Thursday, July 30, 2009

Lice and Faith

I have had lice twice in my life.

The first time I was three, and I don’t really remember it. My family was living in Hawaii, and it was common for us little ones playing in the sand to get those itchy little head bugs. I don’t remember much of anything, but my mom had to cut off all of my hair. It was a sad day.

The second time I was in fifth grade. This time I remember vividly. My head had been itching for a while, but I was afraid to tell my mom about it. Whenever I thought of lice, I thought of dirty children playing in the streets. I thought it somehow made me dirty and unclean. I was afraid of the consequences: having to cut off all my hair, using the lice killing shampoo, having to miss school, etc. I kept the itching my head, because I would rather suffer through the pain then deal with it. However, eventually the itching became too much. My scratching picked at my scalp, and my fingernails came away covered in blood. I knew I had to tell my mom, or things would only get worse. I confessed.

My mom, being a teacher, took it in stride. She checked my head, saw the tell tale signs, and immediately began to take action. My sheets went in the wash. My stuffed animals went into bags. All of my hair was chopped off. The bug killing shampoo was scrubbed into my shorn hair. I spent several hours sitting in my mother’s bathroom while she picked nits out of my hair. (That’s where the phrase ‘nit picking’ or ‘nitpicky’ comes from by the way. Nits are very small, and take a long time to get out). It was a long unpleasant experience.

However, a few weeks and several reapplications of the bug killing shampoo later, the stuffed animals came out of their bag and my head no longer itched. I suffered for weeks, but now all was right with the world. I could crawl into my bed with my favorite stuffed animal, and my head was gloriously free from itching. I was far better off free of those nasty bugs then I ever was with them, and the process of removing them turned out to be worth it.

Now over twelve years later, any time I read something about lice or someone says the word “lice”, my head starts to itch. Even now typing this, I scratch my scalp. I fear that I might have lice, though I have been in no situations where I could get lice. My cubicle is lice free. I don’t share hairbrushes, hats, or other hair touching things with strangers. I do share a hairbrush with my sister, so if I had lice she would too (which she doesn’t). However, despite how bad that fear can get sometimes when I hear a news report about lice breaking out in a local school, I never ask anyone to check my head. I’m too afraid.

What if they actually found lice?

The stigma of lice overwhelms me (though it should be noticed that lice like clean hair, not dirty). The idea of being subjected to that horrifying process sends fear through my heart. I can’t afford weeks of nit picking. I don’t want to deal with the consequences. So rather than admit that my head is itching, I suffer in silence, afraid of anyone ever hearing of my lice filled fears.

I have discovered in the past few years that I treat many problems in my faith in a similar way.

As an example I will take something that I feel I’ve struggled with for a while:

I can’t discern God’s voice, His will for me. I can’t feel Him in my life.

This is something I should deal with, preferably with the help of friends. It’s something I should confess to someone and have them help me struggle through it. However, I’m afraid. I’m afraid because people say things like “God pressed this on me the other day” or “I felt God saying this to me”. When people say things like that it makes me feel like they must be super holy and that there is something wrong with me. It makes me feel dirty and lice riddled.

I am afraid to go to my friends or my Bible study and say, “Hey, I really struggle with hearing God’s voice in my life.” I fear they will look at me with judgmental glances and think, “She’s not really a Christian. She’s not as holy as us. She’s so low, so unworthy, so dirty.”

I also fear the process of fixing it. I fear the shampooing, the putting things away in bags, and the nit picking. I don’t want anyone to nitpick my soul. I don’t want anyone to reveal that I actually am dirty and unclean. I don’t want anyone to push back my hair, see the nits, and begin to tear them from my head.

So rather than confess my problems and fears with my faith, I stay silent. I suffer in unsure silence, feeling dirty, unclean, and unworthy. I feel like a worse Christian. Without anyone pointing fingers, I point fingers at myself. Only, by myself I can’t fix it.

I know if I seek help for my problems in my faith, then I will be able to fix them. I know that afterwards I will feel much better. I know that without the lice my head won’t itch, and I will no longer have to worry about scratching myself until I bleed. I know I will be far better off and happier once I admit it.

Instead I sit here and itch.

Maybe I’m alone in this. Maybe I am not worthy and I’m not as good a Christian as the rest of the world; however, I think this is a problem we all struggle with. We’re afraid to admit our real problems, the problems that are causing us to itch until we bleed, because we’re afraid people might look at us and say, “She has lice.”

This year I make a pact with myself to admit when something in my faith does not feel right. I will go to my best friend, my mentor, or my Bible study and I will say, “I think I have lice.”

I believe my friends won’t judge me. I believe I will discover I’m not the only one who struggles with Faith Lice. And I imagine this will occur:

“I think I have lice,” I admit in a low tone to my Bible study.

“Lice? Oh dear, let me check!” one girl exclaims, rushing to my side. She checks my head. “You definitely have it, Bittersweet. Don’t worry. We’ll take care of you. We’ll need shampoo…”

“No worries, I have some,” another girl says, digging in her purse. “I struggled with this a few months ago. I know exactly how you are feeling. Don’t worry, Bittersweet. I am with you on this.”

“Where are the plastic bags?” asks a friend from the kitchen, searching through my cabinets. “I’ll bag your favorite stuffed animal for you.”

