follow A Selection of Varied Topics

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Hello All!

Hello…if anyone is still reading… :)
Two and a half years of college have passed since I last wrote. I really missed my blog, so I am planning to start writing again.
However, I would like to have a fresh start content and layout-wise, but want to preserve my old blog for posterity..hehe…so I am going to start a new blog here.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Perspective [maybe]

Today I came across this article about child brides in India and Middle Eastern countries. Besides being shocked at a practice I knew existed but have never thought much about, I was of course reminded of patriocentricity. 

At first I was struck by how good we have it in the US, even most girls in patriocentric households, in comparison to girls in other parts of the world. And that's a valuable reminder. 

At the same time...that article reeks of patriocentricity. Every description of the mindset, if not the customs, in those cultures exactly matches that of patriocentricity. 

Forced early marriage thrives to this day in many regions of the world—arranged by parents for their own children, often in defiance of national laws, and understood by whole communities as an appropriate way for a young woman to grow up when the alternatives, especially if they carry a risk of her losing her virginity to someone besides her husband, are unacceptable.

The husbands may be...abductors who rape first and claim their victims as wives afterward, as is the practice in certain regions of Ethiopia.  

 Well this doesn't sound at ALL like the Old Testament laws, does it! 
Deut. 22: 28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels[c] of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

Remember this too: The very idea that young women have a right to select their own partners—that choosing whom to marry and where to live ought to be personal decisions, based on love and individual will—is still regarded in some parts of the world as misguided foolishness.
Some parts of the world. I take a sarcastic amusement in the shock that the author of this article would display at some of the patriocentric nonsense available right here in the US. 

He regarded me dubiously. "You have children?" he asked.
Two, I said, and the sheikh looked dismayed. "Only two!" He tipped his head toward a young woman nursing a baby in one arm while fending off two small children with the other. "This young lady is 26," he said. "She has had ten."
The sheikh made various pronouncements concerning marriage. He said no father ever forces his daughter to marry against her will. He said the medical dangers of early childbirth were greatly exaggerated. 

I am reminded of Debi Pearl's claim that the supposed dangers of multiple and too-frequent childbirths are negligible, compared to the more important 'eternal' consequences of not being quiverfull. 

"If there were any danger in early marriage, Allah would have forbidden it," a Yemeni member of parliament named Mohammed Al-Hamzi told me in the capital city of Sanaa one day. "Something that Allah himself did not forbid, we cannot forbid."Al-Hamzi, a religious conservative, is vigorously opposed to the legislative efforts in Yemen to prohibit marriage for girls below a certain age (17, in a recent version), and so far those efforts have met with failure. 

This last statement leaves me completely confused. At one time, I wish patriocentrists would take this approach: if God did not forbid women to work outside the home, go to college, or limit the number of children they have...why should we forbid it? On the other hand, the negative effects of this sort of thinking are evident in the above example: if we think that we can only make decisions on topics the Bible specifically speaks to, we will perpetually ignore real problems. 

Anyways, in's horrible to think that girls are undergoing real abuse in this way. [That is where a patriocentrist would leave it, probably with a subtle or not-so-subtle insinuation that the daughters of patriocentricity never undergo real abuse.] 

It is also horrible to remember that patriocentrists often share the same harmful values that drive families in India or Yemen to deny their daughters education, worth and freedom. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

My most inflammatory post yet

Recent exploits include... [oh those famous words]

-An assortment of graduation festivities including my own rather small grad party, which was followed by a roof-raising barn dance attended with dear buddy Eva and spent alternately catching up with old friends and dancing with Joseph of Road to Freedom and other fame.

-Summer vacation in Southern California. We decided to leave on very very short notice, in the midst of homeschool book sales, robotics events, and other fun things. The first night was spent in Willows CA, a Northern California town of the rice-farms-and-train-tracks variety. A column of flying bugs formed in the streetlight, we went for a walk and were shrieked at twice by the occupants of cars passing in the night, and I swam in the hotel pool [unfathomably warm to this sun-starved child of the PNW]. The next day dawned predictably warm and sunny but by evening we were shivering in the coastal fog of San Luis Obispo [and, in my case, sitting dejectedly in the hotel room in a patriarchy-induced gloom]. Next day, after an exciting incident during my [brief] stint as driver, an undisclosed number of bottles of coconut juice, and a lot of Tom Petty enthusiasm, we reached our destination at my grandparents' assisted-living residence near the beach. Ensconced in the hotel down the hill, we spent the next few days making forays to various posh areas of the county for shopping, food, and swimming. I notably managed to avoid getting a sunburn.
On the way back home, armed with nectarines, sandy flipflops, and still more coconut juice, I spent my time alternately between driving and brooding over an imposing to-do list in my notebook.
Some of this immensely productive time closeted in close proximity to a notebook resulted in the start of a few unpolished thoughts regarding the patriarchy movement.

One of the homeschool book sales boasted about six copies of Debi Pearl's Created to Be His Helpmeet, thankfully the work of only one seller [who probably invested in them all to dispense to her can only hope she changed her mind later]. Never having read the infamous work, I skimmed through a copy. The chapter I read was on chastity, which the author appears to think revolves solely around modesty, in the case of women.
Note: potentially offensive material below. Offensive to any thinking person who isn't used to hearing women compared to animals, that is.

Claim: the verse that says a man who lusts after a woman has committed adultery with her in his heart, means that the woman is complicit [complicit: adj. or noun, depending on whether you are talking to Bethany or my dictionary, meaning to blame, in league, culpable, guilty with another party]. The woman is consenting and complicit in the adultery because the phrase is 'adultery WITH her', not 'adultery AGAINST her'.

My response:
Your reasoning is only valid if there are other uses of the two phrases, to mean different things. There aren't. Can you give me even one example of 'adultery against' being used? So therefore, if it doesn't exist, you can't argue that the other phrase means anything out of the ordinary.
Second point: if Jesus was truly saying that the woman was also to blame....he would have said that right out, SURELY, especially if it was such a vital point.
[Note from the devil's advocate: this begs the question, if the woman truly isn't to blame, then why isn't it called rape and not adultery? A disturbing question, except that punishments for adultery were more severe than for rape, I believe.]

