Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Stewartland (Almost) For Sale

The absence here on Rememorandom can be attributed to several things, but the chief reason is that I've been busy with getting our house ready to put on the market.  Stewartland, our cherished and beloved first home, is not quite ready to sell, but Keisha and I have been working hard at getting it up to snuff.  At the same time, we're continuing our downward trend of simplifying and de-owning things, and going through boxes and bags and totes of possessions is rather time-consuming.

Much of it we're selling in our subdivisions annual yard sell, which is this upcoming weekend.  The hope is to get rid of it all (which we will, one way or another) and make some extra cash to apply towards debt.  I genuinely want less stuff, and slowly I'm acclimating to that lifestyle.  We've already rid ourselves of one entire bookshelf (and books), making three into two.  We've also sold a bedroom suite and most of our dvds.  I think I might open my tote of STAR WARS memorabilia and sell it off, too.  Like I sold my shoebox full of Zelda collectibles.

See, Stewartland is a beautiful house in a beautiful subdivision filled with beautiful people and beautiful cars.  It's also the bane of my existence, the millstone around my neck that's pulling me deeper and deeper into the sea, and I yearn to be rid of the place.  Maybe I'm a transient person, unable to keep my roots down long.  I've lived in several different places during my 26 years, and I have no problems with uprooting and changing.  Keisha, on the other hand, lived in the same house until she went to college, and she'll have a tougher time leaving.

Why are we leaving?  Several reasons come to mind, but one of the biggest is that subdivision life is not something we enjoy.  We both grew up in the country with land and woods and creeks and small town drama.  We had land to play on and explore and nature was never hard to find.  Stewartland rests upon 0.3 acres of commercial grass and clay and rock, with a history of three years life behind it.  There are no giant oak trees or cow fields around.  Just neighborhood kids riding their bikes and people ignoring STOP signs (which really really really really really annoys me).

That's the biggest reason, the desire to return to the rural life.  What we hope to do is sell Stewartland and move into an apartment/townhouse and rent for a while, building up money to use as a down payment for the next home and continue to eat away at our debt.  We get questionable looks when we say we want to rent again, but from the research I've done, buying a house isn't worth it in the short term if you're planning on moving relatively soon.   And that's something we intend to do.  I'm still at the MLC (and still curious about the future of my career) for any of you that are interested.

So if the blog is quiet over the next few weeks, know that it's because there's a lot going on.  Life doesn't stop just because I'm trying to sell my house.  Many things I could write about, and whenever I find the time I may try, but until then, we'll play it by ear.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Flash Fiction Friday: Something Like Midnight (3)

I'm having too much fun with this story.  This installment is a bit longer than the last two, but it's action filled and packed full of goodies.  Thanks to all of you that are reading and letting me know what you think.  I really do appreciate it.  [See Part 1, Part 2 if you want to catch up.]
--Part Three--

Three Weeks Ago.

