Monday, December 31, 2012

Another Year of Self-Promotion Passes

At year's end, I offer a big THANKS to my blog partner Anonymous D, my guest posters, and supporters.


It has been a great year for the blog with ever-increasing numbers of page views, a few, at least, I suppose are actually being read. I've had some great comments this year including one from Britain on Camelot and another solving a family history question about Native American rock art in Idaho. I've also linked up with some dear old friends who found me here which is very gratifying.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Latest News on the Fiscal Cliff


Yesterday, I was at an Eagle Scout Court of Honor and at the refreshment table, some very conservative friends started up a conversation on the fiscal cliff. (Remember, I live in south Davis County, Utah and was at a Boy Scout function). There was no mention made of the President but there was a lot of talk about the irresponsibility of Congress and this rather surprising statement from my friends, "I don't see why there's any problem with raising taxes a little on the rich."

Friday, December 28, 2012

My Open Letter to the NRA


Dear NRA:

This is a picture of my NRA Sharpshooter badge I was so proud to earn at Scout Camp in 1971. I love target shooting. Always have. I never was a hunter except for pheasant with my 20 gauge shotgun. I am a gun owner but not an NRA member. If I were a member, I would resign. And I am seriously considering getting rid of my two guns. I don't even want them to go to any other person as I would hate to have them used as tools for blowing holes in some living thing, possibly a human. They are tools made for that purpose after all.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Debt Limit Merging with Fiscal Cliff

Well played, Mr. Geithner, well played!

Secretary of Treasury Giethner just issued a letter to Congress informing of the need to raise the artificial and imaginary debt limit by December 31 (five days from now, for those who are counting). This directly links to the other artificial and unnecessary crisis of the fiscal cliff that Congress created for itself and seems unable to resolve.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Shepherds - A Poem by Henry Vaughan

Govert Flinck (1615-1660) Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds
More Poetry of Henry Vaughan this Christmas morn while I await the awakening of my family:

Monday, December 24, 2012

The True Christmas

17th Century Yule Re-enactment
The True Christmas 

So stick up ivy and the bays,

And then restore the heathen ways.
Green will remind you of the spring,
Though this great day denies the thing.
And mortifies the earth and all
But your wild revels, and loose hall.
Could you wear flowers, and roses strow
Blushing upon your breasts’ warm snow,
That very dress your lightness will
Rebuke, and wither at the ill.
The brightness of this day we owe
Not unto music, masque, nor show:
Nor gallant furniture, nor plate;
But to the manger’s mean estate.
His life while here, as well as birth,
Was but a check to pomp and mirth;
And all man’s greatness you may see
Condemned by His humility.
Then leave your open house and noise,
To welcome Him with holy joys,
And the poor shepherd’s watchfulness:
Whom light and hymns from heaven did bless.
What you abound with, cast abroad
To those that want, and ease your load.
Who empties thus, will bring more in;
But riot is both loss and sin.
Dress finely what comes not in sight,
And then you keep your Christmas right.

(1678) Poem by distant ancestor connection (sharing the surname) Henry Vaughan who understood the true Christmas.

Le Nain, Antoine and Louis (d.1648) & Mathieu (1607-77)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

That Whosoever Believeth in Him

"Should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16

That was the assignment to speak on for my 10-minute Christmas talk today in Sacrament Meeting. A Sister just two houses down was assigned the first part of the scripture. I called her yesterday to make sure our messages were complimentary and mainly that she wasn't going to use the same scriptures I was planning to use. I think we're OK.

I post here to lay our my thoughts with a scheduled publication to match my approximate delivery - not that anyone in my ward reads this blog much. My wife said this all sounds a little self-indulgent. I tried to explain that was the purpose of blogging . . . .

My method is to concentrate on pondering the scriptures and the theme and my talk will likely come out a little different that what I write here. I hope any changes reflect the influence of the Holy Spirit and not just my human stumbling. (And I admit helpful input from my dear wife). But I'd better just move on to the talk:

Saturday, December 22, 2012

NRA Solution to Traffic Fatalities


Obvious logic. Cars don't kill people. People kill people. So, what we need to reduce traffic fatalities on our roads is a lot more good people who truly love their cars constantly driving around ready at a moment's notice to ram their car into someone who is about to crash, thus reducing deaths caused by bad people in cars. Sure, that ought to do it.

And we all know cars kill more people than guns. Well, maybe not in a few states. Data from 2009 (most recent statistics available):

Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Solstice!

Standing Stone at Stone Circle above Blaendigeddi Fawr, Wales
on the Road to Gospel Pass and the Vale of Ewyas
Celebrate! The world did not end. The dark nights will grow shorter. The sun will return to the northern sky. Celebrate the Light!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Easing over the Fiscal Cliff

So far, the only victim of the fiscal cliff is Speaker Boehner, whose Republican House refused to support him on his "Plan B." Even they saw the phoniness of it. But it does seem that the secret tea party plan to destroy the Republican Party is working just fine.

Today, we got a memo by email about the fiscal cliff and possible effects on the Department of the Interior. I don't see any problem in sharing it here as it appears to be a public document and the Press has the Department of Defense memo which says essentially the same thing.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Soul of America

"A house divided against itself cannot stand." Scripture and Lincoln.