Claim: actually this isn't a claim, this is an out-and-out lie. This amazing chapter on chastity attempts to scare and insult women into 'modesty'. There are various excerpts from readers' letters, mostly men. They twice refer to women as pigs [and as a 'cow']. Why? Just why, do the worst insults towards women always revolve around characterizing them as animals? The first instance was a letter from a man who was enraged at an immodestly dressed woman: he called her 'cow' and 'pig' in his mind. Dear Debi Pearl somehow thought this worthy of publishing and impressing on the minds of young women. Thank you for adding one more voice to the thousands that scream at women, from inside and out of their heads. Now she has another 'biblically' sanctioned name to call herself.
The second reference came from a man who just hates to see women let their belly fat show. He goes on to say that it reminds him of the gold ring in the sow's snout analogy. [I believe he compares the women themselves to the sows, but even if he doesn't the image is clear enough.] This reader states that he 'doesn't mind the fact that they're fat so much, but that they flaunt it like they think it's hot' [paraphrased]. These fat-flaunting women [does such a thing exist?] remind him of 'biscuits with the uncooked dough popping out the middle' [paraphrased].
Does this even need refuting? Probably not, but I can't resist.
1) How about overweight men who let their belly fat show, also with apparent pride? By his standard, women should be telling them that THEY certainly aren't hot, and remind them of their own resemblance to biscuit dough.
2) Thank you for yet another condemnation of women judged to be overweight. Rest assured that your sense of duty has also served to attack women who consider themselves fat, often with no cause. Like the first reader, you've just thrown one more stone.
3) This is an arguable point, but...who gets to decide what is 'hot'? Hasn't the American media been doing a darn good job of that for years, without your chiming in? Wouldn't it be revolutionary if the people themselves were allowed to decide if they were 'hot'? Of course, it may not be semantically possible for a person to judge themselves attractive or not, assuming that means 'attractive to other people', but even so: attractive is entirely a matter of personal taste. And that may just mean that that roll of belly fat that reminds you of biscuit dough and swine could be hugely attractive to the next man.

One of my little projects on the trip to Cal was to attempt to show that the God of the Bible doesn't hate and detest women. It's still a work in progress. [Not sure how much of a joke that is supposed to be.] But here is a point: women are never referred to as animals in the Bible. That mention of rings and pig's noses? 'Like a gold ring in a swine's snout, is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion' [Proverbs]. The comparison is actually gold ring == woman, pig's snout == lack of discretion. Now it is difficult to tell where to draw the line between just being a gold ring, and being defined by being in a pig's snout, but I think it is pushing it far to say that the Bible calls women pigs [which neither Pearl nor the readers ever claimed: they just assumed it].

[Another note from the devil's advocate: the Israelites would detest the very thought of swine, which were so unclean in their culture: along with menstruating women, of course. See why I said the whole proving-the-Bible-loves-women project was a work in progress?]

Advertisement break! The notebook here has a page that reads:
Every child is an engineer. Somewhere along the way they learn that STEM is 1) hard 2) needs math 3) is not cool.
We need to make engineering:  not easy, you can't just ignore math, but it can be cool AND needs to be shown to be relevant, fun; whatever it is to young kids.

Back to the patriarchy war:

The next installment came after I'd gotten my unfortunate paws on Nancy Leigh DeMoss's book, 'Lies Women Believe', which, I must add, our college pastor mentioned favorably in his address today. I always get worried whenever any pastor besides our regular one stands up in the pulpit and it's usually with good cause.

DeMoss says that what we really need to do is not love ourselves in order to love others, but love ourselves less. She claims that it is impossible for a person to hate themselves [and makes the requisite disdainful mention of 'modern psychology'], because 'no man ever hated his own body, but loves and cares for it'. Thus, low self esteem is nonsense, we never need to love ourselves more, etc etc.

I'm not sure I can argue that in all senses it is possible to hate yourself. However, how do you deal with suicide and self-injury? Would anyone injure or kill someone they really loved? I can't imagine it. How can you argue that someone who committed suicide really loved and thought too highly of themselves?
Oh, and if I wanted to parse words in the same way that patriocentrists do...I could claim that because that verse talks to MEN, it refers only to the male gender and not to women. [So women are able to hate themselves, just not men.] Just like the pastoral books of the New Testament were written only to men [and don't apply to women] because they're addressed to 'brothers'. Makes no sense..but it does in their heads.

While I'm at it, collecting incoherent random bits of is a shameless plug for Hillary McFarland's book Quivering Daughters, just because I saw a post from the patrio lady who wrote to rather viciously attack said book back in the fall. She [patrio lady] says that she doesn't even want to mention that book's name because no publicity is worse than bad publicity.

With that.....I depart.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Epic times in St Louis!

INSTA-POST! Just add water! It will be short..

In the last few months I have:

-received a full scholarship from LeTourneau University, which pretty much sealed my decision to go there. I've since gotten a few more scholarships to help with room and board. I'm shipping out at the end of August. 

-been to FIRST International Championships, with Team 1510 from Portland area, where I had a FABULOUS time chatting up VIPs, attending Dean's List events, going to team-social shindigs, cheering myself hoarse even though I didn't have a team there, collecting a cadre of male teenage hangers-on, staying up all night talking aided by 5-Hour Energy, getting my picture taken with Woodie Flowers [FIRST fans, please squeal], and generally raising the roof in St. Looey, as I stubbornly keep mispronouncing it. 

-been on the verge of A Serious Relationship/ Courtship / Intentional Dating / SOMETHING. Okay, I actually still am on the verge, it's just being postponed like three years....whatever. I'm babbling now, but it's been quite the epic few weeks. Okay, no, make that 'quite the epic YEAR'. Ladies, you may now squeal, the lad is really rather awesome. And I'm not saying more because I object to emoting about relationships on my blog ;) 

-in lighter news, I've been asked to prom [by one of the more favored hangers-on collected in St. Looey] and am in a delirious girly frenzy of DRESS and TRESS and STRESS, aided and abetted by the occasional call to stalwart buddy Eva ['Squee! Hair! Robots! I hate shopping! Purty dress! Eee!' ad nauseum]

-Roboshock, the big off-season event, approaches swiftly. Now, only two of our team members have committed to will be a busy day. May 21st is going to be QUITE the EVENT, let me tell you. On that day, we have ROBOSHOCK, ROBOTS ALL DAY LOOONG, and then in the evening it's up to Portland for prom. 

