Saturday, October 7, 2017

Loaded Questions - Talking about Guns in America

Sadly, this week has been dominated by discussions of horrific things and uncomfortable questions and polarized opinions in the wake of the monstrous attack in Las Vegas. As I write this, 58 are dead and 489 were wounded. It is an unspeakable tragedy and a sad fact of our modern life that as the week has gone on, it seems more and more likely that nothing of substance will be done about this.

I felt the need to write something about this event and my feelings on the inevitable debate on guns in America that it naturally brings up. Rather than engage in back and forth debates on social media that seem to only alienate people, I wanted to put my thoughts in a longer format that maybe allows for a more polite and reasoned discourse.

I structured these thoughts into several main ideas that I want to discuss - many of them will read as though they are "myths" that I wish to dispel. However, that is not the intention - they are not myths, but rather opinions that I have continually heard from people that I respect, love, and know to be thoughtful, intelligent human beings. I may disagree with them, and believe I have evidence to support that, but I present this in the hope that I can also find discussion and evidence from those with differing opinions, life experiences, and viewpoints that may help me to further my own understanding of the issues involved here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Want to fight the system? Vote, and respect the opinions of others.

While this can be filed in your "ignore all political pontificating" bins for some and won't necessarily change anyone's mind, I felt the need to say something. Tomorrow is Michigan's primary election. Please, go out and vote. This election cycle has been and promises to be especially disheartening to the majority of Americans who believe in having reasonable discussion about important issues without engaging in name-calling, slander, and fear-mongering. With all of the vitriol out there, it can be easy to decide to throw your hands up and be done with the whole thing. So many of us are fed up with the "system" and the partisanship and dissent, it is tempting to disengage or become jaded; I urge you to fight the system a different way.

Monday, September 7, 2015

SWEUread: Reading Order

Rereading the Star Wars Expanded Universe one "Legend" at a time.

Reading Order

Obviously, if I'm gonna read 86 novels, or even 8, I'm gonna need a starting point and a roadmap. Thankfully, there are numerous places to find exhaustive lists of Star Wars novels online (here, here, and here are some good ones to start). There are even good posts on what really constitutes "essential" EU reading (I actually agree with the main thrust of this post, even if I might quibble a bit on some of it.)

I don't really care - it's my blog, I'm gonna do what I'd like.

First of all, I should address something at the start, possibly something that should have been addressed in the kick-off: for now, I'm only reading EU novels and only the ones I've previously read (hence the term RE-read). That means that I'm excluding any and all comics, some of the young adult novels, the e-novellas, short story anthologies, and most of the Prequel era novels. This is mostly a matter of convenience, as I have all of the novels that I own readily available. As you'll see, I was primarily interested in the story as it left off after the original movies (post-ROTJ, in Nerdlish). By the time the prequels came out and novels in that era were written, I had sort of already tuned out of needing to read every Star Wars book on the shelf. Thus, I am woefully not up to date on all of the novels chronologically occurring before A New Hope. Maybe as part of this project I'll try to get into some of those books - there are a few I've always meant to read but never actually did.

Anyways, if I'm going for the completionist route and I'm not skipping novels in this reread, I had basically 2 approaches for reading order: read in chronological order by in-universe date, or read in the order the books were published. I'm basically going to go (somewhat) in the order the books were published. This is for a couple of reasons. 1) I'm doing this largely for my own nostalgia, so I can maximize that by rereading in roughly the order I originally experienced the books in, 2) Due to the way the books were published, each book only references events and characters published BEFORE that book until you get to the New Jedi Order (NJO) series, when the publishers and Lucasfilm decided to generate a more unified plot. Thus, if you read in chronological order, you're likely to run into all kinds of moments where a character or event was referenced and you had no clue what they're talking about.

