Sunday, November 15, 2009

Be Seeing You?

I watched more television during this past week than I probably did during the whole previous month. Why? I was making a humanitarian hat which, while it does require some visual attention, it demands little mental attention, and the rest of my mind needed something to occupy it. (Oh—a “humanitarian hat” is a knitted/crocheted/loomed hat needed by the Humanitarian Center at this time—in anticipation of the winter weather, to give to needy people.) So, what did I watch (or listen to) on TV?

Normally, all that I watch every day is the bedtime news to get the weather report for tomorrow. But this past week, I watched/listened to “Ah-Nolt” in Terminator 2. I watched/listened to Nicolas Cage in ConAir. I watched/listened to reruns of NCIS, Criminal Minds, and Law and Order. Next time, I think I’ll watch reruns of General Conference!

Of course, during these shows I also watched/listened to a lot of promos for other shows. Shows like the much ballyhooed remake of “The Prisoner” which begins tonight starring the “Count of Monte Cristo” and “Gandalf.”

As you know, I was the First Fan (in our family) of the original “The Prisoner.” And because of our occasional “annual” marathons watching it, everyone in the family had pretty much memorized the opening sequence for each show which went something like: “Where am I? In the Village. What do you want? Information. IN-FORM-A-TION! You won’t get it! By hook or by crook, we will. Who are you? Number Two. Who is number One? You are number Six. I am not a number! I am a free man!”

Judging from the previews and what I’ve read in the newspaper, there will be little resemblance to the original in this remake. Will the star power of Gandalf and the Count be enough to pull it off -- or to pull us in? The New York Daily News says, “Caviezel is a decent actor, but he doesn’t bring enough to carry that much screen time. Six must be riveting, and Caviezel simply isn’t. Ian McKellen gives a fine performance as Two. But most of the time Two simply exudes smug arrogance, so there’s a limit to what McKellen can do.” The Daily News concludes: “Somewhere along the way, this three-night, six-hour production begins to feel less like a compelling metaphor for totalitarian repression and more like a marathon. No offense, but is it over yet?”

So--Will you be watching it?

... Be seeing you?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"Irreducible..." ... What??

Yesterday, the Knight and I went for a drive up Provo Canyon to the end of the South Fork. During the night before, snow had fallen in the mountains, so that all of the evergreen trees on the north-facing sides of the canyon were picturesquely “flocked.” The blue skies and sunshine artistically illuminated this transformed landscape. It was God’s Christmas card to the world.

We drove slowly so as to savor the wonder of each new view as we passed. “This is good for the soul,” remarked the Knight.

We drove in thoughtful silence. Finally, the Knight asked, “What are you thinking about?”

“The irreducible complexity of eyeballs and flagella,” I said. “And the fact that mathematicians have long looked with skepticism at Darwinian evolution because it is devoid of the precision of mathematical laws, and comprised of too many improbabilities.”

I kid you not.

The Knight was momentarily speechless. You could almost discern the Hopelessly Romantic Knight being abruptly jousted from his steed and tumbling bewilderedly down the mountainside. He recovered nicely however; deftly switching from Romantic to Scientific thought. In retrospect, even I thought it was weird of me to be so not “in the moment” but, instead, exploring intricate intellectual labyrinths and contemplating astonishing philosophical vistas.

This can also be good for the soul.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Target Christmas catalog came in the mail this week. It was artfully done: colorful, and full of happy smiling children. It’s goal was to convince you that you could have a joyful Christmas only if you bought all this stuff guaranteed to produce joyful children (stuff available at Target, of course). Mostly that meant very expensive stuff. Mostly that meant electronic stuff. Electronic stuff that had, in every case, one solitary child interacting with an image on a TV screen.

I fear that too many parents, especially parents with little money, will despair (at least subliminally) of having happy children this Christmas because they can’t possibly afford to buy any of this stuff. They may even know that this catalog is a lie—that nothing in it can produce real happiness. Interacting with something electronic is an empty, ultimately unsatisfying endeavor. Loving interactions with other people, genuinely connecting with other people, serving others, seeking to make others happy—this produces real happiness.

I remember being a parent with little or no money for Christmas gifts. I remember overhearing my children say (about dozens of items), “I want THAT for Christmas!” as they watched yet another commercial on TV or looked at yet another printed ad. (Some scriptures come to mind: “their eyes are full of greediness.”) I felt like throwing the TV in the trash just to stop the “I want”s. It was making my children covetous and materialistic. And that guaranteed that they would be miserable on Christmas morning, and that they would think themselves deprived and cheated.

I don’t know at what age a person finally realizes that most “stuff” cannot guarantee happiness. Perhaps some people live their whole lives and never come to that realization. An old song from my parent’s era proclaimed that “the best things in life are free.” It was never a favorite of mine—crummy tune, bad poetry, saccharine sentiments. But, it seems to become truer all the time.

The moon belongs to everyone.
The best things in life are free.
The stars belong to everyone.
They gleam there for you and me.

The flowers in spring,
The robins that sing,
The sunbeams that shine,
They're yours, they're mine.

And love can come to everyone.
The best things in life are free.

My biggest fear is that we are all addicted to our electronic stuff and have lost touch with stuff that is real. And wholesome. And healing. And deeply satisfying. Anyone up for a walk in (or a dive into) the autumn leaves?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Apple Pie Order

I don’t think that I have ever used the idiom, “Apple-pie order,” in a conversation in my entire life. Furthermore, I don’t think that I have actually heard anyone else use it either.

