Making Edgy Rich


I followed a series of links from Stupid's blog and discovered that, apparently, BlogShares follows blogs even if the blog's author is not registered. Thus, the once-named Tehachapiltdownman is worth some decent money and has helped make Edgy Killer Bunny quite wealthy indeed--his shares in Tehachapiltdownman have gone up about 10,000% since his purchase, if my math is right. Bet it makes the rest of you wish you'd gotten in early as well.


Hearstily speaking


Lady Steed and I went to Hearst Castle on Monday and bathed in the richness and opulence and about six inches of rain. We watched an IMAX film on the building of Hearst Castle, which was a shame. Alternating with that film, they ought to be showing Citizen Kane. Maybe I would finally understand why it is, apparently, the greatest film ever (ever) if I could see it so large that I could picnic in one of Orson Welles's pores. In the meantime, my vote still goes to Vertigo.

Anyway, the house was lovely, if a bit much for my tastes. Although I suppose if I had household staff, I might own a dog as well.

The castle costs the state $11 million a year to keep it up--which explains the hefty cost of a visit. To build and furnish it only cost Hearst $10 million dollars ("only").

I'll admit I was disappointed by how little of the artwork we saw wowzahed me. I had anticipated being in a romantic flurry of the beautiful and the sublime, but only a couple pieces really struck me--one being a Venus by Canova which was thought lost after some guy named Willson bought it and disappeared. Willson, it ends up, was Hearst's father-in-law. The statue, it ends up, was next to the poker table.

When visiting Hearst Castle, you are extremely limited as to where you can go and what you can see and how dry you can stay. I suppose the solution is for me to go back to school, take a degree in art history, and become an employee of the California parks department.

One thing we also did not see was William Randolph Hearst's bones. They are in Colma, with a lot of other dead people's bones. Before we got married, Lady Steed and I spent a day taking cemetery pictures in Colma, but I don't recall whether we saw Hearst's private mausoleum or not. Anyway, wish you were here.




Itinerant Svither

Starring Theric as Everyman and Death as himself

Lady Steed and I are away from home this week, and, well, nothing lends itself to metaphor like traveling.

Like many things on The List, I have never read Everyman--at least not in its entirety. Or at least not that I recall. But I don't really recall that much anyway. And that's not the point. The point is that Everyman is about as archetypal as you can get when looking back at the great religious traveling metaphors and so I will be plundering it.

(Curiously, I intended to write a post on the importance of the public domain yesterday and how current copyright law's stinginess is terrible for intellectual discourse, but didn't get to it. Consider this, in addition to a scintillating metaphor, a dry run at that as well.)

Courtesy of Veer.com was living his regular life, walking to and fro, neglecting his God in lieu of his work, neglecting his work in lieu of his family, neglecting his family in lieu of his ego, neglecting his ego with nothing like frequency.
    Enter Death.

    Death: THERIC.

    Theric: I'm busy.

    Death: LOOK AT ME.

    Theric: (Sighs.) What? (Turns to looks.) Oh. Shoot.

    Death: NO, ANEURYSM.

    Theric: So I wasn't being irrational when I worried about dropping dead of one of those things.

    Death: NO.

    Theric: Figures. (Hits "Save" on the computer.) Well, how much time have I got?

    Death: TIME?

    Theric: Yeah, you know, time. That stuff we got to do the stuff we got to do before you show up.

    Death: AH, THAT TIME. (Chuckles.) I AM HERE, AREN'T I?

    Theric: Mm. I see. Look, I hope this doesn't sound shallow, but would you be interested in being profiled on my blog? It might take a little while to make it right but I'm sure that y---


    Theric: The world already is overrun with blogging.


    Theric: I dunno. Overrun is overrun. It seems kind of like "unique" to me--can something really be more overrun?

    Death: SILENCE!

    Theric: Sorry. I think I'd heard you like quiet.

    Death: YES.

    Theric: Right.

    Death: COME.

    Theric: Right. Um. Shoot.

    Death: ANEURYSM.

    Theric: I know, I know. I'm just thinking.

    Death: THINK ON THE WAY.

    Theric: On the way, right, right. Um. I. Um. Hey! Say, Death?

    Death: YES?

    Theric: Are you good company?

    Death: COMPANY?

    Theric: Yeah, so myrie a compaignye and so forth?

    Death: I SHOULD SAY NOT.

    Theric: Ah, pity, pity. Say, could I bring someone with me? Someone who would not forsake me to his lyues ende in the waye of good company and so forth.

    Death: YOU TALK FUNNY.

    Theric: Writer.

    Death: AH.

    Theric: Anyway, what do you say?


    Theric: Are you serious? Wow. Anyway, I'm on it.
And so Theric logged into his Gmail account to see who was online and might be willing to take this journey with him.

Fortunately, luck was with Theric. Little green circles were next to Luck, Chums, Obscene Wealth and Good Works. He decided to pretend to be casual and greeted each with a "Hey." Four little chat boxes popped up on his screen.

Like normal, Obscene Wealth ignored him, but the other three were quick to reply.

Then, like petrified centuries being dragged over the dried vertebrae of a long-dead jackal, Theric heard Death tapping his fingers on his scythe. So he got to the point quickly, holding these conversations simultaneously:
    Luck: Wassup?
    Theric: Doing anything?
    Luck: Nothing that can't be set aside for you.
    Theric: Sweet. Look, I'm about to die of an aneurysm and--
    Luck: Die?
    Theric: Yeah, Death's here right now and--
    Luck: Dude, sorry. Me and Death....noway.
    Theric: He said I could take somebody along with me!
    Luck: I don't travel with Death. Nothing personal.
    Theric: It's personal to me.
    Luck did not receive your message.
    * * * * *
    Theric: Hey.
    Chums: Hey.
    Theric: I need a favor.
    Chums: You're there for me, I'm there for you.
    Theric: Death's taking me. He says I can take someone with me. You doing anything?
    Chums: Death? Can I come back?
    Theric: I'll check.
    He says NO.
    Chums: Hmm.
    Theric: He says I won't be coming back either, though.
    Chums: *thinking*
    Theric: What do you say?
    Chums: In fayth I wyll not come there If deth were the messenger For no man that is lyuynge to daye I wyll not go that loth iournaye. Not for the fader that bygate me.
    Theric: What?
    Chums: Sorry--typing too fast.
    Point was I can't make it. Not today.
    Theric: I bet Master Fob would come with me.
    Chums: Then ask him.
    Theric: He's not online.
    Chums did not receive your message.
    Theric: Crap.
    * * * * *
    Theric: Hey.
    Good Works: And I remember well when you helped your grandfather feed the cows in those cold winter mornings.
    Theric: Really? Thanks. Hey, I got a favor to ask.
    Good Works: Inasmuch as you have done it unto me, and so forth.
    Theric: Right. Great.
    Look, Death is here with me and he says I can take someone with me.
    Good Works: True. He's right about that. Who are you going to take?
    Theric: I'm on with you and Chums and Luck right now.
    Good Works: Luck? No kidding?
    Theric: Yeah, why do y
    Nevermind, he just left.
    Good Works: I knew it. Luck isn't quite like Chums or me.
    Theric: Will you come?
    Good Works: You know, I would love to. I really would. But I've been sick lately. In fact, I can't remember the last time we even talked.
    Theric: It has been too long....
    Good Works: If only you could help me, I would go.
    Theric: Hmm.
    Got it. What if I log into PayPal right now and give whatever's in there to the Humanitarian Fund?
    Good Works: Try it.
    Theric: Okay, I'm on it.
    There goes Chums....
    Man this Death guy's all over me!
    Good Works: He's not as patient as some of us.
    Theric: I'll say....
    It's done.
    Good Works: I can tell. I will go.
    Theric: Thanks. Meet me here.
    Good Works: Yes.
    Theric: Hooray!
    Good Works did not receive your message.
Immediately Good Works arrived. She suggested Theric do a bit of praying before they left. "Oh yeah," said Theric.

