10 Self-Help Seminars Few Would Attend

I was talking with my friend Julia the other day after she put up a post on Facebook about “The Hutchinson Kennel Club is hosting an ATT (American Temperament Test) and we need more dogs or the test will be cancelled.” I’ve seen Best Of Show, so I commented: “Maybe they should also test some of the owners’ temperaments…wouldn’t that be interesting?” She fired back a whole list of seminars people in the dog show world really need and I came up with number 1 here as another joke. This list was born. These are amusing, well-meaning concepts that would flop like a fish stuck on land, don’t you think?

1) How To Know When To Stop Blaming Because You’re The Problem — We all know who needs to take this one, right? It’s not us. It’s that other guy. And therein lies the problem that defeated this seminar before it even began.

2) How To Debate Politics Without Slinging Insults About The Opponents’ Morals or Heritage — The present political climate pretty much rules this one out. I don’t think it would even interest most people. And it would totally destroy the fun political pundits and the press are having manipulating public opinion. In fact, there’d likely be exposees tearing into the character and scandalizing the background of any instructor who dared to offer this one.

3) How To Let Your Siblings Be Favorites Without Complaining — Yeah, I don’t know about your house, but wouldn’t happen in ours. Uh uh. Fair is fair. And if they go theirs, I want mine. It irritates me my sister and brother refuse to admit how slighted I’ve been, dammit.

4) How To Admit That Sometimes Your Husband’s Right — Husbands might love to drag their wives to this one, but except for a few who came for the laughs, this one would sink like a stone. Keep trying though guys. I admire your fortitude.

5) How To Be An American Tourist Without Being Obnoxious — This one’s for my foreign friends and dear God is it badly needed. American tourists are the most obnoxious visitors on Earth. Too bad we’re also the wealthiest and most common and the ones on which so many economies have come to depend.  And the Hawaiian shirt and straw hat folks are far from the worst. The insidious “I dress local, I read nonfiction and literature and I understand the foreign mindset” people deserve a firing squad.

6) How To Be The Best For You Whether Anyone Else Notices Or Not — These next two go almost hand-in-hand. People don’t like to just be good in isolation. They want recognition for it. We crave praise. That instinct always seems to win out no matter how many times we tell ourselves that what others think doesn’t matter. This one has the best of intentions but goes down due to the power of flawed human nature, I think.

7) How To Donate To Charity Without Needing Praise Or Recognition — I founded and run a non-profit. While donors often want their amounts private, they don’t often seem to want to give without some recognition. They may not want their name on the national news but they want a personal note of thanks or some kind of reward level tiers package or something. The art of charitable giving just because it’s a good thing and right is practiced by few in my experience, again, due to flawed human nature and our root need for approval.

8 ) How To Get Over The Delusion That Obama Has No Flaws — Not a political statement but an observation. I’ve voted for Republicans and for Democrats, and none of them turned out to be perfect. Yet I don’t think I’ve seen a more “cult adored” president since Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. This guy can do no wrong. This despite so many broken promises, an economy many would call worse, and one of the most incredibly divisive presidencies in history from a guy who promised to bring us together. But those who love him, don’t do it halfway. And love covers all wrongs so the people who need it would pay this no mind.

9) How To  Shun Popularity And Revel In Mockery aka How To Survive High School — Yeah a few goth rebels might revel here but for most of us, while it would have been helpful, it would have been near impossible to live this way. It’s too bad. A good number of our High School memories might be more pleasant and positive if we’d had this.

10) How To Cherish The Gift Of Lifelong Virginity — I don’t even need to explain this one, do I? It wouldn’t even be popular with nuns or priests anymore, if you pay attention to the news. That might not have been true a few decades ago, but these days we can live without a lot of things but sex isn’t one of them.

I’ll bet all of you can think of plenty of others. But I hope those gave you a good laugh to start your week this Monday. For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince (2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Books For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Lost In A Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012.  His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on Beyond The Sun,forthcoming. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

What I Want For Christmas This Year

It’s been a tough year. Those who have followed along on the blog or Twitter or Facebook (or all three) will expect they know the answer to this, but actually, as much as I want a job, what I want more is something far more important and meaningful to a happy life.  What I want for Christmas this year is a world where people of any worldview can live the way they believe and express that when they feel necessary without being discriminated against by those who disagree.

