Sunday, January 31, 2016

Bad Weather - Sunday Snapshot #51

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Why I Think the US Should Welcome the Syrian Refugees

I wrote a post this past Tuesday, titled Should the US Accept the Syrian Refugees? - Thinkjoust Tuesday #33. I invited readers to help me formulate an opinion about the topic. Thank you to everyone who responded, whether it was on this blog or over social media! The featured comments are found at the bottom of this post. 

Most of the comments this week encouraged me to welcome the Syrian Refugees. Even before I read the comments, I was already leaning that way.

I'll admit, I don't know all the socio-political factors that revolve around this issue. However, two viewpoints stand above the rest. Individuals against welcoming the refugees seem to fear that terrorists might sneak in with them. Individuals for welcoming the refugees seem chiefly concerned with being charitable and Christ-like.

Well, shoot. Which viewpoint do you think me, of all people, is going to lean toward?

Your comments raised some interesting points. Yes, we should be welcoming and charitable. At the same time, we also need to be careful. Running background checks on the refugee, and making sure they're watched for suspicious behavior are intelligent moves. If we let a refugee into America, we're not immediately granting them citizenship and our trust. Both take time.

And finally, let's consider the last three Islamic Terrorist Attacks on America.

The first recent incident was on May 3, 2015, at the Curtis Culwell Center in Texas. Both of the attackers were American. (Click to read).

The second recent incident was on December 2, 2015. It is now known as the San Bernardino attack. One of the attackers was American, while his wife was a lawful permanent resident. (Click to read).

The last recent incident was on January 7, 2016, known as the 2016 Philadelphia police officer shooting. The attacker was American. (Click to read).

This may be a chilling statement, but the terrorists are already in our country. They know how to recruit supporters from citizens themselves. They're making plans as we speak. Terrorists don't really need to sneak into the country with the refugees. They're here.

Are we really going to deny 10,000 people in need because of the remote possibility that a few might pose a danger already prevalent in this country?

Thanks for reading. Be sure to comment if you agree or disagree with me!

This Week's Top Comments

... and then she never responded to me. :(

Friday, January 29, 2016

YOU ARE RUNNING OUT OF TIME - Ama's Watch Kickstarter

Yes, I've changed the cover design again. I'll fiddle with this until the day it's published, I swear.

Anyway! For those of you who don't know, I am self-publishing a book. In order to procure the funds it takes to print such a project, I'm running a kickstarter. You can click on the link directly below to view it.

Ama's Watch: A Satirical Medieval Spiritual Fantasy

Here are some FAQs about the project.

You already have more money than your goal. Why do I need to help out?

My $700 goal was the bare minimum amount of money that I needed to print an author's run of the book. Every little bit over $700 helps me continue to expand my business, including through web hosting and advertising. In addition, for every bit you contribute, the more loot everyone receives altogether. Once we reach our quinary goal of $1250, every backer receiving a physical copy of the book will also receive limited edition Ama's Watch bumper stickers.

I want a signed copy of your book, but it's too expensive.

Once upon a time, you needed to pledge $40 dollars to get a signed book. Now, you can pledge $30 to get a signed book. Look for the BONUS House of Snake Tier at the above link.

What if I just buy the book after it comes out?

That's fine, but you'll miss out on a lot of different rewards. Your name won't appear in the book's acknowledgements. You won't receive any of the limited edition Ama's Watch bookmarks. You won't have a chance to receive a signed copy. And you'll miss out on the other rewards, too, like samples of a few of my upcoming writing projects.

What if I buy an unsigned copy of the book, and then get you to sign it?

Absolutely not. That wouldn't be fair to the people who've supported the project.

I hope that encourages some of you to help out. The crowdfund ends on February 1! Let me know if you have any more questions.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Throwback Thursday #3 (Video) - Throwback Commentary #55

Hey there! This is a commentary discussing the post I wrote on December 4, 2014. Click here to read the original post!

I'm trying to push poetry more now that our last poll of 2015 revealed that poetry is the most popular type of post among poll participants.

That sounds like a headline.

Penman Pushes Poetry Posts when Poll Participants Prefer Poets!

Anyway, I digress.

I had a great idea back in the day to turn all my poetry into music. However, I'm very aware of my musical limitations, and I soon decided that you guys probably didn't want to hear me belt the same four chords over and over again. So, I limited myself, and I tried spreading out the music love.

I became further constricted when I got rid of my laptop and lost my webcam. My ability to make videos in my own time flagged, and I've had to teach myself how to use the editing programs that are free to use here at the University.

Regardless, my first explorations regarding turning original poems into rap can be found at the link at the top of the post.

