Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"Rally" Scoring and the Ruination of Volleyball

I was never particularly good at volleyball, except within the context of the stake men's league we used to have at church. However, I have always liked to watch good volleyball being played, so it interests me whenever rule changes are implemented. Four significant rule changes that have occurred since I played are (1) the "legalization" of the two-hand "soft dig" (or "beach dig," as we used to call it), which was always called a double-contact in the old days, (2) a serve's being called "in" that hits the top of the net and falls over into the opponent's side of the court; (3) the ability to serve from anywhere on the back line; and (4) the creation of the "libero" position (a back-row player, a sort of "designated" digger or serve-receiver, who can be inserted at multiple positions in his team's rotation). Two additional changes in strategy, which did not entail major rule changes but have changed the game greatly, are (1) the jump serve (which in turn has placed a premium on passing skills); and (2) widespread use of the "5-1" system, where one setter sets from all six positions in the rotation (which in turn requires one attacker from the back row when the setter is playing in the front row).

However, the rule change that, in my view, has had the biggest impact -- an extremely negative impact -- is the implementation of so-called "rally" scoring, where every serve produces a point. (In the old days, only the serving team could win a point -- the other team played to win the serve.) I guess the rationale was to speed up the game, which it definitely has done, despite the fact that it now it takes 25 or 30 points to win a game instead of 15. However, it also makes it extremely difficult for a team to come back from any significant deficit, because the team that's ahead only has to keep "siding out" to win the game. Also, given that it's generally much easier to win a point when receiving serve than when serving, "rally" scoring tends to punish a team that has won a point by making it serve the next point. The logic seems backward to me: if the rule-makers really want to speed up the game, why not make a team serve until it wins a point, then make the other team serve until it wins a point, and so forth? It is for these reasons that "rally" scoring has practically ruined volleyball in my opinion.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Church and Pornography

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the topic of pornography lately, especially as general and local church authorities have made repeated references to it, which in turn suggests that it is a bigger problem in the church than the membership at large can guess. I've wondered how I can address my feelings on this topic without appearing to defend pornography and those who indulge in it; therefore, let me say first that I do indeed believe that pornography, in all its forms, is evil and a thing to be avoided by persons who aspire to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

However, I've concluded that a man's use of pornography, and the "self abuse" that almost necessarily results therefrom, can be (and probably most often is) a greater sign of a defect in the fabric holding his marriage together than a defect in his character per se -- the latter being the message that usually comes across in church discourses on the subject. This is a crucial distinction, because once one accepts that the true weakness is in the marital bond, not in the man, it becomes clear that responsibility for the use of pornography extends beyond a man's capacity for self-mastery.

To illustrate the point, let me cite two general authorities from two different eras of church history. The first is Heber C. Kimball, who was an apostle and a member of the First Presidency serving under Brigham Young in the mid-19th Century. To give context to this statement, remember that it was made during a time when the Church was (a) practicing plural marriage, and (b) having to defend the practice against a litany of attacks from both outside and inside the Church. Quoth Elder Kimball:

I have noticed that a man who has but one wife, and is inclined to that doctrine, soon begins to wither and dry up, while a man who goes into plurality looks fresh, young and sprightly. Why is this? Because God loves that man, and because he honors his word. Some of you may not believe this, but I not only believe it but I also know it. For a man to be confined to one woman is small business. ... I do not know what we should do if we had only one wife apiece. (Deseret News, April 22, 1857.*)
* I can't vouch for the primary source of the citation, as the quote comes from an independent website, but it jibes with similar sentiments published at around the same time.

I don't know how much to read into Elder Kimball's remarks -- I'm certainly no big proponent of polygamy -- although it is clear that church leaders of the time considered monogamy to be both an unnatural social construct
and the source of impulses leading to adultery, prostitution, and the spread of disease (cf. Journal of Discourses, particularly Volumes 4 and 13). One thing that Elder Kimball does appear to be saying, however, is that having regular physical relations with his wife (or wives) is good for a man's constitution.

