angels angels everywhere

There’s a particular type of book that I avoid at all costs.  Well, to be completely honest, there’s two types of books I avoid at all costs, but for pretty much the same reason.

Religious fiction and self-help books.

I don’t mind reading how-to books, I’d like to clarify.  It seems to be the self-help category that falls prey to bogus spiritual voo-doo more often, so I tend to avoid those.  The religious fiction type of books . . . well, there are probably talented, interesting and funny authors who write religious fiction.  I did like the Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites series growing up, as well as pretty much any Jack Weyland book.  I know Narnia is technically religious fiction, though the allegory is secondary to the story.

My real problem with religious fiction is the not-so-subtle proselytizing that usually pervades it.

I hate when you pick up this type of book in the library.  I browse the sci-fi, fantasy, and literary fiction sections.  Occasionally I’ll hit the romance and YA sections.  Also the non-fiction, but you don’t run into this problem nearly so much there.

So you grab a book (maybe the cover art is awesome, or the title sounds cool) off the shelf.  It looks interesting, so you read the back, flip through a couple pages to see if you like the writing style, and figure it sounds good.

Then you get home, and you’re reading it.  Interesting premise, kind of cool characters . . . then *bam* you’re hit with a sermon about purity rings or the evils of swearing.  WTF?  I was just reading a book!  I’m relaxing! Why am I being hit with a church lesson?  If I wanted one of those, I’d, you know, be in church.

This is becoming a particular annoyance to me because it used to be that religious fiction was a rare thing to stumble across in the library or a regular bookstore.  You had to search that stuff out, and if you were buying a book at a Christian or LDS bookstore, you knew you were buying an entertainingly packaged sermon.

Now religious fiction is all mainstream.  You pick up a book in the fantasy section about angels, thinking it sounds like a cool premise (Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchet had fun with it in Good Omens), and it’s a disguise!  A snake in the grass!  Religious fiction masquerading as fantasy!

The thing is, I can’t automatically dismiss every book about angels and demons — there are lots of awesome fantasies that play with those mythologies.  The Demon’s Lexicon, for instance.  Or The Mortal Instruments trilogy.  American Gods deals with religious mythology, in a sense.

It’s irritating, and I can’t help feeling frustrated.  Sure, I put the book down and don’t finish it.  Sure, I forget the title — but it’s yet another instance where I feel, vaguely, as though someone is pushing their beliefs onto me.  I already get it almost everywhere else — “You would be so much happier if you believed in God,” I’m told.  Or you help someone at a store or at college and you get a, “God bless you.”

Or you befriend someone who’s religious, add them to your FB or whatever, and you’re inundated on a daily basis with scripture quotes and Jesus references.  And because I don’t want to offend anyone or tell them what they should believe (you know, like what I would appreciate — do unto others as you would have others do unto you?), I don’t debunk their little FOX tidbits or religious quotes.

I don’t start a comment thread arguing whether Jesus actually did exist, let alone die for our sins.  I don’t point out the other scriptural references that specifically speak against wearing mixed fibers, eating lobster or shellfish, or the fact that Jesus commands you sell all your goods and give the money to the poor.  I don’t do that because it’s rude to push your beliefs on others, and I don’t like to be rude.

But I’m getting really tired of how rude religious people are.  Knocking on my door at odd hours, mailing me pamphlets and postcards, and now infiltrating the library!

suckday

Litton Loan Mortgaging, our mortgage company, is being unhelpful buttheads — as usual.  While trying to work out exactly what’s going on with our loan, someone came to our door.

*knock knock*

Immediately Sirius, our dog, starts barking.  Loudly.  This is Sirius’s way of letting us know there’s a stranger around — after someone knocks on the door, he decides to bark.  Never before, always after.

Kidling, excited by the dog barking and the prospect of visitors, starts whooping through the house, screaming at the top of his lungs.

I stand up and walk to the door, thinking maybe it’s the mailman or a FedEx guy or something — I’m not expecting anybody, and I really don’t have time to deal with anyone.  I’m kind of trying to arrange to keep our home here.

It’s the mormon missionaries.

Normally, I’m polite and friendly to these guys.  My whole family is mormon, and my little sister is on a mission.  They’re just doing what they think is necessary.  So I smile, gesture to the phone pressed against my ear and the noise escalating in the background and say, “Not really a good time.”

“Oh, okay — but you’re Lana, right?  Lana D____?”

“Uh, yeah, but I can’t talk right now,” I say, attempting to close the door without shutting it in their face and being rude.  To the modification specialist I’m on the phone with, I say, “I’m so sorry, can you hold on just a minute?”

I look at the missionaries and say, “I really can’t talk, I’m busy trying to figure out my mortgage.”

“Right, right, but you’re mormon, right?  I mean, you used to come to church?”

