Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Women and Education

I don't think I have ever mentioned how strongly I feel about women getting an education. Some people might think that this is a no-brainer in today's society, but I have seen and known too many people where the wife quit school once a child was born or because the husband graduated first and took a job. Women should finish their educations in a timely manner. My mom graduated from college a year after I did. She quit school to raise me, but there had to have been a way had it been a priority, for her to finish school while raising me.

If you only have 2 years of college and at age 40 your husband dies without life insurance or has an affair and leaves you in the lurch, an education is your fallback crutch. But that's not the real reason...

A college education, even at the lowliest community college, polishes you and makes you well-rounded. You will be able to bless your children's lives and the lives of those around you because you made the sacrifice and pushed yourself to learn more. Your own work and earning potential will be increased. You won't sit and wonder when other peers talk about things that you've never heard of before.

Every person should go to college. Male, female, black, white, rich, poor. I almost think it's more important for a woman to go to college than a man because of the all too real glass ceiling that exists out there. Due to an incorrectly forwarded email, I once saw directly how two men with bachelor's in English were paid $12,000 more to start that my wife with a masters in sociology in a sociology-centered business.

The glory of God is intelligence. Increase yours daily. (Shameless plug) Reading my blog daily will help.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day and my Ancestors

So, today is not a sad day for me really. Almost all of my ancestors are veterans, but amazingly, only one person, that I know of, has actually died while fighting a war.

Here's a roll call so to speak:

E-8 John M. Williams, Jr. USN 1969-1972 (Naval Minesman, EOD) [Vietnam]
Ensign John M. Williams, Sr. USNR 1944-1946 (Torpedo Bomber Pilot) [Pacific, never saw combat]
Master Sgt. Raymond V. Buckner 1929-1953 USA-Retired (Mechanic, Drill Sergeant) [Indo-China-Burma, saw combat daily for 4 years]
Sgt. Kenneth E. Buckner, 1943-1945, USA (Infantry) 4th Marine Division. Awarded the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart for gallantry in action on Saipan. Awarded another Purple Heart posthumously for wounds received on Iwo Jima. KIA 20 Feb 1945
Cpl. Kenneth Carter, 1943-1946, USA (Infantry) [Europe]
2nd Lieutenant Ninevah Taylor Buckner, CSA, (Cavalry, Infantry) [Seven Days Battle, Fredericksburg] His men wouldn't re-elect him as an infantry officer, so he re-enlisted in the cavalry as a private.

I'm sure there are more veterans in my family. I think some fought in European Wars too. I have never fought, however, I would do so if called upon. I grew up in Cherokee County, Georgia, and today I raise a sacred dirge in honor of Cherokee County soldiers who fell in defense of their homes at Kennesaw Mountain under this banner!

I hate war and wish we could all live in peace and love. It is possible. Enoch's city was of one heart and one mind and dwelt in righteousness and there was no poor among them. The Nephites had four generations of peace after Christ's appearence. I don't know if we can have peace today. There is far too much hostility and anger in the world. Only two ways to have peace. Selflessness or kill anyone opposed to you. Since the latter is unethical, immoral, impractical, and horrific, we should focus on the former. Selflessness is easier said than done. Pride is the root of all evil.

Como os he amado, amad a otros.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Marley's birthday

Wednesday was Marley's birthday and she is in heaven because she got a fuschia tutu and a pair of tap shoes. She has been constantly changing into them and taking them off. Our next door neighbors had new doors put on their house, so I went scrounging through the FEMA trash pile in front of their house and got a 3 inch thick piece of birch door they cut off to make it fit. It is like perfect little balance beam for Marley to practice her tap and "ballet" on. She is having a birthday party today, complete with a piñata and water balloons. It's amazing how expensive all the little trinkets you expect at a birthday party can be. Whole villages in China must prosper off (of) our revelry. We are sharing the party with Cole Larson as his birthday was recent and we thought it would be better, cheaper, and easier to have a combined party. My sister flew in from Oakland and my parents came down from Georgia to be here for her birthday, so that's been nice and Marley is in heaven. Yesterday she and Susanna played "cats" for an hour, with my sister letting Marley lead her around by a Mardi Gras bead leash outside for about an hour, complete with painted-on whiskers.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Too many sides to every argument


As the son, grandson, great-grandson, great great-grandson, etc.....of veterans of our country, that article at first filled me with a sense of revulsion. I have always believed that people who fled to Canada to avoid the draft during Vietnam were gutless cowards. I still do, however, I extend one caveat:

#1 If you are so opposed to a war that you will not respond to your duty as a citizen, and you wish to relinquish your rights and privileges as a citizen for those of another country not involved in the war, then you have every right to do so....however, it should be permanent.

I think that a reunion of draft dodgers thumbs their collective noses at the men who fought, and died in Vietnam. It's not like there was some big community where only draft dodgers lived, so they are a bunch of friends getting back together. It's not like Canada was this great hardship on them. Canada is like living in Montana or New York. I don't like this at all. Like it or not, if I were called on to fight, I would do so. No matter how I feel about the politics of the country, my loyalty is to the Constitution.

This is what real men do when they disagree with the draft--this is why he is a hero.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Kids Incorporated, Synchronicity, and why Life Can Be Long, and You've Got to Be So Strong

So, with my iPod helping me focus as I work today, and its random shuffle song feature helping break up the monotony of hearing the same song twice, I was treated to Martika's "Toy Solider." This made me think of the show she was on called Kids Incorporated (be warned that the link plays the theme song) in the mid 1980s. I remember getting up at like 6AM to watch that show, because it was fun to watch kids sing songs that I knew (suggesting why those damnable Kidz Bop cds are so successful) and because Martike was hot to this writer in 1986. What got me today was that Mickelle and I have been locking horns over disciplining Marley. Without airing the dirty laundry, let's just say that I have been stewing all day and though we've talked, my pride keeps me agitated. This made me think of how simple life was in the 1980s. Or at least it made me view the past with nostalgia (sans the irony I usually filter with) and that longing that we sometimes feel. Kids Incorporated was already on the brain when the next song came on the iPod: The Police's "Message in a Bottle" which was the first song I ever heard Martika sing on Kids Incorporated. I remember this because it was a Police song that I had never heard before, and I was struggling to understand why Kids Incorporated would sing such a weird song.

So, the Police and Martika made me nostalgic for a part of life that is long gone. That was 20 years ago. That seems like a long time ago, remote past and all that, but 20 years to the future doesn't seem that far away. You cannot think of life as hard, of life as short--though it might feel that way at times--of life as anything more than a journey with a destination. You've got to be strong in those times when life ain't easy. All things are transcendent other than our memories. What bothers you today will be a fleeting memory before long, unless you lock it in by some other focalizer. Each song that I hear takes me back to a time and a place. Songs fossilize our memory. In the Egypthian pantheon, Thoth, not Ra eventually becomes the most powerful god, because he invents writing, and thus never forgets anything. I don't like to remember things by writing them down. I prefer to associate memories with songs. The song that played after the Police was John Lennon's "How?" I felt I had to write this blog entry because those three songs brought me to Synchronicity of thought:

How can I go forward when I don't know which way I'm facing?
How can I go forward when I don't know which way to turn?
How can I go forward into something I'm not sure of?
Oh no, oh no

How can I have feeling when I don't know if it's a feeling?
How can I feel something if I just don't know how to feel?
How can I have feelings when my feelings have always been denied?
Oh no, oh no
You know life can be long
And you've got to be so strong
And the world is so tough
Sometimes I feel I've had enough

To paraphrase Heraclitus, you can't listen to the same song twice, for other thoughts are forever flowing through your mind. Each song, along the Bergsonian cone, triggers memories that move me. Alls I gots is time, got no reason, just a rhyme.