Anyway, to make a long story only a little longer, Theric prayed. And, knowing he was about to meet the prayee in a few minutes, he thought a little more about what exactly he meant as he formed the words. And as he thought about those words, he realized that too often had he frittered words, words which were among the greatest gifts the prayee had given him.

Theric was the sort to define his life by the words that filled it. And now, as he prayed, he realized that his pie chart of words had way too big a slice of Touting Theric and way too small a slice of Supporting Others.

Theric cracked his eyes and peeked at Good Works. She was obviously still unwell, $91.46 or no $91.46. He thought of how his words could have made her strong. How she was the only one who was willing to make this journey with him yet he had done so little for her.

Theric quickly closed his prayer, stood, and walked to her. He got under her shoulder, put his arm around her waist and helped her walk to the door. Death slipped ahead and gestured to a path that led from the door and disappeared into the unfathomable distance.

Good Works smiled and Theric took courage.
    Good Works: I will be fine, Theric.

    Theric: No I--

    Good Works: Theric, shush. I will be fine. But everyone is dying, everyday. All lives are but journeys to a single end. If now, at this moment, you find yourself strong enough to carry another, then you are strong enough to carry another each day along the journey. (Good Works gestures out the door and down the path.) Along that road are many who will need help to make the journey--some may even need to be carried. Will you help them?

    Theric: Of course, but--

    Good Works: Theric, no. Will you help them?


    Theric: Yes.

    Good Works: Good. Now, do you remember what I said in our chat?

    Theric: In our chat?

    Good Works: About the least of these?

    Theric: Yes.

    Good Works: Good. And I wasn't speaking of myself, you know.

    Theric: I know.

    Good Works: Good. So go, and do, (Beat.) and become.

    Theric: I will.

    (Good Works smiles, and exits.)

    Theric: I hope.


    Theric: I'm glad.


Last Week's Svithe


Another problem solved, courtesy of Thmazing


Have you ever, fellow laptop owners, had that awful experience where your battery crashes? Have you? Ha ha! Loser! Not me!

But not to worry! I, Thmazing, have decided to bring my patented noCrash technology to my blog-reading public. Yes, this technology is mine, but I am "sharing" it--because I am a good person to whom you should show proper obeisance. Especially after you send me your $19.95 (US) and experience the joys of noCrash for yourself.

Of course, greedy, hatemongering profiteers would kill for full details, but I trust you because you trust me and I will give you a glimpse into the science behind this genius technology that will change your life forever.

You, of course, being an online person, have had the unfortunate experience of a blazing fast connection that, to put it kindly, was simply too blazing fast. The clever new post from your favorite blogger went speeding past so fast you only caught the witty epigram. The Flash animation you've been hearing about for weeks moves so quickly on your broadband connection it appeared to be nothing more than a blur of angry color. The Google search necessary for completion of your doctorate returned so many results so quickly your motherboard melted.

Modern technology is wonderful, of course, but this unconstrained speed is ruining lives.

noCrash started out as an attempt to solve this ubiquitous problem. I, Thmazing, invented a way to "brake" the broadband process and slow down the Internet to safe and enjoyable speeds. This alone would have been enough to win me a place in the hearts of the unwashed millions. But I, being Thmazing, was not content to stop there.

The patented noCrash braking process, by slowing down the Internet, released massive amounts of energy. I used this to heat local soup kitchens for a few months until it occurred to me that there was a better use for this previously untapped energy source.

Within the week I had connected my newly named noCrash brakes to my laptop's battery and voila! a never dying battery!

Here's how the process works on the consumer end:

Within the lifetime of the battery, the user, must access the Internet. Even if the user does not need the Internet, it is sensible to log on and just let it sit--noCrash, though its patented self-surfing-and-braking process, will surf the web, braking to reasonable speeds as it goes, and use that braked energy to keep the laptop battery at full change.

Now, some people, notably Stefan over on the Nobel committee, have called noCrash a "perpetual motion system." At the risk of false modesty, may I now dispel that notion. noCrash is not a true perpetual motion machine. At least, as far I know. Come to think of it, it very well may be a perpetual motion system. Huh.

Anyway, visit noCrash now and enter the promotional code thmusingsfan4ever and receive $5 (US) off the already low low price of $19.95.

This offer won't last forever! Act now!

Wonderful, wonderful wifi


Here I am. Sitting.

On my lap is a small, lightweight computer.

Some guy came into my classroom one day and gave it to me. He said, "Here."

And now it is magically talking to you.

Now, normally, this magic is accomplished through the crafty use of metal and plastic things called "wires." Not today.

Today, no "wires." Today, just magic unaided.

It's amazing.

It's beautiful.

It makes my wife want me.

(Or maybe she just meant the wifi--I'm not sure.)

But, whichever, it is wonderful.

Wonderful, wonderful wifi.


All of life should be so lovely.


Donne's biggest faux fan


I claim to be a big John Donne fan. His conceits, I say, are some of the best conceits ever put to paper. But I did not realize that the original name of Melyngoch's blog was referencing a Donne poem. And when I took the CSET last Saturday, there were two Donne questions referencing five poems--none of which I had ever read before. (This is how I finally learned what Mel was referencing.)

I am a big Alexander Pope fan. I haven't read Pope in, gosh, eight years.

I am a big Shakespeare fan. I haven't read anything by the ole Bard in at least three years.

All this not reading is killing me. Fortunately I'm a pretty clever person, and on the CSET I was able to make some reasonable stabs at the questions. But I must admit I did not realize that to teach California high schoolers I would have to become expert in the literature of the Caribbean. I doubt I got that question right.

So! After I finish my current stack of books, I suppose I must replenish it with

a) dead British guys

b) living Caribbean folk

c) other stuff that will make people think I'm smart





The evidence would suggest I am smarter than the online tax service.

That can't be right, can it?

I mean--at this moment I am trying to type while the fingers on my left hand are tied together with used dental floss!


April 27th, a Thursday



We came to Provo for Brother Steed's BYU graduation

and If:

We needed a place to stay for two nights (or three or four or)

and If:

We wanted to hang out with cool people while revisiting all our favorite Utah Valley restaurants

and If:

We wanted to reacquaint ourselves / acquaint ourselves with local friends

and If:

This all had to happen squeezed in between all sorts of graduation and Brass Clan-related stuff


What would you say?

LDotFMotNYl: Deleted Scenes (5)


(Note: this is the fifth in a series of deleted letters from the Last Day of the First Month of the New Year Letter. Visit the previous deleted scenes here: 1, 2, 3, 4.)


While Parents Busy, Big O Joins Exclusive Club

Since we last reported a year ago, Lady Steed has conquered the Relief Society, as she compiled reports on sisterly diligence, and the Young Women program, as she wrangled twelve-year-old Beehives into all sorts of upstanding behavior, including paying attention for as long as forty-three seconds.

