Saturday, December 30, 2006

The ethics of procreation

And then this news out of Spain that a woman of 67 years has just given birth to twins conceived via in vitro fertilization:

As a Christian, a person of the Book, I believe that God's commandment to Adam and Eve to "multiply and replenish the Earth" has not be rescinded. Every life created can be sustained by the world, for I believe, were it not so, God would tell us that the commandment had been fulfilled. As He has been silent on the matter, I assume that children are a blessing and a duty.

That's not to say that I should breed like mad, just for the sake of having children. I believe that I should not bring more children into the world than I and my wife can provide for. Now, "providing for" has no exact definition. What level of comfort and/or sacrifice is too much. My maternal grandfather, 94, was an orphan, and he grew up facing privations that most Americans would no longer tolerate. I think that I can reasonably provide for up to five children on my salary. I should be able to feed and dress them, provide them with comfortable shelter, and be able to provide for their higher education (with some help from them to earn scholarships). I do not believe that I should have any children after age 40, which means I've got 7 years and Mickelle has 10.

See, nowadays, people choose to wait until much later to have children. My parents had me when they were 23 and 22. I remember asking my Mom one time how old she was, and she told me "29." Marley was born when I was 28. My parents are in their mid 50's and their house is an empty nest, which is fine. But my reasoning for not wanting to have children past 40 is that they really wouldn't get to know their grandparents that well. I am 33 and three of my grandparents are still alive, which means that my daughter will have memories of her great-grandparents. If I have children past 40, and they wait as long as I did to have kids, then my grandchildren will only ever know an old man. I want to be able to play and cavort with my grandchildren.

Sadly, some people have children when they too are children. While their bodies may have developed sexually, while they might be filled with passions and lusts and desires, mentally, without the commitment of a marriage, they are maturity-capable of raising a child---especially in our structured society of school, college, marriage, etc. A child gums up the works. Furthermore, given the legacy of slavery, some races will not give up their children for adoption, no matter how much better life would be for the baby and the mother. This is one side of the problem.

Another one is the 40 something crowd of DINKs (Dual Income No Kids) couples suddenly deciding that they HAVE to have a child, and so they have an only child, that they dote on, and spoil, and this child then grows into a narcissistic dullard. I have seen this child often in New Orleans. Very wealthy parents, Volvo station wagon, Hispanic nanny, the whole cliche come to life before my own eyes. I'm not saying that only children are all this way. Far from it. I am saying that wealthy people having children in their 40s is a really bad idea, and not fair to the child.

And finally, as we explore the ethics of procreation, we have the people who ignored their biological clocks for so long that they have to resort to expensive science to conceive, and they do. At 67, I can only imagine the handfuls of pills this woman must have downed daily in order to get her reproductive system up and running enough so that she didn't naturally abort. She is a full decade and then some past the last vestige of a menstrual cycle. And now she has twins. Surely her husband is thrilled as her breasts will have swelled and erased the ravages of time and gravity on her bosom....that is, if her husband is even alive still. And now these children will grow up with a grand----mother. By the time they go through puberty, she stands a very real chance of being deceased. What then? Suddenly the children are adopted by someone else. By the time they reach adulthood, she will be 85, provided she is still alive.

What are the ethics of child rearing at such an advanced age? I had a friend in high school whose dad was in his 70s when he graduated, and he had a younger sister. I imagine that his father, never in great health, has since passed away. I would never ask this friend if he felt cheated out of his father's presence in this life. I wonder.

No matter the reason, I think this woman es una anciana narcisa y necia y no es justo para sus gemelitos.



My Hall of Fame ballot for 2007 includes the following people:

Tony Gwynn
Cal Ripken
Andre Dawson
Don Mattingly
Jack Morris
Dale Murphy
Alan Trammell

They are the big guns of the 80s. Trammell is a stretch, but the guy was awesome and had to play in Detroit, and always be compared to the OZ.

I am completely biased because I consider Dale Murphy to be my all time hero. As far as his case for entering Cooperstown, he did dominate the National League for a few wonderful years in the 1980's. His arm was one of the best in either league. Were it not for Mike Schmidt he could have been THE star of the National League at the time. Only he and Cal Ripken hit 20 or more homers every year from 1982-1990. He hit 40 homers once and 30 several times. He did make the 30-30 club back when it had few members. He wound up with 398 homers. I'm not sure, but I think he is the all-time leader in home runs lost to rain-outs. That might be wrong, but I think I remember him passing Bobby Bonds for first place.

