Thursday, December 30, 2010

New radio program

I just ran across a new program on an online radio station. The program is called "Insights," and the first episode features "a leading authority on Islam and the Arab world (who) discusses the roots of Islam and gives us a better understanding of the Arab culture today."

The second episode--a favorite of mine--focuses on biology. "Dr. Dennis Shiozawa...shares his research into fresh-water fish. Learn how biologists track species and map DNA to better understand gene pools, evolution, (and) our effect on our environment."

Evolution, environmentalism, and a positive Islam/Muslim approach. Is it an offshoot of NPR? A liberal media radio station? Something produced by some university somewhere? Nope.

The program is "Insights" and it's produced by...wait for it...the LDS church. The radio station is "The Mormon Channel," and it's the official radio station of the church.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Another great series cancelled

This time it's "Rubicon." An AMC series with great characters and great suspense. Because the show itself is not action-packed, the occasional action that does happen is actually intense. I'm said to see it go. I highly recommend it. Maybe it will become big in a year or two and they'll make a follow-up movie...
A very unique show. I'm not happy it's over.

Another AMC series, "The Walking Dead" is also (surprisingly, as it's a zombie TV show) fairly good. Expect a fair amount of gore, though.

Seeing these shows makes me wonder if any other AMC shows are worth watching. Anyone seen any?

And "Justified" returns in February.

By the way, we'll be visiting Utah for the holidays. If any of you are around, maybe we can do a game night or something.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

New Church Website

Check out the new changes to the church website. I've heard rumors they'd finally update the ward memberships to the 21st century--and now they have. You can place your picture there, individual phone numbers for individual members of the family, etc.

Merry Christmas! And about time--especially since most families have more than one telephone number.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tax Increases

The Bush tax cuts are about to expire, and Congress is planning on extending those tax cuts, at least for those who make under $250,000 a year. Democrats want to pass a law permanently extending those cuts for those who make under $250,000; Republicans want to extend those cuts for everyone, including the super-rich. Now it looks like the Democrats will give in to Republicans, and extend the cuts for everyone.


Why don't the Democrats present a bill extending tax cuts to everyone but the wealthy, and see if it passes? They can then present an entirely separate bill extending tax cuts to just the wealthy. Two separate simple bills. The result, of course, would be extending the tax cuts for the vast majority of us (with the support of almost all the politicians) but not for the super-rich. Any Republican who voted against a bill for tax cuts for the middle class because a tax cut for the super-rich isn't in the same bill would be (rightly) reviled.
Keep in mind that a tax cut to those who make under $250,000 is also a tax cut to the first $250,000 of the super-rich due to the way taxes are scaled.
Maybe they could compromise by extending tax cuts to those who make under $500,000 a year.

In any case, I don't understand discussions of giving people who don't know how many houses they own tax cuts. While we do need to control spending (especially for Medicare, Social Security and defense spending--the biggest costs), we also need to provide for more revenue coming in. Taxing those who can afford a little more tax seems like the best way to go.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Church's Stance on Immigration

Just wanted to make sure word got out about the church's recent statement about immigration. The link is here.

From the language of the Utah Compact, which the church supports:

"Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and other countries — not Utah and other countries."

Too many members of the church favor Arizona-type immigration laws (including the man behind the Arizona laws). They should know their church doesn't agree with them.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Video card question

So, my computer has a very weak video card (it's a Vostro, created for business needs, and so the video card has a hard time handling some games). My current video card is Intel(R) G45/G43 Express Chipset. My desktop is a Vostro 220. I've been trying to study up on what video card would work for my needs; I need at least a NVIDIA GeForce 6800 (around $40 on ebay).

My two questions: first, I don't want to mess with getting another power source. How do I find out what watts my computer has, and what video cards would be compatible with that? From what I've read online, a Vostro 220 claims 300 watts, and the 6800 claims that it's 350 watts, but most people say that, as Dell underestimates the power and most video cards overestimate the power, mixing 300 with 350 should work. However, I couldn't find reports of anyone combining a Vostro 220 with a NVIDIA GeForce 6800. And I'm not sure how I can confirm that my computer's power is 300 watts.

And second, where is a good reliable place to buy?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What's worse than attack ads? Fearmongering racist attack ads

Like most of you, we've been pelted by numerous political attack ads these last few weeks. I'm not a fan of attack ads, as they focus on anger and fearmongering rather than on logic or ideas, but I didn't think they were a big deal until I got one attacking Boyce, an African American man running for state treasurer, that managed to combine the attack aspect with things like "his lobbyist friend Mohammed Noure Alo" and "Boyce hired Mohammed Noure Alo's wife for a sensitive position in the Treasurer's office, after advertising the job only at their Mosque." Then, of course, the big question: "Do you trust these guys with your hard-earned dollars?"

Look, attack ads are pretty standard. But an attack ad that stresses Muslim-sounding names and stresses that a job was advertised at a Mosque (while being intentionally vague about whether "their" referred to Boyce, and thus insinuating that Boyce, a Christian, is actually a Muslim) takes things a step too far. (Interestingly enough, Boyce's competitor is not a Christian--he's Jewish).

I wish I could find the ad online (although the TV ads apparently send the same message).

Smelling a skunk, I did some digging. Turns out that "Mohammed" goes by "Noure"--but, of course, they had to give the full name when referring to him, just like far-right wackos always say "Barack Hussein Obama." And, of course, many of the allegations made are apparently not true.

His competitor's reaction to any backlash against the anti-Muslim attack ad, and that an insinuation was made that Boyce was Muslim? He plead innocent. "Again, that I know of, I don’t think the word Muslim was ever in it.” And I'm sure you had no intention of scaring away voters by creating an attack ad criticizing Boyce's friendships with Muslims, either.

Before I received the ad, I didn't really care too much about who won this particular fight. But now I'm definitely rooting for Boyce. We don't need anymore racist, xenophobic fearmongerers in political offices. We need rational, thoughtful people. People who don't fear and hate American Muslims, and people who don't use the public's fear of American Muslims to get votes.

Friday, October 08, 2010

When a word matters

Some of you were a bit stunned by Elder Packer's talk in conference where he said "Some suppose that they were pre-set, and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so. Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, he is our Father."

Fortunately, it looks like you weren't the only ones a bit surprised by the language. I'm not sure if his words were just a mistake or his personal opinion, but the words of his talk have changed, just slightly, on the church website. The changes alter the entire meaning of that section of the talk. The revised talk reads: "Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn temptations toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Remember, God is our Heavenly Father."