Therefore, when the phrase popped spontaneously into my mind a couple of weeks ago, in response to my having finished “tidying-up” a family in NewFamilySearch, I was surprised.

Now, it frequently springs spontaneously to my lips as I admire how the family looks when they have their names and dates all tidied-up and the children in chronological order. In that moment, I feel enormously warm and happy and contented.

It’s an odd little idiom. Where did it come from? No one really knows, but it is thought that it was an English corruption of the French nappes pliées, “neatly folded.” Everything is in perfect order and tidy if it is in apple pie order. Interesting that its origins might be French—seeing as how it is French families that I am tidying up. Another oddity is that apple pie is “distinctively American”—“as American as apple pie.”

Just a little food for thought. And its Lo-cal!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

You really need to see this photo on full screen. It's so good, it's almost like being there. This is Wasatch Mountain State Park in Heber Valley. The colors are spectacular. It's time to go for a drive up the canyon! Now!

No, I didn't take this photo, I borrowed it from KSL TV weather news photo gallery. I was looking for a lovely photo to adorn my BLOG. I come here every day to see if anyone has posted anything on their BLOGs, and my last BLOG was rather colorless and drab. As a kindness to myself, I decided that I needed something lovely to greet me when I come here. Sometimes the astronomy photo of the day is sufficient. And it actually was the astronomy photo of the day today that made me think of going to KSL TV weather to look at their sunsets, etc.

Don't you just love the beautiful Fall weather we have been having? Makes you glad to be alive!

Friday, September 4, 2009


–It’s a much-maligned, perfectly good word. Unless, of course, you are hurling epithets that contain it at someone. Or suggesting that a person has characteristics that are … you know … st*p*d. Speaking of hurling epithets, it seems to me that just about any word said with an expression of repugnance and a certain nasty tone of voice can be equally as disturbing as … st*p*d.

Sister TY, several years ago, used the word “concoction” to describe a New Beginnings program that someone had … uhm … concocted. Her disdain was palpable. Her meaning clearly was that the creatress and her concoction were … st*p*d.

St*p*d is a word that even a child can understand and use adeptly and it’s easy to pronounce. Once as a joke, I succeeded in teaching a 2 year old to say “troglodyte” instead of st*p*d. Adults who heard him say it thought he was just a two year old babbling. They were unfamiliar with the word troglodyte. Obviously, an epithet needs to be understood to have any impact.

Which of the following words are less offensive than st*p*d?? idiotic, dumb-bell, dimwitted, blockhead (Lucy loved to say that to Charlie Brown), dope, numskull, ignoramus, know-nothing, BB-brain, empty-headed, boneheaded, half-baked, simple-minded, bird-brained, airhead, or how about Mork’s “nim-null”?

How do you say something is foolish or ill-advised so effectively that a person will understand and will stop being st*p*d or doing st*p*d things? Isn’t this a case of a 10-cent word being better than a whole thesaurus full of synonyms?

The above are the things I pondered after I saw the following cartoon in today's newspaper:

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Awwwww.... Doesn't that look on the kitten's face just melt your hard heart? Not to mention the "Please don't hurt me!" body language.

Oftentimes the native intelligence displayed in our pets, causes us to think and react to them as if they are like us and have motives for their behavior similar to ours. (Which may be saying more about us than about them.)

We oftentimes think and react the same way with our little children.

Yes, they are natively intelligent. And, yes, they need to be taught correct behavior. What they need most, of course, is our love and gentle persuasion. And careful teaching.

The older we get (and thus the farther away we are from our own childhood), and the more hassled we feel, the easier it is to become impatient. And perhaps unnecessarily harsh.

Friday, August 28, 2009

This is today's Astronomy Picture of the Day. When I saw it this morning, I was filled with awe. Wow! Stunningly beautiful!

Part of the caption:
"Pillars of gas, dust, and young, hot stars fill the center of NGC 7822. At the edge of a giant molecular cloud toward the northern constellation Cepheus, the glowing star forming region lies about 3,000 light-years away. Within the nebula, bright edges and tantalizing shapes are highlighted in this colorful skyscape. "

PS: click on the picture to get a larger view for the full effect!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Looking for Space?

I woke up this morning with a pain in the neck.

(No. That is NOT code for The Knight. LOL)

In my pain-wracked condition, I glanced at the calendar hanging in the bathroom. I've been looking at this particular picture every day, now, since August 1. It's a Gary Patterson cat calendar. He draws crazy cartoon cats. August's cat is a Siamese who has OD'd on catnip. The cat is lying on his back with his eyes crossed and his tongue hanging out the side. The caption is "Space Cat-Det."

Did I mention that I was in pain? I tried to remember what the caption meant. I had figured it out a few days ago. But now, I had to think about it again.

Really think.

Cat Detective?

No, that couldn't be it.

I repeated it silently to myself: Space Cat-Det.

... Ahhhh, yes.

I guess that makes two of us! LOL

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Under the Radar

So, I was the one who jinxed June (with that one-and-only "what is so rare as a day in June" June blog--unfortunately, as it turned out what was "so rare" were my blogs!). After glorying in the spectacular June weather at the beginning of the month, what happened next? Clouds. Rain. Clouds. Rain. Clouds. Rain..... My fault. Obviously. I jinxed it.

Now, it is July 1st. And it started out with clouds and with a few drops of rain this morning. NOT my fault: I had said NOTHING about July one way or the other. Maybe if I keep a low profile, I will be able to sneak under the weather radar, and we can have more sunshine than clouds this month.

