Monday, December 31, 2007

Baby Name Hint #6

This name is difficult for some people to make possessive (and by "some people" I mean "retards who don't know how to make names possessive.")

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Baby Name Hint #5

This name rhymes with a body part.

No prizes for winners. Especially for fancy-schmancy soon-to-be-Californian winners.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Friday, December 28, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Idiots

All of a sudden, I’m surrounded by morons.

  1. Yesterday going into the El Paso County (CO) Courthouse a recorded voice said, “Before proceeding through security remove ALL ITEMS from your pockets, INCLUDING plastic and paper items. Once ALL ITEMS are removed from your pockets, THEN proceed through security.” The recording said the stressed words slowly and loudly, obviously because the instructions were too complex for most people with court dates. I realized while I was in line that in modern America the biggest gathering place for white trash people outside of the trailer park is the courthouse. When I worked at the garage door factory our orientation included instructions on how to take time off for your court date and how to avoid having an ex-spouse come harass you at work. No place else I’ve worked has needed to train me on such things. Back in the courthouse line, I saw a very skinny nicely dressed woman and I thought, “She’s here because of her meth addiction.”
  2. Sitting next to me on my flight from Denver to Kansas City was a man who put in a wad of chewing tobacco and then spat in an empty water bottle for the rest of the flight. Why does anyone think you can chew tobacco anywhere but outdoors? Not just outdoors, but away from civilization. Being on a sidewalk is not good enough; you have to be on a ranch or in a national forest. I was at an orientation meeting at KU where a kid was chewing and spitting in an empty water bottle, which I guess is the thing to do for modern tobacco chewers. And chewing tobacco stinks almost worst than coffee. (I said “almost,” coffee drinkers.)
  3. The fly-by-night shuttle company that my work had drive me to and from the airport has one employee who knows what’s going on, and then an endless supply of clueless ones. The one, Heather, is informative and helpful when I get her on the phone. She said she would call me when the drive was nearing the airport. An hour later a different lady called and said, “Your driver has been waiting for you at the baggage claim area with a sign with your name on it.” Why would I still be at baggage claim an hour after getting my bag? Then I got in the van (this one at least had corporate markings, but they were of a different company) and the driver said, “Your credit card is invalid.” I said, “It was valid for my trip to the airport earlier this week.” And it's not my credit card.

Now for a product endorsement: go to a store and find their candy aisle, then find the Reese’s Whipps bars, then buy all of them and eat them. Return to store and repeat. The world’s most fantastic candy in bar form.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Date Line: Colorado Springs, CO

I had three meetings this morning. The first two went well, and the third one nearly exploded my head with the sheer idiocy of the people in the meeting. But the good news is: I got five more counties today.

Since the sun had been out for three straight days, I went through Chama, over Cumbres Pass and La Manga Pass. They weren't too bad, and nearly no one else was on the road, so it was relatively easy. I went over Cumbres Pass just as the sun was setting, so I was through both of them before it was too dark. And I got Archuleta County, Colorado. Then, when I got to Alamosa, I decided to keep going north instead of heading over to the interstate. I got Saguache County (where I peed on the side of the road in eight-degree weather) and Chaffee County, then I went a little further and got Lake County before turning around and heading east. When I got back into Buena Vista, Colorado, I stopped at Subway to get some food, since I had only eaten a buffet breakfast at my hotel and then an orange in the parking lot of an Indian nation's government building. The sign on Subway's door said they were open until nine, and I got there at 8:30. The door was locked and the two employees inside waved me away. When I looked at my watch, they laughed. So I headed east, through Park County, and got to Colorado Springs at 10. I ate at Denny's, got a tasty new candy bar at a 7-11 (it's a Reese's bar with whipped peanut buttery filling), then sat in the hot tub and pool for a little bit. That was my day.

Now that I'm at the hotel and on the Internet, I see that Justin told me it was a good idea to not go over the mountain passes. Luckily, nothing bad happened to me today. In northern Chaffee County there is a sign warning of bighorn sheep in the road. I was hoping to see one, since I had already seen a deer in Huerfano County and those two elk in Taos County, but I saw nothing.

So now for the important part: the five new counties today raises the total for this trip to 16, the total for my year to 198, and the total for my life to 934. My Colorado total is now 43 of 64, making it my eighth most-completed state (tied with California at 67.2% finished). I now have 11 states that are more than half-way done (Utah, Arizona, Missouri, Virginia, New Mexico, Illinois, Wisconsin, California, Colorado, Kansas, and Nevada). Check out the totally sweet map of my travels in Colorado I just made. The dark gray are the counties I'd already visited and the red ones are new from this trip. Yes, this shapefile is missing Broomfield County. What are you going to do? [I replaced the first map with this better one, which has Broomfield County, painstakingly added by hand by yours truly.]

