Sunday, December 17, 2006

The love of a child

When I was 15, I wrote an essay called "The Desire to Bear"...

In that essay, I analyzed what I thought were the reasons why I felt like I had a strong desire to be a father so early in life. Later in life, in a church talk (I think it was on mothers), I talked about a memory I had when I had just starting understanding how life works--how people are born, grow up, and have babies of their own. I understood that each baby had a mommy and a daddy. Girls grew up to be mommies and boys grew up to be daddies. Since I was a boy, I would grow up to be a daddy. This line of thought made sense. But there was a problem. Being an honest, innocent child, I had no problem in admitting that I "loved" my mommy more than my daddy. This caused great alarm to my simple mind, as I came to understand that my children would never love me as much as they would their mommy.

I have since grown up, done many things, married, and now have two children. I now understand that my understanding of "love" as a child more similarly resembled "like". At least, that is my hope. A common occurence in our home is wanting to go from daddy to mommy, referring to mommy as the boss, or not believing something that daddy says until mommy confirms it.

However, I had a bit of a treat today, as Kiya, our 8-month old, seemed to have occassional fits of wanting her daddy. It was rather strange, but very welcomed. There is something about a baby clinging to you. I soak up such moments, fully realizing that someday I may be lucky to get her even to want to talk to me.


Friday, December 15, 2006

Salsa Night has moved to the new version of Blogger

Which I believe means that you need a google account to continue to post. When I made the switch, I didn't know that everyone would have to individually switch to the new blogger (which uses your gmail account). If you don't have a gmail account, Jenny or I could send you an invite.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Have you ever suddenly realized how very very different you are from someone you love? I had that realization this last Sunday, during Sacrament Meeting.

I love my husband very very much. We have a lot in common: we met in the Electrical & Computer Engineering department at BYU, we graduated from high school in '97, we love cheese, we both entered high school math competitions, we took math for fun, we like Fourier analysis...

But on Sunday we spoke in sacrament meeting. We spoke together once before, during our first year of marriage - that was only a 7 minute talk because our ward had 4 speakers and a choir number. This week it was us - all us - no youth speaker (there are only about 8 youth in our ward, so they don't make them speak every other month).

We had been asked to talk about the Old Testament since we've been reading it together in our family scripture study at home. I travelled to Philadelphia for work last week, so I had had some time to think about my talk. When I came home, I spent several hours choosing scriptures, quotes and stories. Saturday night, after a full day's work and a ward Christmas party, I sat down and basically wrote out my talk. I know it's better to speak from outlines, but when I do that, the sentences don't make sense. Brain disconnect somewhere. I read my talk to Dan, and he timed me to let me know how I was doing. I asked him how he was doing, and he said he had some scriptures looked up.

Some scriptures looked up! Gee whiz! I was now more stressed for Dan than for myself. After all, he's not really interested in going to ward functions, dinner at a friend's house, or even chatting after church for a couple minutes. And he has to talk for 20 minutes and has only a few scriptures! I mean, I know he served a mission and had to talk all the time, but seriously, I was worried.

Or should I say I was foolishly worried. I gave my talk, made connections between the Old Testament & food storage, shared my favorite OT scripture (Psalm 100, especially verse 1), bore my testimony, and sat down. I felt momentarily relieved, but as I listened to the choir my nerves came up again.

Then Dan took the stage. Really. He was so awesome. I am so proud. He started off with a joke, and then launched into what worth he has found in the Old Testament, with tons of scripture comparisons and personal insight. I mean, he admitted he thought Psalms were basically hymns until he realized that it was the 2nd most quoted book of the OT (Isaiah being first) in the New Testament. At least, I think that's the right fact. He also showed how many of the "kinder" commandments were also in the OT - like loving thy neighbor as thyself - you know, the 2nd greatest commandment? He is really interested in how the Old Testament shows up in later scripture, and his enthusiasm was in the talk. After 20 minutes he had to stop - his time was up, but not his information.

After sacrament meeting, tons of people came up and I got the "great job" and Dan got the "really impressed - fascinating - I never knew that - I loved it" remarks. I couldn't be prouder. Hopefully the bishopric will remember that next time and maybe even not ask me to talk. :)

And I can't help but laugh at how different we are - I read stories, which is good, but Dan really tries to see the scriptures in relation to each other. At least I have eternity to learn.


Friday, December 01, 2006

The doctor is in. 5 cents please.

Katie and I watched the Charlie Brown Christmas Special a few nights ago and I realized that Charlie Brown reminds me of me.

At the beginning of the show, Charlie Brown is kind of lamenting the fact that he doesn’t feel the “Christmas Spirit”. He doesn’t receive Christmas cards, his dog has “gone commercial” by participating in a Christmas lights decorating contest for money, his sister wants Santa to bring her cash, and he, as always, doesn’t feel like he has any friends in general. In fact, he laments the fact that this time of year where everyone is happy emphasizes his unhappiness. In other words, he feels like Christmas is mocking him.
I often feel similarly about Christmas. I have many complaints about Christmastime in America. I will briefly explain each one in turn, hopefully I can keep myself from ranting too much.

1. “Christmas Songs” about snow and winter (rather than Christmas).
2. Commercialism, for lack of a better word. I saw a Wal-Mart advertisement last year that showed an obviously wealthy family opening up laptops and other expensive electronic luxuries on Christmas morning with soft Christmas music playing in the background. They were trying to associate luxuries with family time and Christmas. It made me ill.
3. The idea that Christmastime is a special time of year where we pay attention to people in need. The part of this that is never said but often implied, perhaps unintentionally, is that we don’t care about anyone else come January. Also, the idea that Christmas time is a special time where we contemplate the importance and divinity of Christ’s birth.
4. The tendency for the value of tradition to trump the value of anything else (logic, civility, etc.). Many years in my family there was an argument about whether we were supposed to get dressed out of our pajamas before we opened presents or not. Those on both sides of the argument would often cite tradition (“That’s how we always do it.”) as if that settled it.

I guess that list will do for now. In short, the way that most other people celebrate Christmas bothers me. This is nothing new – at least some of the above are things that have bothered me for many years.
Two years ago, when we were living in Colorado, I mentioned my Charlie Brownish problem with the Christmas season to my Home Teacher, who was a middle aged man with sons older that I am. He listened and then told me that it shouldn’t keep me from really celebrating Christmas. He suggested that I should actively celebrate the Christmas season in the way I think it ought to be celebrated and let that suffice.
After he left, I realized how very right he was. I could complain all day long about the actions of other people during this or any other time of year and it wouldn’t do anybody any good, least of all me. Since then I have been trying, with at least slightly noticeable success, to be more cheery and try to celebrate Christmas in such a way as to not offend myself.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Free Advice? Sign Me Up

Once again, Julie C has inspired me to post. I have a question that I really need help with. Bad. Now. Lotsa help. Pleeeaase ...

Here's the problem: I need a way to control my iMac from Nick's laptop while we're up in Seattle over Christmas break. By control I mean access files, programs, run the programs and save new files, and ... I think that's all. Is this possible? (I know it can be done, but can I figure it out is the real question. The answer to which is no. Hence this post.)

What I've found:
A program called Timbuktu that has good reviews, does what I want, and costs $200.00 (I'd need it for 2 computers and it's about $95 per computer.) Pros: established program, people like it. Cons: $$$

Two other VNC programs: one called RealVNC and the other called Chicken of the VNC (for macs). The first claims to be cross-platform, but all their examples deal only with Linux/Unix/Windows. They have a mac version of the program however. The second is a VNC written specifically for macs. Pros: neither look expensive (I think they're free) Cons: Does this actually do what I want? Is it trustworthy?

One other item: we have internet through comcast so our IP address changes all the time. I'm not sure if this would be a problem (or how to overcome it) with the VNC clients. Timbuktu lets you assign an email address to your "home" computer and then you access the computer through that instead of the IP address.

If any of you have any (any any any) insights, tips, ideas, help, advice, etc. it would be most appreciated :)


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Advice? Help?

I guess every family has high tension at the holiday when everyone gets together, right?

I was just wondering at what point do you just listen to one family member say bad things about another family member and how do you tell them that you're not comfortable with that? I was caught a little by surprise by that this past weekend, and I'm not sure if there's anything I can do now. I probably should have told them at the time that I didn't want to hear it - instead I tried to defend the accused person, but that didn't really work. Anything I said was rejected because it didn't agree with their opinion. Any ideas? Should I do anything about it now, or should I just wait and figure out what to do if (when) it happens again?


Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Grave for Two

My grandpa was an odd man. A good man, but odd. Soon, it will be a year since he died. I always thought of my grandpa Webb as the "good grandpa", partly because his only competition for the best grandpa title was my other grandpa, who was quite mean and bitter, but mostly because he always gave me rib cage crushing hugs when I was a kid. As my favorite grandpa, I would eagerly look forward to when he and my grandma would make the trek from Sandy to visit us in Seattle, always bringing a few boxes of grandma's homemade chocolates- if you think See's or Godiva's are good chocolates, then I pity you since you never got to taste hers.

