The Gum Tree for 2006

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Sun Jan 22 13:16:49 MST CES Seminar:

Yesterday I traveled to Springfield to a Seminary and Institute teacher seminar. I was certainly a good experience; It reminded me quite a bit like education week at BYU, but with commitments added on. I should have expected it, and it does me some good to have a more experienced teacher point out flaws in my preparation and teaching methods; and then challenge me to improve one or two specific things.

It seems that I have a good opportunity to improve myself during this time. I hope I never get weary of the work of learning how to better myself. On the other hand, I seem to have aquired some acute angles in my personality, and I wonder sometimes if I am becomming too eccentric. Last week I inadvertedly, unknowingly annoyed one of the ladies with whom I work. I simply didn't realize it until Brenda the office manager brought it to my attention. "It is funny how you can so innocently get into so much trouble" she said.

I also visited Louise last week since Dr. Jones is off in Jamaica doing surguries in the undeveloped areas. It was very nice. I was hopeing that I could bring her back to Missouri this weekend, but they decided to allow Louise to stay until Feb 10th. I am very proud of her progress--even though it costs me her companionship for a time. She really has done well and good in her time at the center. She now reads at 95 Words per minute. Reading together is not quite so taxing for us. She has almost finished Harry Potter 5, and she has already tackled Genesis. She also finished the Book of Mormon last year as well--so progress is quite dramatic in that area.

Louise also got a letter from Mom last week; a very nice letter of thanks for all the help Louise offered over the Christmas break. Louise does a good job of redeeming me to my family. I am still trying to understand the cause of the strained relationship that exists between Mom and myself. It was there during our trip to California, during Christmas, and has never quite been resolved. I am sure that Freud would have something to say about that. I find it very ironic, however, that I have a wonderful relationship with my Dad who may have done the most to harm our family--even though that relatoinship is not quite so placid--it is still quite well. I am still working on how to harmonize our relationship.

[Comments] (1) Thu Jan 26 00:10:37 MST 2 whole posts this month!--Reply to Wal-Mart, Comments Welcome:

Thank you Alyson for bringing this article to my attention: http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/77/walmart.html. I would like to take the opportunity to express some of the ideas that this article brought to my attention. The article had some very concrete arguments which I feel are flawed inherently, and because the article are based mostly on belief—it should have been prefaced “Speculation, this article may be completely free of fact.” I am going to try to be systematic about my criticism of the article. Problems I had:

1. The article uses, almost exclusively, heavily biased sources of people who once worked with Wal-Mart, and who now work somewhere else.

2. The article twists the language of the sources in an insulting way. Perhaps editorializing the sources statements with emotion-laden words like squeeze, devastating, bearing the brunt, etc. will change the mood of the reader. The use of quotations was interesting as well and reminded me of Lynne Truss who asked in her book Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, why do newspapers put quotation marks in headlines when the first line of the story states definitively that there is no actual ambiguity (see the use of “penalty box” which is used for people who speak to the press in this totalitarian society—oh, disclaimer, the “penalty box” really isn’t used for people who talk with the press, nudge nudge wink wink).

3. The article is filled with innuendo: Wal-Mart was not a critical factor in Vlasic’s bankruptcy—you be the judge. Oh, did I say “there is very little academic and statistical study of Wal-Mart's impact on the health of its suppliers and virtually nothing in the last decade!?! Well, you know why that is, it is because this totalitarian regime is sooooooo closed that nobody can crack it. (nudge nudge wink wink)

Anybody who has read the book The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman and who has a modicum of rational thought can tell that the facts bear out the truth of the relationship. Needless to say, the relationship is very healthy. He does criticize Wal-Mart for other practices, but that is beyond the scope of my response to this article.

The bulk of the rest of my response will deal with two other comments made in this article: 1. But Wal-Mart also clearly does not hesitate to use its power, magnifying the Darwinian forces already at work in modern global capitalism.

I think that this comment is especially appropriate because, curiously, the authors ostensible use of this old vestige of politicized science is so transparent—like the ostensible honesty of Wal-Mart. That old vestige is Social Darwinism, Eugenics, or whatever you would like to call that theory that put jews in gas chambers and that kept blacks out of the tidy little American Suburban. I find it curious because this illustrates perfectly the kind of venomous prejudice that lurks behind the curtain.

Here is the comparison: Social Darwinism or Eugenics was a study that was supported by grants from the NIH and Carnegie Foundation, and people like Theodore Roosevelt, the Justices of the Supreme Court, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Louis Brandeis, Woodrow Wilson, Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, dozens and dozers of eminent people. The belief in eugenics was accepted by most scientist in America and Germany. The methodology of eugenics involved ambiguous terminology like feeble minded, incorrigibility, and was completely absent precise scientific language. Social action was called for in newspapers, laws were passed, and people were stripped their inalienable rights. And the entire structure was based entirely on belief—not fact, not science, not even experimentation. The prejudice was that people simply didn’t want immigrants coming into their country (nationalism of the day), and they didn’t want undesirables moving into their neighborhood.

Obviously, this type of comparison was not the intention of the authors. They were trying to classify globalization in an ugly light, but they were unaware that their methods were the same as those now-defunct and ugly theories; which were supposed to be more like capitalism, and globalization. These are the types of people who are the washed up remnants of the radical individualist 60’s hippie generation who may (Paul Krugmann—who was quoted by the authors) or may not (the Anarchist, Environmental Terrorist, and violent antiglobalist who terrorize WTO conferences) have placed themselves in the establishment culture of Hollywood, The Media, and Academia.

I go to the second quote: 2) Wal-Mart has also lulled shoppers into ignoring the difference between the price of something and the cost. Its unending focus on price underscores something that Americans are only starting to realize about globalization: Ever-cheaper prices have consequences. Says Steve Dobbins, president of thread maker Carolina Mills: "We want clean air, clear water, good living conditions, the best health care in the world--yet we aren't willing to pay for anything manufactured under those restrictions."

