Friday, March 31, 2006

Court Sides with Insurance Companies 5-4

In a stunning announcement today, the Supreme court says it has sided 5-4 with insurance companies in a case involving discrimination against individuals with large hands.

Lawyers representing Blue Cross Blue Shield claimed that the plaintiffs with large hands- large enough to cover their faces, in all probability have cancer, and that screening these people is a constitutional right guaranteed insurance companies by the constitution.

When asked today about his decision for the defense, Justice Antonin Scalia merely raised his hand up to his face and said, “Would you insure someone with hands this big? I didn’t think so. I mean come on, it’s something we all learned in elementary school- people with hands large enough to cover their face have cancer.”

According to the transcript, when supreme court newcomer Samuel Alito questioned the validity of the defense’s claims, Justice Ginsberg dared him to put his hand on his face.
Justice Ginsberg- “Come on! If you don’t try it how can you know?”
Justice Alito- “Now really, I just don’t see why… OUCH!”
Justice Ginsberg (chuckling)
Justice Roberts- “Order in the court!”


Thursday, March 30, 2006

Dem Reid: Childish Name Calling 'Key' to 2006 Election Strategy

In an election year in which Republican incumbents face a public backlash over the war in Iraq, the lackluster response to hurricane Katrina and perceived republican corruption, Democratic house and senate leaders have released their battle plan to take back the congress.

Summarizing the strategy, Senate minority leader Harry Reid said: “During the past several years, the corrupt Republican majority has shown it’s true colors as it slashes programs for the needy, ignores the needs of our troops overseas, and rewards it’s wealthy patrons in big oil with large illegal kickbacks. We believe the American people are so tired of the incompetency and fear mongering that we believe we can take back congress with a new campaign of fierce, childish name calling” Asked if this represented a change in direction for the democratic party, Reid responded “What matters is taking the country back from those poo-poo heads. We believe that its time to blow the boogers out of the nose of this government.”

The new strategy, termed “elegantly simple, yet devastating to the dumdum republican majority” by house minority leader Nancy Pelosi, was received with praise by the democratic leadership council. DNC chair Howard Dean remarked “This is the freshest new idea that has come out of our leadership in a long time. Those meany weanies won’t know what hit ‘em! Yiiiiiiiiiaaaaahhhh!”

Senate Democrats were quick to incorporate the new strategy into their stump speeches. Hillary Rodham Clinton, preparing for her upcoming senate campaign, proclaimed to a large donor crowd at a fundraising dinner “It’s time send Mr. Stinky Pants back to Texas!”

On Good Morning America, Charlie Gibson asked Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice whether she “enjoyed working for a president commonly referred to as “Mr. Stinky Pants”. Rice responded that she “thought [she] was on the program to discuss Iran’s nuclear program”. Gibson continued “Are you saying you disagree with that characterization of the president?” Secretary Rice refused to continue that line of questioning and proceeded to lecture Gibson about nuclear non-proliferation issues.

Later in the day, RNC chairman Ken Mehlman told reporters “The Republican party has always been the party of ideas. It is sad to see the other side stoop to new lows”. Minority leader Pelosi quickly retorted “Liar liar pants on fire! Yeah, they’re the party of BAD ideas! Poo poo heads!”

During the White House press conference, press secretary Scott Mclellan was peppered with questions about the newly announced strategy. Helen Thomas inquired how long the President had actually been a "poo poo head” to which Mclellan responded “We hope the 2006 campaign will be about issues, and not childish name calling as the democratic leaders in the house are now resorting to.” Pressed by David Gregory of NBC for proof that the president was not a “poo poo head”, Mclellan closed the briefing to further questions.

When asked by NPR host Michelle Norris about the new Democrat battle plan, Al Gore noted “You know, I was ahead of the curve on this one. I’ve been regularly employing childish name calling in my speeches for years. Just ask that boob in the White House.”

The plan is not without skeptics, however, with Dianne Feinstein pointing out “Sure, this might be a good strategy to convince the undecideds, but what about our base? They will be looking for the hard core profanity laden naming calling. If I’m not out calling the current administration a bunch of *%*^ing s.o.b.s everyday, then I lose my donors!”

Reid has called all Democratic senators not up for reelection this year to a pep rally set for tomorrow on the steps of the capitol. The content of the speeches planned was not announced, though a memo leaked to the press read the following:

“When any Republican congressman arrives at the capitol, surround him with pointed fingers saying in unison ‘Fatty fat fat fat! Fatty fat fat fat!’”


American Express

It recently occurred to me that Jenny may be missing out on an important detail concerning credit card solicitations.

Whenever we receive mail, our 5 year-old, Samantha, is bitterly disappointed if she doesn't receive anything to open. As a result, Samantha now receives several credit card solicitations a day. (If you don't receive that many offers on a daily basis, I'd be interested to know. If you don't, a proliferation of such offers may well indicate that the banking establishment has little [read: no] faith in my financial solvency.)

For the most part, Samantha is appeased by this offering of spam. However, what's especially appeasing is that all of these credit card offers have fake little credit cards inside. Samantha is currently the proud owner of 200-300 such cards. (Sometimes she'll fan them all out on the floor and look at them admiringly for twenty minutes - is this a bad sign?)

At any rate, the upshot of all this is that printed on each of these 300 fake cards is the same fake name: J L Webb.

Do your fake cards say the same thing?

And, Jenny, if they do, have you just always assumed that this was a minor miracle of mass marketing personalization?

Or have you harbored a suspicion all along that your name was being abused, without your permission, by the banking establishment?

Whatever the case may be, Samantha is delighted to receive more credit cards in the mail every afternoon from her dear Aunt Jenny.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Illegal Kickbacks

It is not often that I get a good laugh when I do my taxes. This year was one of those rare exceptions.
Let me set this up for you. I work at a company where we are all "independent contractors", since no one is really directing our work and it works out that we can pay less taxes that way. As a result, I get a 1099 form to do my taxes instead of a W-2. Getting a 1099 means you have to fill out certain forms the IRS requires of small business owners, but this year I saw a new question that wasn't on there last year. I don't know if it's because of the current climate of corruption on both capitol hill and the corporate world, but there, on the form where it asks for miscellaneous forms of business income, in between where it says do not include contributions to charity or political parties, it says, and I quote: "do not include illegal kickbacks".

