I first discovered Natalie Tran's channel in early 2017, and it was the perfect kind of internet humor I enjoy. Her last video at the time was posted on Dec 29, 2016 so a few months without new videos wasn't peculiar. But the months went by, and then the years, and eventually it became clear that CommunityChannel was over.
Even after all these years, Natalie Tran is still as funny as when she left. I hope this isn't a one-time thing, but even if it is I'm still happy that we got such an amazing treat in this unbohlievable year.
Her whole channel is full of great videos, One of my favorites that I like to show people is King Size.
I spent last Christmas break back home in the Philippines. Since I go to college in America, it was nice to be back home for the holidays. I spent time with friends and family I haven't seen for months, and nothing terrible happened. I was not expecting anything terrible to happen and things were good—until the day before I had to go back to the US.
On January 12, 2020, the day before my flight, a volcano erupted. Being in the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines has a lot of volcanoes and they erupt sometimes, that's what volcanoes do. But this eruption was bad—people had to be evacuated and ash rained down over a large part of the island of Luzon. In my 20 years of life, I had never experienced such an eruption which led to cancelled classes, and—most importantly for me at the time—cancelled flights.
(photo from ABS-CBN News) At least it was pretty, I guess
The ash-fall was so bad that entire airports were closed due to the amount of ash on the runways. People had to wear masks when going outside because it could cause damage to the lungs (a prelude to events which were soon to come).
Stuck in my own country with no idea what to do, I was stressed. I did eventually get a flight about a day after and only missed one day of classes, but you bet I was stressed the entire 24-hour trip from my home to my dorm.
Even the check-in line at the airport was crazy because of the volcano
At least this was the only notable thing to happen in 2020 (not even close), and I did not end up stuck in the US because of flights being cancelled due to another natural disaster (I did).
As much as I hate admitting that high school had any significant effects on me, I can't deny that taking IB—a torturous two-year course meant to "prepare" us for college—did make classes easier. I already took higher level Physics and Math, and so introductory science classes like Chemistry or Mechanics were more an inconvenience than an actual problem. And the papers I've written for college weren't so different than the multitude of essays I was made to write in IB.
A problem I have is that I'm both overconfident and unconfident. Sometimes, things are just so easy for me that I'm worried I'll mess up because I think it's too easy. For the most part, my arrogance hasn't failed me so much—things usually did end up being that easy. But there is one course I admit to underestimating: Microeconomics. I took IB Econ (which I didn't enjoy), and I thought it wouldn't be so bad. I can't say I wasn't warned, because I was — by multiple people. And so after this semester, I can say with full confidence that I do not and will never like Economics. The professor was great, though, and I genuinely learned a lot—having an understanding of basic Economic principles is useful in life (but never ever *ever* again).
Another part of what got me through the year is I no longer care about what's unimportant to me. Chemistry is unimportant, Excel is unimportant, Matlab is unimportant. It's not that I don't put effort into these classes, but I gain so little value from them that it's not worth losing sleep over it. I'm not even hating on my core requirements—I loved my Theology and Art History classes—but some classes are just either so easy or so useless, It's almost a waste of time. I acknowledge that what may seem unimportant might actually be valuable, but I've had the entirety of Grade School and High School to determine what is and isn't valuable to me. Time and effort are limited, I'm going to spend my time in college learning about what I love and what will benefit me in the future—not titrations.
I also don't particularly care about having good grades. To me, they're just an indicator of performance and improvement. I'd much rather struggle in a class I found deeply interesting and get a B than to be bored in a comically trivial course and get an A. Which is basically what I did. I decided to take a Calculus course intended for Math majors instead of the course for engineers. And oh, how I struggled! Hours of homework, sleepless nights, so many B's. I'm not particularly good at it, I just enjoy it. My single passion has always been Computer Science, but math will always be in the background <3.