I glad that I was awoken from my complacent slumber. Perhaps as an American worker, I can now stop banging my thick skull against the anvil and start productively banging my socially justified hammer.

What was supposed to be an economic article is really *TA DA* an article on environmental policy. I really wasn’t buying that whole story of the downtrodden CEO anyway.. The author is apparently completely ignorant of the prime reason for pollution in this world—poverty. People simply aren’t worrying about pollution, or even personal hygiene if they are starving to death. As Americans we tend to forget that over half the world population lives in earthen homes, and a good half a billion people live without regular food and water. Water contamination is the #1 global health concern—not obesity, or smoking, or electrical wires above homes, or DDT (which would have actually saved hundreds of thousands from water contamination complications like malaria, and is not carcinogenic—sorry Silent Spring). The last two were banned or regulated based on politicized science—by the way (ironic how those terrifying magnetic fields that were supposed to cause autism and cancer now come in a variety of fashionable bracelets and car seat covers to cure the ailing body).

There are fashionable, ambiguous clichés like “sustainable development” or “the precautionary principle,” and these have the effect of preserving the economic development of the west and represent Modern imperialism toward the developing world.

It’s a nice way of saying “we got ours and we don’t want you to get yours, because you’ll cause too much pollution—never mind the fact that I fly a private jet and earn a multi-million dollar salary as a CEO of a competing retailer of Wal-Mart, and consume more energy with my home utilities then the whole energy consumption of an average 3rd world city.”

People are well intentioned, but I have great respect for the effects of bias, systematic distortions of thought, the power of rationalization, the many guises of self-interest (or what I would call not possessing a pure heart), and the inevitability of unintended consequences. I have more respect for people who change their views after hearing a well thought and presented arguments then those who cling to beliefs they had 30 years ago. The world, science, and the increasing complexity of our interactions change; ideologues and zealots don’t. The environmental movement falls into the Ideologue camp in my opinion, and sadly they (from either ignorance or misguided zealotry) attack the institutions (like Wal-Mart) that are effecting a tremendous positive change in developing countries. Austin Chase put it this way “when the search for truth is confused with political advocacy then the pursuit of knowledge is reduced to the quest for power.” Alexandre Dumas said furthermore, “in politics there are no friends only correspondence, no ideas only interest (and I would add—beliefs).”

Funny how jingoistic nationalism only applies to military activism in the form of nation-building, but when that mechanical pencil job goes to Mexico or (heaven forbid!!) China with all of its human rights violation (wait a minute, I thought that the USA and Israel—the only democracy in the Middle East—were the number one and two human rights violators according to Amnesty International—never mind that man behind the Islamic curtain feeding people into plastic shredders, DAMN THOSE “domestic” WIRE TAPS!!! IS THERE NO DECENCY??????). . . as I was saying, people get their knickers in a knot (to use a little Auzzie lingo) and start getting all patriotic about American unemployment rates as they wave their “Made in America” tags. (Sorry, that was my Ann Coulter evil twin—its getting late.)

Anybody who has visited Bangalore India, or any other globalization hub will realize the great good that this outsourcing has on the populations of those countries. To be sure, there are problems, but there is much good as well. The saying (as John Chadwick pointed out recently) was “you have to eat your veggies; children are starving in China.” Well, we should really be saying “you should study your math, the Chinese are starving for your job.” Perhaps we should shift the argument to the dismal mathematical scores that American kids have compared to Russians, Chinese, Indians, and on and on. Neo-luddite or feigned isolationist/protectionist arguments are simply disingenuous or ignorant of the real issues: global progress through innovation and free exchange of information (sorry totalitarian, non-democratic regimes—in the name of Khrushchev [remember that ash-heap of history?], “We Will Bury You” if you do not become freedom loving democratic societies). The spreading of democracy as well as economic free-enterprise is another topic altogether, however, and I am getting tired.

Now, if you want to argue about Wal-Mart’s practice of excluding Unions or denying healthcare to its employees, that is another topic as well.

Everybody has an agenda; except me of course.

Love,

Joe

P.S. If I offended anybody, I'm Sorry. Forget this article, it doesn't exist. . .

[Comments] (1) Sat Jan 28 14:48:17 MST The Pursuit of Knowledge and the Quest for Power:

Environmentalism, Big Government, Academia (especially in those Government run colleges and universities), this article along with last article gave me some thoughts.

http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=5423

Also, note carefully the relationship between suppliers and Wal-Mart.

Perhaps West Plains, MO should also enact a higher minimum wage standard, I mean--heck a guy working at McDonalds in Westwood, CA makes more than me as a skilled college graduate. I guess the only people who may benefit would be the government and public sector; interesting.

[Comments] (6) Wed Feb 01 01:23:56 MST School Matched: UT Medical School--San Antonio:

It's Official. My number one choice is my matched school. I will be a doctor after all, caveat emptor!!!

[Comments] (3) Thu Feb 09 21:42:25 MST Professional Student??:

So, I received a call today from a Dr. Martin Adamo who is the head of the MD/PhD program at San Antonio. He is interested in having me come down and interview. They will fly me down to let me see the program and interview. I looked on the website, and I am warming up to a PhD in Pathology (Neuropathology or Oncopathology perhaps) or Molecular medicine. I had expressed interest in the program when I was there interviewing in October.

The Skinny:

Tuition paid, book stipend

$21,000/year stipend (for 6-7 years)

Fringe benefits (insurance, parking near the school)

Additional money for summer research/teaching assistantships.

I took a medical specialty aptitude test a few weeks ago, by the way, and that test ranked my aptitude as follows

1) Pathology (Funny, Kristen gave me a little Ebola Virus plush doll for my birthday—how cute).

