Some Thoughts on Rain

Rain makes me appreciate the sunny days more. I find that when summer finally rolls around with a streak of sunny days in the high 90°s, I enjoy it(at least at the beginning). That warm temperature feeling is welcome because it isn’t going to last. It allows us to have float parties at Greenlake, go hiking more often, and see a long reaching view from a vantage point. Having something you enjoy disappear for a bit can allow you to appreciate other things. Not that I’m glad the rain I love is gone, but it being gone has given me a new space or time I wouldn’t otherwise have.

Rain forces me to slow down. This is true in both a literal and figurative sense. Traveling while in the rain I find myself moving slower, the wet ground can be slippery so extra care needs to be taken. I’m not sure if the idea of going outside is less attractive in the rain or that staying inside snuggling up with a blanket is more so, but I usually always find myself curled up in my reading nook. Rainstorms in Seattle also tend to come with a decent amount of power outages, I guess it’s all the trees falling on power lines. And yea, a power outage can blow when you just want to binge watch Stranger Things, but with the power gone it also gives way to lying in bed way longer then necessary, day dreaming those deep thoughts alone or with a friend, or finally picking up that theology book to read. When I am forced to slow down I am reminded of the things I usually leave behind when I’m too busy hopping from one thing to the next.

Rain cleans. Not too long ago Seattle had a really bad smoke problem. All this smoke from forest fires was being blown into our air space and it got so bad you could honestly stare at the sun and not hurt your eyes. It hurt to breathe and waking up in the morning your throat felt dry. After a week or two of this terrible air quality, the smoke was cleansed from our sky by a little bit of rain. That was all it took to become clear again! I don’t think I had been that happy for rain to arrive in a long time. It’s honestly an incredible gift whenever it falls from the heavens and rinses the world around us. The air smells different, plants become greener, and everything feels fresh.

Living in Seattle now for close to five years(whoa!) rain has become a more common part of my life. Seattle doesn’t get the most rain in the country but it is up there for most rainy days. Growing up in Southern California I wasn’t a stranger to rain. El Niño* brought plenty of to my elementary school, typically getting recess cancelled because the playground would flood. But when the rain stopped I knew it would be many months before it returned. I always looked forward to those spring days when the clouds would open up, the trees and bushes would ripple underneath the watery cascade, and the soft taps on the roof and windows would lull me to sleep.

 

*I just found out El Niño actually makes the Northwest more hot and dry while the Southwest gets all that rain, weather is neat!

I’m Bad at Checklists

Sometimes I have high ambitions for myself and decide to do something other than play PUBG all night after getting home from work. At the start of this year I made myself a checklist of things I wanted to accomplish by the end of January. Most of those items were things I wanted to accomplish by the end of 2017 but this time I was serious!

I went on an amazing Iceland trip back in March 2017 with three friends and I have hundreds of pictures and videos of the trip I want to share. I used to blog semi-regularly about tech stuffs, personal stuffs, and game stuffs in order to get myself into a creator mindset and not just a consumer. And lastly I have been working on a Windows10 application to help tabletop GMs to keep digital homebrew files organized. I have over 2 gigabytes of files on my computer detailing homebrew adventures, monsters, and items in a loose folder structure that I’ve realized is almost unsearchable on its own, so I set out to create a program to help me find a cool piece of magical treasure on the fly.

And I really was serious, I wanted to do these tasks! And I did work on them…a little bit. But I didn’t finish by February. I still haven’t finished them all and now it’s well into April! I have uploaded the Iceland pictures, I have made progress on my HomebrewDB app but it isn’t ready for the release, and this will be my first blog post in over two years. I’d hardly call that close to completion. I’ve always enjoyed finishing goals so much that when I don’t I end up agonizing about what went wrong. Was it my planning? Was it my competence? Was the goal too unrealistic? Did I not train enough to summit that peak? Or maybe I didn’t bring the correct equipment? I should have bought those new shoes, then I would have made it!

The guilt and anxiety we take upon ourselves for failing is not healthy. So, one of the things that I like doing instead is taking a look back and see what I DID accomplish, outside of the original goals. Many times, there are things that were still great accomplishments, took a lot of work, or had a great pay off that I can still be proud of. These aren’t excuses for not completing the original goals(still gotta do those!) but rather to prove that I’m not incompetent(maybe the lesson to learn is I’m not the best at time management or what I’m passionate about working on instead of being incompetent). Sometimes the literal goal is what you need to accomplish(a task at work or cleaning the bathroom) but sometimes a goal just gets you moving towards action!