My grandma died when I was around ten, and after she was gone my grandpa started his long slide into extreme old age- he finally died at age 95 this year. Whenever I saw him he seemed less interested in what was going on around him, and his mind seemed to be slipping a little. For example, at one of his birthday parties Jenny and I were talking to him when it came out that we both served our missions in South America. He then started to talk to us in Spanish- not great Spanish, but it was passable. This surprised me since I knew he did not serve a mission (he was of mission age during the great depression), and knew he had not lived overseas. He then told us about sailing on a great ocean liner to Mexico, and then on to Spain, where he stayed for a few years while he was young. I wondered why his biography (actually, my great-grandpa's biography, but he had his own chapter in it) had not mentioned it. Later, I talked to one of my 9 uncles about it and he laughed, saying that was his dementia kicking in and that he was only remembering some of his grandkids' experiences on their missions as if they were his own. That answer satisfied me, but I still wondered where he learned his Spanish.

My grandpa was of that generation that did not need a good education to get a good job, that stayed in one job for their whole lives, and that had a lot of kids. He had nine boys and three girls, all living in a small home in Sandy that I pass everyday on trax while going to school. It was also a time in the church when a lot of weird "folk" doctrines floated around, especially in the areas of the church where the members didn't have lots of education, which at that time were most. The ten tribes lived at the north pole, or even underground, Cain was wandering the Earth as a sasquatch, and patriarchs would often promise the recipients of their blessings amazing and often unbelievable things.

My grandpa's patriarchal blessing was no exception. In it, he was promised that he would live to see the second coming. No joke. The older he got, the more we all talked about it- how we all needed to repent soon because grandpa was getting older and older which meant that the second coming was near. When he hit 90, we knew the angelic trumpets could only be a few years away at most, though once he started approaching 95 and world conditions weren't lining up quite right I suspected the Patriarch might have been a little overzealous. And I was right- he died last February after 9 and a half well lived decades, and no one I know has been raptured yet. On the day of his funeral, the sun was out and there was a hint of spring on the air. At the Sandy city cemetary there must have been hundreds of people, and I was sure only family and close friends had been invited. There we stood next to his grave which was right next to another freshly dug piece of earth. I didn't think anything of it until the luncheon afterwards. I was sitting with my aunt who had taken care of him the last 20 years of his life and she was handing all the siblings a bill for the funeral. On one line was a fee for the removing of my grandma's coffin to be placed next to my grandpa. That was odd, I thought.

"Why did she need to be moved? Why couldn't grandpa be buried next to her?" I asked my aunt.

"He only bought one plot when she died."

"Didn't he think ahead to his own eventual demise?" I questioned further.

"Oh, well he always believed he would never die, so when grandma died he only bought the one plot, and by the time he died all the space around her had been taken."

Which brings me back to the goodness and the oddness of my grandpa. What faith he must have had to let his belief influence his actions to the extant that he didn't think it necessary to purchase a grave. If only more of us could have belief that strong. And yet, how odd... .


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"Someone is way cooler than us"

That's what Julie C said to me in an email that contained this link. I know she alluded to this under her recent comment, but I really think this deserves our attention. So I'm posting it right up front.


Sunday, November 19, 2006


So I was eating some m&ms today and I started thinking about the two associations I have with them. The first is when I was kid when my family would visit our cousins in Utah, my parents would stay up with our aunt and uncle, talking and eating a big bowl of m&ms, pausing only to send any m&m begging kids back to bed. The second is witnessing Jared's crusade to stick it to the man by never eating a blue m&m, and actually SAVE every blue m&m from any package he ever opened and from every package that the people around him who didn't think he was crazy ever opened, and send them back to the mars company that made them as an act of defiance against..... something. I forgot. My only question is, Jared- Did you ever send them?

As I sat down to write this, I realized I didn't know which company made m&ms. So I wikied it (is it a word, to "wiki" something?), and discovered that, yes, they were made by the Mars company. What I didn't know was that they are named after Forrest Mars (of Mars company fame) and Bruce Murrie, taking the first letter of their last names. They originally were a British product marketed as smarties, but when the two men sold them in the US, they had to change the name as Smarties were already being sold.

-Other m&m trivia I discovered: Peanut m&ms were called "treets" in Europe until 1990.
-M&ms were given to soldiers during World War II since they could survive a variety of climates.
-They were originally eaten by soldiers in the Spanish civil war, after which they were bought by the two aforementioned Americans.
-Steven Spielberg approached Mars about placing m&ms in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. They declined, and the offer went instead to the Hersheys Company to place Reeses Pieces. Their sales tripled the week after the release.
-The white "m" printed on each one started in 1950 and was originally black
-The original color for all m&ms was brown. In 1960 they added red, yellow and green. In 1976 they removed red due to cancer scares from red dye and replaced it with orange. After the scare died down, red was re-introduced in 1987. And we finally come to Jared's reason for his compaign:

In 1993, Mars ran a promotion in which consumers were invited to vote on which of blue, pink, or purple would be introduced. Blue was the winner, and with the removal of tan, it was added in early 1995.

So there you have it, the history of m&ms. Though I'm still interested in knowing how the anti blue campaign went.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Lit Stuff

I'm not sure why I'm in such a posty mood the last week or so ... probably because I've been swamped with work and am trying to procrastinate as much as possible. Following that line of thought, remember that stuff I studied for many years at BYU? Literature? Yeah. That's the stuff. Turns out my mom wanted to cash in on her investment in my education.

She was out visiting an elderly member of my home ward the other day and he quoted her one of his favorite poems by Emily Dickinson (#766):

My Faith is larger than the Hills -
So when the Hills decay -
My Faith must take the Purple Wheel
To show the Sun the way -
'Tis first He steps upon the Vane -
And then - upon the Hill -
And then abroad the World He go
To do His Golden Will -

And if His Yellow feet should miss -
The Day would not arise -
The Flowers would slumber on their Stems -
No Bells have Paradise -

How dare I, therefore, stint a faith
On which so vast depends -
Lest Firmament should fail for me -
The Rivet in the Bands

Then he asked my mom what she thought the Purple Wheel was. She didn't know. But then she remembered her daughter, the one who spent eight years studying literature ... and she promised him she would find out.

I did a bit of searching around and this is what I came up with (from an email I sent her):

"Dickinson is known for her focus on light and physical imagery, so the Purple Wheel could be an image of the pre-dawn clouds/sky through which her faith must guide/bring the sun.

Purple's associations with royalty create an echo of the mythical image of Apollo's chariot, which brings the sun through the sky—again, the idea is that her faith must bring the dawn to the darkened sky.

While our modern association with wheel and movent tends toward the image of a steering wheel (taking control of something and steering/guiding it), for Dickinson's time period a more appropriate image would be that of a cart/wagon wheel—think of "Put your shoulder to the wheel"—the wheel needs to be guided or pushed by hand/body. In
other words, the image isn't so much about taking control as it is about becoming invested, body and soul, in the work. It's a movement that requires effort.

All of these things combine into an overall interpretation of the first four lines. Something along the lines of "I have great/large faith, and when the earth crumbles (things go wrong and the world appears dark and full of destruction) I have to take that faith and use it in order to bring back light and order into the world. This is hard work; it does not come easily. But I am the one responsible for guiding that light back into my world."

The rest of the poem can be read as describing Jesus going forth into all the world, the realization that all life, here and afterwards, depends on him, and the realization that she must continue to nurture her faith (she cannot cut it off—basically saying that she doesn't feel like she can say what God can and cannot do—she has to assume everything is possible) and realize how many things (all things) depend on God.

So the poem as a whole describes a possible loss of faith or at least a significant trial (the hills decay), a realization that she needs to work to bring back faith, the act of meditating on God and realizing his greatness, a reassment of her faith—in the first line of the poem she quantifies her faith as "larger than the hills," and in the first line of the last verse she basically reverses that quantification saying that she cannot "stint [her] faith" (now her faith isn't just "larger than," it's endless)."

After re-reading that, I realize I probably ought to get some of my money back because it is fairly clear I don't know what I'm talking about half of the time. But, I decided, I really do like the poem. So I thought I'd share. And ask for more opinions/interpretations/help. Any ideas? On the Purple Wheel? The poem as a whole? A nice older gentleman is waiting for an answer ... preferably better than the one I just gave.

PS Sorry this is so long. If you're still reading, I apologize.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

More ways to waste time on-line

But these are really good ways ... you know, the kind you can mindlessly play at ... the kind your baby will enjoy too ...

The first is a site called Line Rider. Basically, you draw a line, any line, and this little penguin on a sled (with a red scarf that waves in the wind) will ride down the line line you just drew. He'll go off jumps, do flips, crash if your line isn't right—it's great.

