This blog is no longer being updated. About this blog.

Archive for June 2007

Eight Random Facts

The truth is I’m not very big on the whole blog meme thing. No disrespect to those who like these things. I just have this reflexive aversion to anything that smacks of a chain letter. Because of my respect for Kullervo who tagged me and because he’s a great guy, I’ll participate, but under certain conditions.

  1. I reserve the right to be a meme cul-de-sac. If I don’t feel like passing on the viral goodness, I won’t.
  2. To keep the meme noise to a minimum, I only plan to respond to them on Fridays.
  3. I reserve the right to guiltlessly not respond, especially to anything that seems too much like those meeting ice-breakers that I detest.
  4. I won’t be bound by any rules that I don’t like.

Now that I’ve vented my curmudgeonly spleen, on to eight random facts about me:

  1. My second toe is longer than my big toe. All of my toes are longer than average which confers some prehensile advantages. I’ve passed this trait on to my daughters (you’re welcome girls), so I’m hoping it has some evolutionary advantages. Here’s to the future long-toed race of übermenschen. In the same vein, my ring fingers are longer than my index fingers
  2. …which leads me to the next fact. (Wait, isn’t this supposed to be random?) I took my first college calculus class while in high school in an early studies program at the local university. I aced that first class, but flunked Calculus II twice. I went on to take more math than anyone except math majors, and perhaps physics majors. I went so far as to take a complex analysis course for one of my electives. In summary, I took my first college class back in 1992. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in 2003, eleven years later!
  3. I just saw The Godfather for the first time last night. Excellent movie. I stayed up until 1AM last night to finish the three hour movie. Now I get all those quotes everyone has used all my life. I had avoided seeing it because of the dubious LDS ban on R-rated movies. Now I’m on a binge of forbidden movies to catch up on all the good stuff I missed all those years.
  4. I don’t have favorites of anything.
  5. I kissed a girl for the first time (with tongue, clumsily) when I was about five-years-old. We hid in the bushes in a neighbor’s yard. I remember that her tongue tasted fruity. One might augur from these auspicious beginnings a life like Casanova’s. Alas, my love life has not been characterized by abundance. What it has lacked for abundance, it has made up for in the end by bringing me my lovely wife.
  6. I gained 15 pounds in my five weeks at the MTC. I think they intend to fatten up the foreign missionaries before they get tapeworms: every meal was an all-you-can-eat buffet. Unfortunately, I was going stateside, so I was just collateral damage. Being from Vegas you might expect me to have built up a resistance to buffets. But I was powerless. I had noticeable body fat for the first time in my life. Before the MTC, I could whip out about 20 pull-ups (25 if girls were watching). After the MTC, 10. The body fat has never gone away since then.
  7. I enjoy the odor of diesel engine exhaust and fresh asphalt.
  8. I’m wearing boxers today.

Today, Kullervo, I settled all Family business.

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments (5)

God Hates Fags

At some point as I grew up I learned that God hates homosexuals. I don’t know exactly how I learned it. Probably the same way I learned that sex is dirty. I absorbed small things that people said and the way they reacted to homosexuality. Later I learned about the scriptural sanction for hating homosexuals. Everything and everyone important to me taught me to be disgusted by homosexuality and to hate those who practiced it. To be fair, my impressions from my childhood may have been the black and white thinking of a child. I might have taken everything too literally.

But my prejudice extended beyond my childhood. As an adult member of the LDS church, I canvased for an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Nevada which bans any marriage other than that between a man and woman. The effort was organized by the local university ward. We met at the church building and organized therein.

As an adult, I despaired at the first airing of Will & Grace, a sitcom with an openly gay main character. I noticed the worrying trend of famous people like Ellen Degeneres coming out. Society was becoming more tolerant of wickedness. My Mormon faith consoled me that Jesus would be coming again to wipe this wickedness from the face of the Earth. I wasn’t alone in my attitudes. Other members of the Mormon church supported my attitude. Some members of the church still hold these values. The LDS culture supports this bigotry.

I excused my bigotry by saying that I loved the sinner but hated the sin. I don’t know whether anyone is genetically gay, but I do know that people intimately connect their homosexuality with their sense of self, just like heterosexuals. Causing homosexual people to hate homosexuality is no different than causing them to hate themselves. Seeking to draw the line between sin and sinner is naïve.

