Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Book Report - Worst Mine Disaster in the History of Britain - Senghenydd 1913

Alexander Cordell's, This Sweet and Bitter Earth (1977).

There are spoilers in the post title and more coming. As the book is out of print and hard to find, I think that's OK. I found my copy searching Amazon used and Abe Booksthe latter is the best for British publications. And I'm glad I don't know all the details of Welsh History before I pick up these books. It helps bring it all home to me or at least to look on it as it is my ancestral abode. And it does come home:

Monday, December 28, 2015

Guest Post: The Atonement Overcomes the Adversary

Yesterday we went with our son, A-5, now a Sophomore at BYU to his church service down in Provo. There were few there during the holiday break. Most, of course, had gone home. Some stayed in Provo because of jobs or the distance or lack of family to go home to. Our son had volunteered to speak in church (it's a layman's church anyway) as he lived close enough to return during the break.

A piano in every lecture hall - for Sunday conversion from Biology to Church meetings.
It is always interesting to see the church school turn over to church services on a Sunday. His meetings were held in the brand-spanking new Life Sciences building. So there we sat in a lecture hall that during weekdays is used for lectures on biology, including every latest discovery of molecular or evolutionary biology, and on Sundays becomes a church house for talks and lessons on the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Somehow it all works.

Now the talk:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

My name is [A-5], I live in the 8th ward and am currently attending BYU studying physics and acoustics and enjoy playing my trumpet at the basketball and football games.

I’m grateful for this opportunity to speak today. I pray that the spirit will guide my words and your thoughts so that we all may be edified and guided with the direction we need in life.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Sacred to the Memory of Christmas

"I am the Ghost of Christmas Past."

"Long past?". . . .
"No. Your past."
In the position of Scrooge's nephew Fred, I live in joy with a good wife and wonderful future prospects even without the riches of a reformed old miser of an uncle who will leave me an inheritance. I have an inheritance of family, love, and friends.

And I can't help but think of a good friend lost some years back. She died an untimely death. Unlike Scrooge I am not haunted by regrets. In spite of teenage foibles, I treated her well as she did me. There is nothing to be embarrassed about now.

Our mothers were very close friends and our families spent a lot of time together. Far away from our own extended families, our friends filled that place. We were together on New Years Day, Fourth of July, and especially, Christmas.

1963. This Blogger, C, My Brother, C's Sister.
Our mutual parents thought we made such lovely couples.
C and I went along with it much better than the other two.

1963. C and Her Younger Sister.
Our house. Douglas Fir Christmas tree cut down under
 power lines  somewhere beyond Redmond Valley

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Have Yourself a Bureaucratic Christmas (Part 2, Thanks, Obama)

I think this email means we get half a day off on Christmas Eve:

The President has issued an Executive order excusing employees from duty for the last half of the scheduled workday on Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24, 2015, with pay and without charge to leave, except for those employees who cannot be excused for reasons of national security, defense or essential public need. Employees are excused for one half of their regularly scheduled basic (non-overtime) workday. Employees on a regular and flexible work schedule (i.e., maxiflex) will receive 4 hours of holiday. Employees on a compressed work schedule will receive half of the total number of scheduled basic hours (i.e., if you are on a fixed 10-hour schedule you will receive 5 hours). The holiday time should be coded in Quicktime as 050 - Holiday - Not Worked

Employees who are scheduled to take annual leave for the last half of the scheduled workday on Thursday, December 24th, will not be charged leave for that period of time. If an employee has scheduled "use or lose" annual leave for the last half of the scheduled workday on Thursday, December 24th, and is unable to reschedule that leave for use before the end of the leave year (i.e., January 9, 2016), the leave will be forfeited. When "use or lose" leave is forfeited under these conditions, the law (5 U.S.C. 6304(d)) does not permit restoration of the leave. Employees may donate their excess annual leave to an approved leave recipient under the voluntary leave transfer program.  More information on potential leave recipients is located here:

Saturday, December 19, 2015

What If My Wife Didn't Like Mexicans?

She actually does. This is a hypothetical. As a lawyer, I'm entitled to use them even if I don't really like them (hypotheticals, not Mexicans. I like Mexicans too). But let's supposed my wife really didn't like Mexicans and had certain annoying policies about how they should be treated if they ever came around.

This is an absurd hypothetical as my wife grew up in New Mexico. Which, by the way, is part of the of the United States since 1848 and a State since 1910. And while we're digressing slightly from my hypothetical to true facts, I remember the too frequent question I was asked by people, mainly in Idaho (another state of the Union) that summer I spent with my parents there while waiting for the wedding date. When I told people that my fiancée was from New Mexico, I simply and patiently answered in the affirmative to the frequent rejoinder, "Does she speak English?" . . . . I really tried hard not to cringe.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Keeping the "Merry" in "X-Mass"

I get so tired of the phony "Christmas Wars." There is no war on Christmas. It is not only constitutionally protected by the First Amendment free exercise clause but is a legal, federal holiday since the time of President Grant. (Please see, Federal Holidays: Evolution and Application, (CRS Report for Congress, 98-301 GOV, The Library of Congress, updated February 8, 1999).

The only contrarian stirrings are that the establishment clause does not allow Christians in governmental authority to impose Christmas upon others against their free will and freedom to worship or not as they see fit. So some non-Christians, and freedom-loving Christians alike, oppose state-sanctioned religious displays and expressions as a violation of the establishment clause. The last thing we want is government in charge of Religion - think about it.

