Ben Crowder

Archive: January 2008

Flash mob for a prophet

From the LDS Newsroom via NorthTemple: A flash mob of teenagers wore Sunday dress to school on Monday in honor of President Hinckley.

Preparing for school on Monday morning took a different turn for thousands of teenage Mormon students who, some 12 hours earlier, had learned of the death of their Church president, Gordon B. Hinckley. The students responded to a flood of text messages from teens in at least six states, suggesting they arrive at school in their “Sunday best,” rather than their accustomed jeans or other casual clothes, as a symbol of respect and honor to their deceased leader.

I knew there’d been a lot of texting going on, but I hadn’t heard about this. Very cool. (And it’s also very cool that the Church newsroom would even cover this. Times are definitely changing. :))

Of stopwatches and unicycles

So, I have a small paper due tomorrow. Until this evening, I hadn’t done anything about it — I figured I’d just put it off until there was no longer any more off to put. That’s what I usually do.

But somehow, miraculously, the planets aligned and tonight I ended up getting the paper done. A full day early. (Yes, this means the end of the world is nigh, so tie up whatever loose ends you’ve got in your life. I’m giving us a few weeks at most. :P)

The most interesting part is how darn good it feels to get stuff done — especially early. Why don’t I do this more often? (With schoolwork, that is.) What kind of benefit do I get from procrastination? None, really. Or at least none that I can think of at the moment. All I get is yet another “undone” tag stuffed into my head, taking up precious brain RAM, and a dollop of stress that grows as each deadline nears. It’s not worth it.

This will be the semester where I try an experiment: doing work early, all term long. I’ve “tried” this before but it’s never lasted very long. I always have a plethora of beautiful excuses — my art, my writing, other projects, you name it — and those are good things, but I feel so much more at one with myself and the universe (which puts me in a better position to do those good things) when I put first things first.

Yes, that’s it: it’s all about balance and doing the important things before the not-so-important things. Something inside me can tell when I’m off-kilter. That same something can also tell when I get back in line, and boy does it feel good.

I’m starting to write a mission statement for myself — more as a constant reminder than anything else, to help me avoid slacking off — and I can already tell that balance is going to be a biggie. It matters.

Season for hymns

Earlier today I came across an interesting post on the Mormon Artists Group blog:

What will the hymnal of 2043 be like? If the evolution of our hymnbook is any indicator, the 2043 book will have many new voices…. Hymnals are a reflection of the church’s population. They contain the creative ideas of average church members elevated through the arts of music and literature but made sacred by their prominent use in our worship…. With that trajectory, won’t the 2043 hymnal include melodies from Argentina, Samoa, Russia, and Nigeria too? Won’t the Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer, Sibelius, and Vaughn Williams scores be joined by the world’s greatest modern composers? Will Stravinsky, Copland, Britten, Bernstein, and Messiaen appear? The pattern of our history says yes. I, for one, welcome the idea that my children (who will be merely my age in 2043) will sing the testimonies of people whose landscapes were starkly different from Mormon pioneers of the American West. I want them to sing the hymns of African, South American, and Asian LDS songwriters. I fully expect them to sing harmonies and rhythms that would have sounded completely wrong to my grandparents. We call that inclusion. It is the anthem of progress.

A very good question. Down in the comments, Dan Carter (who has typeset hymns for the Church for the last twenty years, and yes, I want his job ;)) has a good counterbalance explaining why such a hymnbook is unlikely.

Thoughts?

Speaking of hymns, by the way, the annual Church music submissions are due March 31, so if you’re itching to send something in, now’s the time to get on that. The last time (er, the only time :)) I submitted something was in 2005. But this year, I’m definitely going to write something, so help me. Both in the general music category and in the hymn text category, in fact.

(On the same note, the Daily Universe ran a story about the Church music festival not too long ago, along with a piece on two BYU students who write hymns.)

Anyway, let the hymnwriting begin…

One note at a time

I used to compose music a lot back in 2000 and 2001. (Well, by “a lot” I mean more than I’m composing now. :)) But since then I’ve written hardly anything.

It’s not that I haven’t tried. I’ve got dozens of false starts — four or five measures of piano music here, the beginnings of a song there — but only a single finished piece since 2002.

I’m still not sure why I’ve got this musician’s block (figuring that out is one of my smaller resolutions for this year), but the excuse I’m using :) is that I don’t have a piano in my apartment. And yet I do have GarageBand on my Mac, and it’s totally possible to compose using the keyboard feature (at least according to Patrick Stump), so I don’t know what’s stopping me. Real artists don’t let tool limitations keep them from creating.

As for what I want to write, my compositional tastes seem to gravitate towards musicals, religious music, and orchestral/soundtrack/classical. I think I need to start analyzing songs and pieces of music I admire, picking them apart and seeing what makes them tick. And I want to brush up on my music theory. I love music theory. :)

Anyway, whatever hangup I’ve got, this year it’s going to go bye-bye, the same way I bid adieu last year to my inhibitions about writing a novel. All it takes is one chink to open the way to victory.

We thank thee for a prophet

President Hinckley died an hour or two ago.

So far I haven’t been able to verify it, but it’s all over the place (it brought down my cell phone network at least three times in the last half-hour), and apparently it was on Channel 4 here in Provo. Deseret News’s website is getting pounded, though — I’ve been waiting for five minutes for it to load and still all I get is a blank page with the little rotating thingie. But googling “Gordon Hinckley dies” brings up a Deseret News article and a Salt Lake Tribune article. So it’s real.

Darn. He was my prophet, for the last thirteen years. I found out during our ward prayer, when two of my friends walked out halfway through saying they’d gotten a text that he’d died. Everyone else got a flurry of texts after that, and the girl next to me said it had been on Channel 4 earlier. At first I thought it was a joke — sure, Pres. Hinckley died, right. He’s immortal, silly. But then the corroborating evidence piled in and a shockwave hit me. Dead. He’s dead. My prophet is dead. I mean, sure, there’ll be another one, and President Monson will do a smashing job, but this is the first time I’ve been old enough to really care when the prophet died.

And yet I’m happy for him. He’s back with his wife again — that’s what matters.

It’s still hard to believe. I knew this day would come, but wow. What a way to dampen a day. But it really is a bittersweet kind of feeling — it’s weird but it’s right. He was 97, after all.

Dang.

Goose girl

Last night I finished Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl, and wow, it’s good. Spun into a novel from the Grimms’ fairy tale of the same name, Goose Girl easily pulled me into its world, coaxing me with a love potion that’s got me head over heels for its characters and its story. This book is so well done. It’s beautifully written, the magic is delightfully plausible, and it perfectly captures the fairy tale feel. I love this book.

And the fact that Shannon is LDS is icing on the cake. Is it just me, or is there a new, rising generation of LDS authors — Hale, Brandon Sanderson, etc. — who all seem to be writing primarily science fiction/fantasy for general audiences? It’s almost as if they’re Orson Scott Card’s literary children, so to speak. Not meaning that they necessarily write like him — just that they’re LDS and do sci-fi/fantasy. (Which does makes perfect sense, at least to me. Card’s got a great essay in Storyteller in Zion which talks about Mormonism and science fiction being intertwined.)

