Sunday, November 30, 2008

Blog Rankings

I'm surprised by them. Alexia has me much higher than I would have expected:

LDS Solo blog rankings as of 29 Nov 08

Blog or Website Name Alexa Rank
1 Believe All Things 273809
2 Connor's Conundrums 602034
3 - LDS Temple Study Blog 690203
4 Mormanity - A Mormon Blog 709108
5 Ongofu - an LDS (Mormon) blog 941145
6 A Soft Answer 1000784
8 Thoughtskoto 1137941
9 Mormon Inquiry (old site) 1195791
10 Messenger and Advocate 1476247
11 Beetle Blogger 1643417
12 Sixteen Small Stones 1663633
13 Dandelion Mama 1836386
14 Voice Of Deseret 1983159
15 Latter-Day Commentary 2012519
16 Mormon Metaphysics 2046854
17 Day of Praise 2126100
18 What Mormons Like 2271610
19 Reach Upward 2300200
20 LDS Anarchy 2366179
21 LDS CIO 2462835
22 Mormon Insights 2629240
23 Stephen M (Ethesis) 2,863,409

The same is true for the group blog I'm involved with:

LDS Group blog rankings as of 29 Nov 08

Blog or Website Name Alexa Rank
1 By Common Consent 321798
2 Times & Seasons 406767
3 Feminist Mormon Housewives 453287
4 Mormon Matters 498,611

Something that surprised me is the fact that many blogs I read often were not higher in the ratings.

Well, I'll have a "real" post coming up soon. Just some surprises, at least to me.

Thanks to for doing all the work.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

An interesting conundrum

I just realized that while I don't consider the lack of financial prosperity to be a lack of God's blessings, I am very grateful for the prosperity that I have been blessed with.

It was wonderful to have Heather home for Thanksgiving, to have Win's brother Ted able to drive over, to see my parents and to have guests. Too much pie, not sure why the local supermarkets topped out at 13 lb turkeys, but we also had a ham, sweet potato casserole that I actually ate and some people had seconds on ...

God has been good to us. My wife is a CRNA, I'm blessed with my employment (I don't blog about it as there isn't much to blog about -- I'm sure people would get bored with "I love my boss, I love my co-workers, and I look forward to work [though I also can't wait to see my home too -- I drive home for lunch at least three or four times a week]"). I'm pleased with how both my daughters are doing in school.

Amused, sometimes (Rachel was afraid they were going to make her jump another grade so she started sandbagging math. Only Rachel would think 85s are sandbagging, or immediately jump her average to a 98 when she learned that another promotion was not in the cards). But pleased and very grateful.

There is much to be grateful for, and much to give thanks on this Thanksgiving. Now, if I could just get the cat to quit giving me gifts over his gratitude for tuna, life would be complete (I know, I should treat a warm, dead mouse in my shoe as the loving gesture I'm sure the cat intends, but I'm just not that excited about that sort of surprise -- reminds me of a lolcat I liked -- A cat is looking surprised and the message is that if you don't want a surprise breakfast in bed, can he please have the dead squirrel back?).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What do you do about Parrot Heads?

If you don't know, that is the nick name for Jimmy Buffett fans. My eight year old has picked up the habit, and rather solidly, as in get up and put Jimmy on continuous play to go to sleep to, borrow her mom's ipod for traveling in the car, etc.

Her birthday party (we celebrated it with a friend last week, though she does not turn nine until later) at the roller rink? Jimmy Buffett as a solid sound track (I even ended up tipping the DJ extra to ease his pain).

I guess there are worse things in life ;)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Finding the Spirit

The first talk of the Priesthood session reminded me of a man I met on my mission. His wife had died and he told us of all the things he had done in worship and prayer to seek God's help. He complained of how he had come up so empty. The list he gave us consisted of various forms of emotionalism.

He was Catholic, but obviously had gone somewhere else for comfort (and, bless his heart, seemed to be blaming his priest). I was struck by how he was substituting emotional processes for spiritual ones. I have seen that process many, many times since. I consider it a terrible mistake.

Too often I see a reach for Pathos (or even Bathos) as a substitute for the Spirit. It is a common thing (as are other reaches for emotional states) as a replacement for the Spirit of God. I have met people who thought they were the same thing. The terrible flaw is that the approach leads to shallow or non-existent roots and it fails people when they need God the most.

In grief, the Spirit brings comfort and faith brings healing. Emotionalism seems to do nothing positive for people, and as a substitute for the Spirit actually seems to harm them. It may seem harsh, but I think in general we should avoid bathos as we would any other false spirit. At least if we seek healing or to find God instead of a pale substitute.

I know, I went far afield from the speaker's thoughts, but we came back together as he called for repentance, even if we thought of the need to repent of different things.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Provident Living -- Or surviving the next three years of the Depression

I was talking with people whose opinions I respect, and the best estimate I got from anyone on when we will turn the corner on the recession we are in is that it will happen in about three years. Since I had been reflecting on general conference and the message that we should:
  • Avoid unnecessary debt (or expenditures)
  • Make our homes a sanctuary
  • love others and make a difference for them
  • receive a new heart
I reflected on those points again.

It is interesting how the progression goes from avoiding entanglement in the world to loving others to being reborn and transformed by God's love. At home we have been trying to apply all of the lessons.

We passed on buying some land this summer. If the deal went well, and over a ten year horizon it would have, it would have been money we did not need. If it did not, the loss and trouble would have been very entangling. We've also been cutting expenses here and there. Got rid of cable television, changed our phone service, will continue to make other changes. Generally trying to have less stuff (Rachel has so much she doesn't know what to do with it, in fact, for her birthday she has asked people to just give the gifts to a charity).

We've also worked more at keeping our home a place for our children and their friends. It is good to make people welcome, which helps us to reach out and embrace others.

All in all, I at least, have a long way to go. But it is good to think about things, to try to apply them, and to learn to grow. Grief and loss can close your heart. These things seem to help us heal. It has been long enough, I need to open my heart more.

So, you would rather understand more about what is going on in the material word?


Sunday, November 16, 2008

The forbidden word

The forbidden word

While in Santa Fe, N.M., I spoke about how lawyers can help their clients make ethical decisions. While it may seem odd, this was my first piece of advice: Don't talk to your clients about ethics. Why? I have tried a lot of cases in the last 28 years, and I have sat through a lot of jury selections, waiting for my case to be called. I can spot rookie lawyers when they ask the jury pool, "Can you be fair?" I watch the potential jurors, imagining a cartoon bubble appearing above their heads: "Of course I can be fair. In fact, I am the fairest person I know." You get the idea. It’s the same when you use the word ethics. Once you say something is an ethical issue, the person to whom you are speaking has the same reaction. Instead, talk about "integrity-based decisions" or "the brand identity of the company being at stake." But never, ever, blab about "ethical decisions." The listener will shut down. The listener will not listen. Your point -- no matter how well taken, no matter how well intentioned -- is lost. We all (including yours truly) think we are more ethical than we really are, we are thinner than we really are, we are better looking than we really are, and we are not as bald as we really are. It’s just human nature.

Click on the link, read the entire post, well worth reading.

So what are people debating?

This position ends up sounding like a form of pseudo-Calvinism in which heterosexual tendencies are a manifestation of inscrutable divine providence.

To consider the implications of the current debate on the eternities there is more than just concluding that it is a matter of divine providence.

To get to answers, start with the question of "what is sex?" After all, some species have more than one sex,
slime mold variants may have as many as fifty or sixty sexes, though the most famous has only thirteen.

If the term “gender” is used the same way as the term “sex” (
and it may or may not have that meaning in some situations, even most), perhaps any discussion should start with the question of what sex is.

The answer is not as obvious as some people think. Sexual identity is a basically a key for which members of a species can produce off-spring with which others (in the slime mold example, in a group of 13 slime molds, a mold probably can produce off-spring with 10 or 11 of any group of random molds, whereas in a group of 13 random humans, odds are one can produce off-spring with only 6 or 7).

Sex is a way of breaking communities up into groups that can form stable reproducing units.

However, given how irrelevant sexual unions as we understand them are likely to be in the eternal world (or why no one considers it adultery for married people to remarry others after the death of a spouse), but how important interlocking networks are (the sealing power of Elijah that turns hearts to each other, lest the world be void), there may be much more going on as well (or why
I think polygamy is irrelevant [and yes, that is a series of essays, not just one]).

But where does this leave gays and why would an LDS prophet have said that he thought we would have to have civil unions for gays? Not to mention, where does this leave reproduction and is it sexual in the eternities, especially as it deals with light and truth that has become intelligence ready to be born into spirit. If spirit does not come
ex nihilo, what is the implication for sex and gender?

I don’t have anywhere near the answers others do. That is probably because I don’t really fully understand the questions. But I know at least that I have more questions to ask.

My problem is I started in favor of having gays I knew get married, or at least have church weddings, and treating marriage as an issue of letting people "worship how, what or when they may."

I've been discomforted by those who have dealt with this issue by being extremely hostile to the church I belong to, and by the arguments I've seen -- I confess that most arguments pro and con are bad enough that I find myself agreeing with whoever was on the other side of the last argument that I read.

I then read a comment on the topic at that got me thinking about what marriage really was, together with a post that attacked the idea that marriage had anything to do with exclusivity -- that marriage should have any prerequisites or qualifications. It made me remember people who felt they should be able to marry their animal life mates, and who saw marriage as having nothing to do with sex, but everything to do with companionship and trust.

Which has all in all, gotten me thinking and further from conclusions than I once was. Though I am somewhat convinced that everyone is debating the wrong issues, looking at the wrong things.

I do, however, still think that everyone who wants one should be able to have a wedding at any church that is willing to celebrate with them.

See also Nate Oman's thoughts at:

Friday, November 14, 2008

On the gay marriage debates

Something I have noticed on the Gay Marriage debates is what causes people to change their minds, and it is generally social proof.

  • Those most likely to change from opposed to in favor of gay marriage know gays in long term, monogamous, committed relationships.
  • Those most likely to change from in favor to opposed meet gays seeking benefits who are either not in exclusive relationships or who are hostile to a religious or heterosexual group.

From studying conflict resolution, I find myself often just as interested in how the process of conversion works as any other part of a conflict.

But I started reflecting on what marriage was and what it has become.

At one time, sterility was a basis for annulment. marriage was a child rearing procreative driven economic partnership. In some cultures love was considered inappropriate, in others, impossible vis a vis marriage. Marriage was something far different.

But what is it now? As far as I can tell, there are two competing models.

  • There is the "forsaking all others" model, marriage as a celebration of pair bonding. Monogamous marriage.
  • There is the "marriage is a pathway to entitlements" model, marriage as a title that conveys a benefit. Often seen in "open" or social marriages (such as green card marriages where the parties have no contact and nothing in common).

I'm not going to argue what marriage should be, only state that I think that, perhaps, gay marriage may be the wrong frame for the debate as to what marriage is and should be.

See my longer post on the same topic, simulposted at Mormon Matters.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dallas Observer is an article in the Dallas Observer about keeping the faith.

Interesting to compare it to Naiahdot's experiences with the West Texas Polygamists and which covered the legal angles.

The Observer is known locally for carrying the "real" news in Dallas (the Dallas Morning News is an excellent national newspaper and is the true state newspaper of Texas, but locally it tends to miss the real stories).

This was a different article for them.

Mormon Matters had the article on the sidebar briefly (I think, the Prop 8 stuff kind of washed it away), and a mail server problem took off-line for a day or so (sigh, though if you typed in the numbers instead of the url it came up. what a handful -- and not obvious from the page that popped up for visitors on November 10, when I was spending most of the day in bed sick).

Anyway, I wanted to point the article out, which has the virtue of being finished (Naiah's essays on her experiences are still not up on-line). You can also still visit Voices for the Children and see just how that has morphed.

I feel for children, though I worry about what is best for them in the long run.

I'm glad Jesse Hyde found his own way. Worth a look. If you have thoughts, contact his editor at

Friday, November 07, 2008

Jim Brown

I was talking with a dear brother at Church again. Jim Brown is his name. I find him inspiring (or, honestly, I wouldn’t mention his name here). He always gives me hope, encouragement and thought. He makes it easier to go to Church when I’m tired or feel I would rather be asleep or reading something that speaks more directly to me.

It helps to have a Jim Brown in your life and in your Church. Someone whose wit and charm cuts through the fog, whose example reminds you to work harder and be more diligent, whose good cheer and humility inspire, guide, and yes, sometimes shame one into being a better person and striving to do more and to take better care.

It makes it easier to hear him when he tells me I’m wrong or should think twice. Which is something I find that I still need to do.

When I was younger I would think I was making progress, then find myself pruned back and in need of growing again, making progress at the rate of a miniature bonsai tree rather than something a little more robust (in a hundred years a miniature bonsai might be lucky to net 3 or 4 inches of growth, seems to me to be a very slow way to make progress). I’d always hoped to improve enough that I wouldn’t need the pruning, the work and the starting over quite so much.

I’m only glad that since I still do need to keep improving and need to be pruned over and over again, I have people like Jim Brown to make it easier.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Being Loved

I was talking to a dear, dear sister about someone she admired and loved with all her heart. How the other woman made her feel comfortable, unjudged, graciously accepted and cared for. Never demanding, never critical, never intruding. How she longed for a mother like that.

What I did not tell her is that the woman’s own daughter longed for a mother like that as well.

It gave me pause. At some time our children become adults who we have to trust, give space and accept. In many ways, we need to approach them as we would strangers.

Yes, there is certainly a time to guide, to nurture to encourage and to harass. But more as we might with friends we know well, rather than as with children who should obey us.

In some ways that time comes when our children no longer need to turn to us for support. But there are times we need to lead into that relationship, just as there will be times when independent children need more from us.

We will all err and make mistakes, one way or the other. Everyone knows spoiled brat children who are indulged. Whose parents forgive and tolerate any trespass – especially those trespasses against others (like the parent whose six year old child runs about fanging and biting other children and adults at church, just not his mom, who coos and accepts the behavior with a “boys will be boys and I’m sure he’ll grow out of it, but isn’t it so cute?”).

But everyone also knows the child who is never good enough, always being poked and prodded and “encouraged” to do better. (Just gave me a flash back to a speech class I took. “Yes, you were the best in the class again, but I just know that you can do better, so I’m giving you another B+ for the assignment” – when I was giving it everything I had. I’ve known people who lived that, not just for a semester, but for their entire lives).

It is a hard thing to feel that you have never lived up to a your mother (or father)’s standards, desires, hopes or goals. That you have always been measured and been found wanting. Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin is a harsh sentence.

In the example I just encountered, the mother told me “see, she doesn’t think I’m judgmental, I hope she will explain that to my daughter, to show her just how wrong that child is.” I sighed (to myself) and thought, “ah, but if only you could not judge your daughter, she would see just how wonderful you can be.” It was more than I could accomplish, though I’m sharing the story here in the hopes that it might help someone else and that I might learn something myself.

I know that sometimes I’m too soft, too indulgent. I know that sometimes I spend too much time trying to prune and nurture my children as well (kind of like a garden that is either not weeded enough or that is overworked). But I’m hoping to learn by others examples and to find a better balance before it is too late and I’m left hoping that strangers will talk to my children and tell them that I’m really not so bad.