I pause now to allow you to laugh most heartily.

done? ok, I'll wait some more...

So did turbotax see that I was a Utah filer, and knew that if anyone would report their illegal kickbacks, it'd be some dumb businessman from Utah? Is there some kind of new law where if you report these illegal kickbacks to the IRS on your return then you are then immune from prosecution? Or was this some guy at Turbotax having a little fun at his otherwise mundane job?


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

am i man enough?

I'd love to be able to sit down and make a real post here. But I'm caught in the fact that I'm just no match for time. It just keeps going and my lists just keep getting longer. Quality family time, personal study time, exercise time, hygene time, house projects time, work time, overdue work time, church time, scouts time, baby-coming in a week time...

I do, however, love to read your posts occasionally, so keep 'em coming.

And don't worry, I'll give you a post of Kiya Mae Theobald before too long.


Monday, March 27, 2006

Speaking of contradictory commandments...

As long as we're on the subject, there is one thing that has bothered me about one tiny point of doctrine, and that is infant baptism. My question is, why don't we do baptisms for dead children? Now, before someone throws the book of Moroni at me, permit me to explain.

We currently don't need baptism before the age of accountability because before then we aren't, well, accountable. The BOM says that "little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them" and, "And their little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins." (see Moroni 8: 8, 11)

But is that the only reason for baptism? Nephi says: "Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments." and, "And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them."(see 2 Nephi 31, 7, 9) As missionaries we always taught that baptism served two purposes, one of which is for the remission of sins, and the other is our token that we are desirous to enter the kingdom of God- in effect baptism becomes our membership card we present at the gates. If you don't have the card, you can't get in.

Even Jesus, who was without sin and needed no repentance was baptized, and I presume it was for reason number two. So my question is: sure, little children need no repentance, but won't they eventually need to make the covenant of baptism in order to enter into the kingdom, just like Jesus did? And if so, why don't we do baptisms for dead children?

Am I missing something?


Sunday, March 26, 2006

“Contradictory” commandments in the Garden of Eden

My favorite thing to study in the scriptures is the creation. The “contradictory” commandments of not partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and having kids which wasn’t possible unless they did partake of the fruit was perplexing. I read a various exegeses on the subject, none which satisfied me. Then in Alonzo Gaskill’s book “The Savior and the Serpent” he offered an interesting explanation.

President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that “The Lord said to Adam, here is the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If you want to stay here then you cannot eat of that fruit. If you want to stay here then I forbid you to eat it. But you may act for yourself and you may eat of it if you want to. And if you eat it you will die.”

Roger Keller (BYU professor) similarly wrote that God might have said something like the following. “If you want to stay in the Garden of Eden with no cares and no possibility of growth, you should not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. However, if you desire to grow and receive all that I have in store for you, you will have to leave the garden. If you eat of the tree, you will be cast out of the garden into the earth and into mortality, and you will die both temporally and spiritually, but you will open the door for yourselves and for all humanity to receive eternal life like I have. The choice is yours. In other words, God gave them information.”

I feel that this is the best explanation. Adam and Eve were told that it was forbidden of them to eat of the fruit and stay in the garden, but if they did leave the garden then they were commanded to have kids. Thus there was no contradiction in the commandments given.

This seems straight forward and easy to understand, yet I don’t remember ever hearing it coming up in a discussion about the creation in church. Is that because I space out (good possibility) or that it doesn’t come up?


Friday, March 24, 2006

Green Children

I'm not exactly sure how to identify what follows. To read on in the spirit of exploration, know that the following is written from my fall 2003 perspective (first year of marriage, first apartment, and, more importantly, first garden ...).

Like myself, my first children arrived in March. Looking down at them now, their branches bowing under their ripening weight, thickening together, green through the sun’s steady warmth—these unruly creatures bear no relationship to the sweet brown seeds carefully tucked into flimsy plastic trays and lovingly carried outdoors on the days Spring chose to trail her warmth along the soil, stirring their pale souls toward the light. In the beginning, when we planted our garden, we worried over our sprouting family, Nick more than myself. He cradled the trays as he moved them about the yard, seeking the sun with a visionary faith in our vegetable family. We figured that if the plants lived, we might qualify for a cat by winter and eventually, human children.

Those days seem distant now, hidden behind April’s morning mists and my faulty memory. It is really quite difficult to believe that at one time we cared for one hundred and twenty-eight tomato-ettes. One hundred and twenty-eight. It is slightly more incredible that forty-five survived that early treatment, the constant sway between yard and house. And to tell you the truth, looking about now, it seems nearly ridiculous that every single one of those forty-five plants chose to fulfill its divine destiny and multiply and replenish the earth. There are, after all, limitations, decency.

Today, like every other day this slow September, I head outdoors and greet my green children. The blue-toned light of my office computer and the sharp spines of my still-new school books (my first love) fade and are forgotten. I have work to do. I wade into my garden. The tomatoes greet me, verdant ropes into which I thrust my bared feet, toes splayed to grip the cool soil between wide stalks and ever-present branches. When they were still young and pliant, we thought to tie them up or train them through wire cages. However, we being young ourselves, and young together, thought better of it. (This was not due to any youthful ideals, but rather to the more immediate presence of our monthly electric bill.) As our plants matured we felt the error of our ways as their teenage growth outstripped our expectations and left us with a vibrant mass of heavy greenery that requires both caution and ingenuity when approached.

I weave my way toward the center of my garden. I am hunting a cluster of Pink Brandywines sighted earlier this week. (Pink Brandywines grow large and soft and often split their pale skins. Their flavor—.) I stalk my food through a delicately immobile jungle that purposely conceals its fruits. These are rebellious plants, and they have it in for me, their mother.

I pause.

