Friday, December 28, 2012

The Sad State Of Operating Systems

I have become somewhat despondent in regards to current operating systems.  I feel like everyone is messing it up so badly, that there is nothing worth having out there.

This had been brewing for a while, but here is what tipped me over the edge.

This Christmas, Santa brought my boys a couple of new laptops with Windows 8.  After spending numerous hours setting them up I finally have to agree with the pundits.  Windows 8 is a schizophrenic mess.  It is neither fish nor foul, and in not making its mind up, it is poor at both.

First, the not to be called "Metro" interface, which I can see would be beneficial on a tablet, stinks on a traditional notebook.  It just doesn't work well.  Things that I could easily do in one or two clicks before, I now have to think "is that on the desktop or in Metro?" go to the appropriate interface, and then work through the incoherent menus to get there.  I went into it thinking that it was just different, and would take time to get used to, but no, it is just really bad.  They have tried too hard to not be like Apple in core areas, and are now too much like Apple in the bad ones.

It reminds me a lot of Windows 3.1 where there was the Windows side, that had its issues, and the underlying DOS side, that didn't quite work like it used to.  It was a tough transition, but at least then it was a move that was necessary and there were tangible benefits.  I don't see any such benefits in this move.

Live tiles are neat and all, and when they get it all sorted out the Family Safety stuff is a miracle, but the bads just way outweigh the goods.

And that is the problem I am facing will all of the available operating systems right now.

The next obvious choice is OSX.  It is really pretty but drives me nuts.  Here is my number one gripe, let me choose the font size on the windows and operating system components!  Seriously, you are the ones pushing the whole "retina" thing, and even you have realized at full resolution your OS becomes an unusable mess, and have limited it to half resolution.  So what is the point of a retina display then?  Don't start me on trying to scroll on the side.  It is like playing wack-a-mole with a one pixel wide bar!

This problem first came to my attention setting up my Mac Mini as an entertainment center server on my HDTV.  At full resolution, which you want so your videos look their best, it is impossible to read the OS windows from the couch.  To do anything on the OS I have to sit on the ottoman 4 feet from the screen to be able to read anything, and I have better than 20/20 vision.  It is ridiculous.

Another issue I have is that it takes a doctorate in physics to add a network drive, but one errant click will delete it with no warning.

If you want to do anything but browse the web, or get email, you had better be prepared to delve into menus and technical stuff.  For the computer that "just works", it doesn't.  Couple that with the IOSification is is going through, and you are going to end up with something that is just too dumbed down to be what I want in an OS.

So what are the options?

Linux is interesting, and it has come a long way.  Better yet, it is free!  Unfortunately with free comes its own set of issues.  For instance, is the program you want to run compatible with your chosen build?  How often do you have to jump into the command line to get basic things done?  Not only are the builds available a bit on the quirky side, but major software isn't available for them.  Sure in many cases there are open source alternatives, but for a lot of things you need the real deal.

Where does this all leave me?  I really don't know.  I have always been a Windows guy.  I looked long and hard at OSX, and while it has its merits, it fails on too many key points for me.  Linux is still too much the realm of hackers, and I have quite frankly gotten too lazy to really want to mess with it on a daily basis.  I run a server with it, but I don't want to depend on it for personal computing.  So, sadly, I don't have a solution.

One thing I am clear on, and I seem to be at odds with the major OS and computer makers, mobile OS's and desktop OS's are very different beast with different needs, interfaces, and expectations.  I like IOS on a tablet.  It is great for consuming information.  Android is a very viable alternative.  Neither works on a desktop.

Mobile OS's are for consuming information, and light creation.  Think answering an email or text, perhaps a note written while on a bus.

Computers are for content creation.  That is why they are having such a hard time "Metro"ifying Office.  That is why when you are doing detailed or extensive creation, one migrates to a laptop or desktop PC.  Tablets are great for consumption.  That is why people read so much on tablets of all kinds.

The sooner those making the technology figure this out, the better off we all will be.

As I look back on my post from March, http://wonkonet.blogspot.com/2012/03/oss-and-going-forward.html, I am unfortunately realizing that things have gotten worse, not better.  That is not what technology is supposed to do.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Some of the Weirder Misconceptions About Mormons

OK, on this one we are going to have some fun!  Let the accusations begin!


Do Mormons have horns?

No, in fact we don't.  After many generations of converts and genetic selection, it is very rare for a Mormon to be born with horns.  Those that are, have them removed shortly after birth.

Seriously?  Ok, perhaps in the 1800's I could see people asking this, but anytime in the last 50 years is inexcusable.  No Mormons do not, nor have they ever had horns.  This was merely a contrivance of ministers who felt they were losing members to try and associate the LDS Church with Satan.  It was and is a flat out lie, and anyone who perpetuates it should be suspect as a source of any truth.



Do we have multiple wives? 

Are you kidding?  It is hard enough to keep one wife in line!

Now to the answer.  No.  Actually polygamy was done away with in 1890 via what is called the Manifesto, and is contained in our Doctrine and Covenants as Official Declaration 1.  A good discussion about both the practice and abolishment of polygamy can be found on the FairLDS.org website here.

There were a small number of people who were married into polygamist marriages after this date, but from what I have seen the vast majority of cases were additional wives being added to already existing polygamist relationships, and none after about 1910.  I actually have a Great Great Aunt who was one of these last ones.  While she died in 1977, there is still a lot of lore that surrounds it.

Today's reality is that no one in the LDS Church currently practices it, and if they are found to be doing so, they are excommunicated.

The "Mormon" groups that still practice polygamy are all apostate offshoots of the LDS Church, and have little to nothing to do with it.

I could get into the whole discussion of the whys and explanations of the practice, but that is for another article.  The real point is that even among those who did within the LDS faith, I doubt any are still alive that participated as it was changed so long ago.



I heard the reason Mormon churches have steeples is that Satan will fall out of the sky and fall on it.  Is that true?

No.  It isn't true.   Not even a little bit.

Beyond that I'm really not sure where to go with this one.  I am not one to belittle these comments generally, as I wish to dispel them kindly, but this is pretty out there.  I had this one asked to me many years ago, and I was just astonished at it.  So, rather that mocking, I will link to an article I found that discusses LDS architecture, and in particular steeples, in some detail.

https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/pdf/089-39-48.pdf

This isn't a periodical I would normally link to, but this particular article seems sound, and worth the read.


Do Mormons dance?

Other than the fact I embarrass my wife so much she has forbidden me to dance, yes Mormons dance.  Quite frankly they do it a lot.

Girls almost all take some kind of dance class, and there are all kinds of dances set up as social activities for Mormon youth.  Growing up there was usually at least one dance at a LDS church in the area at on a monthly basis.

If you don't believe me, look at all the reality shows on TV these days.  On those dancing reality shows it is almost unusual to NOT have a Mormon in the group.

I believe this actually started more recently as Footloose was filmed in Utah, and implied the stodginess of Mormons in so doing.  It was bunk.

So yes.  We dance.  No always well, but we dance.



So many myths, so little time.  I'll stop here for the moment.  I'm betting there will be some followups though.



Monday, October 29, 2012

Grace and Works

In many conversations I have had about LDS beliefs, one of the most commonly believed and unchangeable accusations I have encountered is that Mormons "work" their way to heaven.

Let me put this as succinctly as I can.

It is only by the grace of God that we are able to return to Him, and not by anything we do.  Period.  End of statement.  Full stop.

Mormons do not do good works to earn their way to heaven.  There is no heavenly scoreboard keeping track of who has the highest score, and admitting those that have enough points.  To even suggest this is to completely misrepresent LDS beliefs.

Now, let's step back and see what the kernel of truth is that is used as the basis for this fabrication.

To clarify this let me quote a scripture from the Book of Mormon:

23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
-- 2 Nephi 25:23
 "After all we can do"  does not mean that we can work our way to heaven.

I understand this to mean that Heavenly Father wants us to do everything in our ability to do the right things, and make our sins right.  Obviously we will fall short of perfection.  No one can attain that other than Christ.  But He expects us to put forth our best efforts.  In so doing, he makes up the difference through the atonement.  It doesn't matter if it is an inch or a mile, when we put forth our best effort it shows the faith necessary for the atonement to be applied.

Is this working your way to heaven?  No.  If it were, then we wouldn't need the atonement.  We would just do lots of good things, and there you go.  Done.

That isn't what we believe though.  We believe that no matter how hard you work, you will never get yourself to where you need to be.  It cannot be done.  It is a defining feature of this existence.  Thus the atonement of Christ is the only thing that can bridge that gap between us and God.

