don't like it like I do. So you must not really like it.

Ridiculous, yes? If I like chocolate ice cream, why are you sitting there trying to convince me that I don't? If I believe in Jesus Christ as the savior of the world, why are you spending all of your time and effort trying to tell me that I don't? What purpose does this serve?

C) Mr. Jeffress is mad that other pastors from his club are planning to vote for Mitt Romney, but not because he is disappointed in their political choices. He is disappointed because they belong to christian churches, and he thinks that they should only be allowed to vote for candidates who also belong to christian churches (which, to his mind, excludes Mitt Romney.)

If I thought the same way, I would only be allowed to vote for people who belong to my church. Jews would only be allowed to vote for Jewish candidates. Atheists would only be allowed to vote for atheists.

And why stop there? All black people are only allowed to vote for black candidates. All asian people can only vote for asian candidates. And people who immigrated here can't vote at all, because the president can't be a naturalized citizen.

Doesn't this defeat the entire purpose of the election process? A process which has been an integral part of our country since it was founded? A process that upholds, and allows us to participate in some of the rights and freedoms that are the essence of being American?

D) Mr. Jeffress believes that no one who is not a christian can be considered an acceptable presidential candidate.

In so saying, it is implied that no one in the world can be a good leader unless they are christian also.

What about Ghandi? Or Confucius? Or Galileo? Or Socrates?

And what about some who were 'christian'? like Hitler. Napoleon. Vlad the Impaler.

The point is that, yes, this country is predominantly christian. And yes, it was founded by christian men, on christian principles. But in so doing, they instituted one of the fundamentals of christianity itself. Namely, the freedom to choose. The right to believe what we decide to believe.

Even if Mitt Romney did belong to some cult, so what? He could pray to a funny shaped rock, or worship the old Greek gods like Zeus and Athena, and it would be totally irrelevant to his candidacy, because this is America.

None of this is to be confused with blind stupidity of course. If a man belongs to a religion that happens to practice the ritual sacrificing of children when they turn 6 years old, that could be a problem. Not because his religion is different than ours, but because someone who believes in something so extreme will probably have political stances that are also extreme.

I can easily understand that this is a concern for some people who don't know much about Mitt's church.

However, this will usually show itself in the political platform. So pay attention. Use your brains. (That's what they're there for. Surprising, I know.) Read the book instead of just looking at the cover.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Crash Course on the Dewey Decimal System

As a library employee, I (far too frequently) hear the complaint, "I just don't understand the Dewey Decimal thing".

Most of the time, this is just an excuse to avoid something that looks too intimidating. But the Dewey system is actually very simple, and very logical. I've been using it easily ever since I got my first library card.

This post will explain briefly, and hopefully simply, exactly who, what, why, and how.


Melvil Dewey was a librarian in the late 1800's. Back then, there wasn't a real system for organizing non-fiction. People just shelved it however the heck they felt like it.

In 1876, Dewey invented the decimal system so that libraries could all be on the same page. (Pun intended.)


In the simplest terms, the Dewey decimal system puts all the books about the same topic into the same section. Each number represents a particular topic.


With fiction, it's easy. People browse fiction by genre and author. So that is how you organize it. But that is not so easily done with non-fiction. If you need a book about fungus, how the heck are you supposed to know which different authors might have written the kind of book you need? It has to be done by topic. But before 1876, topic was an entirely subjective thing.

Imagine going to a grocery store that you've never been in before. You want some broccoli. You think it might be next to other vegetables, since that is how it works at home, but you can't find it anywhere. Next you check in the refrigerated stuff because maybe they're trying to keep it fresher. Not there.

You could try the soup, since lots of soups have broccoli in them. No luck again. Or maybe with the dairy, since cheese goes so well with it. Still nothing. At last, you round a corner after searching every row, and there it is with lawn chairs, plastic cups, wheat thins, and some on sale St. Patrick's day cookies.

What did all those things have in common? They were all green.

All of these are organized methods to arrange merchandise. Some make more sense than others, but it all depends on the mind of the person who arranged it.