I don't envy those who need to do well in class because they want to go to Grad School or Medical School, or more importantly because they need merit scholarships. It is a privilege for me to be able to say "I don't care about my grades", and to have had enough prior education and opportunities to do decently in class with little to no effort, and most of all to be able to study what I want to study because it just so happened to work out that what I love is in high demand in the job market. College is meant to be a place for learning and inspiration, not for churning out essays or memorizing equations and formulas just to not be homeless and racked with debt in the future. But for many, the reality is almost never the ideal.
Social situations have never been one of my strengths. I've had the same few close friends for most of my life. Aside from them I have a good number of other friends I wouldn't mind hanging out with. But beyond them, when with acquaintances or people that are friends solely due to circumstance, that's when I start to retreat to the corner and take out my phone, with the idea of no one would want to talk to me anyway slowly seeding itself in my thoughts.
And so unsurprisingly, college was a bit lonely at first. It's not that people weren't friendly and welcoming—they were the exact opposite— but when you don't feel like you belong, no amount of friendliness would change that. The only people I knew at this point were people from my country, and so I figured I'd try to be somewhat active in cultural clubs. But I never felt completely comfortable in these clubs. It's not because they weren't welcoming—I regard many of them as good friends—it just didn't always feel right to me.
My university is known for football, and I have been to exactly one game. It was fun and I enjoyed it, but every game after the first game I could never get myself to go. Part of that is I didn't have anyone to go with, but there was also an unexplainable aversion. It didn't feel right. One time, I was contemplating on going to a very important game, but ended up watching the entire first season of The Dragon Prince.
I've had a similar experience with college parties. I went to a few, and they were fun, but it's not something I actively look for. It's almost paradoxical how parties can make you feel so lonely when literally surrounded by so many people.
All in all, the whole culture and beliefs of my college are nothing like who I am, many times they're the exact opposite. But I don't hate this school; overall, I've enjoyed my first year. I eventually met people I was comfortable with, and things got better. These people aren't necessarily like me—some of them like football, go to parties, or are very active in cultural clubs—but being with them feels right and not forced. I've found new close friends I can fully trust and be myself with. I would have no problem spending the entire night with them just talking. And that has made everything worth it. I don't feel the same anxiety and loneliness that I did.
Last February, I went to an event where I played board games, watched a Smash tournament, and watched a cosplay competition. After the event ended, me and a few other friends continued to play board games–I even got to play Settlers of Catan for the first time. Being in that event with 2-3 friends was the first time in months where things felt right. Before that, everything frequently felt so wrong and so lonely. But after that day I decided it didn't need to be that way anymore.
Note: I originally wrote this for a first year college writing course. The goal was to write an essay of praise about someone or something, and so while there are a lot of things I hate about Apple (*cough* unreliable keyboards *cough*) I focused on all the good Apple has brought us. I hope you enjoy my attempt at pretending to be a complete Apple fanboy!
Today, our lives are dominated by a few large technology corporations. Amazon controls the e-commerce industry, Google has a monopoly on web browsers and search engines, Microsoft Windows is the most-used desktop operating system. But no tech company has made as significant of an impact on our personal lives as Apple. By melding together the liberal arts and humanities with clever technology, Apple has continued to change the relationship we have with our devices—from the Macintosh in 1984 to the Apple Watch in 2015.
Apple has always been committed to bringing accessible and intuitive technology to its customers. In the early 1980s personal computers were mainly used hobbyists and nerds. Apple changed that with the Macintosh computer, bringing personal computing to the mass public. Before computers like the Macintosh, the only way to control computers were through strange magical incantations like “grep” or “ls”. The Macintosh was different. Each program or task had a familiar and direct real-world analogue—you could create a “document” and place them in “folders” or throw them away in the “trash”. You could have never used a computer before and the Macintosh would still feel familiar- greeting you with a friendly smile.
