Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Random Thoughts - Part 3

1. I've had to laugh at the recent revelations about the unethical scientific practices of the folks at the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in the UK. The hacked/leaked e-mails demonstrate quite amply that the CRU and other, like-minded ideologues have reached certain conclusions about "climate change" and aren't about to let contrary evidence or heretical individuals (scientists or others) dissuade them or interfere with their political agenda. All I can say is: "Yeah -- like we didn't know that was going on!" As good an idea as renewable energy is in the abstract, carbon-based sources of energy are likely to be the only feasible alternative in the real world for some time yet. The good news is that the wind (metaphorically and otherwise) seems to be leaving the sails of those who would use carbon dioxide as a pretext for massive new energy taxes and unaccountable global governance -- as evidenced by the just-finished summit on "climate change" in Copenhagen, whence, predictably, came nothing of import except an excuse to do it again next year.

2. I'm also mildly amused by the Democrats' intense push to pass a health care bill -- any health care bill -- in Barack Obama's first year in office. The idea of government-run health care is extremely unpopular in the US, so why are the Dems doing it, especially on a strict party-line vote that will probably cause them to lose seats in both houses of Congress in the 2010 mid-term elections? Well, I happen to agree with conservative pundits who say that this is the last, best chance for the Left to set in motion what will eventually morph into what they've always wanted -- a single-payer national health service and all the control and bureaucratic bloat that implies -- and they're thinking that taking a short-term electoral hit is a small price to pay to move America's political culture permanently, and terminally, to some point left of center. And Obama can take credit for something, no matter how bad the bill is, and even if neither he nor the public knows what's in it.

3. At least President Obama's administration finally decided to change tack on the situation in Honduras, apparently deciding that Mel Zelaya, the ousted Honduran president, is a nutball who only makes his supporters look stupid by association. (I can only imagine how tired of Zelaya the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa is becoming; one wonders what he'll do after January -- when the newly elected president, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, will be sworn in -- and he no longer has any plausible claim on the office.) Recent elections in a few Latin American countries (Honduras, Argentina, and Chile, not to mention Colombia) have provided hope that the spread of el chavismo (i.e., populist neo-communism) has been stemmed in Latin America.

4. In my Sunday School lesson a couple of weeks ago, I discussed Doctrine and Covenants Section 134, which is a declaration of Mormon beliefs (dating to the Kirtland, Ohio era in 1835) on the topic of governments and laws. I found Verse 12 to be particularly intriguing:

We believe it just to preach the gospel to the nations of the earth, and warn the righteous to save themselves from the corruption of the world; but we do not believe it right to interfere with bond-servants, neither preach the gospel to, nor baptize them contrary to the will and wish of their masters, nor to meddle with or influence them in the least to cause them to be dissatisfied with their situations in this life, thereby jeopardizing the lives of men; such interference we believe to be unlawful and unjust, and dangerous to the peace of every government allowing human beings to be held in servitude.

When I first read this verse, I thought, "Well, that wasn't a very enlightened position to take on the institution of slavery, even in 1835." However, owning a copy of the Ken Burns film The Civil War and having watched it several times, I realize what the Civil War cost, in both blood and treasure, to keep the Union together while ridding it of slavery. I also know that legalized slavery in the United States could not have lasted another generation, as more and more light was cast upon it and its inherent evil became progressively apparent to all. Therefore, in hindsight the Civil War was fought, essentially, to cause abolition to occur a few decades earlier than it inevitably would have done otherwise. (I consider it instructive that slavery ended bloodlessly in Brazil in the 1880s.) It's often said that the war was the penance this country had to do for the "original sin" of slavery (and even that wasn't enough if you buy into the idea of reparations for descendants of slaves), but it's occurred to me to wonder just how necessary the war really was, and whether the church's statement on slavery in 1835 wasn't quite as benighted as it seems at first blush now.

5. Dorine and I have now been married for 25 years, which is a genuine milestone for a couple. However, I tend to look at next August as an even bigger milestone in my life, when we will have been married for as long as I was old when we got married. (The exact date will be July 31, 2010 if you go by the number of years [25], months [7] and days [13] of my age on our wedding day, or August 3, 2010 if you simply go by the number of days [9,359].) The passage of time is a funny thing, not that I'd care to slow it down or replay it.

6. Given my prolific journal-keeping, I've begun to wonder just what will come of the dozens of journals I've filled since I first started keeping a diary back in 1973. An awful lot of me is contained in those voluminous writings, and one would be able to come to know me pretty well, warts and all, by reading them after I've shuffled off this mortal coil. The question is just who, exactly, would care to come to know me enough to plow through my journals. Assuming they survive me, will they end up someday in a box in the back room of some university library, waiting for some researcher or historian to decide they are representative of, say, an American "anti-social" Mormon in the latter part of the 20th Century and the first part of the 21st? Or, will one of my descendants transcribe, edit, and publish them? Or, simply, will no one care what I thought and felt? It's difficult for me to guess....