Theric meanwhile, fell just short of the Mormon Secretarial Trifecta when he was never called as secretary of the Sunday School. He did serve as executive secretary and as secretary of the elders quorum which, in retrospect, was probably enough.

While his parents were distracted with these responsibilities, the Big O passed the eighteen-month mark and joined the Nursery. No more hanging around on the outside looking in! Now he too could chase bubbles and color pictures of Jesus and play with that awesome circus train! And the best part? Mom and Dad aren'’t eligible for membership. Priceless.


I didn't even want to write this one, to be honest. I did want to talk about O's excitement to go to Nursery, yes, but not the rest.

And he was excited. Weeks and weeks before he hit that magic number 18, he would walk over to the Nursery and look in at all the kids having a good time. Oh, how he wanted to go! And he has loved Nursery too. Just loved it.

Some of the family letters we receive from friends include mention of how they have been serving in their congregations, and Lady Steed and I find that information interesting, but I always feel like, if I ever tell anyone anything about callings I have or have had, that I am somehow boasting--no matter the calling, it feels like boasting.

Of course, that's absurd. No one in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can reasonably assume that a calling--no matter how high and mighty-seeming (or base and lowly-seeming)--is ever something that can be boasted of. He whom the Lord calls, he qualifies. In other words, any idiot can do any thing if God's on his side.

But still I remain self-conscious. So I insisted this one go.

Besides, the whole country club conceit wasn't really coming off right....


On krankzinnigheid


One of the many names I call myself is The Baizzerist. The name suggests that there are unlimited and strange manifestations which I, Theric, may take. I can be anything at any moment--in particular when committing myself to print.

Some of the comments from some of yesterday's posts made me realize that the strangeness I entertain, from time to time, has not made many recent appearances on Thmusings. This is fine. If I stay strange too long, readership starts to drop off.

And besides, I have reason to suspect I may come off strange now and then anyway. This isn't a problem, of course, but it is important that I prove myself a member of the community--not someone desperate and aching to separate myself therefrom.

Community is good.

Just ask the inside of my head.

(That was a joke.)




Since some folks have asked how I make "those cool links," I have decided to share the trick. Share the wealth, et cetera. I'm very egalitarian.

Step one, of course, is to be in HTML mode when creating a new post. I have Blogger set up so that's all I see, but you may have it set up with two tabs and you get to choose between them. Pick HTML.

Start typing your post. When you get to a spot when you need a clever aside or darling picture or something unique that you cannot find using Google Image, create it in Paint. I recommend setting image attributes to, say, 450 pixels square.

Note the 450s, friend.

Then if your comment is text only, simply make a text box and type it in (pictured is 90-point type).

This is going to be a particularly clever one.

At this point, save the picture as a JPEG (Paint's default is bitmaps, which Blogger rejects; Adobe programs require you to be more clever--saving as a copy or somesuch). Go to your blog and upload the picture just as if it were to be embedded in your post.

So far so good?

Now look at this:

Ooooo. Pretty code....

Now take the pink part and put it in front of where you want to link from and the green behind, like so. (Delete the rest.)

I had wanted to do this for a long time. Now I know how. And now you know how too.

Use it well.

Driving to Crazytown: Are we there yet?


According to Judith van der Bunt,

    Vervolgens zal een psychopathologische benadering uit moeten wijzen of het personage Lin aan een borderline-stoornis lijdt. Bij deze benadering zal worden uitgegaan van het heden ten dage vigerende classificatiesysteem, de Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV van persoonlijkheidsstoornissen zoals beschreven in Handboek psychopathologie van Vandereycken e.a. Het doel van het onderzoek is hiermee te komen tot een adequate beschrijving van Lins gefaseerde krankzinnigheid.

I'm gonna call that a 'yes.'

Original poetry for your viewing pleasure


Mary had a little lamb
little lamb
little lamb

Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as

* * * * *

Little boy blue
blow your horn

The cow's in the meadow
The sheep, the front lawn

You suck

* * * * *

Sing us a song
You're the piano man
Sing us a song

'cause we're all in the mood
for a melody

and you've got us

* * * * *

Everybody dance



Svithe Five: Svithes Alive!


I love me a good portmanteau. Such is the word svithe: a blending of seven and tithe. And if a tithe is the tenth given to God, then a svithe is the seventh given to God.

I did not make up this idea; I took it from the Sabbath--the one day in seven dedicated to God. The properly observed Sabbath would be a svithe.

In other news, I have an addictive personality. I don't say this to warn you against meeting me in person lest you lose control of yourself and lock me in your backwoods cabin in order to enjoy scintillating conversation the rest of your life. No, what I mean is that I tend towards addiction. (As if I didn't have enough reasons already not to try heroin just one time.) I will often spend too much time doing my current fancy at the expense of more important things.

I maybe might just maybe be addicted to blogging.

Part of my redemption is this svithing. Every Sunday I write a post that is intended to be godly. The idea being that I may do some good somehow someday for someone. Certainly the svithes a have better chance than posts about poop.

Sometimes I will not have much to say, but whenever I can be online on a Sunday, I will svithe.

I don't have specific goals for my svithing. I doubt that svithing will ever become a big movement or anything. I don't even know that those I write will do anyone any good. But I will try to create things that are, at least occasionally, virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy.

The problem of course is that I am one person. What if more people would, now and then, write something the only purpose of which was to spread faith and beauty? Or to ask questions of eternal import? Or to spread heart-wrenching but patently false stories about baby angels?

I am not trying to get all my friends to svithe. I am not trying to get the word svithe in the dictionary. I am trying very hard to keep my ego out of this. But I do suggest that we all take a moment and consider how we can use these forums we have been given to improve the world.

The implication I am inadvertently making is that all posts by all bloggers before this moment have been at best worldly and at worst base and evil. I don't mean to make this implication. If the blogs I followed did not provide my life with some beauty, I would not follow them (my addiction, however, might). What I am doing is making a distinction and suggesting an occasional aim at thoughts celestial. It may take many forms. It may be a witness or testimony, sure, but it may also be lists of unanswered questions that weigh on the mind, a tally of hopes and fears, a desperate cry for understanding from beyond, a simple statement of heartfelt fact.

Or none of these. Again: I am not trying to start a movement.

I will svithe: it feels like the right thing for me to do.

I just want to make clear that I have not trademarked the idea.

I wouldn't be a good Mormon if I didn't have proselytory dreams for this forum, but ultimately, that is not its purpose. Ultimately, I just want to add to the community and provide something of worth for my fellow travelers as we hurtle through space to our destiny.

And Lord knows I could use some help.

Last week's svithe.

Note: Lady Steed has been helping me try to put together a second blog wherein I will place copies of the svithes I write. They will still appear here, but they will also be there. It's still under construction, but someday it will be up. Thanks to JB who says it looks nice. Anyone else interested in seeing it as it is now may surely to do: Thmazing's Svithes.


Time with Dad's time with Dad


The Big O and I went up to Tehachapi last night and stayed with Papa (my Dad). No one else was there, only us three.

I sat on the floor of the living room and watched O play with my father. They were playing with the Big O's Brio trains. Together they laid track and together they ran trains. I played some too, but mostly I watched.

The sight gave me a strange sense of ... history? family? time?

I'm not sure.

Among the thoughts passed through my mind was this one:

That is not my father; that is me. This is not me; this is O. That is not O; that is some as yet unknown person whom we all will love....