Oh, here's something I forgot to mention before: I saw an old lady taking a leak on my flight to Denver. I usually never leave my seat on a flight (it's such a hassle), but I was on the aisle at the back of the airplane, so it was really easy for me to get up. There was one lavatory in the back, and the sign on the door said "VACANT." So I opened the door. Inside was a tiny old lady, the type that wears sweatshirts with iron-on teddy bears, taking a leak. (The lady was taking the leak, not the teddy bear on the sweatshirt.) She pulled the door shut, then locked it so the sign said "OCCUPIED." A flight attendant came back to the galley and I said to him, "Isn't the first rule of airplane bathrooms that you lock the door?" The good news is that I didn't see any gray/shriveled/dried-up bits.

Another thing: I ate at The Olive Garden in Santa Fe last night, where I ordered some sort of stuffed chicken prosciutto, which was marvelous. It came with a type of macaroni and cheese that was the world's best macaroni and cheese (and I consider myself a bit of a macaroni and cheese connoisseur, since I ate 40 boxes of it during my senior year in high school to get a free tee shirt with a Cheesasaurus Rex on it). If God had a macaroni and cheese recipe, it would come in second place behind this Olive Garden recipe. Now for what is wrong with The Olive Garden: something like a third of the world lives on less than a dollar a day but I spent $20 for more food than some people get in a week, and I can almost guarantee that the meal's total calories exceeded my recommendation for an entire day. (It had better, with how good it tasted.) They brought me a salad that would have served my entire family, and then they asked if I wanted more. They put cheese on everything except my raspberry lemonade, but that was only because I didn't ask for it on the lemonade. But if you're going to The Olive Garden, and you have no problem with living a disgustingly decadent lifestyle, order the stuffed chicken prosciutto.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Date Line: Santa Fe, NM

So here is the result of my latest road trip:

Okay, not quite. But almost.

I had to come to Santa Fe for work again, so this time I threw my weight around and I made it so I flew to Colorado Springs and drove down, getting new counties in Colorado along the way.

First, my shuttle to the airport totally sucked. And I can tell you their name since all of this is factual and ever since colonial days American courts have ruled it's not libel if it's true.

So Midwest Shuttle told my office manager they would pick me up between 6:30 and 7:15 for a flight that departed Kansas City at 9:35. At 7:00 I called the shuttle company and spoke to a woman who took my name and had actual data to give me. The driver was going to be ten minutes late. That would be 7:25.

At 7:35 I called again and got a guy who just told me, "He'll be there." At 7:55 I got that guy again. He tried to tell me again to not worry. I said, "I need confirmation he's going to pick me up." He said, "You've got it." I said, "You don't even know my name." He promised I would make a flight that began boarding at 9:05.

The shuttle arrived at 8:10. He sped on the turnpike the entire way (we had a moderately sized snow storm yesterday, wherein my family spun 90 degrees to the left, then 270 degrees to the right, then 540 degrees back to the left while traveling at 50 miles per hour on US-169 en route to my nephew's baptism in Paola--we were fine and a guy pulled us out in ten minutes), which made me wonder more than once if we were going to have an accident.

We got to the airport at 9:05. The inside line was enormous, but there was no line outside, so I went back out and checked my bag at the curb. My gate was right next to the door, and there was no line at security. I know the guy from Midwest would say, "So what's the big deal; you made your flight," but I only made my flight because of an unnatural combination of airport efficiency, not because the shuttle had me at the airport when I was supposed to be there.

I landed in Denver, transferred flights, and then took off for Colorado Springs. That flight's airtime was only 18 minutes. Shortly after takeoff the stewardess announced we could turn on our electronic devices since we'd reached our cruising altitude, and then within five minutes she announced we'd begun our descent, so we had to turn our electronic devices off again.

One thing about Colorado Springs: tons of young winter-sport athletes all over the airport.

I got my car assignment and went out to the lot to pick it up. I walked past a crusty old man returning a car. The attendant opened the door for him, and the renter got out mid-cigarette. The attendant said, "These are non-smoking cars, sir." That made me laugh.

New counties: El Paso CO, Teller CO, Fremont CO, Custer CO, Pueblo CO, Huerfano CO, Las Animas CO, Costilla CO, Alamosa CO, Rio Grande CO, and Conejos CO. That's 11 more, for a yearly total of 193 and an overall total of 929. I had originally planned to also get Archuleta CO, but my trip over North La Veta Pass (8,800 feet) with the sun still up was difficult enough that I decided not to try Cumbres and La Manga Passes (10,200 feet) with the sun down.

The San Luis Valley is beautiful. If I were going to be a rich yuppie, I'd buy a ranch there and fly our family for vacations in our private jet. Good thing I'm going to be poor for the rest of my life, so I don't have to worry about that.

Once I crossed over the New Mexico state line, there were many "ELK CROSSING" signs. About halfway between Tres Piedras and Ojo Caliente there were two elk standing on the side of the road. One was eating and the other was watching traffic. Both were enormous. I made eye contact with the elk whose head was up. He said to me, "I could have chosen to stand three feet further over, in which case you'd be dead right now." And I said to him, "Yeah, and you'd have four sprained ankles." We both said our lines really fast, because I went by at 70 miles per hour.

So that was my trip today to Santa Fe. Now two days of work in Española, a morning of work in Colorado Springs, and back home on Wednesday.