Afternoon light hangs pink against the wooden fence and everywhere I look I see the twisting of green branches, the folding of green leaves. My arms start to yellow below the elbows and by the time my skin rounds expectant fingertips that shade shifts into a familiar (familial) green green green so green it’s nearly black. My fingers, stalk-like, feel blindly amongst the leaves, searching. I glance out over our garden: carrots, onions, lettuce, cucumbers—these are all manageable and cooperative plants. They produce enough to eat, stay more or less where they’re told, and generally enjoy being picked at. My eyes lower to my unreasonably fertile tomatoes, the plants with which I spend my time and which therefore hold some type of proprietary claim upon me. I suppose there are worse things to be claimed by.

I find my Pink Brandywines huddled together along a slender strand called to bear an inordinate burden that has quite naturally strained it toward the earth in humble submission. Pushing aside green leaves exposes the deep dankness of the inner sanctum. I startle back at the vision: tomatoes, everywhere. Pressed against the earth, folded between branching arms, heaving upward through entangled tendrils still seeking the light—pink, white, yellow, orange, overripe red. I cannot conceive of a time when we will not be eating tomatoes. The blatant fecundity of this plant, of every plant in my garden, every plant I cannot escape, that grasps my toe and bends my knee, constitutes an overwhelmingly reproductive force: it appears both incredibly absurd (who in the whole world would ever need so many tomatoes? what need would drive my children to such excess and abandon?) and strangely holy, sacrificial.

I cannot blame them for their enthusiasm. Their insistence on living, on passing the possibility of life to others, turns my mind in my garden toward another image of absurd overabundance that I have yet to fully comprehend: outside my garden, in other rooms, I call this gift grace, and give thanks.


Life imitates art

There's a guy at my work who looks exactly like the Lorax, only taller. Every time I see him I want to pat him on the head and express my deepest regret that his habitat was destroyed. It's seriously all I can do to keep from asking him if he knows he looks like the Lorax.

So I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and it made me think of the Simpsons episode when Homer gets bypass surgery. Dr. Nick isn't fully prepared because he accidentally taped-over the surgery show about bypass operations with a talk show about People Who Look Like Things.

Pumpkinhead: All we ask for is a little dignity and a little respect.
Host: [sly] And a new candle every now and then?
Pumpkinhead: Yes, and a new -- [realizes] no!
The ironic thing about the people on the Simpsons talk show is that they all could have greatly reduced their likenesses to pumpkins, brooms, etc. by changing superficial things. Which brings me back to Monsieur Lorax. Does he know? Does he realize that if he trimmed his bushy mustache and combed his hair and improved his posture he could look more like a human and less like some fantastic endangered species? Maybe he does know all this. Maybe he maintains his appearance in order to remind us all to be enviro-friendly. I have been recycling more since I met him.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Driving Miss Lucy

This post has nothing to do with Lucy. I just liked the title. What I really want to talk about is my driving. In my 10 years of holding a drivers license I've noticed that there are several classes drivers fall into. There are Utah drivers, elderly drivers, Ballard drivers (inside joke to those of us from Seattle), stupid drivers, aggressive drivers, and overy polite and cautious to the point of being dangerous drivers. I guess there is the middle of the road "normal" driver, who follows the traffic rules but doesn't mind going a few miles over the speed limit. I tend to think of myself as one of the latter. However, every time I go to Seattle I realize that I am a Utah driver.

Ok, I'm not really a Utah driver, I mean I spend enough time making fun of Utah drivers that it would be hypocritical of me to actually be one, right? It's just that I tend to drive fast, weaving in and out of traffic like Batman on the way to save the world. If only my little 1984 Volvo was the batmobile. That would be fun. It would also be fun to have the new Batman suit. I guess there aren't that many bullets flying in my science lab at work- well, except this one time when we made a really strong rubber-like material and my boss wanted to test if it would stop a bullet and well, it didn't, but that's a different story.

My point was that going to Seattle really makes me confront my driving personality. When in Seattle traffic, I find my blood pressure constantly elevated (Jenny can confirm) as I yell at people to get in the right lane if they're only willing to go 50 in a 55. I think most Seattle drivers fall into that catagory I mentioned where they are so cautious and polite that it borders on dangerous. Too many times have I seen a car stopped in the middle of a four lane road, thinking they're being nice to let some pedestrians cross (at a non-crosswalk), when they are really endangering people's lives since drivers in other lanes will probably not see them, thus requiring an appearance by Batman to save them.

There are also the Seattle "Ballard" drivers that I mentioned before. If you do not know what a Ballard driver is, you must not have gone to the "Ballard School of Driving". That was a funny skit on Seattle's version of Saturday Night Live that taught people how to be a Ballard driver: Start by catching your seatbelt in the door such that it drags on the ground, and keep your left blinker on at all times. Make sure you drive 10 mph under any posted speed limit sign, and for heavens sake: follow that dotted yellow line! Thats what they're there for: to drive directly over, not alongside!

Lest you think I'm ranting, no, this post is about my driving, not Ballard drivers' driving or Batman's driving. For one to understand my driving one must go back many years. 1994 to be exact- I was a freshman in high school and had just joined the track team running long distance. I had never thought of myself as a runner, or even athletic. I was always the bench warmer for church ball. The only sport whose rules I knew was dodgeball. I liked nintendo and watching movies, but sports? Yuck! So, much to my surprise I was invited one day by my friends Casey and Rachel (whose sister Julie is a contributor here) to go running with them. I thought- "ok, a few times around the block, stretch a bit, and then eat some sandwiches". What they should have asked me was: "do you want to go running with us to downtown Edmonds which is 3 miles away and down a long steep hill, after which we will return here, running back up said long steep hill?" At which point I would have said "no." As it was, that is not how they asked me, and I soon found myself gasping for air as I trudged up the long steep hill coming back from downtown. It was more like trudge, walk, trudge, walk, trudge, stop, walk, etc., though the trudging part was just as fast as the walking, which was just slightly faster than the stopped. Needless to say they did not invite me to go running again.

