Sunday, December 31, 2006

Year in Review no. 2

I started paying more attention to my physical health in 2006. I managed to lose 15 pounds or so during the year, mostly after our cruise in May. I ended the year with a bit of a scare. A couple of life insurance physicals in October and November suggested that I may be susceptible to kidney disorders. I went to a specialist a few days ago, and I'll be submitting some more blood and pee next week. I don't have high blood pressure or diabetes, which are the usual culprits in kidney disorders. Who knows? Anyhow, I've been on the eliptical on a very regular basis, and I was doing Pilates when my back muscles allowed for it. I sprained or tore some muscles when I was repairing my fence early in the year, and they've never healed. I get massages every few weeks, but the muscles scrunch right back up again. I suppose I should just get going with the Pilates and let things take care of themselves.

I think my psychological health improved a tiny bit during the year. I'm much more comfortable in my skin--an overused phrase, but one that seems to fit.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Cartoon of the Year

I saw this shortly after Halloween, and it still makes me bust a gut.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Another title sequence

Someone finally uploaded this one to youtube. It features one of the Beach Boys' best tunes, which fits nicely with the show:

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Happy birthday to me

I turned 44 today. Holy crap!

Christmas 2006

A little water never stopped my kids. I really need to watch my mouth, however, especially when I'm tired and grumpy. The boys woke me up around 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve, and T didn't want to get out of the car on this park run because there was a guy in a particular area of the park with a metal detector. "Look," I blurted out, "just because there's some idiot looking for buried treasure under the swingset doesn't mean you don't get out of the car." I don't know whether the guy heard me, but I really need to be a little nicer sometimes.

A was incredibly happy all weekend long. T was paying attention to him, which is something A has wanted his entire life. T was extremely grumpy during our Christmas Eve car ride to the city, but otherwise he did just fine. He also desparately wanted a solo outing with me, something that would have hurt A emotionally more than it would have helped T, so it didn't happen. He'll get plenty of one-on-one time on his next trip home. Posted by Picasa

T took several long looks at this toy over the past few months, and now it's his. Alas, he took to filling the backhoe bucket with water and dumping it on the kitchen floor. It's so much easier than picking up the plastic rocks that come with the toy.  Posted by Picasa

The stockings were laid on a table with care. Posted by Picasa

The family Christmas tree. Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 22, 2006

Just when you thought you'd seen it all

Today is Global Orgasm for Peace Day. So grab your signifcant other and hop to it! Geez, I hope these people don't need to make up an event for every orgasm they have.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Foggy days

The fog has been very thick in the mornings and evenings the past several days around here. It was eerie this morning as I rounded the Superdome--the stadium was blanketed in a dark fog, while the Sun was shining through a break in the fog just to the east (over the west bank of the river).

Today is the office holiday lunch. I can't put my finger on it, but I've never particularly enjoyed those events. I may have a touch of seasonal depression; I don't know. For several years, I just didn't go. That started when my best office friend boycotted the lunches in protest because our old boss overruled the democratic procedural mechanism we were using to determine whether to do our seasonal event in the office or at a restaurant. I took the opportunity to skip the event too, in favor of taking the afternoon off and going to see a movie. That year, and the following year, things came up at home on the day of the office lunch that made me drop everything and run home anyway. One year I cut out of the event because I had been passed over for a promotion a couple of weeks before, and I was still pissed off at the then-boss. Just skipping the office party made me feel all better about that situation; however, the facial hair I grew shortly thereafter was viewed as some sort of protest (I kid you not, my Gentle Readers). Anyhow, this is the second or third year in a row that I will have made the event; I suppose that's a good thing. It would be fun to have an office party like they had on "The Office" last week--I could see myself as the fat, middle-aged man leading the karaoke/sing-along to Alanis Morissette's "You Ought to Know." That was hysterical.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

All-American Jihad

I'm one of apparently very few people who watches Showtime's "Sleeper Cell," if last season's ratings are any indication. That's a shame, as this season is darker and sharper than the first go-round was. The show is about an American Muslim FBI agent who infiltrates and stops Al Qaeda cells before they can achieve their objectives, and about his nemesis, an Al Qaeda leader who was arrested last season, then this season was extradited to Saudi Arabia and tortured before he escaped. There are some interesting subtexts, most notably the distinctions between moderate Muslims (particularly in the U.S.) and the radicals in the terror cells. Last season the contrast was there, but this year the writers--some of whom are Islamic themselves--are being more aggressive than last year (for instance, one Muslim woman called a member of this year's cell a "fucking nut" when he kept obsessing on some obsolete Shi'ite practice or other). Also, one member of the cell is getting himself some man-luvin', which appears to be making him rethink the whole radical Muslim thing just a little. The show doesn't go easy on U.S. foreign policy, and takes a hard line against torture, but it also shows militant Islam as an assortment of violent, fanatical true believers and oddball malcontents. It's pretty good television.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hey, youse guys

People occasionally ask me why I don't speak with a Southern accent. I don't know; I just don't. I just took a quiz, and it could be that I'm taking on a bit of a New Orleans accent--a unique sounding speech that is vaguely similar to New York-speak:

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Northeast

Judging by how you talk you are probably from north Jersey, New York City, Connecticut or Rhode Island. Chances are, if you are from New York City (and not those other places) people would probably be able to tell if they actually heard you speak.

The Inland North
The Midland
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Holocaust Denial

The wacky President of Iran evidently is hosting a conference on Holocaust denial. It would be easy enough to write these people off as a bunch of nuts--which they are--but their host is openly trying to develop nuclear weapons capacity. Nuts with nukes can't be a good thing. Moreover, one has to wonder about the motivations of people to deny something that has been proven about as conclusively as any event in human history. The Iranians doubtless are cynically furthering an anti-Israeli political agenda, whether any of them actually believe this piffle or not. My guess is that some of the others simply hate Jews, and if they succeed in rewriting history (and thank goodness they won't), then they can justify whatever pogroms they have in their tiny little minds.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Creepy Christmas Carol

Miami's fictional Ice Truck Killer sings "Deck the Halls."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Combating Autism Act

I may have overreacted a bit the other day when I heard the NPR story about the interplay of the Combating Autism Act and Congressman Barton's plan to overhaul the National Institutes of Health. I just read over the amendments Barton made to the CAA, and I don't see any dramatic substantive changes that set off any alarm bells in my own head. The law will not require NIH to investigate any particular theory of autism causation--something wanted by advocates of theories that federal health agencies have historically been unfriendly towards--but it does speak in terms of biomedical and environmental research. The Senate bill, if I read it correctly, would have established and funded research centers devoted solely to the study of possible environmental causes of autism, meaning the mercury in old vaccines. I believe that my own kids' disorders have a genetic cause that may or may not have been triggered by an environmental insult, and I've yet to be convinced by the arguments put forth by advocates of a link between vaccines and autism, but I would like to see the vaccine theory investigated and either confirmed or debunked. If there are too many holes in that theory, then reasonable minds will put it to bed and move on to other, more promising theories.