The second quote is from Elder Boyd K. Packer, the current president of the Quorum of the Twelve:

It was necessary that this power of [procreation] have at least two dimensions. One, it must be strong, and two, it must be more or less constant. This power must be strong. Except for the compelling persuasion of these feelings, men would be reluctant to accept the responsibility of sustaining a home and a family. This power must be constant, too, for it becomes a binding tie in family life. (Young Women Manual 2, lesson titled "The Sacred Power of Procreation.")
Elder Packer seems to be saying that without regular expression of these "strong" and "more or less constant" feelings, men perforce have almost no inclination toward marriage. Let's put it in plain words: absent sex on a regular basis, men find marriage less appealing and, in general, feel less strongly bound to their wives and more attracted to other women. Considering Elder Kimball's words with Elder Packer's, one is led to the conclusion that it is not only possible for a married man to be sex-starved, but for that state to be healthy neither for him individually nor for the marriage in general. Why should it be any great surprise, then, for a man, even a Melchizedek priesthood holder, who feels thus starved, to say to himself, "Heck, I didn't get married to be celibate!" and to seek another outlet (one that, for the most part, falls short of divorce and remarriage to some equally sex-starved, perhaps younger woman)?

Again, I don't say this to defend pornography or those who use it (especially those who truly do become obsessed with it or addicted to it, and/or who allow it to distort or pervert their view of -- and particularly their actions toward -- the opposite sex). But it would be nice if someone in a position of authority in the church stated the obvious: (1) that a lack of marital intimacy (whether relative or complete) is a large, and perhaps the largest, contributing factor in setting married men on the pornography path; and (2) that there is a simple fix in many, if not most cases. However, that would suggest that wives bear some responsibility for their husbands' actions -- never mind the sheer inconvenience of the obvious remedy -- and that appears to be too much to expect in the church these days. (Unlike in Elder Kimball's day, Mormon men are now generally presumed to be wrong, and Mormon women right, about virtually everything touching on marriage, including the extent and quality of the sexual component thereof.) I always find it extremely ironic when I read some woman's sad story about how she "lost" her husband to a porn addiction, and she says, "If I'd only known what his needs were...." Well, did she bother to ask? And would it really have made a difference had she known?

[Update 12/15/10: I've been reminded recently that pornography almost necessarily entails exploitation, which of course is another reason to condemn it in the strongest terms.  I also read today about a young man who became a porn "actor" and within months had contracted the HIV virus (after first becoming infected with chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes).  I find it grotesque that "progressives" are so quick to condemn behaviors such as smoking or eating fat-laden fast food, citing the health-care costs associated therewith, yet they say not one word about promiscuity and other risky sexual behaviors that naturally spread disease and therefore also create massive health-care costs.  Emerson said that "[a] foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," but the Left has elevated logical inconsistency to an ideological art form.]

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Utah/Arizona Trip - April 2010

These photos are from a hike that Darren and I took in the Grand Canyon on Saturday, April 24, as we were traveling home from Utah. I drove up to Utah Valley on Wednesday the 21st and stayed two nights with my brother Kelly in Orem. (I also got to see my other brothers while I was there.) Darren and I left Provo on Friday the 23rd, heading south through Manti and Panguitch on U.S. 89 and eventually spending the night in Kanab. My original plan was to drive the following day to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and take a day hike down part of the North Kaibab Trail and back out; however, it wasn't until Saturday morning, when I mentioned our plans to a convenience-store clerk in Kanab, that I found out the North Rim is completely closed until mid-to-late May. Thus we decided to drive around, through Page and via the AZ 64 entrance to the park, to the South Rim. We hiked down the Bright Angel Trail to the 3-mile rest station and then back out, which proved to be all the hike I could handle in my current state of health and fitness. Later we drove down to Flagstaff and spent the night there before driving home on Sunday the 25th. I had a fun time and enjoyed Darren's company very much!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Kiley's Last AYS Concert

These photos are from Kiley's Albuquerque Youth Symphony concert on Sunday, April 10, 2010, which marked the end of her tenure in AYS. She was seated in the first chair in the cello section and had a short solo in one of the pieces they played (Respighi's The Pines of Rome.). The first photo shows the entire group as viewed from the mezzanine at Popejoy Hall. The second shows Kiley during the concert, directly to the right of Gabriel Gordon, the group's conductor. (For some reason, AYS started seating the violas on the outside a couple of years ago, leaving the cellos just to the inside.) The third shows Kiley and others standing on their chairs, a tradition for graduating seniors in the last concert of the season. And the last photo shows Kiley with Dorine and me after the concert. It seems strange that Kiley is already done with AYS (and, especially, that she won't be auditioning for it again next month); however, it wasn't quite as fun for her this year, as she had more friends in the group last year. Thus she's ready to move on -- she's decided to attend UNM this fall, and has to decide whether or not to accept the music scholarship it has offered her (on top of the usual "Bridge"/lottery scholarships available to New Mexico high-school graduates attending in-state universities), which may hinge on whether she has to declare as a music major.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Getting Up to Date