So when someone tells you "Mormons work their way to heaven", you can now confidently tell them that they are misinformed, and correct them.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I Claim The Right to Define My Own Beliefs, Thank You Very Much!

This is the first in what will probably become a collection of articles that debunk some of the fallacies out there that are being perpetuated about LDS (Mormon) beliefs.

Let me explain:  Since the beginning of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (as it should properly be called) there has been a tension with other Christian sects.  In their zeal to castigate, isolate and drive the "Mormons" from their midst, salacious tales of fabricated acts and beliefs were commonly spread.  Some, were true.  Most were either taken so out of context as to be unrecognizable to those who believe, and many, many were outright lies.

Strangely, no matter how fervently members of the LDS faith denied these falsehoods, they were branded liars and charlatans and told how they really believe.

Think about that, told how and what they believe.   No matter how it is misrepresented, I know what I believe, and only I should have the right to define that.  You have every right to disagree with me, but you cannot define what I believe. 

Often obscure and isolated passages from talks by church leaders are used as justification for their pronouncements of falsehood.  This is often at best a misunderstanding, at worst a misrepresentation of how revelation and doctrine are promulgated in the LDS faith.  When these are debunked, often the response is to call those responding liars and to say they are misrepresenting what they believe, while quite the opposite is true.

To have a much better understanding of how any item becomes "official doctrine", I highly recommend you go to this article:

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/04/the-doctrine-of-christ?lang=eng

In it Elder D. Todd Christopherson, an Apostle or member of the Quarum of the 12 Apostles, the second highest body in our church leadership, describes how doctrine is established.  There is a specific process, and when something is outside that process, it is not official doctrine.  As he states it, it is one's "well considered opinion".  The actual "doctrine" of the LDS church is very finite, and is very easily accessible on LDS.org.

In fact, one of the best summaries of LDS beliefs is contained in a manual for the Gospel Principles class taught every Sunday at almost every LDS meeting house.  You can find it here:

http://www.lds.org/manual/gospel-principles?lang=eng

Without that foundation, nothing else that is done in the LDS faith will make any sense, and in some cases can be quite foreign.

One other point that I think is worth noting.  Often LDS doctrine is left somewhat vague intentionally.  For instance, let's look at tithing.  Do you pay on the gross or net of your wages.  A strong argument can be made either way.  There are members who have a very strong belief that you should pay on the gross, and would never even consider otherwise.  "Do you want gross blessings, or net blessings" is their statement.  Others say as the commandment is to pay on your increase, and taxes are not part of your increase, to pay on the net is not only acceptable, but well in keeping with even the spirit of the law.

Both are right.  This is left to the individual to work out between themselves and God, and should not be interpreted by leadership in any further detail.

Another example would be drinking Coke.  Our Word of Wisdom forbids drinking coffee or tea.  Some people interpret this to mean that caffeine is bad, and thus include Coke in that category.  It is not expressly included though, and because some members have taken this interpretation too far, leaders have actually had to clarify this both privately and more rarely publicly.  Now, that doesn't mean that as an individual member you cannot continue to live by that belief, but it does mean that it is inappropriate to judge others either informally or more formally based upon that belief. 

Is it good to avoid caffeine?  Probably yes.  But it is not doctrine, despite the number of people who live by that standard.

As an aside, I drank Coke, and more specifically Dr. Pepper by the gallon for years.  I just decided it wasn't healthy and gave up all soda wholesale.  My choice, and one I don't impose on others.  I pretty much drink water and the occasional glass of milk.  Oh, and I do get a cranberry slush from Sonic with some regularity, but who wouldn't?

So with all that said, what I think I will be doing is taking some of the traditional complaints and misconceptions about Mormons, and give my take on it.  I cannot speak for the church as a whole, but as a 6th generation member, I have a pretty good idea what is going on and can speak for myself reasonably well.  I will try and distinguish between what I believe is "doctrine" and what is my "opinion", but I will attack them to the best of my ability.

Friday, October 19, 2012

My Take on the Abortion Issue

Never let it be said I'm not willing to have an opinion on a controversial topic.

My opinions have run the gamut on abortion from keep government all the way out, to no abortions at all.  Sometimes the swings were pretty violent as new ideas or concepts were presented to me.

One that caught me by surprise was watching a show where Kathy Ireland for whatever reason was giving an opinion on abortion.  Her argument was very compelling, and made me begin to rethink some more liberal (or frankly, more libertarian) thought processes.  Her argument was pretty simple.  When you look at the genetics of the embryo are they generic? Are they chimpanzee?  Are they dolphin?  No.  In fact it is human DNA.  Not just human DNA, but DNA that is novel from both the father and mother.  In other words, while this life was still dependent on the mother to survive, it was still an independent human life.

Who would have thought Kathy Ireland would be the one to put that forward?

This really got me thinking and in the end I ended up someplace I think is somewhat different than most, but is relatively easy to explain.

I am pro-choice.

Not in the liberal sense of the phrase, rather, I believe we all have agency to make choices.  I believe that we have that right so long as it doesn't harm another, and that is where our choices solidify into consequences.

What?

Let me put it this way:

The main purpose of sex is not fun.  It is procreation.  I don't care if you are religious or a strict Darwinist, the purpose of sex is to make babies.  The fun, bonding and emotional gratification are all secondary to that point.  We all know this.  We also know that even the best birth control is not 100% effective.  So, there is a calculated risk we all take into consideration at some level when engaging in sex.  You have, by definition, made a choice.

Occasionally that choice brings unwanted consequences such as a pregnancy.  To suggest this is a surprise is to insult the intelligence of most people.  Most people know this is a real possibility, and they choose to take that chance.  They may be unhappy, but they cannot be truly surprised.

So now your choice has created a situation. The woman now has a wholly separate human life within her that is dependent on her for development and sustenance that was created by the choice of both partners.  In my opinion, generally, the decision was made at the time of intercourse, and you were willing to live with the consequence.  To abort this person at this point is to try and undo a choice made at the expense of another life.  Therefore one cannot morally abort the child under normal circumstances. 

There are exceptions to this though.  Rape, incest, or the health of the mother each bring in outside influences that are not of the mother's choice.  In the case of rape or incest, this was not the mother's choice.  She must be allowed that option, even at the expense of the life within her.  This is the time where the mother should have the option to make her choice.  She should not have to live with the concequences of someone forcing their choice on her.

Likewise when the mother's health is severely at risk, it does not necessarily make sense to have the mother sacrifice herself for the infant within her.  This one is more tricky, and certainly should not be used as a "loop hole" as it has at time in the past.  But to lose the mother risks losing the child as well, better to save the one and see if a different choice is needed going forward.

In each case above, the parents and specifically the woman have had an opportunity to make a choice that determined the outcome.  Once that choice is made, there really is no going back.

Anyway, it peeves me that the left has co-opted the "pro-choice" title, because it really is the "pro-change-your-mind-after-the-fact-at-anothers-expense" platform.  In the end it really comes down to us each just needing to be willing to accept the consequences of our actions, and morally work through them to the best of our ability.

Hopefully that makes some kind of sense to you.  It does to me.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

In Defense of Apple's New Mapping App

Apparently the blogosphere is on a witch hunt about IOS6's new Maps app.  It looks like there are a lot of issues that people are having and some changes in functionality.

First, my impression so far is that it is actually MORE accurate than Google Maps.  When I type in my home address, the pin ends up somewhere down the street.  On my iPhone 5 it was dead on with the pin in the middle of my roof on the satellite view.  Sorry, but I see that as an improvement.

Same with my work.  Rather than being half a block away and in the middle of the street (before I corrected it on the business listing), the new Maps app was spot on.

In fact, the only issue I have has so far was not directly Maps fault.  Yelp had the local plumbing supply store listed as 300 East when in fact it is 300 West.  I submitted an error report, but just to confirm it, I looked on Yelp, and there it is in all its glory, on the wrong side of town.

Most of the errors I have seen have been perfectly understandable, and while they do need to be corrected, to get all huffy about them is a bit childish.

I propose the reason for all the hubub is not that the Maps App is SOOOO bad, but rather we have become SOOOO bad at navigating because we don't have to pay attention to where we are going anymore.  Type it in and drive.  Trust the machine.

Actually I was in California a few weeks ago using Google Maps, and not only did I keep going to places that were no longer there, but even things as simple as Disneyland were needlessly complicated and off.  So don't tell me Google is all perfect and everything.