Incidentally, radio talk-show host Don Imus deserves some credit here. He was relentless in attacking Congressman Barton for holding up the CAA. Imus, like numerous autism bloggers, is unhappy with the mainstream autism organizations for negotiating a compromise on the issue, but he allows that there's more good than bad in the legislation.

I really need to plunge back into autism-related issues. I got so burned out a few years ago by the day-to-day grind of parenting and advocating for my kids with various systems that I backed off to pay some attention to other issues like my own health.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Creepy but brilliant

I've become totally addicted to Showtime's "Dexter," and not only because I appreciate dark humor and can identify with the main character's emotional detachment. It's a well-written show chock full of interesting characters and excellent acting. And those blood-spatter scenes look like a Jackson Pollack painting. Also, the show is incredibly well constructed--with two eps to go, I can't think of any wasted or gratuitous scenes. Few shows are as economical and tightly written as this one. I realize that the storyline is in a very dark corner of a very gray area (a serial killer who only kills other serial killers), and that there is a major creepiness factor, but this is a show people might want to check out.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Headless Hamburgerman?

We had Toby at his favorite McDonald's playland this afternoon. There were a couple of kids atop the seated Ronald McDonald statue. One of them, a boy who looked to be about 5 or 6, appeared to be pulling on Ronald's head. I whispered to DW that it would be a hoot if the boy accidentally pulled off the head. Then we noticed the little girl (probably 3 or 4 years old) seated on Ronald's lap, with her hands on his face, screaming hysterically. The kids' mother came to the rescue. It turns out the boy told his sister that he was going to pull off Ronald McDonald's head.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Randy's ride

We picked up this on our way home from Alexandria the other evening. We need a second car at the moment for a couple of different reasons. We already had decided on a Scion xB and had priced one on the Internet with exactly what we wanted on it. However, the car on the showroom floor kept calling my name, so I bought it.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thanksgiving 2006

We experimented with Thanksgiving this year by spending the holiday in Alexandria, Louisiana. We spent time with Adam and Toby, taking each boy through his usual "swimming pool" visit routine, then having Thanksgiving dinner at a local restaurant. Adam was a hoot, running around the restaurant, laughing and rolling around on the floor. Both boys were full of laughter and mischief. I can't remember a time when my kids laughed so much as they have the past few weeks. Unfortunately, Toby pushed a small girl into the pool during his second pool visit, so we had to take him out of the water early. He is perfectly capable of learning that the only person he can push into the water is me. Also, Adam had me jumping into the outdoor pool. It was 70 degrees out at the time, but it had been down into the 40s the night before, which meant that the water was lung-squeezing cold on the first plunge. Adam wouldn't get in himself; it was enough for him that I did it.

DW and I saw the new James Bond movie while we were in Alexandria. "Casino Royale" is a major departure from the Bond series, pretty much reinventing the character from the very beginning. The story begins at the outset of Bond's career as 007, though it is set in the present day. The Daniel Craig version of Bond is darker, more brutal, and more violent than the Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan versions of the character. The new brutality of the character slaps you in the face in the first scene of the movie, which is a juxtaposition of two brilliantly filmed black-and-white scenes. There were no cool gizmos and gadgets in this movie, and there was some real character development. Also, the writers played a little with Bond's catchphrases--I particularly liked the new Bond's response when the bartender asked whether he wanted his martini shaken or stirred: "Do I look like I really give a damn?" It's a whole other James Bond, and I like it.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Birthday Boy

Adam wasn't feeling well at his classroom birthday party, but I love the crown. I never got to wear a crown on my birthday.

Geometric Art

Here is some of Toby's latest art. Technically, I drew these, but Toby told me what to draw and where. He is fascinated by various shapes, particularly the rectangle and the triangle.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Randy, the country/western song version

My weekend thus far sounds like a c&w song in which one thing after another goes wrong in a downward-spiraling tale of woe. Yesterday, I fetched Toby for a weekend at home. After being held up by traffic in Baton Rouge, I had a flat tire. I stepped in a fire-ant pile when I was changing the tire. Yippee! Then I had an inspiration to get off at the next exit and have the local WalMart put a new tire on the car. There was a tantrum until we got into the main part of the store with a shopping cart, and Toby was concerned when he saw the mechanic get into the car and back it out of the garage. He seemed to think the guy was stealing the car. So we got home after dark, too late to visit some of T's favorite places. This morning, the car was dead as a doornail when I tried to start it. Nothing. So we called for a tow truck and lined up a rental car. The tow truck driver knew what the problem was from personal experience and got our car started again. However, after cancelling the rental car, I discovered that whether the car will continue to start is an iffy proposition. That might not be so bad, except we have to drive 500 miles in it tomorrow.

Update--things ended up just fine. Toby hasn't laughed as much in a long time as he did yesterday and today. We played lots of tickle and chase games, and I had him and another kid we didn't know shouting and laughing loudly for me to push them on their swings at the park. Toby woke me up at 3:30 a.m. today to search for the one computer game we seem to have lost. Damn! He and I drew little pictures in the back seat of the car all the way to Alexandria this morning. Adam was much happier during our visit with him this afternoon than he was last weekend. The car problem cropped up again in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, but I fiddled with things like the tow truck driver advised and we were back in business again. I'll get the damn thing fixed tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Close to home

Sgt. Kenneth Bostic of Hawthorne, Nevada, was killed by a sniper in Iraq last week. Sgt. Bostic was killed in the presence of one of the young men who grew up next door to us, and he was like a family member next door. Sad, very sad.

Monday, November 06, 2006

White and Nerdy

Damn, this is funny. And yes, that's Donny Osmond.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Wrong Way Candidate?

Today I saw a bus with "Chris Bell for Governor" plastered on the side of it. Mr. Bell is the Democratic nominee for Governor of Texas. The thing is, I saw Mr. Bell's bus traveling east through Louisiana. This can't be a good thing two days before the election.

I also saw a bumper sticker on a car promoting the concept of "toughlove." The symbol on the sticker was a heart with a fist inside it. A fist? Yeah, that's what I associate with love.

We had a bit of a rough weekend with Adam. He wasn't feeling well, and he just wasn't himself. However, we had fun celebrating his eighth birthday. Also, we used photographs of some of his favorite places to let him know where we were going, and he seemed to pick up on the idea. Because we had Adam's individualized educational program conference early Friday morning, we headed up on Thursday and played with Toby on Thursday afternoon and evening.

