Sunday, October 30, 2005

There are three types of true stories. Unfair, fair, and irrelevant.

Unfair stories always cost someone who does not deserve. Take a friend of my daughter's who met her current boyfriend years ago, when other boys put a chair against a door and began to beat him up. The girl stood up and intervened, screaming and shaming and otherwise making them back down. No wonder my daughter loves her friend, and the story is neat, but it hurts the poor guy all over again, so they've all resolved not to tell the story about him.

Irrelevant stories are great stories, but they don't do anything for whatever dialog is involved. Like my poor neighbor forgetting to put her husband's car in park and having it roll across the alley and hit our garage door. The story can be charming and funny (when I called to explain why I was going to be late to work my secretary laughed so hard I had to explain it all over again to the office manager who was walking by). But there isn't any point to the story.

Then their are stories that are fair and fit in with the theme. Given that Saturday I attended a meeting, helped on an elder's quorum move, attended a temple wedding, a trunk or treat my wife and I were in charge of and a ring ceremony (as well as a few other things) it was a busy day. But, the wedding was of a kid I had in primary.

When we first met, I was sent out in the hall with him since he was a boy and I was a guy, and they felt he needed discipline. I didn't see it, he just needed a moment to collect himself, so I told him to stay calm and pretend that I had punished him and that should do it. Everything was secret until he told his parents (luckily, they approved).

He was a great kid then, and he has been a great kid since. This last year a lot of things have worked out for him and it was so good to see him in the Temple, along with a number of other people I hold dear. Almost as if I was seeing my own kids.

That story is fair to everyone involved and is the happiest kind of truth as well.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

I used to work out about five o'clock every morning with Ashley Gothro. From Ashley Gothro's favorite artist (Stan Rogers):

And you to whom adversity has dealt the final blow
With smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go
Turn to and put out all your strength of arm and heart
and brain
And like the Mary Ellen Carter rise again

Rise again, Rise again
Though your heart it be broken and life about to end
No matter what you've lost;
Be it a home, a love, a friend
Like the Mary Ellen Carter rise again!

Too often we forget that we can rise again.

Advice from Folk Singers and his lyrics.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

And of course everyone knows what a middle-aged moralist of my type warns his juniors against. He warns them against the World, the Flesh, and the Devil. But one of this trio will be enough to deal with today. The Devil, I shall leave strictly alone. The association between him and me in the public mind has already gone quite as deep as I wish: in some quarters it has already reached the level of confusion, if not of identification. I begin to realize the truth of the old proverb that he who sups with that formidable host needs a long spoon. As for the Flesh, you must be very abnormal young people if you do not know quite as much about it as I do. But on the World I think I have something to say.

Which is:

Snobbery is not the same thing as pride of class. Pride of class may not please us but we must at least grant that it reflects a social function. A man who exhibited class pride – in the day when it was possible to do so – may have been puffed up about what he was, but this ultimately depended on what he did. Thus, aristocratic pride was based ultimately on the ability to fight and administer. No pride is without fault, but pride of class may be thought of as today we think of pride of profession, toward which we are likely to be lenient.

Snobbery is pride in status without pride in function. And it is an uneasy pride of status. It always asks, “Do I belong – do I really belong? And does he belong? And if I am observed talking to him, will it make me seem to belong or not to belong?” It is the peculiar vice not of aristocratic societies which have their own appropriate vices, but of bourgeois democratic societies. . . .

The characteristic work of the novel is to record the illusion that snobbery generates and to try to penetrate to the truth which, as the novel assumes, lies hidden beneath all the false appearances. Money, snobbery, the ideal of status, these become in themselves the objects of fantasy, the support of the fantasies of love, freedom, charm, power, as in Madame Bovary, whose heroine is the sister, at a three-centuries remove, of Don Quixote. The greatness of Great Expectations begins in its title: modern society bases itself on great expectations which, if ever they are realized, are found to exist by reason of a sordid, hidden reality.