He won back to back MVP's. He played in 740 consecutive games, the 12th longest streak ever. He was an All-Star in 1980, 82-87 and the top vote getter in 1985; he started five times. He hit .302 in 1983 when that was good enough for 6th place in the league. We cannot judge him by today's offense benchmarks. Imagine if someone hit .302 now and was 6th in the league! He led the National League in HR 1984-85, in RBI 82-83, runs in 1985, and OPS in 1983. He won five straight gold gloves from 1982-86 and four straight silver slugger awards from 1982-86. His number (#3) has been retired by the Atlanta Braves. But he shouldn't be measured solely for his on-field accomplishments. Let's not forget the class and honor that he brought to the game. He was a tireless supporter of the Huntington Disease Foundation, the 65 Roses Club, MDA, Make-A-Wish, The March of Dimes and many many others. He won the Lou Gehrig Award in 1985 and the Roberto Clemente Award in 1988. He was never ejected from a baseball game. He thanked reporters for interviewing him. In Philadelphia once, a stadium security guard didn't recognize him and wouldn't let him into the stadium. He just laughed it off. I can only imagine what Barry Bonds might have done in that situation. Murphy didn't have an "All suites" clause in his contract, nor did he have his team guarantee him charter jet flights home to his ranch during the season like Kevin Brown. I mean, he even had kind words to say about people like John Kruk, Lenny Dykstra, and even Ozzie Virgil.

I think we should point out that when Murphy finished 4th in homers in 1986 that he only had 29 homers. In 1987 he hit 44, but Andre Dawson had 49 so Murphy's awesome power that year was overshadowed. Only 4 players hit 40 homers that year. Dawson, Murphy, Jorge Bell, some rookie named McGwire, and Homers were much harder to come by in that day and age. No one hit 50 from 1977 (George Foster) until 1990 (Cecil Fielder). If Murphy had connected twice more I think that he might've gotten in before.

It's 1991, Braves vs. Phillies. Otis Nixon gets beaned by the Phillies pitcher next time up after hitting a homer. The bottom half of the inning, Tom Glavine has to respond and hit the first Phillies batter. Only it's Dale Murphy. He can't do it, no way. So he does the meanest thing he can bring himself to do, throw the Murph four high and inside fastballs to brush him back and put him on. Murph got the base, and Glavine got the boot by the ump. Glavine said the ump later told him, "I only let you throw four, because that was Murphy and because I knew you wouldn't." Not because they had been teammates, but because Murphy was so respected that he was off limits for stunts like that. Glavine is a class act too, he's in the Hall for sure I think, but Murphy will make it somehow. If anyone deserves to get in, without the numbers we're used to seeing, he does, for being the nicest, most polite gentleman to ever grace the field. He is my hero.

Murph's stats:
Weird site:
An article by a higher news source than me:

Spermatoceles and Vericoceles and Pain

When there's no relief of pressure.....


Thursday, December 28, 2006

I Do Not Care for the North or Yankees

In 1863, General Robert E. Lee was forced to invade the North. The War of Northern Aggression saw the South illegally invaded by Union forces, and General Lee was forced to bring the war to the Yankees on their own turf. Obviously his invasion proved unsuccessful in the long run. As I sit here in Philadelphia, I think I feel something akin to what my ancestors must have felt as they crossed that invisible Mason-Dixon line into the North. I look at the people here in this city and none of them look like me. I'm not talking about skin tone or ethnic extraction. We are all Americans, certainly…but not of the same mold. I'm talking about behavior, attitude, gait even. Everyone in the streets look like some kind of caricature to me. Everyone looks like they just stepped out of an episode of Law and Order, or a rap video. Even the people’s clothing has graffiti on it. They speak with odd accents. They are rude. They say “yo” all the time. I do not like the North. It’s cold; it’s dingy; it’s dirty; it’s too crowded. In short, I thank God, in all sincerity, that I was not born up here, and that I’ll never have to live here.

Urban Cops Should Be Walking Beats Again

It is my belief that, no matter what statistics might tell us about the efficacy of placing cops in cruisers rather than walking the streets, people FEEL safer when there is a regular police presence walking around. I think that numerous problems could be corrected in New Orleans if cops were assigned to regular beats, if police posts were put on certain dangerous corners, and if they were all supported by cops in cruisers.

In 1982, the Atlantic Monthly published an article about this very subject. Because of copyright, I cannot post it here, but fair use allows me to cite one part of it:

Our experience is that most citizens like to talk to a police officer. Such exchanges give them a sense of importance, provide them with the basis for gossip, and allow them to explain to the authorities what is worrying them (whereby they gain a modest but significant sense of having "done something" about the problem). You approach a person on foot more easily, and talk to him more readily, than you do a person in a car. Moreover, you can more easily retain some anonymity if you draw an officer aside for a private chat. Suppose you want to pass on a tip about who is stealing handbags, or who offered to sell you a stolen TV. In the inner city, the culprit, in all likelihood, lives nearby. To walk up to a marked patrol car and lean in the window is to convey a visible signal that you are a "fink."

The essence of the police role in maintaining order is to reinforce the informal control mechanisms of the community itself. The police cannot, without committing extraordinary resources, provide a substitute for that informal control. On the other hand, to reinforce those natural forces the police must accommodate them. And therein lies the problem.

I really do believe that New Orleans would feel far safer if the cops had to walk beats again. It would have the following benefits:

1. The cops would no longer be able to break traffic laws with impunity.
2. It would get them off their damned cell phones. Seriously, when was the last time you saw a NOLA cop NOT on his/her cellphone?
3. The fitness of cops would rise.
4. People would no longer worry about non-violent hassles on the streets like panhandlers, mentally ill, etc. I would feel much safer walking at night if I knew that a cop might be out there SOMEWHERE in the night.

This will never happen.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Former President Gerald Ford Died Today.....Senselessly

This is from 1996 from Saturday Night Live. Enjoy.