Besides getting rid of the "Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone," the change gets rid of "tendencies" and replaces it with "temptations." Granted, it doesn't make as much sense anymore (what are inborn temptations?) But the underlying message--that all homosexuals can overcome their homosexual tendencies--has changed.

Unfortunately, whether accidental or intentional, considerable damage has already been done. Many people who heard the talk (or who read about it elsewhere) will never read the version on the church website (or the version that will most likely appear in the Ensign). But at least we have those resources to counter people who argue that the church states that homosexuals can overcome their homosexual tendencies. The church does not state that. Elder Packer said it in conference, true, but it appears as if the church officially disagrees with him or that his words came out wrong.

See here for the revised talk. I'll let you find the original language on your own.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

What I'm Watching

Justified--unfortunately not back until January, but my favorite current show. Cop show based in Kentucky--and very smart.

White Collar--also taking a break. FBI agent and a con-artist on a leash solve crime.

Chuck--Goofy fun.

Nikita--a U.S. spy organization goes rogue, and one of their ex-employees starts sabotaging their missions. Just three episodes so far--we'll see if it keeps my attention.

The Event--the first episode plays like the first episode of Flash Forward. This is the only new sci-fi I've seen this season that's decent. I'll keep watching and see where it goes.

Rubicon--slow-moving thriller. I am a fan. Unfortunately, you have to buy to see more than 2 episodes. My favorite new show--and I'll probably actually end up buying it. Second only to "Justified" for my favorite current TV.

Recommendations: watch the first 2 episodes of Rubicon. And then watch Justified when it comes back on.

Any other recommendations?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Credit Card Fraud and German Risk

Two topics here.

First, if anyone is interested in playing a Game of German Risk online, let me know. It's pretty relaxed--you have a full 24 hours to take a turn. No 3 or 4 hour block of time required, just a couple minutes here and there (and you don't have to sit around waiting while others take their turns). The map only allows for 4 players.

Second, our credit card info got swiped somehow. I looked at our account info yesterday and saw a $200 charge for "XBOX Live." I called Discover, and apparently some other unauthorized charges had been made at the same time (one $1 charge for Yahoo and one larger charge to Blizzard for World of Warcraft). These additional charges didn't show up on the online account--apparently Discover was double-checking to make sure they were valid charges. Of course, once their suspicions were confirmed, they canceled the account. The question remains--if Discover had suspicions, why didn't they contact me?

I'm not sure how our credit card information got stolen--I suspect a nearby gas station got hit by a "Skimmer" which transmits credit card information to thieves, but I really don't know. Hopefully everything will resolve and they'll catch the bad guy--and hopefully I won't end up paying $200 for the thief's use of XBox Live.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


The proposed mosque near what used to be World Trade Center has many names: the Cordoba House, Park 51, the Ground Zero mosque. Unfortunately, it has become embroiled in controversy because it lies two blocks from Ground Zero. First, some facts.

1. Islam is composed of many different groups that believe many different things, much like Christianity is composed of many different groups that believe many different things. Equating those planning the mosque to those who caused 9/11 would be like equating a group of violent fundamental Christians who want to kill everyone who doesn't agree with them with the Catholic church. Sure, they share some religious beliefs. But enormous differences set them apart. Same with the group that wants to build the mosque. They're not connected to the 9/11 terrorists. In fact, they're sworn enemies.

2. Two blocks is a large distance in the area around Ground Zero. A Greek Orthodox church, a synagogue, and two Catholic churches sit just one block from Ground Zero, along with literally hundreds of businesses. (Google Maps is a great resource to look at the area). It's a crowded, diverse place. A mosque would fit right in, and would be a great asset to the many Muslims in the area. Another mosque already sits four blocks from the site. Again, very crowded, very diverse.

3. Make no mistake--the controversy about this mosque is spawned by conservative news organizations and conservative politicians in order to gain votes for the upcoming election. It's fearmongering at it's most base. It's bullying of the worst kind. It's the same kind of scapegoating that led the Nazis to kill the Jews and gypsies and led the U.S. to throw thousands of Japanese into what were basically prison camps. It should have no place in the civilized world.

4. Most of the people in Manhattan want this mosque built. The majority of it will serve as a recreational area, open to all people.

5. Originally, opponents of the mosque tried to stop it with lawsuits (alleging that the building should be designated a historic building, etc.) Now that those lawsuits failed, those same people say "of course those people can build there, because of the freedoms of the First Amendment, but building there would be insensitive." So apparently they're acknowledging those original lawsuits were an attempt to subvert the First Amendment...

I understand that ignorant, racist, or xenophobic people could view the move as insensitive. I have yet to hear an argument against the mosque that isn't based in ignorance, racism, or xenophobia. If you can find one, please point it out to me.

Did I mention that I despise bullies? Most grownups outgrow the bullying phase in high school. Or so I thought. Sigh.

Current mood: sad.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Neil Peart's Impression of Logan and the Bluebird Restaurant

Those of you who like Logan and/or Rush should enjoy this. Especially those of you with fond memories of this restaurant.

Friday, August 13, 2010


It seems like recent months have brought an increase of negative public opinion towards certain minority groups. Hispanics and Muslims seem to be getting the majority of the negative attention at this point. Some politicians are more than willing to jump into the fray (attempting to pass laws that encourage racial profiling, using racist terms usually reserved for animals when referring to these people giving birth (i.e. "dropping babies"), and telling people where they should and shouldn't build their places of worship). Some of these politicians even changed their previous moderate sensibilities and became a part of that fray (I'm looking at you, McCain). Unfortunately for the LDS church, some of these politicians are LDS. Politicians, of course, are often more than happy to give up their personal convictions in order to increase their chances of winning an election.

So why this increase in negative public opinion? The U.S. is, after all, deporting many more illegal immigrants this year than it has in years past. Crime is down. The economy--

The economy is down. And because it's down, many people require a scapegoat. Apparently blaming Bush for starting it and Obama for continuing it/exacerbating it/starting it (depending on a person's political inclinations and/or levels of intelligence) isn't enough. And, of course, because the state of the economy is always someone else's fault, taking personal responsibility is out of the question.

I understand people are out of work and worried about their finances. I have close family members that have been out of work since the recession started. I'm praying that I'll be able to find work in a year, after I take the bar. But hard times are what led the Germans to begin scapegoating Jews and Gypsies after World War I. It's a dangerous path, one that history rightfully condemns. It leads to dark, dangerous places, and it should have no place among us.

May we have the strength to condemn it when it raises its ugly head.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


I got home from work yesterday to find a For Sale sign in our front yard.
The house we've lived in for over two years is up for sale, and the landlord didn't even give us a heads up.