We are a terribly divided nation. Brother against brother. Parents against children. Communities against other communities. The recent slaughter of innocent children hurts and wounds us all. And our approaches are so different and provoke more bitter division. A very well-thought out piece by my moderate Republican blogger friend expresses some of this very well.

Here are my thoughts:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

How Being an Oregon Native Nearly Got Me into a Duel with a Virginian


While one of the typically bland gold on blue flags common to many states of the Union, the Oregon flag has some unique characteristics. The covered wagon pulling oxen would seem obvious from the famous trail. And there is a hint of evergreens and agriculture along with the golden sunset into the Pacific with an old sailing ship and modern (for the day) steamship.

But note the year prominently displayed. That gives a clue to the important slogan on the scroll "The Union." Yes, Oregon was established as a Free State for Free Men [and Women] in defiance of the interests who would spread slavery into Western Territories to become Slave States furthering the power of Southern Slave lords who practiced "the Divine Right of Kings." As Lincoln put it, "You work and I'll eat the bread."

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The NRA, the ACLU, & the Criminally Insane

Just a thought. I intend to do a full report on a really good book I've been reading that I have almost finished. But I just read this today:
At first nothing more than an association of sportsmen, the NRA in the 1960s came under the leadership of militant gun libertarians who fought fiercely and adamantly against any and all forms of gun control, and their rhetoric was even more belligerent ("the best defense is a strong offense") in the aftermath of the assassinations of JFK, his brother Robert, and Martin Luther King. Concurrently, the ACLU came under the leadership of zealots who abetted the national movement in the 1960s to deinstitutionalize the mentally ill--to protect their "right" to live in squalor in the parks and on the streets of America. A powerful trend was thus established through the work of these very different zealots: it is now very difficult (impossible, in fact) to keep dangerous lunatics away from our loved ones. Here was an apt libertarian convergence of the left and the right to make our public places as chaotic and dangerous as possible. Striner, Richard Lincoln's Way: How Six Great Presidents Created American Power (Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland 2010) p. 181.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Oregon, Connecticut - Our Lives, Our Children

As I'm not a big follower of the NFL, I declined to comment on recent gun violence there. I thought I would give the mall in Oregon a little time to settle down. But the murder of innocent, young children in Connecticut  today breaks my heart and fortifies my resolve. There will be many more tragedies of  gun violence before this stops or ever slows down.

Guns don't kill people, they just make it oh so much easier. We must stop seeing guns as tools to solve problems. The troubled souls see our gun culture promoting weapons that so easily kill as problem-solving tools - including arming for self-defense. Some even see these violent tools as a way to prevent such tragedies. "If only the teachers were armed!" maybe students? Kindergartners?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Confession Time: Yes, I am a Utahn


Let's face facts. I've now lived the majority of my life in Utah even if in segments (1975-76, 1978-82, 1987-91, and 2005 to present). That adds up to sixteen years, two more than I lived in New Mexico, which even beats out Washington (State) where I lived for only twelve years - even if very formative developmental years (ages 4-16). I was merely born in Oregon, even if proud of that fact. There were those wonderful five years in Maryland. And if you're trying to add up my age, we just won't account for the lost years (Idaho. Oh, and Wyoming - nearly wiped from my memory banks).

Friday, December 7, 2012

Finding Bull Puckey in Conservative Economic Arguments


From Anonymous D:

Ok, so I just read an article by Thomas Sowell, notorious right winger.  His article, which was a three-parter, probably because it was more than three pages long, discusses the current fiscal cliff. Amusing stuff really.  In said article he states that revenue actually went up after the Bush tax cuts, gives you the source to the budget report used by the White House, and is kind enough to give you the page. He actually got the source wrong but I found it anyway.  Herein lies the danger, I actually took the time to look up the source material. Turns out, if not complete B.S. it’s at least close enough to smell terrible. 

Year
Tax Receipts in billions
Deficit
2000
2025.2
+236.2
2001
1991.1
+128.2
2002
1853.1
-157.8
2003
1782.3
-377.6
2004
1880.1
-412.7
2005
2153.6
-318.3
2006
2406.9
-248.2
2007
2568.0
-160.7
2008
2524.0
-458.6
2009
2105.0
-1412.7
2010
2162.7
-1293.5
2011
2303.5
-1299.6

Monday, December 3, 2012

It's Not Grover Cleveland!

Separated at birth:














One of these is a furry monster, the other is a character on Sesame Street. One is a no-tax lobbyist who wants to shrink government small enough he can drown it in a bathtub. The other wants little kids to take baths. One refers to "poopy-heads" and "impure thoughts," the other teaches good manners to young children. One controls the Republican Party with a series of pledges at least as strong, if not stronger, as the oath to uphold the Constitution. The other is a puppet.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

It's A Wonderful "Dleep!"

"Every time a bell rings, an Angel gets its wings" -Zuzu of the Petals.

Not original to me because I've heard Temple workers joke about it before, but it came again last night as I was waiting in the lobby of the Bountiful Temple next to the Recorder's Office where I could here the sweetly toned "dleep, dleep, dleep" of names scanned into the computer after Temple work was completed on their behalf.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Presidential Check (maybe Mate)

Republicans are breaking on the edge of the fiscal cliff.