Let me know if you think I nailed it in the comments below!

Hey there! This is a commentary discussing the post I wrote on December 4, 2014. Click here to read the original post!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Winter Wonder Slam 2016 (3 Videos)

This past weekend, I was able to participate in BYU's Winter Wonder Slam, the January 2016 edition of the fledgling Saturday Night Slam Series.

I had two friends participate in the event, and they rocked the socks right off everyone. Everyone clapped and hollered as they stepped off the stage, basking in the glow of their victory. They'd performed. They had let their light shine. And it was enough.

Each of the 28 or so performers had used their free time to pen words that meant something to them. They'd practiced their delivery, and they'd fixed their nomenclature and phrasing. They came ready to rumble.

I was astounded by everyone. Yes, some people stumbled over lines. Yes, some people were obviously nervous. Yes, some people said some things I didn't agree with. Nonetheless, it was important that they came at all. They put aside whatever inhibitions and fears may have been holding them back, and they came.

For a while there, I wasn't sure I was going to perform. I misunderstood how to sign up, and I was therefore absent from the final program.

Thankfully, I managed to bully my way up to the microphone while the judges debated over the final winners and the host stalled for time.

I had an absolute blast.

The delivery of my slam poem had some hiccups, but here is the original text.

My poem is called

Sit on the couch
Watch some game show contestants
To show their smarts
They submitted for testin’

The host says,
“Ok, we’ve all had some fun
You’ve come so far
You’ve almost done and won,
But one last question.
Contestant Number One,
Tell me, who’s the first
president of our union?”

“Uh … Abraham Lincoln?”


“I’m sorry, Number One, but you got a raw deal
Contestant Number Two, you have a chance to steal.”

“Um … Like, was it James Garfield?”


“Contestant Number Three, you have the last chance, son.”

“I know the answer! It was Andrew Jackson!”


The contestants leave the game show in disgraces
The world paints ‘loser’ on top of their faces
All three contestants gave their very best
How does the world know if they’re a dud or success?

Contestant Number One is a doctor for pets
They paid off their mortgage, and they owe no debts.

Contestant Number Two is a promising banker
They have five kids, and never stoop to anger

Contestant Number Three is active in their church
Gives their excess dollars to folks in the lurch.

And yet, all three were defined by the buzzer
Three lights hidin’ behind the viral shutters
the game shows go to propose, apropos
EHNN the sound of failure that everyone knows


EHNN goes the alarm clock
I roll outta bed, listen scholar talk

I take a class, feeling confident
But when I get my final grade, I see accidents

“65%,” my teacher says to me.
“You’re just above a failure, you’ve gotten a D.”


65% is just one step above failure?

Let me tell you,

If 65% of this nation agreed on something,
We wouldn’t need to lean on a bipartisan system
If 65% of the world agreed on something,
Maybe we could finally feed the starving children
And if 65% of you agree with me
maybe we can make a change to last more than a week

I may be 65%. That doesn’t show what else I did
over that semester when a failure I was branded.

Let me tell you,

I made new friends. I learned about myself.
I wrote a whole novel to stack up on your shelf.
I practiced my squat. Became self-taught.
Economy and history belong in my thoughts.
I treated women with respect and civility
I mastered several of my nagging insecurities.


Nobody cared. They couldn’t see the trees
They say 65% is what defines me.
no matter how much I gained at whatever the cost
The world just remembers my solitary loss

Honestly, bankruptcy philosophy is a comedy
The blameworthy farce holding onto a monopoly
Consciously jailing our collective unconsciousness
And Fear and mockery are gaining the ultimate dominance

But you know what, audience?

You don’t have to subscribe to anyone’s claims
When they enlarge your missteps, minimize your gains
So go ahead, world! Call us a shade from failure
We are better than most of you ever were

Maybe we should stop judging people for mistakes
And recognize the sacrifice true success takes
To the system, to the world, and all its ugly hues
We here say one thing to you.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Should the US Accept the Syrian Refugees? - Thinkjoust Tuesday #33

Congress debates over the particulars regarding the admission of Syrian refugees into America. Some leading politicians are staunchly opposed to welcoming the refugees, while others eagerly open their arms. A myriad of opinions lie in between. Some are concerned over the possibility that terrorists might slip through our borders, while others think we should open our doors for even more refugees.

I plan to use Saturday's post to present my up-to-date opinion about the Syrian refugees. However, I want to gain a full understanding of the different viewpoints about this issue. My studies will include any arguments you deliver via the comments section below.

I look forward to hearing what you all have to say.

