My thoughts about subjects, including politics, religion and happenings

A More Personal Take on My Issues with The Evangelical Church

My last two posts covered some of my theological, and political, issues with the (white) Evangelical Church at least in the US. But, as I’ve been trying to – and this morning (March 17, 2019) succeeding – get myself back to attending church with at least some regularity, I got thinking about how at least one aspect of the Evangelical Church impacted me, and how I see it impact others. I’m specifically talking about the aspect that gives that portion of the church its name, and in many ways and for many years gave it its identity: its emphasis and and style of evangelism.

As I saw from both the outside and inside, the Evangelical Church, at least in the U.S. at its core is focused around the central ideas that the an individual is only saved if they hear about Christ’s work on the cross, and then make a personal decision to accept that salvation; and that the primary job of any Christian who has been so saved is to attempt to reach out and bring that message to as many others as they can.

I grew up in the Presbyterian tradition, which in the mainstream Presbyterian denominations doesn’t make a big deal about the exact nature of salvation. But many years ago when doing research on the various branches of the larger Presbyterian Church, I came across writings from an Orthodox Presbyterian Church that vehemently condemned the “Armenian Heresy,” which is the belief that is core to American Evangelism. So, while it wasn’t emphasized, my Christian upbringing in fact comes from a tradition that is separate from this idea.

With my eyes open to this, I can look at a traditional Presbyterian worship service, and see evidence that their beliefs tend more towards the idea that salvation is the work of God than anything of man’s doing.

However, starting around the time I got engaged, I started attending various Evangelical churches. For the most part during this time, I had few major issues with the churches. However, one issue continued to bother me to a lesser or greater degree: the fact that while I had believed in God, in Christ, and in the fact that Christ had died for my sins, for as long as I could recall, I had never consciously made the decision to accept Christ in the Evangelical sense. At more than a few points, the pressure caused by being in this environment caused a feeling akin to guilt, which led me to fee that maybe my belief wasn’t enough and that I needed to go ahead and say the salvation prayer. But, that didn’t change anything – either relieving the guilt, nor creating the so-called sense of salvation peace.

Then there is the other part of this. The part I saw more clearly both before and after I was regularly attending Evangelical churches, but still saw at other times. The reverse effect of evangelism.

I’ve known many people who find much of the outward evangelism practiced in this country off-putting. This is true of both the personal evangelism from friends and strangers, and the general evangelism found in advertising and mass outreach.

Telling someone that they are going to be punished because of who they are, or because of what they do, or do not believe, is a very off-putting message to a lot of people. This is even more so to people who have studied disciplines such as science and engineering, so their minds are bent towards analytical thought. Then, the fact that many of the most aggressive purveyors of evangelistic outreach for decades have also been the ones who love to condemn the very people that they think they are trying to save – think Jack Chick and they group who used to show up with yellow signs at Comic-Con International telling us how anyone who reads comics was bound for hell – and you are creating an environment where evangelical outreach is driving people away from all kinds of Christian Churches.

So, between my personal issues where I found that being regularly put into a position of doubting my beliefs based on a model of salvation that I don’t think I ever truly accepted as true, and knowing that that model of salvation was hurting the Church as God’s (or at least one of God’s) outreach to mankind by driving people away from it, I have to suspect that it was only a matter of time before I would reach a point where other factors would make me realize that I could not continue to worship or attend churches built around evangelism.

My Basic Problem with Evangelical Theology and Practices

What I’m writing here may bother some of my friends and family who are or have been part of Evangelical Churches, and still have that as the basis for their Christian theology.  However, this is also key to things that have bothered me at varying levels for years.  And, while the broad support for the Republican agenda and Trump as it shows more and more that it is not an agenda of love, but one of hate and greed that may have been the metaphorical straw that broke the camels back and has led me to want to have nothing to do with American Evangelicalism in any way, what I’m going to write about is a vast majority of what that metaphorical camel was already loaded with.

At least as I understand it, dating back to near the beginning of the protestant reformation, there have been two competing views of salvation that have split the Church.

In the most extreme version, one is the view that those who are going to be saved are elected or predestined and God knows who they are.  Nothing that man can do will impact their salvation.  In this view, the role of the Church is to be there for the saved who have heard the word of God as a place for learning and fellowship, and to provide opportunity for the saved who have not heard the word of God to hear it.

