Posts Tagged ‘Pet peeves’

Obama calls Congress to pass the public commuter bill

President Barack Obama addressed Congress over the weekend in an emergency meeting about the need to push through a public commuter bill.  The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) recently published some alarming statistics regarding automobile drivers over the next ten years:

  • 80% of Americans will lose the use of their car due to mechanical failure, collision, or collection agencies from dealers who didn’t get reimbursed in the Cash for Clunkers programs. 
  • 50% of Americans will be involved in an auto accident.
  • 20% of those in an auto accident will sustain serious or fatal injuries.

“We cannot allow Americans to be without transportation, and we absolutely cannot leave the problem of serious car accidents unresolved,” Obama said.  “Millions suffer serious or fatal injuries in car accidents every year.  Cars produce green house gas emissions that are killing our planet.  It would be un-American to not take precautions to ensure the safety of our people and the earth.  All cars are inherently dangerous and I’m signing an executive order for their immediate nationwide recall.”

Citizens will be required to exchange their cars for life-time passes on a new national public transit system.  Those currently without cars will be able to apply for these same passes at a reduced rate or free depending on their qualifications.  The transit system will be primarily made up of electric buses, but subways and other soon to be announced advanced systems will be built in metro areas.

Obama promises this new public transit system will be implemented without adding to the national debt. “We will hold our public transit employees accountable with how they spend the allotted money.  Buses will not be purchased or active unless there is sufficient documentation to justify the expense to keep costs down.”  Republicans and democrats see this as a bi-partisan effort and are quickly signing on.  Funding will come by raising taxes on cigarettes as the only remaining source of carbon emissions in the nation, and by cracking down on tax fraud.

Some experts warn that efforts to keep costs down will leave some would-be commuters without transportation that they need. “Particularly in the rural areas, some people may have trouble finding a bus route that meets their needs,” Dr. Rabbizter from Harvard on a Hill said. “But even in metro areas, a late or broken down bus will result in some people getting to work late, or even missing an important appointment altogether.  And in peak times even an on-time bus won’t get you there because it will be full.  People will never be guaranteed a seat on a bus, even one they ride regularly.”  Obama expects that patriotic citizens such as employers and doctors will be understanding regarding the unexpected delays that can occur in their employees or patients arrivals to appointments.

The nationwide public transit system is expected to create about 30,000 new government jobs—a welcome opportunity in this economic downturn.  But Bill Trapp, owner of Grey Hound, expects to have to lay off at least 5,000 employees as the public switches to the new public transit system for its subsidized prices, and says other private busing companies will likely have to do the same.  “I don’t know how we’ll compete long term,” Trapp said. “How can a private company make a profit when competing with tax-payer subsidized transportation?”

Even existing local public transportation provided by cities are wondering what this national transit will mean for their existing capital and employees.  Several thousand cities across the U.S. already provide subsidized public transportation for their residents, but Obama can only offer these cities a “cash for clunker-buses” program: “Existing buses simply are not safe enough; not green enough.  We must do everything possible to protect the safety of commuters, and to protect our environment.  Existing local city government employees who drive and service buses will be given the opportunity to keep their jobs—just working on U.S. government buses instead of local ones, although some may have to relocate to take advantage of this offer.”

Government Motors (GM), formerly known as General Motors but renamed when recently acquired by the United States, will be used to manufacture the new buses and provide their service.  Straheli Feihf, Obama’s new transportation czar, assures us that having exactly one manufacturer of all buses, and without competition for automobiles, will guarantee the safest, greenest, most efficient, and cheapest transportation.  “The law of economies of scale tells us that if just one entity produces all the automobiles for a nation, the result will be more efficiency than would be possible in a free market system.”

“I think it’s great,” said a Washington state resident regarding the new plan.  “It’s safer, greener, and free transportation for virtually everyone.  Now if only they could do this for health care.”

(yes, of course this is a parody 😉

Non-smoker awareness week

This week we consider the non-smokers of the world.  Non-smokers have a lot to put up with. 

Second hand smoke is deadly, smelly, very annoying, and can even make non-smokers “carriers” of the horrible smell to other people.  The smoke stains walls and butts burn carpets,

What’s with just dropping your cigarette on the ground or out your car window?!  Hello?! That’s littering. While not all smokers do this, many do.  Even if you don’t respect your own body enough to quit smoking, don’t disrespect our community for the rest of us to clean up your cigarette butts.  Pet owners carry doggie-bags to pick up after their pet.  Maybe smokers should carry fireproof butt-bags to extinguish and transport their cigarette butts.

It seems that most smokers don’t respect the laws that are supposed to protect the rest of us like, staying 20 feet away from bus stop enclosures and from building entrances. 

