Thursday, November 30, 2006

Don't Ask the Loser What He Thinks About Someone Else Winning MVP?

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2680495&campaign=rss&source=MLBHeadlines

We always have a reason to justify why we were not selected for an award. We rationalize things. We go through processes such as denial, wherein we argue how we were better qualified for the award than the actual winner. Unless that is that we're humble. Which I am not.

I still think (not really) I should've won Most Intelligent in my Senior Superlatives. So what if Jon Bob Wesselmann had a better GPA (valedictorian), 5 perfect scores on AP exams, was done with calculus as a sophomore, got high SAT and ACT scores, and was admitted to CalTech.

_I_ was academic bowl captain two years in a row.

See my point? Don't ask the loser what he thinks about someone else winning the prize. Pujols had a great season, but the writers thought someone else had a better one. He won.

Another great example:

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Something for Nothing: Katrina Victims, (In)gratitude, Grifters, Entitlement Mentality, and the End of Trust

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6521784

By now you've all heard about the above story.

I live in New Orleans. My house did not flood from Katrina....barely. It came within two inches of coming inside. We could not live in our home for four months. I have helped several families gut and clean out their homes. It is nasty work.

I've been there and seen the faces of people as they watch the FEMA bobcats dump their possessions into the back of a dumptruck. I've seen the tears. I watched grown men get weak. During the 3 weeks that I believe my house HAD actually flooded, several times people would say things like "well at least you're alive, you can always rebuy your possessions." Very true, but I have to tell you, that unless you've actually lost everything before, you should never, Ever, EVER say something like that to someone that is just beginning to cope with it.

My city is still destroyed. It is starting to look like its old self in places, but the vastness of the destruction is truly awful. New Orleans East is still a ghost town. The Ninth Ward too. We're being told that the city is only back to 40% of its original population. People that are from here want to come back here for many reasons.

#1 The weather. Compare the weather here today versus anywhere else up North.
#2 The culture. Jazz, Mardi Gras, Creole, Cajun, Isleño, etc.
#3 The food. Oh my goodness the food.
#4 The place. New Orleans is like nowhere else in the whole country. One man that evacuated to North Dakota was quoted as saying that he felt like he had "emigrated to the United States" when he left NOLA.

Those are the positive reasons for coming back here. It is a truly wonderful place, and when I leave here, I will leave with a tear in my eye. However, many people that have grown up here, unfortunately, are products of a system that LBJ signed into law, and that has had the effect of enslaving people to a feeling of entitlement. Moving away from New Orleans to somewhere else means that people are suddenly forced to adapt to new circumstances. Most New Orleanians moved away and got jobs, began working, trying to do whatever they could. We never see the news stories about the VAST MAJORITY of those people. Instead the media feed us a steady diet of the many charlatans, grifters, and downright thugs that also dwelt here and how they are committing crimes and doing bad things to people that only wanted to help them.

This latest story is just another example. A family is, foolishly, given a home. If the church GAVE them the home, by all rights, it is theirs to sell. They should've have told the church that they didn't like it and should have given it back. But, they didn't. The church was foolish for not checking up on its people, and for not holding onto the title. Let them live there rent free forever, but the church would remain the owner. Giving the house to someone was just plain stupid. Even though it pisses me off, the people had the right to sell the home. They owned it.

Things like this make people not want to trust others. Especially people from New Orleans. The end of trust is bad for us all.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Slowing Housing Market, Jobs, Pride, Mormons, and St. George, Utah

http://money.cnn.com/2006/11/28/news/economy/homesales_october/index.htm?cnn=yes

For the past few years I have watched, stupefied, as housing prices have risen rapidly everywhere across the nation. Little piece of crap houses beneath the Cherokee County water tower on Bells Ferry Road in Acworth, Georgia were selling for $175k+. These houses are within range of being hit if the water tower ever were to collapse. The old cess pool behind my elementary school is now covered with Edward Scissorhands houses....and these sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. These houses' yards are too small to even park a car on.

My brother-in-law was able to have his house re-appraised in Las Vegas and not have to pay mortgage insurance anymore because the equity had increased enough to allow him to throw off that onerous surcharge.

These high prices did wonders for urban renewal as people bought old houses and re-did them. Lands that had sat vacant for decades were suddenly on the market, stripped of their trees and vegetation, covered over with homes, and in use.

In St. George, Utah, I have several family members directly involved with the real estate market. I worry that a downswing in home prices will slow that economy and that they might lose their jobs. Housing is/was out of control in St. George, so much so that I'm sure many lower middle class families were forced to move away or look elsewhere if they were just starting out.

St. George will soon have to reckon with a big problem. I'm not expert on the subject, but I would imagine that the capital flowing into St. George to purchase lands and houses will eventually crest and begin to ebb. With precious few construction materials produced locally, many dollars have to flow right back out the door already. Interests paid to non-local banks leaves the economy. The high percentage of Mexican construction workers also will syphon off money from the economy. When the housing boom and new construction comes to an end, I worry that the economy will crash.

St. George is the one and only place I've ever been where there are no true poor people. I mean truly truly poor. There are no "bad" parts of town no matter what some locals might think. There are no nearby communities where the poor live and shuttle in to St. George to work. The whole region is prosperous. That's not saying that bad things like murder don't happen there, I'm just saying that it is a uniquely prosperous and pleasant place to live. These factors are most likely due to the high level of education of the majority of the population, the high moral makeup of the predominately Mormon community, and the influx of outside capital during the past few decades as more and more retirees have chosen its awesome Winter weather as their new homes.

Vast hordes of retirees settle there, and bring with them money to purchase goods, services, and probably most importantly, medical care. However, when they die, these people's money typically doesn't stay in the community, it is left to heirs elsewhere.

It seems to me that there are three main industries there: Medicine, Construction, and Real Estate.