As we drove up to Tehachapi, I was feeling tired enough that I considered arriving; saying, "Hi, Dad"; then excusing us to bed. But no. He needed time with his grandson.

Often my father and I have little to say. We are not unfriendly or anything, just without much to say. But now I have a new way of viewing our relationship. There on the carpet we sat, three oldest sons. Once I was the two-year-old. Now I am the young father. How have my father's feelings for me changed since I was the two-year-old and he was the young father?

I don't know, but I finally begin to see how he felt for me, how he feels for me now. I am starting to understand why things I did hurt him. And I have a strengthened desire to have the touchpoints of our relationship be founded in love.

In part, I suppose, to create a karma spring that will bless the Big O and I as we age apart.

So that we may age together.

Family forever.


Today is the day for the wearing o' no green


(Don't quote me facts. I'm not having it.)

Oh, you heathen persecutors! Oh, you who have taken it upon yourselves to punish the innocent of any crime, for a slight so slight as to be absurd.

You who came to America in search of freedom and food only to then inflict your cruel traditions upon a once-kind populace.

Your paincentric practices have spread through this nation like a cancer to the point where this day, once a holy day, has become one of fear and terror for all those not of your faith.

Why should we be paralyzed by fear? Why should we cow to your unholy and abominable pinching? Why should men and women of faith be forbidden from eschewing certain colors--or risk corporal punishment?

Oh, the horror.

In solidarity with the persecuted, today I wear neither green nor orange.

On this, and every other St. Patrick's Day.

Today is the day for the wearing o' no green


(Don't quote facts to me, I won't have it.)

Oh, you heathen vigilantes, persecuting your Protestant brethren on this once holy day! You come to America for freedom and food and what do you do?

You create a cult of cruelty, pinching those who disavow themselves from your religious propensities by so simple a statement as boycotting a color! How does this hurt you? Why should they not be allowed to wear whatever color they please? By what right do you inflict them for their religious choices?

Oh, you make me sick.

Today I wear neither green nor orange.

Don't you dare call it "proof"


from Slate:

How African Are You?
What genealogical testing can't tell you.
By John Hawks
Updated Wednesday, March 15, 2006, at 1:43 PM ET


    Many amateur genealogists are interested in whether they might have a Cherokee ancestor, for example. And for some people, admixture tests can give a relatively accurate answer about Native-American ancestry. But other people, including Greeks and Ashkenazi Jews, may have "Native American affinity," according to the tests, even if they and their ancestors have never been to America. As far as anthropologists know, there were no lost tribes connecting Greeks, Jews, and ancient Americans. So, maybe this "Native American affinity" reflects the scattering of alleles by prehistoric Asian nomads to the ancestors of Greeks and Jews as well as to American Indians.


And then again, maybe not.

I am against against against feeling that religious beliefs must be confirmed by science to gain validity, but I thought this was interesting.


Eleven's enough


One is one.

Two is too few.

Three is enough.

Four is too many.

Five is too many.

Six is too few.

Seven is enough.

Eight is enough.

Nine is too many.

Ten is too few.



Seven posts for the price of one


1. Jonathan Lethem

I've been listening to Men and Cartoons in my car (one story per half-commute) and it's starting to really tick me off.

Lethem is a good writer with great story ideas, but instead of following them through, he interrupts them near the climax with a bit of "profound" wordplay and says The End. It annoys me to no end.

2. Come visit!

One reason to blog about Lethem is that writing about Dave Eggers and Michael Chabon brought a number of people to my blog, and they're all in that cool-guy crowd, that McSweeney's / This American Life / National Book Award & Pulitzer Prize-winning crowd. No doubt Lethem will bring some new blood as well.

3. John Warner

You might be led to believe that I don't like that whole McS's/TAL/NBA&PP-w crowd, but you would be wrong. I am now reading Fondling Your Muse which is very good, as evidence by this blurb:

    When I set out to write my New York Times best-selling book, I turned not to Strunk. Mor to White. But to Warner. Why? Because, unlike those other two cheap bastards, he sent me his book for free.

      -----Michael Ian Black

4. Month of Abject Poverty

The month almost took a hit tonight. The Big O and I were at Costco to get milk and I saw Assassination Vacation. I would pay money for that book. Especially Costco paperback prices. But I didn't. I better be rewarded for this.

Oh. And I'm remembering that even though Miss Vowell is the coolest of the McS's/TAL/NBA&PP-w crowd, mentioning her never brought anyone to my blog. Huh.

5. Math time

I first wanted to hang with this cool-guy crowd because of NPR. They have this show where two people interview each other. The first time I heard the show it was Steve Martin and some mathematician and I loved loved loved it.

Unfortunately, usually the show was peopled by self-important pricks.

But one time I heard Michael Chabon and Daniel Handler interviewing each other and man alive but did they sound fun! So next time the McS's/TAL/NBA&PP-w crowd is having a party in the AV, I'm showing up. They can't stop me.

6. The Deluge

Also can't be stopped: The Deluge.

(You heard it here first.)

7. For the price of one.

(Get it in the mail. Pronto.)



In order to graduate from high school, California high school students must now pass the California High School Exit Examination. They start taking it as sophomores and keep taking it till they pass.

My sophomores will be taking it for the first time next week. I've been trying to prep them, but we shall see.

I too have a test coming up. This Saturday I'll be taking the CSET, which is supposed to determine whether or not I know enough English stuff to teach high school. I have no idea what's on it. If I have to distinguish between a villanelle and a paradelle though, I'm sunk.

I've always been a good tester, but somehow that part of my identity doesn't like to be challenged. I suspect one reason I decided against grad school was to avoid taking the GRE and finding out I'm not so smart after all.

My policy: If there's a chance you might be stupid, better to stay ignorant about it.

(Note to self: Don't read the comments to this post.)


Dad: The Leading Cause of Taste Perversion


The Big O tends to go to the fridge and pull out everything that strikes him as delicious. Then we will pick from the options and make him something. Or piles of somethings.

A little while ago, Big O pulled out bread, jam, salami. We normally interpret this to mean peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with a couple slices on the side.

Today I made him a salami-jelly sandwich.

He let me have a couple bites, and I can say that blackberry jelly and salami on whole wheat is a truly excellent combination.

I am responsible for many of the Big O's more peculiar fancies. I might be most proud of these two:

    Green olives stuffed with pimentos

    Green olives stuffed with garlic

These really impress the relatives. Oliver pops one in, his entire face contorts, and he screams out--as if in pain--, "YUMMMMM!!!"

Darn tootin'.


In other news, Stupid's 1000 got me to wondering how many visitors I'm up to. I never check that anymore--I mostly look to see whose blogs bring me the most traffic (today's winner, Mel!).

Usually I check my stats at BlogPatrol. What a mistake! Site Meter is so much more generous! I signed up for it weeks after BlogPatrol, yet it says I have had 300 more unique visitors than BP does.

Of course, 3,072 is still well under the stats posted by my more popular friends, but I'm happy with it.

But it's my daily stats that shock me.

I had 25 visitors at 3pm today. The last time I looked, I was averaging that per day. Of course, all those visits are just me from various computers, but I hardly think that's the point.


Svithe: Happily Ever After


(Note: About ten hours ago, I gave this as a talk in sacrament meeting. Everytime Lady Steed and I have spoken together in sacrament meeting, we have finished early. I was sure this would happen this time as well, so I tried to think of a couple places to expand. One of them, a song-and-dance routine, makes it into this version. The other does not.