As for the spinning around yesterday, I was silent until we were facing backwards, at which time I knew all hope was lost, and I said, "Shiznit." I surprised myself with my rapper lingo. I didn't think I'd resort to "shiznit." I'm more of a "shazbot" type of guy, although when I use "shazbot," it usually conveys mild pleasure in the surprise, and there was nothing pleasurable about spinning off the road. Our kids didn't notice anything because they were both looking at books. All of a sudden we were stopped in the median and they didn't know why. The rest of the trip was nowhere near as eventful.

Friday, December 14, 2007

It's a Trap!

You jerks have sucked me in. Here I was, minding my own business, happily avoiding the crapulence that is American (Presidential) Idol, confident in my assertions that the best way to make the election stop creeping forward is not pay attention to it when it does, but now I can’t help it. I have to have an opinion, even though the election is eleven months away.

My opinion is that none of it matters. There are two types of people who want to be president: the type who are looking for power and prestige to validate their inflated self-images (and fleece the nation to the benefit of themselves and their friends while they’re at it), and the type naïve enough to think anything can be accomplished from the presidency besides validating your inflated self-image (and fleecing the nation).

Type one: Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Joe Biden, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Fred Thompson. Type two: Barack Obama, Mike Gravel, Bill Richardson, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul.

Yesterday I was IMing Persephone while I was supposed to be working (just like today I’m typing this while I’m supposed to be working) and I said Huckabee had apologized to Romney before the last Iowa debate. Persephone said, “That’s good, right?” I said, “It doesn’t really matter. He’s said what he wanted to say, and it helped him with the group he was targeting. Apologizing won’t hurt him with that group, so there’s no reason to not go run a campaign that just repeatedly crosses the line and then apologizes for it.”

Today in this article the point is made that Huckabee’s apology to Romney and Clinton’s apology to Obama aren’t sincere because the offending candidate keeps bringing the topics back up.

Here’s how you run for president: One time you have an operative tell a reporter, “Yeah, I guess our opponent is an all right guy, if you have a thing for crack-head sheep molesters.” Then the next time you see each other face-to-face in front of cameras you apologize for your staffer’s behavior, forcing the smear target to accept your apology because if he doesn’t he’ll look like a jerk. You look fine because you didn’t say the negatives things yourself, and in fact you gave your staff what-for. He forgives you because otherwise he looks petty and unforgiving. Then you spend the rest of the campaign saying, “I have vowed to not make political hay out of these serious allegations of drug use and bestiality swirling around my opponent. It was unfortunate that they came to light and I apologized for the actions of my staffers who first raised these troubling accusations.” Repeat process as needed until your inauguration day.

This is why Americans hate their politics, which makes the politicians happy because fewer people are incensed by their fleecing.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Blog Writing Made Easy

Father Jonathan Morris is making my blog practically write itself. All I have to do is sit back and wait for the checks to come rolling in. Oh, wait. That’s right. Anyway, I can still sit back, at least.

In his article today, Morris writes: “A political candidate does not need to be a theologian. He does not need to be the spokesperson for his church. He does not need to defend the legitimacy of his religious tradition.” But this is a paragraph after he’s written: “Is it unfair for an Evangelical to ask fmr. Gov. Romney what the Mormon church means when it teaches that ‘the president of the Church today is a living prophet’ and that ‘you must prepare yourself so that when the prophets and apostles speak, the Holy Ghost can confirm the truths they teach and you can then determine to follow the counsel they give you?’ (www.mormon.org)”

Why would Romney have to answer for “what the Mormon church means” if a candidate “does not need to be the spokesman for his church”?

There’s a huge difference between the Huckabee quote he uses about how we need to “take back this country for Christ,” uttered as an elected official, and the mormon.org quote he uses, which isn’t something Romney is saying is a goal for anyone but himself. If Huckabee had said, “I want to take back my own life for Christ,” then they would be comparable quotes. Romney wants to prepare himself to obey the prophet, not necessarily prepare the country. Does Morris really not see a difference here?

Morris seems to want Romney to separate himself from the mormon.org quote the way most people would want Huckabee to separate himself from the “country for Christ” quote. Throwing central tenets of your faith under the bus, however, isn’t something he takes kindly in his fellow Catholics, as his quick digs at Kennedy and Kerry show. His example of a Catholic president being directly petitioned by the Pope to change government policy is a far cry from a Mormon president changing his personal life to comply with generalized gospel teaching. A comparison would have been, “When the Pope says in a general way that all good Catholics should be doing Item X, would a Catholic president do Item X?” And the answer is, “Why not? Is it illegal? Does it require the undermining of the Constitution? If not, then not only would we expect a Catholic president to do it, but we should expect him to do it if he’s a man of his word.” If the Pope changed Catholic practice, I wouldn’t follow since I’m not Catholic, but I would expect a Catholic president to honor his commitments, and I’d be disappointed if he didn’t. You see, I don’t want my Catholic presidents to stop being Catholic so they can be president. Morris, however, seems to think only Mormons have to quit being Mormon to get elected.