I looked up the listing online. It exaggerates (lies) about how much each of the two units in the house are renting for, claiming that we pay $45 more per month than we actually do, and listing the other unit as being $100 more per month than what it was advertised for a month ago, before new renters moved in. The selling price is probably fairly reasonable ($180K for a two-unit house in a fairly nice neighborhood, just a couple of miles from downtown). But I'm worried that someone's going to buy the house and either kick us out so they can live in our apartment, or (more likely) start charging us what the listing claims we're paying.

Any suggestions? Should I call the realtors and tell them the listing is wrong? Should I call the landlord out on the lie? Obviously, I may need to do some digging on landlord/tenant law.

Oh, and the listing also says this house is 97 years old. Wow.

Monday, August 02, 2010

No Royal Road to Geometry

Or biology. Or religion.

An LDS scientist discusses how silly it is to argue against certain disciplines without knowing anything about them. If you want to understand something, you have to put in the effort.

I've been guilty of the same thing (anytime I say anything about economics, for example). But we should learn to ignore those who make a habit of it.

Unfortunately, he doesn't allow comments, or you would see the principle in action. (The biggest anti-evolution LDS bloggers/commenters, for example, have absolutely no background in biology--not a terrible surprise; the biggest pro-evolution LDS bloggers do have biology degrees. Hmmm).

Some other LDS science blogs written by biologists: (life science researcher) (Professor of Biology/Evolution--only some of the posts are science) (Biology/Evolution Professor at BYU)

The "science" blogs written by people with no background in the science they discuss aren't worth mentioning, for the reasons stated in the "Royal Road" article above.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Active members of the EQ: 11.
Active members of the EQ a month from now: 9.
Number of active members of the EQ we lost in the past three months: 5. A similar number moved out the previous summer.
The ward has always depended on students and student's spouses who were just here for a short time (under a year to four years). Especially since part of our ward is downtown Cincinnati, and so we get everything that comes with that (lots of members living in poverty, lots of members without cars, etc.) For example, the last and the current EQ presidents, the last two executive secretaries (currently we just go without), and the current and last YW presidents all fit into the student/student spouse category. Now just two couples in the ward fit that definition. Tough times ahead.

If you're thinking of moving (going to grad school, finding work, etc.) I know just the place...
Please. Before they demote us to a branch, or force us to combine with some other ward. Small is great, but there is such a thing as too small.

And no, we don't have an EQ secretary, or an EQ teacher, or any of those others EQ callings I hear rumors about. Heck, we're lucky to have a president and two counselors right now...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Doctrine and Covenants, Government, and Religion

I gave a lesson to the youth in my ward on July 4th; they asked me to talk about the gospel and its connection to the government. I meant to post about it earlier, but a kidney stone (which made itself known literally five minutes before the lesson, calmed down for the lesson, and then came back with a vengeance to ruin most of the rest of the week) derailed me. (My strength is finally back to almost-normal, I think.)

I don't think they knew what they were getting themselves into by asking me to teach. I didn't. Teaching adults is easy--create good questions and have them discuss the questions until time runs out. The teenagers here had a harder time speaking up, meaning I had to teach more.

Anyway, I made some interesting discoveries in researching the lesson. The first thing that came to mind was the 12th Article of Faith. While important, alone it's way too simplistic for any decent discussion of the topic. Plus, it seems like many people focus on that one scripture and ignore all other scriptures. Fortunately, an entire section in D&C provides some real meat.

I highly recommend a thorough reading of Section 134. Here's what I found most interesting.
First, separation of church and state. Verse 4 reads in part, "We do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion." In other words, the government has no right to tell us when to pray or how to worship. To me, this sounds like an argument against things such as mandatory prayers in school (although I realize this scripture can be interpreted in different ways). Certainly, minority religions (such as the LDS church) depend on the separation of church and state to keep majority religions from telling us how to worship. It's unfortunate, in this respect, that the Supreme Court, the body that interprets the First Amendment which gives us our religious liberties, is so void of religious diversity.

Verse 5 is also interesting. It begins, "We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such government." Notice the exception? We're not bound to sustain or uphold governments when our inherent and inalienable rights are not protected. What rights are those? Verse 2 gives us some hints: "The free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life." In other words, if your free exercise of conscience is not protected, you have no obligation to uphold the government. My interpretation is that the free exercise of conscience includes the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion. LDS teenager Helmut Huebener, then, committed no sin when he and his friends spoke out against the Nazis in Nazi Germany, even though they broke the law by doing so. Those who engage in religious ceremonies that harm no one are also, in my opinion, not committing sin, even though the U.S. government may view such acts as illegal.

Any thoughts on this subject? It's much more nuanced than those who frequently quote the 12th Article of Faith realize. In any case, I'm grateful for the freedom of religion in the U.S. It may not be the optimum level of freedom, but it's better than most other countries (even most other civilized countries). I'm a big fan of Europe, but when it comes to religious freedoms, the U.S. is superior.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Hulu update

Warehouse 13: horrific. It's got to be pretty bad if I can't manage to finish the first episode. Take Adam Sandler's worst movie and turn it into sci-fi. Yech.
Grade: F.

Persons Unknown: OK. People who like dark might like it--it feels more horror than sci-fi. I don't really recommend it, but I won't discourage anyone from watching it either.
Grade: C.

Day Break: awesome. Just 13 episodes (like Firefly, it was canceled mid-season). Pretty much a cop/mystery show with a sci-fi twist. Very intense (definitely a PG-13), with some great characters and some great actors. It ties up fairly well at the end (in other words, it does in 13 episodes what Lost couldn't do in 121). And yes, Adam Baldwin plays himself, as he does in every TV show he's in. Grade: A-.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

What the Republican Party would need to do to win me back

“As I look out at the political landscape now, I find plenty of slogans on the Republican side, but not very many ideas."
Bob Bennett, Republican Senator from Utah

A little known fact--not too many years ago, I considered myself a Republican. Not that I ever really thought much about politics back then, but...
More recently, I registered as Republican--but that had more to do with being able to vote in the primaries in Utah (the winner of the Republican primaries in Utah almost always wins office) than actually agreeing with the Republican platform.
I'm also a big fan of moderate Republicans (Jon Huntsman's my hero, and I used to like McCain before he conformed).

But I'm not a Republican. And, at least most of the time, I won't vote for Republicans. If Republicans want to win me back, here's what they need to do.

