Sunday, 31 January 2010

Intergalactic Conflict

Today, in denial of the fact that I shall be revealing what a hopeless nerd I am, I shall answer the age old question: Which science fiction series is best? Here I have ranked them from first place to fifth place, according to my own unbiased analysis of the shows.

1. Personally, I don't think there's much debate. I have yet to view the fifth season, so I suppose everything could disintegrate, but thus far Babylon 5 has left all the other sci-fi series in the space dust. The science behind B5 is, generally speaking, the most accurate you will find on TV. The philosophical, political, ethical, and other themes it explores are thought provoking and worth considering. The characters and situations are realistic (although, granted, some of the costuming is rather hokey and the acting early on just stinks...) The episodes are largely self-contained, but the story is ongoing. For the most part, it's clean and does not contain much I feel uncomfortable watching. It's exciting and gets the adrenaline pumping. Seriously - props to J. Straczynski for the story! And I have never seen a better time loop episode in my life.

2. Stargate takes second place for being so entertaining, whether it means to be humourous or not. With the odd exception of a few episodes here and there, I end up getting more than a few laughs, both at the jokes and at the ridiculous science and decision-making. At least the writers are well aware of the many absurdities of the show, as they demonstrate in episode number 200. As a serious series, it doesn't have much credibility, but it's pretty good for some light fluff when you need a break. Just steer clear of the few gross or dark ones and you're set to go.

3. Star Trek... hmm. Star Trek definitely gets kudos for being the first. I guess you're allowed to make mistakes when you're the one blazing the trail, but I can't say that I'm a great fan (although the most recent movie was pretty good). Granted, though, I haven't seen as much Star Trek as I've seen other series. And given that Vulcan is named after the Albertan town... well, that naturally earns it brownie points. That and the fact that William Shatner was born in Canada. Whether or not the multiple series are actually good, you have to watch some Star Trek in your life, or else you're going to be in a real pickle when find yourself trying to converse with a geek.

4. Star Wars. Yeah. Right. While light sabers are, admittedly, really cool looking, they'd be utterly useless in real life, even if the Force were in effect. Not only are light sabers useless except in hand-to-hand combat, they don't exactly carry an edge on stealth, either, what with the light and the constant buzzing noise. I mean seriously - invent a "light gun" or something. Bah. That one issue alone is enough to make shake my head at the rest of the series. Between Star Trek and Star Wars, however, I must say that I find the visuals in Star Wars more appealing, even if it all looks fake. There's more colour and variety.

5. Battlestar Galactica. Ah, what to say? It started off with great promise, exploring ethical and political issues. Then it got dark. And then in the last season, three episodes from the end they were still introducing new problems instead of beginning to solve them. I was left with a slough of questions, wondering, "What the bag just happened? What was Starbuck? Was she dead or not? How were the final 5 different from the other cylons? What was their relation to the mechanical cylons and to the humans? In fact, what just happened in the entire final season?" I still think that couldn't have been the real ending and am waiting for the makers to shout "Bazinga!" and release the actual final episode.

These are the rankings. So say we all.

"Zathras is used to being beast of burden to other people's needs. Very sad life. Probably have very sad death. But at least there is symmetry." Zathras (Babylon 5)

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Housewifery

Mini-rant. Hold on to something.

The term "homemaker" has always grated on me. It arose out of the need to make being a stay-at-home mom and being a career professional the same thing. They're not. A career brings in money. Being a housewife doesn't. Being a stay-at-home mom means you're raising kids.

Are women actually ashamed of running their household? Why are we trying to cheapen the incredible role of a housewife by making it equivalent to working a 9-5 job? I suppose the decline of family life in society could have something to do with it. Families are no longer as important as they were and so raising a family is no longer considered as important or special a role as it once was. We have to somehow validate it by turning it into a career. Also, feminism has swung too far around. Instead of equality dictating that women are able to and may have professional careers, now we all must have professional careers.

Careers are necessary, but in today's society they seem to often be just the means of gaining status and wealth. If I become a mother, I will not wish to have my role as a parent associated with that capitalistic and empty paradigm. It's not what raising a family is about. Being able to raise a family is an honour and an incredible gift from God. Who would want their kids to think that Mom is ashamed of raising them if it means she doesn't have an official career?