Religion matters in that it informs an ethical viewpoint. Ideally, religious people embrace a set of ethics beyond their own expediency. They embrace a standard of behavior above their current practice, which impels them to try every day to be a better person. They embrace the idea of accountability, and a perspective that helps them look past themselves. Oftentimes religion includes oaths or covenants, and as such religion informs a candidate’s trustworthiness, just like marriage does. This is why Giuliani’s and McCain’s and Thompson’s “frequent marriage miles” are troubling, and a candidate who says, “Yeah, I believe in my church, except for when I don’t,” (or a candidate like Al Gore who dismisses his religion as his ancestors’ “faith tradition,”) is troubling. Giuliani never cheated on me (that I know about), but if he treats his most sacred personal vows so carelessly, what will he do with this nation’s most sacred public vow, the presidential oath? Look at Romney’s marriage to see how he treats his commitments. Look at his religious oaths to see if he keeps his word. Look at his religious participation to see if he embraces the moral standard we want in a president, but going beyond that, as Morris does in this article, is simply looking for reasons to disqualify a Mormon without having to say as much.

Al Qaeda Says America Is Decadent, But They're Wrong Because...

From Dinesh D’Souza’s Virtue of Prosperity (p. 73):

At animal clinics around the country, such as the Animal Medical Center in New York, dogs, cats, hedgehogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, and even snakes arrive daily: "My snake isn’t eating." "My rat has skin problems." "My dog needs a kidney transplant." "My cat needs brain surgery." For sums ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, these animals receive medical treatment as if they were people. I mentioned this to a friend of mine, expecting him to find the whole concept ridiculous. But he didn’t: his cat, he explained, was seeing a pet psychiatrist to deal with mood fluctuations.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Prego Chicks Are Mutants

That’s my objective reading of this article, anyway.

Disappointing Children

When my kids were in utero, they were going to make Albert Einstein look like Albert Molina. (Nothing against Albert Molina. Every time I see that guy in a movie I think, "Oh, it's the brother from 'Mad About You.'")

But now they're out and reality has set in. While my five-year-old daughter generated the following Christmas list,

Aipod, abrbie book, a brbie toy, feyplada, totsstuff towwactots, AND pat budrfliy, uslfon, brets, crimisbooks, sled tou

[translation: an iPod, a Barbie book, a Barbie toy, free play date, Tots [like Tater Tots], stuff to make Tots, and pet butterfly, a cell phone, barrettes, Christmas books, sled too.]

I read about this five-year-old who shot a bear. Or this seven-year-old who took six bullets for her mother.

Why are my kids being so lazy?

Flashbacks in Futility

Remember that movie “Firefox,” where Clint Eastwood has to steal a super-secret Soviet plane and fly it back to America, but he’s nearly incapacitated by Vietnam flashbacks? At least, that’s how I remember the plot of the movie from when I saw it as a six-year old. Let me check the Internet to see if I’m right. Please wait. [“Spanish Flea” by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass playing.] One hundred percent correct, baby! Yeah!

Anyway, the point is that’s how I feel having Mike Huckabee running for president. Every time I turn around I have to read another retarded article that reminds me how much I hated my mission.

Yeah, there it is: I hated being a missionary. And I know I’m not supposed to say that. I’m supposed to be one of those guys who looks wistfully into the near-distance and says, like Uncle Rico, “Ooh man, I wish I could go back in time. I’d baptize a stake! President would have put me in Nuestra Señora del Milagro Despreciable for my last six months, we would have converted every Latino in the world. No doubt. No doubt in my mind.”

But instead I had a mission in >Wisconsin, full of Mike Huckabees.

Contact: You’re not Christian.

Me: What’s it take to be Christian?

Contact: Accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.

Me: I do.

Contact: No, you don’t.

Me: Well, I’m doing it right now.

Contact: Um...I’ve got a church.

Two years of that crap. I know everyone gets it as a missionary, no matter where they go, but I don’t know of anyone who got it for two straight years. So reading a collection of Huckabee quotes sends me back, and not in a good way.

Wednesday, December 5 (Fox News): “I am just not going to go into evaluating other people’s doctrines and faiths. I think that is absolutely not a role for a president.”

Wednesday, December 12 (Associated Press): “Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, asks in an upcoming article, ‘Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?’”

To the press he says he’s not running for president of a theological school, but then to voters he says his faith defines him and in his ads he calls himself a Christian leader. He’s asked if Romney is Christian and he dodges it by saying that’s not a question he can answer, but what he can answer is if he believes Romney is Christian.

So I started this campaign “season” (when is it ever not campaign season now?) feeling pressured into Romney’s camp and resisting it. But what are my options?

Giuliani: socially liberal, fiscally liberal, deadly to terrorists. He gets a one out of three.

Thompson: socially neutral, fiscally neutral, harmful to terrorists. He gets maybe half a point for each, so a total of 1.5 out of three.

McCain: same as Thompson, but crankier.

Romney: socially conservative (sort of), fiscally conservative (sort of), deadly to terrorists (sort of). Maybe three-quarters of a point each, for a total of 2.25.