“I think I might have lice too,” admits another friend, emboldened by my confession. “Can you check me too?”

“We’ll get this put right, Bittersweet,” the girl by my side says with a smile. “We are your friends. We will help you struggle through this. We are here for you, and we love you.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Office Lunch, aka Not Feeling Awkward when Going to Lunch with Your Office When You’re a Female Engineer

This is my last week at work, which is a bittersweet thing (no pun on my name intended). I like my job, but I am ready for school. I'm ready to be back to football season, the BCM, my classes, my friends, and my new apartment. In fact I am probably most looking forward to my apartment. It will be the first time I am living off campus, and I can't wait. But my apartment is a blog for another time. Today's blog has a different topic: office lunch.

Every time I come to work for a co-op term, the week I am scheduled to leave my Branch takes me out to lunch. For those of you who don't know "branch" just basically means the group of people I work with. We're all under the same boss, aka Branch Chief. There are about twenty-five of us total, but for lunch we only had sixteen, counting me, show up. I got to choose where to go to lunch, since it was my "Farewell Lunch", so I picked Olive Garden, my favorite restaurant. My mentor arranged everything for us, and sixteen of us went to lunch.

So I'm an engineer. This means when my branch goes out to lunch, it might seem a little odd to the random observer. I am a 5'1", 22 year old female. The other sixteen with me were at least 5'7", male, and over thirty. Perhaps you can see how that would seem odd?

At lunch I sat at the middle of this table of all guys, most of which are old enough to be my father. The waitress came up and said, "Are we celebrating something?"

"Her," my branch chief said pointing to me.

"It's her goodbye lunch," my mentor interjected.

The waitress looked at me and said, "I thought it might be you. You do seem to be the odd one out." Odd one out was undoubtedly an understatement. I probably did not look like I belonged at all.

So how does one survive such a seemingly awkward thing? Well first off, these are the guys I work with everyday. It's not usually that awkward. But there are a few key things to remember to keep it from getting awkward.

First point, do everything in your power to keep the conversation from becoming a conversation not appropriate for mixed company. Sometimes this can be hard. With so many guys, it can be difficult to make them remember that I am a girl. They might start a conversation that I really don't want to hear or tell a joke that I found offensive because it degrades women. The key to stopping this is to figure out what's happening before it happens. When I feel the conversation heading in that direction, I bring up a movie I know everyone just went to see that weekend, or a particularly controversial development at work that everyone wants to argue about. One sentence interjected at the right time to the right person can change the course of an entire conversation. Which in this case is a good thing.

Another thought to make the entire process less awkward is to remember that guys really don't mature that much as they age (no offense guys). They are generally just as goofy at 35 as they are at 18. The only real difference is that the guys in my office talk about their wives instead of their girlfriends, and they talk about their kids instead of their roommates. So when it comes to conversations I treat them about the same, though for my boss and other important persons I add a little more respect. (Which is not saying I don't respect guys. I am just saying I will be less likely to tease my boss).

My farewell lunch did not have any real awkward moments to it. We talked about the year, the new co-op coming in to replace me, the fact that one of the guys in the office just bought a motorcycle but his wife is out of the country and she's going to kill him when she gets back, and magicians. We probably spent a half an hour talking about magicians and illusions. No one in my office can figure out how the ring trick works, where a magician seems to push two solid metal rings through each other. The entire lunch table was arguing the different methods that could be used. That is what happens when you get a bunch of engineers together.

I suppose in truth though it looked awkward to those nearby, it was not really. It's my branch, my job, my life. At school the ratio in my department is nine to one, guys to girls. I'm used to being around all guys. It's being around all girly girls that makes me nervous. I can handle Tech girls, but girlie girls? They're scary. But I suppose that is a post for another day.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Book Review: Pandora's Star

Book Title: Pandora’s Star
Author: Peter F. Hamilton
Genre: Science Fiction
Length: 988

Quality Rating: 7
Content Rating: R

This book hearkens back to the greats of science fiction when it comes to the epicness (yes that’s a made up word) of the storyline. It involves a galactic society of humans reminiscent of Asimov’s amazing Galactic Empire, though it is much more in touch with Earth as we know it. The society is one I can see our human society becoming, not some beautiful utopia or closed-fist dystopia. It is a middle road sort of society, much like the governments and societies we have today. The aliens are exotic, not just various forms of biped humanoids, but rather truly alien aliens that my mind had a hard time picturing, though Hamilton did an excellent job describing them. For readers who lament the passing of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, Pandora’s Star is a much welcomed relief. I felt like I was reading a story Asimov could have thought of, if he was alive in today’s modern technological world. However, for readers who prefer to have only a handful of characters, Pandora’s Star is not the best option. A sole main character is hard to pinpoint, for the story jumps between at least a dozen characters. Hamilton starts the story with several seeming unrelated stories that at first lost me, for as soon as I gained attachment to one character I was moving on to another. However, in the end the epic plot pulled me through. The story was definitely plot driven.