Not that the problem is specific to St. George, I use it merely as an example, but this town is prosperous and it shows. Everyone drives nice cars. The houses are all amazing. The interior decoration is always amazing. People wear really really nice clothing. And yet I worry that many people live beyond their means. I worry about this because I know some really good honest decent folks there, and if they are over-leveraged and the economy takes a hit, the house could come tumbling down figuratively. All over Utah, and the Mormon Church everywhere I've ever lived in the USA, people seem to be caught up in the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses (I say keeping-up-with-the-Jensens when talking to Mormons) mentality that we are supposed to ignore.

In General Conference on October 7, 2001, President Gordon B. Hinckley, a man I believe to be a prophet, said the following:

(Speaking of the events of September the 11th):
Occasions of this kind pull us up sharply to a realization that life is fragile, peace is fragile, civilization itself is fragile. The economy is particularly vulnerable. We have been counseled again and again concerning self-reliance, concerning debt, concerning thrift.

So many of our people are heavily in debt for things that are not entirely necessary. When I was a young man, my father counseled me to build a modest home, sufficient for the needs of my family, and make it beautiful and attractive and pleasant and secure. He counseled me to pay off the mortgage as quickly as I could so that come what may there would be a roof over the heads of my wife and children. I was reared on that kind of doctrine.

I urge you as members of this Church to get free of debt where possible, and to have a little laid aside against a rainy day.

We cannot provide against every contingency. But we can provide against many contingencies. Let the present situation remind us that this we should do.

As we have been continuously counseled for more that 60 years, let us have some food set aside that would sustain us for a time in case of need. But let us not panic nor go to extremes. Let us be prudent in every respect. And above all, my brothers and sisters, let us move forward with faith in the Living God and His Beloved Son.

Great are the promises concerning this land of America. We are told unequivocally that it is a "choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ" (Ether 2:12). This is the crux of the entire matter—obedience to the commandments of God.

The Constitution under which we live and which has not only blessed us but has become a model for other constitutions, is our God-inspired national safeguard ensuring freedom and liberty, justice and equality before the law.

I do not know what the future holds. I do not wish to sound negative, but I wish to remind you of the warnings of scripture and the teachings of the prophets which we have had constantly before us. I cannot forget the great lesson of Pharaoh’s dream of the fat and lean kine, and of the full and withered stalks of corn.

I cannot dismiss from my mind the grim warnings of the Lord as set forth in the 24th chapter of Matthew.

I am familiar, as are you, with the declarations of modern revelation that the time will come when the earth will be cleansed and there will be indescribable distress, with weeping, and mourning, and lamentation (see D&C 112:24).

Now, I do not wish to be an alarmist. I do not wish to be a prophet of doom. I am optimistic. I do not believe the time is here when an all-consuming calamity will overtake us. I earnestly pray that it may not. There is so much of the Lord’s work yet to be done. We and our children after us must do it.

...

In the prophet's words there I see the wise counsel to not live beyond our means. I love having a large home. My house is 1033 sq. ft. and it feels like a palace to me. Many people buy large houses, more than they can afford. I want to have a modest home that I can afford and that I can pay off quickly. But, I also want the mega-houses that I see on TV and that I've been to. Delivering pizza is a great way to see thousands of different homes, and big homes are just plain cool.

I like nice stuff. I like having nice stuff. I prefer my Dodge Magnum to my old Ford Escort, but I could still drive a Ford Escort and not be ashamed of it or long for something better. I am not caught up in costly apparel as the Nephites of old always seemed to do. I would love a big home, but my career will most likely not allow me to own one.....nor do I really need one. My brother-in-law has a big family and makes excellent money, so he can afford and needs a larger home than I do. One of my other brothers-in-law teaches high school in St. George, and so will probably struggle at first to afford a house big enough for his family. My best friend owns a massive home with just he and his wife and their slew of pets. They can afford it, but it seems awful big for just the two of them, and yet I find myself envisioning that kind of home when I think about what I want some day (though with their owner's convenants I doubt I would want to live in that neighborhood) and not the modest home that I know I should want. This is called pride on my part. I want something I don't need or can't afford. I find it easy not to covet cars. I don't covet clothing. I have no need to covet another's wife (have you seen mine? Phew!). But, houses are this great American sense of accomplishment and wealth that are tough to shake and I always dream of a big home. Space is a great thing.

I pray that when the time comes to buy my first home, I'll remember the words of the prophet and this blog post, and not let myself get caught up in the trap of big houses. I also hope that St. George continues to prosper and that these ramblings are merely the theories of an uninformed outsider.

Current real estate listings in St. George:
http://remax.realtor.com/FindHome/HomeListings.asp?mlsttl=St.+George&frm=bycomm&pgnum=1&mls=stgeorge&lnksrc=REALRSCF2C0002&js=on&gate=remax&poe=realtor&st=ut&areaid=1079180&typ=1&mnprice=0&mxprice=99999999&mnbed=0&mnbath=0&mnsqft=0&ss_fthb=n%2Fa&ss_mitm=n%2Fa

Monday, November 27, 2006

Owner's Covenants, Architectural Control Committees, the Reason for the Season, and Handel's Messiah

OH MY HELL!

http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/11/27/peace.wreath.ap/index.html

Abandon all hope all ye who enter into an owner's covenant. The very fact that people have "architectural control committees" speaks more about the bourgeois values of our society that I generally loathe than anything else ever could. I live in New Orleans, where it is perfectly acceptable to paint your house bright blue with bright orange trim. I think it's lovely, and I am so put off by boring houses that all look alike that it makes me sick. From Las Vegas, NV to Canton, GA tract housing with intractable rules mean more homogenized developments that suck the soul out of people's lives. If I own the property, it's mine, and if I want to paint it pink with purple polka dots, then why should I not be able to do so?

