Sunday, 06 December 2009

On Safari

That seems to be what they call it outside of Africa, anyway. We're visiting the Kruger National Park, so I'll be gone for a week or so. Happy advent!

Saturday, 05 December 2009

Fractal Bible

My fifteen word bible got me thinking about the nature of the bible. It's something I contemplate from time to time, like many Christians, I suppose. Recently, I've been thinking that the bible is like a fractal, and trying to boil it down to fifteen words only emphasised that. The analogy is flawed, of course, like any human attempt at understanding God must be, but I think it's still worth exploring.

Fractals are very beautiful in and of themselves, although they can represent very complex ideas. I don't nearly understand the maths (chaos theory) behind fractals. Even when very learned men and women express the concepts mathematically, they lose something of their intuitive and natural beauty. The bible can be like that. I certainly acknowledge that commentaries and theological dissertations are meaningful and important, but the bible itself is the really beautiful, intrinsic, important thing.

The other important thing about fractals is that they're endlessly repetitive. There's a pattern behind the fractal that is extended indefinitely, becoming smaller and smaller. You can see the basic pattern, but it forms a different overall pattern too. I think that the basic pattern of the bible is God's nature, but perhaps the overall pattern is Christianity.

For me, that understanding gives me some idea of what seems like the repetitive nature of the bible, and particularly the Old Testament. Looking at the broad sweep of the pattern, we see repeated rejections of God and returns to him. As we look deeper, we see particular causes for these moves. Zooming in again, we can pick out individual responses. Every layer is important in making up the whole, but I struggle to conceive of them all simultaneously. My fractal model helps me to hold the pieces together.

I dare say that rigorous theological analysis would turn it out as dubious at best, but it helps me to understand. It's another rung in my ladder. I think that's what counts.

Tuesday, 01 December 2009

Fifteen Word Bible

I was tagged by Jenny (aka my mom). The idea is to write five lines, each with one word more than the previous, to express the bible. The first line has one word.

I think writing form poetry might give me a slightly different perspective on this one, but I don't think it's changed the final product much. I certainly don't claim this as poetry, but there is an interesting similarity.

God
made people
who disowned Him;
His plan lets us
live with and for Him.

I really wanted sixteen words; I almost cheated and used an ampersand, but I couldn't do it. ('Lets' would be better as 'allows', which requires 'to'.) I'm not sure 'disowned' is quite right either.

That is why it is important to separate blogging and writing poetry.

This has inspired me to think about why the Bible is like a fractal. But that's another post.

And I tag (drumroll) Kate P and songbirdd.

Friday, 27 November 2009

The Pilgrim's Progress II

Most people, I think, have heard of John Bunyan's classic The Pilgrim's Progress. I don't think the sequel is as popular. In fact, I only discovered it when I got halfway through my new copy of the book and discovered that it was secretly a two-in-one edition.

Given all of this, I doubt that Pilgrim's Progress II will be particularly mindblowing. That seems rather similar to the complaints I sometimes hear about modern movies, and I began to think about the similarities and differences of the book to more modern writing.

The most obvious difference is that it's the only book I've read that uses words like 'snibbeth'. The second most obvious is the way that dialogue is attributed twice - there'll be a play-like reference at the beginning of the line as well as a 'said Christian'. That, I think, might point to the fact that the work was 'self-published'. Bunyan asked his friends what they thought, and decided to get it printed. Perhaps self-publishing is not so bad as people often say, then.

On the other hand, if Bunyan had had an editor to take out the double references, it might have reduced the length of the book considerably. So I guess you can go either way (which is what I would have said at first.)

The thing that bugs me most about it is the devices Bunyan comes up with - particularly towards the end - to present his ideas. If I were his editor, I would tell him to go revise the second half of his book to make it more interesting. (That might mean I would make a terrible editor, of course!)

At the beginning of the book, we visit Mount Sinai (the law), the Slough of Despond, the wicker gate that is opened to those who knock and the house of the Interpreter. Those are all good an fascinating. We meet all sorts of curious people too: people who actually do things.

Later on, we encounter a most marvellous idea. Christian and Hopeful come to an Enchanted Land. To keep themselves from falling asleep, they fall into a great theological discussion. They speak in bullet points. If I'm honest, I skimmed over some of that.

I don't know if Bunyan lost inspiration as he went on, intended the book to be that way, or had some other issue. I'm pretty sure that the book could be made more exciting farther in. The interesting bits go on for long enough - and mostly, are frequent enough - that I was largely caught up in the story, though.

Bunyan has some interesting insights and some ideas that I disagree. He's worth reading, because on the whole he makes me think.

Also, he introduced me to the word 'snibbeth' and who can argue with that?

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Being Thankful

Apparently, there's a country up to the North and the West of us that has a national holiday called Thanksgiving. I know a few people who live there, you see, which is how I know about it. Most people don't have that holiday, but I thought it would be fun to play along, since one can never be too thankful.

I'm thankful for my family. Even when they frustrate me or annoy me or just don't get it, they're family and they're there for me. Most of the time, they understand me better than anyone else too.

I'm thankful for online communities. It's so much easier to find people with specific interests when you don't have to take location into account.

I'm thankful that God has provided house, schools, jobs for next year. At the beginning of this year, none of that was entirely certain. I don't think everything's going to be easy, but God has provided and I can trust that he will continue to do so.

I'm thankful for challenges like NaNoWriMo and maybe even exams, that make me think and make me push myself to do better than 'okay'. (I need to write fifteen thousand words before the end of November to finish. I'm not giving up.)

I'm thankful for all the things I have that so many don't: clothes, food, shelter and so many relative luxuries.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Ctrl +F5: Force Refresh

It's weird having my mother back home; definitely good, but weird. Routines that got dropped by the wayside over the year she was away are suddenly back in place. Things we've begun to take for granted are not quite so normal any more. The strangest part is thinking that this is how life will be now.

At the beginning of the year, we all psyched ourselves for what was coming up. We didn't like it, but we knew we'd make it through and we planned accordingly. Now, at the end of the year, we've been stressing about exams and moving other things that people stress about. Having our mother back was certainly a highlight, but since it was a good thing, I don't think it's had much 'stress time'. In some ways, that makes the transition harder. At any rate, it's more surprising.

On an absolute scale, getting Mother back can't even be compared to saying goodbye, though. It is good. It's like somebody's hit 'Ctrl+F5' on the web page of my life and forced me to re-establish my reality with a few new elements. I don't think the page has quite finished loading yet.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Pre-Structured Posting

I should write proper blog posts. I will, when NaNoWriMo is finished, and we've done our packing, and I'm not stressing about schoolwork, and I don't have other commitments and --
There's never going to be a perfect time to blog. Fill-in-the-blanks is baby steps back to actually writing proper posts. So here goes.

(This one is from here.)

Outside my window, the sun is shining for what seems like the first time in days. I think my parents must be chasing it up here from Grahamstown.
I am thinking too much, at least about myself. It's far better to be Christ-conscious than self-conscious. The challenge is in really applying that.
I am thankful for my family, who will all be back together this evening. 2010 may well be the last year that we all live in the same town, and I want to appreciate the months we have now.
From the kitchen two things are certain: food and dishes. If I cook, it will probably mean ham carbonara of sorts. The returning parents may have different ideas, though.
I am wearing jeans and a t-shirt. This should not surprise you.
I am creating a novel. It looks increasingly like my planning for NaNo will strectch to the full 100 000 words of an actual novel, which excites me. If I finish and edit it, I might even try submitting it to an agent.
I am going to win NaNoWriMo (aka, actually finish it). I doubt I'll get through more than half my novel in November, though.
I am reading The Pilgrim's Progress. I think I enjoyed it more when I was about ten and didn't worry about metaphors or language. It seems to me that Bunyan was a better storyteller than a wordsmith.
I am hoping to finish my Christmas shopping before the Mad Panic arrives. It's especially complicated this year, because Christmas and goodbyes are all mixed up.
I am hearing birds: not just the birdsong, but the flutter and swish as they pass my window. I like birds. They have a sense of peaceful industry about them.
Around the house things are looking a little tidier than usual. This is absolutely not because Mother will be home today.
One of my favourite things is the literature community on deviantART; there are not enough people who appreciate the value of semicolons.

A few plans for the rest of the week:
I want to hit 50k on my novel, which I know I can do if I'm disciplined about it. We're also going to start packing in earnest, I think.

Here is picture for thought I am sharing:

Gidleigh Goat by ~3-hares on deviantART

Friday, 20 November 2009

Why?

Some people say that they don't write because they don't know what to write. Quite often, they call it writer's block, which makes it sound official and excusable. I don't think I've ever experienced that. I think I have the opposite problem: I have too many ideas and spend so long trying to choose one to write about that I don't get to the actual writing. Unfortunately, I can't call this writer's block. (If I sound kind of sceptical about writer's block, I am, although not entirely. But that's another post, which is precisely where I'm not supposed to be going.)

Now, it's possible that the way Terry Pratchett describes ideas in Discworld works out on Roundworld too. An idea seems to be a kind of subatomic particle - and certain people attract ideas far more than others. That seems to fit the observational evidence, but it lacks a certain scientific rigour.