Huckabee: socially conservative, fiscally neutral, harmful to terrorists, anti-Mormon. That’s about a zero from me. I’m as likely to vote for Huckabee (or Brownback before him) as a black guy is likely to vote for David Duke.

Paul: socially libertarian, fiscally libertarian, non-threatening to terrorists. I just don’t know about Paul. I’ve got reservations about strict libertarianism in practice. That’s why I still even bother with the Democrat-Lite (Republican) Party. Maybe a two for Paul.

So my candidate choice in order right now is:

  1. Romney
  2. Paul
  3. Thompson
  4. McCain
  5. Giuliani
  6. Huckabee

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

On-Campus Life

I'm smack-dab in the middle of my first day as an on-campus resident. Here's the report so far:

Monday, 3:00 am - wake up and drive myself to school. Due to some scientific freak accident, the windows of our car de-iced themselves overnight, even though the temperature never got above 20. I make a mental note to give Global Warming a high-five next time I see it.

Monday, 3:30 am - get to library and start studying for labor economics final.

Monday, 5:30 am - get bored, so read news headlines and check friends' blogs.

Monday, 7:00 am - get to classroom early to ask professor a few questions. (Every time I sit in class and think, "We haven't gone over anything today," there's always a ton of stuff I miss on the days I don't go. I decide that, no matter how many times my wife tells me, "It's okay; you don't have to go to class today," I'm going to class every day next semester.)

Monday, 8:00 am - finish final, worry a little that I'm done so quickly, then turn it in. Stop by economics office and get the assignments for the classes I'm TAing for next semester. Feel a slight rush of power as I envision ruining the lives of scores of freshmen.

Monday, 9:00 am - come home for a visit. My kids are sitting on the couch watching television. Crazy Jane says, "What were you doing outside?" I say, "I was at school." Articulate Joe says, "I thought you was upstairs in the bedroom in bed." Later I find out that he woke up at six and spent two hours in my spot in bed. Why did he think I was in bed?

Monday, 10:00 am - eat breakfast with my family. I go upstairs to get together the things I'll take back to school with me. Crazy Jane comes upstairs and asks why I'm not going to work. I tell her, "I'm finishing school today and tomorrow," and then she says, "Then we'll have more time to hang out." Where did she learn that "hanging out" is a good thing to do?

Monday, 11:00 am - back to school with a backpack full of borrowed Calculus texts and my alarm clock.

Monday, 12:00 pm - during a Calculus review session I get a text message from the university saying I need to check my e-mail for news about whether the next day's finals will be rescheduled to January due to the forecasted ice storm. The e-mail says they will make a decision by 6 am tomorrow.

Monday, 4:00 pm - eat Chick-Fil-A and pray for ice. Make plans for how I will study all Christmas break and ace my rescheduled finals.

Monday, 6:00 pm - bored with studying, try to sleep for an hour slumped over my library desk. It doesn't really work.

Monday, 9:00 pm - discover a new bathroom in Anschutz Library. This one is nice, neat, spacious, and the stall walls aren't covered with offers for gay sex. Why have I been using the other bathrooms this whole time?

Monday, 10:00 pm - check forecast, get excited. Weather.com says we have a 100% chance of heavy freezing rain all night long. Start checking e-mail hourly for announcement of rescheduling.

Tuesday, 12:00 am - set alarm for 3 am and try to sleep slumped over desk. Take off sweatshirt to use as pillow. Then move to floor. Nothing works. What's the deal? I used to be able to sleep on the floor of the Lee Library at BYU at the drop of a hat. There were times when I didn't want to sleep on the floor but I ended up doing it, anyway. Now whatever part of me touches the floor starts apainin'. Yes, I'm nearly 10 years older. Yea, thanks.

Tuesday, 1:30 am - start studying for industrial organization final, but in a lackluster manner, since I'm confident it will be rescheduled. When I venture up to the ground floor there is not much rain going on, but weather.com says I have nothing to worry about.

Tuesday, 4:30 am - set alarm for 6 am and pull together three chairs to make a type of bed. I finally fall asleep at 5, then wake up at 5:58, turn off my alarm before it starts ringing, and check my e-mail.

Tuesday, 5:59 am - finals will proceed as scheduled.

Tuesday, 6:00 am - swear. Make mental note to firebomb offices of weather.com. Jot down a reminder to pimp-slap Global Warming across its fool mouth next time I see it.

Tuesday, 7:00 am - buy a muffin for breakfast.

Tuesday, 7:30 am - take industrial organization final. While sitting waiting for professor to show up, think, "I'm the type of guy who goes crazy if something doesn't go his way and ends up on the news." The objective part of my brain makes a note that the subjective part of my brain has gone loopy.