Anyway, a famous Irish composer once borrowed some words from this Hebrew prophet that were sung something like this,

FOR UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN
UNTO US
A SON IS GIVEN
AND THE GOVERNMENT SHALL BE UPON HIS SHOULDERS
AND HIS KNEES
WE SHALL CALM HIM
WONDERFUL
COUNSELOR
THE MIGHTY GOD
THE EVERLASTING FATHER
THE PRINCE OF PEACE

The woman's peace symbol is very appropriate for the season and to hell with anyone that says otherwise. If my child were fighting in Iraq, I sure as hell WOULD be praying for peace. Whether she wants to pull the troops out now or wait for the "mission accomplished" to happen, peace is still a great thing and the end goal and endgame of our lives.

Michael Richards's Psychotic Break

I'm sure you've all heard about Kramer's meltdown on the stage. Here we have a man that is truly truly pissed off. I wince when I watch the video because it is just patently offensive and not his style. However, I'd like to try and maybe defend him (not his actions).

Comedians in our society sometimes say offensive things. Now, I'm no comedian, but sometimes people think I'm funny and/or witty. However, most of the time my jokes bomb....badly. I also know that I've started out with what I thought was a funny joke in my head, thinking it would get laughs, and then had it bomb like the proverbial lead zeppelin. I hope that's what happened to Mr. Richards. Maybe he got pissed, thought he'd say something edgy to take the focus of his own performance, got carried away with it (maybe he was trying to play a character like Borat or something) and then couldn't figure out a good punch line or a way out of his joke.

I'll bet he hates himself right now. Unless he's a racist jerk.

This video contains HIGHLY OFFENSIVE material (for the sensitive Mormon set).



I did read that Gloria Allred is now calling the people he offended her "clients" and they are seeking compensation. Oh please! An apology, definitely. Money for pain? Come on. Seriously. Come on.

http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061124/COLUMNISTS18/61124011

A broken window is tangible property that can be replaced. Hurt feelings are mended with an apology, not money.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The status of the New Orleans Recovery School District students

I know many people that teach for the New Orleans Recovery School District. These students' schools were taken over by the state because they were far beyond any semblance of redemption from the hellholes they had become. One of my friends that teaches for them told me of this activity from her class last week.

She had them doing word association. She gave them four words, one of the words didn't belong and they had to identify it and say why it didn't belong.

One that she used:
Louisiana Texas Detroit California

One student answered "Texas" and she asked him "Why?" His response, "Texas is a city."

The worst one:
George Washington Abraham Lincoln John Hancock Thomas Jefferson

One student answered "Abraham Lincoln" and she asked him "Why?" to which he responded "
He wasn't a president." She then pointed out that he was a president, and another student chimed in "Yeah, he freed the slaves." Another student then said, "No, that was Rosa Parks." She told me she felt relieved when three of her 30 students laughed at the Rosa Parks comment. She then explained to them who Rosa Parks was.

It is shocking to me that African-American students do not know who Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, etc. were. Most people might not correctly identify John Hancock, but Rosa Parks.....come on. I have thought about this since she told me the story, and my theory is that the African-American youths today are now 3-4 generations removed from the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. Sadly, the vast majority of the children in my friends class are from single parent homes. She knows this from talking to them. Almost all of them live with their moms, aunts, or grandmothers. Freshman, many of them are parents themselves, and compare war stories about having their children with my friend, a mother of six. Several of them have told her that their mom's made them have natural childbirth as punishment for getting pregnant at 13-14. These kids have never known the outright, government sponsored and sanctioned racism of the Jim Crow laws, of forced segregation, of having to move to the back of the bus. In their minds that was a world ago. Their focus is on the here and now. They talk openly of sexual partners in the tens and twenties (mind you they are freshmen). Some of them bring large wads of cash to class, thousands of dollars. They all swear like sailors. She has three special-ed kids in her class, and no helpers to sit with them. They constantly disrupt everything, and with 30 students, she cannot properly educate them all while having to maintain discipline. She can never turn her back to the class, because they will throw things at her and/or leave. The students don't have their own textbooks, they have to leave them in the class because they only have enough for each student in the classroom at any given time. She puts together study guides, that essentially contain the tests, with the questions in different order, tells the students that information, and then when class is over, all the guides are on the floor.

She is only one teacher. She cannot do it all. The current generation may be lost, hopefully the younger ones can still be taught that education is the key to their future. I agonize over the thousands of young people that are victims/products of the system of this system. So many different groups are to blame that it does no good to blame anyone. We have to fix the system, so that 10 years from now, the high school graduates can read and write, get jobs, and start to fix this city. It can only go up from here.

Glavine May Return to Atlanta!!!!!

http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/6180928

I would love for the Braves to resign Tom Glavine. He is my favorite baseball player today, and second only to Dale Murphy, my all time favorite and personal hero. I would love to see him get win #300 in a Braves uniform. I have met him once before and he seems to be a very nice man. The Braves could always surprise us and contend next year, and I'd love to see Tommy get one more chance.

I'll always remember him being a pinch runner in 1988 in a couple of games. I saw it live. Those were the days. I don't know how my mom put up with my dad and I going to ball games every night.

My mom's the best.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Boring or Just Blase?

Readership is down.

Comments are way down.

Page impressions are down.

Repeat visitors are down.


Is my blog getting staid? Too bombastic? Same ole same ole?

Let me know,

Mac

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Since when are Jarheads politically correct? Toys for Tots deny the Christ!

So the Jarheads have turned away a donation of talking Jesus dolls from their Christmas Toys for Tots Christmas program because, "We can't take a chance on sending a talking Jesus doll to a Jewish family or a Muslim family."
http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/11/14/toy.jesus.ap/index.html

Last I checked, Toys for Tots was a Christmas program. Jews and Muslims don't celebrate Christmas. But wait, if you go to the Toys for Tots webpage, it appears that the Marines have decided to call it the "holiday season."
http://toysfortots2006.com/google/home.html

I'm not one to lament the removal of "Christ" from Christmas, which isn't a problem in Spanish (Navidad) or Portuguese (Natal) [both words incidently mean "birth"] from corporate advertising. Calling it the Holiday season is fine. But I didn't expect the Marines to become politically correct. Now, I can't imagine anyone but Ned Flanders' kids getting excited over a talking, scripture quoting, Jesus doll, so I sympathize. I just think it's funny that it made the news.

