31 January 2011

An Update From The Writing Front

Ah, writing... the only problem with it is that some writing gets in the way of other writing, which results in guilt over not getting the other writing done, so an attempt is made, but then even more guilt is felt over not getting the first bit of writing done because it's actually on a deadline but I'm stressing out over it so much that my instinct is to relax by doing a bit of the other writing, and... I've lost you, haven't I?
Don't feel bad, I lost me too. It happens a fairly often. For purposes of explanation though, the aforementioned 'first writing' is the revision of my science fiction novel and the second ('other writing') is this blog.
You see, I promised a few friends several months ago that they could read (and critique) the completed first revision of this science fiction novel. I was nearly 'done' this revision, so I gave myself what I thought was a generous window of time to get the last of it done by telling them I would get it to them by the end of December; or, worst-case, January sometime.
When the Christmas crunch began, I eased the deadline back to mid-January. Following Christmas, I threw myself back into what remained of the original, unedited rough draft -- and found much more remained to be done than I had anticipated. Still, if I was diligent and didn't fritter away my time in the iTunes Store, I would get it done before the deadline.
Alas, not only did the iTunes Store have a particularly strong pull this month, I suddenly had an abundance of church meetings to attend and I was also in 'new camera' mode (that's a story for another post though. Once the revision is done). That and everyone else in the house suddenly needed the computer. Desperately. Right freaking NOW. Lest they die horrible, tragic, violent, bloody deaths.
Of course, the computer decided that this month would be a good time to give its processor a little well-deserved R & R.
So instead of working two hours a day, which would have been the minimum required, I'm working a half hour a day on a computer that's suddenly decided that Notepad is too arduous to run without much complaining; never mind iTunes, three text files, Microsoft Word, a flash drive (for backups), and email (for more backups).
Now it's the last day of January -- my worst-case deadline -- and I'm on page forty one of nearly two hundred.
And everyone says National Novel Writing Month is stressful.

28 January 2011

This Week's Gem From Kate's Music Library

This week we're finding something a little newer. Short and sweet, this one. I remember listening to this on the radio when I was younger -- back when the station actually played material worth listening to. Be forewarned that it's catchy...
Title: 'Great Lengths'
Artist: PFR
Year: 1994, possibly 1993 (that's what I could find through Google... my copy is from a 'Greatest Hits' album marked 2006)
Album: Great Lengths (however, other sources say Goldie's Last Day) and compilations.
You can buy it from iTunes here and listen on YouTube here.

23 January 2011

The Most Overused Phrase In The Whole Of Western Churchdom

There is one phrase that seems extraordinarily popular with Christians. It's especially popular with teens and those in their early twenties, but it's even been heard from those over fifty. I should know -- I'm what you might call an 'insider.'
This phrase appears, very convincingly, to embody the twenty-first century church's entire mission. It's the perfect foil to make the other Christians think they're actually accomplishing spiritual goals instead of putting them off. This is the phrase that signals 'I am serious about this and dang it I'm going to pull it off this time!' It's like a new year's resolution, renewed every two weeks at Bible study.
'I guess I just have to get out of my 'comfort zone.''
Everyone under thirty says it as if they're forthrightly taking responsibility for their own role in it -- 'I guess I just have to...' This makes it sound far more impressive, like you actually mean it this time.
It would be so admirable if there was actually fruit after a while.
I realise spiritual growth is a dreadfully slow and often painful process, but seriously, after four years (or more) of us attending the same Bible study; after more than four years of hearing you say this with such gravity every two weeks; I should be able to pinpoint at least one or two areas in which you have grown spiritually and at least made an attempt to step out of your 'comfort zone' a bit.
In most cases though, I still see the same person who knows all the right words, who knows all his lines by heart, whose 'I'm really going to do it this time' act is worthy of an Academy Award, but who has done nothing to even attempt stepping out of said comfort zone.
The over-thirty crowd is a bit more passive about it -- 'We all just have to get out of our comfort zones.'
'We,' of course, meaning 'everyone else does the stepping out while I sit back and point fingers when they screw up.' Self-explanatory really. Generally nobody does anything except pray in the most fervent-sounding voices possible for revival, then go back home and grumble about how this corrupt this world is and why doesn't so-and-so do something about it? They have such a talent for singing 'Christian' songs in church (heaven forbid they try for a record contract, that would make them worldly and selfish)... where only those who have made a name for themselves are worth anything.
And what of those who haven't managed to make a name for themselves? The transplants from a church that was on the verge of a split? The twelve-year-old who came along with her parents in that move and was hoping to connect with the substantial-looking youth group at this new church? Why was she rejected so soundly? Why couldn't her well-settled-in peers take even that miniscule step out of their 'comfort zones' to welcome her? Why have they not only remained snuggled down into their little 'comfort zones,' but have poked merciless fun at her as she struggles alone, desperately trying to navigate this sea of ever-morphing intertwined alliances and the dual faces of all the members? Why didn't their parents model Christian compassion and love to their children so they could help this poor kid?
And then all these Christians wonder why nobody comes to Christ.
'They've been let down and rejected their whole lives. Why don't they come to church and find Christ's love?'
Because they don't want anything to do with a God who is apparently hypocritical, cruel, and choosy about what company He keeps. After all, His 'ambassadors' are these things and much more and they're quite proud of it... while vehemently denying that they partake of anything of the sort.