I think I have hit on all the high points...believe me, there have been low points, but the highs are really more entertaining, aren't they now? 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

To steal and kill and destroy

I am more angry at patriocentricity than I have ever been, triggered by what might seem like a small thing. Tonight I stupidly, at the end of a long and stressful day, took a look at a few patriocentric websites that I hadn't been around in a while. As a result, I missed being able to really talk to my best friend [who I've been almost too busy to talk to the last few days]. I was engaged in becoming rapidly more upset and depressed by the sanctimonious blather of people who recommend a recent anti-feminist film ['The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women', by the Brothers Gunn] as excellent material to show to girls in pregnancy crisis centers, who are so hard up for something to criticize that they lambast the recent film about that gal who lost her arm to a shark a few years ago [and happens to share my name] as not being distinctively Christian and promoting personal fulfillment [and even manage to get in a knock against long-haired guys in the same post! What depth! What virtuosity!], who say that girls who declare they 'don't like pink' and 'aren't girly' are actually insecure, competitive for boys' affections, intent on covering up their own social awkwardness or lack of beauty, and generally feel superior *, who get the idea.

* For the record, I have often declared that I don't like pink, am not a 'girly girl', don't like feminine High Drama, detest sewing, am proudly willing to shoot and clean a wild rabbit with my bare hands, and otherwise done my best to distance myself from my perception of the fluffy-headed female. Apparently half the rest of the female population of the world is bent on doing the same thing. And it is no longer socially acceptable [in patrio circles] to be proud of who you are, just as in less conservative circles it is ONLY socially acceptable to be proud of who you are.

So I'm no longer original, just feministic. And bitter. And insecure. And proud. And to heck with it, because I will not change for the anti-feminists. They can just TAKE my quirks and geekiness [they'd say they don't give a hoot, I'M the one who will have to deal with people disliking my contrived unoriginality!]

To conclude this little anecdote, I wound up so rattled by the anti-feminists that my distant-time-zone friend was forced to retire by the lateness of the hour and my steadfastly terse responses. Ah, small thing, but it shocked me to my senses, a bit......I became first miserable that I'd missed talking with someone I deeply care for and hadn't been able to talk with in longer than I'd like, and then enraged. 

Enraged because this is only the latest small event to convince me that patriocentricity, legalism, and faithless 'religion' will steal everything I have. Friends, college, happiness, love, enthusiasm, peace. And Jesus. [On that note, just about all of Galatians is applicable....] 

Friends, rather stereotypically, because you can't trust someone if you are convinced they are bent on leading you astray. 

College [self explanatory].

Happiness [also self explanatory].

Enthusiasm and peace, ditto. 

And love. Patriocentricity, for all its grand words, is NOT about loving your husband or anyone else, least of all God. I had rather a shocking, though not unexpected, thing said to me recently. In essence, that the worst thing this person could imagine was that his future wife might someday succumb to patriocentricity in its most extreme form. And that he wouldn't WANT her to.

Surprising, no? [Or maybe not.] Isn't the stereotype of conservative homeschooled Christian men that they [secretly or not] want a wife who is bent on 'generational faithfulness' and Submission to Men in General [including the woman's own younger brothers] and being a 'keeper at home' [to the exclusion of all else] and fulfilling her 'dominion calling' and remaining silent in the churches and being MEEK AND QUIET and steadfastly refusing to be an equal. 

Stereotype or no, accurate or no, I think I've encountered a specimen of that rare species, the Non Patriocentric Man.

But I got a bit off topic. I am angry at patriocentricity and its associated cadre of legalism. Remember that passage in John about how 'The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy'? *   That's patriocentricity for steal joy, kill love, and destroy hearts. 

* Remember too the rest of the verse, spoken by Jesus Christ:  'but I am come that they might have life, and have it to the full'. 

Really, all this ferocious rhetoric is partly a cover for the fact that I am still a very scared person. And sometimes being angry is a good way to shake off despair. 

And as a reminder, down in print, that patriocentricity holds nothing good for me. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Time for a rant!! [AKA, I forgot to publish this..]

Edit April 2011: apparently I neglected to publish this post when I wrote it back at Christmas time. For your enjoyment, may I present:

Step right up folks! I am reading a nice selection of books this Christmas break and several of them demand attention.
So Much More, by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin
Quivering Daughters, by Hillary McFarland
Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller
Perelandra, by C. S. Lewis [again]
The Science of God, by Gerald Schroeder

[Admittedly the last few are kinda waiting to be read....]

The first two books demand to be read and talked about. So Much More, by the by-this-time infamous Botkin sisters, has been both strongly recommended and strongly denounced. Quivering Daughters, which really isn't an argument to So Much More so much as it is an attempt to heal those hurt by patriocentricity, has also been rejoicingly and critically received.
Supporters of So Much More always preface their recommendation with a variation on 'if you are a feminist, or afraid to have your views challenged, or unwilling to submit entirely to God's plan for your life, don't read this book because you won't like it'. This is a method which I have encountered numerous times and it is beginning to anger me rather a lot. There appears to be NO way to argue with it. It is the single most effective way of stifling criticism that I've seen......feel free to disagree with us, but if you do we will know that you're a rebellious feminist.

I am swiftly working my way through Quivering Daughters. I think I'd recommend it to ANY young women raised to believe that patriocentricity is correct...also any men out there who either are incensed at patriocentricity's influence, or are whole-hearted supporters of it.
Hopefully a more thorough review of QD later; right now I am up in arms over So Much More.

I haven't read the whole thing yet, really couldn't stand to....have been taking dips out of it here and there with my customary lightning-speed reading.

Just a few things that stood out to me....