Correct me if I'm wrong Norman, but X is a Greek symbol for Christ, so by calling it X-mas, you are actually showing reverence for the name of Jesus.

Dating Web Sites' Ads Getting Out of Hand



So, this is an ad for a dating website that I couldn't help but notice today on an article about Borat. Here's the screen capture:


You notice that the woman is wearing only a piece of dental floss, and is picking it up with the heel of her stilleto. She is naked. And this is an ad on a web page that I would normally not worry about. To me, this ad is clearly pornographic, and yet it advertises singlesnet.com, a webpage supposedly dedicated to bringing single people together. Notice the teaser, "Wanna see the other half?" While the ad clearly focuses the attention on the curvature of what can only be described as a fabulous butt, it simultaneously eroticizes it. I am no longer clicking on the ad to hope to meet someone because I am single, but because I want to see the other half of this sexy body. A visit to the actual webpage, www.singlesnet.com, reveals a far less erotic webpage. The same is true of other dating services. Anyone that uses hotmail knows all too well the constant True ads that flash women in bikinis around your email...constantly. Again, same thing, if you go to true.com, it is not the tantalizing ads that you see, but a toned-down version. I imagine that these online dating services must be decidedly guy-heavy. I don't see ads for them featuring men's butts and chests and whatever else women might find attractive (teeth maybe?).

Monday, November 13, 2006

WTF? NZLND SEZ TXT OK 4 KIDZ EXAMS

http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/asiapcf/11/11/nz.text.ap/index.html

ppl n nu Zealand wiL regret dEz kinds of decisions n bout 20 yr.z. DIS iz not lIk advocating ebonics, ther iz Nuttin inherently cultural bout DIS othR thN laziness 4 orthography. We aL c%d uz a ltl mo theology & geometry.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Howard Stern, Cox Cable, Nick Jr., and Poorly Placed Pay Per View Ads

So, last Saturday at 12:45 CST, Marley is watching Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius on Nickelodeon. The shows on that channel in the morning and early afternoon are part of a block of shows targeted at preschool and younger elementary aged children called "Nick Jr." Marley is sitting there watching the show when it goes to commercial. Mickelle and I are in the room, doing something else, but aware that Marley is watching her show. All of a sudden a commercial comes on for Howard Stern's "99 cent Pay Per View" spectacular something or other. The commercial was a Cox Cable one for their pay per view service. It featured such purient tittlations as "Unrated" and "Uncensored." Basically, it's a commercial about Howard Stern getting porn stars to do all kinds of things totally naked and you can pay 99 cents and watch it all.

Now, as much as I despise pornography, becacuse he is in the private broadcast spectrum, I believe that he has the right to do whatever he wants to consenting people. Freedom of Speech means that people should be free to say things that we find patently offensive. I hate what he does. It's only one step away from the graffiti on bathroom windows. He exploits women for his own amusement, profit, and eroticization. He has a gift with words that he has squandered. Nevertheless, he has the legal right to do what he does.

However, I think it is entirely and wholly inappropriate to advertise this show during a children's hour on a children's channel. It is inexcusable. Unjustafiable. And it happened more than once. On different days. Someone needs a wakeup call. I don't want to have to explain to my daughter what "uncensored" and "horny babes" mean.

I complained to Cox. Hopefully it was an innocent mistake. No one has called me back. Grrrrr!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Story from Iraq -- Funny & Sad Simultaneously

A good friend of my friend Tim Boisvert, A Great American, is currently serving in Iraq. I consider him an amigo desconocido. He wrote a blog post last month, that while comical, speaks volumes about how far the Iraqi army is "progressing" towards tactical competence. Allow him to relate the story. Follow this link:

http://latitude35.blogspot.com/2006/10/iraqi-eod.html (He has many other good posts besides this one)

For his family's safety and his own, we don't refer to him by name.

Good luck buddy.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

FOR THE LOVE OF BOB

http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/11/08/rumsfeld.ap/index.html

(in all caps for a reason)

WHY IN THE HELL DID THE PRESIDENT NOT ANNOUNCE THIS ONE WEEK AGO? THIS ADMINISTRATION HAS LOST ALL ITS POLITICAL SAVVY. SERIOUSLY! THIS COULD HAVE CHANGED YESTERDAY'S RESULTS! NOT THAT I'M ALL THAT UPSET ABOUT THE TURN IN POWER----though the idea of Nancy Pelosi being third in line to the Presidency does make me a little queasy.

My friend Tim Boisvert, A Great American, had this to say:

"man, this is like the greatest 24 hours I've had in years... All I've asked for is for commuter rail to come to Utah County and for Rumsfeld to step down."

Bobby Jindal won re-election with 88% of the vote. That's a trouncing. He is the only politician I respect anymore. I really like him and hope that he becomes a candidate for President one of these years. He and I disagree on some policies (drug control), but I think he's an honest and good man.

I just hope that the person chosen to replace Rumsfeld isn't just as bad or worse.

My friends directly affected by this change of events:

Private Maxmillyen Smith, USAR, currently serving in Iraq
Captain Charles Nolan, USA, currently serving somewhere unknown
Corporal Ian Terry, USAR, currently serving his country somewhere classified
Cadet Matt Brady, USAR, currently studying to become a lawyer to defend his country's defenders.
Captain Darren Pittard, USA, currently making sure that the Army has good gyncological health
Captain Jen Gurski, USA, currently making sure that the Army has good urological health.

I worry about Max Smith every day. He was so gentle as a youth. I worry he'll come back from Iraq a war-hardened man with demons.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Infant baptism, Tess of the D'ubervilles and the Gall of Bitterness

And then this news out of the Vatican that the Pope has ended the official backing, so-to-speak, of the doctrine of limbo.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/5412166.stm

I find it amazing that people are only now realizing the horrific nature of believing that little children are in need of repentance, let alone that they would go to hell for not doing something on which they would have to rely on others to do for them.

