Tuesday, December 26, 2006

New Years Resolution

They always say to write your goals down so that you'll actually do them. So my goal this year is to be 210 lbs. Fat? Well, I am 6' 6". My pants have the same waist size as pant-length. But they're getting a little bit tight, and I could stand to lose a few (well, twenty) pounds or so. Here are the steps I'll take:
1. Only eat at meal times (no snacks). I'll have to stop buying snack food (brownie mixes, candy, etc.) Tough, but necessary.
2. Pack my own lunches in to work. The cafeteria food is decent and dirt cheap ($2), but I've washed dishes in a cafeteria before, and, for the most part, the food is not particularly healthy. A packed whole-wheat sandwich and a piece of fruit will be much better.

Besides fitting into my clothes better, a diet will help me feel better, both physically and emotionally. My father has heart problems, so I've probably inherited them, and less weight will make them less severe (although my dad's not heavy, and he still has problems). It will also get my mother off my back. I'll save a bit of money (enough to buy maybe a CD a month). And hey, I might even be more attractive to the ladies (although it won't do nearly as much as confidence and exercise).

Friday, December 15, 2006

New job and stuff

So, I got a new job teaching science to kids with drug and sex offenses. My first job that's offered both benefits and good (regular) hours. It pays better than a regular teaching job, but just because I work more days (I don't get summer break, Christmas vacation, etc.) The other teachers are fun to work with. I like some of the students, but a few of the students are as close to evil as one can get by the age of 17. I seriously think the worst ones should be placed on a deserted island and be told to fend for themselves (now that would make great TV...I'd watch it at least, as long as it was my students). On the up side, most of the students aren't that bad, and class sizes are a lot smaller than at public schools. The teachers also tend to be a lot cooler than the average public school teacher. And they're paying for me to get certified with special ed., and then giving me a raise once I get there. Not a bad deal. The only downside, really, is the bad kids and the fact that it's an hour away from where I'd like to live (Provo). I've been spending weekends and Wednesday nights in Provo and the rest of the time in South Jordan, at my parent's place.
My am I so interested in staying in Provo? After all, my family and a couple of my friends are in the South Jordan area. Well...
1. The ladies. This area is a bit complicated now, so I'll blog about it once it gets resolved, but complicated is a lot better than nothing going on (like the last 30 months).
2. The singles ward. I've never felt as at home in a singles ward. There is some stress and some responsibilities involved with my participation there, but it's nothing compared to the stress from work and from the dating situation. What a great group of people! What a great bishopric!
3. The friends. More old friends are in Provo than anywhere else.
So, hopefully I'll be able to write up about the second half (and more interesting) part of this post in a few weeks. And hopefully it will have a clear and happy ending. We'll see.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The problem with vouchers for private schools

Elections are coming up, and proponents of vouchers for private schools are once again pooling their money and sending it to Utah to help their chosen politicians. What better time for me to discuss the problems with vouchers?
Private schools are not committed to following a core curriculum, and their teachers are not always well-educated. Take, for example, this quote about science curriculum from Kimber Academy, an 'LDS' private school in Utah.
"Science: Teaches students how to search the scriptures to discover the majesty of God’s creations, from physiology to astronomy." That's it. That's the entire statement about science education.
Let us analyze this pretty little piece here. Instead of studying God's creations to find their majesty, these students are studying the scriptures to find it? Remember, this is not a religion class. They already attend a religion class. This is science! No direct observation. This method leads to some interesting results. The scriptures say the earth has four corners, so it must be flat, despite what anyone else might say. The Bible dictionary (LDS version) says there was no death before Adam, so that must be true. (Keep in mind, the Bible dictionary preface states that it's not meant to put forth church doctrine, and Elder James E. Talmage published a book through the church that explicitly stated that organisms lived and died on this earth before the earth was fit for human habitation (see 'The Earth and Man')). Maybe they don't discuss flat earth, but it's as scientifically valid as "no death before Adam." Science is based on experiment and discovery, not on authority. To teach it as authority, and, more specifically, to act like scripture, most of it at least 2000 years old, is the source for scientific knowledge, is insane. To teach science through scriptures is to neglect a great responsibility. Our tax dollars should not support this.
Obviously, it's difficult for private schools like this to hire people educated in science (this means a science degree, people) who are still moral. I could not find information about Kimber Academy's teachers. Liahona Academy, however (another 'LDS' private school) has a description of their teachers. Their science teacher "has a dual degree in Education and Archaic Studies". What about science? Biology? Chemistry? Physics? Anything? And this guy is teaching science? Guess all the more qualified LDS teachers took one look at the school's curriculum, and thought to themselves "I can not teach this and still respect myself. I can not teach this, with what I know, and still be in good standing with God." I know that's how I feel. These schools call themselves 'LDS', but they're not actually run by the church. Institutions run by the church--like BYU-- actually have qualified teachers (professors) who have PhDs and have done research in their subject matter (including evolution). Real science is taught. Textbooks, not scriptures, are used as a source of science. No one in biology teaches anti-evolutionism as science; none of them support it. No one in geology teaches young earth; they know too much about geology. No one in chemistry teaches that evolution and the 2nd law of thermodynamics are opposed to each other; they understand chemistry too well. Many in the religion department at BYU don't have issue with science; some in the religion department seem to think that since they're experts in LDS theology, they're also experts in science. They're just as bad as scientists who, because they're experts in science, think they're qualified to dismiss religion.
There are private schools where real science teachers teach real science. I don't have a problem with tax vouchers for these schools, as long as everything is done fairly and the teachers and students are held to the same standards as in public schools. But as long as some private schools insist on teaching science through scriptures (and, according to Talmage, the scriptures were never meant to instruct in science) I cannot support vouchers.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Down in the dumps

I'm thinking of giving up now
Thinking of giving in
Thinking life has no purpose
And my search for love'll never end
Thinking I'm lost in the dark here
Thinking I'm all on my own
Wondering if God can hear me
As I face this great unknown

I'm down in the dumps again
Trying my hardest, but my shots just don't fall
Down in the dumps again
Working my butt off and I'm sick of it all

I'm rejected again and I'm not sure what's wrong
Is it my fault when it's all said and done?
Is it my weakness that makes it so hard
Is it my failures, have I played the wrong cards?