(I ended up having to cut parts of my talk though--pretty much the whole Zion part, for instance--so this is much more comprehensive.

(I apologize for the lack of a consistent citation method.)


    Once upon a time there was a girl named Ella. Her mother and father loved her very much. But then her mother died and her father remarried and her new mother made her sit in the fireplace and wash the dishes every night. But then one day Ella—now called Cinderella, because of the ashes in the fireplace—lucked out and got to go to this ball where she met this guy Frederick Charming who fell for her and life was

    Sunshine, lollipops and
    everything that's beautiful is what they felt when
    They were together!

    So they got married and lived happily ever after. The end.

* * * * *

    Once upon a time, there was this girl named Snow White. Her wicked stepmother took things a step further than Cinderella’s and gave her a poison apple that knocked her out cold until one day this guy Jimmy Charming happened to be in the neighborhood. He kissed the comatose girl and thus woke her up. Then life was

    Sunshine, lollipops and
    Rainbows everything that's beautiful is what they felt when
    They were together

    So they got married and lived happily ever after. The end.

* * * * *

    Once upon a time there were these kids named Tom Thumb and Thumbelina. All their lives they had been almost stepped on, almost eaten by birds, and almost flushed down kitchen sinks. Then they met each other, fell in love, and life was

    Sunshine, lollipops and
    Rainbows everything that's beautiful is what they felt when
    They were together

    So they got married and lived happily ever after. No more problems. The end.

* * * * *

    This is how all the stories end. People get married and hooray, hoorah, life is easy and lovely and happy.

    But President Kimball says: “We have come to realize that the mere performance of a ceremony does not bring happiness and a successful marriage. Happiness does not come by pressing a button, as does the electric light; happiness is a state of mind and comes from within.”

    And now, if President Kimball doesn’t mind, I am going to turn his simile upside down. I am going to say that, in fact, happiness is exactly like pressing a button and having the lights turn on. To the casual observer it may seem simple enough, but the casual observer does not realize how much had to happen to get that light to work.
    First there were the thousands of hours Edison spent in Menlo Park trying and rejecting light bulb after light bulb, trying to find something that worked. Then, after he succeeded, he spent much of the rest of his life trying to get people to set up electrical matrices, to bring electricity into homes and businesses. He was extraordinarily successful, but that was only the beginning.

    For us to have electricity, dams must be built, coal must be mined. Turbines now rise up along hillsides and wires snake across the entire world, delivering a simple little thing called electricity to our homes, so when we hit the switch, the lights turn on.

    Happiness is a simple little thing too. But like the light bulb, behind happiness is endless work, endless effort.

* * * * *

    Once upon a time there was a girl named Sarai. She met a handsome young bloke named Abram and they got married. They did not live happily ever after--not exactly.

    They had to flee their home land. They were hounded by famine. They lived in Egypt and were separated by the king. They were ripped off by a dear friend and relative. They went to war. And all this time, what they really wanted, a child, was denied them.

    Their extended family was beset by anger and incest and destruction and quarrels. Then one day, a child was born.

    The next, the child was to die.

    Always there were struggles. Always there were challenges.

    Then Sarai, now Sarah, died.

    Twenty-eight years later, Abram, now Abraham, died.

    They were buried together.

    Their lives were filled with more trouble and strife than seems fair—especially for people who did their best and were looked to as examples of righteousness.

    But it is difficult to read the stories of Abraham and Sarah and get the sense that they spent their days moping around and complaining, wallowing in unhappiness. No doubt there were many days of misery. But I believe that they were happy.

    Joseph Smith learned that “Abraham ... hath [now] entered into his exaltation and sitteth upon his throne.” And we know that he is not there alone. We know that Sarah is there with him.

    They are living happily ever after.

    Just like they did here on earth.

* * * * *

    President Kimball says that “There is a never-failing formula which will guarantee to every couple a happy and eternal marriage.” Each ingredient is vital and necessary. And Pr. Kimball says that when both halves of the marriage follow this formula, no outside force can break in nor destroy.

    “The formula is simple; the ingredients are few....

    First, there must be the proper approach toward marriage, which contemplates the selection of a spouse who reaches as nearly as possible the pinnacle of perfection in all the matters which are of importance to the individuals. And then those two parties must come to the altar in the temple realizing that they must work hard toward this successful joint living.”

    President Packer has called marriage “the ideal pattern for human living … ordained of God.” Marriage is something to always look forward to. “Do not lose faith in marriage,” President Packer says. “Not even if you have been through the unhappiness of a divorce and are surrounded with pieces of a marriage that has fallen apart.” Or, I might add, if marriage seems too far away or too impossible. I have friends who have given up on eternal marriage, who see the facts of their lives incompatible with becoming “the pinnacle of perfection” for someone else. But never lose faith in the ideal of marriage. God has ordained it for everyone, and “One day,” President Packer says, “after all of the tomorrows have passed, there will be recompense. [And] Those who have been moral and faithful to their covenants will be happy.”

    When life aligns itself such that two meet and are wed, they must then focus on the rest of President Kimball’s formula.

    Part Two: “...there must be a great unselfishness....” For “true marriage is based on a happiness ... which comes from giving, serving, sharing, sacrificing, and selflessness.”

    President Kimball instructs that “Two individuals approaching the marriage altar must realize that to attain [a] happy marriage ... means sacrifice, sharing, and even a reduction of some personal liberties. It means long, hard economizing. It means children who bring with them financial burdens, service burdens, care and worry burdens; but also it means the deepest and sweetest emotions of all.”

    In other words, “sacrifice” is a bit of a misnomer. Marriage doesn’t require “sacrifice” so much as “investment.”

    Yes, admits President Kimball, “Before marriage, each individual is quite free to go and come as he pleases ... to make all decisions with self as the central point. Sweethearts should realize before they take the vows that each must accept literally and fully that the good of the little new family must always be superior to the good of either spouse.... Every decision must take into consideration that there are two or more affected by it.”

    In other words, those in a family must become one, as Christ and the Father are one. The family must become Zion. More on this later.

    Third [part of the formula], there must be continued courting and expressions of affection, kindness, and consideration to keep love alive and growing.”

    How many poets have called love a red, red rose? And so it is. But if marriage cuts the rose and places it in a vase and leaves it to look lovely this week, only to wither and die the next, then that rose of love will perish. Love is not one red, red rose, but love is a rosebush that requires water and pruning and care. Love is a rosebush that provides beauty each day all through the summer of our lives.

    The care this rose requires is simple. To say “I love you.” To listen and respond. To hold hands on the sidewalk and slip a Kiss on the pillow and to spend time alone in conversation where the only thing in this world that matters is the one you love.

    Then the rain will fall and the sun will rise and the rosebush will bloom, each and every day.

    “Fourth, there must be a complete living of the commandments of the Lord as defined in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    There is a point to all this church stuff, and Elder Packer has told us what it is:

    “The ultimate end of all activity in the Church is that a man and his wife and their children can be happy at home and that the family can continue through eternity. All Christian doctrine is formulated to protect the individual, the home, and the family.”

    And I bear my testimony that following the gospel will draw us closer together, will make our families great impregnable castles that no evil can break through nor destroy.

    “With ... [the formula’s] ingredients properly mixed ... it is quite impossible for unhappiness to come, misunderstandings to continue, or breaks to occur.”