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Women in My Life

I flew up to Utah last Thursday and helped Devery and Easton move out of their apartment in Provo and down to their new apartment in Albuquerque (bringing Darren down, also, for the holidays). Easton has now graduated from BYU in Construction Management and will be working for Bradbury Stamm Corporation in Albuquerque. (He, Devery, and Mason will be living near the intersection of Eagle Ranch Rd. and Paradise Blvd. on the west side.) This photo was taken in our living room on Sunday night and shows most of the women in my life (and the two new grandsons -- Nicole and the twins were there but didn't make it into the picture). L-R: Dorine, Heidi, Kiley, Kayla, Mom, Tyler, Devery, Mason, Kristy, Alexis.)

Christmas - Pieces of My Childhood

When I was a child, the Christmas season always seemed full of wonder and possibilities. Essential to that sense of wonder was a set of Christmas tree ornaments that my mother had, consisting of translucent-plastic animals, which have always brought back vivid, cherished memories of my early years. When I told Mom recently that I hoped she'd someday give me one of the ornaments as a memento of my childhood, of course she insisted on giving me two. Surprisingly, she still had five of the original set of six animals -- lambs, kittens, and pigs -- and I selected one of the pigs and one of the kittens (see photo). Just looking at them summons forth hazy memories of a dozen or more Christmas trees (including one that I remember had a bird's nest in its branches, and another, a piñón, whose seed pods kept bursting open in the warmth of our home), and hours upon hours of staring at the lights and decorations and marveling at the colors. Nowadays, Christmas comes and goes with my hardly anticipating it or noticing its passing, but there was a time when it meant the world to me and more.

[Update 2/2/10: My mother had this photo of Devery, taken at my parents' house on Christmas Day, 1992. You can see one of the ornaments in question, a pig, just to the left of Devery's head (on her right).]

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dorine, Then and Now

The photo on the left is Dorine's school picture from ninth grade, which dates to the fall of 1972 (age 14). This is the girl for whom I developed such a mad infatuation, commencing during a youth
temple excursion (to Mesa, AZ) in March 1973 and continuing through that summer and beyond. The photo on the right is her "school picture" from this fall, some 37 years later, with her current hairstyle.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Summer 1973

These pictures were taken in early July 1973, in St. Johns, AZ, on the occasion of the funeral of my great-grandmother Mary Ann (Chapman) Richey, who had passed away a few days earlier at the age of 101 years. The event served as an impromptu family reunion -- I'm certain it was the first time in a number of years that our entire family was together in one place. The photo on the left shows my four brothers and me (L-R): Kelly (19 - two months before he started his church mission to Taiwan), Robin (23 - serving in the Air Force and stationed at Holloman AFB near Alamogordo, NM), Jeff (20 - also serving in the Air Force and stationed either at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque or Cannon AFB near Clovis, NM), Roger (23 - going through his "hippie" stage), and me (14 - in between 8th and 9th grades, and, coincidentally, deep in the throes of an unrequited crush on Dorine). I had jettisoned the photo-gray plastic "aviator" glasses by then, although I still used them for basketball. I was already approaching 6'0" in height; I hoped to grow to 6'5", but it wasn't to be. The photo on the right includes Robin's wife Karolyn (in turquoise), their son Todd, Jeff's (first) wife Karen (lavender pants), and their daughter Pam.

Looking back, this would have been only a week or two before the tragedy at Yellowstone National Park that claimed the lives of four members of our ward (who perished from hypothermia after having their canoes swamped during a storm while on Yellowstone Lake -- only one person who actually went into the water survived). I remember going for an exhilarating motorcycle ride with my brother Jeff (with him on his Honda SL-350 and me on my Honda CL-70) out in the Four Hills subdivision, then coming home and having Kelly tell me what had happened. If I hadn't only recently turned 14, I might have gone to Yellowstone with the group of Explorers/Venturers who made the trip; needless to say, I'm still happy I didn't go.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Seventh Grade: My Year In Hell

This photo is my school picture from seventh grade at Kennedy Junior High School (1971-72), which still rates as the single worst year of my life. I've experienced many difficult periods at different times of my life -- my freshman year of college, my church mission (still the most difficult thing I've ever done), law school and graduate business school, adjusting to being married, being without work after graduation, nerve-rattling courtroom work, having a rebellious child, having monumental tasks to do at work with almost no management support -- but nothing else has compared with the hell that was seventh grade. The difference between my last year (sixth grade) of elementary school and my first year of junior high was similar to growing up in a zoo and then being set loose in the jungle with no survival skills and no support structure. The kids from my elementary school were generally naive and relatively innocent; however, then we were thrown together with kids from the other "feeder" schools, who were street-wise, prone to ganging up on loners, and seemingly into "adult" vices (sex, drinking, drugs, street-fighting, petty crime, etc.) that I could only imagine. It didn't help that the teachers at Kennedy didn't seem to give a rat's behind about their students in general, never mind an individual who was struggling socially (and, consequently, academically). My brother Kelly was in his senior year at the local high school and was a pretty big man on campus due to his being the starting point guard on the basketball team; I can remember thinking that some of that status should have percolated down to me, but it never did (not that it mattered to Kelly). My best friend at the time was my cousin Randy Baca, who, similarly, wanted nothing to do with me at school despite the fact that he was still at Kennedy that year. I wouldn't have wanted to run with the rough crowd that he hung out with (who really were into all the aforementioned vices), but I could have used a little of their "protection," if nothing else.