Gentle Reader Andy from Austin and family were our houseguests last weekend. We had a nice time, and I think I gave the M. boys a run for their money. It was so much like playing with Adam and Toby that it was like second nature. I also appreciated that the M. boys kept talking about wanting to meet Toby and Adam and play with them. Hopefully that will happen some day in the not-too-distant future. It's nice to know that our boys have people who genuinely want to be in their lives.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Creepy Credits

Sorta Halloweeny--the creepy opening credits of "Dexter."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Daily Zen in Outer Space!

So taken with
The faultless face and radiance
Of an alluring moon,
My mind goes farther,farther
To reach remote regions of the sky.

- Saigyo (1118 – 1190)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Fun, fun, fun

 Posted by Picasa
Adam had a most excellent morning with his parents. We started at Adam's favorite store, buying more loot than I anticipated. We then went to the park down the street, where I chased Adam around several pieces of playground equipment. At one point, he tried to close me inside the bathroom building by leading me into a doorway, then closing a gate behind me. Then to the swimming pool and the serious business of the day. Adam is done with his training-wheel period; he insisted on swimming for himself with very little assistance--and he's capable of making it 10-12 feet on his own before he pulls up and brings his head out of the water. He was mingling with two or three other boys in the pool, and he swims almost as well as they do. That was the indoor pool experience. Outdoors, the air temperature was in the 50s or low 60s, but Adam insisted I take him out there anyway. DW was sane, and she watched us through the window. Adam stuck his foot in the outdoor pool and decided it was too cold--for him, anyway. He pulled me to the edge and pushed me until I jumped in. Brrr! The water really was too cold. I jumped in several times, then took him back inside. He insisted on going outside yet again and making me jump in a few times. Finally, I picked him up and dropped him into the water. He climbed right out and was ready to go to our hotel room. Later, we took Adam to a buffet restaurant near the hotel instead of the usual Burger King. He behaved very well and ate lots of soft-serve ice cream. This was a very fun day with Adam.

Edited to add: I wrote a little poem this morning while doing jury duty.

in many ways
still a baby
in the water
like other boys
his age
his joy, our joy

I want you!

 Posted by Picasa
Toby spent Saturday afternoon swimming and playing with DW and I. By swimming, I mean jumping in the water, using us as walls to kick off of, and throwing chairs into the pool (that last one was totally unexpected). We spent most of our time drawing geometric pictures, with me doing Toby's drawing by proxy. However, he is getting better at seeing how to use lines to draw shapes, so no doubt he will start drawing these shapes himself, then arranging the shapes into representational images. When we were at McDonald's, Toby for the first time had us draw a social story of his day. We drew a notebook, a pencil, french fries, chicken nuggets, and a stick figure jumping into the water. These are the kind of little things that sometimes make me teary-eyed.

Another poem from jury duty:

is big and scary
but the swimming pool
and the blanket

talking candy, wtf?

Night before last, I dreamt that I was in a candy store, in charge of somebody's 6-7 year old daughter. I don't think she was my child. She was upset and making a bit of a scene, and I went off to find the best chocolate candy in the store for her. The store clerk came over to see what this girl was crying about, but the clerk was an old roommate of mine. I walked over and assured him that I was in charge of the girl, and also that I had found the very best chocolate candy in the store.

Thing was, this chocolate candy was solid chocolate, but it was shaped sort of human-like and pretzel-like, I suppose something like a Tim Burton animation. But I don't recall seeing any faces or heads. Also, the label on the candy tin had an American-flag shield, and the candy was American history themed. The candy also talked, and it spouted racial and sexist slogans. The girl and the store clerk looked perplexed. I told the girl it was okay to go ahead and eat the candy because it tasted really good.

Does any of this mean anything, or was my subconscious just messing with me?

Monday, October 16, 2006


I posted the ad from Showtime's ultra-weird "Dexter" because DW said that it was amazing how much he reminds her of me. I asked for an explanation, seeing as how Dexter kills people and all. DW said no, it's not that, but that I have an ability to appear calm, cool, and collected on the surface, even when there's tons of turmoil underneath. DW also thinks that Dexter's wicked sense of humor parallels my own.

I made a few comments at lunch the other day about specific people who have identities on the Internet and how they are either like those identities IRL or unlike those identities. I think that my persona on this blog is pretty close to my IRL self, however, the personae I've created in other corners of cyberspace can be far more outrageous, loud, bold, assertive, playful, obnoxious, and offensive than I could ever let myself be IRL. I suppose that the relative anonymity of the Internet allows for quiet, shy, deeply insecure people like me to become something else. I've always detested my inborn shyness, and it's been very difficult to overcome.

I suppose that we all put on the proverbial mask from time to time, whether to get through professional situations during times of personal turmoil, to get ahead in professional or personal situations, to deal with people we detest, to compensate for traits we don't like about ourselves, or to conceal sadness or other afflictive emotions from people we love and don't want to hurt.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday the 13th

Your humble host enjoyed a leisurely lunch with Gentle Reader Ann and former Uptowners Corey and Shannon. Good times.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


From Ann, from Vegas Joe:

The Rules of this tag game are:
1. Grab the book nearest to cheating!
2. Open to page 123.
3. Scroll down to the fifth sentence.
4. Post text of next 3 sentences on to your blog.

(b) Arbitrations. Cite as court cases if adversary parties are named and as administrative adjudications if they are not. The arbitrator's name should be indicated parenthetically. Thus:

--Kroger Co. v. Amalgamated Meat Cutters, Local 539, 74 Lab. Arb. Rep. (BNA) 785, 787 (1980) (Doering, Arb.).

The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, 123 (18th ed. 2005).

My kids.

Lots and lots of play this weekend in my family. Toby and Adam both love to splash around in the indoor swimming pool pictured below, and Adam does his more serious swimming in the outdoor pool pictured below:

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Rule 62

Randy asked if folks would like to contribute to his blog and I accepted the invitation. The writing assignment is to describe affirmatively what I believe in. I have found this difficult without wanting to saying something about what I don’t believe in, I will resist the temptation.

I am going to list what I believe in based upon what I actually do. I might try to create the list order of importance but that isn’t a primary goal, here goes.

•FAMILY: My immediate family is my primary concern. I value my wife and two children above all else. I believe in nurturing each member and working toward their wellbeing. Because I value them, I conclude that I will be happier if they are taken care of.

•SACRIFICE: My immediate family is the primary beneficiary of most of the sacrifices I make. Example: I am willing do as my wife has asked and that is not move the family from Calgary until our children have finished school (K-12). There is an exception to this request by my wife and that is if I was to get a job that paid over 6 figures (which is possible if I were to land a job in the oil patch/northern Alberta). I am also willing to do the things that I think loving nurturing parents do (particularly when it doesn’t suit them to do it).

