Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. Why settle for one book when you can have six? See the 16th century answer to the Kindle.
  2. Books are to be more than read; they are to be experienced. And now that experience may be changing.
  3. If you are a Sci-Fi fan, you don’t need this list. If you want to be a Sci-Fi fan, or you want to introduce someone to the genius of Sci-Fi, you do.
  4. “Too many book things, Josh!” you say. “Indeed,” I answer. Here’s some royalty-free images.
  5. Earlier this week, I shared some thoughts about Kurt Vonnegut. How about a nice collection of his quotes?

Enjoy!

On the Origin of Moist

chocolate_cake

Mmm… So fuktig.

Is there a word grosser than “moist”?

No. That is the epitome of gross. My wife absolutely hates it. Honestly, I can’t think of anyone who likes it.

And this begs the question, “From whence did this vile word come?”

The short answer is France. Surprised? According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “moist” showed up in the 14th century as another way to say “well-irrigated” from the Old French “moiste” which means “damp, wet, or soaked.” Track it back even further and you’ll see that it shares Vulgar Latin roots with words like “moldy, slimy, musty, and mucus.”

Is this really a word that we want to use when describing a delicious cake?

So here are a few ways that you can say that something is moist without saying “moist”:

  • damp
  • slightly wet
  • humid

Hmm, none of those are better. Well, darn. There aren’t any other words out there that mean “moist” that sound better.

At least, no English words are better. So here are a few suggestions from other languages that we might use instead:

  • niiske (Estonian)
  • tutu (Yoruba)
  • wilgotny (Polish)
  • vochtig (Dutch)
  • kostea (Danish)
  • or my personal favorite – fuktig (Norwegian)

Now, all we need to do is substitute any of these next time we feel the need to use the “m” word.

Ready? Let’s do this!

100 Word Challenge | Whenever I hear it, I think of you

“Taken too soon,” the family said as they boxed up her things, sterilizing my home of anything to remind me of her passing. Really, those things reminded me of her life.

The visits started one week after her funeral. The family resumed their lives. I tried, and failed, to start mine anew.

She comes at dusk, when the lines between day and night blur to forget time, allowing the past to visit the present. Her things packed away, she visits as music.

“I’m here,” she calls as our song on the radio.

“I miss you,” I say to the air.

Book Review | Divergent by Veronica Roth

9780062024039My wife and I both read Divergent this past week. It took me a few days to read, but my wife basically read it in one sitting. It’s a quick read.

I read it because I recently saw the trailer for the film based on the book. It looked a lot like The Hunger Games, which I enjoyed, so I gave it a shot.

Here’s the plot synopsis from the publisher’s page:

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

Since I read it due to its similarities to The Hunger Games, I will compare it primarily to that. Though they share some similarities in setting (dystopian future divided into factions) and main character (strong-willed teen girl trying to survive a oppresive regime), that’s where the similarities end.

Whereas Katniss Everdeen is primarily a selfish protagonist trapped in a love triangle, Beatrice Prior is aware of the feelings of those around her. This makes her character more instantly likeable, but at the same time, more prone to romantic tomfoolery. Perhaps because I have never been a teenage girl, I had trouble relating to her mixed up feelings when it came to the boys in the book.

One of the things that stood out to me as I read was how applicable the book was in dealing with the elements of faith. Though the book would not be found on any traditional Christian bookseller’s shelves, the content of this book would open a dialogue with readers to interact with Christianity’s versions of selflessness, bravery, honesty, peace, and intelligence.

But parents who might read that last sentence and run out to buy the book for their kids should also know that there are a lot of instances of violence between these pages, as well as murder, alcohol, and a brief episode of inappropriate touching. None of these things are glorified by any means, but you might not want your twelve-year-old daughter reading it all the same.

Divergent was a good book and a fine start to a series. I’m looking forward to reading book two, Insurgent, as soon as I can get a copy. That is, if my wife doesn’t beat me to it first.

I am a Disciple of Kurt Vonnegut and Jesus

Modern Christianity could learn a lot from Kurt Vonnegut. This is a bit ironic because Vonnegut was a Humanist who at the best of time might have been Agnostic. But the morals in his novels might as well have been included in the Biblical canon.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Kurt Vonnegut, in addition to being a Humanist, he survived the firebombing of Dresden, Germany as a prisoner of war in World War 2 and then became a bestselling novelist.

