31 July 2011

Pre-Date Jitters

Tonight at midnight it starts.
I'll probably be exhausted out of my mind, but all the better. At least I won't overthink it. The first sentence always gets too much attention anyway.
Yes, sentence. As in words. (And you all thought finally some cute guy asked me out.)
Indeed, it starts tonight -- the rough draft of novel number six. Thirty (one) days to add another novel to my writing experience.
Four of my previous rough drafts were also written in thirty-one days or less. (The first one I started with intent to write it in thirty days but it failed miserably and instead took me a little more than three months. But I did finish it.)
However, this time around I'm more apprehensive than usual. For my previous three novels I nearly went mad waiting for midnight on the first so I could begin to write.
The reason for that being that for those three novels, I had solid plots. The last two especially had a lot of material I could milk for a few thousand more words here and there. However, for this novel I have almost nothing -- two VR chambers, a weapon (as of yet unspecified), and two characters, Lyle and Titus. I don't even have their last names. And half the world needs to die somehow.
'No pressure or anything' says my brain to me.
We'll see about that, brain...
I wonder if I'm under so much pressure from myself because last time I wrote a novel (November 2010) I blew myself away. I hit 50,000 on 20 November and kept going. By the 30th I had managed 247 pages, 74,834 words. On Day 29, I wrote 6,174 words -- a personal daily best.
Coming off a high like that, you put a crazy amount of pressure on yourself to improve at least some of those numbers the next time round when it's insanity to expect that. Even more disheartening is my abysmal showing in Script Frenzy in April -- I managed 103 pages (out of one hundred), but if I didn't love the plot idea I would scrap every one of them.
Then again, I just bought some music yesterday -- maybe that will help things. (Flyleaf's Memento Mori; Lecrae's Rebel; and Relient K's Forget And Not Slow Down, in case you're wondering.)

In case anyone's interested in also writing a 50,000-word (or more) rough draft, join the contest here. You write on your own computer/typewriter/spiral notebook, not the site, but it's always fun to check out how others are doing and they send out pep talks every week or so.
As for time, 50,000 words in one month averages out to 1,667 words per day (assuming a thirty-day month). If you hit a good stride and are a decent typist, this will take you between one and two hours, but I've been known to do it in forty-five minutes.

29 July 2011

Music Day

As a teenager, my mother owned tapes from bands like White Heart, Petra, and PFR.
In other words, she was a rocking metalhead.
That hasn't really left her, either. Even now, when a song with a good beat comes on the radio or if there's a Petra/White Heart/PFR CD in the stereo she cranks up the volume.
A while back, she and I were running some errands in her huge twelve-passenger van, and this song came on the radio.

Title: Here In This Moment
Artist: Beckah Shae
Album: Life
Year: 2010
Label: Shae Shoc Records
iTunes here, YouTube here

So we have a woman with greying hair and a very serious-looking young person in a van the size of Denmark. Odd enough, right?
Now add Here In This Moment cranked up until the doors are literally rattling.
We pulled up to one of the busiest traffic lights in the city, bass thumping, van rattling, and the older woman rocking out in the driver's seat.
It kind of felt good to see the poor man in the car beside us laughing his head off. At least we made his day.

Apologies for not posting something more obscure -- I was going to post this story in itself and thought 'well, I need a music day post anyway...'

22 July 2011

Music Day

I think this is the funniest song in my entire music library. (And that's saying something when your library includes classic VeggieTales.)
Seriously, the first time my mother and I heard this, I missed half the song because my mother was laughing so hard. Thank goodness I'd had the lyrics in front of me or I would have been thoroughly confused.
It's kind of an exercise in varying rhythm as well... it changes tempo at least a half-dozen times and just when you think the song is over he takes it in a new direction with a different musical flavour. The humour and wildly differing musical themes seem odd coming from the man who performed the radio hits I Am The Way, Back In His Arms Again, You Are A Child Of Mine, and of course Walking Her Home, but he pulls this off wonderfully.

Title: Running Just To Catch Myself
Artist: Mark Schultz
Album: Mark Schultz: Stories & Songs
Year: 2003
Label: Word Records
iTunes here, YouTube here.