In 1984, the Macintosh changed the way people use computers, but Apple’s story does not end there. In 2001, Apple created the iPod—changing the way people listen to music forever. With Steve Job’s same intuition for thoughtful and easy-to-use design, the iPod’s portability and “click wheel” mechanism revolutionized people’s ability to listen to music from anywhere. No longer did we have to carry countless cassettes and CDs just to listen to 20 songs---right in our pocket was the potential of more than 1000 songs. Many have tried to match the popularity of the iPod, but none could. Only Apple itself could create a product more popular than the iPod.
In 2007, Apple announced three devices: “a revolutionary phone, a touchscreen iPod, and a breakthrough internet communication device”. These were not three devices, but one: the iPhone. No other device in the 21st Century has come close to changing the daily life of every single person as much as the iPhone has. The iPhone was the most personal computer—there was no keyboard or click wheel, but direct interaction through a tap of a finger. Like the Macintosh before it, the iPhone brought in a new and more intuitive way to interact with technology. “Slide to Open” it said, and with a slide of a finger a whole new world was opened.
The iPhone changed everything. For the first time in history, people had access to the whole knowledge of the internet, could talk to their friends, listen to music, read a book, and from anywhere in the world. For the first time in history, anyone could be a photographer or a videographer with a device cheaper and more portable than any DSLR camera. Now, smartphones are so ubiquitous that non-smartphone phones are being called ‘dumb phones’. Samsung Galaxy, Huawei Mate, Google Pixel, and simply every single smartphone in the market today has its roots in the original iPhone.
Despite the success of the Mac, iPod, and iPhone, there have been multiple times in Apple’s history where all hope seemed to be lost. During these times, when at the absolute bottom, Apple continually persevered and rose up like a phoenix from its ashes. In 1985, Steve Jobs was fired from Apple, leading to a twelve-year dark period of confusing product lines and failures, finally culminating in near-bankruptcy. But in 1997, the prodigal son returned when Apple bought Steve Jobs’ new company, NeXT, bringing not just Steve Jobs back to Apple, but also Scott Forstall—who was largely responsible for making the iPhone what it is today.
In 2011, the death of Steve Jobs brought doubt and disbelief from the media of Apple's continued success without its visionary leader. Many of Apple’s rivals awaited the return of the 1990’s Apple. But Apple was in good hands with its new CEO: Tim Cook. By staying true to their core values and limitless perseverance, Apple proved naysayers wrong and continued to innovate---creating even more personal and accessible products, such as the Apple Watch. It was first new product after Steve Jobs’ death and was initially met with criticism for being too slow and lacking vision. These criticisms did not stop Apple, and they continued to refine and improve their product to satisfy the needs of their customers—such as with health features like heart-rate monitoring and built-in EKG. Another example is AirPods—criticized at launch for being ugly and having weak battery life, now being heralded as the most innovative product Apple has recently released. Anywhere you go, you can find someone wearing AirPods.
Aside from their dedication to innovation and health, Tim Cook’s Apple added another value to its list—privacy. In today’s world, personal privacy has become a controversial issue. It seems as if every week, there is some news story about some new way Facebook is stealing its users’ data. Google, with their control of the browser, is also able to track every webpage anyone visits—creepily using that data to sell to advertisers. As if taken straight out of a dystopia, Amazon and Google with their Echo and Home devices now have the ability to always listen to every conversation in your home. Big Brother is always watching. Apple, on the other hand, is dedicated to privacy. On their text and video messaging platforms, iMessage and FaceTime, everything is encrypted so not even Apple can read or listen to your messages. All the commands given to Apple’s voice assistant, Siri, are processed on-device so that Apple is unable to listen in on conversations.
With well-designed, easy-to-use products and dedication to its customer’s satisfaction, privacy, and health, Apple has truly proved itself as a driving force for good and social change in our present-day society.
On two recent episodes of the podcast The Robot and the Unicorn, podcaster Alex Cox discussed with her co-host, Kathy Campbell, about her history with religion and the Catholic Church.