The third reason to at least start in rough publishing order is that the first book, Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn, and its sequels are unquestionably some of the best books in the entire EU and definitely the most indispensable to the rest of the overall story. Since Zahn was the first to write an EU novel, his books really had to lay the foundation for what exactly had happened after the Battle of Endor at the end of ROTJ. Therefore, there is a metric TON of world-building foundation that Zahn lays in his novels, and that material essentially forms the spine that holds up the rest of EU. You can try to start somewhere else, but trust me on this one - you're better off starting where it all began.

With that being said, here is the list of the books I own and the order in which I'm planning to attack them (publishing year noted in parenthesis). For more information on any book, I strongly recommend checking out the list at As you'll note if you cross-check or are an even bigger nerd than me, I'm not going to go strictly in publishing order. Anything that was part of a trilogy, duology, or other arc will get read in one block - I'm not jumping between stories. Also, in some cases, I'm going to reorder things as I see fit. I am altering the deal - pray I don't alter it any further.
  • Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn (1991)
  • Dark Force Rising by Timothy Zahn (1992)
  • The Last Command by Timothy Zahn (1993)
  • The Truce at Bakura by Kathy Tyers (1994)
  • The Courtship of Princess Leia by Dave Wolverton (1994)
  • The Jedi Academy Trilogy #1: Jedi Search by Kevin J. Anderson (1994)
  • The Jedi Academy Trilogy #2: Dark Apprentice by Kevin J. Anderson (1994)
  • The Jedi Academy Trilogy #3: Champions of the Force by Kevin J. Anderson (1994)
  • The Crystal Star by Vonda McIntyre (1994) *Note: this one I may skip. It's reputation as one of the worst of the EU novels is well-earned.
  • Children of the Jedi by Barbara Hambley (1995)
  • Darksaber by Kevin J. Anderson (1995)
  • The Corellian Trilogy #1: Ambush at Corellia by Roger MacBride Allen (1995)
  • The Corellian Trilogy #2: Assault at Selonia by Roger MacBride Allen (1995)
  • The Corellian Trilogy #3: Showdown at Centerpoint by Roger MacBride Allen (1995)
  • The Black Fleet Crisis #1: Before the Storm by Michael P. Kube-McDowell (1996)
  • The Black Fleet Crisis #2: Shield of Lies by Michael P. Kube-McDowell (1996)
  • The Black Fleet Crisis #3: Tyrant's Test by Michael P. Kube-McDowell (1997)
  • X-wing: Rogue Squadron by Michael Stackpole (1996)
  • X-wing: Wedge's Gamble by Michael Stackpole (1996)
  • X-wing: The Krytos Trap by Michael Stackpole (1996)
  • X-wing: The Bacta War by Michael Stackpole (1997)
  • Shadows of the Empire by Steve Perry (1996)
  • The New Rebellion by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (1996)
  • Planet of Twilight by Barbara Hambley (1997)
  • The Han Solo Trilogy #1: The Paradise Snare by A.C. Crispin (1997)
  • The Han Solo Trilogy #2: The Hutt Gambit by A.C. Crispin (1997)
  • The Han Solo Trilogy #3: Rebel Dawn by A.C. Crispin (1998)
  • I, Jedi by Michael Stackpole (1998)
  • X-wing: Wraith Squadron by Aaron Allston (1998)
  • X-wing: Iron Fist by Aaron Allston (1998)
  • X-wing: Solo Command by Aaron Allston (1999)
  • X-wing: Isard's Revenge by Aaron Allston (1999)
  • Specter of the Past by Timothy Zahn (1997) 
  • Vision of the Future by Timothy Zahn (1998)
  • X-wing: Starfighters of Adumar by Aaron Allston (1999)
  • Young Jedi Knights (YJK henceforth): Heirs of the Force by Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta (1995) 
  • YJK: Shadow Academy by Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta (1995)
  • YJK: The Lost Ones by Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta (1995)
  • YJK: Lightsabers by Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta (1996)
  • YJK: Darkest Knight by Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta (1996)
  • YJK: Jedi Under Seige by Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta (1996)
  • Rogue Planet by Greg Bear (2000)
  • New Jedi Order (NJO henceforth): Vector Prime by R.A. Salvatore (1999) 
  • NJO: Dark Tide I: Onslaught by Michael Stackpole (2000) 
  • NJO: Dark Tide II: Ruin by Michael Stackpole (2000)
  • NJO: Agents of Chaos I: Hero's Trial by James Luceno (2000)
  • NJO: Agents of Chaos II: Jedi Eclipse by James Luceno (2000)
  • NJO: Balance Point by Kathy Tyers (2000)
  • NJO: Edge of Victory I: Conquest by Greg Keyes (2001)
  • NJO: Edge of Victory II: Rebirth by Greg Keyes (2001)
  • NJO: Star by Star by Troy Denning (2001)
  • NJO: Dark Journey by Elaine Cunningham (2002)
  • NJO: Enemy Lines I: Rebel Dream by Aaron Allston (2002) 
  • NJO: Enemy Lines II: Rebel Stand by Aaron Allston (2002)
  • NJO: Traitor by Matthew Stover (2002)
  • NJO: Destiny's Way by Walter Jon Williams (2002)
  • NJO: Force Heretic I: Remnant by Sean Williams & Shane Dix (2003) 
  • NJO: Force Heretic II: Refugee by Sean Williams & Shane Dix (2003) 