21 July 2011

A Mini-Rant

You know, when you have found one program -- one single, solitary program -- that actually works on a PC (as long as the PC is in a semi-cooperative mood), you expect the Mac version of the same program to work just as well, right?

Fat chance.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but if you want to use the sound recording/editing program Audacity, find a PC. The Mac version is not only a major pain in the neck to install, it crashes every five minutes and heaven forbid that you might want to save your project.

And while you're using the program on one of those lowlife PCs, take the time (perhaps while it's spending two minutes to export a two and a half minute song as an MP3) to find a way to contact Audacity's people and demand that they fix their Mac version.

Because maybe your PC is like mine and it takes forever to do anything, never mind coordinating sound and graphic rendering, and it also has like ten gigabytes of remaining space and that's after you clean off all the junk.

And maybe you have a super fast Mac with several hundred gigabytes of storage for the sound files and it also happens to be the computer you sync your iPod with.

And maybe, like me, you would really like to do your importing into the Mac for the aforementioned reasons.

And if the Mac version of the program sucks, there goes an increasing number of your downloads (on Audacity's part) as the number of people buying Macs increases. Macs may still be in the minority for now, but they're gaining steam fast. If you as a software producer don't keep up, you might as well go take a job as a burger flipper. Sure, Audacity is open source and free and therefore nobody's making a profit from it, but if you can make it work almost flawlessly on a system as deeply flawed and persnickety as Windows, you can most likely make it work almost as well on a system as smooth and well-thought-out as Mac OS X.

But even though this is all immensely frustrating, I have to give Apple credit for one thing: if Mac OS X (or a program it's running) is going to crash, at least it does it quickly and gets it over with. You don't sit there looking at the 'busy' cursor for an hour while the hard drive churns and rumbles and strains before finally coming to the conclusion that the program is not responding.

19 July 2011


Several years ago the youth group and I went to Vancouver in a serving-the-community endeavour. It was only for a week, but it was one of the greatest weeks in my life.
One of the funniest memories was in the kitchen of one of the churches.
Most of our group was assigned to help at a kids' camp in this church that must have been last renovated in 1972.
Three of us were assigned to the kitchen to fix lunches and snacks for the kids, per the menu the director had written out for the week. On the Wednesday, burritos were on the menu and Kristin, JJ, and myself were fixing them.
Kristin was at the far end of the kitchen mixing a five-gallon jug of fruit punch and I was shredding cheese when JJ started to chop the onions.
He was at the far end of the counter, beside the sink under the window which no longer opened and the exhaust fan that made more racket than a German metal/scream band when it wasn't tripping the main power breaker.
I was at the other end of the counter, near the door and the bulletin board, with my back to his, shredding cheese with the tiniest hand-grater on planet Earth into a little bowl.
Within a minute of JJ's first cut into the little onion, my eyes had teared up. Soon it was so bad that I couldn't open my eyes the slightest crack to see what I was doing and quickly discovered my hidden ability to shred cheese manually with my eyes closed.
But that wasn't the end of the onion's vengeance. Oh no.
Even though I'd already squeezed my eyes shut, they still stung. The pain in them only diminished when I squeezed them more tightly shut.
I now know that it is possible to squeeze your eyes shut so hard that the muscles in your face begin to cramp. I can't imagine what JJ was going through, since he actually had a sharp knife in one hand and he was much closer to the onion than I was.
Despite all this though, for some reason we found it utterly hilarious and we laughed and we rubbed furiously at our burning eyes which only made it worse and we made onion jokes that I don't remember as tears streamed down our faces. Anyone without the ability to smell would have thought we were all certifiably insane.
But it was so much fun. (Even as I write this, my eyes are starting to sting from the memory.)

16 July 2011


This is me rambling a bit, just so you're aware.