Speaking of Orson Scott Card, I’ve already blocked out Feb. 14-16 for this year’s Life, the Universe & Everything conference, at which both Card and Gail Carson Levine (of Ella Enchanted fame, and no, she’s not LDS) will be present, along with Brandon Sanderson and a dozen or two others. It’ll be good. Geeky, too, but good. ;)

Hire me, or the terrorists win!

  1. Tonight I tried out speed dating for the first time. (It was a ward activity.) Holy smokes, I loved it! I love getting to know people and making new friends, and I love talking (perhaps too much, but to my credit I also love listening, though anyone who knows me would have a hard time believing that :P). Five minutes per girl, roughly, which ended up being 20 or so girls. (For the first half there were more girls than guys, so at one point I was talking with six girls at once. While it was rather fun, I can see why polygamy died out. :P) I’ve noticed something interesting, by the way: going on dates usually makes me want to go on more.

  2. Today’s Non Sequitur is awesome:

Non Sequitur (1.25.08)
  1. I used to use del.icio.us a lot, but six months ago I somehow stopped, and I don’t know why. I mean, I use my home computer and my work computer and I often use lab computers, and it’s a pain not having a central location for bookmarks. (Yes, I’ve been re-googling everything when I need to get to it. Talk about a waste of time.) So I’ve reinstalled the bookmarklets and plan to get back into the groove.

  2. There’s a cool 1971 BBC radio interview with J.R.R. Tolkien on YouTube.

Ten points to whoever can find a connection between all four of these. (And no, there isn’t one. At least not that I’m aware of.)

Head to head

Wow. This is awesome. Like, mind-bogglingly cool. It’s Johnny Lee’s hack for the Wii that uses the remote’s infrared camera to do head tracking (thanks to NorthTemple for the link).

Wii Head Tracking

Holy smokes. Sure, it only works for the person wearing the glasses, but still. I got goosebumps watching it.

Not only that, but Johnny’s got two other projects — a low-cost whiteboard (brilliant!) and finger tracking ala Minority Report. And on his academics page, you can check out his video on foldable interactive displays.

Why am I not doing HCI? :)

Writing implement of choice

Today I saw a blog post on writing a book in Google Docs. Interesting. One of the things that stuck out to me was the <div> hack to rein in the line lengths — that’s one of the things that has bothered me about Google Docs, and yet somehow I never thought to just edit the HTML. It’s brilliant.

In general, though, I write in a text editor — TextMate if I’m on my Mac, Wordpad if I’m on Windows, Vim if I’m on Linux. I can’t use anything too bulky or too slow, anything that gets in the way. And so text editors are the way to go. While I do think I’ll start making backups of my writing in Google Docs (right now I backup to my personal wiki, which also works, but redundancy is a very good thing), I don’t really see myself doing the actual writing there. Still too much of a barrier. (Yeah, I’m weird. ;))

Anyway, I’ve mentioned this at least twice before, but I really, really, really love writing in lightweight text editors. It makes me happy. Not only is it fast, but it’s portable — pretty much every computer on earth has at least a text editor.

But today in the lunch line I used a more portable system: the notebook. (Paper, that is. :)) I was standing there mulling over this new play I’m writing (and I finally snagged an idea last night and have some direction with it), when I realized that nothing was stopping me from drafting a page or two of dialogue while I was there. So I did. And it was great. I love being a writer. :)

Hmm, I’m not sure if this post is worth posting — my brain shut down around five o’clock this afternoon — but whatever. I’ll have a review of Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl up in a day or two when I finish reading it.

Area eccentric reads entire book

From Fire & Knowledge, this lovely article from The Onion, headlined Area Eccentric Reads Entire Book:

Sitting in a quiet downtown diner, local hospital administrator Philip Meyer looks as normal and well-adjusted as can be. Yet, there’s more to this 27-year-old than first meets the eye: Meyer has recently finished reading a book. Even outdoors, Meyer can’t seem to think of anything better to do than flip through some American classic. Yes, the whole thing. “It was great,” said the peculiar Indiana native, who, despite owning a television set and having an active social life, read every single page of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee…. Meyer, who never once jumped ahead to see what would happen and avoided skimming large passages of text in search of pictures, first began his oddball feat a week ago. Three days later, the eccentric Midwesterner was still at it, completing chapter after chapter, seemingly of his own free will. “The whole thing was really engrossing,” said Meyer, referring not to a movie, video game, or competitive sports match, but rather a full-length, 288-page novel filled entirely with words. “There were days when I had a hard time putting it down.”

I’m LOLing. :)

The office

Today I came across Shaun Body’s article, My Publicly Funded Office (Thanks to Scott for the link):

Whenever I want to get serious work done, I take a 5-minute drive to my office. Once I’m there, I immediately shift into “working mode” — I knuckle down and accomplish whatever needs to get done quickly, often in under half the time it would take to accomplish the same task at home. Although this may be the primary reason I take advantage of my office, it’s certainly not the only reason. Other luxuries of my office include: free access to books, free access to newspaper and magazine collections, free computer and internet access, and free movie rentals. Furthermore, my office is filled with an entire staff of personal assistants — all of whom will try to help answer any question I need answered, or assist me with any problem I need resolved. Best of all, I don’t pay huge operating costs for my office — it costs less than one dollar a day to run it year round. If you’re jealous of my office, don’t be. You already have access to your own publicly funded office exactly like mine. This is because “my office” is my local public library.

That’s what I’m talking about. :) And as I’ve mentioned before, I’m becoming more and more enamored of the idea of forging my own career the way I want it to be — unshackled, doing what I love, living a fulfilled life instead of running around like a lab rat. I still waver back and forth between the solid security of having an employer (oh, wait, is it solid? :P) and the blessed freedom of doing things my way.

And what is my way? None of this is set in stone yet, of course, but I think my dream basically is this: to make books. I want to write books — lots of them. I want to design books — both classics and work from new authors. I want to illustrate books. I want to spend my days talking about books, breathing books, living the book life.

Common sense tries to stop me, but it’s losing its strength. Besides, I can’t describe in words how giddy and excited I get when I think about doing books for a living. It’s what I was born for.

How do libraries fit into that? I don’t know — like I said, I still have no idea how this is all going to pan out, so for now I’m content to stay with my job and finish my master’s. I might end up doing both libraries and my own thing. Or maybe I’ll stay in the library for a few years and then go off on my own. I don’t know. And it’s kind of exciting not to know. (Whoa, did I really just say that? :P)

Games people play

I was wrong. All along I’ve thought that being open/honest and not playing games were the same thing. But they’re not, I’ve found. (And yes, I know, this’ll be painfully obvious for most people. Bear with me. ;))

You see, playing games means pretending not to be interested when you are, if only so that the other person will be more interested, and other such nonsense. I’m still adamantly against this. It oozes out of novels, and that’s exactly where it should stay — with no leakage into real life.

Openness, on the other hand, is different. I used to think straight-up honesty (telling all your feelings, that is) was best, and I was right, but I was also wrong. Openness is best after you’ve already built a foundation. But not before.

In an ideal world, of course, openness would be a mere exchange of information as to the current state of one’s feelings — like a report on the weather. “I like you.” “I kind of like you, but I’m kind of not sure yet, so let’s hold off on making a decision for now.” “I don’t like you.” “Please drop off the face of the planet.” Matter-of-fact expressions of how you’re feeling, that sort of thing.

