Sunday Picture Post

Life is strange sometimes. People seem to take turns being up and being down. Have you ever noticed that? When you’re down it seems like you’re friends are doing great, but when you’re great your friends are mopey and depressed? Here’s what I think: life happens. Nobody gets everything the way they want it, and most of us have a list of complaints a mile long. Things that we wish we didn’t have to deal with, things that other people don’t have to deal with, things that are big, things that are small, heck sometimes things that are just confused. I know I have mine, but most of the time – if I’m really honest with myself – most of the things on that list aren’t really a big deal in any way, and a lot of people have to deal with them. So, look at the bright side. This doesn’t mean that we ignore the bad things, or pretend that everything’s wonderful… that’s just stupid. It does mean that we look are intentional about looking for the good things, and we don’t let the bad things bother us as much. It means that we don’t wish for Mr. Wonderbelly’s life because it must be so much better to have a six-pack, or wish for Mr. Moneybag’s life because it must be better to be rich. It means that we are either satisfied with who we are and what we have, or that we are willing to do what it takes to change those things that we’re not satisfied with. I’ll be honest, I don’t remember where I read this, but a good way to think about life: we choose the things we’re willing to deal with. You want to look great? Then you have to deal with a regimented diet, exercise, beauty products, etc, etc, etc. You want to make money? Be prepared to work sixteen hours a day. You want a family? Be prepared to sacrifice a lot of your time and money… and probably you’re hair (at least if you’re a guy). We all choose the hardships that we’re willing to go through in order to get what we really want. So, rejoice in the life you have :). It’s a gift from God and it’s worth it. Anyway, here’s your picture:

This piece is by Matteo Bassini. You can find more of his work here.

This piece is by Matteo Bassini. You can find more of his work here.

Philosophical Story Challenge of the Week

Well, I think my exam yesterday went fairly well… as long as my instructor can read my handwriting anyway… if he can’t then there could be problems. So, today’s philosophical challenge post is going to be fairly difficult I think. Metaphysics is a discipline of philosophy dealing with higher things such as being, knowing, the nature of truth, etc. It stands above disciplines such as ethics, politics, philosophy of law, medicine, science, etc as a discipline that deals with first order concerns. For instance, metaethics is the study of metaphysics as it is applied to ethics. Where as ethics deals with conceptions of right and wrong and how we can discern right from wrong, metaethics deals with questions of whether we can discern right from wrong, whether right and wrong even exist to be discerned, and whether conceptions of right and wrong are meaningful in the first place.

So, two of the major subdisciplines in metaethics are ontology and epistemology: the study of being and the study of knowing respectively. These two disciplines are often and easily confused because they are very closely related to one another. For instance, if I say that I am a moral realist, I am making a statement of belief concerning the ontological nature of morals: I am saying that morals have an actual, objective existence apart from myself. If I say that I am a moral irrealist, then I am making the opposite ontological claim. However, if I say that I am a cognitive moral realist, then I am making both an ontological and an epistemological claim: i.e. that morals have objective, real existence, and that they can be known by man. Similarly if I say that I am a non-cognitive moral irrealist, then I am making the opposite ontological and epistemological claim (though it’s kind of redundant… I’ll get to why in a moment). But, if I claim that I am a non-cognitive moral realist, then I am making three claims at once, two of which are possible contradictory: first I am making the ontological claim that morals have a objective existence, second I am making the epistemological claim that I cannot in any way know the objective nature of morals, but thirdly these two claims together make the third claim that nothing I say about morals can be objectively meaningful. Because I can’t know anything about morals, then whatever I claim about the objective existence of morals is meaningless because I can’t know anything about their objective existence, which means that (for all practical purposes) they may as well not exist.

Are you confused yet? I told you this one would be hard. Here’s your challenge: What is the distinction and relationship between ontology and epistemology?

As always, provide a 1000 word long story that presents and defends your answer to the question.

Plot Challenge of the Week

I have a test today. It’s actually been a long time since I took a real exam, and Alayna can tell you that I’ve been pretty stressed all week long. She’s actually handled it pretty well all things considered. I… well, I managed to get studying done and I hope that I’m ready. Anyway, I have an exercise for you. This is a setting exercise, and most of you have probably done these before, but just in case: I’m going to give you a set of criteria. Your job is to design a setting based on those criteria.

Your Criteria:

1) Your setting must be a modern day fiction setting. This could potentially be urban fantasy, modernism, and just general fiction.

2) Your setting must include a major library.