The second is a site that turns you into an artist. Just start moving your mouse and clicking.



Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Interesting Blog

I just wanted to point out to all of you this blog I found referenced on Eric Snider's website.
It is apparently a sort of mormon version of The Onion. I think Eric Snider said he wrote one of the articles in their book that they just published.
The best one I've read so far is the one about a miraculous piece of toast with Joseph Smith's face burned on it.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Nick will never believe this ...

I had a minor revelation yesterday while facing the Diebold voting machine. It went something like this:

"Psst. Jenny. You're voting now."
"Thanks brain, I know."
"Yeah, but you have no idea who most of these people are."
"So? I've been very busy ... you know, with stuff."
"Uh huh."
"Okay, okay, so I probably should have paid more attention to who was running for what and all that."
"Uh huh."
"I guess I could have read the voters information booklet that was mailed out a few weeks ago."
"Uh huh."
"Are you trying to make me feel like an idiot? I'm not, you know. I have pieces of paper that prove it."
"Reeeaaalllly ..."
"Hmm. I suppose a non-idiot probably wouldn't just vote for someone because they liked the fact they used a light condensed sans serif font on their signs like I just did, would they?" [Editorial note: Nick later let me know I actually made a good choice here. In his opinion. So maybe good design also leads to good policy. Maybe not.]
"No. They'd probably know something basic about the candidates they vote for, like whether they're male or female."
"I know, I know. But names that start with "La" or "Le" really can go either way sometimes!"
"So what have you learned here?"
"That I have some sense of civic duty and responsibility, no matter how hard I try to repress it. That I don't like feeling stupid when faced with a bunch of names and parties. That next time I at least want to know something about who I'm voting for."
"Eeexxxcceellleeennnt ... [brain rubs hands together greedily] More information to digest ... [said in Dracula's voice]."

The End.


Monday, November 06, 2006

First Time for Everything

In other words, tomorrow I will be voting for my first Democrat. An alternate title for this post could have been "Why Utah Republicans are Generally Stoopid".

Some of you might know I have a pretty well established political philosophy, and that the Republican party generally embodies those beliefs. One aspect of those beliefs is that national governments tend to become bloated, power hungry and inefficient, so money is best spent as close to the local level as possible. That is why I favor low national taxes and spending.

Some people, including most Democrats and apparently most Utah Republicans, think that that means the Republican party is not interested in funding education, public transportation, and other public services. They are incorrect. It simply means that to be a Republican is to believe that those services are most efficiently provided when they are provided at the local level. Things like national defense, interstate commerce, and other things that affect the nation as a whole are the issues that should be left to the national government.

For those of you who have lived in Utah, have you noticed that Utah Republicans tend to be against taxes at ALL levels, and are generally against raising local funding of education, transportation and other services? I don't mean to lump all Utah Republicans in that group as I know there must be a few "real" Republicans in Utah, but it is a general trend I have noticed.

Which brings me to why I am voting for a local Democrat. He is running for the state legislature. My first reason for wanting to vote for him is because he came to my house and asked for my vote. His Republican opponent has sent out about 7 different expensive mailings in the past few weeks, but has yet to appear on my doorstep. My second reason is that on the most recent mailing the Republican sent out, she says that if you want the status quo in Utah, then vote for her Democratic opponent. I had to double check the mailing to make sure it was the Republican who sent it. Does she realize how stupid she sounds? Does she realize that the Republican party has had a supermajority in the Utah legislature for many, many years? How does voting for the Democratic candidate support the status quo? The letter really made me question her intelligence, such that I suspect she might be one of those "fake" Republicans I previously mentioned.

On a related note, there is a chance the national Republican party might lose control of congress tomorrow. Usually I would be appalled at the idea of the national Democratic party controlling congress again, but having the Republicans lose power might be beneficial to the party itself. It would give it a chance to realize what they're doing wrong, since they've been blind to self criticism and immune to self control in the past few years. I don't believe the other side will do any better in terms of controlling national spending, but it will get the attention of the Republican leadership such that when they come into power again in a few years, they might remember what got them kicked out.


Friday, November 03, 2006


Ok, so I'm a nerd who really really likes letters. This site is my new favorite way to pass time and/or entertain Lucy while I'm working ...


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Jenny Will Never Believe This

Today I did a very very brave thing. I faced my fear, and I overcame it. I looked a lifelong enemy in the eye and struck it down, at least temporarily. How did I do this? Perhaps it was generosity towards mankind that gave me the courage to go forward with trembling knees and sweaty palms. Perhaps it truly was bravery, but my personal theory is that I was temporarily insane.

Are you ready Jenny? Here it is: I gave blood.

I'm sure there are some of you for whom needles aren't anethema, but they have been my personal adversary since the earliest prick I can remember. I was watching the blood seeping from my finger into the little tube, and I heard the doctor say - "Oh no - there's a bubble in that one, we'll have to try again." As I watched the line of red walk slowly up the walls of the next little tube, the room moved further and further from my vision. My stomach felt empty, and I said "I feel funny," but what the nurse heard was "aahfuufuu." Her mad dash across the room saved me from tumbling to the cold lanoleum floor as the room disappeared completely.

In future years, I had to conquer this demon several times - it didn't help that my sweet, loving sister took the time to lovingly describe to me how the tip of the needle indented the skin before puncturing it, slipping through the fatty tissue and rupturing the connected cells as it delved towards the thin line of my vein. No, really, I forgive her - it's almost funny by now. I'm the one who threw a hissy fit in the doctor's office when I was 16 years old because I had to get a shot. I'm the one who made sure to get married in a state where they don't require a blood test. I'm the one who sometimes thinks adoption is a viable alternative to having an epidural.

Enough blabbing about my psychosis. I don't really know what the point is - I'm just so darn proud of myself. I wish I could really figure out how I faced up to my fear, so that I could apply it to the possible more important fears I have - the fear of striking out on my own as a tutor, the fear of changes, the fear of things I'm afraid to admit to other people (note how I neatly thereby avoid listing them here). Maybe there is no secret - maybe I'm just lucky. I guess I'll find out in a couple months when the blood drive is back.


Monday, October 30, 2006

Joseph Smith and Friendship

I read this article by Terryl Givens yesterday and several statements got me thinking.

In it he talks about Joseph Smith's ability to forge a sense of community and fellowship within the converts of the early church. Givens makes the asssertion that "When he [Joseph] later stated, with striking brevity, 'Friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism,'36 he was saying something about the deepest underpinnings of Mormon theology" (15). I'd just never heard it put that way before—the idea that friendship, not just families, plays a fundamental role in our theology.

I think this can mean several things. For one, it is important to strengthen family ties through friendship. I don't live with my brother and sister anymore, and haven't for almost a decade, but I'd say we were friendly growing up, and that we're certainly better friends now. I don't worry about whether or not my family will stay in touch because not only do we love each other but our friendship is important to me. The same principle came into play as I was getting to know Nick's family—things became smoother once I decided to work on developing friendships with his siblings (not that they were bad to begin with—it's just more comfortable now).

But I also think the broader application of Joseph's statement holds true: the power and emotional ties of friendship are also eternally important in Mormon theology. I've always had a hard time imagining a celestial kingdom where I would "only" see my family (taking family in the constrained sense—I know we're all family when you look at it from God's perspective). Good friends have had (and continue to have) a significant impact on my spiritual growth and development. Givens talks about Joseph's words in the context of religious community. Friendship binds people together, and when you believe in eternal relationships, that bond even on earth can be quite strong.

These thoughts are all good and nice—friends are important and we can rely on the strength of friendship (and brother/sisterhood) in the eternities—but they also made me think more carefully about how I treat other people in my religious community, specifically in my ward. I'm afraid I'm too prone to avoid friendships, to judge others for their decisions, to say to myself "we're only going to be here another year, so it's ok if I don't extend myself a bit." I don't think I'm outright mean or rude, but I'm not sure I'm doing all I can do to build up the kingdom either. I don't believe you can force a friendship, but I think I can do a better job at being open to them and appreciating them when they do form.


Saturday, October 28, 2006


I was going to come up with a clever post to go along with this, but that would be unnecessary as this website says it all.


Friday, October 20, 2006

Musings of the Common Man – Part 1

You’ll have to excuse the corny title. I don’t know why I worded it that way. I haven’t listened to Copeland for weeks.