My Young Men’s President planted the seed of my eventual change of heart. When I was a teenager, he told the young men in my class that homosexuality was no worse than adultery. That blew my mind! How could he think such an absurd thing? After all, homosexuality was a crime against nature. I thought about that for a long time.

I finally let go of my bigotry when I lost my faith in God. I had no God to justify the righteousness of my hatred. I saw how ugly my attitudes had been.

Attitudes toward homosexuality have changed tremendously since I was a child, even within the LDS church. I hope that the bigotry of the past will go away just like old Mormon attitudes about miscegenation and birth control.

It shames me that the video God Hates the World (via Pharyngula) represents my attitudes of the past. As a Mormon, I thought most of those same things, but I was too politically correct to say them out loud to the wrong people. At least these people are honest, even if their gleeful hatred disturbs me.

The toddler’s solo at the end breaks my heart. Is that not child abuse? I hope she can free herself from their indoctrination.

Please forgive me for my part in spreading bigotry in the world.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments (8)

Altered States of Consciousness

When I regained consciousness, I was playing a Gameboy. The orthodontic surgeon had removed all four of my wisdom teeth earlier that day. This was my first and only experience with general anesthesia. I remember a nurse pushing a dose of something into my arm. Then I thought to myself I wonder when this is going to start wor—. I never finished that thought. The anesthesia brought my thoughts to an abrupt halt mid-word. I hazily remember a nurse helping me to my mother’s car. The next thing I know, I’m playing Tetris.

I was OK at Tetris. The highest I had ever reached was level 9 or 10. The blocks start dropping much faster at level 9. I could never last very long after reaching those levels. But I reached level 12 on the game I was playing when I regained consciousness!

I played a lot over the next few days. I soon reached level 18 which is wicked fast. It’s only a theory, but playing Tetris while unconscious must have somehow rerouted my neural pathways to be more optimal for Tetris.


When I was in the third grade, a kid knocked me down on the playground. I hit my head on the asphalt. At least I think I remember it that way. That’s the story my teacher told my parents when they took me home from school. My mom said that I asked something like “Where are we going?” She answered me. Only a minute later I asked the same question again. Repeat ad nauseum. I didn’t regain full consciousness until that night when we were picking up my little sister from an ice show at the university arena.

When I was older, I asked my mother about this incident. She told me that I was never the same after that. I read less after that day. This was a shocking thing to hear, especially since I still believed in a spirit which directed the physical body. My spirit was still the same, so how could my personality change? Who was I before? Would I be smarter, sexier, happier if my head had never hit the asphalt that day?

My mother now denies ever having said what she said.


I have no idea how my next lapse of consciousness happened. All I remember is regaining consciousness flat on my back, staring at the ceiling above the living room couch. I remembered staring at the ceiling for what seemed like a very long time.

While I was staring, no thoughts crossed my mind. Zero. Zip. Nada. I didn’t realize that I was staring. I had no concept of my self. I didn’t interpret what I saw. The word “ceiling” never entered my awareness. I was simply aware of my sensory experience as raw input. I had no desires, no emotions, no self-awareness. You could say that I was a merely sentient being.

It wasn’t until higher brain function returned that I began to interpret my experience and remember that what I had been doing. The experience can only be described as peculiar. I imagine it was similar to what it’s like to be a camcorder.


I had a dream years ago. I saw the mountains which surround the valley I grew up in. I was flying in the middle of the valley. I turned and saw a mile-wide tornado come from behind the mountains in the east. It moved deliberately closer to me. Dirt and debris orbited its center. The debris coursed through the air, but took ages to make a single circuit. The sound of it filled my ears with the terrifying roar of a lion and the menacing rumble of an earthquake. Its terrible power shook me. Nothing withstood its passing. As the dark tornado towered over me, I felt ultimately small and vulnerable. I knew that the tornado concealed a being of alien mind and unimaginable power, that my very soul was in peril. I averted my eyes from the awesome power of the Other concealed in this pillar of cloud. For the first time in my life, I knew what it was to Fear the LORD.


In another dream, I found myself floating in the middle of utter darkness. I heard a far away hiss. The hiss got louder gradually becoming a buzz. The buzz became a yell. The yell became a scream. The scream became a demonic shriek that overwhelmed my dreamtime ears and filled my mind. On the brink of being overwhelmed, I awoke. The shriek ceased, but I was still surrounded in the complete darkness of midnight. For a few heart-pounding moments, my sleep addled mind wasn’t sure which world I was in. I feared that at any moment the source of that terrible sound would leap at me from the darkness.