I rate this book an ‘R’ when it comes to content rating for the same reasons movies rate things ‘R’. The f word was used often, and at some points often on the same page. There was also some intense sci-fi action/violence. Sexual content alone I would probably give a PG-13, as in all scenarios there were no details, though there was a good bit of mentioning sexual acts in one of the character story arcs, mainly using the f word written about above. If you have further questions about how I would rate this book because you want to read it or one of your kids is interested in reading it, just leave a comment and I will answer it.

All in all, I found Pandora’s Star to be a very refreshing and riveting read. Not quite a book I could not put down, but it was a page turner. I quite enjoyed it. I always love a good science fiction novel, and this was definitely that.

Book Reviews: The Explanation

Today I am about to post my first book review. Before I post it I just thought I would explain a little bit about the format, and why I talk about what I talk about. For me, there are two main things I want to know about in a book:

  1. Is it a good story?
  2. If we were using the movie rating system for content, what would it be rated?

All of my reviews will answer these two questions. The format will be fairly simple:

Book Title



Length (in pages)

Quality Rating on a 1 to 10 scale

Content Rating on a G to R scale

Paragraph explaining quality rating choice

Paragraph explaining content rating choice

The first four parts are easily explained. To write a review you need a title and author. Genre and Length are listed for those people who have biases for or against certain genres or lengths. Personally, I love a good scifi or fantasy book and the longer the better. But I know people who think scifi is for dorks, and people who think anything over three hundred pages is much much much too long. So those are listed for your convenience. After that the quality rating and content rating will be listed. These ratings are followed by explanatory paragraphs, so you know why I rated them like I did.

My quality rating system is your basic 1 to 10 scale. A 1 means that I can't believe I just wasted the money to buy it, the time to read it, the thought to process it, and the breath to live through it. In short, I'd rather die than reread this book (a little extreme but you get the idea). A 5 would be a perfectly acceptable book. I don't think I wasted my time, but it was not something that struck me as extraordinary. A 10 is something you should not even question. Just go out and buy it. A 10 means that the book changed my life on a deep level, made me reevaluate everything I thought was real, and must immediately be added to the list of books I will reread once a year for the rest of my life. In short, Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.

My content rating system is based on how I see movies rated. F word used more than twice? R rating. Automatic style. D word used once or twice with limited hinted at sexual content? That's a PG style book. No violence? No sex? No cursing? Man, I must be reading Clifford the Big Red Dog. That gets a G.

Since ratings are my opinion, I think they both warrant explanations. In my quality rating explanation I will highlight what I liked or disliked about how the story was written minus details when I can. I will compare it to other books if I feel it is appropriate, and I will mention what sort of readers might like or dislike the book. In the content rating section I will explain why it got the rating it did. I will also highlight curse word usage, sexual content, and violence. For example if a book gets a PG-13 for intense violence, I will say so, and tell you whether the curse word usage and sexual content was maybe a PG instead of a PG-13. I think these are the three big things parents and readers are looking for when it comes to a book rating, though if there are other common things you're looking for let me know.

The reason why I rate books is mentioned in this post. The reason why I highlight the things I do is because some of them bother me. I don't like excessive cursing or sexual content in a book but violence doesn't bother me (I think violence doesn't bother me because my mind tends to skip over description and action in books. I like dialogue, which often has cursing). Some people don't mind cursing or sexual content but hate violence. So once again this is just an area to list what is in a book, and how to rate it based off of my knowledge of how the movie rating system works. No one starts controversy about rating Terminator Salvation PG-13 when all the other terminator movies are R. (Notice Salvation didn't use the f word whereas the other Terminator movies used it every other word).

Now for those of you who are curious as to what this will look like, the next post is the review of Pandora's Star. Enjoy.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Blue Screen of Death and Harry Potter

Yesterday I saw two things I had never seen before: the Blue Screen of Death and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Two very different things, both new and both startling in their own way. They might seem like two unrelated things, but yesterday for me, they were connected.

I woke up yesterday morning expecting it to be a normal day. My alarm went off, playing the song "Holding Out for a Hero" from Footloose the Musical, which put several of the songs from Footloose in my head. I got up, took a shower, and gathered my belongings for the day. My sister was also getting ready, since we would be carpooling to work that day. I ate breakfast and read a few pages in Pandora's Star. Then as I was brushing my teeth my sister exclaimed, "Bittersweet! Come here quick!"

I spit out my toothbrush, and I went to my sister's room, expecting to see a large spider she wanted me to kill. I was not wearing shoes at the time so I was glancing about her room for a nearby shoe. However, I looked at my sister and she was not staring horrified at a large arachnid. Rather, she was staring at her computer screen.

"What?" I asked, a little annoyed that she called me away from my routine for what seemed like nothing.

"Something is wrong with my computer," she responded. I frowned and stepped over to where she was sitting. I glanced down at the computer screen and froze.

Blue dominated her screen, blue only interrupted by white lettering.

I don't know a lot about computers. When my computer has a problem I find my CS friends and make them fix it. When I needed to by a new computer, I made my ECE friend pick it out for me. My knowledge of how computers function is very limited, but even someone with as little knowledge as me knew what that screen meant.

It was the Blue Screen of Death.

Never in my life had I seen this screen that generally means your computer is having some sort of massive failure. My old laptop had many problems, but never the Blue Screen. My new laptop is new and functioning perfectly, so no Blue Screen. My parents' computer has gotten viruses, suffered insane hits, and yet has never had a Blue Screen. I have no idea what my sister did to get this elusive and dangerous screen, but there it was, staring at me.