Flowing like a river
Beckoning me
Who knows when we shall meet again
If ever
But time
Keeps flowing like a river
To the sea
--Alan Parsons

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Not a fan of slant rhyme

I do not like it when hymns use "Word" and "Lord" to rhyme. They do not sound alike and to my petty mind are a distraction.

I gave the man a five
So he could truly live
He said that wouldn't jive,
But it's all I had to give.

See why I don't like it?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Zoroastrians, Iran, Fire Worship, Nazis, Religious Hatred, and Why Can't People Just Get Along?

[Note: Due to the subject, Godwin's Law is hereby suspended during this post]

The Shiite asshats in charge of Iran have decided that people of other religions will now have to wear Muslim standard garments and wear badges identifying them as members of different religions. Axis of Evil indeed. The roughly 25,000 Jews would have to attach a yellow strip of cloth to their clothing, Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would wear blue ones:

When we think of people of other religions being forced to wear a marker identifying them as members or practioners of another religion, people cannot help but draw immediate parallels between this practice and the symbols used by the Nazis. We are all familiar with the golden Star of David worn by Jews on their sleeve, but there were many other peoples that were persecuted during the Holocaust, and they too were forced to wear badges identifying their various offenses against National Socialism. Perhaps the best know other badges besides the Jews' is the pink triangle that homosexuals were forced to wear:

The top row of triangles shows all the colors of the badges worn by the prisoners in all the Nazi concentration camps. Red was for Communists, Social Democrats, anarchists, and other "enemies of the state"; green was for German criminals; blue was for foreign forced laborers; brown was for Gypsies; pink was for homosexuals; purple was for Jehovah's Witnesses and black was for asocials, a catch-all term for vagrants, bums, prostitutes, hobos, alcoholics who were living on the streets, or anyone who didn't have a permanent address. The "work-shy," or those who were arrested because they refused to work, wore a black badge.

Homosexuals have "taken back" the pink triangle symbol and now use it as one of their own. The lyrics to Weezer's song, "Pink Triangle" reference how the lyricists fell in love with a girl, but should've known that she was a lesbian because of the pink triangle on her sleeve: When I'm stable long enough/I start to look around for love/See a sweet in floral print/my mind begins the arrangements/but When I start to feel that pull/turns out i just pulled myself/she would never go with me/were I the last girl on Earth/I'm dumb/ she's a lesbian/I thought I had found the one/we were good as married in my mind/but married in my mind's no good/ Pink Triangle on her sleeve/let me know the truth/ let me know the truth/.

This identification system put in place is meant to provoke. There is brinkmanship of the first degree going on with Iran right now, and whatever allies they might have will surely puts the screws to them over this. China can be expected to do nothing as obtuse as they are to religious tolerance, but Russia will have to respond given the historic accusations of Russian anti-Semitism. I just feel sorry for the Zoroastrians. There is no one to defend them, save the Parsees of Mumbai, India. Zoroastrianism is one of, if not, the oldest continuously practiced religions on the planet. Famous Zoroastrians include Freddie Mercury. They have lived in Iran for 3,000 years.

(taken from my dissertation)

Zarathushtra, or Zoroaster as he was known to the Greeks, remains unfamiliar to many readers. However, among scholars of religion, he has arrived at the modern age as a sagacious symbol of ancient wisdom and modern moral relevance. Jenny Rose has described the image of Zarathushtra in these terms:

As the Wise Man, the figure of Zarathushtra is conceived of by Zoroastrians and non-Zoroastrians alike as primordial and his wisdom atemporal. The use of the image of Zarathushtra may be seen as a literary cipher—a coded message, as it were—which communicates insights relevant to the time and place of its reception. (3)

Modern conceptions of Zoroaster view him as either a moral man or a magician astrologer. His Hellenistic association with astrology perhaps dates back to the Greek peasant association of Zoroaster with Babylon and their famed reputation for studies of astrology. However, classical scholars recognized the ignorance of the Greeks in this assumption. The second century author, Dio Chrysostom, wrote that the term “Magi […] was misunderstood by the Greeks, who ignorantly used it to designate sorcerers” (cf. Rose 46). While magic and astrology previously enjoyed eras as respected sciences, today they are no longer considered erudite fields of study. Yet the image of Zoroaster remains hazy to Westerners, many of whom see him as yet another mysterious figure at the head of an exotic religion.

Scholarly consensus suggests that Zoroastrianism originated on the Asian steppes around 1400 - 1200 BC and flourished for centuries in the lands surrounding the Caspian Sea region which contains countless petroleum and natural gas deposits. Zoroastrianism stills retains practitioners in the 21st Century, most notably the Parsees of Mumbai, India. Long known as fire worshippers, Zoroastrian fire adoration traces its roots back to those combustible oil deposits found naturally near the surface of the ground there, most notably the Baku Springs region. When these springs became ignited, the flames burned endlessly and unquenchably and the ancients saw in these fires the personification of the creator god Ahura Mazda’s qualities—eternal and pure—which prompted them to construct temples around the fires.

Zoroastrians recorded their religious beliefs about their creator god, Ahura Mazda (Ormuzd), in sacred texts known as the Zend-Avesta. Zoroastrians, as a part or practice of their adoration, worship fire as a symbol of Ahura Mazda and have strict beliefs about keeping fire pure and constantly burning to symbolize the eternal nature of Ahura Mazda (Writer 62; Carnoy 17).[i] Mary Boyce, the foremost Occidental scholar of Zoroastrianism, explains that Ahura Mazda forms a heptad with six other Amesha Spentas “Holy Immortals” and other lesser Yazatas “Beings worthy of worship” spirits that he created who in turn helped him with the creation of the Earth—the formers’ relationship with Ahura Mazda has been described as a torch lighting six other torches (Boyce 21). We can easily see the influence this would have on later Gnostic conceptions of the Demiurge (creator god); the Ophite Gnostics believed that Iadabaoth (their name for the demiurge) created six other Archons and that these created the earth as refuted by Origen in Book VI, Chapter XXXI of his Contra Celsum which includes an caustic indictment of Ophite beliefs (345-46). These beliefs in the division of essences of the divine creator also exist in Cabbalistic theology in the aspects of Adam-Kadmon (the Manifest Absolute Soul/Supreme Unknown God) which can be divided up into emanations “which are not indeed actual beings, but sources of life, vessels of the Almighty Power, types of all the creation” (King 34). Furthermore, these emanations of the Supreme Unknown God find an echo in the Anthropos of Gnostic beliefs and even in the Purusha, or Cosmic Man, of Vedic cosmogonies. At the root of these later beliefs lie Ahura Mazda and his Amesha Spentas. Zoroastrians believe “[…] man himself with his intelligence and power of choice, belongs especially to Ahura Mazda […]” (Boyce 23-24). Zoroaster had his first vision of Ahura Mazda one Spring morning as he went to fetch some water from a river for a ceremony. By wading into the river, he had made himself ritually pure—“emerging from the pure element water in the freshness of a spring dawn” and therefore worthy to enter the presence of Ahura Mazda and lesser gods “[…] before whom ‘he did not see his shadow upon the earth, owing to their great light’” (19).
[i] It must be noted that fire itself is not worshipped, but it is merely an object of veneration much like a Catholic crucifix. It represents the thing being worshipped which cannot be seen barring theophany.