3) Your setting must be or be near a major city.

4) Your setting must involve the government of said city in some significant way.

5) Your setting must include one or more foreign ethnic groups (i.e. Chinatown, the Russian Quarter, etc)

Parallel, part 5

This is the final chapter of a new sci-fi story I’m working on. To catch up, you can read parts 1, 2, 3, and 4. Also, this is a rough draft that I’m still working through, so any constructive feedback is welcome! Enjoy.

I stumbled into Miniver’s that night with basically just one goal in mind: to forget about everything by getting completely drunk. I took a seat at the bar and ordered a beer.

“Comin’ right up,” said the bartender.

The place was pretty packed. I spun around in my chair to look around a little bit, scanning the crowd for familiar faces. After the incident last time, I really hoped I didn’t see any freaky alternate versions of my wife here messing things up with her perfect new guy. Of course I couldn’t see everyone in the place, but from what I could tell the coast was clear.

But see, I guess I had lied to myself a minute ago. ‘Cause as it turned out, there wasn’t just one reason I had come here tonight. It wasn’t just the escape and it wasn’t just the alcohol—although those were part of it too. But no. It was her.

Even though I had left in a hurry last time, I remembered what Kelly had said. She was gonna be back here over the weekend, which was now. And it just so happened that I was lucky enough to find her now, sitting by herself at a small table in the center of the room. I grabbed my drink and walked over.

Image taken from Flickr Creative Commons.

Image taken from Flickr Creative Commons.

“Now there’s a pretty face I recognize,” I said. “Knew there had to be a reason I came tonight.”

She looked up at me, paused for a quick second, then smiled. “Hey there!” she said as she stood to hug me. “Rob, right? I didn’t know if I’d see you here tonight!”

“Yeah, well, I figured I’d stop by,” I said. “You said you’d be here this weekend, so I couldn’t forget that. Had to at least try to find you. Although I didn’t really know when exactly you’d be here. Guess I just got lucky.”

“Well, not yet,” she said with a wink.

I glanced up at her. “You mean…?”

“Here. Come sit with me,” she said, pulling my arm gently. “Let’s sip our drinks and just enjoy the band for a while.”

“Sure,” I said. I sat and took a drink. I listened to the band. I looked at Kelly. And I started to relax. It felt good. At that moment I wondered why I didn’t do this a hell of a lot more often.

“Did you really come down here just to see me?” Kelly asked sometime into my second drink.

The question caught me off guard a bit. “Well, sure,” I said. “Or, at least, that’s a big part of it. I mean, there’s you, which is great, by the way…but also, I think I just needed to get away for a bit, you know?”

“Got a lot going on back home?” she asked.

“You could say that.”

“You never really did tell me where you were coming from. Or what you do. Still just passing through town for the night?”

I clenched my teeth a bit. Should’ve seen this question coming sooner. “Well, uh, yeah. I’m a security guard. Work’s not bad. I mean, it’s not amazing, but it is what it is, right?”

“I didn’t think most security guards got to travel that much,” Kelly said.

“Yeah, well, that…it’s complicated,” I said. Which was true. More complicated than even I fully understood, really. “Maybe I’ll tell you about it sometime.”

“Haven’t had enough drinks to open up just yet?” she teased.

“Guess not,” I said with a smile. “Maybe I better have some more.” I swallowed another mouthful.

“Still, it’s pretty late to be traveling,” she said. “Especially this time of year. You have a warm place to stay tonight?”

“No, not really,” I said. “I was probably gonna head back home after a while. I’ll be fine. And besides, I got to get back to my w—”

Wait. Nope. Don’t say “my wife.” That was a close one.

“Hmm?” Kelly asked.

“Got to get back to my work,” I said. “Although, then again, I don’t gotta work again ‘til tomorrow night. The late shift. You know.”

“Sounds like you might be better off staying in town tonight, then,” she said. “Hey. Don’t worry. I’ve got a really nice apartment just a couple blocks away. Whole place to myself and everything.”

“You…want me to spend the night at your place?”

“Yeah! What do you say?”

“Well…who am I to refuse such an offer?”

I ordered another drink after that. At least one more. I’m really not sure. Honestly, the rest of that night is still just a blur in my mind.

*          *          *

I woke up with a major headache. The sun was too bright and I was still recovering. Crap. How much did I drink last night, anyway? Should’ve known that was a bad idea.

I opened my eyes. Where was I? I didn’t recognize it. Until my head started to clear after a minute. I was in bed, in a bedroom much more neat and fancy than my own. I looked down and saw Kelly lying there next to me, still asleep. She still looked just as beautiful as ever—hell, even more so, in what she was wearing—but somehow it just didn’t feel right this time.

“Damn!” I spat out. “This…could be bad.” I got out of bed and began scrambling on the floor for my clothes.

Kelly rubbed the sleep from her eyes and looked up at me. “Good morning,” she said slowly, still waking up. “Good time last night, huh?”

“Yeah,” I said. “It was amazing.” I still could barely remember any of it. But I remembered enough to know I had screwed up bad. “Hey, uh…what time is it?”

She reached over to a bedside clock. “Like one.”

“PM?”

“Yeah.”

“Crap. I gotta get going.” I looked back up at her. “I mean, I’m sorry to run and all…”

“Hey,” she said. “I get it. I mean, it’d be great if you could stay, but you did tell me you had to be back for work tonight. Long drive ahead of you?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said. “Crap. Look, it’s not you. I hope you don’t think that. It’s just I really shouldn’t have stayed so long.”

“I understand,” she said. “Don’t worry. But hey, maybe another time?”

I grinned as I buttoned my shirt. “Maybe so.”

And maybe there would be another time. I didn’t know yet. I was still figuring a lot of things out. But honestly, that other time is not what I was thinking of on the walk back home and the—uh—whatever you call the trip between dimensions. Nope. I was really just thinking about Mona. I may not be the brightest guy in the world, but even I know that, if I was trying to patch things up with her like before, then this sure as hell wasn’t the way to do it.

But she didn’t have to know, right? That’s what I told myself. I could tell her I went to the bar with Vince and then stayed at his place ‘cause I drank too much to get home safely. Yeah. That would work. She might still be mad, sure, but she’d probably buy it, and then I could just forget about this whole thing with Kelly and leave it all behind me. It would work. It had to.

I got home and stepped through the door. “Hey, Mona?” I called out. “Babe?”

No answer. Maybe she’d be upstairs in the bedroom.

But no. I checked and she wasn’t there either. Maybe she was out somewhere for the day?

I went into the kitchen and called her name again. I didn’t see her. But I found a note on the fridge. And man, I did not see this one coming at all. The note said:

Rob,

I don’t know where you are or what you’ve been doing, but I’m sorry. I can’t put up with this anymore. I was really worried about you at first, but it seems like you’ve disconnected your phone, so I guess you don’t want to be found. I just can’t handle waiting around for you anymore when I’m obviously not a priority to you. After the second day or so, I decided I needed some space. Please don’t try to call me for now. Maybe we’ll talk again when we’re both ready.

-Mona

A million thoughts went through my mind, but one of them jumped out right away. Second day? I was gone overnight, yeah, but definitely less than one full day. Unless—

I ran back up to the bedroom, to the calendar Mona always kept. It should be Sunday, ‘cause last night was Saturday. But the calendar said Tuesday. And the bedside clock said the same.

“No, no, no! That’s impossible!” I yelled. “It’s been a day! Less than a day! I know it! What the hell happened?”

I looked down to my wrist. It was this stupid watch. Had to be. No other explanation. I don’t know how, but somehow it wasn’t just messing with dimensions. It was messing with time, too. The time I spent over there took up more and more time here. I should’ve seen it before from all the other times Mona had told me I was late. But I didn’t. I had stayed out for nearly eighteen hours this time, but that was what—three days here? More? Among other things, I had missed a few days of work. Mona had tried to call me, but I guess cell service doesn’t carry well between dimensions. Now she was gone and I had blown it big time.

Image taken from Flickr Creative Commons.

Image taken from Flickr Creative Commons.

I ripped the watch off my wrist and threw it against the bedroom window. It fell to the floor along with broken shards of glass.

Then I sat on the bed and screamed out loud. And I wondered if there was anything to drink in the house. I guess maybe I should never have been so eager to get away. I should’ve forgotten all about that other dimension and just left that crazy life alone. I figured I’d be okay with staying home a lot more from here on out. But something told me home just wasn’t gonna be quite the same anymore.