I think that lots of ideas are a result of learning that 'why?' is a good question to ask. I think there may be a fair amount of luck involved in being taught this, or figuring it out for oneself, but it's something anyone can do. Very often, life is about being practical, to the detriment of being wonderful (in the most literal sense). We learn facts for exams, rather than understanding concepts, because we only need to pass. We do things because people expect us to, without stopping to think about why. We follow routines that get us through the day, even when we forget the meaning behind them.

Those things aren't altogether bad. In their own places, they're useful. The problem comes when they take over the child who says, 'Daddy, why?' If the child doesn't stop asking, then Daddy is awesome.

Why is the sky blue?
Why is the earth round?
Why do I have to tidy my room?
Why does it rain?
Why is the moon not made from green cheese?
Why is Shakespeare famous?
Why is it bad to put magnets in the computer?
Why do people smoke?
Why are flowers pretty?

There's so much that we only begin to answer in high school, or towards the end of prep. school. Some things we don't even answer then. The sad thing is that there's nothing on the list that a five-year-old can't at least begin to understand. We so often squash the 'why's.

But if we don't, or if we unsquash them, there are hundreds and thousands and googolplexes of ideas just waiting to be found.

Because did you know, the moon used to be green cheese, but it was petrified due to the pressure of empty space? So actually, the moon is a green cheese fossil. Clearly, it was a Swiss green cheese. How else did the craters get there?

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Finished!

I wrote Calculus yesterday, which means that my Summer holidays have technically begun. It's really great (I read an entire novel yesterday afternoon, after a whole month without one), but also a little strange.

Part of me keeps thinking I need to study. If I didn't have a certain amount of inbuilt laziness, I might even be revising the subjects I've just finished with - I'm quite glad I'm not that studious. Still, I have to keep reminding myself that I'm allowed to do other things now. I have 'most all the time in the day to read and blog and work on my NaNovel.

There are chunks when I'm working or doing useful things around the house, but there's a lot of new, unallocated time too. It's surprisingly difficult not to stress because I haven't studied. Consciously I know it's not an issue, but subconsciously, I guess it's going to take a while longer.

Now I'm going to go and do things just for fun, because I can. Like catching up the wordcount on that novel.

Saturday, 07 November 2009

Shakespeare Saturday: School

Until my exams finish, I'm going to be a little focused on school. It always impresses me that Shakespeare's schoolday was almost certainly several hours longer than a typical schoolday today. He didn't study Calculus or English Lit either. Still I'm not sure much has changed when it comes to
the whining schoolboy with shining morning face.


I think if Shakespeare had known that his work would be studied in schools, he would have been most surprised that a subject like English Lit existed. Most kids aren't taught Greek or Latin, but they do read novels and plays at school. What the Elizabethans watched purely for entertainment, we watch for education, although the entertainment aspect hasn't been lost entirely.

It makes me wonder what will change in the school system in the next few hundred years. Maybe students will be expected to analyse the Beatles' songs or whine about the ancient blog posts they're expected to read. Maybe Literature will be studied as art instead of language. Maybe there'll only be a few schools that offer the ancient language English.

I wouldn't be surprised, though, if there turn out to be whining schoolchildren with shining morning faces. Some things don't seem to change.

Friday, 06 November 2009

Friday Five

I would love to post a beautiful three-hundred word essay to my blog every day. Unfortunately, there are other things I would love more, like passing Calculus, writing things that aren't blog posts, and correcting my brother's spelling tests. Well, technically I don't love doing that last one, but it does take precedence.

Since I can't have that on my terms, I'm settling for trying to post something reasonably meaningful to my blog most days. I am hoping that more-or-less avoiding structure on some days will make the process possible. Hence, I present to you my Friday Five.

1. My last exam is on Tuesday. That means the summer holidays are nearly here, which is awesome. Having just three days left to study is not so awesome. I'm fairly confident that I'll be okay with this one, though.

2. I made a rosary! I won't pray the traditional Marian rosary, since I'm not Catholic, but I think something like this ecumenical rosary might work well. The repetition and tactile notions of praying with prayer beads really appeal to me, so I would really like to make a go of using them as a prayer aid.

3. Summer has definitely arrived. It's hot and sunny and if my Calculus book didn't look so accusing, I might go swim. I'm definitely looking forward to holidays, especially once our whole family is home together.

4. My brother has devised a method of studying that involves thumping his book. I'm quite glad there's not that much studying for Grade SIx exams, actually.

5. I may be utterly mad for attempting NaNoWriMo during exams, but so far, writing brainlessly during study breaks is working okay. I just have to remember that editing comes later.

Wednesday, 04 November 2009

The Hardest Part is Going Back

Although perhaps the hardest part seems to be wherever you are right now. That could also be true.

There's a path that we're all supposed to follow through life, although we step off it at an alarmingly high rate. Once we've found the path, though, it's not always difficult to realise when we're stepping off. We can take one small step back and end up where we should be.

Other times, the false paths are more deceptive. And when you've pushed and struggled along the path for days and weeks or even years, it's difficult to accept that you were going the wrong way. All that work must have counted for something! The only thing it seems to add to, though, is how far you have to walk back.

It's just as well there's somebody to help us on the way back, because I don't think we'd manage to turn around every time if there wasn't. It's difficult enough as it is.

So tonight, I'm pulling out my map and compass. I'm looking for the path. I'm pretty sure this blog is on my path, in fact. It's funny the things He uses to show us when we're lost.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Exams

I'd forgotten that exams can actually be enjoyable.

The last few weeks have been the run up to my final exams. I've been stressing myself a little silly. Today I wrote the first -- and probably easiest -- of them: General Astronomy. I was ridiculously nervous, right up until I was sitting at my desk, waiting for the exam to begin. Suddenly things clicked and my apprehension became anticipation.

Black print crept along the pages of my answer book. I reached back and pulled things out of my memory to answer questions. I was a little disappointed that the Density Wave theory wasn't examined, and I made some semi-educated guesses about the four key observations made by Galileo.

After two hours, I had completed the paper and checked it. It was satisfying. I'm looking forward to the next one!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Callings

A couple of days ago, I was struck by a thought that seems fairly obvious, but somehow isn't. I have been debating the worth of actually sharing it. I decided that if it makes a difference to me, it must be worth blogging.

A minister is not a better Christian than an engineer. A missionary is not a more useful Christian than an accountant. The presiding bishop is not a better Christian than the courtesy clerk at Pick'n'Pay.

Intellectually, I've known this for a very long time. Practical belief has been longer in coming. It is coming together in my head and my heart now, though. I am beginning to see that any aspect of Christian life (and by extension, all life) is only right if God calls you to it. When it is right, it is as absolutely right as right can be.

I think God gives us each a different set of tools and that no tool is better than another. A front-end-loader moves a lot of earth, but a trowel is considerably more useful for planting seedlings. People might even notice the hole in the ground more than the seedling, but it isn't intrinsically better or more righteous.

The best we can be is to be what God asks us to be. As John Milton put it, 'They also serve who only stand and wait'.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

'Like this, but not really'

The calculus I'm supposed to be studying right now reminds me of how small the human mind really is. There seems to be a repeated theme through my textbook of 'It's like this, but not exactly.' I shouldn't be able to subtract infinity from infinity because it just doesn't make sense. I still end up doing it indirectly. This confuses me.

Because I am confused, I end up wondering how I can be studying infinity anyway. I struggle to grasp twenty years or ten thousand Rand properly. Numbers like a billion or a trillion are really sort of beyond me, but here I am trying to grasp infinity. That's probably why I keep on facing half-answers. There are analogies that explain it if you don't stretch them too far and explanations that make sense if you aren't too rigourous. At the end of the day, though, I think there are some things that are beyond human understanding.

Those things are not only studied in Philosophy and Theology degrees. Anything that is part of God's creation - our entire universe - fits into something bigger than we can understand. So the Maths books say 'Like this, but not really' and 'Infinity isn't a number, but if we treat it like one here it works out'. I guess I just have to accept that God has given some people the insight to find those things and to counter my confusion with a wonder at what He's created.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Emotional Low

I don't like being unhappy, so I try to avoid it. This strategy is a lot more successful than I once thought. Some problems don't need solutions, they just need a good night's sleep. Some things aren't worth stressing over.

The potential downside to this system is that not stressing over things that don't matter that much can turn into denial of things that do matter. Sometimes things need to be put on hold and then picked up again. To some degree, I've done that with my studies and it's worked well enough for me. I have about four days more than I need to revise everything at a reasonable pace, which is plenty (I hope). Other things, like getting a hold on where my life is going, don't take well to that approach. I can only face so much of the stress at a time, but it needs to be faced.

When I try to bury it, it comes back out in the form of grumpiness, unfounded guilt, and arbitrary accusations. By God's grace, I've yet to be so irrational that I can't patch things up, but I'm sure that if I ignore the warnings I'll eventually take myself out of that grace, which is not a place I want to go. I need to do some self inspection and figure out where to put some of the pieces.

Part of that means that Shakespeare can have this Saturday off. Regular programming might resume next week. I think.

Wednesday, 07 October 2009

Threads of Thought

One of the ideas in Orson Scott Card's novel Children of the Mind is that people can think multiple things at the same time. To a certain degree, that's certainly true of all of us. I think the subconscious gets up to a lot of things without our attention. I don't think I can simultaneously and consciously follow two trains of thought, like Peter Wiggin, though.

Occasionally I catch myself trying, anyway. Generally, I don't think this is a good thing. Maybe if I practise I'll get better a it, but right now, I end up following two halves of thoughts.