In the most extreme version, the other is the view that the only way to be saved is to explicitly and consciously accept God’s salvation.  And, unless one has made that explicit decision, and made it known to God, they are still unsaved and condemned.  In this view, the role of the Church is to make sure that everyone everywhere hears this message, and as many people as possible make the decision and let God know.

The issue is that in the last twentieth and early twenty-first century, the American Evangelical Church, they practice the most extreme version of this second view.  In their version of Christianity, one is only a Christian if they have at some point when they can recall, have made that decision and said some form of the magic prayer.  Anyone else is condemned to some sort of eternal suffering – which might just be an existence disconnected from God, but that is bad enough (both in my view and theirs).

For someone who spent his first thirty-three years pretty much exclusively in Presbyterian churches, which come out of the first tradition, this was a continual thorn in my side.  I never had that point because it wasn’t a thing growing up.  In my church, my whole denomination and faith tradition, the assumption for the most part was that if you were in the church and believed, you believed.  You didn’t have to know when you were “saved.”  You didn’t have to have explicitly asked God for his gift, he gave it freely.  Confessing sin was something we did regularly – it was part of most services, and something we were encouraged to do as part of our regular prayers.

But, as I look back on it, I see there is more to this idea, and a much worse aspect to it that bothers me, and bothers me more that I’ve been pushed to the point that I’m seeing so much of the American Evangelical movement as broken.  I see this idea as a way that these institutions use to control people.

It starts with the message: “In order to be saved, you need to accept Christ’s salvation by saying this prayer: …”  But, soon it moves into “In order to be part of our church you need to believe …”  This is where these organizations start changing people’s beliefs.  Soon, someone who was spiritually open and seeking, but had been a firm believer in something that the church didn’t like (gay rights, abortion, immigration, Democratic politics, etc.) finds their spiritual needs being met in the church, and then feels like their other beliefs must have been wrong and starts changing them too.

And, given the way that the Evangelical Movement influences people into listening to other Evangelical voices over any non-Evangelical voices, it doesn’t even have to be someone in a specific Church, or even someone who is explicitly speaking in a church role who can push that change in belief.  I’m reasonably convinced that much of the Evangelical Movement’s political power comes from, or at least starts from this ability to influence people.

On the other hand, Churches that work from the idea that salvation is mostly or entirely in God’s hands, concentrate on equipping believers for living the life Christ called us to.  This frees people to use their own facilities to decide many issues.  Yet, quite possibly as a combination of the fact that these churches tend to see social justice (in, perhaps a slightly older sense of the term) as a major part of their mission, and the fact that many people who see themselves as Christian but are politically liberal are pushed away from Evangelical churches, these churches do tend to have a more liberal political bent in their membership.

Now, I confess I’ve not been to church regularly since the summer of 2016.  This was for a number of reasons, but my complete loss of ability to associate with any church (or near-complete ability to associate with any other aspect) that is part of the Evangelical Movement has been part of it.

I suspect that if I could keep from oversleeping (badly) and make it to the church I grew up in, and the one my Mom still attends, at 11:00 am on Sundays, I’d actually be OK.  The three sermons (albeit two were at memorial services – one very short at my Dad’s, and one a bit longer at a long-time family friend’s) I’ver heard there in the last couple of years have been very good.  And I have family and family friends who attend there.  It isn’t the closest Presbyterian church, but it might be a good fit.

Issues and Concerns with the Theology and Practices of the American Evangelical Churches

For many of the last 18 years, I attended or was a member of churches that were part of or could be associated with the American Evangelical movement.  For a lot of that time where I was both spiritually and politically may have kept me from noticing all of these issues and concerns that I now see, they are now very obvious to me.  However, many of them bothered me even then.

At least for much of that time, the churches I was in were not overtly political most of the time.  However, the fact that most or all of the visible and prominent leadership of the American Evangelical movement has seemingly shed the last of its Christian message for one of pure politics, and politics that are opposed to what I can support, and what I believe aligns with the teachings of Christ, I do not foresee my being a regular attendee or member of any church that is part of this movement anytime in the near future.