“I’m an atheist,” I say, a little impatiently.  “I don’t do that anymore, and I really can’t talk right now.”

“Sure, sure, can we come by later?  I mean, when’s a better time to visit?”

I would like to point out at this juncture, dear reader, that the noise behind me had not lessened in the slightest.  The dog is almost howling at this point.  My son, delighted beyond belief that there are people at the door, is now hopping around the living room as well as whooping at the top of his lungs.  

We have wood laminate floors and a fairly open floor plan — it is echoing.  I can barely hear the two standing on our front porch, and I’m frankly quite embarrassed at the cacophony that must be seeping down the phone line.

“I cannot talk!”  I say as firmly as possible.  They don’t move, and their friendly, hopeful, open faces makes me feel guilty and horrible for being too busy to talk to them.  Reluctant to be rude and slam the door in their faces (stupid guilt!), I add, “Come back in three hours or something!”

I only answered the door because it was the most expedient way to get rid of whatever was exciting the dog and the kid.  Next time, I’ll just go out the back door and leave it.

why I don’t like buying Apple (or Amazon)

My husband recently bought me a Nook.  He bought me a Nook because I’m a huge reader — I signed up for Goodreads.com in May 2008, and I’ve read 138 books since then.  Well, probably more like 130 — a few of those books are retro-actively reviewed, like Johnny Tremain or Calico Captive.

The thing is, to me, 130+ books in two years seems like a paltry amount.  I was actually disappointed in myself for not reading as much as I thought I did when I saw that number.  It was the reaction of my husband and other friends that caused me to realize that to most people, 130+ books in 24 months is quite a lot.

I’ve wanted an e-reader for ages.  I can’t say since the Kindle first debuted, because that’s not true — I was ambivalent and slightly negative toward e-readers back then.  I said things like, “I just love the feel of a book in my hands,” or “I’d miss the smell of a brand-new book so much.”

I read reviews, though, that pointed out the reason behind the long-term success of a book format:  A book disappears when you read it.  Think about it — the last time you were engrossed in a book, did you really notice the feel of the paper against your fingers, the quality of the cover?  No, you probably were too caught up in the plot to notice those minor physical sensations.

The reason e-book haven’t previously caught on is because computers and laptops are intrusive.  The screen is bright, the battery hums, you need to scroll with the mouse, they get hot in your lap when you’re trying to relax on the couch.  Minor things, but things that do make a difference.

E-readers have the e-ink technology that looks like a printed word on paper.  They utilize front-lit screens, rather than the eye-straining back-lit screens.  The batteries are quiet, undetectable.  They don’t overheat in your hands.  In other words, they disappear as you read.

More than that, they have capabilities (or, in the Nook’s case, potential for certain capabilities) books simply don’t.  Both the Nook and the Kindle can hold thousands of books in their on-board library, and both allow external storage.  Both have audio-book format, so you can use the device to either listen to a book or read it.  They allow font enlargement, the ability to search words and phrases (or look up the meanings of words right from the page).  They have some small on-board music storage.  Best of all, both the Nook and the Kindle allow you to buy e-books wherever you are, with the provided 3G connection at no extra cost.

Additionally, in the case of the Kindle, if I understand the specs correctly, you can actually switch from visual to audio if you don’t want to put the book down but need to get in the car and run an errand.

So why did I choose the Nook over the Kindle?  It’s all about open-source and choice.  With the Kindle’s locked DRM, I can’t upload any content but what Amazon approves.  In other words, if I bought a Kindle, I could only have books from Amazon.com on my device — a fairly limited library, comparatively.  At the time I was doing all my research on the two devices, customers were unable to read google books on the Kindle.  That may have changed.

Furthermore, Amazon has a bit of an unsavory history with their Kindles.  One or two incidents, to be sure, but incidents that are indicative of a larger disconcern about the privacy of their customers.

So I asked for the Nook for Christmas.  Unfortunately, it sold out immediately and wasn’t available until mid-February.  I ended up getting one for my anniversary in April.  I love it.  Since we bought it, I’ve only purchased one book for it, but I’ve read dozens.  Books I’ve uploaded from google books (the ones with expired copyrights).  Books from authors like Cory Doctorow, who adhere to the “sharing is good” philosophy.  Books from my local library system, which has a e-book section on their website.

Recently, the iPad came out.  People keep pushing it at me, saying I wasted my money on the Nook and I should get an iPad.  I just laugh, because the iPad isn’t a dedicated e-reader.  It’s not really a dedicated anything — it’s useless as a full time computer (at least to me, who loves to write and prefers a keyboard for said activity).  It’s too cluttered with distracting stuff (not to mention the back-lit screen) for proper honed-in reading time.