Que descanse en paz

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Wolcum Yule

In the late 1960's the celebration of Kwanzaa was started in California as an American version of the traditional African harvest festivals. This revisiting of older traditions and festivals has been embraced by America, black and some white---Happy ChristmaHannukwanzikaa! I too understand this curiosity about the ancient ways of one's ancestors. Mine are Anglo-Saxon and full of Germanic and Norse traditions.

Here in Louisiana, for some unknown reason, for the last hundred or so years, the Cajuns have been building massive bonfires along the banks of the Mississippi on Christmas Eve. I am trying to convince Mickelle to let us go to them this year.

Fire is a magical thing for me. I have always enjoyed burning things. Not in a pyromanic type way....I mean that I take great satisfaction from sitting around a fire with friends. There's just something about the experience that I find pleasing. My childhood home has no source of heat other than the massive cobblestone fireplace in the center of the house. I have always had a fireplace in my home until I got married. Natural gas heating is convenient, but lacks the charm of a warm I the only one that feels this way? Homes nowadays do not have fireplaces, or if they do, they are dinky little natural gas things. If you tried to light a fire in one, it would burn your house down.

Getting back to bonfires....I want one. It's difficult to find a place where you can legally have a big rip-roaring one safely. I have always felt a connection to the funeral scene in Braveheart when the highlanders stay up all night burning a bonfire to celebrate the death of their friend. Protestant funerals are too drab. While, yes, I think the funeral should be a sacred time to reflect on a person's belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I think a funeral should have different parts. When my granpa, Master Sergeant Raymond Vines Buckner, United States Army-Retired, 94, passes away, I want to have a massive bonfire in his honor. It might only be my immediate family there, as he is an orphan, and outlived all of his relatives by about 15 years, but I think of no more fitting tribute to him that to stay up all night telling stories about him, singing hymns and songs, and watching the flames dance and lick at the logs. We could liken the smoke the fire to our prayers going up to heaven that we can live our lives as free from sin and malevolence as Granpa has. Many times emotions run high when you're grieving from the death of someone you love. And no matter your hope and faith in the resurrection, the fact is that life is long when the ones you love are absent. Burning things can be very cathartic for a wounded heart.

I wish that modern life were as suited to the Yule log tradition as it used to be. Even though it's been raining here for 26 hours straight, a big bonfire and a pause from the cares of life, a mandatory holiday, would be a welcome relief from the stresses of life. I am not interested in reviving the pagan symbolism of the tradition. I do not believe in the gods of my ancestors. I just think they knew how to have a good time.
I so so want to go to the bonfires along the river. Something in me longs for this. Wherever I wind up getting a job, I'd like to start a St. John's Night party on June 21st, and have another big bonfire. I'm not kidding. I think that bonfires address some dark corners of our psychiis that we can't name, but feel better while and after watching coals pulsate in the dark.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Fall is Finally Here

Taken December 20, 2006, New Orleans, Louisiana. Ahhhh, I love places with no Winter.

The joys of parenting

Photos like these make all the poop, vomit, tantrums, broken "nice things," endless colds, expenses, middle-of-the-night awakenings, and non-existent sex life worth while.

A New Orleans White Christmas

Merry Christmas Everyone! This is the only "snow" we ever see down here. Nothing like a fresh blanket of new-fallen powdered-sugar to make you feel the Christmas Spirit.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Anger Management

I need a root canal on a molar. The tooth needed a crown, so I had one started over Thanksgiving up in Georgia. That procedure awoke the tooth, and for awhile, it really really hurt me. It had calmed down for ten pain at all, even when I ate on that side. My dental insurance only covers half of a root canal procedure, so I contacted the LSU Dental School because they only charge $350 instead of $1000. After cancelling my appointments twice, I finally got an appointment for Baton Rouge. I drove all the way up there from New Orleans. I got there 20 mins early in spite of the fact that they gave me bad directions THREE TIMES!!!. I fill out the obligatory forms and give them to the lady......and then I'm told that they've double-scheduled my appointment and I'll have to reschedule in January. They were rude and dissmissive in that Louisiana I-got-my-GED-and-then-this-job-so-I'm-in-charge-of-you-and-you-can't-do-nothing-about-it way (fyi, wearing scrubs does not increase your IQ or professionalism). I asked, in raised tones, why I had to reschedule and not the other person....they told me that he had already been taken back to the dentist....he was there first. I asked them, repeatedly, why then had they called and confirmed my appointment on Friday, if it was double-booked. They kept blaming someone named Gwen. I asked why they had not called my cellphone number when they realized that I was doublebooked...again, no response other than to claim that they had "just found out." Rage welled up inside of me.....I actually started seeing red....I knew I had to get out of that room before I snapped.....I turned to Mickelle and said "Let's go now." They asked me, "Do you want to reschedule?" It was all I could do not to launch a tsunami of vitriol against them...I responded "forget about it." I couldn't drive for 15 minutes. I had to calm down.

Living in Louisiana will do that to you just sort of wears you down. Customer service is non-existent.

My tooth started hurting again on the drive home.