I'm sorry, but learn to navigate people.  Have a general idea of where you are going so that when you are led astray, you can tell before you park you car in a lake.  Be smarter than the machine!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Apple is a Hardware Company - and That Sometimes Surprises People

Let me start this by saying I am not an Apple hater.  Just to give my Apple cred, I have a Mac Mini, an iphone 4s and 5 and an original iPad.

I still run a Windows desktop though.

Let me explain...

My feelings towards Apple have morphed and changed over the years, along with technologies and the fortunes of those that compete with them.  I think both sides of the PC/Apple argument miss the point most of the time.   Apple touts how secure its systems are vs Windows, to which I say "of course".  If you are a hacker, are you going to spend your time working on the systems that cover 80-90% of the market, or one that covers 10-15%.  The choice is obvious.  It isn't that OSX is inherently any more secure, it just has fewer guns pointed at it at any given time.

This can be seen by the fact that now they are starting to make some market headway, trojans and viruses are starting to pop up at what Mac users would consider an alarming rate.  More market share equals more scrutiny.  Get used to it.

Most of the other arguments are similarly pointless.  There are some differences that count though.

First off Apple is, at its core, a hardware company.  The operating systems support the hardware.  This is very evident in some of their choices.  For instance, scalable fonts on the desktop.

I have used Windows, OSX, Ubuntu, CentOS, and several other operating systems.  Every system but OSX allows you to change the size of the fonts on the desktop relatively easily, and it handles it well resizing elements to compensate.  The only way to resize the fonts on the desktop of OSX is to use a hack, and it is kludgy, ugly and basically unusable.  As the fonts enlarge the header bars don't, and pretty soon it just becomes an unreadable mess.

The practical upshot of this is as you go to these beautiful retina displays that Apple is putting out, it is impossible to use them at native resolutions and you have to reduce the resolution of the OS anyway.  I use my Mac Mini as a media server, and even at 1080p on my 56" big screen TV, I have to sit 4 feet away from the screen to be able to read the fonts when I am in the OS.  Seriously?  In Windows I would blow up the text enough to be readable and keep the icons at the same size, and voilla!  All is swell.

At some point in the development of OSX is was decided that the font size would be a fixed number of pixels.  In my opinion this was just to simplify programming and get the product out.  Make it big enough that it is readable on what was then the highest resolution screens and leave it at that.  If they have a higher resolution screen that must mean they have a bigger screen, and thus it won't matter.

Except it does.  Every monitor has its own resolution.  Now with the "retina" displays coming out, if you dare to run OSX at the native resolution (as I understand it actually takes a hack to do it) the text gets so small that you can't do anything.

The OS was designed for their hardware, and if it didn't work with other stuff, tough.  But now that they have changed their direction on hardware and gone to these ridiculously high resolutions, the old way isn't cutting it.  Now everyone is going to have to wait for the OS to catch up to the hardware.

And that is the difference.

Windows and Linux variants need to anticipate a variety of environments, because they can be used on a virtually infinite number of configurations.  OSX is designed to only run on a limited number of configurations, even if you could theoretically use it in others.  Thus, they don't need to make the OS as flexible and can lock things down that shouldn't necessarily be locked down such as font proportions and size.

This is why they will ship out the iPhone 4s with a beta Siri, or the iPhone 5 with a flawed and barely beta maps program.  The hardware and design rule, the software follows.

Is this bad?

It depends.

Because Apple has such control over the whole ecosystem, their hardware is spectacular.  Seriously, run an iPhone 5 through your fingers.  It is an unbelievable accomplishment.  In every way it is a design icon that will stand the test of time.  It is all you can do not lick it.  It pushes all the right buttons.  But for all the detail in the hardware, things were left hanging on the OS side.

Apple is a hardware company first, with the OS and software following the lead of the hardware.

That is why there are so many people who run Windows on Macs.  You get the best hardware, and a great OS.  You pay through the nose to do it, but you get the best of everything.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Where Are My Moon Men?

I sit here watching shows commemorating the moon flights after the death of Neil Armstrong.  What happened to us?  The budgetary considerations were minor.  NASA's budget is a drop in the overall bucket.  What really saddens me is the loss of public will.  How can you become bored of men walking on the moon?!?

In watching the landing of Curiosity, I began to feel some of the excitement of space building. The death of the first man on the moon, sad as that is, will hopefully make those in power realize we have taken too long to get back on the horse.

We are a species that needs to explore.  We need to expand.  We need to do new things.  Sometimes there is risk.  Sometimes there is cost.  Sometimes we need to do the uncomfortable.

Let's get back into space!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

A Response on the Atonement

This article is in further response to comments on my last post, and it got long enough I didn't feel it was appropriate for the comments section on the original site.  You can see the thread here:

http://morganguyton.wordpress.com/2012/09/04/are-mormons-christian


I'll answer my beliefs as best I can.  I do so with a couple of caveats.  First, I am not a spokesman for the LDS faith.  I am just a member, and not even in a leadership position (well I'm a Ward Clerk, but that mainly means I am mainly a glorified gopher).  Second, I am not a theologian.  I read and study, probably more than a lot of people, but I don't have any formal training outside of church.  I am constantly learning new things, incorporating new ideas, and having new insights.  In short, I don't know it all, and can only speak for myself.

Additionally I find that often terms that are in common LDS use are misunderstood by those who are not LDS, and we sometimes misunderstand what is being said by those of other faiths. I will try and omit "jargon" or at least clarify it when I feel it is necessary.

With that out of the way, I think the best way to answer the question is to address how I see the atonement, and how it applies in my life.

I have struggled to really understand the atonement, and my appreciation of it has deepened over the years as I have begun to understand its deeper meanings.  At its root I believe the atonement is the bridge between mercy and justice.

God is just.  He gives us laws for our own good, to keep us safe, and guide us to be better than we are.  It is these sins that make us unclean and unable to return to the presence of God.  As we all sin there needed to be a way to cleanse ourselves.  Thus the atonement.

Second, and perhaps more important, is the ability to wash ourselves clean of sin.  There really are two parts to this.  There is the cleansing of sin.  If we have transgressed the law, the law must be satisfied.  This is the justice part of the equation.  By Christ descending below them all, yet being guiltless himself, he took all our sins upon himself in an infinite sacrifice.  In this the law can be satisfied (justice), but we can be saved from our sins (mercy).

This is not automatic though.  We must take Christ's name upon ourselves.  We must consistently repent of our sins and ask for his forgiveness.  As we do this He grants that His sacrifice applies and we are washed clean.  This is not a one time thing. There is no moment you are "saved", it is a process.  It is a day-in day-out effort to stay close to Him.  As we do this we are refined, and our thoughts and actions become closer and closer to His will.  Were we able in this life (and we are not) to live perfectly, we would have the ability to understand his mind fully.  As it stands though, we can see and understand more and more as we study, pray and repent.

This is some of the confusion that I think is often brought up about Mormons becoming gods and planets and all that.  The real story is really just a continuation of the above after this life.  As we continue to grow closer in thought and action to Christ and God, we eventually "become one with them".  In our theology, this is one in mind and purpose, able to act in his name.  Again, we do not become God, or replace or even equal Him.  Rather we become like Him knowing His will, with our minds in concert with His, and having the ability to act for Him.

Please understand I have really distilled this down.  No matter how I state it, it feels inadequate to communicate the fullness of the concept.  Frankly, I don't believe that I fully comprehend it.

A few things that I noted I'll address directly:
  • "God sees Jesus instead of us when He looks at us."  No, He sees us as we are.
  • "God is allergic to sin."  Wouldn't that make him imperfect?  No, we would not want to be in His presence in a sinful state.
  • "Since God is infinite, He is infinitely offended by the slightest of our sins" No.  I have some tangential thoughts on your article, but I think you dealt with it well.
  •  "God poured out His wrath on Jesus on the cross."  I have to say, this one baffles me on every level.  From a Trinitarian standpoint isn't that essentially flogging Himself? No, the pain was not caused by God, though he allowed it.  Again, this is a much bigger topic than this article.
 By and large I didn't see anything in either of your articles that I vehemently disagreed with.


Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Kudos Where They Are Due

I am going to take another break from my ranting in this post.  When someone gets things substantively correct in their description of the theology as presented by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, they deserve a pat on the back.  This is just such a moment.

http://morganguyton.wordpress.com/2012/09/04/are-mormons-christian/

Morgan Guyton has proved able to flush the stereotypes and fallacies that are rampant for something that is as accurate as anything I have seen by the most well read theologian or (certainly) by most of the anti-Mormons out there, including those that are former members.