I'm down in the dumps again
Trying my hardest, but my shots just don't fall
Down in the dumps again
Working my butt off and I'm sick of it all

And I got another rejection today
Another spit in the face, another no
And I got another rejection today
And I just want to give in and go home

"Maybe I'm trying too hard" one voice cries
"Maybe I'm not trying enough"
"Maybe I'm destined for failure"
"Maybe I'm being too rough...
On myself"

I'm down in the dumps again
Trying my hardest, but my shots just don't fall
Down in the dumps again
Working my butt off and I'm sick of it all

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Daily Show

So, I have a new favorite TV show. The Daily Show. It's a news show (kind of) that specializes in making fun of politicians and the media. Recently, the show has come under attack by major newspapers. "Is Jon Stewart a threat?" the headlines read. Evidence shows that those who watch the show tend to be more cynical towards both the Republican and the Democrat parties. The newspaper then claims that because those who watch The Daily Show are more cynical towards American politics, they tend to vote less. No evidence for this last claim is offered. I can think of four reasons for this lack of evidence. First, they did some sort of survey, found that those who watch the show are actually more likely to vote, and so suppressed the information. Second, that they didn't do a survey because they were afraid of what the actual results would be. Third, that they were too stupid to realize that evidence is necessary to make an actual case. Fourth, that they figured their average reader was gullible enough to believe whatever they printed. In any case, we're talking either corrupt or stupid.

A quiz survey done during the last presidential election showed that those who watched the Daily Show knew more about issues of the election than those who watched major news programs or read the newspaper (see CNN.com for more info). Why? Because The Daily Show actually talks about important topics. They don't spend hours upon hours talking about a single missing person when people go missing every day. They don't spend eternity talking about a rape case, about celebrity crap, etc. Not that some of this stuff isn't important--but the Daily Show would rather focus on stupid politicians than celebrities. The important issues are discussed. The issues important only at a local level are left alone (unless politics is involved).

Personally, I think mainstream media is getting tired of the well-deserved attacks The Daily Show keeps pulling on them. There's the threat. That, and The Daily Show is directly competing against other supposedly more credible news sources. Truth is, and I realize this is entirely anecdotal, I've been watching The Daily Show for about a month. I've been registered to vote for eight years...and I voted for the very first time last week. I believe part of my reason for voting was The Daily Show.
I challenge news media to actually do a study on how The Daily Show affects voting. Meanwhile, I'll continue to watch it so that I can learn, laugh, and make fun of stupid and corrupt politicians and media. Long live The Daily Show.

Great albums

In this current age of MTV and radio-friendly singles, the quality album is often forgotten. Here is my list of top albums (in no particular order). Keep in mind that I own over 300 CDs, so this top 10 list is very selective.

Savatage--Dead Winter Dead
Savatage--Handful of Rain
Eternity X--The Edge
Pain of Salvation--Remedy Lane
Marillion--Clutching at Straws
Fates Warning--Parallels
Dream Theater--Images and Words
Angra--Holy Land
Neal Morse--One

Most of these I consider progressive metal--melodic, complex, even bombastic (think a mix between Metallica and Queen). Marillion is progressive rock with incredible lyrics, Neal Morse is progressive rock/pop/Christian (that particular album is very deep). Evanescence...I'm not sure what it's classified as, but it should be considered progressive rock to some degree. Despite their frequent airplay on the radio, I didn't get into them until my friend Kirk burned their CD for me...guess that shows how much I listen to the radio. Anyway, if you're looking for intense music, those are all great places to start.

Best bands:
Savatage (including side projects such as Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Circle II Circle's first album, Jon Oliva's Pain)
Rush (with the exception of Vapor Trails)
Dream Theater (with the exception of Train of Thought) and side projects including Mullmuzzler and Mike Portnoy's work with Neal Morse

Best local band (Utah--Provo even):
Hourglass (infrequent shows, but a couple of good albums, and their shows, when they have them, are not only a chance to see a good act, but also a great opportunity to run into fellow prog metal fans)

Friday, June 30, 2006

Modern mainstream music

Is it just me, or does most modern mainstream music suck? My teenage brother listens to Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd (as well as a ton of other classic rock); he doesn't entirely avoid newer music, but his favorite radio stations play the old stuff...
Go into any mall, and you'll find Zeppelin, Floyd, The Doors, etc. on many a t-shirt. Go to a local high school, and you'll find those same t-shirts. Music that's over 30 years old.
Did our parents in the 1960s and 1970s listen to stuff done in the '30s and '40s? Are you kidding? With great modern music being played on the radio, why listen to the old stuff? So what is my little brother (and so many other teenagers) doing? Listening to the stuff their parents listened to as teenagers? How uncool is that? Apparently not as uncool as listening to modern mainstream music.
So what is it that makes mainstream music in the 70's so cool? Maybe it's the fact that not all of the music was about sex. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that those musicians were not popular because they could dance and had nice bodies...but because they could write good music (their own music) and could actually play their own instruments (and do a good job of it). Maybe it's because they were actual...what's the word...musicians.
MTV certainly played an evil role. They still do. There's no question that it's no longer about the music. It's about selling junk to hormonified 13-year old girls. It's about image, about celebrity, about business.