Friday, December 15, 2006

My experiences (so far) as a Mormon in Higher Education

I was talking with my good friend Clay Larson last night about the sensational email I received from Baylor earlier in the week. We both commented on how we, as LDS professors, are viewed by others because of our religion. We decided that their are five essential groups:

#1 Secularists, Agnostics, Atheists

#2 Non-denominational believers

#3 Catholics, Jews, and other less-conservative believers

#4 Protestans, Evangelicals, Baptists

#5 Other Mormons

Our experiences have been remarkably similar. Let me elaborate a little on how each group has generally viewed our faith as it relates to us, our studies, and professional competence.

#1 I used to feel, and sometimes still do, that people that claim to be open-minded can be very closed-minded. I've known some colleagues, especially at Georgia Tech, that were incredulous that I would choose, of my own free will, to limit myself morally. That I was a virgin by choice astounded them. That I chose not to drink coffee, tea, or alcohol seemed ridiculous to them. My experience here at Tulane has been decidedly different. My colleagues here are the most tolerant, curious, and open-minded people that I have ever known. Any personal practice that doesn't impinge the rights of someone else, or that doesn't view another as inferior for innate unchangeable reasons, is tolerated and accepted. I couldn't have come to a better place for my PhD.

#2 This group is just happy that there are other people in academia that believe in God besides themselves. They feel safe talking openly with me about God, that their beliefs won't be mocked or disparaged as superstition. I love this group.

#3 This group beliefs that their doctrine is the only correct one, but they don't care that you also believe the same thing about yours. Very tolerant and interested in social justice for all. Their work and efforts usually are influenced by a higher purpose. Fr. Francis Ferrie is a great example of this group. He is a good, good man.

#4 This group can be hit or miss. Some colleagues that are religious never want to talk about religion with you. Some ask barbed questions about "how can you believe that?" I do not understand the hostility towards my faith from this group. Not at all. Other from this group are just as tolerant as anyone from the other groups. No tiene sentido.

#5 When people from the other groups view me, especially #s 1 & 2, I am a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. Most Mormons in my profession (The Humanities) are really very moderate politically. Problem is, those Mormons not in the Humanities view us as bleeding-heart liberals. People question whether we should be able to hold a temple recommend, as if voting for a Democrat somehow offended God and the Holy Ghost. The LDS Church has a strict policy of political neutrality. You will NEVER EVER hear one of the church leaders advocate for a candidate. My political beliefs are very very moderate, for example:

A. I think that abortion is wrong. I cannot advocate for it, and I think that no one should have one. However, the law of the land is that they are legal, and we've wasted over three decades now bickering about it. We should start dickering about how to reduce to total number of abortions. If there were some way to encourage adoption in return for something (without creating a baby mill), we should work towards that. If abortion were considered the last option, we could reduce the total number. I don't think it's worth going to war over, so we should stop fighting. It's not like Pro-Choice people are pitchforking babies. They don't want babies to die. They just want a woman to have the right to choose. Now, while there are any number of moral issues that we could argue about in that phrasing, I think it's more worthwhile to work together to reduce abortions as a whole. Protesting outside of a clinic does little good. I'd much rather have someone have a legal one and have the chance to repent, than to die from an illegal one. I truly believe that any unborn child will have another chance to come to Earth.

B. Taxes. While I think there is a delicate balance between paying a fair share and freeing up capital so that the wealthy can use it to create more jobs, I think the wealthy should have to pay more taxes. When we hear the politicians talk about taxing the poor, keep in mind that a family of four has to make close to $27,000 to pay any federal income taxes. The poor actually get more back from Earned Income Credits than they pay. It's the middle class that pays an unfair portion of tax. The flat tax is preposterous and benefits the rich. Plus, a flat tax would put most accountants out of work.

C. The draft. I don't care how much it costs, bring back the draft. Offer three options: 2 1/2 years military service, 3 years Civilian Conservation Corps, or 3 years Americorps or Peacecorps. If every citizen had to serve his or her country, we would all benefit. If you went to college first, that would be allowable, but everyone should have to serve at some point before age 26. The cultural benefits would be enormous. The government could use the youth to do all kinds of projects. The military would be filled with sort-of volunteers as it is now.

D. Welfare should exist, but you should have to work. No able-bodied male should ever draw welfare. No able-bodied woman without children should draw welfare. Food stamps should be a supplement to people that can't afford nutritious food, that work. If a mom can't work because of children, we should create a system that will allow for child care. However, if you have a child out of wedlock once, fine. More than once after you start drawing benefits, you should be cut off. Our current welfare system encourages the uneducated to have children so they can draw benefits. Anyone who claims I'm an uninformed WASP should get their ass to New Orleans and see what I've seen in my five years here. I have heard teenagers tell me how they've got "it all figured out," how they will have their kids and then get "set up." I am not kidding. Poor education encourages this postmodern enslavement. A system set up to aid the poor actually makes them poorer.

E. I think that universal health care is a great idea, but will be difficult to administer efficiently and would ultimately degrade the quality of healthcare available to the general public. If the government instead wanted to pay for people to attend medical school and then require them to work for four years in government run hospitals (after their residency) that charged money for everything but the doctor's time (supplies and medicine and such) that might be a better solution to the system. I do think that we should have universal health coverage for ALL children under age 19. No parent should ever have to make a decision about their child's health based off how much they can afford. Adults are different, but children should receive our very best.