Western Orientalists’ interests include how the Orient was perceived by Orientals before their modern contact with the West and the subsequent Occidental influence on the East. Concerning this effort by Western Orientalists, Edward Said has written that

In all their studies of ‘classical’ Islam, Buddhism, or Zoroastrianism they felt themselves, as George Eliot’s Dr. Casaubon confesses, to be acting ‘like the ghost of an ancient, wandering about the world and trying mentally to construct it as it used to be, in spite of ruin and confusing changes.” (232)

Western perceptions of Zoroastrianism are tainted by cultural semiotic symbols concerning exactly what it represents to the Westerner. Modern Occidental ideologies encounter dilemmas when they encounter a figure that represents an imago Christi of the Ancient World contrasted with their conception of magicians and astrologers as charlatans and quacks.

Sometime during the Achaemenian Empire the magi began to speculate that if Ahura Mazda and Anra Mainyu (the god of evil) were twins, this would necessitate a father. By the time the Sassian Empire came to power this heresy had evolved into a hypostatized father of the twins called Zurvan. Zurvan, meaning “time” in Avestan, was Time personified and the Zurvanites believed that Zurvan “[…] did not merely provide the framework for events but was actually in control of them, hence a sentient being” (68). Boyce explains the most common version of the procreation of the twins by Zurvan as follows:

[…] before Ahuramazda was born Zurvan began to doubt his own powers to beget a worthy son, and from this doubt Anra Mainyu was engendered and came first into the world, a black and hideous creature who horrified his sire. Naturally this myth gave scope for further elaboration (in whose womb, for instance, had the twins been conceived?). The heresy also opened the way for philosophical reflections on the power of time and hence on predestination. (68)

Other sources indicate that for one thousand years Zurvan offered sacrifices to have a son who would be the world’s creator and when he pondered whether he would be successful, he engendered both of the twins, meaning that merely thinking about them created them (Boyd and Crosby 569-70). It is called a heresy because of the emphatic statements by Zoroaster that Ahura Mazda was the Supreme Deity—self-existent and eternal (“On the Orthodoxy of Sassian Zoroastrianism” 15). However great the extent and reach of this heresy, it did not create a schism in the religion because aside from the belief that Zurvan was the creator of Ahura Mazda, all other doctrines were similar, and believers in both sides of the debate would have used the same scriptures, worshipped in the same fire temples, and uttered the same oaths and prayers (15-16).

The fire in this Zoroastrian Fire Temple has been burning continuously since 470AD.

Iranians speak Farsi. Farsi and Pharisee have the same root.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

New Orleans snapshot, this may or may not work.

There are fewer blue roofs every day. It takes most roofing crews two days to completely strip, repair, and reshingle a roof--maybe a few more if they have a fancy slate or tile roof. The companies that manufacture shingles must be rolling in the dough right now. about 60% of the buildings in my neighborhood have had new roofs since Katrina.

Destruction stokes the fires of industry. Every roof that gets redone has to be stripped first. This means that a construction dumpster must be rented. The shingle company delivers the product. The work is done. The dumspter is carted off. The company the rents PODS is making a fortune. Every street in the city has a POD somewhere: in the yard, on the street, sometimes two. It is difficult to pass down some streets because there are so many dumpsters, PODS, dual axle construction worker pickups (all with Texas plates), and piles of fresh topsoil. Salt water made up the majority of the flood waters, so much of the topsoil lies barren, like the fields of Babylon when Tamerlane was done with them. The salt also killed all of the beautiful magnolias that lined the streets. The native live oaks survived, but the interstitial magnolias are all dead and gone. The rye grass that everyone planted in the Winter to green up the yards, is now dying from the heat, making things look terrible again.

We're starting to get insects again. Cockroaches never left, but we haven't had any creeping insects for months. I've started seeing ants again, and rolypolys, every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. Flowers are in full bloom. I went out to Chalmette last weekend to look for church members from the old Chalmette Ward and I was in awe of the wild flowers blooming in every front yard. Massive fields of some delicate flower that looks like discs of pink mother-of-pearl abounding in every yard strike a nasty juxtapose with the festering wrecked houses directly behind them. Their scent mingles with the funk of forty thousand years for a sickly sweet odor that cannot be imagined: like sweet vomit or a perfumed rotting corpse--indescribable. Olfactory input aside, the flowers are truly lovely.

The smells of the city are legion. As the houses are us are gutted, with each new home we are reminded of the smell of the flood waters. As the massive piles of carpet, sheetrock, soaked furniture, and people's possessions mount up, they give off aromas that waft into our home and yard. The smell of mold is omnipresent. We have fought mold intrusion in our own home, dousing walls with bleach and trying to keep the humidity as low as possible. Garbage piles up quickly and sometimes we go up to 16 days waiting for garbage removal. If the neighbors have made shrimp or crawfish, the smell is offensive for days. Flies are in heaven, their lives spent idly buzzing from garbage pile to garbage pile in an orgy of feasting and copulation.

The criminal element is coming back, only now they are closer than ever. As the old crime infested neighborhoods are abandoned, the criminals have moved into abandoned homes closer to the population centers. Murders are up, but most of the victims are known felons. Drug gangs are battling to establish turf. If no one bought drugs, they would have no power. There aren't enough police officers. There's barely enough water pressure to bathe, let along fight fires that people keep lighting because their insurance didn't cover their loss from flood damage. Things keep burning all over the place. And it's not even hot yet.

I went to the Cafe du Monde last Friday night. It was a third full. Normally, you would have to wait in line to get a table. I have a friend that manages a hotel in the Quarter. He told me they are running at 30% occupancy. Tourism is dead. People need to come to New Orleans now.

The mayors race is getting nasty. Landrieu is a career politician from a family of career bleeding heart spend happy politicians. Nagin isn't a politician. I vote for Nagin. Even with his flaws, he's more desirable than the old machine that used to be here.

There is over a year of work left to do to even start to make the city still look normal again. There's still a damned boat in the street less than four blocks from my house.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Road rage and the lingering effects of six years of pizza delivery

Whenever I get in my car, I feel like I am in a hurry. Things that shouldn't upset me about other people driving bug me to no end. Even at 6:30 in the morning on my way to bishopric meetings at church, I feel like I half to drive as fast as possible, even when I'm not late. I suffer from constantly feeling like I have to get myself somewhere in 30 minutes or less.