I often wonder about the way things are in the world. The things I wonder about are wide-ranging, including biology, physics, finance, society, religion, etc. Some of the questions are interesting enough that I make the time to research the issue and become informed on the subject. For most of my wonderings, however, I simply don’t have to time to become knowledgeable about all the things that I wonder about. Even if I made an extra effort to learn more things every day I couldn’t keep up because that process often leads me to new questions.
I think many of us are in the same boat. We live life with a sizeable portfolio of half-baked thoughts and misconceptions based on the holes in the information we have about the world. Eventually, we kind of get used to this idea and forget that the things we think are based on incomplete information; or maybe we just give up on the ideal of understanding the world.
An example of the frustration for me is that when the news has “experts” on whatever topic they are discussing I generally understand what they are saying but often I don’t understand why it is true. I wish I could call the show and ask the expert to justify his conclusions to a broader audience – perhaps to the level of a moderately-informed regular person. Hence the title of the post.
I don’t want to give up. I want to be a person who is continually learning about the world, even though I will never arrive at the point where I know it all.
With that said I want to bounce some of the things I’ve been thinking about off of you guys. Perhaps a little discussion on some of my musings (some of them rather old and dusty) will spur me to actually make the effort to answer my own questions. I apologize for the long post, but each subject didn’t merit its own post, you know, because my thoughts on them are so half-baked. Katie and I have already discussed many of these, but you know what they say: “Twelve heads are better than two.”*
Please feel free to challenge my logic, my assumptions, and my premises. In fact I encourage it. How else will I know if I’m wrong?

-On the stratospheric salaries of athletes and CEOs:
It seems like:
Athletes are not to blame. Don’t tell me any of you wouldn’t consider making a few million a year just for playing a game. People who are sports fans don’t have anyone to blame but themselves for high salaries of athletes. People who aren’t sports fans shouldn’t blame the athletes; they should blame the sports fans. Millions of people spend hundreds of dollars a year on tickets to professional sports games, apparel, and overpriced hot-dogs. That’s not even counting the time they spend in front of the TV subjecting themselves to advertisements where companies pay athletes to tell you to buy stuff. In short if you do any of the following things, you are contributing to the bank accounts of those athletes.
-Buy a ticket to a professional sporting event.
-Spend money at the concessions stand there.
-Buy sponsored apparel.
-Buy anything endorsed by athletes.
High executive pay happens for similar reasons. We shouldn’t wonder why the CEO of GE gets paid so much when we have a GE washer, dryer, dishwasher, and microwave. Every gallon of gas you pump from an Exxon station helps out Exxon-Mobil’s employees, including the CEO. Of course there are instances where the pay is too high, but that’s an issue for the owners (stockholders) of each company. The most effective way to complain is to speak the only language the shareholders understand: don’t buy their product.
Unanswered questions:
Why do people act like it's a mystery?
Why do people think it's unfair?

On the lack of interest in politics among our youth:
It seems like:
Similarly to the previous topic… I don’t think the youth are exclusively to blame. Politicians have a tendency to do the following things that contribute to the problem.
1. Be old.
2. Do unrespectable things.
3. Bring up lots of old dirt and try to pin it to their opponents.
4. Blather, blow hot-air, and use calculated rhetoric to distract from a lack of substance in their speeches.
5. Be boring.

Say what you will about Generation Y-ers, but one thing we can do is spot phonies. Maybe that is because we all had to read “Catcher in the Rye” in high school. I think that a lot of us see politics as a big game of Calvinball. The only thing keeping us from completely ignoring it is the fact that it actually has a real effect on us. I also think that a contributing factor is that our generation, now that many of us are living on our own and have to support ourselves, has a tendency toward disillusionment. We were told we should shoot for the stars, but we have had to find out that propelling projectiles heavenward doesn’t put food on the table or pay the electricity bill. Now we question we were taught, for better or for worse. (“Do what you love? Bah! Civic responsibility? Bah! Rotate your tires? Bah! Care about baseball? Bah!”)
Unanswered Questions:
Why do people act like it's a mystery?
Do people really act like it's a mystery, or is it just me?

On the council in heaven:
This is how I think it was. Tell me where I’m inconsistent with revealed doctrine.
God presented his plan. He asked for a sustaining vote. We were not required to sustain the plan right at that time, or perhaps time didn’t work the same way at um, that time.
Lucifer rebelled. His “plan” wasn’t really a viable plan - it would not have accomplished one of the purposes of sending us to earth, namely, to try us to see if we would obey God when given the choice and opportunity to disobey. Lucifer’s plan was really just a cover for his rebellion, or perhaps he was so in love with the potential for personal glory that he really did believe that he could convince Heavenly Father it was a good plan. The war in heaven ensued, where the rebels (comprised of the power hungry and fearful of the possibility of failure inherent in Heavenly Father’s Plan, I imagine) tried to recruit more spirits and the um, loyalists tried to convince rebels that the consequences of rebelling against God were bad. Perhaps some of the rebels were under the impression that Heavenly Father would change his mind if enough people spoke out against the Plan, as if it were a democratic process. (an erroneous understanding the principle of common-consent that is still made in the church in these latter days.) At some point the division bell rang, the final sustaining vote was recorded, and those that rebelled were cast out along with Lucifer.
Unanswered questions:
Did Lucifer realize he would be cast out in the end? If so, why did he rebel? Simple Megalomania?
Lucifer went on to play a role in the plan by tempting Adam and Eve. Was that part of the original Plan? How does that work? That would imply that part of the plan was that Lucifer would rebel.

Let me know what you guys think. If any of these turn out to be particularly interesting, maybe I’ll start a new post.

*See the post “Musings of the Common Man” on the web log “Salsa Night” (I’ve always wanted to do a circular reference.)


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Innovations in Toast

I think this picture speaks for itself.
I guess Disney was way ahead of it's time with the Mickey Mouse toaster.
I'm not sure how I feel about this, though.


Friday, October 06, 2006

The Face of God

As a youth, my favorite activity was to lay on the trampoline at night, whether alone or with friends, and fall asleep watching the sky while pondering space and eternity. I was (am?) a nerd. Being well versed in astronomy and physics, I would spend hours laying there with friends explaining how relativity worked, why most galaxies were moving away from us, why the more distant ones looked redder, and how you look back in time as you peer deeper into space. Despite my unnaturally strong interest in science and astronomy, I was also intensely religious, and this activity was one of my sacraments- I and my friends communing and partaking of the wondrous works of the Creator. Looking into deep space one literally sees the creation itself. Over time however, like most people, my testimony of an actual God has ebbed and flowed.

This year's Nobel prize winners were announced this week. The physics prize winner, George Smoot, once *said of his discovery, "Its like seeing the face of God". What exactly did he discover? Take a look for yourself.

Wow. What am I looking at? you ask.

That, my friend, is a map of the minute variations in temperature of the cosmic background radiation of the entire observable universe.

Its a map of how hot space is.

I didn't know space had a temperature.

It does. Its about 3 Kelvin, or 270 degrees below zero Celsius, or 454 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

Oh.... Why is that even remotely important?

This map, and newer, more detailed maps can tell us exactly how old the universe is, why we have matter clumped in some places with empty space in others, what will eventually happen to the universe, how much of the universe is matter, among other interesting tidbits of information.

Cool. Can I go now?

As it turns out, the data obtained from this type of experiment tells us that the universe is just about 13.7 billion years old. That would make our universe approximately.....wait a sec, let me do the math.....13.7 billion light-years across. It also tells us that the geometry of the universe is flat, meaning that straight lines will never intersect, that the universe is only 4% matter (that includes all forms of matter and energy we are familiar with), and that the universe will keep expanding forever until it dies a cold, silent death.

Now, a word about expanding universes. When most people hear about the big bang, they think about this tiny, nearly infinitely massive particle that blows up, sending all its contents hurtling through space. That is incorrect. Unfortunately, the correct way to think about it is rather difficult. What is really happening is that the entire universe- space itself, is a tiny point, that blows up, causing space itself to expand. What is it expanding into?- is the usual question. Well, you can't really ask that question, since you can't be outside of space. Space, and time, turn out to be things that change and move and expand and compress, much like matter. If you think about it, every point in space then becomes the center of the universe, such that as you look out, it appears that everything is flying away from you.
Tricky, isn't it?

So where is this "face of God"?

One of my pet peeves is hearing people say- "Oh, what a big mountain range! There MUST be a God!" or, "Life is so complex that the only explanation is that there is a God".


There is a big mountain range because of tectonic forces. Life is complex because the less complex lifeforms could not compete with the newer, better ones. Yet I still find myself on my trampoline looking up at the sky wondering, "Why does the universe exist? Why 3 spatial dimensions? Why are spatial dimensions reversible, but time is not? Why isn't there just ....nothing? Why? Why? I realize that all this cool science is able to answer more and more questions of how, and what, and when- questions that my faith cannot answer and that most **"religionists" get wrong. In turn, science cannot begin to approach the everpresent... why.

I do not claim to see God's face in that picture. That experiment does not prove the existance of God, nor can any experiment. But, to my small mind trying to comprehend eternal things, it feels a lot like his fingerprint. And that to me is a sacrament- the physical intertwined with the eternal; as we probe that incomprehensible singularity from which our universe sprung and which our physics fails to describe, the hows and whys merge, and I become still- and know that He is God.