     They stared down into the swallowing darkness of an unimpressive well. “So this is it, is it? The well. I thought it’d be more...” Wenton spread his arms out, palms upward, “Majestic? Ornate? Not a hole in the ground with a half-rotted roof and a rope three-quarters ready to break.”
     The storyteller shrugged. “I didn’t make it, and I wasn’t around when it was made. Who am I to say what it should look like, Wenton of the Draughters? Who are you?”
     Wenton stuck a pinkie finger in his ear and wiggled, pulling out a glob of yellow. “I’m just saying. No harm meant. Just idle pondering from a half-man, nothing more.” He wiped the finger on his collar.
     “H-h-he didn’t m-m-mean n-no offense, ma-ma-Mister Mer--”
     “I know that,” the storyteller interrupted, “but you must always be mindful of the words you say. Not every avenue your thoughts take is in the right direction, and some things are much better left unspoken.” The storyteller eyed the brothers severely. “Remember that, and you’ll do reasonably well in this world, so long as you’re in it.” He gave a half-hearted smile. “Sun’s a-rising. Best get the stuff.”
     The sky had taken on the pink hues of morning by the time they had the coach car emptied. Odd trinkets littered the grass, procured goods from the last five years. A pair of gilt scissors, supposedly made from gold that once adorned Old Solomon’s Temple’s finest tables. A spool of spidersilk that would spin its remarkable line as long as the stars remained in the heavens, stolen from a blind oracle in Hong Kong. A gentleman’s handkerchief, faded and stained with orange blood that did not belong to the selfsame gentleman. Two vials of a red liquid, one of a charcoal mixture, and one of laced quicksilver. The storyteller picked up a red vial and the silver one. He tossed the first into the Well, careful to drop it straight down the center of the pit.
     “Well,” he said, glancing from Wenton to Weseley and back to Wenton, “here’s to hoping.” The storyteller unstoppered the vial and tipped the mercurial solution up to his lips. Thick, viscous liquid stuck to his teeth and tongue, sliding down his throat like damp flour. The man gagged, but he dared not spit it out. Not after the trouble it took to get it. He fell to his knees, reeling from the effects of the toxin. Phantoms appeared before him, hollow eyed and silent, an unfortunate side-effect of mercury poisoning. Wenton handed him the black vial next. The charcoal flakes tasted of sulfur, foul and rotten, like sin and pestilence. Weseley gave him the final vial, its color and texture all too familiar. Half of the blood within belonged to the storyteller, but the rest was taken from dozens of willing and unwilling donors. The more givers the greater your chance of success, the shaman had told him, slicing into his own hand as he talked, spilling his own precious fluids for a stranger’s sojourn. And you need all the help you can get. Shuddering and feverish, the storyteller’s hands trembled as he drank the final vial, washing down charcoal with blood.
     The sun's rim exploded above the horizon, spilling brilliant light onto the meadow. A noise, sharp and metallic, echoed from within the well. Tktktktk. It sounded like a large bug skittering around. One by one the phantoms disappeared, ripped apart by a breeze. Hands still shaking, the storyteller pulled himself up and made his way to the Well. Tktktktk. “Come,” the storyteller choked, his voice a whisper of whisper. “Come out and speak to me.” Tktktktktktk. “By the blood of the living and the breath of the slain I adjure you to reveal yourself to me.” TktktktktktktKTKTKTK! Something grey and translucent shot out of the well, sending the storyteller stumbling backwards.
     -you travel with poor company, corgan mercy.-
     The voice was harsh and strangely familiar, a whispered shout. The storyteller’s world was spinning. He had not been called by that name in a long time. His stomach burned, his head ached, and his dead wife stood in front of him. She was wearing the dress she had been murdered in. The grave had stolen its vibrant colors and replaced them with translucent neutral tones, accentuating the purple bruises on her throat. “Valeste,” he said simply, stunned.
      -i did not take you for a murderer, nor a thief, nor a necromancer.- She moved toward him, disappearing momentarily in the sunlight. -i am thrice mistaken.- She was in front of him, behind him, inside him, gliding in and out of sunlight and shadow.
     “I...” He searched for an excuse to justify his actions, but nothing came. “Valeste, I... Who are you to judge me?” He blurted out suddenly. “If not for your immorality you never would have ended up like this.” This was not going according to plan.
     Blank eyes stared down at him, white and lifeless and shining like the moon against a blackened sky. -and you see where my immorality has led me. i know my sins; the boon of the grave is knowledge. but you, corgan, you do not see your actions as wrongs, do you?- Her words fell on him like hailstones. Of course he had known, on some level, but his deeds were for justice, for the greater good. -why have you called me, my love? you seek retribution, hmm? yes, i can see it in the swirls of your eyes. you want to avenge me. you want to find the one who killed me in the streets as i made my way back home to you, the one who grabbed me and held me down as he choked the life from my throat.- Her face changed into a sneer. -or do you want to know the man who stole me away from your heart and home and threatened me with the love and attention that you withheld? is that it? you want to find the man who loved me and cared for me and you want to kill him. you want him to suffer as you have suffered these past five years. that is not justice, corgan. that is foolishness.-
     Corgan flinched at the rasp in her voice. Or was it the truth of her words?
     The sun was almost up, burning through her as light through grey chiffon. Valeste spoke above him, her dead face inches from his. -you are twice lucky and twice cursed, my love. i know the vows you made, and they will take you to your grave. the men you seek are one and the same, corgan. my lover is my killer. he disapproved of my refusal to leave you, and he followed me home and killed me in tears and hatred.- She was a faint glimmer of smoke and an echoing voice in his head. -he is your brother, my sweet. it is dillon mercy you’re after.-

Word Count: 1168

Monday, May 21, 2012

Neverwhere Group Read, Part 1

Blogmaster and Gaiman-aholic Carl V., over at Stainless Steel Droppings, has been a longtime staple in the blogosphere.  His posts are thoughtful, erudite, and fun, and I enjoy reading his opinions on various genre books.  So when Carl decided to host a Group Read with Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, a book that's been on my TBR for far too long, I decided that I'd jump on board if my schedule allowed.

