All Now Mysterious...

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Too Tired to Think of a Clever Title

I'm not sure what's so compelling about 4:45 in the morning, but Sophia seems to think it's the ideal time to wake up. She's done it three different times in the past week.

I got her a drink, changed her, and got her back in bed. Then I lay down next to her to keep her cozy until she fell back asleep. It took about an hour and a half.

In that time, Sam woke up. I got him a drink and changed him, and put him back in bed. It's even money whether he'll actually go back to sleep.

Daddy's tired.

Monday, July 27, 2015

My Desert Island Albums (and Entrance Song)

Q: What are your five “desert island” albums, and what is your entrance song?

These questions were asked to a friend of mine as a ‘getting to know you’ exercise with a new job.  I’ve been thinking about them as well, and here are my answers.

1.  The Music of Cosmos by various artists
If I could access all the memory files in my brain, I believe that I would discover that A ) I’ve listened to this album more than any other, and B ) there’s not even a close candidate for second.  I love this album.  This amazing compilation of music accompanying Carl Sagan’s landmark television series Cosmos includes a wide variety of genres, styles, and moods.  This album introduced me to the music of Vangelis, Alan Hovhaness, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Isao Tomita, and others.  Of the literally hundreds of albums I own, this was the first to come to my mind when I read the question.

2.  Somewhere to Elsewhere by Kansas
Their final album of original material, this is a fitting capstone to a long and exemplary (though sometimes uneven) career.  The songs, which deal with topics as diverse as war, revelation, death and the afterlife, and the struggles of day-to-day life in the modern world, are performed with power, passion, and technical brilliance.  If there is such a thing as progressive Christian rock, this is it.

3.  Wicked Twisted Road by Reckless Kelly
I’ll be honest, there’s a lot of country music that I don’t care for—including most of what I hear on the radio.  It tends to be bland, formulaic, mass-produced twangpop that all sounds the same to me.  It has no heart and no guts.  That’s why I like bands like Reckless Kelly.  I think this album is their best.  The album is filled with relatable, expertly-crafted songs performed by a band that clearly loves performing.  The songs are straightforward and pack an emotional punch sadly lacking in much of contemporary country.

4.  Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits
This is one of the first albums (on cassette tape, actually) that I ever bought, way back in high school.  It has stood the test of time.  I love the eclectic mix of jazz, blues, and rock that Dire Straits does so well.  The wide variety of moods, from joyful and exuberant to mournful and contemplative, is complemented perfectly my Mark Knopfler’s inspired guitar work and vocals.  On the whole this is Knopfler’s best work, with the guitar outro on the closing title track being particularly poignant.

5.  Messiah by G. F. Handel, with Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Some people consider this the definitive recording of Handel’s signature oratorio, and not without reason.  The performances are inspired, and inspiring.  I know the work was originally intended for a much smaller orchestra and choir, but hearing the power of these performances, I can’t help but think Handel would have approved.

So that’s my group of five “desert islands” albums.  As for my entrance song, there are a number of possible options.  But I’m going to go with “Earthshine” by Rush.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Who Am I? (Hint: Not 24601.)

It's a simple question: Who are you?* The challenge is to answer in ten simple, declarative sentences beginning with "I am....."

Challenge accepted.


1. I am a Latter-day Saint.

2. I am a father.

3. I am a husband.

4. I am a seeker of knowledge.

5. I am a teacher.

6. I am a scientist.

7. I am a music lover.

8. I am a superhero aficionado.

9. I am a reader.

10. I am a friend.


So, who are you?

--
*We're not going to address the question, "What do you want?" In fact, never ask that question.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Those Wacky Lawyers

Latter-day Saints are taught that the Book of Mormon is an inspired translation of an ancient record, an inspired compilation of, for the most part, about a thousand years’ worth of sacred and historical documents.  Furthermore, we are taught that Mormon, the prophet-historian who compiled the ancient records into a single book that would later bear his name, chose the contents by inspiration from Heaven.  He selected those things that would be of the greatest worth not to his own generation, but those living in the generations preceding the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

The more I read the Book of Mormon, the more I know this to be true.

I found an interesting incident in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Alma.  We get a glimpse into the Nephites’ legal system under the reign of the judges:

“Now it was in the law of Mosiah that every man who was a judge of the law, or those who were appointed to be judges, should receive wages according to the time which they labored to judge those who were brought before them to be judged….And the judge received for his wages according to his time”. (Alma 11:1, 3)

Seems like a fair system to me.  If you spend more time at work, especially working in a profession that’s in the public interest, it only makes sense you would be paid more for your time.