In the first chapter:

 'Don't read this book at all (I would rephrase: "You won't like this book....") if you have a bad attitude toward your father and if you are trying to keep your distance from him. Many girls enjoy having "space" away from their fathers. That space is dangerous.'
[-So Much More, page 6, emphasis mine]
It goes on with the same sort of warnings I mentioned earlier.

They do say to check what they say against Scripture.

I become irked at the constant assumption that women in earlier times were happier because they were unfeministed [word, hehe]. The first mention of this recurring theme occurs here.... 'The lifestyle and worldview we present ... was lived before, when women were much happier.'  Really? I fail to see how anyone can judge whether a whole set of people in another time is more or less happy than now.

There's an interesting comment about 'extreme measures' which I'd like to contrast with one in Quivering Daughters.
We believe that in a day of extreme apostasy and judgement, extreme measures are exactly what's called for, and that a drastic step in the opposite direction is exactly what we need to take
[page 8, emphasis in original]

From QD, talking about moving away from patriocentricity:
' feels like you are going towards another extreme. Consider, however, that you are on a line, with patriarchalism on one end and, as an example, secular feminism on the other. Because your starting point is an extreme, to move toward balance initially appears like rushing to another extreme.'
[Quivering Daughters, page 159]

So Much More utilizes a number of testimonies from young women who are introduced in the beginning of the book. Almost all of them started out as feminists; most of them started out sincerely wanting to serve God [but in what they later came to believe was the wrong way: by going to college, becoming a lawyer, or conducting business]. This gives me great hope that someday I, too, may be like these young women and realize that I am trying to serve God in the wrong way.

The entire book is geared exclusively towards daughters and their fathers [which has been used as a criticism, because mothers are rarely if ever mentioned]. Every chapter is headed 'Daughters, Fathers and ___'.  There is very, very brief mention made of the plentitude of difficult circumstances that could prevent this relationship....what about a father not having a job that his daughter can help with? [Geoffrey Botkin, in a special appendix, says that fathers should consider getting a new job or risk losing their daughters. I'm sure my dad would be happy to hear that.]

Good grief:
'Our fathers...are even supposed to represent God to us. This means that are dads have the tremendous responsibility of being accurate reflections of God's authority, as well as providers of the security and love that God created us, as women, to need.'  
[page 17, emphasis mine]
There's a lot of concern that a daughter who grows up equating her father with God will have deeply twisted perceptions of God if her earthly father was abusive [EMOTIONALLY and spiritually, not just physically].

Men's and women's roles
Oh now we get to the good stuff, the stuff that will keep you up at night.

'Every woman's life is built around men and men's role and leadership in some way.' 

[page 11] [They go on to say that, for instance, feminist Betty Friedan spent her life furthering a man's agenda: Karl Marx.]
'As we stated before, every woman is, by nature, a man's helper. You are a helper, no matter your age or marital status.' 
[page 42]
That's funny, isn't it? I thought a woman was her HUSBAND's helper.

Their take on purity/etc was predictable, and less strident than I envisioned [included all of a page and a half telling girls to not beat themselves up if they have previous sins in their past].

Courtship, on the other hand, proved a truly unpleasant subject.

I've read several opinions on courtship and this one has the heaviest emphasis on extensive input from all involved parents and other mention made of when this heavy-handed approach might give way to the two people actually doing it would presume that two 30-year-olds interested in marriage would still have to be under the leadership of their parents. That looks like this:

First stage: friendship [sure].
Then, if the young man thinks the young woman may be his intended bride, he discusses it with his parents [paraphrasing here, from page 241].
He then approaches the girl's father without informing the girl about it. 
Lovely, isn't it?

The father then finds out all about the young man. If the young man obtains the approval of the father to begin courting, the daughter is consulted as to her wishes [finally!].
Then they go off courting, with marriage being the expected outcome. Theoretically any party can bow out at any time, but......
We still find our emotions entangled and disheveled under the most protective, sensible scenarios, and some people who court let themselves become just as emotionally devastated as people who date, if the courtship is called off. 
[page 242, emphasis mine]

Splendid....glad to hear that if I court someone and then become attached to them and then they DUMP me [as an example]....that if I am upset, it is MY fault for letting myself become emotionally devastated. This is carrying it a bit far, but I'd like to take it to the conclusion of.....if a wife loses her husband of thirty years in a car accident, she LETS herself become emotionally devastated?

No, they don't explain that comment away. It is right there, boldly discounting any person's pain. I know how to take things in context.

In the interview with Geoffrey Botkin, he talks about the 'bride price', which we are to assume he intends to require for his daughters. He states that without the bride price, daughters were financial liabilities to families. [The bride price, apparently, involves the son-in-law giving money or estates to the father-in-law, who then passes the money along to his daughter, the bride.] Since the girl's family would then never get the money, I fail to see how that makes daughters any less of a financial liability. Mr. Botkin then states that he would hate to see this made into a formula 'with dollars and cents attached to it'.

This is perhaps their most revolutionary concept. I think they fall short of saying that going to college is a sin.....they just attack every possible motive for attending college.
'A mature young Christian friend of ours...feels like she has won, because she exited with a degree and what she thinks is an intact soul. What she doesn't know is that the college is laughing at her, because it knows it is the real winner.' 
[page 144]

There is much mention made of parents sending their daughter off to college...packing her away to a university...sending her out into the storm....etc. There is no mention at all made of what to do with a daughter who WANTS to go to college.

[Edit, April 2011: the manuscript ends here :P I think I remember getting extremely frustrated and depressed over the whole thing right about when I started to tackle the college question, and abandoned it. ]

Sunday, March 27, 2011

We Are the Champions is my team's soundtrack

I am back from the most epic regional competition in the history of our team. The Autodesk Oregon Regional ran Thursday through Saturday of this week. Team 956, with 9 students and 4 mentors [in a world of 30+ student teams] and a working budget of $600 [when many teams work on budgets of several $k] was one of the semi-finalists at competition, with our alliance ranking 4th out of of the 58 teams in attendance. One of our students was one of the two Dean's List finalists at our competition [the highest award given to an individual student in FIRST].  Our 8th-ranked alliance in the final rounds upset the 1st-ranked alliance, in two out of three intense matches.