His conclusion is that he cannot accept it for himself, and I can fully respect that.  When one neither whitewashes nor warps what is there, that decision must be respected.

That said, there are a couple of points that I think need a little clarification.  I hope they are given and received in the same mutual understanding of his original article.

The first thing that jumped out at me, mostly due to the repeat emphasis, was the nature of the Holy Ghost in LDS theology.  God, Christ and The Holy Ghost make up what we term "The Godhead".  Our church structure mirrors this at almost every significant level.  The Prophet has two councelors, a Stake President (over 6-12 Wards) had two councelors, and a Bishop (over one Ward or congregation) has two councelors. The councelors act in behalf of and for their presiding leader.  The only real difference between the two is that if the presiding leader is not present the First Councelor will step in to lead, and if the first is also missing, it falls to the Second Councellor.  Their authority is delegate or derived by their presiding authority, and they represent and act for him where and when necessary.  In other words, they are one in purpose, but three very separate beings.

I can understand the perceived deminishment of the Holy Ghost, but when one looks more deeply into our theology it will become clear his role is not lessened, and is certainly strong.  In fact the only way to make it into the Outer Darkness you wrote of is to deny the Holy Ghost.  You must have a sure knowledge of it and then deny it, but that is the only way.  You can know and deny Christ, and that can be forgiven, a la Peter, but to deny the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven (Matthew 12:31-32).

I don't see his role as deminished, though perhaps different than what Trinitarians accept.  Don't let a lack of discussion as to who He (the Holy Ghost) is be read as deminishment, rather his roll is more important than an understanding of who he is as a being.

Perhaps the most representative scripture from the LDS perspective of the Godhead would be Matthew 3:16-17

16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 
17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 

All three are present.  Jesus in the water, the Holy Ghost descending as a dove, and the voice of God from the heavens.  All were present at this important juncture.

This next point I only bring up for clarification.  There is no official theology on how our spirits, or that of Christ's were created.  The term "literal children" is used in LDS writing, and those not familiar with our theology have tended to connote that this was accomplished via sexual means.  In fact we don't know, though traditional sexual means are probably not the method.  What we do know is that Christ was the first created in spirit, and thus he is our "older brother".

Saying this, I wish to further comment you on your correctly stating Christ was born to the Virgin Mary. Again, there is no official theology on the how, but we do emphatically believe Mary was a still a virgin at the time of Christ's birth.

Your concert analogy is a very good approximation of the relationship between the kingdoms of heaven.  I could quibble with minor aspects of it, but it clarifies so much for one not of the faith I will leave it as is.

I suppose there are other minor things I could quibble with, and it would be just that, quibbling.  In general you have done an excellent job of summarization and presentation of what is to many very opaque and fundamentally different.  You are to be commended for your article, and as a member of the LDS faith, I thank you for taking the time and effort this obviously took to get accurate.  If the media would do half that, many of the slights and misinformation would vanish from the collective consciousness rather than being needlessly perpetuated.

In summary, thank you.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I Like Being Mormon

I was reading through some of my posts, and while there is nothing I really disagree with, I do think my "screaming into my virtual pillow" aspect of my posts do tend to show one side of me.

Actually in most ways the stuff I post here is a very small percent of who and what I am.  If something didn't catch me as unique enough, it probably wouldn't have been posted.  Thus the long time between posts.

So one thing I want to make clear:

I love being Mormon!

I can complain about the 10% raise I would get.
I can gripe about the fact I am up at 5:30 am on Sunday to be to Bishopric meetings.
I can roll my eyes at some of the ridiculous things about or from within the church.
I could even complain about some of the "limitations" that living the LDS lifestyle can seem to create.

But.

And that is the important word here.  But.

In reality, all of those things become very small compared to the things I get out of it.

Even though I am in some of the more turbulent times of my life, I have a place to go where there is peace.  It draws my family close, and allows us to spend time together.  There is great joy in that.

I don't feel limited.  Sure there are things I would like to do and choose not to because of my faith.  That said, in most cases, it is a very good thing I DON'T do those things.  Particularly when I look at the consequences that others face because of those choices.

I guess in reality, I can still do them.  No one is stopping me.  If I want to drive race cars on Sunday, I would be driving race cars on Sunday.  By choosing not to though, I help keep my priorities in order, and it helps me stay happy.

Just to be clear, I don't fault those who do race on Sunday, but it is a choice I make.  Likewise things like not drinking or smoking.  I love the smell of a good pipe tobacco, but it just isn't worth it to me. 

Other things are more important, and I guess that is what the practical day to day of being a Mormon is.  It is keeping your priorities in order.  When you have done that, you will find real lasting joy in the things you do.

So.  In short.  I am actually quite happy, and very glad to be where and who I am.

That doesn't mean I don't need to scream into my pillow from time to time.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Inapproprate Job Actions #1: Quitting by Email

OK, this is a plague among us.  I don't care if it makes me sound old, but the current generation of 20somethings are very much concerning me.

Here is the deal.  When an employer hires you, they invest time, money and energy in getting things ready for you to begin your employment with them.  To email them the day that you are meant to start your employment and turn down the job is inappropriate, disrespectful and wrong.

First, when you accept a job unless you have prepared the potential employer that you will be continuing your search for work so they can make an informed decision, you now have a job.  Stop looking.  You have committed and should honor that commitment.  It is dishonest to accept employment and then bail.

Second, under no circumstances is emailing your "resignation" the day you should be starting appropriate in any circumstance.  On those rare occasions where another opportunity is of significantly higher value that you have determined it is worth breaking your commitment (as the man said to the woman, we have determined what you are, now we are just negotiating) you should give as much advance notice as possible.  If that is not possible, then you owe it to those who were willing to give you an opportunity to explain yourself in person.

I have historically thought as an employer, better to lose them now than two weeks or months into it.  I still think that.  But the level of disrespect and lack of honor is becoming rampant.  Have some pride in who you are, and be willing to stand up to your problems.  If you are going to make an unpleasant decision, fine, but have the guts to own it and mitigate its effects on others to the amount you are able.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Key to Know When to be Wary of Articles About Romney

I have been trying to find a trend of something simple that should lend to or detract from the legitimacy of its representations of Romney and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the LDS Church, commonly referred to as Mormons).

I think I found one.

One of the things that seems to really stand out is that Mitt Romney was a Bishop in a Ward in Massachusetts.

This is true.

There are some articles that go further and explain that he was also a Stake President.

This is also true.

What doesn't always come across is that a Stake President is ecclesiastically, organizationally, and functionally superior to a Bishop.  In fact a Stake is made up of from 6-12 Wards, each of which are lead by a Bishop.  Those Bishops report directly to the Stake President.  The Stake President, in turn, reports to an Area Authority, usually from one of the Quarum's of the Seventy.  They are considered "General Authorities" and often will be seen sitting on the stand with the Quarum of the Twelve (to whom they report), and the First Presidency (who sit at the top of the structure) at General Conferences.

I give all this for context. Why does this matter?

When hack pieces are being written, in most cases a minimum of research is done, and the most inflammatory term is used.

The term Bishop is seen as being much higher up the food chain as in most other religious organizations they are in the LDS Church.  Bishops would be considered "General Authorities" with several layers between themselves and the standard parishioner. In the LDS Church it is not unusual for a single congregation with 100 adult males, to have a half dozen former Bishops, and perhaps several dozen who served as counselors or clerks at any given time in various or multiple Bishoprics.  Currently there are 28,784 wards according to Mormon.org, and each of them have a Bishop.

In short, being a bishop is extremely hard, but it isn't something rare by any means.  Quite the contrary.  As they cycle about every five years, you can rack up a lot of ex-Bishops in not that long a time.

Likewise, the term "Stake President" sounds like the leader of some mens club where they eat meat.  There is no context, and so it isn't as scary.  But a Stake President is over 6-12 times as many people.  Not only that, but he is usually called for about 10 years or so.  So you may have one or two former Stake Clerks or Counselors in your ward, but there is a good chance you don't have a former Stake President.  They are just that rare.  As a comparison with the 28,784 wards quoted earlier, according to LDSChurchTemples.com, there are currently 2,976 Stakes.  Again, each with a Stake President.  This is literally an order of magnitude fewer men serving in that calling than Bishops.