As I said before, this post is about my driving, though I have been known to go off on tangents. One such tangent occured in 1996 while on a camping trip with the priests. Interesting sidenote: Julie's dad was our priest's advisor at the time. We hiked into some lake whose name I forget. It was a nice lake, but as Casey and I looked at the map we saw that there was a smaller lake about 3/4 of a mile up a little ravine. So we mentioned in passing to Ben (the advisor) that we were going to go explore it, and if it was nice we (meaning Casey and I) would camp there that night instead. He must have been a saint since all he said was "sure, ok." and we were off. We hiked up to the other lake and it was, in a word, stunning. We got there just at sunset, and since it was nestled right near the peak of a mountain, we had quite a view. We camped on an island in the middle of the lake. We stayed up talking, cooking and playing with fireworks. In the morning as we hiked back, we saw a third set of footprints that we presumed were Ben's as he came to make sure we were safe. What a trip.

Anyway, driving. So Casey and Rachel got me into running. Having been so ashamed of not being able to keep up with a girl I decided to start running on my own. I mentioned this to my social studies teacher who was also the x-country/track coach who then informed me that I would be running on the x-country team the next year, and that to get an A in his class I would have to join the track team then and there. See, x-country is like the Mormon of all sports. It's the true sport in the sense that it is probably the true test of yourself and you're not relying on anyone else to win for you, but its also the sport that gets made fun of a lot by the "real" sports like football and basketball (think Catholics and Evangelicals). At least it's not cheerleading which just cheers all the other sports on (Unitarians), or chess club which isn't even a sport at all (Scientology). So if you tell a x-country coach that you've been running on your own, thats just like telling a Mormon that you've been reading the Book of Mormon a lot recently. The Mormon calls the missionaries who baptize you on the spot, and the coach recruits you without even asking permission.

So started my career as a runner. The only reason I mentioned all of that was to get to the point where I could describe a x-country race. Many people start out really fast and get to the front within a few seconds. Some stay in the front the whole race. Most don't. My coach wanted us to be the runners that start out in the middle, then proceed to pass everyone, because if you're in front the whole time, its like you're defending your spot the entire race, whereas if you're in the middle you're always on offense and passing up the next guy. Its like a lot of short term goals. Just pass that guy, then that one, then the one ahead of him and boom, you've won! So I went through 3 years of x-country and track, always passing people up. I got used to thinking that I needed to be ahead of the next guy in front of me. Once I get in front of him, that's not enough because now there's someone else to pass. You see where this is going. That is how I drive: it's not enough to be going the speed limit, or to get to work on time, the point and spirit of my driving is to be ahead of the next guy. I find that when I'm alone on a street that I usually go the speed limit, maybe a little over. But when I'm with people on a two lane road there is always one more person to pass.

Which is why I think I'm a "normal" driver: its completely normal for me to be passing people. I've done it since 1994. I'm used to it. I'm not hurting anyone. I follow the rules. I don't cut people off. I'm nice. I'm a good driver, I just tend to pass people, thats all.

I always wonder though what the Ballard x-country team was like.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Last week's Seinfeld moment

Remember that Seinfeld episode where Jerry is itching the side of his nose while in his car at a stoplight, and the lady in the car next to him thinks he's picking his nose? Well that happened to me last week, only I really was picking my nose. It's taken me this long to finally be able to admit this publicly.

So we were sitting at a stoplight, and I noticed that as I breathed through my nose, there was something obstructing the regular flow of air. Like any normal, oxygen loving person, I wanted the obstruction removed. As it was only Jenny in the car with me, I felt no inhibition putting my finger up there for an exploratory dig to see what was up. The culprit was soon found and extricated, though it was right at the moment of extrication that the lady in the car next to us looked over. According to Jenny, her facial expression matched the one of the lady that saw Seinfeld rubbing his nose- utter shock and horror. I looked over at her too, and instead of being really embarrassed, which would be my normal reaction, I started laughing. So we've come to it. I no longer care what people think about me- at least the people I don't know. Is that a good thing?


Insulting Intelligence

Man, I am such a nerd. But now that we have that out of the way, we can move on. . .
Have you ever felt like a television commercial insulted your intelligence? I felt that way about the ISP ad several months ago that claimed that spyware can slow down your connection speed by 500%. Think about that for a minute. (How can you slow your speed down by more than 100%?) I wonder if there are people who believed it.
Another example is when companies offer "more discounts" instead of a lower price or a better product. ("This washing machine will cost you $1,300, but I gave you 86 discounts.") Sometimes I wonder what kind of customers they want.
I've also seen some movie trailers (e.g. "The Core") that were just downright silly in how unappealing they portrayed the movie.
In conclusion: either these companies are not doing a good job of marketing, or I am weird.

P.S. I will try hard not to rant on this blog. It might be too late for that, but most of you have heard all my rants anyway.


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Science Mingled With Scripture

Today being Sunday and me being a churchy guy, I went to church. However, instead of two scripture based lessons in sunday school and priest's quorum, I got a smattering of the teachers' opinions on various scientific issues. It wasn't so bad in priest quorum, really. The Bishop had only ten minutes to give a lesson, and he started off talking about the recent experiment that measured the cosmic background radiation. He knew I'm a physicist so he asked me to explain some details about how that was used to calculate the age of the universe. He then proceeded into a nice lesson about how God is a creator: creator of the universe, of our Earth, of our bodies, and of our spirits. Not once in his lesson did he scoff at science or scientists or boast how much more our religion knows about the origin of the Earth than the conspiring scientists or any of that.

My sunday school lesson was a different story. Instead of the bishop, it was one of his counsellors that, instead of using some scientific principle as a springboard into a gospel discussion, hijacked the lesson for several minutes to denounce the evil scientists. His beef was with evolution (as it often is). He warned the youth in the class about the evil that exists in much of modern-day science, how so many scientists are deluded and teach things that contradict the gospel- especially evolution. He went on and on, but I just sat there because anything that I would have to say would basically contradict everything he had already said and I didn't want to do that to a bishopric member in front of the youth.