The term homemaker has been showing its face in more and more places. I wonder if it will ever stop sounding like fingernails on a chalkboard.

I seem to be doing a fair number of Mark Twain quotes recently. Here's your fix for the day:

"What, Sir, would the people of the earth be without woman? They would be scarce, Sir, mighty scarce."

Friday, 22 January 2010

Drive-Thru 201

Do you ever wonder what the people on the other end of the speakerbox at Tim Hortons are thinking? Do you ever think that they may be rolling their eyes or laughing at you? Do you wish for the experience of ordering your double-double to be as painless as possible? Read on. Take notes. You will be tested at the next drive-thru. (Actually, many of these will be applicable for any drive-thru you visit, not just Timmy's)

1. Don't talk on your cell phone while you're ordering or paying. This applies to people at either the counter or sitting in the drive-thru. It's extremely rude. I don't even bother to repeat the amount due or wish people talking on their cells a good day, because I know they won't hear me or respond. For heaven's sake, put your call on hold for twenty seconds.

2. If you've got a loud engine, we really appreciate when you turn it off while ordering at the drive-thru. If you've got a diesel... please! We're begging you. If we want to blow our ears out, we'll go to a rock concert.

3. To avoid mistakes, don't say "no sugar" or "no cream". Sometimes we don't properly hear the "no" and just hear the "sugar" or "cream", especially if you're in the drive-thru. Just tell us what you do want in the coffee. Anything you don't say, we won't put in. For example, say "large coffee with two creams", not "large coffee with two creams and no sugar." And if you just order a large coffee without specifying what you want, it will be black. Also, please try to distinguish between our "Is that everything for you?" and "Anything else for you today?" As it is, we are forced to judge whether your are finished ordering by the tone of you answer and not by the answer itself.

4. Now technically, we're supposed to give it to you if you ask, but please don't ask for coffee from our "freshest pot". This annoys me to no end. Why should you receive preferential treatment over the rest of our customers? None of our coffee should be older than 20 minutes, anyway.

5. This doesn't really annoy me, just amuses me. To avoid embarrassing yourself, call only coffee with nothing in it black. "Black with two sugars" is not black. And "black with a cream" is definitely not black. The exception is "black with a creamer on the side". Also, state at the beginning, not the end, of the order that you're getting a refill, or else we'll have to delete and retype it.

6. There are no decaf ice cappuccinos at Tim Hortons.

7. If you order a sandwich, hang on a second because we have to clarify what type of bread you want, and whether you want it toasted before we can punch in the rest of your order.

8. Hint from the inside: it's cheaper to buy a "half coffee, half hot chocolate" than a "mocha with no topping", even though they're exactly the same.

9. Occasionally we make mistakes. Please don't bite our heads off about it. We'll fix it for you.

10. Although it may be amiable gesture, if you call us by the names on our name tags, we'll stand there trying to remember your name and face when we have no idea who you are. Once we realize we don't know you, we'll feel creeped out that you were looking at our chests. Only extremely regular customers are exempt, because we do know you.

11. We can hear you through the speakerphone even after you're done ordering. For your own dignity, you may wish to refrain from singing along to the radio, yelling at your kids, or making other unbecoming noises.

Yes, I realize that eleven is a goofy prime number with which to end. Just pretend this is a protest against our culture's clear preference for round numbers.

All the coffee quotes I can find are praising the stuff in the most cheesy and melodramatic way, so, given my dislike of coffee, I won't post any of them. Instead, I'll post this:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.” Miss Piggy

Monday, 18 January 2010

A Mari Usque Ad Mare

I learned something cool in school.

At confederation in 1867, people weren't sure what the full name of Canada should be. "The Kingdom of Canada" was nixed because the American Civil War had just ended and it was thought that the Americans wouldn't take kindly to a British Kingdom just to the north (the British had been sympathetic to the southern states during the Civil War). Naturally, things like "The Empire of Canada" and "The People's Republic of Canada" were out because Canada wasn't an empire or a people's republic.

Leonard Tilley was flipping through his Bible one day and read Psalm 72:3
"He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth."