But politics is far from the only issue I have with the American Evangelical movement – or, I’ll have to admit – the mostly English speaking, white dominated parts of the American Evangelical movement that I’ve been exposed to.  The African/Black and Spanish speaking parts of the American Evangelical Church may have few or none of the features I object to, but I’ve not been exposed to them.

Continue reading

Musical Updates

For much of the year, and into last year, I have been (was) taking music lessons.  First voice lessons and then piano lessons.  Of the two, the voice lessons have been more successful.  However, those ended in the spring when my instructor moved away and I’ve not resumed them with a new instructor – at least not yet.

I still have three piano lessons scheduled this month, but may put them on hiatus as well to let some other things calm down (mostly some house rearranging and minor remolding – replacing the flooring in two rooms as part of the rearrangement).  Hopefully, once rearranged I’ll be able to set up the keyboard in my new office without it taking up the whole room and may feel like I can practice and resume lessons.

But, overall, I’m thinking that singing is my strength.  So, that is what I should focus on.   I will need to go back to the songs I worked on when I had voice lessons and try them again – recording them and listening back so that I can be sure I’m still on key, pitch, etc.

But, I’d also like to expand my {word I cannot spell well enough to fix with spell check, that means list of works one is able to perform}.  I’ve got a few songs that I have lyrics and accompaniment tracks for that I could work on.  Obviously, most of these are mainstream songs – although thanks to a program that does an OK job at stripping vocals from sufficiently complex tracks (it fails miserably if the track is essentially mono) I have a couple of filk standards (“Mal’s Song” and “Hope Eyrie”) available.

However, I’m running into an odd problem.  Having only recently discovered it, I’m finding Stan Rogers’ “White Squall” a very inviting song to learn to sing.  [It is a bit odd to think that someone from New Mexico enjoys songs about The Great Lakes, many of which are disaster songs – fictional or non-fictional.  On the other hand, I spent many years in the Chicago area, and my dad’s family comes from Grand Haven, Michigan].  But, doesn’t have a version.  Nor have I turned any up in my other searches.  And, I cannot strip the version I (currently) have because it is from Apple Music making it a DRMed AA3 and the program needs a non-DRM MP3 to work.

Another thing I’m thinking I should try a bit is song writing.  One idea I have is to take my grandfather’s story about an ancestor who ended up working in Chicago (or Milwaukee) as an operating engineer for a hotel boiler; but would periodically swap jobs with a friend who worked a steamer crossing to Grand Haven.  This song would fit well with “White Squall” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” (another song I’m tempted to learn).

One other thing that I’m still tempted to do is pick up and learn (or refine to correct skills) a cajon and/or other hand drum.  At least short-term, I think if (when) I start spending more time in filk circles these might be useful instruments.  Longer run, these might also become what I’d be likely to use should I end up doing more formal performances; relying on either accompaniment tracks or (preferred) someone else providing accompaniment.

Brief 2015 Hugo Award Finalist Reviews

Note: This post was drafted back when I was actually reading through the various Hugo Award Finalists (and then voting on a category by category basis).  It was hidden until after the awards were announced (or should have been announced – I’m counting on the ceremony to start on time and run less than two-and-a-half hours) as I’m part of the 2015 Hugo Awards subcommittee, and I don’t want anyone to accuse me of stacking the deck.

I’ll present the categories in the order I read (or otherwise finish consuming) them; and the works in the order I voted for them.

Best Short Story


At first, I was having a hard time liking this story.  But, as it went on there was a good balance between ideas and action which makes it stand out in this category.


Again, at first I wasn’t liking this story.  It does drag the action out a bit – and it is almost entirely action, with just a few bits of history and a not quite out of context Bible quote.  Having a short story drag its action is a bit of an accomplishment, but not a good one.

No Award

“A Single Samurai”

This story was all action and background.  Now, that isn’t necessary a bad thing, but in this case it resulted in a pretty boring story.  Even if I didn’t read a lot of short stories in 2014, if I’m this bored, it isn’t a Hugo worthy work.

Asside: when I was regularly playing paper and pencil RPGs, I’d often find long, drawn out, combat boring, so I think that my standards aren’t the same as others as to what makes a story boring.

“On a Spiritual Plain”

This story is short, and has one pretty good idea.  But, the execution still results in a story that is almost all idea and little action.  And the action that is there is pretty mundane.