In short, it has been an epic week all round and recapping it is a challenge. Things started off on Monday evening when I dyed my hair its competition-standard flaming red-orange [leading to nickname of Flaming Comet of Doom]. Tuesday evening myself, my dad, and two of our mentors rendezvoused at school to pack our three cars with the robot and all its accoutrements, for subsequent delivery to Portland. We had previously piled every single item in the hall outside of our shop: batteries, battery chargers, half a dozen large totes full of tools and spare parts, whiteboards, a sizable workbench, the robot, etc etc etc.
Wednesday we left for Portland amid a flurry of activity: in the morning my family went to Powell's Books [largest bookstore in the country, or something like that] and Ikea [Swedish house-goods warehouse]. At 5 that afternoon we rendezvoused with our mentor and loaded the carloads of stuff into the Autodesk pits [huge conference room in the bottom of Memorial Coliseum] in a swift targeted operation executed with military precision and FIRST-like enthusiasm.

From there we drove the 1.5 hours home, and picked up a team member who was going to spend the night at my house so we could give her a ride up to Portland on the morrow.

We were up bright and early [4:45 AM] on Thursday, and rendezvoused for carpooling [are you catching the trend here?] at 6. We arrived with time to spare in Portland, and distributed t-shirts and safty glasses with abandon.

Our robot was in three pieces, plus some odd aluminum that had to be machined, and we missed our first practice match because the robot was not finished yet. We passed inspection with flying colors. We had a tough time on the first day, with our untested autonomous mode giving me and our programming mentor a large amount of grief.

Nevertheless, by the end of Thursday we were pretty happy. We had Subways packed into the pits for us for dinner, and got back to the hotel where I rendezvoused with the rookie team we'd been mentoring all season.

The girls' room [hilarious and sleep-deprived] got to sleep around 1 that night. I for one did not sleep well. The light-rail car [or Max, or Metro] ran right by our hotel room about every 10 minutes. I was up bright and early Friday morning.

I and my beloved scout/Chairman's teammate ran across the street to grab a coffee, and thence we proceeded to the Coliseum.

Friday went AMAZINGLY. We won most of our matches, despite some very tough opponents, and got autonomous working. Lisa and I were over the MOON about that: we kept high-fiving each other at about ten-minute intervals all day, each time declaring 'High five! And another! And once more!'
By the end we had one of the best autonomous modes at the event, in the top 6 or 8 I would say. Autonomous is well-known for being difficult to program and I am still in awe that we got it working.

We were ranked 13 out of 58 by the end of the day. Our scouts came back to the hotel after dinner and started entering the data into the laptop, and making our pick list for Saturday morning. We had most of the team in my room talking strategy, and then the scouts [Charlene, Sarah and myself] holed up with the data. We let our driver, Michelle, get to sleep early [c. 1 AM] but we scouts hit it hard until 3:30 AM. I got about two hours of sleep that night. Fun times.

It is a well-known fact that Bethany never eats at robotics. To be fair, I did eat, just not in the daytime. I ate dinner, and then Friday night I ate yogurt and energy bars over the scouting sheets. Saturday I just powered through on adrenaline, it was amazing.

Saturday things went with a swing. We did pretty well in our last qualifying matches, and then it was on to alliance picks before lunch. My scouts and I had made a pretty comprehensive pick list, but while I was down on the floor waiting for selection to start I was told no electronics were allowed on the field: ie, no laptop which had all of our crucial data in it. I frantically scribbled down the key data.

A note here: despite all my years of dedicated scouting, we have never used scouting data for its original purpose of choosing the best alliance partner in the finals.

We were chosen by the 8th-ranked team [which meant we'd compete first against the top-ranked alliance]. I [after enthusedly accepting] immediately started comparing data with their team captain, and advised that we select one of my top-ranked teams to be our third alliance partner. They eagerly took the suggestion and there we were, a beautifully solid and definitely imposing alliance. This is the first year in my memory that we have been completely happy with our alliance partners. Individually we all had really strong records: together we caused a member of another top-ranked team to declare, 'I'm very afraid of you guys!' which absolutely thrilled the heck out of me ;)

During lunch we strategized intensively with our alliance partners. We then went up against the top-ranked alliance for best two out of three matches.

I have never been on the field during an event: I am usually rushing with scouting data from stands to pit.  However, for the finals I and Lisa our programming mentor were part of pit crew, because drive teams and robots just stay on the field, no rushing back to the pit for repairs. We were changing batteries, fixing slipped cables, and generally getting the most intense experience that FIRST has to offer.

Our alliance lost our first match against the top-ranked alliance by two points. OH THE SUSPENSE. Then we had a not-long-enough break while other elimination rounds took place, during which we fixed things and ran batteries the quarter-mile from the pits.
We won our next two matches against the top-ranked alliance [I will keep repeating that until everyone chants after me 'We beat the top-ranked alliance!']. I have never been so excited in my life, I think. We were jumping up and down and screaming and hugging and high-fiving and hand-shaking and yelling.
We upset the top-ranked team in 2006: this is the best year we've had since then. Wild enthusiasm.

We lost our next two matches, against the alliance which went on to win the event, but I was beyond thrilled. I went up in the stands and then down to the standing-room-only mosh pit [have you ever seen a few hundred teens in brightly-colored team t-shirts, with a sizable selection of mascots, dancing to the Chicken Dance? it is an inspiring sight]. The winning alliance included a rookie team, which I was rather  excited about.

There are so many hundreds of stories at an FRC competition, it would take all day to tell. I hear it's about to happen though: the new book about FIRST, The New Cool, came out this spring and apparently the makers of the documentary film Social Network bought the rights to it and were at some regionals this spring with notebooks, video cameras and enthusiasm for FIRST.

Here are some teams whose stories really made me happy this weekend:

Team 1432: this was the team who I think I wrote about in the fall, whose school kicked them out and took most of their funding. They rallied and participated in the regional, overcoming a tough start and being able to score several times. I was so excited to see them there [I remember being down front standing with a couple of their team members, and being so excited when their robot scored].