"That's the Blue Screen of Death!" I exclaimed, though I probably should not have. It immediately sent my sister into a panic. I calmed her down by saying not all Blue Screens were the same. It did not necessarily mean a catastrophic failure. I read the white words and told her to follow what it said. Turn it on. Turn it off.

My sister turned it off, but we did not have time to turn it back on before heading to work. I drove us out to the center, I got out at headquarters where I work, and then my sister headed over to the cape. I went to work, thinking all would be well. It did not seem like a particularly dire Blue Screen, and surely my little sister had everything backed up on the flash drive she had recently purchased. All would be right with the world.

I had been working extra long every day that week in order for us to get out early on Friday. Working a half an hour extra every day means getting out two hours early on Friday, which is more than enough time to drive to Orlando to see Harry Potter. I was excited about the prospect of seeing the movie, and my friend's facebook comments about it simply made the anticipation worse. I could not wait.

Then at about 8:30 I got a call from my sister: "My computer dumped all of my stuff. My thesis proposal is gone. We can't go see Harry Potter."

Woah! Woah! Slow down! My mind screamed. Not see Harry Potter? What?

"Surely your thesis proposal is on your flashdrive," I responded reasonably.

"No it's not. It's gone," she answered.

"What have you been putting on your flashdrive?" I demanded, flabbergasted that she would have something so important, due in so few days, in only one place.

"Data," she answered. "I'm going to have to spend all weekend putting this back together. No Harry Potter."

"Well, I'm going to see Harry Potter," I responded stubbornly. "It's two and a half hours. It's not going to make or break your computer."

"You go see it. I'm not. Love you bye bye." She hung up on me before I even had a chance to really think about her problem. But that's my little sister. She gets frustrated, angry, and hangs up, not allowing me a moment to collect my thoughts.

You see the Blue Screen of Death is not necessarily the end of the world. My sister's computer was working. That was a very good sign. Her stuff was just missing. It had to be on her computer somewhere. It could easily be recoverable. So I did research, calling Geek Squad and the UCF PC services. They all assured me it might be recoverable. So I came up with a new plan.

We would take my sister's computer to Orlando to get fixed. They would undoubtedly have to keep the computer overnight, so my sister would be unable to do work. So instead of doing work, we would see Harry Potter.

I called my sister, told her this, and then all was right with the world.

Several hours later she called me and told me that she found her paper in her TEMP folder in her computer. She did not need it fixed. I was disappointed, for it meant no Harry Potter and a 8.5 hour work day. However, that is life and I was ok.

However, then my sister got off work at one o clock. She suggested I leave early anyway, and we go see Harry Potter. Though I did want to see Harry Potter, I did not really want to have to stay late on Friday, which is what leaving early on Thursday means. However, she mentioned that on Friday she would not be able to get off work until three o'clock, so no leaving early anyway. Thus I left early from work on Thursday and we made it to a 5:10 showing of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince in Oviedo.

Now, you may ask, what did I think of the movie?

One word: phenomenal.

It may be my favorite Harry Potter movie (though not my favorite book). I thought they did an amazing job. The comedy of the sixth book was clearly there. The discovering of Voldemort's past was not as in depth as it was in the book, but it's a movie, so it never is. I felt Hermione's pain and wanted to beat up Ron for her. I thought they picked a very good Slughorn. I loved the portrayal of Harry on Liquid Luck. And I loved Malfoy. He did an amazing job. I felt his pain, his frustration, his fear. The actor managed to convince me that here is a boy who is fearing for his life. He has been thrown into a grown up world, a world he's not ready for, a dark world. He has no choice but to succeed or he and his mother will be killed by the most evil of wizards. What choice does he have? He has to live up to his family's dark history whether he wants to or not. I felt that from the actor. When he brandished his wand on Dumbledore, I saw a scared boy who knew what he was supposed to do but did not really want to do it. Phenomenal. I applaud you Malfoy. You've grown up into a superb actor.

I could have asked for more anger from Harry after Snape completed his dark deed. My sister put it well. "I wanted more of a Luke Skywalker 'NOOOOOOO!' after he discovers Darth Vader is his father." I agree. I could have used more from Harry. But I felt that Snape did an excellent job. Granted in the movie I feel its way easier to see that he's good. My mom has always been convinced Snape was good, because she has never read the books. In the books we get Harry's extreme bias. The movie was not able to portray that Snape killing Dumbledore was the fulfillment of everything Harry ever suspected about Snape. Of course, it's hard to be inside someone's head in a movie like you are in the book.

The scene where Dumbledore and Harry go to get the locket? Exactly like I imagined it. It was purely amazing.

All in all, I felt it was amazing. It was exactly what it is, the lull before the storm, the set up movie. It gave us the comedic relief we need after Sirius's death and before the seventh book blood bath. Some people probably wanted more action, but if you read the sixth book there was not a whole lot of action. Yes, the Death Eaters attacking the Weasley home was not in the book, but I forgive that. There had to be some sort of tension in the Weasley home since the character of Bill Weasley has been cut out of the storyline. Though it does make me wonder what's going to happen in the seventh movie. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are supposed to spend some time with Bill and Fluer. Well, I'll just have to wait until it comes out.

