Monday, December 22, 2008

Random Thoughts

I like to read the writings of Thomas Sowell (left), especially his "Random Thoughts" columns. I thought I'd do something similar today:

1. Why is it that Democrats think it’s evil “dynastic politics” when the offspring of Republican politicians seek public office, but that somehow it’s wonderful when the offspring of Democrats do so—even going so far as to support Caroline Kennedy for appointment to a Senate seat with absolutely no prior experience in elective office (not even as “co-president”)?

2. A generation ago, perhaps the biggest concern of environmentalists was particulate air pollution—i.e., smog, or soot in the air. Several decades of stringent air-quality laws have caused a tremendous reduction in particulate air pollution, leaving the current generation’s environmentalists with little to gripe about in that regard. Could this be the driving factor behind their seemingly zealous search for a new class of air pollutant—in this case, an old, naturally occurring substance called carbon dioxide, or what plants “breathe” to produce oxygen? Following a “logical” progression, one wonders what will happen when/if hydrogen-powered cars come on the market and become the prevalent form of human transportation. The product of hydrogen combustion is not particulates or carbon, but simple water vapor. If hydrogen-powered cars eventually cause elevated levels of O2 in the air—that is, what human beings and other animals need to breathe—will the next generation of environmentalists want to classify oxygen as a pollutant? (Consider that water vapor provides about 90% of the "greenhouse" effect that warms the Earth.) It sounds absurd, but then who would have thought thirty or forty years ago that people would be saying the same today about a relatively innocuous substance like carbon dioxide?

3. I’ve sometimes wondered why I don’t like to watch basketball anymore. Undoubtedly, some of it has to do with the insufferable attitude that so many of today’s athletes have, physically gifted and rich though they may be. (And don’t get me going on the notion that college and pro basketball players and teams from the 1960s and 1970s could match their modern-day counterparts—there simply is no comparison in terms of skills and athleticism, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a fool.) However, I think the real reason I don’t watch basketball anymore is rooted in three de facto rule changes that make all those sparkling moves possible. The first is that “palming” the ball is hardly ever called anymore. The second is that “traveling,” likewise, is hardly ever called, either before or after the dribble. And the third is that, thanks to “breakaway” rims, hardly anyone is ever given a technical foul for hanging on the rim, which in turn makes it relatively “safe” to dunk in traffic. Many actual rule changes have been instituted since the 1970s—the three-point shot, the “alternating possession” rule on held balls, the institution of a shot clock, the rules regarding how many foul shots are awarded and when, etc.—but the changes I’ve mentioned have made basketball, at all levels, a completely different game from what it once was. I’m not saying it’s worse, but it’s definitely not as interesting to me.

4. Concerning the passage of Proposition 8 in California and its chances of actually taking legal effect, I’m left wondering (a) when it supposedly became a “fundamental civil right” for someone to be able to marry another person of the same gender (given that marriage in general was never considered a fundamental right under common law), and (b) how a person can be a “bigot” for supporting traditional marriage between one man and one woman. Personally, I favor the idea of civil unions between homosexual couples, with all that implies, but, setting aside all religious considerations, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to reserve the term “marriage” for what it has always been. The fact that homosexuals want the courts to say otherwise is instructive with regard to their intent, which obviously is to use the courts to bludgeon society into accepting homosexuality as the functional and moral equivalent of heterosexuality—and, more importantly, to impose sanctions against individuals and non-government organizations that refuse to do so. That’s a scary thought, but when legislatures abdicate to the courts their responsibility to make policy decisions, there simply is no telling on what rocky shore the resulting tidal wave might throw us.

Monday, December 15, 2008

1975 Bi-Stake Holiday Tournament MVP

This photo of me has an interesting story. My mother took it in January 1975, shortly after our ward young men's basketball team won a two-stake, double-elimination tournament during the holiday break. I received the most valuable player award, which was not only a very exciting thing to me personally but one of the few times I can remember receiving, as a young man, positive feedback resulting from a church-related event or activity. I was a fifteen-year-old sophomore in high school (still about eight months away from his first set of contact lenses) who had, after some dithering, decided not to try out for the high school basketball team. (It was a decision about which I felt quite a bit of regret until just a few years ago, when I finally realized that it wouldn't have been worth the effort. Even if I'd played school ball, my high school had one of the best programs in New Mexico, blessed with both gifted star players [mostly jerks, unfortunately] and a lot of depth; I wouldn't have made the varsity team until I was a senior, and even then I wouldn't have played much.)  However, it meant a lot to me to be told I was a good player -- especially as a tenth-grader -- even if it was in the context of church ball.

The tournament itself was an adventure. Our first game was against 5th Ward (of the Albuquerque Stake) at the Haines Street chapel, which we won by, I think, six points after struggling against their full-court press. The next evening, we lost a close game to 7th Ward (of the East Stake) at the Eubank chapel, then immediately we had to rush back down to Haines Street to play 4th Ward (of the Albuquerque Stake) in a late losers-bracket game; I remember winning a real nail-biter on a teammate's late free throws. 7th Ward went on to lose to 8th Ward (our arch-rivals from the East Stake, and the ward with the most good-looking girls, including Dorine), so the next day we played 7th Ward one more time, again at the Eubank chapel, this time winning by a few points. That put us in the championship game against 8th Ward, although of course we needed to beat them twice to win the tournament. We won the first game at the Eubank chapel, but apparently no one had contemplated the need for an "if" game, as there was another activity scheduled at the Eubank building that afternoon, and the tournament organizers had to scramble to schedule the Haines building for the last game. We managed to win that game, too, which was a very sweet feeling -- made positively exquisite by my winning the MVP trophy.

After my mother shot the photo above with her Kodak Instamatic camera, that particular roll of film lay in a drawer, forgotten, for what must have been six years. I can remember coming home from my mission in late December 1980 and going with my mother, sometime in the next few days, to the old Skaggs drugstore down in Fair Plaza (at the intersection of San Pedro and Lomas in Albuquerque). Skaggs had some ridiculous special on film development and prints (something like a dollar a roll), so my mother took her old rolls down to have them all developed at once. Needless to say, the resulting pile of photos included this one -- time had caused the negative to fade somewhat, but it was an amazing feeling to see it, not knowing it existed, after six years! It brought back nice memories then, and it still does so today.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Photos from the Cabin and Pagosa Springs

Here are some photos from our trip to the cabin with Mike and Judy. The first shows Mike, Judy, and Dorine having ice cream at the malt shoppe. (They serve huge sundaes and cones there!) The second shows the view east from the malt shoppe on the eastern end of Pagosa Springs. (Pagosa is a very pretty town in the wintertime.) The third is at the underground candy shop near the movie theater in downtown Pagosa Springs. (We bought a bunch of fudge there.) The fourth shows Dorine and me on the deck at the cabin. I had a fun time and wished we could stay longer!