Before you ask, I rarely (if ever) use the 'comfort zone' line... mainly because it's cliched, but also because I want to be able to mean it. If I'm not going to make an honest attempt at it, I'm not going to claim to. But that's just me. ~ Kate

21 January 2011

This Week's Gem From Kate's Music Library

Terribly sorry for the late post, today felt like Saturday to me...
Anyway though, you simply can't help but get chills when you listen to this song in the proper mindset (or maybe it's because I tend to associate majestic mountain photos with it -- my first significant exposure to this song was while making a slideshow to it which included some gorgeous mountain-climbing photos, similar to this one... only far more inspiring).

Photo by Kate.
Title: 'For The Sake Of The Call'

Artist: Steven Curtis Chapman

Year: 1990

Album: For The Sake Of The Call

Here it is on iTunes. Here's a version of it on YouTube.

My recommendation: turn it up. You can't get the full effect unless this fills the room (especially after the 3.26 mark -- the chorus/background singers are stunning).

20 January 2011

Broken Wings

There's a girl with wings. Let's call her Alida. She spends her days soaring through the sky, carefree, happy. Another girl comes along and befriends her.
Together they fly, best friends in the world.
One day though, the girl deliberately tricks Alida into crashing hard into the rocks. She laughs cruelly and flies away, leaving Alida caught in the rocks.
After days of struggle Alida finally gets free. She's unable to fly, her wings are torn and broken. So she wanders alone among the desolate rocks for a long, long time.
Finally someone takes her in, saying he's going to fix her wings. After some thought, she decides to give him a chance.
He earns her trust, pretending, quite convincingly, to help her. Indeed, her wings slowly begin to heal. She sees nothing but his clever disguise of tender care.
After a time though, he leads her to a cliff, pushes her roughly over the edge, and tells her to fly.
She can't, she's not ready. She falls off the edge and starts to spiral downward.
He watches her for a few moments, then turns and walks away.
She can't fly, her wings haven't had enough time to heal properly. Now she's falling, down to the sharp jagged rocks below, down to certain death.
There's no one to stop her. No one to catch her.

Found in some old papers of mine, dated 31 December 2007. How prophetic it is too. ~ Kate

14 January 2011

This Week's Gem From Kate's Music Library

This week I am very excited to be able to direct you to this portion of the iTunes Store. I have been waiting for two years now for this band to make it onto the Store, and at last it has! One album is still missing, but the first three (which, admittedly, are all better than the fourth) are all there. My father has them on vinyl, but unfortunately my attempt at converting them to MP3 files a few years ago failed miserably (primarily because the record player we were using was awfully persnickety and barely worked at all).
The band has a refreshing sound -- most definitely not the same recycled riffs every three minutes that you get on the radio. Some compare their sound with the likes of ABBA, and I have to agree. When you match something reminiscent of ABBA's sound with non-suggestive, even hope-filled lyrics, you have something special.
This song was my favourite back when I was first introduced to the band.

Title: 'Breaking Through'
Artist: Silverwind
Album: By His Spirit
Year: 1985

Buy it from iTunes here. (I highly recommend the entire album though -- it's their best one. Then again, I tend to recommend the entire album from which all of these songs are taken...)

07 January 2011

This Week's Gem From Kate's Music Library

(More creative titles for these music posts are still welcome!)

This week's song is sort of in the lyrical genre of Casting Crowns, but the musical style is more like... I don't actually know. But it's a good thought-provoking song. I think it's a shame no one knows of this song anymore, even in the Christian music circles.
Title: 'Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows'
Artist: Petra
Year: 1982
Album: Originally released on More Power To Ya, plus compilations that have been released over the years.
Here it is on YouTube. Here it is on iTunes.