Surprisingly, I've experienced this quite often in the church (as I'm sure many of you have). You either get people who first talk about science in a positive way and then use scriptures to show how the science is correct, or rant and rail against a certain part of science and then use scriptures (or common misguided belief based on tradition: think earth actually orbiting Kolob or the ten tribes hiding under the north pole) to back up their tirades.

I don't take issue with science being mentioned in a church class: as I said, only if it's used as a springboard for a gospel discussion or used as a metaphor to teach a gospel principle (ie, rainbows are water particles mediating light from the sun; what or who else mediates light from God? etc...). I have a problem when science is brought into a class in the context of 'is it true' or 'is it not true'. Science and religion really are two different fields. Science is a process by which we observe the physical world with a physical measurement that is repeatable and test physical theories with that evidence. Religion is a system based in faith to help us know God. The latter is not physically measurable (and arguably never can be by definition, unless one has his calling and election made sure, but that's another topic), and the former precludes really needing to believe in anything. They are water and oil. Franken and Hannity. One does not prove the other in each of their own systems of operation. You can't prove our religion with science, since I know by faith- which I can't see. I can't prove any aspect of science wrong with my religion, since nothing in my beliefs is physically measurable and that is the language of science.

Many members of the church are stuck in the custom of mixing the two. This happens one of two ways, one of which I already described: taking a scientific conclusion and ripping it apart with scripture (bad interpretations included). The other is a little more subtle, but still inappropriate: trying to completely harmonize religion with the conclusions of science. That is one good point the misguided bishopric member made (though not in the same spirit I make it): science is true, but not all the conclusions that science makes are correct. They are correct up to the latest measurements, but not beyond, and if any measurement in the future contradicts the conclusion, it must be revised. Nothing is sacred in science. So why try to equate some possibly imperfect conclusions based in fact, with scriptural texts that often do not speak literally and whose messages speak to our souls. I've seen teachers do wonderful doctrinal and scientific contortions trying to harmonize scriptural accounts with science. Example: dinosaur bones are in the ground because the Earth was made from other worlds that must have had dinosaurs, since from the scriptures we know that there were no dinosaurs. Or: the great flood must really have been a local flood, since scientific evidence shows there was no great flood around 2000-3000 b.c. . Such attempts at harmonizations are not helpful to science (and usually invalid), and not helpful to our faith either as anything scientific by definition requires actual evidence, not faith.

I think the church membership at large is stuck somewhere between enlightenment thinking and magical realism (yes Jenny, I, your husband, used the term 'magical realism'). Those of you who have been in third world countries might know what I'm talking about. The people there are much more accepting of physical manifestations of the supernatural phenomenon than U.S. and western European cultures. This was the climate in Joseph Smith's time, and to a small extent has persisted in the church today. Yet we live in a modern western culture where science is celebrated. So church members are caught between the two, and either lean toward one or the other, or try to mesh the two.

In case you're wondering what my personal approach is, I'll call it the hat method. On Sunday, and various other times during the week, I put on my faith/religion hat. When I teach my class I rely on the texts of the scriptures (not wacko interpretations of them), and the words of the current prophets. At work and school I put on my scientist hat: my investors aren't paying me to believe something, they want proof. When I have my faith hat on and someone asks me a legitimate science question (like when I'm teaching), I'll give them a short science answer without mixing in faith, then tell them to talk to me after class.

Anyway, those were just my thoughts today as I sat through two science lessons. May all your future science lessons in church be factual. And short.


A post by Lucy

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- Lucy

You know how the saying goes about the 1000 monkeys typing at 1000 typewriters for 1000 years will eventually reproduce the works of shakespeare? I find it fascinating that in 5 minutes of typing, Lucy not only managed to write the word 'yum', which coincidentally is one of the three monosyllabic words she recognizes, but also discovered how to type the foreign character ae "diagraph", which has eluded me for years.


The winter of my discontent

March 19, 2006. Spring is tomorrow, however you wouldn't know it by looking out my window. It's snowy, cold and grey. Usually by this time of year we've had a few weeks of early summer, or at least a few days a week of upper 50's and 60's. Not this time. I feel like we're having our hundred years of winter and never christmas a la Narnia. My tulips and daffodils are still asleep, except for a few stalwart buds peeking up above the surface. Our furnace bill is still high. It snowed 4 inches just a few days ago, with more forecast this week.

I love spring, especially late spring. Last year I started a few trays of seeds indoor- in early February. I get very anxious for spring to start, even in a normal year. This year its driving me crazy. I haven't started any seeds at all since there is no end to this winter in sight.

I think I want to live in northern California, like somewhere north of Sacramento. I've heard the winters are very mild there, but the summers aren't too hot. I could have tomatos all year round if I did it right. There just isn't that much up there- just a few small towns like red bluff, chico, yuba city. We've always wanted to live out in the country though and have chickens, sheep, goats, cows and have a huge garden. I'd have to hire some farm hands though. Erin? You could run our ranch! But it has to be somewhat near a city so we're not completely cut off from civilization. My aunt and uncle live around there in Oroville. I drove through there once on my way to Los Angeles to go back to school after my mission, and stayed with them even though I had never met them. It was beautiful country and I knew I might have to live there someday. My aunt said they hadn't seen snow there in years, that it rarely gets to the freezing point even at night in the middle of winter.

So anyway, I'm done with winter now. Next, please.


Friday, March 17, 2006

Reflections of a semi-new parent

Thursday was Lucy's seven month birthday. It wasn't until I looked at pictures of Jon's new baby did I realize how much we had both already grown.

She's getting big. She's at least 17 pounds by now, which is over triple her birthweight. She's gone from the cute but relatively inanimate lump she was as a newborn, to an active, smiley, giggly, almost crawling baby with a personality all her own. Somedays as she wakes me up at 7:00 for her breakfast in bed with us I say to myself- Where did you come from?

