November 25, 2017

Giving Thanks for God's Found Family

Our thanksgiving celebration was a pleasant but quiet one.

I tried something new. I made cranberry sauce, which came out quite nice. Homemade sauce tends to be more intense than what you get from the store. It has a greater depth of flavor and the only remotely dubious ingredient would be the cane sugar!

We also made a pleasant discovery. Gluhwein Winternacht wine improves if it sits undisturbed for a year. It is pretty nice the first year, but give it a second year and it sweetens and mellows out. It will be a bit stronger so watch out for that.

We cooked the turkey our favorite way. We stuffed it with onions and apples, covered it, and roasted it. They do a great job of keeping turkey moist and impart a lovely flavor and aroma.

On the other hand, we also got a few reminders that “the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.”

Last night, I felt the urge to look the saying about blood and water.

No one is entirely sure where it came from, but it appears to date back to medieval times and seems to be inspired by Scripture and an old German adage.

The adage was about the importance of family, while the scriptural passage is about being a part of Jesus' family.

Let's read Matthew 12:46 – 50.

46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him.
47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”
49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.
50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus explained part of what following Him means. Jesus made a found family; that's actually what Christianity is! He has some blood kin in there, like His mother and God the Father, but he also counts the apostles and anyone else following Him as His brothers and sisters. The thing is, as Christians, we are also siblings to each other too.

It sounds obvious, but it bears repeating.

That shy guy down the street who's more comfortable with cats than humans? If he's God's man, then he's your brother. That one kid who loves anime more than you do? If she's chosen God, then she's your sister. The poor family who has trouble making ends meet? If they chose God, then they're still your brothers and sisters.

The question is what makes family? Most would say love… and they'd be at least partially right. Going by the context the verse above was in, I'd say commitment is a big part of it too. Going by the context of verse above, it sounds as though the Jesus' genetic siblings turned on Him for being “controversial” and “not getting along” with the authorities when they told Him to stop preaching and stop helping people in God's name. Translation: His genetic kindred denounced Him when the going got tough.

John19:26 - 27 describes an interesting event at the Crucifixion. Jesus entrusts His mother to the apostle John. It doesn't come through in English, but according to the theologians I found, He used covenant language in that verse.

John 19:26-27 New International Version (NIV)

26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,[a] here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
  1. John 19:26 The Greek for Woman does not denote any disrespect.

It matters because Israel has a long history of covenants joining people for life. Many of you probably already know about David and Jonathan. (David's family life wasn't great either) This page has some interesting points about Jewish covenants -
God is not shy about making a covenants, and He always follows through. If you've chosen Him, He says you're family. As long as you choose Him, He chooses you.

So, the next question: What is love?
Thankfully, God's given us a nice comprehensive checklist in the form of 1 Corinthians 13. Let's read it.

1 Corinthians 13New International Version (NIV)

13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 f I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


  1. 1 Corinthians 13:1 Or languages
  2. 1 Corinthians 13:3 Some manuscripts body to the flames

Above is a list that will tell you if someone loves you or you love someone else. The above scripture also gives us a pretty decent outline of who God is as a person.

The love we are called to is not mushy gooey thing. It is not a marshmallow feeling. It is not fickle emotion. Love is a set of decisions, actions, and principles all rolled into one concept. It takes discipline and strength to maintain, more than any human can hope to muster on their own. Thankfully God helps us to love as we should, if we ask Him. He knows all about love because He is Love. This is how we're supposed to emulate Jesus.

Many of you have a genetic family member or three in your life who do not try to love.
They may lie about you (Love does not dishonor others),
set you up for trouble (Love always protects, Love is kind),
decide that you don't matter and tell anyone who will listen as much (Love does not dishonor others),
be offended that you don't fit their preconceived prejudices(Love does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered),
rob you (Love is not self-seeking),
seek your harm (Love always protects, Love is kind),
and/or don't tell you that “deserve” to be treated as a human being (Love does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered).

These people may be an embarrassing mention on your pedigree, but they do not act like family if they do not love you. DNA alone does not a family make.

Thankfully, you're not alone. Jesus knows and understands. If you're His, you have another family.

By that same token, if we follow these rules and ask God to help us, we can love the people around us so much more than we can alone. Humanity gets better when we choose to love God's way.