A Syrian flag color-swapped to represent American pride.
For those of you looking to understand more about this issue, check out these recent articles:

Why Is It So Difficult for Syrian Refugees to Get Into the U.S.?

Outlook: Senate to Vote on Limiting Syrian Refugees

Senate Democrats block Syrian refugee bill

Senate Democrats block bill to retrict Syrian refugees from entering U.S.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Daya & HIDE AWAY: Why Guys Should Stop Complaining About Paying for Dates

Every time I have started driving in the past two weeks, I have heard Adele's Hello.

This is not a hyperbole.


This is notable because I don't do a lot of driving. I commute back and forth to work, I buy groceries, and I might even visit a friend. I'm in the car anywhere from three to nine minutes, tops.

I may turn on the radio during the back end of Hello. I may catch the middle of Hello. More often, Hello starts the second I turn the key.


But I'm not here to talk about Hello. I'm here to talk about Daya's Hide Away.

I like the musicality of Hide Away, even if I don't like the question the lyrics pose. Good boys go to hide away in Provo, obviously. I mean, look at me! I'm right here!

I recently heard Hide Away on the radio, right after I ground my teeth through another rendition of Adele's Hello. I was already familiar with Hide Away, but this time, I noticed something in the lyrics I never had before. The important lyrics come right before the first bridge and chorus.

"... Girls seem to like the boys who don't appreciate
all the money and time that it takes
to be fly as a mother ..."

If you listen to the song, you'll realize Daya's point is that good boys will appreciate all the money and time it takes to be fly as a mother.

POW! As I heard those lyrics, I found the answer to a question I've pondered over my entire dating career.


Thanks to Daya, the answer is obvious.

Girls spend lots of money going out and shopping for clothes and makeup and shoes.

Guys might drop some cash on deodorant and hair products. Maybe.

Girls spend lots of time primping and preening and making sure they look their very best.

Guys might not even change their shirt before a date. When it comes to planning dates, their attempts are often laughable.

Let's use my last date as a case in point. My very pretty date met me at her door. "So what are we doing tonight?" she asked.

I shrugged. "I don't know. I figured we'd wing it."


1.) Girls spend money on make-up, clothing, and shoes. (And I appreciate this!)
2.) Guys spend money on meals and activities.
3.) Girls spend their time sprucing up for their date. (And I appreciate this!)
4.) Guys spend their time 'planning' the date.

I have participated in conversations where dudes complain about the injustice our society has imposed on us. "We always have to pay for every date!" we grumble. "What's up with that?"

Well, now I know why. And so should every guy.

So girls, share this if you think the men in your life should be thanking you for the effort you make! And guys, share this if you'll stand with me and stop complaining about paying for dates!

And Daya, thank you for helping me see where I can improve at becoming a 'good boy.' :)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

What I Think About Free College Tuition

I wrote a post this past Tuesday, titled What Do You Think About Free College Tuition? - Thinkjoust Tuesday #32. I invited readers to help me formulate an opinion about the topic. Thank you to everyone who responded, whether it was on this blog or over social media! The featured comments are found at the bottom of this post.

I found it interesting that most of this week's comments came from college-age adults, and none were completely supportive of the idea.

At a glance, free college tuition sounds like a brilliant proposition, but a cursory amount of research nips my enthusiasm right in the bud.

I gained a dislike for the concept when I first started researching presidential candidates. Many of the Democratic candidates who supported the concept of free college tuition had another plank in their platform: lower taxes. If free college tuition won't be coming from taxes, then who's paying for it? The House won't pass laws granting free college tuition and lowered taxes.

My dislike for the concept of free college tuition festered when I factored personal drive into the equation. I won't lie, shouldering tuition is no fun. Having struggled with academic apathy for large portions of my life, I didn't qualify for any scholarships. I lose thousands of dollars a semester to loans. Despite this, my personal financial investment has encouraged me to take my education far more seriously than I ever did during my public education.

To explore this further, many candidates use European countries as examples to explain how a future American system might work. What they don't examine are the individual European students enjoying free college tuition. Many such students lack proper appreciation for their campuses, which are, in turn, lacking in certain benefits we American students take for granted.

After considering your comments and mulling things over, I concluded the American system for college tuition is fine the way it is. Students from low-income family receive financial support from the government, college scholarships are plentiful, and driven students should find post-graduation employment to help them pay off any lingering loans.

That being said, I'm disappointed our leading politicians brought false promises to the debates. I know they know America can't support both lower taxes and free college tuition.

Thank you so much for reading!

This Week's Top Comments

... in no particular order and summarized for brevity's sake. Be sure to let me know if you feel I've misrepresented your statements in any way!