So, an article that is trying to express the facts will credit Romney with having been a Stake President, even though it takes a lot of work to give context and understanding.  The ones that are cutting corners just use the "Bishop" word because they know it resonates, and they don't have to work as hard, despite it actually being a pretty common thing in the LDS Church.  Essentially for every Stake President that is called, there will statistically be almost 20 Bishops called.

My conclusion is that a good article mentioning his church service will mention his having been a Stake President.  A great article will take the time to explain the significance of that.  One that leaves it at him being a Bishop should immediately be suspect, and will have other shortcuts and errors that will skew the article in whatever direction that the author desires.

Yes, it took a little explaining, but it is a pretty quick way to sift out the wheat from the chaff, as it were.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Just Got My Raspberry Pi

I have become one of the chosen.  My Raspberry Pi just arrived.  For those that don't know the RPi is a revolutionary little computer.  Not only is it about the size of a pack of cards, but the whole thing only cost about $45 with shipping.

It was funny.  After getting everything together and plugged in, my one son started counting things up, and realized that the cables plugged into it probably cost as much or more than the whole computer.  In fact, by the time you add in an SD card, power supply, HDMI cable, ethernet cable, a USB keyboard and mouse, and probably a case of some kind, you could be into it over $100.  That said, in most cases I think people will have the necessary stuff kicking around.

I am using the charger from my old Palm Pre.  It has the micro-usb cable I need to power the thing up, and it is rated for a good 1 amp.  This is important.  It looks online like a lot of the problems are due to lower wattage and cheap power supplies.

Otherwise, the rest of the stuff was kicking around.  I'm guessing most of the people to whom this appeals would be in a similar situation.

My biggest issue was formatting the SD card.  I couldn't get any of the suggested programs to actually see my cards.  And I tried several.  It was driving me nuts!  Windows Disk Manager (the suggested program) never worked, Disk Image errored, Fedora Arm Installer never saw the card, and neither did a few other options.  Finally I found HDD Raw Copy and it worked.  I kept getting an error on close, but it finally did the job.  Interestingly I later decided to go with RaspBMC and it worked like a champ with no errors.

I have been running a Plex server on an old 2006 Mac Mini, and I am looking at using the RPi as a client for my upstairs TV.   After messing with RaspBMC, I am realizing I may really want to move over to XBMC as my media server.

I am going to have some late nights over the next few days!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Are Mormons Sexist?

I'm really upset right now.  I just read an article on addictinginfo.org that sent me up a wall.  Note I didn't link to the article.  It is so far off base and wrong, that I don't want them getting the click-through.  If you must, the article is titled "Sexism: Are Mormons The American Taliban?"  I hope you can see some of my concern just from the title.

The basis of the article is a profane video tirade (even addictinginfo notes it is profane) that once again takes truths, mixes in half-truths and lies liberally, and spits out a vitriolic article.  Let's address a few of the main arguments.
Mormons, like most religions, believe that the woman in a relationship bears the guilt for any sexual wrongdoing. Girls are told that if they “let” a man touch them, he will not respect them, even though he is the one doing the touching. One Mormon woman’s date, at the front door of her house at the end of a perfectly sinless night, ordered her to enter her house, fall on her knees, and pray for forgiveness for the sins that she had made him want to commit (Johnson 79)
Ummm...yea.

First off, let us just start with the fact that while women are instructed to maintain their virtue, men are just as rigorously told to do so.  If a man were to touch a woman without her consent, he would be the one that should not only repent, but would face any discipline, religious or legal, that may apply.  The reverse would be true too.  This is a two way street that has equal lanes on both sides.  You may disagree with trying to maintain your virginity until marriage, but you cannot call the practice "sexist".  It is enforced on both sides.

Are there stories about guys like in the quote?  Heavens yes.  Sadly it is true.  They don't know how to keep themselves in line and try to blame others.  This is a jerk of a guy who not only doesn't represent the views of the church, but is offensive to those who are members.  Every group has losers.  Sadly she managed to find one.

The Mormon church of today is still clinging to the beliefs of the nineteenth century; ideas which are becoming more outmoded every day. A few women in the Mormon church are trying to make a difference, but they are usually swiftly excommunicated (Laake 342; Johnson 351).
Yup.  We still believe that it is best to have a worthy father and a worthy mother raise a family in a monogamous relationship.  You know what, we even have the audacity to think that perhaps having one of the parents home with the kids seems to be a good idea.  Shocking, I know.  Guess what, study after study show that a nuclear family tends to produce children with fewer issues than any other configurations.  Are single parents looked down upon?  No.  Though the family and community will usually rally around non-traditional families to try to help make up the difference.

Yes.  Mormon women work outside the home all the time, and are not even punished for it.  In fact the are assisted as much as possible in many ways.  In my wife's case she was stressing out with work as a teacher, two boys that probably count as a platoon in and of themselves, and a very high profile calling in our ward (equivalent to a parish).  After a significant amount of discussion she was released and given a calling that took far less time, but still allowed her to serve as she desired to do.  She considered it a great move that simplified her life.

I think Joanna Brooks would be a great representation of the fact that while there was an intolerance for some of these counter views within the church, today that is not the case.  I also think that the cases of excommunication that occurred 20 years ago would be retroactively viewed as, in some cases, a mistake.  But that isn't for me to say.
If you choose to investigate the religion cult further, you will find that it is primarily “white” with elitist attitudes. Homosexuality is wrong, women are second-class and underwear will save them from evil.

I can’t imagine that Romney is pleased with the “Vagina” and “Slut” revolution that is taking place as a result of the attack on women. He doesn’t really talk about it...
Where to start with this?  In Utah, and perhaps the US it is primarily white.  As is America thank you very much.  If you have doubts about the diversity of the LDS faith, go to mormon.org and watch some of the 'I'm a Mormon" videos.  It may help you understand we aren't the homogenous group people like to think we are.  Even in Utah there are whole congregations of Laotians, Tongans, and Japanese.  There are Spanish speaking wards, and even deaf wards where everything is in sign language.  There are a large mix of cultures in the Mormon church.  Not to mention that the majority of adherents are now OUTSIDE of the US now.  The white card is an old one that is rapidly becoming old news.

As for "elitist" attitudes?  Do we think we have something worth having, and is better than the alternatives?  You betcha!  Where I disagree with the article's statement is that we also recognize the good in other religions and organizations.  Yes, we feel we have the whole thing.  But that doesn't mean that what you have isn't good too.  If you want what we have, we are thrilled to share, if you don't, let's still be friends and work together to make this world a better place.  If that is elitist, so be it.

As for homosexuality being wrong, yes, it falls well without the teachings of the church.  No apologies.  Does it make them second class citizens?  No.  In fact you should love them just as much as anyone else.  Anyone in or out of the church who persecutes homosexuals is just plain wrong.  Christ taught us to love everyone.  That doesn't mean we have to agree with what is being done.  This is a whole post in and of itself, but in short, is there a place for homosexuals within the church?  Yes, but it means some compromise on their part.  They have to live within the same rules as any single member of the church does.  This means no sexual relations with anyone outside of marriage between a man and a woman.  Is it perfect? No.  But there is a way to make it work, and many have found that balance. 

Boiled down, homosexuality really is a sub-heading of staying virtuous outside of marriage.  If you have a problem with one, you will probably have a problem with the other.

I hire and work with homosexuals every day in my family owned business. I have a manager that I trust with my livelihood and deeply care about.  Do I wish he lived a different lifestyle?  For his sake, yes.  Do I let it affect my decisions otherwise?  No. He is a good man that has earned my trust over the years, and I regularly trust him with some of my most important and business and personal matters.  I would hope he feels likewise.

As for women being second-class citizens, I counter that with my experience that in fact they are revered and almost put upon a pedestal as what everyone should try and attain.  Again, a whole post could go here, but this accusation is looking at structure without context.  Yes the upper leadership of the church is almost exclusively male.  Yes the priesthood is all male.  From the outside I can see why that looks sexist.  Here is the reality.  I am not aware of any context where you gain anything, money or otherwise, or are able to do anything for yourself with the priesthood.  In every case it is exclusively exercised in helping others.  In my opinion, and many others feel as I do, the priesthood isn't because men are better, but rather it nudges them to serve in ways that wouldn't be natural.

Speaking generally, women tend to be givers.  This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint (and yes, many Mormons accept evolution as fact, including me) in that it takes a tremendous amount of altruism to raise children, and to help other women raise theirs.  Men on the other hand have generally been takers.  Go out, kill food, and bring it back.  They tend to not have the involvement in the home that would be desired by most religions.  Thus the priesthood creates a balance that counters the impulse to look within and to not share, and is only active when one actually is serving others.  If you don't serve others, you aren't using it, and are thus not honoring it.