I fell asleep in a chair. I was a missionary visiting another missionary companionship’s apartment. I woke up and felt and heard a dark, malicious presence skulking around the apartment, threatening the lives of the three other missionaries. I heard it come through the door and dart from one hiding place to another. I realized that I had to warn the others. But I couldn’t move. I couldn’t yell a warning to them. I was paralyzed and powerless where I lay. My sense of dread was unbearable. I struggled to do something. I finally woke up completely and the malevolent presence vanished.


Consciousness is an curious thing. I’ve never done any entheogenic drugs, but normal life has still been pretty trippy all the same if I think about it.

What odd experiences have you had in the borderlands of consciousness?

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Comments (8)

Pledge of Allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the ideals of the United States of America,
And to the republic by which they are upheld,
One nation, indivisible, with liberty, opportunity, and justice for all.

It strikes me as backward that the citizens of my home country pledge allegiance first to a piece of cloth symbolizing the United States, second to the republic which is assumed to have liberty and justice for all. This promotes a kind of shallow patriotism for symbols and institutions which can easily be corrupted to become nationalism.

Our allegiance would be better placed with the ideals of liberty and justice and only secondarily to the republic of the United States. We have seen recently how the republic has been perverted. The executive branch uses the authoritarian tactics of ubiquitous surveillance, torture, restriction of liberty, and so forth in the name of public security. The republic itself is only a tool to promote liberty and justice. When that tool fails to fulfill its purpose, we are duty-bound to either reform the tool or, if that proves impossible, to discard it in favor another tool which will serve our purposes. I hope that the adapted pledge above embodies well placed allegiance.

I am sure many religious readers will be upset by the omission of the words “under God”. They may perceive this as an attack on the religious values of the people of the United States. The reality is that this is the opposite of the truth. Our great nation was founded by men who were wise enough to create a separation between the religious and political powers. This protects the church from the tyranny and corruption of the state, and the state from undue influence by the church. Our Founding Fathers created a secular state (i.e. a state with no power to discourage or promote religion) in order to protect the free exercise of its citizens’ consciences. Removing the words “under God” is an acknowledgment of the wisdom of the Founding Fathers in creating a secular state where the people are free to be Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, to have no religion at all, or whatever else their consciences may dictate without the threat of state oppression.

Additionally, the words “under God” were only added in the middle of the 20th century. The pledge of allegiance hasn’t contained that language for over half of its history. Removing the religious language in the current pledge is a correction, reverting it to its original, secular state.

The adaptation quoted at the beginning of this post was intended to preserve the familiar cadence of the current pledge. It should be easy to recite this adaptation in place of the current pledge. The following adaptation however is more in line with what I see as the ideal pledge, but it doesn’t have the same singsong rhythm we learned as schoolchildren. I prefer it anyway because it embodies more closely what I think is great about the United States of America.

I pledge allegiance to the ideals of liberty, opportunity, and justice for all;
And to the republic by which they are upheld,
One nation, indivisible, a home for the noble free.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Comments (16)

Pity for the Damned

I remember pitying him. His wife seemed embarrassed by him, just like the wife of the man who dressed in women’s underwear. He avoided looking directly in our eyes, and she didn’t hurry to introduce him to us. He had left the LDS church and was wandering in strange paths. The other missionaries informed me before we visited their home about his dabbling in Buddhism. I shook my head in disbelief that he could have left the truth, and for something as silly as Buddhism.

We sat down and ate dinner together, but I had no respect for my host. He was a fool and a traitor. I remember the pain-stricken look on his wife’s face as we discussed her husband when he wasn’t in the room. How could he do this to his wife and children?


I met a former leader in the Mormon church later in my missionary service. He had been an Elders Quorum President, but he and his wife had left the church. He seemed confident and unashamed. How could he doubt the truth? What could lead someone so strong to be so weak? He didn’t even have the good sense to be ashamed of his faithlessness. The missionaries discussed how we could bring him back into the fold as we left his home.


Now that I am an atheist who enjoys Buddhism, now that I have left behind leadership positions in the church, will others see me and judge me the same way that I judged these men? Will an awkward wall separate us when we don’t know what to say to each other? Will they see the strength of my convictions as a weakness and a delusion? Will they shake their head in disbelief that I could leave the truth? Will they paternally plot to save my soul? Will they try to make my wife and children ashamed of me? Do they pity me?

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (Matthew 7:1–2)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments (8)

← Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »