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Pre-Christmas Bloganza

December 21, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

Yeah, I am completely aware the title is lame. That’s half the reason I decided to go with it. If I can’t be lame for the sake of being lame every now and then, what’s the point of pretending to be anything but lame?

I am also completely aware that previous sentence made little sense.

That’s actually how I feel about Christmas, though. I don’t think it makes much sense sometimes. I am an atheist, which might come as a big surprise to some of the family I have that might read my blog by accident. To some this means that my celebration or participation of Christmas is pretend or, at best, disingenuous. “Put Christ back in Christmas,” they say. “Jesus is the reason for the season,” the rhyme goes.

Perhaps this is one perception, or reason, for participating in Christmas. I rather think that it is almost entirely secular in the United States, at least in popular culture. Sure, we get the hymns about Jesus like “Joy to the World,” but I’m not sure how a pine tree and Santa Claus is part of any modern religious tradition.

I see Christmas as a time to spend with family. My uncle and I drink Cabernet Sauvignon as we banter about politics, history, or other esoteric subjects. My cousins and my great uncles will come around to chat, play a game of Texas Hold ‘Em, or just gorge on the mountain of food my grandmother cooks, somehow managing to produce food enough for a small army. And that means more to me than any rendition of “Silent Night” ever could.

So, in some respects, I feel like I’m pretending when I celebrate Christmas. A good chunk of my family doesn’t know I’m an atheist, as far as I know. I have no problem going through the motions of some religious rituals, like when my young cousin wants to pray before a meal, for the sake of group cohesion. I don’t think this is hypocritical of me because I liken it to my grandparents nodding politely as they listen to me talk about some new scientific discovery, which they invariably have no interest in.

So perhaps I celebrate a holiday that doesn’t mean for me what it means for my family, and in doing so, I’m making a decision to pretend. Maybe I’m doing it out of a mutual respect for my family that they return in their own way.

Well, with that out of the way I’ll get to other things. I probably won’t be writing again until after Christmas (and maybe even the New Year) so I’ll try to get a lot of things out of the way. First of all, the Doctor Who Christmas special will be coming up on Christmas day, and I’m excited about it. I don’t have anything to say about it that isn’t self explanatory in the trailer. Perhaps later I’ll spend some time putting together a more intellectual argument about Doctor Who.

I have also found a very interesting blog called ERV run by a virologist. It can be pretty esoteric, so if you’re not interested in this topic it probably isn’t for you.

This is a bit of old news, but I want to briefly touch upon this list of free science books. It provides an amazing resource for anyone interested in pursuing independent amateur studies of sciences ranging from physics to chemistry.

Related to that, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers free online courses across a variety of subjects. MIT OpenCourseWare is definitely worth checking out. I’m hoping that other colleges will offer free online classes for anyone with an internet connection as time goes on, not just because higher-education is prohibitively expensive, but because knowledge should be available to everyone.

David Brin, one of my favorite sci-fi authors, offered advice for writing your first novel: write a murder-mystery. I think it’s fairly good advice, especially, as he notes, for science fiction writers who might get caught up in the technology or the gadgets that attract people to science fiction and forget to write an actual plot.

And, finally, this article by Stephanie McDaniel, entitled “Where a Hugo Award–Winning Author Goes to Read, Write, and Relax in Chicago,” is a quick, fun read.

Well, that does it for now. I’m going to be working as hard as I can to finish up the rough draft of my novel so I can let it sit for a bit and work on some short stories. See you after Christmas!

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