There’s a kink in this plan, however, and it’s one that I didn’t realize until recent conversations with some female friends about all this. (And here all along you thought I was making all of this stuff up right out of my little ol’ head. ;))

It’s called the observer’s paradox.

You see, expressing interest actually does alter things, either for better or for worse. It masquerades as a simple query for information — “I like you; do you like me?” — but by virtue of its very existence it warps the space-time continuum and who knows what’s going to happen after that.

(Yeah, I think I’m having a little too much fun with this. :P)

So anyway, why does it change the course of events? It’s because language is too powerful. It’s too intense, like looking straight into the sun. Language is alive.

Actions, on the other hand, are more subtle and not quite so scary. (I’m talking about things like flirting and continuing to ask someone out (or continuing to say yes), not flat-out kissing someone or anything else like that.) I still don’t understand all the ramifications of this, but it makes sense, and it fits with my own observations. This is science, folks. ;)

And so, with a QED chalked up on the blackboard of experience, I’ve learned this lesson: don’t open the oven. Or your mouth. It’s the whole show-don’t-tell thing. Exposition is the bane of so many existences I can hardly count them all.

Yes, information is good. Yes, it’s nice to know for sure whether someone’s sending you signs or not. Yes, you risk less if you already know the other person is interested. But straight-up asking someone isn’t the kosher way to do this. It breaks the rules — and not the rules of the game, because this isn’t a game. It’s just the way things are.

A time for introspection

This morning I was reading in the Joseph Smith manual (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church), and it just struck me that Joseph was only 23 years old when he started translating the Book of Mormon. Twenty-three! Somehow I always forget that, and in my mind I superimpose the 38-year-old Joseph onto those events. After all, it’s easier to imagine a grown man translating something like that. But that’s not what happened.

Beyond that, Joseph was only 24 when he organized the Church. Heck, I’m twenty-four. What have I done with my life?

Which reminds me of something Dean Hughes said at a reading yesterday on campus. Rather than butcher what he said by attempting a paraphrase, I’ll just recast it like this: When we get to the next life, the Savior isn’t going to care whether we were a writer or a doctor or whatever. He’s going to ask if we were kind, if we were meek, if we were selfless. It’s not so much what we did — it’s more about who we became.

With this bubbling around at the back of my mind, I was sitting in the temple earlier this morning, and I realized that somewhere along the last couple of years, my priorities have gotten a little skewed. Some of the more important things have had to step down and take a seat a few rows back while on the front row I’ve entertained what I in my foolishness thought took precedence.

This isn’t to say that those things were bad. They’re good, worthwhile things. But not when they swell to fill space that ought to have been dedicated and consecrated for better things.

You’d think I would have realized this while listening to Elder Oaks’ good/better/best talk in general conference. Alas, epiphanies seem to work on their own timetable, and it’s taken this long for mine to come together. But I’m glad it came.

On the walk home, I continued thinking about all of this, of course, and the burning question was how I actually go about changing myself. I can use up a lot of air saying I want to be a better person, but there’s a huge gap between just talking about it and actually doing something. Lots of somethings, even.

While I can’t say I have a definite answer yet, what I’ve come up with so far is this: action items and daily reviews. Yes, it’s a process. Yes, it’s mechanical and artificial. I’d prefer something more organic, frankly, but I’m finding that it often takes something mechanical to get to that point.

For the action items I’m thinking along the lines of David Allen’s “next actions” in GTD — the next step I need to take to make progress in that area. It has to be a verb, something I can actually do — not just vague, fluffy, abstract concepts and ideals. Being more kind is not a concrete action; washing the dishes for my roommates is.

When I get inspiration on how I can become a better person, I always write those things down in my journal, since I know I’ll forget them if I don’t. But I’m finding that I never do go back and review what I’ve written, which makes the exercise pointless except as a matter of historical note. And while I do care about my history, I’m more interested in my future.

To get there, I’m thinking I’ll start a new “improvement notebook.” In it I’ll record all of these things I know I need to work on. But that’s not enough. And so each morning I’ll review it (along with those New Year’s resolutions :)) so that I remember. It’s all about remembering. If you’ve got a perfect memory, great. I don’t. I’ll probably also start a weekly review — an hour or so, maybe on Sundays — where I can take a deep breath and look at how I did that past week.

Reviews and notebooks do give the impression of trappings, of things we do to do what we really want. But since without them I’m not making the progress I want to make, I’m willing to use them. After all, I don’t want to show up in the next life only to find that I totally missed the boat to heaven and instead get myself dumped onto Charon’s ferry. :P

Shapes

I’m not sure what’s going to happen with the drawing thing, but here’s a piece I put together in Photoshop this morning since I had a craving to make some art:

Shapes

More later once I get caught up.

Library of Congress on Flickr

The Library of Congress is now on Flickr. (Thanks to NorthTemple.com for the heads-up.)

Library of Congress on Flickr

Not the whole thing, of course, but they have uploaded around 3,000 public domain images. Why? They explain:

We invite you to tag and comment on the photos, and we also welcome identifying information—many of these old photos came to us with scanty descriptions! We are offering two sets of digitized photos: the 1,600 color images from the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information and about 1,500 images from the George Grantham Bain News Service. Why these photos? They have long been popular with visitors to the Library; they have no known restrictions on publication or distribution, and they have high resolution scans. We look forward to learning what kinds of tags and comments these images inspire.

Very, very cool. This is the kind of thing libraries and archives need to start doing — crowdsourcing. Sure, it’s not as sure-fire as doing it in-house, but let’s face it: most libraries and archives are low on budget and high on backlog. Why not open description up to the public? I don’t really see any conflict, even from the accuracy/authority viewpoint, because all you have to do is make it clear what’s “official” and what’s user-generated. Simple.

Yes, user-generated data will probably not be perfect, but that doesn’t take away from the rest of its usefulness. And yet I think librarians and archivists have often looked down their noses at ideas like this, mainly because job security starts to flicker and — in their minds — vanish. But to me, this is where it really begins. It’s exciting.

Now if I can just get my library on Flickr…

Birds in my browser

I came across A.viary not too long ago, and I just have to say that if it ends up done well, dang, it’s going to be sweet. Image editor (ala Photoshop), vector editor (ala Illustrator) pattern generator, 3d modeller (hmm, I wonder if we’ll ever see Blender in a browser…), audio editor, video editor, word processor, desktop publisher (ala InDesign), you name it. Heck, they’ve even got a font editor. (For the last year or two I’ve been hoping somebody would write one. I’m giddy.)

Now, I’m still a bit dubious about all of this — how useful will they really be? — but I have no problem with moving more of the software I use to the web. It’s more convenient. Yes, I’m then tied to the Internet and whether their server is up, but it’s so nice to be able to work from anywhere. For myself, at least, I envision a happy hybrid workflow mixing both desktop software and web software, with the latter gaining market share in my life over time.

Letting go

Isn’t it funny how we forget things so easily? Just a month ago I wrote about trusting in God, then promptly forgot pretty much everything I’d said in that post and returned to my crowded nest of worries. Over the last week, though, after stewing about on inadequacies both real and imagined, I’ve realized once more that I have to just place my trust in the Lord.

Now, there are some things I can do pretty well on my own. (Or at least what I assume is on my own; perhaps his hand has more a part in it than I realize.)

But then there are the things I think I can do but actually can’t, and the things I know I can’t do on my own. It’s maddeningly frustrating to be incapable of doing something, especially something which ought to be so simple, so easy. Makes me want to tear my hair out. (But then where would I be? I’m not as ready to go bald as I thought. :P)

After I buzz about in frantic worry long enough to wear the carpet down to the floorboards, though, the feeling changes. It deepens, expanding into a vise-like weight that pushes me down to my knees and wrings my soul raw. All I can do is watch my pride drip away, far below. I’m left quivering and vulnerable.

And it’s then that the second change happens. I surrender. I let go my obsessive grip on my future — what I think is my future, at any rate, with all its incomplete and skewed data that makes it worth nowhere near what I appraise it at — and I calm down into a peaceful quietness that fills my soul. “It’s okay” is the murmur that sounds in the corners of my heart. I don’t have to worry any more. Someone else is taking care of that for me.

Sometimes it’s then that I find my abilities have jumped up a level or two, and suddenly I can do the thing I couldn’t do before. But more often I’m left where I was before — nothing’s changed, really.

Except me. In giving myself up to God, trusting in his promises, I grow. Those forces tug on me and enlarge my soul, and then they start replacing bits and pieces of the old me with a new, refined, more God-like me. I may still be in the same boat I was before, but I’ve got new eyes that bring the surrounding sea into sharper and more vivid clarity. It makes a difference. Or at least it does if I let it.

It’s a process that takes a lifetime, of course. It hurts. But it hurts in a good way. C.S. Lewis said it so much better than me:

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurt abominably and does not seem to make sense. What oil earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of-throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.

Snowstorm

Writing one play wasn’t enough. Two weeks ago I got a hankering to submit something to the New Play Project’s Eccentricities playfest (the deadline was the 11th), and so I wrote a play called Snowstorm (a comedy about five people stuck in a middle-of-nowhere motel during a blizzard) and sent it in before I left for Vegas.

And it got accepted. :) It’s one of a handful of plays (either nine or seven, I can’t quite tell), and the performances will be February 29 and March 1, though I’m not sure where yet. More details later.

If anyone’s interested in acting or directing any of the plays, here’s the call for auditions I got in my inbox last night:

[Auditions] will be held Tuesday, Jan 22 from 7-9 pm and Wednesday, Jan 23 from 3-5 pm in the Harris Fine Arts Center on BYU campus, exact room TBA. Check the website this weekend for details. Performances will be Feb 29 and March 1. You don’t need to prepare anything for auditions, just plan on attending either day for around 30 minutes to do two to three cold readings from the scripts. We also still have slots available for applicants to direct or assistant direct as well as dramaturgy and technical positions.

The Facebook event for the auditions says, “We’ve got 24 roles available for our upcoming show, ‘Eccentricities.’ Each role will rehearse an estimated 2-4 hours per week.” So there are plenty of opportunities.

Anyway, I’ll be revising the play over the next few weeks, and I’m also starting work on a play for the NPP Lost & Found playfest. Beyond that, I’m slowly drafting my Amor Libris book, and in the near future I’ll start to revising Out of Time into something readable. If only I had more time…

(I’m still behind on everything, by the way, but I’ll be responding to y’all’s comments and e-mails by the end of the week.)

MacWorld 2008

Can I just say that MacWorld Expo is one of my favorite events each year? It’s like Christmas and my birthday all rolled into one. (The embarrassing thing, though, is that I forgot it was today until I saw M’s post. Shame on me.)

Time Capsule looks pretty sweet, particularly the wireless bit. I have a feeling I’ll be saving up for one in the near future. (No more cords and cables!)

The iPhone stuff is cool but not all that exciting. Can’t wait till the prices come down enough that I can afford one, though.

I don’t watch enough movies to justify a NetFlix subscription, so the iTunes movie rentals will be nice for the once-in-a-whiles. (Especially if they get a really wide selection.) I am slightly confused about the rules — “You have 30 days to start watching it, and once you start you have 24 hours to watch and finish it. As many times as you want.” What happens if you don’t finish it within 24 hours? The first bit sounds like you’re out of luck, but then the “as many times as you want” seems to contradict it. Anyway, I’ve updated iTunes and I’m checking out Breakfast at Tiffany’s to see how well the system works.

Smart move with the Apple TV renting HD movies. It almost makes me want to get one and start watching more movies. Oh, wait, I don’t have an HD TV. :) The new UI does look pretty darn nice, though.

If I had lots of money, I would totally get both a Macbook Air (oh, gosh, they’re beautiful!) and one of the new 8-core Mac Pros. Match made in heaven, baby. And they’ve already got 64 gig SSD hard drives? Wow. Goodbye, moveable parts. And the Air is soooooo thin. Mmm. Mmm. Thou shalt not covet, Ben, thou shalt not covet.

Anyway, Apple’s not perfect, sure, but I love ’em. :)

Home sweet home

I got home from Vegas about half an hour ago, and mmm, it’s good to be back. I wish I had all sorts of juicy stories to tell — getting mugged in an alleyway behind Bellagio, scaling the outer walls of Caesar’s Palace with suction cups and rappelling back down again, or excavating the tombs inside the Luxor — but instead I spent all day each day learning about metadata and databases and organizing information. Not quite the same thing, I’m afraid. (Which is why I have an imagination. In fact, on the ride home I found myself trying to bluescreen out the dry and dusty desert into something a little more green and palatable to my water-thirsty senses. It takes a lot of effort. :P)

Really, though, it was a fun little adventure. And yet the ironic thing is that the highlight was simply spending time with my friends in the program — and I could have done that anywhere. Small pleasures. That’s the key to happiness.

Anyway, I’m behind on everything. Deadlines seem to gravitate towards each other, like filings chasing a magnet, and I’ve got a pile of them in my hands right now, so it’ll probably be a few more days before I get things sorted out and recover stasis. And because the motel pillows were a little on the awkward side, sleep deprivation is pulling me away from my keyboard and into a near-comatose stupor. Time for bed.

One last thing. Sitting in a car for six hours, especially after sitting in class for eight hours a day all weekend long, is a bit hard on one’s seat and legs. It’s times like these that I wish I could unscrew the bottom half of my body from my torso and stash it in the trunk until I arrive at my destination. (And put it back together again afterwards, of course. That’s the most important part.)

After inbox zero

So I’m sitting here at a lab in the UNLV Lied Library, waiting for my advising appointment (which luckily got bumped up an hour — underpromise and overdeliver is definitely the way to go to make people happy). I’ll post about Vegas after I get back, though.

In the meantime, hmm…what to blog about? After doing so well with inbox zero, it’s rough going back to having 39 e-mails in my inbox and 440 unread items in Google Reader. I was doing so well! Monday or Tuesday I’ll get back into the groove, of course.

Or will I? Over the past few days before I left for Vegas, I got to wondering if inbox zero is all it’s made out to be. Yes, it was nice to be decluttered. Yes, it was nice to have nothing in my inbox. Yes, it helped me get stuff done on time.