1. Focus on cost effectiveness. Eliminating a huge money-saving provision in the healthcare bill by falsely labeling it a "death panel" is not the way to go about this. Nor is giving huge amounts of money to defense contractors. Republicans complain about high taxes and about how much the government is spending; if they truly believe this, they need to focus on cost effectiveness. Instead of attacking programs that help people, they need to focus on how to provide the same benefits at a lower cost. It's not hard. For example, changing food stamps so that they can only be used for specific healthy foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, etc.) instead of on candy, potato chips, and soft drinks. How would this save money? By driving Medicaid costs way down. Simple solution. Still taking care of the poor, but saving big money doing it.

2. Be pro-science. Obviously, the Republican party has significant links to Big Oil and the religious right, two organizations that have some definite anti-science leanings, at least in regards to specific areas. (They also have big links to tobacco, which also used to have anti-science leanings, but got overwhelmed by an enormous amount of scientific information regarding the dangers of tobacco). Granted, some Democrats are anti-science when it comes to vaccines and such, and both McCain and Romney believe evolution occurs (as opposed to Palin and Hucklebee, who don't), but overall, Democrats are more scientifically literate.

3. Be pro-education. Education is an investment. Smart Republicans would negotiate with teacher unions, and offer decent money (ie--a living wage) to teachers (especially young teachers) in return for less job security (meaning ineffective teachers would be able to get booted more easily).

Also, they would implement summer programs that would allow high school students the chance to graduate a year early. Schools would save money by using resources (school buildings and teacher benefits) more effectively, and more teachers would have the opportunity to work--and get paid--for work done in the summer. There's the cost-effectiveness idea again.

4. Charge people for driving on roads. Roads should be paid for by those who use them. I'm not suggesting we toll every road; I'm suggesting we pay for roads, road repairs, and road maintenance solely through gasoline taxes, and decrease all other taxes that currently pay for roads. Benefits? People actually pay for what they use. Plus, less air pollution, reduced medical costs because of reduced air pollution, and a greater incentive to move away from our addiction to oil.

5. Be willing to negotiate and compromise on immigration. Focusing solely on "strengthen the border" while ignoring everything else is stupid. We need comprehensive reform, and it won't happen as long as Republican politicians continue to make foreigners scapegoats. Half the children being born in the US are minorities, and unless the Republican party starts recognizing this, and starts showing these minorities more respect, the Republican party will die with the baby boomers.

Any other ideas for Republicans? I think Republicans have a lot of good ideals (limited government, an emphasis on high moral standards, etc.) But I have to agree with Bob Bennett. Republicans currently have plenty of slogans, but not enough real ideas.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

America and the LDS Church

The LDS church started out as an American church, but, as missionaries were sent out to Europe, the Pacific Islands, and elsewhere, it quickly became an international church. Originally, European saints immigrated to Utah. But most of the members in Tonga and Samoa did not. Now, the majority of members of the church are not Americans. The church seems to make an effort to call itself an international church. A member of the First Presidency is not American and does not speak English as a first language. Many other General Authorities come from a variety of foreign countries.

Why then, do pictures like this exist? This is unfortunately displayed at the BYU Bookstore. This picture, in my view, falsely raises the US Constitution (an inspired yet deeply flawed document--it allowed for slavery, after all) into holy scripture. We are not an American church. Yet some members don't seem to get it.

A few years ago I showed up to church for the first time in my Idaho Falls ward. An enormous American flag plastered the front of the chapel. I can't imagine any other ward in any other country desecrating their chapel with a flag of their country during the sacrament, but somehow, in the US, it wasn't a big deal.

Anytime politics is brought up in a gospel context, I think to myself--do these people realize that members in other countries think entirely different about politics? I think President Uchtdorf, for example, doesn't think universal healthcare is of the devil. I'm pretty sure fast offerings in Germany go a lot further because they're not used to pay for the healthcare of church members.

I like America. I like the Constitution. It is an important document--and, most importantly for the LDS church, it allows for the freedom of religion. The First Amendment allowed the church to grow in the US (although eventually even the Constitution wasn't enough to keep bigots from driving us out). Many countries adopted aspects of the Constitution, and now our religion can be practiced in many countries.

However, if we start putting our good but flawed Constitution on a pedestal, or if we do the same with our founding fathers (good men, but not the angels some make them out to be), our flag, or our American customs, we run the danger of turning patriotism into a false idol. And that's not behavior that God's church, an international church, should engage in.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

This is a billboard seen going south from our place towards downtown Cincinnati. Apparently, the good folks at the Creation Museum in Kentucky believe that dinosaurs breathed fire, despite a total lack of evidence for that belief. I know that the Creation Museum lacks evidence for many (most, all?) of its claims (people riding on dinosaurs Flintstone-style, etc.) but claims of a fire-breathing dragon surprise even me.

Or it might not even be a belief--it could just be that dragons (as well as dinosaurs) sell. And at $22 admission, and over a million visitors since it opened three years ago, it's apparently working.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Working the Connection Angle

I always envied those who used connections to get jobs. During and after high school, some of my best friends got jobs with their dad's companies. I had mixed feelings about my not having connections. On the one hand, I hated that I had to work so much harder to find work. On the other hand, I was proud of every job I found because I found it without help.

I worked six jobs before my mission, all ones I found myself. My first job after the mission was working at a car rental place; I found it through the friend of a friend, so I had a bit of a connection there. The next job was definitely a connection-type job. Two uncles worked at a sleep clinic. The only catch was I had to volunteer full-time for a couple of months, but I soon got a job offer that ended up paying for most of college (plus a car and my Europe trip). One very sweet connection.

I'm still more proud of the jobs I get myself, without help--but I'm smart enough to use the connection angle to my advantage. As fate would have it, I'm headed into the field of pharmaceutical law. I'm taking the classes for it, and I (through lots of interviews with no connections) found a job in it. But my uncle--one of the uncles who was instrumental in helping me get a job in the sleep field--now works for a drug company. And he knows attorneys there. Am I working the connection angle? Oh yeah. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping something will come of it.

And I remain impressed with those few individuals who, like my uncle, go high places without the connections. That's an incredibly difficult feat. As for me--it's a harsh world out there, especially in this job market; I'm taking all the help I can get.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Best books series

So a friend just posted a long list of his favorite books on facebook. I don't have the patience or memory for that--but I do want to do a few posts about the best books out there, categorized by genre.

The first genre, my favorite, is fantasy. Fantasy authors seem to like to write in series, so here are the best series in fantasy that I'm aware of.

1. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings"
2. George R.R. Martin's "A Game of Thrones"
3. Robin Hobb's "Assassin's Apprentice" (a follow-up series, also excellent and what I'm currently re-reading, is "Fool's Errand")

A warning on Martin--he's pretty graphic.