I am no Einstein, but I am well educated and I test smart, so I assume I’m not stupid. (If you disagree, so be it). I have spent a lot of years studying, questioning, probing, and coming by my worldview. I am proud of who I am, and, as most of you know, when necessary, I speak out about it. Most of the time I keep it to myself with the exception of election time and when people say bigoted things villifying people like me for our beliefs. That makes me mad, and I speak up. For one, you cannot preach tolerance if you are not practicing it yourself. That’s called being a hypocrite and the actions negate the words. Second, if you really believe in freedom, you have to grant others the same freedom you demand for yourself. If you don’t, you don’t really believe in freedom. Villifying those with whom you disagree is being a bigot. It is discrimination. And it is definitely not tolerance.

I have found myself speaking out a lot more this year. Time and time again people I love and respect, or people I just admire, have made statements villifying Christians as racist or bigoted or ignorant or insane. I’m a Christian. I take offense. Time and again Republicans have been called similar things. I’m a Republican.  I take offense. More than that, as an artist, I am very emotional.  I feel things very deeply.  The words you hurl at me hurt.

I am conservative. I came by my beliefs honestly. I used to be a registered Democrat. I even voted in a Dem president. I am a Christian. I went through a period where I might not have acted like it. But I have come back to embrace those beliefs.

But I am also an individual. I think for myself. I do not buy what pundits sell without investigating, questioning, and examining it myself. And I do not vote the party line. I vote issues.

Since there are extremists in most belief systems, you do find extremist Christians and extremist Republicans. But those are not me. Please do not equate me with them. When you call them insane, racist, bigoted, and ignorant without specifying, you are including me. I don’t appreciate it.

So what I’d like for Christmas is people I love and respect, whom I always try and treat with love and respect, to recognize that my worldview is valid for me, even if they don’t share it, by stopping the hate, speaking out against the hate their fellow believers spread against people like me, and instead recognizing what we do have in common. We all have value. And we all have a lot more in common than different. Can we not celebrate that in 2011 instead of our differences?

That’s what I want. I probably won’t get it. But I hope those who took the time to read this will at least try.

For what it’s worth…

A Merry and Blessed Christmas to you all.  May you get what you want (as long as it’s not the extermination of all people like me).

I Hate Bigotry Spread In the Name of Anti-Bigotry

Just saw a tweet by a guy who said Republicans hate brown skinned because the DREAM Act was voted down.  Well, the DREAM Act is ten year old legislation recently introduced and rushed through by Dems in an attempt to pass it without debate before they lose their majority.  The objections to it were people saying that they wanted time to seriously consider it and revise it if necessary because it was too important to rush through.  Oh yeah, that kind of responsible leadership is bigotry.  Instead of calling those people racists, we should applaud them for having the kind of responsibility our government leaders have all too often lacked of late, but yet they are being labelled bigots.  This, of course, totally ignores the fact that Dems still have the majority and could have passed it if they wanted to. The House approved it. So what if the majority is higher in the House. Obviously even some Dems thought the controversial bill deserved more thought.  That doesn’t make them racist.

This kind of rhetoric is so common today and any true American should find it disgusting.  Labelling people as bigots because they vote against legislation dealing with racial issues is absurd. Maybe there were other factors, such as, maybe it was bad legislation. Legislation has consequences which can last for generations. It should be considered carefully. It is not only unAmerican but indecent to use incendiary false accusations this way solely for political points.  It makes me sick and it is as bigoted an action as what it is accusing others of. Yes, calling someone bigoted falsely is creating a bias against that person. A bias founded on no good reason. It’s manipulative and a lie. And it is despicable behavior which I abhor. All decent Americans should do the same.  It’s become the modus operandi of politicians, particularly the Left, and I’d guess it’s a big part of why the Mid-term elections came out favoring Republicans as they did.

We should all band together a demand a stop to such behavior. It needs to be stopped. It is so harmful.  There is enough real racism in the world without false accusations beings sent forward to confuse the issue and take the focus off real incidents of racism which need to be addressed.

For what it’s worth…

I Believe In Stewardship Not Global Warming

In January 1989, while out in Los Angeles preparing to transfer colleges, I interviewed actor Ted Danson for my college newspaper because he was an alumnus.  During that interview, Danson discussed his passion for the American Ocean’s Campaign (now Oceana), which he’d  founded as an environmental-focused nonprofit to educate the public on saving our damaged oceans.  He recalled the time he’d been on vacation with his family and saw such pollution on a beach that he felt uncomfortable letting his daughters swim.  I recalled times I’d witnessed similar sludge in the Rocky Mountains.  I recalled driving through the Alps and being shocked how well preserved they were by comparison.  That was the moment I first believed mankind’s habit of damaging the environment without concern for the future was a major problem.

So, in a sense, I believed one of the tenets of Global Warming long before that theory existed.  Which is one reason I find it easy to say:  I don’t believe in Global Warming theory.  I believe God created the Earth and gave it to man as a home.  I believe we are here as stewards and we have a responsibility to take care of the gift of our planet and preserve it as a gift to be shared with future generations.  I remember hearing about the destruction of Mangrroves by New Orleans and over in Asia as hurricanes hit and realizing the damage had gotten worse than I’d realized.  And thinking we have to stop this.  And I believe we do.

But that doesn’t mean I believe in all this peudo-science used to justify Global Warming.  Climate changes?  Well, Hammartan winds have been causing strange shifts for decades, so why is it all of a sudden Global Warming?  One of my biggest issues with science as a whole these days is summed up in the article http://slate.me/fo8yGr.  Science has become dominated by people with one dominant worldview and ideology.  How can it truly call itself unbiased, how can the methods truly be subjective when the people asking the questions start from such a similar place?  As a science fiction and fantasy writer, I have marvelled how people who can be so creative and open to endless possibility in their writing can be so close minded in their real world attitudes toward God and other subjects.  Is it really so easy to write off a higher being as the iniator of the Big Bang, when one is so convinced a big bang actually occurred?

And the arguments I’ve heard and data I’ve read on Global Warming just prove this to me.  Anyone who even remotely questions the theory is labelled “irrational” or “ignorant.”  What happened to healthy skepticism in science?  Some legitimate questions have been raised about the data and I don’t think true, dedicated scientists of integrity would discount them so quickly.  There’s no doubt, in my mind, that mankind’s activities are harming the environment.  Corporations and governments and others have built for years, destroying habitat and natural resources, without any regard for long term impact.  We’ve known most of my life that oil was not unlimited, that it one day might run out.  The fact that it hasn’t yet, doesn’t change my concern that our dependence on fossil fuels is a long term concern.  In the same way, I can believe that the Earth’s other rich resources have limits. And one has only to read the Wildlife Foundations endangered species lists to figure out  the damage done to the animal kingdom.

Is it really possible for anyone to believe significant damage hasn’t been done to the environment by man?  Not a rational person, no, but rational people still don’t have to believe in Global Warming to be rational.  Sorry folks.  The very suggestion that they do is completely irrational.  This is science, remember?  It’s based on hypothesis which form theories.  In essence, educated guesses, at least until definitive proof exists.  And while definitive proof exists of environmental damage by man, Global Warming theory has not been definitively proven.  So I remain skeptical.

The need for stewardship, however, is obvious.  It occurs not only in personal finance or use of office supplies (particularly witnessed by those responsible for the relevant budgets) but in the face of rising gas prices.  It’s not really a big stretch to apply the concept to other areas as well, such as the environment.  As farmers, my family often spoke of good stewardship of their land.  Land is valuable and to survive, farmers must make the most of every parcel.  Perhaps city folk have a harder time grasping this prospect, but I don’t think it’s that hard.  We have to take care of everything we own if we want it to last.  I learned that every time a childhood toy broke and couldn’t be repaired.

So here I am, proponent of stewardship but Global Warming skeptic. And I am a rational person, despite being a science fiction and fantasy writer.  I have great faith in science and great faith in religion, and I have great faith in human kind.

For what it’s worth…

Importance of Critical Thinking

I saw a hilarious demonstration of how some people are so biased, they refuse to think things through critically when Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg got so mad at something Bill O’Reilly said that they walked off the set.  O’Reilly quoted a poll which showed that the majority of 9/11 families and Americans don’t want the Muslim Community Center built near Ground Zero because it’s inappropriate.  They asked why it was inappropriate and he said “Because Muslims attacked on 9/11.”  This infuriated them.  Why?  They hold themselves up as informed thinkers, well educated people who should be listened to.  Aren’t they then aware of the fact that most Americans do not distinguish between the terms Muslims and Muslim extremists?  In fact, extremists of any kind are regularly lumped in with non-extremists of all worldviews.  Because I am a Christian who is anti-abortion, I am automatically judged in favor of bombing abortion clinics.  Because I am a Christian who is against redefining the term “marriage” for gays, I am a gaybasher.  They miss the fact I support civil unions for all and full rights for gay partners. I just consider marriage a sacred religious rite. Similarly, the good, decent every day Muslims who find the 9/11 attacks and all Muslim terrorism abhorrent are lumped in with the extremists.  No, it’s not right, but it’s a fact.  Another fact:  if it were Christians in the poll, they wouldn’t have walked off.

All this goes to show how little critical thinking people do these days, even supposedly smart people.  I went to school with both gays and Muslims.  Several close friends in those groups.  Growing up in a small Kansas city, I had not been aware of knowing anyone from those groups, so my friendships with them opened my eyes.  I have also traveled all over the world studying cultures and peoples and worldviews and how they differ.  I have tried to live among them and dig in to see the world through their eyes so I might begin to understand who they are.  This has taught me to think through everything.  My common sense and powers of observation both tell me all Muslims are no more extremists than all Christians.  After all, some 60 Muslim families lost loved ones at the World Trade Center.  But the mass public doesn’t have experiences like mine to pull from.  When they hear charismatic or confident known people make statements, they believe them.  When someone tells them Muslims are evil, they buy it.  All Muslims are evil terrorists.  Others buy that all Christians are abortion clinic bombers and gaybashers.  But a small amount of critical thought, study, and observation can prove those assumptions false.

The poll reflected mass opinion, not informed opinion.  So to get upset by O’Reilly explaining the reasoning is a display of ignorance on Goldberg and Behar’s part.  I am just as offended by the idea the majority of the public assume all Muslims are terrorists as they are, but unfortunately, that’s the way it is, and getting mad and walking off does nothing to change it.  Instead, they should have dialogued about why that’s a misconception and why people need to reeducate themselves.  They missed an opportunity to counter the statements off the poll and O’Reilly with common sense, either because they don’t care about common sense or have none.  And that’s a sad statement on the state of our country.  No wonder things are so antogonistic these days.  No wonder people are feeling pulled apart.  Until we all start thinking critically, questioning everything we hear, say, do, read, etc., we will continue to feel pulled apart.  Part of being informed is taking the time to educate yourself on the issues and the facts.  If you can’t be bothered, you can’t really claim to be informed.

For what it’s worth…

Ignorance On Parade

I had a semi-known author tweet me back about a question with the following: “I think if u r a Republican 2day, given the state of rhetoric coming from your party, then by definition, yes. You’re a bigot.” Ayelet Waldman, author of Red Hook Road and Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes is someone I followed because I saw an interesting interview with her where she spoke about the balance between work and motherhood. I thought she’d be interesting. Needless to say, after this ignorant statement I don’t follow her any more. I think it’s just a completely ignorant thing to say.

We have a two party system in this country. By virtue of that, to get any sense of having a voice, most Americans line themselves with one party or the other. Because polls have consistently shown, however, that the majority of Americans categorize themselves as political moderates, that means a lot of Americans are siding with parties they are not 100% in agreement with.

I, for example, who helped vote Bill Clinton into office as a young Democrat in college (I deeply regret his second term, although I do think he accomplished a lot in his first term — good or bad is up to you), later came to find my opinions are now more in line with Republicans. But that doesn’t mean the party speaks for me. I strongly disagree with Republicans on gun control, for example, which I favor. I strongly disagree with them on environmental issues: I believe humans have harmed the environment and need to take steps to repair and prevent damage in the future. I disagree with spending less on education and more on defense. However, I find more of the Democrats’ platform with which I disagree. So I vote Republican much of the time. In order to play some role in which candidates are chosen, I therefore must register Republican. But how does that make me a bigot if some idiot in the Republican hierarchy says bigoted things?

This author is taking false equivalency to a new low here. And the fact she’s known makes it all the more disgusting because she is potentially misleading people who might actually think because she’s known she knows more than they do and not think things through for themselves. And she’s just one of many celebrities choosing to spout hateful things in condemnation of other things they consider hateful. But while doing this, they themselves encourage hate against a group of people they lump together as a stereotype without really knowing they all belong there.

This is what makes me sick about politics today. It’s what’s tearing our country apart further under a President who claimed he would reunite the country. The sad part is His administration is doing as much to put this ignorant, false rhetoric out there as anyone in the GOP.

If anyone truly wants to reunite our country they need to stop spouting misleading hyped-up, prejudicial statements and recognize our country is composed of individuals of great diversity. That should surprise no one in a country where individualism has become our highest value. It’s almost as if the political parties are trying to widen the divide to make people less individual and more aligned with their point of view. It’s easier to count your enemies that way, I guess.

I don’t know about you, but I never want to be that predictable. And I think it would be to the great detriment of our country if everyone else did, too. In fact, I’d say it’s downright un-American. Freedom of speech, after all, is one of our most cherished and protected individual rights. The hive mentality the parties are encouraging will be far from individual. It will not encourage free speech. It may eventually lead to the type of censorship where anyone speaking outside the party line is arrested, etc. Sounds to me a lot more like Russia than America.

For what it’s worth…

Climate Change

I have never discriminated against or hated anyone in my life intentionally. Despite my life long religious views, I have always interpreted them and applied them with compassion. For example, I once served at a camp with gay students. When the students found out I was Christian, I got persecuted as a gay basher just because of it. Even though I’d never treated them different than any other students, they refused to accept anything but total agreement with them.

In high school, I carried my bible to classes, didn’t drink or smoke, and didn’t party or chase girls to “get laid.” I was treated like an outcast as well.

These were my first exposures to being persecuted and discriminated against for who I am and what I believe, and because of them, I have been careful not to do the same to others.

Yet here I find myself discriminated against because I am Christian and conservative. Words like “haters,” “Bigots,” “fundamentalist wackos,” etc. are bandied about. I am reviled and disrespected. And yet, those doing it don’t even recognize that it’s wrong. My beliefs are offensive so it’s okay. I wonder what they’d do if they saw someone mocking a Downs Syndrome child at the supermarket or shouting racial epitats in a white hood.

The climate of the country has changed for the worst, and the Left is creating an environment of persecution, hate and intolerance against the Right that they say is intolerant.

This is not what our country was meant to be, and it’s not going to create a civil, peaceful society. It needs to change. Conservatives need to be sure of how they express themselves, too. There are bigots on both sides, haters. I’m just tired of being lumped in with them because we share some beliefs.

Land of the free, home of the brave, free speech reigns — not any more.

For what it’s worth…

The Challenge of a Dual Culture Nation

I’ve spent a lot of time traveling and working cross culturally. In fact, since I’m married to a Brazilian, my home life is that way, too. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the conservative v. liberal antagonism dividing our nation these days, and it occurs to me that part of the problem is we have two cultures living side by side: a Christian culture and a secular culture.

The Christian culture believes in traditional values which once formed the moral compass of our nation. These were the values our Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the founding documents of our nation. They may not have been believers or lived these values, but with the church of the day being the dominant voice of moral standards, these values nonetheless were a compass for them and influenced their thinking.

The Secular Culture consists of people who, for various reasons, believe that religion should be private and kept to one’s self; that people of faith shouldn’t share their faith with others or attempt to push its values into the public arena. Some of these are Agnostics and Athiests. Others are people of other religions than Christians. Others are members of mainstream Christian churches who may separate their faith and life in ways the members of the Christian culture don’t know how to do.

These are far from complete descriptions. They’re merely meant as sketches to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. The groups are far more complex than these few words can describe or explain.

The point is that Christians like myself, in the Christian culture, believe that our faith informs our lives. The way we live, think, breath and act is influenced by our beliefs. Like other humans, we are imperfect and don’t always live up to our ideals, but we are trying and constantly adjusting ourselves to learn from mistakes and live more like the Savior we believe in. As a result, we can not separate our values in the church from those in the rest of our lives. We believe that biblical values are God’s intention.

For example, murder is against God’s law, and babies are humans, so abortion is killing babies. Human beings are possessors of finite minds and thus incapable of deciding if a baby is worth living or not. I was the child of date rape, but I have spent a lot of my life helping others, teaching, giving. I think my life has meaning. If I’d been aborted, I couldn’t have made that difference. Who are we to know the child a woman is carrying won’t turn out to be an amazing human being? Who are we to deny that chance?

Secular culture, however, looks at that and says that a woman has a right not to be forced to raise a child she doesn’t want. There are too many abused and abandoned children already. Forcing women to carry to term unwanted babies will just create more.

Another example, gay marriage. The bible says marriage consists of “one man and one woman.” It also says explicit things about the sin of homosexuality. Now one can argue that the church misrepresents homosexual sex as a worse sin than other sins incorrectly, and I would agree, because the bible says all sins are equal. But that’s not the point. The point is, marriage is a religious thing to them, and therefore gay marriage can’t exist because it is against God’s law.

Secular culture sees this as Christians imposing their values on others, but civil marriage is separate and if laws were properly written to define the difference between civil and church marriage, some of the conflict would be a mute point. At the same time, secular culturists insistence that their view be upheld, feels to Christian culturalists like secular values being forced on them.

In any case, these are two opposing world views and their clash has created a great deal of anger, resentment and struggle in our nation and world.

We need to find a way to dialogue better in these cultures. If both sides object to having the others’ values forced upon them, they must also admit that they have no right to force their values on the other side. A compromise must be reached and the gap bridge or our country will never recover and reunite in ways necessary to solve the problems we face. I have no solutions or compromises to suggest other than mutual recognition of our rights to not have others’ views pushed off on us, but we do need to come together and I pray that we will.

For what it’s worth…

A Few Thoughts On Tea Parties and Freedom Of Speech

I know I’m behind again. Tomorrow I’ll review another book, but for now, here’s something I hope makes you think:

Although the Tea Parties of today have taken an approach I don’t support, I find it hard to disagree with their sentiments. Anger at the direction this country is taken has become endemic on both sides, and why wouldn’t? We have a president who promised change yet has basically run the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the same way they were run by the previous administration. A president who sat back blaming others and reminding us Bush “was slow with Katrina” while he allowed one of the biggest oil spills in history to spread and do more damage. He could have sent in federal cleanup and charged BP for the bill, but instead, he sat back and played the blame game. With the problems our country faces, and this kind of leadership from Congress and the White House, we should all be mad and celebrate the freedom of speech our Founding Fathers secured for us. If they hadn’t objected to bad governing, we’d be hearing “Hail To The Queen” instead of “Hail To The Chief.” So the tea party history is important to this country.

National Monuments Unsafe in Arizona because of border crossing drug mules

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/06/18/federal-lands-arizona-travel-warnings-place/

For all those who still say the Arizona law is discriminatory, I hope you read my earlier post showing how the law matches federal law. Here is a link to the kind of problems people on the border deal with. We have them here, too. Obama loves to blame but not to actually change anything. This is all about political capital not about what’s right, not about the law. The lawsuit is just posturing and we should all be disgusted the President is wasting our government’s time on this instead of actually making laws to fix it. He could do the same with the BP spill, but he’s too busy blaming careless BP. I thought we elected him to get things done? So far he’s not living up to it.

Okay, that’s the rant for today. I feel better having gotten that off my chest. For what it’s worth…