ON THE OTHER HAND . . . . The "climate change" guys--those same guys who used to be the "global warming" guys--actually predicted that some parts of the world would not get a normal summer this year. But, notice how carefully they refrained from calling it "global cooling." "Climate change" is the new terminology that covers every imaginable eventuality. So, no matter what happens they can say they predicted it. And that it is all man's fault.

In my opinion, their "science" is just as much foolishness as my "jinxes." Nevertheless, our political geniuses in Washington DC are going full speed ahead to "stop global warming."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

June. Spoon. Tune.

Today, while the Knight and I were out and about in the Mustang, it was as if I had just come out of hibernation after a very long nasty winter. I could hardly grasp the fact that it is now really June. Roses are in bloom everywhere, and green grass growin’ all around, all around. June! I didn’t think winter would ever leave. What terrifies me is that the next three months are going to whiz by and summer will vanish in a flash. And another long nasty winter will encase us in cold and snow and darkness.

This morning as I was slowly regaining consciousness, the poetic phrase “and what is so rare as a day in June?” passed through my mind. My teacher in the one-room country school made me memorize part of the poem when I was in 7th or 8th grade:

AND what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays;
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,
An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And, groping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
The flush of life may well be seen
Thrilling back over hills and valleys;
The cowslip startles in meadows green,
The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice,
And there's never a leaf nor a blade too mean
To be some happy creature's palace;
The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
And lets his illumined being o'errun
With the deluge of summer it receives;
His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings,
And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings;
He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest,
In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best?
Now is the high-tide of the year,
And whatever of life hath ebbed away
Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer,
Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;
Now the heart is so full that a drop overfills it,
We are happy now because God wills it;
No matter how barren the past may have been,
'Tis enough for us now that the leaves are green;
We sit in the warm shade and feel right well
How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;
We may shut our eyes but we cannot help knowing
That skies are clear and grass is growing;
The breeze comes whispering in our ear,
That dandelions are blossoming near,
That maize has sprouted, that streams are flowing,
That the river is bluer than the sky,
That the robin is plastering his house hard by;
And if the breeze kept the good news back,
For our couriers we should not lack;
We could guess it all by yon heifer's lowing,
And hark! How clear bold chanticleer,
Warmed with the new wine of the year,
Tells all in his lusty crowing!
Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how;
Everything is happy now,
Everything is upward striving;
'Tis as easy now for the heart to be true
As for grass to be green or skies to be blue,
'Tis for the natural way of living:
Who knows whither the clouds have fled?
In the unscarred heaven they leave not wake,
And the eyes forget the tears they have shed,
The heart forgets its sorrow and ache;
The soul partakes the season's youth,
And the sulphurous rifts of passion and woe
Lie deep 'neath a silence pure and smooth,
Like burnt-out craters healed with snow.
~ by James Russell Lowell

The other poetic phrase that occurred as I was still wanting to be asleep was “a nest of robins in her hair.” At that moment, I could hear the baby robins outside our open bedroom window cheeping away. Yes, I also had to memorize that poem (which, incidentally, is considered to be a rather poor piece of poetry):

Trees by Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Well. So at last it’s June! I should make myself a promise to spend a minimum of 1-2 hours outside every day, just so I can prove to my psyche that I don’t live in perpetual winter. And just so I will have memories of June--of roses and green grass and baby birds to warm my heart when winter does return.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Of God's Gifts, a Baby/Child is of the Greatest

I am enjoying the most recent additions to the photos of my children and grandchildren that grace my kitchen walls. Smiling, innocent, sweet, beautiful, trusting children. I also enjoy it when photos of these innocent ones appear on your blogs. Do you know what a precious treasure your children are? Of course you do. Do you know what a precious treasure you are to your children? I hope you do. Being a parent is the toughest job in the world but also the most important and wonderful. I am grateful that you, my children, are good, loving parents to your children.

“Know you what it is to be a child? It is to be something very different from the man of to-day. It is to have a spirit yet streaming from the waters of baptism; it is to believe in love, to believe in loveliness, to believe in belief; it is to be so little that the elves can reach to whisper in your ear; it is to turn pumpkins into coaches, and mice into horses, lowness into loftiness, and nothing into everything, for each child has its fairy godmother in its own soul.” ~Francis Thompson

“The child must know that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn't been, and until the end of the world there will not be, another child like him.” ~ Pablo Casals

Recently a beautiful, trusting, four year old boy (Angelo Mendoza, pictured below) was horribly mutilated by his own father. The story was so disturbing, I wasn't sure if it was appropriate to even bring it up here. My prayer is that Heavenly Father will pour down special blessings on this sweet child and that his life may yet be one of joy.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

BTW... Are You OOTL Too?

I had to laugh when I saw this comic strip in today's newspaper. Not only does cartoonist Bruce Tinsley poke fun at the proliferation/plague of texting, he pokes fun at the proliferation/plague of abbreviations.

Dandelion, in her last blog used "RPG" and kindly explained what the abbreviation meant for us OOTL (Out of the Loop) sorts. I'm glad she explained, because RPG also stands for Rocket Propelled Grenade and Rebounds per game (basketball). I was relieved to know she wasn't involved with grenades! Picturing her playing basketball with the JAZZ was also disturbing!

I've been perplexed by the use of soooooo many abbreviations in the online things I read. Not long ago, I kept running up against "MSM." I could tell the article wasn't referring to methylsulfonylmethane--which was the only MSM I was familiar with. What else is MSM?