All three series have great plot, characters, and writing style.

Some LDS writers on Hobb and Martin (Tolkien needs no recommendation):

Orson Scott Card:
"Robin Hobb...arguably set the standard for the modern serious fantasy novel."
"the...excellent heroic fiction of...Robin Hobb and George R. R. Martin..."
Plus two more detailed (and raving) reviews of Hobb's work here and here. Yeah. OSC's a huge Robin Hobb fan.

Brandon Sanderson:
"Robin my opinion writes far better than I do myself."
"George R. R. Martin (is) probably the most skilled epic fantasy writer on the market right now."

This stuff (unlike most the fantasy I read as a teenager) will stand the test of time. It's not just good fantasy. It's good literature.

Any other recommendations?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

TV shows to watch this summer

Two recommendations.

The first reminds me in some ways of Firefly--great dialogue, cool characters, Western (although based in today's Kentucky, and not tomorrow's space). I hesitated to watch it at first, because it's based in the South--but it's good. Really good. Justified is definitely a PG-13, though, so don't come blaming me if you don't like the show because of that aspect--but it's the best show on TV right now that I know of. Try it out. Just one episode.

The second one I've mentioned before, but I have to mention again, if only because I don't know anyone else who's seen it, and it deserves to be watched. That show is Journeyman. I little bit of science fiction, but it's more of just a good drama with the sci-fi element creating the drama. It only lasted one season, but you can find it (for absolutely free, and no waiting for the next episode) on Hulu. Next to Firefly, it's the greatest short-lived show I know of.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Two LDS members, two leaders in immigration reform--on different sides

The man behind Arizona's new immigration law is LDS.
Fortunately, he's not the first member of the church to make a difference in immigration. Rex Lee, president of BYU and US Solicitor General, played a big role in immigration and state's rights.
In 1975, Texas passed a law similar in idiocy to the one in Arizona. Illegal immigrants in Texas could not attend public schools.
Carter's administration supported a lawsuit against Texas. Reagan became president, Rex Lee was his Solicitor General, and the Texas case reached the Supreme Court.
The Reagan administration debated which side to support. Rex Lee refused to change sides. Rex Lee, and therefore Reagan, fought against Texas.
Unfortunately, our current Supreme Court Chief Justice disagreed with Rex Lee. That doesn't give me much faith in our current Supreme Court.
However, knowing that Rex Lee, a Mormon, had compassion for the underclass gives me hope. I have a fairly good idea of where LDS leaders stand on this issue (they have considerably more compassion than most politicians in Arizona do). I hope LDS politicians will repent (if need be) and have that same compassion. I hope they will become more like Rex Lee.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rock Band

I played Rock Band for the first time a couple of months ago, and decided I wanted it. I made a deal that if I didn't buy any junk food for a year, I would get myself the game. Well...I caved in. Not to the junk food deal (we haven't bought junk food for months), but to the "wait for a year" part. I saw a deal for Beatles Rock Band with Rock Band II "instruments" and both the Beatles and the Rock Band II software, for about $80. So I bought it.
The package arrived, and not only were the instruments Rock Band I instead of Rock Band II (in other words, not wireless), but the Rock Band II software was nowhere to be found. I emailed the company a complaint, and they gave me a $20 coupon to make up for it. $20 doesn't buy me the software, let alone pay for the difference between the instruments, so I complained again. All I wanted was the Rock Band II software (and that's all I asked for). But instead--they gave me a full refund.
So I got the Rock Band instruments and the Beatles software for free. Plus the $20 gift certificate (which I'll use to pay for most of Rock Band I software and a Classic Rock expansion).
As I've said before, it always pays to complain after you've been ripped off...
In this case it pays so much that I almost feel like I'm taking advantage of them.
Meanwhile, we're enjoying rocking out to the Beatles. Great music that I really should know better than I do.
And "I am the Walrus" is so cool and crazy that I'm beginning to think that the Beatles are the first progressive rock band (and not King Crimson, like I've always believed).
Interesting side note--if you go to buy single tracks for Rock Band off the internet, you'll find they have a separate category for "prog." Looks like my obscure tastes are going a bit more mainstream.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Goodbye Arizona

We've been making a list of possible places to move to after law school. If I stay with my current job, which is a real possibility, we are limited to Cincinnati, Cody Wyoming, and maybe Denver. Another possibility is a judicial clerkship for one year. I'd work for a judge for one year for not much more than what I was making as a teacher, but it would look real nice on a resume. So we've been thinking about places where I could apply for a clerkship. Pretty much just places out west. Once I clerk for a judge in any given state, my resume looks extra nice in that state; for example, if I clerk for the Supreme Court of Idaho, I'd probably be able to get a job with the best firms in Idaho.
Now, though, I've decided to take Arizona off that list of potential places.
Ever since my mission, I've looked at the pros and cons to living in the US versus western Europe. Europeans focus more on education, have more culture, cheaper (yet just as good) healthcare, better public transportation, more livable cities, less violence.
The US has less of an obsession with sex (although that is changing), stronger freedoms of speech and religion (both exist in Europe too, but they're slightly more protected here), and, at least until now, you weren't required to carry around identification with you so you could prove to the cops that you were in the country legally.

A Russian friend of mine in Germany assisted Eastern Europeans coming (illegally) into Germany. He'd tell them to not speak when they went out in public, for fear of the police hearing their foreign language and asking for their papers. Those unfortunate to have black or brown skin (mostly people from Africa and the Middle East) could be stopped by police just because their skin was a different color. If they didn't have identification on them, the police assumed they were in the country illegally.
Now, Arizona has created a law that I pray will be found unconstitutional. Police in Arizona are now obligated to stop everyone they suspect might be an illegal immigrant (ie--looks Mexican) and ask for their papers. If they don't have papers on them, they can be arrested (regardless of whether or not they are American citizens). If you're brown and you want to go on a bike ride, better take your driver's license. And forget about going for that swim.

And let's not even think about how crime will soar when criminals realize they can victimize illegal immigrants without fear of the police being called. If your house is robbed or your daughter raped, and you're an illegal immigrant and you call the cops, you can kiss the USA goodbye. If you call the cops, you'll be deported. Crime will go up, while the reporting of crime will go down.