My five opinions above would draw the ire of half the Mormons at BYU. The most intolerant group of Mormons in academia are Mormons not in academia themselves. At least in my experience. LDS members should be sure to not isolate themselves from the world, and become so "peculiar" that they wind up polarizing the world even more.

There's more than one way to do something.....especially politics.

This nations needs a Third Party.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Should the penny come to an end?

With this announcement today from the US Mint that it is illegal to melt down pennies and nickels, even though they are worth more as metal than as currency, people will surely start asking the question of whether we should end the penny and start rounding things up to the nearest five cent mark.

Pros and cons abound.

1. No longer forced to make something that cost more than it's worth.....billions of 'em.
2. People already throw them away, leave them on the ground, give them away at convenience stores.

1. Numismatic heritage is lost
2. Calculating taxes and prices and per unit costs would be much more difficult
3. Little kids need to have some kind of money to put in their piggy banks. If we end the penny, we'll need to start making $.50 pieces and $1 coins.

I think the penny should remain for now. I'd recommend a vast overhaul and redesign, changing the metallurgy of the penny and making it out of the cheapest metal possible. The copper clad zinc doesn't have to be that way. Pennies were made of steel during WWII for a lack of copper. People will adjust.

You just know that the Distinguished Gentlemen from Illinois will have a cow about taking Lincoln off the front.

Foggy Nights in the Big Easy

The last two nights in New Orleans have been fabulous. We've had temperatures in the high 50's and a thick blanket of fog both nights. Tuesday night, I walked home from Tulane at 10 o'clock at night with visibility down to 1/16th of a mile. It was eerily quiet and serene. I felt the moisture in the air with each breath that came across my nostrils. The Christmas lights all glowed with halos as the light refracted around the air.

Last night we went down to the French Quarter and checked out the lights in the Vieux Carre. Jackson Square and the Jax Beer sign were all aglow with lights and the magical amplification that fog lends to lights at night. I've never had a more relaxing enjoyable time in New Orleans. Just Mickelle, I, and the kids went. We strolled along Royal Street, ate some beignets at the Cafe du Monde, walked back down Chartres Street, gazed in windows like Victorian street urchins. Mickelle took a really long time in this one store while we waited outside. I sent Marley in and told her to ask Mommy if she was negotiating the Gadsden Purchase.....realizing as soon as she went in that I had missed a golden punchline with "Louisiana Purchase." Mickelle said Marley said "Are you coshating the Gasoline purchase?"

Good times.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sign Says Short-Haired Mormon People Need Not Apply at Baylor University

I am currently applying for Assistant Professor of Spanish positions at universities around the country. I have four interviews (Coker College, Berry College, The Citadel, and the University of South Carolina at Beaufort) so far, and I had one this morning with the U of Central Arkansas. I have applied to several other programs, and I am waiting to hear back from them.

One of the programs I was considering was Baylor in Waco, Texas. Baylor is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, and while it's not news that Baptist typically view Mormons unfavorably (why, I don’t know), I thought that their intellectuals would at least be above base prejudices. I was wrong.

I sent an email to my contact in their department expressing concern over an article I read about Baylor, here:

The article mentions that the Southern Baptist Convention requires faculty to sign a statement that Adam and Eve were literal people. I had some concerns about this, so I emailed Baylor and asked them for clarification, explaining that while this was indeed my personal belief, I worried about academic freedom at an institution that required professors to sign a statement advocating one interpretation of scripture.

I received a response letting me know that the article was wrong, and that no such signing is required. I also was told this:

We are recruiting Christians or Jews who (1) are serious about their faith, (2) have some type of active church/synagogue involvement (no specific denomination is required), and (3) have reflected on our their faith impacts them as a teacher-scholar. There is no single answer to the faith-learning question; it is an ongoing conversation.

So, I am relieved that if I get a job at Baylor, I will have the academic freedom I desire. About ten minutes later, I get this blunt email:

Dear Mac:

I just glanced at your dossier again and noticed that you are a Mormon, which, according to current Baylor policy, we do not hire. I regret to say that this will exclude you from further consideration.

I wish you the best in your job search.

(name removed to protect his privacy)

Baylor’s Civil Rights policy says this:

As a religiously controlled institution of higher education, Baylor University is exempted from compliance with some provisions of certain civil rights laws, including some provisions of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and is exempt from the prohibition of discrimination based on religion.”

While I respect their right to hire whom they will hire, it strikes me as odd that they don’t hire Mormons, out-of-hand, for any number of reasons.

1) I was never asked if I was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I guess attending Brigham Young University is enough. What if I had since left the church?
2) That they wouldn’t hire me without interviewing me first, in spite of my religion, is odd.
3) I understand religious schools have a preference for their own religion. I support it. But to patently refuse to hire someone because of their religion, alone, is wrong.
4) I believe in Jesus Christ, that He is my Savior, and that He is the only path back to Heavenly Father. How can I not be a Christian? The Jewish faith is still waiting for the Messiah, denying that Jesus was Him, yet they are considered for employment. I don’t see why Mormons are excluded. It doesn’t make sense.