I thought I'd post a few comments concerning topics about which I've commented before:

1. Music from the 60s. I continue to be amazed at the variety of old video available from the 1960s showing old rock and pop artists at the height of their popularity. A Youtube user with the moniker "nyrainbow" has uploaded a boatload of old footage from the mid-60s music program Shindig, which footage apparently only exists today as a series of kinescopes. Her "channel" is not to be missed!
2. The Gym. We are still going to Planet Fitness on Eubank Blvd. It has become a lot more popular since we first joined in October of last year, meaning one has to wait for a treadmill at times of peak demand. I'm having issues with my usual exercise routine due to the constant dizziness I've felt since our cruise in January, but I think I may be able to get by with some kind of interval training.
3. My Every Day Lunch. I now get an apple every day instead of a banana! That's the only change, however.
4. National Public Radio. I've finally grown weary of listening to NPR in the mornings. I find I have almost zero interest in anything they have to say, about virtually any topic, and consequently I've started listening to the local classic-rock station in the mornings instead. (Frankly, Ozzy Osbourne -- not to mention Ted Nugent -- is a greater voice of reason than Steve Inskeep, Renee Montagne and a thousand left-leaning NPR reporters! I've also stopped frequenting the "SuperTopo" climbers forum for the same reason: as fascinating as it can be to listen to people whose values and perspectives are completely different from my own, at some point I always conclude they're nuts, pure and simple.)
5. The Temple. I'm now almost 18 months into my two-year calling as an ordinance worker in the Albuquerque Temple. It seems almost preposterous to refer to a "two-year" calling, since most people stay on much longer than that -- and, in fact, the temple simply couldn't be staffed if that didn't happen -- but somehow I think I'll be ready to stop when I hit two years, especially if my mal de debarquement symptoms haven't abated by then. I still like going to the temple, but the notion of devoting every Wednesday afternoon and evening to it has become a little tiresome. (It's difficult to believe that the Albuquerque Temple has now been open for ten years!)
6. The Albuquerque Youth Symphony. Kiley is about to finish up her tenure in AYS -- the 2009-2010 season ends with the "Gala" concert (which features all of the orchestras in the AYS program) this Sunday evening at Popejoy Hall. It has been a good experience for Kiley, and we hope that it will inspire her to continue to develop her musical talents.
7. My Favorite Movies. I've gone back and embedded clips from Youtube for all fifty of my "favorite" movies that I first wrote about in April 2008. The list might be slightly different if I were making it today, but it's still pretty reflective of the movies I like most -- even if "R"-rated films are disturbingly over-represented.
8. Camping in New Mexico. It appears we might actually get to do some family camping this summer. Devery and Easton would like to go back to Villanueva State Park; Kristy and Chris reportedly want to so some overnight trips; and I'd like to go back to White Sands National Monument and Oliver Lee State Park. (With that many people pulling Dorine out the door, she just might agree to go!)
9. Hiking in the Sandias. I don't have very many specific hikes that I want to do in the Sandia Mountains this summer, but John Brewer and I have the goal of hiking the entire Crest Trail in one day. I can remember wanting to do that in my late 20s, although it never quite happened. I think I'm still capable of it, even at 50/51 years old -- the question is how will I feel afterwards (and whether I'll ever be able to walk again). We will almost of a necessity go from north (Placitas) to south (Tijeras), simply because the principal elevation gain occurs earlier in the hike that way, although I'd prefer to go south-to-north just for something different. I've told John that I will brook no shortcuts: we must stay on the Crest Trail the entire way.

[Photo is from the summer of 1992 -- about the time I quit being a lawyer and went to work at Sandia National Laboratories -- and shows what our family room used to look like. Check out that old IBM AT personal computer!]