An article about it (and about the sad fall of what used to be one of America's great politicians) is here. Another article here. Sad times indeed. America just got a little less great.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Church speaks up on the whole Glenn Beck/Social Justice thing

Okay, so it's just the church newsroom, not an official proclamation. Still, worth a read. I'm also interested in hearing what you think about it.
Here it is. Click on the link at the church website for the actual article.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Criticism at Church Part II

Funny incident yesterday; I'm sitting in Priesthood opening exercises, and a friend is struggling with his 14-month-old daughter. She and Peter are the only two pre-nursery, post-newborns in the ward. Peter is not in the room.
The kid is being a bit fussy, and her dad is trying to settle her down. I remember a previous encounter with a certain ward member who criticized me in private after Peter acted up a bit (detailed here), so I looked over to the other side of the room to see how this same man was reacting to this new disturbance.
He erupted. Loudly, and in public. Said something about how he couldn't hear and how my friend needed to take his daughter out. The whole room heard him.
There were two people acting like children in that room. One of them had an excuse.
His behavior still makes me angry. On the upside, a large portion of the ward saw that behavior yesterday. He publicly embarrassed himself.
It was then that I realized that, given what I know of this man's very structured concepts of gender roles (to put it nicely), and his church callings when his kids were small, that it's unlikely he ever dealt directly with his own pre-nursery children in church. That, and possibly some hearing loss that he's sensitive about, may contribute to his poor behavior. Given what others might think of him now, following this latest incident, I might even have a little pity for him.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Blog help?

We're planning a church site/Montreal (and maybe Quebec) trip for May--we're both very excited about it.
Meanwhile, I keep on getting spam comments on this blog. They usually pop up at just one or two posts I've made. Any ideas on how to get rid of those comments? I know I can delete them, but that's getting old--there needs to be an easier way. I don't want to restrict access or make it a bigger pain to comment. I wish I could restrict comments on just those posts (other blogs have the ability to halt comments on one post at a time, but I don't think blogger is quite that advanced). The only thing I can figure out is to delete the posts that get the spam, and then repost them.
Any better ideas?
If you see any posts here in the next few days that seem familiar, it's just because I deleted the original and then re-posted it. I hope that works...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Review of the very first live performance of Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Beethoven's Last Night"

For my 30th birthday, April and I went to Taft Theatre in downtown Cincinnati to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra kick off their first non-Christmas tour. We sat fairly close--some of the best balcony seats--close enough to clearly see the performer's faces, even with my poor eyesight. Our small crowd of about 2000 people was the first to hear TSO perform the entire "Beethoven's Last Night" album live. It's one of my favorite albums (in my top 20).

Their Christmas tours are played at much bigger venues, attract much larger crowds, and have more performers. The Christmas tours also dilute some of the TSO greatness, as they hire extra musicians so they can run an East tour and a West tour simultaneously.

Not so here. This was TSO at its finest. I've seen ex-Savatage members Al Pitrelli (guitar) and Johnny Lee Middleton (drums) perform several times during TSO's Christmas West tours, but this was the first time I'd seen ex-Savatage members Chris Caffery (guitar) and Jeff Plate (drums). Ex-Savatage producer/writer Paul O'Neill also made a brief appearance. I say ex-Savatage because, because although Savatage might not technically be dead, they haven't performed live or put out an album for ten years. TSO has largely replaced Savatage.

The band played the entire rock opera "Beethoven's Last Night," with a narrator explaining a bit of the story in-between songs. The narrator was good, but I knew the story well enough that I wish they would have left him out and stuck to the music. The music itself was incredible. Six talented vocalists, two piano/keyboard players, and an electric violinist added some additional flair to the traditional guitar/bass/drums. Jon Oliva, the heart and soul of Savatage, was missing in action--the songs he sang on this album were performed quite well by another vocalist. The other vocalists were also excellent, although I wish the song "Who is this Child" had been sung with less theatrics and more melody (and more like the version on the album).

I'm not sure how to explain how it is being in a concert like this. It's intense. I was grinning like a madman through half the songs. And when they finished the album, and after Al Pitrelli introduced the band members, they played a couple of Savatage songs.

The first, "Believe," is one of my top-ten songs. The only downside was that Jon Oliva wasn't singing it (although his replacement did a very good job). It's an intense gorgeous song. Originally released on Savatage's album "Streets: A Rock Opera," it was recently re-done for TSO's latest album, "Night Castle."
The other was an instrumental pulled mainly from Savatage's "Dead Winter Dead," the greatest album of all time.

And of course, lasers, projected pictures in the background, and stage fog all contributed to the atmosphere (although I personally think that lasers are overrated and should've been left out).

The concert lasted about 3 hours (although I did the math, and the actual time the band played music was only about 1.5 hours--the album, which is 1.25 hours, plus a couple of additional songs).

Overall, though, seeing the first live performance of this album (and hearing "Believe,") made this the best concert I've ever been to, and contributed to making this landmark birthday the best birthday I've ever had.

Monday, March 22, 2010

One of the reasons I'm happy the healthcare bill passed

A professional writer writes about writers and health insurance--and about the struggles writers and every other tiny business has had with the way America has done healthcare.
The last part of the article turns into a little bit of a rant against the Republicans, which a few of you might be offended about (personally, I'm not--the Republicans haven't put forth any serious attempts to solve healthcare since Richard Nixon, who would be denounced as a socialist/commie on talk radio today for his attempts at healthcare reform).
Anyway, read it, and skip the last few paragraphs if you're sensitive that way. This is something all aspiring writers and small business owners should be happy about.
The link.
And yes, he does look like a Tolkien dwarf.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cincinnati First, Salt Lake City Last

On the craziness scale, anyway.
I'm a bit surprised Cincy beat out cities on the coasts, though (especially after having lived in the Bay area).

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Local Politics in Utah: Hall of Shame

For those who don't already know, both the Utah senate majority leader and the Utah house majority leader in Utah have had a spectacularly bad year.

The senate majority leader was given a DUI.

And the house majority leader admitted that in 1985, at the age of 30, he was in a hot tub with a 15-year-old. Both were naked. He claims there was no contact; she says differently. (Sounds a bit like Clinton's "I smoked marijuana but I never inhaled" line, except far, far worse). He paid her $150,000 for her silence as recently as 2002.

What's perhaps even more troublesome is that both major newspapers in Utah knew some details about the story since 2002--and kept quite about it. The Deseret News basically got a confession from him (it's unsure exactly how much the Trib knew, but they certainly new enough to investigate it further). The press is supposed to be a check on the government, but they dropped the ball here. And the other incredibly troublesome part--instead of calling him out for being a child predator, his colleagues in politics have shown him a great deal of support since the news broke out.

I'll let you find your own links--there may be new details about the story by the time you read this.

