Saturday, December 27, 2008

Cooking, and gifts

We've been having fun this week. While at my parents house for Christmas we've been doing lots of Indian cooking. They buy the spices, we do all the cooking. Lots of joy for all. Not often you get guests who do most of your cooking for you.

We were a little surprised when my parents told us we could keep the spices they bought. And then even more surprised when they gave us jars to put them in (we brought a few jars for mixes we would blend, but why do spices come in such massive plastic bags?), and then gave us book ends for our shelves, ties, a dress coat, and a blazer. The ties were available because my dad won't wear them once they start showing wear, and the other clothes because he outgrew them but fit me perfectly. And for while we were here they stocked my old bird feeder, which had been lying empty, with premium birdseed from a specialty store. Growing up I used to pay for the birdseed myself if I wanted something nicer than standard grocery store blend.

And this is after the official Christmas presents had been sent.

Streaks of generosity are welcome, but this kind of blows my mind sometimes.

Thanks :)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Credits Restored

The last of my language credits have finally been approved, making me that much closer to graduation. Feels nice to have some progress, even if that progress comes in the form of reminding the registrar that I really did take said classes. One day GWC will not lose credits. The Registrar claims that day has already come. But until I hear them proclaim they've migrated their computer systems for keeping track of records without any unexplained changes to transcripts I'm keeping close hold on all my old transcripts.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Car and Books

After our last car trip I told my palm pilot to calculate my MPG, and it tells me we are averaging 40 miles to the gallon. That makes us really happy.

In other news I just finished another book recently entitled The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin. It is one of the most beautiful stories I've read in a long time. Too bad the library doesn't have any more of her books that I haven't read.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Shots and games

Today I got my first flu shot. Work was offering them for free so I figured I might as well cash in on it. So that was happy. If the scientists guessed right on which strains will be prevalent I might just avoid getting sick.

In other news, Geneforge 5 finally came out two days ago and I'm very happy about that. If only I actually had real time to play said video game. I must say the geneforge games are the only games that ever made me think about a book by C.S. Lewis before.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Air Quality

While car shopping a while ago I discovered something odd. Our county doesn't require vehicles to pass any emissions testing to be roadworthy. I don't know if its something about the winter air, but this bothers me. Often while I bike to work along a 50 MPH highway the only smell in the air is car exhaust. Feels like I'm breathing in pure fumes. I'm sure most of the residents of our city don't notice because insulated inside their cars they mainly breath air from their driveway, not the air around them. But that's not the only road where I've noticed serious problems with breathing in exhaust. I think mainly the city is just getting to the point of generating its own smog. And its not only that. Its not uncommon in this city for people to use their fireplace as a primary heating source. While I don't mind a small fire now and again, there are entire sections of my weekly routes that are continually bathed in woodsmoke because of the constant fires heating the homes on those roads. Between these two I get a very strong sense that the air I breathe is not terribly healthy and is probably getting worse. My asthma probably makes me more resentful than most people as well since I have trouble breathing when I bike past these quaint smokey chimneys. But I think its high time the people around here took air quality seriously.

I think the most opinion I've ever heard or seen expressed on the subject are the old apartment neighbor who took his muffler off his sports car so he could hear the engine growl louder, another associate who has sawed the catalyctic converter off his truck so it will "run" better, and a man at the car inspection place who complained next we were going to make ATV's pass emissions inspections too, what was this world coming to? As much as and even more than the culture here relishes its freedom to drive unnecissarily large trucks for their daily commute, I relish my ability to breath all year round.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Norby and the Oldest Dragon

I just finished reading the second to last book in the series of sci fi children's books written by Isaac Asimov and his wife. Using my birthday money I have actually managed to purchase the entire set, which is happy given that they are old and somewhat obscure books. This particular books plot reminds me a lot of the plot of the original Star Trek movie, except done a lot better. Which is saying something since I am a fan of even the cheesy installments of the original Star Trek movies (never saw the TV series, don't ask how that happened).

The difference is in the Star Trek movie the character inadvertently killed by the alien life form is someone I at least never could really care about. Her romance with one of our main characters seemed little more than an interspecies novelty act. So when she dies its kind of like, oh, what a downer, an annoying character was gotten rid of. Glad she didn't stick around for the sequel.

In the Norby book, the inadvertently killed character is the main character's brother and you care about him. And the final sacrifice joining minds together was more than some cheesy "I want to touch my creator" meeting a sexual impulse that can be followed by Bones' saying "Well, it's been a long time since I delivered a baby. I hope we got this one off to a good start." In the Norby book, the final sacrifice is teaching a newly sentient form about death, diversity, and compassion and done without selfish or hormonal causes. It's also coming from someone we haven't known long but is loved and honored by everyone in the book.

So if you thought the plot elements in Star Trek: The Motion Picture were fun but could use a better kind of cheesy presentation, I'd recommend Norby and the Oldest Dragon.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

New Computer

I have finally purchased a new computer. I guess I'm just tired of being afraid the old one will break down without having backed up recently. 5 years is pretty good for a laptop so I think I'm done testing fate on it. I've almost transferred all my information to the new one. It was something of a job setting up the dual boot so I can run both mac and windows. But I managed it. Windows is supposed to offer to format your drive before installing itself, but the disk I got for whatever reason failed to offer so I had to somehow trick it into doing it, which Bonnie Jean figured out for me. Holding down F10 during a certain point of the installation routine triggers a "disk recovery console" which can be used to reformat the drive. Now its working beautifully.

So I'm happy with the new machine. I've enjoyed trying out the webcam.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Well, I just finished watching Obama's victory speech. I could learn some things about public speaking from him. I do have some disagreements with Obama's policies, but in general I think I am pleased with tonights results. This will be an interesting next 4 years.

Oh, and I almost wish I could speak to the woman at Walmart I overheard the other day claiming that Obama was part of a secret muslim plot to blow up all the TV stations and tell her, no, don't worry. That Christian guy we just elected won't blow up your TV stations. He'll be too busy making eloquent speeches through them.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Gave talk in church today

Gave a talk in church today on being kind to your spouse. Bonnie Jean spoke as well on the same subject. This ward always assigns speakers in pairs. It went very well. I was a little amused to get assigned that one given that our relationship pattern is far from typical. But that doesn't tend to matter as much as one would think. I told Bonnie Jean afterwards "hope they don't take too long to ask us to do that again, that was fun."

Of course I've been told from time to time that I have an odd sense of fun.

Finally got the title

I was greatly relieved yesterday to receive the title of my new car in the mail. The dealer was stalling and acting as if they didn't even have the title until just a few days ago. Who knows what was going on. I have half a mind to report them to the state DMV for failing to deliver a title within 48 hours on the sale of a vehicle without a temporary tag. But I've got it now in any case.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Strep throat

On Thursday I missed work because I woke up with massive headache, dizzy so much I had trouble standing, sore throat so bad I couldn't talk much, swollen lymph nodes, and a fever of 101.6. I figured it was just a head flu or something but BJ thought it was strep so went to the doctor to have it tested.

I love this town for sick appointments. I can get a same day sick appointment without pressuring the doctor or needing to use the emergency room. With all my fun medical issues I've had recently I still have yet to have entered the emergency room once.

The doctor said it was such stereotypical symptoms that he didn't even feel a need to test it just wanted to give me the antibiotics and send me on my way. I thought it was a little funny. He didn't percicely say stereotypical strep, just that it was obvious I was responding to "strep or something" and that even if a strep test came back negative he'd still prefer to treat it as if it were positive. I'd rather be a good citizen and not take antiobiotics I don't really need or just because I want to do something. But what do you do when the doctor just assumes that no matter what the lab says its just best to use them anyways? Oh well, they actually seem to be working. As of this morning I actually feel practically back to normal.