The President set this up very well politically. A few Republicans, having learned some difficult mathematical reality on election night, are now facing reality on the Bush tax cuts. My new hero is a Reality Republican Congressman from Nebraska:
Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., signed Norquist's pledge but says now that he's open to a deal that includes some new tax revenues. . . . “We're screwed either way,” Terry said. “We really have no leverage in these discussions.”
Representative Lee Terry, Republican, Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Founders & Sally Hemings

Chris Matthews is rude and talks over his guests. But then it's his show just like this is my blog (well, and Anonymous D's). I find him entertaining because sometimes he says the most unusual things plucked from outside of any box. The other day I was watching when he said something in a discussion of Republicans and women's issues about how the Founders probably weren't thinking of Sally Hemings.

Sally was a house slave of Thomas Jefferson. She was also the younger half-sister of Jefferson's deceased wife. There are no existing pictures of Sally, but reports say she was attractive. She was of 1/4 (or less) African descent and 3/4 (or more) of European ancestry. Her children were at most 1/8 African and most of them passed for "white" and entered the dominant society (generally outside of Virginia) when they were freed in Jefferson's will. A few of her grandsons fought for the North in the Civil War.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

How Do You Solve a Problem like Mitt Romney?

Bye, bye Mitt, American Guy!
Utah is heart-broken. (See this article in the Deseret News). The Republican establishment is throwing Mitt away. They are also, finally, going after their former intellectual leader, the infamous Bloviator, Rush Limbaugh. But maybe that's a story for another day. And we'd like to see them successful first.

I'm pretty upset about Mitt Romney too. He used to be one of my heroes as the guy who saved the SLC Olympics in 2002. Then he went on to be a moderately progressive Republican Governor of Massachusetts (i.e., Romneycare). He even gave Ted Kennedy a run for the money as a progressive Republican competing for the Senate a few years earlier. That's why I was so confused when I saw Romney running in the Republican Primaries of 2008 and 2012. I was sure he wasn't ever "Severely Conservative" (whatever that is) except for maybe the neo-con part. I don't think the Republican Party has a Mitt Romney problem, the Republican Party has a Republican problem.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lincoln - The Movie

Daniel Day-Lewis makes Lincoln live

It was an amazing historical re-enactment of people in books come to life. We only have the barest physical traces of them left in our modern world. I've seen the pillow in the Petersen House across the street from Ford's Theater with the stains of Lincoln's blood. In the movie Lincoln's head lies on a pillow with blood flowing red in the same pattern as the stain. "Now he belongs to the ages," said Secretary of War Stanton and while I knew he was going to say it, it seemed so natural. The dead body of the President contorted on the small bed had the artistic elements of Spielberg to portray it in pale white but also with a slight glow without being obtrusive. Ford's theater was not portrayed and the assassin had no mention. It seemed only right.

No Love for Mia

Mia Love, Mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah
Speaking at the Republican National Convention
There are 768 people in Utah's 4th Congressional District I would personally like to thank. That is how close the vote was after all ballots were finally counted yesterday to re-elect Jim Matheson as Utah's only Democrat in the state's Congressional Delegation. Of course Matheson is about the bluest Democratic dog in the House, but that's beside the point. He's not in or of the tea party as is Mia.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Oath

My OPF (I think that's Official Personnel Folder) is all digital now. Checking a new entry, I went back to see what the first document was in there. I guess it is no surprise that it's my Oath.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Rebooting Christmas (and Life)

Mellow as I am these days, I gave in early to the Christmas music. My wife has been sneakily listening to it since Halloween. She asked me last night if I would make a couple of playlists on iTunes so she could plug in the iPod to the stereo receiver since we don't have a CD player hooked up to it anymore.

But technology comes with a price - a heavy price of frustration. I had finally given in to downloading iTunes 10.7 on my old netbook worried whether it would exceed its capabilities. I uninstalled Bonjour that comes with iTunes because I knew I didn't have any of those fancy devices that work with it anyway and an earlier version had given me a lot of trouble. I started to import the MoTab version of Christmas music and my dang iTunes wouldn't work! (I think I can say "dang" if I've already said "MoTab"). So I tried all kinds of things to get it going - trouble shooting this and that, re-installing "Bonjour," uninstalling iTunes 10.7 and installing 9.2.5 (which couldn't read my files since they'd already been read by a more "advanced" version, and all kinds of other stuff I'm not even sure I can explain (without embarrassing myself with my techie friends and family).


Saturday, November 17, 2012

General Petraeus Did Us a Favor

The adultery and fallout are tragic events for the Petraeus Family and not helpful at the CIA. And then there's the whole Benghazi mess to straighten out only because the right has stirred the pot so badly and unnecessarily to discredit somehow the Obama Administration when it was their own presidential candidate who embarrassed himself so badly (the 47% tape, the night of the attacks, and Debate II).

General Petreaus accomplished great service to the country. Yet he proved himself human and resigned with the President's encouragement. Tragic, yes. But this helps restore and reinforce civilian control over the military - a very important part of our constitutional law and tradition.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Election Post-Mortem 2012 III - E Pluribus Purplum

OK, I wasn't going to do any more autopsies, but I found the best map ever showing the United States of Purple. It was from an Atlantic piece explaining why city voters tend Democratic and is a really good read. It's a little more complicated in the busy industrial, commercial, and population centers than lazy people sitting around waiting for free stuff.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

One Week Later - The Union Endures!