  • NJO: Force Heretic III: Reunion by Sean Williams & Shane Dix (2003)  
  • NJO: The Final Prophecy by Greg Keyes (2003)
  • NJO: The Unifying Force by James Luceno (2003)
  • Tatooine Ghost by Troy Denning (2003)
  • Survivor's Quest by Timothy Zahn (2004)
  • Dark Nest Trilogy #1: The Joiner King by Troy Denning (2005)
  • Dark Nest Trilogy #2: The Unseen Queen by Troy Denning (2005)
  • Dark Nest Trilogy #3: The Swarm War by Troy Denning (2005)
  • Outbound Flight by Timothy Zahn (2006)
  • Allegiance by Timothy Zahn (2007)
  • Choices of One by Timothy Zahn (2011)
  • Legacy of the Force (LOTF henceforth): Betrayal by Aaron Allston (2006)
  • LOTF: Bloodlines by Karen Traviss (2006)
  • LOTF: Tempest by Troy Denning (2006)
  • LOTF: Exile by Aaron Allston (2007)
  • LOTF: Sacrifice by Karen Traviss (2007)
  • LOTF: Inferno by Troy Denning (2006)
  • LOTF: Fury by Aaron Allston (2006)
  • LOTF: Revelation by Karen Traviss (2006)
  • LOTF: Invincible by Troy Denning (2006)
Some notes on omissions and order:
  • As mentioned, I do not have many books that occur in the Prequel era - Outbound Flight and Rogue Planet are the only ones on the list. They're mainly included because they have some plot points very pertinent to other EU books (Rogue Planet) or because they're essentially backstory to post-ROTJ EU content (Outbound Flight) and not really all that concerned with the Prequel Era characters and events. As mentioned, depending how burned out I am by the time I finish this, maybe I'll look into doing a first-time read through all of the books I haven't read.
  • I omitted all of the Tales of the .... short story anthologies.  Don't have 'em, didn't read 'em.
  • I omitted Splinter of the Minds Eye entirely - technically, it's the first EU novel (published between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back), but it's so far from what really became the EU that it was almost a "Legends" novel before the EU became Legends. Also, as Alan Dean Foster didn't know that Vader was Luke's father and Leia was his sister at the time, the book gets really squicky with Luke pining over Leia. In a similar vein, the early Han Solo and Lando Calrissian novels were excluded - I haven't read them, but they are really outside of what became the EU in a lot of senses.
  • The less said about the Glove of Darth Vader series the better. Utter, complete trash. Just no. They may have officially become some type of "canon" but in my own headcanon, they never happened.
  • I omitted the Bounty Hunter Wars trilogy (The Mandalorian Armor, Slave Ship, Hard Merchandise). I read the first one (and maybe the second): these are the only books that made adolescent Jeremy actually NOT finish a trilogy or series. I thought they were incredibly boring and frankly have never really understood the fandom obsession with Boba Fett all that much. He's a cool supporting character in the movies, but I have less than zero desire to find out more, frankly.
  • There had to be a little shuffling around to keep the NJO series together and some of the others (the second set of X-wing novels, for instance). The main consequence was throwing the YJK books right before NJO but after a bunch of books published after them. This shouldn't be a problem for a number of reasons - the YJK books are chronologically after all of the other pre-NJO novels, so no spoilers are lost. Primarily, though, the YJK books are kids'  novels and were sort of "outside" the main EU fabric at the time they were published. They really are necessary and helpful to read before NJO and LOTF, though, as those characters have starring roles and there are a lot of callbacks. Also, I think the last novel on the list (Invincible, the capstone of the LOTF series) loses half of its impact if you didn't read (or grow up with, in my case) the YJK stories first.
  • Just taking a look at it, there's gonna be some good stretches and some tough ones. I'm most excited to reread the original Thrawn Trilogy (Heir to the Empire, etc), as it's been a really long time since I've gone back into those. I look at those books almost as the third Star Wars trilogy that never was (Episodes VII-IX, if you will). They are really the only 3 books I really REALLY want to get through before The Force Awakens comes out - the rest I will slog through as time allows. The stretch from Jedi Academy until the X-wing series could get a little bleak for me - lots of books I didn't love the first time and some that I did but now realize were probably not that good. The books I'm definitely least looking forward to rereading (beyond The Crystal Star, as noted) are the Dark Nest Trilogy - I'll expand on why greatly if I ever get there. Suffice it to say, those books (and LOTF to a somewhat lesser degree) were the reason I stopped reading Star Wars books.
I expect that I'll probably have a preview post before each book to give my memories of the book before rereading, which will make it more interesting after I've reread the book to look back on.