“The Parliament of Beasts and Birds”

The part of me that likes when Christian ideas cross with science fiction really wanted to like this one – even if Wright’s screeds about a TV Show predisposed me to dislike his stories.  But it was just talking, and more talking, and even more talking.  And the dialog, or I probably should say “Parliament,” was all philosophy and at the end theology.  Its last sin (a pretty ironic term in this case) was that from the beginning I pretty much knew where it was going to end.

Best Novelette

“The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale”

At first this story was kind of slow, but it was short enough that the initial slow action wasn’t a big drawback.  However, I did, mostly, solve the mystery well before the narrator.  The fact that it is ranking first, tells me that this is a pretty weak field.

“The Day the World Turned Upside Down”

An interesting idea, and well executed.  I think my main issue was dealing with the suspension of disbelief over the interesting idea.  The juxtaposition of the narrator having his world both figuratively turned upside down by the loss of a long-time girlfriend, and then literally being turned upside down is its biggest strength.

I’ll note that this story was translated from, I believe, Dutch.  Yet the setting didn’t feel either particularly European nor particularly American.  I don’t know how much of that is from the original, and how much is how the translator dealt with some of the descriptions.

No Award

“Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium”

Not a bad story, but I don’t think it is Hugo worthy.  The idea is interesting, but the execution ends up kind of dull.

“Championship B’tok”

This isn’t a Novelette, this is an outline of the first part of a large series.  After spending much of its time skimming over world building and character development, it just ends.  It leaves character threads hanging, the main action hanging, and just about everything else hanging.

This one also gets special mention for being yet another case of abusing apostrophes to make a language alien.

“The Journeyman: In the Stone House”

This has a similar problem to the last one.  Except being the beginning of an incomplete story, it is the middle of an incomplete story.  Now, the prior story exists, which might help explaining some of what is going on.

But as a stand alone piece, all of the aspects of the story are left lacking.  The worldbuilding is rushed through or implied (I’m guessing that this is a case of a world that has fallen back to being psuedo-medevil), and the main characters are more caricatures – broad outlines.  The secondary characters are even less developed.

My Nominations

For reference, I nominated the following for Best Novelette:

  • The Ghosts of Bourbon Street Seanan McGuire
  • Stingers and Strangers Seanan McGuire
  • Bury Me In Satin Seanan McGuire
  • Snakes and Ladders Seanan McGuire

(Yes, they are all InCrypid stories by Seanan McGuire – but I nominated almost everything I read from last year, at least if it was good.  And I really like these stories)

I’d probably still rank these above just about everything in the above category.

Best Novella


I enjoyed “Flow” a fair amount.  It is a pretty straightforward explorer’s story, with the protagonist learning about parts of his world beyond his original ken, and nearly getting into serious trouble

No Award

Yes, only one novella seemed Hugo Worthy to me.

One Bright Star to Guide Them By

This wasn’t all that bad of a story.  But, as I was reading it, I couldn’t help by see Narnia shining through.  This left me feeling off until a friend summed up what it was quite succinctly: “Bad Narnia Fan Fiction.”

“The Plural of Helen of Troy”

This story was hard to follow – coming from a collection of shared-world stories (I gather based on the title of the collection it comes from).  It is a mish-mash of alternate history, time travel, and paradoxes.  But, instead of being intriguing as this could/should be, it was just confusing.  The stories not-quite back-to-front ordering added to the problems, even if it was necessary to hide the outcome.

“Pale Realms of Shade”

I didn’t finish this story, which means I probably should have left it off my ballot (but it is there at the time of writing).  After reading a not insignificant part of the story, my feeling was that I needed to re-read (re-listen to) Seanan McGuire’s Sparrow Hill Road (one of my Novel nominees) to wash the taste of it out of my brain.

Like the Rose Marshal ghost stories in Sparrow Hill Road, “Pale Realms of Shade” is a ghost story told, in first person, from the perspective of the ghost.  In this case, it was combined with an attempt at a Noir feel and Celtic urban fantasy.  Again, this resulted in a bit of a mish-mash that became unreadable.

Big Boys Don’t Cry

I didn’t finish this story either.  But, it did do something very important for me: it convinced me that I don’t like the type of military SF that is mostly combat.

