To my wife on our 5 year anniversary

Dearest Wife,

Thank you for being my wife these past 5 years.

Thank you for being patient when I am impatient.
Thank you for being kind when I am unkind.
Thank you for being loving when I am unloving.
Thank you for being a voice of correction when I need it most.
Thank you for being a blessing to me and those around us.
Thank you for caring for me even when I don’t want to be cared for.
Thank you for your quick laughter and your beautiful smile.
Thank you for sharing a common faith.

Thank you for saying “I do” 5 years ago.

Let’s get a zero after that five!


The Ending

“You always talk about the ending.” He gave a serious look and then reached for the pitcher. The ice cubes chimed softly as he poured another glass.
“Yes, well, the end is what matters the most. It’s where the punchline is. It’s where all the emotion is finally wrapped up for better or for worse. The ending tells you whether it was worthwhile and whether it was meaningful.”
“And what about the whole middle part. The journey to the end. Are you saying that’s pointless?”
“No, not at all. The middle is the necessary steps to get to the ending, where the true meaning lies. The middle, the journey can’t be pointless if it’s the necessary steps to get you to the final point. The point that really matters.”
“So are you saying the end justifies the means?”
“No, I wouldn’t say that. I don’t like that idea. I’m skeptical of it.”
They were quiet for a while both lost in thought.
“Yes, I’m skeptical of it. I wouldn’t say the end justifies the means.”
“What about the beginning? The beginning can have a lot of meaning and emotional content too. It’s the fateful first step that starts it all. Without a beginning you can’t have an end.”
“True, but that’s a boring observation to make. It’s like saying you can’t exhale unless you inhale.”
“Fine, but it’s still true.”
“So perhaps I wouldn’t say the end justifies the means, but I may say that the end justifies the beginning.”
“Interesting. Are you sure about that?”
“No, I’m not sure at all. Maybe I just like endings.”
“Fair enough.”
Both sat quietly again watching the daylight fade and felt the heat dissipate from the air.

An important book

My grandpa sent me his autobiography today. Clocking in at just under 400 pages, it looks like it will be the authoritative memoir of Grandpa Barnett. It covers his 28 years as a chaplain in the US Air Force during which he served at 11 bases, including bases in Korea, Newfoundland, and Japan. My only complaint so far is that it’s got a textbookish look about it, which gives me some educational flashbacks. It’d be nice to write a book like this some day. I figure this blog gives me a jump start of sorts . . .

A Wodehouse Weekend

A nice lazy Sunday before starting my first 50-hour work week. Tom and I made it to church where we learned about Joseph testing and forgiving his jerk older brothers. Something modern day brothers need to hear I guess. After church, I was up on Queen Anne for a few hours this afternoon at my favorite Tully’s. I started another P.G. Wodehouse book, The Code of the Woosters, while sipping an iced chai. It was pretty hot, so I bounced from chair to chair in an effort to seek as much shade as possible while remaining outside.

I was reminded again today just how superb Wodehouse’s writing is. I would give a lot to be able to write at half his skill. He makes it all seem effortless, though the introduction of the book makes it clear Wodehouse worked hard, very hard, on each book. When asked how he got his creative juices flowing he responded, “Oh, I don’t know. I just sit down at the typewriter and curse a bit.” In addition to the sedentary swearing, he filled notebooks with notes and slaved over each sentence, for he felt, “In a Jeeves story every line has to have entertainment value.” And, in my opinion, Wodehose succeeds. Here are a couple of examples just from the first two chapaters that made me chuckle out loud. A description of a character named Roderick Spode: “About seven feet in height, and swathed in a plaid ulster which made him look about six feet across, he caught the eye and arrested it. It was as if nature had intended to make a gorilla, and had changed its mind at the last moment.” And a classic quote about aunts: “It is no use telling me that there are bad aunts and good aunts. At the core, they are all alike. Sooner or later, out pops the cloven hoof.” To paraphrase the introduction, if this doesn’t make you smile, nothing will, and Wodehouse is not for you. I’m definitely looking forward to spending a couple more sunny afternoons imbibing this fine prose.

