090) Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1, Unmanned by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, finished September 30
    I've read a couple volumes from the famed Y before [incidentally, its launch marked the demise of my own last-man project] but was always underimpressed. Starting from the beginning however, it's an impressive story and much more interesting. I'm not dying to read more, but it's definitely worth your time. Check it out. Read #1 and then go or not go from there.

    a week or two

P&P&Z 089) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, finished September 24
    Adjacent to this recent article in the Wall Street Journal bout the postpostmodern novel (hint: though gasping for breath at the end of the last era, plot makes a stunning comeback) a "selection of books that are rife with action" --- one of which is Pride and Prejudice.

    I told my AP kids that P&P was an action-packed never-stops-popping fun machine after they read the first five chapters. At that point they doubted me. But the came back they next day, having read with that in mind, and they saw that I was exactly right.

    The back copy of P&P&Z suggests that without added "scenes of bone-crunching zombies mayhem" the original is not really "something you'd actually want to read."

    I wonder if many people do mistake P&P's quiet surface to mean nothing is happening below the surface. Because below the surface the action is fast and furious. P&P never lets up.

    But anyway. Deliberate misunderstandings of the original notwithstanding, how does P&P&Z hold up?

    Well, for 99 pages all I could ask was what's the point? There are occasional (and rather boring) scenes of zombie mayhem, sure, but instead of adding anything fun to the text, they mostly chip away at the original's strengths. The important parts of the story were diluted and the added parts were dull and tacked-on. As I was reading this section I happened to read this quote from Salon.com: "The real question is: If Mr. Darcy became infected, would Elizabeth have the fortitude to behead him in time?"

    Ah, I said to myself. That's the problem here. This book wants to add gore and violence but has absolutely nothing of its own to say. Instead it lessens what the original text has to offer, while giving nothing new in return.

    Until, as I hinted, until page 99. When Charlotte reveals that she has agreed to marry Mr Collins because she has been stricken and in mere months will be a zombie herself.

    "I don't have long, Elizabeth. All I ask is that my final months be happy ones, and that I be permitted a husband who will see to my proper Christian beheading and burial."

    And at that moment I decided I would finish the book.

    In addition to adding a tangy zombie flavor to Austen's original, P&P&Z also adds a kung-fu zing. The Bennet sisters were trained in China in the arts of Shaolin (one more reason for Lady Catherine to look down on them --- the Chinese are peasants after all; proper training in the deadly arts can only come from Japan).

    And while many of the original's best jokes are made unfunnily obvious here, it doesn't hurt, I suppose, to have the option of now making lots of puns on the many meanings of balls. Plus this, plus that....

    (Worth noting: even the addition of zombie mayhem shows some Austenian restraint. Elizabeth and Darcy, at the end, newly engaged, come across their first opportunity to battle side-by-side, they grasp hands, and the camera cuts away.)

    I don't know whether or not to recommend this book. If you've never been interested, stay not interested. If you, like me, thought Brilliant! upon first hearing of it, then proceed with caution.

    I do wonder if reading Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters might not be a better experience for me since I am not familiar with the source material. But I don't plan on making that decision anytime soon. I'll wait and see what else Quirk Classics has up their sleeve. What other highly readable novels they intend to pervert. I'm guessing Dickens will be next. (And if they need a writer, it would be a fascinating exercise and they have only to ask. May I have an American classic to ruin, please?)

    (Closing slam: Illustrations pretty weak. I would have expected better.)

    two weeks

088) Tales From the Bog by Marcus Lusk, finished ~September 18

087) The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970 by Charles M. Schulz, finished September 13
    We have a strict rule at our house. And that rule is that I'm not allowed to buy Complete Peanuts box sets for myself. Which means I have to make what I have last for as long as I can.

    This volume delivers a great two-year period for Peanuts. I laughed plenty. Snoopy's writing career kills me. And it was fun to finally see the random birds become a single character who is then named Woodstock. (Don't miss the Sunday in Feb-70 when the stick breaks on him!)

    One thing that makes this volume better than many others is Mo Willems's introduction. They've had some grossly mediocre intros in this series, but Mo's is excellent. Don't skip it.


    Peanuts, I tell you. That's where it's at.

    And to prove, Behold! Snoopy writes a novel! (One really big so you can appreciate the linework. Now. Go buy your own.)