I delivered pizza for Pizza Hut for 6 years. I hate pedestrians, bicycles, other cars, UPS trucks, other pizza delivery drivers........I can't shake the mindset even though it's been 4 years since last I delivered a pizza.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Teachers and coitus

So, with the ever present media interest in teachers having sexual relationships with their students, we get another story today of stupidity and lust. If you are involved in a sexual relationship with your 17 (SEVENTEEN) year old female student, you first and foremost, don't go ask the principal if you can take her to prom. Kip Winger warned us these things would happen back in the 1980's. He was able to see the future and predict how daddy would say she was too young, but that her teacher would say that she would be old enough to copulate with.

So why do students and teachers keep hooking up? Teachers spend more time with students than anyone else in their lives. Teachers are authority figures and can abuse their authority. Students will do "anything" to get a good grade...but the cases that we keep hearing about in the media seem to all be cases where there was some sort of indication of love and a genuine relationship happening between the individuals.

Let me just state that I think any sex outside of marriage is wrong, so I am not in any way defending the actions of anyone involved in these cases. I also think that teachers that have sex with minors, no matter if they are of the age of legal consent, have abused their authority and should be fired. Texas has a law forbidding sex between teachers and pupils, so even though the girl could have consented to him outside of school, he knew she couldn't because he was her teacher. This is a trend that probably existed in the past, but with 24 hour media needing to feed the monster, I think we hear about it more and more.

We have a definite double standard though. If a male teacher has sex with a female student, he gets thrown in jail for a long time. The same rarely happens to a female teacher. This is a reflection of the cultural double standard of sexually active men being studs and sexually active women being sluts. It is a badge of honor for a 15 year old boy to have sex with his teacher, even in the minds of many adult men, yet the same does not apply to girls. I know that when I was 14, I had the hots for Miss Barclay, my Spanish teacher, and as I was not religious at the time and so full of hormones that drug companies weekly synthesized my blood to make pharmaceuticals, I would have had sex with her without a doubt had she come on to me (she hated me incidently because I was so obnoxious to her because she was hot). I'm sure my pubescent mind even contemplated the location, positions, exchange of words, actual copulation and such of the encounter many many times. Probably even while in class. Yet, no matter that I was physically able to have sex 7 times a day at that age, I was obviously not ready emotionally at 14.

So, the teachers, male or female, who take advantage of our children's innocent and normal desire to find a sexual outlet for all that pent up energy are the epitome of wrong. Morally, ethically, socially. They seek out people who they know will be infatuated with them, not because of a real connection, but because it is (nearly) every boy's fantasy to have his teacher offer to fellate him. Male teachers have a young woman that they can dominate or that they make feel important. These relationships are inappropriate because they take advantage of youths' mistakes that they should be making with their peers. Adults' time and world view allow them to see situations more clearly, and when things don't go well with sexual partners of their own ages, they seek out the young because they are available, willing, and easily bedded.

I teach college age students, and Mickelle says she always worries about me falling for a student, because I will be around intelligent and beautiful college girls for the rest of my life, and given my amazing personality, she fears that other people could become as attracted to me as much as she is, throw themselves at me, and I might fall (especially since she refuses to consummate the marriage). I can easily see how a teacher could make the mistake of indulging in infatuation to the point of making an egregious mistake. The relationship between my students and myself can be one of mutual admiration and respect, and while I am happily married, someone else in a loveless marriage; someone single and miserable--someone on the rebound, could mess up. I do not think there is any justification for the mistake though. Even though my students are adults, I still have a fiduciary duty to instruct them equitably and ethically, and if you are involved in a clandestine sexual relationship with someone, you simply cannot do that. Oh yeah, and adultery is second only to murder in the eyes of the Lord.

No one will believe me, but 3 years ago when I taught at a local university in Atlanta for the Summer, I had not one but two instances where things made me very uncomfortable. Now, I'm not much to look at physically, but I had one student that gave me the flirty vibe all the time, sent me cards in the mail, and even coupons and stuff from her work. She made me uncomfortable, and of course I told Mickelle all about it, because I was a little freaked out. Mickelle agreed that it was weird. Another student that same Summer totally stunk at language. She could barely speak English, though it was her native tongue, and her Spanish was non-existant. She had come from Spelman into my 200 level class and should've been in 101 still. She was very worried that she would lose her HOPE scholarship if she failed my class, and after she scored in the teens on her midterm, she waited until everyone had left class one day and asked me what she could do to pull her grade up. I told her that if she studied hard and scored perfectly on the final, she might get a C in the class, and that's when she looked at me and asked, "There's nothing I can do" with a half-raised eyebrow. I will assume that she was just asking for extra credit, but I had the creepy and immediate sensation that I was being offered a trade. I told her that other than studying and trying her best, I couldn't think of anything. I left immediately. She dropped the class the next day. Now, yall will think I'm seeing things that aren't there, or placing adolescent fantasies on the present, but that's how I felt at the time. I hope I was wrong.

So if my fat ass can possibly get offered a trade, what then for other more attractive people? The key to stopping these behaviors is to not hire people that will do these sorts of things, or have a non-consequences hotline available for teachers to call who feel tempted or worried about a student in their class coming on to them. I know that the people that we hire to teacher our children are not what you would always call the best and brightest. About 7 years ago, I went back to Etowah to visit a couple of my high school teachers that I felt a special bond with. I ran into a couple people that I had gone to school with and I was shocked, SHOCKED that they were teaching school. I mean these people, I won't name names to protect their feelings, were total dumbasses in school, and if we are entrusting our children to people who get teaching degrees because they can fog a mirror and drive past their college real slow, oh!

It should be very hard to get a teaching degree. Having taken education classes, I think the process could be streamlined. Pedagogy professors are typically great authors, lousy teachers. My experience in education classes were that most were a waste of time and I could learn far more by actually watching someone else teach and by teaching myself than I could ever learn watching other classmates practice things they had read about. The whole certification process is crap. Total crap. I have taught 24 university level Spanish classes. I am fluent in Spanish and damned near in Portuguese. I have bachelor's and a Master's in Spanish and during Katrina, I went to the Cherokee County Board of Education to see if they needed Spanish substitutes. They did (they had none and a teacher out on maternity leave), but told me they wouldn't hire me until I took a three week substitute course in FANNIN COUNTY. Also, since I didn't have a certificate, I would only make $35 a day instead of $100. Guess what I did during Katrina....it wasn't teaching Spanish. No credit would given that I am almost Dr. Williams, it doesn't matter since I don't have the precious certificate. Funny that I am qualified to teach their teachers how to teach Spanish, but according to them, I can't teach actual Spanish because I don't have a teaching certificate. Anyway, back on track.

Also, the teaching of minors should require, at the applicant's expense, a detailed psychological profile and examination. Criminal background checks are not enough. I know tons of good teachers, my family is full of teachers. I also know tons of bad teachers, disgraces to the profession.

Having sex with your students goes far beyond being a disgrace to the profession; it makes you a disgrace to the whole of humanity. Anyone who would take advantage of a child sexually, even though they are 17, hot-bodied, seemingly mature, totally infatuated with you, and even soon to graduate is still wrong.