Tuesday, 8:30 am - finish final. Walk back to the library, slipping on ice all over every sidewalk and street. If they weren't going to reschedule finals for this, what would it have taken? Sit down at computer and start typing this instead of starting studying for Calculus II final tonight at 4:30 pm. Plan is to finish final by 7 pm and take the bus home.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Mitt Romney Aftermath

So I guess Mitt Romney gave a speech yesterday, and for some reason his handlers didn’t forward my suggested text of, “I don’t have time for bigots, and neither should you.” What I read of his speech made some good points, I thought. I’m glad he didn’t try to answer doctrinal questions, since that’s not a candidate’s job.

However, today on Fox News I read a commentary by Father Jonathan Morris where he criticizes Mitt for not doing so. Father Jonathan (did his PR firm nix “Father Morris”?) writes:

I would vote for a Mormon who has the integrity and courage to explain what his church really teaches (not many people know) and how this would affect his policy proposals and execution.

But, I wouldn’t vote for a Mormon who sidesteps or otherwise obscures what the Mormon Church believes—-especially as it differs from mainline Christianity—-or who suggests that his unique religious belief would in no way affect his action.

It’s the same three-pronged test I would apply to Catholics, Unitarians, Jews, Muslims and Evangelicals: what do you believe in, how will this affect the carrying out of your office, and do you have the strength of character to live up to what you profess?

Father Jonathan claims there is nothing out-of-the-ordinary in this type of requirement, yet I feel he’s not being honest. Does he really require Rudy Giuliani to explain the Immaculate Conception, did he ask Joe Lieberman in 2000 to explain how a group of people goes about becoming God’s covenant people, or does Mike Huckabee have to explain salvation through grace? Yet Father Jonathan says he applies this criterion to “Catholics, ...Jews, ...and Evangelicals.”

Don’t get me wrong. His speech would have been excellent had it been given by any other candidate. It was deep, passionate and presidential. He even ended with, “God bless America.”

The problem is that the much-hyped speech did nothing to achieve his goal of convincing doubting Evangelicals and Catholics that his Mormon beliefs will not hinder him from being a good president.

If “Evangelicals and Catholics” are doubting, why is it Romney’s responsibility to talk them through their bigotry? Is Barack Obama supposed to tell someone, “It’s okay that you’re racist; I’m going to explain away my blackness for you”? The burden of intolerance lies on the intolerant, not the “different.”

Still more abrasive to Christian sensibilities was the attempt to pass off Mormon doctrine about Jesus Christ as equal to that of Christianity. He said, “What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the savior of mankind.”

OK, Mitt. But do you really want to get into what that means for you?

A Catholic priest should know better. There are no “Christian sensibilities” and no doctrine of Christianity for Romney to try to equal. There are Catholics, and there are Protestants, and there are who-knows-whats. Where they are common is in their belief of Christ’s divinity, which is what Romney said he believes, too. Morris’s critical, “do you really want to get into what that means for you” is a cheap shot from a man who should know that that means something different to everyone.

Look, why is Morris Catholic and not something else? Because, at some level, he thinks Catholicism is correct on doctrinal issues that others get wrong. Huckabee’s understanding of Christ is, from a Catholic perspective, wrong. So why does Romney have to account to Morris for his differences but Huckabee gets a pass? Wrong is wrong. If Romney’s “wrongness” is a deal-breaker, why is it so for only Romney?

There is a club mentality among some Christian sects wherein they say to some others, “You’re not the same as me but it’s okay.” This discounts the worth of their own group. If Morris is okay with Evangelicals, then what’s so special about Catholicism? And if there’s nothing special about Catholicism, why dedicate your life to the priesthood? Morris isn’t just a run-of-the-mill member; he’s taken his commitment to Catholicism to the highest level, yet he throws away his Catholicism when it comes to “mainstream” Christian sects. “They’re all good,” he says.

And then Morris’s bigotry can’t be contained, like Dr. Stangelove’s involuntary hand motions:

Mitt Romney would have had to say that his church teaches that in 1820 an angel appeared to a man from Vermont named Joseph Smith and told him to go to the town of Manchester in upstate New York where he would find plates of gold upon which there were engravings only Joseph could understand and translate. Miraculously, from the three plates came a 500 page book, now called the Book of Mormon.

Aside from the misleading statements (while being a man from Vermont, he wasn’t told to go to upstate New York because he was already there) and the factual inaccuracies (there weren’t three plates), Morris loses me with the snarky “Miraculously.”

What the hell is that about? “Miraculously”?!?! From a Catholic priest we get criticism of miracles? Hey, Morris, how was Jesus conceived? How did He turn water into wine? How did He walk on water? How did He atone for the sins of mankind? How was He slain and rose from the dead? How did He ascend to heaven? How will He come again? Are these not miracles?

So Morris’s argument boils down to: “He’s not like me.” It’s funny how bigotry is still acceptable as long as you call it something else. Morris isn’t “bigoted,” he’s “concerned,” or he’s “troubled,” or he’s “doubting.” He admits as much when he says “I happen to think Mitt Romney is a man of character.” But, despite his talk of how that’s all that matters, when it comes to Romney that’s not enough. Morris says, “His speech would have been excellent had it been given by any other candidate.” But I thought you used “the same three-pronged test”? Morris’s argument can’t hold water because it isn’t an argument at all. It’s an emotional rejection of the different slopped over with a patina of reason and concern. But bigotry is bigotry, and this is nothing but.