Bible passages taken from the NIV Bible at BibleGateway

May 6, 2016

Final Fantasy 12 thoughts

I finished Final Fantasy 12 sometime back. What a journey! I loved the story. It’s subtle and rich in details, but the details are easy to miss if you do not pay attention to both the in-game hunter’s log and to the NPCs’ speeches.
The use of psychological principles here was surprisingly believable. Each of the characters had several reasons for his or her actions. Basch, for example, is a military man who has developed a strong dislike of war. Even Vaan, who was not initially planned in, had
However, the one character that fell flat in this respect was one who really needed exposition to be effective: Vayne. On one level he is as detailed as the others are. There was clearly a Machiavelli or two to his Medici (Cid, maybe Bergan and Ghis too?) but there are a few crucial bits missing from his role. Since his actions directly impacted all of the main characters, his involvement in the story was personal. However, his involvement did not feel as personal as his role should have made it. Consequently, this leaves a few questions that were generally addressed (however simply) in most of the previous Final Fantasy games. For example, Zemus (FF4) was possessed and wanted to take the planet his people found by force, Kefka(FF6) was bitter over being removed from his post as general, Kuja(FF9) wanted to validate his existence and make himself irreplaceable, Sephiroth(FF7) blamed Shinra and Cloud for his troubles, and Seymour(FF10) thought that destroying Spira would save its inhabitants. Sure, they are all insane to varying degrees, but in every case, their reasons and goals are clear, their impact made harsh and devastating by how personally involved with the heroes they were. Kuja openly resented Zidane (who was meant to replace Kuja), Sephiroth made it his life’s mission to torment Cloud, Kefka was motivated by bitterness and a desire to control, and Seymour both desired and hated Yuna. Only Emperor Palamecia(FF2) and Garland (FF1) had fewer apparent reasons for their villainy than Vayne did. Vayne’s reasons for his goal are unclear and he did not do his own dirty work (only turning up to gloat early on). Why was he fixated on Dalmasca and Raithwall’s descendants? Did he fall in love with the land and its legends? He clearly saw in them a path to greater power and glory; he saw himself as the next Raithwall. Did he identify with Raithwall? Why exactly did he hate his father so much? There were hints but very few confirmed facts. There are so many maybes!
Unfortunately, the pacing of leveling up interrupts the flow of the storyline. This rpg requires the player to spend a long time leveling up. However, it’s possible to beat that problem. Try developing your characters by visiting more advanced areas as early as possible. Save often to minimize frustration. You gain two benefits this way; not only does leveling up go a lot more quickly, you can find better equipment, for free, early.

July 8, 2014

Sailor Moon Crystal: Where to Watch + Mini Review

The first episode is finally up! :D

You can check it out at the following hosts!

NicoNico -

CrunchyRoll -

Hulu –

Kotaku’s article on reactions to this first episode was fun to read, too. -

So far it seems to be faithful to the original manga. It’s also atmospheric, more so in some places than others. It beautifully underscores the difference between Usagi’s everyday life and her duties as Sailor Moon.

The character’s expressions are mostly a lot more nuanced, but are not as extreme as they were in the previous anime. (except for poor Umino – he still came out very cartoonish)
Some folks were not quite as happy about that, but I think that the more restrained expressions of emotion fit the setting better than the much more over-the-top mannerisms of the 1992 anime (though those were a lot of fun to watch). Usagi in particular is a bit more believable – she has flaws but she also has virtues. She isn’t merely a vehicle for humor.

Although the new show does take several cues from the previous anime, it has a more complex ambiance. In addition to the humor, there is also wonder and menace contrasting with the usual cadence of Usagi’s everyday life.  

I am still developing the next part of "My Side of the Story".

May 22, 2014

My Side of the Story - Part 1

There’s been far too many rumors flying around, so here’s my take on the situation. The problems are pretty hinky and seem as tangled as Gordian’s knot, but there are two common threads running through the labyrinth that we can follow. They are two groups of people who’ve unjustly hunted my family. One is a vicious and unusually tenacious rumor mill, the other is a group of people from a particular fandom. No, I won’t name the fandom, because its bad behavior was kicked off by one ugly sub-group that took over and even recruited a few people who at one time had connections within associated company(s). If they straighten out, I’d like their names to not be blackened beyond cleansing. (their own behavior brings them shame already, outside their group. If they start treating people better, then the bad rep will fade on its own)
I’m not going to say where the neighborhood in question is, because all who need to know about it already do, and, again, if they truly change for the better, I’d sleep easier knowing that I didn’t set them up for more shame later. 

I just hope withholding the names isn’t a mistake; it has seemed like our usual restraint has been used against us at times… Well, I guess it’s down to them to prove that courtesy isn’t wasted.