The last few weeks have been torment for me.
It's as if I had forgotten Jesus is going to return and suddenly I remembered... and it terrifies me.
Since I claim to be a Christian, I'm supposed to be ready. And I don't feel that I am. And that in itself terrifies me even more, because then obviously I don't find Jesus as precious as He should be to me. Or maybe I don't know Him at all; maybe it's all head knowledge from a lifetime of attending church.
Perhaps there's a huge glaring sin that's separating us. Once you're God's child, sin doesn't completely cut you off from God, although it does strain the communication.
But I don't know if I'm God's child to begin with.
I 'prayed a prayer' when I was five, and then sort of renewed my commitment a couple years ago as I was beginning to understand more of what it actually meant to be a Christian. But does that count? As much as I think about pleasing God and trying to do as much as I can in obedience to His word, I feel I don't do anything... that I'm just going through the motions of life.
But what more does He want me to do today? I'm pretty sure I know what He'd like me to do in the semi-near future, but what about now? What about today? This moment? What can I do this very hour, minute, second, that will bring glory to His name, no matter if no one else notices or cares? In my daily life, how can I live it to the fullest for God?
I think the church in general has, over the years, built up this misconception that the only way you can serve God is to go live in the remote jungles of Africa and preach to an entire tribal group that formerly participated in witchcraft and cannibalism and human sacrifice. And it makes everyone who God hasn't called to that sort of thing feel either 'less Christian' or free to sit on the couch and watch televangelists all day while other people do the 'dirty work.'
Nobody makes note of the fact that the mission field is all around us. That God can call you to be an accountant or something and still serve Him by doing that while at the same time being open about your faith and reflecting Christ to your spiritually-lost family, friends, and neighbours. Because the church seems to have decided that this sort of thing isn't important, I and everybody else have no idea where to start glorifying God in our normal daily routines. And that's a tragedy really.
What was that Jesus said? 'Go into all the world and make disciples of all men.' All men. Not just the remote tribesmen of Africa or India or Central America somewhere. All men, in all the world -- including first-world countries like Canada and the US.
But we feel unequipped for that. We had led ourselves to believe that you must be special and have been visited by an angel in order to do any mission work. (This just occurred to me... why do we want an angel to tell us to do this when Jesus Himself gave the command? Who has greater authority than Jesus to give such a command? Answer: no one. The big guy Himself, if you will, told us to do this. So hop to it. (This applies to me and everyone else, by the way.))
And this ties in to the other part of my fear.
I have many unsaved relatives and a few unsaved friends. The difficulty is, most of them would, if asked, call themselves Christians because most of them, at some point in time, did attend church. How can you show them they may not be Christians after all? I can't even know that for sure... maybe they are. Maybe if they died, they would end up in Heaven. But maybe they aren't, and maybe they would end up in Hell, forsaken by God for eternity (Think about that a minute. Eternity -- literally forever, no end, no 'undo' button).
The less spiritual fruit you see in their lives, the more you worry about their eternal destiny... and the more likely they are to be offended if you broach the subject. You want to avoid being hypocritical, especially when you yourself are struggling with a number of things, but you also genuinely worry about the condition of their soul. If Jesus came right now, where would they end up? And would He look at me and say, 'I gave you a chance to show Myself to them. Why didn't you?'
How can you answer that?
You can't just walk up to them and start preaching at them. They'd never speak to you again. But you also can't just stay silent because you have no idea how long they have and you really do want them to end up in Heaven.
There's this old Larry Norman song that talks about Christ's return. One line says 'I wish we'd all been ready...' and that's been my thought for the past couple of weeks. I want everyone in the world to be ready. I don't really have a lot of enemies, but even if I did, I wouldn't want them in Hell either.  Jesus told a parable about a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus (not the one He rose from the dead -- that guy was real). Lazarus sat outside the rich man's gate and begged for bread, but the rich man never helped him. When they both died, Lazarus, because he trusted in God, went to Heaven. The rich man, because he didn't know Jesus, went to Hell.
And as the rich man was tormented in Hell, he saw Lazarus enjoying Heaven with other people who had followed God and he pleaded with Lazarus and Abraham to help him. They said they couldn't -- the rich man had had his whole life to make his choice and now he was stuck with it. Then the rich man begged them to send someone to Earth to tell his brothers to avoid Hell at all costs. And Abraham said, 'There are people on Earth who know Jesus. Your brothers must listen to them. Because if they won't listen to the Christians, they won't believe someone who's risen from the dead either.' (This is all paraphrased... find the official version of the parable in Luke chapter 16 verses 19-31.)
You know, that's us. We are the Christians that the rich man's brothers need to listen to. They can't listen if we leave the job to somebody else because eventually we're going to run out of 'somebody elses.' Notice how the rich man didn't say 'Woo-hoo, I'm the first one here for the big party in Hell!' He pleaded that his brothers would be warned so they could avoid this terrible place. Misery does not love company in the case of Hell.
So we owe it to all the lost who have already died to let as many people as possible know what they're heading for and that there is an alternative. We can't force them to make the decision of course, but we can give them as much information as we can and love them as God does.
And pray.
Maybe sometimes that's all we can do. But maybe sometimes God asks us to do more, and we have to do it.