Well, I started the book a fortnight ago, and by golly, I couldn't help myself.  I finished the whole thing, not in one sitting, mind you, but I could have.  Goodness gracious, that Gaiman sure can tell a mean story.  Anyway, I'm still participating in the Group Read, but with the unique position of a first-time reader, but having already finished the darned thing before we even started.

You can check out Carl's post here with his questions.  Other's'll be linked from there, I gather.

1. What do you think of our two villains thus far, Messrs. Croup and Vandemar?
"Her days are numbered, and the number in question isn't even in the double digits."
Mister Croup and Mister Vandemar are fiends, impeccable and charming, ruthless and lethal.  I love the banter between the two, but their amorality is truly terrifying.  I'd never want to meet the gents, that's true.
2. Thus far we've had a small taste of London Below and of the people who inhabit it. What do you think of this world, this space that lies within or somewhat overlaps the space the "real world" occupies?
I don't see this as anything unique or original, but the way that Gaiman does it is nevertheless very Gaiman.  I definitely want to know more about London Below and the whys and wherefores of the place, that's for sure.  It kind of reminds me of parallel universe theories and whatnot, only with a fantastical skew.
3. What ideas or themes are you seeing in these first 5 chapters of Neverwhere? Are there any that you are particularly drawn to?
One major theme I immediately picked up on was the descriptors used for the London Belowers.  Gaiman describes characters as animals--all of them--and in my mind I can't help but see some amalgam of animal and human, twisted and alien, yet familiar.  I really like the way Gaiman describes things, and Neverwhere represents this wonderfully.  I think I highlighted pages worth of wonderful prose and language.  Some of my favorites are below.
"Her skin was the color of burnt caramel, and her smile would have stopped a revolution."
"Door said nothing, fairly meaningfully."
4. We've met a number of secondary characters in the novel, who has grabbed your attention and why?
I was immediately struck by the marquis de Carabas.  His roguish demeanor and charm make me immediately suspicious, but at the same time I can't help but like the guy.  I love how he bargains with favors and how he's always pulling out things from his many pockets.  
5. As you consider the Floating Market, what kind of things does your imagination conjure up? What would you hope to find, or what would you be looking for, at the Market?
I picture a bazaar like place, crowded with all sorts of people (some clean, others awfully dirty) and goods.  I also picture a flea market like place, where there's so much treasure buried in the junk that it's hard to have a go through it all in the short amount of time allotted.  Me, I'd be happy with a nice bowl of curry and a comfy bench, just to sit and watch the people all around.
6. If you haven't already answered it in the questions above, what are your overall impressions of the book to this point?
I think my intro answered this, but I'll repeat.  I was so hooked by the first few pages that I couldn't help but finish the book.  There was no putting it down and reading it at the pace of the Group Read.  
One thing that I should remark on about Gaiman is that, at least to me, every one of his novels take some time to get a handle on what exactly is going on.  I think fondly of American Gods, but I know that there's a lot that I didn't get or understand.  To a degree, this is true with Anansi Boys and The Graveyard Book, too, and the same goes for his short story collections.  The first several pages of Neverwhere had me hooked, yes, but I was also confused, not able to fully comprehend a picture of Door or Croup or London Below or the marquis or so many other things.  Richard made sense, and I related to his lack of understanding and wanting to question things.  Things are simply presented as truth, and the Reader is simply forced to accept it.  (This especially rings true with American Gods.  I'm going to have to re-read that one of these days and see if it makes more sense now.)

I guess my point is that I've noticed this trend in many Gaiman stories... and I like it.  It's fun having wool over the eyes from time to time, and maybe that's part of the reason why I love Neil Gaiman's writing so much.  Perhaps I'm not alone.  Anyone else have trouble with a first time experience with a Gaiman book?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Flash Fiction Friday: Something Like Midnight (2)

Thanks for the compliments to you fine and dandy Readers out there.  If you missed Part One, read it here.  I appreciate any feedback that comes my way.  