Star Wars EU/Legends Reread (SW REUread) Project Kick-off

or "Hitting the Snooze Button before The Force Awakens".

So I've been meaning to start writing a bit more and actually, you know, USING this blog space for something. Turns out that young kids, house, job, baseball, football, and random squirrels outside the window have all been great writing de-motivators. Thus, I have been sort of searching for some kind of project to write about that would actually force me to start writing semi-regularly on the blog. Also, in an unrelated dxevelopment, I also decided that I need to be more useful with my free time given that the list of to-dos keeps piling higher and somehow "Lay on the couch, drink beer, and surf the Internet" is not on the list (stupid to-do list - let me just scratch that "Build dining room table" out and replace it "Lay on the couch, drink beer, and surf the Internet."  There - much better!)

Well, I've arrived at that project, and it's so fabulous that it's making me grin just thinking about it. Here's a hint...

One of my many nerd badges - a whole shelf of SW novels!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Obergefell et al. v. Hodges and the Difference Between Love and Acceptance

In case you've been living under a rock or somehow haven't gone on facebook in the past few days, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of the plaintiffs in Obergefell et al. v. Hodges, which is a cumbersome way of saying that States cannot ban same-sex marriages. As such, we now wake up in an America where all are free to enter a marital union with whomever they choose, regardless of gender, for the first time in history. As with most, I have numerous opinions and feelings on this and some are quite conflicting with one another. It is my great privilege to live in a country where I have the right (some would say the obligation) to express my opinions even when they may be unpopular or differ from the accepted norm. Thus, I wanted to try to at least put forth a clumsy attempt to express and clarify what I and many others believe in the hope that it fosters some healthy discussion and clears up some confusion regarding the Christian point of view on marriage.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 Christmas/New Year's Letter

As I am always reminded of in this time of year when we reflect back on the past year, I realize that I have been truly blessed with wonderful friends and family.  In fact, I have so many friends and family that I cannot send physical Christmas cards to everyone I would like to anymore.  Luckily, I have this handy, incredibly often-used blog with which to send out our greetings (with photo enhancements!!!).