So here are some other things I am proud to have accomplished:

  • My sister and I decided to book a trip to Great Britain within 3 hours, planned the whole trip in less than a month, AND pulled it off effortlessly. It was a blast traveling with my sister and we had never been to Scotland and Wales before!
  • I’ve launched a new homebrew D&D campaign that I’m very proud of. I’ve done a bit of world building and crafted adventures before, but this is the first entire setting I’ve written myself with it’s own nations and factions. Play sessions are going good so far!
  • I’ve been running an AirBnB, successfully too I think! I’ve also found out that I don’t want to be running an AirBnB for much longer…it’s been a lot of effort and time for less payoff than I’m getting out of it.
  • I worked on a chrome extension that calculates some fun statistics based off players’ dice rolls inside Roll20.

Easter 2017

It has been over five years and I am again brought back to N.T. Wright’s thoughts on Easter each time we gather to celebrate.

Despite a thousand Easter hymns and a million Easter sermons, the resurrection narratives in the gospels never, ever say anything like, “Jesus is raised, therefore there is a life after death,” let alone, “Jesus is raised, therefore we shall go to heaven when we die.” Nor even, in a more authentic first-century Christian way, do they say, “Jesus is raised, therefore we shall be raised from the dead after the sleep of death.” No. Insofar as the event is interpreted, Easter has a very this-worldly, present-age meaning: Jesus is raised, so he is the Messiah, and therefore he is the world’s true Lord; Jesus is raised, so God’s new creation has begun—and we, his followers, have a job to do! Jesus is raised, so we must act as his heralds, announcing his lordship to the entire world, making his kingdom come on earth as in heaven!

― N.T. WrightSurprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

How do we make His kingdom on earth as in heaven? By loving others. By caring for those in need. By campaigning for justice. By keeping your integrity. By taking care of the environment. By building hospitals and digging wells. By preaching, painting, singing, and sewing.

What we do with our lives in the now matters greatly because with them we are literally making earth more like heaven, or less like it.

Invisible Children to End in 2015

I had the pleasure of volunteering with this organization during highschool and throughout my college years, some served as campus president. From sleepouts, fundraising to rebuild Ugandan schools, throwing a few male beauty pageants, and even attending a congressional lobby in our nation’s capitol building, it was all exciting and life enriching. Invisible Children was created in 2004 to bring an end to a rebel army using children as soldiers, and over the last nine years that army has shrunk, fled from Uganda, and over two thousand abducted children have escaped to return home. I’m glad to see that Invisible Children hasn’t lost their desire for partnership with the organizations and people that have to live at the center of the conflict and will be handing off their resources and control to local groups that they have bonded with over the years. There is still a lot of work to be done rebuilding and rehabilitating, and with the good work these people do, it will continue to happen.

This interview with the CEO is honest and worth a read, organizations like this, ones that have the balls to carve out a change in this world are few and far to come by. But we live in an age that knows the most slaves, sex workers, and child soldiers than ever before, with the most serious atrocities going unnoticed or unreported. Invisible Children’s underlying goal was to correct the injustice in this world the best way they saw fit, I pray we all continue to do just that in our own lives.

“…cynicism is, in my humble opinion, a destructive force for progress in this world.”

Be loving, be smart, be wary, and be ambitious. But always have hope in what you seek to do, don’t fall victim to cynicism from within yourself or outside from others. Change the world.

//edit: Official word from Invisible Children

My Thoughts on: Sexual Compatibility

Article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/sep/24/moral-case-for-sex-before-marriage

The idea of ‘sexual compatibility’ gets a lot more attention than it should be.  The article suggests that you can’t know/be sexually compatible if you don’t have sex beforehand and that sexual compatibility is necessary for a great marriage.  Yes, sex is an important part to a marriage, but are people seriously saying marriage isn’t the right choice if two aren’t “sexually compatible”?  What does that even mean?  I just can’t imagine getting close to someone to the point of “Wow I really love this person and I want to marry them, but are we sexually compatible?”  That just seems idiotic to me.

I’ve it heard this view from a lot of other people, “I have to make sure that the sex will work between us”.  If marriage is just a precursor to sex then this makes sense.  If what I’m concerned with is getting a good romping out of my wife then yes, I should be making sure the sex is to my liking first.  But I don’t think that is what most people go into a marriage for.  There is a lot more to marriage than a sexual relationship.  If you’re at the point in a relationship where you are looking to get married, but you think the sexual compatibility might change your mind….don’t get married.  You’re not ready to marry anybody.

How do you even determine sexual compatibility?  What is the criteria for compatibility?  How many attempts do you need to figure out if you’re “compatible”?   Do you even need to actually have sex to figure it out?  And why just sexual compatibility?  Are these people also buying homes together, getting pregnant and raising children before getting married as well?  If not….how will they know they are financially compatible?  Compatible in the home environment?  Compatible as parents?  How will they know if they will still be a compatible couple during retirement?

Can’t these things can be determined through conversation and other indicators you get from knowing a person?  99% of any kind of compatibility is understanding each other’s desires, limits, and each person’s willingness to work together.  And if you can’t even talk about those things on a level deep enough to figure it out, how is actually doing them going to be more comfortable and a better indicator of compatibility?