Wanting to call this "Election Post-Mortem II" I read the first one and figured I didn't really need to say much more. Still trying really hard not to gloat especially with my own son making me feel a little guilty about being too prideful, I have to confess that I only slightly lost my cool last Sunday in High Priests' Group.

I have a really great ward that avoids politics for the most part. While I've only seen one other member at the Democratic Caucus, I know there are a few other sympathetic souls, more than even appear on the Democratic registration list I had when I was Precinct Chair. But sometimes, those old guys in HP Group can get a little crotchety so I have to respond.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Humility & Pride (Guest Post)

My BYU Freshman Son gave me permission to share the talk he gave in Sacrament Meeting today as a guest post. He had been asking me for a little advice not using what I thought was my best idea (perhaps he was appropriately inspired not to). I'll share it at the end so as not to detract from this excellent talk:


Good morning Brothers and Sisters, [introduces self], I am primarily from Centerville, Utah, but I used to live in New Mexico. I am majoring in physics with a minor in music, and I plan to go into acoustics. I would like to start off by sharing a quote from a talk by President Benson. It reads:
“Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion. I repeat: Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion.”

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Election Post-Mortem 2012 (by Faith, nothing wavering)

A few days have passed, so it's time to share a few thoughts, and my thoughts alone, about what happened. And as I promised, no gloating. (At least I'll try really, really hard.)

Electoral College Map 2012
And here's another version from the University of Michigan (h/t HF & PB) with the geography contorted to represent population of states:

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Talking to your Kids about the Election

From Anonymous D:

I was talking to my daughter last night. She was asking me about the election, what I thought so forth. She knew I voted for President Obama, and that her mother did as well. It’s also well known in the ward that I did. She was telling me that her friends were giving her a little bit of a hard time about it. I told her just to let it go. It isn’t worth losing a friendship because of a disagreement about politics. She then informed me that one of her friends told her that she needed to look up a scripture, Helaman 5:2 and that would pretty well explain our situation.  
“For their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.”  
That’s when I got a little annoyed. I fancy myself as at least competent in the Book of Mormon, I was a aware of the verse of course but I was also aware of the context. So I sat down with my daughter to explain the context.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Live-Blogging Election Night 2012

Well, I was running around to Utah County and back for my kids. Oddly, I was in Utah County for election day four years ago with my oldest boy and his now wife. I was in McD's briefly in American Fork checking Twitter and CNN and now I'm back at home with CNN and MSNBC on TV. I guess I could check how they're doing on FOX. Maybe we'll wait a while.

We'll try to keep up with some updates. I have an interruption coming with our Scout Commissioner to work on registration renewal. But we'll try to keep up. Nobody is calling Florida, Virginia or Ohio, but Florida is looking surprisingly well for the Prez on CNN analysis.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Early Voting Lines

Many people have already voted. Sacrificing time, some say a "poll tax" of time, if time is money. There has to be a better way. But everyone who hasn't voted, should go vote tomorrow and wait in line as long as it takes. This is America.

Iowa

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Absolute Truth? Absolutely! Except . . . .

For some reason, perhaps inspired as it turned out, I was up late enough to be turning the clocks back in the actual 2 o'clock hour. I checked the blog and e-mail as compulsion requires before I finally headed off to bed and found a message from my freshman son at BYU who was also up late with some worries. Knowing his dad, he gave me permission to use some of it in the blog. I appreciate that trust. His slightly edited message and my response follow:

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Why I Voted for Obama


Now that I have through early voting, I suppose I should explain myself. I have frequently referred readers to a general perusal of this blog to explain my support for the President which should give a fairly good understanding. I link some of those as we go along, but it is very hard to explain things that are a mixture of sentiment, logic, feelings, study, experience, inspiration and all kinds of different electrical impulses darting through my brain. Let me start with this:

Friday, November 2, 2012

Four Days to Go! My Picks for Tuesday

Time for Final Predictions. Obama by 2% in the popular vote. A solid win 303-235 in the Electoral College. If this link right here works, you can see my predictions on the CNN interactive map for the Electoral College by state. I couldn't figure a way to save or cut and paste.

Oh, and the Dems stay in control of the Senate. I'm going very optimistic to call it as 52 Dems, 46 Repubs, and 2 Independents who will caucus with the Dems. Not quite enough for the 60% cloture rule (only Constitutional in that the Senate can set its own rules, but it's a stupid rule), but the Republicans put up some really bad candidates for the Senate and Dems are doing better than originally expected. Repubs keep the House mainly due the short coat tails of the President. They will hold the House by a smaller margin, unfortunately not as unbounced as Tiggers should be.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Finally Figuring out Math

My wife is a Science Teacher. She used to teach Math. She's a lot smarter than I am in these areas. In fact, that applies in almost every area. The smartest thing I ever did was to marry her. Our kids do pretty well with Math. They get that from their mother. So far, none of them want to be a lawyer. They get that from me. 