2) Nephrology

3) Hematology

4) Medical Oncology

5) Thoracic Surgery

Then there was Neurology, Neurosurgery, and on and on. Bottom of the list: Ophthalmology, General surgery, Orthopedics, Family practice, Pediatrics.

I guess I am just not the "patient oriented" kind of doctor. And I thought I was pretty empathetic and compassionate.

So, Perhaps this PhD will serve me well in a complex systems problem solving specialty—like pathology.

Louise is warming up to the idea, but is not quite sure if I should go through another 2-3 years of school on top of the 10 years I already have planned. That would make me almost 40 by the time I start to work!!! How's that for mid-life crisis?

[Comments] (1) Mon Apr 17 13:29:42 MST Update from Louise:

Hi everyone. We're about to perform a devious operation... We 're jetting off to Australia to make a surprise visit to my family. Fun times! It'll be a nice long visit before joe starts medical school, and probably the last chance we'll have for quite a while. We'll return in time for Dave's wedding.

Other news is that Joe has been accepted into the MD/PhD program!! So as well as going to med school, he will also be doing a PhD in radiological sciences. This also means we'll be hanging around San Antonio for 7 years. This suits us well. The only thing left is to figure out where exactly we're going to live. We hope to buy a condo.

See you all soon!

Thu Apr 20 17:09:59 MST Australia Day 1 and 2, Warwick:

On Monday we left for Australia at about 5:45 P.M. from San Antonio. We stopped off in L.A. to transfer to our Quantas flight, and by about 11:20 P.M. we were off to Australia. They had no good movies on so I just listened to my MP3 player mostly (listening to Phyllis Shlafly’s “Feminist Fantasies” and “Les Miserables”). It was about a good night’s sleep that you can expect to have sitting in a not-fully reclinable seat with about a hundred other people.

We arrived in Brisbane (Day 1) at 6:00 in the morning after about 14 hours of flying. After customs Louise’s sister Becky picked us up from the airport and we went to her home. Louise took a shower, but I had sufficiently powdered myself with Gold Bond powder, and after applying copious amounts of deodorant I felt that I was still comfortably fresh.

After breakfast, which consisted of boiled eggs on buttered toast, we took off with Louise’s brother-in-law Paul and Paul’s brother, John to go for an hour long drive to Warwick, where Louise’s Parents were staying with Louise’s brother’s family—Lorin &co. They live in a nice home that is built on large stilts that cool the home. They have a nice flower garden in the front and back. I walked into the home (and as John, Louise’s Dad, was the only one who knew we were coming we gave Lisa, Lorin’s wife, a bit of a surprise) and Lisa saw me, and then saw Louise. Astonished, she said hello and we had a good reunion. Then Lorin came in and Louise surprised him, and finally Julie (Louise’s Mom) arrived and Louise had a good time surprising her.

That was Wednesday; you may realize that we left on Monday, and skipped Tuesday altogether. Wednesday night we went rock climbing at the Warwick Rec Center, and that was about when I started to hit the wall. Andrew our 12 year old nephew revelled in the fact that he could climb the wall faster than me, but he didn’t realize that it was 5:00 A.M. Texas time, and I was dog tired. Jet lag was knocking me back. When we got home around 8:45 P.M. (or 5:45 A.M. Texas time) I got ready for bed and that was about all I remember.

Thursday (Day 2) was Andrew’s 12th birthday. He got a new bike and we also had a lot of the family over for lunch and a dinner barbeque. First thing that morning I went for a good 50 min run along the river, and I marvelled at the warbling, cooing, soft and strident calls of the different birds here in Australia. If there is one thing about living here, it is the manifold birds of all sizes, colours, and dispositions. I am amazed at the wildlife here with its tall trees and beautiful flowers, the butterflies and shrubbery. The lifestyle is also very strenuous. All day Wednesday and Thursday there was abundant music coming from the homes of the people we visited. I heard the drums, Guitar, Cello, Violin, Viola, Piano, etc all going on. People here also work and exercise regularly. On my run I must have seen at least a dozen people of various ages out walking at 8:00 in the morning. It was good fun

We had dinner and a birthday celebration with the Donaldsons and the Nicholsons. Then, since Lorin is leaving for Dallas, TX Friday, we all gathered at the church for Andrew’s Ordination to the Aaronic Priesthood. I had the opportunity to participate in the circle because of my avuncular standing in the family, and I was happy to do so. Then Louise’s parents left for Queensland, but Louise and I are going to stay in Warwick with Lisa and the Kids (Andrew, Emmalyn, Harriet, and Tom Teancum [love that middle name]).

Oh, for our 3rd wedding anniversary I gave Louise a wedding band with 10 small diamonds in it. I was walking in the mall, and they had this sale going on, and it was exactly what I had been looking at getting her, but at a fraction of the cost that I had seen over in the states. I think she is happy with that.

Sat Apr 22 16:02:38 MST Day #3 and 4:

We are still in Warwick. It is great being here with the kids and all. Yesterday we mostly shopped and hung around with Lisa—Louise’s sister-in-law. That night I went to bed at around 8:30 P.M. I just conked right out. As a result, I woke up at 5:00, and Louise and I decided to go for a little walk before everybody else got up. So, we walked through the town of Warwick with all of its meticulously gardened streets and corners. The birds started stirring and we enjoyed a continuous stream of song as we watched the sun rise higher in the morning sky. The city is one of those that is inhabited by people who enjoy nice public spaces, and don’t mind a little community effort to plant and maintain city gardens, parks, streets, recreation centres, etc. I felt like I was at BYU with all of the sidewalk cleaners driving past us in the early morning and the gardeners out pruning the bushes and trees in the island at the median of the road.