•PEOPLE: Others make life worthwhile, I need others. Healing most often occurs being with another. Many people are almost as important to me as are my immediate family members.

•FIDELITY: I am committed to monogamy, emotional and physical.

•HONESTY: I strive to be honest with myself, people, employers, and external organizational entities. I sometimes fail and always try to inventory my failure.

•EMPATHY: I almost don’t have any choice in this value/belief. I am compelled to be empathic and wonder about my need in this regard.

•SERVICE: I think one of the best ways for me to ease my psychic pain is to do something for somebody else (outside of my family). I do this and for me it works.

•FORGIVENESS: Practically speaking, forgiving people is critical to my happiness.

•PLAY: Screwing around with family and friends is almost as therapeutic as service.

•DIVERSION: Refocusing my attention is often an effective tool in maintaining or getting back peace. Favorite diversionary tactic – loud music and dancing.

•MINDFULNESS: Paying attention to my mind is critical to all the foregoing values/beliefs.

•MEDITATION: I generally only use it in times of emergencies and it is effective.

•ESCAPE: Watching TV, reading and Internet communications.

I wrote this list fast, I didn’t want to think about it to much. I wanted something that was hopefully free from verbose junk. This idea is important to me, *what I actually do is what I actually believe in.*

I do see our world as this incredible and amazing force of nature. Evolution blows my mind. The cosmos is so out there (pun intended) and I can’t grasp it, the indescribable magnitude kicks my ass.

Someday I want to add to my list RULE 62: I don’t take myself too seriously (I'm not there yet, but perhaps I could add this item along side my *honesty* bullet). I am reading a book by Jared Diamond called “Why Is Sex Fun? The Evolution of Human Sexuality” Once again I am reminded that nature is a force to be respected and guilt is an emotion that doesn’t always respect nature (I couldn’t go the whole way without throwing in a dig against something.)

Thanks Randy for letting me play.


Randy's kinda sorta manifesto

Hmmm. This was my idea, so I'll give it a go.

I believe in love, compassion, and empathy, especially with regard to my immediate family. I have learned much from our sometimes joyful, sometimes painful experiences of the past several years, but nothing more than that I deeply love my wife and children. I am fortunate, I suppose, that compassion and empathy seem to be part of my nature. Strangely, however, love was an emotion that pretty much had to be learned. I think I feared it, quite honestly.

I believe that we are all interconnected to some extent, a phenomenon that helps me to think in terms of compassion and empathy. I'm not sure exactly how this interconnectedness works--beyond my circle of family and friends, this connection may be more spiritual than material--but I sense that it is real.

I believe in spirituality, whether or not it is tied to any particular faith tradition. For me personally, spirituality is an experiential and experimental phenomenon; however, I respect those who find their way in more traditional structures. I believe that we are born with everything we need spiritually already implanted within us--whether by God or nature--and that the challenge is to discover that and develop it.

I believe that freedom of speech and expression of ideas is the most important principle in our political discourse. That is not to say that all ideas are valid or equal--I certainly believe in shouting down, disproving, and discrediting ideas I find offensive or wrong. I tend to have knee-jerk reactions to any restrictions on speech (other than reasonable restrictions on time, place, and manner), even outside of the political sphere. Having said all that, I'm perfectly willing to be bound by the restrictions on my own speech that go along with my job, but that is a matter of choice.

I believe in equality. This comes in part from my religious upbringing. I really believed that we are all equal in the eyes of God, and that He is no respecter of persons. Moreover, I've always been something of a "small-d democrat," at least on a philosophical level. I still get pissed whenever the highway is closed for a presidential visit--why can't he drive in the damn traffic like everybody else? In practice, of course, it seems that some people are more equal than others, as Orwell wrote, but it sure is nice to at least believe otherwise.

I believe in reason, scholarship, science, and the scientific method. This should go without saying, but with antiscientific, ahistorical worldviews seeing something of a resurgence, I thought I'd throw it in. I do not believe that science and scholarship are necessarily at odds with sprituality and religion, though they may occasionally suggest reinterpretation of cherished beliefs.

I probably believe some other stuff too, but these are some of my biggies.

I believe in Family

Some of us are fortunate to have families of origin that are loving and patient and accepting and strong. I have a family like that. When I was a psycho teen, my parents never gave up on me. When I was a single parent struggling to get by from paycheck to paycheck, they helped with money and food and care for the kids. They provided moral support as well as physical assistance - and both were sorely needed and appreciated.

I'm not as close to them as I would like to be, but I know that if I ever need anything, my brothers will give whatever I ask.

Not only was I born into a wonderful family, I have created a wonderful family. Well, it took a couple of tries, but it was sure worth persisting! My husband is a top notch human. He is a gentle, giving, kind person. I'm a better person because I'm married to him. My adult children are exemplary young people. I would be proud to point them out to anyone and claim them as kin. My youngest is a joy. If you're going to have a baby when you're almost 40, it's best to have a baby like mine. He's bright, funny, cheerful, engaging, and superbly well-behaved.

I have seen example after example of how good families work. I have also seen some counter-examples of how bad families don't work.

Good families forgive, over and over and over again.

Good families are there during the good times. They're also there during the hard times, doing what needs to be done.

Good families take each other in when a member needs a place to stay.

Good families hold each other up.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Surreal Night

DW and I were tucked away last night in our hotel in Alexandria, Louisiana. Around 2:00 a.m., we were awakened by party sounds from the parking lot. I looked out the window and saw a dozen or so African-American men in tuxedos standing in the parking lot, with a caravan of cars driving in a circular parade. When I called the front desk, I was assured that the police were on the way. I think it was homecoming weekend for at least one of the local high schools, so maybe the parade had something do with that. Hell if I know.

So I went back to sleep and had a dream that was even stranger than the parking-lot party. I was observing a tiny religious cult that was heavily into arson. I got the impression that they had burned some buildings and were being chased by the authorities. The leader of the cult looked very much like some movie depictions of Lucifer himself, with a helmet atop his head with what looked like curled ram/goat horns on the side. This evil prophet, however, really didn't know what he was doing. He had relied for guidance on a fanatical disciple with what I thought was a Germanic first name, but I can't remember that name. The so-called leader was careful not to give away that he was lost without this disciple telling him what to do. However, that disciple recently had died. I don't know that the cause of death ever came out in my dream. I was not actually in the dream, but I had a kind of birds-eye view of its activities. When I caught up with the evil prophet, he was at the base of a mountain of rock, trying to figure out how to preserve his group from government persecution. He pointed his finger at the rocks, and flames shot out from his finger and set the rocks on fire. "That's it!" he thought, "I'll use fire as a distraction!" He made a wall of fire around the group's compound, and had the group gather inside a small room. Now he was dressed as a Zen master. One of the members of the group came in and praised the deceased disciple, who had preached that the group and its leader must purify themselves and prepare for "instruction," I presume from a supernatural source, whatever instruction that might be, and even if only one instruction was ever given. The evil prophet laughed and said that this member could always be counted on to revive the teachings of the deceased disciple. The group bowed, zen-style, with the leader, as bullets shot through the large window of the room. A government aircraft was strafing the compound. However, no members of the group were killed, though some were injured. Suddenly, it was dead silent. It remained silent for several hours, and one of the members of the group looked outside. All she saw was a woman and her child in a shopping cart, evidently looking to loot the cult's shopping area. At that point, my wake-up call from the front desk came in, and I had to wake up.

I can't imagine what this dream means, if anything at all.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Mini Superbowl

Next Monday will be pretty raucous in New Orleans. The Saints and Falcons will play in the Superdome on Monday Night Football. ESPN, the NFL, and Saints management are treating this like a mini-superbowl, and the people around here are pretty psyched. Jude Law even showed up at a Saints rally earlier this week and was presented with a Reggie Bush jersey. The pre-game show next Monday will feature the Goo Goo Dolls, Green Day, and U2. Green Day and U2 will even record a song together. As far as the game is concerned, both teams have played surprisingly well, but the Falcons look pretty much unstoppable. Go Saints!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Mad Prophet of the Airwaves

Three of Peter Finch's fabulous over-the-top rants from "Network."

EDITED TO ADD: Here is a link to Ned Beatty's wonderful rant in "Network."

Saturday, September 16, 2006

obsessive compulsive weekend

Adam is home this weekend, and he is totally obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine, the water, and crayons. We have a mound of crayons on our bedroom floor, and I've probably spent $100 on toy train engines in the past couple of days. But I'm glad to see him identifying with something, and kids with autism really love Thomas. We had a crisis today, when Adam took a messy dump in the pool. I drained it by pulling it over, with him climbing in and out of the now-underside that was still draining. This was quite an effort, actually; that water weighs a ton, especially when you're trying to drain it in a hurry. I hosed off Adam, and hosed down the pool with clorox, then reset it and refilled it. In the meantime, I dumped his pool toys into a wheelbarrow filled with water and clorox. I brought Adam in for a bath a little later. It was a neat trick, and I'm surprised I pulled it off. Then there was the trip to PetSmart. Adam is obsessed with the automatic door at that store, and he has become obsessed with the sales-circular rack. I had to adjust it back to its proper position (they had moved it to a rather awkward place, actually), and we rearranged the circulars into a situation agreeable to Adam. He got upset when someone actually took one of the circulars from the rack, but he got over it quickly, and we were back to playing with the automatic door.

Update: Adam woke us up at 3 a.m. today. Ugh. After we dropped him off, we picked up Toby for a couple of hours on the town. Toby has become obsessed with the swimming pool at the local hotel where we spend one or two weekends a month, and he kept shouting "swimminapool" the whole time we were out. He refused to enjoy himself. It seems pretty typical of a 9-year-old to be more interested in going into the pool than seeing his parents.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Fictional character

There is a statue of fictional character Ignatius J. Reilly outside the hotel that was once the D.H. Holmes department store. "A Confederacy of Dunces" opens underneath the old clock outside of that store. The statue is pretty much hidden underneath an awning, and the front entrance to the hotel is on the other side to boot. Still, Ignatius stands as a monument to this city's literary history.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Egads, he's reading poetry now

Yesterday, I picked up a book of Dylan Thomas's poetry. I only started to appreciate poetry a few years ago; kind of strange, given that I have always worked with the written word. I suppose that the search for meaning leads us naturally into some degree of appreciation for the arts. Anyhow, here's a classic that happens to be one of my favorite poems:

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Beach Trip

Due to generally crappy weather, I didn't put up the pool for Toby's trip home, and he was aching for the water. Late yesterday afternoon, I decided to take a chance, so we got in the car and headed to Waveland, Mississippi, location of the beach nearest to our house. Waveland was also Ground Zero for the Hurricane Katrina storm surge. I had been along U.S. Hwy. 90 through Waveland and Bay St. Louis, but this was my first drive along the beach there. "Holy crap!" is an understatement, even an entire year after the storm. Waveland/Bay St. Louis used to be blue collar towns with white-collar enclaves right along the shore. Some of the houses along Beach Blvd. were quite lovely, though not quite as nice as the mansions that were obliterated in nearby Pass Christian. Anyhyow, there are only a few structures (perhaps 2 or 3) left from before, and none of the signs or landmarks that I used previously to navigate through the town and to the beach. For a half-mile or mile back from the shore, it's a maze of weeded-up lots and slabs, though many of the trees remain. There are even a few M*A*S*H-type tents set up, one of which is the local produce market.

Fortunately, Toby was oblivious to the utter devastation, and he had a wonderful time splashing around in the surf. The powers-that-be in Mississippi have done a yeoman's job restoring that beach, which is manmade and man-maintained to begin with. Also, the Gulfport/Biloxi casinos are reopening, which should pump some money into that area. It's nice to have the beach option back in the picture when the kids are home.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Toby in the house

This train was way overpriced, but it beats chasing real ones in the car. Posted by Picasa

To heck with the rain--I'm a-swingin' Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Daily Zen

Delusion conceives of things as
Existent or nonexistent,
As being real or unreal,
As born or unborn.
In an uncluttered place,
Concentrate your mind,
Remain steady and unmoving,
Like a polar mountain.
Observe that all phenomena
Have no existence,
That they are like space,
Without solid stability,
Neither being born nor emerging.
Unmoving, unflagging,
Abide in oneness:
This is called the place of nearness.

- Lotus Sutra

Saturday, August 19, 2006

First Impressions

Harsh Light Of Morning Falls On One-Night Stand's DVD Collection

It's interesting how we judge people by their libraries, CDs, iPod lists, and DVD collections. I noticed several years ago that the teenagers from the church youth group opened my CD case first thing whenever they got in my car. Evidently, I was okay. Must have been those Bob Marley discs. Anybody checking out the DVD collection in my house would go away scratching his/her head. We have everything from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" to "GoodFellas" to "the Looney Tunes Golden Collection."

So what's in your DVD collection?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Long and boring

Recently, I've been trying to understand just what the hell goes on inside the heads of my mother and her freak show of a family. Whenever the topic of their faith has come up, I have argued that they are only quasi-Mormon, that they took bits and pieces of the LDS religion and its doctrines and shaped them into the H. family’s own worldview.  Upon reflection, I think what happened was that the family grabbed ahold of some formerly widely accepted doctrinal and unofficial, folk elements of Mormonism that have since been abandoned or downplayed by the mainstream of the church (but that still persist on the fringes), and has not let go of them.  In this essay, I will examine the H. family’s worldview, then look at LDS beliefs consistent with those views and how LDS beliefs have changed.  I will also examine my own views and discuss where I think the mainstream of the LDS church is.

A bit of biography before I proceed, I am a “less active” member of the LDS Church, and an unbelieving one to boot.  That was not always the case, however.  I have had periods of activity in the church, most significantly, from around 1991-2001.  Though I’ve always been deeply skeptical of certain aspects of the religion, it worked well for me during that 10-year period.  This essay really has nothing to do with the reasons for my disbelief. Moreover, I won’t touch on controversies like polygamy or the authenticity of certain canonized texts.  Hopefully, as you, my dear reader will see, it was, paradoxically, my own adult involvement in the church that allowed me to see that the organization does not necessarily share the H. family’s malignant outlook on the world.  It’s almost as if there are two Mormon churches–-theirs, and the one I knew during my active years.


The H. family has always believed in the superiority of the caucasian race.  The word “nigger” was, and is, commonly used among family members, though my father forbade its use in our house (my mother refers to “the blacks”).  One of my uncles went so far (at least, according to his offspring) as to affiliate with the Ku Klux Klan in his distant past, and that same individual more recently has voiced at least some affinity for the “new order” white-supremacist movement.  My cousins tell the Klan story, then, with a wink and a nod, say “but we’re not supposed to know that.”  So consider yourselves not supposed to know that.  To be fair, the degree of racism varies among individual family members, and there are some family members I don’t know very well, so it’s possible that others have pulled themselves away from the toxicity of racism.

As for me, I must acknowledge that I bought into this racist worldview until my teen years.  One of the few things my father ever said that resonated with me was when there was a story about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on television, and I was in the room alone with him.  I may have been 11 or 12 at the time.  I made a racist crack about someone I had been taught was a communist anyway.  My father looked at me very seriously and growled, “if you achieve half of what that man achieved, then you would be great.”  He then left the room.  That really hit me hard.  I now consider King to be one of the greatest figures in American history.  Looking back, I really wish my father had been more assertive in disabusing us of the racial bullshit we got from my mother and her family.  Also, I associated with African-American kids in school, and found them to be, well, pretty much like me.  Finally, my natural disposition is mostly cheery and positive, which makes it hard for me to hold grudges, much less hate people.  So racism didn’t take root in my mind like it did in the members of my mother’s H. family.

From 1852-1978, the LDS Church, as a matter of policy, withheld its lay priesthood from men of African descent (women are still barred).  The precise reasons for the ban are unclear.  However, it is clear that Church President Brigham Young was an inveterate racist who believed that Africans bore the “mark of Cain” as a curse going back to the times of the Book of Genesis:  “The first man [Cain] that committed the odious crime of killing one of his bretheren will be cursed the longest of any one of the children of Adam . . . . [A]nd the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin . . . . Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree.”  Because of this mark, according to Young, Africans could not obtain the priesthood until after every other group of people on the planet had it extended to them.  The “mark of Cain” theory was not official LDS doctrine, and it was not uncommon among white Christians during the 19th Century.  However, outside of the real wacko fringe, it seems to have had its most lasting effect in the LDS Church.  Certain scriptures in the uniquely Mormon Book of Abraham and Book of Moses were interpreted as supporting the notion of white superiority, making Mormon racism not just a matter of practice but a matter of hard doctrine.  In 1966, at the time the Civil Rights movement was in full swing, Apostle Bruce McConkie wrote that “Negroes in this life are denied the priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty.”  I recall as a youth hearing that theory and the related theory that Africans were fence-sitters in the pre-existence struggle between the forces of good and evil.  It must be said, however, that some more liberal Mormons have theorized that the ban existed because the white Mormons were not ready until 1978 for people of African descent to hold the priesthood.

The doctrinal racism of the LDS Church was an ideal fit for the ideological racism of the H. family, which began joining the Church in the late 1950s.  Here was actual religious justification for the belief in white superiority.

Whatever the reason for the ban, it was ended by Church President Spencer W. Kimball in 1978.  McConkie wrote that people should disregard his own words, and Brigham Young’s, on the topic of African descent and the LDS priesthood, stating that “we spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.”  Current President Gordon B. Hinckley very recently chastised any church members who might harbor racist views, and I take him at his word. However, the leadership of the Church has never actually issued a statement or otherwise indicated that the priesthood ban was wrong.  McConkie’s statement is the closest thing I’ve seen to an acknowledgment of error from an official source; however, he later wrote that “in all past ages and until recent times in this dispensation, the Lord did not offer the priesthood to the Negroes,” thus suggesting that the ban was divinely inspired.

I suppose a fair number of Mormons assume at least tacitly that Brigham Young and his successors were simply wrong and go on about their business.  I would guess that most Mormons assume that God had His reasons for imposing the ban, then removing it, and that questioning the actions of a prophet like Brigham Young is heresy (“speaking evil of the Lord’s anointed” is a violation of a temple covenant).  That does raise the uncomfortable question whether consistency or inconsistency mean anything at all, but that’s a subject for another essay.  In any event, African-Americans participate in the Church just as white people do, and, as President Hinckley recently suggested, racism is now simply unacceptable.  One of my racist cousins, however, argues that Africans are still inferior because the priesthood was withheld from them until 1978.  A statement from the Church officially repudiating the doctrine underlying the priesthood ban would help disabuse “soft” racist Mormons of their racist ideals, but I doubt it would do much good with my so-called relatives.  Moreover, it would mean officially renouncing a doctrine that was put forth and fiercely defended by men who are believed to have been prophets of God–-something I doubt the current leaders of the Church will ever be inclined to do.  In the end, the Church has moved from officially racist to officially un-racist--albeit without a formal repudiation of the former, doctrinal racism--something that is inconsistent with the H. family’s worldview.

Conspiracy theories and secret combinations:

The H. family for as long as I can remember has believed that the government of the United States is controlled by the grand conspiracy currently known as the New World Order.  A few years ago, my mother told me that her father was a believer in the anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which was proved to be a hoax in 1921.  The Protocols, seem to be the granddaddy of all conspiracy literature.  I have heard virtually no anti-Semitism from the H. family, with the exception of the wacko ex-Klan uncle.  Indeed, they believe that the Jews are God’s other chosen people, and that Israel should be defended.  But the point here is that the H. family’s conspiracy beliefs have a long pedigree.