For instance, the Maths I was studying this morning was a fairly straightforward section. I was almost tempted to skip it, but there are always a couple of things I need to read up on, so I didn't. The problem was that I began plotting my Nano novel at the same time. I didn't get very far with my novel, because part of my mind was on my Maths. I didn't get very far with the maths, because the part of my brain that is supposed to make sure I copy down the question properly was debating the pros and cons of writing about the Holy Grail.

In part, I know the issue will be solved when I start working on Maths that really holds my attention. Mostly, that's good, because it means I won't have too do the same sum three times before realising that if I wrote 1 instead of -1 I'd get the right answer. Partly, I'm a little wistful, because it would be interesting to see how well my brain can do at multithreading.

I guess that's life: there's always something more to explore, but I can't go in every direction at the same time.

Monday, 05 October 2009

The Left Brain - Right Brain Study Game

I think I was in Grade Ten when I first took one of those tests that told me to incorporate more right-brain techniques into my study scheme. I was half convinced that I would fail if I didn't use mindmaps to study, although I have subsequently discovered that I can pass quite fine without them.

I'm not sorry, though, that I was inspired to read one of Tony Buzan's books. I don't follow his techniques exactly as he lays them out, but reading about them opened my eyes to the multitude of possible study methods. Some things I still learn by making lists. I quite often use my rather unique variation on a mindmap. Occasionally, I use kinetic study techniques.

The AIDS virus becomes many times more interesting when you cast your siblings as unsuspecting white blood cells. Flemings Left Hand Law makes a wonderful base for a magic spell. The Permian extinction may have been caused by a volcano with bright red artificial curls instead of lava. All it takes is a little imagination.

Most people seem to think the way I study is a little crazy, but I'm quite pleased that I study at all. Mixing things up breaks through the boredom. It's probably neurologically useful too; at any rate, it gives me a quasi-scientific justification for making pretty pictures:
See my study plan? There's a b aig-picture mindmap for the right brain and detail-oriented calendar for the left brain. I wouldn't use either on its own (I have tried and failed), but, so far, they're working pretty well in combination!

Sunday, 04 October 2009

The Kid Who Grew up in the Back of a Church

I went to church by myself this morning, because my dad was preaching somewhere else. That's not particularly unusual in itself, but it's the first time that I haven't chickened out in this situation. It's easy to say 'Well, I'll go in the evening anyway, so what does it matter if I skip the morning service?' and avoid having to sit by myself. I feel better today, knowing that I went to both services than I did last time I skipped a service, though.

The funny thing is that lots of people I know will skip church altogether for reasons that seem smaller (at least to me). I don't want to judge what's right or wrong for them - I certainly wouldn't expect everyone to go to two services a Sunday - but it does highlight that my situation is a little unusual. Most kids didn't grow up in the back of a church.

Apparently, my mother played the organ at church in 18 August 1991 on 25 August 1991, she also played the organ, with the addition of a baby in a carry-cot (me!). I still remember being part of the row of four duvets at the back of the church. Going to church is what we do. I never particularly minded, and I was going to church because I wanted to long before my confirmation.

Sometimes I need to remember that it's not like that for everyone. Sometimes I need to remember that even though it's not like that for everyone, it is like that for me. I've tried going to church infrequently (once a week is infrequently, okay?) and also more frequently. I connect better with God when I'm in His big house often, so that's where I'll put myself. Even if people think it's strange that I dislike going to church less than three times a week.

Saturday, 03 October 2009

Shakespeare Saturday: LibriVox

During the car trip down to Pietermaritzburg, we listened to part of King Lear. It was fun to understand the play from a different angle, and the best part was that the recording was free! It had its flaws, but it was good enough to make me want to check out more of LibriVox.org.

LibriVox has thousands of recordings of public domain writings, from Aesop to Zola. Everything is put together by volunteers and released into the public domain. It sounds too idealistic to be true, but it seems to work just fine.

It isn't perfect, but is a great resource, especially in deep dark Africa where libraries don't stock audiobooks!

Three in the Morning

It's been a while since I stayed up working this late - now I'm not sleepy, but I've finally finished all my assignment. Now the studying for exams commences. I'm hovering somewhere between joy at the former and terror at the latter.

In the meantime, we went down to Pietermaritzburg and learned more about the city than I thought one could in thirty-six hours. We saw the three-bedroom flat we'll be moving into at the end of the year, visited various schools, went to dinner with some of my dad's potential colleagues (totally out of the blue: only a couple of hours after we'd met J. she sent a message inviting us for dinner!) and discovered that the best place to find a map of the city was not, as one might expect, the stationers, the newsagents or the tourist information centre. No, we stopped to ask for directions at an advertising agency and were given a map they had lying around. All I can say is that God must know what he's doing, because the weirdest things have worked out.

When we got home, I found a letter in the post from Kate P. I won a very pretty bookmark and a card (if it wasn't three in the morning, I might be inspired to take photos. It is three in the morning, though, so you'll just have to take my word for it that it's very pretty.) Yay! Thanks, Kate.

Oh, and just in case I didn't have enough on my plate, I'm signing up for NaNoWriMo. I don't know if it's wise and I'm not entirely commited, but it sounds like fun. Academics do have to come first, but I'm hoping I'll find enough time around and after them.

You can tell I wrote this at three in the morning, can't you? I promise not to do it too often!

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Shakespeare Sat - er - Sunday: Chick Lit

I started typing this post yesterday, but I got distracted and didn't finish. That probably is an indication that forgetting about using a timer is a Bad Thing. However, I'll write that today, and see if I can get what I should write about today to autopost while we're away!

The more I read Shakespeare, the more I think that it's really very accessible. The language is a barrier, but the content is not intrinsically advanced - rich, certainly, but not difficult to grasp. For instance, the King of France's declaration of love for Cordelia , in the first scene of King Lear, is about as soppy as a romance can get. I didn't expect that.

I forget that King Lear wasn't written to be taught in English Classrooms. I don't suppose Pythagoras developed his theorem of right-angled triangles to torture Grade Eights, either. Or that Cramer's Rule was developed because it makes a good multiple choice question.

I think that we sometimes get so caught up in the rush of education - maybe even of learning itself - that we forget the original purpose of things. Reading Shakespeare in order to study great literature is putting the cart before the horse - I read Shakespeare because he tells good stories. Remembering the proper order of things can be applied all over my life. It's a little indirect, but maybe Shakespeare will even help me to finish that nightmarish Calculus assignment!

Friday, 25 September 2009

Dreams

Last night I dreamed that I had to help lead a confirmation class at a church I didn't know, with kids I didn't know, but who were very, very wild. It was not really a good dream. I think it reflects some of what I'm currently feeling quite well, though.

In a little over three months, I'll be living in a city I haven't visited (although we're travelling down there next week), working and playing with people I don't know. I think it will be a good experience, but it isn't a calming idea to play with. I'm scared that things will turn out like that dream: that I'll be out of my depth or that I won't make friends.

Consciously, I can rationalise. I can figure out how I'll handle things. I can see the huge amounts of good in the situation as well as the challenges. It still takes an effort not to panic.

Next week, we'll visit Pietermaritzburg. I'll see the university campus and my siblings' schools. We'll look at houses. I'll walk the streets of our new city, eat food from its shops and breathe its air. I'm sure these things will help. Maybe sometime before next year I'll stabilise. Maybe I'm just going to whirlwind for who-knows-how-long.

Right now, I just have to trust God. He's opened up a path for us just as far as we need it. When we need to go farther, he'll open up more. I hope.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Like a Child

A large part of being a teenager is growing up.

And he [Jesus] said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:3

I think that, perhaps, as a Christian, I get to skip the worst parts. I don't mean that growing up is easy for anyone, but the secular world has expectations that I don't feel any need to conform to. I read a blog post about explaining death to children today. The mother in the post ended up lying to her daughter, because death without heaven doesn't fit into the innocence of a child's worldview.

The secular world says that there will be time enough to learn about death when you're older. Christianity tells me that death has been conquered. Accepting death (in the sense of the end of life, rather than as a passing on) is not something I have to do. I am immensely grateful for that.

There will always be growing pains, but pain comes in two varieties: there's the hurt when you cut your hand and a different hurt it begins to heal. One is good, even if it's not pleasant. One is bad. I think that growing up as a Christian, I get to experience the first sort of pain: soul stretching, if you will. Without Christ, the same experience would be soul snapping.

I can understand that life isn't fair, but I also see that 'fair' is not the ultimate goal. I don't know exactly where I'm going, but I know that God does. I'm far from perfect, but Jesus loves me anyway. And Jesus is never grumpy after a bad day at work. (Parents are wonderful, but they're not quite perfect, I don't think.)

I'm immensely grateful for that.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Sabbath

Lately, I've been thinking about the significance of the Sabbath and how it ought to be kept. I think that there's a certain amount of freedom that's appropriate - playing outside, reading storybooks, even going shopping all seem fine. on the other hand, it's so easy to get caught up in those things that we forget that there might be something more to Sundays.

The Sabbath is emphasised hugely in the Old Testament. Not only is it one of the ten commandments, but many of the prophets seem to tell the Israelites to 'Be faithful to God and keep the Sabbath'. Given the frequency and context of the command, I can understand the knot the Sabbath had worked itself into by the time of Jesus' ministry.

