21 January 2016

Are Spoilers Actually Good?

The new movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released about a month ago, and it's made nearly two billion dollars so far. In fact, it made a billion dollars faster than any movie in history.

It would seem that anyone who cares about Star Wars must have obviously seen the film already. Not me. I do care about Star Wars: I watched Episodes IV-VI as a kid and loved them, and watched Episodes I-III as they came out while I was a preteen and teen. (I mostly loved them, too, but later—like most fans—realized they had some significant failings.)

Instead of watching The Force Awakens, though, I accidentally spoiled one of the major plot points for myself, and then the internet spoiled another for me. However, now that I think about it, I'm actually happier knowing the major surprises of the movie without having seen it, and I can wait even longer before I take the time to watch it. Perhaps—and hear me out on this—spoilers actually a good thing.

31 December 2015

Top 5 Posts of 2015

The year 2015 has been the 25th calendar year of my life, and the 8th of Peter's Publisher. I started blogging soon after I became competent in using the internet, and I've continued to blog for the entirety of my adult life—regardless of whenever I think that started.

number of posts per
year on this blog
(will be 17 for 2015)
If you check out the sidebar of this blog that shows all my posts, you'll notice I've blogged less in 2015 than in any other year since I created the Publisher. I'm a little saddened by that fact, but I do have plenty of excuses: I've been teaching full-time, putting my all into it (and writing about it every now and then on my separate blog Teaching in Lingít Aaní); I went on big, three-week honeymoon over the summer with my wife, a little less than a year after our wedding (only mentioned here on the blog); and we just bought ourselves a home over the course of October and November. (I've been so busy with everything I didn't even share that news on here until now!)

Back in 2011 and 2012, I ended the year on the Publisher by sharing my Top 10 Posts of 2011 and Top 10 Posts of 2012. It's interesting to note that those were the two years in which I was most prolific in my blogging (117 posts each), and they were my last two full years as an undergraduate student, as I began my master's program and student teaching in 2013. I've never been able to blog as much ever since!

Nevertheless, I'll consider it a success that I have continued to blog when I can. Since I don't have much to choose from for a "top 10," I'd like to celebrate the end of the year with a list of my top 5 posts of 2015. Here they are, listed in the order I wrote them in:
5. Tina Fey's Disgusting Native Storyline in The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
calling out a disgusting farce of Native assimilation—one example of how trying to do "smart" comedy can be even worse than more crudely offensive humor 
4. Yeah, A Song of Ice and Fire is Orientalist
in which I move on from criticizing the show Game of Thrones and take aim at the book series A Song of Ice and Fire and author George R. R. Martin himself for being orientalist
3. Panic vs. Tolerance: Gay Marriage, the Confederate Flag, and Wade Hampton
addresses how three greatly differing topics have all sparked panic and outrage in certain circles because of a lack of open-mindedness and tolerance 
2. I Resent Learners of Fictional Languages
confessing that people who learn Klingon, Elvish, or other invented languages seriously disappoint me, since they could be helping save real, endangered languages instead 
1. "Christmas Christians" and Reasons to Go to Church
asks why some Christians might only go to church on Christmas, and discusses my own story of moving from a church-going non-believer to a church-goer no more
The pieces I chose for this list all ended up being rather serious, and only the "Christmas Christians" post is particularly positive. Still, I think these were my favorite and best-written posts of 2015, and if you happen to find this list, I hope you enjoy reading some of them.

Have a happy New Year! I can't wait to see what 2016 has in store.

25 December 2015

"Christmas Christians" and Reasons to Go to Church

a church in July—I wonder what their
attendance is then? (my photo)
Christmas has me reflecting on all the church services around the world that must be happening, with millions and millions of people in attendance. It's amazing to think that, even though some Christians recognize Christmas on different dates, December 24th and 25th must be two of humanity's most celebrated days—maybe the most celebrated.

Of the millions of people attending services this Christmas, many have undoubtedly gone to church infrequently over the past several months. Maybe the Christmas service will even be their only one this year. The Wikipedia article Lapsed Catholic lists a number of amusing terms for such people:

03 October 2015

I Resent Learners of Fictional Languages

Let me start by saying that I understand learning a fictional language is a hobby. Many people have hobbies that don't seem to have any particularly useful purpose. I'm sure I have hobbies that some would judge to be a waste of time, and I certainly have plenty of knowledge (including knowledge of fictional worlds) that many would judge to be useless.

