Monday, November 21, 2011

Tebowing

Its rare that two of my passions collide, but we have this wonderful confluence of faith and football with Tebowmania.

tebowing1 For those not familiar with the situation, Tim Tebow is the quarterback of the Denver Broncos, and a devout Christian. This isn’t all that unusual as many NFL players are devout Christians, but Tebow is very public and out front with his faith. He is seen on the sidelines praying before and after games, and famously before the deciding kick of his first start this season.  As the team lined up for a possible game winning field goal at the conclusion of the game, Tebow took a knee and closed his eyes. People assumed he was praying. The kick was good, Tebow’s team won and now that pose is called Tebowing. I think he just didn’t want to watch and see if the kick was good, but its taken on a life of its own. There is even a web site called Tebowing where people can post pictures of themselves well tebowing. It’s become a cultural phenomena.

Tebow is a polarizing person because of the way he plays football, and because of how out front he is with his faith. He plays the quarterback position more like a high school, or college quarterback and seems to lack some of the skills necessary to be successful at the NFL level. Yet he is winning game which is the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong in the NFL.
Denver was 1-4 without him and 4-1 with him.

He’s also out front with his faith mentioning it off the top of every interview and talking about his humanitarian efforts, the latest of which is building a hospital for orphans in the Philippines. Being outwardly Christian will always rub some people the wrong way.

I don’t know if Tebow can sustain this success on the football field, and looking at it from a strictly football standpoint, more credit should go to the Denver defense for keeping the team close in game so Tim could work his late gamer heroics. But I don’t have a problem with Denver giving him an extended audition to see just how far he can take them.  I don’t have a problem with Tebow being out front with his faith, as long as it’s genuine.lastcrusade

There is a line in The Last Crusade where Indiana Jones is asked if he is seeking the Holy Grail for Christ’s glory or his own. I would ask the same of Tebow. Are you out front with your faith for Christ’s glory or your own? Every indication is that he is genuine and seeking Christ’s glory.

No, the people I have an issue with are those who are trying to connect Tebows success on the football field with his faith. These individuals have put forth the idea that Tebow’s success is God ‘showing himself strong’ on Tebow’s behalf. I find this incredibly unlikely. I don’t think God is really all that concerned with the outcome of a football game. As I said at the beginning of my post, there are devout Christians throughout the NFL, both on the Denver Broncos, but also on the teams the Broncos have defeated. Why would God show himself strong on this one players behalf and not all the rest.

Let me give you an example from Tebows last game, against the New York Jets on national television. Near the end of the game, Tebow’s team is losing, but they have the ball. The Jets decided to blitz, which is a common defensive strategy of sending more than 4 players after the quarterback.The Jet safety took a poor angle, leaving the outside lane open. Tebow saw the opening, evaded the safety and scored the winning touchdown.

We have a decision by the Jets coach, a decision by the Jets player, and a great use of natural atheletic ability by Tebow. Did God reach down and move Tebow past the defense? I doubt it. What was God doing during the play? Probably watching. When did He applaud? Probably during the postgame interview when Tebow gave the glory and thanks to His son.

Tebow has remarkable, God given talent, and tries to show his thankfulness for that talent by openly acknowledging his God. I really don’t think it goes much beyond that.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Minimum Wage Doubts

There was recent article on the site www.thinkprogress.org discussing the results of a poll where 67% of Americans supported raising the minimum wage to $10 per hour. In this instance, and in the vernacular of occupy movements, I am the 33%.

I don’t think raising the minimum wage works, and I further believe that even those in political power that push it know this. Its not really intended to help those on the lower end of the wage scale, those making the actual minimum wage. I believe its true purpose is to entice people to vote for candidates who pledge to raise the minimum wage.

If raising the minimum wage to $10 really helped, wouldn’t $15 or $20 help even more. In fact, I think you could make a case that $20 is the better minimum wage.  According to www.sciway.net/facts, the median household
income in my home state of South Carolina is $39,316. This works out to about $19/hour, so even raising the minimum wage to $10 would only bring someone up to about half of the median income of my state, and my state ranks in the bottom of median income for the country.

So wouldn’t a  $20 minimum wage make more sense. I mean if raising the minimum wage is a real way to help people, why stop at $10? Why not bring them right up to the median income and raise it to $20. If it worked, why not raise it to $50?

Why do we keep coming back to raising the minimum wage as a legitimate solution? According to the Department of Labor, http://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/chart.htm, since January 1st, 1977, the minimum wage has been raised 12 times, with the last increase going into effect on July 24th, 2009.  But apparently, we need to raise it again, even though the last raise was just 2 years ago?

When Congress raises the minimum wage, the workers making the minimum make more money, but that money has to come from somewhere, and I’m pretty sure Congress doesn’t send it to every business employing minimum wage workers. It is up to the individual businesses to figure out where that money will come from.

One option would be to cut salaries of workers making more than the minimum wage, which is likely to anger those employees. Another option is to raise prices, which is likely to anger customers. Business probably do a little of both, but what people outside the company see are the raised prices.

What kinds of businesses are most likely to hire minimum wage workers? My guess would be gas stations, grocery stores, and fast food restaurants.The increased cash flow the minimum wage worker received doesn’t go as far as the old minimum wage because the cost of basic necessities like food and gas increases. It then becomes an arm race with the minimum wage and the cost of living continue to go up. This benefits the politician because as more people make the minimum wage, more can be enticed to vote for them based upon a promise to raise the minimum wage. In addition, certain union contracts are written to increase wages of those making far more than minimum wage should the minimum wage increase.

The increased cost don’t just affect minimum wage workers. The costs go up for everyone regardless of what your income level was, and as budgets get tighter, people will may change their spending habits. Maybe they eat at fast food instead of a sit down restuarant, or they shop at Wal-Mart instead of the mall. Those businesses are now impacted as well.

I realized that especially at a time of high unemployment, companies would and probably do underpay their workers if they could get away with it, but I don’t see minimum wage as the answer. Companies have creative, driven individuals who will find ways to keep the company making as much money as it can. The only thing minimum wage increases are the costs of basic goods and the chances for election for the politicians pushing them. But I don’t know what the answer is. Businesses will quickly show us how little they care, and how ready they are to abuse their employees without some sort of governor in place.

What do you think? Does the minimum wage really work? I like to think of myself as an open minded guy, and I know I don’t have all the answers.

Teach me something.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Genre Research

As part of the research I'm doing on my 'genre' I thought it might be instructive to take a look at the new releases in Christian fiction. This research came from the American Christian Fiction Writers blog.

There were 18 books on the new releases list, and 11 of the 18 (roughly 60% for those of you scoring at home) were some variation of Romance (Romance, Historical Romance, Mystery Romance) I don't write Romances, but that seems to be a lion share of what 'Christian fiction' is based up on the November new releases.

There were 3 Thriller/Suspense novels. The last 4 were 1 each of General fiction, Historical, speculative fiction, and Biblical fiction.

Dream Chaser would fall under General or Biblical fiction. I would have thought hat Biblical fiction would be fictionalizing a bible story, but the log line didn't seem to indicate that was the case, at least for the book being released. In fact, out of all the books, the one labeled 'biblical fiction' seemed closest to Dream Chaser.

I would have never thought that so much Christian fiction was wrapped up in romances, and it makes me a little more doubtful of Dream Chaser's chances, but then again, it's a first novel, so it didn't have great chances to begin with.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Soon by Jerry B Jenkins

I just finished reading  Soon (Underground Zealot Series #1) (full disclosure: affiliate link) by Jerry B. Jenkins who is one of my favorite authors from the the Left Behind series. What impressed me the most about his style is how he draws you into the characters. I found myself caring about the major characters in the Left Behind series and wanting to see what happened to them. The same thing happened in Soon.

Soon is near future sci-fi set about 30 years into the future. World War III happened and as a result the practice of religion was made illegal, driving it underground. The story follows Dr. Paul Steplova who starts out trying to find and shut down the subversive cells. It became apparent to me that this Paul's story was mirroring Paul from the New Testament, but just as I thought I had it figure out, and started looking for specific elements from Paul’s story (his Damascus road experience) Jenkins loosens the metaphor.

Jenkins is almost prescient in his look at the near future. By the middle of the Left Behind books, published in the early 2000s, the characters had what we would recognized today as smart phones. In Soon, he sees a future of electric and hydrogen based cars and interactive, 3d movies.

The action and suspense throughout the book are well done and the pages turn quickly and easily as Paul journeys from coast to coast physically and toward a decision about Christ internally. This is a grittier, and darker tale than any of the Left Behind books.

I felt that some of the actions taken by the anti-religion government teams were a bit over the top. They seemed too eager to use disproportionate force on the believer hide outs they find, and I didn't feel their motive was at well established at that point. It was almost like Jenkins was feeding into some slippery slope arguments. Also breaking the suspension of belief was the powers given to the head of the anti-religion team to basically call out an army. That seemed very broad and over the top.

The book ends with a couple of threads still loose, but that may have been intentional since its the first of a series. There is a bit of deus ex machina in the ending, but I'm not sure that's not out of place in a Christian fiction story.

This is the first book I've read as a writer, and it was fun to see plot points and how Jenkins worked his craft. Two things stuck out to me. first, Jenkins used a prologue. I know the rules are meant to the broken, but this is something I've been warned against in my own writing. The prologue introduces the reader to a couple of characters, but you don't meet them again until about a quarter of the way through the book and you aren't told specifically who they were but you can put two and two together. The other thing I noticed was the use of names in dialog. This seems to be one of those 'feel' things you only get with practice.

I know I have said some critical things so far, but over all, I really enjoyed the story, and many times my critics hat fell off as I got engrossed in the action.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

First Draft is Done

Well, it’s done. I wrote the words “The End” in Dream Chaser last night. Over the past several months as I’ve been working on this, I wondered how I would feel when I finally wrote those words. The answer surprised me. I thought I’d be on a high, excited and euphoric. I did finish, which is no small accomplishment for me. I’m really good at starting, not so good at finishing

But the thing is, I know it’s not really done, and I guess that’s why a deeper sense of accomplishment eludes me. All I am thinking about is what needs to be fixed, and how I’m going to fix it.

I’m also very nervous because in its current form, Dream Chaser is more novella than novel at roughly 47k words, but I’m not going to worry over that too much, at least not until I make the changes I know I need to make.

Despite doing some world building and outlining, I feel like I know the story so much better now than when I started it last year. I also feel like my writing ability has improved through taking How To Think Sideways, the two blizzard short stories, the Unicorn short story, and the critiques from my How To Structure Fiction scenes.

My goal is that once the revisions are done to this draft, it will be in a state that is ready for alpha readers. If its still short at that point, I’ll have to see if the alphas can point to some unexplored plot thread or something I glossed over that can both strengthen the story as well as bring the word count up to industry standards.

November now becomes NaNoReMo (National Novel Revision Month) in earnest. I’m setting a goal of having the revisions done by Christmas.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sunday Seven – Hated Companies

This week's challenge was to name your seven most hated companies from the provided list of 18.

Some of the companies were Bank of America, Dish Network, JPMorgan Chase, AT&T Mobile, Facebook, American Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways, Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Delta, Potomac Electric, and Pacific Electric & Gas.

I don’t do business with the majority the companies on the list, but they have all made a name for themselves for bad customer service. What I find most interesting is how they are clumped in the same sectors: Airlines, banks, Cable/TV providers, power and energy providers. The only outlier is Facebook.

I started looking for common threads.

What all these companies have in common is that they are service companies. They should be defined by customer service, yet, these are not. But it simply can’t be that they are service companies. Restaurants are a huge service industry, yet not a single one appears on the list.

These are all very large companies. When you get that big you are bound to get some people angry at you. It’s simply the law of averages. Yet, there are mammoth companies, like Ford or Microsoft that didn’t make the list. So size alone doesn’t seem to be issue.

We also have to look at companies in the same sector with these companies that didn’t make the list. Companies like Southwest Airlines, or Wells Fargo, or Time Warner. Despite multiple entries from their colleagues, these companies didn’t make the list. I think, especially in the case of airlines, that this is a case of companies like Southwest doing something right and rising above the normal culture of their industry.

These companies have created a culture that communicates to consumers that they are not valued, but merely tolerated. I wonder what it will take to reverse that culture at any of these companies and help them to get off this list.