After getting my fill, I walked down to the Queen Anne bookstore to see if it had Joy in the Morning, the book that is sort of the sequel to The Code of the Woosters. They didn’t have any Wodehouse, but they had The Best of American Erotica: 2004 right where Wodehouse should have been. Oh well. (I didn’t buy it)

Old Man’s War

About three months ago I read John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War. It was brought to my attention by numerous references over at Instapundit, and after hearing enough positive things about it I decided to read it. I actually purchased a hardcover copy off of Amazon. I’m finding that blogs have enormous persuasive power with me when it comes to music, movies, and books. If a blog I read and respect has positive comments about something, I almost always make an effort to at least check it out online.

Old Man’s War is Scalzi’s first foray into science-fiction, and he makes a pretty good showing for himself. The main premise behind the story is in the future the human species has expanded far beyond Earth but is locked in unending mortal combat with alien species, grabbing as many star systems as possible. In this future, the soldiers are not the youth but the old. Through a variety of high-tech bodily upgrades and enhancements each person is transformed into a super-human soldier equipped with stronger muscles, a brain computer, and ramped up sensory perception. Of course, the soldiers are then trained to be the ultimate killing machine so that they might, just might, have a chance to survive when fighting aliens. And the aliens in Old Man’s War are vicious and merciless. The reader follows the hero of the book from the time he first enlists at 75, through training, numerous battles, and finally to the last epic battle to capture a devastating piece of alien technology.

As a nerd, I really enjoyed reading this book, which was proven by the fact that I read it in 8 hours and on top of my school readings. The technology described in the book has a lot of wow factor. Many times I felt the way I did when I read the first chapter of Starship Troopers. There are some really cool toys in future, and I want them. For me, the universe of the book is the best part about it. Everything from the technology to the aliens to the environments were fun to read about. And that’s what science-fiction is about right? Fun? I think so. I just want a gripping plot that propels me from Point A to Point B. As long as it does that I can overlook other short comings in the story.

Scalzi’s writing style isn’t anything to write home about, but I don’t read science-fiction for the superb writing. But I have a soft spot for Scalzi anyway. He blogs, has an iMac, and gave free electronic copies of Old Man’s War to the troops. This guy is cool and his books are cool too. I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel to Old Man’s War.

Working hard to be irrelevant

Who’s this freakish looking woman? Why she’s the 2004 Nobel literature prize winner! Don’tchaknow? She’s a feminist Swede, so you know her writing is going to be top notch, being European and on the bleeding edge of societal evolution. So what is her work like? Well here’s a synopsis of two of her books:

The novel [“The Piano Teacher, 1988], and the film [2001], tells the story of a veteran piano teacher, Erika, a harsh and demanding taskmistress who indulges her extreme sexual tastes with hardcore pornography and voyeurism. She becomes sexually involved with a student – but only under her terms and dictates.

She had a best seller in 1989 with “Lust,” which she has described as portraying “the violence by the man against the woman” in a conventional marriage.

Wow! That sounds like some truly superb material there! Surely it will have resonance with women (and men?) across the globe and through the ages. Man, who wouldn’t be enthralled by the story of a repressed woman who turns to hardcore porn to get her jollies?

Here’s a description of her work in general:

“The nature of Jelinek’s texts is often hard to define. They shift between prose and poetry, incantation and hymn, they contain theatrical scenes and filmic sequences.”

That sure doesn’t sound like a mish-mash of nonsense does it?

Because I’m a man and I haven’t read any of her masterpieces, I’m not going to judge her work. I’ll just give her two thumbs up for having the courage to be seen in public: :thumbsup::thumbsup:

It’s great we have these Nobel prizes and all. I mean, if it wasn’t for the Nobel Peace Prize I never would have known that the terrorist Arafat was such a peaceful kind of guy. Or, I wouldn’t be clued in that Bush is so lame Jimmy Carter deserved a peace prize just to spite Bush. Or, I would never heard of the fantastic written work of Elfriede Jelinek!