When I see the seventh and eighth movie I'm bringing a box of tissues. Because when everyone dies, I'm going to cry. And when Snape dies, I might just break down. I can only hope they do Snape's death justice.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Carlee Earhart

I am a writer. Not I wish to be a writer. Not I want to be a writer. I am a writer. I wish to be published, but that does not affect the fact that I am currently writing.

It's already been mentioned on this blog that I am working on a middle grade fantasy book. It is just one of many projects I'm working on; however, my MG fantasy book is a focus because it's done. I'm basically just revising and researching the market. I plan to start actively searching for an agent in the fall, if my beta tests of the book among adolescents goes well. Some of the other projects I'm working on include high fantasy works, science fiction works, and some books that ask the question where the line between scifi and fantasy is. Most of these projects are "adult" books, though I would rate them all PG-13 or less. I have one project, however, that is YA that I would like to share with all of you.

Her name is Carlee Earhart.

Carlee Earhart is a blogger. She has a blog very similar to this one. (Which would be because blogspot templates were used for both, though different ones). She is only sixteen, but she's not your average teenage blogger. Carlee's blog tells the story of an event that happened to her last September, but she just got around to blogging. It starts with the day she discovered her older brother is an android.

Carlee's blog has only been up for about a month, and I will admit her only readers are among my friends (except one reader in Colorado! Go Colorado! I love you and your reading of my blog!). She's a fairly new and unusual project for me. Blogging is clearly not a normal form of publication. I don't know anyone who has hit it rich blogging fiction. Of course, that could mean I haven't done my research. Carlee, however, is not about getting rich. Carlee is an idea I had that I felt very strongly about.

The story of Carlee Earhart and her android brother, John, was one that has been bouncing around my head for quite some time. I've always wanted to write scifi, and I've always wished more girls would read scifi. I love scifi, I'm a girl, and I'm not ashamed. Science fiction is a genre that challenges preconceived notions and leads a person into discovering things they never would have. Because of science fiction, I am an aerospace engineer working for a major….uh…launching facility… Florida……(still not clear on the rules here). I've always wanted to write hardcore, space opera, golden age scifi, like Asimov, but that's not what Carlee is about. Carlee is soft scifi. She's meant to lead younger readers into this noble genre. Carlee's story isn't a golden age of scifi sort of story. I would compare it more to paranormal fantasy.

If you know me at all you know I pretty much detest paranormal fantasy. Why would I compare one of my project's to it?

Well in many paranormal fantasy stories, you have an average, run of the mill person who comes into contact with someone/something extraordinary. (Like a girl coming into contact with a vampire….yes, like Twilight). It's my opinion that people like these stories because they identify with this average, modern day main character, and they feel that adventure could enter their otherwise mundane lives. (That's not a slap in the face of paranormal fantasy readers. My life is mundane. I read high/epic fantasy to escape it. It's just a taste difference, and I have less people I can identify with). Carlee is like that. She was your average American high schooler. She wasn't the smartest, not the prettiest, not the most popular, but neither was she the loser geek that everyone makes fun of. (Which I contest that stereotype. I was a total nerd in high school and I was on prom court. People like nerds these days.) Carlee is far from exactly like me, and I think she is someone people can identify with. Someone who feels sort of average and ordinary, but knows they're far from the bottom of the food chain. So how does this average American girl's life take a turn for the scifi? Her big brother, the valedictorian of his class and captain of the football team, is shot in a convenience store robbery. Carlee finds herself swept off world (essentially abducted by aliens) and discovers her brother is an android.

Carlee's blog details all of this far better than I can do in one entry. It's called "An Android's Soul". How did the name get chosen? Carlee struggles with the fact that her brother, who she loves more than anyone, is an android. What does that mean about their relationship? Can he feel love? Is he even alive? She has to grapple with the stereotypes about androids that others try to force upon her, and she has to determine whether she thinks the laws set in place by the galaxy to demean her brother's existence are valid. It's the main question of her entire blog. Does an android have a soul? Does her brother have a soul?

I encourage you to check it out if you haven't already. One of the things I love about Carlee is that she's interactive. If you get confused about a plot point, want more information about something mentioned in passing, or just have something to say, you can comment on her blog. Or you can friend her on facebook and chat with her there. Carlee is not just some diary you are reading. She is there, answering your questions and helping you to understand the struggles she is having in life.

If you have questions about how the process of writing Carlee's life, you can talk to me, but if you have questions about the storyline or anything else you should ask Carlee. She wants to answer your questions. That's what she's for.

And are you curious about my really long last name I've mentioned before? Scroll down to the bottom of Carlee's blog and check out the copyright. My name is there.

But I'm just Carlee's "earth contact". She's the one doing all the writing.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Taking a Chance in a Bookstore

I did something incredibly risky yesterday. It's something I can only remember ever doing twice before in my life, and one time it did not turn out well. What is this incredibly risky venture, you ask?

I bought a book after only ready the back cover and the first page.

Some of you are rolling your eyes and thinking how ridiculous that sounds. Some of you always pick books at random, that's how you have found the greatest books ever. I, however, have never done that. I only buy a book if someone recommends it or I read a really great review online.