Team 753: they had a great showing at the Seattle regional, but were plagued with communication problems all day Thursday and Friday. There is nothing more heartbreaking than a robot which can score beautifully but which won't even move because of comm errors. I talked to their team captain on Saturday morning, who I've known all four years I've been in FIRST, and commiserated. They swapped their router for a new one, and did very well in their matches on Saturday. Cue enthused congratulations on my part :)  Despite their poor performance on Thursday and Friday [which made their ranking go down and could have prevented them from being selected] they were selected to play in the elimination rounds, which I was thrilled about.

Team 3472: a rookie team, the first Mexican team we've had at our regional. Their pit was right across from ours. They had a tough competition and didn't make it to the finals, but what enthusiasm! What excitement to be there! During the awards ceremony on Saturday they received the Rookie All-Star award, the highest award given to a rookie team as well as a free pass to Championships. The crowd cheered louder and longer for that award than for any other, I think. We were nowhere near as happy as the team was though, hehehe.

Team 3712: another rookie team who had a tough event, I mentored them by email during build season and popped into their pit throughout the event to help them out and encourage them. A great group of kids. They finally got their robot to drive, always a hurdle for first-year teams, and were so excited about that :)  Good times rendezvousing with their team in our hotel lobby. I adore swapping stories with other teams. Today their programmer sent me an email to say thanks and congrats, and said that they are excited and inspired for next year. That makes me so happy: another team has been started on the road to success in FIRST.

On Saturday, I received one of the two Dean's List Finalist awards presented at our regional. The Dean's List award is the only award for individual students in FIRST, for people who, like the Chairman's team, best create respect for science and technology and demonstrate technical excellence as well. While I don't know about the technical expertise bit, I certainly have the enthusiasm bit down pat :)   Even better than getting the award was seeing the teams cheering for me as I went down on the field: people I have known for four years, most of them, who I've emailed and worked with and commiserated with and high-fived. And not just the people I know, but every team there, who in some way I've supported whenever I talk about FIRST. This was the highest honor I could possibly have received, but honestly I was rather more excited about how well our team did, because it means our school will hear about how well we did, and the new students who were on the team will be excited to continue next year.

This started out as a year when we might not have been able to afford to do anything more than tinker with a robot and go to the local scrimmage, and ended as our best year ever. So much thanks is due to our mentors, who worked for us and with us all season; our sponsors, without whom we would not have just gotten back from Portland; and our students, who built a robot. Thank you: you've changed my world.

Monday, February 28, 2011

LeTourneau adventures etc

So! LeTourneau was awesome, for lack of a better word. My various exploits included NOT missing any flights despite Texas being hit by a freak snowstorm ['0.5 inches! Let's close all the schools!'], arriving at the arranged time to find that my poor roommates had not been informed that I was arriving WEDNESDAY not THURSDAY [they were wonderful about it], scuttling along the frozen campus in what must have been a 10° windchill [very very cold, for me], all on the first day.

The scholarship competition spanned three days and ~75 high school seniors from around the country. It was all fabulously fun and occasionally nerve-wracking. I met some rather amazing people, Heritage kids, LeTU students, professors, they were all great.

My days consisted of such things as orientations, meals in the cafeteria [students alleged it actually tasted that good regularly!] with the faculty, hobnobbing with a couple of LeTU students in the sunshine playing frisbee and listening to a kid play guitar, going out to a movie on the last night with the one other Heritage gal staying in my dorm and a bunch of college students who we'd met, group interviews, and essay-writing. We learn about the scholarship in about two weeks.....

And yes, for a number of reasons I do think LeTourneau is the right college for me.

If I go to college, that is.

Because patriocentricity reappeared on the scene with the aplomb of, say, Saruman or any other classic villain. [Except around here, patriocentricity wears a black trenchcoat and a Stetson. Bonus points to anyone who gets that reference.]

I do so enjoy this. I pendulum regularly from

1) Can't go on
2) Can't give up

and that's really all there is to it.
When I was a little kid, I think I used to be just insanely happy all the time [okay not all the time, but compared to now, yes]. Most teenagers become a lot less happy.....I became a lot less happy, in SPOTS. At intervals.
I manage to cram Bethie-enthusiasm into half as much time, it seems like, and Teenaged Angst into the other half. [The percentages are a little off.]

We packed up the robot last Tuesday, at 30 seconds to midnight. It was extremely epic. I was writing autonomous mode at 9 PM and testing out the line-following code and shrieking when it WORKED and getting cut on duct tape [don't ask me how] and running back to the computer to tweak the program [the laptop DIED on the last day and we were trotting the robot back and forth every half hour] and ingesting more caffeine and etc etc. It was a really thrilling day fraught with watchdog errors in the code and tension in the shop.

We bagged up the robot at 11:56, tagged it, and then realized that the router was still outside...we could add it to the 30-lb allowance of stuff we can work on after the deadline, but we didn't. Mentor got a brilliant idea and bagged it right on TOP of the robot....just tucked it down on top of the first tag, and tagged the router with a second tag....perfectly legal and very amusing....

Now I'm beginning to obsess about scouting and jot to-do lists on my physics notes.

Bought about 20 books at the library used-book sale this weekend! On the last day I was running around stuffing books into a cardboard box at $5 a box, rather exciting.

Quote from my physics teacher, showing us an applet [ == little application] that demonstrates the concept of pressure on an atomic level:
'An applet a day keeps the engineer away!'

Patriocentricity, Take Two
Hey, if anybody reading feels like praying for me, please do. I don't usually beg for prayer, for some reason [probably a silly one], but I sure need it. I'm always saying that I don't know how much longer I can go on; every time the fight takes a little more out of me.

Thanks guys.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My disappointing multi-generational vision, AND Texas

I keep hearing the phrase 'multi-generational vision' or 'multi-generational faithfulness'. I guess I really should READ the books [addressed to men] that explain in detail what exactly multi-generational vision is...

Vision Forum is, naturally, very big on vision.

I am not.

My disappointing version of 'vision' does not involve 'taking dominion' over the earth and everything and everybody in it. If I may paraphrase one of my friends: I see value in changing the culture, but only one person at a time, simply by being a Christian. Showing Christ's love to others, that is.

We are never told in the New Testament [and I think not in the Old either] to take dominion over the culture.