A recent meme from the conservative side stirring up the wars is this example of "Christian-Conservative Pride" which gives me (a believing and practicing Christian) a real turn-off with regard to conservatism and certain forms of Christianity. It appears to be rather "in-your-face" and I don't recall a lot of pride manifest in that humble stable and the shepherds at the first Christmas.

I actually have some concern about the over-use and over-commercialization of the sacred name of Christ in the out-of-control excesses of the holiday, be they money-grubbing or political. That's one reason why I have no problem with the substitution of the "X" for "Christ" in the holiday originating from the Catholic Mass occurring in December to celebrate the Savior's birth. As good ol' St. Wikipedia tells us:

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Scraping Away the Thin Veneer

I made a terrible mistake. It took me a long time to think about it. It was that in  my pre-blogging days I wrote a guest opinion piece for the Salt Lake Tribune in which I celebrated the signing of Obamacare (no, that wasn't the mistake) and went on to challenge modern Mormons on their wrong-headed beliefs in States Rights (no, that wasn't the mistake either) arguing that many seem to cover their political beliefs with a "thin veneer of religion" to justify them.

That was very offensive to some in my family who expressed it to me in no uncertain terms. They let me know that they are guided by their deeply held religious beliefs that frame their politics. The odd thing is, so am I.

Recently, a person of significant public and private trust who shall be unnamed here proposed a new perspective to me. He said that the sometimes extraordinarily odd and conservative political views of Utah did not represent the true nature of its people. He said something to the effect that if you "scrape of the veneer," and I think he used that word, the "veneer" of politics, that people of Utah really were good at heart.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

LDS Church Statement Supporting Religious Pluralism Includes Islam

My stress point was about to break with the increasingly divisive rhetoric of Republican Presidential Candidate Trump regarding Muslims. Great relief came when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) released a statement supporting religious freedom and pluralism, specifically mentioning Muslims, in an apparent rebuke to Trump and his supporters.

If I can illustrate simply:


Monday, December 7, 2015

Christmas Videos Not to Be Missed

To get the bad taste out of my mouth from my last posting and "for hate is strong and mocks the song of 'Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men" from some major political figures and their supporters, I share here some really great Christmas messages:

Have Yourself a Bureaucratic Christmas!

Lest anyone think I'm trying to start a war or something, let me remind you that "Christmas" (spelled exactly thus) is a legal and recognized federal holiday ever since President Grant. I just wanted to share a memo that came by email, well, just because:

To:                   All Departmental Employees

From:               __________, Designated Agency Ethics Official

Subject:           Ethics Guidance for the Holiday Season

I would like to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a very merry and safe holiday season. Each year at this time many of us participate in holiday celebrations and activities occurring in and out of the office. While this is a time of celebration and joy, we must still be aware that there are ethics rules and regulations which apply to all Federal employees. As a result, the Departmental Ethics Office generally receives a number of questions from employees on the appropriateness of certain holiday activities.

Therefore, in anticipation of the more common questions received by the Departmental Ethics Office, I am providing you with a summary of the ethics rules governing various holiday activities.

Acceptance of Gifts

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Ancient Books Become More Real Ankhs to King Hezekiah

There was news this week of an amazing archaeological discovery in Jerusalem. A personal seal of King Hezekiah of Judah (about 739-687 BC) imprinted in clay.

Actual size about an inch across.
(Courtesy of Dr. Eilat Mazar; Photo by Ouria Tadmor)
According to Hebrew University, the writing says, "Belonging to Hezekiah [son of]Ahaz King of Judah." It depicts a winged sun with ankhs on either side. On the reverse there is evidence of strands of binding that likely went around some document.

The image of the ankh really astounded me. I knew it from my grade school fascination with King Tutankhamen and all things Egyptian. (There it is again right in the middle of King Tut's name!)  It is the symbol for "life." As it is often associated with gods, pharaohs, and funerary ceremonies (as most things are in Egypt), it is a symbol of "eternal life."

The winged sun is pretty interesting itself. It doesn't take a lot of extrapolation to interpret a celestial sun directed upward flanked by symbols of eternal life. Tell me if I'm stretching any here.

I'm no Hebrew expert so I have to trust the translation of the ancient script provided. The mix of Hebrew letters and Egyptians symbols are no surprise for the historical era as Egypt was rather dominant in the region with the Kingdom of Judah squeezed between it and Assyria.
And as much as I hate apologetics, I love Hugh Nibley. Am I going too far to notice "the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians?"

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"Red, the Blood of Angry Men" - Merthyr Rising 1831

In the category of "I'm-surprised-to-learn-something-new-every-day," the first ever red flag raised as a symbol of social reform in the name of the working man (and woman, even at that time) was in the protest of 1831 when coal miners and iron workers dipped a white flag in goat's blood and waived it as a symbol of their cause against the wealthy mine owners and iron masters of South Wales.

"Fe godwn ni eto" - "We will rise again"
"Merthyr Rising" is the name given for this short-lived movement. The red flag of the nascent unions and social reforms was yet to be associated with Marxism or even Socialism which as an economic/political theory was only just beginning.

Yes, there had been violent revolutions for representative government and "liberty, equality, and fraternity" in the former British Colonies in America and the French Revolution respectively. There had even been workers' protests in South Wales. But this was the first historically documented use of the red flag as part of a social movement.