7 months ago I could sleep in until 9:30 in peace. I hate getting up early, and yet it is one of the favorite parts of my day when I awake to the sound of her legs thumping against the mattress which is her way of politely telling us- I'm ready for breakfast! Time to come get me! I go in, and the instant she sees my still sleeping face she breaks out into a smile as if she thought she was the only one left in the world and was happy to finally see someone else. She starts shaking her arms and legs, and babbles in delight. Its kind of a big self esteem boost that someone is so exited to see you every morning that they can't physically restrain themselves from going into convulsions. So I pick her up, take her to a still sleeping Jenny who groggily serves her up some breakfast in bed. After eating, it is then play time. Play time with mommy and daddy's hair that is. (well, mommy's hair) We then spend an hour subjected to getting slapped in the face, scratched, hair pulled, noses sucked, and babbled at in a surprisingly loud voice considering it's coming from a 17 pound human. But we lay there trying to sleep with smiles on our faces.

As far as I can remember, I've always wanted kids. I wanted them when I was a kid. Maybe it's a part of my Mormon upbringing, but I don't think so since I know so many other Mormons my age that either don't want them, or don't want TOO many. I've always thought it would be so fun to have this little person that you know YOU made, and YOU get to help form them as a person. I've always been attracted to that idea. Some days the awesome responsibility of it still scares me, but not enough to not want more, and from my short 7 month experience thus far, I love it. It's funner than I thought it would be. I used to love coming home so I could be away from work (or school). Now I love coming home so I can see that face explode into ecstatic delight upon seeing her daddy. (Yes, I come home for you too, Jenny) As a baby, she still has that ability to show any emotion she feels and not feel self conscious about it. I love it. I envy it. How many of us break into a huge smile and start laughing and shaking when we see a loved one after not seeing them for, oh, 8 hours? It's something that I wouldn't mind she teach me.

So Jon, and Randy, and anyone else with a newborn or expecting one: congratulations. I envy you.

That'll have to be all for now since I hear some little thumping legs calling me.


Happy Irish Heritage Day!

That's what St. Patrick's Day has become, isn't it? I'm not Catholic, nor do I pay much homage to the ancient saint, and the same goes for most of America. But a lot of us do trace our roots back to Ireland, so for one day a year we can use that as an excuse to get drunk, or party Mormon-style.

I thought I might add to the Day by including a memoir of my visit to Ireland on the last weekend of January 2004. This is adapted from an email I sent out chronicling my adventure. It's a bit lengthy, but it was a very full trip. Enjoy.

Two weekends ago a group of seventeen of us took a short trip to Dublin. I mean, if you could fly to Dublin, Ireland and spend a day there all for under $100, you'd do it, right? So we did. It was an adventure beyond compare. I learned firsthand what my friends who have spent time in Europe had told me: customer service is a uniquely American concept. We almost missed our flight out because the people at the airport failed to clearly advertise that our flight was departing from a different gate than they originally had said. That was the beginning. The bitter end comes later.

In between the bitter beginning and end comes some fun-filled Dublining. We checked in to our hostel and went out for a bite. We found a traditional Irish pub and I ate corned beef and cabbage and drank water from a pint glass. Then we just kind of walked around the city, doing stuff like walking over bridges and spitting into the river and seeing drunk men stop to throw up on the sidewalk. The hostel was an experience--the most uncomfortable bed I've ever paid to sleep in. But it felt really cool to be in a seedy hostel in Europe. Kind of adventurous!

The next day I went with seven of my traveling companions on a bus tour of the Irish countryside and it was breathtaking. Our tour guide was named Damien and he enjoyed touting the great benefits of living in the Irish welfare state. He didn't use those words, but that was the gist of it.

The most beautiful place on the tour was called Glendalough (GLEN-da-lock). It means valley of two lakes. It was this valley that had ancient monastic ruins and, not surprisingly, two lakes. So gorgeous. We got out and walked along the shores in the rain and breathed the fresh mountain air and got really wet. It was so worth it.

Here's where it gets exciting. Upon meeting up with the rest of our group and returning to the airport, we were notified that our flight was cancelled. Snow in London; it wasn't the airline's fault. What was the airline's fault was the complete lack of sympathy or offered help. They seemed pretty clueless and careless as to what to do to help us out. To make a long story short, we ended up finding a flight for eleven of the seventeen of us to fly out in the early afternoon the next day. Six of us would have to stay, and I volunteered.

Leaving the eleven behind, the Super Six returned to Dublin and had a fantastic day, despite the fact that we had slept on the floor of an airport and hadn't showered in two days. We saw St. Patrick's Cathedral and I bought a cool Irish ring and we ate at the best pub in the British Isles. It was Oliver St. John Gogarty and the food was exquisite. There was also a live Irish trio. So good!

We then ran to a nearby bus station. The bus took us directly to the biggest ferry I have seen in my life where I paid too much for bland hot chocolate and slept reasonably well on a cushy seat. We arrived in Wales and had to reboard the bus, drive off the ferry, deboard the bus to go through customs, reboard the bus, and drive eight cramped hours to London. It was no picnic. The Super Six arrived back at the BYU Centre at 9:30am two days after we had planned to be back. The return trip was really hellish, but overall it was totally worth it.



Thursday, March 16, 2006

Global Salsa Night!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am extremely pleased to announce that salsa night has just gone international.
Sometime today, a very bored person in Vila Frescainha, Portugal took a look at our blog. I truly feel priviledged and cultured. Could it be that the Portuguese feel a natural affinity for people who enjoy blogging, salsa, and toast? In the humble opinion of this humble blogger the obvious answer is: yes. Today: Vila Frescainha, tomorrow: Panguitch


Toast Post

I love toast
Toast I love
I hope it’s up
In Heaven above

Toast is tan
And warm and crumbly
It makes me smile
When it hits my tumbly

Pat on the butter
Pile on the honey
Toast is great
When you have no money

When my stomach
Starts to grumble
I take out the toaster
And try not to bumble

Up pops my toast
All nice and hot
I dance the toast dance
And my turkey trot

Try toast with jam
It doesn’t hurt
Raspberry, strawberry

In the morning
Or afternoon
I eat my toast
Without a spoon

Eat toast early
Or snack toast late
Whenever it’s there
Toast is great

Oh toast, oh toast!
I just must boast
From coast to coast
That I love toast
Above all roast
And candy ghost
I still love toast
The very most

This post was prompted by my continuing love affair with toast. I just find it fascinating that exposing perfectly decent soft bread to heat and turning it into something crispy utterly transforms the humble slice of bread into a delicious meal or substantive snack. Case in point: yesterday, between the drive down to Provo and back and teaching and all, I just never found time to heat up my lunch and eat it. When I arrived home I was quite hungry and therefore a little feisty. A slice of toast later and I was able to function as a normal, loving human being. Amazing!