Moreover, members of the H. family tend to view the world in Manichean, good vs. evil terms (and, evidently, I am evil).  My mother frequently quoted Jesus as saying something to the effect of “he who is not with me is against me.”  A very rigid sense of judgment and a feeling that those who disagree are evil are both symptoms of paranoid disorders, when taken to an extreme.  One tendency of paranoid people is belief in conspiracy theories.  Individual members of the H. family show other signs of clinical delusional disorders, to varying degrees, so it’s possible that their belief in conspiracies is based in a mutually shared psychiatric disorder, I don’t know.

The Book of Mormon warns of “secret combinations,” and the canonical Doctrine and Covenants warns of the “evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days.”  Moreover, local mobs in various states, and the United States government itself, opposed the LDS Church for the final 60 years or so of the 19th Century, mostly over polygamy.  See Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1878).  Mormon history thus left the LDS Church of my youth obsessed with the notion that it was subject to persecution.  Indeed, Mormons in overwhelmingly non Mormon areas are occasionally subjected to persecution.  See Santa Fe Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290 (2000).  Additionally, Joseph Smith supposedly prophesied/predicted (I suppose I should look it up) that the persecution of Mormons would intensify as the end times approached.  Mormonism developed in relative isolation from the rest of American society–-that was the whole point of the move from Illinois to Utah, to be left alone.  A group that has developed in isolation could tend to develop serious distrust of outsiders.  The notion that a large, societal power like the LDS Church could be subject to persecution must seem preposterous to an outsider, but it’s a part of the legacy of Mormonism.

The critical theory concept of the metanarrative may assist in understanding the popularity of political conspiracy theories among Mormons.  Thanks to Hank Rearden for turning me onto this concept, and to Captain Mike for his comments on the subject.  The Wikipedia (okay, so this is not an attempt at an academic dissertation, but the Wiki offers a concise definition, so let’s go with it, okay?) states:

A metanarrative can include any grand, all-encompassing story, classic text, or archetypal account of the historical record.  They can also provide a framework upon which an individual’s own experiences and thoughts may be ordered.  These grand, all-encompassing stories are typically characterized by some form of “transcendent and universal truth” in addition to an evolutionary tale of human existence (a story with a beginning, middle and an end).  The majority of metanarratives tend to be relatively optimistic in their visions for humankind, some verge on utopian, but different schools of thought offer very different accounts.

I suppose that the Bible serves as the basis for the metanarrative most familiar to Americans--the story of humankind’s creation, its fall, the apprenticeship of the Hebrew people with the moody God of the Old Testament, and its redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, with the Book of Revelations thrown in at the end to scare people into repentance (I guess).  The Mormon metanarrative, adding the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, the Book of Moses, and the Doctrine and Covenants, extends the Biblical one both spatially (into the Americas) and temporally (into the preexistence and the afterlife, in detail).  LDS founder Joseph Smith was intellectually curious, and he asked questions about various aspects of the overall Christian metanarrative, and about the history of that metanarrative in the Americas, that adherents to Mormonism believe God answered through revelation.  The Book of Mormon is the text most relevant to belief in conspiracy theories--in the book, there is a centuries-long struggle between the light-skinned Nephites (who maintained their Judaism and later became Christians) and the darker-skinned Lamanites (who invented their own faith).  The Nephites and Lamanites came from the same lineage of immigrant Jews, but the Lamanites were given dark skin (up pops race again) as a curse upon the founders of their tribe.  The Lamanites ultimately prevailed and became the “principal ancestors” of the American Indians, though DNA testing has not confirmed their Hebrew ancestry.  There are periods of relative calm in the book, and, at various points, bands of Lamanites join the Nephites and vice versa.  The climax of the book is Christ’s visit to the Americas shortly after His crucifixion in Palestine.  As I have mentioned, the book recounts a lengthy struggle between the Nephites (good) and the Lamanites (bad).  It’s essentially a Manichean struggle between good and evil, with no real middle ground.  Also, the Nephites on occasion fall prey to conspirators, and, as I mentioned above, the book warns of “secret combinations.”  Mormondom therefore provides fertile ground for conspiracy theories involving the struggle between the forces of good and evil.

As far as Mormon belief in political conspiracies, the rubber hit the road in the 1960s and 1970s in the figures of Apostle (and, in his declining years, Church President) Ezra Taft Benson (a blood relative of my wife and children, so let's take it easy on him, 'kay?) and BYU’s W. Cleon Skousen, though it must be said that their conspiracy theories never worked their way into the hard doctrine of the LDS Church.  These were the Cold War years, and Communism was a perfect fit for conspiracy theorists.  Krushchev, after all, did say that they would bury us.  Benson was sympathetic to the far-right John Birch Society and its political aims.  Anyhow, here’s a representative quote of Benson’s regarding conspiracies:  “Now undoubtedly Moroni [in the Book of Mormon] could have pointed out many factors that led to the destruction of the people, but notice how he singled out the secret combinations, just as the Church today could point out many threats to peace, prosperity, and the spread of God’s work, but it has singled out the greatest threat as the godless conspiracy.  There is no conspiracy theory in the Book of Mormon--it is a conspiracy fact.”

Skousen’s self-published “The Naked Capitalist” (1970) became something of a bible for conspiracy theorists.  The book is actually a review of eccentric Georgetown Professor Carroll Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope.  My mother had a copy of the book, and I remember reading it and coming away totally unconvinced.  Quigley alleged that the Western world had been controlled by groups of bankers and other capitalists up until the 1930s or so, which he thought was a good thing.  Skousen essentially linked Quigley’s capitalist “round table groups” (the Council on Foreign Relations was a prominent group) to the Communist Party, and argued that the conspirators’ wealth should be confiscated and that they should be vigorously resisted.  Not only did the conspirators control the Communist Party, but the Democratic and Republican Parties too.  “Richard Nixon is NOT a communist,” I recall telling my mother.  Skousen’s theories are still around, most notably at the National Center for Constitutional Studies (  Notably for conspiracy theorists, Bill Clinton paid tribute to Carroll Quigley in his 1992 acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention.

The H. family ate this stuff up, as did a good many LDS Church members.  Benson was a prominent Church leader, after all, and Skousen was a professor at the Church’s own university.  Moreover, the struggle between “Godless Communism” (which was, in fact, evil, in practice if not in theory) and Western Democracy seemed to mirror the Nephite/Lamanite struggle in the Book of Mormon.  However, a good many Mormons were unconvinced.  For instance, in a 1971 edition of the very unofficial Mormon review Dialogue, BYU’s Louis Midgley shredded Skousen’s arguments one by one, then chastised Skousen:  “The effect of The Naked Capitalist is . . . to direct the attention of the Saints away from the gospel and to form a cult . . . .  Such a radical and false ideology, no matter how cleverly packaged and rationalized, does not teach us to love or neighbors or forgive others; it does not open us to the sanctifying effects of the Spirit.