The End

Scene Challenge of the Week

images (1)So, it snowed here all day long. That’s… uncommon. It should make life interesting for the rest of the week. I’ve got the first major test in one of my classes coming up this Friday, so I’m studying hard for that. One of the things that I’ve always loved about graduate work: generally few tests, less homework (that you turn in) etc. You can work at your own pace and in your own way, which is very helpful to me. The downside of that is that one of my classes has three graded assignments and the other class has one graded assignment… that’s right, in one of my classes 90% of the grade for the entire class rests on one assignment. It’s not intimidating at all. Anyway, I have a scene challenge for you. So, if you don’t already know the rules: I give you a prompt and you write a scene off of it.  Try to keep your scene under five hundred words, and try to keep it in the same tone as the introduction.  If I give a line that is very dark and depressing, then I don’t want to see a scene about a drunken monkey in a tutu…it just doesn’t fit.  If I do give you a line about a drunken monkey in a tutu, then you should probably try for a funny scene.

Your prompt: “‘Look, he hit me!’…”

Details: Organizations

I am a member of MAFSI, WRA, and NRA (restaurant, not rifle). I will earn CPMR and CSP. I already earned ServSafe. Within these organizations, in the next ten years, I will hold office. Within 20, the goal is to hold national positions. I belong to the Den of Quills, I’ve aided the Secret Door Society, I drove past the Screenwriter’s Guild two days ago. Your local union is part of this, a tradition dating back to the Brotherhood after the Civil War. Which dates back to the guilds of the middle ages. Which dates back to….

Organizations, secret and otherwise, have always held society together. They have grand titles, items handed down from leader to leader, there are speeches, cocktail hours, due payments, and numerous other traditions which reach back thousands of years. Your city has them too. Most you will never talk about and no one will ever care about. But they are there, your characters will run into it, and there is a reason. Organizations make the world turn round.

Public organizations have been used in order to regulate members. They give self regulation, ethical standards, and shared information. If one member is weak, other members can come in and help them up. If an entire industry is weak, it gives the opportunity for even the stoutest rivals to rally together in order to change the tide. There are meetings, there are exchanges, there are politics on par with anything you find in government. People make moves, and even within these organizations, backstabbing and knee cutting are not out of the question.

These organizations will exist wherever there has been long standing specialization, with numerous people in the same career line in a condensed area.

When creating above board organizations, the question is why do they exist? What industry or ideal became large enough to warrant it? What such organization could the main character come in contact with or belong to? How does it hinder or help them? Perhaps your character is a merchant in a large city. Chances are, there is some council, committee, or board of oversight that is watching him. They go to him regularly and smash up his shop or steal away customers because he doesn’t belong. Maybe the rival across town is trying to besmirch the protagonist’s good name to get him kicked out. It could also just be the folks that our protagonist pays every month, goes and sits in on their meetings, and honestly it’s just part of the character. Not everything needs overwhelming purpose.

Even the different races have to mingle some times.

Even the different races have to mingle some times.

Then we have the organizations everyone loves to use. The secret organizations. SEAL Team 6, the Gestapo, Free Masons, and so on. They are less likely to align with an industry, and more likely to align with a goal or ideal. They could be running the country secretly, hitting threats no one knows about, silencing the people as boogie men, and so on. The members are varied in their experiences and walks of life, often adding new skill sets to the organization as a whole. If the organization is specialized, the skill sets will still vary to a degree, but everyone will have some skills in common. With military units this would be combat. With movers of the government, it will be political knowledge.

These organizations will exist when people are displeased with what is occurring, but their hands are tied by the public, government, or some other overwhelming force.

While your protagonist very likely runs into public organizations, unless they’re part of, or get in the cross-hairs of, a secret organization, there’s a good chance they’ll never know it exists. When you do put one in their path, make sure the organization fits a theme, some idea or goal. Figure out that goal, and who would flock to it. Were people recruited, or did they gravitate to it? Is it like looking for John Galt? Answering these questions will give you a quick idea as to who would be part of it, and how they’d function.

Organizations can also be regional or national. A few are just a city. Maybe it’s a corrupt governor who has to go. These are more common in city-states, or times where cities were not well policed by the head government. Others will span an entire nation, keeping some good of the people in mind (hopefully). A few even span many nations. Much more common in secret societies, especially in settings where there is hostility between nations, those societies which span many nations can truly influence the course of history. Just look at the Assassin Brotherhood.

Alright, last post for details! Hope you enjoyed it.

Story Challenge of the Week

imagesWell, I’m a little over half-way through Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, and I’ve been reading lots and lots of articles on Thomas Aquinas and Natural Law Theory… and studying for a midterm that I have on Friday… yay… I mean, between school and work I’m only working about twelve to thirteen hours a day, so it definitely could be worse. I did get to watch The Merchant of Venice for a class the other day, so that was fun. Anyway, I have a story challenge for you. So, you know the rules. Take your subject and run with it. Write me a story of 1000 words or less and stay on topic. As before, if it’s in any way applicable, you should use this to try to develop your world a little more :).