What struck me about her experience is how she felt a sense of community in the Church, which after coming out as gay turned into fear or hesitation.
Like Alex, I was raised Catholic and studied in a Catholic school. So while I am straight, I can somewhat relate to her experience in the sense that I've been in this environment of intolerant views towards the LGBT+ community.
I'm not saying all Christians hate people who are LGBT+, but even with many who are tolerant there is still at times a belief or feeling that it is something unusual or wrong.
I don't believe that this kind of mindset or treatment is right, from both a purely ethical or Christian perspective. So while I cannot speak for the LGBT+ community, I do have 12 years of Catholic school plus an introductory Theology course worth of knowledge. With that, I want to present here an argument from a Christian perspective on why being LGBT+ is not a sin and should be accepted.
A bit of a disclaimer: Since I am neither gay nor a theologian, I admit that my argument may not be perfect either from the perspective of the LGBT+ community or Christian theology. If you feel that there are any mistakes, please don't hesitate to contact me about it.
To directly answer the question in the title, God does not hate gays for the simple reason that God does not hate anyone. While this does not prove that homosexuality is not a sin (which I will address in the second section), it is important to know why God does not hate.
In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus said:
I say to you, love your enemies ... For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? ... And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? ... So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.
There is also this famous passage, John 3:16:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.
These two passages (and many others) show that God loves all human beings. In the first passage, Jesus challenges his disciples to be like God and do what is difficult---to love their enemies. Because of God's love and lack of hate for his creation, he sacrificed himself. God became human to feel the hate, the pain, and suffering we inflict on others. Consequently, all the hate we give to others is hate directed at God.
As Jesus says in Matthew 25:45:
what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.
God only has love, and God is love. Hate directed at someone in the name of God is calling some false god, and not the God of Abraham. Despite any person's sinfulness, God's love is infinite in that He is always ready to forgive when we ask for it. God does not abandon any one of His creations.
As St. Paul says in Romans 5:1-11:
[A]t just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
All this applies to more than just hate against the LGBT+ community, and should be remembered when considering anything people claim God/Jesus teaches. Many people preach "The Good News", but don't actually know that "The Good News" is God's infinite and unconditional love for all of humanity.
It is completely possible to truly and wholeheartedly love someone who is LGBT+ and still believe that homosexuality (or any other non-straight orientation) is a sin. It is part of God's teachings to forgive sinners and to help them overcome sin.
People with this mindset, though misguided, have motivations in love. I believe that they don't want people who are LGBT+ to feel uncomfortable or hated. Rather, they want the LGBT+ to know that they are loved and that they can overcome their sinfulness. But I don't believe homosexuality is a sin, and I hope I can explain why.
In the popular passage, 1 Corinthians 13, St. Paul says:
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. ... faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
The love St. Paul speaks about is a kind of unconditional love—love that is not romantic, sexual, or familial. It is the kind of love God has for His creation and what we should have for each other. Loving unconditionally is selfless love, to love because it is good.
By definition, to be gay means to love someone of the same sex. The whole concept of being LGBT+ is rooted in loving people who society tells you not to love. While this love may be romantic or sexual, the kinds of relationships that develop from LGBT+ couples has the same potential to be as deep and meaningful as straight relationships. There is still potential for this kind of love to progress towards unconditional love. Preventing or repressing people's ability to develop their ability to love still shows the danger of lacking love St. Paul talks about.
According to St. Paul, faith and hope don't matter without love. A Catholic who thinks homosexuality is a sin can be considered faithful because they are following the teachings of the Church, they can also be hopeful that the LGBT+ may realize their sinfulness, but they do not love because they deny others their love.
Here is a passage from 1 John 4:7-21:
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. ... if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.
Therefore because the LGBT+ community loves, then they are begotten by God and knows God. They are God's children as much as the non-LGBT are, yet they are persecuted for it. How then can we say that we are Children of God when we deny others the ability to love that God has given all of us.