Gabe DavisIf any presidential candidate used free college tuition as part of their running platform, the law wouldn't go through the house if they were elected. This would cause more division in this country. 

Ladlimrick - The 10th amendment states that each state has the authority to decide if tuition should be provided through state expense. The government should not try to be all things to all people. Taking over the distribution of tuition is a socialistic practice.

Daniel Jones - I feel like it almost doesn't matter. We're going to pay for it either way. Though, I do feel like for some jobs, they don't earn enough money to pay off the debts required for them. Some of those, like teaching and educational degrees, I think could be free.

Kristen Jurewicz - Most countries with "free" college limit who can go! German universities may be "free" but the student still has to find a place to live and cover living expenses. I went to a school that was clean and well kept compared to the German universities; the students there didn't value their campus because it wasn't their money. 

Whitney Zee - Would you rather, for the remainder of your working life, be responsible for subsidizing the educations of every student to follow in your footsteps? I also imagine that if you were to look around campus today, you may find a few students there on someone else's dime right now , who do not appreciate the investment that is being made in their behalf as they squander their time and opportunities.

CougarManOur national debt is growing, so taxpayers will have to pay for free college tuition. We can't keep giving away freebies and going further into debt in order to pay for them. The current system provides free or reduced tuition for students from low-income families. For most people, the combination of choosing a less-costly school, working a part-time job and incurring a modest amount of school debt should work out just fine.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The History of My Testimony: from an LDS Blogger

My parents were converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as Mormonism. They raised me in their adopted faith, teaching me everything they understood to be true.

It is custom for youth in the church to be baptized at the age of eight, and my family followed suit. At some point after this, I tired of 'churchy' things. I didn't like wearing 'church clothes.' I didn't like spending large swathes of my weekend learning gospel topics about which I felt pretty knowledgeable. Worse, I didn't know why the church mattered so much to the people around me.

I had been taught by my parents and leaders that, if I wanted to understand Mormonism, I needed to read The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ and ask God if the book was true.

As it says in the book's introduction, "The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God's dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains the fullness of the everlasting gospel ... We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true ... Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is His revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the Lord's kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the Second Coming of the Messiah."

I knew Jesus Christ and prophets and the gospel were important to my parents. I wanted to understand why. So I picked up a copy of The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ and began to read.

I was young, but I was still an avid reader. Regardless, it took me over a year to finish reading. I didn't understand half of what my eyes passed over, but I kept going. Finally, I reached the portion of the book now affectionately called Moroni's Promise, Moroni 10:3-5, only 29 verses from the sad yet hopeful end.

"And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true ..."

So I did. I prayed. I asked God, in the name of Christ, if the book was true.

It's cliche to say, but I experienced a feeling I never had before. It was like the love of a parent, sibling, friend, grandparent, and stranger all wrapped into one. It was a love without source, and yet from everywhere at once.

In that moment, I knew The Book of Mormon was a true account. The book bore testimony of Jesus Christ, and so I knew He was my redeemer. I also knew that Joseph Smith had to be a prophet, and that I belonged to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Of course, all this logicality went over my youth-addled head. To my recollection, my reaction to the sacred event involved running off to play with my toys. Regardless, as my knowledge and understanding of the world and the gospel grew, I retroactively realized how important it was to learn of Jesus Christ when I did. Gaining a testimony of the Bible and other works of scripture only served to increase my devotion to Him.

Since that time, I've had a lot of learning to do. I'm made mistakes. I've fallen away from Christ and had to find my way back. But as I try to please my Redeemer, every day, I find happiness. I find purpose. I find strength.

I will never pay back what Christ did for me that day I finished the Book of Mormon. I will never pay back what he did for me in the garden of Gethsemane and on that cross. But I write for Him. I keep this blog for Him. I believe in Matthew 5:16, and I hope that, every so often, my little light will help someone glorify my Father in heaven.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Lights Multitude (Poem) - Throwback Commentary #54

Hey there! This is a commentary discussing the post I wrote on December 3, 2014. Click here to read the original post!

Looking back on this poem, I have to say, I think something's wonky with the meter. Oops. Also, I was really favoring syntactic deviation. All those words mixed around however I pleased.

It's been so long since I wrote this poem, I'm not sure if it's supposed to be a conversation. Well, I take that back. It is supposed to be a conversation, but I can't tell if the conversation is two sides, or one side. Is the light comforting the reader? Is a more experienced light consoling an inexperienced light? What do you think?

In the end, I think the message is the best thing to take away from the poem. It doesn't matter if you feel your strength, your talents, or your abilities are weak; they are still needed.