Friday, October 10, 2008

New Car

Latest car shopping venture has been a success. We've just purchased a 2003 Toyota Corolla for just under 4000$... with about 230,000 miles on it. The nicest thing about that is we spent less than half, almost just a 3rd of the budget we set aside for it, and the car would kelly blue book for much much more than that. Seems to be in good shape, but does need some basic repairs.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I hate my insurance/medical stuff continues

So I've been having some medical fun recently. My pharmacy insurance refuses to cover many medications they consider "routine" unless they are ordered from the insurance directly. But there's no convenient way to find that out until after filling it the first time at the local pharmacy, which they will cover. Its not based on how often you take it, its based on their list of what they consider routine. So recently I started a "routine" medication. Instead of telling me that directly they sent me a letter advising me my medication required preapproval or they'd charge me full price for the medication I had already filled with preapproval already obtained. I called my doctor repetitively asking them to get with my insurance to give another post approval, but they didn't call me back with anything useful, basically said we don't know what they're talking about either. Finally I called the insurance and they said oh we're sorry, when we send preapproval required letters what we really mean is buy from us or else. I asked if they could manage the transition to buying from them, they said no. So I called my doctor and asked him to send in a prescription to the insurance. He didn't do it. Later on trying to check if he had, I was logging into the insurance website and lo and behold, there was a button for initiate this order on our side. So I did.

But in the meantime with all these delays I ran out of medication and it was labeled on a big red sticker DON'T SKIP DOSES. So I called the pharmacy to see exactly what the "or else" of buying the medicine locally actually was. It was no coverage, but they suggested the insurance might make an exception. The insurance claimed not only under no circumstance would they cover me locally, but tried to tell me the local pharmacy wasn't even allowed to sell me a partial month supply without me getting doctors permission first. Called the pharmacy back, and they said no, they were happy to sell me the drug for $10 a pill for any amount I chose under 30 days. But, the pharmacist also said all I really needed to do was tide myself over with an over the counter substitute in the meantime and I'd be fine.

I really hate feeling like I'm fighting every step of the way just to get my medications. My doctor did contribute to the problem, but every single time I've interacted with the pharmacy insurance they've told me something that wasn't right.

So, getting back to my life, today I finally managed to get in the surgery follow up visit I had to skip when my insurance was canceled. I think I've freaked out the doctor. As I told him of every symptom aside from bleeding had continued he asked me if my insurance would cover this sort of thing. I asked him what he meant. You know its time to worry when he answers "I mean they wouldn't cover me sending you to the mayo clinic."

He clarified he might not have to do that, but he very well might like to. So I'm scheduled for another surgical operation where they just look around with a camera to see what in the world is going on. Then we go from there.... wherever that might be but apparently not to the mayo clinic because my insurance won't cover it.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Finished Dune

Bonnie Jean and I finished reading Frank Herbert's Dune Thursday. It was a beautiful story. I have to admit, science fiction was really my first love in reading, I've just spent so much time in fantasy because there's more quality "youth fantasy" where authors don't feel a need to spill their obscene fantasies onto the paper to fill up space. Science fiction tends to be either children's books like Tom Swift and Danny Dunn (I've poured myself over every single one of those they had in the local libraries growing up) or adult. But with some help from Bonnie Jean I've started finding my way through the variety and beauty of adult science fiction. I've nearly read the entirety of Le Guin's Hainish cycle, discovered Roger Zelazny, read all of Card's Ender series (though I didn't like the shadow sequals, they were annoying), and now I've discovered Frank Herbert.

I've been thrilled to discover the local library maintains a list of all the Hugo and Nebula award winning novels on their website, but subsequently disappointed to find they don't have many of them. They didn't even have Dune, which won BOTH Hugo and Nebula, till just recently. I think someone stole their copy or something because they have many of the sequels.

Hopefully I will continue to find good authors and good books to fill my leisure hours.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Frantic work day

Today we have discovered yet one more way in which my work day can be crazy. The most basic work day for me is handling follow up calls-mostly large billing research/rerate issues. The most normal work day for me is handling follow up calls while coordinating the assignment of follow up calls to all my teammates. Recently announced and hotly begrudged (there was talk of striking) is a recent announcement that our team will also handle the "I want to talk to your manager" calls (you didn't really think you were talking to a manager did you?). I've protested my concern that I do not want to be doing the previous 3 items at once. But today we added another piece to the pie. I am now part of a special group that any agent on the floor can send a message to if they have a question about anything.

So relive this moment with me from earlier today. I am trying to work on my own follow up, calling a customer to politely raise some concerns I had about assertions in a billing dispute they called us for. Then, in the follow up team's chat room 2 people ask me for more work at about the same time. I tell them please wait I'm on a call, but I have to keep an eye on the chat or I'll lose track of the crowd that were waiting to ask but didn't want to be the first to do so. Then I get two chat requests from different agents asking me to help them with their calls and since the answers are ones that I think will be quick I try to answer them at the same time I am on the call. So I am keeping track of 5 people trying to ask me to do something at the same time and actively responding to 3 of them.

Now that was borderline insanity multitasking overload for me. And this was a polite call I was having, not the crazy I'm-going-to-yell-at-you-for-an-hour-because-you-shut-my- phone-off-for-nonpay-the-same-month-my-grandfather-died.

So lets hope I won't get manager escalations, have to handle my own callbacks, manage the workflow for the team, and answer random questions all at once. My team leader may think I'm a superb multi-tasker. I may have been well known for being on a call and people would walk up behind me and ask me a question and I'd type the answers on screen so I wouldn't have to stop talking making me approachable anytime no matter what, but this is insane already and could get a lot worse.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Now its for sure

We have finally found out for certain that we will not be taking care of my newest little nephew for the next year. The military decided to assign my sister in law to being in charge of a team of clerks instead of deploying her to Iraq. Its the best we could have hoped for for them, though I'm a little disappointed to have moved when I didn't need to yet. So, in the meantime, life goes on.

Clever worms

A friend at work had an apple tree raining apples on her lawn and invited us to come pick apples. I brought home 3 bags full and made apple dumplings last night. But to my dismay, the worms were cleverer than I thought. I was trying to pick out apples with no wormholes, but apple after apple after apple showed my ignorance. Worms can crawl in through the very base of the apple where it normally looks like a hole anyways because that's where the flower was. So I had to cut around quite a few little maggots former homes.

At least I made Bonnie Jean laugh when I opened the first surprise and told her I had disturbed a monster of the deep.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Busy day

I've gotten quite a bit done today. First, I managed to wash our shower curtain so instead of looking like a mildewy sheet of soap scum it actually looks like new clean plastic again. I borrowed Dune from the library, cleaned the toilet, found a home or temporary home for every book we own outside of a box (wow we need another book shelf), put away other random objects, vacuumed most of the apartment for the first time, and took a trip down to the St. George Temple in a rented car. If only I had managed to fit in the groceries...

In other special news yesterday in team meeting at work I was presented with a small metal plate, a certificate, and a pen awarding me for getting some magical number of official thank you note cards from other employees at work. You can be awarded for either getting so many or giving out so many. I hardly paid any attention to the program actually as my manager commented once when I turned in the official notice for having received such a thank you note some 5 months late once, but apparently I'm one of the lucky winners this year/term/or whatever time period they use to award people who get them.

Probably the most memorable such thank you note I ever got was when I wrote some information in a follow up form that was found by the receiving agent to be slightly unprofessional. But, she found it so refreshingly honest and accurate that it completely made the her day and she was either laughing or chucking about it for several hours. But in any case I am now officially one of my center's "Power of One Champions" so that makes me happy.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Orange Shrimp Fettuchini

I've probably been salivating over this shrimp recipe since fairly soon after we got married. Bonnie Jean has told me I'm free to make it whenever I want just so long as we cook a separate dinner for her so she doesn't have to eat it. That always felt like it would be too much trouble, so I never did. But BJ had a relief society social on Wednesday that included a dinner, so I used it as an excuse to cook shrimp. Very tasty. Most Shrimp recipes either seem to overwhelm the flavor of the shrimp or mildly adds to it. This one had a strong flavor, but seemed to bring out the taste instead of hiding it. I shall have to keep this one in mind for the next time Bonnie Jean has a dinner event.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mozart and the Whale

I finally watched it. The producer of Rainman did another movie for Aspergers syndrome which unfortunately had some serious post production disagreements that kept it from being marketed much or making it to theater. But, it did come out on DVD some time in the last few years. Part of me had been grateful it didn't go anywhere because I knew it had some stuff in it I didn't want to watch and I didn't want people stereotyping me off of something I wasn't going to see. But now that I've actually watched it filtered, I think its too bad it didn't take off. It was an excellent movie. Hit a lot of points where I kept saying "I've felt that one" and "I know what that's all about."