9780385334143I am currently re-reading his book, Mother Night, and I wanted to share some thoughts. It doesn’t take long for Vonnegut to tell you what a book is going to be about. Often, he gives his own spoilers in the Introduction. But you don’t read his books to find out “whodunnit”, you read them because he was a brilliant writer who understood the human condition and he cast light on “the least of these” in the most humanizing ways possible.

Mother Night is a first-person portrayal of American Nazi war criminal, Howard W. Campbell, Jr., who is on trial for his crimes against humanity in Israel. Campbell claims early on that he was acting as a secret agent on behalf of the Allies while at the same time actively working in propaganda for Nazi Germany. The book is Campbell’s memoir as he awaits the verdict of his trial.

This is from the Editor’s Note at the beginning of the book:

Before seeing what sort of a book I was going to have here, I wrote the dedication–“To Mata Hari.” She whored in the interest of espionage, and so did I.
Now that I’ve seen some of the book, I would prefer to dedicate it to someone less exotic, less fantastic, more contemporary–less a creature of silent film.
I would prefer to dedicate it to one familiar person, male or female, widely known to have done evil while saying to himself, “A very good me, the real me, a me made in heaven, is hidden deep inside.”
I can think of many examples, could rattle them off after the fashion of a Gilbert and Sullivan patter song. But there is no single name to which I might aptly dedicate this book–unless it would be my own.
Let me honor myself in that fashion, then:
This book is rededicated to Howard W. Campbell, Jr., a man who served evil too openly and good too secretly, the crime of this times.

I love that line, “a man who served evil too openly and good too secretly”. I also completely understand the concept of someone doing evil while assuring themselves that they are good deep down inside.

Now, contrary to popular belief, Humanists don’t believe that people are inherently good. Rather, they believe that humanity is capable to both good and evil. Christianity differs here in that they say that humanity is inclined toward evil and goodness can only be accomplished with divine help.

In the preface to the book, Vonnegut writes:

This is the only story of mine whose moral I know. I don’t think it’s a marvelous moral; I simply happen to know what it is: We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.

Christianity would disagree and say that there are plenty of people who pretend to be good, but are quite evil inside. And while that is true, Christians also shouldn’t be worrying about the evil inside of other people. God is the only one with the authority and knowledge to judge accurately in these cases. Besides, I don’t think Vonnegut is writing with these people in mind.

Mother Night is more of a warning to people who do evil in the name of good, not the other way around. And there are probably a lot of Christians out there who are willing to treat people in less-than-loving ways because they are sinners. But does the Bible really tell us to be mean or treat people badly because they are sinners? Doesn’t it tell us that we should do good to those who hurt us? Doesn’t it say that we should love as Christ, a guy who hung out with prostitutes and turncoats, loved?

Anyway, I know that there are some areas that Humanism gets wrong, and I’m more than prepared to admit that Vonnegut wasn’t a saint, but there is this to say for him that can’t be said of the Modern Church: He loved people without judging them.

I only hope I can do the same.

Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. Fantasy novels and technology inspire teens to read two years ahead of their chronological age. Really.
  2. How much sleep do you need to be a great writer?
  3. What is your fictional drug of choice? Here are 8 to choose from.
  4. My wife and I enjoy the TV show, White Collar. Here’s some truth behind shows like White Collar.
  5. And from the last story of people stealing from libraries, here’s a story of people helping one.

Enjoy!

Funeral to Pre-School

balloon_turtle

Yesterday started with a funeral and ended with a pre-school open house. It was a busy day.

The funeral was good. It was truly a celebration of my 91-year-old grandfather’s life. From hearing the stories that people told, one would be hard-pressed to find a more faithful, hardworking, and considerate man. Of course, we also heard about his stubbornness too, because he was just a man after all.

One of the bright spots of the funeral was the fact that my brother’s family drove from Iowa to attend. We don’t get to spend more than a couple of days with them per year, so it was nice that they were able to come. So after the funeral was finished, we met up with them at a local mall and had our kids (his boys are 5 and 1, my girls are 3 and 1.5) play in the play area. After they seemed sufficiently tired out, we grabbed some pretzels and took a ride on the carousel. The kids all had a great time, which meant that the parents all had a great time too.