A roommate of mine once made a comment along the lines of "we should respect this stuff as much as we respect good music because those doing it have good business skills." Ah yes. The old "respect something because it makes money" routine. Except it sucks. Oh, yes. How's the music business doing these days, anyway? Not so well? It's the internet's fault? All these pirates, stealing music, not paying for it? A few points:
No one wants to spend $17 for a CD that has one or two good songs on it. The internet lets us get around that problem. Who's the real criminal here, anyway?
Classic rock is more popular than ever. And everyone's dad owns some classic rock albums...why buy when you already have?
The internet allows one to hear music before buying it...no wonder no one's buying the modern pop.
Many radio stations insist on playing the same fifteen songs over and over again. Can't think of a better way to turn a decent song into something I never want to hear again. (But, since I already despise the other fourteen songs, chances are I won't be listening to the radio anyway). Oh, and six different stations are all playing the exact fifteen-song rotation...A lack of diversity in biology leads to inbreeding (ie-incest). And incest often results in retarded children...You know where I'm going with this.
The music business (business music) has made it all about sex. But you can find sex just about anywhere these days. Music, true music...that's a bit tougher to find. The best is passionate, written from the heart, written intelligently. And people that can do that are tougher for the business types to control. Better if they can get a puppet to dance for them. If things go downhill, just cut the strings and watch the idiot (I mean puppet) fall.

I used to think that great music was rare. I used to believe that the radio was the only place to go to hear music, and it was clear that there was only so much to listen to. Then I discovered the internet. Reviews (so I no longer have to cross my fingers and hope that because Rolling Stone hates it, I'll enjoy it). Band websites that actually let you listen to the music. And if they don't, well, you can always find it somewhere else (and maybe even download it...) Internet radio, where you can find just about anything, including music on independent labels. Message boards, where, even if you don't personally know anyone who likes the same music you do, you can still talk to people who do.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to spread the word that great music is still out there. I wear a Dream Theater (the epitome of progressive metal) t-shirt, and even in Provo, Utah, it gets positive reactions, allowing me to strike up conversations asking for recommendations, and recommending bands such as Savatage and Pain of Salvation while I'm at it. I took my 16-year old brother and 14-year old sister to last year's Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert. I play Savatage's "Not What You See" for anyone I think might enjoy it (a couple of family members and two good friends are now big Savatage fans). And I'm stunned when VH1 (the evil twin of sinister MTV) lists King Crimson, a progressive rock band I've never heard played on the radio, as one of the 100 greatest hard rock bands ever. Maybe there's hope for the music world after all.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Interesting article on "Fairness in teaching evolution"

Found this article at www.skeptic.com. It does a good job of analyzing "fair play" and "teaching both sides" in the biology classroom. There's always more than just two sides...

Vol. 12 No. 2
Featured Article

by David Brin

There is rich irony in how the present battle over Creationism v. Darwinism has taken shape, and especially the ways that this round differs from previous episodes. A clue to both the recent success — and the eventual collapse — of “Intelligent Design” can be found in its name, and in the new tactics that are being used to support its incorporation into school curricula. In what must be taken as sincere flattery, these tactics appear to acknowledge just how deeply the inner lessons of science have pervaded modern culture.

Intelligent Design (ID) pays tribute to its rival, by demanding to be recognized as a direct and “scientific” competitor with the Theory of Evolution. Unlike the Creationists of 20 years ago, proponents of ID no longer refer to biblical passages. Instead, they invoke skepticism and cite alleged faulty evidence as reasons to teach students alternatives to evolution.

True, they produce little or no evidence to support their own position. ID promoters barely try to undermine evolution as a vast and sophisticated model of the world, supported by millions of tested and interlocking facts. At the level that they are fighting, none of that matters. Their target is the millions of onlookers and voters, for whom the battle is as emotional and symbolic as it ever was.

What has changed is the armory of symbols and ideas being used. Proponents of Intelligent Design now appeal to notions that are far more a part of the lexicon of science than religion, notably openness to criticism, fair play, and respect for the contingent nature of truth.

These concepts proved successful in helping our civilization to thrive, not only in science, but markets, democracy and a myriad other modern processes. Indeed, they have been incorporated into the moral foundations held by average citizens, of all parties and creeds. Hence, the New Creationists have adapted and learned to base their arguments upon these same principles. One might paraphrase the new position, that has been expressed by President Bush and many others, as follows:

What do evolutionists have to fear? Are they so worried about competition and criticism that they must censor what bright students are allowed to hear? Let all sides present their evidence and students will decide for themselves!

One has to appreciate not only irony, but an implied tribute to the scientific enlightenment, when we realize that openness to criticism, fair play, and respect for the contingent nature of truth are now the main justifications set forward by those who still do not fully accept science. Some of those promoting a fundamentalist- religious agenda now appeal to principles they once fiercely resisted. (In fairness, some religions helped to promote these concepts.) Perhaps they find it a tactically useful maneuver.

It’s an impressive one. And it has allowed them to steal a march. While scientists and their supporters try to fight back with judicious reasoning and mountains of evidence, a certain fraction of the population perceives only smug professors, fighting to protect their turf — authority figures trying to squelch brave underdogs before they can compete. Image matters. And this self-portrayal — as champions of open debate, standing up to stodgy authorities — has worked well for the proponents of Intelligent Design (ID). For now.

Yet, I believe they have made a mistake. By basing their offensive on core notions of fair play and completeness, ID promoters have employed a clever short-term tactic, but have incurred a long-term strategic liability. Because, their grand conceptual error is in believing that their incantation of Intelligent Design is the only alternative to Darwinian evolution.