Mechanically Separated Meat.

Miami Sound Machine.

I resorted to Wikipedia to learn that the articles were referring to the "Main Stream Media."

Another recent puzzle for me was "AGW. " The context ruled out "Autonomous Guided Weapon" or "Armed Global Warfare." I correctly figured out that the GW part was global warming. But, what was the A? Anthropogenic. Who knew.

Thank goodness for Wikipedia. Otherwise I would be forever OOTL. LOL

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Charming Story with a Happy Ending

Hit the following link for a charming story with a happy ending. That is one happy Mama Duck!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Nice . . . Frames?

I dashed out to WalMart to get a vinyl table cloth for the picnic table this morning in preparation for our backyard picnic on Saturday (the G-Ma's birthday). While there, I also picked up five picture frames that I thought might work ... of course, I can never find what I really have in mind ... nobody makes what I really want. But, I can be flexible. Sometimes.

When I got home, I inserted the pictures in the frames. Then I laid the pictures out in various groupings on the floor to see how I might like to put them on the wall. Then, as usual, half way through hammering nails in the wall and hanging pictures, I changed my mind. Eventually, my project was completed. Undoubtedly, they will have to be in place on the wall for at least a month before I will be able to decide if I like my grouping or not.

After I was finished with my hammering, the Knight came up to see what I had been up to. "Oh!" he exclaimed, as he admired my work. [... Work done nine years ago!! He thought I had just put up new curtains!] I was momentarily confused. When I told him those curtains had been there for nine years, he was momentarily confused. He couldn't recall ever having seen them!

Eventually, he turned around and saw the pictures on the wall. He said it was nice that those pictures finally had frames . . . . And then he hurried away to mow the lawn.

I can hardly wait to hear what the G-Ma has to say about the new pictures on the wall.

Maybe it will take nine years for other people to decide if they really like the grouping or not . . . . . . lol

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


This video was on Meridian Magazine this morning. I especially loved the pictures (besides the message).

Create! Don't waste your time on inanity.

To see it in a wider screen and to give it a rating go here:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Time to say "YOU ARE FIRED"?

We have had two negative experiences with “Dr. M” in less than a week. To make a long story short, I am now convinced that (1) he falsified a Medicare claim to get more money, and (2) he wrongly prescribed without taking the time to diagnose.

Experience one: I had at first thought that the office staff may have mistakenly billed for something that hadn’t happened, so I brought it up at G-Ma’s appointment last Thursday. He instantly became huffy, jumping to the conclusion that I was accusing him of fraud. I tried to explain to him what I had been concerned about, but he just wanted to play the role of the innocent insulted one.

But, I ask you: if a patient is complaining of BACK PAIN and you give that patient an injection of cortisone, would you inject it into her hip JOINT? The hip joint was NOT in pain. He billed $130 for an injection into a hip joint. A normal injection (which is what I thought he did) wouldn’t be billed for $130.

Negative experience two: the office staff phoned on Monday to say that they needed to talk to the G-ma about the blood tests that were done last Thursday. They said her potassium levels were too high and that she should stop taking potassium supplements and eating bananas, tomatoes, kiwis, and oranges. She’s never taken potassium supplements, and she RARELY eats any of those foods either. As a matter of fact, she hardly eats anything at all. Last week she barely weighed 103 pounds fully dressed with shoes on.

It is obvious to me that if she has high potassium, it is NOT caused by her diet. THERE HAS TO BE ANOTHER CAUSE!! Did the Doc think about her blood pressure medication as the possible culprit? She’s taking the MAXIMUM dose of a “POTASSIUM SPARING” blood pressure pill! The Knight is more than twice her size and that’s how much he takes!

Am I over-reacting? Or is this guy and his staff a bunch of turkeys?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sage--the Rest of the Story

Dara, Emily and I met Sage Volkman at a fireside in Albuquerque (about 1995?). When this week's news included a story about a woman who has had a face transplant, I thought about Sage and wondered where she was and what she was doing. The internet had a few clues.

Sage Volkman’s story has been featured twice in Ensign and New Era stories (see “Sage’s Song”—Ensign Aug 1989 and “Sage’s Story”—New Era Feb 2000). At the age of 5, two weeks after her parents and older brother had joined the Church, Sage was on a fishing trip with her dad and brother, Avery. At one point, while her father and brother were a short distance away fishing, Avery heard a dog bark and saw that their camper was on fire. Brother Volkman rushed back to rescue the sleeping Sage but was unable to do so before she had already received 3rd and 4th degree burns over 70% of her body. Her nose and one ear were melted off. Doctors had to amputate her fingers because they were so badly burned. She was in a coma. One lung had collapsed. But, to the surprise of all the medical staff, Sage survived the night.

A few days later, Sage was moved to the burn unit of a New Mexico hospital. Again, there was little hope she’d make it through the night—only a 10 percent chance—but she survived and improved over the next two days. Then pneumonia struck. Sage’s condition deteriorated, and two weeks later she was flown to a burn institute in Texas, still in a coma. The doctors there said her survival through the night was a “big if.” They also said if she survived she would have vision loss, hearing loss, brain damage, chronic lung problems, and she would be unable to walk. Anything short of that would be a miracle.

Sage pulled through again with the help of numerous priesthood blessings. She also had the aid of loving parents and skilled doctors. One priesthood blessing she received promised full recovery and that she would be safe with her Savior until she was better. After a six-week coma, the blessing was fulfilled, and Sage was finally well enough to go home on December 23, 1986, after three months in hospitals.