Jesus, I think, shows us the other side of the Sabbath. I think that his teaching on the Sabbath is part of fulfilling the law (Matthew 5:17).On the one hand, we see from the Old Testament that the Sabbath should not be forgotten, but to balance that, we have Jesus' teachings that the work of God is more important than any rule about what certain days mean.

I've seen many interpretations of what is central to the Sabbath, but right now, for me, it means making Sunday God's day. Everyday is God's day, but most days I'm living in this world for God. On Sunday's I think I need to reach out to God, and almost ignore this world. From Monday to Saturday, I organise my life to put God in front. On Sundays, God gives me enough space to keep my life going.

I may go shopping or read novels, but the trick is not to let those impinge on my time with God.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Shakespeare Saturday: King Lear

I'm going to read King Lear. There's not a great deal of logic to the choice, but if I'm going to write about Shakespeare, reading some of his work might help. I read King Lear years ago, but I don't remember much more than the basic plot. Also, we own a copy of King Lear in decent-sized print and it's my sister's set work for next year. If I read it now, we might even get to talk about it next year.

My theory is that by next week, I'll have read at least the first scene of King Lear, so I'll have something to post. When I've read it (the play, not the scene!) once, maybe I'll read it again so that I actually catch all the clever bits, which will potentially give me something meaningful to say.

And having written this much, I remember another reason for my genera inclination toward rereading King Lear: I read this is all: the pillow book of Cordelia Kenn a while ago, and it inspired me to read about the titular character's namesake. It's only taken me about two years to get there!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

[Strategy #12: Change your blog layout so that you can blog about that, rather than trying to think. If Blogger refuses to make the changes you want, curl up and die or find another strategy.]

[Strategy #17.5: If you can't or won't write a proper blog post, copy your LiveJournal entry from two days ago.]

I've just finished reading I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb. I wasn't planning on reading it, but a friend of a friend mine said it was unbelievably boring, despite being an Oprah Book Club book that, according to The Times has 'terrific readability'. That struck me as a little paradoxical and I (very self-sacrificially, you may be sure) offered to relieve her of the burden.

I didn't find issues like schizophrenia, broken hearts, abuse and the search for God boring. I nearly stopped reading after a hundred pages because the main characters were more radical than I was comfortable with, but I'm glad I didn't. Lamb resolves the story masterfully, sifting the truth in Dominick Birdsey's life from the lies. The story is unconventional, but far from unbelievable.

The first part of the book shows us how other people have changed Dominick's life: particularly, it shows us the impact of his responsibility for his schizophrenic twin brother. Reading about what Dominick goes through is eye-opening, especially when an acquaintance of his casually uses the term 'schizo'. I've dome that before, but after reading I Know This Much is True, I don't intend to do so again.

Later in the book, Dominick visits his brother's psychologist for his own counselling sessions. A lot of anger and guilt come out. When Dominick admitted that his stepfather had abused him as a child, I expected the result to be retribution. I was surprised when his psychologist rather guided him to releasing his anger. There are definitely times when abuse does need to be reported - like when it's happening now, rather than in the past - but I think Lamb does well to challenge one of society's most ingrained stereotypes. Ray Birdsey messed up, but he's not evil, and by the end of the novel he and Dominick are reconciled.

I Know This Much is True challenged many of my preconceptions. It made me think. Sometimes I decided that I didn't agree with Lamb's take on life; sometimes I did. By the time I'd raced through nine hundred suspenseful pages, I knew myself a little better. That makes for a good book. It comes highly recommended, although with fair warning that it makes at least 'M' (maybe 'MA') using the Fiction Ratings guide.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Scary

Sometimes, writing for other people's eyes is just plain scary. It's not particularly difficult - it can't be technically more difficult than writing for myself. I rarely struggle to find something I want to say. At this point in my life, time is not an issue. Sometimes I don't write because I'm lazy, but mostly I don't write because I'm scared.

A small part of what I'm scared of is the vulnerability: I'm exposing a part of myself to the world to accept or reject. It's not that hard, though, to convince myself that nothing too terrible will happen to me. If somebody really hates me, the worst they can do is to flame me and have their comments deleted. It's not that likely to happen anyway.

What really scares me is testing my own mettle. I'm writing something that's meant to be of a reasonable quality. If it looks awful afterwards, I can't say it's because it was only for practice: if I let other people see something, it's coming out of the best of what I can do - it's not always the best I've done, but it's rarely if ever the worst.

By putting my writing where others can read it, I'm forced to acknowledge that I'm not about to write a bestseller, because I know my writing won't be that popular. I hope and believe that it's good enough that a few people will be interested enough to read it, but I have to admit that there will be only a few. It's good to squash those ideas before they get out of hand, but going out there and proving them wrong is a little scary.

Every time I write something for others, I take the risk that it'll be ignored, or that I'll offend somebody, or that I'll prove once and for all that I can't write. They're not very big risks, but sometimes my mind inflates them. More accurately, often my mind inflates them. I have to continually make the effort to take the risk. It's not a very big risk, but there's an adventure in every day that write something other people will see.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Frames of Reference

I don't envision myself as a girly girl. I'm not completely unaware of things like clothes and hairstyles, but I own less make-up that some of my friends who own "hardly any" make-up. Sometimes, though, that perception of myself is challenged, especially, I think, given my family.

Today I bought a dress. There are two problems with that. The first is bought. The second is dress. In relation to the entire world, there's nothing remarkable about either of those. In relation to my family, there is. I'm the only person in my family that will voluntarily go clothes shopping ('I don't own anything that fits' is not voluntary), and the only one who voluntarily wears skirts. Buying a dress -- when I didn't really need one, but it was pretty and cheap -- is almost off-the-charts girliness.

Before I began redefining how I thought about myself, I changed my frame of reference. Outside of my immediate family, I don't think there's anything remarkable about going dress shopping. In that frame of reference, I fall somewhere around the middle of the chart, which I'm entirely happy with. The trick is to figure out which frame of reference is appropriate.

Some things - like shopping - I can measure by the world's standards. Other things - like the language I use - I'd rather not. Whether I look at my family's standards, my church's standards, or just my own standards, the rules I'm following for certain things are different to what most of the world is following.

ON one hand, I don't think I should be comparing my actions. Right and wrong are not comparative; for everything else, it doesn't matter. On the other hand, I know I'm going to keep looking for a reference point. While ideally I shouldn't be looking for that in the people I know, practically, I think it's better just to be aware of my frame of reference.

If I can persuade myself not to use inappropriate frames of reference, maybe I'll be able to get to the stage where I don't use them. For now, I'll just accept that I'm not the girliest of the girly girls.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Blessed

Sometimes I am amazed at how many good things there are in my life. Things that I didn't have to choose, let alone earn. Things that I sometimes take for granted, but which are really incredibly precious. Right now, I am very thankful for my family.

For weekends when Daddy would play Lego with us and show us how to build things that seemed nigh-on impossible. For schooldays around the table, racing to finish an exercise so that I could dispell the Harry Potter enchantment I was under. For the books Mommy gave e and helped me with, until I wondered how other children survived without reading at least one book a week. For the plays and concerts and circuses we practised in the garden. For bedtime stories and Bible reading every night. For an unconditional love so tangible that even at the deepest points of teenage rebellion, I can't deny it.

I am incredibly blessed in having what so many people all over the world don't have. And I can only be incredibly grateful to my parents, my siblings, my God, for what they've given me. When I hear or read or dream about happy families, true love, and blissful childhoods, I don't have to imagine. I only have to remember.

I struggle with the fact that there's no way I can deserve all this. I have to accept it though. So I'm trying to accept that I've been blessed and pass that blessing on as much as I can.

Wednesday, 09 September 2009

Astronomy and Harry Potter

Most, if not all, self-respecting Potterphiles are aware that many of Rowling's characters have names that mean a little more than appears on the surface. Remus Lupin, the werewolf is one of the best examples: in Roman mythology, Remus was raised by wolves and Lupin means wolf. Intelligent professor McGonagol is named Minerva, like the Roman goddess of wisdom. Dumbledore is the front man of the 'good side' and his first name, Albus, translates as 'White'.

Then there's Sirius Black, who transforms into a dog as an animagus: Sirius is known as the dog star. Interestingly, his brother was named Regulus, which is also a star. Regulus (the star) is brightest in spring. Regulus Black died young after performing a very brave act. You might think their parents were just enthusiastic astronomers, but the pattern continues throughout the Black family. Bellatrix is a star (sometimes known as the Warrior Woman); Andromeda isn't a star, but it's a galaxy. Regulus, Cygnus and Arcturus are stars. Ursula and Cassiopeia and Orion are constellations. I don't suppose there are stories behind them all, but there's enough to make me interested. I want to find out more. Especially when I realise that Merope is a star - Merope Gaunt was Voldemort's mother. She wasn't one of the Blacks as such, so where did she pick up the name?

I suspect that the naming scheme was in part just a quick name generator, especially since the first Black on the scene (Narcissa) is not, as far as I can tell, astronomically named. Still, there's enough pattern to make the concept worth exploring. Except, you know, not more worthwhile than actually passing General Astronomy. Or Calculus, for that matter. One day I'll find time, though, or at least find out that somebody else has already done it!

Sunday, 06 September 2009

Confirmation

My (not so) little sister was confirmed tonight. I'm pleased for her, but I think I've piggybacked off her special event too. Although I wasn't actually standing at the rail, I feel like I've confirmed my faith in Christ again. I believe that I have, even if it wasn't a public confession.

Through the confirmation liturgy, the sharing of communion, the church service and my sister's faith and devotion, God has touched me. I've been feeling down for a while, but now I'm ready put God in charge and run as fast as I can to keep up. Or to move along slowly, if that's what he wants.

I think I've been trying to say, 'God, of course you can go in front, as long as you go where I tell you.' Nothing good can come of that. I think and hope and pray that I'm letting go now. Even when God's road seems tougher, He's there to help me and I can be sure that it leads to a better place.

Wednesday, 02 September 2009

I Want

I want to be famous
I want to touch the sky
I want you to love me
And I never want to cry

I want to be perfect
I want less mystery
I want to earn your love
And I just want to be me

I want to hold the world
I want to touch the stars
I want to buy your love
And do better than a pass

Do you know why I want this
When I have what really counts,
When I know you really love me
And I'm yours on all accounts?

What kind of hubris is this,
That I think of owning you
When you are more than perfect
And I don't know what I do?

I can but say I'm sorry,
May I have another try?
Might I be your little girl,
Even though I'll go awry?

-----

It's not very good, but it's better than just ignoring my blog, right? I hope so, anyway.

Tuesday, 01 September 2009

From my deviantART Journal,

because I don't have the energy to explain what's going on in my head.

Bat Wing Boomerangs

In the Dr Brain's Mindventure game, which I used to play years ago, you have to use dead bats to make 'bat wing boomerangs' which allow you to attack enemies and flick switches. At the moment, I feel a bit like a bat wing boomerang: a bit dead, but probably more useful that way, the best help some people can get, but not always an appealing prospect. Mostly, it's because I'm stressing out about various changes in my life, but partly it's because [critiquing people is interesting.]

Friday, 28 August 2009

Of M.I.C.E. and Me

In Orson Scott Card's book How to Write Fantasy and Science Fiction, he explains something he calls the M.I.C.E. quotient. M.I.C.E. is a way of finding the focus of a story. It stands for Milieu / Idea / Character / Event.

Card says that every story will fall into one of these categories. A story can be rewritten so that it falls into a different category, although it retains its plot and characters, but it will rarely be worth reading afterwards. A whodunnit is an exemplary idea story: the entire story focuses on answering a question; on finding the big idea. If a whodunnit was rewritten so that we knew all along who did it, but focused on character development, it would be pretty boring.

In my case, I think it would be more appropriate to use a m.i.C.e. quotient. Whenever I read (or write), my focus is on the characters. If I read a murder mystery, I am usually at least as interested in the murderer's psychological motivation and the why the detective cares about solving the case as I am in the solution to the mystery.

If the hero needs to save the world, I tend to see the big event as a means of character development, rather than the point of the story. I'm a little better about milieu, but I still tend to think of it as secondary to character, even in a book like Gulliver's Travels. When I'm reading, this probably means that I don't get everything I could out of most books, but it's not really a big deal.

When I attempt to write fiction, it's more of an issue. I conceptualise a really great story, except that it doesn't have a plot. I will not notice that until I actually try to write it down. Then I realise I have nothing to write. I may have a fascinating set of characters who will interact believably, but if they don't have anything to do, nobody will care. If they don't have a background, the story will be rather dull. (I'm not quite sure about Idea, though.)

It's taken me a while to figure out the roots of what I struggle with when writing fiction, but the M.I.C.E. quotient was a very useful tool. I'm surprised that I haven't seen similar concepts more often.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Habits

I can't remember how many days they say it takes to break a habit, but I'm pretty sure it's not four, which is a good thing, because I haven't blogged for four whole days. The first three were legitimate, I think: on Saturday I was sleeping in a tent in the cold, losing my voice. On Sunday and Monday, I was buried in bed trying to find my voice again. Yesterday I still hadn't found my voice, but I was out of bed, so I don't know why I didn't blog. Today I've been procrastinating badly, but lo, she blogs.

I was beginning to think all that meant I was out of the (rather dubious in the first place) habit of blogging. I don't think I really am though; or perhaps it's simply that I'll never genuinely be in the habit of blogging. I've certainly read that I can get into the habit of things like blogging or bible reading, but I'm skeptical that I really can.

I have a bad habit of biting my bottom lip. I consider it a habit, because i don't decide to bite my lip: I just notice when it starts to hurt. That habit has developed over the last year or so. On the other hand, I've been reading my bible before I go to sleep for several years, but I still have to make a conscious effort to do so. I don't find it particularly more difficult to remember when I've missed a week for some reason. I don't think it's a habit.

There's certainly been time to develop a habit, though. In some ways it feels weird that I don't have the habits the books talk about, but there's a greater sense of something like relief. When the book says 'you can get into this great habit in just ten days', I can accept that it doesn't work for me.

I may have to take a longer route, but a long route is much better than a brick wall.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Off to Camp

I'm going on camp tomorrow. It's not a very long camp - I'll be back home on Sunday. We're not going far - in fact, we're pitching our tents in the centre of a local shopping centre. Part of the point of the exercise is publicity: outdoor diners, shoppers, people who are dragged along with the shoppers, can all watch us scouts building.

So, the camp is not very big, but it's going to be fun. I haven't been camping for nearly half a year, so any camp seems significant. Also, this camp has a lot of space for experimental pioneering. Trying-and-seeing is fun. Twenty-eight-ish hours of awesomeness are waiting!

XD (Because the way I'm feeling is expressed so much better in an emoticon than in words. It's not a rational feeling. It's just anticipation of friends and fun and stuff I'm not very good at putting into words. Maybe I'll be able to do it better afterwards.)

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Two Sides of Criticism

I am relatively active on sites like deviantART and fanfiction.net, which, for me, means that I spend a reasonable amount of time reviewing/critiquing other people's writing (and sometimes, hoping that people will review/critique mine). While, I wouldn't consider myself an expert in the craft by any means, I am beginning to notice that my critiques fall into two distinct categories.

There are critiques of work I could do myself, or that are similar to work I could do myself, and there are critiques of work that is significantly better than what I can write. The first set are easier, but I think the second are better for me.

In the first set, I see what I could do better in the piece and explain how to do it. Then I look at the aspects that I don't think are good as they stand and comment on those, although not necessarily in that order. There may be parts that are new to me, but on the whole, I'm just explaining something I've already learned and understood.

When I critique a piece that is better than I can produce, I really have to wrap my brain around it. There is a challenge in understanding what exactly makes the piece special. It's sort of like the inverse of the Anna Karenina principle: every excellent piece of writing can be excellent in it's own way. Then I have to look beyond what I like about the piece to what could be improved. I suppose that the more I go on, the easier it will become, but trying to improve on the (presently, by me) unattainable can feel a bit pointless. I usually get there, though, since none of us are perfect.

Going through this whole process can take a while, but at the end I've definitely learned something from it. I think I've given something more valuable to the author, too: if I use a critique to explain punctuation of dialogue or to suggest observing people in real life as a basis for characerisation, I'm not really giving the author something that's uniquely mine or uniquely theirs. If I can find something that touches me in a piece, or I notice an uncommon flaw, then I can tell the author something that might not be relevant to most people and that might not be noticed by everyone.

I'll certainly carry on reviewing all sorts of work, but I'm going to try to remember that the harder critiques to write are also the more rewarding. Falling back on doing what's easy doesn't grow me. Actually, that's probably true of everything I do.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Things I got for my Birthday

(or, Tomorrow I will be More Serious, but I have Today Off)
(subtitled, an exercise in strange capitalisation and parentheticals)

  • a Parker Pen (I've written a couple of pages with it already. It's different to a ballpoint pen, but very cool.)
  • a grown-up handbag (Thanks, Grandma!)
  • a poetry anthology with at least one poet for every letter of the alphabet. I think it's a really fun idea.
  • The Wordsworth Dictionary of Phrase and Fable I've wanted a phrase and fable dictionary for a while, so I'm very happy with this. (Yes, also very nerdy. Seriously, this is even more cool than an ordinary dictionary, especially for browsing. (Oh, do most people not browse the dictionary? I do.))
  • a gold cross and chain. Well, technically I haven't got this yet, but we're going shopping on Saturday (I think) so I can pick one I like.
  • locked in my room with strings of balloons. Okay, I'm exaggerating, but I did wake up with balloons strung across the doorway. And a cup of tea that said 'Happy 18th, Charlotte'. And crumpets just about to be made. I love you, brothers.
  • chocolate cake. Yummy!

Monday, 17 August 2009

How old do you think you are?

I don't always have the same age in my head as the one I fill in on forms. When I turned sixteen, I still thought of myself as being fifteen. In fact, when I turned seventeen, I was only just beginning to think of myself as sixteen. On the other hand, I saw myself as fourteen for most of the time I was thirteen. I presently think of myself as almost nineteen.

I do know exactly how old I am, but when I fit myself into the age scale, I put myself at eighteen-and-three-quarters. If somebody is seventeen I think they're younger than me - which admittedly, they probably are. If somebody's nineteen, though, I think they're only a touch older than me, when they must be older by more than a year.

I think this is linked to the real insignificance of birthdays: that being seven years, three hundred and sixty four days old is not that different from being eight years old exactly. Still, seven-year-old and eight-year-old are useful descriptions, so we use them anyway. Sometimes we fit into different categories mentally, emotionally and physically.

Considering myself to be an age I'm not is a sort of automatic coping mechanism. All seventeen-year-olds do that? Well, that's because they're younger than me. Eighteen-year-olds act like that? Well, I'm only seventeen. As long as I keep on growing, I don't think it matters what age I'm at, but it's interesting to look at the numbers. I just have to remember to get the right age on the forms, or thing could get very complicated!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

He Knows Me by Name

I've blogged about Communion before and it feels repetitive to do it again, but I think the nature of sacrament is that even when it's repeated, it isn't repetitive. There is more to be discovered through communion than I could even begin to fit into a single blog post, so I think I'm justified in writing two, which will still be far from comprehensive.

Our church is relatively small. I know most - probably all - of the church leaders at some level. That means that when I receive the elements, I am often addressed by name. For some reason, this always strikes me as special. I don't particularly take note if the same people greet me by name before the service, or address me by name at any other time, but during communion the use of my name has more significance.

It reminds me that Christ died for me, personally. It reminds me that He knows me by name; that two thousand years ago He knew me by name; even before that, He knew me. I may be just one girl in a very big world, but I'm special enough to God that he knows my name and everything about me. I'm even special enough that he's put me in a place where I can be reminded of that through Communion.

I know I don't deserve to be that special, but I'm glad that I am. I am gladder of that than of anything else I can think of.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Shakespeare Saturday: Sonnet XVIII

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

I wonder what 'this' is, exactly. My first thought is that it is the poem, but I'm not entirely convinced that Shakespeare could have predicted the longevity of his work. The poem will only give life to its subject for as long as it is read. It also seems a little strange to write a love poem showing how the author has made the subject lovable. It's possible, of course, that the poem is simply an arrogant piece of work, but I'd rather think of it differently.

I like to think that 'this' might be humanity. It is showcased in Shakespeare's ability to write, but also in the subject's soul, that won't die, even when the physical signs of age are overcoming her. It's not a very well supported conclusion, but I like it.

By drawing that conclusion, I can say that the sonnet suggests that each person exists as a person because other people exist. We immortalise one another, in a sense. I don't think that gives us the whole picture, but it is remarkable in its similarity to the Ubuntu philosophy. It's interesting that such similar concepts can arise independently. I think there are certain ideals to which almost everyone subscribes at some level and that a more general version of Ubuntu is one of them.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Coincidence and Bible Verses

For he last couple of Christmasses, I've bought little Christian bookstore type gifts or my church friends. Particularly, I've bought things with bible verses inscribed on them. I try to match the bible verse to the person I'm buying for and I almost always find a verse that seems ideal (Coincidence #1). Last year, though, there was one person that nothing was clicking for. In the end I settled, pretty much randomly, on Philippians 3:14. As it turned out, that person moved to another city before Christmas and never got his gift anyway (Coincidence #1b).

Yesterday, I was cleaning out a table - at any rate, I was shifting the junk around - when I found that left-over gift, still in the wrapping paper. I figured there was zero chance of its going to the intended owner now, so I put it in my room, since I can always use another pen. Later in the day, I was feeling quite frustrated and inadequate. I think the exact words I wrote in my journal were 'I don't know if I can do this'. Shortly afterwards, I read the inscription on the pencil I'd just opened. 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.' (Coincidence #2) I didn't want to be convinced, but God is pretty convincing. In case I was in any doubt, I read Isaiah 48:3 last night (Coincidence #3).

I foretold the former things long ago,
my mouth announced them and I made them known;
then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.
(NIV)

This led me to think of other coincidences, like #4: I thought there was a pen in the package, but it was actually a mechanical pencil. I've been meaning to buy one of those for ages. (Although I'm not convinced that one's divine intervention.) More seriously, #5: I know one of my friends used one of those Christmas pens to share Christ with a colleague. I hadn't really known why I thought Jeremiah 29:11 would be a particularly good choice for him, but I guess God did.

Sometimes, God is weird (I mean that in a respectful way). Also, do you think he did this because I used to tnk those pens were as gimmicky as things got?

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Coming of Age

In one week and a few hours, I will be eighteen. On the whole, this is quite exciting: birthday! Presents! Cake! A small part of me is less excited though. I think it's because this birthday is going to be a letting go of my childhood in varying degrees of literalness.

When I was little - I guess about ten or twelve - I used to invent the parties I would have for my three coming of age birthdays. The first coming of age birthday is at sixteen. At that age, I thought, one is not exactly grown up, but not a child either (which is not so far off from the truth, actually). My sixteenth birthday party was going to be like an old fashioned 'coming out' party. That never happened, but I did have a sixteenth birthday party, which seems to be good going for me.

My seventeenth birthday was my wizard's coming of age: I've never heard of seventeen being a significant birthday outside of Harry Potter. My seventeenth birthday party was going to be Harry Potter themed, with everyone dressed up as one of the characters. When I got to seventeen, I had friends who believed the Harry Potter books were wrong and I was in the middle of Matric exams, trying to pretend there was no such thing as a social life. It was a good birthday, but there certainly wasn't a party.

My eighteenth was going to be one of those affairs in high heels and cocktail dresses (although I didn't know what the dresses were called at the time). That is not going to happen. I have a small enough number of birthday party-invitable friends to begin with. Adding the fact that most of them are too far away to come anyway, I'd do well to get five or six people together. Besides that, my family is in an almost constant state of varying degrees of turmoil this year. It's sometimes a challenge to get supper cooked before bedtime. I don't think a party is really going to happen.

In a sense, that's the end of my childhood dreams about adulthood. For some reason - probably because of the amounts of fantasy I consume - I never considered my twenty-first to be all that significant. I'm sorry that it won't happen the way I planned it out all those years back, but I think I've grown up enough to accept it. There are other good things. There is next year. I don't even own a cocktail dress and finding one would have been stressful in the best of circumstances. For me, that attitude epitomises growing up. It's been easier and harder than I thought. The parts about understanding money and looking out for other people came easily. The parts about deciding what to do with the money and who to look out for, I'm still struggling with.

It's a big ol' mixed up world. I don't think changing a digit in my age will change much, but it's giving me an opportunity to look back. I have grown up (though I'm not finished). I miss irresponsible childhood, but the richer taste of responsiblity is more satisfying. One season is drawing to a close, but I'm sure the next will be just as beautiful.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Only in the Comments

In general, I an a person who likes to debate, discuss, persuade, convince and, in the nicest possible, literal, sense exchange words. However, I find that forum debates on the internet tend to frustrate me. If I join the debate on a site's forum, I almost always end up spending less time on that site in the long run (there are exceptions, but as a general rule that's the case).

I think there are two reasons for this. One is the often cited fact that we don't tend to see people as people when we interact over the internet. It's not difficult to begin a discussion with somebody and then leave it hanging when 'real life' gets in the way (I've been guilty of this one) or just because you're bored. That's not really conducive to a meaningful discussion.

The other thing that I think frustrates me is that internet conversations are written down and recorded. That makes it incredibly obvious if your argument is inconsistent. In a spoken conversation, I can believe that you've just forgotten what you said about x five minutes ago. If it's written five centimetres up the page, you should reread it even if you don't remember it and I think it ought to be easier to remember it. People still contradict themselves though.

Because of that, I don't tend to do the forum thing. Comments are another matter though. Having a focus, a blog post, a picture or what-have-you, seems to keep a discussion more careful. Even an off-topic comment thread often has more rigour than a forum thread. I suppose the quality of the original item commented on might dictate the quality of the discussion too.

I do enjoy discussion, but I think I'll keep it to the comments, to avoid frustrating myself. Because while I enjoy discusions and debates, arguments and fights are a different story.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Saturday, 08 August 2009

Shakespeare Saturday: Reading Shakespeare

In my last year of high school, we studied Othello in English Lit. A few us really enjoyed it - mostly those of us who were part of the school's production of the play. Most of the class were not particularly keen on it. There was one lesson, though, where the entire class listened intently to the Shakespeare reading.

One of the boys, who was, I think, as uninspired as he was smart, volunteered himself and his friends to read every single part. Why he would do that may not be clear until you imagine a tough, eighteen year old boy reading Desdemona's part in falsetto. The entire class was almost in hysterics.

What was remarkable about the performance was that as the boys tried to rip the characters off, they had to dig a little deeper into the play. They were melodramatic and ridiculous, but they pulled a bit of meaning out of the play. The words weren't always quite right, but there was sense in what they were saying. The class may have been watching the first hockey team passionately addressing one another, but at the same time, they were seeing a pieces of Shakespeare's character's that I doubt they had seen anywhere else. It was a glorious lesson.

Those boys showed me that Shakespeare shouldn't be taken too seriously. There are certainly serious parts, but there are funny parts too. The plays should be entertaining as much as they should be intellectually stimulating. Shakespeare should be fun.

Friday, 07 August 2009

Till We Have Faces

It's been a while since I last read something by C. S. Lewis for the very first time. I had forgotten quite how much I appreciate his writing. Over the last few days I've read Till We Have Faces: A myth retold and have been reminded of quite how awesome Lewis is. One of the things that I particularly like is that he captures the imperfection of humanity without condemnation.