If students deserve to weigh ID against natural selection, then why not also expose them to…
1. Guided Evolution

This is the deist compromise most commonly held by thousands — possibly millions — of working scientists who want to reconcile science and faith. Yes, the Earth is 4.6 billion years old and our earliest ancestors emerged from a stew of amino acids that also led to crabs, monkeys and slime molds who are all distant relatives. Still, a creative force may have been behind the Big Bang, and especially the selection of some finely tuned physical constants, whose narrow balance appears to make the evolution of life possible, maybe even inevitable. Likewise, such a force may have given frequent or occasional nudges of subtle guidance to evolution, all along, as part of a Divine Plan.

There is one advantage — and drawback — to this notion (depending on your perspective): it is compatible with everything we see around us — all the evidence we’ve accumulated — and it is utterly impossible to prove or disprove. Not only does this let many scientists continue both to pray and do research, but it has allowed the Catholic Church and many other religious organizations to accept (at long last) evolution as fact, with relatively good grace.
2. Intelligent Design of Intelligent Designers (IDOID)

Most Judeo-Christian sects dislike speculating about possible origins of the Creator. But not all avoid the topic. Mormons, for example, hold that the God of this universe — who created humanity (or at least guided our evolution) — was once Himself a mortal being who was created by a previous God in a prior universe or context.

One can imagine someone applying the very same logic that Intelligent Design promoters have used.

There is no way that such a fantastic entity as God could have simply erupted out of nothing. Such order and magnificence could not possibly have self-organized out of chaos. Only intelligence can truly create order, especially order of such a supreme nature.

Oh, certainly there are theological arguments that have been around since Augustine to try and quell such thoughts, arguing in favor of ex nihilio or timeless pre-existence, or threatening punishment for even asking the question. But that’s the point! Any effort to raise these rebuttals will:

1. make this a matter of theology (something the ID people have strenuously avoided).
2. smack as an attempt to quash other ideas, flying against the very same principles of fair play and completeness that ID proponents have used to prop up this whole effort.

IDOID will have to be let in, or the whole program must collapse under howling derision and accusations of hypocrisy.
3. Evolution of Intelligent Designers

Yes, you read me right. Recent advances in cosmology have led some of the world’s leading cosmologists, such as Syracuse University’s Lee Smolin, to suggest that each time a large black hole forms (and our universe contains many) it serves as an “egg” for the creation of an entirely new “baby universe” that detaches from ours completely, beginning an independent existence in some non-causally connected region of false vacuum. Out of this collapsing black hole arises a new cosmos, perhaps with its own subsequent Big Bang and expansion, including the formation of stars, planets, etc. Smolin further posits that our own universe may have come about that way, and so did its “parent” cosmos, and so on, backward through countless cycles of hyper-time.

Moreover, in a leap of highly original logic, Smolin went on to persuasively argue that each new universe might be slightly better adapted than its ancestor. Adapted for what? Why, to create more black holes — the eggs — needed for reproducing more universes.

Up to this point we have a more sophisticated and vastly larger-scale version of what Richard Dawkins called the evolution of evolvability. But Lee Smolin takes it farther still, contending that, zillions of cycles of increasingly sophisticated universes would lead to some that inherit just the right physical constants and boundary conditions.

Conditions that enable life to form. And then intelligence … and then…

Well, now it’s our turn to take things even farther than Smolin did. Any advocate of completeness would have to extend this evolutionary process beyond achieving mere sapience like ours, all the way to producing intelligence so potent that it can then start performing acts of creation on its own, manipulating and using black holes to fashion universes to specific design.

In other words, there might be an intelligent designer of this world … who nevertheless came into being as a result of evolution.

Sound a little newfangled and contrived? So do all new ideas! And yet, no one can deny that it covers a legitimate portion of idea space. And since “weighing the evidence” is to be left to students, well, shouldn’t they be exposed to this idea too? Again, the principles now used by proponents of ID — fair play and completeness — may turn around and bite them.

Which brings us to some of the classics.
4. Cycles of Creation

Perhaps the whole thing does not have a clear-cut beginning or end, but rolls along like a wheel? That certainly would allow enough macro-time for everything and anything to happen. Interestingly, the cyclical notion opens up infinite time for both evolution and intelligent designers … though not of any kind that will please ID promoters. Shall Hindu gurus and Mayan priest kings step up and demand equal time for their theories of creation cycles? How can you stop them, once the principle is established that every hypothesis deserves equal treatment in the schools, allowing students to hear and weigh any notion that claims to explain the world?
5. Panspermia

This one is venerable and quite old within the scientific community, which posits that life on Earth may have been seeded from elsewhere in the cosmos. Panspermia was trotted out for the “Scopes II” trial in the 1980s, when Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinge were among the few first-rank scientists to openly disbelieve the standard Origins model — the one that posits life appeared independently out of nonliving chemicals in Earth’s early oceans. Their calculations (since then refuted) suggested that it would take hundreds of oceans and many times the age of the Earth for random chemistry to achieve a workable, living cell.

Alas for the Creationists of that day, Hoyle and Wickramasinge did not turn out to be useful as friendly experts, because their alternative offered no comfort to the biblical Genesis story. They pointed out that our galaxy probably contains a whole lot more than a few hundred Earth oceans. Multiplying the age of the Milky Way times many billions of possible planets — and comets too — they readily conceded that random chance could make successful cells, eventually, on one world or another. (Or, possibly, in the liquid interiors of trillions of newborn comets.) All it would take then are asteroid impacts ejecting hardy cells into the void for life to then spread gradually throughout the cosmos. Perhaps it might even be done deliberately, once a single lucky source world achieved intelligence through … well … evolution. (Needless to say, Creationists found Hoyle & Wickramasinge a big disappointment.)