*He claims he actually said "If you're religious, this is like looking at God."
**I define a religionist as a person who is dedicated to their religion instead of to their God. They will use their interpretation of texts like the Bible to dictate what science can and cannot say.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

General Conference

I don't feel like discussing conference at the level of a big mormon blog (the bloggernacle, I guess). I would rather make a few not-so-deep observations.

You know how some talks are so good that you remember them and people talk about them for many years? The epitome would be President Benson's talk on pride. I don't know that there has really been one on that level since then, though Elder Maxwell's talk on obeying the will of the Father comes close for me. The only other one that comes close for me was Bishop Edgely's talk, "Behold the Man" in October, 1999. Incidentally, I really enjoyed Bishop Edgely's talk on Sunday morning.
Anyway, on a different level are the especially memorable moments that weren't necesessarily attached to an especially memorable talk. Examples of this would be:

President Hinckley: announcing small temples
President Hinckley: talking about raves
Elder Oaks: Telling women who wear revealing clothes that they are "walking pornography"
Elder Uchtdorf: delivering laundry on bicycle/lung disease story
Elder Wirthlin: talking about playing football with a helmet that was too big, also talking about the wind blowing through his hair.

I could probably think of many more of those.
The reason I brought it up is that I thought what President Hinckley said in the priesthood session about education was really interesting. He told the young men that they needed to be serious about getting higher education. He quoted some statistics about how more women are getting bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees. Then he said something to the effect of, "How do you expect to find a woman to marry and be equally yoked with her if you don't have similar levels of education?"
Of course, this is something that I've ranted on before on this blog. I wonder if this will be one of those things that people remember about conference and are talking about for years to come. I hope so.

Do any of you remember things about this conference that you think will be or should be remembered in particular?


Monday, September 25, 2006

Jenny Webb: Blogger Extraordinaire

It seems that Jenny's way with words has gotten around. She was recently invited to be a guest blogger on one of the big mormon blogs, Times and Seasons. I encourage all to go read, comment, and heckle.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

My First Yeast Infection

On No! Does Nick REALLY have a yeast infection? You'll have to click 'read more...' to find out.

The answer is.... no. I do not have a yeast infection, for er... obvious reasons. However, I DO have some cream that was prescribed to me last week, the tube of which reads "for vaginal yeast infections and itch". Needless to say, when my wife picked it up from the pharmacy, and it had my name on it, the pharmacist looked confused.

(All it really is is 2 small 1/2 centimeter size spots on my leg that apparently is a fungus. I thought they were old zits(ok I'll stop with the TMI personal stuff))


Monday, September 11, 2006

Where Were You?

(To those who are sick of the constant barrage of 9/11 anniversary coverage, I duely apologize. (We have no TV reception so I haven't reached overload yet))

Where were you five years ago this morning? As I rummage through old papers, I find wrinkled yellowing copies of the Daily Universe at the bottom of the box. They've got the familiar pictures on their front pages. Holding them and seeing what age has done to the paper makes that day seem so long ago, but I just watched the video archive on Foxnews of the news coverage and it feels like yesterday.

I had just broken up with my first girlfriend and subsequently met Jenny. I was finally a BYU student after several failed attempts at being (re)admitted. I had just started my first real upper level physics classes at BYU. One of them was classical field theory. The homework was due by 8:00 am that Tuesday morning, so I was up there by 7:30. I remember the TV was on in the faculty lounge, though I didn't stop to watch since I'm not exactly a morning person and wanted to get back to bed. I walked back down the hill on south campus and returned to apartment 18 in southridge (or was it 16?). I honestly don't know why, but I turned on the TV.

I remember actually thinking that maybe it would be nice to start off the day with some news for a change instead of sleeping in. I saw one of the towers of the trade center with smoke coming out of it. I thought, "Those stupid New Yorkers, what have they done now?" It looked like there had been a fire in the building. Then I heard someone mention that a plane had hit it. I imagined it was some kind of small commuter plane. It was about 7:55. Someone then mentioned that a plane had also hit the pentagon. "Now THAT's not normal" I thought. I wondered why I couldn't see the other tower. Was it the position of the camera? Was it enveloped in the smoke?

Then I saw the tower collapse. Just like that. I realized why I couldn't see the other tower since all I saw was empty space behind where the now collapsed one was. I think I yelled to my roomates upstairs to get down there. Josh and Burton came down sleepy eyed, whose faces turned into ones of wide-eyed disbelief once they realized what had happened. Somehow, when someone tells you that two 110 story buildings just collapsed potentially killing tens of thousands of people, here, in America, it takes you a second to realize what the person said, and several more to even believe it.

Now there were three of us silently watching the coverage. Before the tower collapsed, I saw footage of hundreds of firefighters running in a line towards the building. Now, they were walking slowly in a line away from it, some with there heads down, crying. That was what first welled up my tears. The sight of the collapse was too shocking for tears, but seeing those big tough firefighters cry made me lose it too. I remember seeing footage of people hanging out of windows with smoke billowing out of them. I saw a picture of people jumping. That picture made me sick. Not vomit sick, but I was literally shuddering and had to look away. Within an hour we had a good 10 people watching, and many stayed most of the day. I don't think I left, except to go to class, which I'm pretty sure was canceled anyway.

Where were you that morning?


Saturday, September 09, 2006

First Do No Harm

Although normally a content and happy child, I am beginning to believe that Lucy desires to do herself harm.

No matter how hard I try, she keeps on bumping into/falling off of/getting stuck in things. And that's with the house as babyproofed as it can get and still be used as a dwelling space for sleep-deprived adults.

Did I mention she's stopped sleeping? I think that's also part of her plan. (And a very sad one at that: you know it's bad when you got better sleep when she was three months old ...). Either she wants to be so tired that she increases her chances of hurting herself, or she want us to be so tired that our cognitive skills (i.e., our ability to recognize potentially hazardous situations) fail.

If I say that I feel like I'm on a suicide watch, can we all understand that I'm not trying to make light of suicide in general but rather take that implied metaphor as an indication of the physical and emotional drain of these past few weeks? Good. Thank you.

I better go. She's off.

(I just looked at the book that I gave her from our bookshelves to keep her occupied and the title made me giggle in a oh-I'm-tired-but-this-is-amusing kind of way: King Lear. Maybe that's trying to tell me something....)


Friday, September 08, 2006

Celebrity Wisdom

I don't know why for sure, but I found this really funny. Maybe I've read too much Eric Snider lately or something.

By the way, did you know that you can read Eric Snider's columns for free now? Bonus. Now he and I can be poor together.
This is not my normal fare, but I'm trying to liven things up a bit in here.
Anyway, I saw this AP news story via Yahoo News.
My favorite quotes:
(Brad Pitt) "'Angie and I will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able,' the 42-year-old actor reveals."
What do you mean Brad? Do you mean banjo-playin' cousins? How about Warren Jeffs-ites? Okay so I know he is talking about gay marriage, but it seems like he wants to take up some sort of homosexual-equality banner but is uncomfortable saying "homosexual" in public. Maybe he was trying to just be clever...I guess I hadn't thought of that. Perhaps more likely is that AP didn't do him justice in their excerpt of the interview.
(Brad again, about adopted children.) "They're as much of my blood as any natural born, and I'm theirs."
Fascinating. I assume you mean in every way but actually. I think I know what he's trying to say, but that's just a silly way to put it. quest for precision in language and celebration of only people who deserve it continues.


Friday, August 25, 2006

It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times

If you need some motivation to blog...

One of these days we will create some Shakespeare or Blickens.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Top Ten Toys

A recent discussion over children's toys has made me curious (all right, I was already curious to begin with, but now I'm curious about something as opposed to being merely odd ...).

Jon's musings on technology reminded me about our (Nick and I, not Jon and I, just to clarify) recent trips toy shopping for Lucy's first birthday. There were some great toys, but there was also a lot of crap. But in the end, Lucy really liked the toys that flashed lights and made noise when she pressed a button (luckily there's a volume control). She also liked her other more "traditional" toys: a ball, books, and puzzles. This whole experience has made me realize that I haven't paid much attention to toys since I was a kid, and that I really need to remind myself about what makes a good toy.

So my question here, after all that, is what were our favorite toys (as children)? What were the ones you always liked to play with, that your friends liked, and that you played with over and over again growing up? And, if you like, why did you like them so much?

Here's my top 10 (in no particular order):
1. Legos
2. Giant cardboard bricks and playhouse
3. Lincoln Logs
4. Wood blocks
5. Brio trains
6. Transformers
7. Cars and a "city" carpet
8. Playmobile
9. Fake food and cookery items
10. Book and record sets

I also have fond memories of our marbleworks set, my "visible woman" kit, model rockets, my hula hoop (I named it "Hulay") and playdough/clay ...