One of the first blessings was given by Robert DeBuck. “When Robert blessed her,” his wife, Ruth, recalls, “he told her to go where it was safe—into Heavenly Father’s arms. We lived for a long time on faith in that blessing. We believe that’s where she was.”

Months later, Sage gave evidence of the efficacy of that faith. One day Denise asked her if she remembered anything at all during those first six weeks. Sage said she remembered being with Jesus.
A little skeptical, her mother asked, “What did he say?”
“He just held me and told me he was sorry that I was hurt. He told me he loved me,” Sage replied. “What did you say?”
“I told him I loved him, too. I said I wanted to stay, but he told me I had things to do. Then he was gone.”

Sage grew up in Albuquerque, attended Sandia Prep, then went to Ricks College. She earned her PhD. in psychology from the University of Utah. She is now a counselor for burn victims.

A living miracle, Sage writes, “I am happy and people wonder how I can be with all that I have gone through. I tell them you have two ways to see the world, as a good place with wonderful people to love and be loved by or you can see everything as a problem and feel anger always in your heart. I choose to be happy.”

Friday, May 1, 2009

World's Bravest, Smartest, Funniest . . . .

Hooray! Our income tax refund came in the mail today! This was the first refund we've gotten in several years. Recently, we've been having to write a big nasty check to the IRS every April 15th.
AND ... this year was the first time in several years that The Knight got it right. He figured out the taxes without making some kind of error . . . .
So, three cheers for The Knight! So smart. So brave. So talented.
He juggles words and ideas (which are more dangerous than chain saws).
He wrestles with the alligators of approaching old age (growing old isn't for wimps).
He walks the tightrope of decorum v. humor (I predict he will probably die laughing).
AND he conquered the tax code and sent in our tax returns BEFORE April 15th!!
Three cheers for Pooh!
For who?
For Pooh!
Why what did he do?
I thought you knew...
He saved his friend from a wetting.
Three cheers for bear!
For where?
For bear! . . . . .

Thursday, April 30, 2009

H1N1= Unnecessary Panic Attacks

This Porcine cutie seems to be mocking someone. Could it be us? --that is--US? (as in John Q. Public?) The WHO people have decided that "Swine Flu" is a misnomer that needs to be cleared up, since the Porcines aren't -- are NOT --implicated in this virus. H1N1 is now the correct name for the virus.

The media seem intent on creating hysteria. When the facts are: we AREN'T all going to die!!!
And as a matter of fact, this virus seems to be rather wimpy.
Making light of this so-called "Pandemic" seems entirely appropriate.
Here are some humorous views for your enjoyment:

There really ARE some very real issues that might demand more of our concern than the "swine flu"/ H1N1.
Don't you feel like you are being PLAYED by some kind of sleight of hand?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit

Little Amy Dorrit

Sunday evening I just happened upon a Masterpiece Theater production of Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit on a PBS channel. As it turned out, it was the LAST of FIVE episodes. The other four episodes had aired on previous Sundays. Because I had missed out on the first four episodes, this final chapter of the story left me with many questions. So, on Monday, I searched online for the text of Dickens’ story so that I might find the answers to my questions. The complete text IS available to read online. ALL 70 CHAPTERS! A quick scan of the final chapters did not satisfy my need for details, but only produced MORE questions. BUT—happy day! The entire BBC production was still available to watch online. So, I spent much of Monday and Tuesday watching the first four episodes and the end again.

Although watching the whole thing was nice, since the production was very nicely done, I still ended up not really understanding all the intrigues. So, even after watching it through, I had to go find a synopsis to explain the mystery. As it turns out, the BBC production took some liberties with Dickens’ story, and altered the end a bit. Nevertheless, if you get a chance to watch it, I think you would enjoy it. It will be available online to watch until next Sunday, I think.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day and Happy Birthday

I guess it's "Earth Day."
More importantly, it's Audrey's birthday! Happy second birthday, Audrey!

As for Earth Day, Charles Osgood (a great guy) noticed yesterday that the sun is "dimming." Go to the following website and listen to his gentle (and brief) take on global warming.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Visigoths v. Athenians--the Visigoths Are Winning

The other day, I wondered aloud if BYU graduation was this week. I discovered today that it is. So the Y on the mountain will be lit up at night-- Always a stunning sight!

It will be 10 years ago in August that I graduated from BYU. The commencement speaker in 1999 was billionaire, Jon Hunstman, Sr., whose wife is the daughter of David B. Haight. As I recall it, Huntsman advocated charitable-giving and service in his address.

One year later, in 2000, Neil Postman was the August commencement speaker at BYU. I listened to his speech via the radio in my kitchen in Orem. Enviously, I lamented that I hadn’t had Postman as my commencement speaker. After all, I had read everything that Postman had ever published. And I, perhaps more than anyone sitting in the Marriot Center on the BYU campus, knew the heart and mind of Neil Postman. I had even read his “My Graduation Speech” several years earlier. I wondered if he would give the one I had read or if he had altered it for his BYU audience. ( It was essentially the same.)

Postman wrote his graduation speech before he was ever asked to give one. The reason he gave for composing an unasked for graduation speech was, “Having sat through two dozen or so graduation speeches [he was a professor at New York University], I have naturally wondered why they are so often so bad. … Here I try my hand at writing a graduation speech, and not merely to discover if I can conquer the form. This is precisely what I would like to say to young people if I had their attention for a few minutes.”