Grown men that ask where these female teachers were when they were young are in the gall of bitterness and should know better.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Hugo Chavez is bat shit crazy

Not that I'm the biggest fan of our president at the moment, and the world of crap that he has gotten us involved in ("Never start a land war in Asia!"), but Chavez's comments are ridiculous. Come on, the biggest genocide in the history of the world?!?!? Bat shit crazy. The Extremaduran pig farmer will forever own that crown.


Cuts like a knife

So yesterday we had a watermelon after dinner out on the front porch. I had cut half of it up and Mickelle, Marley, Mike Bauer and I were sitting out on the front porch eating it. Marley had watched with intense delight as I used a big knife to cut the watermelon in two and then she kept constantly asking me to cut her piece into ever smaller pieces. Then she wanted me to cut chunks off of the rind so she could just eat the whole piece. As she is exactly quirky like my mom, so much so that we call her Lala Jr., I just figured it was Marley being Marley. Little did I realize that my cutting had sparked curiosity in her.

I had left the other half of the watermelon on the cutting board, with the knife safely ensconced in the sink out of reach of curious hands. Mickelle and I both called our moms at the same time. Marley talked to my mom, and to Mickelle's and Mickelle and I both got so involved in talking to our moms that we didn't realize that neither of us was watching Marley and that it was TOOOOOOOO quiet. I finished talking to my mom first and I went into the kitchen to see where Marley was, because as I said it was too quiet. As soon as I walked into the kitchen, Marley screamed bloody murder. She had a steak knife in her hand and was cutting little pieces off of the watermelon and putting them on a plate "for mommy for mother's day."

She knew that she should not have been doing what she was doing, and immediately fell on the floor bawling crying believing that some horrific punishment awaited her. I tried to get her to calm down so that I could talk to her about why she was NOT allowed to ever play with knives. She wouldn't get control of herself; she has been throwing horribly tantrums lately, so I picked her up by one hand and tried to go make her stand in the corner. She began protesting through her sobs, "I was making mommy a present." To which I responded that "It doesn't matter, you may not EVER play with knives."

That was when she said something that made me react cruelly, but necessarily to her. I had to terrify my daughter, because she will not listen to me when I try to tell her something. She always has an excuse, a reason, or an explanation as to why I am wrong. This is a direct result of:
A) Her mother constantly undermining my attempts at discipling her.
B) Living with my parents during Hurricane Katrina; they have an excuse, reason, or explanation for everything and talk like they never do anything wrong.
C) Marley's personality.

Marley said this to me, "But it was just a kid's knife, it was little and I can use it if I want." Because I love my daughter and want her to never be injured, I had to react swiftly to quash any notions she might have about there being such a thing as kids' knives. My response was swift. I picked her up between my hands, raised her high above my head, put her face directly above mine, and yelled "THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A KIDS' KNIFE, DO YOU UNDERSTAND? THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A KIDS' KNIFE! IF I EVER CATCH YOU PLAYING WITH A KNIFE AGAIN I WILL SPANK YOU WITH MY BELT!!!" By the time I was finished, she was truly terrified, and when I sat her down, she ran off like something out of a Hanna Barbera cartoon with her legs seeming to move in swift circles. Sobbing she ran to Mickelle, while I stayed in this kitchen dreading what I had done, but realizing that it had to be done, no matter how dark I feel inside. I can try and keep knives out of her reach, but if she will not listen to me when I forbid her to do something that would hurt her, I cannot be an effective parent. My only choice was to scare her, because she would not listen to me and then defied me. Scaring is only one letter removed from scarring. Hopefully I only did the former.

Who knew being a parent would make you feel so terrible inside sometimes?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mother is the Name of God in the lips and hearts of little children

'Tis not every day that I get to quote a line from both Vanity Fair and The Crow.

My Mom is awesome. I reiterate, my mom=awesome. Here's a list of why I think she's awesome, updated from last year.

#1 For not giving me Fetal Alcohol Syndome
#2 For knowing who my father is
#3 For never wringing my neck in spite of her repeated threats
#4 For having taught me that being racist is a bad thing
#5 For teaching me to say "sir" and "ma'am" after I say "yes" or "no
#6 For dropping out of college for 19 years to raise me
#7 For giving me an oatmeal bath when I was 16 & delirious from a chicken pox 104.7F fever.
#8 For letting my daughter call her "Lala" instead of "grandma"
#9 For never taking our family on Jerry Springer or Maury with a "Surprise."
#10 For being just plain weird about normal stuff that other people never even think twice about, like always asking if caesar salad dressing is made with raw eggs.
#11 For not killing my Dad in his sleep all those chances you had and never took.
#12 For never making me post bond to get her out of jail......yet
#13 For letting me go to Canada with my best friend for the Summer when I was 16
#14 For drawing a huge picture of my daughter and me at Mardi Gras 2004
#15 For Keeping my cat Paisley alive for 17 long years
#16 For that big scar across her belly where they excavated me from her blessed womb
#17 For calling me "Mac". I have a great nickname
#18 For teaching me to read before I went to public school
#19 For letting me fail on occasion
#20 For letting us take over her house for 4 months after Katrina ruined our city.
#21 For being Southern
and the most important thing is:
#22 And again, I reiterate, THANK YOU FOR NOT HOMESCHOOLING ME! This one should be self-explanatory.

Friday, May 12, 2006

¿Dónde jugarán los niños?

Cuenta el abuelo que de niño / Grandpa tells us that as a child
El jugó / He played
Entre árboles y risas y alcatraces de color / Among trees, and laughter, and coloful pelicans
Recuerda un río transparente sin olor, / He remembers a clear odorless river
Donde abundaban peces, / Where fish abounded
No sufrían ni un dolor / They never suffered pain
Cuenta el abuelo de un cielo / Grandpa tells us of a very blue sky
Muy azul,
En donde voló papalotes que él / Where he flew kites
Mismo construyó / He built himself
El tiempo pasó y nuestro viejo ya murió / Time has passed and our granpa has died
Y hoy me pregunté después de tanta / And today I asked myself, after so much
Destrucción / Destruction
Dónde diablos jugarán los pobres niños? / Where in the hell will the children be able to play
Ay ay ay! en dónde jugarán AY AY AY, / where will they play?
Se esta pudriendo el mundo / The world is rotting
Ya no hay lugar / There is no longer any place
La tierra está a punto de partirse en dos / The Earth is about to rend itself in two
El cielo ya se ha roto, ya se ha roto / The sky is now broken, it has loosed
En llanto gris / It's dying lament
La mar vomita rios de aceite / The sea vomits rivers of petroleum
Sin cesar / Ceaselessly
Y hoy me pregunté / And today I asked myself
después de tanta destrucción / After so much destruction,
Dónde diablos jugarán los pobres nenes? / Where in the hell will the poor babies play?
Ay ay ay.
En dónde jugarán? / Where will they play
Se esta partiendo el mundo / The world is breaking up
Ya no hay lugar / Now, there is nowhere

--Maná ("¿Dónde jugarán los niños? " ¿Dónde jugarán los niños?, 1993 )

I felt this song supremely when I was serving a mission in Costa Rica in 1993-1995. I lived in a part of San Jose that was full of "Precarios" which were essentially shacks comprised of a few sticks of wood, some tin roof pieces or even Crisco cans for walls, and dirt floors. They were built "precariously" one the steep slopes of land that no rational person would dare build on. I can remember seeing shacks with three and four stories built on the hillsides; I wish I had taken photos of them, on the road into Chepe from La Uruca.