Serious Journalism or Load of Crap - You Decide!

Cristin will be so happy to know that, in an Yahoo Finance article about how to decommercialize your Christmas, the first idea was this:

Yankee Swap --

Everyone brings a wrapped gift within an agreed spending range or limit. Stephanie Ling, of Florida, says her family calls this "Full Contact Christmas." She explains that all the unidentifiable gifts are piled in one spot and everyone picks a number from a bowl. The fun starts when No. 1 picks a gift and opens it in front of the group. "The second person has a choice -- to either take the gift No. 1 opened or select another unopened gift. If the second person 'steals' the previous gift, No. 1 gets to open a new gift. The third person then can take either of the opened gifts or open a new one," says Ling. "Pretty soon, you're taking gifts from one another left and right."

You can set your own rules. Usually, it's forbidden to take a gift back immediately after it's taken from you. You also may want to set a limit on how many times a gift can be "stolen," adds Ling. "Things could get ugly."

The game ends, she says, only when someone opens the last gift and decides to keep it. "It's a fun game that goes on and on and involves everyone," Ling says. Some people use a variation of this called a White Elephant Exchange -- wrapping silly gifts no one really wants.

Seriously, the first idea was Yankee Swap? The best way to decommercialize Christmas is to fight over which gift you get? I call “load of crap” on this one. Who’s with me?

IN OTHER NEWS: Today on my way to work I saw a car with the following inspirational quote on the back window in stick-on letters: “IF GOD IS WIT ME, WHO CAN BE AGAINST ME”. Yes, that’s right, it used the word “WIT.” The spacing of the lettering was such that there appeared to have never been enough room for the letter H. It didn’t fall off, it wasn’t stolen. It just was never there. Now, I’m all for gangstas getting religion, but shouldn’t they also get spelling lessons, too?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Making Headlines

Every time I write an article for the paper, I turn it in with a suggested headline. Not once have they (I have two editors) used one of my headlines, invariably making up their own, much lamer headline. (Once I wrote an article about how everyone was wearing The North Face jackets and they gave it the headline “Winter Weather Prompts Winter Wear.” Like it’s news that people bundle up when it gets colder. And if you’re thinking, “Um, isn’t that what your article was about?”, no, it wasn't. It was about trends and social status, smart ass.) Anyway, lately I’ve taken it for granted that they won’t use my headline suggestion, so I’ve been writing funnier headline suggestions. Last month I wrote an article about how the decision was made to move the KU-MU football game to Kansas City and I suggested the headline, “KU Athletics Should Die in a Fire.” Last week I wrote about my family’s dealings with maternity insurance and entitled it, “My Boys Can Swim!” I’ve been worried, though, that one week they’ll take me at face-value and run one of these headlines.

Travel Plans!

My meddling office manager tried to make me fly through Albuquerque instead of Colorado Springs, but I got it approved by my boss! Yesssss! New counties in southern Colorado!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Business Travel

It looks like I get to go to New Mexico for work again the week after finals. What will be nicer than all my previous business trips is that, on this one, it'll be just me. No moronic co-workers to pretend to like. And I'm pretty sure I'm going to make it so I fly in and out of Colorado Springs instead of Albuquerque, which will help me get 12 new counties in southern Colorado. Then, at least according to my plan, I will get seven more in southern Kansas on December 29, which will make my total for the year 201. That's right, suckers: I will have been to over 200 new counties this year alone!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

You've Got Questions? I've Got Other People's Answers

So a couple weeks ago Cristin wanted to know why so many knocked up chicks were going toes up. Well, it seems a lot of it is the fatties’ own faults. Which reminds me of this ever-timely news article:

Monday, December 03, 2007

Things I Do When I'm Supposed to Be Doing Calculus

Okay, firstly I'm "watching" Monday Night Football on nfl.com and I'm so excited about Baltimore leading New England! And I'm a Steelers fan, but it doesn't matter right now; I'm rooting for Baltimore. (When I told my son that one of the teams was from Baltimore, he told me, "That's not a real word!" Of course, if anyone from Baltimore heard my son say such things, he would pop a cap in his ass. Baltimore don't play, cousin.)

Secondly, I'm watching "CSI: Beautiful People" because my wife is watching it and I am still hoping that some day someone will shoot Calleigh Duquesne right in the face. I'm not talking about a Mary Jo Buttafuocco maiming; I want Calleigh dead! But the point is, I realized the reason the CSIs are all jumping the shark so quickly is that there are so many of them. There are only so many interesting ways to have someone die, and instead of using one way each week for three years, they've been using three ways each week, and now they're beyond help.

Thirdly, Saturday night the wife and I watched "Casino Royale." Here is why it is the best James Bond movie ever:

  1. There were no stupid names. The main female character's name is Vesper Lynd, not Come-On-I-Wanna-Lay-Ya. In fact, they make fun of the overly-sexual character names when James tells Vesper her alias is "Stephanie Broadchest."
  2. There were no stupid lines. When James orders a martini the bartender asks him, "Shaken or stirred?" and James says, "Do I look like I give a damn?"
  3. There were no stupid plots. There was no weird moon base or satellite that can control the weather. It was just a terrorist funding plot, which is something totally believable.

Anger! What kind of crap punt was that?! When leading by four points midway through the fourth quarter, you shouldn't go three-and-out, and you definitely shouldn't punt 27 yards, giving the best team in football the ball at midfield.

Fourthly, our local news cast ("Live in the first five minutes") sucks. First at ten-ten they tell me, "You'll want to stay up for this at ten-sixteen." Then they play a taped interview of a woman carjack victim and in the middle of her talking, her telephone starts ringing. It rang three times. Why didn't they do another take? Now they showed two tween girls in Minnesota who pulled a friend of theirs out of a lake and when the girls jokingly flexed their muscles, the male newscaster said, "They call that gun power, don't they?" And this weather girl isn't a girl, isn't hot, and might be an actual meteorologist. Talk about three strikes against her!

Fifthly, Missouri vs. Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl should be given the media nickname Cousin-Lovin' Showdown.

I really should do math now. Or maybe tomorrow morning. We'll see.

Youngest Grandma - NEW CHAMPION

Last week’s news article featured a 35-year-old grandma. That’s, like, a grandma compared to this woman, who is actually younger than I am right now and has been living her life in a perfect storm of fertility.

Controversy!

So I decided a couple months ago to run a little competition here in the office. Each week we pick the winners of football games and then we get points for being correct. One guy here in the office is taking this really seriously, which is sort of taking some of the fun away. He's already expressed displeasure that the season champion will win "a celebratory potluck lunch in his honor." Well, we have a guy here who has been away for the first half the season due to some legal troubles (i.e.: in the pen), but since he came back, I've allowed him to be in the pool. Earlier in the year we had a guy miss picking one week because he was sick, so I decided we would go to a "points-per-game" basis of deciding the champion. This means that, even though this guy who was in prison missed the first half the season, he isn't being penalized for it. Beyond the whole "the rest of your life is ruined" aspect of it, I mean.

Well, the prison guy just had an awesome week wherein he picked nearly every winner of every football game correctly. (Probably due to prison learning or something.) Since he's only picked two weeks, his points-per-game spiked upward and now he is in first place. The guy who takes it too seriously, who is now in second place, is livid. I'm just glad I turned my desk around last week so I can laugh at the serious guy and he can't see me behind my monitors.

Mitt Romney's Campaign Speech Transcript

Here's what Mitt Romney is going to say on Tuesday in his "important" speech about not having horns, consummating his marriage on a temple altar, et cetera, et cetera:

I don't have time to deal with bigots. Neither should you.

Just kidding, he's going to piss himself attempting to explain, "But really, guys, I'm a Christian, just like you. I promise. Please believe me. Please?"

About two months ago we showed up at church one Sunday morning and saw that our building had been graffitied overnight. The conducting bishopric member stood up and started sacrament meeting and mentioned the graffiti, but then he said, "We were not the only church that was targeted; there were numerous churches along Kasold Drive that were spray-painted last night." I wrote a note to Persephone on the back of the program that read, "Mormons are so concerned with being accepted by other Christians that they can take having the church spray-painted and turn it into a positive thing. 'Look, they tagged our church like other Christian churches! That means they like us!'"

While I'm complaining about lame church members, what is wrong with testimony meeting? Seriously, it might have been a good idea one hundred years ago, but now it's just worthless stories. When I was a kid it was stories told by people who thought they were bearing testimonies. Now it's stories told by people who know they are telling stories. We have one guy who takes a half hour "telling stories," as he calls it, and he follows every story with, "And what does that have to do with the church? I don't know." Then his wife gets up and spends fifteen more minutes telling the same story she has told every month for years.

And why does it have to be once a month? It destroys my will to live. I told Persephone that the three worst ideas in the history of the modern church have been 3) Mountain Meadow Massacre, 2) Martin-Willie Handcart Companies, and 1) testimony meeting. Honorable mentions go to Haun's Mill, the Mormon Rap, and "Saturday's Warrior," but testimony meeting beats them all like a rented mule.

Honestly, why does it feel like 85% of the crap we do in the church is because someone thought they needed to make up some busy work? I've got enough going on in my life already. I don't need endless meetings and boring activities just to avoid some sort of soul-crushing loneliness. I can count on one hand the number of sacrament meetings I was glad I had attended. I heard an interesting talk in Waukesha Ward in 1997 by a high council member, then I heard a good testimony in Camarillo Third Ward in 2003, then I heard another good talk in Camarillo Sixth Ward in 2005. That has been it. One good sacrament meeting for each decade of my life. But the number of times I've heard people bear witness to urban legends is about ten times that many. (Just to clarify, Captain Kangaroo was not a Green Beret and he had no confirmed kills, and Mr. Rogers did not wear a sweater to cover tattoos on his arms.)

My wife, who was taking a nap next to me, has now woken up and is concerned that I'm becoming apostate.