    So, to sum up those ingredients again, “First, ... the selection of a spouse who reaches as nearly as possible the pinnacle of perfection .... Second, ... great unselfishness. ... Third, continued courting and expressions of affection, kindness, and consideration .... [and] Fourth, ... a complete living of the commandments....”

    Now some of you, like my dear Lady Steed, may have totally blown the first ingredient and married a complete lunatic. Not to worry! The fourth ingredient, living the commandments, will save you.

    President Kimball taught that “it is certain that almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price.”

    This stands to reason. Someday, when we all manage to get our acts together and become Zion, when we all love each other and serve each other and there are no poor among us because we take care of each other, this won’t be very different from what we are trying to accomplish now inside our own families.

    The Proclamation on the Family calls families “the fundamental unit of society.” Zion has many meanings, but behind them all is the idea of a society wherein love is the operating term. If we are to become a Zion people, it can only be done if we already have loving Zion families. Loving Zion families will be the source of Zion.

    My family, your family, his family, her family--each family must be Zion.

* * * * *

    President Kimball taught us how to become Zion.

    Let me tell you a couple things he mentioned. See if they don’t also apply to marriage and family.

    • Building Zion require “sacrifice and consecration.”

    • “[We] must learn obedience and be developed in character.”

    • “[We] must eliminate the individual tendency to selfishness that snares the soul, shrinks the heart, and darkens the mind.”

    • “[We] must cooperate completely and work in harmony one with the other. There must be unanimity in our decisions and unity in our actions.”

    • “[We] must sacrifice whatever is required by the Lord. We begin by offering a “broken heart and a contrite spirit.” We follow this by giving our best effort in our assigned fields of labor and in our callings. We learn our duty and execute it fully. Finally we consecrate our time, talents, and means as called upon by our file leaders and as prompted by the whisperings of the Spirit. .... Whether a volunteer, father, home teacher, bishop, ... neighbor, ... visiting teacher, mother, homemaker, or friend--there is ample opportunity to give our all. And as we give, we find that ‘sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven!’ And in the end, we learn it was no sacrifice at all.”

* * * * *

    If we do all this, President Kimball promises that “we will find ourselves clothed in the mantle of charity ‘which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail--But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.’

    Well with him, well with his wife, well with their children.

    “Let us unite and pray with all the energy of heart,” suggests President Kimball, “that we may be sealed by this bond of charity; that we may build up this latter-day Zion, that the kingdom of God may go forth, so that the kingdom of heaven may come.”

    And so, I might add, that the kingdom of heaven may come to our homes. This promise is good for all: single or married, old or young, full of hope or fraught with discouragement.

    Because God our Father loves us, every one. He loves us, no matter our current situation. No matter our mistakes or our faults. No matter how slowly we seem to be achieving our goals. No matter how rejected we imagine ourselves to be.

    He is helping us write our life stories. And with that help, each one of us will live happily ever after.

    I leave that testimony with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

* * * * *


Becoming the Pure in Heart by Spencer W. Kimball
Oneness in Marriage by Spencer W. Kimball
Marriage by Boyd K. Packer

Last week's svithe.


My 200th Post
in which
of course
it snows


I grew up in eight months of snow. Instead of turning into an Olympic skier, I became a loather of snow.

When I was ten, on Valentine's Day, we left Idaho and moved to Clovis, California. When we left, it was forty below. When we arrived it was sixty above. A one hundred degree difference.

People said it had not snowed in Clovis for thirty-plus years.

It snowed Every Winter we lived there.

We moved to Tehachapi and they had their biggest blizzard in years.

Now we've moved to the AV, a joshua-dotted desert, at a reasonably low elevation (about 2400 feet). In a few months we will be bathing in mercury to keep cool.

Then, this weekend, snow.

The Big O was desperate to go out and play in it, so I accompanied him. He took his horse. and we went out. He rode around, enjoying how the snow clumped on his tires. Then he left the grass and hit the sidewalk and went flying over the horse, face-first into the cement, biting his lip open and bleeding all over his face.

I ran him in and we cleaned him up, but all he wanted to do was go outside. He rode his horse and learned how to make snowballs and he threw them and had a glorious time until I finally talked him into coming inside for something called "hot chocolate"--I had to--I was cold yet I had my hands in my pockets. And I wasn't soaked from the knees down. O had to be freezing. So I bribed him into ending his fun with normally contraband chocolate.

Which he loved.

Stupid snow.....

Big O Tracks


Thmazing's Parenting Tips


Twenty-six months into the dirty-diaper stage of life, I have learned a few handy tricks, one of which I would like to share with you today: How to tell if the diaper is dirty.

Sometimes this fact is obvious. Sometimes the poop is such that the stain is visible through the outer layers of plastic. Sometimes it has exploded out a leg or is just so odiferous that it's like a blackjack applied to your sinuses by John Dillinger himself.

Most times, however, the miracle of the modern disposable diaper is such that you cannot tell through these low-effort methods. Instead, you must tread inside the diaper's realm in order to determine its cleanness or lack thereof.

One thing you should know about our diapering methods is that every one of the Big O's diapers comes complete with Desitin. We never put one on without. We see it as a precautionary method.

One bonus advantage of Desitining is that the diaper material tends to ride up the crack and become cemented there. Merely pulling back the diaper from the child's spine will reveal that the diaper is still in place. If it is not cemented up the crack, then the child has pooped. Even if you can't see the poop, it's there. Pulling out the leg elastic would reveal its presence. But that less preferable method of checking is not necessary because the butt check is foolproof. It is wrong fewer than one diaper per four months.

The Big O is flirting with his potty. He likes thre praise he receives after successfully putting something in the pot, but most of the time it's not worth the bother. Or his timing's off. So this morning when he said he wanted to go, I first checked his diaper to see if it had been crapped. Nope. The Desitined diaper was still cemented in place.

Since I knew he might be going at any second, I just undid the velcro and pulled off the diaper, sending a fist-sized pile of poo flying through the air. As it spun, it let off a pinwheel of poop fragments, spinning through the air. The hub of this geenish-gold pinwheel then plopped onto the Big O's shoulder.

"LADY STEEEEEEED!!!!!" I screamed, as is my wont in situations like this. "HEEELP!!!"

She was making æbleskivers, but ran to the bathroom anyway.

"What? what? what?"

"I NEED WIIIPES!!!" as the shoulder poop fell to the floor.

She got them for me and I started cleaning up the Big O.

Then I got Lysol wipes and cleaned up the floor, the cabinet, the trash can.....

Which was too full, by the way, so my wiped-up excrement kept falling out. So I took the bag out, shook everything down, and stood it up against the door--unsteadily as it ended up--and had to clean up the floor all over again.

Twenty-six months into the dirty-diaper stage of life, and I'm only now flinging poop onto my son and throughout the bathroom.

Color me healthy


The "That's Outrageous!" column in Reader's Digest usually picks some obviously and universally appalling sin running unchecked, then draws attention to it. For instance, if the Riverbuttle County Sheriff's Department holds an annual fundraiser for the Riverbuttle Soup Kitchen where, for five bucks from the county coffers, local officials can rape FFA pigs, "That's Outrageous!" would talk about how awful it was that Riverbuttle County taxes are going toward porcine defilements. And rightly so.

This one from December, however, has been eating on me and I'm going to say why I think this "That's Outrageous!" is totally outrageous.