Hanke Journal-Sentinel - 2013
I decided to turn over a new leaf in this year’s Christmas letter.  No, I don’t intend it to fit onto one side of the page (that’s only, like, 1000 words – are you nuts?).  I’m going to scrap organizing this letter chronologically, since the first full year as a family of three (more on that later) really was defined less by events and more by day-to-day experiences.  It’s OK, though, since I’ve found that parenthood definitely relaxed my engineer’s need for control and organization– like how when you have to pick up James’ crayons 3 times a day, you can no longer organize them by color EVERY time.  Either that or I’m mellowing in my old age; after all, I am a thirty-something now.

James at the beginning of 2013
The biggest joy this year has been watching James grow from a baby boy to a little man.  Looking back it’s hard to believe that at the beginning of 2013, he was still not sleeping through the night (finally started doing that around 1 year old!!!!), not walking (again, around his first birthday – now it’s a challenge to get him to WALK and not run), not talking (he’s a Hanke – is anyone surprised that he’s also a talker?), and not eating much table food (well, some things didn’t really change much!).  James had a wonderful 1st birthday party in March, with all of his
James' 1st birthday.
grandparents and aunts and uncles making the trip, and his ear infection that week didn’t stop him from absolutely destroying his cake.  Soon after, Sarah and I (and Sarah’s mom Vicki, who babysits regularly when Sarah works) found out how exhausting chasing after a child is when you have to literally chase after him.  James is definitely an energetic child – his two favorite games right now are hide-and-seek (though you can’t hide too well, or he’ll just give up) and pushing his toy dump truck all over the house and “kaboom”-ing it into pretty much everything.  The Christmas tree is still standing as I write this, but I’m not certain it will make it until Christmas.  In summer, James loved to go for walks to the park, pick up all the neighbor’s crabapples on the way, and endlessly walk on the wooden board edging by the pond behind our house.  (PS – We are still renting the same house in Ann Arbor from an old NASA colleague).  Once the weather changed, he became obsessed with raking leaves, and got his first taste
James at a local waterpark for Labor Day.

of snow shoveling today.  It’s a good thing that James is a great napper – without the break, I think Mommy and Grandma would be on the 3:10 train to Crazytown by now.
To precisely no one’s surprise, James is also quite the little chatterbox.  Sarah and I sat down one night around his 18-month birthday and wrote down all of the words that we knew he recognized and said.  We gave up around 200 or so, and it seems like the list gets longer every day.  Now, he’ll count to ten (though he sometimes skips four and goes right to five – too much Monty Python and the Holy Grail in the womb?), spell his name, identify pretty much all letters of the alphabet (we love how he usually just says “Double” for W), and pretty much talk about SOMETHING nonstop, often rather loudly.  Just goes to show that not all traits breed true, right?  We’re still working on the finer points of language, such as the fact that you can, in fact, answer a question like “Do you want to go upstairs and change your diaper?” with “Yes.”  All these language skills should really come in handy for James when he grows up and starts working at his dream job – which, at this point, is probably garbage man (kid is OBSESSED!).  All joking aside, and with the full disclaimer that he can oftentimes be exhausting and frustrating like any almost-two-y
James at his first MLB game