We might have stayed longer, but we had to run along and prepare for the next phase of the evening. The Pre-School Open House.

How is it that my oldest daughter is ready for pre-school next fall? I have no idea when that happened. Anyway, we dropped the girls back off with their grandparents for dinner while my wife and I attempted to navigate the halls of higher learning on behalf of our 3-year-old. Fortunately, the faculty and staff who were putting on the open house took kindly to our vacant stares and guided us through the process, answering our questions and giving us a tour of the facilities.

Realistically, having our daughter in pre-school shouldn’t be that much different from having her in daycare, but it feels like a new chapter is beginning in a book that my wife and I won’t be able to put down for thirteen more years. In the end, we turned in our application and entrance fee in the hopes of getting our eldest into a 3-day per week half day program. Before we left the event, we grabbed a couple of balloon animals (it was a rockin’ open house) and a coloring book for our future pre-schooler.

She was so excited to learn that she is going to go to school, she kept asking me if she could start tomorrow. I felt bad that she has to wait until September to begin. But as excited as she was, I don’t know if I’m ready for all of this.

Parents out there, how do you deal with your kids growing up?

Articles of Disease

woman_with_tissue

At the risk of sounding like a Jerry Seinfeld parody, have you ever wondered why certain articles are used with certain diseases?

To be clear, I am using the grammatical form of “article”, not the newspaper form. For those of you who forgot the parts of a sentence, an article is “used with a noun to indicate the type of reference being made by the noun”. (Wikipedia, Article_(grammar)) Yes, I’m talking about the words “a”, “an”, “the”, and sometimes “some”.

Why is it that one person might have “a” cold, another might have “the” flu, and a third might have cancer (no article at all)? Are diseases characterized differently by type as far as the English language is concerned?

I’ll be looking for an answer, but I have none to give today. Do you know?

Blood Money

blood_money

Last Saturday, my wife and I did something we’ve never done before; we sold our plasma at BioLife Plasma Center.

We aren’t down on our luck or anything. We both have great jobs and a solid budget and all of our bills get paid. But there was a deal advertised in one of those coupon magazines that pulled us in. “$120 for 3 donations”. Who would turn down money like that? Not us.

At first, my wife didn’t believe me that I wanted to do it. I have something of a history with avoiding needles. In fact, for the last 15 years or so, whenever I need to get a filling at the dentist, I ask them not to numb me since they use shots to do it. Instead, I just grip the chair real hard and try to ignore any pain as that evil drill whines away in my mouth and bits of tooth fly everywhere.

So when I suggested that I’d like to donate plasma in exchange for money, my wife thought I was joking. I assured her that I wanted to do it and set up an initial visit while my wife arranged for childcare.

I don’t know what I was expecting when I walked into the plasma center, but it was nothing like what I saw. Upon arrival, there were tons of people waiting around for their opportunity to give. We checked in with the front desk and they started getting us into their system. We did an in-depth health survey and met with a medical person for a brief physical. Then after getting our finger’s poked and having our blood analyzed to see if we were healthy enough to give, we were ushered to a room out of science fiction.

The room was filled with dozens of hospital-like chair-bed-things where people were hooked up by tubes to machines while they read books, talked on their phones, and watched movies on their tablet computers. I wouldn’t have been surprised if once the process of filling their blood bags was complete, the chair tipped backward and the occupant fell through a trap door into the soylent green processing plant. Okay, maybe that would have surprised me, but my point is that it was pretty surreal.

But probably the most surprising thing about the experience was that it wasn’t bad at all. My phlebotomist (person who sticks the needle into your vein) did a great job and getting the needle in my arm hurt less than getting my finger pricked to make sure that I was eligible. The process of extracting my blood took a little over an hour, then after we ate some Goldfish crackers and drank some water, we were free to go.

We got $30 apiece for our time and plasma on this visit. Next time, we’ll get $40 and the third time, we’ll get $50 each. The money will supplement some areas of our budget that we usually put off (like buying new shoes and clothes), which is nice. I only wish I would have started doing this sooner.

Do you have any thoughts on selling plasma? Have you ever done it yourself?