What always astounded me about that particluar area was the river that coursed through the area. Since we were always visiting and teaching people living on its banks, we were able to see into the waters and fear them. Instead of seeing clear or even brown silty waters, what we saw were pure BLACK waters; black as tar, coal, midnight, my soul. Sometimes enormous volumes of soap suds and various chemicals could be seen floating on the surface of this glorified sewer. There was no care given for the environment, no treatment of the effluent, it was merely a place to dispose of offal without having to treat it first. Sadly, the third world often cannot afford to properly dispose of their waste. Even though Costa Rica has made enormous strides in habitat and land preservation and conservation, there is still enormous waste. Banana farming along produces untold tons of plant fiber waste each year. The highly respected and successful Universidad E.A.R.T.H. (Escuela de Agricultura de la Region Tropical Humeda) in Pocora, Costa Rica seeks ways to marry agriculture to responsible corporate conservation investments; the school was a US AID project, so your tax dollars directly contribute to the protection of the tropics and the education and betterment of countless Hispano farmers. One of their successes has been the invention and marketing of Banana fiber paper. If you have the disposable income and want some really cool stationery to write on, please buy some from this website: http://www.ecopaper.com/store.asp?Shopper_id=49051293938490&Store_id=126&page_id=36 which benefits the EARTH School. Mickelle and I use it for special occasions and it is beautiful and earthy looking.

On a more local level, the devastation of the Gulf Coast is a direct result of the loss of hundreds of thousands of acres of wetlands on the coasts. As the Mississippi has been channeled and leveed and prevented from depositing its silt onto the delta in the name of commerce and offshore petroleum production, without a corresponding governmental and corporate investment in preserving the wetlands, the delta has eroded and sunk. Whereas New Orleans used to be over 100 miles from the coast, it is no longer that far away. Towns and islands are gone, taken back by the sea. Coastal erosion is a serious problem for all Americans. When you think of the importance to our economy and all of our lives on having access to natural gas and petroleum from the Gulf, suddenly the protection of coastal wetlands seems important. It takes populations living somewhere stable to support the infrastructure necessary in the petroleum industry. Your comfort depends on saving swamps. For a politically neutral website advocating saving them, read this: http://www.americaswetland.com/

I grew up in Acworth/ Woodstock, Georgia which used to be a town in the middle of a gigantic forest. In a new wave of Reconstruction, neo-Yankee carpetbaggers in the hundreds of thousands have moved South, cut down the forests and turned Atlanta into a sprawling bourgeois suburban orgy of inefficiency, waste, smog, and congestion. This is the new face of Atlanta, the denuded lawns and borders. They come in and cut down the pine forests and expect grass to grow in soil made acid by 1,000 years of nothing but pine trees, sweetgums, red oaks, hickories, tulip poplars, and the occasional dogwood. When they built a neighborhood on top of the old cesspool in back of Oak Grove Elementary and another one in the shadow of the Cherokee County water tower on Bells Ferry Road next to Rose Creek Baptist, I knew that land was getting scarce in my end of the county.
See what my city used to look like!


Thursday, May 11, 2006

What a glorious day!

Yesterday was stickier than a homeless man's armpit in August, but overnight a front blew in and it's partly cloudy, breezy, not humid, and in the high 70s. And here I sit cloistered in my windowless office trying to figure out the planetary Yazatas of Zoroastrianism and how they correspond to the symbols in Jorge Luis Borges' "The Circular Ruins."

Tomorrow I'm hosting a bachelor party for Mike Bauer, a 32 year old Mormon virigin. We Mormons are a sober pruddish (save yours truly) bunch, so this party will be puritanically tame by most standards. I do vow not to have any Powerpoint Presentations, and we will NOT be watching Johnny Lingo. I have made the promise that we'll all still be temple worthy at the end of the night.............barely. Okay, just kidding, I'm not being lightminded. The plan is to take Mike around to different restaurants, a sort of Mormon pub crawl (For a hilarious semi-drunken crawl blogpost, check out Darlamay's recent post: http://messycucina.blogspot.com/2006/04/did-we-pass-bar.html#links) and to get something to drink (Coke, Sprite, Fanta) and some really good appetizer or what not.

I know that we're starting at Superior Grill on St. Charles, which is spite of its name and decor actually serves pretty horrible food save their masterpiece, the "brocheta." It is a large shrimp stuffed with some kind of acidy cheese, wrapped in bacon, and then oven roasted. I'm talking DIVINE. Everything else they serve is bland and you can get similar tasting stuff in high school cafeterias (Norm & Paul: I see your $5). Their fish dishes are especially wretched, but the brochetas are frickin' amazin'.

From there I think we'll head to Five Happiness and get some eggrolls and potstickers. Five Happiness remodeled last Summer and got this gorgeous enormous brass double door all carved and engraved with Chinese themes. They got four feet of water and the door was stained dark below the water line. They haven't cleaned it and don't plan to...a lasting reminder that all glory is fleeting when we seek to resist Mother Nature (aka "tweaking" the levees won't help).

Five Happiness is down the street from the "World Famous" Rock N' Bowl, so we might go bowl a few frames and listen to some music, if anyone is playing. I think we might make Mike go ask a strange girl to dance too, just to embarass the boy a bit, and give him one last taste of flirting, of course at 32, he's probably sick of hunting. For the record, I am a horrendous bowler. When literary theorist speak of Lacan's le objet petit a, they are referring to the C's on my college transcripts that I got in bowling classes in a sea (haha) of A's. Bowling is the stain in the visual field of my grades. Well bowling and Physical Science 101, and Military History to 1700, and a Spanish course that I attended only twice. I think those are the only stains...any way, not to be a man of las manchas, back to the party.

After bowling, I think perhaps a return to the Garden District is in order. Pascal's Menale claims to have invented the BBQ Shrimp and claims to have a wonderful oyster bar, we'll have to go check it out. I know, I know, we're being stupid by eating oysters in a month without an "r" in it, but they harvest them right here. I love oysters, I just have to make sure to take my colchecine, so the gout doesn't kick in the next morning. All that shellfish and all those purines make Mac an arthritic boy.

The only way to get a nightcap in New Orleans when you're a teetotaling Mormon boy is to go to the Cafe du Monde for beignets and hot chocolate. No Cafe au lait for us, but the beignets are the true stars of the show. I've also gotten some Astroglide, a zebra striped thong, some "position" dice, and scratch off sexual lottery cards. At 32, he's gotta make up for lost time. Frankly, I don't know how he's held out that long. Then again, officially, I've never consummated my marriage. Don't worry honey, they suspect nothing.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Brent Bastian, esq

I'd like to welcome Brent Bastian to my blog community. Brent is a brother in arms of New Orleans, and is the wittiest Mormon I've ever known, and one of the wittiest people I've ever known regardless of religion. He and his wife Kaycee left a void in mine and Mickelle's world when they moved after graduation that has yet to be filled. They are great people and we miss them tons.