He should be on the national sex offender registry, not in a leadership position in Utah politics. The newspapers should have reported the story years ago, and his colleagues in Utah should do whatever they can to distance themselves from him.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

How to Fix Health Care

Health care in the US faces two major problems. It's expensive, and because it's expensive, for some it's out of reach.
The employer-based system we have right now doesn't work. It may have worked when it originated--when people stayed with the same job their entire lives. But times have changed, and our health care system needs to change with it in order to meet society's needs.

Here are the changes I'd like to see.

First, basic cost-effective health care for everyone. Essentially, Medicare for all, but (unlike Medicare), a system that actually cares about costs. Is medicine "A" 99.99% effective and costs $1000/day, and is medicine B 99.98% effective and costs $10/day? Currently, (as far as I understand) cost is not a consideration in determining care (at least for Medicare), and the (slightly) more effective yet (absurdly) more expensive product would be used. Obviously, if we are concerned about costs (and as health care rates continue to rise, we need to be), we need to make some adjustments.

Also needed is a clear, reasonable voice in every non-emergency test/surgery/procedure to say, "is this really necessary? Is there a cheaper way to do this that's just as good?" A huge amount of health care expenses goes to unnecessary surgeries and tests that may benefit the doctor and the hospital, but don't actually help the patient.

Also, clearly we need what Sarah Palin so (cough) eloquently and accurately (cough) referred to as "Death Panels." People should be encouraged to write living wills and should be encouraged to talk to their families and doctors about end-of-life options. While families and individuals have the right to pay for whatever they wish to, I'm not sure the government (or an employer, for that matter) should pay for 90-year-old Oma's terribly expensive open heart surgery, especially when Oma has liver cancer and isn't expected to live another year anyway. (I've seen several incidents of close to $1 million spent on people like Oma--that's probably taxpayer money there).

An additional possibility: a 10% to 30% copay on the first $10,000 or so, to keep things competitive and keep costs down (but still allow people access to health care when they need it). Medicaid assistance if a person can't afford the copay.

Private or employee insurance (to upgrade to more expensive care such as having your own room in a hospital, etc.) would still be available to those who can afford it. And people could pay out-of-pocket for any upgrade they want.

I think it's a politically moderate proposal, as likely to offend Democrats as Republicans. I also think it's what we need to cut health care costs down to what other people in the civilized world pay (ie--half as much as we pay).


Friday, February 19, 2010

Adaptation to Survival--the church needs to cater to single adults in their 30s if it wants to keep them

Society is changing. Many people, including members of the church, don't get married until they're in their 30s. From what I've seen, the vast majority of single church members in their 30s would like to be married.
I'm turning 30 pretty soon. I guess I shouldn't be surprised when a song that came out during my mission gets airplay on the classic rock station. And while single adults (should) get kicked out of the young single adult ward when they turn 31, 31's not too far off for me. I'm happily married, but many of my friends are not, and when they turn 31, they have two or three options. First, they can enter a regular family ward. Second, they can enter an older singles ward, if there's one in the area. Third, they can go inactive.
The regular family ward is great for regular families and for older people, but for single people in their 30s and 40s? I'm trying to think of single people (active) between 30 and 45 in our ward, and I honestly don't think there are any. They don't really stick around. Older singles? Sure. Midsingles? Not so much.
Older singles wards don't exist in many areas, and where they do exist, they're attended mainly by those in their 50s. Hardly a great place for a 31-year-old man who's looking for an eternal companion.
So, most often, singles in their 30s go less active. The church largely ignores them, doesn't provide opportunities for a decent social life, so they leave.
Enter the "Midsingles" group.
The Midsingles group is for singles between 31 and 45. Every single in this age group in a stake (or a group of two or three stakes) can attend one specific family ward--so all of the active midsingles in a specific geographic area can meet and socialize together. If they can meet in the same building as the young single adults, so much the better--many of them will be friends with the YSA, and a man that just turned 31 will still be able to interact with his largest dating pool--young women between the ages of 27 and 30. The singles can receive regular callings in the family ward, but then participate in activities just for themselves (FHE, etc.) The family ward provides a primary, so those midsingles with children can still attend as a family.
Like with regular YSA wards, midsingles can choose to stay in their home ward or go here; less active midsingles stay with their home ward.
This program is currently going on--most of it seems to be in California. See for more details.
I'm wondering if there are enough midsingles in Cincinnati to warrant this program--our ward, as small as it is (average attendance of 80) and in the same building as the YSA branch, would be the perfect place. Would this work where you are? Do you see any downsides?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Most miserable cities

A full 25% of the 20 most miserable cities in the US are in Ohio. Ouch. Yet somehow Cincinnati isn't on the list? Not sure how that happened...

Monday, February 15, 2010


You hear the one about some wacko Utah politicians who were criticized by 18 BYU scientists for their (mis)understanding of global warming? Or the law professor who is the grandfather of "Intelligent Design"? If only they understood this cartoon...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Another One Bites the Dust

Congrats to my brother and his new wife, who got married yesterday in Idaho Falls. We didn't get to spend as much time out west as we would have liked, but the trip was worth it to see my brother/friend/old roommate get married.
It's also, like always, impressive to see a pair of uncles/aunts take the long haul from Bluffdale to Idaho Falls for the wedding. They did the same for my wedding, and it meant the world to me.
Wish we could make it out here more often--there are other things we've missed because we can't afford to take a few days and the $600 to travel back. We probably won't consider coming back until the next wedding (or until I'm earning a good paycheck).
But hey, you're welcome to come visit us...
It's kind of between Nauvoo and Kirtland (it adds just two hours to the drive), so if you want to do the church history tour, you can visit us and have a free place to crash...

Monday, February 08, 2010

Criticism at Church

April is in charge of singing time in Primary, so I watch Peter during Sunday School. There are a grand total of two children under the age of 18 months in our ward, and both Peter and his friend were in the Sunday School class yesterday.
Peter was being a bit squirmy and a little loud; I tried settling him down, and then took him out. Fifteen minutes later he'd settled down a bit so I took him back in; he again insisted on being noisy, so I again took him out. I'm not sure how long we spent in the classroom, but it wasn't more than 10 or 15 minutes, and it's not like he was yelling and screaming. Just complaining a bit.
After class, a member I don't know very well, came up to me and said,
"Brother Jones, I know I don't know you all that well, but could you take your child out of the class a bit earlier? (The teacher) said it sounded like a bus station in there."
Now, average attendance in this ward is 80. We've been there for 18 months. We've been very active in the ward and gotten to know most of the active members fairly well (partly because of the small size of the ward, and partly because of the nature of my calling). I know everyone in the EQ, and all of the ward leadership--I know at least 75% of the active adult men fairly well. I don't know this man (and honestly, I don't really want to). I don't know the Sunday School teacher either. They are both the type who don't reach out to new members and don't really participate in the ward (as far as I know) beyond their callings.
I reacted politely to his criticism, (and now somehow need to balance it with criticism from others that I take Peter out of the classroom too quickly). Inside, though, I was angry.
How do you (and should you) react to child-raising criticism from ward members? Does the source of this criticism matter?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lawyers and Science