I hope you enjoy the poem, and I hope you enjoy the greater focus on poetry in the next few months!

Coming soon: Winter Wonder Slam

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Missed (Poem)

I was productive.
I swear I was!
Working in the library
without break or pause.

See, when I entered,
sun lit up the sky,
but when I finally left
it had long been night.

Didn't think too much
about any of that,
went to find some friends
to kick back and chat.

But then, one of them
pulled out her phone,
asked if we'd seen the sunset,
for away she'd been blown.

I stared at the photo
she'd decided to take.
The sunset was stunning,
my heart started to ache.

What had I missed
by occupying my time?
A pretty sight lost
to my own daily grind.

By distracting myself
with the cares of mankind,
to a side of beauty
I made myself blind.

I spent the next day
staring at my screen.
My work didn't shine.
It had lost all its gleam.

Because, after all,
I will never forget
the afternoon I missed
a gorgeous sunset.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What Do You Think About Free College Tuition? - Thinkjoust Tuesday #32

Many of our top presidential candidates (well, at least from the Democratic side of things) have vocalized their plans to make college tuition free for every student ... At least if they're elected. I stand somewhat near the debate, being a poor college student who is not looking forward to tackling my debts after I graduate.

I plan to use Saturday's post to present my final opinion about free college tuition. However, I want to gain a full understanding of the different viewpoints about this issue. My studies will include any arguments you deliver via the comments section below.

I look forward to hearing what you all have to say. 

For those of you looking to understand more about this issue, check out the top three democratic candidate's websites:

Hillary Clinton - The New College Compact: Costs won't be a barrier, debt won't hold you back.

Bernie Sanders - It's Time to Make College Tuition Free and Debt Free

Martin O'Malley - Debt-Free College

Monday, January 18, 2016

Death of the Author - My Thoughts

I am an English major. Ten points to your house of choice if you're not surprised by that.

As I navigate my education, I've run into a certain scenario that drives me absolutely nuts.

My professor assigns me five pieces of literature to study. I read and analyze them, reviewing summaries, characters, themes, and allusions. I make sure I know the pieces forward and backward. I'll go take the test.

To my dismay, half of the test's questions ask me about the authors.


And then I fail and find my otherwise perfect overall grade dropped two letters.

The reason why this bothers me so much is because I am a staunch, avid believer in the concept of La mort de l'auteur, or The Death of the Author.

No, not literally.
The Death of the Author is a literary philosophy that stems from the art of criticism. Supporters of this philosophy believe that too much literary criticism relies on studying the life of the author and how it might have influenced the piece. 

An example of this might include The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, written by Mark Twain. I have studied this piece no less than three times in college and at least once in high school. However, I wonder what would have happened if the legendary MARK TWAIN had written the piece anonymously. Would anyone really care about it?

And that's what's important to supporters of The Death of the Author. If we ignored who wrote a certain piece of literature and instead focused on the merits of the literature itself, how much literature found in the Norton Anthologies would still be considered relevant today?

As another example, I absolutely hate Emily Dickinson. Because of this, I find myself becoming a social pariah whenever I study her in class. After all, who am I to dislike Emily Dickinson? My question is, would Emily Dickinson fans still like all of her poems if they had been presented as unconnected pieces of anonymous literature?

Extreme supporters of The Death of the Author say that even living authors have no right to add meaning to their own work. Let's say I publish a book. I might say my book is a subtle critique of capitalism. A college professor may say my book is an allegory relating to the situation in the Middle East. A high school student may say my book is a lengthy sports analogy. 

Extreme supporters of The Death of the Author would contend that all of us are equally correct in our interpretations, because that's what we (the critics) gleaned from the book for ourselves. 

That's right; I wrote the book, but my understanding of it is essentially meaningless. My thoughts on the book are nothing but an opinion.

Advocates of The Death of the Author believe that any written piece of literature should be strong enough to stand on its own feet, and not be supported by a big name from literary history. What should be important is how universal the book's message is, not who wrote it. If the message behind Moby Dick is no longer relevant, why should we continue to study it?

Anyway, I've beaten this into the ground. I'm going to step off my soapbox now. Thanks for reading, and I'll see you tomorrow!

Speaking of publishing books, I actually did write a book. It's called Ama's Watch, and I'm currently trying to self-publish it. If you would like to get some loot and goodies, support my project at KickStarter until February 1st!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

What I Think About Gun Control

This past Tuesday, I wrote a post inviting my readers to convince me to the validity of their viewpoints about gun control. Here was the top comment, written by CougarMan.