Hopefully another movie will come along and pull off the same quality presentation and actually hit off the marketing thing so people can actually see it. There's a documentary in the works called "Loving Lampposts" that sounds like it might hit the right note, but not many people go to documentaries even if it did hit theater.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Happy Anniversary

Yesterday was our 3rd wedding anniversary. Since we've done so much out of town off work kind of events recently we didn't do anything really special other than candlelight with dinner. It was a good dinner. Bonnie Jean cooked cashew garlic chicken. I finally gave Bonnie the wildflower guide I'd been hiding in my backpack for the last 3 weeks or so. So hopefully additions to her photo a day blog will start identifying plants instead of just showing pretty pictures.

In other fun stuff, I got a package yesterday that wasn't a present from Bonnie Jean. I had been taking a course in biblical hebrew for language credits at school and need more credits. My school's language department is a lot more cramming and bluster than retention and resembles a self study group more than a class. But I still wanted to learn more and do something for credit more interesting than taking the highest level class over again (yes, I've taken the highest division class and still need credits, language classes cause me problems in general). And even if I end up finishing off credits with a teaching aide round or something I want to know my stuff before showing up. So, I bought myself a self study program for biblical hebrew. Figured something meant for self study would be better than trying to use my classroom oriented textbooks. Kind of hard to find, most self study programs are for modern hebrew rather than biblical. But that wouldn't do, Hebrew has been around longer than most languages and consequently has devolved quite a bit more than most. So if I did modern hebrew self study there would be entire conjugations missing and major grammar rules lost along the way. But I did manage to find one program for only about $100.

So far I am grateful the only features missing from the mac version are print, scroll bars button ends don't work(you actually have to drag the scroll bar, clicking up or down is useless), and volume control. I am grateful to see they have maintained virtually universal compatibility in the past (the software says it will run on a windows Pentium 166 and on Mac OS 7.5) which means they'll more likely keep it running for the future, but somehow I'd prefer being able to print to being able to run on a dinosaur operating system. But, worst case scenario I can throw the disc in Bonnie Jean's computer if I need to print anything, and the program only overrides my system volume control if I try to touch the program setting, so it should run just fine in the meantime on my computer.

Last quick to mention about the software... its probably the only software I've ever paid for that I can't find a license agreement controlling my use of it. I've downloaded free stuff with no agreement... but never ever before purchased a without one. Not that I'm going to abuse it, but I guess I won't feel guilty about copying the program from the CD where they intend you to run it to my drive to help save my dying laptop battery.

Monday, August 25, 2008

New Fridge

We had been complaining about our fridge to our landlord almost since the day we moved in. The crisper wasn't held on correctly making it very difficult to open and for some reason instead of dripping normal condensation in its 'drip pan' it dripped it all directly on the floor. But somehow, especially the way a week or more into continuous puddles we were told "give it another week and tell me if its still happening" we just weren't expecting anything to be done about it. But today with 45 minutes of warning a new fridge showed up. The space inside is much better used, I think its a little bigger, and miraculously nothing seems to be wrong with it.

That's probably because it really is brand new. Bonnie Jean actually saw the handyman taking all the new product stickers off of it. I am very happy about this new fridge.

Among other things I am happy for is an unexpected check for 438$ in the mail. Apparently the radiologist decided he had overbilled us...? I'm not exactly sure how this is working because we never really figured out where the bill for that amount came from in the first place, none of the insurance claims are for amounts matching that. The hospital tried to tell me when I asked that I was being billed separately for the people who performed the cat scan vs the people who actually read it after it was developed. My guess is I was double billed for my CT, once at the actual insurance company pricing where I pay deductible all at once and the other 1000$ is rated at 20%, and again directly from the radiologist at a rate as if I had already paid my deductible. But in any case with as many hours as we have missed from work recently thats practically another paycheck.

So today I'm feeling very grateful.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Unseated by the forces of nature

Today I experienced the consequences of falling behind on bicycle maintenance. My seat had been getting loose for some time. Had the bike shop tighten it once but it got loose again right away. Since I was very busy I hadn't given it enough priority to dig out my tools to readjust it myself. I assumed since I'm sitting right on it the weight must be going straight down and nothing bad will happen... right?

Well, in reality the cylinder the bike seat attaches to comes up at an angle and the seat meets it at an acute angle, so there are significant leverage forces on that seat. When the bolt is lose those can be worse. So about a 3rd of the way to work this morning the bolt attaching the seat to the seat post was sheared by my own weight.

I managed to avoid collapsing in a heap, but just barely. I've never practiced dismounting from a bike while standing on the pedals instead of seated, but I pulled it off with with only some nasty scraping on my right ankle. So instead of being within minutes of being late to work I was very late to work, not having the stanima to run that distance without an inhaler (which I had forgotten in my other pack) much less while lugging a bike.

But now we come to why I'm glad I mainly travel by bike. Any kind of repair on a car that would take it from completely unusable to perfect shape would cost no less than 50$, but you count yourself lucky if its even as low as 300$. It took some time shopping around town for parts (mostly on foot since I only got a ride part way when a coworker tracked me down for a ride to the first store) but I was able to repair the bike for about 2.40$. My normal bike shop didn't have that bolt in stock and could only offer to replace the entire assembly for 10$. Second bike shop I visited was closed. The hardware store not only found me a bolt, nut, and washers that fit, they assembled them for me. I probably could have done it myself, but somehow I preferred to let the elderly mechanic, especially when he was rebending my seat brackets back into shape. He looked like he could be my grandfather, but I had no doubt he was better with tools than I am.

So now I am back in business on my bike, and the seat feels stronger in place than ever. Hopefully nothing else will unseat me anytime soon. No more surprises like the time I rear ended a car... one never thinks about following distance when most everyone is going twice as fast as you are...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Memorial Service

We've heard a lot of funny stories today, gotten a lot of sense for who our missing grandparent was. Really beautiful memorial service for him. I don't know how many Just-in-time or Just-in-case jokes I've gotten this weekend, easily between 4-8. With fake apology an Uncle told me it just wouldn't work as well to tell me that I was just-in-cumin. I reassured multiple people that I've been hearing variations on this joke since I was born so it wouldn't hurt to hear it again.

If we are lucky, a sister in law will drive in early enough we'll see her before having to drive back out of town, but at this point that doesn't seem likely.

So now its over and we're settling back down to relax. Spent time with sister and her husband, spent time trying to calm down their puppy so she would understand that just because there was someone new around was no excuse to try to pounce on Bonnie Jean's head. After Lizzie was better restrained, I went photo hunting after a beautiful dragonfly. Since it always came back to the same perch in the garden wasn't too hard. One photo better to show how beautiful it was, the other to show its interesting anatomy.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Benefits restored

At my work I recently had my benefits terminated because if a leave of abscence goes beyond the first day of a month they are automatically terminated. I tried calling in beforehand to make sure that sort of thing wouldn't happen but all they would say is something along the lines of "you should be fine, it only matters if your leave is like 30 days long". My HR manager tells me she often has to call several times in a row to get proper information so this isn't really anything surprising. Ironically, I officially was back to work on the 1st of the month, but the 1st just so happened to be my normal scheduled day off. I called in beforehand to see if I needed to come in on the 31st or if I should wait till the 2nd, but was told don't worry about it by my manager who according to job description isn't supposed to know anything about or be involved in benefits stuff that would influence that decision. Since there was both corporate HR and local management making mistakes causing the problem to happen, corporate was willing to fix it. Not that that improves my opinion of them much any. I called in to find out the status of the case that had been submitted and the guy spent probably 5 minutes just arguing with me that it was somehow against policy or unethical for me to be calling in to find out what was going on. All I asked was "what's the status of my case?" and he was much more interested in lecturing me on that only managers could have cases submitted and when I told him my HR manager did it he demanded to know who my HR manager was... the guy was really not the type that should be employed in a service type position.