The Albuquerque Youth Symphony
Luminaria Fundraiser

Here's a photo that Dorine took of the assembly line at our luminaria "workhouse" on Saturday morning, December 6. The sand pile pictured was already significantly smaller at that point in time than it was when we started at 7:00 am, and I'm sort of amazed that the sand was completely gone, and that all our deliveries were made, by 1:30 pm. We had an extremely hard-working, competent crew! Likewise, all of our preparations and planning paid off; Dorine deserves most of the credit, especially for learning how to use Microsoft's "Streets and Trips" to make the delivery routes. Dorine received several compliments from people assigned to work at our house regarding how well-organized everything was. I think we only had about 760 dozen luminarias to assemble and deliver, whereas some workhouses had double that number -- which explains why we ended up at another workhouse in the afternoon, and why Zach and I ended up making a few deliveries in the South Valley at the end of the day. It will be interesting to see how much we earned toward Kiley's Australia trip -- hopefully it will have proved to be worth our while!

Monday, December 8, 2008

At the Cabin with Mike and Judy

Dorine and I are spending a few days at Pinegrove Cabin (near Pagosa Springs, CO) with Mike and Judy P______. This trip is in lieu of our usual trip to Ruidoso, NM to celebrate wedding anniversaries. (This month marks 34 years for Mike and Judy and 24 for Dorine and me.) It's fun to come up here, and Mike and Judy are always good company. The attached image from Google Earth shows the neighborhood in which the cabin sits -- it is the smaller of the two structures pictured in the bottom center. (The larger structure is inhabited year-round, at least for now.) Access from U.S. 84 is from the right (east), and one must cross the Rio Blanco on the whitish-colored bridge. You can also see the Rito Blanco, and its confluence with the larger Rio Blanco, in the upper part of the image. The cabin property takes in most of the land between the river and the road, along with much of the wooded hill at the bottom of the image; thus there are plenty of places to play, hike, and hide away. I look forward to going into town this afternoon to shop and knock around town.

The AYS luminaria fundraiser on Saturday went very well. We finished our orders at around 1:30 pm, although then we were assigned to another "workhouse," and Zach and I ended our day making deliveries in the South Valley using maps that provided very few reference points. (Not knowing the area very well, it took us over an hour to find the last house on the route, by which time it was after dark -- very frustrating!) Thank goodness it's over now!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Inter-Holiday Family Update

I can't think of anything in particular to write about, so I'll post a general sort of update. I'm sad today because I found out that Mike Prairie, the senior manager I've supported at work, died over the long weekend from his brain cancer. We knew he was ready to check out because his aggressive chemotherapy regimen had failed to arrest the growth of his tumor(s), but his death at this juncture was still a surprise, given that it came so soon after he stopped receiving treatment. If nothing else, I'm glad that his suffering was cut short -- anyone who's had to watch a loved one die of cancer knows that death itself can be a blessing.

Last week, I was able to exchange my existing "VPAP Adapt SV" breathing machine for one of the "enhanced" units; I owe both A&R Medical Supply and Resmed a debt of gratitude for working together to make that happen. So far, it appears that heightened pressure settings do help me significantly, although I'm currently experiencing yet another health issue that's impeding my sleep: debilitating stiffness and pain in my left hip that seems to be radiating from my lower back. I saw a doctor about it this afternoon at my employer's medical clinic; he diagnosed it as probable sciatica and gave me a stretching regimen and a prescription for a strong painkiller (which, for obvious reasons, I want to use only sparingly).

We had a nice Thanksgiving dinner at home with much of our immediate family and various members of Dorine's extended family. (My mother elected to stay home and cook for my sister Kristen and her family.) I'm looking forward to my extended Christmas/New Year's holiday from work, but there are still a couple of intervening events this next weekend. First, we have to get through the Albuquerque Youth Symphony's luminaria fundraiser -- we'll be busy inasmuch as our home will be one of a number of "workhouses" where luminarias are assembled and from which vehicles will make runs to deliver them. And second, Dorine and I will be driving to Colorado to spend time at the cabin with Judy and Mike P______; hopefully, we'll get to leave on Saturday afternoon after all our luminarias are made up and delivered, as three nights up there sounds much better than two! (This cabin trip will be in lieu of our usual "wedding anniversary" trip to Ruidoso -- it didn't make sense to spend a load of money on a cabin in Ruidoso if we could stay at our cabin in Colorado for "free.")

Devery and Easton went to Tucson to spend Thanksgiving with his family; however, they'll be coming here for Christmas, partly because Devery's cousin Hillery P______ is marrying her fiance Kevin John on the 27th in the Albuquerque Temple. Devery will finish her BSIS degree this semester and is interviewing for jobs in the Utah Valley/SLC area. We thought that Darren would stay in Jesus de Otoro through the end of the year, since he'd been trained in how to conduct tithing settlement; however, we found out today that he was transferred last week back to the Tegucigalpa area and is training another new missionary, Elder Rose from Morgan, UT. (The photo above was taken from Darren's mission's blog -- Darren is the second from the right, and I'm assuming the elder on the far right is Elder Rose.) Kiley has been pretty sick and has been struggling to manage all that she has on her plate; sometimes it seems like neither Dorine nor Kiley nor I get nearly enough sleep at night.

I don't have much of a Christmas wish list this year. I need another pair of running shoes, and I could always use an iTunes gift card. I'd really like to get my "old" Line 6 guitar amplifier repaired, as the newer one I bought doesn't produce the same heavenly tone (with a touch of chorus, a little digital delay, and some reverb) that made me fall in love with the "old" one. Knowing the cost of electronics repairs these days, however, it would probably be less-expensive to go on eBay and buy another of the old model.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Jugging Out of Hidden Cave

Here's another photo from my caving trip a couple of weeks ago. Jimmy Williamson took it as I was climbing the rope on mechanical ascenders to get out of Hidden Cave. "Jugging" up a rope is a pretty strenuous exercise no matter what technique one uses, but we use the "frog" setup, employing one handled ascender, attached to a foot loop (with a safety line attached to the harness), in tandem with a non-handled ascender, attached directly to the harness and held flat against the chest by an improvised "chest harness." The "frog" setup is a simple but efficient system -- read more about it here:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things

I'm sort of a compulsive list-maker, and periodically I like to list my favorite things by category. For what it's worth, here are a few of my favorites:
Food: Steak. (Sirloin will do, generally.)
Beverage: Vanilla Pepsi from Blake's Lotaburger (I love to eat the ice as I'm downing the drink, so I ask for extra ice), followed by Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew. (I sure wish these drinks were [more] available in non-caffeinated versions!)
Snack: Yoplait yogurt (peach or strawberry).
Musical Group: The Who (I'm more song-oriented now than when I was younger, but if I have to choose a favorite group, it's the Who).
Song: "Typical" by Mutemath. (These days, I really don't have a favorite song as such, but I really like "Typical.")
Book: (nonfiction) Camp 4: Recollections of a Yosemite Rockclimber, by Steve Roper; (fiction) Mutiny on the Bounty, by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall.
Movie: The Sting (1973).
TV Show: MXC, SportsCenter. (I don't get to watch MXC much anymore, since it's been consigned to a late-night slot on Spike TV, but I still find the show's innuendo-laced English commentary, dubbed onto video from the old Japanese television show Takeshi's Castle, to be absolutely hilarious. As for SportsCenter, well, I may not like to watch many actual sporting events on TV anymore, but I still like to watch the highlights.)
Place: Ruidoso (NM), Pinegrove Cabin (CO), Sandia Mountains (NM). (For years, I practically lived for my trips to Las Vegas, but it's pretty much fallen out of my life now.)
Sport: Soccer. (I especially like to watch the English Premier League and the Italian "Serie A," although our satellite TV package doesn't include any channels that regularly show European soccer.)
Team: The U.S. men's soccer team. (The U.S. isn't in the upper echelon of national sides, but I still root for them and watch them every chance I get.)
Clothes: Jeans, long-sleeve t-shirt, trail-runners, ball cap.
Camping Spot: Oliver Lee Memorial State Park (NM), Villanueva State Park (NM), Sentinel Camp (Guadalupe Mountains, NM), Deer Pass (Sandia Mountains, NM).
Video Game: Dr. Mario. (We still have "Dr. Mario" for the old Nintendo system, but I'd have to learn to hook it up to play it.)
Cereal: Cocoa Pebbles.
Flavor of Gatorade: Glacier Freeze.
Scripture: Ether 12:27.
Website: National Review Online.
Car: Mitsubishi Eclipse.
Guitar: Fender Stratocaster. (I'm starting to lust after the Gretsch Electromatic Double Jet, however -- check it out:
Decadent Meal: Fried eggs and sausage. (Just thinking about them starts my arteries to harden.)
Genre of Music: Mid-60s "Garage Punk." (1966 was a watershed year -- tons of cool music came out then.)
Temple: Albuquerque. (Of course -- but I still have fond memories of going to the aesthetically pleasing Las Vegas Temple, with all its woodwork and almost-complete lack of interior right angles.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sleeping In Limbo

I've now been off sleep meds for 14 weeks, but my sleep habits haven't improved noticeably in the interim, despite the fact that I do feel I've become more accustomed to the various physical discomforts or environmental issues that I've discussed in previous posts. In other words, I don't think the bulk of the problem lies in my sleep environment, nor do I believe it's primarily a psychological issue, as I don't have any particularly crushing psychological concerns or burdens at present. All of which leaves me wondering if my "VPAP Adapt SV" breathing machine really is fully remedying my problems with complex sleep apnea.

Adding weight to my suspicions is the fact that the results of my last sleep study indicated that I might do better with increased minimum/maximum pressure settings on my machine. However, when I tried to enter those settings, I quickly discovered that the unit I have is an older model that won't go above the levels at which it was originally set when I got it in February. (In contrast, the machine I used at the lab for the sleep study was a newer "Enhanced" model that provides higher pressure levels.) That obviously could be a major problem, given that my insurance company and I have already made payments for ten or eleven months on the thing: (1) the medical-supply company wouldn't simply hand me a new "Enhanced" unit out of inventory; (2) my insurance company won't start all over, paying for a new machine from scratch; and (3) the manufacturer, Resmed, might not accept a trade-in, with or without additional consideration.

I'm informed, however, that the doctor's office and the medical-supply company are negotiating with Resmed to try to get it to trade out my machine for an "Enhanced" unit. They seem pretty optimistic that it will happen, although I don't yet know if any strings will be attached. I can't say for certain that the "Enhanced" model will solve my residual night-time breathing problems, but at this point it looks like my only chance to start sleeping all night without resuming regular use of hypnotic medications; thus, right now I'm in wait-and-see mode. However, something has to happen soon, because I'm actually feeling more run-down and miserable now than when I was taking combinations of prescription and OTC sleep meds every night!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

November Caving Trip to the Guads

I took my long-anticipated caving trip to the Guadalupe Mountains (in southeastern New Mexico) on November 7-9, 2008 with Rod Williamson, Jimmy Williamson (Rod's son), and Brett Colter (a friend of Rod's and the son of Craig Colter, a member of our ward). Our friend Jim Rasmussen had planned to go, but finally he was too busy at work to get away; consequently we ended up being a party of four. (Taking only four people was a little bit of a waste in that the USFS caving permits were, as usual, for six people, but at least it enabled us to travel down in one vehicle -- Rod's four-seat Toyota Tacoma.) We left Albuquerque at about 10:00 am on Friday the 7th and stopped to eat lunch at Chili's in Roswell; it was already starting to get dark by the time we made it up to the high Guads, so we decided to pitch tents first at Texas Camp and then walk back up the road to go see our first cave, the entrance passage of Cottonwood Cave. Cottonwood Cave has some huge, very beautiful formations, although the entrance passage (as opposed to the second parallel passage, the entrance to which is gated and kept locked) isn't much of an adventure. Later we fixed dinner (I had decided to eat well on this trip, so I had stir-fry with chicken chunks), lit a campfire, and shot the bull before retiring.

The next day we planned to do Black Cave first and then come back up the hill to Hidden Cave; however, I was a little unclear how to get to Black Cave, and we ended up on the fork in the road that goes to the trail to get to Hidden Cave. Rather than backtrack and have to come back later, we decided to do Hidden first. A combined 80' rappel is required to get from the entrance to the "lower" half of the cave, which is about all the adventure on a rope that I can handle these days. (A second cave entrance to the northwest has now been blocked off.) We had a lot of fun scrambling around in the "lower" half of the cave, and in the end we didn't even bother going to see the "upper" half. At one point I jugged out of the cave to fetch a second rope so that the other guys could do a short rappel at the end of the longest passage. Unfortunately, as I was rapping back into the cave, Dorine's camera fell out of my pocket and dropped about 40'; needless to say, it didn't work too well after that! (I bought a replacement camera at Wal-Mart in Roswell on the way home.)

Later, we ate lunch back at the truck and then set out to find Black Cave, which Rod and I had already visited twice on previous trips. I thought had a pretty good idea how to find it without using the step-log provided by the USFS, but if there was a constant on this trip, it was that my memory of dimensions and distances was often way off. We did, finally, find the cave, but not before Rod had a few doubts about my cave-finding skills! All of the caves we saw were pretty moist, but Black Cave was sopping wet -- slippery and quite treacherous. By that time of the day I didn't really care much about seeing the whole cave, but we did slip-slide our way down to the end, poking around a little in one of the parallel passages before heading back out. We were hoping to get back to camp before dark, and we succeeded, but unfortunately, one of Rod's tires suffered a sidewall puncture on the way back. We put the spare tire on back at camp, but our not having a spare tire pretty well killed the idea of making the rough drive up to the "Pink" parking area the next day (Sunday) and hiking to Pink Dragon Cave.

That night I had an excellent sirloin steak -- medium-rare with Montreal seasoning -- for dinner, along with mixed veggies and a couple of hashbrown patties. Rod and I later walked down to the Dark Canyon Lookout (which has a decent privy) and had a nice talk on the way. We camped out again, then packed up and headed back the next morning. I'd like to go back sometime in the next year, but only if we can get permits to some different caves (hopefully not Sentinel Cave, which is still the stuff of my nightmares). It might be worth going on a cave-restoration trip just to see other caves -- Hell Below Cave, Three Fingers Cave, the lower part of Cottonwood Cave, maybe the Cave of the Madonna, etc. We'll see.

[The photos above show (a) the "Chinese Wall" formation in Hidden Cave, (b) Brett, Rod, and Jimmy in Hidden Cave; (c) a view out over the Guads from the Dark Canyon Lookout tower; and (d) our campsite at Texas Camp (a favorite caver's hangout). The video embed below shows me doing the first 25' or so of the drop into Hidden Cave.]

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ready to Join the Grateful Dead

We had a Halloween party at work on Thursday, October 30, and this is how I dressed for it. I look at this picture and think "Yikes!" (The guitar is a Squier "Affinity" Telecaster, with a great neck and extremely low string action, that I picked up on eBay several years ago.)

[Update 7/7/10: This picture was taken in Conference Room B9 in Building 880 at Sandia, which no longer exists. Facilities, in its infinite wisdom, commandeered the space this spring and tore out what was one of the best conference rooms in the company. It will probably end up as part of another cubicle farm.]

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Postmortem

Well, the election went about as badly as I feared it might, with the Republican Party getting waxed at every level. I'm afraid of what Barack Obama will do as president, but there is a bright side: the election of an African-American (which I view as an extremely positive notion in the abstract) should lead to the "descendancy" of professional grievance-mongers and racketeering race-baiters like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. As Stuart Taylor noted in the National Journal, the question remains which Obama will show up in January to be sworn in: the left-wing ideologue that his record indicates he has always been, or the post-partisan, post-racial "agent of hope and change" that he campaigned as. I agree with Taylor that if Obama pursues a purely leftist agenda, he will be a complete failure as president (Jimmy Carter II!), but, unlike Taylor, I have little confidence that Obama knows how to be anything but a left-wing ideologue. I think we'll know for certain early on, when Obama is faced with decisions such as: (a) whether or not to reinstate the so-called "Fairness Doctrine" (which would be clearly aimed at censoring conservative talk radio); (b) whether or not to repeal the Patriot Act and other legislation enacted to fight the War on Terror; (c) whether or not to close down the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and (d) whether or not to end the U.S.'s military involvement in Iraq in general. However Obama chooses to govern, he will almost certainly disappoint either his DailyKos base or the millions of moderates who voted for him in the expectation that he will be president of the entire country, not just one extreme sector of it. (As Jonah Goldberg observed this morning, if Obama governs to the center, it will be good for the country, and if he governs to the left, it will be good for the Republican Party.)

What enabled Obama to win the election? Clearly, the majority of the country wants to take a different course, and, just as clearly, George W. Bush's unpopularity has created tremendous ill will toward the Republican brand. Yet the polls seemed to indicate that the ongoing financial crisis was what finally turned the tide inexorably in the Democrats' favor. The meltdown was caused primarily by the subprime mortgage crisis, yet it was the Dems who fomented dubious mortgage-lending practices, first by enacting legislation such as the Community Reinvestment Act and then by fiercely resisting heightened regulation of FNMA and FHLMC at a time when it was obvious to most people in Washington that things were going very wrong in the home-loan markets. That they were then able, in a classic case of projection, to direct blame at the Bush Administration -- and all those greedy capitalists on Wall Street -- is ironic in the extreme. (The mainstream media assisted them greatly in that endeavor, which underscores the fact that, contrary to the wishful thinking in one of my earlier posts, they still have great power to influence public opinion, or at least the opinions of the squishy swing voters who decide elections in this country. The sad thing is that the media obviously have come to see that as their raison d'être, becoming the de facto propaganda arm of the Democratic Party.)

John McCain, then, was the victim of a "perfect storm" in which fate and chance repeatedly conspired to kill his chances of winning. In the end, he was left throwing various pieces of poop at his opponent in the futile hope that something would stick, which is never a position in which a candidate for office wants to find himself. It could also be argued that Sarah Palin, McCain's running mate, wasn't ready for the national stage, although I still believe otherwise. She failed to help McCain capture the moderate middle, but, with the unfair, relentless battering she received at the hands of the media -- which highlighted their boundless capacity for seeking to achieve the destruction of women and minorities who dare to stray from the liberal plantation -- it's difficult to see now how any running mate could have done that. I hope, moving forward, that she stays in the national spotlight, as I have no doubt she'll prove her critics wrong over time.

As far as New Mexico goes, we ended up with a congressional delegation composed entirely of Democrats, which makes it hard to dispute that we are now a solidly "blue" state. Unfortunately, Tom Udall as senator will be no Pete Domenici -- he's more like a featherweight version of the already-lightweight Jeff Bingaman -- suggesting that our two senators will wield very little influence in Washington. That doesn't bode well for New Mexico's national labs, and, honestly, I'm not sure either Bingaman or Udall really cares, notwithstanding the tremendous economic impact that federal spending has in this state. Our new congressman in the First District will be Martin Heinrich, a former city councilor who might not have defeated Heather Wilson (our departing congresswoman, who decided to vacate her seat to run in the senate primary election), given even the current political environment.

In closing, I wanted to say something about the Bush presidency. Although he will be leaving office as one of the most unpopular presidents of all time, I tend to believe that historians will be kind to George W. Bush, and for three simple reasons: (1) after 9/11, his policies prevented further large-scale terrorist attacks against America or its interests abroad; (2) the establishment of a middle-eastern democratic beachhead in Iraq may still serve to quell the fascistic sort of fervor that gives rise to terrorist impulses in the rest of the Islamic world; and (3) his humanitarian initiatives in Africa have already done much good for a continent about which the rest of the world has largely forgotten. In four years, I think we could easily be looking back with great nostalgia for the Bush administration.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Photos from Darren

Here are a couple of recent photos from Darren in his current area in and around Jesús de Otoro, Honduras. The first shows Darren fording a fair-sized river -- the only way to reach the house of a family he and his companion have been teaching -- and the second shows him, his Bolivian companion Elder Capiona (left), and another missionary with their latest convert, a lady named Argentina (who has a disability and must use crutches to get around). It's fun to know he's having such unforgettable experiences as a missionary! He gets along well with Elder Capiona and was happy that his mission president left them together for a second six-week "transfer" period. In another couple of weeks, Darren will have completed an entire year in Honduras.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Caving Featurette by Brent Peterson

Now that I've learned how to embed Youtube videos in my blog posts, I decided to upload the entire 4.5 minute featurette that Brent Peterson produced about my caving in 2004. This video gives a good idea of what it's like to go through the "Birth Canal" in Alabaster Cave -- and why it's crucial, if you're my size, to go through in the proper orientation, with the left arm "up" and the right arm "down." As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have since gone through the "Birth Canal" in the proper orientation, again, and had zero problems with it.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Guitar Solo from Ace's "How Long"

Here I am playing the guitar solo from Ace's 1975 hit song "How Long." I'm using my MIM (made in Mexico) "Classic 60s" Fender Stratocaster and my "new" Line 6 Spider II 112 amplifier. I'm not very good at playing other people's solos note-for-note, but for some reason I felt inspired a number of years ago to learn this one.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Las Vegas - The Great Days

This photo of me and my brother-in-law Mike P____, which probably dates to 1995, brings back good memories of fun times spent in Las Vegas in days gone by. Binion's Horseshoe was our favorite hangout, both because it had a preponderance of $2.00 single-deck blackjack games -- not to mention craps games that often had table minimums as low as $0.25 -- and because it offered value in other ways: (1) various food specials in the coffee shop (including a late-night $2.99 New York Strip steak special); (2) generous meal "comps" (a tremendous boon to low-rollers); and (3) free photos with $1 million (consisting of one hundred rare and out-of-circulation $10,000 bills). The casino smelled terrible and had oppressively low ceilings, but it also had tons of old-Vegas character and charm. In short, it (along with the Golden Nugget, before it started targeting a more-upscale clientele) was the heart of downtown Las Vegas.

The decline of the 'Shoe -- which coincided with Benny Binion's daughter Becky Behnen's wresting control of the property from her brother Jack -- was a tragedy to those who knew and had come to love the joint. It wasn't a good sign when the new management immediately did away with the free photos and sold all the ten-thousand-dollar bills (I'm informed they fetched three or four times their face value at auction) and then changed a lot of the games to raise the table minimums and to give the house a bigger advantage. Finally, after the daughter and her husband bled the property completely dry, they sold it off to people who were even more greedy and less knowledgeable about how to operate a casino.

Thus, "Binions" (minus the genitive apostrophe and the "Horseshoe" trademark, which was sold to a different concern) sits there on Fremont Street to this day, a sad shell of what it used to be. I haven't been to Las Vegas in over two years and have little idea what's happening there now, but I do know that practically nothing in downtown Vegas is as it used to be. I guess I've changed, too, pretty much having grown out of whatever penny-ante gambling "jones" I once may have had, but I still miss the old days.

[Update: I've now become aware that "Binions" has new owners who reportedly are interested in trying to restore the property to something approximating its former greatness. I doubt that will translate into $2.00 single-deck blackjack, $0.25 craps with 100x odds, and easy meal "comps," but maybe it will mean $5.00 single-deck "3:2" blackjack, $3.00 craps with 10x odds, and a few meal specials. That would be a start -- and if Vegas in general continues to tank along with the overall economy, the downtown properties may start targeting low-rollers again in earnest.]

Thursday, October 23, 2008

October Family Update

There isn't exactly a lot going on in our family right now, but here's a run-down. Kiley decided to start playing the electric bass with her high school's jazz band (with her friend, Brittany Remund, who plays trumpet), so she dropped Italian and now has two music classes. Kiley also got her driver's license and from now on will be driving to seminary and school. We were tabbed to be one of the "work houses" for the Albuquerque Youth Symphony luminaria fundraiser, and we'll be pretty busy with all of that up through "Luminaria Day," December 6. Dorine and I were able to put a few lengths of pressboard up in our attic space above the garage, laying them across the joists for shelving, and then I moved some stuff up there from the garage for storage. (It helped, but I'd still like to get more crap off the garage floor!) I have a caving trip planned for November 7-9 with Rod Williamson, Jimmy Williamson, and Jim Rasmussen (and possibly others, depending on who can go). We're going to the high Guads in southern New Mexico and have secured permits for Cottonwood Cave, Black Cave, Hidden Cave, and Pink Dragon Cave -- nothing particularly gut-clenching, with Hidden being the only one of the four that entails vertical rope work (aside from a gratuitous long, dead-end drop in Pink Dragon that I think we'll skip this time). I'm still struggling to sleep through the night, but so far I've been able to avoid getting back on the medication treadmill. I received a calling as a temple worker in the Albuquerque Temple and have worked on two Wednesday evenings so far; last night I even worked on the "receiving" side of the veil for a Spanish endowment session -- pretty good for a noob! (I'm hoping my temple calling will both strengthen my testimony and help me develop more affinity for other church members.)

Darren is still working in Jesús de Otoro, Honduras with his missionary companion Elder Capiona, and they've even had a few baptisms in between all their work with the members of the branch. Devery is still hard at work on finishing her degree this semester and finding a job so that she can help support the family while Easton continues to work on his degree. Easton was selected for a team representing BYU in the construction-management area, which will be going to Las Vegas for a competition. Heidi and Dion continue to work, and Kayla will have her second birthday in a few weeks. Kristy and Chris are busy with their kids' sports and other activities, and the twins are now seven months old. Chris is a little tired of the up-and-down nature of the auto-mechanic trade and has talked about going into law enforcement, probably with the county sheriff's department.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Confessions of an Anti-Social Mormon - Part 2

Every now and then I sit through a discussion in priesthood meeting that practically causes me to have a brain hemorrhage, and, unfortunately, yesterday's lesson in the high priests group fit into that category. The topic of the lesson was the three degrees of glory and, specifically, what the requirements are for someone to reach the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom. The instructor used a "basketball" analogy, suggesting that perhaps those who attain that level of glory are like NBA all-stars -- veritable Kobe Bryants and LeBron Jameses of the spiritual realm! Curiously, at no point did the Atonement of Jesus Christ enter the discussion, notwithstanding the fact that King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon (see the stock illustration with my...ahem... modifications) assures us that we're all "unprofitable servants" and cannot abide a celestial glory absent the grace of Christ. Nor did the Parable of the Talents come up in the discussion, in which Christ plainly taught that each person can receive the greatest reward based on what he does with the natural gifts that are bestowed on him. Finally, one might have thought to bring up the example of the Widow's Mite (or, rather, two mites), in which Christ made clear that the magnitude, in absolute terms, of a person's contributions in the kingdom isn't nearly so important as what those contributions represent relative to the person's means and resources.

If one injects the foregoing into the instructor's "basketball" analogy, it seems the following is true. One, that no one attains "NBA all-star" status based wholly on his own natural gifts or even his long years of practicing his "spin move." Two, that one may not require great natural gifts to tie into that great "$100 million contract with the Lakers" in the sky. And three, that it's conceivable that a relatively small contribution on the part of the lowliest of church members may well secure that person a spot in God's "starting lineup," ahead of people whose gaudy "scoring averages" bespeak much-greater abilities in an absolute sense -- it may all depend on circumstances and what's in the person's heart.

I have to believe all this is true, for otherwise I'm wasting my time, my substance, and what little remains of my self-esteem after a lifetime of attending church, and otherwise associating, with other LDS church members who seem all too eager to deny the efficacy of the Atonement and the scope of its effect on the poor in spirit (who, after all, are supposed to be the ones inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven at some point). Does a person have a chance who pays his tithes and offerings, obeys the Word of Wisdom, lives the Law of Chastity, attends the temple once in a while, helps out on the occasional service project, sings in the ward choir, and loves his wife and family so much that he continues to attend church, week in and week out, with people whom he doesn't particularly care for (and vice versa)? Does it matter that he simply doesn't have the emotional resources to do much more than that?

I can't say, except that I'm glad God's ways are not man's ways and that, presumably, his judgments are wiser than those of most people I know.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Carlsbad Trip - Staying with the Twitchells

Dorine, Kiley, and I are spending part of a long weekend in Carlsbad, New Mexico with Chad and JoAnn Twitchell, friends of ours who lived in our ward before moving down here about five years ago. (Chad took a position down here in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant [WIPP] program, which Sandia National Laboratories manages.) Chad and JoAnn currently have four of their six kids at home -- Kate is married and living in Utah with her husband Justin, and Paul is in Albuquerque attending UNM -- although it is anticipated that Curtis will start serving a church mission before the end of the year, leaving only Holly, Sophie, and Kenny at home. I very much like Chad and JoAnn's home (see photo), which simply oozes 1950s-era charm, and in many ways I envy their being able to have a simpler, small-town lifestyle. Dorine, Kiley, and I took our usual jaunt down to Carlsbad Caverns this afternoon and toured the Caverns, starting at the natural entrance (see other photo). I always enjoy the awe-inspiring walk through the cave, although it's pretty obvious that it only gets a fraction of the tourist traffic that it had, say, fifty or sixty years ago. The drive down here is much more pleasant now that U.S. 285 is a four-lane divided highway all the way from the Clines Corners exit off I-40. We'll hang out most of tomorrow with the Twitchells before driving back, but it looks like we will not stay a third night as I'd hoped.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hiking Again - South Sandia Peak

Today I was finally able to take the third of three hikes in the Sandia Mountains that I wanted to do this year. This time I went by myself, starting at the top of Menaul Blvd. and taking what Mike Coltrin's Sandia Mountain Hiking Guide calls the "Whitewash Trail." The top photo, taken from Google Earth (double-click for detail), shows my approximate route, which traces a more-or-less clockwise path from the starting point on the left. I first wandered my way up to the first little promontory at the head of Whitewash Canyon. From there, I was able to locate the main "ridge" trail, which skirts around the north side of the ridge, along the head of what the topo map calls "Long Canyon," before following the rest of the ridge, up and down, to Oso Pass. (I'd never been on the "ridge" route before, which is surprisingly well-defined most of the way up, even if it seems to meander its way past every boulder or rock outcrop en route.) At Oso Pass, I got on the upper part of the Embudito Trail, which is unrelentingly steep until it finally curves around to the east shortly before its terminus at the South Crest Trail, and then I took the little spur trail that leads directly to South Sandia Peak, which trail, judging from its well-worn condition, must receive a lot of traffic these days. (The photo on the right shows the approach to South Peak on the spur trail -- guess I needed to clean the lens on my camera.) I felt pretty crappy on most of the ascent, so I was surprised that I made it all the way to the top in three hours, fifty minutes -- pretty good time for me, given the difficult route.

I ate lunch at South Peak, snapped a few photos (see the photo on the left, which looks down on the ridge that I came up), and wrote in my journal for a few minutes. Then I went down off the back of the peak to find the enchanting little canyon we'd found in 2001 while backpacking with the scouts, which is notable for both its thick stand of aspens and a number of limestone pillars that resemble statuary. From there, I made my way east to the South Crest Trail, then took a swing past Deer Pass (one of my five favorite camping spots in the world) on my way back down the Embudito Trail. I'd already decided not to take the ridge back down, so at Oso Pass I took the Three Gun Spring Trail down to the Embudo Trail (the upper part of which is only barely recognizable as a "trail"), and followed Embudo Canyon all the way back down to where my truck was parked. (It was definitely the long way down!)

I was almost totally spent at the end, having been gone for nearly eight hours and hiking most of that time. It was a pretty ambitious hike, one that I'm not sure I'll ever care to repeat at this stage of my life. However, South Peak is perhaps the most-enchanting area of the Sandias -- in large part because there's no easy way to get there -- and I'm sure I'll see it again soon.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bouldering at U-Mound, Sandia Foothills

Here's some video, self-taken (hence its being off-frame), of me doing an easy (V0) boulder problem at U-Mound, which is located in the Sandia foothills between Lomas and Copper. (The sequence I'm doing here is one of the easier variations of the "I-2" problem described in Andy Mayer's "A Guide to U-Mound Bouldering," found at I'd like to do a lot more climbing in the boulders than I currently do, but it's difficult to find time to do much of anything these days. There's been so much erosion around some of the boulders at U-Mound in recent years that I can't even get off the ground on a few "problems" that I used to be able to do. That which I'm still capable of doing, however, is good exercise, and I enjoy the outdoor recreation.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Buoying Up McCain: Our Tone-Deaf Media

I don't have much else to say about this year's presidential election, except that the manner in which most of the major news media have dropped all pretense of objectivity in seeking to secure a victory for Barack Obama has been positively breathtaking. That the election is still pretty much a toss-up at this point, even with the threats to (and pending broad-scale government intervention in) our financial markets, is a testament to the fact that traditional media no longer exercise nearly as much influence on public opinion as they'd like to think they do. Moreover, there is profound irony in the fact that the media's extremely biased reporting -- especially their utter refusal to scrutinize/publicize Obama's record and life history as they've done to his opposition, not to mention their completely glossing over the various idiotic things that Joe Biden has said (e.g., regarding President Franklin Roosevelt's supposedly going on television in 1929 to reassure the public about the stock market crash) -- seems actually to be causing a fair number of marginal Democrats to consider voting for McCain/Palin. In my observations, these media types aren't stupid, which suggests that they must know the effect their unfair reporting is having on swing voters. But they simply can't help it! The emotions that this election is eliciting, especially on the left, are producing a certain tone-deaf desperation that even Freud couldn't rationalize, making one wonder whether more than a few heads won't explode if McCain wins. (Me? I think it will be a shame if Obama wins, but I also think our country's institutions will survive four years of him, just like they survived four years of Jimmy Carter. I don't anticipate his being elected a second time if, perchance, he wins on this go-round.)

It's apparent that most Democrats and their fellow travelers in the media believe that Republicans are a dull, unintelligent lot (never mind evil and malicious). However, it bears pointing out, as more than one pundit has done, that the Democrats managed to nominate their sole candidate (not counting the moonbat-magnet Dennis Kucinich) who could lose this election, whereas the Republicans nominated their lone candidate who could win it. That tells me a lot.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sixth Grade at McCollum Elementary

While I'm on this run of autobiographical posts, I thought I might as well upload the attached "class picture" from my sixth-grade year at McCollum Elementary School. I still have good memories of that year, which in some ways seems as though it happened yesterday. My teacher was Mrs. Whitmore, who was easily my most-sympathetic teacher to that point. The principal was Mr. Montman, who was in his first year at the school after his predecessor, Miss Morrow, retired. (My most enduring memory of Mr. Montman was from years later, when I was a senior in high school. He had been appointed to some kind of obscenity commission in Albuquerque that was tasked with determining whether the porn film Deep Throat offended community standards of decency. As he was leaving the theater, a local television news reporter asked him what he thought of the movie; his response -- something to the effect of "It was great! I thought it was the funniest thing I ever saw!" -- was rather telling, I thought.)

I could say a lot about my sixth-grade year, but I'll keep it relatively short. First, I remember I had a crush that year on Jeri Locke, which seems strange now. She was LDS, although her family was only marginally active in church when they moved to Albuquerque and went completely inactive shortly thereafter. Second, Duane Dalby was the third Mormon in the class and lived on my street, although he moved to Grand Junction, CO with his mother when his parents divorced a couple of years later. (Down the road, he and I went through the MTC at roughly the same time; he went to the Chile Santiago North mission, and we actually saw each other in Santiago a couple of times, too.) And third, I'll never forget a very funny classroom episode that happened that year. Most of the boys in the class were fairly expert at shooting spitwads; the usual delivery system was the shell of a Bic pen used as a blowgun, but one day, during "reading" time after lunch, I was experimenting with a 6" plastic ruler used as a catapult. Unfortunately, I overshot my intended target and the spitwad hit Mrs. Whitmore on the arm. (I still have a vivid mental picture of her being so startled that she practically jumped out of her chair!) She immediately got up and started grilling all the boys in the class to try to identify the culprit, but, luckily, the fact that it could have been any one of eight or nine kids gave me "plausible deniability," and I escaped punishment. (Yes...I lied.)

I can actually remember all of the kids' first names and most of their last names. Top Row: Mr. Montman, Mrs. Whitmore, John Lindsey, Toni Lopez, Mitch Magee, Kim Olson, Stan Esquibel, Dolores Trujillo. Second Row: Mary Weimer, Amy Harris, Patrick Sena, Elisa Banda. Third Row: Tom Eaker, Jeanette Vigil, David Lewis, Linda Peña, James Snider, Perri Stovall, Duane Dalby, Colleen Kimble. Fourth Row: Jeri Locke, Elizabeth Plumley, Jeff Kamin, Trina Stewart, Steve Gallegos, Cheryl MacKay. Bottom Row: Paul ____, Cella Dewey, Shawn Herringer, Laura Madrid, Clarence Montoya, me, Todd ____.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Playing Softball with the Saints

I played softball for a lot of years in the city church league with the Albuquerque Saints, a team formed by Pat Wallace and Tony Collyer that consisted over the years almost entirely of LDS church members. I came to love playing softball -- I can honestly say that until I had acute cerebral flatulence in 1993 and had radial keratotomy done on my eyes, which severely impaired my ability to see a ball under lights (or to tell how fast the ball was coming at me, day or night), I would almost rather play softball than eat. Slow-pitch softball is a hitter's game, but my favorite part was playing in the outfield and chasing down fly balls, and the frustration and humiliation of not being able to see the ball finally made me give up the game in, I think, 1997.

We were a pretty good team and won our league most of the years I played, although we always had it handed to us when we went to big out-of-town tournaments (e.g., in Show Low, AZ and Dallas, TX). Pat still has a Saints team, although I'm not sure how many of the original guys (most of whom are now in their early-to-mid fifties) still play. I played a few games with them several years ago -- I could still hit the ball well, but I had to play catcher and watch all the younger guys on the team run circles around me.

This photo was taken in my first year with the team in 1984. I remember I had a bad hitting year that season -- slow-pitch softball is all about feeling comfortable and confident at the plate and in the field, and I hadn't yet developed that kind of confidence in my playing -- but, thankfully, Pat and Tony kept me on the team. I hit my peak in 1990, when the team voted me their MVP, something I still consider an honor. It was sad that I had to give up softball a number of years before my time, but there was a positive outcome in that I turned to less-competitive forms of recreation that drew me closer to nature.

My First Car - 1978 Fiat Strada

In the summer of 1982, my sister Kristen took a roll of photos of me; the intent was for me to have pictures to send to people I'd known in Chile, but I ended up keeping a few of the prints, including this one. It shows me in front of my parents' house with my first car, a 1978 Fiat Strada that my parents helped me buy in August 1981 from Tracy Carroll's dad Bill, a car wholesaler. My Strada, which I drove until 1989 (at which time Dorine and I replaced it with a used Mercury Topaz), was an interesting, if temperamental car that simply did not like to run in cold weather. It had a surprising amount of interior room for a small car, and it was fun and economical to drive (well, most of the time). I had more than a few epic experiences in it, but two stand out in my mind. The first was the time I broke down late at night in Lybrook, NM on the way home from BYU for Christmas in 1981 (and had to call my mother and brother Roger to come tow me home in a snowstorm). The second was the time Jeff Jolley and I drove up to Sanford, CO to play with the Albuquerque 11th Ward team in
the regional softball tournament in August 1983. Timewise, we were cutting things close anyway, leaving Albuquerque late, but what made things worse was that neither of us knew the route from Española, NM to the San Luis Valley, and we were well on the way to Taos before we realized we were on the wrong road. We didn't have time to backtrack, so we drove across the Rio Grande Gorge bridge, and fifteen miles of dirt roads, to get back on U.S. 285. By that time, we were so far behind schedule that we had to drive 90 mph the rest of the way -- looking back, I'm surprised my car would even go that fast -- and we pulled up to the field just a few seconds before our team would have had to forfeit. (Ironically, that first game was against the Albuquerque 6th Ward, my home ward, of which my father was still bishop at the time.)

BYU - Living at Deseret Towers

This photo, taken by my friend and fellow "KNOB" Galen Kekauoha, shows me sometime in the fall of 1977, playing my Gibson SG electric guitar in the dorm room I shared with Bob Maes in BYU's Deseret Towers dorm complex. I had worked that spring in Albuquerque, bagging groceries in a food store, to get the money to buy a nice electric guitar; I wanted a Gibson Les Paul, but in the end I wasn't quite able to save enough money -- hence my buying the SG instead. Deseret Towers has now been razed, or is in the process of being razed, which points up the growing unpopularity of on-campus housing in Provo. I kept the SG until 1984, when I sold it to buy the diamond for Dorine's engagement ring. I wish I still had it, especially since it would be worth some serious coin now. (I sold it for $225 in the days when every kid wanted to have big hair and play a fluorescent-pink Jackson Soloist. It would be worth perhaps seven or eight times that much now)

Seeing this picture now brings back a lot of memories. I was in my 4%-body fat days. We lived on the south side of the top floor of "T" Hall, which is/was situated between two other halls; thus, we had no clear view of anything besides "U" Hall to the south. I was seriously homesick most of the fall semester, but fortunately friends like Bob and Galen helped me stick things out.

I still have the leather guitar strap with my name on it (a very 70s sort of fetish), which a fellow student from my high school named Joe Lifke made for me right about the time I bought the SG (and for which he only charged me $8.00, as I remember). It still looks and functions like new, although with the extra girth that my body has acquired over time, my guitar rides quite a bit higher than it used to--and my name appears on my shoulder, almost!

Friday, September 19, 2008

The 11th Ward - Coda

Here are photos of Shawna M______ (left) and Sue A______ (right); I'm pretty sure I don't have a photo of Barbara T______. Out of curiosity, I googled Shawna's name and found that, indeed, she lives in the Seattle area. I also found a recent photo of her that strongly suggests that she is of a different "orientation" now, which is both surprising and, well, not surprising, given that she always swam against the stream. (One wonders to what extent jerk-y boyfriends -- obsessively clingy, insufferably priggish, and unable to accept rejection [describes me to a tee] -- figured in that change.) Sue is no longer listed in the phone directory as a lawyer, at least under her maiden name; thus I don't know if she and her husband still live in the Albuquerque area.

And -- I can't resist it -- here is the full set of lyrics to the song I mentioned in my earlier post: 

Journal (sung to "Diary"; words by D.R. Watkins III and R.A. Lenberg II [with tongues firmly in cheek])

I found the bishop's journal in a drawer,
And started reading of our ward,
Of all the sinful things that they'd confessed
Unto the bishop and the Lord.
I read of all the sick, perverted things they'd done.
Couldn't believe it --
Wish I had seen it!

I read where Patty after her first date
Went home and told her mom, "Steve's great!"
Displayed the marks he gave her at the Crest;
She even has one on her...arm.
And who would ever think Bill Steagall has a whip?
Couldn't believe it --
Wish I had seen it!

And as I looked through the book,
How my testimony shook,
But I liked it just the same.

I read how Ron went on a date with Pam;
They went out cycling by the Tram.
They hit a rock, both fell, Ron would be dead --
Pam amply cushioned up his head.
And Kevin Kartchner's got a new girl half his age.
Who's dating Sue now?
If Lowell only knew now.

And as Craig goes through his life,
All he thinks of is a wife,
And whose home teaching is done.

I put the journal back inside the drawer.
I didn't need to read much more.
I'd read enough sins in one afternoon
To make a filthy movie soon.
And all these marriages,
I now know why they're rushed:
They just can't wait now --
She's two weeks late now. 

As I go to church of late,
I now know which girls to date
For the best time I can have...
For the best time I can have.

(Well, I said we were pretty irreverent....)

["Patty" was Patty McGraw, a nice girl with a great sense of humor. "Steve" was Steve Schulte, Patty'
s then-future husband. "Ron" was Ron Wiser, who eventually married Cindy Shupe and is now the stake president in Roswell, NM. "Pam" was Pam Aguilar, who, as the lyrics suggest, was both well-endowed and fitness-minded. "Sue," of course, was Sue A______, and "Lowell" was Lowell Huber, who dated Sue before I did. "Craig" was Craig Mortensen, who, in addition to being elders quorum president, was well-known for hitting on all the new girls in the ward. (Craig married a girl named Cissy Reazin in the summer of 1981, but by the time I came back from BYU in May 1982, he was already divorced and back doggin' the girls in 11th Ward.) Bill Steagall was a very strait-laced fellow from Brazil (his slave-holding forbears moved there after the American Civil War, and he spoke native-level English and Portuguese), who eventually married Melissa Maw.]

[Update 1/4/2011: Sue's senior annual from Highland HS has been uploaded to, and here is a bad copy (taken from a screen shot) of her school photo from it.  I didn't know Sue until years later, but she obviously was übercute as a teenager -- very pretty eyes and exotic good looks.  (I'd also say that straight[er] hair suited her better than the perm she wore in 1983.)  Reportedly, she dated a fellow named Randy G______ for a long time before deciding to serve a church mission; in fact, more than one person later expressed surprise to me that the two of them had not gotten married, but of course not all long-term dating relationships result in marriage.  I'm glad things have apparently turned out well for her -- she had a lot on the ball, certainly more than I ever did.]

[Update 1/5/2011: Here's what I seriously doubt is Barbara T_____'s favorite photo of herself -- her ninth-grade school picture from the 1976 West Mesa HS yearbook.  (It's amazing what one can dredge up on these days; "Gold" membership indeed has its privileges.)  I met Barbara five-plus years later, when she was twenty and had blossomed significantly.  She was working as a legal secretary and was bright enough to steer clear of me for the most part; she could see, at a time when she had me fairly bedazzled, that our respective neuroses weren't a good combination.  I have to assume she married a lawyer at some point, and I hope she found happiness.  (I once wrote a song for her, which I still sometimes play now, called "If You Want Me" -- to pose the condition was to respond to it in the negative)]

[Update 2/27/2011: Here's Shawna M______'s ninth-grade school picture from the 1980 Eldorado HS yearbook.  It's interesting to me for the fact that she appears to have affected something of a "mannish" look as a high-school freshman that she didn't have at age eighteen when I knew her (see her senior [twelfth-grade] picture above).  I would never have pegged her as having same-sex attraction during the short time that we dated -- and neither would her friends from that era [her best friend at the time is now one of my "friends" on Facebook] -- but now I'm wondering if there were signs of it earlier in her life. I guess one never knows.]

[Update 3/14/11: Here is a photo of Barbara T______ from roughly the period in which I was interested in her.  It came from an upload to the Facebook group that people created for 11th Ward Alumni.  Barbara doesn't look as attractive here as she remains in my memory, but she did start wearing contact lenses at one point, revealing pretty eyes.

Here is a photo that someone had from Sue A_____'s mission in Argentina; Sue (L) is standing here with a missionary companion.  This would have been around 1981.

"I wouldn't touch you with a ten-foot pole"
[Update 7/28/11: I found this photo on Facebook, too.  It didn't mean much when I first looked at it -- just another photo from a ward activity in 1981 -- but when I examined it more closely, it made me laugh out loud.  I'm in the yellow shirt on the left, playing my guitar and hoping to impress Barbara T_____, who's standing on the right and is purposely keeping her distance from me (while looking like she might be having second thoughts -- either that, or she's annoyed at her sister Penny, to my immediate right, for standing so close to me).  What a perfect illustration for me of that summer's frustrations!  I can't really understand now my attraction to Barbara then, although I'm not sure I ever quite got over her rejecting me; however, I'm guessing I would finally let it go if I saw a recent photo of her.  (Not that I look any better after the ravages of thirty years.)]  

 [Update 7/3/14: There have been quite a few more yearbooks posted recently on from Albuquerque-area high schools, including Barbara T______'s 1979 senior annual from West Mesa HS.  It contains this picture of Barbara -- a much-better photo than her 9th-grade school picture, I must say.  It's funny how some high schools continued, in the late 70s and beyond, to make girls bare their shoulders, and boys to wear tuxedos (with bow ties, no less), for their senior pictures.  I still haven't seen a recent photo of Barbara, although I did meet up with her sister Penny, who still lives in the Albuquerque area but no longer attends the LDS Church, at last year's 11th Ward reunion.  I think I've finally exorcised my 11th Ward "ghosts."  Lyle and Wilma Porter's A History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New Mexico notes both the creation of the 11th Ward on September 24, 1978 (from what had previously been the student branch/ward) and its dissolution on August 3, 1986.  Somehow I'd had it in my head that the ward had lasted a few years longer than that, but it sort of makes sense now that I know.]

[Update 4/19/16: Here it is -- the "recent" photo of Barbara (alongside her husband Kary Simcox) that I've been wanting to see for years.  Time appears to have treated her fairly gently, although the pic still represents a species of "resolution" for me.]