Brave New World

I just got a comment that reminded me I hadn’t posted a quick review of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. I read this in one day over Thanksgiving weekend.

Of all the dystopia, future-state books and movies I’ve consumed (numerous, to be sure), this is the only one that does not present a clear picture that the Big Brother is evil. The citizens of the World State live in a world where people are bred to fulfill certain roles in life, have access to a sedative drug that produces a euphoric high with no side-effects, and go about their lives in blissful ignorance of what a freer life would be like. Things unravel slightly when a Savage is brought in from a Reservation. The Savage has read Shakespeare, thus breeding in him a desire for passions, properness, and, most of all, a true choice between happiness and misery.

The first half of the book laid the groundwork so the reader knows what the World State is like for those who are happy with it and for those few people who feel that something is not right. The human growing and socializing aspects are interesting from a science-fiction perspective, but it is the last twenty pages of the book where the book gains its worth. There is a discussion between the governor of the World State and the Savage that is thought provoking. I was almost persuaded that the happily peaceful but mediocre existence of the populace was a good thing. The possibility is definitely tempting.

The one thing I hate about writing book reviews is that I invariably get my verb tenses messed up. It’s late, I have class early tomorrow; so instead of proofing it I’ll just apologize for my screw ups. Where’s my soma!?

Churchill’s Lessons for the World

I finally finished Churchill’s first volume of the six-volume World War Two series. It took me long enough. I think I started reading it back in December. At this rate, I’ll finish the whole series in about two and a half years.

The Gathering Storm is very relevant to today’s world of rogue states and international terrorists. I think it is safe to say that Churchill would have supported the Iraq War. This passage, which Churchill wrote while Norway was falling into Hitler’s claws, is echoed by the events prior to the Iraq War:

To this point, then, had we come from the days of the Rhineland occupation in 1936, when a mere operation of police would have sufficed; or since Munich, when Germany, occupied with Czechoslovakia, could spare but thirteen divisions on the Western Front; or even since September, 1939, when, while the Polish resistance lasted, there were but forty-two German divisions in the West. All this terrible superiority had grown up because at no moment had the once victorious Allies dared to take any effective step, even when they were all-powerful, to resist repeated aggressions by Hitler and breaches of the Treaties.

Substitute number of divisions with WMDs, Hitler with Saddam, and 1930’s with 1990’s, and you would have a pretty accurate description of Iraq if we had not gotten rid of Saddam.

The most important lesson to be learned from this book is to stop evil before it happens. I cannot imagine the frustration and anguish Chuchill felt as all his warnings about the rising evil in Germany went unheeded. And then, nearly every one of his fears became reality. He had the foresight and the wisdom to see the true nature of what was brewing in Germany. He knew it needed to be stopped, but, instead of listening to him, the Government cast him into a political backwater, where he had to live with being an unofficial advisor of sorts. Of course, with our clear hindsight we wonder why the Government was so naive and blind. Now, we need a clear vision of our own dangerous world. We need to take the lessons of the past and actually learn from them. I’m afraid the United States as a whole has not done this, though I do think the President has (as shown by his action in Iraq and paying attention to the genocide in Sudan). Samantha Powers in the preface to A Problem from Hell identifies our society’s inability to readily acknowledge and respond to great evil:

Despite graphic media coverage [of genocide], American policymakers, journalists, and citizens are extremely slow to muster the imagination needed to reckon with evil. Ahead of the killings, they assume rational actors will not inflict seemingly gratuitous violence. They trust in good-faith negotiations and traditional diplomacy. Once the killings start, they assume that civilians who keep their heads down will be left alone. They urge ceasefires and donate humanitarian aid.

We cannot continue in this way. When it comes to clear, threatening evil, pre-emption may very well be the only prudent decision. This can be applied to terrorism, rogue states, and genocides.

The United States is in the unique position of having the resources and power to stop great evil in this world. Much of it can be solved by simply giving aid, but unfortunately much of it can only be solved by force. We must not cry “Peace! Peace!” when there is no peace, and we must not succumb the siren songs of “Peace at All Costs.” We must fight what is evil, and we must continue fighting until it is no more.