The column complains that government officials get to build up sick days--even cash them in when they retire if they remain unused. The author complains about a number of valid--yet tangential--concerns that certainly are outrageous, but the sick days problem sounds more like jealousy.

The problem he has with the building up of sick days is that the practice doesn't really exist outside government. And if the private sector doesn't do it but government does, it must be bad. Nine times out of ten, this is probably true (see: pig sex), but not in this case.

The complaint is that by letting employees build up sick days, we are rewarding healthy workers.

Um.... Shouldn't we reward healthy workers?

Point one: Healthy workers come to work, get more done. I understand the counter argument that the government plan might encourage people to come in when they're ill in order to build up days for a retirement payout, but just give management the authority to require someone to go home and take a sick day. Problem solved.

Point two: Healthy workers keep insurance rates down for everyone.

Seems to me that healthy workers ought to be rewarded.

By having sick days that expire, we are, in truth, punishing healthy workers. Sickly folk get days off. Healthy workers come in, but with no additional compensation for the additional work they do.

With the expiration system, they can only get that compensation if they lie and don't do that extra work.

They only get compensation when they call in sick en route to the golf course.

Let's reward our healthy workers, corporate America. Let's roll over their sick days.

And just think! If it weren't for rollover sick days, I might very well have spent today drinking margaritas!


LDotFMotNYl: Deleted Scenes (4)


(Note: This is the fourth in a series of deleted scenes [visit 1 and 2 and 3]. If you are arriving here for the first time either because you received an LDotFMotNYl or if you do not know what the LDotFMotNYl is, you might consider visiting here first.)


Thteed Family Policy on Electric Refrigeration

This year we have suffered from electric refrigeration units that have a) died, b) had doors that open in impossibly inconvenient directions, c) arrive filthy, d) have poor (nonexistent) interior lighting. Having successfully lived through these traumas, we elected to reconsider our slavish policy for electric refrigeration / our gungho policy in favor of electric refrigeration. As alternates, we discussed daily ice purchases, Northern Yukon real estate, and the Canned Chili Diet.

We’re sticking with electric refrigeration.


First, that ? next to the Canned Chili Diet was a registered trademark symbol in Word.

You'll notice that this one never reached a final form, with two versions of one sentence, for instance.

Lady Steed didn't think we needed two policy stories and I liked the other one better. She ended up cutting them both.

In retrospect, I'm glad this was cut. At the time I thought it was funny. I don't think so anymore.



Today I sent a kid out of fifth period. On the form, under REASONS, I wrote this:

    moving desks
    smashing an aluminum can on his head
    blowing pencil shavings
    pretending to be a train

Stupid freaking Internet!!!!!


I love my friends--don't get me wrong--but now that we have Internet in our bedroom it's like they're all here all the time and they won't leave!!! I'm tired! I want to go to sleep!

But wait! Look who just sent me an email!

Hey, you people! I have to get up at five in the morning! Can't you go home! It's not like we won't see each other tomorrow!

I need help....


We are a happy family -OR- Turnabout's fair play


In order to share the love, let me tell you what Lady Steed said when I came home from work today:

"Wow! You look cool! I mean, I would never dress you like that. And I would never go out with you dressed like that. But you look really cool!"


Several items of business this afternoon


1. Afterlife is still available and will be for six months. Check it out.

2. Bill Thomas will not be running for reelection! I will not comment here on whether or not Bill has been good for his constituents or the country, but I do think that it's about time we had a race in our district. He has been running unopposed far too long.

3. Whether you sing the song "Beans, beans the magical fruit!" or "Beans, beans, the musical fruit!", the truth is beans are cheap and friendly to A Month of Abject Poverty, and so you just have to get used to the magic/music.


For your perusal


The March issue of Quantum Muse is now online. One story thereof was written by me a good long time ago. So long I can barely remember writing it. Aged though it may be, it was still good enough for QM. Mayhaps you will like it too.

(If so, feel free to tip me.)



Svithe: Success & Jealousy


Being somewhat talented in words can, I am afraid, make me a bit of a snob. I am ashamed of this. I am ashamed to admit that I probably would not have listened as I should have to Moses (who said, "I am not eloquent ... I am slow of speech) or Enoch (who described himself also as "slow of speech"). I admit that I am impressed by--not sophistry--but good wordsmithery. And so it is no surprise that one of my favorite speakers among current General Authorities is Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. In particular, I return to "The Other Prodigal" again and again, attempting to turn myself into a good person.

He begins by retelling the parable:

CAn you see the well crafted wisdom dripping?
Among the most memorable parables the Savior ever told is the story of a foolish younger brother who went to his father, asked for his portion of the estate, and left home to squander his inheritance ... in "riotous living." His money and his friends disappeared sooner than he thought possible--they always do--and a day of terrible reckoning came thereafter--it always does. In the downward course of all this he became a keeper of pigs, one so hungry, so stripped of sustenance and dignity that he "would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat." But even that consolation was not available to him.

Then the scripture says encouragingly, "He came to himself." He determined to find his way home, hoping to be accepted at least as a servant in his father's household. The tender image of this boy's anxious, faithful father running to meet him and showering him with kisses is one of the most moving and compassionate scenes in all of holy writ. It tells every child of God, wayward or otherwise, how much God wants us back in the protection of His arms.

But today we're not talking about that son.

...being caught up in this younger sonÂ’s story, we can miss, if we are not careful, the account of an elder son, for the opening line of the Savior's account reads, "A certain man had two sons"--and He might have added, "both of whom were lost and both of whom needed to come home."

I am that second son.

I was out in the fields working today, dutifully, as I have always done. And when I arrived home, caked in sweat and dust, I saw a party in full force, celebrating my brother who ran away and squandered his share of the family's wealth and who is now being treated like a war hero.

I am bitter.

Feeling unappreciated and perhaps more than a little self-pity, this dutiful son--and he is wonderfully dutiful--forgets for a moment that he has never had to know filth or despair, fear or self-loathing. He forgets for a moment that every calf on the ranch is already his and so are all the robes in the closet and every ring in the drawer. He forgets for a moment that his faithfulness has been and always will be rewarded.

No, he who has virtually everything, and who has in his hardworking, wonderful way earned it, lacks the one thing that might make him the complete man of the Lord he nearly is. He has yet to come to the compassion and mercy, the charitable breadth of vision to see that this is not a rival returning. It is his brother.

Holland calls this a "fictional affront." And he's right. The only reason I have become suddenly unhappy is "because another has had some good fortune as well."

I am under the false impression that, if my father loves my brother, he therefore loves me less. "But God does not work this way."

He does not mercilessly measure [us] against [our] neighbors. He doesn't even compare [us] with each other. His gestures of compassion toward one do not require a withdrawal or denial of love for [another]. He is divinely generous to [all of us].

The trick is to learn to feel that way about each other.

An example:

Fob began as a place where a few writers serious about the discipline could gather and help each other grow. And, I think, Fob has been a success. But I will make a few admissions here:

When Master Fob finished his third novel before I started my second, I felt like he wasn't leaving room for me in the marketplace.

When Melyngoch broke my heart on paper, I felt I might as well microwave my computer.

When Queen Zippergut read scenes that my wife laughed at more than she ever has at my stuff, I felt like fading away.

It's as if I think that the amount of talent God has given the world is limited, and every ounce of talent someone else shows is one more ounce that has been denied me.