Honestly, I look at it and see a gimmick.  A shiny, pretty gimmick, no doubt — but a useless gimmick.  It’s an ungainly portable web-browser.  As portable web-browsers go, a smartphone seems the better choice — same speedy web-browsing capability (plus the ability to send text messages and receive calls!) in a nice little handheld package.

The other reason I shy away from Apple is, well, for the same reason I avoided the Kindle.  Any platform that prohibitively tries to limit what content I can and cannot access isn’t the platform for me.

Yeah . . . me and blogging, two great tastes that don’t taste great together.

I don’t know why, but I don’t do so well at blogging.  One would think, because I adore writing, it wouldn’t be a problem.  I mean, I keep running journals both in Word and Google Docs (as well as handwritten entries in various notebooks around the house.  I regularly jot down short stories, character sketches, poetry, or just jive on random ideas.

But somehow, when faced with the little blog entry box, I can never think of what to say.

Part of it is that friends and family have read other blogs of mine in the past and been offended.  The common wisdom is that, to be a writer, you can’t worry about offending people.  That’s probably true, and by and large I’m not worried about offending random people.

I’m worried about offending my family.  I adore them, but in nearly every aspect of spiritual, political and practical belief, we wildly differ.  Somehow I ended up an atheist/moderate-liberal-democrat person.  Somehow I ended up in a place where I see no difference between smoking or eating chocolate, because we all die in the end anyway — it’s personal choice as to what your indulgences are.

Somehow, I ended up miles away from where my family is, and while we’re still friendly and respectful, it does get . . . titchy when either of us start actually expressing our close-held philosophies.

So I don’t like writing in blogs, because I’m terrified that a casual, tossed out sentence on one of my positions will instigate an awkward discussion where both parties air their beliefs and we end up agreeing to disagree anyway.

That’s why I haven’t written in ages and ages and ages.  That, plus some heavy emotional crap was going down in my personal life, and I did not want to share it with anyone.

So what else has gone down since my last half-assed blog entry?  Well . . .

January


I turned 30.  We had a massive birthday bash and I became embarrassingly intoxicated.  Never.  Again.

The weather was also unusually nice, so I went on a few motorcycle rides.

I also volunteered at the Writing Center some more.

February


The Kidling turned 8.  We made him a birthday cake that looked like the Halo Pelican ship, and he had a for-real birthday party with kids I’d never met (friends from school), random games and other stuff.

The weather continued to be unseasonally awesome, so I went on more motorcycle rides.

I continued to volunteer at the Writing Center.

March


I finished my last class at the college and graduated (in all but ceremony).  I received my diploma in the mail, and it’s very cool.

I’m still volunteering at the Writing Center.

April


J.L. and I ‘celebrated’ our 9 year wedding anniversary.  I finally got my Nook, which is piles of awesome wrapped inside a fantabulous e-reader of joy.

I’m still volunteering at the Writing Center.  I also obtained a position with the Census.

May


Volunteering at the Writing Center, working for the Census.  The Kidling was suspended from school for 4 days for a spurious, stupid reason.  Well, not entirely stupid, but 4 days was a bit much.  Half a day, or a day and half would have been more than adequate.  I was suspended for 3 days in High School once, and I kicked a freaking teacher for absolutely no reason.

Kidling’s offense was nowhere near that, and he gets 4 days — the final day being (coincidentally) on the field trip that his teacher (who constantly complains about his high energy) had “forgotten” to send the permission slip home for, despite repeated requests?  Yeah, I’m buying it.  Interesting that he was suspended the day after I went to the school office, signed the permission slip, and handed in the field trip money.

Also, he was suspended from riding the bus for 5 days.  A kid has been teasing him all year on the bus, calling him names and whatnot.  Kidling has done all the recommended tactics: moving to a different seat, concentrating on his book, etc.  He keeps getting in trouble for moving on the bus b/c he’s trying to get away from this kid (the red-shirt kid, I call him).

Anyway, he snapped and punched the kid in the arm, then whacked him in the face with his lunchbag.  So he’s suspended for 5 days.

On the one hand, I don’t think violence is the way to solve problems, and the suspension is deserved.  On the other hand, what did they expect to happen when they not only ignore bullying, but actually punish the victim when he tries to move away from the bully?

June


Nothing much yet.  The Writing Center is closed right now; finished my last day of volunteering last week.  I’ve turned in a bunch of resumes and am continuing to look for steady work, hoping I get a job before the Census projects end.

I have a graduation ceremony on Friday.  J.L.’s taken two days off work to celebrate and spend time with Kidling and I.  As far as I’m aware, no other family members are attending.  I’ll probably send out a FB invite or something, but I’m not expecting much of a showing.

College means different things to different people, and although this is insanely important to me, I’ve kind of played it cool with various family members.  I mean, some people kind of look down on college in general, and other people look down on Community Colleges — either way, it was safest to represent it as something insignifant rather than major.