I have two really good friends who are lawyers, Brent Bastian and Ryan Stout. Who do I call when I eventually get caught for aquello? Well I guess whoever is cheaper. Or maybe it's the other way around.

Brent's blog is brentexplainsthevagariesoftheuniverse.blogspot.com, but sadly has no posts yet.....

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A funny new comic to fill Calvin's void

Kids and surprises

Mickelle caught my cold or whatever it was. She is miserable and can only take Tylenol because of the baby in her womb. When Mom is miserable, everyone is miserable, cause then you realize just how much you really depend on mom to do all those things that you don't think to do.

This Sunday is Mother's Day. To give Mickelle some alone time this morning, Marley and I went to the Farmer's Market and then to Whole Foods. I cannot advocate shopping for all my groceries at Whole Foods as they are CRAZY expensive, but their produce is second to few, and they have some specialty foods that I can't find anywhere else. We bought some Kerry Gold Irish Butter, because it is incredible; some Mahon cheese, because it too is incredibly good, and we bought a bunch of produce--fennel is actually cheaper at Whole Foods than anywhere else.

Blue Frog Chocolates is right across the street from Whole Foods, so Marley and I decided to walk over there and get Mami some chocolates for Mothers' Day. I told Marley to make sure not to tell Mommy what we had gotten her, so it could be a surprise for Sunday. Immediately on arriving home, Marley bursts through the door, and says "SURPRISE! MOMMY WE GOT YOU CHOCOLATES FOR MOTHERS' DAY. I"M GOING TO HIDE THEM."

Ahhh kids and secrets! Never the twain shall meet.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Dissention is not sedition

Last Thursday night I attended the Stake Bishop's Training meeting for my branch president who had something else he needed to attend to. As his counselor, I went to understand the training being offered, return and report to him about it, and also to act as his representative at the meeting. It was attended by all of the branch presidents and bishops in the Stake, as well as the combined Stake Presidency.

A key focus of the meeting was on retention of converts. Our church has a problem keeping people active in the church after they are baptized and confirmed. There are many reasons why people might fall away from the church after they are baptized. These include:

1. Family pressure. Many times people become pariahs in their families after they join the church. My own grandparents reacted poorly when I told them I had joined the LDS church.

2. Temptation. Many times people are tempted after their conversion, and they fall. Instead of repenting and trying to avoid the temptation, they continue to yield to it, and for whatever reason, they choose to stop coming to church instead of struggling to live a Christlike life. Instead of seeking the Lord's help, they try to avoid the Lord by avoiding church. The number one cause of inactivity in my church is personal sin. Some people have problems with temptation, but still come to church. I know a man that can't quit smoking, but he keeps coming to church. He hasn't given up and decided that if he can't live one part of the law, that he won't live any of it. Far too often, people think that if they can't be perfect that they aren't welcome at church, or they feel guilty about going to church if they aren't perfect. They fail to realize that no one in the church is perfect, otherwise we wouldn't need church. I said church an awful lot in that paragraph.

3. Laziness. Some people do not make attendance a priority. They let themselves get out of the habit and then not going to church becomes the habit. Others say that they worship god on their own and don't need to come weekly to praise god. I believe that church attendance is a crucial and integral part of building one's testimony and strength in the Gospel. Your participation at church also can move someone else and help them. A comment you make in Sunday School might help someone with something they've been pondering or struggling with. Moroni (6:6) said it best, "And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls."

4. Lack of fellowship. Believe or not, sometimes people come to church and they do not feel welcome. For whatever reason this occurs, we must admit that it does, and make sure that when we introduce ourselves to people at church, that we truly befriend them. Part of being Christian is truly loving "your neighbor as yourself." That's a tall order as I love myself a lot. But, we need to make people feel welcome and like a brother or sister when they come to church. We should be glad they are there, and this attitude has to be felt by them, or they will not feel welcome and might not come back.

5. Not truly converted. Sadly sometimes people get baptized without having a true testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. There are any number of reasons for this:
A. They want the companionship they feel at church.
B. They befriend the missionaries and think that getting baptized will make their friends happy.
C. The missionaries pressure them into getting baptized before they are ready.
D. They join the church to gain access to its considerable welfare resources, not realizing that they will have to render service for the aid they receive.
E. Family pressure, as in when a spouse is a church member and wants the other to join. Same things for parents and offspring.
F. Any other number of reasons for joining that are not based off of a firm belief in and testimony of the truthfulness of the message being taught.

The New Orleans area, and especially my little branch has a particularly difficult time retaining new converts. In the meeting the question was asked why we couldn't retain members, and I voiced my opinion that I thought that we were given an impossible task since the missionaries insist on baptizing people who are obviously not ready. For non-LDS readers, the missionaries have authority over the people they teach until they are actually baptized. Once they are baptized they then become the ecclesiastical responsibility of the local priesthood leaders. Cases in point, the names have been omitted to protect these person's privacy:

1. A brother was intoxicated when he was actually baptized. I don't care what the missionaries said, he was drunk or high.
2. A sister who was married to someone else and living with another man when she was baptized. Her boyfriend moved out for a week, and the missionaries thought this was sufficient time for them to get baptized. People in love and involved in a sexual relationship don't just quit each other cold turkey. Had she gotten divorced and then married then the man, I could support her baptism after the fact. Assuming that someone will remain celibate in that situation is naivete.
3. A young man on probation for grand theft auto, came to church one time and they baptized him. He had no idea who Joseph Smith was, what the Book of Mormon was about. In less than a month he was in prison, not jail, but prison, for grand theft auto. 3rd strike as a juvenile got him 5 years. He was 14. For the record, people on probation are not allowed to get baptized. The missionaries never asked him.
4. A young man, also on probation, a known gang member, was baptized even though I told the elders that I could "smell sex" on him when he came to a youth activity before he was baptized and was already scheduled to get baptized in a few days. He stunk like he just gotten in on in the parking lot. He was 13. The missionaries had no idea what I was talking about. He would later smash his neighbor in the head with a brick over a Matchbox car. He had no idea about anything in the Gospel.
5. A man and woman living together. She refused to get married because she was on disability and her boyfriend has a great job, and if she got married she might lose her disability, which she didn't need anymore, btw. I told the elders (elders=missionaries) that we didn't really want people like that joining the church as she was clearly not "honest in her dealings with her fellow men" since she didn't want to get married because she would've lost money that she really wasn't entitled to in the first place. Katrina hit before they could get baptized.
6. A man was baptized who was a lifelong serious alcoholic. The missionaries thought that if he could go 7 days without drinking that would mean that he had stopped drinking forever.

I could go on and on. It does no one any good, especially the people baptized, to baptize someone who does not understand the gospel of Jesus Christ and the commitment required to live it. Maybe some of these people, at later points in their lives would be better suited to living the Gospel with the maturity that comes with age. Once they are baptized, they then are bound by a covenant to live like Christ. It is far easier to repent without having broken that covenant. Simply baptizing someone and saying that they are saved smacks of Protestant "grace" alone saves doctrines to which we do not subscribe, because as James said "Faith without works is dead."