In a vision to St. Peter, God said (Acts 10:15):
“What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.”
This vision was in the context of the inclusion of Gentiles (meaning non-Jews) into the Church. Before this part of Church History, Gentiles were seen as "unclean" by the Jews as they did not follow God's law (called the Torah). With this vision, God is telling St. Peter---who is basically Pope---that this should no longer be the case.
Like the Gentiles during this time, the LGBT+ community in the present are being excluded from the Church because they are being seen as "unclean" or "dirty". The times changed, Jesus had died for all of humanity's sins, and so the Gentiles were first brought into the Church. I don't see a reason why the same thing can't be done today in the context of being LGBT+ in the Church. Why should a person who is completely devoted and faithful God be excluded solely because of who they choose to love?
A short note about gay sex and gay marriage:
I'll be honest, I'm much more knowledgable with the Gospels than I am with Sacraments, but from my understanding the Sacrament of Matrimony mainly does two things: bonds a couple for life and requires them to produce children who will be raised as Christians. The problem is mainly with that second one.
Technology has advanced a lot since the rules for the Sacraments were fully established. LGBT+ people have various ways of having children now, such as adoption, surrogates, or sperm donors. It is fully possible for an LGBT+ couple to raise children in the Church, and so I see no problem with introducing gay marriage into Christianity.
In terms of gay sex, pre-marital sex of any kind is considered a sin by Christian doctrine---it's even banned in my very Catholic college's rulebook. Therefore, pre-marital gay sex is as sinful as straight sex. Also, while pre-marital sex is a sin, it doesn't seem like many Christians care very much. So a gay Christian should have as much guilt about sex as a straight Christian (which ususally isn't much).
For sex after marriage, its purpose is not just procreation, but unification---which would still be true in an LGBT+ marriage.
In the podcast, Alex mentioned that she still goes to mass despite knowing how other people in the church see her. She doesn't say exactly why she still goes to mass and maybe she doesn't know herself.
For many Catholics, the decision to go to mass is not really a choice. Usually, they were raised Catholic and so have gone to mass with their family their entire life. Attending mass is probably second to only praying as the simplest thing a Catholic can do to show faith.
But it's different for those who are LGBT+, they have a very good reason for not wanting to go to mass. And so for someone who is LGBT+ to make a conscious decision to attend mass shows greater faith and love than any other churchgoer.
Straight Christians only have to sacrifice time to express their faith, but LGBT+ Christians sacrifice not only their time but in many cases their safety. Attending mass or any kind of liturgy or sacrament becomes martyrdom. To me, that shows real bravery and faithfulness, more than many Christians can admit to having themselves.
As Jesus says in Matthew 5:11-12:
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.
(I would like to thank my Theology/Writing professor for reading and giving me helpful comments on this post. This topic is far more nuanced and complicated than I initially thought, and even a little guidance was a big help)
In one word, Change Your Mind was amazing. So amazing that I spent three hours on the Steven Universe subreddit after the episode ended (which also means a lot of my ideas were influenced by the subreddit). To me, it was the perfect conclusion to the past five seasons of the show. Steven Universe has changed so much since its first episode, and yet at its core has stayed the same throughout everything that has happened.
---SPOILERS AFTER THIS POINT---
Steven Universe is a family show. It is fundamentally about family---Steven's family. At first this was the Crystal Gems, and then now we see this family extended to the Diamonds. Blue and Yellow's sudden change of mind may seem rushed, but in the context of family it's understandable. Communication is key, and before Change Your Mind there was little communication between the Diamonds. Steven changed that by standing up for himself and confronting Blue. While Pink decided to run away from her problems, Steven was able to face them. He made the Diamonds' flaws apparent, allowed them to accept their imperfections. As a wise man said, If every porkchop was perfect, we wouldn't have hotdogs.