Best Novel

Note, I didn’t read the excerpt from Skin Game.  Being part of a long-running series that (from what I understand) has a lot of continuity, I didn’t feel that I could enjoy or judge the story.  Also, at the time of this review, I was still reading The Goblin Emperor, but had read enough to make my judgements and cast my ballot.  Plus, I was getting to where I was going to start seeing preliminary results in testing and wanted to minimize my influence.

The Goblin Emperor

I’m enjoying this story a lot.  It is a coming of age story, with a lot of unique elements.  On top of that, the author is doing a good job of revealing a world that is both unlike ours, and unlike your typical fantasy world – even if characters are referred to as “elves” and “goblins.”

If I have any complaint, it is her odd use of older speech forms in the dialog, but not in the text nor the internal monologue.

The Three Body Problem

Again, a very enjoyable story.  There is what I have to conclude is a definite flavor coming from the setting in modern China, but it also resonates with the parts of the world I’m more familiar with.  If anything bothered me significantly, it was some possibly out-of-date information regarding nearby star systems.

The Dark Between the Stars

At first, I was liking this a fair amount.  But, I quickly grew tired and quit listening for two reasons.  First, the information carried over from the author’s previous 7 book series in the same universe seemed to becoming something that was really needed to understand and follow the story.  But, more importantly, the story quickly found itself in a “many lines, all waiting” situation.  Having read (OK, listened to) about 1/3 of the story – around 18-20 chapters, I’d only seen 3 characters having more than one chapter as the PoV character.  On top of that, most of the story lines appeared to be independent, with no indication of how or why they might be interconnected.

Ancillary Sword

I know Ancillary Justice was last year’s Hugo Award winner.  But, I couldn’t get through the first chapter of the excerpt.  Not only did there seem to be a lot of information from the first book that was needed to understand what was going on, it was sounding or feeling like the setup for yet another military SF drudge story.


Possible WSFS Proposals

First, a proposal I’m very tempted to tack onto B.1.4:

I move to amend B.1.4 by adding {somewhere} “provided that the Hugo Award Subcommittee of a Worldcon can elect to continue the previous process of counting nominations until one of the following conditions is met:
– A prior Worldcon has used the revised method.
– They have received and accepted (1) pusedo code, programming code, or mathematically rigorous formal specifications for the program to count the nominations, and (2) a set of sample data that contains sample nominations from at least 2/3 of the number of people to cast nominating ballots in the largest category over the last three years.

Second, some year in the future, I’m tempted to make the following motion:

I move to amend the WSFS constitution by making the following changes:


1.5.x: Members of the immediately preceding Worldcon, or the immediately following Worldcon shall be allowed to purchase a Hugo Award Nominating Membership for no more than a regular supporting membership, and for no more than $20.00 USD or the equivalent in local currency, adjusted upward by inflation as reported by the United States Department of Commerce.  These memberships shall only grant the right to participate in Hugo Award Nominations, and shall grant no other rights.

3.7.1 The Worldcon Committee shall conduct a poll to select the nominees for the final Award voting. Each member of the administering Worldcon granted full voting rights, the immediately preceding Worldcon, or the immediately following Worldcon as of January 31 of the current calendar year and persons with Hugo nominating memberships shall be allowed to make…


My Radical Agenda

For a moment, let’s pretend that I’m somehow made, simultaneously, into both the President and the entirety of congress, here are some of the radical ideas I’d have – which probably go to show how far reality has pushed me from my former libertarian-ish views.

  1. Progressive tax reform – reinstate the higher tax brackets starting at either $1,000,000.00 or $10,000,000.00 of income.  Also adjust the corporate tax and capital gains taxes so that corporations are encouraged to invest long term and pay dividends rather than raise their stock prices.
  2. A “basics” package for all U.S. Citizens, including
    • Basic education: PreK – College (4 years)
    • Basic income, paid to all citizens over 16 who are not full time students
    • Basic health insurance: no deductible, pays 80%-100% depending on purpose of visit, choice of appropriate provider (urgent care over ER), etc.
    • Basic access to housing with water and heat.
  3. Massive investment in infrastructure – repair first then maybe a new WPA
  4. Plans to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.  This should include fuels from what would otherwise be waste products, and fuels produced in non-agricultural areas.
  5. Reduction of military involvement in training and direct action in foreign countries.  Retrain them to be ready to perform humanitarian missions, including rescues of persecuted groups.
  6. Ensure that the military has the equipment it needs – but only what it needs, not what congress decides it needs.
  7. A more open immigration system, and an expedited asylum system.  Immigrant parents of US citizens should also get the basics package until their child is independant; by which time they should have had enough time to become naturalized citizens in their own right.