The essence of Postman’s graduation speech was a description of the characteristics of the ancient Athenians versus the Visigoths. It was not merely a recitation of history. The reason for telling the graduates about these people? “ . . . because, sooner than you know, you must align yourself with the spirit of one or the spirit of the other.” He hoped, of course, that the graduates would choose to become Athenians rather than Visigoths. Since Visigoths are polar opposites to Athenians, I have omitted what Postman said about Athenians, and instead give you what he said about Visigoths. I thought it might be useful to ask ourselves if we resemble Visigoths or their opposites:

To a Visigoth, the quest for knowledge is useless unless it can help you to earn money or to gain power over other people.

To a Visigoth, one word is as good as another, one sentence indistinguishable from another. A Visigoth's language aspires to nothing higher than the cliché.

The modern Visigoth cares very little about [tradition or social restraint]. The Visigoths think of themselves as the center of the universe. Tradition exists for their own convenience, good manners are an affectation and a burden, and history is merely what is in yesterday's newspaper.

A modern Visigoth is interested only in his own affairs and has no sense of the meaning of community.

To a Visigoth, there is no measure of artistic excellence except popularity. What catches the fancy of the multitude is good. No other standard is respected or even acknowledged by the Visigoth.

Now, it must be obvious what all of this has to do with you. Eventually, like the rest of us, you must be on one side or the other. You must be an Athenian or a Visigoth. Of course, it is much harder to be an Athenian, for you must learn how to be one, you must work at being one, whereas we are all, in a way, natural-born Visigoths. That is why there are so many more Visigoths than Athenians. I can wish for you no higher compliment than that in the future it will be reported that among your graduating class the Athenians mightily outnumbered the Visigoths.

Postman died slightly more than three years after his commencement address at BYU. I would like to commend whoever it was who recruited him to be the speaker. I hope the BYU graduates of 2000 have taken to heart Postman’s challenge. And I hope all of us who honor his memory are actively conquering the Visigoths that lurk in our own characters and actions.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Hello? There IS a REAL World Out There--Trust Me!




Seriously. I don't want to offend anyone, but turn off the electronic devices already and go out and smell the fresh air, soak up some sunshine, look at the blue sky, the flowers, and into your loved ones' faces!!! The pseudo world you are living in online really does not care what you are doing every minute. Those silly and trivial quizes you compulsively take merely keep you from looking at yourself honestly (and how you are using your time). All you sad sad people who are glued to your devices are addicted. Turn them off NOW!
See you next week! LOL

Friday, April 3, 2009

Barking Dogs and Other Distractions

I am so glad that Conference time has come around again. It’s a time to get my bearings—check to see how far I may have drifted in the intervening 6 months. It’s so easy to get off course. That fraction of an inch off the mark today—an imperceptible deviation—may mean many miles off the mark in 6 months’ time.

Lately, I have thought of a 1984 Conference talk given by Bruce R. McConkie, of the Quorum of the Twelve, titled “The Caravan Moves On.” He began his talk with, “I propose some simple tests that all of us may take to determine if we are true to the faith….” He concluded his talk with:

Now, I have what every true disciple has. It is called the testimony of Jesus. In our day it includes the revealed knowledge that the earthly kingdom—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—will triumph. In this connection may I set before you this illustration:

The Church is like a great caravan—organized, prepared, following an appointed course, with its captains of tens and captains of hundreds all in place.

What does it matter if a few barking dogs snap at the heels of the weary travelers? Or that predators claim those few who fall by the way? The caravan moves on.

Is there a ravine to cross, a miry mud hole to pull through, a steep grade to climb? So be it. The oxen are strong and the teamsters wise. The caravan moves on.

Are there storms that rage along the way, floods that wash away the bridges, deserts to cross, and rivers to ford? Such is life in this fallen sphere. The caravan moves on.

Ahead is the celestial city, the eternal Zion of our God, where all who maintain their position in the caravan shall find food and drink and rest. Thank God that the caravan moves on!
The part about “barking dogs” has seemed an apt metaphor for the persecution of the Church and Church members recently, and has helped me to keep an optimistic perspective. It is true that “the earthly kingdom… will triumph.”

The “ravines, mud holes, steep grades to climb, storms, floods, deserts to cross,” etc. he mentioned are a perfect metaphor for the economic and other challenges of our day.

I think that part of the reason I enjoy Conference time so much is that I can actually see the Caravan and feel a sense of “moving on” with the Caravan. A short time after Conference, however, I have often struggled to maintain that feeling. I think that is because I have become distracted not only by life’s daily challenges, but also by trivial distractions (like internet stuff). Anything that distracts me from keeping my eye on “the celestial city” or maintaining my position in the caravan, is a distraction that serves Satan’s purposes.

As Michael Medved’s wife put it, referring to her feelings about certain “internet stuff”: ‘In fact, I’m finding it more and more irritating, a time-soaker that leaves me feeling slightly soiled, in need of a shower. … not only a colossal waste of time, but actually lowers me morally…. It’s about training your own soul away from the transcendent and the long-term, and toward physical here-and-now selfishness.’

The way she puts it, the “benign” distractions found on the internet may be worse and more dangerous than the barking dogs. She’s probably right

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"Spock," Berlinski, Postman, and Me

I was barely out of my childhood (lol) when the original Star Trek TV series (1966) became an overnight sensation, and “Spock” became an instant audience favorite with his dry, emotionless, one-word quip: “Illogical.” For a cool-headed assessment of tricky situations, Captain Kirk always consulted Spock, who could be depended upon to think rationally in any crisis. Spock made logic cool. And where his perfect logic wasn’t sufficient to handle the situation, his “Spock Pinch” could save the day.