Identity is a major theme in Steven Universe. Even in the beginning, Steven was being overwhelmed by expectations to be like his mother, denying himself an identity of his own. In the past few episodes, Steven's identity has been literally ignored as he is expected to be Pink by the Diamonds. Steven knows who he is but this continuing denial---especially from White Diamond---led to doubt and almost a complete loss of identity. It is nearly impossible to be who you are when everyone around you says you aren't. But Steven perseveres---proves to White Diamond who he really is. This is what ultimately defeats her, having to come to terms with the fact that Pink Diamond is no longer here and in her place is Steven Universe. It is an acceptance of identity by Blue Diamond, Yellow Diamond, and eventually White Diamond which saves their family.
In Change Your Mind, the relationship between Steven and his Pink Diamond gem was made clearer. Steven is basically a hypostatic union. While Steven as a human and his gem can be somewhat separated (though with very disturbing consequences), they are for all intents and purposes a single Steven. The gem is not Pink Diamond (she's gone), but fully Steven. The human part of Steven cannot exist without the Gem part of Steven and vice versa.
The logical consequence of this fact is that a Gem's consciousness or soul can be separated from their gem. Pink Diamond as a person was separated from the Pink Diamond. Where does Pink's consciousness go? Steven is shown to somehow retain some of Pink's memories, therefore she couldn't have been completely overwritten.
My theory, similar to regeneration in Doctor Who, is that parts of Pink's self was rearranged/augmented to form Steven. This process would have left some fragments of the previous person behind, which is possibly why Steven inherited some memories and gem powers. The obvious notable difference here is that Steven is a completely different person and not simply a second incarnation of Pink Diamond.
Ultimately, it's up to the writers to decide how things work and wether to share that to the audience. But it's still an interesting thing to think about.
This season finale wrapped up all the major plot points so nicely that it could have been the series finale. This leaves viewers to wonder what could possibly happen next. Thinking back to the beginning of the show, the whole concept of the monsters being corrupted gems or the existence of a galactic gem civilization and Great Diamond Authority weren't revealed yet. At that point, the show could have just been a simple monster of the week cartoon and it wouldn't seem unusual. We are basically at square one again, having little knowledge of the future plot besides possible hints. From here, Steven Universe could be anything.
This is likely the best time to be a Steven Universe fan. With so little known before the movie, there's so much potential for really weird and ridiculous theories that couldn't possibly be true (but probably will be). Garnet could be a fusion! Rose might be Pink Diamond! Or Lion might be Rose! Or Lion might be Pink Diamond! Sneeple!
With whatever direction the writers will take, I have no doubt that that they will continue to spread the message of empathy, love, inclusion, and just kindness in general. In a broken world that is in need of so much love, I am most thankful to the Crewniverse for teaching both children and adults how to be kind and loving people. At its core, that is what this show is really about. Like Steven sings at the end of the episode—we do not seek validation or attention, but rather we want to help others change their minds for the better.
Inspired by the latest Cortex podcast episode where they discussed their themes and goals for the year, I decided to make my own theme --- The Year of Start---which I think perfectly encapsulates my goals for the year.
While I began college last year, it is only during the next academic year (beginning in August 2019) where I will actually be able to start studying Computer Science. In that sense, 2019 is the year that I can formally begin my journey to becoming a software engineer/developer. It is also a goal for me to start being more social in college, to meet people both in my field and outside of it. This will hopefully allow me to be better as a person by improving my communication and empathy.
Outside of college, my goal is to basically do more stuff. I want to start more programming projects and find ways to expand on my other hobbies. The initial stages of this goal has already begun with the creation of this website, and I hope to actually start and consistently write posts throughout the year. Along with the website, I have plans of starting a few iOS app projects which (if things go well) I hope to actually release by the end of the year. Long term, I hope these projects allow me to improve my programming skills and expand my online presence to bring more of the things I do to an audience larger than myself.
Every project has to have a start, and so this seems like a fitting first blog post for what I hope will be a long and worthwhile project.