--Part Two--

     The storyteller found Weseley sitting on the front steps, gnawing on the leg of something large and well used. “Hello Weseley,” the storyteller announced. The boy startled, jumping up to his feet and dropping the haunch.
     “S-sir,” the boy stammered. “Wh-what’re you doing out here? I-i-is the d-d-deed f-finished up t-t-t-top?”
     The storyteller nodded curtly, making an altogether unpleasant face. “Yes, Weseley, the deed is finished, but I’m afraid we’re in a bit of a rush. I trust you’ve had enough to eat for the time being?” The storyteller motioned toward the gristly bone.
     Weseley looked to to the ground and back to the storyteller, his face flushing. “Yessir. Y-yessir, p-plenty sir. More than e-na-nanough. Full as, full as, full as... full as Boxing Day boxes, sir.”
     “Excellent,” the storyteller exclaimed, dropping a hand on the boy’s scrawny shoulder. “Bring the coach around at once. Your brother will be out in three minutes.” The boy leapt to his feet and sped off, disappearing into the heavy fog. The storyteller watched him until he vanished, and only when the lad was gone did he allow himself to sigh. He stared up at the ceiling of grey and wondered, not for the first time, if his plan would work. Many had tried before him, men and women much smarter than he, and all had failed miserably. Their bloody deaths were testament to that. So what made him any different? Could he do the impossible? Cross Beyond and return? It seemed like he’d spent a lifetime of planning and thieving and bribing... or at least five very long years. To be so near the end had was both thrilling and terrifying.
     Something jarred him from his reverie, sending a chill through the marrow of his bones. Two red eyes, two unmistakable red eyes, stared unblinkingly at him from the far side of the porch. Even the thickness of the fog could not hide their glow. The storyteller ran his hand over the stolen necklace in his pocket, silently praying for courage. The stories of the Gyarmr echoed in his mind, superstitions and folk tales proven true too many times for him to count. The Gyarmr is as tall as three horses and as heavy as four, with teeth like stones, made for ripping and tearing. Its eyes are two embers, lit by God Almighty, and eternal. The Beast shows no mercy. The Beast feels no pain. If anyone sees the Black Dog, he will die within the week, a gruesome and bloody death.
     “Go on!” The eyes remained motionless. “It’s not time for this yet. Now go.” A streak of red split open beneath the eyes, jagged and cruel. The storyteller felt as if he were falling into a bottomless cave, all stalagmites and stalactites, silhouetted against an inescapable inferno. He could hear the Gyarmr panting, a wheezing breath, like a victim of consumption. The creature growled then, cavernous and guttural. The storyteller stood firm, squeezing the necklace until his fingers ached.
     “I still have time remaining,” the storyteller choked, “now leave me be. I’ve not forgotten the terms of the contract.”
     A pair of pale, yellow lights broke through the fog, and the coach pulled up to the steps. The storyteller looked back at the porch, but the eyes were gone.
     “Well that’s that,” said Wenton, appearing at the storyteller’s side. The boy’s hands and face were crimson and crusted with gore.
     “Hmm.” Weseley opened the rear door and the storyteller climbed in, staring out the back glass as they drove away, watching the fog collapse in on Count Hombrek’s estate, searching for the eyes that would welcome him to hell.

Word Count: 609
The Gyarmr, again, is based upon the folklore of hellhounds. See wiki article here if interested.

Part Three will come next Friday.  Looks like it'll be around six or seven parts.  Perhaps I should have done this as a Writing Wednesday post instead of a Flash Fiction post, as the whole piece is definitely not flash fic.  Oh well.  It is what it is.

And truly, thank you all very much for reading.  It's thrilling, humbling, and intimidating, but it's fun.  

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Voice (Bible Translation), a Review

Last Fall I had the pleasure to review a new translation of the bible known as The Voice.  At the time, only the New Testament was available.  No longer is that so.  Thomas Nelson, a well respected publishing house within the Christian community, now offers a full bible in The Voice translation.

In short, The Voice is a dynamic blend of translation and paraphrase, reading like a cross between The Message and the ESV.  The translation team was composed of scholars, musicians, poets, and other artists to accentuate the narrative style found within the bible as opposed to the traditional formal style.  The Voice is designed to be read aloud, formatted such that it's like reading a script for a play.  It really is amazing how the narrative flows by reading aloud.

Translation is something that I take very seriously, be it for a bible or for a classic Russian Dostoevsky novel.  It is a daunting task to translate a work, and nothing will ever fully translate 100% true to the author's original intent.  One typically must either rely on word-for-word translations, compromising the tone of the work, or rely on a tonal translation and take some liberties with word choice.  Here, Thomas Nelson explains that
while care has been taken to accurately translate the individual words from the original texts, careful attention to how the idioms of the original languages are understood in English has also been taken. But it doesn't stop there; The Voice considers the narrative links that help us to understand the drama and passion of story that is present in the original languages. The tone of the writing, the format of the page, and the directness of the dialog allows the tradition of passing down the biblical narrative to come through in The Voice.
As I was already familiar with the New Testament, I chose to read from the Old Testament for this review.  I chose Deuteronomy, curious to see how things would be handled.  In short, I was blown away.  When Jesus was being tempted by the Enemy in the desert, one of His responses to Satan was quoting part of Deuteronomy 8:3, a familiar verse to many.  Compare the ESV translation to The Voice below and see what you think.
  • does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.  (Dt 8:3 ESV)
  • What makes you truly alive is not the bread you eat but following every word that comes from the mouth of the Eternal One.  (Dt 8:3, The Voice)
These essentially say the same thing, yes, but the wording of the second one has much more of an impact to me.  Perhaps it's because I'm so familiar with the ESV wording that its meaning has been lost over time, almost becoming cliche if I'm reading casually.  However, as The Voice is unlike any other bible I've ever read, this verse really jumped out at me.  In fact, the entire book seemed to be full of these little gems.  Am I simply reading more critically because this is a new translation?  Yes, that's probably somewhat true, but I'm also noticing things that I'd never noticed before, too, picking up on certain phrases and words.

The ESV is still my go to bible, and I suppose it always will be.  I love the care that went into that particular translation, and I feel that it is the clearest translation for me to read and study.  That said, The Voice is an excellent reference to have and read from simultaneously, and doing this has yielded incredible insight to God's Word.  If you're interested in a bible reading experience, look no further than The Voice.

FTC Thingy: I got this fo' free!  Holla.  All I had to do was write an honest review, which I did.  I did not request any cookies this time around, and I did not receive any cookies this time around, either.  Go figure.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Flash Fiction Friday: Something Like Midnight