When I studied logic in college, a vague uneasiness would wash over me as I attempted to identify some “fallacy of logic” in a written argument. Labeling someone’s argument as fallacious, faulty, false, or a deception seemed brashly impolite and tactless. Possibly even dangerous. I had spent my whole life avoiding confrontation; I certainly didn’t want to insult or embarrass anyone by branding their views illogical, false, fallacious, or deceptive. It was “nicer” (and safer) to beat around the bush and pretend to not notice their affront to logic, never mind that their affront was an insult to my intelligence and an embarrassment to my feelings. Sadly, I don’t know that I will ever master the art of dispassionate disagreement. Besides that, I wouldn’t know how to administer a “Spock Pinch” if someone became violent after I pointed out their fallacies of logic.

Now, enter one David Berlinski [photo at left]. I realized the other day that he is the real life embodiment of Spock. He’s cool-headed and emotionless. Logic, to him, is second nature. He doesn’t go around looking down his nose muttering “illogical,” of course. He deftly sizes up a questionable assertion and says something that exposes the faulty thinking or deception for what it is. He is the proverbial thorn in the side of those who are dressed in the intellectual equivalent of the Emperor’s New Clothes. He has no compunction whatsoever in stating for all to hear, “The Emperor is naked!” – OR—“The ‘science’ here is flawed, and the ‘scientists’ are charlatans who will not ‘allow’ anyone to question or dispute their assertions!” He merely expects “scientists” to hold to the scientific method. (Image that!) When they don’t, but nonetheless claim that their views are “scientific facts,” he exposes them for what they really are; thus he calmly, matter-of-factly, and dispassionately, dispatches them.

At least, calm and dispassionate describes how he looks. After reading several of his articles and his latest book, The Devil’s Delusion, Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions, I now know that his cool, thoughtful, solemn, Spock-like demeanor is an outward pose which just barely conceals his satirical wit. I don’t know how he keeps from laughing out loud. He makes me laugh out loud. Maybe he gives himself a hard Spock Pinch, when necessary, to squelch his own gales of laughter.

The scientists who are not laughing are Richard Dawkins and his cronies who worship at the throne of Darwinism. This is not mere invective. Their belief in Darwinism has a decided religious zeal. They are fanatical about it, and scream “heresy” should anyone in their midst dare express any doubts about any aspect of Darwinist theory. They don’t want to hear about or consider any other ideas or theories. They begin screaming “religion” if anyone merely points out apparent “design” found in nature or the universe. However, to their utter fury, they cannot accuse Berlinski of religious motives, because he is “a secular Jew” and an agnostic who is more interested in the exercise of logic itself (as well as exposing those who want to deceive others) than in supplying answers to scientific questions.

Neil Postman, if he were still alive, would probably find Berlinski to be a breath of fresh air. Neil Postman long ago (1969) delivered a rollicking speech at the National Convention for the Teachers of English, with the attention-getting title, “Bull[****] and the Art of Crap-Detection.”

He explained to the teachers that the “best things schools can do for kids is to help them learn how to distinguish useful talk from ... [bovine dung]....” He then said that the four main types of crap-talk were pomposity, fanaticism, inanity, and superstition. Fanaticism, he said, “has almost no tolerance for any data that do not confirm its own point of view.” He went on to criticize “isms” saying that “those most enmeshed in it hear no ... [bovine dung] ... whatsoever in its rhetoric, and as a consequence are extremely dangerous to other people.” Postman hoped that somehow the teachers would help their students acquire a “knowledge of how to ask questions, how to validate answers, and certainly, how to assess meanings.” (Skills obviously still needing to be taught.)

Postman would commend Berlinski for his ability to see through the Darwinists’ "bull." And for helping the rest of us have confidence in the face of fanaticism.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Earth Hour

Hey! I missed it!

Last saturday night at 8ish or 9ish was "earth hour." That was where everyone (in the world) was supposed to turn off all their electricity as a symbolic token of their concern for global warming (or something). It was symbolism, only symbolism. It wasn't really supposed to help save the earth or any natural resources or save us from global warming or save the [insert your favorite endangered species]. It was supposed to "raise awareness." It was an environmental publicity stunt.

Did you turn off your electicity?

I don't even remember what I was doing Saturday night.

As a global-environmental-standing-in-a-circle-holding-hands-and-singing-in-the-dark event, I think it was a failure. Nobody around here gave it the slightest attention. Probably because no one knew about it. Some publicity stunt. Someone in Tennessee drove by Al Gore's mansion during earth hour and found the outdoor floodlights illuminating his trees, and coming from inside the house, the blue flicker of TVs or computer monitors. "Al Gore Snubs Earth Hour," the headline read. Even the guru of global warming apparently thought it a silly event. LOL

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Time to Stamp Out "Meme"

Several times recently, as I was reading something on the internet, I tripped over the word “meme.” Judging by the context, I surmised that the word was akin to motif, meaning a recurring theme, idea, or design as found in music, literature, or art. However, when I attempted to parse the “meme” of President Obama’s use of teleprompters, I was mystified. If “meme” was akin to motif, it also obviously carried with it an aspect of derision, as an object of ridicule.

