Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Out of all the ridiculous trends to spring forth and take the earth by storm, hashtags are one of my least favorite. Don't get me wrong. There is a time and a place for hashtags, and we'll cover that in this blog post, but the vast majority are completely ridiculous. Take this made-up example of typical hashtag (ab)use: "I can't sleep!!! #theresaspiderundermybed" With that in mind, let's examine what is so wrong about this.

Why did hashtags even come about in the first place? The hashtag is a way to make content easily searchable. It is essentially identifying a keyword that connects it with related content so that one can search for that keyword and find numerous posts that connect with that same idea. It allows us as human beings to fill 2 needs--to find belonging, because we have joined ourselves to all the others who have posted on the same subject, as well as to have our voice be heard, in that we have now contributed our two cents worth. This isn't necessarily evil.

Now, however, things have gotten out of hand. Hashtags are meant to connect your content to others' as well as to make it easily searchable--and therefore hashtags should be used things that will be searched. In our example above, the person has for some reason decided to take an entire phrase and turn it into a hashtag, possibly thinking, as one of my roommates said, that it's a concise way to express your thoughts and opinions. Internet, let me educate you: #theresaspiderundermybed is less, not more, concise than "There's a spider under my bed." English writing has evolved with word breaks. That's the way we write. It's not the way the whole world writes, but it is the way we write in English. Therefore, itisharderforanenglishreadertoreadsomethingwithnocapitalizationandnospaces than to read a normal sentence that contains the normal breaks. Getting rid of spaces just makes your thought less accessible--exactly the opposite of what hashtags are intended to do.

What's more, the person has created a hashtag out of thin air. He or she has arbitrarily put his or her thought into a hashtag. Let me tell you something: no one is ever going to search for theresaspiderundermybed. Really. And if they do, it likely won't be to see your thought that you can't sleep. If you want to use #sharegoodness, go right ahead. That's a recognizable trend. Your thought actually connects and adds to the collection (as long as it actually is a good thing, of course) and therefor makes sense. But creating a completely new and arbitrary hashtag is pointless--and it doesn't get you any more internet points if you add a dozen of them. It actually gets you more internet points to add one legitimate hashtag than a dozen random phrases with a pound sign in front.

And if that weren't bad enough, then we decided to move hashtags beyond the internet. We started using them in speech--newsflash people: your spoken words aren't, as of yet, searchable. Using a hashtag in spoken language just identifies you as an internet junkie. Listen to yourselves, people. Saying hashtag in front of what you are going to say only wastes your breath. It doesn't make you cool, hip, or trendy. It is only trendy on the internet, because trends are exactly what hashtags are about on the internet. Last week, Brigham Young University's campus newspaper, The Universe, had printed hashtags on teasers to articles listed at the top of the front page. I have lost what respect I had for the paper.

Most of all humans recognize that even good things become detrimental when taken to the extreme. Please, let us wake up and realize that hashtags have become that way, and stop the madness.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Hobbit

Before reading this post, please note the following disclaimer: I haven't, as of writing, actually seen any of the three movies in Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy. This is based on what I've gleaned from the chatter, both on the interwebs and personal communication.

The Hobbit trilogy is not the abomination everyone makes it out to be.

Now, hear me out. Those of you who know me well realize that I'm a staunch advocate of books over their derivative film adaptations. Books allow our imagination to see things however we want to based on the limited description provided by the author. Our minds are unfettered--for the most part--by visual and audio representations of the textual work. Which means that we get to take part in the creative experience with the author. Movies we just experience what the creators give to us, because the experience is at once visual and auditory. Which means that for the creative mind, a book will always be superior to a movie. It was true for the Lord of the Rings movies. They are still the top three movies on my list--which probably needs some updating, but not a lot, since I've been home--but they aren't as good as the books. It is also very true for the Hobbit movies, I'm sure.