Now, there are some GREAT points this article makes.

  1. Sex is good
  2. Sex is fun
  3. People like sex
  4. Sex isn’t a bad thing

I’m not going to stand on a soapbox here and proclaim that if you have sex before marriage you will get herpes, or become cursed with a terrible sex life, or try to slut shame you.  If you really believe sex before marriage is a way to determine this notion of sexual compatibility you want in your marriage and you have carefully considered what sex is to you, fine.  Go do it and get it on.  But don’t try to preach how it is the correct way that everyone should follow.  The article seems to be primarily frustrated with how American culture views sexuality(valid), wants to challenge it(valid), but then claims that pre-marital sex is the way to do this(not valid, or at least she didn’t make any valid claims for it).

Maybe the issue here isn’t that you shouldn’t or should be having sex before marriage, its what are we teaching ourselves about sex and how is that impacting us?  Generally in America there isn’t a good sexual education experience, we don’t talk about it, or its all hush-hush naughty stuff and sexuality in America is suffering because of it.

We have people who wait to get married before having sex, don’t understand that sex isn’t some magical 100% perfect thing and have their marriage suffer because of it.  We have people who are tired of seeing that and decide to preach the good news that pre-marital sex is “the best choice for nearly everyone.”  And we have people that haven’t really thought about that much(or are too young to!) who hear both sides and aren’t sure what to think; worse if they only hear one side and blindly follow it without thinking about what it means for them!

Sex and sexual health are important parts of being a human and are usually extremely personal private matters.  We should be stressing this instead focusing on shame or pride for whatever side you happen to be on.

Perspective

I’ve seen this picture around the internets a few times, mostly reposts on /r/atheism, but after a friend sent it to me for a laugh, it struck me a little differently.god and universe

Haha, it’s funny because we are so small and God(if he exists) is so big, why is he bothering to tell us not to masturbate?  It is such a stupidly small thing to care about in the grand scheme of things.  Ipso facto, the idea of God is ridiculous because he must not really care about the important things in life.  Hahaha.  I get it.

But if you think about it another way, the straw man example created to poke fun can be used to show how deeply God cares about humanity.  Whatever you believe about masturbation isn’t the point here, replace that instruction with “don’t lie”.  It’s the same thing for the purpose of the image.  While God is so so so so so so so SO much bigger than us, our galaxy, and the observable universe, He takes time to instruct us tiny things how we can better our lives.  Tiny things that seem insignificant to us but can impact the way we live and interact with others.  He does this in addition to handling all the other “big time God stuff”.  He cares about our issues, big and small.

And it is strange to me that my friend is incapable of seeing this side of it.  Anyone who looks at this image and doesn’t really know the impact of what a loving God can have in their minute life really can’t see anything else.  Both perspectives start with the same precept, a God infinitely larger and complex than we are tells us how to conduct small parts of our lives.  Some people stop there and call it meaningless and stupid, while others look to see if there actually is some meaning behind it.

Airplane Movie Reviews

I took a vacation for two weeks in New Zealand which involved flying over the Pacific Ocean-there and back again.  I usually enjoy plane rides long or short since I can finish off a book, sleep most of the way, or pass the time with free movies.  Virgin Airlines usually has a great choice of movies to watch for free.  My flight over I didn’t watch that many since I wanted to get myself on the proper sleep schedule.  Coming back I had the unfortunate middle seat along with people seated directly behind and in front of me who made it their mission to keep me from sleeping at all, so all I did was watch film after film.  Anyway, here is what I watched and what I thought about them.

  • Frozen – 4/5
    • Yes I know I’m late to this party.  I thought Frozen was a great Disney movie.  Fun plot, funny characters, good sing-a-long songs, and a happy ending.  It was a little bit of an issue at times how easily you could see insert song here story breaks.  Tangled was better.
  • Monsters University – 3.5/5
    • I’ll be honest, I only watched this for Nathan Fillion, and he was awesome!  A nifty prequel with your typical underdog plot.
  • Despicable Me – 5/5
    • Somehow I missed this when it came out and never got around to watching it.  Well I’m really glad I caught it on the flight back because I was blown away.  The animation was brilliant, the acting was top notch, and I was not expecting to have my emotions pulled out at 30,000 miles in the air!  After it was over I sat there feeling so happy for Gru, then I realized he’s an animated character, and then I realized there is a sequel I NEED to see.  It was good too right?
  • Fifth Estate – 4/5
    • A cyber thriller telling the debated story of Wikileaks and its creator Julian Assange, comes with a healthy dose of Benedict Cumberbatch.  If you like journalistic, uncover the truth, race against authority thrillers then you’ll probably enjoy this.  The film is probably more of a 3/5, it lacks as a whole at times.  But I’ve always found the whole Wikileaks story very interesting and could follow along with my own knowledge, so that might have made it more enjoyable for me.
  • Now You See Me – 3.5/5
    • A band of magicians start to rob banks during their live performances and the FBI is after them.  It is super fun to see the magic get executed, FBI outsmarted, and watch the plot twist and turn further.  It gets set up very well but it is only as fun while it lasts.  The ending is rather abrupt and didn’t do it for me.
  • Act of Valor – ?/5
    • I more or less collapsed in my seat from exhaustion half way through this one, finally thwarting the sleep barons surrounding me.  At best this is probably a 2/5 If I had to predict what the score would be.  The plot wasn’t anything special and the narrating was boring or exposition at best.  It felt like they came up with the idea, “Hey lets use real a real Navy SEAL team as the action stars”, and didn’t take it much further.

I’m pretty sure I watched at least two others but I cannot remember what they were.

Offering Too Much Advice

One of the things I do is give advice.  Sometimes I give advice when people don’t even ask for it, I just start explaining things.  Sometimes I’ll talk too much trying to explain my advice when they don’t particularly care or they already understand it and I end up annoying them.  Learning what annoys people is a never ending process.  It can be talking too much, how you explain your advice, or what subject it is on.

While it may be a way of expressing you care, you still need to be mindful of how others take it.  And that can be hard.

What ‘A Child Called It’ Taught Me About Stories

I read a book called A Child Called It during Highschool.  It’s a first hand account written from someone who was beaten and starved as a child by his abusive mother and played torturous games with him, or at least that’s what the author says.  I didn’t really think twice about the story’s exact validity because the point of the story was about how terrifying and real child abuse is.  A few months ago I read an article about how the story is under suspicion of being exaggerated, profiting off of the abuse story, or completely false.  I don’t know if the guy made it all up, apparently one of his brothers says he did while another one says it was all real.  That is one of the scary realities of this situation, a lot of child abuse goes on and we don’t know about it.  His own brothers can’t even agree if it happened.

But the point is that whether this particular story is true or false, the message of the story is still valid…child abuse happens; it is real; it is terrifying.  So what does that have to do with Story?  Two things I’ve been pondering in my head for a bit were brought out while I was thinking about this.

  1. Just because a story isn’t real doesn’t mean the point of the story is worthless
  2. I think we need to look into a story before touting it as 100% factual reality

Many times I see stories get thrown around to simply illustrate an idea.  If the point of a story isn’t that it actually happened but that it makes you think, it being a reality or not shouldn’t phase you.  Maybe you have heard some of those famous cheesy chain mail letters about the student who countered his professor’s proof that God doesn’t exist or that God is evil(and sometimes the kid conveniently turns out to be Albert Einstein).  Or parts of the Old Testament seem to be more metaphor or Hebrew allegory than factual history(or so I’ve been told be people more versed in this area).  In either of these cases I have encountered a lot of hostile reactions in two opposite directions: 1) they assert that since the story is “just made up” then it is not worthwhile or, 2) they try to prove that isn’t made up, is factual history, and therefore worthwhile.  I think both of these approaches are incorrect in the sense that they both hinge its worth on whether the story is real or not.  The addition to the end of the student-challenging-his-professor story about the kid being Einstein is actually an addition to prove its worth.  Since the kid is Einstein, a very smart man that actually existed, the story must be real and therefore worthwhile.  But this addition hinges the story’s worth on the fact that it is a reality, problematic!

Worthwhile stories do not have to be true.  Take Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings as famous examples, they are made up but there is so much truth we can learn from them about our world, desires, doing what is right, and love.

Easter 2013

In the beginning of this year, God taught me a very important lesson that I couldn’t have grasped by myself.  About six months prior I remember swearing to myself that this particular experience could not make any sense, I would never understand and it was stupid.  Yet here I am now, thankful for my newly learned lesson.  Its hard not to see the mystical side of life when something used to hurt can now be used to heal.  I’m not talking about a wound healing itself over time, but a wound provoking healing beyond what was initially damaged.  Whether it is the cross itself or a more personal experience, things that used to be signs of suffering, sadness, and loneliness can be used to help bring goodness, life, and hope.

Sometimes it is the little things that make it so evident to me that Heaven is actively crashing into, interacting with, and forever changing our world.  But we aren’t just supposed to sit here and watch it happen either, we are called to grasp ahold of Heaven’s tendrils and help pull it in.

…left to ourselves we lapse into a kind of collusion with entrophy, acquiescing in the general belief that things may be getting worse but that there’s nothing much we can do about them. And we are wrong. Our task in the present…is to live as resurrection people in between Easter and the final day, with our Christian life, corporate and individual, in both worship and mission, as a sign of the first and a foretaste of the second.

― N.T. WrightSurprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

Easter blog posts