We need common-sense regulations. I support the Bill of Rights and it's vitally important that we never allow government to disarm its people. That said, we need a cooling-off period before a new gun can be acquired. Prospective gun owners should be subjected to a background check that includes a scan for certain mental-illness factors. And why not require firearms education? Any gun owner must be required to secure their guns. And, there should be legal penalties for any owner whose unsecured gun is used in a crime, or used by a child without proper training.

I thought CougarMan had come excellent points. Before I address them directly, I'm going to talk about my personal views on gun control.

Beliefs on gun control seem to fall somewhere in between two extremes. 

1.) Guns should be illegal. 

2.) Everyone should have guns. 

There have been two instances in my life when I have seen the consequences of both extremes. I will begin with the first extreme.

Guns should be Illegal

As most long-time readers know, I spent the two years immediately prior to the establishment of this blog serving a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 20 of those months were spent in Jamaica, a country which has strict anti-gun laws. Shoot, even water guns are illegal.

Despite this, many of my fellow missionaries told stories of men and women being gunned down right in front of them. Shoot, I saw a shootout erupt some fifty yards ahead of me. People were terrified. They ran screaming, covering their heads and diving for cover. My companion and I ran for cover ourselves.

In Jamaica, I saw that gun laws didn't work. Criminals found ways to smuggle guns into the country, and now the common citizen was less prepared to defend themselves. Shoot, the anti-gun laws put innocent, law-abiding people at a disadvantage.

Everyone should have Guns

You may laugh at this example, but it's stuck with me. I will now relate an experience I had while playing a version of the hit video game series Fallout.

Modern versions of Fallout are real time first-person video games set in a post-apocalyptic future where the bombs dropped, the world mutated, and everyone turned to extreme measures to stay alive. Some of those extreme measures included packing heat. At all times.

When I first started playing Fallout, I decided I wanted to be a bad guy. When I strolled into my first town, I decided to cement my reputation as a hard-boiled ruffian by gunning down the sheriff. In broad daylight. In front of about twenty witnesses. Aw, yeah, I thought to myself. Now everyone will fear me!

Every single witness drew their weapons.

"Uh," I said. "Wait, hold on."

I died in about two seconds, the full brunt of the town's artillery riddling me to oblivion.

I respawned and decided to play a much nicer character. A saint, even.

Picking Between the Two Extremes

Based on my experiences, I think that, if everyone packed heat, inherently violent people would be deterred from using them. After all, one misfire, and the whole world explodes around them.

But is that the best way?

Shoot, you know I don't believe in extremism. So let's summarize what I do believe.

First, I believe in the 2nd Amendment. What's more, it's a law. I think everyone should have the right to defend themselves in whatever capacity they feel fit, and nobody should try to take that right away from them.

Of course, as we know from recent shootings, most shooters expect to die at the end of their rampage. Shoot, they long for that release. They don't care if a bunch of gun-toting cops take them down, they want to make a statement.

Even in a world like my video game, I still killed the sheriff. I may not have killed the deputy, but an innocent man (well, an innocent collection of semi-intelligent pixels) died. Everyone may have had guns in that trigger-happy town, but they were too late to stop me from murdering someone.

So not everyone should be allowed to have guns. That's why certain regulations do need to exist. I don't currently own any guns, but I shouldn't be allowed to just walk into a store, buy some boom sticks, and walk out. No, I should be tested to see if I've had proper gun handling training. I should be tested for any psychological deficiencies. What's more, you should have to take one of those tests every time you renew your gun license. That way, crazies like me don't walk into random towns and kill the sheriff!

... I mean, crazies like my video game character. Not me. Obviously. Ha ha.

What About the Comments?

CougarMan also mentioned cool-down periods and legal action against anyone who demonstrates extreme negligence regarding gun safety. I think those are great ideas. If you wanna buy a new gun, you have to wait three weeks before you pick it up. That way, if you wanted to buy a gun to lash out at somebody, you've probably had time to work things out in the meantime. Also, if your kid kills himself because you left your gun on the sofa, you should definitely face legal action. Thanks, CougarMan!

In Summary

The right to bear arms is really the right to defend oneself, and everyone should have that right. However, if someone does not prove themselves capable of gun ownership, including through gun handling and safety training and psychological testing, then they should not be given guns.

If someone tries to take my right to defend myself away from me, then I will not be able to support that person.

Well, that's it! I'll see you guys tomorrow for the Snapshot, and then on Monday for more good stuff!

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Top 10 ASL Signs Every Hearing Person Should Know

As long time Change and Cherish Blog readers know, I have been taking classes to learn American Sign Language, or ASL for short.