All of this reminded me of my mission where there was a small grocery store a block away where we could buy all of our baked goods, meats and milk. Walking in a town like this is far more enjoyable. There are no big box stores, and hence something that you could get for $20 (e.g. a power inverter for the car) in the states costs $100, but there is the internet and postal service.

I made a breakfast of bacon and eggs for everybody, and I added to that some freshly-baked fruit bread that I had bought during our walk. Then after cleaning the house it was off to Leslie dam. We had a nice walk out there, and after a little bit we had lunch which consisted of sausage rolls and meat pies. After Leslie dam we went to watch the two girls, Emmalyn, and Harriet play Netball (which is a game in which you cannot dribble or walk with a ball, but you must get into a goal area and score by putting the ball through a hoop similar to basketball—except without the backboard).

After that we went swimming at the local rec-centre. It was a nice facility. We had fun, and after that we ate dinner (pizza) and I went to priesthood session of Conference (they just got the DVD this week) with Andrew. When we came back home, Lisa and Louise were watching Cinderella Man and I watched a bit of that before I went to bed. It was a nice day!

Sun Apr 23 16:06:25 MST Sunday Day 5:

Today we spent the majority of the day watching conference at the chapel here in Warwick. We also sat around and conversed about the reasons why not to immunize kids and parenting as a blind parent (since Lorin--louise's brother is blind). After a lovely dinner we spent some time watching videos of Lorin in concert. It was a day spent together as a family.

Mon Apr 24 16:09:29 MST Monday Day 6, Back to Brisbane:

Louise and I left for Brisbane this morning, so after our last farewell to all the Nicholson children we were off with Lisa to meet the Nicholson Grandparents (John and Julie) half way. The half way point was Cunningham's Gap which is situated by Main Range National park; which is Australia's version of America's Great Divide. We hiked the roughly 4 Kilometers to the peak of one of the mountains through beautiful rainforests. I snapped some fifty pictures; some where close up and others were wide scenic shots, and we had fun. When we came back down Louise's Parents were there waiting (as before mentioned). We said our last goodbye to Lisa and were off.

Lunch was next on our Itinerary. We went to a country off-the-highway cafe and fruit stand. I had a huge hamburger with the works (including egg, beetroot, and buttered buns). After our satiating lunch we were off again on the road to Brisbane. The trip was uneventful except for a random stop in which the police had John breath into a Breathalyser--which read 0.00, and I commented that such a stop was likely illegal in the states. I have notice that there is much more regulation of behaviour here in Australia compared to the U.S. by THE STATE. Of course, litigation in U.S. may regulate behaviour privately just as much as it is regulated by government in Australia, but I think I prefer to have my behaviour regulated by my fellow man democratically then bureaucratically by the amorphous monolithic STATE.

In any case, we had a nice evening at Paul and Becky's place.

Tue Apr 25 15:37:23 MST ANZAC DAY, # 7, Tuesday:

ANZAC stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps. It is analogous to the Forth of July in the U.S. with a little of memorial day added. Paul, Becky, John Julie Louise and Myself all went to the ANZAC day parade in downtown Brisbane. That was very fun. We got to see some tanks roll down the street (All American Made) and we had fun with the piper bands.

One observation that I made was the fact that the dozens of Jeeps and Armored vehicles were all American--with Left-hand drive and all. Not only that but the Hummers and Jeeps, most of them, had U.S.A. Army written on them. I was standing a little taller knowing that our armed forces helped keep Australia from becoming Japan and France Germany. Can they stop the upward invasion of the nihilistic barbarians within their own borders (in the form of our listless only-interested-in-ME Generation)? Only time will tell.

We also spent some time in the South Bank sector of town. That is a beautiful gardened area where there are little pools, and artificial beach capable of accommodating hundreds of people, shops, street performers, a Tibetan Bagoda, and more.

After that we came home to regroup before going off to Mount Coot-tha (aboriginal), the highest mount in Brisbane area. It has a beautiful view of all of the Brisbane planes and River. I was able to pick out the University of Queensland where the Medical school is situated. There is also a romantic restaurant that overlooks the city. Surrounding the Mountain is a large reserve of botanical gardens.

Tommorow I will visit Australia Zoo--where Steve Irwin the Crocodile hunter works.

Wed Apr 26 02:53:55 MST Crikey, Australia Zoo Day 7:

Today we all went to Australia Zoo which is Steve Irwin's magna opus. It was quite fun. The zoo is really focused on giving people a good hands-on, up close and personal experience with animals and nature. As such there were "encounters" with Tigers and Cheetahs, Elephants and Emus, Wombats and well, you get the picture. I was suprised that we were able to hold a Koala and get our picture taken. Unfortunately the Death Adders were off limits today.

The zoo was great. It wasn't the largest zoo I've been to, but it was certainly more of an educational experience for kids. They even had a Kids farm animal section where you could pet younger cows, piglets, kids (goats), and feed them. That was in addition to all the other picture opportunities with wedge-tailed eagles, macaw parrots, and kangaroos. The zoo is located on the Sunshine Coast near the Glass House Mountains, majestic mountains that jut out from the flat plains all around it. It all sounds like it came out of a Mario Party video game, but the beauty is striking.

Tonight we will watch Cinderella Man with Becky and the Grand-Nicholsons.

Fri May 05 17:33:26 MST Lismore, Days 8-18:

After a little time spent in Brisbane we traveled south to Lismore to see Louise's brother Dean and his family (wife Janelle and four daughters). Sunday was conference (again) so I have seen the Sunday sessions at least 5 times now.

Monday and Tuesday we decided to go off alone to Byron Bay. We stayed at a nice Bed-and-Breakfast Monday night, and visited the gorgeous beaches and the lighthouse. On Tuesday we went sea kayaking with the dolphins. We saw a shipwreck and some marine life on that trip. It was fun, and I never thought that riding the surf in on a kayak would be so much fun.