    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970
    from The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970

    many happy weeks

086) Crush by Murphy Hall, finished September 1
    Terrible. The dialogue was my first clue, but then everything got ridiculous. To enjoy this book you have two options: Forget everything you know about logic and taste, or laugh at it cruelly as you point your finger and laugh.

    one afternoon and evening


the first five, 1-5
the second five, 6-10
the third five, 11-15
the fourth five, 16-20
the fifth five, 21-25
the sixth five, 26-30
the seventh five, 31-35
the eighth five, 36-40
the ninth five, 41-45
the tenth five, 46-50
the eleventh five, 51-55
the twelfth five, 56-60
the thirteenth five, 61-65
the fourteenth five, 66-70
the fifteenth five, 71-75
the sixteenth five, 76-80
the seventeenth five, 81-86


Disliked thing


I don't like how my blogroll in Thutopia doesn't show the ten most recent posts, but the ten most recent posters. That is, if you post twice today, I will only see your more recent one and miss the first. Lame.

And don't tell me to use RSS or Google Reader. I'm not interested. Just not my style.

Gripe gripe moan complain.


Crap, Apologies, Mormonism, Rhetoric and Thou


Up on AMV, my new post on Elna Baker's new book's first chapter.

The comments have taken a surprising turn into semantics and definitions. What thinkest thou? How should we define faith, believe, know, doubt?


Storm Svithe


I subbed in a Primary class today and part of the lesson was the story of Kim, a young girl who, without being asked, cleaned leaves and branches blown into her church through a broken window by a ferocious storm.

What, I wonder, what have I done without being asked lately?

last week


Friday (take two)


I started a post earlier, but it was gross by the second clause so I just saved it for the next RRR.

Instead, here's a cheery bit of cheer for you, in classic spelled form:




There. Much better. Now go forth and smile.




A ravenous creature is the advanced reading copy. It comes up on you with every intention to attack, retrieve and capture your attention, reading-time and compassion. And, really, come on --- isn't that what they're for?

Today in the mail I received my copy of Elna Baker's The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance in nice hardback. I'm very excited to get into it. Then I'll review it and interview the author for AMV.

Coming in the next week or so is the new novel from perhaps my most-admired Mormony-Mormon writer, Todd Robert Petersen, Rift. This book's based on my least favorite story in his excellent collection, but I'm excited all the same. This review too will appear on AMV.

David J. West's Heroes of the Fallen has a disadvantage in that it's a pdf. And I hate reading onscreen. This book has [another dis]advantage as well, viz. that unlike Elna whom I will talk with and Todd whom I have tweeted with, I have a genuine relationship-type thing with David. We hang out at each other's blogs, break bread, share music and books, etc. So I understand why he's nervous. I'm nervous too, for mirrorland reasons. (We shouldn't be too worried though. Like any writer worth his salt, he's got chops to back up the ego [I've read a short piece] and I've been wanting to read some Tarzan or Mars for a while and the Book of Mormon version just sounds like too much fun to ignore.) Good chance this'll hit AMV too.

That's a lot of reading, cf (while I'm working two jobs, deathly ill and trying to succor a crying infant --- not to mention the ARCs I turned down or are rapidly coming).

All reading challenges are really cool, though. Mmm. AP reads a couple, and reappropriated criticism's fairgame, yes?

Ah, relax. Constitutionally, I am not able to cheat on reviews.

All reading conscientiously and reliably completed.


Friday in sixteen words


For Friday
Fun Friday
For Friday
Frank Friday

For Friday
Forbes Friday
Fain Friday
Ffffffft Friday


I'll tell you what I don't believe


Mommy puppy poopoo
--- part of the average list

with Batman and Robin Hood still alive in Hollywood
(music too)

here's the thing that bugs me
people writing crap and calling it


(much as I'm about to do
(but I'm allowed
(it's a special dispensation
(albeit without rewrites
(or bulletproof argument)

"I don't much believe in you," he said
as he turned his back and walked away.
It wasn't Bogey and it couldn't have been
but it was in black and white
and if we could do it one more time with italics on the was
just one more time
then we'll call it a wrap.

No one believes that.

Teacher says that we just need to pull ourselves together
and we will be smart.

And no one believes that either.

We are accustomed to failure and so failure requires no belief
anymore than the liquor store down the street
or the liquor store beyond that
or the liquor store beyond that.

And these days unless you live in Jersey or Oregon
old basketball players can't even pump gas.

What happens when you decide to decide to decide but never make a decision
--- decisions happen to you. (suitable maxim)

Like a trainwreck. Something is. Something was like a trainwreck.
And now it's gone.
Like a trainwreck.

I don't believe that anything said makes sense. Futility of language.

Q: Does belief in nothing constitute belief?