Voila! Hence we were named the Dominion of Canada. Whose dominion? :-D This is also reflected in our motto, "From sea to sea". Take that, you politically correct, culturally tolerant, self-proclaimed atheists! Canada was founded on Christian principles. Quit trying to erase history.

“The wide world is all about you; you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out.” J. R. R. Tolkien

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Non Sequitur

In the youth sponsor meeting today, our fearless youth pastor, Shawn, asked if I was happy with the way the youth group was being run. I said yes, I was.

"Ok," he replied, "As long as Carla's happy, I won't be waking up with a severed horse head in my bed."

Cricket. Cricket.

In the confused silence that followed, Shawn correctly gathered that none of us had ever watched The Godfather before. Ah.

Now, apparently Shawn has learned that an Internet dating site uses the doodles people make to judge their personalities. Tanks and lightning bolts mean the person is probably a leader. Geometric shapes means the person is probably the administrative type. Flowers and leaves and curlicues usually mean that the person is very nurturing. Keep that in mind.

Come the end of the meeting, Shawn stated that if any of the sponsors disagreed with him on something or had some point of contention with him to please, please tell him now. Don't wait three months, because that would make him cry. I thought that a severed horse head in his bed might very well make him cry. I smiled to myself as I doodled.

As a non-complaint filled silence settled, Shawn happened to glance at my doodled flowers, curlicues and leaves. Even some of the spirographic shapes had ended up looking like flowers. "Oh," he thought to himself, admiring the fine lines and careful arrangement, "Carla's very nurturing."

That was when I put down my pen, leaned back and said, "I'm just thinking of you and the severed horse head."

Yup. Needless to say, Shawn is now concerned that if that's me being nurturing, my kids are really going to need a good youth group one day.

I'd stick a quote here, but how can you beat a decapitated equine?

Monday, 11 January 2010

Alien Mincemeat


So this is something I wrote a long time ago. And by "long time ago" I mean this pre-dates my blog. But I re-discovered it recently and it made me laugh, so I thought I'd post it, seeing as it's not likely to get published anywhere else.

I'm rather proud that I wrote this before reading Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Also, notice the historical accuracy of naming the police chief Jack Beaton.

***

The Aliens Visit Stampede or, How Beef Was Introduced to Lambda Scorpii:

Calgary was invaded by aliens. Apparently it was kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing for the aliens, because they obviously hadn't done much research. First of all, they showed up in winter parkas even though it was the middle of summer. Secondly, they made their appearance during Stampede, so no one paid them any attention. Their third mistake was the cow. They dropped it from their flying ship into the downtown area hoping to win favour, but it landed amidst a display of painted cattle statues, and hence went unnoticed while it stood there chewing its cud. Eventually the heifer sauntered into the middle of the street. People really noticed then. Needless to say, the supposed good will offering was not duly appreciated.

“This invasion is not going as planned,” Sporg, one of the aliens, said while the red-neck owner of the western clothing store he was robbing (they really couldn't stand the winter coats anymore) chased after him with a cattle prod. “I vote we march into the grandstand and strike terror into their hearts with a stupendous show of our superiority.”

The other aliens all agreed, but several problems were present. Security wouldn't let them in without tickets or backstage passes and they didn't have money to buy any (they had forgotten to rob the cash register at the clothing store). They tried to sneak thought some air vents, but Morshblob got claustrophobic so they had to back out.

“This stinks,” Lackishmack said.

“Actually,” Sporg said, “I find it very interesting that no one has attacked us yet.”

Vloof, the brainiac of the bunch, cleared his throat. “No one can tell we're aliens while we're wearing these new stylish cowboy hats and bandanas.” Everyone nodded in awe of Vloof's reasoning.

Morshblob, ever the rash one, cocked his phaser gun. “Let's just blast the security away!” he snarled. “What are we, pansies?”

None of the other three aliens liked being called a pansy, so they agreed to attack, but they each secretly panned to ditch Morshblob and the other two at the last moment and so escape being guilty of shedding any blood.

The four aliens strode up to the main gate of the Stampede grounds and leveled their phasers on the attendant. Take us to your leader,” Sporg commanded.