Heh, my vision would probably tend towards wanting any offspring to do FIRST and go into computer science and maths and other things like that, but I hope I wouldn't ever force them to do that. Because other people are not me.

My vision includes ensuring that any children I have, particularly girls, do not read or hear about patriocentricity until they have a solid faith based on love and grace, and they are old enough to discern the good from the bad. Sheltering, I suppose. Meh.

Most likely I'll eschew any Vision Forum products, if only so that Mum does not have a meltdown upon seeing the catalog she used to fume over a teenager, hehehe.

Okay, I really do have more uplifting goals than that. I just don't have the time or energy to expound to an eagerly waiting public [heh heh] about them.

In other news, I'm back to considering LeTourneau University. So much so, in fact, that I'm actually flying out there next week, to compete for a scholarship and also tour the place. Of course the Dallas airport WOULD be closed currently, due to the worst storm of this year's Texas winter, but hopefully things will be cleared up by next week. I leave next Wednesday, at the cheery hour of 8 AM, and return late Sunday night.
So! A solo trip to a college on foreign soil! Great fun! Also a little frightening, but I am quite enthused. And beginning to pack baggage [the college doesn't have room for the influx of its 100 top students of the freshman class, so we are kipping on dorm room floors in sleeping bags].

Friday, January 21, 2011


Gooooood times around here :)

Our team started the season with a timeline [don't we always]. We wanted to have a working prototype by the end of Week 2 [tomorrow] and it actually looks like we are on schedule. This is fabulous and so on and so forth. 

The software sub-team [myself and our programming mentor, a splendid gal who graduated from the team in '06] is doing nicely. After a floundering experience yesterday when Lisa was sick and not able to attend the meeting, I rallied today and went on to write some passable code. I got a motor working with a joystick [to raise and lower our gripper/elevator system], and got the pneumatic cylinder gamepiece gripper hooked up to switches on the driver station, wrote a little function to adjust the sensitivity of that joystick for the motor [to allow for fine-tuned control of the elevator], and found information on the third joystick we need to buy. 

The classic sight of the day was the team captain [me] racing down the hall, mug in hand, to grab some more tea, check in on the t-shirt/Chairman's subteam, then return to the lab to work on the code whilst interfacing with the hardware team.

We also encountered some watchdog errors: the watchdog is a software critter which will shut off the robot if it does not get 'fed' with its little data packet every second or so....safty feature and it is REALLY annoying, but a useful debugging feature. We think the on-board camera may be giving us the problem. 

And now for a link:  from Quivering Daughters, here. I don't know anyone who does better than Hillary at both perfectly describing the grief that many QDs feel, and providing the remedy for that sorrow. 

Oookay, off to take another peek at the watchdog errors, then head to bed before the 9-hour day in the robotics lab tomorrow....ehehhe. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Week 1 of robotics!

Okay it looks like I never posted a follow-up to the Baylyblog discussion:  Tim Bayly's last direct comment to me included this:

Rather, it's that souls will die because men and women like you will lead them astray and their rebellion against God will lead to their souls being cast into Hell.

Strong words eh?

In other news, the 2011 FIRST Robotics kickoff was last Saturday and we have embarked on another season of frantic enthusiasm, late nights and troubleshooting. The game is unique and we have made good progress this week. At the beginning of the week we made what may be the best discovery of the season: there is a working coffee maker in the robotics lab. I have a perpetual pot of hot tea going during meetings: my motto is 'Powered by Chai'.

Programming has proved insanely fun. We are immensely fortunate to have a programming mentor this year, a team alumni who was interning at Intel this year, hehe. To quote her, after we successfully loaded some code:   Actually programming stuff is much more fun than just sitting here pondering: "Hmm....WindRiver.....did we install all the updates? ...Hmm.."

 I've been writing scholarship applications and trying to keep up with school. Finals week is coming up this week [Santiam] and next [CHS].....good times.

Time for a couple of blog shout-outs: here is a great post on Three in One Makes Five, about legalism [that much-used word which nevertheless never fails to elicit a response].

One of my favorite blogs: Coffee-stained Clarity, always lyrical or amusing prose.

Gypsa's blog Anything of Nothing: post about film-making.

Here is an all-time favorite post about the ever-expanding topic of 'gender roles' [how I hate the words]. I know this lady in real life and she is an inspiration. If I ever come round here twenty years from now saying I'm married and I am a horrible wife and not being who I need to be: slap me upside the keyboard and make me go read this again, 'kay?

And here is a very interesting new blog, with a striking quote:  Are we arrogant enough to believe that our interpretations of scripture and understanding of God is all correct and complete? If not, at what point does God label us as heretics rather than Christians?

As usual, I attempt to maintain the image of the eclectic free-thinking modern individual refraining from passing a judgement on anything, with a tinge of cryptic melancholy thrown in for good measure. 

Third Day has some rather epic music: I was just struck that their song Slow Down starts out with the exact same style of chord progression as Tom Petty's classic, Mary Jane's Last Dance. 

With a flourish and an insistence that you at once go forth and watch The Village and then listen to the soundtrack until you scream,
I sign off.

Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: a year in review

A while back, I wrote a lengthy, reflective and [I fancy myself] humorous post to be trotted out before New Year's. Tonight though, I am doing absolutely nothing except try to write a rebuttal for the Bayly brothers' blog which I mentioned earlier, while all the time stifling down my fears that I will one day turn coat and become a full-blown patriocentrist like Kamilla

2010 in review

January of last year I had a small part in the local high school's production of Romeo and Juliet, which was all kinds of fun. Performance in February, which coincided nicely with ship deadline for our robot....

January through March I worked with the Santiam robotics team to build a robot for the 2010 FRC game, Breakaway.

In February I joined the College Algebra class at local high school and adored it. The teacher, the infamously amusing math ninja Kimes, produced scads of hilarious quotes and I actually MISS that class.

March saw Team 956 in Memorial Coliseum in Portland at regionals. We had a really fabulous competition: made it into quarterfinals [ranked around 16th out of 62 teams] and received the Xerox Creativity Award. Bethany was epically enthused during the whole proceedings.