So after briefly explaining the Nephites’ monetary system, Mormon includes these words in verse 20:

“Now, it was for the sole purpose to get gain, because they received their wages according to their employ, therefore, they did stir up the people to riotings, and all manner of disturbances and wickedness, that they might have more employ, that they might get money according to the suits which were brought before them;”  (Alma 11:20)

In other words, the lawyers of the time actually encouraged contention, conflict, and civil unrest in their society.  Why?  Because it would create more lawsuits, and that would result in bigger paychecks.

One has to wonder why Mormon thought that little tidbit would be useful for our day….

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

A Party of Physicists

One day, a number of the world’s most famous physicists decided to get together for a party.  Fortunately, the doorman was a graduate student, and made some very interesting observations:

Everyone gravitated toward Newton, but he just kept moving around at constant velocity and showed no reaction.

Einstein thought it was a relatively good time.

Coulomb got a real charge out of the whole thing.

Cauchy, being the only mathematician there, still managed to integrate well with everyone.

Cavendish wasn’t actually invited, but had the balls to show up anyway.

Thomson enjoyed the plum pudding.

Pauli arrived late and was mostly excluded from things, so he split.

Pascal was under too much pressure to really enjoy himself.

Ohm spent most of the evening resisting Ampere’s opinions on current events.

Hamilton went to the buffet tables exactly once.

Volt thought the evening had a lot of potential.

Hilbert was pretty spaced out for most of it.

Heisenberg may or may not have been there.

The Curies were there and just glowed the whole time.

van der Waals forced himself to mingle.

Wein radiated a colorful personality.

Millikan dropped his oil and vinegar dressing.

de Broglie mostly just stood in the corner and waved.

Hollerith liked the hole idea.

Stefan and Boltzman got into a heated argument.

Everyone was attracted to Tesla’s magnetic personality.

Compton seemed a little scattered.

Bohr ate too much and got atomic ache.

Watt turned out to be a powerful speaker.

Hertz went back to the buffet table at regular intervals.

Faraday demonstrated an outstanding capacity for liquor.

Oppenheimer got bombed.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Not Really All My Fault

One of the graduation requirements at my alma mater is successful completion of a Diversity course--unless your field is Education, in which case it's two Diversity courses.
My Diversity in Education course was taught by an older, rather bitter Latina woman. Her lectures taught us in detail about the history of progress in American education, from schools for rich white males in New England to the one-room country schoolhouse to Plessy v. Ferguson to Brown v. Board of Education to IDEA. She made the information clear and easily accessible.
Her lectures, rather predictably, were also liberally seasoned with righteous indignation about the state of minorities in the nation, leftist political diatribes, and thinly-veiled race-baiting, all in the name of making sure we (primarily white) students knew just how good we had it.
The class ended not with a final exam, but with a final paper, in which we were to summarize in 10-15 pages all the key ideas, events, and developments we had learned about that semester. In essence, she wanted us to parrot back to her everything she'd said in the previous 15 weeks.
So that's what I did. I typed and turned in a twelve page paper explaining, in historical and educational terms, what was wrong with our society and why I, as a middle-class straight white Christian male, was responsible for most of it.
I got good grades on the paper and in the class, so I can only assume the professor agreed with my assessment. And that's the problem.
I recognize that we need to have a serious, heartfelt, and effectual conversation about race in America.
But if you're going to start that conversation by saying, "You're white, therefore you're the problem," as so many media outlets and Internet pundits have done in the past several days*, then count me out.
Not all white people are vile oppressors, and not all people of color are innocent, helpless victims. And if we start the conversation with these stereotypes, we're never going to accomplish anything.
So carry on with all the racially-charged assumptions, if you'd like--or if you can't come up with anything better to say. And once you've exhausted all that nonsense, then let's have a serious conversation.
--
*Until yesterday's Supreme Court decision changed the subject du jour from race to sexuality, that is. But never fear. I'm sure the racemongers will be back in force in a week or two.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Rebirthday

Thirty-three years ago today, I became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It was the most important, most influential decision I ever made.  It was also the best.

Membership in the Church has changed everything.  A knowledge of the restored Gospel of the Savior has transformed me.  It has made my life better.  It has made me better.

I still have a long, long way to go, but I am eternally grateful for the journey so far.  Thank you to all of those who have helped me along my voyage of discovery for the past thirty-three years.  Here's looking forward to another thirty-three--and beyond!