Strength of Character

Caution, for those not up-to-date with Battlestar Galactica, you may not want to read this.

I’ve been browsing through my copy of Writer’s Market, marking the listings for magazines that might be a good fit for my work so I can research them to find out.  A good number of the magazines that publish fiction stress the importance of well-formed characters.  Of course, any creative writing instructor will tell you that and I have been instructed in a number of techniques for creating characters in the past, mostly doing free writes on their background or conducting an interview with the character in your head.  I’ve even forced groups of junior and upper high schoolers to complete character free writes and questionnaires while prepping for drama group practices back in the day.

Small Plot Curiousity

Reyn Bowman, director of the visitor’s bureau for Durham and author of the Bull City Mutterings Blog, posted a piece about the family cemeteries that dot the Durham landscape.  Apparently,  I haven’t been imagining things; there are an awful lot of small cemeteries in this region.

Small cemetery on Ocracoke Island, NC

Small cemetery on Ocracoke Island, NC

I’ve always been fascinated by graveyards.  I love to spend a quiet afternoon in them, though I rarely do.  The last one I frequented with any regularity was a little Jewish cemetery within walking distance of The Archer House, where I spent my last two years of college.  I don’t remember how I know it was a Jewish cemetery but I do remember that a cat used to jump in and out of the headstones occasionally, which was obviously a big draw for a pet-starved college student.

Busy, busy, busy.

I’ve often wondered, while plugging away at a computer under the fluorescent lights of doom, how businesses can be successful and only stay open during the daylight hours. I’ve always thought that most of us consumers are chained inside buildings at work or school from first light until the sun has set. But just while listening at my window this past week, I’ve determined that, strangely, about half of our neighbors are also home during the day.

Assisted Suicide: Act of Mercy or Cutting Life Short?

I was listening to “The Diane Rehm Show” on NPR this morning and her guest was John West, author of The Last Goodnight, a book written about helping his parents commit suicide. His father had terminal cancer and his mother was falling into mental decline and both asked him to help them meet death on their own terms when they felt their times had come.

I don’t know what I think about assisted suicide. I absolutely believe that life is precious, a gift from God that should be lived to its fullest. But I can imagine how it would feel to come to a point where life no longer seemed to serve any purpose but misery and/or great physical pain. Of course, death would seem attractive, an end to one’s struggles that I can’t claim I wouldn’t want when my own quality of life fell to some undetermined breaking point. If someone I loved asked me to help them leave this life with a little dignity, would it be too much to ask for?

Financial Dependence

As I sit on my deck, delighted to be able to spend the day doing work that holds meaning for me rather than cooped up in a cubicle, I am confronted by my first dilemma.

Where will my next paycheck come from?

Growing up or growing inward?

Lately, I have been feeling nostalgic. What, Becca nostalgic? I know, I know, stop the presses. But what I’m missing isn’t anything and everything, but one small, specific ability that seems to have disappeared from my everyday life. It’s the ability to just drop by someone’s house, unannounced, and spend time just chilling. Whether that be playing card games on the floor of the Ruth’s with Jennie and Casey, or watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the Archer House crew, or even sitting on Paul’s bed, reading an assignment while he’s “studying” at the computer.

Free Will and an All-Knowing God

Free Will and an All-Knowing God

In discussions, I’ve often heard people claim that free will cannot exist in the same world as an omniscient God. This argument generally poses the question, “How we can truly make our own choices if it’s already a given what choice we will make, as the presence of an omniscient God indicates?” If you have other thoughts about why an all-knowing God and free will cannot coexist, please comment below!

Should smoking be outlawed?

It’s seem that more and more communities are forbidding smoking through various means—UNC Chapel Hill has decided that smoking will be banned within 100 ft. of university property.That means no one, not students, not professors, not staff, not visitors can smoke for the duration of the time that they remain on campus.This, of course, has been decided for the benefit of everyone’s health, as medical studies have shown that nonsmokers do have a risk of developing lung cancer; Dana Reeves is the highest-profile example of this.

Now, I don’t know how the university plans to enforce this, nor do I think it lawfully can be enforced, but regardless, I believe policies like these are intended to make smokers feel like criminals.They must lurk in the dark corners to nurse their habit—even smoking areas are forbidden on campus.I’m not a smoker but I think that it’s ridiculous to try and legislate such laws against a legal vice.Until the day that cigarettes are contraband, doesn’t it seem that such actions infringe on the bill of rights?

As the medical literature does prove that proximity to smoke can cause lung cancer, I would be in favor of forbidding it from entrances, buildings, etc.But UNC has a plethora of wide open spaces; I don’t understand why smoking areas couldn’t be allowed in the middle of them.Are people incapable of granting smokers a wide berth?There are plenty of paths to take to any building.

I also think it’s insulting that the University’s answer to concerns about the policy is to refer people to resources that help fight nicotine addiction.As in, the only possible reaction people could have is to try and quit, not try and fight for their rights.

What do you think?Am I overacting and such policies aren’t really a big deal and are better for everyone?Or do such actions want to make you step to the window and scream that you’re mad as hell as well?

The Death Penalty—Is it broke and can we fix it?

I’m against the death penalty, largely due to my Christian beliefs. I think that the act of taking another person’s life is something that only God should be able to do. Who are we to decide that someone’s life has fulfilled its divine purpose and can now be snuffed out? God can always turn around for good what the Devil intended for evil. This doesn’t mean that I think murderers don’t deserve to die. I do.

I went to a panel discussion on the death penalty a couple nights ago at UNC. It was mainly a discussion on if, regardless of whether the majority wants the death penalty as an option or not, we as humans can create a system that effectively levies and carries out that sentence. In the last decade, 124 death row inmates have been exonerated due to DNA evidence. That’s 124 innocent people who would have been killed if we didn’t have that field of science. And only a small portion of cases ever actually use DNA testing. I’m not comfortable with one single erroneous death because we insist on carrying out executions. It was argued at the panel, though, that the exonerations are in fact proof that our present system of appeals does work and afford the necessary checks and balances to make sure that only the guilty are being executed.

Often, people argue that it’s better to execute than to spend taxpayers’ money on keeping a murderer in prison for life. Thus far, studies are inconclusive on which costs more, death row and the system of necessary appeals and associated court costs or life in prison.

Jury decisions on when to sentence death vs. life in prison have been incredibly inconsistent. Racism is rampant in the sentencing of 1st degree murderers. If the victim is white, the murderer is three times as likely to be sentenced to death than for African American or Hispanic victims. Also, few people would argue that mass murderers and serial killers don’t deserve to die, but at the same time, the vast majority of inmates on death row are there for the murder of one person. Of course, their victim’s lives were invaluable but how can we call the system just when people who go on shooting sprees can get life while someone who murdered a girlfriend in a jealous rage might be killed? We could just decide that all 1st degree murderers should be executed, with life in prison never an option. Are you comfortable with that?


I was shocked to learn at the panel that most mainline protestant denominations and Catholicism have released official statements condemning the use of the death penalty, largely because their leaders don’t believe we should take the risk of killing innocents for the sake of preserving the death penalty system. Growing up in a Pentecostal environment, I was taught that the death penalty was necessary as we are God’s servants, meant to carry out His will on Earth. I later rejected this myself after being unable to reconcile “an eye for an eye” with “turn the other cheek.” It was heartening to learn that so many Christian groups had made official statements in line with my own decision. It’s nice not to feel alone!

Perhaps one of the most important considerations for me is that I doubt I would, if asked, be willing to carry out an execution. One of my favorite fantasy books, A Game of Thrones, starts out with one of the lords personally beheading a man he had sentenced to death. He tells his sons that any man who’s willing to punish behavior with death must be willing to strike the blow himself. By accepting our system as is and allowing the death penalty, we as a society are saying yes, this or that person must die, but would we actually go through with it if we had to inject the poisons ourselves? I think the distance we’ve created between the sentence and the act of execution has made it easier to support the death penalty for most of us.

What do you think? Why do you support the death penalty? Why should we abolish it? Would you support it if we could be assured, somehow, that all those convicted were, in fact, guilty? Is the possible deterrence enough value that it’s worth the life of an innocent every so often in order to save other innocent lives?