In April I went to FIRST International Championships in Atlanta GA, as team videographer for the local team that took first place in Oregon.

Lots of festivities in May, off-season events. Our team was placed first at the local event spearheaded by the OSU Robotics Club.

The summer was less eventful. Trip to California, camping in the mountains, and a summer filmmaking camp conspired to while away the summer. In the grips of an acute case of FIRSTaholism, I started FIRST LEGO League teams willy-nilly throughout the Mid-valley, including five at Santiam.

The first in a long line of chronic crises occurred in summer [documented here]. Much angst ensued, centering around the role of women in Christianity and particularly in regards to the question of college or no-college. The issue is not resolved.

College decisions also came to the forefront. Since summer, I've considered DigiPen Institute of Technology, Olin College of Engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, LeTourneau University, and Oregon State. No-one can say I haven't diversified. 

September's highlights of course included the start of school, and a splendiferous 18th birthday on my part. I am taking classes at CHS and Santiam this year and enjoying it no end.

I really buckled down to work on fundraising for our robotics team in October, in between coaching two FLL teams of 4th-6th grade kids [aka 'future engineers']

Nevertheless, the middle of November saw frantic panic on our parts, when the NASA grant which we'd been pinning our hopes on seemed now to be out of reach.  I made dozens of articulate and pleading calls to local corporations and netted us a nice sum. The balance was, in an astonishing [to us] act of generosity, made up by a blogger dedicated to helping the next generation of engineers [or just keeping me from crying, hehe :) ]
The NASA grant amazingly came through after all as well, and our team is fully funded for the 2011 season.

This year I'm also looking forward to [or cringing in terror at] being Team 956's lead programmer.

Classic Epic Times: All-nighters working on robotics stuff, taking first place at Roboshock, masterminding the potted shrubbery during Romeo and Juliet, toting a camera and gear to Atlanta with Team 997, jumping into East Lake in the middle of a thunderstorm, traveling to the Christian Game Developer's Conference, Kimes being an awesome math ninja
First: A in a math class, energy drink, part in a high school play, trip across the country on my own, time meeting an 'online buddy'

Most nostalgic songs: Sandstorm, You've Got the Music in You, But Tonight We Dance, The Final Countdown, The Blood of Cu Chulainn, Hello Monday, Through the Fire and Flames [AKA The Song]
Favorite memory: Nationals, singing We Will Rock You with the gang at regionals, yelling myself hoarse at regionals, fraternizing at regionals, our team winning the Xerox Creativity Award at regionals, okay basically ANYTHING from all three days of regionals, seeing an authentic rendition of Another One Bites the Dust on a lute, pretty much any example of syncro, meeting Mark Leon at Nationals, offering help and enthusiasm to down-on-their-luck robotics teams, coaching my FLL teams

Major Hits: xkcd, chai, lattes, Sherlock Holmes, The Village, Facebook, VLC Media Player, henna, Converse, Apple, Seattle Chocolates, DigiPen Institute of Technology, Market of Choice

Best Books: One Second After, Thr3e, Adam, To Kill a Mockingbird, Travels with Charley, Cold Sassy Tree, Love,Stargirl, Captivating, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy [because I forgot it last year], Celebration of Discipline

Best Music: Nightwish, Third Day, techno, anything from regionals, Rise Against, selected AC/dC~Red Hot Chili Peppers~Europe~2 Unlimited~Jimmy Eat World, Halo soundtrack, Nichole Nordeman

Keywords: Kickoff, geek, Breakaway, caffeine, squirrel, patriocentricity, grace, cold, Oregon

Keywords [inside joke edition]: Snrk, Perl, Rabbit, PUDD!!, syncro, whosy-whatsit, HENCE!, BAND!, composed, twitch, Minion, Overlord

Favorite teacher: a two-way tie between Kimes and Mrs Eberle

Best quotes: I need to write a special post with all of the epic quotes but...

Do the Math, Save the World
-Mark Leon

Bethany, you remind me of a rabbit!

Did our Jaguar swallow a chipmunk, or is something else going on?

We'll defenestrate our programmer, and I'll report back our solution if we get anything working.

Muskegs are kinda overbearing like that...

This is not a press conference! 

Hardcore Penguins are VERY applicable...

It's never good when you see your cat get beat up by a bunch of leprechauns

[note that some of these are second- or third-hand from Chief Delphi and elsewhere....]

Most epic IM exchange ever:
[discussion of intimidating refrigerator contents over the centuries]
1867- "Hey maw, th' ice box is gettin low again, think mebbe it needs mo ice in it, that coleslaw is startin to look downright PATE-RE-OT-ICK!"
oh LOL
Here comes th' Pogo referance...
1901: 'Mother dear! Have the maid attend to the icebox, will you? That head of beef is wearing a 'Votes for Women' banner!'
1960- "DUUUUUDE......that jello looks just like George Washington, man....."
"Far out...."
1929: 'Mama, can we go through the fridge while the nice photographer lady takes photos of us looking harrowed in the dust? The potato is singing 'Brother, can you spare a dime?''
1951: 'Edna, will you just see that the cabbage doesn't vote for Roosevelt? While you're cleaning the floor in heels and pearls...'
1985- "YO! Th' meatloaf is rockin out again man!"

1999- "Dear, I thought we agreed, no more internet access for the cabbage!"

2006- "Wait, is that DYNAMITE next to that camel steak?"

I KNEW ye'd have a doozy for those...
I was going to have a bottle of mayonaise chanting 'Four More Years!' for 2004...

2237- "Mom, is this broccoli supposed to have eyes? Couldn't you get any FRESH?"
this WHOLE conversation is one long quote...
"That IS fresh dear, right from the superstore!"
"See? I even got the brand marked "Minimal pesticides"!
[psst! thought is was supposed to be VOTING! not growing eyes! ]

Not really going to bother to make any New Year's resolutions this year, I think. Mostly they'd be for stuff I do anyway. Last year I had a bunch of predictions for 2010 and some of them came true, others didn't. [Actually I just hunted out the file and almost NONE of them did, heh.] 

I don't really have a lot to say right now. Happy New Year, let's hope 2011 is better.