Recently, I have been stymied by how many people don't know even basic ASL, especially when I'm trying to communicate to someone in a quick and efficient manner. So, I created this post to teach everyone basic signs so that you, too, can communicate like the best of communicators.

1. Basic Pronouns (You, I, Them)

How to Perform these Signs: If you want to get someone's attention, just point at them. If you want to refer to yourself, point to yourself. If you want to discuss a third party, thrust your palm in their direction.

Relevance Example: If you want to talk about a third party but you don't want them to know, flash the 'them' sign and then use vague verbal pronouns. Hopefully, the object of your conversation didn't read this post.

2. Yes & No

How to Perform these Signs: If you want to say 'yes' to something, just raise your fist like you're about to pound it. Then move it up and down like it's a nodding head. If you want to say 'no' to something, raise your thumb, index, and middle fingers in the air, then bring them all together.

Relevance Example: Let's say your classmate or coworker yells a question across a crowded area. Your teacher or supervisor hears this and immediately chastises the offending coworker. You don't want to be as disruptive as your coworker, but you can still respond to their question with a simple hand sign. Well, so long as it was a yes or no question, I suppose.

3. Sorry & Please

How to Perform these Signs: The sign for 'sorry' is a closed fist rubbed clockwise against your chest. The sign for 'please' is an open palm rubbed clockwise against your chest,

Relevance Example: I'm amazed the middle finger is the only hand sign people use while driving. Sometimes, I make a mistake on the road, and I want to tell people I'm sorry. When that happens, I wish people knew why I've taken to frantically rubbing my fist against my chest.

4. Thank You

How to Perform this Sign: Make an open hand, with your palm exposed. Press your fingertips to your chin, and then bring your whole hand forward.

Relevance Example: When I'm out walking along a crosswalk, and a driver stops their car just before it creams me into the ground, I flash the 'thank you' sign. I'm sure the sign looks vaguely confrontational, but I'm really thanking the driver for sparing my life! I swear!

5. Wait

How to Perform this Sign: Hold your hands out in front of you, your palms facing your face. Keep your elbows close to your chest, and waggle those fingers.

Relevance Example: You're hanging out with your significant other when you run into an old friend. Your old friend's a talker, and launches into a long story about his financial situation. After a while, your significant other tugs on your shirt sleeve, signalling they want to leave. You flash your significant other the 'wait' sign. Your friend's almost done, after all.

6. What

How to Perform this Sign: Hold your hands out in front of you, palms facing upward. Shake them back and forth.

Relevance Example: Let's say someone is trying to tell you something at a noisy dinner table. Unfortunately, you didn't hear what they said, and your mouth is stuffed with the most delicious pie. Rather than be rude and talk with your mouth full, you pass them the 'what' sign so they know to repeat themselves.

7. How

How to Perform this Sign: Hold your fists in front of you, your thumb slightly extended. Twist your dominant hand forward.

Relevance Example: If you combine the 'you' sign with this sign, you get the phrase, "How You?" This is also known as "How are you?" in English. Now you can ask people obligatory generic questions designed to perpetuate meaningless small talk without ever opening your mouth!

8. Why

How to Perform this Sign: Hold your palm next to your head. Lower your middle finger and move it up and down.

Relevance Example: You're at a party when you spot your best friend talking to your crush. Your best friend grins at you and beckons you to come over. You just know your best friend is about to do something to embarrass you, but you decide to give them the benefit of the doubt. Instead of outright refusing to come over, you display the 'why' sign. This way, your friend knows you're suspicious of their intentions and that you want an explanation before you leave your spot.

9. Toilet

How to Perform this Sign: Slide your thumb in between your index and middle fingers. Wave back and forth.

Relevance Example: If you need to use the loo, and you want to announce this fact without, you know, announcing it, just flash this sign as you abandon conversations, friends, and business transactions.

10. Understand

How to Perform this Sign: Make a fist next to your head. Raise your index finger repeatedly.

Relevance Example: As you run to the restroom, you notice your best friend and your crush look confused. You already flashed the 'toilet' sign, so you slow down and flash the 'understand' sign. Your friends still look confused, so you realize they have no idea what you're doing with your hands. As you sit on the toilet, text them the link to this post so they, too, can make everyone else in the world educated. Or confused. Whichever comes first. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

NaNoWriMo 2014 - Throwback Thursday #53

Hey there! This is a commentary discussing the post I wrote on December 1, 2014. Click here to read the original post!

 Amazing how time flies, isn't it?

In November of 2014, I wrote an entire novel. That's right. An entire novel in one month. Rarely have I felt that cool.