But in any case, I can now have followup visits for my surgery, Bonnie can have physicals, and something else can go catastrophically wrong with our heath this year without it totally ruining our finances. Feels wonderful.


My Grandfather in law passed away yesterday. Ever since Bonnie Jean and I married I've known he was very weak. Barely made it out to our wedding. But still its unexpected when it happens. I was a little surprised how much its hit me. Never knew him that well, only met him a few times. I was verging on tearing up when I asked my manager for time off for the family events coming up. I was telling Janet (my manager) how Bonnie Jean was much closer to her grandparents than I'd ever been to mine and I just choked up a little. Hit me by surprise, but then, since when have strong emotions given me much warning of their coming?

The closeness of extended family among my in laws has always struck me as a little strange, in fact made me a little jealousy for time by myself with Bonnie Jean that I realized wasn't forth coming because major holidays were centered around grandparents, not married couples and kids. But its such a different feel to walk into their 'compound' where all the married adults and even some of their adult children who lived in the area together pitched together and purchased a very large home in which they could all live together with the grandparents. Perhaps it wasn't all the siblings there (obviously not my wife's immediate parents) but everyone was welcome, no massive gaps, no seething family politics boiling just under the surface. A place where the family could be together, be weird, and be themselves. And to a certain extent join in and be myself. One of the only places on earth I'll probably tell a complete stranger they made a Joule of a comment and have them respond "Watt, it was nothing special" and have someone else respond "Ohm my" without any misunderstanding and without the sense that my behavior is tolerated out of public generosity other than by a different complete stranger protesting that our puns are reVOLTing.

Describing this living arrangement to a professor he responded that that was obviously a family that had created transcended human beings because no one but the transcended could live so close together with immediate family into adulthood without them wanting to rip each others throats out (paraphrasing of course). Just thinking of my own broader family now and I think I have to agree. Maybe give it 20 years so that all of us are well into adulthood. Then maybe things will be different.

But for now I'll have to settle for having lost some opportunity to better know and understand
a patriarch who could preside over such a family.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Keys are given back

We have finally finished moving out of the old apartment. The transition has disrupted my internet connection, keeping me from posting here much. But its all done. We finished cleaning it and as of this afternoon gave back the keys. I was a little amused the apartment manager said that we were leaving about the same time our noisy indoor smoking next door neighbors were getting kicked out of theirs. You wouldn't normally think of someone smoking next door as being bothersome, but when both of your get an idea that its a wonderful day to leave the window open smells travel most unpleasantly. So far we haven't had any such problem at our new place. And the noisiest thing that happens is babies crying and what we think is probably a little boy rolling around a toy truck.

I've mostly recovered from all the tiredness of traveling and surgery. I'm still exhausted some days, but its more likely to be from reconstructing cinder block furniture than anything else. So far Bonnie Jean's desk is back together and the entertainment center is about 1/3 complete. With each new arrangement of cinderblocks coming together another few loads of boxes or other large objects can be emptied out on them. And slowly the floor reappears beneath our feet and trying to performing basic tasks without the confusion of where everyday objects went returns. We were even able to make a fancy dinner for some friends a few nights ago, with only marginal confusion as to where the ingredients were. So life returns to normal. Whatever that means...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Exhausted and intruiged

Well between traveling and constant late night after a family reunion and getting home and immediately swinging into moving loads of boxes around and between apartments, I'm pretty beat. But for some reason my mind has trouble settling down at night.

So tonights wandering produced something fascinating. I was exploring Jim Sinclair's personal website. Probably the best way to sum up why I pay any attention to him is Jim started one of the earliest and long lived organizations for people on the autistic spectrum to meet and correspond with each other, and that organization in turn created probably one of the coolest and most imitated conference for people on the spectrum (as opposed to their parents and doctors), and was one of the earliest pioneers of the neurodiversity movement who was saying back in 1992 that it was ok for such people to just be themselves. They might very limited in some ways, they might be what no one expects of them, but the essential thing is that they are them and deserve happiness and acceptance like other people. An article written by him is posted as one of my "internet favorites," and is probably still one of the most profoundly presented pleas for acceptance and understanding that I've ever read. He got a lot of hate mail for it, and as of a few years occasionally still does.

Well, getting to the wow moment I had. Jim had better reasons than most to be primed to understand the entire issue of accepting people for who they are no matter how profoundly different they are from the norm. Jim was born neuter, but unlike most such people, had the chance to decide that is how Jim wanted to stay. Against the "better judgment" of others who wanted to induce superficial or half way changes to make (insert neuter 3rd person pronoun that doesn't imply inanimate object) superficially conform with their idea of what a happy human being should look like. Because of course, you can't be happy till you look like other people... But Jim decided to stay Jim.

All I can say is that one way or another everything has a purpose. Some things only have a purpose to the extent that they are a consequence of freedom's purpose, but there is always purpose. Other people could have done what Jim did, Jim was just one of that first group of pioneers. But I think it wouldn't have been as good without someone who could pen the beautiful wording in the above mentioned article, "Don't Mourn for Us."

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I've been enjoying the family reunion. Watching my 5 year old autistic niece and my 3 year old Asperger's nephew playing and laughing their heads off is a blast. When they first met they started growling at each other playfully. That is the 3 year olds favorite verbal expression, growling. So I jumped down and started growling with them and the joy was increased. I'm enjoying the green. I was helping Bonnie Jean with her pictures and caught this one just before running off for yet another eternal round of family photos. I was intending to catch the bee in flight but didn't have time.

I tried telling her to use it on her Photo a Day blog if she wanted it, but she said since she wasn't even trying to get this picture she thought it would be cheating.

So, yes family reunions have lots of photos, group dinners between people who have never seen each other before in their life, and earlier today a 70th wedding anniversary for a great uncle. I had never realized how much of that side of my family belonged to the Salvation Army church, where the celebration was held. The local church has an awesome band, I was in ecstasy
the entire time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Buses and reunions

This morning I am heading off for a family reunion in Michigan. It's been an adventure already. We knew we would have trouble leaving from the local greyhound station because the buses tend to be full so we figured by taking a bus that left at 2:15 AM we could count on getting a seat. No such luck. There was only one seat on the bus and someone else got it, not that I'd really want to be seperated from Bonnie Jean. We asked when the next bus was coming through to see if we could catch that and all the driver would say is "6:30AM, 10 AM, I don't know sometime soon". We remembered the routes enough to know those times were not even close to true, he was just guessing and trying to get stuck arguing with angry passangers who paid for tickets the bus can't take. Upon getting home we verified, the next bus is at noon. However, we can't verify the process by which tickets can be transfered from one bus to another, except that it costs 15$ per ticket in normal circumstances. Calling is no good since greyhound won't answer the phones even after 20 minutes of hold time and their message advized that to avoid wait times of 10 minutes or longer it is best to call after 2PM (which is too late if the next bus driver can't help us).

So instead we are going to save these tickets for another day and my brother in law is fetching us. That will get us to Salt Lake a little late to make it to the temple, but otherwise everything will work out, the plane doesn't leave till tomorrow.

Since the last time we traveled on Greyhound there wasn't enough space for all passangers either and we only boarded because of luck, I think this is the last time I'm giving them a chance and will only use them for return trips from here on out.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

First Refrigerator Mom theory, now Girly Daddy theory: Mike Savage on Autism

I wish I didn't know anyone who held his views, but I've met a few of them. Mike Savage is about as fluffy of a conservative as you can get, but people like fluffy talk show hosts who splatter their thoughtlessness into public space. He's really seemed to pick this up as a new focus. If you visit his website right now he has links to articles from such prominent medical authorities as Thomas Sowell and a website called "skeptico" claiming autism is falsely diagnosed and that there is no epidemic. On the epidemic question I completely agree. There isn't one and I'd prefer not to have false advocates more interested in their funding than in my social well being running around screaming as if I were an infectious disease.ˆ But I take that from the perspective of ok shut up and respect me for who I am. Coming from a person like him, he's trying to present it as evidence that "it's a fraud" and that I'm a girly man. In his words:

They don't have a father around to tell them, 'Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot.