But on the flip side, I was checking my e-mail a billion times a day. (Before that, it was only a million or two.) Obsessive is about the only word to describe it. It was too much.

And it takes a somewhat large investment of time each day to keep up with an inbox — an hour at the least. Maybe it’s worth it; maybe it’s not. I don’t know. It was constantly on my mind — it’s odd for emptiness to be so heavy — and did indeed feel like a bit of a burden.

And yet on the flip side of the flip side, it’s nice to be on top of things, and I really do love corresponding with people. And I didn’t have to worry that there were important e-mails five pages into Gmail that I’d forgotten about four weeks before.

I’m guessing there’s a beautiful balance somewhere in there, but I don’t really know where. I could say that I’ll reply to everything within a week, but that almost ends up being the same thing, but a week later. (Sure, it’s slightly different, but not by much.)

Or I could only reply to certain types of e-mails within that short time frame.

Or I could go Luddite and dwell incommunicado in the Andes.

Or…I don’t know. I’m leaning towards just sticking with inbox zero after all, since it is more polite, and training myself to only check e-mail a few times a day (and reply to it maybe twice a day), and just dealing with the burden. (Hold on. If I’m corresponding with any of you, I should say that by “burden” I don’t mean what you think I mean. :) It’s only as a mass that they become heavy. But I’m digging myself into a hole here. :P)

Anyway, I’m really tired — over and out.

In danger of falling apart

I’m reading Lewis Thomas’s The Medusa and the Snail, and the other day I came across his brilliant essay entitled “The Health-Care System”:

As a people, we have become obsessed with Health. There is something fundamentally, radically unhealthy about all this. We do not seem to be seeking more exuberance in living as much as staving off failure, putting off dying. We have lost all confidence in the human body. The new consensus is that we are badly designed, intrinsically fallible, vulnerable to a host of hostile influences inside and around us, and only precariously alive. We live in danger of falling apart at any moment, and are therefore always in need of surveillance and propping up. Without the professional attention of a health-care system, we would fall in our tracks. This is a new way of looking at things, and perhaps it can only be accounted for as a manifestation of spontaneous, undirected, societal propaganda. We keep telling each other this sort of thing, and back it comes on television or in the weekly newsmagazines, confirming all the fears, instructing us, as in the usual final paragraph of the personal-advice columns in the daily paper, to “seek professional help.” Get a checkup. Go on a diet. Meditate. Jog. Have some surgery. Take two tablets, with water. Spring water. If pain persists, if anomie persists, if boredom persists, see your doctor…. We are, in real life, a reasonably healthy people. Far from being ineptly put together, we are amazingly tough, durable organisms, full of health, ready for most contingencies. The new danger to our well-being, if we continue to listen to all the talk, is in becoming a nation of healthy hypochondriacs, living gingerly, worrying ourselves half to death.

Amen!

(On a side note, I’m here in Vegas and just finished the first day of classes. It’s…well…boring. Probably mainly because I didn’t get much sleep last night. And sitting at a table for eight hours a day is just slightly conducive to daydreaming. But I’m a quarter of the way done! And I came up with an idea for my class project (a database) that I’m rather excited about, but more on that later. And I’d better stop this parenthetical barnacle because it’s already out of balance to this completely unrelated post. So far I haven’t had much time at all for the Internet, but I’ll try to keep up with e-mails and comments as best I can.)

The hand of Saruman

In the mythsoc digest that came through last night, there’s a fascinating article by Jef Murray as part of the January 2008 issue of his Mystical Realms newsletter:

In the Lord of the Rings, all of Hobbiton was paralyzed by Saruman and just a few dozen of the Big Folk. Why? Because, after a few killings, everyone became too fearful to fight. They shut their doors and tried to blot out the bad stuff. The good folks locked themselves in, and those who had consented to evil were free to do as they pleased. This is a whole lot of unpleasantness. Turning the other cheek is OK in theory, but if evil is real, and if we want to spare the “least of these” some of the vast suffering available for the dispensing, aren’t we obliged to kick up a fuss? C. S. Lewis thought so. In his essay “Why I am not a Pacifist,” he methodically lays out the moral need to resist evil. Thomas Aquinas, likewise, helped to define what a “just war” was. And if a saint says we should defend the innocent, who am I to argue?

That feels right. But at the same time, as Jef mentions, we’ve got Christ telling us to turn the other cheek, effectively advocating a policy of non-violence.

So, where’s the line? Is it a personal rule? (Meaning, is it okay to resist evil if the victim is someone else, but not yourself? Is the line a circle around you, with unacceptable resistance inside and acceptable resistance outside?)

Or is it a matter of degree? If someone’s trying to kill you, turning the other cheek may or may not be the best idea. (And of course it depends on the situation.) But now that I’ve said that, I’m thinking back to the people in the Book of Mormon who knelt down on the ground and let the Lamanites slay them.

Then again, I don’t think that necessarily counts. The reason they didn’t even try to fight was that (1) they’d already been a very bloodthirsty people and (2) because of that, they’d taken a vow of non-violence to atone for what they’d already done. Most of us aren’t bloodthirsty and won’t have taken a vow like that because there’s not much if anything to atone for (in that regard).

Besides, the history of the Saints is chock-full of us defending ourselves from attackers, whether in the Book of Mormon or at Haun’s Mill or pretty much anywhere there’s been a covenant people.

If Jesus really meant non-resistance, then that’s what we ought to do, of course. But somehow I have a hard time believing he wants us to just throw up our hands and give up, flinging the door wide open for evil to come slaughter us both physically and spiritually.

Believe it or not, what all of this boils down to is the nature of hope. J.R.R. Tolkien described the Catholic worldview as a “long defeat”. That is, the Christian believes that things will continue getting worse and worse here on planet earth until the final days. But, that doesn’t mean we can just hole up and wait things out. There are plenty of Sarumans still out there, plenty of Slubgobs and Screwtapes. And they may win a lot of skirmishes over the next months and years and even centuries, but they’ve already lost the war.

Quite true. Holing up is not an option.

I don’t know where the line is between turning the other cheek and defending yourself and your family (any thoughts?), but generally speaking, the Spirit will let us know if we’re in the wrong. Let’s just hope we’re still in tune enough to notice it.

A brief intermission

I’m leaving for Vegas tomorrow and won’t get back till late Monday night (I’ve got a master’s degree seminar thing all weekend), so the daily drawings will be on hold for now, but when I return I’ll post something for each day I was gone. (If I have time, I may even draw them while I’m there.) Anyway, adieu for the next few days. :)

Discovering downtown

I love downtowns. There’s something about them — something alive, something spine-tingling, something mysterious — that’s got me hooked. So many interesting things. So many intertwined lives and histories. And so many stories. You know, I think that in a way it’s the stories that giddify me. And cities, particularly downtown areas, are pregnant with ’em. Every alleyway has something to say.

Beyond that, though, there’s the feeling of exploration and discovery. Of course, it only lasts as long as there still remains an unknown, but even just a small bit of it is vastly satisfying. For example, I haven’t spent much time in downtown Provo, and so it’s mostly unknown and therefore mysterious and therefore even just the thought of Center Street gives me goosebumps. I’m a man of simple pleasures. :)

Anyway, I’ve got a master’s degree seminar in Vegas this weekend (I leave tomorrow and get back Monday night), and while Vegas isn’t exactly my favorite city in the world (why couldn’t this seminar be in London? ~wistful sigh~), the exploration factor has me excited. (No, no, not that kind of exploration. That’s why I detest the place. I’m talking about innocent venues.)