Albuquerque’s Nob Hill Business District

Albuquerque’s Nob Hill neighborhood’s major business district is along Central Avenue – which carried Route 66 from 1937 until it was decommissioned – stretching from Washington Boulevard on the east to Girard on the west.

Ernst Haas Photo looking east on Central at Carlisle, Circa 1969

Ernst Haas Photo looking east on Central at Carlisle, Circa 1969

When I was in college at the University of New Mexico, which is located just west of Nob Hill, running from Girard to University mostly north of Central, I would head into Nob Hill with some frequency, mostly to do shopping at War Games West.  While I did walk up Central on at least a few occasions, and biked up Silver, one block south of Central, at least once, I’ll confess I mostly drove up Silver to the parking lot at Silver and Amherst that served War Games West and the rest of that block of buildings.

But, my recollection was that most of the other businesses in the area weren’t that interesting.

Over the last few years, Tara and I have discovered that at least the section from Richmond on the west to Carlisle has a number of interesting and eclectic shops, and is always worth a visit when we are in Albuquerque.

Much of the development along Central was started after 1937.  But a major development was done in 1946 and 1947 when Robert Waggoman built the Nob Hill Business Center, the first modern (i.e. car oriented) shopping center in New Mexico (according to Wikipedia), and possibly west of the Mississippi (according to a reference I’ve misplaced).

Nob Hill Business Center is a Streamline Moderne style building with hints of the New Mexico Territorial style.  The structure is U shaped around a small, but probably sufficient in 1947, parking lot.  The parking lot faces Central, and the building runs along the other three sides of the block bounded by Central on the north, Carlisle on the east, Silver on the south, and Amherst on the west.  There are store fronts available that both face the parking lot, and the three outside streets.  Since Silver is up Nob Hill (the geographic feature) from Central in that area, most of the Silver frontage is made up of the upstairs sections and backs of the stores.

In the two interior corners are two larger store spaces.  My understanding is that, originally, these were occupied by a grocery store and a drug store.  The remaining store fronts are available for smaller shops.

Now, the two corner shops are occupied by the La Montanita Co-op grocery store, and a salon and day spa.  But there are two stores in between that we like visiting.  One is a gallery (whose name I’ve forgotten) and the other is Beeps, which I can only describe as an eclectic store as it carries toys, jewelry, novelty kitchen accessories, and other interesting things.  We used to also enjoy browsing at the design shop that used to face Carlisle at the northern end.

Continuing west from Nob Hill, we pass an Asian “street food” restaurant in the building that was occupied by the late lamented War Games West when I was in college, and later Bow Wow Records.

A bit further down the block is The Flying Star Cafe‘s original location.  When I was in college, their easternmost storefront (one storefront west of the former location of War Games West) housed a Double Rainbow ice cream parlor (possibly only until 1987).  As I understand it, the franchise owners wanted to go a different way, and converted the shop into the first Flying Star.  Since then, they’ve taken over every storefront west until a small alley.  The rest of that block has two free-standing buildings, one a fairly mundane building containing a pizza parlor, and another housing a Starbucks.

The building containing the Starbucks was a KFC when I was in college.  But I think it was built for something else – but more recently than when much of the rest of the area was built up.  It is a fairly long and narrow building with a rectangular footprint. But its roofline is mostly a half-cylinder, except at the front it is cut in a circle.

Continuing into the next block west is an Arby’s and one of several sushi restaurants along this stretch as well as business well off of Central.  I’d guess that, like the Starbucks, this is a newer development with even more parking.

The block after that has Kelly’s Bar and Grill, located in what was a Ford dealership, and later (or at the same time) may have been a Texaco station.  I’ve never been to Kelly’s – too many other favorites to go to a place that could be found elsewhere – but it has a good reputation.