Byron bay is a famous Humpback Whale-watching lookout. It is the most easterly point in Australia, and is named after Lord Byron’s (of literary renown) admiral Grandfather. It is also one of the alternative lifestyles capitals of Australia with nude beaches and all. That kinda put a damper on the beauty of the place for me.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent with Dean. He took us to Protester falls in the rainforest near Lismore. We also went to swim on the beaches near the town of Ballina. Most of all, staying with Dean and Janelle gave us some rich material for conversations concerning parenting and Husband-Wife roles and relationships. Dean is not employed and Janelle has to go to work. Also Janelle is a very loud person who favours a high decibel voice when reprimanding her children. They were very accommodating to us as we stayed there though and we were very glad to have visited them.

We also spent an evening with Louise’s long-time friend Lara Viscovitch. She has a million-dollar beach house on Byron Bay. Her dad had it specially designed and built with all the neat water faucets and lighting, a signed Picasso print on the wall, etc. Just recently her father committed suicide. He was a Dentist, but he seemed to have serious marital problems and depression. Lara was living at this beach house with a live in “partner” from France whom she had met just four or five months ago. We went out to dinner at a delightful street-side patio restaurant and had some stimulating conversation. We discovered she is a fierce feminist who didn’t give much credence to the institution of marriage (which in her view is some form of oppressive institution for women). “Why do I need a paper to tell me that I love somebody?” was her curt retort to our comments on married life. I was happy to see Louise witness to the joys and truthfulness of marriage. Perhaps I am doing something right.

In further thought, what is a contract but words we say to each other, and those words but thoughts. Those are the very things that make us human and separate us from the beasts who mechanically reproduce in their times and seasons. Furthermore, what are words to somebody who has no integrity? They are but tinkling brass and cymbal. In that case, words are nothing but stale, consumed air.

Funny how she is able to leisurely take such views when everything she has been given, from her private boarding school education to her lifestyle on the beach, was provided by a man, namely her Father. I suppose it is the same for each of us when we take the gospel perspective on things.

Philosophical disagreements notwithstanding, we do value the friendship of others who hold different or even incorrect views on life. Relationships are the most important gift we can have in mortality.

It has been a good week, however, and now (Saturday) we are in Kanwal near Sydney. Louise is busy planning a big get-together with some of the familial friends in Kanwal complete with food and plenty of joy.

I just found out today that Frances has passed from this life. God has drawn the curtain, but then next Act is about to commence, and when one attempts to express the thoughts of one’s heart there seems to be an angel that stands by with one finger gently pressed against his lips. I struggle to contemplate the immensity of this life, and I am deeply grateful for this great gift of probationary time. My thoughts and prayers are with Leonard, Susie and Rachel.

Tue May 09 16:47:28 MST Spit to Manly :

The title sounds like a comming-of-age tale perhaps, but that is what we did today. We started the 5-6 mile hike at the Spit bridge in Sydney and walked along the bay to Manly. It was a beautiful hike, and I got about 200 pictures. We also found the Cockatoo bird flock in the botanic gardens near the opera house. We would get them to land on our arms and then get pictures. The problem is, however, that you had to make them think you had food for them to land on our arms. If you didn't have any food for them they would punish you by biting your pinky finger or the the flesh between your thumb and forefinger. Such beautiful obnoxious birds.

Lorin also came back from Dallas yesterday. He had much success performing at 10 schools in two weeks period. It looks like he will come in November and take all of his family with him.

[Comments] (4) Thu Jul 06 22:24:34 MST Patch, Slug and Puma:

We have settled a bit since our move from Missouri/Utah. It feels good to have some order in our new apartment, and it is always good to be together. Except, Louise is away this week at one of her NFB conventions in Dallas. She is having fun, though, and it is a good way to stay in a nice hotel cheaply.

Meanwhile I am left at home to study cancer genes. I am being mentored by Charles Keller who studies soft tissue cancers here at the Childrens Cancer Research Institute. I am enjoying it, but it is a little challenging, but I enjoy it. I am amazed at the knowledge we are collecting about our DNA and what it codes for.

In a month I will start the task of going through medical school, and I hope all goes well. I am excited about it, and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn medicine.

In preparation for school I bought a bunch of Classical music through allofmp3.com to help me study. I also learned the difference between a concerto and a symphony. Now with a few Hot Pockets, I should be ready to go.

Fri Jul 07 18:03:00 MST Ruminations: The Cost of Dicipleship:

I feel compelled to publish my feelings—which have swirled about recently; almost franticly, and you may well decide that my writings are the product of a frenzied mind. After reading this you will find that a decision is unavoidable.

Last 4th of July I was happy to go and eat dinner at Mom’s house. When I arrived there was a boy there with Lorna. I didn’t really want to know his name. I felt a bit angry and frustrated. I wondered why Mom and Ben allowed this kid to visit and be in a room with Lorna alone, and why Ben (who makes me walk around and open the door for my wife when we are getting in the car) would allow this obvious suitor to spend time with Lorna. (I also may not know the whole story--maby he was family). I say this at the risk of being branded a Victorian or a Puritan.

I am also grieved that Michelle is dating somebody who isn’t worthy to take her to the temple, and that Michelle has willingly razed herself to his standard. I wonder if she will ever feel the depth of feeling and commitment that Louise and I feel for each other, and I am forced to answer that without the gospel of repentance, that depth of commitment and joy cannot exist.

My wife and I have spent long hours in discussion about the meaning of love and virtue; especially in light of recent controversy over legislation for which we were supporting. This tired old world has had to support some great wickedness, but I am afraid that it is becoming almost unbearable.

The whole problem stems from a false idea of love.

As I look back on my experience, I have to admit that the most important relationships that I have formed here on the earth are with 1) My family, and 2) Friends who are members of the Church; especially those friends who I helped bring into the church. High school friends were great, but the meaningful relationships were with those who cherished the same things as I. Similarly, my relationship with my wife is worth more to me than countless other relationships. That is because we have covenanted with each other in a relationship that is firmly rooted in the right. It is on the solid ground of the gospel. The gospel which gives our lives such abundance is founded on principles of morality, but to paraphrase Neal A Maxwell; you cannot have a meaningful morality that is made out of the play-dough of permissiveness. I grieve that so many members of the church (including my parents) have slipped at least somewhat into the intellectual permissiveness of which I will speak further.

Now, I stand in a minority. I will remain unmoved in my convictions of the truth. The majority will call me intolerant, uncaring, bigoted, and some may even call me emotionally disturbed (ALMA 30:16--i.e. frenzied mind) as a result of my “dogmatism, inflexibility, and being extremely religious” (Ellis, “Psychotherapy and Religious Values,” Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology 48 [1980]: 635). It is true that even my own family has accused me so.

Our society has allowed itself to fall into a pattern that is not easy to escape. We are proving that we are no better than those who lived in the times of Rome, Egypt, Babylon and so forth. The one saving grace is the restoration of the gospel which stands as a fixed anchor in these turbulent waters. Said Pascal: “When everything is moving at once, nothing appears to be moving, as on board ship. When everyone is moving towards depravity, no one seems to be moving, but if someone stops, he shows up the others who are rushing on, by acting as a fixed point.”

Fifty years ago pornography portrayed fat women with missing teeth. A hundred years ago it was called by some of the Muscular Christians of the day the “White Slave Trade.” Today it presents glossy pictures of beautifully tanned young women with strait white teeth, college degrees, and who care about the environment. Sixty years ago this year, the “liberated” woman began to wear the now ubiquitous bikini. I think that it is appropriate that the bikini was named after an Island where the H-bomb was being tested. The evil one has advanced from bows, arrows, slings stones and swords. Now his arsenal resembles more the modern bombs of addiction, tanks of public opinion, and the common soldier of pride.

His main objective is to convince us that love is cheap, and even free. The sixties was a time where all you needed to do to promote peace is stop sending soldiers to war. Love was a free for all, as well as economic prosperity, and no holds were barred. The Book of Mormon foretold of this assault by the adversary by saying that in the last days many will say “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.” And more significantly “if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.”

The evil one has beguiled even strong members of the church into thinking that the love of God will be liberally granted unto all—regardless of our personal worthiness or obedience to receive. To be clear, the Love of God is offered to all without respect to persons, but it is offered upon conditions of righteousness. The adversary has convinced us that we will be accepted regardless of our personal worthiness, but the truth is that we all need to repent, and without that crucial step, no unclean thing can enter into the kingdom of heaven. Children don’t need to repent and therefore are blessed with a full measure of God’s universal love, and so are we when we repent. God has offered the gift of His love (which is the atonement—the gift of His only begotten Son) and he has commanded us not to deny those gifts (Moroni 10:8), and to touch not the evil gift or the unclean thing (Moroni 10:30). If we don’t learn to fast (a spirit of thanksgiving and joy in the gifts of God—to be used neither by extortion nor excess [e.g. homosexuality]) then we will not fully appreciate the gifts of God. And that is the difference between our pioneer forbearers, who being consecrated to the work, gave up everything—even sacrificing their lives to live the gospel. While on the other hand some the descendants of the pioneers, and those who inherited their legacy, refuse to pay the admission price of repentance to enter the Kingdom. The result is that they will sink themselves down to Hell, having denied themselves the love of God.

I want to be clear that I am not denying the gifts of God to anyone. I can only try to forgive and repent myself, and then exhort all others to do the same. When they return from the chains of pornography, addiction, homosexuality, etc, then I hope to be there when they are accepted into the kingdom with a robe, a ring, and a fatted calf. I sincerely hope they chose to repent and learn the value of fasting (ie no extortion or excess) in order to also return to an abundant life. That is because I know the power of the atonement to save. These are not just platitudes in my life; they are real and have proven efficacious to my soul. I believe that Kristen also knows these things—which are only obtained through deep and sincere repentance. I can tell that Kristen knows, as I know, the savior—not just as a friend, master, teacher, or brother, but as her redeemer. I pray that everybody may come to know the same thing before they are abruptly brought to know at that day when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Christ is the Lord.

Sat Jul 08 13:54:21 MST Maxwell and "The Inexhaustible Gospel":

From my readings today I found some prescient and timely words:

Neal A. Maxwell:

A few members of the Church end up “looking beyond the mark” missing the already obvious (Jacob 4:14). These few individuals let their minds run far ahead of their confirming behavior. For them, exiting exploration is preferred to plodding implementation. Speculation and argumentation are more fun than consecration for these individuals. Some even try to soften hard doctrines. What happens, however, is that by not obeying, they lack knowing. Thus, since they cannot defend the faith, a few of them become critics instead of defenders (John 7:17).

Furthermore:

Orthodoxy is required to keep all these truths in essential balance. In orthodoxy lies real safety and real felicity! Flowing from orthodoxy is not only correctness but happiness. Orthodoxy is especially vital in a time of raging relativism and belching sensualism. The world’s morality is constantly being improvised. Some views are politically correct one day, but not another.

Sun Jul 09 17:44:29 MST Menace to Society :

I will not go further in outlining my moral objections to homosexuality that are founded in my spiritual (no I didn't say religious although religion did play a role in developing my understanding of spiritual truth--solid, valid, and eternal); as I was saying, I will not go further except to say that if you still have doubts as to what you should be supporting in the political realm then read the words of the prophet: “Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, undermine the divinely created institution of the family” and furthermore “We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.” The word of wisdom was a counsel to the “weakest of the saints” and not a commandment—ever, but you cannot get into the temple if you don’t abide by the word of wisdom. Similarly ask yourself if you can honestly answer affirmatively to the temple recommend question regarding sustaining your leaders if you oppose their efforts to pass constitutional amendments banning gay marriage.

Having said that, I will now outline the social and political reasons why I oppose homosexual marriage (or anything like unto it). “Those measures” in my mind includes the criminalization of such behavior. That is right. Call me intolerant and a bigot. I think that pornographers should also be criminalized. I think that people who violate legal contracts (e.g. marriage) by committing adultery should be punished by the strong arm of the government in order to protect the institution of the family. I also think that people who produce literature that gives pointers as to how to molest children should be locked up (honestly, I think people like that [child predators] should be discretely whipped because there is only one way to get to such people—through their skin—and if you think that is harsh just remember what the Savior said about the punishment those people deserve. And he was so loving and kind to those publicans and sinners!). Finally, I think that homosexuality is a menace to society; to quote Brigham Young. The act should be condemned and punished, and in a righteous society it would be punished.

READ THIS PLEASE: I am not advocating vigil ante action, or hatred of anybody. I have respect for all people—even murderers and adulterers. I also respect their right to a fair trial. I also believe in being subject to laws, magistrates, rulers and so forth. I also believe that the voice of the people have the right to implement those measures which ensure the rights of people to live free from harmful and detrimental influences, and to restrict behavior that has a negative social cost. As a person who values life, I argue that the government has a duty to restrict such actions that are concerned with either the taking away of life or the giving of life. The power to give life, if misused, will plagued society with ills that are numberless.

I cite Jeffery R Holland—who as an American History and Literature graduate of Yale can contribute to this public discussion: “No man [or woman], however brilliant or well-informed, can … safely … dismiss … the wisdom of [lessons learned] in the laboratory of history. A youth boiling with hormones will wonder why he should not give full freedom to his sexual desires; [but] if he is unchecked by custom, morals, or laws, he may ruin his life before he … understand[s] that sex is a river of fire that must be banked and cooled by a hundred restraints if it is not to consume in chaos both the individual and the group.”

I am sorry if my philosophy hurts my relationship with others. I was warned that the gospel would sometimes force me to choose between it and Father, Mother, Sister and Brother. I believe that we can agree to disagree agreeably, but if it is between my popularity and personal relationships or the denial of my faith (which is not the same as values, religion, or belief--BTW) then I am forced to choose the latter. The gospel is the most important gift that I have obtained in my life.

That is my public policy debate. I don’t have time to cite social science articles, but I think that the effects of sexual sin are sufficiently obvious to those who care to look.

Sun Jul 09 18:07:55 MST Quotable Quotables:

One who uses the God-given body of another without divine sanction abuses the very soul of that individual, abuses the central purpose and processes of life.

--Jeffery R. Holland

Tue Aug 01 19:27:10 MST The First Week:

Two days down, 2,300 to go. Med school I hope I will make it.

We are being stuffed with all kinds of scientific facts, figures, principles, etc. Many of the students are drinking coffee late into the night already as we turn our brains into a kind of foie gras for public use and consumption. I have met my cadaver (which lies in a tank of preserving liquid), and I am excited to get to the back--which we will disect on Thursday to see his back muscles and paravertebral nerves.

Louise is also going in for an interview for work as a library assistant at a middle school tomorrow. We will see if she takes the job or not, or if they decide to hire her. I think she would rather work in special education, but she seems content to work in a library.

[Comments] (1) Fri Aug 18 11:13:34 MST In my dreams:

Woke up this morning at around 2:30 to use the restroom, and I found myself intensly trying to work out what nerve innervates the lacrimal gland and what other parasympathetic functions would be absent if the that nerve was damaged. I try to rest, but even when I am asleep I am studying. Weird.

I guess that is where my dreams of superhero adventures--saving people from bad guys and driving fast cars--have gone.

Mon Aug 28 09:11:08 MST Breakfast Dialogue:

(Posted by Louise)

Joe: Thanks for making me breakfast sweety. Louise: Glad to have someone around to make breakfast for. Joe: Glad to be of existence.

NB Being the rebel that I am, I insist on ending sentences with prepositions when possible. Contrary to popular belief, English does not conform to Latin grammar.

[Comments] (1) Mon Sep 04 09:20:55 MST Crikey... It's a tragedy.:

Joe and I are sad today because Steve Irwin, better known as the Crocodile Hunter, has died. He recieved a fatal jab to his chest from a giant sting-ray barb. I'm sad becuase I was just starting to like the guy. We just visited his zoo in Australia earlier this year too. Our condolences to his young family.

[Comments] (2) Mon Sep 11 18:57:23 MST Induction Day:

(Louise) I was so disapointed when someone blabbed the big secret of Harry Potter 5 before I had read it. I thought I had then worked out who was going to die in number 6, but good thing for me, my predictions were wrong! It's great when that happens. Nobody likes a predictable book. So, now that I FINALLY finished reading 6, I want to say that I'm pleasantly surprised, except that I'm heart-broken! The book had some great twists, and I loved the way they were simultaneously unraveled.

Anyway, after being out of the loop for so long, can I join the club now?

[Comments] (2) Wed Oct 04 08:45:09 MST Last Night on the O'Reilly Factor:

Bill O'Reilly: Is there any scenario that you can envision you supporting the Democrat candidate for President in '08?

Ann Coulter: If Zell Miller were running against John McCain.

O'Reilly: Ya, you're not a big McCain fan are you.

Ann: No, actually I dont really like any of our frontrunners.

O'Reilly: Really? Right.

Ann: I think that it's going to be someone else.

O'Reilly: I think that it's going to be Mitt Romney.