I think I’ll still have occasional Internet access, but my guess is that y’all will get lucky as this torrential deluge of blog posts from the top of the mountains slows down to a trickle for the weekend. Let the rejoicing begin. ;)

Drawing #9: Abstractica

I don’t know if this even counts as a drawing. I might just change my goal from posting one drawing a day to posting one drawing or painting a day. It’s looking like that’ll be the de facto rule before long, at any rate. :)

Drawing #9: Abstractica

Done in Photoshop by taking one of the default brushes and modifying the settings till I got what I wanted. I generally don’t care much for abstract pieces, but it was fun.

Rats in the cellar

On my walk down the hill from campus this afternoon, two girls were walking a few yards ahead of me. Suddenly the one on the right hit a patch of ice and kerplunked down on her tush. A choice and rather earthy expletive split the air, followed by a very embarrassed and repentant, “I mean, ‘crap’!”

Now, I don’t really care that she said it, and I wasn’t offended in the least (though her embarrassment was mildly contagious). I’m not judging her. Really.

With that disclaimer past us, then, some words from Mere Christianity came to mind as I continued my walk home:

Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding.

Food for thought. Makes me wonder where I think I’m doing well because the door to my cellar hasn’t been opened suddenly for a while. There’s definitely room for improvement. :)

Daily drawings

Just a quick report that my resolution to post a drawing a day on BenjaminCrowder.com is going well. Here are some of them:

Daily Drawings

They’re not all that good (really), but the important thing is that it’s getting me to make art and experiment with a bunch of different styles. And it’s amazingly fun. :)

Drawing #8: Museum

This one started out on an index card, then got photographed and redone in Photoshop:

Drawing #8: Museum

I think I ended up getting more towards painting than drawing here. I have a feeling that’s going to keep happening, too. :) Anyway, the door is too dark, and there isn’t enough contrast in the rest of the drawing, but it was fun. And that’s exactly what I’m finding: messing around with art is delightfully, giddily fun. I’m trying a variety of styles and almost each one is something I can work with later to make some real art. I’m also finding that I’m drawn towards illustration rather than realistic drawing. Interesting.

Drawing #7: Incognito

The title, “Incognito,” really has nothing to do with anything. I drew this on an index card, then photographed it and added the colors in Photoshop. I’m not sure if I ought to let myself keep coloring these, though — the point was to focus solely on the drawing. We’ll see. I can’t wait till February when I can paint. :)

Drawing #7: Incognito

I went for more of a rough look this time. And I have no idea what the thing in the middle is. Or why the sun’s puke blue. Oh well. :)

Leave the bulbs alone

I’ve been reading C.S. Lewis’s Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer lately, and I came across this passage which really spoke to me:

It seems to me that we often, almost sulkily, reject the good that God offers us because, at that moment, we expected some other good. Do you know what I mean? On every level of our life…we are always harking back to some occasion which seemed to us to reach perfection, setting that up as a norm, and depreciating all other occasions by comparison. But these other occasions, I now suspect, are often full of their own new blessing, if only we would lay ourselves open to it. God shows us a new facet of the glory, and we refuse to look at it because we’re still looking for the old one. And of course we don’t get that. You can’t, at the twentieth reading, get again the experience of reading Lycidas for the first time. But what you do get can be in its own way as good…. It would be rash to say that there is any prayer which God never grants. But the strongest candidate is the prayer we might express in the single word encore…. And the joke, or tragedy, of it all is that these golden moments in the past, which are so tormenting if we erect them into a norm, are entirely nourishing, wholesome, and enchanting if we are content to accept them for what they are, for memories. Properly bedded down in a past which we do not miserably try to conjure back, they will send up exquisite growths. Leave the bulbs alone, and the new flowers will come up. Grub them up and hope, by fondling and sniffing, to get last year’s blooms, and you will get nothing. “Unless a seed die…”

Thoughts? (I agree with Lewis, by the way. :))

Drawing #6: I Dream of Giza

Today’s is a total cop-out — I’m really trying to get to bed early (because I’m really tired), and I forgot about this until just now, so I quickly popped out this drawing and colored it in and now I’m foisting it on the public:

Drawing #6: I Dream of Giza

And no, I don’t know why I like to draw clouds so much. They’re easy? :)

The pursuit of happiness

The other day I came across a quote about happiness that I can’t get out of my head:

It has given me much of trouble, and a great amount of perseverance, to be happy under all circumstances. I have learned not to fret myself. It has taken me a great while to arrive at this point … I want the Saints to live in a way that they can feel happy all the time, and then we shall enjoy the Holy Spirit. (Jedediah M. Grant, Journal of Discourses, 3:11-12.)

Happy under all circumstances? Isn’t that a little too idealistic?

I don’t think that’s what Jedediah meant, though. Sure, there’s a time to mourn. A time to cry. A time for sorrow. He doesn’t mean we have to be bubbly and chipper every moment of every day. There are limits. ;)

But that’s not really the point. I could be wrong, but it seems to me like the happiness he’s talking about is the soul-deep joy that encompasses even our sorrows, infusing us with the strength we need to get through whatever trials come our way. It’s a quiet happiness. It’s soothing. It’s mature. It’s real. And it’s even realistic — it doesn’t ignore the bad things in life, but it shines its light upon them and transforms them from bogeymen into something we can deal with. It’s beautiful and poignant.

Too many of us, however, live far beneath our privileges too much of the time. One of those privileges is happiness. After all, men are, that they might have joy. Why are we settling for anything less? Sometimes I think our “thy will be done” attitude renders us a little too complacent, to the point where we completely deflate ourselves and think that whatever happens to us must be the will of God, of course.

But that’s not the case.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not denying that God is omnipotent. He is. And he wants the best for us, even when that means sending us through the refiner’s fire.

And yet as far as I can tell, the last thing he wants us to do is just slouch back and let life happen to us. Ours is a God of activity, not passivity. Act, not acted upon.

Now, things do happen to us, of course. We can only control external events to a very limited degree; the rest is beyond our sphere of action, and every day of our lives we’ll have things happen that weren’t in our plan.

But just because we can’t control externalities doesn’t mean that the state of our heart and mind has to succumb to outside pressures. Each of us has a will. And that will, that self, is a whole lot more powerful than we realize. And God is okay with that.

That’s the point, after all: to become like him. Gods and goddesses and angels are beings of power and glory who move mountains and shake the heavens. Apathy just isn’t going to get us there, I’m afraid. God doesn’t want to remove our will — he wants to train it into a mighty force for good. He wants us to burn with that same power and glory that cloaks the celestials, because there’s a kingdom of God to build here on earth and a kingdom of heaven to populate when we pass on to better things.

A huge part of the training is, of course, learning to want the things that God wants. And God wants us to be happy. Do we?

Of course we do. We may cover it up with self-deceptions, we may try to bury it in the backyard of our mind, but deep down inside we all want to be happy. It’s part of who we are as humans and as children of God. It’s okay to want to be happy. We don’t need to apologize for it.