Math has always been a problem for me. I'm smart enough, but still struggle with the Math Anxiety I developed in Mrs. Sather's class at Finn Hill Jr. High when she introduced something called polynomials. I've been lost in Mathematics-land ever since.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Domestic Tranquility & the General Welfare

When I leave out the back door of the first floor of the Federal Building, I'm always fascinated to see all the huge screens and fancy computers down the hall of the National Weather Service, part of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA - pronounced "Noah") of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Sometimes we all could use an ark or a dove (or maybe that's a seagull - but they can be good too).

Saturday, October 27, 2012

David Frum & David Brooks: Honorary Passionate Moderates

The election is over for me as I have already voted. And it's too late to persuade anyone else except that I urge you to go vote for whomever. There are still bigger principles at stake than this current presidential contest.

My freshman college son sent me a link to a video from his American Heritage class. He asked me for advice on an essay he was required to write about the video. I was pleasantly surprised to see the video myself as it is a wonderful presentation of many of the themes I have tried to express in this blog. The video was by David Frum, a conservative columnist branded as a heretic by the far-right for criticizing Sarah Palin, among other things. The video follows the jump:

Monday, October 22, 2012

Live-Blogging Presidential Debate III

Do we really need more of these?
We're going to try something a little different tonight. Instead of wearing out my fingers trying to keep up with their canned statements, I will try to give highlights and more commentary. Typing on the fly is one skill. Thinking may be tougher. But that's what these guys have to do.

Former Governor (former Republican?) Charlie Crist is sitting in the First Lady's group. Ann Romney is surrounded by her boys.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bi-Partisan Collector Bona Fides

Trying to avoid stirring too much controversy the closer we get to the election, and on a peaceful Sunday morning at that, I thought I would share pics of my campaign button collection. Clearly, I'm not one of those disturbed individuals who has a collection of either elephant or donkey figurines to the exclusion of the other.

The collection started in 1980 while at University (British talk). It was actually BYU where I started my shift from a solid moderate Republican to eventually becoming a moderate Democrat - such a drastic switch! I collected the Reagan, Carter, and even John Anderson buttons at the Wilkinson Center booths for the various candidates. After that, I made the point every election cycle to visit the campaign offices of the various parties to collect a button. The Dems usually handed them out for free. I usually had to pay a buck to the Republicans to get a button - no free lunch with them!

While in Santa Fe, we often visited the quaint little town of Cerrillos that had a great antique store that sold old campaign buttons. On our trips down there with tourist guests I would pick up an item from the past.

Then, in more modern digital times when I discovered E-bay, I figured it was time to fill out the collection so I bid on some desirables and occasionally was a lucky bidder to snatch them up. Once I even got a whole set of Humphrey buttons for cheap - apparently as the sole bidder.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Family History Adventure: Herding Holsteins in Hereford

Back this morning from the Bountiful Temple having done Initiatory work for family names I found last week, I was regretting not visiting all the villages connected to our ancestors on our trip two years ago. Then I remembered to be grateful for the amazing experiences we did have, truly led by the Lord not knowing beforehand.

We had intended to visit Stowe Farm where our Jenkins Ancestress Elinor originated, wife of John Vaughan married 1810 in Hay, Breconshire, Wales. We knew from the 1851 Census she had been born in "Stow" a fairly common place name throughout England also spelled as "Stowe." Some on ancestral file had placed her birth in a "Stowe" in Shropshire, but we thought that a bit far off. On old maps of Herefordshire, we found Stow as a part of Whitney Parish within walking distance of Hay across the Welsh border. And we found a matching Jenkins Family with a daughter Elinor in Whitney Parish records.

So we were off to visit Stowe. Knowing it was a private farm, I was hoping to find someone who could give us permission to take some pictures. From my trip journal:

Friday, October 19, 2012

Debate Fail - Or, Way Back with Mr. Peabody and Sherman

Another broader perspective from Anonymous D bringing us back to the moderation of reality:

Ok, with two debates down I feel like I can say this and it’s not sour grapes, or an attempt to blame poor performance on the moderator. I don’t like debates, they might be useful to some as a way of zinging your opponent, or giving them a mental smack-down when their memory fails, but as a means of assessing the truth they are pretty useless. Presentation is everything in a debate, the facts behind presentation less so. Thus the trip to the way back machine. Let’s go back to say, the second century A.D. for this one. Clement of Rome being a sensitive soul had many question. Questions about the immortality of the soul, or and if that soul had always existed so forth. Important questions, mind. He worried about it a great deal. He went everywhere he could to find an answer. He spent a lot of time listening to the debates in the philosophy schools concerning the subject. I will quote him:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Live-Blogging Presidential Debate II

This is the one when they vote who gets thrown off the island - I'm pretty sure.

All the punditry is certainly extra excited to see if Governor Romney can pull a knock-out punch or the President can fight back to be a contender for round three next week. I can't figure this out to predict much. Neither one seems capable of "feeling pain" as well as President Clinton. And neither seems like they will be as distracted as George H.W. Bush checking his watch and misunderstanding the questions - or wandering the stage like McCain. Certainly the President will be more engaged but something less than the excitable Vice President. Governor Romney will continue his best equity salesman persona with all the moderation he can muster. We'll see if the President can call him on any of that this time. Or, the complete unknown, how the audience will play on either one of them.