--Part One--

     “The Gyarmr is something like midnight. Ill-begotten. Dirty. Ethereal. Deadly. Midnight brings with it mischief and magic and all manner of marvels unseen when the majestic sun is a memory and the moon is but a sliver of silver against the night sky. Little children stand in dark rooms murmuring old rhymes and foreign words at a mirror, telling one another that they aren’t scared of what’s on the other side, all bravado and hoping their knees aren’t knocking too loudly. Bigger children climb down their trellises at midnight, sneaking away from their safe houses and venturing out to meet up with friends and lovers. When they are too big to be called children, grown ups sneak into houses and take things that are not theirs, sometimes life, sometimes love, sometimes a box of jewels or a pair of wool socks or an irreplaceable brooch.”
     The young storyteller paused. This was his final story of the evening, and all eight of Count Hombrek’s guests were deeply under his spell. He looked around the room, relishing their attention. “Yes friends, midnight is the mystery hour, dark and evil. It has always been this way; it always will be. If you’ve not been attentive tonight, I beseech you from the bottoms of my enormous heart to hear me now. For this is no mere story I’m telling you. No, this story can make the difference between life and death. This is a story about midnight,” the storyteller dropped his voice to a stage whisper, “and midnight belongs to the Gyarmr.”
     At that moment something heavy crashed into the parlor door, buckling the wood. Men and women alike jumped. A scratching sound came from the opposite side of the door. The storyteller tipped a bag from his sleeve into his hand and tossed it into the winking fireplace. The other hand was already holding the two sponge-like buds for his nose. Thick, thunderhead grey smoke began billowing from the hearth, filling the room in seconds. Black flames licked up through the smoke, eerie and eldritch. A young gentleman shrieked. The storyteller quickly put the buds into his nostrils, taking one final breath before the toxin became too strong.
     “It’s the Gyarmr!” someone shouted. People began sobbing. The door handle rattled. Another thump sounded, now at the window.
     “Our Father who art in heaven...”
     “Oh God. I can smell it. The fires of hell!”
     “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...”
     “Stay calm! It’s onl--” Count Hombrek’s voice cut off, as if someone had clamped a hand over his mouth. The storyteller twisted violently and the Count dropped to the ground with a muffled thud. The storyteller knelt over the man, searched for his neck, found a faint pulse and the chain of a necklace, broke the clasp, pocketed the loot, and was back on his feet all with one fluid motion. 
     The last of the voices and sobs died away. The storyteller stood in the miasma for a long moment, breathing through the filtered buds in his nose. The sulfurous odor was still faintly present, even through the buds, but the paralyzing poisons from the black powder were blocked. Satisfied that the occupants were all unconscious, the storyteller made his way to the parlor door and knocked four times. “They down are they?”
     Not bothering to reply, the storyteller unlatched the handle and pulled the door open. The smoke rolled out of the room, desperate to find a place larger to occupy than the tiny, cramped parlor. “Any issues with the rest of the guests?” the storyteller asked his accomplice. 
     “Nosir. Justa buncha children and two servants. They were doped good from the dinner, sir. Out like stones now. Didn’t lay a finger on a one of ‘em, either.” The accomplice peered around the storyteller into the room. Eight bodies lie in unceremonious clumps on the floor. The boy licked his lips, unashamed of his avarice.
     “Your limit is one,” the storyteller said sternly. “You have five minutes, Wenton, and then we must be gone.”
     “Five minutes is sufficient, sir, though I should wish for more. So many pretties.” Wenton scurried into the room, eyeing the unconscious guests as much as the goods that adorned the shelves.
     “Five minutes, Wenton,” the storyteller reminded, already moving down the corridor. Behind him he could hear the ripping, tearing sound of flesh, wet and ghastly. The storyteller briefly wondered which poor unfortunate was chosen, but he’d been at the game long enough now that he was already thinking of the necklace in his pocket. Wenton’s giggles echoed down the hallway.

Word Count: 769

The Gyarmr, though barely present in this story, is based upon the folklore of hellhounds.  [See wiki article here if interested.]  

Part Two will likely come next Friday.  Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Pastor Search Committee

Back in December I was selected to be a member of the Pastor Search Committee (PSC) at church.  The PSC is made up of seven men & women, and its sole purpose is to find a pastor to take up the pulpit.  I had no idea how the PSC operated or what all went on in the selection process, and at the time (and now, still, to an extent) I was sworn to secrecy, so to speak.

I am very pleased to announce that as of two weeks past, on Sunday, April 29, our church is no longer looking for a senior pastor.  The candidate the PSC recommended preached a trial sermon and was voted (98.1% positive) in by the church.  Now that the PSC is disbanded, I suddenly have a few more hours free each week.

It takes a lot of time and commitment being on the committee.  We met every Sunday afternoon for an hour or so, and then again every Wednesday night after church, usually for at least an hour-and-a-half, sometimes longer.  When we conducted interviews, several hours were set aside.  There was also a lot of listening to sermons outside of the committee meetings, especially early on as we were resume weeding.  Overall we received around 270 resumes, so it took some time to drop down to a workable number.

The most crucial piece of the committee functioning properly was prayer and guidance through the Spirit.  We all spent many hours in prayer over the course of time.  We hit some snares and some hardships, but the committee was always in unison whenever it came to making decisions.  This was a feat in and of itself, as there were seven unique individuals representing a broad range of ages and tastes.  That said, I very much enjoyed getting to know my fellow committee members a little more, and I think we all grew pretty close during this time.

Every church does this process differently, I've learned.  Some have an elder board that takes care of things.  Others involve the entire church.  There's no right way to do it.  There are plenty of wrong ways, though.  The PSC received a ton of negative attention and many discouraging comments from grumblers. We were called dysfunctional and accused of being biased and blah and blah and blah.  Rumors were rampant, and it was crazy.  If you are ever a part of a church body that has a pastor search committee in progress, I implore you to love on and encourage those people.  They need it.

I am glad to have served on the PSC, but I'm equally glad that it's business is finished.  I look forward to seeing the pastor arrive and seeing how God will use him for our church.