If you smoke outside your office building at work, take several deep breaths of fresh air before coming inside.  Heck, go for a short jog first and air out all your clothes.  Then take the stairs instead of the elevator.  It’s horrid for a non-smoker when they step into an empty elevator and can smell the remains of the last smoker to occupy that confined space.

Celebration instructions: Find some clean air and breath deeply.

Sobriety Awareness Week

We dedicate this week to those who do not partake of alcohol.

Cost to Society

How many millions of dollars per year to non-drinkers pay in taxes to support emergency and health services for people who do stupid things while under the influence. 


We encourage employers who control the budget for morale events to consider those of their employees who do not drink alcohol.  How many more morale events can be scheduled for the next fiscal year if alcohol were not served at these events?  Or perhaps other treats can be served as well so that non-drinkers won’t feel excluded.

It may be that drinkers would willingly give up the alcohol at morale events in exchange for more exciting events (buy out a movie theatre or visit an amusement park).

Drinking neighbors and coworkers

Those who drink may not realize how bad alcohol smells on their breath to a non-drinker.  Drinkers, take a step back when talking to your neighbor, please.  No, you don’t have to be stone drunk to have intoxicating breath. 🙂

“Gay marriage ban” reprisals

The vandalism and reprisals in California and across the nation against those who have voted to sustain the traditional form of marriage is hateful. Yes, it’s those calling Utah and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hateful who are the hating ones. The “Mormons”, who make up only 2% of Californians, didn’t define marriage in California. The majority of the people voted to sustain the definition of marriage that thousands of generations have taken for granted for millenia. In the name of ‘tolerance’, these rioteers are showing great intolerance to those who value traditional marriage. Will these rioteers please take a step back, a deep breath, and ask themselves if they are practicing what they preach?

First Presidency Urges Respect, Civility in Public Discourse

NEVER give away your email password

Do you realize that your email password is probably your most sensitive piece of information?  With your email address and password, I could manage to log into almost every web site you have an account on.  Even if you use different passwords on all those other sites.  I just have to click "I forgot my password" on those other sites, read your email for the ‘reset password’ link, and I’ve stolen your identity.  Even credit card and bank web sites often have this "easy" password recovery feature.  In fact since I have access to your email I could very likely discover most of the web sites you have membership on by searching through your email archives and get them all in just a few minutes.  Have I got you thinking twice about giving away your email password to some site that wants to download your address book yet?

Never, never, never give someone or another web site your email password!  It’s just about the worst thing you can do.  Facebook, LinkedIn, and other otherwise "reputable" sites love to ask you for your email address and password so they can offer you the convenience of spamming all your friends by looking up their email addresses from your email address book.  All they ask for is your email address and password.  Don’t give it to them.  Whether they are reputable sites or not, any person working at that company, in a moment of compromised integrity, could steal your password even long after the fact and rip off everything you own. 

Do you still want to use Facebook, LinkedIn, or these other social networking sites and have them spam your friends?  Fine (I hope I’m not in your address book!).  Most of these sites also offer an option for you to manually export your address book to a .csv file which you can then upload to these social networking sites yourself without giving away your password.  That’s definitely a safer option.

It’s less convenient than just typing in your password, true.  There are upcoming technologies that will help solve that and make it safe and convenient for you to share your address book.  But for now, do it the ‘hard’ way and save yourself a lot of trouble in the long run.

So protect your own identity by not sharing your password.  Give away all your friends’ privacy without asking them by giving away their email addresses to a social networking site that they may not want to join anyway.  But that’s an etiquette issue at least, rather than a hard-core security issue.

What REALLY was Satan’s plan?

The traditional LDS Sunday School version of Satan’s proposed alteration to Heavenly Father’s plan (henceforth referred to as Satan’s plan for brevity) tends to be that Satan wanted to force us all to be good.  This interpretation is not based in canonical scripture, and I believe actually contradicts scripture.  There is an interpretation that (to me anyway) seems to bring everything into agreement — both scripture and personal experience.

First let us review the basis for our understanding of Satan’s plan.  This quotation is from Moses 4:1,3-4 (emphasis added)

And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.

Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;

And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.

Not only does "Satan wanted to force us all to be good" not appear anywhere in scripture, it actually contradicts the above passage.  Satan said "I will redeem all mankind."  But if Satan was going to force us to be good, there would be no one to redeem because no one would have sinned.

For him to redeem all mankind, all mankind would have to sin.  What is more, nothing would be required of us to be redeemed or else Satan could make no guarantee that every person would qualify.  This is a deviation from Heavenly Father’s plan, which required His children to individually accept the atonement of the Savior while we are here on this Earth.  It seems then that Satan wanted to allow everyone to do anything we wanted and still be saved.