Your Challenge: Write me a story about the law. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a story about American Law, or even a national law, though it could be. However, it could also be a story about fundamental human nature, the character of God, or someone struggling to live by the law (Les Misrables anyone?). Victor Hugo’s masterpiece is all about different ways of approaching the law and the feelings and conflicts that they engender.

Sunday Picture Post

I hope that all of you are having a wonderful Sunday morning! I know that I am. I’ve got my shower and work out of the way already, so the rest of the day just includes my devotional time, church, and lots of reading (plus some time video-chatting with Alayna hopefully). Anyway, I found a game that has me fairly excited. The pictures below are from a new game put out by Obsidian called Pillars of Eternity, which looks like the next successor to the Baldur’s Gate and Dragon Age model. The is, at the moment, brand new and rather expensive, so I won’t be buying it any time soon (… I’m also not completely sure that my current computer could handle it :P). However, I’m probably going to be keeping my eyes on the Steam sales this year to see if it pops up for a decent price.

Pillars-of-Eternity

pe-godlike-earth-fem-tn

pe-ui-character-sheet

pe-screenshot-002-1920x1080

pillarsd

Philosophical Story Challenge of the Week

In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that “Virtue, then is a state of character concerned with choice, lying in a mean, i.e. the mean relative to us, this being determined by a rational principle, and by that principle by which the man of practical wisdom would determine it” (Aristotle, 1947, 340)*. The benefit of Aristotle’s definition of virtue is that it underlies a very practical discussion of how such virtue may be attained. The mean, that which lies between the deficiency and the excess of a characteristic, is desirable. Thus, courage is the mean between cowardice and recklessness, temperance is the mean between indulgence and prudishness, righteous anger is the mean between irascibility and inirascibility, etc. Virtue is developed by continual practice, and thus for a man of no virtue, aid must be given to him in finding the mean. For instance, cowards tend to think that courageous men are in fact reckless, and first must accept their own error, and second ask men of true courage to help them find the mean. A man of little virtue must continually do his best to practice the virtue that he has and thus strengthen it into a habit, which will eventually become a state of character (which may take a lifetime).

However, there are two major issues that may be problematic for many, and herein lies your challenge: 1) Aristotle assumes that man is a blank slate, which not only denies the Christian worldview (i.e. original sin), but also seems to deny much of the latest work in sociobiology and genetics, which tells us that men have, at best, a general nature in common, but that particular natures within that general nature may vary widely. For instance, one man may be genetically prone to alcoholism, another to anger, another to leadership, and another to reckless courage. 2) Aristotle’s particular virtues (courage, temperance, generosity, magnificence [or generosity with large sums of money], magnanimity [or great-souledness/rightful pride], Proper ambition, patience, truthfulness, wittiness, friendliness, modesty, right indignation) may seem problematic to some as well. Most strikingly, Aristotle’s ‘great-souled man’ seems to many to be a prideful lout thoroughly lacking in humility, magnificence requires large sums of money (meaning that a poor man can never be truly virtuous), and proper ambition and right indignation/anger are confusing to many. Further, many people question whether wittiness and friendliness are actually moral virtues in any meaningful sense.

So, here is your question: assuming that virtue is a habit and that it can be developed as Aristotle suggests, how might a man choose which virtues are worth developing?

As always, respond in the form of a 1000 word story, and have fun!

 

* Richard McKeon. (1947). Introduction to Aristotle. New York, Ny: The Modern Library.

Plot Challenge of the Week

Well, on top of my job, I wrote four papers, finished up my reading for a class, and did a couple of hours of research for my papers last night. All in all, I feel like yesterday was a fairly productive day. On top of this, I’m starting Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics today, which is kind of exciting for me. The only Aristotle that I’ve seriously read is Poetics and part of Eudemian Ethics. I have, if I haven’t mentioned this yet, discovered that the philosophy of law is not my favorite thing in the world. I spent an hour today reading about the relationship of law and morality and the theories that attempt to unify concepts of liberty, morality, and rights. Anyway, I do actually have a plot challenge for you today. I’m going to give you a picture and I want you to develop a part of your world based on what you see. It should be a setting that is believable in your world, and that has potential for stories in it. Here’s you’re picture:

1200x784_25_Dragon_Lair_2d_fantasy_landscape_environment_concept_dragons_lair_travel_wizard_warriors_adventure

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