03 January 2011

The Birth Of A Computer Nerd -- Part Two

My parents acquired our first computer when I was eleven. We were visiting relatives and they had recently gotten a new computer. Therefore they had a slightly used Windows ME computer they were getting rid of. My parents, who had been sort of considering getting a computer, agreed to take it.
Again, I have no idea what the thing's technical specifications were (and unfortunately the tower is no longer in our possession), but it worked for what we needed. I was rather disappointed that I couldn't start e-mailing my friends -- my parents were dead-set against the Internet -- but I managed to survive by drawing things in Paint, occasionally doing some typing, and playing with display settings (my sister and I would preview the haunted house screensaver and spend hours pretending to sneak up to the house on the screen from the other end of the room. Whenever a ghost would appear or a noise was heard, we would freak out and skitter back to the opposite wall where we would catch our breath in the most dramatic fashion and then slowly gather the courage to make our way to the house again).
For several years nobody really used the computer for much -- the varying versions of Solitaire were the most often-used programs.
Then I got an iPod.
I knew next to nothing about iPods at the time. All I knew was that somehow you used a computer to put music on it and then you could listen to music all the time without the bother of toting along half a dozen scratched CDs only to find that two of the cases are empty -- twenty minutes into a three-day road trip.
For me, a music junkie, that was all I needed to know. We had a computer, I had enough money. No problem.
Alas, I was young, sheltered, and as such completely unaware that there were different kinds of operating systems. Neither was I aware of the term 'incompatible' in the computing world.
Long story short, I bought the iPod, brought it home, and after several hours came to the conclusion that the computer simply would not communicate with the iPod. Since I didn't have very much computer knowledge I initially chalked it up to my own inexperience. However, after I'd talked to a friend who also had an iPod, I read the iPod's packaging, on her recommendation. It was only then that I found that I needed something called 'Windows XP.' I also needed 'iTunes' which required... an Internet connection.
At the time a computer nerd relative of ours had just moved to our area. We telephoned him and asked what we could do. He said he would download iTunes onto a portable drive and install it onto our computer from there.
Several days later, he came out to do that... but the computer refused to read the drive. Nothing he tried worked.
Finally we had to admit defeat. The computer was simply too old. However, this relative -- who built and repaired computers for extra cash -- said that the next time he got his hands on an XP computer to sell, we could have it.
Seven months passed and I began to despair of ever being able to use my iPod for more than the Apple version of Breakout that came bundled with it (it was a pretty decent version, but even so...).
Finally though, the day came when he told us he had a computer for us. Since we still didn't have the Internet, he took the liberty of installing the latest version of iTunes on it before giving it to us. He showed me how to import my music and sync my iPod, and in doing so was the midwife at the birth of a more manic computer geek than anyone would ever have dreamed I'd become.
Not wanting to repeat the frustration of spending several hundred dollars before discovering an incompatibility and having to wait seven months to be able to use the device I'd paid good money for, I decided I would learn more about computers so I could avoid similar mistakes (but anyone who's read the story of The Zombie (as I've decided to call The Computer) knows that I still make that mistake. Occasionally. Once. And it did work out that time... for a month and a half anyway).
I went to the library and borrowed a few computer books that had 'Windows' or 'iPod' in the title, figuring that was as good a place as any to start.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), those beginner computer books led to more complex and in-depth computer books. It wasn't long before I was bringing home books and magazines with titles like 'Teach Yourself C++,' 'The Hacker Quarterly,' and 'Dreaming In Code' (excellent book, by the way, utterly fascinating. The author is Scott Rosenberg if you'd like to look it up).
My knowledge quickly expanded. Eventually I'd read all the computer books the library had and moved on to tinkering with our computer without any specific goal in mind. How it survived some of the things I (mostly accidentally) inflicted on it I have no idea.
Two years after we got that XP computer, my parents finally gave in to their offspring's pleas and got high-speed Internet installed. Around the same time our computer geek relative was given a newer, better Windows XP computer to sell and passed it along to us. I got the old computer (I was rather disappointed since I'd outgrown the hard drive before it even passed into my hands and had hoped to get the newer one since my parents and sister were perfectly fine with the old computer anyway. I still have that computer though... it's the 20 GB one mentioned in the story of The Zombie).
Despite all the reading though, I've done most of my learning through trial and error. To this day I have never owned a brand new computer, either my own or my parents'. Since used computers tend to come with, ahem, 'quirks' (some more severe than others), I've had to do a lot of experimenting and stabs in the dark, hoping for something to work. As much as I hate having to coax unresponsive computers back into existence, I've accidentally taught myself a lot of things (like never put the iTunes folder in another user's Documents).
The nine-year-old who spent a half hour in a dialog box trying to figure out how to shut down Windows ME seems so far away now. Especially considering I've hatched a rather elaborate, multifaceted, and probably-going-to-be-mostly-ad-libbed plan to get The Zombie operational again. (I suppose if it works I'll have to come up with a different name for it though... although really, computers are zombies to begin with...)