But the Lord explained that Satan sought to destroy the agency of man.  Doesn’t that mean he will take away our choices by forcing us to be good?  Let me explain this with an analogy.  Suppose you and I walked into a hat shop of red and blue hats.  You were allowed to choose between a red and a blue hat, but regardless of your choice, you only got to walk out with a blue hat.  No matter how many times you went back into the shop and asked for your choice of a red hat, you only walked out with a blue one.  Did you really have a choice in this scenario?  Sort of.  Did you have agency?  No.  For agency to mean anything, you need freedom to choose and have those choices actually take effect.  Satan sought to destroy the agency of man by ensuring that no matter what we chose on Earth, we would end up ‘walking out’ with Eternal life.  Maybe, if the idea of doing anything you want and getting Eternal Life sounds a little more enticing than you first thought Satan’s plan was, you can begin to understand why one third part of the host of heaven thought so too. 

We are here on Earth because we understood the wisdom in Heavenly Father’s plan and accepted it.  We knew that some would choose evil, and for that we were sorry, but we knew that agency (our freedom to choose our own destiny) was too important to sacrifice.

One interesting fallout of this understanding of Satan’s scheme is that Satan’s scheme hasn’t changed.  Now that Satan is thrust out of heaven, he is lying to us by telling us that his own ideas are the correct ones.  We see Satan’s thoughts, for example, in some of the beliefs of Evangelical Christians, who believe they are saved regardless of what they choose to do… which was Satan’s platform in the pre-Earth life.  Frivolous lawsuits from plaintiffs who do not want to accept the consequences for their own stupid actions grow progressively more ridiculous — another sign that Satan is convincing people that they should not be held responsible for what they choose.

Please help curb false doctrine by teaching straight out of Church publications (the ones with the Church logo prominently printed on the cover).  Keep the doctrine pure.  You won’t hear me preaching my interpretation of Satan’s plan in Sunday School until I can find a church publication to back it up — but I won’t be teaching that Satan wanted to force us all to be good either.  Until I can find a publication directly addressing this, you can bet I’ll be teaching about Satan and the war in heaven directly out of the scriptures to avoid throwing in any "extra bits" I may have picked up while growing up.

The problem with the keystone analogy

arch“I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” – Joseph Smith, emphasis added.

That Joseph Smith used the keystone as an analogy to the role the Book of Mormon plays in our religion is fine.  But the way Sunday School teachers tend to expound on that analogy is what I take exception with.  Here are some points I often hear in Sunday School:

  1. The keystone bears the weight of the entire arch.
  2. If you remove the keystone the whole arch will fall.
  3. You may be able to remove any other piece of the arch, and while it may look crooked, it may still stand.

This is one of those things where it sounds good, but if you stop to think about what you’re saying (or hearing), you’ll see that the opposite is true for each of these points.  We’ll take them one at a time.

arch diagram

First, the keystone (D) bears the least weight because it is on the top.  In this diagram, the stones labeled C bear the most weight.

Next, if you can imagine quickly removing the keystone (like whipping a tablecloth off a table with plates still on it), one can easily imagine that the two sides of the arch (B stones) would fall toward each other and stop each other’s fall.  So removing the keystone does not necessarily cause the arch to fall.

Finally, I can’t prove this, but imagine pulling out one of the lower B stones.  I’m pretty sure there’s no safe way (quickly pulling or otherwise) to remove the lower B stones without causing the whole structure to fall. 

So what are we left with?  Nothing from what I typically hear in Sunday School.  I’m sure there are remaining pieces of the keystone analogy that Joseph Smith had in mind when he said it.  Perhaps it’s that the keystone is at the center of the arch, or that a lot of weight from above the arch rests on the keystone.  Who knows?

Here’s another point to thinking before you repeat what you hear–especially if you are in a teaching setting.

What’s up with reserved parking for staff?

Why do teachers get reserved parking closest to the school, while students fight over open parking multiple blocks away from their classroom?  Who is working for who?

I often question the logic of having "staff parking" nearer to a building than customer/student parking.  The thinking for them, I suppose, is that staff are more important than customers/students.  Or maybe their political voice is stronger.  For whatever reason, staff and teachers typically get preferential treatment in parking to those who actually pay the bills of the establishment (the students and customers).  This seems mixed up anyway.

But now consider that a staff person will typically come once and leave once per day, staying the whole day and enjoying their short walk from car to building and back again exactly once per day.  A student/customer will typically stay for only an hour or so before leaving again, leaving their spot open to the next student/customer.  As often happens, many students may use the exact same parking spot in any given day.  So several students walk the long trek from car to building per day. 