I really liked building things (I think that's clear) and making up stories about the things I built. I know I played with dolls, but they tended to be integrated into the story I was constructing (they were in the playhouse or on the city carpet--more accessory than focal point). I remember always wanting a Nintendo and a trampoline but we never acquired either. We did play a fair amount of computer games when I was a bit older on our Mac Classic: Dark Castle, Carmen Sandiego, and Brickles were my favorites.

Hope this was mildly interesting--please share!


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Career Options

You look great as a nurse, Erin. Have you ever thought about becoming a firefighter?


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Minas Tirith, Trampolines and Cake

Well, after one sick baby, two birthday parties, three missing trampine springs, four marshmellows, five days at the ocean, six levels of Minas Tirith, seven tanks of gas, eight hundred miles times two, nine birthday presents, and ten cousins, we're back. I am referring of course to our vacation up to Washington. It was a vacation that marked a few milestones for us: Lucy's first vacation, the first time that I really wanted to move back since I've been gone, Lucy's first times getting hurt, etc...

Like every year at the Washington coast, I built a big sandcastle with Steven, Jenny's brother. This year it was Minas Tirith:

It took us about five hours. Towards the end, we were getting tired, and this woman whose kids we let "build" with us (ie, babysit) came and helped us with the finishing touches. I wanted to make all the buildings individually and give them detail, but there just wasn't enough time unless it spilled over into the next day, and I had had enough Minas Tirith building for that week.

It was Lucy's birthday that week, so of course we had to have two birthday parties, one for each family. She got her first taste of cake which she gluttonously shoved into her face with both hands. She ate all four marshmellows on top too. She was pretty proud of herself:

As I mentioned, it was also the first time Lucy got hurt. We were on the previously mentioned trampoline that was missing three springs in a row, we turn our backs for half a second, and...whoops! There goes the baby through the hole, hitting her head on the wood boards keeping the dirt in place (the tramp is half underground), and luckily landing on her diapered bum. We were all a little distraught, I think us more than Lucy. She came through it with just a flesh wound but I think we are permanently scarred. She does really love the trampoline though:

While the ocean water wasn't really swimmable (it was colder than the high alpine lake I swam in last month), it was really refreshing to be there after the several weeks of post 100 degree weather in Utah. The weather is what made me want to move back. It didn't rain once, and it was in the 70s and lower 80s every day, with one or two in the upper sixties (and that was at the coast). And the proximity to water up there is a plus as well. And of course, Lucy seems to enjoy it:


Monday, August 21, 2006

Nurse Erin...but after this, I may consider computer engineering after all...

And no, Jenny, that's only a harmless placebo in the syringe.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Why I Prefer Numbers over Words

Forgive me if I’ve already ranted about this.
Has anybody else noticed that automatic phone systems in call centers are becoming more advanced? By “more advanced”, I mean less intuitive and more obnoxious.

Let me relate an experience.
I called my phone company to cancel my long distance service a few weeks ago. I was greeted by pleasant pre-recorded voice asking me to say or enter my phone number. Since I despise talking with machines that will likely misunderstand me, I entered my phone number on the keypad. The machine soon told me something to the effect of “briefly give the reason for your call.” I said “Cancel long-distance service.” The machine replied with, “I understand you want to cancel your phone service. Are you moving?” I said “No” though I was sure that the machine had misunderstood me. I waited for precisely 15 minutes on hold before hanging up. I called right back. After entering my phone number again I said “change phone service”. The voice then said, “Our records show that you called us just a little while ago. Are you calling again because we did not resolve your issue on the previous call?” I said, “Yes” and was connected to an agent in less than 3 seconds who helped me.
Now I don’t know if the que was really just shorter when I called the second time, though I doubt that. There could be a separate “disgruntled customers” que that they send people to when they have to call back a second time. Maybe when Mr. Machine thought I said “cancel service” the first time they gave me a lower priority than anyone else and people that called after me but weren’t “cancelling service” were getting agents before me. Maybe some combination of those. Anyway, the point is that there was something going on that was much less intuitive than “first come, first served”.
There have been a few other companies/ agencies I have called that are trying this type of speech recognition technology (one was the post office). In each case it was maddeningly unhelpful and much worse than “Push 1 for your bill balance, Push 2 for … etc.”
Didn’t anyone learn anything from Jurassic Park? I thought the only moral that could be extracted from that movie is something like: “Just because we have the technology to do it doesn’t mean we should.”
Anyway, do you agree with me? Do you disagree with me?
I apologize for taking up more than my “quota” of quotation marks.
Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I promise I’ll stop starting … now.


Friday, August 04, 2006

Father Shem

Has anybody ever noticed a word that means something that they don't think it should mean?

I mean, in any language you have words that are variations of each other, and they have definitions that deal with the same subject or object. For example, the word "typical" means "regular" or "usual", the word "atypical" means "irregular" or "unusual", "typically" is an adverb meaning "usually" or "normally", "type" is a noun meaning "example" or "of a particular group", etc. These relationships between words with a common root make sense and follow a pattern similar to other words.
So here is what I don't understand. The following are entries from from (Please excuse the hard to read formatting.)

Main Entry: Sem·ite
Pronunciation: 'se-"mIt, especially British 'sE-"mIt
Function: noun
Etymology: French sémite, from Semitic Shem, from Late Latin, from Greek SEm, from Hebrew ShEm
1 a : a member of any of a number of peoples of ancient southwestern Asia including the Akkadians, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Arabs b : a descendant of these peoples
2 : a member of a modern people speaking a Semitic language

Main Entry: Se·mit·ic
Pronunciation: s&-'mi-tik also -'me-
Function: adjective
Etymology: German semitisch, from Semit, Semite Semite, probably from New Latin Semita, from Late Latin Semitic Shem
1 : of, relating to, or constituting a subfamily of the Afro-Asiatic language family that includes Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, and Amharic
2 : of, relating to, or characteristic of the Semites

Main Entry: an·ti-Sem·i·tism
Pronunciation: "an-tE-'se-m&-"ti-z&m, "an-"tI-
Function: noun
: hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group
- an·ti-Se·mit·ic /-s&-'mi-tik/ adjective
- an·ti-Sem·ite /-'se-"mIt/ noun

You'll notice that even though the Hebrews are one people of many included in the term Semite, the word "anti-Semitic" seems to mean "anti-Jewish". That doesn't make sense. It's like saying that "anti-American" means you don't like Californians. The logical meaning for "anti-Semitic" is "against Semites" (including not just Jews, but all Hebrews, Arabs and other Semitic peoples). That kind of makes the thought of Ahmadinejad being anti-Semitic comical.
When people use the word "anti-Semitic" I really do think of being "against Semites", but that's not what they mean. So should I just give up, even though I think I'm right and everyone else is wrong? Am I making the classic blunder of getting too caught up in semantics?


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Salsa Night

We finally had a salsa night. The tomatos were teasing me for weeks, and then they all got ripe all at once. We even had a southridge friend there to have it with us. Some of you might remember Naomi Frandsen who lived right below Jenny for a year when we were at the Southridge ward. Then I think she was in the same ward as Jared and maybe Warren while she was in DC. Well it wasn't really a salsa night since it wasn't really salsa- it was more like a fresh non-cooked spaghetti sauce, but it was close enough. If anyone is in town this Friday night, I think we're going to make some real salsa, with everything fresh from the garden except the limes.

A 73 year old farmer from the ward gave me a tomato from his garden yesterday. It was huge. I tasted it, and it was nice but it was actually kind of bland, more like a store bought (a very good store bought). He's the kind a farmer who believes in fertilizer, and lots of it, which is not a bad thing usually though I think I've inadvertantly discovered (more due to our poverty than anything else) that less fertilizer on certain crops like tomatos might not make them grow as large, but the taste is incredible. Its like each tomato is alloted only a certain amount of taste at the beginning of it's life, and the bigger it grows the more diffused that taste becomes, until you get the huge monstrous tomatos that are just bland mush. Now, there are certain things that I wouldn't mind if they were bigger and milder- like my onions, which are more powerful than I prefer, but I would rather have my tomatos bursting with flavor, even if they are smaller.

Which reminds me, I've taken pictures of the garden for 4 weeks now meaning to put up my garden journal posts, but we've just been busy. Work, school, baby, scout camp, girls camp, etc...

Anyhoo, if you're within a few hundred miles of Sandy on Friday, make sure you come to salsa night. I'll take pictures.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Hi everybody! Hi Dr........Jared?!

As some of you know (and by some of you I mean Warren), I am currently working on an application to attend George Mason University part time. I'll start (hopefully) in January and go to evening classes while I work on a master's degree in history. This will take me about three years (because I'll be part time) and I may decide to continue my education further...

