Friday, October 02, 2009

Extended Hibernation

I haven't felt the desire to blog this year, and I'm just letting any lurkers know that this blog will not be updated regularly.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

21 Years Ago Today

Twenty-one years ago today I woke up to the sounds of A Christmas Story playing on the TV on HBO. My dad turned it on, very loudly, to wake us all up. I remember feeling confused upon hearing the sounds of Christmas carols. The weather was cold and rainy that day, with tons of wind.....completely abnormal for Acworth, Georgia. My cousin Jared and I went down to the day-use area at Galts Ferry, and there was NO ONE there......the wind was making waves and they had just dumped about 50 dumptruck loads of sand on the beach area. We spent hours, in the cold rain, making sand castles and moats and walls to fight off the waves. That was a good day, unlike any fourth of July before it....or since. Cold weather in July...I believe the high that day was 70F.

Friday, June 26, 2009

RIP Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

In the Summer of 1983, my grandparents bought the biggest Winnebago there was and took seven of the grandchildren on a tour of the USA. We drove from Atlanta to Ventura to Jackson Hole to St. Louis to Atlanta, stopping along the way over the course of six weeks, and spending tons of time in Jackson, where my grandma was born, visiting family. "The Trip" is legend in my family. We cousins grew far closer because of that vacation together than we ever would have otherwise. If I remember correctly, the RV had a cassette player, a big deal in 1983. One of my cousins had just bought the Thriller tape before we left. We listened to that album repeatedly for six weeks. "Don't you kids want to listen to the radio?" "No, turn it over to side B, pleeeeeeeeeeease."

"Beat It" was our favorite song. Some of the hotels we stayed in (at times, sleeping nine people in an RV got to be too much) had MTV......we'd watch until the video for "Beat It" would come on and then roar with excitement.

In 1993, when I still saw the world in Black or White, I thought Michael Jackson was a child molester. In 2005, at the last trial, and after I watched the Martin Bashir interview, I felt that he was still a little boy...that he had been damaged when he was young, and that the evidence against him was all circumstantial. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. He was never convicted. While I wouldn't have let my kids go to Neverland, I still enjoyed his music, and he was a touchstone of my life. If I ever hear a song from Thriller, I can still see the black ink on cream plastic lettering on the cassette tape. My wife had the inside poster from Thriller on her wall, and she was in love with him. Her Barbie married her Michael Jackson doll, not Ken. I so desperately wanted a red jacket, though you couldn't have gotten me to wear just one sequined glove. Had my parents let me, I have short, curly, woolly, kinky hair, and I would've done geri-curl. I believe my father's exact words were, to a nine-year-old boy, "Hell no, son."

Michael Jackson was the biggest icon of the 1980s. Bigger than Madonna. Bigger than Bill Cosby. Bigger than all of them combined. He was, the King.

He's an inextricable part of most people of my generation's lives. He's one of the best singers we've ever had, especially in pop, and well, because his music is such a big part of my life, to paraphrase him, he's just another part of me.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Insomnia Nugget

How do you know that the drugs are messing with you? When you try to go to sleep at 1AM, but as soon as you lie down, you become obsessed with the idea of baking a cake. So you think to yourself, "Self, you're going the distance, you're going for sleep, but you're all alone, all alone, all alone in a time of need." So you plot your course to sleep, but you can't find it. You daydream of driving, in the car, but that makes your baby seem so far; you try and count sheep but they just go to hell...all the while there's this Frank Sinatra song playing on the radio in your head. And Sleep, that old friend, you're never fact, friend, that's a four-letter word. And, the longer you lie there, the more the cake seems to be calling you. You're not even really a cake fan, nor have you ever baked one without a female overseer, but at 2:00AM you realize that the cake is calling and it's not going to go away until you yield to it, but that you really also love it, I just made a cake, and I'm wide awake in America at 2:46AM EDT; I will survive, yeah, yeah.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


I love my wife enough to fake being cool with her going to Utah for Jack's birthday, our anniversary, Father's Day, and Calliope's probable first steps.

I hate being alone.

Friday, May 29, 2009

RIP Truman Madsen (1926-2009)

Right before I got married, Truman Madsen was my stake president; he gave me my marriage recommend interview. He had me come to his house, a beautiful pad up on the hill west of the stadium, for the interview since he "didn't like conducting interviews in someone else's office."