Classy & Classless

Secretary of State Clinton is a very popular and successful member of the Obama Administration. She is so popular that even Republicans claim to love her, as in, "if only she had won instead of Obama!" Take that for what it's worth.

The classy thing she did was to fall on her sword over the Benghazi attack. She claimed full responsibility and that the President and Vice President didn't have any reason to know about any requests for increased security. This is clearly a political attempt to deflect the Republican attacks against the President on this. Of course the ultimate buck stops with the President and her deflection will only work to a point. Yet I'm sure Secretary Clinton, along with many others, is more concerned about the tragedy in Benghazi becoming a political football in the closing weeks of this election. We will eventually know the truth of all this yet it will take some time. Now comes the classless part.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Week of Heart-Turning

Having vacation leave saved up but not enough moolah to actually go anywhere - yet needing a break, I took the week off and spent it in the LDS Family History Library just off Temple Square.

My work station(s)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Release the Biden! (or the Ryan!)

I regret that I will not be able to live-blog the Biden-Ryan gaffe fest. There are some family obligations this evening. I will try to comment on the highlights as the new, shiny, bright items grab the attention of the Fourth Estate for the next little news cycle.

Predictions? Biden will say at least one stupid thing. Ryan will say a few more. There will be some rough altercations and Ryan will hold his own against the Biden. He's no Theseus, though. I hope they address the Randian philophy head on. Let the people choose.

More later.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Choose Your Poison or Zion

A post from Anonymous D:


For many people, especially Mormons, everything is a religious contest.  Let’s face it, Mormons are largely one issue voters and that issue is Abortion, well two issues if you include gay marriage.  Most don’t really care about economic issues, and if they do they are for vote for the class they would like to be rather than the class to which they belong. But having adopted conservative political thought based on Family Values issues they buy into the rest of the philosophy without much thought.  So they parrot whatever their conservative hero’s might say about the economy.

The problem with this line of thought, as I've pointed out before, is that conservatives are do nothings on so-called moral issues, but they are all out to remake the economy into some Randian nightmare that cannot possibly benefit the average Republican voter.  It is nearly impossible for most Mormons to make the intellectual leap which suggests that perhaps their pre-conditioned ideas about conservative political might not match ideas from scripture.  The idea for example that we are all beggars.  The idea suggests that we do have a responsibility to take care of the poor, and the widow?  I know the argument is that we shouldn't be forced to it by taxes. I fail to see the difference actually. A people who won’t help the poor or consider them unworthy of help is mean spirited, whether they refuse to help through taxation or community giving.  Either way fail to get the job done. Can you imagine your local ward or community trying to tackle the health care and wide spread needs of a whole community?  It’s the reason we pooled our resources as a nation and not individual communities. The Government is the only organization  which in hard times can actually handle the problem.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Live-Blogging LDS General Conference - Sunday PM

In between sessions with kids home from college, we had Father's and Grandfather's Interviews. The latter were the highlight.

To a 4-year-old: "What happens when you grow up?"
"You die."
We talked about mission and marriage and all first.
Me: "What happens when you get married?"
"You have to kiss. My mom and dad have kissed."
"Do you want to have kids?"
"Yeah. Then you die."

And this from my 15-year-old when I asked what he thought about going on a mission at 18.
"If I could, I would go now."

Don't forget! You can watch the real thing live here. And later, official recordings and transcripts. My personal notes certainly should not serve as a substitute for the real thing!

Check the end of yesterday morning's session for my live-blog of the news conference with Elders Nelson and Holland on the change to the age to serve a Mission.

I'll keep updating.


Live-Blogging LDS General Conference - Sunday AM

Don't forget! You can watch the real thing live here. And later, official recordings and transcripts. My personal notes certainly should not serve as a substitute for the real thing!

Check the end of yesterday morning's session for my live-blog of the news conference with Elders Nelson and Holland on the change to the age to serve a Mission.

I'll keep updating (there may be a brunch break as my son, daughter, and wife are cooking now - and I will have to help clean up)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Late-Blogging Priesthood Session (Notes from the Dark)

They had the lights off again so it was pretty hard to take notes. I just got a few scratches of subject matters and highlights.

And there was something else going on with the Stake's best laid plans. We got there a few minutes before the start because we don't mind sitting on the folding chairs in the cultural hall. Our bishop was just opening the curtain and there were no chairs! Then I saw a counselor in the Stake Presidency talking to our bishop and picked up something about how they wanted us all in the chapel. But the chapel was packed full. Weird. Anyway, instead of planning ahead for the expected reality based on every past Priesthood Session, we were clanging around metal chairs as the meeting began. And it went on, as it always does, a full ten minutes or so into the session. Even during the prayer. I hope the Stake Presidency rethinks whatever they were attempting.

Live-Blogging LDS General Conference - Saturday PM

Don't forget! You can watch the real thing live here. And later, official recordings and transcripts. My personal notes certainly should not serve as a substitute for the real thing!

Check the end of this morning's session for my live-blog of the news conference with Elders Nelson and Holland on the change to the age to serve a Mission.

Here we go! Keep clicking back!