One of the saddest stories relating to this diabolical doctrine can be found in Thomas Hardy's masterpiece, Tess of the D'ubervilles, please take the time to read all of this passage, it is powerfully heart-wrenching, because you know that this scenario played itself out in divers manners, countless times throughout history. Tess had a child out of wedlock, and had "shamed" her family by her promiscuity. Her father, a drunkard, decided to punish her. What follows is horrific:

In the afternoon and evening the proceedings of the morning were continued, Tess staying on till dusk with the body of harvesters. Then they all rode home in one of the largest wagons, in the company of a broad tarnished moon that had risen from the ground to the eastwards, its face resembling the outworn gold-leaf halo of some worm-eaten Tuscan saint. Tess's female companions sang songs, and showed themselves very sympathetic and glad at her reappearance out of doors, though they could not refrain from mischievously throwing in a few verses of the ballad about the maid who went to the merry green wood and came back a changed state. There are counterpoises and compensations in life; and the event which had made of her a social warning had also for the moment made her the most interesting personage in the village to many. Their friendliness won her still farther away from herself, their lively spirits were contagious, and she became almost gay.

But now that her moral sorrows were passing away a fresh one arose on the natural side of her which knew no social law. When she reached home it was to learn to her grief that the baby had been suddenly taken ill since the afternoon. Some such collapse had been probable, so tender and puny was its frame; but the event came as a shock nevertheless.

The baby's offence against society in coming into the world was forgotten by the girl-mother; her soul's desire was to continue that offence by preserving the life of the child. However, it soon grew clear that the hour of emancipation for that little prisoner of the flesh was to arrive earlier than her worst misgiving had conjectured. And when she had discovered this she was plunged into a misery which transcended that of the child's simple loss. Her baby had not been baptized.

Tess had drifted into a frame of mind which accepted passively the consideration that if she should have to burn for what she had done, burn she must, and there was an end of it. Like all village girls she was well grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and had dutifully studied the histories of Aholah and Aholibah, and knew the inferences to be drawn therefrom. But when the same question arose with regard to the baby, it had a very different colour. Her darling was about to die, and no salvation.

It was nearly bedtime, but she rushed downstairs and asked if she might send for the parson. The moment happened to be one at which her father's sense of the antique nobility of his family was highest, and his sensitiveness to the smudge which Tess had set upon that nobility most pronounced, for he had just returned from his weekly booze at Rolliver's Inn. No parson should come inside his door, he declared, prying into his affairs, just then, when, by her shame, it had become more necessary than ever to hide them. He locked the door and put the key in his pocket.

The household went to bed, and, distressed beyond measure, Tess retired also. She was continually waking as she lay, and in the middle of the night found that the baby was still worse. It was obviously dying--quietly and painlessly, but none the less surely.

In her misery she rocked herself upon the bed. The clock struck the solemn hour of one, that hour when fancy stalks outside reason, and malignant possibilities stand rock-firm as facts. She thought of the child consigned to the nethermost corner of hell, as its double doom for lack of baptism and lack of legitimacy; saw the arch-fiend tossing it with his three-pronged fork, like the one they used for heating the oven on baking days; to which picture she added many other quaint and curious details of torment sometimes taught the young in this Christian country. The lurid presentment so powerfully affected her imagination in the silence of the sleeping house that her nightgown became damp with perspiration, and the bedstead shook with each throb of her heart.

The infant's breathing grew more difficult, and the mother's mental tension increased. It was useless to devour the little thing with kisses; she could stay in bed no longer, and walked feverishly about the room.

"O merciful God, have pity; have pity upon my poor baby!" she cried. "Heap as much anger as you want to upon me, and welcome; but pity the child!"

She leant against the chest of drawers, and murmured incoherent supplications for a long while, till she suddenly started up."

Ah! perhaps baby can be saved! Perhaps it will be just the same!"She spoke so brightly that it seemed as though her face might have shone in the gloom surrounding her. She lit a candle, and went to a second and a third bed under the wall, where she awoke her young sisters and brothers, all of whom occupied the same room. Pulling out the washing-stand so that she could get behind it, she poured some water from a jug, and made them kneel around, putting their hands together with fingers exactly vertical. While the children, scarcely awake, awe-stricken at her manner, their eyes growing larger and larger, remained in this position, she took the baby from her bed--a child's child--so immature as scarce to seem a sufficient personality to endow its producer with the maternal title. Tess then stood erect with the infant on her arm beside the basin, the next sister held the Prayer-Book open before her, as the clerk at church held it before the parson; and thus the girl set about baptizing her child.

Her figure looked singularly tall and imposing as she stood in her long white nightgown, a thick cable of twisted dark hair hanging straight down her back to her waist. The kindly dimness of the weak candle abstracted from her form and features the little blemishes which sunlight might have revealed--the stubble scratches upon her wrists, and the weariness of her eyes--her high enthusiasm having a transfiguring effect upon the face which had been her undoing, showing it as a thing of immaculate beauty, with a touch of dignity which was almost regal. The little ones kneeling round, their sleepy eyes blinking and red, awaited her preparations full of a suspended wonder which their physical heaviness at that hour would not allow to become active.

The most impressed of them said:

"Be you really going to christen him, Tess?"

The girl-mother replied in a grave affirmative.

"What's his name going to be?"

She had not thought of that, but a name suggested by a phrase in the book of Genesis came into her head as she proceeded with the baptismal service, and now she pronounced it:

"Sorrow, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost."

She sprinkled the water, and there was silence.

"Say 'Amen,' children."

The tiny voices piped in obedient response "Amen!"Tess went on:

"We receive this child"--and so forth--"and do sign him with the sign of the Cross."