So far, we have amassed quite a list of legitimate competitors … that is, if Intelligent Design is one. Now a cautionary pause. Some alternative theories that I have left out include satirical pseudo-religions, like one recent internet fad attributing creation to something called the “Flying Spaghetti Monster.” These humorous jibes have a place, but their blows do not land on-target. They miss the twin pillars of completeness and fair play, upon which promoters of Intelligent Design have based their attack against secular-modernist science. By erasing all theological details, they hoped to eliminate any vulnerabilities arising from those details. Indeed, since the Spaghetti Monster is purported to be an Intelligent Designer, they can even chuckle and welcome it into the fold, knowing that it will win no real converts.

Not so for the items listed here. Each of these concepts — adding to idea-space completeness and deserving fair play — implies a dangerous competitor for Intelligent Design, a competitor that may seduce at least a few students into its sphere of influence. This undermines the implicit goal of ID, which is to proselytize a fundamentalist/literalist interpretation of the Christian Bible.

There are other possibilities, and I am sure readers could continue adding to the list, long after I am done, such as…

* We’re living in a simulation…
* We’ve been resurrected at the Omega Point…
* It’s all in your imagination … and so on.

I doubt that the promoters of Intelligent Design really want to see a day come when every biology teacher says: “Okay, you’ve heard from Darwin. Now we’ll spend a week on each of the following: intelligent design, guided evolution, intelligent design of intelligent designers, evolution of intelligent designers, the Hindu cycle of karma, the Mayan yuga cycle, panspermia, the Universe as a simulation…” and so on.

Each of these viewpoints can muster support from philosophers and even some modern physicists, and can gather as much supporting evidence as ID. In any case they are all equally defensible as concepts. And only censoring bullies would prevent students from hearing them and exercising their sovereign right to decide for themselves, right? Or, perhaps, they might even start private sessions after school, to study the science called … biology.

A day may come when the promoters of Intelligent Design wish they had left well enough alone.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

High Hopes

She has this smile
A bit of fire
Independent dame
Rebel yet a saint
If only we had a common touch
Something to connect the two of us.

High hopes
I had high hopes
High hopes it would work out this time
High hopes that she would match my style
High hopes
I had high hopes

Her blue eyes, the way her hair curls
She seemed like the perfect girl
But when it comes right down to it
We're worlds apart
Our interest just don't coincide
Her life is just too far from mine
High hopes
I had high hopes

Perhaps my hopes were a bit too high
Perhaps I paid too much attention to those eyes
Those beautiful blue eyes
High hopes
I still have high hopes

But this might be my hope's last chance
Because it's tough to have high hopes dashed
So many times...

High hopes
Still have high hopes.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Beauty in Brugges

She wants something I just can't offer her
She seeks something I just can't give
A romance that's really a dead end
A friendship that can't ever live.
Just fleeting moments on this whirlwind
Whispers darting in the dark
Tomorrow I'm gone from this life again
Tomorrow this light's lost its spark.

I feel bad for denying her the moment
Feel bad for denying her the time
Part of me wants to be with her
But I know my decision's right.

What she wants will hurt her
What she wants will bring her down
What I have to offer her
Is gone when I leave this town.

Moments forgotten in memory
Tomorrow remembered in dream
Just a touch of deja vu
Already now must I leave.
A conversation I swear I've had before
A sight I've already seen
This traveler in time feels lost again
Is reality what it seems?
Am I stuck in a cave somewhere
Watching shadows flit on the walls
Signs of life but not quite real
Reflections of mirrors in a hall.

What she wants will hurt her
What she wants will bring her down
What I have to offer her
Is gone when I leave this town.

So Many Cards

So many cards that I could've played differently
So many things that I could've changed
So many choices I would've made otherwise
Had I but known the rules to the game.

So many people I left disappointed
So many people I never met at all
So many friends who are lost to the past now
So many friends I never call.

So many cards that I could've played differently
So many things that I could've changed
So many choices I would've made otherwise
Had I but known the rules of the game.

So many girls, had I just been brave enough
A simple hello or a how do you do
A simple man lacking in confidence
Try to build up my pride; what more can I do
And one girl in particular
Had I made up my mind
And just had the guts
To make her mine

So many cards that I could've played differently
So many things that I could've changed
So many choices I would've made otherwise
Had I but known the rules of the game.

So many years I've been all alone now
So many years without her by my side
So many regrets...can I go back again
Can I turn back the course of time?

If I can just muster the courage up
If I can just call up the pride
If I can tell her all that she means to me
Maybe this time I can make her mine.

So many cards that I could've played differently
So many things that I could've changed
So many choices I would've made otherwise
Had I but known the rules to the game.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Summer 2005-Friends in Europe-Joe and the DeCurtins

Pictures of Europe

I spent 10 weeks during the summer of 2005 touring Europe. I spent about $6000 on the trip (that includes airfare, room and board, sight-seeing, transportation costs, etc.) I briefly visited wards I'd served in in Germany (Karlsruhe and Wetzlar) as well as personal and family friends from my childhood days in Switzerland. I traveled solo and stayed in hostels and cheap bed and breakfasts. I hit countries all over Europe; favorites include Norway (check out some of the awesome scenery), Switzerland (scenery and old friends I hadn't seen for 18 years), France (but not Paris and her hordes of ugly American tourists), Germany (especially the nice non-touristy towns with so much charm), and England. These pictures represent Europe at its best, and some of the friends I visited there.

Summer 2005-Norway

Summer 2005-Swiss Alps near Gimmelwald

Summer 2005-Eastern France

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Standing Tall (with apologies to Bob Seger)

On the wet and windy high roads
Of West Germany
You can hear the boys a-pedalin'
Their missionary pleas
You're thinking about the girlfriend
And family left overseas.

But your thoughts will soon be wanderin'
The way they always do
When you're tracting thirteen hours
And there's not much else to do
And you don't feel much like tractin'
You just wish the day was through.

Here I am, Mormon missionary
There I go, giving my all
Here I am, Frankfurt Germany
There I go...standing tall.

Well you walk onto the city streets
Strung out from your load
And you feel the eyes upon you
As you're shaking from the cold
You pretend it doesn't bother you
But you just want to explode.

Sometimes you can't hear them talk
Other times you can
All the same old cliches,
"Are they JWs or some scam"
And you always feel outnumbered
But you're a brave young man.

Here I am, Mormon missionary
There I go, giving my all
Here I am, Frankfurt Germany
There I go...standing tall.

Out there preaching repentance
Full of faith and full of hope
To the German masses
Who refuse to follow Pope
I feel the powers gathering,
But the people won't take note.

Later in the evening as I say my late night prayers
Begging for catastrophe or two wild mean she-bears
I hear the church bells ringing, ringing loud and clear.

Here I am, on the streets again
There I go, rapping on doors
Here I am, giving all I got
There I go...serve the Lord.
Oh here I am, Mormon missionary
There I go, giving my all
Here I am Frankfurt Germany
There I go...standing tall.

Music (and much of the lyrics) taken from Bob Seger's "Turn the Page".


You're thinking today's just one of those days
Where you'll do the work and you'll get the pay
Where things are just normal, boring, mundane
Well then my friend, it's time for a change

There's a fire out there, and it's burning the flame
Of personal worth and a place in the game
And everyone's going slowly insane
In the face of the frightening frenzying flames

Well you're building up a wall of stone
While your next door neighbor's burning down his home
And the frost of the cold lonely dead winter night
Is melting in the relentless fiery light

There's a fire out there and it's burning the flame
Of personal worth and a place in the game
And everyone's going slowly insane
In the face of the frightening frenzying flames

The sharp criticisms of cynical minds
The dubious actions of devilish kinds
The millions and millions of miniscule lies
And out in the distance, foreign war cries

And you're thinking today's just one of those days

The Easter Song

I never knew how much He meant to me
'Til I found myself alone
My friends and I had gone our separate ways
Though our friendship was still set in stone
At that time I had no one to talk to
No one nearby to confide
So I kneeled down on cold ground
And I offered a prayer to up high
I remember the old story
Of the night at Bethlehem
The stable the star and the shepherds
Gathered for the birth of the Lamb
I see Him at Gethsemane
And on the cross of death
A crown of thorns upon his head
The nails being set
Then I see him approach Mary
Resurrected, a new man
I see the love he radiates
And the piercings on his hands.
I marvel at his glory
And I wonder at his might
The man of many miracles
Surrounded by this light
And I'm surrounded by His light.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Disappearance of Love

Ahh-Can't stand this madness
An old friendly face ain't so friendly right now
Ruined anticipation
What I thought would be magic I've lost it somehow.

And now that I know
Of the fool that I am
Just more doubt creeping in
Just more failures to plan.
And I saw her again
Saw how different I was
How much I had changed
Disappearance of love.

Have I changed all that much?
What have I become?
A different man sure
More my father's son.
But I'm still too dependent
On others dreams
When I feel that my own
Are not what they seem.

And now that I know
Of the fool that I am
Just more doubt creeping in
Just more failures to plan.
And I saw her again
Saw how different I was
How much I had changed
Disappearance of love.

The things I believe versus
The things that I know
I know others change
I know others grow.
But have I grown?
How have I changed?
Back then I knew more
Than I'm thinking today.

And now that I know
Of the fool that I am
Just more doubt creeping in
Just more failures to plan.
And I saw her again
Saw how different I was
How much I had changed
Disappearance of love.

The Memory of the Man

Hey, I heard you were leaving tomorrow
Hey, I heard you're going home to stay
Hey, I heard your time here is over
And you're done with this tired charade.

I know you miss your wife now
You haven't seen her for so long
You long for her sweet company
For years now she's been gone.
You're surrounded by your friends now
We love you like no one else
Our example, our friend, and our mentor
Always there when we needed help.

Hey, I heard you were leaving tomorrow
Hey, I heard you're going home to stay
Hey, I heard your time here is over
And you're done with this tired charade.

We knew the time was coming
We could see it in your eyes
We felt it through your handshake
We knew it when you smiled.
I hope your journey's peaceful
I know the time is short
You'll be passing on and leaving
But you're telling us not to lose hope.
"One day you can join me
It's not as far as it seems
One day you can be a part, again
Of my thoughts, my hopes, my dreams.
This life is but a moment
A roller coaster ride
But if you have a bit of patience
I'll see you on the other side."

It's the memory of the man that drives me
It's the thought of some day growing old
It's believing in better things to come
Of greener fields to roam.

In memory of my grandfather, Veldon Jones

Thursday, June 01, 2006

"A Bible, a Bible..." and how it can apply to us.

I'm reading an article from the March 2006 issue of National Geographic. The article is about the Genographic Project, which looks at DNA to track human migration routes. Most of our DNA is a mix of our parents, but a certain portion (mitochondrial DNA) comes only from our mother, and the Y chromosome part of male DNA goes only from father to son. Small differences in this DNA allows scientists to track where it came from, much as we can study the origins of a specific language based on vocabulary. However, certain groups are against this research. I quote from an advocacy group: "The fundamental question the project is asking is 'Where do we come from?' That's not a question that is of interest to us as indigenous people. We already know where we came from." Remind anyone of 2 Nephi 29:3? "A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible." We already know. We don't need more knowledge. Don't learn more truth; we have enough.

Part of this pride and willing ignorance is based on fear that new scientific knowledge will contradict religious or traditional beliefs about a group's origins. But shouldn't people be interested in finding out what science has to say about where they come from? We do genealogy for that very purpose. There's little chance that genealogy will contradict something we believe in, but what if we find out that our great-great-great-great grandfather was a horse thief? Does that really change anything about how we live our lives?

Two or three centuries ago, we had no idea what caused disease. It was seen as a curse, magic, the punishment of God, etc. Religion and tradition, although the fount of much truth, did not reveal the source of disease. Science eventually did. Now that we have a better understanding of disease, we can do more to prevent and cure it. What science can't do is prove that disease is or isn't a curse from God. That's the place of religion.

There's a fairly new religious movement called Intelligent Design. It's the latest version of anti-evolution, and its main premise is that some (but not all) things in biology are too complex to be created through evolution, and therefore require an intelligent designer. The father of Intelligent Design is a law professor. What a law professor is doing founding a supposedly scientific and religious movement, one can only guess. A handful of actual scientists have joined the popular movement. A biochemist named Behe wrote a book called "Darwin's Black Box", which proved to be immensely popular among non-scientists. He proves his ignorance about evolution by misdefining it...there are other problems, too many to list here. I'll have to devote another post to that. Ken Miller, a religious Catholic and a biologist, does an in-depth criticism of Behe's book in "Finding Darwin's God" (and his criticisms are more specific and different from mine). A federal judge in Dover, Pennsylvania, ruled against even mentioning Intelligent Design in the classroom. From www.time.com:

(Judge) Jones pointedly rejected intelligent design as a legitimate scientific theory. “To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect,” he wrote. “However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.”

Jones sharply rejected any suggestion that evolution was somehow at odds with religion. “Both defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption that is utterly false,” he wrote. “Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, plaintiff’s scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.”

You're thinking now, "Well, he's obviously a liberal." Or even, "he's obviously not religious." Wrong. He was appointed by George W. Bush, he's a conservative republican, and he's an active religious Christian. So how did he come to his decision? Behe stood on the stand and provided a number of 'evidences' against evolution from his "Darwin's Black Box." And the other side brought in a specific specialist for each individual 'evidence'. Evolution of flagella, of immunology, etc. With over 50 scientific papers on the evolution of immunology on his desk, most of which he had not read, Behe refused to admit enough evidence existed to prove immunology came about through evolution. And Judge Jones started wondering how much evidence Behe needed.

Despite what anti-evolutionists would have you believe, Intelligent Design is not accepted in the scientific community. Religious universities such as BYU teach evolution in a number of biology courses and as its own course, required for a degree in biology. They also do extensive research on it; one BYU research paper on evolution was featured on the front page of Nature, one of the world's top two science journals (Jan. 15 2003 issue). As far as human evolution goes, the BYU course spends significant time on it (personal experience, here). Next door, at UVSC, the chapter on human evolution is optional. Intelligent Design is, of course, not taught, although I've heard rumors that a few of the religion professors teach their own version of anti-evolution. The first presidency of the LDS church issued this statement to the general authorities in 1931:

Leave geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church.

And in 1910:

Whether the mortal bodies of man evolved in natural processes to present perfection, through the direction and power of God; whether the first parents of our generations, Adam and Eve, were transplanted from another sphere, with immortal tabernacles, which became corrupted through sin and the partaking of natural foods, in the process of time; whether they were born here in mortality, as other mortals have been, are questions not fully answered in the revealed word of God.

I'm being one-sided here. A couple of church leaders have spoken out against evolution. Just open up a copy of 'McConkie Doctrine' or an old institute guide of the Old Testament. The above statements were made at a time when church leaders who accepted evolution (mostly geologists and other scientists) were pitted against those who did not accept it (non-scientists). What strikes me is that the LDS church is firm that human evolution (the link between geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology) is a matter for scientists and not for religion.

Why does any of this matter? If we believe that something has a scientifically unexplainable origin, we won't use science to try to learn more about it. If our religious beliefs are based on the gaps of science, on "science can't explain it, so it must be God," our belief will falter as science continues to make strides. Both faith and science lose out to our pride, to us saying "A Bible, a Bible..." Neither science nor religion hold all the answers. Science cannot prove or disprove God, nor can it say whether he played a role in causing a disease or in evolution. Religion does not give us details about how to cure cancer, or how birds evolved from dinosaurs. We can learn from both. If we are to flourish as an intelligent, moral society, we need to learn from both.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Cut the Lines

The music spoke to me again
Spoke of sorrow and despair
The music spoke to me again
Said you watch out, said you beware
The stranger greeted me once more
Words of warning eyes of gold
Told me to watch my step in time
Told me to walk a finer line
Told me my ways were wrong again
Told me I needed to begin

Cut the lines, leave the past
Don't regret the life you led
Cut the lines, forge anew
Make a new attempt he said
But I'm alone, I said to him
He looked at me, gleam in his eyes
You're not alone, you're not alone
I knew inside he could not lie
So start again, just start anew
There's so much here for you to do
Don't let your past control the now
Don't let old loves linger somehow
Time to move on, to start again
Time...to begin
Another day
Another page
Another start
Another phase
Another life
Another love
Another time
Time to move on

She wasn't right for you you know
I nodded in defeat
She wasn't her, the one you seek
I nodded in defeat
So find her now, begin again
She's out there waiting for a friend
And you're here mourning for the past
The future will be better...

Forget the past the time is now
To leave your mark
To seize the day
You're better than you think you are
You're stronger still than what they say
Show them the man you really are
Show them what you have become
They only hold back 'cause they don't know
The man you are, the time you've done

I realized then just who he was
As he disappeared from sight
I took his words into my heart
I knew that what he said was right
Just seize the day, begin anew
Cut the lines leave them behind
There's more for me if I'll just take
The future in my hands...
I understand.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Chemistry Book

Chemistry book would you trade me places?
Just for a while, an hour or so?
I envy the way that she looks at you studies you
Takes you every place she wants to go.
For hours a day you're her only companion
For hours a day you're all that she sees
Noting each detail lovingly, caringly
Reading your pages oh I wish it were me.

Chemistry--What I want to have with her
Chemistry--This equation's all wrong
Chemistry--She's too good for you
Chemistry--Don't you stick around too long

Organic chemistry, my worst enemy
You and her and those cohesive bonds
I just wish she'd spend a little more time with me,
So much time with you--that's just plain wrong.

Chemistry--What I want to have with her
Chemistry--This equation's all wrong
Chemistry--She's too good for you
Chemistry--Don't you stick around too long

I've never been jealous of a textbook before
Ten pounds of paper--she's better than that.
Never had such ugly competition
Never seen a guy with a face so flat.

Chemistry--What I want to have with her
Chemistry--This equation's all wrong
Chemistry--She's too good for you
Chemistry--Don't you stick around too long

Special thanks to Christine Baker (soon to be Henrichsen) for the inspiration, and to Matt Brown and the rest of the Fellowship and company of 2001/2002 for their support. Apologies to Aaron (who would've thought...platonic relationships and all...)

Tired of Waiting

Waiting. I'm tired of waiting
It's trying my patience
While my sanity takes the back door
Working. I'm tired of working
Tired of watching
While others reap the reward

So give me something I've been working for
A chance, an opening, a foot in the door
Some success after all this time
A touch of luck, a bit of the divine

There's a hole in my heart
A dark spot on my soul
An emptiness in my arms
And I just don't know
If I can take being alone

Another date last night, another failure
No sign of anything, let alone chemistry
'Nother nice girl, another tragedy
Bundled up in this farce reality


Give me a lucky break...
A girl I can take...
Past the first same old date.

Think I've finally found one
Smart and beautiful
Seems to like me
Makes me feel comfortable
Been callin' all week
Just can't get a hold of her
Has plans every night
And it feels like the cold shoulder
I don't know what to do
What do I haf' to prove?

(Chorus--repeat first 4 lines/overlap vocals, strong ending with last 2 lines of chorus)

Sleep and BNL for those with problems sleeping

I've never been a huge BNL fan, but right now, for some strange reason, I have one of their songs circling round my brain. I went to their concert two years ago (a young woman invited me, and at that point I would have gone to a country concert, a rodeo, probably even a pop concert, as long as she asked me). Whatever else one may say about BNL, they put on a great show. But their song about sleep...I'm sick about thinking about sleep. Why? It's my job. Not sleeping (unfortunately), but watching people sleep. I'm also sick of people finding out what my job is and saying, "I need to talk to you about that" and then never talking to me about it. If you're one of those people, read the following and then come and talk with me.

1. Lose weight already. Americans are fat. Even skinny guys like me are succumbing to a sugar and bacon diet, and fat people tend to snore more and have worse sleep (it's called sleep apnea). Now if you're thin already, don't try to lose more weight. You'll end up looking like a friend of mine who's an inch taller and 50 pounds lighter than me (and I'm not technically overweight). Super-skinny's not healthy either (although this friend is in better shape than I am). There are other options to getting a good night's sleep if you have apnea, so talk to a doctor. If everyone were a healthy weight, I'd be out of a job.

2. Stop watching TV or doing stuff on the computer right before you get into bed. Bright lights and sleep don't go well together. I could get into a long lecture about how we've adapted to sleeping while it's dark and staying active while it's light, and how our bodies and minds react to darkness and light, but I'd have to use the 'e' word, and I'd rather not get too much hatemail just yet.

3. Keep regular hours. OK, so I'm a hypocrite...I work graveyard. Somebody's got to do it. 'Regular hours' doesn't mean 5 hours on the weekdays and 12 on weekends...and no, chances are you don't do best with just 5 hours sleep. (I had a mission comp who insisted he was the exception; that explains more than I have time to write here).

4. Reserve the bedroom for sleep and sleep only (as long as you're single). Whenever possible, don't sleep in places other than your bed.

5. Big surprise...alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine are bad news. Caffeine has a half-life of 8 hours--that means that 8 hours after that last Coke, half of the caffeine is still in your system, keeping you awake. 16 hours later, 25% of it's still there. Watch your sugar intake too.

6. If noise (like a snoring roommate) is keeping you awake, try earplugs or white noise ( a fan or anything that provides a consistent sound to drown out the snoring).

7. Sleeping pills can be addictive, and with use they rapidly become less effective. Follow the instructions on the bottle, and don't take them too often.

8. If you're still having problems, see a doctor. I had a mission companion (a different one than mentioned before) who would fall asleep during morning study and even during appointments. It drove him crazy. He tried everything. The mission president said "just try standing up." Great way to solve the problem...except it didn't work. In any case, the focus should be on prevention (getting enough quality sleep) and not cute ideas like 'standing up'. After the mission, he went to a doctor and finally found out what was happening. There is no complete cure for narcolepsy, no way to prevent it, but once he knew he had it, he could learn how to deal with it.
Diseases like this are fairly rare. More common is insomnia. The above ideas can help. Poor sleep can affect your physical health, your energy level, your intellect, your mood...see a doctor and get it fixed.

I should probably have some sort of legal disclaimer...I'm not a doctor...talk to your doctor before doing anything I've mentioned even though most of it is common sense...I can not be held liable for injury or death as a result of the above recommendations...

Welcome to Tim's blog

Here is my place to post essays, poems, pictures, and anything else I personally find of interest. It's also something for me to do during long graveyard shifts. I also contribute to a website at www.progpages.com (music reviews and a message board) and a blog at hanumangroup.