From Lionel Trilling’s 1947 essay “Manners, Morals, and the Novel.”

My thanks to

and to Tolstoy, for his writing which inspired C. S. Lewis to warn:

The lust for the esoteric, the longing to be inside, take many forms which are not easily recognizable as Ambition. We hope, no doubt, for tangible profits from every Inner Ring we penetrate: power, money, liberty to break rules, avoidance of routine duties, evasion of discipline. But all these would not satisfy us if we did not get in addition the delicious sense of secret intimacy. It is no doubt a great convenience to know that we need fear no official reprimands from our official senior because he is old Percy, a fellow-member of our ring. But we don't value the intimacy only for the sake of convenience; quite equally we value the convenience as a proof of the intimacy.

My main purpose in this address is simply to convince you that this desire is one of the great permanent mainsprings of human action. It is one of the factors which go to make up the world as we know it-this whole pell-mell of struggle, competition, confusion, graft, disappointment, and advertisement, and if it is one of the permanent mainsprings then you may be quite sure of this. Unless you take measures to prevent it, this desire is going to be one of the chief motives of your life, from the first day on which you enter your profession until the day when you are too old to care.

The entire essay is at

Friday, October 21, 2005

I was looking over my teaching evaluations from when I taught at SMU. The first class I taught, my so-called "normed" evaluations (think of figure skating or gymnastics -- subtract the high and the low score and average the rest) came to 8.3 on a scale of 1-9. The second class came back at 8.6. The best part about the second class's evaluations is that the raw scores were 57% nines and there were no evaluations below an eight. As a result, my overall average was about 8.5.

The key was that I made adjustments. Even with only two weeks to prepare and an accelerated schedule (I was teaching six classroom hours a week on the second class) -- and even billing 42+ hours a week as an attorney at the same time -- I was able to teach health care dispute resolution to a class including hospital administrators, Ph.D., MDs, JDs, health care consultants and graduate social workers. Viewed against a program faculty that averaged 3.5 on evaluations (a topic that came up at the last faculty meeting I attended before the program retrenched), I can look back and still be pleased.

The class outline is here:

One thing that evaluations drove home to me, and that was highlighted in discussions about evaluations with other people teaching in the program, is that if you listen to feedback and adjust, you will get better. If you don't listen, but discount it as wrong or misunderstood, you will not improve. There is always a reason for the way people react to you, and usually it is something within your control (at least to change). The big thing for me was the number of people who felt my organization was only "ok" (well, 7 out of 9) in the first class. That class was tightly organized, but I obviously did not communicate the organization. I let the structure display itself a little more in the second class and was rewarded by the class responding.

The important lesson that reminded me to learn again was that when there is a problem, even if only a relative one, the right response is to ask yourself what solution will work rather than fighting with the message. Learn from the message, don't fight with it.

Next post I might talk about and related matters, but I need to spend some more time learning right now.

Monday, October 17, 2005

I was talking with a friend of mine, Nyle Smith, about life and the things it does to you. Nyle has survived a number of strokes. He was on the faculty at Lewis & Clark Law School before the strokes derailed his life. Nyle is now disabled, but still wise. I try to drop by to see him when I'm in Portland visiting family and we talk from time to time. I'm hoping that some day he will be able to blog.

One thing that I realized while talking with him is that I've always had good things to say about places where I've worked. He suggested that much of why I find good is that I do my best to make places better.

That came up as we discussed last firm. Before I came on board, it used to have more than 100% turnover (mostly staff and associates). Yet, for the almost four years I was there, turnover was down to about 10%. Talking to one of my ex-partners after I left, I discovered that turnover was at 100% or so the year after I left.

Nyle suggested that perhaps my job history of dramatically slowed turnover in each job I've had was not just my good luck in being in the right place at the right time my entire life, but perhaps something I was bringing to the table as well. He snorted at me and suggested I take credit for making a difference.