Walkers enjoying a short walk: 1

Walkers forced to walk a great distance: many

This is economically unsound.  In your mind, swap the position of the staff and student parking.  Put the parking spot used by the staff member farther away and the student parking spot close to the building.  What do you have?  A system that benefits many more people:

Walkers enjoying a short walk: many

Walkers forced to walk a great distance: 1

Doesn’t that make more sense?  Leave a comment and let me know if you agree or disagree.

Are cigarette butts not garbage?

Where do smokers get the idea that they’re not subject to littering laws and decency?  We’re all taught not to litter, so how come every smoker I’ve ever seen discard a cigarette butt has done it on the ground instead of an ash tray?  There are some smoking areas where there must be hundreds of them on the ground.  Whether it’s from their moving car, at the bus stop, or outside their office building.

Come on, smokers.  If you’re going to injure yourselves and others through smoke and second-hand smoke, the least you could do is respect property and cleanliness.  Use an ashtray already!

Faith Promoting Lies

Faith Promoting Lie (FPL): a religious story posing as fact, but with little or no bearing on an actual event; written with the intent to teach a doctrinal principle, often drawing a strong emotional response.

Before I get into the detail of FPLs and how I came to realize their potential (for good and not-so-good), a little background in how I came to know of their existence…

As missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we shared the gospel by teaching the doctrine of Christ out of the scriptures and from the teachings of modern, living prophets.  The Holy Ghost would testify to our investigators of the atonement of our Savior and of the truthfulness of what we taught about His gospel.  We would also share our own experiences living the gospel and the effect it had on our lives and testimonies.

In my particular mission, many missionaries (including myself) would collect and share posters and stories that related to the gospel.  I ended my mission with two 3″ binders full of sheet protectors with stories, articles, illustrations and teaching aids.  Most of these were for my own enjoyment.  They either came from tear-jerker emails that my family and friends would print off and mail to me or other missionaries, who probably obtained them the same way.

Some of these stories were very touching stories.  One of the most well-known of which is entitled Seminary Donuts.  I cried when I first read the story.  Since then I have heard it read by several different people to mostly tearful audiences.  It is one of those email forwards that members of the Church love to forward to all their friends — not for seven years of good luck (like those really annoying forwards), but because they believe it’s the most touching and good story they’ve heard in a long time. 

Toward the end of my mission, after I had collected probably a whole binder’s worth of these stories, I realized that these stories are lies.  Please don’t misunderstand: the gospel doctrine they teach is often (at least mostly) correct, but their claim to be a true story is simply false. 

This claim of being a true story comes in a variety of forms.  Sometimes the story itself gives the state (usually not more specific than that), names, and season that the event supposedly took place in.  Other times it just starts the story without disclaimer that it is made up, and when the story is read over the pulpit (even by a high council speaker) people mistake it as a true story when no one (even the speaker) doesn’t know the source of the story.

Inevitably, and largely due to the anonymous nature of email forwards, these FPLs have no traceable author.  The name, if given, is just a first name, or even a full name that leaves no way to look the person up (since even a full name doesn’t help look up a person if you have no idea where they live).

“But wait!” I hear you cry.  “[your favorite FPL here] is true!  I cried when I read/heard it.  Surely no one would make up a story like that.  It happened!  The story even says where it happened…”  Surely we cannot be as gullible as to believe everything we read or hear.  Crying in reaction to a story does not mean the Spirit was testifying of the story’s truthfulness.  The story itself can be emotional enough to bring tears.  Perhaps (maybe!) the Spirit itself was even there to testify of the truthfulness of the principles taught in the story, but not the story itself.

FPLs, which I now group with “Mormon folklore”, I see as a bane to our religion.  Mormons seek after and hold to truth.  FPLs pose as truth and can mislead us if we do not discern them.  “What damage does it do to believe in an FPL if it teaches good principles?”  Teaching good principles is good.  Using a story to help get a point across is fine.  Even Christ used parables (stories that never occurred) to teach the gospel.  But when the teller claims that the story actually happened when in fact it did not in order to help make the story more powerful — that’s further than Christ went and I believe is damaging to the Spirit and the delicate faith of the Saints.  Also, as long as the story is made up there is no guarantee of the purity of the principles taught.  Scriptures make a much more sure source of truth.

Let us be watchful.  I am not suggesting that we become constant skeptics in our sacrament meetings or of missionaries.  But I am suggesting that people can innocently convey falsehoods that have nevertheless touched their lives and that they want to share with others.  If you hear a story that touches you that you want to remember and perhaps even share with someone else, please take a moment and ask the source for their source of the story.  If it is a personal story of their own, ask for permission to share it with others if you would like to.  If they got it from somewhere else, see how much documented evidence of the original source you can track down.  If it’s an FPL, you won’t get far.  And you’re better off teaching verifiable truth from the official Church materials.