Have any of you ever served on a Search Committee or been in a church that has had to go through this?  What was it like?  Any questions you'd want to ask?

Tuesday, May 08, 2012


April was not a cruel month to Rememorandom, despite what Mr. Eliot may think.  In fact, by my participating in the AtoZ Challenge, my humble weblog hit a growth spurt, both in output and input.  I've garnered a few new Followers, fine folks that I hope continue to read my meager ramblings, and I've found a few new blogs that I'm following as well.

I was happy with the short story I wrote during the second week, starting with and ending on M.  It had been a while since I'd written a story, let alone finished one, and I'm glad to have had the impetus to write something.  To those of you that read it, many thanks.

It should have been clear to anyone reading that faith is an integral part of my being, as many of my posts dealt with "spiritual things," from Jesus to the Church to the many blessings I have in my life.  I am not ashamed of the gospel, and I will never be.  It was not my aim to cause anyone offense, but it was my aim to proclaim the Truth that God has revealed in the Bible and in my life.  I will not apologize for the Truth.  Believe me, it's just as offensive to me as it is to anyone else.  I'm still human, still a sinner, only I'm relying on the promises of the Eternal One and His Word to keep me in line.

The AtoZ Challenge was a fun way to blog for a month, and I enjoyed reading through many of the different blogs out there that signed up.  There was no way that I was going to visit all of the blogs that participated (over 2000!), but I found some gems from the few I did.  In particular, it was a nice happenstance to click on Watershed Moments, a blog from a Canadian hydrologist with a specialty in snow hydrology.  Fascinating.  Another blog, Geeky Daddy, had a STAR WARS theme, and it's always a pleasure to find new geeky friends.  The last month also rekindled an old friendship and inspired him to begin blogging a bit more frequently.  Check out Jordan's blog at Common Sense to Live By for a unique voice that's quasi-politically focused.  I tend to shy away from politics (I'm a registered Independent!), but it's nice hearing fair-minded opinions.

A special thanks to longtime Rememorandom follower David Wag, who blogs over at My Little Corner of the World.  If not for him, I never would have started this crazy journey.

Finally, to all the new Followers out there, thank you very much for stopping by.  It's an honor to have people that are interested in what I have to say.  What's more, it's an awesome wonder to be a part of a community of perfect strangers that becomes something more than just random characters on a screen.  I've made many e-friendships, so to speak, and it's this community within the blogosphere that consistently amazes me.  I do hope you all continue to follow along here, but if not, I hope our time together was at least meaningful.  Or entertaining.  Or bizarre...

Monday, May 07, 2012

Act of God, a Review

Paul Byers' Act of God is a collection of seven short stories in the vein of old Rod Sterling Twilight Zone episodes.  Most of these tales are sci-fi related, though all are "soft" and easy to read.  I was asked to review the book by Mr. Byers himself, and I thought the stories sounded appealing.  As I like to do with anthologies, I've reviewed each story below, using the GoodReads Star Rating for each piece, boldfacing my recommendations.

"Shooting Star"
Evan Grant is a astronaut, a devoted husband and father, and he always keeps his promises. The day that he is to make a routine space flight for research Evan finds out that he is going on a different mission. He'll be flying instead a bit farther away, where he'll connect with a floating, broken cargo ship and try and salvage its priceless cargo. Murphy's Law applies to this story and to Evan, and I felt like I had to really suspend my disbelief a fair bit, but this was a great piece to start the collection. 3.5*

"Rescue Mission"
A Commander in charge of a simple rescue mission to a distant planet finds out that the mission is more than "simple." The Commander's second-in-command, Jerrock, constantly threatens to usurp orders, and this mission is no different. This story was very clunky in some parts, and I felt that there was too much telling and not enough showing. However, the tale was short and enjoyable enough, and the ending was certainly a surprise. 3*

"The Journal" was both frustrating and fun. The dialogue seemed very clunky between the three friends, and I felt that the plot pushed ahead too quickly for the full impact to sink in. I was left with many questions, one primary one reducing my overall enjoyment of this story. Probably my least favorite of the lot. 2*

"All that Glitters" was somewhat reminiscent of "Rescue Mission," as there is some hefty tension between a ship's captain and his chief sub-officer. However, where "Rescue Mission" was focused on a rescue attempt, "All that Glitters" had a crew of astronauts who were in the mining business. The captain orders a stop to scout out an uncharted world hoping to find enough minerals and gems to make him a rich man. What he finds is something else entirely. 2.5*