Here she dipped her hand into the basin, and fervently drew an immense cross upon the baby with her forefinger, continuing with the customary sentences as to his manfully fighting against sin, the world, and the devil, and being a faithful soldier and servant unto his life's end. She duly went on with the Lord's Prayer, the children lisping it after her in a thin gnat-like wail, till, at the conclusion, raising their voices to clerk's pitch, they again piped into silence, "Amen!"

Then their sister, with much augmented confidence in the efficacy of the sacrament, poured forth from the bottom of her heart the thanksgiving that follows, uttering it boldly and triumphantly in the stopt-diapason note which her voice acquired when her heart was in her speech, and which will never be forgotten by those who knew her. The ecstasy of faith almost apotheosized her; it set upon her face a glowing irradiation, and brought a red spot into the middle of each cheek; while the miniature candle-flame inverted in her eye-pupils shone like a diamond. The children gazed up at her with more and more reverence, and no longer had a will for questioning. She did not look like Sissy to them now, but as a being large, towering, and awful--a divine personage with whom they had nothing in common.

Poor Sorrow's campaign against sin, the world, and the devil was doomed to be of limited brilliancy--luckily perhaps for himself, considering his beginnings. In the blue of the morning that fragile soldier and servant breathed his last, and when the other children awoke they cried bitterly, and begged Sissy to have another pretty baby. The calmness which had possessed Tess since the christening remained with her in the infant's loss. In the daylight, indeed, she felt her terrors about his soul to have been somewhat exaggerated; whether well founded or not she had no uneasiness now, reasoning that if Providence would not ratify such an act of approximation she, for one, did not value the kind of heaven lost by the irregularity--either for herself or for her child.

So passed away Sorrow the Undesired--that intrusive creature, that bastard gift of shameless Nature who respects not the social law; a waif to whom eternal Time had been a matter of days merely, who knew not that such things as years and centuries ever were; to whom the cottage interior was the universe, the week's weather climate, new-born babyhood human existence, and the instinct to suck human knowledge.

Tess, who mused on the christening a good deal, wondered if it were doctrinally sufficient to secure a Christian burial for the child. Nobody could tell this but the parson of the parish, and he was a new-comer, and did not know her. She went to his house after dusk, and stood by the gate, but could not summon courage to go in. The enterprise would have been abandoned if she had not by accident met him coming homeward as she turned away. In the gloom she did not mind speaking freely.

"I should like to ask you something, sir."

He expressed his willingness to listen, and she told the story of the baby's illness and the extemporized ordinance. "And now, sir," she added earnestly, "can you tell me this--will it be just the same for him as if you had baptized him?"

Having the natural feelings of a tradesman at finding that a job he should have been called in for had been unskilfully botched by his customers among themselves, he was disposed to say no. Yet the dignity of the girl, the strange tenderness in her voice, combined to affect his nobler impulses--or rather those that he had left in him after ten years of endeavour to graft technical belief on actual scepticism. The man and the ecclesiastic fought within him, and the victory fell to the man.

"My dear girl," he said, "it will be just the same."

"Then will you give him a Christian burial?" she asked quickly.

The Vicar felt himself cornered. Hearing of the baby's illness, he had conscientiously gone to the house after nightfall to perform the rite, and, unaware that the refusal to admit him had come from Tess's father and not from Tess, he could not allow the plea of necessity for its irregular administration.

"Ah--that's another matter," he said."Another matter--why?" asked Tess, rather warmly.

"Well--I would willingly do so if only we two were concerned. But I must not--for certain reasons."

"Just for once, sir!"

"Really I must not."

"O sir!" She seized his hand as she spoke.

He withdrew it, shaking his head.

"Then I don't like you!" she burst out, "and I'll never come to your church no more!"

"Don't talk so rashly."

"Perhaps it will be just the same to him if you don't? ... Will it be just the same? Don't for God's sake speak as saint to sinner, but as you yourself to me myself--poor me!"

How the Vicar reconciled his answer with the strict notions he supposed himself to hold on these subjects it is beyond a layman's power to tell, though not to excuse. Somewhat moved, he said in this case also--"It will be just the same."

So the baby was carried in a small deal box, under an ancient woman's shawl, to the churchyard that night, and buried by lantern-light, at the cost of a shilling and a pint of beer to the sexton, in that shabby corner of God's allotment where He lets the nettles grow, and where all unbaptized infants, notorious drunkards, suicides, and others of the conjecturally damned are laid. In spite of the untoward surroundings, however, Tess bravely made a little cross of two laths and a piece of string, and having bound it with flowers, she stuck it up at the head of the grave one evening when she could enter the churchyard without being seen, putting at the foot also a bunch of the same flowers in a little jar of water to keep them alive. What matter was it that on the outside of the jar the eye of mere observation noted the words "Keelwell's Marmalade"? The eye of maternal affection did not see them in its vision of higher things.

I have previously talked about how much I appreciated the "heretic" Pelagius' efforts to thwart the advocates of infant baptism. Augustine, with his Manichean ideals and dogmatism, caused unknowing quantities of heartache on families that suffered the loss of their loved ones.

I believe that the Book of Mormon is a true account of prophets here in the Americas. Whether or not you believe it, read here the words of the prophet Mormon to his son Moroni about infant baptism, about 400A.D.:

5 For, if I have learned the truth, there have been disputations among you concerning the baptism of your little children.

6 And now, my son, I desire that ye should labor diligently, that this gross error should be removed from among you; for, for this intent I have written this epistle.

7 For immediately after I had learned these things of you I inquired of the Lord concerning the matter. And the word of the Lord came to me by the power of the Holy Ghost, saying:

8 Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them; and the law of circumcision is done away in me.

9 And after this manner did the Holy Ghost manifest the word of God unto me; wherefore, my beloved son, I know that it is solemn mockery before God, that ye should baptize little children.

10 Behold I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach—repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin; yea, teach parents that they must repent and be baptized, and humble themselves as their little children, and they shall all be saved with their little children.