My recommend interview consisted of two 'questions:'

1. I assume you were truthful in the interview you had with your bishop for this recommend, correct?

2. Bear me your testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

We talked at length after that about what I should expect of married life and why it was important not to quibble over money. Only the eternal stuff mattered.

He was a decent and kind man and I'm saddened by his death.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Limón Mandarina / Rangpur Lime

So, my favorite lemon/lime in the world, the limón mandarina, is impossible to find in the States. I can´t recall ever seeing it. I believe it may be called a Mandarin lime or a Rangpur lime, but the photos I´ve seen of those don´t correspond to what I know.

It has the freshest lime taste you can imagine and is a perfect palatte cleanser.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

An old story that I felt like sharing

Until 1982, we lived in the mountains of North Georgia....Dillard, Rabun County to be precise.

View Larger Map

My dad was a professional beekeeper and we made sourwood honey up in the hollers of the mountains. Sourwood is some of the best honey around, and the trees grow in abundance up there.

This one ole boy, Cecil Carpenter, lived way up in the mountains and my dad paid him a trifle to keep bees on his land. My dad also managed the Dillard House restaurant to make ends meet in the offseaon. One day, Cecil comes into the Dillard House and he's got one of his arms all bandaged up like he's carrying a war wound. My Dad asked him, "Cecil, what happened?" Cecil went on to explain that his brother's hunting dogs had gotten loose in the night and had broken into his chicken coop and had killed a few of his laying hens. Cecil took out his shotgun when the dogs wouldn't "Get!," as he put it, and killed one of them. So, my Dad then asked him if one of the dogs had attacked him, if that was how he had been injured. "No," explained Cecil. His brother had heard the shooting and came over from next door to see "what in tarnation was goin' on." When he saw that Cecil had killed one of his hunting dogs, he shot Cecil in the shoulder.

My Mom and Dad, astounded, then asked him, "Did you call the sheriff to report him?" He answered, "No, since I kilt wone his dogs, and he just a-peppered me, I figure we's about ave-in."

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Ara 13 Drawers & Booths My Review

So, about five months or so ago I get a message on my blog asking me if I would like to read a novel by a blogger user named “Ara 13.” I message back that I’ll be happy to read it, thinking that it wouldn’t be anything important. Ara, be sure to read this entire post. I think you’ll like it.

Awhile later I received an attractively-printed paperback novel in the mail called Drawers & Booths. The cover contains a humorous description of the author as coming “from a long line of primates” whose “ancestors are directly responsible for the fashioning of the wheel and the discovery of fire.” It further claims that “one of his ancestors was even the first recorded Homo sapien. Therefore the pressure for Ara to succeed is enormous.” Clever humor amuses me, so I began reading the novel with high hopes.

My hopes soon crashed against the walls of a combat novel of military jargon in the 21st Century. The first thirty pages read like a W.E.B. Griffin novel crossed with Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons. There’s some characterization, the over-attention to detail that seems ubiquitous in the steady stream of guys writing stories about Iraq (or the fictional Cortinia in this version), the annoyingly jocular conversations between different branches of the service; basically, all the stuff you’d expect. At one point I was so befuddled by the jargon that I didn’t know that the “enemy” was the enemy because “Op4” sounds like some kind of super secret special forces stuff to the ignorant reader.

Then on page 34, something different happens. Right at the moment when our first religious character should appear, he’s even called by name, the narrator breaks into first-person and present-tense narration. In Genettean terms we go from an extra hetero diegetic narrator to an intra homo diegetic one. This will happen several times.

So we then go from the wilds of Cortinia to a pseudo-detective chasing a criminal mastermind behind all of the murders that happen. The police may catch someone red-handed, but this detective thinks that there a head honcho calls the shots. Long about page 50, the rhetoric of the novel has convinced me that there is an ulterior motive to what I’m reading. I get the sneaking suspicion that the Ara 13 who commented on my blog has read my dissertation research and my proclamations of faith and that he is an atheist seeking converts. This feeling is then substantiated when I go back and read the kitschy last paragraph of his Acknowledgement section that I had skipped over when I started. He writes, “And finally, thanks to the all the writers. It is my endeavor to be your peer. I especially thank Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Michael Shermer for the education. How did I do?” For those unfamiliar with these men’s writings, Dawkins claims that belief in god is a delusion. The four of them comprise some of the more vocal and antagonistic atheists on the planet, those who, like their believing counterparts, can’t just leave the other side alone.