Bacon-chip Chocolate-chip Cookies in Realistic Images and Cartoons


Ole Man Thteed & Friend

Bacon-chip Chocolate-chip Cookies

A Delicious Cookie

Bacon-chip Chocolate-chip Cookies

Advertising Text Done Too Subtle for Ease of Understanding

Bacon-chip Chocolate-chip Cookies

The Final, Magical Ingredient

Bacon-chip Chocolate-chip Cookies

A Few Scattered Leftovers

Bacon-chip Chocolate-chip CookiesBacon-chip Chocolate-chip Cookies

accompanying text


Bacon. Chocolate.
The Cookie.


The Storied and Ballyhooed Annual Berkeley Ward Men's Cookoff was held last Saturday. As is my habit I made something more peculiar than vote-friendly: Bacon-chip Chocolate-chip Cookies. (My recipe is adapted from Louisa's.)

Bacon-chip Chocolate-chip Cookies

2 1-pound bacon trays, one of which has about a quarter of each rasher cut off to feed people a week earlier

1½ cups brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

4 sticks softened butter (although mine wasn't in 'sticks' --- just a big block )

2 eggs

2 tablespoons vanilla plus a little more sloshed in because, let's face it, too little vanilla is the grossest of sins

4½ cups flour (one of which is obtained by going door-to-door till you find someone both home and gluten-tolerant)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 generous cups of chocolate chips

Fry the bacon in a hot skillet until you've probably actually cooked them too long. Say "crap". Repeat in batches until all the bacon is cooked.

Be sure to drain the bacon on whatever napkins you can scrounge. Remind yourself that paper towels are worth killing the environment over.

As simultaneously as possible, cream the butter and the sugars together on the KitchenAid's highest speed until your wife comes crashing into the kitchen demanding to know if you are insane. (As if there is any believable response to that question.) Allow her to tell you that a KitchenAid is no mere 'mixer' and that if Louisa meant a KitchenAid she would have said 'KitchenAid'. Don't bother trying to answer any questions that begin with, "What, are you...?" Then go back to mixing for a minimum of five minutes a couple notches lower on the speed scale. Scrape down the bowl as you think of it. Add the eggs and the vanilla and beat (at not-quite-high!) for another two minutes. Stir in the flour, baking soda, salt. Throw the bowl in the fridge. (Careful to miss the placenta.)

Now that the bacon's done and cool, use kitchen shears to cut the bacon into small small pieces, tossing out whatever fat is not so cooked that it cannot pass as meat.

Add the bacon chips and chocolate chips to the dough and stir it up.

Even though it might be against the rules, allow your wife to start the oven preheating. Tell her 375. She will then set it at 350. Assume she knows something about the oven you don't and leave it be.

Drop the dough in half-size balls onto the cookie sheets but don't use the Silpat because it's been cut and supposedly that means you'll shards of glass in your food.

Because you're running out of time, try to fit an extra row on the sheet.

Plan to bake for a little under twelve minutes and go work on drawing yourself and a pig. Get distracted then run panicked into the kitchen and yank out the cookies. They look a little gold. Perfect. Try to take them off. Not quite done. Ah well, the other set's already in. Then, after they cool a bit, realize that, in fact, you have cooked them perfectly. Forget about timing them and try to take them out just as the tips are browning.

Let the cookies cool while you put one batch into the oven and a new batch onto the next sheet (you'll need three sheets to be as efficient as Thenryford here).

Always be sure to put the bowl of dough back in the fridge between batches.

Makes a lot of little bacon-chip chocolate-chip cookies.

(images to follow in a separate post)


Twitter Rights


See what you're missing on Thwitter?

INo laws: (dis)respecting religion / abridging speech or press / stopping right to peaceably assemble or petition Gov to redress grievances.

IIAs a wellregulated Militia is necessary for free-state security, right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

IIINo Soldier (during peace) shall be quartered in any house, without Owner's consent. Also not during war except by law.

IVSecure:person/house/paper/effect:against unreasonable search/seizure. No Warrants 'cept:probable cause (w/Oath,affirmation), super-specific.

VHold for infamous crime req Grand Jury ('cept mil during War). No dbljep. No req selftell. No taking w/o due process. Emnt-dom req compens.

VIAccused get: speedy/public trial; local/fair jury; nature/cause of accusation; see :( witnesses; obtain :) witnesses; have defense counsel.

VIIIn Suits at common law over $20: right to jury; jury cannot be re-examined in any Court of US except by rules of common law

VIIIExcessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

IXThe enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

XPowers not delegated to US by Constitution nor prohibited by Constituition to the States are reserved to the States or to the people.