Followed so eloquently with phrases including:

You're turning your son into a girl, and you're turning your nation into a nation of losers and beaten men. That's why we have the politicians we have.

My wife reminds me, his comments display bizzare sexism. There is nothing "girly" about autism and the suggestion that temper tantrums are a female trait makes you wonder if he even knows any children. Autism is somewhere between 4-7 times as common in boys than in girls (depending on the statistical methodology used and which subtype of the population being discussed) and repeated studies have shown autism has nothing to do with parenting techniques. Child abuse on the other hand, can have everything to do with fake tough guy attitudes very similar to the ones advocated by the Savage individual referred to above.

If you find this as disgusting as I do, the contact information for protest is here:

Michael Savage AR

Talk Radio NetworkRDDDSDD The Savage Nation
Talk Radio Network CDDDSLSAThe Savage Nation
Talk Radio Network CLDDSDCLThe Paul Revere Society
P.O. Box 3755 CLEACLDDDE...150 Shoreline Hwy, Bldge E
Central Point, Oregon 97502 CLMill Valley, CA 94941
Phone: 541-664-8827 CLEDALEFax: 415-339-938
Fax: 541-664-6250

ˆFor those interested in hairsplitting, the organizations referred to regarding claims of epidemics make no distinction between traditional autism and aspergers when presenting their statistics so I am literally part of what they refer to when they say epidemic. Real scientists pay attention to such differences and debate their significance but the fund raising advocates have little interest in anything but riding the wave of attention autism has received.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Surgery all done

I am back home and in minimal pain so far from the operation that corrected the medical problem unveiled in the the bleeding referred to several posts back. If you feel like finding out more gross details go look up in a history book Rousseau's primary medical problem (other than later life insanity). The anesthesia left me more shaky than loopy but the doctor says I'm not allowed to sign any legal documents for at least 24 hours. Its kind of funny though, never even saw the surgeon, I don't think he even entered the room until after I was out and he didn't come in after I woke up.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Invasive questions

Somehow it offends me when an intake form to the dentist office asks me if I have any psychiatric conditions. About the only reason the dentist could care to know is if someone hallucinates during an examination he'll know to keep drilling instead of freak out, call an ambulance, and then have to reschedule the appointment after disturbing everyone in the lobby.

I've been filling out a lot of intake forms recently for different doctors, and they all ask that question or similar ones. Given the amount of prejudice and/or disbelief I can and have invoked by saying the words "Asperger's syndrome" I've mostly fallen into a need to know habit with that particular diagnosis with anyone who knows me personally enough to hurt me. CrouchingOwl is different because my more or less anonymous cyber identity hardly exists without it being associated with the diagnosis, so no reason not to disclose and have one area where I can talk about it as if it were something normal people wouldn't freak out about. Not that I've ever had a medical professional react in those ways, but I've lived and interacted enough in the online "aspies" community to know that one can't guarantee any particular level of professionalism or real knowledge of such a specialized condition from any doctor who doesn't specialize in that area.

So, I continue to agonize on exactly how to honestly fill out such forms. If they ask for psychiatric conditions I have a very easy solution. Asperger's syndrome is psychological, not psychiatric. Psychiatry involves medical health insofar as it can be solved by the dispensing of pharmaceuticals, with a fringe movement where Freud lives on. Asperger's has never been treated successfully with drugs over any broader population than fluke anecdotal accounts. Certain drugs have been used with more or less success to manage the intensity of certain traits such as depressants to lessen obsessive interests, stimulants to do I can't remember what now, and anti depressents for the obscure beneficial side effects they have (which are so broad they are sometimes used as a "brain tune up" drug more than anything) or for, you guessed it, comorbid depression. But those are symptom management, none of them touch the central features of the condition, unlike how anti depressents directly treat depression, anti convulsants directly target seizures, and anti psychotics bulldoze through higher thought processes to leave less room for neurosis. So its not psychiatric.

But some of the forms use the word psychological. For as much as they are planning on looking at the form I could probably leave it blank and nobody would care or notice. Why should I give the doctor a chance to lecture me on what is or is not possible in my volunteered information based on such critical factors such as not walking the right way, having emotions, or being able to make eye contact upon command? Those are all reasons I've known people who have had their primary care giver state as reasons their diagnosis are incorrect.

I'm probably stressing too much about it. What I should probably do is check the box and not write anything in the explanation box and if they ask about it ask in return "Can you tell which condition it is already? No?, then it doesn't matter to what you're doing right now so lets get back on subject."

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Conspiracy to Promote me, sort of

I just received several new trainings all pointing to pulling me into the management machine. First I had better explain what I do.

AT&T customer service includes allowing agents to schedule followups. So lets say we make a change to your account that is just perfect for fixing your problem but there is a known computer error in which we know your bill is going to do the exact opposite of what we are telling it to, so we set a followup for someone to adjust it manually. In some centers agents do their own follow ups, in others a specialized team handles all of them. I normally do follow ups all day long. Just in the last week however, I got an extra responsibility. Someone has to take the job of watching the entire call center to make sure none of these followup requests fall through the cracks. If Bob Smith down the aisle sets a followup someone there is no automatic process that says who on our team takes it. Someone does all that manually. Typically at first it was the "floor coordinator" who basically as the name suggested coordinates the everything (except the plants hanging from the ceiling, they only handle things on the floor). But they are too busy so it got handed off to a couple specialized team leaders. But they are often busy being team leaders so a few normal agents were selected to do that job whenever needed. I am one of I think 3 or 4 agents who have that responsibility.

But from there it only gets better. I found out this afternoon that for the next two days and perhaps on call after that I am taking over a significant part of the responsibilities of the "floor coordinator". It won't be near all of them. I won't handle changing what types of work everyone is being assigned, won't moniter who may be avoiding work, and I won't file reports or paperwork. But I will be responsible to watch over the center and ensure everyone is at least logged in to do the work they are assigned to do, find out who took breaks late or off schedule and change their schedule to match to make everything look nice on paper, record who never shows up for work, who inexplicably leaves half way through the day, and take calls from all the poor souls who can't make it to work today but wanted to tell us about it so it wasn't a total shock. I will be one of 2 agents assigned to this task and considering there are only 2 people in management authorized to do this work at present this is a major shift.

So all this points to something good happening in moving up the corporate ladder right? In someone else's dreams (since it definitely isn't one of mine come true). One of the positions they have off an on through my time at convergys is an "Intern" which basically means you are a team leader in everything but name and having people directly report to you, but you get paid the same amount of money as any other floor agent till some never never time comes to pass and they decide to expand the beurocracy or someone in management gets fired. Its a lovely way to work things for the company, but for anybody else it means getting a real promotion means serious dedication and outlasting all the other poor fools who were waiting their chance only to be passed up in favor of some newbie who knows nothing about our project but did well on a personality test.

Not that any of this really bothers me since a career at the local call center was never in my idea of a fulfilling life. I welcome the opportunity for more varied and interesting work. Who knows, perhaps being more administratively useful comes with scheduling perks that mean school will be easier to complete. But sometimes you have to laugh at the irony of it all. Considering the ratio of team leaders to floor agents between an AT&T owned call center and our outsourced one, we are undermanaged by a ratio of about 1 of our team leaders to every 4 of theirs. And this expresses itself in the significant number of "normal" floor agents getting nothing special wages who in one or two ways have greater authority or have higher access logins than the majority of managers over them. This contradiction is more obvious to me because the followup team employs most of these special agents. So as I go about the next two days with repeated team leaders and agents coming to me saying "Will you please change this schedule" because none of them have the login authority to do it, I will laugh at the contradictions in the world and be glad I get to do something different for the day.