ear old, Sarah and I are so blessed to see the exuberant, joyful boy James is starting to become and witness him learning and growing every day.
We got on College Gameday for a hot second in September!
If it weren’t for getting to watch James grow this year, I might consider labeling 2013 as the Year of the Baby.  I mean, seriously – those things were popping up left and right this year!  First, Sarah and I met our new nephew Ethan David Doutsas, born to Sarah’s sister and her husband on Feb. 1st in Iowa.  We both made it out to see Ethan born again into God’s family, and Sarah stayed out a few extra days to bond.  Along with baby Ethan, both of Jeremy’s best friends from college and Sarah’s best friend either met their own little bundles of joy or will soon after the new year, along with several other friends.  Then, of course, there is the little minor detail that Sarah and I found out in July that we would be expanding our little family again, and we’re going to need a completely new wardrobe for this one!  Baby Girl is due April 3, 2014 (though we know from experience that date is more suggestion than anything), and we are SOOO excited!  OK, maybe a little terrified as well – the chaos level in the Hanke house should increase just a bit this spring – but mostly we are dying to meet our little darling, especially after seeing her kick, flip, clap, laugh, and talk (of course!) during our ultrasound last month.
James is gonna be a big brother in 2014!
Gorgeous live oaks lining a street in Aiken, SC.
The dunes at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore near Traverse City.
We did manage to fit a number of fun trips and mini-vacations into the year as well.  As mentioned, we headed out to Iowa in February for Ethan’s baptism, but also made it to WI to celebrate our niece Elissa’s birthday, two events that would have been much harder to attend before we moved back to MI.  In April, all three of us flew back down to Newport News for a wedding in VA for our first “family vacation.”  It was a great opportunity to see all of our friends and colleagues in VA that we’ve missed dearly since moving, but somewhat bittersweet at times.  A less conflicted trip happened a few short weeks later, when Sarah and I flew to Aiken, SC for another wedding, our first trip without James.  Sarah did really well for her first time away from James (maybe a little TOO well, at times!), and we had a blast dancing the night away then exploring the area and local plantations the next day.  Still, two days was long enough to be apart from James, and coming home to his smiling face was lovely.  We took a longer break to visit friends and family in WI for 4th of July, where James got his first boat ride with Grandpa and we caught a Brewer game as a family (without James since it was a night game – his first baseball game came at a Tigers game later in July).  Sarah and I were able to get away for a romantic weekend at a B&B near Traverse City, MI for our 6th anniversary in September.  We hiked in the gorgeous sand dunes of Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, visited the Grand Traverse lighthouse, hit a winery and a cider mill along the way, and finished with a wonderful meal at the Bistro Foufou in Traverse City.  Our last family trip of the year was back to WI in October, and James had a blast playing with my parents’ temporarily adopted kitten.  For Thanksgiving, we enjoyed not having to pack a suitcase for the first time since college, as we celebrated with Sarah’s family (all 40 or so that made it!) here in MI.  We will be traveling back to WI for Christmas.
It has been a rewarding year for us professionally and personally as well.  Sarah has continued to work part-time as a cook at Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, where she periodically supplies us with fantastic bread from their bakery and other goodies.  She really enjoys the work and her co-workers, and they have been fantastically flexible about her hours and schedule, which has been a great help.  I have settled into my position as an Application Engineer at CD-adapco in Northville this year.  The first 6-8 months on the job were quite an adjustment, but as the year went on, I have grown much more comfortable.  The work is challenging, stimulating, and diverse, as I have been involved with simulations as varied as dipping a car frame into corrosion-resistant paint, to flow down a waterslide, to the forces on an airplane wing coming in for landing.  The amount of travel has been just about right, and I have gotten to visit clients in St. Louis, Moline, Indianapolis, Huntsville, Newport News, and Toronto.  In addition to work, we have found a wonderful church home at Trinity Lutheran in Saline, MI, and have enjoyed singing in the talented choir.
So, with that, I will wrap up this year’s letter a little early for once (first time ever that the first draft didn’t come in at over 2 pages!).  We have been so blessed this year with our growing son and soon-to-be-growing family, and we have truly cherished being closer to our families and many old friends over the past year.  It really does feel like we have come “home.”  Our prayer is that the Christmas season finds you and yours also reflecting on a joyous and rewarding year and spending the holiday season enjoying the company of those you love.  Finally, may you be filled with the good news of a Savior this Christmas, for there is no greater love.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8

                                              Jeremy, Sarah and James Hanke
Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year from our family to yours!!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012