Monday, June 7, 2021

Observations As I Study Biology

This is where my brain is right now. But hey, I've passed two CLEPs so far, so I'm making progress.

I can't say I've always loved science. I kind of hated it before we discovered Apologia, though I do remember enjoying my report on cuts and the presentation my sister and I did on the digestive system, complete with a hand drawn diagram named "Mary the Body Girl." Still, it was when we discovered Apologia that I decided I loved science. (The first Apologia book I did was the elementary astronomy course, and then I went into General Science and the rest of the high school books. Anatomy is HARD. But I still did it because it was my elective that I chose because I'd finished the required sciences, didn't want to go my senior year without science, and Apologia doesn't have a high school astronomy course. But I digress.) Science is awesome and super cool and extremely fascinating. And brushing up on biology for my CLEP, I'm rediscovering why I loved it so much in school.

So a couple of observations.

1. Writing style really matters, even in school books. Maybe especially in school books. I'm rereading my high school textbook and also using some online CLEP-specific resources to study. They're all covering the same basic information, but I have to say, Apologia is my favorite. It's the most engaging, you can tell Dr. Wile actually cares about what he's writing about, and I get the most out of it. Dry recitations of facts aren't enough. You have to actually engage your audience.

2. Worldview really does affect your interpretation. Obviously, Apologia is Creation-based science. These other materials most certainly are not. Thing is, they present the same data, the same processes, the same facts. Mitosis is mitosis, no matter if you're a creationist or a secular scientist. However. There are big differences in how things get interpreted. The thing that stands out most to me is how in the secular texts they keep saying how the common elements/structures/etc. between different types of living things are evidence for a common ancestor. Whereas I look at it and see evidence for a common Designer. Just like writers have unique quirks, certain tropes they tend to use, and so on, you would expect for life designed by one Creator to have the same building blocks. But these building blocks can create incredibly diverse organisms that truly are mind-blowing.

3. Biology really is mind boggling. Seriously. Even the "simplest" of lifeforms is INCREDIBLY complex. Heck, even the simplest protein is extremely complex and specific. Not only is it mind boggling to me how these atoms fit together to make molecules which work together to make cells which combine and reproduce and process food into energy to create larger organisms which can think and do all kind of things, it's mind boggling to me that people can really believe it happened by accident. If even one amino acid in a protein is wrong, life won't work right. And the odds of that simplest protein assembling accidently in that precise way is roughly the same as the probability of a poker player drawing a royal flush 19 times in a row. And that's only if we limit the available amino acids to the 17 in that protein. Basically, successfully navigating an asteroid field is child's play compared to the odds of life happening by accident. Makes me want to go reread Yellow & Pink. It really does take more faith to believe in evolution than creation.

4. There's an element to life that just can't be explained in scientific terms. See, as I read about molecular biology and biochemistry and cells and enzymes and everything, it all seems abstract and like it's missing something. Like you could put those pieces together, but it takes something else to make it truly alive. And as I'm typing this, I'm thinking back to the creation of the Middle Earth dwarves in The Silmarillion. Forgive me that I don't remember which of the Valar made them. I guess I'm not enough of a LOTR nerd. But this member of the Valar created dwarves which were really just puppets. They'd do stuff when he made them act, but they weren't truly alive until Illúvatar breathed life into them. There's a spiritual and supernatural aspect to life. God formed Adam, I'm sure creating and arranging all the atoms and molecules and cells and everything, and then He breathed life into him. Scientists will never be able to replicate that. And someday I will finish reading The Silmarillion.

5. This is why I love science fiction. As I read about biology (specifically things like cloning and viruses and GMOs), it gets the wheels of my imagination turning just like it used to when I was a teenager. I love biological experimentation oriented sci-fi, and things like cloning, biological experimentation, and eugenics fascinate me in a dystopian kind of way. Yes, I do have some vague plans for Acktorek books involving biological warfare/experimentation. I just...have to figure out the plots. Right now I've only got concepts. There's just so much scope for imagination in science, speculating on where things could go and contemplating the ethics of such developments. It so makes me want to write.

So these are the things that have been going through my head lately. Someday these things will come out in new science fiction novels, I'm sure. And in the meantime, science is awesome. Go read some Apologia (but make sure you get editions written by Dr. Wile).

Monday, May 24, 2021

Why I'm Going To College

I had this whole post written up about why I'm going to college, how it's never too late to follow your dreams, yada, yada, yada. And now that I'm ready to make the official announcement...I'm not going to post it. Because as time has gone on, I've felt the conviction that I just need to be real with y'all. This is not my dream.