The problem is that I have out read my friends. They come to me for book recommendations. Generally everything they're reading, I've already read. Online reviews are also risky since my taste's and my fellow blogger's tastes don't always line up. All of this adds together to mean that I have no idea what I should be reading right now, other than Ben-Hur or the Wheel of Time.

I was at Barnes and Noble yesterday and I really wanted to buy a new book. I wanted to read something that was new and exciting. However, I had no basis to judge other than the blurbs on the back and a quick read of the first page.

I immediately ruled out any hardback books. I am definitely not willing to spend twenty dollars on an author I know nothing about. So I searched among the sci-fi/fantasy section and I picked up a book called Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton.

So what about the blurb and the first page convinced me that this was the book I should read?

The first thing that caught my attention was that it is actually science fiction. If you have perused the scifi/fantasy section recently, you'll realize there is an awful lot of fantasy. Most of the scifi is Asimov and Pohl, the stuff written by the greats decades ago. I rarely find great modern sci-fi. This book was written in 2004, so it's defintely new. If it's any good, I've found an amazing and rare thing.

The second thing that convinced me is that the book is nearly one thousand pages long. I often buy books on their length. In fact the one time buyring a random book did turn out well for me, I bought it simply because it was the longest book at the book fair. That book was Martin the Warrior by Brain Jacques. I buy long books because they're worth the cost and they will take longer than an afternoon to read. Somehow it makes a book less enjoyable when it only takes an afternoon to read.

However, I have to say the thing that really sold me was when I skimmed the first page. The character on the first page is "NASA Captain Wilson Kime". NASA. In a scifi book. How awesome. So many scifi books are so distant in the future that they don't reference NASA or the way Earth is now. I love NASA, and any scifi book that can put it in its first page is something I want to read.

I'm only one hundred pages into the book so no review for you guys yet, but I do have to say you should pick it up and just read the prologue. It was fantastic, ironic, and wonderful. Whether the entire story was worth the read, the prologue definitely is.

I'll definitely write a review when I finish reading it, so that you won't have to pick a random book off the shelf, taking the risk that comes with spending $8.99 on a book.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Confession: Apathy

My grandfather was riding his bicycle and was hit by a car. He has a broken neck and blood in his brain. It sounds awful, but that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that I don’t care.

Sounds horrible, doesn’t it? I know it’s terrible. I should care. I should feel something other than apathy at the fact that my grandfather is in critical condition. But I don’t. I feel nothing.

Some of you might attribute this to numbness. You’ll say I’m in denial, but give it a few days and I will feel something. But I guarantee you that it won’t happen. If he died today, I would not care. I just don’t care.

My grandfather is not some fuzzy teddy bear who I have fuzzy warm memories of. Nor is he some evil man who filled my life with horrible traumatizing memories. I don’t feel either extreme about him. I feel nothing. I acknowledge the fact that he’s my grandfather, but that’s about it.

You see my grandfather and I never had a close relationship, probably because my father and grandfather don’t. My grandfather isn’t “evil”, but neither is he a very nice guy. He cheats on my grandmother; he always has and everyone knows it. Seriously if you look at their wedding photo you think: “What a lovely bride, but look at that sleezeball she’s marrying.” It’s true. My grandfather just looks sleezy.

He’s also a multi-millionaire and a miser. No one sees a dime of that money, not even my grandmother. We’re lucky if we get anything for our birthdays or Christmas. My grandfather has never even attempted to buy his way into my heart. If he died about the only thing I would think is “I wonder where all that money is going.”

Growing up I only spoke to my father’s parents once a year on my birthday. It was the most dreaded phone call of the year. It was basically like being forced to talk to a complete stranger for fifteen minutes. I did not want to talk to them, and I knew they were only really talking to me to appease my father.

So my grandfather is in serious condition, and I don’t care. But I do care that I don’t care. I feel like I should care more. I mean God calls us to care in that whole love your neighbor thing. But I guess my grandfather falls into that large category of people I just don’t care about. It’s the people I don’t view as my neighbor or my enemy, since we’re called to care for both. I pray for and care about my sister-in-law, even though she is my “enemy”. I pray for and care about the international students at my school, because they’re my “neighbors”. But my grandfather? We’re not enemies. We’re not neighbors. I haven’t spoken to him since my older sister’s wedding, which was four years ago.

There are vast amounts of people I feel completely apathetic about. They’re not in my view. They’re not near me; they don’t hate me. Why should I care about them? But I feel guilty for not caring, because I know I should.

He’s my grandfather. I should be making efforts to love him. I should be putting him in my definition of neighbor. I should care that he’s injured. But I don’t. Like hundreds of other people.

My friends will say things like they have such a heart for the city of Atlanta, that they feel for the people, and feel called to love them. I on the other hand feel no such compulsion. I don’t feel for the entire city of Atlanta. I feel for small pockets I view as my neighbors and enemies. I don’t feel for the city as a whole. I don’t care about the city as a whole.

People in Indiana? I just don’t care.

People in Portugal? I barely know you exist.

People in the neighborhood down the street from mine? You don’t fall into my definition.

Kid who sits in the back of my class? I never even look back there. I have no clue who you are.

It’s as if my heart has limited area, so I define my definition so small that I don’t have to care about people. Caring is difficult. Loving? Impossible. How am I supposed to love all these people?