The man at the booth gave them a passive glance then nodded toward the police chief. Sporg, Morshblob, Lackishmack, and Vloof marched toward the man dressed in blue. “Aha!” Lackishmack laughed to make the chief, who was named Jack Beaton, shake with trepidation in his boots. “We are here to infiltrate your city and to take control of all its people and resources! Be very afraid! Aha aha ahahaha!”

Jack Beaton raised his eyebrows at Lackishmack then shrugged. While Lackishmack was still laughing hysterically, Jack pulled his baton from his belt and smacked the alien over the head. Lackishmack fell over, unconscious, but still with a silly grin on his face.

The other three aliens gasped and pulled their phasers. Just then the red-neck western clothing store owner showed up, still chasing the alien robbers, except this time he had a shotgun instead of a cattle prod. Vloof and Sporg got cold feet, picked up Lackishmack and ran for cover. Morshblob grabbed Jack Beaton and held his phaser to the police chief's head. “Stop or I shoot!” he hollered.

The crowd grew silent. Heads turned to watch him. The red-neck western clothing store owner kept running toward him, so Morshblob shot the police chief. That was their fourth mistake. Jack crumpled to the ground and the crowd gasped. Luckily, Morshblob still had his phaser set to stun, instead of kill, because he had been playing laser tag with Sporg and Lackishmack just earlier that day.The red-neck western clothing store owner rushed Morshblob and started beating him with the butt of his shotgun. Angry Stampeders picked up rocks and candied apples to throw at Morshblob. Deciding to meet up with his friends, Morshblob turned tail and fled. He had difficulty getting through the mob, but managed to push over some garbage cans to trip a bunch of people up. He found Sporg and Vloof and Lackishmack in a bathroom, trying to calm down a hysterical old lady who kept beating them over their heads with her purse.

“OK, you guys, let's thence to the grandstand already!”

The other three eagerly agreed, so they all hurried to the chuckwagon races. Security stopped them again. Turns out they needed tickets to enter that area, as well. “Forget that,” Morshblob said, “Let's just push the guard out of the way.”

“Hey, look!” Sporg said, “It's Little Bessie, the cow we dropped downtown!”

Lackishamck frowned. “How did Little Bessie get over here?” he asked.

Vloof said, “ahem.” The others looked at him. Satisfied that the others were paying attention to him, Vloof continued. “The police chief was called in to move her off the road, then he was called to the Stampede grounds. Therefore, he simply took Little Bessie with him, because he didn't have time to stop at Butterfield acres to drop the cow off.”

“Ahhhh...” they nodded, once again awed by Vloof's genius.

“Moo!” Little Bessie said, happy to see her four alien friends once again. Tail flapping in the wind, Little Bessie excitedly charged toward the aliens in greeting.

“Ack!” Morshblob spluttered as the delighted cow licked his face.

The man at the ticket counter saw the cow and thought that the aliens were competitors in the animal showcase, so he let them in.

“Finally!” Morshblob grinned, clapping his hands together with eager anticipation. “Now for our grand entrance! Just watch! They'll all get down on their hands and knees and beg us to let them live. Then we can turn them into our own personal slaves, and voila! We're kings! Mwah ha ha ha!”

“Aha aha ahahaha!” Lackishmack joined in.

Although the four had some trouble getting their steps all in sync and Little Bessie kept bumping Sporg out of formation with her nose, eventually they were ready for their great debut. Phaser guns in full view, hats removed to show their real identity, the aliens marched into the middle of the stadium.

“Watch out!” Sporg cried. A chuckwagon ran over Lackishmack, and the red-neck western clothing store owner, who had jumped the gate, blew Vloof's phaser out from the alien's hand. Jack Beaton ran up and pepper sprayed Morshblob and Sporg slipped on some horse doo and hit his head against Little Bessie's nose. She mooed loudly and stepped on his stomach. The pumped up crowd began throwing more candy apples.

“I just peed my pants, don't touch me!” Vloof yelled, tears of fear streaming down his face. Everyone stopped in their tracks.

“Head for the hovercraft!” Vloof yelled during the lull in the onslaught. “Regroup! Regroup!”