Live-Blogging LDS General Conference - Saturday AM - AND Press Conference on Change to Missionary Age

Here we go! [Big announcement with Pres. Monson and notes of Press Conference with Elders Nelson & Oaks below]

[don't forget live-broadcast, recordings, transcripts - eventually are all at LDS.org right here]

Keep checking back as we'll keep updating.

Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy will be released into Emeritus status. There is a wonderful write-up by Peggy Fletcher Stack at the SL Trib.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Big Bird Is My Hero

On the political light side tonight, I can't resist sharing the best of Big Bird from the internest today.


It's Bull Pucky

Yes, the President appeared disengaged and not on his game at the debate. I'm sure he was thinking that he would rather be spending the evening with Michelle. And the strategy failed in that they were probably hoping to hold back a little and let Governor Romney slip somehow. Governor Romney was in top form that night. And I just read something that churns up my passion to threaten moderation.

CNN reports that Governor Romney now admits (I'm sure with the greatest of "sincerity") that he was "completely wrong" about calling 47% of America irresponsible victims demanding entitlements (such as "health care, food, housing" -the nerve!). If the President had mentioned anything at all to call him out on the 47% the other night, Romney would have walloped him with this prepared and practiced line of "sincerity."

Thursday, October 4, 2012

That's the Guy I Was Talking About!

I'm really trying hard to express this without sounding sarcastic or cynical. But Mitt Romney last night did really well and reminds me of why I used to like him! I did! I really liked him when he came in and saved the Salt Lake City Olympics. I liked him when he was a moderate Republican Governor of Massachusetts (even more progressive than me at the time on pro-choice and pro-gay!). And I especially liked him when he gave Ted Kennedy a run for his money in 1994!

I mean, it was really great to see a take-charge, moderate, even progressive Mormon Republican doing well. He was so outside the extreme-conservative wing of the Republican Party that I thought he was a breath of fresh air and someone I could have supported for political office had I lived in Massachusetts. And then there was his dad. I was only a kid, but George was kind of a hero as a successful, Mormon politician from Michigan, far from the Mormon homeland. And then he served honorably in the Nixon Administration - one of the few who didn't end up in jail!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Live-Blogging Presidential Debate No. 1


Thanks to the election heating up, September was the biggest month yet on the blog. We had 5,438 page views. October should be good what with Presidential Debates, LDS General Conference, and all.

Keep clicking back. We'll try to keep updating . . .

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Debate Prep - NOT Fasting for Mitt

Maybe I need to start a pledge e-mail chain . . . .

Last night I was invited by a Facebook friend to join a fast for Mitt Romney so he will do well in the debate tomorrow and win the Presidency. I was somewhat shocked and disturbed. Calming down a little, I posted this:
I've just been invited to a "fast" for Mitt Romney. I declined. This reminds of when members of my ward were using their manipulative tricks to get me to sign up for their "spiritual" self-awareness seminars. I declined that too. As a public notice to all - Please! No more invitations! If you don't understand why this is so highly inappropriate, then just condemn me to heck and move on. Please! (I think my Libertarian Mormon friends are with me on this one! Respect them too!)
I think that was a pretty temperate response. (The whole "self-awareness seminar business" I'll save for another time).

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Matter of Perception

I don't usually go for the laugh on the blog. In fact, some think I'm a little too serious (maybe even full of myself). So, in an attempt to lighten up a bit, I share this great little matrix I found on the web:

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Terrorists!!! Or, "Que Manhã Quemada" - Gospel Doctrine Lesson 36

There was a call late last night that one of our Gospel Doctrine teachers had fallen off a ladder and needed a substitute. He told his wife to call me as I'm in the new Sunday School Presidency (and we don't even get to ring the bell anymore!) I love teaching Sunday School and don't mind the last minute calls. In fact, the later the better as it forces me to rely more on the Spirit. But as we have late church until January, I had several hours to prepare.

My fist reaction when I realized it was Lesson 36 was a bit of a nervous shudder. I believe that we should liken the scriptures unto us which I have done, loving this portion of the Book of Mormon because there is so much there I "likened" to lead me to my personal political views and philosophy. But I knew I had to be respectful to keep my personal views in check. On the blog I feel I can express myself more fully because while clearly influenced by gospel teachings, I am not an official spokesman for the church as I am when I am fulfilling an assignment at church. That's just the way I see it.

All the Things I've Heard People Say!

If my wife has any faults, I just don't know what they are. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

When I was first made bishop, she was in the nursery during those two-out-of-three hours at church - not a bad place to be especially if you're the bishop's wife. One of the other sisters who was there, and a good friend whose husband is practically my cousin, said to her, "I can't believe all the things I've heard people say since your husband became bishop!"

"About Grant?" my wife asked.

"No. About you."

My wife's response is for the ages. With a laughing smile she said, "Well, they're probably all true!"

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Provo Tabernacle/Temple, Castle?

This morning over at Keepapitchinin, Ardis posted some pictures she took of the rehabilitation of the Provo Tabernacle into a Temple. The Tabernacle burned in December 2010 and there is great excitement to see the historic structure repaired and modified to become a second Temple in Provo.

My wife and I drove by the construction site just a few weeks ago. We spent our first two married years in Provo and attended at least one LDS Stake Conference in the Tabernacle. Yet there was something oddly familiar in a different way with the pictures Ardis posted. I hadn't ever paid attention to the hexagonal towers of the Tabernacle before. They are very similar to those of Raglan Castle between Abergavenny and Monmouth, Wales!