Ann Coulter: Actually of the ones that they talk about he's my favorite. But there could be somebody out of the blue.

Bill O'Reilly: I think that Mitt Romney is the guy on the inside track that very few people know about.

Two conservatives (alright, one "independant" and one "neo"conservative) who think Mitt has a chance. Lets hope they are right.

Wed Oct 04 08:55:19 MST It must be hard to be a talk show host:

There is somewhat of a firestorm that has brewed in the "Religious Right" camp surrounding the statements of James Dobson. To be fair, I think Dobson was just speculating about the future, and I doubt that it was a statement based in bigotry. Here is what one blog said about the statement:

"The good news is, many evangelicals are apologizing for Dobson, even excoriating him. At the very least they are trying to explain away what he said. Because they all remember what Dr. Dobson apparently forgot:

Anyone who divides the religious majority in America for whatever reason carries a spear for the secular left and ensures the right’s defeat in the most imminent battles of the culture war.

'A house divided against itself cannot stand, and must fall.'

Dr. Dobson would do well to focus on his family; to figure out once and for all just who his family members are." --Mitch Davis of runmittrun.org

I say so many questionble things which may be taken so many ways that I sympathise with James Dobson. I think his support will be strong if Mitt becomes a strong contender.

Wed Oct 04 10:10:35 MST Survival of the Unfittest--The Will to Power:

I have been thinking about what makes a person successful in Politics, Hollywood, Sports, and Buisness (thank goodness I have entered the meritocricy of academics). I am reminded of Raspinokov in Crime and Punishment who understood this and was tormented by the desire to help people by the use of raw force and power (Democrats may take a lesson from this), and the resulting negation of Moral Law that the will to power denies a priori, and therefore the negation of the very purpose for which one uses force--for the common Good (with a capital G).

Dosteovsky put it in a way that is interesting. People who will to power, who have a modicum of intelligence, need only stoop down to pick it up. Not too hard, right? The problem is that you get all kinds of people who are not-so intelligent, not-so talented, incompetent, etc. (you may say--yeah, Bush!, and I agree with you to a degree). The irony is that those who thrive in a "will to power" environment are not those who are integritous, moral individuals.

Napoleon was able to "stoop" down to power and pick it up as did Hitler. What made them better than Raspinokov? The Answer, Dosteovsky tells us is this: Raspinokov's principles weakened him in a world ruled by the will to power, and as a result he turned himself in for the murder of the pawn broker. Raspinokov's moral judgement bought him a prison cell in Siberia, while Nepoleon's abandonment of his moral judgement bought him an Empire. Those who succeed in a will to power must shed themselves of cumbersome values, morals, and principles. The same may be said of the powerful in Hollywood about whom Mitch Davis wrote:

"I developed a societal model I called, 'Survival of the Unfittest.' It grew out of my observation that the success of an individual in Hollywood often didn’t seem to derive from their level of intellect or innate talent. Rather, success often seemed to be determined by an individual’s willingness to fight dirtier and stoop lower than his or her peers." Mitch Davis Continues: "The unfortunate result was that all too frequently (although not always) people in seats of power in Hollywood seemed to be individuals who led unbalanced, miserable lives and who then foisted their lack of balance and misery on the world they were paid to entertain. In short, the lunatics were running the asylum."

Sound a bit like Congress?

No wonder Hollywood has become more and more unpalatable to my discriminating tastes. Those who do not have such taste, however, are like the senior citizen who orders sharp blue cheese salad dressing because their aesthetic tastes buds have progressively atrophied by the abandonment of the Good. Society needs become more eccentric, edgy, evocative, poignant as they become deadened to the joys of simple ordinary life. Hence the rise in homosexuality, the multi-Billion (with a B) dollar pornography "industry," and the rise in violence in TV, movies and the roadways of American Cities.

That was Clinton's great tragic trait, I believe. He fell in a will to power mentality (including using his power to coerce young interns to gratify his lusts), and that dulled his capacity and quality.

I think that is why people of principle (the meek) will never rule the earth until the earth no longer sustains the type who are willing to "stoop" to power or "slouch toward Gomorrah" to coin a phrase from Robert Bork.

[Comments] (1) Thu Oct 19 15:58:16 MST Stuck in the eye.:

From a Christian reader of NRO:

"The choice between a Mormon and a Democrat [for president] is equivalent to the choice between eating ice cream and being stabbed in the eye with a fork. There isn't a choice."

What about a Mormon Democrat? Perhaps then it would be stuck in the eyeball with some Ice Cream. Not quite so bad.

[Comments] (4) Sun Oct 22 20:20:31 MST Halloween plans:

Today we received a flyer advertising the ward halloween party. We spent a minute discussing what we ought to dress up as, and came to the conclusion that I (Louise) should be Bow Peep. Our laughter erupted when of course the next natural assumption was that Joe would be the sheep! I can't wait to see him sporting his wooly ears! The idea came from Uncle Fred (yes, I have an Uncle Fred) who we visited on our trip to Australia earlier in the year. Upon seeing me for the first time using my long cane, he greeted me by asking in his thick-to-barely-intelligible Brittish brogue, "Where's yer sheep?" The characterization has kind of stuck since then.

[Comments] (2) Wed Dec 06 18:38:15 MST What's my plans for Spring Break?:

Well, funny you should ask. Yesterday I received an e-mail informing me that I was granted a scholarship to go on a medical mission to Nicaragua. There will be 6 or 7 of us, and I am very excited. I was so excited thinking about it last night that I couldn't sleep until about 1:30 in the morning (and it doesn't help that I have to get up early everyday, and I don't get much sleep as it is).

I feel very fortunate. Once again, I have been able to accomplish a long-standing goal/wish of mine, and life couldn't be better.

Louise is happy even though I can't take her along. Next time perhaps.

The Gum Tree for 2006

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