From today's baptism (svithe)


At baptismal services in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we traditionally offer brief talks on the ordinances of baptism and the laying on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

At a baptism today, I was asked to speak on the latter ordinance.

The typical conceit is that the speaker is speaking solely to the person receiving the ordinance, although --- let's face it --- there are other people in the room. But that explains the occasional 'you.'

These are more notes than the actual talk as I gave it.


Once upon a time in the middle of nowhere, a prophet named Moses was trying to lead a nation to a better land. He had all sorts of problems in the pursuance of this task. One day a couple guys were in the camp prophesying and one of Moses’s friends, alarmed, came to tell him about it. Moses replied:

Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!

The apostle John taught that prophecy is the testimony of Jesus.

Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, holding the testimony of Jesus in their hearts.

Clearly, by entering the waters of baptism and thus witnessing your willingness to follow Jesus Christ, you have a testimony of Jesus. Which, of course, was brought to you by the Holy Ghost.

So the salient question, it seems to me, is how does the Gift of the Holy Ghost differ from the gifts he has already brought you?

Yesterday I was speaking with a pregnant woman in our ward (there are plenty to choose from) and she told me that, according to her baby book, this week her baby’s nerves connected to her baby’s brain and now, for the first time, the baby has a sense of touch. What, she wondered, was her baby’s perception like before that moment? What do babies experience in that warm, close space before they can feel?

Joseph Fielding Smith, as an apostle, said:

“When a man has the manifestation from the Holy Ghost, it leaves an indelible impression on his soul, one that is not easily erased. It is Spirit speaking to spirit, and it comes with convincing force. A manifestation of an angel, or even the Son of God himself, would impress the eye and mind, and eventually become dimmed, but the impressions of the Holy Ghost sink deeper into the soul and are more difficult to erase.”

He also said that “Through the Holy Ghost the truth is woven into the very fibre and sinews of the body so that it cannot be forgotten.”

With the Gift of the Holy Ghost, he moves from a visiting truth-teller to our constant companion. And then, as we let him in, the truth becomes such a part of us—so woven into us—that the time before he came is like the time before our nerves had bonded to our brain.

In other words, if you’ll forgive a rather poor word choice, the Holy Ghost and truth can become—boring. Boring only in the sense that he no longer has to wow! us with the revelation that the Book of Mormon is true! or Jesus is our Savior! or God loves us! Because you know—you know—these things are true. And so the Holy Ghost is like touch. When you stop to think about it, very normal, “boring” things are utterly wonderful. Your head upon a pillow, the sun upon your face, your wife’s hair between your fingers. And testimony is the same.

Even when your faith is so bound to you, so bound to your being that you cannot separate your faith from your identity, when you stop to notice it, how wonderful. So take the time as the years pass to recognize your faith as the miracle it is. And give thanks for this gift you have received—that you are about to receive—the gift of the Holy Ghost.

One caveat. Although the Holy Ghost’s presence in our lives can and should be defining, we should still remember to nurture our faith. Harold B. Lee—prophet back in the Seventies—said that testimonies are fragile as a moonbeam and need to be recaptured every day.

We have a choice every moment whether to allow the Spirit to dwell with us or to drive him away.

This is an exciting time. You and the Spirit are about to get better acquainted. You’ll learn more about how he communicates with you. And there is nothing boring about this. There is nothing boring about being close to God. It is the most exciting thing in life. And if something so exciting can be an everyday part of life?

How wonderful.

Growing close to God is a lifelong process. And now you’ll have the Holy Ghost as your partner. As you pray, expect to receive. Because you will receive.

You have the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

last week's svithe


Points of Comparison


New from UTR:

Comparative analyses are always a prone to underinterpretation, but they do offer a good starting point for discussion.

It seems that by "comparable districts" UTR means large Bay Area districts. All these districts are local but why, say, Berkeley's missing I'm not sure. Only one standard high school? I don't know. But even if every Bay Area district were included, the general point of this graph would remain valid. Viz, at the WCCUSD we do not rake in the big bucks.

I find it interesting that Oakland is dead last. It makes me wonder if cities in contention for the Murder Capital feel they shouldn't have to pay teachers as much as other cities.

As if that makes sense.

And finally, just FYI:

Dr. Harter gives a strong vibe that reads "I don't much care if slashed wages/benefits result in a mass teacher exodus." And if his plan passes, I will have to quit. But I'm not just an employee.

I'm a vested member of the community. My son started kindergarten this year at one of the area's premiere elementary schools. And I don't want to see his school's staff gutted by people moving to other districts in order to feed and heal their children.

I'm not just an employee.

I live here.