Here’s my side of the story. 

The thing is, I know full well that neither I nor my family has earned the hatred leveled at us.
For us, the trouble began over forty years ago, with an attempted theft and an honorable officer doing his job on a base. That night, my grandfather, the officer of the watch, stopped an unaccounted-for truck at the gates. When he looked inside, he found thousands of dollars’ worth of parts and equipment. A quick check revealed that it was all stuff that belonged to the government and was supposed to still be on base.

He had reason to believe that some people who’d talked him into moving to a particular backwater neighborhood might be involved, but he chose to let that part go since the investigators didn’t catch that detail and no harm seemed to have been done. His proof was circumstantial and he didn’t want to ruin anyone’s life. He couldn't believe they would be hardened criminals, given that several members were 'respectable' leaders in a nearby church. Unfortunately, the thieves were not as decent as he was. Instead of being ashamed of their behavior, the would-be thieves used their connections to slander him in the neighborhood and even lied about him to his superiors during a routine check-up. It didn’t work, thankfully. Grandfather had a clean record everywhere he’d been and his commanding officers alerted him to the slander. He couldn’t believe his own ‘friends’ would do this to him.  He spoke to them about the slander and he thought they made peace with him. Well, he had let it go, and had been given cause to think they would stop. They didn’t.

Ever since then, the families of the would-be thieves lied about every member of his family, including his wife, his children, his grandchildren, and anyone who married in. Over time, a vicious rumor mill established, hunting us for “revenge” and entertainment. This rumor mill hunted me and my parents. My Dad was beaten up repeatedly “just ‘cause” and verbally abused in public school and outside it. It got so bad that he had to finish at a Protestant Christian academy. (His family was not Protestant)

My aunt was also slandered, threatened, sexually harassed, and physically attacked because of lies the local harridans told about her. Unsurprisingly, she moved away as soon as she could and it looks like a few cousins have since done the same, for exactly the same reasons.  

I was threatened and hurt by kids I didn’t even know as a 1st and 2nd grader in the local elementary school. I kept coming home bruised and crying. Mom and Dad home-schooled me as a safety measure. Many times, I’ve had cause to be grateful that they watched my back, even in our own yard.

This rural neighborhood has managed to be as vicious as any urban area I’ve ever heard of. Many times, someone tried to force their way into the house at night. There was even ‘random’ gunfire (conveniently when my brother and I were outside) from careless hunters (or were they?) some years. A visitor was nearly killed by it. The extremes of people continually trying to run cars off the roads and shooting across yards has stopped, especially once law enforcement started looking into it, but the ugly slander is still a huge problem.

It was still very much an issue in my last semester at community college. I was harassed taking tests. I was pointed at and made fun of, and all by people I’ve never known in my life. There were people trying to catch me off by myself, acting like they intended me harm. One man (who had no reason to be there) was running around with a folder pointing me and my parents out to people in the employ of the college even, and didn’t even hide it until my parents reported him to the right authorities. The thing is, whatever “evidence” he thought he had is completely bogus; we’ve never harmed anyone. Not me, not Dad, not Mom, not my brother, nor anyone else. We do defend ourselves (nonviolently, for preference), and we obey the law.

Over the years, the sons and daughters (and grandkids) of the thieves followed their parents’ example and focused on blaming Dad for every bad thing someone else did, even when they KNEW for a fact he was not responsible. There were people accusing him of murders that took place when he was living hundreds miles away at the time... or was even in the ICU of a hospital. The local gossips never mention any of the many times Dad risked his life to save someone else’s life, or any of the times he was generous to someone having a horrible time, or about his efforts to be a truly good neighbor. (The only time he has seen his own standard of neighborlyness right back was in Texas, hundreds of miles away from here! That is somewhere where having a good neighbor could literally save your life). There a few times when a neighbor would say that she needed Dad’s help with something, only to set him up for harm. He may be intense, but he’s kind and wants to do people good. 

I know he’s sometimes shouted at people in public – that usually happens after someone outside home has abused him yet again, slandering him in public, or acted threatening on the roads. 

People have told me we “deserved” this abuse, because the rumor mill decided to accuse Dad of every crime they could. So, basically, the argument for abusing us now is that we've been falsely accused for so long and for so many things... crimes neither my Dad nor any of us ever committed? Sounds legit! NOT!  