Raglan Castle Tower
by Me, August 20, 2010

Provo Tabernacle-Temple Tower
Courtesy of Ardis Parshall












Why 47% Makes a Majority

First off, let me say that I don't believe Governor Romney really believes what he said on that secretly recorded tape at the fancy fundraiser. I think he was just trying to play to the crowd and the questioner. (The problem with saying things he doesn't really believe we'll leave for another time).

I also understand that he mixed several ideas. The conservative complaint that about 47% of people don't pay income taxes got mixed with the reality that about 47% of the electorate would never vote for him. The two groups aren't the same although there would be some overlap in a Venn diagram. The third idea thrown in was the Ayn Randian adolescent fantasy of the producers and the moochers which is about as accurate as the philosophical fantasies that divide the world into orcs and hobbits.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Seven Years of Servitude

Jacob & Rachel by William Dyce (1853)
It's been seven years since we moved to Utah and it's about seven more before I can even think of retiring and going on a church mission with my wife. A sonnet sort of on that theme keeps rattling in my brain. Let me share this beautiful piece from the 16th Century Portuguese Writer, Luis Vaz de Camões. His work follows, then my own inferior translation:

Glad All That's Behind Us Now

Somehow I missed this back in the angry days of 2009:


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Lincoln for President

Only first-time viewers need the notice that I am a big fan of Abraham Lincoln. And we all should know by now that President Obama is as well. He frequently references Lincoln directly or uses his words or phraseology sometimes without attribution. But if you live in his old house, I guess that's OK. He also claims to have read Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals which helps explain Secretary of State Clinton. And that's working out better than even Lincoln & Seward.

So, I thought I would do a little check to see how well Governor Romney reaches for the Lincoln ideal, or even the rhetoric. I found this:
The best ally world peace has ever known is a strong America. The “last best hope of earth” was what Abraham Lincoln called our country. Mitt Romney believes in fulfilling the promise of Lincoln’s words and will defend America abroad in word and in deed.- From Romney's campaign webpage.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Racists Among Us

Yesterday, I had to leave work early and caught the most amazing dialogue on National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation. The host, Neal Conan, was discussing Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation with guest Richard Striner of Washington College, Chestertown, Maryland.

I shared the transcript excerpt below with Anonymous D as I noticed the caller was from Howard City, Michigan (and I'm sure there are many fine people in Howard City):
I wondered if that was in your mission. I didn't catch the location until I found the transcript. But I heard yet another amazing thing on Public Radio yesterday. On a theme of Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, a caller came on --- and maybe I'll just let you read it. The next caller is also interesting with a voice of such a refined Southern lady from Charleston, SC. 
Anonymous D responded:
Yeah Howard City was in my Mission, actually in one of my areas.  The racial history of Michigan is interesting, especially in light of this conversation.  Most African Americans in Michigan came north during the war to work factory jobs, vacated by whites who were off fighting in Europe or the South Pacific.  When the War was over, to my understanding, the whites came back to their jobs and the, by that time skilled, black laborers were left jobless in pre-civil-rights Michigan which wasn’t exactly a forgiving place.
I’m not going to comment on the rest of it other than to say: Ugly.
[Later] My observations of Michigan history are not scholarly but anecdotal-based on the comments of residents I talked to during my mission and after.  Interestingly the best popular history of Michigan was written by Bruce Catton of Civil War History fame, himself a Michigander.  Don’t be too hard on my adopted homeland. Michigan did sent many regiments to fight for the Union.
Now, for the ugliness:

Monday, September 24, 2012

Religion & Politics (Featuring Elder Oaks at Notre Dame)

H/T to Facebook friend Audrey C. who posted this update:
Okay so here is my political two cents... I read this article and would like to share it. Just because a person who claims to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn't mean that he will receive my vote. I believe that we must study and see who that person is what they have done in their past both good and bad and see who they really are and what they represent from their actions. 
Salt Lake City — On 4 September 2012, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), participated in the 2012-13 Notre Dame Forum, “Conviction and Compromise: Being a Person of Faith in a Liberal Democracy.” The forum featured five prominent religious leaders addressing the role of faith in American democracy. Other panelists included Most Rev. Joseph E. Kurtz, archbishop of Louisville; Rabbi David Saperstein, director and counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Rick Warren, founding pastor, Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, California; and Rev. Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. The discussion was moderated by David Campbell, a professor of political science, and M. Cathleen Kaveny, a professor of law and theology.

The False Choice

As reported by CNN, Governor Romney characterizes the choice this way:
"We have a very different approach - the president and I - between a government-dominated society and a society driven by free people pursuing their dreams," Romney said.
What if there are another options? As in, "People pursuing their dreams of a free society" or "Free People dominating their own government."

President Obama has made serious mistakes. He has been quite amazing in some of the things he has accomplished, but he admits himself that he has not changed Washington or the tone in Washington (meaning DC, not the State of, which has a very nice green and brown tone). And so many on the right cry crocodile tears that they are so disappointed, while mainly frustrated that they haven't been able to stalemate him any more than they have.