For the next fifty or so pages, I admit, I’m reading the novel to get more ammunition to use when I skewer this book in my review. But, then, this guy who I sort of know, and who I talked to about why I was hating this book, pointed out that all my attacks were either ad hominem (e.g. the author is self-absorbed, the author used a vanity press), ones of personal taste (the author's writing is mediocre), or irrelevant to the critique of the thing as a work of art. So, as I fumed over what the novel was saying, how it was saying, and what it was “trying” to say to me, I read more. And then the narrator arrests God and puts him on trial for reckless endangerment. I almost threw it in the trash can…not because I believe in God, but because the idea seems trite and dumb and I get tired of dumb ideas.

At this point, I’m ready to give up, but the desire to shred this piece of crap is too much. And then, shockingly, that’s when the novel got good, as in really good. Ara 13 has a solid command of his words, the English language, the law, and the weapons of his critics. It seemed like every critique I had, the narrator would answer with an aside like when Ara 13, the author, is called to testify in the trial. He makes all the characters say only the word “silly” no matter what they try to do, and even though this meta-fictional self awareness of characters has happened countless times (think Kurt Russel’s Doctor character freaking out that he’s not real in Vanilla Sky). So just about the point where I’m ready to scream that this is derivative drivel, the attorney asks “Ara” the author, on the witness stand, “why are you doing all this?” To which he responds, “Short-term, it makes me laugh. In the long-run, hopefully it will be deemed literarily inventive and launch my writing career.” That’s just one of about twenty instances where he tactically takes the wind out of my sails just as I was about to nail him for being coy, or trite, or sophomoric. He recognizes it himself, and it makes the novel, well, dare I say? Endearing? I don’t have time to list more of them, but you can find no fault with a novel wherein the novelist himself points out why something “sucks.”

He then goes on to give an honest and clear-cut reason for why Ara 13 is an atheist. While not denying that there could be a God, he denies that there is one because he has seen no tangible evidence to the point. I respect that. After reading the novel, I feel that even though I’m wedded to hermeneutical interpretation of literature, I at least think that the Author behind the author respects my choice to believe.

Ara 13 completely understands my theory of the Gnostic Reader, and I commend him for a solid novel that I was wrong to judge so quickly. If you read it, be sure to finish it, because the first part will bore you, the second part will piss you off, the third part will win you over, and the fourth part will probably make you glad you read it.*

I don’t have the time right now, professionally or personally to take the time to write a philosophical critique of the novel. It’s worth a read if you’re into metaphysics and reader response theory (e.g. Jauss or Iser).

Ara, thanks for sending me the novel. I wish you all the best.

*There's no accounting for personal tastes.

Friday, February 27, 2009

When someone dies

Now, maybe this is some deep connection to my ancestors, but when someone dies, I want a bonfire. I want a big-ass pyre that screams my sorrow into the night sky. I want the warmth of the flames to remind me of the embrace of my loved one, and I want the smoke to remind me of ascension of my prayers to my unseen God "up" in heaven. I also wish we could have a one night pass on the Word of Wisdom and all get piss drunk on rum as we sing dirges into the night and tell stories of our fallen friend. A bonfire is cathartic.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My Fall 2008 Evaluation Comments (All of them)

Don Mac is a wonderful professor!! This is a great class but it needs more hands on activities!

He is the best teacher I've had here. Especially when we learn facts about other cultures. We learn about the world and don't even realize it.

This was my favorite class. The “que pasa en el mundo” made things interesting though we rarely understood at first. Great class!

He's a very great teacher and I learned so much from him.

Really good, helpful teacher, always there when I needed help. A ++ professor. I really liked using Quia it helped a lot. I didn't like audacity at all.

The instructor was amazing. This is the first time an instructor deserved all A's!!! I learned a lot in this class and almost considered a Spanish minor.

Wonderful professor – willing to help students as long as they want to help themselves. Makes 1012 work but you learn much. Gracias!

The instructor is one of the best I have had. He is very helpful. Spanish 1012 is a great program.

Great professor!

Always make class enjoyable. Always helps us when we have problems or ask for help. Very good course! I learned a lot and feel a lot more confident about conducting.

Awesome, fantastic, great teacher! Awesome course! Learned a lot!