Last week was the "Creation Lesson" in Sunday School. The teacher did a fantastic job of keeping the lesson doctrinal, despite attempts by some class members to veer off into tangents.
On one of those tangents, someone makes some remark about scientists, and someone else, a long-term member of the ward and an attorney, says "scientists think they know everything; they're so prideful."
And the retort: "And lawyers are so humble." I wish I could have been the one to say that, but that award goes to the local statistician.
Seriously, with a past in science and a future in law, I think I have a unique perspective on the subject. Any group is going to have pompous jerks (even Sunday School classes may have them). Sure, some scientists are prideful. But if you want to find large amounts of pride in well-educated groups, you'll have much more luck finding it among politicians, economics and business people, and lawyers.
Scientists are well-aware that they don't have all the answers. If they did, they'd be out of a job. And the majority of the many scientists I have met have been wonderful, humble people.
And I've met a lot of nice lawyers too, in the past 18 months. Dozens. Some wonderful people. And some incredibly pompous, arrogant, soulless jerks. Who's more prideful, on average? No contest.
Oh, the irony of a lawyer calling scientists prideful...

LDS Athlete

The Winter Olympics are still several months away, but it appears that one Australian athlete, Torah Bright, will be one of the more popular athletes in the competition. She's a snowboarder, she's already won a few world championships, and she has the kind of looks and personality that attracts positive media attention.
And she's active LDS.
If all goes well, we should be hearing a lot more about her as the Olympics approach.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rock Band? Wii?

I've started doing our taxes, and it's apparent that having a kid while making very little money results in huge tax returns.
We've been a bit short on cash the past couple of months, and our spending has gone down--our credit card bill this month is the smallest it's been in a long time. We want to keep it that way--but we also want to do something fun when we get our tax return.
What I want: Rock Band (and possibly Dragon Age).
What April wants: Wii.
We do not have a game system (outside of our PC, which should be able to handle Dragon Age).
I looked up info on Rock Band on Wii, and it appears as if Wii users can't purchase additional tracks or CDs past the basic ones. That option is a necessity for me. (For example, I'd absolutely need to have Boston's full first album).
So, my questions:
1. What are the best Wii games? (Primarily for April).
2. What game system is best with Rock Band? I'm looking at both the ability to download additional songs as well as price.
3. How do you hook a game system up so that you can download new songs? Does it require a certain kind of internet access? I've never actually owned a game system, so...
4. How do game systems hook up to a monitor? (We have an extra flat-screen computer monitor--can you connect a game system to those? Or do you need a TV with the proper connective abilities?)

Monday, January 18, 2010


Trans-Siberian Orchestra is finally doing a non-Christmas tour, featuring Beethoven's Last Night in its entirety (plus other stuff during the second half). Their first stop will be in Cincinnati--on March 25, my 30th birthday.
As far as I know, that show is TSO's very first non-Christmas show. And I'm going to make sure I'm there.
Talk about a cool birthday gift.
Savatage is gone, and I'll never be able to see them in concert, but a non-Christmas TSO concert--it'll be the next best thing. Most of Savatage will be there (unfortunately, I'm not sure about Jon Oliva or Zak Stevens). And having to travel just five miles to see them (a whole 3 blocks if I'm walking there from work)--let's just say that I've never been more excited about a concert. Never.
If you're a fan, March 25 would be a perfect time to come visit...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Misunderstandings and Missionary Work in Europe

One of my biggest pet peeves is something that is highly damaging to missionary work in Europe. It can manifest it in many different ways: here are two examples I've heard given at church.
1. A statement made in a Sunday School class for teenagers close to missionary age. "All of the good blood in Europe has already been converted, and they immigrated over here, and that's why missionaries in Europe don't get any baptisms."
2. A statement made by a church leader over the pulpit. "We're in Europe not for the Europeans, but for people from Turkey and other countries who immigrate to Europe."

BS. (I thought about spelling BS out, since it's certainly deserved here, but I'll restrain myself).
In the strongest sense possible, BS.

In response to the first statement: missionaries in Europe do get baptisms. They baptize actual Europeans. There are plenty of good Europeans in Europe, and some of them are willing to accept the gospel. Telling future missionaries they won't have success can be (and often is) a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's something Satan himself would say.

In response to the second statement: again, Europeans do get baptized. And once they get baptized, many of them remain active. Contrast that with non-Europeans who (in my experience) all go inactive. I served in two wards and two branches, and never once met an active member who was not either European or American (including South American). We tried working with a couple of these inactive members (Middle Eastern and African, mainly), but the language and/or cultural barriers were just too great--they didn't feel comfortable in the congregation. I know some missionaries in Europe in the past specifically sought out foreigners for easy baptisms, but such work is less effective. It doesn't work. It's not why the Lord sends missionaries to Europe. Missionaries are in Europe to serve Europeans.

If you know someone who's serving or who will serve in Europe, tell them this: Europeans are good people. They are intelligent, and they have good hearts. And missionary success among Europeans is very possible, as long as the missionary believes it's possible. Satan has his lies, and too often church members pass them on. Don't believe them. Believe in the people you're sent to serve, and believe in yourself.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Psycho Mormon Politician

So I was up in Idaho Falls a couple of weeks ago, visiting the in-laws, when I heard about a local guy who's running for governor of Idaho. Now the current governor isn't exactly the type of guy I'd vote for. And Butch Otter sames like a strange fictional name. Kind of like Rex Rammell, one of the guys who's trying to replace him. Only problem is, Butch Otter, as extreme as he is, looks like a sane moderate compared to Rex Rammell.
Rammell is LDS, lives in Eastern Idaho, and has recently arranged a meeting for LDS Elders to discuss the White Horse Prophecy, the Constitution hanging by a thread, and all sorts of other....we'll be polite and call them space doctrines. They're of questionable origin, and the church has distanced itself from them.
Here's a link to a copy of his invitation. Here's a link to the church's response.
Best of all, though, was an area authority who, within my hearing, said that Rex Rammell had "said some very idiotic things." Ouch.
People have certainly been excommunicated for less--I imagine there's a chance that will happen here, if Rammell doesn't back down. Fortunately, he doesn't have many followers--most people think he's wacko, even in Eastern Idaho.