This was a familiar and predictable fun story, with a twist that I saw coming a mile and a half away. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the way it was written and felt that the mood it exudes was fitting and exciting. 3*

"Act of God"
This is definitely my favorite short in the collection. The tale is a familiar one: a disaster wipes out a food supply for a group of people, and in order to survive they begin a lottery system among the population. Those selected will, uhm, presumably become ground, uhm, foodstuff. That's not explicitly said or described, but certainly inferred. Anyway, this story was compelling, fast-paced, and ended on an excellent note that left me pondering my choices. I also felt that it was the best written piece of the lot. 4.5*

"Eye of the Beholder"
There was a lot of build up for this story. The author was being intentionally vague and withholding, constantly referring to things familiar but unsaid. The love story angle between the characters was also clunky and bland. That said, the piece moved along at an adequate pace that led a conclusion/climax so bizarre, so unexpected that I can't help but recommend this story. If only for the oddity of the outcome. It's guaranteed to make you scratch your head, roll your eyes, and laugh. 4*

Ultimately, an arithmetic mean of the GR-Stars gives a rating of 3.2, putting it solidly in the "Liked" category.  The formatting for the Kindle left a lot to be desired, especially for paragraph breaks and dialogue splitting.  The prose also was also all over the place, from confusing to clear and well worded.  Nevertheless, the stories were all enjoyable to varying degree, and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to read them.  If you're looking for a relatively light sci-fi short story collection, consider Paul Byers' Act of God.  It's available through Amazon as a $2.99 ebook currently, though it's free to Prime members.  You can find it here.  

FTC Thingy: No one ever sends me cookies.  I don't know why that is.  I'm not bitter or anything.  I received this book for free from Mr. Paul Byers in exchange for a review.  I was not obligated to laud praises on the book, nor was I under an oath to heap coals.  My review policy has always been to review honestly and express how I feel while remaining respectful and fair.  I am a man of integrity, though I'm not a fool.  If I were offered fresh cookies and a book, I might be willing to compromise my ethics.  As such, no cookies were exchanged, and so I gave only an honest book review.  Such is life.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse

This review is SPOILER FREE for the entire series, as well as this book.

Cotton candy is not filling, but it is good. The same goes for Krispy Kreme donuts. Eating these things is like eating a magical ball of fluffy, sugary goodness that, when finished, leaves me satisfied/dissatisfied and hungry for more. Did I enjoy the donut? Heck yeah. Could it have been better? Definitely. 

Say you've got a Krispy Kreme glazed donut in one hand and a box full of long johns from a local bakery in the other. It is universally acknowledged that a Krispy Kreme glazed donut is near perfect, that it is impossible to eat only one, and that they have amphetamines in them so they keep pulling you back in. They are lighter than air and if you rub the glaze on a wound you're instantly healed. However, my local bakery, Rolling Pin, has the one up on Krispy Kreme. See, Krispy Kreme is "near perfect;" Rolling Pin is paramount to living a happy and fulfilled life. Rolling Pin produces truly divine creations, from their glazed donuts to their famous long johns. 

STAR WARS books are like Krispy Kreme donuts. This one, the conclusion to yet another nine-book series, was probably the best in the box of, er, donuts, but it still suffered from the same problems the others did. Chiefly, they weren't Rolling Pin donuts. I'm confident that this entire series would have been dramatically better if it were a trilogy and if most of the "conclusions" had been at least hinted at somewhere prior to the last half of the last book. A lot of it just came across as being made up on the spot. 

That was my major gripe. We have eight-and-a-half books of repetitive exposition with so much build up that there's no way to wrap it all up satisfactorily with just half a book. What's more, a lot of the characters really don't grow, and there's not a lot of surprises. 

That said, Apocalypse was at least more action filled than the rest of the series combined. There is a lot going on all across the galaxy and the book read very quickly. 

I love STAR WARS. I suppose I always will. I enjoy the light, fluffy goodness of a Krispy Kreme donut, too. I suppose I always will. Nevertheless, I prefer Rolling Pin any day. Does that mean I'll turn away a Krispy Kreme? Not likely, but I'm always going to be disappointed in the back of my mind, knowing that there's something better out there.