What he had to say reminded me of my first secretary at my employment when I brought another summary judgment back in and I passed it off as just more good luck. She snorted at me and suggested that luck might have made the difference once or twice, but after five or six I ought to consider that part of it might be me. I thought of her when I talked to Nyle and he said the same thing.

Nyle gave me some good perspective, which he always does. I appreciate his faith and endurance and good example. Not to mention, what he had to say was a good remember to give myself credit and to remind others to do the same -- to give themselves credit.

After all, much of life in recovering from grief is owning life and giving yourself credit, accepting joy and sharing it. Owning life and accepting the good things in it is a lesson to be learned and shared over and over again, and yesterday was a good reminder.

Thanks Nyle.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

One thing I really admired about Roark, besides his choice of wife, was the grace, love and kindness he showed his mother.

Too often families fail to follow God's advice to honor the relationship. I was glad to see that he did.

Too often grief and loss only feeds the divisions we feel rather than causing us to heal them. That is why so many couples divorce when a child dies, instead of surviving together.


I've probably blogged more than enough about Roark. I'll respect his privacy to the rest. Much like I do with my co-workers (I like them, I like my job, I've had a great year, but nothing there fits within the scope of why I am posting) or my ward (other than the fact that everyone in our congregation likes our bishop -- which is a little unusual -- there isn't much to say about going to Church that is different for us than anyone else) there is little that fits within the scope of grief, loss and recovery that touches any of those parts of my life.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Picture of me at maintenance

Not the best, part of a bunch of photos we took of my daughter having fun with a large shipping box.

But, it is how I look on maintenance.

I've aged the date so I can import the picture to share, without it clogging up my blog.

I'll smile next time (I usually do, I was just, you know).

Monday, October 10, 2005

Roark and Katelynn had a wonderful marriage in Soquel, California. I've always had a fond spot in my heart for Roark (he's one of my nephews). He and Katelynn have been together since they were thirteen, he's now in grad school at MIT, and, as his brother Ben pointed out, it was time. And a wonderful time it was.

Win got called in to do a liver transplant tonight, so as I sit here just back from vacation, thinking about weddings and I how I love her, she is at work and not here. Speaking of Win, I've now gotten to see her brain (via watching a cat scan in real time) and it is as pretty as the rest of her. She was pretty bad off, but it was just food poisoning, potassium driven down below three, and an inner ear infection, all coming together. Gave us all a scare, but the ER folks were kind, though they sent me an orderly the size of Rachel. Luckily Win doesn't weigh that much, so I picked her up and put her in the wheel chair to take her in. She was clamped up and unable to walk at that point.

But, this visit to California was a good one, though we are all glad to be back in Texas and to have our house back from the Wichita Falls refugee who stayed in it last week.

Too much to write about.

But who we marry says a lot about us, and who Roark married says good things about him.

Though California is a funny place. Met a Seminary teacher out there who defined a student who really "got it" as one who decided against going on a mission and became completely secular. They have different goals and ideas out there.

Guess two more notes.

In Africa, some of the wards had the sisters blessing and passing the sacrament (the men tend to delegate anything that looks like work). It was pointed out to them that the sacrament is a priesthood responsibility. Next visit, the women handled the sacrament again. When the visiting authority asked, the bishop assured him that it was ok this time, they had ordained all the sisters to the Aaronic priesthood. Nothing was done at the time, I don't know if anything has happened since. Interesting that ordination to the priesthood was treated as a step down in status, rather than a step up for the sisters.

In one of the temples there was an effort to have the position of sealer restricted to only those who had been stake presidents. The only comment that was made was that perhaps the position should be restricted to only those who have served missions.

So many ways to look at things, so little time.

Monday, October 03, 2005

I am off to a wedding in California. If you need me, call the house, once again we have people staying here for a bit. I should be blogging again by October 15th or so.

For the newsletter I do, visit mediation newsletters.

Everyone has my best wishes.