There are slum lords... and then there are Slum Lords

I used to think the place we live in was pretty badly kept up. Holes in the edges of the carpet, a shower door that does little to keep water in the shower, a sink with the plug broken so I have to reach underneath to make it plug, a silverwear drawer that falls off its track every single time I open it, and to top it off coin op washers and driers that are often out of service awaiting someone to take out all the quarters.

But this doesn't give the proper idea of the horrible things we've seen the past week. Think for just a moment of Darth Vader entering your living room, pointing the finger of doom, and proclaiming "Your repairs shall never be complete. It is their destiny!"

Something like that must have happened for the apartments with half the interior doornobs missing even after having been up on the market for a month and when you complain about it all they'll say is we'll put in a work order. No guarantees of fixing anything before moving in. Or the apartment that was advertized as ready to rent but when you walked inside it felt like they were trying to renovate but after taking apart all the parts they wanted to fix they decided to leave them lying in little piles all over the floor, with graffiti spray painted over the door, maybe a quarter of the sign out front advertising it for rent broken out, and screens from windows ripped loose and hanging from the outside walls. And the person showing us around didn't even apologize for the mess or explain how soon they intended to fix any of it, as if they expected us to move in without any expectation that the hanger rail in the closets would be hung or that the shower heads would be reattatched or that the shelves in the linen closet would ever become anything other than a pile of wood on the floor.

Bonnie and I have finally settled on a place from the same old company that provides the rest of the apartments in town known for washers that are broken because nobody has taken the money out of them yet. But, the only obvious things wrong with it at the moment are we haven't found what happened to the second oven rack, they haven't quite installed the replacement part for the toilet, and the bathtub hasn't been cleaned. Everything else looks great.

There have been a few gems where great upkeep combined with great price for a perfect apartment, but they were so far out by the time we convinced ourselves it was worth living so far from work and the store someone else (probably car enabled and unfearful of distance) already took it.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Walking, and more walking

Bonnie Jean and I have been walking a lot recently. Apartment hunting for if Jen leaves us with her baby. Walking takes a lot of time. We've found a place that is so cheap it would practically be the same price as we pay now after shutting down our storage unit and not having to use laundromats. The only problem, half the interior doors don't have doornobs, the paint is peeling, the windows are all covered in absolutely gross cloth sheets that aren't designed to draw back or go away easily and are all in strange colors, like stripped green and pink. Most of the light bulbs don't have covers. Oh, not to mention that the wall in the shower is moldy. I tried to ask them if they'd fix said items and all I got was "we'll put in a work order" and "that's a cleaning issue" as if it was some mildew that could be wiped off. I know rotting wall in comparison with mildew, and this was rotting wall. I don't think they believed me over the phone. As price goes its a little gem, otherwise it needs a serious redecoration. With as little confidence as they are giving me that they'd actually fix anything, I'm a little nervous wondering how long I could play the game of deducting cost of repairs from my rent each month.

In other walking recently I just went to the dentist. They told me considering how long it had been since I'd been to a dentist my teeth were doing really well. That's always nice to hear.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A good dad

This little bird has a lot of spunk. We watched for 3-4 minutes a week ago as it dive bombed that crow until it finally convinced the crow to fly away from this perch, after which it chased the crow out of sight. This is the second sighting Bonnie Jean and I have had of this sort of behavior. This gives the impression that this little guy has decided that the entire block is crow free territory because you'd figure he'd give up the chase when the crow flew across the street and beyond the apartment complexes beyond. But he kept up the chase.

Based on a similar bird we saw this morning I believe it is a Lesser Goldfinch. If you click this photo you can see the yellow belly. I was a little surprised to identify it as such because the field guide says this bird likes reliable water sources, but I keep forgetting we have an irrigation ditch running right behind our parking lot.

Passing of an author

I just learned this morning that Lloyd Alexander died May of 07. I was checking up to see what he'd written since I last checked. Its got to keep some love of your work to keep writing past 80 years old. When I first read the Prydian Chronicles I saw they had been written back in the 60's so I assumed he was dead and was very overjoyed when my wife gave me one of his books as a present that had been written just in 2005. His book were very formative for me, I'm sure I've read the entire Prydian series somewhere between 30-40 times. So I am sad to hear that I won't get anymore from him, but then again, I've barely scratched the surface of all the books he ever wrote.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Blooming Tomatos

As the national tomato scare has swept the nation and thwarted several cooking projects, I have been very pleased to see that our tomato plant has seen fit to send forth a blossom. Hopefully we fertilized enough and soon we will have a plenitude of fruit to eat.

Cars and insurance

The last time we rented a car the agency called me back and told me ominously about how big of a rock chip we had put in the windshield (I never saw it but then again when you use the key drop your responsible for anything that happens in the parking lot after you drop it off) and about how they'd have to replace "it". I politely reminding them that a rock chip only needed filling, not replacing the entire windshield. I told him who we were insured through and then we never heard a word back.

Finally I called my insurance to have them prepare a claim and then called the rental agency back. They told me to forget about the whole thing and they had decided to not bill me for the repair. I was very confused, first they act all confrontational and exaggerate the repair necessary, and then they tell me not to worry about a thing? Bonnie Jean suggested perhaps they thought they could get the money from me no hassle since I had declined their insurance, but when they discovered I was insured the hassle of filing claims seemed more work than it was worth. Who knows, maybe its true. But it sure seems strange. My guess is they can't keep track of who rented which vehicle and were calling me on somebody else's damage but later discovered their mistake. I've actually caught the rental contract describing a completely different model car than the one I was given and been told "oh don't worry about it everything is right in our computer no matter what the paper says."

Whatever happened, at least I didn't end up paying for it.

Meowing at doctors

I almost meowed at a doctor today but got distracted by paying attention to the IV that was in my arm. This morning I discovered bleeding where one shouldn't and when I told the doctor over the phone it hadn't stopped yet he wanted me seen right away instead of waiting for my day off. So I switched my day off and headed in. The doctor couldn't figure it out just from my basic description so he had me do blood and urine labs and a CAT scan. Thus my almost meowing. I have a follow up scheduled for later. Unfortunately I'll have to take off work to make the appointment.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Ward Split

I was sorry to here this morning from the Stake President that my ward is being broken up. They aren't changing the boundaries, but apparently they have special permission to change which apartment complexes belong to which wards and shuffle them around to keep the wards even, and they decided our ward was too big, so our apartment complex is being broken off and sent to another ward. Unfortunately, the neighbors we knew best have been given special permission to stay in this ward because he just was called to be the Sunday school president and they don't want to break that up just after starting it (same thing happened to the Elder's quorem president and Relief Society president). So there will be some familiar faces, but no where near as many as we'd like.

I'm especially disappointed because it means I won't be a Sunday school teacher any more. I was really looking forward to enjoying that calling and getting to know more of the ward members through it.

Friday, June 6, 2008

A bonus and a raise, hopefully

My last paycheck had a $375 bonus on it. There are 4 levels' of agents we have (not counting new agents) and supposedly we get the opportunity to move between them every 3 months or so. Apparently I moved from a 1 to a 3. In theory this also means a pay raise, but the only pay raise I found on my check was overtime pay went from being 1.5 pay to almost double pay. So hopefully next pay check will have a raise on it. One never knows, last time I got a pay raise they forgot to tell me about it till afterwards.

But in any case its happy, between bonus and overtime and holiday pay my paycheck was probably about 2/3rds again larger than normal.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


After a long time waiting to eat it, Curry Apple chicken is very good. I'm going to have to keep my eye open for another spice sale, I'm almost out of curry powder again.

Monday, May 26, 2008

If you don't know the word Neurodiversity...

You should. Similarly if I call you a Neurotypological, you should probably know what that means too, though for very different reasons. I reserve the right to use big words :)

Bumped into an excellent article discussing the subject from another blog. A little winded, but is probably the best exploration of the complex issues involved as I've seen.

(disclaimer I didn't think it was gospel)

The self actualizing of almost any characteristic is so faddish these days its hard not to take it as just more positive self talk and general fluffiness. But when you've actually emerged from the darkness of self loathing with a social expectation of duty to self loath attached, its impossible to ignore diversity movements again. Not impossible to disagree with any particular stripe, but impossible to ignore. Identity exists in such an infuriating duality of the inherited and the malleable that a posture of assuming lightly is to crush broad swaths of the human spirit.