However, there is a key difference that is apparent between the book and the movies. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien is fun-story fantasy. The Hobbit by Peter Jackson is epic fantasy. (If you're confused, see here) Everyone complains about how Peter Jackson put all these different things that aren't in the book into the movies. There's a lot to be said about that. It's quite true. A lot of that stuff isn't in the books at all. That doesn't necessarily mean that they aren't things that could have happened. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien is a bedtime story--not to be told in one sitting, but a bedtime story. As you read the novel, it becomes apparent that is so. As such, there are all kinds of holes and details that could be fleshed out--but this is fun-story fantasy so there's no need to. It in fact doesn't deserve to all be written in--that's part of what keeps it at the fun-story level. Peter Jackson took the liberty of fleshing out the story and turning it into an epic. Does that mean every addition is OK? Not necessarily. I'm sure I'll have my fair share of complaints when I see the movies. But I can now approach them with the right mind-set.

If you are looking to the trilogy of movies as representations of the book, you will come away sorely disappointed. Simply the fact that it's a trilogy of full-length films can tell you that. However, if you can separate them from each other a little bit and recognize that the films are a epic fantasy rendering of the fun-story fantasy novel, the changes and additions begin to make sense.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Exciting, Bold New Colors!

There's some changes that need to be made, here. If I'm going to start blogging again--due to the idea of starting a blogging network that includes these fine gentlemen as the ringleaders--then obviously some updates need to happen. Since it's inception, I've never heard anything but complaints about the visual aspect of my blog. Alright, fair enough. Thanks to my good friend, and our--as far as I know--only regular reader outside of the United States, ឡេង​ ធារី, we've updated our style. She wanted a change in color scheme. Following this blog's tradition of bowing to reader requests (that's how it got started in the first place) I've decided to update it. Feeling that would not be fair to the many other readers who have before suggested I change the blog, I decided we'd make a little bit of a game out of it. Here's how this is going to work:

We're going to do a color scheme of the month. This color scheme will be decided by you, the readers. Towards the end of every month, a short post will come out, and I will indicate to you to post color scheme suggestions in the comments. Assuming we actually have any readers that put suggestions in, on the first day of the month, a poll will be put up as to which color scheme should be adopted for the following month, which readers will then vote on. That poll will close on the same day that I post to start receiving color scheme ideas. Beginning the new month, whichever scheme has the most votes on the poll will be put up as the color scheme for the blog.

Any questions? Feel free to ask. Oh, and we'll go ahead and start accepting ideas for the new color scheme now. Put them in the comments below!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Where's the Argument?

You (Americans) probably know, and may have forgotten from your consciousness by now, about the Supreme Court decision to ignore the cases made by several states concerning laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman. In a sense, they just dismissed what is probably currently the largest social policy issue of our day as not being worth their time. This infuriated me. I couldn't believe how they could just dismiss the case. You won't even give the states the right to defend themselves in this--a foundational social policy matter?

I guess the biggest think that irks me about it is that I don't even see where any sound argument in support of gay marriage comes from. The only thing I could think of that would make a law preventing gays from marrying would be the 14th amendment, in particular the 1st section:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Let's examine where this would supposedly come into the debate over gay marriage. My assumption is that they are referring to the final clause "nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." The argument then being that a law that makes gay marriage illegal denies gay persons equal protection of the laws. This is all just my guesswork, since I haven't actually heard the arguments in court. But it's kind of the general idea I've heard floated before. If any of you have any insight on what the actual argument is, I'd love to hear it. Because this version of the argument is absolutely indefensible.

Traditional marriage laws afford perfectly equal protection. Anyone who chooses to, as long as they are consenting adults, can get married. Nothing is stopping them. Homosexuals can get married. Nothing in a law that prevents people of the same sex getting married to each other denies any person the right to get married. No part of the 14th amendment is violated. And as far as I can see, no other part of the Constitution is either. So what right does any court of America have to declare such a law unconstitutional?

I could see some sort of argument presented in which they claim that the definition of marriage is ambiguous, and therefore have some sort of ground to argue the equal protection clause. It's a narrow ground at best, and it disappears when we look at the history of this debate. In 2008, the voters in the State of California chose to vote in favor of an amendment to their state constitution that cleared up any ambiguity by stating that marriage could only happen between a man and a woman. The courts declared this amendment unconstitutional--with such an amendment, the only way it could be declared unlawful is if it directly violated the federal constitution. Trusting Wikipedia on this subject, the Supreme Court again dismissed the case when it was appealed to its level--at least this time based on the fact that the proponents had no legal right to appeal in federal court rather than just dismissing the case altogether. The argument that it violates equal protection clauses is only based in a flawed understanding, then, of what marriage is.

I will refer you to the religious argument, since that is a major part of my belief on the subject. Yes, I do allow my religious views to shape my political views. In The Family, published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, marriage is definitively defined as between a man and a woman. It goes on to describe several other details about how family should be run. I won't go into all those details here, but I invite you (even you readers who are members of the church) to read through this Proclamation to the World here.

Above and beyond that, however, is the very root of why the government is involved in marriage as a civil institution in the first place. Ryan Anderson articulates this better than I can, so I'll turn you to this video. It is an hour long, though, and should be followed up with the 30 minute Q&A session that follows--understanding that you don't necessarily have an hour and a half at your disposal, I'll do my best to summarize. Anderson talks about the reason government is invested in marriage--basically, why should the government care about tracking and legalizing marriages? Government's interest in marriage, he argues, comes from wanting to support the most basic and vital social unit. Government doesn't care about contracts between consenting adults to be exclusive sexual partners. Rather, government cares about supporting the best institution that allows for procreation, and the best environment for helping the children to become responsible adults. That institution is marriage--between a man and a woman. Married couples get federal benefits, not because they've agreed to be sexually exclusive partners, but because a married couple has been proven by social science to be the best environment for bearing and raising children. He also debunks the myth that a gay or lesbian couple is just as effective. The government has no reason to want to grant the same benefits to a gay or lesbian couple as a marriage.

What I've been trying to figure out now, is where's the argument? What support does any argument for laws banning gay marriage have? I haven't been able to figure it out.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Welcome Back!

When last we wrote on this here blog, I was about to head out for my mission. I didn't know if this blog would continue to get posted on. I never got around to having my mom post up my mission letters on the blog--she probably would have forgotten how to do it anyway, bless her heart. Anyway, I actually left, fully intending to never bring this back up again--which is why I haven't bothered to post in the last 3 months since I've been home. But one thing has led to another, and here I am, back into the blogosphere.

The interesting thing about being back, though, is that I don't really want to be back. And by that, I don't mean blogging again; I don't want to be home from my mission. I know that my mission is over. I can acknowledge the fact that it is divinely appointed to be over, that there is a lot that I need to be doing here. I even love what I'm doing here at home--working at the MTC, back in school studying neuroscience--but that does little to fight off this hole that keeps looming of being finished with my mission. The difficulty of transition to RM has been different for me than from what I had heard--people talk about companion withdrawals, awkwardness around girls, being "normal" instead of talking to everyone you see about the gospel. Those things haven't been a problem for me (I was always awkward around girls, so you can't hold that one against me). I've gotten over that stuff pretty quick. But I haven't, not in the slightest bit, gotten over Cambodia.

For 21 months (3 were spent in the MTC), I lived in a foreign country. I lived in a place that was very different from me in all kinds of ways, a culture and a lifestyle completely different from my own. And I fell absolutely, completely, 100% in love. Words just simply can't express it. I'll try, but I'll fail miserably. There is no other way to say it than just pure, abiding love. I'm taking a class that is designed for helping teachers at the MTC understand how language teaching goes on in that institution compared to what the academic field prescribes. During the first class, our teacher asked us to turn to each other and truly share about who we are--not just the "what's your name, where are you from, what's your major" fluff we usually share on first meeting new peers. During that time, I realized something: there's nothing for which I am more passionate than Cambodia. As I shared, I had to keep my emotions in check. I quickly moved on to sharing about my major, and that was when I realized it. I love neuroscience. It truly is my passion--that's why I'm planning on making a career out of it. But even neuroscience takes 2nd chair to Cambodia. It's not even a question.