It gets better - The rumors used to encourage the abuse are very inconsistent. In addition to the false accusations of crimes, there were vicious people saying literally anything they could think of to turn people against us. Several claimed that we were libertines (to conservatives) or that we were narrow-minded puritans (to liberals). Since we are actually moderates, it is way too easy for the more prejudiced of both extremes to regard us as ‘the other’ and to misrepresent us anyway. Some accusations were of racist hatred (to minorities) to an insistence that we were enamored of other races (to white supremacists). When a neighbor my Dad barely knew but liked went missing nearly thirty years ago, it was one more thing our persecutors used to drag our names through the mud and abuse us over. (We heard they also bullied several other families for that one.) It didn’t help that one family member has a habit of badmouthing her own relations to whomever anyway, and has even parroted slander she heard about her own kin – even stuff she had to have known wasn’t true… and the ugly little rumor mill capitalized on her inner demons and quirks.

Unsurprisingly, when people we’d begun to befriend were approached with the slander, most fled. People who are just sounding you out are particularly susceptible to believing rubbish spouted by someone who claims to be ‘warning’ them. Many people refuse to approach or tolerate the targets of such abuse even when they KNOW the victims didn’t deserve it, because they fear that they will also be targeted by the same evil. No need to get judgmental. If a friend or family member started to befriend someone and you knew they could get hurt because of the enemies of that person, wouldn’t you advise them to steer clear? It takes real courage to stick by someone you know is being bullied. There’s reason for that avoidance; bullies have no problem adding to their hate list when they’re not confronted with serious consequences. Over time, bullies tend to get worse, and may commit worse crimes if they feel they have society’s permission. This is one reason why bullying needs to be dealt with; not stopping people from victimizing others sets a pattern of abuse that the bully feels is socially sanctioned. He or she will feel safe continuing to abuse other people. Standing up to bullying is an issue of true equality and of justice, but most prefer to keep their lives peaceful by placating them or by avoiding them (and their victims.)

Until fairly recently, this place was never too concerned about justice; you just DON’T want to know how long it took for most people to feel safe here, especially minorities. I still don’t feel comfortable inviting any friends over; I’ve yet to see most of the neighbors treat anybody who isn’t white, rich, and/or from one of their cliques with ANY respect.

Basically, when these people invited Grandfather into the neighborhood, he'd been given reason to think he fit in okay – the dysfunctionality is not immediately apparent, and those who approached him had downplayed the cultural differences (He'd considered Mormonism, and its really obvious there's an ethnic side to the family, but he had no idea they would be so ugly about ethnic/religious differences), and he’d been living in saner places before he came to this neighborhood. It sounded like he had more in common culturally with these people than he really did. He figured that if there were any differences that he and his family could ride it out, because they already had successfully in other parts of the world. He’d been living in places that distrusted Americans at the time and, despite serious cultural differences, had gotten along well with his neighbors. The same is true of Dad. Dad had spent his earliest years in Japan. His family was on good terms with the neighbors there and he spent a lot of time with them. Unsurprisingly, the culture there shaped how he still views the world.

Consequently, they were not prepared for was the nearly upended moral code present in this backward community descended largely from smugglers, plantation owners/workers, and pirates. That’s not hyperbole. Some of the families we know were involved with the harassment are said to be the descendants to wreckers (That’s land-based piracy - wreckers lured ships into wrecking and plundered the survivors and the ship’s remains.)

Here, devotion to the designated leaders is prized above justice. Social ambition and appearances are given priority over the truth and basic fairness. Leaders are chosen by their connections to the previous leaders and their ability to summon followers, usable as a mob. Obviously, anyone lacking their own pack of flying monkeys is going to be at a disadvantage. Honor does not seem to exist here. Certainly there are some decent people, but they aren’t setting the tone. Pride, arrogance, and boasting are valued above humility, gentleness, and generosity. Gratitude is considered weakness, subordination. Kindness is taken as tribute proclaiming the other person as a superior. Manners are seen as flirting. Dignity is viewed as snobbery. They seem to think mentions of virtue are some kind of code language for other things. How else to explain calling their bad-tempered generous, or the unkind as wonderful? People we’ve seen making a steady practice of acting evil are called good and even given awards… and none of them even blinks at it.

Such an immoral climate is a marvelous hothouse for unrelenting, crippling rumor mills. I know that these horrible people do read my blog. If my description offends one of you, then why don’t you prove me wrong? Show me that you care for the poor and vulnerable instead of treading them underfoot (and not just your favorites and/or relations). Prove to me that you have enough honor and decency to not attack those you think are below you! Show that you can be better than what you’ve demonstrated to me so far! 