Dr. Carswell did a wonderful job in this course! He was great! (Huh? This is a mistake)

Culture projects helped learn things about Spanish culture. The elmundo activities were good too.

I really liked the instructor. He was a very good teacher and had high expectations for his students. I would take his class again.

Wonderful teacher, really enjoyed the class.

He's an excellent instructor and provides many strong resources to do well on the exams. He shows interest in what he does and makes the class fun.

Enthusiastic about course material. Knowledgeable and helpful. Appropriate & interesting.

All of the group work helped me understand the topic.

Dr. Williams is a wonderful professor and is very passionate about what he does. He has made me love Spanish.

Needs to inform classes when assignments are due. Does a good job interacting with students.

Needs to make effient (sic) records (attendance, class participation, etc.) (A fair critique; it's true I could be better about taking attendance, but participation is student self-evaluation)

It's helpful that he is so readily available. “Que pasa en el mundo'” is a good way to learn because the student is individually corrected.

By having all of the students work in groups, we are able to learn more about the topics and participate effectively in class. Class discussions were also helpful and expanded our skills in the use of the Spanish language.

He is very concerned for the well-being of his students. He should write things he says down on something. (I should!) Good course. It challenged enough without breaking us. My writing skills have greatly improved because of Dr. Williams.

Professor was of much help. Available whenever we had a question. I enjoyed the class. All of the writing tips were very helpful. Some of the assignments made you think. (I'm sad they all didn't)

The amount of translation required will be great for native speakers but will most likely be too much for non-native speakers. (The class is SPA 225, so, translation shouldn't be an issue)

The instructor brought objects to class as visual guides for our writing. Excellent professor who always gives feedback and thorough in lecture. Course was very helpful because it helped [sic] to better articulate and become a stronger analytical thinker. Course was excellent. Helped my critical thinking and I feel that I have become a better creative writer.

Great instructor, really know [sic] how to treat people. One of the best instructors on campus. The course was interesting. I learned a lot on how to better writing [sic].

He is very interested on [sic] what he teach [sic] and knows a lot about it.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Alajuela, August 1993

Alajuela Ward, Alajuela, Costa Rica, August 1993. I sit in the chapel reading something as I listen to my companion, Elder Brent Reed Jensen of Mountain Home, Idaho playing the piano before Sacrament meeting. Elder Jensen was a very strong piano player, a decent hard-working guy, and a lover of classic rock....especially Led Zeppelin.

He had played a fair number of hymns that morning, transitioning flawlessly between numbers without even pausing, so I was only half-listening when I heard some bars out of the pianoforte that confused me as I tried to place them in the hymnal, thinking perhaps he was playing one of the many hymns not found in the Spanish hymnal that we have in English (e.g. "God Save the King"), when what should my wondering ears suddenly hear but the opening notes of "Stairway to Heaven." I shot him a glance of "DUDE!" met by his mischievous back-at-ya grin. He didn't get past "what she came for" when he ended his "set" and stood up to start putting the hymn numbers in the ubiquitous hymn number placard. Several members came up to him and asked, "Elder, ¿Cuál himno era ése?" to which he responded, "La escalera al cielo." The name saved him because the members were used to hearing hymns played by him that aren't in the Spanish one..........I'll never forget that moment.....Led Zeppelin in sacrament meeting......I'm smiling about it right now.

I entered the MTC sixteen years ago today.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lessons Learned from Billy Joel and God

So, yesterday as I left the second-opinion-surgeon's office, in tears, after hearing that my pain has an unknown cause, that I'm too fat to operate on, but I'm "young and healthy enough" for lapband/gastric bypass surgery (wtf? that's way more major than lap cholesystectomy), that I should go to a seminar to learn more, and that I need to lose weight (which is what got me into this pain in the first place), I sat in my car and cried for a good ten minutes because of the pain, because the cold I have is making me feel like shit, because I drove three hours and spent $50 for an appointment that involved the dr taking to me and not even laying a palpitating hand on me, and because pain, long-term pain drains you.

After I got my eyes tear-free enough to drive and I paid for some gas at a ramshackle "El Cheapo" station in downtown Columbia staffed by a coughing hacking rice-pudding-eating Middle-Eastern woman who looked really pissed the entire time I was in her shop to buy an A&W, I got on I-20 and drove home. It was a blustery day in the Midlands. We're at the middlemark of Winter, and all is dead, gray, dreary, and dry. The ground crunches wherever you walk, all feels washed in a tinted-out feel like when you screwed with the tv knobs as a kid, and it feels like the Earth will never Spring up again. I loathe Winter. When I die someday, may it be the end of August when the sun is high, the forest green, leafy, and dank, and the Earth is full of life. O Lord, let me die in an August!