And, like Jedediah says, we really can be happy under all circumstances. It’s up to us. We do need the Lord’s help, yes. There’s no way that we can do it without his love and light pouring into us. It’s impossible without him.

But he’s not going to just give it to us. It’s part of that training, where we learn what it really means to be kings and queens, princes and princesses in the palaces of the Most High. If it only took a casual request in passing to get true happiness, we’d all end up brats. :P

No, we have to want it bad. We have to be willing to sweat for it, to sacrifice, to work our tails off until we come off conqueror. Joy comes at a price. In fact, I don’t think it could come any other way — part of the richness of happiness comes from the tears that precede it. The Himalayas of happiness are mere foothills unless you have a Mariana Trench (of misery? I don’t want to stretch this alliterative taffy so far that it breaks :)) to give you a point of comparison. Happiness only has meaning when there’s something out there that isn’t happiness.

Anyway, I know that I for one could stand to be happier. It’s not like I’m moping around the apartment in a cloud of depression all the time, but too often I settle for a pallid middle ground that isn’t bad but it really isn’t all that good, either. Happiness is a choice. Am I choosing?

Drawing #5: Canyon Antics

For this drawing I sketched out everything first on index cards, photographed them, then pulled them into Photoshop and traced them:

Drawing #5: Canyon Antics

We’ll pretend that the guys are supposed to be ghosts or something. :) And that the one on the right has really long limbs. If I had more time I would have stippled the rock textures, but instead I used a large brush, which unfortunately gave a very obvious repeated look. (I should have randomized the variation. Next time…)

Expanding literary horizons

Sometime in the past year I decided to compartmentalize my reading so that I wouldn’t spend all my time on fiction. Not that there’s anything wrong with fiction — I’m not avoiding fiction, but rather expanding to include other types of books. I do read nonfiction too, of course, just not as much as I’d like.

But that’s changing.

I went for a while without actually doing anything about it, but then yesterday I made up my mind to figure out a way to kick myself out of this slothful reading slumber. The solution (which seems to be working so far, though of course it’s only been a day so I could be totally wrong here :)) is threefold:

  1. The rule is that I can only read one book per category at a time. (But lest this cramp my style or throw off my free-reading groove, I’ve included a “Serendipity” category where this rule doesn’t exist, and where I can read whatever I want.)

  2. On my wiki, I’ve put together a list of the categories, along with what book I’m reading for each. And the next book in the queue, too. Here’s what it looks like:

Reading List

As you can see, I still haven’t chosen a book for the poetry category. (Nor have I gone through my to-read list yet to fill in all the next-book columns.)

  1. I’ve also made a reading log (PDF) which lets me see at a glance which areas I’m spending most of my time in:
Reading Log

I originally did this in my wiki as well, but I think a paper version will be easier to deal with.

Anyway, I’ve hesitated to try something like this lest it be too mechanical, artificial, and arbitrary, but so far it hasn’t felt like that. It’s more of a gentle nudge to read widely instead of narrowly. :)

Reservoirs of life

On page 70 of Stephen Covey’s The 8th Habit, I found a quote from Willam James that I’ve swiftly become a fan of:

Most people live in a very restricted circle of their potential being. We all have reservoirs of energy and genius to draw upon of which we do not dream.

In trying to find the source for this, I found that Covey had abridged the quotation. I also found that hardly anyone knows where the quote is found — one source said The Varieties of Religious Experience (wrong), another said it was from 1899, which would have been Talks to Teachers (also wrong), and finally, through Wikiquote, I discovered that it’s actually in a May 6, 1906 letter to W. Lutoslawski, published as part of the second volume of The Letters of William James, page 253 (with the last sentence coming two pages later). Here’s the full quote:

I have no doubt whatever that most people live, whether physically, intellectually, or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being. They make use of a very small portion of their possible consciousness, and of their soul’s resources in general, much like a man who, out of his whole bodily organism, should get into a habit of using only his little finger. Great emergencies and crises show us how much greater our vital resources are than we had supposed…. We all have reservoirs of life to draw upon, of which we do not dream.

Interestingly, Covey alters the last sentence (which is on page 255) to says “reservoirs of energy and genius” instead of “reservoirs of life.”

At any rate, I certainly agree with James, and I’m mainly wondering how to tap into those reservoirs and juice this life for all it’s worth. ;)

Drawing #3: Waiting

Today’s drawing, “Waiting,” is from a reference photo of a toy doll:

Drawing #3: Waiting

Blacking in the tie was a bad idea. And there are a number of other problems, too, but it still turned out better than I was expecting. It took about half an hour to pencil and then ink.

And I really need to get a scanner… :)

Veni, vidi, vicipaedia

Today is J.R.R. Tolkien’s birthday. He’d be 115 today, actually, which mainly makes me wonder why I wasn’t paying attention when his eleventy-first birthday happened back in 2005. ~sigh~

To verify the year, I went to Wikipedia’s Tolkien page. And then curiosity got the better of me and I thought I’d see what else happened on January 3 and who Tolkien shared a birthday with (Victor Borge, Mel Gibson, and Martin Galway were the only ones I recognized).

And then I saw something I’d never noticed before, but which made my heart do a little dance for joy: in the Languages sidebar on the left sat a quiet little link that read “Anglo Saxon.” No way, I thought.

Way.

Sure, there are only about a thousand content pages, and this is reconstructed Old English and not authentic, but wow, it’s still cool. Take the page for Nīwu Englisc sprǣc, for example. (That’s “English” for us moderners.) Lots of juicy Old English.

And of course I now started wondering what other languages Wikipedia has been translated into that don’t necessarily serve any purpose, whether because they’re dead or because they’re made up. There’s Latin (17,678 articles!), Sanskrit, Pali, Old Church Slavonic, Gothic, Klingon, and a heck of a lot of other ones. Oh, and Esperanto, but even though it’s a created language, I wouldn’t really say it fits into the same category as the rest of these. (See the List of Wikipedias page for the full list.)

So what? For me, being a full-fledged linguaphile, no explanation is necessary. Yes, many of these languages are dead. Yes, they are arcane. Yes, only weird people study them. :P

But Wikipedia’s sort of helping bring them back, even if it’s just one or two puffs of the breath of life. Each of these pages has the language being used, and that’s a beautiful thing. Whether Low Saxon or West Frisian or Irish or Scots Gaelic (you can see where my linguistic interests lie :), and no, not all of these languages are dead), it’s very, very cool to see freely accessible texts that you can look at. Ever wanted to learn Walloon? There’s almost ten thousand articles you can read.

I’m very much of the persuasion that diving in and reading texts in a foreign language is an excellent way to learn how to read that language (and to learn vocabulary), and here you have corpora (some rather substantial) for hundreds of languages. Including most of those Tolkien studied. (Yes, there was a connection after all. :))

Why is there no masculinism?

Liz has a great post today called A Heresy against Feminism:

I guess this gets me right down to the reason I am afraid to write about marriage: I believe in it. Every last traditional gender role, anti-feminist part of it. I have come to receive a witness that the pattern of a father working and a mother running a household is not only a social necessity, but a divinely inspired pattern.