As for the aforementioned revolution, I guess she can be on that side of the fence if she so chooses.  I hope her choice of words, which are hers and not mine, stand in contrast to my goals, and I believe the goal of the LDS Church:  To have happy families that raise strong, good people with strong moral character.  That just doesn't sound like something cultish to me.  Now a "Vagina and Slut" revolution: that wreaks of cultism to me.

But what do I know.  I'm just a white heterosexual Mormon man.  The four worst things one can be in this day and age all wrapped up in one.  Heaven help me.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why Romney Won't Talk About Being A Mormon Bishop

I keep hearing people with good intentions bemoaning the fact that Romney hasn't used his experiences as a Mormon Bishop to humanize himself.

I'm telling you now, he won't.

At least in the way everyone wants him to.  I would be very concerned if he did.

Here is the thing:  just like being a pastor, there is an expectation of confidentiality.  This means your only answer is to just not talk about it.  Period.

You cannot talk about these things in generic terms.  For it to be effective politically he would have to give some specifics.  In doing so you almost guarantee that members of his former congregation would be able to figure out who it is.  That is just as bad as using their name, and so he won't discuss it.

There is also an issue of humility.  In the LDS faith acts of service are done with little fanfare, and almost in hopes of the people not knowing who did it.  To stand and beat the drum "I did this" would be an anathema to active Mormons.

There is a fine balance between keeping confidences and lying.  If I tell my wife I know nothing about a situation in the ward, I am lying as a member of the Bishopric.  If I tell her I can't discuss it, I tacitly acknowledge the problem, and thus divulge information.  The only practical option is to listen to any conversations in that regard and keep my mouth shut.  I believe most LDS leaders have ended up at this same solution.  You just don't discuss things, even in confidence, as the risks are too high.

So, no, Romney will not discuss these events in his life.

The real answer is for those he served to stand up and be counted.  If they tell the stories of how he helped them, and the acts of service and kindness he provided, that is fair game.  People can talk about themselves all they want, and in the act of doing so they allow him to keep his confidences.

My call is to those members of Romney's former ward to make some noise.  Whether you support him in his politics or not, you should be willing to let there be an accurate portrayal of who he really is.

But don't expect Romney to be the man who does it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Academics Don't Get It

I was reading the article "DEAR JOURNALISM STUDENTS: Don't Mean To Intrude, But Your Professor Doesn't Get It

I think he has hit on a problem with academics in general, in particular those holed up in universities. Professors are out of touch with the "real" world, and almost by definition are several years behind the times. 

In thinking about this over the years I have come to the conclusion that there is a good reason for this, but it is still disturbing.  There are two kinds of people, those who feel they know it all, and those who feel that the more they learn, the less they know.  Those in the second category are always innovating because they can see there are other, often better, ways to do things.  They get good jobs because they are respected and keep pushing their respective fields forward.

Those that think they know it all, teach at universities. 

Let me now say that, yes, there are exceptions.  But those exceptions are notable for their rarity.

The problem is that once you think you know it all, what is there to stimulate you?  What keeps you pushing forward?  There is a near compulsion to foist your brand of "what is" upon those coming up in the food chain, yet your grasp of what is going on in your field invariably slips.


A sure sign of "knowing it all" are regular complaints about all those new-fangled things those upstarts are using.  That attitude is a sure way to a world of irrelevance. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Reasonable Approach to Immigration

Can we all just admit immigration is broken?  It has been more than neglected for decades, and has become farcical with millions of illegal immigrants living and working in the country, and we are complicit in not fixing the codes and not enforcing those on the books.

The problem is it has become so polarized and politicized that no one will look at the real problem and solve it in a real way.

The way I see it, the arguments fall into one of two categories: justice or mercy.

Justice is they are breaking the law, and should immediately be deported.  Mercy says we let them in by inaction.  It is our fault, and we should allow them to become citizens because they have already incorporated into society.

These points are both correct, and both dreadfully wrong.

In anything justice and mercy must be balanced.  It is not fair to reward those who broke the rules, and it is not fair to punish those who are innocents.  In the process we really shouldn't cut off our nose to spite our face either.

For the sake of this post, let's focus on Mexican illegals (And yes, they are here illegally. So that is the appropriate term.) They are the bulk of the problem, and the ones at the vanguard.

I believe Mexican illegals fall into one of several categories (in no particular order):
  1. People who came here to work
  2. The children of the people who came here to work that were born in Mexico
  3. The children of the people who came here to work that were born in The USA.
  4. Hard criminals
I don't think we can combine any of these categories.  The response needs to be different for each, though in some cases (say parents of children born in the USA) there may need to be some accommodations.

Regardless of what some would like you to believe, most illegal immigrants from Mexico are very hard working people who are looking for a way to make their life better.  They do difficult jobs for low wages and keep certain sectors of our economy running.  We have grown symbiotically with them, and their contributions have become vital to our overall economy.  We cannot just rip them out of our society and not expect there to be significant consequences.

That does not mean that they should be rewarded for breaking the law though.  We tried amnesty.  It failed.

I propose that we issue a "orange" card.  To obtain this card, anyone who is in the country illegally, regardless of nationality, will have a six month period to register and obtain this card, but they must show residence in the USA prior to some date well before the legislation passes.  We can't have a last minute border rush to get these cards.  The cards will be "shall issue" unless there is any criminal record.  The card allows the bearer to work in the USA for a period of one to five years legally, after which point they must leave the country, and can only re-enter using standard legal means from their country of origin.  The length of time is to be determined by lottery and by family.  Remaining in the country with an expired orange card would mean three months in jail, expulsion from the country, and ineligibility for a future green card.

The other side of this is we need to vastly open the green card, or worker permit options for many countries, specifically Mexico.  Let's say there are 10 million illegals in the country at this time.  In year one of the orange card program, open up two million slots for green cards (over and above current levels).  In year two an additional two million (for four million above current levels), and likewise to the end.  As the orange cards expire, they are replaced by people who are coming in through the legal, regular means.

We may need to have more green cards available on the front end.  I believe many of those that draw short times will return to begin the green card process from home, and some may skip the orange card process altogether.  Regardless, it gives a five year shift from illegality to legality, while still having reasonable control of who is in our borders.

Now we need to deal with numbers two and three.

Many of the children who were brought over the border don't even remember Mexico, and are more Americanized than some Americans.  I would recommend that a child that was to turn 18 within the five years of the program, and that can prove five years residency prior to the program's beginning, have the option of being able to apply for a green card from within the USA and would receive a priority status.  These would come out of the two million card increase each year.  The family could stay until either their orange card expires, or the child turns 18, whichever is later.

For those born in the USA.  These are, by law, citizens.  We can argue all we want about changing the constitution and all that entails, but the fact is, they are citizens.  So we need to take that into account.  This becomes the sticky wicket in the whole deal.  In reality, children are born to holders of green cards all the time, and they stay or go with their family as it becomes necessary. I think that they need to be treated as those brought over the border, but have a couple of special programs.  First, if they have family in the USA, they can stay with that family and not have to leave with those who are non-citizens.  Second, should there be individuals that would like to sponsor and care for these children until they are 18, similar to a foster parent, they could stay here without their family.  Otherwise, they should go with their parents, and return when they are of age, should they choose to do so.

As far as the hard criminals, there should be several things we do.  First there should be a national penitentiary for illegals.  I would recommend Eastern Montana.   It is remote, escape would mean you would have to go hundreds of miles before getting anywhere useful, and it is cold in the winter.  Quit housing them in places that feel like home.  Make it difficult.  They should also work to support themselves.  There is plenty of farm land, let them farm. Use them to build iPods.  I don't care, but keep them busy and away from weights.  The proceeds can be used to run the facility.  Upon their term being fulfilled, they should be immediately deported, and never have any chance at any legal status within the USA again.

I also think that being an illegal should be an aggravating factor in determining punishment.  I think it should add a minimum of 25% to the term of any incarceration for the first term, 50% for the second, and so on.  If they keep at it, they can stay here permanently... behind bars.

I think the above plan, while not foolproof, is a reasonable approach to the problem that should satisfy both sides needs.  Both justice and mercy are doled out, but in a reasonable and fair manner.

What do you think?



Friday, April 13, 2012

DVDs are Here For a While Longer

I keep seeing predictions of the demise of the DVD and Blueray disks. I am here to tell you it is bunk. CDs are a goner though.

So how do I rectify the two? Three little letters, DRM.