My thoughts on the drive were permeated with twinges of pain from my side since I couldn't take analgesics while driving. I elected to drive in silence, to be alone with my thoughts. I thought, probably the darkest thoughts of my life, that I understood how people in chronic pain could want to end their suffering by their own hand....but that I had too much to live for to ever consider that option.....also that my pain isn't always unbearable (this doesn't hurt anywhere nearly as bad as an acute gout attack). Don't worry, it was an academic exercise; this isn't a plea for help, rather, I felt like God was using someone else's vainglory to comfort me yesterday.

You want an explanation....I know, I know. Billy Joel isn't necessarily a tool in God's hands, but as the old yarn goes, "He moves in mysterious ways." "Come out Virginia" is devilishly catchy as a young man tries to get a Catholic girl to sleep with him, and many of his songs contain braggadocio-type lyrics that go against certain Christian mores. About halway home the silence grew too much to bear, so I turned on the radio, eschewing all the talk radio fiends dickering over anything Obama or Congress may do to fix the soapy economy for some comfort music....first Boston, then "Time of my Life" from that movie where somebody tried to put Baby in a corner, then Billy Joel's "Keeping the Faith" came into my car and the lyrics, while at first listen might seem like Boomer-glory day revisiting came to me as if from On High, the way in November Wyclef Jean might say, "and then my voice comes in Pow!, in the middle of the night, and this is what I told you for Him:"

You know the good ole days weren't always good
And tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems

Now I told you my reasons for the whole revival
Now I'm going outside to have an ice cold [root] beer in the shade
Oh, I'm going to listen to my 45's
Ain't it wonderful to be alive
When the rock 'n' roll plays, yeah
When the memory stays, yeah
I'm keeping the faith
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, keeping the faith
I'm keeping the faith, yes I am
You know I'm keeping the faith, oh yes I am
You know I'm keeping the faith, oh you are

Thank you Mr. Joel & thank you God for reminding me that it is wonderful to be alive, even in pain.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

It's official, I'm getting old.

I just saw a commercial for the latest Kidz Bop CD and I didn't know any of the songs that they were mutilating.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

Why you want your kid to take the school bus

So, a recent article about schools cutting back by cutting bus service should give you pause if this idea has been discussed in your district.

From the article:

A 2007 congressional report outlined the risks of taking children off school buses. Citing the Transportation Research Board, the report said about 12.5 million students -- roughly a quarter of the nation's K-12 students -- took about 5.5 billion school bus trips between 1995 and 2005.

On those trips, there were 1,368 fatal crashes, only 97 of which killed a bus driver or passenger, the report said.

Other data in the report show that an average of 20 students died annually between 1991 and 1999, and 15 of those were killed boarding or exiting the bus. About three times as many students got to school by other means, but the death toll among those students was almost 40 times higher. See how many died driving or riding with an adult »

"If we talk about the cost of lives, we want to put these kids on school buses," said Dashney, who has 40 years of experience in traffic safety and student transportation.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gallbladder Problems

So, for the last two months I've had biliary dyskinesia. I haven't much felt like posting. When I'm my normal self again, not in constant pain, I'll start posting again. Until then, it's going to be sporadic.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Happy Twelfth Night

Today is the first day of Mardi Gras. We will be putting up our decorations and getting stares from the neighbors today.....I even have C9-sized yellow, purple, and green lights for the house to replace the Christmas lights (which at 7 watts x 100 bulbs x 12 hours a day added about $50 to our December light bill; I got a timer for the Mardi Gras lights).

I miss living in New Orleans this time of year for the weather, for Carnival, and for the good times I had with Layton and Amanda Alldredge, Mike and Kristin Lindsey, Clay & Amy Larson, Matt & Amber Stecher, Gove and Nikki Allen, and Kasey and Brent (when he would actually come and not gripe) Bastian.

Mardi Gras madness, New Orleans
'Throw me something mister,' the crowds all scream
Hail to Bacchus and all his krewe
The party don't stop, the whole night through
Hail to Bacchus and New Orleans!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Thursday, January 01, 2009

"My wife would like that"