Quoting Elder Holland quoting Henri J. M. Nouwen:

In a world that constantly compares people, ranking them as more or less intelligent, more or less attractive, more or less successful, it is not easy to really believe in a love [or a God] that does not do the same. When I hear someone praised, it is hard not to think of myself as less praiseworthy; when I read about the goodness and kindness of other people, it is hard not to wonder whether I myself am as good and kind as they; and when I see trophies, rewards, and prizes being handed out to special people, I cannot avoid asking myself why that didnÂ’t happen to me.

We are trained to compare ourselves to others, to find our worth in being more than someone else.

We shouldn't.

I'm glad to say that my fellow Fobsters have never struck me as being hateful towards each another just because they are also good. They've been quite good examples to me.

Among Elder Holland's recommendations for overcoming these prodigal tendencies are applauding the work of others and serving others. Fob has applauded me so roundly as to almost make me cry. They've selflessly helped me craft better work, leaving me better than I was.

This is Zion. These are the people who love you as themselves and find joy in your successes. When Master Fob became the first of us to make money, I don't remember us being ashamed of ourselves or hating him. And that's right--that is how God is with us.

To quote Nephi (whose personality I find annoying, but that's just me being wicked again),

Hath he [the Lord God] commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance.

Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.

We are alprivilegeded. We are all equal candidates for salvation.

I know this is true. I still have many, many moments where I let another's success make me feel less, but I know this is a lie. I know God loves me like he loves you. And if I can learn to love you as he does, I can be truly happy for your successes--every bit as much as I am for mine--and I will do all I can for you. As you do for me.

Brothers and sisters, I testify that no one of us is less treasured or cherished of God than another. I testify that He loves each of us--insecurities, anxieties, self-image, and all. He doesn't measure our talents or our looks; He doesn't measure our professions or our possessions. He cheers on every runner, calling out that the race is against sin, not against each other. I know that if we will be faithful, there is a perfectly tailored robe of righteousness ready and waiting for everyone, "robes ... made ... white in the blood of the Lamb." May we encourage each other in our effort to win that prize is my earnest prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Last week's svithe.


Dad: The Leading Cause of Childhood Obesity


So Lady Steed returned home from Tehachapi after I got home from work. The Big O was sleeping and she brought him in and laid him down on our bed. She changed clothes and left for stake women's conference (if you want to know what that is, ask her, I wasn't invited for some reason). When O woke up, he was distraught at arriving to a world of consciousness without the presence of his mother. He cried and cried and so forth. He couldn't believe she was gone--her Birks were still by the door--yet she was.

He wanted to go out looking for her, so we found our shoes and coats and hats (it's very cold in the AV just now) and went for a walk through the apartment complex. We only saw two cop cars, so that was good. Or bad. Depending.

As we walked I talked to him about dinner. Lady Steed had thrown together a delicious and nutritious potato soup before she left. He wasn't sure he was interested. So I talked about how afterwards he could have some ice cream--we still had some SpongeBob left--but he remained noncommittal.

We picked up the mail where I too received some exciting news and we came home.

The Big O was frustrated at our failure to find his mom and so asked for comfort via a box of conversation hearts. After a while, he was ready for soup. But he had not forgotten the ice cream. Or the old gummy NASCARs we recently found in a box somewhere.

If he gets diabetes at sixty months it will be my fault. Sans me, he would always get healthful (ie, mommy-determined) meals.

I need to start paying attention to what I eat as well.

The last couple weeks an alarming development has occurred. Here I am, six months from thirty, and if you see me naked in direct light you will notice that I am developing love handles.

The eventual emergence of such a thing has always struck me as a certainty, but to have it actually happen is a bit too much like learning that, for instance, I am not in fact an immortal demigod.

Weird, in other words. Offputting.

And this fatty development also has given me a weird, nascent desire. I think I might want to "exercise."

I'm not sure what "exercise" is, and I've never thought much of finding out, but now I have love handles! Egad! Perhaps I should do something!

But wait. If I start exercising for that reason, I am exercising for vanity and vanity alone. No other reason. I've never exercised for health reasons before. Perpetual shortness of breath and a dwindling lifespan have never been reason enough before, so if I start now, it is only because of vanity.

(Speaking of, I love Ecclesiastes. It always annoys me when people say it's depressing.)

Anyway, ask not for whom the fat rolls.

It rolls for me.




This whole move-to-California thing has really messed up my reading/writing regimen. It used to be I spent hours and hours and hours every week on a bus, where I read and wrote a great deal. Not so anymore.

But the last little while, things have come alive in the reading area. Besides the books mentioned in my LA post, I have also read Scott Card's Women of Genesis series (the books now out), almost caught up on my Zoetropes, and last night I wrapped up The Austere Academy.

I think all this reading has been filling my cistern because tonight, during the last session of my waste-of-time class, I began writing the first new piece of fiction (that I believe I will actually finish) in several months. And it's going to be good. I know it is because of the title: "The Evil Demon that Lives About 4 Inches Behind My Forehead." That's got masterpiece written all over it.

Reading and writing are necessarily intertwined. It's AIAO: art in art out. If I don't get my recommended daily allowance of words in my skull, nothing comes out on paper.

No doubt this new ability to suddenly have absolutely brilliant, demon-infused ideas is also related to my selling a story this week. It will be the first time I've been paid to write since I left the paper. (I don't count grade sheets.)

Anyway, like the Pluvianus aegyptius and the Crocodylus niloticus, reading and writing are pals and are never far apart.

Moral: Demons are okay if you read about Abraham first.


LDotFMotNYl: Deleted Scenes (3)


(Note: This is the third in a series of deleted scenes [visit 1 and 2]. If you are arriving here for the first time either because you received an LDotFMotNYl or if you do not know what the LDotFMotNYl is, you might consider visiting here first.)


The Big O as Narcissistic as His Parents

The Big O's main difficulty in brushing his teeth is distraction by his own pretty face perfectly reflected just inches away. How can he be expected to focus on something so petty as dental hygiene when he could be looking at himself in the mirror?

Geneticists and ethnographers visiting the Thteed household immediately pointed to this behavior as certainty for his parentage.

"The father has spent countless hours of his life making faces in the mirror," said investigatory team leader Dr. Randolphus Von Pejos. "But that is a mere mayfly compared to the Galapagos turtle's length the mother specimen has stood there with her tweezers."

The happy couple, not knowing any better, treated news of the study results (to be published in the summer issue of Vanity Studies International) as absolutely fabulous news.


It is absolutely true that the Big O enjoys examining his face in the mirror. And it is true that sometimes he is so enchanted watching himself that he can't properly brush. (Although proper brushing is only vaguely likely in the best of circumstances.)

It is equally true that his parents have mirror problems as well. I can get stuck in front of the mirror, trying to solve the mystery of male beauty, yes, though I am more likely making grotesque faces. If Lady Steed did not forbid it, that is. She says my faces are "scary." They are not scary. They are living sculptures of a wide range of emotions.

(Incidentally, I have a somewhat unique--though unrefined--drawing style which I think ain't so bad. But once I drew some figures on the chalkboard at Institute. Later, when class started, the students and instructor were appalled, wondering who defiled this Mormon Sanctuary with such "evil" drawings.

(They weren't evil. They were smiling! And waving! They were friendly! Gruntsch.)

Anyway, it is also true that Lady Steed has an unhealthy and possibly unholy relationship with her tweezers. This truth is what kept this portion of the letter out of the final draft. Lady Steed didn't want you to know.

Heh heh.