When I download a song from Amazon or iTunes I can move it to any player I have, no restrictions. This means that I can have it on my phone, regardless of manufacturer, on my Notebook, and on my multimedia center PC. I can also choose the interface I use to play that music, regardless of manufacturer or operating system. Because of this flexibility the reasons for maintaining physical copies is pretty much done for.

Actually, I had some music I purchased from iTunes back in 2006 that I lost the CD I had made to play it in my car. I went to iTunes, and there it was, waiting for me to download a fresh copy of my lost purchase. Try that with a CD.

The pricing of CDs have even made buying used a losing proposition.  Unless you are buying something not available as a download (Really? Pop Goes the World by Men Without Hats is not available for download?) you really don't save any money.  The one advantage of CDs is that you have something physical you can sell and get some of the money back, but if you look at it as a deposit on the music, you still are ahead on the downloads based on the paltry amounts they will give you for CDs these days.

Unfortunately videos are a completely different story.  Downloaded videos are so locked down that your ability to use them becomes severely compromised.  In reality you can only play downloaded video files on some of your devices, and certainly you are limited in which players you will view it.  So if I download Reckless Kelley from iTunes, I can watch it on my iPad, or in iTunes, but I can't import it into Plex, my main media player.  And so I am stuck.

This leaves you with two options.  You can buy the DVD (which takes time, but is the route I have chosen), or you can download it off of some of the free torrent sites.  Honestly, the pirated video is actually the most useful in that you can have it immediately and just move forward.  I buy the DVD, rip it to a format that my iPad is happy with and upload that to Plex.  It will often take several days to get the DVD, and then 3-6 hours to actually rip the files.  What a pain.  But by going this route I have the option of using the file as I see fit.

And that is the downfall of video downloads.  So long as they are hampered by DRM, pirating and DVD/BR disks will be around to stay.  Maybe that is how they want it, but it is a dumb model.  I just purchased a used DVD of Johnny English Reborn for $7.  With shipping it was $10. It cost me the same (or less) than a download, and if I wish, I could resell it and get most of that money back.

What the market demands is easy access to content on our choice of device and interface.  I'm willing to pay a fair price for that, but I must be able to use it where I see fit.  Until then don't get too worried about the immanent death of your videos on DVD or Blueray.

Oh, but CDs are a goner.  No doubt about that.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Vitriolic Anti-Mormonism

Well, this is getting further down the Mormon rabbit hole than I originally thought it would.  Go figure.

One of the things that most people within the LDS faith notice at a fairly young age is that the loudest and often most dishonest detractors of the Church are former members.  The obvious question is, why?

I can only speak from my opinion, but I believe that the same reason many who leave is the same reason some who don't believe in full still cling to or return to the faith.

One of the most unique beliefs of the LDS faith is in a living, personal, God who reveals truth today.  This revolutionary idea is one that is core to everything Mormon.  Not only that, but he actually reveals truths through a Prophet who is living today, instead of some old guy in a 2000 year old book.  The counter to this is that it is a faith that is very demanding.  You don't become the Church that members give the most money and time to charity without being demanding of your adherents.

Trust me, there are a lot of demands on you.  I don't say that to complain.  Everything you do as a Mormon is your own choice.  Free will is a core tenant.  There are plenty of people who say "no" on a regular basis.  But if you believe in the faith, there is a compulsion within yourself to do these things, and it does take a lot of effort.  On the positive side, there isn't a whole lot of time to sin :)

I think a majority of people who stop going don't actually leave the Church, they just get tired, fade out and forget what they once knew.  Once you stop living it day to day, it becomes very difficult to get back up to the energy level needed to live the faith.  Even with a short "time off" the return can be difficult in getting back into the flow and it only gets more difficult the longer you are out.

Intentionally leaving, by this I mean making a conscious decision to leave, necessarily means giving up that living God.  The dissonance involved in that has got to be dramatic.  Imagine believing you are able to pray and get answers from a God that is here today, and actually cares about you as an individual and then walking away from that.  The only way you can give that up is to convince yourself that you are brainwashed, crazy or deluded.  In any case, you have very few options.  One thing you must do is convince yourself that everything you have believed and experienced is a lie.  If you actually manage to do that then you cannot help but feel that everyone who is in the Church is likewise deluded, and it then becomes your life's mission trying to convince everyone you are right.

In my experience a significant number of the people who consciously choose to leave the Church claim to become atheists.

There is an option that seems to be becoming more popular: the a la carte version of Mormonism.  Pick the things you like and try to wash away the things you don't.  This is very different than having questions and being willing to wait for the answers to come at a later time when answers aren't immediately available.  It is more permanently disregarding certain points that you don't like for whatever reason, even working against those parts actively, and then attempting to rectify the remainder so you can stay within the faith.  I don't fault these people.  The LDS beliefs are compelling, even when there are parts you don't like.  The conflict of believing half of something is, for some people, less than giving up the parts they really love.  The problem is that it really is an "all in" faith, and this will always compromise your ability to be truly within the faith.  You will always be in conflict with one foot in, and one foot out.

If you haven't lived as a member of the LDS faith, you really cannot understand how beautiful yet demanding it is.  There are a lot of people who just can't live it day to day, but for those can, that demanding nature invests you in it and helps you to keep moving forward.  Once you are invested in it, giving it up takes some significant changes in yourself and your life perspective, and that is why some of the loudest voices against the Church are former members.  It isn't that they have some new or different insight into Mormonism, it is that they gave up something dear, and need to justify that decision over and over.

Have I covered 100% of the people who leave the church in this article?  No way.  The reasons for leaving are as unique as the people who leave it.   But I would bet I that almost everyone who has left the Church (or taken strong positions in opposition to it from within) would feel some discomfort with how close one of these reasons hit the mark.

So with that said, understand, people who speak with "authority" against the Church  in whole or in part, usually have some kind of an axe to grind and thus their objectivity should be in question to some degree.  I think that there can be some good things that come from the discussions that are brought up, but in many cases, to justify their opinion, things have been twisted, facts lost or created, and context conveniently is ignored.  These people cannot speak for the members of the Mormon faith at large as they do not believe in the same way, nor do they live in the same way as those members who are active full adherents, and thus they are detached, living differently and believing other ideas.  If you have rejected core beliefs or even the whole of it, and have chosen to live contrary to that belief system, your insight into that system is necessarily at best tainted, and probably not even applicable to those left behind for the purposes of understanding how they live.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Disagreement vs Bigotry

You know, with all the coverage out there about Mormons, as one, you can't help but get a sense of who and what the authors are.

I have been very pleased to see several articles that were obviously well researched, and substantively got their facts correct.  For the articles I commend the profession.

Unfortunately I see the broader effort taking shortcuts, resorting to old stereotypes, and re-publishing outright lies and misinformation.  It is pretty easy to tell who has an agenda, and who wants to report the facts.

A more extreme example is Lawrence O'Donnell's tirade which has been reported on here and here.  If you haven't been exposed to his rant, don't.

In most cases, taking the few minutes to have a member of the LDS Church look over the article would highlight most of the issues that are in question, and allow the author to sharpen up the copy.  Unfortunately it is more salacious to start an article about Mormons spending three paragraphs about a polygamist sect (polygamy has been banned in the church and is reason for excommunication for 120+ years now) only to say, halfway into the article that they don't have anything to do with the LDS Church now.  Don't you think that is kind of misleading?

The other problem is context.  If you take any religious act and pull it out of context it becomes strange and unrecognizable.  That is easy.  What is hard as an author is to give the practice the context that helps it make some sort of sense.  Baptism for the dead is an easy one to get weirded out on, but when it is put in the context of the person still having the right to choose, and that it should only be done for family (anyone doing otherwise is breaking policy) it starts to make more sense.

Another issue is taking statements by Church leaders from a century ago, that have been discredited by more recent authorities, and holding them up as doctrine.  Brigham Young said some pretty radical stuff.  Some of it was spot on.  Some of it was out there.  Heber C. Kimball (my GGG Grandfather) is said to have kind of been one of the first PR guys for the LDS Church.  By that he spent a lot of time going around saying things like, "Now what Brother Brigham really MEANT to say was..."  Elder D. Todd Christofferson  gave what will become a legendary talk in the April 2012 General Conference addressing some of the philosophy behind why we can discard some of the wack stuff said in the past.  What it comes down to is that we are all human and say dumb things, and sometimes the Lord has to correct even the leaders.

So are you here to lob bombs or to educate?

I have no problem with probing questions about our faith.  What I do have a problem with is taking things either out of context or that have been disregarded for more than a century and holding them up as look how WEIRD they are.  Even more so, I can't stand the lies.

Trust me.  We are weird enough.  You don't need to propagate lies and half truths to find weird here.


Saturday, April 07, 2012

Mormonism "Lite"

I have been reading a lot from and about Joanna Brooks and several of her compatriot feminist bloggers. There is some resistance to their views within the orthodox LDS Church members, and one article that stood out defending her position is here.

First, let me state that I believe that one of the great things about the Mormon faith is that there is a core set of beliefs that are tightly defined and well documented, yet around that is an area that allows some space for speculation and variation.  If you want a concise relatively modern take on LDS beliefs, probably the best book would be the manual used in Priesthood and Relief Society (the adult men's and women's Sunday School classes) called Gospel Principles.  You can read it right here.

It lays out pretty much the whole cannon as is needed to reach all the goals within the LDS belief system.  Everything else is really academic curiosity.

You will note that in the General Conference talks (General Conference is the twice yearly broadcast meeting for the whole LDS Church in which the Church's highest authorities speak) almost all the topics can be found in this book.  It would actually be a rare occurrence that they would talk about anything NOT in that book.  They keep things basic, and intentionally so.  We have a hard enough time living up to this stuff.

So if these core beliefs are so well canonized, why is there such a diverse range of opinions within the Church?

When you get outside of these core beliefs, you are delving into what is often referred to as the "mysteries" of the gospel.  That isn't to say that there aren't some pretty well documented and understood beliefs in this range, but often the scriptural basis for is light, or there are conflicting opinions in that area.

A really good example of this would be the theory of evolution.  I grew up with many people poo poohing the credibility of evolution, and even stating the Church was against it.  It caused a real crisis for me because the evidence is overwhelming.  You can recreate it in the lab reliably, and it is shown through many different types of natural records.  There was enough dissonance that it caused me to begin to research the Church's stance on it more in detail.

It was at this point I came across this research paper:  "The Mormon Myth of Evil Evolution".  This article was transformative to me.  In it it makes the argument (quite well I might add) that not only does the Church not take a stand on evolution, but that there have been deep divisions within the highest leadership of the Church on the matter.  The final document issued by the Church on the matter gave a range of theoretical possibilities, including evolution, and acknowledging that we really don't know.  It was actually really interesting to see the humanity of the LDS leadership as contained in that document, and it gave me great comfort that we DON'T have all the answers.

On that basis I have been very willing to give a much wider birth to diverse opinions within the membership with a couple of caveats: First, when it strays outside the core curriculum, it should be stated as opinon, and second,  it shouldn't conflict with those core beliefs that have been for lack of a better term "canonized".  Those core beliefs all intertwine and intersect such that you really cannot pick and choose among them.  If you are Mormon, that is what they are.  It is OK to suspend judgement until a later time, as often we are in a process of learning and growing in our understanding, but to deny those items outright is to deny the very things you are trying to embrace as a Mormon.

So, if you tell me that you don't believe we evolved from apes, I can live with that and we can move forward.  But if you try to teach me that Book of Mormon isn't the product of Joseph Smith translating an ancient record, what you are telling me is you don't believe in a core doctrine of the Church, and you have moved well out of alignment with what I consider it to be Mormon.

Here is a better example.  The whole of the LDS faith began when Joseph Smith went into a grove of trees, knelt and prayed to find out which church to join.  In that event a number of specific events happened, each of which are key to our theology.  God the Father and Christ the Son appeared to him.  This is vital.  It is the rock on which our gospel is based.  Either they did or they didn't.  It is binary, and the truthfulness of the whole Mormon faith rests on that question.  If they did then we know know that God and Christ are separate and distinct individuals.  We know that they do still communicate with us.  We also know based on their advice to Joseph that he shouldn't join any of the churches at that time that they have some pretty specific ideas about what is Christ's Church and which is not.  In fact, Joseph was told Christ's Church would be restored.

We can learn several important things from this.  One of these is the idea of Mormon exceptionalism.  If the other churches are wrong, and His church is being restored, and if we accept that They came to Joesph, then we can safely assume that this Church has something none of the others do.  As was said in what has become known as the "First Vision" the other churches have many good things and teach truths, but they had been tainted with "abominations" and none have the whole truth.  This was reserved for the church that was to be restored.  As a member of the LDS Church, to deny this exeptionalism is to deny the very foundation of the faith, and undermines everything else that the Church brings to bare.

This does not mean that others cannot have spiritual experiences, nor does it mean that God doesn't love them or give them blessings or that we shouldn't engage with other denominations in productive ways.  Quite the contrary.  But it does mean that other churches don't have all the working parts of Christ's Church and gospel as He would have it.

And so when, in the first article I listed above, the diversity of spiritual experience among other denominations is seen as a reason to discredit LDS exceptionalism, I do call into question the whole of the thought process of that individual.  Espousing tolerance, empathy, brotherly kindness and love to our brother's and sisters of different faiths is correct and good, but to diminish what we have because they have some too misses the whole point and makes all of the author's ideas to be standing on no foundation.  Or at least not the same foundation I recognize as that of the LDS faith.

So, while I think that some of the intolerance of the diversity of view within the LDS orthodoxy is pompous and does not give credence to how much we really don't know, I think that the attempt to twist or change LDS theology to meet someone's specific agenda (feminist or otherwise) is just as pompous and steps out of bounds.  Play on the fringes and bend them to your hearts content, but the core beliefs are really not up for debate, and if you begin to debate them then you have a much bigger problem on your hands.  The Mormon faith is not one you can pick and choose principles, they are set and well documented.  To stray from those will by definition set you outside the faith you are striving to stay within.




Thursday, March 08, 2012

Mormons and Blogging 2

So there is a lot of discussion about why Mormons blog so much. I think I have a bit of a rambling answer. From the very beginning of the LDS church, members have been encouraged to keep journals. Some of these have been instrumental in documenting the early days of the church, the migration West, and the growth or the church after settling in the Salt Lake valley. Intimate details, faith promoting stories and documentation of significant events are all liberally covered.

As I have researched my ancestors, I have read several journals and been flabbergasted at the sacrifice and faith that so many of them exhibited. Some of the things they had to live through, and things they were asked to do were astonishing and humbling. They also have become real people through these recorded events and thoughts.

 From a young age I was encouraged to keep my own journal. I never really did except for my mission, and even that was almost accidental. Writing in a book, however well intentioned I was, was never going to happen with any regularity.

 I think that the pervasive nature of technology, and the ease of blogging software have allowed this latent desire to fulfill a mandate to be more easily realized. And let's face it, right now Mormons are the national freak show, and people are fascinated to read about people who not only espouse values, but actually try to live them.

Honestly, I doubt there will be a soul read my blog. I haven't even told my family I have it. If they aren't reading it who will? I think in my case it is as much a place to put thoughts as, like my title says, a place to scream into my virtual pillow. By that I mean to extricate the frustrations and perhaps provide a catharsis or at least some relief from frustration by working it out in print. If someone happens upon it sometime, well... that is almost inconsequential.

So if I write as though I am talking to the whole world, realize that in fact I am mentally sending this to an empty room to work through my own issues. There are a lot of those, so it may be a while.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

TED.com

I added TED to my video channels on my Plex media server, and have begun spending an inordinate amount of time watching these really nifty videos.

If you don't know what TED is, it stands for Technology, Education and Design.  Speakers who are influential within their respective spheres are asked to speak, and they are given a notoriously short 20 minutes to opine on their topic.  What ensues is like the modern day Cliff's Notes of just about any topic you care to mention.

For instance, one video is Neil MacGregor: 2600 years of history in one object, a fascinating look at the Cyrus Cylinder and how it's influence has come down through the past 2600 years, and will continue doing so well into the future.  It is something I never would have known about, but it was really interesting to stumble upon it.

Another interesting video is Susan Cain: The power of introverts.  This is a very interesting and insightful look into the value and marginalization of the introvert in modern society.  It made me want to go and unashamedly curl up with a book.

I guess that is what is great about TED.  You can stumble upon all kinds of interesting things from the humorous to the truly jaw-dropping.  No really.  They are actually classified that way.  Need a laugh, look it up.  In the mood to think, click on a fascinating one.  There really is something for everyone.

The best part is that TED doesn't take itself too seriously.  If you think it does, watch Lies, damned lies and statistics (about TEDTalks).  I love when people use statistics in unexpected ways!

Enjoy!