See, if my life went the way I'd planned it, I'd have gotten married at 22, started having kids pretty much right away, I'd be selling lots of books, have a solid, steady music studio, and be looking forward to being a homeschool mom once my kids get old enough. As it is, I'm 25 and still solidly single and childless, book sales are difficult to sustain, between COVID, kids growing up, and families moving away my music studio has dwindled (though I'm still incredibly grateful for the students I still have), and being a homeschool mom is nowhere in sight.

I've never been against college as an institution. All I've been against is shoving everyone into college when that's not the right path for everyone. I believe we should all discover what God wants us to do, and then get the training/jump through the hoops to do that. For some that's college. For others it's technical school. For some that might look more like learning a trade in an old fashioned apprenticeship-style method. For some that might be getting married at 22, becoming a mom right away, and using abilities in the arts to work from home.

And there might be different methods for different stages of life.

I know I wasn't supposed to go to college straight out of high school. For one thing, if I had, I'd probably have majored in something like creative writing, which tbh, would be pretty useless for paying rent and putting food on the table. And I'd still be looking at going back now for something more useful. I've learned a lot in these past seven years since my high school graduation. I've learned a lot about violin, about writing, about book design, about people, about teaching, about life, about myself, and most importantly about God. And I've learned it in a way that I couldn't have if I'd gone straight to college. So while I often wish that I'd come to this decision sooner so I wouldn't have to go through college now, I don't regret the path God has taken me through, particularly in the last six years since we moved from my childhood home. Has it been easy? Not at all. Has some of it been painful? You bet. But I look back on all the people I've had in my life in these years (even if only for a short while), at the things I've done and learned and the lives I've touched at the library, of the various music students I've taught, of the friendships I've built, of the books I've written, and I wouldn't exchange it for anything.

But it's time to move into that next stage of life.

I'm not giving up writing. I'm never giving up writing. In fact, I firmly believe that God prevented me from pursuing this path two years ago when I first started to seriously consider it because I would have been giving up writing and running away from everything that was making life difficult and painful. Now, I have a different attitude. Writing is a calling God placed on me when I was a child, and it's something that I can't walk away from. But so is teaching. And while I love teaching music and intend to keep doing it as long as God allows, I know it's not the extent to which I am supposed to teach.

So what am I doing and why?

I'm going to Kennesaw State University, starting this fall, to major in elementary ed, with the intention of completing the degree in three years. I'm also planning to CLEP out of several classes this summer, so even though I don't technically start until mid August, I'm already studying.

And why? Well, I can't deny that part of it is financial. Reality is, as much as I love the library, it just doesn't pay enough to sustain a single income household, and I don't think it's right for me to expect my dad to foot the majority of my bills indefinitely just because my life choices result in an income too small for me to live on my own. Being female doesn't give me the right to expect someone else to pay for my life, particularly as a single woman. We're not called to idleness. I mean, look at the Proverbs 31 woman. She had several successful home businesses.

But the bigger thing is, this is where God is leading me for this next phase of my life. How long will it be? I have no idea. Does God have marriage and children in my future at all? I also have no idea. But what I do know is that God has given me an ability and a desire to teach children, and that in more than just music, and I can't just let that fall by the wayside because God hasn't put me in a place where I have my own children to homeschool. So it's time to jump through those hoops and get the training needed to teach elementary school. And it's time for me to really trust God that He knows what He's doing with my life, even if it's the complete opposite of what I always expected.

And don't worry, I'm still working on Acktorek 2: The Vanished, albeit slowly. I really can't make any promises on timeline, but I'm not going to abandon it and I really am hoping to somehow get this one out while I'm still in school. But again, I can't make any promises because I just don't know how things are going to play out.

In closing, I want to share with you a song that's really meant a lot to me over the last year or so. God really does know what He's doing.


Now I'm off to go relearn logarithms for this algebra CLEP.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Good Soldiers Follow Orders

No, this isn't a Bad Batch review (though it's totally awesome so far and you should absolutely 100% go watch it). It's just a good illustration of some things I've been thinking about lately.

Good soldiers follow orders.


How often do you make your own decisions? And I'm not talking about whether to wear a green shirt or a blue one today, or whether to eat eggs or a blueberry muffin for breakfast. I'm talking about real decisions. Ones that affect what you believe, how you live your life. And how often do you just do X because someone in authority or someone you respect said so or because you've been taught just to obey without question? How often do you personally test the things you've been told before you adopt them as your own belief?

I know most of us like to think of ourselves as rebels, as independent thinkers, but how many of us are really? And how many of us just pick which authority we want to follow and trust that if we do what they say everything will turn out fine?

I see it everywhere, good soldiers following orders. People getting outraged because the media said to be outraged over said thing. People complying because a supposed authority said this will keep them safe, even if it's directly contradictory to what was said last week. People raising their kids according to a strict standard of rules because their religious leader said if they do that their kids will automatically turn out great.

And you know what? It never seems to turn out the way they say. Instead, more and more rules and regulations get piled on, people just accept more and more, until they find themselves in a disaster and wonder how that happened. It's because good soldiers follow orders. And because, like the proverbial frog in the boiling water, it happened gradually. They never start with the things that are blatantly wrong.

None of us actually have inhibitor chips conditioning us to follow orders without question, though sometimes I wonder. Because it does seem like a lot of us have been conditioned to follow one authority or another without question.

I'm not saying that all authority is bad. I'm not saying "children defy your parents" because that's obviously unbiblical. And I'm not even saying there aren't situations where it's important to obey immediately without asking "why?"

In fact, when I was little, probably about four or so, I got the "obey immediately" lesson. We were out in our backyard when my parents told me to go inside immediately. I, being the person I am, asked "why?" They made me go inside anyway, invoking the story from Little House where Ma slapped a bear and told Laura to go inside immediately (and Laura did it). Turns out, there was a skunk outside and obviously my parents didn't want anyone getting sprayed by a skunk. (No one did, thankfully.) And there are situations far more dangerous than getting sprayed by a skunk where it's important to obey immediately. My sister's example is of when Maul tries to run over Anakin with a speeder bike.


That said, it was never really an "obey now, end of story." It was "obey now and it'll get explained once this immediate danger is past."

If it's always and forever "Just because I said so" no one learns to make their own decisions. No one learns how to have discernment. Everyone's just, well, sheep.

Because the truth is, there is only one absolute, infallible authority. And that's God. Everyone else, well, news flash, they're not right 100% of the time. Even the wisest, most knowledgeable, most spiritual leader gets stuff wrong. And reality is, most of the leaders people follow aren't the wisest, most knowledgeable, most spiritual people. They're just the most convincing people who are great at marketing. And often they're doing it for power and money. Just look at all the prominent people with huge followings that have big scandals come out.

"But my leader isn't like that!" you might protest. "He's wise and studies the Bible intensively and really cares about me." Or "my parents are great, and they've been great role models and I really trust their judgement." 

That may be entirely true. I'm not saying don't respect those people, don't listen to them, don't value their insight. What I'm saying is don't take it as Gospel truth. Don't follow blindly. They're human. They're fallible. They will get things wrong, just like you will get things wrong. Test everything according to Scripture before you make up your mind. Do your own research.

I don't know if I have any parents reading this blog, but if I do, parents, you're not doing your kids any favors if you don't teach them to think for themselves. Don't just say "this is what we believe, this is what we do because I said so." You're setting them up to fail. Teach them to test things, to use critical thinking, to do research, to compare everything with Scripture. I've seen it far too many times where kids aren't taught to think for themselves, and they end up picking the wrong thing to blindly follow.

Blindly following is the easy path. But it's not the Biblical one. You have to test everything.

"The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so."
—Acts 17:10-11
"Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear."
—Thomas Jefferson
 In short, use your brain. There are too many people out there trying to control you, misguide you, lead you astray, whether intentionally or unintentionally, for you to follow blindly. Question with boldness. Things that are actually true will hold up under scrutiny. I promise.

And in closing, I want to share a conversation from Legacy of the Force: Betrayal by Aaron Allston I found especially relevant and interesting.

Ben: I hear kids say they hate it when their parents say Do this because I say so. Sometimes I think they have it easy.
Mara: I suspect they do. Of course, they don't get to run all over the galaxy and practice with live lightsabers.
Ben: Yeah, I guess. But thinking is hard. And kind of unfair. There never seems to be a right answer.
Luke: That's it. There never seems to be a right answer is a right answer.
Ben: Oh.
Mara: Watch out for people who tell you they know the right answer. They may think they do, but often they're wrong. Or they may just know that thinking is so hard, many people don't want to do it. They want a leader they can trust . . . so they don't have to do the hard work of thinking. That's one type of leader you don't want to follow.
Good soldiers may follow orders, but wise ones test them first.

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves."
—Matthew 10:16

Monday, April 26, 2021

NaNo's Almost Over

And I almost forgot I was supposed to have a blog post this week. I'm ahead, but planning on trying to keep going at this pace until I finish this book. Almost to the midpoint. And I'm still liking how it's going. It seems more solid and consistent, though I don't know how that'll hold up in the second half where I'm planning to make a number of changes.

Well, I say planning, but the changes are vague pictures in my head, so there'll be a lot of making it up as I go along. Really, though, I do have a better understanding of what's going on in the story and why, and of some things I forgot to touch on before, I just don't know exactly how it's all going to play out. Don't worry, I'm still planning on doing the horrible things to Mitchell I did last draft. 😉

Have some snippets.

I heave a sigh and shake off [Mitchell's] hand. “Grace is making it exceptionally difficult to pack. You and Brian are both going to get it for not backing me up. She’s sent me five hundred million different options for bridesmaid dresses, and that’s not even counting flower arrangements and wedding dresses. And she doesn’t seem to understand that I have something actually important to do right now.”

“Grace’s wedding is important,” Mitchell says. “It is only important in a different way from our mission.”

I snort. “Sure, getting married is important, but flowers? Who cares about flowers?”

oOo 


“She’s asking for my opinion on flowers,” Emma groans. “If it was up to me, there wouldn’t be any flowers.”

I choose to refrain from responding to the statement. “How is the conversion process progressing?”

Emma snorts. “It’d be a lot faster if I didn’t have to manually check each one for accuracy. But some of their clerks have horrendous handwriting, and it’s super difficult to decipher the letters when the translator can’t even identify them. I mean, at least Ebrarian alphabet isn’t all that different from Arabic. This stuff? It’s a mess.”

oOo 


He kneels down to her level. “My name iss Mitchell. We have come to help.”

Gia flashes a gap-toothed smile up at me. “I know. She tole me. And ain’t that what Acktorek’s for?”

Yeah, that’s what it’s supposed to be for. But that isn’t always reality.

No, Delma’s in jail. Breach control was pretty much cleaned out. Things aren’t like that anymore. But then, they never should have been in the first place.

oOo 


I narrow my eyes. “What about doctor/patient confidentiality?”

“She did not provide specifics, but she was required to provide the department with a statement prior to your approval for duty.”

I drop my gaze. Not really feeling betrayed, but I still don’t think Dr. Wilset is right. How could she be?

Without any kind of warning, Mitchell pulls me into his arms again. I curl into his chest, relishing his warmth and solidity. I know I’d fall apart completely without him. I still feel like I’m falling apart even with him. And I still don’t think I’m the best one to help those kids. Or that I’ll be able to care at all for any other person we’re sent to save. But I’m here. We’re here. And somebody has to do it.

“The only certain way to fail is not to attempt it at all,” Mitchell murmurs against my hair.

Monday, April 12, 2021

A New NaNo Snippet

Yup, it's NaNo again, which means...I don't have an actual blog post. Nothing profound to say because I'm pounding the keyboard to get half of this draft done by the end of the month. Planning to try to keep up the pace through May to finish it, but we'll see. My brain is usually pretty done at the end of NaNo. 

I'm working on the third draft of Acktorek Book 2: The Vanished. It's going pretty well, I think I've finally figured out some things that didn't make sense before, and I'm looking forward to seeing how this all plays out.

Not every day has been amazing, but I've managed to stay ahead so far this time and write every day. Which is rare. Reaaaally hoping to get that "update your word count every day" badge.

Follow my Instagram for my progress...I've been posting my word count almost every day in my story with little updates. But here's what we're looking like right now. (Technically, these screenshots are from yesterday.)



Here, have a snippet.

I pull a flat square out of my backpack and look around for a place to stick it. The sensor will bond to any surface, so that’s not a problem. But it’s not so hardy that if people constantly walk into it or if something falls on it, it won’t be damaged. It’s sensitive equipment. Problem is, I’m not really all that sure the storefront won’t fall over, or at least that the poor excuse for an awning won’t collapse on top of wherever I put it.

“Is you ’ere from Acktorek?”

My gaze snaps to the speaker: an unbearably thin girl with skimpy, shimmery red braids and dirt smeared over her dark face. Her dress is so tattered and patched and stained it’s impossible to tell what color it used to be. Somehow she looks bright and hopeful. And definitely the friendliest person I’ve seen here. She can’t be any older than six. Which puts her squarely in the risk category. From what factors we know. I know we’re missing something crucial. Hopefully something that excludes this little girl. I don’t like the way my heart constricts looking at her.

“Yes, I am.” I do my best to answer her calmly and gently, mostly trusting my translator will get that across. “My partner and I are here to help you. My name is Emma.”

“Me name’s Gia. What’s that?” She points a bony finger at the sensor.

“This . . .” I hesitate, not sure how to explain it to her. Then I just lower my hand so Gia can get a better look. “This will, um, sense what’s happening around here so we can figure out why people are disappearing.” If we knew what we’re looking for. Hopefully it’s obvious. Though I don’t really want more kids to have to vanish just so we can figure it out.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Emma Calls the Shots

I've long since learned that it's wise to listen to Emma Edsel.

She's a very temperamental character, tbh, so if she's in a cooperating mood, I have to jump on it. So I'm going from the pirate book back to Acktorek. Not that I don't want to write the pirate book, but Emma's ready for me to come back, and I'm ready to go back to her, and honestly, my emotional connection to Emma and Mitchell is a lot stronger than my emotional connection to Anthea and Edmund. I'll come back to the pirate book. But Emma's ready, and I can't let the opportunity pass.

Now, of course, I decided to go back to Acktorek in the middle of a really crazy week, so I'm not very far yet, but I'm liking this rewrite so far. Fingers crossed that it'll be the last major rewrite and I'll just be able to edit after this, but...we'll see. Emma may be ready for me to come back to her story, but she's still a complete mess, and so it's quite difficult to get right. And emotionally draining. But worth it.

And hey, audiobook recording for The Void is going well. And so is cosplay progress. My tunic, tabards, and obi are complete, and I've finished dyeing the fabric for my sister's and started on hers. Well on our way to transforming into Anakin and Obi-Wan! No, no pictures yet. But there will be. Possibly with photoshopped lightsaber blades, since I just have a hilt I had 3D printed at the library. Which is still cool.

Here, have the beginning of draft three of Acktorek: The Vanished. Probably won't be exactly like this in the published version, but here's the current version!

I hate graduations.

This one isn’t technically as bad as my last one. That one was open ended. This one gets me a job. But that job is one I really don’t think I can do.

Yes, I’ve trained for it. I’ve technically passed all the milestones, all the tests, all of everything. Mitchell thinks I’m ready. My therapist, Dr. Wilset, says it’s good for me to do.

But I can’t. They don’t know. They don’t know how badly I’ll fail. How badly I’ve already failed when it really, really mattered.

Oh, they say it wasn’t my fault. I go along with it. But it was. I didn’t do my job. I failed in my most important responsibility.

And I might know science. I’ve learned a lot of fascinating things at Acktorek Academy. I might have done well at logic and deductive reasoning. I might be just paranoid enough to be good at spotting deception. And I might have picked up the defense techniques pretty easily.

But that doesn’t mean that when it comes time to save the people I care about I won’t fail.

Just like I did last time.

P.S. BTW, watch Timeless. It's awesome.



Monday, March 8, 2021

Like and Equal Are Not the Same Thing

Ever since I first read A Wrinkle in Time when I was seven years old, that has been one of my favorite (if not my top favorite) quotes from the book. The moment of the actual quote may be brief, just like the entire climax 😜, but it's a culmination of the entire book.

"Like and equal are not the same thing at all!"
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

It's good to be different.

We are all equal. No one's life has more intrinsic value than another's. Everyone matters just as much as the next person, regardless of age, gender, race, religious beliefs, political views, socioeconomic status, health, class, IQ...any other label you can put on a person. Sure, I may personally care more about my sister than the random person I just passed on the street, but that doesn't mean that random person is of inherent less value than my sister. They're not. We are all equal before God.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

But equal is not alike. Not one person on this earth is exactly the same as any other person in the past, present, and future of this world. See, on Camazotz, everyone was the same. And Meg, who hated being different, might initially find that attractive. But it's good to be different.

In this world, we look at presidents and CEOs and movie stars and think they have more value than the plumber we hired to fix the toilet. But that isn't true.

We look at foreign missionaries and think they have more value than those of us who minister to our sphere of influence at home. They don't.

We look at bestselling authors and think they have more value than that indie author we just bought a book from. They don't. 

See, like and equal are not the same thing.

We might look at people we admire and want to be like them. But we shouldn't. We can admire traits in people. We can learn from who they are. But we don't need to be exactly like them, because that's not who God made us to be.

"When I grow up, I want to be just like you."
"When you grow up, you should be just like you."
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)

We all have a different role to play, one that fits together with the roles of those around us.

We are all different members of the body of Christ and that's the way it's supposed to be. If our role is completely different from someone we admire, that's actually a good thing. It doesn't mean we're wrong, or that person's wrong, or that one or the other has a more important job to do. We are all equal, but we are not alike.

And that's the way it's supposed to be.

"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it." —1 Corinthians 12:12-27