In short, the (at times) nearly constant societal abuse has been a highly restrictive feature of my life for as far back as I can remember. Keep them in mind, for their part of the story isn’t over.

March 2, 2014

Letting it Go

Lots of people have fallen in love with this song. It's beautiful, well-written, and powerful. It also doesn't hurt that the original is sung by Irina Menzel, who also voiced Elphaba from Wicked. I've had this stuck in my head for awhile, ever since looking up Frozen trailers back in December. The animation is stunning and the theme is a bit unusual, singing about someone who had been required to conform to a very rigidly defined role, and finally was free to give rein to her natural abilities and to delight in them. (Although, I'm no princess or queen, the theme really spoke to me; there was a fan group Mom and I left years ago that tried entirely too hard to dictate my interests. Certain of them mocked, "shunned", lied about my work to the groups they didn't approve of, and did worse... while Mom and I were busy looking after Dad in between operations. Needless to say, it was obnoxious and came at a VERY bad time. Thankfully, the bullying seems to have mostly stopped) Now I'm curious about the context of Elsa's break from her past. (didn't get to see it in the theaters, so I'm waiting for the dvd release) However, there are some gorgeous alternate takes on the iconic theme of Frozen to enjoy in the meantime!

As ever, the Piano Guys did a great job! In this case, they blended it with Vivaldi's Winter, making a driven theme appropriate to an action sequence.

How about the version Alex Boy√© did that went viral? Although the audial cultural mash-up is a bit of a head-scratcher, the arrangement is well-thought out and the performances are smooth. Mr. Boye’s voice and the drums offset Lexi Walker’s voice and the choir very nicely, making a rich song with several layers of depth. I think it’s as much the beauty of their performances as much as the reinterpretation that helped this song go viral. Congratulations! For once, something that went viral is actually beautiful!
Incidentally, both of them made their videos in the same place - Midway Ice Castles.

February 28, 2014

Updates and freebie news

There’s been a lot going on here. As you may have guessed, Mom and I had plans for last Christmas, but we ended up setting them aside when she had an emergency visit to the hospital. Thankfully, she came out it a lot better off than when she went in, even had some concerns allayed. She’s recovering quite nicely.

Christmas was unsurprisingly quiet, but pleasant. We pretty much took things slow. New Year’s Eve went the same way; the most exciting events of the night were home-made egg nog and a movie.

I’ve been on a huge Kingdom Hearts kick lately. I had been given the handheld games over the years, but hadn’t gotten around to playing them until now, because I didn’t know that they were fully fledged sequels and hadn’t been too thrilled with Chain of Memories. Birth by Sleep was interesting, fun, and answered several questions raised by the first three games. The story was a bit dark, but given its nature, that is to be expected. 

I’ve finally finished 358/2 Days. It’s pretty much an answer to the fans’ question “What happens when a new guy/gal is introduced to the Organization?” The answer seems to be that the poor sap gets showered in catty remarks and sarcasm, if they like him… or ends up running for her life if the Organization decides that she’s not human “enough” to respect. Roxas REALLY didn’t enjoy working for Xemnas. Needless to say, it probably explains Sora’s fury when he encountered Organization XIII’s remaining members; his anger was Roxas’s (and maybe Ventus’s?) anger. 

I played Birth by Sleep before playing 358/2 Days. Some scenes in 358/2 have a much more powerful punch if you play the games in that order. I think that Roxas really DID have a heart of his own, possibly two – specifically his own newborn heart, plus Ventus’s (hehe, does that make him a Time Lord?). He could have also just been Ventus, who would have been thoroughly disoriented from being forcefully separated from Sora when Xemnas/Xehanort found him.  

There are a few oddly realistic details in this colorful fairytale. However that's a topic for another day.
Speaking of which, all of that left me with a strong urge to build a few things, including a keyblade. 

I haven’t forgotten about the freebies. The two uniforms are pretty much together. I had to set back the release date because, in addition to the aforementioned hospital visit, the motion controls needed a serious overhaul. My original plan involved more body handles than these two currently have and came out very badly. I removed all but one handle and supplemented it with morphs. The tunics use the same maps. That should give you more options. You’ll see what I mean. :)

In any case, the Kunzite uniform is done and I’m fine tuning the other suit.( I will need to post an update, but it’s pretty much functional and you’ve been waiting a very long time) There are other goodies to enjoy, too. :) I wanted to post this stuff two months ago, but better late than never, right?