Don't think I'm preaching at anyone reading this. I'm not. I'm just trying to sort of my own thoughts. (That's why it probably seems to go off on half-thought-out tangents. Also, it's very likely that I didn't explain something as well as I could have, or that I've got something completely the wrong way. Check this against the Bible if you've any doubts or questions.)

If I could have one wish
I know just what I'd like to find
If I could have one dream
Come true before my eyes
More than a pot of gold
More than a pathway to the stars
More than anything I know
I want Jesus in your heart
      ~ Connie Scott, Jesus In Your Heart
(from Spirit Mover; Image 7 Records, 1985. The song is on iTunes here.)

15 July 2011

Music Day

This song, to me, is the perfect example of how a praise chorus should be produced. Even though the lyrics are simple and repeated several times, they're from the heart and they're set against a thoughtfully arranged musical background that cancels out any remaining problem caused the the repetition of the lyrics. So many songs on Christian radio today include the person singing the same line fifteen times to the same unexciting guitar strumming that showed up in his previous twenty-one hits (not to mention the previous five minutes of the current song).
Why listen to what is basically the same song over and over when there is better stuff out there?
That's kind of why I started Music Day. I wanted to show people that there is quality (or just fun) Christian music out there if you're willing to dig a bit for it. Sure, some of it may be an acquired taste (Carman is a good example) but my hope is that you have found (or will find) something you like that may open your eyes to an artist or a subgenre that you didn't know existed before.

Title: He Is Exalted
Artist: Twila Paris
Album: Kingdom Seekers
Year: 1985
Label: Star Song Records
iTunes here and YouTube here.

10 July 2011


When you get home and you realise the clothes dryer has been running for six hours.

The lint catcher is overfilled, the towels are bone dry, the heating element is probably a thousand degrees.

But nothing had caught fire.

That's God's providence.

08 July 2011

Music Day

While poking around the iTunes Store for  eighties Christian music that 1. is actually worth buying, and 2. I don't already have on a cassette or record somewhere; I stumbled across this.
The preview sounded good, so I looked it up on YouTube. And I've developed yet another favourite song.
This is from the band's earlier days, before they seized on the 80's keyboard/synth techno craze. Their sound was much simpler in the seventies and early eighties -- even though they use a pretty decent electric guitar in this song, it sounds almost acoustic to me for some reason. I have no idea why.
Anyway, here you are.

Title: Angel Of Light
Artist: Petra
Album: Never Say Die
Year: 1981
Label: Star Song Records.
iTunes here; YouTube here.

05 July 2011

Why Wikipedia Should Be Blocked After 9.30pm

I have come to a conclusion.
There should be a plugin built into every web browser on the market that blocks all access to Wikipedia after 9.30pm local time.
It's not that I'm addicted to Wikipedia. If I have a question about something, I usually go to the library and borrow a half-dozen books on the topic. If I need something right this minute I'll ask a friend who I think is likely to know the answer. Rarely do I turn to Google and by extension, Wikipedia.
However, on the rare occasion I do Google something, I tend to end up on Wikipedia, because it's the first link on the page and it generally doesn't have viruses that screw up people's computers (I'm a bit paranoid that way about Google searching).
And let's face it, it is informative... too informative. I looked up Rich Mullins once and I learned everything I could possibly have ever wanted to know and then some about microcassettes, analog generation loss, and Space Cadet Pinball for Windows 98 (plus, of course, Rich Mullins).
And that's the whole problem. If they didn't link to other interesting and informative Wikipedia pages, I wouldn't be writing this post. It wouldn't eat five irretrievable hours of my life at a time.
And I wouldn't end up terrifying the living daylights out of myself for a few days.