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with my life, still. I know I don't want to stay at BAI (my current job) forever. I think I'll probably stay here just until I finish my master's degree (one of my benefits is tuition reimbursement for advanced degrees; a little over half of the cost of my higher education will be covered by my company). Then what?

Ultimately, when I picture myself in my dream job, I'm teaching. I don't think it would matter what I was teaching; I just want to teach. Junior high, high school, college, whatever. A master's is definitely a step in the right direction, especially with programs such as No Child Left Behind stepping up the standards for new teachers. But do I want to stop at the master's level?

It occurs to me that I would really enjoy teaching at a university. And if I'm going to get a doctorate, I may as well do it sooner than later. I think I could really dig getting a Ph.D in American studies. Between my political science degree, my history master's, and a cap-off in American studies, I could teach a wide range of classes and do a wide range of research. Plus the subject simply appeals to me. Some of you may have figured that.

It's all a matter of being motivated to do it. I think a lot of it will depend on my experience in a master's program. I graduated from BYU with a small bit of a sour taste in my mouth regarding political science, mostly because so many of the professors treated it as, well, a science. It's not. I got fed up with a lot of research because it was so quantitatively driven. I'm hoping that my experience with a master's in history will be different, especially since I'll be taking a cultural approach. It's hard to quantify what people were singing about, you know? I think that if I find that I enjoy the type of research I'll be doing at GMU, then there's a good chance that I'll go on for my doctorate.

So what do you guys think? If you've continued reading this far, you're apparently interested in my life and I would like your vested opinion on this. I trust you guys and value your thoughts. I guess I wouldn't really expect any of you to throw stones at my musings and out-and-out shoot me down, but I'm still interested in what you have to say.

To help you formulate your opinion and provide levity, I've made a visual conceptualization of what to expect as far as differences between Bachelor Jared and Doctor of Philophy Jared:

Current Jared

Professor Jared

I hope that helps.



Friday, July 21, 2006


So I'm already getting excited about International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and it isn't even until September. But I found a link that tells you what your pirate name should be after taking a quiz (Brentar, you don't need to take the quiz):

My pirate name is:

Black James Flint


Like anyone confronted with the harshness of robbery on the high seas, you can be pessimistic at times. Like the rock flint, you're hard and sharp. But, also like flint, you're easily chipped, and sparky. Arr!

Get your own pirate
name from

part of the network


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

New News

So, I passed my actuarial exam that I took in May.

That is really good news. It's a career education milestone, if one that marks a spot still far from the end. That's 4 down, 5 to go not including the one I'm taking this summer to get out of going back to take another college statistics class.
So my stats are:
Actuarial Exams attempted during spring session: 3
Actuarial Exams passed during spring session: 1
Actuarial Exams attempted during fall session: 3
Actuarial Exams passed during fall session: 3
Total Actuarial Exams attempted: 6
Total Actuarial Exams passed: 4
Total kidney stones passed: 0

Just thought I'd update you all on this.


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Random thoughts/my life

Here are some random thoughts

My dad is in Faizabad or Feyzabad Afghanistan (NE part, click on the enlarge button on the map and you can see it). Here’s a clip from an email he sent me. “The airport in Faizabad was ruined by some (stupid) pilot who landed a plane too big for the facility and tore up the runway, or something like that. Apparently the runway is steel plates on packed dirt. Anyway, we fly to somewhere and then drive. The last 106 kilometers takes over 7 hours. It must be some road.”

At first I thought it was worse for him to be driving in Afghanistan instead of flying, but after reading about the runway I think its better that he’s driving, even if it is less than 10 miles an hour (if my calculations are right).

My mom meanwhile is in Argentina for work. She wrote “No one, and I mean no one knows the meaning of the word schedule. It is unbelievable. Time has no meaning until at least two hours past what is written.” I could have told her that.

While talking to someone in our ward who likes Frisbee, she asked me if I knew what a “The Greatest” is. After debating if you can say “a the,” she explained that it is when the disk is thrown to someone on the sideline, who is just outside in the end zone, who then throws it to the man in the end zone as he/she is falling out of bounds for a score, all in rapid succession. I said I did perform a The Greatest, when Aaron tipped the disk to me when he was out of bounds for a score. But I don’t remember who threw it. Was it Jon, or Nick or someone else?

I’m on a league Frisbee team out here. We run stacks pretty well and occasionally play zone defense. Thanks to Nick and everyone else I felt like I knew what I was doing when they were talking about playing “cup” and “end zone stack” and other such things.

Here’s how you potty train children in Japan.

Nick, after you graduate will you please be like this man.


Friday, July 07, 2006

Summer Reading

I've done it. This year will be the first year (and possibly only year) that I will have read more books than Jenny. And I'm not just talking Harry Potter, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings either, I'm mean real, legitimate, big freakin books.
It all started innocently enough, with Lord of the Rings keeping me company on the train. I quickly finished five of those, and then decided that I wanted to "expand my horizons" a little and read stuff I hadn't read before- heck, even read genres I hadn't read before. So I consulted my live-in librarian who gave me several suggestions. For the most part I've been pleasantly surprised- and its nice to have someone there to explian post-modern literary theory to me when the reading gets a little weird.
Heres what I've finished so far:

Holy the Firm- Annie Dillard
Name of the Rose- Umberto Eco
Baudolino- Umberto Eco
Housekeeping- Marilyn Robinson
Cosmicomics- Italo Calvino
Foucault's Pendulum- Umberto Eco (just started)

You'll notice there are three Umberto Eco books. I've found I really like his writing. Those three are historical fiction/mystery. Foucault's Pendulum has been called "the thinking man's Da Vinci Code", meaning that it is actually historically accurate, with much better writing. In fact, one of the reasons I love reading him is that except for the obviously fiction parts, his books are very historically accurate- he is a professor who dabbles in philosophy, semiotics, and medieval history, and fills his books with little bits of medieval trivia that inspire me afterwards to go to wikipedia and investigate more fully the history he alludes to.

Cosmicomics was a fun book to read. It is a collection of short stories that use various physical phenomena, laws of physics, and creatures as a backdrop for exploring lots of 'what if' questions that simulteneously explore things like human nature, philsophy, etc. It was a fun read- I look forward to reading more of his works.

I know Marilyn Robinson is one of Jenny's favorite authors and while I admit that she writes very beautifully, the book I read of hers just didn't sustain or even catch my interest. It felt like the book was written in beautiful writing, but for its own sake. It just didn't go anywhere. Not that I think all books must have a plot, its just that I thought that while the actual writing was phenomenal, the book itself just fell flat. Its like it had all this potential, but it was all pretty fluff and no substance. I guess I'm more of a plot kind of guy.

Anyway, what is everyone else reading/hoping to read this summer?


please just do it for me

Did everyone have a good 4th of July? I had a lot of fun that day - I went to our traditional ward flag-raising ceremony, sung the Battle Hymn of the Republic with the ward choir (we were enthusiastic, if not exactly good), ate donuts, went on a good walk, saw my family, and went to see the big fireworks show in the downtown park. Yes, I realize this is sounding a lot like a journal up to here, but this is all just background.

What's really on my mind is an incident at the fireworks show. After Dan and I found an open spot of grass, we plopped down our plastic bags (it's Seattle - of course it rained at 7PM on the 4th of July) and blanket, and sat down. A family came a few minutes later and sat right behind us. No problem - everyone wants a good view of the fireworks. In fact, the fireworks were even going to be shown on one of the local news channels.

So at 10 o'clock, two fireworks went up and exploded - that's how they got everyone's attention to count down for the TV news show. As soon as the first, and rather mild, firework went boom, the little boy behind me yelled. And he kept yelling - yelling, crying, screaming, and pleading "I want to go home. I want to go home. I want to go home." Maybe he had seen the Wizard of Oz recently, but in my opinion, the little guy was scared of the big, loud fireworks. His mom comforted him, cuddling him on her lap and burying his head under her coat to muffle the screams.

So far, nothing struck me as really odd - I just felt sorry for the little guy. But as the fireworks continued, so did the screaming. After 5 minutes, he was sounding desparately terrified; after 15 minutes, he was sounding in pain; after 25 minutes, the finale began and drowned him out; and after 30 minutes the show ended and the parents began picking up their things and carried the still loudly weeping child off with them.

I was really annoyed - not with the child, not with the noise, but with the parents. I really wish I had turned around at some point and said to them, "Please take your kid home - if you won't do it because he is terrified and screaming and crying, then please just do it for me."


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Garden Journal, Week 13

The rather large pumpkin vines are finally sending out female flowers. I pollinated this one today, and we'll probably try making a soup or something out of it since it will be ready well before Halloween. I'm letting the vines climb along the fence since there is little room left on the soil.