Ezra Taft Benson’s mental state deteriorated during his tenure as Church President, and Apostles Hinckley and Thomas S. Monson effectively took control of the Church.  Around the same time, the Communist Bloc collapesd.  I can’t recall hearing any conspiracy talk from the pulpit since then.  Under Hinckley, the LDS Church has attempted to avoid being too closely affiliated with any American politcal movement, though the majority of Church members in this country side with the Republican Party.  A few years ago, one high-ranking Church leader even said that it was acceptable to be a good Mormon and a Democrat (Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is an active Mormon).  That sentiment is absolutely unacceptable to the H. family.

Stages of Faith and Mormonism According to Randy:

Thanks again to Hank, this time for turning me on to James Fowler’s theory of six stages of faith. Looking at Fowler’s theory, I see the H. family firmly entrenched in stage two, which is very literal, linear, anthropomorphic, and unforgiving, while I, along with most Mormons, was somewhere in stage three, at least from 1991 to around 1999 or 2000, when my questioning began in earnest.  Fowler’s third stage, synthetic-conventional faith, involves socialization, integration, and conformity, and the doctrines, dogmas, and practices of one’s faith tradition become an “inseparable factor in the ordering of one’s world.”  Authority derives from the top down, and the internalization of the system may become so entrenched that objective evaluation becomes impossible.  I do not wish to imply that intelligent, thoughtful, curious people cannot live happily at stage three; I do not believe that is at all true.

Anyway, my own, fully adult involvement with the LDS Church began when I hit a low point in my life, shortly after I began working as a lawyer.  Typical to the manichean, dark/light piece of my mind, I reached a point where I wanted to drive out my “dark side.”  I tore into the New Testament, and was, metaphorically at least, on fire with what I read.  The Jesus I came to know was not a racist or a conspiracy theorist, though in Mormon teaching, Jesus is the moody, sometimes vindictive God of the Old Testament.  Even Paul’s writings were music to my ears, in spite of their misogyny and homophobia.  The focus is on love, forgiveness, humility, and service.  I returned to the faith of my youth.  The church I saw had African-Americans in it, and even honest-to-God liberals.  One branch president would frequently disregard Old Testament scripture as “simply wrong” because it is inconsistent with everything else we know about the nature of God.  It didn’t take long for me to see that this was not the angry, racist, conspiracist religion of the H. family; rather, on the local level, at least, it was a pretty reasonable group of people.  Sure, ths authorities in Salt Lake sounded authoritarian and controlling--and, of course, obsessed with sexuality--and their Utah-centric programs have to be adapted beyond recognition to meet local needs, but the local people here were more relevant to my own life than were the leaders in Utah.

As I’ve discussed, Mormonism has, in practice, for the most part, rid itself of the racism and conspiracism that constitutes the H. family’s worldview.  That is undeniably a positive development.  At the same time, the Church has put the squeeze on intellectuals who call into question the official version of Mormon history, or who delve into “the mysteries of the kingdom” in their studies.  In Mormon parlance, the operative term is “correlation.”  The Church’s correlation program is a massive attempt to ensure that the teaching of doctrine and history is entirely consistent with the current beliefs of the Church.  Whatever doesn’t fit is discarded, whether it is factually true or not.  With the wacko right and the intellectual left pruned, the Hinckley-led LDS Church is positioned pretty much on the right-hand side of the mainstream of American life. The Church's shrill advocacy of the marriage amendment is seriously disappointing, as is its cluelessness about, and hostility towards, its GLBT members generally. However, the same could be said about the Bush Administration and various other institutions.


My own drift from Mormonism began when my children were diagnosed with autism.  Watching them, I realized just how little we understand about the human mind and how people are wired in different ways. With a developmental disability in the house, the linear progression model of life that is prevalent in Mormonism no longer applied to my family.  Our local congregation had no idea what to do with us, as we really didn’t fit into that linear mindset.  Whatever, we just didn’t feel welcome there, though the leaders of that congregation remain friends of mine. Around the same time, I was assigned to teach a Sunday school class of older teenagers, which required me to think about hard doctrine for the first time in a long time. One Sunday, I began a question, “now, when Joseph Smith wrote, um, translated, the Book of Mormon . . .”  This is NOT the way an LDS Sunday School teacher phrases a question, and it was quite unintentional.  Reflecting on that, and with the catalyst of the experience in my home, I reexamined my belief system and found that the LDS Gospel just didn’t fit where I was in my life.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Parental bragging

We spent the weekend in our usual hotel in Alexandria, Louisiana, where we take our boys to play in the water and/or with the elevator. They had the indoor pool area closed yesterday afternoon for a wedding, so DW, Toby, and I splashed around until about five minutes before the ceremony, then we had to improvise for a while. We ended up running around a McDonald's playland, something we haven't done in a while. Toby laughed and laughed as I chased him around the place.

This morning, we took Adam to the hotel, and, for the first time, played in the hotel's outdoor pool. It was a wise choice. After about half an hour of our normal routine, Adam started having me get out of the water, then he would pull my hand and push me into the deep end (7'). He would then run all the way across the enclosure and grab onto the fence. He would see me swim to the ladder, and he would start the whole thing all over again. This happened several times. DW commented that it looked like he was using me as a proxy for what he himself wanted to do. Our kids tend to do that. So I took his hand and pulled him after me a couple of times, then pushed him up and to the ladder. Then I picked him up and threw him in all by himself. I made sure he landed about 2 feet from the ladder. I threw him in several more times, each time a little further from the ladder. Now, get this--Adam swam to the ladder! Mostly he dog-paddled, but it was the first time I've seen him move, on his own, in a coordinated fashion while holding his head above the water. I suppose most parents take this kind of thing for granted, but this is a freakin' huge big deal for Adam, and for his parents.

Cell phone photos

I finally got my cellphone configured to e-mail photos. There was some kind of funky thing with Sony Ericsson previously, but today it was easy to get it all fixed. So here are some recent photos of my kids I took with the cellphone. It takes the pictures much faster than my digital camera, so it catches the moment a little better.

Toby is learning how to operate the elevator. This particular hotel has only two floors, so he is learning that you push the "2" button when you're on the first floor and the "1" button when you're on the second floor.

Toby loves watching the elevator doors open.

Adam shopping for trains. The version of the Thomas the Tank Engine trains that are sold only at Target (according to the packaging) are perfect for Adam's small hands.

Adam riding in the cart.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


The commentary on these terror-alert icons is hilarious. Any readers from Austin, Texas, might find a little surprise.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Toby in the water. Posted by Picasa

Saturday morning outing

our destination Posted by Picasa

Smiling Posted by Picasa

Adam dumped a handful of sand on his father. Posted by Picasa