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Tech keeps me old-fashioned

I read a lot of biographies. I'm always impressed by the amount of personal correspondence that contributes to the material biographers use. I think that there's something classical and traditional in keeping contact with family, close friends, associates, etc. Of course, you all know that I am enamored with most things classic and traditional.

Nevertheless I have always been, as the band America put it, "one poor correspondent." I've just never developed the habit of letter-writing. I suck at it. Luckily for me, The Universe seems to be conspiring in my favor. Cell phones, email, and instant message programs keep closing the geographic and communicative gap between me and the people I care about. Now I have been recruited into the group-of-friends-written-blog revolution. Technology is making it hard NOT to be in contact with my family and friends. It's not as traditional as a hand-written letter, but it keeps me close.

Thanks for inviting me. I'm glad to be here.



Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Say hi to Lucy

It just occurred to me that many of you have not seen Lucy yet. Here are some pictures we took this week


The Youth of Zion

True to the Faith

Shall the youth of Zion falter
In defending truth and right?
While the enemy assaileth,
Shall we shrink or shun the fight? No!
(Hymn 254)

Time was, I thought this hymn applied to me. In fact, I often catch myself thinking that it still does. But it hit me the other day as I was sitting in mutual opening exercises that all of the sudden this wasn't necessarily the case. You see, shocking as it may sound, I am no longer considered a Youth.

I've known that for some time now. When I left Bellevue for BYU I realized that I was also in transit between Young Women's and Relief Society and that I was effectively leaving my "younger" teenage self behind in exchange for my new young adult self. But there was that word again: "young" adult. And so I had no problem continuing to nurture the illusion that I was still peripherally connected to the Youth of Zion. Even when Nick and I were married, we were "newlyweds," a word that conveys some sort of youthful renewal. Today we're still "new parents." But somewhere in between Deseret Towers, Uruguay, and Sandy I suddenly became adult material.

I think the thing that finalized that transition I began after high school was serving in the Young Women's program in our ward. All of the sudden I'm the adult. I make decisions. I drive kids home from Mutual. I help them with their homework. (Ok, Nick does more of the helping since he can do math, but I'm very supportive.) I just taught a lesson about the importance of homemaking.... And the odd thing is, even though I'm closer in age to the young women, I'm starting to naturally identify with the other adults as my peers. (Even though several are old enough to be my mother. In fact, one of my favorite friends in the YW is older than my mother.) But at the same time, I often feel like I'm just fooling everyone by putting on a particularly convincing act of adultivity. I have the husband, the baby, the dog, the degree ... of course I'm an adult!

So why do I still find myself thinking of "True to the Faith" in terms of "our" (as in the youth of the church) hymn? What made the difference? When did I stop being one of the youth? How do we actually grow up, and when we do, are we just acting a part that "looks right"?

And what's my new hymn as an adult?


Monday, March 13, 2006

Words, words, words

So. I have been staring at, above, and around this cartoon for the past half hour, wondering how to begin. When it comes down to it, the thought of actually creating my own post has proven to be somewhat overwhelming. I want to say something interesting, something that might open up a conversation, something.... And yet I spent the weekend grading midterms, and Lucy woke up two hours earlier than normal today, and my mind is mushy. (Just like the mushy green avacado Lucy ate for dinner tonight. We're cultivating her tastes for future family salsa nights.)

And so I turn to Dilbert.

I find it ironic that as someone who has dedicated the past several years of her life to the study of words, I am now unsure what to say. I do, however, know a thing or two about cleaning our shower.

I think what I want out of this whole blog experiment/experience is to give myself a chance to open up, or perhaps loosen up, my literary expectations. I find that I actually do some of my most productive thinking through writing (not that it's particularly elegant or profound, but it is productive for the furthering of my own thoughts). I want to write. The thing is, being out of school, being into mommying, I don't often find reasons to write. I've been reading other blogs for a while now, and I enjoy the conversations (and the thinking) but still feel a little unsure about jumping into them myself. So here I am, giving myself permission to write. And it's ok if it's not brilliant. (I think I still have pent-up thesis performance anxiety left over from the fall--I feel like if it's not new and original, it's not worth writing. But that line of thought ignores the value of writing for my own enjoyment.)

All right. I'll stop these ramblings and get on to something more cohesive. But I just had to work through this whole idea a bit before I went any farther.


Sunday, March 12, 2006

You put WHAT in the soup?

For several years now, Jenny and I have been having "experimental dinner night". One of us (usually her) will cook a meal found in a cookbook that neither of us has tried, and, get this ....we eat it. I guess it originated from way back when we were first dating- our first date, in fact. She took me to see "Babbet's Feast" in the SWKT at BYU. Turtle soup indeed.

Anyway, I think in terms of success/utter failure we're about 3 in 10, that is every 10 experimental meals we'll find about 3 that we add to our "repertoire". Every once in a while though we run across a recipe that we fall hopelessly in love with. We find ourselves dreaming about it, drooling over it, writing poetry about it, etc. I will share one of those with you now: Peanut Chicken

(I never use exact quantities)
Raw or canned chicken (better raw)
Sprinkle chicken with cinnamon and cumin powder. How much? More than you'd think, but more cinnamon than cumin.
Meanwhile, saute a chopped up onion in olive oil. Throw some garlic in there too.
Mean-meanwhile, in a blender pour 1 or 2 cans of cut tomatoes, several large spoonfuls of peanut butter (more if you like it creamy, and peanut buttery), a bunch of fresh cilantro, and crushed hot red pepper. As with most blenders yours probably has a "blend" button. Press that now. Stop. Put the lid on. Now start it again.
When the onions are done (remember those?) add the chicken and cook that for a few minutes. Then add the sauce, and another can of cut tomatoes. It'll need salt. Serve over rice.