11 And their little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins.

12 But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons; for how many little children have died without baptism!

13 Wherefore, if little children could not be saved without baptism, these must have gone to an endless hell.

14 Behold I say unto you, that he that supposeth that little children need baptism is in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; for he hath neither faith, hope, nor charity; wherefore, should he be cut off while in the thought, he must go down to hell.

15 For awful is the wickedness to suppose that God saveth one child because of baptism, and the other must perish because he hath no baptism.

16 Wo be unto them that shall pervert the ways of the Lord after this manner, for they shall perish except they repent. Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear.

17 And I am filled with charity, which is everlasting love; wherefore, all children are alike unto me; wherefore, I love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike and partakers of salvation.

18 For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.

19 Little children cannot repent; wherefore, it is awful wickedness to deny the pure mercies of God unto them, for they are all alive in him because of his mercy.

20 And he that saith that little children need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption.

21 Wo unto such, for they are in danger of death, hell, and an endless torment. I speak it boldly; God hath commanded me. Listen unto them and give heed, or they stand against you at the judgment-seat of Christ.

22 For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing—

23 But it is mockery before God, denying the mercies of Christ, and the power of his Holy Spirit, and putting trust in dead works.

24 Behold, my son, this thing ought not to be; for repentance is unto them that are under condemnation and under the curse of a broken law.

25 And the first fruits of repentance is baptism; and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins;

26 And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.

I am grateful that the Vatican is examining the Scriptures and the words of Christ as a means to reforming their doctrine......remembering first and foremost the words of the Master Himself:


1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,

3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.

6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Matthew Chapter 18.

We are supposed to be like little children because they are blameless. I want no part of a God that condemns people to hell for not being baptized if they never had the conscious opportunity to decide for themselves...truly.

Saddam Hussein Baptism

When I was a missionary in Costa Rica, we all carried a set of flipcharts to aid us in the teaching of our discussions. The one that showed a baptism featured a Hispanic man getting ready to be baptized. The man bore a striking resemblance to Saddam Hussein....leading to conversations like the following:

Me: Aqui tengo una foto de un bautismo, tal como fue bautizado Jesucristo.
Them: Oye, porque estan bautizando a Saddam Hussein?
Me: No es Saddam, es un hombre que le parece a Saddam...
Them: Por que....quieren que Saddam sea Mormon?
Me: No, esta foto fue tomada antes de la guerra del golfo persico, es pura coincidencia que el hombre le parezca a Saddam.

Me: Here you see a photo of a baptism, just as Jesus Christ was baptized.
Them: Listen, why are you baptizing Saddam Hussein?
Me: It's not Saddam, just a man that looks like Saddam...
Them: Why? Do you want Saddam to be a Mormon?
Me: No. This photo was taken before the Gulf War, it's just a coincidence that the man looks like Saddam.

I had to explain that probably every fourth or fifth time that I taught a discussion on baptism, so at least once every other day, if not every day. Yall be the judge...this is the photo....does it look like Saddam?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Saddam Hussein to Be Hanged, or Why That Is So Wrong!

And then the news out of Baghdad that Saddam Hussein has been found guilty of all the crap he was charged with and has been sentenced to death by hanging.

First, let's get one thing straight. I am not opposed to the death penalty. Europe is up in arms, including the Vatican, about and "eye for an eye" and the like, saying that killing Saddam won't bring those people back. There is a vast difference between me wanting to kill Saddam for what he did to my family, in a revenge killing way, and Saddam being brought to justice for his crimes. He deserves to be punished, to rot in hell, etc. He is unrepentant. He could care less. He is guilty of countless atrocities. If he has been found guilty in a court of law, then get the gallows ready.....BUT!

Saddam Hussein was not tried in a court of law. The man is incapable of receiving a fair trial, and for that reason, he should be locked away in a solitary cell, with no communication with anyone, until the day he dies. I believe in a system of laws, and the laws of this WORLD cannot guarantee the man anything resembling a fair trial. He cannot get one. Everyone knows who he is. The court was a farce at best. He was guilty in the jury's eyes before it began. They probably fear for their lives if they find him innocent or guilty. He needs to be incarcerated forever and not hanged. Nothing good will come of his execution, other than justice finally being met. He deserves to die. It isn't fair to execute him according to the beliefs this country espouses.

Damn you Saddam.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Evangelicals, Gay Sex, John Kerry, and 11th Hour Political Intrigue

http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/11/03/haggard.allegations/index.html

So fresh off the John Kerry joke brouhaha we now get the bombshell revelation that a prominent evangelical preacher paid a manwhore $200 for meth and sex. The pastor today revealed that he did know Jones because he had called him for a massage and bought meth from him...which he claims he threw away.

Okay, a few inconsistencies here:

#1 Meth isn't exactly a gateway drug. No one thinks, I want to get high for the first time ever, I think I'll do crystal freaking meth first. The pastor's previous assertion that he has never done drugs, even in high school, does not seem fidedigno in the face of the horrific evil that is crystal meth. Oxycodone, marijuana, ecstasy...okay yeah, but not meth.

#2 Hasn't he seen Pulp Fiction? Would you let another man give you a massage in your hotel room? Especially if you didn't know him? If the good reverend wants to have gay sex that is his decision, but someone of his prominence should know better than to even give off even the appearance of impropriety....and paying someone $200 for sex is criminal and in his case adulterous.

#3 Extra-marital sex is sinful no matter the orientation. Perhaps the pastor has struggled with this attraction, thought about yielding to the temptation, thought better of it and changed his mind before he did something entirely evil. Everyone should hope that that is the case. Adultery destroys marriages--see my previous posts on it for the reasons why (though they should be obvious). Perhaps these demons, these temptations, these struggles are one reason why the pastor has fought so hard for a same-sex marriage ban. Just because someone does something does not mean that they think it isn't a sin. I swear. I gamble occasionally. I know these things are wrong, yet I still do them. In the case of gambling, I wish it were illegal. I think it is perfectly plausible to loathe one's actions so much so as to agitate to change the law about it. It may seem hypocritical, and on many levels it is....but I understand it, on my level.