I remember that some of the girls in my math class started referring to me as "Goggles" on account of my glasses (the plastic "aviator" frames and photo-gray lenses were way ahead of their time in 1971). Many of those girls were probably at the apex of their lives in terms of physical attractiveness and popularity; I can say with some confidence that most of them ended up (to borrow a line from the Hitchcock film Rear Window) fat, alcoholic, and lonely. As for the guys at the school, well, I'm certain that many of them ended up dead or in prison; I can remember feeling more than a little schadenfreude when I found out some years later that one of my tormentors had committed suicide while still a teenager. I'm not sure how many times I missed school in seventh grade -- every day I was gone only compounded the woe I was feeling -- but I estimate I was absent for fully one-third of the school year. (It drove my parents crazy, especially my father, who used to make me drink Geritol -- nasty stuff! -- in an attempt to cure my ills.) That I was allowed to miss that much school, yet still advance to the eighth grade with passing grades, is a testament to what a sh-- heap the school was. (I ended up attending a private SpEd school in eighth grade after finally deciding I couldn't stand Kennedy anymore, and then I attended another public junior school in ninth grade, which represented a stark contrast to Kennedy, especially in that low-life scum fell pretty low in the social pecking-order there.)

Irony: My good friend Rod Williamson's wife Barbara is currently principal of Kennedy, which has now long been a grade 6-8 middle school, and I think his daughter Jenny teaches English there.

[Update: Another irony is that the only school annual that I still possess -- I threw out all my high school yearbooks shortly after my mission -- is the one from seventh grade. Here are a couple of photos from that yearbook. The first is of the kids who played in the seventh-grade basketball program; we played on cold Wednesday mornings before school, and we had an intramural tournament during the holiday break. I also remember that a select few of us played in two "real" games, against seventh-graders from Hoover Middle School. I'm on the far right of the back row. The second photo is of the seventh-grade boys chorus, a class I didn't really like, in large part because I didn't care for the teacher, Mrs. Coupland. (It didn't help that the class contained several of the creeps of whom I make mention above.) I wasn't as tall as I look in the picture -- Duane Dalby, on the far right of the back row, wasn't much shorter than I was -- and thus I think I must have been standing on some kind of box as well as the top riser.]

Sunday, December 6, 2009

2009 AYS Luminaria Fundraiser

Well, we got through another Albuquerque Youth Symphony luminaria fundraiser. It was a trial for the workhouses this year due to the wet sand that was delivered to us (and all the effort we had to expend to try to dry it out in advance). Luckily, we had another conscientious, hard-working crew, and all our preparations on the front end paid off on "Luminaria Day," December 5. We weren't terribly enthused about being a workhouse again this year, but I felt we owed something to AYS after the organization "ate" a lot of the unanticipated expenses from the Australia trip last June (which expenses resulted from the fact that the kids had to stay extra nights in hotels after being barred from staying with Aussie families due to the "H1N1" flu scare). Given that the group's tour next spring will be "regional" (to Denver and Colorado Springs), it wouldn't have seemed fair for us not to shoulder the same burden we took on last year and thus help to replenish the group's coffers. However, Dorine and I are both relieved that Kiley is in her last year of the AYS program, meaning we won't be a workhouse next year!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Fam at Thanksgiving

Here are a couple of photos from the Thanksgiving weekend. The top one contains our entire family. (Top, L-R: Nicole, Alexis, Maddison, Kristy, Chris, Hailee, Dorine, me, Darren, Kiley. Bottom, L-R: Zach, Tyler, Dion, Kayla, Heidi, Devery, Mason, Easton. The bottom shows our 3-years-old-and-under grandchildren. (Clockwise, from bottom: Hailee [20 months], Maddison [20 months], Mason [5 weeks], Tyler [6 weeks], Kayla [3 years].) It was very nice to have the entire family here for Thanksgiving; it was sad to see Devery, Easton, Mason, and Darren go back to Provo, although they'll all be back here soon. (Devery and Easton are moving here, after the latter graduates, in order to take a job with Bradbury Stamm Corporation, although they'll be spending Christmas in Tucson with his family.) This week we're scrambling around trying to get ready for another Albuquerque Youth Symphony luminaria fundraiser, for which we'll once again be a "workhouse." At present we're having to try to dry out a pile of damp sand on our driveway, and we don't yet have adequate supplies of folded paper bags, candles, etc.; however, we're hopeful it will all work out by Saturday.