Nevertheless, I resent learners of fictional languages. I resent those who learn fictional languages not because I believe their pursuits are harmful, but because they clearly have aptitudes that could be put to exceptionally greater uses.

01 October 2015

Unsecured and Freely Available Guns Kill People

Unsecured and freely available guns kill people. It's a scientific fact.
  1. Crazed people commit acts of violence around the world. There are few places, however, where crazed people have freer access to firearms than the United States. Firearms allow violent and mentally unstable people to become far more dangerous.
  2. Gun accidents have killed hundreds and thousands of Americans, and many many fewer would have died if guns weren't so ubiquitous and unsecured here. An average of 62 children under age 14 have died every year due to gun accidents for the past several years in the U.S., most of them in their own homes, most of them because adults did not secure their firearms.
  3. Studies show that suicides are far more likely to be completed if there unsecured guns in the person's home. Just a lock on the gun case makes suicide less likely to happen—and no, you can't say "Well, a suicidal person will just find another way," because suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts don't work that way.
It's a disgrace to humanity that so many Americans can't face up to these facts and admit that something must be done. Doubtless, thousands more people will die from guns in attacks, accidents, and suicides in the United States before anything will change.

13 August 2015

Who Are the Monks and Nuns of the 21st Century?

Today I finished rewatching the miniseries Pillars of the Earth (based on the great book by Ken Follett) with my wife, and afterward I was struck by the following idea:

In medieval western Europe, monasticism was an important part of many communities, and a large number of people lived as monks and nuns. Today, however, monasticism is virtually nonexistent in much of western Europe, and most everywhere else plays a much smaller role in society with a much smaller number of adherents, at least as a percentage of the population. 

Are there institutions and vocations that hold a prominent place in our world today that will similarly shrink from view centuries from now? There must be. In a sense, I am wondering—who are the monks and nuns of the twenty-first century?

I don't have an answer to this question; I just thought it was interesting to consider. Who knows what sort of shifts in our social structures and career paths might occur centuries from now, or what organizations and professions that we have utter faith in today might lose that support in the future? Please let me know if you have ideas!

Young monks in Myanmar (Burma), a place where monasticism is still relatively strong (image source)
Please note: I do not at all mean to disrespect present-day monks and nuns with this post. I am well aware that there are still people in Christendom (to use the medieval term) who join religious orders. I simply find it noteworthy that monasticism faded so much as a critical component of European society, and wondered what a future parallel would be.

07 August 2015

Three Days of Stockholm Tunnelbana Travel

I have a thing with metro and tram systems. My fascination really grew serious in Strasbourg, where I ended up visiting all of the tram stations within the first month of my college semester there. I then turned my focus back onto the metro in Washington, D.C., and I created a map to track my travels on it during my senior year at Georgetown.

A few weeks ago my wife and I went on our honeymoon (nearly a year after our wedding) and visited Sweden, Norway, and Iceland together. Our first stop was Stockholm, and we bought ourselves 72-hour passes for unlimited travel on the Stockholms Lokaltrafik network. Mostly, we used the Tunnelbana ("tunnel rail") metro system. Here's the map of where we went:

three days' travel on the Stockholm Tunnelbana

Stockholm is a beautiful city, and using the Tunnelbana was an awesome way to get around it. The map above may not look that impressive, but I think we definitely got our money's worth from the 72-hour cards, and saw much of the center of the city, as well as some of the outskirts. I hope we'll get the chance to go back and see even more!

05 August 2015

Safeway O Organics Tea Irony

My wife and I love the O Organics peach oolong tea from Safeway, and we have for a few years now, but this passage on the new label for the tea is pretty rich:

"Doesn't it feel good to know where your food comes from?" Yes, definitely—but there's absolutely no information on the label as to where this tea or its ingredients come from! You just reminded your customers that they like having more information, O Organics and Safeway, but then you gave us none of it. What a disappointment.