Regardless of their reasons, I now know full well it’s like to feel discrimination. There is a lesson to be learned by me in this. I will be more cautious and less prejudicial in the future.

Peace be with them. Jesus is the Christ.

Friday, December 08, 2006

BEWARE: Federal Family Education Loan Processing Corp uses deceptive bait junk mail

Mickelle and I received an envelope yesterday with a supposed $300 Mastercard gift card with the following "verbatim" explanation:

Dear John,
Congratulations, FFELP would like to reward you with a MasterCard Gift Card. There is NO COST TO YOU. This is our way of showing our appreciation for your testimonial regarding your experience with our free service. You will be able to user your Gift Card at gas stations, restaurants, supermarkets, or anywhere that Master Card is accepted.


The marketing Dept. of
Federal Family Education Loan Processing Corp.

Activation is Required!

And that's what it said, telling me to "call for details" to 1-866-901-8558. I called them today and they told me that I have to consolidate my student loans with them in order to receive the card. While the letter makes it seem like the card is mine, as soon as I told the chap on the phone that I had already consolidated, he couldn't wait to get rid of me. When I asked him if he thought it was deceptive what they were doing, he started to agree with me, and then said no. Especially during the Christmas season, $300 would be an awesome thing to receive. Make no mistake, this $300 will come out of your pocket in your loan.

Boys and girls, there's not such thing as free $300 when it comes to a company. Especially one that sends you offers unsolicited through the mail.

May this post be a public service announcement!

FFELPC: Morran-se num fogo.

FFELP= Federal Family Education Loan Program, which has nothing to do with these shysters. The refer to themselves as FFELP, claiming de facto, to be part of the government program.

Federal Family Education Loan Processing Corp.
P.O. Box 1198
Tarpon Springs, FL 34655

Update December 11, 2007

This has become my most popular post. I reported the company to the Better Business Bureau in Florida. The FFELPC responded to my complaint with a terse letter attempting to excuse their behavior and question my intellect. I responded that their name would be like me being a private investigator and calling my company the Federal Bureau of Investigation Corporation. It gives the appearance of government sanctioning, when in fact, it is a for-profit enterprise. I also reported the company to Visa for trademark infringement, no word yet on what happened there. Regardless of the legality of what they do, it is still shady. They send you a fake card for $300 for your testimonial for their free service. It isn't free. They make money off your student loan interest--nothing is free. I recommend for all your student loan needs. They are a not-for-profit lender, and they have some of the best interest rebates around!

Shameless plug: If you found this post helpful/useful, please consider clicking on a couple of the google ad links to the right so I can earn some ad money to help pay off my student loans.

Update December 29, 2007

Apparently the FFELPC has tried to update its gimmick. Jedi Jawa has a good link explaining their new shade of gray. Apparently they now at least let you know that you have to take advantage of their service to get the $300, but it's still misleading, in my opinion. Thanks to the diminuitive Jedi for the link! I also found the letter the FFELPC sent to the Florida BBB in response to my complaint:

Federal Family Education Loan Processing Corp.
40347 US. Hwy. 19 N. Suite 233
Tarpon Springs, FL. 34689

December 15, 2006

Better Business Bureau of West Florida, Inc.
P.O. Box 7950
Clearwater, FL 33758

RE: Case # 67074579: Mac Williams

Enclosed in this communication is a response to the compliant filed with you by the above referenced party.

Our organization is a participant in the Federal Family Education Loan Program which was developed by the Higher Education Act. This is a free service that has no cost to any potential borrower that we contact. The federal program has no fees or costs of any kind and is available to anyone who has eligible loans to consolidate through the program. We have been granted access to borrower information through our lenders who had to conform with the practices and compliances with the Department of Education.

What we offer is an incentive for eligible loan holders to consolidate those loans with us.
We do not pretend to be or inform anyone that we are the Federal Govt. What we say is that we participate in a federal program designed for federal student loan holders.
Again, I say that calling oneself the FFELPC is like me owning a waste disposal company called the Environmental Protection Agency Corporation. It is them dealing in shades of gray.

The amount of our incentive in no way is added to the loans or is required to be repaid.
Certainly, but other companies offer incentives to the borrower that will save them thousands upon thousands of dollars (in addition to lower interst rates). Your $300 offer, in essence, costs them money.

In fact our letter has an OPT OUT notice on the reverse side which states that the offer is not guaranteed if our requirements are not meet. And that a testimonial is required.
This Opt Out notice has been approved by a leading credit reporting agency.
We notice that the entire letter was not submitted to you with that information.
I transcribed the entire letter into my original post. To my recollection, there was NO opt-out notice on the back of the letter--but it has been a year.

Please understand that no company can please everyone although we do an outstanding job with customer service there will always be those who feel they can buck the system by complaining or misrepresenting the facts. For every one (1) person that complains we have hundreds that are happy with our service and we have the testimonials to prove it.
And then there are the thousands who receive your offer, recognize its shadiness, and neither accept the offer nor complain.

Thank you for allowing our company to respond to this compliant and we will do everything in our power to rectify any situation that may result in a negative experience with anyone that comes in contact with our organization customers or not.