Morshblob, Sporg, Vloof, and Lackishmack ran pell-mell for the exit, Little Bessie trailing after them. They didn't stop running until they found themselves in the south end of the city on the wrong side of Macleod Trail. Not understanding the way traffic lights work, they made a dash for it and Lackishmack was run over by a horse trailer. Lucky for him, he was a tough guy, and made it alive to the other side.

“OK, I am not doing that again!” he pledged.

Thoroughly stripped of their dignity, the four aliens skulked through the back alleys to keep out of the public eye until they found the quiet spot in Fish Creek Park where they had parked their hovercraft. Some kids had turned it into a playground!

“That's it, kids, game's over,” Morshblob declared as he revved the motor. The kids screamed and ran away.

The aliens took off for home, but unfortunately Morshblob, who was the driver, still couldn't see quite properly because of the pepper spray, so they took a few wrong turns. After several days of flying through space, Sporg wanted to eat Little Bessie, who had climbed aboard with them, but Vloof threatened to tell Sporg's mother about him robbing the clothing outlet if he ate his pet, so Sporg just sat in the corner and sulked. Eventually, they all made it home (they weren't quite sure how) but Morshblob spent many hours in his darkened study planning the second, more researched, attempt to take over Calgary. Finally, he thought he had a plan, so he called up his friends Vloof, Lackishmack, and Sporg. He laughed evilly with confident expectation. “Mwah ha ha ha ha!”

Back on earth, the Stampede continued without a hitch, and the Calgarian people, particularly the red-neck western clothing store owner, danced around celebrating the results of the chuckwagon races, completely unaware that Calgary had ever been invaded by aliens.

***

As one final note, I must mention that I find cows inherently funny.

Bo Hess (Signs): There's a monster outside my room, can I have a glass of water?

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Eye to the Censor

I just feel I have to say that there are certain things I will probably never have the guts to post on this blog. Some things pertaining to government or a certain religious group, for example. And there are certain quirks I have that will probably not make it onto this blog, either, pertaining to more absurd things that won't get me hauled off to jail but may make people take me less seriously or write me off as nuts.

It seems weird that my blog doesn't mention any of these things, because I'd like my blog to be well-rounded and portray most of my personality, but that's just not going to happen. So at least I'll make a note of it.

Some good old Mark Twain to close things off:

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

Oh! And Ben Franklin:

“A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.”

Friday, 8 January 2010

Put Bluntly

An agnostic and I were talking a while back about Christian beliefs. It turns out she was rather self-righteous, so I don't think it made much impact, but at least she listened to what I had to say.

We were going through some of the Ten Commandments and I asked her whether she had ever told a lie before (as an aside, is this really the proper way to interpret that commandment? To me, it seems to make more sense to interpret it as "don't spread nasty rumours".) She said that she hadn't. Not even a little white lie. In fact, she said, rather proudly, she had a reputation for being brutally honest.

Does she think being brutally honest is a good thing? While I don't believe that she's never uttered a tiny little lie, it's become something of a moot point. I just wanted to give you the background for why I've been contemplating this concept of "brutal honesty".

When Aristotle discusses virtues, he describes something called The Golden Mean. Basically, he says that the extreme on either end of just about anything isn't good. For example, you don't want to be a glutton, but neither do you want to starve yourself. You don't want to be reckless, but neither do you want to be a coward. Being quick to anger isn't good, but neither is being passive. And which is better - to be a miser or an over-spender? Similarly, I expect Aristotle, at least, would agree that brutal honesty is as much a vice as flattery and white lies.

Yet currently it seems to be a popular opinion that if something is natural, it must also be good. So long as something is truthful, it's fine to be brutal with it.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (yes, him again!) talked a little bit on a related subject. In his words, exposure is cynical. Some things ought to be concealed. And no, he's not talking about secret keeping in politics or organizations, but about common decency. He goes even further to say that "truthfulness" does not mean "uncovering everything that exists" but means "saying how something really is - that is, showing respect for secrecy, intimacy, and concealment."

I'm not quite sure I understand what he means by all that, but I do agree that society has lost its respect for the art of being tactful and for holding one's peace. Certainly the truth is very important and sometimes the truth hurts, but just putting something out there for everyone to see is not necessarily an honourable way of dealing with it.