Have you ever looked up the Wikipedia page for Elvis Presley?
I swear you could print it out on regular paper 8.5 inches wide and lay it across Canada and it would reach from Vancouver at least to Winnipeg. It's insanely long. I'm a fast reader (the fastest I know), and it took me and hour and a half to read it. An hour and a half! And I didn't even read it all... I skimmed quite a bit (mostly the bits about his, ahem, very private life).
A quick subpoint here -- there should seriously be an adult content warning label on that page. Mostly it talked about his songs and movies and maybe a bit about his family life (especially in the earlier years), but I saw -- even though I started skimming -- far more about his, er... intimate life than anybody needs to know. I know the Internet is kind of a free-for-all, but seriously, what if it was your eight-year-old doing a report on Elvis and decided to look at the Wikipedia page? Have a little consideration here, people. No, a warning label is not going to prevent you (or your child) from continuing to read it anyway, but at least then you have a heads-up and if you've trained your kid well they'll at least come ask you if they should continue reading.

Back to Elvis.
I don't even know what possessed me to start reading the Elvis Presley Wikipedia page at eleven pm, knowing the chain reaction Wikipedia lays down for you.
I had been looking for album artwork for my iTunes library and randomly decided to check out the Imperials Wikipedia page that appeared in the list. Why, I don't know -- I could ask my dad about the Imperials and he could tell me more than the Wikipedia page did. And why I opened the link to the Elvis page from there I don't really know either.
I mean, I knew all I really cared about -- singer, started his career in 1950s sometime, acted a bit, served in the US Army, died of some kind of overdose in 1977. Sure there's more than that, but I didn't really care about any of it... except for the question 'what did he actually die of?'
From laypeople (most of them aged four or younger when he died) I'd heard it was drugs, I'd heard alcohol, I'd heard he starved himself to death trying to lose weight but I'd never heard from a slightly more reputable source. And since I apparently have some kind of morbid fascination with how famous people die (especially if they die young), I decided to check it out.
I know, I know, they have that neat little box at the top of the page that links to certain segments of the article, but as the page was loading I suddenly thought, I wonder how he even got started in the first place.
So I read that part. But you know how it is -- as soon as you start reading something, anything, you have to continue; you can't just stop.
So I continued.

Finally, at about 12.30am I reached the part with a heading about the decline of his health.
Now put yourself in my place.
It's 12.30 in the morning.
You're fighting to keep from falling asleep over your keyboard.
It is completely silent save the very, very soft whirring of your laptop (city people may struggle with this one).
Aside from the computer's screen and one fluorescent bulb, it is completely dark.
You've just spent more than an hour with your (very vivid) imagination firmly locked, no distraction, in the world of Elvis or at least his fans.
And you have an irrational terror of music being garbled or messed up.
I'm not kidding about that last point. As far back as I can remember, the drone of a cassette tape in a faulty player would give me nightmares for weeks. I hated that sound -- the slow, painful, mournful death of music. I would hear a song droning like that in the daytime and then in the dead of night I would close my eyes and the song would suddenly be in my head, warped and moaning, almost melting slowly in a flame as the proverbial ghost was wrenched from its being. And I would be too terrified by the awful sound in my head to even consider seeking reassuring company in my parents' room at the other end of the dark house.
I still hate that sound.

And as you sit there in silence, only half-awake and barely aware of your surroundings as the darkness presses against the window just above your head; like the beginning of a horror show -- creepy music in your head and all -- it's as if the light takes on an eerie reddish cast, turning everything that isn't in tar-black shadow into an hazy, choppy scene the colour of blood.
Your eyes become stuck on a paragraph which, coupled with your very focused, very vivid, half-dreaming imagination, becomes a nightmare as your brain invents the sound... like watching a horrific accident that's too terrible to look away from... the account of one of Presley's musicians about a concert on what I gather was his last tour, describing how Elvis had to hold onto the microphone stand for support, how he was so drugged and listless he couldn't even sing the words to his own songs...
And your primed imagination pulls together a shaky, unfocused hand-held video recording of a rock star clinging to a microphone stand with the band thumping and crashing along behind him as if all's right with their world and yet it's so obvious something is very wrong... the singer tries to form the words of his own songs and he can't make them work, he can't keep up with the band, his eyes are half-closed as he channels all his strength into clinging to that microphone stand... the band continues to play along behind him but all that comes through the lead microphone is irregular mumbling... droning and patchy against a much stronger and steadier beat...
You blink and return to your bedroom thirty-five years later but only momentarily as you're suddenly thrown back in time again, a child standing in the doorway to her bedroom, swaying, the sound of a badly dragging music tape looping through her head, echoing through the pitch darkness as she tries to gather enough courage to make the sprint across the house to her parents' room through the sound of the dying cassette tape coming from all around.