Or, to put it again more shortly, you should know the word neurodiversity.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Religious freedom in the Book of Mormon

Religious freedom is a concept that evolves considerably through the Book of Mormon. Early on, you sense society is so simple that the religious leaders and social leaders are almost always the same people. We aren't told much about how well this worked, other than that it only took a 4-5 generations for them to be driven out of their homeland and the main body of their people destroyed. In Jacob 7 Sharem is allowed full freedom to preach his views with no socially enforced punishment, so they seem off to an excellent start. Later, when Nehor attempts to enforce his religious opinions Mormon writes that in response that just before his execution for murder...

there he was caused, or rather did acknowledge, between the heavens and the earth, that what he had taught to the people was contrary to the word of God; and there he suffered an ignominious death.

Now, either he was caused to confess or he confessed spontaneously. It doesn't fit for the confession to be required because he wasn't officially executed for his preaching, only for attempting to enforce priestcraft. The linguistic pattern used grants a little light. "Or rather" is a sentence form unique to the Book of Mormon, with only 2 or 3 incidents outside it in scripture. Mormon almost always uses the first half of an "or rather" as a general or non specific and the secondary as clarification. One almost gets the sense that writing on the plates is so difficult that Mormon once in a while prefers leaving a word stand than to scatch them out and start over again. But this is the only case in which the first and the second items don't seem to fit together. My guess is a little bit of both is true. There was probably some controversy over forcing the confession or not and it left Nehor feeling coerced (even though nobody had officially decided he must) so he did anyways... or some other political confusion that wasn't worth recording the messy details on.

It would appear that just like early Christian history, a violent minority led to enforcement of "orthodox" thinking, just not going anywhere near as far as early Catholicism led.

What is more interesting is what happened afterwards. Both the Nehors and the church members persecuted each other so much that the church found it necessary to excommunicate a good number of people who refused to stop themselves and the people didn't settle down to righteousness again until a lot of trouble which cumulated in a war. The Book of Mormon records the Nehor's being very careful not to commit any crimes with any audacity, but as is stated

therefore they pretended to preach according to their belief; and now the law could have no power on any man for his belief.

There is some suggestion by the use of the word "pretended" that even if belief could not be punished by law insincerity was considered punishable.

That point aside, even if things seemed to have settled down some freedom of religion was still not firmly entrenched in their society. Alma being the first chief judge is not one you would expect to not use legal privelege or process to make it easier to preach, but when he reached Ammonihah:

Now when the people had said this, and withstood all his words, and reviled him, and spit upon him, and caused that he should be cast out of their city...

Being forced out of a city based on religious opinion isn't something that happens in a free government, but for some reason instead of going back to the chief judge and saying that mobs were attacking peaceful individuals and having this abuse of his person handled legally so he could preach in peace he just decides to go on to the next city.When he comes back for a second try he meets similar legal opposition that he takes no apparent action against:

32 And also because I said unto them that they were a lost and a fallen people they were angry with me, and sought to lay their hands upon me, that they might cast me into prison.

Later on the city's lawyers get involved:

13 Nevertheless, there were some among them who thought to question them, that by their cunning devices they might catch them in their words, that they might find witness against them, that they might deliver them to their judges that they might be judged according to the law, and that they might be slain or cast into prison, according to the crime which they could make appear or witness against them.

and again later:

16 And it came to pass that they began to question Amulek, that thereby they might make him cross his words, or contradict the words which he should speak.

It appears that under their system of law even though specific beliefs couldn't be legally persecuted, the logical consistency of those beliefs could be. This situation is extraordinary, since almost all religions at some point are based on a level in trust and things that are taken on faith or left to the next world to figure out. There will be a certain point where the logic is just impossible to keep consistent without extending fanciful propositions that are neither essential to the faith nor helpful to it, and the farther you go at it the more likely one is to come up against an absurd improbability. That isn't to say any particular religion is false on this basis, but legal judgments based on logical consistency could be used to attack any religion with success.

Ammonihah gets more disturbing as it goes along. The situation is just crawling with handles for legal disputes to get involved...massacring all the women and children, forced emigration, destruction and seizure of property... And almost all of these actions being sanctioned by the local government. And again, Alma was the first chief judge and should have been very familiar with their law but nothing is done from a legal perspective to right these wrongs. This suggests one of three things: first, that those actions were considered legal enough a even a chief judge could do nothing about it; second, that the newly formed democratic government had not centralized power so the local judges were getting away with murder; third, none of those wronged cared to take any legal action.

No matter what else, the second one was probably true. The first, that it was considered legal enough may very well have been true. Probably under some legal justification such as promoting sedition or what not. I only say that because otherwise why did the lawyers get involved in the first place if not to satisfy some legal requirement? Recorded complaints against them include lying to the people, religious inconsistency, reviling the judges, reviling the law, and saying the people are fallen. Under King Noah, similar legal justifications were required for executing Abinidi.

When Korihor takes to preaching his case also receives unsatisfactory treatment when freedom of religion is concerned. Its ironic because the Book of Mormon pauses to insist on how important freedom of religion was to them at the time:

Alma 30:7
7 Now there was no law against a man's belief; for it was strictly contrary to the commands of God that there should be a law which should bring men on to unequal grounds.
8 For thus saith the scripture: Choose ye this day, whom ye will serve.
9 Now if a man desired to serve God, it was his privilege; or rather, if he believed in God it was his privilege to serve him; but if he did not believe in him there was no law to punish him.

Now, if Korihor's belief was not judicable the first thing that should happen each time someone carries him before a judge is the for judge to let him go because the case simply isn't allowed before the law. But, we see a different pattern:

...for they took him, and bound him, and carried him before Ammon, who was a high priest over that people. [Freedom of religion is not well guarded if its first judged by the priests of an official religion] And it came to pass that he caused that he should be carried out of the land. [Government sanctioned banishmen] And he came over into the land of Gideon, and began to preach unto them also; and here he did not have much success, for he was taken and bound [arrested for religious opinions] and carried before the high priest, and also the chief judge over the land [showing that it wasn't just an overenthusiastic priest's quorem doing it, it went up to the very top.]

To make it worse that chief judge refers the case to THE chief judge instead of just rejecting it. Now I have nothing wrong with Alma and this guy having a debate on spiritual matters, but the only thing that goes right about his imprisonment and trial is that he is never sentenced by a government official. He is cursed instead and the government publicly announces that curse may be likely to fall on them too if they don't abandon Korihor's ideas [government favoritism of specific beliefs...]

One gets the sense freedom of religion was important to them but a concept they had a lot of trouble with getting down with much finesse. Its noticeably harder for them to handle after changing from king to popular elections. Instead of just one stupid King Noah there could be local tyrants all over the place. As Toqueville states free speech is easier in a kinship where it only matters if you anger the nobility, as opposed to democracies where public opinion forces you to obey before they vote to destroy you.

This isn't to suggest the Book of Mormon is against freedom of religion or that its material has only lip service. There are simply many examples of how damaging having religion controlled by government can be. If King Noah hadn't been in charge of appointing the priests it could have been much better. The same laws that would allow a crazy Korihor to preach wherever he wanted to would also have protected Alma and Amulek, and several kings in Ether managed to lead their people to repentence by enforcing religious freedom for unpopular preachers. Just before Christ's coming, the agreement to kill all the believers if the sign didn't appear could only have happened in a society with a weak sense of religious freedom.

So the Book of Mormon examples clearly are in favor of religious freedom, but show that through negative examples as much as anything else. It was an evolving and unsteady concept for them, kind of like how it is for us.

Plants, birthdays, farewells, and driving...

This weekend has been one for driving. From Cedar to Salt Lake, from Salt lake to the garden shop, to the garden shop to my nephew's birthday party (in Spanish Fork), birthday party to the shoe store and back again all in a very short period of time. Spent about 50$ in gas. The idea of spending just a little bit more on a car and buying a hybrid is looking more attractive all the time.