I suppose I don’t really think that God wants me to love and pray for the people of Portugal. Nothing against you Portugal. I just don’t know anything about you. I wouldn’t know where to begin. However, I feel guilty about my grandfather, because I’m pretty sure he falls into God’s definition of my neighbor or possibly the whole honoring your parents thing.

God has to care that I divide the world up into my black and white “neighbors and enemies” and anyone who doesn’t fall into that definition, anyone gray, I just don’t care about.

I know this is something wrong with me; I know this is something I struggle with. I even struggle praying about it. And if I don’t pray about it, how can God help me with it? But if I don’t pray about it, I’m ignoring the problem. And I’m really good about ignoring the problem.

Maybe praying for my heart to break over the world is too much right now. I think I’ll start small. I think I’m going to pray that God would help me to love my grandfather. I’m going to pray that God will help me care. Because my grandfather needs prayer. I know that. I am 99.9% sure that if he were to die today because of his injuries that he would not go to heaven. I should care about that.

God help me to care!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

SyFy vs. SciFi

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

It’s not a big change. Really it’s just a change in spelling. The pronunciation is the same. However, it’s still a name change. There is no longer a Science Fiction Channel that most people refer to as SciFi. There is now a channel that calls itself SyFy.

What is the big deal, you ask, since nothing seems to be changing except spelling? Why would anyone care about the change or dislike it? I can see your point that nothing is really changing, but I would also like you to see mine. The name change leads to the possibility that everything would be changed.

I am an avid viewer of the SciFi Channel. I pretty much have the weekday schedule memorized. In my family, when TGIF died its sad death, we started watching SciFi Fridays. My Fridays were spent watching Stargate: SG-1 (the greatest show of all time) and Stargate Atlantis. When SciFi introduced the new Battlestar Galactica I watched it. When they created Eureka, I watched it. But even before all of this, I remember being in late elementary school and middle school and watching Quantum Leap every week day at 4:00 pm after I got home from school on the SciFi Channel.

Perhaps you see the connection in the shows I watch on SciFi? They are all science fiction. Stargate, Battlestar, Quantum Leap, Star Trek, Doctor Who, SciFi shows them all. You might think that is obvious being that their name was the Science Fiction Channel, but that is my point exactly. They were obligated to show science fiction.

The SciFi Channel doesn’t just show science fiction. They show horror and fantasy. They also like to show Indiana Jones and National Treasure, though I’m not sure how either of those movies fit in. They air Ghost Hunters and other shows about the supernatural. They pretty much air anything they want. This is what I fear in the name change.

Why does it no longer what to claim its science fiction? Because “"Sci Fi" was a barrier to possible viewers and that if the programming is good, the viewers will follow”. Basically, saying its science fiction is not hip and cool, so we’re going to cover it up a little bit, not claim science fiction straight up, so we can get in these other people. Since apparently, good programming is not enough to get over the name.

What I fear from this lack of having science fiction in the name is that the channel will no longer feel obligated to show science fiction. Where else will I be able to watch Stargate? What other channel remembers Sliders was even a show and occasionally air it? Am I really going to have to wait for BBCA to decide to air something because what used to be my science fiction channel is letting Doctor Who slide by?

Now I don’t really think the SciFi Channel is going to degrade so much. Doctor Who is pretty much a hit, who would let that go? Not even SyFy I don’t think, but I am worried that I may see more of what used to be science fiction programming taken up by ridiculous fantasy movies or gory horror movies. It will be like the SciFi Channel usually is during Halloween – kiss science fiction goodbye.

I suppose really I just hate ambiguity. I have this same problem with the name “740” when it comes to the Georgia Tech BCM. 740? What on earth does that mean? Is it a Christian organization? Maybe a band? Maybe a weird club celebrating a certain time of day? I have no idea. The name tells me nothing. Syfy is the same thing. What on earth does that mean? When I watch the Science Fiction Channel I know exactly what I’m getting into. I know what they’re offering me (science fiction) and I know what I want (science fiction). They have a great base of people who want exactly that. Why alienate these people – the people like me who think science fiction actually is cool and aren’t scared of saying it? Why turn your name into a number because you’re afraid the word “Baptist” carries too much of a stigma? I think people appreciate honesty. I’m a Baptist Science Fiction nut. I’m ok with that. Let’s call it the BCM and let’s call it the SciFi channel. Don’t hide who you are. Don’t act like you’re ashamed of what you are. I’m not ashamed. Why are you telling me I should be? Why are you telling me that what I am is not hip or cool when I think it is?

By golly I’m a nerd and proud of it. Nerds have way more fun.

I just wish the world would stop telling me that what I think is ok isn’t. Stop changing your names because you think your old name is uncool. By saying that, you’re calling me uncool (which I admit I may be, but in the world of nerds, I’m pretty cool).

You know what? If a rose was named “redthorn” I doubt it would have the same love connotation.

Guy: Look honey, I got you a redthorn.

Girl: What? Are you saying our love is prickly and full of thorns?