This zucchini will soon become zucchini bread. You know that joke about the couple who visits their Utah relatives and gets a car load of zucchini while in the church since they didn't lock their car doors? We are considering disposing of some of our zucchini that way. We only have four plants, but they are vigorously obeying God's second commandment. Here are some ways we've used it these two weeks:
Zucchini bread
Roasted vegetables (with steak or chicken)
Zucchini/squash chicken cassarole
On sandwiches (very nice when they're still young)
Spaghetti sauce (whole and pureed)

Anyone else know any good ways to use zucchini? We're running out of ideas.

The watermelon vines are FINALLY starting to take off. They'll probably get their first flowers in a week or two. I can't believe how long they took- they were just dormant for over two months.

The rest of the regular tomatos are taking their merry time ripening. It seems like the first batch of tomatos to ripen always takes a lot longer. I wonder if it really is longer, or if it just seems longer to my excited taste buds. Each plant has over ten tomatos on it, some have twenty. Even the brandywines now have at least one each (which is a miracle in itself as I only got one tomato last year from my four brandywine plants)

The strawberries are sending out their runners. I've loosened up the soil underneath all the new plants so they'll establish a better root structure and hopefully survive the summer this time.

The crookneck squash was good in that cassarole. I'm not the biggest fan, but it sure looks nice in the garden and Jenny seems to like it.

The first cherry tomatos are finally ripening. After the first few ripen this week, we'll be drowning in them next week (who could ask for a better death?)

The tomatillos are benefitting from the bees that have suddenly taken an interest in the garden. They need cross-pollination, and they're finally getting it. They are also getting very tall. One is as tall as the corn, which comes up to my chest.

All the garlic tops died off in the last three weeks so I harvested them. They're supposed to last until August, but mine always wither away in June. This October I'll try planting only large cloves.

The onions are getting big, large enough to start using on stuff like sandwiches.

Same with the green peppers. They look scrumptuous. Each of the six plants has a bunch on them.

We've got a few raspberries this year. Next year will be nice since I'm going to transplant them to a better location.

After I pulled up all the garlic I needed to replace it with something, so I bought a bunch of anaheim and habanero pepper plants at the clearance sale. They won't be ready until August/September, but I think I might try canning them. They'll at least be good in salsa.

This Cherry pepper plant has at least 15 peppers on it, with many more to come soon. They'll be good for sandwiches or stuffed peppers.

Every year I think I plant enough basil, and I always want more. The seeds I planted a few months ago are finally growing into larger plants. The package advertised four-inch leaves, and these are only a little over one inch. But the summer is young. When they get a little bigger we'll be able to use some with our garlic and make some pesto.

We just harvested a banana pepper and put it on sandwiches (at the suggestion of Morgan) along with the zucchini and lettuce (which is all gone now, rest in peace). They were the best sandwiches we've had in awhile.

The little zinnia seeds are grown into large plants about to blossom. This one looks like it will be red.

And I love the blanket flower. It's very hardy, and gives the flower circle a nice fiery center.


Thursday, June 29, 2006


What do Nick and Victor Frankenstein have in common?

They both love being "mad scientists." (OK, that interpretation of Victor is not exactly correct given the text of Frankenstein, but it worked well as introductory material.)

Here's the thing. Nick really really likes his garden, as we all know. And I like it too. And every day Nick asks me if I've shaken the tomatoes. Shaking the plants gently for 3-5 seconds in between the hours of 9am and 4pm increases the rate of pollination. It sounds like a simple task, but when I'm holding the baby on one hip and leaning over to shake the plants, I get this Igor kind of feeling--the slight humpback-like hitch in my walk, one eye squinting away the bright sun, and the shaking and shaking and shaking, all with the intent of making life. And if I'm Igor, then Nick is, well, you know, the mad scientist bent on producing new life where there was none before.

Just thought you all should be aware of what's going on here in the Webb household ... that way when you're visiting and Nick's out in the garden and you hear him muttering and then shout "IT'S ALIVE!!' you'll know that he just found another tomato growing.

I won't even mention the work he does with q-tips and the squash plants ... :)


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Beautiful Bran

So, I've been having a craving lately...

Call me crazy, but I've really been craving bran muffins recently. And I figure since this is "Salsa Night" (as in to trade salsa recipes) maybe somebody here has a good bran muffin recipe. Tonight I tried a recipe that I found on the internet, but it wasn't quite what I was looking for. I mean, I did eat 1/4 of the pan in one sitting, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I wanted to. So, anyone have a good recipe? The only thing I ask is that the recipe doesn't include beets (Erin, I'm looking in your direction).



And the house on the rock stood still

Those of you who watch the news a lot, or perhaps the Weather Channel a little, know that the Washington, DC area and the whole of the eastern seaboard has received more than its share of rain in the last week. There have been floods, flashfloods, and mudslides, evacuations and lots of property damage. My sister's house was not excepted.

All in all, the damage isn't too bad. What really makes the flooding in the basement frustrating is that my sister's contractor just completed the finishing of the basement a week ago. The water only rose a couple of inches, but it did a number on the drywall (especially in my (future) room (I think we all embed parentheses just so we can be like Jon)). The carpet took the brunt of the damage; the tacking strips and the pad are gone, but we were able to dry out the carpet and it should be okay. It will probably end up costing a couple thousand dollars to repair and do some exterior work to prevent this from happening again.

This is where it gets interesting: We already have a sump pump because of the high water table. It may have to have its hole deepened so that it pumps out water longer before it reaches basement level. A contractor will also probably end up digging a ditch for an underground pipe that will drain groundwater to the street. So here's my question: is there a way to harness this water and use it?

As some of you Salsa Night frequenters know, I'm in the process of terracing my sister's hilled backyard (the week of rain, by the way, (with me out of town) has undone some of my hard labor there). Eventually these terraces will hold a garden, both of the vegetable variety and the flower variety. Is there a way to reroute this water so that it irrigates the garden? Would it involve purchasing more pumps? Is it potentially simple? Is it even desirable? Any input would be appreciated.

Meanwhile, I will get back to my garden project and try to actually get some block wall up before the next torrents arrive.



Sunday, June 25, 2006

Let Not Thy Left Hand Know What Thy Right Hand Doeth

(Unless your right hand is REALLY big)

Warren Buffet is giving 95% of his fortune (eventually 100%) to charities, most of it to the Gates foundation. Thats roughly 37 billion dollars and more than doubles what the Gates have in the foundation (more if his stock price goes up in the next few years). I've always respected filthy rich people who give all their money away. Even though God tells us that we should give in private, when you're that rich it would be nearly impossible to hide what you're doing with the money- so I have no beef with super rich people announcing to the whole world their charity. If only we had more rich people like the Gates and the Buffets, and fewer like the Waltons (walmart) who give a miniscule portion of their wealth to charities (at least publically- maybe I'm wrong and they give large private donations...).

Now there are good charities and... less good charities. Good causes and, well, bad causes. Lets imagine that you were able to establish the (insert your name here) Foundation which had 20 billion dollars invested such that allowed you to spend 1 billion dollars per year on anything you wanted. What would you do with it? Would you focus on a particular area like world hunger or vaccinations, or medical research, or inner city programs, or building libraries? Would you have a philosophy of only making donations to projects that attack the roots of problems rather than their symptoms? (Like giving small business grants in poor communities rather than opening a soup kitchen) Would you just be indiscriminant (to a point) and give to whatever organization asks first? Would you spend nationally or internationally? Would you tackle less urgent matters than world hunger and poverty and go for things like arts and community activities?

Heres what the Webb Foundation might do:

Along with other donors, build a string of community colleges across South America (and other poor areas). I bet with a billion dollars a year, you could set up one every few months. One thing I noticed in South America was the lack of higher education. They had the University of Buenos Aires, and a few other private colleges, but the people that I served with just didn't have their sights set on higher education. If the colleges were brought to the people, and if they were cheap, then maybe higher education would become more of a way of life. Along with the colleges, a secular form of the perpetual education fund could also be set up to help impoverished people pay for college.

Our education system has problems. There are as many proposed solutions as there are members of congress. I consider myself conservative, and your average conservative balks at "throwing more money" at the problem, but honestly, if you were trying to support your family on one income, would YOU become a high school teacher? If teacher wages were higher, there would be more competition for the jobs, and the teacher quality would go up. So I would start setting up private schools in states that do school vouchers. Each school would be endowed with enough money from the Webb Foundation which, when combined with the government money would allow for high teacher pay, along with small class size and all the cool programs that many private schools have. These schools could then have more academic freedom from the government and could then be tailored more to the community. Parental involvment would be higher. These wouldn't be schools for rich kids, though they would be of the same caliber and could be selective of students based on things like their attendence. Again, with a billion a year, new high schools could be built every month or so... Obviously lots of details to work out, but I think that our current public high school model is failing and doesn't appear to be improving, and ultimately needs to be replaced.

PBS did a special on "microgrants", which are small business loans or grants to people in third world countries who want to start a local business. The effects they can have on poor people and communities is tremendous.