I'm excited about the plants. We bought tomato, rosemary, and basil. However, I'm starting to wonder if you really want to know what to do with gardening in pots if you must learn it yourself. The book I borrowed from the library on the subject was quite adamant that a tomato plant could be accompanied by several other plants in the same pot. The person over the phone at the plant catalog agreed. However, at the local plant store the worker seemed to think I was insane for even thinking of putting a indeterminate tomato vine in a pot, let along sharing the pot with several other plants. Then again, this was the same person who told me that his rosemary plant at home was 6 feet tall and tried to point out which variety it was he used and pointed to a dwarf variety that grows to 1 foot. I tried to tell them I was new at this and needed some help getting set up and the only help I could get was "tomatoes need a lot of water," "don't buy an indeterminate vine if you want it to stay small," and "make sure you fertilize." OK, I'm a smart person and read up on tomatoes before considering planting one in a pot. I already know all that stuff and more. Try to ask about potting soil and I expected to get a response like, "use this soil additive for your rosemary, it likes drier more acidic soil" or "this soil brand is better at retaining water and will work well for the tomato that likes being really wet."

Instead all I got was the fertilizer is that way and the dirt is that way. Half the point of planting things in pots is you can customize the soil for the plant, but I get the feeling none of these people have really tried doing that before. Either that or they think I'm not worth their attention. Its frustrating because I can check out books and visit websites talking about how wonderful it is to customize the soil for best results in different pots but none of them have a comprehensive guide on what types of soil or additives are best for what plants. I would probably need a gardening encyclopedia for that kind of information, but I figured I could get a basic run down from the people at the store. Guess not. Maybe they should hire me... I seem to know everything they told me.

To make up for all the driving we checked out a book on CD (Airborne by Kenneth Oppel) on the way out of town. That way we can listen for hours without Bonnie Jean's voice tiring out. It was nice, but I think 6 hours of listening was quite enough for now. Wonder what we'll do on the way back down...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sunburn season

I got my first sunburn this year doing errand. I don't think I'll start doing grocery shopping at night though, it would be a mistake since its kind of hard to see. That would make me a night errant, and that wouldn't do.

(just try to conjure a mental image of me tilting at a wind powered electric generator on a bike laden with groceries. The power company would be soooo angry)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Oh the joys of electronic effeciency

So the other day I decided to check and see if my leave request at work that will let me go to the family reunion was approved. Not too long ago they updated the entire leave process. It used to be you filled out a little piece of paper and somebody got back to you fairly quickly. Now there is an electronic form to fill out and if you dig deep enough you can even find separate policies for if you request medical leave to donate a kidney vs needing to you name it. In any case, this form is supposed to email my manager when its filled out so they know to make a decision.

I filled out the original electronic request in February. I kept asking my manager about it but she said don't worry your not planning on using this for a couple months so it doesn't matter if we take forever getting to it.

Unfortunately, this wasn't the case. The request sat in limbo for so long because nobody wanted to look at it it that it was finally declared "case closed" with "decision pending" because some genius who never asked me decided I had "submitted in error". I pointed this out to my manager, who all these months later still needed coaching from me on how to locate my request in the electronic system. Ok I admit the electronic system is stupid, you have to know the status of a request before you can find it first try which leads managers to think, "oh, it must not be here yet". If you don't know the status you just look everywhere and eventually find it.

So now at my managers instruction I've submitted another request and she said the site leader promised to approve it immediately. Been a couple days... and I continue to rejoice in the efficiency of the electronic era where they probably forgot about my last request because our email accounts automatically purge emails for being "too old".

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Taught in Sunday school today

Today I taught the Gospel Doctrine lesson, went very well. I was enjoying myself thoroughly. People afterwards seemed to think I did well. I was pleased.

I forgot to mention earlier Bonnie and I finally got a copy of the painting that I used as an excuse to meet her. Its the one of the Second Coming that is a mural on the inside of the Washington DC Temple. Still haven't hung it yet, but glad to have it, brings back good memories. I don't have anything really effective for reminding me how the roommate burst into the room swearing and cursing about work while I was proposing over the phone. But I'm ok with that, I guess. I could always print out the love poem I wrote her to propose and frame it. :)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Cream of Wheat

FYesterday morning Bonnie and I cooked up some whole wheat cream of wheat for breakfast. It will definitely fit into our long term use of wheat storage and turned out quite well, if a little watery. I didn't expect it to froth so much as I poured the coursely ground wheat into the water and it boiled over some, so not sure what caused that. Otherwise tasted just like I remember.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

In Salt Lake for the weekend

My sister in law went through the temple for her endowments yesterday so two days ago we ate a hurried dinner after work and rushed out the door to arrive at around 11PM on Friday night to attend the session at 8:30AM on Saturday. It was a lovely session and hanging out with the in laws was fun too.

Later on Saturday we hung out with my sister (not in law) and my nephew. We were all very impressed that he managed to restrain his love of knocking down towers of blocks long enough to play through 5-8 rounds of Jenga, his first time ever. Bonnie and I were very impressed with their parenting skills. A non verbal almost 3 year old is not an automatic easy ride but they almost make it look like one.

So this should be about the last trip of taking home my wife's stuff from her parents house. Now we just need to find a way to transport my rock collection from my parent's basement. In addition to retrieving the last of my wife's things we are also receiving a 60 pound bucket of wheat (surprisingly still good after being around unused for who knows how long) and a large supply of rhubarb. We ran out of the last supply a long time ago, I'm looking forward to cooking with it.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


My mother in law is pondering bestowing additional home storage wheat upon us. I spent a good deal of time this morning trying to find if one could purchase food grade buckets online. That way its weevil proof and more or less moisture resistant and food grade so you don't find out afterwards your food has been poisoned by fumes from the bucket. I found I could buy 1 five gallon bucket for $21 or I could buy 300 buckets for $2 a piece. I found people trying to assure me their dyed buckets were really FDA approved (that's not likely). But I couldn't find just plain old cheap buckets. At all.

Its easier to find a water valve made out of food grade plastic than a bucket.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

On hold

You'd never really guess, but I wait on hold a lot working at a call center. Somebody came up with this great idea that making a rule that only ONE person at a time could take calls for "I want to speak to your manager" would be saving on productivity. If it gets backlogged by half an hour or so sure they might add a few and take them back off, but the rule is one person at a time. I think I spent about half an hour on hold at the end of my shift waiting for that one person.

And, fun of all fun, I listen to the same hold music you do when you call me. So I've heard every ad they play that is driving you nuts more times than I could ever dream of wanting.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Monday is bland day

I don't get to do interesting things at work on Mondays. The agents who walk around helping people who are stuck all get chosen by the start of the day and I work starting at 11. We aren't supposed to be allowed to set followups on people's accounts for Monday's either, so I don't get to be on the follow up on team. So I just took normal calls all day. I wasn't sure whether to be relieved or not. I had two "positive escalations" or people asking to speak to my manager because they thought I was wonderful. So that was nice. But then again, I get to deal with all those fun customers whose sense of creativity is so strong they never tell their story the same twice. And don't seem to see this is a problem when you point it out to them.

Of course, trying to research whether to recommend we credit someone their 2000$ bill or not is always a fun call too. Telling somebody sorry we already credited 1000$ for this last month so we can't do any more is a little scary, they might break down in tears.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


As a Sunday School teacher.

I will laugh very hard if they try to get me to teach a marriage and family relations class. Sure, I have a wonderful relationship with my wife but I probably have one of the most unconventional relationships in the ward and would be in a bad spot to teach others how to run the conventional variety.

Meantime I love teaching normal doctrinal lessons so this will be fun.

Ok, I finally broke down

And started a blog.

(It had nothing to do with my bike, which is in almost perfect mechanical condition.)

I wanted to have a place to refer people to an article I found that was really good.... but no good place to do it.

I wanted a place to discuss with friends a scripture verse that was driving me nuts. I've figured it out since then but I'd like somewhere to discuss things like that in the future.

I miss old hangouts of having group discussions with friends.

So please, feel free to post, but not kellogs.