Kelly’s apparently leases part of the building to a Cold Stone, and to a flower shop.  The rest of that block is occupied by the Hiway House motel, and a Korean barbeque located in what I think was once the motel’s lobby and check-in area.

The next block is where the eclectic nature of the area is most apparent.  In that block, in addition to a restaurant or two and a store selling smoking supplies, is a vintage clothing store, Masks y Mas – which specializes in mostly Mexican arts and crafts largely focused on Dias de Los Muertos – and Astro-Zombies – a comic book store with a good selection of comics and graphic novels, and a whole lot of other geeky toys and games.

The north side of Central through that area has some more mundane stores, including a dry cleaner, Kurt’s Camera Corral, a Redwing Shoe store, and Disco Display House, a party supply place.  These were all there when I was in college, as was The Guild arthouse movie theater.

There is also a block where there is a complex with shops on the lower floor and condos on the upper levels.  This is less than two years old, since it was strikingly out of place to me; more so than it would have been if it had been built in the prior 23 years.  But it also has been there long enough for one business to go out of business.  Most of the business there are pretty mundane.

On the north side is also where we find a Satellite Coffee, owned by the same people as The Flying Star – which yesterday was full of hipsters and nerds in the mid afternoon.  There are also a couple of clothing boutiques catering largely to the hipster demographic.

As I said at the top, Tara and I always find it worth a trip.  On the other hand, I still will miss War Games West and we’ll miss the design shop.

Musical Ambition

I’m reposting here two posts that went initially to Facebook and Google+, one from October 25, and the other from October 26:

October 25:
(Tara will probably complain, but) I picked up a Jamstik as a late birthday present/right hand exercise. It arrived the other night and I’ve been working through the tutorial.

I’ve already figured a few things out, however:
– I’ll probably want to still get a real guitar and take lessons from a live person. I don’t know whether to go through the Poway Adult School, Palomar College, or go the private lesson route.
– I need to build up the calluses on my left hand.
– my (literal) fat fingers make it hard for both of the chords the tutor has tried to teach me: E and A.
– the tutor program has an “arcade mode,” based on Guitar Hero and the like. I find this much harder to do since I have some eye-hand coordination issues that still require me to do too much thinking before fretting the correct string(s). Even in the other mode, I pick the wrong string a high percentage of the time.
– I find it easier to use headphones – otherwise the actual sound of the strings kind of distracts me.
– I need to stick with this in order to get myself up to the level I’d like to be at: enough to at least accompany myself in filk type settings (which, sort-of includes the monthly worship sessions at our church)

October 26:
I did a bit of noodling tonight. Mostly working on E and A chords. I still have to look at reference and think to get my left hand correct.

I’m also having a problem with the E chord that tends to make the Jamstik sense the third string (C?) as being fretted on the second fret, not the first. I don’t think it is because I’m swapping my first two fingers. I also think I’m going to need to trim my nails.

I located a place for lessons. I decided to give their voice lessons a try first – since I already own the instrument.

(I also need to decide if I should get an electric guitar so I can practice without disturbing Tara. On the other hand, that is what the Jamstik is for.)

Writing Again

For the last week or so, I’ve been dabbling with writing.  I’m not resuming As of Yet Unnamed Fantasy Story.  Instead, I’m working on something that I doubt I’ll be sharing (or at least sharing broadly and publically) for personal reasons.

However, doing this has brought a couple general things up that I’m going to share:

I’ve been using Scrivener ( for this.  I’m finding I really like how it works.  It lets me organize things, draft scenes and sections, store notes, etc.  It also takes care of formatting the story – it will even generate .epub and .mobi formatted e-books directly (albeit without the ability to embed fonts).

What I’m writing is alternate history.  Especially for real-world and alternate history, I’m finding that the Internet now has tons of good (and not so good) places to get information to ensure at least some accuracy.  My story touches the legal system, and I’ve been able to track down both a general overview of the legal process, and the actual laws of the state where my story takes place.  This has let me make surgical changes in history but make sure that they (I think) fit somewhat seamlessly into an otherwise recognizable world.

Google Maps and Google Street View are also quite useful in visualizing settings that I’ve not actually been to – or haven’t been to recently.

If my next project is more shareable, I’ll let you know how my dabbling comes out.