Ronald Perret
Federal Family Education Loan Processing Corp.
Notice the P stands for Processing and not Program. Nowhere on the letters does it spell out what the P represents in the acronym. No matter, they've now changed their name.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Job Interviews

I now have job interviews with:

1) The Citadel
2) The University of South Carolina at Beaufort
3) Central Arkansas U

I am excited about all three schools. The Citadel has a long tradition and Charleston is lovely. I would imagine that my moderate views would find a good home there. Beaufort is intriguing because it is a rapidly growing school that would provide opportunities for program building, which I believe I would find intellectually stimulating. Central Arkansas has a Masters program in Spanish and their study abroad program is in Costa Rica. All plusses. I would really like to have 8-10 interviews and would love to hear from Berry College (Rome, GA) and Mississippi State.

I have questions for all the schools. I am interested in them all. I decided that it wouldn't be ethical to apply to schools from which I really wouldn't consider accepting offers. So, any school that calls me for an interview has my full attention. I am not so proud as to only look at major research schools. I would rather go where I think I will be an asset to the Department, where my family will be happy, and where I will be happy intellectually, physically, and spiritually.

When it comes time to make my final decision, and I pray to have options, I will consider everything, make my choice, and then inquire of the Lord if my decision is in accordance with His will--realizing that sometimes more than one option can be a good thing.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Miscellany and My Thoughts on Stuff

Your tax dollars hard at work:

Apparently, people keep breaking stuff in their houses using the new Nintendo Wii game controllers. Nintendo has responded to their concerns and potential lawsuits with the following Idiots Guide to Not Breaking Stuff Using Our Controllers: Translation= Don't let go of it, dumbass.

This reminds me of the time I bought Civilization III back before I had kids and was allowed to play computer games. The software license included the following language:

Do not play the game consecutively for more than 2 hours. Pause the game. Get up. Walk around. Use the restroom. Stretch. Playing the game for more than 12 hours at a time may negatively impact your health. A sedentary lifestyle is not conducive to intelligent gameplay. Regular exercise should be part of your normal routine.

The fact that a software company had to insulate itself from lawsuits by encouraging its users to get up from the desk and go take care of personal hygiene says a lot about the tunnel vision that people get when they become entranced by a new game. The first time I played Age of Empires, that was all I could think about for weeks. I played it every spare moment I the expense of my schooling, personal hygiene, etc. I haven't been allowed to play computer games since I was at BYU, because Mickelle made me promise to not buy any until I had my doctorate. I plan to buy an XBOX 360 the day I graduate.

Apparently the boys over at are auctioning off their first ever server. It's unremarkable until you read the questions for the seller and the answers. If you know about the O RLY? owl, it will crack you up!

Yet another story of recidivism and just desserts. Never carjack an old lady at knifepoint if she hasn't hung up the gas pump yet. You just might get a painful petroleum shower for your efforts.

I support the fair implementation of the death penalty. The Houston Chronicle is making a big deal out of this supposedly "innocent" man being executed in Texas in 1993. He claims he was framed "because he shot a police officer." He had murder in his heart when he shot a man over a game of pool. Innocent of one murder but guilty of attempting another. It's a wash to me.

A man in Katy, Texas claims that his new Muslim neighbors that plan to build a mosque next to his property were rude to him, so he has planned to host public pig races on Fridays (the Muslim holy day) on the portion of his property that abutts the planned mosque. This kind of divisiveness is not right. It's not Christian.

A Norwegian firm has signed a deal with a US hospital to purchase the 11,500 liters of human fat liposuctioned every week to convert into bio-diesel. Sure! Why not?

Careful crossing the border in Sweden, if you're hot:

Personal Success

I have an interview scheduled at the MLA Conference with The Citadel. I am very excited about getting my first interview and about beginning the process of obtaining a job as a professor. I think I would love to live in Charleston. Here's hoping that more schools are impressed by my credentials.

Also, a paper proposal that I submitted to the Borges Center at the University of Iowa has been accepted and I will be presenting it there at a Conference on Borges in April. I am very excited. This is my first non-graduate student conference and it will give me the opportunity to finally put my research on Zoroastrianism and Borges out there for the community at large.

It's been a good week.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Brian Van Dam in Need of Your Prayers

For anyone that lives or used to live in New Orleans, Brian Van Dam is currently in Children's Hospital fighting off a really nasty infection. He may have appendicitis. The doctors aren't quite sure yet. He has been sick for 11 days and is still running a fever, so if you have a moment and the inclination, say a prayer or two for Brian today so that he can get back to being his old self.

Finally! I'm Like Jesus in One Way!!!!!!

Although it's not a behavioral way, more of a chronological one. I turned 33 today. Jesus lived to be 33. Then he died for my sins. Hopefully I can avoid dying for my sins.

Mickelle made Grasshopper Brains (Cool Whip and cream cheese blended and placed over a walnut-whole wheat flour-butter crust, and then topped with pistachio pudding for my party last night. I'm not a birthday cake fan.