I looked up “meme” in my Webster’s New World Dictionary Third College Edition (copyright 1988)—it was not to be found. The word apparently came into usage sometime after 1988. So, I resorted to Wikipedia. As it turns out, “meme” is jargon concocted by Richard Dawkins. . . . . Enough said? (Consider the source?)

The word's meaning only recently, it seems, has mutated and insinuated itself into the mainstream media as the fad term in use by pseudo-intellectuals and talking heads (hence, the Obama-teleprompter- “meme”—which makes absolutely no sense). One mutation of the word’s meaning is, according to “the daily meme” website:

“In the context of . . . blogging and other kinds of personal web sites it’s some kind of list of questions that you saw somewhere else and you decided to answer the questions. Then someone else sees them and does them and so on and so on. I generally consider these to be actual questions and not some multiple choice quizzes that determine some result at the end (what color you are most like, what cartoon character are you, what 80s movie are you).”
Dawkins originally contrived the word to describe “self-replicating and evolving ideas.” He thinks that the origins and perpetuation of ideas have much in common with self-replicating genes. I know. It is nonsensical. The thing that you must understand, however, is that particular ideas that are “memes” to Dawkins are more especially those that he disagrees with and thinks ridiculous—viruses of the mind, as it were—such as religion.

Ironically, Dawkins uses no “science” to validate this gene-like “meme” notion; and logic fails. On the other hand, if he only meant it as a metaphor or a simile (a figure of speech), it is neither compelling nor illuminating. Dawkins’ specialty is reductionism (any method or theory of reducing data, processes, or statements to seeming equivalents that are less complex or developed: usually a disparaging term), to his own detriment.

What to do with “meme,” then? I recommend that every time you hear or read the word “meme” presented with any kind of seriousness, that you feel pity for the person who used the term, just as you would for any verbal fad follower. You might ask them what they mean by “meme.” See if they can define it, or if they know its origins, or if they only know it in its mutations. You might also suggest to them that the baggage attached to the term, its nebulous meanings, and it’s faddism make it a distasteful and annoying blight on the English language and adds nothing to a good conversation, nor brings any illumination to the mind.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Heroic Horatio

Last week, the Knight and I watched the first three DVDs of the A&E movie series based on C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower novels. In the first one, The Duel, Horatio, at age seventeen, begins his adventures aboard the frigate, “Indefatigable,” where the villain, Simmons, in their first encounter demeans our young hero by dubbing him, “Snotty,” and then beats him black and blue (and nearly to death). Later on they have a duel with pistols. Simmons is the consummate bully-villain. The descriptors, “vicious, cruel, and cowardly,” barely sketch this vile, despicable man who is determined to “break” Horatio.

Horatio, of course, is the consummate gentleman and hero even at his tender years. He does not cower before his tormentor, rather, he conducts himself with honor and quiet dignity even in the worst circumstances. If Simmons had had any shred of decency or humanity, he would have been impressed with Horatio’s stalwart character, and would have sought him as a respected friend. Instead, the more Horatio’s true character is revealed through his noble response to adversity, the more angry and vicious Simmons becomes.

In the second movie, The Fire Ships, Horatio faces starvation and then bravely boards a burning ship that is on a collision course with The Indefatigable and steers it safely away, and then, risking his own life, saves an arrogant, self-serving Admiral from burning to death on the ship.

In the third movie, The Devil and the Duchess, Horatio and his men are prisoners of war in Spain. One night, during a violent storm, a Spanish ship crashes onto a reef near the prison. Horatio and his men, after giving their word to their warden that they would not attempt to escape, rescue the ship’s crew. Horatio is true to his word and voluntarily returns to the prison. Horatio’s men, out of deep respect for Horatio’s integrity, feel it an honor to return to prison with him.

While watching these movies, my empathy for Horatio (as well as my protective-mother instincts) caused me to cringe in fear on his behalf (he, however, did not cringe), and to feel outrage and a desire for vengeance (which he did not succumb to), and, as he suffered, to feel pity for him (he, however, refused to give in to the character flaw of self-pity). So much for my “natural man” tendencies!

Through all his harrowing experiences, Horatio was not “trying” to be noble or heroic, it was the way he was. Nevertheless, his steadiness of character was indeed “tried in the furnace of affliction,” and he was shown to be indefatigable. He was tried and not found wanting. His strength of character and goodness won him the admiration of his fellow officers and crew members. They, in turn, became better individuals themselves because of his inspiring example.

In contrast to heroic Horatio, the “heroes” of too much of cinema and television today are often profoundly flawed characters—they are anti-heroes. Regrettably, these charmingly portrayed characters often lie a little, cheat a little, and take advantage of, or even dig a pit for their neighbors. Too many of them not only regularly give in to anger, pride, self-gratification, and self-aggrandizement, accepting these behaviors as normal, but they also revel in them. They take pleasure in their own shoddy behavior. Their less than sterling behavior is often depicted to viewers as justifiable or humorous. Anything for a laugh. Viewers are encouraged to identify with these tarnished anti-heroes. Sadly, some viewers not only cheer them on—but also mimic their behavior in their own lives, as if they fully expected applause or commendation for doing so.

What happens to us as viewers when we take in a steady diet of tarnished anti-heroes? If we never or rarely ever see examples of truly heroic, honorable, Horatio-like behavior either on TV, in movies, or in real life, how will we be motivated to act heroically in our own lives? Who will teach us how to be truly heroic? Ideally, our family members and friends model heroic behavior. Ideally, we read books that instruct and inspire us. But, if not . . . . Well, I think you get the picture.