Guy: I should have gone with carnations.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Earring Envy

I don’t wear jewelry very often. Many would say I’m just not the jewelry type, that it doesn’t fit in my personality. If they ever saw me wearing outrageous bling they would do a double take and then die of shock. Jewelry simply isn’t part of my image, but that’s because I don’t wear it. I don’t abstain from jewelry because of personal image or whatever. I don’t wear jewelry for one very good reason: I lose it.

Up until the time I got my high school ring, I could never wear a piece of jewelry, be it ring, necklace, or bracelet, for longer than a month before losing it. I would wear it every day and then suddenly it would be as if the jewelry fairies stole it. It was gone. Like magic.

On my thirteenth birthday my grandmother gave me a lovely gold ring with an amethyst on it, my birthstone. She always gives her granddaughters birthstone rings on their thirteenth birthday. I wore it to church only (couldn’t wear something that nice to school). It was slightly loose; I had odd in-between size fingers. In the middle of the church service one day, my ring fell off and rolled down several pews (ground was definitely sloped). After that, the ring was retired to my mother’s jewelry case, where it still lives today, almost ten years later.

My mom “gave” me her original engagement ring (my dad has gotten her a newer, larger diamond) when I was sixteen. This was never actually entrusted to me. She keeps it in her jewelry case for the day I learn to not lose things.

Junior year in high school I got the cheapest class ring there was. I swore to myself I would wear it every day and not lose it. After all, if I couldn’t manage that I would never manage to wear a wedding ring one day. I wore it every day for nearly four years, until I got my college ring, which I never wear and often can’t find.

I have one necklace, which I got when I turned twenty. I try to wear it every day, but I often forget and often forget where I put it. Usually I wear it for a week straight and then not for a month.

So what does my jewelry forgetfulness have to do with anything? Well, it’s simply to point out that I don’t have an aversion to jewelry. I simply can’t manage to keep it around. But the fact that I don’t wear it makes people suspect I don’t like it. Which is why my friends might be shocked to learn that I have extreme earring envy.

What is earring envy you ask? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. I have always been very jealous of the girls who had pierced ears and could wear cute little frog earrings or long dangly earrings. I have always wished I could have a multitude of earrings that I could wear for all occasions. I love earrings. I think they are beautiful and wonderful. However, most of my life my ears have been dreadfully bare.

If I like earrings so much, why don’t I just get my ears pierced? Well, my mom had this rule that we could not get our ears pierced until we were eleven. The day I turned eleven, I was sitting in a chair at the local Claire’s ready to conquer my great fear of pointy objects piercing my skin for the joy of having earrings. My earlobes were pierced with traditional little studs and I was so happy. I even bought a set of frog earrings, ready to wear them the day my mom said I could take the studs out.

However, my dreams of frog earring were not to be. A few weeks later my ears were infected, which was not very surprising. You see metal allergy runs in my family. My mom had tried to pierce her ears twice, only to have rashes and infections. My little sister had the same situation. My older sister on the other hand was fine. Her ears are pierced and have been for fifteen years. We tried to fight the metal allergy. We went back to Claire’s and explained the situation. They gave me what they said were titanium earrings and that no one was supposed to be allergic to titanium. The infection only got worse. My earrings were taken out, my holes closed up, and my ears remained un-pierced.

So through all of my middle school, high school, and college years my ears were woefully bare. I tried clip-ons, but if you have ever worn clip-ons you know that they are horrible. They are either too tight or too loose. Talk about losing jewelry. Clip-ons rarely make it a week without losing just one somewhere, never to be recovered.

My earring envy grew, especially when my friends would not realize that my ears were never bedazzled with jewelry and would give me earrings for my birthday or Christmas. I would sadly have to store their gift, never able to wear them.

I would go to jewelry stores with my dad when he was picking out a new necklace or ring for my mom and gaze enviously at the multitude of earrings in their shelves. I would never get to where them, whether lovely Na Hoku earrings or tacky Claire’s earrings. None of it would ever adorn my ears because of a stupid allergy.

Then this summer everything changed.

My mom found a jeweler that pierced ears. Not Claire’s, not a scary tattoo parlor. A Jeweler’s. She went in and investigated. The jewelry store was small and owned by a family. Their daughter pierced ears. My mom spoke with the woman, who explained that she had a metal allergy too. She convinced my mom that it would work and my mom got her ears pierced for a third time. Third time’s the charm, right?

Six weeks later, my mom has had no allergic reaction. On July 3, my little sister and I both got our ears pierced.

I’m hesitant to get my hopes up too much. I very much expect that in a few weeks, my ears will break out in a rash and get infected. However, the woman who pierced my ears was very convincing. She said that when Claire’s told us they were piercing my ears with gold jewelry they were only piercing with gold plated jewelry, which is apparently not good enough for those of us with sensitive ears. She pierced my ears with 14 carat gold, which she said should work. She also said I should wear only gold stud earrings for the first year, no wires and no other metals. She said if I did this it would work. She had three piercings in each ear to prove it had worked for her.

I’m not asking for three piercing or a tongue ring or anything. I just want to be able to wear earrings. I don’t think it’ too much to ask. But right now it’s only day three of having pierced ears. I’m following all the rules and trying to keep them from getting infected. I have my fingers crossed, hoping and praying it will work this time.

Maybe I’ll finally get some frog earrings, even if they’ll have to be gold ones from Na Hoku instead of the cheap ones from Claire’s.