Can you imagine how very long it would take to do your shopping if every single store had its own way of shelving their food? Luckily, it isn't like that. Vegetables are always with other vegetables. Dairy is with other dairy. Meat is with meat.

This is what the dewey system does for libraries. It puts the meat with the other meat. No matter what library you go into, you will be able to know which types of books will be in which sections.


This is the big question. And the one that the majority of you probably feel is the truly hard part.

But the thing about the Dewey system is that you don't need to remember which numbers belong to which subjects. You don't need to know how they decided the system, or when the decimals change, or anything like that.

(That's the beauty of library catalogs.)

There is only one thing you have to learn in order to be able to use the system: You have to be able to count.

I bet at least one of you doesn't believe me that it's this simple, so I will give you an example. Say that the book you looked up is under 796.

When you walk into the shelves, you find that you are in the 100 section. Is 796 higher or lower?

Clearly higher. Move along.

You pass many shelves before looking again at where you are. 811. Is 796 higher or lower?

It is lower. You've gone too far. You have to go back a little bit.

Now you are in a row with books that say 780. Is 796 higher or lower?

Higher. You're almost there.

791. 792. 793. 794. 795. 796. You've reached your goal. You may now browse the sports section to your heart's content.

A Little More Practice

If you still feel unsure, here are some practice exercises you can do. Answers are below.

1) Put these numbers in order:

2) Put these numbers in order:

3) Put these numbers in order

4) You are looking for Dragonology. The catalog gave you this number: 398.245
These books are on the shelf:

Where would Dragonology be found?

5) You are looking for Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. The catalog gave you this number: 646.78
These books are on the shelf:

Where would Mars and Venus be found?


1) 001.113

2) 711.2

3) 796.233

4) It would be between 398.2 and 401.6

5) It would be between 643.98 and 646.781

And that, friends, is the Dewey decimal system. Not nearly as tricky as it is made out to be by some people. Now you can locate your books in peace and harmony with the world.


Just in case you really are interested in the further workings of the dewey decimal system, here is a basic list of which topics are in which sections.

000 – Computer science, information and general works - Computers are in this section because they weren't invented yet when Dewey created his system. So they had to stick them up in the front. Also in this section are things like aliens and cryptozoology (the study of stuff like bigfoot, loch ness monster, and other "real" but not real things.)

100 – Philosophy and psychology - Chicken soup for the soul, serial killer profiles, all sorts of stuff.

200 – Religion - practiced religions as well as mythologies from ancient ones. If you want to know about Zeus, or Thor, or Amun-Ra, or Islam, or Buddhism, or Christianity, go here.

300 – Social sciences - Loads of stuff here. Military books, spyology, manners books, going to school, informational holiday books, fairy tales, and basically anything that has to do with social culture.

400 – Language - Grammar as well as signing or foreign languages. Any whatever-to-English dictionaries will be here.

500 – Science (including mathematics) - Basically, facts on what we know about the world. How volcanoes work, simple machines, rainforest life, animal books, dinosaurs, bugs, tornadoes, etc.

600 – Technology and applied Science - Books that talk about how we use science in our lives. So an animal book would be in the 500's but a book about how to raise an animal on a farm or for a pet would be in 600. Outer space, cars, robots, the human body. Also cook books, relationship books, business practice, and lots of organizational stuff and how-to things.

700 – Arts and recreation - Huge section. Art history, architecture, how to make art, cartooning, wood work, calligraphy, crafts, knitting, crocheting, photography, music history, music how to, movies, games, sports, hunting, extreme sports...

800 – Literature - Meaning things like poetry, plays, and the most classic of the classics. (Dante's inferno or shakespeare.) Books about other fiction books. Cliff notes. How to write.

900 – History, geography, and biography - Also, a lot here. Anything about history, and that takes up quite a lot of subject matter. (WWII, ancient Greece, 9-11...) Travel books. Sections for every country in the world. Stuff like Corrie Ten Boom's the Hiding Place.

In our library the biography section is so huge, that we just turned it into its own thing at the end. I think a lot of libraries do that.