I highly recommend it. (And I’m not married so I’m not going to expound on things I know nothing about. :P)

Drawing #2: Geometrica

For this one I wanted to do something geometric, with overlapping lines. This one’s called “Geometrica” (I know, how original :)).

Drawing #2: Geometrica

It’s more of a quickie than anything. These take longer than I thought they would, drawing in pencil and then inking and all. Not that I mind, though — it’s time pleasantly spent, and I’m enjoying it a lot.

Drawing #1: Into the Cave

Yes, I’m a day late. But that doesn’t bother me. :) I’ve decided that for this drawing-a-day gambit, I’ll do each day’s drawing on an index card. That’ll be the only general constraint, though each day I may choose constraints that only apply to that day. (For today, for example, I wanted a picture that tells a story, and I only wanted to use lines — no solid shading.)

Here, then, is Drawing #1, “Into the Cave”:

Drawing #1: Into the Cave

I’m not so sure about the whole cave shading thing, and the girl’s hair is out of control, and the composition is slightly off (with the torch in the center), but it still turned out better than I was expecting. (You should have seen my first couple of drawings. ~shiver~)

I don’t have a scanner here at home, so this was taken with my digital camera. Not the best quality, but it’ll work.

A Facebook virus (of sorts)

So, I’m not entirely sure how it happened (a renegade Facebook application?), but tonight I got a wall post from a friend which said this:

lol i cant believe these pics got posted….its going to be BADDDD when her boyfriend sees these- http://www.facebook.com.profile.php.id.371233.cn

Suspicious already, of course. With my fingers ready to close the tab if anything bad were to pop up, I clicked on the link. It went to a Facebook login page. That’s odd, I thought. And I almost logged in, because I was in Firefox and I usually do my Facebook stuff in Safari, so I figured I didn’t have a Facebook session open in Firefox.

Luckily laziness got the better of me, and I switched back to Safari to try the link. Same thing. Now, I knew I was logged into Facebook in Safari, so something was up. And then I paid a little closer attention to the URL and noticed that it’s completely bogus, leading to some server who knows where. (The .cn at the end is for China.)

And then the goosebumps came. If I had logged in, whoever this hacker was would have my Facebook username and password. I checked my friend’s recent activity listing and found that her account had wall postings for another twenty-five people or so. All of them had the same message and URL. It didn’t attack her whole friends list (she has 133), which is interesting and makes me wonder if this virus is actually human.

You see, all it takes is for the source to write this message on someone’s wall. That person clicks on the link and “logs in” again, and the hacker now has their credentials. The hacker logs in to the carrier’s account and starts going through their friend list, writing the same message on whatever walls they choose. (The timestamps on my friend’s activity report were consecutive but spaced far enough apart that it probably wasn’t a computer — unless you can only post six or seven wall posts per minute.) More people click on the link, and thus it spreads.

If you’ve got a Facebook account and you get that message, don’t click on the link! If it’s too late, then log in and change your password while you still can. (I wouldn’t be surprised if the hacker immediately changed the password with each new victim.)

I feel like this sounds overdramatic, and it probably is (though why anyone would innocently create a fake Facebook login page and not want to steal people’s credentials is beyond me). I don’t think this means people need to start bailing ship and deleting their accounts or anything — simple safety measures will be enough. But do be careful.

A Jeffersonian library thing

This morning I came across an amazingly cool post on the LibraryThing blog: the group I See Dead People[‘s Books] has entered all of Thomas Jefferson’s 1815 library into LibraryThing, so you can see what books he had. How cool is that? And it gets better. They’ve also gone through and pulled in all the book reviews he wrote. Brilliant.

The bad news is that I share only eight books with him. ~sigh~ But I can change that. ;)

Mi casa es tu casa, Mr. 2008

Out with the old…

Last year I wrote 355 blog posts, which seemed like a lot until I went back to my 2006 New Year’s post and found that I wrote 452 in 2006. Goodness. But I do think this year’s posts were better, at least to some degree. I hope. ;)

With Riverglen Press I published only Phantastes and Beowulf: Student Edition, both way back in January, but I also designed Lorin Farr: Mormon Statesman and Niels and Christiane Christensen (two family histories), and I’m in the middle of designing books by Truman Madsen and M. Catherine Thomas.

As for the rest of life, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English Language, got an exceedingly cool job at Special Collections going through all the treasures in the vaults, started my MLS (master’s of library science), and got a staff position at Special Collections processing manuscripts (which means I can check out 100 books at a time for six months each :)).

And now for the list:

  1. Didn’t quite get all A’s my last semester at BYU, but I did graduate.

  2. Turns out being graduated didn’t quite give me all the free time I expected; I only read 60 books this year. And 28 of those were by the end of April — how on earth did I read more books in school than out? Sixty isn’t bad, but it’s nowhere near 100.

  3. I wrote a whole novel, Out of Time, in November. (Finally!) And while I didn’t write a full-length play, in August I did write a 20-minute play Candle in the Darkness, and it even got produced in October.

  4. Riverglen Press published two titles, not 10. ~sigh~

  5. I did get a job at the library (two, actually) and not only figured out where I was going, but also started. (I’d originally planned to work for a year and then start my master’s, but life threw me a twist in the road.)

  6. The study program didn’t happen.

  7. My planning sort of got better, but it’s still far from perfect.

  8. Didn’t really save money at all. And I bought 137 books in 2007.

  9. I eat marginally better than I did last year (I usually get a salad for lunch now).

  10. It’s hard to measure a goal like this (focusing on others and serving more). I still have much improvement waiting for me here.

  11. I give more compliments than before, but not by much. Needs improvement.

  12. This one’s even harder to measure. :)

And in with the new…

This year I think I’ll keep to the more quantifiable goals, since I seem to make more progress with them than with vague goals like “eat better.” I have a few more resolutions than I’ve listed here, but thirteen was just too good of a number to end on, so we’ll cap it there.

  1. Read 80 books. I figure I may as well be realistic (though considering the trend, being perfectly realistic would mean setting a goal for 50 :P). Sure, I do have free time, but these other goals (like writing novels and plays) take up a lot of reading time, so it’s okay if I don’t read quite as many books as I’d like. It’s the whole consumption v. production balance thing.

  2. Read all the C.S. Lewis books I haven’t yet read.

  3. Read all the Jane Austen books I haven’t yet read.

  4. Polish Out of Time and write another novel (as part of NaNoWriMo).

  5. Write three short plays and one full-length play. I’m planning to do the full-length one as part of Script Frenzy in April, and the three short plays will be for the New Play Project. (I’m already almost done with the first draft of my next short, which I’ll submit to NPP in a week and a half.)

  6. Write a full-length screenplay.

  7. Write five songs.

  8. Publish five Riverglen Press titles. (This’ll probably include Pride & Prejudice, Words of the Prophets: Selected Sermons from the Book of Mormon, and the Welsh Book of Mormon.)

  9. Redesign the look of this blog (Top of the Mountains) and BenjaminCrowder.com.

  10. Produce a short film in 3D.

  11. Post a drawing to BenjaminCrowder.com each day in January, a painting each day in February, a 3D render each day in March/April/May (focusing on modeling, texturing, and lighting, respectively), and a logo a day in June.

  12. Reply to all incoming correspondence within a day or two.

  13. Get engaged. :P