#4 Evidently he has stepped down from his position and admitted "his sins" to his congregation's overseer board. If he has confessed and now repents of what he did, it is up to all Christians to now forgive him. The consequences may be temporal, as in he might lose his pastorship, but the spiritual condemnations and consequences are between him and the Lord. However, if he did indeed pay the other man for sex, they both broke the law, and justice demands that they both face those consequences.

#5 No sex is worth wrecking your life. No matter how hot (s)he is for you, how amazing the sex might be, how "badly" you've convinced yourself that you "need this," sex outside of marriage, pre-, extra-, whatever- is wrong. It's not worth it. Sex isn't so important as to be worth all this sorrow. I don't care what kind of sex he may have had....the fact that he's married and possibly betrayed his covenant with his wife is the more grievous sin. Again, thank God (in all sincerity) that my obesity has made me typically unattractive to most women because I am not highly possessed of self-control, and I would've nailed anything that moved, given the chance.

It's nice that the press has been given a new sensational story to make the country forget John Kerry's asshole comments from earlier in the week. With the election on Tuesday, I figure late Sunday morning as the time when the gloves will come off and the mother-of-all-accusations against someone will come out. That'll leave two good days of reporting to taint the elections' results. Politics in America lately seemed to have embraced unilaterally the mantra of a rogue political party that they would all condemn (for the most part):

By Any Means Necessary

"I'm sorry I ruined your black panther party" --- Forrest Gump

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Egregious Overuse of YouTube




How Long Can You Go without Laughing?

Cute Overload

Jack Being Cute with His Mommy



Enjoy Grandparents!

A Sign of Intelligence

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/6105308.stm

I have always considered it a sign of intelligence when someone is able to hold a conversation even when loud music is playing. I look at the inability in someone to process conversation with loud music in the background as somehow being inferior to myself, just one of the reasons why I'm a prideful jerk.

I thrive with music playing. I can write far better with something blaring than with silence, though admittedly sometimes silence works for me too. I can do both. I prefer music. I prefer background noise. I used to like to go study in Junior's Grille at Georgia Tech or in the cafeteria of the WILK at BYU. In my office here at Tulane, I have to close my door because I start singing along with my iPod and it disturbs my neighbors. One professor here is so sensitive to any sound that a couple of years ago they came out and asked if there was a problem when I couldn't get my key unstuck from my keyring--the noise of the keys clinking for 30 secs was enough to unsettle them. Noise drives some people insane. I prefer it, plain and simple....with a few exceptions:

1. If I'm in a quiet place, I loathe it when people talk on their cell phones. No one ever talks quietly on their cell phone. I think this is lacking in social graces. I have been known to start talking to people as if _I_ were the person they were speaking to on the phone. If they ask a question, in a loud voice, I respond to them. For example:

Them "hey, what's up?"
Me "Not much, just trying to eat dinner at this restaurant"
Them (turning away, annoyed) "really?"
Me "yeah, but this guy keeps talking really loudly on his cell phone"

I do this to my brother-in-law Cody all the time.

2. When it is raining very very very hard, I either have to pull over, or turn down the radio and focus completely on driving the car. I cannot concentrate safely if there is music playing at a loud volume. Sometimes, if it's really pouring, I have to turn it all the way off.

3. I hate it when people are loud in Japanese restaurants. Some of them cater to loud Americans, and that's fine, but when you come into a place that has painted the ceiling black, uses dim indirect lighting, has water falls, koi tanks, and everyone else is being quiet, you should too. I know this is due to ignorance, but it still bugs me.

Those are the only exceptions I can think of. I find that music with a good bass line helps me the most when I need to concentrate. Bob Marley, Weezer, Collective Soul, Rage Against the Machine, and other bands with talented bassists are my favorites to listen to while I work. Johnny Cash is good too.

My wife cannot work with any noise. She should have been a librarian. My Mom cannot even hold a conversation if there is music playing. Both my wife and my mom will ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS turn down the car radio when they get into the car, no matter how low it already is. I fight this trend by turning the radio up louder than it should be so that when they turn it down, it's still loud enough to hear.

Good dissertation writing songs:
"Killing in the name of" RATM
"One Drop" Bob Marley
" Song Against Sex" Neutral Milk Hotel
"Say It Ain't So" Weezer
" December" Collective Soul
" One Headlight" The Wallflowers
" Badfish" Sublime
" 8:16 AM" 311
" More Human than Human" White Zombie
" In the Afterlife" Squirrel Nut Zippers
" Curly Locks" Sinead O'Connor"
" 54-46" Toots and the Maytals
" Sabanas Frias" Mana

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What should have happened with John Kerry's "Stuck in Iraq" comment

In case you've been incommunicado the last 24 hours, here's what I'm talking about:

http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/11/01/kerry.remarks/index.html

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Here's what Kerry said in apology:

I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform, and I personally apologize to any service member, family member or American who was offended.

No doubt that he regrets that his words were understood at all. What I find the most odious about his so-called apology is his use of the passive voice="was offended." He assumes that the person takes it upon his or herself to be offended.

Here's how Kerry should have apologized, I'd actually respect him if he had done this:

I apologize for my remarks yesterday. They seemed elitist as well as derogatory to our troops and I did not wish to disparage their service. I offended many people yesterday and I ask that you forget my snobby comments and allow me to work towards redeeming myself from the air of upper-class detachment that dogged my presidential campaign. I assure you that I did not show my so-called "true colors" yesterday by favoring education over patriotism and personal sacrifice. To all those that I personally offended, I am sorry that I offended you. Please forgive me.

If had done that, the whole controversy would disappear from the public's mind. No politician has the balls to admit a mistake. Bush could have admitted his mistakes years ago and united the country behind our new mission in Iraq since the first one was a sham. He hasn't done so. See, we really had no true option in 2004. Electing Kerry would have been saliendo de Guatemala a Guatepeor.