I had the best little birthday party I've had in years. Good friends came over. We sat around and chatted. It was a nice evening. I felt bad because we couldn't invite everyone from church over...our house just isn't that big. It didn't used to be a problem. Our church actually has more people SINCE Katrina.

Today Mickelle is taking me to K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen for my birthday present (el que el dinero puede comprar) and I am excited.

Whenever I think of the number 33, I just keep thinking of record speeds on my player when I was a little kid.

Friday, December 01, 2006

A Civil War on Our Borders? Mexico Headed for a Second Civil War

A warning to all those that call all Spanish speakers "Spanish," and use "Mexican" as a perjorative; to all those xenophobes out there that fear immigrants and think that people speaking another language in their presence are talking about them; to all those that think that speaking louder in English to someone that doesn't understand it will help them understand you; to all those people that complain about the employees at McDonald's but hire Hispanic laborers to do your yardwork, I say to you this:

If you think we have an immigration problem right now in this country, heaven forbid Mexico should erupt into another Civil War.

Sadly, it appears that Mexico may very well disintegrate into another Civil War. The first one has been called "Un fracaso total" (a complete and utter failure) by Mexicans and did little to better the rights and lives of the poor indigenous people of the South or the North. I'm not saying that Mexico is going to go to war with itself today or tomorrow. But, ten years ago at Georgia Tech, I wrote a paper wherein I asserted that Mexico would have a civil war within 20 years. With Sub-comandante Marcos and the Zapatistas agitating, sometimes with violence, for land rights in Chiapas, the Northern States' economies dependent more on the USA than Mexico City, and the left and the right constantly bickering, and today, coming to blows, Mexico needs to do some serious soul-searching and coalition building in order to avoid the death of millions. Because that's what would happen. Millions would die from fighting, disease, starvation, and the chaos that would ensue in the event of a Civil War.

This puts our own national security at risk for various reasons.

1. Mexico is very close to the US (duh). Much of our domestic energy production comes from the Gulf of Mexico. Mexico too has offshore energy production. Sabotage, destruction, etc. could damage our economy.

2. Civil war wrecks economies. Already the economy is so weak in Mexico that millions of Mexicans risk their lives coming to this country because we haven't had a decent migrant worker program since Kennedy let the "Braceros" law expire in the 60's. If war were to break out, MILLIONS of Mexicans would flee the combat and try to enter the United States. We would be forced to accept them for humanitarian reasons, not to mention the enormous political pressure that the other millions of Hispanos already in this country would exert on the government to allow them entry.

3. Political instability in a strong federal government like Mexico's can breed and cause other countries in the political sphere to collapse. We would be forced to react to protect national interests in Mexico. No matter which side we choose to aid, we will get caught in a political quagmire. Mexico is large and rich and were it not for corruption (centuries of it), it whould be a First World country. It should be. That it isn't is just tragic. A country with that many hard-working people, with so many natural resources, so many tourists locations, and so much arable land should be rich beyond measure.

4. We import vast quantities of our fresh food from Mexico. Food costs would sky rocket.

I do not know the exact details and theories of conspiracy of the election, but I do know that the loser's establishment of a "legitimate government" and presidency can only lead to bad things. The future of Mexico rests in the hands of the new president. If he tries to be consilliatory and reach out to his opponent, perhaps nominating him to his cabinet or something, then Mexico can avoid disaster. If he takes a hard line, that will only put the nation one step closer to the brink of disaster. Perhaps he should listen to the wisdom of Don Corleone, "Keep your friends closer, but your enemies closer." I know that line came from someone else, but I can't identify it, and I know it was said in the Godfather II.

This whole situation reminds me of a song by the musical group Molotov (these lyrics may be offensive to the sensitive Mormon set):

La polica te esta extorsionando(dinero)
pero ellos viven de lo que tu estas pagando
y si te tratan como un delincuente,(ladron)
no es tu culpa dale gracias al regente.
Hay que arrancar el problema de raiz
y cambiar el gobierno de nuestro pais.
A la gente que esta en la burocracia,
a esa gente que le gustan las migajas.

Y por eso me quejo y me quejo
porque aqui es donde vivo y yo ya no soy un pendejo
que no watchas los puestos del gobierno
hay personas que se estan enriqueciendo.

Gente que vive en la pobreza
y nadie hace nada porque a nadie le interesa.
La gente de arriba te detesta
y hay mas gente que quiere que caigan sus cabezas.
Si le das mas poder al poder,
mas duro te van a venir a cojer,
porque fuimos potencia mundial
y somos pobres nos manejan mal.

Dame, dame, dame todo el power
para que te demos en la madre,
gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme todo el poder
so I can come around to joder.

Porque no nacimos donde no hay que comer,
no hay porque preguntarnos como le vamos a hacer?
Si nos pintan como unos huevones, no lo somos.
Viva Mexico cabrones!

que se sienta el power mexicano
que se sienta todos juntos, como hermanos
porque somos mas y jalamos mas parejo,
porque estar siguiendo a una bola de pendejos?
que nos llevan por donde les conviene
y es nuestro sudor lo que los mantiene,
los mantiene comiendo el pan caliente
y ese pan es el de nuestra gente.

Dame, dame, dame todo el power
para que te demos en la madre,
gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme todo el poder
so I can come around to joder