04 July 2011

How To Spot An Idiot

'It's official... signal at 12:20 it even passed on TV. Facebook will start charging this summer. If you copy this on your wall your icon will turn blue and Facebook will be free for you. Please pass this message if not your count will be deleted. P.S. this is serious the icon turns blue, so please put this on your wall.'

Between 12.30 last night and 1.30 this afternoon, my Facebook news feed became flooded with this one post.
It's the official mark of stupidity -- the chain status/wall post/message/'like' page claiming that Facebook is going to start charging. It's full of misspellings, weird grammar, repetition, and things that don't even make sense (what does 'signal at 12:20' even mean? 'Your icon will turn blue'... what icon?)

First off, if Facebook was going to implement a major, major change such as charging money, they would send you an official message from the Facebook team through... Facebook (what a coincidence!). They've done it before; when they update the privacy settings for instance. If you log in one day and Facebook asks for money and you haven't heard anything about it, obviously you haven't checked your Facebook in like six months, therefore you don't use it often enough to bother keeping up the account, free or not.
Of course, a change like that would almost certainly hit the news, but I'm very sure every Facebook account holder would get the news directly from Facebook very far in advance.

Also, assuming this post was true, it would tell you which TV network it showed up on, wouldn't it? TV in this age includes thousands of channels. Just saying 'it was on TV' does not make your claim (or anyone else's) valid.

One more thing... no way on earth will posting a certain message on a certain webpage change an icon. It would require too much extra time to build the code to make that happen and then be able to launch it on several million accounts all at once. Even their message/chat integration thing was rolled out slowly over a period of at least six months. To write the code that would make a certain (unspecified) icon turn blue when a particular (highly unprofessionally written) status was posted would be more complicated then the message/chat integration and therefore would take at least as much time to roll out for everyone. It would not start working for everyone all at the same time as the status insinuates.

So next time you see one of these things and are tempted to repost it... don't. Think through it logically and then decide not to post it. Because if you do repost it, it will make you look a huge bumbling idiot to your family, your friends, your enemies who are your Facebook friends anyway, and that really cute, really smart guy (or girl) you have a huge crush on.

01 July 2011

Music Day

Since it's Canada Day and Canada is my native land, I thought it would be appropriate to feature a Canadian artist for this week's music day.
It's been a challenge though... I can only think of two Canadian artists that I like. One of them I'm not really that familiar with, and the other, my favourite, barely makes an appearance on the iTunes Store.
Key word: barely.
I never thought I would say this, but thank goodness for greatest hits albums. I searched this artist on the Store and aside from her (amazing) Christmas album, iTunes also carries one greatest hits album. Unfortunately for me it contains mostly her earlier material and until I get my hands on a decent record player I can't listen to the full versions that we already own of those songs so I don't even know what they're like. There were a couple of songs I do know (from cassettes) but though they're excellent songs, they weren't quite what I had in mind for today's post.
Then, as I was previewing the album to see if I recognised some from the mix tapes my father makes; it came to one song whose title I didn't recognise... but the song I most definitely did.
I don't know if it was mislabeled on the Store (which wouldn't surprise me), or if the artist/label themselves changed the track's name sometime (which isn't likely), but either way I give you:

Title: The World's Last Night (original title; labeled The World's For You on iTunes)
Artist: Connie Scott
Album: Forever Young
Year: 1989
Label: Image 7 Records
It's here on iTunes, and can you believe it's not on YouTube?
This is an amazing song. I know I say that almost every week, but seriously, this time it's true. Connie Scott has a beautiful voice and this song really makes use of it. The children's choir at the end is a nice touch too.
In fact, my plan is that once I've finished the rough-sketch choreography of Michael Card's The Edge, this song is next.