One of the places I found this was in Orual, the narrator and protagonist of Till We Have Faces. Orual is ugly. She's sufficiently ugly that she's repeatedly insulted about her looks and finally chooses to spend her whole life behind a veil. This in itself is unusual, since most storybook heroines fall somewhere between passably pretty and ravishingly beautiful. The majority of the remainder are plain, but very rarely is a heroine so shockingly ugly that she resents her own reflection. That is the first part of Orual's ugliness.

The second part is that while Orual's lack of beauty is recognised and continually influences her, it is not central to the plot. I expected that her ugliness would fade away and be forgotten or else that it would become a sort of fixation. I was impressed and delighted that it was neither. Lewis shapes Orual's character by the responses she gets to her appearance, but he also shows us her intelligence, her compassion and her righteous-seeming bitterness. There are things she doesn't know or understand that one imagines might be the result of her ugliness (or people's reactions to it), but at the forefront is the lack of understanding, not the ugliness. Being ugly is an explanation, but not a justification. Despite this, Orual's life is much , much more than her ugliness.

I don't think it's streching things too far to see her ugliness as symbolising human imperfection. It can't be ignored or forgotten, but it's not the centre of our stories either.

Wednesday, 05 August 2009

Just look away while I post this, please

Today I caught myself wondering if tying my hair up in public would offend anyone. This was a clear sign that I was being oversensitive. Anyone who is offended by that should not be out in public.

I only worried about putting in my hair band for an instant, but it's a ridiculous symptom of something I should probably watch. The obvious reason for this is that I'll become paranoid if I start worrying what people think of every move I make. There's a subtler reason too, though.

When I worry too much about what people think, I start putting excessive effort into everything. It's draining, and I end up doing things that might legitimately offend people. I'm not there yet, but I'm getting there. After the third complete rewrite, I might send a commented without rereading it. That's not the end of the world, but I almost always reread comments. It means I'm getting careless and if I'm too careless, I'll do something I regret.

My new mission is to relax, because endorphins do just about everything better than stale adrenaline. In the meantime, if I do something stupid you know why.

Monday, 03 August 2009

Words, Numbers, Pictures

My new maths book - at least, the one I started working from today - has a strong focus on what the authors call a new style of teaching. One of the key points of this style seems to be the idea that a single mathematical concept can be expressed in different ways: a function, a graph and a verbal description of a relationship can all represent the same thing, for example.

I think that concept can be applied to the rest of life too. Writing is very verbal, but I decided that I wanted a picture to help me focus. (You can see it here now that it's finished.) I'm also somewhat addicted to hitting the word count shortcut to see just how much I've written. Blogs have pictures to draw attention, even though they're all about the words. Computers represent the colour of a picture in hexadecimal digits. They're all mixed up.

I suspect that there are more elements in the equation, but I'm beginning to learn to balance these ones. Each one complements the others; all three in moderation is better than four times as much of any one of them. It forms a predator prey model, where because maths has taken up my writing time, I write better when I get the chance. Since I write instead of looking at art, I steal my maths time to do that, but I try to apply it to maths as well. When I do maths, I analyse the prose in my textbook.

Mixing things up makes their applications clearer, as well as getting more done. I allocate time to each activity, but putting the focus on spot doesn't cause the others to disappear. It's obvious, perhaps,but nonetheless a revelation.

Sunday, 02 August 2009

God's Laboratory

And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions


Joel 2:28 (NKJV)

I was walking along a path through dark green grass, in an empty field or maybe a vacant plot of land. As I walked, I was searching for something, but I was not sure what it was I was looking for. After I had walked a way through the field, it came to me that I was looking for God. I didn't know what he looked like or what he might be doing, but I thought I would know when I found him.

A few minutes later I saw a large wooden structure in my path. It looked like a barn, but it was better tended and more beautiful than any barn could be. When I got closer to the building, I realised that God was in the building. He was the cause of its beauty. The doors were open, so I stepped inside.

The room was filled with long wooden counters. On the counters were various contraptions, beakers and vials. They were fascinating and I stared at them, but I could not understand how they worked. Some of the mechanisms scared me horribly, but I continued to watch the others closely. I thought these inventions were more marvellous than anything I had seen before.

After I had been watching the contraptions for some time, I realised that God was moving from counter to counter. Sometimes he paused to make an adjustment to some part; at other places, he decanted liquids from the machines. Most of the time he only gave a pleased nod and moved on. I wanted to be with him and to talk to him. I stepped forward to enter his laboratory, but I couldn't.

When I approached the counters, it was as if I had encountered an invisible wall. No matter what I tried, I could not move forward. I gave up and looked at God. “Why won't you let me in? I thought you loved me.”

God turned and spoke to me. “I do love you, my child. I love you more than you can imagine, but I cannot let you in here until you are safe. If you come into this room as you are now, you will be destroyed.”

I didn't understand what he was saying. I wondered if he was lying to me, but something deep within me insisted that he would not do that. I kept pushing toward him, trying to make my way through the invisible barrier, but all my efforts were futile. Eventually, with tears pouring down my face, I turned to leave the building. I didn't know why God didn't want me, but I knew I wasn't strong enough to get to him. Before I walked out the door, I saw a young man who I hadn't noticed before.

“If you're quite sure, then of course you may,” he said.

“Quite sure about what?” I asked. He had the air of continuing a conversation, but I was certain that I hadn't spoken a word to him.

“Quite sure that you want to leave,” he said. “I've been trying to get your attention so I can give you one of these lab coats, but you didn't seem to notice me.”

I stood frozen as what he had said sank in. The only reason God hadn't let me into his laboratory was because it wasn't safe without a lab coat. I had been incredibly stupid to try to push my way through his safety barrier.

“I'm sorry I was so foolish. Do you think I could possibly have a second chance?”

“Of course!” His face lit up as he helped me into a lab coat. “There's nothing I love better than showing people the way in.” Moments later he was sending me on to the lab. I ran in, right up to where God was standing. Something prompted me to kneel down in front of him. I suppose I wanted to show him how grateful I was that he had let me in, and how sorry I was for being stupid and pigheaded.

I stayed there for a little while. Then he reached down, pulled me up and hugged me. “I am so glad that you have come, my child,” he said. “Now, you will need some of these.” He gathered up bottles of different shapes, sizes and colours. From each he poured a few drops onto my forehead. I felt that I was being anointed.

“That is exactly what is happening,” he told me. I am giving you my blessing and also my mission. I read some of the labels as he replaced the bottles: love and peace and forgiveness. Some of the labels I couldn't read and others I didn't see. but I began to feel that I was ready for God's mission.

“What do you want me to do?”

He smiled at me and chose two small vials from the counter. “Held within these are love and peace. I am going to give them to you and I want you to share them with everyone you meet.”

At first I had been a little surprised at how small the vials were, but when he handed them to me I nearly dropped them. Love and peace were heavier burdens than I had expected. “Father,” I said a little tentatively. He smiled at me, so I carried on. “Shouldn't you be the one giving these things out? I don't think I know how to use them.”

He pulled two lab stools out from under the counter and told me to sit down. He sat on the other began to explain. If he were to go directly to people who weren't wearing protective gear, like my lab coat, it would be more than they could stand. He loved them very much, but it was only safe to send them that love and the other good things he had made for them through people like me.

“But can I still ask you to help my friends?”

“Of course you can. Some of your friends come and visit me here, too. I can also give you the things that they need, or send those things by another person.”

As I spoke to him, I began to realise all sorts of things that I had never thought possible. I saw that I had been creating love all my life. It seemed watered down compared to his strong, pure love, but he said that didn't mean it wasn't valuable. At another point I realised that even while he was sitting talking to me, he was moving from counter to counter, keeping his contraptions in order. It doesn't make sense, but when I was sitting there, it seemed the most natural thing in the world.

At some point he told me that the vials he had given me might run out very soon. “But when you come back here, I'll give you more, so that you can give it to the world.” I stuck my hand in my pocket, looking for my handkerchief. I wanted to tie a knot in it to remind me to come back. I couldn't find the handkerchief, but I heard God laughing softly. It wasn't an unkind laugh and soon I had joined in with him. How could I ever forget to come back to him? Even if I did, there were thousands of people he could send to remind me. The handkerchief was ridiculously unnecessary. I laughed until once again there were tears streaming down my face. God hugged me and lifted me off the stool.

“Now you are ready to go out and begin your work, my daughter.” He kissed me and sent me back out into the field.

This time, the field didn't seem empty. There were hundreds, or thousands, or millions of people walking to and from the laboratory. Many of them were human, but some seemed different. I occurred to me that these were angels and shortly afterwards that they were working as lab techs.

I said to one of them, “You have the most wonderful job I can imagine, helping God to make these amazing things.”

But he said to me, “Nothing could be wonderful than your job, for you give out his gifts and see their work.” He moved on quickly, not out of a lack of politeness, but because we were not in a place to tarry. I moved on too and kept walking until I came to our world.




When I opened my eyes and saw my bible on the floor before me, I was, at first, terrified, but I knew that God wanted me to write down what I had experienced. The writing is perhaps clearer than the experience, and certainly less perturbed by my doubts and fears; understanding of some things only came to me as I wrote. This is written as best I may recollect and formulate it.

Saturday, 01 August 2009

Shakespeare Saturday: All the world's a stage

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,


(from As You Like It)

I've learned to interpret this passage as the epitome of art vs. reality and the interplay between the two. While I think that's a valid and meaningful interpretation, I've recently begun to think that it puts a lot of the emphasis on the stage and very little on the players.