I think we have this like once every two weeks or more.


From NPR news in Washington, this is ...Rush Limbaugh?

I love NPR. On weekdays, I get about 3 to 4 hours of it per day. On Saturday- about 8 to 12 hours, no joke. I think I know the names of all the hosts, commentators, reporters, editors, and can recognize all their voices. The thing is, I used to listen to right wing AM radio as of about 2 years ago. Why did I make the switch? I still consider myself to be a pretty conservative republican, so no change in politics can account for it. What did it for me is the format. After listening to NPR for about a year, I tried to go back to regular commercial radio and it drove me nuts. I like how the NPR programs operate. They talk in normal voices (I used to call them NPR voices). There's no arguing with the guests or callers (for the most part- like one time Ira Flato had John Grisham on and was pretty rude to him, but that's a rare exception). They find stories to report on that you don't find anywhere else. They interview pretty high profile guests. There are no commercials. The list goes on.

There is however one thing I don't like about it, and yes, you guessed it. There IS a liberal bias. A friend who also listens to NPR once asked me if I had ever noticed a bias- because he hadn't. I said yes, but since then I've really tried to pay attention to see if I can distinguish actual bias from my knee jerk reaction to any story that reports unfavorably on conservatives. During that time I've come to the conclusion that, yes, there is.

Now here's my take on it: that's not necessarily bad. You can't avoid bias. We're human. I don't think you can ever look at something truly objectively. That's ok, I don't mind that- as I've said I'm still a dedicated listener in spite of it. But is it good for a publicly funded media outlet like NPR to consistently lean one way? Why not in addition to a commentary three times a week by Daniel Schorr we also have one by George Will or Rich Lowry or Bill Buckley. As far as I know there is no conservative editorial on All Things Considered or Morning Edition at all. Its mostly done by Shorr. How about on Dianne Rehm's weekly news roundup we have 2 conservatives and 1 liberal instead of the opposite- which actually makes 3 liberals beating up on 1 conservative who usually gets cut off by Rehm in the middle of his argument anyway. How about just getting rid of Brooke Gladstone altogether and replacing her with Ann Coulter- both have sarcasm as palpable as feta cheese, and logic just as crumbly.

I've mentioned the moral reason (and possibly legal reason) for introducing a little more balance in NPR personnel (ie: public funding should = a more accurate representation of the public's political and social ideology), but there is a more pragmatic reason. It seems to me that the mission of NPR is to educate the audience, to better them, to get them to think and create intellectually honest and openminded listeners. Introducing conservative commentators would advance this goal in two ways. First, it would introduce the vastly (no numbers here, just my hunch) liberal audience to well thought out and reasoned conservative thought as opposed to the conservative babble on talk radio and Fox News shout fests that they see as the only voice of conservatism. That just might induce liberal listeners to finally think critically about conservative ideas as opposed to outright dismissing them as backward, only espoused by mindless evangelicals or toothless country hicks. Second (and possibly more importantly from NPR's financial perspective), it just might lure conservatives away from the popular ear plug inducing talk radio programs. It would broaden the listener base considerably. It would introduce those conservatives to well thought out liberal ideas as opposed to the mindless mush that throws onto TV commercials denouncing Sam Alito. It would make better conservatives. It would make better liberals.

From NPR news in Washington, I'm Nick Webb


Would the real LDS Beethoven please stand up?

I have often complained bitterly to Jenny about the apparent lack of "real" musicians in the Church. I'm not talking Janice Kapp Perry here, and to an extent not Mack Wilberg either (though I think his style of hymn arrangement is one of the better ones out there). I'm talking about the true musical geniuses that either revolutionize music, or at least are able to compose brilliant pieces of music that buck the current trend of mediocrity that I feel exists in our church's music. I mostly refer to choral pieces sung either in sacrament meeting or other ward or stake functions. The most moving and brilliant piece of music that I have sung in a Mormon choir in the past 5 years has been The Messiah, and that's like 300 years old. Is there really no Mormon out there that can write something like that? The closest I've found is John Rutter. If you ever get a chance to influence your choir director (or get called as one) I highly recommend his work. Maybe there are some very good Mormon composers whose work I'm just not aware of, but that I've never had the opportunity to sing because ward choirs that are up to the challenge of a higher piece of music are rare. Maybe there just aren't any because we've grown complacent as a church in our music. We've got the green book, we've got a choir where most the members aren't exactly Motab material, so we choose music for the lowest common denominator since it would just be too hard for the whole choir to learn a more advanced piece- and who in the congregation would really appreciate it anyway? So my questions are: who are some good Mormon (or at least religious) choral composers? Is the state of church music as bad as I think it is, or just in the few wards I've been in? If I'm right in my assessment of the state of church music, is there any hope for it?



There have been several books that I have been wanting to read, but I never seem to find the time to read them. When I do read them, I like having someone to discuss them with. So I was thinking we could start a kind of blogging book club where we all pick a book every month, and during that month we can read the book and talk about it together. That would give the comparative literatureists among us (Jenny, I'm looking in your direction) to expound to us lower literary creatures their vast knowledge which, though it may not employ them at least makes them decent at trivial pursuit (well, the brown questions).

Here are a few I have been wanting to read:

Being and Time- Martin Heidegger
-(ha ha ha! uh..just kidding)

Cosmicomics- Italo calvino
The Name of the Rose- Umberto Eco
Faust (I've just heard so much about it)
Sense and Sensibility or any other Jane Austin (I just started this one)
Don Quijote
I'm only putting some of these on here so I can finally know what Jenny is talking about whenever we get together with her comp lit friends.

Theres more, but I'll see what other suggestions there are