Since then, that rough draft has gone through a lot of edits and changes. I even changed the name of the book from Percussor, the Latin word for assassin, to Ama's Watch.

And yes, Latin is semi-important to my book.

Anyway, here we are, over a year later, looking forward to self-publishing my labor of love. It's been a long, tough ride. But it's also been worth it.

It's not about getting a medal. It's about competing in the race.

Click here to read an excerpt of Ama's Watch! And click here to support my kickstarter!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Why Education is Caustic Compared to Actual Learning

As evidenced in a few of my recent blog posts, I've taken a serious interest in becoming an autodidact. My recent topics of self-study include politics, the American revolution, and philosophy, among other things. I recently got a whole heap of books for Christmas, and I've been working through them whenever I can snag a break from my textbooks.

Also included in this stack is a book about a blogger from Baghdad (a study of politics and bloggers), an autobiography by Rainn Wilson (a study of humor and success), and a couple of Star Wars books (a study of character development and of Shared Universes).
Yeah, OK, the Star Wars stuff may be stretching the whole 'educational' aspect of being an autodidact, but remember I'm also a writer of fiction. I gotta study it somehow sometime.

Anyway, I enjoy learning about this stuff far more than I enjoy any of my current University course work.

I couldn't figure out why.

My original theory was that I enjoy choosing what I learn about more than being told what I should learn about. However, I soon squashed that theory. After all, didn't I choose this University? Didn't I choose my own major? Don't I get to select my own classes? I mean, I'm in American Folklore right now. Shouldn't I be enjoying that?

I wrestled with this for a while. Finally, I came upon a conclusion.

I hate education because the system doesn't care about what I know. It punishes me for what I don't know.

I want to use an American Revolution history class as an example. I haven't taken one of these in a while, but my concerns with this hypothetical course are universal across every class I have ever taken.

When I study the revolution on my own, I am only concerned with what I personally retain. I have the option to remember details personally relevant to me, and forget the rest (like specific dates). I am not held accountable for what I don't later recall, but I feel motivated because I have broadened my mind with the details I do recall.

When I study the revolution in class, I am not satisfied with what I personally retain. No amount of attention or studying is going to fully prepare me for every single detail a future test might ask of me. When I take a test about what we've studied, I have no time to feel proud of the answers I know because I am sweating over the answers I don't know. Every mistake costs me a point, but I'm not rewarded for the correct answers I give. All I know is that my 100% is slowly bleeding from the mouth with every incorrect pencil stroke.

You may disagree with me, but let me give you one more example why I think education is more caustic than learning.

I remember at least two lectures in my college career when my professor mentioned something I wanted to learn more about right then right there. I pulled out my internet-capable devices and looked up the relevant information.

After a few moments of personalized research, I was chastised in front of the entire class for not paying attention.

It didn't matter to the professor that I was interested in what they were teaching. It didn't matter that I was trying to engage in a learning process appealing to me. All they knew is that I wasn't desperately trying to memorize their lectures.

So I stand. What say ye? Be sure to comment below!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Gun Control: Where do YOU stand? - Thinkjoust Tuesday #31

Gun Control is a pretty big issue here in the United States right now. I currently stand somewhat apart from the debate, acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of many, many different arguments and their various supporters.

I plan to use Saturday's post to present my final opinion about Gun Control after I study the various sides to the position. My studies will include any arguments you deliver via the comments section below.

I look forward to hearing what you all have to say. 

This picture was originally published in this post.

For those of you as uninformed as I am, here are some recent articles discussing this very topic:

Monday, January 11, 2016

If You Feel Discouraged, Check This One-Eyed Cat

You know that saying about herding cats? You know, how it's impossible? Well, it's even more impossible to get a cat to pose for an actual picture. Goodness.

If you didn't know I was a cat person, click here.

This is my family's cat. I've grown quite attached to the animal over the years. He's lived in North Carolina, Tennessee, and now Washington. A few days before I came home for the holidays, the cat got into a nasty fight that ended up taking out one of his eyes.

As I spent time with the cat, I noticed his personality and demeanor was pretty much unchanged. He was as affectionate as he'd been before. He was as friendly as he'd been before. It was like he'd never lived through the trial that had ultimately defaced him.

I've seen that in other pets, too. My brother's dog had an injured knee that may be permanently damaged, but the dog kept trying to walk it off anyway.

Animals seem to understand better than humans that there's no use fretting over a trial we can't control. Sometimes, bad things just happen. I've found that the greatest amount of happiness in life comes when we don't only wait for the sunrise, but also appreciate the light cast by the stars.