My roommates here at college are busy pursuing dating--as they should be. They are return missionaries. Their first priority should be finding an eternal companion. But as they talk about which girls they are finding interest in and discuss going on dates (and actually going on dates), I am left wondering. Who is there to love that can take the place of an entire country?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Fairy Tales

We've all heard them since we were kids. They all follow the same basic plot: "Once upon a time....They lived happily ever after. The end." The stuff in the middle changes, but it's all really basically the same. Especially if you limit it to just the fairy tales about princesses. Then they really are almost exactly the same story. Snow White may have had her seven dwarfs and Sleeping Beauty her 3 fairies, but they boil down to the same idea. As we grow up, we realize how fantastic the elements of the stories are, but instead of discarding them we cling to these stories. These fairy tales we've been told since our childhood through various media stick with us. They can, in fact, become a source of reassurance and comfort to us. The stories are simple and one-dimensional. There are good guys, and there are bad guys. There aren't any gray areas. In the end, the good guys win, and the bad guys lose--as it seems should always be the case in life. These stories offer hope of a better world, a better life. Real life is so much more complex than in the stories, and the lives the characters in the stories live just seem so much more ideal than our own. We look to these stories for hope--someday we too may slay the dragon and have peace and harmony throughout the kingdom.

And yet, sometimes I find these stories bring me despair. For who is it that is always marrying the princess and living happily ever after? It's Prince Charming, of course. Good for him. Unfortunately, I've never felt too much like a Prince Charming. The prince aspect I can sometimes manage to fit to myself, but never the Charming. First off, my last name is Sorensen, not Charming. But mostly, the actual adjective doesn't really fit me. While I do have a way with words, it never has been a charming way. More a dry and sarcastic way. My looks certainly aren't charming. I've never considered myself attractive enough or suave enough to be a Prince Charming. And if I'm not Prince Charming, what hope have I of ever marrying one of these princesses that are all around me? I might as well give up the quest.

In those times, however, it is important to remember those differences I brushed aside in the introductory paragraph. You see, it isn't always Prince Charming who rides in and saves the day. In some of the stories, it's just a knight in shining armor. He still gets to marry the princess and live happily ever after. Being a knight in shining armor instead of Prince Charming doesn't really make all that much of a difference. It is perfectly alright to be a knight in shining armor, which is a part I can see myself playing, and have been able to for awhile now (if I had access to it, I would post here a picture of me as a young 5-year-old in my knight in shining armor costume). Being a knight in shining armor is still not an automatic task, but it is much more achievable than being a Prince Charming.

So, for the boys that read this: remember that you don't have to be a Prince Charming to win the heart of the princess. You still can live happily ever after by being a knight in shining armor. Don't wallow away in misery because you weren't born heir to the Charming throne. Live the best life that you can live; live it honorably, and in kindness and service to those around you. Someday, you'll find a princess and marry her.

In your turn, girls: don't be so caught up in looking for Prince Charming that you miss the knight in shining armor. You are all princesses, and you do deserve to live happily ever after, but maybe it won't be with Prince Charming.

As a last note, realize that everything I've said about guys should also be followed by girls, and vice versa. I realize that it isn't just girls always looking for the Charming ones and missing out on other opportunities. Guys do it as much, if not more. And it isn't just guys who get downtrodden feeling they have to be Charming; girls have that problem too. I am, however, a guy, and so this has been written from the perspective of a guy.

Monday, March 26, 2012

What if Dave Barry Was A _______?

So kind of a cop-out post today. I haven't been able to post for a while, since my laptop's hard drive died and I really don't like using the library computers enough to write blog posts on them. However, I feel obligated to give you something, and this popped into my head. It was a term project for a class I took last semester. Meaning I wrote it in less than a day. It really isn't that great, but good enough that I felt it deserved a larger audience than just that professor.

What if Dave Barry Was A ______?
Written by:
David Sorensen

Dave Barry is a now-retired weekly humor columnist for the Miami Herald. He took elements from daily life in Miami, as well as general American society. Such writings are not uncommon in contemporary society. We don’t, however, have many documents that portray humor-based writing from ancient civilizations. Outside of Greek comedies, not much humor is to be found. I think it unlikely that people didn’t satirize elements of their societies, and so the purpose of this paper is to try and recreate what ancient humor columnists might have made fun of. Due to the lack of concrete evidence about how exactly life was like and the relatively large gaps in between historical details, some liberty has been taken in putting together elements of history that were not actually contemporary to each other, but no doubt the individual instances would have been treated much the same. With that introduction:

What if Dave Barry Was an Egyptian?

My wife and I recently decided to look into moving. Apparently, sharing the bed with crocodiles that crawl up from the river is getting to be too much for her, especially with a kid on the way. I suspect it’s largely just one of those weird pregnancy cravings, but I’m willing to humor her, which is why the other day we took a trip up the Nile to see what we could find.
The first city we stopped in was actually quite nice. A thriving economy, good access to administrative services, plenty of flood-plain--it had everything you’d want in a capital city. We got around talking to the residents, and it turns out there were actually plenty of job openings to be found. Sounds like they’ve got some big construction project going on that they need a lot of laborers. Unfortunately, to get the job, you have to be a slave, and that doesn’t exactly feed the family. Besides, I was told they were using some sort of wooden framework to try and build the huge pyramid that the king wants. I had to laugh at that. How on earth could wood hold the weight of that much rock? Even kids playing in the sand know that it’s easier to build a ramp than to lift something straight up. You have to wonder where they come up with these fantastic ideas.
Next, we came to a decent city, and they actually had a really good plot of land for sale. Far enough back from the river to not get washed away, but close enough to have a nice backyard pool during the floods. I was all for it, but my wife was a little leery of the hippopotamuses out in the river. I told her they were perfectly safe, and even went out to pet one to demonstrate it to her. I don’t think my running back screaming like a girl after it began to charge did anything to reassure her. Of course, I wasn’t convinced to leave until I met the people next door. The father of the family was actually a really good guy, despite being a priest. His kid, though, was absolutely out there. He kept claiming that some god had talked to him and told him that he shouldn’t be sacrificed. As if. What would the gods do without young innocent hearts to munch on? Boy was he loony. I couldn’t live next to him.
So, the search for a new house goes on. If you have any openings in your area, let me know. Right now I have to go feed the crocodiles so they stop gnawing on my legs.

What if Dave Barry Was an Athenian?

So if you’ve been awake at all the last week, you’ve probably heard about the trial of Socrates. His student Plato’s kind of made a big deal about it, going as far as to record an account of the trial and certain events leading up to it. One conversation he records between Socrates and Euthyphro and how Socrates questions Euthyphro to try and understand the definition for piety. Euthyphro, by the way, utterly failed at proving himself a religious expert. Everybody knows that in order to be a religious expert you have to say “no” to logic.
The trial ended today. By a mere 30 votes, Socrates was sentenced to death. So few votes can be the turning point to cut a thread short. Of course, even worse than that, Socrates was only 30 votes away from being fed free the rest of his life. How could they even consider that? Don’t these people realize what would happen as a result? All the free food I get would be split in half between us, and then where would we be as a society? It wasn’t 30 votes between life and death; it was 30 votes for one man to die so that an entire civilization (read that: me) could live.
Word is, though, that Plato plans to continue in Socrates’s work. He’s even planning on forming a school so people can be formally instructed instead of just following a guy around like a dog chasing a squirrel. It’s kind of a scary thought. Instead of one bratty old man roaming free, we’ll have a whole generation of bratty youngsters running around. Now they’ll start questioning things like whether or not we actually need humor columnists, and what good that Parthenon is doing standing empty all the time. Next thing you know, and we’ll be back to the days of barbarism and tyranny. We need to stand up and take a stand against this sort of behavior. Well, you do. I have to go pick up my shipment of food.

What if Dave Barry Was a Roman?

Last week, I decided to take the wife and kids to a gladiator fight in the Flavian Amphitheater. I thought it would be a good opportunity to spend some quality time with my family while watching other human beings do their very best to rip each other to shreds. Plus, it was a tax deductible expense (our local tax collector was involved in one the fights that day; we wanted to heartily cheer on his opponents in hopes that he would be killed and unable to collect our taxes).
I’d heard that a Roman was not a true Roman until he’d been to an event in the Flavian. I never realized that being a Roman involved so much standing in lines and confusion over where you were to supposed to sit. Virgil never talked about standing around in a crowd trying to get to where you can sit around in a crowd in The Aeneid. I don’t recall Livy telling any stories about trying to differentiate between archway XLII and XLIII and how heroic people are who confuse them. I guess I must have missed those chapters. If only they would print the tickets a little clearer so I could tell if I was supposed to sit in archway XLV section CXX seat XIV or if it was archway CXX section XIV seat XLV. If they don’t have the budget to make that change, why do I have to spend a week’s worth of wages to get in?
Of course, I don’t want to complain too much. The Flavian really does have some excellent features, and a very proud history, almost as proud a history as the sport which it displays. Gladiator fights date back to the Horatii brothers, and their famous battle with the Curiatii. Ever since their shining example, we’ve been trying to prove our true manhood to each other by seeing who was the best at beating the others into a pulp. With that kind of tradition, it’s no wonder the Republic fell.
My family and I really did have a great time at the Flavian Amphitheater, though. It was a great venue, once you got past the feeling that it was going to collapse at any second because there isn’t a solid wall in the whole building. We enjoyed watching the animals they brought in, and the lions were fun to watch too. Next time you have some money to burn (and by some, I mean more than I’m going to get for writing this), you should take your family and go watch a fight at the Flavian. Just don’t blame me if you can’t find your seat.

What if Dave Barry Was a Serf in Middle Age England?

King Alfred has done it again. He lead hundreds of our brother, fathers, and husbands to glory against the Viking invaders over the weekend. Praises be to him. I think he has the talent and ability to lead the whole country to greater heights. Or deeper depths, depending on whether we’ve paid our indulgences or not. Alfred really does a great job leading our soldiers into battle. I just wish he was slightly better at leading them back out of battle, but that may be asking too much of him.
In all reality, I’m not sure why we need to fight the Vikings at all. Sure, I’ve heard the stories of the sacking of Rome, and I know they’re pagans. I’m just not sure I’d be so quick to label them as barbarians. A couple of weeks ago, a band came through town here. I met one, by the name of Olaf the Oaf-icious.  We had a nice conversation. He told me about his family, and how many people he needed to kill in order to be sure to feed his family. He sounded just like any other low class person, struggling to make ends meet and doing whatever it takes to provide a good life for his family. Plus, he spared my life and killed Joe up the street, so he’s got pretty good judgment, I’d say. I’m actually thinking of starting up a collection to help supplement his pillaging. If you’d like to help support Olaf and his family, go to the nearest consignment station and join the army. That way, Olaf will be able to kill you and get a bigger bonus. Any size donation accepted, as long as they can wear a helmet and wield a sword.
Of course, there’s always the chance that Alfred will someday be victorious against the Vikings, leaving the door open to conquest by another group. That’s the problem with living on an island: even if you repel people from one shore, there’s plenty of other coastline to land a ship on. Makes you wonder why we don’t have a stronger navy, the better to repel would-be invaders. Maybe Alfred gets seasick.