I made my comments in that meeting, and the other bishops all looked at me incredulously. I got glares and someone passed me an apocryphal note where the prophet had said "No one in this church should ever say 'the missionaries ought not to have baptized that person.'" The quote was false and so is the idea that you cannot disagree with your priesthood leaders and yet still sustain their leadership. I have covenanted with God to dedicate my possessions, time, talents, and energy in his service, and if I were asked tomorrow to give all that I own to the church, I would do so without hesitation. After it was handed over however, I would like to be able to ask why and what it would be used for (which I'm sure would be done without my asking before I ever gave them anything). I should clarify that the church has never yet asked any members to give all they own to the church. We are only covenanted to do so should a need so great ever arise, and that's not every church member either, only those who have chosen to receive the Endowment ordinance and try to live a higher law--no one is ever compelled or even pressured to make the covenant.

I sustain my stake president. Whatever service he asks me to do, I will do. Yet, I need to feel that disagreeing with a policy still allows me to sustain him and not be seditious. The Stake President told me that we needed to focus on the aspects of missionary work over which we have authority, which is ex post facto. He never made me feel like I was being disrespectful or seditious; it was the others in the meeting that looked at me with that look in their eyes like "Who is this kid?" I am not afraid to question our policies, because a leader is only as good as the council he asks for and receives, from his congregation and from the Lord. We were asked our opinions, and I offered mine. We have been given the Gospel and told to preach it to all the world. We have not been given the details of how to best preach it, it is up to us to figure out how to best proceed, and this includes the occasional change in the program and change only comes about after we realize there is a problem, what is causing it, and what we can do to fix it.

The definition of too fast of growth is cancer.

My opinions are my own and are not official statements of doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I take full responsibility for them.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

I just died a little inside

When I came to New Orleans, I was called to work with the youth in the Church. They made me Scoutmaster of the Boy Scout troop and I was the Young Men's President. I also taught early morning seminary in my home for a season. All of the young men I worked with, save the bishop's children, did not have a father living in their homes. Many of them were living with "Auntays" or grandmothers. I gave it my all to help them. Here's a little report over how they are doing now.

Daniel (Bishop's Son): Eagle Scout, Serving a mission in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Brian ": active in church, progressing in scouts, 14 years old.
Ikey: 16, sexually active, not coming to church, lives in Houston now. His family expects nothing of him or themselves and he will live off the system his whole life. He is a good kid, he just needs a good parental example of how to be a responsible person, which he never got.
Robert, Daryl, Gregory: Living in Houston, same mom, different dads, no father in the home, lived off of welfare their whole lives, zero parental support of their education, other than playing in the band. None of them go to church.
Brandon: Killed in a car wreck before Katrina. His mother never knew he died, she died from a crack overdose after he did. The family could not find her. He was making wrong decisions every day of his life. His death hit me hard, but did not surprise me. I have to admit that we didn't get along well ... I won't say any more; it's not right to speak ill of the dead.
Tyjire: A good kid, a smart kid. He has no father at home, just a grandfather that teaches him that working is not a virtue. His mother is a great lady and works hard to support all of her adult deadbeat relatives. Tyjire could make something great of himself in life if he sticks with his studies and goes on a mission. He could be a great man! Relocated to Greenville, Texas after Katrina.
Maxmillyen: Chose to join the Army Reserve rather than serving a mission for the church. He was told by his army recruiter that he would be allowed to go to college in New Orleans and be near his family. I have no problem with Max joining the military, but he should have done it AFTER serving a mission. He is a young man in a place not very conducive to living the standards our Heavenly Father has set. I just died a little inside because his mom sent me this email from him:

MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM !!!!!!!!!! Guess what Im in Germany and not only is it still in my pants but I don't leave base oh please send me my card if u have it I really need it as soon as possible??? Im bored and starving my room is so empty and my fridge is to is Tyjire still mad at me let me know mom please. Oh I really don,t want to tell you Lord knows I don't but I promised Im deploying to Iraq at the end of summer. Don't worrry cuz Im with a maintenance bregade I probably wont b outside of the FOB until we come back to Grmany. oh my platoon says hey.

If anything happens to that boy, I will not be able to not feel responsible in some way. I know that he made his own decisions, but maybe had I done my duty better, he would've made a better decision.

Proud to be an American

At times I have to admit that I feel a tad critical of my country. At times, I like to think that I am not chauvinistic at heart. At times I like to think that I cannot find fault with the Hispanic culture that I consider almost as much a part of me as my own. Then I go to a meeting with my co-workers, and I leave jingoistic, chauvinisitic, and grateful I am whom I am. It usually goes away in about a half hour, but I have to admit that I will always identify more with my own culture than my adoptive one. I love it, but I cannot assimilate myself fully, 100%, into it. My criticisms however are not meant as attacks, just as things that I dislike, which is true of my own culture too, so maybe I'm using circular logic. Or maybe I'm just as Hispanic in my thinking now as I am Southern American* and I can't see it. Ever get angry at yourself for feeling a certain way, knowing that it's not correct, but feeling unable to change your sentiment? Stupid white male privilege that I cherish so! I wish I could live in Latin America.

*Hispanics are also Americans, geographically.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Very funny


Times have changed


30 years ago this man would've found himself facing a firing squad late at night by a CIA-backed military junta. Were it not for these foreign companies, Bolivia could not afford to finance the development of these fields. What has happened is akin to me paying someone to build me a hotel, and once they get it completed, staffed, and making money, I jump in and say that it's mine and they'll be happy with whatever percentage of the profits I choose to pay them because I own the property, even though they did all of the development work.

Why would anyone invest in Bolivia now? I predict a new round of revolutions, bloodshed, and horror for Latin-American nations that embrace socialism. I'm not saying it's justified or deserved, but that it's gonna happen. Too much wealth is at stake.

The travesty is that these nations that nationalize natural resources do not then invest the capital in other projects to stimulate and strengthen their economies. No, they pander to their constituents and pay them off with welfare and other socialized benefits.

Give a man a fish vs. teach a man to fish.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Careful how much you complain to eBay

Important Notice on Your PowerSeller Status

Dear wuapinmon,

Due to recent policy violations, we unfortunately must end your PowerSeller membership.

We will invite you back into the program as soon as your account meets the PowerSeller qualifications. The program requirements are as follows:

Achieve a minimum of $1,000 in sales per month for three consecutive months.
Achieve a 98% positive total feedback rating.
Have an account in good financial standing.
Comply with all eBay listing and marketplace policies over the next 60 days, and maintain that compliance.
Uphold eBay community values, including honesty, timeliness, and mutual respect.

We are sorry to lose you as one of our valued PowerSellers. We hope to welcome you back soon when your account meets our minimum requirements. We review accounts monthly and will let you know when you're eligible to join the PowerSellers program again.
Learn more details about the PowerSeller Program.


eBay PowerSeller Team

My response to eBay:

Canary Yellow

That's the color of my snot today. The sinus infection is draining. Holy crap, the body can produce vivid crayola colors when it wants to. All the girls (men included) that just went, YUCK! can just toughen up. We happy few that have lived in the tropics are comfortable with frank discussion of bodily fluids.