The view of people as players is very interesting. It suggests that we don't show our true selves to the world. Usually, this is seen as a bad thing, but Jaques (and so, I would guess, Shakespeare) seems more concerned with the fact that it is inevitable. I would agree with him. None is us is willing to expose our whole self to another person.

Exhortations to "come out from behind your mask" or to "be your true self" become meaningless in this view. While Jaques' opinion seems to be that we have no choice of our role in the play, I would say that we do have a choice, but that we choose to remain players in some senses through morality.

We play the part of an interested friend; most of the time it is a expression of how we really feel, but sometimes, when we are tired or unhappy, we are only playing a part. It's right, I think, to play that part in order to preserve the friendship.

Sometimes I feel like shouting and screaming, but I play the part of a rational person. Other times, I show my true feelings. I regret the latter far more than I've ever regretted the former.

I am happy to be a player, so long as I am not a puppet. I'll give my life my interpretation and live it the way I believe is best, but there are some things the audience doesn't need to know.

Friday, 31 July 2009

More of My Enchanted Fifteen

Over the last week I was supposed to find an object to help focus my writing. I go halfway there. I know what I want, but, unfortunately, it doesn't exist. I think I will be able to photomanip it, though, so I'm trying that. Meanwhile, the week has rolled around and I'm supposed to be on the next step already. Maybe I'll succeed in doing both at the same time.

Actually, the task for this week is not as difficult as it might be, because I can tie it in with something I've wanted to do anyway. A bit of extra motivation might get me going. The concept for this week is writing from a source; spending time being inspired by something before writing.

For a while, I've been thinking that I should try to understand Shakespeare a bit better. I love reading Shakespeare, but I don't always put the effort into understanding it and analysing it that I could. I think the idea will tie in beautifully to writing from a source, though.

Every Saturday I'm going to try to post something Shakespeare-inspired. Saturday is a good day, because I should have time to read and think before writing. Also, Shakespeare and Saturday almost alliterate, which is aurally pleasing. This way, I kill three birds with one stone, which is rather convenient.

Tomorrow I will begin; today I get away without actually saying anything.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Learning through Doing


The quadpod in the picture was built using a cloverleaf lashing. There are two reasons why I built it. The first is a trick I picked up from some of the younger girls in our scout troop: if you keep a bit of string in your pencil case, you can practise your lashings when school gets boring. Admittedly, that probably works better when you aren't studying via correspondance. Secondly, Lynx (one of the scouters) emailed me instructions for the cloverleaf lashing and I just had to try it before our meeting tomorrow.

The whole exercise reminded me of an aspect I really like about scouting. Scouting is about learning much more than it's about testing. At school, kids are generally taught how to pass the exam. There's no point in learning something if it won't be tested. Scouting turns that paradigm on its head.

Sure, there are badges and some people really enjoy signing off as many as they can. There are other girls, though, who just aren't that interested in badges and don't do much work for them. Every single one of them has learned heaps from scouting. You can't be a scout without learning, even if you don't realise it.

Every girl who's built the full size version of the quadpod in my photo understands the concept and the importance of bracings. It's not because they've been drilled on the engineering principles behind them. It's because they've seen what happens to a four-metre-high structure when you don't brace it, or at least how unstable it is while you're bracing it. I'm sure they would understand the engineering principles quite easily now - much more easily than if they'd tried to learn them cold.

The same principle can be applied to most aspects of scouting. Scouts get the chance to put their hands on things and fully understand how they work. Even if they don't try, scouts learn a lot through observation and osmosis. I wish the school system could work that way, but I realise there are practical constraints. I'm grateful that there is a system like scouting where kids can experience practical learning that is anything but boring.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

I heart teh internetz

I made a deal with myself that I would not add any linky gadgets to my blog until the end of July. At that point I will have been blogging long enough to magically tell the chaff from the seed. Well, maybe not quite, but a deal's a deal, even with yourself, so I can't post link lists yet. However, there is nothing stopping me from doing it in the guise of a blog post.

There really is something special in the concept of Web 2.0, though. Not only does it create entire sub-languages like lolcat, but it allows those of us who wish to picky about proper English to do so. I mean, where in my real life would I find someone who tells me off for using 'as' five times in the same paragraph? Most people don't even seem to notice. Where else do people hand out free lessons in self-discipline and other cool things? Where else will I see two people who've just met agree to disagree on the believability of Luthien Tinuviel (or be told that English keyboards are deficient for not containing accents and diaereses)? Where else would I find an automated bible search? Where else can I make friends with people I don't know?

Also: where else would barely passing for bilingual seem rather plain? Or seventeen seem rather old to have not read the classics? Where else would I learn so quickly that doing everything is not possible?

I am affirmed and built and challenged through my connections on the web. I'm sure I'd survive without it - I might even read some of those classics - but I'm glad I have it. It's fun.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Ents and Dryads

the trees of the field will clap their hands
Isaiah 55:12b

The way animated trees catch the human imagination is rather strange. We invented dryads. Middle Earth has its Ents. Shakespeare gave us Birnham Wood in Macbeth. Even the bible mentions these trees.

I'm inclined to think that the mention of hand-clapping trees in scripture is figurative, but it's still very interesting. In a way, it validates our fascination with trees. It tells us that there's nothing wrong with imagining things about trees; there may even be something right about it.

Thinking, talking or animated trees seem to be a recurring theme in fantasy fiction. As well as the tree-beings I mentioned above, the Eragon books contain a thinking tree. Harry Potter has the Whomping Willow. Enid Blyton created the Magic Faraway tree. Thalia is turned into a tree in the Percy Jackson series. In short, we're very, very interested in trees.

Trees are essentially simple. The basic biology and engineering of a plant is much more straightforward than that of an animal. People can understand them. Strangely, though, trees still outlive us. The oldest trees in the world are older than I can really comprehend. I think that trees give us a downsized, human-viewable vision of eternity. Trees are just small enough that they don't blow our minds. We can understand them, but they still surpass us in some ways. They're older and, on the whole, stronger. They're a glimpse of greater things.

It's all the more amazing, then, that we have such control over trees. Not only do we farm them, but Isaiah 55:12 tells us that they're subordinate to us. Adam received the same message in Genesis. These amazing structures, windows into a greater a world, are less than us. I think we struggle with that, and so we make trees more important in fiction to try to rationalise it. In reality, though, we are in some sense greater: we are made in the image of God.

Somehow, that helps me to simultaneously be humble and to believe that I am made in His image. I think that it is a position I have been born into, rather than an award that I have earned.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

My Brother, the Businessman

This term, my brother does his Grade Eight entrepreneurial project. I never expected him to do a bad job, but his beginning has totally blown me away. I am very proud of my little brother.

Entirely on his own, he mustered the self-discipline to write his business plan in the holidays. It's well written too. Admittedly, he did abuse the semicolon very slightly, but I do not consider that a major flaw. Professionals do much, much worse things to apostrophes.

He's better at making adverts than I am, too. He intuitively fulfilled every requirement that the project gave for his posters. His photos were pretty cool too. I think he might be a natural.

He is only in Grade Eight and his project isn't perfect. It still impresses me. He certainly has a facet of businessman in his character. And did I mention, I'm proud of my little brother?

Saturday, 25 July 2009

I think I might be a Mary Sue

ConCrit, anyone?

I like the world of fanfiction. It makes a great base for a beginning writer and it's a fun way to explore a novel (or other fictional setting). Sometimes, though, it gets on my nerves. A case in point is Ms. Mary Sue.

Mary Sue is an original character made up and put into somebody else's world. (Except that these days you can also find her in original fiction.) She's pretty, she can sing, she absent-mindedly saves the world whilst simultaneously wooing Mr Darcy and Harry Potter - we're not sure what they were doing aboard the Enterprise. Wouldn't you love to be her? (Actually, I wouldn't, but play along, okay?) The problem is that the author would too.

I understand why fanficcers discourage other fanficcers from writing about characters like that. My problem is that the term's become far too general. People don't seem to care about whether or not their character's interesting an believable, so long as it's not a Mary Sue. The identifying characteristics of Mary Sue become broader by the millisecond. Somebody has probably decided that Elizabeth Bennett is a Mary Sue, because she got to marry Mr Darcy. In fact, I think I have many of the characteristics of a Mary Sue.

I have long hair. If you look closely at my eyes, they're not exactly brown, but they're not hazel either. That's technically an unusual eye colour, right? And everybody says that 'technically yes' counts as 'yes'. I have a name that I like; my parents like it; I've occasionally been told that it's a pretty name. I'm even distantly related to a minorly famous person and was not always aware of it.

I think the Mary Sue tests would be advising that I rethink my character by now. Some of them would immediately add demerit points because I've read Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings several times. I might make it to the stage where it is strongly recommended that I rebuild the character. I think that might hurt, though.

Mary Sue was a good term once, but it isn't any more. It's become increasingly generalised and wishy-washy. People all over are terrified of writing about her - even published authors - but they're not sure exactly what she is. So, rather than rebuilding my character (maybe I could get those coloured contacts so my eyes are properly brown), I'm giving up on Mary Sue. Characters may be believable or unbelievable. Description may be excessive or not so. These are possible and I'll say them, but I no longer believe in Mary Sue.

Thank you.