At any rate, if I'm talking to someone about their lying habits again and they proudly mention that they're brutally honest, I might just make them defend their coarseness and lack of empathy...

“Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it.” Mark Twain

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Christian Fiction

Happy New Year! Even if it is a bit belated. As a holiday project, my Dad set up a new family website (much improved from the old). Among many other things, it includes the Christmas newsletter I wrote for the family this year and a poll question where you can tell us how your family members spend time together. I encourage you to check it out.

I have been making good use of the holidays and am spending most of my time reading fluffy romance novels - to be exact, the Yellow Rose trilogy by Christian author Lori Wick. After so much recent political and philosophical thought, my mind needed a break. Unfortunately, I ended up analyzing the theology therein anyway. I take issue, albeit, minor issue, with many of the "Christian" statements or dialogue she includes in her romances.

Assuming that most people who read this blog will have never read the books, I will not go into great detail. Let me say, however, that I am in love with each of the Rawlings brothers and that I greatly enjoy all three stories. Yet, as far as theology goes, believing in Christ does not mean that you are always walking around in a bubble of serene peace, as Lori Wick would seem to believe. Christ Himself was "troubled in spirit" when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Secondly, Wick seems to imply that nonbelievers are all walking around in a state of constant fear and upset, even if they don't know it. I don't know, perhaps this is the case, but it doesn't appear to be. Stating that "She didn't know such a mundance task as the laundry could be done with such peace," seems a little odd. Wouldn't "peace" be better replaced with "joy", here? Whatever happened to joy?

She also has nonbelieving characters noticing at once the peace that the Christian characters have, even when there was no situation involved that had anything to do with showing peace, but rather involved the two characters arguing. I mean, you can't exactly look into the eyes of your average people and discern, based on that, which are at peace with God and which aren't. Then there's also the assumption that all true believers are better behaved, or at least more open, than all nonbelievers. In fact, the improvement in behaviour is almost instantaneous upon salvation. Plus, the idea of "they noticed the change in me" just bugs me because she uses it even with characters that were supposedly a Christian since early childhood. How do you notice a change in someone when they've been like that their whole life?

Anyhow, all this to say that I enjoy her books, but her concept of the differences between believers and nonbelievers seems, to me, to be a little off. Huh. I supposed at some point I should write a post on just what I think the difference actually is.

These are probably the first Christian romance novels I've read in quite a while. I used to read some Janette Oke, but I don't remember much about the theology in them, or I'd type up a comparison. My mom really like Lynn Austin's Eve's Daughters, but I haven't gotten to that yet. As far as Christian female authors go, I have to say that in my experience, books by Francine Rivers definitely have the most substance. Her Mark of the Lion trilogy is one of the best Christian fiction series I've read. The stories and characters seem more realistic to me, even with the added miracles, perhaps because not everyone just comes to Christ and sees life go on happily ever after. And there are some super intense, emotion evoking scenes scattered throughout. I'd probably write more about Francine Rivers, except I haven't read anything by her in a few years.

If I had to line up all the authors of Christian fiction novels (not just Christian romance novels) and stand them on an epic-sized Olympic awards platform to demonstrate my reading preference, Sigmund Brouwer would definitely be up near the roof (I think Francine Rivers would probably pull in second). It is quite rare for me to choose to read a book based on its author, but "Brouwer" is one of the few names that can make me do that. It might help that the guy is Albertan and that I attended several creative writing classes taught by him when I was younger, but I was hooked pretty much since I read the first sentence of Lost Beneath Manhattan all those years ago. I've since moved away from his teen fiction, but his writing's only gotten stronger.

He usually manages to hit a good balance between action, description, and character development. Plus his stories tend to be a little more intellectual rather than being a sheer adrenaline rush, though he certainly builds tension well. Typically, someone is trying to solve a crime or there is some element of mystery as to what is going on. You should definitely read Broken Angel, even if it does end on a bittersweet note.

Normally, I'd stick a quote from one of the books here to end the post, but I found a quote scribbled on the wall of a bathroom stall, which I have no place else to put:

"Friendship is like peeing your pants. Everyone can see it but only you can feel the warmth."